Category Archives: Sewing

Off The List! + Top Down Sweaters!

Nothing like a list to motivate you, right? That and the home opener of the St. Louis Blues game this Thursday night! Time to get the pj bottoms made!

I started with fabric I found at Joann online— this year I started early, last year there was slim pickins for NHL fabric once the season had begun!

St. Louis Blues NHL Black Cotton Fabric, , hi-res

Pattern wise I winged it! Mind you, I have PJ bottoms patterns, lots of them. But my FAVE pj bottoms are oldies but goodies, I call them my Christmas Tree Pants and they’re getting kinda’ sad looking! I turned them inside out with one leg inside the other, then I carefully drew a Sharpie line about an inch over this edge and cut them out. I sewed a front leg to a back leg, set one finished leg inside the other right sides together and stitched the crotch curve. Still sergerless I used my zig zag to finish the hems. A hem turned twice and a band for 1 inch elastic- Boom. For those who have a bit of fear with this patterning approach I strongly suggest you try it!  Use a cheap length of fabric and a favorite pattern– the simpler the better. And jump in! I promise you it’s easier than you think and it’s fun as well as creative!I only wished I’d traced my pattern pieces off in paper before I put them together and they fit so well! Now I’ll have to repeat the process if I make another pair. And I will!

The best part I think was walking over to the chalkboard and crossing something OFF the list!!! :)

If you’re a knitter at any stage, if you follow Wendy Bernard (Knit and Tonic) or if you’re a Creativebug fan, Wendy and Creativebug have joined to put together a 4 part class to knit a sweater (raglan and cardigan) top down with ease! Determining gauge, using any yarn, fit fit and more fit and custom sleeves, THIS class is a goodie! Hit that Creativebug button up there on the sidebar and take this (or any) class with me! Right now there are just too many to choose from!

Now….. if you think there would be a PHOTO of me in those PJ bottoms? Dearest, think again!

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Betz Strap Hack

I’m really excited about making Betz White’s “Metro Hipster Bag“. As I mentioned earlier it’s going to be faux leather with a fun coral and white home dec weight lining.


But I haven’t had much time to work on it— or much, really. Sewing time has been puny. I knew that working on thread color, stitch length (and type), as well as hardware were going to play a pivotal role in the construction of this bag. After all, faux leather can go from vegan chic to a giant crap sandwich pretty quickly!!

Hardware was first. I knew that I did not want to use off the shelf silver swivel clasps or rings. I shopped and shopped and shopped. There are a lot of choices and I had quite a few recommendations. After the search I settled on Pacific Trimming in NYC and ordered from their Etsy shop. Their service was very good, the shipping lightning fast– and I love the hardware!  Note the two silver rings— they’re for a clutch pattern, not this one. Great quality and weight and they look about a zillion times better than off the shelf IF you can find them in the first place!

The finish of everything I purchased (enough for another couple bags and a few pieces to keep in stash) was Antique Brass. I love it and think it looks great with the faux leather. No sandwich here!

What a step up from my local fabric store’s shelves! Isn’t that a gorgeous swivel hook? The pricing at Pacific Trimming was outstanding as well. All told I spent only a bit over $20 for all of my hardware pieces!

Playing with stitches was next, after a couple hours messing around I have learned:

a large needle is best—- if I had a leather needle, I’d use it. Recalling college physics that needle and the thread get HOT going through the synthetic leather. What happens? The thread breaks down. The best fix then is a nice fat needle to make a nice tunnel for the needle to pass through with least resistance AND great thread.

I chose a matte black Mettler thread— it’s a great quality and it looks good.

I messed with stitches quite a bit for stitching that would SHOW, such as topstitching and on the strap.

I sew with a Bernina if the screen above doesn’t look familiar. I chose a triple stitch lengthened slightly to about a 3.1.

Again, what I learned—- the fauxness causes some kind of voodoo with the way it feeds through the machine. It doesn’t want to glide along so there is a dance with how you hold it/push it/feed it/”don’t” it!!!

Because the strap is self fabric, or the faux leather in this case, you cannot cut it double, fold to the right side and turn. No way that would happen. Basically the strap would have to have each ‘raw’ side folded to the center and stitched to secure. So I ran a line of stitches down the center front of the strap and folded each side to the center and worked through two layers, from the wrong side. Not as easy as it sounds, sort of like stitching 1000 pound jello!

