Category Archives: five for friday

Five for Friday

20140523-103341.jpg1. I love Kim’s new rules for email.

2. I’ve joined the sewalong for Colette Patterns’s Mabel. I haven’t worked much with knits and this seems like a pretty easy entry point to that whole thing. I don’t know that I’ll actually make one—it’s not a style I really wear—but the photos and write-ups seem like they’ll be helpful for future knits sewing.

3. This “Hostile Questions” interview series for authors is pretty amusing.

4. Is anyone going to LJ‘s Day of Dialog next week by any chance? I’m moderating a panel with Chelsea Cain, Lisa Scottoline, Rainbow Rowell, Sophie Littlefield, Pamela Nowak, Lauren Oliver, and an editor from Harlequin’s Mira line. We’re going to be talking about all sorts of issues and ideas around writing and marketing to, for, and about women and I’m pretty excited about it.

5. I’ve still finding my feet on Instagram, but I really, really love seeing all the photos from Dutch Flower Line first thing every morning.

Sewing success!

I’ve long, well, longed for a couple of sewing patterns that produce flattering garments and that I’m able to execute well with my somewhat limited skill set, that I could make in a variety of fabrics and just basically live in. I’m absolutely delighted that I seem to have found two. The first is April Rhodes’s Staple Dress. I made this one with the high-low hem and, while I really like it here, it was a pain in the ass to hem and I don’t necessarily want half a dozen dresses with this exact silhouette. The pattern includes an option for a straight hem, though, which is going to be my go-to, I think. The dress below is made in a fairly heavy silk/cotton twill that feels like buttah, and it represents my first French seams, my first applied bias binding, and the first dress I’ve made start to finish that I’ll be happy to wear. I put in the shirring at the waist, but ended up taking it out again; it looked strange, possibly because of the weight of the fabric. I don’t think the dress necessarily needs it though. I frankensteined a couple of sizes together (S from the shoulders to the waist, then easing out to M for the lower half), so that gives it a little shape. I may wear it with a belt, but again, I don’t think it’s essential.

Cleaning that mirror this weekend, on the other hand, is essential. Good grief.

The other pattern I tried out recently is Liesl & Co.’s Everyday Skirt. I’ve only done a muslin so far, which I’m glad I did because I definitely learned a few things putting it together that’ll make the actual garments look and fit a lot better, mostly with how the waistband goes together. Also, even though the M is a near-perfect fit, I need to narrow the top of the back panel to a S or possibly even XS to better fit my narrow back. But I love how quickly and cleverly this skirt came together. I made the muslin in less than a day, which also included cutting out the pattern and the fabric, not to mention reading and rereading the directions to try to make sense of what I was doing. The directions are fantastic though. I quickly learned that just following blindly and doing what they told me to do led to aha! moments: aha!, that’s how the pockets come together! aha!, that’s how the back waistband fits!, etc. This was my first PDF sewing pattern, which I’d avoided in the past since the whole taping and cutting process seemed like a hassle, but it was smooth and easy and, dare I say, a delight, which is not a word I’ve used to describe any sewing project before. It was also my first time with this kind of pocket construction, waistband gathering, and waistband construction. Now I just need to figure out what fabric to make the real thing in. I definitely want to make a chambray one for this summer, but I do have some stashed fabrics that’ll work too. I have more of the silk/cotton I used for the dress above, and there might be enough of that left for this. And I have some naturally dyed (logwood, I think)  lavender cotton that’ll be perfect.

Thumbs down (I think) on this ruffle skirt

The Coastal Curtsy Skirt first came to my attention when Carolyn made her version of it. It seemed like my ideal sewing project: relatively low skill, but looking like something I’d happily buy off the rack.

Best viewed at a distance

I ordered the ruffle fabric and some wide elastic to go with it, and finally got around to putting it together last weekend. The part that took the longest, by far, was pinning the fabric together to match the ruffles. The fabric is pretty heavy and slinky and I found it difficult to control. The actual sewing part was extremely quick, since it’s just one straight seam.

I need to redo the waistband, since I followed the directions without really thinking about it. Lack of critical thinking will always come back to bite you in the ass: when will I learn this? She calls for making the waist a little smaller than your actual waist, but since I have a pretty significant differential between my natural waist and my hips, an even smaller waist that needs to be pulled over those hips means popping stitches every time I put it on or take it off, so it needed to be mended before it was even 100% complete. Also, I think the applied elastic that the pattern calls for looks cheap, even when turned to the inside. So, if I’m going to get any wear out of this skirt, which I would like to, not least because the fabric was not inexpensive, I need to make the waist opening larger, which also means it’ll sit lower, and figure out a way to put the elastic on that doesn’t make me sad.

Unsurprisingly, I guess, it turns out that I feel about novelty fabrics like this the same way I feel about novelty yarns: sure, they’re high impact and can boost a beginner’s confidence in her ability to produce a wearable project. But they both leave me cold. At this point in my life, I’m just going to be happier making things that    may take longer and require more of an investment in skills development. Basically, I finished this project and instead of thinking, look at this great skirt I just made!, thought, I really need to step up my game and improve my sewing skills so I can turn out clothes I’m actually proud of having made. I’d like my handmade projects to be more couture than Forever 21.

