I left my (blue) heart in (South) San Francisco…

Did someone say something about a blue sewing challenge? Is THIS enough blue for you?!

This enormous blue heart was part of the Hearts of San Francisco project.

“Hearts in San Francisco began in 2004 as a fund raiser for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. Like the famous painted cows, the painted hearts — created from uniform molds and painted by individual artists — decorate the city in areas like Union Square, until they are auctioned off at a benefit for the charity. New hearts are unveiled each year.”

This particular heart was sponsored by Genentech:

Now that the exhibit has run its course it is back ‘home’ for a bit, just up the hill from me. When I heard about the Blue February sewalong I KNEW that I had to do a photoshoot with this lovely!

(Hey, it was either this or IKEA! This, I thought, was infinitely more interesting.)

The heart is located in a breezeway that does a fabulous job of funneling the latest storm wind and rain…not that I’m complaining, we need the rain! BUT it is tough standing there as the elements are swirling, looking all calm and collected : ) I started out with a sweater on but my co-worker/photographer said we had too much white going so they sweater was thrown aside.

I made a new blouse using fabric in our “Polka dot and plaids” box. I have made a VOW that I’m NOT GOING TO BUY any fabric this year unless it is SO COOL that I will die without it! Seriously. One of my goals last year was to use an entire box of fabric to cut down on my stock. In the end I did but along the way I added more to the collection so really, one step forward, two steps back.

Rochelle recently talked about wishing she had a “go to” pattern to use when she needed a “happy pattern” to get back into the sewing groove. This blouse pattern is that for me. I think I have a dozen versions of this, you can see a couple here, and here, and here. I love each one, the only thing that keeps me from making MORE is time : )

The jeans are my go-to vintage jeans I originally made for the Rosie the Riveter challenge almost 2 years ago.

The heart all by itself.

And for Vicki:

I have no idea what we were doing, but this is the best outtake of the day. Tap dancing perhaps? Nothing like standing near the executive suites on campus to bring out the dork in you…

(I was hoping Ian Clark might photobomb our session but no)

I’ve had LOTS of interest in the paper dresses! Still figuring out the button thing and looking into getting a flickr page up and going so come on, people, let your inner 4 year old OUT!


This is Mayhem. She’s 4 years old and makes dresses out of paper and tape with her mother. They use whatever is laying around the house. The one above was created after a visit to the aquarium. She likes to look at photos of red carpet dresses and re-create them:Check out this one, made with a sheet:

And this is my favorite:

Recognize Jay McCarroll’s dress from the first season of Project Runway?

You can read the Huffington Post article about her here.

And you can check out her website here.

SO ladies and gentlemen, let’s make an outfit using whatever we have at home, in the spirit of Mayhem, and post it to her hashtag #fashionbymayhem.!!

Let’s take a few weeks to get something done and photographed. ‘Rules’ are easy.

1 – Use stuff you have at home, free is good. Paper & tape is ENCOURAGED.
2 – You can use fabric but the whole point is to NOT sew!
3 – If you have kids involve them!
4 – Take a pic and email it to me. If there is enough interest I can set up a flickr page.
5 – This should be FUN and EASY, do it in an hour or so!
6 – Due date is March 16th.
7 – This isn’t a competition, just a craft-along : )

The Oscars are this weekend, perhaps use that for inspiration, but anything else is good too. Use your imagination!! Channel your 4 year old self!

If you’re on Instagram post your creation using the hashtag #fashionbymayem. Her mom’s account, that she regularly posts to, is 2sisters_angie.

Because I don’t do html-like things I’m going to attempt to make a button so stay tuned. I’m ALSO in the process of setting up ONE AMAZING SEWALONG so DON’T MISS IT!!!! It’s going to be totally awesomesauce!

In the meantime I’m going to go make a paper dress or two, work on the sewalong details and think about finishing one of the other half dozen blog posts I’ve started and not finished.

