2013 sewlution | menswear

so many people threw their hats in the ring resolutions in the jar when Karen of “Did You Make That?” challenged us to make a sewing resolution and stick to it. to make something we had been putting off, to learn a new technique, to sew with a scary fabric, to face our sewing demons. my sewlution was to sew some menswear for my husband, Nathan. for a guy who puts up with my manic need to sew, it was time he reaped the benefits! what i didn’t realize when i made my sewlution was just how much it would affect my sewing for the better.

i could have copped out and made my husband some tee shirts (which he has repeatedly requested…) but i really wanted to try my hand at dress shirts. his old ones are falling apart and/or are too big for his frame. i started off with a casual plaid shirt. this shirt has seen a great deal of wear, and wait—why have i never stolen that shirt out of his closet? hmmm…. selfless indeed! i was simultaneously surprised by the new skills i needed to acquire, and by how well it turned out. i learned precision topstitching, as well as the ins and outs of a shirt—far more complex than meets the eye.

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i went on to make two more shirts. sadly, i haven’t made him any since then, but it’s on my 2014 list! i feel confident enough to use more expensive fabrics and really round out his dress shirt needs. after making his shirts i was pretty excited to make my own button up’s (four archers…), one for Oliver, and an unblogged flannel shirt for Anastasia. i found that the skills i needed to make these shirts look as profesh as possible bleed into every aspect of my sewing—my stitching is far more precise than it would have been without the shirtmaking.

i didn’t stop at dress shirts though… i was happy to be a pattern tester for the jedediah pants by Thread Theory. i made up the shorts version, and a while back i bought some navy corduroy to make him a pair of pants. the pants keep getting pushed back in favor of quicker projects, but i should be able to start them soon.

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in addition to shorts, i also made him a pair of wool dress pants using the burda Jochen #6014 pattern. i haven’t had a chance to blog or properly photograph them, but they’ve been in frequent rotation since i made them back in october. i’ll be using that pattern again, so hopefully for round two i can get a proper review up. i found the pattern sizing to be excellent, if you’re curious. the only changes i want to make are construction-oriented to include more high-end interior finishing (lining the front legs, french seamed pockets, etc.).

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lame-o instagram pic… sorry!

like i mentioned, sewing menswear really upped my game in terms of precision. i may not have done it without publicly committing, so thank you Karen. i hope the Mistress of the Jar is satisfied with my contribution!

—lisa g.

burdastyle | ballet wrap top

i’ve thought way too much about how to cleanly finish the hem for a wrap top, so i thought i would share my most successful method. my thoughts on this started with my coppelia wrap cardi and my dissatisfaction with the pattern’s instructions. i like the idea of a hem band because often the knits i would choose for this kind of cardigan would be difficult to hem with a twin needle (since i don’t have a coverhem machine in my arsenal). i was determined to find a better way, and was able to have a second (and third) try on ballet wrap tops i made for two of my girls.

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i used burda 12/2011 #143 and made a few pattern changes so i could finish all the edges with bands. i cut 2″ off the sleeve hem (and replaced it with a wide cuff), 1″ off the bottom hem, and simply left the neckline as is on the pattern. the pattern has a wrap around edge binding, so adding the band as i did brings the neckline in a little. however, looking at the picture on burda’s model, the neckline looks pretty wide, and adding a neckband band fixed that.

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so here’s how i do the hem band and ties: take the tie pieces and sew the side and one end, and turn them right side out and press (this burda pattern has you do more of a spaghetti strap thin tie, but i prefer the look of a wider tie). the rest you can see in the following pictures.

i love how easy this is, and so much less fiddly than the coppelia instructions.

as far as this particular pattern goes, i made up the girls standard RTW size (i didn’t measure them for size) and the fit is a little bigger than i would have preferred. however, they should be able to get at least two years of wear with these sweaters. the regulation dance wrap sweaters are $20-25 each, and i made two for under $15, with fabric to spare. this is one of those cases where making it was a huge money saver.

as you can see, the sleeves are ridiculously long. in burda’s defense, Isabella is quite small for her age.

