crafts · fashion · Sewing

In which I talk about clothes I didn’t make, and those I haven’t made yet

Thanks to your feedback, I’m writing up an online fabric shopping guide.  It may take a few days, since I want to discuss the things that make shopping online so daunting, such as the myriad of fabric types and weaves.  In the meantime, how about I show you clothes I didn’t make?

I have the hardest time buying jeans.  I have literally not bought a new pair in five years, but it was time – I like to wear jeans with heels for going out sometimes, or to work, and my old ones were just not working for that anymore.  I went to the Gap and tried on literally all of their styles – no dice, I am between sizes there, and I’m pretty picky about styles too.  I went to department stores and tried on really expensive jeans, with no better results.  I walked by NY&Co and saw they were having a pants sale.  I went in on impulse, and found the first pair of jeans in years that fit me!

These are the flares.  I bought a petite size 6, because their petite sizes run true (I wear a 2 in their regular pants, and I don’t think I am a size 2… maybe in the top, but not the bottom. I wore a six 15 years ago, and I have not gotten smaller.)  My fitting issues are: I am pear shaped, and I do have hips larger than you would expect for my small frame (don’t worry for my body image, I’m not saying I’m fat, it’s just how I’m shaped!)  I have very skinny ankles and calves, and I can’t wear skinny jeans at all without looking like a stork.  I like bootcuts because they balance me out, and I like a midrise – not too high or low.  I have short legs, but I’m not a petite – this means that the crotch length on petite jeans is often too short for me, but regular jeans are really too long (and I hate the look of home hemmed jeans.)  These could perhaps be an inch longer, but I like that I can wear them with flat shoes – something I cannot do with my regular jeans.  I also think that we all wear our pants too long – I hate seeing someone’s shoes completely disappear under their pants!

I could perhaps do without the whiskering on the hips, but I’m awfully pleased with these.  They might have a touch of lycra, but they don’t stretch out as much as my stretch jeans do.  I bought 2 pair, since they were buy one get one free.  I had literally not shopped in that store since they were called Lerner’s NY.   I also was able to finally fulfill one of my summer lusts from their $8 clearance section!

Yes, I have a maxi dress, just in time for fall (oops!)  I love this fabric.  Olive or avocado green is one of my favorite colors, and it works pretty well on me (which might be because of the hair, because when I had other hair colors I looked like death in this color… interesting how your hair color affects what you can wear.)  I’m wearing this today with a cardigan.    I never did find either fabric or a decent pattern to make my own, but I’m happy enough with my 8 dollar dress.  I like it so much that I’m making a cardigan to go with it, so that I can wear it during September and not break my pledge – I must get as much wear in as I can before the cold weather arrives!

And finally, I have been sewing.

This Vogue pattern is from the late 60s.  I love the square neckline and the empire lines.  I’m making it from a stretch wool crepe (on the right, the dark purple) from Gorgeous fabrics, and I’m underlining it in a lightweight silk twill (on the right.)  I thought about not underlining, but I think this pattern really needs the structure in order for the a-line to stand out properly.  I also don’t want to wear the crepe right next to my skin, as this one is a bit – not scratchy exactly, just not pleasant!  The silk twill was ordered ages ago from Fashion Fabrics club, and was a disappointment – I neglected to read the part of the description that said it had a sueded finish, and that it was blouse weight.  I know better now, but since it was my fault I didn’t send it back – I’m happy it can get used here, and while it doesn’t match, I think the contrasting purples are rather nice.

I made a muslin of the bodice.  I thought that the drawing was just stylized, but as it turns out the bodice cuts off really high.  It’s not bad, but I’m going to lengthen the bodice to have the skirt start right underneath, at the empire line.  It will be more flattering I think.  Other than that, the bodice fits great.  I love how these old patterns are more reasonably sized – I took an inch out of the side seams, to match my bust measurement (31.5, smaller than the 32.5″ pattern) and it fits perfectly!

Watch for the fabric shopping post in the next few days!

crafts · fabric · fashion · patterns · Sewing

hand injuries, and runway inspiration.

