Gotta be going to that thrift store in the sky….

Now that I have “Beauty School Dropout” firmly stuck in my head…

Knowing that I’m going to be moving in less than a year is making me take a good, long look at my possessions. I’m going to have to start being honest with myself about whether I’ll really wear this, use up that piece of fabric, ever read that book, etc. I think it will be good for me, because like so many crafty people, I have hoarder tendencies.

So now that it’s the end of the summer, I’m in the process of eliminating the things that I ended up not wearing, or that just don’t work anymore. And since some of the things I’ve culled so far are handmade things that predated the blog, I’d like to give them their moment before I say goodbye. If these pictures look a little weird, it’s because I was too lazy to scan things on a separate computer and email them to myself/crop/etc, so I’ve resorted to taking pictures of my previous pictures of these me-mades. How meta. As you can see, my hair hasn’t changed much in the last decade.

Item #1: The bamboo dress
This one is a little unusual for me. Despite my teenage wish that my mom had kept more of her things from the 70s, I’ve kept very few of the things that I wore myself. Since I’ve been very blessed to not have had much weight fluctuation since then (except for a cup size or 2….) it’s probably due to a lifetime of limited closet space and still wanting to sew new things. So this dress is pretty much the last thing I have left from high school. And it’s held up surprisingly well, despite the fact that I’ve worn it at least once or twice every summer since then, and I had no thought at all for things like seam finishes when I was 17ish. I’m going to estimate that I made this one around 1998, and thanks to a little scrapbook project I did right around the end of college, I can confidently say that the pattern was Butterick 5046. It’s some kind of linen-looking stuff, but I’m sure it’s not linen because it’s from Joann’s. I tried to wear it this summer, not too long ago. And it just looked uncomfortably short to me–I wonder if it finally shrank some in the wash, since I certainly haven’t gotten taller? But considering that I made it nearly half a lifetime ago, I think it’s had a good run, and I hope it will make some thrifter very happy.

Item #2: The paisley shirt

This was my one foray into vintage fabric. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s vintage. My mom occasionally gets donations of fabric from people cleaning out their stashes, and she passes along what she can’t use for quilts to me. This one was a cotton, but it was a little thin for a quilt, so I turned this one into a shirt. It was from summer 2002, and the pattern was New Look 6598. Not the most flattering top on me, since it was kind of shapeless under the badly-placed empire waist, but I liked the fabric so I’ve worn it on a regular basis for almost every summer anyway. I’d probably keep this one, honestly, except for the fact that the fabric around the elasticised armholes has just gotten too worn out. There’s all these little frayed-edge holes. So I can’t even really give this one away. I may keep it and try to turn it into the lining for a cute little bag or something, because it would really be a shame to just throw it out.

Item #3: The Hawaiian surplice top

So this is me giving my Singin’ in the Rain impression! (Yes, it was raining a bit at the time.) In the couple of years right after finishing college, I rather casually dabbled in the swing-dancing subculture. It was something I’d wanted to learn how to do ever since my early teenage years, thanks to that Gap khakis commercial that was really popular for awhile and the movie Swingkids. And I had a couple of friends who were, and still are to some extent, really into it. So back in 2005, two friends and I took a day trip to Washington, DC for the dual purposes of general sightseeing fun and a swing dance event called the Under The Sea Ball. Since it was supposed to have a beachy/tropical feel to it, and I wanted something that I could also walk around for the day comfortably in (it was hot!), I decided to go for a cotton, somewhat retro-styled top. I already had this Hawaiian print in my stash from…something…I can’t remember how I got this piece, to be honest. I was actually really proud of how this top turned out, because I basically drafted the pattern myself. I based it off of this dress-to-top refashion, because I really liked the fit and the v in the back, and used masking take to more or less get the shape of the pieces. Then I altered the top above the empire waist to be a surplice. I added the white in there afterwards–just a scrap of white knit from an old t-shirt that I tacked in to be a fake camisole. I still like the style and the kind of crazy Hawaiian print, actually, so the main reason I’m getting rid of this is that the last couple of times I’ve tried to wear it this summer, it feels uncomfortably small around the armholes. I don’t know if they were cut too high to begin with, or if I gained weight in some really weird place, or if I’ve just gotten much pickier about the fit of my me-mades in the last year or so and so those armholes just don’t feel good. I think I still have my drafted pattern, though, so I would definitely consider lowering the cut of those armholes a bit and sewing something similar to this again. Though I’d probably leave out the fake camisole in favor of a real one, or find a way to build one in better.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk down memory lane! I actually have several more pictures of old makes that predated my digital camera, so I would like to get these up here sometime. Also, I’m getting quite close to wrapping up not one, but two projects! So with any luck, I may have something new to show by the end of the week.

