Category Archives: sewing

Casual top in gray and red

Hmm, I thought I had already published this post but apparently it’s been waiting for pictures. This is part 3 of my March sewing.

I haven’t really talked much about Sure-Fit Designs since I bought the whole kit and kaboodle. About a year ago, I had Sarah Veblen fit the bodice of my blueprint from the Shirt Kit, which I then used to make a sleeveless summer dress. A few weeks ago I finally got around to drafting and fitting the sleeve for it. That done, it was time to test it. I chose a wonderfully soft bamboo French terry from the stash and decided to learn yarn couching in this project.

Top front

I used the roll collar pattern piece from the dress. The only difference is that where the collar edges meet is not placed at center back but off-center in the front. It gives an interesting asymmetrical effect even though the neckline is symmetrical. This was my first time doing yarn couching. I tried two different presser feet and decided to stick with the one that could do zig-zag (Bernina foot #21). My practice piece looked like this:

Yarn couching - closeup

I used a cutaway stabilizer for it because this fabric just wanted to stretch and stretch. But the stabilizer made the fabric too stiff to use for the collar. Undeterred, I looked through my limited stabilizer stash to see if something might work better. I settled on UltraSolvy, using 505 spray to adhere it to the wrong side of the fabric. It worked well enough and washed out beautifully. (The wonderful people at my nearest Bernina store later recommended a wash-away polymesh for next time.) I had a lot of fun with those curving, flowing lines. It wasn’t quite free-motion sewing because I had the feed dogs up but I lowered the presser foot pressure and the UltraSolvy happily slid around with very little effort from my fingers. I wore my Machingers for this – they are thin gloves with rubbery fingertips that provide a good grip on the fabric – it’s a fabulous invention, I tell you.

Top back

After cutting the collar from the embellished piece of fabric, I decided to make another, smaller one, for the sleeve bands. I’m glad I did. I think having only the collar embellished would be a little weird. With the matching sleeve bands, it looks intentional. I think the sleeves turned out quite nicely, even if the shoulder seams look just a tad too long, probably from the fabric being so stretchy. I’ll test it again in a more stable knit soon. All in all, this is a very comfortable top and I want to make more like it. The whole project took 1.5yds even with the extra piece for yarn-couching practice.

That is it for March sewing. Next up – catching up on April sewing projects.

See you soon!

Relaxed fit jeans

Here we go with part 2 of March sewing. I told you I’ve been busy, hehe. (And there will also be part 3 once I finish that post.) After wearing the un-bootcut stretchy jeans for a few days, I decided to try making a pair of relaxed-fit jeans. I have that awesome Calvin Klein jeans pattern from, what, the 90’s? But those have a rise that looks mighty close to the armpits. And I like mine medium, with a curved waistband. Enter my good old TNT from Burda magazine back when it was called Burda World of Fashion (or BWOF, hehe). Remember that? Anyway, the pattern is #106 from BWOF 08/98. Mine no longer looks anything like the original wide-legged pleated-front trousers. I took out the pleats many years ago. This time, I also narrowed the leg from the knee down and shortened them to ankle length in an attempt to eliminate some of the tripping hazard. (You wouldn’t believe the stuff I trip on. Or maybe you would.)

Jeans - frontJeans - side

The fabric is a nice heavier weight 100% cotton denim from G Street Fabrics in Rockville. It’s like denim used to be before manufacturers started adding lycra and polyester. I’d bought the last two yards on the bolt and after wearing the jeans, I was hoping to buy a whole bolt of this fabric but no luck. When we went back to G Street, all their black denim was the stretchy stuff. Oh well. I’ll just cherish this pair.

Jeans - back

See the embroidery? I had fun with the back pockets. I used a design that came with the Bernina embroidery software. While looking for just the right design to put on these jeans (inspired by the hibiscus flower decals on my machine), I also took a few hours’ detour into organizing all the designs into folders to make future searches easier. Yay! I covered the back of the embroidery with a layer of stabilizer before sewing on the pockets, to ensure I wouldn’t snag the threads with my fingernails. That was an issue the first time I embroidered back pockets on jeans and a good learning lesson to remember.

