crafts · patterns · Sewing

Early spring McCall and Simplicity (and some sewing inspiration!)

I love new patterns – nothing makes me happier than seeing new patterns, and planning my upcoming wardrobe.  I like to think that I have a pretty good eye, but occasionally a pattern photo or illustration will be so bad that I just can’t imagine how the garment would look on me.  In those cases I rely on the many talented women in the sewing community – you would not believe how often I buy a pattern after seeing it on someone else!  I made my way to Joann’s for the sale tonight, and purchased several patterns that were “inspiration” purchases.  I thought I’d blog about them (and the beautiful garments made by other sewers) to highlight the difference from picture to reality.  (Oh – and I also found the new McCall’s and Simplicity patterns – my review is at the bottom!)

Clockwise from top left: Vogue 8571 (See: Girls in the Garden,) Vogue 8469 (See: Mezzo Couture,) Vogue 8380 (See:Did You Make That,) Vogue 8631 (See:Lazy Stitching,) and Vogue 8645 (see:Adrienne’s version.)

See what I mean?  I find myself totally unable to interpret the Vogue drawings!  I have the same issue with McCall (though theirs often stem from some odd photo styling.)

I think that the top left tunic may be one of the worst pattern photos ever.  It’s just so bad – the shiny! leggings, the stumpifying shoes, the pulled back hair (making the shoulders look out of proporton,) and the fact that the tunic does not fit her.  But!  I just saw Ann over at Sew Baby News make it, and it was so cute!  Plus I just got a similar top at the thrift, and it’s very flattering, which I would not have thought at all.  Other patterns: McCall 6069 (chalk this one up to changing tastes – I thought I didn’t like drapey tops, but it turns out I do,) McCall 6070 (see: Underneath the willow,) and McCall 6031 (See: Mushywear.)  These are all knit garments, and I’ve recently bought a bunch of knits in preparation for spring/summer sewing.  I can’t wait – I love wearing my knits!

While at Joann’s I found the new McCall’s patterns hiding in a drawer (the book was not out, but they were good for the 99 cent sale going on through Saturday!)  It’s a pretty good collection, and includes a new line of patterns by the author of Generation T.  I personally don’t care for those books, which remind me a bit of the early Stitch and Bitch books, in that everything is sort of skewed towards that “punk rock crafting” aesthetic that I don’t get.  But the new patterns are cute, and I can see teenagers really loving them!  Here are the three patterns I picked up:

**Edited to add:** I got another look, and the Generation Next patterns are actually by several different designers, only one of which is the Generation T designer.  I can’t wait to see a few of them made up!

I really like the Laura Ashley dress.  Are there still Laura Ashley stores in the US?  We don’t have on here anymore.  I plan to make the view with the flutter sleeves from rayon challis.  It’s a bit 70s, and I’m in a 70s mode right now.  I like the coatdress for the view with the little ruffled sleevecaps.  The skirt pattern looks like a good basic – View A is just gathered, while the other two are ruffled and tiered.  I love a full skirt in the summertime!

I also have to give McCall’s props – I’ve been complaining for ages (well, since I started sewing!) that no one shows the finished hip measurement on the back of the envelope.  They started doing that in the fall (I think) and it’s very helpful for me!  For instance, I now know to plan to use an 8 on the top, blended to a 12 on the bottom for the Laura ashley dress, and I didn’t have to measure the pieces to figure that out!

My Joann’s also has the spring Simplicity patterns:

These are the ones I plan to pick up as soon as there is a sale.  I love that Cynthia rowley pattern, and I’m imagining it in gingham, with the jacket in lightweight denim (yes, almost exactly like the illustration… my imagination needs a boost!)  Both PR patterns look nice – the ruffles on the jacket are trendy, but I think I like the plain collar even more.  The dress will be pretty in cotton sateen.  I like the little knit cardigan with tabbed sleeves on the first pattern.  And that Jessica McClintock dress is fab – I love the cocktail length with the pleated bodice.  I have nowhere to wear that to, but seriously I’m going to have to come up with somewhere to go!

