1940’s Jacket: Fall for Cotton Sewalong

I haven’t felt like blogging lately… And I keep putting off this post, even though I’m super excited to share my jacket with you all.  But the Fall for Cotton Sewalong is coming to an end, so here goes!

The Fall for Cotton sewalong combines the use of vintage patterns or styles with cotton fabric.  I chose Du Barry #5233 from 1941; I think the jacket style is classic and easy to pull off when mixed with a modern wardrobe.  I don’t own any vintage clothing, so it’s important to me that any vintage patterns I use coordinate with what’s already in my closet.

I found cotton flannel at moodfabrics.com, and for the lining I used some quilting cotton from my stash.

I will share some detail photos and references that I used tomorrow.  For today, here’s the jacket from the outside:

It is still too hot in Texas for wearing a jacket, even a light one.  Fortunately, last week I went to CA to visit my family and run a 5k with my mom and sisters.  I took my jacket and camera along, and the stars aligned for my photo shoot.  My twin sister is a hairstylist and makeup artist, so I asked her ahead of time if she would do my hair and makeup for a 40’s styled photo shoot of my jacket.  It just so happened that she also needed to bathe the horse she rides the same morning, so I jumped at the chance to take my photos with a horse.  I figured the jacket could easily be styled as a “riding jacket.”


The mare’s name is “Prada,” and she was quite the model.


She was drying off from her bathe at this point, so you can see some wet spots on her.





I went in for a close shot, and Prada wiped her nose on the jacket.  Typical horse behavior… And that’s why in real life, people don’t wear nice jackets to ride in (except for in the show ring).  The nice thing about a cotton jacket is that I easily washed it at home in the washing machine!  Of course it needed a serious pressing afterward, but it survived.

And here’s an outtake for laughs:


I think I was trying to tell the photographer what to do ;)  Many thanks to my sister Jessi for all her help with the photos, as well as my mom and dad who helped out.  My dad is a professional at waving his hat in the air to get a horse’s attention.

The Industrious Sewing Machine

One day I’d like to make leather purses and wallets.  To sell.  I guess it’s because I enjoy purchasing fine leather products, and I’d like to be able to make them to the size and specs that would fit my needs.  And I figure maybe other people would like such particular size and shapes of wallets and purses too. While I may dabble in sewing leather with my home sewing machine one day, I know in order to get serious about sewing leather, I’ll need an industrial sewing machine made specifically to handle leather.

As I give thought to future business ventures and industrial machines, I am more than a little curious to hear how other people have begun their own business, especially as it pertains to sewing.  A good friend of mine, Josh, has been making minimalist running sandals, and he recently opened an online store.  I got the chance to pick his brain a little regarding the business and the industrial sewing machine he is using.  I thought other people might be interested in this little interview, so here it is:

What is the product you are making, and how critical is the sewing machine to the process?

I am making minimalist running sandals, and the sewing process is actually very important to all the models that I make.  Without sewing I was really limited in terms of what I could use as a sandal strap.  The best I had come up with was leather that was pulled through the sole and tied.  It would work for a while but it would wear out every so often and the process would be repeated.  I remember one time this happened while we were at the fair with you and Chris.  As I recall the only tools I had to repair it were my teeth, and fingers; needless to say I wasn’t thrilled with the leather knot.  Now I sew three parts on the sandals: the molded toe plug to the strap, the elastic heel strap, and the lace keeper.  Without sewing the performance and finish of the sandal are not possible.


What kind of machine are you using?

I am using a Singer 16-188 on a power table; the motor is a 1991 Consew.  According to what I read on-line this particular model was originally built to sew medium weight leather and upholstery, and it was manufactured between the 1920’s and 50’s.  My father had actually purchased it in the early 1990’s to sew the upholstery on his 1936 Ford pick-up.  That project continues to this day and the machine sat for about 20 years until I started making sandals.  The machine needed some attention when I unearthed it, and it was even beyond Jacqui’s ability to repair.  Fortunately I met a local seamstress who recommended a company in Los Gatos called Save Our Sew that specializes in repairing old sewing machines.  They repaired it and refurbished the table and now it is sewing very strong.  I personally don’t know that much about sewing machines but I actually think this thing is perfect for what I am doing.  I sew leather and Tubular nylon webbing; both materials are quite thick and need a pretty strong machine which this thing is.  It also has one of the first walking feet, so I read, this has been very helpful because it really helps to flatten and sort of press the material as I sew which is great because it makes the finished product stronger, tighter and looks better too.


