back in the saddle

I’ve long had an issue where if I feel like I failed at something, I have a really hard time overcoming that sense and picking it up again. There was this one time during my college years where I did a week-long music workshop out of state, and one of the people running a masterclass there was the principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I picked a piece to play for that with the help of my flute professor, worked my tail off on it, and got ripped up one side and down the other for my performance of it. It was a solid two years before I could pick the piece up again to do even a very small performance at a nursing home with it. I used to draw and paint all the time when I was a teenager, and since I dropped out of being an art major after one horrible semester, I’ve barely been able to pick up a sketchpad–even though I’d love to get back into that sometime, the inspiration just hasn’t been there. And even though it wasn’t really a failure, ever since that time a couple of years ago where my best friend and I tried selling our wares at a craft fair, and then I set up an Etsy shop to try to get rid of the many, many extra pieces I had afterwards (which sold nothing), I haven’t even really tried to make any jewelry.

But Me-Made-May made me miss it. I honestly got more comments about my jewelry on my Instagram pictures and the Flickr group than I did about my clothes! (Not really sure what that means about my style, but oh well.) So I pulled out a couple of my bead boxes and made some stuff during the course of watching a movie with Doug one night a couple of weeks ago. So even though these may not be anything exciting, they’re important to me, because it represents finally getting past a mental block. (Also, they’re all completely from stash, which is always good!)

IMG_1414I made three necklaces and a bracelet. I haven’t had a chance to wear the bottom necklace or the bracelet yet, but I’m wearing the purple one today and I wore the coral one recently. After all of that palette work for the Wardrobe Architect project, I realized that coral and plummy purple were both things I could use more accessories in!


Isn’t this pendant cute? My sister-in-law gave it to me for either my birthday or Christmas last year. It’s actually a little locket, and the package said fairy door, but we all know it looks like a hobbit hole door, right?


I also made a few pairs of earrings. One of my basic black earrings fell out of my ear and got lost a few months ago, so I needed something to replace it. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for bending the teardrop shapes out of the wire myself! They’re also slightly hammered, though you can’t really see the texture in this picture. The other ones were basically just making bead drops and dangling them off the pre-made 8 loops.

And then I also made a few more basic beaded earrings. The spiral loop 8’s were pre-made like that, but I did the wire wrapping on the purple pair myself.

So that’s it!

Mone-misu? Tir-etta?


This dress wasn’t in my original summer plan, but it was a nice quick make. I cut it out and sewed most of the bodice together on Sunday, sewed the neckline and armholes on Monday, made and attached the skirt on Wednesday, and hemmed it yesterday. It’s also nice and comfortable–the fabric is some rayon knit from Mood that I bought specifically for this project. Not so great for the stashbusting, but at least I used it quickly!

IMG_1411This week’s Indie Pattern Month contest on The Monthly Stitch is Franken-patterning, so that was part of my inspiration.  The top is based on the Colette Monetta dress, and the bottom is based on the Cake Tiramisu dress, though I modified both parts. For the Monetta top, I squared off the neckline and added seams down the center of both the front and back of the outside pieces. Since I wasn’t doing the collar, but I still wanted to line the top, I also had to tweak the clean finish directions a bit–I did that around the neckline, and the lower half of the armholes, but I had to hand-stitch the top of the armholes closed. For the skirt, I cut both halves on the fold instead of seaming it down the middle like the original pattern. It’s a pretty plain and simple dress overall, but I think it’ll be a good one to play with accessories. Especially since the color is much brighter and cheerier than the average neutral solid knit dress!

So if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I’m a fan of secretly geeky clothes. Now that I’ve got you thinking this is just a normal knit dress, it’s time to ruin the illusion by revealing that this is also going to be a part of one of my DragonCon costumes! I still have a couple components to make for that, but I’ll give you a clue: Think Disney bookworm who’s fond of teacups.

I’m having trouble with the picture insert, so you can find the picture here. So did I get the gist of it? The idea is to make as many costume bits that can be worn as everyday clothes as possible, so I’m not spending my entire summer sewing things that I’m only going to wear once. And Belle was my favorite when I was a kid–she loved books, she was a fellow brownI’m having trouble inserting the picture, so click here.-eyed girl, and she wasn’t afraid to use her head to help her get out of sticky situations. And whack at the wolves with a big stick, even if she wasn’t very good at it. What’s not to love?
I still need to make a top, apron, and hair bow for this, but I think this dress is a pretty good start.

