Belated 2017 Roundup / Obligatory Rambles About Lifegoals and Resolve

2017 was … intense, macrocosmically and microcosmically. But it’s been ever upward and onward, and rounding up the things I created over the last year really makes me feel pretty great about how far my lingerie making and sewing skills have progressed. I also feel a sense of accomplishment about trying fabric design!

So here’s a sampling of my sewn work over the last year, all self-drafted:


And here are some of the fabric designs I printed using Spoonflower (shameless self promotion, my shop is here):

It’s somehow cheering to see it all in one place. It’s easy to think of all I’d hoped to accomplish and did not; it’s harder to realize how far I’ve actually come.

My biggest goal for 2018 are to finally open up an etsy shop for handmade lingerie, and I’m moving toward being able to do that probably within the next week or two. Lots of samples sewn and processes mastered and materials hoarded toward that end.  Still to do: photos to take, copy to write, listings to create. I’d like to offer patterns and design more fabrics to use in my collections as well. It may seem unrelated, but for me this is inextricably connected to my more personal urge to declutter and simplify and work towards realizing the more minimalist approach to living I’ve always wanted. To me, clearing the physical clutter is tied to clearing the psychological hesitation to focus on what I really want to be doing with my time.  I went around my house taking pictures to have a “before” state to see what progress I can make and have a nice list of TED talks to work through for inspiration. But mostly I hope to be able to declutter enough to actually sew in my sewing room instead of just piling it full of sewing-related junk.

Here’s hoping. 🙂


excuse me while I talk about my underwear.

I’ve been sewing a lot of lingerie lately. My life is kind of a series of small possessions–I play host to a revolving door of obsessive interests, immersing in one after another, always centered on an axis of making *something* with a nostalgic eye cast backward in history. My hoarding of pattern catalogs and sewing ephemera *may* be giving way to hoarding of lingerie materials, which in my mind, marks some kind of progress because it’s more about the action of the crafting and the enjoyment of the moment while creating the thing than it is about possession of a thing. We’ll see.

I’m trying to move more into making than owning, more about enjoyment of the process than collecting (but I still love you, bookshelf!). I find trying to sew beautiful things to be a therapeutic exertion of will over a sometimes ugly reality. Politics has me hand-wringing? Grab my lace. Worried about antartic ice sheets? Turn off a few more light bulbs and grab my lace. Focus on the lace. The Western world seems to be both far better than it has been in the last few millenia, in terms of civil rights, gay rights, the standing of women and children, literacy, information access, medicine. Yet in terms of scaled economic injustice and systems of exploitation of labor, climate change, pollution, the island of plastic in the pacific, mercury in and acidification and warming of the oceans, species extinctions, the disappearance of the middle class, the disappearance of privacy, the uncertain future of jobs in a time of automation, it is arguably worse and far more complex than I think most human brains are evolved to be able to grapple with. I don’t know any answers. But in an often ugly, screaming world, I am trying to quietly make what beauty I can. I make lace things. I make lunches. I make babies and make love and make breakfast magic out of 3oz of leftover steak, three eggs and last night’s soggy skinned baked potato. I make scribbles. I make crude jokes. I make my grandma laugh. (Since she watched Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones, there’s not much that phases her. <3) That’s often all I feel I have the efficacy in this world to do.

Anyway…I’ve sewn Cloth Habit’s wonderful Harriet pattern at least 10x since I bought it.


As it was, without modification, the cup placement was slightly narrow for my rather broad boob placement, as to be expected with any pattern I sew. Yet because my shape is shallow up top, the upper cup was sagging sad and empty, as most bras have for me forever. Not the fault of the pattern, just natural variation in human anatomy. (It is a peeve of mine when people complain about patterns not fitting their bodies precisely, especially when it comes to breast shape, when it would be so utterly and obviously impossible for any pattern maker to account for the bajillion types of bodies and mass distribution in existence.) So I tried tweaking the pieces by taking the C cup as a baseline / wireline / cup to cradle joining point and overlaying the B and A size pieces as guides to taper down to the projection of a B cup at the apex and the A cup at the top. Not sure if this was the most efficient way to do this. In fact, it surely wasn’t. But it gave me something that works. I’ve struggled for a few months with the relationship of the wire to the pattern and cup shape, but I think it’s starting to make more sense and really come together for me now. There are a few great blog entries on this topic on that were helpful for me.





