My 2011 in Review

Well, 2011 was an emotional year for me.  My youngest daughter graduated from high school, my mother went into a nursing home, various other problems that I won't mention here, and I did a LOT of reflection.  Where have I been, where do I want to go, etc, etc.  I'm sure all of you have had similar times.

With a now empty nest, I took on a lot of new roles- a new job as a mentor coordinator with the school district, teaching sewing lessons for community education programs, and tutoring reading.  I even took a short lived job at a local bridal store as a seamstress.  (What a nightmare job that was!) 

My husband has been wonderfully supportive during this transitional period, even though I'm sure that he misses having home-cooked meals like we used to have.  I hired several new people at SewBaby..  (And they are doing a great job- thank you Shirley, Elise, Jonathan and Christopher!).

I can't say that I'm any closer to answering any of those big questions.  I really love my new job, I love teaching sewing,  I love tutoring, and I still love SewBaby!  Certain things that used to be a priority have taken a backseat- my sewing, exercising, and reading.  My 2011 sewing was mostly for my daughters and easy to make Christmas presents.  My exercise buddy moved away, and I haven't read a single book for my book club this year!  I hope to be able to balance things out better in 2012, making time for those things that I truly miss and enjoy.

Now that I'm working outside the home, I really do need some nice quality career wear, and I think that will be my sewing focus for 2012.  I don't think that I'm going to get any more specific than that.  If there is one thing that I've learned from 2011, it is that life changes directions when you least expect it to, and have to embrace the people and possibilities that you have at that moment.  To everything there is a season, and eventually I'm sure I'll be sewing for weddings, grandchildren, and school dances in the future.

Here's to the end of 2011 and to a bright 2012 for all of us!

Kind regards,

Winter Wardrobe Sewing Plan

I think that my favorite part of sewing doesn't have anything to do with the actual sewing!  It's the PLANNING.  I could look at patterns and fabrics for hours and hours, imagining what to do with them.  It's pretty easy to spend more time daydreaming about what I can make than actually making it. Here is my latest sewing plan. 

The fabrics have been in my stash quite a while, so I am going to use the Fabric Stash contest as an incentive to actually follow through with my plan.  It's only a month long contest, so I'm being rather ambitious- that would equal two garments a week, but I think that I can do it.
I bought some shoes and necklaces to go with these things too, so I really have committed myself to this!
The last time I followed through with a plan was about two years ago when I did another wardrobe contest.  It really helped me to expand my wardrobe, and I'm thinking it's about time to do it again- this time in more neutrals- black, cream and gold.

First up will be a pencil skirt made from this lovely black shetland wool:

I got this gold wool gabardine in a mystery bundle a few years ago, and really thought it was awful.  Now I can't wait to make a pair of wide legged trousers from it.  I think it will look fantastic with any of my solid cream or black tops.

I need a couple of new blouses.  I have two pieces of silk that have that pretty gold shade in it.
First is this lovely paisley chiffon:

Then this animal print silk charmeuse with a little turquoise in it too

Both of those tops should also go with the black pencil skirt, or another pair of pants from this fantastic cream stretch wool:

And to add a little layering interest, how about a vest in this metallic linen tweed:

I think I need a basic sheath dress in this black and cream stretch honeycomb wool:

And lastly, a coat or cape from this acrylic plaid boucle:

I haven't picked out the exact patterns yet, but can't wait to get started!  What do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Vogue 8771 Striped Knit Top

Boy, it has been a while since I posted anything that I've made for myself!  I've been sewing a lot, but mostly Christmas presents like pajamas and pillowcases.  Now that Christmas is over, I am dying to try out some of the new patterns that I've bought in the last couple of months!  I've picked out quite a few fabrics in the black, cream and gold color groups to make a group of separates that will coordinate. This top is the first of many in this plan to come.  These photos were taken today- our first snowfall of the season! 
I bought Vogue 8771 when it first came out, but hadn't found the perfect fabric for it until just last week.   The pattern is just 4 pieces- front, back, sleeve and cuff.  I made View C which is the longer version that has a curved hem- shorter in the front than the back. It was super easy to sew.  The neckline is narrow hemmed, so there aren't any fussy bands to fiddle with.  

