The Lady Grey Dress

7 Feb

I finished a dress this weekend!  Sorry, still not a Colette…it is yet another winter dress:


Grey has become my absolute favorite neutral.  It’s not as somber as black, not as hippie as brown, and not as corporate as navy.  It can easily be dressed up or down, and I find it pairs well with just about any other color I throw at it. 

Neutral dresses are also something lacking from my wardrobe, so when I saw this quilted grey fabric on clearance, I snatched it up.  And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

I had fallen in love with this dress pictured in the Fall 2011 Stitch magazine.  Oddly enough, the pattern featured was not for the dress, but the bag that the model was toting:

That meant I would have to get a little creative.  I settled on Simplicity 2338 from my stash, view C:


I didn’t want that slit at the neck, so I cut the front bodice piece on the fold.  Then I used the front bodice piece to create the template for the center panel with the buttons. 

Speaking of buttons, I used some vintage buttons from my stash:


The "belt" is a faux belt that I piped and handstitched to the top of the bodice.


The construction was pretty easy & straightforward.  A few parts were tricky only because the fabric is quite thick, and at times my little machine had to sew through 3-4 layers at a time.  The only other alterations I made was to omit the back zipper, shorten the sleeves about 3″, and I ended up shortening the waist darts. 

All in all, this is a nice little dress, and I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it!

Goodie Bag

1 Feb

I love me some books, especially craft books!  I recently went a little crazy on my Amazon bookworm wishlist.  Some were duds, but there were a few stand outs too.  I like Amazon because I can’t find a used bookstore in my area with a consistently good stock of craft books, at the right price. 

The first book worth mentioning is Twinkle Sews by Wenlan Chia:

You’ve probably seen this online or at fabric stores.  The Amazon reviews were mixed for this one- but after thumbing through it in person a couple of months ago, I couldn’t get it out of my head and decided to give it a go.  I haven’t printed the patterns or tried any of the techniques (yet) but I am very excited to!  I’m not sure I’d make any of the exact projects from this book, but I will most definitely incorporate some of the more detailed components, such as the neck detail of the dress on the front cover.  So cool!  You’ll be the first to know when I make use of this book.

Next is Hats!: Make Classic Hats and Headpieces in Fabric, Felt, and Straw by Sarah Cant:


I went searching for millinery books when I saw Behida Dolic’s featured seller interview on Etsy.  Wow, this lady can make hats like nobody’s business!  Just take a look at some of these stunning creations from her Etsy shop:

The pictures and descriptions of  some of her tools of the trade fascinated me and I was struck with a burning desire to know how to make hats (I told you I have Crafter’s ADD!)  And this was the book that stood out to me.  Similar to Twinkle Sews, I’m not sure how many of the exact projects I’d make, but all of the techniques I was interested (and more) were covered in this book, and would be easy to adapt into a hat I would wear.  So if you have an interest in millinery, I would highly recommend picking up this one.

The last one worth mentioning would be The Bag Making Bible: the Complete Guide to Sewing and Customizing your own Unique Bags by Lisa Lam


I bought this book because I recently helped RK draft a purse pattern based off of a finished bag that she loved.  The pattern itself turned out ok.  But having never made a bag before, the construction was a bit of a mystery, and stumped us both.  This book has very clear directions and great pictures, a very welcome addition to my library.    Hopefully I’ll be able to show you RK’s finished bag soon. 

What I have yet to find are good books on working with leather and constructing leather handbags.  Perhaps the fundamentals are so similar that no one has bothered to write a book on the subject?  If anyone has suggestions, please leave me a comment.

Speaking of libraries, here is a picture of my dream library from my Decor board on Pinterest, courtesy of

Sigh.  I think pretty much any room with a fireplace, couch, piano, rolling ladder and floor to ceiling books is my happy place!

Hand Sewing Class

31 Jan

Last  Thursday was my hand sewing class with PDX Seamsters.  To say that I got my money’s worth is an understatement.  I learned skills that I will be able to use forever, and on practically every project I could possibly think of!  Truly, I can’t gush enough about how special this humble studio is. 

The storefront kind of looks like Mr Mushniks shop window from Little Shop of Horrors. But dont let that stop you from going in!


As evidenced by the storefront, the space itself is not fancy- spacious but sparse.  It was warm and inviting and had the feel that artists were camped out making fabulous things in the many sordid rooms.  I instantly felt that I could make something wonderful within those walls.  They did have a small selection of fabrics, Colette patterns, and hand tools available for sale in the front lobby.

