Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Jump Or Be Pushed Jacket

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Shakespearian pick up line? Maybe. But it’s also true, in my experience. And while I would LOVE to think I was born great, and would be willing to state that I, on rare occasions, achieve greatness, more often than not, greatness is thrust upon me. And that’s exactly what happened with my latest, and rather ambitious project, a jacket. You see, just over a month ago, I was contacted by Lisa who works at the fantastic It’s a lovely website full of amazing fabrics whose prices decrease as the amount of yardage in your chart increases (a devious trick, but I can’t say I hate it, oh, no, I simple MUST buy more yardage, the discount!). And Lisa offered me fabric if I would make a jacket and post about it here. She said something to the effect of, “that’s one of your goals for the year, right?”. And I had a moment of, ummmm, is it? Sure. Why not. Jacket. I will just do that. No big deal. But then I actually started thinking about making a jacket, and tailoring and technique and whether or not I was ready for this and then the beautiful fabric came, a linen burlap Lisa requested I use, and it was gorgeous but totally see-through and frays like a live wire and I just thought, oh, holy hell, is this actually something I can do? But then I just went ahead and did it. Because you have to jump in, or risk being pushed. And I would rather be the one making the choice. You dig? And I have to say, for a first jacket, I’m pretty damn pleased with this thing. (Slightly more picturesque shot amongst the ivy. You will note that the notebook matches the dress, which isn’t surprising given that I made the dress and covered the notebook with the same fabric. Jealous?) The pattern is Simplicity 4494, a Vintage 1940’s pattern. Let’s take a look at the cover art, shall we? I went with view II, the collarless one, but I used full-length sleeves because honestly a jacket with 3/4 length sleeves just feels ridiculous. It LOOKS cool, but I can’t imagine ever having occasion to really wear the thing. And here is what I came out with: I must say, I’m pretty pleased with this jacket. For a first try at a lot of things I think it turned out very well, if I do say so myself! The arms are a little baggy, but otherwise the fit is nice. I made a muslin, of course, no way I would cut into this expensive fabric without a tester, and found the fit just a touch closer than I wanted for a jacket, which, presumably, has something going underneath it. A normal person might have re-sized this pattern. I just used slightly smaller seam allowances, 1/2 “, rather than the 3/4” noted in the pattern. Worked like a charm. Who says cheaters never prosper?

Checking out my own lining.

Because the fabric was so loosely woven, I had to underline ever piece of linen. You know what I didn’t know about underlining? It’s insanely easy. You literally baste the underlining to the real fabric and use that piece as one piece. It was so helpful in this case, because marking the linen was impossible, but the underlining, plain black cotton, I would mark with ease. And because the jacket is lined, I didn’t have to worry about those markings washing out! I used vintage white and blue striped cotton shirting for the lining, which I got from my Grandfather’s attic. My grandmother had bought something like 20 yards of the stuff. God knows why. The black underlining came from my stash, as did the button. I might replace this at some point with something fancier, but for now this is fine, and I really wanted to use my stash as much as possible. I am really quite pleased with the fit of this jacket. There is enough ease to be comfortable but the princess seams make it fit smoothly and nicely over my curves. There is a bit of baggyness around the upper back near the arm areas, I think you can kind of see where it’s pulling and not lying flat to the body. But it fits in my (admittedly broad) shoulders. The 40’s is a great era for me, I don’t even need the shoulder pads, which I omitted, because my swimmers shoulders are that prominent. I also made a bound buttonhole. It’s not great. No, you can’t see it. I hide my shame from the world. Instead, look at how nicely it fits at the waist! Focus on the good! See? All better. Happy face! I love my new jacket, guys. It may have taken me 5 days to make, or at least 20 hours and it may not be perfect, but it’s my first foray into the exciting world of tailoring, and I have to say, I can’t wait to do more! Gertie is offering an amazing jacket class….anyone want to buy that for me? Anyone? Bueller? Thank you so much, for this gorgeous fabric that I never would have gotten to use otherwise.  And to all you reading, I would advise you to check out the website for your spring sewing needs, they have some amazing stuff on there! And it’s extremely well-organized, which I honestly can’t say for a lot of online fabric vendors. And they delivered my order within two days, which is unprecedented. So go to and browse their silks and satins, cottons and wools, linens and knits, because I promise you, it’s worth it! Consider this your chance to have greatness thrust upon you! See? It’s totally a pick up line. Seriously. Malvolio? More like MalvoliHO! Or maybe just ignore that and look at my pretty jacket. What? I always read standing against a wall of greenery in a hand-made jacket. Don’t you?


Filed under Clothing, Fabric, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage

Did you know they’ve got patterns for sale on the internets?

