Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Wintry Owls Sweater and Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

I hope all my American pals had a fantastic Turkey Day. (And I hope my international friends had a lovely Thursday!) 

Mine was super low-key and relaxing, which was just fine by me. My Black Friday, though, was slightly more exciting. 

Greg and I have been taking ballroom dance classes for the last few months and the place we take classes, Workhouse Arts Center, is insanely awesome.

The arts center, which has everything from yoga, to glassblowing to comedy shows, was a prison until 2001. It's called the Workhouse because it's a prisoner-built prison. Is it a bit creepy that we take dance lessons in cell block 11? Possibly. Is it also cool as hell? Most definitely. I'm a super nerd for old buildings with interesting history and the Workhouse complex certainly fits the bill! 

Anyway, the Workhouse had an open house on Black Friday, which included an hour-long ballroom dance practice session/exhibition thing. (I swear they don't pay me -- I just think this place is super cool.) So I convinced my dad that he should come with Greg and I. 

Of course, I had to wear a new outfit for the event and have Greg photograph it at the Workhouse. A change of venue is always nice, right? I'm sure you all get sick of seeing my front yard. 

This is the Owls sweater by Kate Davies and the Hollyburn skirt by Sewaholic. 

I'll talk a bit about the Owls first. 

I knitted the majority of this on a train trip Greg and I took from Washington, D.C., to Seattle in August for his sister's wedding.

We were on the train for four days and I knitted the entire body and one sleeve on the train trip.

(Funny story about how the day of the trip I sent Greg to the yarn store with a list because I finished my previous project and wanted to start this one but didn't have the correct size needles! I swear to god my husband is the best sport ever.)

This sweater is made with bulky yarn, so it is an incredibly quick knit. I used Billow from KnitPicks, which is a 100 percent cotton and it is SO soft. Sadly it doesn't do a great job holding its shape, but its softness totally makes up for that.

This was also my first experience with cables, and I found them surprisingly simple! I opted not to sew on the button eyes, though, to make the design seem a bit subtler so the sweater would go with more outfits.

I also left the body short so I could wear it with my high-waisted skirts. I don't really wear pants that often, so I usually want my sweaters to go well with skirts.

The most difficult part of this sweater for me was trying to figure out how to connect the body to the sleeves in order to knit the yoke.

I'd never knit a bottom-up sweater before, so I was a bit at sea. I ended up first getting everything set up backward. Ravelry sorted me out though: I posted a thread asking why I couldn't use the instructions for the yoke (I was set to knit in the wrong direction.)

The eventual solution?

I was reading the directions and thinking about MY left and not the SWEATER'S left. Oy.

After that, though, it was fairly easy to finish! Ha!

This past week, I decided to whip up a quick Hollyburn from black twill I got from Mood. It's a Theory fabric and it is lovely. 

These pictures were taken on second wearing -- I wear most of my full skirts with a very minimal cotton petticoat and tights for warmth, so there's no point to washing after every wear -- and despite the twill's slight stretch factor, the skirt still looks great. The recovery is great.  

I also put in my very first centered zipper on this skirt. I don't know how I've never done one before, but I hadn't. Surprisingly simple! I usually put invisible zippers in everything, but since I've made this skirt several times already, I decided to challenge myself a tiny bit. 

 Here's a pic Greg snapped of the outfit in action, as I was trying to waltz with my dad.

And an outtake my dad snapped of Greg taking pictures of me. So meta.

What did you do for Black Friday? Hit the stores? Hit the dancefloor? Something else entirely?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Renaissance Festival Outfit With Truly Victorian 110 Corset

Happy Halloween and welcome to the final post in my Halloween costume miniseries! (See posts 1 and 2.)

While I'm not planning to wear this costume for Halloween this year, I did make and wear it recently, so I thought I'd post a bit about it.

Two years ago, one of my friends took me to the Maryland Renaissance Festival (don't ask how I lived my entire life in Maryland and had never been before -- I seriously have no idea) and I was instantly and irrevocably hooked.