There were 2 big surprises in store for me- first, that my instructor was a dude!  He (Jim) and his wife (Emily) are the founders of  the studio, and both teach classes there.  They are also very involved with making costumes for local theater productions.  I did not meet Emily, but she was in the next room teaching a serging class and taught Jim everything he knows.

My next surprise was that the class was full- atleast a dozen people, (11 ladies and 1 gentleman) and every single one of them was signed up for many more classes.  The skills of the students seemed to range from intermediate to “never touched a needle in my life”.  There is clearly a strong sewing revival in Portland!

As for the skills learned, we tackled the backstitch, slip stitch, pick stitch and sewed on a button all in one cute little project, a sewing needle holder:

I thought I knew the backstitch, but apparently I’ve been doing it wrong!  The slip stitch I knew, and the pick stitch just might be my new best friend.  It’s pretty much invisible, as evidenced by the spine of my needle folder:

The thread is gold, and the pick stitches are in the center blue stripe


Then we were on to hem stitches, which was the main reason why I chose this class.  The first one was the slanted hem stitch, which is also the fastest, but maybe not the prettiest.  I can see myself using this one for tacking down a skirt lining:

Frankly, I don’t remember what he called the next stitch, but it looks exactly like the blind hem stitch on your sewing machine.  I liked this one the best, because you could tuck the stitches under the fold, so it was virtually invisible on both sides of the fabric:

Lastly was the cross stitch hem, which coincidentally loosely resembles a cross stitch.   Per Jim, this stitch is the strongest of all the hand hem stitches, and should be reserved for heavier weight fabrics, such as wool:

But how does it look on the right side?   Did I pass the test?

Not too shabby!!

As fun as it was to learn all of these stitches, I am not necessarily a hand sewing convert.  Without question, the results are phenomenal, and there will certainly be a time and place to use each of these techniques- I just wish it didn’t take so dang long.  I felt guilty thinking this until Jim said that whenever possible, he machine stitches his hems.  I second that opinion!

All in all, it was a fabulous way to spend an evening, and I can’t wait for my next class!

The “Thank Goodness for Belts” Dress

30 Jan

Sorry kids, the deviation from my Colette pattern marathon continues…mother nature has me shaking in my boots so I have been busy sewing up warm winter dresses again. 

This latest creation is made out of some jersey from my stash.  What’s interesting about it is that the right side of this jersey looks & feels like fleece.  Can you say comfy?  It was however extremely difficult to lay out because it kept sticking to itself.

The pattern I used was a Butterick See & Sew, B5340 which is out of print, but still available through Butterick.  It was very straightforward and easy to put together.  The only deviation I made was to omit the elastic at the waist- I tried it on and it seemed fine without it.  Now I see that without it, I have no waist.

If I make this pattern again, I would lengthen the bodice a bit so that the seam would stay under the bust without coersion.  I would probably leave out the elastic again because I quite like the look of this dress with a belt.

I hate having to wear this with a camisole, so I am thinking about attaching a triangle of lace to the lining.

For once I don’t have a dramatic horror story anecdote about this project because the construction of this dress went off without a hitch- not one single mis-step! Must be some sort of a record.  Or could it be?  Am I actually making progress as a seamstress?

One can only hope!

Double Vision Top

20 Jan

Just a quick post to let you know I made a top:

If it seems vaguely familiar, that’s because you’ve seen this fabric before, from my original (and favorite) winter dress.  I was trying to organize my fabric the other day and came across the scraps from this dress.  I realized that I had some pretty decent yardage left and decided to try and make a top.  I chose Butterick B5217.

Even though there was a lot left, the selvege was pretty chopped up, so I really had to take my time to lay out the pattern, and it paid off. The only thing I had to jerry rig was the back bodice piece. I only had enough to cut 1 piece on the fold, so I did that for the front and cut 2 pieces for the back and sewed them together.  The only other thing I might change is to take the side seams in more.

Forgive me, today’s pictures were exceptionally bad (me, not the photographer)!  Believe it or not, this back shot was one of the best.  And since the front and back of this top is pretty much identical, this is as good as its gonna get! 

As advertised, this pattern was fast & easy to construct, so I give it my blessing.  It would be especially good for newbies.  As a bonus, because it is so basic, it would be a great option to do some free style embellishments, or to test out some details you’ve seen on looks from Modcloth or Anthropologie.

Ta ta for now.

The “Crazy Dog Lady” Top

18 Jan

The good news is I completed a Sew Weekly challenge!  The bad news is that it was once again, not finished on time.  It was last week’s accessory challenge. 

So here are the facts:

Fabric: 2.5 yards quilting cotton @ $6/yard & 1/8 yard specialty cotton @ $10/yard

Pattern: Simplicity 2998

Year: 2010?

