Fehr Trade Spring Race Challenge


Hi all!

I have an impossible backlog of blog photos to take, and hope I will have laundry, husband and weather aligned tomorrow to do so, but in the mean time, know this:

I’m in taking part in the Fehr Trade Spring Race ChallengeFehr Trade Spring Race Challenge

I’ll be running a 5k on April 5th, wearing some me-sewn running gear and learning for the first time in over a decade what my 5k time is. This is a great kick in the pants for me, as I’m aiming for a November half marathon, and therefore it’s time to start getting a sense of my race speeds. I’ve been getting speedier (for me) in training, so I hope that I can break 30 minutes in the 5k race. Yes, I’m that slow. But I don’t care! I love running in our beautiful California environment, and if I’m slow, it’s just that much more enjoyment. ;-)

We’ll see what I have ready to wear at that time, as my Fehr Trade PBJam Leggings are too warm already for most days, but I will at least have some (as yet unblogged) running SewingCake Espresso capris, and hopefully a Fehr Trade XYT Top to show off!

Sew Grateful Catch-Up and Giveaway Winner


What a fun, busy, BUSY week I had last week! I work very closely every day with a supervisor who is based in the Washington DC area (as well as software engineers who are based in Shanghai and Bangalore), and my “boss” (he is my boss, but we work very collaboratively) was in town last week. It always makes for a very busy week.

This means that I only got ONE Sew Grateful post up, but hey, at least it was a giveaway! And today I’m happy to announce the two winners:

For Set #1, without covers, our random number generator chose Maryall, of http://maryall.wordpress.com/.

Three funky, funky patterns!

Three funky, funky patterns!

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For Set #2, with covers, our random number generator chose Alison of http://heavenlyhandmades.blogspot.co.uk/

Two lovely patterns with plastic covers!

Two lovely patterns with plastic covers!

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 7.24.30 AM

I’ll send you both emails momentarily to get mailing addresses. And I even already have padded envelopes! There’s hope that I may send the packages in March. ;-) Seriously, though, why does the post office have to be so dang inconvenient for working people??

I did actually plan two other Sew Grateful posts, but I’m having serious blog photo backups. I have a free pattern project post–the fabulous Deer & Doe Plantain pattern has come off my serger not one, not two, but THREE times this past month. And I have a little tutorial on how to draft and install an alternate waistband for the Fehrtrade PBJam Leggings, in case you have to cut off the first one, like I did. Sigh. I hope these are coming soon!

Who’s Got the Funk? SewTigerSew’s Sew Grateful Giveaway

Three funky, funky patterns!

Three funky, funky patterns!

Two lovely patterns with plastic covers!

Two lovely patterns with plastic covers!

Today in honor of Sew Grateful Week I’d like to offer two lots of vintage patterns, one with plastic covers and one without. (I had no idea how to split these up, so covers it was!) Click each picture for a larger, more detailed view.

These came to me through a super-fun swap in 2011 at Mena’s (of Sew Weekly and TypePad fame) place, and I have made up two and found both to be awkward for me. They just didn’t fit the way I’m used to things fitting, and I had to realize that I’m just used to modern ease, etc. I think it’s time they moved on to new homes.

To enter, leave a comment telling me which lot you’d like to win and which pattern you think you might actually make up. I’ll be happy to ship worldwide, so please enter from anywhere! I’ll use a random number thingie, assuming more than two people leave comments. ;-)

Update: I’m keeping this giveaway open through Friday, February 28th, so please feel free to enter throughout the week!

Serger Basics Class


On Saturday I went to the local Babylock dealer, Eddie’s Quilting Bee, for a class on how to best use my new machine. It was a fun change of pace to get up early and get to the store, a wee bit dressed up in one of my me-made dresses. ;-)

It was a pretty basic class, as I’d already been using the serger, and had one before this one for 8 years, but I learned a couple of key things that would have taken a long time to get around to learning on my own. I am SO chagrined to say that one of my major complaints of late about the old machine would have been solved just by using one of those handy plastic over the thread cones! Sigh. When using slippery thread, it’s key to keep the strand from dipping down and catching on the bottom of the cone on the way back up. Seriously, I felt so silly for not thinking of/remembering that.

