Saturday, November 23, 2013

thoughts on gift-giving

So a little off topic today, but It seems like the holiday shopping season started even earlier than usual this year. Business analysts say a late Thanksgiving means a shorter traditional holiday shopping season, and has companies rolling out holiday deals and displays especially early to try to get a larger piece of our spending. Whatever the cause, I find a lot of people dread this whole gift buying process, and that makes me sad. In light of this and next week's "black Friday" and "cyber Monday" deals and craziness, I thought I'd share the gift-giving guidelines that I've developed to keep the spirit of giving both enjoyable and meaningful to me, and hopefully to my gift recipients as well.
Image from
When searching for gifts for my loved ones, I aim to have each gift fall into one or more of the following categories:

1.) Handmade - That can mean either handmade by me or by another artist or crafts-person. This year, I am making a lot of things myself, but other years I don't and that's ok. Like I said, the point of these guidelines for myself are to maintain joy in my gift-giving, and sometimes if I'm too crunched for time or uninspired by the project than I'm not going enjoy creating those gifts. Just because I like to make things for myself doesn't mean I have to make homemade gifts for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with that! I think if you do choose to make gifts, make sure to start early (I started September 1st) so you don't get crunched on time come December!

2.) Second-Hand - This can include antiques, unique home decor, special statement jewelry, an interesting used book, or sometihng with sentimental value. My mom collects certain old Pyrex baking dishes, so I'll sometimes run into an interesting piece she doesn't have and thrift stores or yard sales! Another year, my brother wanted cool artwork to decorate his dorm room, and I found him a large, framed print for an old map of England that was right up his alley! Maybe I come across something that I know will stir up a wonderful memory from the recipient's childhood. I don't suggest going to a thrift store with the intent to holiday shop, but when I'm browsing that yard-sale I keep open mind that some special gift for just the right person could present itself. Second hand items, when thoughtfully selected, shouldn't come across as cheap. Know your recipient (some may not think highly of even the most pristine, expensive and thoughtful second-hand item, and that's ok), and obviously avoid most clothing, used housewares, things that are junky and dirty (duh!), etc. But then again... know your recipient, because sometimes that old L.L.Bean hunting jacket is exactly the gift they would love!

3.) From a Locally-Owned Small Business - Sometimes it's just nice to have a reason to go shopping in Portland's downtown! I like supporting my city's small businesses, and they will often have really neat items I wouldn't find anywhere else. There is the wonderful fair-trade store that has handmade ornaments from all over the world, and the tea shop where the owner will custom package her tea blends for me, and the best kitchen store with every kitchen item imaginable, and art supply store where I regularly get my supplies anyway, and my favorite pasta place where I can get a gift certificate for an amazing meal. Another great thing about this category is that I can find almost any gift I could possibly need at one of the locally owned business in town, it just might take me a little longer to get that certain video game from a business in town than if I were to run into Wal-Mart. But that's ok, no... even more than ok; that's the whole point. I want to put in the extra thought into obtaining that gift! It's it supposedly the thought that counts, anyway? And sometimes that item will cost a little more at the small business, but often not, and I don't mind spending that little bit more to support the local economy.

These are my guidelines, and I by no means want to say everyone needs to shop by them. These are what I've organically developed over the last few years for myself to maintain joy in my holiday shopping season, and hopefully sharing them it might help you find a way to bring joy to your own. Note they are my "guidelines", not strict rules. There have been times I've strayed from them to get that certain special thing for someone in a price I can afford (I remember a greyhound charm for a bracelet....). And on a last note, these guidelines have nothing to do with money spend. As some of you know, it is possible to save money making gifts but oftentimes the supplies and equipment end up costing more than a store-bought gift.  A second hand gift could be that fabulous old Pyrex baking dish for $.25 at a yard sale, or the vintage sports jersey you had to fight for on eBay. Even shopping conventionally, some folks spend a lot on their gifts, and others can find the deals and save a lot. However you go about your holiday shopping, I hope it brings you and your loved ones joy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

a simple infinity scarf on the serger

This project is super quick, and a big style impact! I had to share it with you! I had a long, narrow (8'-10") strip leftover from another project (I think it's what I had to cup off to shorten a summer maxi-skirt). It's a  lightweight, woven fabric with a great pattern. All I did was finished the long, raw edges on the serger, then sew the short ends together (also on the serger). VOILA! Instant awesome accessory!

You could make one this simple, too! Choose a fabric that looks good on the reverse side, too, as both sides will show when you wear it. If you don't have a serger, you could use a jersey fabric and skip sewing up the long, unfinished edges all together. The jersey shouldn't unravel, plus it will tend to roll and cover up the raw edge anyway.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

my new inspiration wall!

