Harley helps.

Harley helps.
Harley, my hard-working sewing assistant.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm back

I've been sewing -- just not clothes. (Lately: holiday gifts, mostly totes.) BUT I wanted to post this, because I'm kind of in love with this project, and the book it came from.


It's from Microcrafts, which is mostly about hand-sewing teeny-tiny itty-bitty cute things: monster babies, cats, dogs, owls, you name it. I picked it up on impulse from the library and renewed it until they wouldn't let me renew it anymore, and I'm ashamed to say it's currently two weeks overdue. Whoops. My friend Liz, who was visiting at the time, squeed like crazy over the tiny dog, so I decided to make it and a couple of dog-cessories for her for Christmas.

And then I spent a bunch of weeks making repeat trips to Michael's and picking out different colors of felt and generally putting things off. I don't exactly have amazing hand-sewing skills, as you can probably tell, and the thing about the dog is that you have to use a whipstitch. Visible stitches. EEK.

I made an experimental first dog with heavy white quilting thread, which turned out to be way too heavy. I used all-purpose thread for the second dog and tried to make the whipstitches as tiny as possible. It's still not as pretty as the one in the book, so I guess I'll have to just keep making them until they're perfect. (Ahem.)

But I sent this one off to Liz. I miss him already. I need an army of mini-dogs for my cubicle, and the kitchen windowsill, and the top of the cabinet...

Pattern Description:

Microcrafts --  mini stuffed dog, bowl, and bone

Pattern Sizing: 

Tiny! Eee!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

More or less, I guess

Were the instructions easy to follow? 

Mostly, but the author's written instructions weren't always clear. For example, she doesn't always specify the type of stitches you need, and the bone instructions just said to fold the piece of felt in half, but didn't specify which way. It's not hard to figure things out from the photos, though.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? 

The end result. Squee!

Also, it's pretty instant gratification -- it only takes a couple of hours to finish one of these guys. Probably less, if you're a fast hand-sewer.

Fabric Used:  

Felt from Michael's (29 cents a sheet!)

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: 

I used No-Sew glue to attach the spots, the nose, and the tail. (The book says to whipstitch them, but I tried and it looked pretty awful.) I used a toothpick to add black fabric paint for the eyes, instead of embroidering them on.

The book tells you to embroider an upside-down Y for the mouth, but I didn't see a mouth on the dog in the photo, oddly enough. I left it out.

For the bowl, I had a hard time figuring out the written instructions. I wound up whipstitching the bottom to the side, sewing the short side, and then flipping the top down.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? 
Oh yeah, I'm already planning more. I'd like to make a kitty, too -- maybe a mini-version of Harley, my intrepid sewing assistant.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012


No finished projects yet, but some progress. (Frustrating, but still. Progress.)

Made muslins of:

V8771: Fits in the front, but the back is huge! It looks like a parachute. I don't know how to fix it. Darts? If I make it in a stretch fabric, maybe it'll magically hang right?

V8512: ARGH. I love the look of this, but muslin #1 is way too big on the top. Needs a second muslin, a size or two down.

V8819: Seems to fit, although it's a bit big on the bottom. That's OK, though -- it's really just to wear around the office as a stand-in for a jacket. So it's up next -- first in a solid black, and then, if all goes well, in a striped wool.

Realizing that I really need to learn how to fit things -- I can't just make a straight-out-of-the-envelope size 12 every time. (Yes, I know it's basic Sewing 101, but I was hoping.) We don't have sewing classes around here (unless you're into quilting), so I guess it's time to dive into my old sewing textbooks and figure it out.

The SO keeps asking, "What are you going to do with all those muslins?" I think what I'm going to do with all those muslins is dye them with stuff from the yard (pokeberries are finally coming in! woo!), tear them into strips, and make a rag rug. I haven't dyed anything so far this year -- looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

a small update

I haven't been sewing, really, because:
  • we finally got the upstairs bathroom fixed, which meant
  • a lot of plaster dust all over everything, and
  • Harley, my intrepid sewing assistant, helped out by helpfully crawling into the tiny crawlspace the plumbers opened up, and it took most of a morning to get him out, AND THEN
  • my husband sliced his thumb open while sawing drywall or something, so I was on carrying-stuff-around duty for a couple of days, AND
  • to get ready for the plumbers, we had to pull everything out of the bathroom because we've been using it as an extra closet for the last couple of years, AND
  • that all sort of spiraled into a massive house cleanout, AND
  • we wound up having a yard sale to get rid of a lot of stuff, AND
  • now we have houseguests coming next weekend and possibly the weekend after that.
So it's been one thing after another for some weeks now. It's amazing how a small project can spiral out of control. (Ahem.)

However! Next week, my husband leaves to chaperone a school trip to Edinburgh (I know. I KNOW) ,and that means 1) updating the Netflix queue and 2) and MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF SEWING. I'm so excited. As part of the house cleanout, I went through my sewing room and sorted fabric and got everything ready. Also, one of the houseguests is my brother, who's bringing us the old family dining-room table because he doesn't need it anymore, which means I'll finally have a cutting table. Woo.

