Monthly Archives: October 2010

Sneak peek: Simplicity 2311 Fall Coat

Overall, I am pleased as purple punch with this coat.  I really took my time with the construction.  I love the fabric and color.  I love the pattern, Simplicity 2311; it’s really well drafted and the instructions are excellent!  I love the topstitching.   I went through 3 and a half spools of Gutterman thread, but it was sooo worth it.  With my structural additions of shoulder pads, sleeve heads, and interfacing, it really does feel like a real coat! 

After wearing it to work today, I might add some more hand stitching to the hem of the coat and maybe hand stitch in the ditch around the collars and shoulders where I am able to meld the two layers (the under collar and the upper collar) together better so they move as one.

The only thing that could be improved on this coat is a personal label.  I would love to order some, but just can’t decide on how my label should read.  Sew A Beginner is too cumbersome (and not really accurate anymore).  Sewn by Elizabeth seems so loving hands at home-y.  I need something with a little more oomph and style.  Any suggestions?

Full review of this awesome pattern to come in the next couple of days.  I need to take some more interior photos.

Happy sewing everyone!!!!


Personal Style

I have been ruminating about personal style the last few weeks.  You see, I don’t think I really have a personal style.  I’ve kind of drifted from one trend to the next, never deeply investing in a particular look, choosing maybe just one aspect of that look to wear.  Here’s a little mini walk through history, my own, to give you a taste of personal style evolution, or lack thereof.

Childhood:  Dresses, and more dresses.  Apparently my mom dressed me in lots of dresses.  I have no recollection whether this was her wish or mine or a cultural thing (being Mexican).  But when I went to Jr High (where in my town all the grade schools funneled into one jr high) and met again some kids I had gone to kindergarten and first grade with, one of the girls exclaimed, “You’re the girl who wore all the dresses!”  I guess it made an impression.

High School: As most kids in high school, I became obsessed about music.  I loved alternative music before it was called alternative music.  It was in high school that I think I was most faithful to what I wanted to be personal style-wise.  I had a blonde tail, and my bangs were purple. Hey, it was the 80’s!  I also never wore sneakers.  I always wore leather shoes.  And they were always rather unique. I would make my mom drive me to far off suburban malls to find my shoes. 

And after high school is where things take a turn for the worse.   I know, you’re thinking how could it get worse than a blond tail and purple hair.  But what I mean is, I started to “find” my style in high school, or at the very least explore.  But afterwards, style was either not something I thought about much or was proscribed to me rather than a personal choice.  I worked in conservative offices, went to college to study opera, and had an engineer boyfriend.  Need I say more?  Conservative offices don’t like tails and purple hair.  Engineer boyfriends don’t like tails and purple hair.  And opera definitely doesn’t like tails and purple hair.  I grew my hair out, bought audition and recital dresses and basically dressed more conservatively.  My style explorations were over.

Then I left the opera world and entered the world of high finance in NYC, land of the black suit.  My first NYC boyfriend made a comment once that I really liked prints, meaning that I wasn’t conforming.  I guess, as much as I tried to wear the finance uniform, the girl with the purple hair could not be tamped down all the way. 

Are you curious about how people who know me IRL think of my style or lack thereof?  Yesterday, I asked these people what they thought my personal style was, if I had one.  This is what everyone had to say…

Close friends and family:  My sister said, “Urban, conservative, uptown, with a side of crafty, and an occasional flash of your ‘inner Mexican’.”  (Inner Mexican is an inside family joke.)   My sister oozes style.  She can dress in jeans and a t shirt and look like she just stepped off a runway.  Very annoying.  😉  

My best friend of 18 years said, “Playful, crafty, luxurious.”  What can I say, she’s my best friend.

Friends from work past and present: Victoria said, ” I think you tend to play it a little “safe”, leaning toward the conservative.”  I would love to have just one ounce of Victoria’s style.  She’s fabulous.

