It's funny how time goes by so much faster as you get older.  I can't hardly believe that a whole year has flown by.  The year started for me on a sad note- my Mother passed away on January 4, 2014. She was a huge part of my life, and is missed everyday.  She is the person who taught me how to sew, as well as most of the other valuable lessons that I've learned about life.   Doing well in school is one thing, but life demands more than what you can learn in school, and that I learned from my parents.

So, in regards to sewing, and this blog, my year started off slowly.  I had actually still been sewing, and dedicated an entire group of items to my Mom, but wasn't up to reviewing them for the most part.  Here is what they looked like altogether:
It's actually a beautiful group of garments, with turquoise as the glue that holds them all together. 
Turquoise was her favorite color, as it is mine, so I will always think of her when I wear these things.

My next sewing inspiration didn't happen until my family went on a vacation to Italy in June.  I became obsessed with two goals:  1. Making a travel wardrobe for 2-1/2 weeks abroad that would fit inside a backpack.  2.   Making things that would be extremely lightweight so that backpack wouldn't be too heavy to lug around Italy.    I created several featherweight travel dresses, a secure money/credit card holder, and started to get my sewing mojo back.

Then, after Italy, I found myself a few pounds thinner than I had been!  Big surprise, considering that I had eaten myself silly while on vacation.  But having a little slimmer silhouette, motivated me to enter the Mini-Wardrobe contest and make myself some new clothes.

 And, I won!  I was really surprised, and quite honored to be recognized by my peers.

Then, when I saw that Fabricmart was having a sewing challenge in the Fall, I decided to throw my hat in the ring.  I learned so much from doing these challenges.
I made a t-shirt out of recycled silk saris; I made a well fitting dress; I copied a RTW top exactly; I sewed with velvet on the bias for a red dress; and I dyed my own fabric for the first time.  It really propelled my sewing to the next level, making me think outside the box. 

Although I didn't win the challenge, I did become a Fabricmart Fabricista, and was challenged to come up with a new project to blog about using their fabrics each month.  I'm definitely getting mileage from my Orange Crush and Pajama Party favorites.

In November, I created a mini-wardrobe for my daughter who needed some professional looking clothes for her engineering job.  This was a lot of fun for me, and she is enjoying wearing as well.

There are a few sewing activities that are extremely important to me, but that I don't blog about. I lead an after school club for 5th graders at a local grade school, and another sewing 4-H club for the county extension service.  I am extremely proud of the children in my club who have shown such enthusiasm for sewing, and am excited to see them grow.

I also have taught a small number of adults this year, who I have really enjoyed getting to know, and sharing my love of sewing with them.  I think that of all the sewing related things that I do, these would be the things that would make my Mom the happiest to know about. 

What a year!  Each year brings new experiences and challenges, and 2014 was packed for me.  I'm looking forward to 2015, and wishing you all a very happy 2015!


Style Arc Dotty Blouse and Burda 6879 Skinny Pants

Listen children.  It's time for a sewing story.  Sit by the fire with me, and I'll tell you the story of how three flat, lifeless pieces of fabric became my new favorite winter outfit. With a little help from the elves at FabricMart, Burda, and Style Arc, I whipped up this outfit just in time for the holidays.

Chapter 1.  The Dotty Blouse

Silk charmeuse.  Aahhhh.  Just the thought of it brings me bliss.  Is there anything so light as a feather, shimmery as a star, fluid as a mountain stream?  All wrapped up in one glorious fabric.  Sometimes I look at the prices of clothes in the stores, and wonder "Why am I sewing? ".  But one touch of silk charmeuse and I remember. This is the stuff that you can't buy a top made from for less than $200, but you can make it for $50 or less.

When I saw this stylized animal print silk charmeuse at FabricMart, I grabbed up 3 yards of it right away.  One of silk charmeuse's best qualities is it's drapability, and I'd been looking for a fabric with fabulous drape to make a crossover draped front blouse pattern from Style Arc- the Dotty Blouse.

Dotty is really designed for a fabric that looks the same on both sides, as the pattern piece for the front is just one piece that flips at the hem.  Since my fabric is different on the reverse, I decided to split the pattern piece into two at the hem level, add a seam allowance, and sew them together. 

Now, when it folds back on itself, you'll see the right side of the fabric.  The bottom doesn't lay perfectly straight, so a little bit of the wrong side does show, but I'm okay with that.

Cutting silk charmeuse can be tricky.  Here is my go to method:

 1.  Lay a layer of tissue paper underneath the fabric, and pin the fabric to the edges.  (Save all that tissue from your gift bags!)

