DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook

Recently, my friend the Good Doctor directed me to the Darbin Orvar You Tube Channel, and I fell in love.   It is filled with DIY ideas, and building projects that are simple, creative, and beautiful.  One of the projects that immediately caught my attention was their DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook, and I knew I had to make it.  Unfortunately, the Darbin Orvar Tutorial was a bit light on measurements, so I had to figure out a few things as I went along.  It really wasn't a problem, because the notebook is really very simple, but I thought I would share the measurements I used, in case it helps out anyone in the future.

Cover:  A sheet of 8.5" x 11" leather by ArtMinds

Cover:  A sheet of 8.5" x 11" leather by ArtMinds

I started with an 8.5" x 11" piece of thick yet flexible leather (215.9mm x 279.4mm) by ArtMinds found at my local Michaels.  It is sold out online as of my writing this, but it is really similar to this leather sold by Amazon.  I used it as my cover, and it really dictated the dimensions of the rest of the journal, including the paper inserts.  Had I had a larger piece of leather available initially, I think I probably would have let the paper inserts determine the size of the notebook, but in the end I am very happy with the size of my finished product, and I am not sure that I would change the size if I make another.

Prepare Cover

You have to create holes in the cover to connect the cover to the paper inserts that you put inside it.  The holes need to be big enough to stick a piece of round elastic through them.  In the original tutorial Lin from Darbin Orvar used what I think was a leather hole punch like these.  I did not have a leather hole punch, so I used this sewing awl (on a side note, I use this tool ALL the time, it has been especially useful in the kitchen, and I highly recommend it).  I think Lin's leather punched holes look a bit neater than mine do, but I think mine still look pretty darn good.

I placed my holes 5.5" (139.7mm) from each short side of the leather, and then on that axis I placed holes 1" (25.4mm) from each long side, then 2" (50.8mm) from each long side, and then one hole 4.25" (107.9mm)  from each long side.  I made five holes total.  If this is hard to visualize, check out the picture of the leather after I had made the holes.

Create Inserts

Gather Paper and Prepare for Sewing

For my inserts I used 15 sheets of standard 8.5" by 11" (215.9mm x 279.4mm) paper for the interior and a piece of heavier weight craft paper for the cover.  I started by folding the paper short sides together in bunches of three pieces (it helps to crease the folded edge with a straight edge, like a ruler), and put the bunches together to form a book.  Since I wanted the height of my inserts to be slightly less than the height of my notebook, I then reduced the height of the insert by cutting off .5" (12.7mm) with an xacto knife (the total size of the paper being inserted was now 8" by 11" or 203.2mm by 279.4mm).  In retrospect it may have been easier to cut the paper prior to folding it. 

To make it easier to sew the paper together I punched holes along the fold as well.  First I unfolded all of the sheets and clipped them together with large paper clips to keep all the pieces in place.  Then I marked where my holes would go along the fold line every half inch.  Finally I used the same awl from earlier to punch the holes where I had marked.  

Sewing the Insert

To sew the insert I chose some variegated plied embroidery thread that I already had in my stash, because it was the thickest thread I had, and I thought it would be pretty.  I sewed using a large embroidery needle.

I sewed a running stitch, starting in the middle inside of the insert, and worked my way to one edge of the insert, turned around and sewed back to the other edge of the insert overlapping my previous stitches, and then turned around again and sewed back to the middle.  This left me with two tails in the middle of the insert which I knotted together using a square knot.  

Cutting the Insert to Fit

Your insert will now be too wide for your cover, so it will need to be cut down.  I cut mine down by .5" or 12.7mm (making the total paper size 8" x 10" or 203.2mm x 254mm).  With three inserts in my notebook, my cover is just big enough to cover my inserts.  If you wanted a little extra overlap by your notebook cover you might want to cut the inserts down by .75" (19.05mm); however, if you were using fewer inserts you might need to cut the insert down by only .25" (6.36mm).

Adding the Elastic and One Insert

To attach the inserts to the notebook cover and to keep the notebook closed, I used this round elastic from Dritz.  Start by cutting the elastic down to size - I cut a 36" (914.4mm) piece.  Then fold the elastic in half.  the folded part of elastic should be inserted into the middle hole in the notebook cover from back to front.  The elastic should then be pulled through so that it makes a loop that is the same length that the cover is wide (5.5" or 139.7mm).  