We sewed a bunch of samples and I had a ball taking notes right on my fabric squares! I found my favorite settings for a nice rolled hem, and now I’m itching to make napkins for everyone! I got to discuss how to best use my new coverhem binder, though we didn’t go over that in class, and I think I’m in for a LOT of practicing before I use it to finish my XYT top. (I’m thinking this first go I will just do elastic as Melissa suggests.)

Most fun of all, probably, was teaching the teacher something! I showed her Debbie Cook’s great technique for finishing a coverhem in the round. So all this blog-reading does do a person good after all, it seems, aside from making me want to buy more fabric and patterns!

All in all, it wasn’t the complex techniques class I look forward to (they have those every couple of months), but it was fun to spend the day sewing with other ladies, talking about sewing, and being out for an activity for which I am usually at home. The store offers “serger club” classes, the next couple of which are somewhat elementary for me, but I may just go and have fun anyhow! This month’s is a pyjama project, and I owe my dear husband a new pair of PJ pants, so maybe I’ll go and sew those up while the others do the assigned ladies’ pattern. ;-)

Between this and my class at Canada College starting next month (French Pattern Drafting with Linda Maynard), I’m enjoying combining sewing and socializing in real space as well as online!

To Heck with Waiting for Better Pictures: The Craftsy Weekender Dress


After we settled from moving a second time in 3 months, I had some time off from work for the holidays. Thank heavens! I needed it. We got almost completely settled in the new (upstairs) apartment within a week, and then hosted my mom and stepdad for Christmas and my 40th birthday, and after that, I was SO happy to spend all day reading your blogs, rest, run, and SEW!

IMG_5577I thought the Craftsy Weekender Dress, October’s sewalong, would be a nice little project to get my sewjo back. And it was! Simple, easy to fit—I just graded out a tiny bit so that the skirt would skim my hips more lightly—and my serger was working nicely at the time.

I especially liked how they had us do the empire waist embellishment—just sewed it in the front underbust seam like a binding, and when the side seams were sewn up, it was stabilized plenty so as not to flap up, though it’s only sewn on top, and not on the bottom of the band of red fabric.IMG_5579

You can see from the back view that yes, I could use a swayback adjustment. I guess I’ll have to learn how to do that when there’s no waist seam. This would be an improvement for my t-shirt patterns, neither of which I would yet call TNT!

All in all, I like this pattern, and I think I may re-make it. It’s very easy to wear, fits nicely, and the half-length sleeves are just perfect for my office.

So, here’s to developing a bit of a rhythm for this blogging thing. I’m trying to take the attitude of “Done is better than perfect.” What do you think? Is this worth a read?

New Sewing Space!


So, we moved house from San Francisco to Redwood City at the end of September, 2013. It was in most ways a really great improvement for us! We still don’t have restaurants we’re nuts about, but other than that, let’s see . . . more space, beautiful old building, 4 full-grown redwoods 6 feet from our windows, great neighborhood for regular running and constitutionals, 95% fewer homeless people in my every day experience, and hiking/trail running within a 20 minute drive! It’s heavenly!

IMG_5555We did have a bump or two with moving, as usual. We had a lot of issues with noise from our upstairs neighbor, whose wood floors were VERY creaky and who had movement at all hours of the night. There were various other issues, including machinery noises, that made our hoped-for haven a little less heavenly than we’d have liked.

So wouldn’t you know, when two months later the upstairs unit came available, though it took us a while to stomach the extra work, we went ahead and moved everything one floor up. We’re now on the top floor, and that is a good thing! I feel bad, though, because this apartment’s floors are MUCH creakier than the ones downstairs. No wonder they were waking us up! We never wear shoes in the house, and hope we’re not plaguing our new downstairs neighbor. IMG_5561

But in some ways my ~favorite~ part is that I have a sewing corner now! I used to cut on a 6-foot long folding table in our kitchen, and sew on the kitchen table. Now I have a permanent desk with shelves for tools, patterns, short-list fabrics, and more. And I also have a proper cutting table, albeit a foldaway. I find it’s just fine, even if it’s not super-deluxe custom. As a matter of fact, I used to hate cutting and tracing, but now I find I quite like it!

