FO: Ready for my Roman Holiday

Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt sewn by Ms. Cleaver

Sometimes you have to look at a project and wonder, why did it take me so long to do that?! Case in point: this skirt.

As I mentioned before, I'm participating in The Craft Sessions' Stash Less prompts, which got me looking at what I already had on hand and doing some project planning around it. This project was so easy to sew and I'm so in love with the final result that I'm kicking myself for not sewing it ages ago.

So how long was the journey to this skirt being made? Thanks to the near never-ending archive that is my Gmail account/this blog, I can pretty much tell you down to the day!

The outer fabric I purchased in October 2010 for $5, from, get this, someone else's stash. So, in truth, this fabric had quite the journey before it even came to me. I fell in love with the print immediately, so even though I only spent $5 on it, it felt too precious to cut into.

But it's a pretty light-weight/slightly see-through fabric, so I needed to find an appropriate lining before I could sew it, right? Nope!

I've had some absolutely gorgeous silk charmeuse since at least September 2011, which I must have had for a while, because I already referred to it as being in my stash at that point. I did have a small moment of regret, when I had cut it up as the lining and was sewing it together, when I remembered that it had been intended for a slip I had the pattern traced out for, but I think I'll still get a nice camisole out of the leftovers, so no foul there. 

I had all the fabric then, so I was just waiting for the perfect pattern, right? Wrong. I've had Colette Patterns' Zinnia in my possession since September 2013.  

Okay, so granted in September 2013, I had a 6-month-old and wasn't doing a ton of sewing that wasn't baby-related, but still, from time of original fabric purchase to finished project we're looking at five and half years, or two and half if you count when I found a good pattern match. 

And the Zinnia pattern was a perfect fit. It was simple enough to show off the fabric, it had pleats (which I find infinitely more flattering than gathers) and it was lined and though maybe not perfect, I had a zipper and button on hand that would work and no other notions needed. 

As for the finished product? I adore it. I'm still in love with the print, the lining feels divine, it's swingy, and the fit is good. It also looks pretty swell with my Prairie Wife Cardigan too. This skirt makes me feel like I should hop on the back of a Vespa and be chic and charming in Rome. Definitely worth the wait.

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Tried and True Review: Basic Black Ginger


Basic Black Ginger

Made: May 2012, about 2 years old

Update: For something meant to fill a basics gap in my wardrobe, I wear it very rarely.

Fit: Looking back on the original post, I mentioned that even then, the waistband was too large. In general, it's just too big. I cut the waistband too large and I think I even graded out in the skirt, when I didn't need to. The shaped feature of the waistband means it needs to hit the waist on the right spot and sadly, this one is about an inch too low.

Style: I really wished this one worked better, as it does looks so cute with my saddle shoes.

Materials: More than the fit, the fabric is what kills this one for me. I love twills, but this one attracts lint like crazy and looks dingy from the second you put it on. Though I'm not sure what black bottom-weight fabric wouldn't be so linty - any suggestions?

Construction: I thought I did a great job on this one, with homemade bias binding on all the edges, but I didn't sew it on very well as it's pulled off in several places. I'd add pockets again though because everything's better with pockets.

Lesson(s) Learned: Even for basics, even more so for basics, fit and fabric really matter.

Final Verdict: I'll probably still wear it occasionally, until I finally get around to making a replacement (I still want a black Ginger in my wardrobe, just a better one). When I do get rid of it, I'd only reuse the fabric as stuffing for cushions or something, it's just awful.

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Opa! The Greek Food Festival


Faux Dome - Christ Pantocrator


Trying Spanakopita

Trying Spanakopita

Saints Icons

Baptism of Christ Icon Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Entry into Jersusalem Icon

One of the tastiest days on the Cleaver family calendar is the day we visit the Greek Food Festival. Hosted annually by the Holy Trinity Church in Portland on the last full week of June, we start anticipating our visit as soon as the weather gets warm.

