Tag Archive | sewing

Learning about Couture (Part One)

I am impressed by this exquisite and elegant book called Sewing Couture by Claire B. Shaeffer. I look forward to reading all of it.

I include the beautiful book cover at the top of this blog entry to catch your eye. But I’ve decided to share a bit about my sewing experience before I talk about the book.

couture sewing

My sewing history is simple. I began with doll clothes as a child—for my 8-inch Madame Alexander. When I was in high school my father offered to keep me in fabric if I sewed my own clothes. What a great deal for me who was on a budget of no money.

I was an early fashionista in high school. I probably saved my lunch money for six months to buy a pair of black leather boots that I found in San Francisco. These boots had tiny buttons and loops all the way up the front. I wish I had a photo of these boots and my high school clothes. Occasionally, I came home from school to find my mother, going through my closet, dress by dress, hanger by hanger, showing each detail to my aunt Bev. She’d say things like, “Look at this top-stitching on the collar that she did by hand,” or “Notice how she matched the plaid design on the side seams.”

My Aunt Bev helped this budding fashionista emerge by cutting my hair. If she were styling hair now, she’d no doubt be in a high-end salon. But her price for me couldn’t be beat. She either cut my hair for free, or my mom slipped her some money. All I know is that my aunt put up with a diva who checked every detail with two mirrors to examine the back. I’d seen an unusual “bob” cut in Vogue (in 1963). I love my aunt who was willing to keep snipping each time I ask her to go shorter and shorter in the back.

I had a unique look that other kids gawked at me.  I was either ahead of my time, or I was a geek, or both. My two besties Linda and Janice, and I made our own winter coats—fully underlined and lined. Lapel collars and bound button holes. Linda’s was green wool, mine was camel, and Janice’s was black and white herringbone.

Janice never credited me for handing her the signature look of black and white. This combo was striking with her black hair and freckles. But this is why I feel blessed to have introduced this idea to my friend. I once saw a beautiful black and white magazine spread, probably in Vogue, maybe in Glamour or Seventeen. I instantly fell in love with the sophistication and elegance of black and white. Black and white fabric. Black and white ribbon. Black and white wallpaper. Unfortunately, this color combo did nothing for me in my brown hair with reddish highlights. When we were shopping for fabric I suggested to Janice that she select the black and white polka dotted fabric .She made the most adorable sleeveless dress with cut-in armholes and a dropped waist in fairly large polka dots. Honestly, my friend should have been featured in a Vogue editorial. There was never a better match than those two colors and my dear friend.

Many years later, when I hadn’t seen Janice in probably 14 years, a friend called me on the phone and said, “Quick. Turn on ABC. Janice is on TV.” There was Janice on a local show talking about the miracle of giving birth with only one kidney. (Those of you who’ve seen Steel Magnolias may remember how the Julia Roberts’ character got pregnant, despite her mother’s huge reservations.) Catching up with a dear friend doesn’t usually occur on television. But what was more remarkable is that Janice chose to wear a black and white dress after all this time.

How I wish I had photos to acknowledge significant occurrences and plain feelings from long ago. The younger generations are so fortunate to own so many cameras that are easy to use. Besides my school pictures, I probably have less than 10 pictures of myself before high school. My parents were not happy people. I don’t think they noticed many Kodak moments in their lives. They were too busy surviving the present than to think about capturing their beautiful children for posterity. Or the other version of the story about no pictures is: My parents didn’t have their shit together and they should have had the decency to take pictures of their children.
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Baby Romper

I decided to post a few of my projects that are not doll clothes so that you won’t be underwhelmed by my productivity. Most of these projects are sewing, but I’m also painting some furniture and picture frames this summer—and fall, it would seem. I like to photograph anything that turns out pretty. I have a separate tab above for Other Projects. This type of post can always be found under this tab.

