My Prydain coat!

Look who made the top 5 featured!

This weeks challenge at Sew Weekly was to do something using inspiration from a book or story we read as a child. Below is the post I did, along with construction details and a couple extra pics at the end : )

The Facts

Fabric: A whole pile of sweaters from Salvation Army
Pattern: Katwise coat pattern
Year: Current
Notions: Not a one!
Time to complete:  11 hours?
First worn: August 2012
Wear again? Yes !!!
Total Cost:
Pattern $9.00 Sweaters – didn’t keep track. Around 14 sweaters, a couple were free, some were $3 each, some less…best guess would be around $30.00 or so.

Originally I didn’t even consider the Prydain series by Llyod Alexander although that was one of THE most influential sets of books I read as a kid. A close family friend was very into kids books so I had a steady supply of the best of the best. I was a voracious reader, I’d read anything in front of me even at an early age I remember reading Life magazine and the newspaper just because they were there…doesn’t mean I always understood what I read but I read : ) And if it had won a Caldecott or Newberry award we owned it thanks to Jerry. There were LOTS of books that I remember, most of which I still own like “Harriet the Spy”, “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret”, “Caddie Woodlawn”, most everything by Roald Dahl and the Oz books (my dad owns ALL 80 some-odd of them!). Of course there was also my beloved Judy Bolton mystery series but I already channeled her in the button challenge.

So what to choose? Harriet and Margaret wore red hoodies and jeans and t-shirts respectively. Blah. I briefly considered making a Professor Diggins outfit from “Professor Diggins Dragons” but that was striped pants and a blue suit coat and that seemed only slightly more exciting than a red hoodie. I kept coming back to the works by Lloyd Alexander – he not only wrote the Prydain series but also “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” and was a regular contributor to the children’s periodical “Cricket”. I immersed myself in his written world of the land of Prydain (most likely Wales) in the Dark Ages. Gwydion, Taran, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi and Princess Eilonwy became my second family. Keep in mind that this was 1969, YEARS before Harry Potter, this was my equivalent. I wanted to be like Eilonwy and at one point I convinced my mother to make me a “princess dress” (in pink and white since princesses wear pink…right? What princess, in her right mind, who tromps about the kingdom fighting evil wears PINK??) but she was HORRIFIED at my desire for a pair of “waffle stompers” to complete the outfit (hiking boots!). She MADE me wear patent leather shoes and as far as I know ONE picture exists of me in my outfit, on a slide that is in a box somewhere in a closet and if I have any say in the matter it will never ever see the light of day again…ever…

So what would my 10-year-old self LOVED to have worn back then? I may be a girl but I’m a fairly tough girl so I’d want something pretty but ultra cool and not fussy. At a small get-together at Sue’s a couple months ago Barbara said to me “Have you heard of Katwise?” No….. “Oh, you should check her etsy store out. She does really cool stuff with old sweaters”. So I came home, typed in “Katwise” and as the images scrolled across my screen I fell in love : ) I decided to buy her “pattern” just because she is SO COOL and I wanted to see how she works her particular form of magic. Her “pattern” is a 71 page document that made me smile from one end to the other. When she puts items up for sale on her etsy store, about once a month, the 50 or so items sell out in 12 minutes. THIS is what my younger self would have DROOOLED over because my older self is smiling from ear to ear : )

And that’s what I did. I made an Elf Coat.

I’ve tried to make note of how long each step took in case anyone else wants to try this. It took me about 40 minutes to find the sweaters, I may have lucked out, and then I spent the next 4 hours washing and drying everything! When Kat says she strongly recommends using wool she’s not kidding. She says things like cashmere can be fine, cotton isn’t bad, silk maybe and never, never EVER use Acrylic. LISTEN to the woman for she is wise : )

Most of my sweaters are wool. There are a few cashmere and a couple cotton thrown in because I liked the stripes or the color (red). All are prewashed and thrown into the dryer for two reasons. First, washing and drying felt the wool, which makes it nicely stuck together. Second, unless you’re single and living alone, at some point someone else may grab your clothing to wash trying to be “helpful” so you might as well shrink that crap out of everything now. I washed everything together and it all came out GREAT! The base of the coat, the “top”, is a felted Merino wool sweater with a designer label. I cut up Ralph Lauren sweaters, Banana Republic, Valentino, Dana Buchman, Calvin Klein…

Everything was overlocked together, no machine sewing at all! The skirt panels are made from the sleeves, the bottom bands took 2 sweaters each for the black and grey and one enormous men’s sweater for the red band. There are 31 skirt panels, because I followed her instructions to the letter! Next time I make one of these, and there WILL be a next time, I’ll cut that down to about 25 or so.

