crafts · Life · Sewing

Happy New Year!

It’s that time again – time for my annual year in review!  This year I’ve decided to highlight my favorite posts and projects from the past year.  Let’s get started, shall we?


I discussed Sewing rules and how I break them.  I still break all of those rules with gleeful abandon, and I’m sure I’ve added a few new ones!

I made a tutorial for hemming a full skirt.  I have to tell you, I use this method of hemming on over half of my garments and it’s great!  I’ve become more anti hand-hemming this year.  It’s not that I think it looks bad, or that I can’t do it, but I find that I am always having to redo them when stitches come loose!


I made Butterick 5523, which probably wins the award for most warn garment.  I can also recommend the Sophia knit (from or vogue fabrics) because after many washes it has not pilled like many double knits!

Vogue 1225 (Tracy Reese) wins the award for the garment most likely to garner comments from non-sewers.  That’s funny because I wouldn’t consider it my best finished garment ever (I have yet to put in a real hem!)


I traveled to Italy with my chamber group.  I cannot say enough good things about my experience singing in this ensemble – musically it is wonderful, the members have become dear friends, and I got to go to Italy!  We may be traveling to Spain and Portugal next spring, and I’m looking forward to my adventures.

While I was in Italy I completed Me-made-March 2011.  It was a challenge, but I enjoyed it – I certainly put more thought into the mixing of my separates!


I made my three favorite projects this year: Vogue 8728, Butterick 5491, and Simplicity 2219.  The last one is my favorite sewing project ever!  I love the fabric, the style, the color… everything about it!


I developed an obsession with the 1970s and made Vogue 2343 (Diane Von Furstenberg.)  This dress is lovely, but I must confess that I don’t wear it too often – it has a regrettable tendency to grow, as the matte jersey is quite heavy.


I blogged about the connection between sewing and body image, in a post with the most comments I have ever gotten.  I was so touched my the comments and support.  What a great community we have!  This post led to…


I was sad in July – one of my best friends moved away, and I was depressed.  Looking for a way to distract myself,  I thought back to my June post, and I resolved to make new healthy habits.  I started working about for the first time in years, and to my surprise it has become a favored hobby in the second half of the year!

I made McCall’s 6277, continuing my obsession with the 1970s (not a vintage pattern, but in the style.)


I only completed one project, but I did go to the world’s best estate sale!  Right now I am making a dress from this collection.


I have been making a lot of knit projects this fall, including Vogue 1258.  This dress took forever, and sucked up all my time for weeks, but I love the finished project!


I made Butterick 5672.  I’ve worn this quite a lot this fall/winter.


I resolved to make some tops.  After a  year of wearing mostly dresses I was concerned I was in a style rut, and was honestly a bit bored.  The solution?  Adding some new silhouettes into the mix.  I made McCall’s 6167, which I love so much!  I’ve been wearing a lot of leggings and ponte pants, and even found some skinny jeans that I love (from The Limited, in case you were wondering!)


The holiday season is always busy, but this year was crazy – I had a ton of concerts, and I am also preparing to go back to school!  I made McCall’s 6084 to wear in the holidays, and it was a big hit.  Unfortunately, it accidentally got run through the drier, and is just a bit tight in the shoulders, but nothing that can’t be dealt with!

Coming up (goals, not resolutions!)

1. Graduate!

This is a big deal to me.  I should be graduating in May!  This coming semester is going to be busy – I have class 3 days a week, I’m still teaching full time, and I have all my performing groups.  It will all be worth it I know, and I can’t wait to get started (The semester starts January 5th!)

2. Exercise at least 5x a week

I’ve actually been doing well with this, getting 6x most weeks, but I’m setting 5 as my goal since I will be busy!  I’ve completed my Ballet rotation, and I’ve started Chalean Extreme (yeah, I know, the name is terrible, but the program is decent!)  I like the idea of heavier weight training.  I’ve completed the second week and feel stronger already!  I really wanted to try P90X, because a good friend of mine had amazing results, but I know I’m not ready for that yet.  This program is challenging, but lets me ease into the weights!

