Wednesday, December 8, 2010

S2558 • The Mmmrrrow! Jacket

The CAbi FW2010 collection inspires me again!

When I tried on this CAbi Lola shrug ($138) at this fall's CAbi party, I remember sighing a little. It felt like a warm hug, and who couldn't use more of THAT on cold winter nights? So I set out to make one of my own. I looked all over creation for the exact, plushy fabric that Carol Anderson used, but couldn't locate it. So I went for the next best thing: brown and black spotted leopard. I think this little number's going to look great with black AND brown, which will give it maximum versatility in my wardrobe.

Pattern Description: Misses Jacket with Front Variations.

Pattern Sizing: 4-20. Mine was a straight 14.


Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? With modifications, it looks like a longer version of the CAbi Lola shrug, which is what I was going for!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yep. I find it curious that, with wool as a fabric option, the pattern designers didn't include lining instructions and pattern pieces. It didn't deter me from adding the lining anyway.

What did you like/dislike about the pattern? I was too eager to make this coat, so I didn't pattern fit, which was a mistake all 'round. This unstructured coat pattern is SO boxy and has too much ease. Next time I make it, I'll take off about 3" of ease. I can't wear it closed as it gapes and hangs funny, which is kind of a bummer.

Fabric Used: Low pile faux fur from Fabric Depot.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I added a hot pink lining. What girlie girl doesn't love that? I also used hooks for closures as they're hidden in the fabric. Compared to the notch collar of the CAbi design, mine has a shawl collar.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would! Just check that ease or you'll be swimming in this jacket.

Conclusion: It's (nearly) exactly what I wanted and cost less than 1/3 of the Lola shrug. Thanks for the great inspiration, Carol Anderson!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

M6069 | The Mullet Dress

Get it?

The V-neck is surprisingly bra-friendly!
Pattern Description: MISSES' DRESSES AND SASH: Pullover, above mid-knee, semi-fitted straight dresses A, B, C have elastic waist casing, stitched hem and bodice variations; dress A is sleeveless; dress B has three-quarter sleeves; dress C is sleeveless with self sash; dresses A, B, C have optional back strap; optional purchased belt.

Pattern Sizing:
A5(6-8-10-12-14), EE(14-16-18-20). Mine was a 14 top, 20-ish bottom

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It really does!

Were the instructions easy to follow? They're SOOOO easy! This dress *maybe* took me three hours to make including pattern fitting and cutting.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It's a quick project that was done 75% on my serger. The only dislike is that the particular neckline can be tricky to keep on your shoulders. While perusing JoAnn, I ran across some nifty "Strap Tamers" that you pin at your shoulder seam and it keeps your bra straps hidden. You can leave them in the garment and launder them without worry. They're great little gadgets for a boatneck top, too. Here's a picture of the product and you can buy them here.

Fabric Used: Mid-weight polyester jersey from JoAnn. I like that the pattern includes both black and brown so I can pick different shoes and accessories, depending on my mood.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: 

  • For maximum versatility, I made this a reversible dress, combining the square neckline of View C with the cowl draped back of view B. I've worn it both ways. 
  • I passed on the elastic casing and instead added clear swimsuit elastic to the waistline before I sewed up the sides. (sewed sleeves in flat)
  • I added 3" from hip to knee. (They aren't kidding when they say the dress is "close fitting".)
  • 1" FBA
  • Added 5" to the length (not all in one place, but proportionally). It's SHORT!
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This is the second time I've made this dress. The first was a sleeveless LBD that also had the square/cowl neckline options. It's a great dressy summer travel dress!

This is one awesome dress! I've already worn it at a black tie event as well as to work. It's been a versatile addition to my winter wardrobe!

Monday, November 15, 2010

V8634 • Dotty Cowl

Remember this fabric? It's from my Italy haul!

Pattern Description: Close-fitting, pullover tops A, B, C, in two lengths, have collar and stitched hems. A: short sleeves. B: three-quarter length sleeves. C: long sleeves. I made view C.

Pattern Sizing: XS – XL. Mine was a straight M. (hooray!)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It did! 

Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't even look at them. I put the sleeves in flat, but don't know if that differs from the pattern.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? That seam below the bust is completely unnecessary. I really like how slimming this pattern is.

Fabric Used: Delicious, heavyweight jersey from Bassetti Tessuti! The cowl gets lost in the photo, but it's there.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Like others who have made this, I eliminated the seam below the bust. It doesn't add anything to the design when you're working with such a busy fabric. I added 8" to the cowl length because I like a "meatier" cowl. 

