A Coat of Many Colors: The Beginning

Greetings from Wine Country! I know, I owe you a post about a dress, and I swear it’s almost ready. I finally took pictures of the dress (and no, none with me in it) and need to compile post with pictures. It’s been busy at the ol’ day job lately and by the time I get home at night I am crapped out. This translates to no sewing, definitely no writing, and a lot of ramen for dinner. All of this needs to change!

Recently, though, I had a fun fabric run. You know how sometimes the universe converges and makes things happen, like you’re sitting at a light on a long street and all of the lights turn green sort of feeling? I had that day. I decided to pull the trigger to make my first coat, (egged on by this post and this post and all the posts) and knew exactly the fabric I wanted to make it from. I’m on a spending sabbatical due to the death of our refrigerator late int eh summer, and have been trying to recoup some funds in not spending any extra money. Obviously I threw this whole business out the door with the run to the fabric shop, but I feel better about it than I thought I would. I’m easily swayed.

First green light, my boss went to lunch early (which never happens!) so I could sneak out a few minutes before lunch. Please don’t tell on me! I made it to the fabric store in the next town over in record time, no traffic or holdups.

Another green light: I told the nice lady at the cutting counter how much yardage I needed and there was exactly that amount left on the bolt. I also asked if they happened to have my pattern of choice in the back in the size I needed as it wasn’t in the drawer (which always happens to me) and lo, they actually did.

Heading to the front register, there was a long ass line there too (everyone and their little purse dog was at the store, I swear) but it actually moved at a regular pace. At the register, my fabric was not only on sale, but so was the pattern and the nice lady running the till gave me a coupon for an additional 20% off my whole purchase. WINNING. I got out the door, and back to work without the boss being any the wiser that I snuck out 5 minutes early, and even got back 5 minutes before my lunch was over. Yes, I’m the type that makes up my time even if no one knows it’s missing, what can I say I’m well behaved.

With the universe converging and giving me green lights for my first coat. ANLOOKATHISFABRICCCC:

20140917_125934

I know, it’s a little cray. I told myself to make something more sedate, but I already have a long black wool coat, a mid length camel colored coat, and a bunch of little jackets in various colors including denim, velvet, etc. It was time for something lively, you know? And I try as I might to find a single color and be an adult with my fabric and clothing choices, this is why I sew. I don’t want a bunch of solid colored things all the time – I can find that stuff in the wild. When I saw this fabric a while back it called to me, and I’ve been thinking of it ever since. I was so glad there was just enough for my coat. Thank you, Universe!

A coat of many colors to come!

Billie Jean

A Personal Challenge

I’ve made myself a challenge for sewing in the coming month that I’m really excited about. Nick and I are going to Portland and Eugene Oregon for a few days in August for my cousin’s wedding, I’m giddy about the trip because 1) I love weddings, 2) it gives me a chance to sew a fancy dress that is a great stretch of my sewing skills, and 3) we haven’t been on a vacation since our honeymoon. To celebrate all of these fun things, I’m setting forth a bit of a challenge for the 4 day trip: everything I’m wearing (with the exception of shoes, underpinnings and accessories) is going to be me-made, including the bag I’m putting it all in. Tall order? Probably. But it’s forcing me to do a couple things: crank out some comfortable outfits to sit on a plane in, make some cute stuff that packs into a carry-on well but is stylish for running around and vacationing in, and make another pair of cute Lakeside PJ’s because I love the ones I just made and bought some adorable cotton to make another pair. Hooray for unnecessary pressure and deadlines!

I’ve figured out that I’ll need:

