Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where does the time go?

I've been doing my best to have an entirely handmade Christmas (not easy being the youngest of five with eight nieces and nephews...and the boyfriend being the middle of four with four nieces and nephews!)  I have been sewing like a fiend and using many fabulous tutorials that I have found on the internet.  I celebrated Christmas with my family this past weekend, and I have to say that I love the clothesline bowl I made for my sister best...

Photos to come soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fresh Frock Week? It's possible!

The Friday clothes swap was a complete success!  Everyone walked away with bags (or suitcases) stuffed with clothing and other household goods.  Good food, good conversation, good times!

I made out pretty well myself:
a lovely dress with a halter neck.  My boyfriend said the length was a bit "farmer's wifey" so I will remedy that before it journeys out in public.  I actually wasn't going to try it on at all, but apparently things look better when they aren't balled up on a couch.
a red pencil skirt with a ruffle at the bottom.  I could pair it with a fun cardigan to better emulate my style hero, Emma Pillsbury!
This black pencil skirt is a wool with two slits in front (scandalous)!  I love it. 
Another black wool pencil skirt, but this one had gold snaps and zippers as closures ... and pockets!
I wore this skirt out on Staurday - comfortable and the buttons added some personality!
A gray wool pencil skirt with pockets.  I guess I do not need to pursue making a black/gray pencil skirt to add to the staples of my wardrobe!
This lovely checked blouse went well with the new form clinging jeans I grabbed.
I loved the stripe detailing down the side.
...and a miniskirt with stripes and buttons on the front.  Love at first dressing.

 I also took home two camisoles and two running shirts.  It was a fabulous night!  I think I may be able to have a Fresh Frock week if I wanted!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Best Laid Plans ...

Well, Self Stitched September began well.  I was wearing a skirt I created out of green wool shorts that my Mom gave me (the fabric was completely lovely) and a shirt I altered that had belonged to my wonderful boyfriend.  I altered a pair of pants my friend gave me and some random tank tops that had been floating around my closet.  I wore my Anthro knock off sweater and shorts I made from old pajama pants...

And then it got really really chilly here in Chi-town.  I did not have enough warm clothes made to battle off the chill and I gave in and wore clothes I had not made.  I confess I am not the fastest sewer and could not keep up with the weather changes. 

I did get a new camera, though - after I had switched over to factory manufactured clothing.  I am planning on adding those Self Stitched outfit photos on Friday when I reveal my new sewing plan!

New sewing plan? What could this be?

Since I could not keep up with Self Stitched September, I wanted to do something that I could work on at my own pace and that would not kill me completely.  I am instituting "Fresh Frock Friday" for myself.  Each Friday, I want to wear one article of clothing that I have made or refashioned.  It just gives me one more reason to look forward to Friday.  September is crazy for me with the marathon right around the corner and running four days a week and strength training when I get a chance.  (Sidenote:  I have never showered so much in my life.  I feel like I am the cleanest person ever.)  Back to FFF: I am bored with my wardrobe.  It's so all over the place that I am missing some staples like white blouses, or a nice black skirt, for example.  I work in an office environment, and while I am not looking to push the envelope with my clothing, it would be nice to have some professional pieces that speak more to my personality and can be easily interspersed with other items I already own. 

This is what I have been working on for this Friday:  McCalls 5929

I really love the ruffle detailing on the red shirt, so I have been making my own in a blue and white checked fabric that my grandmother was giving away.  I would love to eventually pair this with a pair of blue shorts that my Mother gave me to refashion into a skirt. 

I am doing other things besides sewing to alleviate my wardrobe boredom.  This Friday, I am attending a clothing swap with my girlfriends.  Wine, cheese, fruit, and clothes that I can have for free?  Yes, please!  I am hoping to find some staples there that can be refashioned or just worn as is.  Because this event is coming up on Friday, I have been cleaning out my closet and my jewelry box.  I have so much jewelry that I never wear and it just needs to go.  The pieces I do love, however, I have been making an effort to wear more often.  Today I am wearing a necklace that I love but it was tangled up in other necklaces.  I freed it from its silvery prison and it works very well with an outfit I wear frequently.  Just a different necklace makes this outfit feel fresh and not so overworked. 

Well, ladies, here's to hoping I can conquer buttonholes and have a new frock on Friday!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two Days!