Jeans - back closeup

I found two of my old labels and sewed one in. There should be an almost full box of them somewhere still but I think they disappeared in one of our moves. I haven’t seen the box in years. Isn’t the label neat?

Jeans - front closeup

And that’s all I have about these jeans right now. Stay tuned for the next post about the top I’m wearing in the pictures above.

See you soon!

Black jeans but not bootcut

My wardrobe has been in dire need of black jeans for a while. This month, I finally hopped to it and made not just one pair, but two. For the first pair I used Angela Wolf’s Angel Bootcut pattern with the leg narrowed to eliminate the bootcut. I’d used this pattern before for my blinged out teal jeans so the fitting issues were already worked out. Well,  mostly. I scooped out the crotch a tiny bit on this pair but I’m not sure it made any difference. Hard to tell in that black fabric.

Black jeans - closeup

The fabric is a slightly stretchy flocked cotton twill from JoAnn’s that I picked up a little over a year ago. At one point when I finished the jeans, I wondered if they’d be one-day pants as the fabric didn’t seem to have the best recovery, but that turned out to be an unfounded worry. They’re comfortable to wear, for a narrow pant. The leg width is new to me and I’m not sure it’s my most flattering.

Black jeans - frontBlack jeans - side

I omitted the pockets on this pair because it was meant to be a test pair. A wearable prototype, if you will. I finished them one evening and promptly wore them the next day for an all-day house-hunting trip with my sister. They held up just fine. I didn’t miss the pockets. Still not sure about the leg. I like more room all over. Like those relaxed fit jeans of old. I made those next, so stay tuned and I’ll show you. But before I go, let me show you my machine’s new look:

sewing machine with flower decals - front view

Isn’t it fabulous? I love it. It makes me happy every time I see it. And I take off the cover every morning to look before going to work, too. It’s such a cheerful sight.

Yardage sewn in this project: 1.5yds

Home dec sewing

With all that red from the previous post, I thought I would stick with red for a while longer. But then I sat down with some polymer clay and that was the end of sewing for a while. Partly because the polymer work was hours and hours of fun, but also because I didn’t have a specific sewing project lined up. I realized the other day that I don’t sew if I don’t have a plan for what to sew next. So I’ll have to come up with a sewing plan.

For now, let me show you what I made for our dining table:

Placemats and napkins

On Saturday, while out and about with my husband, I found these cool placemat inserts at the local Bernina dealer. The inserts are precut, with rounded corners, and fusible. Awesome!

My set of four also came with some applique/embroidery designs but I didn’t use those. I thought about it at first but then I remembered these pretty fabrics that were a travel souvenir from a trip in 2014. I had a yard of each, which was just enough for these four placemats and four napkins, using a yard of a different fabric for backing. That’s 3 yards for this project, bringing my running total to 23 yds. I’m not counting the solid Kona cotton that I cut up for the bias binding – it was a remnant from a 2013 project.

The fusible inserts made the job easy. The whole project was very enjoyable and provided hours of Zen-like peace. I might make placemats more often, hehe. I cut the napkins 18″x18″ and hemmed them with a half-inch double-turn hem, mitered at the corners. Easy-peasy.

And that’s all I have right now. Next time I’ll show you some polymer earrings I made last week.

See you soon!

Yes, red! And finished!

So I was all ready to cut the black wool suiting for a dress. Only I didn’t. Again. I don’t know what the problem is. I had a theory that I was lazy except I am not because I spent hours drafting a whole new dress pattern, combining three different existing drafts. Then I thought maybe it’s because it’s a woven and I got so used to sewing knits. Except that’s not the problem either because I made two pairs of flannel lounge pants just a few weeks ago. And then I thought, maybe it’s the color. I need red. Maybe I could sew something red. And so I did. A red denim dress. That turned out to be a wadder. I’m counting the 1.25yds though. And the dress is not in the trash can because I’m hoping to salvage at least some of the fabric. Maybe for a skirt or something.