- A Portside bag to pack my stuff in.
- Something stylish for the flight, I love dressing up for a mid-day flight, it makes me feel glamorous. I’m thinking my new favorite Hawthorn out of dark blue chambray with the white western snaps. Cute and wears well for a bit of sitting! My only issue: I have to have the backs of my legs covered when sitting, plane seats skeeve me out baaaad. I guess I can sit on something?
- Something cute to wear out to dinner Thursday night (which could be the same thing I fly in but probably not)
- Lakeside PJs for sleeping and lounging
- Something for Friday, as we’re kicking around Portland for the day but driving down to Eugene that afternoon. Probably a new knit dress.
- My new favorite striped linen pants, yet to be blogged because I have to finish them and I want to make a top. But soon!!!
- Gorgeous lilac Billie Jean and a new wrap that matches for the wedding (!!!)
- Comfy maxi with a pashmina for the early-ass wake-up call for our flight home on Sunday. Maybe a new Myrtle, extended to maxi proportions? Secret blankie and PJs for the win! Our flight leaves Portland at a reasonable hour, but we have to wake up three hours before that to make it on time as we’re staying in Eugene. Say it with me: Bleurghargarghargh. Early wakeup calls suck.

So, a bag, a couple dresses, a T-shirt or top, and maybe some pants or possibly a Mabel pencil skirt (they’re just so easy and comfortable this one may win out), and some Lakeside PJ’s. I’ve got some great fabrics I bought a while back that I’m itching to stitch, i just need to find the time to cut out and sew some things up! I’m getting better at cutting things out during the week, so I can focus on sewing on the weekends. I find I’m more productive that way for the most part (but don’t tell the Cambie I have cut out and folded into a basket, half done and waiting to be finished. Wait, maybe that can be one of the things I take!).

I made most of my Billie Jean dress, and am pretty pleased with it. I had higher hopes for the fabric combo because separately they are amazing, but together they’re rather bridesmaid-y. I guess this means I’ll have to do some playing with accessories to make it feel less so! The fit is incredible, though, and fits just like a wiggle dress should: close and curve-hugging. I have to put the hem on, as well as finish the neck and arm bindings, but that’s about it. I’m thinking shoes + bag + wrap + jewelry will make everything better. That and having on real shoes and doing my face and hair, when I tried the dress on yesterday I was a bit, how do you say, bedraggled looking. Why get dressed up to sew? Hell why get dressed at all, when half the time you’re stripping to try on. I can’t be the only one who sews in her skivvies out there. Sometimes it’s just easier. But look out for stray pins!

For now, a half done and badly lit phone photo of Billie Jean:

Billie Jean

OK now I SWEAR to you the fabric isn’t ombre! The true color of the dress is down at the bottom by the hem, it’s a lovely blue-y lilac-y color. I took three pictures and they all came out like this – I don’t know what gives and couldn’t be bothered to go get my real camera from across the room. Obviously this needs pressing but you get the gist! And she’s a bit boring on the hanger (see above: bridesmaid-y) but on my person? Dangerous curves! You’ll get a picture next month when it’s all dolled up at the wedding. You may even get to see some of my crazy family in those pictures ~ which you won’t want to miss.

Happy Monday darlings! What are you sewing these days?

Tangy Italian Beef Sandwiches

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve given you all a recipe, huh? I’ve been so absorbed with sewing and sharing my stuff with you, I haven’t been showing you any foodstuffs lately. I swear, we’re still eating! I’ll be honest, I’ve scaled back our grocery shopping budget a bit and have gotten back to front-loading my weeks on the weekend by either grilling a bunch of extra meat, or making a big pasta or slaw salad, or putting some pasta sauce aside for the freezer so we can whip dinner together fast. The impetus of this is, the less I have to do to get dinner ready, the more time I have to sew in the weekday evenings. Selfish motives!

This weekend I made a big ol’ crock of shredded beef for sandwiches. I do frequent the special discount section of the meat departments looking for gems, and found a great big pack of boneless beef roast for a song. It was nice and lean, and I thought it would be good as shredded beef in the crock pot. A big pot of stuff like this goes a long way, as we’ve talked about in the past, and can be used in tacos, sandwiches, as a baked potato topper, with a bit of rice or noodles, as a nacho topper (OMG, nachooossss) or even by its saucy self with a salad or some fruit. A two pound pack of meaty something makes for at least two if not three meals for us.

When I crock things, I end up doing Mexican style stuff a lot, it’s just the easiest thing to do. Meat with salsa or tomatoes and Mexican seasonings, a few hours on low, voila, Mexi Meat Shreds. If it’s not Mexican, it’s BBQ shredded something-or-other, or soup, all of which get boring. BO-ring. I’m trying to get more creative with my crock repertoire, if you have anything  fun please send it!