Fast forward to this past spring. One of the ladies in my sewing group is very interested in Civil War-era garment construction and offered to give a little class on corset-making.

A corset is not something I generally have need of in my daily life, but I figured I could turn it into a Renaissance Festival costume and learn some interesting construction techniques, so I went for it. I'm going to put this out there now: My costume is in no way historically accurate -- it's just for fun.

The corset was made from Truly Victorian 110.

In class, we made mockups -- for which I ordered the cheapest possible white coutil from It was still fairly expensive, but I had never worked with fabric of this type and weight and wanted to try it. 

I made my mockup in a straight size C, and it was fairly obvious that I needed to grade out at the hips, so my final version was a C-D-E size. 

For my final corset, I chose a tea-colored coutil. 

This corset is far from perfect -- for whatever reason, you can definitely see some of the notches I cut in the seam allowance to make the seams lie flatter. And there's a few places where the fabric could be a bit less wrinkled, which probably would be fixed with more boning and more flat steel boning (as opposed to spiral steel, which is used for the majority of the boning on this corset.)

By far the most difficult part of this project was getting the boning into all the channels. There are definitely a few channels I sewed ever so slightly too small.

For the back, I bought corset lacing and size 00 grommets. The lady who led the corset class brought her grommet setter -- so fun! 

You can even lace this type of corset by yourself -- though it can be difficult to get the lacing even (you can see above how the gap down my back isn't exactly even and parallel).

The binding is just plain homemade white bias tape. I wish I had been able to find a close color match to the corset fabric, but nothing seemed close enough. I kind of half-assed the binding because I was in a hurry to finish -- hopefully I'll find some nicer binding at some point and redo it. 

The rest of the costume I bought at the Renaissance Festival. The shirt and skirt are from Wolfstone Kilt Company, a local Virginia company. 

I also wore a knee-length underskirt/slip I made from a bedsheet a couple year ago to provide a small amount of poof. 

I know it's totally "cheating" to buy pieces of the costume I could easily make, but I've got a lot of projects going on at the moment and the clothes at the Festival's Wolfstone booth are just so inspiring and beautifully made. Tough to resist!

As for accessories, I bought the little brown hat at a hat booth at the Festival. The basket probably once belonged to my mother but has been in my various bedrooms for at least the last 10 years. The cloths inside the basket are napkins I dyed for our wedding (and are covering my cellphone, sunglasses, wallet and lipstick!) The blue shawl in the first picture was made by my mother (I wore this costume for the first time two weekends ago and it was a bit nippy!)

All in all, I had the best time wearing this costume. So many people go to the Festival in costume that it's easy to pretend to be in a fantasy novel -- so fun!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candyman Vest, Bow Tie and Sleeve Garters

Continuing this week's Halloween costume series, today I present the candyman to my candy corn: my husband, Greg. 

I had in my head that I wanted to make a candy corn dress, and I needed a costume for Greg that coordinated. So what did I do?

Subjected myself to another vest and tie set!

At this point, after making six sets of vests and ties, plus a sample, for my friend Ashley's wedding, I am basically vest expert. Or at least as much of a vest expert as I care to be. :-P

This is Simplicity 4762, inspired by the candyman in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (coincidentally one of my absolute favorite movies growing up.)

I definitely wanted to do a striped fabric and black bow tie. After some intense searching, I found lots of theatrical productions of Willy Wonka that included sleeve garters, so I decided to work up a set of those, too.

The pattern includes a simple four-button vest. I lost the pattern piece for the back waist adjuster, so I eyeballed it. (That is going to be a theme for this costume.)

I didn't bother to match the pattern at the back since the stripe was so small, but this did result in a larger-than-normal white stripe at the center back.

For the buttons, I used some of the cover buttons left over from the vests I did for the wedding. I love the clean, well-matched look of cover buttons.

As for the fabric, I used quilting cotton for the striped fabric and a heavier quilting cotton for the black accessories. 

The lining is a lining sample I bought for Ashley's wedding from It was one of those times where a swatch cost 75 cents and a yard cost under $2, so I just bought the yard. 

