Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (aka “Mads” Goes to the UK!)

Hi! It’s been a while, huh? I’m prepping a few posts though, as I’ve finally made some things and got photos. ๐Ÿ˜‰ While doing so, I realized that it’s been a year now since our UK vacation, so I thought it would be fun (maybe not for you all, but for me!) to share it on ye olde blogge. There are pictures!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

We left on September 23, 2019 and returned on October 2, which turned out to be a great time to visit both England and Scotland. We really couldn’t have asked for more pleasant weather, oddly! (The great outdoors very politely limited most of the rain to times that we were indoors or asleep–how courteous!)

One thing Tom wanted to do with some of his severance from 2018–since we didn’t need it to live on after all–was to put funds aside for a trip. We feel really fortunate to have been able to do that. Our choice of destination was very mutually-agreed-upon but also partly an exercise in nostalgia for me. You may not know it–and indeed, it may seem utterly impossible if you read my blathering–but I did a semester abroad in the UK my junior year of college. I have…mixed feelings about that time in my life, chiefly because it came on the heels of the lowest depression I’d personally ever had. And yet, academically it was the best experience of my life and I was there with my soulmate-slash-best friend. I was hopeful that going back as a tourist and showing someone who had never been there (aka Tom) all the stuff we liked and places we frequented would help me heal a bit; I think it definitely helped me focus on the happy memories I have of that semester, which had previously been harder to do. For his part, Tom has wanted to visit the UK for a long time. He’s not as into history as I am, but he can appreciate it; mainly he was looking forward to seeing Scotland. In a way, the trip was split half-and-half for both of us: England for me, and Scotland for him! But we both enjoyed the entire visit immensely and are so glad we were able to do this together. We are dying to go back someday, which speaks to the success of our first international adventure as a couple!

It may seem like we had a lot of time, but really it was tough to cram everything into just one week! Neither of us enjoy strict to-the-minute schedules for leisure stuff, but we also wanted to have a rough outline of a plan to help us use our time wisely. We bought our flights in March 2019 and sorted out all our lodgings at that time also. We agreed that we’d spend 3 days in London–with one of those days being a day trip to Oxford–and 3 days in Isle of Skye, followed by one final night in London before flying home. From there, it was a matter of narrowing down what things we wanted to do in both places.

Day 1: Helloooooo, London!

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Leaving Columbus!

For the England portion of our visit, the key scheduling factor ended up being our 90-minute tour of the Bodleain Library at Oxford, which was only available for one date/time combination during our visit. So Day 2 by default became Oxford Day, and the things we wanted to do in London had to fit on either Tuesday or Thursday. Our flight was due to land around 11:30AM local time on Tuesday, at which point I figured we’d get our bags, take the express train into the city, drop off our bags at the hotel (The Columbia Hotel in Bayswater, which is family-owned and which we highly recommend), and then walk through Hyde Park to find food and begin touring. We’d start at the V&A and Natural History Museum, and then catch the tube to Goldhawk Road for a fabric binge.

Everything was going great to start: our flight had a stiff tailwind on the way over, so we were an hour early! And then we sat on the tarmac for over an hourย because they didn’t have a gate for us. It then took about 2 more hours to get through Immigration and get our lone (EMPTY!!!!) checked bag. We were actually behind schedule by the time we got on the express train. We were also very hungry, so Phase 1 shifted to “Quickly abandon baggage and EAT!!!” I figured we’d hit Goldhawk Road and save the museums for Thursday instead…except that all the shops close at 6 or 6:30, leaving me with less than 2 hours to shop and a list of 6+ stores I wanted to visit. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ We pivoted and went to the Natural History Museum instead, and it was amazing. We practically ran through the place, as it closed just over an hour after we arrived. Because of time constraints it was that or the V&A, and I figured that both of us would get more enjoyment out of the Natural History Museum so that’s the one we went for. No regrets, it was magnificent!!

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Ready for our first tube ride of the trip. Can you guess which one of us had been on it before? (Spoiler: it’s the one who looks *way* too excited to get on the tube…)

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Museums in America don’t look like this, sadly.

Something pretty funny happened after we visited the museum: as we were leaving the grounds, we noticed a lot of Mormon kids (teens/young adults) trying to “witness” to people around/near the museum. (Incidentally, many of the kids we heard speaking seemed to be American.) Now if you know me in real life, have read here for a while, or follow me on Instagram, you may have picked up on my atheism; I’m especially not a fan of being hassled–which is what being approached about someone else’s religion feels like to me–when I’m out trying to enjoy my day or go about my business. One pair tried to engage us pretty shortly after we left the museum grounds, and I curtly said “Nope!” and we quickly walked away. (Tom maintains that he also verbally rebuffed them, but I don’t remember what he said!) We must have looked very unfriendly because we were mostly left alone for the rest of the block. Well, that and I was a woman accompanied by A Man, which seemed to help–many women who were walking alone ended up with a pair of young “witnesses” attached to them as they went along. (Come to find out their temple is nearly across the street from the museum, like how crisis pregnancy centers like to set up near Planned Parenthood in America I guess…) Anyway, one last pair decided to try us out and used a different tactic: one kid asked, “What was your favorite part of the museum today?” Again, note that I don’t appreciate being proselytized to, and I knew exactly where he was going to steer any response I gave. In a rare moment of lucidity, rather than ignoring him (Plan A, always) I happily said, “The Charles Darwin exhibit!” and kept on walking as the kid fumbled for words. Someone get that kid some aloe vera! ๐Ÿ˜‰ #sickburn

Here’s a selfie we took with a statue of Mr. Darwin, by the way:

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Wow, my bangs match Mr. Darwin. Nice!

After the museum, we walked back to our hotel through Hyde Park; it was the perfect end to our first day in London! It was golden hour, the sky was clear, and the temperature was Fall perfection. (We probably looked like Americans, as we were the only ones not wearing jackets or sweaters over our t-shirts in 60F weather…)

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Some monument in Hyde Park; can’t remember who it’s for…probably some white dude who didn’t age well in the historical record! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Day 2: Oxford + Shenanigans

Day 2 was an early day: we had to get to the train station early to catch our train to Oxford! (I gave us enough time to grab breakfast in Oxford before our library tour, hence the 7AM train! xD ) I had bought these tickets in advance since we knew the day and time of our tour; I can heartily recommend the Trainline app and website for this, by the way! When I did my semester, I had no reason to take a train anywhere–we rarely left Oxford and just walked or took a bus in town. So when we arrived at the train station in Oxford I was very disoriented: nothing looked familiar and I couldn’t get my bearings. We got on the bus (Google Maps was super helpful for knowing which bus or which tube line to get on) and got off at the mall because I wanted a Krispy Kreme. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Funny story: my first-ever fresh Krispy Kreme donut was had in Oxford. Ever since, I can’t stand to eat them if they aren’t fresh–that donut ruined me!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Tom got a cheese and bacon pasty, and we made our way toward the library. Again, I had a really hard time getting my bearings at first: the mall area of Oxford has changed a bit in the 12 years since I was there! But we arrived in plenty of time, and apart from my inner nerd being annoyed at the docent for using the incorrect name for one of the people involved in a part of the library, it was very enjoyable. I had taken for granted how easy it was to visit every part of the library during my semester, even the Radcliffe Camera, which was where I took all my books to read and study. (The Radcliffe Camera was the SOLE REASON we did the 90-minute tour: it’s the only one that gets you inside the RadCam and I wanted Tom to see it.)

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Our waiting room for the Bodleian tour!

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*The* Radcliffe Camera

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After the Bodleain we went next door to the Sheldonian Theatre so we could climb the tower and see the city from that angle. I hadn’t gone in there 12 years ago, so it was a cool little side-jaunt.

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Another very nice couple came up when we did and took a photo for us!

Next we went to The Turf tavern–a place we had been many times during our semester abroad–for lunch. Tom had fish and chips (of course!) and I had chips. :-/ Those were the best chips of the trip though, so I can’t hate on them. It’s just not much of a meal!

After trying in vain to buy branded pint glasses (not a “thing” over there, apparently?) for my lifepartner, we headed for New College, aka my old stomping grounds. To my chagrin we had to use the tourist entrance and pay to get in! ๐Ÿ˜‰ But it was so fun to show Tom around and see him try to comprehend just…going to school there amid all the history and grandeur. I mean, come on: the New College campus contains part of Oxford’s original city wall, complete with arrow slits!! (Admittedly my tutorials happened off-campus at my professors’ homes, but I had free run of the grounds while I was there; I made many trips to the college’s library, and took innumerable walks around the grounds just to be there among the history.) Happily, someone was playing the organ when we went into the college chapel, which made it that much cooler. After walking all around the green (and trespassing onto the lawn so I could show Tom “The Mound” in the center ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), we looped back to the entrance and made our way to my old flat. It’s still there, and still pink.

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Back in Juxon St!

I had hoped to show Tom where my primary tutor had lived in Summertown–it’s a really lovely area!–but we had to watch the time. See, I had a side trip tacked onto this side trip. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We went to The Eagle & Child pub to fill some time and so Tom could see it; he had a pint and I had a Coke (which is still inferior to American Coke, sorrynotsorry). Then we made our way back to the train station to catch our train to Kings Sutton.

If you’re from the UK, especially this region, you’re probably wondering what in the fuck business 2 Yankees had in Kings Sutton. Well, as it happens, a relative–as in, I descend directly from him–on one side of my family came to the American colonies in 1679 from a small village not far from there. It’s called Aynho. Unfortunately Google had mislead me here: sure, you can take a train to Kings Sutton, but you cannot in fact just grab a taxi from there. We had to call a service in Banbury and they sent someone to collect us and take us the rest of the way. D’oh! Lesson learned: we should have just stayed on the train until Banbury!! But we made it to Aynho. I knew my ancestor’s name and his parents’ names, as well as the critical fact that there had only ever been one church in Aynho, and that even now it is the only church there. Unfortunately the church closed at 6 (yes, churches can and do close!) so because of the delay in leaving Kings Sutton we didn’t get to speak to anyone there, but we did get to roam around the graveyard since it’s open to the public. The caretaker happened by also–perhaps because he heard two American voices in the yard–and was super friendly and kind. And lo and behold, we found 2 still-legible (they’re ca. late 1600s) stones belonging to members of my family!! It was totally surreal. I only wish I had known about this piece of my family’s history when I lived 45 minutes away for an entire semester!!!

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The church in Aynho

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After stopping off at the local hotel for a pint we met our taxi back at the church and returned to Kings Sutton and then to London.

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A train cat in Kings Sutton! We loved this cutie.

Back in London that evening, Tom ticked another box off his UK wish list: we stopped at a pub near our hotel and he had a meat pie. ๐Ÿ˜€ (Steak and ale, if you were wondering! He was in heaven.)

Day 3 – Fabric Shopping & Cranky Touring

On our last full day in England, we had a lot to do around London: fabric shopping, visiting Westminster Abbey, taking a river tour, and possibly seeing the Tower of London or riding the London Eye. We had breakfast at the hotel before heading out around 9. Our destination? Goldhawk Road!