First of all, thank you VERY much for your lovely comments on my recent denim adventures, and your thoughts on needles. Food for thought indeed. It’s funny, as a self-taught seamstress I get a lot of information online and from random sources, and I seem to have no real evaluative processes for deciding what to take and what to throw away. Like, for example, I once read an online article about pressing which I found via A Fashionable Stitch and it said you should press a seam four times and I was like, yes, of course, and now I do that. EVERY. DAMN. TIME. One side, the other side, wrong side, right side. All my seams. All the time. But then I read something about replacing your needles and I was like, that’s clearly insanity and I will never do such a thing. Totally arbitrary. So anyway, thank you! I obviously should be changing my needle (and, for that matter, my contact lenses, sorry, Dr. Wortman!) more often.

In other news, I really never should have gotten an ebay account. It’s a real bad idea, guys. Don’t do it. Learn from me. Think of me as a drug addict your D.A.R.E officer brought in to teach you about WHY METH IS WRONG. Because people, they’ve got PATTERNS on that thing. PATTERNS. In LOTS. And I may or may not have gone a little crazy and bid on/won a bunch of them. Whole lots. Of patterns. Recently. So, you know, that’s happening.

Want to see them? Yeah, you do.

Shoulder yokes. Delicious.

I love this. It’s like the Sense and Sensibility Swing Dress Pattern, but the REAL DEAL!

The photo is bad. The pattern is lovely.

This is a little insane. I’m totally making it, though.

Check out the cuffs on this bad boy!

The collar is excellent.

Well it’s got pockets, so I’m in.

Simple to make my ass but I love that the collar works 5 ways!

Asian inspired pajamas? Yes, please.

Hmmm. The cover art is so amusing.

The fedora is so jaunty!

Well, obviously I need a house coat. That’s just a give-in.

Oh my god this blouse I love it very much. I would need to resize it but MY GOD it’s the best.

There is something vaguely creepy about all of this. I couldn’t tell you what.

This is my absolute favorite. Right? RIGHT? SO CUTE! Honestly, it was worth the lot of them just for this one gorgeous creature. Did I mention all together it was like 15 dollars? Yeah. It’s okay to be a little jealous of this addict. She’s the crazy person in the corner with ALL THE AWESOMENESS.

But, hey, if you don’t want to get an ebay account that’s cool. Look who just released a free pattern? Salme Patterns, independent designers extraordinaire! The Sonja Dress is a free pattern download on Burda Style and it’s just adorable. Never heard of Salme Patterns? Check out Kelli’s awesome interpretation! Kelli blogs at True Bias, and I would like to be her friend. I would like to be all of your friends. Do you like the ebay? Has it captured your heart and mind? Where do you buy patterns? Which of these is your favorite? Spoiler alert, I will be giving a couple of these away come March. Which one would you like? If you say the last one I will end you.

But to end on a positive note, Cadfael in a bow!

Cat photos. Just one step closer to becoming Miss Marple.




Filed under Butterick Patterns, Inspiration, McCalls Patterns, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage, Vogue Patterns

The Never Have I Ever Pants

I forget when, exactly, but at some point in the past year Tasia of Sewaholic proposed an interesting question. Is there anything you wouldn’t sew? This was at least half a year ago, and I remember thinking, wow, there are so MANY things I’m afraid to sew, raincoats, leather items, jackets (more on that later…), JEANS. I wouldn’t sew ANY of those, I thought, they seem so crazy! But if the past year of crafting has taught me anything, it’s taught me to be more adventurous when I’m making stuff. What’s the absolute worst that can happen? I made a sweater. I made trousers. I sewed with knits, for god’s sake. Never say never, I now say to myself, never say never.

So, long story short, I made some jeans. Sort of. Kind of. In my opinion. But I feel like there are people out there who might call what I made non-Jeans. And those people? Can go cry somewhere else. Sure, they don’t have a front fly or welt pockets, or any pockets at all, but damn it, they are made out of denim and I flat felling the fricking seams. I’m calling them jeans and there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP ME. (Honestly, I pretty much think that anything made of denim gets to be called a jean. That’s just the way I was raised.) And you know what? They look gooooood:

Yeah. Yeah they do.

I used Colette Patterns Clover Pants, which of course I have made before, much to my delight (I can’t stop, people, I love these pants, I’m making them again in black, it’s madness, MADNESS I say!). Though they may look black in these photos, these pants are actually dark dark blue denim that I got from back in October for, like, 3 dollars a yard. I cut a straight size six and unlike last time I didn’t add any length to the legs. Which left me with really cold ankles all day yesterday when I wore them, but I think as temperatures rise they are going to be perfect! I made version 1 but omitted the front pockets because I literally have never used the pockets I put in my first pair. These pants are insanely easy to make, they took me like 6 hours tops from cutting to hemming, and I would consider myself a slow sewer.

I made the shirt too. I’m not sure how I feel about the shirt. More on that in a moment. Back to the pants!

