Category Archives: musings

Back in the swing of things

For a person who values stability, I move an awful lot. At the end of September, we made our second major move this year and I’m just now starting to feel like things might return to some semblance of normalcy soon. Sewing has kept me sane (knitting too but lately I’ve been mostly sewing). Here’s how my new sewing studio looked after the movers left:

Sewing room before

And here’s how it looks now:

Sewing room after - view 1

It looked much like this just a few days after the movers left the hot mess you saw in the first picture because I cannot stand moving boxes. So I usually unpack everything in the first week. I had to wait another week or two to have my fabric closet delivered so at that point there were still seven large boxes of fabric in the room. But they sat along one wall and the rest of the studio was usable.

Sewing room after - view 2

I really like sewing in this room. It gets a lot of indirect light most of the day – the bay window faces north. The other two windows face east so they bring in lovely morning sunshine for a couple of hours every day. It feels comfortable to work in here although now that the temperature has dropped outside, I’m noticing a cold draft on my feet. I may need some thick socks or something. It is definitely the coolest room in the house, which is kinda nice because I can have the iron on all day without the room getting too warm.

The first thing I sewed after the move was an apron. I used to have several. Somehow they have all disappeared over the years and moves. And so a new apron was in order.


Pretty cool, eh? It was a panel I bought at the local quilting store. Easy-peasy. I lined it with a coordinating spiderweb print to make it reversible.

I have other sewing bits to share with you so those will follow in the next post or two.

See you soon!

Me-Made-May, week 4 and wrap-up

Just a wee bit late but here we go. Week 4:

May 22

Monday: red denim skirt and sparkly silver rayon top, plus me-made red bracelets.

May 23

Tuesday: white denim skirt, red rayon top, and me-made bracelets, earrings, and necklace.

On Wednesday, I drove out early in the morning to see my husband who had been gone the previous four weeks. I have an ugly hotel mirror shot which I won’t post but I was wearing the black denim skirt and the black/gray/red rayon print top. The next day, I had planned to go back to taking pictures but after the second day of driving, all I wanted was to be with my husband. Pictures were just not a priority. We spent a glorious long weekend at the beach and then he had to go back to his school and I had to drive two days to get home. And then it was June.

Lessons learned:

  • I like the clothes I made and enjoy wearing them. They make me feel like me. This is a great thing.
  • I have a nice core wardrobe of summer casual clothes. It’s been close to a decade since I had that.
  • I like wearing jewelry I made. It doesn’t matter if no one knows I made it. I know and it’s a fabulous feeling.
  • I need a routine. I’ve always known I liked a routine but it finally dawned on me last week that I really need it to function best. It’s almost amazing just how much goes right out the window when I’m in transition, whether it’s moving from one country to another or simply traveling. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I suppose.
  • Daily pictures are good but they are not necessary. I wore my SWAP wardrobe for the whole month of May and have continued to wear it now in June. Nice comfortable clothes will get worn, pictures or no pictures.

Participating in Me-Made-May was fun. Thank you, Zoe, for organizing it. I am hoping to figure out a similar cool-weather wardrobe soon so that I am ready when fall comes.

See you soon!

Me-Made-May pledge and epiphany

Over the last few years, I have enjoyed reading Me-Made-May and Self-Stitched-September posts on my favorite sewing blogs. I never joined because my wardrobe always felt inadequate somehow. But this year, I am ready. And so here is my pledge:

I, Alexandra, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavor to wear at least one me-made item each day for the duration of May 2016. I will take pictures daily, weather permitting, and post them weekly on my blog. I am hoping to identify any wardrobe holes and then fix them.

On to the epiphany. I’ve been playing with polymer clay. Especially making bracelets. I’ve made a few. Here are two examples:


The problem I have with these bracelets is that they are lovely up close and on their own. But when I wear them, the pattern nearly disappears. All that work, and you can’t even see it. I didn’t quite get it for a while. Then I thought, hmm, maybe I could just do a solid color. Ugh, can you say boring? But today, lookee here, I figured it out:

Bold pattern - bracelet and earring set

I need a bold pattern. No thin lines. No tiny flowers. No fine mokume gane. Bold colors. Bold pattern. Maybe circles, maybe not. Today I went with circles. And you can definitely see the pattern on this bracelet when I wear it.

May 1

I am super excited and already have ideas for other pieces. The black and white will likely be a part of most designs. The main color will change to coordinate with wardrobe pieces.

See you soon!

Happy New Year!

Yikes, it’s been a while. Not much time to sew in the last few months, even less to blog. But things are normalizing and I have a fairly reasonable plan for a red/white/black SWAP, so there will be sewing and blogging on a regular basis.

