The Little Black Dress And 5 Ways To Style It

How To Play Dress-Up As An Adult

 

Every girl needs a “little black dress” in her closet.  It’s that basic wardrobe piece that you can reach for again and again.  If it’s a simple design, all the better because you and how you wear it will be what stands out, rather than a “trendy” design.  Packing for a trip?  Throw it in your suitcase and you can wear it for all sorts of things without taking up all kinds of space.  Not that I would know anything about over-packing!  😉  Ahem!  Anyway, let me tell you what I used to make my LBD and we’ll get on with the fashion show!

A LBD should be something you can wear year round, so a comfortable fabric that won’t overheat you is a must.  I chose rayon/spandex because it is soft and light-weight.  High quality rayon/spandex is key though, because the cheap “big box” fabric store stuff will wrinkle and pill and cling to you in all the wrong places.  The rayon/spandex from Phee Fabrics is 13oz., much more substantial than standard and with great drape.  I used the Women’s Mya pattern from Made For Mermaids.  It is a great pattern with the perfect amount of shaping and flowiness.  It’s slightly fitted at the bust, but not too form-fitting on the rest of your body.  If you choose a pattern and fabric that flatters your shape, you end up with a little black dress you will wear for years!

summer dress

 

 

Headed to the beach?  Picnic in the park?  Or just running up to the grocery store?  You’ve got the perfect summer dress!

 

 

 

 

 
biz dress

 

 

Headed off to work?  Meetings and business travel?  Throw on a jacket and low heels and you’re ready to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cardi dress

 

Is there a chill in the air?  Did you say snow?  Boots and a cozy sweater are the way to go!  This sweater is a ready-to-wear, but there are so many cute cardigan patterns out there, not to mention Polartec, that sewing a cardigan or two is definitely on my to-do list.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                            evening dress

Cocktail party?  A hot date with your love?  Killer heels and pearls, and your little black dress has you covered.  I have to say that this was my husband’s favorite look.  When your husband good-naturedly agrees to be your photographer for a blog, you’ve got to like it when he gives you a whistle when you ask him to take your photo!  This look had me feeling fierce!

 

 

 

 

dress tie

 

Ready for the weekend?  Tie off your LBD at tunic length, add some leggings, slide on some flats, and layer on a shirt.  Casual and comfortable at it’s best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was fun to play “dress-up” and ham it up with all the different looks.  Suffice it to say that I will wear this dress a LOT.  What’s your favorite way to style a little black dress?

summer dress1biz dress1cardi dress1evening dress cutedress tie1

A Bit of Light

Keep peering through the darkness

I love seeing the sunrise.  I think I’ve mentioned before that my morning coffee drinking spot faces the East, so I am treated to a sunrise every morning.  As the seasons have changed, I’ve noticed the sunrise has slowly rotated in a Southerly direction.  Where I used to notice it rising over the palm trees, it now peeks up through a neighbors large live oak.

It’s still the same beautiful sunrise, but you have to look a little harder to see it peeking through the dark branches of the tree.  I think that is kind of like our prayer life, or seeing the light of Christ’s love.  Sometimes it is so easy to see the glorious colors and brightness of the light.  Sometimes we feel that the light is blocked by our worries or the troubles of the world.  Take heart though!  Keep peering through the darkness, knowing that the light is always there.  Something as simple (and yet as hard!) as changing your perspective can bring the light back into focus.

Yesterday morning on our way to Mass we saw a beautiful sunrise with light streaming up from the clouds.  Since there was no traffic directly behind us, Dan was able to slow way down on the bridge so that I could lean slightly out the window to get a photo.  Tightly gripping my phone with both hands and trying to hold it steady against the wind, I was able to capture the moment.  Perhaps this is another metaphor for life?  Hold on to the good tightly with both hands, steady yourself against the buffeting winds, and capture those beautiful, wonderful moments.

sunrise 10-21-18

Remember, God’s love is ALWAYS there.  Keep praying and peering through any darkness and you will see His light.

Grandma For A Year

There’s nothing like being a Grandma!

There is nothing like being a Grandma.  I’ve always heard people say that and wondered what they meant by it.  I love being a Mom.  We were blessed with great kids who are truly wonderful people that we always enjoy being around and spending time with.  So of course I would love being a Grandma, as it’s our baby’s baby.

