When teachers get together, we just can’t help ourselves…

… we teach! So, when my favorite partner-in-crime and fellow teacher, M, enjoyed a visit from her younger sister this summer, we decided to teach her how to sew. We pulled out the shears and threads and had a girly day of garment making.

M mugging for the camera

M mugging for the camera

Her sister, A,  is a high school student, but holds her own really well with us… err… mature ladies. While we sewed, we drank lots of tea and took a pizza break.

A has some sewing experience. As a drama student at her high school involved with the school’s theatrical productions, A was familiar with using sewing machines for costumes and props, but had never attempted to make something she could wear off of the stage. M took her to our local JoAnn’s before heading to my place to select a pattern and some fabric. Here’s what they purchased:

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A wanted to try view E and selected some sparkly knit fabric.

M helping with some seam ripping

M helping with some seam ripping

A took to the sewing machine like a fish to water. We were impressed- no need to practice sewing straight lines. She worked that knit like a pro!

A showing off her inherent sewing skills

A showing off her inherent sewing skills

While A learned how to read a pattern and construct a garment, I learned something new, too. The pattern calls for a bias tape finish at the hems. I usually just turn my knit hems with stay tape, but M showed us both how to do a knit hem with regular old bias tape. It wouldn’t work on a hem that needs to stretch, but for the top part of this shirt, it was perfect.

IMG_1254I think the process took a lot longer than A expected, but she stuck with it. Here’s the final result:

A in her finished top

A in her finished top

Fabulous, right?! The darker spots on the top are due to my apartment’s bad evening lighting. The differences in tone are very gradual in person.

I was reminded of why I love to sew when she put on the top and it fit perfectly. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the thrill of making (or in this case helping to make) something that is a perfect fit. A did a neat job. No one would know it’s not ready-to-wear. She seemed very pleased and started wearing it immediately (obviously).

M and I both agree the pattern isn’t really written for beginners. I’m not sure A could have pulled this off on her own. I’m certain I couldn’t have done it a year ago when I started sewing. It’s not terribly complicated, but there were a few bits of the construction we had to stop and wrap our heads around.  Overall, it is a great summer pattern and comes together pretty quickly if you have a little experience under your belt.

I would love to repeat this next summer, but now that I’ve moved, it won’t be happening unless I head back south for a vacation, too. Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad excuse for a visit…

 

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Ooo la la!

I love pretty lingerie. Maybe it’s my French heritage or my penchant for the girly- a bit of satin and some lace makes me a very happy lady.

So, when Vogue 8888 came out a few months ago, I had to give it a try. Although it’s labeled “easy,” I was a bit worried. It all looked complicated and impossibly delicate.
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I attempted view D. I recently picked up a ton of fabulous fabric on sale at JoAnn’s- 50% off red tag fabrics! One of my purchases was three yards of a printed satiny blend for $2.75 a yard. I decided to forgo lace and just let the print do the talking.

IMG_1245Eat your heart out, Victoria’s Secret! What would have cost me about $50 was less than $6 worth of fabric.

I will not be modeling this one because it is cut low. It looks great (I think my boyfriend will love it), but I don’t want my cleavage splashed all over the internet…

The “easy” label was legitimate. I was most worried about the fit of the bodice, but the pattern fit perfectly without any adjustments (I’m a solid B-cup).

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I used French seams throughout, so the inside is pretty, too. Overall, it was a fast make. I started it Sunday after lunch and was able to wear it to bed Sunday night. How great is that?!

I will be making up this pattern again. I’m debating sewing up a version in jersey for a different look. I also think I’ll give the other views a try. Maybe I’ll even incorporate some lace next time.

Au revoir! Bonne nuit!

The ‘existential crisis tunic’

Wait… where did May go?!

I started off this month in San Francisco at a conference. I wore me-made on the plane home and did a solid job of wearing me-made items twice a week (I didn’t do a good job of taking photos). I even managed to make four new garments this month: gingham bow blouse, a yoga-style maxi skirt (unblogged), a red sleeveless knit top (unblogged), and the existential crisis tunic (below). I also finished knitting a scarf for my boyfriend

Scarf for my guy

Scarf for my guy (Man Scarf on Ravelry)

and made three little crochet baskets.

crochet basket (Pattern on Raverly)

crochet basket (Pattern on Raverly)

I haven’t blogged much because I have been prepping for my qualifying exams (the super terrifying mutli-day test I have to survive before I can start on my dissertation). By the time I finish studying each day, I need a crafty break, but I have no desire to read or write. As a result, I’ve been ignoring the blog a bit this month. My test is the last week in June and I can’t wait for life to get back to normal. My brain is starting to hurt…

Sewing, knitting, and crocheting have provided me with a respite from all the studying. My latest sewing project was made from this fabric:

wild tribal challis from JoAnn's

wild tribal challis from JoAnn’s

Nope, there is nothing wrong with your computer… it is bright and wild! This is not normally something that would catch my eye. (I’m blaming this purchase on exam stress.) It has a lovely drape, was 50% off the sale price, and is unapologetically loud.

