Posted on February 24, 2015
I really love a challenge. I do. Sometimes I like to see if I can do something JUST to see if I can do it, whether I’m especially interested in the final product or not. But other times…man, I just get too intimidated.
I’ll be all super excited about making something I’ve never made before and become CONVINCED that I am able to climb any mountain, as the nuns sang. I’ll get all the supplies and all the patterns and all the equipment. And then I’ll freeze.
Deer in headlights. It’s awful. It looks like procrastination on the outside, but I’m learning to call it what it really is: intimidation. Most projects I jump into face-first, and if it works, it works. And if it doesn’t? No harm, no foul. There have been a few, however… No matter how much I gear myself up and gird my own loins, I have simply struggled to complete these projects, even when they have gotten to well-past-the-50%-mark.
Posted on February 10, 2015
Two years ago, I went on a mission at Christmas: a vintage Barbie holiday for our 7-year-old.
I was especially focused on the carrying cases, honestly.
Posted on January 29, 2015
Oh, rayon. I DO love you. I have always loved you. I am so glad we’re getting back together.
I once overheard an older woman at JoAnn saying to her friend how much she hated rayon ever since The War. She seemed very sure of her opinion, but I think I made a noise under my breath, because I strongly disagree. STRONGLY. Me, I love rayon. It’s so soft and drapey, and it feels so silky against my skin. I love the flow of it, and the way nearly any garment made in it is super flattering.
Posted on January 28, 2015
Today, I’m excited to be part of a giveaway over at Kids Clothes Week! Enter for your chance to win THREE new kids’ patterns PLUS a spot in the Sewing Knits without the Serger class.
The Overmost and Pinafore are in the final phases of testing and will be available for presale in a matter of days! Eeek! And the dress featured in the Cotton + Steel booth under the Pinafore last fall will come out soon after:
You’ll receive all three patterns when they release plus get immediate access to the Sewing Knits class–join me in stitching up all your favorite clothes in stretch fabrics!
Enter here or over on the Kids Clothes Week blog!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Posted on January 15, 2015
I have a new online class available! I’ve teamed up with BurdaStyle to offer my Sewing Knits without the Serger course as a four-week, interactive online class in their Master Class series. This course has ALL NEW content, including seven new video segments that were shot specifically for BurdaStyle. I’m seriously excited to share it all with you!
If you’ve ever wanted to make your own tee shirts or lounge pants or yoga wear, but have avoided it because knit fabrics intimidate you or you thought you needed a serger in order to get the job done, this course is for you! With three original patterns to sew up, you’ll practice your new skills by working through projects you already want to make. And with printable lists of patterns to try once the course is over, this class is an excellent starting point for a love affair with stretch sewing!
We’ll cover how to work with knits on the cutting table and under the needle, how to understand sizing and fit, and then assemble a series of mini-projects that gets you accustomed to the seam finishes you might want to use when sewing knits. After that, we’ll sew up a sweet little tank top (camisole) with elastic straps, a fold-over waistband skirt, a pair of lounge (pajama) pants that will be the softest you’ve ever worn, and finally work on a tee shirt so you can learn to make professional finishes. Each project has a printable instruction guide and downloadable pattern pieces, and I’m so excited to show you all the updates to this class!
Registration is open NOW. Join the class here, and I’ll see you on January 30!
Posted on January 8, 2015
I made my husband underwear. Yep. UNDERWEAR. And as one of my sweet IG friends asked, “Do you always make your husband’s underwear?”, no, I never have before. But I uncovered Kwik Sew 1672 when I was digging through the (alarming number of) accumulated pajama patterns in my sewing area, looking for just the right ones for this year’s Christmas Eve jammies (more on that later), and it was asking to be made. Begging, really. Begging non-chalantly whiel leaning up against a wall. An invisible wall. Would YOU have been able to resist?
This has been sitting in a basket waiting to be sewn up for about a zillion years, and I don’t know why I waited so long. It was a fun, simple sew with just enough details to keep me interested. The fit is pretty great (sorry, ladies, hubs was NOT down with modeling for you–which is a shame, because you’re missing out #sorrynotsorry), and the design is very much in line with store-bought boxers. It doesn’t take a ton of yardage, and let’s be very clear here: is an EXCELLENT use for those novelty prints that you just can’t resist but neeeeeeeed to buy.
Hence the ridiculous nativity boxers seen above. Holla!
This print makes me laugh. I found it at a 75% off big box fabric store sale a few years ago, and bought just a little over a yard-ish. Plenty to make these boxers. And I thought it was funny? Maybe a little irreverent, but not ill-intended? They’re Christmas pants! Anyway, my husband is amused by them.
