Being creative every day!

I did not abandon my blog, it was just set aside for a while because I didn’t have enough time for it.  But with my recent retirement (!!) from the 9-5 working world I am now free to pursue my creative projects every day. YIPPEE!!

I know it’s pretty unusual to retire so young (I’m 53), but I have so many creative interests I have not been bored even one minute. 🙂

It’s been 10 months since I sold my NYC Midtown co-op, quit my job at Gap, Inc., and moved to Philadelphia to spend my days goofing off and being creative.

So, you may ask, what have you been creating? Here’s the short list:

(1) I finally finished making the pair of shoes that I started 2 years ago. They ended up having too large of an opening for the foot at the top, but I did wear them outside once.

I learned that leather stretches a LOT when you last the upper, which meant I pulled a bunch of the shoe’s front section under the sole when I was fitting in on the last. (I was supposed to have a lot more of the cream colored portion showing at the toe.) Now I know I need to compensate for the stretchiness of the leather next time.

(2) I’ve been pattern making regularly so I now have a shorts pattern, 5 top patterns, and I even made a set of slopers for a nearby boutique (so they can have a consistent fit in the styles they design for the shop).

(3) I made a bunch of different tops and a dress, in both knit and woven fabrics. Here are some of the finished products (L: ruffle trims at sleeve and neckline, made in a ponte fabric, C: woven fabric for the body and ponte knit for the bottom band trim, R: woven fabric with binding along neckline and armholes, with knife-pleat bottom trim):

I’ve been trying to determine whether I want an industrial sewing machine or not.  I had an incredible top-of-the-line Elna for 20+ years but when it died I bought a Brother SE-400 Embroidery/Sewing machine, rather than another high-end machine.  The Brother is nice, but it’s no Elna!  It just doesn’t sew as smoothly, and I loved the Elna’s ability to move the needle into any of 5 positions.  I think that was one of my favorite features. I don’t really need the embroidery features and I mostly use the straight stitch and an occasional zig-zag, but I’d like to find another machine that just hums when it’s sewing, like my Elna did.

My goal will be to post here once a week from now on, possibly more if I’m working on a fun project that inspires me to share even more.

Chat again soon,




Next step…armhole trim

Lots of pics today of the application of my bias trim to make armhole finishings. There’s some great tutorials on Pinterest on how to make your own bias binding. I seemed to always forget how to do it, so a little refresher is a good.

Here’s the bias binding prepped and wound around my pressing tube, just so it doesn’t get wrinkled until I use it.

Note that this is the same fabric as the dress. I’ve made the bias so that the black is the “right” side and the white will be the wrong side.

I stitched the ends of one bias strip so that its circumference fits into the armhole. Then I stitched that bias strip along the armhole (AH) edges, right-sides together of the dress and bias trim, about 3/8″ from the edge all around. On the left side here you can see the bias attached to the AH of the dress.

Then it’s time to PRESS!! Yes, if you want a professional looking garment when you are done, pressing is the magic step. You need to press at EVERY stage, not just at the end. I press my bias trim away from the body of the dress, so that its sticking out from the AH curve.

Okay…I’ve decided to cheat on this AH trim. Instead of turning under the edge of the trim on the inside of the dress (for a clean, beautiful finish), I’m taking a shortcut. No one except me is going to notice the inside, so I’m saving time.

Instead, I’m just folding and pressing the bias trim to the wrong side (the inside) of the dress, and leaving the bias edge unfinished and exposed. But because the trim is cut on the bias, it shouldn’t unravel or fray! (So my cheating is sort of okay!)

Once it’s pressed to the inside, I can run a stitch “in the ditch”. From the front side of the dress, I stitch EXACTLY in the seam where the bias binding attached to the dress. The stitches will sort of fall into the “ditch”, becoming almost invisible.

Check out the AH with the finished trim…

And back onto the dress form until this weekend when I add the neck trim detail.

The edges of the shoulders may look like they stick up at the AH trims, but that’s just because my dress form has more slope in the shoulders than I do! They should fall smoothly once the dress is on my shoulders. 🙂

Next time. . . I’ll walk through the neck trim.

Made some new clothes. . .