Vogue 8771
Here it is without the cardigan so you can see the hem better.  The scarf is a separate piece- an infinity scarf from the Limited that I bought last year.  I cut the sleeves in the opposite direction that the pattern indicated, because I wanted the cuff stripe to clearly be different.  Other than that, I didn't make any changes to the pattern.  I made the medium and it fit great.  You can't see the neckline in the photo, but it is fairly wide, and definitely needs a scarf or a turtleneck underneath to keep warm in this weather. 

Close-up of fabric. 
I got this tiny black and ivory cotton jersey with gold lurex threads from for $1.99.   It was just  I thought this pattern would be perfect to play with the stripe direction.   I'm pretty sure that I will make this one again, as it's comfy and unique.  I definitely would recommend it to even a beginning seamstress!


10% Off All E-Patterns!

Any last minute sewing projects you want to do before Christmas!?  Well, try a downloadable e-pattern!  All of our E-Patterns are 10% off right now, and they are quick and easy to download so you can get started right away!

New Ellie Inspired Patterns!

 Do you love knit fabrics?  Do you love patterns?  Do you love sewing?  Then these patterns by Ellie Inspired are perfect for you!  They are exclusively designed for knits!

With the wide selection of styles, you'll be able to create a super cute outfit for your little ones.  Plus, the knit fabric and easy wash & wear care makes it an instant hit for moms. 

Snap Sale at SewBaby!

It's that time of year again!  No, not Halloween or Thanksgiving, but time to stock on snaps with our biannual Snap Sale!  Take 20% off of any snap product with the coupon code SNAPS20 through 11/8/11!  In addition to the coupon, if you order 6 packages of snaps, you will qualify to get an additional $3 off for a quantity discount!  Why snaps?  They are faster than buttons, easier than zippers, and don't damage your clothes like velcro.  What is not to love? 

Our line of snaps is from the Snap Source, and we carry a HUGE range of their products.  If you are unfamiliar with the Snap Source- here are just a few of the MUST HAVE items that they manufacture.

1.  THE Snap Setter.  (Yes, I meant to capitalize the THE, because it is the only snap setter that I use!)
  The snap setter is a three part high impact plastic tool, that magically sets your snaps with just a few hits of a hammer.  The snaps come out perfect with this tool, unlike plier type tools that can let the snap parts shift in the process.  The snap setter comes in several sizes, according to what size snap you are setting.
Each snap has 4 parts- the top (which can be a cap or a ring), the socket, the stud, and the bottom ring.  The snap setter comes with instructions on how to put all of these pieces together in the right order.

2.  Open Ring Snaps.  These are the kind that when applied, look like a ring, with fabric filling in the middle.  They come in a dozen different colors, and are perfect for leg openings for baby clothes, baby bibs, pacifier holders, or anything else that you need a simple closure.

3.  Capped Snaps.  These are the kind that are solid circles, they come in a couple of dozen colors, and 5 sizes!  Size 14- the smallest- for baby and doll clothes.  Size 15- for infant and toddlers.  Size 16-the most popular size- for toddlers and up, size 20- when you need a larger snap, and size 24- the largest- great for adult fleece coats!
There are so many colors to choose from, that it can be overwhelming.  That's why we have them in assortments so that you can try several colors from just one package.

4.  Pearl Snaps.  These have a metallic outer ring that is filled in with a pearlized center  Beautiful!  You see these on Western wear a lot, but I think think they look great on girls' clothing as well.

So, take advantage of this great sale and stock up!  Remember, the coupon code is SNAPS20 and it is good only until 11/8/11!  Our experience is that some colors do sell out quickly, so don't wait until the last minute if you have a particular color preference.