Two days until Self - Stitched September!  And my camera broke! 

I always did love a good adventure at the last minute :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What I've Been Doing or Sewing + Running = FUN

I've been absent lately and neglecting my craftyness for the world of running.  Since last January, I've been training for the 2010 Chicago Marathon, which has been quite the adventure, considering I had never run before in my life.  I started with the Couch to 5K Program, and once that was completed, I transitioned into a 26 week training program for beginning marathon runners.  Right now, I am up to running 14 miles on my long runs.  I know, lots of back story!  Back to sewing.  I signed up for the "Elvis is Alive 5K" and found out that if you dress like Elvis, you get to go through the starting line first!  So, folks, I signed up for the race and whipped out a jumpsuit in 2 days.  Believe it or not, I did have a pattern for a jumpsuit.  It was a Burda pattern that a friend had given to me years ago and I never threw away/sold.  I also had a large supply of floral swimsuit material.  And so, with wig and subglasses purchased, I donned my jumpsuit (sans zippers because with the material, I could just shimmy into it), and went to run my race.   

This guy's costume was amazing. I am bringing a guitar next year for sure!


I made it to the Top 5 Best Dressed!

The back view. My cape was detachable and flowed beautifully when I ran.

I was super happy with my efforts, even if the collar was completely wretched.

So that is what I have been doing lately.  What's up in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My September Pledge: Self-Stitched September

So, Zo.... has offered up a brand new challenge/dose of inspiration for my week (and for the coming months):

'I, Meg the Grand, sign up as a participant of Self-Stitched-September. I endeavour to wear only handmade and refashioned items of clothing every day for the duration of September 2010'.

I wasn't able to take part in the "Me Made May" challenge that many of the crafters in blogland took on.  I enjoyed their efforts and decided that if another opportunity arose, I was definitely going to take it.  And so, I am making the challenge here for all to see!

Tonight is "Picture Night."  I have been making/refashioning items and not taking pictures of the finished products.  I made a swimsuit cover-up that was originally the tunic dress from One Yard Wonders (it ended up that way after I realized that elastic hates me), the Pregnancy Dress shirt that needs some more coverage but is mostly done, and several refashions of which I am extremely proud.  I look forward to finally sharing some of my progress and to creating more clothes for the September challenge!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Daily Dose of Inspiration

If you do nothing else today, go meet Jenny aka THE BLOGGESS.  She is wonderful.  Read her Traveling Red Dress blog and then go out and find your red dress.  And twirl around in it many many times.  I am now sitting here at my desk pondering what mine is or what it could be.

It is a beautiful dose of inspiration, and I found another one not shortly after.  It's called the Art O Mat.  A group called Artists in Cellophane recycle banned cigarette vending machines and make it so art is distributed instead.  I found the location of one in Chicago and I plan to seek it out before the week is over.  Absolutely brilliant.  In Hamburg, the machines sell books, which are all original texts by Hamburg authors.  If this was more common, maybe I would have quit smoking sooner.  I had a great addiction to cigarettes for many years, but my addiction to books has lasted a lifetime. 

I have found my inspiration for today, and I hope you find yours as well!

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Current Mantra: What Would Emma Do?

As many of my friends know, I have been trying to quit biting my nails FOREVER.  It's hard though, when you are an anxious, nervous person and by the time you catch yourself, the damage is done. 

For the last couple of days, I have been trying something new.  Whenever I catch myself about to bite a nail, I simply say, "Emma wouldn't do that."  And since I somewhat idolize that redheaded fashionista, it just stops me cold.  I put my hands back down, take a deep breath, and go on to do something else less destructive... like lotioning my hands.  Lotion is my friend, I'm realizing. 

I realize this mantra/idea may sounds strange to some of you, but it's actually working.  I have tried painting my nails, coating my fingers in nasty tasting stuff, putting rings on my fingers (because I knew I wouldn't want to show off my jewelry on stubby fingers), etc.  Nothing worked. 

I'll keep you updated on how this goes, but if it goes well, then I am going to purchase something wonderful for myself.  Probably something Emma Pillsbury-ish.  What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear has a fantastic giveaway going on right now from this etsy shop: Candy Shop Vintage.  When I was browsing through the selection of this shop, I fell in love.  I am now offering myself a reward if I can go a month without biting my nails.  A brooch to put on my sweater I picked up from Ragstock would be nice.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Emma Pillsbury ... and ramblings about shoes

I love Emma Pillsbury. 