I was rather creative before I left for the big trip to Egypt making a number of new garments:

  • a knit skirt in red/white narrow stripes (which ended up being too thin to wear without a lining, so it’s still in-the-works).  I need to make a lining for it.
  • a short-sleeve floral-print top with a shirttail hem (based on a new pattern I drafted)
  • a boxy short-sleeve knit top (that ended up looking less cute than the garment from which I knocked it off because I didn’t realize until too late that the original was cute because the fabric was sort-of see-through, meaning you could tell your body wasn’t just a sack of potatoes shape! ha ha. My version wasn’t see through and makes me look huge!)
  • and a 3/4-length sleeve, boatneck knit top with a swingy sweep. This one was my favorite up until the 3rd washing. . . it must have shrunk about 3″ in length!  Oops, so much for being in a hurry to start sewing and not washing my fabric before I cut it out.  Next time I’ll take the time, especially on these knit fabrics.

I drafted the patterns for all of my new items, then whipped up the garments in no time, mostly on my serger with some hem finishing using the zig-zag on my regular machine.

I only took pics of one of the items, my favorite (prior to the shrinking issue!).

3/4 Sleeve Knit boatneck tee with swing at sweep

3/4 Sleeve Knit boatneck tee with swing at sweep

I think I’ll make a few more of this 3/4-length sleeve style since it fit well (at least before I shrunk the heck out of it!). It’s cute with jeans.

It’s Shoemaking Time! Yes, I’m learning to make my own shoes.

I’ve been interested in learning how to make my own shoes for a while now. Thankfully, I found a wonderful online instructor, Sveta Kletina, who has the most extensive collection of videos on all-things-shoemaking! (

Making custom shoes has a lot of similarities to custom clothing projects; working on a form (a shoe last instead of a dress form — see the pic below), creating an initial block pattern and correcting the pattern, then designing a specific style from the block pattern, and cutting and sewing the fabric (typically leather in the case of shoes), and then lasting the shoe (that’s where you bring the “uppers” (the parts of the shoe we are all used to seeing) together with the insole and outsole and heels.

Shoe lasts with altered dimensions for a better fit.

Shoe lasts with altered dimensions for a better fit.

Here’s my initial work on my first block pattern. It starts by taping off the last with masking tape, then transferring that taped “pattern” to cardboard, then making a mock-up on soft paper (like printer paper) and trying it out on the last to see how it fits.

Shoe pattern from masking tape

This is the OUTER half of the shoe’s masking tape pattern, being set on to the cardboard.


Paper pattern on last

Paper mock-up to check the fit on the last.


That’s where I’m at so far. . . more to come!

Lots of new projects in the works

Now that my Egyptology program is over, I’ve got lots of free time to spend on my sewing projects, and I’m on project overload here.

Finished Projects:

  • A wrap dress that is reversible (Simplicity S0567). Easy to make and fit well (after only one muslin fitting). Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it until September so I only got one wearing out of it before it turned too cold for a summer dress.
    Wrap, reversible dressIMG_4330IMG_4331IMG_4332IMG_4333
  • A cowl-neck sleeveless top with a dropped-waist ribbon-tie.  This was knocked-off from a Gap top which is one of my favorites to wear. Fabric is from Marc Jacobs, purchased at Mood Fabrics.

    Cowl-neck, sleeveless top with dropped-waist ribbon tie.

    Cowl-neck, sleeveless top with dropped-waist ribbon tie.

  • Cowl-neck top (side view)

    Cowl-neck, sleeveless top with ribbon tie at dropped waist.

  • Made the pattern and mock-up for my first pair of custom-made shoes, wing-tips (the style is officially called a Full-Brogue Derby).
    IMG_4158 IMG_4159 IMG_4182 IMG_4183 IMG_4184

    Mock up of my wingtip shoe pattern in ultra-suede (purple!)

    Mock up of my wingtip shoe pattern in ultra-suede (purple!)

Here are a few of the works-in-progress:

  • Making a second version of the sleeveless, cowl-neck, dropped-waist tie top — this time in a knit fabric. Here’s the fabric swatch:

    Swatch of Knit floral fabric

    Swatch of the knit floral fabric for the cowl-neck sleeveless top.

  • Finishing the pattern for a new backpack.
  • Making the actual shoe. . . from the soles, up!
  • Creating fabric covers for the 3-D foam rectangles throughout the apartment for Nes.

