crafts · Sewing

Rooibos dress, take two

Pattern: Rooibos by Colette patterns

Fabric: Blue stretch poplin from fashionista fabrics

Notes: I really do apologize for how poorly this fabric photographs – it seems that my camera loathes polka dots and the color navy.   It also shows every wrinkle, but I swear it doesn’t look so wrinkled in real life!  This is my second time making this dress, and the finished garment is quite different!  The first difference is, of course, the fabric.  I wanted a less dressy version, and I needed a summertime weight.  I loved this polka dot fabric right away (it is a bit more navy than it appears in the photos… I had to turn up the contrast to get the polka dots to show up in photos.)  I used a self fabric facing, and eliminated the collar.  I also left out the zipper – since this dress stretches it wasn’t necessary, and I was having a lot of trouble getting it to apply smoothly, even with interfacing.

I ended up not lining the dress, but upon reflection I really think that I should have – it will need a slip to stop the way poplin likes to cling to itself and wrinkle.  I’m not wearing one here, and you can see how it wrinkles.  Poplin is one of the recommended fabrics, but in my opinion this dress works better with a less crisp fabric – the wool crepe I made the first one out of is perfect.

Having said that, I am pleased with this dress – it’s very cool and perfect for summertime.  I added a bit of length but it’s still short on me… no matter, I will just wear it with flats!

I fixed the facing in this photo – it was twisted in the first photos causing that weird cross boob wrinkle you see.  Polka dot garment number one is finished – and I’ve also completed the ruffle blouse.  Photos to come later in the week!  I had a very productive sewing weekend, the first in awhile!

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Early morning

I am not a morning person.  I am, in fact, the sort of person who has to wake up at least 2 hours before they have to see anyone, because that’s how long it takes me to make myself personable.  We’re meeting my in-laws for lunch at 11 today, so naturally I had to wake up at eight.  Keep in mind that my work day usually begins about 2 pm, so being up early is highly unnatural for me!

I was up way too late last night, working on my Rooibos dress.   All that remains is the zipper and hemming!  I did have a bit of a scare though – somehow the piece that I had traced the first time I made it, which was clearly labeled “Rooibos skirt side front top, size 0” was in fact nothing of the sort.  Don’t ask me what it was, but while it was a similar shape, it was definitely not the right piece, which I didn’t figure out until I spent an hour trying to make the pockets work with a too small piece!  Luckily I was able to recut the pieces after tracing the right ones (the old piece even had double notches – nothing on that pattern has a double notch.  Craziness!  I think the pattern trolls have been messing with me again.)

I have to tell you that you all have inspired me – look what I ordered off ebay this morning (it cost all of a dollar!)

I of course bought the 80s edition.  When it gets here, some of my friends and I are going to have a little party and “have our colors done,” as it goes in 80s parlance.  I will be certain to post the results!   I am also completely jealous of the number of you who had your colors done in Girl Scouts.  My Mom was my scout leader, and she was more of the “go camp in the woods and eat bugs” variety.  We did not do any of the more girly patches.  On one notable camping trip, I actually organized a mutiny in the troop, where we refused to go off and identify local flora and fauna on the grounds that it was cold, raining, and we were missing some important shows on cable.  Sometimes I think my Mom wonders how I can possibly be her daughter!

Rounding out my early morning internet purchases, I bought this pattern on the cheap (it seems that no one wants patterns of this era, including me usually.)

I think it’s probably from the 90s, based on the envelope, though it doesn’t look very 90s.  Could it be newer than that?  Let me know if you have this one!   There are some 80s elements going on, but it’s not over the top with the shoulder pads.  I think it’s very 40s.  I love the little side drape on the skirt.  I think I should make it up in black, don’t you?  I can imagine a lot of functions I have to attend that need a chic black dress (but not a formal.)  I showed it to my husband, and he said “It’s very black widow, isn’t it?  You’ll need a little black hat with a veil.  And a rich husband to murder.”  But never mind what he thinks, what do men know about fashion?  And then he said he wants in on the color party – though I’m fairly certain that with black hair and pale skin he is a winter.

