crafts · Sewing · Thrifting


I have been super busy (in a good way!) lately.  My teaching schedule is pretty much full, and I’m in two, possibly three  performing groups this year.   In addition, I’ve been trying to fit in an hour of exercise every day, which cuts into my blog reading time – I’m about to have to declare  Google Reader amnesty and just start over!

I have been sewing, albeit a bit slowly.  I’m still working on the Vogue Vena Cava dress.  I did change my fabric – I decided the zebra print had a bit of a diagonal repeat, and it would have been noticeable in the finished dress.  Instead, I’m using this ITY print:

It’s a little more spring/summer than I really wanted, but it was the best option I had.  I wasn’t willing to order fabric for this dress without being certain it will fit!  I will say that the construction is challenging – I have never made  a dress that was put together this way!  Because of that, I find that I can only do a few steps each night before fatigue sets in (I really hate interpreting drawings.)  The instructions are good though – I have been following them to the letter and it’s working!  Last night I finished the bodice, so I’m onto the skirt now!  I think I’m going to have to use the pockets – I usually leave them out, but I don’t think that would work in this case.  I’m hoping to finish this dress by the weekend – I want to wear it before it gets too late in the year!

I haven’t posted about thrifting in awhile.  Actually, other than the step I bought a few weeks ago I haven’t really been!  My friend Sarah (my thrifting buddy) and I hit one of my favorites last weekend.  I find it very handy to thrift with someone else – she can talk me out of items that aren’t my style, and we wear roughly the same size, but prefer opposite colors (she loves warm tones and brown.)

Although I have been trying not to buy clothes than need alterations, I couldn’t help myself.  Except for one, I’ve already done the work!  Here is what I got:

I love animal prints, but I’ve never tried this kind.  I’m showing it with my trusty Kwik Sew obi belt – it goes with everything!  The dress was two sizes too big for me, so I took it in from hem to underarm (the sleeves were fine) and shortened it by 3 inches.  My 30 minutes of alterations paid off – I love this dress, and I can’t wait to wear it in the fall with boots!

Thrift stores are great places to take a risk.  This dress (don’t worry, despite appearances this is not a romper!)  has a slightly dropped blouson waist.  This would not ordinarily be my thing, but I thought “why not?”  As it turns out, I love this dress.  I wore it Monday with a pair of black flat sandals, and it was so comfortable (yet not sack-like!)  I like that it has a tie rather than elastic – I am coming to a point where I really hate elastic waists on dresses.

I love the fabric of this dress.  It’s originally from the Gap.  I don’t find that Gap clothing fits me well, but this is an exception.  I did shorten the dress by three inches – for some reason dresses from Gap seem to have long hemlines.  I wore it yesterday.

This is also black, not brown (my camera was in a mood.)  Made by INC, I am probably taking in the sides a bit, but other than that it’s a lovely summer/early fall dress.

Ok, so… I bought this because I loved the fabric (which is emerald green, not teal.)  It’s  3 sizes too big for me, but I think I can work it – I want to add some boning to the bodice anyway.   I will take it apart and consider my options – a bigger job than I would usually take on, but my emerald is my favorite color (and so hard to find!)

So that’s what I’ve been up to!  Hopefully I can finish and photograph my dress this weekend – I don’t currently have a tripod that works with my camera, so my husband has to be home for me to get modeled photos.

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Fall sewing 2011

Is it too early?  Probably, but I am over summer!  Here are the patterns I plan to make this fall… the fabrics are mostly tbd, though I will use up at least a few of the knits I got from  I also have a fab damask doubleknit from Joann’s (it was hidden on an endcap) and two (count them!) leopard print doubleknits.  My love for animal prints is still there, so I’d better use them up before they go out of style again!



Top row: Simplicity 2054, Vogue 1258, vogue 1253, simplicity 2219

Middle row: Butterick 5676, Vogue 1159, Vogue 1252, Vogue 1191

Bottom row: Butterick 5674, Vogue 1257, Butterick 5672, Butterick 5675

Yes, these are all knit or doubleknit patterns.  I want to focus on knits this fall, as I probably wear my knit garments 4x as often as the wovens.  They just suit my lifestyle better – I like to be dressy, but I need to be able to breathe freely.  I’ve been keeping track of what I wear, and it’s pretty much all knit dresses all the time (with cardigans – so at least that love is justified!) Luckily the fall offerings from the big 4 pattern companies were really heavy on knits this year.  Of course, I’m sure some woven dresses will sneak in there – I do need formalwear, and knits don’t cut it for that (other than the occasional matte jersey.)  I would also like to make a vintage pattern or two, but I haven’t gone through the pile.  What am I not making?  Jackets.  I just don’t wear them, as I prefer sweaters.  And goodness knows I don’t need any suits!

