April 29, 2011

spring top v2011.2

I finished a second top for the Spring Top Sewalong!

It's drafted from the same pattern as my white top from last year, but I tweaked it a little bit and instead of using one of hubby's old shirts, I actually bought some material this time. It's so hard for me to justify spending anything on fabric to make something for myself, so of course it was on super sale at JoAnn. It's a cute swiss dot floral print, and I love the texture. This shirt is lightweight (borderline sheer) and perfect for spring.

This time I added shirring under the bustline to gather in some of the extra fabric, and used the same drawstring through a bias tape casing that I used last time to cinch up the neckline a bit. The sleeves have elastic and the edges are finished with a rolled hem on my serger. I used the rolled hem on the bottom hemline as well, as I inadvertently cut the fabric too short to hem it any other way. If I make this shirt again, I'll cut it a little longer, but I'll probably still roll the hem because it makes such a nice clean finish.

As I was working, I was worried that it was going to turn out too maternity-shirt looking, but I think it's alright after all. I have some work to do on the neckline (still kind of gappy), but otherwise, I think this is a pretty solid pattern considering that it was drafted by someone who doesn't actually know what they're doing. Now we'll see if I can manage to get one more in before the Spring Top Extravaganza is over...

April 28, 2011

it's sew fun!

I was so excited today when I saw that Jen of Sew Fun patterns had posted on her blog about my Grab & Go Diaper clutches. You know that you're doing something right when the pattern designer herself says so! Thanks Jen!

I was decidedly less excited to see this:

Please ignore my old man hands (thanks, Grandpa Louis!) and let's focus instead on that black spot on the left side of my wedding band. That's a hole! Where a diamond used to live! A teeny little diamond that fell out somewhere between home and the Costco parking lot, never to be found again.

When I looked down at my hand and noticed, my heart sunk into my stomach. My ring is a family heirloom that has been in the James family for generations, and some of the tiny diamonds in the band were from my mom's ring, so there's a whole mashup thing going on there with lots of sentimental value. Luckily, I have a couple more diamonds left from mom's ring, so we can have it fixed. But until then, sadness every time I look down!

April 25, 2011

manifest destiny

So in the spirit of energy-direction and destiny-manifestation and if-you-build-it-they-will-come idealization, I offer you a peep into my dreams:

I dream of a bright, clean, organized space. The walls are painted a nice fresh color, there are newly laid hardwood floors in a perfect not-too-light and not-too-dark shade. A plush area rug anchors a cozy corner where a sofa and armchairs flank a coffee table piled with sewing and design magazines. Low bookshelves nearby hold loads of inspiring books, more magazines, and decorative objects. A charming pendant lamp hangs overhead.

Behind this comfy corner, shelves of bright and beautiful fabrics wait patiently to be admired and touched by loving hands. Bolt after bolt, lined up cheerfully, begging to be transformed into something beautiful and useful. Rolls of ribbon, racks of thread, tools and patterns, sharp and shiny scissors. Everything a modern crafter and seamstress would ever need or want, stacked and labeled and organized under one beautiful roof.

There are classes and events. And lingering over cups of tea to talk about patterns and fit and fabric and trends. Mamas bring their kids, who find the perfect project to keep their active hands and minds busy during long summer days. Maybe there will be machines available to rent by the hour. Irons and boards and cutting stations so crafty magic can happen right there in the presence of others who share your interests and can offer guidance and tips.

In my mind, it is perfect and beautiful and feels like home. The floor is always swept and the register is always ringing and everyone who comes through the door finds just what they were looking for.

I already know that reality and dreams don't always match. No need to remind me of that. Positive energy and thoughts, however, are more than welcome. And if you need me, I'll be inventing.

via Maira Kalman via Girl's Gone Child

April 23, 2011

thanks grandpa!

On a recent visit to Grandpa's house, Lincoln got a lesson in zipper operation. He and Grandpa practiced zipping up and down on the vest that Lincoln was wearing; an exercise that Lincoln found quite amusing and entertaining.

Cut to a couple of weeks later, when our belly-button-obsessed boy realizes that he can put his new skills to use in a very productive and satisfying way.

As you can see, he couldn't be happier with this discovery!

