Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This is the post ...

Wherein I acknowledge that it is Day #2 of KCW.

Wherein I confess that so far, I have sewed exactly 0 hours.

Wherein I determine (counting on my fingers) that I probably won't be sewing any hours (or fractions thereof) for the rest of the week due to normal busy-ness (full time job, night meetings) and extra-special busy-ness (various and sundry social events).

Wherein I reluctantly accept that it's just not happening for me this winter.


But, believe me, I will read all of your posts and watch your creations with delight and envy!

With you in spirit,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Something's better than nothing ...

When blogger friend Carolyn reported that 2013 was the year she found herself saying "something's better than nothing," it really struck a chord with me. She has since moved on to "life is a marathon, not a sprint," but I think I'm going to co-opt her 2013 motto for my 2014. Because I get tired just talking about marathons. Or sprints. Or running, period.

Right! "Something's better than nothing." Even if I can't do everything, even if I can't do it perfectly ... every little bit helps. I can spend a few minutes every day, or every weekend, trying to address some areas of chaos or anxiety in my environment.

Thank you, Carolyn!

So today, I filled a huge bag with clothing to donate. Things that are too small, or too large, or shabby, or just never got worn, or didn't make me feel good about myself ... gone, to a new home! There's still a lot to be done, but it felt good.

"Something is better than nothing." This sure beats the hell out of last year's "motto" which was something more like: "Oh my goodness, the thought of that is so overwhelming; I think I'll just sit here and cry."

Kidding. Sort of.

Baby steps! Seriously, how long am I going to wear skirts that are so tight I have to leave them partially unzipped (embarrassing but true)? I'm over it. GET OUT OF MY LIFE. 

Anyway. The point of today's post: Out with the old and ugly, in with a cute new me-made skirt! That fits!

Kelly Skirt in Stripes

This is Megan Nielsen's Kelly Skirt, in a striped black and brown denim I bought at Britex a couple of years ago. This is my second version of this skirt (my first version, which I still wear frequently in warm weather, is blogged here). It's an easy pattern, and the final result is one of those garments you feel good in and actually enjoy wearing.

I asked Steve to photograph me on our front porch, on my way out to run some errands, just to mix things up a bit. I don't think I like it - our Oakland-standard-issue security screen is on display, and you can see that we haven't touched up the paint since we installed the new door. That project is so low-priority, it's not even on the list.

But hey, this is what I look like heading out the front door. It's different, anyway!

Kelly Skirt in Stripes

Maggie is skeptical of this new photo shoot location as well ...

I have been following Sarai's posts on the "Wardrobe Architect," and she has got me thinking.  In the spirit of cleaning up, paring down, and simplifying, I am thinking about what I actually like to wear, what makes me feel good about myself, and what really works for me in my everyday life. If 2014 is going to be a year I'm going to sew more for myself, I might as well try to sew items that fit my body and my lifestyle. So here is what I came up with:

  • Separates: I definitely like dresses, but I get a lot more wear out of separates.
  • Skirts: I don't wear pants very often. My daily uniform is a skirt, top, cardigan, or jacket.
  • Knits: Knits are comfortable and flattering and wash well (no ironing).
  • Shapes: I like my tops blousy. Body-conscious is fine, but tight or uncomfortable is a no-go.
  • Color: I am drawn to darker and more sedate colors, especially in the winter. I wear browns, blues, greens, and earth tones the most. I love bright colors, but the honest truth is that I rarely wear them.
  • Prints: I love printed tops, which look nice with all of my solid skirts. I love stripes and plaids all the time.
  • Quality: I wear items more if they are well made with quality materials. It doesn't make sense to be penny-wise and pound-foolish with fabrics (or try to cut corners) for items that I hope to wear for years.
I don't imagine that I will ever sew my entire wardrobe. I'm a lawyer, and I wear suits a lot. That is far outside my skill set. Also, I'm a lawyer, and I don't have time to sew my whole wardrobe. But I can definitely sew some items that will live in that realm between business-casual and weekend-wear.

