The hunt for the perfect fabric

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The past couple weeks have had me searching for the supplies to make a coat. As the temperature has dropped, my searching has gotten more urgent. I’ve settled on a pattern (here, minus all the tabs), but the perfect fabric for this coat eludes me. I want something textured, maybe patterned, in a nontraditional coat color (forest green?), but not too flashy. I really enjoyed this post by Sewaholic on how to choose the best first-coat-fabric. I had an entirely different scheme laid out, and was going to make a more complicated coat, but after reading her post, I realized that a simple structure would be a better idea for my first coat. So I went back to the drawing board. Since the structure is simple, I’d like to use some stand-out fabric. Here are some of the coats I’ve drawn on for inspiration.

Any ideas of where to look for the perfect coat fabric? Should I continue on my search for wool, or look for some tapestry home-dec fabric? And something else I’m considering- should I line it with thinsulate? I’d love to hear what you think.

In use

Colorblocked Tote Bag DIY

You may remember this colorblocked tote bag I made for the wonderfully stylish Valentina Duracinsky, a fashion and travel blogger who splits her time between Paris, Colombia, and the USA. I am happy to report that the bag has been holding up well! Today she shared the bag in a style post on her blog.  Head on over to see more photos, or click here to read the original DIY project. It is so satisfying to see someone enjoying the use of something I made! Sewing win.

4 easy car DIYs

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Nothing makes me feel like a can-do woman like working on my car. When I say working, I mean the little stuff, like jumping my roommates car when her battery dies, or knowing how to plug in a new lightbulb when my third brake light goes out. There’s something about getting hands on with all those tons of steel that scratches my DIY itch in a whole new way.  My best friend in this car fixing expedition is YouTube. It hosts a wealth of videos that show how to fix everything, including cars. I’m not ready to mess with brake pads, but here are a few things beyond filling my tires with air that I’ve easily mastered with the help of YouTube.  You can too!

1. Jump a car battery: Don’t wait for AAA to arrive! Next time your (or your roommate’s) battery dies, jump it yourself. All you need is a pair of jumper cables (good to keep in your trunk) and a working car. Check out this video for a simple explanation of how to do it:

2. Change the cabin air filter: I was shocked when I went poking around behind my glove box and found a soot black air filter that looked like it had never been changed. The cost to pop down to my local Pep Boys (or other auto parts store) for a new filter was less than half the price of paying someone to change it. And it was super cool to see the guts of my car that hide behind the glove box.  Read step-by-step instructions here.

3. Change headlights and tail lights: the bulbs are cheap! Pick up a couple headlight bulbs at your local dealer (my car is a Civic, so I go to the Honda dealership) for about $4 apiece. Look in your owner’s manual or watch a video for the explanation on how to change the bulbs. Car and Driver Magazine has a great YouTube channel with helpful videos. Here’s one of them:

4. Check your tire treads: I used to go to Firestone to get my oil changed and then freak out when they would exaggerate how imminently my car needed new tires. BUT. Now I can debunk their sales ploys using only… a PENNY!  Hold a penny so that Lincoln is upside down, then stick the penny between your car’s tire treads. If the treads cover any part of  Lincoln’s head, you’re good to go. If not, it’s time for new tires. Read more on the penny test here.

Learning how to care for my car has been really freeing. Cars are something that many of us depend on every day to live, to go to work and get groceries. I like taking responsibility for something I rely on so heavily, even if I know/knew next to nothing about it. Part of this journey has been getting comfortable asking a lot of questions, and the people who fix cars (they know their stuff!) have always been helpful. I want my car to last a long time and continue to carry me on my adventures, and caring for it properly is a big part of that.

All images and videos remain property of their original owners

Lazy sewing days

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These days, when I’m not doing money-making job stuff, you can find me at this desk. My current day job is 3 days a week (40 hours). It leaves me ample time on my days off to wake up late, enjoy a hot breakfast, and then put my feet up while I rip out stitches or slowly make my way through drafting and sewing up a couple muslins. I like this schedule. It’s a happy medium between this past summer’s unemployed-but-still-sewing-full-time fiasco and  school’s I-barely-have-time-this-weekend squeeze. I am a little surprised that I have yet to finish a project since moving here a month ago. But all good things take time, and I’m determined to slow down this fall and winter, to put more care into the creation of the stuff I make. I have high hopes for the chambray fabric that arrived in the mail yesterday.