I have a great deal of paranoia about hand related injuries.   I already have tendinitis from years of excessive piano practice (from poor body technique in college… thank goodness I’ve fixed most of my issues!)  It rarely flares up, and at this point it’s more likely to be from excessive knitting or handsewing.   But I still avoid things that might irritate my hands.  I don’t bowl, or play volleyball ever. I gave my old laptop away because the mousepad was in a terrible spot and was giving me thumb issues.  At the first sign of issues, on goes a brace and I rest.  Right now I’m having problems with my left thumb.  Last week I lowered the presser foot of my sewing machine on my 3rd finger in the left hand, and bruised the tip.  I think that may have thrown off my technique last week, as I tried to avoid the injured finger, and hurt my thumb.  I’m hoping it gets better soon, because if not I’ll have to go to the doctor.  I’m afraid of arthritis, as I have some family history, although not in my immediate family, and they all had RA by age 20.  I am… not 20 (ok, I’m 31) and have avoided it so far.

So that’s a long way of  saying that I didn’t sew all weekend because I was resting my hand.  I prewashed the denim for my jacket – 3 times so far on hot, and even with white vinegar it’s still running.  Should I just give up and remember to always wash it alone?  I’m not making a muslin, because the denim was really cheap.  I am taking a little width out of the back to start, as recommended on patternreview, and I’m going to try hong kong seam finishes for the first time!

I also went through my pattern collection, and tried to get them in some semblance of order.  I paired patterns with fabric, as best I could, and uploaded them to flickr, should anyone be interested in my obsessive need to organize, plan, and make lists.   Right now it’s just a collection of ideas, and I’m not sure how many of them will actually get made that way!

Joann has gotten in their fall fabric now.  My Joann is a superstore, so it may have items that others stores don’t carry, I’m not sure.  And you know?  Really, it’s not bad.  I get the impression that they are at least trying to do better with the fashion fabric, though there is still far too much polyester for my taste.

There was a collection of animal print fabrics, and I picked up this leopard (of course!) ponte knit.

Yes, I’ve bought some of the new Vogues, and I’ll get a few more when they go on sale this week (I got this one at Hancock’s, which actually had the new patterns for the $3.99 sale!)  I think the full skirted version with the round collar will look great in this fabric.  I also want to make view E, the 2 tone with a straight skirt.

They had a collection of fabrics in 3 colorways – red, blue, and black/white.  I didn’t get any of those, because they weren’t on sale this week, but I did pick up a plaid RPL from the collection of plaids they have out.

I wasn’t originally going to get this pattern, but the illustration in plaid was so cute that I couldn’t resist.  I will have to grade it down a size – why does this pattern only go to a 10?  I really like the sleeves.

I have to say, doing my colors with the Color me Beautiful book has changed the way I look at my wardrobe.  I no longer (for instance) feel compelled to add brown to my wardrobe.  I look better in black, navy, and charcoal.  Now that I realize that I need clear colors, I don’t look at muddled shades as often.  I realize that I can wear both purple and magenta, shades that I thought were off limits, but I now love.  Sadly, though, jewel tones are hard to find.  And I still have a few pieces of fabric that I want to use, because I love them, even if they aren’t the best colors for me.

I am not usually into fashion shows so much, but I find myself very inspired by the Louis Vuitton fall 2010 collection.  Such lovely 50s silhouettes, in great menswear fabrics and plaids.

I have a plaid dress planned, and might do another… I love plaid… and for the suit I think the new Vogue 8679 would be wonderful – not quite as full, and so easier to wear.  And perhaps a tweedy full skirt.  I’m glad that the full skirt is back – I love them, and I was tired of people looking at my oddly when I wore my circle skirts!



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!

fashion · outfits · Sewing

Outfit of the day

Here is my challenge for today: take something that you might consider too dressy for everyday, and make it a work outfit.  In this case, I wanted to wear my Rooibos dress.  First of all, I absolutely adore this dress.    I’m actually planning to make a summer version out of stretch sateen.   But… this dress reads a little dressy to me (and once again, I insist that it is emerald green!  My camera will not photograph this color accurately.)   The problem with this dress is that it’s sleeveless and slightly low in the back, and I don’t usually show either area to teach (well, I will wear sleeveless sometimes, but not with the lowered back.)  And it’s a wee bit short – I prefer right at the knee or slightly below.  I have skinny legs.

First I did what I do with anything too short: I wear it with flats.  I never do short with heels, because then my legs are even skinnier looking, and I feel like it’s too flashy for work.  I would wear black tights if the weather were colder, but it’s 65 degrees today – perfect for a lightweight wool sheath dress, but not for tights.  Then I had to figure out how to cover the shoulders and back without covering my favorite part of the dress, the pockets.  That calls for a cropped sweater or shrug.  Apparently fashion has moved on to really long sweaters instead, but I still love my short coverups – sometimes I want to see my dress!  This sweaters is dark purple, and I got it at Target several years ago.  I like the ties (I am actually planning to make Buttercup by Kim Hargreaves, which is a similar tie style.)  I like purple with green, but I realize that’s not a combo for everyone.  It helps if the colors are the same intensity, which these are (ie not a light purple with a dark green etc.)