After about 10 iterations, I wanted to try something else–specifically, something less pokey in the side boob. Since I need a wire for a bigger cup size than my actual projection, and I have wide boobs on a short torso, I often feel like the wires that fit me are way too long. Demi wires are a great answer to this problem, so I worked some more on a self drafted bra pattern with a different shape. I’ve been trying to up my technical game by working on enclosing all the seams in my bras (there’s a post on doing just that on the Watson pattern on the TailorMadeBlog that got me started on this). So I tried one attempt with a full band.



Then I reworked my pattern as a partial band bra for shallow demi wires and ended up with this.



Considering some minor tweaks and fabric variations for this. Happy Sunday!

Current Sewing Projects: Knit Blouses and Victorian Blazers, Oh My

I want so many things on my sewing table. Impossible things. Impractical things.



Black tulle tutus and sunglasses and spring cool.


To draft the perfect catsuit.


But more than anything this week, I have been working on a Victorian style blazer. Something like this, but sleeker, more vampirey. This is a Burda jacket from the Hills are Alive or something about the sound of music, but my brain is taking it to a dark nuclear post-apocalyptic place. I loathe the running stitches and the pockets and the boxy fit, and I don’t like the position of the front bust darts either. So like this but not really like this at all except the high shoulder and the high-ish back neckline. *shrug* I also have been irritated in the past by the lack of seam allowance on Burda patterns, so I definitely won’t be buying this one. Just eyecandy. Also: do you think that’s really her hair, or is that a weave? It’s a serious hunk of hair there.


My partner hates poofey shoulders. So of course those have to happen. Because like Lady Gaga, I’m a free b***h, baby, and I LIKE a little old timey high sleeve cap if it doesn’t poof vertically. I’m thinking a single button closure in the front, a shawl collar, with a high back neck. I’ll probably give it a go in denim waste fabric for now, saving my red herringbone suiting for when I get the fit right.

I’ve actually had a good sewing week–I tried using  a vest pattern to draft a bodice for a jacket, and used my 1880s sleeve from the recent tailored jacket attempt. The fit is nearly perfect, except for the shoulders. When I move my arms forward, it pulls on the front of my shoulder and on the back, along the edge of the scye near my scapula. All my reading of historical tailoring stuff has me wanting to try a new approach on my next attempt. They talk about getting armholes TIGHT, which seems to be sort of the opposite of the slash and spread suggestions I’m used to seeing and trying and failing miserably with. The idea, as I understand, is that the better the fit of the bodice, even–and maybe especially–in the armscye area, the more independent the sleeve movement will be from the more stationary bodice. Instead of lowering the armhole or adding more back ease and sacrificing the hard earned fit, I’m going to try adding more fabric to the bodice armhole, but not only in my usual vertical direction–I’m going to shift the side seam outward and slightly up. With my back being broad and somewhat rounded at the shoulder/scapula line, as well as slightly hunched forward, my back is taking up fabric from the sleeve and my shoulders/back extend in this weird diagonal way compared to the standard form. What I want to do is cover my entire back with the bodice, so that the ease in the sleeve isn’t used up by my back mass. If that makes sense. We’ll see!

I took my jacket attempt #1 and chalk lined it all up trying to figure out where to add. I even bought some hook and eye tape, since I haven’t gotten over my buttonhole aversion just yet. So drafting and cutting attempt 2 is my project for tonight!

