Archive for 2014

2014 Highlights

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ahh.  There is something refreshing about the end and the prospect of a fresh start, full of possibility. My humble little family does not live very close to grandparents or siblings -- 13 hour drive to my parents and a 3-hour drive to my husband's parents and our siblings, well, that involves plane rides!  To keep connected, we keep monthly online Flickr albums to record our adventures.  One of our favorite pastimes is to look at those pictures -- laugh at all the merriment, recount stories, make fun of each other, remember and cherish the time we had together.  My son is always adding to the adventure/memory idea list for the coming year.   

In that spirit, here are my sewing highlights and flops from 2014 a la Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow.  Feel free to make fun, chuckle, skip, or roll your eyes!


Flops:

Part of being a scientist is trying out an experiment and not getting the expected results.  This is crucial.  Sometimes you learn more in the mess-ups.  One thing I learned from my flops is that, it's not because of  poor fit or bad sewing, but style.  These flops just aren't me.  These are the clothes that I really like on a hanger (or the pattern illustration).  Then I try it on and suddenly it is not so appealing.

  • Tanias -- Too short with a funky sitting waistband.  I will probably attempt to lengthen even more and fix the kinks.
  • Ava -- I just don't feel comfortable in this dress.  It hangs funny.  In retrospect, it could have used a lighter fabric. I plan to cut off the bodice (I think that is the issue) and make it a skirt.
Highlights:
I gave up RTW this year.  I am so glad I did.  I survived it and now, I have this reaction to clothes at a shop/boutique in which I feel the fabric, survey the style, and decide I can make it my way for a lot cheaper.  As Hannibal would say from the A-Team (one of my favorites!), "I love it when a plan comes together!".  'Nuff said.  These garments have been in heavy rotation in my wardrobe.  






Simplicity 2444

Hmmmm, dresses with pockets and sleeves...I detect a pattern...yep, I like.



2015 Goals
I conquered my fear of knits in 2014.  I successfully made a pair of pants.  I made a jacket.  I did pretty good. I made something at least once a month (closer to weekly!).  One of my goals in 2014 was to sew something for my husband.  Ummm, that didn't happen.  Guess what tops the list this year?


  1. Sew something for my husband.  PJ pants?
  2. Make a cape.  This was on last year's goals. 2014 = no cape.  
  3. Continue my RTW fast and Participate in Me-Made-May.  Really this is code for sewing clothes that are practical.  I am in need of pants, cardigans, blouses.  Do I need a break from dresses? Nah.  I need to amp up the sensible clothes. 
  4. Start my Geek Chic series.  Tee-hee-hee. I already have the first one planned.   Plotting more.
  5. Stash-bust.  My fabric stash is slightly obese.  I spent last weekend organizing it -- out of bins, color coordinated by type, etc...now, I can look at my shelf and gain inspiration.  Pattern stockroom update is on its way too!
New techniques, new patterns, new fabrics, new skills -- oooohhhh, 2015 -- here I come! 

Happy Sewing in 2015!

Annie

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas Dress

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Shamefully, I realized that the majority of my wardrobe is a shade of black or blue.  This epiphany was bestowed upon me the morning of dead day during fall semester final exams (this is a day where no final exams are given -- don't ask where the name comes from -- haven't heard it at any other place either!).  We had a hot chocolate bar for the faculty in our department and I wanted to look festive.  Sadly, I do not own a red top and the only red dress I own was not appropriate for an office hot chocolate party (more like cocktails and dancing).   In the end, I wore a white linen top with silver jewelry, hoping to capture some winter magic and look festive.  I vowed to remedy this.
Experiment:
Vogue 8615, size 8

Materials:
3 yards red cotton
22" red zipper
Coats and Clark Red Thread.

Procedure:
In fact, I resolved this holiday dilemma by Christmas, well, Christmas Eve.  In reality, I was sewing frantically on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  I decided on a pattern that I know works for my body.  This is a Very Easy Vogue pattern and I like the nod to a vintage silhouette.  The neckline is high and the back dips into a V-shape.  


