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Sewing bummer recovery tips

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There have been a few times, ok, way more than a few times, when I've had a sewing fail that has bummed me out. It can be hard to get motivated enough to get back to the machine with a recent flop fresh in my mind, so I thought I would share some ways that I use to get out of my sewing funk.

bike riding with my husband and a tired pup

1. Step away from the machine.
As soon as you start getting frustrated, do something that requires you to remove yourself from your sewing room/area. Get outside for some fresh air. Walk your dog (or in my case take your dog on a bike ride haha). Go hang out with friends. If you force yourself to sew when you are ticked, then mistakes are bound to happen. Plus, angry sewing isn't fun sewing, right?

2. Prepare for patterns that excite you.
Trace or cut out the next pattern in your queue. Some days I will get in a zone and trace three or four in a couple of hours! It's an awesome feeling to have a stack of patterns ready to go and it's a gratifying way of contributing to "sewing" without actually being in front of your machine.

3. Clean your sewing room.
I will organize my patterns and fabric when I'm in a rut, and this sounds weird, but it's almost like I will get a second wind and want to start creating again. A pattern I may have overlooked will catch my eye and I will imagine it paired with a fabric I have forgotten about and want to sew it immediately. It's like shopping your own stash!

I'll also throw away trash (I'm so bad about emptying the wastebasket in my sewing room), clean my machine, vacuum the floor, wash and iron fabric for future projects, and reorganize my notions. Having a fresh and clean area makes me happy and more productive.

my new favorite t-shirt pattern

4. Turn to your TNT pattern.
After my latest sewing fail I turned to a pattern that I really love, the Deer and Doe Plantain tee. It's something I can cut, sew, and complete in a few hours, so it's a great instant gratification project for me. The construction isn't confusing, it doesn't need fitting adjustments, and I am always in need of a new t-shirt :) I made the short sleeve version (see above) last Friday night and wore it the following day.

current knitting WIP

5. Direct your energy toward other hobbies for a little while.
Reading and knitting are two other things I enjoy in my free time. A good book will suck me in or a new knitting pattern paired with a Netflix binge will definitely hold my interest. Oooh, just finished watching Scandal (so addicting!) and started The Killing.

What about you guys? How do you recover from a sewing fail or sewing burnout?

When life gives you lemons

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This dress was NOT supposed to happen. You're probably scratching your heads and wondering "where's the dress??" Yeah, this used to be a dress until I hacked it into a maxi skirt. I'm one of those people that insist on completing a garment no matter what. It could be my frugal side that doesn't like wasting money or time, or it could be the competitive side that doesn't want a project to get the best of me. Whatever the reason, I made a dress despite everything in the universe working against me and have ended up with a maxi skirt that I like when paired with my Salme Kimono top.


Let's go over the problems I encountered while making this maxi skirt.

Problem 1: Flawed fabric
During the LA Blogger Meetup I was drawn to this pretty purple fabric from The Fabric Store. It was soft, 90% cotton, 10% wool, and from Japan (which made it instantly cooler in my eyes ;) ). When the girl at the counter was cutting the two yards necessary for the Style Arc Jacinta Dress I noticed that there was a huge hole. I'm not talking a dime sized hole, I'm talking a hole so big that I could dive through it into a pool. Ok, I'm exaggerating, but it was the biggest hole I have seen on a bolt of fabric. She cut off the flawed part, gave it to me for free, and then cut me a fresh two yards. Except, neither of us caught that the new piece had a huge hole in it too. Nooooooo!!!!

Problem 2: Failure to understand pattern pieces
There are only two versions for the Jacinta Dress, sleeveless and sleeves. Well, I mistook the pattern pieces marked with an "SL" to be for the version for sleeves. That was a dumb dumb move because apparently "SL" means sleeveless. It was annoying to have to recut fabric halfway into my project. And it was extra annoying when I cut the fabric on the wrong side which was slightly darker than the right side. And it was even more annoying that I didn't realize it until after I had sewn everything together. This little nightmare had me wishing for Sewaholic's organization when it comes to clearly noting which pattern pieces go with which version.


Problem 3: Blown out neckline
Totally spaced on applying stay tape to the neckline and it completely stretched out.