Dan and I were fortunate to be at a stage in our lives that allowed us to be close by at the crucial time.  We had sold our house in Michigan, and hadn’t yet found a new home in Florida.  So we rented an apartment for three months that was about 12 minutes away from our daughter and son-in-law’s home.  We were able to help with some last minute baby preparations, and to be there with Jennifer through 3 days of labor.  The excitement of our granddaughter’s birth was topped off when I finally got to hold her in my arms.  Her warmth, her smell, her soft baby skin, still covered in birth fluids.  My heart was overflowing with love.  first time holding Lila

I made breakfasts and dinners, and cleaned and did laundry, and waited impatiently for my share of baby snuggles.  Baby Lila wormed her way deeper and deeper into my heart.  The daily visits ended when we moved back to Florida.  But I am so grateful that we had the opportunity for that early bonding time.

We fly up for visits every month to six weeks or so, and Lila is always happy to see us.  We’ve watched her mature and grow, and seen the milestones and developing talents in person, in photos, and via Facetime.  It cracks me up how she tries to reach out through the phone or iPad to touch us.  The first year has flown by.

When Jennifer started planning Lila’s first birthday party, I was hoping that Lila would be able to wear the dress Jennifer wore on her first birthday.  Unfortunately, there is a stain on the front of the dress that I don’t think will come out after 30 years!  Since I like to sew, I knew I could make her something pretty to wear instead.

Jennifer chose a “She’s a wild ONE” jungle theme for the party and I instantly knew what fabric I was going to use.  I had ordered the palm print leaf matte nylon/spandex from Phee Fabrics intending to make a dress for myself.  But I hadn’t decided on the perfect pattern yet, so the fabric was stashed and waiting for me.  I thought it would be fun to make something for all three of us to wear on the special occasion.  I also thought that I had three yards of fabric stashed, but in reality only had two.  Yikes!

That ruled out the possibility of making dresses for all three of us, so Lila got a birthday dress, and the two of us got tanks.  I have made my daughter tank tops before, and have three different patterns cut out in her size.  Her favorite seems to be the Patterns for Pirates Essential Tank, so I chose that for her.  Its flattering, simple, yet shapely design is also great for layering, so I knew she would be able to wear it year round.  I debated between the Essential Tank and the Made for Mermaids Women’s Mya pattern for myself.  I decided on the Women’s Mya since it’s a bit roomier, I knew it would be a busy day, and there would be snacks and cake involved!

The birthday girl’s dress needed to be flowy and pretty and work with a knit fabric.  Jennifer and I both liked the Ellie and Mac Be Dreamy dress, but I had a few concerns.  Since Lila is a busy baby and a beginning walker, a floor length dress was out of the question.  The high-low hemline is cute, but still not practical for a one year old.  So it had to become a knee length dress.  This would be an easier fix if they lived close by and I could compare the pattern to her and her other dresses to judge the fit.  But she doesn’t, so I had to work off measurements. “No longer than seventeen inches” was the answer I received to “How long from her shoulder to hemline?”  So I overlapped my pattern pieces by the seam allowance, measured down from the shoulder, added a hem allowance and drew my new hemline.

Now to fit all these pieces onto only two yards of fabric!  I always take my time with pattern layout and cutting.  Everything needs to be perfectly on grain, and I hate wasting fabric.  Talk about your fussy cutting!  Fortunately, the palm leaf fabric is a true 60″ wide, so I was able to cut all the pieces facing (what I considered) upright on the fabric.  Since the leaves go in all different directions, it isn’t an obvious directional fabric and I could have made life easier by flipping things to fit, but that’s not how I roll!

The tank tops and dress sewed up easily, if slowly, since I just use a basic Brother sewing machine.  I like to finish my neck and arm band seams with my machine’s overcast stitch, followed by topstitching to get a clean, professional look.  (Someday I’ll get that fancy Babylock serger/coverstitch on my daydream wishlist!) 😉

The full circle flutter sleeves on the Be Dreamy dress were my other concern.  They needed to be light and fluttery, and preferably out of a solid, since the underside of the fabric shows.  Jennifer didn’t want to mix in a color with the palm leaf print, so that nixed the circular knit and tricot I had on hand.  My solution was white powernet.  I always use it to add support to the bras and workout tops I make, but it’s a versatile fabric.  I’ve added powernet side panels to workout capris, and have an idea percolating for a top with powernet insets.  Since it doesn’t fray, careful cutting with my rotary cutter was all the finish the fluttery sleeves needed.  I carefully tacked on some organza ribbon rose trim around the bottom of the bodice and along the hem and the birthday dress was complete!