Happy New Year to all of you!

From funk to project

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a nice post but I couldn’t. Because I’ve been in a bit of a funk that descended on me when I made this one wadder. Not because it was a wadder; everybody makes one every so often. And it’s not even a wadder, really, it just needs the fronts recut. And therein lies the problem. I’m out of that fabric. Yes, I can order more of it (and have, too) but it will take about two weeks to arrive. Because we’re stationed in Germany. I usually do a pretty good job of happily ignoring that little factoid (in ostrich-like fashion), but having to wait two weeks or more for fabric brings it home in a way that defies denial.

Anyway, the fabric is not here yet but I have made it past the funk by making that pattern in a different fabric (and there are many yards of pretty fabrics coming my way in the next few weeks, hehe). Yay! Here’s a sneak peek:


It still needs buttons and buttonholes. That’s my work for tomorrow. Then I’ll be back with more pictures.

See you soon!

Happy New Year!

I hope you all have had lovely holidays and started off the new year with some serious sewing!

We had family visiting for a few weeks, plus a nasty cold (do you know how many dirty tissues five sick people generate in a day?), followed by an awful muscle spasm in my neck that required a trip to the ER. What fun, right? But all family members are now safely back in their homes, noses dry, and the muscle spasm is finally ignorable enough that I could spend some time in the sewing room.

McCall’s 6355

I’m working on McCall’s 6355, a Palmer/Pletsch pattern for a semi-fitted tank top, T-shirt, and dress. (My KS3003 has lost its TNT status because I found a couple of issues with it that I couldn’t fix.) Having read the mostly glowing reviews on PatternReview, and remembering Diana’s multiple versions, I thought I might give it a try. And then I saw Erica’s striped dress and it was a done deal. You see, I’ve been thinking spring lately. I know, I know, winter has just barely started, but my head is firmly in sunny, warm, spring/summer.

I have the pattern all altered and cut, now I just need to cut the fabric and test it. That will be tomorrow’s work. I’m already looking forward to it.

Happy sewing to all of you!

RTW fast and inspiration

Yesterday, Sarah of Goodbye Valentino issued a challenge an invitation to join her for a year of RTW fast. I hemmed and hawed, and asked my husband for his opinion, then went off to procrastinate read some other blogs, but after a while I sent her an email to say I’m in. My reasoning went something like this:

  1. My summer 6-PAC gave me confidence that I can make six coordinating garments in three months.
  2. The Project 333 exercise is showing me that a small wardrobe is perfect for me and that I am definitely an outfit person (as opposed to mix-and-match).
  3. My preliminary SWAP board has mostly simple-to-sew pieces that reflect what I really wear.
  4. Participating in the YLF forum is helping me with ideas for incorporating elements of my inspiration board into my wardrobe.

All this means I have low needs, sufficient skills, and plenty of ideas so I can definitely make it happen. I’m already looking forward to it, especially because I envision making some special pieces based on my inspiration board. For reference, here it is:

Inspiration board

When I posted it on the YLF forum in November with a plea to help identify the vibe, I received a lot of wonderfully helpful analysis in response. Here’s the recap:

Old-hollywood glamour, retro, classic, ladylike/feminine, luxury,
dramatic, statuesque, majestic, queenly, sophisticated drama, bold, romantic, sleek, film noir, bombshell.
Sexy without being trashy; classic without being boring; dramatic without being costumey; think Joan from Mad Men.
Neutral clothes, colorful accessories.
Defined waist. Draped above waist, fitted below.
Textural mix – “dimension meets smooth”, shine.

This is quite interesting because it meshes really well with what Christine writes about Bright Winters. Funny because I made the board back in the beginning of 2011, long before my Bright Winter “diagnosis”. That goes to show that we often really do gravitate to what’s innately ours, even if we’re not yet ready to see it.

From Christine’s book, the keywords for Bright Winter:
“sharp, luxurious, polished, gleaming, symmetrical, repeating, imperial, composed, thrilling, brilliant, bold, dramatic, Asian, original, expensive.”

I’ll keep all of this in mind as I plan my sewing projects. Of course, I wouldn’t wear the most dramatic/retro/bombshell outfits as they are on the board. But I would like to incorporate some of their elements. Maybe a cape over an otherwise classic outfit. Ooh a cape! With a fur collar maybe!  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Over to you, dear readers: are you joining Sarah’s RTW fast? Thinking about it?

Fall knitting – lime green pullover

Yay! Look! I have another finished item! This one wasn’t part of the original fall plan but the pattern has been on my radar for a while – Ravelry tells me I purchased in back in July. It’s called Pipit (cool name, right? it reminds me of Pippi Longstocking) and I was attracted to its lovely neckline and very interesting shaping.