Speaking of DragonCon, I’ve recently made the difficult decision to set the Tauriel costume aside. It’s been going so slowly, and I’ve been racking my brains unsuccessfully for 3 months to come up with a good way to sew that armor bodice without making the vinyl tear apart the second I put it on, since I never was able to find a closure for it. Given how much I still need to make for multiple costumes, even though they’re more everyday-clothes, and that I’m also going to need to help my best friend with some of hers, it just doesn’t make sense to continue when I have a perfectly good Eowyn costume that only needs a blonde wig. Besides, as surprisingly much as I enjoyed Tauriel in the latest Hobbit movie, Eowyn is still cooler. And, you know, actually in the books.

they’ve been chopped

For all of the refashioning that I used to do, I really hadn’t done any in awhile. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been super-focused on stashbusting and making from scratch, so much so that I forgot how fun, and how instantly gratifying, transforming something that’s already around can be. It’s a whole different group of problems to solve, and a good challenge.

I have two refashions from May to show today. The first is one of my all-time favorite dresses, that sadly wasn’t zipping at the top anymore.
MMM'12, Day 13 Remember my Titania dress? I was so proud of this one, since I basically designed it and hand/draped it myself. Though, to be honest, the top wasn’t holding up so well. Since I was more or less winging it, the insides weren’t finished so great, the fabric was starting to sag around that slit in the front, and gaps were starting to appear where the ends of the binding met around the sleeves. I still love the fabric, and that hand-pleated skirt would have been the hardest thing to let go of. So naturally, I chopped off the top and made this dress into a skirt.

Aside from one random Instagram, I didn’t take the time to do too many in-progress shots this time. So what I did was to pin a length of grosgrain ribbon to the midriff panel, leaving an extra-long tab at one end, stitch it, flip it, and use that to make a waistband. The extra-long tab was used to make an underlap, which has a couple of hooks and eyes and snaps and things sewn to it. Aside from that, the only thing I did was to shorten the zipper in the center back.

Titania skirt

And here’s the result! It feels a little weird to me since I’m not used to skirts that hit at my natural waist. But with the fullness of the chiffon bit, this skirt makes me think of ballet. I feel like this will be a lot more versatile as a skirt than it was as a dress, since I can also dress it down depending on my top and footwear. So all in all, I feel like this was a success.

Skinny-ish jeans

As for the second project, this one had a preview during Me-Made-May. I bought a few pairs of jeans at the thrift shop near the end of the winter, because I had a couple of pairs shrink or wear out completely (to the point where they had to be relegated to work jeans–yes, I have a separate set of jeans that I only wear to the garden center, because I don’t care if they get messed up by dirt or paint or whatever other random things I have to get into there–or just gotten rid of completely), and I knew I wouldn’t have time to make jeans anytime soon. Yay, spring. One of the pairs I bought fit me adequately well through the waist and hips, but they were just a little too short to look good with regular flat shoes. I don’t have a before picture, so just think flared jeans that were awkwardly hitting right around my ankle.

Here’s the after–I was intending to make it more of a skinny jeans silhouette, but discovered while I was working with it that the fabric would be much happier with a straight, slightly tapered cut. There wasn’t any stretch to the denim, so it made sense. All I did was take the side seams apart up to about the knee, pin them down the length of my leg (much to Doug’s amusement, since I was also wearing them inside out at the time), sew in the zippers, and re-stitch the hem. The zippers ended up being unnecessary in the end, since I can pull them on and off easily without unzipping them, but I like the detail that they add. I do still plan to make some more jeans, and am hoping to tackle some skinny jeans this month because I do need them before DragonCon. Because of reasons.

I do have to say that I was really surprised at how easily these jeans came apart! The nice thing for refashioning purposes was that each side of the outer leg seams was individually finished on the serger, so I didn’t have to unpick a bunch of serging. But if I unpicked it in the right place, the seams came apart quite quickly, and the hems pretty much entirely unraveled with the tug of a thread. I would have thought the quality would have been slightly better, given the Tommy Hilfiger label on them!


And, since it’s Friday, I’ll leave you with a silly outtake picture. Silly dog can’t resist an opportunity to photobomb me!


