2014 Superlatives


It's that time of the year again!  Time to take a moment to look at all the things that we've made and to assess what went right and what went, well, not so right.  So without further ado, I present to you the 2014 superlatives.


Well, there are a fair number of competitors in this category this year, mostly because this year was really a return to basics.  Yes, I could sew fancy dresses every day but the fact is that I rarely wear them and this year I tried to focus more on things that actually get worn.  And I have to say that this focus was pretty successful because I regularly find myself turning to handmade garments to wear.  As for my most worn items, well this is where you realize that I'm a totally boring human being because probably my most worn items are these Plantain Tees.  White and gray t-shirts?  Is there even a more boring garment than that?  If so, I'll probably make that one too.  

A close runner-up though is something a tad bit more exciting - undies!  I loved making undies with the Ohhh Lulu Grace pattern and I fully blame this pattern for getting me hooked on lingerie making. The good news is that if my shirts are totally boring, at least my knickers aren't.

As for the kids, I could go with the old standby of undies because O still rocks her handmade undies (in between her Frozen undies, of course), but if we're excluding undergarments, I'm going to go with this Oliver and S Hopscotch dress.  O is definitely a dress girl and a knit dress is perfect for everyday wear.  Plus I love that it has long sleeves since it's often quite chilly around here.  I tried to create my own knit dress for O's first day of school but the result kind of sucked, so I'm definitely going back to the Hopscotch dress.  Unfortunately I'll have to buy a bigger size for next year.  Wahhh!


For me it was definitely this Meridian Cardigan.  While I love the pattern, I was a dumb butt and made one size smaller than was recommended.  Because of this I had to fuss with the cardigan to make it fit correctly over my shoulders and this drove me a bit bonkers.  I tried to make it work but in the end  that little issue drove me nuts and so I accepted the fact that I wasn't going to wear it and instead cut it up to make a shirt for O.  Perhaps the fabric is cursed, though, because not only did I mess things up when cutting out the shirt (resulting in a seam down the front of the shirt) but I broke two double needles while hemming it so it's still waiting around to be finished.

For the kids, it was definitely this hat.  I wrote about my woes in making it in the original post so there isn't much more to say except that it has since found a new home.  So long, Huck Finn cap!


For the kids, definitely the Hanami Dress.  As with most things, I was a little late coming around to this pattern, but once I found it I jumped all in.  In fact I made not one, not two, but three Hanami dresses this year and there will no doubt be many more made in the future.  

And for me and the kids, I have to go with the City Gym Shorts pattern (you gotta love a pattern that comes in child and adult sizes).  Not only is it my favorite price (free!), but the shorts use so little fabric and they're really fun to put together.  The black and gold version are definitely my and O's favorites.  In fact, she decided that they were perfect for soccer and she wore them to every game throughout the season.  Be forewarned, however, that the shorts are definitely on the short side.  In fact, I had the distinct pleasure of overhearing some parents talking about them, commenting "I didn't even know that you could buy shorts that short anymore."  Turns out you can't - you have to make them.  Ha!

And can I pick a runner-up for favorite pattern?  Good.  Then I choose the Watson Bra pattern.  I've made two bras from this pattern so far (one that I haven't blogged about yet) and I have to say that it's a great first bra pattern and is surprisingly supportive for not having an underwire (although I don't have a whole lot to support, if you now what I'm saying).  I'm really excited to see how I'll be able to use this pattern in the new year.  And not surprisingly, so is Ben.


My Alabama Chanin Dress.  Yes, it's extremely simple but I think that that may be what I love most about it.  It's simple, yet it has such a flattering silhouette.  It's all hand sewn and I really like the visible hand stitching along the seams and the neckline.  I didn't finish it until the end of summer so it hasn't gotten a ton of use, but I'll be excited to break it out again once the sun decides to warm up our little corner of the earth once again.  

