January 29, 2011


Having read Kafka as a teenager I was aware of doppelgängers, but largely constrained their existence to literary device.  Until I met my own!  It was at a knitting group, so we're already off to a good start.  This young woman has a similar build, haircut, mannerisms and carriage, and similar name.  It was a bit unnerving but also amusing.

Do you have a doppelgänger, or know someone who does?  Do you believe in them?  Should one befriend one's other self or turn and walk away?

January 28, 2011

Coping with Chronic Illness

I was thinking today about some of the ways I cope with chronic illness and pain.  I have chronic myofascial pain, chronic daily headache and fibromyalgia.  So lots of pain and lots of time alone where I don't feel up to doing anything.

1) Get a snuggly pet, if possible.  My lap cat is the best day-to-day coping mechanism I have.  Pets are also helpful because they force you, even on awful days, to get out of bed and take care of them.

2) Internet!  There is no comparison between my life before the web and after.  Even in the early days of newsgroups it was amazing to find other people living with the same condition.  The number of people, and ways to stay connected, are beyond my dreams 15 years ago.

3) I hate to say it, but TV.  The best distraction for me on my worst pain days.  I ditched tv and use Netflix and my computer to stream movies, documentaries, tv shows, whatever.  Some hand sewing, knitting, embroidery, etc, is perfect to keep your hands occupied while the screen is distracting your brain from the pain.

4) Friends.  Sending email or calling friends, even when you can't meet in person, is so important.  It's too easy to lose touch and end up alone.  Also the internet can be a good way to make new friends.  Not everyone is nice, normal or sane but the ratio is about the same as people on the street.

A significant other can be extremely beneficial, or not.  It's difficult to retain an awareness of one's self worth while disabled and many people prey on that, consciously or not.  If you find someone who loves you as you are, friend, family or SO, don't let them go!  These are the people that make life worthwhile.

5) Get out of the house.  Even if it's just to walk around the block or grab some groceries, being outside and seeing other people is a huge help.  The daily interactions that most people take for granted are something I have to work at.  One of the best things is having a couple hours each week to chat with my physical therapist during appointments.  It's not planned talking like with friends, it happens whether I feel well or not, and it helps keep me sane.

6) A hobby.  I started knitting 17 years ago, soon after my chronic pain started.  I loved having a way to be productive and learn new things.  Your hobby may be completely different so long as it's something you love that you can do while sick.

7) Focus on the positives, try to ignore the negatives.  Part of this for me is focusing on what I can do, not what I can't.  There are infinite possibilities in the world and no one can do everything.  Even on my worst days I'm a champion sleeper and a great lap for kitties ;)

What are some ways you cope with illness or stress?

January 27, 2011

Exciting News...

Spurred on by the terrible photos I've been taking, and posting, I bought a tripod!  Hopefully this will allow me to take good pictures of my garments to share with readers :)  Of course this means I'll soon spend a sunny day re-photographing garments!

My previous method was standing on a dining chair while photographing myself in a mirror, or getting a lovely yellow effect while using the hall mirror.  Then I upgraded to using the timer with the camera on a bookcase: unfortunately this cut off most of my legs.  Not so helpful when attempting to photograph a skirt.

January 26, 2011

New (Vintage) Skirt

New Skirt!
I bought this skirt last autumn.  It's vintage A-line (early 70s?) homesewn, lined wool.  Read more here.  Unfortunately it was too big so I took in the side seams by a few inches and resewed the back darts, after removing half the waistband and unpicking some of the hem.  The original seamstress used teeny tiny machine stitches which were a nightmare to remove!

After basting and trying on many times I got a nice fit.  The skirt originally had no hip shaping, just straight lines from waist to hem, and the darts were flat-arse sized.

Then I noticed a small tear in the wool, near a side seam.  I decided to patch it from the back with some of the fabric trimmed off the seam allowances.  I used pick stitches around the patch and on the frayed threads, and it looks good.  Most importantly it's done!