Now that I think of it, Richmond and its people are also to blame (thank?) for my slow pace lately. There is so much to do and so many friendly people to meet in this lovely southern city. Discoveries happen every day! I’ve visited beautiful parks, found a hole-in-the-wall fabric store, toured a college campus, been invited to sing at a Civil War reenactment, and gone to 2 (two!) music festivals. No wonder the sewing has slowed down.

At this late hour, I’d like to raise up my glass (just water, I promise) and propose a toast. Here’s to my one month anniversary of living in Richmond! And here’s to slow sewing!

Underwater

Underwater

Here’s proof that I actually swam in the bathing suit I made. My mom and I found an old underwater camera with some exposures left, so we finished it up before the pool was closed. Some of these are hanging on the fridge, to remind us of warmer days when winter comes. My bikini held up like a champ in several swimming pools, and I didn’t worry once about whether or not it was slipping off or covering me up.

*:) win*

Hipster Zebra PJ Pants

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As most sewists know, it is both a joy and a challenge to make things for one’s family. I find that my family doesn’t really know how long it takes me to make something, so they come up with all sorts of requests-quilts, hemming or tailoring pants, replacing zippers, curtains… it can be a bother to drop my current project in favor of a last minute request, but I love seeing how my family adores what I’ve made them. A prime example is my dad and PJ pants. Shortly after informing me that he needed new PJ pants (I last made him a pair in 2010) he called me from the fabric store to ask “where is the flannel section?”

“Ask the people who work there” I replied, laughing. “Get 3 yards.”

He showed up with this rad zebras-wearing-glasses print in a medium weight flannel. I pulled out the old pattern and whipped up a pair, complete with buttoned fly.

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I remember the winter I made his last pair- they were green plaid. I had decided to make flannel PJ pants for the entire family for Hanukkah. Rounding out to 6 pairs- elephants, stripes, Navajo geometric, plaid, Matrishka dolls, and fish prints. I got so good at making them that I churned out the last three pairs in 30 minutes each (I timed it!). They were well received.

Back in the day when flannel was queen and the Hipster Olympics hit a million views, the certain mark of any hipster was a pair of big plastic frames. Those thick glasses have come back into vogue since those early 2K days, but these zebras remind me of those original hipsters.

My dad loves these new PJ pants. I know that when I call home from now on, I will be informed when he wears them and how well they fit. And I’ll grin when I hear it.

dad in pj pants

Thank you Dad for letting me talk about you on the blog.

Upcycled purple hemlock

DIY skirt to shirt

I know I’ve been sharing lots of tops lately, but I’m almost done-  promise! I’m just too pleased with my cleverness on this make to save it for later. It started as a vintage dress  made of a luxurious purple knit. Due to some issues (stains on the bodice, size) it wasn’t readily wearable, so it had been sitting in my stash for about 4 years. Now I know why I saved it! Slow sewing at its finest. Here it is before.

purple dress

The dress had this huge circle skirt made of 4 panels. I ripped off the bodice and folded the skirt in half, then tried to fit as much of each pattern piece on the skirt as possible. I used the Hemlock Tee pattern by Grainline Studio. Here’s what it looked like after I cut it (I whited out the spaces from which I cut the pattern pieces):

cutting diagram

I used the original hand-stitched hem, which made this an eaaasy project. I finished it in a couple hours since I didn’t have to spend time finishing the sleeves and bottom of the shirt. I finished the neck with some self-binding (per pattern instructions). Because the circle skirt was made of 4 panels, the skirt’s original center fron/back seams run down the middle of the shirt and sleeves, and the hems are curved. I think it makes a nice detail.
Upcycled purple dress to shirt

There’s some pulling around the armpits, but I think that’s due to a lower stretch % in the fabric and the fact that I need to clip those armpits closer. Overall, it’s super comfy and just the right weight for this southern fall weather.

In other news…

Excuse me while I get giddy for a moment over the fact that I have a JOB and live in VIRGINIA! Srsly guys, I’ve been dreaming of moving down here since I was 18, and now (at age 25) I’ve arrived! More or less permanently. It feels great to put down roots. Especially in a place as warm (weather and people) as Richmond and close to many, many friends and a phenom creative community. It has been a very happy first couple of weeks.

upcycled shirt

 

Weekend Rambler Skirt :: Snapdragon Studios

Red velvet midi skirt

Recently I discovered midi skirts. A couple weeks before making my Senna dress, I went thrifting and found a vintage midi skirt made of raw silk. I was in love and wore it nonstop through the last few hot days of summer. But summer love ends, and it was soon time to pack it away. So when Kim of Snapdragon Studios contacted me about participating in her blog hop, I took one look at the Weekend Rambler skirt before deciding it was a perfect next project (and immediately emailed her an enthusiastic YES!). While not quite a midi skirt on me, the length is much longer than what I usually wear, and fits right into that midi niche created by my prior thrifted find.