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i don’t have any modeled pics of my other daughter, sylvia, but the fit on her is much better. still large, but not comically so. the girls love their sweaters so much, they’ve hardly taken them off since i made them! they have worn it with dresses, leggings, skirts, jeans, you name it. this turns out to be a much more useful sweater than i would have anticipated.

—lisa g.

chevron shift

not long ago i found this ah-mazing fabric from fabric basement (local). i was browsing the sweater knits for my coppelia cardi, when i came across this ultra soft chevron sweater knit. you know how so many sweater knits are super thin and nearly unusable? and/or 100% poly? this is the opposite of that. it’s nice and beefy, stable, opaque, and rayon. at $8/yd it was a no-brainer. in fact, i would have happily paid twice that! folks, this fabric is so soft, i can’t adequately describe it. the only problem is, however much i love the fabric, the chevron seriously messes with my vision. i’m prone to migraines, and this fabric tricks my brain into thinking it’s experiencing the visual aura associated with them. if you’ve experienced this, you know what i’m talking about! the fabric, coupled with really bright sunlight actually triggered a migraine when i started making this. the things i endure for sewing…

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i bought a yard and a half because initially i was going to use it for my daughter, mostly because i thought the chevron might be a bit cray cray for my own use. however, i got it in my head that i could probably squeeze out a shift dress for myself, so i ordered her a different fabric to make up for it (yet to be sewn). i put out a plea on instagram for recommended shift dress patterns and while there were some great suggestions (HERE, HERE, HERE, and soon to be released T & TB coco) i decided i wanted to go with a pattern i had experience with. or rather, patterns—the renfrew and mccalls 6559.

now i hadn’t mashed these two before, but it was pretty easy to do. i simply marked the waistline on my renfrew and lined that up with the waistline on the mccalls. i wanted less shaping than those patterns have, so i cut it relatively straight from bust to hip. the mccalls dress is more fitted in the hips, so i added an inch to the side seams, giving me an extra 4″ all around.

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i wanted a higher neckline, and i planned to do a binding instead of an added on band, so i cut the neckline accordingly. i tried out a few methods of binding on scraps and finally came up with the following: i measured around the neckline and cut a 2″ strip to that exact length. then i sewed it into a circle with a 1/4″ SA (making the strip 1/2″ shorter than the neckline). i pinned it RST around the neck, stretching it slightly around the curves. then employing my walking foot, i sewed it on with a zig zag stitch to retain stretch. i aimed to have the leftmost swing of the zig zag at 5/8″, because that is how wide i wanted my binding. i trimmed down a little of the binding  to reduce bulk, then i pressed it up, careful not to pull too hard, and pinned it to the inside. then i used my twin needle to topstitch the binding in place. on the inside i went back and trimmed off the excess binding.

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sorry i don’t have any step by step pics, but it’s basically the same as this method, only wider. since my fabric was so beefy and doesn’t have a ton of stretch, this was ideal. a regular renfrew-esque neck band just wouldn’t have worked. i have to say, i am pleased as punch with the binding—it looks so legit! then i finished the sleeves and hem with a simple turn and twin needle. this fabric was so easy to work with it gave me no problems whatsoever.

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the shift dress is really a new shape for me, and i’ve quickly fallen in love with it. way back when colette patterns released the laurel, my thought was eh… great for a toothpick, not so much for my pear shape. however, this fabric spoke to me and suddenly i thought i’d try this shift business out. lo and behold, i’m really loving it! i’m as self-conscious as the next gal about those mushy tummy bits, and this completely avoids cling in that area. it’s cute for christmas mass, yet cozy enough to spend the whole day in. and EAT in. hello christmas cookies, caramels, and fudge!

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hope you all have a wonderful christmas!

