In Which The Blogger Takes A Flying Leap…

Out of her comfort zone, that is.

This post will be really long (mostly because it covers two weeks worth of progress–I am behind!), and I’m going to start out a little differently from my normal style. I don’t usually get all introspective on you; not because I don’t have Deep Thoughts, but because I’m usually just too excited to share whatever it is I’m sharing to get too serious. :-) So if Introspective Mads doesn’t do it for you (and that’s okay!), feel free to scroll down a bit and wait for the pictures to start! (TL;DR, I’m taking a pattern making workshop and it’s been very interesting and fun and confidence-smashing and fun again!) Without further ado…

*cue Deep Thoughts*

I enjoy learning. For me, learning is pretty much a desirable end in and of itself–I just like to know things about stuff (because I haz a smrt), and generally speaking, the more things I can learn about, the better! On the other hand, I consider myself a relatively cautious person; I tend to be risk-averse and enjoy having a solid routine. While I’m willing to try new things when I feel like it (for example, learning to sew!), I don’t really enjoy being prompted or “encouraged” to do things without first being interested on my own. My introverted nature does not help matters; I tend to stick to indoor nerd-ery and can become isolated. But sometimes, with the right encouragement or inspiration, I can be coaxed out of my little bubble and into the wide and wild world of opportunity. This time, the new thing is a workshop on pattern drafting and fitting, and the encouragement came from a new friend.

I became acquainted with Paula DeGrand quite by accident: I cannot remember how I found her blog, Getting Things Sewn, but once I did, I immediately subscribed and eagerly read every subsequent post, even feeling brave enough to comment from time to time. (This is one part of the online sewing community that I struggle with: I always feel like I want to comment, and sometimes I even type out a response, and then I chicken out and delete everything because these people don’t GAF what I think and also I’m an idiot anyway.) We also interacted a bit on Pattern Review, which is how I learned that she and I would very soon be residents of the same metro area! This winter, we were finally able to meet up in person and I am happy to report that she is just as intriguing and delightful in real life as she seems on her blog.

Prior to our in-person meeting, Paula had blogged about a workshop she was taking here in Columbus–a pattern making workshop! The instructor was Nina Bagley, a very experienced and talented patternmaker with decades of experience in the fashion industry. Unfortunately for me, the workshop–focused on pants, of all things!–had already started when I learned of it, and I immediately emailed the Cultural Arts Center to inquire about any future workshops like that one. While I did receive a nice but not-terribly-informative response (equivalent to, “Thanks for your interest. As to future workshops, we don’t know…we’re trees.”), the real insider info came to me from Paula, who alerted me to the opening of registration for the next workshop; this one would be focusing on coats and capes. Guys, I got the very. last. spot. in that workshop, and I squealed and bounced around with glee.

Now you may be thinking, “But Mads, you’ve never shown even the slightest interest in (or, let’s be honest, aptitude for) pattern drafting or expert fitting! Why would you think this workshop is a good idea?” And that’s totally a fair question. I’m still quite a beginner, and I’ve never made a coat or a cape or a jacket, and I assumed I’d probably be the least-competent person in the entire workshop group. But I got excited about this for several reasons: 1) Paula’s enthusiasm is contagious, 2) $100 is a bargain-basement price for a 5-week (1 evening per week for 3 hours) local workshop with a small class size taught by someone who has worked successfully in the fashion industry for many years, 3) I want to learn everything I can about sewing, garment construction, fitting, patterns, drafting, and design in order to make better things for myself and anyone else I choose to sew for, and 4) What better way to learn than from an expert, surrounded by enthusiastic people who are better than me at our shared craft? (And also 5) I’ve had that damn 1920’s pre-teen coat pattern in my mental “Gotta Sew This” queue since I bought it, and I knew this was a great chance to be successful with making it fit and look good.) So there you have it: Mads, out of her comfort zone, becomes Mads, the pattern workshop student. Back to you, Irreverent Whippersnapper Mads!


My first week of class got off to a terrible start. Like a boss, I left home 30 minutes before the scheduled start time–more than adequate to get to where I should have been going. (Uh-oh…) My directions had me get on the freeway, which should have been my first clue not to trust them, since this was a freaking 10 minute trip. Those same directions resulted in me getting off the freeway where I was told, only to find myself utterly lost in an unfamiliar (and none too nice) part of the city, nowhere near my destination. As if that wasn’t awful enough, my so-called smart phone decided that it wasn’t about to allow me to access Maps or the navigation functionality. And my GPS is buried in the house somewhere, which obviously meant it was not in my car to help me. Cue the panic attack! (No, I don’t have a generalized anxiety thing: I do have a few actual phobias that trigger these things, and a handful of other things can set me off too. Like being lost in an unfamiliar area, by myself, with no navigation assistance, especially if I’m on a timeline. Womp womp.) So to recap, I was lost in a part of town that I’d never seen before and which felt decidedly dodgy, and on top of that, I was crying and couldn’t breathe and was, as the kids say, freaking my shit. Time to call for backup!

