Monday, August 27, 2012

Blogiversary Giveaway!

I really want to thank all of your for your lovely comments and well wishes on my 3rd blogiversary post. It's been a fun ride and I really appreciate each of you!

It's time for my blogiversary giveaway! In honor of three years, I have three giveaway goodies, and (I think) they are good ones!

First up, a signed copy of Lynda Maynard's The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques: Essential Step-by-Step Techniques for Professional Results.This is a really good, if misnamed, book. A more accurate description would be "beautifully illustrated, clever techniques you might find in high-end RTW." There are some great ideas in here. I bought this from Lynda at the recent Cañada Blogger meetup, specifically for this giveaway, and asked her to sign it. I purchased my own copy when the book originally came out.

Next up, Pattern Making (Portfolio Skills)by Dennic Chunman Lo. This book is receiving rave reviews in the sewing blogosphere and forums. I have not yet used my own copy, but this book contains beautiful designs that you don't see in typical pattern drafting books. (I am a fan of starting with a well fitting TNT pattern, and then drafting up the interesting bits. A book like this is very useful, even for someone who doesn't want to draft from scratch.) I bought this copy in San Francisco's Japan Town.

The final gift is the Palmer Pletsch sewing DVD, Sewing . . . Good to Great: It's in the Detailsfeaturing Marta Alto. This shrink-wrapped DVD includes: perfect darts, lapped and invisible zippers, facings, edge finishes, pocket styles, Hong Kong finish and to-the edge linings, hems in many fabrics, machine embroidery tips, and covered snaps over BIG buttons.

If you are interested in any (or all) of these giveaway items, please leave a comment on this post. When you comment, list the item(s) in which you are interested, in the order of preference. I will do the drawing in a week or so. Watch this space for the list of winners. This giveaway is open to international folks.

Yesterday morning, I went diving looking for fabrics to de-stash. I ended up with two garbage bags of fabric. Wow, did it feel great to remove these from my bloated stash! I then met up with some sewing pals for a fun day of show and tell, sharing, eating, and swapping. I managed to leave behind the two bags of fabric and one Vogue pattern, and come home with one Burda magazine, two (small) pieces of fabric, and a brand new pair of thread clippers. I need to do a lot more of this - it's good for the soul! ;)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Third Blogiversary!

Today, August 25th, 2012 is my third blogiversary! WOOT! (Click the following link to see previous blogiversary posts.)

Table of Contents


Here we are at the end of year #3 of blogging, with a simultaneous return to sewing. I am still not bored, even a tiny bit. In fact, things continue to get more interesting. First up, the statistics. (And you know, I love me some statistics.)

End of Year Number of Posts Number of Followers Number of Subscribers (via Google Reader)
1 125 130 Was Google Reader in use?
2 107 341 482
3 107 505 739

Note: This year I deleted a dozen really old, icky posts, so I am not tracking totals. Don't worry, it's nothing you would care about - these posts contained images that were wincingly bad.

Top 5 Posts

Top 5 Posts of the Year:

Top 5 Posts of the All Time:

Stylistically Speaking


Last year I started dying my hair red (well, I had the good students at the hair school do it for me). But this year I started wearing it shorter and I've amped up the shade of red. For years and years I desperately wanted long hair, and though it was always an abysmal failure, I continued to try growing it long. I also avoided bangs (fringe) like the plague, having been forced to wear bangs my entire childhood. I've finally accepted that short hair is best for me: a bob with bangs is what I wore at age 11, and is what I'm wearing now. Me and Anna Wintour. Bring it on!


This year I have acquired several hats! I never was a hat person before, but they are really calling to me now. I have acquired a grey fedora, a burgundy cloche, a red jaunty number made by my friend Sue (not sure what the style is called) and worn at the Cañada meetup, a chartreuse Oska beannie, and a black and white animal-print, angora beret. mrowrrr And I wear them! (This has been a particularly cold San Francisco summer, so my hats have come in very handy.)


I continue to refine my clothing style. I still love lagenlook, but have accepted that the boxy, large tops do me and my bust no favors. I prefer knit tops (my woven tops don't get near as much wear) and I prefer funky pants, though I now have a lot of fitted, close-to-the-body pants, mostly thanks to Style Arc patterns. I continue to wear my skirts on the long side. I am not ready to wear a shorter skirt, so we'll see if that changes in the coming year. I also do not wear vests, except very rarely.


Thanks to the influence of Margy and others, I have really embraced funky footwear, such as Trippens, and Arche. My previous favorite funky footwear were Fluevogs, and I still have some fun Fluevogs that haven't been worn much this year. Sad Fluevogs.


New bras! Enough said. :)

Year in Summary

A highlight for me, this year, were my interviews with Marcy and Diane. And, of course, preparation for my upcoming trip to Design Outside the Lines in Taos, NM.

I also enjoyed meeting more bloggers/internet sewing pals, such as Margy, Luz Clara, ReAnn, and BadMomGoodMom. I was surprised to see that I met them this year as I thought I'd known them longer! There were also several blogger meetups where I met more bloggers and blog readers, such as the recent event at Cañada College, the Gaultier Exhibit, and the meetup in honor of Karen of Did You Make That? And, of course, there was the epic visit with Margy.

This was the year I introduced the Tablecloth Skirt, the L Flounce, and several posts on fitting for the uber busty. I was asked to write my first guest post, for Rhonda's blog.

I won the jeans contest on Pattern Review! (And thanks again for your support.)

I've also dipped my toe into e-commerce, but only just.

What Have I Sewn?

For me, summarizing what I've sewn is the least interesting part of the blogiversary post. But when I look over my 107 posts from last year, I see a lot of Style Arc, Vogue (especially the Tilton sisters), and Sewing Workshop patterns, with one or two Au Bonheur, Burda, Butterick and McCalls mixed in. As much as I like statistics, I don't track how many items I've sewn or how much yardage I've used.