So, okay. I let all of this percolate a bit and in the meantime, I whipped up the Plaintain t-shirt (printed, blousy, knit) and this skirt (striped, black and brown, skirt). Both nicely finished and in higher quality fabrics that will hopefully hold up well. That's the idea, anyway.

Kelly Skirt in Stripe - pocket detail

To avoid pattern matching, I cut the waistband and pocket lining on the cross-grain. I like how this turned out, but in future, I will probably do the pocket lining the same as the rest of the skirt. Live and learn.  I am really happy with this skirt, despite the total lack of stripes-matching all around. One day I will learn how to match stripes! (In my defense, the repeat pattern on this stripe was huge, and the stripes are asymmetrical). Maybe next year. This year - something is better than nothing!

Kelly Skirt in Stripes

Well, Maggie may still be skeptical, but I love those stripes! Pretty sure I'll be wearing this skirt a lot in the coming year. Are any of you trying to pare down and sew some wardrobe basics? Do tell!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Why, hello there, new favorite t-shirt!

Plantain version 2 - much better

This is the "Plantain," of course - the new free pattern from Deer and Doe. It was love at first sight for me - the neckline, the slight swinginess ... and of course, the price! Haha.

Plantain version 2 - much better

But it wasn't all dreamy and singing "Kumbaya" holding hands by the campfire with the Plaintain. My first version, made in a cheap knit that has been in the stash for a while, was way too big. That's what I get for cutting out a pattern based on my bust measurement (here, a 44) - a shirt that is baggy everywhere else. Check it out.

Practice Plaintain - Too big!

Ugh! I look about ten pounds heavier! Shudder.

Oh well, I guess I needed a new long-sleeved pajama top. It is certainly comfortable and nursing friendly.

I am trying to get used to the idea that sewing for myself means making "muslins." It takes more time, but it does take away some of the sting of "wasting" really nice fabric. Instead, I used a cheap mystery-content knit that I ordered online last year and was pretty disappointed in, so no big whoop.

Thus educated, I cut out my second version two sizes smaller (size 40). This time, I took the plunge and used a beautiful, heavy rayon knit I bought at Britex a while ago and have been saving for "something special." This knit has a really nice weight and drape - it skims but doesn't cling. It was (cough cough) a lot more expensive than my muslin knit, but you get what you pay for! My favorite Briar top was made from knit I got on that same trip, and it was my favorite t-shirt until this one came along (sorry, paisley Briar! we had a great run!). Both knits are heavy, opaque, and not nearly as difficult to handle as the more common "tissue weight" rayon jerseys.

In a less stretchy fabric, a small full-bust-adjustment might be necessary for me to get the fit I want in the shoulders without being too tight in the bust. But in this drapey, stretchy fabric, I could probably go down another size and still have plenty of ease in the chest and waist.

Mama and Maggie

Maggie approves of the scooped neckline, which provides easy access to her favorite beverage.

This is my first time working with a Deer & Doe pattern, and it was lovely. At this point I have quite a bit of practice making t-shirts for both me and the kids, and that experience really helped, especially with applying the neckband. I've learned to stretch the band less over straighter sections of the neckline, and a lot more in the more curved parts (the scoop of this neckline). This trick really makes a difference. I also stabilized the shoulder seams of this top with some knit fusible interfacing, to keep them from stretching out too much. (One of my goals for the upcoming year is to finally figure out how to work with clear elastic on knits.)

My only (minor) criticism is that the 5/8th inch seam allowances are just too big! Especially for the neckband. Applying a neckband like this is tricky at the best times, but it's basically impossible to do it well with a large seam allowance. So I trimmed down the seam allowances on both sides to about 1/4-3/8" before serging the neckband on, and that worked well. If this had been my first time making a t-shirt with a neckband, that large seam allowance might have been a disaster. That said, the cut of this t-shirt is really perfect and once I figured out my size, the pattern required zero modification.