I’m thinking about going ahead and starting the Vena Cava dress.  My recent success with slim silhouettes has made me less afraid of the proportions of that one!  I pulled out the instructions for the sleeveless Tracy Reese design, and it is way complicated, with stays and a lining.  I am just not up for that right now – the end of summer has me a bit frazzled!  I have an abstract sort of animal print that I’m thinking might be nice for the pattern.



crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Vogue 1250: on the bandwagon

Pattern: Vogue 1250, a DNKY design

Fabric: Starlet knit (from 2 yards

Notes: Thanks so much to everyone who offered input on this dress!  I decided to give it one more try.  I cut the bust down by around 2 inches total, and also took an inch from the hips.  It’s snug, but by no means is it uncomfortable, nor does it make me feel self-conscious (my biggest fear with a  tight dress!)

I’m not entirely certain how the dress is meant to fit – certainly on the envelope it looks big for the model!  I know that I had to cut down the smallest size offered, which is not generally the case for me.  But maybe it’s supposed to have that ease – oh well, on my figure it was too much!

My favorite bit is definitely the neckline.  I don’t always love a cowl neck, but this one is just enough.  The way the dress is constructed is odd, as there aren’t side seams below the waist.  I think this makes the dress harder to fit and adjust – I ended up creating hip seamlines to give the dress more shape.

This is certainly outside of my box – I don’t often do straight skirts.  But I’ve been thinking – why does dressing always have to be about hiding something?  If I ask myself logically I certainly don’t truly believe that there is anything wrong with my shape – and yet I have always dressed to obscure the lower half of my body.   That doesn’t seem right to me!  I believe in dressing to flatter your shape, but it’s a slippery slope from that to self criticism (at least for me!)   I’m trying to change that.  I do love full skirts, but my wardrobe could use some more dresses like this (my husband, for the record, loves this dress on me!)

The wrinkles across the waistline in these photos are from my habitual “hands on hips” photo pose.  I would have retaken them, but I’m having some issues with posed photos right now – my new camera won’t work on my tripod, so I have to grab moments when we are both home at the same time.

I’m not sure yet what’s up next – I need to go through my patterns and match them to fabric again.  I’m looking forward to fall and fall sewing!  I haven’t managed to do much on my knitting in the past few weeks – it’s been so hot that even I didn’t want to knit!  Hopefully I can get back on that wagon soon – I will need some new sweaters this fall!




crafts · patterns · Sewing · workouts

Weekend finds, dress opinions needed

I put my Vogue 1250 into timeout for a bit after trying it on.  I knew going in that I might not love it – I like to emphasize my waist, not my hips.  So when I tried it on I wasn’t happy – I don’t think it makes me look large, but it does have a bit of a rectangle effect:

After a little distance I feel a bit better – I think if I take in the sides above the waist by a few inches I will be happy.  The reason it looks off is that it’s simply too big up there!  I also plan to shorten it by an inch and hem (it isn’t hemmed above.)  And then maybe wear it with a belt?  But maybe I’m kidding myself… do you think I should finish it, or accept that it isn’t meant for my body shape?

On a more cheerful note, I had a great weekend of bargain hunting!  On Saturday we went to an estate sale.  It was in sort of a not good neighborhood, and there was no one there, just us and two other people.  The ad had specifically mentioned sewing patterns, so I made sure to go!  Here is what I found:

I love the sundress on the left.  The other pattern?  That’s a housecoat – how fancy!

A lovely dress with gathered cap sleeves, and a skirt with inseam decorative pockets.


Two nice jackets from the 1940s.  The seamstress really loved her patterns – when the envelopes fell apart she carefully made new ones!

Vogue patterns.  All of the patterns I got are roughly my size (34 bust, I can go either way in vintage patterns.)

Carded buttons.  The green buttons have little handpainted tulips on them.

A pattern already cut out in a rayon print.  I may or may not make it up, as right now it smells of mothballs.  I’m airing it out, so we will see.

A complete set of Ladies Home Journal from the 1960s.  I plan to resell these.

I bought all of the above for $20 – a great deal!

Then on Sunday, Marc was browsing random Craigslist ads and found a Fluidity Bar for $25, including the dvds!

