Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Santa Hat

The person who this is meant for doesn't read this blog (I don't think). But, just to be safe, I waited to share it until after I gave it to her. 

It's from Kwik Sew 3743, which might be out of print, but you can still get it. I saw the zebra-print fleece on sale and I couldn't resist - my mom LOVES animal prints of all kinds. 

Everything went together quickly. I used the serger for everything except the pompom. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pins and Needles

Are you looking for a last-minute gift for the sewist in your life? May I humbly suggest a wrist pincushion? 
For real, putting pins and needles in your mouth is dangerous. Don't. Just don't. I'm even a little leery of holding stitch markers in my mouth, since I read the above story.
I don't have a pattern for these. The round one was a little hard to make. The rectangle was easier. I used scrap fabric, scrap elastic and cut-up cardstock. The cardstock is to put on the bottom of the cushion, so you can't accidentally stick yourself in the arm with a pin. Very heavy felt might also work, too, but I didn't have any of that. 
For the elastic, make a casing about an inch longer than the elastic by sewing a tube, then turning it inside out. The elastic will gather it a little bit, but it will still be able to stretch and fit over your hand when you pull it on. 
If you're weird like me, you might want at least two of these suckers. One is for "regular" pins. The other, in knit fabric, is for ballpoint-head (knit fabric only) pins. I hate trying to guess which is which!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Purple Peasant Top

I picked up some purple jersey at Jo-Anns and knew that I wanted to make a peasant-style top out of it. Paired with Stretch & Sew 1582 - perfection! I love these patterns not just because they are fun, but for the attention to detail. The sleeve isn't just a straight hem gathered into elastic. It's curved, so that it really fits the curve of your arm. I'm not saying that modern sewing patterns don't have this feature, but I really appreciate it, when I see it.

The neckline is kind of cool, too. The little self-fabric ties are there, but they're assisted by wider elastic. So, you get the look of little fabric ties with the gathering capability of a nice, wide elastic. Lovely. 

I like the length and the hem, but if I make it again, I might change it to a shirt-hem style.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Poppy Panel Skirt

Yes, this selfie is at the gym because I don't have a full-length mirror with good light at home. I should probably change that, at some point.

I saw this panel print poplin on Marcy Tilton's website and I knew I just had. to. have. it.

I had Butterick's 5466 skirt pattern, so I decided to try view B with this fantastic print. 


I'm now tempted to try to find some fabric the same color as the hot pink in the poppies to make a top. It would have to be a perfect match to work, so we'll see if I ever manage it. I think white would also look good. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peacock 1977

Polyester Peacock fabric, in the sunshine

I found this shiny, knit, polyester fabric at Goodwill for $2.99. I picked it up, giggled, and put it back. It was clearly from the 1970s - not a throwback, actual stashed fabric that's at least 35 years old. How do I know? It proudly proclaimed "100% polyester!" in the selvedge. Plus, peacocks.

I knew the texture couldn't work for me as a top, dress or pants, but I thought about it for a second - why not a bathrobe? Past Goodwill forays have yielded more than one bathrobe pattern. Why not?

At home, I dug up Simplicity 8275 from my stash. Stardate: 1977. A match made in polyester heaven.

Awesome. Something to swan around the house in, for about $3.50. I serged all of the seams, then pressed them to one side and topstitched with a straight stitch. I'm going to go ahead and call that a super-fake fell seam.

I reinforced the sleeve seams with twill tape. I don't know if it would have stretched out, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

I had EXACTLY enough fabric, with almost none to spare. I shortened the sleeves a bit so that I can cook in this robe in relative safety. No long robe sleeves for me - I saw The Sopranos.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Sometimes Boomer kind of hugs me when I pet him. It's the cutest thing!

Happy early Thanksgiving, to those who celebrate it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Latex-Free Underwear, Sewing, and Me

I'm a responsible adult, so instead of writing here about my Big Election Feelings, I'm going to write about my undergarments.

I've been thinking about this for a while, and apparently I have a lot to say about it, so here goes. 

Most ready-to-wear underwear is kind of horrible. Especially if it's "affordable." 

I grew up not thinking about it a lot. I bought undies by the handful out of the cheapo bin at the department store or at Victoria Secret. The elastic always wore out in about 6 months. I used to get very uncomfortable skin tags from the leg elastic rubbing and binding up on me. I never guessed there were better options and I had more important things to spend money on, like film and photo chemicals. 

Then, around 17 or 18 years ago, my twin sister told me she had a latex allergy and I should be on the lookout for it, too. We both researched a lot in a quest for cute, affordable, latex-free underwear. I mean, lots of clothes can contain latex, but bras and underwear are the worst offenders. Even if the elastic used is latex-free, a lot of companies use latex in the thread. It just doesn't seem worth it to increase my exposure to latex on the wing and a prayer that the 3-pack of undies at the mall for $22.50 hasn't done that.

