Monthly Archives: March 2011

Happy Trails by Two Friends Blouse

So, on my last post I was talking about buying fabric, which is something I think about WAY too much, honestly. But sometimes swatches of cloth will catch your eye and then I get a little obsessed with them, looking at the raw material, wondering what it will be like when you stitch it and shape it into a garment. It’s the magical aspect of this activity, really, to be able to see from fabric to fitting and to predict how a material will look as a finished garment. It’s a little bit like trying to predict the weather tomorrow from last week’s temperatures, it’s possible, but difficult, and sometimes you can be completely wrong. All the seamstresses I really admire have this ability to look at a piece of fabric and envision it’s future as something amazing, and I don’t know if that can be taught or not.  Is that innate, or is it learned? Does that come with experience, or are some people just really good at that kind of design and thought process? What you think? I honestly don’t know.

So a while ago I bought a length of fabric that I absolutely adored. It’s this red background with tiny cowboys riding tiny horses and colored dots, and I loved it. It’s a little cutesy, but it’s also fairly abstracted and I thought it would make a cute shirt. And the name of the fabric is amazing. Not all of the fabric I have found at the PA Fabric outlet have names, but this fabric is called Happy Trails by Two Friends. A-freaking-dorable.

And I was thinking and thinking about what shirt would work with this fabric (which was clearly from the children’s section of PA Fabric outlet, damn those children and their awesome fabric options). And then I thought about the Ute blouse, and how it has two collar variations, the peter pan collar, which I love, and the tie collar, which I also adore. But tie collars can be a little tricky. First of all, they reference the 70’s hopelessly. You  doubt me? Check out this little number. Or this lovely business that Sunni made (how beautiful is Sunni? When I become a brave human being and attempt pants for the first time her trouser sew along will be my bible. Or the pattern will be my bible and she will be my Babylonian Talmud. I haven’t decided yet, but I know it’s going to be epic) . And second of all, if the bow is too high you risk looking like a schoolgirl or a strangling victim, and I’m sort of trying to veer away from those references in my sewing style.

So I looked at the Ute and a couple of JJ variations on Burda Style and I decided that yes, Ute was my girl. Because the trick is the lowered neckline, so that the bow doesn’t hit at the neck, a la Japanese Lolitas, but around the sternum. And besides, I have already made this pattern once, and it’s much easier for me to replicate a project I’ve already struggled through in the past. Why this continually surprises me I have no idea, but in this one respect I have the memory of a goldfish. And the shirt of a cowgirl!:

I had my mother take these photos on the same day as the photos for the Fecund by Thrifty blouse. You can tell by the shoes, even though I cleverly tried to change my hairstyle to deceive you. It was cold. Really cold. But as that great sage Tyra of America’s Next Top Model tells us, we must suffer for beauty. Why, when TYRA was a model they didn’t even HAVE heat. ANYWHERE. And she USED that and she SMILED WITH HER EYES. BOW TO THE JUMPSUIT!

Or to the bow. Whatever. I used snaps as opposed to buttons because, sigh, no button hole paraphernalia for my machine and also, I have a ton of snaps.

I look so coy. Possibly because I have no top of my head. Possibly because of the huge bow. Who can say?

No bow!


No Bow!

Check out the back!

Cute little pleated sleeves! And look at the cowboys! They are magnificent!

I thought the fabric name, printed on the selvedge, was so cute that I had to cut it out with my new pinking shears (which I LOVE) and hand sew it into the collar. I just had to. No way around it.


Glamor Shot!

There you have it! Happy trails, folks!


Filed under Burda Style, Clothing, Sewing

Fecund but thrifty blouse

As part of my long, dark, painful fabric buying hiatus (just gotta hack it. Just. Gotta. Hack. It.) I’ve been doing a bit of what the kids call stash busting these days. Part of why I’m doing this is because if I didn’t, my mother would yell at me. And I hate when she yells at me. So the stash, she must be busted, or at least beaten and lightly bruised. Now, I am giving a touch of fabric away in my GIVEAWAY (enter here!). But there some things I’ve been hoarding that I love to much to surrender to strangers (albeit very nice strangers! thanks for commenting, guys!). But sometimes I look at this pile of fabric I’ve amassed (which isn’t even that much, MOM, I promise, all the other kids have way more! All the other kids are doing it!) and I think, hmmm, what on earth shall I do with you?