Red PJs and lounge pants

But what started out as a meh week ended on a very productive note. Because since the machines were already threaded with red, I thought I’d continue the red theme. My favorite pair of PJs needed to be replaced and I had just enough red Kona cotton in the fabric collection to make a new pair. And I could also use a new pair of warm lounge pants so I bought this fabulous waffle-weave flannel at Suzzie’s Quilt Shop in Manassas when my sister and I stopped there on Thursday. It is absolutely wonderful – thick, warm, and soft. Here’s a closeup:

Red flannel closeup

The two pairs of pants together used up 6yds of fabric. (I think this is the secret to winning a stash busting contest – use narrow fabric. The narrower, the better. Because only the linear yards count. Hmmm… how narrow can a fabric go before it’s a ribbon? Hehe) The pants pattern is my TNT, originally for pleated trousers in an old Burda magazine. Obviously, it went through a few iterations to get to the PJs stage.

Speaking of TNTs, I used another one – Jalie Dolman Top to make the next item. I like plain necklines on my winter tops because scarves are my signature accessory. But summer temperatures rarely allow for scarves and then plain necklines look, well… plain. So I figured I’d try this roll collar style – there’s something vaguely 60’s about it and that usually works well for me. It’s just a rectangle the length of the neckline by 8″ plus seam allowances. Easy-peasy. The fabric is a cotton interlock from Nancy’s Notions. I had ordered a yard last year to try it and now that I finally got around to sewing it, I think I’ll order more. It’s soft and smooth, easy to cut and sew, and feels wonderful on the skin. That brings the total sewn so far to 20yds. Not too shabby.

08 - Jalie dolman top

On a more social note, I went to a sewing meetup in D.C. today. That was a lot of fun. It was organized by Nikki whom I haven’t seen since 2003. I got to meet Meredith, Adrianne, two Sara(h?)s, and one other sewing soul whose name escapes me right now. For the fabric swap, I contributed a bagful of fabrics in need of a new home – all but three were adopted. Yay!

Fabrics for swap

I brought home three new fabrics and two patterns but it didn’t occur to me to take a picture while there was decent light (not that there was much of it on this dreary rainy day) so a verbal description will have to do: one is a purple sweater knit, another a drapey lightweight knit in a beautiful shade of orange, and the third a very cool eyelash fabric in black. I have no idea what to do with this third piece but it had my name all over it so we’ll see.

And that’s all I have today. Happy sewing!

Muslin and silver polymer

I’ve spent quite a bit of time sewing up muslin lately. First I dug out a dress pattern I drafted back in 2011 when we lived in Wyoming. It fit perfectly. Back then. Last week I could zip up the dress but didn’t have the courage to sit down, hehe. So I mocked it up in muslin, with wide seam allowances for the side seams, to see how much it needed to be adjusted. Not much, as it turned out – adding ½” at each side seam gave me enough room to sit down comfortably. Well, comfortably… for a woven. Now that I’ve been living in knits for years, I have apparently developed a new definition of comfortable. That new definition includes a stretchy hem. I don’t know how I’m going to get that in a woven dress.

I was all set to cut some fabric for that dress when I thought hmm, what if I could make a dress without a zipper? Back to the drawing board – this time using my SFD Shirt Kit blueprint as in the black dress I made last year. I drew in a jewel neckline and copied the side seam shape from hip to hem from the adjusted 2011 draft. It fits quite nicely once belted, and I now have a couple of narrow elastic belts thanks to Ruthie’s comment about them on Stitcher’s Guild.  I like the stretchy belts much more than the regular unforgiving leather kind. So now I’m ready to cut the wool suiting. It’s been washed and dried, needs to be ironed. I’ll iron it today.

Next up was supposed to be a jacket to match the dress but I’m finding myself dreaming about all kinds of other jackets. Something in red, maybe. Or maybe not. It’s just that I’ve been sewing black and dark gray (muslin doesn’t count) these last few weeks and I’m ready for a break.

Mica shift beads

Even with polymer, I’ve been working mainly with gray. Well, silver. But that’s really a shade of gray. Like these mica shift beads. They’re the right size for earrings and a pendant necklace. They might even get finished soon.

And that’s all I have for now.

See you soon!

Progress note – week 1

One week down and what a nice week it’s been! I’ve realized that making the commitment to spend at least two hours in the studio on my days off means I’m prioritizing sewing and claying over other things. It’s a good thing. It feels very luxurious somehow.