2.  Use fabric weights that have pins at the bottom of them to hold the pattern in place.   These are by Olfa.  I don't think they make them anymore, but if you ever see them at a garage sale or ebay, snap them up, as they work remarkably well!

3.  Change the rotary cutter blade to a brand new super sharp one.  Silk fibers are very strong, and if your blade is not 100% sharp, you'll end up with uncut fibers.   

4.  Cut firmly through all layers.  And voila!  You have a beautiful cut edge.

The fronts are finished just by folding back a facing.  The instructions didn't indicate how to finish the back neckline, so I decided to use a bias strip of self fabric before sewing the shoulder seams.
 I hemmed the back bottom edge using a technique called the Baby Hem.  It's my favorite way to hem delicate and slippery fabrics.  

Finished Baby Hem.

Chapter 2:  The Skinny Pants

Since Dotty is so loose fitting, I needed something form-fitting on the bottom.  I found this soft black and tan stretch denim at Fabric Mart to go with Burda 6879- a skinny pant with pockets and a back yoke. 

I have a hard time making pants, as my waist measurement is 2 sizes bigger than the hip measurement.  So, I blended between sizes, and crossed my fingers, hoping for a good outcome.  They were no where near as skinny as I had envisioned.  I kept on sewing the side seams a little bigger, and a little bigger, until I got the fit that I was after.  I probably ended up taking off about 1-1/2" on each side.    I wanted them to be super snug at the legs, but comfortable at the top.

Chapter 3:  The Faux Fur Vest

The faux fur vest is made from Burda Style pattern magazine issue 11/2012, #103.  What is this model doing wearing fur on the beach with a sleeveless dress?

You can see, that there isn't much to this vest.  And that's what I wanted.  Sewing with faux fur is messy, and I wanted as few pieces to cut as possible.  The vest is lined, and really quite warm.  I bought the dusty pink faux fur from FabricMart a couple of years ago.  It's super soft and fun to wear.

Chapter 4- Putting them all together
So, that's the story of how each flat piece of fabric became something new and exciting to wear.  Now, altogether, they will be worn to a Hanukkah party, a Christmas party, a New Year's Eve party, and probably many more times this winter.  As long as I don't eat myself out of fitting into these skinny pants! 
Now, if I can just beat my husband at chess....


Happy Holidays Everyone!!!  Here's wishing you a wonderful New Year!


Time for a Pajama Party!

I hope that you are having a great Thanksgiving weekend!  Do you go out shopping on Black Friday?  While Black Friday is the official start of the holiday shopping season, for me, it is the official start of the holiday sewing season!  I usually stay home and start my gift giving sewing. 

I love to sew pajama pants and robes for holiday presents.  Although I make them for my family, I had not made myself a robe and pajamas for years, so, I decided to treat myself to a new set.

We live in Illinois where we can get bitterly cold winters, so I chose Fabric Mart's sky blue polar fleece for the robe.  This is a higher quality fleece than the fleeces you can find in the chain stores.  It is light, stretchy and velvety soft.  My cat with claws has not yet been able to snag it, which means it should last for years!

The robe pattern is McCall's 5769, with 13 inches added to the length.  This pattern is now out of print, but really any robe pattern will work.  The main differences in robe patterns seem to be whether you want a shawl collar or not, and whether you want inseam or patch pockets.   
Applying Wonder Tape to interfaced band.  The black is a fusible knit interfacing.

My trick for professional looking pockets and front bands is to interface them with a lightweight knit interfacing, then use Wonder tape to adhere the stitching area.  If you've not used Wonder Tape before, you must try it!   It's a double sided tape that takes the place of pins, and it is ideal for pockets, zippers, or anything that you don't want to shift when you are sewing.  I also use a double needle to top stitch the pocket top, attach the pocket to the robe, and to stitch the front band down. 

For the pajamas, I used a rayon lycra knit.  Rayon knits are breathable and super soft.  I know that especially at this time of year, you can buy all polyester pajamas that are super cheap.  I really prefer to sew my own out of a breathable fabric.

The pattern is McCalls 7061.   This is a new release with several variations on the standard hoodie plus shorts, pants, and booties.

The bootie pattern was a little vague on the sizing, and I cut the Large because I wear a size 9 shoe.  It ended up being HUGE, and I ended up cutting it down a couple of sizes to fit better.  My old fleece robe is  the black lining.   Check out the cute gripper fabric with feet for the bottoms!

My fabric was super stretchy, so I interfaced the kangaroo pocket with a piece of lightweight knit interfacing to  keep it from bagging, and to keep the edges  from waving.  Next, I applied Wonder Tape to attach the edges to the shirt front.
Pocket prep with fusible interfacing and Wonder tape.  Neckline stabilizing with twill tape.