Problem 4: Broken serger and a sewing machine that needed to be serviced
While sewing the center back seam I noticed the tension on my serger was way off. I literally spent hours trying to change the dials and settings to make it work. I referenced my Colette Patterns Guide to Sewing Knits, looked at videos online, and lurked around on blogs. None of the suggestions worked, so I figured that I could finish everything on my sewing machine. The tension was off on it too! This wasn't a surprise to me, since I had not had it serviced since I originally bought it. It's just a bummer when you are on a mission to sew and you can't!


Problem 5: It didn't work
Once the sewing machine was returned to me I finished the dress and realized that it just didn't work. The neckline was way too big, the waist was a tiny bit too small, and the purple was just so blah for this particular dress.

As you can see, after all that time and hassle I ended up with a maxi skirt that I could have made in an hour or so haha. I'm just glad that I could make it work and end up with something wearable. Sometimes you just need to get out the scissors, throw in an elastic waistband, call it a day, and go out for sushi with your friends.

Traveling adventures

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We've got some bad news and some good news in this post. The bad news is that my serger broke (RIP Brother 1034D (2014-2014)) and my sewing machine needed a tune up. I was machineless for weeks. The good news is that at least it all happened during the busy time of summer when my husband and I were traveling. Wait, who am I kidding, it still sucked, but I'm trying to look on the bright side.


Let's talk about my first trip, San Francisco. A few weeks ago we headed to Alameda (a city near SF) to stay the night with our friend Matt and his girlfriend Sarah. Side note, I discovered that Sarah designs clothing patterns for a skateboarding company, so cool! Ok back to our trip: it was a last minute idea to drive up after work (we had originally planned on leaving the next morning), so I was able to squeeze in some fabric shopping at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. I was super excited to visit because a lot of you mentioned that I should stop in if I was nearby.


There was a large area of quilting cottons and a side room full of apparel fabrics. Immediately, I zoned in on the knit section and found some things that I liked and wanted to buy. Claire cut my fabric and rang me up. She was super rad and friendly and I really enjoyed talking to her. Now we are Instagram buddies, yay!



Later in the day I made it to Britex in San Francisco. It's a pretty overwhelming place, they have practically everything! In the end I only bought the scuba cat fabric, but could have easily walked away with half the store if I had the funds haha. Everyone working was really nice and helpful even though it was a pretty crazy day. A water line burst in the basement of Chanel (next door) and it was chaotic in Union Square. The area was closed off to cars, other businesses were dealing with flooding issues, and there was a bunch of water running down the street.



My next adventure took place in New Orleans a week or so ago. My husband and I went there for a work convention and some fun. Ever since I was a teenager reading Anne Rice books I dreamed about going to New Orleans. It did not disappoint! The history, architecture, and food (I had oysters and gumbo every single day haha) were even better than I expected. We didn't end up going to a fabric store, but I did stop in a cute yarn store in the French Quarter, The Quarter Stitch.


The owner was really nice and friendly and chatted with Luke and I for a bit. There was a huge selection of yarn and the price points were good. If I ever go back to New Orleans (hopefully I do!) I will definitely go back to this shop.


My only souvenirs from the trip were some Christmas ornaments (I collect them from places we visit, dork alert), yarn from The Quarter Stitch, and this pretty hand beaded headband from Trashy Diva. I can't stop wearing this headband! Yesterday I was cruising around my yard in pajamas with it on my head and my neighbor complimented me. She probably thought I was crazy for wearing it with pink and maroon striped pants and an old worn out pink top, but whatevs.

By the time I got back from my trip my sewing machine was fixed, yes! Can't wait to sew!

Cats on cats on cats

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Fun Erin fact: when I was growing up I lived on a cattle ranch in the country. Isn't it funny to think of me riding horses, feeding baby cows, climbing trees, watching chicks hatch, riding quads, and running around and getting dirty? Anyways, my family always had lots of cats around. Some people would dump them on our property and they would wander to our house, we would adopt some, and my sister was known to find strays and bring them home by hiding them in the back of my mom's car without her knowledge. Sometimes we would have as many as ten (they were outdoor animals) which was great for the rodent situation that comes with living in the country and great for me because I genuinely love cats. This skirt is my tribute to my childhood cat homies on the ranch (BW, Sunny, Dandy, Harry, Faith, Iris, Joey, Christopher, Antonio, Fluffy, Stuffy, Garfield, Ivory, Sugar Cookie, etc.).

