From Lounge Dress To Sexy Dress

Pattern Hacks And Serger Tips For The GreenStyle Valerie Dress

When the GreenStyle Creations Valerie Dress was first released, I put off buying it. I don’t know why, since 2020 was definitely the year for lounge wear! 🙂 Now that I’ve whipped a couple of them up, I’m really wondering why I waited! It’s a comfortable, flattering dress that can transform from lounge wear, to beach cover-up, to throw-it-on-and-run-to-the-store, to pretty enough to wear to church.

The shaped seamed back gives a flattering, comfortable fit that is so much nicer than a sloppy, boxy T-shirt. It has sleeves ranging from cap to long, but of course I chose to go sleeveless. #floridalife The curved hem (a shirttail hem) gives a more casual look, so I chose that and the scoop neckline for my first make of the pattern.

Talk about comfortable! This immediately became my new favorite nightgown and got worn to bed that evening. And worn around the house the next day while sewing. Surely I’m not the only one to sew in my lounge wear? Be honest, you know you’ve done it! 😉 I chose to bind the neckline and armscyes rather than do bands just because I can.

Use the same length for binding as recommended for your band, but only cut your strip 1″ high. Stitch the short ends together and quarter and pin the binding to the neckline right sides together. When you serge the neck binding on using the normal 3/8″ seam allowance, with your stitch width set at M, your machine will trim 1/8″ off. Press the seam allowance up, and wrap the binding around to the inside, pinning in place. Then top-stitch or cover-stitch it in place. It’s a super easy, yet professional looking (although technically faux) binding finish.

Windy days make taking photos a bit challenging!

People sometimes get nervous about hemming a curved shirttail hem, with memories of past wonky, wrinkly, bunched up hems. But it really isn’t hard if you do a couple of things. First of all, don’t sew with fabric that doesn’t have “recovery”. Generally speaking, this means it contains spandex/Lycra. When you stretch your knit fabric out, it should come back to its original size. If the fabric stays in a stretched out shape, it’s a sign that the fabric is going to grow and hang oddly and unflatteringly. Just don’t waste your time with it. Secondly, the Valerie pattern has a nice gradual curve not sharp turns, which makes it easier.

And here’s the most important tip: serge along the hemline on the right side of your dress, using a 4 thread overlock, stitch width of M, stitch length of 2 to 2 and a quarter, with your differential turned up to 1.3. This does two things. It gives the hem stability so that it won’t stretch out while top or cover-stitching. It also very slightly brings the edge in a bit. Then when you pin the hem in place, you won’t have excess fabric bunching up. You’ll just have a smooth beautifully curved hem.

Smooth curves and no weird bunching, it’s magic I tell you! 🙂

One Valerie dress led to another… as in the very next day I decided I needed another one! To change things up, I did a mash and a hack. Mashing the Valerie with the Staple Tank was a no-brainer, since the Staple Tank is my most used tank pattern. Simply layer your Valerie pattern with your Staple Tank pattern, matching the natural waist markings. Then trace the Staple Tank bodice merging it into the Valerie body .

This photo led to my next tweak, further pattern grading.

A seasoned sewist has learned and understands the importance of grading. But a new sewist is likely to be a bit nervous about the idea. You mean I bought a pattern and it’s not going to magically perfectly fit my unique body and shape? What??? Okay, the possibility exists that it will fit you perfectly well, at least as well as your basic ready-to-wear. But the more you sew, the more demanding you become about getting the best fit possible. And the first step towards that is measuring and grading. Pattern companies include a measurement chart in the tutorial, and it’s important to look at them.

You may be tempted to say well, my bust falls into size x, and my waist and hips are size z, so I’ll just make size y. Depending on the ease of the garment, it may fit. But it will likely be a bit large on your shoulders, and the top or dress may ride up because it’s a little too snug across the hips. Personally, I like when patterns include an upper bust measurement, as well as a full bust measurement. My bust is fuller than average for the frame of my body. So if I choose a pattern size based on my bust measurement, it’s likely to be too wide across my shoulders, which leads to bagginess above the bust, with the excess fabric digging into the front of my armpits. Super uncomfortable and not an attractive look. So I generally trace a smaller size above the bust, grading out to my bust size below the armscye. If my hips measure on the edge of two sizes, I generally grade out to the bigger size to give myself more room for the booty.

Grading to fit your curves leads to a curvy sexy fit.

All of this is pattern dependent of course, but on a more fitted style like the Valerie Dress or Staple Tank, it’s super important to grade. Some people get all fancy using a french curve to grade their patterns. Since I don’t own one, I just draw gently curved lines from one size to the next. Think hourglass curves rather than straight lines when going in or out on sizes.

Using the lower scoop back of the Staple Tank really changes the look of this dress.

You kind of get a hint of my side vent hack in the photo above. Since I was doing the straighter hem on this dress, I thought it would be fun to add some side vents. I marked the sides of the front and back pieces 4″ up from the hem, and made a 3/8 ” snip.

Apparently it’s time to buy a new marking pencil, since I’m working with just a pencil stub! 🙂

Serge from the snip to the hem, along the bottom raw edge, up to the snip on the other side, on both the front and back.

Serging the edges makes it easy to get a clean finished hem.