Cleaning before the in-laws arrived, baking Christmas goodies, entertaining my little one, and I decide it is time to sew.  I know I am a little nutty. I modified the pattern to reduce my sewing time.


  • I reduced the front bodice by 5/8" and cut on fold.  Later, it occurred to me that I should have done the same thing with the skirt panel.  Oh well.
  • Omitted the pockets.  As much as I love pockets, straight-line sewing is a snap.
  • I chose not to line the bodice and skirt because I did not have enough lining fabric in my stash.  I finished neckline with bias tape and wore a slip with it.
  • I did manage to make the skirt the night before and allowed it to hang (Would have been a waste with a wonky hemline).  I did a narrow hem.
  • I did a center back zipper instead of invisible (did not have a red invisible zip).
The fabric is a red cotton with gold and red stars of a variety of shapes and sizes.  Hence, the sparkle in the photos.  I am pleased how this turned out. I love the swishiness of a circle skirt.  I tried to get photos swirling but my Nikon wouldn't cooperate -- autofocus not focusing more over, it won't focus at all (You can see from the poorly focused picture of the back above).   Troubleshooting did not yield any results.  In fact, I think he needs a tune up and a good clean.  Rotten apples. I will miss you.

Countdown to the New Year is on...

Happy Sewing.
Annie

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Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My apologies for the lack of content.  I've been sewing.  The end of the semester was a storm in a tea cup and then, the holiday season took over, I know, I know, excuses. Somehow time slipped by... but nonetheless, I have a few highlights:

1. I got a bad haircut.
2. My Singer needed some work.  We spent some time apart.
3. I splurged on a couple of Sewaholic patterns I have been lusting over.
4. Santa gave me a new laptop! (Woo-who!)
5. I traveled to New Orleans.
6. I added to my fabric stash.
7. I have made it a whole year without buying any new clothes with the RTW fast and I am ready for year number two!
8. I am ready to start the new year with a bang.

I will leave you with a picture of the Christmas dress I made (A "Make-it-Work-Moment"! and sorry for the bad lighting but it was an impromptu picture after the Christmas Vigil Mass yesterday) and a promise of a post with new content soon!




Lots of Merry Cheer --
Annie

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Wearing the Face That She Keeps in a Jar by the Door

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ah, Eleanor Rigby.  Gotta love that she keeps her face in a jar. I've been all about some Beatles, humming away, and jamming in my car.  I think my son is a little tired of listening to The White Album -- he has been requesting the album Love since it has all of his favorites. I am happy with either (or all their albums for that small matter!).  I couldn't resist, as cliche as it is, listening to the Beatles as I made kzjo'studio's Eleanor cardigan pattern.  


Experiment:
Eleanor Cardigan, Size Small


Materials:
1.25 yards of light gray knit
<1/2 yard of white knit
Coats and Clark white thread