And I have a pixie hood : )

It’s a *little* longer than I originally planned because I decided I liked that long striped panel. I REALLY wanted to make some Kazz pompoms, one for the bottom of the hood and another few to do a headpiece but I had no yarn of the right color : (

It took about 2 hours to cut everything out and another 2 hours to overlock the skirt pieces together. I giggled the whole time. The top took a whopping 10 minutes to cut and add the striped button panel. At the time I thought I was being clever but it’s really one of the few elements I’m not crazy about. It looks like some yuppie sweater trying to escape. Meh. In the future I’ll do a couple things different with the waistband that the skirt attaches to. First, I’ll underline it in canvas. It’s carrying a lot of weight and needs reinforcement. Second, I’ll make it smaller, and not add as many panels to the skirt to cut down on the weight. Third, I’ll add ties to the back so I can cinch it in. It “grew” to be about 6″ too big. And the red cashmere sweater that I so carefully saved to be the base of a red/orange sun coat? I’ll use it for skirt panels. It just wont be strong enough to hold the skirt. I also want pockets. I’m going to add a pixie pocket this week but next time I’ll insert pockets in the skirt as I sew the panels together.

The skirt does swirl well –

I really wanted to put together a gif with showing the swirls but didn’t have time. My daughter did do a short instagram video that, when she’s back from canoeing, I’ll see if I can post on my blog. As long as I don’t look like a dork I’m happy to share.

We took a little trip into the Berkeley hills for the photos this week. I wanted foggy/woodsy/magic and we got it, although my daughter had a brush with poison oak a few weeks ago so anytime we saw it she’d jump back like it was a striking snake : ) The misty quality to this pic is real fog –

Some of the flora around this log is poison oak, the really pretty red leaves : ) My daughter was horrified I went down there but gamely took pics! I just wanted to play in the trees…

I found a better tree to climb. And you’ll notice that I’m once again wearing the red and black patent leather Doc Martins. I finally got my boots : )

Now I can be Princess Eilonwy with my kick-butt cape/jacket. Here is one of my prized possessions:

Jerry got my copy of “The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian” autographed by the King himself : )

IF I took out the “cat factor” I could have cut several hours from this project time!

STUART decided that what I was doing was THE MOST FASCINATING THING EVER.

This is him sitting on the pattern as I’m trying to cut the skirt panels out.

And here he is sleeping in the box of sweater I didn’t use that will be stored.

And this is him curled up with his favorite grey cashmere sweater! I ended up unable to use that sweater in the coat since he WOULDN’T MOVE! I figured he could sleep on it an hour or so, that he’d eventually wake up and wander off but no…he slept on that thing for SIX hours! Why didn’t I move him? Does the phrase “Let sleeping cats lie” ring a bell?

No? Move a sleeping cat, a cranky sleeping cat. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

How’d that work for you?

It was easier to let him sleep : ) I don’t think the coat suffered for it and I ‘ve got a grey cashmere sweater for another project!

When you’re hiking around the hills like we were you are bound to see some native fauna. This slug was about 8″ long and spotted like a leopard. I’m not a big fan of slugs but this one was kinda cool.

The Gatsby picnic is coming up! Plans are being made for one fabulous day : ) Next up is the Back to School Plaid challenge and I’ve got one cute pic for inspiration.

The collar challenge

The Facts

Fabric: Vintage-inspired cotton print cotton from stash
Pattern: Decades of Style #4005
Year: 1940′s inspired
Notions: A zipper for now
Time to complete: 2 hours
First worn: August 2012
Wear again? Yes
Total Cost:
Pattern $16.60

After this last week I’m just proud I finished. On top of all that I took a day off work to go to the memorial for my fellow costume designer friend for whom I made the black skirt in the reality challenge. I love that outfit and it was perfect for the day : ) I decided that because I’ve been able to use stuff from my stash for the last few challenges that I would treat myself to a pattern I’ve coveted for a while, The 1940′s Girl Friday blouse by Decades of Style. What a PERFECT pattern for this challenge with that triple layered collar!

This blouse is really my “muslin”. I bought the fabric last year just because I loved it but I also saw that Stone Mountain still had some so if I screwed this up I could replace it. Just so I wouldn’t make myself crazy, and because my machine needs a spa day, I didn’t do the rows and rows of top stitching. I will in the future, I may even make a white blouse with red top stitching like the pattern shows. I will NOT, unless I take complete leave of my senses, do the top stitching by HAND as suggested in the pattern instructions.