I had to go to Hancock’s yesterday, and picked up  few Summer patterns for 99 cents.

I like these, but my issue with Butterick (and Vogue) patterns is that they don’t list any measurements on the envelope!  As soon as I buy a pattern without these measurements I open it up and look on the pieces for the measurements (marked by a cross.)

Then I write this info on the envelope.

That way, when I go to buy fabric for this dress I will already know what size I’m going to make.   I was happy to find that all these patterns should fit me – I seem to be pretty reliably a Butterick size 8.

I’m off to lunch – I hope to finish my dress today!


My Neutral

A few months back, Gertie posted about the concept of finding your own neutral.  At the time I just wasn’t sure… I don’t wear many neutral colors, due to my high contrast coloring (dark hair, light eyes.) Don’t even get me started on how horrible I look in beige or brown tones.  I can wear black, but there is the cat hair issue.  Gray?  I love it, but not near my face.  Lately I’ve found myself really drawn to navy blue – perhaps that could be my neutral?  And why does navy count as a neutral when it is clearly a color?  I seem to be particularly obsessed with navy mixed with primary colors (yellow and red) or with clear white.

I have cut the pieces to my second Collette Rooibos dress, out of navy and white polka dot.  I’m making the facings from self fabric, to preserve the stretch, and as in my first dress I am eliminating the little collar.  It doesn’t fit my dress form at all, but don’t let that concern you – my dress form is bigger than I am, and sadly that is not something I can fix.  My piping for this dress is a bright white satin.  I hope to complete this over the weekend – since I’ve made it once before I am hoping it will go smoothly, although I expect some challenges from using a different fabric.  I had planned to line the dress, but I’m making a little half slip instead – I wanted to keep the stretch of the material.

I also finally managed to find a navy/white striped jersey for the top half of Kwik Sew 3758.

I will make the version with long sleeves, with the red silk cotton above as the skirt portion.  Yes, I know that I already missed the 4th of July!  My knit is a cotton jersey, and I wish it had some lycra in it… but it will be stretchy enough for this dress!  I couldn’t be picky, since I wanted something so specific.  You would not believe how hard it is to find a navy/white striped knit with stripes larger than 1/8 inch!  This dress won’t get made for a bit, as I’m thinking it will be more of a early Fall dress because of the long sleeves.  Maybe in August.

And finally, I’m using Simplicity 2599 (the sleeveless view with just the 3 ruffles) and this poly charmuse to make a blouse this month (to wear with my yellow beignet skirt, naturally!)

I am aware that I love blue based colors.  Even the jewel tones that I love are all blue based.  Does this mean I have cool coloring?  I’ve always been uncertain, because I  have some yellow to my skintone, and I do have red hair.  Might it be time to dig out that 1970s copy of Color me Beautiful? Have you ever had your colors done?  I have no idea what season I might be, but if you have any input let me know!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

That 70s sundress (Simplicity 6926)

Pattern: Vintage Simplicity 6926

Fabric: Cotton/linen ikat print floral from Joann, 3 yards

I keep a list of things I would like to make for every season.  On my summer list?  70s floral sundress with bottom ruffle.  I didn’t really want a maxi dress, so I was pleased to find this pattern, which seemed to offer everything I might want!  I must have stalked it for months before breaking down and buying a size 32.  My bust is 31.5″, and I had to remove 1/2″ from this dress, so the sizing was accurate.

If I were to make the dress again I would remove some width from the back – I have a very narrow back, and there is a little extra fabric there.  I might play around with the back strap placement also, to get a nicer back fit… but it is totally wearable this way, so I’m not going to worry about it.

I wore this dress to a casual-ish audition tonight, and then after that I went to Starbucks, where the barrista gave me a free chai latte, after he complimented me on my dress, and I said that I made it.  He called it the “awesome dress” discount – ha!  To be fair, this is the barrista that my husband calls “Jessica’s Starbucks boyfriend,” but never you mind.  I do love my new sundress!