A jacket for Dave

This is Dave. Dave is married to Ruth. Ruth is my friend. Ruth loves Dave : )

Ruth wanted sometime fun and super cool for her hubby for Christmas. So she called me : )

You can see he’s pretty happy.

The back is pretty special too….

One happy guy.

Here’s some details about the coat:

The Facts

Fabric: Custom printed cotton from Spoonflower
Pattern: Vogue 2836
Notions: LOTS of interfacing – goat hair canvas and woven cotton, twill tape, 8 unique buttons
Year: Modern
Time to complete: 10+ hours
First worn: Christmas day 2013
Wear again? Yes he has : )
Cost – Not sure, client paid for fabrics.

Ruth messaged me with the following “I’m searching for abstract art type print.” I told her that depending on the copyright she could get something printed on Spoonflower. She responded “Just looked at their site!! Yay!! This is so so so perfect. You are the best!!” And she was off…

She took a photo of a painting that Dave did and manipulated it into this:

Crazy huh?

And then she made this:

Apparently this is a repeat of the painted frame. It’s for the lining.

If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen the fabric just before I cut things out : ) It took several hours to get the piecing just right. I wanted to have it as symmetrical as possible but keep the basic flavor of the design in tact. Ruth had one request, that a certain part of the design be on the back:

There IS a center back seam there, so it was some pretty fancy sewing I managed to do!

A word about the pattern: for those of you wanting to make a men’s jacket and do it traditionally (with all that hand stitching) this is a GOOD pattern. The instructions are thorough and clear with the tailoring directions.  I really liked the way they pieced the front interfacing panels together:

But I didn’t do all that hand padding. Years ago I took a course in machine tailoring so this jacket is a hybrid mix of machine and hand tailoring. I was concerned at first that the color of the interfacing would show through the design but it was fine. You can’t really see it but I did do hand stitching on the chest pieces. This is the front collars with the roll complete:

Ruth had brought me a jacket of Dave’s that he liked and fit him well and the Vogue pattern matched the roll line of the collar on his jacket nearly perfectly. The changes I made to the interfacing pieces were:
Added upper back jacket interfacing.
Added underarm interfacing.
Used lighter weight woven cotton interfacing for sleeve hems.

Here’s a shot of the coat after I dropped the lining in:

Pretty cool, huh?

Ruth originally wanted pants to match!? I just didn’t have time BUT there is enough fabric left over to do a pretty dress for Ruth should she get sufficient encouragement : )

Ruth is special to me in several ways – First, she’s an awesome mom. I met her when her youngest son was in a production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and he played Dill. That particular theater company had an agonizing tradition of letting audience members comment of aspects of the production during dress rehearsals. One older lady in the audience took issue with the Chuck Taylor shoes we put on the kids and said “I don’t think they had those shoes back then. I think you messed up there.” Before I could open my mouth to defend my position we hear this tiny little voice “Um, excuse me ma’m but I researched the history of these shoes. They were first produced in 1917 and quite popular by the 30’s.” I know he said some other stuff but I was so astonished by his certainty and spunk, and he was around 7 years old at that time,  that I don’t remember the rest. I just remember thinking “Who is this kids mother??? That must be one awesome family.” They are : )

Second – she has done a REALLY COOL THING. She hosts the Spontaneous Smiley blog. It’s funny, it’s silly and she’s met Oprah. Go check out her website. Subscribe. Smile.

Third – She got Oprah to jump with joy with her : )

This is a photo my friend Lucy took of a Spontaneous Smiley:

Those are caterpillars on the sunflower making that face. Totally natural, totally random and totally cool. Ruth has people from all over the world submitting photos like that. If you look at the bag she encased the Christmas Jacket in you’ll see it’s covered in smiley faces : )

This is Chunk kitty. We had to put him to sleep a couple of weeks ago. He seemed fine on Thursday, Friday morning he was in my sewing room just hanging out on the floor. Jim thought he was acting funny so he took him to the vet. Next thing you know we’re looking at advanced lymphoma and in a day and a half he’d deteriorated so much we had no choice but to say good-bye.

