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Seattle Sewing Saturday

August 7, 2014

Sew Well - Seattle Sewing Saturday

I’ve been meaning to host a little sewing gathering in my house ever since I moved in this past May.  Not that we have a kitchen yet since we tore out the last-remodeled-in-the-1930s-with-only-one-outlet-and-no-space-for-a-refrigerator kitchen before we moved in and have only now finalized the plans for updating the space.  But, why should little details like that stop me from enjoying the wonderful sewing community around me?!

Anyway, since I’ve been dragging my feet on organizing something all summer, I’ve finally decided to use Erin of Seamstress Erin as my excuse.  We met back when I lived in the Bay Area, and now she’s moved up to Seattle.  I’d love to introduce her to other local sewing enthusiasts, so hopefully a few of you are free this coming Saturday afternoon from 2 to 5 pm-ish.  This Saturday is also MPB day, so it’s only fitting to spread the sewing celebration from NYC all the way across the country to sunny Seattle.

I’ll even have a few sewing-related goodies to give away.  See those fabrics above?  They were donated by Susan, a local seamstress extraordinaire, and will be here for the taking.  If you have something to share, bring it as well:  a fantastic sewing story, a recent finished project, a favorite must-have notion to show off, a muslin that needs fitting, some unwanted stash to swap, or just yourself!

If you’re interested, send me an email!

Have fun when you take those blog photos! Or, flex that orbicularis oculi!

August 1, 2014

Last night I was reading a few pages in the baby book What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life.  I started it ages ago, but these days I only seem to be able to read about three pages a day!  The few pages in question were about “social smiling”.

Did you know that true smiling isn’t voluntary?  I didn’t!

According to the author, Lise Eliot, while you can consciously command the muscles of your mouth to smile, true smiles “involve a specific muscle that surrounds the eye, the orbicularis oculi, and movement of this muscle is entirely involuntary.”  Therefore, to truly smile you need to engage your limbic system, which essentially means you need to be amused!

I guess Tyra Banks was right when she said to smile with your eyes – smize!  I got to thinking about it, and I realized that some of my favorite blog photos were taken when I was having fun with my husband or laughing at myself while I was throwing silly poses in front of the tripod.

Sew Well - Silk jersey Renfrew bow top

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

Maybe I’m flexing my orbicularis oculi here?!

Sew Well's BurdaStyle Twisted Dress in Mood's Silk Jersey

I definitely am here!

So, the take home is that you can either practice “smizing” to get those perfect blog photos or just make sure to have a bit of fun when you’re in front of the camera.

And, to me, having a bit of fun is inherently more … fun, right?  The more you know!

Anyway, I couldn’t help but share.  Also, I think I’m going to try to bring back the Science of Sewing series for at least this month and throw out a tiny little photography tip each week.  Hopefully I can think of enough tips!

What do you think?  Do you smile with your orbicularis oculi?

Silk Summer Tanks Times Three: Adventures in Polly Tops

July 25, 2014

You might have seen this post go live yesterday on MSN.  But, I wanted to give a little bit of a preamble here to explain that a good bit of the behind-the-scenes inspiration for making these Polly Tops was this month’s #oonapalooza.  Not in the tops themselves, but in the making of three.  You see, back at the end of 2012, Oona wrote about making three pairs of leggings in a post that I still vividly (vivid being the key word here!) remember.  I know my way around Photoshop, but that woman puts me to shame.  I think that post is partly what led me to make multiple pairs of leggings here, and now to attempt to Photoshop three of me together in this post here.  Thank you, Oona, for shining so brightly that the rest of us can’t help but smile and shine right along with you.

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

My Mood Sewing Network projects this month are all about fabric pairings.  It started with finding this Anna Sui silk crepe de chine panel print at Mood Fabrics online.  I thought it would pair nicely with some of the Mood Mark Jacobs embroidered dot silk I had left over from this shirtdress project, a garment which has mostly languished in the back of my closet. I’ve always wanted to make something I’d wear more often with the left over fabric since those raised dots are so fun!  An easy summer tank seemed just the thing, and the free By Hand London Polly Top was perfectly suited to pairing the two fabrics together.