I assembled the entire project on my serger and used 1/4" seams.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and YES! I've already made it again, in a forest green jersey. It sews up in under two hours, which is fantastic when you need a sewing quickie. I think this will be a gorgeous use of my peacock alpaca fabric, too.

Conclusion: I can't begin to tell you how much I love this top and this style! Make one already, wont'cha?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Faux Fur Stole Tutorial

In Italy, faux and real fur clothing and accessories were EVERYWHERE. Fur vests, little boxy fur jackets and fur stoles are on trend for Fall/Winter 2010. Nothing looked terribly difficult to construct, so when I got home, I decided to make a stole for myself. It's SUPER easy, incredibly quick and delightfully chic. Make one for yourself! Here's how:

  • 1/8 – 1/4 yd. faux fur
  • 1/8 – 1/4 yd. lining fabric
  • tracing paper, pen, ruler, scissors
  • razor blade 
  • needle and thread
  • one chopstick

How to:
Step 4
Step 6
  1. Make a paper template that is half the length of your finished stole. Mine was 31"L x 6.5"W. Taper and round off the ends so they're not square. 
  2. Cut out your lining fabric on the fold with this template.
  3. Lay the template on your faux fur with fur side down. Leave enough room on the fabric to "flip" the template horizontally when you're done cutting out half of the stole. Pin template to faux fur.
  4. Using a razor blade (never scissors!), cut out faux fur, slicing only through the backing of the fabric, not the fur.
  5. Flip the template horizontally and complete cutting the faux fur with the razor.
  6. With right sides together, pin the faux fur to the lining, using the chopstick to encourage all the little hairs to stay inside the "burrito". Leave a 6" gap open to pull the fabric through. (see pic, Step 6)
  7. Sew everything but the 6" gap. I used a 5/8" seam allowance.
  8. Pull the right side of the stole thru the gap.
  9. Pull out any hairs that were trapped in the seams with the chopstick.
  10. Sew up the gap, by hand, with a running stitch.
  11. Secure wrap in place with a decorative pin or drape it over yourself like a diva!
Go forth and rock that stole!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

V8413 • The Joan Dress

Look! It's all the beautiful people – all in one place.
I have a confession to make. I love Mad Men. From the amazing period clothes and furnishings to the clever dialogue and twisty-turny storylines, I look forward to every episode. I love the characters, even when helplessly flawed. And root for them when things get a little rough. (Although I'd love to take on Betty Draper and her pearls in a mudwrestling match! That girl needs to loooosen up! And maybe take a parenting class or twelve…) 

Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway
Also, when I was snoop shopping in Rome last month, Fendi had a similar dress in a mustard colour ($900…really, Fendi? REALLY?). Around the neck, they'd placed a $800 fur stole. I knew I could rock that look… and I put the whole shebang together (including leopard heels!) for less than $100. This dress alone, I will wear for YEARS. (Look for the fur stole tutorial coming soon!)


Pattern Description: Close-fitting dress have bodice, sleeve and collar variation, straight skirt with front pleats, back darts, zipper and vent. Three-quarter length sleeves, princess seams and one piece collar. Hem hits at mid-knee. (I made View D)

Pattern Sizing: 8-24.
I made 14 bodice and a 16 skirt. My usual combo.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope 

Vogue 8413
once you were done sewing with it? Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow? I looked at them once to figure out how to put the cowl and facing together.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This was a quick dress to make! The design lines are simple and it's an elegant garment I can dress up or down. My kicky black boots will look great with this, too!

Fabric Used: Polyester double knit, which I'd never sewn with before. It's is a dream, and I'm planning on using it again in dresses and other garments. (See Gertie's link for sewing with doubleknits.)

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

1/2" princess FBA, added 1" to bodice length, high round back adjustment. I'm 5'9", so I added 2" to hem of skirt so it would cover my knees.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I can see it in red… and purple… The design variations in the pattern give a lot of flexibility.

Conclusion: This dress is amazing. I can dress it up or down and it's comfortable without looking slouchy. I think it'll get a lot of wear this fall and winter!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Adding to the Stash : Bassetti Tessuti, Rome, Italy

Rooms upon rooms of fabric. Heck yeah!

Have you heard of Bassetti Tessuti? (which is really fun to say!)

Before I'd read the NYT article about them and been to Rome, I hadn't either. In planning my trip to Italy last month, I KNEW I had to stop there. I'd heard it was overwhelming, amazing and so fabulous they gave you a GUIDE, but until I got there, I had NO idea what kind of "Alice in Wonderland" kind of experience I was in for. Floor-to-ceiling fabrics of all sorts. Here, a room full of men's suiting, there, a room full of crisp cotton shirting. 99.9% of it completely unavailable in the US. I was like a kid in a candy store, but oh, what candy!

