A ghost from my Christmas past

A few years my parents moved back to Colorado and hosted Christmas. That year my mom had put up three Christmas trees. Yes, I did say three, which should tell you something about what her house turns into at the holidays. Every room is decorated; sometimes one of the bathrooms will have its very own miniature tree. It’s both alarming and impressive.

I hadn’t been to their house for the holidays for a number of years, so when I ran across this little guy I wasn’t surprised by the fact that he looked familiar.

At first I thought perhaps I’d seen him in years gone by. Then it occurred to me that maybe I’d bought him and given him to my parents one year. And then I realized…

I’d made him!!!!!

Coincidentally, he’s made from the same fabric I used for my Christmas tote some 18 or so years later.

I didn’t find anything new at their house this year, but I know my long ago holiday craft phase involved more than making one Santa, so it’s just a matter of time before something else pops up…


I finally finished sewing buttons on my dress, but I haven’t had the heart to post about it yet because we had to put Lucy, my sewing buddy, to sleep this month.

Lucy was recovering very nicely from elbow surgery, but unbeknownst to us she also had cancer. By the time we found out it was far too late to do anything. She was only six years old.

Lucy loved to lie by me when I was sewing, and this often turned into her lying on whatever I was sewing. Once I was hemming one leg of a pair of flannel pajamas when she laid down on the other leg…she looked so comfortable I moved on to another project and gave up on that one for the day. She was there for all of my photographs – if she wasn’t in them she was just off camera making me smile. We miss her very, very much.

Christmas tote bag

Two weeks ago I decided to forbid myself from working on any sewing projects except the dress that was done except for buttons and a hem. I industriously sewed three whole buttons, then discovered a loophole…anything made with Christmas fabric had to be made immediately, because what’s the point of making something with a holiday theme if you can’t enjoy it for that holiday?

No, I did not sew all of those little squares – that’s just the pattern in the fabric. I’d rather sew buttons than put that much work into a bag.

Many years ago I went through a Christmas craft phase, during which I apparently went nuts buying holiday-themed fabric. I dug it all out and ran it through the washer and dryer. Lucy found the pile after I’d pulled it out of the dryer, so I had to delay putting it all away.

The fur on her front shoulder looks funny because she had elbow surgery about a month and a half ago, and they shaved both of her front legs. It’s been neat seeing it grow back because it’s all fuzzy and thick – it’s like she has a fleece undercoat.

Fortunately I’d snagged the fabric I wanted before she made her nest, because she was sleepy and therefore crabby. It’s best to let a sleeping Lucy lie.

The gray and white flowered fabric in the background is the dress that needs buttons. I seem to be able to walk by it every day without feeling guilty, so I’m trying to figure out another plan.

I originally thought I’d walk through Kristin Link’s free Craftsy class. I started watching the class, which is quite well done and very easy to follow. Then I decided the proportions of the main/contrast fabrics weren’t right for me, and what I really wanted was to duplicate a Vera Bradley tote bag that I use all the time. I wrote down the measurements used in the Craftsy class and measured my Vera Bradley bag…and then I went off the rails.

Making something without a pattern isn’t all that challenging as long as you’re okay making mistakes and having to redo things. Since I have this issue when I do follow patterns I was unfazed by the complications I created for myself. At some point along the way I wrote down these measurements, which are probably close to what I used:

main fabric

  • exterior: 16″ x 17″ on the fold
  • straps: 3″ x 27″
  • interior pocket: 12″ x 6″

contrast fabric

  • exterior: 16″ x 4″
  • interior: 16″ x 19″ on the fold
  • interior cardboard holder: 13″ x 5″

These measurements got a bit tweaked because I had to shave things down here and there to account for my sloppiness – but they’re roughly correct. I used a 1/2″ seam allowance. I totally made up the pocket. Next time I may sew a seam down the center because it’s a tiny bit floppy.

My Vera Bradley bag has a pocket-like thing at the bottom of the bag, with a thin piece of cardboard in it. It’s structured so you can easily remove the cardboard, presumably in case you want to wash your bag. I decided to not sew my version to the inside of the bag until I’d tried it out, but I probably will because it seems to be working well.