Then I noticed this gorgeous aqua floral silk crepe de chine also at Mood Fabrics online, and I thought, why not make a Polly Top out of it as well?!  Especially since this Mood Thakoon aquamarine silk crepe de chine was a perfect match.  And, I didn’t stop there.  I’ve also had a bit of this Mood watercolored silk charmeuse in my stash since this dress project, and I figured I might as well have fun pairing it with this luxurious brown Mood silk charmeuse. The center panel of the Polly Top uses so little fabric, you can feature pretty small pieces of favorite fabrics that you just can’t bare to get rid of – all you need is to find a coordinating fabric for the rest of the top!

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

I carefully cut the Anna Sui panel so that the border print would be nicely featured along the hem.  I wanted the embroidered dots to be a little more whimsical, so I purposefully didn’t center them.  I also tried to get as many dots as I could fit above the panel, but I didn’t think through the fact that they don’t really stand out when they’re too close to the panel.  Oh well!  I still love the way the two fabrics pair together.

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

The back is pretty simple.  The shoulders appear to fit me well here, even though they feel awfully wide from the front.  I made a muslin (or, rather, I made an earlier version also out of silk) that I felt was too long and wide in the shoulders, so for these I tried to nip the shoulders in a bit when I took out some of their length, but I think I could have stood to pull in the entire neckline a bit more.

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

But, since these tops were made assembly-line style, all cut and then sewn at the same time, they don’t benefit from the typical process of sewing multiples.  Even so, I’ve enjoyed wearing them.  I just have to pull out my strapless bra and welcome a bit of extra sunshine on my skin!

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

The blue one may be my favorite, despite the fact that it’s the one I had the hardest time sewing the neckline for.  Those bright peonies make me ever so glad I had the crazy idea to make more than just one Polly Top this month. But, I probably need more practice sewing bias binding, so I’m thinking of signing up for Linda Maynard’s class at the Sewing and Design School in Tacoma.  I just have to figure out what to do with Baby Girl those days…

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

When you order fabric online, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to whether two fabrics will really go together as well as they appear to on screen – unless of course you’ve been smart, not impulsive, and ordered swatches ahead of time.  I was impulsive here, but I figured the black and off-whites were such basic colors, the blues were both from Thakoon so likely to be similar, and the watercolor would blend with just about any brown.  I also made sure the fabrics were of similar type.  The blacks and blues were all silk crepe de chine, and the brown and watercolor were both silk charmeuse.

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

I was a bit nervous about working with silk charmeuse since it’s slippery and not matte like silk crepe de chine.  But, despite being a little delicate along the edges, this stuff was fine to work with.  I did opt for store-bought bias tape from Pacific Fabrics instead of trying to coax narrow bias strips of the charmeuse into cooperating.  It felt a bit like cheating, but I figured this is just a tank top after all!

Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well

All in all I’m very happy with these new additions to my closet.  Now these beautiful fabrics will see the light of day more often than just when I have the occasion to wear fancy silk dresses. Here’s to many successful fabric pairings for all of us!

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.

A Dress Made of Watercolor Flowers and Fairy Wings

July 22, 2014

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Have you ever sewn with wool gauze?  This dress marks my first occasion to sew with this type of fabric, and I swear it was like sewing with fabric made of fairy wings.  So light and delicate and fragile.  But amazing and beautiful and perfect all the same. UPDATE:  I just looked up my order info, and the fabric was actually labeled wool georgette, not gauze!

I’d been saving this particular watercolor floral fabric, which came from the Tessuti Fabrics remnants section (or specials section?), from way back when I was trying to get my Gridlock order into the realm of free shipping.  I seem to fall head over heels for painterly fabrics, and this one was no exception.  It needed just the right pattern.  When I got a sneak peek during pattern testing of Tasia of Sewaholic‘s next dress pattern, the Yaletown Dress, I figured it was just the thing.  It had large skirt pieces that would feature the giant floral pattern nicely, and the loose wrap bodice was perfect for the more abstract parts of the print.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

