Sunday, December 29, 2013

top 5 pf 2013 - part 2: misses

This year has been about learning, both in technique and personal style. Here are some of the not-so-successful garments:

#1 - pants

Doesn't that pattern look like a perfectly on-trend-yet-timeless pair of black pants? Thing were going so well, too.... I got the pocket and fly to look fab and altered the waistband  for a more contoured/comfortable rise. But the legs... I didn't even know you could have diaper knee! (You know, when the garment hangs and looks like you could have a wet diaper... except around the knee!) I tried and tried... and got very frustrated and threw it in the bottom of my sewing drawer with the pins still in and everything. That was February... and it's still there. I probably should have picked and easier-to-fit pattern for my first pair of pants. That side panel made fitting more challenging than in needed to be. Not only is this a fail because it's wadded up in my drawer, but also because it hurt my sewing self-esteem and mojo. I know now I was trying something too advanced for my budding skills. I should pull that wadder out and try again.

 #2 - McCalls 6503

Here is another case of major fitting frustrations leading to lack of desire to finish.  You can read more about my issues here, but I can tell you I pulled apart that (beautifully constructed!) bodice way too many times and it still doesn't fit right. It's currently pinned up to my cork board so that I will hopefully regain some desire to finish it.


#3 - bridesmaid's dress for my brother's wedding

I had such high hopes for this pattern and was SOOOO frustrated by the results! I didn't even take a picture before cutting the bodice apart.  I was using Butterick 5750, and so excited by this pattern that I actually paid FULL PRICE instead of finding an alternative in the sale patterns. I had tracked down the perfect, sheer modal jersey (more money that I had spent of fabric thus far!) to make if soft and comfy. After I had it assembled and tried it one... it made me look like a blimp! I probably should have sized down more to accommodate the stretch in the jersey, and saved all the cut-up pieces should I even want to look at it agian (yikes, I'm seeing a pattern here....). I ended up buying a lovely J. Crew dress at a consignment shop that worked just fine, but I soooooo wanted this one to work!


#4 - underwear

I love the idea of making my own underthings! What a great way to use up leftover pieces of jersey? So far I have only attempted So Zo... what do you know?'s free pattern. The looked great once together on my sewing table, but did not fit great on my body. The panties didn't come close to covering, and while the cami fit it was no way comfortable. At least my dress form can wear it!


I love this dress! I did a great job putting it together, the fit is amazing, I love the print.... yet I new wear it! It's not really a casual dress, but not quite fancy enough to dress up, and I never figured out how to style it for work. So this is on my list for not making it into my wardrobe, despite being an amazing piece! After realizing that, this piece taught me to be more thoughtful when selecting projects to ensure that it's something that will work for my lifestyle and personal style. Do you even make pieces like this? Fabulous ones that for some reason you just don't wear? It's really a great piece, though. I'm going to have to revisit it and reconsider how to style it to fit my life.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

more presents!

After a lovely Christmas with my family, we traveled to visit Mr. Sew Rachel's mother, my MIL. This year she re-did he kitchen, and it's really lovely, so I thought a brand new kitchen needed a brand new apron! I had found these fun, photo-realistic vegetable print cottons earlier in the year, and used two of the prints to make a reversible apron (using a no-number Wal-Mart Simplicity pattern) . Lots of lovely top-stitching makes this apron look extra nice, and after everything was constructed and ironed I sewed one pocked to each side, so that when wearing there is always a pocket on your right. I think this will also help keep the layers together when washing, just as the stitching on a quilt does.

 Tomatoes and lettuce!

Pocket on the right, stitching from reverse side pocket on the left to hold the layers together.

I love nice rows of top-stiching!

Even the ties are double sided!

I just love this veggie-print cotton, so I also made some reversible tote bags using a tutorial by Handmade Jane (and it's a fabulous one! Go check it out!), only with cotton webbing handles instead of self-made fabric ones. I made one for my MIL to match her tomato/lettuce apron, and mailed a cabbage/broccoli one to Mr. Sew Rachel's sister and her husband in California.