Let the “She’s a wild ONE!” party begin!

plate napkinparty foodhostessG G Lila cakebirthday cupcakecupcake bite

There is indeed nothing like being a Grandma!  Lila fills my heart with joy and is a spectacular gift from God.  Her big blue eyes with mile long lashes, her laughs and saucy little grin, her backward waves, and heart-stopping desire to walk up and down the stairs, the way she practically runs while pushing her walker, and her undeniably fun personality all combine into one beautiful bundle of wonder that has completely stolen this Grandma’s heart.

Happy 1st birthday Lila!  I love you! Grandma Lila

 

 

What Draws You Closer?

It was the anniversary of my Dad’s death earlier this week.  Every Autumn I remember back to that year and to all the beauty and love, sadness and dignity, loss and growth our family went through.  Dad knew he was dying, he had grown weaker and more tired, and took several naps a day.  I remember my Mom, siblings, Aunt and I taking him to his cardiologist’s office to have his implantable cardiac defibrillator turned off.  They have to do this when a person is actively dying, or the defibrillator would keep shocking and shocking trying to get the heart into rhythm when it stops.  His doctor talked with him, asked him questions, and asked us if we had any questions.  It has to be a sobering moment for a doctor to know that there is nothing more that they can do for their patient.  The handshakes, hugs, and kind words from him and the staff as they said goodbye to a patient they knew they would never see again spoke volumes about the seriousness of the situation, and their fondness for Dad.

That last couple of months our family came together as we hadn’t been since childhood.  Us kids took turns spending days and evenings with Mom so that there was always someone there to help.  We bathed him, encouraged him to eat a few bites of food, refilled his water cup, helped him roll over and try to get comfortable.  By the end we were all basically living there.  I did loads of laundry every day, we took turns cooking a meal or going to pick something up.  We were so grateful when kind neighbors and friends would drop off food or snacks.  My youngest sister and I had longer drives to our day jobs, while my middle sister and brother were walking distance to their evening and weekend jobs.  Our varying schedules helped with ensuring that there was always someone there.

While Dad slept I would frequently sit quietly in a chair just to be with him.  We’d have conversations about whatever was on his mind.  His faith was strong.  He knew he was going to heaven.  Dying wasn’t what bothered him, it was the “collateral damage” that concerned him.  Knowing that everything would change, worrying about Mom and what would happen to her.

I remember conversations with Mom as we laid in bed with Dad.  About how we can’t see the big picture.  God has the big picture and knows that everything is going to turn out all right.   It’s like a tapestry and we see this little, teeny, tiny corner of the picture and don’t know or understand how it’s all connected to everything else, and keeps going on.

The opportunity for closeness and increased faith when someone is dying is a gift.  Was it hard?  Oh yeah.  It was exhausting and stressful.  I spent the last month living out of a paper grocery sack of clothes that I would stop by my house and exchange on my way home from work when I couldn’t stand wearing the same outfits over and over again for another week.  Like my sister, I burned through every sick, personal and vacation day to go to appointments for Dad and to be there for Mom.

By that last week we were all walking zombies from the lack of sleep and the stress.  The slightest sound from Dad and we would hop out of bed, or leap up from a chair, bound over a laundry basket like a gazelle running to see what he needed.  Since I had no more time off, I went to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday wearing my usual business attire.  Yet I bundled up in a zip front hoodie over my dress while at my desk, huddled in it like a hug.  When I got to my parents home after work, the hospice nurse who visited daily and the CNA who visited twice a week were in the bedroom talking.  As soon as I heard Dad’s breathing, I knew we were at the end.

It’s called the death rattle, and once you’ve heard it, you know what it means.  I hugged Mary, our nurse, and thanked her for being there for us, knowing that we would probably never see her again.  I don’t know if Mom fully grasped it yet, but I know my sisters did.  We spent the evening together and all went to bed, and Mom got in the shower.  Although it was very late, and I was exhausted, I felt the need to climb out of the guestroom bed I was sharing with my sister and go talk to Dad.  I laid my head on his chest, told him that I loved him, and that we would take care of Mom. Mom heard me in there and asked from the shower if everything was ok.  I told her it was, then continued my conversation with Dad.  I told him that it was ok to let go, that we would be alright.