We hit on Decent Exposures pretty early on, and I can't recommend them, as a company,  highly enough. Their customer service is impeccable. I lost a bit of weight and ordered some undies that were a size smaller than the pairs I had ordered 6 months before and they emailed me to make sure I hadn't made an error when I was ordering. Fantastic.

$15 per pair for latex-free panties isn't unusual, and the Decent Exposures undies that I wore for years cost between $16 and $28 (that's with shipping, the more expensive pairs are organic cotton). They are worth every penny. From their website: 

"We try hard to be a socially responsible business. All our products are made in Seattle where our employees receive good wages and benefits and the flexibility they need for themselves and their families. We use recycled products whenever possible and pass on large scraps to those who can use them (give us a call if you're interested). We neither buy mailing lists nor sell ours, so you need not worry that your name will be given to others."

From another section: 

"If you need customizing of your order (i.e. latex free elastic or other modifications you have had to previous orders), use the 'Special Instructions' box when checking out to make your requests."

They also last for years. I had pairs that I wore for over 4 years. They didn't even wear out, exactly. I lost some weight, so they just didn't work for me, anymore. I still wear an Un-Bra from them and I absolutely love it.

Around the beginning of this year, I decided to try my hand at making undies. I found this article online at the Very Purple Person and was like, ok. This looks pretty easy. I started out by buying t-shirts at Goodwill and using latex-free elastic from Bravo Bella. All of their elastics and trims are latex-free and they have rocking customer service. I'm their customer for life.

Things learned from my first experience: 

- Seriously, mark the centers of things. Pattern pieces for panties are little, but that also means that if you're off by a bit, it matters a lot. I started out using snips to mark, but now I use Clover Wonder Clips.

- If you're printing a PDF pattern, make sure to check the width and height of the printing box. I didn't do this and my first pair of undies fit well in width but was about 20% shorter than it should have been. Not cute. I mean, I like a hipster style, but it really didn't fit well in the legs.

- I pulled too hard when attaching the leg elastic and ended up with undies that made it look like I'd been fighting off a school of tiny piranha all day. Also not cute.

Overall, ok, but not perfect. 

A few weeks later, I bought the Scrundlewear pattern from Stitch Upon a Time. I'd read a lot of rave reviews about the pattern and I thought it would be cool to try an elastic-free kind of undie. 

I made several pairs. They were good. I loved that I could either use elastic or replace it with a fabric band. I liked the "burrito" method I learned from the Very Purple Person, so I actually altered the pattern so that I could use that technique. The original is drafted so that you cut on the crotch as part of the front pattern piece, so I had to change that to get what I wanted and have a completely enclosed front and back crotch seam. I imagine her method is faster to sew, but I don't mind taking a little time on something that I'm planning on wearing about once a week for (hopefully) a few years.

There was something about the Scrundlewear pattern that I didn't like, even with my alterations. The fit was just...not right, in the back. I admit to having a rather bodacious booty, and in the comment boards and Facebook group of Scrundlefans, many suggestions came up for this, including "just use a size larger in the back." But, the width across the main part of the back was fine. It was just right at the bottom of my rear that was a problem. I considered shortening the crotch piece to pull the bottom of the undies forward, but that didn't make sense. When the fit on the leg bands wasn't just a little tight, the undies rode up like they were late for a gunfight at the OK Corral. That's not comfy, but neither are tight leg bands.

Then, I looked again at the Very Purple Person tutorial and had an "aha" moment. Her crotch pattern pieces weren't symmetrical. They're larger in the back. Because, well, so are we.

In May, I paid a little more than I usually do for patterns and scored a Stretch & Sew 2046 (Brief, Hipster and Bikini Panties) from The Sewin' Asylum. Again, awesome customer service. LOVE her. I made about 5 pairs of hipsters. They have a crotch piece that is asymmetrical and curved, which I think is a little harder to sew, but gives a really fantastic fit. 

Ann Person's method for the leg elastic is to measure your body, then reduce the length of the elastic by a set amount (I think it's either 2 or 4 inches), and work the ease of that evenly around the entire leg. It works ok, but I still wasn't getting the results I wanted.

Then, two things happened. 

- I took Beverly Johnson's Craftsy class on Sewing Panties: Construction & Fit. In the class, she has you measure yourself and draft your own pattern, from scratch. I'm sure it's awesome, but I haven't done it, yet. What I have done is use her method for measuring and attaching leg elastic. It's awesome. It's perfect, for me. You can even make a jig so that all of your panties will fit the same way in the leg elastic. GENIUS! She also does all of the construction "in the flat," which is easier and faster than in the round, in my opinion.

