February Wardrobe Architect Challenge

A few of weeks ago I posted about the Wardrobe Architect Challenge. In the first month I constructed a mediocre blouse using no pattern, but for the February part of the challenge, I decided I was going to try my hand at another blouse, this time using Colette’s Violet blouse pattern. Well, this is the part where I tell you I did exactly as I said I would and finished the blouse. But it is not. The first week of February we went on vacation. Then a giant metaphorical storm rolled in at work and I was exhausted. Then my sister joined us for the long weekend and we had way too much fun doing non-project things. So then there were about 10 days left in February. While it wouldn’t have been impossible to tackle the Violet, I hadn’t gotten around to ordering my fabric at this point. So I decided to switch the February and March projects and instead work on my accessory first and save the blouse for March. This is also the part where I tell you I actually completed this part of the challenge in February, but that would not be true. I completed the February challenge in March.


The timing actually worked out. I’d realized just after my vacation, and after buying two new purses, that I should have also purchased myself a nice heavy tote bag while I was on my bag buying spree. The reason is actually practical: I often bring two bags to work with me; one purse for my wallet, phone, etc. and one larger bag, usually a canvas tote or a baggu for carrying my lunch, shoes, sweaters, etc. I have a lot of baggage. The canvas tote and the baggus work fine, but are more suited for groceries. I really kind of had a bag like this in mind, but without the heavy price tag (after all, I did just blow a ton of money on nice designer purses!). The main reason the February challenge didn’t get finished by the end of the month is that I waffled too long on materials. I wanted a leather bag but I was just unable to find exactly what I wanted. Feeling a little bit defeated, I pushed the challenge to the back of my mind. After about a week or so of avoidance, a little inspiration hit and I decided that I would use some fabric that I already had on hand and add the leather touch I wanted through straps.

I mentioned in the first Wardrobe Challenge post that I already owned several bag patterns, but I actually decided to instead wing it, because that’s what I kind of like to do with personal sewing projects. As much as I do like making the bags with patterns, I didn’t really have anything that was exactly what I wanted. Making a basic tote bag is really simple using two pieces of fabric that are the same size and then attaching straps – it is unbelievably simple to alter your bag however you would like. I decided to give my bag some extra stability by using leather straps and then adding a fusible interfacing to all of the pieces of my fabric. In addition to this, I also boxed the bottom of the bag so it I could easily stack lunch containers in the bag without the containers falling over (Purl Bee has a great tutorial and bag pattern for free that you can use).


I also wanted my bag to have hidden pockets on the inside, as well as the ability to close at the top. I considered a zipper or a magnetic snap but instead opted for one of these adorable little button closures and some scrap leather. I didn’t do any finishing to the leather edges because I really love the look of raw leather.


I want to talk for a minute on costs. I didn’t mention cost at all in my original wardrobe challenge post because I didn’t think about it much until I started this month’s challenge (my January project did not incur me any additional costs because I already had all of the materials in my stash and I made my own pattern). This month I only had a few of the supplies on hand, so I needed to purchase a few things. The entire project cost about $59, which includes fabric ($16), fusible interfacing ($18), leather straps ($20), and thread and finishing accessories ($5).

In addition to the cost of the materials, the project took me about 2 hours from start to finish – which isn’t too big of a time commitment for a sewing project (I estimate the Violet blouse will take me about a whole day).

Now that the bag is finished, I’m feeling inspired again for the next month’s challenge. Also, even though I didn’t stick exactly to this month’s challenge, I think it is okay to be flexible. The blouse is a little bit daunting for me and I was feeling a bit stressed out, especially about time constraints. Instead of immediately failing the challenge and crawling in to the fetal position, I decided to make adjustments to the challenge and do something that I was more comfortable with and that I knew I would enjoy making. After all, what’s the point of the challenge if I’m going to be stressed out and hating every minute of it?

 Outer main fabric and inner fabric by Bonnie Christine from Hawthorne Threads, outer secondary fabric from local fabric store, leather and brass accessories from Tandy Leather.