At this point, the remaining portion of the elastic will be two tails on the inside of the cover.  One tail should be inserted in the next closest hole toward the top of the cover, and the other in the next closest hole toward the bottom of the cover.  The insertion direction is from the inside to the outside of the cover.  The loop that was made earlier should remain.

Turn the cover over so that the outside of the cover is facing up.  The elastic tails should be coming out of the second holes from the bottom and top of the cover, respectively.  Insert the top tail in the hole closest to the top of the cover, inserting from front to back.  Do the same for the bottom tail, in the bottom hole.

Turn the cover over once again so that the inside of the cover is facing up.  The elastic tails should be coming out of the upper and lower-most holes in the cover.  Open one insert to the middle page and place the spine of the insert over the spine of the cover.  Now gather the two elastic tails over the insert and tie them in a knot, holding the insert in place.

Adding Additional Inserts

To add additional inserts, gather two inserts and a piece of round elastic about 20" (508mm) long.  Open the inserts to the middle pages, wrap the elastic around the middle of each insert, and tie the elastic in a knot.  This will connect the two new inserts.

Next slot one of the two new inserts underneath the insert that is already attached to the notebook cover, leaving the second of the new inserts on the opposite side of the original insert.  The elastic holding together the two new inserts will be held in the notebook by the elastic holding the original insert in place.


Thats it!  Enjoy your new notebook, and let me know about all of the places you travel with it!


This post contained affiliate links.  All opinions are my own.

WIP: Ginny's Cardigan


You might think that with all of the work I have been doing on the house that I have been neglecting my other pursuits, like sewing and knitting.  The truth is that I still try to sneak these in whenever I have a bit of downtime (e.g. when I am too exhausted to stand).  Ginny’s Cardigan if from the Unofficial Harry Potter Knits Special issue of Interview Knits that was published in 2013.  The issue features several great looking patters inspired by the Harry Potter books, and even has a few good patterns for men.  

Ginny’s Cardigan is a DK weight stocking knit cardigan with a lace owl motif on the back. I have been knitting it for a few months now, and I am finally nearing the sleeve.  So far the knitting has gone very well, and I have found the pattern well written and easy to understand.  The designer has also written a few helpful blog posts to assist in altering it.  The only alterations I have made so far are changing my needle size to get gauge, adding a few extra short rows to the bust shaping, and lowering the bust shaping slightly to accommodate my curves.  I really love how it is turning out so far, and I am excited to finish it. 


FO - Mandrake


Pattern: Mandrake Plant by Phoenix Knits

Yarn:  Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, and Hemp for Knitting AllHemp3

Needles:  HiYa HiYa Bamboo US 2.5

My kids are finally interested in Harry Potter.  Finally!  You have no idea how excited I am about this.  I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and I have been trying to get them interested in Harry since they emerged from the womb, but the books were boring (not enough pictures) and the movies were scary.  Eventually I found the Harry Potter "gateway drug," Legos.  


Harry Potter Legos, lead to the Lego Harry Potter video games (that do a surprisingly good job story telling without words), which lead to the Harry Potter books books (finally!).


For the pot, I made doughnuts of foam covered in strips of brown cloth, and glued them inside pot to act as the "dirt".  In the video game mandrakes scream and break glass until you put them in their pots.  The kids have been enjoying pretending that he is screaming and then shoving him back in the pot.

The Pavlova Blouse

The Pavlova blouse is a wrap shirt pattern by Cake Patterns, a wonderful new pattern company from Australia.  

2013-09-07 18.42.46.jpg

Steph C, the owner and designer at Cake Patterns has an innovative approach to sizing that makes her patterns easily adaptable to a wide variety of body shapes and sizes.  Unlike most patterns in which your size is determined by only one body measurement (usually the bust), Cake patterns allow you to mix and match your pattern pieces based on several body measurements.  In addition, the suggested fabric is usually a knit, which also make fit a bit more forgiving.

I decided that in this, my first foray into using Cake Patterns, that I would follow the pattern instructions blindly, trusting in Steph C’s fitting and drafting ability, and see what came out.  After completing the pattern, I am glad I didn’t try to go my own way.  Cake patterns are NOT like any other patterns, and while I am a fairly experienced seamstress, I would have been lost if had had not followed the pattern exactly as written. 