I’m a teacher, and a musician, neither of which are super conservative.  I can totally get away with jeans to teach, but I feel like it makes me seem young, which I am trying to avoid (I know I look younger than my age, and I don’t like to be questioned about my qualifications because of that… it’s also why I think this skirt is too short.)

When I make this dress again I’m going to make it 2 or 3 inches longer.  But that’s good news for petite ladies – this dress is too short for me in the smallest size, and I’m not crazy tall (I’m about 5’7″.)

Do you have any items you never wear because you feel they might be too dressy for daytime?  Any suggestions for dressing them down?  I know I am guilty of making lots of dressy dresses and then having to figure out how to wear them everyday.  I’m not going to stop with the dresses, so I might as well get some tips!


Deciding what to wear

It has been said that I have a compulsive need to organize.   Pre-ravelry, all of my yarn and patterns were organized in spreadsheets, as my sewing stash is now.  It makes me crazy when some part of my life is messy.  This has been the case with me and my wardrobe for years.  Earlier this year, it became apparent that I had to fix things.  75% of my wardrobe consisted of items I didn’t like because they weren’t flattering or were uncomfortable in some way.  I kept the unflattering items around “just in case,” but even worse… I felt the need to wear the unflattering items sometimes, because I felt guilty owning things I didn’t wear.  Well… I decided there was no room in my wardrobe for items that make me feel bad about myself, so I had a major paring down session.  Anything that I questioned was tried on, judged by a panel consisting of my husband and a supportive friend, and donated.  I got rid of half my closet, and let me tell you it was hard… I felt that I didn’t have enough choices, and yet, oddly, found myself unable to combine the items in my closet in pleasing ways.

I have been inspired by the participants of MeMadeMay, especially those who don’t have a lot of handmade items, yet are managing to combine them in great and fun ways!  I didn’t sign up because I worried I wouldn’t have enough, which is completely insane if  you look in my sweater drawer (which is not so much a drawer as an entire dresser.)  But anyway, these ladies are making it work, no matter how small their wardrobe is, and they look fabulous!

Super Kawaii Mama is doing a series on being glamorous for every occasion, and she specifically asked ” What are your excuses / reasons for not getting glammed up each day?” Now, I’m not going for glamour.  It’s important to decide what your look is.  I want to look elegant.  I like being dressed up, and so I usually am.  I do wear jeans occasionally, but even those are dressy.  My biggest issue was decision paralysis when faced with a closet full of clothes.  So here is what I’ve started doing, in order to simplify getting ready each day.  First of all, I wash and set my hair at night, which is easier, since if I leave it to morning I will wear a ponytail every day.  Then, some days I will take extra time choosing what I’m wearing, and if it’s really successful I take a photo and place it in a folder on my desktop labeled “successful outfits.”  For instance, here is mine from today:

I’m wearing:

Linen dress by Merona from Target a few years ago (I love this dress, and I want to make a pattern from it so I can have other colors!)

DKNY cardigan that used to be my Mom’s – it’s too big for me if I wear it normally, but I love the sleeves.

Belt from Forever 21 (I know, I hate that store, but the belts are really cheap.  I love this one!)

Vintage flats

So now that I have a picture and the details written down (I have a spreadsheet… of course) it’s much easier to get ready in the morning.  I have many of my FO shots of knitting and sewing in there too, as those tend to be my good outfits.  And I don’t feel bad about repeating, because I have the pictures to remind me of why the outfits worked!  Now all I have to do is keep this up – I’ve been doing it for a few weeks and I’m loving it!

crafts · fashion · Sewing

Celebrating the return of the blouse

As fashion waxes and wanes, certain words become hopelessly outmoded.  Can you honestly say you would buy “a nice pair of slacks?”  But we used to!  The word slacks still makes me think of days spent flipping through the JC Penney catalog in the 80s.  So I will say trousers, or pants, or describe the type of garment, but never “slacks.”

I was worried that the word “Blouse” was becoming tainted as well.  It seems that for ages we have been given tees, camis, and tunics… but a nice blouse?  It seemed to disappear along with the 80s.  And I will admit… there were some blouse monstrosities in the 80s… but there are also nice styles like this:

(available from Ikonic on Etsy)

A blouse is flattering – I would so much rather wear something that skims over my shape than something skintight.  So I am pleased to see pretty feminine blouses in many of my favorite stores this season!