The black sleeve garters are made the same way I made scrunchies as a kid -- a small loop of elastic in a fabric tube.

The bow tie is essentially a tiny bow belt (it's a fake tie) with a button at the back of the neck.

I'm definitely pleased with the way this came out -- it's much more comfortable than a jacket would have been (and a lot less work!) Perfect for dancing!

What do you think? Are matching costumes too cute or too insipid for words? :-P

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candy Corn Dress

This year, I've really gotten excited about making costumes, and, since it's Halloween week, I thought I'd post a miniseries of three posts on my recent costume makes. 

First up? This year's Halloween costume. Greg and I dressed up as a vintagey candy corn and candyman.

I'll post about Greg's candyman costume on Wednesday and my costume from this year's Renaissance Festival on Friday, all in time for Halloween. Sound good?

But today, my vintagey candy corn dress!

Surprise, surprise. This is yet another version of Butterick B5748. I seriously cannot quit this pattern.

I've worn versions of this dress in two weddings (including my own!) and made a general version from bedsheets -- and I wore it frequently this summer.

At this point, I can make this pattern in my sleep.

For this version, I took one of the skirt pattern pieces -- since it's a circle skirt, the two pieces are the same, I felt I could sacrifice one of them -- and measured to find it was 25 inches. At 13 inches, I made a mark on each side and the center and eyeballed a curve between them.

Since the skirt is on the long side, I slashed at the curve I drew and didn't add seam allowance, just used the new pieces and sewed them together with a 3/8-inch seam allowance.

For fabric, I used plain old quilting cotton from JoAnn. Total, for both my costume and Greg's, plus some thread I needed, I came in under $30, despite the fact that I used the nicer, more drapey quilting cotton.

I lined the bodice in self fabric, but didn't bother to line the skirt since I knew I'd be wearing a petticoat. The seam allowances are all serged.

 After making Greg's bow tie, I decided to make myself a little bow belt so we'd match a bit better. This is a simple bow, belt and button assembly.

To give myself some floof, I wore one of the petticoat crinolines from my wedding. This is the Modcloth Va Va Voluminous short petticoat in white. The net is soft and it provides a lot of lightweight floof.

Plus, it gave me a more triangular, candy-corn-type shape.

Looking a little wrinkled from the back -- we tried really hard to get good jumping and spinning shots, but it didn't work out, which is why I'm a bit wrinkled in this picture,

We wore these costumes to the Halloween dance at the local arts center, which is where we take ballroom classes. Not to brag, but we were totally one of the three couples who won the costume contest. ;) We had so much fun! We're new to ballroom, but I am loving the classes. Our teacher is a hoot!

What's your Halloween costume for this year? Got any exciting costume projects coming up? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Simple Sewing: Grainline Scout in Japanese Double Gauze

After the epic projects I've done lately, I needed a major break. (I also made a bridesmaid dress that has gone unblogged -- and several other projects that will be coming soon to an RSS feed near you.)

Enter the Grainline Scout Tee.

This pattern is an absolute breeze. It's loose and comfy and required no fitting.

I bought it as a PDF on a whim when I was buying the Archer shirt last year and until now, I hadn't made it up.

Since it's such a simple pattern, I figured it would be a good time to experiment with a new-to-me fabric. 

(Oh! By the way! I cut off all my hair. Ha!)

This is a Japanese double gauze purchased from the Miss Matatabi Etsy shop.

I've admired Nani Iro prints for a while now, but I'd never worked with double gauze before. I decided to order some (cheaper) plain double gauze so I could experiment before trying to work with the good stuff.

Double gauze is a really neat fabric -- it consists of two layers that are some how bound together. It reminds me of a soft, loosely woven version of surgical gauze pads.

It wrinkles like mad, but luckily it irons well. You should see this shirt when it comes out of the wash, though. It's wrinkle city!

The fabric takes stitches very well -- they sink in and are nearly invisible, which is cool.

See? Can you even tell that that sleeve is hemmed? Cool, right?

This is just a natural cotton color. What better to go with jeans? I managed to squeeze this top out of a single yard, though I did have to really work to make the neckline binding work. Luckily this fabric is pretty stretchy whether it's on the bias or not.