Dad went to heaven to be with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, a place he had already glimpsed when he was slipping out of consciousness and proclaimed “So beautiful, all the colors and light, it’s just so beautiful!”

Oh, how I miss him!  He was so fun, and funny, so smart and handy, a grounding force in our lives.  I wish he could be here to enjoy our expanding family.  The grandchildren, weddings, and great-grandchildren that have added more love to our family, with two more weddings planned within the next year.  He would have enjoyed the babies and children, and having more people to love.

Death can shake your faith, or it can help it grow stronger.  God increased my faith, changing me in ways both  simple and profound.  I am much more focused on the things that are important in life, I am at peace.  I feel joy and calmness, and going to Mass makes me happy, gives me the foundation in life that I need.  “Thank you Jesus” is a common enough refrain because I do realize how very blessed I am.  I pray that when you encounter troubles, that you find the love and joy that your heart seeks, that your faith is increased.  Will you open your heart to Him?

 

S.U.A.T. Brazi/Calista Mash-Up

Mash it, and hack it, and make that dress your own!

I love the Stitch Upon A Time Brazi pattern.  I was so intimidated to try making my own bra that I eyed it for a month before I finally bought the pattern!  Since then I’ve made several workout bras for myself, a nursing bra for my daughter and a Brazi dress that I wear all the time.  I’ve hacked it for straight straps and removable bra cups and decided, why not mash it with the S.U.A.T. Calista?  Once you feel comfortable with a pattern and know the best fabrics to make it with, it is easy to branch out and try something new with it.

Brazi patternPlease note that out of respect for the designers, and protection of their intellectual property, I will not show full pattern pieces.  I bought the cross-front add-on when I bought the Brazi pattern because I love the look and knew that it would be the most flattering for my body type.  But you can do the straight strap hack on the original pattern.  I simply marked my pattern where it curves from cup to strap, and folded it under 1/2″ above that.  I folded the back straps under and cut out my modified pattern pieces.  I cut four 2″x13″ rectangles out of my fabric as my strap and strap lining pieces.
Choosing the perfect fabric is always the fun part of sewing.  And using high quality fabric is key when making a supportive and functional bra.  I love using Phee Fabrics circular knit, nylon/spandex, and rayon/spandex for my Brazi’s.  But the not-so-secret part to trim powernetbeing successful at supporting “the girls” is powernet.  And I’m not talking the decorative looking mesh stuff I’ve seen at a national fabric and crafts store.  Phee Fabrics powernet is legit!  It holds everything where it belongs.

I cut out my pattern pieces using the same fabric for the main and lining pieces and also cut all my pieces out of powernet. I trim the powernet 1/8″ to 1/4″ smaller on all sides except the side seams.  

pin powernetpowernet bastedPin the trimmed powernet pieces to your lining pieces and baste in place.  Do not baste along the side seams!  To make the pocket for your bra cups, lay your cups on top of the bra front and mark the height.  Sewing a horizontal line across the height mark will keep your cups from shifting out of place.

cross-frontSew your main and lining front pieces right side together.  The pattern tutorial recommends using elastic along the front edge of the cups.  Using the elastic adds another layer of security if you are concerned about anything showing when you lean forward.

back opening

I marked and pinned my back pieces together and left the center 4″ open when I sewed the top seam so that I would have room to insert the straps later.

 

 

sewing sideseamside seam sewn pinned

Open up your front main and lining piece and match it up with your back main and lining.  Here’s the tricky part: sew the outer main fabric together, sewing down about an inch into the lining and then sew the bottom inch together.  Pull the lining fabric of the bra front out of the seam line and tuck it out of the way as you pin the powernet and back lining pieces together.  You may need to use your finger to hold the fabric out of the way as you sew the other 3 layers together.  This will give you the opening on the inside of the side seam for you to insert and remove a bra cup.

bra cup accessRepeat the process with the other side seam.  At this point you can follow the pattern directions about matching your center front notches, adjusting strap length, sewing on your bra band or skirt and adding the elastic.

hem dipSince I was adding the Calista skirt to the Brazi top, and the bottom of the two bras are different shapes, I knew that I might need to make some adjustments.  You might like the look of the dipped hem my mash produced, but I am kind of old school, and like my hems to be level with the floor.  I had an easy fix for my problem.

alter hemtrimmed hem

I laid the skirt pattern on the skirt, pivoted it up from the center front fold to 2″ above the side seams. I flipped the pattern over and repeated the process on the skirt back.  I hemmed the skirt and my Brazi/Calista mash-up was complete!