ETA: Looks like I’m going to have to add last summer’s Frankenblouse to the list.  Despite my having pre-washed it, the fabric seems to have shrank in the wash, and it’s now too short to look decent with any pants that I own, camisole or not. Also, the metallic stripes have gotten pulls all over it, and despite my having done French seams for greater durability, I’m noticing holes all along the bustline where the stitching is. Rats. Oh well… I wasn’t totally thrilled with how that one turned out anyway, tbh, so I may have to just try the concept again with a slightly different pattern mix. And more durable fabric. Preferably that isn’t so sheer and ivory that the only thing I can wear under it is my off-white camisole that has been washed and worn so many times that it, too, needs replacing. (I haven’t been able to find one, or had the time to make one, yet.) This one is also not going to be in decent enough condition to give away, so I think I’ll just salvage the buttons and be done with it.

Random thoughts

First off–thanks for the kind words about the scarf! That was pretty different for me, but it was fun to make.

Second off–once again, not being able to do a craft compelled me to add to my stash. I spent part of the weekend and yesterday at the beach with my family. And while we were there, my mom/aunts/yarn-crafty cousins decided they wanted to check out this cute little local yarn shop. So this is what I brought home. The greenish one on the left (really more of a green-blue mix) is Chacabuco Multy from Araucania Yarn–it’s exciting because it’s from Chile, which I’ve actually been to, and it’s hand-dyed, and it’s cotton. You have no idea how exciting it is for me to find hand-dyed cotton, since I can actually use it! The brown and blue are Milky Whey by Kollage Yarns, and it’s a super-soft soy/milk blend. I’m excited to have some new-to-me wool-free yarns to play with! And I think going to the store was inspiring for others in my family too. One of my cousins decided that she wanted to give knitting a shot, so we got her some cheap needles and yarn and I taught her how to make the knit stitch. She seemed to be getting the hang of that pretty well by the time I had to leave to come home (had to work today, boo), so I’m excited to see if she sticks with it!

I already have projects in mind for both of these yarns. I’m thinking the Whittier Hat from last fall’s KnitScene for the Chacabuco, and I specifically bought the Milky Whey to try out the Branching Out fingerless gloves from Coastal Knits. My best friend and I have been making bucket lists lately, and I have several sewing/crafty-related items on mine. One of the things I added was to knit at least one project from every knitting magazine or book that I own. And since I didn’t really have stuff for either of these publications yet, that means I’m justified in buying the yarn, right?

As for that background….several yards of dupioni silk that arrived yesterday. Guess I’m committed to that wedding dress thing. Or, as it’s gotten dubbed by some of my geekier friends and family, the “One Dress To Rule Them All.”  So now I have the lace and the outer fabric taken care of, and I just need to get some underlinings and linings. And bodice support stuff.

Between the beach and some wedding-related stuff, there hasn’t been much sewing going on in the last several days! But I did get the basting in the jeans ripped out, at least, so now they’re ready to sew together for real.

Summer scarf (with mini-tutorial!)

My new scarf!

Once upon a time, several years ago, I saw an article in Threads magazine about how to make a patternless skirt out of randomly sewn-together strips of fabric that the sewist would randomly pleat and stitch over to fit. I already had one piece of eligible fabric in my stash, thanks to one of the freebies passed on to me from my mother, who had in turn had this fabric passed on to her. So I went out to the store and got several 1- to 1 1/4-yard cuts so I could make this funky-looking thing for myself.

One thing led to another, and like so many of my planned sewing projects, it got pushed back because of other things that needed to be made sooner. After a few years, I lost interest in the project altogether. The original free cut got sent away in that lot of 30-something yards that I Freecycled last winter, and one of the pieces purchased met its maker (ba-dum ching) and became the lining to my laptop bag. So that left me with 2 or so random pieces of blue fabric where I liked the print, but there wasn’t enough yardage to do much. Including this beachy batik-looking chiffon number.