- I made a cami a little while back from this 1986 Stretch & Sew pattern (2072), and I didn't show it to you all because it was kind of a disaster, but when I picked up the pattern, again, to try another one, I noticed that it included a French Bikini. My favorite style.
1986, baby!

The crotch piece on these is curved in the back and straight across in the front. The fit is excellent. 

So, very long story short, I'm using a 30-year-old sewing pattern and construction techniques from Beverly Johnson to make the cutest underwear I've worn in almost half my life. I'm very, very happy.

I topstitch all of the elastics using the coverstitch on my serger. This keeps the edges of the elastic from flipping over and rubbing on me. 

It's cheaper, too. Even with shipping, the elastic and stretch lace I buy from Bravo Bella runs about $2.50 per pair. I could make it cheaper if I bought a ton at once, but I'm enjoying trying different styles and patterns. I bought my cotton fabric as a promotion through Purpleseamstress Fabric on Facebook. Back in January, she said she was drowning in little half-yard and one-yard cuts of cotton-blend jersey, so said if you bought a certain amount of other fabric from her, she would put in 10 of these cuts for free. The white lining is from a set of undershirts I bought at Costco, so I think of those as, essentially, free, too.

If I ever run out of these fabrics, I'll probably spring for organic cotton jersey. Let's say that's $8 per yard. I could definitely get at least 2 pairs out of a yard, and maybe more like 3. But, pretend it's just 2 pairs of undies per yard.

I could have organic, cute, latex-free undies for $6.50 a pair and less than 1 hour of work. Cheaper than the three-pack at the mall.

...and now I think this is the longest post I've written on this blog, and it's about underwear. Also, ads for underwear will now follow me around online for weeks. Perfect!

I contacted Dritz, which is the brand I encounter the most often in stores, and they sent me a list of which of their elastics are latex free. Not all of these work for underwear, but I figure that anyone who finds this page looking for latex-free sewing options might want this information, too.

Latex Free Elastic
Dritz 9325W –3/4” plush back  stated on package

Also latex free
9344 – 5/8╩║  Glitter Elastics, black, gold and silver
9346C – lightweight elastic, clear
9347 – 5/8” buttonhole elastic, black and white
9348 – 3/8” stretch lace elastic, pink and white
9350w – 3/8” Non-Slip elastic, white
9577 -1 ½” soft waistband elastic, berry, green, orange, purple and tile blue
9387  – 1” Fold Over Elastic, black and white
9388 W– 5/8” double ruffle elastics, 20 SKU’s (maybe this means 20 different colors?)
9389 – 5/8” Fold Over Elastic, 17 SKU’s (17 colors?)

11346 – Lightweight Clear Elastic
11166 – 1” Fold Over Elastic

Babyville Boutique:
Fold Over Elastics:

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

I Wore White for Hillary

I knew I wanted to wear white for election day, yesterday. I don't own a lot of white clothes. But, I wanted to do it for political, historical and feminist reasons.

I also wanted to try this Wrap Peplum Blouse from Stretch & Sew. It's number 325. The pattern also includes a half-circle skirt with a waistband and, even though it doesn't crow about it, a wrap dress.

I cut out the largest size (a bust size of 40), which is a little small for me, but my fabric is closer to 33% stretch, not 25% stretch, so I figured I would be able to get away with it. 

After cutting out the sleeves, two fronts, and a back, I had EXACTLY enough fabric for one layer of the peplum. In the original pattern, the peplum is cut double and stitched and turned to form the bottom edge. I guess this is to give it more weight, but it also saves you from having to hem a shape that I can best describe as a swoopy wing. You see, the peplum is cut out all in one piece, so it wraps around the body and also has that sweet/cute curve on both fronts. It reminds me of ballet class. I ended up just serging that bottom edge, mostly to save time. I tried a rolled edge on the serger, but this fabric just wasn't having it. 

You can see this above, but I abandoned the sleeves. I really wanted to like them, but they were just a little TOO 1974 for me. Poofs, gathers and pleats. All at once. A little too much for me. Also I didn't do a bicep adjustment so they would have been super-tight on top of all of that nonsense. 

I skipped all of the facings and I wanted to use knit stay tape for the edges I needed to turn under and coverstitch. However, when I looked in my bag of tricks, I didn't have any in white! After pondering adding contrast-color bindings (I didn't even have enough scrap fabric for bindings), I decided to just press the edges under and coverstitch without any stay tape. 

I'm very happy with the result. There is a little pulling at the underarm, but I think it's ok and I'd rather not add front darts on top of everything else. If I make it again, I'll substitute in armholes and sleeves from another pattern so that it can have t-shirt style sleeves. I may also straighten out the curved edges on the peplum, but I rather like them. 

The length is perfect and even the waist length is perfect, which really matters for a wrap top. Someone needs to explain to me why I have to shorten the bodice on new patterns and I don't have to do it on vintage patterns. Have people really gotten that much taller in the last 40 years? Was Ann Person really just smarter than everyone else?