One of the features I was most intrigued by in this design is that it lacks a center back seam–just cut on the fold for a nice, smooth behind. I’ve seen lots of the boxers we’ve bought him have a gusset in the back, and some have just a simple center back seam (like the ones we got at Banana not too long ago), so to see a pair with neither was interesting. I wasn’t totally sure they’d be comfortable or not ride up, but he reports back that he didn’t really notice until I mentioned it, which tells me it’s pretty good!
The fly construction takes up the majority of the sewing for these, since the rest is simple seams. The instructions are nicely written, and give good stitching diagrams to get a polished, professional finish on the fly with NO RAW EDGES. That last is really important to me, since I want anything up close to my skin to feel as completed as possible. The width of the waistband and (ahem) sizing of the opening seem to be in line with most off-the-rack men’s underpants.
The nativity boxers were rolled up and tied with a ribbon, then put in my husband’s stocking for Christmas morning. Being me, I went ahead and cut two pair while I was at it, but didn’t quite get the second completed when I was sewing. Those I gave him just last week (For the 11th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeee….): Grinch boxers.
You can see on this pair how there’s a nice box sewn at the upper waistband, along the elastic, and a trapezoid at the lower end of the fly, to catch the raw edges of the fly facings and hold them in place on the interior. Both the right and left fly are finished cleanly with stitches away from the opening, so there isn’t a lot of bulk. It looks clean and professional in person.
On the interior, you can see the point at the lower end of the fly–the lower squared raw edges are tucked up at a diagonal and the trapezoid is stitched from the right side to keep it all pretty.
I opted to serge most of these seam allowances, rather than making French seams, partly because I didn’t want to invest the time in French seams and come to learn that the boxers didn’t fit well. The only exception is here, the very first curved crotch seam below the fly, which is where all the assembly begins. Because it intersects with the fly facings, and is a tiiiight curve, you can’t really get the serger in there (or, at least, I can’t), so I chose to overcast the edges and then topstitch them in place before moving on to the rest of the construction. I serged the side seams, and then sewed the inseam (at the bottom of the image here) and serged it BEFORE adding the elastic, even though the instructions have you sew the inseam last before the hems. This was so I could topstitch all those seams–side and inseam–to one side, so there isn’t any friction along thighs on either side. I like a smooth finish.
The waistband finish is nice in that it doesn’t involve a casing–you fold and press the upper raw edge to the wrong side, then place the underwear elastic over it and stitch in place. Just like they do in the factories, y’all. The raw ends of the elastic tuck under the fly facings at the center front.
The hem is just a simple double-turned hem. My husband pointed out that these boxers are shorter than most of the ones we buy at the store, but that he thought it was a good thing, since that makes for less bulk to fit into snugger pants (like jeans, as opposed to suit pants or khakis). When sewing these up, I made the medium, and when it comes to bulk, they seemed HUUUUGE. But once the elastic was on, they seemed right in line with every other pair of boxers I’ve seen. So I guess dudes just like ’em roomier?
One final note: I did purchase the “underwear or swimsuit” elastic for these, from Hancock. These two pair are laid on top of one another at the left side seam, and you can see how the nativity pair (which have been laundered since sewing) are narrower than the Grinch pair (where the fabric was prewashed but the elastic hasn’t been laundered). Just FYI that, while I may have had some margin in the cutting of the elastic, for sure it shrinks up a little in the wash. Also: I was forced to press the nativity pair for these photos, a task I never thought I’d do and quite honestly would have assiduously avoided ten years ago. WHO AM I??
Anyone else ever sew boxers? I can smell a new trend in sewing women’s underwear coming on, and have seen a few pair of boys’ boxer briefs, but don’t see men’s underpants very often. Is that because we don’t sew a lot of underpants? Or is that because when sewing we tend to neglect the men in our lives? Something to keep in mind with Valentine’s Day just around the corner…
Posted on January 7, 2015
Well, now that it’s 2015, it’s time to wrap up my One Little Word project from 2014! Last year, I invited in the word MARGIN. (Or it invited itself. Whatever.) It was a long year of saying NO and learning that you have to nest before you can lay an egg. Which is not to say that I’m ready to lay an egg, but it is to point out that I learned a lot and let go of a lot in the 12 months I thought about how to give myself space to grow and expand.
Posted on December 30, 2014
OK, I won’t bore you with too many of the background details, but this list came from an amalgamation of factors: my desire to sew as much as I can ONLY from my stash of on-hand fabrics in the coming months; the inspiration provided by Erin with her “26BOOKS” list for the coming year; my deep and abiding love for lists of any kind; and my on-going cogitation over how to re-format the Sewing Buddy Project (entering its SIXTH year!) so that it works better for all the Buddies involved, rather than scrapping it altogether. That last one has been a pretty strong motivator, obviously, and this list seems to be tickling me that it’ll fold it’s way into the Sewing Buddies one way or another.