I’m pleased to say that fabric shopping was a roaring success! I’ve never been to a garment district type of shop before, and found the setup to be quite overwhelming–I didn’t know where to start! (I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t take a single photo.) But the staff at the stores I visited were very helpful and I found some great stuff. I felt a bit bad at the first store we visited, as any time I asked the gentleman about a price or how much yardage there was in a specific pre-cut, he assumed I was haggling and took a bit off the price! Oops. I bought 5 pieces there, and regret leaving behind a gorgeous bright orchid/fuchsia coating material in the lower level; I didn’t even bother asking the price, because I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to fit a coat’s worth of it in my baggage. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The second store we visited wasn’t really my jam, but I did buy a piece of lining fabric there. Our third and final stop was another great shop: I found Chanel! I also got some wool crepe in two colors I am loving right now (electric fuchsia and bright lapis blue) and a merino wool suiting remnant that will eventually become trousers for Tom. I forgot to buy the outlandish sequin-stripe fabric near the door in my mad rush, though–grr!! There are obviously more than 3 fabric shops on Goldhawk Road, but I had spent plenty of money already and was overstimulated, so I decided I was content to stop and take my (heavy) haul back to the hotel.

Here is my haul from each store:

From Store #1 (whose name I sadly can’t remember; Google didn’t even stalk me on this shopping venture, apparently. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Sorry!)

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Store 1 Haul!

The leopard print is a nice cotton; the next two together are for Tom–the small-scale check one is a shirting cotton and the other is a blend that he asked for a tie out of; then there’s a cotton Burberry-esque check and a statement wool, both for moi. ๐Ÿ˜‰

At Store #2–U.K. Textiles GB Ltd.–I only got the one piece, and honestly I probably should have left it! xD

Store #3 Haul (again, cannot for the life of me remember the name):

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Store 3 Haul!

The Chanel boucle is amazing, of course! The two wools in the middle are really nice as well, and the gray merino one is for Tom. The wool crepes are the bright cuts!

After dropping off my fabric we stopped for lunch and then made our way to Westminster. I splurged on the verger-guided tour for us, because I wanted to be able to ask questions. (Thank goodness I have a patient touring partner!)

Before I angry up my blood all over again, let me be clear that I immensely enjoyed our visit to the abbey–it is a breathtaking building and it was very powerful to be standing in the midst of so much history. But I got quite annoyed by our tour group! And our verger answered one of their (asinine) questions wrong, which really raised my blood pressure. (Not that I fault the man, he’s a lay clergyman not a historian!) Our group was all Americans–not so surprising–but everyone else was definitely of the “royal watcher” variety. Their interest was in the modern figurehead monarchy and associated gossip, rather than the incredible 1,000 years of history staring them in the face. I found their lack of interest in the history of the site (prior to 1953, anyway) to be very irritating and frankly, embarrassing. And the mis-answered question? Oh lord. One of the other group members asked a truly inane hypothetical question: what if QEII had died before her coronation ceremony? Like, first of all she obviously didn’t; second of all, you paid ยฃ30 to be here and THAT’S what you need to know?!? Ugh.

By now I was DONE entertaining the daft obsession with the modern monarchy so as soon as the verger stopped talking I raised my hand and asked a question about a portrait that was visible on the altar stage. A portrait that is NEARLY 900 YEARS OLD and that it turns out was purposely defaced during the Reformation. Let’s talk about THAT, please! (Did I mention that one of my favorite things to study–as a History major–was English medieval history? And that my primary tutorial at Oxford was on medieval England and the role of the church? Yeah…)

After I got all uppity in the abbey, we headed for the pier and took a river tour to the Tower. Hilariously, that was about the worst weather we had while outdoors the entire week: it poured rain once we set off and continued until just after we returned to the dock! But we stayed on the top deck the entire time–otherwise, what’s the point?!? We opted not to visit the Tower itself–I’d been 12 years ago, and Tom wasn’t overly interested in going. We also didn’t ride the Eye, for which I have no good excuse: we simply got preoccupied with getting food and eventually headed back to our hotel. Neither of us feels lingering regret though, so whatevs!

We stopped for pizza for me (I ate 4 pizzas in London over the course of our whole trip–it was divine) and then went to Brew Dog for Tom; Brew Dog is a British company that also has a brewery and restaurant here in central Ohio, so it was fun to go to their London flagship location. While Tom enjoyed his burger, I bought tickets to see the USWNT (the US Women’s National Soccer Team) in Columbus later in the year on my cell phone. ๐Ÿ˜€ What a day!

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Rainbow at the tower!

Back at our hotel that evening, we had much packing to do: after my one-woman tear around Goldhawk Road, we suddenly had much more shit to shove into our suitcases! Our flight to Inverness was on EasyJet so baggage allowances meant getting creative.

Day 4: Scotland

Day 4 dawned early for us: we headed to a train station (which one it was escapes me now!) and took a train to a bus station near London Luton airport, then the bus to the airport itself. (The train passed St. Albans, which was really fun for this former student of medieval England! It’s hard to put in perspective how close some places are to each other today when your only reference to them is from ~600 years ago! ๐Ÿ˜€ ) Tom needed breakfast, so we stopped at a restaurant at the Luton airport and he got a full English–his first, but not his last: he loved it! After realizing how little time we had before boarding, Tom ate as fast as he ever has and we boarded our plane to Inverness, ready for Part 2 of our holiday!

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All aboard the EasyJet!

Picking up our rental car at the Inverness airport took FOREVERRRR because the rental place’s system was down and there were 2 people ahead of us in line. Finally, almost an hour later, we were up; we elected to buy the extra insurance–an excellent idea, as it turned out–and loaded up our Peugeot 380 and started off for the Isle of Skye. (Snaps for this car, by the way: it’s a cute hatchback that handles beautifully! The integrated GPS was superb also–it got us around the rather remote Isle of Skye pretty flawlessly.) Tom drove the first leg and pretty quickly got the hang of it. The first part of the journey had hardly any single-track roadways on it, but we knew there was worse to come!

Our first stop was 30 minutes out of our way in Lochcarron, as I wanted to go to a tartan shop there. (A massive “Thank you” to Sue at Fadanista, who blogged about her trip to the UK the spring before our own and mentioned the Lochcarron shop and Skye Weavers.) The place, Lochcarron Weavers, was fantastic! They have SO. MANY. TARTANS. I scored an amazing 2+ meter remnant of the Henderson Ancient pattern; it’s the heavier weight that Lochcarron carries and I got it for a steal.ย Tom also found a smaller remnant of the Lochcarron Hunting pattern that he liked–he requested a tie from it–so I got that as well.

Also on the list were scarves for friends back home, which we duly found. As we wandered around, I noticed an amaaaaazing tartan that used chartreuse as one of the primary colors. (It’s the Cornish National pattern, btw.) I asked about it, and they only had it in the heavier weight wool; however, they could order it on the reiver weight (which is itself 10oz fabric) if I wanted. ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ I couldn’t resist. 2.5 meters were duly ordered, and content with my haul we headed back to the car.

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My precious!!! It arrived not many days after we returned home and I am delighted with it.

We stopped nearby for lunch (fish and chips for Tom, chips for me), took in the already-incredible scenery, and hit the road once more. Next stop: Skye!

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Lochcarron Weavers! Absolutely worth a stop if you’re up this way and love tartans.

It was now my turn to drive, and I will be honest: I hated every minute of driving in Skye. (And every minute of riding in a car there, period.) The roads are not only narrow, but absolutely littered with potholes. And “pothole” doesn’t even cover some of them: hellmouth is more like it. And many roads are…what’s one level below a backroad? They’re that. I am glad we visited Skye, and on balance we had an amazing time, but driving there was so nerve-racking and stressful for me.

Late in the day we finally made it to Portree, which is a main town on the island. We needed to get food (groceries) before heading to our AirBNB, and everything closes at 6 up there and we arrived at 5:30!! O_o Portree was CRAMMED with tourists both times we stopped there, and the Co-Op grocery was slammed that first evening as people rushed to stock up before closing. But we got what we needed (BREAD!!) and proceeded toward Staffin.

On the map, everything in Skye looks like it will be a long drive, but the island is actually quite small–it only took about 30-45 minutes to get to anywhere else from wherever we were. Our AirBNB was quite far north on the island, just past Staffin; we picked it because it had a built-in amazing view (ocean on one side, the Quiraing on the other) and was well-reviewed and priced. The pod was SO CUTE! Angus, the owner, is a super nice dude and we had no regrets at all about choosing that rental. (Storr View Pods is what they’re called.) Plus you can’t beat a herd of sheep in their pen right outside the front door! I did learn that tiny house living is 100% not for me, but for a couple of days–where we would hardly be home!–they were perfectly nice.

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Our adorbs AirBNB pod. Can you see the amazing scenery?!? Gah.

Since our Big Plans for Scotland didn’t really begin until the next morning, we decided to drive down to part of Staffin Beach that first night and just check it out. It was dusk, the beach was beautiful, and it was a perfect way to end a hectic day. Yours truly had never been to an ocean before, and since the beach opens up to a bay on the Atlantic Ocean, I decided I needed to get my feet in. It was cold but worth it! I also stole a rock from that part of the beach. >=D

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Getting my feets wet IN AN OCEAN for the first time ever

Day 5: Whiskey and Calamity

We had brilliantly worked out our first full day in Skye: we would leave our pod around 9:20AM, arriving at the Skye Weavers shop just as it opened at 10; I would then have time to buy scarves for people back home (I bought a lot of scarves on this trip) as well as chat to the proprietor about their pedal-powered loom, wool, and whatever other fiber-y things came up. Then we’d leave around 11AM and head to Talisker, where we were scheduled for a 12PM tour of the Talisker Distillery! I thought it was very cleverly worked out. And then I broke the car. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ On our way to the weaving shop, we had to take what must have been the worst road of all the roads we drove on that weekend. The locals drive very confidently on the roads there, and the tendency of a US driver is apparently to hover far to the left side of the road when driving on UK roads. (Our rental rep confirmed this.) When a cargo van came speeding at us on this single-track road, I went too far left and hit the mother of all potholes. It was brutal. We pulled over at the end of the road (which was very close) and yep, the tire was totally flat. Tom called the roadside number and they said it would be an hour before someone could come to put the spare on, which fortunately we did have in the trunk. (A word of advice: if you visit Skye, do everything you can to obtain a rental car with a spare tire.) Tom could tell I was very upset: I felt like I had just ruined our entire day, and on top of that I wasn’t going to be able to visit the weaving store at all because of the lost time. So he got out his phone, pulled up a video, and put our spare tire on himself–he had never done that in his life!! Within 20 minutes we were back on the road (and now with a built-in excuse to drive slower ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and made for the weaving shop.