IMG_1388Last summer, Cindy at Cation Designs posted a maxi-dress made from the popular Cake Patterns Tiramisu dress. I’ve been wanting to try this hack since, and finally got around to finishing it on Thursday! I figured that I have made this dress once before, and it’s knit, so it should come together fast, right?

Note to self: If you’re going to go to the trouble of keeping a notebook where you write down changes you’ve made to patterns so you can go back and alter the pattern later, don’t lose the bloody notebook. (I guess it’s time to clean my sewing room again, sigh!)

The first time around, I had a bit of trouble getting the bust to fit right. But in typical fashion, I didn’t actually bother to make changes to the pattern before moving on to the next project. I’m impatient like that. So of course, when I sewed up the neckline this time, it was saggy and sad-looking. Which means I had to resort to unpicking several inches of serging in the middle, overlapping it more, and serging it again.

IMG_1337It’s still not perfect, but at least the weight of the skirt pulls it down enough that it sits mostly flat now! At least, as long as I’m not trying to do the typical Tiramisu pose of bending over to show how much it’s not gapping. (Please ignore the scary Gollum face. And my posture. Rounded back much?) It’s not too big in the chest, just the neckline, so I need to do some research to figure out what adjustment to make for next time. Maybe if I just take a wedge out of the neck or something?

The fabric was a Christmas gift from my mom this past year–the really great thing about having a mother who also sews is that I can tell her my ideas for things I want to make, and she finds great fabric prints for me! And only living in the stash for 6 months is pretty amazing, by my standards. The other really nice thing about this particular print, aside from the fact that so many colors I love are in it, is that it was so abstract, I didn’t have to worry about matching at all. That helped a lot with the speed of sewing things together.

Aside from my fitting quick fix, here’s the changes I made:

  • Lengthened the skirt to about 37″ (95.25cm)
  • Made the skirt panels narrower from about the hips down, for the super-practical reason that they were too wide at the bottom for my lengthwise-folded fabric otherwise!
  • Added clear elastic to both the shoulder seams and the lower midriff band seam to help support the weight

Click to go to voting page

I took a couple of pictures on Friday night so I could get my post up on The Monthly Stitch in time for the Indie Pattern Month dress competition. Voting is open now, so if you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate any votes that I can get!  

Aside from that, I debuted the dress yesterday, when Doug and I went down to Washington, D.C. for the day. The nice thing about living on the East coast is that it’s really easy to get places, and this particular day trip is only about a 2-hour drive one way for us. We were celebrating our one-year anniversary, which is actually today! And, competition aside, I really wanted to get this dress done in time for the trip, because I wanted something that would be breezy and comfortable enough for walking around the city in 80+ degree temperatures (we went to the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum), but dressy enough for the evening’s finale at a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra. It worked out really well for both purposes, I think!

Also, watching a panda eat bamboo is pretty adorable. Am I right?

Me-Made-May final thoughts

Me Made May 2014

I sat down with my Flickr photostream and did a quick run-through of the month. And here’s what I found:

  • For silhouettes, the ones I figured out were pretty close to what I actually wore. The top 3 were some variation of the fitted top/flowy or A-line skirt, semi-fitted top with pants, and fitted to semi-fitted top with jeans. There were only a couple of outliers from my original silhouette post, mostly a couple of looser tops with more fitted/straightish skirts, and fitted tops with looser pants.
  • My color palette was also really close to what I actually wore. Since I was counting colors that were part of prints, and jeans mostly as navy, black and navy were definitely the most-worn colors, with chocolate and grey not far behind. For the more statement colors, (not surprisingly) teal and (surprisingly) sunflower yellow popped up the most, with the latter being due to prints and accessories. 
  • If you don’t count various other shades of blue and green that are close to, but not quite, what I marked for my palette, I only had a few instances of colors that weren’t in it.
  • I was surprised to see that there was just as much white as there was ivory. But I think that’s more due to what I already had. I know now to try to steer away from the stark white for future fabric purchases, with the possible exception of mixed into prints, because I do think ivory looks better on me.

So in terms of practical application, I guess I thought through the exercises pretty well, overall!

