Tried and True Review: A Big Bag of the Blues - Part I

A Tried & True Review, where I look back at old project and discuss how it's held up since I made it, both successes and closet rejects, in an attempt to show how my projects have stood the test of time and/or to learn from the mistakes of my yesterdays.

 I recently took a big bag of clothes, mostly handmade items, to a local consignment store and I thought, true to the spirit of the Tried and True Review, I'd take some time to share with you why I was ready to let them go. Also, if you're in the Portland (ME) area and want to grab something sewn or knitted by me, now's your chance!

There's a lot of items there, so I'm going to break it into two parts. For now, let's take it from the top (of the pile)!

School House Tunic Dress by Ms. Cleaver

The Original: School House Tunic #3

Made/Age:  March 2012, 3 years old.

Update: Accepted for Consignment.

Fit: It's loose and tunic-y, which I think works better at a shirt length than a dress length for me. At least in this fabric, which was still a little stiff. 

Style/Materials: Beautiful chartreuse linen. I was short on fabric and cut the sleeves as long as I could, which ended being a weird length about 2 inches above my elbow. From pretty much the second wear, I planned on shortening the sleeves to a more flattering length, but I never did it and never did it and never did it. Don't get me wrong, I love my school house tunics (I have three more!), but between the sleeve length and a color that's not my best color, this one was always my least favorite. 

Construction: This is one of two School House Tunics to have pleats added and the only one without the addition of a front closure.

Final Verdict: If you don't fix something after several years of intending to, you probably don't like it that much.

Dr. Faye Lady Suit by Ms. Cleaver

The Original: Dr. Faye Lady Suit

Made/Age:  June 2012, 3 years old.

Update: Fabric salvaged from skirt. Jacket rejected from consignment and off to Goodwill. Those shoes are also at the consignment store.

Fit: The skirt was too big and ill-fitting from the get go. I've always had trouble getting "pencil skirts" to fit right. This was just a big square of terrible. The jacket fit better, but was still very boxy.

Style/Materials: Another beautiful linen. I love linen, but maybe I'm just not picking the right patterns for it. Separate or together, these pieces were just big, boxy and blah.  It's the boxy that did it in. If it was nicely tailored and fitted it would have worked, but probably not in linen. My lady suit dreams will have to wait. At least I loved the shirt pattern in the pattern envelope.

Construction: The jacket was fun to sew and I covered all the seams with bias tape. 

Final Verdict: Boxy just ain't my thang. Also, does anyone know of good patterns for linen?

Burdastyle Ute by Ms. Cleaver

The Original: Off to the Races

Made/Age:  June 2011, 4 years old. (Hey, I'm back to that hairstyle too!)

Update: Accepted for Consigment.

Fit:  It's my own fault, but I cut it with too little ease. I tried letting our the seams where I could, but it wasn't enough. It pulls terribly at the bust. 

Style/Materials: A fabulous checked stretch shirting material. A bow blouse. Fun buttons! It so perfect for me, except that it doesn't fit me. This is the one item that really broke my heart to give away, but it truly, honestly, just doesn't fit right.

Construction: Don't remember apart from the fact that I did the buttonholes horizontally, where I should have done them vertically along the button band.

Final Verdict: Button up items need bust ease! But I should remake this at some point.

That's it for this week. Next week I'll roundup the other 4 items.

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The Dr. Faye Lady Suit

I'm a big Mad Men fan, but don't tell me anything about the current season, because I only get to watch it when the dvds come out, so we can chat about it in 4 months or so. In that vein, this post is appropriately a bit overdue. Back in Season 4, I grew very fond of the Dr. Faye character and I also fell in love with this skirted suit from the "Hand and Knees" episode.

In some ways it seems more Banana Republic than 1960s, but then I found Simplicity 2154, a 1960's reproduction pattern and though, it's both!

Recently finding myself in need of a warm-weather appropriate suit for my DC trip, I pulled out the pattern and several yards of heavyweight linen from Z Fabrics and put this together over a weekend.


The coat is a fairly boxy design, which I decided was maybe not the most flattering on me, so it's belted in all these photos. Even if it's not the best cut for me, I believe the fit is spot on. If you wanted to slim it up some, I recommend narrowing the side gusset over choosing an allover smaller size.