I ordered the PDF version of Pavlova from Cake’s etsy shop.  I printed the pattern, put it together, started to cut out my size, and only then realized that my size wasn’t present.  Warning:  Unlike the paper version of the pattern which contains all sizes, the PDF pattern does not contain all sizes.  This mistake was entirely my fault.  It clearly says in the etsy ad which sizes you are buying, but I looked only at the picture, and bought the wrong size.  So then I bought the correct size, printed it, put it together, and cut out my correct size.

After putting together both PDF versions of Pavlova, I feel qualified to comment on the quality of the PDF version of the pattern.  I have used many PDF patterns, and while most are perfectly useable, few seem to have had any thought given to the orientation of the pattern pieces on the paper they are printed on.  As a result, PDF patterns often have empty pages, or nearly empty pages or multiple pattern pieces converging on the same piece of paper.  In contrast, there was obviously intentional placement of the  Pavlova pattern pieces on the printed pages.  There were no empty pages printed.  The pattern pieces intersected as few pieces of paper as possible.  Multiple pattern pieces intersected the same piece of paper only when necessary.  All of these thoughtful touches made putting together the printed pages of this PDF pattern easy compared to most of the PDF patterns I have used before.  The pattern pieces could be put together in chunks which fit on my dining room table.  I did not have to clear the entire floor of a room to tape together ~40 pieces of paper at once.  I highly recommend the PDF version of this pattern (just make sure you buy the correct size)!

The pattern itself is brilliant and weird.  I have never see a pattern that looks anything like this pattern.  I wasn’t even initially sure if I was holding it right side up or upside down.  There is no obvious neck line.  There is nothing on the pattern to indicate where the neck line is.  The main pattern piece is the front, back, and sleeve of the blouse.  Imagine cutting a blouse in half through the front and back of the blouse, then cutting cutting the side seam one of your blouse halves from the hem up to the armsyce then through the bottom of the sleeve.  This leaves the sleeve attached to the body, and the shoulder seam intact.  Now lay your blouse half out flat with the back hem at the top and the front hem at the bottom with your neckline forming a “C” in the middle.  Now on the front half, on the side opposite your sleeve add a triangle shaped flap with the narrow part closest to the neck opening and the wide part closest to the hem.  This is basically what the pattern looks like.  Fire Beard described it as looking like “half a bear skin rug,” and frankly I think that is pretty accurate.  

The directions and construction diagrams are very good, but made no sense on my initial read through.  I decided to follow the instructions blindly without really understanding what I was doing, and the blouse came together perfectly.  I was sure I was reading the instructions incorrectly in step 5 in which the neck facing is applied.  The neck facing initially looks like it is being applied upside down.  I followed the directions anyway, and realized that the neck facing edges are enclosed by the neck facing itself.  The end result is like tucking the two short ends under and top stitching.  This is easily the most difficult part of the pattern, but it really isn’t hard once you wrap your mind around it.  The last step (step 12) really isn’t that well written.  It basically says finish the rest of the edges.  In this step you fold over the neck facing and the facing of the front wraps and ties and sew them all down at once by starting at the end of one tie, sewing up one side, around the neck, down the other side to the tip of the other tie.  I would recommend pinning starting at the neck.  You will have to double fold the edge under at the neck line so that the inside edge meets the outside edge and the inside is finished rather than raw.  You can then use this amount as a guide for how much you need to fold the front facing under to finish the edge.  The front facing narrows as it goes toward the end of the ties.  The amount you fold under will go from about .5 inch at the neckline to nothing at the end of the ties.  If you do not fold the edge under and instead just sew down the raw edge where it meets the body of the blouse you will end up with an unattractive jog at the neck facing.

Now that I have completed the Pavlova and wore it around a few days, there are a few things I will do differently next time I sew it.  The pattern is made with the back slightly longer than the front, so that the back has a flap that would make it easy to tuck in.  I would extend the length of the front so that it is at least as long as the back, and I may lengthen the body overall, because it is very short.  It is also made so that the front ties simply overlap each other, making them compete for space.  This is much easier than sewing an opening in one side that one tie can slip through, so I understand why the pattern was written this way, but I will opt for a side opening next time.