I made my first visit to FabMo this year and took two very fun classes. As a result, I've been making more items using home dec fabrics, culminating in my Koos bag. I have been really enjoying this process!

The Coming Year

This year I'm curious to see how attending DOL will inform my work. I also want to try some downloadable Burda patterns from the BurdaStyle site. I have been eyeing a couple designs, but they will require grading up for my size, which is a little de-motivating. I hope to attend the upcoming PR weekend in San Francisco and meet some great people I have come to know through Pattern Review. Other than that I have no concrete plans. I like to keep things fast and loose.

Celebratory Giveaway

I have some extra good giveaways this year. In fact, I bought something, at full price, as one of my giveaway items. That's how much I love you guys. My next post will include the details.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blogger Meetup - BadMomGoodMom

BadMomGoodMom was in town again! We met for lunch today at Squat and Gobble. She was accompanied by her precocious and adorable 11-year-old daughter, TFN. (My acronym, not her real initials. Two points to her if she figures out the reference.)

BadMomGoodMom knit her cardigan. I'm wearing a Sewing Workshop cowl top (the older pattern), Loes Hinse pants with a giant circle pocket (which you can't see), and my Koos bag. I knit and felted the scarf a year or two ago. You can see with my hat and glasses, that I am going incognito.
OK, it's just really cold.

After a yummy lunch, we retired to her car for show and tell. She purchased some nice fabrics from Stone Mountain & Daughter, and Fabrix, and also had some beautiful pieces she had knit and sewn.

So, why are we laughing in the top picture? We are holding a (plastic) rim from her wheel. This is the result of her parking job – she scraped the curb, not realizing she had dislodged the piece. Some passerby kindly picked the fallen rim off the sidewalk and placed it on her windshield.


Thanks to TFN for taking these awesome pictures!

After lunch, they were headed to northern Marin for a couple of nights stay in a friend's summer cottage. While her mom was in the bathroom, TFN said to me, "Two nights in a hut with no wifi. One of us may not come out alive."

Thanks for the laugh, TFN, and I hope you survive the coming ordeal!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Denim Rag Rug - Jeans ReFashioning

OK, so it's like this:

DD1 is going off to university soon. I had plans to do some dorm-related sewing for her, such as throw pillows, a rug for her bedside, a bed caddy.

Fast forward.

We found some inexpensive throw pillows while shopping. Check. I spent almost an entire day working on a bed caddy that was a wadder. (This needs revisiting.) Then she met her roomie and they decided they need a larger 5'x7' shared area rug. I did not sign on to make that!

Meanwhile, I'd already hit my friends up for old jeans that they would otherwise throw out and had received several pair in a variety of blue and black shades. Perfect. I had also bought some black denim to use as the base.

I decided to go ahead with this project. After all, I really need a bath mat. DD2 has been complaining about the old towel I use as a bath mat (hey, it's easy to wash) and has informed me that I need a more specialized solution.

I started the project and completed a few inches, then set it aside for weeks. Then, recently, I needed some mindless sewing, and decided to push through to the end. I finished it in a few days of intense sewing.

I am so glad to have it done!

You can see the rows of stitching. I decided, at the outset, not to try and be a perfectionist about this. Good decision, as it would have been difficult to achieve perfection with such an unwieldy project.

By the way, I got this idea when I saw the great floor mats that Lynne of Sewing Cafe made for her jeep. She got the idea from Martha Stewart. If you go to Martha's page, all you will find (and I quote) is:

3. Fringe Rug

Cut a 30-by-54-inch piece of burlap. Tear about 200 strips from jeans (you'll need about 12 pairs); make each 1 1/4 inches wide and the length of a pant leg. Align first strip 1 inch from burlap's edge; with the zipper foot attachment on a sewing machine and a denim needle, stitch down center. Snip any remainder from the end, and use it to start the next row. Sew strips 1/8 inch apart, until 1 inch of burlap remains. Fold burlap edges under, and hand-stitch.

I made mine 2 feet by 3 feet. I cut a piece of denim and pre-hemmed it. (I'm not sure this is the ideal approach, but it worked for me.) I cut up 8 pair of jeans (4 blue pair from Bertie, 2 black pair from Kim, and 2 blue pair from Sue). I had strips left over, so 7 or 7-1/2 pair might have been sufficient.

A little after halfway, I turned the project around - it was easier to maneuver under the machine.

My strips varied in width from 1-1/4" to 1-1/2". I ironed the more twisted strips flat (the heavier-weight jeans, which I preferred because they have a fluffier fringe, became more distorted from the tearing than the thinner-weight jeans). I then ironed a crease down the middle, though I don't know if that was really necessary. I started sewing and just kept going. It was a fairly unwieldy project and I had to pull my machine away from the wall to accommodate the mass.

I encouraged the fringing of the strips and, in many cases, pulled additional threads after the strips were sewn. I did not pre-cut the length of the finished strips but sewed them to the base and then cut them to length.

My least favorite part of the process was tearing the jeans into strips. It created so much fiber! I was sneezing blue for a couple days. (Sorry, TMI.) If you have sensitive lungs, maybe wear a mask for this part of it. At least the jeans were well washed and, in some cases, bleached, stained, and holey. Those sorts of jeans are perfect for this project.

I really enjoyed mixing colors/shades as I sewed and the resulting variegated effect.

Did I enjoy the process enough to make another? No. :)

Leftover strips
Bucket 'o threads from the fringing.