So, without further ado, let me show you what I bought and what I plan to do with it.

Alpaca wool in teal and purple : Soft enough for some beautiful sweaters!
Anyone got a good sweater pattern?
I'm open to suggestions.

100% silk panel. This will be hemmed into a scarf.

Black and white burnout velvet. I'm thinking of a long-sleeved button up. Cute over a tank top and trousers.

Bitmapped 100% silk fabric from Gianni Versace (!!). Destined to be one of these.

Olive burnout velvet. Will be lined in nude and made into a tank top.

Heavy lycra jersey destined to be cute, long-sleeved tops. Possibly with cowls (my new favourite thing!)

The splurge: sequins! That are black on one side…

And silver on the other. This will be a tube top to be worn under sweaters and jackets.
None of it was cheap – averaging about $30US/yard. It was a PITA to ship (and spendy!), but I don't regret a purchase. Or the fact that my handsome "helper", Marcello, flirted with me mercilessly and begged me to go to lunch with him that day. Who am I to resist? I was furthering US/Italian relations. Just doing my part. Viva Italia!

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Fall! Time for Bread and Soup!

I love bread. And carbs. And anything bread-adjacent.  Give me a good sized tub of butter and a fresh loaf of warm bread, and I'll make quick work of it. 

That being said, this was my first time actually baking bread, and although it was time-intensive (two rises! Four hours!?), as I hustled through my Saturday, I found that I could do everything I wanted to and STILL make bread. Healthy bread.

Let's just cut to the chase here. It was AMAZING. And also really, really tall. Next time, I'll make two smaller loaves instead of one big one. 

I paired my bread with some delicious Zucchini and Turkey soup from the "Cooking Light: Best Recipes of 2007" book that my friend, Kimo, let me borrow. It's simply the best soup I've had all year. Try it and I bet you'll agree. (recipe below)

Next challenge: sourdough!

adapted from “Good to the Grain” by Kim Boyce.

Makes one ginormous loaf or two smaller loaves.


  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2+1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
  • 2+1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  1. Lightly butter a large bowl and a 9x5 inches loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir water, yeast and molasses to combine. Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to bubble. Add the flours, rolled oats and melted butter. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Add salt to the dough, attach the bread hook to the mixer and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides (add a tablespoon or two of flour if necessary).
  4. For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until it is doubled in size.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface. Shape it into a square, then fold it down from the top to the middle and then up from the bottom to the middle (just like you fold a letter). Bring the top and bottom edges together, pinch and seal.
  6. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down, and press it gently into the corners of the pan. Cover the dough with a towel, and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Freezes well.

From Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007, Makes 10 (1 cup) servings.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped onions
1-1/2 tsp. minced, fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 c. chopped zucchini
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 ground chicken, turkey or tofu
4 c. broth (chicken, veggie)
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 T. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or more for spice)
2 - 15-1/2 oz. cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
2 - 14-1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes [darcinote: I used one. It was fine]
1 bay leaf
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, rosemary and garlic; sautee 2 minutes. Add zucchini, pepper, salt, red pepper and chicken/turkey/tofu; cook 5 minutes or until chicken is browned, stirring to crumble.
  2. Add broth + wine, tomato paste, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes and bay leaf; bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf, sprinkle with cheese.

Monday, October 4, 2010

V8580 CAbi Erte Tunic Knockoff

I've always loved CAbi's clothes. So easy, so elegant, so DAMNED expensive. (Take a look here). When I first saw this season's collection, I was immediately smitten with the Erte Tunic. The fabric was beautiful, much like Erte's 1920 Art Deco designs. I've been a fan of Erte's since 1988 when I first saw his work in a gallery in San Francisco.

I sweated out this purchase, alternately 1) chiding myself for BUYING something when I know I can make it and 2) moaning, "but I looooove it!!". Trouble is, I don't looove it $128 worth and when I tried it on, it hung nearly to my knees. Not attractive.

So I set about making my own. Luckily, the Vogue 8580 was closer than anything else I could find on the market. With a couple of design changes, I think it turned out beautifully. Armed with a 40% off coupon and a pattern sale ($4), I spent a grand total of $22 on this project. Not bad. Not bad at all.


Pattern Description: Pullover tunic A, B, C in two lengths have kimono sleeves, self-faced elastic casing with flat front and A-line lower section. A, B: short sleeve with self-cuffs. C: three-quarter length sleeves. Pullover top D is semi-fitted with stitched hems.

I made a straight medium (MEDIUM, people! HURRAY!) of View C with modifications.