Then follow the pattern tutorial for assembling the dress. When sewing the side seams together, be sure to fold the lower vent area out of the way when serging off the snipped edge. Tuck your serger tails, and press the vents to either side and cover stitch. Then pin the hem up and coverstitch. You’ll end up with beautifully finished side vents.

I could have made the vents 5 or 6 inches long and still felt comfortable.

I love the look and fit of this hacked, mashed dress! It’s comfortable, and kind of sexy, while still looking classy. In fact I wore it to Mass on Sunday with one of my Sunday Cardigans.

It was hard to stop grinning in a dress that made me feel confident and pretty!

Here’s the takeaway: grade to fit your body; don’t be afraid to mash the Valerie with one of your favorite patterns; side vents are fun; and try my serger tips and tricks. The details: both the emerald and navy dresses were made with rayon spandex purchased at Phee Fabrics.

So, which version should I make next? I’m thinking I need to try the V-neck!

This post may contain affiliate links.  This means that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.  As always, I only give my honest opinion.  After all, it is my blog, which represents me! 🙂 Thank you for reading and sharing my love of creating, sewing, patterns, fabric, and making beautiful well-fitting garments! ❤

Jackets For The Girls

The Stitch Upon A Time Gnome Jacket

Colder weather moved into Tennessee, and my granddaughters needed jackets. Sewing a jacket just sounds so overwhelming, doesn’t it? Especially if the the jackets are reversible, and require reversible separating zippers! 😮 But Grandma love prevails, so it was time to get sewing!

For some reason, zippers seem to intimidate me. It’s silly really, because as a teenager I made a pants suit with a bomber style jacket and both pieces had zippers. (I recall that my mother saved that jacket for years after I quit wearing it, probably because she was just so impressed that I made it. 🙂 )

Let me put your mind to rest now, installing the zipper in the Stitch Upon A Time Gnome Jacket is no big deal. The tutorial is well written, and the directions are easy to follow. Seriously, the only challenging part was shortening the zippers. And that’s only because I purchased super heavy duty brass zippers and my husband had to help me remove the teeth by cutting them off with nippers! 😉 Plastic coil zippers would have been easier, but I love the sturdiness and bold look of the brass zippers!

Can you tell Lila loves playing with vehicles of all kinds? 🙂

The Gnome Jacket calls for woven fabric, and JoAnn Fabrics happened to have some quilting cotton and beautiful batiks on sale. I wanted the girls jackets to match, so the main sides were made with a swirl pattern quilting cotton. I personalized the lining side with pretty batiks in complementing colors. Lila likes purple and turquoise, and blues really bring out her eyes, so this “salt dye” batik was perfect for her.

When looking through some photos from a few years ago, I noticed how nice green looked on my son-in-law. So I figured a green would really flatter Zoey’s darker coloring. The green and turquoise circle print batik was a perfect choice for the lining of her jacket.

(Before anyone becomes concerned, Mama just sat her in the swing for a quick photo. She is ALWAYS strapped in when she’s actually swinging.)

Construction of the jackets really is easy. Honestly, the fancy gathered, completely finished pockets were the most time-consuming part! 🙂 I like finished pockets, especially on wovens, because you never have to worry about the fabric unraveling. The pockets are just as smooth and pretty on the inside as they are on the outside.

Doesn’t the zipper guard give the jacket a nice couture finished look? It also keeps the zipper from rubbing against the sensitive skin at the neck.

I made life easier by using simple rectangular pockets on the lining side of the jackets. Because of course little ones need pockets, no matter which way they wear their jackets! Where else are you going to store your snacks, random pebbles, and whatever other treasures you find?

The jackets got a little crumpled during shipping, and what Mama with two little ones, including a VERY active 3 year old dares get out a hot iron and ironing board?

The jacket has a plain back or a gathered two-piece flared back option. The gathered back is a sweet feminine touch, and only takes a few minutes longer. It’s worth the extra time for the extra girly touch!

Mama got in a little walk by pushing the girls to the playground.

Double strollers are SO handy!

The girls got plenty of play time at the playground. Climbing, perching, sliding, swinging and playing outside are always fun.

Look at that big girl sitting up by herself!

They headed over to the swings, where lots of giggling commenced! Lila was so excited to push Zoey on the swing. Zoey loved her very first time playing on the swings.

Look at that happy baby giggle!
Swings are always fun!

The Stitch Upon A Time Gnome Jackets are well worth the sew! The foldover cuff option gives a little extra “grow” room, so hopefully they’ll be able to wear them for quite a while. I am super happy with the outcome, and have already made (actually hacked to personalize!) another one for Lila. So you can tell I really like the pattern. 🙂

Slides are great for climbing too!

No matter how rough and tumble the play, or how wild the child 😉 my girls are wearing the cutest jackets at the playground!

The details:

Kid’s Gnome Jacket by Stitch Upon A Time (it doesn’t cost you anything extra to use my affiliate link, but I may earn a few pennies to buy more patterns! 😉 )

Quilting cotton and batik fabrics from JoAnn Fabrics

Reversible separating zippers from Wawak. Don’t forget to order zipper stops in the coordinating coil size if you use metal zippers!