I finished all the insides with my serger -- white thread was a close-enough match for me!

All in all, this project was exactly what I needed for my mental health.

Up next, I'm working on a trench coat and I've got some other super cool projects to share (including a corset, some pants and a suede jacket.)

Not going to lie, though, sometimes simple projects feel so good! It was such a relief to make this easy, instant-gratification top after all the tough projects I've been working on lately.

How about you? Do you sew the simple stuff? Or do you just go balls to the wall every time? :-P

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sewing Formalwear: Vests and Ties for a Friend's Wedding

Recently, my sewing time has been consumed with an epic wedding project for one of my good friends. 

I made vests and ties for all the men in the bridal party -- six vests, five neckties and one bow tie.

Ashley, the bride, has been a good friend of mine (and sorority sister!) since college. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding and made the most beautiful guest book tree for our guests to sign. Not only that, she helped do the dishes after my wedding. Now that's a friend right there!

When her husband-to-be told me that she wanted vests for the wedding to match the bridesmaid dresses, but that the shop was trying to charge an obscene amount for them, I, of course, said I would make them.

I apologize for the quality of the photos -- they were taken in the wedding tent, late at night, when we were several hours into the reception. And I took them with my cellphone. But I just couldn't resist sharing this project!

This was one of the most thoughtful, beautiful weddings I've ever been to and it was done at the home of the parents of the bride. Ashley planned out the most lovely minute details, from the table dressing, to the flowers, to these vests.

For most of these, I used Simplicity 4762. The tall guy on the right got Simplicity 1506 (basically the same pattern but in big and tall sizes).

The patterns actually worked out well for sizing. I made a muslin for the fellow in the bow tie (he was a bridesperson, which is why his tie is different) since he lives close to me and would be available for fitting, but, happily, the envelope size for his suit size was a great fit. For the rest of them, I just went with their straight suit sizes and the vests all fit well (especially when they don't have their arms up -- I promise they were all long enough!)

Since I knew I'd need multiple sizes, I traced off the pattern in each size and ended up making two smalls, a medium, two larges and a 1XL. The ties were all identical, so I was able to batch cut them and sew them up in a couple nights. The bow tie (it's actually a fake bow tie and is held on with hand-sewn plastic snaps) was super quick to sew up, too. The ties are all a bit flimsier than normal store-bought ties, but they were fine for the one night.

As far as fabric goes, the bride requested some shiny, textured fabric, so I ordered a large amount of swatches from When she came to visit, we could not believe how exactly this fabric matched the bridesmaid dresses (plum Alexia Bridal dresses). It looks like the exact same fabric (and maybe it is!) I ordered 15 yards while the fabric was on sale -- I knew I'd need around 12 yards and I wanted a little wiggle room just in case I made a mistake! The fabric came in a giant bolt. It was a pretty intense mail day, let me tell you. 

For lining, I used black pongee lining, also from, since it was only $3 a yard. Not the best stuff on the planet, but cheap and it got the job done. 

The entire front of each vest is interfaced with medium weight interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. (The only real "splurge" of this project at $6 a yard -- I was worried the cheap stuff would cause massive wrinkles in the poly shantung and I'm really glad I went this route.)

The buttons are cover buttons purchased from Etsy. On the backs of the vests, which I didn't get pictures of, there are gold vest buckles from JoAnn. 

All in all, I think they turned out well! And I managed to keep them cheap -- around $35 per vest/tie set. Which is at least cheaper than the $90 the shop wanted to charge -- and I think that was for vests alone! It was a tough project, just because of the scale of it, but with a little bit of wine and a lot of movies, I made it through.

The groom looks happy with them, right? It must be the vest he's happy about. Or I guess it could be the whole wedding thing. ;)

Now the only question is what  to do with all that leftover purple poly shantung!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Birthday Suit for My Favorite 4-Year-Old (New Look 6257 and New Look 6576)

When I received the birthday wishlist for one of my favorite little friends, I was tickled to see that he had requested not only clothes, but "a birthday suit."

