Category Archives: Threads

One woman. One machine.

The little blue dress

The time had come to take a break from sewing. I tried a lined dress last year for my soon to be daughter in law and just within days of finishing, the zipper caught in the lining and ripped. I was heartbroken but the blame lay with me. I had not prepped the coils and hurried through the whole zipper install, (why)??So I stopped sewing completely.
I decided I needed a break and I would not pick it up again unless I had a plan. For me that meant lifting the constraint I often placed on myself; is this a dress following pattern instructions exactly or merging the couture techniques I have been studying. I waited, baked a lot of bread & finally started again. A Vogue pattern that was almost all hand sewn. To start-the Basting:

Each piece of blue cotton was attached to a light brown silk organza and I painstakingly basted each of the six darts. I did balanced darts for the long, back panels which were worth the effort. I merged the teachings of Alison Smith & Susan Khalje and did not worry about the pattern instructions.

I did a catchstitch on all seams including zipper so the inside (below) was a beautiful Frankenstein that took about 40 hours…

The only thing I would have done differently is my selection of underlining. I used a medium weight fashion fabric and planned on lining with Liberty silk (to come) and I think a cotton voile would have been more in keeping with the weight and style of dress. That being said I forged ahead with the most rewarding part of the process which was dropping in the beautiful lining that lives up to its name. Liberty Silk was the most luxurious fabric I have had the pleasure to work with but more important than the quality of the fabric was the stitch that I used to insert into the dress. I LOVE the Fell stitch. I found that out with this dress.

Sewing became a pleasure again and with each tight little stitch I became more and more proud of my creation.

I overcame a lot of fears with this dress and learned to slow down, respect the grain (especially in underlining), and to make sure there is wearing ease!!

This dress fits like a glove on the lovely model but future projects will have the benefit of experience! ūüôā



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Thank You, ColettePatterns!

‚ÄúSnippets‚ÄĚ arrived in my inbox today which is always a welcome break from pretty much every other email I receive. I started reading the article and realized they were my own words. I stopped the old movie I was watching and once again felt connected to something in the outside world and not surprisingly it was Colette Patterns that made it happen.  This post is a Thank you to Sarai and the team she has assembled not just for the patterns & blog but for the interaction and inspiration that has helped me throughout the years.

A couple of years after being diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia I struggled to find purpose and a challenged myself with various hobbies and after sewing a few pillows my web search lead me to the free Sorbetto pattern and I was hooked-



It had never occurred to me that something could be so satisfying and more importantly, it took my mind off of the pain.

My very next project was an entry into your Laurel sewing contest and since you have already seen my dress, I will show you poster I still have celebrating how fun the process was.

The years have passed and I have grown to accept that my condition may not go away but there are so many wonderful things to live for and learn and I truly owe a debt of gratitude to the very personal and passionate way you reach me as a customer.

I pushed myself with bound buttonholes on the Hawthorne and a very thin voile for my daughter’s Macaron-

I was inspired by your blog to think about different fabrics and had so much fun with  a ‚ÄúDoctor Who‚ÄĚ Sencha, which has been a family favorite-

One of the most difficult projects I still have yet to undertake is the Swiss Army Albion for my husband. It was your instruction, tutorial and the fellowship of sewists that you helped to create that inspired me to finish-

Over the years I count over thirty Colette garments lovingly made for my family and myself and as I come off of a bit of sewing haitus I am not at all surprised that it is the Penny that is next on deck-

If any of you question if what you do ‚Äėmakes a difference‚Äô , I am living proof that it does.  You inspire and encourage not just better skills but a sense of shared purpose to push ourselves artistically and within our family & community.


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The detour

The last few months I have been trying to perfect my sewing skills.  While taking online classes and reading voraciously from books to blogs I have been working on a dress that has become more than a garment.  It truly has become the symbol of my progression from knowing grain direction to why something should be underlined in silk organza.  I am awestruck at the thousands of definitions and processes that go into sewing a complex garment but at the same time it paralyzed me just a wee bit concerning my typical flow of creativity. I blogged in small detail about the couture sewing class but the photos below can easily take the place of my words.