One thing I made up that I am happy about is that I cut the main exterior fabric and the interior fabric on the fold, so I didn’t have to sew a seam on the bottom of the bag.

You may be wondering why on earth I didn’t just finish watching the Craftsy class, which is an excellent question that I have also asked myself. I did like the class, at least the part that I watched, and I’ve recommended it to some of my girlfriends who are interested in learning how to sew – I have nothing but good things to say about the class. I’d been wanting to sew a tote bag for a while before I found out about the class, so I think I just wanted to see how good of a job I could do on my own. I’m planning on watching the rest of the videos to see what else I could have done better.

The end result is as I would have expected – the bag is nice, but would have turned out a little nicer if I’d put more thought into it. It really does help if you have a plan when you start a sewing project… That said, the bag is sturdy, and the business of the fabric makes it difficult for anyone (except me) to see where I was a little sloppy.

Now I don’t have any more excuses about sewing buttons…but I bet I can come up with something if I try…

McCall’s M5248 – Candy cane pajamas

It must seem like all I ever make are aprons and pajamas…and there will be at least one more apron since I recently won an apron pattern!!! It’s a digital reproduction of a 1938 Pictorial pattern by Anna Depew of A Few Threads Loose.

What’s even better than winning a pattern is winning one that you’ve really, really wanted! Anna wrote a post about this pattern back in July, and I fell in love with it, but she hadn’t yet decided to make a reproduction. I looked around and found another fantastic vintage apron pattern which I used for my gingham apron. I’ve kept an eye out for the Pictorial version, but I haven’t seen a single one listed anywhere…and now I have the reproduction! Yay!!!

Back to pajamas…

A few weeks ago we had a snowy weekend, and that was the perfect inspiration for making another pair of flannel pajamas. Fortunately it’s been warmer lately, since I refused to wear the pajamas until they’d been photographed. My photographer has been busy getting ready to launch his software product, so I finally figured out how to use the automatic timer. I’m also running into a challenge because all the walls in my house are painted in pretty bold colors that are great to look at every day, but not so great as backdrops. I’m going to go with the notion that everything doesn’t have to match.

This is the same pattern I used for my polka dot pajamas, with a few modifications.

I lowered the waist scientifically instead of doing another cranky hack job, so this time I took off 2.5″ at the front, 1.5″ at the rear, and 2″ at the sides, tapering along a straight line drawn with a ruler. It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that a French curve would have been wiser – but the end result fits so well that I don’t care. I also shortened the length, and actually did so using the handy lengthen/shorten line on the pattern. These two changes resulted in several minor adjustments to the crotch and inseam that I didn’t think would make a difference, but which turned out to be quite useful. Next time I’ll take off another inch off the length, but now that I’ve learned my lesson I’ll do so in the proper place.

I am almost done with several other projects right now, all of which are significantly more challenging than making pajamas. One of the dresses is my Peony, which has been mostly educational and only a bit frustrating. I say “only a bit” because I’ve been wanting to learn more about fitting, and boy did I get the opportunity with this pattern! The other projects include the Sureau dress, Thurlow trousers, and the lone pattern that doesn’t have a sew-along to be late for: a vintage McCall’s dress that’s done except for the buttons. Apparently I don’t enjoy sewing buttons, because I’m averaging one button per week. Or less.

The flannel I’ve been using is fantastic. I found it at fabric.com, and took advantage of their holiday sale to order even more…so I’ll be making one more pair of winter pjs!

Butterick 9578 – Polka dot apron…round 1

The apron won this round, but I control the scissors…

I acquired a copy of Butterick 9578 a few months ago, and was very excited when the Did you make that? Apronalong came along because it gave me a reason to try out this pattern instead of finishing all the projects I’d already started.

I made my first apronalong apron using a free tutorial by Bari J. It was easy, fun, and very convenient because I caught a cold and discovered that the pockets are perfect for carting around tissues.

My second apronalong apron was a half apron – version D from Butterick 9578. I love this apron. I keep wanting to wear it, but I feel like I should only do so if I’m going to clean or cook. Since I rarely do either I’m going to have to come up with another reason because it’s so adorable I can’t not wear it. I even posted about it on WeSewRetro – my first post there – because of its charming vintage-y goodness. (The pattern is from the 1950s – unfortunately the exact year isn’t listed.)