New Quilt Stitched By Me

I posted a photo of my new finished quilt on Instagram a few weeks ago but I love it so much that I wanted to also post it here on my blog. This was one of those projects that was on my sewing to-do list for quite awhile. I have made a patchwork lap throw in the past and really liked the end result, but I just loved this fabric from my favorite artist, Leah Duncan, so much that I really didn’t want to cut it up, so I thought the best thing to do would be to let the pattern speak for itself and make it into a throw quilt. I used a simple polka dot fabric on the back side and finished it up with a plain black bias border. I’d considered doing a bolder border, like a stripe or something, but I kind of liked the idea of keeping it simple. Also, another note on the bias – I have tried sewing bias before and kind of failed, but then I found this excellent tutorial via Pinterest. Try it out if you’re going to be sewing a bias edge! It does take a bit more time and patience, but the end result is worth it. Now on to the next sewing project!


Are you working on any projects? I have a million things on my project list right now so it is going to be a busy weekend for me!

Wardrobe Architect 2015

I don’t know if anyone has heard, but one of my favorite sewing bloggers and pattern designers, Colette, has started a build-your-own wardrobe challenge. And I’ve decided to participate.


The idea behind the challenge is to think about your clothes and how you create your wardrobe. Most people that I know (myself included), purchase their clothes from the mall or online, not really thinking much about where they came from or the quality of the product. It’s convenient and affordable. But the problem I’ve been facing lately is that I am not able to find the things that I really want. That’s where the challenge grabbed my attention. I’ve been experimenting with sewing apparel lately and while I wasn’t crazy about jumping in to it without a pattern, I’ve come up with a rough outline for my challenge. Please note: this is not the exact outline presented by the Coletterie, but I feel like you’re allowed to be flexible and adjust things to suit your own needs.

January – I’m going to consider my blouse the first part of the challenge completed. Not because it was highly successful, but because it was the first attempt at anything.

February – The Violet blouse. I’ve already picked up the pattern and chosen the fabric I want to use (I’ve gone with a voile this time). I’m excited about this blouse because unlike the first blouse, I’m not going in blindly.

March – An accessory. After sewing a blouse, I wanted to give myself a bit of an easier project. I’ve sewn a few bags in the past so I’m leaning towards that – and I already own tons of patterns.

April/May – Using another Colette pattern, I’m going to finish a dress. I have two patterns to chose from that I already own so that narrows down the choices a lot. I combined two months for this part of the challenge because I needed to be realistic about the time commitment. This usually marks the beginning of a really busy gardening season for me, so the next few months will be similar.

June/July – I’m still thinking about this one, but I’m pretty sure it is going to be the Amy Butler rain jacket. I’ve had both the pattern and laminated fabric for this pattern for several years and this is the kind of push I need to go ahead and make the jacket already.

August/SeptemberWool cape by Burda. This is another one of those projects I pinned ages ago and have always looked back on thinking I need to make it.

October – a kimono robe. I know the exact fabric I want for this as well.

November/December – I decided to put these months together as well since it is another really busy time (I need to be realistic here). I haven’t actually decided what I’m going to do for these last months of the project and I think I’ll leave it open ended for now.


I am really excited about this challenge. I normally do not go for challenges of any sort, mostly because they do not appeal to me and almost seem more like a punishment that anything else. But I’m all for this one because I kind of wanted an excuse to do more personal sewing this year (I like sewing for my Etsy shop, but it isn’t challenging and sewing the same thing all the time can get to be a little dull). Although my version of the challenge is not exactly the same as the Coletterie, I had fun making it my own. And I’ll be sure to post my progress, challenges, and hopefully successes. Are you taking on any challenges in 2015?

And to help myself along the way, I’ve added a little button on the side panel of my blog as a daily reminder!


Sewing A Blouse & My Mistakes

I know I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I had a bunch of new skills I wanted to learn this year, such as entomology pinning and wood carving, but I failed to mention that I want to take on more personal sewing projects. I’ve been spending quite a bit of my spare time making aprons for my Etsy shop and private orders, but besides that I haven’t done any sewing for myself. There are a number of sewing projects on my personal to-do list including a wrap dress (I’ve had the pattern for two or three years now?), a quilt (I have the fabric all ready for this one too!), and a raincoat (let’s not talk about this one – I’ve had the fabric AND pattern for like 5 years for this one). Doesn’t it always seem I have a million projects I want to do? Yes. But anyway, the first priority project for me was a blouse.

Let me back up. I have basically no experience when it comes to sewing clothing – it just seemed so daunting to me (quilts, aprons, bags – no problem! Clothing – eek!). What if it doesn’t fit? What if it looks like crap? What if I just spend $50 on materials, plus hours of my time, and I hate the end result? After all, it’s not like knitting – if you screw it up or hate it, you can just unravel it and make something else. Well, I decided to take the plunge. But not just a little plunge in the kiddy pool, it was a dive in to the deep end. Not only did I make a shirt, I made the pattern myself. Go big or go home, I guess.