The skirt is one of my TNT patterns, the Colette Patterns Mabel. You guys have already heard me rave about it a couple of times, so check out my previous versions (V1 and V2) if you want more details. I used this fun cat fabric from Britex which is called "scuba," something I have never sewn with before. The texture is so interesting and hard to describe accurately, but I would say that it feels like a combination between a wetsuit and and a medium knit fabric.


Normally, I wouldn't buy fabric at the Britex price point, but I figured that Mabel only uses a yard and it was my birthday gift to myself and I do what I want! ;) So I bought it. It was the perfect instant gratification project, which I needed. When I got my sewing machine back from being serviced I was jonesing for a quick and easy project and Mabel fit the bill perfectly.


Oh, Sonja gave me a really good tip for the troubles I was having with tunneling when using my twin needle. She suggested turning the tension down reallyyyyy low and it worked. Thanks for the tip, Sonja!

Are there any other crazy cats ladies out there? Should we do a sewing challenge where we all make garments from cat themed fabric? Hmm, I just thought of that as I was typing and now I am actually kind of serious about it...

Guest post from Marrie B

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Aloha! I'm out of town right now (for work, so not technically a vacation) and I asked my talented friend, Marrie B, to do a guest post. She's one of my blogging buddies, although since we met in person last month I can now officially call her my "real life" buddy too :) If you haven't checked out her blog yet, then I highly recommend you change that. Her site is one of my favorites! Thanks for guest posting, Marrie!

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Hi there! My name is Marrie and I blog at purlsandpleats.wordpress.com.  I was really honored when Erin asked me to do a guest post for her while she’s in New Orleans. I’ve been following her since the Sew Colette days, and can honestly say that sewalong was a game changer for me – and was when I really fell in love with garment sewing. So I’ll always be thankful to Erin for co-hosting Sew Colette and opening up my sewing world.

Anyway, onto the topic of this post . . . today I’ve got a pressing tip for you. To get really crisp seams and to even control unruly bias tape, try using a clapper. If you’re not familiar with it, a clapper is a wood block that you place over your fabric right after pressing, and it helps the heat and steam from the iron to penetrate the fabric.
CLAPPER
This is how I use mine. Press as usual.
CLAPPER
Then immediately place the clapper on the area pressed and apply pressure. For best results hold the clapper in place until the fabric cools.
CLAPPER
Below are some examples to illustrate how well the clapper works. On the left, the seam was only pressed with the iron. On the right, I also used the clapper.
CLAPPER

CLAPPER

CLAPPER
 Here’s an example of a dart. (The left side is pressed only, on the right side I used the clapper.) And finally, notice the difference in these bias tape strips. The one on the top was only pressed. The one on the bottom was “clappered,” and the fabric holds the fold better.
CLAPPER

 If you’d like a clapper of your own, they are available for purchase for around $20-$30. Or, you can just pick up a piece of wood from the hardware store. My clapper is a left over piece of a 4x4 that I found in the garage. A piece of 2x4 should work just as well. Although I do suggest gently sanding any wood you might use so that it won’t snag delicate fabric. Happy sewing and pressing, everyone! ☺

A Moneta in San Francisco

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When I wrote about my first version of Moneta I didn't realize that it was my new favorite dress pattern. After making the dress a second time it all became very clear, it's official: I'm in love.

My Pucci inspired Moneta was technically a wearable muslin and when it was done I knew that it needed a few tweaks for it to fit the way I wanted. For round two I took in the center neckline by 1/4 inch, shortened the bodice by 1 inch, and added 2 inches to the length. My twin needle even played nice for me and didn't have much tunneling :)


This probably isn't the most exciting make for you guys, but I assure you that it will get a lot of wear. Every girl needs a black jersey dress right? Oooh, I wonder if I should stop referring to myself as a girl, I'm turning 30 this Friday. Is it time to start calling myself a "lady" now?

Back to the dress, I am really into wearing all black again. Throughout my life I go through phases of wearing all black just because I think it is a classy look, not to make any particular statement. For whatever reason it really bothers some people to the point that they have to comment on it. Like, really bothers. Why just a few weeks ago I was called "gothic," but the most memorable comment was from a former dorm mate in college. She said, "I can tell by the way you dress and what music you listen to that you do drugs." L...O...L. Does anyone else get hated on for wearing all black or is it just me?


These photos were taken at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco this weekend. I'm afraid that I don't know a thing about it, it was across the street from the hotel we stayed at and I thought it would be a cool spot for photos. In my next post I'm going to share some photos of the fabric stores I went to :) And surprise surprise, I got fabric for another Moneta.