Due to the lost time, I basically had time to run inside the shop, tell the owner that I was very excited to visit and buy scarves but didn’t have much time, buy the scarves, pedal on their loom for a few seconds (just long enough for a photo op, really), let Tom have a go, and then run back to the car! That poor guy must have thought I was bonkers.

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Literally jogging to the weaving shop

Next stop: Talisker!

Talisker was definitely not up my street as I don’t drink. But Tom was just thrilled to be there, learning and sampling and taking it all in. After the tour he actually only bought a sample bottle–the prices at grocery stores in London were much cheaper!–and I got a sampler pack for my dear lifepartner.

We stopped for lunch (the WORST chips of the entire trip, y’all–such a bummer) and headed for the Fairy Pools. That was very fun, but for me it had already been a long and emotionally-exhausting day, so we didn’t walk alllll the way up the trail. We had to stop in Portree again for groceries as well, because nothing there is open on Sundays and we had a mountain range to hike the next day: that’s hungry work!

On our way back to our pod from quite a full day, we pulled over at the Bride’s Veil roadside area and wandered around for a while. It was our first use of one of the many roadside stops scattered throughout Skye, and it was very cool.

Day 6: The Time We Hiked a Mountain

Our last full day in Scotland–a Sunday–wasn’t super early. We were going to walk a trail in the Quiraing and wanted to give the fog a chance to lift. We left for the trailhead around 8:30, as it was really close to our pod. One word of warning if you plan to walk this trail: find and use a GPS-enabled map that shows where you are on the walk!!! If not for that we would have turned back before the summit–as multiple other walkers did ahead of us–and been disappointed, as the fog never lifted and there wasn’t really a “trail” visible at the top of The Table–you just need to keep walking, but in the right direction. And without the GPS, we didn’t know which direction was the right one. O_o

The trail approaching the Table was amazing: the views were fantastic, fog aside. There were sheep and cows everywhere. A few times the trail crosses multiple farm boundaries, so you have to use wooden stands to climb over people’s livestock fences!

This hike isn’t very challenging as far as climbing and adventuring go, but getting up the last bit to the top of the Table was tiring for me and my gimpy lungs.

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Before reaching the summit

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On the summit. O_o

You can go up one of two ways, which wasn’t clear when we started–we just started walking! I was glad though, because the way we came down–apparently referred to as a “scramble”–would have been awful to climb up! Here’s a photo looking back up the scramble “path” once we got down it:

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The Scramble, after coming down it

Yeah…no thanks.

While I looked like death warmed up on the summit, I am SO HAPPY that we did this walk. Yes, I had to stop and catch my breath several times on our ascent atop the meadow-y Table; yes, it took us 3 hours to walk/hike 5 miles; but I hiked a mountain and didn’t need my inhaler: something Child Me would never have believed possible with my asthma. I felt really good and really proud. Amazingly, Tom was quite sore for a few days afterwards whereas I never felt a thing. Bodies are weird!

Once we got back “home,” we relaxed for a little while and then decided we wanted to go to Kilt Rock (an excursion for which Tom had packed his drone) and to An Corran beach (a little further up from Staffin Beach) to look for the fossilized dinosaur footprints that are only visible at low tide. Both ventures were a roaring (DINO PUN!!) success!

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We spent a little time–it was chilly!–out on our pod deck that last night, just taking in the view one more time. I did a bit of knitting outside also, which was a fantasy I’d had since we booked a place with a deck. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The next morning, we loaded up early to make sure we were back in Inverness for our afternoon flight back to London.

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Knitting outside surrounded by sheep, mountains, and ocean: perfection.

Day 7 – 8: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

Because my anxiety was worse when I wasn’t driving the car, I drove us back to Inverness that Monday. It was a pretty uneventful drive thankfully, and we switched off after filling the car up with gas. Thanks to our insurance purchase, we owed no additional money for totally fucking up one of the tires when we turned the car in! ๐Ÿ˜€ (There was another American waiting there with us, and we got to chatting; he said he had the same tire issue but unfortunately his rental car didn’t have a spare tire, so he lost an entire day of his vacation while a replacement was found. O_o ) We loitered around the airport for a while; Tom got his second English breakfast and I got a Coke. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We got back to London that evening, having hit all three major airports there: Heathrow on the way in, Luton midway through, and Gatwick on the way back from Scotland! We didn’t have a ton of free time since it was a bit late–and dark–but we got dinner and went to Tesco (a place I didn’t get to go in Oxford, as it was too far away and our Sainsbury’s was delightful) to get booze, LOL. We stopped at the mini-Sainsbury’s yet again so I could get more bread and so Tom could grab a full bottle of Talisker. I miss the fresh bread that’s everywhere in England…it’s vastly superior to the fresh bakery bread at our groceries here, especially the varieties with some cheese in them. *sigh*

We used another AirBNB for that last night in London, an efficiency flat in Bayswater that was right around the block from our original hotel. It would not have been enjoyable for our whole London stay, but was perfect for one night. We headed for the train pretty early the next morning, since our flight was around 12PM and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time. As it happened, we were so ahead of schedule that we were able to get on an earlier flight to the US, and for no fee! YAY!!!!!! Unfortunately we weren’t able to get on an earlier flight back to Columbus from Charlotte, because all the earlier flights were on a different subsidiary of the parent airline. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So we dicked around at the Charlotte airport for a few hours and then FINALLY got home to Columbus. Whew!

If you’re still with me, thanks for reading or skimming this outrageously long post! ๐Ÿ˜€

That was our trip! It was a hectic week, but thankfully we avoided jetlag and were able to do pretty much every major thing we had planned. Considering that we planned and arranged everything ourselves, it went off pretty flawlessly! (Although if our rental car hadn’t been equipped with a spare tire, that wouldn’t have been the case…) We had a wonderful time, and would absolutely love to go back again.

Mic Check

Hi! I mean, assuming anyone is still out there reading this. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I started this draft back in January; in the meantime a lot has happened. The world has exploded into something out of a pandemic movie, minus zombies and widespread looting (except for corporations and the rich, that is. #zing). COVID-19 has affected everyday life for us, just like pretty much everyone else in the US. We’re both working from home (at once both relieved to have income/health insurance and bemused at the strange determination of our companies to focus on business right now) and making the best of it; frankly this isn’t hard, apart from my superhuman need for solitude and the constant occupation of our living space by both humans in this family making true solitude utterly impossible. But I can still pick up takeout, and have largely been able to get everything we’ve needed at the grocery thus far, so we’re doing quite well. *shrug* To up the shenanigans ante, in mid-March I accidentally ate cauliflower, which I am allergic to (not because I am fool enough to eat it, but because a pizza place used the wrong crust and I had no idea what I was eating until it was too late), and promptly followed that up with a kidney infection. (Spoiler alert: I am not old, young, or pregnant enough to be socially forgiven for pissing myself, so thank fuck I was already working from home when that happened.)

All of the above was surpassed–at least in terms of my own personal bubble and emotions–by the death of my dad on March 30. This was both expected (he was old and had been dealing with a health issue for a few years) and totally shocking (we didn’t know how bad his condition really was because of him refusing treatment and our parents being unreliable narrators, plus he went downhill very rapidly–over the course of one day, really). On top of all this, I couldn’t travel to Texas to be with my family: my preexisting lung condition means flying during this particular pandemic would be incredibly fucking stupid, and at any rate the hospital was not allowing any non-patients in anyway. I said goodbye to him over a telephone, held to his comatose ear by a (very kind and sympathetic) nurse, which even for a dysfunctional family like ours is hardly closure. I’m not close with my parents; I won’t go into that so much here, aside from saying that complicated relationships make for complicated grief, and while I anticipated this I could not have prepared for the reality. My own struggle is compounded by the expectation that I should help manage my remaining parent’s emotions; not to air too much dirty laundry, but knowing what I know about their toxic “relationship” (if it may be so called) and having had difficult relationships with both of them makes this expectation really, really, unpalatable. At the same time, I want to help my siblings and do what they ask because they’re important to me. Rock, meet hard place.

TL;DR version: aside from getting pizza, it’s been shit, y’all.ย 

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Tycho side-eyeing his vet *and* this entire year so far.

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Your palate cleanser: my dog eating an apple.

Below is the draft as it was before the Ides n’ Ends of March whooped my boney ass. I still want to put it out there (I have serious regret over not just hitting “Publish” in February!) and hopefully re-engage here more regularly soon. Thanks for reading. โค


Maybe others are noticing this also, but blogs seem to be in decline these days. I get it: Instagram makes it easy to immediately connect and interact. Even I use IG much more regularly than I blog (albeit at what I suspect is a lower-than-average frequency) so I’m part of that trend myself. But speaking only for myself, I still love blogs! Maybe it’s a temperament thing (I like reading long-form things AND writing long-form things) but I do enjoy reading posts on blogs I follow when I have the time and energy. Perhaps I’m just in the minority there, and am a dinosaur. ๐Ÿ™‚

Obviously my own blog has suffered from neglect in recent months. I’ve been in a dark mental space for the past couple of years and am still struggling to emerge from that; between personal things, seemingly the entire world reverting to the baser human instincts of cruelty, hatred, and selfishness in the name of perpetuating white supremacy and late-stage capitalism, and my work life taking a demoralizing turn (plus having to write the company blog), I just haven’t had the mental energy to keep this space up the way I’d like to. Even my sewing and knitting practices have suffered: I made fewer things last year than in previous years, and so many stitches felt like work rather than a hobby I engage in for fun. This year isn’t exactly off to a running start either, which is sad; on one hand, I need an outlet to help me feel better, but on the other I struggle to participate in my hobbies when I’m feeling low–it’s a lose-lose situation. I don’t really have a point here, just trying to put into words why this blog has fallen by the wayside. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There’s so much I didn’t share on the blog last year that I wanted to: home remodeling projects from 2018! Shit I made for our vacation! Our vacation!! A truly hilarious FAIL of a project from Halloween! The outfit I made–for Tom–for my office holiday party! There’s more I’m forgetting.

Normally for my first post of the year, I’d be excitedly fucking around with pie charts in Excel to break down what I sewed, choosing favorites among my successes and flops alike, and thinking ahead to the next year of creating. This year I’m not doing any 2019 Top 5 posts at all. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ (It’s funny, but having no blog posts for a lot of the stuff I made last year makes it really fucking hard to remember and count up the stuff I made!) Not because I quit sewing or anything–no way!–but because I just can’t find the energy to do it. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about 2020 though!