Shocking, I know, because who would love a redhead with great fashion sense and a heart full of gold?

And by great fashion sense, I mean awesomely superior fashion sense. 

I had mentioned yesterday about What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear?  And I am convinced that everyone needs to look at this blog, if for no other reason than to appreciate the bloggers who track down similar affordable looks all over the Internet.  Seriously - the shoes they find are incredible.  I love shoes.

I know my boyfriend often wonders why I buy so many pairs of shoes.  I tell him it is because shoes are not depressing.  I know I wear a size ten.  I don't have to play a guessing game and try on three different sizes in order to get a proper fit.  I go into Payless Shoes and walk to the Size 10 section and I know what my options are.  If I go into a department store to look for clothing, however, or even an upscale designer store (like the trendy ones on State Street), I know there is a very good chance of them not carrying my size.  Size 12 is enormous and no one wears it apparently.  I wish more people catered to curves, but that is a note for another time.  So back to shoes. 

A pair of size 10 shoes may be uncomfortable, so I put them back and I don't buy them - but for the most part, they do fit and make my feet do a happy dance.  I don't have to go through the anguish of feeling like I am having a fat day, or bemoaning the fact that I do have breasts.  I can just buy shoes, and that is a complete confidence booster.

My boyfriend now sees it from my point of view - which is good, since these shoes go in his closet. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dear Spring: I miss you!

When, oh when, will this awful winter end?!  It is barely creeping out of the 40s here in Chicago, and it gets to be quite the downer.  I want to put away my coats once and for all - they are taking up much needed closet space!

Sewing lately hasn't been extremely exciting, aside from some neat refashions and a summer tunic dress from One Yard Wonders.  I will have to post pictures once my boyfriend's computer stops hating me.  The P.D. needs a few more alterations, but I managed to make it wearable (with a LOT of cleavage showing).  Mostly the sewing going on is just basic mending and repairs.  It is as if winter decides to tear apart my hems and buttons in its attempt to go out with a bang. 

I've also been using this past month as a chance to organize my sewing space.  From my previous posts you can see I was sewing in my boyfriend's guest bathroom.  Sewing while standing = lower back pain.  Dragging a stool into the space really didn't help the situation, so I moved all of my sewing goodies into one corner of my boyfriend's office.  On top of my lovely vintage Singer machine and sewing cabinet sits my Kenmore machine.  My dress form stands at attention beside it, and behind it all is a closet where my fabric is organized (but my bias tape and trims have run amok).  I never really comprehended how many different types of lace trim I had until I managed to gather it all in one place.  Where did it all come from?

The great thing about my new sewing space is that now I can watch television through the one closed French door that my sewing table is against.  I just open the other door for sound to come in, and keep the windows clean on the closed one.  This may sound silly, but I get more done when I can multitask.  (And yes, I call watching TV and sewing multitasking - especially when its GLEE because I sing along at the top of my lungs.  Can we talk about how wonderful Emma Pillsbury's outfits are?!)

So this time away has been used for organizing and assembling, but also repairing and recovering from a less than wonderful winter.  Silly winter - go away.  The first day of summer is right around the corner!

Monday, April 5, 2010

...and some more lessons about pattern sizing...

I have been sewing since 2003, so I tell myself that I should know better, and yet, I've been making a serious mistake for many years: buying the wrong size in patterns.

After carefully selecting my items seen in the previous post, I was inspired to look through all the patterns I have accumulated and marvel in their wonder.  Unfortunately, it turned into something like a bloodbath as I found myself throwing most of the patterns into a pile of  "Cannot Be Used."  Thankfully, I have a brilliant friend who is also a seamstress and can use patterns in the 10-12 range. 

I still find myself rather sad about buying patterns that I cannot use.  Some were actually very recent purchases, which makes it all the more frustrating.  I am turning this whole depressing situation into a learning experience.  I am being remarkably honest with myself.  Why did I need so many patterns for gypsy costumes?  Did I really plan on making that and heading out on the town?  Or why would I buy patterns for pencil skirts?  I know they are completely unflattering on me.  And how many Jane Austen dress patterns does a girl need before she actually makes one?  Yes, it is a good thing to have to examine what I own and part with them.  It did make me realize what I did want to re buy (when JoAnn's/Hancock has a $1 pattern sale again).  I would like to make myself some jackets - but not necessarily with ruffles.  I would like professional looking skirts and blouses, and I would like these to have a vintage feel.  I can buy patterns that reflect these wants and come in my size range.