Tom was nearly home when I reached him. I was absolutely frantic and he was trying his best to calm me down. (I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced a panic attack, but mine certainly do not respond to people telling me to calm down!) He finally got home and had the unpleasant task of trying to give me directions from a random intersection in Columbus to a place I only knew the name of, as opposed to the actual address; I couldn’t even tell him which direction I was facing, since my car lacks a compass and I had no frame of reference via familiar streets or landmarks. Tom got me to my destination, finally. Remember how I said I’d left 30 minutes before the start time? When I finally arrived, I was 10 minutes late to class. 10. Minutes. Late. This drive should have taken 15 minutes tops. And then I had to pay for a parking meter and try to find my classroom in a new-to-me building. On top of that, it was very, very obvious that I had been crying, which was *exactly* the kind of first impression I wanted to make on a room full of strangers, one of whom is widely respected and recognized in her profession and was, for all intents and purposes, in charge of me for the next three hours. After that whole ordeal, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be there anymore!

When I walked in, I saw a huddle of people off in one corner of the room; they were all looking at something together (which turned out to be Paula’s project). I happened to walk in with another class member, so I felt a little less awkward about being late. Nobody batted an eye! After brief introductions, we got right down to business: Nina pulled and tucked and wiggled Paula’s coat, noting what adjustments she felt were needed and why. It was incredibly educational. All of us were allowed to weigh in as well, which felt strange at first but became natural by the end of our 3 hours together. (Or in my case, 2 hours and 50 minutes!) After Paula’s pattern had been cut, slashed, taped, and cut some more, Nina looked at me and asked if I had a pattern in mind. “Yes,” I said timidly. “Do you have it with you?” *RESIST THE URGE TO ROLL EYES!* “Yes.” “Well go get it and we’ll have a look!” This was the moment I’d been dreading since I realized what kind of format the class was in after about 5 minutes. It felt like those nightmares where you show up to class and the teacher announces that today, there will be a test on the socio-economic impacts of de-colonization on the African continent and you’re all, “WTF? I thought this was math class!?!” And also you’re in your underwear.

I walked back toward the group, clutching the traced-off pieces of my coat back, front, and sleeve. Being a genius (heh), I didn’t bring the actual pattern envelope with me, so Nina was sort of working blind in terms of imagining the look of the finished coat. I described it the best I could. She seemed pleased with the way the pieces worked together, but remarked that it looked “small, like for a child.” She was relieved when I clarified that it was for a child! My homework was to make a muslin of the coat body as-is and bring it back the following week. I left class that night feeling pretty good about my project and getting it to fit.

Back at The “Mads” House, I dutifully made my muslin. Nina and I had identified one sure-fire issue–a need for more length from shoulder to bust–and I was eager to see what we’d do to fix it. I packed all my stuff:

Fancy-pants bag, ready for class!

Fancy-pants bag, ready for class!

Stuffed with, er, stuff.

Stuffed with, er, stuff.

Made sure this made the trip, too--no more working blind!

Made sure this made the trip, too–no more working blind!

I made a timely arrival this week, and was really fired up to hack my muslin apart. Unfortunately for me, my rogue decision to set in one sleeve was a bad one, and Nina needed me to rip it out before we could do anything else. It somewhat helped her evaluate the fit visually, but we needed to mess with the body before we could worry about the sleeve. Feeling foolish, I went back to my seat and started tearing at things. I plodded back up front and Nina made some cuts into the front of the coat. And then she pointed out something that was terribly embarrassing: I’d cut the front piece off-grain. Badly. *sigh* Guess who is tearing their muslin to adjust the grainline before making up the next version? —–>This kid. Between that stupid mistake and my utter inability to fully wrap my head around the drafting stuff we were shown that night (different collar types–very interesting!), I left class last week feeling like I don’t have the skills or smarts necessary to do a good job on this project. I’m trying to remind myself that I’m there to learn and that if I keep working at it, I’ll get there! Besides, understanding flat pattern drafting takes time, since you have to think about things from both the 2-D and 3-D perspectives; that’s not something I really do at the moment! Would you like to see the state of my own personal Frankenstein’s Monster Coat Pattern?

Yep, that's masking tape. We created headroom for my t*ts out of masking tape. O_o

Yep, that’s masking tape. We created headroom for my t*ts out of masking tape. O_o

New shoulder line!

New shoulder line!

Original tracing on the right, Frankenmuslin on the left. Check out those neckline and armhole differences!!

Original tracing on the right, Frankenmuslin on the left. Check out those neckline and armhole differences!!