And then I moved on to the apron I really wanted to make…version A from the same Butterick pattern.

No, I’m not wearing the apron. I’m too cranky to want to be photographed in it; I’d just have a big scowl on my face.

The tie belt is quite nicely done. It’s in two pieces; you sew the unfinished ends inside one of the pleats. The half apron has pleats on the outside; the full apron, which uses the same skirt pattern, calls for the fabric to be pleated on the inside instead of the outside. That makes sense because for the half apron the waistband covers the top half of the pleats, whereas with the full version the tie belt starts in the middle of each front half, and therefore wouldn’t accomplish the same thing.

That’s a close up of the tie belt and its enclosing pleat.

The pockets look very cute. I wasn’t sure if I’d like them because they were folded down for the half apron, but they turned out to be just right for this variant.

You may be wondering what’s wrong… The bodice, of course…I always run into trouble with bodices. This apron is almost like a dress in that the bodice wraps around. Here’s a shot of the button in the back.

Those are sparkles in the fabric – it’s a really fun print! The button isn’t very exciting. The apron really should have a hot pink button, but this was the best I could come up with since I wasn’t about to run out to purchase one button for a pattern that’s irritating me this much.

I thought I’d be safe with the bodice because this is an apron, but apparently not. It bunches up in a weird way in the front, and in the back it’s poofy and doesn’t lie flat. I can fix this, but not in my current cranky state. So…technically the apron is done in time for the apronalong, but I won’t be wearing it until I can figure out how to correct these issues. I’m toying with the idea of changing the back to be more like the gingham apron I made in the summer, but that feels a bit drastic. Probably.

On a positive note, I finally found the right fabric for my Peony dress!

It’s Japanese cotton I found at Elfriede’s, the nicest fabric shop in Boulder. I bought a few other things, but was smart enough to restrict myself to buying fabric for only three patterns…nicest also means most expensive! I picked up a lovely floral print for the Sureau Sew-along (no, I haven’t learned my lesson…yay for sew-alongs!!!), and two different wool crepes for a fantastic Simplicity pattern from 1942. I’ll undoubtedly be making several muslins for that dress. The very nice lady who was helping me clearly thought I was a beginner. I wanted to say: thank you, but I’m an advanced beginner! I was very polite when she explained what a muslin is, and didn’t even react (hopefully) when she told me that she makes her muslins out of $12/yard fabric because it’s less expensive. I’m making so many muslins these days that I can’t even keep up with the math to figure out what that would cost me! But she was very helpful, and while it did take three people to help me settle on the colors for the wool crepe dress, it was a lot of fun. And I can finally make my Peony! Of course, the sew-along for that pattern is over…but at least I’ve found a fabric that I love!

Butterick 9578 – Black and pink half apron

I’ve been wanting to try out Butterick 9578 for a while, and the Did you make that? Apronalong gave me an excellent reason to make yet another apron in spite of the fact that I rarely cook.

I blame my pose on my photographer, who gives me directions like “wave your hands around” or “look at the ceiling.” Most of my photographs are clearly pictures of me caught in the middle of telling him how ridiculous his instructions are.

There’s no copyright on the pattern, but it’s probably from the late 1950′s.

I’d been planning on making the full apron, but thanks to Karen’s apronalong and the convenient timing of a fabric sale, I decided to make both a half and a full apron. I started with the half apron so that I could experiment with the pattern.

The apron has four sections of pleats; no gathers. The pleats are a really nice touch.

The pockets are made by sewing squares of both fabrics together, then the top corner is turned down to display the contrasting fabric.

The directions just say to fold the pocket down. I was planning on tacking it down, but they lie pretty flat. There are four pockets total, and they line up at the corners.

The apron goes pretty far around, unlike the last apron I made.

Here’s a side view so you can see about where the pockets stop.

I really love how this turned out. Now I’m off to finish the full apron since the apronalong ends tomorrow!!!

New Look 6354 – Halloween skirt

A month or two ago I took a look through my fabric stash and found this festive Halloween print.

I used it for a craft project almost 20 years ago, and had about a yard and a half left. There was clearly no other option but to make a skirt. So I did! I wore it to work today.