Maybe you caught a glimpse of it in my last post. We finally hung up my large cork board in my sewing room! It's 3'x5', and I'm so excited to have this space to pin up fabrics and patterns as the projects form themselves in my mind. Then when feeling the need for sewing inspiration, I can grab a pattern with the desired fabric swatch together. Does that mean I'll no longer get distracted by other fabrics and patterns? Absolutely not! But a little idea organization can't be a bad thing!

Monday, November 11, 2013

what to do with wool?

You know how sometimes you buy a piece of fabric that you love so much that you just can't decided what to do with it? I've got that right now, and could use a little guidance.

I have this super soft, lovely, wool blend. It's fairly lightweight, like a densely woven but thin flannel.


I LOVE IT! And I want to wear it this season. But because I love it so much, and paid a little bit more than i usually do, I'm feeling all this internal pressure to make something that I will not only love as much, but will get regular wear in my wardrobe.

My first thought was a high waist circle skirt, to just below the knee. It would have a vintage vibe that could be dressed up, but would it be too dressy for everyday? Sometimes you just don't know until you intruduce it into your wardrobe!  I would pattern it off this dressy skirt that I own and love for fall special occasions:
Worried that it might be too dressy for real life (although, maybe I could tottally rock it day to day.... I don't know!), I thought, "what about a midi A-line? Or one with a smidge of flair? Or knee-length slim skirt?"

Slim or A-line? I used this pattern for my slim, lace print skirt.

Maybe view C?

But then I started to think about a cozy, casual top for fall/winter. The weight could be perfect for a flannal-type button-up. I've never made a button-up blouse before, so that's a little intimidating. Would it be tricky to fit to my petite frame? Maybe this fabric would be light enough for Butterick 5826, which I previously made in a lightweight rayon that fit fabulous with very little alterations!

And then I started thinking about my new navy knit dress and how much I love to wear it with tights. Maybe I should make a cozy dress to wear with tights! I know, your thinking, "but look at all the trouble your having with your grey dress." Should I really start another dress? I may not have it finished until spring OR may run into the same frustrating fit issues! But how cute would these dressed be in cozy purple wool?

Look! "VERY EASY" It can't be that bad...

Maybe I could use the same pattern that I drafted for this three-hour dress, already altered and fitting?
So, really, what should I do with my wool? HELP!

problems with my slow sewing

You may remember that, although punctuated by quick, instant gratification projects, I've been working very slowly on  McCalls 6503, inspired by a pin on in a woven, grey, linen-like fabric. I'm allowing myself to take the time to practice good construction and techniques... or that was the plan at least.

I had the bodice beautifully constructed, all hand basted then PERFECTLY top-stitched in place. (I thought I had a picture, too....). Then I was able to try it on and it fit TERRIBLY! The waist was right, but from there up everything was huge. I should have known to shorten the bodice right on the paper pattern, I'm 5" tall!  So with everything so meticulously top-stitched, I opted to carefully cut a new neck, shoulder and arm opening a full inch down, all without unpicking the side seams or mid-drift. So much for good technique....

After all that, the bust will still too baggy! (I call pants with a baggy seat "diaper butt".... and all I could think of was that I had "diaper boobs!) I tacked the shoulders up another inch, and still diaper boobs! I was ready to throw the whole project away... except I really wanted this dress! And really, maybe practicing slow sewing is not really about executing everything perfectly, but taking the time to problem solve and achieve good fit and not just throw it away when you don't get that gratification the first (or second, or third) attempt.

Despite my attempts to save my beloved mid-drift, I cut it off and will have to remake it. I'm experimenting with darts or tucks instead of gathers to eliminate the diaper boob, and this time will make sure the bust fit is right before, for a second time, attaching and perfectly top-stitch a new mid-drift.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

a pinterest make

I LOVED my maxi-skirts this summer and have been trying to find the right way to style them for fall. I was inspired by this image on pinterest: 
Image from

I had yards and yards of blue, floral challis from my mom's stash, and used McCall's 6567 to whip up a simple elastic-waist maxi skirt. My fabric doesn't read quite as blue as the inspiration outfit, so I'll have to make sure to punch up my outfit with accessories or else this look could go frumpy really quick!

I then used New Look 6216 (same pattern used for my slouchy-lace t-shirt), this time view A and added cuffs at the wrist. I had some grey, rib-knit in my stash from a $1.95/yard sale. It sewed up really great on my serger! And I did a much better job with the neck band this time!

The top is a little long for me, so after these pictures were taken I shortened it just a few inched and finished it with a band so it fit a little more snug right above my hips. I'm really loving this simple pattern! I think it will be my new go-to casual top pattern, although I have a Renfew project planned for the near future....