These pants have generated a lot of buzz on the internet. Love them! say some. Impossible to fit! say others. Super flattering style! say some. Flattering on NO ONE! say others. Well, I got lucky with these. They fit me very well with literally no fitting changes. I will say, though, that now that I’ve made a few more Colette patterns as I follow along with the Sew Colette challenge, that has NOT remained the case. And that’s okay! Because sizing isn’t just something that varies from company to company, but also from pattern to pattern! So while my first
Meringue might have needs adjustments and I’ve just completed my (first!) FBA on my Pastille Dress pattern, these fit me as is. There is no accounting for patterns, eh?

Just enough comfort, but form-fitting! And the posterior? You want to see that, do you? Of course you do, you’re only human:

And, now my butt is all over the interwebs. Oh, well, at least it’s clothed! Beautifully clothed….

And I wasn’t kidding about the flat felled seams. I found them a little tricky with the stiff denim, but I figured them out and I love the way they look. However, it was really REALLY really hard to sew them up when sealing one leg. I couldn’t do them on the side with the zipper, but I did them on the other side, and I swear it was an act of acrobatics to try to make the skinny leg of the jean move through the machine without sewing the leg together. It was a struggle. Thank god for Lycra, because without some stretch I don’t know how this could have possibly worked.

I probably should have used a denim needle. I totally didn’t. I don’t even change my needle between projects. It takes like five projects before I do that. Is that really bad? I just feel like it’s a waste of needles to change each project, but I’m sure I’m breaking some kind of cardinal rule with that. Oh, well, wouldn’t be the first time. I’m a rebel, Dottie, a loner.

Now on to the shirt. The shirt was a free pattern (FREE PATTERN) download from Dixie DIY. I think I’ve made it clear how much I love Dixie, right? I would say I’m making another Ballet Dress at some point in the near future, but I feel like that’s just assumed. Dixie has a lot of awesome free patterns on her website, and most of them are knit-centric. So I downloaded and dutifully pieced together her pattern for loose flowy shirt with cuffs. And I made it. And it was very easy to put together. And I used leftover fabric from my Thank You Tasia top,which was free, and the pattern, which was free. So no cost, really. But, I don’t know, this might not be a great style for me:

This is the face I make when I’m cold, and I’m not sure if my shirt works on my body. I make it surprisingly often, all things considered.

See, I do like the shirt, and it’s comfortable (hello, Knits!) but there is a lot of fabric happening here at the hem, and I don’t know if that really looks good on me. It looked so good on Dixie! Why aren’t I Dixie? God, life is SO. HARD.

Still. It works with the cardigan, right? I don’t know. Maybe I will chop some off the sides. We shall see what Deborah, my mother, says. Her word is law.

A little interior waistband shot for you. I used some scraps of fabric left over from my Dear Betty Dress. I think that’s really fun, actually, having a surprise printed cotton inside solid pants.

Fun fact about the word fun, my wonderful cousin Elyse has lived many places, and when I visited her when she was living in Buenos Aires she had a great roommate, Briony, who absolutely abhorred the fact that we called things “fun”, like, that’s a fun top! or, what a fun sofa! She thought we were hopelessly American and gauche. I think we are fun.

So, in sum, never say never, as long as it’s denim it’s a jean, objects can be as fun as experiences, and changing your needle is for losers. (Or maybe not. Anyone want to weigh in on this?)

And to leave you with something FUN, another rule of life, or at least, my life, is as soon as I’m almost done with something, like, say, my amazing linen burlap 1940’s jacket (post to come!) and am laying it on my floor to lap the lapels and stick on the button, who should come along but Brother Cadfael?

You made this underlined and lined and bound buttonholed masterwork for ME? So kind. Thank you. It will make an excellent sleeping throne.


Filed under Colette Patterns

The Lost In The Woods Dress

Before I show you my latest creation, or rather, my latest creation that I’ve been able to get photos of (SERIOUSLY, photographer/boyfriend, where ARE you? Call me! Thanks.), I thought I would let you know about some of my works in progress. So here we go:

1. I got some excellent advice about my Pastille dress, thank you, kind people! I’m going to go ahead and make a for real for real version in aqua stretch poplin, with a full-bust-adjustment and a sway-back adjustment, adding 1/2 an inch at the sides of the two back pieces. That’s the plan.

2. I worked all weekend on my Simplicity 4494 jacket. I’m really trying to take my time on this one and not rush it, so I’m not trying to put pressure on myself to speed up and finish it in an evening. I even made a bound buttonhole. Yeah. I’m that good. Tomorrow night? The sleeves go in. The breath, she is bated.

3. Obviously I’ve fallen deeply in love with the Renfrew. And obviously my poor mother deserves something for all her hard work and aid. So she’s getting a long-sleeved v-necked Renfrew, which will be number 2 of the 9 options outlined in the pattern. You thought I was kidding about making ever version? I never kid with knits. NEVER.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Now, onto the dress I made!