The collar is stunning, no doubt about it. And this pattern is much easier than you might think! There are NO BUTTONS, the pattern asks that you place a zipper down the left side, which I did, and then when I went to put it on for pics I pulled the thing on like a t-shirt and completely forgot about the zipper! Pass the Mena zip test? Check! It will be coming out soon : ) I ended up wearing this outfit all afternoon, to the birthday party for my twin friends, and many of the adults were very complimentary, even liked my Rosie the Riveter jeans.

My daughter and I went to my girlfriends house for a girls sewing party Sunday morning. Sue’s back yard is not only an amazing suburban farm but she has an entire Tiki area complete with torches, lanai, pond and statuary. After almost 2 weeks of 100 degrees everyday we were a little tired but being back there is like a mini-vacation.

We were working on our Farm Girl aprons –

We have polka dots, we have cherries and we have smiles. Good way to spend the end of the week : )

I want to share a wonderful idea – at Barbara’s memorial her daughter made these amazing origami “dresses” instead of the usual program:

It is perfect. It captures her spirit and style. Hug your kids, tell your friends and family how much they mean to you everyday. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

Today, at least, is good : )

Details and daring

As promised…

As promised in my current Sew Weekly post these are the details of the jacket I’m wearing. The theme this week was “Music” and since I already channeled Elton John (my favorite) this year it was decided to now try Gwen Stefani, my daughter’s favorite. This is the outift:

I call the top “Frankentop” since it’s got more pieces than a bucket of chicken. I made *almost* every newbie mistake with this but in the end I’ll actually wear it. The tunnel that Angie took me to was a little seedy so the boots were the PERFECT attire for the day! Patent leather steel-toed Doc Martins, they are seriously rad : )

This is the outfit with the jacket:

The jacket was MELTING and shedding! I used Ultra Leather, brought to us by the same folks who make Ultra Suede (I’m too tired to find the TM character so just insert it here). Ultra Suede is, in essence, fancy felt. I have no idea what Ultra Leather is except a very expensive form of pleather. But it sucks, I don’t know if it’s still made but it has a definite shelf life. I have at least half a dozen pieces of Ultra Suede I bought many, many years ago, and they are fine.

The first pic above shows the shoulder details – the epaulets, the way the sleeves are attached with blanket pins instead of traditional lacing like they did in the Renaissance. This was a piece I built for a show called “Rock n’ Roll Twelfth Night” and it was a dreadful show. Awful. The only show that I can think of off the top of my head that was worse was the modern version of “Hamlet” the same director attempted. Horrible. And he wanted each character in the rock version of “Twelfth Night” to be a mix of modern and period clothing. There was a band that provided live music that we dressed like the Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club band. There was a Janis Joplin-ish character, a KISS-inspired character…it makes my stomach hurt to think about it. Oh, and the lead female (Viola?) we dressed like Madonna, and not the religious icon. Ugh… I have pictures somewhere…

The jacket was worn by the character channeling Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols. It’s lined with red satin, zips up the front and I used more zippers for piping/trim.

All those grey areas are where the top layer of the “leather” has worn/melted off. If it were real leather it would just be aging but it’s not. And because the day was so warm it was pulling apart faster and left a big black smear on my neck! I like the basic design of the jacket so I’ll make another. My original idea was to make a plaid patchwork jacket like the one Tom wore on the bands “Good Morning America” visit a few weeks ago.

I decided to try that trend of installing a zipper on the outside, a rather industrial way of doing things. It works for this but I’m not a big fan of exposed zippers. Fun to try, will be popular for about 12 minutes and then in a few months you’ll start hearing “Oh, that was soooo 2012”.

This is my version of the “Tragic Kingdom” cover : ) We hiked the skirt to mimic the red dress Gwen originally wore. I made a version of that dress for my daughter. I also made her the yellow patent pants that Gwen wore on one tour (those were a disaster – I told my daughter that that fabric would stick to itself between her legs…and she didn’t believe me. It did exactly what I predicted and there was a melt down. I just asked her if she still had them 10 years later and she said she finally sold them on ebay!), an Indian-inspired outfit Gwen wore to an awards show and the famous Grammy dress:

I think I used 60 yards of red sequin trim to make those swirls on red netting, and there are a couple layers. It is a beautiful dress but as she put it on for the prom the zipper BROKE so I had to sew her in for the evening. The guy who took her was an idiot (most polite word I can think of right now) who left her at the dance to go off with another girl! She didn’t care one way or the other, she was just glad to wear the dress for an evening : )

As promised, here is my “Oh My Goodness” shot –

WAY too much boobage, and you can see my bra, but considering I just turned 50-something it’s not bad : ) Nothing about this is photoshopped but I might use it as a project to learn how to fill IN! My thanks to Angie for doing photography duty this time. We always have fun together and I wouldn’t have attempted doing this shot with my daughter behind the lens.