I didn’t realize that masking tape was so versatile, did you? We added some length from shoulder to bust (“headroom for my t*ts”) and scooped out the armhole. At my request, we also scooped out the front neckline–it was making me claustrophobic! The back neckline was lowered by Nina as well. She was sweet enough to clean up the lines around the neck and armhole for me and tape it all up. I also had to take a wedge out at the armhole and taper out to nothing down the side seam. Obviously my homework was to use this muslin as my new pattern and see how the changes helped with the fit; Nina will then assist me with adjusting the sleeve piece when we have class this week. My gut tells me that will result in a pretty extreme makeover for the sleeve, but I know I’m in good hands! Here is Pre-Teen Coat Muslin 2.0:

New, on-grain muslin!

New, on-grain muslin!

Trying on the new version over a hefty fleece shirt

Trying on the new version over a hefty fleece shirt

Awkward side-view selfie!

Awkward side-view selfie!

I’m mostly happy with how this is coming along. My main concerns are making sure that I’ll have enough room to wear bulky sweaters AND interline and line this thing, and that the side seams tilt to the back of the coat (which gets worse the closer to the hem you look) and I can’t tell if it’s a fit problem or due to the volume being concentrated in the front pieces vs. the back. Fastening the coat resolves that issue, so ????????????

I ordered a second, higher-quality wool for this coat than what I planned to use originally. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m still using the green and cream material for a first version.) I have a few reasons for this. First, the stuff I have is of a looser weave than I realized, and I want this sucker to be WARM, especially if the Polar Vortex insists on becoming an annual occurrence here in Ohio. Second, I’m not sure I’ll have enough of the green and cream fabric to do the attached cape, and I want a version of this coat with that damn cape, or there will be tears and violence. Third, this happened:

Yep, that's a hole.

Yep, that’s a hole.

Because I am so smart and so awesome, I decided that I could just tug this yardage out of the bin where it sleeps; naturally, it sleeps near the very bottom because it hasn’t been pre-washed yet. I may have hulked out a bit too much, because I do not remember this huge tear being present when I packed this material up the last time. :-( It’s close to the cut end AND the selvedge, so I think I can at least get the coat itself out of this fabric. But I felt entirely justified in ordering some nicer wool coating (and interlining!) so that I can have a truly awesome, truly warm, truly cape-tastic coat one day. Behold:

This will make a fine coat and cape combo, no? =)

This will make a fine coat and cape combo, no? =)

I’ll wrap this entry up by saying that I hope it wasn’t terribly boring. I’m very excited that I’ve made a new friend (and one who is brilliant at sewing, to boot!) and I’m psyched about my workshop and hope to learn a lot. Nina is a great teacher, and my fellow students are very kind, enthusiastic, and talented. I’ll share updates each week, hopefully! (And my pants are still on the docket, so check back for progress there, too!)


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February* FO Trio Post (aka Shield Your Eyes)

*Okay, so one item here was made in December. Whatever.

Hello again!

Hopefully all of you are enjoying the last gasps of the weekend; we had nicer weather the past few days, which doesn’t hurt!

I have not one, but THREE completed garments to show off today–can you believe it?!? Very exciting stuff.

Up first, the longest-finished of the three: my latest version of vintage Simplicity 1281!

New skirt, featuring Mulder

New skirt, featuring Mulder

Side view

Side view

Obligatory twirl photo, duh

Obligatory twirl photo, duh

I have very little to say about the construction of this one, since it’s my third version. It’s exactly what I wanted and is a great staple for my wardrobe. The fabric remains a PITA, but seeing the way the skirt hangs in photos helps me feel like it might be worth it. :-)

FO #2 can be (partially) seen above: the Tamara top by Style Arc!

Do not adjust your monitor: this shirt is playing games with your eyes.

Do not adjust your monitor: this shirt is playing games with your eyes.

Side view of those triangular bottom panels

Side view of those triangular bottom panels

It's like someone captured the very essence of my attitude in a single candid photo...

It’s like someone captured the very essence of my attitude in a single candid photo…

Pretty nuts, huh? I bought this fabric a few months ago when FabricMart had a big sale and had no idea what to do with it at first. Then I saw this top pattern while shopping the Style Arc Etsy shop and got the idea you now see before you. I wanted to look like a walking page out of one of those 3D picture books from 20 years ago, and give innocent bystanders headaches. Flawless Victory. Speaking of flawless, I should note that the last photo in the above series was a candid that Tom took at the very end of our session this morning. My red was getting all up in my face and so I tried to move it before he took another photo, and he chose that moment to snap a candid shot. After we saw this one, we ended the “shoot” for the day, because it was obviously not going to get any better. Ever.