This year, I am committed to lightweighting my stash and only sewing/knitting from what I have. People, I have so much stash–for knitting and sewing alike. It’s appalling. I am not a minimalist (if my entire wardrobe fit–by choice–on one ugly-ass, not-in-a-closet-where-it-belongs rack I would weep bitter tears) but I’ve reached a point where I am overwhelmed by what I own and am finally prepared to do something about it. I want to lessen my consumption because I believe it’s the right thing to do for myself, for my family, and for the planet. I want to look at my fabric (and yarn) and see limitless creative potential instead of a cringe-inducing hoard. To that end, I have unsubscribed from all fabric and yarn emails and have also unfollowed any shops I followed on Instagram. I have also started the tedious, shame-vomit-inducing process of going through my stash and purging things. Because the yarn world has Ravelry, I am listing yarn for destash over there. I still need to purge more yarn, but for now I’ve done the first wave and it felt awesome. As for fabric outcasts, I dropped the first wave of those off at Goodwill already, and still hope to get rid of more. (Yes, I know: Goodwill donations usually end up foisted on the developing world and/or in the trash. My mental health and the planet are at odds on this item, and if I wait for a perfect solution to come along I will still be here waiting when EarthDeath occurs; I won’t have my sanity anymore, but I’ll have tons of fabric I won’t sew. O_o A compromise must be made. Don’t @ me.) I’m hoping that removing this roadblock of STUFF will help me dream up future projects, and generally get more joy out of my hobbies.

Fingers crossed, but my 2020 is improving in terms of my hobbies. I need more socks so I plan to focus my 2020 knitting efforts on my sock drawer, but I do want to cast on another sweater very soon too. Sewing-wise I have made 4 pairs of bottoms AND 3 knit tops in 2020, plus I’m still making that ridiculous quilt every month. O_o On balance, that’s a commendable start! There’s also a pile of mending for me to do, which while not creatively fulfilling is at least helpful and counts as sewing! Tom and I are also committed to eliminating as much single-use plastic from our house as we can, so I will be making reusable produce bags and cloth napkins, plus knitting dishcloths at some point. (Let me point out that it’s not individual people but corporations and industry that are chiefly responsible for the appalling state of our planet, and that the onus is being wrongfully placed on consumers to change instead of the biggest contributors to climate destruction. However, we still want to do the best we can to limit our own household’s contribution to waste and pollution and are in a position–economically, medically, and otherwise–to take these steps. I fully appreciate that this is not the case for everyone and do not intend my personal declarations to apply universally. <3)

I did buy yarn earlier this year because mohair is having A Moment and I didn’t have any for the 2 patterns I wanted to make (because who stashes a random sweater quantity of mohair, anyway?!?), and of course it turns out I AM ALLERGIC TO MOHAIR. :’-( WHYYYYYY?!? So all the mohair I bought was gifted to a friend–I hope she can see past my appalling taste in colors! In my mourning period I bought 4 skeins of sock yarn but now I swear I’m done! I did buy some fabric also, but a very kind friend gave me a gift card to a fabric store local to them and that was my motivation. I only got 2 fabrics, so it was a very modest haul.


In closing, I hope anyone still reading this is safe and able to find ways to care for themselves mentally and physically during this completely surreal time.

Speaking of surreal, here’s a .gif from a music video my band made several years ago; maybe it will cheer someone out there up. ๐Ÿ˜€ (And yes, the song is about Easter Peeps.)

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Easter Peeps

So A Sundress and A Sweater Walk Into A Blog…

Hi! It’s been a little while, huh? You know, I naively thought that my summer would calm the f*ck down after Memorial Day, but I still had too much going on for my liking! (Some of this is stuff I do to myself, like agreeing to participate in an event.) Fall didn’t slow down much either, especially since we WENT ON VACATION ABROAD!!! What?!? I know. Don’t worry, I’ll share that soon. ๐Ÿ˜€

I haven’t had quite as much time for sewing lately; between stress from work (my role was assigned to a new manager and I feel ways about that…), stress from life, and continuing to struggle with my mental health, it’s been hard to feel creative. And as far as blogging goes, it’s been hard to get motivated to take photos of things once I did finish them. O_o On top of that, I started selling out writing blog posts for my company’s website this year: you’d be surprised how fast that can steal the fun of blogging about a hobby, but here we are.

That said, I did sign up for a block of the month quilt project in August and have been keeping up with it. And it’s easy to take photos of quilt blocks: they just lie there as I loom over them with my phone! ๐Ÿ˜€ I am definitely not a quilter, but when I saw this pattern–an exclusive at my around-the-corner sewing shop–I had to make it. As you might expect, this project is very EXTRA considering that it’s my first quilt:

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Koala cuteness!

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Flamingo and Turtle butts!

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Blocks 1 and 2 joined

The entire top design! (Photo property of Dabble & Stitch/Cassandra Ireland Beaver)

Here is a link to a photo of the actual quilt top sample–I can’t wait to have mine finished and on our bed…in a year! I’m planning on paying for the designer to quilt mine just like the sample. Personally, I think I will get more out of spending money on that service than I would out of doing the work myself. O_o #notaquilter

But let’s rewind, because I have made quite a few other things since my last summer post. Two of those projects were accessories I made to take on vacation, which I will share soon; two others are the garments you’ll see below! (The otherย others were costume shirts for the vintage and costume shop–8 in total.)

First up, my 3rd Style Arc Ariana dress!

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Cute dress, shame about the face!

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Back view

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Buttons!

I want you all to know that it was barely 55 degrees when we took these photos the other day: I suffered for you!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I can’t say enough good things about this pattern. I made two last year, and I would actually like to make at least a 4th one–it’s that good. This rayon crepe fabric was destined to be an Ariana the minute I bought it. It’s perfect, if a bit lightweight. For my bodice lining, I chose to use leftovers from my last Blaire shirt. This was kind of a bad choice, in that the fabrics behave quite differently to each other; but it worked out okay in the end, and there’s no risk of print (or nip!) show-through here.

There are a few dumb mistakes on display with this new dress, namely on the skirt buttons. Originally, I made this dress because I wanted to wear it to an out-of-town family thing this past July. I was actually ahead of schedule–yay!–which meant I wasย thisclose to having my dress done in time for a last-minute dinner I was invited to in June. I won’t get into it, but it was a (casual) dinner full of strangers who were Important People at an event I was helping with that month. While eating meals in front of other people is one of my actual worst nightmares, I wanted to attend to make a good impression and meet everyone ahead of the event. I don’t know about you all, but I always feel much more confident in a self-made garment when interacting with Important People and/or New People and/or People Who Stress Me Out. So anyway, buttons and buttonholes were all that stood between me and feeling my best at this dinner. The day of the dinner (yep…) I pulled out the front bodice pattern piece to see how far apart my buttons were supposed to be, marked the dress, and got to work. Unfortunately, I forgot that the skirt buttons are spaced farther apart than the bodice ones for Very Good Reasons. I used the correct number of buttons, but the skirt opened far higher than it should because the buttons were too close together! D’oh. Before my next event–the one I was originally making this dress for–I went back and added 2 more skirt buttons. The buttons, by the way, are from Bennos and are made of coconut shell. I love them and will for sure have to buy more when I run out.

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Twirling

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Derp

I also neglected to stay stitch my necklines, which I should have done at least on the shell; there’s some slight gaping around the curves. (It doesn’t help that I put my top buttonhole too close to the edge, so now I actually need to move the button over a bit to compensate.) The pockets aren’t my best work either, namely because I decided to try flat-lining them in the bodice lining fabric. They’re pretty sloppy at the bottom hems. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ My hope is that they pass the “3-foot” rule and nobody else will really notice. I mean, in the above photos you can’t even reallyย see the pockets, so I think we’re good!

And now for something totally different: a knitted sweater!

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Bear and Dog

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Half-brioche faux seams

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Back view–love those triangle details!

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Weeeeee!

This is the Ursa sweater by Jacqueline Cieslak. Jacquie is a fairly new knitwear designer but she definitely has a talent for it! Her instructions are really good, and I especially appreciate the way she breaks down your total stitch count between the front, back, and raglans here. It makes counting them up so much more intuitive!

I did modify this sweater a bit by lengthening it: it’s quite a cropped sweater and is even shorter on long torsos! I didn’t want to have to wear a shirt under it, or be limited to wearing it over dresses. In all I think I added about 4″ to the length before starting the triangle insets. Sadly I need to properly block it in order for that extra length to really “count”: it’s still in over-dresses-only territory. While knitting this I had to pay attention to my mechanics on the half-brioche parts: my method of knitting actually positioned the YOs on top of their companion stitch, so I had to re-orient those stitches when it came time to knit them. My first start on this sweater revealed the issue, so I frogged it back and started again. After that, it was looking exactly like the pattern (albeit a bit more open)!

My gauge is off on this sweater. My stitch gauge tends to work up tighter than a pattern’s specifications, and this is no exception: my sweater doesn’t have the same boxy fit that the samples have. Plus, with my broad shoulders and upper back, the raglan shoulders on the size I made are getting stretched to the max! My fabric also seems a bit looser/more open than Jacquie’s samples, probably because my yarn is kind of in between Aran and Bulky and probably needed a smaller needle than what I used (the US10.5 listed in the pattern); this is moreso on the row gauge but does show up on the half-brioche areas too.ย  So for future versions, I will probably need to go up at least one if not two sweater sizes for my shoulders andย maybeย drop my needle size (which may necessitate going up yet another sweater size). I’ll play with things and see, but I would love another Ursa or two in my life!

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Still handsome

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Admiring glance

Ironically, the sweater itself was out of season when I made it–in fact, Ohio was in the middle of a news-making heat wave about the time I finished–and now the temps are cool enough that I need to figure out how to style my pink (Ariana!) dress with tights and boots if I want to wear it. D’oh!

As far as current projects go, I have my Halloween costume underway (one piece is done!) and a non-costume Halloween-y dress cut out. I also have another sweater project going, so I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied for now. I’m excited for “proper” fall sewing though: I want to make SO MANY trousers!!

What are you sewing (or knitting!) right now? Do you have any tried-and-true tricks for deciding what to make next?

Proper Summer Sewing (aka Revenge of The Hammock)

Hi again!

As promised, I have two recent projects to share today: a Style Arc Blaire shirt and a dress made from McCall’s 6886! I’ve made both patterns before so there isn’t much new to say, but I’ll share them anyway. Plus we got some pretty ridiculous photos of the McCall’s dress, so stay tuned for those!

First up is my new Blaire:

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Yep, it’s a shirt

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Closer view of the front

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Side, with flaps!

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Back

I really must have a chat with my photographer about his favorite editing preset, as it does nothing for my scary-visible circulatory system! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

As I said, there isn’t much new to say about this shirt that I didn’t say the first time around. I followed the same order of construction and everything! This fabric is cool though: it’s a cupro/linen/tencel blend from Blackbird. (I’d link directly to it, but her stock is always changing and I know eventually this will sell out forever and break my link! As of this post going live, she still has this fabric in multiple colors.)ย Originally I wanted a white Blaire but settled for ecru because there was no white, but this fabric seemed neat. It’s not really visible in photos, but the fabric has a sheen to one side; I used that one as my right side, because of course I did. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It feels much heavier than I expected, but is still light and has a very fluid drape. No regrets whatsoever! This stuff feels great against the skin. I have just enough left over to use as a bodice lining for an upcoming dress, so yay! The buttons are shell ones from Wawak; it was tough choosing between the 2 different off-white shell buttons I haveย andย my coconut ones. O_o (I’m only kind of kidding…I spent way too many minutes agonizing about it. #getalife)

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“Mom, this is boring. I’m bored.”