IMG_2155                      IMG_2174

I have yet to line this number and I may never get around to it since I am not crazy about where it sits on my shoulder (should have thought¬†of that before maybe?)¬†¬† Here is the thing…..IT DOES NOT MATTER.¬†¬† I like to sew and what I wanted to sew next was something my daughter has been requesting for over two years.¬† But what she chose was a quilting cotton that I did not think I could manipulate because it was quite stiff (cop out).¬† I also did not think the ‘couture rules’ would allow for using this type of material (bogus).¬† That should fully explain why I was suffering from a creative and complete sewing block.¬† I had too firmly placed all of these ‘rules’ in place that were 1.)¬† incorrect to begin with and 2.)¬† just plain dumb.

I cleared my workspace, cleaned and re-threaded all my machines and took out the fabric (quilting cotton) and pattern Burda 7137, also my daughters choice.

DSC_0994It is quite adorable and quirky so I thought I would just focus on enjoying the process and getting more practice out of lining the dress and a different technique (for me) of inserting an invisible zip in a lined dress.

DSC_0981I will start with the finished product.  She is pulling a bit of the wearing ease behind her since the other pics had a bit of sag under the bust.  She loves it and I enjoyed making it and here is the main reason for the post; that is why I should sew.  Learning more every day is fantastic but adding pressure and rules takes ALL the fun out of it!!


The one thing I am going to tackle next is inserting a sleeve like the video shown on Pattern Review (with no gathering stitches).¬† I have read many accounts of why ‘not’ to do it that way but was not able to find a video of someone actually doing just that.¬† I had a HECK of a time inserting these sleeves because of the enormous sleeve cap but I made it work and it forced me to find that video for my next project. This was my first printed pattern from¬†Burda so perhaps they run that way?

In the meantime, I can be proud of the things I am perfecting:


I mentioned the zip, and for that I tried Sunni Standing’s method¬†sewing it to the lining¬†using steam a seam first and then sewing to fashion fabric.

Thoughts?  Do not try that method for the first time when you have a project with a buried collar, that was a bit tricky but I will say this is the most even I have been when using invisible zip in a lined garment and having been machine sewn.

I¬†got through two seasons of some random show on Netflix¬†and officially broke my streak of ‘faux¬†couture rules’.

My next hurdle…sewing a dress with my actual measurements.¬† Wish me luck!

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An empty nest transformed

First thing when I walk downstairs is my obsessive amount of patterns. From there the photos are pretty much in order of the flow of the room which is turn left at the bottom of stairs and there everything is. I love the space and am grateful for the peace it gives me. I now have no excuses to complete unfinished items and think carefully about what I want to sew next and why. I have been in a rut of starting multiple pieces and not following through due to lack of motivation and some legitimate energy level issues. Will post soon on a typewriter shift I am creating for my sissy. Happy sewing!


IMG_1343.JPGMy beloved Bernina

WIth her special cabinet AND the blue organizer shelf my guy built and painted. Purchased cream boxes, I think from Crate and Barrel were actually inexpensive ways to organize supplies and showcase what is inside by having a sample (bias tape, elastic, zippers) hang off the edge.



IMG_1350.JPGMy hubby enjoys quilting and has a Supersonic Singer that he got a great deal on, it is built for 1/4″ speed


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My Inspiration: The Swiss Army Albion

Last fall when Colette Patterns released their Albion coat pattern it looked like an attractive and rugged coat; when I did the test muslin (see former posts) I gained a lot of confidence in knowing that I was able to complete a piece of lined outerwear.  I just could not get inspired over appropriate fabric decisions.  The wool at stores was bland and not made well and I was reluctant to spend too much money online when I could not see and feel the fabric, (O.K,,that never stopped me before… I was just fabric-“uninspired”).