Although I can add bra cups if I want, I wore my new dress all day and took these photos without using any cups.  THAT is how well quality powernet works!  So hack and mash and sew away!  And enjoy wearing your comfortable, personalized creation.

Brazi Calista backBrazi Calista1

 

 

 

Sewing for Men

Man Up!

Do you sew for the men in your life?  I used to sew cute shirts, shorts, and pants for my son when he was little, but haven’t made him a thing in over 25 years.  I made my husband a bathrobe a good 15 years ago, but that’s it.  I sew for myself and my baby granddaughter all the time, and have made quite a few things for my daughter.  But the men in my life seem to get left out, until now.

I decided it was time to let them be the beneficiaries of my makes.  Since my husband now funds my fabric and pattern budget 🙂 and tolerates all the time I spend sewing, he deserves something nice.  My son was kind enough to help me finish setting up my website (as I am definitely not a technogeek) and deserved a reward for his help and patience.

So I decided to make my husband and son Sinclair Patterns Men’s Kai Tee Shirts out of Phee Fabrics rayon spandex.  Wow!  Normally I am not a fan of rayon spandex.  It’s not that I don’t love the softness of rayon spandex, but generally speaking it is not a fun fabric to work with.  It’s thin and flimsy.  It gets all wrinkly.  It stretches and gets bagged out of shape.  It’s slippery and a pain to sew.

Since I really like Phee Fabrics and have always been impressed with their quality, I decided to give their rayon spandex a try.  Wow!  It is so much nicer than your typical rayon spandex.  It’s way more substantial (13 oz.), has beautiful recovery, doesn’t come out of the dryer as a wrinkly mess, and even makes great bands on your tees.  I am using their rayon spandex for all kinds of makes now!

My next question was what pattern to use?  Some of my favorite “go-to” pdf pattern companies have shirt patterns, but most of them seem to be raglan sleeve styles.  Also, my son is tall, and my husband is not.  It’s not that I’m not used to having to lengthen patterns, since I am tall, but really, who wants to use their precious sewing time having to adjust their pattern?  Enter Sinclair Patterns.  Their patterns come with height options!  Regular, Tall and Short.  How amazing is that?  So I bought, downloaded and printed off the Men’s Kai in Tall and Regular.  Traced off my husband and son’s sizes and got to sewing.

J KaiD Kai

The shirts came together quickly and easily, and the neckband lengths in the pattern were perfect.  I don’t know about you, but I always wait until I have my shoulder seams sewn together to cut my neckbands.  I measure the opening and calculate the appropriate length, and frequently have to make longer bands than a pattern suggests.  It drives me crazy, but I have been burned too many times by a tight, gathered looking neckband to trust most patterns.  The Kai pattern neckband was perfect on both sizes.  It makes me confident that I will have the same success with their other patterns.

Kai biceps Kai side

 

All that was left to do was photograph my makes.  Getting my guys to agree to be photographed took a minute, but they had fun at my quick photo session.  And I snuck into a selfie, since who wouldn’t want to be photographed with these two cuties?  So give new patterns and fabrics a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!  Happy sewing!

Kai group

Sew What’s in a Name?

Name That Cardigan

I mentioned in a previous post that I wasn’t chosen to be a pattern tester for 5 out of 4’s new cardigan pattern.  But guess what?  I got to name the pattern!  How cool is that?  They had a cardigan naming contest in their Facebook group, so I entered it.  You never expect to actually win a contest, because face it, hundreds or thousands of other people have entered the contest too.

But lo and behold, the name I submitted was picked!  I suggested The Eleanor Cardigan because cardigans are comfy and cozy, and doesn’t Eleanor make you think of a sweet Grandma or Auntie giving you a big hug?  Alas, my Grandma’s are no longer around, and neither my Mom or any of my Aunties live nearby.  But I can still cuddle up in a comfortable cardigan!  (And I can always get a hug from my sweet husband!)

So be sure to check out The Eleanor Cardigan  (women and girls versions) from 5 out of 4 Patterns https://5outof4.com/ on October 2, 2018 when it releases!