Mama and Maggie

Maggie is such a ham!

So while the rest of the sewing blogging world is talking about their fabric diets, I'm busy planning my post tax-return visit to Britex for more beautiful knits to turn into Plantains ...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christmas Sewing, continued: Gussie's Quilt.

Hey, it's only mid-January! This hand-made Christmas present is practically early by my standards. Expect these Christmas posts to continue well into March, okay? (I do have several more items in the works.)

I shared the beginnings of this quilt in late September of last year, when my baby niece Augustine (Gussie) was born during what has turned out to be the only rain storm we've experienced this season!

The idea of this quilt grew organically. I knew I wanted something relatively traditional that would complement the quilt that I gave to my niece Helen (also, oh my goodness, look at baby Joe!). And I knew I wanted something machine quilted, sturdy, and easily washable. I started by gathering red scraps (some awesome sewing friends dug into their scrap piles for reds for me) and making cream and red nine-patches. The little pile of nine patches lingered in my space for a little while I filled my Pinterest board with vintage nine patch quilts.

Augustine's Quilt

I eventually settled on this approach, and went shopping for backing, sashing, and cornerstone fabrics. When I saw this adorable bunny fabric, I knew it would be perfect for the backing, and everything came together for a traditional, but hopefully fresh and light, 1940s-vibed baby girl quilt.

Augustine's Quilt

Are those bunnies the cutest or what? (I need to clip a few stray threads there.) I chose a light stripey print for the sashing and a light blue solid for the cornerstones. I love the way the "low volume" red and light blue lighten up the deep reds.

I don't have a design wall, and it is hard for me to lay out quilt pieces on the floor before sewing - within minutes, kids and dogs are all over it, making a mess. So in the end, the arrangement of blocks in this quilt was not just "studied random"; it was "actually random," which was actually pretty fun and freeing.

When it came time to sandwich and baste, I had no choice but to enlist the local "help" - Maggie enjoyed handing me safety pins and trying to poke them into the quilt. Allowing your eighteen month old baby girl to assist with basting a quilt is probably inadvisable on multiple levels, but it was far too cute to resist. And overall, I was happy with how few puckers and issues I had machine quilting this baby. For her part, Maggie got through the experience with only a few minor pokes and learned some "pin safety." And I did manage to catch this overwhelming cuteness with my cell phone.

Maggie bastes

Using a walking foot, I quilted relatively straight diagonal lines in white thread through the nine-patches, mostly eyeballing them. I fear I will never be precise enough to be a truly good quilter, but I think the final result is soft and "charming."

Augustine's Quilt

Well, that's why I will never be a true "quilter" - because I find minor imperfections to be "charming"! Whereas we all know that quilters are detail-oriented, precise, and perfectionist. Me? I am a "good enough" kind of gal. You know, I wouldn't want to offend the gods with overly perfect work. This also explains my definitely imperfect embroidered label, see above.

Augustine's Quilt

Joe has given this quilt his seal of approval, snuggling up under it while I was still hand-sewing on the binding. Hopefully Gussie will love it in the years to come as well.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Just a few of the nicer, quieter moments selected from an otherwise pretty hectic weekend.

Playing with playdough.




Very serious about her gardening. Still gorgeous weather here, and still basically no rain this year. Not good!




Working on a quilt for my little niece. I'm almost done!

Quilt progress shots

Quilt progress shots

Maggie, just hanging out on her tractor, eating a carrot. You know.


Saturday, January 11, 2014


I don't know how things are done in your home, but in our house, we deep clean the refrigerator once every four years.

Whether it needs it or not.

It needed it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Roly-Poly.

Happy new year, readers! I am stoked to be the first stop on Rachael Gander's Imagine Gnats Pattern Tour. I have enjoyed testing several of Rachael's patterns and watching her graduate from sewing blogger to pattern designer in the past year or so!

