Archive of ‘sewn’ category

summer sewing project :: the dresses

there has been some making and there has been some smocking. this first dress is made with the shards fabric from Cloud 9 fabrics…it’s a part of their affordable organic line.  I have been so impressed with the beautiful fabric coming out of this small fabric company and all of it is organic.

the pattern for this dress is my own using an adaptation of the dress pattern in the Cal Patch book “Design Your Own Clothes”.     I started with a muslin following her instructions.  she uses a side zipper and my muslin came out too loose and maternity-looking. so, when I made the ‘real’ dress I adapted the back of the dress by using elastic thread to add smocking.  it actually made construction easier and the fit better. yay!!


this is a close up of the smocked section.  the elastic thread (in the bobbin only) makes smocking so easy and it looks so good and professional. as excited as I am about the smocking and my clever adaptations, I’ll admit I’m not wild about this dress.  it just isn’t very exciting and the neckline came out a bit conservative.

so I moved onto a the next one! this dress is so simple to construct!  to make the pattern I mixed things I learned from Cal Patch and a pattern in the Heather Ross book Weekend Sewing.  the back and front pieces are the same pattern and then it’s just straps…that is it for cutting.  the top of the dress is smocked, again with elastic thread in the bobbin. then topstitch the top, adding in the straps and then just hem! and done!


here is a close up of the smocking.  yes, I voluntarily took a close up photo of my chest. the sewing has obviously gone to my head.

want to know one of the best things about this dress? the fabric is vintage and was in the collection I got from my grandma! isn’t that awesome! it’s got these fantastic peacocks dancing all over it. I can’t wait to wear it this summer and give it new life.

summer sewing project :: the halter top


I finished the halter top, another item off my list for my summer sewing project (a make-not-buy summer wardrobe).  this pattern is really straightforward, clear, and easy.  the top easily came together.  I used anna maria hornet’s voile, which is beautiful and soft and  lightweight.  it drapes well and feels scrumptious….but it also makes the top look a bit like a nighty.  harumph.  you had better believe that I will still be wearing this to cover up at the beach (I made it myself, after all) but I don’t know if I would actually wear anywhere else.  we will see.  here is a shot of the voile used for the halter tie…it’s so pretty.

I did make a muslin for this (in ikea, child-themed cotton) and I must admit I like the stiffness of standard cotton. I do not like the hint of a grouchy face in this photo? sheesh! but the shirt looks good with a little more body, no?  I might have to make this again in a stiffer fabric.

I was really hoping to lengthen the top to make it an easy, breezy summer dress but I might have to keep hunting for the right summer dress.  the elastic in the back kind of pulls a bit make it unsuitable for anything much longer.  I’m considering something like this one.

in other news, I’ve joined a handmade wardrobe group run by the super stylish grainline studio.  so, if you are feeling a handmade clothing bug, click on the button below and you can scan all the amazing creations pulled together on flickr!

BWS tips button

two very special quilts for two very special girls

for a while, I’ve been wanting to begin making specialty quilts out of the super-special baby clothes that otherwise stay stowed away somewhere…too special to get rid off but without any real plan for what to do with them.  this last month,  I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to do just that for dear friends.  they came over with three sacks of clothing….one filled with the precious clothing worn by their oldest daughter from her baby/toddler days; one bag of the same worn by their youngest daughter; and one worn by both.  these were the items they couldn’t part with.  the ones that it was impossible to put into the ‘give away’ or ‘donate’ pile.  the clothes that instantly conjure up a sharp memory, smell, or moment from those fleeting baby days.  and, rather than sit in a bag in her closet, she brought them to me so I could turn them into two quilts.  one for each girl.

I love these two girls. I mean I LOVE THEM.  I’ve known them since their days in the womb and I remember some of these clothes myself.  making these quilts was emotional for mom and dad but also for me.  it was not lost on me that I was trusted with something really precious.  as I sat sewing away, the quilts in my lap,  slowly transforming them into something so much more than just fabric scraps I could get a bit, ahem, emotional.

to make them, I started by cutting squares (and in some cases rectangles) out of the clothing and then using interfacing to stabilize anything that needed it, like the jersey knits.  there were also some special requests like incorporating socks in some way, sewing on some special buttons and adding in a tassle from the top of a hooded jacket.

 it took a long time to decide on layout and design, which happens to be the part I enjoy the most.  for the older sister’s quilt I clustered some of the rectangular squares in the middle and discovered that the wording taken from her special clothes provided a sort of definition: ‘big sister’; ‘inspired’; ‘sweet, smart, and sassy’; and a characteristic apple from one of her sweatshirts.  all together, the quilt started to look like her.  I took a little moment for some happy tears when I realized this (told you…emotional).  the other quilt came together in a similarly weepy manner.

after that, it was just piecing it all together and quilting it (stitching in the ditch). and, there you have it…time capsules in quilt form:


complete with tiny socks, beach wrap snippet, a scrap of a special dress from a first birthday, an important sweater, teeny-tiny jean pockets even bits from tights.