I do have another project to blog that is a garment. I even took pics yesterday, but I have to re-do them. The weather here has just been so grey and foggy. In fact, yesterday morning I drove to Sue's house around 10am to pick up her jeans donation. When I left, it was 57° F outside. When I arrived to her house, it was 75° F outside. I had forgotten how nice 75° F is!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Interview with Diane Ericson

Diane Ericson, in front of a mud wall in Taos. She finds inspiration in clay and straw wall surfaces such as these.

As mentioned last week, I am attending Design Outside the Lines in Taos, New Mexico this September. Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson lead this creative retreat and I thought it would be interesting to interview each of them specifically about their creative process. I posted Marcy's responses a few days ago, and here are Diane's.

It is fascinating to get a glimpse at the inside of a highly creative mind. I loved Diane's responses and they have given me a lot to think about. I will definitely refer to these again.

Thanks so much, Diane!

For further info:

How do you define creativity?

  • What is clear to me is that it is not a THING we do....but HOW we do EVERYTHING! Wow...just think about that. It is like the glasses you wear to see everything clearly....the view each of us has on the world. I know it has always lived in my most intuitive place—showing itself to me daily in new and playful ways. I am ever so grateful to be living and growing from all those layers below the surface.

Describe an early experience, when you connected to your creative self or realized that you were creative? Do you have an early creative memory that is noteworthy?

  • I spent a good amount of my childhood in the canyon behind my house growing up in rural San Diego. I wrote poetry, enjoyed my animals, and learned about the world by drawing and making things from the natural materials I found wonderous around me. Besides being an avid fort maker...I dug clay and made my own dishes...and even made a baby papoose carrier from woven sticks and canvas. I guess that might be considered an early 'bag 'project! The older I get, the greater the link I feel to that time and what it calls up in me now.

Creativity is fed by play. What is your favorite form of play these days?

  • I am in major mulching mode these days. Clearing, slashing and burning my way through my materials and closet! Okay...not really burning—but I am relentless in my attack as the stuff of my life rolls back and forth like the tide.....taunting me. Is there more the next day!?!...or is it just my imagination!? I wonder on some days, but I do need to keep the process in the play category in order to find something magic in the process. The goal is making space for the new to come into. I never question if it WILL happen, the challenge is keeping some of the distractions at bay, so it CAN happen.

When the mojo is wilting, how do you jump start it?

  • Change my routine. In fact, the minute it looks like I have one...I start to feel confined. Last week I started back to a weekly figure drawing session with a model. This gets the week going and gives me a playground that although I am familiar with, there is always a new way to explore it on paper. I always seem to crack open to another level when I start to get bored. Even if figure drawing is not a priority in your process...I encourage you to see if it is a place to play. I feel it is a core experience no matter what the media we choose.
  • Walking up the park here in Ashland along the river also stimulates my senses and energy...and I usually come home with a new stick or two. A favorite stimulation for me is making a collection of things, like tea cozies. Making 5-10 at a time, working them all in symphony is like making dough and dividing it up into different herb combinations and loaves......they all influence each other as they find their own form and flavors.
  • Share what I do with others: Last month, I made a sweet little baby vest for a fun—it got me playing and looking forward to giving it.

What is a mojo killer for you? Is there anything you avoid because it negatively affects your creativity?

  • Feeling that my life is repudiative and I am not changing and growing. Negative people who want to be in my space and life.

Do you ever have wadders? As in projects that are irredeemable? How do you handle this?

  • Yes, it is painful to leave them as they a reminder that so much energy was spent. I like to partially dismantle or even just cut off the part I find most interesting to put it back into my materials stash...that way I have the most opportunity to see something new in it as I cruise my materials again.

What is your current favorite thing in your studio?

  • My dressform with an in-process dress on it. I turned a linen dress inside out and been drawing on it. I want to combine it with a knit and a crazy zipper. It will be fun.

If I were to walk into your clothing closet, what would I notice?

  • Total chaos! My seasonal change from summer to fall is in process and it is staked to the hilt with stuff that is coming and going! I have a whole closet of fun, linen and white pieces that I have been wearing all summer long...but it is time to set the stage for the first cool day!!! I know it will be out there somewhere!

I believe that personal growth happens when you step outside your comfort zone. Has this been relevant to you? If so, how?

  • Oh absolutely...this is what makes us who we really are. There have been many defining moments in my life...most I wouldn't have chosen, that have created major changes and opportunity in my life. One of the most spectacular was going through a flood in '95 as a single mom. Overnight, the flood waters took everything and re-defined 'starting over' for me and my kids. I also got the chance to appreciate who we are for one another as friends I knew and didn't know, came in to offer support. So many gifts and challenges that gave me a much deeper connection to my creative spirit than I had known. My life experiences are always enriching the ways I express my creativity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cañada College Blogger Meetup

with JillyBe

(If you are looking for the interview with Marcy Tilton, here you go!)

Cañada College hosted a blogger meetup last night.!

There were special guests (Lynda Maynard, Wayne Wichern, Sara Alms, and Ronda Chaney, who hosted the event). There was food. There was show and tell. There were fellow bloggers. There was lots of sharing. There were gifties!!!

Muslins, yay or nay were discussed. Wordpress or blogger was discussed. Zippers were discussed. Vogue, Simplicity, Burda were discussed. Emma One Sock, Gorgeous Fabrics, FabricMart, Mood Fabrics, were all discussed.!!!

I took photos with my cell. I'm sorry they aren't better quality and that I didn't capture everyone who attended, but this should give you an idea. If you are a Facebook fan of Cañada College Fashion Department, they will be posting pics.