So the big questions:

Does the finished pattern look like the picture?  Yes, the resemblance is remarkable. 

Would you sew it again?  Absolutely, but I would modify it slightly to better fit my body and lifestyle.  I am actually already planning another.


FO - Hitchhiker Shawl

Pattern: The Hitchhiker Shawl by Martina Behm 

Yarn:  Gerwerken Knits Socks (yes, it’s my hand dyed!  Stay Tuned!)

Needles: US 2,

Began: Approx. 5/1/2013

Completed: Approx. 6/8/2013


Martina Behm is my new favorite pattern designer!  Her shawls are wonderful.  They use simple shapes, lots of garter stitch, and are designed to use the amount of yarn that you actually have, so they are great for stash busting or a special skein.  I love that they are feminine without being lacy.

I have been very inspired by all of the wonderful garter stitch shawls out lately.  Designers like Martina, Veera Välimäki,  and Ysolda Teague have recently shown how beautiful and versatile garter stitch can be.  It is nice to focus on color and form without worrying about which stitch to use, and whether you will be able to block the finished object enough that the edges don’t roll up.

I already have Martina’s other patterns inspired by the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, and will probably start another one when I am finished with Liesl, although her Leftie shawl is very tempting as well!  All of the little leaves would showcase some hand dyed yarn very nicely.  Then again, there is a world of patterns out there that is growing all of the time…


Monogrammed Napkin Tutorial

These pretty monogrammed napkins are a great last minute gift. They take less than 1 hour to make, with the exclusion of washing and drying the napkins.

How To


  • Napkins, I used
  • Iris Napkins from Ikea ($1.99 per 4)
  • A Monogram
  • Iron-on transfer paper
  • A computer and printer
  • Iron


  1. Wash and dry your napkins as per their washing instructions to remove any chemicals present on the napkins.
  2. Create or find your monogram.  I used Photoshop to modify a font that suited my purposes.
  3. Using regular paper test print your picture, using all of the settings you plan to use in the final printing.  Make sure this test printing is the correct size and color, and is printed in a mirror image if your picture needs to be read.
  4. If necessary modify your picture and test print again, until the picture is perfect.
  5. Print your final image on iron-on transfer paper (remember you will need one monogram for each napkin).
  6. Following the directions on your transfer paper, iron the monograms onto the corner of your napkins.


WIP - Liesl Cardigan

I became smitten with Malabrigo Rios in Pearl Ten when my LYS (Really Knit Stuff) had a sale recently, but there was a problem.  They only had 4 skeins (about 800 yards)!  Being a selfish knitter, with more than enough hats and scarfs, and not nearly enough adorable cardigans, I had a problem.  I wanted a cardigan, but I couldn't possibly knit one with only 4 skeins.  Enter Liesl.

Liesl is a Ysolda Teague Cardigan with impossibly little yardage.  Liesl’s yardage is advertised at between 175 and 733 yards.  Frankly I thought it was a typo until I saw several people on Ravelry claiming they had knit the cardigan with less than 300 yards.  I thought surly, if they can knit Liesl with less than 300 yards, I should be able to knit it with 800!  Right?  I didn’t believe it, but I cast on anyway.

I have knit a bit over 100 yards at this point and have already reached the underarm (the pictures were taken a few days ago).  I am starting to believe that I might actually have left over yarn when I am done!

Asheville Yarn Shops

While Fire Beard and I were in North Carolina I visited a few yarn stores up in Ashville.  Ashville, if you are not familiar with the city, could easily be referred to as the Portland of the South East.  It is packed with Locally Owned stores, coffee roasters, breweries, street musicians, and crafters.  I am a big fan.

Downtown, on Wall street, a few store fronts from a climbing gym and vegan friendly restaurant, is Purl.  It is the only yarn store I have ever been in that had more male customers than female, and the only yarn store I have ever been in that is organized primarily by color.  I expect it would be a dream come true for a yarn driven knitter, but as a pattern driven knitter, the yarn organization is not my cup of tea.  I find it hard to find what I am looking for at Purl without asking for help, but it is wonderful visual inspiration.