—lisa g.

burdastyle | fur hood parka

my oldest daughter adores the outerwear that i’ve made her, so when winter coat season rolled around we started checking out coats and patterns. to keep it simple i had wanted to use the same pattern as the jacket i made her recently, just change up a few details. however, that was immediately shot down. darn kids and their opinions. after some browsing she really honed in on the parka style coat. natch, burda had just the pattern so there you have it. easy peasy lemon squeezey. sure…

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i planned to crank out this coat the few days before thanksgiving because i was feeling really guilty that she was still wearing last years coat (she had the audacity to grow a whopping three inches in the past year, so it was all sorts of too small). then of course, the whole family was working through a stomach bug, runny noses, etc, and i generally felt like total crap. i took one look at the excessively long list of pieces to draft and almost cried. why burda… WHY?! clearly i was not in the best emotional state to tackle a coat. wisely, i set it aside for after thanksgiving, and thankfully the viruses we were carrying moved on to other unlucky souls.

once i got over all the pieces i would have to draft, i set to work. i made these super awesome bellows pockets that nearly did me in! ohmygosh four of them. with flaps. those friggin pockets took me hours to make! i was not helped by the fact that my fabric was just a hair too thick for all the layers, and by the fact that there is a substantial lycra content. it didn’t seem nearly as stretchy in the store as it turned out to be when i was sewing. hate. that.

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i added a zipper facing to avoid clothing snags

once the pockets were on, the entire shell took maybe an hour to construct. at that point i felt much better. the lining went together easily, though it was a little time consuming. i decided to interline the body with polar fleece, and the sleeves with flannel. to keep down the bulk at the seams, i flatlocked the fleece where i could, then joined the lining and fleece at the neck, armholes, CF, and hem. i also tacked the lining to the fleece down the side seams. since the sleeves were one piece, i simply underlined the lining with flannel and constructed them that way.

really, things went along just fine until i got to the zipper. there was so much bulk in this area i had a crazy hard time sewing as close to the teeth as i needed to. so, this is where i started to have problems with the pattern. as i understood it, you were supposed to have the teeth covered by the shell fabric (as in a standard zip install), not exposed as i have it. but, because of how far the hood zip comes to CF, i really didn’t have enough room to do it as instructed. and then oh horror of horrors, i couldn’t topstitch around the zipper. SOB! i am crazy upset about this. if you’ve been reading this blog for very long you will know of my obsessive topstitching, and here, of all things, the zip had to go without. between the bulk, the weird zip install, and the stretchiness of the fabric, i just couldn’t get any topstitching to look decent. i tried so hard… seriously, i am mortified over this egregious omission.

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then to top it off, there wasn’t really enough room to sew on the front flap that would have covered the zipper. i’m pretty bummed about that as well. in fact, the whole neckline on this pattern is problematic. it’s so snug she can barely zip it up all the way, and that coupled with the fact that i inadvertently added width at CF makes me feel like something is off in the drafting. were i to make this again i would have to make some adjustments there for sure.

the pattern does have a small facing around the zipper on the inside. i didn’t think of this until it was too late, but i’m pretty sure i could have used that facing piece on the flap side of the shell and seamed the flap in instead of sewing it on top as (i think) the pattern was instructing me to do.

the color is a bit off here but it was the only pic that really shows all the details

the color is a bit off here but it was the only pic that really shows all the details

other than not getting the flap on, the only thing i changed was how i did the drawstring casing. and this is hardly a change, but i thought i’d mention it. the pattern has you sew a casing to the inside of the shell. i did this with some leftover bias tape, then after i had the lining in i went back and topstitched over my original stitching to anchor the lining to the shell all the way around. it’s a small thing, but i thought it might look kinda sloppy on the inside with the drawstring only gathering the shell.

