Category Archives: Tutorial

The El Farolito Dress

Isn’t it an awfully strange feeling to show someone someplace you love? Maybe everyone doesn’t have the same sense of place as personal, but I do, and I think I probably always have. My mother trained as an architect, and she renovated the house I lived in from the age of three months on, so I can say with honesty that I lived in a house my mom built. Space and its meaning and memory therefore have always had resonance for me. When I meet people who say they don’t care about where they live, I find it difficult to comprehend the words coming out of their mouths. Whatever space I’m in has always affected me deeply. When I was 22 and just out of college I lived in Spain for three months I lived in a tiny room with no windows. That was like a prison, and while Spain might be fun for many people, on some level it was difficult for me to enjoy my time there because the space I inhabited was so unbearable. But when I moved to Brooklyn, I moved into an amazing apartment, a place that felt cozy and comfortable and fit me well, and every day felt like an adventure, with a safe spot to return to at night. It’s not just where I live, though, it’s also places, and what they mean. Despite that apartment, Madrid will always be a place I long to return, because it’s streets are so gorgeous, it’s museums so glorious and bursting with art, it’s buildings so charming and enticing. Philadelphia, my hometown, will always fit me like a soft pair of jeans. And Puerto Rico will always feel like a sigh of relief, coupled with the anticipation of seeing something insane. It’s a rare place, a mix of comfort and crazy. Sharing it with people is wonderful, but also worrisome. What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t get it? It’s another house my mom made. Will they enjoy her, her style, her touch, her details? Will they love it the way I do? Why do they have to? I can’t help but get worried when I bring people. Luckily, Mr. Struggle loved it. Problem, solved. The thing is, though, I am in every way a creature of habit. It’s a difficult thing, I think, because people who I meet who are NOT that way tend to find it a curious quality, rather than a way of life. Especially Mr. Struggle. He is not as into the habits, and so the explanation of “this is what I do and therefore we should do it” doesn’t always, how shall I say, fly? So when we went down together, he wanted to do new things, things I hadn’t done there. This filled me with something like dread. NEW THINGS? DIFFERENT THINGS? What am I supposed to do with that? Well, a lot, as it turns out. Mr. Struggle is a smart guy. So now when we travel, even to a place I’ve been, I try to remember that there is new stuff out there, and I can make a new memory in an old place. This time, when enjoying San Juan, Mr. Struggle found a new bar, which is very much his style, and I have to say, it was an excellent discovery. The bar is called El Farolito, or The Lamplight, like the lantern on a lamppost, and it’s AMAZING. If you ever go to San Juan, go the hell there. Bourbon and Coconut water is a surprisingly stellar combination, and that’s the least of what they do. So this dress is named in honor of that bar, which was a surprise for me, something I usually abhor, but am learning to hate a little less. And this dress was a combination of two familiar patterns grafted together in a new way. So that’s something new too! BH1So the bodice is my self-drafted bodice pattern, and the skirt is my all-time favorite, Simplicity 4529. Can’t stop, wont stop. This dress therefore between the bodice and the skirt has 26 darts. You read that correctly. 26. That’s a real thing. Enjoy that. God knows I didn’t when I made it…. EF2The fabric I actually got for free from a friend and co-worker of my friend Liz, a seamstress and costume historian who was giving away huge amounts of fabric to make space in her apartment. GOD. BLESS. NEW. YORK. These tiny places really work out when you need free fabric! EF3A little side view for you. Enjoy. EF5That’s our green roof! A big thing my mom wanted to include with this property. It’s very cool. I love it a lot. The perfect place for these photo shoots which I force Mr. Struggle to do. EF7Oh, I was out of matching zippers so I had to use a maroon one which you can JUST see in this photo. Enjoy that. EF6A little bodice close up. How lovely is this print? I can’t honestly believe it was free. And so MUCH of it! Liz told me to make something and then give her the remainder, I can’t wait to see what she does! EF8Ah, the view from our roof. See why I love it here? EF10Yes it’s a little non-pristine and maybe slightly odd, but it’s also glorious with the sun and the clouds. Don’t you think? EF11The “green” aspect of the green roof, complete with my father’s many solar lights. EF4So there you are. Something familiar, and something new. All that’s missing is an amazing cocktail. And for that? You’d need to go to El Farolito.


Filed under Fabric, Friends, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Tutorial, Vintage

A Peppermint Pastille (MMM 5 Continued)

I don’t know if I would call the color of this dress mint, really, but an Icy Aqua Pastille doesn’t have that alliteration I so crave, so there we are, everyone okay with that? No? Well, suck it up, we’ve got a lot to cover, here, and I don’t have time for your tomfoolery. Now, you remember my pastille muslin, don’t you? I mean, I only showed it to the world a mere three months ago, how dare you not remember it like it was yesterday? Well, never mind that, it was a trifle snug in the bust, so I did a full bust adjustment and made it up in a stretch poplin. Let’s talk about woven fabrics with a touch of stretch, shall we? They are delightful. They will solve any number of fitting issues with ease (heh) and grace. They don’t strain, they don’t constrain, they curve around you and they do what they are told. In short, I loves em. And I must be so immodest to say that I think they love me.