For the kids, I'd have to say that my overall favorite is this Oliver and S Popover dress.  I've never worked with a border print fabric before I loved playing around with the placement of the different prints.  I think that the different, yet coordinating prints, really kicked the dress up a notch and I love the way that it came out.  


2014 was supposed to be the year that I got serious about stash busting and while I certainly made a bunch of garments with items from my stash, I'm not sure that I'm ending 2014 with less crap fabric than I began with.  

As for the new year, my hope is to keep learning, whether that's fitting a new garment or trying out a new technique.   2015 may be the year when I finally try to tackle a pair of pants.  Also, while not sewing related I also need to work on my posture.  I'm not getting any younger around here and my posture gets worse and worse every year.  Actually, come to think of it, it may be sewing related because hours of sewing while hunched over a sewing machine is probably not the best thing for you when you already have poor posture.

So here's to loving, learning, and standing up a bit straighter in the new year.   Wishing you much health and happiness in 2015!

And just for kicks, here are the superlatives from years past: 2013 & 2012

A Christmas Dress That I Actually Finished Before Christmas. Now That's A Christmas Miracle.


Christmas is over and thank God for that because I.  Am.  Exhausted.

Who knew that attending four events in three days - three of which we hosted at our house - would be too much?  Someone should have hit me over the head when I suggested hosting a baby shower two days after Christmas.

Plus the season was made even more crazy by the fact that Ben and I spent a week in Mexico right before Christmas to celebrate our ten year anniversary.  Poor us, right?  Well, it was poor us when we both came down with a lovely case of food poisoning the day after we got back.  In Mexico's defense it was totally our own fault and we've all learned a valuable lesson (of course we learned it the hard way - as I like to learn all my lessons).

But enough about food poisoning - let's talk sewing because not only did I manage to sew a  Christmas dress this year, I actually managed to sew it in time for Santa pictures (actually, I finished it the morning of Santa pictures.  There's nothing like a little procrastination.).  The dress itself has a couple of issues, but that's mainly because I was trying out some new things in making the dress.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

First new thing - the pattern.  The dress is the Caroline Party Dress by Welcome To The Mouse House and I'm 99% sure that I picked in up in a pattern bundle sale, but I can't remember for sure.  In any case, Rachel has raved about the pattern so I was pretty sure that it was going to be a good one.   For sizing I went with a size five for the bodice but a size 6 for the length.  O (who's five) is kind of a string bean so the bodice is probably a little on the loose side for her, but at least it means that the dress will fit longer than a month.   The dress comes with several options but most of them I left off and instead I just opted for a full lining.

Now let's talk about that beading because this was my first foray into this slightly addictive activity.   I actually bought these beads several moths ago with the intention to bead an Alabama Chanin garment, but in the end I decided that I liked those garments really simple so I opted to leave off the beading.  But then I had a whole bag of beautiful Alabama Chanin glass beads burning a hole in my pocket.  Oh, what a dilemma.  I finally settled on adding some beading to a Christmas dress for the girls but when I started the project I really had no idea what I was doing.  My original idea was to bead a peter pan color on the dress and while I still think that that would be incredibly cute, I was afraid that I was going to run out of beads halfway through so I scrapped the idea after a couple hours of work.  The problem though was that after pulling off all the beads there were so many holes in the fabric that it was essentially ruined.  Fortunately I had juuuust enough to cut out one more front.  Whew!  The second time around I opted for a much more simple design and I just added beads along two semicircular lines that mirror the neckline.  Really simple, but who needs complicated when you have a  bunch of beads?   For the beading work I traced the pattern on the fabric, added all the beads, and then cut out the bodice pieces.  That way all the breading thread on the back of the front bodice is hidden by lining.  Oh, and for the thread I used button thread since it's one of the strongest types of thread.  I don't want those little suckers coming off!