I actually started with a shirt that I bought from Gap Outlet that I love the look and fit of. I decided that I didn’t want it to be exactly the same so I would include some slight alterations. The major alteration being that I wanted my version to be sleeveless. I almost always wear cardigans or blazers over my blouses, so sleeveless is my preference. The thing I liked most about the original blouse was the front – it is actually two pieces of fabric layered to create a nice little tulip front.


See? The Gap shirt is really pretty with a nice shape.

First I drew a rough outline of the original shirt using a few pieces of paper taped together from a roll of light kraft paper I already had on hand. I bought this roll awhile back at Benjamin Moore and it is for covering floors and such while painting, but this roll is so handy for basically everything, especially making patterns. The back piece of the shirt was the easiest to trace but doing the front was a bit more tricky and I actually ended up screwing it up a bit (no project is without its obstacles – we’ll get to this later). After I was finished tracing out the pieces, I held them together to make sure they would fit, did a bit of trimming to ensure the pieces were even, and then added about 1/4 around each piece for seam allowances. This is all so scientific and interesting – basically, I winged the entire thing.


The cat helped me make my pattern.

One of the most difficult parts of the whole planning process, other than fixing my screw up (I will get to this) was actually choosing fabric. The original shirt was a nice flight flowing cotton but I didn’t have anything like that on hand. For about a year I’ve been holding on to a quilting weight fabric from my favorite artist, Leah Duncan. I had considered turning it in to a dress last summer (with that pattern I’ve been holding on to for three years) but chickened out at the last minute. I waffled for a bit on using a quilting weight fabric since it is heavier and may not translate too well on to apparel. But I guess I was feeling brave because I went ahead and chopped it up.


Then I had to actually think about how I was going to sew the pieces together. First I needed to hem the neckline, arm lines and bottom edges – I folded everything in very finely, pinned it in place, and carefully sewed the hems. Then I needed to sew the three pieces together – which was actually very simple. Okay so this is the part where I tell you that I put the blouse on and everything fit perfectly and I didn’t screw anything up. Or at least, it would have been. I put the blouse on and looked in the mirror – it wasn’t that bad. I mean, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. There was a bit of weird poofing out between the armpits and shoulders – it just wasn’t sitting right. Luckily the problem was that my blouse was too big in that area (had it been the opposite and been too small, it would have been an unsalvageable disaster). I had to think about things for awhile – do I make the shoulders thinner? Do I sew in a weird dart? Do I cut out a piece of the fabric and re-hem in around the arms? I went with the latter – worst case scenario would be that I cut too much out and then vow to never sew another piece of clothing again (very dramatic-like).

So after a bit of cursing, cutting, and additional stitching I tried things on again. Better, but still not great. What did I do?! I think the problem was mostly do to with fabric choice, but also partly to do with winging the pattern and having absolutely zero experience with sewing clothing. I felt impotent and annoyed. Now what? I decided to try out some darts – worst case I could just rip them out.


When all was said and done, the fit is so-so (not terrible but not perfect). The end result looks pretty good and if I wear it with a blazer, there is really no way you can tell that I screwed it up. And I guess it isn’t all that terrible if it is actually wearable. I have accepted the end result but I did learn a few valuable lessons which I will share with you:

– Quilting weight fabric is not ideal for apparel. I kind of knew this going in but I made the decision to use it anyway. It is fine, but it doesn’t give you a lot of shape and it doesn’t give you the nice drape that you would get from a lighter more flexible fabric. Quilting fabric does get softer over time and washes, but I still don’t think I would recommend it. I am not totally defeated against making another shirt, but I would use a voile or another lighter apparel specific fabric.

– If you’re a beginner to sewing, find a ready-made pattern. Making your own pattern is probably a bit ambitious and is probably something you should do if you’re more advanced. I am not a beginner to sewing or making patterns but I am a beginner to sewing clothing, so I probably assumed my skills would translate and everything would turn out great. So wrong.

– I probably should have experimented with a fabric that wasn’t so precious to me – it was very risky to use a fabric I’ve been holding on to for over a year because I love it too much to cut up. This silly decision could have cost me my fabric.

So that’s it. I made, I fixed, I lived to tell the tale. And I’m actually looking forward to the next sewing project!