We miss him. He was sweet, not the brightest bulb in the box but just SO incredibly sweet that all you wanted to do was hold him tight. His mom gave birth to him on our property so we buried him at the top of the hill in the back yard. He used to LOVE to sit by the street edge and watch the world go by, now he can do it forever.

Life is rough. Some days it’s nice to have an extra smile or two to look at. And hey, look at that, a second blog post in a week. I’m on a roll!

I came, I saw, I knit

“Mom, you’re a dork.” Me “I know”. The daughter “It happens, it’s OK.”

I am now a knitter. At least I think I am : )

This journey started when Tasha of By Gum, By Golly published her very first knitting pattern, the Victory beret. That’s some serious cuteness right there, especially with the lovely Rochelle of Lucky Lucille as her model : ) How can you resist? I didn’t.

Isn’t that CUTE? AND I knit the red sweater, making the pattern up as I went. Yep. I haven’t picked up knitting needles in years and the last few things I made were scarves so NOTHING like figuring out how to shape the pieces, work in a design and finish it all off in the timeline. It might have gone a lot quicker if I didn’t have to take time out for therapy.

Seriously, knitting sent me back to therapy. Not because of the act of knitting but because how I learned to knit as a child.

When I was little it was expected that us girls would grow up to be mommies and housewives and we would cook and knit and sew and do the laundry blah blah blah. My grandmother started teaching me how to sew when I was three and as long as she was around we were constantly sewing. My mother learned how to knit from the neighbor that lived across the hall from us when we lived in San Francisco. I distinctly remember the Irish knit sweaters she made for me and my two sisters, I chose to have little popcorns knit into mine and loved it, most of the time.

Because the whole knitting thing looked like fun I asked if they would teach me. My mother really couldn’t so neighbor Evelyn, who was from Brazil and had been raised by nuns in a convent after being orphaned and could knit faster and better than anyone around, taught me. The only problem was she expected me to be up to an adult skill set right after she showed me something. I was six. She knit Continental style and for the life of me I couldn’t wrap my head around it so I imitated my mother (and the cartoon characters on TV. Ever see a chicken knit? yeah….) Evelyn didn’t like that but put up with it. I got the casting on thing down and the knitting part but when it came to purling she just said “You do the opposite of knitting” so I tried looping the yarn around the needle and THEN putting the needle through the loop…and I’m sure something else. I was never SHOWN, but I was taken to task because I didn’t do it. Let me repeat – I was SIX.

Most of the time when I wanted to knit I was given a skein of yarn and told to wind it in a ball, THEN I was ‘allowed’ to knit. I hate winding skeins into balls. To this day I’ll walk away from knitting if you tell me I MUST roll the skein into a ball. (Plus, when you’re knitting on a train and the ball rolls off your lap or out of your purse it’s an embarrassing dance to get it back.) After I nearly had a panic attack at the yarn store when one of the other customers (because yarn store customers are a particularly nosy bunch, which is mostly fine but not always) chided me for not knitting Continental style AND not winding my skein into a ball, I called my therapist. I clearly had “issues”.

I did manage to buy all the pretty colors for the hat AND four skeins of a cotton/wool blend in my favorite red for a sweater based on a pattern Liz at Zilredloh put on her blog for free. My train of thought went something like this “I’m a smart girl, I have friends who knit and there’s always youtube videos, I can figure this out.” The the train derailed and there I was, sitting in a familiar chair and crying to my therapist.

