fashion · outfits

Cold weather style

This is the first year that I’ve worked outside the home in quite some time.  For the past 4 years I’ve been able to basically ignore the weather and turn up the heat if I got cold!  That doesn’t work so well now, when I have to park far away and wander around campus in the cold.  In addition, my studio has moved this semester to be right across from the outside doors, and it is absolutely freezing in there most of the time.

In February, I’m going out of the country with the university.  We don’t exactly have the most frigid weather here (it gets cold, but we rarely have lingering snows or more than a few days in a row below freezing) but I have a suspicion that I’m going to freeze.  The last time I went away for this long was two years ago, when we spent 2 weeks of March in Italy.  I was not expecting how cold it was, especially in the churches and cathedrals where we performed.  There’s nothing like seeing your breath while you sing!

This time I have vowed to be prepared.  I’ve been going through my wardrobe, looking for things that will work (both for the trip and at home).  I found that I didn’t have a warm coat, so I bought this coat from London Fog:
Winter coat
I’m surprised by how much I like it – I never thought I would own a puffer coat, but it’s so lovely and warm!  It has a hood, and the collar is lined with soft faux chinchilla fur, which is lovely.  I didn’t like the scratchy fur that a lot of coats had.  It’s much more stylish than the puffy coats of my childhood!  And since it’s the end of season, I got this coat for 1/3 price!

I also needed to find warm boots.  I have been finding that my toes go numb inside my boots after a walk.  I have a really hard time buying boots because I have skinny (12.5″) calves.  Most boots look like rainboots on me, and I wanted warm boots to fit snugly so the wind can’t get in!

I have found over time that the only way to get well fitting boots is to give in and buy nicer brands.  They seem to be sized a little smaller in the calf, and they do last longer, but I am very thrifty.  I knew i didn’t want Uggs (don’t like them) or the more high tech/snow boot looking things.   I wear mostly skirts, so I wanted something that looked ok with them, but would also work over jeans.  It took me weeks, but I finally pulled the trigger and bought these, the Trevis boots from La Canadienne:


Yes, that’s my Butterick 5523 dress.  I still love it and wear it constantly!

Amazon had the best price, so while they were more expensive than I would  like I can comfort myself that they were over $100 off the price over at Zappos!  The boots are waterproof suede, and they are fully lined in that fuzzy material (it feels similar to the hood of my coat.)  I like the slouchy style, which reminds me of the 80s (I had pink glittery slouch boots then that 8 year old me wore into the ground!)  They are so warm, they fit my legs, and they can also be worn with the cuffs up:





I also bought some fleece lined leggings to wear under dresses (I find that layering them with tights is warmer than wearing pants in the cold!)

I’m planning to make a few knit tunics/dresses before I go.  I will have a post about that soon!  I’ve also finished my new vogue dress, and it is fabulous.  I will take photos tomorrow on my husband’s day off and write about it then.

crafts · Life · Me-made March · outfits · Sewing

So many thanks

Thank you so much to everyone who wrote me about Sarah Jane.  I showed the comments to my husband, and I know they made him feel  better as well.  I wish I could respond to you each individually, but right now it’s too difficult for me to talk about her.  Know that your words and prayers were truly appreciated.  My friends and family have been wonderful throughout this time – truly I did not know how much support we had, and I am very grateful.    I am feeling at peace with our decision, and every day gets a bit easier.  My other cats are a comfort – Leon (my Maine Coon) who has always been my cat, has taken to lying close to Marc on the sofa, almost as though he knows how much my husband misses having a cat by his side.

People cope with sadness in different ways.  Routine is very comforting to me.  I like to be busy (in general, but especially at difficult times.)  I find talking about my feelings to be extremely difficult.    My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ, which explains a lot about me!  My husband and best friend are all the same type, and we all have this issue.  Which is all a very long way of saying that, though it feels a bit frivilous, I have been taking my me-made-May photos.  It makes me feel better to continue with a project.  I missed the few days where I was the most upset, but otherwise I’ve been trying to get through.  Here are the newest photos/pattern reviews: not my best, but I’m pleased that I took them!