Another thing to consider is sleeve pitch. Sleeve pitch, as I understand very roughly, is the sort of rotation of the sleeve in the scye. Most of the time the center top of the sleeve is aligned with the shoulder seam in the usual high position on top of the shoulder. But with stooped posture or forward shoulders or very erect postures, tailors *seem* from my reading to rotate the sleeve slightly within the scye to accomodate. This keeps the grainline in the right position relative to the arm. So with my shoulder being rotated forward maybe 10-15 degrees from standard (this would be set “high” in the tailoring parlance, I think), I might try rotating my sleeve forward to keep the hang correct. What I’m curious about in this case, though, is whether it matters at all that this might throw off the match up of underarm sleeves and side seams. Would one need to shift the underarm seam? In my case with the 1880s style two piece sleeve it doesn’t matter at all, though.

I’ve been branching out and sewing with knit fabrics quite a bit too. I resisted it for ages, seeing it as something like playing an electric guitar to sound good because your technique isn’t good enough to play acoustic. But the perfectionist in me loves the lack of fraying seam edges and the lazy instant gratification craver in me who has been sewing for three years with precious little wardrobe action to show for it ADORES the fact that I can sew up something quickly that forgives minor fitting issues. So far in the last two weeks I’ve made: two great fitting, exceedingly comfortable pairs of thongs (which I intend to make a pattern of to send out into the world soon!), a princess seamed scarf collared 1930s style blouse and another more Edwardian-ish high necked, poofy gathered sleeve blouse in a sleek, pretty ITY knit! Not gonna lie, I’m pretty stoked. That’s like a year’s worth of finished objects for me, and ALL self drafted. Someday, when I find a tripod, I’ll have to post pictures. It’s an incredible feeling to find that my spread-so-thin sewing attentions come together sometimes and actually produce something.

Also, the weather is BEAUTIFUL here. I love it.


Happy weekend!






Free Vintage Sewing Library: Etsy Seller of Shame Edition

Brace yourself, the snarkiness is coming. As well as links to free stuff, for spite and because they’re amazing.

Soooo…I’ve been very into tailoring research lately. Cruising the web at all hours of the night for some sweet, sleek menswear resources. And I’ve found quite a few great ones on…that I see AGAIN on marketed as the sellers’ own work. As I’ve said before and will say again, I think this is a horrible thing to do. I generally hesitate to call anyone out on this stuff because I’d hate to be wrong. BUT. Antique books are an extremely expensive hobby. I know this firsthand, because there are so, so many things I drool over and cannot afford even if I can find them. And it is virtually impossible to find enough old tailoring materials to compile a very large collection, even if I wanted to spend huge amounts of money on it. So when I see an etsy seller like HowToBooks who deals exclusively in collector’s item/antique books that are listed in ways that bury the actual title/author deep in the description (if they are stated at all) AND who sells items I have found on–seriously 95% of this seller’s dressmaking/tailoring content is listed there–I know they’re a jerk who’s just taken free materials to sell as their own. Let me elaborate:

“Design Your Own Clothes Mens TAILORING and TUXEDO PATTERNS Formal Wear Tailored Suits” by HowToBooks is actually the 1907 edition of Croonborg’s Grand Edition of Supreme System of Cutting Men’s Garments. Available completely free, here, courtesy of the good folks (likely librarians and interns who spend hours slaving over a scanner) at

“Men’s Tailoring the Red Book for Men’s Tailoring 1917” is another Croonborg text–actually called New Supreme System for the Cutting of Men’s Garments. I know for an absolute fact this seller stole this one off of, because they include a picture of the table of contents that contains a pencil mark that is the EXACT same on the free version of the pdf available, for free, here.

This seller has a lot of great things listed in their shop. Don’t pay for them. They’re probably all available for free.

There is another etsy seller named BuriedTreasureChest that I found during my search for tailoring references that does the same shady stuff. This jerkface also sells the Red Book of Men’s Tailoring–the same Croonberg text, with the SAME PENCIL MARKINGS on the table of contents. No joke.

They also sell “Victorian Costumes Patterns Book” which is really The Diamond Garment Cutter from 1895. I know they stole it from because on the page featured on their listing, there is a penciled in “137” that is also visible on…you guessed it…the version, available free of charge in all its glory here.

