intermittent posts on sewing, knitting, gardening, healthy eating and other random topics from two sisters

Naturally, before heading halfway across the world for two weeks, I had grand notions of sewing a entire wardrobe for the tropics, full of linen pants and such. Didn’t happen. But I did manage to make good use of a few me-made items. (Sorry all these pictures are washed out. I was having such troubles with the light I’m not sure my camera isn’t broken.)

My navy poplin a-line, self-drafted. I’m also holding a me-made sunhat. This is the by the marina in Singapore. That’s the fancy new Marina Bay Sands hotel and Double Helix Bridge in the back—Singapore has put a lot of money into their waterfront.

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Brown sateen stretch cotton, self-drafted from a yoke skirt I own. It’s rotated as I walked, sadly. Also, I have a terrible habit of blinking when people take pictures. The Banteay Srei temple in Cambodia, part of the Angkor Wat complex. I like to get my hair braided for big traveling—it handles wind, sweat, and thirty hours on the plane much better that way.

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Sage-green straight-leg pants from my Surefit Designs class. Still at Angkor Wat–trees grew into the Ta Prohm temple while it was abandoned for centuries.

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And my mom was carrying the purple silk dupioni tote bag I made her for Christmas. I told her it was machine washable, so I guess she decided to test it. Still Ta Prohm, if I remember correctly.

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I took my first sewing class on February 9th of 2010, so this seems like a good moment to look back over the year. After just one class—working on the Bernina Seams Inside Out bag—I was hooked (because I had a great teacher, Millie who is now at Paramount Sewing after my original Local Fabric Shop closed), and moved onto a pillowcase and then skirts. Here’s some numbers for the year, pulled from my handy-dandy Bento sewing database.

Completed projects: 64. The highlights are two dresses, a purse, and about 13 skirts that have entered regular rotation in my wardrobe, but some of these “projects” are as simple as a zipper bag with unfinished seams.

Projects in progress: 8. Mostly things I am having problems fitting. I hate fitting.

Projects that were wadders or muslins: 11. Some of the in-progress ones ought to be moved to this category, I suspect. Note that I don’t have a UFO category. I have projects that have been “in progress” since April.

Projects intended for material in my stash: 39. Hmm. That’s a long and ever growing list. It doesn’t even include the three cotton lawns I just bought specifically to make more Pendrells.

Fabric purchased or otherwise acquired: about 320 yards. This includes some funky counting a sheet from Goodwill to make muslins as 1 yard. I think I have 8 plastic bins worth of unused fabric. I also have about 75 colors of thread in stash.

Fabric used: 60 yards. At current rate, if I stop acquiring, it will only take me 5 years to sew down my stash. Not enough of a cushion! Nowhere near SABLE! (Stash Accumulation Beyond Lifetime Expectancy)

Patterns purchased: 58. Not counting various tutorials or patterns downloaded from the web, just the main commercial patterns.

Patterns used thus far: 8. Pretty sad. But since I have taken a custom pants-fitting class, and am going to take a dress-fitting class, to generate patterns customized to me, I expect to cut back on the pattern accumulation a fair bit. Less buying on spec when things are on sale, and more buying to get instructions on very specific design details that I can copy to my custom patterns.

As a very new sewist, I probably shouldn’t risk the hubris of giving tips. But some things that work for me:

As a good little seamstress, I change my needle. I don’t start a new needle with every project, because I’ve heard 2-3 hours of sewing (or maybe I’ve heard 8-10 hours?), and seriously, an a-line skirt takes about 45 minutes of actual sewing. But I check More Fabric Savvy or Fabric U to try to use the right needle for the fabric.

But right now, I have three projects going at the same time, and only one machine. So I used to scribble on my needle cases to keep it straight what I have done, but it would wear off. New idea! Pin the needle through a scrap from the current project when you take it out the machine. I’m not sure how this will work when I want to add another project, but it’s definitely helping me keep straight what goes where.

Second tip! Make practice projects. I bought a yard of beautiful purple silk dupioni, and I’m making a very simple totebag as a gift for my mother, but it’s teaching me the basics about sewing with dupioni and underlining with silk organza on a pretty low-stress, unruinable project. So that’s pretty handy.

Also, I use to really hate the cutting out part of sewing. Hated it. Blocked me from getting things done. A rotary mat and cutter, while expensive, have totally improved that step.

Best Sewing Tip Ever?

Not only does this sound like a great tip, it sounds like something I can do by myself!

From Cassandra commenting at Sewaholic:

Princess seams are awesome if you’re very busty and can give you a perfectly fitting blouse. When I was struggling to master adjustments for a full bust I cheated and wrapped myself (in my favourite bra) in cling/plastic wrap and then drew some lines where I though my side seam should sit (great if you have a side seam sew into a well fitted bra – use it as a guide) and a line from mid shoulder down across my nipple and vertically down to my waist.