Friday, May 4th

Me-made item: Vogue 8231

Comments: I didn’t finish the entire dress, but I did finish and wear the top on Oaks day (KY derby eve).  I wore this to play the piano for a fundraising brunch.  Funny story: I arrived at the venue on time, having set up my borrowed digital piano the night before.  It worked fine then, but when I turned it on Friday morning I got an error that could not be cleared (something having to do with the soundbank.)  I ended up sending my husband on an emergency piano retrieval mission, and had to play a Casio digital keyboard.  It was not my most shining moment (really, could anything be shining on a Casio keyboard?) but we got through!

I don’t really like the top with these pants.  I was going for a sort of retro cigarette pants look, but I think these pants aren’t quite skinny enough.  This is a place where photos  really help me out – I thought they were ok in the mirror, but I didn’t like any of the photos.  Oh well – I will finish the skirt soon!

After the brunch I changed clothes and went to a cookout at a friend’s house.  Alas, I did not wear anything I made there, but I figure I had met my goal for the day.

About the pattern: well, obviously I haven’t made the skirt, so I’m not doing a full review yet.  I can tell you my alterations:  I used double fold bias tape to finish the armhole and neck edges, and I eliminated the sleeves (I really love bias tape by the way – it makes everything so neat!)  I removed 1″ at center back and tapered the side seams in towards the waist, as it was a bit boxy on me.  It does wrinkle a bit, but not as bad as I initially feared!

I used self-fabric covered buttons on the back.  I cannot recommend buttons on your back unless you never lean back… cute, but not super comfortable!  I will do a full review later, when I finish the skirt.

Saturday, May 5th

Me-made item: Jalie pleated cardigan

Original post: here

Comments: Derby day!  Note my lack of giant hat.  I went to a party and then out for drinks with friends in my neighborhood later, and my goal was to be comfortable!  At most derby parties you tend to sit around, occasionally watch races, and eat lots of little foods, so comfort is key!

Pattern comments: I really like this cardigan – it’s comfortable and long, but not sloppy.  Unfortunately, the pleated detail is lost in this fabric, but it’s still nice!  I would make it again, but my pattern is lost.  Maybe I will buy it again someday.  My fabric is wearing out – not that it’s bad, but I’ve worn this to death!

Sunday, May 6th

Me-made item: McCall’s 6069 

Original post: Here


I can’t get over how much longer my hair has grown this year!  And yes, I picked this photo because Leon was in it – he has to be around when I’m taking photos!  Today was mostly for catching up on things – I went grocery shopping (and made an excellent roasted sweet potato/apple salad with sweet balsamic dressing.)  I also took a nice long walk and met my Mom for coffee to discuss plans for my graduation next weekend, and I did a new set of gel nails (the last ones lasted over a week without chipping, but I got bored – I think I could easily get 2 weeks!)

Pattern comments:

I think I might like it more now than when I finished it.  It’s casual and comfortable, and it’s easy to wear in lots of situations.  The back can be a problem – if I don’t watch, and the shoulder seams fall back, it exposes my bra strap.  I don’t think this is a pattern failing – rather, I needed to shorten the armhole length.  This has become a common alteration for me – it seems that I have a short armpit – shoulder length.  The cowl drapes stay in place, even though I didn’t sew them down.

I spilled dressing on this at dinner, but luckily it washed out.  I still may go back and add some hems to this dress, but it’s wearable as is – this was before I had figured out a strategy for hemming knits.

That’s all for now.  Hopefully I will have time to work on my graduation dress tomorrow, so that  I can finish it this week!

outfits · Sewing

Me-made-May 2012: it begins!