This bothers me because libraries are my spiritual homeland (and that smell=heaven)  and also because I know what it’s like to spend 10 hours scanning and editing a book because you’re a design/typography/arts and crafts junkie who truly loves these books and wants to partially fund the obsession. As a matter of principle it really, REALLY bothers me when people profit off of the work of others as these sellers are doing. It also bothers me when people don’t cite their sources. It might be petty of me, but HowToBooks has about 4500 sales at current count–if each one of those is $4, then some jerkface has made about 16k, give or take, off of stolen books. Screw them. Screw them so much.

Whew. Sorry, it’s been a stressful work week.


On a happier note, I’ve been hand sewing and it is the best kind of Zen medicine. At least, now that I learned to condition the thread with beeswax. I’ve been working on a wearable muslin of a vest to get a better bodice sloper. It’s actually going very well, and only needs buttonholes now. I also finished my wearable muslin / first attempt at sewing with chiffon. It’s a simple tunic type shirt with set in sleeves and a high scarf collar that ties in front, and gathered sleeves with tie closures. It fits and it has that romantic-young-man-in-a-Jane-Austen-romance look that I like so much. So that’s encouraging.



1930s Fashions: Mode Illustree and Vionnet Designs


Anyone ever sewn from a Mode Illustree pattern sheet? Wowza. This has got to be a great brain-aging preventative if ever there was one.

Mode Illustree was a French fashion/home magazine published weekly from the 1859 until at least the 1930s–I haven’t seen any later examples, but they may very well be out there. I was lucky enough to find a few with the original pattern sheets, which are a large sheet with all the pattern pieces traced on top of one another with different lines. A bit of a tangle to wrap the head around. I guess the idea is to trace them onto paper and voila, you have your pattern.

It has taken me roughly three days, but I have finally gotten it drafted (digitally!) to the point of being ready to print it out and test it. The patterns for Mode Illustree are all listed as size 44, which at least in this 1930 version is for a 70cm waist, 94cm bust and 100cm hip (27.5in waist, 37in bust, 39.4ish waist). That waistline is *not* gonna fly, but we’ll see how it goes.

My other current perseverations: pondering the mysteries of the math behind radial grading systems (how does Lutterloh do it??! and how does one create a pattern that can be drafted in this way? *and* how does one blend sizing in this system?) There is a little bit about this in the book The Victorian Tailor but I have been too scattered to really focus on that book like it deserves. And ever since witness2fashion’s wonderful posts on Vionnet, I’m planning on trying a Vionnet (for a Halloween costume wedding reception dress!):


I love so much about this dress. I love it’s Cersei-esque I-will-cut-you style feminity. It’s flowing and feminine without being revealing. Which means a) I won’t be bitterly cold and b) may not even have to worry about shaving my legs and c) I run zero risk of wardrobe malfunction. For a form fitting flowing dress like this, though, some homemade Spanx might be a necessity. But I digress.

This is from The Bunka Fashion College’s book on Vionnet, which gives diagrams that can be enlarged to draft patterns for 20+ designs based off of actual garments. I have vain aspirations of working my way through it to learn everything I can from hands-on practice with her technique, but given my sewing ADD in this post alone, it’s unlikely that will ever happen. (I go from obsessing on 1860s sleeves to 1930s cowls to 1970s tunics over the course of a day. Is there a name for this obsessive interest roulette wheel my consciousness turns on?) But the book is amazing. It’s in Japanese only, but the illustrations are remarkably clear.

The pattern pieces for this one are mindboggling:


I’m looking forward to trying it. Has anyone tried any Vionnet type designs? I’d love to hear about your experiences!


Sewing Projects: The Caftan Experiment.

I bought a few yards of black chiffon recently, and wanted to try something relatively simple and low stakes to get a feel for sewing with it. I’m also on the prowl for some kind of fancy-handmade-yet-generic-enough-to-make-en-masse gift for the adult women-folk of the family. A see through caftan might be a bit risque, but it sure beats a generic vanilla bath set. Let’s call it a beachy cover-up, if we must be so prudish.