I will add, so I don’t sound like a complete lunatic, that the woman who “taught” me how to knit was married to the neighborhood pedophile, who tried luring me into his web for a couple of years when I was 5, 6 and 7. He never succeeded physically but emotionally I was damaged, and years later I put enough of the stories I heard together with my own history to figure out he needed HER to be able to do what he did. She was complicit in his sickness and as far as I know they’re still married. It wasn’t so much the act of knitting that sent me to therapy but the memories indelibly paired with knitting. Yes, I’ve had years of therapy previous to this to deal with all that happened, but every now and then some dusty corner of my brain is illuminated and needs to be swept out.

So for the last three months I’ve juggled the knitting of the beret with the knitting of the sweater. I wanted to make the Panelled Cardigan pattern that Liz posted. I had that with me when I went to the yarn store. First they sold me the wrong size needles : ) Apparently the young woman behind the counter didn’t realize that knitting needles changed sizes sometime between the 1940’s and today so she sold me MODERN size 10 needles, when what I really needed was size 2. Fortunately I swatched the yarn and discovered the error within an hour of purchasing the needles so back I went. The pattern also called for 9-10 ounces of yarn to make the sweater so I bought all four skeins of yarn they had in my red, or 14.5 ounces in total, just to make sure I had enough. (I didn’t)

The first thing I discovered about the pattern is they use the “wrong” side of the knitting as the “right” side, so the patterned panels show up. Then I couldn’t figure out the pattern/cabling so I thought “I’ll just knit a basic sweater and use their proportions.” I changed the ribbing to knit 2 purl 1 instead of knit 1 purl 1 since that stitch literally makes me dizzy, all that switching from front to back every other stitch. The right front panel took the ENTIRE skein of yarn, in the end I had 18 inches of yarn left. Hmmm….

At this point I’m looking at my other three skeins and thinking “It’s not going to be enough.” It was mid November at this point so I went back to the yarn store to see if I could get more. Nope. I asked if they’d order more for me and was told they were expecting a shipment within a week or two and it would probably be in that. Great, I’ll wait and in the meantime I was working on Tempest’s Dr. Who challenge and starting the beret.

Week after Thanksgiving I go back in but no yarn. I ask if they’ll now order it. Sure, the order will go in next week and be here mid December.  For some reason I had a brain fart and thought I had to finish by the end of December, so I completely rearranged my schedule, took a deep breath and said “fine”.

Then Rochelle posted “What should I knit?” and had the CUTEST “V for Victory” scarf pattern and I KNEW I had to incorporate that V into my sweater! So I DID!!!

It’s just above my left boob, a la Laverne on “Laverne and Shirley”. It was EASY : ) Every day, for the last three months, I hop on BART and pull out my knitting. First it was the two Dr. Who scarves (one of which I gave to one of my best friend’s daughter for Christmas who screamed so hard through the phone I thought she was hurt at first. No, she’s just 15 and excited), then it was the front panels and sleeves of this sweater. I decided to take a BIG chance and knit the front and sleeves out of the yarn I had and do the back out of the two skeins I ordered, praying the dye lots would be close enough that we wouldn’t notice.

Back to the yarn store I go mid December. Was my yarn in? They hadn’t even ORDERED it yet! Panic set in. I could finish the beret but my SWEATER??!! After all THAT, including therapy, and I wouldn’t finish! I bought some brown and white yarn to play with a faux fox stole pattern I found on a Pinterest page and went home a sad girl.

Then lightening struck. Wait….what about Amazon. They have EVERYTHING on Amazon, says Crystal. NO! They did NOT have my color, ACK!!! I tried calling the manufacturer, apparently they are in Oklahoma and were in the middle of the first Polar Vortex so things weren’t working well. They had no yarn in my color in stock but were dyeing some “next week”. It should be in by the end of the month.

I’m still thinking I have to have everything done by December 31 so then I ask who else might carry that yarn in the bay area. It took almost 10 minutes of searching to come up with several yarn stores so I called…and the universe smiled on me. A store in San Francisco had plenty of my red so they put two skeins into an envelope for me on Monday and Tuesday the package was waiting for me when I got home : ) And just to round the story out – it was cheaper, even with shipping, than my local store and the color was almost identical. SCORE!