Procedure:
My goal every since Me Made May is to sew more practical things.  You know, everyday  elegance with a one-of-a-kind spin.  I have been a good girl and for every dress I sew (which I should explain is practical work attire for me!), I have been augmenting my handmade wardrobe with pants, leggings, tops, and now a cardigan.  I am gearing up toward MMM'15.
This is my first kzjo'studio pattern.  It is a great beginner pattern -- a cardigan that comes in two lengths.  There is an ease to the design and the directions are spectacular.  If you are scared of knits, this one will ease you in nicely.   It gives you several different directions about how to hem (i.e. coverstitch or twin needle).  My twin needle aided in helping the feed dogs eat a part of my hem (hmmm, careless operator??) but I was able to save it.  Is it my best twin needle hem? No way! but no one will notice my mess and if they do, well, suck it because I made a cardigan and they most likely didn't!  Another operator bumble is trying to figure out the best tension settings when using a twin needle.  I have not mastered this yet because I try to avoid the twin needle whenever I can.
I decided on the hip length version since I was trying a bit of stash busting. Therefore, I used up whatever knits that fit the bill.  I also made a size bigger (small instead of extra small) in order to achieve a layering piece.  It is somewhat big through the shoulder and arm area but I think it will work once the cold weather hits -- speaking of, that is this week!  Eek!  The Arctic blast is giving me a headache (literally!).  Flannel sheets on the beds, fall cleaning, and winter wardrobes out.  That was my exciting action-packed weekend.
I had to trim the sleeves about 3 inches (maybe I have short arms...).  I then added cuffs in the matching neckband material to give the cardigan some contrast.  The white knit of the neckband and cuffs has sparkly silver flecks to it which you can only see up close. Yea for a new card and yea for stash-busting (you know that means I can get more fabric….yipeeeeee!!!).
My local fabric shop had a sale this past weekend and I purchased a sweater knit to make the mid-thigh length version.  My office has huge windows that are the length of the office on two walls.  I love the natural light but in the winter it can be a little drafty.  The Eleanor is going to help keep me warm!   It is much more sexy and work appropriate than the fleece wrap I was thinking of making.   
Forgive the wrinkles in these pictures -- I wore her most of the day.  The Eleanor pattern can be purchased at kzjo'studio and is 15% off using the code ELEANOR15 until 12 November 2014, midnight MST.   If you need a practical fall/winter piece, go get this pattern!

Happy Stitching!
Annie
xx

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La La Leggings

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Let me preface this post with the following disclaimer: I do not wear leggings without a tunic or longer top.  Does anyone remember the 1980s!? Leggings, leg warmers, crop tops, and oversize sweatshirts!!  For the sake of showing off the result of a fab pattern, I swallowed my dignity and went 1980s Jazzercise on ya'll:  leggings and a t-shirt.  Sigh.  My husband laughed.  Cyberspace is probably laughing (maybe crying too since it will be forever imprinted on it)!

Experiment:
Go To Patterns Knit Pants
View A
Size: S


Materials:
1 and 1/8 yard of plaint-splatter knit form Fabricmart
3/4" elastic
Black Thread

Procedure:
Embarrassingly, I have been wanting make a pair of funky leggings for like a year.   Yeah, in the spring semester this year, I would walk through campus and see all these college students with some seriously cool leggings.   Cool leggings that I wanted! For some reason, it never rose to the top of my list to sew.  This is probably because I own one pair of leggings and wear them only once the weather starts to get chilly.
Enter the GoTo Pattern's Knit Pants.  Three styles packed into one pattern that is sure to please a variety of body types and styles.  Every gal needs a good pair of leggings or yoga pants, etc.  

I was a tester for this pattern. Continuing with last year's trend of wild printed legging styles, I choose view A to fulfill that longing. Luckily, as warned by the designer, these came together quick.  In about the time it would take to make a grapefruit pound cake (Yummy!).  I serged the seams and only went to my sewing machine to finish the hem and the waistband.   
Oh Heavens!  More pictures means the internet snorting with laughter!  I made a size small based on my hip measurement but should probably have made my usual extra small.  They are a little loose but not in a baggy way.  Acceptably loose (Err, there is a phrase that should definitely be taken in context with the previous two lines!).  The pattern is long -- 33" inseam!  I followed the directions, blended and remove two inches.  The result was a scrunchy, slouchy effect around my ankles.  It fits with the fabric and with how I see these fitting into my wardrobe (Black Tania Culottes for winter!?).
I like.  And since View A gave instant gratification, then I am on to View B (trendy after work lounge pants so if someone happens to swing by I do not look like a complete slob) and C (yoga pants to put on, channel my energy away from the sewing machine, and hope I get to  yoga class).  