Like most folks my sewing time is precious, cathartic and incredibly sacred.  I have to feel that something is going to feel right and really connects from step to step. That does not mean it will always turn out but i am not into something just to “crank a project out”. I believe it is this process that focuses my attention ever so briefly away from the struggle of Trigeminal Neuralgia and into my version of normalcy and purpose.

Now that I have that behind me, I turn my attention to December 6th, 2013. I had almost decided to pass on making it when I saw something on a random internet search.  It was wool, it had great detail…but it was not “fabric”.  But why in the world couldn’t I use it? So I purchased, did a London shrink to see if it would be destroyed and I was happy to find the whole piece intact and softened. I decided it must be fate.

Well, I have dragged this on entirely too long! I am speaking of a Swiss Army Blanket……

Inspiration_0225I let all this sit for a while and of course worried that it would be too bland, too obvious, over or under done.  But that certainly was not going to stop me.  The first thing I did was to search google/ebay/etsy to make sure this had not been done a million times.  There were, of course, actual coats made by Swiss Army Co and vintage coats for sale on all the sites but I did not see ANY photo of a coat that was constructed out of the blanket(s).  If there are coats out there that I missed, do not tell me.  I did not see them and this coat is my labor of love constructed by my own vision.

The first issue at hand was placement of the red, stripes and crosses.  In some ways I was limited since there are two stripes per blanket and they were at the top and the bottom.  I did a bit of sketching to see what might work:

Sketch 2_0246Sketch1_0244


I did not really have anything set in stone until I had my major pattern pieces cut and started moving them around to see where I could insert the red.  I had planned on off-centering the cross on the left shoulder but when I tested and had the hood hang down CB, it looked like I had made a mistake and tried to correct it.  So, right smack in the middle it went and I ended up liking it.

Chris back_0228I know I skipped right to the finished product but it had to be done!   Next up is something I found when testing thread, thread color and stitches.  It is called the double overlock but to me it looked EXACTLY like the stitches on the edges of the original blanket.  I did not want to ‘force’ the coat to look like a blanket but I did want to pay homage.  Here are stitches that I used on the hood, front and back yokes and front pockets, basically everywhere it called for top stitching and a few extra spots:

Blanket stitch_0212

The only design change I made was on the front pieces:  I wanted to have a red stripe corresponding with the pocket flaps and the only way to do that was to slash the body on the left and right front, so I marked and cut above the pocket and added seam allowance at either side.

Front layout_0183See fancy black arrow (above)….

My next super exciting item is the Swiss Army authentic brass buttons I found on Etsy.  I wanted to incorporate tabs so here is how they came into play, first on the sleeve placket:

Sleeve tab_0205 Chris tab_0239An then, above on the tab closures, which are brown and red so they can be flipped around for fun and variety.. if by chance you could handle the craziness.

Well, let’s see what have I missed.?  The lining!  Such a beautiful plaid flannel that seemed to be the lively counterpart to the serious outside. I really slashed quite a bit off the lining sleeve since my muslin seemed to have too much and it kept bunching up.

A full flip to see the inside,

Inside Out_0198 open to inside 076

I loved this project.  Every time I steamed, it released a beautiful earthy smell and every step was like putting a really great puzzle together. So far, the best feedback I could get is from the man that now owns this coat and just look at his smile!

Chris smile 089

I did have a couple other photos that I took and wanted to share:

door front_0207 elements_0210Thanks for stopping by, I hope you like it!!


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I started the Craftsy class on The Couture Dress with Susan Khalje, this was last October.¬† If you have moderate sewing skills and have only used the “buy a pattern/cut out a pattern/cut fabric from pattern” method, I encourage you to take this class and pretty much blow your mind.¬† I think it is like learning a new language since your focus shifts from the ‘cutting line’ to the ‘stitching line’ and over the last few months¬† I have worked on my project sometimes forgetting it and now this week back in with a fury.