As for how the beading turned out, I love it but I should have done a much better job of ensuring that none of the beads were anywhere near the seam allowance.  Because I didn't do this I had a really hard time pressing the shoulder seams so they're not very pretty.  Grrrr.

But there is one more thing that I love about this dress - the tulle peeking out of the bottom.  Tulle is a complete pain in the butt to work with and mine is not sewn on in a particularly attractive manner, but I love the way it looks with the dress.  It adds a little poof and a feminine touch to an already super-girly dress.  Despite the total side-eye that she's giving in this picture, O actually really does like the dress.

And lastly, let's talk about the fabrics because they are all from leftover projects.  The outer fabric is a cotton that was left-over from this Carme Blouse and the inner in a cotton-cashmere blend that is leftover from this Tova.  I wish I had more of that cotton-cashmere fabric because is is truly the most delicious fabric, but alas, I think all I have left now are teeny-tiny scraps.

Alright, operation Christmas dress 2014 is officially complete.  Bring on the new year!

Also - just because I think it's funny, pictures with Santa from years past 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010

Carolyn 1, Bleached Out Fabric Marker 0


Remember my first version of the Carme blouse?  Well, this is where I tell you that the little bleached-out dots on the pleating drove me absolutely bonkers after a couple of wears.  I couldn't wear the shirt without feeling like everyone was staring at those dots (even though logically I know that they probably weren't).  I ended up over-dyeing the shirt in an attempt to get rid of the marks and while it mostly worked they are still very faintly visible.

Almost like they're mocking me.

But it looks like I'll have the last laugh, though, because look - I made another Carme blouse!  And you can bet that I was very careful in how I marked the pleats this time.   No little bleach spots here.  Hallelujah!

As for how version 2 compares to version 1, well, mostly it's just better sewn together.  I fumbled around with the bottom of the neck placket the first time around and while it came out okay, it didn't come out great.  This version's placket looks much better.  The collar looks better on this one too, but to be honest I'm still not happy 100% happy with it and I'm not quite sure what I'm doing wrong.  If we come across each other in real life just don't stare at my collar, okay?

Everything else is pretty much the same as last time.  Same size, same length, same super-awesome sleeve tabs, and same use of Jen's tutorial on how to make the sleeve placket.

As for the fabric, it's a cotton lawn from Drygood Design, but honestly it seems a little thicker than most lawns that I've seen.  Plus there's a little bit of a sheen to the right side.  It was absolutely lovely to work with, though, and if all goes well, O's holiday dress will be made out of leftover fabric from this project. Blue's totally appropriate for a Christmas dress, right?

Glad you agree.

The Watson Bra - The Gateway Drug of Bra Making


When Cloth Habit first came out with the Watson pattern I told myself that I was going to wait to buy it - mostly because I've gone a little crazy with fabric and pattern buying lately.  But the fact is that I couldn't resist.  I loved the style of it and I was super-excited to try out a new bra pattern.  Plus, it seemed like the perfect way to work on some bra-making skills without taking on a complicated project.  And given the great sewalong that Amy put together in the past I was pretty sure that the instructions were going to be spot on.

And I'm pleased to say that I was right on all fronts.  The pattern is super-simple to put together.  The bra is incredibly cute.  And the instructions are great.  Win, win, win!  (One of the things that I like most about the pattern?  That she tells you what width and length of zig-zag to use at each step.  So helpful!)

Now I realize that this bra is not going to be for everyone - particularly those who need more support - but it works great for those of use who are, well, less endowed.  I guess there are a couple benefits to having a small chest!

As for the sizing I went with a 32C again knowing that this pattern was going to be a little more forgiving in terms of getting the perfect size since it's made for stretch fabrics.  I'm happy to say that the fit ended up being spot on.  The band fits great and the cups fit perfectly.  I was pretty excited that there was no gaping at the upper cup, a problem that I usually have with bras.