Lynda Maynard

Ronda Chaney

Lynda Maynard and Wayne Wichern

JillyBe and Ronda

with Ronda

Jenny modeling Wayne's dramatic hat

Rose, Amy and Cindy

Rose and Amy

Wayne, JillyBe, Ronda, and Jenny

Special Guests:


I am an alumnus of the Cañada College Fashion Department - having attended in the early 1980s. It's clear to me that Ronda has done amazing things with this department and that it is as good, if not better, as in "my" day.

Thanks so much for a great evening and your generous gifties, Ronda and colleagues!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview with Marcy Tilton

Marcy Tilton, hanging out in Paris

I mentioned a few days ago that I asked Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson if they would mind being interviewed on the subject of creativity. Both graciously agreed. I compiled a list of questions, and added questions that you submitted via comments on the blog post. I told both Marcy and Diane to answer whatever they felt like, how many they felt like. I didn't want this to feel onerous to either of them.

Marcy answered all of them!

I loved reading her answers and, in fact, have read through them several times. There are some real gems of information, experience, and living in her responses.

Thanks so much, Marcy!

Diane's interview is here.

For further info:

How do you define creativity?

  • Living life to the fullest, expressing my inner self in the outer world.
  • Having fun.
  • Experiencing the unknown.
  • Taking risks.
  • Immersion in the pure joy of the creative experience, forgetting myself, being in space rather than time.
  • Having fun while making something from nothing.

Describe an early experience, when you connected to your creative self or realized that you were creative? Do you have an early creative memory that is noteworthy?

  • Yes. Back when I lived in SF, I was in a life transition, took a road trip down the coast and visited Diane Ericson in Carmel. She put a little batch of drawing supplies in my hand and encouraged me to draw. ( my family, my sister Katherine was the designated artist, I did not think I had any talent at all, so I never tried). On the way home I stopped on the coast and started to draw. In that moment I ‘got’ the pleasure of using the materials and my own imagination, and that what I drew was not the main point. It opened me up to many other ways of using my own creativity. Kick started me to doing watercolor, then morphed into surface design. I don’t draw or paint much right now, but in my heart I know that if I want, I can go there, so that moment sitting in my car with a chunk of charcoal and scrap of cool paper was a seminal starting point that lead to much more.
  • I also owe a debt of gratitude and appreciation to Katie Hendricks whose workshops and mentoring cracked me open to my own creative powers as a teacher.

Creativity is fed by play. What is your favorite form of play these days (Or: "How do you play?")

  • I love to go into the studio and make something without any attachment to the outcome. I spend a lot of studio time on ‘work’ related projects....developing garment prototypes for Vogue, preparing for a Design Outside the Lines retreat, gearing up for the Puyallup sewing expo etc., so it is a treat to make something just for fun....and to give up any idea of how it will turn out (or even if I will actually wear it).
  • I am having a wonderful discovery experience with photography, taking photos of fabric for the website, and process shots, but also just for the sheer pleasure of seeing through the eye of the lens. When I am in Paris I adore having a free day all to myself and my camera to see what I discover and capture.

When the mojo is wilting, how do you jump start it?

  • I love to take naps. When I hit the wall, I lie down with a book (usually joined by Vasco, my Jack Russell), and fall asleep. I also like to sit in bed in the morning with a cup of tea and cruise the internet. My hobby is sitting in bed or on the couch or on the deck or by the woodstove with a cup of tea or wine and reading.
  • If I am REALLY in the ‘not-knowing’ place, I resort to cleaning and clearing...I clear out my studio at least 2x a year, touching everything in my stash and moving the fabric so what I have at hand reflects the season and what I am excited about working with, and not too much...I high grade each time this happens. I get crabby when I do this, hate the chaos, but love the result, and I am unconsciously designing as I sort and organize.
  • I also cook when I need a studio jump start, and I go through cooking phases where I do one thing again and again. One summer it was tarts. This summer I am playing with clafoutis....the recipe and photo are on my Bastille Day blog post. In the winter it is soup and beans. Cooking relaxes me, allows me to nourish myself and others and has a clear beginning and end.

What is a mojo killer for you? Is there anything you avoid because it negatively affects your creativity?

  • Taking on too many big projects, going into overwhelm.
  • Taking on more or less than 100% responsibility (see above). There is a direct connection between responsibility and creativity, something I love to explore in conversation as it is a multi layered and often misunderstood concept.

Do you ever have wadders? As in projects that are irredeemable? How do you handle this?

  • All the time, wouldn’t be working my edge if I did not! ....sometimes I just throw them away. If I finish something and don’t wear it, or rarely wear it, I give it away. My friend Amy got a new wardrobe last spring in my pre-Paris post weight loss purge. I have a couple of drawers labeled ‘UNFINISHED SYMPHONIES’ where I put things that I can’t bear to look at anymore. I don’t dig in these drawers very often, so when I do, either I am surprised in a good way, or I throw it away. I’ve tried giving these away, but people don’t seem to want them!

What is your current favorite thing in your studio?

  • An empty design table, ready to hold the next big thing!
  • In the equipment realm: my Bernina, my ancient Sussman iron, my rotary cutter.

If I were to walk into your clothing closet, what would I notice?

  • A lot of black, gray, beige/taupe, drab greens. Tons of T-shirts, tunics and cardis. A symphony of stripes and dots. Not many prints. More dresses than ever before. Many black cardigans, jackets, sweaters, vests and coats!
  • Roughly organized around articles and color. Roughly organized around the current season so those things are dead center. Roughly organized around things that work together.
  • I regularly have try-on sessions...especially before taking a trip. I pull things out and try them on, see how layers work, what shoes work etc.
  • My closet is a never ending source of organizing, paring down and re-organizing, am always going through the ritual of getting it the way I like it, then messing things up, then re-working it again.

I believe that personal growth happens when you step outside your comfort zone. Has this been relevant to you? If so, how?

