Category Archives: Favorite Places

Postcard: Sketch Journal from Montreal

My husband and I marked our 21st anniversary earlier this month while he was away on a work trip. We finally got a chance to celebrate the occasion this past weekend, with a quick excursion to Montreal, Quebec. I made a few sketches of our journey. Enjoy!

Montreal sketches - 1st spreadMontreal sketches - 2nd spreadMontreal sketches - 3rd spreadMontreal sketches - 4th spreadMontreal sketches - 5th spreadMontreal sketches - 6th spreadMontreal sketches - 7th spread

I took photos, too: architecture, streets, people, and eye-catching details here and there. But it was fun to use the sketchbook and add to these pages in a scrapbook sort of way to document certain things on our trip that I wouldn’t necessarily have photographed. I think it caught an entirely different experience than my photos—more personal, perhaps!

I used a 5.5″ square “hand•book” journal and a Pitt medium pen. I added the color later with a small set of watercolor pencils and a waterbrush. These tools were perfectly portable and I will definitely take them along on the next journey!

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A Sketch Journal: MMM Day 15 and a Warning

 Me Made May confessions: I shouldn’t have done it. I wasn’t feeling skirt-y or dress-y today with the steady rain, and I didn’t have the brain power to find something else. I reached for an emotional pick for an early morning walk (which I hid under a fleece) and left it on for a few hours afterward until I felt the urge to change, quickly! I wasn’t painting chairs or cleaning gutters—I was working! A little dignity was called for, even if the Skype camera couldn’t catch the crime.

Me Made May Day 15

Just because you spent life energy making it, doesn’t mean it should be worn.

Simplicity 2696– View F in blue cotton gauze

Day 15: Work at home. I made this two years ago, and Hand Embroidered (capitalized so you can understand the Time Invested in such an endeavor) flowers and a design around the exposed facing. On one of its first public outings, I leaned up against a counter in a restroom to wash my hands and got the front wet. I didn’t think too much of it, but to my horror, as it dried the mystery liquid turned out to be bleached-based and ate away at the color on the front of my tunic. 

I don’t have the heart to toss it, but I could certainly wear it gardening or painting or giving the dog a bath—that kind of thing.

Other options I’ve considered and shot down: Altering to a crop top. I am not a crop top gal. Being short-waisted I’m already cropped. Crop tops are not kind to me.

Taking the facing off and making a new blouse: Oh god, no. I think there was much Cursing and Fist-Shaking during the initial endeavor. I need to be honest with myself—the embroidery isn’t that incredible.

Warning! Bleach ruining your clothes

A cautionary tale

But let this be a warning to you: Beware of modern bathroom cleaners! Beware of wet sink counters! I use baking soda and vinegar in my bathroom, personally, but out there in the world there’s a war of disinfection going on. Don’t let it catch your me-mades off guard.

A Sketch Journal: MMM Days 4–8

Me Made May continues: Here are some sketches of what I’ve been wearing!

What I wore Me Made May Days 4 through 8

hmm. obviously a pretty random color scheme to my wardrobe!

  1. Colette Rooibos – details below
  2. Blue and Green Plaid Flannel Shirt
  3. Liberty hankie – details below
  4. Colette Ginger with Parfait pockets
  5. Butterick 5678 – 2nd version of this shirt, with 3/4 sleeves

Day 4: Work at home. Nice spring weather.
Worn with thrift store cardigan and gray converse sneakers. Thrift store cardigan refashioned/rescued in the most basic, simplest way: I cut off the too-tight cuffs.
Day 5: Weekend warrior. Cool weather.
Worn with jeans to work in the garden.
Day 6: Looks like a fail, but sometimes life is larger than blogland challenges. Woke up this morning to a family crisis and did what anyone would do in a similar situation: reached for jeans and a comfy t-shirt hanging over a chair and dealt with the weight of the issues at hand. Me Made May never flickered in my brain until late in the day when I realized I had, in fact, dabbed my eyes on a handmade hankie kept in my pocket.
Day 7: Back to work. Worn with sandals and a tee.
Day 8: Work. Rainy, dreary day, cool. Worn with jeans and loafers.

On to some specifics: I finished this Colette Rooibos late last summer, just as the weather turned cool. I never got around to photographing it so here is its first debut.

