Silk dress

This is the first time I made a silk dress for myself.


I found this gorgeous Italian silk on sale from Britex and couldn’t resist it. I prepared by reading tips on working with silk and bought silk pins and silk thread for basting. And I knew I had to cut each piece out individually–no folding the fabric and cutting two layers! I did wash it beforehand, and I’m really glad I did because then I wasn’t worried about getting water spots on it when I ironed it.

I decided on the Chloe dress from Victory Patterns, which I’ve used twice before. It does have 7 seams, but it fits really well. I duplicated the pattern pieces so I could place them all at once. I lined them up so that the patterns on the fabric would match as closely as possible. Just barely fit!


I first made the lining, out of bemberg, and thought I could make a short cut by using a serging stitch. But no, that looked terrible! The seams were so wrinkly.


So I took out all 7 seams and sewed them with a straight stitch and pinked the raw edges.

I was worried about the silk slipping when I cut out the pattern. I’ve heard of putting the silk between two sheets of tissue paper during cutting, but I didn’t think I would have enough control with that. So I just taped the pattern right on the fabric, all around each pattern piece! It was super easy to cut out!


Too bad I forgot a bit of tape here…


Oops! Oh well, the dress is not tight, so I made it a tiny bit narrower.

I basted the dress with the silk thread—by machine, of course! I was not about to baste 7 full length seams by hand! I redid the front seams several times to get rid of bubbling. Then I sewed with regular thread exactly on the basting thread. I set my machine to the slowest sewing speed to be as accurate as possible. It took me 40 minutes to sew those 7 seams!

I used the selvedge edges for the zipper, which worked very well. I had no problems putting in the invisible zipper. (Have I said how much I love invisible zippers?)


I had bought a ribbon for the bindings but it wasn’t the right color, so I made bias tape out of the scraps of left over silk to bind the neck and arm holes. I did hand sew the insides of the bindings.


Of course, it’s fully lined.


I put a bit of lace on the wrong side of the lining in case it peeks out from under the dress when I sit down.


The hardest part was the hem. I put the dress on my dress form and measured and pinned and pressed and measured and taped and pressed and measured, for days. I am still not sure the hem is straight. It sure looks longer in the back, but maybe it’s just the photo…


Now all I need is an occasion to wear it to!

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My first quilt block: a comedy in 3 parts

I’ve been sewing for about 40 years but I’ve only just learned quilting. I’m not sure why I waited! Maybe I started now because my wardrobe consists of dark, mostly solid colors and quilting is a way to play with fun patterns and colors.

Naturally, I did not chose a beginner-level quilt block to learn from. I had to choose a fairly tricky design, but, I learned a lot of techniques! I also made a lot of mistakes!

I chose this Hazel the Hedgehog pattern by Elizabeth Hartman because I bought this hedgehog fabric over a year ago in the Netherlands.


But I’m getting ahead of myself. That fabric is for my third hedgehog: the charm one! Here is my first attempt, you can see that I needed to practice at being precise. I hadn’t learned mitered seams for the border yet at this point! And the binding is a mess.


My Mom, who is a very experienced and accomplished quilter, taught me the basic techniques of sewing quarter inch seams and diagonal seams.

A quarter inch foot on your machine is essential! This one makes it really easy for a new quilter like me to sew quarter inch seams. But, it does not work when you have to sew diagonal seams. I had to switch feet a lot for this pattern.


When you sew diagonal seams, you usually have to cut off the extra triangle. You need to watch what you’re trimming off!


Waaaahhhhh! This is my second block. After several mishaps, it finally turned out okay, even if it does look like the hedgehog is hiding in the jungle. This time, I learned mitered corners for the border fabric and the binding was much better.


For my third block, I used the hedgehog fabric as the background. That fabric is directional, so it needs to be cut going the right way. This seems obvious, but directions don’t always tell you to cut the fabric from a different direction. I found out the hard way.


I still have one mistake that I didn’t fix: the background fabric next to the nose is sideways. Oh well, it kind of looks like the hedgehog has a mustache!


Now that I successfully did one binding, I was ready to step it up: a binding with mitered corners! But why?! Well, I decided to use directional fabric and I wanted the fabric to go the right way. But you can’t do ordinary mitered corners, nope, you need to sew V-shaped miters so that you can fold over the binding on the back.


And it worked!


So third time really is a charm (although my daughters each love the block I gave her). Not perfect, but I’m happy. I made it into a pillow cover.


The hedgehog in its natural environment.