This post may contain affiliate links.  This means that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.  As always, I only give my honest opinion.  After all, it is my blog, which represents me! 🙂 Thank you for reading and sharing my love of creating, sewing, patterns, fabric, and making beautiful things for my granddaughters! ❤

 

Thanks & Giving

2020 has been an unusual year, with plenty of challenges. (You don’t say! 😉 ) But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an abundance of things to be thankful for.

I am thankful that our son and daughter-in-law were able to have a beautiful wedding in early February. Our families and a few friends gathered together to celebrate the happy occasion.

“Uncle Jon Jon look! I threw all my petals for you!”
Getting my sweet little flower girl to exit stage right so that the bride could make her way down the aisle was a bit of a challenge!

My sweet Lila was one of the flower girls, and it’s safe to say that she truly enjoyed the experience! She made sure to toss all the rose petals, but then didn’t want to just leave them there! 🙂 Toddlers always add a bit of laughter to a wedding! On a side note, when my daughter (Lila’s Mama) was three years and two days old, she was the flower girl at my sister’s wedding. She provided the laughter when she proclaimed “I have to go potty right now!” My Dad laughed so hard! And, being the good Grandpa that he was, quickly jumped up to rush her to the bathroom. Ah, memories!

I am also very thankful for our second granddaughter. The sweet babe was born back in May, during the height of CoVid. Which means that we didn’t get to meet her until she was nearly 48 hours old. But we did get to care for Lila while Mama, Daddy and baby sister stayed at the hospital, and I really enjoyed all the one on one time. It’s hard to believe that the sweet newborn babe is already 6 months old!

You can’t help but smile at her happy grin, and I swear she can see your soul when looking at you with those dark eyes!

I’m also grateful for the ability to sew. It’s one of the things that gave me focus and joy during the stressful times of 2020. Being able to create something beautiful and useful is a wonderful gift, and I definitely thank God for blessing me with this talent.

I am thankful that the yoga studio I attend was only closed for two months during CoVid. A regular yoga practice helps burn off anxious energy, and yoga breathing is definitely calming. It’s been a great form of exercise for me. And seeing the familiar faces every week has kept a sense of normalcy in my life.

photo courtesy of @coastalyogafl

I’m very grateful to be able to live in sunny Florida, where, despite the ridiculous number of hurricanes and tropical storms this year, we haven’t suffered any damage beyond broken palm fronds and a small roof leak. We have the opportunity to visit with family who live within a few hours drive. We get to walk the beach, breathe the fresh sea air, and see beautiful sunsets over the ocean.

Dan and his brother enjoyed having a dolphin swim quite close to them during our last beach day.

In short, I have much to be thankful for. Now for the “giving”. Obviously I believe in charitable giving. Our faith calls us to share and care for others. I’m talking about a different kind of giving, more specifically giving up the things that no longer serve us.

2020 has been a very contentious year on social media. Mean-spirited attacks on people with different beliefs on everything from politics, faith, CoVid restrictions, you name it. Some people have become downright mean turning to threats and bullying. It’s just silly! Arguing and acting like a child throwing a tantrum just because someone holds a different point of view certainly isn’t going to win them over to your POV! 🙂

Hopefully we can all give up our feelings of superiority, and give others the opportunity to discuss their beliefs. Let’s give up our judgemental natures and recognize that everyone is created in the image of God, and therefore we all have value. Can we also give up the temptation to so easily wander into sin? It’s not like we don’t have a simple guide to life in the ten commandments! 🙂

I plan to work harder at giving up a grumpy attitude when things don’t go as smoothly as I’d like. To not let the small irritations in life turn into major worries. Instead I plan to give in to God. To surrender my need for control, and recognize that God loves us, and wants us to be the best possible version of ourselves. That no matter what challenges life in 2020 brings, God is and always has been there for us.

Happy Thanksgiving dear readers! I am thankful that you read, follow, and like my little blog. No matter where you are in the world, I hope that you too are giving thanks for all the good in your life. I also hope that you’ll join me in giving up the negative and give in to God’s call. ❤

Stitch Upon A Time Legend Leggings

When you go to yoga class four days a week, you need a lot of workout wear! I am super picky about workout wear because if it’s not comfortable, breathable, and able to stretch with me, it’s not getting worn.

Making leggings that work as hard as you do can be a challenge. Some patterns are meant to look cute as lounge or daily wear, but don’t really work for exercise. And obviously fabric choice plays a part in this. But the new Legend Leggings from Stitch Upon A Time meet my workout challenge, even after a sweaty Ashtanga Yoga class!

The waistband didn’t roll or give me a “muffin top”. I even wore a Titania Tunic tied up on the side, exposing my belly, which is definitely not the norm for the 50+ year old crowd! That’s how confident I feel in my new leggings!

I played around while doing photos and actually managed to get a few seconds of air time (while flashing my belly, gasp!) on a public beach. Hahahahahaha! Obviously I was never a gymnast or cheerleader, but I have built some decent upper body strength after doing yoga for nearly 18 years. 😉

The inseam free Legends can be shorts, capri, or full length. They can be solid or have stripes that curve to accent the booty.

You can keep it simple and let your fabric be the focal point, or go crazy and cover-stitch to accent all the seams. The waistband can be low or high, but being a rebel (which is so unlike me) I went halfway between for a mid-height.