Whew – that was a lot of talking about patterns!  I’ve been off from work for a week, but I haven’t sewed anything at all – there’s been way too much traveling and holiday party-ing.  I’m in the process of planning a travel wardrobe for Italy in March – so excited!  Hopefully I will get the plan together and post soon.

fashion · outfits

Outfit: Green tights

Dress: Delia’s, thrifted

Tights: Merona

Shoes: Sofft

I have a backlog of December outfit posts – I take them, but then run out of time to post them on the blog!  I will get to them eventually, but in the meantime here is what I actually wore today.

This outfit is very me – it combines an empire waist, a fun print, and a bright color!  I saw this dress at the thrift on Tuesday, and I ran for it like a mad woman (though there was no one else shopping!)  I washed it, and wore it the very next day to a holiday party.  This was the perfect dress to wear while consuming my own weight in pretzel bread and chardonnay (there was other food, but I like to stick to the basics, you know?)  That was our last party of the season (I doubt we will be celebrating New Year’s with anyone who isn’t a cat) and I’m glad for the time to breathe a bit!

crafts · Life · Sewing

2010: year in sewing


Above: a year’s worth of sewing projects (plus about a million views of that blue wall!)  I think the wall may be the true star of the blog – you would not believe how many requests I have gotten for the paint color (it’s Sapphire from Ellen Kennon paints, a semi-expensive line of full spectrum paints that are totally worth the money – look how different it appears in different lights!)

It’s fun to see what colors I gravitate towards – I like blue the most, followed by emerald green (there would be more green if I could find good green fabrics!)  I wear a lot of black, gray, and navy, but almost no brown at all… funny, since I used to own a ton of brown clothing!  I like to mix in a shot of red or magenta to brighten up the neutrals.  I find that my homemade closet coordinates together very well!

A year and a half ago I decided to take up sewing on a whim.  A year ago I made my first skirt (Collette patterns’ Beignet) and I haven’t stopped sewing since!  I am so grateful to have found sewing – my tendinitis will no longer allow me to knit or crochet very much, but I can sew with almost no problem.  I actually didn’t realize how bad my wrists were until I stopped – amazingly enough, I can now lean on my arm without pain, something I couldn’t do for years.  My endurance on the piano is also far greater.   I do miss knitting (and especially crochet for some reason) and would like to take up some projects… if I can force myself to not obsess about finishing things and take it slowly, something that isn’t easy for someone who could be called obsessive (I say focused, but obsessive is pretty close!)

2010 has been a great year – thank goodness, since the year before was… not so good.  I’m at a good place in my personal and professional life.  I finally feel as though (for the most part) the face I present to the world is who I really am.  As someone who has always suffered from chronic shyness and self-doubt, that’s a pretty big deal!  I’m not apologizing for who I am, and I find that (for the most part) other people seem to appreciate that.   I have made new friends, and reconnected with old ones.  I do not think I would like to go back to my 20s.  I have friends who are sad for being over 30, but it makes me sad that they cannot see how beautiful they are now!

My sewing skills have grown tremendously – I’ve even conquered sewing knits, which I was afraid of for quite awhile!  I combined my passion for thrifting with my passion for sewing to continue with my goal (and 2010 resolution) of finding my own personal style.  Last summer I started taking photos of what I’m wearing – not every day, but most weekdays.  After Self-stitched September (which was a trans-formative experience in itself!) I’ve kept it up – and in the process I’ve finally discovered what styles I like.  It’s an ongoing process, but posting the photos here and to great flickr communities like Wardrobe Remix has been fun!

So… happy new year to all my readers!  I am (as always) so very grateful that you read my ramblings.  In August I will have been blogging for five years, if you can believe it!  The blog has morphed along the way, and I thank those of you who have stuck with me, and welcome new readers.  As always… happy sewing, knitting, thrifting, or whatever makes you fulfilled in the new year!

crafts · Life · Sewing

A new dress for the holidays (Vogue 8685)


In the photo:

Dress: Vogue 8685 in Red Ponte knit

Scarf: Made by me, no pattern

Jacket: Ann Taylor, thrifted

Tights: H&M

Shoes: Impo

I find myself unable to resist the lure of red and green come Christmas time.  This year’s dress was made using Vogue 8685 and a red ponte knit from Mood.  I felt very festive!