In my mind there are two types of fabric buying. You buy with a project in mind, or you buy because you see it and you think, if you build it, he will come. And people seem to be pretty divided on this issue, as in, what comes first, the pattern or the fabric? And my answer to that is…yes.  And this project was more the latter then the former. You see, my beloved PA Fabric outlet sometimes has a one dollar fabric basket, and the last time I let myself buy something a green floral and a silky pink caught my eye. The pink I’m keeping in reserve, I think it would be great for a slip or another set of satiny 20’s style pajamas. But the green I thought would make a nice top, and I own very little that is green. Plus, I promised to abuse my fabric collection, and this seemed like a fairly painless way to do so.  And I loved the floral print, so vaguely Liberty of London (which…I may never be able to afford), so fertile, so floral, so fecund. So I made myself this:

I used the JJ pattern, which is a FREE PATTERN from Burda Style. This pattern was actually the second full garment I had ever made. It’s a really great and easy to use pattern, though the first time I made it I did not find it easy at all, obviously. It also includes 3 ruffles per front side, but I had to omit them both because of a lack of fabric and because I thought it might all be too busy.


I look so angry! In my defense, it was cold.

As a result of the fabric shortage (I feel like it’s the 1st world war!) I also had to shorten the shirt, which doesn’t exactly thrill me, but luckily I wear a lot of high waisted skirts, so hopefully this wont be a problem! I think it looks okay here, right?

Wow, my hair is super fluffy.

This blouse has lovely gathered sleeves:

And a cute stand-up collar:

The lip color? Korres Wild Rose Lip Balm. I just adore it. And here I’m laughing because my mother just told me to shut the hell up. Which….fair.

The skirt is H and M, by the way. My friend Becca has the exact same one. Luckily we live in different cities, or every day would start with a consulting phone call to make sure we weren’t dressing like twins. The buttons are also PA Fabric outlet. I was going to do snaps, because I’m afraid of buttons and my machine has neither a button hole foot nor a button hole setting, but I girded my loins, as one does, and just tried it out.

They aren’t the best thing in the world, so you don’t get to see a photo, but I feel that they will get the job done. The shoes were my grandmothers:


Glamor Shot!

So there you go. Free pattern, 1 dollar fabric, 6 buttons for 1.25. Take that, stash.


Filed under Burda Style, Clothing, Sewing

Happy Springtime! Enter my Cute as a Button Giveaway!

Happy first day of spring, folks! I love spring. I love spring especially in the Mid-Atlantic. When I was going to college in New England the thing I missed most about Philadelphia, apart from my family, Metropolitan Bakery, making fun of New Jersey, and strangers calling me honey (we are a weirdly friendly city in a cutely trashy way, I must say), was spring. The weather in Connecticut goes from winter to summer in the time it would take you to say boating shoes or Greenwich, there is simply no time for Spring to have sprung. The autumns are stunning, but the springs are non-existent, which is ironic, because there is nothing people in Connecticut love more than a well cut blazer. Oh, well, cest la vie. So I am so excited to be spending Spring in Philadelphia, because the city explodes with pear and cherry trees bursting into bloom, coating pedestrians in petals. Last year I spent spring traveling through Northern Europe, gawking at Blenheim Palace outside of Oxford with my friend Andrew, and exploring Shanghai and Beijing with my friend Lisa. So Philadelphia is going to have to work hard to measure up. Let’s hope it’s up to the challenge.

Spring means many things to many people. For the Fug Girls, two of my favorite people who I have never met, it means FUG MADNESS! Which is amazing. Go check it out here. For Veronika of Tick Tock Vintage, a favorite fashion blogger of mine and fellow Philadelphia dweller, it means a trip to Hong Kong! Jealous? I am. And for me it means biking and flowers and fresh lettuces and strawberries and having to remember to start shaving my legs more regularly. I’m not wild about that last one, but I’ll live.