In an effort to get out of my rut, I consulted Cooking Light and found a great recipe for shredded Italian style beef, which I altered a wee bit to accommodate what I had on hand. Just far enough away from my norm to be interesting! With only a handful of ingredients that are all shelf stable and live in my pantry this is an easy one to make when you don’t want to go to the store for an extra thing to add. Perfecto! The change I made was to the peppers that were required in the recipe as I didn’t have any fresh banana or Anaheim type peppers in my fridge (and rarely do I have these just laying around), instead I used a couple forksful of pickled mild banana pepper rings. Worked out great! I also added a bit more liquid as the recipe didn’t call for anything but the vinegar, and I felt it just needed a bit more to get the right. The results were shredded lovely beefy yumminess. Make immediately.

Tangy Shredded Beef

Tangy Italian Beef

Serves 8-10

2 ½ lbs. boneless beef roast, on the lean side, cut into cubes
1 t. olive oil
¼ c. pickled pepperoncini slices (I use Mezzetta brand)
¼ c. pickled banana pepper slices (again, I use Mezzetta brand)
½ c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. Beef Better than Boullion dissolved in ½ c. hot water, or ½ c. beef stock
1 T. onion powder
1 T. garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, beef stock or water/Better than Boullion, onion powder and garlic powder. Set aside.

Heat a medium sized heavy skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil and swirl to coat. Working in batches, gently salt and pepper the beef bits and sear them on all sides in the hot pan, a couple of minutes per side. Remove from the skillet to your crockpot insert. Repeat until all beef bits are browned.

To the beef in the crockpot, add the water/vinegar mixture and sprinkle on the peppers. Cover and cook on low setting of the crock for 7-8 hours, until beef is tender and can easily be shredded with a fork. Shred the meat, and serve on your favorite buns (we like ours lightly buttered and toasted under the boiler for added flavor

Moneta does Downtown

As much as I love wovens for dresses, there’s really nothing like a stretchy knit dress. I go through phases of wearing my sweet summery Hazels and Emerys, and a couple of skirts I love, but the knit items I own are always my default. Some days I just want to be comfortable, and while my other dresses are for the most part, knit skirts and dresses and tops are like secret pajamas. They definitely get worn more than some of my other pieces, and this is a hole I want to fill in my handmade wardrobe! My goal is to be able to wear at least one item of handmade goodness every day, and in order to do that I need two things: knits and tops.

While I’m still searching for a great knit T-shirt pattern (suggestions welcome!), Colette patterns recently released their Mabel and Moneta patterns on the heels of their new book. Colette patterns are far an away my favorite indie pattern company, with beautiful patterns, nicely written instructions, sewalongs for nearly all patterns they have, and a whole host of other helpful things on their website and blog that have turned me into a successful home sewist. Head over and have a look!

The Mabel skirt is a perfect knit pencil skirt/mini skirt. I wear a lot of minis in the winter over thick tights or leggings, and the pencil skirt is seriously perfect. The Moneta didn’t make her debut until now, because I bought the PDF patterns (love!) and there were about 50 pages to put together for Version 1, which is sleeveless with a cute collar. Colette extended the size range of this pattern to include plus sizes, which meant more pages to print. I was really sad to figure out after hitting print that there were SO many pages I didn’t need to print off – a sizing/printing guide sheet in the pattern instructions would have been a great savings of resources, whether cutting standard or plus sizes out!

After my round of unselfish sewing for my sweet cousin I decided I wanted a new dress to wear to her graduation party. We live in Sonoma County, which is known to have some pretty serious heat spikes in the summer months, and the weekend of the party was no exception. My aunt and uncle’s house is north of here in Mendocino County, inland area, which is the third circle of hell in the summer. This translates to the forecast was for 105*F the afternoon of the party, and man they weren’t lying! I needed something breathable for the afternoon, and I was cool as a cucumber and thankful for the lining on the dress to absorb the sweat that was running down my back. TMI? Sorry. It happens.