Some of the earlier Stretch & Sew patterns top out at a 38-inch or 40-inch bust. I'm thinking that Ann was a skinny Minnie (she mentions having to do a small bust adjustment in at least one of her books), so maybe she just didn't think about the larger sizes, at first. Later patterns have a wider size range.

P.S. - Heartbroken, today. I wrote the rest of this post yesterday. I'm never going to stop making things or teaching other people to make things. It's important to me. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

SR Harris Fabric

This is SR Harris Fabric. Just so you know, this is one of about 20 aisles. All stuffed to the gills. All 50% off - which makes the prices pretty much even with any large fabric store or online store. You just have to be willing to dig. There are also trims, pillow forms, and leather, both in scraps and in whole hides.

Grab a cart, or you may find yourself unable to lift your arms the next day. Don't ask me how I know, because it's embarrassing. :)

All of this gorgeousness in two locations in the Twin Cities area.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Black and Watercolor Dress

I picked up Simplicity 3775 (oop) at Goodwill a little while ago. To my pleasant surprise, it had 93 reviews on, so I knew it was pretty good! The pattern I bought was already cut out - but for my size! Yay! I chose to do a sleeveless version with no overlay on the midriff and the surplice front.

A trip to SR Harris yielded a fantastic panel-print knit: black with what I'm calling a "watercolor" in jeweltones. I cut it with the colors on the bottom of the skirt and on the bodice. It's a very soft, somewhat thin fabric, so I doubled up layers on the bodice.

Post-workout hair, sorry.

I love it! The color is smashing and the fabric feels very luxurious. The fit is ok. It fits great everywhere except for at the bust. The front bodice could be a little longer. Live and learn!

Lots of reviewers said the dress was kind of short on them. I'm 5'3", and it hit exactly at my knee. That would make it pretty short on a lot of people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I decided to try sewing leather on my Singer 328k. I used a leather needle, heavy-duty thread, and went slowly. It went really well! I do want to get a spare bobbin case. I think the only problems I had were all caused by the bobbin tension being a bit tight for the thicker thread. 

Now I have a new problem - how do I source affordable leather? SR Harris has bins of scraps you can buy by weight. Very affordable, but hard to find just the right thing. Maybe I'll get some $$ at Christmas and splurge on a whole hide from SR Harris. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Travel Bag

This little hanging bag is from Kwik Sew 3748. (I think it's out of print?)

A LOT of my patterns are out of print, and not just the vintage ones. I think this is because I get about 60% of my patterns at Goodwill and another 35% were grabbed up when the Hancock fabrics near my house was closing (as were they all). 

Anyway, for anyone out there who has this pattern - I like it! I only interfaced the outer fabric. The inner fabrics are quilting-weight cottons. If I ever make it, again, I'll interface everything. It feels a little wimpy, as it is. 

The hardware at the top was one of the more difficult things to find. I ended up buying a smaller, somewhat ripped-up bag at Goodwill and scavenging the hook from that. It was cheaper than anything else I could find, and had a swivel, which I hadn't seen in the two fabric stores I checked. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Padding Out My Dress Form

As a very early Christmas present, my wife bought me a dress form! It's an adjustable one from Dritz. 

I started by turning dials until the form was about 1 inch to 2 inches smaller than my measurements. 

Then, I took wide tape and covered all of the gaps.

I added a bra and padded it out a bit.

Then, it got a little weird. I made a booty for my dress form using layers of bonded quilt batting. Also, some back fluff, because, let's be honest, I have some.

Tummy fluff added.

I used plastic wrap to cinch the waist in. The angle between the bottom of my ribcage, the center of my waist, and the outward curve of my hip is very sharp, so this is actually a pretty good approximation.

Ta da! I thought about making an actual form cover, and I may, someday, but I decided that I'd rather spend my time sewing things that I will wear vs. things for my dress form to wear. T-shirt to the rescue! Bonus cat-themed skirt from semi-failed cami-sewing experiment.

It's not perfect, but it's better than just guessing. I added a pin to each bust apex, to make them easier to find.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vogue 8379 - Finished!

Sorry for the terrible photo! I don't know why it looks like I have my thumb in my eye. This is my version of Vogue 8379. It's very, very popular with people who sew and I can see why. It's comfy, easy, and fun to make!

The print on top reminded me of Monet. There was only a little over a yard of it on the bolt, so I thought I'd try using it as the top of a dress. I paired it with a simple, matte black knit fabric. 

I've seen a lot of wrap dresses where the top is a solid color and the bottom is a print, but I like it this way, better. 

Changes I made/ didn't make:

I didn't shorten the bodice at all, since I read online that a lot of people found it to be too short. It is perfect for me as-is. I usually have to shorten bodices by about 1/2 an inch, so it probably is short on lots of people! 