It's not that you can't get good Greek food in the area other times of the year, it's  just that there's something about the food that you get at the Festival that makes it extra delicious. We eat light in the morning so we have plenty of room to stuff ourselves with dolmades (lamb and rice-stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita, gyros, and loukoumades. And oh the loukoumades - the Greek equivalent of a light crispy doughnut hole, made fresh and served in a honey-nut syrup.

Despite being rather full, I gave Mr. Cleaver some serious stink-eye when he suggested only getting one serving of loukoumades this year.  It only comes once a year! Even LMC, who for the most part was too busy taking it all in to pay much attention to the food, loved the loukoumades. She ate her little snack and danced her little toddler dance to the Greek music playing on the loudspeakers. Happily swaying back and forth with the taste of honey on her lips. We usually go in the mid-afternoon on a weekday to avoid the crowds and lines, but it would be fun to go see the live music and dancing one of these years.

We did however take the opportunity to get a  private tour of the church from Father Sarantides himself. If you ever get a chance to see the inside, I'd highly recommend it. Holy Trinity features a number of stunning small and large scale icons throughout the sanctuary.  All we had to do was ask one of the volunteers and they set it up. They're truly beautiful.

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Bubble BlasterBubble Blaster Rhododendron Snuggle Time Irises Untitled Steiny Juliet Untitled Sand Play Old Port Festival Parade

Old Port Festival Parade Old Port Festival Parade

With the arrival of good weather and the Annual Old Port Festival in Portland, it's really starting to feel like summer here. And with summer comes copious amounts of sunscreen, bug-spray and activity for the Cleaver clan.

LMC got to take in her first parade, which featured beautiful large-scale puppets from Shoestring Theatre and sampled a bit of fair food. We also visited her first farmer's market and picked out plants to go into the new raised beds, which despite her efforts to pluck them back out have been firmly planted into their new homes.

The boxes are approximately 4 ft x 8 ft x 6 inches. We got a yard and half of loam delivered from O'Donals in Gorham, which we combined with some of our Garbage to Garden compost from last year.  We probably could have gotten away with a yard of dirt, but the leftovers will go into additional boxes we hope to have in place for planting next year.  Because, obviously two boxes aren't gonna cut it. :)

As for this year's plantings, I kept the plant list fairly similar to my first garden attempt, with the addition of lettuce:

  • Plum tomatoes for salsa and sauce (3)
  • Sweet bell peppers (2)
  • Broccoli (6)
  • Lettuce (6)
  • Basil (4)
  • Thyme (1)
  • Rosemary(1)

I think I'll probably pick up a few more herbs (I'm thinking cilantro and maybe parsley and mint) and I also planted 4 strawberry plants around the deck in addition to our existing blueberry bush.

Growing up I lived in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard that my parents filled with all sorts of edible plants. We had cherries, granny smith apples, boysenberries, strawberries and cherry tomatoes most of time. As a kid, my friends and I would spend our summer afternoons out there, reenacting dance routines from Newsies over the sprinkler and eating our fill of the backyard bounty. It was bliss.

Now as a grownup, I live in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard, that I'm slowly filling with edibles, so my daughter too can eat sun-warmed fruits and veggies to her heart's content.

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Minoru Jacket and Cargo Pocket Tutorial

Minoru Jacket
Minoru Sleeve Mod
Minoru Jacket
Minoru Cargo Pocket Mod
Minoru Jacket
Minoru Jacket

I finally made something for myself and it's a doozy! I loved the Minoru Jacket pattern from the moment it came out (back in late 2011), so much so that I bought the pattern, the fabric, the lining, and special ordered the zippers shortly after it came out.

Three years of sitting in my stash and five weekends of sewing later, I have a bright and beautiful new jacket that does some much-needed filling of a long-outstanding hole in my wardrobe. Of course I finished it just in time for summer, but being as I live in Maine with it's often cool nights and mornings, I'm sure it'll still get plenty of wear before getting a real workout in the Fall and Spring.