I love leggings that give me flexibility in fit and style. I had no problems with them riding up or down, no matter how many forward folds, stretches, or holds.

I love leggings that are comfortable and versatile, that you can wear to lounge about or workout. Here is how I personalized them to suit me:

I am tall, so I added 1″ to the capri length. As mentioned, I cut halfway between the low and high rise for my perfect waistband height. To give the front waistband more tummy smoothing power (I like cookies, okay?) I added powernet to half of the waistband. (Cutting the powernet to fit the entire folded over waistband would give even more holding power.) The powernet was basted to the front waistband, then the front and back waistbands were sewn together as per the tutorial. I recommend cover-stitching the side seams or stitching in the ditch with a sewing machine to keep the side seams aligned if you add powernet. I also gave myself a little more booty room by cutting along the Medium inner back crotch curve line, while cutting everything else on my measured size Large cut line.

It was a great way to give a little more room for “the junk in the trunk”, especially since I like using highly compressive fabric for leggings. Keep in mind that if you have a similar booty/body shape, that you will need to stretch the back waistband a little bit, while easing in the body of the leggings. If you’ve ever had pants that fit nicely over your booty, but gapped at the back waist, this solves that problem.

The details: I used three different colors of Supplex from Phee Fabrics for this fun striped look. The reverse triple cover-stitching was done using a variegated thread in the looper. I just love the fun look you get from variegated thread, especially when working with solid color fabrics. And yes, I will definitely make another pair (or three!) of Legend Leggings. I think it would be a fun look to use powernet as the outer stripe. Kind of sexy and kind of fun, what can I say?!

This post may contain affiliate links.  This means that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.  As always, I only give my honest opinion.  After all, it is my blog, which represents me! 🙂 Thank you for reading and sharing my love of sewing, patterns, and fabric. ❤

The Sinclair Alana Princess Seam Dress

Don’t you just love princess seam dresses? The curves fit your curves, you get the opportunity to color-block and really personalize your fit, and best of all, it’s truly a universally flattering style!

I was excited when Sinclair Patterns posted the tester call for this pattern and quickly applied to test. I enjoy testing patterns for a few reasons: it gives me a deadline and focus for my sewing (especially helpful if you’re in a sewing slump); it’s an opportunity to learn or try different techniques or finishes; you get to provide input on how a pattern fits on different bodies and body shapes; and of course you get to play with a new pattern!

The Alana Princess Seam Dress has gently flared skirt which accentuates (or gives the illusion of) an hourglass figure, and, it has pockets!

It’s not often that a knit dress includes pockets, because of course knits stretch. Pockets can become distorted or cause unflattering lumps and bumps when “hidden” in a side seam. But the Alana pockets are integrated into the design, and the tutorial provides instructions for stabilizing the pocket opening so they don’t get all droopy and ugly.

Obviously, fabric choice is going to affect the look and fit of any pattern. A higher Lycra or spandex content is going to give a firmer fit and more “hold”. A softer knit is going to give more drape. This dress was made with coordinating Art Gallery Fabrics cotton Lycra prints.

Because the AGF cotton Lycra has excellent 4-way stretch, I laid the front and back center panel pattern pieces cross grain to give me vertical stripes. And I was super careful when laying out the side front and side back pieces so that the stripes would align down the side seams.

What was I thinking when I decided to use a striped fabric on a time-sensitive garment? \_O_/ Hahahahahaha! If you want perfectly matched stripes, you have to take the time to do lots and lots of pinning to keep everything aligned when you sew!

Sinclair Patterns are somewhat unique in the .pdf pattern world, as they include short, average, and tall pattern options. Most of my height is in my legs, but I am also longer than average from shoulder to bust point. So I use the tall pattern from the shoulder through the armscye, and the regular pattern for the balance of the dress. Have you ever noticed a ready to wear (or sewn by you) top or dress cutting up into your armpits and creating wrinkles? Well, you probably need a deeper armscye.

Do you notice wrinkles on the side of the bust radiating out to the side seams? And sometimes a big wrinkle above the bust going out to the side seam? That tells you that there isn’t enough room for your bust in that top or dress. Simply using a larger size isn’t the solution, as then the top will be too large in the shoulder and neckline area. What you are likely to need is an adjustment in the bust area. There are plenty of full bust adjustment tutorials and videos online, and they generally do a good job of solving the problem. It’s a little different on a princess seam pattern, and there are princess seam FBA tutorials online too.

But for me, I really only need extra width specifically at the bust area, basically, some bust projection room. To personalize the pattern, I literally drew a C-shaped extension on the front side panels at the bust level. At its widest point, the C extension is about 3/4″ wide. I don’t need extra width at the top of or under the bust, so this type of adjustment is perfect for my body and bustline.

It adds space for the bust, but no extra fullness above or bagginess below the bust. It’s amazing how one small change can make a pattern fit so well.

So, was there anything that I disliked about the pattern or tutorial? I am not a big fan of the neckline facing. I get the point of it, and really like the idea of a clean finish. If I were using a more structured or thicker fabric, it would be a great finish. But if your fabric is a little more stretchy, or lighter, or at all sheer, I don’t like that I can see it through my main fabric. It’s also more time consuming than a simple bound neckline would have been.