Happy Sewing!
Annie
xx

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The Sandpoint Blouse

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Normalcy is creeping in -- just what I needed.  Time to sew has been limited -- double header baseball games, soccer games, and storm clean up makes for a long Saturday!   When Helena of GrayDay Patterns needed testers for her new pattern, The Sandpoint Blouse, I couldn't resist.  I saw the design in Indie Pattern contest on The Monthly Stitch.  Knit with a drapey back - subtle and surprising.  It was a perfect way to use the luscious maroon knit from Fabric Mart that I had been hoarding.  

Experiment: The Sandpoint Blouse, Size XS

Materials:
1 yard maroon knit
Serger thread (I am lazy gal at changing my serger thread so a neutral color is always on it).

 
Procedure:
This was such a pleasure to test!  Helena was organized and the only thing that stumped me was a couple of directions.  Not bad for a newbie pattern maker!  Here are a few of the reasons I gush about this pattern: First and foremost, you can sew this with your serger.   That means you can make this top in less than an afternoon and show it off that evening.  Ummmm, hello!?! Instant gratification. Second, this pattern is fabric friendly meaning you can squeeze it out of a yard of 60 inch knit (say what!?! I know, amazing!).   Third, you could get creative and squeeze it out of less and use coordinating fabric for the bands.  Fourth, the cowl neck in the back could be reversible (i.e. the cowl in the front).  I am telling you, I could go on....

The only truly pain-in-the-arse part was turning out the shoulder band (I hate this step in general since it seems to take forever and there is no easy way to do it -- or maybe I am clueless and someone can shed some light on a better way....???).  The shoulder band was handstitched to the inside of the shirt however, the option to have it lay on top is also there.   With the addition of  the band option at the waist, one can avoid a sewing machine.   


I know that I will get a lot of wear out of this because maroon is one of the colors of the university I work for and it is a perfect top to wear to sporting events especially the outdoor kind where the temperature is close to triple digits.  In Louisiana, it is hot and humid what feels like 6-7 months out of the year (A climate that this northern girl has not gotten used to yet!).  
You could easily lengthen this to a tunic and roll about with leggings and boots.  Or you could take the sides, lengthen, add a belt and voila! you have a dress.  I would like to try a drapey cozy sweater knit for an interesting fall top.
Another shot of the front and one more of the back (I can't resist!).


Happy Stitching!
Annie

 

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The Ballard Top from Straight Stitch Designs

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


This past week felt like two weeks combined.   It was exhausting but more on that after I share the newest pattern from Straight Stitch Designs:  The Ballard Top.  I was a lucky enough gal to pattern test and I am so glad.  The Ballard Top is described as business in the front and party in the back.  If you are impatient like me you can see why below....

Experiment:  Ballard Top, size 0

Materials: 
1 and 5/8 yards of pink knit
Coats and Clarks white thread

Procedure:
This is Kimberly's, of Straight Stitch Designs, second pattern.  Her first is the Ravenna top with an amazing back detail.  Hmmmm, the Ballard also has an unexpected back detail... theme or not, both designs amp up a top.  The Ballard is a knit tunic with 3/4 sleeves.
It features a gathered neckline which I adore as per my usual girly taste.  It looks like a sweet tunic from the front and then, BAM!, the peek-a-boo back catches your eye.
Subtle enough to be appropriate but oh-la-la sexy.  It is a beginner appropriate pattern.  The directions are straightforward, helpful for those who might be nervous about knits (I remember when I was terrified of knits).  Must be confident with knits especially stretching sleeve bands, waist band, and the neck band.  That really is the trickiest part of the pattern.  I used my walking foot to gather the front and hem the back pieces.  Then switched to my serger for the remainder. 
Kimberly's final pattern included a lower neckline and the sides are taken in just a smidge to give you a more sleek waist line.  I am loving this tunic with leggings and my boots. Fall -- watch out -- I am slowly preparing and building a wardrobe to wear with my cowboy boots.  