How does the industrial machine compare to the home sewing machine?

Honestly I was a little bit intimidated when I first started sewing with this machine.  I have only been sewing for a couple of months now and I was just getting the hang of my wife’s Kenmore (which she had purchased when she was in Junior High).  However we were destroying it trying to sew this heavy material–it was simply not up to the task.  Back to the Singer, the motor is probably strong enough to turn a cement mixer, and it is honestly scary because if you really step on the peddle you could blast through your work in a heart beat or injure yourself holding the wheel that is connected to the belt.  In spite of the risk and the power of the machine, once I made the adjustment to it I really don’t want to go back to the home sewing machine.  It is consistent and it is totally unfazed by the material I am working with, and that is really nice because I can focus on the sewing rather than the machine which is what I was doing with the home sewing machine.


How does it feel to be a man who sews?  

Not that great. I was working in East San Jose building a retaining wall for about a month, and I had no time to get to the fabric store, and I really needed a tape measure.  Lo and behold I found one in Safeway one morning while getting breakfast and it was pink.  You can be sure a few jokes were tossed my way on account of the pink tape measure which I eventually gave to my daughter Naomi.  Other than the razzing over the tape measure sewing is simply another skill, and I think a very valuable one to have.  I like making things; in general I have found that I need to learn new skills all the time or I will not be able to realize my vision.  Fortunately for me there have been wonderful people who have been more than willing to share their skills and instruction in order to teach me how to sew and refine the sandals.  Hopefully I will have opportunities to pass on what I know and that can benefit others at some point.  So my answer is yes sewing is very manly don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Do you foresee yourself sewing anything other than sandals in the future?

At this point I can really only see myself sewing other models of sandals, but a couple of years ago I would never have thought I would be starting a sandal making company.  I am excited though to continue working with the sewing machine and the sandals because I know if I stick with it new ideas and skills will come, and who knows what the sandals will look like in a couple of years.

Has sewing broadened your horizons in anyway?

Certainly I am learning all about the sewing industry, manufacturing, working with suppliers, and technicians.  Sewing is a whole world unto itself.  One thing it has given me is a greater appreciation for the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring clothing and apparel to market at an affordable price that we can take for granted.  It is hard work and it involves a lot of risk, and my hat is off to all the men and women who have kept us wonderfully clothed. It is truly amazing.

Thanks to Josh for answering all my questions and for letting me try out the machine before I moved far far away.  

If you are interested in checking out Josh’s sandals, you can find Shamma Sandals here.


1940’s Dress–Part 2 (the muslin)

Last night I finished my muslin, sort of.  It was after 10pm and I’d only set one sleeve, but I needed to snap pictures and go to bed.

But I feel I got enough done to get a feel for the fit and construction.

I didn’t want to take pictures wearing the dress last night because this was post-workout and shower, and my hair was doing crazy things.  No time to blow-dry, I had sleeve(s) to set!  But here’s a photo from the night before, pre-sleeves.

I feel pretty confident in the fit of the dress–I added 2″ to the waist and hips when tracing the pattern, based on the size chart measurements.  The bodice has tucks and gathers, so it’s slightly loose and billowy–but I think that’s the design, right?

The sleeve went in quite poorly, despite gathering and basting first.

So many little tucks!  I think I might try setting in the sleeve flat on my final garment.  It’s a tight space to work in with the sides sewn up.

The addition of the sleeve did seem to limit my arm movement to an extent.  I would like to improve on this, but I’m not totally sure how.  It fits at least as well as any RTW button up shirt I’ve worn, so dare I say this seems “normal” to me?!  From what little research I could do online, it seems I need to raise up the armscye for a closer fit, which enables better movement?  I think I’ll try tapering down on the seam allowance around the under arm of the sleeve to slightly bring it up.  I would love input from anyone who knows more about this though!!