I had just enough fabric for the dress but not enough for the self-fabric belt, so I made do with a belt from my closet.  The pattern calls for facings, but since this wool gauze was so sheer, I instead lined everything but the sleeves with some ivory silk crepe de chine left over from this skirt project.  It took some creativity to figure out how to line the entire blouse while also enclosing all of the side seams, but my perseverance won out in the end.  The pattern suggests you topstitch the facing down along the entire neckline, and though I hadn’t used a facing, I decided my lining would benefit from the same treatment.  The openness of the wrap meant understitching alone wasn’t cutting it for me.  I used a walking foot and went as slowly as I could, but the delicate wool gauze did end up with a few slight ripples between the topstitching and the neckline.  The fabric wouldn’t have forgiven any seam ripping, I think the tiny ripples are imperceptible to most, and it beats seeing the lining peek out, so I didn’t bother to try to restitch.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Did I mention how much I love painterly fabrics?!  Look at those flowers! I just love how they dance across the back in their muted browns and oranges and bright pinks and yellows and greens.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

The front and the back of the skirt are the same pattern piece, which for me means I get nice soft gathers in the front and a nice loose skirt in the back.  Perhaps it’s my bum that eats up the possibility of any gathers in the back!?  Both of my shorter Saltsprings do the same (Liberty here and galaxy here), so I think it’s just a feature of how this style of pattern fits me.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Sadly, there are no pockets here.  I found that though I love the idea of pockets, I don’t like the way side seam pockets in floaty fabrics like this look on me.  Though I like the style of dress (as apparent in how many times I’ve made the Saltspring!) there are not enough gathers to hide pockets well on me.  I’m always catching myself in the mirror trying to smooth them down.  Perhaps if they were caught up in the waistline a bit to help them lay smoothly towards the front?  I guess that’s something I should have mentioned in my pattern testing feedback but didn’t realize until now!

The looser wrap top is new for me.  I like how it drapes across…

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

…but it does gape a lot, so I think I’ll tack it closed once I’m no longer nursing and needing access to that area.  For now I’m wearing the dress with a nursing tank underneath.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

I also really like how my StyleArc Nina cardigan pairs with this dress.  This year I’m trying to think a bit more about how the garments I stitch can come together into a wearable closet, which is how I went about planning my SWAP (the Stitcher’s Guild Sewing with a Plan challenge) a few years back.  My Belcarra blouse and my Mariska skirt made earlier this year go together nicely, and now my Nina cardigan pairs with both my galaxy Saltspring dress and this Yaletown dress.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Also, here’s a peek at what the dress looks like without a belt…

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

…and though I always wear my Saltsprings without a belt, I like this one better belted.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

I wish I’d had enough fabric to try out the self-fabric belt since I think it adds to the loose-wrap-dress look, but I wouldn’t have wanted to give up anything about this dress to make it happen with the little fabric I had on hand.  Plus, this fairy-wing fabric might not have taken kindly to being tugged and tied in belt form at the waist.  The sleeve seams, the only seams not lined, are already showing a bit of wear and tear from the few times I’ve worn it this summer.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the little guy who kept trying to sneak into the photo shoot.  He’s being camera shy here of course, but look at all that fur!

Sew Well - Yaletown Dress


Flappers, Necklines, and Winners

July 17, 2014

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I was hoping to have a muslin to show you today of the Flapper Dress from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine, but I got bogged down this week trying to sew the neckline on the By Hand London Polly Tops I’m making for my next MSN project.  The pattern called for a strip of bias to bind the raw edge, like what The Little Tailoress shows in this video, but I really wanted to use the bias as a facing, like what Jen of Grainline Studio shows in this tutorial.  I measured (with my EZ Wheel Measuring Wheel), trimmed, clipped, under stitched, etc., but four attempts and no flat necklines later, and I gave in to using the bias as a binding. The bias facing technique has worked for me in the past with Sewaholic patterns (here and here), but maybe I’m still at the point where I need the binding to have all the many notches that come with Sewaholic patterns so I can properly distribute the binding around the neckline? In the end what I expected to take no time at all actually took up all of my sewing time this week!  So, even though this muslin would have been such a quick sew (two seams!), I didn’t even get around to cutting the fabric.