This is not a great photo. I look like I’ve just seen my family slaughtered in front of me. It’s adorable, no?

I made this dress for my company’s latest opening. The show takes place in a rural environment in a time that is ambiguous, but not the present. So I thought this dress would be a very fitting one to correspond with the themes of the show. And I have to say, I completely adore it! It’s my second version of Dixie DIY’s Ballet Dress pattern. I’m going to make 10 of these, I swear. SO. COMFORTABLE.

I used a fabric from the hoarder’s stash, this fabric, to be precise:

I made one change to the pattern, slimming the sleeves to make them more fitted. Other then that, this is just the best and I wouldn’t alter a thing. Thank you, Dixie!

This time I made a matching belt. Which is cute, but, I don’t know, man, it makes this look like an empire waist shape which is so not a good look on me.

I abused my power completely and had our company intern, Brian (thank you, Brian!) take photos of me on the set. I cleared it with the director, don’t worry! But it’s a pretty amazing set created by a wonderful design team, and I was happy to get lost on it for a little while.

Pretty cool, right?

This photo is kind of a joke, honestly, because I’m pretending to be like my friend Emilie, who is in the play and makes a gesture similar to this. It’s in no way funny if you haven’t seen the play. So, yeah, good times.

So this is how I looked when I wore it to the opening. But I changed it up a little when I wore it out last night  to a birthday party in a BYO bowling alley. Which is, by the way, as trashy and delightful as it sounds. Seriously, it was amazing, I can’t wait to go back. And I am a TERRIBLE bowler.

And because this event couldn’t have been more hipster, I thought I would give you a super indie shot:

Yeah, doesn’t that just scream “I listen to bands that don’t exist yet”?

So what do you think? Belt or sash? Rural world or bowling alley? Hipster hangout or….hipster hangout?

Glamour shot!

What’s on your sewing table? What are you up to? Any sewing cues going on? Cue in the sense of line, not in the sense of forgetting a line. (I know, I’m so clever!)



Filed under Clothing, Fabric, Sewing

The Muslin Diaries: Volume 2: The Colette Pastille Dress

Here we go again, second verse, different from the first! (Jackie is a punk, Judy is a runt…no? Okay, never mind then. No Ramones fans in the audience. That’s cool!) Without further ado, I present to you, my Sew Colette Pastille Dress Muslin, in all it’s bright yellow glory:

I look so glum!

May I just say that I don’t think I really make a true muslin all that often. I either just make a bodice, or I make the whole damn thing with seam finishing (pinking) and heming and everything. I’m not one for the in-between. I recognize that this is not, in fact, the point of a muslin, but it’s my garment and I’ll pink if I want to (if you’re not into the Ramones I’m sure Lesley Gore is right up your alley).  So this is yet another “wearable” muslin, sue me.

I made this out of a sheet I had dyed yellow, because dying is fun. It’s a touch anemic on me, the color, I mean, but I think it will be cute for summer. Given my experience with the Meringue  Skirt,  I traced and cut a size 8 this time, which worked really nicely through the hips and rear etc, but was a bit snug in the bust and back:

I did not want to hear such as thing, because it makes me feel bad about myself, so I lashed out at my mother/photographer. Sorry, mom. But just like when she told me I couldn’t make my own soap because it’s dangerous for ten year olds to use lye, she was correct. It looks okay in this photo, but I can see that oh-so-adorable thing that happens when your bra strap cuts into your back and gives you imaginary but emotionally debilitating back fat.

The back zipper, she is wrinkled.

So, thoughts: I really like this dress. Unlike the Meringue, which, while adorable, and I like my final version (photos to come once I take them in San Juan!) isn’t really my jam, this is my kind of dress. It’s more fitted then my usual style, but I think that’s a good thing, and I like that it hugs my curves and highlights my waist. And I love the pleats and the sweetheart neckline, so that’s all to the good.

I like the fit right now, in general, and I think with some adjustments it will be just perfect. I think I ought to do a full bust adjustment, which is something that, believe it or not, I’ve never actually done. I know. And my chest? Is not small. I’m a D, if you must know, but somehow I’ve just never had to do one….so that’s interesting. But Sarai has a guide in the book, and there are scores of tutorials on the internet, so I’m not concerned. The back is a bit more perplexing, though, and I’m not sure what to do to fix that. Do I cut a bigger size just for the back? Let out the darts? Any thoughts, friends? All suggestions would be welcome!

The length is good, the sleeves are cute, but next time, when I make this for real for real, I might have to break down and line it, at least in the bodice. I just hate facings, people, I hate them. I think they are evil. They never really stay down unless you tack the hell out of them and then you can see the stitches on the right side which was the WHOLE POINT OF A FACING, SO THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Facings and I, not best friends forever.

So there you  have it. In other news, I’m currently working on a pair of Denim clovers, yay, and I’ve finally gotten together all the pieces I will need for my spring jacket! More on that to come. What are you working on? Any other Sew Coletters out there?


Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, Dye, Sewing

The Thank You Tasia Top

Sew Grateful week may be over, but my gratitude goes on and on! And today I would like to thank a wonderful and amazing Tasia, of Sewaholic, for the pattern that has taken the interwebs by storm and set my heart a flutter, and that would be the deceptively simple Renfrew Top.

Tasia is amazing, number 1. First of all, she’s Canadian, and I will pretty much do anything a Canadian tells me to do at any time. (Sidenote: Go watch Slings and Arrows right now, if you haven’t already. Don’t question me, just do it.) Tasia’s blog, Sewaholic is fantastic as all hell, filled with awesome tutorials and tips and tricks and truly excellent question posts that generate smart and helpful discussions.  And, most importantly, she bikes to work! I also do this, so I love her.

Additionally,  Tasia designs patterns especially for pear-shaped ladies. I am not, in fact, a pear shaped lady, rather I am an hour-glass shaped lady, but still, I appreciate her making a range of patterns for lovely pear-shaped ladies. I like knowing that it’s out there, you see. So anyway, I’ve always admired Tasia’s designs, but never actually made one myself, despite the plethora of amazing makes out there (google Pendrell Blouse if you need something to do for the next, say, ten hours, because that’s how many amazing iterations of it exist). However, Tasia recently released a pattern in knit, the Renfrew Top. And people, my heart, it nearly exploded.

As you may or may not know, I’ve recently jumped into the world of sewing with knits head first. Dixie DIY has been hugely grateful, as has Made By Rae, who recently did a week of interviews with champion knit sewers. As someone who doesn’t own a serger, and isn’t planning on buying one anytime soon, not for lack of interest but for lack of funds, I have been on the lookout for ways to make knit stuff that doesn’t look hopelessly home-ec. Enter Tasia with the Renfrew, as if on cue. And so I bought the pattern in pre-sale, got it almost instantaneously, and, armed with this striped knit from the Hoarder Stash, came out with this:

In other interesting news, my hair is really big.

And I love it. I LOVE IT. It looks like a real, honest to god shirt! That’s what Ginger’s boyfriend said, and he is very wise. It looks so professional! Right? RIGHT?

It’s the bands, people, the glorious glorious bands. There are fabric bands around the hems of the sleeves and bottom of the shirt, and they just make it look so good!

Look how happy the bands make me!

So happy. My enormous face is aglow with happiness.

Now, onto the construction. As I said, Tasia designs for Pears, and I’m not one of those. So I had to do some resizing. I traced the pattern in a size 10, and graded to a size 8 in the waist and a size 6 in the hips, essentially ruining all Tasia’s hard work in scaling for pear-shapes. Sorry, Tasia! I kept a 10 in the shoulders and sleeves, which, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have done, because the sleeves are a bit too long. Oh, well!

And this is the face I make when my sleeves are too long.

Nevertheless, I am quite pleased with this top. It came together in a ridiculously easy fashion, taking up maybe 4 hours of my life, all together.

I like the length of the body of the shirt a lot, it’s perfect for me. And I cannot wait to make more of these. I sewed up View A, but there are two other options, a short-sleeved v-neck, and a 3/4 length-sleeved cowl neck, which, if you mix and match, makes a total of 9 combinations, as Tasia reminds us on the envelope. Challenge? Accepted.

And the back, if you are interested.

I know it’s more typical to see horizontal stripes then vertical ones, but I swear, they are death to women with anything going on in the chest region. So I went vertical, because I think they look awesome. But I threw in the horizontal ones on the bands A. for variety and B. so I didn’t have to worry about matching! Two birds, one stone.

I didn’t mean to do this, but the neckline came out all white, even thought it was cut from the same cloth. Oh, well, it actually looks rather nice, I think:

You can just see the zig-zag used to keep the collar in place. Luckily, I don’t mind that kind of thing. In fact, I kind of like it.

A final photo of happy, stripy, me. And it should be noted that not only am I wearing Tasia’s pattern, BUT the cowl I’m wearing in this photo is one I made after I saw her version and was inspired! It’s the honey cowl, and after I selflessly made one for my friend Becca to help her through the cold Chicago winter, I made one for myself! A girl can only be so selfless….

So thank you, Tasia, for all that you do.


Filed under Clothing, Sewaholic Patterns, Sewing

Sew Grateful Giveaway Winner and Awesome Things You Ought To Know About 2/12/12!

I have no photos for today, so here is Maru. God, I love Maru.

First of all, I would like to thank each and everyone one of you who commented to win my giveaway prizes. Not only did you remind me of a plethora of cartoons that delighted me as a child (Hong Kong Fooie? Was the best. THE BEST.) but your ideas for these items and descriptions of what you are currently working on made my day(s). I really do love to see what other people are doing with this sewing and crafting business, it’s so inspirational and activates my own creativity. So thank you, for letting me shamelessly rip you off. You guys, you make it happen.