  • Absolutely. I had a big growth spurt when I started going to the Hendricks trainings. My whole life I’d longed to learn what they taught, and at the first training I attended, I was terrified, but I knew that I wanted to learn from them. I kept going back for more because I knew I would be outside my comfort zone and I wanted to experience this in a fun, supportive and creative learning environment. I use what I learned from 5+ years of these trainings every single day and made some of my dearest truest friends in that community.
  • I love the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Reader Questions

Having just gone through my own little style shake up while snoop shopping I'm sort of wondering about the intersection of designing "outside the line" (which I have always seen as too avant garde and artsy for me) and designing "inside the lines" which can be so predictable and plain. So not really a specific question but how do they think each of us should reconcile the extremes? (Jane M of Lucky Sew and Sew)

  • This relates to the comfort zone. I’d ask you: How do you know when you are creating (and dressing) in the predictable/plain (complacent?) zone...a place that once may have worked, feels familiar and might be ready for a change? How do you know when you make a change and it works or doesn’t work? How do you know when you are working your edge? What is the feeling that is connected with each, and which do you want to nurture?

Do you think business is creative, i.e. can entrepreneurship in and of itself be a creative undertaking? (Robin D of a little sewing)

  • YES!!! Having/running my own business is the one of the most creative and fun things I do. I love love love the different aspects of it, it is operating out of that love that keeps me going. Love that it connects my passion for making things with connecting with others, love running the internet fabric store, love using the internet to connect, love working from home, love the women who work with me, love the challenges that always come up. I think creative entrepreneurship is at the heart of how our contemporary society is morphing to a more fully expressive way of life. Small business has always been at the heart of American commerce, I appreciate being a part of the way it is changing and evolving. I keep pushing my own edges here. Had a big growth spurt as the result of an intensive 6 month course called Conscious Entrepreneurship which Katherine and I took last year from Gay and Katie Hendricks. I was out of my comfort zone more than IN it. I’m still on a learning curve as a result of this experience. It was a big time commitment, expensive (worth every penny), put me in contact with amazing people, and I did things I would never have done on my own because I was telling myself I was too busy.

If not, how do you balance between the business efforts and non-business efforts? (Robin, again)

  • My life and my business are intertwined. One of my greatest personal challenges is to separate the two.
  • Right now, at home, Katherine and I are planning/designing a bathroom remodel, so that is taking me into a new design realm and away from business efforts. ....she knows a lot more about this than I do and we are having fun doing the research and planning.
  • I travel a lot for work, so am taking a day or two before or after the ‘work’ time, and am scheduling some business/pleasure trips that are more for pleasure with just a bit of business slipped in rather than the other way around. This week I am headed to San Francisco to do a bit of fabric buying and a lot of playing and visiting with friends.
  • I take days and shorter time periods to sew just for fun.

When do you need to take a break? (Robin, again)

  • I listen to my body, and pay attention to those around me, sometimes I don’t know when to stop if left to my own devices.
  • When I get cranky!
  • I want to tune into myself so I take breaks BEFORE I get stale/cranky.
  • Sometimes I just set the timer for an hour and then do something else.

Is it possible to push yourself so hard (in creative pursuits) that you burnout? [I guess everyone is different in this regard, eh?] (Robin, again)

  • Absolutely....and on one level, burnout is a learning experience, but one not to be repeated often, burnout is part of the design to move me toward something else. When things get ‘hard’, I pay attention.
  • I am lucky to have a small circle of friends who are willing to give me honest feedback.
  • If I notice I have the same complaints and negative experiences about something, it is time to make a shift.
  • Also important to be kind to myself when this happens. The creative flourishes in an atmosphere of kindness.

How you you manage when you have too many ideas? (Robin, again)

  • I do multi task! When I have a lot of things going on, I often do a bit of each, that helps focus on what is the best use of my own genius. Again, I listen to my body, if I get an icky feeling when I even THINK about something, I know it best to drop that project.
  • I’m craving the quality of spaciousness, so am learning about making more open space in my life (this feels really good to me). One concrete result/decision that evolved from this is, that other than the Design Outside the Lines retreats, I am not traveling to teach any more. I just decided not to teach at the Puyallup sewing expo next year, but Katherine and I hope to participate in a fashion show presentation. I noticed that I was coming up with lots of ideas for classes, but got a claustrophobic tight stomach feeling when I started to think about actually doing the class prep....realized that what really makes me feel good is using that time at home in the studio to explore the unknown.

Do you have a way of prioritizing? (Robin, again)

  • I try to do the thing that has the most creative juice first thing in the morning...even if it is just 10 minutes, it sets the tone for the rest of the day. Often this is doing some work on the website. Right now I really REALLY am feeling the urge to put out a newsletter, which is a big project, so I do a little bit of it each morning, sometimes a bit more after my nap when I am feeling refreshed and having a cup of tea. Again, I listen to my body and my intuition.

How has the internet affected your work? (Robin, again)

  • Oh, my, YES...and how! My internet fabric store,, has become my primary business and puts me in contact with people from all over the world. It supports my household and the households of the 3 fabulous women who work with me. All of us are on an internet learning curve all the time. When the website crashed in June, we all got a taste of how quiet things become when the internet is not available. ....but we carried on and did some sewing!

What do you think of the blogosphere? (Robin, again)

  • I love it, love the sense of community and how the personal, sometimes vulnerable aspect comes through. Fun going down the rabbit hole following links. I read sewing blogs, of course, but also Paris, personal growth, food, books, fashion, interior design, gardening, see across the board how good design and good writing are crucial to holding my interest.