The last time I participated in a me-made month (several challenges ago I believe) I started out reviewing the actual wearability of patterns.  That was a bad month for me, and I never finished.  This time I plan to continue my assessments in the hope that it will help me to choose patterns more wisely in the future!  So here we go… day 1:

Me-made item: Simplicity 2281

Link to original review: Here (April 1st, 2011)

Wearability report: 

I wouldn’t say this is one of my most worn garments, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it!  I will say this: it’s hard to figure out exactly what sort of event this dress is appropriate for.  The open shoulders make it seem more like a fancy dress, but the high neckline seems more daytime.  I wore it today for teaching, but halfway through the afternoon I got cold and put on a sweater.  I turn the air conditioning off when I teach (because downstairs is so cold in our old house, with its super high ceilings) but sometimes I still get cold!

The biggest problem I have with this dress is the midriff piece.  Notice the wide belt above – that’s because I feel like it makes me look like a rectangle otherwise.  And I am not shaped like a rectangle!  I think if I were giving advice on this pattern I would repeat what I said in my original review: the midriff really needs to be about half the width it is drafted unless you are super long waisted.  I still feel it would work better with a full skirt, but I do think the tulip shape is more flattering than you might expect!

I think the open shoulders are the best feature (note to self: don’t wear this dress with your hair down!)  My husband, however, thinks that the open shoulders are weird and never fails to comment on that.

About my fabric choice: I love rayon challis, but it is on the light side for this dress.  The top is fine, being completely self-lined, but the skirt could probably use a lining.  I wear it with a half slip, but that’s not ideal.  It’s also true that due to the multitude of weird shapes in this dress it takes ages to iron.  I think from now on I’m going to dryclean it – if I don’t have to face 30 minutes with the iron I’m much more likely to wear it!

Final grade: C+

I like the idea of this dress more than the actual dress.  It has some issues that make it less wearable for me than it might be otherwise, but it’s still fun to wear on warm days (and I do love the polka dots!)



crafts · Crochet · finished objects · outfits

Moth Wings Shrug

Pattern: Moth Wings Shrug, designed by Mimi Alelis (Interweave Crochet Summer 2010)

Yarn: Nazli Gelin Garden, a little over 2 balls

Size: 33″

Hook: 1.25 mm


Well, this took longer than expected!  I made this shrug for several reasons:

1. I wanted to practice crocheting from charts, because I have some Japanese patterns coming up in my queue

2. I accidentally bought the required yarn

3. I thought it would be quick

Don’t let the small size make you think quick – this is made up of individual motifs joined together, with an edging around the outside.  It took forever, and I was pretty over it by the time I was done.  I think it’s pretty – nicer than I was expecting, to tell you the truth!  I have a few notes about the pattern:

The gauge swatch calls for joining 4 motifs, blocking, and then measuring.  Yes, that’s a pain, but I recommend doing it.  I had to go down several hook sizes from the recommended size to get gauge.  I dislike the fact that your gauge is the only thing that determines which size you are making – the fabric looked best in the tighter gauge of the 30″ size, but that would have been too small.

I picked the 33″ size because it was an inch and a half bigger than my chest measurement.  I have broad shoulders, but this fits.  I was worried at first – you really can’t tell the size until after blocking!  I would recommend sizing up – the sleeves are also on the narrow side.

Let’s talk about blocking.  I blocked the piece flat before sewing the shoulder seam (I soaked it and then pinned it out.)  After completing the sleeves and collar I blocked it again – and then attacked the collar with my steam iron and some spray starch.  I recommend starching to collar to get it to stand up!

To make this shrug, you making motifs which are joined together on the 4th round.  This means that there were at least a hundred ends to weave in.  I don’t recommend waiting until the end to weave them in – do it as you go.

The yarn was lovely.  It shines beautifully, though it is on the more slippery side of cottons.  It could be compared to a size 5 crochet thread.  It’s definitely thicker than my size 10 threads, but finer than a fingering weight.  Be careful with tension – I found it hard to maintain a consistent tension with this thread.  I wonder if my tension issues are due to my technique?  I hold my hook like a knife, and I know some people hold it like a pencil – I just can’t get the hang of that!