I have been dreaming up my next version ... I think I will go with contrasting waist-,sleeve-, and neck-bands while lengthening the sleeve.  I can envision wearing it out to a pumpkin patch or an outdoor patio for drinks (White Russian anyone??).  How would you make your Ballard Top? You can get a copy of this pattern at IndieSew.  Be sure to check out the Blog Tour of the Ballard Top -- these ladies rock. 
Happy Sewing!!
Annie







P.S. Below is the reason why my week was so very long!

This past week has been tiring and trying!  On October 13th, a squall line transected several states and consequently, we had a horrible storm come through northern Louisiana.  The storm ended up producing an EF2 tornado that ripped apart my neighborhood.  Luckily, it happened around 11:30 a.m. and amazingly, no one was hurt since most people were at work.   This was the view from my driveway.
The winds reached 125 miles per hour!!  Needless to say, I was without power all last week.  We had a rather large tree limb crash into our living room and now have a skylight (just teasing -- it is covered with a lovely blue tarp -- we have minimal damage compared to others)!  It is hard to describe the destruction of a tornado.  Here are a few pictures from my neighborhood.
For perspective, my family and I meandered through the neighborhood on foot since driving was impossible and biking dangerous because of downed power lines, trees, and other things.  The wind uprooted whole trees and houses were destroyed!  It was a very emotional week and such a sad sight to see all the damage.  It brought tears to my eyes as we walked.
My family is safe and for that I am truly grateful.  I had my Ballard top down a couple of weeks ago but with all the drama and no power, it took until yesterday afternoon to take pictures.  It is kind of bittersweet because the tree whose afternoon shade I used quite often (which provided perfect lighting for pictures) is gone.



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Blog Hop: Why Do I Write or Confessions of a Blogger

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The lovely Hana from Velvet Ribbon passed the blog hop onto little ole' me.  I love Hana's blog because (a.) she make beautiful things, (b.) her attention to detail is amazing,  (c.) I love reading about her construction process and (d) she lives in a exotic locale (Macau).     Thank you Hana!!

Why do I write?

I created my blog to catalog and share my sewing experiments.   Yes, experiments.  It's second nature for me to approach things with the scientific method.  Or that could be from the 4 years of university and 8 years of graduate school in which I was steeped in science.  Experiments can have good results or they can also lead to failures.  Both are valuable. 

Blogging is a heaping spoonful of awesome sauce with bacon and sprinkles.  It has connected me to a worldwide sewing community.  There are so many great seamstresses out there who blog.  I look forward to seeing their projects and hearing about what they have been doing (Thank the stars for Bloglovin -- all in one place every morning or evening!). They have provided that much needed inspiration or encouragement. I do not live a major city where there are countless people who share a similar passion.  Hell, my colleagues (and students) do not even know I blog, let alone sew.  Yea, I admit it.  I am horrible at self promotion.


What am I working on now?

I have several projects in the sewing lab right now.  I usually cut out several patterns at a time and then work on them little by little.  I have three different projects (2 dresses and a skirt) that need finishing touches (zipper, hem, or buttons, etc...) and then need to be photographed.  I have to admit that sometimes I run out of steam by the finishing touches and poof! they end up in the to-be-finished-pile. 

At this very moment, I took Friday afternoon of our Fall break to sew and blog.  I am finishing a sleeveless dress with a Dia de los Muertos print.  Must make bias binding to finish.  I am also working on a pair of trousers for my son to wear to the pumpkin patch (perfect fall photo shoot, plus we need family pictures for our New Year's card).   I also want to put together the Belcarra pdf pattern I splurged on last night.   And I am pattern testing (so exciting, huh?!).  It really sounds like a lot but all of these projects are in different stages and thus are manageable (or maybe I am just crazy and this is a lot!).

How does my blog differ from other sewing blogs?

I struggled with this question but came to the realization that my blog is not different from many other sewing blogs.  I have a unique voice and unique projects.  However, I do not want to become a slave to my blog where I feel obligated to write or sew.  I blog and sew because it is fun.  It is my stress relief.  It allows me to share.  It connects me with a community.