As for materials, this bra is wholly made from scavenged items around the house.  The lace is from a pair a pair of undies that I made and never blogged about.  They looked lovely (they were made out of silk and lace, after all) but they were super-uncomfortable so I chopped them up and used the lace for this bra.  The cradle and band fabric is leftover from the the bra kit for this bra and the hooks and eyes are also scavenged from my first bra attempt.  That bra isn't a great fit and I don't think I'll wear it as it is, so I figured I might as well reuse whatever items I could off of the bra.  The straps were originally purchased from Sew Sassy and are left over from my Soma bathing suit.  The elastic is left over from my undie making bonanza, although I should point out that technically I was supposed to use a plush back elastic for the band rather than a regular lingerie elastic.  What can I say?  I was far too impatient to wait for some new elastic to arrive.  As for the rings and slides, I just bought those from Bra Essentials.  I love the idea of having metallic rings and slides so I don't have to worry about anything matching or coordinating.

So not bad for mostly just using materials leftover from other projects, right?  Don't congratulate me too much though, because I just put in a big order from Sew Sassy for some new supplies.  I'm hooked, people!  Send help soon!

A Bra! (Otherwise Known As "Things I Make When I Should Be Studying")


Since starting to sew there have been many things that I told myself that I would never make either because I had no interest in making them or because they looked too hard.  Quilts.  Too boring.  Bathing suits.  Too complicated.  Shorts.  Too many fitting issues.  And yet time and time again, I've found myself making the things that I was sure that I would never make.

What can I say?  I'm a fickle human being.

So surprise, surprise, I made yet another thing that I told myself I would never make - a bra!  Now I should point out that it ain't perfect and I still have some fitting issues to work out, but look - it actually looks like a bra!  I've never been so proud of something that doesn't really fit.

Okay, now on the details.  After much internet surfing research I settled on making the Marlborough pattern which is a recently released pattern by Orange Lingerie.  I had read many great things about the Pinup Girls patterns but in the end I decided against it for two reasons, one being that the design is a much fuller cup than I'm used to wearing and I was worried that it would look too matronly on me.  The second reason is that after spending too much time reading about bras and breast shapes I became convinced that I may have a shallow bust which basically means that I don't have enough breast tissue to fill out a full cup.  Is this more information that you ever wanted to know about my breasts?  Yeah, I figured as much.

Anyway, that's how I decided to go with this pattern (plus, I like the little lace detail).  As for the supplies, I ordered a kit from Sweet Cups Bra Supply which is a US affiliate of the Canadian store, Bra Makers Supply.  They sell a fairly limited amount of items, but they do sell underwires and kits and you don't have to pay international shipping, so yay!  (Also, just a FYI that they're planning on having a 20% off black Friday sale).  The lace was purchased from this etsy shop

Once the kit arrived it was on to making big decisions like what size to make. I ended up not following the sizing directions on the pattern because I was coming up with weird size recommendations.  In the end I went with what Nordstroms measured me to be a couple months ago - a 32C.  I also made sure that the underwires that correspond to this size fit my breasts well, which they did.  I cut out this size without making any modifications and went to work.

All things considered, the actual construction of the bra wasn't so difficult, although sewing the channeling on was a pain in the butt and I ended up having to rip it out once.  Also, ripping out stitches on this fabric is a major pain in the butt.  I also ran into problems with the supplies because the kit is designed to be used with the Pin Up Girls Classic bra pattern where the front fabric goes halfway up the straps so you need less strap fabric.  As a result, the kit included half as much strap fabric as I needed so I fudged it with some leftover elastic.  Not a great solution, but it worked okay in a bind.  Also, the kit rings and slides are for 3/8 elastic, but the pattern calls for 1/2 rings and slides.  Not a huge deal, but just something to be aware of.