I know that my pattern errors came from being too impatient and always wanting it now now now without pausing to see what I am actually getting.  Sometimes I feel this way about sewing.  I want to wear it now without putting a ton of work into it, and this is something that is slowly changing.  My PD was actually very time consuming, and I followed the pattern faithfully.  Unfortunately, the cut was not flattering on me, but the craftsmanship was really well done (if I do say so myself).  If I want to have quality, I need to put in the time.  I also need to take my time in choosing my projects. 

Overall lesson learned: Haste makes waste and a large scrap pile.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pattern Purchasing...and some lessons about sizing

I love pattern sales.  Butterick, McCall, and Vogue all on sale for under $5??? Heaven!

So I bought some patterns I had been eyeing for awhile, and I realized I had to be frank with myself about sizing.  As much as I would like to think I am a 14 in pattern sizes, my measurements fall more towards the 16 sizing.  To me, I am not a size 16.  I wear a size 10 regularly.  Am I wrong to think that maybe these pattern sizes are a bit off and maybe need some rethinking???

Back to my purchases:

Vogue pattern 8489.  After my last mishap with the "pregnancy dress" (which I will explain shortly), I realized I needed to be more careful with my pattern choices.  While this one does not have a sneaky empire waist like P.D., it does have a higher waist than what I should wear.  I am thinking that a fitted bodice with a neck and midriff band might solve the pregnancy problem.

McCalls 5809.  It reminded me of the top of the P.D., but without the pleating and with some equally awesome sleeves. 

McCalls 5717.  I love coats with personality.  I live in Chicago - coats are necessary, I understand this.  I do not, however, want to go out to dinner in my large down LL Bean coat.  Sometimes I want to be classy.  I'm thinking black and white wool blend with orange satin lining.  Why be subtle?

Butterick 6582.  Love love love the vintage!  I have the most beautiful blue fabric and this dress (shown in yellow) is perfect.  Oh yes, it shall be mine!

I have been looking for a halter dress for I don't know how long.  I finally realized that halters are flattering on me, and perhaps I should be using my sewing skills in that area.
I have been looking into making more tops to go with jeans, particularly because you can never tell what the weather is going to be here and pants are a safe bet most days.  I love the plaid they used, and the ruffles appealed to my girly side. 
Butterick 4443.  Something about this dress said "Spring!" to me, and it was finally warm here, and the sun was shining, so I bought it.  I think I like the strapless versions best, maybe in a fun Hawaiian print, for summer.  Maybe even for a cruise?

Vogue 8280.  My goodness - what don't I love about this dress?  I have been admiring this pattern FOREVER and when I saw it was only $3.99, I was sold.  I love the vintage feel and would love love love to make it in some kind of pinstripe.  I like the long sleeves, but also love the cap sleeves with sweetheart neckline.  I can only hope this comes out as well as I dream it will.

And those are my purchases.  I am excited and more than ready for the package to arrive.  I need to work on something that will fit better than the PD.

Pregnancy Dress (aka PD) was my first excursion into dressmaking.  I worked incredibly hard on this dress, had several panic attacks, and before I put in the zipper, I tried it on.  My heart just broke.  Somehow, this dress that appeared to be super flattering on the pattern package was awful in reality.  The pleating in the front of the dress allowed for the fabric to stick out.  It stuck out enough that I appeared 6 months pregnant.  I was terribly sad, and really have not sewn since that depressing mirror moment.  I've also been hiding from my blog, as I was hoping to crow about my dressmaking achievement and instead wanted to cry.

There is a silver lining to this.  I will (this weekend hopefully) put in the zipper and finish the PD.  The bodice of the dress looks great (and took forever!) so I am going to cut off the skirt and make it into a lovely top.  And not look pregnant. 