Fast-forward to the end of Me-Made-May this year, and my thought that I should make some warm-weather accessories that, you know, aren’t made of beads. The thought came to me to use that chiffon to make a scarf. I haven’t traditionally been much of a fashion scarf person, and I do loooooove me some funky beaded jewelry. But I’m also kind of famous among my circle of friends and family for getting cold ridiculously easily. This includes in the summer, when stores and restaurants and my fiance crank their ACs to insane levels and my body goes into thermal shock when stepping into that from the humid, high 80s-plus-degree weather that we’ve had pretty consistently all summer. Yeah, warm-weather layers are a good investment.

I’m really happy with how this one turned out, and it was pretty easy to make, albeit a little time-consuming. I don’t have a ton of pics of the process, but here’s how I did it:

Step 1: I trimmed the piece of fabric to a reasonable width, mainly to ditch the printed selvedges, and trimmed the ends to even it up some. It was cut rather crookedly, as you can see.

Step 2: I hand-stitched a narrow hem on both of the longer edges, leaving about 3″ unstitched at either end. This is why it took me all summer–when my carpal tunnel flareup that I’ve been fighting since July was at its worst, I couldn’t even do that. This could probably be done by machine or even serger, but I wanted the control. (And with a wedding dress to make, I probably needed the hand-sewing practice!)

Step 3: The most fun step: Those unstitched ends? I unraveled them. The full 3″. I’ll admit it, I sometimes have a destructive streak, and this was a good tv-watching activity. (My fiance was rather confused about what I was trying to do, which added to the fun!)

Step 4: The most tedious part: I hand-knotted all of that frayed fringey edge into this, to finish the ends and give it a more professional look. The really tedious thing about this is that the polyester chiffon is kind of slippery, and so they kept coming undone. I had to go back at the end and dab some fabric glue into all of the knots to make them permanent. So that’s what I spent my time after work doing.

And there you have it! I do wish this scarf was a little longer, because its length kind of limits my styling options. I may have to invest in some kind of scarf slide, like maybe this one. (I like that it doubles as a hair accessory, and I’m afraid a pin would leave some serious holes in this fabric.) So I may have to play around with this idea again sometime!

What’s in her pocketses?

Nothing, at the moment. But while the rest of the jeans remain to be sewed, I have pockets!

I thought maybe I’d done something wrong with making the pattern for them, because the one side is obviously way more slanted than the other.

But when I put it on top of my jeans, except for being a little longer, the angles were just right. So I guess that was a design feature.

So this, and the pocket on the other side, is all of my progress on the jeans so far. At least if they don’t work out, I can make a pretty darn good-looking pocket, if I may say so myself!

learning experiences

Remember this project?

As of tonight, I’m calling it quits. It is one skein of yarn away from being completely frogged. I was attempting to work on it while watching some tv with Doug earlier tonight, spent two entire episodes of Community trying to fix one spot where it looked like I’d accidentally added a stitch several rows back, made it look completely terrible, ended up crying a little out of sheer frustration, and then deciding I was done with this project. Really, seeing how I started it back in April, and only got through two skeins of yarn in what was supposed to be a relatively easy knitting project, especially compared to the Camille shrug, I should have known something was off with it.

Now that I’m a little calmer, I’m thinking that this was probably for the best. The shape of it was kind of tent-like, and I’ve been having to work so hard to try and make it a shape that I’d like better, when I probably would have been better off just starting with a project more suited to the shape and style of tops that I like better. Also, the lace panel would have meant that I’d have to layer it. And since summers around here tend to be hot and humid–last summer was a record-breaker in that department here, and this one is not far behind–the less layering I have to do, the better. So I’m going to finish unraveling it, and give the yarn a rest.  And from a learning perspective, I did successfully add shaping without instructions, even though I’ll never know now how it actually would have fit. And I did start teaching myself to do continental-style knitting, which I think might help with the wrist issues. I’m feeling fairly comfortable with it for knitting, at least–it remains to be seen how this goes with purling!