So this weekend was the trial run.

To sew a caftan, theoretically, you really only need a few measurements: the width (measurement from end of arm to end of opposite arm where you want the garment to end), the length (where you want the garment to end), the desired size of your neck opening, where to put the side seams, and where you want to gather or belt in the garment. My highly sophisticated blueprint:


When I did this I sewed it in one piece of fabric folded into quarters and a head hole cut from the center, which was, I think, a mistake, because it’s so tricky to hem in this way, and I didn’t want to add a facing to chiffon. Next time I’ll do it in two pieces to make the neckline finish neater, and easier to manage if I try a v-neck. I measured it to end just above the knee but forgot to account for the mathematics of boobies and so it hit a few inches higher on the thigh than I had intended.

Sewing it up was simple enough. I started with hems on the bottom of both sides, sort of out of necessity, because chiffon is a messy beast. It’s also incredibly slidey and I found it tricky to maneuver without seam lines getting all drunk like. Not a big deal on the hems and the neckline but a huge issue when I topstitched down the sides. My moment of genius solution to this was to use tissue paper to draw a stitching pattern and then to pin it to the top of the fabric as a guide and a stabilizer. Then when it’s finished, you just tear it away. Magic!

What I wanted to end up with:

laurelCanyon-020113-bc-005_t650(image credit)

 What I really felt like:

Petrie_original_colors(image credit)

I think the long sleeves and excess fabric below them made it feel more flappy than I wanted. More experimentation to come!


Advance 7833: Vintage Raglan Blouse with Collar and Sleeve Variations

This, friends, is my weekend sewing project. Having wonky shoulders (broadish, forward) and an utter hatred of garments restrictive of my arm movements, here’s hoping the raglan sleeve will prove to be my friend. So much to love in this design–simple but fitted, with the optional elegant touches of the French cuffs and scarf collar, versatile in terms of wardrobe. I’m hopeful.
For any pattern drafters on the hunt for inspiration, a look at the actual pieces:
image(1)I’ve also been wanting to make a pair of pants. I think this blouse, in a light blue broadcloth to start, and maybe in some ivory satin should it go well enough to dip into the higher end of the fabric stash, would look amazing with some high waisted Katherine Hepburn style pants or closer fitted cigarette pants. My pants making has been dreadfully limited, though, and I’m highly perturbed by the problem of the prominent camel toe I see sometimes on sewing blogs. Being an extremely self conscious type mocked for odd things in grade school I simply cannot deal with the camel toe. Not at all. So I fell down a rabbit hole tonight reading all about adjustment possibilities to avoid the dreaded thing. More on that when I get some practice in. Also, discovered the possibility that I might have a swayfront issue (like a swayback, I suppose, but a pelvic tilt in the opposite direction that might make an excess of fabric in the front). It seems to be an elusive adjustment to track down a tutorial for, so one of my goals for the weekend is to dig around some of my vintage pattern drafting books for more information.


Weekend randomness.


image credit: Alejandro Melero. borrowed from here

My weekend to do list is a bit excessive, but in a nutshell, the projects and random interests on deck for the next few days:

-sewing a raglan blouse

-working on my manuscript for Yale Younger Poets. I was having weird claustrophobic feelings of my youth slipping ever so quickly between my fingers thinking that 32 was the cut off age and my eligibility to submit was fast evaporating. But no! I have until 40 before I am no longer considered a “Younger” poet by the curatorial folk in Yale publishing. And I also have more years to submit than I thought. Yay! I have sort of let my writing go over the last few months, for a lot of reasons and also because busy. It feels good/anguished/complicated/but yea actually good to come back to with the self-imposed deadline.