I had also made one earlier this month to include in a package to Mr. Sew Rachel's aunt in New York City, this time instead of stitching the handles into the top seam, I sewed webbing all the way down the exterior fabric... just 'cause I like that look! I used a plain canvas for one side and....

That canvas just would not iron smooth around the webbing stitching!

... sexy NYC fireman for the other! (Remember them from my Christmas post?) I think she's going to love it!

Friday, December 27, 2013

top 5 of 2013 - part 1: hits!

Top 5 of 2013 - An Annual Blog Series 

I was just beginning my sewing/blogging odyssey this time last year and LOVED reading all these fabulous sewing blogger's Top 5's of 2012. The Top 5 was started by Gillian over at Crafting a Rainbow, and this year I'm so excited to be doing my own lists!
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be reflecting and blogging about:
  • Top 5 Hits: Favourite creations, most worn or most loved.
  • Top 5 Misses: Sewing fails, UFOs, worn once, or complete disasters.
  • Top 5 Reflections: What did you learn about myself or sewing this year? 
  • Top 5 Inspirations: What books, people, blogs, trends etc motivated me this year?
  • Top 5 Goals for the New Year.

So let the lists begin with Top 5 Hits of 2013. And this list was actually really hard to narrow down my favorite makes this year, but I'll give it a go! So in no particular order....

#1 - Maxi-skirts

I always assumed that someone 5' tall was too short to wear a maxi-skirt... but this year I decided to give it a go with an inexpensive piece of grey jersey and discovered I LOVE MAXI-SKIRTS! They actually make me look taller, they are super comfy, AND I don't have to shave my legs to wear them! That grey maxi-skirt was probably the most-worn handmade item of 2013, and in the top 5 most-worn in my entire wardrobe. I also made a pink print version and a sheer, teal, floral maxi which both got a lot of wear. On the other had, my very early red skirt shrunk in the wash so that got cropped to knee-length, and the blue floral maxi for fall just hasn't found it's way into regular rotation. 

#2 - Sewing with Knits

Definitely a recurring theme in 2013. I learned from's "Sewing with Knits" by Meg McElwee (totally worth every penny!) that knits are not scary to sew with, and in fact I believe are easier that woven fabrics! No fussy fitting to a petite frame. No need to finish seams since knit fabrics don't unravel (although finishing on the serger makes such a nice, polished look). So many of my most successful garments this year were knits, not that there weren't any knit flops. 

Aside from the before-mentioned maxis, some of my favorite knit garments include:

#3 - Totes

I have had some great success this year with bags made from online tutorials! This totally surprised me as I started 2013 with no interest in bag-making. I use my pleather purse every day, and love the larger versions I made for my mother and sister. The little boat tote for my brother's wife was also a big success, and keep posted for some awesome yet-to-be-revealed bags made from Handmade Jane's tutorial.

#4 - Infinity Scarfs

What a fabulous, fun, simple project that is the perfect 2013 accessory! Use my instructions for a serger scarf here, or Simplicity also has a great, free tutorial.

I had made even more as gifts this year, but forgot to photograph them before I wrapped them. I also made a successful knitted one!

#5 - Finding Style

I want to end with what I'm deciding is the most successful piece I made in 2013, my bright, rayon (I think) McCalls 6751. Yes, it's in part because I learned to sew amazing curved, narrow hems, and made lovely french seams, and because it was the nicest fabric I'd sewn with at that point, and because it was a perfect meld of pattern and print. But also, a big part of why I started this sewing adventure was about finding my own style. This top exemplified a perfect balance between making something that fits into my current wardrobe, while still allowing me to push my style into new and exciting territory; into a direction that reflects what I want my style to be. Finding how to best reflect yourself through your own handmade, one-of-a-kind clothing is an amazing feeling, and that's why I've chosen to end this post with this garment. It's a benchmark for all future makes in that regard.