Pattern Sizing: Y(XS-S-M), ZZ(L-XL-XXL)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?Somewhat. My inspiration for this tunic was the CAbi Erte Tunic from the FW CAbi collection.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I might have glanced at them once. Maybe.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It went together in about 2 hours. Nothing like an instant gratification project!

Fabric Used: 100% Polyester from JoAnn's.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: This tunic runs voluminously LARGE and runs LONG, ladies. Check out the flat pattern measurements before you cut. I only made a high round back adjustment and removed 2" from the hem. Simple! I hate elastic, so I also added a channel through the middle of the casing pieces, added two buttonholes to the CF and included a waist tie. 

The pattern of the fabric is really busy, so you don't see these design changes in the photo. In hindsight, I'll be removing a couple of inches from the side seams next go 'round. I also hate hemming, so used the roll hem on my serger for the neckline, sleeves and hem.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Heck yeah I'm making it again! I just got back from Italy with TONS of new fabric and have one Gianni Versace silk black and white bitmapped flower fabric I'll be using this pattern for.

Conclusion: This is as close as you can get to wearing elegant jammies at work. I highly recommend this easy pattern for a sewing quick fix!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Infinity Dress

My Infinity Dress
Inspired by the amazing Carolyn and her fantastic recent "6 ways" post, I thought I'd share the Infinity Dress with you today. I made it quite awhile ago, and can't seem to stop playing with it! I get loads of compliments when I wear it, and who doesn't love that?

This is an extremely simple and versatile dress, made of only a tube skirt and two very long straps. I also added a tube top with elastic on top and bottom for modesty, since my straps weren't wide enough to avoid the dreaded "side boob". (Boys dig it, I really don't.)

Did I mention how much fun it is to play with?
Check just some of the options (click the links to make 'em larger):

 And some really fabulous ways to style it:

The tutorial that I followed is here

The expensive version that was my inspiration is here

Donna Karan had a version of this dress for Resort 2009 that retailed for $995 and made me REALLY glad that I know how to sew. My version, made from a peacock jersey MAYBE cost $30 at the most and took less than 3 hours to make. How's that for a quick dress?

So, consider making one of your very own! It's the most fun I've had with an article of clothing FOREVER, and I'm trying to figure out how to create other pieces in my wardrobe that put the FUN in functional! Go play!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vogue 8553 • Zingy Summer Dress

 Pattern Description: Fitted (through bodice), cap sleeve dresses
A, B with sash have gathers, front and neck bands, pleated skirt, flared and mid-knee length. A: contrast sash and bands.

Pattern Sizing: AA(6-8-10-12), EE(14-16-18-20) Mine was a 14 bodice and an 18 skirt. I ended up taking 2" off each side before construction was through. I guess I thought I'd need more "give". It really didn't.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It did! (with mods)

Were the instructions easy to follow? They were, but that darn facing was SO fussy! There's really got to be an easier way, folks, but I haven't found it yet.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love that the bodice fit perfectly and the skirt is super-twirly. Just have to make sure not to pull a "Marilyn" when you do twirly-whirlies.

Fabric Used: I searched high and LOW for the perfect fabric for this dress. The search took four months, I kid you not. I LOVE the colour combination and I think it's just zingy!

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I added 2-1/4" to the bodice and forgot to add it to the facings initially, so had to re-cut those with the scant fabric I had. In the end, I'd totally forgotten how heavy this would be, and probably didn't need to do the adjustment. I would have rather had the waistline at the highest part of my waist, rather that the lowest.

I really, really HATED the sash that came with the pattern it was fine in the back, but drooped in the front and didn't cover the waistline seam, so I cut it apart and made a circular cummerbund that I pull on over my head. I'm thinking it'll look cute over a tunic top, too, so it's a two-fer! The neckline on me was dangerously low for my comfort, so after construction, I stitched it up an inch.

Can I tell you how much I hate hemming dresses? Thank GOD for my serger, that does a nice rolled hem. Between the lack of hem and drape of the dress, it falls to just the right spot.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would! It went together really fast (an apparent hallmark of my projects), it's comfortable, and I love twirling in it.

Conclusion: It's a great summer dress that skims over the lumps and bumps. It makes me look thinner, and there's NOTHING wrong with that!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Simplicity 2550 • Stained Glass Dress

There's nothing I love more than getting inspired by fabric. Seems like I'm on a 60's – 70's kick these days, and this stained glass fabric was no exception. Like most sewers, I've got *enough* fabric in my stash, but is enough ever ENOUGH, really? (You already know the answer to this…)

I was on my way out of JoAnn's one afternoon (buying supplies/notions, I'm sure) when I saw this darling fabric. I just couldn't leave without it. The pattern was already in my pattern stash, so I whipped this little confection up.