The jacket is a spring green twill of forgotten origins, lined with some silky polka dots purchased at JoAnn's, and riri metal zippers. I made the pattern in a straight size 14, which is a little bit roomy, but it means I can wear it over sweaters come Fall. It's comfy and the right amount of warm for the in-between seasons.  I found the instructions clear and concise (though missing a few metric to imperial measurement conversions in the text and there's something funky about the placket length/hem length). I pretty much made it exactly as described, with the exception of the following modifications:

  • Flat felled all the seams noted as top-stitched in the pattern - seam finishing and top-stitching in one!
  • Lined the hood
  • Moved the waist elastic up 1"/2.5 cm from pattern marking
  • Removed the cuffs
  • Made the hood zipper opening shorter
  • Added cargo pockets
  • Accidentally placed the interior pockets about 5/8 inch too low

One of the great things about sewing a pattern three years after it came out is that by then, a ton of other people have made it and you can steal their ideas and learn from their problems. About half these mods were inspired by other blogger. Case in point, I can no longer remember the blogger who mentioned it, but the hood zipper opening was indeed too long for my zipper, which I was able to check, before cutting it out. I do wish  I had headed the warnings to reduce the hood, as it is overly large. Some more direct copy-cats include borrowing Lladybird's idea to lose the cuffs (which were way long, even on me) and after I flat-felled my side seams before I inserted the side seam pockets I had planned on, I stole cutcutsew's cargo pockets idea.

The cargo pockets were a happy accident, as I love the way they turned out and they really make the jacket. I constructed my pockets largely based on this tutorial by 21 Wale. Should anyone want to copy me in my copy-catting, I've made up a PDF Cargo Pocket Pattern and Instruction Sheet  (tiled for US Letter-sized printing).

As with any coat/jacket, this was a time-consuming project. All said, it probably took me somewhere in the realm of 16 or so  hours to complete, but I love the outcome and consider it time well-spent as I can see myself wearing this coat all the time.

Speaking of wearing me-made things, I've completely missed Me-Made May, but I realized after I took the photos that everything in my outfit in these shots (not including underthings) was handmade either by me (cardigan, skirt, tank) or someone else (necklace, shoes). The fact that I didn't realize it until I took the photos is a nice nod to how the right handmade items can really become an intrinsic part of our wardrobes.

Continuing on the theme of handmade wardrobes, there's a neat little story behind the striped sweater LMC's wearing. When we first moved back to Maine, my mother-in-law gave me a bag with some random knitting stuff in it: a few sets of straight needles, some old yarn, and all the pieces to a blue and white striped baby sweater.  When I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was seam the otherwise complete sweater together, so now LMC has a Memere-made sweater, even though her Memere hasn't knit in years. The original yarn and ball bands (Reynolds Giselle) came with the sweater, but I've been unable to definitively date them and my MIL has no recollection of making the thing, so my best guess is that it was originally made for either one of her three sons, or my nephew - meaning it could be anywhere from 20 to 50 years old (quite the range, I know).  The best my google-fu can find is that the yarn was at a minimum available from 1981-1984. Doesn't look too shabby for some never-worn 30 year old yarn, does it?

The 4th in Four





I finished up so many projects in the past week, but haven't had the time to really photograph them. It's been a full week: Monday was Steinbeck's "Gotcha Day" - one year since we first brought him home, Tuesday was Mr. Cleaver's birthday and we enjoyed stuffed deep dish pizza straight from Giordano's in Chicago. On the fourth, Mother Nature outdid any fireworks with an intense thunderstorm, so we stayed inside and watched the last three episodes of Freaks and Geeks instead.

Yesterday, we took the day off and ran errands, bought a Johnny Cash CD, and checked out a bunch of comic books (the Runaways, where have you been all my life?) and the first season of Arrested Development from the library. In the interim, I've been chugging away at my tour de fleece spinning including the yellow lace-weight, which Mr. Cleaver termed "a lot of yarn." I finished my cookie-monster cardigan and I've been swatching like crazy for new projects. I even managed to sew on the bias binding on my second sorbetto.

I'm back to work today, but it's been a fun few days off. Even better, I'm just hours away from the weekend!

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POW! The Comic Book Dress


I don't know if I've ever mentioned this here before, but I'm a bit of a comic book geek. My comic love was rooted in the90's X-Men cartoon, but really got it's start in college, when I would drive my friend James to new comic book day every week. In return for transport, I could read all the comics he brought back, and from then on I was hooked.