Instead of doing a full bicep adjustment, I just used the sleeves from the next size up. This worked ok but I did get a  little pleating at the top of the sleeve cap. 

I didn't have to shorten the skirt and it hit at exactly my knee. I'm only 5-foot, 4 inches tall, so on a taller woman, it might end up too short. 

I interfaced the waist ties, to make them more stable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Gym/ Yoga Bag

Since the end of last year, I've been a member of a gym that's about two blocks from my job. On most days, a coworker and I walk down there and work out. It's really made adding a little workout to my days much easier. 

I didn't want to invest a lot when I started out, since I didn't know if I would stick to it. I bought a sort-of-crappy gym bag at Goodwill and called it OK. 

It's been bothering me that I couldn't get my yoga mat into my gym bag. I stumbled across about 30 inches of this home decor fabric at Goodwill, and thought it would make a good, general gym bag. (It's from Ikea in 2009, in case you're wondering.)

I designed the bag with a sling in front, so it can hold a yoga mat, but without the mat, it just looks like a regular tote bag. Inside, there's a slip pocket for my keys and a little belt that keeps my water bottle from tipping over and spilling. 

I made the bottom of the bag wide enough to hold my sneakers, flat. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine when I have to put them in toe-first, so why not make it fit? 

Dee suggested that I add a zipper across the top. Lo and behold, I had a white zipper that was JUST the right length, so I added it in with some extra topstitching. 

It's these little things I love about sewing. I can dream something up, decide what I want it to be like, and just make it. It feels like magic!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Roundup of 20 Dress Patterns - Without Zippers

A reader asked me about dresses to sew that don't have zippers and are easy to get in and out of. She's anticipating surgery in a few months and wants to be ready.

Notes on fabric use are for sizes with a 33 to 34" waist, since that's my size. :)

I haven't sewn any of these (except the Moneta, and I'm working on Vogue 8379), but here's a roundup:

Vogue 8379
features: knits, printed pattern, set-in sleeves, sleeve options, 3 yards to just over 3 yards on 60" fabric, wrap style, collar option

Pamela's Patterns Classic T-Shirt Dress
features: knits, printed pattern, 3 yards or less, slip on style, Silhouettes: Fitted and Tapered, A-line; Straight or Shaped Back; Sleeves: Short, Elbow, 3/4, Long; Necklines: Classic Boatneck, Modern Square(ish), Vintage Portrait Collar; Options: Color Blocking, Belted

Christine Haynes Marianne Dress
features: knits, PDF or printed pattern, 3 yards or less, slip on style, "casual knit dress with a figure skimming silhouette, above the knee length, round neckline with binding, and kimono cap sleeves", 3/4 sleeve option

Kwik Sew 4169
features: knits, printed pattern, sleeveless, 2 yards on 60" fabric for non-maxi option, 4 yards for maxi, mock wrap style, length options, slip on style

Butterick 6051
features: knits, printed pattern, 3 yards or just over 3 yards, slip on style, neckline variations, skirt variations, elastic waist (or attached ties)

Simplicity 8132
features: sleeveless (tank), wovens, PDF or printed pattern, 2 yards on 60" fabric if you choose the shorter dress, slip on style, bonus: "bralette" pattern for stretch knits included

Fancy Tiger Crafts Fen 
features: pockets, casual, hemline options, neckline options, sleeve options, knits or wovens, option to make as shirt, PDF or print, cut-on sleeves, 3 yards or less in 54" fabric

features: pockets, sleeve options, sleeveless, wovens, printed pattern, set-in sleeves, 3 yards or less if you choose the slim skirt and sleeveless options, buttons, multiple cup sizes, bonus: includes bias slip pattern

features: sleeve options, hem options, sleeveless, wovens, printed pattern, set-in sleeves, 3 yards or less if you choose the slim skirt and sleeveless options, buttons

Papercut Sway Dress
features: pockets, neckline options, sleeve options, sleeveless, wovens or knits, printed pattern, set-in sleeves, 3 yards or less, slip on style
"The classic sway dress every wardrobe needs. Loose fitting and gorgeously flowing, make it as the short variation or long variation with waist tie. It has a centre front and back seam with a scooped and V neck so you can mix up the look by wearing either neck options to the front or back. It also features side seam pockets."