the funny thing is, while these quilts capture pieces from the fleeting baby days, I saw more of the future when I watched the girls react to seeing them for the first time.  as they giggled, pretended to fall asleep, and jumped up to point at things they recognized in the quilt, they suddenly looked so big.   and the days of onesies and swaddling blankets seemed so far behind.  and, SO MANY amazing and incredible moments seem just up ahead.

are you interesting in having one of these made for your little but getting big people?  if you are, get in touch and check out the specialty quilts page for information.


the scrambled quilt

last week I was working on a pattern to accompany my beginner baby quilt class (for sale soon on etsy, I promise!) and after making the model quilt, I had some remaining scraps leftover.  I  love the challenge of scraps. they just beg me to play, ignore the rules and make something unexpected. so, I succumbed to temptation and set aside some time to wrangle the fabric into a ‘playmate’ sized quilt that I’m calling the scrambled quilt.   I named it that because I think it looks a little scrambled but I love it.

 I did lots of piecing together and cutting apart and the design came together as I went…there was very little forethought I just went with what felt right. I’ve always like a good amount of crisp white in a quilt so I threw some of that in at the ends. it was great fun and nice to get out of the routine of following directions and over thinking and just enjoy a bit of the creative process.  I used the backyard baby fabric from patty sloniger, all of which is adorable.

my littlest one thought it was pretty great, too and had to get in on the action.  don’t tell me you aren’t tempted to tickle that exposed tummy or grab those little toes!


yum! it’s this kind of free-form process that reminds me of the joy of making things. no pattern to glance at every ten seconds (I have a terrible memory) and no agenda.  just me, my eyes, the cotton, and my machine.

the perfect travel bag

I’m back from lovely California…a little tanner and definitely refreshed. can I confess something? after a morning of hot coffee and sunshine at the beach I sat under a duvet and watched a movie surrounded by some of my oldest friends…it was 1pm.  it was insane. and glorious. I came home with stories of surfboards and cacti to enthrall the boys.

but before I left I was inspired mostly by the amazing bags being made in my current bag class.  I decided that I need the perfect traveling tote bag so I made this sucker:

it has a small inside pocket and then outside pockets on all four sides. it even has a key strap. (you know how you always want to know where your keys are but you never actually need them when you are on vacation? well, the key strap keeps them in one, easily-accessible place at all time.)  I used navy canvas from purl soho and amy butler’s lotus fabric from hawthorne threads for the lining. the pockets are topped with twill tape and all the fabric was sturdified (a word?) with heavyweight interfacing.


in all honestly, i’m in love with this bag. I was ridiculously organized on the plane. when I felt like listening to music, I knew just how to find my iPod.  when I wanted to read my book, all I had to do was reach down for the outside pocket and there it was.  plus, it’s awfully big so everything under the sun fits into it!


the year 2012 and some sewing goals

yes, I realize that it is mid-February and a little late to be talking about 2012 as if it were still on the horizon.  nope, it’s here and fully happening already but I’ve always been a little slow when it comes to these kind of things.  I am hoping that is part of what you love about me. right?

so, here it goes…deep, deep thoughts about 2012.  first, I’m so excited to be teaching so many amazing classes (by the way 2 spots still remain in the beginner–super tote class!).  it really has been a fantastic, inspiring adventure already.  I love the way that different people bring different and creative ideas to everything.  I find that it helps to fuel my creativity too.  so, I’m looking forward to lots more of that in 2012.  second, I’ve got some great commissions underway that are making me really happy.  I mean really, really happy. I’m like a humming, buzzing bee around my studio these days.  I can’t wait to share the details about these but later because I have too much other stuff to share today.  last, 2012 really feels like it holds so much incredible potential especially after how incredible 2011 has been.  feels like I’m starting on this incredible platform and ready to launch into a smoother-running sewing-teaching machine!

and, as a smoother-running sewing-teaching machine I have a plan.  this little plan started out as what felt like an ambitious idea and then it just grew until it started to take over my brain and became ESSENTIAL and something that I MUST DO.

the plan is to sew all my summer clothes this year! here is my justification: summer clothes can be simpler and so can be finished a bit more quickly than other season’s clothing; summer clothes are full of fun prints and so allow for use of fun fabrics; summer clothes include things like ‘beach dresses’ which can be loose and flowy rather than perfectly fitted; summer is a time for whimsy and fun clothes so I get to play, play, play; and most importantly, summer is months away so I have some time, right? RIGHT!

here is my list of things I want to make am going to make:

wow.  that is looking like a lot.  my rules are that I can only purchase summer shoes and no clothes.  if I want it, I have to make it.  we will see how it works out. I will certainly be blogging about it as I go.  but, I hope it turns out to be a splashy summer, my friends.  there is always the risk that I will just become that crazy patterned lady, too.  interested in joining me? we could do it together and keep each other updated?! let me know and I create a little blog button.  I’d love company.

alright, I do have a confession.  the truth is that I have already made the two skirts on my list.  they are the same as the skirt we make in my a-line skirt class.