It was a good project to get back into crochet, even if it took longer than I thought!  I have a love/hate relationship with the craft.  I love to do it, but I think it’s hard to find good designs.  I don’t like when crochet is used to imitate knitted fabric – it’s too dense.  It’s lovely in these sorts of lacy designs!  The pattern is recommended, but size up and be ready for it to take a while.

And, here is my whole outfit, for me-made June:

Dress: Thrifted

Shoes: Bass… I am really loving these shoes this summer!

crafts · Crochet · outfits · Sewing

Previews! (and me-made June days 9-11)

Believe it or not, the Moth wing shrug is finally complete.  I will have modeled photos (tomorrow, if I have time) but in the meantime here is the blocking shot:

So far the cat hasn’t showed any interest in these pins.  Maybe it will dry before he notices!  I do pin my garments directly to the guest room bed in order to block them – it’s the easiest way to get them spread out on a pinnable surface, since I don’t have blocking boards.

I have plans for this week – I want to cut and sew two different knit dresses:


The pink fabric is from Milly, one of my favorite clothing lines.  I have some upcoming weddings, and I think this would be a nice dress to wear to one.  The black is a simple rayon jersey – I want the dress to be a backdrop for pretty necklaces (I am totally copying Gigi’s version, though I don’t have any necklaces as lovely as those!)

Me-made June continues on – and for once I’m actually taking photos on the weekends!  I have three more days to show you, complete with my thoughts on the wearability of the garments.

Day 9

Dress: Simplicity 2219 (blogged here)

Shoes: Sofft

Pros: I love this dress.  Love it!  I think it’s my favorite right now.  It has such lovely motion when you walk in it, and it is so flattering!  I never fail to get compliments.  I wore this dress to an audition, and I think I got the part!

Cons: This dress has stretched in length.  I now have to wear it with heels, and it shows a bit more of my bra than it used to.  I did reinforce the shoulders, but that skirt is heavy!  I’m going to wash it (complete with a trip through the drier) and see if it goes back to normal, otherwise I will hem it again.

Styling: This dress doesn’t need much – even the bracelet is unnecessary!  I think some metal bangles would be a better match.

Day 10

Skirt: Burdastyle Jenny (blogged here.)

Top: Talbot’s, thrifted

Shoes: Chinese Laundry

Pros: I absolutely recommend making this pattern in a doubleknit – the fit is excellent, and it’s very flattering.  I plan to make it again soon in black, a suggestion I got in my last post, about comfort.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner – I will have the black pencil skirt of my dreams!

Cons: This particular fabric (from Joann’s last winter) tends to pill, and it hasn’t been washed that often.  My advice, if you have some, is to never, ever put this in the dryer.  I would also not leave out a zipper like I did – it’s a bit of a battle getting it on!

Styling: I bought this shirt specifically to wear this way (it’s an extra-large, but I wanted it oversized.)  It’s a lot of pattern, I know, but I’m not shy!  I’m trying out skinny belts right now – I love what this one does, creating the sort of faux peplum effect.  I’m not super thrilled with the shoes (in this outfit,) but they don’t compete with everything else going on.

Day 11

Sweater: Handknitted from a 1980s pattern, blogged here.

Shorts: Charlotte Russe

Shoes: Steve Madden

Pros: I actually think this sweater has become less dated since I made it (in 2007.)  It’s made from Berroco Glace, a rayon ribbon yarn.  It’s generally cool and light in hot weather.

Cons: I don’t have much call for this sort of sweater.  I also don’t wear warm browns like this anymore.  I prefer cool browns, like the shorts and shoes.

Styling: I find it odd that while I generally dislike how I look in pants, I’m totally fine with shorts.  Admittedly, these are pretty dressy, and I am wearing heels (wedges.)  The cool taupe of the shorts and shoes does not match the sweater that well, but I was only going to Joann’s and Whole Foods.   I’m not sure how much longer this sweater will stay in my wardrobe – while I do like it, I think it doesn’t suit me as well as I might like!


crafts · outfits · Sewing

Thoughts on fit vs comfort: Me-made June Days 8 and 7

Dress: Vogue  8380, blogged here

Cardigan: Thrifted

Shoes: MIA

I think this is the first time I’ve worn this dress since making it.  I have a few overall comments on the make, then I’ll move onto my topic.