Constructing the top was relatively challenging at times, due to the fabric (an ITY jersey) and those damn pointy corners. I thought I had knit interfacing but that turned out to be incorrect; I improvised with Wonder Tape and my tracing material and got what I think are really good results. I had to unpick the right one twice (!!!!!!!) until I was happy with the point. After that part was finished, the rest was pretty smooth sailing. This was my first Style Arc pattern, and I knew what I was getting into with respect to their instructions; that said, I really didn’t need any other resources to make this work, since I’ve done neckbands and have sewn knits on my machine before. I did all my hems with a lightening bolt stitch (no twin needle :-( ) and the stitching is pretty well hidden by the busyness of the print. I will get a lot of wear out of this top! (Bystanders, you have been warned!)

The third item in this post is actually a big fail. I made a really dumb mistake and that resulted in an unwearable (in public) garment. But I’ll share it, because it’s part of a concept outfit with the Tamara top above. (I know, right? Who fucking does “concept” outfits? Who am I trying to be, the The Who of sewing??) Presented for your viewing agony: the Shadi knit skirt by Named Clothing!

Yep, nice and trippy

Yep, nice and trippy (plus a scowl)

Just in case you ever wanted to know more about my ass...

Just in case you ever wanted to know more about my backside…

I got it in my head that it would be AMAZING (and hilarious) to go head-to-toe “Mod on Drugs” and make a pencil skirt out of the same checkered jersey. I knew I wouldn’t really wear them together, but having them as separates seemed like a great idea. I picked up the Shadi knit skirt pattern from Named Clothing (via Pattern Review) and got to work. Sadly, I did not notice that I was cutting the skirt with the highest % of stretch running up and down instead of horizontally. You can bet that I noticed, though, once I tried putting the goddamn thing on. At first I was baffled: I’d done everything I was supposed to do, including making the elastic smaller than my waist and stretching it to fit the top of the skirt. I even graded out from the smallest size to the one up from it on the PDF at the hips, just to be safe!! Tom laughed hysterically as he watched me struggle, which made me mad, and when I finally got it over my ass I realized I could barely walk! Ugh. And of course, there isn’t enough material to re-cut it and it’s long since sold out. *cue heaving sobs* But if I’m honest, the top is the more versatile piece and would have gotten the most wear, and it turned out pretty great, so I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience.

"Vitruvian Mads," aka my entire range of motion in this skirt

“Vitruvian Mads,” aka my entire range of motion in this skirt

But of course, I had to take photos of the two together. HAD TO, you guys. Brace yourselves, and maybe take an ibuprofen and come back to look at the next photos in 30 minutes:

The trippiest dog training photo everrrr

The trippiest dog training photo everrrr

"Come on, Mulder, dance with mommy!!"

“Come on, Mulder, dance with mommy!!”

Good boy!!

Good boy!!

So there you have it: three things, two of which will make it into regular rotation. The other might be scrapped for parts (i.e., the vintage elastic in the waistband) or just binned; the jury is still out on that one. The Shadi pattern is NOT the issue here, to be clear: my lack of ability to brain while sewing is entirely to blame. I’ll be using the pattern again, for sure. (Yes, I know I could have probably just drafted a knit pencil skirt myself, but Named has an aesthetic unlike most other pattern companies out there now and I’m happy to give them my $9USD for this and support them.) I may not make the Style Arc top again, but only because it’s such a statement top that I don’t know if I’d need another in my wardrobe, even in a saner color combination. I will be making more Style Arcs, though, obviously! Vintage Simplicity 1281 is a TNT for me, so it will undoubtedly be back again. Now that I’ve gotten this inspiration out of my brain and into meatspace, it’s on to pants for this weirdo!

Have you ever gotten a random inspiration that you had to bring to fruition right this second? Did you love the results as much as the original idea?


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Wherein The Blogger Attempts* Pants

*Disclosure: it is still to be determined whether or not any pants will actually be completed, since the ‘Mads’ house motto seems to be, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That.”

Another weekend draws to a close. They are simply too short, and I must find out where complaints about that may be registered. :-)

I have been trying to get back into sewing for the new year, and I’m pleased to say that a few things are in the works. I did manage to finish one project, but it isn’t very exciting: I re-covered my ironing board!

New cover, featuring my new sleeve board!

New cover, featuring my new sleeve board!

This undertaking was, I’m afraid, quite necessary: my old cover was GROSS and I could feel the metal diamond grid of the board itself through the thin padding, so I decided to do a little extra padding while I was at it. I need to pull the cover a little tighter, but apart from that it’s working very nicely. Threading the string through the casing was the worst part of the entire operation and took far too long! I took the opportunity to use the overlock stitch on my machine to finish the raw edge before I hemmed the cover to create the casing, and it worked very nicely. (I cleared out 2 partial bobbins with random colors of thread on them, too, which is awesome.) I also added a sleeve board to my pressing arsenal! I’m excited about that, because I know I need one to help me elevate my finished garments to a new level of quality and crispness. It’s also timely, since the next project in my queue is underway…

It's THE pants!