One of the things I love about it is that I’m not off in a separate room, but in a corner of our very large living room. So my husband can read or play games and I can sew, all in the same space! I like the fact that I don’t listen to as much TV this way, and when I do want to listen to something, it’s an audiobook on my ipod.

My little space is made up of an Ikea Expedit desk, a Joann’s tilting hobby table, my Fabulous Fit-ed Dritz dress form, and my sewing books on the bookshelf to the left of it all. And that’s enough for me!

Fehrtrade PB Jam Leggings: Wearable Muslin AND a New Serger!


When I heard that Melissa of Fehr Trade was putting out digital patterns for running gear, I couldn’t have been more excited! One of my favorite sewing bloggers, Melissa is also an inspiration to me in the running realm. Through her generous blogging and twitter feed, I’ve been able to watch as she’s gotten faster and changed her running style, and generally accomplished great things. So when I had the chance to up my fangirl-dom to support her new venture into patternmaking, I jumped at it.


After a Run

Of course, this was also an opportunity to finally get some exciting spandex, supplex and powermesh (I am currently working on my first draft of the XYT top as well), and I was excited when the supplies arrived. I ordered functional but not as exciting fabrics for the first version of each, and more fun fabrics for the second. And I’m certain there will be far more than two versions—I see no reason to buy running pants at a minimum of $60 a pair when I can make more exciting ones for about $20!

When all my supplies were in and washed, I set to assembling and tracing the patterns. I was heartened that my measurements put me in the M slot, as I’m still not over cutting out a 16 in a pattern when my ready-to-wear size is 8 or 10. It’s silly, but it bugs me.

I found the patterns easy to assemble and tracing posed no problem except that I experienced some kind of brain blockage that led me to forget at least 40% of the notches. I later had to go back and trace these onto the pattern pieces, then clip the already-cut fabric.

Piecing the leg fronts and backs was easy. The notches, as soon as I got them on all the pieces as appropriate, were PERFECT. As in standing there pinning and thinking “this doesn’t look like it’s lining up right” and then sewing the seam and seeing that it’s lining up perfectly! Melissa has really thought of all the little details and what happens with a 14” seam allowance in a way that I’m not sure my brain could do.

As I began to assemble the leggings, the issues with my serger started up. I had a lot of trouble with tension, and in the end the needle tension never got to where I wanted it. After struggling with my 8 year old Huskylock 936 for two hours on Saturday, I finally threw up my hands and decided I’d have to take it for servicing the next day. Reading and research ensued, and I wasn’t all that shocked when I seriously depleted my “fun” savings account the next day and came home with a Babylock Evolution.

That’s been a dream to work with! I can switch from coverstitch to overlock several times in an hour (though in longer practice I’m sure I’ll try to group like stitching as I used to with the Huskylock), and every stitch has been perfect. I hope I find over time that this change has been worth it, but I strongly suspect I will. As I branch out into making even my own undies (prototypes coming soon!), the percentage of my own wardrobe that I am sewing is getting close to 80. Without serger struggles to deal with, I will even be able to stop succumbing to the lure of cheap t-shirts from Target.Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 8.07.13 PM

Anyhow, back to the leggings! Once I got the pants together, and before inserting the elastic at the waist, I tried them on. I was amazed! There were several issues, many of which could be chalked up to things other than the pattern:

  1. One never knows what will happen with a particular fabric’s stretch.
  2. Apparently though my middle is Size M, my legs are not. No wonder I like to wear skirts and show them off!
  3. I think, looking at Melissa’s pictures, that I like my leggings tighter than she does.

The only thing that seemed like a possible pattern . . . um, choice? is the length—I removed a good 5 inches and these still bunch at my ankles a bit (I wanted to be conservative). At least for the US I am average-height at 5’ 5.5.” I do, however, like a pretty short inseam at 29” or 30”.