A Dirndl for Oktoberfest: Burda 8448

Burda 8448
My daughter went to Germany as a foreign exchange student several years ago, and ever since, she has been asking me to make her a dirndl for Oktoberfest.  I finally succumbed this year to her request.  A dirndl is a traditional German folk costume that includes a dress with a very full skirt and a very fitted bodice, an apron that goes over the skirt, and a peasant top to go under the bodice.

Burda magazine always features a dirndl in their September issue, and the Burda pattern book had lots of styles to choose from- from sexy St. Pauli girl type outfits, to long covered up ones.

My daughter chose 8448, which is one of the more covered up ones.  I used a black striped linen for the skirt, a pretty blue cotton for the apron, a black stretch corduroy for the bodice, and a lovely white batiste with little pink tufts of embroidery for the blouse.

The pattern takes a TON of fabric- it called for 3-3/8 yds just for the skirt.  My daughter is petite and I knew that she would just be swimming in fabric if I used that much for the skirt, so I improvised.  I used a 2 yard piece of fabric, cut it in half, so that there was one yard for the front, and one yard for the back.  I pleated it until it was the same size as the bottom of the bodice.  This was plenty of fabric for her as you can see!

I shortened the length of the apron pattern piece, so that it wouldn't be longer than the skirt.  The pattern also called for some shirring on the apron, but I chose to just gather it instead.  The top pattern was designed to hit just below the bust.  I added 10 inches to it, to make it full length, so that she can wear it alone as a top, which she has been doing.

Burda instructions from their paper patterns are horrendous.  They are done in about 6 point typeface, printed oh so faintly on newsprint, and several columns in different languages.  I also don't like that their layout diagrams are printed on the pattern tissue, not the instructions.  But if you've got good eyes, or a good pair of reading glasses, you can make it through them.  I am so spoiled by the quality of American pattern company instructions.  It's good to sew a Burda patten once in a while, just to appreciate our homies so much more!

However, my daughter is very happy with her dirndl and has worn it to a couple of events already.  I think she will get lots of years of use from it, so I'm happy with the results.

One Pattern, One Afternoon, 4 Looks!

I'm so excited- I think I just found my new go to TNT (Tried-n-True) pattern for a draped neck t-shirt!  The pattern is from the Fall/Winter issue of My Image magazine, style #1152.  A mere 3 pattern pieces, and a Saturday afternoon sewing time, and I was able to whip up 4 completely different looks. 
Version #1- work top
My one tip with this pattern- eliminate the back neck facing- you don't need it!  Just turn under 1/2" and topstitch in place.  

The first is a  work look- I used a poly/lycra jersey knit in a crazy black, cream and red animal print.   This one went together so well, and fit so perfectly, that as soon as I was done, I said, "okay, what else can I make from this pattern?"

Version #2 Casual top with jeans

  So, my next version is more casual- it's a grey and white geometric rayon lycra knit that I thought I could wear with my grey jeans.  Again, my growing addiction to this pattern left me hungry for more!  So, I thought "Hmmm...let's try some completely different fabric...."

Version #3- Short dress with leggings.
Which is where this one version came in.  I'm going to call this one my "blue giraffe" dress,as the print looks like a giraffe skin, but of course, in blue.  This one is a thick, heavy double knit, that will be so warm in the winter.  I lengthened the pattern 15 inches to get above the knee length to wear with tights or leggings.

I still was riding high from 3 good rolls of the dice, so I thought I would really play a wild card on the next version.

Version #4- Dressy Party Top!

Which is where this last top came in.  This is a sequined mesh knit- very little stretch, so I made the seam allowances just 1/4 inch.  I LOVE this one!  It will be perfect for holiday parties!

The sequins are hard to photograph, so Elise, my photographer, took a video to catch how the sequins light up when I move.