It’s THE pants! (This is the part where cherubs sing and play trumpets and there’s a laser light show of some sort, etc.)

Ironed pattern pieces and fashion fabric

Ironed pattern pieces and fashion fabric

I’ve been excited about this pattern ever since it fell into my lap a year ago, and I can’t wait to put it together! My butt and these pants need each other like peanut butter needs jelly. (Wait…I’m deathly allergic to peanut butter. This may be a bad omen for the project!) I’ve earmarked my Marc Jacobs (hey, I bought it, I’m going to name-drop it) bottomweight cotton for this pattern, despite the fact that the envelope says the pattern isn’t suitable for plaids. The scale is so small that matching isn’t of the utmost importance anyway, not to mention that I’m not about to take orders from a 50-year-old piece of paper!

I’ve marked on the envelope (!!!!!) to note my measurements vs those of the pattern in certain places. I’ll trace it off before making any alterations; I’m happy to cut out uncut vintage patterns (excepting my mint-in-envelope 1920’s McCall patterns) but hacking into the pieces to make alterations that may have to be re-done countless times isn’t something I’m willing to do!

As if this weren’t exciting enough, I’ve got these two things in mind as well:

Baby's first Style Arc pattern!

Baby’s first Style Arc pattern!

And a Marfy! *insert dramatic "dun-dun-dun" music here*

And a Marfy! *insert dramatic “dun-dun-dun” music here*

I’m hoping that once I complete* the skinny pants, I’ll be confident enough in no-fly pants construction techniques to tackle the Style Arc “Antoinette” pants. Something about this pattern just grabbed me and I had to have it! I plan to make them out of wool crepe–which I’ve bought in 3 colors because go hard or go home, right?–and will be attempting to add a lining to them as a result. My desire for the Marfy was triggered by seeing Poppykettle’s recent version of this blouse pattern, which is/was divine. It’s practically my perfect blouse–sleeves designed to be rolled up, attractive collar, feminine details, and suitable for a sheer or luxurious fabric. Yeah yeah, I know: no instructions or seam/hem allowances. But I’m excited and think I can probably figure it out in the muslin stages. Hooray for adventure!

Hopefully I’ll have pants progress to share soon. I haven’t cut into my muslin or traced off the pattern yet, and Saoirse has ensured that all the ironing and laying out I did yesterday are sufficiently thwarted–she’s sitting on the pieces as I type this, wrinkling and furring them all up. Life with cats, right?

What are you working on, if you sew? Trying any new or particularly adventurous projects to kick-start your new year? Do tell!

*No guarantees, people–it’s me we’re talking about here! Seeing as how this is the dreamboat pants pattern of my dreams, I’m sure it will be completed at some point. Let’s just hope this project doesn’t end up being a carried-over UFO into 2016. ;-)


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New Year, New (Vague) Goals, and New Toys (aka A Massive Pile of Word-Vomit)

WARNING: What follows here is a very wordy post with a few pictures.

Hello, and Happy New Year!!!

I hope you all had a wonderful (and safe!) New Year’s–2014 feels like it sort of flew by, doesn’t it?!? I’m very glad that the big holiday season is over and am looking forward to getting back to my normal routine starting tomorrow. These last two weeks have been draining, despite the fact that my longest work week at my normal job during that period was 3 days; I figured I’d feel well-rested after all my extra time off, but I just feel exhausted! Too much socializing, probably–your pal Mads is not a social creature.

I thought about doing a year-end round up (albeit a late one) but realized that I think I only completed 6 FO’s in 2014 and that’s not really great fodder for a recap list, is it? (All but one of my FO’s for 2014 are blogged somewhere around here…hopefully an official FO post for the last one is upcoming.) I do have some general goals for the new year ahead though, so I thought I might as well log those for posterity and my more masochistic internet acquaintances. ;-)

*ahem* GOALS AND SHIT, by Mads:

In 2015, I’d like to spend more time in my sewing space. Sewing or not, I just need to be in there working at my hobby in any way that makes a difference! I would also like to do a better job of sewing things that I need; I made things I really like in 2014, but I made none of the things I could really use. Blouses and tops are #1 on the “need” list. Pants are probably #2. Skirts are okay too, since my wardrobe is generally lacking in the separates department. In 2015, I would like to do a (much, much!!!) better job of restraining my shopping for fabric and, to a lesser extent, patterns. I have way more material than I could sew up in a year, and I need to just knock it off. I’m going to work especially hard on this particular goal; if it’s the only one I really achieve, I’ll be very happy! My final goal for 2015 is to invest in a dress form. I’m not holding out much hope for this one, but it sure would be nice!!