Pattern Description: Misses' dress with bodice variations sewing pattern. Inspired by Project Runway. Mine is sleeveless.

Pattern Sizing: 4–20. Mine is a 12 in the top, 16 on the bottom

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow? They were.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It's a flattering dress, no matter your size.

Fabric Used: 100% static-lovin' polyester. Quick tip: use a dryer sheet to "wipe down" the inside of your garment and outside of slip to negate static cling.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: FBA, High-round back, added extra length to skirt.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I love this dress. I think it's really rockin' the 60s vibe. No worries about matching up prints, either. What's not to love?

Conclusion: I adore this dress. It looks great with a cardi or a jacket over top (for work). Looks swell both in tall boots and summer sandals. It's a keeper!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kwik Sew 3790 • Asymmetrical top

Pattern Description: Close fitting tops have asymmetrical front neckline finished with facings, front shoulder inset with gathers, and gathers on left front. View A has cap sleeves and armholes are finished with self fabric bindings. View B has dropped shoulders and full length sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: XS-S-M-L-XL

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Mine's cuter!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Totally easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Like all Kwik Sew patterns, it was quick! And really easy to sew.

Fabric Used: 100% poly knit from JoAnn's.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Just like "needs more cowbell", I need more rusching! I just can't get enough, so I added additional length to both sides to accommodate it -- maybe 6 extra inches on either side. The armholes are a little high on this one, so I'll be taking .5" off those next time. I'm also planning to lower the neckline a bit. It's a little high to wear anything but a short necklace with. I'd like more flexibility for my vast necklace collection.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will definitely sew this again. I've already got more fabric in my stash ready for it. I plan to make the long-sleeved version in emerald &/or deep purple this coming fall.

Conclusion: This simple asymmetrical top with rusching is a blast to wear! It's comfortable, flattering and easy to sew. It'll look great with my collection of cute summer skirts! (Thank you, "Sew What Skirts"! >

Friday, May 28, 2010

Butterick 5386 • Knockoff Sweater

I loooooove catalog shopping. I get great ideas for future sewing projects and get to scoff at the prices because, as a sewer, I know I can make it: 1) cheaper than the listed price, 2) to fit me perfectly, 3) quicker than the catalog company can ship it (when I'm inspired).

This $89 sweater called to me from the pages of a Gap-owned athletic catalog, and I knew I just had to own it. I'd never worked with sweater fabric before. Heck, I never knew they MADE sweater fabric before this project, but I'm here to say, this project was quick, easy and with a few mods, perfect for me.

I'd also never rusched with elastic thread before. With some practice, it was surprisingly easy. I plan to use this technique again in the future as a design detail.

Pattern Description: Multiple options for a fitted top. I made view A that has a V-neckline and long sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: BB (8-10-12-14) I cut a straight 14.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It's definitely in the ballpark. I think a less busy print would highlight the center ruching better.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I don't think I even read them. I inserted the sleeves flat and they went in like a dream.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? When Butterick says a pattern is Fast & Easy, they really mean it!

Fabric Used: Lightweight, loose weave polyester-lycra blend sweaterknit from JoAnn Fabrics.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: This pattern required very few changes.
• 1/2" added for the high round back
• Deepened the V-neckline by 3"
• Added slight bell curve to sleeves, lengthened 1".
• Added 2" to side seams below bust to allow for looser fit and accommodate ruching with elastic thread.
• Skipped the facing and used self-fabric to enclose neck seam.
• Didn't feel like hemming so used roll hem on the serger to finish off sleeves and hem.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'm going to make it again in a solid sweater fabric. I plan to wear the heck out of it when I travel.

Conclusion:  I love it! You will, too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spicy Bean Salsa (or Cowboy Caviar)

'Tis the season for pignics and get-togethers! This is a quick, healthy dish that satisfies the masses (and has them begging for the recipe.) It can stand on its own as a side salad, tops grilled chicken with panache and can hold its own on a sturdy tortilla chip. Extra bonus: you make it the day before the event. How's that for stress-free?

  • 1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas or pinto beans
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (green, red, white)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)
  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, rough chopped
  • 1/4 fresh lime juice (3-4 limes)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3T olive oil
  1. Rinse and drain beans.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all beans, onion, green bell pepper, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, add to rest of salad; mix well. Cover, and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors.   
  • 150 cal./serving. Serves 24.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Get Popping with DIY Microwave Popcorn

Fake microwave popcorn butter has to be one of the grossest smells wafting through my office on a regular basis. It's right up there with Korn Nuts for me. (blech!)

