Thursday, August 19, 2010


That's how I feel about my latest creation, which was made with a cotton gauze material I picked up at either Joann's or Hancock Fabrics (can't recall which one). Anyone who knows me well knows that this exactly the kind of whacky pattern that would catch my eye at the shop. My poor mom would never be caught in such a pattern, so I am not sure where I got this love from, but I guess it doesn't really matter does it?

The pattern for this new shirt was Simplicity 3893, part of the Khaliah Ali collection. I chose to try out View E. Overall, it was an easy pattern, though I will admit that the elastic casing caused me quite a bit of heartache. In fact it remains the one part of the shirt I am not thrilled with and  the part that I hope people don't look at very closely. I hope to do much better next time. I also think that the detail of the front placard gets lost in the pattern - if I could do it over again, I would have used a plain brown gauze for the placard and tie belt.

I definitely will try this pattern again, though next time I would definitely try a lighter-weight, more delicate material - in fact, I have a material in my stash that would probably be perfect once I am able to tackle really thin, light fabrics. I'm a huge fan of cotton gauze, but its a bit voluminous, so it changes the feel of the shirt. I also think it would be fun to experiment with some of the other styles. I also wonder whether I should grade the pattern on the top (smaller) since it's a bit to voluminous and possibly too long. I've got to start modifying the patterns more, but I am not quite confident enough to do that yet.

And now, the pictures!

On the hanger

Front panel and tie details... not that you can see it because of the pattern!

Bust close up

Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm in love...

...with a pattern - Butterick 5001, to be exact. Seriously, I think this 'tres facile' pattern will be a go-to pattern for me when I need a quick and easy dress. I picked up this pattern at a $1 sale and had been trying to find the right material to make it with. That, and to build the gumption to attempt working with knits, which I have been absolutely terrified of doing!

I found some jersey on sale for $2.99/yard at, and decided to take the plunge, ordering enough to make a dress. Unfortunately, it sat in the delivery box for weeks while we entertained guests, I traveled for work, and  I was sucked into the never ending project at work. Last weekend, I decided to finally give it a go and cut the pattern pieces. I also decided at that time to try grading the pattern up to accommodate my very full hips, using instructions in a Singer sewing book my sister bought me years ago. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but the grading was easier than I expected (at least for this simple pattern) and the cutting (of both the pattern and the material) went pretty smoothly. (Of course, I had no idea how it was actually going to work during contruction, but that challenge was for another day!)

This weekend, I tackled the actual sewing, using my sister's borrowed Brother machine. Overall, it worked out okay, though I was having some serious bobbin thread tension issues. I'm happy to take credit for user error when I am indeed the problem, but I am not sure I was the culprit this time. In the end, though, I figured it all out, and now have a new dress for less than $10 - $7.48 for the material, and then a few dollars for some stay tape for the shoulders. As you can tell, I opted for View A since we are heading to Greece and Turkey in late August, but I will definitely make some View B and C versions for my wardrobe!

The dress fit looks a bit wonky in this picture, but it looks better in person, I swear!


That's what I have to say about work taking over my life for two months. Can you believe that - two months! I'm clawing my way back from the abyss, and finally have started working on my sewing projects again. It was a fantastic feeling to get behind the sewing machine again. First on my list was finishing up a summer blouse I started way back in the beginning of June. It was my second clothing attempt outside of my sewing class and my first attempt at making clothing for myself. I actually got most of it done before I had to head out to Seattle for work mid-month, but didn't get to finish the hem until recently.

The pattern I used was McCalls 5640 - I did View A, the tank top. I love the material I chose - a cheap polyester from Hancock Fabric. I know it seems wrong to say I love a cheap poly material, but the pattern is so cute! I was bummed to realize that the material had an imperfection, but I kept at it since I didn't want to deal with a return and it would still be okay for a knock-around shirt. Overall, I wasn't thrilled with the pattern. It came out looking like a very voluminous muu muu. Not so great. But, I was happy to get more practice and I am pretty impressed (if I can say so myself) with the seams. So pretty looking - so much better than the seams on my husband's pajama bottoms. I also got to work with bias tape for the first time, which turned out fairly well from what I can tell. Then again, what do I know?

Seams and seam binding!
On the hanger

Monday, May 31, 2010

Yay for Yellow!

Okay, so it doesn't look very yellow in the pictures, but this weekend - in addition to canning oodles of strawberry jam and having a shopping spree at JC Penney's for basically free - I managed to finally finish my second clothing project ever: Butterick 6838! This is a huge accomplishment since I've been 'working' on this project since the fall, but I was terrified of the completing the yoke section so of course it sat and sat and sat.