I'll post pictures of that adventure soon!  Love to my ladies!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I have found  myself subscribing to many blogs here on the interwebs.  People are so crafty, and they give me so many fantastic ideas!  I am, however, going to take a break from reading some of these blogs because my brain and hands cannot work on the same schedule.  My brain and feet are currently conspiring together so that I may train for a marathon, but the hands get left out.  So if I am absent, it is probably because I am running.  Or playing trivia.  You know, whichever comes first.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Private Lives

Last night, I went and saw Private Lives by Noel Coward at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. So far, I have seen four shows there and each one is better than the last. The acting, sets, costumes - brilliant, all of it. It's refreshing to see truly great theatre every once in awhile.
I was a bit distracted, though - the costumes were unbelievably fantastic. I mean - vintage silks, scarves, suits, shoes, hats, jewelry, hair - and so I spent the majority of the show trying to figure out how I could make such costumes for myself and everyday wear. Today, I started doing research:

(side note: the styles of the last two dresses and shoes were not seen in the show, but I had to share them because they appealed to me greatly.)

So, being inspired, and noticing that one of the patterns was Vogue, I browsed the Vogue pattern website. They are having a sale, so I was doomed from the beginning. I purchased:

Vogue 1162 (I LOVE the sleeves)

and Vogue 2859 (because what woman doesn't need a slinky black dress?)

I should inform my readers that I have never made a dress before (!!!), so the adventure of making clothes for myself will be well documented and hopefully enjoyable.
While we are on the topic of vintage, one of my favorite sites in the whole world, choc full of vintage images that are copyright free:

Some of my favorite images from the site:

My best friend, Steph, made photo pendants for me that incorporated these images. I wear them constantly!

My favorite image, of course, is the background of my blog header - to me, it's artistic and peaceful, beautiful and vibrant.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My New Obsession

First off, I love living in Chicago. The thrift stores here blow away any I might have encountered in Ohio. My boyfriend and I went into one on the North Side, and he spots this:

A Singer sewing machine, complete with cabinet that it tucks into when it needs to sleep at night. (Sorry - I didn't get a picture of the cabinet, but I will post one soon). My boyfriend talks me into buying it, since we don't have much room at each of our places and we are trying to move in together. After plugging it in and seeing it work beautifully, I bought it. Price tag for the amazing sewing machine and cabinet: $15!!!!

Secondly, I love the internet. Where else could we find out the machine was made in June of 1950 in New Jersey?? (Thanks to my boyfriend for hunting that information down). Even better, we found the manual for the sewing machine online:


While I haven't gotten to sew with it yet, we did take the time to shine it up and clean the gears. It has the most musical humming noise when running (does that sound entirely too cheesy?). My goal this weekend: sewing on said machine...or at least learning how to thread it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Projects and more projects...

Hello hello! Welcome to my blog. Currently I'm working hard on my 2010 resolution to sew or craft everyday. I figured I should start a blog in order to better chronicle the work I'm doing, as well as offer handy tutorials for those who are big on crafting (or just looking for something to occupy a rainy Saturday). Here are some images of the work I've been doing:

This is a Doctor Who scarf, worn initially by the wonderful Tom Baker. I'm still in the (very) beginning stages of learning how to knit, and so, this one was crocheted. Halfway through the pattern, my boyfriend decided he finally wanted his Christmas present (in February) and I ended it at a grand length of 21' 8".

I made these fingerless gloves/mittens in about two hours out of a sweater that had seen better days (tutorial coming soon).

The sweater before...

The sweater gloves with mitten attachment and cuffs rolled down.

With mitten attachment buttoned back onto cuffs.

Since my "sewing studio" is really my boyfriend's guest bathroom, I have to keep my storage mobile and compact. I made a roll for my scissors, seam ripper, measuring tape, etc. It travels well! I based the pattern off of one I found in "One Yard Wonders" by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins.

My new yoga bag (made with leftover orange fabric because I love orange)

I found some really fantastic Celtic-ish military buttons for this corduroy coat. It definitely doesn't look like a hand-me-down anymore.

I have a hand-me-down shirt that was too tight in some areas, but I loved the writing on the back. I decided to make a tote bag out of it. Here is me modeling my final product (tutorial coming soon)

I made an elephant for my boyfriend's niece's 1st birthday. I used this fantastic pattern from "One Yard Wonders" by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins and some pink flannel I had leftover from another project. I really loved the end result.