And the best part of this- the fabric was part of a FREE mystery bundle from Fabric Mart!  As I always say, you can't beat FREE!

I stopped here, but I swear that the possibilities for this pattern are endless.  It went together so easily, and fits so nicely, that I can see making this for holiday gifts, with short sleeves for spring, and sleeveless for summer. 

You can still buy this issue here!  It is absolutely worth it even if all you make is this one pattern!

Happy Sewing!

Win A Free Pattern!

Guess what!?  You could win a free pattern! 

Just follow us on Twitter
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10 Winners will be chosen next Tuesday 10.25.2011!

My Dear Watson- It's a Cape!

I'm giving a nod to Sherlock Holmes' style in my latest sewing escapade.  This plaid wool cape is for a friend of mine who is preparing for a life of excitement and adventure.  She is expecting a baby in late January: the COLDEST time of the year in Illinois!  Coats are my specialty, but I wanted to make something non-maternity, that she could continue to wear anytime after the baby is born. So, voila, a CAPE came to mind!  I've never owned or made a cape before, so this was a journey into the unknown for me.  Here is my pattern review for Simplicity 2285 that I posted on

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, but the pocket area is a little tricky and you have to think through that. When I was making it, I forgot that I was making a cape, not a coat, and was thinking "These are the craziest pocket instructions I've ever seen!!! How did these ever get approved!!!!". Then I realized that the pockets are accessible from the INSIDE of the coat, AND that the same opening is used to put your hands through to get to the outside.
Inside pocket with opening to front for arms.
Close-up of gun flaps and buttons.
back pleat detail
Fabric Used: A Woolrich wool plaid in burgundy, plum and grey. I bought it on Ebay- 2-1/2 yards for $17!  I also found the buttons on Ebay. They were definitely vintage- still on the cards, and I was so happy because I got them for a fraction of what new buttons would have cost, PLUS they are THE perfect color!
front welt pocket detail
Cape on hanger
Would you sew it again?  Yes, I think that I would like to make one for myself, now that I've figured out the ins and outs of this pattern. They say that capes are "In" this year. I have yet to see that in central Illinois, but me and my pregnant friend may be the first.

My Image 1157 Princess Seamed Dress

I'm excited to make my first item from the My Image Fall/Winter 2011 magazine!  I love this pattern magazine because its designs are so wearable and they include a lot of designs for knits. This one is style 1157.

Pattern Description: Long sleeved princess style dress with a gathered front inset.

Pattern Sizing: European sizes 36-44.  I made size 42, which is about a US size 12 in RTW.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? No, I don't think that the line drawing portrayed the center front correctly. It's only gathered on one side, and the line drawing looks like it is gathered on both sides.

Were the instructions easy to follow? The only problem that I had was with where to match the notches on the front panels. There were too many notches!! I originally must have chosen the wrong ones to match the center front panel with the side front panel, as the neckline came to below my bra line. I actually thought about just turning it around and wearing it as a dress with an extremely low back. But, modesty got the best of me, and I decided to rip it out, and place it about 6 inches higher this time.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I thought it was figure flattering, but appropriate for work.

Fabric Used: A violet rayon jersey. A difficult fabric to work with because it is so stretchy. 

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I lengthened the dress 3 inches, and the sleeves 2 inches. I also raised the neckline higher than intended.

I also eliminated the back facing. I ironed a fusible bias tape interfacing to the back, and just turned under and topstitched it in place.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, but I would just ignore the notch markings on the center front panel, and use your own judgement of where to gather, and where to place it on the side front panel. But overall, I love the fit from this company, and recommend them.

You can order this issue from this here.