Summer Rooibos dress

Cute, but not what I was expecting

I have to admit, I feel a little bit taken by the marketing for this pattern. The photos of the model wearing the navy version with cream piping had me thinking that this was more of a wiggle dress. Then the line drawing on the pattern, which we all scrutinize for Clues to the Truth, confirmed my hunch. What I sewed up, and what I ultimately saw others sew up as well, was definitely more of an A-line and floaty silhouette. I keep looking back at those original photos and wanting that dress. I know I shouldn’t be taken in by pretty photos, and I know I shouldn’t expect the movie at the theater to live up to the hype in the funny two-minute trailer, but I never thought the line drawing on the pattern would lie.

I have been to enough photo shoots as an art director to now realize that there must be big orange clips holding back part of that dress on the model. Unfortunately, I don’t have the nerve to walk around with big orange clips all day, and it sure would feel uncomfortable sitting in my office chair anyway.

Summer rooibos dress All right, now that that’s off my chest! The actual dress is cute—I made a few muslins of the bodice before cutting into fabric, and I’m glad I did. I needed an erect back alteration, narrowed and brought the shoulder straps in a bit, and lowered the neckline. The high neckline was not doing my middle-aged bustline any favors. The pockets are awesome, and the collar definitely needed tacking down. I wrestled with the piping around the collar and I’m sure I committed some sort of piping crime by cutting out the cord right at the points trying to make it work. I used some hearty weight cotton fabric which is probably meant for a child’s ottoman or nursery curtains. I thought it would be the right weight for a summer version, but I think it will look better in something heavier like a wool for fall. I sewed this up before I discovered the wonders of Fashion Sewing Supply’s interfacing, so I used some craft store cardboardy stuff that unfortunately makes the facing line show through the bodice.

So, next version: heavier fabric, lighter interfacing, and most likely a lining too. I may play with the silhouette to get closer to the Rooibos in my head!

Liberty handkerchief

Only the best for my nose.

The last project I’ll leave you with is one of a few Liberty handkerchiefs I’ve sewn up lately. Have you seen these? So often I find myself in a fabric store and am drawn like a magnet to the Liberty Tana Lawn without knowing it. As soon as I reach out to pet it, my heart sinks, and I know I’ve done it again. A look at the price on the end of the bolt confirms my suspicion. Liberty cotton is so exquisite, and priced that way. I would love to wrap myself up in a bolt of it, seriously. One of my treats on my recent trip to New York was stopping in at Purl Soho, and I picked up a 1/4 yard of two different Liberty prints for these hand-sewn rolled hem handkerchiefs. I looked for two prints whose wrong sides didn’t look too wrong, if you know what I mean. The hankie “recipe” calls for 12.5″ squares, but I was able to squeeze out 5 slightly smaller squares out of each 54″ cut. (They cut a generous 10″ width and there was a little shrinkage after washing.) I’m enjoying the handwork and have stitched up 3 so far. I feel quite luxurious having a beautiful handkerchief in my pocket or bag.

A Sketch Journal: MMM Days 1–3

Me Made May began rather gray and cold, allowing me to grab some wool to start off the month! Here are some sketches of the handmade or refashioned things I wore the past few days.

Me Made May days one through three

May 1st, 2nd and 3rd

    1. Butterick 5678 – long sleeve eggplant stretch cotton – (Mentioned at bottom of post here)
    2. Green cabled wool hat
    3. 22.5 Degree Scarf
    4. Ribbed wool socks – made for husband. Stolen out of husband’s drawer a year ago when they weren’t worn frequently enough
    5. Liberty hankie – tucked into pocket of jeans
    6. Colette Ginger – thrift store brown pinwale corduroy, with added patch pockets for dog treats!
    7. Cotton string market bag
    8. Schoolhouse Tunic
    9. Refashioned totebag – Took my favorite Strand bookstore bag apart and made it roomier by adding a flat bottom and side panels, and lined the whole thing

Day 1: Work at home. Chilly, rainy day.
Worn with jeans and clogs. Hat and scarf worn while walking the dog.
Day 2: Work at home. Warmer!
Worn with thrifted floral cardi, brown tights and loafers. Used bag for trip to the grocery store.
Day 3: Errands, work at home.
Worn with skinny jeans, bright green long-sleeve tee, and gray converse. Used tote to carry knitting project while son took driving test. (He passed!) 

Postcard: NYC Fashion District

Metro Textiles in Manhattan

Toto, I don't think we're in JoAnn's anymore

I got to spend a few fun days walking around NYC last week! Although we lived in the city for four years, I was a busy young mom then and didn’t find myself on too many fabric shopping trips—other than the now defunct Sew Brooklyn where I learned how to hand quilt.