We went to NJ for the weekend for my dad's 6-month memorial (coincidentally being held on Memorial Day weekend) and I was bound and determined to finish the nightgown for my mom. It's not my style, but it is definitely hers, so I knew she would appreciate it. Since I wasn't home, Bessie didn't take part in this weekend's work, though she had taken care of some of the basic early work (side seams, neck gathering). Instead, I used my sister's Brother CS-80, which she hasn't used much at all. I was spoiled! Her sewing machine was so QUIET, and clearly handled the lightweight batiste better than Bessie did. On the fun side, this sewing machine had decorative stitches, so I added some neck and sleeve embellishments. Unfortunately, white thread on light yellow fabric is hard to see in the photos below.

Overall, I was fairly frustrated with the Butterick pattern, even though I figured it out. I think I will always be frustrated by patterns though - all the ones I have looked at aren't exactly user friendly. I did have some snaffus while putting this together - at two points while working on adding the decorative stitches, the Brother machine tried to eat the material and the hubby had to help save the day for one of those times. Then, I accidentally cut the fabric while cleaning up the hem, and had to re-hem. But, it could have been so much worse.

So, without further ado, the finished product! Unfortunately, the pastel yellow doesn't show up well in most of the pictures!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sew-a-thon 2010

Seriously, that is the best way to describe the past 32 hours! I've been a sewing fiend.

First off, for the Friday Night Sew-in yesterday, I managed to get a lot of work done on two bibs (pics are below) for a baby shower I am attending tomorrow (er.. make that today, since it is now after midnight!). I didn't fully complete the bibs on Friday night - I still needed to topstitch them and add the velcro and did that today.

Today, I finished up the two bibs I started on Friday, and also made ANOTHER bib. Maybe it is because I am Greek and we love to have everything done in threes, but apparently two just didn't seem like enough. But that isn't all. I went a bit nuts and decided I had to have burp cloths also. So I made three of those today! I was going to make a little taggie giraffe softie, but I messed up, and decided I wasn't in the mood to try and fix it!

I'm fairly happy with how it all turned out, though I do have some gripes. First, the terry cloth was a bit of a pain to work with... it shifted around a lot and I seem to have terry bits all over my apartment now. Secondly, it took a couple of tries to figure out how best to add the velcro so you couldn't see the stitches. You can see in some of the pictures I had varying levels of success with that. My topstitching was sort of all over the place, though overall, I am definitely getting better. I'm actually not thrilled with the brown topstitching on the brown/pink/mint bib. I think it looked better without it, but think taking it off might not look so good...

So here are the pictures!!

The 'Friday Night Sew-In' bibs... I don't love the brown topstitching.
The third bib! I love the material on this one!
All three together. First, the fronts...
...and now the backs! You could probably reverse them if you wanted. The back of the pink bib is super cute!
The burp cloths!
The two sides of the burp cloth - the terry side, and the pretty one!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Night Sew-In!

I'm so excited to participate in tonight's Friday night sew in, hosted by Handmade by Heidi.

I'm especially pleased because since my husband is going to be out and I've got the place to myself. I needed something to motivate me to work on some sewing projects that need to be done by Sunday, and this is just the push I needed! Stay tuned to see what I manage to accomplish tonight once I clean off my table and make some room for the sewing machine again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting back in the game...

I've been absent for the past couple of weeks, but I'll be back with a vengeance by the end of the week! First, we had a wedding in Seattle, so we were out of town, and then the following weekend my husband graduated with his Bachelors in Finance! This has been a very long time coming (he was on the 14 year plan) and so family came into town to help celebrate. Of course, that meant I was cleaning like a mad woman between that Seattle trip and my husband's graduation party! Phew!

But things have calmed down for a bit, and I have a list of sewing plans a mile long with actual deadlines for some of them, so I am hoping this keeps me honest! I've got a baby shower to address this weekend, and I'd like to make all (or most) of the gift. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out!

Monday, April 26, 2010

How many covers can a Kindle have?

Well, I guess the answer is more than one, at least in my family!

This weekend, in addition to working on the flats with a friend, I finished up putting together a second Kindle cover. This one was a different style than the last as it was a padded pouch with a velcro closure inspired by this tutorial by Junie Moon. I'd cut the pieces out last Sunday, but hadn't had time to finish working on it during the week. Since I was running off of a sewing high on Saturday after finishing the flats, I decided to just bite the bullet and finish up the project.