The Moneta Version 1 pattern itself is comprised of few pieces – a front bodice, a back bodice, a front skirt, a back skirt, and collar pieces if you’re into that sort of thing. I usually am, but the fabric I chose was super slinky and fiddly as shit, I therefore decided to abandon the collar to save my sanity. I have a feeling it wouldn’t have laid right anyway. As I mentioned above it also has a lined bodice, which takes a bit more fabric but because of that it doesn’t have any facings or whatnot for the arm and neck line. There’s great tutorial for attaching the lining to the bodice so it comes out clean and is easy to turn.

Picture

Did I mention the gathered, swingy skirt? I made this dress out of a pretty floral I got at JoAnn’s, I loved the way it felt, so soft slinky, but it wasn’t the highest quality and will fade and pill in no time. No matter, a lot of RTW dresses are made of the same sort of fabric (it’s a cotton/poly/spandex something or other), and if I wear it a dozen times before it fades and pills to ugliness I’ll be happy. I’ll just wash it carefully and hope for the best.

I already have a couple more of these planned! The pattern has version for short and long sleeves as well, meaning I can make this dress into damn near anything I please without even having to think about it. It sill has that vintagey silhouette with the swingy skirt and fitted bodice, two of my favorite looks. Moneta took me twoish hours start to finish once I got the pattern laid out, I cut and sewed up a Large with no alterations and used my standard sewing machine (which is the only machine I have, no serger yet but maybe someday!) with a ball point needle (I don’t have a double needle yet, either). My Babylock has several stretch stitches built into it which made sewing this and my Mabels a breeze. They take a bit more thread than a standard stitch, but shoot it was so easy I almost didn’t care that I had to rethread my bobbin. Almost.

A Tale of Two Muslins: The Start of a Billie Jean

Success in reaching out to the blogosphere for assistance with my Sewing Terrors! I heard back almost immediately from sweet Lauren of Lladybird fame, and also from the pattern’s designer Abby, both had great advice on my questions about facing the arm holes and necklines. Sewing community for the win!

Next up I needed to make a muslin of the top (the skirt is a pretty standard . Muslin, toile, practice bodice, fitting version, whatever whatever you call it. I cut out the straight 16 as the finished measurements are my own almost to a T. I like my dress bodices to have very little wearing ease and the 16 was it!

The bodice consists of 6 total pieces: a center front cut on a fold, two front bodice side pieces, two back bodice side pieces, and two back bodice centers. 5/8″ seam allowance, check. The bodice muslin was quick to cut and sew, and with an added zipper took me no time at all. Snip snap! Then I tried on and it was, ahem, snug. It fit, but man it FIT. As I’m planning to wear this to a wedding there’s going to be drinking, and dancing, and CAKE, and there would have been no eating for two days and certainly nothing eaten at the wedding because it fit just that snugly. I put on my longline bra (which I didn’t immediately put on before trying the muslin) and it bought me some more room, but I don’t want to be a slave to my undergarment and certainly don’t want to be beholden to it if the weather swings toward hot. It’s going to be August, and the likelihood that this will happen is high!

So, another muslin. This time, I cut the same size out and just shrank my seam allowances from 5/8″ to 3/8″ all the way around, thus buying myself another whole 1 1/2″ all the way around the bodice. Worked like a charm, and is even a bit too big but no matter: on the final garment, I’ll grade the seams from 3/8″ at the top of the bodice to 5/8″ at the bottom, but just on the side seams, to pull the waist in a bit. It’ll be perfect.

Also, in adding in that wee bit of room at the bust with dropping the seam allowance back, I don’t have to do a FBA to buy my boobs some real estate. It fit perfect!! Winning! Bluegingerdoll patterns drafts for a D cup on all sizes of all garments, so this worked out perfect. Love!

What does this all mean? It means I can move in to Real Dress territory very, very soon! I have to wash my fabrics and iron them and from there, we’re moving forward.