Jen said she thought I had an Ann Taylor look.  That’s so funny, I used to work for Ann Taylor in a previous life.

Sewing friends who have seen me often in the last two years:  Lindsay T exclaimed, “Yummy mummy!”  Aww, thanks Lindsay T.   I have always been a fan of Lindsay T’s understated elegance.  Very chic woman!

Carolyn had a lot to say that jived with what I think, “You do a lot of flitting.  I don’t think you’ve taken the time to sit down and define what look you want to project to the world.  I think you will enjoy your sewing even more than you currently do once you’ve defined what you want to look like and work on making that come to pass.”  So true!  I think that’s why my TNT quest is so interlocked with my search for a personal style.  It isn’t a coincidence that Carolyn is the undisputed queen of the TNT.

Claudine said, “grown-up bombshell.  This is mostly due to your preference for fitted styles in shiny, luxe fabrics.  The grown-up part comes from taking fitted silhouettes and gorgeous and making them work in your work life.”  That’s quite a compliment coming from a stylista like Claudine.

Long story short, I am still searching for my personal style.  As I mentioned in a previous post, when I first started buying patterns, I was attracted to clothing with architectural details and tricked out seam work without thinking about how they would look on my 40+ year old, post-baby body.  But I have discovered a few things on my sewing journey:

I love wearing dresses and skirts.

I love prints.

And I love wearing color.

Anyhoo, this post has gone on long enough, if I haven’t already put you to sleep already. 

Have you found your personal style yet?

Look Ma, should-a-ma-pads!

Yesterday I boldly stated that I would not be pad stitching my lapels.  Anita C commented that I might want to reconsider that decision.  So, with an entire evening to myself dedicated to sewing, I decided to do a little research.  I took out all my books that had the slightest mention of jackets and coats and looked through them.  Interesting things of note:  not one book called it pad stitching.  One called it slant basting.  The only book I owned with great instructions was the Reader’s Digest sewing bible.  So I thought about it long and hard.  I knew if I went ahead with the pad stitching I would be adding on one or two days of more construction to my already late coat.  I put on my shell one more time to check the drape of the interfaced undercollar.  I looked in the mirror and…

It looked fine.  I called Carolyn and asked her opinion.  And she said to ditch the pad stitching.  Since I was leaning in that direction already, I decided to let it go.

I was almost to the point where I needed to add shoulder pads.  I had bought some from P&S Fabrics, my neighborhood sewing stuff store last week. 

P&S shoulder pad

I knew at the time of purchase that there was something off about these pads.  The insert was made of foam and the outside was made of some synthetic fabric.  It just seemed too poofy and retained its shape too well.  I have niggling feeling that this shoulder pad will not decompose for a millenia it’s so unnatural. 

Anyhoo, I snuck a peek at my RTW winter coat to see how big its shoulder pads were.  And I found out some very interesting things.   It’s shoulder pads were made of four layers of cotton fleece batting that were fused together with no outer fabric encasing them.  They were sewn into armscye/shoulder seam allowance and tacked to the shoulder seam, then the lining was tacked to the pad itself.  Very cool.  The sleeve head was sewn into the same armscye/shoulder seam allowance but on the bottom and was made of polyester fill batting.  I thought to myself.  I can do that and got out my measuring tape.

The measurements of my winter coat’s shoulder pads were pretty much dead on for the P&S shoulder pad, even down to the thickness, but I liked the feel and malleability of the winter coat shoulder pads so much more.  I happen to have cotton fleece batting in my stash from when I made my one and only quilt.  I just used that and measured out all the pieces of the winter coat shoulder pads and steam a seamed them together.  And presto change-o, I had me some should-a-ma-pads!

Interior of shoulder pad

fused shoulder pad from top

fused shoulder pad from bottom


Isn’t that cool?!?!  I forgot to take pictures of my sleeve heads, but they’re just rectangular pieces of polyester fill batting measuring about 8 inches by 2.5 inches.