Couldn’t leave you all without a cutie cameo, could I? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now for something much cooler than a flappy off-white shirt: this dress!

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Stripes!

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Side slits!

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Tight fit!

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Ridiculous pose!

All those captions are basically “‘Mads’ Bingo!” aren’t they? ๐Ÿ˜‰

This dress came to life because of the ponte knit fabric. Several months back, I was the lucky winner of an Instagram giveaway by Gorgeous Fabrics–I KNOW!!!!!!! I was very excited because the prize was 3 yards of an amazing bright red lace. However, I felt kind of guilty just taking free fabric, you know? Especially aย nice fabric like double-scalloped lace!ย (And no, it wasn’t for a partnership or sponsored post–Ann was doing a few giveaways to clear stock and I happened to win one of them.) So I headed over to the site and poked around, as one does. >=D Ann has great taste and I’ve bought amazing things from her since I first learned to sew, so I knew I’d find something. My eye was immediately drawn to this fabric, as it’s the perfect stripe width AND bright shade of cobalt blue. I had to have it! (I also got an animal print ITY with a cool border fade effect. That will be fun to use!) Immediately I thought of a dress like this one: midi length, short sleeves, snug fit, side splits, worn with white sneakers. I couldn’t really be much happier with the result! (And I definitely bought these sneakers just because of this dress. And yes, they’re Sperrys–don’t @ me.)

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Pure class.

I’ve made M6886 a few other times, and it’s a great dress pattern. However, I learned early on that I really benefit from putting a CB seam in it: it’s a must to get the snug fit through the waist that I prefer. I didn’t 100% nail the stripe matching up the CB because I didn’t baste the seam first, but it’s sooo close. O_o I did baste the side seams and the actual neckband–I wanted the stripes to be perfect and that’s a tricky prospect on a neckband.

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Neckband action

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Sweet-ass side splits

I need to adjust the shoulder slope on this pattern–it’s really obvious to me now, lol.

This dress is also the first project that I’ve sewn on ALL THREE of my machines!!! (Oh yeah, by the way: I got a coverstitch last summer from a friend who had upgraded to a Babylock combo, and am now the proud owner of the legendary Janome Coverpro 1000CPX.) The CB seam was done on my sewing machine with a narrow zigzag, and the split openings were topstitched on it as well; I serged every other seam and the raw hem edges; finally, I sewed the bottom and sleeve hems and around the neckband with my coverstitch. Boom!!

Okay, with the technical stuff out of the way, I have some hilarious (to me, anyway…) photos of this dress for you. The day we took photos, Tom had used his hammock to lounge out in the yard. I thought it would be cute with the nautical look of my dress if I got some hammock shots, but it turns out I am rubbish at hammocks! See for yourself:

 

 

So far, so good, right? Nope. Behold the immediate aftermath of the above photos:

 

 

This thing kept spitting me out like I was a piece of gristle in a steak, y’all.

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For real, I look like I’m trying to elaborately hide behind the hammock.

Finally, after resorting to using my chin for leverage…

 

 

…I managed to stay on the hammock. Sort of. Less “lounging” than “clinging desperately and in a state of exhausted exasperation”…

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I mean, come on.

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A perfectly accurate face for my emotions.

In between Tom’s cackles at my ineptitude, he captured these photos (and more, if I’m being honest). You’re welcome.

Summer is what’s on my mind where sewing is concerned: I have plans for at least one sundress, and maybe some linen pants. (I know, soooo original…) I also need to replace one of my Reeta dresses ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ๐Ÿ˜ฆ so that’s on the agenda also. What are you sewing now?

 

 

Ending A Rut by Breaking the Pattern

Hello, friends!

I’ve felt like I’ve done very little sewing so far in 2019, but counting my completed projects resulted in more FOs than I expected. All told I’ve made 8 things which, while more than I realized, is still pretty paltry given that we’re halfway through the year. But 3 of those projects were finished in the last few weeks, so my pace is finally picking up! I’m super happy with these recent garments, and those happy feelings have helped my blogging mojo tremendously! So what did I make? The Utu pinafore by Named, the Blair shirt from Style Arc, and a dress from McCall’s 6886. Seriously, they’re all total winners. To keep things from getting too long, this post will focus on my “Breaking The Pattern” projects and I’ll be coming at you with a joint post for the other 2 very shortly. ๐Ÿ˜€

The recently-finished Utu is actually my 3rd project from “Breaking the Pattern,” although it’s only my 2nd unique pattern from that book; the other 2 are both Ruska tops. I’m bummed that my Utu is now rather out of season, but it will get tons of wear come Fall/Winter. For the uninitiated, “Breaking the Pattern” is a book by Named Clothing (aka my ride-or-die fangurl sugar-stan pattern company) that came out last year in lieu of their usual twice-yearly collections. Naturally, the moment I saw they had a book coming out I pre-ordered it because ride-or-die fangurl sugar-stan. Almost everything in that book is something I want to make, even the ridiculous vented wide-leg elastic-waist pants–who am I?!?

But let’s go in order here, starting with my first project from the book: a Ruska knot tee!

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Knot tee, now with 100% more wrinkles!ย 

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I am not 100% happy with this top and it’s down to things I should have changed before I even started. Namely (lol) the neckline–it’s just awful for a t-shirt on me. If I had added sleeve roll-ups I could maybe get behind the quasi-James Dean, “Cry-Baby” drape gang vibe, but nah.

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The “Cry-Baby” drape gang is #squadgoals

The ties didn’t turn out great, but that’s because the design and instructions for them are fucking stupid and I didn’t read the latter until after I’d coverstitched the hems. (They have you do a double-turn hem around the tips of the ties, which then stupidly tapers to a single-roll somewhere along the way. Excuse me, but what?!?) The next time I make a knot version of this pattern, I will be cutting the tie ends down so they’re the right shape and seam allowance (for a single roll) all the way around!

I also had a problem with the stabilizer I used in the hems, which essentially removed the stretch from my fabric and coverstitching. (Apparently it washes out, but I wash my clothing very sparingly and haven’t washed this shirt yet.) Fortunately I hadn’t used it around the neckline, because I doubt I could get my globe-like head through the tiny head-hole if I had done that. O_o

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Single knot (I prefer 2…)

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No knot!

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No, I would never wear it like this. xD

I had high hopes for this top because of the fabric: a moire rayon/lycra jersey. But between pre-washing/drying basically eliminating the moire finish and the issues mentioned above, I didn’t quite get the “Wow!” I was hoping for. Ah well, at least my front seam looks fucking GORGEOUS.

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You’re welcome.

Next is yet another Ruska, this time with no knot and full sleeves. WARNING: The following is not appropriate for all ages!

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Behold!

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DO YOU SEE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

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What I hope people will now think of when they stare at my t*ts…

Surprise tiger boobies!!!!!! Bet you weren’t expecting that, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Also, 1,000 bonus points to anyone who “got” the reference in the close-up caption. xD

My initial vision (god that sounds so pretentious…) was for a sheer navy turtleneck under my future Utu pinafore. I already had my suiting fabric and knew that was how I wanted to wear the jumper. It was hard finding a sheer navy stretch knit, though! Fabric Mart came through with some Halston fabric eventually, and for a good price. I bought too much, as is my usual M.O., and thank goodness: this is Mk II of this top.

I apparently over-stretched my neckband on my first version and I COULD NOT FIT MY HEAD THROUGH IT. Talk about embarrassing! I cut the band off and decided to widen the neck opening a bit, but had a little accident with my shears and yeah…the whole top had to be scrapped. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Luckily I had enough fabric to recut the whole thing, and this time I took 1/4″ off each neckline seam and that was it. I didn’t use the shaped piece provided because I hate relying on neckband pattern pieces, but as a result my collar does flop and sit away from my neck a bit. (That’s also because it isn’t as tightly stretched as I normally do them, because of the first “oops”…) I could always take a dart out of the back of it I guess, but meh.

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Not even a handful…

While rather unimpressive on its own (let’s be real, even the t*ts are underwhelming ones! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), it really does make the outfit:

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Pensive office person

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I adore these shoes!

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Back view

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Don’t mind the mismatch at CF, I forgot to button my secret button for like, half the photos…

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Super stern business lady

I LOVE THIS DRESS SO MUCH!!!!!! The shell fabric is a stretch suiting from JOANN Fabrics, of all places. The plaid is just interesting enough without clashing with the double-breasted front or the snug fit. This Utu is one of my favorite sewing projects to-date, I think! (And that’s from someone who usually hates pinafores.) I might make another, maybe in a solid wool crepe! โค

For only having 3 pieces (okay, 6 if you count the lining) this pinafore took me FOREVER. Literal months. I made a really stupid mistake on the pattern that further hindered my mojo. Like, colossally stupid. I held the front pattern piece up to myself and was pleasantly surprised not to need any bodice length. Iย always need bodice length, even on Named. Well, genius here didn’t think about the bust dart, which removed about 1″ of vertical length once sewn. So lo and behold I cut my lining (you know, to be clever and get my lining done first) and sewed the darts, held it back up and realized that the darts were too high and the waist was DEFINITELY too high. Ugh!!

At that point I didn’t want to recut the lining–I really wanted this color for some reason and didn’t have enough to recut–so I slashed the pieces and added strips. My first front got slashed above the bust only, which I quickly realized was not the best idea; the other front and the back were cut in 2 places, one above and one below the bust.

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Hacked up front lining.

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Back hack job

After fixing the lining, I changed my pattern pieces by adding 1/2″ above the bust dart and 1/2″ below it. Then I cut my shell fabric. At this point I made a cutting error on one front piece plaid matching-wise, and had stretched the other front out somehow along the neckline. (Seriously, any and all possible mistakes were made on this 3-piece project. O_o ) I did fine on the back piece, so I recut my fronts and then set the whole mess aside for like a month and pouted. (During that hiatus I finished my Wool & Honey!) I came back to it after a seriously excellent sewing afternoon with Betsy, which reinvigorated me in a major way. From there it was all downhill until I got to the buttons!

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Buffalo horn buttons FTW

I asked my husband and sewing friends (IRL and Instagram ones alike) to help me choose buttons. ๐Ÿ˜€ My initial vision (ooh la la…) had been for horn buttons to emphasize the suiting fabric angle, but then I found these navy enamel/silver-toned metal buttons and couldn’t decide. Most people voted for the buffalo horn buttons–the appeal of which was because they came in the right size but also because THEY’RE BUFFALO!!–and in the end, I went that way. No regrets, they’re perfect.ย I did keyhole buttonholes, a first. Again, I wanted the hit the #suitingvibes angle. A couple of the buttonholes mysteriously got fucky and don’t have nice round keyhole openings, but nobody will be able to see that.

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Buffalo horn button up close!

Shiny, runner-up buttons! (Image property of Bennos Buttons)

(For the record, I’m not affiliated with either supplier linked above–just a happy customer.)

