Archive of ‘clothing’ category

sun on the legs! it’s time for skirt season.

these white legs are going to see some sunshine.  it’s a little scary but I’m a brave woman. I started making this skirt when I joined in with the fantastic sew-a-long cal patch is hosting on her blog hodge podge farm.  cal patch skirt

the sew-a-long is so exciting because it includes drafting a skirt pattern yourself.  cal is, of course, the expert on this and offers great tips to help it happen successfully both in her book and on her blog.  I made my muslin in the standard method with darts but when it came to make the ‘real’ skirt I decided to play around a bit.  I skipped the darts and instead used the dart placement to create panels of fabric.  I created a kind of faux-piping using strips of a lovely cinnamon and raspberry voile fabric I had on hand and sewed the front together with the “piping” sandwiched in between.  last I added on these beautiful rust-colored vintage buttons I picked up recently.  it is all decorative, though the end result makes it look a bit like a sailor skirt.

skirt detail

the waistband is made using bias tape and I put in a side invisible zipper (all of this per cal’s instruction).  I will absolutely wear this skirt…perhaps not every day since I don’t usually tuck in my tops.  do I have to tuck in my shirt if I wear a skirt with detail like this?  I feel so stuffy with a tucked-in shirt on.  I enjoyed making the skirt pretty in front but my shirts cover it up.  anyone have an opinion on this?  I have literally zero knowledge of actual fashion rules so I’m open to (read: in desperate need of) assistance.

I made another skirt, too. I feel in love with this print, it’s called charleston farmhouse and it’s by felicity miller.

sew u skirt

I was preparing for teaching my a-line skirt class, which I haven’t taught for a long time. I really needed to make the whole skirt again to remember the sticking points and important tips (the pattern is from Sew U by wendy mullin).  I decided to try a few things I’ve been wanting to experiment with. so, I used the skirt waistband facing to make a top band and I altered the pattern to add a bit more flair to the skirt body.  I will definitely wear this skirt.  I really love fun prints but I shy away from wearing them regularly.  so, this skirt will encourage me to get over that. I’m still debating about adding a button or two to the upper green band at the top.  any thoughts, dear readers?  am I just going to add a cute button and then cover it up with my un-tucked shirts again?

the zipper is in the middle at the back, which might be my favorite place for a zipper.

back of summer skirt

sometimes I just find it difficult to sew in a side zipper and keep the integrity of side seams, it always puckers out a little bit.  ya’ know.  see how well that back seam lined up!? complete happy accident.  somedays things just work like that!  the hem is a blind hem stitch.  the blind hem stitch is, by the way, what I require my students to do even though it’s tricky to figure out.  everyone in my classes always hates it while they are figuring it out but the professional look can’t be beat!  really.  look at that!  it’s awesome.  plus, it’s a true blue accomplishment to get it right.

blind hem stick

when I was finishing up these skirts I chanced upon a great sewing challenge happening at crafter hours making, of all things, skirts!  how about that for timing?  so, I’m throwing both of these in the ring.  I highly encourage you to check out all the amazing skirts being made for the challenge, they are super. and, if you have made a skirt in the last two weeks join skirt week! do it! why not? you have until tomorrow! (I know. sorry. little late notice.)

as an aside: I happen to think that blind hem stitches should be challenge 1 on a sewing smackdown sometime in the future when there is finally a TV channel dedicated 100% to sewing.  have they done that yet on British Sewing Bee? probably they have.  also, can you believe I have the most olive tone to my skin of everyone in my family? yup.  turns out the Irish just don’t tan quite like Lutherans from Minnesota do.

the staple dress

I made a dress.  it’s a real one. I will wear it.  I’m pretty excited.  my enthusiasm is a teeny little bit tempered by how much bloody effort went into making it.  but I’m still very excited.  by the way, don’t be fooled by this serene expression.

there was swearing (and not the quiet, under the breath kind…the loud thank-goodness-I’m-alone kind); there was kicking things and there was the “forget this! I give up”-ing.  it’s mildly embarrassing but sewing isn’t all unicorns and rainbows sometimes.

