New Jeans: Birkin Flares

With cold weather creeping in, I knew I needed to make some new jeans ASAP.  Just my luck, Lauren of Baste and Gather was looking for testers to sew up her Birkin Flares jeans pattern.  They looked awesome on her, and I  could really use the “dead line” pressure to get some sewing done for myself, so I applied and was selected.  Yay :)

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These jeans have a moderately high rise with a close fit through the hip and thigh that flares out at the bottom.  The fit and instructions are great, so be on the look out for this pattern.  It’s going through a second round of testing and will hopefully be released in a couple weeks.

As soon as time allows, I definitely want to make a couple more pairs!

Ikat Hearts and Bluebonnet Fields

Last spring I was told how beautiful Texas was in springtime and that flowers would be blooming all over.  I saw a few, but I wasn’t really all that impressed.  Well, this year, the bluebonnets and other wild flowers are truly in full bloom.  Whether I’m just getting out and about more, or the flowers are putting on a better show this year, I don’t know, but I set out to photograph my new dress in a field of bluebonnets.  It seemed like the Texan thing to do.

After scouting a location, driving there and dragging along my husband to play photographer, you can imagine my great disappointment when the camera battery died just as I finished snapping a few test photos.  It has an amazing battery that lasts forever, and as a result I hardly ever charge it.  Whoops.  Didn’t even think about it, but it’s surely been quite some time since it was charged.  So much for capturing the flowers in great detail; iPhone to the rescue.



This dress is Simplicity 2147.  I had two yards of this cotton ikat fabric (only 45″ wide), and I searched high and low for a dress pattern that would work with it.  To help conserve fabric, I paired it with a chambray (cotton/linen, I think) for the yoke.



I cut out a size 16 and then recut the yoke in a 14 when I confirmed that the shoulders were too wide for me.  I also pinched out a half inch at the center back neck line on the yoke to get a better fit.  It lies flat now, and the fit is comfortable.  The dress is gathered into the yoke instead of pleated, and I also added some width to the lower portion of the dress, so it’s a bit more roomy and swingy than the original pattern design.

My husband confirmed my suspicions that this dress is a total “moo-moo” style, and I’m gonna be wearing it belted until it gets so hot that I no longer care what I look like.
The ikat fabric looks like sketchy little hearts.  It is light and flowy; the weave is a little on the loose side, feeling almost like linen.  I was determined it would be a summer dress, and I’m pleased with the outcome.  The pattern is an easy make with no closures and a loose fit.  I did line the yoke to get a clean finish; the pattern directions use bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline, and the bottom edge of the yoke is overlocked.  I don’t think lining the yoke took any more effort, and to me it looks and feels so much better.  Oh!  Almost forgot, I also added at least 4″ in length.  The dress is called a “mini,” and I think the original hem length would have been mid-thigh on me; not my style.

Well, these aren’t quite the photos I imagined, but at least I managed a blog post!  Here are a couple more of the “family” for your enjoyment.


Silk Blouse With Dogs

When I participated in the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, I knew I needed a dog sewing challenge too!  I was so excited when Tanya announced just that.  Finally, the perfect excuse and deadline to use my silk dog fabric that I bought at Mood Fabrics LA over two years ago.  I was putting off using it until I had improved my shirt sewing skills and had the right pattern for it.  Well, I’ve made probably a dozen button up shirts by now, and although I did not have the perfect pattern, I hunted one down for the occasion.

I searched high and low, looking at every kind of top and blouse pattern.  I checked all the big pattern companies, every indie pattern company I could find, and I scoured Etsy for vintage patterns.  And of course I fell in love with a vintage pattern that wasn’t available in my size:

Simplicity 4610–a darling blouse perfect for my light weight silk.  Bust size 30.  And I’m a 38.  So I finally decided to suck it up, buy the pattern, and grade up approximately 4 sizes.  The design was simple enough, grading it couldn’t be too hard.

And as it turns out, grading really wasn’t all that bad.  I did it.  I drew the pattern with some alterations on Wednesday, finished a muslin on Thursday, and cut into the silk Friday.

My fabric has a dog pattern woven into it, and the doggies are neatly lined up, so I eliminated the center front and back seams to keep from breaking up the pattern.  I knew I wouldn’t be wearing the blouse tucked in, so I also left out the front and back darts at the waist.  Loose and comfy through the waist is my ideal.