The blessing of the faux is that the back of the ‘fabric’ has the woven lining. That does add some stability and frankly keeps stitches from making perforations that would tear.

The first experiment yielded a strap that had ‘galumpy’ spots. Where the strap did not feed through evenly. The galumpy-ness is what led to my final method of more finesse as the strap was fed through the machine. No, I do not have a foot especially made for leather/vinyl— it might have helped I can’t be sure. The galumpy spots are the first pass as the first ‘raw’ edge was folded to the center. The second line of stitching is far more even without hiccups.

I have a love hate relationship with those lumps. Part of me kind of likes them. The realist in me says, what are you kidding? RE SEW on the other cut strap. And I will.

I’ll leave you at the ends of my experimentation with the knowledge that all pattern pieces are cut along with the batting and interfacing. The hardware is purchased and waiting. Hopefully I’ll get back to it soon armed with my lessons! I already see a couple more small hacks that will be necessary since I’m not using fabric in anything other than the lining.

Little Girl dog loves to hang out in the studio. Today, the trash can was full of scraps and a couple of pieces hung over the sides. Silly Hana is known as The Stealer, she will snitch anything to play with and her hiding place is normally full of everything you thought was lost forever.

She was a whirling dervish! Funny dog…



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Hip & hipper- Sort of!

After the sheets have been changed and the house cleaned, a run to the grocery to replenish I find myself puttering. Deciding what new projects are calling, organizing my space, even catching up on some ironing. In the middle of the putter I pull out a length of faux leather—- not because I’m vegan but because I liked it and liked the challenge of creating a bag of faux-ness that looked great and was fun to get to that point!

Starting with a faux leather piece in a cognac like tone—- a brown not too dark and not too light, with some interesting grain texture, I assembled paints and brushes to experiment. You can see the “normal” faux leather around the edges of the paint experiment above.

I’m intrigued and fascinated by the handpainted bags from Burberry— they’re great! In need of a new bag for fall and not carrying a bag at all like I used to I can fiddle and play with something fun that meets my needs. After all, I don’t travel to an office anymore and arrive most places by bicycle. When I do venture out it’s someplace decidedly casual but I do want to exercise a little personal style!

   Whatcha Think?

I am not kidding you when I tell you that these bags range from $2.200 to over 30K. Not likely to happen in my life for any number of reasons! But I like the thought of it– a handmade bag…. handpainted, not to mention priced well. Like under $25.00.

I selected a range of paints, regular acrylics in a mustard gold, a deep eggplant, black in gloss and matte, cardinal red and a more subdued ‘barn’ red. I painted swatches, let the paint sit and rubbed it off in varying degrees. Let the paint sit and just dry.

The first photo in the post shows rubbed pieces—- this photo above are how the paints look dried. I like the rubbed with paint and wiped look, it takes away the fauxness to a degree and makes the texture pop. In the barn red wash I like the color of the faux, red but not too red, definitely seasonal. The next experiment is how they look with and without a clearcoat. The bag won’t get hard use but I don’t want the paint to rub off on clothing when worn, especially cross body!


I’m currently deciding on bag patterns having whittled the list down to my current bag favorite shape, last made (and in use) from a teal polka dotted burlap.

And the last contender is the Metro Hipster Bag from talented Betz White:

Metro Hipster Bag

I love the shape of my traditional satchel… but the Metro Hipster Bag has a great place in that outer bellows pocket to rock some handpainting (plus it’s a GREAT bag!)

While I mull that, I’m still puttering/reading/baking/ napping. Soon it will be time to circle the wagons after a couple days ‘off’ and get back to the business of bride wrangling. Thanks again to Creativebug, I’m loving lesson 2 from Wilton and can’t wait to make those amazing cupcakes! Click the button up on the sidebar and make cake with me! I’m also enchanted this week with making my own repurposed journal from a cereal box and found paper and goodies!

Yes, I’m still knitting away on the afghan and am about halfway through on the next to last block. No knitting to speak of while my daughter was here will have me coming in late to the finish line for the last Creativebug class and joining the blocks then adding a border. It’s okay, I’ll have it done well in time to block and add to the gift bin!

The chair that needs a slip cover is still hollering at me……. and about a dozen other projects I’m anxious to take on. As always, I need more time!!! Until then I think maybe I’ll bake a Buttermilk Pie!