Regarding questions for Marcy Tilton, mine is probably a little boring but I always want to know how someone can know what fabrics will work together without screaming with each other. (I imagine experience and colour wheel might help). (MareeAlison)

  • Experience helps, building on your own success and observing how good designers pair up fabrics and designs. Noticing what doesn’t work. So does developing a designer’s eye: REALLY working your own design sense and using your own unique perspective and personal design strengths in your own work. Willingness to learn and make mistakes. Playing without attachment to outcome. I don’t use a color wheel, but my friend and design guru, Diane Ericson swears by one. We have lively and opinionated discussions in the ArtBarn about what goes with what, what colors work/don’t work etc. I’ve watched Shelley and Beth become more and more skilled at this as we all play with the fabrics and collaborate. I can’t say enough about the value of collaboration. I rely on my sister Katherine’s good design sense when mine wavers. Katherine just combined a group of fabrics in a tunic that I would NEVER have chosen and I love the result. When I am stuck on a design issue, I ask Katherine.
  • For Maree....since you are asking this question, it seems to be an indication of interest and where your learning edge is and wants to go. If you were coming to a DOL retreat, I’d ask you to do some creative play, study and research around this question....and to live in the question for as long as possible, listen to your intuition, (as opposed to trying to find the ‘right’ answer).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What the Heck, McCalls? A study of M6603

I must be getting feistier, because "What the Heck" seems to be the way I start conversations these days. You should probably be very grateful you don't live with me.

Last night, after a very long day sewing an Etsy item that it basically a wadder, and then a pesky sewing task I would only do for my good friend with cancer, and then some productive, satisfying sewing for ME, I ended the evening, around 2:30am, surfing the BMV website. A fairly standard weekend day for me.

(A little aside: When people ask me how I get so much done, when I have a full time job, here are a few tips:

  • Eject husband/partner.
  • Eject children. (Though a more accurate description might be, "Children grow up and flee the nest.")
  • Work from home, thereby eliminating commute time, shower time, getting dressed time.
  • Reduce cleaning to the minimum: focus primarily on the kitchen and the toilet.
  • Reduce food preparation to the minimum: Can of beans + chopped tomatoes + a few walnuts (purchased pre-chopped) + dressing = salad. You're welcome.
  • Embrace your insomnia. It can be a gift.
You will find you have much more sewing time! Maybe you should be really grateful you don't live with me...)

Anyway, I was looking at patterns on the Butterick, Vogue, McCalls site, when I began to study a pattern I like, though the photos don't inspire: McCalls 6603.

This pattern has two views. The first view is what attracted me to this pattern and is shown above. I see potential here and, interestingly enough, the pose is rather normal for recent Vogue patterns.

The second view is a real head puzzler. Let's take a look, shall we?

Hmm.. Well, this might look like a perfectly reasonable photo of a fairly non-interesting tunic, except wait... Look at the technical drawing (and I always look at the technical drawing):

This second view (which is technically view D, but views A through C are the same pattern draft with tweaks) is very asymmetric, both in the neckline and the hemline. It looks kinda interesting, but kinda weird, too. I feel... dubious about this view.

Look at the photo again. The model's right arm is thrown over her head and the top is torqued in such a way that the neckline opening appears symmetric, as does the hem. I see no signs of asymmetry here. This looks deliberate, and suggests that the top may not be pleasing when worn as designed.

If you look at the photo of the back and you see the asymmetric hem. It is photographed normally. They seem to be ok with the back view.

McCalls does provide a second photo of the front, but they do something I have never seen before. Let's take a looksie. (This is fun, isn't it?)

I notice a couple of things. First, the tunic is still torqued so that the neckline looks fairly symmetric. Second, she is holding a "huge" pleat against her belly. It's almost hidden in the print, but, again, it causes the top to appear more symmetric. Also, she is holding it in such a way that it looks like she might be pregnant. If that weren't suggestive enough, did you notice the text in the upper right? Suitable for maternity. Adjustments may be necessary.


I believe that this is another deliberate attempt to make the top look better when taking the pictures, then when they were choosing the photos for the pattern, they decided to add the "maternity tip" to justify such a suggestive pose. You might wonder, did they intend for this to be a maternity top? The answer is in the pattern description:

And I quote: Oversized, pullover tops (wrong side may show). A: bias collar and sleeve bands. B and C: single layer hood, purchased drawstring. A, B, C: narrow hem. D: topstitched three-piece collar, sleeve and hem bands.

In other words, NO. If they had intended it for maternity from the get-go, they would have made it a maternity top. Are you supposed to do an FBA, as in Full Belly Alteration? If these are the "good" pictures, can you imagine the pictures they didn't use?

In my humble opinion, it seems that McCalls has little faith in this view of the pattern and are trying to make it as appealing as possible. (If anyone has access to a McCalls pattern book, please let me know if this pattern is even listed in the maternity section.)

Often I see sewists say that they won't sew up a pattern if there is no accompanying photograph provided. This is proof that even a photograph can mislead.

Currently there are no reviews of this pattern on Pattern Review. Does anyone want to whip up this view and let me know what they think? I'd love to hear about it and would be happy to share your results on my blog.

(And please don't think I hate the good folks at BMV or their products. I don't. I use, and love, loads of their patterns, but I enjoy noting these little foibles as I meander through their website. I feel like a pattern detective. And if I can save you from a wadder, so much the better.)


I really want to thank you for all the wonderful feedback on yesterday's post, as well as all of my recent posts. I appreciate it more than you know and I love to hear your musings, thoughts, perspectives.

I have created my master list of interview questions, which includes mine and those submitted in the comments section. (Robin, you win for asking the most questions!!) I have sent the list to Marcy and Diane, so you can consider the request for questions to be closed.