But the issues were easy to remedy! I put the leggings on inside out and pinned up one leg to fit as I wanted. I measured all the pins’ locations and noted them on the pattern instructions, right on the technical drawings. Then I serged off the extra fabric on both inseam and side seam. I experimented with pinning out fabric on the inseam only (so as to preserve the perfection of my hip “swoops”) but the fit felt odd when I did that.

I then used the altered leg and the measurements to pin the other leg, and serged that one too.

Waistband elastic insertion was easy, though I did get two little tucks in the fabric from not stretching enough. I opted to leave that as-is, since I don’t anticipate running without a top that covers the waistband. Coverhemming the bottoms was likewise problem free. And then I had a pair of the loudest pants I’ve had since the early 90’s (remember Hammer time?).  :-)

I wore these to yoga at the office yesterday, which was extra expose-y because our teacher called in sick and I led the class. Before starting I did a quick check and ensured that there was no show-through. All clear! Or opaque, as the case may be.

And today I took them out for a nice 30 minute run! They performed excellently. A little toasty for me in our climate (which is admittedly currently unseasonably warm—sorry everyone else!), but true to Melissa’s word there was no scooching down of the waistband at all! Even though I think I actually cut the elastic a little too loose—what a relief.

So, that’s the story! I can’t WAIT to show you the next pair. I may cut an S or XS with an M hips/bum, depending on how that lines up with my adjusted pair. For as you can see here, truly


So True


But the fit is great, eh?

I hope this post wasn’t too wordy. I’ve had major blog blockage because of not having great pics of the project that came before this, and now I find I’m long-winded. But for the sake of trying to get into some kind of rhythm with this thing, I’m just going to post. Let me know in the comments if you think this level of detail is ridiculous. Thanks!

Sewing My Own Wedding Dress


This project took up about 4 months of my sewing time, with only one interstitial project–my February Tiramisu. Boy was I ready to be done when it was finally done!

I started by watching Susan Kalje’s Couture Dress course on Craftsy, and though I didn’t use the included pattern or finish all the steps, I really got a lot out of her tracing, thread-tracing and muslining process. In the end, I had to modify some of the design features of the pattern I chose, not only to get the fit I wanted, but also because the pattern didn’t achieve what I’d been attracted to in the envelope pictures.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Long ago I promised process posts. I didn’t manage that, and I don’t mind too much. But I can at least describe the whole thing a bit.

First, the pattern: Butterick 5750. B5750 It’s supposed to be made in a light crepe, but I think it would probably work best in a really, really light chiffon. I worked on the fit and design in three steps, first fitting the muslin to myself, then transferring those adjustments to practice fabrics and sewing up the dress in a poly crepe, then adjusting the design features on the poly crepe, then making up the dress in the beautiful silk crepe and crepe-backed satin that I chose for the final dress.

The muslin: The first muslin was terrible, as you see here. I made about 3 bodice muslins before moving on to the skirt and then on to the practice dress.

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After re-designing the bodice, I liked it!

After re-designing the bodice, I liked it!

Draping came out more like poofing!

Draping came out more like poofing!

The practice dress: When I first got the bodice sewn up I discovered that the soft draping and folds didn’t function at all as I’d expected, at least not in the poly crepe.

So after some thinking, I went with a hybrid approach, using the lining pattern piece for the left bodice, and working out my own pattern of pleats and drapes for the right bodice, based on slashing and spreading the right bodice lining piece.

Ironing a lot of silk!

Ironing a lot of silk!

The silk: I made some mistakes with the silk, but not too bad considering the stress levels and how over my head I was in some respects. I also purchased and viewed the Craftsy course on Sewing With Silks, but didn’t find it too enlightening. I didn’t have a proper cutting table, so I had to let some of the quarter-circle skirt pieces hang over the edge of the table, which distorted them some.

Apparently we're not supposed to use rotary cutters?

Apparently we’re not supposed to use rotary cutters?

I also didn’t experiment with sandwiching the silk in tissue paper or anything like that. And I used a rotary cutter, which may be a no-no, but anyhow, it all worked out. Once the dress was together I let the bias skirt hang on the dressmaker’s dummy for a couple of days, evened up the hem, and all was well.