I wore this to my cousin’s wedding on Saturday, at a church out in nowheresville, Cerdo Gordo, Puerto Rico. The wedding was lovely and adorable and perfectly suited to the bride and groom. Of course it started a full hour late. Like everything does in la Isla Del Encanto. So I had time to force my brother to take some shots of this here dress.

This time I didn’t bother with facings. I have very negative feelings about facings. So I lined the bodice and left the skirt unlined. The wrinkles in the skirt rather obscure the pleats, I’m sorry to sa, and if I could afford it, I would travel with a team of people waiting to iron me at all times. That would be just splendid.

I was probably one of the only people, other than my mother, who didn’t wear a set of three-inch or higher heels. I don’t really wear hells. Why? Because they make me fall down.

The back, she is rather wrinkled. Swayback adjustment in the future? I suppose I must do what I must.

Still, I’m pretty into this dress. I think the fit is nice, though of course sheaths aren’t particularly flattering to any stomach of any kind, and mine is no exception. Still, I like it, and wrinkles aside I think it’s adorable and I’m sure I will wear it to other Spring and Summer events.

The church was surrounded by palm trees, as most places are in Puerto Rico. But what was astonishing were the gorgeous orchids grafted onto the trunks of the trees. magnificent!

Amazing, aren’t they? I’ve never been able to grow orchids. They just stick them on a tree and call it a day.

By the way, the vintage item is the headband, which is really a scarf, from my grandmother, which looks something like this:

It’s a souvenir scarf! I love souvenir scarves. Adore them, in fact.

One final shot amongst the orchids.

So there it is, FINALLY, my Pastille dress. Only one more to go and I will have fulfilled the obligations of Sew Colette and sewed my way through the Colette Patterns Handbook!


Filed under Challenge, Clothing, Colette Patterns, Sewing, Tutorial

Awesome Things You Ought To Know About: Holiday 2011 Edition

(This is from Handmade Ryan Gosling. Like you do.)

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought I would compile a little list of things that are delighting me right now, as well as some goodies sprinkled over the internet that you might not be aware of, currently.

1. The irreplaceably excellent Dixie has done it again. Not only has she posted a series of helpful tips to help newbies like myself sew with knits (which is something I’ve never done. But I’m about to do it. Wish me well.), but she’s given the world a free dress pattern! What? I know! Cannonize that woman right now. It’s called the Ballet Dress and it’s comfortable looking and adorable and available fo’ free from now until the 23rd of December. Download it. NOW.

2. Somehow, who knows how, via Pintrest, I stumbled across this list of photography tips, most of which actually seem quite helpful. As someone who struggles with getting great shots of my creations, this seemed like an excellent resource! Check it out here.

3. The Victoria and Albert Museum has an archive of free 1940’s knitting patterns. Of course, there are many free vintage knitting patterns out there, but I just really love that the V and A has them online. I wish the Met would publish patterns inspired by some of their famous dress-portraits, or even their fashion wing! How cool would that be? (If the Met does decide to do this, you heard it here first, see?) Anyway, you can check out these wartime-approved knitting patterns here, and make someone you love a knitted waistcoat, or a balaklavah helmet. Like you do.

4. I don’t really know what you do with your time, but I spend a lot of mine on this website, Animals Talking In All Capitals. If you asked me to pin down why I find this so hilarious I honestly couldn’t tell you, it just is. The same goes for Louis Vs. Rick. The same person turned me on to both of these, (thank you VERY much, Sarah Y.) and I love her eternally for that.

5. You know what I like about the holidays? Everywhere you go, there’s a lot of booze. And it’s the perfect gift, really, when you go to a party or an event (unless it’s thrown by Mormons, or something, in which case, it’s a huge faux pax, don’t do it). But how much cooler is MAKING your own booze? And if you don’t have a pocket distillery, you can at least infuse it on up with these recipes. Try Martha’s method, or make some peppermint vodka to warm the cold nights! I bet you could make as many kinds of infused liquors as there are holiday themed candles at Anthropologie. Who wants to accept that challenge? Anyone? Buller?

That’s what I’ve got for you today. Don’t forget to enter my pattern giveaway and win your own holiday gift!

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Filed under Clothing, Fabric, Giveaway, Inspiration, Knitting, Sewing, Tutorial

Scooby Doo and Scrappy too! Scrap Bird Tutorial

Oh, my, look at this, my very first tutorial! But it’s only fair, really, I have been following other people’s tutorials since I started sewing, scouring the interwebs for information on bound buttonholes, dyeing fabric, zipper application, slipstitching, and bias tape making, just to name a scant few, so I suppose it’s only right that I put something out there myself. I’m sorry if it’s in some way vague, please email me in you don’t understand something or need help! Or comment! Or send up a smoke signal! Whatever you do, I’ll get the message!