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to knit in the next several months anyway, since I’ll have The Dress, plus a few other crafty wedding DIYs to take care of, if you’re interested in hearing about those as I do them! But if I do have knitting time, I think I’m going to concentrate on finishing up a few in-progress things–I have a scarf about halfway done to use up the yarn from my Counterpoint Hat, and a cowl I was making for a friend to use up some of the leftover yarn from the Cadence sweater. If I have time to knit after that, I’ll just work on some handwarmers and things of that sort. Doug likes to keep his house on the chilly side, so I’m going to need those little knitted accessories!

And hopefully, once the dust settles from all of this, I’ll have a better idea of what to do with 6 balls of purple hemp yarn.

midweek musings

  • I’m trying something new with my sewing this week, in the name of just getting something done, darnit!! So I’m just trying to do one sewing-related task a day. Yesterday, I got my real jeans all cut out! Well, the wearable test, anyway. But they’re denim. (Monday, all I got done was laying the denim out on the table. But it’s one less thing I had to do yesterday, so it still counts!) I actually have enough left that I just might be able to squeeze out a pair of shorts, after The Dress. Which is good, because I have been seriously hurting for a lack of shorts that fit this summer, denim or otherwise.
  • I really need to get my remnants and scraps better organized, so I can find cooler pocket fabric next time. All I could find in the 5 minutes before Craft Wars started, that I was certain I had enough of to cut all of the pocket pieces, was a solid. Oh well….this is still basically only a test.
  • The wedding is 10 months from today! Which brings me to…
  • I have a plan now for all of my wedding dress fabrics! Except for the green bit. But at least I know where to order from now. Bonus– I discovered that the Dharma Trading Co. fabrics, while not a good color for the outside, don’t change the color a bit as underlinings and linings. So I can save myself some money there!
  • Since I’ve got that part figured out, other than purchasing, my mental energy during the slow times at work has been far more occupied with sewing rooms. That’s right–I’m getting my own sewing room! My fiance is rather generous, isn’t he? I’m thinking of going with a turquoise & coral color scheme–something really bright and happy, so I’ll feel energized and creative! So I’ve been pondering various solutions for how I’m going to fit all of my fabric, my sewing machines, a cutting table, all of the other various tools, my yarn, my scrapbook stuff, and my beads into one room. It’s a good thing Doug likes organization challenges, because I am a walking one…

 And so this isn’t an entirely picture-less post, look what came in today! This prettiness is going to be my future kitchen curtain! He already had the bright green on the main wall in there, and really likes it. And I’ve always wanted a sunflower-themed kitchen. So this was the perfect compromise fabric. I wouldn’t be stockpiling home dec fabrics so soon, except I was kind of afraid this one would get sold out before next year. But one accent curtain shouldn’t take me too terribly long to finish up. After The Dress, of course.

Ok, off to grab some dinner and catch up on some blogs, since it looks like all of the rest of you have been way more productive than me this summer!


The good news: aside from the waistband, which I still have NO idea how to draft even after watching the Craftsy video due to having to make a dart in the muslin, therefore throwing off the grainline in anything I draft unless I just seam it at the center back, the jeans pattern is done. And I know it’s hard to see, but I think the front turned out pretty good.

The bad news: The back is another story. I just keep looking at it and saying “whaaaaaaaaaaaat?”

I mean, look at that back crotch seam. After all that muslining (because you know that’s a verb), this is the curve I ended up with in my attempt to fit my also-curvy backside without making it too tight. Plus trying to fix my usual gapiosis issues, and altering the seamlines to attempt to make them look like a straight line going down the side of my leg.

This is, undoubtedly, the weirdest-looking pants pattern piece I have seen in my entire life. Does that mean it’s crazy enough to just possibly work? Stay tuned…

July in review, and a design decision

Honestly, looking back over this month…it doesn’t look that great on paper at all! The only project I finished during the entire month was the knit top that I wrote about in my last post. And while I’m still close to finishing my little accessory project, it’s not done. But as I’m looking back, it turns out I didn’t really make any specific goals for July anyway. So in this case, nothing ventured, nothing failed! Works for me!

As for August, I only have one real goal: To finish those darn jeans! I spent some time yesterday working on the pattern, and have a back and most of a front, and a yoke, and a pocket. I still need to draft the front pockety bits, the fly front bits, the waistband and the belt loops (because if I don’t at least include a pattern piece for them, I will most certainly forget to cut them out). I was originally going to work on that tonight, but decided I needed to do a little of cleaning and exercising instead, so it’s not going to happen. Especially since I still have to do the workout. Darn you, real life responsibilities!