Since muslin pictures are boring and I am not well versed at the whole Selfie taking thing (I’ve never been a fan of this movement and thus am not practiced), here’s a picture of Ted, convalescing in his little collar bandage:

ted

At least it wasn’t a Cone of Shame. He’s had a rough couple months with a thyroid problem, and we finally ponied up for surgery for it last week. They ended up having to remove it completely! This picture was a few days ago, the bandage is off now and he’s on the mend, sassy and bossy cat as usual. He looked like nine miles of hard road when he got home, they shaved his belly, two spots on two different legs, and of course the whole area under his chin down to his little kitty chest (thus rendering his pretty white tuxedo buzzed). Poor little old man. Apparently the thyroid problem is really common in older cats and especially males, which attributes to their weight loss as they age. It goes undiagnosed a lot of the time, with folks just thinking their cats are getting skinny because they’re getting old as cats do, but it’s something that can easily be fixed and gives your cat a lot more happy years. Left unattended they will, how do we say politely, die from it due to malnutrition despite your best efforts to fatten them back up. Who knew?! He ate like a horse and lost weight anyway, which are the two biggest indicators of this. Something to keep an eye out for in older kitties!

Public service announcement over, give your kitties a big hug! More on this dress in the coming weeks!

The Color of Fear

This, folks, is the color of fear for me:

Fearful Fabrics!

How can something in such a gorgeous palette become something that makes my tummy upset? I’ll tell you: Sewing Terrors! They strike me every time I’m working with a fabric I’ve never worked with before (the lace in this instance), a pattern with a technique I’ve never used before (the Billie Jean pattern, with princess seams, which I’ve decided this fabric was born to be. Pencil skirt version of course!), or an indeterminate other issue, in this case, underlining the bodice of the dress because it’s lace and I don’t want to see the raw edges in between the layers. Underlining I’m certain I can do, the bemberg lining I chose is giving me hives because it’s a bit slippery but it’s so amazing, I’ll go slow and get it it all cut and stitched together. That part doesn’t scare me TOO bad. That’s a Sunday afternoon with a couple glasses of bubbles and an old movie, NBD.

The princess seams I believe I can tackle, solely because I know I’ll get the perfect wiggle dress fit with them. A girl with an ample bosom loves these types of seams for the many types of small adjustments she can make to the bodice to get The Fit. Between that and my very Joan Harris longline bra I’ve got this in the bag. Breathe (well, not with that longline on but whatevs), make muslin, and move forward with caution. Start with an FBA and I’m well on my way.

(Dude, whaddabouthevelvet?) Oh, that! I rediscovered it while digging in my fabric stash for a piece of fabric for my mom last weekend. I completely forgot I had it, I got it at the Goodwill for like $3. No shit! Silk velvet, too. I need to find a lining for it but it’s going to be awesome. Thinking of making an Ava! Stoked on this bit.

The clean finished armholes on the dress are leaving me flummoxed. I’ve reached out to a few of the ladies in the stellar sewing community of the Inter-Tubes and know I’ll get something great back. I can feel it. I also have a couple of sewing resources locally I can track down if I feel I need to roll the dice again, or if I need hands on help. I’m broadening my horizons! Breathe in, breathe out.

Oh, and one more thing, I’m hand-picking the zipper, which I think will actually be EASIER than any zipper I’ve ever installed to date. I can almost never get those damn things to line up, and I don’t want any unevenness anywhere on this, I want it to be perfect! Plus, that way there won’t be a visible stitch line (and fuck lapped zippers, I’m not even ready to go back there yet). I have some pretty silvery beads I can use along with the picking that I think will be gorgeous.

I’m biting off a lot with this dress, but I think I’m ready for it. I’ve upped my sewing game a lot in the last two years and it’s time to cut my teeth on some new things. It’s for a wedding we’re going to in late August, so I have time and am not working on a short-ass deadline like usual (what? I work amazingly well under pressure, especially if it’s self-inflicted). I sew for catharsis, not for stress, so when I push myself into a project like this I sometimes have to remind myself that this is fun, I’m doing this because I enjoy it, and the world won’t end if something isn’t quite perfect. Patience is not my strong suit.

You might see these fabrics again over the next two months as I learn some things, and I can’t wait to show you the end result. Stay tuned!