Sewing · tutorials

How to recover from a buttonhole tragedy

Buttonholes seem to be a source of consternation for many sewers.  And it’s no wonder – by the time you get to making them, it would be pretty upsetting to ruin your new dress!  My Bernina makes ok buttonholes, when it decides to work.  No amount of futzing with the tension produces the even buttonholes of my dreams (unless I use embroidery floss, which I refuse to buy for every project.)  It will not make a buttonhole anywhere near a seam, leading to more than one garment that has a lone manual buttonhole (if you have a Bernina, one of these helps with that problem… but I don’t have one yet, as I’ve just been shoving fabric under there to make everything even.)  Sometimes it randomly loses its programming and sews a 3 inch long buttonhole.  In short – it’s not any fun.  But even worse than that is the cutting of the buttonhole – how I hold my breath that nothing extra gets cut!  I use a wood chisel backed by a wooden cutting board to open the holes now, and I have far fewer mishaps than with the seam rippers.  But even so… today this happened to my lovely new dress.

See where the threads on the sides have been clipped by the chisel?  That’s my fault, for paying more attention to the Ultralounge cd that was playing than to my chisel (Oh how I love to sew to cheesy lounge music!)   But – if this happens to you, don’t worry – it can be fixed!

Grab some stabilizer.  I’m using Solvy, but tearaway stabilizer or  possibly even tissue paper would work too.   This is to prevent your buttonhole from getting sucked down into the machine (my Bernina is terrible to do that for any edges.)  If my fabric were stretchy or super lightweight I would have put stabilizer down to sew all the buttonholes… that’s why I own this product.

Pin the stabilizer behind the buttonhole.

Now you need to figure out what setting on your machine will blend in the best with your buttonhole.

Luckily, I had the piece I had made sample buttonholes on, so I was able to compare and then sew over one leg.

These are the settings that worked for me, though of course every machine is different.  I’m not using the buttonhole stitch because it doesn’t give me enough control, plus if the fabric isn’t completely level and even my buttonhole foot won’t work.  A really tight zigzag works great!

Now place the buttonhole in the machine, using a plain zigzag foot.  Line up the needle with the top edge of the side you will be sewing.  Sew down to the bottom (be sure to secure your stitching.)

It’s a good match, and I haven’t accidentally sewn the buttonhole together again, since I knew what width I needed.  It’s not quite as pretty as the original buttonhole, but in my experience it will hold.

Now you can carefully tear away your stabilizer, and meet your new best friend.

Some people put fray check on every buttonhole, but since I started using the chisel I don’t find that they fray very much.  You will want to apply this with something other than the bottle, or you will get way too much (and a stiff buttonhole.)  I usually sacrifice a bent pin.  Be sure that you don’t have any markings where you are putting the fraycheck, or they will never come out (ask me how I know!)   Doesn’t the buttonhole look better?  The repair isn’t noticeable on the dress (and even if it were, it’s in the back where I can’t see it!)

And (for the curious) here are the back buttons.

I really love them – they’re from the new line Dritz is putting out, Belle buttons I think it is called.  They’re cobalt blue with clear centers.   Obviously they aren’t sewn on here.  The only disadvantage to a clear center is that you can see where I made shanks for the buttons, but oh well.

These are the buttons for the front straps.  I wanted something larger for these two, since they’re right in the front.  I’m probably going to just sew them on permanently – the dress comes off without unbuttoning the straps, and I already know that my machine is going to object to the concept of buttonholes on this piece.  Perhaps I should give up and buy the fabric feed aid, but I’m on a “no machine accessories” diet right now.

I hope this post was of some use – I know the first time this happened to me I was horrified, and convinced there was no coming back!  There are a lot of little tricks to buttonholes, like the chisel and the stabilizer.  I no longer fear them, but sometimes they do seem more trouble than they are worth!