The pumpkin/moon pattern is cute, but the texture of the fabric isn’t all that enjoyable – it’s a cotton that’s just a tiny bit too stiff to be really pleasant. Because of the texture, and the fact that I was working on numerous other sewing projects that were much more demanding, I chose trusty old New Look 6354 because I knew I could whip the skirt out in no time. And…voilà!

I look extra goofy in that shot because both my photographer and I had spent the last few hours at the office eating far too much candy. She finally had to put the camera on a table because she was too sugared up to hold it still. But we were both very happy, if a bit less productive than usual.

Because I was squeezing this skirt for Halloween I wasn’t measuring carefully. I ended up making the elastic waistband too loose; it just kind of sits in a lump at my waist, and rides up when I sit down. I should probably take the elastic in about 2 inches. The fabric is just a tad too stiff for this pattern, so the skirt bunched up in front every time I walked more than a few steps. A slip might have helped, although I suspect something else would have gone awry. But in spite of the shoddiness of my handiwork, it was a lot of fun to wear. I’ve got a ridiculous amount of leftover Christmas fabric, so another holiday skirt might pop up soon…

Fun with La Mia Boutique – October 2012

I’ve been studying Italian, which is a slow process because I have so little time…until I came up with the idea of combining Italian and sewing! Now I can study while I sew, and sew while I study – how awesome is that?

The first step was to purchase this book:

I figured a book that covered the basics would help me learn sewing terms in Italian more quickly than looking each up as I ran into it. This book is actually a translation of A to Z of Sewing: The Ultimate Guide for Beginning to Advanced Sewing, so if I get really confused I can always get a copy in English.

My next thought was to look for sewing blogs written in Italian. So far I haven’t found any, but my search did lead me to Anna’s blog Paunnet, which was a total score. Her blog is a treasure trove all on its own, and on top of that she’s introduced me to Deer and Doe so I’ve joined yet another sew-along!

Sureau Sew-along

Of course, this means I have not only added another project to my very large list, the pattern is in French and I’m supposed to be learning Italian. Incroyable!

The third and last component of my Italian/sewing plan was to find at least one sewing magazine in Italian. I found La Mia Boutique mentioned on several sites, including this post by Sewingplums which provides links to a variety of independent pattern companies as well as to pattern magazines written in multiple languages. I figured subscribing for a year would at the very least mean I’d feel guilty about not studying when each new issue arrived.

My first issue (October) arrived about 2 weeks ago, and so far it’s been quite fun. Paunnet posted a detailed look at the patterns in this issue, and I completely agree with her assessment: not only am I unlikely to want to wear, much less make, most of what is in this issue, it’s a challenge to picture anyone else doing so either. That said, there are several patterns that I do like, and since my goal is to learn I’m actually going to try to make something from one of them.

I decided to start with a blouse. The pattern is actually for a dress, but I’m not a fan of it from the waist down, and it looks like it should be easy enough to turn into a blouse. Maybe.

I’m going to use the first fabric I purchased for my Peony dress which I’m making for the Sew Colette 2.0 Sew-along. (I’m having a terrible time settling on a fabric for that dress…but on the plus side, I’m rapidly adding to my fabric stash!) It’s a silk-like fabric made from 100% polyester. Obviously NOT the right choice for Peony…but it should work well for this blouse.

I had no idea what to expect from the magazine, since I’d only seen bits and pieces on other websites. The patterns come stapled in the center. Each piece of paper contains shapes for multiple patterns, with different color lines indicating which pattern is which.

My pattern pieces are outlined with green, and while this seemed crazy at first – in a colorful way – it’s actually pretty straightforward.

I’m a recent tracing paper convert, although I have yet to confess that to my sewing instructor (hi Mom!), so I’m actually looking forward to tracing my pattern pieces. Thanks to Gertie I started with Swedish tracing paper, which I love. In fact, I love it so much that I can’t bring myself to try out anything else.

I’ve got my dictionary and optimism ready – buona fortuna a me!!!

Apronalong apron #1

I’ve been pondering aprons since signing up for the Did you make that? Apronalong, and the question I kept coming back to was: why on earth would anyone ever bother with a half apron?

A week or so I ago finally realized the reason: pockets!!!