As for fitting issues, I think the first thing that I need to do is widen the bridge a bit.  I think that making that modification will make the cups fit better.  The band is fairly tight right now and adding to the bridge will probably help with that issue as well.  I should also probably pinch out a tiny bit of space in the top of the cup to prevent gapage.  Hopefully those modifications solve all the fitting issues.  The hard part for me was that I really couldn't assess the fit until the bra was entirely done and by that point you can't really fix anything.  Oh well.

I'm definitely intrigued by the whole bra making process and I'd love to have at least one bra pattern that fits me well.  I'm guessing that it'll probably take me another bra attempt or two to get there so watch out for some more bras in the future.

PS - Oh, and did you see Cloth Habit's new bra pattern.  I may just have to try my hand at this pattern too!

Simple Clothes For A Simple Gal



I realize that it's been incredibly quiet around here, but I can assure you that it's not from a lack of sewing.  Mostly it's from a lack of picture-taking, because if there's one aspect of blogging that I loathe, it's taking pictures - especially when I have to be in them.  For all you gals who lug your tripod around to find fantastic spots to take photos, I applaud you because I can barely get it up to take a picture in my living room (which is what you get today).

Most of the things that I've been sewing lately have been extremely practical and these shirts fall firmly into that group.  I mean, can you get more practical than a plain white tee?  I think not.

Both of the tees are made from the Plantain T-Shirt pattern by Deer & Doe and the pattern is every bit as lovely as you've heard it is.  Like most knit tees, it's super simple to whip up and I love that it flares out towards the bottom.  I sewed up my recommended size and didn't make any modifications to the pattern.   Because each knit fabric has a different amount of stretch the white tee neckline came out a bit lower than I would have preferred, but it's still very wearable.

As for the fabrics, the gray fabric is a soy organic cotton jersey from Drygood Design and it is luscious.  In fact, I went back to buy some more of it recently, but it turned out that they only had about a yard and a half left.  Boooo!  The white fabric is a Kaufman laguna jersey and I was pleasantly surprised with it.  It's actually a nice weight for this tee, it comes in a ton of colors, and all things considered, it's usually fairly inexpensive.  Score!

These may not be the most exciting projects, but I'll tell you that they've gotten a ton of use.  I actually finished them a couple weeks ago and I've worn them regularly since then.  What can I say?  I'm a simple gal at heart.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


Let's start with the good.

I rarely work in Seattle but when I do it usually involves me complaining because I hate commuting and being away from home longer than I have to.  But then Drygoods Design moved their store to downtown Seattle and suddenly having to go to Seattle seems more like a gift than a pain in the butt.  No more complaining from me.

My husband - who usually has to listen to all my complaining - thanks you.

So I made my first trip to Drygoods Design a couple of weeks ago and picked up this lovely yarn dyed cotton lawn.  It's soft and light and the most beautiful color, but it's not overly sheer which is always my biggest concern with lawns.  I bought two yards not knowing quite what I was going to do with it, but it only took me a day or two to settle on Pauline Alice's Carme blouse.  I had never heard of this pattern maker until I came across a version of this blouse online, but I'm usually a year behind most things so that's no big surprise.  The pattern is probably more involved than most simple things that I make, but she has a sewalong on her blog so I figured that I would have a little help if I got stuck.  I have to say that when I first saw that the sewalong was made up of videos I kind of thought it would be a pain in the butt to turn to them for help, but they were actually really helpful in explaining some of the steps.  Apparently, I'm a visual learner.  Who knew?

As for the pattern, I cut out my recommended size but I added an inch to the length of the body because I'm perpetually worried about shirts coming out too short.  I also added1/2 of an inch to the length of the sleeves because some people noted that they wished that the sleeves were a bit longer.  Adding the length to the body was most likely overkill because it probably would have been a good length without the added inch, but better safe than sorry I suppose.  As for other fit issues, in looking at my handmade tops lately I'm beginning to think that I should be making some alternation to the back/shoulder area because it's a little tighter than I would prefer it to be when moving around.  One day I need to take the time to really understand fit and alterations.

That day, however, is not today.