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Embroidered luggage tags

I have a hard time finding luggage tags that look nice and aren’t ridiculously expensive, so I decided to make some myself.


For the first one, I wrote my name and phone number in pen on the fabric. That was okay, except the numbers got bigger at the end… (You’ll excuse me for covering up my phone number: this is a public blog and I get enough telemarketer calls as it is!)

After that I printed out the names and numbers and transferred them to fabric with carbon paper. I used a simple back stitch with two strands of embroidery thread.

Here are the ingredients:


It’s hard to see, but there’s a piece of plastic there. I probably got it from the fabric store, but you could use a piece of clear shower curtain. Also, I put some medium-weight interfacing on the back piece of fabric. For Lida’s, I put interfacing on the front fabric too, because it was so thin that it needed stabilizing.



Obviously, these are not sturdy enough for checked-in luggage, but they’re fine for hand luggage.



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Laptop sleeve, II

My daughter has a new laptop to take to college later this month, so I made her a sleeve for it. She loves the color yellow, and I happened to have some yellowish felt that was originally a wool shawl. The shawl got stained somehow, so I threw it in the washer on hot and turned it into felt!


I used two layers of fairly thick felt as filler.


And black velvet as the lining, because it’s slippery and makes it easy to slide the laptop in and out.


Then I decided it looked too plain, so I appliquéd two clouds from Dr. Suess fabric that I once made a skirt for her out of.


And a flower. Of course, I had completely assembled the sleeve by then, so there was no way to use my sewing machine to attach the clouds and flower. I spent several evenings blanket stitching with 3 strands of cross-stitch thread.


She loves it!


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Necklace redo

I restrung a necklace that was originally a bracelet.


The beads were strung on two elastic cords, which wore out after a while. I decided I liked the beads better as a necklace. I made them into a necklace a couple years ago, but the spacer beads I used faded and looked junky.

Here’s what the back of the big beads look like. The spacer beads are Czech glass beads.


I had to use two strands of wire. I really like this plastic-coated wire.


It’s strong, holds a nice curve, and doesn’t get misshapen or bent.

To make the necklace lay right, in a curve, I had to put in more beads on the bottom strand than on the top. Two spacer beads between every big bead was too much, so I opted for two spacer beads between every other big bead.


I used a nice, discreet hoop and ball closure and two crimping beads to secure the two strands of wire.


Somehow, I made it just the right length!


I was so happy with how this necklace came out that I restrung another necklace too:




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Wide leg pants!

I was so inspired by the success of the shorts I made, that I took the plunge on pants. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pair of wide leg pants that fit properly, so I am very pleased with the results of these!


I used the Juniper pattern from Colette. As always, I was very happy with the instructions and the accompanying diagrams. I need those pictures! And, after 25 years of technical writing, I can recognize a well-written procedure. The only thing I stumbled over were the instructions to clip the curved seam and then finish the raw edges. How are you supposed to finish clipped, curved edges?! With the pinking shears, that’s how!


I can’t say that I’m super satisfied with the fly, but it works. The waistband was supposed to overlap more and have hooks instead of button, but I didn’t like that as much. Maybe I went a bit wild with the fancy buttons, but hey, they’re grey pants, they need something!


Of course, I had to adjust the rise to achieve the right amount of bagginess. The fabric is a very light-weight denim. I love the subtle variation in color.


Nice deep pockets!


These are the perfect pants for summer, so light and airy. Maybe this winter I’ll try some wool pants…


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Bias-cut top and shorts

Although I’ve made garments on the bias before, I wasn’t very successful, because I didn’t do the proper prep work.

I recently tried on a camisole and shorts sleep set at Anthropologie and thought they were really cute, but the price was ridiculous. So I decided to make a set myself. I really liked the way the bias cut camisole draped.

I bought some very thin cotton from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. I had a knit camisole that was similar to the one I wanted to make, so I made a pattern from it and tried it out in muslin.

Then I did some research! I found a great blog post:  A guide to working on the bias. I followed their directions, mostly.

First, I put thin strips of interfacing along the edges, instead of stay stitching.


I did French seams on the sides, made bias tape for the top edge, and left the bottom raw, except for a stretch stitch a half an inch from the bottom so that the fraying won’t get out of hand. And I made thin straps that I had to turn inside out: the worst part of the whole process!


I added a bit to trim to top of the front.


I’m happy with the side seams–no puckering!


The back is structured so that the straps won’t fall off my shoulders.

And of course, I made shorts, but not on the bias. I put elastic in the waistband; the drawstring is just sewn on for decoration.


These will be perfect when I go down to the desert later this July!

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