The dress pattern was very well drafted – all the pieces fit together nicely, and the instructions were very clear.  Having said that, I have a few minor quibbles.  First of all, the pattern calls for sewing on the binding, then flipping it to the inside and sewing it down.  There’s no way on this knit – and this isn’t even a heavy ponte!  I left the neckline turned to the outside, and on the armholes I just whipstitched the edges to the finished bodice edges (it makes more sense if you can see the pattern.)

There was also an issue with the skirt – due to the shape of the yoke, it was necessary to trim over 2 inches on the sides.  Definitely let the skirt hang before hemming – you will have to fix that.  I think this is the first time I’ve ever had a skirt require real reshaping!  I used the hem marker on my dressform for the first time.

I do like this dress, but I have one comment about it – I’m really not convinced that the shape of the bottom yoke is all that flattering.  I picked the best photo for my vanity, but it has a tendency to emphasize any imbalance in your figure.  Great for hourglasses, but be careful if you have another shape.  I prefer a dress that flares out right away – this is almost a dropped waist.

The scarf was super easy – I made several for Christmas presents!  It’s basically just a length of fabric cut 22″ by 2yards, sewn into a tube, turned, and closed by hand.  Very easy, and well received this year.

I hope everyone who celebrates had a lovely holiday.  We spent Christmas in Cincinnati with my husband’s parents.  I cantored mass at a lovely old Catholic church (one of my best friends is the minister of music and worship there.)

My love of old things extends to old churches.  Last week my chamber choir gave their advent concert in a beautiful old downtown church in Louisville, and this week I got to sing in this one.  I always enjoy seeing all the detail in the old designs – churches now feel so sterile to me!

I have some fun year end posts planned.  I’ve also done some shopping at the year end fabric sales – I’m already starting to plan my spring sewing (this is normal for me – after Christmas I start to get very weary of winter.  Here’s hoping for an early spring!)

Season’s greetings to you all (photo of Marc and I, overlooking the Cincinnati skyline on Christmas eve after mass.)


crafts · food · Life · Sewing

Holiday parties

There has been a distinct lack of sewing and blogging here this week.  We threw a holiday party of sorts for my chamber group last night, so my week was consumed by planning and cleaning for that.  Hosting parties always makes me nervous – I usually spend the days leading up to the affair convincing myself that no one will come, and that I will end up having to consume an entire Crockpot of Swedish meatballs and a case of wine all by myself.  Luckily, the party was a success, and I actually didn’t get any meatballs because they were consumed so quickly!  The meatball recipe I use is always a hit, and it takes about 15 seconds to prepare (minus the crockpot time!)

2 lbs of frozen meatballs (the best ones are the swedish meatballs from Trader Joe’s, but any frozen meatballs will do.)

1 can of Campbells cream of mushroom soup

1 packet brown gravy mix

1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and mix.  Set the crockpot for 6 hours and go away.  I usually avoid anything having to do with cream of something soup, but I swear to you, these are the best meatballs ever.  People never believe they were frozen.  Lots of people make BBQ meatballs for parties, but I’ve never liked those.  I bring these instead!

Now that the party is over, I can finish my holiday dress!

This actually only took me one day of sewing.  It’s completed except for the hemline – the pattern says to let it hang to stretch the bias, and believe me it is necessary!  The sides are noticeably longer, possible due to the yoke piece.  I will have notes about this pattern later, but I really like it.   I hope to have finished photos soon – I’m planning to wear this for Christmas eve!


crafts · decorating · Sewing

Christmas trees and red dresses

I am not really one to decorate for the holidays.  We don’t generally host any holiday gatherings, and to be honest I’m pretty scroogey about the whole season (too many years of working for churches… this year I am only doing one Christmas service, for a friend who lives in Cincinnati.)  This year we are holding a small party, so I’ve actually had to dig out my christmas things.  Fortunately, my Mom loves Christmas, but gets tired of things, so we have tons of decorations from her.  We don’t have a large Christmas tree (and nowhere to put one,) so I put up two small ones instead:

The first tree is in the dining room.  Note the Lego Death Start ornament in the front!  And why yes, that is a hot pink christmas tree with hot pink lights.  It’s actually sitting on the piano (the piano is closed, and I almost never open it all the way.  It’s covered with a blanket to stop any scratches.)