Sew House Seven: The Tea House Top And Dress Pattern
features: pockets, wovens, PDF or printed pattern, cut-on sleeves, 3 yards or less (I think, their notes are a little confusing), slip on style

features: wovens, PDF or printed pattern, set-in sleeves, 4 yards on wide fabric, mock wrap dress

True Bias Southport Dress
features: pockets, sleeveless, wovens, PDF or printed pattern, set-in sleeves, buttons (but just on top), 3 yards or less on wide fabric

Vogue 8876
features: FRONT zipper or buttons, pockets, sleeve options, sleeveless, cap sleeve, wovens, printed pattern, 3 to 4 yards. This one kind of reminds me of an old-fashioned bed jacket, but in a way that's cute.

features: casual, knits or wovens, PDF only, cut-on sleeves,  less than 3 yards in 60" fabric

Hot Patterns Riviera Code D'Azur
features: knits, PDF or printed pattern, sleeve options, set-in sleeves, 3 yards in 60" fabric, option to make as a top, slip on style

Hot Patterns Mariposa
features: cut in one piece, knits or wovens, PDF or printed pattern, cut-on sleeves, 2.75 yards in 60" fabric, option to make as a top, slip on style

Kitschy Coo Lady Skater Dress
features: knits, sleeve options, PDF pattern, set-in sleeves, 2.5 yards in 60" fabric, slip on style

features: pockets, wovens, PDF pattern, cut-on sleeves, 2.25 yards in 60" fabric for non-maxi option, slip on style

Colette Patterns Moneta
features: pockets, knits, PDF or printed pattern, set-in sleeves, less than 3 yards, slip on style

Any favorites out there that I missed? Can you tell that I love pockets?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Kitty and Knitting

I keep trying to decide what's best. Whenever I try out a new-to-me heel, I find it SO EXCITING. I want to tell everyone right away!

However, I also like the idea of (maybe) writing another book, which is why I'm hiding the heels on these particular socks. 

It has to remain a mystery, for now. Only Travis, Boomer, Dee and muggles have seen them...

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Another Top

Summer is starting to wind down, but I couldn't resist making another Simplicity 1315

This time, I made it in a cotton gauze with gathers instead of pleats across the back and the front. It's not as sheer as my last one, but it still feels very light and flowy!

I added slits at the side seams for a little more wearing ease. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fast Friday Review: Sewing Essentials Serger Techniques

Ever since I got over (most of) my fears about my serger, I've been picking up books about it, too. Most of them are interesting, but they often don't go beyond the very basics and if you have to troubleshoot, you are on your own. 

Sewing Essentials: Serger Techniques covers the basics, but also goes well beyond them. In particular, one of the challenges I have with my Singer 14T967DC (it's discontinued, but if you have one, the workbook for it from Singer is pretty great), is that, since the tension for the loopers/needles are set automatically, I don't always have a good sense of how to change the setup. I mean, I can balance a stitch, but I have not been able to get the rolled hem to, well, roll. 

Until I had this book! It covers not just how to set things up, but what to do if they go wrong. And, by the way, it's not just you, you shouldn't TRY to turn corners while using a rolled hem. Just end it, use a little fray check, and go on with your life. (Yay!)

You may know the author, Pamela Leggett, from Pamela's Patterns. I haven't used any of her patterns, but I love her writing style and I have closely read all of the pieces I've seen from her in Threads magazine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fall Means New Classes!

I love teaching! This Fall, I'm signed up to teach two classes for the St. Louis Park Community Center. There are more details here. Come one, come all!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sheer Summer Blouse!

Cat toy, because cats

Bathroom selfie, of course.
I think Dee was kind of scared when I was making this, and not just of the scraggly way the neckline looked before I added the neckband. She may have been rehearsing how she was going to tell me that there was NO WAY I could wear such a sheer blouse in public.

My sweet wife doesn't understand the Way of the Cami. 

This is Simplicity 1315 in a super-sheer Goodwill Mystery Fabric (that I got for $2). I'm thinking it's a synthetic organza or very light chiffon. It has absolutely no stretch and a light body with a relatively crisp drape. 

I cut the size for my high bust and didn't make any alterations for fit, since the design ease on this is so generous. I French-seamed everything, even the neckband. I simply folded it in half and applied it a lot like a t-shirt band. That made it narrower than the photo from the packet, but I prefer that look.

Hems were a little tricky. I tried to hem the sleeves using my narrow hemmer foot, and it was ok, but there were a few spots where the fabric didn't fold all of the way under. So, I turned it under one more time and did my best. For the lower hem, I made the narrowest turned-under hem that I could. 

To keep the fabric from acting up, I switched out my throat plate for straight stitching and used a straight-stitch foot. I followed everyone's advice and used a completely fresh sewing needle. I don't always do that, but it made sense for this project. 

I machine-washed the fabric on gentle and dried it on low before I started. I will probably handwash and hang the top to dry. The fabric did this weird crinkly thing along the cross-grain when I put it in the dryer and I definitely don't want to have to press all of that out, again. For the record, I hang about 75% of my clothes to dry, but I don't  handwash a lot (except for qiviut socks).

If anyone out there needs an extra reason to try Goodwill as a fabric source: when it's this cheap, you're not afraid of messing up your fabric. You just go for it. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pocket Stays

The summer edition of Interweave Knits has two sewing patterns in it, so I feel a little better about having "knitter" in my name, but some sewing on my blog.