Did you know you could make your own microwave popcorn? I came across this idea the other day (thank you, Alton Brown!) and thought I'd share. No more fake butter smell! It's less than 200 calories! And it's cheap, cheap, cheap to make. Hurray!
DIY Microwave Popcorn
  • 1/4 c. popcorn
  • 1 tsp. olive oil or peanut oil (optional, but it makes the toppings stick to the popped corn better)
  • 1/4 tsp.  salt
  • Paper lunch bag
Toss the popcorn with the olive oil and salt in the paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice to close. Place the bag in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes to 3 minutes, or until there are about 5 seconds between pops.
Other topper options:
  • Kettle Korn: 2 T. sugar
  • Chocolate popcorn: 2 T. powdered sugar, 1 T. cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. cinnamon 
  • Cajun: 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 T. garlic salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1 pinch cayenne pepper

    • Southwestern: 1-1/2 tsp. chili powder, 2 T. salt, 1 T. ground cumin 
    • Italian: 1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • Curry: 1 T. curry powder, 2 T. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 pinch cayenne pepper

      Wednesday, May 5, 2010

      McCall's 5974 • Mosaic Print Dress

      Does this fabric look familiar? Why of COURSE it does. I bought seven yards of this ITY mosaic-print knit when it was on a killer sale (like $4 a yard). This is the last project you'll see with this fabric, I promise!

      Pattern Description: Dresses A, B, C, D have bodice variations with front pleats, neckline variations, self-faced midriff, pleated skirt front, back zipper and sleeves in three lengths; dresses A, B have scoop neck; dress A has short sleeves; dress B has long sleeves; dresses C, D have wrapped bodice, “V” neck and self-ties; dress C has three-quarter length sleeves; dress D has long sleeves; dresses A, B, C, D length is 1" below mid-knee.

      I made view C.

      Pattern Sizing: B5(8-10-12-14-16), RR(18W-20W-22W-24W)
      Mine was a straight 14 (woo-hoo!)

      Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Better, I think!

      Were the instructions easy to follow? Super, super easy. I like that the pattern included tissue fitting instructions. I took the pattern alterations class thru the Palmer Pletsch school of sewing and found the pattern instructions to be like a mini-course. This would be VERY helpful to folks who haven't tissue-fit before.

      What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? That darn zipper! Who puts a zipper in a knit dress? I mean, really. That had to go. Also, the ties extend from your armpit down to your high hip. That wasn't going to work for me.

      Fabric Used: ITY Knit Jersey. This busy print covers up a multitude of sins. A solid might not be so forgiving.

      Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: This dress required far fewer adjustments than I normally do.
      • 1/2" added for the high round back
      • Added 8" to the ties to ensure that they'd be long enough to wrap around me
      • Cut the side tie width down 2" so that it would focus attention on my high waist, not my high armpit
      • I left the waist markings at the skinniest part of my waist (high waist?) so that the fabric would flow out from there. It makes me look thinner and I love that!
      • I cut the back piece on the fold, ensuring that the neckline wouldn't gape. This reduced the amount of fabric in the hem of the skirt. It may not be as twirly, but I like the streamlined back a lot.

      Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I HIGHLY recommend this pattern. It only took about 3 hours to sew, once the pattern fitting was completed.

      Conclusion: Just make it. This is a great go-to dress!

      Monday, April 19, 2010

      I really DO cook! • Baked Eggs in Tomato-Parmesan Sauce

      This is one of my favourite, easy, cheap go-to meals. It's tasty, quick and freezes really well. Pair it with a salad and some crusty bread, and you've got a meal that will fill you up and keep you going.

       From: Everyday Food ( This is a website I HIGHLY recommend, especially if you're looking for quick, new cooking ideas.

      Prep: 15 minutes
      Total: 40 minutes

      296 cal./serving

      Serves 4 (or 6, depending on your ramekin/ovenproof bowl size)
      • 1 T. olive oil
      • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
      • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
      • 2 cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice — the ones with Italian spices work really well in this dish
      • 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
      • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
      • Coarse salt and ground pepper
      • 8 large eggs


      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set four 12-ounce ovenproof bowls or ramekins on a large rimmed baking sheet.
      2. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add garlic and rosemary; cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes (with juice), crushed tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Season tomato sauce with salt and pepper.
      3. Divide tomato sauce among bowls, reserving 1 cup. Crack 2 eggs into each bowl. Dividing evenly, top with reserved sauce and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until egg whites are just opaque (yolks should still be soft), 24 to 28 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through.

      Wednesday, April 7, 2010

      Simplicity 2447 (View E) • Denim Gap Shirt

      I don't know exactly what it was about working at the Gap in the 1990s that I loved SO much. I got to fold clothes all day, chat with strangers about current fashion and run around returning merchandise to shelves and exchanging sizes. And I worked in downtown Seattle, so the people-watching was incredible. I loved this job.