I’m doing a hiit(high intensity interval training)  workout 1x a week , often the ones at  I do some other sort of cardio either 1 or 2x a week, and take one day off.  I average 45 minutes a day.   I still cannot believe that I actually enjoy all this!  I notice improved energy and mood overall since I started working out in July.

3. Sew things that I actually wear!

I really do wear all those dresses, so I don’t mean that.  What do I mean?  I plan to continue focusing on what I actually wear, and to make choices based on that.  I’ve been doing really well at that.  Since I started considering what I liked, I’ve had very few unworn garments!

4. Stay Organized

I feel better when my things are organized, but I’m not always good at putting them in order!  Right now my sewing space is clean, and it feels great.  I want to try to remember that feeling, and not allow myself to let the clutter take over!

5. Stay true to myself.

I have made great strides here, but it’s always a goal.  I am happiest when I am true to myself.  I’m not interested in playing a role, or in pretending to be some way that I’m not.  The people in my life love me for who I actually am, and those who don’t?  Aren’t worth it.

2011 was a great year for me, and I’m hoping 2012 can keep up!  Thanks to everyone who reads and comments – even when I don’t have time to answer every one, I appreciate them all.  See you in the new year!





crafts · finished objects · Sewing

McCall’s 6084: Velvety

Pattern: McCall’s 6084

Fabric: Tie-dye look velvet from Fabricmart


That’s more like it!  As a counter to yesterday’s downer of a review, I absolutely love this jacket!  I fell in love with this piece of velvet when I saw it online, so I had to snatch up 3 yards at their Thanksgiving sale.  When I took it from the box I got worried – I loved the fabric, but might the tie-dyed effect be a bit much?  The velvet is also somewhat crushed, which I wasn’t expecting.  I decided to just go with it, so I prewashed the entire piece in the washing machine.  It came out fine (fabric content is 100% rayon) and not any more crushed than it went in.  Now I can clean it without drycleaning!   The entire time I was making it (about 2 evenings of work) I kept asking myself this question: Elegant yet bohemian, or kooky elementary school art teacher.  The line there is very thin.  Luckily it all came together, and while it is certainly striking I don’t think it’s crazy.

Back in the 90s I was a person obsessed with velvet.  If it was possible to make in velvet I owned it, from body suits, to jackets,  to a notable pair of black velvet palazzo pants!  Once that decade waned so did my love for the stuff.  I no longer own any velvet, except for one (mandatory) dress from a former ensemble (and that’s stretch velvet, an awful and different beast.)  I had certainly never sewn with velvet.  I thought to myself “How hard can it be?”  Well… I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it’s certainly one of the pickier fabrics that I have worked with!

Things that I learned: You must cover your ironing board in a soft bath towel.  Place the fabric face down on the towel, and then steam over (but never touching) the backing.  Smooth with your fingers, and don’t press too hard!  I used a skinny (size 60) universal needle.  I turned the presser foot pressure all the way down, and lowered the stitch tension.  I used a walking foot.  And even with all these precautions, the fabric would still tend to shift every so often.  The shoulder seams are particularly sketchy, but luckily you cannot tell a bit in this fabric!

I was able to serge the edges but not the seam allowances (they tended to reject the presser foot on my serger.)  I finished the seam allowances with a zigzag, and I serged all the hems, turned under 5/8″ and topstitched.   Velvet does not ease.  Seriously, not a bit.  I removed most of the cap ease, but even so I had to cut some off at the end!  Finally, the biggest lesson I learned?  If you choose to sew velvet you, all your possessions, and even your cat will be covered in fuzz.  You will find bits of velvet in your nose and (if you are me) you will spend at least a day with terribly irritated allergies!  So would I do velvet again?  Well…  I won’t say never, but I will say this… it would have to be an awesome project, with as few seams as possible!

Pattern Review

McCall’s 6084 is not sized for knits.  That’s the first thing to know.  It  does list jersey and cotton knits in the recommended fabric list, but not until the end, after crepe, silk rayon, and challis.  I cut an XS and it fits very well in a non-stretch woven.  The pattern itself is very straightforward, with only 3 main pattern pieces.  I found it easy to construct, with the exception of attaching the front to back at the shoulders and neckline.  Pay careful attention to the instructions there!