I have been wanting to make Maggie a cold weather appropriate Roly-Poly Pinafore since I made her a warm weather version last summer.  Initially I thought this would be in corduroy (always a favorite), but on further reflection, decided that this would be the perfect use for the teal fleece I had leftover from Joe's Flip Vest.

Winter Roly Poly

A fleece vest turns out to be an extremely useful garment in my part of Calfornia, which is very often cool but very rarely cold. I don't know about other children, but my kids resist jackets, I suspect because they impede play. A fleece vest keeps the kid warm(ish) while still allowing full range of movement. And the Roly-Poly pinafore turns out to be just as adorable and useful in thick fleece as it was in lightweight fabrics for summer.

Of course, as it happens, I made this pinafore just in time for 70 degree weather! It has been gorgeous and warm lately here. In fact we have gotten hardly any rain this winter at all, and while I am not a great lover of wet weather, I am also not a great lover of summer drought restrictions. Hopefully we'll get some rain soon so that I can water my veggies this year!

Winter Roly Poly

I know I'm biased, but gersh darn this little girl is adorable in her piglets, with marker on her hands, right? Lately it seems like she is growing up in front of our eyes, developing more personality and more vocabulary every day. While it is a bit bittersweet to see her growing out of her babyhood so quickly, she amazes and delights me every day. She is not quite 18 months yet and already combining words into phrases. Her favorites phrase is "no, Mama!" of course. Since Joe was a very late talker, we do not take these things for granted, so I can enjoy even Maggie's loud and forceful "NOOOO!!!!!" with delight.

Like, "Listen, Steve, Maggie is lying on the floor, kicking and screaming 'no Mama, no Mama, no Mama' at me! She's combining words! Great talking, Maggie! But also, no, honey, you cannot play with the tension knobs on my serger."

Ah, the joys of the second child. We really are so much more relaxed now.

Anyway. As I've said before, this is a really easy, fun, and fast pattern to sew up. It would be a perfect first project for someone just learning to sew, but it's useful and interesting enough for us old-timers too. It is also a great use for your fun buttons - like the cutesy heart buttons I used here. One great benefit of this style of top is that it seems to fit forever - I have high hopes that this will still be wearable next year, when Maggie will be running around the playground at preschool with Joe.

Winter Roly Poly

Most of the supplies for this vest - the no-pill fleece, the flannel, even the buttons - came from JoAnn's. It's not often I can say that, since I actually shop there pretty infrequently (I am blessed to have several independently owned fabric stores with nicer fabric that are closer to me), but they really do have the best selection of fleece in town.

Okay, fleece is not my favorite fabric to sew - in fact, I actively dislike sewing with the stuff. I know people consider it easy to sew, but it tends to get stuck under my presser foot (I wonder if my teflon foot would help?), is dang-near impossible to make buttonholes in, and dulls my needles and scissors. But it is warm and washable and drizzle- and fog-resistant, so it's no wonder it's practically a winter staple for West Coasters. It also comes in lots of bright and cheerful colors, so there is that. At any rate, if I must sew with fleece, simple and straightforward patterns like the Roly-Poly are the way to go.

Winter Roly Poly

Winter Roly Poly

Winter Roly Poly

So there we have it. A simple, cute, warm layer that allows Maggie to play her sweet, happy, chatty little heart out! Thanks to Rachael for making this lovely pattern and including me on her tour.

Inder Loves Folk Art / mon petit lyons / Sew Delicious
la inglesita / Miss Matatabi / Rae Gun Ramblings
Welcome to the Mouse House / Casa Crafty
Make it Handmade / Made with Moxie / Buzzmills
girl like the sea / just me jay / Play Crafts
Sew Well Maide / Sew Charleston / Mingo and Grace
Caila Made / Sewbon / do Guincho / call ajaire
Alison Glass / a.Amelia Handmade / Bored & Crafty
you & mie / Stitched Together / things for boys
fake it while you make it / Sanae Ishida
Behind the Hedgerow / I Seam Stressed / Charming Doodle
The Crafty Kitty / Siestas & Sewing / Figgy's