Happy Wednesday!

Sew day with a girl and a guy

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This past Fourth of July weekend was pretty great. I walked dogs on the beach with three friends, slept in, went to a BBQ, read 250 pages of one of my all time favorite books, The Witching Hour  (need to finish it before I go to New Orleans!), and went to yoga. The highlight was my sew day, of course.


My good friend Jessi (Qui's twin) and her husband Curtis came over yesterday for some sewing. We put on old movies, talked, and got some projects crossed off our to do lists. By the end of the day Jessi had made a super cute coral dress and I completed a pair of knit pants. We joked that we sewed something to wear out to dinner that night :)


I thought it was pretty cool that Curtis joined in on our sew day. It was my first time sewing with a guy! He brought along his denim vest and attached some studs and planned his patch layout. He is the singer for Magazine Dirty and wants to get his vest done before his next show this upcoming weekend.


Curtis and I have been friends for many years, even longer than I have known my husband! He and Luke have been besties forever and I think of him and Jessi as family. I even call his mom my "Arroyo Grande Mom." Cool fact: Curtis was the one who came up with the name "Miss Crayola Creepy" close to ten years ago.


Stella had fun with us too. Did any of you get some sewing done over the weekend?

A fabric shopping tip

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It is so easy to get a little crazy in a fabric store. You might not know how much fabric a certain pattern requires, so you guess and buy what you hope is a little extra. Or you might get distracted by a fabric that you don't really have to have, but want to add it to your stash anyways. Next thing you know, your stash is questionably hoarder status and you've blown money that you shouldn't have spent. I know, I've been there.

One thing I have learned, and this is nothing groundbreaking, is to spend ten or fifteen minutes before leaving the house and put together a list. I have found that when I have a list I am better prepared for shopping. That's what lists are for, right?

On my list I will write:
  • The pattern name
  • Recommended fabrics
  • The amount needed for 45 inch and 60 inch bolts. 

Seeing this in front of me keeps me in check, helps me avoid spending $$$$$, and prevents me from straying from what I came in to buy. Willpower is also required. Plus, I like to add notes, so it's easy to quickly scribble what I ended up getting and how it should be washed.

Nothing in this post is particularly mind blowing, but I thought I would share anyway :) Do you shop with a list, photos from a phone, or another method? Or no method at all?

"If you're going to San Francisco..."

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"...be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." My college roommate told me that she thinks of me when she hears that song. Probably because I would always wear flowers in my hair or maybe she thought I was a hippie, who knows. I digress, I am going to San Francisco this summer for a quick day trip (with minimal fabric shopping, sad I know). Anyway, Colette Patterns put together a Knitcation contest using their two newest knit patterns, Mabel and Moneta. Here's the gist, you sew at least one skirt and dress from the new patterns and make up a travel wardrobe for either a real or pretend vacation. I'll be in SF, but only for 24 hours, and this is what I would wear if I was there for a little longer, didn't want to pack a ton, and knew that it was going to be sunny with no fog.

Look 1: Scout top and Mabel skirt. Vintage scarf to tie in my hair for a pop of color. Bought the scarf the same day as the LA Sewist meet up a few weeks ago :) Sightseeing outfit for sure.
Look 2: Leopard Mabel and American Nightmare band shirt. Pair this with red lipstick and my old Converse. Side note: I have owned the same pair of Converse since high school. They are a little beat up, but I refuse to get rid of them. They'd be great for jumping on and off the cable cars!

Look 3: An unblogged Moneta, I just finished it last night! Leopard cardigan Renfrew mod. I could go cute with this and wear black flats or make it a little more rock and roll with Converse. Magenta lips are a must. Luke and I are going to a comedy show and this outfit will most likely be worn.
Look 4: The same Moneta dress paired with a red Bananna Republic cardigan. I rarely buy RTW, but fell in love with this sweater a couple of years ago. This look would be something worn out to dinner with black flats.

Look 5: Salme Kimono top with an unblogged Mabel. Leopard print shoes to complete this outfit. Did you guys know that I like leopard print???? LOL. This combo will be worn when I am cruising around Union Square in search of Britex.
Look 6:  Mabel and Scout. Just need baby pink flats to wear on my feet, a bun on my head, and soft pink blush on my cheeks.

