Matchy-matchy with mom

matching skirts

Remember those matching mother-daughter outfits that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s? Here’s a modern take on a blast from the past. When my mom saw the skirt I made last week, she liked it so much that she asked me to make her the exact same thing (except about 5 inches shorter). Then I picked up an almost matching crop top for her to wear. We got together for her birthday this weekend and wore matching outfits for the first time in years.  I think we’re a pretty cute pair in our ensembles.

Back in brown

brown linen skirt

As soon as I wrote my last post I realized something- I didn’t have the right fabric for the projects I wanted to make. I had been so wrapped up in my little world, obsessed with needing to finish the projects in front of me before I’d let myself start anything new. Of course knitting was appealing (and it still is… but my hands need a rest) when I wouldn’t let myself have any fun with sewing. So I went back to the drawing board, and this is what I came up with. It’s a brown linen skirt that ends just above my ankles.

brown linen skirt diy


I traced the pattern from my favorite winter skirt and came up with one slightly wonky pattern piece. Cut on the bias, the 4 panels of this skirt easily consumed 3 yards of fabric.

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The waistband is a simple, interfaced rectangle. The 7″ not-so-invisible zipper is sewn into the left side of the skirt. There are seams running down the center front and back of the skirt. The hem is finished with stretchy lace and topstitched (a simple way to get those bias seams to lie flat). I didn’t finish the inside seams because they are all on the bias, and therefore won’t fray.

inside details

Paired with a crop top and birkenstocks, it’s one of two skirts I’m most likely to pull out on a hot summer day. I think I just needed to take a break from tricky, lengthy projects to return to some simple, feel-good pieces. This skirt was finished in a couple afternoons with plenty of breaks, air conditioning, and iced tea.

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There is a small mistake on the center back seam- I didn’t interface it so it stretched out, and I had to take out a couple inches from the the top of the waistband and CB seam (tapering to nothing at the bum). It left me with some weird whiskers in the back, but they’re not too noticeable (I hope). Next skirt I’ll interface the waistband the entire way around.

linen skirt waistband detail

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linen skirt hem

sewing block

toe up socks

Lately I can’t seem to sew anything. I have projects in progress, and ideas of new projects to start, but my mind is too jumbled to focus on sewing. This morning I woke up like a kid on her birthday, running back into the arms of my sewing machine (after abandoning her for so many knitting needles). But then I picked up and put down several projects for hours (it’s 10:45 and I’ve been up since 7am). Collette’s Hawthorne dress sits unfinished on my dresser, and two pieces of fabric I intended to make skirts out of are spread out on the floor because I can’t decide what to do first. I can’t even make up my mind about what kind of skirt I want to make out of each fabric. Pleated? Gathered? Circle?  I can’t think about fitting shoulders or waistbands or cutting or staystitching. I admit defeat. I’m retreating to my knitting needles and netflix. Sewing, you beat me today.

I’m having no trouble knitting. Those little green socks up above are the second pair of socks I made. I knitted two socks at a time, starting at the toe and working up. They’re just practice-sized child socks, and I might unravel them later, but they turned out just like I wanted them to. I’m never going back to knitting socks one at a time. Two at a time is like building a dream house for your feet.

What do you do to get over a creative block?


Princess complex

Princess dress

Once upon a time there was a girl named Denver who really liked the color pink. One day, she came home to find her roommate complaining of boredom (not to mention 4 days of vacation from work). Denver knew how to solver her roommate’s boredom! Right away she ran off to the magical fabric store. She returned with Vogue 2960, fabric, and accompanying notions. She handed these to her roommate and asked her to make a pink princess dress for her birthday.

Though the fabric was slippery, Denver was patient as her roommate worked diligently through many dark winter days and nights, fabric spread over the floor of their tiny living room.

Princess dress

After all the cutting and fitting and sewing and ripping and re-sewing, all that was left to complete the princess dress was a prince (our Armani model friend was happy to indulge us (ok so he isn’t actually an Armani model but he certainly fits the mold)). And she lived happily ever after in her pink princess dress.

Princess Dress

Princess Dress

(It took us until the spring to coordinate our schedules for this fun and silly photoshoot but it was worth it!)