I am often asked where I get my shoes.  I have a few vintage pairs, a few Clarks, some Dansko sandals, and the occasional one off, but I’d say 75% of my shoes come from the brand Sofft.

Sofft is not a new brand, and they make comfortable shoes.  But even better – they make comfortable shoes that are cute and vintage inspired!  Why am I telling you this?  Because right now (Zappos outlet site) has a great selection of them dirt cheap.  They usually cost $100 or so a pair, but I just got 3 pair for that amount – I love a bargain!   Here’s my review on the ones I got (I wear a size US 8.  I have really high arches that sometimes cause pain, a normal sized foot, and a narrow heel (thus I never wear anything with a back strap.)

Sofft Valeria

I bought the black patent/black suede combo above.  These are really cute – a vintage look with a medium heel (I am so tired of only seeing flats or 3+ inch heel!)  They don’t show any toe cleavage (I don’t actual mind if they do, but I know some people do.)

Sofft Corine

These remind me of dance shoes I have worn.  They’re really comfortable – even more than the first pair.  The strap is elasticized, but not in a cheap way if that makes any sense.

Sofft Parma

Since I have high arches, I am always looking for flats that aren’t totally flat (I get foot cramps from really flat shoes.)  These have a tiny heel.  I will probably use an arch insert in these anyway.  They go are a little higher cut than they look.  You’ll probably see these on me a lot!  They do run a bit small – I ordered an 8.5 and it pretty much fits.

And… the pairs that I already own which are on sale.

Sofft Lena

I get so many compliments on these – I love the bright red patent finish!  They are extremely comfortable – I wear them to walk all over, and have never had any issue.

Sofft Poppy

I wear these all the time – you’ve probably seen them in lots of my photos!  The buckle gives them a bit of a 60s/early 70s look.  These don’t have as much arch support as some of the others, so I wear a small insert with them.

Sofft Pienza

I bought these last winter, when loafers were in.  I wear them with jeans.  These actually run a bit narrow in the toe box I think – I had to break them in.  Now they are fine.  They do show toe cleavage, but I like that since it tones down how conservative loafers are!

Sofft Valentina

Cute, but only in the brown.  I won’t lie, the black looks orthopedic to me (I tried it on at Dillards.) Something about the type of leather they use for the black is off.  The brown though?  Super cute, especially with brightly colored tights.

Finally, I have to say that the Steffi boots are really, really cute in person – but I don’t own them because I have skinny calves, and I can only buy boots that are sized by calf width.  These are too wide for me.

I have others, but they’re not on 6pm yet.  I also really recommend the Serafino t-strap sandal, which I have in black patent – totally adorable and my favorite shoe with jeans this summer… just not on sale yet!

(No, I’m not being paid for this… I just really love this brand, and some of these shoes are on sale for $25 a pair – I never see them that cheap!)

Admittedly I don’t have really “out there” taste in shoes – I don’t wear a lot of sandals, and I totally dislike the aggressive, angry shoes that seem to be going on (don’t get me started on the open toed bootie, or booties in general for that matter… I don’t like them, and even if I did they only make my legs look even skinnier.)  And I’m not willing to wear painful shoes either.  Plus most of my shoes have to be piano friendly (I do play in heels, because I’m used to it, though some of my past piano teachers would flinch!)  My other current favorite brand is Seychelles… not as comfortable, but really cute!  Some of those are on 6pm as well.

I hope that helps someone out!  I’m spending today sewing my dress.  I may have failed at matching the print, but oh well… so do expensive dresses sometimes, so I will live.

Happy 4th of July to the Americans – I’m going to wear my Tara dress and make some Avocado mangoritas!

crafts · Sewing

Shame, I have none

at least not the sort that involves posting photos of me wearing muslins on the web!  I completed the muslin of the 70s sundress, and I’m very pleased with the fit, even if the photos make it look like I live in a tomb (somehow my self-taken mirror shots usually turn out better!)