I finished all the edges by serging and turned under 5/8″.  The instructions call for a narrow hem, but that wasn’t possible in this fabric.  The fit is good, with the sleeves not being too wide.  The only issue (which is a non-issue for me) is that the sleeves are short.  I cut the long sleeve length and ended up with 3/4 sleeves.  Luckily that’s what I prefer!

I’m planning to wear this jacket tomorrow for Christmas Eve.  It looks dressy but is still comfortable! I also love it belted.   Happy holidays to you all, and I will see you after the rush is finished!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

McCalls 6408: lessons in pattern photo interpretation

Pattern: McCalls 6408, view b

Fabric: Black rayon/lycra jersey from Fashion Fabrics club


I’m going to start out by saying that I really don’t recommend this pattern at all.  Mine ended up ok (not great, but ok) only after some major surgery!

Let’s start here: I require a lot of black clothing for performances.  I had a concert last weekend that required long sleeves,  and I found myself without a black cardigan.  I had this pattern on my list, so I decided to make it up… on a Saturday night… for a Sunday afternoon concert.  It seemed a simple enough pattern, but as I have discovered you cannot count on anything when you have a deadline!

I cut a size XS.  I was happy at first to measure the armholes and realize that the sleevecap had no ease, so I didn’t have to remove any!  The sleevecaps were a bit oddly shaped and were hard to set in, but I managed.  It wasn’t until I tried it on that I became aware of major fit issues around the sleeves and sleevecap.   The sleeves were really enormous, and the caps were very deep.  The shoulder itself fell off my shoulder in a drop sleeve (and I am not narrow through the shoulders at all.)  In addition, it was rather large – the ties in the front could not tie tightly enough to cinch in my waist without looking silly.

I ended up going back and removing 4 inches from the sleeves and sides.  Even after that, the sleeves are still large, but the fabric was starting to twist so I knew I couldn’t take it in anymore.  It fits better in the body, but it still almost too big.  The ties are rather long, and the weight of them tends to pull the waistline of the sweater down, so it won’t necessarily tie at the waist.   Here is a closeup of the result:

You can see how it’s still almost too big to tie.

For comparison, here is the envelope:

See how the sleeves are scrunched up?  That is a bad sign, which I will note in the future.  I also note that the gray sweater has sleeves that look both too big and too long (like mine.)

You can see on the back view how strange the armhole is:


If I were to make this again… well, I wouldn’t.  I do like the idea of the tied cardigan, but this one seems poorly drafted to me – the sleeves on the XS should not be that big, and it seems overall to be drafted large for a knit.  But if I were to make it I would reduce the length of the ties by quite a bit, shorten the armhole length, and make the sleeves smaller and shorter.

I will wear this sweater of course – I can never have too much black (it is black, though I lightened the photos considerably.)  Sorry for the downer of a review, but I do like to tell the bad along with the good.  If you like the idea of  the ties I would recommend attaching them to a different pattern – the Jalie Pleated cardigan would be my pick!

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Spring 2012 McCalls and Simplicity

Yes, it’s very early for spring (although never too early for me!)  I’m not making a lot of progress on my winter plans due to being incredibly busy this season, but I never mind dreaming of new things!  I have finished one project that will be reviewed this week.  I wasn’t thrilled with the product so I’ve been avoiding, but I think it’s important to give both good and bad reviews!

Anyway, Simplicity has some decent patterns, but I’m really excited about the new McCalls – they have some new designers, giving the collection a different feel from the last few.   The last few sets of their patterns have done nothing for me, and seemed aimed at teenagers.  There is still plenty of that, but most of the dresses can go either way.  Let’s start with Simplicity:

Simplicity 1913:  Ok, so I sort of feel like they’ve released this pattern before (it’s very similar to several of the project runway patterns… 2473 for example in the 3rd, non modeled view) but it’s cute if you don’t have anything similar!I don’t think either of the modeled versions are very well fitted (they look big on the model) but the drawing to the far left is very cute.  I actually have that other pattern, so I don’t know if I would buy this one.


