crafts · Life

Randomness, answers to comments

You guys, I am seriously exhausted this week.  I’m singing in the Verdi Requiem with the Louisville Orchestra (and if you’re local you should totally come… it’s going to be great!)  We’ve been rehearsing every day, and today was the first full dress, on stage with orchestra etc.  Let me tell you, standing shoulder to shoulder with 150 people under hot stage lights for 3 hours, singing music that is seriously hard, is not as glamorous as it sounds.    But… the music is fabulous and it will be worth it.  Just watch out for fainting sopranos!

So in lieu of actual blog fodder this week, I’m going to answer a recent comment, and then talk about things I don’t have time to make right now!  And I’d just like to say… I don’t always have time to reply to everyone, but I appreciate so much when you stop to comment!

Emma in France “Is it just me or are you going back to red hair again? Perhaps it’s just the green in the blouse bringing out the red tones. Looks great anyway!” You know, that’s actually a funny story.  I haven’t had my hair dyed in about 6 months.  Do you see roots?  Yeah, me either.  I have apparently managed to end up with hair the same color as my natural color, which of course I had no idea what was, since I haven’t seen it in over a decade.  Apparently now my hair is red.  Which is fine, albeit weird, but I’m still probably going to dye it more brown, since I still don’t love how the red limits the colors I can wear.  I have no idea how it ended up this color, especially when I started out like this:

Oh yeah… I rocked that early 80s haircut.  And I loved that dress.  But anyway, last I checked I was a blonde (though darker than I was at age 6, obviously) so it’s really weird that it’s turned reddish now.

I also have had a few questions about how I set my hair in pincurls, so let me recommend a youtube channel for you… LisaFreemontStreet does tons of vintage hair tutorials, especially 40s, which are my favorites.  I don’t usually do actual pincurls – I use pillow rollers, which you can buy at the drugstore.  They’re little sponges covered in cloth with wires through the middle.  You roll the hair and then twist the roller to make it stay.  I usually wash my hair and then dry the roots partially (so it won’t set funny in the back.)  I roll my hair, using a setting lotion, and then sleep in the rollers (I wear a scarf to cover them… oh yeah, it’s pretty attractive!)  They are much more comfortable to sleep in than the foam rollers you can also buy, since they are small and very soft.  The look is similar to rag curlers.  My hair is naturally somewhat wavy, at least underneath, but has always been hard to curl, so I generally blow dry it straight.  Curling it this way, it will last until I wash it out.  I sometimes use the caruso steam rollers you can buy at Sally Beauty also… they make a nice long lasting curl, but not as tight, and you don’t have to sleep in them.  After you take out the rollers you have to brush the curls out, and I recommend watching some of the videos to get an idea about that, because at first it looks pretty frightful… you just have to keep brushing!

I really love vintage hairstyles, so I’ve been trying some of these out.   I’ve always been terrible with my hair, so if I can do it anyone can!

Last weekend I decided that this week would be “finish Salina” week.  Um… yeah.  I have had zero time to work on that, and this weekend we may be going to Cincinnati (Marc’s grandfather passed away 2 weeks ago, and we need to help his parents clean some things out.)  My schedule this year has been tough on my knitting – before I was always traveling and waiting around, so I had lots of incidental time.  Now that I’m home, it seems I always have something that needs to be done- plus I’m doing a lot more performing, and lately those groups are taking up a lot of time (last weekend, for instance, I was on retreat, learning all the music for a spring concert.)  Sewing requires dedicated time, but not necessarily over a long period.  But don’t worry if I’ve been all about the sewing lately – I am not giving up knitting, I’ve just been soaking up all sorts of information.  I do love to learn new things, and I am nothing if not obsessive about learning to do things the right way.  And I really need some new clothes.

I’ve been looking for cardigans to make when I finish Salina.  My black cardigan was purchased in, no kidding, 1998.  It’s not really black anymore.  I’m still deciding on what pattern to make, and considering my glacial progress, I have time!

I do have loads of fashion inspiration though.  For instance, I love everything Emma wears on Glee (and Marc and I are way more obsessed with that show than we have any right to be!) So I have a new blog added to my blogroll… WWEPW (What Would Emma Pillsbury wear.)  It’s possible that we went as Emma and Ken for Halloween.  No one knew who we were, but hey we had fun (it’s better if you can see that he’s in gym shorts and I’m wearing rubber gloves.)

Ok, enough randomness – hope everyone is having a great week!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

FO: A top for girly lumberjacks (Simplicity 2501)

Pattern: Simplicity 2501

Fabric: Green flannel cotton from (actually a quilting flannel I think)

Notions: Six 1/2″ green buttons, sew in interfacing, a set of 3/8″ shoulder pads

Notes: This is my new favorite photo of myself… see below for the shirt in living color!  I was attracted to this pattern because of the ties and the puffy sleeves.  I was looking to replicate a shirt I saw on Modcloth (see my last post for a photo of that) and thought this pattern looked like a good starting place.  It’s a pattern that has different pieces for B,C, and D cups – I used the B cup pieces.   There are several different styles, including pieces for long sleeves, 3/4 length ruched sleeves, and a bodice option with a peplum.