I may give just a tad more room in the waist.  I think, though, that most of those wrinkles are caused by it being pinned in the back (my husband did his best, but it’s definitely not exactly matched at the buttonhole lines, thus the wrinkles.)  The waist on this is quite high, which I like.   Note the 70s-ish platform sandals, which I want to wear with the dress to match the pattern envelope.  They’re actual modern Danskos, which I found brand new this summer at a thrift store for 5 dollars (I had almost bought the same pair the week before for over $100!)  They’re great walking sandals.

It is pinned to meet at the center back line – this will be entirely buttons on the actual dress.  The straps will need to be shortened, because I had to pin them pretty far down, but I love the crossed back!  I have decided that I’m pro-ruffle – I am a ruffle person, and it is a wee bit plain.  Besides, I have made a last minute fabric substitution, which cries for ruffles.

There wasn’t anything wrong with the polka dot – I just decided that I really wanted to use that fabric to make a second Rooibos dress – I love the idea of it in polka dots!  This fabric is a cotton/linen blend  in a floral ikat style print.  I really love the colors.  I got this at Joann tonight, when I ventured there for the 4th of July sale.  Right now I’m trying to decide how I should best match the print.  I think center front of the skirt and part of the princess seams should be enough – I just don’t have enough fabric to do more and still have room for the ruffle.

Now I’m off to do some creative cutting – it will be hard to match the print and still get the ruffle in!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Tara in batik

Pattern: Tara from Burdastyle, lengthened into a dress

Fabric: rayon batik from Waechter’s, 2.5 yards

Notes: Well, I can’t exactly recommend the instructions, but I really like the finished result!  The Tara pattern is a top pattern, but I lengthened the bottom pieces by 10 inches in order to get a dress.  The length on me is right above the knee (I did a machined baby hem to maintain the flow of the rayon.)

The instructions were just silly – they made very little sense to me, especially the instructions for sewing the tops to the front and for the elastic casing.  Here is a tip for the casing – you should only have one line of sewing showing on the outside of the dress.  If you have two, something is wrong.  This is the first elastic casing I have made, and I made the elastic pretty tight, with the idea that it might help me to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions.  It does – I can bend over in this dress without any mishap, which I was not expecting.  The lowness of the neck doesn’t bother me, but I am small busted – I don’t have cleavage anyway!

I like the high back.   BTW, notice my mistake in this photo – one of the back straps is sewn to the wrong part of the back.  I fixed it, but I’m not retaking these photos!  Sewing on the sleeves was a bit hard to figure out – I sewed them on twice!  I recommend ditching the instructions once you have an outline of how the dress goes together, because I swear it made it worse!  The tutorials over on grosgrain were helpful to get an idea of how it was supposed to look!

The pattern called for bias strips around the arms, but due to a cutting tragedy I just turned them under and sewed.  It worked out fine, and honestly I might recommend doing that – it’s much easier than futzing with the bias.

The batik was lovely to work with, and it’s very cool and summery to wear.  I’m not generally a big fan of the prints, but I really like this one.  This is my July 4th outfit – we will be having a firework free day, as I just hate fireworks (loud noises make me extremely cranky… odd, I know!)

I think this pattern would also make a really nice nightgown, and I’m thinking of making one for that purpose.  This is probably my lone “summer only” dress this year – I like versatility, but sometimes it’s just hot!

crafts · Sewing

I love when things are easy

Simplicity seems to release less patterns at a time, more frequently than other companies.  “Early Fall” is out now (not on the homepage, but the patterns are in their various categories.)  There is one that both excites and amuses me!

I thought it looked familiar, so I went through my inspiration file.

It’s similar (though not identical) to this skirt, which I’m pretty sure I tried on at Anthropologie last year.  I like the ruffled pockets, but no doubt is was like $150 for a pencil skirt or something, so I didn’t buy it.  Now I can make my own (and yes, ok, it’s a skirt with ruffled pockets, and I could make my own from any pencil skirt pattern… but hey, I like to have things spelled out for me.  I’m not big on improvising.)  I have a black wool jacquard that might be cute for this, or I might get a tweed to make it more like the inspiration.