The good: I love the print, and I think the overall shape is flattering on me.  I like the drawstring neck, though I’ve covered it up today.

The bad: Poor fabric choice.  This dress really calls for lightweight cottons with some drape.  I used a cotton sateen which, while lovely, is really too heavy.  The bow doesn’t hang well at all, and could be longer,  so I just tucked it into the sweater.

Styling: The sweater wouldn’t be my first choice.  I know what I want – something in a light color, cropped, with the ability to look good worn open.  I just don’t own such a garment!  It’s definitely going on my knitting list.

Anyway, there is a reason that I don’t wear this dress much.  I fit the empire band pretty tightly, in an attempt to avoid the maternity look (always a fear with an empire waist!)  I pretty much feel like I can’t take deep breaths.  I read in a sewing book once that athletes require more ease in the ribcage area, due to the more developed diaphragm muscles.  I’ve trained my entire life as a classical singer, and I almost always breathe low.  I measured once, and my ribcage expands 2-3 inches with a normal breath.  I see a lot of sewers sewing vintage, and fitting the bodices tightly, wearing the correct vintage undergarments etc – and I can only imagine the strangling feeling of not being able to take a proper breath all day.

It’s the old style vs. comfort conundrum.  When I first started sewing, I would sew any style.  I soon learned that it didn’t matter if it looked good or not, if it wasn’t comfortable it wouldn’t get worn!  You notice I no longer make straight or pencil skirts.  The reason?  I realized that I hate the feeling of something tight around my hips and waist, so I never wore them.  I will wear a full skirt, but how tight to make the top and waist?  I try to solve this problem in a few different ways:

I use a lot of knits, because knits stretch.  I can make something fit tightly, but still be able to breathe – amazing!  I try stretch wovens, which can sometimes work, depending on the level of stretch.  If I use a stretch woven, I make sure to sew the horizontal seams with a tiny zig-zag, so the seams will have a little give.  I learned from the dress above that I should watch the direction of the stretch – the waistband was cut the wrong way to have any, else it would have fit better!  I make things a bit loose and wear a belt (those belts with elastic in the back are wonderful!)

I make waists with 1.5″ of ease, but I require 4-5 inches of ease in the ribcage.  I’m forever cutting between sizes on patterns.

I’m also a big fan of the current trend towards loose tunics over skinny bottoms.  I do own jeggings and leggings, both of which I wear often in the fall and winter.  I don’t like regular skinny pants, because it is again the constricting feeling, but lycra is wonderful! The more I sew, the more I realize that I need to narrow my focus to the silhouettes and fabrics that get worn the most.  I will leave the wiggle dresses to someone else, someone without my fear of passing out!

Speaking of comfort, here is yesterday’s outfit:

Dress: Vogue 8469 (blogged here)

Cardigan: Simplicity 2417


This dress, it grows on me.  Here you see one of my strategies for comfort: the tie waist.  A waist tie not only gives you some fit wiggle room, it makes it so I can change how tightly I tie the waist based on my activities of the day.  The dress itself is made of a stretchy cotton blend.  It fits in the shoulders, which isn’t always the case – it took me a long time to figure out I needed a larger size in the shoulders!  So while I initially thought “I made this dress too big,” what I should have thought was “This dress, I will actually wear it.”