Between the yoke and pleats, I had plenty of work to do despite the simplifications I made.

The fabric features dachshunds, which I don’t have, but I did name my Australian Cattle Dog “Lucy” after my grandparents’ dachshund.  My aunt is an “I Love Lucy” fan, and she named my grandparents’ dachshund after Lucille Ball.  As children, my siblings and I fought over who’s sleeping bag Lucy would sleep in when we visited my grandparents.  So, when I picked out my little redhead in early 2007, my sister and I spent hours running through possible names until we landed on “Lucy.”  In fond memory of Lucy the dachshund and in the spirit of Lucille Ball, the name seemed to fit the little spitfire.




She’s over 8 now, and 2015 started out rough for her with some medical issues.




But all that’s behind us now.



Now that we’ve done the cat and dog sewing challenges, who’s hosting the horse themed challenge? :)

Sweet Shirtdress

I believe it’s been at least a couple months since I’ve sewn any garments for myself, and I’m so glad I took a break to make myself a shirtdress.  Thanks to Idle Fancy’s sewing challenge, I made McCall’s 6696, and I love it.

I honestly haven’t sewn very many Big Four sewing patterns; looking back, it seems I’ve stuck to independent pattern companies and vintage patterns.  And also BurdaStyle.  I really loved those instant download pdfs from Burda when I was first getting back into sewing.  Anyway, I am quite pleased with this McCall’s pattern.   This is the first pattern I’ve used where you can select your cup size and the corresponding bodice pattern piece.  It worked out quite well for me.



I did make two adjustments right out of the gate: I shortened the bodice 1″ and cut off the sleeve cap ease.  I don’t like easing sleeves in, and why should I?  I contemplated raising the armscye as well but decided to try it out as is first.



I feel the fit is quite good.  The dress is comfortable and I can move freely.  I will probably raise the armscye for future versions, but I’m pleased I can indeed move well enough as the dress is now.



I’m a little wrinkled in these photos because I was out running errands, and as you can see, I’m wearing slippers.  It turns out I don’t have much selection in winter footwear.  I’m a jeans and boots kind of gal in winter, and I have flats in red and maroon because those colors go great with blue jeans too.


So now I’m curious, what do you all wear on your feet with a dress in winter?  I need some suggestions, stat!


Chris was a dear and took my photos so that I didn’t have to mess with the tripod today.  And that meant my hands were free to bring Lucy and one of my clutches.



I was excited to see, after finishing this navy blue clutch, that it matched with this plaid fabric.  And that is truly why I finished this dress when I did–something to go with my new favorite purse.  For those who may not know, I’ve been sewing leather of late, and that’s why I haven’t been sewing clothes.   You can check out some of my other purses in my etsy shop.


I hope to blog a little more about sewing leather and purses in the next couple months, so if that interests you at all, keep an eye out, or better yet, let me know in the comments.

Undercover Cat Lady

Don’t tell my dog, but I’m a total cat lady.  It’s not really a secret or anything, but the dog did come first, and she’s the jealous type.  For what it’s worth, I’m an absolute dog lover too!  (We don’t have to choose between our loves, right?)

Thanks to Erin’s Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, I’m finally throwing up a blog post, and I’m even including three hand-made items.  In honor of our cats and all the hours they permit us to spend at our sewing machines, here are my cat themed garments:


Maybe you can’t tell, but there is definitely some cat hair on both these garments.

It wasn’t my intention to hide my cat fabric, but that’s what ended up happening.  The jeans were next on my sewing list, and after a blouse that turned into a wadder, I swore to never use quilting cotton for garments again (I didn’t really mean it) and lined my jeans with the last of my cat fabric.

While I really wanted to let my cat freak-flag fly and use this fabric on the outside of a garment, it just didn’t pan out.  The blouse I made was looking like pajamas and I knew I’d never wear it.   I decided to be practical and incorporate the fabric into my jeans instead.  I love the results.  Every time I go to the bathroom, I admire this charming fabric.

I copied a pair of jeans that fit me well to make this pattern about a year ago.  I brought the rise up a little higher and widened the waist band too.


There are double lines of top stitching all over the place, but the navy blue thread conceals those little details.  I don’t have anything against gold thread for top stitching, but I do think it adds to the casual look of jeans.  So I guess that makes these my fancy pants. I’ll get around to stitching some up with gold thread, maybe when I try out the new Ginger jeans pattern.