I hope I've shared a little inspiration with you! What are some of your 2013 sewing successes?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

merry chirstmas!

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays, whatever or however you celebrate! I've enjoyed our traditional Christmas morning breakfast at my parent's (ALWAYS eggs, orange-pineapple juice, bacon, and the best blueberry muffins you've ever had), opened presents with my parents and siblings, and now I have a present for you: you get to see all the cool stuff I've been making since the first of September!

Lots of fun handmade things for my little (25 y.o.) sister! She works backstage in a professional theater, so black things are a must. Something she needs is a black tote bag to keep backstage, so I made her a very big fold-over tote (same tutorial I used for my pleather purse) with black hardware and everything! I used a poly-cotton, woven, bottom-weight fabric for the body and straps, which sewed up really nicely. 

Like with my purse, I added a fun lining, and used the leftover to make a matching infinity scarf.

 (Check out this great infinity scarf tutorial here, which I also used to make my brother's wife a scarf... but forgot to photograph before I wrapped it! Her's is made from the same fabric I had used to make her a Macy's-inspired top this past May.)

I then made her a black, backstage top using McCalls 6796 and a nice sweater-knit I picked up on sale from She loves the Modcloth Coach Tour Dress, so I knew she'd love this top! We have similar measurements, which makes it easy to sew things like this for her. (Except she's 5'7", perfect pattern height, and I'm... well, a lot shorter). I added cuffs to the full length sleeves so she can scrunch them up to 3/4 length when needed.

My mom is really into leopard print right now, and also loves her polar fleece vests in the winter time, so her gift was easy to envision. It may just be the stylish fleece vest out there... or at least in rural western Maine!

I used McCalls 5252, which includes a little a little ipod pocket for when she goes out for walks. I made one for my dad, too, omitting the iPod pocket... since he doesn't have an ipod and therefore it would useless for him.

It was a fun pattern to sew up, especially in a forgiving fabric like fleece! I'd never used a separating zipper before, and got it in after only two attempts! I was pleased with how well I matched the plaid on the center zip, too. In both vests, I added top-stitching along most seams, even where the pattern did not. I think top-stitching really helps to neaten everything up and make the garment look more polished. To reduce bulk but still proved stretch with the fleece, the pockets we lined with jersey. 

I had some good-sized scraps left over, so with the leopard print I made a matching set of mittens and a headband:

Mittens made using this tutorial:

Headband made using this tutorial:

Then I STILL had leftover fleece! When I sew I like to use up ever last bit, so I made a reversible dog vest for their little dog, Curry. Now she can match her human mom or dad! I based mine on the free pattern found here, and added what is essentially a very large, free-hand buttonhole for her leash to come through when she is wearing her harness.

I found a remnant of this nautical-themed quilting cotton, and knew my brother's wife would love it. (They got engaged on a boat!) I made a small lined tote, inspired by this tote tutorial here but constructed differently. Quilt cotton alone would not be strong enough, so I lined the bag in some ivory cotton in my stash. The top seam was stitched right-sides-together, with the handled sandwiched in-between, then flipped right-sides-out and top stitched for both a neat finish and extra strength where the handles join in. The interior seams were then constructed on the serger(overlocker), treating the two layers as one. And you like those red handles? I was given a half-dozen rolls of cotton webbing in all different colors! I love how this came together!

I almost forgot to tell you about the matching interior pocket! I stitched two rectangles of boat fabric right-sides-together, turned inside out than stitched it to the lining with a topstitch along the pocket edge before constructing the bag, closing the opening at the same time.

Another fun present for my parents:

Why hello, Mr. Fireman!

A set of sexy fireman pillowcases! (My dad's the local volunteer fire chief and my mom has a good since of humor!) They are made from some more great Alexander Henry cotton fabric and a variation of this tutorial from 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge

And while it's not really a sewing project, I also made my Gramma a rope basket using this tutorial from Ceci Bean. It's kind of a fun, different project!

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my holiday makes, and can feel some of the joy felt both by those making them and receiving them. Until later!