Second of all, congratulations to the randomly selected winner, number 26, Mokosha! (I don’t know how to show you the randomizer thing so you will just have to trust me. I promise I really did find a device on the interwebs and enter in the parameters and make it spit out a number, I’m not lying to you! I’m just not good enough at life to figure out how to grab that image and post it here!). Mokosha is a knockout on many levels. She is a phenomenal seamstress. She is whip smart and gorgeous. And she is probably one of the funniest people writing about sewing across whom I have come. She is effortlessly cool (I assume, I really don’t know how much effort she puts into being super awesome), she’s an art historian, an archaeologist, a great photographer, and a generally stand-up human being. All of her posts come in the form of poems, which is just plain delightful, and she wears the hell out of a blazer. So, Mokosha, forgive my gushing, but I have a sewing crush on you, and I am happy to contribute to your crafting adventures.

And honestly, I think I have a sewing crush on every person who commented. You people, you are the best. Thanks for stopping by, and come back again soon, I’ve got more giveaways planned for the future.

And now for the awesome things about which you should know.

1. Okay, this is going to sound absolutely insane, but, um, do you guys know about Ebay? I literally just found out about Ebay. Of course I knew what it was, but I swear, I have never used it before this month. Long story short I really liked the bags from the Jason Wu for Target collection, but of course it sold out within minutes. So I went to the internet for guidance, like you do, and I was like, wow, a plethora of bags exist, out there, online! In fact, the whole collection is available, online, you can buy it, today! Which I just found to be stunning. And then I found out that there is FABRIC on there. And PATTERNS. And NOTIONS, probably, I haven’t actually checked. Now, I’m not really someone who should be purchasing fabric, but, yeah, it’s there, if you need it. How cool is that? Yeah, obviously I’m rather behind the times. Just go with it.

2. The first two seasons of NewsRadio are currently streaming for free on Hulu. Obviously I don’t need to say anything else.

3. I’m sure you’ve seen this, but Casey’s tutorial for Valentine’s day strikes me as a gorgeous way to embellish a sweater.

4. I am not a fan of the Maxi dress. I honestly think it’s a garment that has been designed to make ladies feel negative about themselves, like harem pants, or drop-waist dresses. HOWEVER, two separate but equally delightful people have created/displayed maxi-dresses lately that actually make me say, wow, I want one of those. Would I wear it outside? No. No I would not. But would I swan about my apartment in it, feeling lithe and ten feet tall? Yeah. Yeah, I would. So check out this Maxi dress by Cirque du Bebe, and this Maxi dress by Cation Designs, and tell me you don’t want a piece of that. Yeah. Thought so.

5. Very little has every described how I feel almost all the time as much as this amazing post by Hyperbole and a Half. Read it. It will not make you feel better about yourself, but it will reassure you that everyone else feels the say way you do.


Filed under Giveaway, Inspiration, Sewing

Sew I thought you should know…

How grateful I am to all of you. Every single person who stops by and reads this thing. Seriously, it makes me a little dizzy sometimes when I consider how three years ago I didn’t know a thing about sewing, and now it’s this huge part of my life. It has become a form of therapy, an outlet of creativity, a way to be part of a community and a continual delight for me, so despite the long nights of hemming and the occasional (frequent) “what the hell does that instruction mean I hate facings/zippers/basting/the world” moment, I am so grateful for my little sewing addiction. Through sewing I’ve been introduced to so many amazing people and ideas, primarily digitally, and yet I feel connected with people across the world when they say, seam rippers, AM I RIGHT? And I’m like, bitch, please, I totally get you on every level.  Some of us serge and some of us hand stitch everything. Some of us love synthetics and some of us swear by naturals. Some of us love punk, some prep, some (a lot) vintage, some modern, some cutesy, some chic, but I have learned so much from so many people out there, and I can’t help but be insanely grateful for every blog, comment and query I’ve discovered along the way.

Brother Cadfael, contemplating how hard it is to measure stuff without opposible thumbs.

As a mostly self-taught sewer, I’m sometimes embarrassed by the gaps in my crafting knowledge. That’s why I’m so thrilled for each and every tutorial and tip that drifts my way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone post something about “look how I finished this seam” or “easy buttonhole tips” and I’m like, seam finishing, eh? What’s that, then? (I do know what it is now, but it’s sad how long it took me to realize that A. fabric frays and B. you should do something about that.) So I’m grateful, deeply, to everyone and their blogs, because my god have you saved my sewing ass, as it were.

I’m also so so so grateful to my mom. And my grandmothers, both of them. Not because they taught me how to sew, but because they didn’t.