So I was asked by a very nice reader to give you a tutorial for the little fabric birds I made for the Nichole Canuso Dance Company Benefit Cabaret. I need to start this by saying a few things. One, this pattern was created for Spool Sewing by Michael Fulkerson. Two, this pattern is NOT she repeated NOT for commercial use. You can’t sell these, or sell the pattern, or sell a pattern that is clearly this pattern but you pretend you made it yourself (you hear me, Etsy? Also, side note, I love love love Etsy, but I also LOVE Regretsy. Check it out.) You can put photos of this little guy where you like, but please note that this pattern was created exclusively for Spool by Michael Fulkerson, it’s not mine, I didn’t make it, I’m just giving you some instructions and hints on how to make his design come alive. The pattern itself can be found here. There are instructions that come with the pattern, but I’m also going to go step by step to give you a tutorial because I think that can be often so much more helpful then written instructions. Right?

I love these birds, by the way. I’ve made a bunch of them, and I think they are an excellent use of scraps, and I mean little scraps, because they use a very small amount of fabric. I’ve been using cotton batting as a stuffer, which I hijacked from an old bed pillow I found that was worn out and unusable in it’s current form. Also, if you have cats and some dried catnip you can throw some of that in with the batting, they go nuts for it. I feel like if you have dogs they might also like these as toys, but you might not want to see your work completely destroyed by feline or canine teeth on either end, so you have my permission to keep these all to yourself, if you like. The reason I think this project is so fun is that it only takes an hour, tops, and sometimes you just need that, you need small easily accomplished projects that allow you to start and finish in one sitting. Especially if you are in midst of a difficult and time consuming project that makes you want to tear out your hair. These can really restore your faith in sewing, I have to say.

What you will need:

Fabric scraps, enough for the top and bottom of the bird. For the bottom you will need a scrap that is about 3″ wide by 7″ long, and for the top you will need a scrap that is about 3″wide by 9″ long.I have lots of scraps, because I can’t bear to waste things:


Cotton batting

buttons for eyes (optional)

1. Pick your fabric scraps with care. I personally have gotten into the habit the last 20 or so times I’ve made these birds (I make….a lot of birds) of making the top part of the bird in a printed fabric and the smaller bottom half of the bird in a solid color. However, I do think it can look great with prints on both sides, I’m just rather boring, I guess. So most of mine look like this:

And not like this:

Please excuse the cat hair , Tiny Tiger and Mr. Malevolent love them some birds....

But all things are acceptable here in fabric bird land! Go nuts! Do what works for you!

So you have your scraps. I am using a piece of scrap from that huge box of fabric I got from my grandfather’s attic and another piece left from a dress I made from a sheet I dyed. I will be showing the dress off to you soon, I promise.

And you have the pattern. Cut out the bird body diagrams on the pattern, and pin them to your scraps:

And then cut out the two pieces of the bird body:

Now, you are going to pin the two pieces, right sides together. Position the smaller piece right at the tail edge of the larger piece:

And start by pinning up one side. Only pin to where the end of the smaller piece meets the neck of the bird. This is marked on the pattern piece, but just to show you on another cut out:

So it looks like this:

And then pin the other side up, and the head:

Now we can start to sew! Start at one side of the bottom of the bird, and sew to the neck:

Use a 1/4" seam allowance.

And then sew up the other side, the finished product will look like this:

Then sew up the head. Once you’ve sewn it, clip around the beak so that when you turn it it forms a nice point:

Then turn the bird. I use a pencil or pen to help me, just be careful not to pierce anything in your enthusiasm.

Then stuff your new little friend. Just stuff the body, leaving the tail flat. You can, of course, stuff the tail, if you like, but it makes it harder to sew shut, so I usually don’t.

Then, enclose the unfinished seams at the tail, folding them inside and securing them with a pin. Sew along the end of the tail, I like to do a zig zag stitch, but straight across is fine. Of course, you could always slip stitch it closed as well, if you are a perfectionist, it’s up to you, but I tend to favor expediency over perfection….

And you can put buttons on for eyes, if you like:

Or not. And there you have it! A new little bird made from scraps. A friend for you, or if you have little ones for your little ones:

Or for your furry friends:

Tiny tiger loves his new avian companion.

And there you have it! My first ever tutorial using Spool Sewing’s amazing pattern created by Michael Fulkerson. I hope you enjoyed it! Just so you know, I took 88 photos and gave you 17, which makes me the Lee Friedlander of sewing tutorials. I’m okay with that. I hope you enjoy!


Filed under Fabric, Sewing, Spool Sewing, Tutorial