Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou: Phenomenal Woman and an Elegant Lady of Color

It's been a while since I featured an ELoC on here and the death of Maya Angelou seemed like the perfect time to bring back something close to my heart.

I confess I'm not much for poetry. But Maya Angelou's poem Phenomenal Woman struck a chord with me from the moment I first saw it. The words came into my life at a time when I was most unsure of myself, of my looks, of my appeal. They stuck to my soul like glue, forever solidifying all of the positive affirmations my mother ever put in my head. Here was a woman writing exactly what my mother had been telling me all my life in such an elegant, memorably way.

Maybe moms know what they are talking about after all.

I have to confess though, I do talk real loud and as a mother, I shout more than I should.

"'Cause I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me."

Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My Love Affair with Swiss Dot Continues

When it comes to summer fabrics, there are few things better than Swiss dot. It's light and airy, breezy, and soft and it's not meant to be ironed. You could iron it to smooth things out but like linen, it will laugh in your face an hour later. This makes it the perfect fabric for a tween's special occasion dress and for the newest release by Sewaholic Patterns, the Belcarra blouse.

Pattern Description:  Tasia from described it as "a simple pullover top with subtle waist shaping and raglan sleeves." Sounds about right to me..

Pattern Sizing: Available in sizes 0-16. Based on the sizing chart, I cut an 8.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? I kind of ignored them. It's a rather straight forward top that's easily made up by anyone with a bit of sewing skill.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I loved it! I'd like to wow you with effusive and detailed praise but again, it's a really simple, straight forward design that's explained decently. It's not exactly genius and there aren't any unique details. It's just a nice wardrobe piece.

Fabric Used: Swiss dot from Hancock's, same as my daughter's confirmation dress. The sleeves are made from the same fabric but in a melon color. There were scraps leftover from a blouse I've had in progress since the fall.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I didn't bother with the sleeve bands because I was feeling lazy. I have yet to finish the sleeves either. But as they are cut on the bias, they won't fray. So I might leave it.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Definitely. I have a number of them on my mind. I'd love to make an heirloom version. I'm trying to decide if I can turn the two piece raglan sleeve into one piece so I can insert lace there. I'd also be curious to see how it would turn out in a knit.

Conclusion: If you're looking for a simple top that will get a lot of use in your wardrobe in addition to being a quick sew that takes up very little fabric, you should really give this a try. Give it several tries as I can think of tons of variations. And look ma! No darts!

Btw, you know you are a sewing blogger when you select an outfit for your children's commencement ceremony based solely on the fact that you need pics of your newest creation to post.

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Birthday is Coming!

My little brother had pants like this.
I would imagine he wouldn't want me telling the internet that.
I would also imagine he doesn't read my blog.
So I'm probably safe.

The only thing I like better than birthdays is my birthday. I mean what's not to like? People gush and tell you happy birthday. Your facebook gets flooded with people swearing you're awesome. (hint: I am.) You get to eat your weight in cake and ice cream, wheedle your way into eating wherever you like, and generally are worshipped and adored for the day, even if you have to do it yourself.

Okay, so you have to be a year older. Big woo, guys. For real. It's no biggie. You were born. You aged. You survived. Own those years and own your cake.

But enough about fabulous, wonderful, attention seeking me, let's talk about what I want for my birthday.

I want a purse.

Are you old if you call it a purse? I'm supposed to say handbag now I think. Or maybe even just bag. Hey, it could be worse. I could be calling it a pocketbook.

I don't just want any old purse/bag/pocketbook/carrier of more stuff that can reasonably fit. I want the Mary Poppins bag complete with wallet.

Isn't it the cutest thing? Chim-chimney, chim-chimney, chim-chim-cheree!

The obvious solution here is to sew one.

And to celebrate my birthday, I'm hosting a sew along. My very first sew along.

I'm so afraid.

Would you like to join me? I can't promise you'll be able to fit a Tiffany lamp in that bad boy. But I do promise some handholding. There will be more information to come but I can tell you right now that we will begin June 9th aka the very best day of the year and the day I will be eating my weight in cake and ice cream as mentioned earlier. To get a jump start, you can read more about the pattern at Sew Fearless including a supply list which we will cover in greater detail next week.

Looks like 2014 is going to be a year of challenges whether I like it or not.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Annoyances and a Poll

There are times when I love BurdaStyle. A website offering instance gratification pattern acquisition combined with an active community of knowledgeable members is a good thing.

Other times, I think they are drunk.

Today, I think they're drunk.

A few weeks ago, they put up a poll asking which of four patterns the community might like to do as a sewalong. Immediately, my eye was drawn to this gorgeous muted periwinkle motorcycle sewn up in a beautifully textured raw silk. Be still my damned heart. Look at that thing.

The other options were interesting enough but it was the moto jacket that spoke to me. I've never sewn a moto jacket before so the idea of a sewalong is just the thing to get a little procrastinist motivated. (It's a word now. Deal with it.) So I voted and I hoped and I prayed. And wonder of wonders, the sewing world agreed with me.