This shot is just because…

Ashton sleeping : )

Saturday was Ashton Miller’s birthday, the young lady who died about the same time the kitty was born and abandoned by his mom. I named the kitty after the amazing young woman we lost that day. She would have been 24, just a few years younger than my own daughter. She shared a special connection with Ariel with a mutual love of Harry Potter and the same rare cancer. Ariel and Elora turned 14 today. I wasn’t sure on Tuesday if Ari would be around today, at least around enough to enjoy the day but she is here and aware and seemed to have an amazing day.

Miss Ariel : )

Miss Elora : )

What a week…I’m just glad we’re all happy and doing the best we can at this moment.

A tough day/week/month

This was “supposed” to be the post where I posted the bulk of my Sew Weekly challenge, along with an extra pic or two of Gwen goodness : ) I even dug through BOXES of photos in a vain attempt looking for pics of my daughter in one of the many of the Gwen looks I created for her through the years.

Here’s the deal: part way through the last box I just started to cry. The reason I made so many goofs with this weeks dress was not from the usual issues – tired, over worked, fill in the blank of what makes you forgetful. Nope, this is different.

If any of you read my Retro Deco Settings blog you might have seen the July 31 post last year, Harry Potter/J.K. Rowling birthday post, or the last post I did celebrating my daughter’s win at the Marin County Fair for her pic of Elora at St. Baldrick’s. These have a common theme – Ariel & Elora. They are twins, their 14th birthday is this Sunday. Ariel is in the hospital, trying to heal from her second brain surgery in the last month. Ari has cancer, a very rare and aggressive form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. (I’ve typed that so many times now it just trips off the end of my fingers.) Only 350 cases are diagnosed in this country every year so that’s rare.

When we did the first set of pics for the Harry Potter tablesetting Ari was still recovering from major brain surgery, if you look carefully you can see a lack of hair and a pale smile. She was a trooper that day, managed to stay upright and smile. She was working hard recovering and we had every hope that she’d survive the relapse she was diagnosed with in February. A few months later the cancer came back, for the third time, with a vengeance

A few weeks ago she suddenly grabbed her head and started screaming that the pain was so bad she couldn’t function, couldn’t stop screaming. Her mom called 911 and when the ambulance crew arrived they just scooped her up and ran. They were able to get her stable and ran her into “her” hospital, Children’s Hospital in Oakland, the site of the St. Baldrick’s fundraisers and where Brittany took the pictures of Elora as she shaved her head to show support for her sister and her battle.

Ari was stabilized, but a few days later the pain became unbearable again and she seized. Scans showed she had bleeding in her brain so a quick surgery was done and  they pulled 9cc of blood out. She seemed on the upswing and then a resident, not knowing Crystal hadn’t seem the final pathology report, mentioned “three” tumors in Ari’s brain when they had only known about one. On top of that Ari’s ENTIRE oncology team was out of town. Crystal, who is seriously one of the smartest women you’ll ever meet, started calling the shots and making lists. By the time the team had returned Ari was starting to bleed and seize again so another major surgery was done and 2 of the tumors removed.

I had visited them on Monday, the day after they found out about the two other tumors and three days before this last surgery. Crystal asked me to help Ari design her “most perfect” Merida dress, the female heroine from “Brave”. I promised, and immediately went to the fabric store and bought a pile of dark green stretch velvet to make her a cape. I could do that without her knowing and make it soft, so if she wanted to wear it in the hospital she could cuddle in it and use it like a blanket. While I pieced together the Frankentop for my Gwen dress, I was juggling making the cape. When she went into surgery Thursday night all I could do was cry, which is why I screwed up cutting the darn plaid thing out! She wasn’t very stable after surgery, she had many small oozing bleeds. I wondered if I’d be able to get the cape to her in time.

By Saturday she was starting to turn a corner, so I finished up the cape and prayed. I also finished the Gwen dress but honestly, the whole thing was an emotional nightmare. I do NOT recommend sewing and crying! Ari was on so many drugs for pain and infection that she was hallucinating, screaming and generally not on this planet. When my husband was in the worst of his cancer journey he was barely functional, he’s missing about 6 months of his life in his memory banks. It was awful but it wasn’t my child so I had some distance, it was a nightmare I could walk away from because there was only so much I could do, the rest was entirely up to him. It wasn’t my CHILD.