In the future, I’m likely to just do a binding at the neckline. It’s quick and easy, and hey, any excuse to cover-stitch is good for me! 🙂

If you’re looking for a fun princess dress pattern, give the Alana Dress a spin! You can color-block, go solid, or use coordinating prints. There are high or scoop neck options, it can be sleeveless or have short, 3/4 or long sleeves, and the dress can be short or knee length, and the pockets are optional. This is a pattern I will use again and I love the comfortable fit. If you don’t use stripes, it’s a pretty quick sew! 🙂

The details: I used the scoop neckline, shorter length, and of course, pockets! The fabric is Art Gallery Fabrics cotton Lycra, purchased from my local sewing shop. AGF is available from online shops and may be carried at local independent sewing shops.

Ready For Some Cute New Shorts?

Stitch Upon A Time Midsummer Pants, Capris, and Shorts

When the tester call for the Stitch Upon A Time Midsummer Pants, Capris, and Shorts came out, I was quick to respond as soon as I saw the line drawings.  Being a Florida girl, I wear shorts eleven months out of the year, and I needed these shorts in my life!

It’s surprising how much the shorts appealed to me, considering that pretty much all my shorts are a variation of slim fit jogger style.  I’m a Grandma.  I don’t wear shortie shorts. But the wrap-around running shorts look is just so fun!  So I expanded my horizons and tried a whole brand new look, and I love it!

midsummer cat front

The curved edges give a sporty look that accentuates your legs.  And they can be wrapped to the front or the back.

midsummer cat back

My favorite pair were made with an Art Gallery Fabrics cotton lycra knit.  The softness of the AGF fabric gives it a nice drape, better than what you would get for an average cotton lycra.

midsummer cat hip

I also made a pair using nylon spandex tricot.  The quick drying fabric would make them perfect for throwing on over a swimsuit.  And they’re great for those beach walks when you might wander into the water because it’s so hot!

midsummer teal front

Fabric choice makes a difference in the fit.  Because nylon spandex has a lot of recovery, the waistband will try to migrate to the narrowest part of your body.  My natural waist is much higher than my belly button, so I think I’ll hack a higher waistband the next time I use this fabric.

midsummer teal back

I like that the shorts give decent booty coverage, while still looking sexy.  The shorts are a quick sew, even including cover-stitching the curved hem.  Seriously!  Center front seam, center back seam, crotch seam, hem, baste, and add the waistband.

midsummer teal full

Which brings me to my sewing tips for the Midsummer Shorts.  I like to up the differential to 1.3 while using a 4 thread overlock on the edge of the hem.  This helps keep knits from stretching out, and makes getting a smooth curved hem a little easier by slightly easing the curve.  Then when you fold it up, you don’t end up with a bumpy hem and it’s easy to top or cover-stitch.  I also recommend top-stitching the wrap over section  for about 4 inches down, starting at the waistband.  This helps keep the wrap flat and in place whether you run or kick or stretch.

Are you ready to try a new look?  Even if you’re not a shorts wearer, I can foresee some soft comfy lounge pant or capris for bumming around town.

Get the look:  the Midsummer Pants, Capris and shorts pattern.

The emerald rayon spandex for the Aushui Tank was purchased from Phee Fabrics.  You can read more about the Aushui Tank (including a fun hack!) here.  The Art Gallery Le Tigre fabric was purchased from my local sewing store, but Stitch Upon A Time and Phee Fabrics both carry a selection of Art Gallery Fabrics cotton lycra knits.

The Titania Tunic was made with white circular knit and I used powernet in the shelf bra.   You can read more about the Titania Tunic, and my workout top hack here.  The teal shorts are nylon spandex tricot.

So, are you ready for some cute new shorts (or capris, or pants)?

 

This post may contain affiliate links.  This means that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.  As always, I only give my honest opinion.  After all, it is my blog, which represents me! 🙂  Thank you for reading and sharing my love of sewing, patterns, and fabric. ❤

It’s Time For Cake!

It’s funny how you miss certain things, and just figure that life is different now, so you’ll probably never have them again.  And then you get a text from your sweet husband, and do a little happy dance.

Let me back up a bit and set the stage for this story.  I’ve been blessed with a bit of a green thumb.  I’ve always liked plants, and remember having houseplants since we were first married and living in a little apartment with only two windows.  When we bought our first real house, I spent the next twenty years gradually building up gardens.  The house got surrounded with perennial flower gardens.  Pots of annuals lined the back patio, and were filled with color from spring to autumn.

echinacea annuals

There was always a pot or two of herbs growing on the back deck.  We built a vegetable garden in the back yard and grew lots of tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, squash, sugar snap peas, green beans, and whatever other plants inspired me when I visited the local garden centers.  One corner of the garden contained a nice patch of rhubarb.  I carefully harvested the rhubarb, never taking more than a third of the stalks from each clump.  The rhubarb grew happily away and provided a harvest starting in spring, and lasting all summer long.

You might be thinking, “Rhubarb?  What in the world do you use that for?”  Or you may have been lucky enough to have been served strawberry rhubarb pie (which is delicious!)  Or perhaps you’ve encountered strawberry rhubarb jam at a farmers market.  If you have the opportunity to try either of those things, I highly recommend them.  But that’s not what I made with my carefully harvested rhubarb.  (Although if you have a good recipe for either of them, I would love it!)  Nope, every bit of rhubarb (that wasn’t shared with family) was made into rhubarb cake.