Does anyone else have this fit vs. style issue?  Or perhaps my weird issues with needing extra room for breathing?  Or my general clothing claustrophobia?











crafts · outfits · Sewing

Yet another iron (plus MMJ days 4, 5, & 6)

Yes, I’m still on about irons.  I posted a few weeks ago that I was looking for a new iron and got some great suggestions.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted, so as a temporary measure I  bought a Black & Decker classic.  I wasn’t sure it would work for me long term, but I liked the cute retro style and figured it could, if nothing else, be my backup iron.  I think the B&D is a great dry iron – it’s very heavy and solid.  However, I can’t use it for steam.  It doesn’t steam a ton, which is ok if not great, but the problem I had was the open water reservoir – I kept moving it too quickly, or tilting it forward a little (when using a tailor’s ham) and spilling boiling water on my hands – not good! I recall having this problem also with my old Bernina, but I had forgotten!   And anyway, I felt like it was smaller than what I wanted to use all the time. So I decided to get a serious iron:

This is the Reliable V100, and it is awesome.  It is really, really heavy, and steams like mad (it has its own steam generator, meaning steam even at low temps!)  And it has a cover on the reservoir!  I used a 50% off coupon on Joann’s website (the retail on this iron is around $150.)   It is kind of noisy (the steam generator makes noises, but that’s what it’s supposed to do!)  Hopefully this will be my last iron for awhile (famous last works, right?)

I haven’t sewed anything this week – I have had too much to do, with deadlines and extra rehearsals/performances that I was not expecting.  I don’t find that I sew quite as much in the summer, as the 3rd floor gets rather hot during the day (the skylights are beautiful, but even with curtains they heat things up.)  There is air conditioning, but I don’t like to run it as I’m allergic to all the dust that gets stirred up.  So I can only sew at night, which is fine, but as I said – busy!  I will post soon concerning my further summer sewing plans.  In the meantime, here is a roundup of the last three days of me-made outfits!

Day 4

Dress: Simplicity 2443 (blogged here)

Scarf: Target clearance

Shoes: Cole Haan

I wore this to go to yardsales.  Yes, I know it’s a bit overdressed.  But you see, I was awake at 7:30 in the morning when this photo was taken, which is a pretty unnatural time for a musician!  What did I buy?  Not much… there were some good sales, but I’m pretty picky about what I’m willing to bring into my house (I fear junk accumulating!)  I did buy a really pretty sequined sweater from Bebe for $3, which I’m hoping to wear some this month.

This dress?  What is there to say – I love it, and I’ve made it twice!  I already fixed my one regret (not sewing the hem by machine.)

Day 5

Cardigan: Jalie Pleated Cardigan

Dress: Vogue 1225 (blogged here)

Shoes: Anne Klein

Bag: Dooney & Bourke

Another early morning – I think it was 8:30 when I took this photo.  I was headed out to cover some masses for a friend (including an old school, pre-vatican 2 style latin mass, which was a new experience for me!)  You can see me clutching the music – I had to learn the chanted bits that go between the parts of the mass, and I was nervous about getting it wrong!  Luckily it went well, and I hope to be asked back again.

I always get complimented on this dress.  I love the fabric and style.  I have never hemmed it – it’s got an enormous skirt, and I think it looks ok without.  I should go back and even up the hemline though – it’s not perfect!  The neckline is low, but I don’t care (I wear a tank.)  The waist is a bit high, but again – fine with me!

Day 6

Dress: Butterick 5490 (blogged here)

Cardigan: Old Navy

Shoes: Jessica Simpson

Speaking of changing my mind after I made something – this dress wasn’t a favorite at first, but I love it now!  I love the graceful pleats in the front.  I actually wish more patterns would use pleats rather than gathers, because it looks more even to me, but I know they are more time consuming!

I forgot to pre-shrink my piping, and it has shrunk a tiny bit.  I learned my lesson about that!  Luckily the dress was  a little big to start – it’s still comfortable.