In other news, Vogue seems to have come out with new fall patterns. Some of them I like:

Some of them, not so much:

I really don't understand this. It's a blazer! It's a cape! It's a ... blape!

I do really like this:

Nifty. I wish they had a view with the collar buttoned up.

I do not understand why Vogue insists on having their models contort into painful-looking positions:

Ow. (In those heels, especially.)

I also wish they'd stop obscuring the garments with crazy prints:

Gee, wonder what that actually looks li--


Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Still nothing on the Sorbetto. I keep going through my stash, but I don't have enough of anything for an actual shirt. I thought about trying to make a Sorbetto nightgown (I've been really wanting one lately -- it's been so hot!) out of some light vintage cotton I picked up at a thrift store, but I don't have enough for that either. Thankfully, we're going to NY this weekend, so hopefully I'll have time to hit the Garment District and pick up some remnants. Lesson learned: From now on, buy 3 yards of everything.

In the meantime: $1.99 out-of-print Vogue patterns! I'm pretty obsessed with this, especially this hoodie and skirt:

I'm so making this for fall. The photo doesn't do the skirt justice; the line art is much better. Also, a hoodie with pockets that works for the office! Whee!

And this:

The top looks kind of ridiculous in the photo, but maybe that's due to the color choices. (Brown and blue, really?) I'd love to try it in black and gray, or black and a pattern. Also wondering if I could make a travel version out of some kind of quick-dry stretch fabric, maybe? Probably a bad idea.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I made a muslin of the Sorbetto last night (everything but the bias tape), and ... well. I'm not crazy about the sizing. The size 8 fits just fine on top, and the length is fine, but it's pretty boxy around the waist. Another problem: I don't have enough of any of the fabric I wanted to use to make a finished version. I guess I could just dye the muslin (good old Rit), make the bias tape out of something or other and finish it. Maybe throwing in some side darts would help.

Monday, June 25, 2012

cake vs. frosting

I really, really wanted to sew this weekend and did just about everything but. I did manage to cut out pattern pieces and muslin for v8784 and pattern pieces for v8512, and I wound up making an emergency JoAnn run on Sunday because I was out of muslin. (I wish I could just muslin stuff out of thrifted bedsheets or something instead of buying new fabric, but we don't have any decent Goodwill or Salvation Army stores close to us.)

Which, actually, is a problem that keeps coming up: I don't have any fabric.

Oh, I have cotton. Tons and tons of novelty-printed cotton and calico from Old Sturbridge Village, and more Halloween fabric than you can shake a stick at. (Spiders, I got 'em.) Perfect for tote bags (I have too many) and pot holders (we have enough). And quilting! Unfortunately, I'm not interested in quilting. I looked into it, browsed through a couple of project books, and it makes my head spin. I don't think I have the patience. I'd like to make a duvet cover out of all the Sturbridge fabric, but that's a project for a long, rainy weekend.

What I don't have: Stuff for making clothes. Wool and flannel and jersey and material for lining just about all of the projects I want to do. Right now I really want, like, 10 yards of really good black wool for various projects (interview suit, coat, v8512 if there's enough left) and some really good black flannel (work dresses, blazer). Actually I'd like to make everything out of black flannel, because I love flannel. That's possible, right?

The situation is kind of dire, because I really need a new suit -- the two RTW ones I have are on their way out. And I could use a plain black coat.

Yeah, so. Less frosting, more cake. We're going to NY next week and I might have to set aside some room in the (very minimal) budget for a trip to the Garment District. Sewing still feels like a "like to do" thing instead of a "need to do" thing, though, so I feel guilty spending money on it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

what's up next

I'm still fiddling with the fonts and layouts and whatnot on this thing to try and make it prettier and more functional. (My day job is as an editor for a Web usability group, so that's how I'm justifying it! Just experimenting for work, yup.)

Anyway, here's my list of upcoming patterns I want to try. Let's experiment with Blogger's bullet formats, shall we?
  • Colette Sorbetto: Everyone says it's easy, I'm in the mood for instant gratification, and I need a couple of cute, semi-dressy summer shirts for work. I just ordered a bias-tape maker. w00t!
  • v1247:  I love the geometric detail on the front and the asymmetric hem (I'm a sucker for anything geometric and/or asymmetrical). I'm going to muslin it out first (everything but the sleeves, probably) and then make the real thing with leftover fake purple linen from v1089. If it works, I want to try and make a travel version out of Coolmax. (Trying to build a travel wardrobe, but travel clothes are ridiculously expensive.)
  • v8819: To replace my beloved Oak + Fort cardigan, which is on its way out. Sad. I like the chevron effect on the pattern envelope, so I'm going to try View B with some black-and-purple striped wool jersey from FabricMart, and maybe another one in plain black.
  • v8461: My very first Vogue pattern (and I haven't cut into it yet). I need a new suit, and I'd like to try this in a basic black flannel, and if that works, maybe some fancy wool.
And later:
  • v8512: Seems to be adaptable to a lot of different fabrics. Going to try it in a lightweight tropical wool check to start (after a muslin, I mean).
  • v1195:  I have some fancy Liberty silky fabric I want to try for the top. It's too nice to use for lining.
  • v1069: Terrifying. I love Issey Miyake and I've been gawking at this pattern for over a year now. I'll probably muslin it out first and then make version #1 in some yellow-orange wool I dyed with coreopsis, and if that comes out, make #2 in black wool.
It'll be an adventure, but I like the idea of just trying to make the things I want, in the best fabrics I can find (and hopefully ethically produced/reworked fabrics, if I can manage it), instead of store-bought stuff that doesn't fit and falls apart in three washes. We'll see.