Notions: Thread, mini dingle ball trim and bias tape.

Time to complete: About 8 hours.

First worn: To work

Wear again?: Yes!

Total price: Approx $18

I am one of those people. Those crazy, unbalanced (albeit charming) dog loving people. I make it no secret that my baby is my Bulldog puppy Cooper. When I saw this Bulldog brooch from the Etsy shop A Girl And Her Dog, I snatched it up immediately.

A Bulldog and Her Girl Cameo Brooch, Light Blue, Polka Dots, Silhouttes


This quilting cotton from my stash had the same exact shade of cornflower blue as the brooch, so I went with that. I chose view C, the mini dress with a contrast yoke and pintucks, but shortened it to the tunic length and omitted the front pockets.  I have to show you a closeup of the yoke fabric and the trim, they are ridiculously adorable:

And the pin tucks!

What I love about this pattern is that there are only 5 pattern pieces, with no interfacing or facings. Easy. So why did this take me 8 hours to put together? The pintucks do take awhile to pin, iron & sew, but they are totally worth it. It was the fit. This top was crazy huge! Sorry, no progress pics, I was too irritated to take pics.

The side seams needed to be taken in, which is easy enough. But the sleeves- oy, the sleeves were out of control. Picture Anne of Green Gable’s puffed sleeves. You know the one I’m talking about. Yeah, that bad. When I laid out the pattern pieces, I was flummoxed as to why the sleeves required almost as much fabric as the bodice. Turns out it’s because the armholes are really exaggerated- they go down to the bottom edge of my bra. Note to self, pay attention to these things before you cut the fabric!

To add insult to injury, the sleeves had an elastic drawstring. I hate elastic with a mad fiery passion, and am planning on banning it from my sewing room for good.   My solution as you can see, was to remove the horrid elastic and tapered the sleeve quite a bit.  It’s still a bit puffy when my arms are straight out, but who walks around like that anyway? 

I won’t bore you with all of the details, just that it took a lot of quality time with Jack the (seam) ripper to get this top to fit well.

And in the end, it was totally worth it. I would make this again, after I seriously alter the armhole and sleeve pattern pieces.

You may be scratching your head because this is not a Colette pattern, and hadn’t I sworn a blog oath to sew through all of my Colettes?  True.  I did.   I encountered some issues with my Peony that brought me to a screeching halt and have set it aside for a moment.  I haven’t given up on it, I just needed a little change of pace.

I can’t spend all of this time gushing about my Cooper without one gratuitous puppy pic, so here you go!

That, my friends is ridiculously adorable.

Sewing Class

5 Jan

I have been searching long & hard for some sewing classes and am happy to say I am signed up for…not 1, not 2, but 4 sewing classes!

Believe it or not, Yelp was a very good resource for finding sewing classes in the Portland area.  It was through them that I discovered the group I decided to go with, PDX Seamsters.  They had positive reviews, the classes were very affordable (25% off end of year sale), and the classes are brief workshops- 3 hour sessions rather than a 4 week course.  I have found that a 3 hour class is better for my short attention span!  I wasn’t able to find a class on making your own jeans, but maybe one will come up in the future.

So the first class is actually a freebie at Joann’s-  a serger class, and it’s this Saturday!  When you purchase a Serger at Joann’s, you get a free class.  RK & I bought a serger last year and are finally getting around to our session.  The lady said that by the time you left, you would be completely comfortable with threading the machine and know your basic stitches.  This will be awesome, because the Lil’ Mule really intimidates me, and the insides of my garments could certainly use some polish.

Next is a Hand Sewing class in January.  I hate to hand sew, but that’s because I don’t  know what I’m doing.  In this class I will learn the back-stitch, pick-stitch, slip-stitch, slanted hem stitch, and the uneven slip-stitch.  This is hands down the #1 skill I am lacking as a seamstress, and I think this will work wonders for my hems.

In February I will be attending the Sewing Essentials class.  This class will fine tune my skills of making buttonholes, casings and installing zippers.  Casings I feel good about, but buttonholes still make me want to cry, and I always seem to mess up on zippers, so I hope I’ll gain some good tips from this one.

Lastly, the class I am most looking forward to- Pattern Modification  in March.  I know enough to be dangerous, so I could most definitely use some help in this area. 

I know there are tons of tutorials, books and videos out there that I could use to hone these skills, but I feel like I learn best in a classroom setting.  I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with all of you!

Oh, and I wanted to let you know that I am still working on my Colette Marathon, and hope to finish my Peony this weekend.

Hugs and Smoochies.