It’s a New Year, and I think a lot of us are looking for a means to help keep us motivated and moving forward as we sew, but also to move away from the comfortable and the familiar in small ways. I’ve spent some time talking to folks over the years about their sewing goals, and I wanted to assemble a list that ANYONE could use to guide their sewing, at any level. You’re a beginner? Then #8 is all about using double-gauze or knits for you. You’ve been sewing for 40 years? Then #8 is all about leather or burlap or fused fallen leaves for you. Options are limitless, and so is inspiration–and no matter how much sewing you’ve done, there’s always something left to discover and to which to aspire. I’m beyond any doubt that it is THIS which keeps me coming back to my machine again and again: the endless options, like entering a library and realizing you could read them ALL.
Will you play along with me? There are 17 items in this list. That averages out to one project every three weeks, which seems pretty manageable. It also allows for some lulls and some catch-ups and some life to happen, without any damage. Plus, there are lots of these that could, conceivably, be combined into a single project, if you’re into that kind of thing (like making your something borrowed be the same as your something blue).
I plan to do these in order, and realistically, won’t combine any. I like to do things the hard way like that.
I’ll be using hashtag #2015SewingList over on Instagram to share images, and I’d love to see you do the same. How fun would it be to see all the ideas and projects rolling out over the coming year? I’ve got some mental lists, too, of great links and patterns and tutorials and Pin boards to share, and some ideas for how this list could inspire the 2015 Sewing Buddies. I hope you’ll tag your images and join the fun!
Bring it on, 2015. I’m ready.
Posted on December 9, 2014
About seven years ago, we had an AMAZING Christmas. Amazing in the sense that there were a LOT of presents. Like, SO many. It was an embarrassment of riches. And I couldn’t quite explain it, but it really did feel like…an embarrassment. There was something about the sheer VOLUME of gifts that made me feel overwhelmed and spendthrifty and gluttonous. After all the gift wrap drifted to the floor following the frenzy of ripping and tearing, I realized that I didn’t feel happier, not the way I wanted to. I didn’t feel more fulfilled. I just felt let down. Like a balloon that slowly loses air and is all wrinkled and tragic at the end.
One of my favorite writers to quote is Amy Dacyzyn, and she has written about this phenomenon. Based on her writings, we’ve come to call this the Ice Cream Sundae Principle. She says, basically, that when most folks take their kids out for ice cream, over time, the kids want more and bigger ice cream treats. It starts out with a cake cone and a scoop of vanilla, but pretty soon, that’s old hat, so their parents get them TWO scoops, but that’s not enough after a while, so it’s a sundae, but then that’s familiar (and so contemptible), and they have to have a banana split… You see how this goes. It’s the same idea behind eating any sweets: your taste buds get numb to the flavor, so the fifth bite really isn’t as sweet or as satisfying as the first.
Dacyzyn’s argument is that when the thrill wears off on a treat or a pleasure, the answer isn’t MORE, it’s LESS. She points out that most folks assume they have to keep cranking it up a notch, but for her family, they simply do it less often in order to allow time to bring back the original thrill. So when a cake cone with a scoop of vanilla isn’t satisfying or exciting for her kids, they just go to the ice cream parlor less often, until a scoop is AWESOME again. It’s not a punishment–it’s about pacing our lives and our desires in a way that prevents a good thing from becoming a bad thing, prevents a wholesome desire from becoming a greedy obsession.
This is the single most influential concept I have read or heard as a parent, seriously. In terms of how we handle basic, day-to-day navigation of a world where we can have so much for so cheaply, this one idea–that sometimes what we need is LESS of a good thing or it becomes a bad thing–has changed how we address a multitude of lifetime events for our marriage and our children.
So, then: Christmas. One year after the Christmas I described above, we decided to make a change. I had an idea. I had a wonderful, awful idea: what if we did FEWER gifts for our children? Like, JUST TWO? I know, I know: that’s insanity. But it has led to some of the most fulfilling Christmas memories we have.
Here’s how we do it:
We–the internet culture–spent a lot of time the past couple of years talking about FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS. Well, here’s a FWP for you: it’s Christmas morning, and you’re surrounded by presents and torn paper and ribbons and bows, and you feel empty inside. Like, you’re glad it’s Christmas and the tearing and excitement was awesome, but now that it’s all over, you feel a little let down and dissatisfied. It’s not that you want MORE, not really, it’s just that you’re not sure that’s all there is–or that it’s all there’s SUPPOSED to be. It’s a weird longing, a just-out-of-reach ache, when you realize you’re not super enthused about ANY of the gifts you’ve received and think maybe you’re just ready to head back to your regular life. Let’s turn on the TV. Christmas is over.