April 22, 2011

bohemian soul laptop bags

I was contacted recently via my etsy shop by an old classmate from high school who wondered if I would be willing to make her a cute and functional laptop bag. I've never made one, but I had no reason to suspect that I wouldn't be able to, so I told her sure and we set to work picking fabric and making a plan.

My shipment of Bohemian Soul from Art Gallery Fabrics arrived the next day, and I was absolutely dying to cut into the bolts and make something from this gorgeous stuff. I don't like for my first attempt at anything to be a customer's product, as I'm always learning through trial and error, so I decided that the reasonable thing to do would be to make myself a laptop bag first. You know, in the name of research.

I love this goldenrod print in the collection called Twirls in the Sun, and since I can't wear yellow, I decided making a bag from it would be a great way to use it. There are definitely a couple of prints in there that I have my eye on for spring tops, but this is not one of them.

After a bit of experimenting, I came up with this simple envelope style bag. Originally, it had a flap closure like an envelope too, but the open edges were bugging me so I decided the narrow flap was a better choice. The narrow flap also fits just right between the handles, so I'm glad I decided to go this way.

I added a zip pocket at the back for the power cord, and called it a day. I'm a simple girl, and I don't need too many bells and whistles on my laptop bag. Especially considering that I never really take my laptop anywhere. Unless you count upstairs...

Besides, this was really just a practice run for this:

My customer wanted Ditsy Bright to be the star of her show, and I chose the other stripe from the collection called Destiny Road Palm for her lining and handles, which is a more subtle color than the stripe that I used on mine. Her handles have the bonus keep-shut feature too- with the flap that velcros around to keep them together.

She got a leafier green for the zipper, and matching topstitching. Her bag is larger, and I styled hers differently- including a gusset instead of just squaring off the corners like I did on my bag. It gives it a more polished and boxy profile. Her bag also got the addition of a heavy weight interfacing on the bottom to give it strength, in addition to the multiple layers of fleece interfacing that I used on both bags to provide cushion and protection for the delicate contents inside.

Finally, I added an additional flap to her bag that secures inside with two magnetic snaps. It covers the laptop and any additional items she may stuff inside, and disguises the contents just enough. I prefer the interior flap on hers to the exterior one I tried on my own initially, because it solves the gaping problem that I encountered.

She's happy. I'm happy! Success. Anyone else want something that I've never made before? You never know, I might need one too!

April 21, 2011

pattern review: Lisette Portfolio

When I heard about the Lisette patterns, I was super excited and couldn't wait to try them. I love Liesl's work on Oliver + S, as you may know from the proliferation of Tea Party sundresses and playsuits you've seen me sew. (here, here, and here, for example.)

Liesl has said that the most frequent question she got asked about Oliver + S was when she would design a women's line, and now finally it's here! And thanks to the partnership with Simplicity, the Lisette patterns are easy and affordable. Nice bonus!

I picked up all four patterns in the collection during a Joann Fabrics $.99 Simplicity sale, because I love a bargain and I knew I would regret not getting them all when they were so cheap. I will never pay full price for anything at Joann, but I won't even pay 40% off for a pattern when I know that there are times that they only cost a buck. I mean seriously, why would you?

I had spent a little bit of time checking out the Lisette website and scoping out the flickr group trying to decide which garment to stitch up first, and I decided on the Portfolio tunic because I loved these two so much. And Liesl's (the first one) really inspired my fabric choice for this muslin because I love how hers is so sheer and summery feeling and I was hoping that my *ahem, old bedspread* would give me the same look.

And it almost did! Mine is a little bit more opaque, but it's definitely got a good spring vibe. I'm just excited that what was meant to be just a test run to check the size ended up fitting well and being cute enough to wear in real life. So hooray for muslin success!

The on-seam pockets are brilliant and absolutely my favorite feature of this top. It took a little leap of faith for my not-spatially-gifted brain to manipulate that step, but once it came together I was totally impressed both with my own incredible skill and the cleverness of the design. I love it when things just fit together so well like that. It's so satisfying!