Anyway, what you actually care about is who won last week’s giveaway.  Congratulations go out to these five winners:  Emily of Emily Ventureshappystitches2CassandraJana of, and Gina Milano!  I hope you all enjoy your magazines!  Get in touch with me so I can make sure they’ll be on their way to you shortly!

Home Sewing Drama

July 15, 2014

Sew Well - Home Sewing Drama

My husband has been traveling a lot this summer for work.  Right now he’s currently on an island in the Pacific.  People often ask me why I don’t travel with him when he’s in these exotic locales, but, to be honest, when he’s in the field he’s working 24/7, so I know I’d still pretty much be on my own and maybe even in the way.  Once things are not quite so new – new job, new baby – then maybe we’ll find our rhythm and get to share these crazy adventures together.

In the meantime, to keep myself from not getting stir crazy at home, I’ve taken to watching snippets of documentaries on Netflix during baby girl’s longer feeding sessions.  One that I watched on a new-to-me topic was “Tiny:  A Story About Living Small”.  Did you know that there are people who choose to live in less than 200 square feet of home?!  From what I gathered, the residences are typically called Tiny Homes, and they’re often built on wheels since many counties have restrictions against building structures so small. Did you also know that blogging about Tiny Homes is a big thing?  I had no idea.  At least not until watching this film.  The film interweaves a couple’s experience building their own Tiny Home with interviews of Tiny Home owners and bloggers.  It creates a story that’s a more broadly appealing when you see it from so many different perspectives.

It got me thinking:  is there a documentary on home sewing that benefits from the amazing sewing blogging community?  I did a quick search, and I couldn’t find anything.  I think having something like that pop up on someone’s Netflix queue would really bring slow fashion into the limelight in a way that an introductory book on sewing or even a captivating book on fast fashion isn’t quite able.  I know I would love to see a documentary that followed Melanie of poppykettle‘s wedding dress journey.  Or the first year of Sarah of Goodbye Valentino‘s ready-to-wear fast.  Or Oonaballoona doing just about anything.  (Speaking of Oona, if time and money were no object, I think this silk crepe de chine would be perfect for oonapalooza – maybe even made up in her own soon-to-be romper tutorial!)  I’m imagining said documentary to be complimented by interviews with sewing bloggers and insight into the current state of fast fashion.

So, please enlighten me, is there something like this already out there?  Is there something better?  Do share since my husband is gone until the end of the week!

Sew Downton Abbey + Giveaway

July 10, 2014

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I remember a time in the not too distant past when the costumes in Downton Abbey were weekly fodder in the sewing blogging world.  Lady Mary this, Countess Cora that…  At the time I hadn’t yet watched the show (I got rid of my TV several years ago because I had become addicted to say the least – cold turkey was my only saving grace!), and I was desperate to figure out what this new-to-me show was all about.  I read every Downton post I found in order to piece together the story that was gripping this community.  I eventually watched the first season of the show with my neighbor, finally catching up with the online social scene while enjoying some in-real-life social time.  A win, win if you ask me!

So, when the good people at Interweave/F+W wrote to ask if I’d like to give away five copies of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine from the editors of Stitch Magazine, I immediately said, “Yes, please!”  How could I not spread the Downton love?

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

The fine print says that this magazine is unofficial and unauthorized, but that doesn’t stop it from being chock full of patterns inspired by the show.  The projects are divided into four sections:  Take Me Dancing, which includes fancy dresses and the like; Out and About, which includes casual and practical everyday wear; At Home, which includes home dec and nightgowns and robes and such; and, finally, From the Archives, which includes a hodge podge of everything else.

Most of my favorite patterns come from the everyday wear in the Out and About section.  While it would just take too long to show you everything, I hope you’ll oblige me with a few of my favorite patterns.  (And, here’s a secret for you:  most of the patterns from the magazine can be downloaded for free from if you are willing to sign up for a free membership to their site.  You’ll still need the magazine for the instructions though.)

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

There’s something about the blues and greens used in the Suffragette Day Blouse and Skirt (all of the pattern links here and below go to the corresponding free pattern download) that immediately drew me in to this section.  These two patterns were inspired by Lady Sybil and the outfit she wore to the political rally in Season 1.  I don’t think I could personally pull off either of these garments since I’m not sure high-waisted skirts are for me (after trying one here), but I’d love to see this exact outfit on everyone else!