Then I read ALL the words and realized I had a whole other month to get my Victory sweater done. Breathe…

I took a day or two off and made a Christmas dress for my family’s annual Christmas Eve party, buried our Pouff chicken and spent a frantic day getting vet assistance for two other animals. Life is like that.

To give myself some sense of accomplishment I threw this project into the mix. I thought it would be an adorable vintage-style accessory to wear with vintage dresses. I don’t like the real stuff, and now I’m sufficiently sensitive to all animal products that I just can’t wear them any more. I have a gorgeous cashmere overcoat with a very pretty fur collar that completely creeps me out. I know there has been much debate amongst vintage wearing animal lovers and most say “hey, I don’t buy new furs, I don’t support that industry and this was dead long before I was born so it’s ok.” That’s great, but that’s not me. This looked so EASY that I indulged.

It IS easy but there are things about the pattern that I would definitely change were I to do this again, and I think I will. I think the body proportions are off, I made the legs longer than the pattern called for and they’re still odd. The tail isn’t nearly as big and fluffy as a real tail would be so that will get fixed. All in all I like it and when I finally finish the dress its hanging on and do a proper photoshoot it will be great! I also have enough yarn to do at least two more so why not?

With that accomplishment under my belt I went back to my Victory sweater. The back went together a lot quicker than I thought it might. The original pattern called for no back neck shaping so I searched the internet for help. One set of three videos started out great and quickly evolved into a lesson that made first year calculus look super easy. My eyes rolled to the back of my head. I kept looking and finally found this book online (and free to view!) that really helped. I also found a pattern for doing Miss Lemon’s red sweater from Poirot so I psyched! But the point is I kept looking and digging when I had questions and eventually got my answers so if you’re stuck don’t give up, just keep looking until someone “speaks” to you

The pattern has you knit all pieces separately then put together. I knew trying to knit without side seams was a little past my comfort zone, and certainly trying to knit sleeves by picking up stitches around the armhole would be a challenge I didn’t need to tackle just yet. I did my very best stitching the whole thing together and am pretty happy with it. Yes, there are things I might change later, or just re knit a new sweater ( I know, crazy huh?!) but I feel like I’ve done one of those 100 mile super-marathons through the Sahara. (Yes, that’s a real event, I know someone who has done it.)

I did get sick right after Christmas, most likely food poisoning, so I was on the couch for a couple of days covered in cats and dogs, one of whom put her paw right through my ribbing. I picked up stitches as best I could until I realized I was probably too sick to keep knitting, and it shows.

I decided to leave this because its a true testament to what was going on as I knit. There are places where threads are separated (thanks to Stuart and his neediness), or threads pulled (Olivia liked the feel of the yarn). The sweater already has a history : )

In the end it really was all about the journey and I haven’t cleaned the house, any bit of it, since before Thanksgiving. People on BART want to see my completed projects so they’ll be in for a surprise next week. I’m still in school, have managed to get all my course projects and homework done on time and I’m loving it. The dogs get walked, the cats cuddled, Jim has been taking care of the basics but now that I slid into home plate JUST under the deadline I need to get a handle on life stuff again. I’ve done no gardening, no real sewing, nothing.

As for my associations of knitting to ‘bad’ people, I’ve replaced Evelyn’s face and voice with Tasha, Liz, Michelle at Tres Bien Ensemble, even Meg at Meg the Grand. I need a little break from the needles and I’ve got SO much stuff unblogged that it’s seriously not funny. Time to evolve.

See all the V’s for Victory? Super cute : )

One final project I started a few days ago – I couldn’t let the “left over” yarn from the hat just SIT, so I’m making a Victory scarf:

Thanks to Tasha and Rochelle for all their inspiration, as well as everyone else who participated in this, you ladies have made my life SO much better.

Next up – I made a blazer for a friend. You GOTTA see this! Post up soon!!