The list also included such gems as "a gold-colored bike that moves" and "a balloon that has a string." But of course I fixated on that birthday suit. 

The Birthday Boy's current Favorite Thing is, of course, balloons, which served as the party's loose theme. 

You know where this is going, right? 


And, of course, a matching dress for his 7-month-old sister, my Goddaughter, who is much adored by her older brother. So much adored, in fact, that he included presents for her on his birthday list. What a generous guy!

I wasted no time in ordering a pair of Michael Miller balloon fabrics from These are quilting cottons, which mean they are easily washable (always a relief, I imagine, for parents.)

I also got some turquoise rayon Bemberg from Hart's Fabric. The buttons were a guessed match at, but I think they turned out to be fairly close to the turquoise balloons on the fabric.

The pattern I used was New Look 6257, which includes pants, a mandarin collar jacket, a vest and a dress pattern.

Yes, this outfit is possibly a bit clownish and maybe even a bit girly. But Birthday Boy's parents are about as interested in gender norms as vegetarians are in meat -- and if you can't wear crazy clothes when you're 4, when can you wear them?

One of BB's grandmas was kind enough to measure him for me. He's a bit small for the size 3 (which was the smallest one in the pattern), but I needed to cut an extra inch or so to account for his height.

The pants have an elastic waist. I cut the elastic exactly to his waist measurement in the hope that even if the pants were big on the leg, they'd fit in the waist.

It turned out I didn't need to worry -- the pants fit fairly well!

The jacket was pretty easy to assemble -- more so because it had only a mandarin collar and didn't require a full on collar or lapel scheme. I used cuff and collar interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply to interface the collar. The button edge is interfaced with light fusible, also from FSS. 

The pattern was fairly difficult to match because of the scale of the repeat, but I managed to get some climbing balloons onto the button area.

I also got to work on my technique for bagging linings, which was nice. I have a new winter coat planned and, silly as it may sound, I feel much more confident about the lining now that I've accomplished it on the small scale.

I love rayon Bemberg for lining -- it feels so luxurious!

At the last minute, I decided to make another pair of pants from a slightly stretchy khaki I have in my stash. These pants use so little fabric that I think I can still get a skirt out of the yard-plus of khaki I have left.

You can't really see it in these pictures, but I realized as I was pressing everything that I could not tell the back from the front of these, so I sewed a small grosgrain ribbon tag into the back of both pairs of pants. It's hard enough to dress a preschooler -- who would want to do it twice because the pants went on backward the first time?

All in all, I'd say the balloon suit was a hit. BB wasn't too impressed at first, but then his mom asked him what was on the pants and you could see his eyes light up when he took a look and proclaimed them to be "BLOONS!"

And so he put it on, in the middle of the living room, right then and there, in front of all the guests. (Who were mostly all family, but it was still amusing.)

Of course, it's difficult to resist making little girl clothes, so I made a matching dress for BB's sister.

This is New Look 6576, made up in size small. It's got shoulder buttons to make it easy to take on and off. I imagined it would be cute for the end of summer -- it's finally getting hot where I live -- just to wear over her diaper. Probably a shirt and tights could go under it, too, though its a very summery fabric.

I broke the first button I tried to sew on -- hit it with the needle and snapped it in half, so she got some random buttons I found in my stash that were the same size since I had exactly six of the turquoise buttons. I'd already made the buttonholes, so we were pretty much stuck with these, but I do think the purple looks nice.

I never got measurements for this, so I just eyeballed based on the pattern paper -- a dangerous proposition -- but it worked out and fit perfectly.

I've been absent from the blog a bit lately because I've been tackling a huge project for a dear friend's wedding, so it was nice to take a little break and do some fun kid sewing. Both of these projects were easy to turn out and very very quick. The pants each took about 45 minutes from cutting to finishing, as did the dress. The jacket took a bit longer, maybe a couple of hours. 

Do you all sew for others? I enjoy it -- as long as the expectations aren't too high. This was a nice, low-stress project. Like a little sewing vacation!