the staple dress

the pattern is the staple dress from april rhodes and I’ve been tempted to make it since it came out a few months ago.  the pattern is beautifully done and the dress is so simple to make.  plus, it looked so beautiful in all of april’s pictures.  then the women behind go make shit issued a staple dress challenge and I piped up with “I’m in!”. ha. the challenge ended at the beginning of april.  you could say I missed that boat.

my first attempt looked like a ridiculous hospital gown.  the first thing my husband asked me when he saw it was “did you leave it open in the back?”.  harumph was my response.  so, I attempted a kind of ad-hoc resizing and sewed a version in jersey knit fabric.  I resized it quick and I sewed it together quick and resulting dress looked like something quickly resized and thrown together.  not a huge surprise.  I did not take pictures, it was too depressing.  this was around the time of the “forget it! I quit”-ing.  so, the pattern sat there untouched for a while.

but, when I came across a beautiful plum flower print I decided to buck up and try it again.  this time I took my time and made it one full size smaller to xs (I am not an xs girl, I promise.  it’s a roomy dress and is designed to have more ease than I prefer in my clothing.).  I also altered the sleeves so they are tighter…the gaping hole as a sleeve thing just isn’t for me.

staple dress with belt

plus, I added a notch to the top of the dress. it makes it more comfortable for me and a little less ho-hum.  here it is without a belt, the gathers are formed using elastic thread in the bobbin.  I love the effect of these gathers and I love how simply it comes together but I have to admit that the feeling of elastic thread against my skin is not that comfortable…it will take a bit of getting used to.

staple dress no belt

as I mentioned, the print is what convinced me to try again.  it’s from the simply color line.  have you seen this already? the whole line is pretty impressive and include ombre prints that can be used to make some stunning quilts such as this one.  plus, the fabric is soft and a bit lighter weight than everyday quilting cotton. kind of quietly amazing if you ask me.

by the way, I’ve been on a little bit of a clothes-making kick lately.  not that you would know it since I haven’t blogged about any of it….that’s my bad.   sometimes when I’m in the swing of making things I just don’t have the energy to write about it.  it’s as if my ‘creating brain’ and my ‘writing brain’ can’t coexist. that happen to anyone else?  also, we’ve been really busy.  I know everyone is busy and it’s no excuse.  but, seriously?!  in the last six 7 weeks everyone but me has had a birthday and that means I planned and executed three kick-ass birthday parties; my husband changed jobs AND got his U.S. citizenship; and we moved my studio.  I’m pooped.


kids clothes week :: pajama time

pajama boy

day five of kids clothes week and pajamas have been made, folks.  I have been hoping to make pajamas for the boys for a while now.  they both needed summer jams….something lighter weight to carry us through spring and summer nights.

this striped fabric was just the ticket.  it’s a knit I got ages ago on my one and only trip to mood fabric with mary frances.  (mood is, incidentally, a crazy place…slightly dingy and crammed from floor to ceiling with every imaginable kind of fabric and incredibly artsy, hip people.  sales people pace the store asking ‘do you need a swatch?’ approximately every two minutes.  I can’t imagine how those project runway people shop quickly there! )
sideways stripe pajamas

two sets of pajamas were made.  one for each boy but I only had one ‘model’ willing to put pajamas on right after school.  my other model was reluctant and I didn’t feel great about bribery two days in a row, ya know?

big boy pajama set

the pattern for these comfy cozy jammies come from the book “growing up sew liberated” by the lovely meg mcelwee.  her book has such clear instructions and everything is so thoughtfully constructed to make it as easy as possible to have a successful experience sewing with knits.  I really appreciate that at this point…clear and easy!

I am excited about these pajamas.  the bottoms are basically just leggings and were ridiculously easy to make.  and the top is called a crossover top in the book and is so super cute.  the only problem is I used striped fabric and despite my best effort the stripes didn’t always line up.  see how the arm on the left is matched at the top of the shoulder and then loses it near the armpit? what the heck?!  never mind that the arm on the right is completely off.  guess I’ve got a bit of work to figure that one out for next time.
pajama top stripes

I was very proud when the stripes do end up matching, as in below. lined up stripe pajamas

at the end of the day, however, I am the only one in the house that will notice the mis-matched stripes.  the boys certainly won’t notice or care and they like their new pajamas even if they don’t want to model them. (phew!  it’s always a relief after hours of effort.)