I’ve worn this cardigan with this dress before.  One of my biggest surprises this year was realizing that I can wear icy pastels – silvers, ice blues, aqua etc.  This cardigan is the color of silver – it’s very cool toned, so it works for me (yellow-ish gray is awful!)  I’m actually looking for yarn right now to make a cardigan this color for myself (look for a post tonight on my upcoming knitting plans – I’ve been obsessed with making them lately!)




crafts · Crochet · outfits

Me-made June day 2: belted

Dress: Ann Taylor

Belt: Kwik Sew 3758, blogged here

Cardigan: thrifted

Shoes: Cole Haan

I really like this outfit, but it wasn’t what I was planning for today.  I planned to wear the dress that goes with the belt, Vogue 8631.  But… that dress has some issues (I do seem to be getting my problem garments out of the way early in the month!)  Basically, the dress is too big in the top/chest area.  I can’t wear a slip under it because it shows in the front, but I won’t wear it without a slip because I feel in constant danger of flashing the public.  The dress doesn’t really have any closures other than an inside tie and a hook and eye on the wrap.  I cannot imagine how that could be secure… and even with the belt the top gapes open, and I have fears about the bottom part.  I have a lot of wrap dress fear (too many years spent living/working near the windy waterfront!)  On the other hand, that belt?  Love it.  I don’t even care that the dress isn’t that wearable, because I got an awesome belt out of the deal!  I need to make even more of these belts, because they go with everything, and they are so comfortable!

I do have hope, by the way, for the dress.  I’m thinking of buying a slip made of knit material.  All of mine are silk and lacy, and I don’t think they work.  What I need is something with a built in bra that doesn’t come up too high on the chest, and I would be in business!

I wear a lot of black.  I think it suits me, because I’m so pale.  I really love to wear all black with a splash of something extremely bright, like a belt or a cardigan.  I used to not wear black at all, so it’s funny to realize how much of it I own – I have five black dresses, because  I keep buying them at thrift stores!

If you’ve read this far, here’s a photo of my crocheted shrug blocking.  It’s not finished, but I went ahead and blocked the back and sides (it still needs sleeves and edging.)  I gave it a soak in some peppermint Dr. Bronner’s (which I like for cottons) and then pin blocked it to open the motifs.  I can’t tell about the sizing yet, but it  looks like it should fit.

BTW, I caught my cat, the one who likes to sleep on wet things, pullingl out the pins with his teeth, presumably so that he could have a flat (wet) surface to lay on.  Apparently I now have to lock my blocking away from him entirely – cat hair I could deal with, but not him hurting himself!

If you’ve read this far

crafts · outfits · Sewing

Me-made-June day 1: wearability reports


Dress: Vogue 2960 (Blogged here)

Shrug: Thrifted

Shoes: Kensie Girl

Pin: Vintage, belonged to my grandma

There are several things that I quite enjoy about the me-made challenges.  First of all, they inspire me to take care in how I put together an outfit (and June was looking to be a pretty dull month otherwise, with half my friends out of town and my performing groups on summer break.)

But I also like the glimpse they give into the actual wearability of patterns that we make.  After all, anything can look great on the day you’ve made it, but how do they hold up?  So this month I’m going to be giving the report on the fates of some of my me-made items.

I had a heck of a time making this dress.  Upon reflection, it was way too hard for my skills at the time, but I did it – I even underlined the whole thing in silk organza.  The organza makes the dress stand out nicely, but it is a bit scratchy around the waist seam.

I don’t wear this dress much, to be honest.  The last time was at a wedding almost a year ago.  Why don’t I wear it?  There are… issues with the shoulders.  This pattern has the usual 1950s issue of an overly large bust (to make room for undergarments of the period.)  I cut a size 6 in the bust and shoulders to make up the difference.  I would never do that now – I know that I can’t stand too narrow shoulders, and I always need at least an 8.   It would fit better in an 8 with a small bust adjustment.The shoulders, oddly, also tend to slide down, which is weird since they feel so tight!  I’ve actually pinned the dress to the cardigan (with the vintage pin) in order to keep them in place today.

This dress, more than any other, provokes “why are you so dressed up?” comments.  I’m always surprised when I get them – I dress up every day, but I guess the flowers take it over the top.

What have I learned since making this dress?

1. I have broad-ish shoulders for my size, and I have to watch out for that.

2. Underlining… I hate it.  It takes so long, and I’d rather wear a slip!

3. Low backs make me self-conscious.

4. The 1950s silhouette is great for me, but the actual vintage patterns of that era require too many adjustments for me to bother with… I prefer to take a modern pattern and make it look vintage.