Obviously you can put pockets on anything, so while I’ve been strangely anti-pocket this year and didn’t put any on the apron I made in August (in spite of the fact that they would have provided an opportunity to use even more rick-rack), I do actually like pockets. Thanks to my epiphany, I now have a cute half apron complete with pockets!

It’s a bit hard to tell from this photo, but there are actually two pockets on this apron. I sewed a seam down the middle to split the one wide pocket in half.

I found this pattern from a list of links to free apron patterns that SachitaBean posted on Karen’s blog.

The pattern is pretty straightforward, although if I make it again I will sew both sides to the ruffle at once. That might be a bad idea, so if you try this pattern make sure to use your own judgment. The apron ties seem a little long, but since I’ve only made one other apron I could be totally off base on this. I’m making another half apron so I’ll compare the ties when that one is done.

One of the best things about this pattern was that it gave me an excuse to use two sewing machines at once on the same pattern!

I generally have both set up for different projects, but on this one I used both yellow and pink thread, so it was perfect for the duo. So there! I say to my friends who’ve questioned my having two. I’m not answering to anyone who questions my having four…that’s a different topic entirely. And no, I have not even turned on the Rocketeers yet…they’re just so pretty that I can’t bring myself to actually use them.

Here’s a fuzzy picture of the back:

And not only does this apron have pockets, it has pockets on both sides because it’s reversible!

I wasn’t sure how well that would work. I was a bit concerned that the inside pocket would make the apron too thick and maybe bunch up, but it turned out to lie quite nicely.

I’m making at least one more apron for the apronalong – the one in progress is from a 1960s pattern. And, of course, it has pockets!

McCall’s M5248 – Brown and white polka dot pajamas

I love polka dots. And I love pajamas. What could be better than polka dot pajamas?

Flannel polka dot pajamas!

Lucy likes them too!

Four of my current sewing projects involve fitting issues, which is fine because I’m learning a lot – but I really just wanted to finish something for a change. Pajamas seemed like a nice, safe, easy project. Little did I know…

The last time I’d made pajamas was about 10 years ago, and as I’d tossed that pair years ago after the fabric had worn thin I couldn’t review how well they’d turned out. I did remember that I’d had some issues with the pattern (Simplicity 9329), although so much time had passed I couldn’t recall any details. I saw a reference on someone else’s blog (I can’t remember who) to McCall’s M5248, so I decided to give it a go and then compare the two patterns.

The new pattern worked pretty well right out of the gate, except that it was a bit too high in the waist. Two inches too high. I even made a muslin (I’m getting muslin-happy – who makes a muslin for pajamas?) and didn’t even think to look at the waist. I had no idea there was a problem until I tried them on – after sewing the waistband and threading the elastic and ribbon through. Oops.

Fortunately my sewing shears are nice and sharp, so I hacked two inches off all around and stitched everything up again.

The pattern calls for a self-fabric drawstring, but that didn’t seem as fun as a piece of ribbon. I used double-sided, 5/8″ ribbon. I also threw in some elastic, because who wants their pajama bottoms to fall down? Besides, this way I can leave the ribbon in its nice, neat little bow.

The Simplicity pattern calls for two holes for the drawstring, but the McCall’s pattern only has one and that seemed odd. It works just fine, but the way the fabric folds means it’s a fun task to thread everything through. To be fair, it was a lot easier with the first waistband – by the time I’d sewn that, chopped it off, and then worked the elastic through again, I was a bit cranky. (The ribbon and elastic had been pinned together, but decided to part ways somewhere in the depths of the waistband.) Fortunately my handyman stopped by and saw my plight; he worked the ribbon through in mere minutes with the help of some wire and duct tape.

Here’s a close-up so you can get a feel for my reaction when I realized I’d lost the ribbon.

It turns out that hacking 2″ off all around wasn’t the best plan. I should have tapered the cut – a little more in the front and a little less in the back. They fit okay, but could be better. I’m going to modify the pattern accordingly and see how the next pair turns out. I do still want to try the Simplicity pattern, but I appear to have embarked on a quest for the perfect pajama pattern, and like any quest there promise to be many adventures and misadventures along the way.

In the meantime, while they’re not perfect, this pair is comfortable and super cozy. And yes, that is a Lucy shirt I’m wearing!