In terms of fitting, I did make a few small adjustments besides adding my 1″ of length. I removed most of the shaping in the high hip, and pulled the bodice in from the underbust through the high hip. The waist isn’t zero ease but fits a lot closer than the original shape. I didn’t take in my lining anywhere–it isn’t a stretch fabric and I knew I’d want that extra ease for comfort. If I’m being picky, I do wish the dress was a bit shorter but I’ll be damned if I’m ripping out my hems. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m pretty pleased with my pattern matching work on this: I was careful, especially when it came time for buttons and buttonholes. I did get a few buttons a bit further to the left than I needed to (I’m talking like, maybe 1/8″) but I can live with it. I did add that secret security button also, which took my plaid matching from “good” to “very good” by holding the CF line securely in position. I don’t know if I put it where it’s supposed to go, but I put it where I needed it and that’s good enough for me! I am very annoyed that I forgot to close it before we took a lot of the best photos of this pinafore, so you’ll have to take my word for it I guess! I decided early on not to worry much about keeping the plaid contiguous across the side seams; I focused on the CF and below-the-bust-dart horizontal plaid lines instead, which to me were infinitely more important. (And yet I got not 1 good photo of the side seams to show the horizontal matching! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ )

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Hiding. #nailedit

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Cheeky pose

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A thorn among roses. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Once I finished this dress, I figured I wouldn’t be able to wear it until Fall. But then I remembered that I actually had an occasion coming up that was perfect: a mid-May wedding! And a wedding at which I was performing, no less. My former band reunited specifically to play during the couple’s reception; it was a magical evening, both for us getting to be together (we ROCKED) and for the happy couple, who were radiant. โค It was an honor to play for two lovely people and their family/friends on such a special day!

Unfortunately for me, the event space was over 80 degrees all night; it was then I learned that my turtleneck, despite being sheer and scandalous, DOES NOT BREATHE. It felt like a sexy wetsuit. I was so hot I had sweat dripping down the backs of my legs. These AA-cup bra-less boobies had instant boob sweat. That’sย how you know it’s f*cking hot! ๐Ÿ˜‰ So after its first outing, this entire outfit needed a thorough rinse and steam but at least I looked and felt good in it. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Pre-gig selfie!

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Photobombing the dancing wedding party, cuz I’m classy…

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Post-gig old elevator Polaroid!

There you have it: my first projects from “Breaking the Pattern!” They won’t be my last, that’s for sure. I’m already planning a very special Ruska dress, as well as multiple Saraste dresses and shirts!

The next time you hear from this ol’ blog, I’ll be sharing my other 2 recent projects: a Blair shirt and a McCall’s 6886 dress. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading! โค

 

An Unseasonable Sweater

Hi!

First, I want to thank everyone who left supportive and understanding comments on my last post. It was hard to write that intro–I’ve been very private about my mental health on the blog (and everywhere else!) and generally dislike being vulnerable–but in a way I’m glad it’s finally out there. Fortunately things have continued to improve on that front in the weeks since I posted last!

Today I’m sharing a recent FO with you, which is definitely an indication of ongoing improvement in the Fort Kickass Psych Ward*. Fair word of warning to those of you here for sewing content: this is a post about a knitting project! If that sounds horribly boring, I won’t mind if you close this post–really! ๐Ÿ˜€ I will have sewing things to share very soon; they just need to be photographed!

*Fort Kickass is our affectionate nickname for our house, and I can joke about my mental health if I want to.

Believe it or not, I managed to knit a second sweater! (Thereby proving that my first one was not a fluke. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) While I found this one more enjoyable in some respects–no seaming, top-down construction–I now understand why people gripe about fingering weight sweaters taking forever. O_o I made it harder for myself with the all-over garter stitch too. But honestly, I’m not at all put off of lightweight sweaters after this. (But you best believe my next one or two will be in something thicker!!)

Without further ado, here is my take on Wool & Honey:

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Casual post-hair flip stance

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Honeycombs!

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Artful application of pet hair and thread bits. xD

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I immediately bought the Wool & Honey sweater pattern when it came out last June, and bought the yarn for it shortly thereafter. Even so, I didn’t get around to starting it until I’d finished my Harlowe. (I cannot endure the thought of having multiple sweaters going at once. Socks sure, but sweaters?? Nope.) I promptly lost steam upon realizing that my gauge was, once again, working up smaller width-wise than the pattern. I had started the smallest size and the neck was coming outย so smallย that I didn’t see how my globe-like head was going to fit through it. I grudgingly ripped out my work and it took me a few months to start over in the next size up; now that I have finished this project, I see I could have probably gotten away with my original size but I didn’t want to risk it. I also could have fiddled with needle sizes instead of going up a sweater size, but that didn’t occur to me until I’d already made progress on the new one. Whatever, everything worked out!

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Part 1 of the yoke, complete!

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Body complete!

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Hot blocking action. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(BTW, here’s my project page on Ravelry.)

Candidly, I do not like how closely my yarn matches my hair. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I love my yarn and sweater and I LOVE my hair, but I avoid burgundy and oxblood clothing precisely because those shades tend to make my hair look dull by comparison. But when I first saw this colorway, I had to have it, and it had to be this sweater. Don’t expect this to become a habit though, folks!

This was my first pattern from indie darling designer Andrea Mowry, and it was a really great project. The honeycomb pattern was much simpler than I had imagined, and the directions were good enough for a beginner to follow and understand. I like the proportions of this design, especially in the sleeves with the tall ribbed cuffs. I have a couple of her other sweater patterns too, so I’m glad my first was a success! I definitely recommend this sweater pattern if you’re looking for this type of style, just mind that neckhole!

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Flappy sweater

I added a bit of length before the ribbing, something like 1-2″. (Ugh that’s what I get for not recording my measurements!) It’s a cropped sweater, but my torso is long and I didn’t want to get stuck wearing a stupid cami underneath my beautiful new sweater after all that work. It’sย just long enough to wear with my mid-rise jeans that don’t come up to my waist, so I’m happy. I didn’t change the sleeve length though, as my limbs are proportionally short for my height.

You may notice a subtle difference between my sweater and the pattern sample: my honeycomb flow to the frontย left rather than the frontย right. That’s because I am left-handed, and knit from left to right. I didn’t care about having my hexies on the “correct” orientation, so I just followed the directions as-written and embraced the mirror image aspect. Apart from cables or colorwork (which I haven’t tried yet), I don’t have trouble knitting as a leftie, and even then it’s just a matter of either switching the cable orientation or reading a chart from left to right. But it’s something Iย doย have to think about sometimes!

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Close-up honeycomb action!

There you have it: another successful sweater project!ย I finished this back in April and thanks to Ohio’s notoriously changeable spring weather, I’ve gotten to wear it twice. I have to go out of town in July, and will definitely be packing one of my knitted sweaters to wear on my flight–which one will all depend on my outfit of choice on departure day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

How about some outtakes, .gifs, and Mulder cameos for reading this far? You’ve earned them!

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“Bright idea: knit a fingering weight garter stitch sweater!”

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I have a good feeling about this jump…

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…nevermind.

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Apathetic windmill

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Come on, you know this is funny.

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“Mom, this is boring. I’m bored.”

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“Get that f@cking camera out of my face!!!!!!!!” (Just kidding, although he was being a dork that day.)

That’ll do it for me today, but watch this space for sewing projects SOON! โค

 

 

 

Adventures in Pattern Testing feat. Work Horse Patterns Ione

Hello out there! It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’ll be very honest and say that it’s been a rough few months mentally; I had a good run with managing my depression, but it’s really been a struggle recently. I’m okay(ish), just utterly out of energy and motivation for…everything. I’ve barely done any sewing since December! But I’m hoping I’ll come out the other side soon and be back to sewing and posting regularly.

In the meantime, here’s a post I had written wayyyyyy back about a pattern I tested.

(WARNING: post contains a .gif)

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Today I have a tester version of a pattern to share with you all, and from a new pattern company at that!

After my first testing experience was so positive, I applied for a few more calls in the months that followed. I was delighted when Becky added me to her tester pool for her first pattern, the Ione Shirt. Full disclosure: I cannot for the life of me remember if Becky posted a brief description of the pattern in the call for testers. All I know is I was up for it and sent in my stats, and was accepted!

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Ione!

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Better view of the high-low hem

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Back

So what did I think of the pattern? Well…

  1. It invites pattern play.ย I am a sucker for designs that make it intuitive to play with directional designs like stripes and plaids, so the cuffs and yoke had me like โค โค .
  2. However, itย does require a patterned or other interesting fabric for best results IMO.ย I will be honest: I was afraid to make this in a plain fabric because I was worried it would look like I was wearing a sexy scrub top. O_o
  3. The shape of the hem is very well executed.ย High-low hems aren’t anything we haven’t seen (and honestly, unless they’re vented, they aren’t normally something I go for), but I really like the shape of this one with the cropped length. The curve of the front is very pretty and I love how it looks with my high-waisted trousers! It looks well-designed and intentional.
  4. Clean neckline finish. THERE IS NO BIAS TAPE FINISH ON THE NECKLINE THANK YOU JAYSUS. This is a pet-hate of mine, because unless finished invisibly (aka by hand), I think it tends to look cheap and/or homemade-in-a-bad-way. (And I say that as someone who once-upon-a-time used that finish. Time makes fools of us all!) Plus you also tend to see that telltale upward bend at the bias tape from there being layers of fabric folded together and possibly distorted or stretched during application.
  5. Clean, professional treatment of the yokes.ย Relatedly, the finishing of the yokes and neck opening is awesomely clean and professional-looking.
  6. I am unsure of the proportions of the yoke on my body.ย I am not 100% keen on where the yoke stops on me, personally; it ends just about at the top edge of my bra cups and I vacillate between being fine with it and finding it unbecoming.
  7. The size range!! The Ione pattern comes in sizes 0-32, which the size chart equates to a bust ranging from 32″ to 57.5″.
  8. Approachable project that’s highly wearable. It is a very approachable sew, especially for people who are beyond the Beginner level. Once you get past the neck opening, it’s so quick. And the resulting top has been a great fit for my wardrobe from Spring to Fall, so it proved to be a good use of a small amount of precious sewing time.
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My favorite way to wear this top so far!

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Ah yes, another #jumpfail

Honestly, the only bad part about this project was my fabric, which was not only guilty of perpetual show-through of the black stripes but was also rather uncooperative with my machine! The stitches were really tight and were causing puckers in the fabric. Since I made this amidst the chaos of house stuff last year, I didn’t have all of my supplies back in my sewing area yet–sewing machine needles included. So rather than attempt a needle change to solve the tension issues, I lowered the needle tension on my machine from “Auto” to 2. This is quite low, but it did the trick. I would like to see what happens with “Auto” tension and a smaller needle though!