I decided immediately it wanted to be a tunic, so I attempted Simplicity 4149 again.

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I made this pattern once before in a gorgeous shimmery linen, but the garment was a flop.

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The linen was too stiff. It was uncomfortable and made me look like a box. Making matters worse, the first time I washed it, the seam at the ‘V’ in the front of the tunic started to pull away and fray.

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You can’t really tell in this photo, but the bottom of the ‘V’ is fraying on the left side. Gah!

Disaster.

So, this was a second attempt. I worked on it for a little bit each night for about a week. It’s an easy make, but this was my first time working with challis. It’s slippery and has a bit of stretch. I’m sure with some practice this will be no big deal; however, my first few seams were wavy. My seam ripper got a workout. I ended up with this:

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topstitching around the neck in turquoise. It looks wavy here, but really is straight.

Topstitching around the neck in turquoise thread. It looks wavy here, but really is straight.

It’s super comfy. I was bummed that the ‘V’ is a bit too low to wear out in public without a cami underneath, but otherwise, I like the fit- flowing and comfortable. I think it will make a nice cover-up poolside as well as a top for running around on weekends.

I’m particularly proud of the detail I managed at the ‘V.’ I just wish it didn’t get lost in the print:

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I’m calling this my ‘existential crisis tunic’ because I finished it on a day when I was not coping well with exam stress. After throwing myself a pity-party, I decided to channel my freaking out into something productive and finished this tunic.

I’m not sure what I’ll work on next. My sewing production has ground to a halt since finishing this tunic- too much studying to do. After the exams, I have a few days of nothing but sewing and mindless television watching planned. I’m soooo looking forward to it!

Gingham wrap blouse

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I love a bow.

My boyfriend has hidden things with bows from me when we go shopping. He thinks I am irrationally drawn to items adorned with bows. He’s right! I don’t think my style is super girly, but I love a bow.

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The above is McCalls M6564.

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I used a cotton blend I picked up on sale at my local Hancock Fabric store. The word “easy” is missing from the pattern envelope, so initially I was worried the make might be too complicated for my current skill level. It wasn’t. The directions were clear and uncomplicated. The pattern fit perfectly as written, so no fitting adjustments were made. I did add a snap to the front neckline. While trying it on during sewing, I noticed it gaped a bit across the chest when I moved around. I also gathered the tops of the sleeves to create a little poof. This wasn’t my original plan. I couldn’t get the sleeves to ease in without puckers, so I decided to gather the tops in order to make them fit. Luckily, I like the result.

During the make, I made two rookie sewing blunders. First, I sewed a dart inside out.

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Then, I basted in a sleeve inside out.

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Oh well… I’m still learning and I like the end result.

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San Francisco and the beginnings of Me-Made-May

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A street car in San Francisco.

Last night I returned from a conference in San Francisco. The weeks leading up to my trip were crazy busy with the end of the semester and a mad push to finish my conference paper. Despite the intensity of preparation, my presentation was pretty low-key and the trip was filled with equal parts work and pleasure. My boyfriend tagged along, which made the trip a bit of a vacation.

Trip Highlights~

The food was amazing.

Best crap EVER at Crustacean.

Best crap EVER at Crustacean.

Alcatraz exceded my expectations. The audio tour is narrated by former guards and prisoners. Hearing about the escape attempts was fascinating and the island is actually quite pretty and lush with vegetation.

On the boat to Alctraz.

On the boat to Alctraz.

The view as the boat lands on the island.

The view as the boat lands on the island.

Inside of a prison cell. Note the crochet!

Inside of a prison cell. Note the crochet!

Close up of crochet in Alcatraz cell. Apparently, this was a common hobby among inmates.

Close-up of crochet in Alcatraz cell. Apparently, this was a common hobby among inmates.

We spend a wonderful afternoon in Napa and are now wine club members at Artesa Winery. The wines were fantastic. We barely took photos- we were too preoccupied with wine!

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Touring the city and vineyards wore out my boyfriend, so while he napped in the hotel one afternoon, I went in search of Britex, the famous San Francisco fabric store. Luckily, it was only two blocks from our hotel. They don’t allow pictures in the store, so I’ll just share my spoils.

My goal at Britex was to purchase a boldly printed knit for a maxi dress, but I was disappointed. The knit selection was decent, but my favorite prints were really expensive. After my massive purchases at Jo-Ann’s this past month during which nothing cost me over $6 a yard, I balked at paying $45 a yard. I just couldn’t do it. I purchased only one piece of fabric, 2.5 yards of a dusty blue knit. It was reasonably priced and I love the color.

