FO: Cascade Duffle Coat

Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Pepe's Snowshoes
Pepe's snowshoes
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver
Cascade Duffle Coat sewn by Ms. Cleaver

It's been a weirdly warm, low-snow winter in Maine. So it's probably fitting that after wanting a new winter coat for several years, I finally got around to making myself one in the year I've needed it the least. (For example, it was 51 degrees when I took the majority of these photos)

But I don't mind. I live in Maine, it's gonna get cold again at some point. 

In truth, I love sewing coats. Yes, the materials are more costly. Yes, they usually have a ton of pieces and take a long time to sew (about a month in this case). But I know that I'm going to wear it everyday for months, so it's totally worth it. My Minoru Jacket gets a ton of wear, and this one will too.

When I first saw the Cascade Duffle Coat pattern, I knew it was just the thing I was looking for. I wanted it to look like something a 1950s co-ed would wear on campus and came across this great green plaid at the Dorr Mill Store. Though my plaid matching skills were pretty on point for this project, I wanted to break it up a bit, so I took inspiration from sample on Grainline's website and did a contrasting black yoke and put my pockets and zipper covers on the bias.

I used the contrast fabric for my zipper bands, which was the one thing I wouldn't recommend. The six layers of thick wool fabric was almost (but not quite!) too much for my machine to handle. It was touch and go there for a while, but we pulled through. :)

I also did my first leather sewing on this project, as I made my own toggles, which was super easy and I would recommend over buying some.

In another, "don't make my mistakes" moment, I was a little lax on finishing the seams of my lining since there weren't visible, which meant after about a week of wearing, I had to turn the whole thing wrong side out again and re-finish them, because the more delicate fibers stuck to the wool like velcro and started to shred. I think I fixed everything all right (time will tell), but it would have been easier to do it right the first time.

All in all, it's super cozy and will definitely stand up to a more normal Maine Winter.

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Big Projects, Little Projects, WIPs, and FOs


I've gotten really bad at sharing my projects here. I've been posting WIP photos on Instagram pretty regularly, but then I forget I haven't put them here, and months go by and here we are.

As LMC nears closer and closer to her third birthday, I've learned that a toddler's fashion choices have very little to do with my own preferences, and that a great interest in an item one day, may translate to no interest whatsoever for next several months. For example, LMC was super interested in this dress as I was sewing it, but has never worn it aside from those photos. In general she has no interest in dresses at all. So all those lovely detailed Oliver+S patterns I had purchased, have gone into a box.

What she will happily wear almost every day of the week and most nights to bed are tutus (or ballet skirts as they're called in the Cleaver household). So I got smart, bought some tulle and knocked out a few in her favorite colors over the holidays. They even managed to supplant the previous tutu, which was worn every other day for months and has now been relegated to the back of the drawer. As Mr. Cleaver said "You could make her one in every color and she's wear them all the time, light pink, dark pink, light purple, dark purple..." (LMC has some specific color preferences).

I haven't been quite as successfully in supplanting the "doggie hat" (see every photo of my child this winter, indoors or out) with a hand knit one, but I did give myself the greatest chance of success. It's purpley-pink, has earflaps, pompom, and an animal on it. She's worn it a handful of times, which I consider a great success.

But the nice thing about both the tutus and the owl hat is they were low-commitment projects. I made a second tutu before the first one had finished it's round in the wash, and the hat took two knitting sessions, tops.  So even if she didn't like them, ripped them, lost them, etc. It's no harm done. And THAT, I've found is the key to making handmades for this child.

The bonus of only making super-quick simple projects for LMC is that I can do the complex projects I crave for myself. And when it comes to myself, it seems, there are no simple projects. 

After number of deadline-driven knits, I was feeling a bit burned-out on knitting and instituted selfish-stitching Sundays for myself, where I could work on anything I wanted. For my first selfish-stitching project, I chose the Shersock's pattern from Lattes and Llamas. I'm a fan of the show, so I wanted something to commemorate that, but also something that was nice-enough looking that they'd still look neat even if you didn't catch the show reference, and these fit the bill perfectly. They were also the perfect selfish-stitching project, because I don't do a ton of colorwork and it gave me a chance to work on my skills.

My second selfish-stitching project was a pair of very useful  fingerless mitts knit up in some yarn I had dyed in 2011 and spun in 2012. I don't have a selfish project on the needles right now, but I just saw a new design Bristol Ivy has in progress that is absolutely stunning, so I'm pretty sure I know what its going to be.