Ok, so it’s probably my own fault for spending an extra-long dinnertime making a sewing room board on Pinterest. But I actually have one to think about designing now! And I need ideas!!

Back to the sewing. I guess that it doesn’t help that a good chunk of what little sewing time I had this month was spent sorting through patterns and fabric swatches and such to get a plan for my wedding dress. But now my hand has been forced. Meaning I had to just make a design decision and go with it, Here’s the story: n Monday, a particular fabric store that regularly appears on a particular sewing-related tv show that we all know just happened to announce a 15% off sale for silks, including every single piece that I was eyeing for wedding dress potential. So I needed to figure out estimated yardage needed, stat.

The plan is now to use the back of the Cambie pattern for the bodice, mostly as is, though I’d like to use some nude organza in the sleeve cap and upper back in order to strengthen the lace, and then leave it white on the bottom.

Special Occasion

As for the skirt, I decided to go with none of the options I’d posted before. Instead, I’ll be using this. The picture didn’t copy so well from the website this time, but if you look at the ivory sketch, hopefully that gives a good indication of what this dress is. I figured it would be pretty simple to make the seams line up with the darts, the skirt is still pretty full but doesn’t use gobs of fabric (4 yards at most for the skirt per layer–i.e. outer, lining, underlining, etc.–if I estimated right), and things will stay nice and smooth around my waist, which is what I preferred. Also, this one has a center back zipper, which means that the only potential alterations I’ll need to make will be to move seamlines to line up with darts, and lower the top of the skirt a bit to line up with the Cambie waistband. Even with my woefully limited pattern alteration skills, I should be able to handle that. It’ll be a fairly simple design, but since my wedding is going to be late morning and as casual as a church ceremony can be, I’m good with that.

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that my swatches, which I ordered last Thursday before I knew about the upcoming sale, have not yet arrived. And the sale ends in about 4 hours. And when I called, I was told that since the sale on the website is computerized, so there’s nothing they can do to give me the sale prices even though I do have swatches on order. Well, crap. 

On the brighter side, I did get a few swatches from, and found something I liked for the outside of the dress that compliments the lace well. It’s reorderable, so I should have no problem getting the yardage, and they run sales on a pretty regular basis, so I figure there’s a pretty good chance I can get some kind of discount between now and October, which is my self-imposed deadline for actually ordering fabric.

Now I just have to figure out the following:

  1. What to use to underline this with
  2. A skin-toned organza for lining the upper part of the back and the sleeve lining, so it looks like just the lace but has that extra strength. And perhaps for concealing the lace in the seams, since I am 98% sure that particular design decision is going to result in more handwork.
  3. What to line this with, since I’m pretty sure I’ll still need a separate lining to hide the mess
  4. What to do about the green waistband. Also, Doug requested that I sew him a tie, and it would make sense to use the same fabric. This is largely dependent on what my bridesmaids decide they want to do for dresses, since I don’t want to choose a shade until I know.
  5. The biggest decision at the moment: What to do about that bra. I am strongly leaning towards building it in, since I’m concerned that a longline strapless bra underneath a bodice that will pretty much require boning of some kind for stability purposes would be rather uncomfortable to wear all day. It’s just a question of how, since my built-in recycled from the old underwire bra cups didn’t quite lay as well when wearing my Lonsdale as I hoped it would. 

I was flipping through my copy of Couture Sewing Techniques this morning, and Claire Schaeffer recommended making a corselette out of cotton tulle. (If my brief Google search is any indication, I’m not sure this exists for a non-wholesale buyer, so I’m not sure what fabric to actually use yet.) The instructions for how to make the actual corselette look good, though so far I’ve completely missed any how-tos on actually getting it into the dress. The one picture showed the dress front flipped down, so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to leave it detached at the top or not! The other option I’ve been toying with is signing up for Gertie’s Bombshell Dress class on Craftsy, and just using that pattern to basically make a bra. The neckline looks pretty similar to the Cambie’s. But using the book I already have is free.

Have any of you dabbled enough in formalwear and/or bra-making to give me any advice here? I’d greatly appreciate it!