Yes, it’s kind of tacky, but if you can’t be tacky at Christmas, when can you? That’s my piano studio, and I know my students will appreciate the kitschy tree!  And those are indeed little disco balls gathered around the base.    Since we live in a Victorian house, people often gift me those “Victorian Christmas” style things.  It’s not my style at all, too stuffy and the colors are too somber.  It’s definitely an ongoing challenge to decorate this house – the woodwork tends to dominate everything, and I have to be careful not to go too modern (I love modern furniture, but it looks wrong here… the scale is too small.)  I just aim to let my personality show through, even if that is sometimes pretty loud.  It works for me!

To go along with the holiday theme, I’m making a red dress using Vogue 8685.

I’m using a red ponte knit that I bought at Mood.  To be honest, it’s a bit more of a cherry red than I prefer – I look best in very blue toned reds, which don’t clash with my hair.  This one isn’t too bad though, and it will be nice for Christmas!  The pattern has a lot of pieces due to the yoke, but it doesn’t look very hard to make.  I’ve got it cut and ready to sew this week (in between the frantic house cleaning – I will have lots of people who have never seen my house, and I like to preserve the illusion that I’m very good at dusting!)

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Plaid shirtdress: Vogue 8028, take two

Pattern: Vogue 8028m view A

Fabric: 3 yards of stretch plaid shirting from (still available)

It’s rare that I’m struck by the urge to make something twice – there are so many patterns in my queue, and so little time to make them!  But after finishing my first shirtdress using this pattern, I still felt like making another.  I bought this shirting because of the color (I do love green, and it’s more emerald than it looks on my monitor.)  I had planned to  make a tunic, but after I finished my shirtdress I knew that only a dress could do justice to the plaid!  This sort of buffalo check plaid is in style right now.  I like it – it’s less mottled than a more traditional plaid.  The only negative is that matching thread is impossible.  I left off most of the topstitching because there was just no way to get it looking good.

The cuffs were cut on the bias, and I used self fabric interfacing all over, so that I wouldn’t get white show through on the buttonholes.  The dress could possibly be a bit smaller in the bodice, but I tend to err on the larger side in winter.  It’s 2 inches longer than the cord dress – I plan to wear it sometimes without tights, and so I wanted it to be knee length.  I had trouble with the collar – I forgot to enclose the self facing at first, and had to rip the stitching back.  Then I couldn’t get it to stay in place for topstitching, but I finally solved that issue by using a gluestick to glue the collar down before stitching – I read that somewhere and it’s a great tip!

I love this dress – I’m definitely all about the shirtdress this winter.  And I am very proud of my plaid matching – you can’t even tell that it buttons in the front in these photos!

crafts · outfits · refashions · Sewing

In my rainbow skirt: how to see the potential in thrifted clothes

One of the most frequent comments I get on my thrifting habit is “I’d love to thrift, but I only ever find really ugly clothes at my local stores.”  Well… it’s true that I do have a few stores that I like, but if you’re going to do any refashioning you have to be able to see the potential of an item.  Look beyond dowdy hemlines or ugly trim.  Sometimes a simple change is all you need to make something fabulous again!  Case in point: this vintage Doncaster skirt.

Sorry for the terrible before photo, but I was struck with the refashioning urge in the middle of the night, so I pulled this out of my basket.  The length was terrible, and it really didn’t work with the fullness around the hips – it makes me look much larger than I am!  But I knew that Doncaster is a really nice, expensive brand (they’ve been around for about a million years,) and the fabric of this skirt was gorgeous.  As it turns out, all that was required was a new hemline – after chopping 6 inches and hemming, the pleats around the waistline started to hang gracefully rather than like a sack.  I’m wearing it today, and I love the bright colors!

It’s some sort of rayon suiting, very drapey and soft.  I believe this skirt to be from the 80s based on the color scheme, but it’s hard to tell for certain.  It’s definitely not a modern size – the label reads size 8, and this is smaller than a modern 8.  I usually wear an 8 in clothes from that time period.