So when I saw this LaFrock dress on Pinterest, I quickly decided that I MUST make one of my own. As in I found appropriate fabric and ordered it the next day.

I actually found the fabric used in the dress above (Alexander Henry's "Sewing is Easy Print"), but I wanted to kick up the nerdiness a notch and picked this "Girl Power" print from Camelot Cottons, which features Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and my personal favorite, Batgirl.


The dress is cobbled together from two patterns, the waistband and bodice are from Colette Patterns Parfait, and the skirt and pockets from McCalls 4826. Despite some issues with the front bodice facing, I really liked the way the bodice came together and I have some lengths of linen I'm eyeballing to become a straight up Parfait this summer.


The dress is super comfy and is maybe one of my favorite things ever.


I spent a solid day putting the whole dress together, because I had a deadline to meet...


Free Comic Book Day!

Image 2

A lovely event that happened this past Saturday (and the first Saturday in March every year, in case your planning your 2013 calendar). And where else to wear your comic book dress than to hang out with cosplayers and get a dozen free comic books??


Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.


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A Bit of Cake

A few weeks ago Tasia had a great post on sewing "frosting" (fun, often patterned, not necessarily everyday items) versus sewing "cake" (basics, everyday wear). Like most sewists, I definitely fall on the side of being drawn to frosting projects over cake projects - personally, I would be happy sewing nothing but pretty dresses, even if I wear a dress maybe once a week. But recently I've been finding a bit more balance between projects like my houndstooth dress, which I enjoyed sewing, think is awesome, but only wear occasionally:

Fall Palette Challenge : Houndstooth Dress

and my slew of School House Tunics that I wear practically every time they're clean enough to wear. My creation

This weekend, I focused on some serious cake.

But that isn't to say cake can't be fun too.


Sure it's a basic black skirt, but have you seen the inside??


In typical Leah fashion, I took a simple project (Colette Patterns Ginger, a total of four pieces), and made it 100% more complicated by adding pockets and finishing all the seams with home-made bias binding.


That said, I'm pretty pleased with the finished product, even if the fabric seems to spontaneously generate lint. If I had to make any changes I would have 1) used a stiffer interfacing in the waistband 2) gone a size down in the waist and 3) done the recommended hem length (I did a bit deeper hem).

(Might still do that last one).


I'm fairly certain this basic will get heaps of wear, especially since it looks so fantastic with my saddle shoes. :)



Oh and I should say that I'm not abandoning the pursuit of frosting, because my next project may very well prove to be the most fantastic, least practical thing I've sewn since my Halloween costume. (Still wondering where I can wear that).

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The Postman Cometh

I had all these plans for writing a long post of reflection on my Lenten vegetarian experience, and then the mail came. IMGP5289

Look, it's the summer edition of Knitscene.


With a two page spread of my design!


My name in print!

This hasn't happened since I got a byline as an intern for an article on August Wilson's play cycle in the Jan/Feb 2007 edition of the Goodman Theatre's OnStage Magazine (So totally different).


And there it is again!

I was pretty much doing a little happy dance all night long!

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Fall Palette Challenge: School House Tunic

  It's rare that a project comes together quickly for me, usually because I gravitate toward patterns with lots of fiddly details (see dress with bow neckline and pleated sleeves). So while it's been in my to-sew queue for quite some time, the School House Tunic, was a bit out of the norm for me - particularly since I cut it out and sewed up it in about a day.


I made the shirt-length pattern exactly per the instructions with one addition: a button and thread loop mid-way up the placket, which I find to be a neutral additional. It doesn't really add anything, but it doesn't detract either.


The fabric was from my stash, and considering my usual fabric shopping habits, it probably came from Denver Fabrics. The texture is akin to those soft cotton dishtowels, which makes for a very cozy shirt.


I'm not sure if the empire-waist and pleated skirt are the best shapes for my figure, but the shirt is so comfy that I'm pretty sure I'm going to make a at least one more in flannel for the fall/winter and another in white linen for the summer.


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