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Tutorial: Large Flat Bottom Project Bag

I love project bags and have quite a few of them. Last weeks trip meant I needed a new one to fit into a large tote….. you know, one of those larger than a purse and smaller than a full on suitcase deals! Consolidating the current knitting project into a project bag that would bit into my tote with other essentials meant one less thing to carry.

Using favorite fabrics from stash I made quick work of it. The fabric is a long out of production Alexander Henry in a pink and black colorway, skulls with knitting needles, skulls with scissors and a print of a cartoon like sewing machine repairman. This version is unlined, if you wanted to add a lining simply make two and insert wrong sides facing before you stitch the casing in.

I’ve always loved the fabric and it was time to actually USE it!

The front and back were each one color with the pocket the novelty print

Two rectangles were cut 21 inches by 33 inches

the pocket is 8 x 16″, folded in half, stitched with an opening left to turn.

Topstitch pocket closing the opening.

The rectangles were joined on one side and finished with a zig zag (I still haven’t replaced my serger)

Attach the pocket by edge stitching around the sides and bottom. Add velcro to close.

Pin down the top edge a quarter inch and press and then turn down another inch and press for the casing.

Mark the center on one side of the casing, stitch a buttonhole vertically there to feed the ribbon out of the casing.

My ribbon is vintage pink grosgrain and the inch channel was just the right amount.

Fold up the casing carefully (so you can stitch a smooth side seam) & with the wrong sides together stitch the other side seam & finish. Stitch the bottom seam and edge finish.

Fold the casing back in place and stitch close to the folded edge.

Use a bodkin or safety pin to feed through the ribbon.

Press flat & turn inside out.

Mark the corner:

Fold the sides into points with the front on one side and the back on the other.

Mark 3 inches straight across and stitch, then trim.

Inside and outside views of the corner that will make the bag sit flat.

NOTE: Lining the bag will make it sit nicer, interfacing the bag even more so.


You’re done!

I love my project tote. It’s large enough to fit the last quarter of the Mitered Square Afghan and then some!

I just may interface and line it at some point. I’ll make a bag exactly like it, fold down to where it will fit inside just above the casing line and machine stitch a line around the top, not interfering with the casing itself.

How many project bags do YOU have?

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Foundation Friday: BUTTONHOLES!

I make crummy buttonholes!

It’s been a lament for a long time and recently I tackled them, they had to get better and I can’t keep blaming my Bernina.

Who knew? It was ME and not my machine!


First thing, I YouTubed the subject and watched several videos. I had several to choose from and I watched a few to glean the best advice. No doubt you will find many as well!

The video above was ‘mine’.

Guess what? I had always ignored that foot. Don’t ask me why. Actually USING it took my buttonholes from ick to slick in a nanosecond! (almost)

Other great buttonhole foundations:

  • Always practice first
  • Make sure the button fits the hole you’ve sampled (don’t ask how I know this)
  • INTERFACE properly, without interfacing you’re destined to fail
  • Use great thread, experiment with ‘regular’ thread and buttonhole twist if your machine will handle it
  • Make sure you have measured accurately so that all the buttons are spaced correctly
  • DOUBLE CHECK your buttonholes are on the correct side!
  • When you make your practice button to check for size, etc…. make sure you also practice CUTTING that buttonhole. If you do not have a block and chisel for the task, use a seam ripper and very carefully and slowly start at one end and gently rock the blade to the center. Repeat with the other side. In this way you are less likely to cut through the buttonhole. Some people run a very thin bead of seam sealant along the sides of the buttonhole but I find in most cases if you’ve cut carefully and trimmed any wild threads you’ll be fine. It all depends on your fabric and another reason to sample first.

  • If you sew on buttons with your machine (I do 99% of the time), cut long threads and with a needle bring those to the back of the button and double knot before cutting the threads. Use a drop of seam sealant for a long lasting button.

Little Extra: I always buy at least one extra button of each size used in a garment. When I sew on buttons I stitch one extra (and save another in the button box if I have more) into the hem facing. You almost always need one and it’s great to know where a match is quickly.

EXPERIMENT: Most sewing machines have many types/styles of buttonholes built in. On a 10×10 piece of midweight dark fabric, interfaced and backed (so you have 3 layers) and using white thread, put on your buttonhole foot and try every style available on your machine. Keep the sample for ready reference— PLUS— you’ll have a lot of built in experience!