I decided that, no matter what, I would drop the cape off Monday after work. I hopped off BART and when I got to the ICU Ari was AWAKE and lucid! She was peeling the sticky stuff off her arm from the tapes that held her lines in while she struggled, she knew who I was and most importantly, she knew what I had brought her! Once again I promised her that I’d be at her party on August 19 and we’d design her perfect Merida dress. As we talked the nurses bustled into the room, they were transferring her out of ICU and back up to the Oncology floor, which may sound like a “bad” thing but it’s really very, very good : )

Today is Thursday, we were hoping that Crystal and Ari would be going home to Elora, their older bother Ian and Jason, the dad. Not so. Ari has multiple “micro bleeds” and all they want to do is keep her pain controlled. They are scheduling another scan tomorrow but her options are running out. We were “hoping” to continue to the “next” thing – first get to their 14th birthday, then to the first day of school, Halloween… Now we’re just holding our breath for Sunday.

So for the moment, I’m in tears, my chest hurts and my friends are going through one of the worst things imaginable. I had finished a corset earlier this year in a Sew Weekly challenge and called it “Ariel” after my little friend. There is an “Elora” to go with it, it’s still in pieces in a bag : ) The hope was the girls could wear them in a year or two as my models. Now all we want is Ari to see her birthday.

Here’s hoping the scans are stable, that Ari gets good pain relief and there is a party this Sunday. If you want to read about her and her journey you can go here.

I’ll get back to the regular sewing stuff in a day or two : )

Links, links and more links!

The lovely Mrs. Depew stopped by to take a gander at my suit!

Not only does she have a great pattern but she’s just re-done her website so that any patterns purchased can be instantly downloaded instead of waiting for an email. For those of us who like immediate gratification this is great news. I HIGHLY recommend this pattern for those looking for a vintage style suit, and I don’t highly recommend much or often : ) Here is the link to that specific pattern:

Be sure to check out her other items as well. I’ve got my eye on a blouse pattern and maybe the beach shorts… And who knows, with Gatsby coming up I may consider a 20’s dress.

I’ve also started compiling a blogroll, yeah! What I’ve added are just some of the amazing sites of my co-contributors to the Sew Weekly party.  Here is a “brief” description of each one:

Kazz the Spazz – a woman into tribal inspired fabrics and fashions who definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer. Graphic and bright, she resides in Melbourne (if you don’t know where that is find a map) and makes me want to explore her stunning city and then sit and have a chai and pick her brain.

Absbloominglutely – Tempest Devyne lives in Arizona, the land of H E A T. This is a woman who is fearless, funny and quirky with an enormous heart. Check out what she did for the “Olympic” challenge : )

Ginaclarkstyle – Gina lives and breathes fashion. Talk about taking risks, she showed up to a construction site to do photos in not much more than a shirt! OK, she had shorts on under the shirt but you couldn’t see them : ) If you don’t think that’s brave try it yourself sometime.

Lilacs and Lace – Laura Mae makes some of THE most amazing vintage-inspired outfits. She’s got the skills, the look and the tutorials and I was lucky enough to meet her a few months ago when Mena, of Sew Weekly fame, hosted a swap at her house. This lady has some serious talent and is willing to share her techniques.

Quiet Vintage Sewing – Trish is another Aussie who originally hails from New Zealand. She did a skirt a few months ago out of vintage tablecloths. Amazing! She has some serious vintage style in her home and her wardrobe. Be sure to check out the skirt she made for the Yellow challenge, think PINEAPPLES!

The Cataloguer – Liz describes herself like this: “I read, I sew, I eat, I watch TV and movies. That’s about it.” What else is there? She is seriously cute, takes chances and puts it all out there. How can you not love that?

The Dreamstress –  “Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional.”  She is a fellow historical costume person! One of these days I’ll drag some of my creations out of the dark but for now take a look at some serious talent on this woman’s site. She recently wrote about the evils of acrylic fabrics. Read it and then never use the stuff : )

And finally, for now,

The Slow Steady – Lee lives in Brooklyn with a tag line that says “I’m not that hardcore. But I am consistent”. Her submission for the Yellow challenge was adorable, and genius. Great minds think alike since we both did a version of Rosie for the 40’s challenge : ) She has also done some amazingly cool shorts. Check her out.

This is by NO MEANS a complete list of all the fabulousness out there! This is just what I had time to start with.

My Yellow Challenge dress and inspiration

The Facts
: Floral print in green, blue and yellow from swap hosted by Mena
: Simplicity 1882
Year: Contemporary
Notions: 1 zipper, scraps of interfacing, cotton/poly for lining, poly for skirt lining,  heat-n-bond from stash, and cotton from my mom.
Time to complete:  3 1/2 hours, more or less
First worn: August 2012
Wear again? Maybe
Total price: Can I get a Hallelujah for “FREE!”