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

The Maid’s Day Off Coat, however, is right up my alley.  This pattern was inspired by Anna and the coat she wore to visit Bates in prison in Season 3. While I don’t have too many occasions to visit prison, I imagine I could find many other appropriate places to wear this coat!

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I also like the Sporting Jacket and the Modern Jean Jodhpurs.  The jacket pattern was inspired by the jacket Lady Mary wore when she was horseback riding with the Turkish diplomat in Season 1.  The Jodhpur riding pant pattern isn’t attributed to one particular point in the story, but it’s hard to imagine a list of Downton-inspired garments that doesn’t include Jodhpurs.

While most of the patterns are free online downloads, the magazine also includes pull out paper patterns for the Let’s Do Lunch Topper (hat), the Legacy Cot Quilt, the Out and About Wrap, the Peacock Evening Clutch, the Embroidered and Embellished Belt, the Goddess Headpiece, and the Silk Polonaise Stole.  The magazine is also invaluable for the included instructions.  Take the Peacock Evening Clutch for example…

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

The beautiful peacock feather is actually made by smocking.  And, the directions don’t just assume that you know how to smock – there’s a whole sidebar detailing the technique.  In fact, instructions for most of the projects require more than just the typical “sew right sides together”.  This magazine details how to make puckered fabric, make a jeweled collar, sew with sequins, embroider, work with lace, make fringe, attach a coat lining, pad stitch, create welt pockets, make a fagoted seam, sew with French seams, add piping, make scallops, paper piece, make rosettes and other floral embellishments, and more.  I learned a lot just reading the instructions! Now, that said, the instructions are mostly text with minimal figures.  So, while there are a lot of techniques included in this magazine, you have to have the confidence to work mostly through text descriptions with a single key image.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that the magazine also has little blurbs about the designers.  I love getting a little bit of insight into the people behind the patterns!  For example, the Out and About Wrap was designed by Samina of Sew Everything Blog.  She wrote about her design and how to wear the wrap as a scarf here.  There are even two designers from the Seattle area:  Charise of Charise Creates and Kerry Smith!

For true Downton junkies the magazine even includes sections devoted solely to the show, like the piece on the Inveraray Castle, the Scottish estate featured in the Christmas special.

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

Now, typically when I review books and pattern collections like this I like to make one of the included garments so that you can get an idea of what is possible.  Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find the time this time around (read:  baby girl + husband being out of town a lot for work + science deadlines = very little sewing time).  I did get so far as to chose the Flapper Dress as my first victim.

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I know it’s not one of the patterns I highlighted above as being my favorites, but I have had a beautiful sequins fabric from Distric Fabric burning a hole through my stash for half a year now (see top photo above).  I’ve been looking for the perfect dartless dress pattern since I only wanted to deal with stitching the sequins along the side seams.  As soon as I saw this one, I knew I had to give it a chance (again, see top photo above for the line drawing).

I’ve gotten as far as downloading the pattern and printing it out.  I still need to tape that sucker together (even simple dress patterns require taping a lot of sheets of paper!), and then I figure I should make a muslin.  My sequins fabric is a knit, which means it’ll forgive many fitting issues, but it would still be nice to truly get a sense of how the dress will fit before going through the time and effort of removing all the sequins from the stitching line only to realize something doesn’t work after stitching the side seams together.

Once it’s boot season again, I’d like to try the Jodhpurs.  I need more skinny jeans, and I like the equestrian seaming details.  I’ve tried to zoom in and lighten the photo below so you can see what I’m referring to. Look to the inside, just above the knees.

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

And, then after that it’ll be that coat…  Definitely that coat!

Now it’s your turn!  I want to see the Downton love spread all around the sewing blogosphere again!  So, five lucky readers will win a copy of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine from the editors of Stitch Magazine (retail $14.99) thanks to F+W Media Distribution and Interweave!  If you’d like to be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment below letting me know. I’ll pick the winners at random next Thursday, July 17th at 7 am PDT. Good luck!  (If you want another chance to win, enter Sew Maris’s giveaway as well!)


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