I had some trouble following the tutorial, but I figured it all out in the end, with minimal grumbling. Voila! A handy little pouch to protect our Kindle when it is in my bag.

Kindle in the closed pouch

Kindle in the pouch, with velcro closures

Kindle tucked into the outside accessory pocket, just to show the pocket off since it is tough to see otherwise!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


As mentioned in my previous entry, a good friend, R, is off on an around-the-world trip soon. In order to keep in touch with her niece and nephew while away, she wanted to employ a Flat Stanley or Flat Annie. Originally she was going to go the traditional paper route, but she discovered fabulous instructions at Moda Bake Shop on how to make a set of flats - out of fabric!

So of course, we had to spend all afternoon on Saturday whipping two of these adorable little flats using the Moda Bakeshop tutorial and whatever fabric we had on hand! This was a completely tandem effort - she was brave enough to start out sewing the boy, and I finally mustered the guts to tackle the girl. We did modify the plan to accommodate R's plans. We realized that having different clothes - while cute - wasn't as practical for her as she traveled. As such, we skipped the step of attaching velcro, and just sewed the clothing on permanently. We also got a bit more creative and whimsical on how the flats looked (hence the wonderful orange and purple hair!)

Adding on her clothes - she looked like a gingerbread girl without them!

What a fun afternoon! We both worked completely through lunch, taking turns with sewing (we were sharing one machine), cutting, and pressing. This is such a great idea. I'm looking forward to making a set of flats for someone, sometime - imagine how creative one can get with the doll clothing: ruffles, beads, buttons... the possibilities are endless!

Close up of the Flat Girl
Aren't they a cute couple?

Fabric fun!

This weekend, I seem to have hit the mother lode for fabric goodies and sewing-related fun!

First, The Thriftress and I went a-thrifting together on Friday. I've wanted to hit up a thrift shop for a while now to try and find woolen sweaters to felt (I've never done it before, but I wanted to try it). I also wanted to try and find some fun bedsheets to cannibalize for material. I was inspired to do this after checking out the gorgeous pictures of fat quarters gleaned from vintage bedsheets at My Tiny Robot Heart.  

A good time was had by all. While at the shop, we found two sewing cabinets with sewing machines still attached. I thought this gorgeous creature needed a home, but alas, my 744 square foot apartment is already bursting at the seams, so it won't be my home. Still, I could admire her and wish she could fit into my life!

I also snagged a couple of lovely used linens, though no woolens. Two of them are definitely NOT vintage, though the pink flowered sheets and yellow flower pillowcases might be. It doesn't matter - I just liked how they all look, and even more because they provided me with yards of fabric for only $14 bucks. I adore the pink one and think she is destined for to become an apron for me. The butterfly pattern will be great for some little girl dresses - now I just need some little girls to sew for!

In addition to the thrifting fun, my stash also grew this weekend when my good friend R, who is off on an around-the-world adventure for the next year (so jealous!) entrusted a huge variety of fabrics to my care and for my use while she is gone. Exciting!

The best treat was a mini-chest of barely-touched Madeira embroidery threads. I know nothing about using them, especially on my not-fancy machine, but the colors are so luscious, I could eat the spools. I might just spend the next year staring at their deliciousness.

All in all, a great fabric weekend!

I'm linking up to:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Strappy goodness!

This weekend, I completed another little project I am quite excited about, just because it is exceedingly practical and was super easy to make!

For my 30th birthday a few years back (ahem, I'm not saying exactly how many) my husband got me a wonderful little point and shoot camera. It had a high # of megapixels, and was quite a camera for the time. In the intervening years, I hauled that camera around the world and took thousands upon thousands of pictures. Honestly, we are probably talking at least 10,000 pictures. I go a bit nutty with the picture taking when I travel. Well, it started to finally die this year (it literally smokes when you use the flash) and I finally decided to take the plunge and get a really nice DSLR with changeable lenses. Talk about a splurge!

I am very happy with the new camera - except for the scratchy strap! Seriously, it is totally uncomfortable and no fun to wear around your neck. I treated myself to a beautiful custom made camera bag from Etsy, but I couldn't bring myself to shell out more money for a $20 custom strap cover. So, I decided to make my own.

After reading some tutorials for different designs (there are a variety online) this is what I would up making from some fat quarters I picked up cheap at Joann's and some fusible fleece! The fabric wasn't quite long enough for the whole length of the strap, but I got around that by sewing smaller pieces together. I really didn't want to break into the 'nice' fabric for this experiment so it was a necessary evil and kept the overall cost down to mere dollars.