The self fabric pockets bags didn't lie flat so I resewed them.  As soon as I put my hands in the pockets they stretched out again :/  I graded and whipped down the side seam allowances for a smoother line at the hip.  Then I restitched the hem and waistband, sewed the bar closure back on, and it was finished :)

Unfortunately the skirt is black, and I have neither a tripod nor a photographer, so the photos are crap.  Please also excuse the cat hair.

I like that this looks vintage yet works with so many pieces in my closet.  I even have boots to wear with it!  And I'm so not a shoe person.

Front pocket detail

Back of skirt

Back with zip open: shows lining, pinked
seam allowances and self fabric pockets

Skirt with new jacket

January 24, 2011


I'm interested to read how many seamstresses dislike mending and alterations because I find them very satisfying.  How many times can you spend half an hour and have a new item to wear?

Friends find mending magical!  Returning someone's favorite garment to wearability makes you a hero.  I've mended a tear in a favorite sweatshirt, as invisibly as possible, to great acclaim.  I only do mending when I wish, however, and when I have time.  Some mending chores are terribly dull: the new wool coat that needed all its buttons resewn.

What are your thoughts on mending, and do you ever help out a (very very good) friend?

PS: I had planned to photograph some finished projects today but there's no sun.  Someday soon, I hope, I'll have new clothes to share :)

January 20, 2011


I started this blog as a way to write about my thoughts and creations.  I knew I wouldn't have a large number of readers, especially since I've hardly been sewing.  My neck has been cranky and won't let me cut fabric!  My fabulous little sewing corner got dark come winter :(  It's frustrating, let me tell you.  Thankfully I still have knitting.  And thinking, lol.

Since starting this blog I went from zero readers, to a few each day, now 20-30!  A huge thanks to Treena the Slapdash Sewist and everyone else who's linked to me :)  Becoming a part of the online sewing-blogging community is more than I'd imagined.   It's inspired me to dive in and sew, and finish some stalled projects.   I'm also inspired to dress better because getting dressed up, even a little, makes me feel better.

I'm a few weeks late but my goal for 2011 is to create more.  In the past I've gotten bogged down on big projects or when I felt stuck.  I have a lot of fabric, even more patterns, and plans for much of it.  Now is the time to do it!  In my queue are a faux suede jacket, a quilt to finish quilting, finish altering a skirt, a bathrobe, a knit dress and a red sweater to fix.  A couple of these projects will only require 2 hours to complete, others many more.  But they'll never be finished if I don't start!

New projects will be Burda trousers, some fun t-shirts, high-waisted jeans, and a fitted blouse.  I have one that I really like so why not make another?  This list is subject to change, of course, but they're projects I've wanted to make for some time.

January 19, 2011

Lining Stretch Wovens 2

I decided to answer my own question ;)  I took a piece of the fashion fabric, pinned to it the new lining on the bias, and tugged.  I am almost satisfied.  The horizontal stretch was good, and the fashion fabric has no vertical stretch.  The only negative is the lack of bias stretch, which is on the straight grain for the lining thus immovable.  On the true bias the lining doesn't stretch but any other angle does have some give.  By adding a good sized pleat to the center back, and a smaller amount to the sleeve linings, I think all should be well.

Hopefully tomorrow I can take some photos to demonstrate, providing the muscle spasm in my neck calms down.  I'd like to cut the lining and start assembly of the jacket tomorrow or this weekend.

There are a couple unusual aspects of this jacket that I think others might find interesting.  The interlining is thick and doesn't ravel so I'm planning to lap the seams to reduce bulk.  I may build the jacket in three layers.  Or maybe lap the interlining and one layer of the lining, fold under the seam allowance of the second lining piece, and topstitch it to the lining and interlining.  Looks like I'll be practicing on scraps first!