Simple geometrics

Inspired by these coasters, I used some fabric I had around to make a bunch of light/dark squares. The red/white floral was a piece of flocked cotton, maybe half a yard, that came into my hands when my favorite cousin bought a house that had previously been owned by a hoarder. There was other fabric and yarn, but most of it had been gnawed on by little beasties, both winged and naked-tailed, and wasn’t usable. I’d wanted to use it for something special and had almost given up hope when I hit upon this idea. The plan is to put them together for cushion covers, but I haven’t quite nailed down which configurations I like best. I think these two may be the winners though. I like the strong graphic quality of the patterns and the contrast between the small pieces and the large motifs.
But there are almost limitless other combinations, not to mention the fact that I made a bunch of squares using the same striped fabric and a darker red silk paisley that used to be one of my favorites dresses in the late 90s, so that increases the combinations exponentially.
I have a crafting date with some friends this weekend, so I may pull them all out and see how everyone else puts them together.

Other things that have happened since I last posted:

  • I moved in with my boyfriend. We have the first floor of a rambling old house, complete with a deck, a bathroom that’s tiled on the ceiling, a sort of North African … mirror installation in the living room, and some truly ghastly 1980s wallpaper in the kitchen. The latter is not long for this world, but the rest of it is thoroughly charming.
  • I became obsessed with Homeland.
  • I became obsessed with Gillian Flynn’s latest book, Gone Girl. I actually almost regret reading it because it means I can never read it again for the first time.
  • I became obsessed with Draw Something.
  • I made this, possibly my favorite salad ever.
  • Knitting-wise, I’m plodding away on Effortless and Folded.


I’ve actually already managed to knock out both of my crafty goals for January.

1. Rob’s scarf is done. That was a lot of seed stitch.

2. I finished blind stitching the binding on this quilt, so I can finally, finally use it. I made the top out of samples of silk upholstery fabric that I bought at a now-defunct thrift shop on Atlantic Avenue four apartments ago, so six years? Seven? I backed it with a zebra print because the mix of patterns and colors made me think of a certain kind of eccentric British aesthetic: manor houses filled with generations of beloved possessions, a sacrosanct cocktail hour, wellies under a silk slip with your grandmother’s Persian lamb coat, a cursed emerald as big as an egg, and a tea cozy for a hat. Those kinds of places always have a stray moth-eaten zebra rug lying around from when Great-Grand-Uncle Binty was in Kenya with Papa or whatever.
The apartment that I moved into after the one where I was living when I made it turned out to have bedbugs. (First go, I typed that as ‘badbugs,’ which they really, really are.) So it ended up being washed in super-hot water and dried to a crisp, which made some of the squares with metallic threads shrink unevenly and pull some of the seams — like the one smack dab in the middle (argh!) — out of alignment. I hid it away in despair and left it alone for a few years.
But in the spirit of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and also because I got tired of it taking it drawer space while being useless, I went to visit Carolyn in Chicago and had her walk me through the quilting and binding steps. And now it’s done!

Also: squirrels:


I *love* New Year’s resolutions. Love them. I love sitting down on New Year’s Day with my fresh Moleskine day planner and thinking about what I want to happen in the next 12 months while shoveling as much hoppin’ john in my mouth as I can handle*. I believe in making very specific resolutions, ones that are going to be either FUN or in the service of something that I really want. (A good friend of mine from grad school made the same resolution every year: Drink more. That’s what I’m talking about.) Last year’s included making sure that I always had some wine around the house, reading all of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, a timeline for finishing, editing, and submitting my book, donating blood as often as I was eligible, and some goals for pursuing more freelance writing and self-publishing more knitting patterns. I let myself get derailed on some of the work-y ones, but I totally kicked ass when it came to booze and blood.

This year, I’m trying something a little different: more general goals for the year, specific ones for each month. The general ones all fall into one of two categories: ‘Learn’ or ‘More of.’ Among other things, I want to learn more embroidery and crochet — I’m decent at each as far as I go with them, but stay well within my very limited comfort zone — and want more of a lot of things in my life: music, having people over, houseplants, hiking, baking bread…

January’s specific goals are to finish the scarf I’m knitting for Rob, which is seed stitch and sportweight yarn and insanely boring but beautiful, knock off the blind stitching for the binding on this quilt, which is a task I find insanely tedious but one I need to do to finally finish this thing and be able to use it, and get back on track with writing. I have a big freelance proofreading project due next week, so the book will have to wait until after that (not least because I need my work table back to spread out all of my notes and research), but I’ll get there.



Fabric that I like!

Every year without fail, the first barely perceptible stirrings of spring make me think about sewing, to the point where sometimes I haven’t even noticed anything spring-like in the air until I feel the urge to look at fabric and patterns and trace it back to not having had to wear gloves the day before. But I love the idea of sewing clothes for myself, I’m just not so great at the execution. Plus, I usually find most printed fabric to be either precious or not very interesting, so I’m happily surprised to be head over heels in love with JayMcCarroll’s Habitat collection.

Look at this!

The pixelated floral! The one where the dots are floating over another pattern!

This color story doesn’t do much for me, but you get a better look at the paint-sploshed one on the left, which I want to kiss on the mouth. Badass AND pretty. Swirly-skirted sundresses! Circle skirts! Yes!

More pictures here.