I have, of course, been thinking of blouses I could make for myself, as my closet is pretty bare after yesterday’s clean out!  I’m planning to make a black skirt, based on Vogue 8425, and I would like a nice blouse to go with it.

The skirt on the right is my inspiration.  I may add boning to the waistband of the skirt, as it’s pretty high, and reviews on patternreview indicate it helps (almost no one has made this view though… perhaps I am just going through a high waisted phase – I have discovered that a high waist looks good on me, something I would not have suspected!)  I have a black gabardine wool that should look great, and I’m planning to make a blouse out of some green synthetic shantung:

This photo is pretty awful, as my camera once again refuses the task of photographing green.  This is better:

I’m considering Sencha, by Colette patterns (I can’t help it, I just love her patterns!)  I want to make the view with the tiny bow and the buttons up the back.

The fabric has a nice drape – it only looks vaguely like shantung, it doesn’t feel anything like it.  It was inexpensive, but I like the color, and I won’t be sad if it doesn’t turn out.   I’m really curious about this blouse shape – I’m never worn one similar.

I’m also in love with this new pattern from Burdastyle:

The Alexander Blouse, in honor of Alexander McQueen.  This combines my love of a blouse with my love of polka dots.  Oh yes… I cannot resist anything dotted.  And I do love a peplum.

I’m looking forward to using my serger to finish the edges of my blouse fabric, as it frays like mad.  I hope to get the pieces for the blouse cut tonight, since due to the snow I don’t have any rehearsal.  I want to muslin the skirt, so I may try to find a suitable fabric for that as well.

Happy snow day to anyone else having one – we’ve made up a crockpot full of red beans and rice, which goes great with the cold!

crafts · fashion · knitting · Life · wedding

80s progress, shoes, and a meme!

I’ve been making decent progress on my 80s sweater, and I’m almost finished with the front piece.

It’s been pretty smooth sailing so far.  The directions for the patterned lines on the top are pretty bad and of the (Rows 3, 5, 14, 56: knit) variety, leading to me ripping once and then writing them out so that it wasn’t so confusing.  But… so far I love it!  The Glace is really not bad to work with once I got used to the qualities of the ribbon yarn.  I like the textured fabric it is producing.

I must be in an 80s mood, because I found these shoes online, and now I must be off to the mall to snag myself some.

Yes, Jelly shoes.  I miss them so!  I must have the blue ones I think, or maybe the clear.

I’m also looking for wedding shoes (tomorrow we pick up my dress) so I’ve been thinking about what I’d like.  My dress is tea length, so everyone will see my shoes.  I like this style a lot.

Of course, I’ve never met a pair of Steve Madden shoes that weren’t horribly uncomfortable.  I really want something vaguely retro and with a round toe.  I could go with sandals if I found the right ones, but definitely no peep toes.  I look horrible in peep toes, and it seems as though every shoe this season has them!

Finally, I’ve been tagged with the 7 things meme a few times in the past day or two, and the 8 things meme once.  I’ll combine them since I think they’re pretty much the same.  I am so bad at these, but I will try!  So… 7 things about me.

1.  I have not voluntarily worn athletic shoes since elementary school.  When I was 10 I talked my cool aunt into buying me a pair of heels, and there’s been no looking back!  I do have some flats this year since they’re in style, and it freaks my friends out when I wear them.

2.  My favorite city I’ve visited is Prague, where I spent a long weekend 2 summers ago.  I’m hoping to take Marc there on our honeymoon (which won’t be for a year)

3. I’m terrified of airplanes, but I love to travel, leading to some rather ugly incidents in airport waiting areas.

4. If I have a daughter I want to name her Anya.  Yes, after the Buffy character.  I know, I am sad.

5. I lived in Indiana for four years, and my experiences there left me with a serious aversion to the state.  I don’t even like driving through it to get other places (sorry to any Hoosiers – I’m sure all hoosier knitters are lovely, it was just a bad time in my life!)

6. I love Basset Hounds.  If I ever get a dog (unlikely; Marc only loves cats) it will be a Basset.  I love their sweet wrinkly faces!

7. I’ve always been very shy.  I hate parties and big groups of noisy people, and usually have to be bribed into attending anything resembling a party.  Yarn works pretty well for that purpose.

8. Someday I would like to run my own voice/piano studio.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my job and the people I work with, and I’m not planning to quit… but someday.

I tag… you, if you haven’t been tagged (and you want to do this meme.)  It’s pretty fun once you get started!