I do not remember what my goals for myself were for last year, apart from one: sew one garment per month. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.


That didn’t even come close to happening, and I’m okay with that. I work 7 days per week and am kind of being ground into dust by my punishing schedule (which will ease up in May, when I take an indefinite leave of absence from my vintage job in order to rest and spend more time with my family and enjoy my hobbies) so I’m not going to be hard on myself about meeting an arbitrary goal that I set in advance. I’m not really interested in setting a goal of “make X number of things in X amount of time” for 2015; I just want to spend time in my sewing area, even if all I accomplish is cleaning or organizing. Speaking of my sewing area, it’s about to get interesting in there because…

New (to me) sewing cabinet!

New (to me) sewing cabinet! Also, a Tycho.

…I got a new toy! The original machine from this cabinet–a Bernina Record 830–is not present, but that’s okay. I only wanted this piece for the storage and workspace options. The dimensions of the opening should allow me to use it with my machine without an issue. Here’s what she can do:

77" of horizontal workspace!

77″ of horizontal workspace!

Storage for feet AND thread

Storage for feet AND thread (please excuse the cat hair…)

I’m hoping that this cabinet will allow me to move permanently from the dining table in terms of my machine setup. I plan to continue working out of our dining room and to keep my cutting station on the big table, but this will free up at least 2 seats worth of space there so that we can sit down and eat if we want. (This came up during the holidays, when I had to clear off two places at the table so we could sit down and eat our fucking roast turkey breast that I spent every 15 minutes for approx. 4 hours basting!) But until I can move things around all over the house (wish I was kidding about that…), this sewing cabinet is hanging out in our living room and won’t be used just yet. The cabinet dates to about the 1980s. It’s not the greatest thing in the world or the most state-of-the-art (the machine lift is the kind that tips over as opposed to an electric straight up and down lift) but for $40, it is a great piece of starter sewing furniture.

I have other exciting sewing news, too: I just put a down-payment on a brand new machine!!!!!!! (This made me very excited and also very nauseous.)

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8200QC (image courtesy of Janome)

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8200QC (image courtesy of Janome)

After what happened with Tom’s Cooper backpack and my Magnolia, I decided it was time to start thinking about a machine upgrade. I want to be able to sew jeans, coats, more bags, and whatever the fuck else I decide I want to make and not have to worry about whether or not my machine can handle it. I initially thought I’d end up with a Pfaff (the Ambition 1.0) but decided that I wanted to give the quilt shop who donated my Magnolia as the grand prize in that raffle over a year ago a chance to get my business as a paying customer. I was absolutely awed by the Horizon Memory Craft 8200. Awed. The presser foot lifts up extra-high, the motor is much stronger than my machine’s, the harp is much bigger, and it comes equipped with many more features than I am used to having. It also has the AccuFeed system, which is the entire reason I even demo’d a Pfaff. I had planned to test the Janome 6600, but it lacks the free-arm capability that I have come to rely upon for sleeves and necklines and other such tasks, so I didn’t even sit down at that one. I vastly preferred the 8200 to the Pfaff I tried out; the price point is higher, of course, but I’m getting enough additional functionality over my current machine AND the Pfaff I considered that I know I won’t outgrow this one for a very, very long time. I also don’t have the learning curve with the 8200 that I would have had with the Pfaff, since I am used to Janome’s layout and all that jazz. After considering all those things, I cast my vote (i.e., dollars) in favor of the 8200.

I was able to get the 8200 for only 57% of MSRP, but that was still WAYYYYYYYY more than I had anticipated spending. Which is why it’s on layaway. :-D The quilt shop offers no-cost, take-as-long-as-you-fucking-want layaway, so it was a no-brainer to do it that way. I’m beyond anxious to bring that machine home (as I’m sure many of you understand) but I also need to be a good adult, so I’m doing what I can, when I can on that. And yes, I made sure the dimensions of the cabinet will accommodate the new machine! *insert happy dance here*

Next up in the “New Shit at The ‘Mads’ House” department, there’s this:

New skirt--vintage Simplicity 1281 strikes again!

New skirt–vintage Simplicity 1281 strikes again!

Handpicked lapped zip

Handpicked lapped zip + linen close-up

Apologies for the wrinkles–this linen is some of the worst fabric I’ve ever worked with but this skirt has already been worn 4 times since I finished it on xmas eve, and I haven’t pressed it after its most recent jaunt. This is the aforementioned unblogged FO from 2014, and it is most definitely worthy of its own nice-looking post, complete with unwrinkled photos. This is my third version of vintage Simplicity 1281; I took this one to mid-thigh and left off the suspenders. The material is a great weight for this pattern, but apart from probably making a Cooper bag for myself, I will not be using it for anything else regardless of how much extra yardage I have left over. It has been that much of a pain in my ass.

