Monthly Archives: January 2014

I happened to hear Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, titled The Art of Asking, all about her giving her music away, and asking for support from her fans in return.
In case you haven’t had a chance to listen, here is the video:

(If you don’t feel like watching, she asks for support in the form of funding, places to sleep, neti pots, etc. and is happily rewarded by many adoring fans helping her out. She wonders if this is fair for her to be begging for what she gets, but the sharing makes the fans so happy, and she gives her music away for free, so she decides it is fair) I’m a fan of this idea.

And then, coincidentally, I happened to see a friend on the fakbok post one of those statuses you are supposed to repost. Usually, I think those are lame, but I thought this one was nice. You see, the point of this repost status is that it is all about getting and then giving away art. I, for one, think the world needs more art. So, I reposted it. Within 30 seconds I had my first response. Here is what I posted:

“I, Claire, hereby promise to make a small work of art for the first ten people who comment on this post and say “YES, I want in”. A ‘like’ alone is not enough of a commitment, nor is a comment about thinking Pay It Forward is a great idea.

You must in turn post this as your status update and make something for the first ten who comment on your status.

* The rules are simple: it has to be your work, made by you, and the recipient must receive it before 2014 ends…”

So I thought it might be nice to repeat that status on my blog, try to recreate that giving and asking spirit. I will send a piece of art to the first 10 commenters on this post. Make sure you leave your email so I can get your address. I will ship anywhere in the United States and Canada. All I ask in return is that you share what I give you on your blog, if you have one, or hang it up and tell people where you got it. I’d like to get a little publicity for the blog, and I love sharing my art!

Not telling you what I’ll send 😉 but you can find some past samples here and here.


Raise your hand if you think origami is cool.
There is an old Japanese legend that if you make 1000 paper cranes, you will have eternal good luck. Well, I don’t quite have enough time to fold that many paper cranes, but I like the idea of a paper crane chain. I was aiming for 36 cranes (half of 36 is 18, also a good luck number).

Here’s how I made them:


 After I had made all the cranes (my chain ended up with 29), I used a yarn needle to string them together. I tied a knot between each of the cranes to hold them up. I added a tassel to the end of the chain.


I like how colorful and whimsical it is! I’ve hung it in a few places- first by a window, but now it is draped across the piano.



20140115-002429.jpg20140115-002418.jpgI made this paper crane chain while I was visiting a good friend of mine in Delaware. We used to hang out all the time and sew in high school, but it had been a few years since we hung out. While I was working on this project she was making a glittery banner. She keeps a tumblr blog that you can find here. We have made many projects together, one of which I’ll be sharing later this month (as soon as I can find some good pictures).

Hope you all are staying warm in whatever weather Mother Nature has thrown your way. Philly is finally sunny after a long run of grey skies.

As I have worked my way through tailoring my Uniquely You dress form, I have had to do a lot of pinning. All those pins need to translate into accurate seam lines. I have had some trouble finding instructions on how to transfer pin lines into seams, so I thought I’d include an addendum to my tailoring posts on the subject. Hope it helps everyone who is working on their dress form.

So I start off with a line of pins. Here is the front and back.


After *carefully* removing the garment, I mark where the pins are with chalk.

I also mark how the edges of the fabric line up with chalk.


Then I unpin.

Next, I flip the fabric so the right sides are together.  I match up the fabric edges on the line I drew and pin the pieces of fabric together.


It is faint, but the chalk marks are visible through the fabric. I transfer these marks to the other side of the fabric by marking where I see them with chalk. You can faintly see the chalk mark in this picture next to my thumb, below the blue pin.



I connect the dots and sew along the chalk line.

A good way to double check that your seam is in the correct place is if some chalk sticks out from the seam when opened up. The amount of chalk showing should be about even along the whole seam.


This has worked out well for me so far. As long as I am meticulous throughout this process, the seam line is accurate. Once in a while I need to adjust the seam line a little, but that has been a rare occurrence so far.

Happy sewing!

Follow your dreams- keep sleeping

Follow your dreamsMy friend Jillie made this banner to hang above her bed.

*Update 1/18/14- here is another picture:*

follow your dreams 2

She used stencils to cut letters out of sparkly card stock. Then she used tape to attach the letters to yarn and hung it above her bed. It looks so cozy hanging with the string of lights. Sweet dreams, Jillie!