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for finishing touches, i did the fur trim on the hood, and hammered in ten shiny snaps. yeesh those snaps were hard to get in! i’ve only used the pronged type of snap before, so this was a new experience. i had to cut a hole in the fabric and insert them more like an eyelet (where you use a tool to hammer down this tube thing that curls over on itself to secure).

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not gonna lie, this coat was a mega hassle to make! some difficulties were my own doing, some were due to the pattern. the frustrating part is that changing up just a few small details would have made it go soooo much smoother. even though i wanted to burn this pattern by the time i was done with it, i think i may use it again for a lighter jacket post-winter. it would make a really cute anorak-style jacket, or even mix up some details for a military-inspired style. if i ignore the zip/flap disappointment, i really love how the coat came out! it’s so squishy and cozy, thanks to the fleece interlining, and it keeps her nice and toasty warm. anastasia loves it and positively squealed with joy when she saw the pockets. the girl loves her pockets, especially these deep roomy ones. all and all the coat is a win, though i hesitate to recommend the pattern. it’s been a while since a project has frustrated me as much as this one did, and it may belong in the “not worth the effort” category. unless you make a second one and are content to call the first a learning experience.

—lisa g.

papercut patterns | coppelia wrap

a while back i began to think that the coppelia wrap from papercut patterns would be a great addition to my wardrobe, in particular to wear with my skirts and over a couple of my dresses. i obsessed for a few days over having a wrap sweater and, before long, caved and put in my order. even though it was coming from the other side of the world, i was super impressed with how quickly it showed up! the fantastic thing about papercut is that they don’t charge extra for shipping. nothing i hate more than finally splurging on a more expensive pattern, only to get hit with an extra $5 in shipping. so, as others have stated, this makes papercut patterns’ pricing comparable to many other indie companies.

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i had a hard time selecting a fabric, but finally found a cotton/rayon/spandex interlock in a nice weight and in that perfect shade of red. i mentally checked off several things in my closet that would match (like my zinnia!), and in the cart it went (purchased locally from fabric basement, $7-ish/yd i believe).

i had pretty high hopes for this pattern, especially after seeing Lladybird’s numerous variations (this one is my fav!). however, my initial reaction to this sweater was one of disappointment. now, i had seen all the other reviews and complaints of this running large and, well, those reviews are certainly to be believed. it’s been a while since i actually sewed this, but i know i went down a full size to start with, and i took off another inch or so at the underarm. i puzzled over this pattern for a while, trying to figure out why it was so large and funnily shaped around the bust/underarm/side area. it seems as though this is drafted more like a dolman top with raglan sleeves. the pic below shows that all the weird pulling goes away with my arm at a 90 deg angle. so, instead of continuing to trim down the side seam little by little, i think perhaps the sleeve/body seams need to be taken in as well. if i alter this one (or make up future versions) i’ll need to do some comparisons to other raglan sleeved patterns.

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p.s. the sleeves are super long! yay for my monkey arms, but maybe not so much for someone shorter…

the slouchy fit seems intentional. however, i just don’t have the bust to fill out any part of the top, so it feels a bit frumpy and unflattering. that said: i’ve worn this quite a bit and only have minimal interest in altering the fit.

other than strange fit issues, i have a few nitpicks with the construction, specifically in regard to how the hem band is attached. you are supposed to sew one side of the band to the right side of the hem, then fold the inner SA of the hem band and stitch all the way around to catch the underside. now, i don’t know about you, but that just sounds like it would be a hot mess on the inside. it can be challenging enough to catch woven fabrics that way, but a knit? i don’t think so! plus, the hem is one of the few areas that needs to retain stretch, so doing this on my straight stitch seemed like a bad idea. i decided to cut the tie part of the hem band off and attach it separately. i’m not super happy with how that came out, and weeks later a much better way of doing the whole hem band and ties dawned on me. i’ll show you what i’m talking about later because i made wrap tops for my two ballet-dancing girls and took a few pics.