I opted to make view B, which had short puffy sleeves and a tie, but no peplum.  I don’t think the peplum would have worked well with the plaid, as the pieces were rather curved.  It took me forever to cut out the plaid so it would match up, but it was worth it!  I’m especially proud of the fronts.  It matches everywhere except the back sleeves.   I used sew-in lightweight interfacing.  I didn’t mention it, but I also used sew-in on the Beignet skirt, and I find that I prefer it to the fusibles.  I don’t think it takes any more time than it takes to fuse, and I find it less annoying and the results nicer.

I made quite a few alterations, in order to get the fit and look I wanted.  First I tried tissue fitting the bodice, which I found very helpful.  There’s a good video tutorial on Gertie’s blog, if you are interested.  I’ve ordered “Fit for real people” and I’m looking forward to reading it as well.I discovered that most of my shoulder width is in my back (which I knew) so I cut a size 8 on the back, and a 6 in the front.  I also took about an inch total out of the waist – I wanted a more fitted look than the pattern was designed for.  I drafted new pieces for the neckband and ties – the ones included were sort of dinky, and I wanted to be able to tie a bow.  I added 12″ in length to each end of the tie.  I sewed the sleeves in flat, which worked just fine.  After the shirt was finished I wasn’t quite satisfied with the look of the sleeves – the puffs were tending to be droopy.  I thought about it, and realized that the 1940s blouse silhouette that I love (which I was semi imitating) used shoulder pads… so I sewed in a pair of 3/8″ pads, and the look instantly improved.  I would definitely recommend this pattern, and I plan to make another in a more traditional fabric (with longer sleeves.)

I am so pleased at how this came out – it matches the image I had it my head, and how often does that happen?  I learned a lot about fitting on this one, and made alterations that gave me the fit I wanted.  It was relatively straightforward, and the directions in the pattern were fine (It did jump around a bit, but since I did things in a different order it didn’t really matter.)

crafts · Sewing

Spring simplicity patterns

It’s too early for Spring knit patterns, but the spring sewing patterns are coming out!  Despite the fact that I’m new to sewing, so all the patterns are new to me, I do love new releases.  Joanns and Hancocks have regular sales where Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity go to 99 cents, and Vogues are 3.99,  and I cannot resist.  Tonight I went to Joanns (ostensibly to buy Guttermann thread at 50% off, but you know… might as well peruse the new collections!)  I got these Simplicity patterns from the new catalog for 99 cents each.

I really like Cynthia Rowley’s patterns for Simplicity.   This dress is cute, but I really love it with the jacket – I can picture it dressed up several ways!  I’ve made a muslin of one of the Project Runway patterns and liked the process (though the style was not for me, I like the full skirt on this one) and I like all the pieces in the Threads wardrobe (which also includes a cute top.)

I also got these patterns, which aren’t new (no, I don’t have a problem…)

I like the shaped waistband on the first pattern.  The 2nd pattern is cute, and I want to try out a bubble skirt, though I may or may not like it on myself.  It may depend on what you wear with it (certainly not whatever the heck that model is wearing… her boots have elastic ankle bands!)  In the last pattern I like the top modeled version, which is kind of a Grecian look.  I want to use it to make my own version of this vintage dress, which was sold long ago (but I saved the photo in my inspiration file)

It’s not exactly the same, but close enough with a few alterations.  It all depends on finding a fabulous fabric, and someday I shall!  I like maxi dresses, but dislike thin straps, which many of them have (my shoulders are super bony, and besides they just aren’t me…) and they are often lowcut.  I don’t mind a little cleavage, but I hate anything that shows my sternum, thanks.

Speaking of my inspiration directory, I’m getting ready to make my version of this top (from Modcloth, it’s still available if anyone is interested.)

I bought a nice flannel from

and I’m using this Simplicity pattern, with a few alterations.

I’m making the short sleeves with the ties (I’m lengthening the ties, they are so short!)  I’m undecided on the peplum vs no peplum issue.  The inspiration actually has an empire waist, so I may get closer to the look I want by making sure the basic top is well fitted.  I’m making a muslin or 2, so I’ll have time to figure that out.  I’ve made some mock ups with set in sleeves before, but this will be my first actual garment with them (so they actually have to look decent!)  Knitting has taught me a bit about easing in fullness, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be employing my basting skills.

crafts · Sewing

FO: Beignet Skirt

Pattern: Beignet by Colette Patterns

Fabric: yellow cotton twill from

Notions: 10 7/8″ navy blue buttons by la mode, ivory bemberg rayon for lining, twill tape to reinforce waistband.