So many people out there have these amazing stories of sewing at their mother’s knee or knitting along with their grandmother. I don’t have that, you know what? I got My maternal grandmother, Isolda, could barely sew a button. And honestly, she never had to, she was the daughter of wealthy Russians who emigrated to Iran, then Persia, in the 1920’s. She had maids and pet bears (true story!) and several fiances. She was, in a word, amazing. And when she met my grandfather and moved to the States, she brought a bunch of fabric with her. And, somewhere along the way, bought more. And never used it, ever ever ever. Instead she bought bags and bags of clothing from American department stores and considered herself under-dressed in less than four pieces of jewelry. She read me Pushkin and took me to get manicures and made me eat weird Russian foods (which I in turn grew to love, and to this day am bonkers for borscht).  She has a sense of style that was essentially Parisian, but with that Eastern European taste for the gaudy (what? It’s true! I lived in Moscow! I would know!). And she never ever did anything with all the fabric and thread and buttons and snaps she had bought. She was a buyer. And it all sat, unused, until my mother unearthed the box from Iran and I discovered the yards and yards of shirting and boxes and bags of notions. My grandmother never knew about my sewing hobby, she passed away before it became such a big part of my life. But something tells me she would have liked it. She liked everything else I did (what else does a grandmother do?).

My father’s mother died when I was very small. But as it turns out, she was an embroiderer. I never knew.

And then there is my mother.

My amazing unbelievable delightful mother, who suffers through kickboxing with me and puts up with my bratty bitchy abuse when I force her to take my picture and lets me know gently, but in no uncertain terms, when I’ve made something that just doesn’t look awesome one me. My mother who, unlike her own mother, hates shopping and make up and buys small batches of really good quality clothing once or twice a year, at most. Thanks to her guidance and my ever-expanding pattern collection, I’m trying to erase the Forever 21 and H and M that have long littered my closet, and instead replace the crap with a small collection of great quality highly flattering garments. She is always willing to put up with me babbling about work or life or sewing techniques or why I think standing on an escalator should be illegal (it really should).  She watches Downton Abby and she laughs at Parks and Recreation so hard she once cried. She bought a fedora because she wanted a hipster hat (her words). She loves I Am Maru almost as much as I do. And she doesn’t think it’s weird that I jumped headfirst into making my own clothing and devoting a lot of my time to grainlines and pinking sheers. So while my lovely father just says, “nice” when I model a new blouse or skirt or hand dyed shibori inspired jacket, my mother actually stops, looks, and tells me how she really feels. And I am, and will forever be, grateful.

And of course, I must thank all the cats.

Tiny Tiger and Mr. Malevolent, who live with my parents.


And Brother Cadfael, who lives with me.

Thank you all, everyone, I am sew grateful. And as for anyone who actually read this 1000 word post, thanks for that too. I’m sew grateful for you, too.

Don’t forget about the giveaway! Debi listed 4 rounds of links here, and you can still enter my grand giveaway here! I will be drawing a winner on Sunday, so enter by Saturday, February 11th at 11:59pm and you will get a shot!


Filed under Inspiration, Sewing

Sew Grateful Giveaway! Get it while it’s hot!

It’s Sew Grateful Week! First of all, a huge thanks to the lovely and amazing Debi (she truly is amazing) for hosting this! I’m so excited to see what everyone creates and gives away and reflects upon. I will be posting a reflecting post by the deadline of this Thursday, never fear, and I have to say in advance, I’m so grateful to so many people out there for being amazing resources for a new sewer like me. This is an amazing community of people creating marvelous things with their hands, and the support and encouragement and sheer knowledge and advice out floating around in the interweb never fails to amaze me. I wouldn’t be half the sewer I am today without all of these amazing people making things and sharing ideas, so thank you. I’m truly Sew Grateful! Read more about it here.

Now, enough jibber-jabber, on to the giveaway!

Sidenote, did anyone else watch Jabberjaw growing up? It was awesome. It had a shark. Who played the drums. How cool is that?

Yeah. It’s awesome. You know what else is awesome? This giveaway! And what am I giving away,you ask? It’s a trinity, or a triptych, or for those less dorky, it’s three things. Whatever, I like to get fancy with the verbage, sue me.  Number one is this lovely pattern, Vintage Vogue 8728. This guy has been all over the internets since it’s release last year, and there are some lovely versions out there like this one by Mena or this one by Casey or this one by Erika! So here it is, yours for the taking:

Uncut, unused, and ready to go! And to pair with it, we have three yards of this coral pink silk:

Fun fact, this may or may not come with a dusting of small grey cat hairs. I will do my best to insure this is not so, but just giving you fair warning.

But say the 1940’s isn’t your style. Well, not to worry, because I’m also giving away this groovy pattern, Butterick 6258!

This one has in fact been cut, I believe, but I personally have never used it. And it’s not just a dress, but several whole outfits! What? Yes. You read that correctly.