Other related thoughts:

  • Trying to pick an outfit to wear after my job, without the benefit of time to check it in the mirror/know what the weather is doing is challenging. Working 3 out of the 5 Saturdays was challenging, too.
  • I need more royal blue in my life. And some coral, since I really only had the one shirt.
  • I actually got more comments on my accessories than I did on my clothes! It made me miss making jewelry. So I sat down on Saturday, pulled the beads out, and made some more. I’ll probably post about that later.
  • I need to branch out into some accessories that aren’t jewelry, maybe. 
  • I did have fewer outfits this year that I just wasn’t happy with, so that’s good. When I wasn’t happy, it seemed to be a proportion issue. So that’s something I’ll need to work on.
  • I was surprised at how many things didn’t get worn this month. Mostly in the realms of skirts, dresses, and summer tops. It felt like an unusually chilly May overall here, though we did have some warm days, and I was tending to err on the side of dressing warmer (meaning lots more pants). I have been wearing some of the things that didn’t make the cut since the month ended, though, since it has finally started to stay consistently warmer.
  • That being said, I only had two repeats the entire month! The charcoal Thurlows, and my jeans. Also, Pantsapalooza was a good move, because I would have been in serious trouble without all of those pants to choose from!
  • Going the Instagram route was a good move, too. The daily pictures still got tedious by the end, but a lot less so than if I’d been trying to force my SLR on people.
  • With a couple exceptions, namely my convertible dress, I found that the outfits I was more likely to feel bored about when I really looked at them consisted of all solids. I was less bored when there was more textural interest in the fabric, or instances like on day 4 when I had a printed scarf. I know solids have their place, but clearly, I am a printaholic.
  • I’m also a bit of a clotheshorse, apparently– I was reading some discussion on the Coletterie about how people found they found they were happier with fewer clothes. Me, I like having lots of options!

So how did your Me-Made-May go, overall? Any wardrobe revelations? 

Aside from that, here’s May in a nutshell:

  • Total fabric used up: about 3.6 yards.
  • Total fabric purchased: 7 yards. Though two of the three pieces are for specific DragonCon-related projects, and therefore have to be used up by the end of August. (The third was just a piece of denim-looking knit that was on sale, from Mood, for a very good price!) So not so great on the Stash Diet end of things, even though I can technically count the DC stuff as part of my exception rules.
  • No new patterns purchased, and I did try one new one (the Tofino pjs.)
  • Total sewing projects completed: 4–two refashions that I will post about soon, the Plantain cardigan, and the Tofino pjs. I also made a couple pairs of earrings, about 3 necklaces, and a bracelet.
  • In the UFO realm, I also made some good progress on the Tauriel costume since my last post about it, though the first piece of it still isn’t done. I’m also still knitting away at my grey cardigan, though it’s been very stop and start as of late due to both cramming in sewing time instead, not being home, and the intermittent carpal tunnel issues that always flare up for me in spring.

    Me-Made-May 14, part 4

    Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
    #mmmay14 me-made @sewaholicdotnet Gabriola skirt & earrings, #firefly tee, Birkenstocks.Day 23: Since I wanted to pull out my Gabriola at least once this month, I drew from one of the potential pairings I did in my round-up back then, just with sandals and earrings that I unpaired from their matching necklace. Yes, that is the exact same Firefly shirt from those photos. But that’s ok.

    WA analysis: Obviously, this fits the geeky side! And I’m really liking the fitted tee with long skirt look. More Gabriolas may need to happen so I have things to wear with other geeky tees in my possession…Oh, and there’s orange in the skirt, which is a palette color that hasn’t happened much this month. Probably because I tend to wear that more in the fall.

    Incidentally, since I didn’t get a picture of the back of the shirt, it says “I aim to misbehave”.
    Me-made necklace/earrings, refashioned jeans, thrifted t-shirt. Haven't left the house, so no shoes! #mmmay14
    Day 24: This was the first Saturday all month that I didn’t have to work! I stayed home and worked on my Tauriel costume all day. It was glorious. Aside from the cavegirl-looking necklace, my me-made was a pair of recently refashioned jeans that I’m hoping to post about in more detail soon. I paired it with a slouchy, colorful, thrifted t-shirt with a koi fish design on it.

    WA analysis: I’d mentioned looser top and fitted pants as a potential silhouette, but this is the first time it’s actually happened. Mostly because this is the closest thing I currently own to skinny jeans, since my one thrifted pair accidentally shrank and I had to give them away as a result. This angle isn’t the best, since I look like I have one leg (the fantasy lit geek in me is screaming “dufflepud“), but I was happy with this as a weekend look.