Warning: The rest of this post may make you want to sew your jeans. And your shorts.

Yes, I'm so excited about the pants I made, that I'm showing you my tummy. Check Instagram for the rear view.

There is a key phrase missing from a lot of sewing patterns, even when the pattern has the feature: "pocket stay." I'm thinking that designers don't talk about it because they figure most people don't know what it is or how awesome a feature it is.

At a minimum, pockets really should come up to the waist. In Making Trousers for Men & Women, David Page Coffin writes, "I recommend extending your pocket bags to reach whatever waist finish you’ve chosen. This way, you can support the bag from the waist rather than only from the pocket mouth."

When I say, "pocket stay" in jeans, I mean a front pocket that comes all of the way from the zipper to the outside leg seam. It's also caught in the waistband (but, I think, all jeans-style pockets would be, anyway). In a way, the pocket becomes a kind of mini-lining that does two things. 1) Your pockets can't flip out. I don't know if I'm the only person annoyed by having to tuck my pockets back in when they come out, but it really bothers me. 2) Any tension on the front of your pants has a little extra support, which keeps the front of your jeans from stretching out as your day goes on.

For some people, this feature could act as a "tummy control" panel, but I don't think of it that way. I definitely notice, now, when I wear jeans that don't have a pocket stay, that the front tends to stretch out. But really, the not-untucked pockets is my favorite part of having a pocket stay.

Up until about a year ago, I wouldn't have known that this feature even existed in jeans. But I happened to try on a pair of Not Your Daughter's Jeans at Macy's. Even on sale, they were the most expensive pair of jeans I'd ever worn, but they felt awesome and looked great, so I bought them.

I felt much better about my splurge when I found an almost identical pair at Goodwill a few weeks later and only paid $5 for them. When I average the two, it bring the cost below my usual $40/pair budget. Coincidentally, that's what my jeans fabric cost when I bought it, too.

Killer feature in both of these jeans? Pocket stays.

Now I look out for them, or ask the designer about them, before I buy any pattern for a pair of pants.

So far, I've made J. Stern Designs' The Ponte Knit Jeans (My first sewn zipper fly! My first pants!) in ponte knit and, after Jennifer chatted with me on Instagram, in stretch denim. I  bought her misses' Jeans that have the same feature, with a different fit, but I haven't tried them, yet. My first two pairs fit so well that I might not branch out, though.

I own Stretch and Sew 716 - which has pocket stays, but doesn't call them that. Instead, it says, "The front pockets extend into the zipper stitching, creating a smooth, stabilized front." I haven't made any, yet, but I'm super-curious about how they will fit. Those chicks from 1980 look pretty pleased with themselves.

You can draft your own pocket stays to go with any pattern, of course. There is more than one tutorial for that out there, including this one.

Go forth and stay those pockets! Ask your friendly independent designer if their pants/shorts include that feature. Then buy them.

I find it amusing that my paypal account has basically become a way for me to turn my Ravelry and Craftsy pattern sales into sewing patterns.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sip Study Knit Knitting Guild - June 18

See, I still knit. Although this isn't for class. Oops.

It's been quiet on the blog (and podcast), I know! There are two main reasons:

1) Sewing.
Yes, I know. I'm starting to calm down a little bit, but whenever I have a stretch of free time, I pounce on my sewing machine. Knitting will always be my first, and truest, love, but I'm really enjoying learning something from scratch.

2) Teaching.
I was chatting with a friend a few months ago and this phrase came out of my mouth:

"I love teaching. I really love it. More than almost anything."

You know how, sometimes, you realize, after you said something, that it's really, really true?

So, I've been building more teaching into my life. I know the podcast and, really, this blog, feed that need, too. But, there's no substitute for hands-on teaching.

I'm putting the finishing touches on two classes that I will present in the Chicago Area in a little over a month. Swatching and writing worksheets takes a lot of time! Here are the details, ripped off of the flyer the guild made:


Coming To The Sip Study Knit Knitting Guild In Hoffman Estates, IL
Come join us Saturday June 18, 2016
Two 2 - three-hour workshops

9am - 12pm - Socks for SSK
Lara will inspire us into the world of knitting the most unique, wonderful, and awesome socks of your life. Lara will start our customized class with an overview of why certain heels and toes fit different feet. Then, we can go through each step of making a toe-up gusseted heel as time permits.  Bring your favorite needles for working in the round and yarn to match.$50 members / $75 non-members

1pm - 4pm - Color Work for the Cowardly
Do you want to add more color to your knitting, but are sick of seams and tired of puckers? Join Lara for an afternoon of tips, techniques and a few tricks up her sleeve to make you fall in love with multiple-strand knitting and even intarsia (really!) Bring an open mind, small amounts of worsted-weight yarn in at least two colors and your favorite needles for working in the round. $50 members / $75 non members

Contact Emma at SipStudyKnit (at)    -    Or check out our Ravelry Group Sip Study Knit

Sip Study Knit is a Knitting Guild located in the Chicago Suburbs Focusing on providing an educational experience for the intermediate to advanced knitter.