Shortening vintage is controversial – some people really don’t think you should.  There are some garments I won’t touch, mostly really nice gowns from the 50s – but you notice that I never wear those!  I like this length.  I didn’t have to adjust any other measurements.

When I shop I go by color and pattern – I will always buy plaids and polka dots, and anything brightly colored draws me like a moth to a porch light.  Think about what colors and textures you wear, and when faced with a thrift store full of clothes, focus on finding those pieces that match what you already have.  You don’t need to look at every item (though I usually look at every single dress, just in case.)

I love my new skirt – and it took maybe an hour to fix.  Give it a try!





The rest of what I wore this week

The rest of my outfits this week – let’s go backwards in time!


Cardigan: Jalie pleated cardigan

Tunic: Maggy London

Jeggings: Charlotte Russe

Boots: Impo

First time wearing my jeggings out of the house!  I must have tried on 30 pair before deciding on these.  They are very comfortable, and they fixed the issue I had with every other pair – if they fit in the hips, the legs were too big for my skinny calves.  I seem to be pear shaped only on the top of my legs – even when I weighed 15 lbs more than I do now, I still had very skinny legs.   These are probably teenager sized, which is why they work.  The tunic is actually the dress I thrifted and showed a few weeks ago.  See how nicely a petite dress works as a tunic?  I do this pretty often.

It’s my friend’s 30th birthday, and we’re all going to the Cheesecake factory, and then for bowling and karaoke (well, I will not be bowling, because it hurts my hands, but I will be watching!)


Dress: Thrifted (from the 90s perhaps?)

Leggings: Forever 21

Boots: Kensie Girl

I really love this dress, even if the pattern is a bit wild!  And yes, I am wearing it with crazy leggings, because they were the only ones clean, and it was cold outside!


Cardigan: Knitted by me (Veronik Avery design from Vogue knitting.)

Dress: Vogue 1023

Boots: Target

Running errands.  I went back and shortened this dress again, because it grew on the hanger.  The hem may be a bit uneven now, but I’m not sure I care that much.  I love this sweater!  Now that I’m hardly wearing pants, I find my sweaters difficult to wear – I have so many that I made to wear with jeans, and the silhouettes and lengths don’t work nearly as well with dresses.  But I’m trying to wear them!

crafts · outfits · Sewing · Thrifting

Military shirtdress: before and after

On one of my thrifting expeditions recently I ran across a military style shirtdress.  It was super dowdy, but a good quality brand (Talbots,) made of a lovely silk.  It appeared almost unworn. The hidden clasp at the waist (a nice feature in a shirtdress – mine always gape there!) was detatched, and I sincerely hope that’s not why it was donated (although, based on the number of requests from friends and family for me to sew on buttons, I wouldn’t be surprised.)  Here is the before shot:

As you can see, not so cute.  This is actually a size 10 petite.  Last I checked, I wear a 6 in Talbots, and 2 sizes isn’t a bad alteration.  And petite is always better, because the shoulders on a petite tend to be narrow.   My inspiration was this dress, from Anthro this fall:

I shortened the dress by 4 inches (actually too much… I had to take a really tiny hem!) I shortened the sleeves, and took 2 inches of width out of each side, from the sleeve to the waist.  The skirt portion originally had a slit, which I sewed up.  That altered the hang of the skirt enough that I didn’t need to adjust it.  The waist is elastic, and it’s meant to be worn with a belt, so I didn’t adjust the waist at all.  It was made a little more complicated by the fact that the skirt was lined.  I wanted it to look nice, so I carefully removed all the hems and made a nice, neat new hem in both.  The results?

I am really happy with how this came out – it’s very on trend, and you would never guess that it was a $2.50 thrift store purchase!  I think I got close to my inspiration.  The only differences are the sleeves (I wanted shorter sleeves, and though I made a tab I ended up preferring the sleeves hemmed shorter,) and the belt – I dislike fabric ties, and prefer a nice, stretchy elastic belt.  This project ended up costing about $5 (I had to buy matching thread!) and took me one evening to complete.

Here is how I’m actually wearing it today (it’s a cold one!)


Sweater: 525 america, this is definitely my favorite sweater this year.  Love the shawl collar!

Belt: Forever 21

Boots: Nine West