So in honor of my excitement, I have decided to host my first giveaway! When my grandmother passed away, along with the shoes and the fabric and the scarves and some clothing and a BUNCH of jewelry (sooooooo much jewelry, good LORD that woman loved to shop), I got all of her notions and thread and sewing supplies, which is a surprisingly large amount of stuff considering that my grandmother didn’t sew. For example, I got all of the following snaps:

Say it with me, aw, snap! Seriously, why on earth did Isolda Solo need so many snaps? A mystery for the ages. And I got buttons and elastic and a zipper and buttons and did I mention the buttons? And the needles? There are a lot of needles. So I’m giving some of these things away to YOU, lovely readers! All for you! Oh, the things I do for you, it’s amazing. In the spirit of all my favorite sewing bloggers who so generously give things away, I will be giving one lucky person a grab bag of items which include some vintage buttons, snaps and needles (courtesy of my late beloved Grandmother,  my delightful photographer/mother, and Decades Vintage, an amazing vintage store on Fabric Row), some modern buttons I have acquired in my brief time spent sewing, some fabric, some tools, and a little bow I made today from one of my favorite fabrics! All you need to do to enter the giveaway is to make a comment on this post between today, March 20th, and a month from now, April 20th, and make sure to include your email address. You can tell me I’m pretty, or tell me what you love best about spring, or hate about spring, or love about New England, or hate about New England, or whatever you want. Then I will randomly draw a winner from the commentators and send them their package of buttony goodness! If you comment AND blog or tweet or facebook or whatever social media is your bag, baby, about the giveaway, then you will be entered twice! Just let me know that you have done so. Oh, you want a peek at the goods, you say? Well, here you go:


Vintage Snaps from Isolda Solo:


85 cents? Amazing!


Vintage green buttons from Decades Vintage:


Vintage Fabric covered buttons from Isolda Solo:

Vintage and modern buttons:


PA Fabric Outlet goodies:

Vintage buttons from Isolda Solo:

And some fabric, a half a yard each of the green and pink poly-cotton blends, and a yard and some change of the yellow cotton. And a little pink pincushion! And a bow!

The bow looks excellent on Mr. Malevolent. But I’m sure it will look even better on you.

Here it is in full. Tiny Tiger is not included:

And I might just thrown in some more treats, if you treat me nicely…..

Comment away! And tell your friends!


Filed under Fabric, Giveaway, Notions, Sewing

Lions and Birdies and Babushkas, oh my!

I have to tell you a secret, I  really enjoy embroidery. It’s not something I do as much as, say, sewing, but it’s a very relaxing thing to do and adds such a great detail to objects and garments. I know it’s weird and deeply Regency England of me, and in point of fact it used to be required behavior for all “gently brought up young women” (you never hear about the roughly brought up young women, now, do you? Well, not outside of Moll Flanders). But I’ve always loved the look of embroidery, so when Spool (that place is my crack den, I swear) had these adorable little embroidery kits with animals bleating their respective calls, I was helpless in the face of such cuteness. So I got one. And then I discovered the wonder that is Sublime Stitching, and, through Casey over at Elegant Musings, found all these free embroidery transfers, and, what can I say, sign me up for the Marriage Mart and advertise about my dowry because I’m hooked.

This all does bring up an interesting issue, and that is, crafting and creating and gender roles. All joking aside, just to be clear, I don’t craft and make things because I think that as a woman it’s something I ought to do. A friend and I were having this long discussion the other day and I mentioned that I do a lot of things (cook, sew, craft, etc.) that would seem to subscribe to traditional gender roles, i.e. Donna Reed would be so proud of me. But I also do lots of other things like write and work at my day job and make theater and drink whiskey and I enjoy doing all of these things. And ultimately it all comes down to choices, and whether or not it’s my choice to sew and make candles and bake cakes and embroider birds on sweaters, or whether I’m doing it because it’s expected of me, because it’s “what I should do”, because it’s “what’s done” (such an achingly WASPy phrase, don’t you think?). There is this amazing new generation of people discovering these crafts and art forms and exploring them and I think that’s fantastic and admirable, and I think, or I hope, it has nothing to do with what genital organs you have.  In the classic words of Miss Pigglewiggle vs. The Little Girl Who Talked Back “I’ll do it because I want to, not because you told me to.” Preach.

Okay, jumping off my soapbox now, onto the photos!

A pillow of Babushkas! Or more correctly, Matrushka dolls. The pattern is from Sublime Stitching. Love!

The biggest one. CUTE!

This is a cashmere cardigan my mother gave me. It was hers, but it was too big, so I took it in on the sides and gave it a bluebird!


This was my first Embroidery project.