I was very happy to see truly local, North Carolina Spun yarn represented at Purl.  The local yarn was a surprisingly competitive price, but I was a bit disappointed with the quality of the spinning.  The local yarn that I saw was inconsistently spun singles.  It looked lumpy, rather than artistically thick and thin.  I did not buy any.   Nevertheless, it was very nice to see a local product, and I plan to buy some next time if the quality is better.

We also stopped at Yarn Paradise, on the south side of Ashville, and there I did buy a couple of skeins.

Yarn Paradise is a fairly average, but well run yarn store.  It has a large selection of well-known yarn brands, and the staff was friendly, helpful, and quick to steer me toward the sales.  I picked up two skeins of Malabrigo Finito in Paloma, a yarn Malabrigo produces only once a year from the finest quality wool available.  It is incredibly soft and beautiful.  I think it may become a scarf or small shawl.

I still have a few yarn stores to visit next time I’m in Ashville, and I am hoping I will find one that has the character and personality of Purl, with the management of Yarn Paradise.  Any recommendations?

Dying Wool Yarn with Rit



Rit is an inexpensive dye that can be found in the laundry section of grocery stores across America. If you are an average American that wants to dye a piece of cotton clothing Rit is probably the dye you will turn to. I myself have turned to Rit on multiple occasion to dye clothes, and on multiple occasions I have been disappointed with the results.

What I had not realized is that Rit is an acid dye, and despite the proclamation on the box that it is suitable for dying cotton, Rit, like all acid dyes, is terrible at dying cotton. To dye plant fibers, like cotton or linen, you would use a fiber reactive dye. To dye an animal fiber like wool or silk,you would use an acid dye, like Rit.

How to Dye Wool Yarn with Rit - Uniform Color


I started with some yarn I had previously dyed with a food safe acid dye. I had not been happy with the washed out red, and decided to over dye it with Rit's dark red wine color.


Since I wanted uniform color, I started with a dye pot large enough for my yarn to move freely. I filled it with water, my dye, a cup of vinegar, and my yarn (already wet). Then I turned up the heat.


Slowly heat the water to almost boiling, and occasionally move the yarn within the pot very gently. As the dye is absorbed, the water will become lighter in color.


When the water is as light as it is going to get (clear if you added just the right amount of dye), and you yarn is the color you want, turn off the heat, and let the water slowly cool.

When the yarn has cooled, fill a container with water the SAME temperature as the water in the dye pot, then rinse your yarn. If all of your dye was incorporated you should see little to no color run off.

Now it's your turn! ~Gerwerken

Note: When dying your yarn take care to change temperatures slowly and move the yarn gently. Abrupt temperature changes and agitation of the yarn will turn it into a large felted lump. Also, don't use kitchen implements that will later be used to cook food!

The Power of Less - Stash

A crafter's stash consists of the materials required to engage in that craft. It may consist of yarn, fabric, paint, beads, bits of metal, or anything else required to engage in the craft. I would venture to guess that all crafters have some stash whether it is boxes and bag full of materials that would last a lifetime, or only enough for the next project. I would also guess that, given enough time, crafters will experience the inexplicable phenomenon of their stash growing of it's own accord. Given the number of crafts that I engage in, and the amount of time I have been crafting, my stash is pretty small; however, the amount of space allocated to my stash in my tiny house is even smaller. After cleaning up the working area of my little craft studio last week, and putting away all of the pieces of my stash that had been left out, I realized that the cabinet in which my stash is stored needed a good de-cluttering too.


Here is the before and after! Wow, look at the difference! What is the secret to my success? Bags that can fit 3 blanket into the space of one, baskets whose interior dimensions are greater than their exterior dimensions, or hiding everything under the bed? No! I also didn't spend any money on clever organizational gizmos, or new baskets, or magical vacuum bags. In fact, I didn't spend any money at all. So how did I do it?

I got rid of stuff. A lot of stuff. 3 garbage bags full of stuff. I mercilessly purged all of those items I did not love, or could not think of a purpose for. The small bits of fabric, too small to even make a napkin, suffered the worse. I put them all in a pile, and told my kids to give me those that they would like doll clothes made from (the only thing I routinely use small pieces of fabric for). The rest went in the trash (sorry quilters).


My left over bits of yarn went in a basket my kids can reach so they can access them. They will now be easily accessed for kids projects, wrapping and tying things, and knitting experiments.