Lining Stretch Wovens

I've cut and interfaced the pieces for a stretch faux suede jacket (in 2007 that is).  I have stretch interlining for warmth but am unsure about the lining itself.  I cut non-stretch lining pieces as the pattern directed, to the same size as the outer pieces.  Now I know better.  The original lining also ravels if you breathe at it so I've lost much of the seam allowances in places :/

I have some fun silk charmeuse(?) that I'm thinking of lining with instead.  If I cut the lining on the bias will it stretch enough?  The jacket has positive ease, the stretch is for range of motion and comfort.  I've tried looking online for help but my google skills are dull today.  I was thinking of cutting on the bias and adding a back pleat plus a little extra to sleeve width.

ETA: I answered some of my own questions in this post.

January 18, 2011

Slow Sewing

I am a slow sewer.  I take weeks or months to plan a project, working out details in my mind and in a sketchbook.  When I do sit down to sew it's for as long as I'm interested.  Running into a tricky detail, needing to adjust fit, feeling tired, are all reasons for me to take a break.  I don't have the stamina that a healthy person does.

I find cutting tedious, sometimes tricky and it hurts my messed-up neck.  Cutting is scary: you start with unlimited options in the piece of fabric but each cut is a potentially ruinous mistake!  I really need to get over this fear and remember that it's only fabric.

Sometimes my slowness has benefits.  I'll think of a better way to complete an item, or solve a problem after subconsciously mulling it over.  A faux suede jacket I started a few years ago is still in pieces.  Because of this project I read as much as possible on tailoring and fitting.  I learned many new techniques.  It was the first muslin I made.

Halfway through I decided to interline the jacket so it would be warmer, thus more wearable.  Going back to it this winter I realized that the lining was cut to the same size as the (stretch) fashion fabric.  I now know that the lining needs to be cut larger, with a pleat at center back, etc.  I was given some fun pink silk that should be perfect for the lining.  I now have a large rotary cutting mat and serger so silk doesn't scare me ;)

Other times I frustrate myself.  The suede jacket could have been done two years ago if I'd just done it!  In striving for perfection I created nothing.  Now I'm trying to accept that good enough is just that.

January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr Day

Thank you Dr King and all the Civil Rights workers who sacrificed so much to create a better world.

January 13, 2011

Sewing Machine Covers

Sewing machine cover

I almost finished these in 2010...  Using the remaining fabric from the wall art piece, I sewed up a couple sewing machine covers.  They're pretty simple: pieces the size of the sides and top of the machine (plus SAs) sewn together with piping.  The piping made it a more involved project but I really like the result.  I'd never used piping before and it was surprisingly easy.  I definitely recommend a rotary cutter.

Serger Cover
Unfortunately the sewing machine cover is floppy.  I made it tall enough to keep thread on the spool pins but didn't consider that this makes the top very uneven.  I have some nylon tulle that I'll add to the top, front and back to sturdy it up.

The second cover is for my serger.  This was simpler but also could use some stiffening, at least in the top portion.


My piping is far from perfect but I definitely improved by the end of the project.  I cut the piping 1.5cm wide, with 1cm SAs and .5cm for the piping itself.  I used white yarn from my stash to fill it.

With the zipper foot I sewed the piping to one piece of fabric, then sewed the two pieces of fabric together with piping sandwiched in the middle.  I learned to sew just outside my first stitching line to hide the previous stitching.  Halfway through the project I thought of this ;)

January 12, 2011

Jeans Hemming Tutorial

Hemmed Jeans

I hope to write a series of jeans alteration tutorials.  The first will focusing on hemming while preserving the original hem, almost invisibly.  This is an easy technique once you know how and gives very nice results.

I will be demonstrating this technique with brown corduroys.  I have also hemmed some jeans and they turn out even better.