      As anyone who's ever stepped foot in a Gap knows, there's a standard Uniform for the job: the denim shirt and khaki pant combo. The denim shirt came in colour ranges from stone washed (hey, it was the 1990s) to dark denim with white topstitching (classy!). Sometimes The Uniform was worn with Doc Martens (best for being on concrete all day), sometimes worn with flats.  It was a classic combination that I loved and wore often. The only problem with The Uniform was that, oftentimes the denim shirt was shapeless and baggy. Simplicity 2447 solved that problem. The shoulder princess seams add shaping to the front and the shirt-tail hem extends to my hip, making me look slimmer. And you know, if I lose weight at any point, I can always cinch it with a belt!

      Pattern Description: Misses shirt in two lengths with front, collar and sleeve variations. I made view E (short sleeved, shoulder princess. No ruffle.)

      Pattern Sizing: 6–14

      Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes! But without the precious front ruffle. (It was too "countrified" for me.)

      Were the instructions easy to follow? As an "easy-to-sew" shirt, this pattern was incredibly easy to follow. Great for a beginner who has never made a button-up shirt before.
      I put the sleeves in flat, before sewing up the side seams – a technique I employ often. I think the sleeve caps ease in better this way.

      What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Likes: The princess seams are easy to adjust (with help from "Fit for Real People"). Dislikes: The back didn't work for me. The center pleat made the back of the shirt hang funny, so I divided the pleats and made two smaller pleats located closer to the sides. It solved the wonk.

      Fabric Used: 100% Cotton denim in scratch wash which I've been seeing all over the place in fashion mags right now. It's very 1920 "working man's" cloth.

      Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Graded the 12 to a 16 in the hips (my usual), high round back and full bust adjustments. Adjusted the pleats in back.

      Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I don't know that I'd sew this shirt again since I have another pattern in the stash that's includes princess seams extending to the back. This project was quick, easy, and delightful to sew. It'll be a workhorse in my summer wardrobe.

      Conclusion: I'll be wearing this shirt for years to come! But never again with pleated khakis.

      Wednesday, March 31, 2010

      Simplicity 2599 (View C-ish) • Gauzy Tank Top

       After the Chanel jacket v.1.0  fiasco learning experience, I needed a palette cleanser. I'm really pleased with how this turned out!

      Pattern Description: Tank top with button closure and bust darts.

      Pattern Sizing: P5 (12–20).

      Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes! Although I didn't make their ruffles.

      Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't even read them. I take this as a sign that I'm improving as a sewer – instructions, shmanstructions!

      What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The bust darts add some nice shaping, otherwise it's a pretty standard pattern. Went together in about 3 hours.

      Fabric Used: Variegated polyester gauze from the stash that shreds like crazy. I'm thinking I spent about $3 for all of it. This top was based on a design I saw one of the "What Not To Wear" (UK) ladies wearing a few years ago.

      Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: High round back adjustment and added 2 inches to the length. I graded the 14 out to a 18 in the hips. I made MILES of bias strips to ruffle and roughen up for the "carnation" ruffles in the front. I basically played with the variegated fabric until I was happy with the results. I skipped the neck and armhole facings and bias bound them instead. All of the exposed edges are "roughed up" for a more deconstructed, modern feel.

      Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I'd recommend it to anyone. It was quick and easy.

      It's a modern, fresh, fun spin on the classic tank top. I'll wear it with everything.

      Sunday, March 28, 2010

      Lessons in the Wadder

      For those of you who sew, I'm sure you've encountered the nefarious wadder. It lurks in your fabric stash (and sometimes tip-toes through the patterns as well…). It's the project that calls your name, knows who you are and knows how to break you.

      For the last two weeks, I have been working to finish my Chanel jacket (Vogue 7975). I wanted to wear it for my birthday (which is Wednesday, 3/31. Nothing says "happy birthday!" like cash!) I was learning new skills – how to insert piping, making my first pockets (which were gorgeous, I should tell you), and trying new couture sewing techniques. It was all very exciting. I planned to make a dress this fall in the same fabric and wear them together. Classy! Coco would be so proud.