This isn't the best picture, but it shows the two fabrics I used:

And, a close up of the original strap, with the cover for comparison:

I think I'll give this another go, in another color combination, later on down the road. I'd also like to add on some pockets for the camera lens since I always seem to be trying to find a place to stash it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Every Kindle Needs a Cover!

I'm a bibliophile. I love books. I can devour a stack of them - almost literally - in a weekend. I also travel for work quite a bit, and these are long trips - as in 18-hours-on-one-plane long. Even though I am working, I inevitably pack a stack of books for these trips, which is heavy and inconvenient. Enter the Kindle. After a lot of thought, my husband (also a book lover) and I decided to take the plunge. We were both unsure about reading off a Kindle, since we like the tactile component of reading, but it has been a purchase we don't regret. I can't wait to take it on the next work trip.
So what does this have to do with sewing? Considering you spend a good chunk of change for a Kindle, you would think it comes with a protective cover. But... it doesn't, and since I am cheap, I decided to make my own last weekend, using this tutorial for a book-style cover posted at One Pearl Button.

Since I decided to make this first cover for my husband's use, I was looking for a less-girly fabric, and I found it in the unlikeliest of places: my bathroom. I know it sounds crazy, but it really makes sense. Last year, my favorite pair of winter dress pants ripped and were were not repairable. I loved these pants, and so rather than just throw them away like a normal person, they found their way to the bottom of my laundry basket, and never left. Fast forward to last week. I'm brushing my teeth, and spy the back pocket of the pants, which had a great button loop detail and it struck me to use the pants to make the cover.

And that is exactly what I did. I spent a Friday night ripping out seams on the pants (learning a lot about pants construction in the process) to salvage the material.  And I spent a Saturday putting it together. All in all, I am fairly pleased with my first project after a long, long hiatus, though I do have some gripes. First, the material was a bit stretchy, which means the shape of the cover isn't great. This alone would probably be okay, but I also didn't use thick enough cardboard, so overall the cover is floppier than it ought to be.

Even with the gripes, I am pleased. I am especially happy I was able to use the button loop how I'd wanted. I think I might try this same material (and closure) on another version of a Kindle cover sometime soon, though this time around I'm going to choose a version more forgiving of stretchiness. I am also very happy that Bessie and I seemed to get along much better this time around.

Meet Ms. Bessie

This is Bessie, my Singer 5825c sewing machine. I don’t know a lot about her background, as I can’t find much info about this model online, though she appears to have been meant for ‘school use’. I’d like to think that means she was meant ‘to take a licking and keep on ticking’ just like a Timex watch, which might be necessary with me at her helm. My mother-in-law bought her for me sometime between 2001-2003, but I am not sure of her actual manufacture date. Like I said, it’s tough to find information about her, and what little I did find was specifically about the 5825, which is a little bit different (though very similar) to my girl.

I really wanted to sew, but I was terrified and didn’t know what I was doing, so while I played with her a bit when I first got her, she mostly sat in my closet taunting me. Finally, I took a sewing class in October of 2009 at a local fabric shop, making a tote bag and a pair of pajamas for my husband. I was excited to sew, had a tiny bit of confidence after the success in the classroom, and so I got out Bessie and gave it a whirl at home.

It wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t get her to thread correctly, and drama ensued. Broken needles. Bird’s nests of knotted thread. Loud cursing in various languages. Bessie’s manual is awful so it didn’t help much at all. I was convinced she just sucked and wasn’t going to work, and I needed a different machine. You know, like the fabulous Bernina that my sewing class used. The fabulous $8 million Bernina (yes, I'm exaggerating, but it may as well be $8 million right now, since it isn't in the budget!)

Due to a really rough time in my family, the sewing machine got put away for a bit until I was less overwhelmed by life. The turning point was us buying a Kindle. I know, I can see the perplexed looks out there – how could a Kindle motivate my sewing? Easy – I needed a cover for it, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I wanted something that I liked. So, I decided to break out the sewing machine and make a Kindle cover myself! And, by extension, to give Bessie a proper go again. How could I forsake her, when I barely gave her a chance? How did I know she was the problem in this relationship?

I’ll talk about the Kindle cover in another post, since this is about Bessie. What a difference this time around! Oh, there were certainly some moments where she was *this* close to going out the window, but they were much fewer than before. Threading got much easier, and took fewer tries to get it right. Bessie and I will keep courting, and see what happens. She’s not as fancy as a lot of machines out there - she's only got 5 stitch types and not a computer chip in sight - but she’s mine, and I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt. At least for now.