The left over bits of fabric, and squares large enough for napkins (but not much else) are now in a drawer of their own.


And my interfacing, stuffing, and dye have their own space now too.

I have to admit that I was scared to get rid of my stash at first. After all, it could be used to make something. And I love to make things. But now that it is over I feel a huge sense of relief. I am now left with those things I actually WANT to make into something, and I no longer have an insurmountable mountain of stuff bearing down on me waiting to be worked on.

I encourage all of you to turn a critical eye on your stash, be it big or small, and cut out the chaff. I think you will be glad once you have done it.

The Power of Less - Craft Studio

I have been reducing the clutter in my house, and sharing the results with you in my power of less series. I will finish off national craft month, with crafty decluttering.

For me, having no space to craft is the most discouraging barricade to crafting. When my craft "studio" is a mess, nothing gets done until the clutter is cleared.

This decluttering was simply reestablishing my pre existing organizational system, rather than an overhaul of that system. I'm pretty happy with the results.

Top 3 Crafty Podcasts

As national craft month comes quickly to a close, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my favorite crafty podcasts. DIY

3) Destination DIY Destination DIY is a independently produced radio show from Oregon, US that is also released as a podcast. It tackles a variety of crafty topics, from maker fair to crafting disasters. The professional quality of this podcast makes it a joy to listen to. Unfortunately it is not produced very often.


2) iMake iMake is a multi-craft podcast from Guernsey, an island dependency of the UK. It usually consists of a craft segment, and a segment about Guernsey itself. My favorite thing about this podcast is the range of crafts it covers, some of which I had not heard previous to this podcast.

Electric Sheep

1) Electric Sheep Electric Sheep is a knitting podcast, featuring pattern reviews, knitting essays, a ninja sheep, Molotov chickens, and beards. This smart and funny podcast from London, England, is the only crafty podcast that Fire Beard has ever willingly listened to, even the kids like the yearly audio panto at Christmas Time.

In celebration of national craft month check out some of these entertaining crafty podcasts!

The Small Shoulder Adjustment

As I said in my previous post, while working on the Taffy blouse from Colette Patterns I became a bit disenchanted with the Full Bust Adjustment, and decided to try the small shoulder adjustment instead. It worked beautifully, and now I am ready to share with you the method and the results. I began by copying the front and back bodice pieces that corresponded to my full bust measurement. On the copy I also traced the upper portion of the pattern size corresponding to my high bust measurement. At the bottom of the armscye, I blended the smaller shoulder into the larger side seam. This new line was my new armscye.

If the length of the new armscye was more than 1.5 inches bigger than the sleeve, then the sleeve cap would have to be adjusted to compensate for the new size of the armsyce as well. Fortunately, that was not the case with this sleeve cap, and no adjustments had to be made. Frankly the idea of adjusting the sleeve cap of this bizarrely shaped sleeve is the stuff of nightmares, and I thanked God that it didn't have to be adjusted.

The initial tissue fitting indicated that I was pretty close to a great fit, and a muslin indicated that it was nearly perfect. Here is the result.



I think that a comparison of the FBA adjustment and the small shoulder adjustment makes the difference in fit pretty apparent. The armsyce is really distorted after the large FBA, but looks pretty normal after the small shoulder adjustment.



Like nearly all pattern adjustments the small shoulder adjustment can be done in more than one way. My way, is simply that, my way. It is not necessarily the best way, or the "correct" way, but it is what worked for me, and I will continue using it, until I find something that works better.

Full Bust Adjustment vs. Small Shoulder Adjustment

Most sewing patterns base the measurements of their sizes on an imaginary ideal person. Her bust is a B cup, her full bust measurement is equal to her hip measurement, and her waist is 10 inches smaller than her full bust or hip. It is usually recommended that those sewers whose bust is larger than a b cup adjust their pattern using a full bust adjustment to accommodate their larger busts. For those people whose busts are larger than a B cup, and their full busts are larger than their hips, I highly recommend this adjustment. But what about those, like me, whose busts are larger than a B cup, but the same size as their hips? For many of these people (including me), a full bust adjustment would have to be followed by a full hip adjustment for the garment to fit the entire body.