Monday, June 18, 2012

first post

This is my first dress. My first garment ever, actually, unless you count an aborted attempt at v8753.

(It's all wrinkled from being in my suitcase. Oops. Also, pay no attention to that interfacing behind the zipper.)

My previous sewing experience consisted of a lot of tote bags, pot holders, Kindle covers and an apron or two. I have a Bernette 82e, which I love, and I've been doing beginner projects and minor mending  since, oh, about 2008. Also hoarding a lot of Vogue patterns -- they have so many cute ones, and I'd go crazy on the $3.99 sales. But I was afraid to actually try anything.

Then my brother got engaged. And I started to look for dresses to wear to the wedding. And you know what? It's pretty depressing out there in dresses-appropriate-to-wear-to-a-summer-weddingland. Especially dresses-appropriate-to-wear-to-a-hot-summer-wedding-in-the-Midwestland. And ESPECIALLY dresses-appropriate-to-wear-to-a-hot-summer-wedding-in-the-Midwest-if-you're-in-your-30sland. A lot of bad polyester and teal taffeta prom dresses, let me tell you.

So I thought about it and thought about it and decided to take the plunge, and I cut into the pattern I'd been gawking at for, oh, the last year or so: v1089.

Way to start slow, right

I did a muslin first (not everything, just the outside without a zipper to check for fit) and used some eggplant "linen-like" fabric from JoAnn for the real thing. I originally wanted something closer to a greyed lavender, but couldn't find anything, and the nice lady at JoAnn talked me into eggplant. I thought the beads at the midriff were cute -- I really like the way they styled the whole thing, actually -- but hand-sewing beads is probably beyond my expertise, so I decided to leave it plain.

It's a super-fiddly pattern. It has, I think, a total of 18 pieces, and it's something like 48 steps from start to finish. The midriff has a lot of pieces, and you have to line up all the seams and edgestitch both sides of every seam. (Full disclosure: I put the bodice together first, then edgestitched across all the seams to get a more even line.) There's a facing and lining, and the pattern calls for understitching. After looking at a zillion YouTube tutorials and trying it, I decided I didn't like the understitching. If you're using a heavier fabric for facing, I think it hangs just fine.

There were a ton of things I'd never encountered before -- curved seams, princess seams (so confusing at first), edgestitching, and the furshlugginer invisible zipper. That thing was ridiculous. I spent most of Memorial Day weekend trying to figure out. It still wasn't entirely invisible by the time I was done with it, but I figured I'd be wearing a cardigan over it anyway. I screwed up quite a few things (such as: I didn't realize the pleats weren't sewn in, and spent an entire night trying to put them in before realizing that the skirt just draped that way -- no sewing required). Me and my seam ripper, we're best buds now.

Here's me in it, unhemmed, unpressed, and shoulders and neckline unfinished.

I used the recommended 5/8 seam allowance, and I think the neckline was a little low. If I make it again, I'd like to raise it an inch or so, once I learn how to do that.

I should mention that I have no idea how to grade sizes or anything, so I made a straight out-of-the-envelope size 14. I usually take a size 8 in RTW, or 6 if it's stretchy.

I should also mention that:

 -- the midriff is very, very fitted
 -- the unhemmed skirt just hit my knee, and I'm 5'0". If you're any taller than that, you might want to lengthen it, unless you want it short.

Full disclosure no. 2: I cheated. After spending an entire night tearing my hair out trying to hem the thing, I finally tore out all my stitches and took it to my tailor and asked her to do it. Which she did! Beautifully, I might add. I love my tailor.

Here I am, at my sweaty, no-makeup, after-work worst, modeling the final version.

Despite the low neckline, I like it. (And, oh yeah, I did wear it to my brother's wedding, and it worked, except I shouldn't have worn a padded bra. Ahem.) I'd like to make it again sometime, but in black linen with a funky lining and a raised neckline for work, or one in black stretch fabric with cap sleeves. Once I learn how to make cap sleeves, that is.

But not for awhile. Next, I'd like to try something nice and simple -- maybe that Colette Sorbetto top everyone seems to be making. That's easy, right? Please tell me that's easy.