      From the start, the process was difficult. It took three hours for pattern fitting and five hours just to cut out all the pieces in triplicate (fashion fabric, lining and interfacing). When I started sewing them together, the pieces didn't seem to line up correctly. I kept "troubleshooting" construction with some very creative design solutions. It just wasn't working, but I pushed forward anyway. By the time I realized that this project was doomed to failure, I'd topstitched everything together and was ready to insert the sleeves (one of the final steps). I wasn't happy with the princess seams, the hem didn't hang right, the front of the jacket was poofy. Not even decorative trim could save this one. It was so disappointing. That jacket would have made Coco cry. What I failed to realize (until yesterday), was that I'd cut the lining out 1/2" too short. It was the crux of all of the problems. The shorter lining was "pulling up" everything, making the entire garment fit, hang and sew wonky. I'd made my experience completely difficult from the start, before I'd even sewn a stitch! This Chanel jacket was never going to make me happy and I wouldn't be proud to say (when someone inevitably asked), "I made this!" It would most likely hang in my closet, rarely – if ever – worn.

      So I walked away.

      And in walking away was the lesson that practically kicked me in the teeth this morning. This project wasn't a total loss. I'd learned so much in the process! I'd tried new techniques, honed new skills and was ready to try it again with the next Chanel iteration (v. 2.0, out of boucle, destined for creation Fall 2010). This project took me out of my comfort zone, it pushed me to try new things and take risks. It made me reach a little higher. It made me better for the experience.

      Life is like that, too. Sometimes you give a new experience your all and jump in with both feet. You surrender to the fact that you may not know everything, and it may not be comfortable (change rarely is), but you're going for it anyway. Sometimes things just don't work out. Whether it be a relationship, a new career path or a sewing project, there's opportunities for hope and learning in failure. There's growth and knowledge that comes with taking risks. You put yourself out there and you did your best, and that's a good thing. Even when your heart's breaking. Even when you don't get the promotion you deserve. Even when your Chanel jacket (v. 1.0) is a wadder.

      Thursday, March 18, 2010

      Simplicity 2472 • Prison Matron Dress

      This one was a complete and utter fail, gang. So bad, I'm not even going to post the picture because it's really awful. As promised at the Simplicity Fashion Show at the Puyallup Sewing Expo this year, this dress went together easily and quickly. I think the whole project took two hours. Unfortch, without the belt, it's a sack. On a twelve-year-old, that wouldn't be a big deal. On me, it's a dealbreaker.

      Trying to revive it, I put a cardi over it before heading out of the house this morning. I turned around to look at my tukkas in the mirror…and…Wow. I had no idea that my pert little tushie could look so misshapen. So I belted it UNDER the cardi to give my bum some definition and took off.

      I've been uncomfortable all day.

      SO. I'll chop it off at the waist, add some elastic and it'll be a kicky skirt in no time. That, I'll have no problem photographing.

      Monday, March 15, 2010

      Weekend Sewing • "Go Anywhere Shirt Dress"

      Pattern Description: Button-up shirt dress without facings.

      Pattern Sizing: XS - XL (I made the M, grading out to L in the hips)

      Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes! Even with all the swirly craziness of the fabric going on.

      Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes. The drawings and text made it easy for anyone who's a visual learner like me, to follow.

      What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I wish the skirt was just a wee bit more billowy. I think the next time around, I'll adjust the pattern so the skirt is a little more substantial.

      Fabric Used: 100% cotton found at FabDepot last summer.

      Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I did an FBA, high round back adjustment and added 5 inches to the length. I graded the medium out to a L in the hips. I still think it's a little narrow for me, so I'll fix that for next time. I also lengthened the ties to tie twice around me.

      Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes. It was quick, easy, and delightful to sew. I plan on making a few of these.

      It's a classic. I think the next one will be dark denim for fall. Adding black knee-high boots would make it fab!

      Kwiksew 3756 • Square Neck Top

      Pattern Description: Pull-over dress and top that have darts at front neckline and front extends to form stand-up collar in back. Front neckline is finished with facing.

      View A dress has full length sleeves and skirt is slightly A-lined.
      View B top has cap sleeves.

      Pattern Sizing: XS - XL (I made the M, grading out to L in the hips)

      Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes!

      Were the instructions easy to follow? Absolutely. I will read them more closely next time. I cut the slits for the neckline before I was supposed to, and it made aligning the darts a little tricky.

      What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I've owned a similar top in the past. The neckline showcases my necklace collection, bust darts add shaping and I adore the way the neck wraps around the back.

      Fabric Used: ITY Jersey from for $2/yd.

      Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I graded the medium out to a L in the hips. I still think it's a little too big for me, so I'll stick with a straight medium next time. I'm also thinking of adding a few more inches to the length to add ruching on the sides. It will add more interest to an otherwise basic top.

      Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes. It was quick, easy, and delightful to sew. It's a great addition to any separates collection.

      Conclusion: I plan to make this in eleventy-hundred colours for spring and summer. In the fall, I'll add 3/4 length sleeves and make it out of wool jersey. I just LOVE this pattern!