I’m proud of this little romper that I made for my friend Shawn’s baby Maxwell. I’ll admit that I’m not good at estimating the size of anything. I’m famous for storing a small serving of leftovers in a family size container.  For baby Maxwell, I’d decided that too big would be better than too small. I used Butterick 5625 that’s sized from NB-Sml_Med. This baby was born last January, but he was at least three months early. I’m obviously not going to start counting months in January to guesstimate size. I figured that if the baby were born on his due date—-which had been in April—-he’d be four months old now, and  hopefully this six-month romper would fit him by September. The weather will still be plenty warm here. I know he’s been gaining a bit over a pound a month.


I’m pretty happy with the results of this romper. This is my first time creating an appliqué; and this is my first time using a pre-made cotton strip of snaps for the diaper area. I was able to find a cute alphabet sampler on a DIY site for appliqués. I love these two fabrics combined. Here comes the crème de la crème of this outfit:


This little hat is so cute. The pattern didn’t call for lining, but I wanted to match the romper, and I don’t like things sloppy on the inside. The top of the crown was begging for a matching covered button, so I added that as well.

To be clear, I didn’t expect the romper and hat to fit Maxwell. I thought he could probably wear it by the end of September when it’s still nice and hot in the California San Joaquin Valley. We tried this outfit on Maxwell, and, unfortunately, he’s swimming in it. I will see if Mama will let me post some photos when the hat and romper finally fit properly, maybe a year from now???

When my grown son was a baby, I made him some overalls. They turned out cute until I added the snaps at the bottom. At that time I used the grommet type snap that you squeeze into the fabric with a gizmo that resembles a big hole puncher. I tend to shy away from using snaps or eyelets because they can easily get pulled out from fabric that is not tightly woven, and if you make a mistake, you cannot fix a hole that is the wrong size or in the wrong place. I was very happy with my results until I tried to snap the overalls together. I had placed the bottom snaps on the inside of the romper, instead of the outside. I don’t know if you can picture this, but this was a mistake that I could not fix.

During this time period I had planned to make matching gingham shirts for father and son. I made the father shirt first, and the first day he (my ex) wore the shirt, he put a pen in his pocket that leaked all over the shirt. I did not follow through with the baby shirt. And I never tried  to make baby boy clothes again until now. I’m super happy with this romper and hat. I just wish that they fit.

I purchased this fabric at Joann Stores. I was surprised to find very few cute prints for little boys that were not flannel. Selecting fabric for baby clothes—especially boys—is an art itself. I roamed around the store for over an hour, trying to find a print that was small enough for a little person and sweet enough for a little baby. When I brought the fabric home and took it out of the bag to shrink it, I noticed that the reds in both fabrics don’t match as well as they did under Joann lighting. I can drive myself crazy with details. I’m still happy with the fabric combo.

DO_Teeny Flower2

American Girl “Kit” Wears Simplicity 2458

My new American Girl doll “Kit” wears a Simplicity outfit that I altered. I wasn’t happy with S2458. I found some lavender ribbon that looks better.


Here is the original post that features this outfit. You may see the first ribbon that I used; it looked cheap. I also synched in the waist a bit. Once I had Kit all dressed, I realized that the ribbon on the ankels looked stupid so I removed it completely. I think some lace or ties of some kind could be cute.

I love Kit. She’s so photogenic with her blue eyes and freckles:


I’d been afraid to buy a doll with short hair. Many dolls come out of the box with “bent” or “creased” hair that is permanent, especially if they wear a clip or hairband. Although—I must say—this holds more true with Madame Alexander and less expensive dolls than with American Girl dolls. Kit’s hair is styled in a nice bob that was probably cut by a stylist.

In addition to this cute lavender outfit, Kit wears a hair band that I made by braiding three different lavender prints that are cut on the bias.

The elastic across the upper waist in back adds much to the fit of this top. The pattern instructions say to sew elastic directly to the back above the waist. Instead, I added a makeshift bias tape casing across the back on the wrong side and slipped the elastic inside.



DO_Swirly Stem3