What are YOUR favorite tips and tricks for beautiful buttonholes?

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MidWeek MemDay

Every single year it happens!!!  The week after Memorial Day kicks my butt. You’d think I’d be prepared but nope nope nope.

The work week for many is shortened (not for moi) and yet the week is a killer. For me I think because I clear the decks for the long weekend if I can. I ride my bike, ride out for coffee, for the beach, to people watch and a lot of reading, sewing, and a stitch or two of knittery. It was a great weekend in all ways. This week leads to a double wedding to work this coming weekend in two states. I’m tired thinking about it.

The pattern for youknowwho has been drafted and tweaked and approaching what I hope is perfection. Drafting for big ole’ arms is tough, #danghermama. After a run to the local fabric store (ick) for appropriate fabric, and you know for a fact I settle!!!!!– I did find a gauze and a seersucker to make hot weather work tops. That’s on the agenda in the next 24. Once again with a hand drafted custom pattern via the Cal Patch class on Creativebug one of my favorite things is how the sleeves set in. Seriously, they just glide in….. ahhhhhh. Easy peasy.

In other sewing news, big for me…… BUTTONHOLES! Remember, mine were AWFUL—– so with research (and patience) I discovered the operator error of my ways. Hauled out the proper foot, messed around for just a little bit and – voila! LOVELY!

I retrofitted a tote bag for a camera bag because it’s lightweight, beautifully constructed (made a couple years ago as a laptop messenger bag) and sturdy. Cute doesn’t hurt! I added snaps on a couple interior pockets, a button to replace tired velcro on the outer pocket and super reinforced the strap/bag intersection. I’m very happy with the result!

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Ten Days Creative

It’s been ten days around Casita Contessa of solo time, me time, pretty much selfish time. Have I had a ball—– and been super creative.

On the first day I cleaned and reordered the display shelves, moved around some art and generally puttered. The rest is a blur of happiness! :)

One of my favorite projects was drafting a pattern from scratch for a dress! Yes, from scratch! If you have not enrolled in Creativebug’s classes you’re out of your mind——- truly—– but taking Cal Patch’s Pattern Drafting Class was AMAZING! It ran over four weeks and to be honest while I watched all installments and gathered supplies I didn’t start until the class time was over. (But lucky you, still available at Creativebug!)

Cal Patch Pattern Drafting

I had a blast!

To be honest the worst part was taking true measurements. I kept telling myself that no one would ever ever EVER see them and that once the pattern was drafted, there isn’t even a size number on it! So honest measurements I took, and I drafted a pattern for a dress. In this longest length I will be able to do my own riffs for tunics or shirts or anything in between and I can’t wait!!!

One of the most hilarious parts was digging through the toolbox and finding a pattern marking kit from who knows how long ago! Check the price, $1.55! AND… the little marking wheel is etched with my name! I used one of those little devices meant to carve your name into anything to prove ownership and deter theft on a pair of scissors (that are still amazing and in use today) when I was in college! Holy cow. It cracked me up which of course means I am way too easily amused.

Once drafted it was time to cut out the pattern for the first go. I found fabric that wasn’t TOO horrible (in case it fit and I love it) at the fabric store for $2.00 a yard- perfect. Once washed and laid out the pattern cut out quickly and easily. When it was pinned together the first thing I noticed was how perfectly everything lined up….. I mean Bang On.

It sewed up really fast as well and my favorite thing? THE SLEEVES! I was worried about drafting a sleeve— I mean how can something with basic measurements and a lot of eyeballed curves come together in anything remotely resembling a sleeve, much less one that fit into the armhole well? I shouldn’t have worried and praise and bless you Cal Patch—- this was the most beautiful sleeve I have ever set in my life! No kidding, and that’s saying A LOT!!!!

Most beautiful sleeves ever.

No rimples or dimples

not eased in, no gathering thread!

The dress? Fits like a dream! My only changes will be to narrow the dart in the front and add about a half inch to the bust. THAT’S IT! I may well wear the dress too! It’ll need short sleeves but that is a piece of cake!


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Mothers Day: a Hat is Made

Mothers Day was planned well in advance—- I know, kind of crazy for me let’s admit that right now!!!!  Planned in advance, sewn in advance, shipped in advance. And it arrived a WEEK before Mothers Day! This could ruin my reputation!