Front view

Front view

Having just finished the lime green cardigan, I was looking for another machine knitting project. I had another cone of the lime green yarn, a tension swatch already made, and the perfect pattern in my Kindle app – I was ready! I decided on a looser tension for this sweater, made a new gauge swatch, and sat down for a few hours to recalculate the pattern. It’s not hard once you wrap your head around how it’s made and how you want to change the sequence.

Recalculating patterns is kind of fun. I know many knitters don’t want to bother or are afraid or something but I so rarely get anywhere near the published gauge that I’ve pretty much always done the recalculations. All it takes is a pen, a calculator, and a few sheets of paper. I write my patterns by row. It’s just easier to knit that way.

Pipit notes sample

This is just a rough draft on the back of a calendar page. When it’s all figured out, I transcribe it nicely into my legal pad.

Anyway, the pattern as written starts at center back with a provisional cast-on. I made mine in one piece starting with one sleeve, across the back, to the other sleeve. The top shoulder increases/decreases, so easy to do on regular needles, took a lot of hand-manipulation because I had to transfer a lot of stitches one needle over, seven stitches at a time (my multi-prong transfer tool has seven prongs).

The reverse stockinette bits required the garter bar. This may actually be the first time I used it in a project. And because its use was required multiple times, I am now somewhat proficient at it. It’s a really nifty tool.

Side view

Side view

I used more stitches and short rows for bust shaping than what was in the pattern. On a loose cardigan, I don’t worry much about bust shaping but on a more closely sweater, I prefer bust darts. No need for pulls and wrinkles.


Closeup of dart and top shoulder shaping

I’m loving the neckline – it’s perfect for me: high in the back, almost flat in the front. The reverse stockinette outline and the rolled edge add just the right amount of interest to the neckline.

Back view

Back view

This was a really quick project, only 4 days from start to finish. I thought with all the shaping and unusual construction, it would take longer but I’m glad it didn’t. This way I can wear it on our upcoming trip and see how I like it. If I do, there may be more Pipits in my future – I like the look that much.

That’s all I have right now. I’m off to bed. See you soon!

Back on Monday

Dear readers, I have not vanished!

We are on vacation this week, with limited internet time. I had these grand plans for blogging from our vacation, but between visiting places and people, there really isn’t enough time and quiet to sit down to write.

Instead I am taking a break from most things internet-related this week. I will be back on Monday with the next installment of my journey through the Triumph of Individual Style.

See you soon!

6-PAC reflections

I have recently finished my first 6-PAC. It wasn’t my first planned wardrobe activity – I recall doing a SWAP back in 2002 or so, although I don’t remember if I finished it or just came close. But I’m not exactly experienced in coordinated wardrobe sewing either. I enjoy the planning stage where there are so many possibilities and everything goes with everything else, at least in theory.

In reality, things are a little different. As you can see below, it is unlikely that the cardigan would work with the black & white dress. In fact, it doesn’t work well with the foldover collars on the two knit tops either. (It’s not an orphan though, because it works perfectly with the black T-shirt dress that wasn’t a part of this collection.) The mock wrap dress is too much of a look-at-me piece to work well with any other piece, except maybe a shawl. The tops and bottoms aren’t really mix-and-match because I don’t like an all-white or an all-black look.

6PAC all

This is my 6-PAC: red cardigan, B&W dress, black pants, black knit top, white skirt, and white knit top. (The short pink cardigan is RTW.)

I think what I like about mix-and-match wardrobes is the idea of it. In reality, I am more of an outfit person – I prefer specific combinations that repeat over and over. I don’t mind having multiple versions of the same thing and repeating outfits. Also, I almost always wear a cardigan because I get cold easily.

The easiest way to marry the mini-wardrobe concept and my reality of outfit dressing would be to design a wardrobe with only dresses and cardigans. That is what I am contemplating for the fall. But I will also want some pants and tops for those days when pants work best.

As a result of this 6-PAC that doesn’t mix and match, I have given a lot of thought to just what is important to consider in planning a coordinated wardrobe. I have started writing it all out in a series of articles about wardrobe essentials to have a reference when it’s time to plan and sew the next mini-wardrobe. I hope you find them helpful as well.

Also, along with incorporating new bright colors into my wardrobe, I have been re-reading The Triumph of Individual Style. I am happy with the fabrics and details I chose in this 6-PAC but a recent discussion on Stitcher’s Guild made me wonder if I could do better. So I will work my way through the book chapter by chapter to see what new insights I can gain, and post about it all here. I’ll do my best not to bore you.

See you soon!

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