I love the little pleats on the shirt and the fact that the pattern has you pleat a square of fabric and then cut the pattern piece out of the pleated fabric.  This way it doesn't matter if your pleats aren't perfect - your pattern piece will still be the right size.  Ingenious!  In putting the shirt together there were two moments that left me scratching my head, but the videos helped a lot with figuring things out.  I will say that I prefer Grainline Studio's explanation for making the sleeve placket, but that may just be a personal preference.

As for the sleeves, I debated about adding the tabs so that they can be rolled up since I'm perpetually cold and will probably always  have my sleeves down but in the end I figured that I'd try them out just for fun and I'm really happy that I did.  I love the little added detail and I love the look with the sleeves rolled up.  Honestly, I'm super-excited that this is such a wearable shirt - both for work and for home.

But now for the ugly - my fabric marking pen has decided to revolt against me and has bleached out little bits of fabric where I marked it for the pleats.  You can barely see it in these photos, but you'll have to trust me that there are little bleached out dots running across the pleats.  The good news is that I feel like the old me would have thrown a total hissy fit about it, but nowadays I'm too tired for such antics.  Mostly I just let out a big groan.

But help me out here, people.  What do you recommend for fabric marking?  Because I have a feeling that me and this pen are on the outs.

Doing It All. But Not Doing It Very Well.



Sadly, the return of school for O also means the return of school for me - which mostly just means, the return of the ever-present feeling that I have many things to take care of, none of which I'm taking care of particularly well.  Just the other day a lovely and well-meaning friend told me to cherish the time I have with my little kids because the age that they're at is golden.  Of course, she meant this in only the most positive way as she looked back at the changes that her kids have gone through in the last ten years; but of course, all I could think of was that I was doing exactly the opposite - over-extending myself to an extent that the little joys get lost in the big chaos.

And then I ask myself "what the hell am I doing?"

And then I just keep doing it anyway, hoping that one day I'll have some sense of clarity, although I'm pretty sure that that day is not coming anytime soon.

On the upside, hanging around with a bunch of twenty years at community college is endlessly entertaining and I always return to work the next day with some hilarious stories and an appreciation for the fact that I'm no longer twenty.  


A couple of wrinkles and stray gray hairs never felt so good.


Like A Phoenix Rising From The Ashes


I'm no master sewer by any stretch of the imagination, but I can look at most basic garments and have a general idea of how they go together.  Not so with this shirt, though.  The construction of it had me scratching my head until I was able to go through the instructions and see how all the parts go together to make that fabulous little front detail.  So simple and so ingenious! As if we would expect anything less from Liesl, right?

The pattern is the Weekend Getaway Blouse from Liesl and Company and it was released quite a while ago but I just got around to buying it from Pink Chalk Fabrics thanks to a birthday gift card from my sister (thanks, Debbie!).  The fabric is a Tina Givens voile from the Pagoda Lullaby line and in making this shirt it was saved from the wreckage of a failed project.  A couple months ago I attempted to make a kimono based off of this tutorial and let's just say that I looked nowhere near as cute as she did in her kimono when all was said and done.  The only redeeming thing about the project was that it called for pretty large fabric pieces so it was easy to reuse the fabric after  making peace with my disappointment.

As for pattern itself, I cut out a straight size 2 based on the size recommendations and I didn't make any modifications to the pattern.  Next time around I'll probably add some length because I prefer shirts on the longer side and I'll probably curve the hem a bit just because I usually wear my shirts untucked and I like the look of a curved hem better.  That's just me being picky though, because as it is right now it's perfectly wearable and perfectly lovely.  The pattern is so simple to put together that I'm imagining it in all sort of other sumptuous fabrics...like silk!  Sewing with silk kind of scares the heck out of me, but I figure that this should be a pretty easy pattern to try out my non-existent silk sewing skills on.  Wish me luck!

And here it is untucked just in case you were wondering about the length