Over(ly) easy pin-cushion

I stumbled on this tutorial to create a pin-cushion shaped like an over-easy egg.  LOVE IT !  It was extremely easy to make.  I did it all by hand, but you could have done parts of it with a machine to speed things up.

Here’s the link to the blog of Speckless where I found the very clear and detailed tutorial:

This was SO easy (?) to make. (See my version below.)  The white part of the egg was also supposed to be stuffed, but I forgot to do that and I was already done with all the edge stitching on the white so I left it without the extra stuffing.  The yolk is stuffed and it holds the pins nicely.

This would make a cute gift for any of your sewing friends or family.

Pin cushion in egg shape.

Pin cushion in egg shape.

Larger Zippered Pouch (with photos and steps)

I finished the larger zippered pouch!  I really liked the way it turned out.

I referred to the tutorial from “Dog Under My Desk” blog ( for inspiration and for a few steps. Check it out if you need more steps than I’m going to include below.

As I mentioned in my first post about the smaller zippered pouch, I started with 3 layers (graphic fabric for the outer layer, a white cotton/poly for the lining layer, and some cotton batting for the padding that was sandwiched between the other 2 layers).  You treat them all as ONE piece as you are working.

The 3 layers (top = main fabric, middle = batting, bottom = white lining).

I quilted the 3 layers together by outlining each of the individual dress form images with a basic straight stitch on the sewing machine, curving around the edges. (I used white thread so the stitching isn’t really visible from this distance, but it produced a sort of puffy dimension on each dress form image.)

This is the front side of the quilted layers. I stitched around the outline of each of the dress form figures on the fabric.

Here’s what it looked like on the back side (the lining side):

This is the backside of the quilted piece. Notice each little dress form shape.

Once the layers were quilted I moved on to the zipper insertion.  I used a much longer zipper than needed — it’s easier to trim the excess when you are done. I finger-pressed the layers flat after applying the zipper and top-stitched about 1/8″ from the seam between the layers and the zipper tape. This keeps the fabric flat and ensures that the zipper doesn’t get caught when zipping & un-zipping the pouch.

Here’s a view with the first half of the zipper sewn to the edge of the quilted 3-layered piece.

This is the folding of the fabric to create the wrist strap.

The strip was about 4″ wide and 12″ long (I just ball-parked a reasonable length). I folded it in half length-wise to mark the center, then each side was folded in so that the cut edges were along the center fold-line.  Then the two edges that are on the outside (which are folded edges and are therefore clean-finished) are folded again lengthwise so that the folded edges align and the inside raw edges are hidden inside.

Here’s what the strip looked like after I finished folding it:

This is the wrist strap folded in fourths (length-wise). I have a few pins stuck in at points in preparation for sewing the edges together.

Topstitch the entire wrist strap just inside the edges all around. (Imagine the strip is a long belt loop that has edgestitching all around it. If you’re not sure what that looks like, take a peek at your belt loops on a pair of jeans, they are usually edgestitched all around also).

Here’s what the edgestitching looked like when I was done:

The wrist strap piece with edgestitching all around.

It was not necessary to stitch the very ends of the wrist strap since they are tucked into the seams when the pouch is put together.

Once the zipper has been inserted into the pouch, I turned the pouch inside-out and I slipped the new wrist strap piece inside with just the unfinished ends sticking out, at the same position as the zipper pull end.

Then I just stitched along each short side of the pouch, securing all layers together.  I stitched, back-stitched, and stitched again when I was over the zipper to give it a bit more strength along those points since they will get a bit of stress/tension.

I trimmed off the edges of the zipper.  IMPORTANT: make sure your zipper pull is somewhere near the center of the bag, otherwise you might clip off the part of the zipper with the pull and you’ll have a rather useless zipper…no pull, no zipper function!

Zipper has been applied, excess length of zipper trimmed and sides of the pouch sewn up.

I clipped the corners to help the corner points lie flat once I turned the pouch right side out.

Here’s the finished pouch:

The finished pouch (zipper opened)

Here’s another view of the pouch, in front of my sewing machine:

The finished pouch.

The dimensions of the finished zippered pouch was about 7″ tall x 8 1/2″ wide.

I left out some of the details in my steps since Erin’s tutorial has some great close-up pics and explanations.

If you have any questions about this little project, feel free to ask.  I’d be happy to explain any step or detail.

Thanks for dropping by!