I eagerly awaited further details on when the sewalong would begin as I perused the internet for the perfect buttons and zippers to suit a posh shimmery linen that just so happened to fall into my lap.

Then came the post.

Then came the disappointment.

Then came the eye twitching.

Apparently, I am hella spoiled by the blogging world because when I hear sewalong, I hear free. When Burda hears sewalong, they hear Kah CHING!

I'm still making this damned jacket, people. I'm just not paying $19.99 to do so. Oh pattern included? No. The pattern is $5.99. Oh you're going to teach me to work with silk? Yeah, I already know how to do that, bud. Mostly because a slew of bloggers taught me, for free actually. Imagine that.

Boo on you, BurdaStyle. Booo on  yooooooooou!

Or maybe I'm spoiled. IDK.

Anyway, moving on to the poll section of this post. (I promise not to charge you when the results come in. Isn't that nice of me?)

What shall I sew next? I just made Pinky a slew of new things the last few weeks and I managed to sew up my first version of Sewaholic's newest pattern, The Belcarra blouse (blog post to come soon) so I'd like to take advantage of my sewing mojo while it's still flowing. Mostly because I should be cleaning. I'm always more successful at things when I'm supposed to be doing something else.

Shall I dive into the Motorcycle jacket? (Wait until you see this linen. You will die.)

Perhaps I should get it popping on the Caroline Doll project but starting on pinky's chemise, though I'd rather wait until the linen for my chemise arrives so I can do them both together.

Shift sewn by ECDCostume

Or should I stop being such a fraidy cat and bring my serger into submission via the very lovely Burda 7059? I have a rayon slub knit in a navy print that's begging to be worn to church on Sunday.

What say you?

A Slight Change of Plans

A long, long time ago, when the world was new, I promised my daughter I would make her a regency era outfit to be worn for tea at the Davenport House, a local museum preserved in 1820's style. They host teas in March and May each year and my goal was to have us go in proper attire from the skin out.

Well it's May now and I've gotten as far as a mob cap, two muslins for stays, and a bodice for a little dress pinky has since outgrown. Yay for procrastination!

Now I could wait another year for the Davenport House opportunity to come around once again but it just so happens that my daughter has been pestering me to buy her another American Girl doll. And it just so happens that doll is the lovely 1812 historical doll, Caroline Abbot. It also so happens that pinky's birthday is rolling around much sooner than the next Davenport tea cycle and that the American Girl store in Atlanta hosts an afternoon tea of their very own.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Clearly we need to go in full regency regalia, don't you think?

So let's revisit the Davenport idea, shall we? Originally, the idea was to create a look that fit the 1820 aesthetic. However, Caroline story is centered around the War of 1812. During war, supplies would be a bit harder to come by as would be the latest fashions. I would say reasonably, we should adjust our time frame back to 1810, if not a touch earlier. However, I'm not sure I want to go strictly historically accurate for this. I'm quite in love with the look of 1823 specifically and I don't want to change. My justification is that since we aren't visiting a location defined by a time frame, I'm just going to pull a Cartman here and keep things pretty much the same.

For a refresher, here's the painting that inspired pinky's dress. It's the pale yellow one one the left with the purple sash and bonnet.

I recently located the perfect yellow tone on tone fabric at It's a lovely dotted swiss in a light goldenrod woven with tone on tone stripes and just a wee bit of metallic thread. The rest of the fabric will come from my stash. Lovely soft cotton organza for the fichu and cap, pima cotton for the chemise and petticoat, along with a silk batiste sash, a straw bonnet, and miles of ribbon, lace trim, and other fripperies.

It's a surprise so don't tell her!

And wish me luck! Not because this is difficult. I'm rather confident it can all be managed. But you know I have a procrastination problem.

No, seriously.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I Sew Because My Mom Loves Me

"Ever since I could remember I have been in love with . . ."

That's what most people will tell you about their hobby or interest. That they've loved something so very long that they cannot recall just when they fell. It's just always been.

I love a great many things but one of my longest, enduring, widespread loves comes from my mama. Not directly, I suppose when one thinks of it. My mom doesn't sew. She reads Star Trek books, not regency era romances. She prefers tee shirts and jeans to dresses and lace. She likes a good action movie better than a period drama with corsets and crinolines. However, once upon a time, in a land far far away called Brooklyn, my mama gifted me with a set of books that sparked a lifelong connection between fabric, history, and fashion.

I'm not sure what it was that resonated the most when I devoured my copy of Samantha Saves the Day. But what I do remember was that in the back of that book, there were pictures of elegantly ladies dressed in frothy white from head to toe. 

They frolicked in the woods, flitted about country cabins, lazed indolently in little rowboats, their fingers trailing in the cool water. 

I wanted that life. I wanted those dresses. I wanted that doll.