This is no ordinary “bake it, top it with frosting, and serve it at a birthday party” kind of cake.  This is a super moist, tartness in every bite, slightly sweet, “Please, can I have another piece?” kind of cake.  It is not frosted or crumble topped, because there is no need.  The cake itself is pure deliciousness.  And when we lived in Michigan, I baked it all summer long.

And then we moved to Florida.  I love living here, but have to admit that this Midwest gardener has no clue what to do in this subtropical USDA zone 10a.  We bought a house that has a xeriscaped yard, no grass, no real planting beds, and honestly, not much of a landscape plan.  I love the palm trees, especially the pretty date palm.  And the little orange tree out back is absolutely loaded with fruit this year.  But I haven’t found a good garden center like the nearby ones I had in Michigan.  So we haven’t really done much with the landscape other than pull weeds and trim back the hibiscus.

This year I put forth a little bit of effort, filled some giant pots with soil and planted tomatoes, a pepper plant, two kinds of basil, and cilantro.  Besides the veggie and herb plants, The Home Depot and Lowes garden centers had citrus trees.  So tiny lemon and lime trees joined the orange tree in the back yard.  With temperatures at ninety plus degrees F this time of year, the tomatoes and trees require daily watering, and hopefully they’ll stay alive!  Sadly, it is far too hot for rhubarb to grow here.  So, I had resigned myself to never having rhubarb cake again.

Well, a new produce market opened in the town just south of here.  So Dan went to check it out before heading to the grocery store.  And that’s when my sweet husband texted me this photo:

rhubarb

❤ Cue my happy dance and response to “Buy it all!” 🙂  Ok, I didn’t really want him to buy quite all of it, just a generous handful of stalks.  It was a little late in the day to bake, so the next day I washed the rhubarb, trimmed off the ends and peeled it.  Although rhubarb leaves are huge and interesting looking, they are not edible as they contain oxalic acid.  So you definitely want to cut off and discard all of the leaf.  Then I chopped the stalks into chunks and prepared to make the cake.

As a wedding shower gift (37 years ago!), my Aunt gathered recipes she had gotten from my Grandma and copied them onto index cards.  The recipes are a connection to a wonderful woman that I miss dearly, and I’m so grateful to have them!  You can tell when a recipe is well-loved by how worn, stained, and tattered the recipe card is.  It’s pretty obvious that this is a well loved recipe! 🙂

cake recipe

As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve learned to use the highest quality ingredients I can find when cooking and baking.  So I’ve updated the recipe a bit to make it slightly healthier, and certainly even better tasting.  I use up to 4 cups of rhubarb, because I love the extra tartness.  The first time you try it though, you might want to start with just the 2 cups.  I use pure cane sugar, and King Arthur whole grain white flour.  I’ve never used real buttermilk, and have always used the lemon juice “cheat”.  And lastly, don’t use shortening, yuck!  Butter is the way to go, and I am a big fan of Kerrygold Irish Butter.

The recipe calls for baking 45 minutes, but just like baking anything else, you can tell by the delicious smell when it’s done.

cake plate

That first bite of cake was so good!  A flavor that seemed far away and perhaps lost forever brought back happy memories of summers past in our old home.  It was a reminder that connections can be reforged, that the people, places. and things that we love and care about can sometimes back into our lives in surprising little ways.

So, the next time a new produce market opens, or you stumble across an old family recipe, take the time to wander, discover, bake, make, and enjoy!  I am so grateful for this happy “find”, and for all that I am blessed with. ❤

Follow Me Wrap Dress

And How To Simplify Hemming The Flounce

I couldn’t resist purchasing the Pattern Emporium Follow Me Wrap Dress when it first released, even though I am not a flounce or ruffles kind of girl.  A girly girl, absolutely!  I love dresses and all sorts of womanly things.  But frills, flounces and ruffles?  Not my gig.  The pattern includes a plain wrap version, and four lengths from mini to below knee.  But the flounce version just spoke to me, and I knew a knee length sleeveless dress would be the most worn.

When I traced the pattern in my size, I originally added 2″ to the length of the skirt because a lot of my height is in my legs.  And I wanted it a flattering knee length that could also be worn to church.  Then I tried laying the pattern out.  No matter how hard I tried to Tetris the pattern pieces, I could not make them fit on a two yard cut of fabric.  After debating whether to skip the flounce, and deciding not to, I set the pattern aside for a while.

Most of the knit fabric in my stash is a one or two yard cut, depending upon the weight and intended use of the fabric.  I could have just ordered two and a half yards of fabric, but I prefer to place a larger fabric order to save on shipping costs.  Then the pandemic hit, and I kind of lost the desire to sew for myself.  I made masks for family members, and found sewing joy making clothes for my granddaughters.  It was fun to upcycle unworn clothing and to use some of the older fabric in my stash to make cute toddler and baby clothes.  Finally, it sounded fun to sew something pretty for myself.

So I pulled out the pattern and decided to just go for it as written.  I cut the added length off the traced skirt pieces, and kept the only other pattern alterations.  The seam on the back bodice bugged me, so I folded over the center back seam allowance and cut the piece on the fold instead.  To slightly widen the straps, the low round neckline was traced and cut one size smaller than the rest of the pattern.