The collar and vestee were a bit challenging–I didn’t find the directions to be very clear.  But now that I’ve done it once, I’m sure I can do it again.  I think the collar points and the vestee points look a little extreme and pointy, so I plan to make those a little smaller and softer around the edges.  Although the addition of a sleeve seemed to balance out the collar some, so maybe it’s not so bad?

The muslin was a great opportunity to practice the construction of this dress, including my first hand picked zipper.

There’s definitely room for improvement on the zipper application, but I did enjoy this method and will try it again.  (And Sallie, I totally used fabric glue to “baste” the zipper in place before stitching–worked like a charm!)

I didn’t have time for any saddle stitching, but I will probably practice some decorative stitches on the muslin before the final garment.  I don’t think I have time (or the desire) to do the saddle stitching by hand, so I’m hoping that top-stitching with a thick thread will do the trick instead.

I don’t find the pleated skirt to be especially flattering to my shape, but it really reads “1940’s” to me, so I’m gonna stick with it.  I hope with a shorter hem I’ll like it more.

I’m excited to get started on my final garment now!  This dress has way more details than anything I’ve done recently, so it is definitely challenging me and a lot more work.  But I think the time investment is totally worth it.

Talk soon,


Singer 201-2 Named Birdie

If you read Male Pattern Boldness, no doubt you are familiar with the virtues of vintage sewing machines. I myself have considered owning a vintage machine, but I decided I wanted a modern zigzag machine to be my primary machine as long as I feel I’m a beginner. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with learning garment construction and an unfamiliar machine at the same time. I secured a basic and wonderful mechanical Janome last summer to be my #1 machine–very similar to the machines I learned on in middle school sewing class and my most recent personal machine (a basic modern Singer.) After recently reading about Peter’s latest Featherweight acquisition, I browsed Craigslist for local vintage Singers. I’ve browsed before, and there are rarely machines within 20 miles of where I live. However, this particular time, there was a vintage Singer listed nearby for $75. There weren’t many details listed other than it worked and came in a cabinet with attachments.
I could tell from the photos that the machine looked like a 201-2, and the internet had good things to say about the 201-2, so I arranged to test drive the machine.
Well, she sewed rather nicely, and home she came. Thankfully my mister is big and strong, because these machines plus cabinets are heavy!! He hauled her home and upstairs for me.

After a little more Internet research, I ordered some new oil and grease, and a marked needle plate.

I had a great time reading through the original manual and finding all the places to clean and oil. And then there was the grease. I used cotton swabs to wipe out the old green grease, and then refilled the pots with fresh grease. It wasn’t difficult to do, and I rather enjoyed it! It seemed there were more than 20 spots to oil, compared to my modern machine that only has about 3 places to oil and only requires oiling 2-3 times a year.

I received several crazy looking feet for the 201-2, as well as a buttonholer. I have yet to figure all these feet out, but they look rather impressive to me. The original oil can and grease tube were included to, which is kinda fun. The machine operates with a knee lever. This takes a little getting used to, but so far I really like it. My chair is a tad high for the cabinet, so now I need to get a little stool to go with the cabinet.

I made a top with Birdie already, and I have to agree that she is a smooth operator. I found she easily maneuvers around curves and corners, better than my Janome. She is quiet and ladylike, but don’t be fooled by the svelte figure–girl is heavy. I lift her with both hands when tucking her into the cabinet.

I’m very happy to have added a vintage machine to my collection, and I look forward to mastering the buttonholer.

A Sewist’s Trip to L.A.

At this time last Saturday, I was driving South to LA with Erin and my twin sister Jessi. I made my first (and surely not last) visit to Mood Fabrics.


I was completely overwhelmed when I first walked into Mood. Isles and isles of fabric from floor to ceiling–I wasn’t sure where to begin. I had made a list of specific projects I needed fabric for, so I set about touring the store to see what was on each isle.