I am really enjoying working with knit fabrics.  it is easier in some ways.  there is no worrying about finishing seams and the fit doesn’t have to be exact.  it’s also such comfortable fabric and the most likely to be in our closets already.  my biggest challenge with knits is preparing and lining them up.  it seems there are always wrinkles and bumps when I try to true it up.  I end up spending lots of time being sure I’ve got it lined up before I cut…of course, once I get to the sewing it goes fast.  it’s a tradeoff.  I’m hoping to take my last two kcw days and make some knit t-shirts and shorts, we will see how much actually gets done.

kids clothes week :: the handsome shirt

checks on cutie pie

ahh!! couldn’t you just squeeze that kid?! so cute!  I do love him.

I’m swinging right back into ‘regular life’  (after my dreamy time at the makerie) with lots of kids clothes week sewing.  well, not really LOTS since I’ve only made one shirt and it’s already thursday.  but, I have lots of plans for lots of sewing and that has to count for something.

with this shirt I was aiming for a guaranteed home run.  C picked the fabric himself (from out of my stash) and it is a soft, flannel-like check that I got at a yard sale.  he requested that I make it into a ‘handsome shirt’.

this is his thing. it has been for approximately a year.  he wears a button up shirt nearly every day and he calls them “handsome shirts” because while he might be a humble ‘man of the woods’ on the surface if you dig deeper it’s clear he knows he is super cute (he also has a handsome hat that sees just as much wear as the shirts).  thankfully, we have a lot of handsome shirts but they are getting small.  mostly they are small in the arms…his arms seem to be stretching out every single day.  what is up with that?

arm out on cutie pie
I was excited to take on the challenge of this shirt with it’s buttons and arm cuffs and collar with collar extender.  turns out it was more of a challenge than it even should have been.  the pattern is from the book sewn with love by fiona bell of their nibs fame.  unfortunately, there were quite a few problems both with the pattern and the instructions.  the start with, the patterns come on a cd and are printed out, which adds the time-consuming element of taping together the pattern before you even trace it.  this is annoying step, no matter what, but it is especially difficult in this case because the pattern pieces don’t come together very easily.  it’s confusing and in some places I had to draft portions myself!  which is flatly ridiculous when you’ve paid for a book and taken the time to print out and tape together a pattern.

on top of that, the pattern instructions are not very clear and there are very few pictures.  I was really hoping to learn how to make cuffs with a sleeve packet and the instructions were so confusing I just had to wing it and make it up and put in a simple placket….meaning I learned nothing.  arghh!!
seriously adorable handsome shirt man

as frustrating as the process was, I really like the end result. the arms a little long (but not for long!) and he insists on wearing them rolled up.  I will probably make more of these now that I have the pattern and cracked the code on the pattern.  if you know of a great tutorial or youtube video on making a sleeve placket PLEASE let me know!  I would love to learn how to do that properly.

handsome shirt detailthe best news of all is that after initially rejecting the shirt (I hate it! I won’t wear it!), I paid him 75 cents he tried it on and he likes it now.  phew.

now, it’s back to kids sewing and pattern code cracking for me!


the upcycling project :: mission consignment crazy

my mother was visiting recently and we stopped in at my favorite consignment store in Princeton.  my mom is a serious bargain shopper and a fun person to shop with so we scoured the place and came upon a totally crazy dress in a much-neglected back corner.  thing is the totally crazy dress was in a great fabric and that is how ‘mission consignment crazy’ was born, because of course I bought it.  it was $5…and I was determined to turn it into a top and skirt.  not to be worn together ever again in their long clothing life. consignment crazy

this is the dress itself.  I know. wow!  that is something. that much fabric and so much pattern.  pattern all the way down to the floor. floor length crazythe dress still had a tag on it, it was brand new.  my mom and I speculated for a while about what in the world it was originally designed for…pajamas maybe?  on the deck of a lounging cruise? we will never know.