So there you have it: my very vague goals for 2015, and an update on what the actual fuck has been going on in these parts since my last post. I’m excited to share another year of occasional successes, shockingly frequent mishaps, and somewhat regularly scheduled programming (aka unintelligible ramblings) with all of you–thanks so much for reading this junk! <3


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Holiday Surprise Cooper – Complete!

Good evening out there!

After lots of waiting around for materials and trying to find uninterrupted time to sew, I finished Tom’s surprise gift this morning! Today happens to be our wedding anniversary (#6 of marriage, and also the 8th anniversary of our first date!) and while we were out to dinner, I casually asked him when he wanted to do our gift exchange. Usually we don’t do it on Christmas, since we have family to visit that day; he suggested Christmas Eve, which I said was fine. I told him I had one thing for him that was here and that he could open, but that I needed him to leave me alone when we got home so I could wrap it. At that point he decided he’d rather open presents tonight, so we did! I am very pleased to say that he was thrilled with his new bag, and that he honestly couldn’t believe I’d made it! (Trust me, that’s a compliment.) Wanna see?????

Proudly modeling his new bag!

Proudly modeling his new bag!

Cooper bag, just chillin' on the couch

Cooper bag, just chillin’ on the couch

Peek at the snaps and pockets

Peek at the snaps and pockets

Lining and cavernous insides!

Lining and cavernous insides!

Back! (Sorry about the color--forgot the flash.)

Back! (Sorry about the color–forgot the flash.)

Pretty nice, if I do say so myself! I used gray and orange for this bag; the shade of the latter can only be described as “Construction Vest Orange” or perhaps “Screaming Bitch Orange,” but Tom likes it. Orange is sort of his thing! My canvas arrived on Tuesday Dec. 16th, so I washed it that night so I could sew on Wednesday. When I stopped for the night on Wednesday (at the hanging loop installation step), I had a flat front and back piece, and my two straps. The front piece had the snaps attached, too. I was feeling pretty good about being able to finish it in one more workday, and planned to get back to it this weekend. I got up at 6AM today (ugh I know) and started up again, and was done by 10. I would definitely say that this pattern is suitable for an ambitious beginner, because I was able to execute the entire thing without any real trouble.

The hardest part for me was sewing through all those layers, especially at the bottom gusset piece when squaring the sides of the bag. At that point, you have installed the straps on the bag, and are working with about 5-6 layers of material at that spot. In my case, I opted to interface the bottom gusset; that was a decision I made on a whim, and I nearly paid for it in the worst way. As I started sewing my new seam at the bottom to square off the bag, my machine suddenly shuddered and made the beeping noise that it makes when there is an error. I was afraid I’d broken my Janome!! Fortunately, the worst of it was that the machine just couldn’t force the needle through all the layers, not even when I turned the handwheel manually. Having no other options, I skipped a couple of stitches here and there on that section and went back to the foot pedal once the worst of it was over. The handwheel saved my ass. I am wondering whether it would have been easier with a larger denim needle (I used a 14), but I’m glad things worked out!

This was the first thing I’d ever lined, and holy hell was that easy!! The instructions and sewalong made this process very easy to understand, and I am pleased to say that I didn’t have to redo any part of that section. The only possible issue with this bag in the future is that the rivets I got are just a liiiiiiiiiiiittle bit too short for the thickness of my fabric; I struggled to get the second half of the rivet to really mold over the first part and had to do quite a bit of extra tapping with my mallet. I warned Tom that those may not hold up well, but that I could get longer ones if that happens.

So there you have it! My first total surprise project was a rousing success, and Tom LOVES it. He wants to wear it on his motorcycle, which wasn’t my intention (the opening of the bag doesn’t have a closure, and I didn’t modify the pattern to add one; it relies solely on the magnetic snaps on the flap). I am going to order a bar of Otter Wax and test it on scraps, because he is intrigued by the idea of waxing the bag. I nearly did that on my own, but wanted to see what he thought first. :-) I’m so excited that this worked out, and that I was able to make something for someone I love that will get a lot of use!

Happy Holidays to all of you–may your season be merry, your travels safe, and your hearts and minds at peace in the days and weeks ahead. <3


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Holiday Surprise Progress


I’m pleased to say that I’ve made a little progress on Tom’s Cooper backpack. Not much, but I’m trying to do what I can with what I’ve got!

My shell fabrics and magnetic snaps will arrive this Tuesday, so I’ll be able to really get to work later this week. Nothing like cutting it close, eh?? My webbing and hardware arrived this past week, so I went ahead and worked on the straps today. I expected the straps to be much more complex than they turned out to be, but hooray for surprises!