I bought this turtleneck sweater at Philly AIDS Thrift.
Ok quick side note- best thrift store I have found so far in Philly. So many hip kids there, searching through all the racks of vintage randomness, not sure of what treasure they will find. I geeked out the whole trip. A friend from school accompanied me on my first trip to this secondhand destination and was probably the only person in the store not looking at me funny as I oohed and aahed over everything.
But I digress. Back to sweater alteration.
I’m not a fan of turtlenecks, but liked the sweater (and it was $5 in good condition).
So, after tracing the neckline of a shirt I liked, I cut, serged, and hemmed a new neckline on the sweater.



The neckline looked really weird. It looked just like I had cut and sewed it. But then I found this great tutorial from Purlbee on how to crochet the edge of a blanket. Seemed like it would spiffy up (save?) my new sweater.
I used a size B crochet hook and embroidery floss to crochet around the neckline of the sweater. The pattern is simple- do three single crochet stitches into the same hole, then chain one, find a new hole, and repeat the three single crochet stitches. Head over to Purlbee’s website in the link above for more detailed instructions.
The color of the thread doesn’t match perfectly, but I think it goes along well with all the other embroidery on the sweater.




Ooh, aah! It’s kind of a cat lady sweater. So to end this post here is a picture of me holding a cat in my cat lady sweater.


I love winter break! This was probably the last time, ever, that I will get to have time that is absolutely free, without taking vacation time. I’ve been living it up.

My sister liked my yoga mat bag and wanted me to make a bag for her. She spent two hours with me at Best Buy looking at computers after mine died this week, so how could I refuse? It was the least I could do for her hard work keeping me from being totally overwhelmed with the computer buying process. Here she is with her new bag, wearing her sorority swag (she is in Alpha Epsilon Phi). She likes neutrals, so I used three different fabrics and drew a mandala on the bottom of the bag.



I made a new print based on the bottom of her yoga mat and also doodled a whole bunch.



I got these shoes from DSW. They were 50% off and I had $15 worth of coupons. Original price- $50. What I paid- $10. Score! The inside sole was kind of coming up on one so I used some superglue to glue it down.



Hi again friends. Sorry this post is quite a bit later than originally anticipated, but here it is!

And since you are all probably sick of (or will soon be) seeing these posts covered in pictures in taupe and beige and neutral colors, here is something a little more colorful to start.

steps 6 and 7

Where we left off last time I had just about finished fitting the bust. This has been the trickiest part so far (you can see my previous posts on steps 1 and 2 here, and steps 3 and 4 here).

Step 5: Clip the seams along the side front seams perpendicular to the stitching line at 2 inch intervals. Don’t clip all the way to the stitching, just enough to allow the fabric to open up some and let the seam curve naturally. The point of this is to keep the extra fabric in the seam allowance from pulling on the seam and changing the shape of the dress form.

Next, it’s dart time again! Took me a couple tries to get this one right.

First, put on the cover. Side seams are still pinned. Mark the crease under your breasts and the highest spot in between.


I was worried that this dart would take in too much fabric and change the shape of the bust fitting, but my worries were unfounded. I tried putting the dart in an inch lower than the instructions say, but that was a bad idea. I ripped it out and did it the right way.

Transfer the chalk markings to the inside of the cover. Fold from one mark to another. My fold ran slightly “uphill” and then “downhill” again. You can see how the fold runs across the grain of the fabric. This is fine. Sew your dart as normal and it will turn out well.




I drew a line, and sewed along it to make the dart. Here it is sewed, on me.



“If the armhole stands away from the body, fit with a dart toward the bust point…”

My armhole was fine so I skipped this.

Step 6: Upper back and shoulders (again)

Put the cover back on. Side seams are still only pinned together. The instructions say to take in or release side back seams to follow the contour of the back exactly. Only do this ABOVE your natural waist. So, just like I did for the area above the bust in my last post, I ripped out the side seams and re pinned them to exactly fit the contour of my back. Rather, my mom re pinned them since I couldn’t really reach. The chalk lines in this picture mark where the cover went from snug to loosely fitting. I ripped the seam using these marks as outer boundaries.



Then I transferred pins and sewed the seams.




Next, the instructions recommend making some darts from the armhole pointing toward the spine if the armhole stands away from your body. I didn’t have this problem, so no darts here.

The instructions also say to re check and adjust the seams as much as needed to get a smooth fit in the upper back. I did have to do this. Make sure the seams run relatively perpendicular to the floor.