As for sewing, my motto seems to be no small projects! As I leapt from sewing my first pair of jeans to sewing a winter coat. The jeans are the stovepipe leg version (View A) of the Ginger Jeans. With the inclusion of the sew-along, I found making jeans very do-able if time consuming. I made the lower-waisted version, which I raised a bit by making the waistband twice as wide (hence the two buttons). She's since released a tutorial on doing a mid-rise variation, which I'd probably do the next go around. I'd also make them a size down, because I didn't account for how much the denim would stretch throughout the day. But even with those caveats, I'm super proud of my jeans making. Seriously, making your own jeans makes you feel like a sewing BOSS.

As for WIPs, I'm currently working on my plaid Cascade Duffle Coat. I've been itching for a new winter coat for years, and this pattern was just the thing I was looking for. As with the jeans, it's not hard to sew per-say, there's just a ton of pieces/steps, but it's coming along. I doubt it'll be done by the end of the month as I hoped, but I live in Maine and the winter in long, so I'll still get plenty of use methinks.

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Sewing Update or The Seven-Year Itchy Wool Dress Part II

So I'm still playing post-Christmas catch-up here, but if I keep my nose to the grindstone, I figure I might get all caught up by the end of January. 

That said, here is the sewing-centric companion to last week's knitting update.

Project #1: Christmas Apron

I wasn't one of the many bloggers who made the handmade pledge because I already knew what I wanted to get my husband, and while part of it was handmade by me (record bowls) and part of it handmade by someone else (Wilco silkscreen), the rest was not and it wasn't really an idea I wanted to give up. 

Mr. Cleaver's Presents

Not entirely handmade, but certainly appreciated by the recipient. 

That said, I did do some additional hand-made gifting, namely the apron below (on left). The pattern was based on a vintage apron I had (on the right). This was pattern-making at its, uh, well it involved some paper bags, a lot of folding and some high-class technical eye-balling and guesswork. 

Apron Buddies 

Apron buddies! 

I didn't have enough material or know-how to make bias tape for the edging, so instead I did some decorative zig-zagging. All in all,  I think it turned out fairly well.  

Apron detail

Lord love the zig-zag stitch. 

And what did I get? In an awesome "Gift-of-the Magi"-but-in-a-totally-better-way turn of events, Kasey got me The Apron Book!

Apron book

That is 100% Pure Excitement there. 

 Project #2: Plaid Wool Dress

 It took seven years to get the dress made, so it's no surprise that it's taken me so long to post about the completion of this project.

I finished the dress about a week and half before Christmas and have worn it several times since then, including for my Breakfast at Tiffany's book club meeting, but every time I wore it I forgot to take a picture. Hopefully I'll remember next time and can post a photo of the dress actually on me, but for now, I leave you with this:

Completed Plaid Dress

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The Seven-Year Itchy Wool Dress

My Sewing Machine

I bought my first sewing machine in May with some hard-earned stage management pay. I'm not super fancy when it comes to sewing, so I went for a basic machine, a Brother LS 2125i. I really enjoy this machine, but it's very intuitive and it works almost exactly like my mother's sewing machine that I learned to sew on. When it comes to choosing projects, I have, up to this point, almost entirely focused on sewing dresses.

I love vintage dresses, particularly from the 50s, but it's hard to find them in good condition (because really, it'd be fifty years old), and even harder to find them in my size. So I sew them! Having discovered the wonderful world of craft blogs, I have about a billion things I'd like to sew now, but for now I'm still working on a dress.

Pendleton Wool

Several years ago, while driving from Napa to Salem, OR for my freshman year of college, my family stopped at the Pendleton factory store and picked up this amazingly beautiful wool fabric. The original intention was to make a skirt for the cold Oregon winters, which is a little funny now that I've lived in Maine and Chicago - no offense Oregon!

For whatever reason, the skirt never got made. So when I was visiting my mom this summer I dug out out the fabric and the old skirt pattern and snuck it into my suitcase. However, I was less enamored with skirt idea by this point, so I did some looking around found this McCall's pattern.


I have to admit, I was a tad terrified as I cut out the pieces, because I've never worked with plaid before, so I stared at it for about 15 minutes before I cut anything. Fingers crossed!

New Dress on It's Way!

The cut pieces have been sitting in my sewing box for several weeks and I finally pulled them out tonight and did some sewing. Since space in my apartment is limited, I sew on the kitchen table, but since we use the table I have to set up my machine and put it away each time I want to sew, so its often easier to pull out the knitting (and I am working on sweater #2 - so that has a lot of work to do on it as well).

In any case, I finished the bodice tonight and I couldn't be starting this dress at a better time, since I'm seeing plaid everywhere these days from Domino Magazine to CBS Sunday Morning. Apparently the design world is mad about plaid!

Dress Bodice

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