Related to this, I should note that I used a different fabric for my yoke linings–a cotton batiste. I used the same material to make bias tape for hemming also. As it was, I had to trim all the black yarn out of my seam allowances wherever I could–it showed through horribly and ruined the look of the top. Using it for the inner yokes would have been a disaster! And while my hatred of bias tape is now a known thing, the hem finish ended up being a two-fold problem for me. For one thing, despite knowing my body is long up top even on Named patterns, I didn’t add any length to this top at the given lines. (WHP are based on a 5’8″ draft height, FYI.) This was dumb and I knew it was dumb, but did it anyway. #lazy So when it came time to hem, I needed to take less than the given 1 1/2″. On top of that, I could not abide the shadow of the black stripes all around the hem. My solution was to make bias strips out of the plain white batiste and take about 1/2″ for the hem in total.

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Patchwork innards

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Bias hem

For those of you who have been around here for a while, you may recognize this fabric from this 2013 project. (I KNOW, WHAT?!? IT WAS LIKE MY SECOND FINISHED PROJECT EVERRRRRR.) Total throwback. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And yes, this means that Past Mads held on to nearly 2 yards of this material for 5 years “just in case” and actuallyย did end up using it. I have enough left for an Ogden cami after this top, so that’s probably going to happen. (The first blouse I made with this fabric has since been donated because I didn’t wear it anymore.)

I did make a couple of regrettable-in-hindsight mistakes with this top, namely centering the outer yoke CF and CB folds on a stripe instead of the actual center of the fabric’s repeat. O_o But the yoke stripes match across the shoulder seams, so it’s not a total loss. I also wish I had considered the placement of the stripes on the cuff pieces better; they’re identical to each other, but don’t match with the horizontal stripes of the lower bodice pieces AT ALL because I didn’t think to check that. Derp.

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Poor choice of pattern placement by yours truly…

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At least my shoulder matching is on point!

If you are intrigued by this pattern, you should know that Becky made a few adjustments after receiving tester feedback: she has added 2 additional neckline shapes as well as a few other tweaks. She’s also hard at work on some hacks for the Ione, so keep an eye out for those too!

And I couldn’t leave you all .gif-less now could I?

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Bouncing Ione

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So that’s my Ione! I hope I’ll be back again soon to share new projects, plans, etc. because I miss blogging so much! But you know, it’s hard to blog about sewing when you haven’t really been sewing, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

2018 Top 5 – Hits, Misses, and Highlights

It is that magical time again: Top 5 season! I had hoped to have this post (and the next one) done before the end of the year, but you can see how well that worked out! #sorrynotsorry But better late than never!

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If you’ve been with me a while, you’ll know I look forward to this every year, as it’s a great opportunity to look back on my past year of sewing and see how my naive set-last-year goals materialized (or didn’t) and evaluate how valuable all my projects really were. And I love a good navel-gazing postmortem on my year, if I’m honest. ๐Ÿ˜‰ As per usual, I will do 2 posts instead of 5 for this, since I find they group together well this way. But first,ย SEWING STATS!

In 2017, I managed to sew a whopping (for me)ย 31 things. One of my goals for 2018 was to meet or surpass that; if I count every single garment I made, I did it! 2018’s grand total was 39–a 25% increase over last year. (It would be 40 if I counted my hand-knitted sweater, but I’m keeping this count sewing-only.)

2018 Sewing Projects

(Sorry the chart is tiny–it won’t get any bigger for some reason!)

Categories are:

Tops – Medium Blue (7)
Skirts – Orange (1)
Pants – Gray (6)
Dresses – Yellow (7)
Layers – Light Blue (5)
Costume – Green (2)
Friends & Family (F&F) – Dark Blue (11)

That’s a pretty good mix of things! Obviously the F&F category was by far my biggest single category last year, and I was a little surprised when I tallied that up. None of those 11 items have been blogged, though. 4 of those items were adaptive shirts for a friend I love as she dealt with treatment for and recovery from a serious illness, 1 was a Driftless cardigan for that same badass friend, and the other 6 are for my main squeeze-slash-personal paparazzi, Tom. His were all those baseball t-shirts that I’ve made him before–he knows what he likes! I don’t have photos of the specialized tops or gifted Driftless of course, so you’ll just have to take my word on those! Neither do I have photos of Tom’s finished t-shirts all together, but here are the photos I do have of them:

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#1 of 6, before thread trimming and a final pressing…

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These eventually became full-fledged t-shirts

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The very shitty but very helpful diagram I made to help me remember what pieces to cut from which colors…

I’m proud to report that, apart from periods of extreme temperatures, these t-shirts get worn all the time! (And are still complimented frequently by his friends and co-workers, which blows my mind.)

The category with the most growth over 2017 was Dresses, and Tops had the biggest decrease in count YOY. I did fail to blog a few tops, and one of those I still can’t show you because it was a pattern test and it is unreleased as of this writing. I CAN NOW POST THAT BLOG BECAUSE TODAY IS ACTUALLY RELEASE DAY!!! So look out for that!

You’ll note 2 more new categories for last year: Costume and Layers. Costume is exactly what it sounds like, and Layers are things like cardigans. You saw one costume piece in thisย recent post, and the other was something I made to sell so I have no photos of that one for you. Once again, I failed to blog 4 of my 5 Layers pieces, but here they are along with the aforementioned unblogged tops:

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McCall 7471

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4 Driftless Cardigans

Overall I was pleasantly surprised to see a mostly even distribution of my output in 2018 (sorry, skirts! I swear I love you). Now that we’ve done the stats, here are my Top 5 Hits:

Top 5 Hits

  1. Lander Pants
  2. Ariana Dresses
  3. Otari Hoodie
  4. Tamara Top
  5. Heather Dress

The Landers were far and away my biggest wardrobe Hit last year–I wore them so much!! I am planning a few more pairs for 2019 also. My Ariana dresses and Otari hoodie were straight-up staples also, and the Otari has the added bonus of being my first-ever pattern test. The Tamara is perfect for wearing with jeans on in-between days during Spring and Fall (and I feel very cute in it), and the Heather dress is perfect winter garb on days where I want toย look a little nicer but still be comfortable. I already made that pattern again (something about January makes me realize I need Heathers, apparently) and I’m probably not done with this pattern yet! โค

Now, unlike 2017, I don’t have any outright FAILS for last year–yay! But I will choose my least-successful projects and rank them, because why not?

Top 5 4 Misses

  1. Jailbird Hudson Pants (unblogged)
  2. Gray Driftless Cardigan (unblogged)
  3. Adaptive T-Shirt Mk. II (unblogged)
  4. Obnoxious Yellow & Navy Hemlock
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The aforementioned Hudson pants and Hemlock tee serving their purpose

First of all, let me just say that all of the above items were worn multiple times. The first two are failures of fabrication: the Hudson pants were made from a fabric with no vertical stretch, so they’re not the most comfortable things to wear; the gray fabric of the cardigan has NO recovery and I swear to The Almighty Bobs that it is not long for this world.

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OBEY THE BOBS!!!

As for the adaptive t-shirt, there was one version that just did NOT want to get snaps installed in it–literal holes were torn in this knit top in the struggle with the snaps, and even then there were still pokey edges in a few places. I felt like a very lousy friend handing that one over (“Hey, sorry about your health crisis but maybe stabbing yourself with snap prongs will help you forget about it, urwelcomekthanxbai!”), but having only made 4 total tops I figured it was better to hand it over than not. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Bless my friend, she wore it anyway and still speaks to me. #itsamiracle And the Hemlock, while perfectly wearable, is just not something I like wearing in public between the shape and the color; it has been demoted to sleepwear, which is a pretty good outcome actually.

With the business out of the way, let’s move on to Highlights!

Top 5 Highlights

  1. Personal Knitting Triumphs – In 2018, I tackled cables and made my first sweater! I also met my personal goal of completing at least 13 knitting projects last year, which is very exciting. I actually surpassed that goal also, getting to 15 finished projects. Spoiler: they were mostly socks. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  2. MOAR REMODELING!!!!! – This is barely less exciting for me than my knitting, people: we got so much work done! I am hoping to do a separate post to show you everything eventually but for now, here is a list of what we did: refinished the upstairs floors, replaced the front and rear entry doors, totally revamped the landscaping out front, replaced the porch roof, and replaced the kitchen ceiling. And as a small-but-mighty bonus, we also had our guest room painted (a mere 7 years after moving in…yikes). Whew! The floors are the most staggering achievement, simply because they offer the biggest transformation IMO. (The landscaping is a very close 2nd there.) Plus it’s a great feeling as a lover of old houses to be able to restore something to its former glory after decades of wear and abuse. I can’t wait to show you everything!!
  3. Abbey 1, Student Loans 0 – I PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOANS LAST YEARRRRRRR. For real, I don’t like parties but this made meย almost want to throw one. I was able to pay them off early (by like, 8 and 11 months respectively, but still) and it still feels weird not to have to pay them every month. Full disclosure: I was one of the lucky ones. I had very little student debt to begin with compared to my peers (being a nerd can literally pay), and was some-crazy-how able to land a good job right out of college at the start of The Great Recession and remain gainfully employed full-time in the years since. Having said that, I reserve the right to party my metaphorical n*ts off over this achievement!
  4. Tales From The Crypt Redux – I mentioned this in a previous post, but I was honored to take part in this event again, and not as an emergency understudy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ This time, my “character” was a talented 23-year-oldย  young lady who took part in Ziegfeld productions on Broadway during the Roaring 20s. It was a privilege to tell our guests about her (albeit a hard thing to do, since this is a mausoleum). I hope I did her some justice, if not in looks (she won many beauty contests…this is not my reality LOL!) then in showing her bubbly personality and love of her work and life. Eerily, this young lady very nearly got cast as Ramon Novarro’s leading lady in a movie (she was too tall for him!), and our production was mere days before the 50th anniversary ofย his death. Spooky!
  5. Family – I know, I hit this one every year! But last year was a big one: Tom and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. โค We also still have all three fluffy kids, which with Tycho’s age and medical history is never a guarantee. (He’s crankier than ever ๐Ÿ˜‰ , and 2018 was also his 10th “Adoptiversary” and that was a wonderful milestone.) 2018 brought many challenges for us, from Tom’s job uncertainty to some private family issues that I won’t get into here; I’m glad that we’ve been there for each other and can laugh together, like andย love each other, play MarioKart, and talk shit about people who deserve it together! ๐Ÿ˜‰
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Big ugly sweater!!

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My first-ever cabled project on its very satisfied owner!

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That’s right: I made cowls for my sister’s bassets. I’mย that knitter, apparently.

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This isn’t even all the socks I knit last year–2 pairs aren’t photographed!! xD

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Remodeling sneaky-peek; this is definitely a “Before” photo!

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Fffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccckkkkkk YESSSSSSSSS

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Fancy lady

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Familyyyyyy

Well, that does it for my first Top 5 post for 2018! I’ll be back soon with my Reflections and Goals post, just as soon as I finish writing it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

 

A Fancy-Schmancy Blue Velvet Dress

I’m back! Already! Miss me? ๐Ÿ˜‰

I love this time of year for “fancy dress season” reasons. As you may have guessed, I kept my tradition going and made yet another fancy thing for my office holiday party. Yay!