Bundle Sale at SewBaby

If you have a tendency to want every fabric because they are all so beautiful, but don't have the space to keep yards and yards, then you will love our fabric bundles!  We've selected several fabrics that all go wonderfully together, and packaged them in bundles that contain 1/2 yard of each fabric.  These are wonderful to help you get creative!  Use one fabric for a collar, another fabric for a hem band, perhaps another for the bodice and another for the skirt.  Or if you are making home dec items, piece together the pieces for valances, pillow tops, aprons, etc.  The possibilities are limitless!
Another wonderful thing about our bundles, is that they are always 10% less than you would pay regularly for them if you were to buy them individually.  And to entice you to try them out, we are offering a special coupon for an extra 15% off the bundles until October 17th!
Just type in the code BUNDLE11 when you check out to get this extra discount.
Visit our bundles here!
Happy Bundling!

Sewing 101 Class Projects!

 I took on a new adventure this September.  I decided to teach sewing classes for our local community college, Parkland College, and for the Urbana Adult Education program.  I've taught private sewing lessons before, but not a group, so I had to think about how to go about it.  I, myself, am a project based learner- learning through actually making something, not by listening to a lecture or reading a book. So, Shirley suggested that our Double Duty bag pattern would be a great project that would appeal to a wide variety of people, and could be used in many situations- knitting bag, diaper bag, beach bag, etc. Shirley has made over 50 of these bags herself, so I invited her to be my teaching assistant during class.

The students were amazing and very patient with us as we learned what worked and what didn't with our set-up.  They did a fantastic job, and here are the pictures to prove it!
    We held the class here at Sewbaby because I had collected enough Bernina sewing machines over the years, and I knew that if something went wrong during class, that I could fix them.  Also, we set up a cutting station and two ironing stations to be shared among the six students per class.  I have new respect for home economics teachers who somehow manage to coordinate 20 or 30 students and their sewing projects! 

We had a lot of fun teaching and are planning on Sewing 102 in the very near future. If you are in the Champaign-Urbana area and would like more information, you can contact either the Parkland College Community Education or Urbana Adult Education programs for our next offerings!


My Image 1115 Asymmetrical Neckline Dress

Line drawing from magazine
The dress on me.
When the My Image Spring/Summer issue came out, I knew that the first thing I wanted to make from it was M1115- the Asymmetrical Neckline Dress.  I just didn't know that it would take me this long to do it! 

But before the summer got away, I managed to trace the pattern, and I chose a gorgeous rayon knit print to make it with. 

I eliminated the back center seam, but otherwise made a straight size 42. 

The front ruching is done with a length of elastic, but the instructions were pretty vague about how much to use, and where to put it. 

I measured the front seam, and cut a piece of 1/4" wide elastic 3/4 the length of the seam. 

Then I zigzagged it to the seam starting just below the facing, and ending just above the hem allowance.  It seemed to work pretty well.

You can see the final results on me here.

On me, the neckline dipped below where my bra shows, so I would have to wear it with a cami.

If I made it again, I would make a size smaller at the shoulders to try to prevent that. 

The dress on Mariah

My assistant, Mariah, tried it on too. 

It fit her perfectly throughout, and I thought she looked amazing in it. 

The front neckline didn't dip so low on her, and the dress really showed off her curves.

Even though Mariah and I have different body types, I think that this dress looks great on both!  

Mariah has an upcoming wedding to go to, so I decided to give this dress to her, and I'll have to come up with a different fabric for one for me

The dress took me about 1 hour to trace the pattern and cut, and two hours to sew, so it is a quick and fun project to do.

The pattern magazine is currently on sale at SewBaby,  so grab it while you still can!
Mariah and I together.


Simplicity 2178 Cynthia Rowley Dress

I wanted to make myself a dress for my daughter's high school graduation party next week, and chose Simplicity 2178 which is a design by Cynthia Rowley.  I originally chose to make the longer maxi-dress, but the consensus from my family was that it looked too costumey- too much like a Roman, so I shortened it to knee length.
The fabric that I used was a silk-linen blend- very vibrant in color with a nice weighty drape. 
The pattern features a side invisible zipper, a faced front, pockets, and a shoulder tie.  I really love dresses with pockets!  The shoulder tie is a nice touch, and the other side with strap allows you to still wear a regular bra.  I would advise that you use a fairly thin fabric if you are doing the version with the shoulder tie, as by the time you knot four layers together, it can get thick and heavy, which isn't the look you'll want. 