Zebra Tap Shorts

Summah! Sweet Summah! And just in time for the summah solstice last weeked, I made a pair of SUPER CUTE shorts. Super cute. Even for (especially for!) a curvy girl like me. Normally shorts look like shit on me, if they’re at all on the long side they get really, erm, momish. Low cut shorts are too trashy for the public eye, and Bermuda shorts are not my friend! I mostly wear capris or skirts because I just can’t find shorts that look good on me. My legs are one of my best features and I like my shorts SHORT. Like, pin-up short. Not so short my ass is hanging out, but short enough that people wonder if it might. With a nice high waist though, there’s more coverage than people think. It’s less Britney Spears and more Betty Page. Promise.

Tap Shorts

Katy & Laney’s tap shorts pattern is, in a word, perfect, and my favorite is View B, with no welt pockets because I’m scared of welt pockets. Someday, but not today. Three options on this pattern, to be made in nearly any fabric you want. and in sizes up to 20. Two versions have a size zip and the back welt pockets, the third has a front fly zip and front pockets. I thought I would make some plain navy or black, side zip with the diagonal line, out of a nice stiff twill or something, and then I walked into my local fabric shop. I bought a spool of black thread, a zipper, and ZEBRA PRINT OUTDOOR FABRIC. That’s right, zebra. Because what says pin-up more than animal print? And since it only took 1 3/4 yard to make these, it was almost zero commitment. It was $22. I was so pleased. I told the ladies at the cutting counter, all of whom are grandparental age, what I was up to and they all said ‘YESSSS…’ and made me promise I’d come back in wearing them. I’ll do it this very weekend, these are so cute. SO CUTE.

The stiffness of the home dec fabric worked beautifully. They give the right amount of tummy coverage and flattening, and because the fabric is a bit dense and stiff it skims over my person rather than hugging right to it. It also makes for very few wrinkles, which I hate on lighter weight fabrics in shorts. After sitting for a spell I get up and between the heat and my meat it steams the fabric into nice little creases around the lower abdomen and crotch area, I believe someone tried to name them Smile Lines at some point but ain’t nobody smiling over here. I hate that shit and it’s non-existent with the heavier fabric. Anything that is there is sort of camouflaged by the fabulous cream-and-black zebra striping.

Tap Shorts - rear view

Selling points: the diagonal seam down the front, which screamed for piping. I almost went crazy and did gold piping, but decided to keep with  my stance that Animal Print Is A Neutral and use black piping so I could wear them with everything more. I did use some red bias binding for the leg opening, because yes. No regrets!

Mabel

Mabel in Camel

I really wish I could have titled this ‘Mabel in Sable’ for the rhyme factor – I guess I have to make another one of these skirts soon. I know for a fact I will, this is without a doubt the most comfy pencil skirt I own!

Sorry it’s a bit wrinkly, I’ve been wearing the bejeezus out of it!

Colette’s Mabel went together like a snap – I’ll be honest, I didn’t even read the instructions, a mere glance and I was off to the races. I taped up the pattern pieces (God bless PDF patterns for those without patience for the post!), cut the paper pieces, cut the skirt out, and had this lady stitched down in under 2 hours. Flat. That was with stopping for an iced tea break in the middle. It was almost instant gratification.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said around the blogosphere about this skirt? The hype is real, y’all. A stretchy flattering silhouette, a workhorse ponte roma fabric, and a classic color – I’ve been wanting a camel colored skirt for, oh, ages. I’ve been threatening to make one out of wool but then I’d have to line it, and I’d want a wool jacket to go with it (something like this Ava, which is SO HAPPENING for the Fall/Winter months, I just can’t stand it). I’m really digging the whole suit aspect for my Fall and WInter sewing program. But it’s June! Plenty of time to think about that later.

Mabel

Cutie kick pleat! This is one of the newest Colette patterns, where they’ve moved into both knit and plus sized territory. They’ve knocked it out of the park again with this pattern, it’s the perfect skirt. The Perfect Skirt. There are two other variations in the pattern, both minis, one with a faux button placket down the center front that is super cute, I made that one too but it’s so short I can only wear it with tights or leggings for fear of my ass hanging out. A few years ago I’d have rocked it with tall boots and knee socks and nary a second thought but now? Not a chance.