Lining and straps!

Lining and straps!

The webbing was very easy to work with; I even finger-pressed the required folds rather than mess with my iron, and it was all that was needed. I got my webbing from AGraffSupplies on Etsy; it’s cotton and feels very sturdy, and this shop offers various yardages of it in a very wide array of colors. I definitely recommend looking there if webbing is something you need for a project! (I also got webbing from another source after my post office said that this first package was returned to the sender. Imagine my surprise when this package showed up later that day, LOL! I had a good customer service experience with the other vendor–Strapworks–as well, but haven’t used their webbing yet.)

After I cut the two long pieces of webbing, I realized that I really ought to get a heftier needle in my machine before I started with the sewing. I had planned to do that once I got to the shell, but it was absolutely necessary for handing this webbing. I opted for a size 14 denim needle, and it had no issues punching through the straps. My machine did struggle a bit with three layers of this material (at one point, you sew through a folded section and the main strap section to secure that end of the strap), and my presser foot couldn’t really lower due to the thickness. As a result, the rectangle of stitching on one of the straps is a little, uh, off. :-) Fortunately, this appears to be the heftiest section of the sewing for this project in terms of bulk under the presser foot. From cutting to finishing, including the futzing around with changing the needle and thread and bobbin on my machine (and the digging for the correct thread color!) and walking to the living room to check the sewalong posts, I was finished in under 30 minutes. Not bad for a bag-making n00b, huh?

Unfortunately, this is all the progress I can make until my shell canvas and snaps arrive and get washed, etc. But I’m really excited for this project, and hopefully the end result is something that makes Tom very happy. I’m determined to finish this before xmas, since everything else I ordered for him is going to arrive after the new year; the company didn’t bother telling me that half of my order was out of stock until I contacted them this week to ask about shipping (which I paid to have expedited when I ordered at the end of November). Needless to say, I’m not happy about that, since that was everything I’d planned for Tom for the holiday. :-( I’ve never been happier to execute an impulsive sewing project, LOL!

Hopefully I will be back with updates next weekend–wish me luck, and no broken needles!!


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Another Holiday, Another Surprise

Hello there!

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season. Here in the US we’ve had one holiday already–Thanksgiving, aka “EAT ALL THE THINGS” Day–and shopping for xmas is in full swing as December advances. For the most part, we “Mads” house residents tend to buy our gifts for everyone rather than make things. I even bought most of the things I’m giving to Tom rather than go to the trouble (and stress, and time) of making something. Well, earlier this week I got a bright (read: fucking stupid) idea: I should make Tom a thing!

What “thing” have I decided upon for my husband? The Cooper bag from Colette Patterns! I have never made a bag before, but this one seems simple enough for a newbie like me with the instructions and sew-along. I ordered 2 colors of cotton canvas–orange and gray–for the body, magnetic snaps, strap sliders, webbing, and rivets, and now I’m just waiting. But rather than just sit on my ass and think about this bag (and agonize over whether or not to order Otter Wax and wax it), I decided to go ahead and make the lining. I figured it would be good practice for the real thing and save me some work as the holiday approaches and I run out of time. Here it is:

Lining!!! With pockets!!!!!!

Lining!!! With pockets!!!!!!

So I opted to make the lining out of muslin. The pattern recommends ripstop of some sort, or general waterproof fabric. I’m not really worried about this being waterproof particularly, though I am considering getting Scotchguard or something and spraying the lining down if I opt to wax the outside. The idea behind this bag is that it will be something Tom can take with him when he and Mulder (dog) go for their nature-y walks, or if he takes a trip to the store for something small and portable. It’s not like I expect him to take this on outdoor camping trips or anything! I just didn’t see the need to go out and get ripstop when I had this suitable (for my purposes) material at home. Plus I can press and manipulate this stuff without trouble; I can’t feel as confident about ripstop!

The lining is turned inside-out for this photo (which I took before I pressed anything, in typical Mads fashion), as the pockets will need to be inside the bag rather than sewn up against the inside of the shell. I admit to having a moment of panic once I finished squaring the bottom of the lining–a point of no return, since you cut stuff–and doing what I usually do, which is to turn the seam allowances to the side that isn’t facing me to have a look at my results. I had to wrap my head around this whole bag thing and remember that the ugly side of my lining would be up against the ugly side of my shell, and the pockets would end up where they should be: facing into the cavernous interior of the finished bag. A big sigh of relief was heaved, let me tell you!! The actual shell is more involved, what with the straps and hardware, but I feel prepared for it now that the lining is done and looks good. The squaring of the bottom was the scariest part, and I was able to accomplish that successfully. Attaching the bottom gusset was confusing at first, but I took my time and figured it out. Bring on the shell (as soon as all my shit arrives)!!

Are you making any gifts for xmas?


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