I know it doesn’t look like much of a change, but taking in the back seams made a huge difference in the fit. Make sure you get this right.

Last part of step 6 is to re-fit the shoulder seams. If the seam is not at the shoulder center, rip it out and re sew it. The seam should run along the very top of your shoulder from the middle of your neck (when you look at it sideways) to the top of your arm. It should look like this. The middle point of my shoulder is at the bony prominence.


You really want to make sure that your side seams are pinned correctly before messing with the shoulders. I would recommend fitting the side seams as if you were planning to sew them (because that is the first part of step 7).  I had my side seams pinned a little funny, which messed up the shoulders (one ended too far back on my arm). When I fixed the side seams, the shoulders seams magically ran right where I wanted them to.

Here is what I have so far.


Oh em gee folks! We’re almost done with the cover. All that is left is fitting the bottom half, marking the cover and zipping it on the foam lady. Bet I can finish it up in one more post. Thanks for reading!


This post is a response to Restless Heart by Delightfully Tacky

Stuff. The hallmark of American consumerism. Our culture can be so wasteful. Sometimes this is okay, like in hospitals, where extra packaging is needed to keep instruments sterile, where expired medication is thrown out for patient safety. But most of it is wasteful- fast fashion, planned obsolescence, the fact that we throw out about half the food we produce each year, the amount of packaging on the things we buy… need I go on?


So here I am, a seamstress, a creator of stuff. Stuff that people buy and use. How do I reconcile that with my distaste for excessive consumption?

Elizabeth, the writer of aforementioned blog, wrote about her hopes and fears for the new year. One of the things she has wanted to do was open an online retail shop, but she has concerns: “ I’ve always had trouble extricating my job or career from who I am as a person.  I want, maybe need, the two to align, which is one reason I’ve never pulled the trigger on opening a retail shop, even though I’ve thought it would be fun and something I might actually enjoy.  I just don’t feel like I’d find fulfillment when it came to the fact that I was simply one more shop where people buy things, spend money on stuff that they probably don’t really need all that much, and contribute to the wastefulness of American culture.  I suppose that sounds overly dramatic, but it’s my thought process when I think about opening a retail shop.”

This paragraph struck a chord with me when I read it. I know what she means by needing her personal self and public/work self to align. I agonized over starting a blog for a year, like, “who really needs another DIY blog?” There are already so many out there with great content.

That same doubt hangs over this hobby of mine. I’m not sure if I should be a seamstress, even though I love it. I go through periods where being a seamstress is hard. I feel like I’m buying into American consumerism by just making more stuff, by driving to JoAnn fabrics to buy fabric for projects. I already have enough clothes- do I really need more? The people I make things for- do they really need more stuff? Minimalism and slow fashion are ideals to which I aspire.

Sewing is something I have done for over a decade. It is such a big part of my life that any self criticism of my sewing habit becomes a criticism of myself and my lifestyle. So how do I extricate myself from the association to American consumerism without throwing my sewing machine out the window and finding a new hobby? Everything else I want to pick up could either be tied to making stuff or consuming it.

roro trapeze dress

What it comes down to, for me, is that I am fueled by creativity. I feel proud using the things I’ve made. It makes me so happy when I see my sister wearing the clothing I’ve made her and my mom’s neighbor wearing that maternity dress I slimmed down after she had her baby. When I worked for Organic Climbing, I would go climbing at different rock gyms and geek out when I found out that they sold Organic’s gear, which meant that I probably made some of the chalk bags in stock.

everlane cardigan

It at least enriches my life, and those of the people who use the stuff I’ve made. Isn’t being/supporting a small seller better than buying fast fashion at Forever 21?  I say to Elizabeth- if you want to start a store, I think you should do it. Even if it isn’t perfectly anti consumerist, if it will make you a happier, more enriched person- do it! I’m sure the world could use more stores like Solv and Everlane.Good luck in this new year, Elizabeth. I’ll continue to read and enjoy your blog, and try to not rag on myself too much for writing mine.

Image credit: Green Schools

First post of 2014!

Sewing Selfies is this really neat group on Flikr- it is filled with the creative self-portraits of women and men who sew. I uploaded my own self portrait last night (before I went to celebrate the end of 2013). Here I am working on my Uniquely You dress form cover.

You can find the group here if you want to add your own sewing self-portrait.Image

Happy sewing!