Look 7: Just realized that I photographed the back of this Moneta dress and not the front, whoops! Guess I need to invest in tags at some point. This dress would be worn on Haight Street and I would make peace signs while posing for photographs that my husband would be forced into taking.

I'm glad I decided to do this Knitcation challenge. I would have made the dresses and skirts with or without the contest, but it forced me to think about my clothes in a different way and combine things that I normally wouldn't or hadn't thought of yet.

Let's talk about San Francisco, do any of you have any restaurant recommendations? If you could go to one fabric store what would it be?

A Pucci inspired Moneta

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Let's make one thing clear: this is Moneta number one of many. I love this pattern and I love the fabric I got from Mood. This would have been my "signature style" look for Project Sewn had I made it that far in the competition. A 1960s Pucci style print, paired with a pattern from one of my favorite companies, in a knit fabric. That just screams "me," at least I think so. Yes, it's a simple look and not as complicated as the other outfits in the competition, but this is me and how I dress.


This dress was a dream to sew. As usual I found Colette's directions to be straightforward, but I did need to reference Devon's sewalong posts when it came to attaching the clear elastic at the waist. Sometimes photos are the only way I can wrap my mind around a new technique and I was very grateful to be able to learn from a pro on the world wide web! I wasn't brave enough to try and attach the elastic with my serger, so I used my machine somewhat successfully. I'm far from an expert at using it and need to practice sewing it into a few more garments. Oh, I wasn't sure where to buy clear elastic locally and ended up buying it on Etsy and was happy with the price and product.

Pockets, oh hell yeah.

The twin needle is still giving me trouble. It could be the fabric or my tension, but there is a definite tunneling issue even though stay tape was used as a stabilizer. We will go ahead and call it a "design feature" on this dress and call it a day.

The neckline is a little loose and needs to be taken in a bit, so the paper pattern was adjusted for Moneta number two. The bagginess doesn't bother me enough to not wear it though!

These photos were taken yesterday on a windy Santa Barbara day. My husband and I felt like getting out of town and had a fun little day trip to shop (since learning how to sew my shopping consists of buying bath products from Lush and candles from Kitson haha), eat Pinkberry, watch people get tickets from cops (seriously, at least two people had cop drama across the street from where we ate lunch) and cruise around downtown. The dress was really comfy and even when I accidentally spilled water all over myself I wasn't bummed. Life rules when you are wearing something you love!

Sewing fail

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It is so hard to sit down and write about a completed garment when you're just not feelin it. I have had this outfit done for weeks, but the thought of blogging about it, ughhhh! Don't get me wrong, the patterns and fabrics I used were great, my sewing is what messed everything up.

The third look for Project Sewn was "Going Global." My original plan was to do a red, black, and yellow look to symbolize Germany, a country I would one day like to visit. As you can see, the skirt is black, the top is yellow, but where is the red? I had been planning on making a red bolero or blazer, but once I got eliminated I said, "fuck it" because it's getting too warm for an extra layer and I already have three or four red sweaters.


Let's start with the positives. The top is the Scout pattern by Grainline which I have sewn a couple of times now, but never with lace and underlining. In fact, I had never sewn lace or underlining at all until this project, so a familiar pattern was a great way to start. I bought the fabric online from Hart's in Santa Cruz. Side note: this was my first time ordering fabric from them online and it was great. I love that there is an option to order matching thread for whatever fabric you buy.


Man, underlining is a lot of work, I had no idea. Scout doesn't have many pattern pieces, but all the hand basting was time consuming for sure. My eleven year old neighbor convinced me that I needed to start watching Switched at Birth, so I vegged out on that while doing hand sewing. In the end though, I am happy with how the shirt turned out. I like the nude fabric peeking through the yellow lace. I'd like to make another version of this with black lace.


Here's the failure, the skirt. First, let me make it clear, I am not bashing Sewaholic's Gabriola pattern, all issues were with me being a total dumb and screwing things up. Caroline lead a great sew along on the Sewaholic blog, but if you're acting like a drunk and start serging stuff with the wrong seam allowance on a waistband yoke then you're going to have problems. Long story short, my waistband ended up bigger than the skirt, so I gathered the fabric to fit and it looks sloppy. And the zipper looks bad. And I messed up on the buttonhole. And the hem sucks. And I should have made a smaller size.

Technically this is a wearable muslin, so I just need to GOI (get over it), move on with my life, and try the pattern at a later date, because let's get real, it's a super cute skirt.

Have any of you had an epic sewing fail lately?