Cut along the lines and you’ll end up with a perfect curve for the side bodice piece (that follows the contours of your bust) that you can transfer to your pattern.

Cheat method of doing a custom FBA for first timers *wink*

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At the top, turquoise silk dupioni which I love, my first expensive fabric purchase. The brocade is actually turquoise-on-turquoise instead of the turquoise on pale gold the camera brought out. I am hoping to squeeze dresses out of only two yards, for both of these. (I did test McCalls 5799 to produce an a-line sheath that requires only two yards of 52 inch fabric without nap, but am not sure how many fancy turquoise dresses I could possibly use even if I can make them fit.)

The solid stretch cotton is NOT theoretical—I made a skirt from it, and plan to maybe use the remainder to do the midriff panel on a sundress using the lightweight embroidered cotton for skirt and bodice, imagining something like New Look 6675 or Vogue 8470. Both fabrics are from the same collection, picked up at 70% off at Joann’s, so they match perfectly. I have 4 yards of the embroidered cotton, so will use it on a full-skirted dress, and am thinking switching to a solid for the midriff will be slimming.

The garden print in the middle is my sheet-set from my high-school bedroom—it might not be worthy of much more than an apron, or perhaps a tiered summer skirt. The missing picture is a basic ribbed knit that I did a rather baggy tank top in but have found impossible to get an accurate picture of.

The last picture, again is more turquoise in real life than the camera allows. It’s a rayon batik with brown flowers that I bought in a panic when the owners of my local fabric store decided to retire, and I realized feeling more rayon batik would require a two hour drive. I may buy more rayon batik, as the shelves have been thinning out lately, invoking my hoarding instincts.

The picture is a screenshot from Bento, a Mac-only (and iPhone) home database application that I use to track fabric, notions, patterns, projects, and gifts, etc.

Post inspired by Purplicity and Theoretical Clothes from Elizabeth at Sew a Beginner.

The first dress I made, McCall’s 5799, came with pattern pieces for A, B, C, and D cup sizes, so I didn’t need to worry about a full bust alteration (FBA). But now I want to try a different dress (maybe. Actually I’m thinking maybe I’ll see if I own any other patterns with separate pattern pieces for cup sizes).

So I’m googling, but a lot of the links to various FBAs are broken. Luckily, someone has posted the TimmelFabrics one as a Word doc on a forum.

To Do Someday

This tutorial for a lined zippered pouch looks very nice and easy. I expect to have some silk scraps someday….

These Japanese wrapping cloths look pretty cool.

This crayon-roll tutorial should work equally well for a knitting needle roll.


No posts at all in August? Gotta get that photo-process whipped into shape—I’ve got at least three drafts fully written, just missing photos.

Ten satin pillowcases?

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(wine red and pale pink not pictured)

So many drawstring bags I’m about to stop tracking them in my custom projects database?

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(most of the bags are from leftover pillowcase satin, clearly. I like shiny.)

Or, maybe I just have a high tolerance for repetition.

(To be fair, I use the bags to try out different techniques and get a better sense of what works and doesn’t work, so that’s useful.)

—D, Younger

I wore this dress to a wedding in 2004. I really like the color (more accurate in the first photo), but it doesn’t actually fit all that well, and it’s way outdated.


So I converted it.


The tank top still doesn’t fit all that well (and is still cheap polyester, though I’m pretty sure the way is looks longer on the left than the right is just the photo), but I’m gonna have a lot of fun wearing the scarf.


A bit janky if you look too closely, but no one will.

I cut the cylinder from the bottom of the skirt into a sort of long spiral shape (about 120 inches before gathering), so the scarf has pointed ends and a couple of corners. Thirty minutes to re-hem the tanktop, 1.5 hours to do the scarf. Probably three-quarters of the rolled hem either swallowed too much fabric or not enough fabric, though.

I got the idea for the scarf from Sew A Beginner, but I used a different gathering technique—I took a class on presser feet last Saturday, and it taught the zigzag-over-another-thread method, using a rolled hem foot to help hold the gathering thread out of the way. For this scarf, I used a thin white ribbon, as the instructor suggested a crochet thread or something strong to gather a scarf, with a high probability of getting caught on something. Red or pink would have been better, but white was what I had. I also used any remotely compatible leftover thread—going out and buying something just doesn’t go with the concept of refashioning, to me.

It was just practice, really. I have three more dresses I intend to convert to tanktops, although those have shorter skirts, so I might need to find something else to do with the leftover.

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