Have you ever had that feeling? How tragic is that? And let’s be honest: how pathetic? Right?
To have a world of presents dumped on you and STILL NOT BE HAPPY. It’s the root of what we’re fighting as parents, this sense of emptiness when given so many riches. And I’m trying so hard to fight that as I raise my kids. In part, I want them to learn to be grateful when they receive something they didn’t want or don’t necessarily like–my oldest is an ACE at this. She has gotten some, let’s be honest, totally CRAP gifts over the years from extended family who didn’t know quite what to get her but wanted to give her SOMETHING. And man, that kid can look beyond the object and to the giver and truly be thankful to have been thought of and remembered. She amazes me that way. I want all my children to learn that deep level of gratitude.
At the same time, I want to recognize that I have the power to limit the number of items they receive, and cultivate both that gratitude AND their appreciation for how it feels to experience true joy and rapture when opening that Perfect Gift. I remain convinced, just like that ice cream sundae, that FEWER gifts will allow them the room inside their hearts to deeply love what they DO receive. I don’t know where I read it, but there was a story a couple years ago about a kid who loved, loved, loved his two toy cars, so his grandmother bought him TEN new toy cars. And then she saw that he didn’t play with ANY of them anymore. She asked him why and he said, “Gramma, I can’t love TEN.” Something about having too MANY made it hard for him to love ANY. How’s that for a snapshot of what’s happening to our children in this culture of constant want and immediate gratification?
Here are the benefits from limiting our gift-giving to only two gifts (plus an abundant stocking):
I’ll close by openly saying that this practice does NOT (so far) seem to save us any money. We set a budget for each child and work to stay within it. I am not concerned with spending an equal amount on each kid, only on meeting that child’s hopes as best as I am able within the set amount we’re willing to spend. We nearly always go over budget on one of them, but come wildly under budget on another–our four-year-old this year stated emphatically before Thanksgiving that all she really wanted from Santa was an Anna doll to play with her Elsa doll. It’s a $25 doll, and we were delighted to order it for her. She came in well under budget this year, but will be elated with her gift.
What it DOES save us is our sanity and, I think, our integrity. I can’t feel good about spending 364.25 days a year writing and talking about loving handmade and teaching our children the value of good quality–and then buying up a zillion cheap gifts on Christmas. I sincerely believe that by limiting what we put under the tree, we’re communicating to our children in the most powerful way that we mean what we say: it isn’t THINGS that matter, it’s people. It isn’t STUFF that makes life special, it’s experiences. And that the Christmas memories–the FAMILY memories–we most want them to have are about loving each other and being together.
I don’t know how helpful this is to others to hear that we do Christmas this way, and I freely admit that it’s an on-going process through which I learn more about myself and my children every year (did I mention that I’m discovering I have issues with greed and hoarding?). I feel deeply convicted that this is a step in the right direction to building a family culture of generosity and thoughtfulness and gratitude and contentment, and one of my dearest wishes is that my children will grow up and carry that into the world with them where it will spread like ripples in the water. Here’s hoping it does the same for you and yours!
Posted on November 14, 2014
Sunday at 1 pm, I’ll be at Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver to teach a workshop, sewing up the Overmost! I may also be suffering from extreme hypothermia, since it is FREEZING in Denver right now. Good thing the Overmost is fully lined–babywale corduroy! fleece! flannel! It’s perfect for cold weather. I just wish it came in my size.
It’s called the OverMOST because it’s not OverALL, but it seemed silly not to make a pattern that could be both long AND short. I still call the long version the Overmost, though. It’s funner to say.
Gah!! Look at that belly! These can also be made fully reversible, using two quilt-weight cottons or other lightweight fabrics. I rarely flip them all the way over, but have been known to do it when there’s a spill that needs covering up and I don’t have an extra set of clothing around. The version above is in a herringbone linen, way back when our boy was a bitty bit. Sigh. Chubby cheeks!!
We’ll also be talking about adding rick rack or trim or ruffles while we’re in the workshop, a detail that wasn’t available in the original version of the pattern but WILL be part of the re-boot. Woot!
The updated version of the pattern will be available when I get back from teaching this workshop–register now for one of the handful of remaining spots available, or get the newsletter to get an email when the new pattern is released!
Also: send me warming energy this weekend, y’all. I don’t even have the right clothes for sub-zero temperatures. And I suffer from seasonal dry skin. Whimper.