Simplicity 1915 and 1916 – I’ve been wearing the heck out of my handmade tops this winter, and I need cute ones for warmer weather. I’m not totally sold on the wisdom of the funky hemline in 1915, but I could possibly be convinced!

McCalls 6507 and 6506

I am pretty excited to see McCalls with some new designers – this is from Plenty by Tracy Reese, which I believe is her less expensive line (Vogue gets her fancier designs.)  Both of these dresses are cute, especially 6507.  I will be making both for spring!

McCalls 6518 and 6505 are both designs from Phoebe Couture.  I believe this is also the first time we’ve seen this designer in McCall’s, but I’m not positive.  I love the ruffled dress, which you all knew.  The lace dress is really pretty, though I will not be making it on account of having no call for such a dress!

McCalls 6503  and 6504– I like both sleeveless versions of 6503.   The ruffled version is similar to a vintage pattern that I own, but as that pattern isn’t my size I will make this instead!  I find myself oddly attracted to the weird hemline in 6504 – I like that it’s longer in the back rather than at the sides.  I haven’t seen that sort of hemline before, but I think it might be flattering!   I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with the seaming on these dresses – but I wouldn’t plan to make it in a print that needs matching, that’s for sure!

Finally, I really like the Kay Whitt purses in McCalls 6532

Will I make one?  Based on past experience, possibly not… but I do like the looks of them quite a bit!

I’ll be back tomorrow (hopefully) with a s0-so pattern review!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Vogue 8771: more experiments in silhouette

Pattern: Vogue 8771

Fabric: Rayon/lurex jersey from


Have you ever finished something and then been unable to decide how you felt about it?  Because that’s where I am with this top!  Dolman sleeved tops are everywhere right now, and I must say that while I don’t mind them I’ve never found them easy to wear.  In my quest for new tops and tunics, I’m trying to get away from making the same silhouette over and over again.  I liked the looks of this pattern, and it was at any rate very simple.  I think it’s rather nice from the back:

It’s casual and not a little 80s, but I do like that view.  I find that when I try a new silhouette I need time to adjust to the idea of it before I can pass judgement.  I did get complimented by one of my piano students, a very worldly 10 year old who assured me that it was very “now and hip!”

I cut a size 8, and could have gone down a size I think.  There is plenty of easy built in!  Do watch the width of the hips though, as that area does run a tad smaller.  I constructed the top as called for in the pattern, with the exception of the hemline, which I left unfinished.  This knit is a rayon/lycra/lurex knit from  It’s very drapey, which works well for this pattern I think (the one on the website is made up in a thick ity, and I do not like the way it hangs.)  The fabric is metallic, which doesn’t photograph well, but I assure you that it is black with silver sparkles!

The pattern is not intended to be off the shoulder, but the neckline is wide.  It falls to the side naturally, so I just decided to go with it and wear a black tank underneath.  Other pattern quibbles… well, overall I thought it was well drafted.  It was a little tricky getting the cured sleeve panels in without puckering.

So in conclusion I’m reserving judgement until I have time to get used to the shape.  I’m sure I will wear it, as it’s comfortable and trendy.  This is one of the pieces I cut during my cutting marathon.  I’m pleased so far with my results of that experiment, as I guarantee you I would not have ever made this if it wasn’t cut and ready to go!

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Dressing for myself, modeled photos

The question of the day is:  does your style reflect who you are on the inside, who you want to be, or who other people expect you to be?

I’ve had many people say  that their first impression of me was wrong.  Because I dress up so often, they assumed I was going to be girly and frivilous, which I’m actually not at all.  Some of this may just be the way we pigeonhole women into neat little boxes –  after all, if I dress up I must fit a certain stereotype, right?  My actual personality is nothing like the stereotype – I’m somewhat reserved, and I have a sarcastic sense of humor.   I’m not super feminine, it’s just that I like to wear dresses.  I like dresses.    I actually thought about switching up my style to be more approachable, but then I thought “You know what?  I’m not dressing for anyone else.  I’ll wear what I like, and maybe force people to think a little bit about stereotyping women.”