I laughed a little when I saw “yellow” show up in the challenge list. I mean, seriously, what’s a girl who is two shades darker than milk going to do? Whether you were into the “seasons” color swatching thing in the 80’s (I was not) or just pay attention to what you see in the mirror, I am reasonably sure yellow and I aren’t buds in the clothing department. Don’t get me wrong, it took me years but I appreciate the right yellow in the right place in the world. My kitchen, bedroom and bathroom are some shade of yellow (ok, mostly the same shade since I mixed up my own batch of venetian plaster and loved it so much I just kept plastering…) BUT I know better than to wear it next to my face!

I considered making a skirt until I remembered this fabulous vintage print I got at the swap Mena hosted earlier this year. I used it for a table setting (Day 284) and liked the combination of colors, not to mention the slight Asian style of the flowers. It took me a ridiculous three days of searching to finally find it since I had carefully folded it up inside another piece so the print wouldn’t fade! The trickiest part of this whole outfit was the amount of fabric I had – 1 1/2 yards of 54″ fabric, or a piece that was a 54″ square with a border print down each selvedge. I debated about making just a top but that seemed too easy and I wasn’t very convinced I’d wear it. When I found this pattern in my stash I decided to give it a go since the yardage requirements weren’t too far off. I cut CAREFULLY!! I have a small handful of scraps left and that’s IT! My mom actually picked up a 1/4 yard of navy cotton for me to line the little collar with – Thanks Mom! – when she picked up my birthday present : ) I did NOT have enough to do the sleeves nor the pockets so I used basic white cotton and fused on random flowers to trick you – See below!!

The construction of this dress was pretty straight forward. I didn’t, however, really read the directions (as usual) so I’ll just outline the “interesting” things I discovered about this pattern. First and foremost, they have FINALLY acknowledged that all women’s breasts are NOT the same size!! Depending on your cup size depends on what pieces you cut for the upper top pieces, in this case you can choose from A,B, C or D. I chose the D and it’s pretty darn good, so for all you full-busted ladies out there, rejoice! Off the top of my head that would be my friends Krista and Nan’s daughter but I’m SURE there are many more of you : ) Now here’s the caveat to all this wonderful-ness: the side seams on this pattern are wider than normal to allow for fitting. This is good unless you sew at home, late in the evening and only have cats, dogs and chickens as company. As talented as that group is they don’t have opposable thumbs and cannot, as hard as they try, pin fit a thing. Find a friend, phone a friend, train a friend but unless you are super limber doing this yourself will be a challenge. I have discovered that while I fill my cups nicely I don’t have a lot of boobage on the side so I took a full inch out of the side front AND back pieces. This fabric is also quite thin so I thought I was being clever and lined it but I should have listened to my inner voice and not only lined but INTERLINED it as well.

I put the border print at the hem, used some for the collar and the rest is incorporated into the midriff. I thought it might look like a belt but I didn’t count on the way the front dips a little and I don’t care for it. The sleeves are pretty good but a little big. I’d rather have slightly oversized than under and in the future I’ll adjust them down a bit. I *almost* didn’t line the skirt, I’d run out of cotton/poly and figured I’d just wear a slip underneath. When I had the top put together and tried on I found I could see the seam allowances, the fabric was so thin. I quickly pulled out some white poly and flat lined the whole thing, disaster averted…almost. I forgot that I dressed in the dark the day we did photos and pulled on hot-pink with black polka dot panties. You can’t see them here but I could see them in the mirror when I got home. I mean…seriously…

The main reason I finished this challenge? The car.

Yep. Some girls plan outfits around jewelry or shoes or a fabulous piece of fabric. I do it. But when my daughter and I were trying to figure out a good place to take pics of my yellow creation, without making me look like my liver was ready to give up, we were heading back from IKEA (that blue building was a contender) and hopped off the freeway an exit early to check on a friends garden. As we drove down a street we might drive down once a year the clouds parted, angels sang and the sun shone down upon the yellow wonder you see here : )

It was RIGHT there, parked under a pine tree, on the corner, whispering “Aren’t I fabulous?”

Oh yes… This is what kept me going all week. The thought of the PERFECT accessory for this challenge was just delicious. I drove by the house Saturday after the Peddlar’s Fair and when I had no answer ringing the bell I left a note scribbled on the back of an expired Stone Mountain Daughter coupon. Before I even got home a lovely woman named Sonny called and left a message saying that I could use the car and that if I wanted she would even drive it to my house! I turned down the kind offer but thanked her profusely for allowing us to descend on her property Sunday afternoon.

It’s a 1956 wagon, at one time I owned a 1956 sedan in red with a white roof. This would have been a lovely sister to mine : ) It also matched the yellow in the flowers on the fabric like they were painted to match.