It’s basically a portable ballet barre – great for the ballet workouts I’ve been loving!  It’s very sturdy, and much nicer to use than a chair.  I saw the infomercial for this, but it was quite expensive, especially after shipping.  I figured that eventually one would turn up on Craigslist!  I plan to store it against the wall behind the sofa table, which isn’t pretty exactly, but it is easier than trying to lug the entire 55 pound thing from under the bed a few times a week!

So, it was a great shopping weekend, abut a less great sewing one.  I’m looking forward to starting my fall sewing soon, if not necessarily to the cold weather!

crafts · Life · Sewing · workouts

Working out at home?

Back in the 90s, I had a few workout videos which I would occasionally attempt when I was feeling bored – I can particularly remember an LA gear aerobics video that came with a pair of shoes – I’m pretty sure there was a lot of neon and spandex involved! (I actually spent time looking for this video on youtube, but alas it seems to be lost to time.)

Some of you suggested I give videos a try, and I figured why not?  The university gym has an inconvenient class schedule, and as much as I love the pilates class I just don’t want to go downtown at lunch.

Cats don't understand exercise

So I cleared a space in my living room, getting rid of the eternally messy coffee table, bought a mat and weights, and went to see what was out there.  I’ve been very pleasantly surprised – it isn’t all step aerobics with bad synthesizer music anymore, though that can be fun also (I took step aerobics as my PE elective in college… I can do them,  but they aren’t my favorite thing.)

First I started with my netflix subscription.  There are a few workouts on watch instantly, and I’ve gotten some others through the mail.  Here are the ones I recommend from watch instantly for my fellow beginners:

Crunch “Pick your spot” pilates – (amazon link, but available on watch instantly.)  This was the first video I tried, and I loved it!  The instructor, Ellen Barrett, is very encouraging without being perky.  I know some people enjoy a more militant approach to exercise instruction, but I don’t – I want to be encouraged!  It doesn’t assume previous pilates experience, and it’s broken down into three 10 minute segments – for abs, thighs, and rear.  Almost the entire thing takes place on a mat.  Highly recommended, as it isn’t too terribly long!

Crunch Super SlimdownBy the same instructor as the first video – I just love her, and in fact I ended up buying two of her studio dvds !  This is a blend of yoga and pilates, but not exactly either one.  This wasn’t my favorite – it’s bit harder and longer than the first video above, but still totally do-able (though I wouldn’t do it without understanding a bit about pilates and yoga first, as there isn’t as much focus on form.)

I bought or borrowed the following dvds:

Leslie Sansone’s 5k with a twistWhen I first heard about indoor walking videos, my first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  I borrowed this from a friend, who assured me that it was awesome.  I walked with this tape last night, and it was more fun than I thought!  The music is upbeat, and Leslie herself is very positive and encouraging.  She does chatter pretty much non-stop, but that’s fine with me – I want to be distracted!  It’s not all walking – you also do step touches, kicks, and grapevines.  Each mile finishes up with a 2 minute burst of running in place, to get the heart up.  She’s also very clear about modifications for the more high impact parts (if you can’t jump/run etc.)  I’m interested to try a different one of her walks – some of them use handweights etc.

Ballet Body WorkoutApparently I’m not the only one who harbors childhood fantasies of being a ballerina.  There are a ton of these ballet inspired workouts out there!  This particular dvd is nice – it only requires light weights, but has a ton of plies, and some pilates-like floor work.  I feel very graceful doing it, which I love!  I bought it with one of those “buy both dvds for X price” from Amazon with Xtend Barre.  I haven’t tried that one yet, but it looks more intense – it uses a chair as a faux barre.   Barre workouts are very popular… there is a pure Barre studio here, but it’s super expensive, so I won’t be trying that – I’m glad to have found videos!

Slim Sculpt and Fat Burning FusionThese dvds are led by Ellen Barrett, the instructor from the first two above.  They are a blend of ballet, pilates, yoga, and toning work.  Slim Sculpt has a great arm section, while the other is more lower body (and faster paced.)  I love them both – I like that I don’t have to hyperventilate to feel that I have worked hard!  I’d recommend both of these to people who – like me – dread the idea of exercise.

That’s it!  As you can see, I haven’t yet ventured into real cardio workouts at home.  I’ve been using the elliptical at the gym, which I love because it’s no impact, or walking.   I went to a zumba class, and I know everyone loves it, but I think it’s not for me.  It’s not that it’s dance, it’s that I am latin dance challenged, and I don’t really like latin music very much.  I do plan to try some other dancey type classes or tapes, and if anyone has any recommendations for dvds that would be great!

I leave you with a photo of my next project: Vogue 1250.  I felt left out, so we will see if I like it!