-thinking in depth about autism and neurodiversity issues after Seinfeld revealed he believes himself to be on the spectrum. These issues are really important to me, so much so that his revelation aroused such an outburst of enthusiasm in me that I did some reposting with fuck words in my notes with blatant disregard for any bluehaired aunties who follow me on facebook. I think my grandma will understand; she knows I did my time in food service and that I was bound to pick up some naughty language over the years.

-tinkering on my fixer upper Slantomatic 401 to make said raglan blouse. I bought it on a maybe not so wise impulse for $50 on ebay a few months ago, condition unknown, dirty and disheveled but complete with many accessories and cams. Luckily it arrived mostly undamaged, stuffed in a cardboard box with only two musty old thin blankets for protection. Ebayers and their crappy packaging. *shakes head* So I was excited that it ran without a fuss, even though it was caked in greasy grimy gunkiness that makes me think it was stored in some kind of fried chicken restaurant or maybe one of those places on Buzzfeed’s abandoned places lists. So far I have cleaned it, lubricated and oiled it, balanced the tension, used a hair dryer and wd40 to unfreeze the frozen camstack levers, disassembled and cleaned and reassembled the tension assembly, removed and cleaned the balance wheel. Oddly, the old girl is missing the set screw on the chrome knob/clutch/balance wheel, and since the Slantomatic has a different clutch washer than most of the Singers I’ve seen it’s not easy to find a quick replacement. It works pretty well, though I think it needs some usage and more oiling to really smooth things out after being so neglected.


Pattern du jour: Hot Patterns 1016 Hello, Sailor Pants

My current sewing project. I’ve been sewing like crazy for the past couple of months, with very little success, since my learning methodology with crafts seems to involve trying to most elaborate interesting project and failing repeatedly until it sticks. Case in point–these. I’ve never owned a pair of pants like this, so I have no working knowledge of how they work to draw on. The instructions are also pretty brutal.  But that’s why the internet is amazing because there are a few other blogs I’ve found with the same problem to draw on. Also, buttonholes–my machine is very basic, so I have no button hole function and have been winging it with chalk markings and my zigzag stitch. As a perfectionist, I tend to be appalled by the results–but then eyeing buttonholes on my ready made clothing makes me realize no one notices these glaring mistakes when they aren’t the ones making them. There are huge asymmetrical oopses all over my storebought clothing, and sewing has really opened my eyes to this (and, more on this another day, the fact that my store bought things are probably made by hand by someone overseas working in awful conditions for little money and I never think about the ways I’m feeding into that system with my happy little “bargain hunts.”)

I’m sewing it first in this ugly military green suiting that I bought online. I’m a sucker for a pretty color on my (poorly calibrated?) computer monitor, which upon arrival, tends to fall far short of my expectations. I’ve learned to buy reds that look almost black on screen to get that rich, bluish deep wine red that makes me drool. I’ve been burned a few times into buying what I thought was a beautiful burgundy that ended up being bright tomato, which isn’t my thing. So I can mangle this pair if need be in the attempt to figure out that front flap feature. No grommets this time around, though in the future I might try them for a fly closure.

Which brings me to why these pants are amazing, theoretically, for my body type. It has taken me decades of living as a woman to realize the real meaning of the fact that body types differ structurally. No amount of stomach exercise will ever make me look like a Victoria Secret model, not because I am less of a woman somehow, as I tended to assume subconsciously in my younger years. But because of fucking geometry. The mass of my body is arranged in such a way that a broad rib cage sits on a nearly nonexistent waist stacked on narrow hips. I will never have an hourglass figure, and the little belly that results from this configuration used to make me feel crappy. But I’m starting to understand the female skills of style and dressing as a systematic analysis of body types and how to flatter them. They are visual representation hacks. And these pants will be fantastic for that, since the flare at the bottom flatters my body type (apple shaped. See: Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Sigourney Weaver) and eventually when I’ve mastered the pattern I will attempt it with buttons on the side seams instead, which will take mass away from my already pronounced belly curve and put it on my undefined hips where it actually does some good.

So for today: attaching all the parts together in the right configuration. Hopefully.