I worked on my sleeves next last night.  One detail that I absolutely adore about this pattern is the ease provided for the elbow at the back of the sleeve.  That is sooo cool.  Love it.   Here’s a pic of my unattached sleeve with ease stitches already gathered for ease of insertion (see the elbow ease added to the left of the seam allowances?  Despite the gathers shown there, there was no puckering at the seam).

I cannot wait to work on my coat again tonight.

Happy sewing everyone!


I have been getting some unexpected but welcome sewing time this week.  Not much, but enough to make some incremental yet gratifying progress on my fall coat.  I was able to cut out the interfacing and fuse it to my sleeves on Monday as well as cut out my back stay.  Last night I was able retrofit my back stay into the shell of my coat. 

I say retrofit the back stay because, if you will kindly recall, I have already constructed the shell of my coat without installing the back stay along the way.  Someone forgot to sew it in.  I’m not going to name any names, but Elizabeth that person just completely forgot about the back stay because I she was so excited about sewing my the luscious purple wool.  I knew I wanted to incorporate a little structure into my coat as I wanted it to be a little more substantial than my trench coat last year.  However, that doesn’t mean I am going to pad stitch the lapels.  I’m not going crazy here, I mean sheesh!  😉  

I bet you’re wondering how you retrofit a back stay.  And I bet you’re wondering how many times I can say retrofit a back stay in this post.  Hahaha!  I thought about it for a while and then I thought, why not ask on Pattern Review.  Nancy K answered me right away.  She suggested that I sew the back stay onto the seam allowances of my shell.  A simple yet elegant solution to a knotty problem. 

So I got to work.  I cut out the back stay by combining the pattern pieces of the back yoke and the back, overlapping 5/8ths at the seam.  I cut the stay from two inches below the armscye and used my french curve to angle up to the CB fold ever so gently.  Et voilá a back stay was born!  I used the cotton flannel for the stay that I was originally going to use for interlining the coat.  I decided against that because I am lazy wanted a more transitional fall coat rather than a winter coat.  Then I staystitched the neck and armscye of the stay and pinned it to the back of my shell.  I carefully stitched the stay to the seam allowances of my shell, only once sewing it to the actual back for a few inches.  Of course I spent some quality time with my seam ripper at that point.  Fun times I tell you, taking out stitches from wool.  Fun times indeed.

That’s the stage where I remain today my friends.  I will reconvene with the sewing committee (aka my Emerald 183) tonight and see where the evening takes me.  I can’t wait!!!!  Of course as the weather is wont to do, it will be dipping into fall temps on the morrow, so I am feeling a lot of pressure  motivation to finish this coat pronto!

*crossing fingers for some good progress tonight!*

Happy sewing everyone!

How to raid a friend’s stash

Happy Monday everyone!  Before you ask how my fall coat is coming along, let me inform you that absolutely no sewing occurred at Chez Elizabeth this past weekend.  Why you ask?  Well, my mom is visiting and actually sleeping in my sewing studio (aka, the living rm/dining rm), so it would be quite rude of me to sew late at night, now wouldn’t it? 

So while I pine away, I have been planning my totebag extravaganza.  I bought some canvas from Premier Prints recently with this project in mind, but I needed some medium weight cotton in coordinating prints to line the totebags.  Enter: my friend Tanya’s stash.  I happen to know that she has an entire cabinet filled to the brim with medium weight gorgeous cotton prints.  I casually proposed a stash swap.  Some of her fabric for some of my fabric.  Tanya readily agreed.  Mwah hahahaha….

This weekend I walked over to her apt and the stash raiding ensued.  I feel slightly guilty, because I hadn’t properly prepared Tanya for how large my needs were (I am making 6 totebags).  She did blanch a bit upon seeing how many canvas fabrics I had, but I just pretended not to notice.  😉   Of course, I will gladly share with her anything she wants from my stash (I hope she doesn’t mind that I am heavy on garment fabrics as opposed to med weight cottons). 