The pockets in this dress are HUGE, you could carry a kitten or a small chicken in each one : ) Angie asked “Will my cell phone fit? That’s all I care about!” so yes ladies, your cell phone would fit nicely. Along with your care keys, a small lunch, sunglasses and kleenex. The essentials of life especially if you have little kids.

This is what happens when you ask the universe for some kind of inspiration! My thanks to Sonny for being so understanding. One of these days I’ll find a car like this again, when they timing is right. The song by Queen “I’m in love with my car” played through my head more than once today : )

I’ll be posting pics of the “trick” I did to fool the eye when I didn’t have enough fabric. Today was one of those days where you feel like there has been an enormous shift in life and perceptions and I just need to take a breath.

HUG your kids, tell your family members you love them even if they drive you crazy. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

A Swimsuit!!

Here is a copy of my latest contribution to the Sew Weekly challenge – a swimsuit!!
For the additional story, you can skip to the bottom of the post : )


The Facts

Fabric: Red with white polka dot spandex
Pattern: Mrs Depew Vintage 1001
Year: 1950′s inspired
Notions: None
Time to complete: 2 hours
First worn: July 2012
Wear again? Yes
Total Cost:
Fabric $32 and pattern $9 for a total of $41

Holy Moley! This challenge was FRAUGHT with little land mines: )

First – when the list of challenges first came out this one stumped me. It was finally decided, in a very round-about way with much discussion, that I needed a swimsuit so I can get myself into a pool and get in shape. When Meg posted her vacation suit I knew that was what I wanted! Cute, vintage inspired, I wouldn’t look like an “old lady” or trying to cover up so I bought the pattern from a seller in France and then went online to Spandex World for the polka dot fabric and that was nearly my downfall. Ordered it almost 2 weeks ahead of time, it arrived Friday of challenge week. I made it Friday night, took pictures Saturday. Phew….

I must say, everything Meg said about this pattern is accurate. Not for the very beginner seamstress, and there are only written instructions, but it went together fairly well. The pattern is designed to be used with non-stretchy fabrics as well as knits so let me just say this – I cut “my” size out of the spandex and then cut at least an inch out of each side seam as well as the center back after fittings! The bra sizing is good (for me) and just like Meg said, the crotch gusset is HUGE. I always make the pattern as is the first time and I kept in mind that if I do this out of some very cha-cha woven fabric like Kazz did last week then all that extra may be needed. In the spandex I cut out 1″ on EACH side and at least 2″ out of the length and I’m still not sure it’s the way I like!

First landmine skirted (not having to go into a store to try on swimsuits) I knew the next hardest thing would be getting into a pool. I figured I’ve conquered my fears of being photographed, of being photographed in public wearing an outfit that might draw some attention : ) and that peculiar fear of just being honest and putting myself out there in a forum where others MAKE COMMENTS!

So ladies, in honor of my birthday this Thursday (the 2nd) I have put on a bathing suit, NOT worn any foundation undergarments and, honoring the 14 year old girl that started a national campaign asking magazines to stop photoshopping their models, I did NOT photoshop out any blips, blops or the owie from my kitty : ) This is it, about as “me” as you’ll ever get. Thank goodness my daughter was available for pics!!

I’m going to make 2 straps and X them across my back instead of the around-the-neck thing. I wanted to channel more of a Betty Grable pose but the back kept slipping and we kept adjusting and futsing and once I got in the water that extra support will be most appreciated.

In this week of Olympic spirit I am inspired by the Walnut Creek Aquanuts, award winning synchronized swimmers. A team of local girls, they are “12-time National Champions and winners of over 200 national and world titles. Home to 17 Olympians (8 of them gold medalists), we have come a long way since 1968 when we began with just two swimmers. Four of our 60 athletes were chosen for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team (two other Aquanuts also competed at the 2008 Olympics, representing Japan & the Czech Republic.)”

Right in my own back yard, Olympic athletes : )

I was not a swimmer when I was younger but I did swim. Just for giggles I tried doing a couple of their “moves”…

HAH! Those girls are young, in shape and practice. I am *not* but I’m working on it : ) Now I’ve got a pretty cute suit that I can wear proudly at any pool.

To get through this challenge I have to thank first my daughter, who made the very wise comment that “It’s time to evolve”. She’s right. I’d probably say “Just do it” but that’s a certain sportswear manufacturer’s tag line and I don’t like them (see bottom of this post) but that’s about it. It’s time to get on with it. We did manage a “Palm Springs Glamour” shot –

So there we are. After this challenge I can do ANYTHING : )

Here’s the back story:

Many years ago, I was about 11 or 12, my mother signed me up for basic Lifeguard training at the local swim club. I had completed the Red Cross recommended trainings at all levels, even did the first two levels of canoeing! so I was pretty comfortable in and around water. Being that it was the early 70’s women’s rights were just starting to be recognized and around that time Title IX was enacted. While the original statue made no explicit mention of sports it is best known for its impact on high school and college sports. But change, and attitudes, take time and at the time I was signed up there was no such thing as equality in sports : ) Yes, there were swim teams for boys and swim teams for girls but one did not compete with or against each other.