That being said, I would like to start a monthly series on my blog that focuses on my geeky side.  Shocking, right?  Geek Chic (should start next week) is going to feature sewing projects with a decidedly nerdy theme.  

I would like to get better at photography and update my blog theme but those are things to dream about if I had infinite time and money (which I don't so I think those will be on the burner for a while).  

How does my writing process work?
I sew, write, and blog read when my career job and my mommy work are finished.  This is mostly at night when I find the time.  In order to increase my efficiency, like my sewing, I have several blog posts I work on at once.   Sometimes a post starts with a pattern or an idea.  Other times I need to have pictures of the project complete before the words begin to drivel out.  Still other times, it is a title with a blank page.  A blank page is soooooo intimidating and it can be hard to put something down.  I constantly tell my students that one can overcome writers block if you just begin writing.  I have many first lines that are edited, deleted, changed, edited, rewritten until I hit that publish button.

When I first began blogging (Oh, how absolutely cringe-worthy those posts make me feel.  Full disclosure and caution: DO NOT READ THEM), I wrote in a more banal voice.  I don't know when it happened but I started to write as if I were vocally telling the story of the project including all the sentence fragments and commentary.  Now, my writing is peppered with all those goofy thoughts that run through my head.



There you have it.  I am passing the baton blog hop to a lady who is a wicked seamstress and makes me laugh out loud.  Amanda from Wear-A-Wyatt. 

Happy Sewing!
Annie

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Holy Guacamole Batman!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oi! Why is planning for fall sewing so hard?  Fall is here and I still have no plans. 

Experiment:
New Look 0916, Cigarette Pants
Size 8

Materials:
2 yards Black and white cotton sateen with 3% Lycra
Coats and Clark Black thread
3/4" Elastic


Procedure:
This is a UFO that has been hovering since July.  It all started when I got googly eyes for this back and white cotton sateen fabric. It had to be a pair of pants.  I figured it would be perfect for the Monosewn TMS challenge.  I passed it up for two months because more interesting projects came along.  More likely it was out of fear.  Last time I made this pattern in was a hot mess, rather a tight mess of ill-fitted twill...navy blue nightmare.  Through deductive reasoning and hoping that a little stretch around your booty can never hurt, I decided to try again...back in July.
I gave it a whirl again.  Amazingly, the fit without the waistband was decent.  I added the waistband and went to insert the zip, when the sewing muse encouraged me to try it on again.  They were big around the waist.  What the pickle?  How can you go from being too tight with navy twill and too big with cotton sateen? ...  Oh yeah, Lycra.  I loved the fabric and did not want to give it up so I improvised.


I drafted a rectangle waistband that could hold 3/4" elastic.  I followed this tutorial by Nancy Zieman (I remember watching her on PBS eons ago!) in which your serge the elastic to the top of the waistband, fold under and stitch only at the seams.  This is in lieu of making a casing and inserting the elastic.  What is neat about this trick is that it doesn't appear to be an elastic waist.   No wrinkling or puckering as a dead-giveaway with elastic (Don't get me wrong, I was going to make a casing until I stumbled upon that tutorial.).  Now my pants are snug. And they look snappy.  I also ended up shortening the pants by two inches as they were rather long on my.
Holy guacamole Batman!  I just made a pair of pants I will wear, I can wear to work, I like to wear!  For those who have conquered this feat and at this point, if still reading, and are rolling their eyes, too bad. It's not earth shattering sewing but I am quite a happy hen!

We have baseball and soccer practices for Jules scattered throughout the week so my evenings are hectic.  This means resorting to my 30-minute sewing as soon as my son goes to bed.  This is how I sew.  Typically, Sunday evening I put a pdf pattern togehter or cut out a Big 4 pattern.  Monday is fabric cut and begin sewing.  It works wonders and by the end of the week, I usually have something made.
Still thinking about fall sewing!

Happy Buttons!
Annie

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