So to recap, Vintage Vogue 8728, Butterick 6258 (with some CHARMING cover art, one might add) and three yards of silk to make a halter top, a dress, or whatever the hell else you are into! All for the low low price of free! Just leave a comment below letting me know what you would do with any of these items, or really what you are working on right now to make February a little more fun! Or tell me what you’re favorite childhood cartoon was. Obviously I enjoyed Jabberjaw. That’s just a give-in.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Vying for the Viaduct Sweater

Stop everything you are doing and pay attention to me. I made a sweater. A real, honest to God, knit by hand sweater. A WHOLE DAMN SWEATER. I, Leah Franqui, struggle extraordinaire, 4 month knitter, completed a sweater. And it’s awesome. Right?

Yeah. It’s awesome. And I made it. WITH MY HANDS. Bam. The sweater is the Berocco FREE PATTERN the Aidez. Over 1500 Ravelry knitters have made this beautiful open cardigan, and they are chalk full of advice and modifications and ideas. Did I take any of them into account? Of course not. That would be madness.

No, I’m just kidding. I actually took a class at Loop to make this sweater. I was a bit concerned that despite my mad knitting skills honed over the course of several scarves and snoods, I wouldn’t be able to master the art of sweatery (it’s my new word, deal with it) all by my lonesome. And I’m glad I took the class, because a lot of learning anything new is vocabulary, and it’s nice to be able to look at my lovely instructor and be like, YTTB, WTF? And she could be like, that’s actually a simple concept you know intuitively and here’s how to do it. And I could be like, JK! TY! So all my thanks to my instructor and the wonderful ladies in my class (no gentleman, sadly, step up, boys, join the world of knitting!) for getting me through to the other side and helping me make this masterpiece.

I love it. I LOVE IT. There are a few little mistakes which I wont bore you with/want you to be impressed with me so I don’t want to point out my silly errors. But this is a really nice pattern, and though it looks really complex, it’s actually pretty simple once you memorize the pattern, but not at all boring, at least, not for me as a beginner! There are four kinds of cable on this puppy, which make it look amazing.

I knitted up a small, which worked perfectly for me. This yarn really does bloom (expand after washing, for you non-knitters out there, look at me, picking up the lingo!) and it blocks beautifully. I used the recommended yarn, Berocco Peruvia, because I honestly didn’t know you could deviate from the recommendation. Now that I do, consider my mind BLOWN.

I really liked knitting with this yarn, though, it’s chunky and knits up really quickly. This sweater took me about 5 weeks, or in TV terms, 5 episodes of Downton Abby, Season 2, 3 Miss Marples, 2 Poroits, countless 30 Rocks and Parks and Recreations, 2 Midsummer Murders, and a lot of things I’m ashamed to list here (cough, Hart of Dixie, cough). But I made it through and got all my pieces knit and blocked by the final class, where I learned that seaming is just like sewing. Which is nice, because I totally know how to do that.

This is the face I make when I have completed an insanely cool sweater WITH MY HANDS. Yeah. Expect to see that one more often, people. Thought honestly, not THAT often, because knitting takes FOREVER.

Now, you may at this point be wondering, what the hell is a Viaduct? Well, it’s actually really cool. My friend Ben took these photos (thanks, Ben!) yesterday when we, along with my mother and father and a group of about 35 other people, participated in this walk along the three mile stretch of what was the first railway line into Philadelphia, the path of the famous Pennsylvania Railroad! The track went dead in 1991, I believe, and since then has been a three mile expanse of nothing, without use or really much public knowledge of its existance. But that all might, hopefully, change soon, because there are two organizations pushing to repurpose and reclaim the now abandoned tracks to create a Viaduct, much like the wildly successful New York High Line! This would be an amazing boon for the city, and really revitalize a few areas that currently act as urban no-mans lands.

The issue is now that part of the Viaduct, the part known as the 9th street viaduct or the Reading Viaduct, is more likely to be made into a pocket park in the next few (I hope just a few) years, while the underground cross-city tunnel part seems less likely, at least, right now. So while one organization, The Reading Viaduct, its focused on transforming the above-ground elevated 9th Street portion of the 4 track wide (that’s pretty wide) space into a park, the Viaduct Greene Organization wants the whole 3 miles reclaimed, and wont take anything less. So there is some conflict there, a bit of vying, if you will. Personally, I hope the 9th Street Viaduct becomes the first phase in a multistage project that eventually spans all three miles of railroad track and revitalizes those areas of this delightful but really strugglesome city. And I know that wont happen any time soon. But, hey, I got some good pictures, at least:

How cute is my mamala?

And there's my papa.

And Ben, my fearless photographer.

With the view of Philadelphia behind me, aglow with the warmth of my sweater. Can you imagine anything better?

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got going on lately. What about you? Big projects? New strides? Reclaimed spaces? Any trespassing (which is totally what we were doing, shhhh, don’t tell the Mayor!)? Or maybe just learned a cool new thing? Let me know!


Filed under Berocco, Knitting