I’ve sewn up 3.25yds this week (running total 9.25yds), adding two dresses and a skirt to my tiny work wardrobe.


The dresses are from my TNT sleeveless sheath (M6355). They take me three hours from flat fabric to finished dress. The skirt pattern is also a TNT one, adapted from M6355 to approximate the idea of Pamela’s Magic Pencil Skirt. It is not an A-line skirt, despite looking like one in this picture. From the hip down, it’s cut exactly the same as the two dresses. I think it’s the elastic that’s distorting the look on the hanger.


Please excuse the hanger pictures. I won’t even entertain taking pictures of these pieces on me until the outdoor temperatures are in a reasonable range (below freezing for days on end does not qualify in my book).

Both fabrics are ponte. The black one came from Michael’s Fabrics and the heathered dark gray from Emmaonesock. It’s hard to tell the difference in this picture but in real life the difference is obvious. I didn’t make a skirt in the gray because I thought the fabric might make a nice jacket too. So I’m keeping the remaining 1.75yds for that. I hope these fabrics wear well and don’t seat out. They are wonderful to sew and the perfect weight – not too light, not too heavy.

I recently moved my clay table into the sewing studio so now my hobbies share one space. This is a good thing. Having two separate spaces wasn’t working well for me. I still have some work to do with reorganizing storage to accommodate clay supplies, tools, and binders full of tutorials. This week I tackled scrap clay and organized it nicely in a plastic box. Then I made four bracelet bases using up some of it. I’ll sand them tonight. The plan for the next few weeks is to work on the techniques in Dan Cormier’s online class Single Slice Mokume – probably lots of samples, different color combinations, and maybe even a finished piece here and there. We’ll see how that goes.

And that’s all I have right now.

See you soon!

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018!

Happy New Year and may it be filled with beautiful fabrics, soft yarns that never tangle, and pliable polymer clay!

Last year, taking on a full-time job meant limited creative time/energy. With a part-time schedule, this year should be more relaxed and I have several goals/intentions for it.

  • I plan to average at least an hour a day in the studio – so on my days off I will spend at least an hour sewing and at least an hour working with polymer.
  • I’d like to sew up at least 50 yds of fabric this year. New purchases count in this so it won’t be all existing stash.
  • I need dresses and jackets and a lot more red in my wardrobe. I also have a pretty decent SWAP plan, not quite finished but getting there. So I intend to fill those holes and follow the plan, and make coordinating jewelry to go with the new pieces, and share it all here with you.
  • I have some fabrics that I really like but am reluctant to cut. I’m not sure why. But the point is, I’m going to make an effort to push through the block and sew up at least a few of them.

Winter PJs

I have decided that my creative year starts Dec 26 and runs through next Christmas Day. I have made a good first step in the 50yd challenge already with these two pairs of PJs (lounge pants, really) in two different cotton flannels from the same collection. Snowflakes are for DH, snowmen are mine. We’re wearing them right now, in happily coordinated bliss.

See you soon!

Fitting the Tabula Rasa Jacket

Right after posting my preliminary SWAP plan last time, I discovered the Tabula Rasa Jacket by Fit for Art Patterns. It had been on my radar since earlier this year but only when I came across some neckline variations did I start seeing this pattern as something I could actually wear. I immediately ordered the main pattern, the Rain or Shine variations, and the Band and Pockets variations directly from the company. The package arrived in two days and I got to work on fitting it. Following the fitting instructions in the pattern, I used size Small, with the AB front. Knowing that I prefer a jewel neckline, I used the jewel neck template from the Rain or Shine variations right off the bat.

Tabula Rasa Jacket

Flat pattern alteration:
On comparison with a well-fitting top, I adjusted the shoulder slope first. The front was fine out of the envelope, the back needed a ¾” low neck base alteration – this corrects the shoulder slope and starts shortening the back (mine is very short and erect). Then I cut the muslin and sewed it using the included ⅝” seam allowances and 1½” hem allowances.