I spent most of my time on the shirting fabric isle, trying to pick something out for my husband’s next shirt, as well as a shirt dress for myself. I finally picked a dark blue fabric and a light green fabric.


While touring the isles of silk, I came across this black silk with a dog print woven in. Loving dogs as I do, I thought it was rather special and expensive, so I splurged on two yards.

I’d like to make a blouse with it by the end of the year, but I definitely want to hold out for a TNT blouse pattern, so I need to get sewing more blouses.


We had a lovely afternoon eating food, walking to the garment district and back, and finally kicking back with our feet up after dinner.

Sunday morning we perused Little Tokyo, and I finally found something cute to hold my paperclips at work: a little rice bowl with kitties on it.



We made it to Sew L.A. for Gertie’s party, Sunday afternoon. What a blast! I got my makeup done by Dorit who was providing retro makeup for the partygoers. There was delicious party punch and snacks, and many friendly fellow seamstresses, including Miss Christine Haynes herself. And of course, Gertie!


Gertie was so sweet–she graciously signed everyone’s books and posed for pictures, and even talked fabric with us.



I didn’t think to take pictures of the clothes, but many of the items from Gertie’s book were on display. The clothes were so gorgeous and inspiring to see in person.

I was pretty tired after all the driving, so I’ve been laying low all week. But, the weekend is here, and I have some sewing to do.

Talk soon.



Looking Back and Looking Forward

A year ago I hesitantly started this blog, unsure if I would keep with it for more than a month.

I wanted to improve my sewing, record projects, and interact with other people who sew.  From this standpoint, I feel the blog has been largely successful and well worth my time.  Looking over my projects from this past year, I see a lot of improvement (and room for more growth).  I have an incomplete record of projects, but it is really nice to look back at old posts and have something of a record to review.  It would be easy to forget that reversible skirt I made and never wear if it weren’t for my blog posts.  Yeah, some ideas seem better in my head.  I have greatly enjoyed getting to know other bloggers and have found more and more wonderful blogs to read.

Thank you so much for reading.  And thank you to everyone who has left an encouraging comment or offered tips or suggestions.  I probably would have given up blogging pretty quickly if it weren’t for knowing that people are actually reading.

This year I would like to blog more consistently and do a better job of recording projects.  Not every project is blog worthy, but I would like to have a more thorough record of my sewing progress.  I would venture to say that looking back at the “failures” or less than perfect projects are the most helpful posts.  I need to be reminded that red feather print fabric should be used in moderation.  And I need to find a satisfactory way to style a skirt or just quit making them!  Yes, the blog has been very useful in reflecting on past projects.

I’m very excited to be planning a trip to Europe this year, and right now all I can think about is sewing a great travel wardrobe.  I’m trying to do a better job of planning and coordinating garments in colors that can be mixed and matched.  My current wardrobe reflects a lack of planning and coordinating.

Blogs have been my primary resource in learning, and I will continue to utilize and enjoy reading blogs, but this year I’d also like to expand my resources with some books.  I am reading a travel guide and a photography guide.  And I’d like to read more through Gertie’s book to help improve my pattern altering and fitting skills.  And when I’m done with those, I hope to find some more in depth sewing books to add to the collection.

At some point in my future, I would like to be able to use my sewing to serve others.  The more time I spend sewing, the more selfish I feel.  Other than sewing for my husband or family and friends, I am looking for opportunities to sew for people who are truly in need, such as orphans in Uganda.  I don’t know if this is a goal that will be realized in the immediate future, but hopefully between this year and next I will be in a position to be able to make a solid contribution to helping those in need by sewing.

Thanks again for following my sewing adventures.  I am truly excited to see where another year will take me!

A Lovely Saturday in September

Although it was weeks ago, I don’t feel I can move on without mentioning the awesome meet-up that I attended in September.

I LOVED hanging out with Miss Crayola Creepy for the day.  We had a fabulous time visiting Hart’s Fabric in Santa Cruz before driving to Oakland for our meet-up and the Colette launch party.