The first step is to try on the jeans to be hemmed.  Fold up the extra fabric and pin at center front so they are the desired length.  Repeat at center back.  Remove the jeans and measure the amount to be removed.  In the jeans I'm demonstrating 7/8" or 2.2cm was removed.  Divide the amount to remove in half, fold up the bottom edge by that measurement, and pin.  The side seams are slightly shorter than the rest of the hem: keep the original hem straight and don't worry how much you've folded up at the seams.  Try on the pinned jeans before sewing to double check the length.

Amount to remove--7/8" or 2.2cm

Fold up and pin 1.1cm or 7/16" (fun with fractions!)
The hem is straight but the folded amount isn't even at side seams.  This is what you want.

Alternately, you can measure the inseam of a well-fitting pair of jeans and pin the hem in the same way to achieve that length.  Make sure you try them on, though, to double check the length.  Many jeans have legs that are uneven in length so measuring up from the existing hem may give disappointing results.

Take off the jeans and, if you like, measure the inseam for future reference.  Turn the jeans inside out and press the hem well with steam to flatten the layers.  This will make sewing a little easier.

To sew the hem use a zipper foot and sew just next to the existing hem.  I use all purpose poly thread and a stitch length of 2.25mm: short enough to be sturdy but long enough to pick out if necessary.  Press from the inside with the tuck facing upward to flatten your new seam.  Try on the jeans and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

The hem will look even better as you wash and wear the jeans.  In the next tutorial I'll show more advanced hemming techniques.
Use a zipper foot and sew just next to the existing hem.

After sewing the new hem

The new hem seam from the inside.

Top: Original hem, Bottom: New hem

January 9, 2011

Cats and company

This weekend I had overnight guests: a cousin on Thursday and a friend on Friday.  We had fun, hung out for a couple days, caught up, all that good stuff.  But my Jake cat was not happy.  He hid in the closet most of the time.  He seemed ok once everyone had left, though.

Then last night he whined and repeatedly woke me up for half the night.  My cat is vindictive!  Even spraying water at him didn't help.  Let's hope he's forgiven me and lets me sleep tonight!

January 5, 2011

Nurturing Positivity

After giving some good advice to friends I decided to throw some my own way.  Maybe it'll stick ;)

For 2011 I have a new house rule: For every negative thing that is mentioned you say something positive.  I think this will help reinforce the mental balance I aim for.  It's so easy for people to get busy and forget to notice the many wonderful things in the world.

Speaking of which, walking home yesterday I saw the iris leaves peaking through the soil :)  Let's just hope winter doesn't crash down on us again and freeze them!

I've been doing some sewing--two sewing machine covers I still need to photograph, and altering a wool skirt.  Unfortunately I found a tear in the skirt so need to mend that before I can rehem it.  I'll also have a new sweater as soon as I sew the buttons on it (right after this!).  Watch this space for those updates :)

January 2, 2011

Red Lace Dress

I wore this beautiful new-to-me vintage dress for New Year's.  I'm amazed that a woman 50 years ago sewed this dress for herself, I found it, and it fits me perfectly!

Bloggers Gertie and Janice made vintage red lace dresses recently.  Mine is a wiggle style while theirs are full skirts, but otherwise very similar.  Gertie also posted several photos of vintage red lace dresses.

It was such fun to dress up, and I received many lovely compliments from my friends.  I wore seamed stockings, black heels, and vintage jewelry: a rhinestone necklace and ruby earrings.  The earrings were a Christmas gift from my parents.

I really like the gathered satin waistband and front draping.  The lace is fully underlined with red rayon or acetate faille.  It has a metal zip at center back, slightly exposed.  I gently handwashed the dress, pressed it from the inside, and made a couple small mends.  The dress is in great shape and I'm honored to be able to wear it.  The ILGWU tag, which dates it between 1955 and 1963, sewn into the center back skirt seam is a baffling addition to what's clearly a home sewn dress.

Much "wigglier" than my usual style
The satin drapes 

I can post some inside pics to show construction if anyone is interested.  They shatter the myth that vintage=couture construction! lol

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