Princess Dress

Back at the knitting

new yarn

So I know I said I was going back to sewing for the time being, but knitting has stolen me away again. I met yet another fabulous knitter who gifted me with even more beautiful yarn, so I made a pair of tiny practice socks (toe up!) and now I’m cruising Ravelry on the regular looking for my next project. More socks? A hat? Come on people, I know it’s summer but when winter comes I want to be prepared. And it is so easy to while away my days off in front of the netflix busting out row upon row of knits and purls.

In other news I did sew one thing… a tiny goat beret for a baby goat on a friend’s farm (blame my recent blogging absence on the goats). I will leave you with a picture of said hat on said baby goat. Ta for now.

tiny beret for a tiny goat

Simple Panel Curtain Tutorial

DIY Curtain Tutorial

I moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago. It is big and airy, centrally located, and- my favorite feature- it has a balcony (all meals= eaten outside). My bedroom windows have a nice view of the street, but they are east facing and the blinds are not enough to keep out that morning light. Not good for sleeping in. So, I made curtains for those naked windows.

DIY Curtain Tutorial

Curtain Tutorial

I used  58″ wide home dec fabric (gifted). This was wide enough to cover the width of my windows. Unless you’re planning on washing them later, you don’t need to pre-wash and dry the fabric. Many home decor fabrics are treated with scotchgard and only need to be wiped clean. Alternatively  you could line quilting cotton with muslin or use sheer fabric for your curtains. The basic premise for these curtains is that you calculate the length you will need to fold back for the hem, header, and curtain rod pocket. You add this to the target length of the finished curtain (how long you want the curtain to be when it’s finished). Then you fold and sew and end up with curtains! Here are the calculations:

A couple things you need to ask yourself before you start calculating the length of fabric you will need:

  1. where do you want your curtain to end?
  2. do you want a header on your curtain (the frilly part at the top)? I added a 2″ header to my curtains.

add together:

  • distance from the top of the curtain rod to where you want the curtain to end.
  • height of the header x 2
  • 4 inches for a 2 inch hem (turned under twice)
  • width of the curtain rod + 1″
  • 1″ seam allowance

My curtain equation was: 66+4+4+2+1=77″

  • 66″ length
  • 4″ = 2″ header x 2
  • 4″ for hem
  • 2″ = 1″ curtain rod +1″ <- value “B”
  • 1″ seam allowance

*you will also need to remember the sum of the last two numbers (value B + seam allowance), plus the height of the header (for my curtain, this number was 1+2+2=5). This is value “A”.

Curtain Tutorial

Once you’ve cut or ripped your length of fabric, it’s time to sew.  Turn the selvages toward the wrong side of the fabric, then pin, sew, and iron in place. Turn the hem under twice (~2″ each time), then pin, sew, and iron in place. Measure “A” inches from the top of the curtain panel and turn this to the wrong side (right side facing out).  Sew a seam the height of your header from the fold (eg 2″). Measure “B” inches (eg 2″) from this seam and sew another straight seam parallel to the first. Iron in place. Then hang your curtain!

DIY curtain tutorial diagram

It took me a couple evenings to make these curtains. The hardest part was making sure they were exactly the same length, but this was remedied by careful measuring throughout the folding and pinning process. Good luck with your curtains.

DIY Curtain Tutorial



Anatomy of an upcycle

upcycled maxi dress

When I first dipped my toes into making clothes, upcycling- that is turning a piece of clothing you don’t want to wear into something you do want to wear- was an easy, nonthreatening way to start. Through reading sites like New Dress A Day and Paris Ciel, and with practice, I got better at recognizing pieces with potential and transforming them. My most-worn pieces to date include this blue sundress and this red button down .

why so much sleeve?
before: too much sleeve, too much boob

The brown maxi dress pictured here is my latest success. When I was still living in Philly, post Philly-blogger-meetupAndrea and I went thrifting (sorry for all that name dropping). She spied this beauty at Philly AIDS Thrift, and despite my reluctance at the $15 price tag convinced me to buy it.