I added a border. I love how the lion is so stoic. It reminds me of someone else I know:

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Filed under Embellish, Embroidery, Sewing

Pattern Porn: March 2011

I just found a new pattern website and it’s literally haunting my dreams. I discovered it through The Cupcake Goddess by sheer chance and then spent an hour of last evening drooling over it, envisioning myself sewing and wearing each of these fantastic items. As I’ve discussed, I’m not a spontaneous person, and I get a lot of joy out of planning my sewing and my buying. So when I come across a website or a pattern I adore, I book mark it. I visit it weekly. I imagine fabrics, notions, glorious days in which everyone compliments me on the garment I am wearing (this…has yet to happen. Sad face.) I’ve done this, with, well, basically everything ever. I’ve visiting and dreamed about blushes and mascaras, sweaters and earrings, ballet flats and boots. I have a theory that if you see something and you are still thinking about it weeks later then that’s how you can tell you really want it. Tracy Jordan (Morgan) may have once told Kenneth “Regrets are for horseshoes and handbags”, but this character also made a movie called “Samurai I Amurai”, so I feel pretty comfortable ignoring that advice.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about patterns and what I want to buy next. Yes, I have 6 different projects on the back burner, a shirt, a pair of capris, two dresses, a skirt and another shirt. Yes, I really should live in the now. Yes, I may or may not be a crazy person. But who has the time for all these speculations when there are PATTERNS to examine?

All of these patterns are from Which is amazing. I can’t really deal with how much I love every single pattern on this website. And then, of course, there is Colette, that cheeky monkey…

And then there is this from Simplicity, which I adore:

But am completely afraid of, because, PANTS? Scary. Saw scary. Hitchcock scary. 1984 scary. (Dystopian Futures are my kryptonite. That, and, you know, kryptonite.)

And of course Butterick would be absolutely have to be adorable and come out with this:

So, you know, I’ve got options. What do you like best?


Filed under Burda Style, Buttrick Patterns, Clothing, Colette Patterns, Decades of Style, Inspiration, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns

Who Are You Calling Easy? Dress

I can’t believe it, but I finally finished this dress. Look, I don’t know if it’s just because I have only been sewing since May or because there is some disconnect between my mind and my hands, but I think I’m a fairly slow sewer. I read about these people who can whip something up in a scant few hours and my jaw drops. Case in point, the lovely and talented Tasia of Sewaholic who made this amazing dress in six hours. COME on. Really? Really. Fully lined. This dress took me two full weeks. Granted, I was not sewing the entire time, I’m not THAT slow. But I bought this wool fabric at Jack B. Fabrics two weeks ago, and I also picked up a zipper, the lining and the lace for the lining hem at my beloved PA Fabric outlet. (Coincidently, on my walk home I entered an Avon sweepstakes and actually WON! Thank you, Avon! That never happens!) Cutting all the pieces took me forever (and I still have a solid helping of the wool left, but I’ve expressed my feelings on that subject in my vest post…), and then, of course, putting it all together had it’s fair share of struggles. And they call this a Very Easy pattern…

The pattern is Vogue 8615. I love it. I drooled over it for a while and then broke down and bought it. Gertie of Gertie’s blog for better sewing (which I adore) made it in a shantung which is divine , but I went for wool.

There was a lot of hand sewing with this dress. I had to hand sew the lining sleeves to the bodice, and then the bodice lining to the skirt lining. I also handpicked the zipper, with an extremely informative tutorial by Sewaholic.

I also put lace on the lining hem, as per Tasia’s suggestion. I kind of love it, it’s the kind of detail that only the wearer can see but it’s one of those lovely vintage touches that makes something special. I love this lining color, don’t you? I think it makes a nice contrast.

Those shoes were my grandmother’s. My grandmother absolutely loved to shop. For everything. And when she passed away she left something in the neighborhood of 50 pairs of shoes, some of which she never even wore. This is one of those 50 pairs. I got a lot of her shoes, so you will be seeing the Isolda Kogan Solo collection of footwear quite often. Get excited.

I love the neckline on this dress. It’s modest but it also shows of collarbone, and I feel like as long as you’ve got that you are more “hello sailor” then “living in a Mormon compound”.

And the back is so lovely. I love the v-back, it’s unexpected and cute.

Do you like the teased hair? Yet another tutorial, this time from Veronika of Tick Tock Vintage. No fewer then 4 tutorials went into making this “very easy” dress.

The scarf was also my grandmother’s, one of countless scraps of silk and polyester. The bag is from Astro Vintage, a favorite store of mine here in Philadelphia.

See? Not easy. Pretty, yes. Love the fit? Yes. But not easy. I need at least 3 dates and several phone calls before I will let you try anything, buddy. Does that sound easy to you?


Filed under Clothing, Sewing, Vogue Patterns