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all in all i have mixed feelings about this pattern. on the one hand the fit is odd and the construction isn’t awesome… but then again, it’s all highly fixable for future makes. the only reason i don’t want to jump ship and try a different pattern is because of the raglan sleeve. i LOVE raglan sleeves. they eliminate all my shoulder adjustments and who doesn’t love to “set in” a sleeve by sewing two nearly straight lines? winning!

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okay, that’s all for now. i have so many projects to share, and so little time to do it, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada… same song and dance as everyone this time of year. hopefully i can get caught up before 2014 rolls in! hey, don’t laugh. it could happen…

—lisa g.

orange silk blouse | mccalls 6793

my last post was of a scout tee in silk, but this blouse is actually the first one i made, and my first real foray into the world of floaty silks! natch, it comes with a convoluted narrative, so bear with me…

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last winter i entered the sewing for children pattern review contest and came in second for the coat i made my daughter. my prize was a $50 gift certificate to sewitup.com. truthfully, most of what they sell isn’t really my thing (haven’t looked recently though), but they do have a small selection of fabrics. i ended up treating myself to two yards of a silk crepe de chine. the price tag was a whopping $23/yd, so i crossed my fingers that it would live up to my expectations. at the time i didn’t know my chine from my charmeuse and had hoped to use it as a fancy jacket lining, but duh it’s totally the wrong type of silk for that. so… it sat in my sewing room for months and i kinda forgot about it until recently.

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i decided to make a blouse (though i wasn’t completely convinced that orange would look good on me) but in typical i’m afraid to ruin this fabric mode, i agonized over the details. for weeks. you know how it is… the longer you hold onto a nice cut of fabric, the harder it gets to use… then on a whim i decided to use mccalls 6793 and make the bow blouse with the peplum gathers and blouse-y sleeves (i love those sleeves!!), but as it turned out, i didn’t have quite enough fabric for that version. however, it led me to trying out the pattern on much less expensive fabric, specifically the bow blouse i made recently. i’m glad i did because i realized i really don’t need many bow blouses in my wardrobe. also, it was perfect to test the fit so i could confidently cut into my precious fabric. since i had the fit worked out, i decided to make some design changes. i browsed a ton of blouses online and decided to do the following:

  • raise the neckline to be more scooped
  • add a front button placket
  • bias bind the neckline
  • add a back yoke
  • add 2″ to CB of lower back piece for light gathers
  • add 1″ to back length, curve hem up at the sides

from my last version, i only tweaked the sizing a tad. i cut a straight S on the back piece (but added 2″ width at CB gathered to the yoke). on the front i also cut a straight S, but slashed and spread from the waist to swing the width out to a M at the hemline (just as i did for my last scout). anymore i prefer the “slash and spread/overlap” instead of grading between sizes because it feels more accurate and it’s more obvious what pattern changes i’m making to get the fit i need.

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even though i had all the details worked out in my head, i still procrastinated starting my project because i had about zero experience on dealing with silk. after a bit of online research and some swatch testing, i felt pretty confident that my fabric would not fall apart if i machine washed it, so in it went on the cold/handwash cycle. i threw in a color catcher sheet for good measure. after washing i line dried it, and that was it!

construction was slow, but all went well. the first thing i did was make the front button placket, and let’s just say i’m glad that i’m very comfortable with this process otherwise it would have been a nightmare. it’s still not perfect; even though i was using a microtex needle, it had a hard time piercing the layers. i encased the yoke seams as i would a regular button up, and french seamed the sides. the armholes i trimmed way down and serged.

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i realized i haven’t done a proper bias bound neckline in… i can’t even remember when, if ever! it’s a bit nerve-wrecking since you have to chop off the whole seam allowance. no turning back once you choose to go that route. fortunately it turned out pretty darn good. in the future, i think i need to “pre-stretch” the binding before cutting it to the right width. as in, cut bias strips wider than needed and actually stretch them out, then cut to the width i need. i think that would have made the bias tape more stable and easier to bind. if anyone has thoughts or experience, feel free to chime in on that one!