Notes: I love, love, love this skirt!  I made a size 2, after I made the muslin in a size 4 – the 4 matched my waist measurement, but was too big in the skirt.  I decided that a high waisted skirt should have a very fitted waist, and I’m pleased with that decision.  It fits just about perfectly.

I wear a 2 or 4 in ready to wear, so it’s pretty true to retail misses sizes.  This is the first time I have lined a skirt, and it was a challenge!  I bought bemberg rayon, because I like the feel and I hate polyester linings.  That stuff is crazy slippery.  Here’s what I did:  I spray starched the heck out of it, pinned my pattern pieces to it, cut in a single layer with a rotary cutter, and got pieces that were close enough.  I sewed it together with the walking foot, preventing layer shifting, and I basted it into the facings by hand before machine sewing.  It was a lot of work, but totally worth it – this sort of skirt, without a lining, would be useless with tights because it would ride up or get static.  No problems at all with the lining!

I did not have any problems at all with the instructions – they were clear and illustrated step by step.  I did not care for the belt loops after I made them – they were too short imo, and they were also flimsy and hard to sew on.  I made my own, copying the look of dress pants loops, and they look great (basically I topstitched 2 lines down the middle to hold them together, then sewed them on by hand.  I showed my buttonhole trick yesterday – see that post for my new tool there.  I reduced the buttons by 1 and spaced them 2 inches apart – my buttons were 7/8″ instead of 3/4″ so I wanted them slightly farther apart.

This skirt is totally do-able by a near beginner – someone who, like me, has a few garments done but is looking to add skills.  I learned so much on this project, and I can’t wait for the next Colette pattern I make – I adore the aesthetic!  The best part?  I can wear this skirt with a shirt that is otherwise too short to tuck in, thus extending my wardrobe!

crafts · Sewing


I’ve sewn a lot of buttonholes and buttons into knitwear.  I’ve repaired my share of coats with missing buttons.  But it never before occurred to me how you make the actual hole the button goes into.  My machine has an automatic buttonholer, which is great – program the length and it does all the work!    However, it isn’t as easy as that sounds.  First I ran out of thread, so I bought a spool of matching machine embroidery thread – I love the pretty sheen it gives the buttonholes.  Then I realized my buttons were slightly too big, so I had to adjust the size and spacing.  Finally I faced the biggest problem… opening the holes.  I don’t have embroidery scissors sharp enough, so I started with a seam ripper.  I made 6 test holes, and didn’t manage a single one without grabbing a thread I didn’t mean to on the sides.  I searched online, not wanting to screw up my skirt, and found my solution!

This is a plain 1/2 inch wood chisel, bought new today at the hardware store down the street.  You can actually get buttonhole chisels, but this was both cheaper and half a block away (and Joanns informed me they don’t exist…  I hate Joanns.)

See that perfectly cut hole?  Here’s how you do it.  Lay the fabric on a block of wood (I’m using a tiny cutting board that I don’t find useful otherwise.)  Position the chisel pointing down, with the blade exactly where you want the slit to be cut.  Whack it with a hammer or mallet.  Move down a little, repeat until you have a perfect buttonhole!

Seriously, this looks so much better than the cut holes (I won’t show them… I are embarrassed.)  It’s so easy, but apparently not widespread anymore, so there you go… a sewing tip!

Now I need to sew on the buttons (below) tack down the beltloops, and possibly redo the hem by hand.   I used my blind hem foot, and it didn’t catch the skirt as often as it should have.

I love finding tools at weird stores – I also buy my makeup brushes at the art supply store!

crafts · Sewing

Something new every day

For the past week or so I’ve been working on a skirt – Beignet from Colette Patterns.

Can I just stop and say how much I adore high-waisted skirts?   I do!  When you’re short-waisted like me you can either see them as a blessing or a curse – after all, it’s nice to be in fashion, but all the same my waist is about 3 inches below my boobs, and that just isn’t right somehow.   High waist skirts can be very retro, and they certainly are flattering to many people.  I don’t know about high waist pants though… I am not sold on those yet.

Colette patterns is an independant company.  Unlike in the knitting world, there are relatively few small designers in sewing, and I’m glad to support one.  All their designs have a retro feel.  It’s possible I may have ordered several of them at once (I’m not saying) and now I’m trying out the skirt first, since I judged it to be the easiest.