A few years ago, when American Girl discontinued Samantha, my mother bought me one. It was quickly snatched up by my daughter. So when it came time to design something special for pinky's confirmation, it seemed only fitting my daughter should get the dress too. It also provided the perfect opportunity to finally launch myself back into the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge I managed to neglect once again. Since I've already done one blog post on the topic here, let's just skip right to the challenge details, shall we?

The Challenge: #9: Black and White

Fabric: Swiss dot from Hancocks and a variety of laces

Pattern: Sense and Sensibility's Girls 1914 Dress

Year: 1914

Notions: Swiss laces from Martha Pullen Company, 50 wt DMC broder thread from Farmhouse Fabrics, Kam Snaps from I Like Big Buttons

How historically accurate is it? While the use of the sewing machine had become widespread a number of years before, I'm pretty sure this type of work was still done by hand for a very long time. So I suppose I lose points for that. I also lose points for running out of time and sticking some snaps on there instead of a proper line of buttons. However the lines, construction, design elements, and use of all cotton fabrics make this a very good historical feel that would not be that far out of place should pinky be magically transported to a cabin in the Adirondacks just prior to the Battle of the Ardennes. I'm going to give it a 75% accuracy rating.

Hours to complete: Uhm maybe 30 I think. I kind of squeezed it all into one week.

First worn: Three Sundays ago

Total cost: Do I really have to cop to it? I don't want to be divorced! The swiss dot was about $20. Thanks to a warehouse sale at MPC, the laces probably cost about $30. Throw in the pattern, the half a bottle of Best Press I blew through, and thread, I'm going to estimate about $75.

I'll admit I'm a wee bit sad that this dress is finished. I really enjoy heirloom sewing and being the mother of a tween girl pretty much insures my days of heirloom sewing for this particular little miss are drawing to a close. I expect it will be a good while before I see a need to create this exact brand of pretty. But just as my mama passed some of her interests down to me, I look forward to seeing what kind of things my daughter pics up from me.

Mothering is full of the sweet, the nostalgic, and the wondrous.

So forgive me for being a sap and allow me a moment to thank my mom for planting seeds and encouraging them to bloom. There isn't a thing on this blog I would be doing without her. There are a lot of things however, that I'd be doing without her and none of them good so you should probably all be grateful.

Edwardian photographs were found at My Little Time Machine.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Premature Announcement

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might notice I have a teensy problem with follow through. I start out with the best of intentions but the reality is I have sewing ADD. Projects catch my attention, I plan them out, and then once it's fully formed and I own enough to get started, my addled brain moves on like a regal tang that has realized that the tops of jellyfish are bouncy.

So I'm a little reluctant to go blathering here and yet I'm entirely too excited about this project to keep my mouth shut. I suppose my hope is that putting it out there to the universe, or at least the blogging world will keep my attention from straying.

You see, I discovered Marfy patterns a few years ago. They are an entirely too lovely line of patterns all the way from Italy. The lines are elegant, gorgeous, the styling unlike anything you'll find here in the states, and entirely devoid of seam allowances or even directions. That's right. These patterns have no directions. They are a puzzle to anyone but the most experienced of sewists. That's seamstress grade knowledge right there and I am completely lacking in such things.

I bought one right then because I'm a sucker. Despite it being a rather easy little A line skirt, it's been sitting in my stash ever since. Probably because it is an A line skirt. I mean how boring when you think about it. But I don't want to think about it. I want to think about all of the gorgeous patterns offered on the Marfy site and I want to dream about the day I will be brave experienced enough to give one of these bad boys a try.

Marfy 2751

Marfy 2410

Marfy 2268

And will you look at that, I just happened to stumble upon A Challenging Sew, a blog that's in the process of doing a Marfy sewalong. And not just any sewalong but a Marfy sewalong featuring three very free, very beautiful, perfectly coordinating patterns with all of the proper handholding one might need to throw together a perfectly coordinating Marfy suit.

See for yourself!


I can do this, right? 

You'll make me do this, yes?

Oh goodie!

I mean, do you die?

I die. I truly, truly die.

So when to start? Everyone knows if you don't set a start date, you have no hope. Or maybe procrastinators know this. Of course a date doesn't mean you will accomplish anything but it does up your chances. Or so I've heard. That's a lot of sentences that start with O, isn't it?


Okay. I can do this. 

I, The Hot Mess, more or less, (hopefully less in this case) do so solemnly swear to embark on the wondrous journey that will be the Marfy Free Pattern Challenge. I will muslin up, use my stash, and sew one carefully crafted three piece suit with Italian flair sometime in the near future to start September 1st if not sooner. I will not allow myself to be discouraged by the fact that this arbitrarily chosen start date is also the anniversary of the beginning of WWII. Bad juju is not real. The gloriousness of Marfy Patterns is. Other people have done it as evidenced by this blog. And so can I.


I'm in so much trouble.