Alterations in the muslin stage:

  1. cut off ½” from FRONT hem only to correct the original patternwork (on walking out the pattern, the front is ½” longer below the notch and there is no reason to ease this in so I just cut it off).
  2. shorten FRONT, BACK, and SIDE 3″ at the hem to bring the jacket to the high hip, which is my best jacket length.
  3. shorten BACK 2″ evenly across the at the upper HBL to correct the balance, continuing the alteration into the SLEEVE, tapering to nothing at the hem (in patternwork, this was actually done as 1⅜” alteration at the back and ⅝” alteration at the front, both tapering to nothing at the hem – the split is because I ended up moving the shoulder seam forward).
  4. shorten SLEEVE 1½” at the hem to bring it to my preferred wrist length.
  5. take in FRONT, BACK, and SIDE ¼” at the waist, tapering to nothing at bust and lower HBL. This takes out 2″ total from the waist circumference.
  6. move up bust dart ¾”.
  7. move shoulder seam ⅝” forward, move notch on the sleeve accordingly.
  8. raise neckline 2″ at CB, lower neckline ⅝” at CF, redraw pleasing curve (the jewel neckline out of the envelope is more of a closely-fitting slightly curve V-neck, and much too deep in the back so I knew this would need attention).

Adding a bust dart:
At this point, I got as far as I could with the muslin and it was time to cut regular fabric. I could have made another muslin but I wanted to wear this to work to see if it would be comfortable all day. I knew there would likely be other alterations but I figured they’d be minor. I used a long-time resident of the fabric stash – a dark fuchsia wool/poly crepe with a lovely drape. No lining as I wanted this to be quick. This wearable prototype was quite comfortable, but showed that the CF needed another ½” of length. I compared the original AB and CD fronts and didn’t like the discrepancies so I figured I’d adjust the pattern piece I already knew – so I added a ½” of length to it and darted it out in a second dart. The bust dart of the AB front is meant to point at the bust apex, in the two-dart CD front the darts are just below and just above the bust line. I angled both of mine a ¼” toward the bust line.

Narrowing the waist:
Then I made another muslin because I thought I could narrow the waist a little bit more and I didn’t want to guess. I took in the FRONT, BACK, and SIDE ¼” at the waist and hem, tapering to nothing at bust HBL. This reduced the waist circumference another 2″ for a really lovely and comfortable fit.

Fixing the sleeve:
When I was sewing this second muslin, I decided to take out the bit of ease in the sleeve. On walking out the sleeve cap/armhole seam, there was ½” of ease. I took that out ¼” at each notch, taking the alteration all the way down to the hem for a very slightly narrower sleeve.

I have not had time to take pictures of the muslins or the wearable prototype so those might come later. For now, I wanted a record of the changes I made, in case I lose the piece of paper where I wrote them all as I went.

See you soon!

SWAP 2018 – planning

I wasn’t going to participate in SWAP (Sewing with a Plan) this season. Between too much going on, sewing mojo on vacation, and inspiration pictures pulling me in too many different directions at once, I didn’t feel like planning a wardrobe to fit arbitrary rules that may not fit my lifestyle.

And then the rules came out. They are delightfully simple and they sent my sewing imagination soaring. This is the gist:

You’re making a collection of 11 garments to be worn as outfits of at least two pieces that work for your personal style.

  1. Choose two neutral colors (at least 3 garments each)
  2. Add one accent color and two prints OR two accent colors and one print (at least 1 garment each)
  3. Remaining two garments may be made from any one or combination of your neutrals, accent(s) and/or print(s)
  4. Each garment must work with a minimum of two outfits

Here is my preliminary plan:

Wardrobe plan - WIP

It’s not quite finished – it’s missing a piece. Something in light gray. I’m not sure if this will be a dress or another top. We’ll see.


Here’s something that caught my eye now as I was looking at the rules: “Multiple styles of pants, tops, jacket/cardigan, dresses, accessories, etc are made from the limited color/print palette. New seasons bring new items that work with some of the garments from prior seasons. Your goal is to create a collection that looks like it belongs together and that you can easily add new pieces to in the future.” When I sewed a SWAP wardrobe in early 2016, I used just three patterns and a bunch of different fabrics. I think the idea here is the opposite – choose just a few fabrics and go to town on patterns. Hmm, something to chew on. I may rethink the whole thing yet.

And that’s all I have today. See you soon!