In other exciting news, DD2 returns from Sweden today!!! Early on in her trip, we had a few marathon (ie. 2 hour) Skype sessions, but I haven't really heard from her at all, beyond a single Skype text, in the last two weeks. I am eager to hear of her adventures, though she may be focusing on sleep for awhile.

In one of our Skype sessions, she amused me with a fascinating tour through her host's fridge.

The Swedish have so many dairy products! While she enjoyed all the dairy, she experienced much more congestion than usual. The following is their organic 1.5% milk. (I wasn't quick enough to snap a picture of the yogurt, which comes in a similar carton.)

The following is a fermented milk product that she assures me has no equivalent in the U.S. - it's nothing like buttermilk or kefir or anything else I asked her to compare it to.

She was also delighted to discover that she could check books out from their very impressive library using only her California driver's license. That is mighty trusting of them, given her history of forgetting to return books for months here in the U.S. (Kids can get away with this in our area, because they do not levy library fines against minors.)

There is a book she has been wanting. It is a book about the Swedish language, written in Swedish. She was able to check it out and, in this photo, she is explaining Swedish vowels to me. Swedish people hear more vowels than we do. Fascinating stuff. Given that I don't seem to hear all the American language vowels, I would be hopeless at learning Swedish.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's up with the E-Commerce, Shams?

You may have noticed that I have added a few widgets to my blog designed to promote a few avenues I am experimenting with to earn some extra money.

"Why, Shams, why?!?! Why have you gone to the dark side of e-commerce, when you have always maintained an ad-free, commercial-free zone?", you may ask.

Well, it's just one of those fiscal realities. DD1 begins university in a few weeks. DD2 begins next fall. There are other reasons I am not willing to post publicly. ('Cause once posted, it's out there forever.)

I don't want to belabor the point, but I am selling some of my historical costuming books on Amazon (which has been the most lucrative avenue, so far), some clothing on Ebay, and I just opened an Etsy shop, Textile Exile. I plan to slowly populate it with a few handmade items. None of these endeavors will be all consuming, because I do have a full time job, as well as my own creative work (and if I shut that down, I might blow, and it wouldn't be pretty), but earning some extra money is pretty useful about now.

Design Outside the Lines

There is something else in the offing I am fairly psyched about. I've had a rather late-breaking opportunity to attend Design Outside the Lines in Taos, New Mexico, at the end of September. This is one of those bucket list things, so I am going to make it happen, obstacles be d*mned. :)

If you aren't familiar with DOL, it's a creative sewing retreat hosted by Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson in three locations throughout the year. It runs for three full days, a partial day at the beginning, and another partial day at the end. The focus of the retreat seems, to me, to be about goosing one's creativity. This appeals to me very much.

Since embracing this opportunity, I have been thinking a lot about creativity. I have been (inconsistently) journaling, thinking about how to focus my energies. Or at least how I think I want to focus - the power of this event is to be a bit loose, flexible, and willing to "go with the flow".

For example, I do not plan to focus on making garments - to my mind completing a garment is an inefficient way to use the limited time available. I want to focus on techniques, new approaches, new ways of thinking. I do not plan to bring a sewing machine. I have to fly (not enough vacation days to drive), and schlepping a machine does not appeal. I hear there will be a machine or two available if needed, but I hope not to need one too much.

I am especially excited about visiting Taos. I have always wanted to visit New Mexico. While I won't be able to spend much time seeing the sites, it's a start! And, by the way, I hope to blog during the retreat - I've already inquired about wifi.

As mentioned, I have been thinking a lot about creativity. I've never felt like a legitimate "creative" person, believing that if you are an "artistic" person you have to be able to draw and paint, or write poetry or fiction, or play an instrument and compose music. I've always felt like a "craftsman", rather than an "artist". It's really only in recent years that I've started to understand some of the nuances of creativity and to see my place in that sphere, if only orbiting along its edge.

It occurred to me that I am not the only person who thinks about these things. I started imagining what kinds of questions I would like to pose to Marcy and Diane about this subject. I asked them if they would agree to an "interview." I would send them a list of questions that relate to creativity, they would email me their answers, and I would post the results on my blog.

Both Marcy and Diane graciously (and speedily) agreed. In fact, Marcy replied so quickly I thought my email had bounced. So, in the near future, I plan to post an interview with each of them. I'm curious - if you could ask a question of Marcy and Diane relating to creativity, what would it be? I have quite a list already, but am interested in hearing your thoughts. If I use one of your questions and it doesn't replicate one of my own, I'll give you credit.

And speaking of Marcy. Did you see that she has started a blog on I was one of those people who badgered her (a tad) about having a legitimate blog with RSS feeds and all that goodness, so I was very happy. She plans to slowly migrate the blog from her webstore over to blogger.

Stay tuned for more talk about DOL!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vogue 1317 - Sleeping with Ralph Chado Rucci

When this Ralph Chado Rucci pattern came out at the end of July, I was smitten. Where most saw an awesome dress, I saw an awesome bathrobe!

If you recollect, I have discussed my bathrobe woes at length. While I wear, and enjoy, my Russian Princess robe, I felt that my bathrobe needs were not completed sated.

Russian Princess robe

The best bathrobe I ever purchased was from the J.Jill catalog maybe 15 years ago. What made it superior to other robes, is that it had a fitted waist inset in the back, similar to the one in Ralph's dress. That is the feature that attracted me most to this pattern, though I also love the interesting seaming.

I used a French Terry purchased from Fashion Fabric club over a year ago, when I was obsessed with the idea of the perfect robe and bought too many robe fabrics. This is a very nice, very soft, mid-weight French Terry. The pattern calls for double top-stitching on every seam. The French Terry didn't react well to this treatment, and rippled on every seam. I was able to press out the worst of it, but this was not the best seam treatment for this fabric.