One quarter of the skirt

One quarter of the skirt

The design features I added were:

  1. I made the right bodice piece in a blue crepe-backed satin
  2. I made 1/8 of the skirt in the same blue
  3. When the straps wanted to slide of my shoulders a bit, I added lingerie keepers, which worked a treat
  4. and when all was said and done (and my draping still didn’t behave quite as I liked), I made a 4-inch wide sash of the blue silk as well.

All in all, this was an arduous project but one I am so very glad I did it. Shortly before finally biting the bullet and buying very expensive fabrics, I went out looking for a dress I could imagine wearing for my wedding. It wasn’t out there.

Getting there!

Getting there!

So I made the dress I was dreaming of, and it turned out better than I may have deserved it to, considering how above my skill level the project was.

Techniques learned:

  • Wax-paper tracing
  • Thread-tracing seam lines
  • Adjusting a muslin
  • Creating my own pleats in a pattern piece (only half-successfully, but what the heck?)
  • Proper catch-stitching for the rolled hem
  • Thread-crocheted lingerie keepers.
Walking down to the ceremony with my sister/matron of honor

Walking down to the ceremony with my sister/matron of honor


Well, that took a while!


So, it’s been almost a year since I’ve posted. I LOVE reading blogs and pay attention to all your crafty and personal ups and downs, but posting just didn’t happen in 2013.

What did happen was a LOT:

1. I sewed my own wedding dress! This took AGES and I was so excited to sew something new when it was done, but there’s not been that much time for sewing since.

We had SO much fun at our wedding!

We had SO much fun at our wedding!

2. Honeymoon–I took a lot of me-mades on our 3 week trip to Berlin and Paris, and really enjoyed sporting my own styles all over Europe.

3. Moving, and moving again–We returned to SF in June and within a couple of weeks it was clear to us that we had to move. Preferably to a better neighborhood and a bigger apartment. After much looking and obsessing and a couple of false starts (one of which included PACKING for a week, then not signing the lease), we found a great place in a classy 1930 building in a whole new town. We’re in Redwood City now, about 27 miles South, with 4 full-grown redwoods right outside our front door, a bike-commute for my husband, and about 8% of the homeless person sightings we had in our old neighborhood.

I also gained space for a dedicated sewing corner! It’s small, but it does the trick. I’ll take you all on a tour soon.

4. But again?? Yes, we moved to the building we loved, and discovered on the day we moved in that the lady upstairs from us was (tragically) terminally ill. And the next morning we confirmed that she had an oxygen pump running 24/7. Over the next few weeks we confirmed that she had a usual 4AM wakeup (for meds) and often dropped the tv remote sometime thereafter when she fell back to sleep. It was an awful situation, as the constant hum had us on edge at all times and there was not way (even with earplugs and a white noise machine) to avoid being awakened in the night several times per week. That situation did (sadly) resolve in about two months, but by then we’d also started to have issues with our downstairs neighbor’s TV volume coming right through our floor.

So when the upstairs place was made ready, we sucked it up and decided to take on a little more rent and a LOT more exercise, and moved everything we owned up one floor. Miraculously, it only took about a week. We’re pretty well settled here now, and I’ve gotten to start sewing again. I did make two quick and easy garments in the first apartment here, but then it was already time to pack it up again. I’m really looking forward to executing on the long list of projects for which I already have patterns and fabric.

5. Oh yes, and between those two moves, I went to Shanghai for a week for work, and took 4 days on the way back to explore Kyoto with my Papa and stepmom. I had zero time for shopping or even a trip to the tailor, but I’m hoping to go again for work within the next year, and remedy that. Hopefully my husband will be able to come with me next time too, and we can tack on some time for Beijing.

6. We hosted my Mom and stepdad in our new place for Christmas this year too. They didn’t stay with us, but we spent most of 3 days with them right at the start of our much-needed winter time off, which was a little hard. Just now, two days before returning to work, am I starting to feel recovered enough to have creative energy again. But hey! It’s Christmas, and the day after is also my birthday, and I turned 40! We had to celebrate. J

So, those are the main highlights of my year. I did NOT get much sewing done, but that which I did was really great. More on that soon.