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My favorite part of the store was third floor with all the patterns. They stock things I can’t find in Jo-Ann’s. First, I picked up the Colette Patterns’ Beignet. I’ve been stalking this pattern for a while. I have some denim left over from my Miette that I think may work well. IMG_0857

Second, I found my pattern for The Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge! I’m not sure what fabric to use… maybe a double knit? Despite its origination in the 1920s, I think it will look fresh and modern over a T-shirt and leggings.

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Last, Britex stocks Burda! Both current and select past months were available. I picked up the January and April issues.
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IMG_0855I’m thrilled with my purchases and can’t wait to start sewing. I just wish I didn’t have a stack of student assignments to grade…

Me-Made-May, Day 1

On May 1, I wore my green knit jacket on the plane home. Unfortunately, I don’t have photographic evidence. You all will just have to believe me. It was perfect plane apparel, comfortable and warm!

Two challenges & a forgotten black knit top

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This morning, I took the Me-Made-May pledge! Eek!

I vow to wear at least two me-made items per week during all of May 2013. I’m a bit worried. Just a few months ago, I had never threaded a sewing machine and here I am attempting to wear things I made at regular intervals. Yikes!

Concerned that maybe I can’t pull this off, I took inventory of what I’ve created thus far and realized one of my me-made items had neither been worn nor posted on the blog. When I made it a few months ago, I was on the fence regarding whether or not it suited me.  I suspect the hideous yellow floral version on the pattern envelope may not have helped with my overall impression of the garment.

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I folded it up, placed it in a drawer, and forgot about it. When I inspected it this morning, I have no idea what my hang-ups were about this top. It fits well and my workmanship is good. I threw it on with a pencil skirt and sweater and headed off to my teaching duties at the university. Now, lounging around on my sofa in the shirt and a pair of yoga pants, I have decided to declare it a sewing success. It was super comfortable to wear today and I think the draped neck is a good look for me.

After months of neglect, here is McCalls 6563:

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Please ignore my blank expression. Obviously, a career in modeling is not in my future…

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With sweater. It’s warm here today, but the university has a love affair with airconditioning.

In addition to resurrecting my black knit top and signing on for Me-Made-May, I have decided to attempt my first sewing challenge:

TheGreatGatsbySewingChallenge

I like 1920s fashion. It always strikes me as a bit ahead of it’s time and appeals to my feminist sensibilities. Tiny waists or unnaturally pointy breasts weren’t required. Short, almost masculine hair was incredibly fashionable. I have yet to see a pair of crazy high heels in photos from the 1920s. While I have no desire to go back in time (I am a thoroughly modern girl), I do appreciate first wave feminists, flapper fashion, and bobbed hair.

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I also LOVE F. Scott Fitzgerald. This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby are two of my favorite books. Friends and I have already planned a girls’ night for the Gatsby movie. Obviously, I’m up for this challenge. I think the best part may be researching my garment. I’m hoping to come up with something paying homage to the 1920s, but modern enough for wear today. A Pinterest board may be involved….

J’adore Miette!

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I finished Tilly’s Miette this weekend and wore it today to lunch with Mom and then to an event at the university. I am thrilled with how it turned out!

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Mom took some glamorous parking lot photos, but the super bright sun makes it tough to see the details on the skirt…

As promised, it was super easy. I didn’t even need to refer to Tilly’s online tutorials. The skirt involved only very straight-forward sewing.

I cut the size 3 and only made adjustments to the length. I’m short, so I cut of about 4 inches from the hem. I used a very light-weight denim I purchased at Joann’s. It’s dark blue and hangs nicely. Today, I discovered it does wrinkle, but it’s not too terrible. I give it high marks for comfort and I adore its versatility. I dressed it up today, but anticipate wearing it with a plain cotton tank and sandals throughout the summer. The wrap-around nature of the skirt means it will always fit, big meals or otherwise (this was tested and proved after lunch today)! Despite the wrap-around design, it held up well in some wind and got my mother’s approval. She referred to it as “appropriate” and “cute.” That’s a thumbs up from Mom! Wahoo!

Back view

Back view

After making Miette and the Mathilde blouse, I’ve started watching Tilly on The Great British Sewing Bee. There has been some kidding around on the web about Team Patrick (eh… not my type), but I am a big Tilly fan. I love the fact she’s willing to take risks and seems to bounce right back when things don’t go exactly as planned. After all, it’s just clothing… The show isn’t airing in the U.S., but I’ve found it on YouTube and can’t wait to watch her and all the other contestants in tomorrow night’s installment.

Tilly- if you happen to read this- keep the patterns coming! I could really use a pair of shorts (hint…hint…).

Bad hair day with wind that made it worse, but you get the idea...

Bad hair day with wind that made it worse, but you get the idea…