During my last trip to NY in October, I found a few moments to pound the pavement in the Fashion District, but became easily overwhelmed. It took me a long time to find the stores I thought I wanted to visit, and some were closed or had moved. When I finally found Mood, I saw the floor to ceiling fabric and almost hyperventilated. Tim Gunn never showed up to calm me down and tell me politely to get a grip on myself. After circling the store in a daze, I left, not sure how one would ever actually buy anything there, even though other people were obviously doing so. I found some notion stores and bought some buttons and trim and called it a day.

For this excursion, I did my homework. I checked out some posts on patternreview.com, and scoured some of my favorite NY sewing blogs, like SEWN and Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, for tips on successfully navigating the Fashion District. These were some of my favorite stops this past week:

Metro Textiles – 265 W. 37th St., Suite 908 This was a great find, and I’ll definitely be making this my first stop the next time I go to the Fashion District again. Kashi was so nice and, once he knew what I was looking for, pulled out several options while I poked around. I got over my fear of being a nuisance for asking for something to be pulled out so I could take a better look at it here. The prices were fantastic. I actually left here and then came back for one piece later when I figured out that this store was a gem.

Paron Fabrics and Annex – New address: 257 W. 39th Street I didn’t understand the clerk who first spoke to me when I came in. I thought she said everything was 50% off the tag price here. It wasn’t until after I was at the cutting table that I realized that wasn’t so. It should have been obvious that only the bolts with the special 50% off tag (tricky, huh?) were 1/2 off, but I was on my own and like a deer caught in headlights for most of the day, so I’ll let myself off the hook for not picking up on this blatant clue. I ultimately decided to get all of my choices here, anyway. I would never find anything like those fabrics around here at the local craft store, and they were good prices.

SIL Thread – 257 W. 38th Street A little bit of googling will let you know that this store gets a pretty bad rap for poor customer service, so I went in expecting none at all, and had a fine time. I found the rare and endangered large waxed tracing paper sheets needed for the Craftsy Couture Dress and Bombshell Dress courses. Single sheets—yay! I also found plenty of marking tools here that I’d been wanting to try, thread and zippers. I didn’t need any cut, but they will cut them to size for you here.

I also popped into many random button and trim stores, browsed at the FIT bookstore on 27th Street (have to check out the museum next time!), found the elusive DCx1F serger needles I needed and all in all walked myself into the ground and had a great time.

It’s funny, I’ve been thinking that I live in a fabric shop desert, and I do. At home, I clutch my JoAnn’s sales flyer optimistically when I stop in for fabric—there has to be something in here that will work, right?—and 9 times out of 10 I end up disappointed. Truly, I’m often alarmed at the hideous fabric for sale, complete with the escalating prices of it. I don’t understand who the buyers are, and they obviously don’t understand me. The button selection as well is deplorable. I try to make the best of it. What I didn’t realize, however, was that I was lucky to have those 99-cent pattern sales at my fingertips! In New York, surrounded by store after store of gorgeous fabric, one- and two-dollar patterns are not to be had. That never occurred to me and makes me feel slightly less destitute…

What’s On My Needles

Lace Ribbon ScarfI picked up a souvenir the last time I was in New York – a hank of Malabrigo Sock yarn from Downtown Yarns. My first playdate with Malabrigo and such a pretty rust color! I decided to make Veronik Avery’s Lace Ribbon Scarf after seeing so many pretty versions around Ravelry. I cast on in late November, and only got a few inches into it before the holidays were in full swing, and the project became one of those things I kept moving around my desk but never getting to.

Some time in the last month or two I rescued the scarf-to-be and have been giving it my (only slightly divided) attention in between sewing projects. When I’m too fried to sew, I find I can still knit. And knitting is the perfect accompaniment to the second round of Downton Abbey viewings I’ve been slowly enjoying, bit by bit.

Lace Ribbon Scarf with lifeline

the handy dandy lifeline

I feel like I’ve been making good progress, but that’s still an awful lot of yardage I have to get through! It’s like I’m knitting with air—I just don’t seem to be making much ground. I guess that’s how it goes with lace. I’m also paranoid of losing my place in the pattern and having to rip all the way back to the beginning. Hence the lifeline you see there – I keep moving it after successfully completing each 24 row repeat, and it’s already saved my neck a few times. The lace pattern is not that difficult, and every other row is exactly the same, but whenever I get too cocky and think I know what I’m doing and can pay less attention, I find I’ve screwed up and have to tink back a bit.

If you go to New York, I highly recommend Downtown Yarns for a visit! Such a sweet little shop in the East Village. This was my first visit there, but I’ll definitely be stopping in again.