I knew I’d be stepping out of my comfort zone, meeting new people and all.  But it’s okay.  Fellow seamstresses are friendly nice people.  They all took good care of me, and I had fun.  I’d even do it all again!!  In fact, I really hope that I get the chance to see all those lovely ladies again, and one day I want to meet some East Coast gals too!

I picked up the Jasmine pants pattern and truly hope that I’ll have time to use it sooner than later.  (Honestly, life has been a bit too busy lately… no sewing time, argh!)  It was really fun to see so many people wearing clothing from Colette patterns; I spotted a few dresses and several sorbetto tops.

I hauled my full-size camera with me and hardly took any pictures with it… oopsies.  This one is from my iphone… ahhh, iphone.  Well, I’ll keep practicing with the big camera.

Erin was a sweetheart and brought me a gift–fabric of course :)

I am stoked to add this beautiful border print with stripes to my stash!  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’m imagining it as a skirt… maybe a pencil skirt or a gathered dirndl.  What do you think?  Any suggestions?  All I know is I’ll be making a muslin first cause I want a well-fitted finished garment out of this beauty.  Thank you Erin!

An Oakland Meetup

image from Colette Patterns

As you probably are aware, Sarai is having a FALL launch party, with a stop in Oakland, this Saturday to introduce the new Colette patterns.

I’m excited to meet Sarai and to get a hold of the new Colette pants pattern.

I would not be going to this event if it were not for my more adventurous friend Miss Crayola Creepy.  I’m terribly shy, and I haven’t met any other sewers in the Bay Area yet.    But that’s all gonna change on Saturday.  At 4pm, there will be a meetup at Actual Cafe, next door to A Verb for Keeping Warm, where the launch party is happening at 6.  Ordinarily, this would be a terrifying event, but I get to go with Erin, so I’m not scared at all.  I’m really looking forward to meeting new people and talking about fabric, patterns and my dog and cat.  Just the important stuff, people.
If you are in the area, please join us!!

Erin and I will kick off our day of fun with a shopping trip to Harts Fabric in Santa Cruz, so we will be all over the bay area (i.e.  Santa Cruz and Oakland).  If you are so inclined, please join us, we’d love to meet you too!

Celebrating with Sangria


I made sangria, and that was probably the most productive thing I did all day. Hope you had a lovely Fourth of July! I spent mine with friends :)

Made a few preparations to begin the Hazel dress, so more on that to come. I’m altering the pattern slightly, so I hope it turns out. Could be a total bust. That might be embarrassing. But I’ll tell you all about it either way.

Pattern Weights

Today I went to Home Depot in preparation for my next sewing project.
I was looking for something heavy to use as pattern weights, as suggested by so many fellow sewists.
I was immediately helped by an older gentleman who I explained to the purpose of my quest. He showed me the largest washers he had, but he wasn’t satisfied that I should use them. Instead he suggested I go to a fishing supply store and buy lead fishing weights, and fill a fabric pouch with those lead weights. That would be nice and heavy he said. Or bee-bees or metal pellets. And tie a little ribbon to close up a sack of them.

I thought it was a fabulous idea, but I wondered how much those weights would cost, and wouldn’t I need quite a few…? As I drove out of the parking lot and headed in the direction of Outdoor World, I thought to myself, you know what’s heavy? That tub of pennies that has been waiting for 2 1/2 years to be rolled and exchanged for dollar bills. You have a lot of heavy pennies at home.


So I went home and made little pouches which I filled with pennies.


I made six of these polka dot weights, and I can’t wait to try them out this week as I prep my toile.

I have two weeks to get a dress ready for my friends’ wedding at the end of the month.


If I mention it here, then I have to complete it on time, right? Well I hope this is motivation enough for me to get crackin!

I recently won this pattern from Miss Crayola Creepy’s giveaway, and though it’s a robe, I intend to wear it as a wrap around dress!  I will use the short sleeve version and make it just past the knee in length.  This will be my first venture using a retro pattern as well.    Any suggestions on how to ensure it appears as a dress and not a house robe would be most welcome!  I’m definitely leaving the frilly trim off the yoke, and it will all be cut from one fabric.  Wish me luck!