The jacket has a fun construction, with the  front/back body and sleeve cut in a single piece, and an underarm gusset panel. Not counting the facings, the pattern in a total of 6 pieces. Attaching the top of the gusset to the underarm of the sleeve was a bit fiddly, but otherwise the jacket was very easy to sew. I actually had more issues with the pencil skirt (fitting ugh!).


Because the jacket is unlined, I finished all the seams with either purchased bias tape (about 2 packages) or by self-hemming after I ran out of bias tape for the facings and underarm.


I don't often need to wear a suit, but with a lady suit like this in my wardrobe, I might find a few more excuses!




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Bow Blouse

Untitled Not this weekend, but the one before, I squeezed in some time to sew, and churned out this blouse, which I decided I also need to make in a swiss dot someday.

The pattern is the 1960's reproduction pattern Simplicity 2154, and I even bought a bunch of yardage of linen to make the rest of the suit (which strangely enough, about the same number of total pieces that this blouse).



I love the fabric, which is a sturdy cotton from Lotta Jansdotter's line that I picked up at Z Fabrics. My only two mods to the pattern were extremely minor: 1) I decreased the seam allowance along the hips, and 2) I did the "Mena Test" of Sew Weekly fame and omitted the side zipper.


The top is sleeveless, but it was way too cold/windy to bare arms on the day I took these photos, but they're finished off nicely with some bias binding.  The whole thing is pretty simple to sew and I can't get over how nicely the collar lies.  Yep, I definitely need at least one more of these!

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A Little Bit Country


One of my guilty pleasures in life is Time-Life Music infomercials. There's something endearing about the standard formula of past-their-prime musician + woman-of-a-certain-age co-host + those 5 second clips of unforgettable hits of the 60s and 70s. On a lazy Sunday afternoon Mr. Cleaver and I will merrily let it run for the full half-hour and our ultimate favorite collection is "The Golden Age of Country."

My costume this year is a tribute to the Golden Age of Country, the Grand Olde Opry, and fantastic country songbirds of the age like June Carter Cash, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Parton in all their big-haired, chiffon-clad glory.


I came across Simplicity Pattern 2180 a few weeks back, and thought it would be the perfect starting point for my costume, but it was out of stock in my size. However a kind friend in my knitting circle picked it up for me on a trip to Augusta, so I was in business!!


I knew the dress would have to have a gauzy chiffon component, preferably in a pastel shade and this Jenny Lewis video inspired me to pick up some lace trimming as well. I treated the seafoam-y tafetta-esque base fabric as an underlining, and sewed the two layers together before making the darts/seams/etc. which made dealing with the top layer chiffon a bunch easier.

It's not the best sewing job I've ever done, I skipped a few steps like the waistband facing and replaced the sleeve cuffs with elastic, but for a Halloween costume, I think it turned out pretty swell.  I'm racking my brain for occasions/places I could get away with wearing this dress in ordinary life, because I kind of love it (and I'm definitely remaking the pattern in a more casual fabric at some point).


Mr. Cleaver joined in on a more modern take on the theme, thanks to a cowboy hat from Target and some clothes from around the house. Our first thought was to do a more "rhinestone cowboy" look (like Buck Owens), but this was easier.


We went to a Halloween party over the weekend, where Mr Cleaver claimed to alternately be Toby Keith and/or Hank Williams Jr.


Even Steinbeck got in on the action (he is from Texas after all).


I even tried to keep the pumpkin in the country theme, though it looks more like a Holstein pig than the cow I was going for.


But while we may look country on the outside, inside we're both still rock ' roll.


PS - thanks to Bristol (and her dad) for the loaner cowboy boots!!

In the Green (Lent Day 42)

It was terribly dark and stormy this morning complete with  Thunder! Lightning! and Hail!! Lent Day 42

So the only place well-lit enough to take my outfits photos was the kitchen - speaking of which, I don't know if I've shown pics of the kitchen yet - if not here's my kitchen!! Or at least a corner of it.

Lent Day 42Though I find the colors a bit dated, I can't complain about the serious amount of storage and counter space in this kitchen.

How much storage?

The cabinet over my left shoulder is my baking cabinet (baking power, sprinkles, vanilla, boxed mixes, etc.); the one behind my head holds wine, liquor, and cereal (strange combo I know); and the cabinet over my right shoulder is dedicated solely to tea, hot cocoa, and coffee filters.

Yes, I have enough cabinet space to have a dedicated tea cabinet. Which is pretty darn awesome (especially since we've expanded our loose leaf collection since Dobra Tea opened).