There are only 2 dresses in this group, so not too much for me.  The project runway dress has cute pleated sleeves, but I’m already planning to make vogue 8280, which has pleated sleeves and a better neckline for me.  I’m just happy to see a lack of asymmetrical hemline action (I know it was controversial when I took my stand against them, but I still don’t like the look!)

I’m excited for the fall Vogue patterns – I like Simplicity,  and I have had success with their patterns, but I think I’m a Vogue girl.

I got the straps sewn for my jumper muslin, but decided that I just cannot tell if it fits without making up the skirt as well.  Hopefully that will give me a better idea of what the weight of the skirt hanging will do to the top (the top may be a tiny bit large, and it may need some adjustments.  I think it fits in the waist, but since it doesn’t have sleeves I would like a close fit in the bust.

Ordinarily, at this point I would just go ahead and cut and fit from my real fabric, but you see I really like the polka dots… I looked for quite awhile for navy and white dots (suprisingly hard to find)  and I don’t want to waste them on a less than stellar result – it’s worth the pain of more testing!  I’ll probably have muslin photos tomorrow, depending on my level of frustration… I will definitely have finished photos of the Tara dress (which I just love!)

crafts · Sewing

The right to change my mind

Every once in awhile a fellow blogger will tell me “I don’t blog about my plans or WIPs in case something goes wrong.”  But I figure it like this… what good is a blog that only paints me as perfect?  I’m certainly not, though I do try to learn from my mistakes!  I know I like reading about what doesn’t work as well as what does!

It’s not the blouse I posted about yesterday, but the pants that go along with it – (from the April burda.)   As it turns out, I don’t really like pants.  Now I knew this… after all, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even own any pants in high school.  At this point I  wear pants as a sort of “last resort” item (not jeans though… I like dressy jeans.)  And the instructions were frustrating, and I just thought “I am not enjoying this.  I can buy pants.”  And that was that.   I’ll use the nice RPL and gabardine I have to make some basic black skirts – something my wardrobe is definitely lacking.  I’m still making the blouse, but not next – I need a break to think about how I’m approaching things.  So what am I doing instead?

I’m using a navy blue and white dot stretch poplin.  I’m making a bodice muslin first, as vintage patterns are unpredictable.  Here the pattern pieces are ready for tracing.  The pattern is in excellent shape.  I’m undecided on the ruffle vs no ruffle issue… my husband had a violent sort of “no ruffle” reaction, and I’m thinking he may be right… it will be more versatile without, but then again I do love a ruffle…)

I love the details included in these old patterns.  In particular, I love the seam lines being drawn in.  I know that with multi-size patterns it just wouldn’t work, but it makes seam matching really easy (I’m really bad to match up the cut edge and not wherever the seams are going to be.)

And the notches are numbered… very helpful.  Um… I don’t think they still are, right?  I have to admit, I am a lazy notcher.  I only bother to mark them if they’re necessary – say around a place of easing or gathering.  Most patterns have too many, and I don’t use them anyway.

The bodice is done except for the straps.  It’s hard to tell yet, but I think it fits.  I will probably shape the waist a bit more – my fabric is stretchy, so I don’t need much ease.  There is a totally reasonable (for this style) 3 inches of ease in the bust.  70s era patterns fit me really well.  Would you believe this is the first time I have sewn princess seams?  Somehow it hasn’t come up!

I’m also continuing to document my outfits for myself.  It’s really helping me!  Now I just need to sew faster, so I never feel like I have to wear any of the ill-fitting pairs of pants that I own.  I had a hard time figuring out what to wear with this tulip skirt, but I like this blue tank.  It’s better without the sweater, but I get cold when I teach (and today is a marathon day for me, with rehearsal til 10 tonight!)

Tonight, after I get home I want to finish my bodice muslin – I am really excited to make this dress (and please, tell me… ruffle or no ruffle?  I just can’t decide!)