I have, as generally recommended, adjusted the bust and then the hip, with mediocre results. After hours of pains taking adjustments, I usually end up with a mangled pattern that is more tape than paper, and the proportions always seem a bit off even through my bust and hip are proportionate. I decided there had to be a better way, and began experimenting with small shoulder adjustments instead.

The problem for those with cup sizes larger than B (and nothing else is larger), is that, if the pattern size is determined by the full bust measurement, the garment will be too large in every place but the bust. What I realized, is that my hips and waist are proportionate to my full bust measurement. The only part of my body that is small in relation to my full bust is my shoulders. So, why should I pick a pattern size based on my upper bust (basically my shoulders) and adjust everywhere else, when I can pick the size based on my full bust, and only adjust the shoulders?

I believe the reason the full bust adjustment is generally recommended is that it is considered easier than the small shoulder adjustment. After all, the small shoulder adjustment involves the armscye, and adjusting the armscye is scary for most.

After doing an FBA and making a muslin I was not happy. The blouse hung strangely, still didn't fit that well. I decided to start over and do the small shoulder adjustment instead. After making the muslin using this new adjustment, I knew I was on to something. I did a few more tweaks, the made the final garment.

I am pretty happy with the results (although I would adjust it a bit more if I made it again), and I am using this technique again in the garment I am currently making. Details to follow.

Colette Taffy Blouse - Adapting the Sleeves

The Taffy Blouse, from The Colette Sewing Handbook.

My latest crafty endeavor is the Colette Taffy Blouse, which, given my limited crafty time and exacting standards, took me over a month to complete. While I will try to cover a few of the reasons it took me so long over several posts, today I will only be covering the sleeves.

The Sleeves of the Colette Taffy Blouse are, as you can see, quite voluminous. While they are very pretty, frankly, they are a bit much for my taste. So I decided to make the full circle sleeves half circles. I will show the the first step in that process today.

First I traced the original full circle pattern piece. I trace all of my pattern pieces before I make any adjustments so that I can go back to the original if I make any mistakes and so I can make a different size in the future.

I started to adjust the pattern by making evenly spaced cuts through the sleeve, up to but not through the seam line. I mirrored these cuts in the seam allowance, again, not cutting through the seam line. Keeping the seam line intact keeps the armscye intact, so that the armscye on the blouse portion of the pattern doesn't have to be adjusted as well.

Then I overlapped my cuts evenly and taped them in place.

It is worth noting at this point that I could have also simply cut a large wedge shape from the center of the sleeve and taped the exposed ends back together. The reason I didn't do this is that the sleeve ins't a perfect circle, and while taking a piece out of the middle would have reduced it's bulk, it would also change it's shape. Reducing the sleeve evenly around it's circumference better retains it's shape.

When finished, the pattern looked something like this.

In the final version I further decreased the bulk of the sleeve and extended it's length by several inches.

Food Craft - Cake

March is National Craft Month, so I would like to start the month with a craft, food craft. This last weekend was my son's birthday, and he and my MIL created a cake of his design, a Angry Birds/Lego Star Wars Ice Planet Hoth Cake. It was adorable and he loved it.

The base was made from marshmallows, piled together like an igloo. Thick white frosting created a blanket of snow, and large pieces of sugar made it shine. Toothpicks were stuck into the lego pieces which were stuck into the cake, allowing them to hover just above the sticky "snow".

My son created the snow speeder crash landing into the enemy, and my daughter created the rebel flag.

Embroidered Anatomy - Thyroid and Larynx

This weekend I had planned to travel with the kids to New Orleans and celebrate Mardi Gras with my sister. I was going to regale you with all of the interesting sights that Mardi Gras had to offer. Then I got sick, really sick. I couldn't eat, and I could barely walk for days. Since Mardi Gras was no longer an option, I stayed home with the kids this weekend, and the sights I'll be sharing this week will instead what I was able to accomplish this weekend in my reduced capacity, and stuff I've done previously, but haven't shared.

Every year I make my friend, the good doctor, at least one piece of medically inspired embroidery. This year, after my thyroid starting giving me problems, I decided that the thyroid, and it's immediately adjacent structure, the Larynx, would be my subject matter of choice.

This piece took me over a month, and probably over 1000 French Knots to create, but I think it was worth it. It is one of my favorite embroidered anatomy pieces to date.