I’m making it from a yellow cotton twill, as you can kind of see in this horrible photo.  The pattern is straightforward, but it has lots of detail – for instance, I’ve learned to make a lining, (I even hand basted it in!) how to use my blind hem foot, and how to make and sew on belt loops.  I thought yellow would be fun, and good for all year wear (with tights in the winter of course!. ) I’ve been trying to take things slowly, so that I can be sure to do a good job on the individual components, since that was one of my resolutions.  I want to be sure I understand every step, so this isn’t as quick as I bet it could be.   I didn’t like the belt loops called for in the pattern, so I improvised and made up new ones (not rocket science, but a proud moment in my newbie seamstress life!)  I did leave out the pockets, since I wanted the shape to be uninterrupted.  I’m on the buttonholes now, and once those are done I will sew on the buttons by hand… and have a new skirt to wear.  I love the new sewing room – I can leave out my mess overnight sometimes!

Thank you for all the New Year’s wishes – they were very sweet and much appreciated.  I look forward to many new skills learned this year!

crafts · knitting · Life · Sewing

Wearing handknits: Vaila + resolutions 2010

I only wear Vaila when the weather gets super cold – and as we aren’t breaking the freezing line this week, I think it qualifies!  Made of Malabrigo, it’s soft but tends to pill and catch lint.  After a year’s distance, I like it far better than when it was new.  I wouldn’t make it again, because I have sworn off of bottom up sweaters knit in one piece, but it makes a nice cozy sweater on a day of teaching indoors.

I have an update for you all about my attic!  It isn’t finished yet – we will be working on it during this long weekend (Marc has Friday off.)  The floor is in, and the paint is done on my side.  We have another window and the stairwell to paint, and then I have to panel in around my windows where the wall is exposed.  The biggest change was probably the floor, going from this:

to this:

Believe it or not, that’s vinyl.  It looks very realistic, and I just love it!  It looks great with the new wallcolor

I made a trek to IKEA this weekend and got a desk that was on sale, as well as a table for cutting and crafting.  I set it up, and I’m so pleased with my area!

Oops, need to put that vent cover back!  Having the extra space is going to be wonderful, I can already tell.  I’ve put the futon at the end of the room, in front of the windows – it hides the duct back there for now, and makes it harder to see in at night from the street, though there is still a ton of light.

Of course, all this work means that I haven’t actually made anything in weeks, but that’s ok… it’s going to be worth it in the end.

As for 2009… farewell to you, I say!  I’ve had a hard year, which involved me making a major job change and starting my own business.  The first half of the year I was very depressed and felt trapped… now it’s as though I’ve come out into the sunlight and can breathe again.  Church work was not for me – I found that working that closely with church officials produced a level of cynicism that I’m having a hard time dealing with… but in time I think I will feel better.  I also had a lot of difficulties where my personal beliefs conflicted with church teaching… let’s just say that I’ve never been good at not speaking my mind, and while I succeeded in keeping quiet it only made me miserable.

But that’s all over, and building my studio has been a great experience!  I’ve also been doing quite a bit of performing again, which is great… and most of all I actually get weekends, and I get to spend them with my wonderful husband, who has been there for me through all this strife.

I’ve made a lot of new friends this year, and I feel as though my shyness is finally behind me.  I’ve learned to sew, which has been great and has opened a new world to me.  So while it’s been a difficult year, it was necessary to get me through to a healthier place.

Now to the hard part… my resolutions for 2010.  Let’s look at them more as “suggestions,” shall we?

1. Continue to build my teaching studio.  I want to maintain between 30 and 35 students, and right now I’m at 30.  I need to remind myself to be selective about who I accept – I don’t necessarily take everyone as a student, because sometimes I can tell it’s going to be a bad fit.

2. Build my sewing skills.  I’ve really taken off with sewing in the last half of 2009, and I want to build on those skills.  I want to sew from some vintage patterns and work towards my goal of having 50% of my wardrobe be handmade (I won’t get there this year, but it’s a goal for the future.)

3.  I’m interested in going further into vintage dressing/hairstyles (and to that end I’ve been setting pincurls in my hair often, as in the photo above.)  I’ve gotten positive reactions from the people around me, which pleases me.  I don’t want to look costume y, you understand, but I have a passion for those styles that I have been stifling in order to blend into my position.

4.  Knit more basics.  Look, I love color.  Everyone knows it.  But sometimes you need a little white or black cardigan, and I don’t have one.  I’m definitely going to be focusing on basics in the first part of the year.  I also want to really try to know from some of my vintage patterns.  I resolve to slow down – I have 90 bajillion sweaters, and I need to stop rejecting beautiful small gauge knits because I think they take too long.

5.  Don’t keep unhealthy relationships going.  Enough said.

6.  Continue to become more comfortable with who I am.  I’ve made great strides, and I want to come to a place where I don’t apologize for myself anymore.

7. Take more weekend trips with Marc, now that I have weekends.  We love to travel, and there are lots of little places to visit in easy driving distance.

That’s all for now – I hope you all have a great 2010.  This blog has really meant a lot to me, and I appreciate everyone who has stopped to read and comment!