So I show up to class and everyone there, including the teacher, is male except for one other girl. Now this girl and I had never become friends but I didn’t think there was any problem except I wasn’t a “cool” girl and Bonnie was one of those girls who is taller, louder and stronger than most other girls. She was on the swim team and one of their star swimmers. The rest of the boys were on the swim team as well and if we were able to fast forward in time a decade Bonnie would probably be swimming on the “boys” team and outdoing them. I have a vague memory that she might have been on the diving team in high school but I could be wrong.

We start with the basics. How to approach a swimmer in trouble, how to go under them, turn them and put them in a cross chest tow. No problems. Bonnie and I were always teamed up, you couldn’t have a BOY come up under a woman, get anywhere NEAR her girl parts and then put your arm across her chest to swim her to safety, heavens no!! After we “mastered” that exercise we were supposed to go into deeper water, like we were sinking, pull the sinker up and get them to safety blah, blah, blah. My first sign of trouble was instead of Bonnie pulling me UP she was pushing me DOWN and holding me there. The first time it was only a few seconds. The second time about 30 seconds. The third time she wasn’t going to let go until I was passed out. My guess is she figured because she was on the swim team and they had contests to see who could hold their breath the longest that she’d outlast me.

She almost did. I saw enough of her face to know this was no longer a game and I needed to get away. I kicked, I was starting to black out so I wasn’t sure where she was but I connected with something and got away. I sputtered to the surface and the teacher, as he had done all along, ignored me and my choking. I had complained previously about rough handling but was told to “suck it up, if you want to play with the boys you have to act like the boys” and me pointing out that I WASN’T playing with the boys had no effect. Bonnie came up after me, said I had purposely tried to kick her in the head and I was done. I knew, more than anything else at that moment, that my safety was in my own hands.

I got out of the pool, sat down in the sun and contemplated my choices. My mom would be upset if I didn’t finish, she’d throw all kinds of fits and say how expensive classes were and I’d most likely get a lecture on responsibility. I’d just about decided to stick it out when Bonnie walked past me and whispered “Next time, I’ll get you next time.”

Done. I was never going back. I didn’t tell my mom, I would have her or the baby sitter drop me off at the swim club and hide in the bushes for the hour class. Then I’d be waiting by the street at the end of the time and be picked up. I don’t remember how I explained not passing the test but it didn’t matter. I think I went into pools in high school when we had swimming sections but it was awful. I didn’t have Bonnie in any of my PE classes but the smell of chlorine made me ill in more than a physical way. When my daughter was little my mom arranged for swim lessons for her in the summer when I was working and she will tell you that I’ll go in oceans, lakes and rivers but pools? Nope.

This week I decided to conquer my “fear” of pools AND swimsuits! I was ready to go to one of the community pools when my daughter said “Heidi has a pool” and bingo! No drama, no trauma. Heidi, it turns out, has a salt water pool so there is no smell, no itchiness, no red eyes, no nausea for the rest of the day. I could have cried it was so nice but as my daughter said, “Time to evolve”.

As an adult I can recognize bullying. I can also recognize that my reactions to chlorine and pools can be overcome. I can also take that younger version of myself and tell her it’s ok, we survived and it’s time to let that stuff go. As for Bonnie, I have no idea what’s happened to her. I haven’t gone to a high school reunion in years but the people I’ve asked that I’ve kept in touch with have no clue. No one that I know on facebook knows anything about her. Karma? One day I’ll find out.

On the one hand I’d like to ask her just what she had against me, on the other it doesn’t matter. Maybe her own home life was awful and she was acting out. Maybe she was a sick girl who needed help.

As for the Nike thing – ugh. They did the right thing initially when they kicked Michael Vick’s sorry ass to the curb after his arrest. They did the wrong thing when they re-offered him a deal once he was out of jail. Do I think he regrets what he did? Not for a minute. He regrets getting caught, he’s shown no interest in the fate of his dogs and he’s hired people to manipulate his mouth to say the right words. He is, at best, a sociopath (but frankly I don’t think he’s that smart) and at most likely a psychopath. Until he’s off the planet, or Nike decides to kick him loose again, I won’t buy their products or anything associate with them.

I’ll stick with my daughter’s take on things “Time to evolve”.

After 40 years, it seems like a good time : )