I started by cutting off the shirt portion.  I cut it a little shorter than I had intended so I had to add a fabric band to the bottom.  there was a tiny bit of tricky sewing near the hip to secure what had been a wrap-around effect to the side of the top.  but, tacking that down and adding the band at the bottom was all I did and *bam* I had a kimono style top.

consign top

to make the skirt I used the fold over skirt pattern that comes with Meg McElwee’s Craftsy class sewing with knits.  for a long time I have wanted to gain some competency with knit fabrics and I am so happy I am taking Meg’s class.  she is an excellent instructor and while I still have more to learn I am feeling so much more comfortable sewing with knits.  once it is done properly and with all the right tools on hand, it is so much more forgiving than regular woven fabric.  and, let’s face it, I live in t-shirts and hoodies, so it opens up the ability to really make wearable clothes that fit!

making the skirt was made much easier because I was able to line the pattern up such that I could use the already sewn hem.  then, stitch up the side seams and create the fold over at the top…skirt complete!

consign crazy skirt

now, I generally resist saying I ‘whipped’ something up because when other people say that I always imagine some really happy lady barely sitting at a sewing machine and then ‘whipping’ something perfect off the machine with a big high-energy smile on her face.  I never feel like that lady.  I always feel the fussy, putz-y, details that slow me down.  that lady makes me imagine I must be a really slow sewist because nothing feels ‘whipped’ up…it took work!  but this skirt/top combo…well, it actually kind of felt whipped up!  there were some fussy bits but many fewer than normal.

of course there are some details: the skirt actually is a little bit tight and not as flouncy as I would like it to be.  I’ve already altered the pattern a little…adding in a bit of size and just a touch of flounce.  I might just be living in skirts like this all summer long.

the up-cycling project

I listen to podcasts while I sew and I sew a lot so, consequently, I listen to a lot of podcasts.  one of my favorites is stuff you missed in history class.  recently, they had a piece that referenced an article about the impact that donated clothing can have on indigenous textile industries in some African countries.  the gist is this: when we donate clothes to big charities they take the tons and tons of the stuff that doesn’t sell and re-sell it to African countries for cheap.  in turn, the clothes are sold in African markets and because Western influence is strong these clothes are popular, especially among young people.  the popularity of these clothes has diminished interest in owning and wearing the textiles that are indigenous to the particular country and therefore the whole textile industry is flagging for many African countries.  this made me really sad.  I always felt good when I went through my closet and brought in a donation.  hoping, all the while, I was helping someone out.  but, the last thing I want to be a part of is killing of any indigenous textile industries…especially such beautiful fabric with such attachment to culture and heritage!

long story short, I have been thinking of ways to stem the tide of crap coming in and crap going out!  obviously, buying less stuff is a good way to go.  I’m definitely working on that.  I still have a ways to go.  but, when I do buy I’m trying to be more thoughtful about it and have been hitting up a really nice consignment store nearby for almost all of the boys clothes and much of my own.

that said, I still have lots of things in my closet that I don’t wear.  so, I’m devising a personal challenge to up-cycle them into something I WILL wear.  and I want to highlight some of my progress here on the blog with an up-cycle project!  I’d love it if you joined me.

upcycle project scarves

I started simple…turning regular scarves into infinity scarves.  I find I am really drawn to scarves, in large part because I love their ability to highlight a great fabric print.  but, I only wear my infinity scarves because I’m not a fan of the way that a tied scarf kind of hangs out there and then comes untied or flies in my face.  it’s awkward.

so I devised the simplest project ever.  I simply made a french seam (great tutorial can be found here) connecting both ends of the scarves.

up cycle french seam

job done!  it took minutes…around 10 actually to make 3 scarves I will actually wear!

knit stripy scarf

ikat scarf

bird on it scarf

look at that, it’s already making me happy!  leave a comment if you join in the up-cycle project…I’d love to see it!