Mabel is a great pattern for beginners with very clear, easy to follow instructions, which Colette patterns is known for (you’ll see me crowing about all their patterns at one point or another, I wait with bated breath for their new releases). And even though it’s a knit fabric pattern it can totally be sewn on a reg’lar ol’ sewing machine. No serger needed! If you have an adjustable zig-zag stitch you can make this skirt. Long and short of it, if you’re looking for a great easy pattern for a wardrobe staple this is it!

Lakeside Jammmies

Lakeside Pajamas – Sheet Dreams!

Part of my love of sewing comes from my deep love of antique and vintage everything. 1920′s – late 1960′s, bring it. This includes clothes, textiles, housewares, gadgets, cars, hats, you name it. I can spend entire weekends hunting thrift shops and vintage stores and garage and estate sales. Happily. My whole house would be old-timey if I could find a way to swing it, unfortunately my love of modern appliances (read: I can’t live without my professional range in my kitchen, I’ll just die if we move) this isn’t going to happen. But I squeeze in a lot. Our dining table, our bar, my favorite chairs, plus all my stemware…

Wanna come play at my house so I can show you all my old stuff?

Anyway. I found a great old percale sheet at the Goodwill and snapped it up. Sunny yellow stripes, white background, roses, what’s not to love? My favorite was the top of the sheet, which has a solid white background with the same roses, and a bit of cotton lace running across. I immediately thought ‘sundress!’  using the contrast as the hem, but then was cowed by the next thought of how people would side-eye me when I thank them for complimenting my dress and saying ‘it used to be a sheet!!’ with a smile that sings crazy.

Like many younger sewists, I started doing so because I didn’t want to look like everyone else. I got tired of the crummy fast fashion at the mall, and seeing the same girls in the same GAP and Old Navy shirts all the time. I know, I shouldn’t care if people think I’m off for cracked a sheet around – to me it’s very Make Do and Mend and not ‘To-ga! To-ga!’ but I’m so self conscious and sensitive.  This is a post for another day, though, a whole post. Aren’t you excited?

Lakeside Top - Back

So my sheet was purchased and washed and folded and put away for a project another day. It sat for a while until I was lurking around the web one afternoon and saw the Lakeside pajama set. I loved the criss cross back, and shortie shorts, and thought it would be equally cute with a pair of pajama pants. The shortie shorts are super adorable but not always my jam, but knew I had enough fabric on my sheet that I could have the top, shorts, and the pants. Win! I bought and downloaded and printed away. Only 19 pages, this pattern, so it taped together supa-fast!

Snip snap and I had the Lakeside top and pajama bottoms (cut from _____). My top is all lined up on the front, not so much on the back (it’s pajamas, for heaven’s sake), and my hems’s and the lace are straight on the bottoms but I didn’t do so hot on the pattern matching for the seams of any of it. It’s pajamas, for heavens sake. I was a little sad once I started sewing, I could have a little more pride here – I know how to pattern match and just didn’t bother. Does it make me love my jammies any less? NO!

Know your back!

An hour and a half after cutting I had super cutie new spring/summer jammies. The cotton percale is so soft from years of wear and washing, and the fabric doesn’t wrinkle at all coming out of a warm dryer. I gave the lace a top stitch after taking the picture below so it wouldn’t curl up with washing (because who wants to iron pajamas, amirite?). I used a half-mile of 1/2″ double fold white bias tape on the top edges, and I lived so dangerously I didn’t even pin it down when I was running it on to the top – I tucked that bad boy around the edge and stitched while I did it. Such a rebel! These types of short cuts usually end up with me in tears and my project ruined, but I’m getting better at thinking it all the way through before I execute.

Jammie Pants Detail

After a night’s sleep in my cutie new jammies, I can safely say they are my new favorite. I love matchy-matchy vintage PJ’s and am trying to get away from all my schlubby sweats and ribbed tanks I wear all the damn time. While comfy, when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror I get to thinking ‘girl, get your life together and put on some damn clothes already.’ I have so many cute dresses and skirts and shorts, but I need more relaxed tops and lounge wear. Major hole in my wardrobe. I like the pants pattern I used for this enough that it will be used again (and even with knits, actually, it’ll be perfect even though the pattern isn’t made for that). It takes so little fabric and they’re so cozy. I have new knit tricks up my sleeve, too, after buying The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits. Eeeeeee I love this book so much! While I love my wovens to death, let’s face it knits are what have the most rotation in my closet. I have so many things I want to make now because this book takes the fear away. Unstoppable!