I also serged in a twill tape in the hood/neckline seam because it was going to stretch out of shape unless I added in something to stabilize it.  I buy twill tape in bulk because it is a soft, inexpensive way to stabilize.  Just feed it into the serger stitching line as you are sewing the seam.

I’m SEW happy to have my new pajamas, robe and booties!   What presents do you like to sew for your holiday gift giving? 

Have a great holiday weekend!


Violet, Grey and Black Mini-Wardrobe

My daughter's 24th birthday is this month, and when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she said "Could you make me some new clothes?".  Music to my ears!  I've had a horrible cold all weekend and haven't left the house for 3 days because I've been so sick, but it gave me plenty of time to think about what I could make.  I napped a little, sewed a little, napped a little sewed a little. 

Serena started her first professional job last year, and she works as a food engineer in Chicago.  She can wear anything that she wants to work, but she really likes dresses.  She also has a long commute to get to her job, which involves about a mile walk each morning in the Chicago weather, plus standing outside at the train station every day in the bitter cold.  So, I thought I would make her some things to make that commute a little warmer, and still be fun and appropriate for a 24 year old engineer.  I started pulling fabrics from my stash, and a violet, grey, black theme started.

Then I went to my Burda magazines for inspiration, and came across this top and skirt set from the October issue.  I made the top out of a chevron print rayon challis, and the skirt from a dove grey wool gabardine. 

I think the top is really fun and she can pull from any of those colors for her accessories.

The skirt isn't completed yet- I still need to line and hem it, but I want it to fit her like a glove, so I'm going to wait until she can try it on.

I liked that top so much, that I pulled another polyester crepe from my stash to make a second one.  Both of these fabrics were "mystery bundle" fabrics from Fabric Mart.

I think that the skirt looks fine with both.  But if she likes the skirt style, I have a dark violet wool gabardine, that I'd make a second one from.  I just love this skirt shape too.  Ignore the wrinkles- that should go away when I line it.

She wanted some dresses, but I knew that they needed to be wash and wear and comfortable.  This is a Scuba fabric that I picked up at Hancock's.  I didn't even know it was scuba, until I started working with it, and then it dawned on me- this is too springy to be a normal ponte.  Also, it didn't absorb any water when I prewashed it.  It was dry as a bone coming out of the wash.  I think she's going to like this one.

I used the Winter Street Dress pattern from  I did add some darts to give it a little more shaping so the waist would be a little more fitted.

I wanted to make a top layer in case her office is chilly.  I had this houndstooth ponte knit, and used McCalls 7026.  
This is a zip front sweatshirt pattern, but out of the houndstooth, I think it looks more business casual. It can go with absolutely everything in this capsule!  It's got some really nice design lines to it- I think I'd like to make one of these for myself.

I had another ponte in the violet/black combination, and decided to make a second Winter Street Dress from it.  I put in side seam pockets in both of the Winter Street Dresses.  That's one of the advantages to making things yourself.  You hardly ever see a ready to wear dress with pockets these days.
The scarf is a silk chiffon, that I bought a length of and made two scarves- I have one, and she has the other, so I know she can do this look!

I still have one more piece for this that I want to make and that's a full length coat.  But, I want to make sure that she'll wear one if I make it.  I have an idea of mixing some very dark purple wool coating, with a black and white houndstooth wool and some black leather.  Not sure how this is going to play out yet, but stay tuned!


A Marbella Dress for November

Is your sewing palette influenced by the seasons?

Despite knowing what colors are supposed to look good on my complexion, I ignore that advice and sew fabric that feels like the season.  According to the 80's classic style guide "Color Me Beautiful", I'm either a Spring or a Summer, but those shades feel so wrong this time of year.  So, with Fall in full swing, I turn to golds, browns and greens.  My cornucopia colors. 

I received this stretch peachskin autumn toned print in a Mystery Bundle from FabricMart in May.  At that time,  I swear that I thought it was the most hideous fabric ever.   I was going into my summer color phase.  I almost made it into a muslin a few times, then almost gave it away.  But what a difference a few months made in my attitude!  When Kennis from Itch to Stitch asked me if I'd like to make her new Marbella Dress pattern, I knew I had to make it out of this fabric! 

The Marbella Dress is a sleeveless dress PDF pattern with sizes 00-20 and cup sizes A-D included.  I was a little skeptical about the cup sizes, as the designer said that the final garment measurements wouldn't change with different cup sizes.    She advises that you just choose the size closest to your bust measurement, and then use the pattern piece closest to your bra cup size.  That is different than most multi-cup size patterns that I've seen.   However, it worked!  Not just okay, but perfectly!  I think this might be the best bust fit I've gotten in a pattern without alterations!  Yay, Itch to Stitch! 