For the closure, I used jumbo snaps. But I wanted to break up the front with visible buttons, so I raided my button box and found some black buttons inherited from grandma. These were rather beat up, with threads still attached from whatever coat she rescued these from, but they worked and I was able to use all 5!

Alterations and Modifications:

I started with a size 24.
  • Eliminated the back zipper.
  • Reshaped the seam at the shoulder and upper sleeve - the shoulder "bump" was at the wrong location.
  • Eliminated the waist tie. Note that if I had a small waist, I would have kept the tie, but a tie-front robe does not function well for my figure. See my post on this subject, with photos.
  • Lengthened 13" to full length.
  • Eliminated the front skirt overlay, which is used for the pockets. Instead, placed the pockets in the side seam.
  • Converted to a front button opening, including creating a front facing.
  • FBA, adding 3" to the width and 2" to the length.
  • Shortened sleeves?

Detailed info on alterations:

Full Bust Adjustment

Just last week I mentioned that I am a fan of underarm gussets - the busty woman's friend. Coincidentally, this design features an underarm gusset. This is a very unusual gusset, which extends into the back and causes a graceful, curved seam that ends in the back yoke. But it is still a gusset.

I received my pattern last Friday and I spent Friday evening trying to a) study and understand the gusset and b) figure out how to alter it. You see, the whole point of a gusset is to add fabric to enable ease of movement. When you have a gusset, you shouldn't need a bust dart. I wanted to figure out how to modify the gusset so I could avoid a dart. Adding a dart to this design is a bit of a kludge.

I finally realized how it could be accomplished and I'm going to show you what I did.

First I had to select the size to start with. The largest size this pattern comes in is a 24. The 24 has a finished bust measurement of 48.5" and a finished waist of 42". I decided to use this size, but I still needed to add 3" to the bust. The waist was fine without modification.

I traced the gusset off in a size 24 and annotated each edge of the gusset so I could mull it over:

Here's what I came up with:

Start by marking your bust level on the gusset piece. Note that I used the plus-inside-of-a-circle notation, but this is a bit misleading. This mark only indicates the level of the bust, not the actual bust apex.

To add width to accommodate a larger bust, slice from the tip of the sleeve down to the waist, creating a tiny hinge at the circle. Spread the appropriate amount at the bust level. In my case, I spread 1.5" at the bust level, for a total addition of 3".

Note that this creates extra width at the bottom of the gusset. This will be dealt with when sewing this seam to the upper yoke. In my case, I created a tuck under the bust. Gathers or a dart would have also worked. Note that the precise location of the tuck/gathers/dart will be under the bust, not in the gusset. It's best to put the garment on the body and mark this point. (If you are spreading only a small amount, you can most likely ease the fullness in.)

Add paper to fill in the gap and tape it in place. I also needed additional length to go up and over the bust. I wanted to add length to the front of the gusset, but not to the back of the gusset:

Draw a curved line parallel to the bottom of the gusset, and about 1.5" from the bottom edge.

Slice along the line, creating a hinge 5/8" in from the back edge.

Pivoting from the hinge, swing the bottom down the amount desired. I used 2" based on the tissue fit of the pattern. Insert paper to fill in the gap and tape it in place. Use a ruler on the front and back edges of the gusset to true them up. (Shown in the previous picture.)

Restore the straight edge to the bottom front edge of the gusset. You can see the straight line drawn in, in the following picture.

Cut off the excess along the straight line. The front pattern piece must now be lengthened to match the corresponding seam on the front gusset.

That is all the needs to be done for the FBA, however I also converted the pattern to a button front. The CF of the bodice had a seam, so I extended it by 1-1/8". The front yoke and front skirt were originally cut on the fold, so I extended those by 1-3/4". The following picture shows the final alterations to the front and front yoke:

Lengthening the Bodice

I want to point something out for those who need to lengthen or shorten this pattern through the torso. Vogue has provided horizontal lines on the front and back yoke for lengthening or shortening. There are no lines provided for lengthening or shortening in the bodice itself. (See the previous photo to see the lengthen line in the yoke.)

If you have a long waist, lengthening along this line might work for you. But if you do not have a long waist, lengthening the yoke could be problematic. Even shortening the length is problematic; as the yoke is narrow in front, there is not much room for shortening.

I recommend that you lengthen the bodice using a technique similar to the one I used for the FBA, but carrying it through the entire gusset and through the back bodice.


  • Doing an FBA in a bathrobe is a bit problematic for me. Do I locate the bust apex based on their location when wearing a bra? Or sans bra? The problem is, I don't plan to wear a bra when wearing the robe. But I don't really want to locate the bust apex at belly button level, either. I try to find a happy compromise but, in this case, I don't love the result. If you look at the photo where I am standing still, it's obvious that the robe is too long for the torso. I refuse to show a picture sans bra, because you would see a very different effect then, where my bust falls into the waistband. Meh. If I were to make this again, I think I would eliminate the waistband in front, while keeping it in back
  • I like how the front gently curves from the bust up to the shoulder, so that there is no overlap. I really like this effect.
  • Double rows of top-stitching was a very bad idea on this fabric. It caused ripples galore, which I minimized with pressing and avoiding pulling on the fabric as I sewed, but could not entirely eliminate. I can live with it in a soft, yummy bathrobe, but I won't be taking this to a show and tell anytime soon.

So, while this was a useful exercise, it was not the most successful garment. I could see playing with it further, though. I think the design has lots of possibilities. For example, if I try this again, I would play with the gusset shape, especially in front, and move the slash point in, closer to the actual hinge of my underarm. That would give me a better range of motion. I love how the gusset extends into the back and would preserve that detail.

So, be kind. I almost did not blog this effort, but thought the gusset discussion might be useful.

More Pictures