    Me-mades: jewelry, tea Cambie! I love this fabric so much. #mmmay14Day 25 (ignore the caption, I got my days wrong): Of course I had to get my “Everyone Deserves Tea” Cambie in sometime this month! I wore this for church and for a good chunk of the afternoon while having lunch with my family. I went a little fancier with accessories this time, with my silver gladiator sandals and some jewelry that I’d originally made for my mom to go with a dress to wear to a cousin’s wedding. She gave me the dress (which I’ve never actually had occasion to wear since) afterwards, along with the jewelry.

    WA analysis: Can’t go wrong with blue. And this dress is actually super-comfortable to wear! I’ve been happy with this as a warm-weather outfit so far, but think I seriously need to consider some layering pieces to bring this into the cooler months, too. I’d still love to make some kind of ivory Carmine jacket, so that could be a good pairing whenever I get the fabric and the time.

    Me-mades: Top (Sadie tank by BurdaStyle), earrings. Also the same pants I wore to work earlier. #mmmay14

    Day 26: Memorial Day here in the States! Though it’s not really a holiday when you work in retail. I did take the day off of teaching, so once I got home around 3, I just threw on my purple Sadie tank with the cropped khakis that I’d already worn to the shop, and some me-made earrings.

    WA analysis: Not the most exciting outfit, and I probably would have gone for more of a print top if I’d had the option in me-mades.

    Me-made convertible dress & earrings, thrifted sandals. #mmmay14Day 27: A rather warm day here! So I decided to go for comfort, and paired some thrifted sandals with my convertible dress,  wrapped to give a little more coverage since I was teaching, and some simple beaded earrings. The sandals ended up not being the best move–I had to stop at the bookstore to pick up a book I’d been waiting all year for, and those sandals made it a bit hard to hurry to my car during the thunderstorm that started up just as I got there!

    WA analysis: Practicality issues of footwear and monsoons aside, I did like the way these particular sandals looked with the dress. And even though the dress is solid, it feels less boring to me since the wrap ties add more texture and interest.

    I forgot how short this skirt turned out! Me-made Cake Hummingbird skirt/necklace, purchased top. #mmmay14Day 28: Still fairly warm today, so I paired a purchased military-styled black top with my green hemp Hummingbird skirt and one of my more intricately beaded necklaces.

    WA analysis: The colors are great, and again, the details in the top make it feel a little more interesting in spite of the solids. The looser top/tighter skirt isn’t a silhouette I’d called out before, but it looks ok here. I did forget how short this skirt is, though, at least by my standards! I spent a good bit of the time wearing it tugging the hemline down, and am serioI usly wondering how I’ll feel about it if I make some Espresso leggings to wear with it!

    #mmmay14 Made the pants and jewelry. May need to rethink this top. My torso looks rather oddly short in this pic.

    Day 29: The temperatures took a nose-dive–it was a full 20 degrees colder today! So it was back to digging through my 3/4 sleeved-tops to try to find something I hadn’t worn yet, and pairing it with one of my more experimental necklaces and the charcoal Thurlows. (Yes, it’s the charcoal, though I know they look more blue here.)

    WA analysis: I don’t know if it’s the length of the thrifted top, which is a little more cropped than usual, or the angle of the photo, but my torso looked oddly short in this one! I’ve had this top for awhile and like the colors and print, but this is making me seriously wonder if I should hang on to it!

    Me-made blouse/jewelry, purchased jeans and tank top. #mmmay14Day 30: A slightly more casual teaching day. I paired my Painter’s blouse with a turquoise tank, jeans, and my water element jewelry. This was also good for taking me through dinner out and grocery shopping!

    WA analysis: I normally don’t go for the more faded denim–these are honestly the same jeans I wore to work. I think it worked with the lighter top, though. I felt comfortable and casual in this outfit, though I’m quite glad I had multiple colors in the jewelry!

    Last day! Me-made jeans and earrings, #lotr t-shirt, Chucks. #mmmay14

    Day 31: Last day! I kept it casual for the finale, because my day included helping Doug take our two dogs to the vet and helping my best friend pack and move some boxes into her new place. So it’s my jeans, a different geeky t-shirt, and a different pair of goldish beaded earrings.

    And that’s a wrap! Though I want to do one more general round-up/Wardrobe Architect analysis at some point soon.