this one is made from a japanese cotton-linen blend that I bought nearly a year ago and only just recently cut into.  I love the pop of colors on the soft gray background.  this skirt has just the right amount of structure to it that it is comfortable but still looks clean with smooth lines. I added a little red piping to the area near the waist hem and finished it with a blind hem stitch. I happen to be a big fan of the blind hem stitch, I like the way it looks professional and clean and not so becky home-ec-y.


this one I made a while ago…so I’m cheating just a little bit. it’s made from a table cloth that I got at a yard sale.  I cut it on the bias to combat how stiff the fabric and I like the way it drapes and the way it looks like a vine is wrapping around me.  it also really effectively hid some stains!

a-line skirt I’m a big fan of this pattern from wendy mullin’s sew u book.  it seems to fit everyone really well and even though it is a standard skirt, the a line shape is maintained better than other skirt patterns I’ve used.  that said, there is one gaping problem with this pattern and that is the sizing.  it runs so unbelievably small that the smallest size seems better suited for children, to be honest.  it really could benefit from some bigger sizes.  to teach it in my class, I’ve had to create my own size up, which is crazy.  that said, that’s my only gripe. the instructions are clear and include a great, foolproof technique for inserting a zipper.

ok, wow.  that is a long post. but, I’m very excited and very amped on caffeine.  I had better go direct that caffeinated energy on a few other important things…like tonight’s class!

the year 2011

sometimes a blog post is like an imaginary friend.  it’s living and breathing and writing itself in my head for so long that I actually start to think that I’ve written it already.  but when I sit down to actually write it all my ideas are scattered and my attention span is short and….well, it doesn’t happen.

this is one of those posts.  I’m late in writing it because, even though it is already written imaginar-ily, it’s a breathtaking reflection for me.

how to begin to look back at the year 2011?

I’ll start with numbers:

1 conventional job left behind

1 home life and 2 small boys with lots more mama time

1 website created and 8,003 html codes gone wrong

9 sewing classes taught to a revolving ragtag group of 28 amazing people (and growing!)

at least 10 sewing machines newly nestled into to the homes of that ragtag group

28 new, crafty, creative friends to obsess about sewing with

2 craft fairs

2 very special quilts

100 cups of coffee, 145 (or so) yards of fabric and 310 (approximately) spools of thread

here it is in pictures:

work hard, sew hard max.quilt.sneakpeek            

thanks so much to everyone that made 2011 a stupendous year.  every single person that has waltzed through my classes has not only been a natural sewer but also become a friend.  you all make the *work* behind a happy stitch worth it. I’m guessing there are easier ways to make new friends but none are nearly as fun as this.

2012 is already swinging with an incredible skirt class under foot and a bag, beginner, and superhero cape class up ahead.  plus, I got a few soon-to-be-revealed sewing goals in mind as well. maybe you will want to join me with those? huh? huh?


make it :: felted heart pocket pillows

this year, the three boys in my house are getting heart pocket pillows with a love note and candy tucked inside.  I made two different kinds…two hearts with the seams inside and one (for my husband) with the seams kept outside for a ‘raw edge’ kind of look.

it all started with a pretty honest moment between me and my closet.

no melissa, it really isn’t appropriate to wear a sweater that requires you to keep one hand permanently on your hip and never raise your left arm because of two ever-widening holes. give up the ghost, these sweaters are done.

so, fine.  the sweaters landed in my ‘felting’ pile and instead of lingering there I took charge and did actually felt them along with a few others that were waiting patiently.  to felt them, I cut the sweaters apart at the seams and threw them in the wash on a hot, heavy soil setting.  then, they were shipped off to the dryer on the highest setting.  I had to repeat that whole cycle once more to get them to truly felt.

they went from this……………………………………………………….to this.


once wool is I felted it holds together tightly and the edges don’t fray so it can be used for a gazillion crafting purposes. to make the pillows with hidden seams I used a pretty conventional method: cutting out two hearts from the felt; sewing a pocket on the front of one side and sewing them right sides together; leaving a small opening; turning it inside out; putting in some stuffing (and even shredded sweater bits for heft); and finally hand stitching shut the opening.

to make the raw edged felt heart I came up with an easy method that I’m going to share with you just in case you also have an honest-closet moment:

cut out a heart from paper (fold the paper in half and cut out a half of a heart; open the paper to reveal a heart just like grade school!!)  position two pieces of sweater felt and one small triangular swatch such that it will form a pocket at the bottom of the heart. place the paper heart on top of your sweater felt and pin it in place.


don’t cut around the pattern, simply sew around the pattern.  keep the paper in place, just pulling pins as you sewed like a conventional pattern but leave a small opening, about 2.5 inches without any stitches. it should look like this:

then, cut around what you’ve sewn and stuff in polyfill fiber as well as some of the remaining sweater felt cut into tiny pieces—it’s a great way to use up the sweater scraps and gives the heart a little heft.  last,  sew the opening and there you have it, a felted heart pillow pouch.

just for fun I hand-stitched on a little heart from another piece of sweater scrap. voila!

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