Follow Me side

The ingenious design of the wrap means that even when taking a walk along the windy shoreline, I didn’t have to worry about accidental undie exposure.  The wrap crosses over far enough that even when the top panel is lifted by the wind, you still have full frontal coverage.

The dress feels fun and flirty, sexy and yet modest.  You can also increase the modesty factor by using the higher neckline, and adding the cap, short, flounce, or long sleeves.  The below knee length would change the look as well.

Follow Me laugh

The dress was sewn entirely on my serger, and the actual sewing time was much faster than the pinning time! 🙂  It takes more than a minute to pin all that flounce to the bottom of the skirt.  But it is such a fun touch that I definitely plan to use it on the next one.  I also figured out a way to make hemming the flounce simple and easy.

Although you may be tempted to skip hemming, especially when using a high quality knit that doesn’t curl, if I’ve taken the time to sew a nice garment, you can bet that I’m going to finish it off nicely!  Hemming curved skirts, or in this case a very curved flounce can be challenging.  When you pin the hem up, there’s all this extra fabric (due to the curve) and it can get “bunchy” and wrinkly.  But, if you serge along the bottom edge of the hem or flounce, and up the differential feed, it will very neatly, slightly “gather” the edge.  I upped the differential to 1.3 on my machine, which is one click up from N(eutral) on most of the curve.  On the more curved ends, I upped it to 1.5, which is two clicks up.

Follow Me flounce

As you can see on this inside view of the flounce, I used a four-thread overlock stitch.  The darker gray thread is my overlock, and the light gray thread is the looper thread of the coverstitched hem.  On the bottom left where the flounce has a slighter curve the 1.3 differential made slight gathers.  At the center bottom where the curve is sharper, upping the differential to 1.5 kind of gathered it a bit more, while still keeping the fabric smooth and unwrinkled.  All I had to do at that point was take it over to my ironing board and press the hem up into place.  I used a few clips to keep it in place while the fabric cooled, but it was super easy to coverstitch (or topstitch with a single or twin needle if you don’t have a coverstitch machine) at that point.

Once you start playing with a coverstitch, you tend to coverstitch everything.  The binding at the neckline and armscye was coverstitched, the hem was coverstitched, and the seam where the flounce was attached to the skirt got coverstitched.  I did not coverstitch the waist seam, because who wants to draw attention to that area? 😉

Technically, this is my “muslin” or “toile”, as I went straight to my nice nylon/spandex tricot from Phee Fabrics, rather than making a test garment.  But I know that Pattern Emporium patterns are a good fit with only minor tweaking for my body shape.  And sewing with high quality fabric is so much easier than wasting time with flimsy fabric.

I really like my dress, but as with every garment I make, I’d like to perfect it.  I’m thinking of raising the waist seam on the next one by approximately 1″ to hit closer to my natural waist.  I’m also considering going down a size in the bodice, but doing a full bust adjustment to address the wrinkling across the bust and pulling up into the armpit area.  Should I add an inch of length to the skirt to make up for the inch I plan to take out of the bodice?  Do you think I’m on the right track with a smaller size and FBA?

Follow Me back

Because I need more of these easy breezy summer dresses!  Hmmmm, maybe some soft rayon spandex for the next one?

I hope you have found your sewing joy.  But if you’re struggling, take the time to breathe deeply, then dive back in to a project that sounds fun to you. ❤

Going Forth

I have felt my eyes tear up at Mass on more than one occasion, and generally it is due to the moving words and music of a beloved hymn.  Sometimes it is a remark or observation during a homily that hits particularly close to home.  Obviously I have cried at funeral Masses, but I don’t recall tears dripping down my face and quickly ripping off my mask while hurrying to the car so that I can cry in private.  Until today.

Today was Fr. Jonathan’s last Sunday Mass at our parish.  I love Fr. Jonathan, and will really miss having him here.  The end of June is when Bishops transfer priests within their diocese to fill the needs in other parishes.  Perhaps a priest is retiring, or the needs of a parish are greater than one priest can handle.  Perhaps the gifts a priest possesses are greatly needed at another parish.  This is the time of year that the transfers happen.

When we first moved to Florida, and temporarily lived in the middle of the state, we attended the local Catholic church that my parents had attended when they lived there.  There wasn’t a big sense of belonging, because we knew that we were only living in that city for a short time.  When we bought our home, but hadn’t closed on it yet, we began our search for a Catholic church in the area.

It may seem funny that we didn’t bother looking for a new doctor or dentist, hairstylist or barber, restaurants or stores, but rather began researching our new town by looking for a church.  I guess it kind of shows how important a church family is to a Catholic.  We looked up the Catholic churches in the area, and I chose our church as the first to visit because it also had a school.  To me, this was a sign that the church was invested in nurturing families.  So we got up early on Sunday and made the long drive over to our soon-to-be new county, and went to Mass.

Fr. Jonathan presided over that Mass, and that was it.  There was no need to visit the other Catholic churches in the area, this was the one, this was home.  His passion and sincerity, his homilies that make you think, that speak to your heart, that inflame you with the Holy Spirit.  His reverence for the Body of Christ, all of it, and in a young man not much older than our children.  His preaching is truly inspired, and even guests who have gone to Mass with us have commented on the power in his words.