Another extremely convenient feature to this pattern was that you could print out only the size(s) that you need, using a layering option in the PDF file.  I'd not seen this before, and it really helps to increase accuracy in cutting.  Since I sew for my 3 daughters, who are all different sizes, I anticipate using this feature several times in the future.  

The instructions are extremely detailed, and for people that are new to sewing, these would be extremely helpful.  You will get a very well made garment from the methods that she uses.  That said- I did skip a few of the steps, just based on the fact that my fabric has quite a bit of stretch and body, and I knew that I could get away with a few shortcuts.   

You can make this lined or unlined, and I chose to not line it.  The peachskin fabric has a slippery, lining like feel to the wrong side.    I really am impressed with this fabric.  I hope that I will see more of it on the FabricMart website, as I'd like to try it in some other colors.  It's just incredibly soft to the touch.  And so far, not too static-y, which is one pet peeve I have with synthetic fibers. 

This time of year, I will probably need to wear it most of the time with a second layer.  I could have gone with a turtleneck underneath, but I chose to go with a cardigan from McCalls 6844  in a steel blue sweater knit.  This is more complimentary to my skin tone than the dress itself, but it blends well with the fall shades in the print.

Oh, and I don't want to forget to mention my favorite part- pockets!   I know, I know.  You can add pockets to any dress really.  But it is so nice to have it included in the pattern with the correct markings. 

I did lengthen the skirt section 1-1/2".  I'm 5'9'' for reference.  I also took in the waist and hips to fit a little more snugly.  Since my fabric has stretch, I could do that.  If I make it from a woven fabric, I probably would leave the waist and hips as designed for my size.

The pattern is currently on sale, until November 8th, so if you would like a great classic dress pattern in multiple sizes with great directions (and who wouldn't want that!), here's a link for you:  Marbella Pattern.  I hope that we'll see many more patterns coming from Itch to Stitch!

Do you sew colors that go with the seasons. or do you stick with a year round palette that flatters you?  What will you be wearing on Thanksgiving?

Happy Sewing!


Halloween Costume Contest Voting!

Update- 11/4/14
This was a very close race.  The entries were all fanastic! The ballots have been counted, and the winners are:

First place-
Entry #16.  Max from Where the Wild Things Are.   Submitted by Judy Dunkin of Iowa

 Entry #10- Sally Stitches from "The Nightmare before Christmas"  Submitted by Kathy Centurino from California

Thanks to all who voted. All entries will receive a special treat from SewBaby for participating!

-Ann for SewBaby

Hi everyone!

The Halloween Costume Contest entries have been collected, and now it's time to start voting for your THREE favorite home-sewn costumes!  After you've scrolled through all of the costumes, please use the featured link to vote. The first-place winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to SewBaby, and the runner-up will receive a $25 gift certificate.   Voting begins today and ends November 3rd at midnight.   Good luck to all of our talented participants, and let the voting begin!!

Entry #1 - Anna and Elsa Princesses from Frozen
Submitted by Linda Rock, VA

Entry #2 - Pink Lion
Submitted by Kellie Haithcox, OH

Entry #3 - Dinosaur and Cave Girl
Submitted by Kellie Haithcox, OH

Entry #4 - Merida from Brave
Submitted by Lydia West, OH

Entry #5 - Elsa from Frozen
Submitted by Micki Smith Palmer

Entry #6 - Anna from Frozen
Submitted by Micki Smith Palmer

Entry #7 - Flight Attendant
Submitted by Kellie Haithcox, OH

Entry #8 - Circus Monkey
Submitted by Kellie Haithcox, OH

Entry #9 - Max's Wolf Costume from "Where The Wild Things Are"
Submitted by Christine Chin

Entry #10- Sally Stitches from "The Nightmare before Christmas"  Submitted by Kathy Centurino from California

 Entry#11- Homemade Knight Costume.  
 Submitted by Sally Burger Chapek from Ohio

Entry #12-Sally Stitches.
  Submitted by Susan Baca

Entry #13.  Homemade Pumpkin. 
 Submitted by Melissa Bauska of Washington state.

 Entry #14. Rainbow Brite. 
 Submitted by Nancy McCracken of California

 Entry #15.  Princesses Bella and Estella. 
 Submitted by Christina Lovers Dixon of California

Entry #16.  Max from Where the Wild Things Are.  
 Submitted by Judy Dunkin of Iowa

Entry #17.  Princess Aurora.
  Submitted by Veronica Filips from Texas

Thanks again to all of our participants, and thanks to all of you voters for helping us choose the winner!  Goodness knows, it would be impossible for me to choose!