There are a few wrinkles in the back, but as the denim relaxes, they become less noticeable.  The denim is 2% stretch, and that little bit of stretch goes a long way in forgiving fitting errors.

The shirt is an older make, but it seemed the most appropriate top to wear for this blog post.

I used the Archer shirt pattern and left off the cuffs.  The leopard print fabric is featured on the under collar and inside collar stand, as well as the inside of the yoke.  This was my attempt to make a black work shirt a little more fun.


I promised a third make, so here’s a little glimpse of what I’ve been spending most of my time on lately:

I’ve been dying and sewing up leather.   This piece is a croc print clutch.  You can see more photos in my Etsy shop if you are interested.

I look forward to the day I stumble across a light weight cat print fabric.  In the meantime, maybe someone wants to host a dog themed sewing challenge?  I have a black silk fabric with dogs woven into it that needs to be made into something useful.  :)


Leather Tote Bag

So my sister came to visit me a week ago, and we did some sewing–she a circle skirt and I a leather tote.  I have to say she came away the winner since both items went home with her, but I’d do it all again for a few more days together.


Her skirt is sewn from a heavy canvas type of material with a directional print.  In order to keep the print more or less upright, she cut four pieces to form the circle.  This strategy worked out quite well, and with all the fabric and print gathering around, the seams  are hard to spot.

While she utilized my Janome, I was busy on the Consew with leather.




This is the first leather bag I’ve completed!  I’ve been working on my bag making skills, brushing up on some leather techniques, and generally working towards this moment for months now. There’s nothing like tackling a big project to gauge what I’ve learned and what I have yet to learn.




The exterior is cut from a veg-tanned cow hide that I dyed with Eco-Flo water based dye in the color Dark Mahogany.  The interior is an upholstery weight fabric that Jessi picked out at Hancock Fabrics, and the pockets are lined in red cotton.



Working with leather does require some special tools (besides the upholstery weight industrial sewing machine).  I wanted to add metal rivets for strength and visual appeal, and  I had to get the appropriate hole punch, mallet and rivet setter.  As I plan to use them extensively in the future, the extra tools were a worthy investment.  I was very impressed with how sturdy the handles felt after adding the rivets compared to when they were only stitched on.



As far as construction, sewing this bag up wasn’t so much different from a cloth bag until I tried to turn it right side out.  The leather is quite stiff (I’d guess the hide is 4-5oz) and the seam allowances can’t be pressed open.  I literally wrestled with the bag, pushing and pulling for 10-15 minutes just to turn it.  Once it was turned, Jessi and I took turns pushing out the bottom of the bag and working on the seams.  It was at this point that I became tired and frustrated.  There has got to be a better way to do this with leather!  I’ll be experimenting with thinner/softer leathers, smaller seam allowances (I used 1/4 inch S.A.), a beveler and other designs to improve the experience and results.



Another detail that differs from working with cloth is how one finishes the edges of leather.  The handle edges as well as the top of the bag are all cut edges that require some sort of finishing to improve the look and durability of the leather.  I used bee’s wax and a slicker to finish them on this bag.  I like the way this method looks, but it takes a fair amount of time and effort.  The other method I’m aware of is to use Edge Kote, which is simply painted on.  This method sounds easier, but in my experience, it cracks over time (ever had a purse with a handle where the edges are cracked all over?)

All in all, this bag was a lot of fun to make and I’m pleased as punch with the results.  I’m already working on #2 and planning #3.  Have you worked with leather?  Any resources you could recommend for learning leather techniques?

Quilt for a Babe

Hiya, just a quick post today to show you what I’ve been up to this past week.

I am sending out a baby bedding set to a friend in CA.  I wanted to try my hand at making bumpers, a fitted sheet and a crib size quilt.  It was all quite easy, if not a little time consuming.  I used Nu-foam pre-cut bumper pads which came with instructions for making the covers; essentially you make six pillows with ties.  And I used a tutorial found on Pinterest for making the fitted sheet.  The sheet tutorial used french seams in the corners which I thought was a nice touch.

And the quilt:


If the quilt were any bigger, I’d keep it for myself.  I fell in love with all the fabrics and stitches that went into it.

I watched the first several episodes of “Orange is the New Black” while quilting–I’m totally hooked.





This size quilt (about 37×48) was really fun to make and much easier to quilt than a full-size one.  If you haven’t quilted before and want to try, I’d recommend starting with a baby quilt.