When I was in college I went through a period of terrible depression.  I hated where I was, and where my life seemed headed. But I didn’t want anyone to know that, so I tried to blend in, to wear the same brands and clothes as all the other girls, with the aim of appearing to be generic and blend into the background.  The end result was that I made few friends, and lost what is for me another creative outlet.  After I moved on (and transferred to a school I loved) I stopped trying to be anyone other than myself.  What I realized is that I gained many more friends simply by being myself than I ever had by trying to be someone else.

As to the rest of the question (does your style reflect who you  are or want to be?)  I’m pretty sure it does.  I’m a little formal, a little (as my grandma would say) “fancy.”  I don’t really wear too much lace, or a large number of bows.  I find myself really drawn to clean lines lately, as I’ve started to distill my sewing down to the pieces that I wear the most.  I wear a lot of black and gray, almost always with a splash of really bright color (scarf, tights etc.)  The adjectives I have in my head are “comfortable yet elegant.”  I need to be comfortable in my clothes, but I’m not willing to sacrifice style for comfort, so I have to find the middle ground.

I made a little list of the pieces that I wear the most often, the ones that I think reflect my personality the best:

Simplicity 2603 cardigan, Butterick 5523 dress, Simplicity 2443 dress (this link is to the blue version, but I wear the gray the most,) Simplicity 2219 maxi dress, and Vogue 1225.

Some of these are brightly colored, while others I like because of their drape.  They are all knits (because I wear knits more) but none are really casual.  They are all comfortable, and I always feel like myself when I wear them (which is often… I may have to make a third version of Simplicity 2443 because the gray one is wearing out!)  I go back to this list when planning new projects, because I don’t want to make clothes that I end up not wearing.  Because I often take photos of what I’m wearing (helps me to remember good outfits) I have an easy way to check up on what I’ve worn.

Finally, as promised, here are the modeled photos of Simplicity 2054 (I am happier than I look!)

Sorry for my blurry hands – it’s either too much coffee or camera operator fail!  I’ve got to order a new piece for my tripod (I broke the part that attaches to the camera) so right now all my pictures are being done by a camera propped up on a table!

I wore the dress to rehearsal last night, and I’m pretty pleased with it.  I had to stand  for 4 hours on a stone floor in  a drafty old church, but I was pretty warm (at least on the top half… note to self, try this with leggings and boots instead!)  I like the length of the dress, which verges on tunic.  I wouldn’t wear it without tights.  I did shorten it by three inches, so this is not the length of the actual pattern!

The tights match better in real life, but after wearing them I banished them to the layering drawer (when it’s cold I sometimes wear two pair.)  The problem isn’t the color (they are black) but the fact that they are terribly shiny!  I wish there were a way to be forewarned about this issue, because I don’t like shiny tights at all.

This pose is awful, I know.  But it’s not blurry, unlike the other approximately 70 photos that I took!

How does this dress fit in with my topic of the day?  Well, this dress is certainly comfortable, but I think the cowl gives it some elegance.  The short length keeps it from being too serious.  It has a pattern, though it is subtle, and it fits into the black/gray thing I have going on right now.  I feel like myself in this dress, which is the most important thing to me!

crafts · Sewing

Up next: Vintage, velvet, and a toile

I have enough fabric, but somehow that never stops me from browsing when a sale is on!  Fabric mart had a big sale around Thanksgiving, and I’m always happy with my orders from them.  I had my eye on some coat fabric on their site, but it was too rich for my blood ($28 a yard!)  Well, they put it on sale for half off, and then took 25% off of that with the Thanksgiving sale, so I had to buy some to make my winter coat.