No wonder I'm sitting pretty.

Lent Day 42

Top: Banana Republic Outlet

Wool circle skirt: made by me

Tights: Target

Shoes: Bass Outlet

Tea Towel (on cabinet door) : made by me

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Catching Up

Lent Day 21

Last week was a wonky week for me - between getting back from the DC trip to the snow on Friday - it was just weird and disjointed. In the midst of all I didn't feel super motivated either in dressing or taking photos, so all I have for Lent proof is these two. Don't worry, you're not missing anything.

Lent Day 21 (above):

Necklace: Sears

Cardigan: Joy by Kim Hargreaves, made by me

Tee: Target

Wool circle skirt: made by me

Shoes: Clarks Outlet

Lent Day 22

Lent Day 22:

Sweater: Gap

Skirt: Granny skirt, drafted and made by me.

Boots: Naturalizers, Macy's


My seedlings are doing well. Almost everything has a little seedling now (except the mint). Up until a few days ago, though there wasn't a hint of activity on my peppers or tomatoes. The soil was too cool, methinks. Then while driving, Mr. Cleaver mentioned that the despite the cool weather, the sun made the car really warm. Only in Maine, he said, do you drive around with the window cracked in 38 degree weather.


His comment gave me an epiphany, and immediately when we got home, I put my tomato seeds under my clear glass cake dome, and voila! within a day seedlings!

Beignet Fabric & Lining

My other big triumph of the week was finally cutting out my Beignet skirt yesterday (the blue twill is the shell, the polka dot is the happy happy lining).

I spent some quality time in JoAnn's yesterday and picked up two patterns, some notions, the lining fabric and fabric for two more projects - including the pattern and material for a new casual skirt. I'm putting my plans for pants on hold and as soon as I finish the Beignet, I'll dive into that skirt pattern, because really, the denim skirt needs a break!!

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My Valentine Skirt

Valentine's Skirt Happy Valentine's Day!!

About two weeks ago, I ordered a pretty red dress online and afterward thought it would be great to wear on Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, it didn't show up by Saturday.

Come Sunday, I decided I wanted something red to wear anyway.

Remembering I had some red fabric in my stash (received as part of the same group of fabric that became the granny skirt) and grabbing a simple previously made pattern (Simplicity 2758). I whipped this skirt up in an evening.

Valentine' Day Skirt

It is generally know that I am not a fast sewer.

It was only a through a confluence of positive circumstances that it came together so quickly:

  1. I happened to have all the materials on hand, including the fabric, interfacing, red thread and a sufficiently long red zipper.
  2. I has sewed the pattern before, so the pattern pieces were already cut out and I knew it fit well.
  3. The pattern is basically three pieces: skirt front, skirt back, and waist band. Plus the added strip for the faux bow.
  4. Only two seams to finish!
  5. The material is a faux suede, so I couldn't really iron it. Meaning, I didn't have to iron it!
  6. The zipper went in super easily on the first try.

Bow & Waistband Detail

To add a hint of pizazz, I added some top stitching on the waistband and on off-center bow.

And voila! Festive Valentine's Day skirt!

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Vivian Row 117+147+88 & the MIL dress

Vivian Row 117+147+88

A little over a month in and it's really starting to look like something now. Of course as quickly as they go, I'm not a big fan of knitting sleeves, I can't wait until everything is joined up and I'm working on the yoke - otherwise know as the home stretch. I'd said I'm trying to get it done before it's too warm to wear it, but really, this is Maine (despite our total lack of snow right now).

Pinning the Bodice

Unto sewing news.

MIL Dress Bodice

This is the dress I finished back in January.  My mother-in-law requested and purchased the fabric  for it in the fall of 2008. After accidentally cutting out half the fabric upside down I purchased a close-match fabric and was too-afraid to cut it out for a while, but finally overcome with guilt and with the MIL’s birthday approaching, I finally cut out it again and then sewed the whole thing up in one (long) day.

The pattern is Simplicity 3673, though it's a bit unrecognizable as I merged two sizes between the bust and hips and added 6 inches to the hem, but otherwise made no adjustments.

Can’t say the corduroy is my favorite to sew (and may have been the cause of the issues with my Brother sewing machine), but the dress turned out well and is a pretty good fit – though if requested I may make some slight adjustments to the back darts.

MIL dress

Simplicity 3673

Speaking of sewing machines, if all goes well I will be picking up a shiny new machine tomorrow!

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