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i love these feminine bloused sleeves. they have a continuous binding placket and bias bound cuff/hem. if i had to do over again i wouldn’t bother with cutting the cuff on the bias (per the directions); the bias made it extremely difficult to sew since my fabric is cray cray stretchy on the bias. i had to meticulously measure the cuff as i gathered the sleeve to it to make sure it ended up the right length.

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anyways, i’m glad i finally got over my fear of silk, and i’m glad i fretted over every detail. even though i had the difficulty ramped up in my head, i would have regretted skimping on the details. i think the hardest part sewing wise was getting used to the feel, or lack thereof, of the fabric. the stuff is so thin and floaty that it almost disappears under your fingertips. other than that, it was pretty well behaved. and oh yeah… i love my blouse!

—lisa g.

scout tee in silk

not long ago jen over at grainline studio posted a tutorial on how to make the ever-popular scout tee with longer sleeves. i had just bought a nice cut of silk specifically for a scout tee, so i decided to give it a try. turns out, it’s pretty easy to do!

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so yeah, silk! this is the second blouse i’ve made in the last few weeks in silk, but i’m posting this one first because it’s a simpler design and i thought people might be curious about the longer sleeve adaptation. i don’t know if this is a particular type of silk, it’s er… silky, smooth, and appears to have a plain weave (as opposed to a crepe de chine, which is more textured—that is the limit of my knowledge of silks). since my first attempt at using silk went so well i was pretty confident to cut into this. to pretreat my fabric, i washed it on cold on the hand wash cycle, then line dried. it dries in about two seconds, so that’s pretty cool.

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i made my sleeve to have about a 12″ finished length from underarm to hem. the width of the sleeve hem is 12 1/2″ which i lightly gathered onto a 10 3/8″ long cuff/binding (i wrapped a measuring tape around my arm to determine how big i needed the cuff). the only thing i did differently than jen’s tutorial was to swoop the hemline up at the underarm seam by 1/2″ to keep it from being super slanty on my arm. the longest part of the “swoop” should be about 1/3 of the way in from the back underarm seam.

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the last time i made a scout tee i changed it up to have a yoke and a swingy back. this time around i left everything per the pattern (shocking!). i made a size 4 at bust, graded out to a 6, then slashed and spread to get the hemline out to a 10 (front and back pieces).

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and i dropped the back hem by 1″ cuz i like-a-de bum coverage.

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from my first scout i knew i needed to remove some excess at the bust so i made an SBA and removed 1″ from the front, like so:

i trued up the side seam when i cut my fabric.

i trued up the side seam when i cut my fabric.

i am thrilled with how this came out! the fit is basically perfect, and i love the sleeve length. since my fabric is more winter-y in color (the background color is dark navy), having sleeves was a no-brainer. and wow, i am totally team silk now. as much as i love rayons for their drape and fun prints, the wrinkle factor drives me mad! i picked up this silk for $12.99/yd at fabric basement (local). what a steal!

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i usually don’t bother looking at the silks. in fact i was by the rayons when i touched this bolt of fabric, looked at the content/price, then clutched it with my dear life! the cutting lady said the fabric was bolted (instead of on rolls) by mistake. had it been with the silks i never would have laid eyes on it. you can bet i’ll be perusing the silk section from now on.

—lisa g.

p.s. i’m working on organizing my blog a little better. if you are interested in my past makes, up above there is a “what i’ve made” page. there i have, in order, everything i have made this year, and links to the blog post. i planned to do the same for last year’s makes, but since i had switched my blog from blogger to WP, all my old pics are a jumble and nearly impossible to track down. also, i’m trying to make better use of my categories and tags. i’m working my way through all my posts (fortunately it’s super easy to do in WP) and hopefully within a few weeks i’ll have it better organized!