The Weekend Rambler skirt is a beginner project, but quite a clever one. It includes front and back triangular yokes and ingeniously fits two pockets into the front. I made mine from a rich, textured burgundy fabric that was found at an estate sale. I was saving it for something special, and this fits the bill. Its a great fall skirt, especially with a light sweater, tights and boots. The fabric is so warm that I’m sure I’ll be wearing it into the winter.

Onto the details: I made a size M skirt, but took 2″ off of the hem (to make it a petite size) and 1″ out from the side seams (so it would sit at my natural waist). I also made a 1/4″ swayback adjustment at the back yoke (booty booty). I’d say my skirt is in between sizes S and M. The pockets I lined in a gold colored cotton- I like how it peeks out just a little and looks like piping.

Weekend Rambler skirt

There was a bit of a zipper snafu- I accidentally bought a regular zipper instead of the invisible zipper recommended by the pattern. So I decided to insert it as a lapped zipper instead. In the process I accidentally inserted the zipper 1/4″ too low, so there is a little gap at the top (but it doesn’t make much difference in terms of fit).

I used the same gold cotton as the inner waistline facing and serged all seam allowances.

skirt detail

Another great thing about this skirt is that, even though the yokes look complicated, the instructions make them very easy to match up. I’d definitely recommend this pattern to any beginner sewist looking to upgrade from making pillows and PJ pants. If you want to check out the other projects on the blog hop, here’s the schedule:

9/3: Morgan at Thread Theory

9/10: Beth at Sew 110 Creations

9/17: Meg at Cookin’ and Craftin’

10/1: Teri at Fa Sew La

10/8: Maris at Sew Maris

red velvet midi skirt

Ladybugs and Licorice

Fabric Swap Hoopes Park Studios

Marilla had this wonderful idea a couple months ago to organize a special fabric swap. But it wasn’t any old fabric swap- it was a hand-printed fabric swap. Time to break out the stamps and fabric paint!

My swap partner was Charlotte of English Girl at Home. She is one timely seamstress, because only a couple weeks after receiving the fabric I sent her, she has already made a cute, mod-style dress out of it!  It is so cool to see my fabric being worn.


Before I start rambling about my printing process, here’s what she sent me:

ladybug print

Oooh, aaah. Chambrayyyyy. With ladybugs. It’s simple but thoughtfully detailed- just my style!

*Update 9/26/14- Here is a link to the full fabric swap round-up. Some gorgeous fabrics were made. I’d highly recommend checking them out*

Read on for more about my dyeing and printing process.

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Slinky Senna

 

E-photo 3 (3)It’s slinky, it’s sexy, and it’s easy to make. It’s the Senna dress! Excuse me while I saunter all over town like Sophia Vergara in this perfectly balanced kimono top and ruched midi skirt. It’s a bombshell- I bet Marilyn Monroe would have worn a gold Senna. It’s clingy around the bottom, but long enough and loose (on top) enough to be super classy. My version is made of a busy cotton/lycra knit from JoMar (Philly love!). It’s a veritable dot party!

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I was a pattern tester for Design by Lindsay’s Senna dress. She was a joy to work with, and the pattern was so good the first time around that I hardly had any feedback to give her! It sewed up quickly (two short evenings) with only a few fitting adjustments. I made view A in a size 8 top and size 10 skirt. I made a mini swayback adjustment and lined the back of the skirt in self fabric to hide panty lines (gaah I hate that word).

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If I made it again, I’d make it in a solid color to show off the ruching more… dark grey or black maybe? I’m almost afraid to make a second version of this dress, because it might be the only thing I wear out. And I don’t go OUT that much, but wearing this dress might be an excuse to go out, since it’s all confidence-boosting and beer-belly-hiding. My wallet is cringing at the thought of visiting all those Richmond bars. So it’s up to you, my readers, to go forth and make your own Senna dress. Get slinky! You can find the pattern here and Lindsay’s blog here.

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*I was not paid to test this pattern, and was given a free copy of the final pattern as compensation.  This post contains only my own opinions. I love to support independent pattern companies and believe that pattern testing is a valuable resource to new designers*

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