The fabric is gray with little pink and white specks (almost hearts, but not quite.)  On the opposite side it is pink/black plaid.  I had thought about using the plaid for the inside of the hood/lapels, but in person I think not.  I’m definitely making a toile – no way can I make a coat without adjustment!  Now I need to pretreat my fabric.  I usually use the dryer method for wools (tumble on high for 40 minutes with damp towels.)  Do you think that would work for coating?  I can’t see why not, it just makes me nervous!  I don’t dryclean lengths of fabric, so my other option is the london shrink method, but that takes ages.

McCalls 5336 is from a lot of vintage patterns I bought at an estate sale this fall.  I like the bell sleeves and empire waist!  The dress is not lined, so I am not planning on making a toile for this.  I’ve gotten to the point where I only need to muslin for new shapes or lined garments, as I know the adjustments I usually need, and anything else is usually fixable at the basting point.  This wool is a textured crepe in a color that I think it lovely for fall/winter.

Finally, I bought rayon velvet to make a long cardigan.  I chose Mccall’s 6084 because it is made for woven fabrics, and because the front pieces are the same length as the back.  I’m a little tired of the jackets with the longer fronts, and I think they might look dated sooner than a straight hemline.  This is actually inspired by a Winter Kate velvet cardigan I saw at Nordstrom last year… which I can’t seem to find online.  The velvet is hand-dyed (or looks that way at least!) and slightly crushed.  I’m planning to wash this in the machine on the handwash cycle, and then hang to dry (brushing with a towel to fix the pile.)  I’ve used this method for other rayon velvets before with success.  I only go to the drycleaners once a year (for winter coats) so anything else has to be machine or hand washable.

I want to get the last two projects cut tonight, and hopefully my coat toile as well.  I need to go through my fabrics to find a suitable weight for a toile (I am bound to have some ugly heavy weight fabric in there!)

crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Simplicity 2054

Pattern: Simplicity 2054, a Cynthia Rowley design

Fabric: Ponte knit from Joann’s


I had a bout of insomnia last night, so while I was up at 4 am I made this dress!  It’s a simple design, quick to sew up.  I am quite pleased with it!  No modeled photos yet – I’m hoping to wear it Thursday, and if I do I will get pictures then.  This is the worst time of year for pictures, as it gets dark so early that I have to take them myself!

I used a ponte knit from Joann’s.  The fabric was easy to sew, but I had one issue – there was a flaw in my piece!  I had a line of poorly woven fabric running from selvage to selvage – almost a hole, really!  Because of this, I ended up have two smaller pieces, instead of the one large piece I bought.  I ended up having the cut 3/4 length sleeves, and piecing the cowl in the center in order to have enough fabric.  Be aware that the fabric requirements for this one are tight – I don’t think you can squeeze it into a smaller piece!  This is the second time I’ve had a flaw in Joann fabric, and I’m going to start remembering to check.  I’ve had decent pieces from them, but their quality control isn’t always great.

I cut the cowl in two pieces rather than on the fold, so I have an extra seam in the front (you can’t really see it with the print.)   The cowl has an interesting construction.  It’s pleated at the back seam, making the back much narrower than the front.  It’s also shaped so that the cowl itself is wider underneath.  This allows it to sit much more evenly than a regular cowl, and it needs less fussing.  I actually think this piece is worth the cost of the pattern, as I can imagine making some for gifts!

The actual dress is not very fitted.  I expected this going in, and made a few adjustments to make it work with my shape.  First, I cut a size down in the shoulders, bust, and sleeves.  Then I blended it out two sizes at the waist and hips, making it ever so slightly a-line.  Finally, I removed 3 inches from the length, and I may yet remove another.  I think this sort of shape works best as a mini-dress, and that’s how I plan to wear it (with some tall boots.)

I did not make the vented elbows.  I’m cold enough in the winter without adding air conditioning!  I think this is an interesting design, but I don’t think it will work for everyone.  It doesn’t have any shaping in the body (darts etc) so it may not be suitable if you need some.  It’s also rather shapeless by design.  It’s shown belted on the envelope, but I would not belt it (at least not in ponte knit) because it’s so thick that way.  I’m happy with my adjustments.  The pattern took very little time to sew, and is worth making if the style appeals to you!