how to hug a teeny tiny heart

one of my oldest, dearest blogging friends, mary frances from this is marzipan, has just had a baby girl and has the great joy of bringing a bit of estrogen into her otherwise all-testosterone world (like me, she has two boys).  I’m a little jealous to be honest.  unfortunately, some of the joy has a little dark cloud shadow hovering over it because the baby was born with a heart condition and her teeny tiny, beautiful heart has already met with knives and highly skilled doctors.  as they say in my family, uff da.  it’s more than a grown-up heart can handle.

of course, mary frances and her family are taking it in stride and with great strength and grace…an amazing feat given what they must soldier through.

for my part, I had to find a way to hug that teeny, tiny hard-working heart so I made two little kimono shirts.

birdie heart hugger

the pattern is from the heather ross book weekend sewing.  this kimono style wraps twice around the front, that is the hug.   but, also, the fact that it is easy to open up in the front will hopefully be helpful during her recovery.

sleepy night heart hugger

I love this simple easy pattern and there really isn’t anything more satisfying than making clothes for little babies.  especially since I rarely get to create for girls.

side of birdie heart hugger

the fabric’s are from my stash, of course.  one is a soft, loose-weave japanese print and the other is a soft flannel.  I’m really fond of how the japanese print decorates the chest.
reaching branch heart hugger

my only gripe with this pattern is that it always seems to leave a little pucker and extra bulk at the armpit. I think it might be the technique: the sleeves are sewn in before the body side seams are sewn.  the final stitch sews together both the bottom arm seam as well as the side of the body (essentially sewing a 90 degree angle from arm down to body) and I think it might be inevitable that this technique is not as smooth as actually inserting a sleeve properly.  anyone else have this problem?  the shirt is not tight so I doubt it will bother baby girl, it’s simply a sewist investigation.

wrinkled arm heart hugger

summer sewing project :: up-cycled

oh dear. it has been a long time since I have visited this little space. sometimes I get consumed by a sewing project and need a little space from the blog but that, sadly, isn’t the case this time.  it’s just the regular spring craziness around here.  in the last six weeks everyone in the house, except me, has celebrated a birthday…throw in mother’s day; a sprained ankle; and a stomach flu and you have full-scale chaos.  there is something to be said for just getting it all out of the way, however.  I’m more than ready to come back into the fold! bring it!

with that said, I’ve got some ‘new’ clothes.  they are actually my cheaters for the summer sewing project.  I found these pieces in a lovely consignment store and each one was fantastic but needed a little adjusting.  so, I figured it counted as ‘made by me’ with just a twist of cheating.


both of these dresses and the striped tunic below needed shorter straps and the black dress needed the sides taken in as well.    I was a bit intimidated by messing with the knit fabric on the black dress but I’m amazed by how well a simple stretch needle works! I also had to serger the sides to keep it together.  shortening the straps is so easy especially when it’s straightforward to pick apart the seams.

I must have an unusually short distance across the top of my shoulders because I always want to shorten straps.  perhaps, it’s an issue related to my, ahem, chest.

[this picture makes the bodice look really tight, which it doesn’t feel like it is when I’m wearing it.  hmm. mental note to check on that.]

these two skirts are probably my favorites. the mustard one was a tunic that just looked sloppy on me no matter how I tried to dress it up.  so, I cut off the bodice (which hit at an empire waist).  then I sewed some elastic around the waist.  so easy! it had a tie that I kept just for the look, it serves no real purpose.

the grey skirt is probably the one I’ve worn the most and it was, by far, the easiest to make. in fact, I just cut it. no sewing involved at all.  it was what I call a ‘twofer’ but I have no idea if that is actually what they are called.  when the top half of a dress is one color and style and the bottom half is different so it kind of looks like a shirt and skirt but it’s a dress? yeah, a twofer. all I did was cut off the top part and it already has a piece of knit jersey to create a waistband.  um, that’s it.  I was done!

I’m feeling like a real-life molly ringwald.

well, after all of this I’m feeling nearly done with my summer clothes sewing.  I want to try one dress and a pair of capri-length pants just because I’ve never made either one and want to give it a try. but, my enthusiasm for sewing clothes is waning and I’m eager to sew some things for the home with the lovely wool I got from grandma.  we will see which way the wind blows.


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