The first thing I focus on when choosing a piece of clothing to upcycle is the fit. If the part of the dress I want to keep fits- I keep it. It is easy to change the hem length, but can be much harder to change the shoulders or waist. On this dress the bodice fit perfectly. No changes needed there. The first thing I did was cut about 7″ off of the skirt length and used my serger to sew an easy rolled hem. Be careful while hemming knits- removing fabric (and weight that stretches the fabric out) allows the hem to spring up. The hem can end up shorter than you intend, so it’s best to cut fabric off a little at a time.

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Next I had to address the matter of boobage. You can see my bra in the before picture- the neckline plunges waaay too low. I sewed the sides of the neckline together with a blind stitch to add a couple inches of coverage. You can see in the above picture what a difference a couple inches make to the neckline.

After that, I chopped the sleeves off, leaving some space below the arm. The original sleeves attached to the band at the bottom of the bodice, so I needed to leave fabric there so I could raise the armhole. I pinched the fabric together and sewed it in a straight line, creating a new side seam. You can see the line down the middle of the V under the arm  hole that this created:

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The last thing I needed to do was finish the straps and neckline. I used tailors chalk to draw the neckline I wanted on the front and back of the dress. Sometimes I make a paper pattern to ensure that both sides are even, but I eyeballed it on this dress since I wasn’t making a super drastic change. I widened the front neckline by about an inch, narrowed the straps, and lowered the back of the dress by 2 inches.

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The neckline and straps were intimidating but not very difficult. I used bias tape to finish the edges, first pinning and stitching the bias tape along the chalk lines, then trimming off the extra fabric, and finally turning the bias tape under and topstitching it in place. The dress was originally finished with facings, and I wanted to keep this feature. I made sure to catch the facings as I sewed the bias tape.

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And then I was done. Another great dress added to my closet. Have you had any upcycling successes recently? What techniques do you use to complete an upcycle?

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Me Made May- Week 4 and reflections

Me Made May Week 4

So week 4 and the last couple days of May are lumped together because I was working a lot and traveling. Day 13: Spent the weekend in Pittsburgh with family for memorial day. Super cold!  Me-Made purple tshirt. Day 14: Drove back from Pittsburgh (6 hours, listened to Stephen King on audiobook the whole way). Upcycled button down. Day 15: spent the day at home cleaning up and cooking. Wrap dress. Day 16: Out to dinner with friends. Upcycled tshirt, unblogged. Can you spy the remote control under my toe?

Reflections: I have enough shirts. No more making shirts! I wear a lot more dresses and skirts than I thought. Make more! I’m pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have trouble finding anything to wear all month. So far I’ve done a  pretty good job making things that I’ll actually wear. Except for black. I missed wearing black this month. So more black things. Hope you enjoyed following along!

See the rest of the month here:
week 1
week 2
week 3

Me Made May ’15 Week 3

Me Made May Week 3

Second to last week of the challenge. Day 9: Stinking hot outside, spent the day sewing with a fan pointed at me and wearing the breezy Maya dress. Day 10: went swimming in the James River with friends, me-made bikini top, quick-dry shorts and river shoes. Day 11: Hot again. Ditched the dress and wore this cami with shorts. More sewing. Day 12: As-yet-unblogged maxi dress. And a raincoat (cause it rained). And the ever present pair of birkenstocks. Reflections: I wear a lot of dresses. I should make more. I need to find my bikini bottoms.

I’ve been following the Flickr group to see all the garments people have made and are wearing, and I’m consistently amazed at the variety and creativity ever present in the sewing community. A few of my favorites so far include this blue coat, these matching tops, and this parrot t-shirt. One week (and change) left!

Me Made May ’15 Week 2

Me Made May Week 2

Week two has come and gone. Here are the results (left to right, top to bottom). Day five was this blue wrap dress I made a while back, over some stretchy shorts. On day six I wore this dress I made for a tutorial on Sew Mama Sew last summer. Day seven was this homemade t-shirt and day eight was my much-loved Nettie dress over leggings (picture taken just before I went to the library). On day seven I wore RTW clothing out for some drinks with friends- a midi skirt and crop top- both are things I haven’t made before but wear often and have missed this month, so I think a long skirt will be next on my sewing table. My latest project can be seen behind me on day eight- simple panel curtains for my new room. I’ll dub this week another successful endeavor.

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