I'm pretty sure there are still open spots in both classes, so check it out if you are in the area!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

V-neck Accomplished!

It's a slippery, slinky knit fabric, so it wasn't easy to sew, but it feels WONDERFUL on and I love the drape! It's the perfect background piece for a smashing knit wrap.

Yes, very pro photo - nothing like the lady's room.

I hacked the v-neck from this pattern onto the t-shirt I've made a few times. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Party Like It's 1984

With Many, Many Apologies to Shakespeare

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury the 1980s, not to praise them.
The evil that shoulderpads do lives after them;
The good is oft interr├Ęd with their bones.
So let it be with the '80s. The noble Brutus
Hath told you that decade was ambitious.
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath hair gel answered it.


Ok, all goofiness aside, sewing has spawned, for me, an interest that is...unusual. In the course of the last few months, I've become an enthusiast and collector of patterns from Stretch & Sew, a company that no longer exists!

It was founded by Ann Person, and you can learn a lot more about here here.

I was born in 1979, so I'm not especially wild about 1980s style. It's easier for me to be nostalgic about the 1970s and see the punk-rock side of all of the decades after that as fun. This could be because of my body shape. Those shoulder pads and big hair did very little for my ten-year-old, but already wide-shoulder sporting frame.

However, I pick up Stretch & Sew patterns wherever I find them, no matter the vintage or style. (I've had great luck at Goodwill and, lately, at the Textile Center Garage Sale.) I'm very unlikely to ever want a Dolman Sleeve dress. But, I DO want a good way to sew a v-neck, with awesomely clear instructions. So, this is going to be hacked onto another top pattern that I like, as a test.

I have to admit that those boots are pretty cute, though. That front view uses snap tape, which is pretty much restricted to children's clothes, now. It might look super-cute with a zipper, instead. Hm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Craftsy's Cloudborn Yarn

When I heard about Craftsy's new yarn line, Cloudborn, I was curious. I mean, they already sell some of my favorite yarns. So, they should know a lot about what goes into a "good" yarn. But, knowing and doing are two different things. How would their yarns stack up? 

My sample package arrived and I love the way the colors go together!

First, the sock yarn. My sample of Cloudborn Superwash Merino Sock Twist is a hand paint called Slightly Serious. 100 grams of it (one hank) would be plenty to create a pair of socks. It's 80% Superwash Merino and 20% Polyamide. After a little googling, I'm 90% sure that Polyamide is what most people would call Nylon. It has several plies and seems well-spun. 

My Checked and Square socks would pair well with this yarn, I think. I may have to try it!

It should be hard-wearing even though it is very, very soft. And, I mean very. I think if you didn't want to make socks with it, it would also make a great Sockhead Slouch Hat (free pattern!) or an Autumn Dreams baby sweater. 

The Cloudborn Baby Alpaca Bulky is the softest of the soft. Don't expect it to be tough - 100% baby alpaca isn't going to be, but it is lofty, the color is even and even has a slight sheen. It would be darling as a Wee Speedy (free pattern!)

Last but not least in my sample pack is the Cloudborn Merino Alpaca Sport. 80% Superwash Merino and 20% Baby Alpaca. It's not a superwash yarn, even though the wool is superwash. The color I have has a heathered appearance - this is probably because the alpaca and the merino take up dye slightly differently. The alpaca will probably bloom with wear, so a complex stitch pattern may not show up well. But, these little RONA Wrist Cuffs (free pattern)? Divine.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

I Love a Black Dress

I used this free pattern from Sew So Easy and made it a bit longer and used a neckband at the neck instead of a facing.

I love it! Sewing with knits isn't as hard as a lot of people think it is. You just have to adjust your technique a little bit. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On REALLY Not Fitting

I made these knit shorts and I meant for them to be roomy - but not as large as they turned out. I was doing dishes at the sink on the first Saturday that I wore them, when I started to feel a bit of a draft. They, literally, were falling off! For those of you who know me in person, you'll know they have to be pretty darn big. It was a first-time event for me, I'll tell you that!

So, maybe I should have hedged my bets with a drawstring. Live and learn!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

From Paris with Love

This is a shot from...oh, right before we came back from Paris, last October. Those two little bundles are fabric remnants I bought at Lil Weasel, which, even though it doesn't seem possible, is even cuter than its website. 

I'm finally making myself cut into the lattice fabric. There's just enough to make a shell. Wish me luck!