So that’s the first day of the month – back tomorrow with another wearability report!

crafts · finished objects · outfits · Sewing

Butterick 5491

Pattern: Butterick 5491

Fabric: Rayon/lycra jersey from Joann’s (current season,) 2.25 yards

Shoes: Chinese Laundry (the blush color is the perfect nude shoe if you are pale and cool toned like me!)


This dress took me much longer than I thought it would!  It is, of course,  entirely my own fault.  I really wanted to use this rayon jersey, because I thought the print would play nicely with all the gathers in the dress.  Unfortunately, I had enough fabric to make the dress, but not to line.  I don’t like to use separate lining fabrics in knits, because it changes the stretch factor (even with a knit lining.)  I managed to cut the bodice lining (although I did have to make one piece backwards, but oh well… who is looking in my dresses?)  I eliminated the front underlining entirely.  This turned out to give me a few headaches, but I stand firm with my decision that three layers of fabric in the front is too much!

Rather than basting the gathers to the underlining, I sewed them to the lining.  I did underline the waist piece (which is only in the front) but did not line it.  The waistband I cut on the straight grain to save fabric.   Since it wasn’t overly stretchy that way (though it stretches enough) I was able to skip the handsewing called for on that piece (tacking the pleats down.)

I  cut a size 8, but I ended up removing about 3″ total from the side seams at the end.  I like a knit dress to fit tightly on the top!

At first I wasn’t sure… should I use the neck piece called for?  I was worried about it stretching out, and the casings were giving me fits (since I had not underlined, it was difficult to sew them evenly.) I did end up using the piece, though my method of attaching was complicated.  I did this last, after constructing the entire dress.  First I threaded the neckband between the fashion fabric and lining (at this point I had not sewn the second line of stitching to make the casing, so it was loose.)  Then I tried it on, adjusted the fabric, and pinned it where I wanted the band to meet the dress.  At this point I removed 3.5″ total from the center back neckband, because it was big on me.  Then I basted the neckband in place.  I still had to sew the casings, and I had a stroke of inspiration – what about using a zipper foot to get close to the neck facing?  So that’s what I did, using a long straight stitch (3.5 mm) and adjusting the gathers by hand as I went (I had to lift the presser foot every few stitches.)  That worked great – they don’t look uneven, and the stitching isn’t crooked the way it was with my normal or walking foot.

I trimmed 4 inches off the bottom of the dress, and then took a 1″ machine hem.

I am totally thrilled with this dress – it looks just how I pictured it!  It did take a long time, but I’m pretty sure that was my fault for trying to squeeze it out of this fabric.  I did not use a zipper, which is fine (the only tight part is the neck, which is my fault for shortening it!)  At this point I have not sewn in the bra cups.   Because it has two layers of fabric and a high waist (and I have no real bosoms to speak of) I’m going without (sorry for the TMI!)  The sides are too low for my strapless.

I recommend this pattern – just follow the instructions, and watch that you don’t cut it too big!  Here is how I’m wearing it today:

Cardigan: NY & Co

Shoes: Mia

Purse: Dooney and Bourke

I’m wearing it to teach with the cardigan, and when I go out with friends later I can take the cardigan off and have a nice going out dress!  It’s 80 degrees and muggy today – I’m a little worried about rain, so I changed into these shoes (which I care less about.)  You can’t see it well in the photo, but this is my new bag for this spring/summer.

It’s the Nina by Dooney and Bourke.  I am slightly obsessed with the color (the perfect tiffany blue!)  I don’t usually get expensive purses, but this one was on clearance (maybe most people don’t want an aqua bag?  I do!)  I’m actually experimenting to see if a nicer purse lasts me longer.  I tend to buy cheap ones, and run through them like crazy.  If this holds up I may adjust my strategy, since after buying 4 cheap purses (my average for a year)I might as well buy one nice one.  This color goes with most of my wardrobe, which is predominantly blue and gray.