My birthmother lives in AZ and has a pool so she spends a lot of time (mornings and evenings mostly) out by the pool.  I thought a cute sun hat would be just the thing. One of the things I appreciate about her is that she loves a handmade gift—– LOVES ‘EM!

I’d had the pattern for a year and thought I’d give it a run.

It’s a very well written pattern….. and super simple to make. My only caution is to make sure that the brim and crown lengths are exactly the same when they’re ready to go together!! I made mine reversible using vintage fabric from Pam Kitty Morning (that is it had been in the stash for a couple of years) and love how it turned out, it looks like Miss C! I like a firm brim for a hat and used Timtex in the iron on form to give it that nice shape.

On the ironing board you can see how the fabrics coordinate so nicely, as always they were lovely to work with too!

Maybe the happiest sun hat ever?

Forgive me for not photographing in ON……

There was no way to self photograph this hat in a way that wasn’t, well…… y’know.

A great gift for the investment of minimal time, Win-Win!

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Sweet Lil’ Diaper Shirt

Diaper Shirts….. I  love ‘em!  I made them a bazillion years ago for the kids in the appropriate pink and blue. Appliqued ducks and trains for the blue and frilly lacy pintucky bits for the pinks. If you ask me there’s nothing cuter than a hot weather baby wearing a little diaper shirt and little diaper cover. You can really appreciate those fat little legs!  This latest incarnation is simple—- fun pink floral fabric, a pinky-peachy trio of buttons and a hem of flat vintage lace. It’s a gift and I can’t wait to give it!

I used a blind hem stitch with a little wider bite than I’d use normally to attach the lace to the bottom of the hem. As I’m not sure how this Mama will launder, it seemed safer to make sure that the lace was firmly down. Love the narrow little bands of self bias on the neck and armhole….. it’s a coordinating print that is smaller in scale– hard to see in the photos. And the buttonholes. ICK. My beloved Bernina makes horrid buttonholes and yes, I know it is partially operator technique. My old Viking 1100 was a total workhorse, I drove her till she dropped, her buttonholes were remarkable. Anyway, these are bigger than they should be and my technique was part great and part hack. Not equal portions either! I marked the buttonholes with washable marker and using a very narrow zig zag in a medium long stitch and a piece of medium pink buttonhole twist thread, the twist was zig zagged around the blue marked line. Then trimmed and the hole cut cleanly. Not my favorite by far but it works, it works.

My new focus has to be working on buttonholes exclusively!

Once completed and pressed this sweet little diaper shirt, from an out of print pattern from Mildred Gould, was tucked loosely into a length of pink tulle and tied with a fat hemp cord. Then this tulle packet was tucked into a small gift bag.

Stinkin’ cute for a very sweet baby girl who just turned 2 weeks old!

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All Sewing & None of the Knittin’!

It’s true, knitting is on the back burner. I’ve fallen behind on my promise to knit a mitered square a day for the afghan that never ends— and I’m on the last quarter of the project! I think it’s because I know it is a Christmas gift that leads me into such a lull. Sadly, I’m not to the halfway point of this final block of 25 mitered squares. Maybe I should set a new goal and light a fire!!!

There IS however sewing, and there has been a lot of it!!

Cutest tunic ever–and I look ‘not fabulous in sleeveless’, but this one is great, just enough to give a good arm look! It’s  from Indygo Junction!  It’s the “Over the Top Tunic Pattern”…. and it is super cute and really fast and easy to put together!

Urban Tunic

I have a few other Indygo Junction patterns on the radar as well. Isn’t the Urban Tunic above nice? Lots of options!  I’m also crazy about the Midtown Trench (below)…. cut in a sassy shorter length, it would be great for a fall winter coat here in the South!

Midtown Trench

Back to my tunic…… the wild floral print was perfect for a coastal summer…. not too light, not too heavy— and colorfully right! The striped accent color was cut from a blouse that had been worn once— I love how it shows off the print and grounds the tunic all at the same time. The inset at the neckline is from a bit of stash in the oh so perfect pale acid green. I had just enough of this Japanese kanji print to make the lined insert.

The inset detail:

The pocket was reduced to ONE….. remember last post I showed the little bag made from the other pocket?

Another project in the works—- a gift for Mother’s Day! Any guess what it is????

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