This, this is why I cried after saying a quick goodbye after Mass.  Because of CoVid 19 social distancing, we couldn’t hug Father, or even shake his hand.

After a particularly inspiring homily last year, I recall asking him after Mass if he had ever considered videotaping Mass, or at least his homilies.  He quizzically asked me, “Why?”  When I perhaps awkwardly explained that I would like to be able to share it with people on social media, he commented that there are others so much more qualified than he, who already had such things available.  And that the church didn’t really have the equipment to do such a thing.  Little did anyone know that just a year later everyone would have to adapt to livestreaming Mass!

Fortunately, we’ve been able to attend Mass in person this past month.  It seemed so disorienting at first.  As per the CDC guidelines, every other pew is blocked off.  We have to wear masks, and aren’t allowed to sing, so there’s no music.  We can wave or bow to others, but not shake hands for the sign of peace.  There are tape marks and arrows on the floor to follow when going to Communion, and sections are color coded to guide people to separate exit doors after Mass.

It’s quite different than normal, but it is SO GOOD to be able to receive the Body of Christ again!  It’s funny how something that we probably took for granted for years became so missed during the months we had to stay at home.  You certainly realize how going to Mass on Sunday really sets you up for the week.

During his homily, Fr. Jonathan reflected on the apostles being sent forth on their mission.  Bishops send their priests forth on new missions when they relocate them to a new parish.  We have to have faith and follow God’s will to go where we are needed.  Even when it feels challenging to leave self behind, we have to trust and look forward to what God has planned for us.  Easier said than done, huh?

So it’s sad to have said goodbye, but I am excited for the people who will now benefit from Father Jonathan’s encouraging words.  And I know that God will certainly bless him for sharing his faith.  Life can feel scary with all the changes and disruptions in our lives lately.  But God loves us, He has a plan, and no matter how crazy the outside world may seem, we need to focus on the big picture, share our faith, and stay on the path that leads us to our final goal- eternal life in Heaven with Jesus.

 

Note: this photo was taken on Easter a couple years ago, before the church was repainted, and before social distancing was a thing.  Sadly, I don’t have any recent photos of our church to share.

Spot On With Spoxxy

I’ve been guilty of buying a pattern, but not printing and sewing it right away on more than one occasion.  Silly, I know!  The racerback look is popular, cute, and probably why I hesitated on sewing one up.  I’m not a fan of my bra straps showing, strapless bras aren’t really comfortable, and I don’t own a well fitting racerback bra.  That sounds so silly, especially when you consider how many Brazi’s I’ve made.  But here’s the thing- all the Brazi’s I make for myself have been hacked to have straight straps because I don’t like straps near my neck.  My daughter likes the cross back Brazi, and tracing the pattern in her new postpartum and nursing size is on my agenda for today.  Anyhow, the Spoxxy sat unprinted in my computer for a few months.

Then I saw someone post a Spoxxy made as a nightgown on the Stitch Upon A Time Facebook page, and quickly decided to make myself one!  Who doesn’t need some new nightgowns after a few months of social distancing at home?  Not that I lived in nightgowns, hahahahahahaha!  😉  Who am I kidding?  I put on shorts and a tank top to go for walks and thoroughly enjoyed being comfortable in a nightie the rest of the day.

Since this was “just going to be a nightie”, I used some lightweight rayon spandex that I found at an estate sale.  And of course I end up loving the look and want to just keep it as a dress!

Spoxxy front

Look at that grin on my face- I couldn’t stop smiling because it’s just such a cute, comfortable pattern.  The racerback fits well, and the bands don’t bunch up where the upper back meets the gathered body.  Which is a problem I have seen on similar styled patterns by other designers.  I thinks it’s the angle of the cut?

Spoxxy back

The smooth curve of the racerback, the gathering at the back, and the over all shaping of the dress is quite flattering.  The pattern calls for a band at the hip for the top version, and elastic at the waist for the dress version.  I contemplated adding the waist elastic, but since the shaping hits perfectly at the natural waist and flares out to skim the hips, I didn’t see the need.

Spoxxy laugh

After I sent my daughter a photo of my dress, she commented that she needs some comfortable dresses that she can nurse in.  So Mama dug through her stash and found bits of charcoal and gray rayon spandex that were just big enough to piece together a color-blocked version for her.  Due to fabric constraints, I had to add a seam to the bottom section center back, but it’s still quite wearable and fun.  I don’t have any modeled photos of her yet, since it takes a while for packages to get to another state.

Spoxxy gray Obviously, I need to make myself a few more Spoxxy dresses and/or nightgowns because the fit is just so spot on!   Using a more substantial weight of rayon spandex (rather than the flimsy estate sale stuff I started with) will make it even better with improved drape and recovery.

So, the next time you notice an unused pattern sitting in your computer, print it out, and sew it up!  Or give the Spoxxy a try, and see if you end up with a happy smile like me!

Spoxxy hand

 

This post may contain affiliate links.  This means that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.  As always, I only give my honest opinion.  After all, it is my blog, which represents me! 🙂  Thank you for reading and sharing my love of sewing, fabric, and patterns. ❤