Trying to follow my cognitive behavioral therapists mantra of “put the pain in the backseat”, I picked up my purple wool and am trying to do just that.¬† I am in the section where you hand baste organza to your fashion fabric and the problem is I can not see that well…I am legally blind in one eye and not so far off in the other.¬† When I seemed to be going REALLY slow, I did some quick calculations; Approximately 22 pieces some bigger than others but there are at least 3000 stitches.¬† What I do is set up my magnifying glass and make sure the entry and exit are on that blasted dotted line to make sure it is even and I am a perfectionist…darn it all!

Anyway, no “boo-hoo’s” here…just really appreciating the mechanical invention of the sewing machine right about now.¬† Here are some pics:¬† BTW, I am using purple wool from Mood and Vogue 8648.

2014 063My beautiful wool, purchased WELL before Pantone came out with their color of the year, I might add.

Below is a valiant attempt at using my new Christmas camera and capture the scale of one of the waist pieces, wrong side up-organza being basted…

2014 071And a bit closer, which indicates just how darn small all those little dots are!!

2014 075There you go. Happy 2014, and I will leave you with a photo of my dog that I think is the bomb and clearly shows that I am a quick study on my gift!!

2014 065My brown eyed girl….

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Albion Holiday Test

I tested the Albion (Colette Patterns) and I feel so proud to have made a coat!.¬† Oh, sure there are places for improvement but my man wore it to work today and he got ambushed at the door!¬† My goal was to do a sort of muslin but I did not think it wise to use thin material to test the fit so I decided to use all the coupons I could and broke down on a trip to the local fabric store in which I normally only buy notions and thread.¬† Since I needed to make an XXL…that is a lot of fabric to work with but I was able to get shell and lining for $50.

The pattern is incredibly easy to follow and actually the toughest part is cutting all the pieces of fabric out, once that is done you are home free and the fun begins.  There are only two areas to watch out for,  one is the pocket positioning.  Make sure you do not creep too close to CF like I did. I  was not as careful in marking my fabric as I should have been.  The result is that my fourth toggles had to be buried under the pocket!  The only other choice was to seam rip and move; it did not take long to decide to snuggle the togs under the pocket a bit; so watch out on the positioning.  The second item is that if you are using a heavy fabric for the shell, I would consider using the lining fabric for the under piece of the pocket flap.  It is less bulky and lies better overall.  That is it!  It was so smooth and easy!

Albion test coatalbion on chrisMy man, sporting the¬† coat in front of the tree.¬† Ya know, for a test coat, to have your loved one be so proud of your work–well, that makes it all worth it!

I want to talk toggles.  There was only one at the store and I decided then and there to buy it, deconstruct it and make my own.  I searched and searched for the three things needed:  Horn, Leather or suede background, leather or suede strings.

tog suppliestogHere are the three items needed.¬† A piece of leather or suede; I searched for over an hour and then stumbled upon suede patches!¬† Just enough suede to make eight plus half moons without breaking the bank and needing to buy a bigger piece!¬† Then in the jewelry section I found this nice suede 1/4″ cording in several colors, (Naturally Chic).¬† The last thing was the surprising selection of horns from Italy in Hancock Fabrics!!

So, I measured my test toggle and determined that the strings were six inches each and were glued to the back of the half moon. I set out cutting the suede strings and half moons:

horns and  stringsuedeI used a glue that is called Tear Mender that I also found at Hancock.  It works really well and here they are coming together:

finished togsThe backs of the toggles are shown above.¬† Pretty simple process, I set a glass jar on top of the glued strings for a couple of minutes until they dried.¬† So, here is a close up of the sewn tog…I like how they turned out.

albion toggleIf you do not want to buy a toggle for the pattern, just bring a piece of paper and pencil into your store and draw around the half moon shape to use as a stencil!  I hope that helps, just think of all the shapes and colors you have at your fingertips when you get to decide!

I did not show the lining!!!! Here it is, bit of an awkward photo, but I know you will understand.


Love and happiness to everyone and to those that may be challenged with pain, keep your spirits up and take a lot of time to rest this holiday season!


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