Unselfish Sewing: The Portside Bag

My littlest cousin graduates from high school this weekend. I guess that’s sort of crummy of me to say, ‘my littlest cousin,’ because she’s not little anymore, she’s on the edge of adulthood and graduating high school, for crying out loud. This of course makes me feel OLD, and even OLDER THAN OLD because the year she was born, I was a senior in high school. I remember sitting on my grandparents’ sofa, holding her for the very first time on Thanksgiving. Did I mention she was just the cutest? She had these huge hazel eyes (still does, actually), and has always had a gaze that looks right through you. An unwavering gaze, and a bright smile. I’m so proud of her on her brink of adulthood, and know she’s going to do exactly what she sets out to do, whatever that may be. The women in my family don’t settle for less!

What does one give a pretty young thing on the brink of jumping into the world? What did I want when I was her age? To be honest I can’t remember what all I was given, I know there was jewelry that I still love and wear and money that is long since gone. I’ve always been a sentimental person, and have always loved things that people make for me. She’s a similarly sentimental and sensitive person, and is also artistic and has a love for handmade things, so I decided I’d sew something (natch). But what do I sew? What speaks to someone and represents such a monumental time?

So I made her a great big bag, something big enough to pack her things and her dreams, for when she spreads her wings and flies (and she’s made no secret that this is precisely her plan).

Portside Bag & Pouch

I wanted to make her a bag that would be a reflection of her, something she’d really like and use until the seams give out. I asked my aunt what her favorite colors are and used that as a jumping off point for a trip to the fabric store.

My initial thought was to do something with a patterned outside with some plain fabric as well to cut the cute, but the more I thought about it I wanted to give her something grown-uppier than that, and patterns can be tough to pick out for others, on top of the fact that none of the ones I found that were of tote bag integrity were fun, they were all either ugly or too whimsical. I found two beautiful heavy weight canvases in dove gray/blue and a bright springy green and went to go find a lining. This, of course, was the hardest part. So, so hard, in fact, it took me forever to decide.

Hang on to your English classes, I’ve declared the finished bag a metaphor. It’s pretty on the outside, a little more business but definitely not of the forest green/navy blue/black luggage variety. It stands out in a crowd but not so much that it isn’t cohesive. As with life, though, it’s really what’s on the inside that counts, and you should always take care that what is inside of you is blooming and growing and beautiful, regardless of what is on the outside. I am SUCH a geek, you can totally side-eye and eye-roll me for this paragraph, but this all came together in my head while I was sewing. That’s one of my favorite reasons to sew – while it requires lots of concentration and single-minded thought, I always manage to do some daydreaming in there somewhere.

Portside Bag Interior

Speaking of sewing, let’s talk about the Portside bag. I am a self-proclaimed bag whore, and can never have enough. I love purses and tote bags and reusable grocery bags and overnight bags, and yes I can keep going. I saw a couple of these on other fun blogs I follow and immediately went and downloaded the pattern. It was a super easy project and I literally cut and sewed the main bag and the pouch inside of a day (didn’t make a dopp kit, and it’s not pictured but I made another drawstring bag of the lining fabric for shoes or dirty/worn clothes, as it’s something I’ve found very handy in my travels). I hand sewed the lining in on another evening and it only took me one episode of Mad Men (without commercials!) to do. Truly a quick and gratifying project, and it’s PERFECT for gifting. It can be as expensive as you want depending on fabric choices, or if you use inexpensive canvas duck and quilting cotton it can cost as little as $20-$30. I fully plan to make myself one with longer main straps and no removable shoulder strap ASAP, as we’re going on a 4 day trip to Portland in August and my plan is to have all me-made outfits on the trip. What better thing to pack them in than my own homesewn bag?! I die. Did I mention I already bought lining fabric? Can’t wait to show it to you when it’s done.

Happy Sunday everybody – hope you’re enjoying your weekend!