FO - Twinkle Twinkle Little Socks

As I stated in a previous post, I have actually had more time to craft since I started working full time than I had prior to working full time, due to a period during my working hours my coworkers foolishly refer to as lunch time.  I have more accurately dubbed this hour during my day craft time, and have used it to great advantage.  One of the projects I have been able to complete during this time is the Twinkle Twinkle Little Socks Pattern by Aimee Skeers.   I really enjoyed knitting this pattern (which is especially surprising because I tend not to enjoy knitting socks).  The open lace work was easy enough to be fun, but difficult enough to keep my interest, and the heel (a mixture of short row, and heel flap) was brilliant.  I love the finished object - they are beautiful, fit very well, and are cozy warm.  Now for the details;

Sewing - Picking the Correct Pattern Size

I have been asked a lot recently to teach classes in sewing (usually whenever someone finds out that most of my clothing is hand sewn, rather than store bought).  I would love to be able to do just that, but I simply don’t have the time.  Most of my sewing is done at night, or during spare moments on the weekends.  I have no idea how I could squeeze a class into the mix, but I decided to try anyway – at least in bit and pieces.  I have decided to create several online tutorials at my leisure (Ha!), starting with the basics, and working toward a perfectly fitted pattern.

Choosing the appropriate pattern size

If you buy clothes off the rack, it is relatively easy to find the best size, you just try on all of the sizes that might fit, and pick the best one.  When you are sewing your clothes, it is a bit more difficult to find the correct size; after all, you can’t try the pattern on before you sew it.  On the other hand, sewing your own clothes can give you a perfect fit, rather than the fit that is just close enough.  The problem is; which pattern size should you choose?


Ready to wear clothing, and most sewing patterns are made based on an average, ideal person.  She is a size 8, about 20 years old, 5’6” (1.67 meters), and a B cup.  As I am sure you know, very few people fit this “average.”  Most of us are shorter, or taller, younger or older, larger or smaller, or several different sizes.  So which size should you pick?

Here is the rule of thumb;

Pants – Measure at your widest point below your waist, and above your legs, and choose the pattern size with the corresponding hip size.  If you are between sizes, choose the smaller size (Unless the style of the garment is very closely fitted.   Most styles have enough ease, or extra room, to fit people who are between sizes; however, very closely fitted garments have minimal ease).

  •  Why?  It is relatively easy to adjust the width of the waist, and legs of pants, but the curve at the seat of the pants is a bit tricky to adjust.  Picking the full hip measurement usually allows for the easiest adjustment.

Skirts –

  • A-line, and other styles that are closely fitted at the waist, and then rapidly increase in size skimming the hips, should be chosen based on the waist measurement.
    •  Why?  Since the waist is the only part of this style that is closely fitted, picking the size that fits the waist allows for the least pattern modification.
  • Straight skirts and other styles that are fitted through the waist and hips should be chosen based on the hip measurement.  Chose the pattern size in which the hip size corresponds to the measure of your widest point below your waist (this measurement may be at your hips or thighs).
    • Why?  The waist in this type of skirt usually has easily adjustable darts at the waistline.

Blouses and Dresses – Measure your full bust, and your upper bust (wrap the tape measure around your chest under your arms, but above your breasts).  Now subtract the upper bust measurement from the full bust measurement.

  • If the difference is 2 inches (5 cm) or less (you are likely an A or B cup) choose the pattern size with the bust measurement corresponding to your full bust measurement.  Congrats, you probably don’t have major bust revisions ahead, since most patterns are designed for b up breasts!
  • If the difference is greater than 2 inches (you are likely a C cup or larger), chose the pattern size with the bust measurement corresponding to your full bust measurement.
    • Why?  While the bust adjustment isn’t easy, it isn’t nearly as complicated as sizing down shoulders that are too big.  If you were to pick the size corresponding to your full bust measurement, the bust would fit, but the shoulders (and often everything else) would be too large

I am currently working on a dress for myself, and I have been focusing on the fitting issues inherent in dresses recently.  Since they are on my mind, I will likely post next about bust adjustments.  Till then, find a simple dress or bodice pattern, and find your size.  I am working on the Truffle dress, by Colette Patterns from their new book, “The Colette Sewing Handbook”.  It is a wonderful pattern for perfecting fit, and I highly recommend it.