Tanya has a very substantial collection of cotton prints, including some Liberty prints.  I didn’t steal any of her Liberty, although they were much pawed over admired.  I did find some great coordinating fabrics for my totebag linings and am excited to share with you the pairings.  (All canvas fabrics are at the top of the photos and lining fabrics at the bottom.)

The last photo shows canvas from Tanya’s collection as well as her print (apologies for the blurriness).  One of the canvases which I had chosen (a Pucci-esque print) just did not say totebag to me upon receipt, so I stole swapped one of Tanya’s canvas fabrics.  Isn’t it pretty?

I am also planning to make a duplicate of the bag I made myself recently, so that brings my total up to 6 bag combos: two for Jack’s pre-school teachers and four for my co-workers.

And in other sewing/knitting news: Tanya invited me to participate in a holiday bazaar, so I will let you know what I make for that too.  We are thinking of some quickie projects.  Maybe I will make more ruffled scarves (maybe making them a little less finished so that they are fast to make)?

I hope at least some of you are sewing out there on my behalf since I can’t!

Theoretical Clothes

My friends, I have discovered a new sewing term: Theoretical Clothes.  You may wonder what it means.  Well, my friends, that is my new name for my stash. 

Bed stash aka Jack's toddler bed


Closet Stash

You see, in theory, these pieces of fabric can be made into clothes that I or the recipient can wear.  Ergo theoretical clothes.

The last week or so, I have been thinking about all the things I want/need to make by Christmas.  Here’s my list:

  • Knit Jack’s mittens
  • Knit Jack’s annual sweater (maybe)
  • 6 lined tote bags for gifts
  • Finish my fall coat
  • 5 kids pj’s for Christmas gifts
  • Find, fit and make TNT pants and jacket for a suit

Considering how long it takes to fit a pattern, how long it takes to tailor a coat or a jacket, and generally how slow of a sewist I am, I feel a slight desperation about my ability to accomplish all that I want to do.  I know my theoretical clothes (aka stash) is small compared to others, but it is still way too much for what I can actually make in the time that I have to sew.  And that depresses me a little. 

My day job is getting in the way of my sewing. 

*big sigh*

Anyhoo, just wanted to share my new sewing term with you.  I didn’t get to work on my coat last night as my mom is visiting.  I hope I will have some sewing time this weekend, but I am not sure it will happen.

My toast to you all:  May you have lots of sewing time!

P.S. I accidentally bought some more fabric from the sale and I received an email from Elliott Berman about their amazing sale.  I’m doomed!

Whirlwind knitting

I finished Jack’s hat last night.  While I love the spiral rib, the top of the hat is a little less than graceful.  Part of the lack of grace is due to shortening the height of the hat by 2-3 inches to make it a child size (upon recommendation of the Purl Bee).  But I also think the decrease rows look like a sudden change.  Not sure how I would rectify that situation though if I were to make it again.  Suggestions from any of the knitters out there (I’m looking at you Robin!)?  😉  

Here’s a close up of the hat.

And here’s the hat with the scarf… 

I don’t know if you can tell from these pictures, but the yarn is a truly remarkable color IRL.  It’s mostly teal blue with speckles of sea green.  This color just glistens with life.  I used Cascade Superwash 128 chunky yarn and really liked knitting with it.  I love the warm spongy fabric it creates.  The yarn calls for sz 10 needles with a 3.5 st/in gauge.  For the hat I used sz 9 needles to get a tighter weave, but for the scarf I used 10’s. 

I guess now I have to make him matching mittens, but I just don’t feel like it right now.  I am itching to get back to my fall coat.  But alas, I have a date tonight, so the coat will have to wait until Friday night.

Happy sewing and knitting everyone. 

P.S.  I promise pictures of Jack in his new accessories soon, but I want to finish his mittens first!