This year I went a somewhat stereotypical “holiday dress” route: velvet. Much like florals for spring, it’s hardly groundbreaking. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I also decided early on to jump into Linda’s Designin’ December challenge once again, as I found an amazing inspiration dress a few years ago and couldn’t get it out of my head.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Image property of Linda @ Nice Dress! Thanks, I made it!!

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Here’s my inspiration dress, which was part of Elie Saab’s Fall 2014 RTW collection:

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Photo property of Vogue and/or their credited photographer(s)

Like I said, I first saw this a couple of years ago and it’s been in my head ever since! I knew I didn’t want to copy the exact style of the original dress, but 100% loved the draping, the color of the velvet, and the ombre effect. I found my dark teal poly/lycra stretch velvet at Fashion Fabrics Club and planned to dye the dress from the hem to the waist in a navy ombre; however, I couldn’t get the velvet to take the dye I bought (which was for synthetics). ๐Ÿ˜ฆ While I’m happy enough with the dress in one color, I definitely would have preferred it with the gradient effect that I envisioned!

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Full-length shot

The pattern I (mostly) used is Burda 05/2012 #133. (Julia Bobbinย also made this pattern and she looked fierce!) I did make some changes, as follows:

  1. Adjusted the neckline: The pattern photos on Burda’s site are somewhat deceptive, as my mock-up per the pattern didn’t drop the back neckline as low as theirs. Then again, I kept my material on the straight grain rather than bias for the stretch factor. Anyway, I was determined to drop the back much lower. But after reworking the back bodice and starting from scratch using my moulage, it just wasn’t coming out how I envisioned. (To get the effect I was after, I’d most likely need to drape the dress onto a form.) In a last-ditch effort to get something with a little more “oomph” than the original design, I added an additional cowl extension to the Burda bodice that originated at the outermost edge of the shoulder; this dropped the shoulders to the off-the-shoulder position you see in these photos as well as added some additional “swag” draping to the back.
  2. Redesigned the shape of the bodice: The pattern bodice has a blouson effect, but I wanted things to be snug. (Not least of all because it would help the bodice stay up without the shoulders for support.) In the end I still could have taken a bit more out, but I had re-sewn it a few times (and had unpicked the waist once–that was not happening again!) and decided it was good enough. Plus I still had to be able to get into it with no zipper!!
  3. Redesigned the skirt: tiny pleats, in velvet, over my stomach? No thank you! Instead, I used the skirt pieces but eliminated the pleats and darts, and simply took the waist in until it was tight enough. I also lengthened the skirt to a midi (it’s now 34″ long, I think?) and added high splits to the sides. Originally I wasn’t sure about that last part, but when the back wasn’t dropping as low as I wanted they became necessary for some sex appeal.
  4. Omitted the zipper: Apart from being unnecessary with the stretch velvet, I wasn’t about the wrangleย thatย sewing task on top of everything else! Just thinking about putting a zipper in this fabric gives me the willies…
  5. Omitted the ribbons: Even if I had kept the shoulders of the original design, I wasn’t about the have ribbons flapping around. Ick.
  6. Omitted the lining: Originally this was not my plan. But because I wanted the bodice tight and had zero-to-negative ease at the waist and no zipper, my lining fabric (silk jersey!!) wouldn’t have lent itself well to that choice. Self-lining was right out, because this fabric gets thick. So no lining.
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The best shot of the back I have–it wouldn’t cooperate so well on “official photo” day!

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The best available setting at the party…womp womp.

There’s clear elastic in the waist seam to help stabilize it. The bodice is still a bit long, due to the vertical stretch and weight/length of the skirt though. But doing that did help a lot! The hem and side splits are all hand-sewn, since visible stitching felt too casual for this dress.

The more eagle-eyed among you probably noticed an issue with the dress in the above full-length photos…I crushed the pile along the hem. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I used a towel under the fabric when pressing, but it didn’t prevent tell-tale iron-shaped spots allllllllll along the hem. (Interestingly, I don’t appear to have done any damage with my first pass, in which the iron was laid parallel to the hem rather than perpendicular.) I was gutted when I noticed this, as you might imagine. I tried every available trick to un-crush the pile but nothing helped (just as the internet warned). The only good thing about this disaster is that it’s on the very bottom of the dress, which I doubt anyone paid as much attention to as the top! #smallmiracles O_o

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So that’s 2018’s holiday dress sorted! It wasn’t quite what I imagined but that happens, doesn’t it? I haven’t even started plotting for next year’s dress–who knows what I’ll end up with!

This ended up being my last project of 2018, so my next post will be a Top 5 post (Hits, Misses, and Highlights). See you there!

Special thanks to Linda for coordinating and hosting Designin’ December once again–it’s a pleasure to share alongside so many creative and inspiring pieces in that sewalong. โค

A Triumphant(ish) Return!

Hellooooooooooo! Is anyone still out there? ๐Ÿ™‚

After a serious lack of sewing mojo (and opportunity), I finally started sewing for Fall/Winter in November. O_o I also managed to sneak in a very minor costume project back in October, which I will also show you today.

I have missed blogging so much! (And sewing, for that matter.) This was a weird year: in February we found out that Tom would be without a job come November, which was highly stressful to say the least. (This was not helped by the extra-long timeline and a severance worth waiting for at the end of it.) Seriously folks, my hair started thinning and graying during that time because of how stressed out I was about it. I didn’t mention it here because I had no way of knowing how it would work out, and it didn’t seem appropriate to air it and have it hanging over not just my IRL life, but my blog and sewing life as well.

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Bonus cat-in-an-inappropriate-place photo

Happily, I can report that Tom not only found a better jobย before his end date, but that he still managed to get his severance out of the old place. Yay!!!!ย But between that whole thing and undertaking several remodeling projects in the Fall–smoke ’em if you got ’em, amirite?–I spent most of the year stressed out, fluttering between self-distracting productivity and creative paralysis (the kind with TONS of ideas but not the will to execute them). ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The real death blow for my sewing came in July/August when we had an appraisal done on the house and I had to tear down my sewing space. This was immediately followed by having our upstairs floors refinished, so all my sewing stuff in the attic got buried by a floor’s worth of furniture and clutter that we still haven’t fully put back to rights. And at that point, Tom did not have the new job lined up yet. Say it with me: UGHHHHHH. (Double UGHHHHHH for clinical depression and anxiety on top of all of this, which made everything that much worse.) I still haven’t got my supplies sorted out, but I’ve been able to sew a few things and am slowly relaxing and getting inspired again after being totally wound up for months on end.

So that’s been my last few months. But now we can get back to THE SEWING!!!

First up: a Talvikki sweater!

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Oof, that face! O_o

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The important view of this pattern

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Artsy photo

This was a much-needed “win” project after months of limited sewing time and scarce inspiration. I love the fabric/pattern combo, and think it will be great dressed up or down through Winter!

The fabric is a scuba from Marcy Tilton, and I love it. I hardly ever shop there (it’s an issue of the selection not being totally up my alley and the prices, both for fabric AND shipping) but I’m glad I treated myself to this piece. Initially I thought I’d make a skirt but I have to acknowledge that knit skirts just aren’t my jam. I had *just* enough yardage to get this top cut out–and I meanย just. It was worth the tetris.

And now for something unlike anything I usually trouble you with around here: a costume piece!

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Yes, I took outdoor photos of this thing *in December* for you all. You’re welcome.

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The back is the best bit, of course.

This is underwear. 1920s-30s underwear, to be exact. (And yes, those are vintage shoes ca. 1930s also–I love them.) The pattern is Depew Patterns #2029 and I very highly recommend it. I didn’t really follow the directions for sewing it but everything went together beautifully. Really, it’s a relatively easy project if you fancy some old-fashioned (and complicated-in-the-bathroom, since it doesn’t have a snap crotch) undergarments!

You might be wondering why I’d go to the trouble of making costume underwear, especially since I own extant undergarments from this exact time period (that DO have snap crotches). Well…I had an event!

I mentioned it in my Top 5 post for last year, but this event is called “Tales from the Crypt.” It’s held at Green Lawn Abbey and this year, I was honored to be asked to help with the event as an actor once again. (And not as an understudy, yay!) Since the researcher who did most of the work on my “character” and I had more time to talk about a staging setup, we had quite a developed idea going into the event. (Which was definitely mostly his idea!) He was going for a boudoir-like setting: a vanity table, mirror and brush set, and me in a dressing gown surrounded by playbills. (My “character” was a Ziegfeld Follies girl!) I was game, but didn’t want to wear my extant undergarments because they’re ivory and slightly sheer. My skin is also ivory and slightly sheer–not a good mix. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And while awe-inspiring, the setting–a mausoleum ca. 1927 whose interior is white marble, at night, lit mainly by candlelight and gas lamps–didn’t really lend itself to my pasty skin in pasty lingerie standing out against the white background. So I decided to make something!

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Green Lawn Abbey; photo is property of Green Lawn Abbey Preservation Association

The teddy fabric is polyester charmeuse but the color is good for the era, and making it myself allowed me to line the entire bodice for added opacity. (No bra was going to work with that back!) I was also planning to make a kimono-inspired robe from Depew Patterns #3039 (also from 1927–how freaky is that?!?) but I picked a brocade that ended up being way too heavy for the shape of the design. I got it most of the way made and tried it on, and thought it looked like an appropriative wizard’s robe. (The fabric had a general Asian motif, since that was very popular in the 1910s and 1920s.) O_o So I scrapped that and decided I would wear my own extant vintage robe, which is a striking lapis blue color dating to the 1940s. The style is very much kimono-inspired, and could pass for something earlier.

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As close the The Charleston as I’m going to get…

And then on the day, the weather was COLD. Like, mid-40s and raining. And this building isn’t heated. The event lasts for multiple hours, and consists of 4 separate monologues for each actor on opening night. So in an effort to protect my health* I opted for a true vintage dress in the end. But I did wear my teddy underneath it! I was very nervous, and wearing something I made always makes me feel more confident in any situation. ๐Ÿ˜€

*Yeah yeah, I know that the temperature doesn’t make people sick. However, exposure can lower your body’s ability to fend off invading pathogens; since my lungs are vulnerable to infections already, this was not a risk I was willing to take.

Here are some photos from the event, courtesy of my resident paparazzi husband Tom, who was “voluntold” to take photos of the 2nd show that weekend. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Fancy lady

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You can see Sylvia, my “character,” in the background photo

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Artful makeup application

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Playbills for actual productions Sylvia was in!

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Our intrepid cast this year!

So that’s a lot of words about non-sewing stuff, far fewer about a cool sweater, and probably too many about a silly costume piece made out of polyester. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m looking forward to sharing my (likely) final project for 2018 shortly, as well as doing my Top 5 posts for this year. I’ve been pretty absent from this blog lately, and I’ve had a hard time keeping up with my friends, both in real-life and online. Here’s hoping 2019 is a more active year in all those respects!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again soon!