I had to shorten the length of the shoulder strap by 2 inches.  I also did a full bust adjustment and added a couple of inches to the waist.  From the back view, I can tell that the back bodice was a little too long, so I'll shorten it, if I make it again to get rid of that fold in the back.  Overall, I'm really happy with the fit, and the adjustments were easy enough.  I now can't wait to part-ay!

Simplicity 2252 Formal Dress

This is a great new pattern from designer Jessica McClintock for Simplicity  2252. 
I made a slight variation on View A for our friend Colleen's senior prom.  She wanted a one shoulder drape, instead of a halter type top.
Colleen found this great chiffon type fabric that looks like water with silver sequin like discs that sparkle.  It's really a gorgeous fabric, and I bet it looked great on the dance floor.  The pattern had called for a stiffer fabric, so what I did was underline each piece with a polyester lining in blue, to give it the stiffness that was needed to form the pleats in the waist area.

The bodice is completely lined and supported with boning. I cut the size 10 which matched Colleen's measurements exactly, but it was too tight.  I had to let it out a bit, so if you make this, I would recommend making a size bigger than your measurements to be on the safe side.

Here is the back view.
It has a small train on the back.  The wind was blowing when we took these photos, so it is hard to see how it should lie. 

Overall, this is a fantastic pattern and I wouldn't hesitate to make it again!

Vogue 7521 Fit for a Queen

Vogue 7521 Dress front
It's been a while since I posted anything that I've made myself.  I haven't been sewing too much lately, and what I have been sewing has been a lot of odd jobs for other people.  But I always love sewing prom formals, and I've sewn two this season, which may help me get my sewing groove back.  This one is Vogue 7521 which my daughter chose for her senior prom. 
Dress back
This is a really nice classic pattern.  It has both a halter and criss-cross back option.  This took 3-1/2 yards of 60" wide fabric, and with my zipper, pattern, fabric, I made it for under $20! 

Dress front close-up.
It went together quite easily, and had I not tried to insert bra cups in it, it would have taken me just a few hours.  I had originally inserted some gel type bra cups in it, and just as I was nearly finished with the dress, I inadvertently stuck one of the cups with a pin, and oil came oozing out all over!  Horror of horrors!  You should never wash satin, as it spots easily, but I had no choice.  I removed the punctured bra cup, and threw the dress in the sink with some Dawn dishwashing detergent.  I hung it to dry overnight, praying that I hadn't ruined the whole thing, and luckily, the next morning, there was no sign of the disaster.  I would not recommend using gel cups ever!

Dress side- held in place with dress tape.
Be aware that this dress is not designed to be worn with a bra.  So, we purchased dress tape to hold it in place at the sides.  It worked, and she had a wonderful prom, culminating with her being crowned Prom Queen! 
Prom Queen Alyssa in her Vogue 7521 dress
At the Prom with a handsome date.
The only issue that I had with the pattern was that when it came time to hem, it was really too short!  My daughter is just 5 feet 6 inches, which is supposed to be the height that patterns are designed for, so I didn't think to even check.  The hem was longer at the sides, and I had to trim off about 3 inches at the sides to get it to match the front and the back.  I'm sure that was related to the weight of the satin on the bias. 
She would have liked to have worn high heels with it, as her date is quite tall, but it wasn't to be this time.  If I make this dress again for her, I would add 4 inches to the length.

The Queen Mum with the Queen

Comfortable enough to bake brunch in!
I think it's a great dress pattern, and easy to sew if you avoid the pitfalls that I've mentioned above.  The dress looked great the whole night, and was comfortable for dancing.  I would highly recommend it!