Based on what I read on the forums and on some of the flickr pages, I decided to cut and sew two sizes smaller than the size indicated by my measurements and I'm glad that I did. Simplicity patterns are designed with A LOT of ease, and I just like my clothes to fit closer. This thing would have been a tent had I gone by the envelope, so I'm happy that I took the risk. There's still some shaping that could be done under the arms, but I'm not worried about it this time. Maybe if I sew this pattern again I'll try to figure out how to fix that.

There is some nice detailing on the front placket, with a hint of gathering and the topstitching that makes it look professional and finished.

By some miracle, I even had two linen-looking covered buttons in my stash that matched the color perfectly and I thought added just the right feel to the back closure. Overall, I think the top has a nice 60's housedress style that I'm totally digging.

I normally don't go for a tunic length top since I'm short, but I think the look is growing on me. Husband says it looks like curtains or a smock (said like "schmock"), but I try not to pay much attention to his opinion when it comes to fashion. I told him that I was sure that he would be proven wrong once I got the pics up in flickr and added my top to the Spring Top Sewalong pool. So go: prove him wrong!

And then since Lincoln couldn't understand what I was doing taking all of these pictures without him being the star, I had to get a shot with my little ham and what is becoming his signature crazy and untamable hair. Also note his digger (shobel!) and ever-present water cup. That kid loves to hydrate. And is huge! He's practically as tall as me already and he's not even two!

April 19, 2011

your pants primer

I picked up a ziplock bag full of vintage patterns while digging through the Habitat for Humanity Store on a weekend visit to Port Townsend a while back. It was stuffed full of gems from the 60's and 70's, so I happily paid $3 and brought it home. Yesterday as I was organizing my pattern stash, I pulled one of these beauties out to refold the tissue into a flatter, less wad-like shape and found another gem. A treasure within a treasure! A sweet score indeed.

The Simplicity Fashion News is a little magazine that was published monthly and distributed in retail pattern departments, according to the copyright info at the bottom of the second page. This particular issue was from May 1973, and I think you'll agree that it is chock-full of eye candy.

I've taken the liberty of scanning in a few of my favorite pages for you to enjoy:

The cover


my favorite, by far!

Too bad the pattern that this was stuffed inside was no where near as exciting as that jumpsuit. That is some hot stuff!

Also included is a helpful "3-minute sewing lesson" that offers step-by-step instructions for finding your crotch depth and length to achieve that perfect figure-hugging silhouette. Evidently, your crotch shape is "nearly as individual as fingerprints..." Who knew?

April 18, 2011

it's that time again!

Spring Top Week Image

And I'm so excited! I've already finished one top, and have plans for at least one more. There was going to be two more, but one was a miserable failure. It's okay though, because the other was just supposed to be a muslin (practice) for the final product, and I ended up liking it enough to wear it in real life. Even though husband says it looks like curtains. He doesn't know. Besides, it actually used to be a bedspread. Not curtains. So there!

Photos of the success to come, as soon as it's no longer in the crumpled ball in the laundry room waiting to be washed. May take some photos of the miserable failure as well, lest you think that everything I sew comes up sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it sucks! I have proof!

April 16, 2011


The real reason I wanted to upgrade to those front-loaders:

easy refashion

I bought this top last summer on mega sale at macy's. I was wearing Lincoln in the Ergo at the time, so I didn't bother to try it on since it was so cheap (I don't remember exactly, but it was less than $10) and I knew that I could easily return it if I didn't like it. Well, I didn't like it, but time has a way of mysteriously slipping away, and almost a full year later it was still sitting in a pile in my sewing room waiting to be turned into something I would wear. I like the detail on the back, but the full and drapey neckline just wasn't doing it for me.

Here's the cute embroidered back that really makes this top fun:

And here it is after I made my super simple modifications. I tucked all that drapeyness inside, then ran a long gathering stitch along the neckline where it folded over. Pulled the thread tight, knotted it off, and it was good to go. I also cut off that extra modesty panel right where it was stitched in. The fabric is jersey and won't ravel, so there was no need to even hem. So easy, and much more likely to be something I'll wear now!

I love an easy fix like that! Too bad it took me so long to get around to it.

April 8, 2011

pardon the dust!

I'm working on a bit of a redesign, so things might be a bit wonky around here for a bit. Forgive me!

And stay tuned!