Archive of ‘When I’m Not Sewing’ category

Goodbye 2013 & Looking Forward

Hello all and Happy New Year! I know, I am late but it’s still January right?

Goodbye 2013 | Cloth Habit

This was actually a double rainbow but the rest disappeared in camera!

This year Derek and I whisked away to a very special Christmas with some friends in Portugal. We’re fond of spending the holidays in Europe but this was our first time visiting this beautiful country. The Algarve is reminiscent of our fair Texas climate, with a bit more rain and streets lined with orange groves in season. And the Atlantic smashing against cliffs.

We spent most of the holidays indoors storytelling, catching up on summer blockbuster movies and eating. Boy did I eat. Our friends and their children are marvelous cooks. Clams and mussels (the size of those mussels–gorgeous) drowned in broth… homemade pizza… lots of dairy… pork with plums on Christmas day, with a little bit of Port to finish of course. Yum!

Since coming home, I got ambushed by a nasty strain of flu so it has taken me forever to catch up with myself. But I love doing year-end reviews, so here we go…

Looking Back

The year started off with a bang when I hosted the Bra-making Sew Along. This was a huge challenge for me, both in time and in organization, but Im so glad I pushed myself to try something like it, and it is still the most-visited section of my site. I really love teaching and I want to improve my skills in this area–helping others become better at sewing and fitting.

Most of my year after that was completely lingerie obsessed. I drafted at least ten different lingerie patterns, taught myself several patternmaking approaches, proper grading techniques, and thought way more about the physics of elastic than I care to admit. These were some of my favorite personal projects:

Goodbye 2013 | Cloth Habit

Over the summer I also explored starting a business making custom lingerie. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve been able to fit and design bras for a few friends. Here’s a sneak peak at one of them, my own nursing bra design:

Nursing Bra | Cloth Habit

This and many of my bras were hand-dyed in some way, and my experiments in dyeing lingerie fabrics opened up a new world of creativity with dyes and color mixing. During a few trips to Dharma Trading in San Rafael this year I loaded up on enough dye supplies to warrant a need for a separate dyeing studio!

Dyeing in 2013 | Cloth Habit

My top five of everything else:

Favorites of 2013 | Cloth Habit

1. My most-worn item was my Cascade skirt. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect hot Texas weather piece.
2. My 2nd most worn were both pairs of my Maritime shorts. I probably should’ve made 5 pairs.
3. I ended the year a little obsessed with pants which gave me the confidence to conquer the Clover pattern. Look out guys, I’m going on pants-making foray this year.
4. I drafted and made my first pair of jeans! After years of swearing them off…
5. My first project of last year, a wool and cashmere red cape, was definitely my most labor-intensive project, and even now a year later I wish I would’ve gotten more detailed shots. I spent hours handstitching and testing out every bound buttonhole method known to dressmakers. It’s so pretty that I wish I had more opportunities to wear it!

Looking Forward

My continuing goals for this year include going deeper into the study of patternmaking and the fundamentals of fit. I still like working with home patterns but these days tend to buy them more for style ideas than for their techniques. Sewing techniques in themselves don’t challenge me enough anymore, but drafting really tickles my brain! That will probably mean that I’ll be sharing more in-process posts since my projects will go a bit more slowly. I love to share what I’m learning about patterns and fitting.

On the blogging front, I don’t have any major plans other than Stay True to Thyself. I have to admit that by the end of the year I started to suffer a bit from internet burnout. My internet/blog-reading habits were overtaking my ability to keep in touch with my closest friends, and that’s never a good thing. This year I”m going to work at keeping a healthy balance with my online life…

I hope you all had a fantastic New Year, and that 2014 brings more sewing pleasure and beautiful fabrics!

Turkey So Good

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

I wanted to say how thankful I am for such lovely readers, and for all your kind and beautiful sympathies on our loss. It’s been a tough ride but your comments meant so much to me. So many of you are fellow pet parents and understand…

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. There’s nothing richer than being around a bit table with family and friends! I’m thankful for so many things, not the least of which is turkey. Every year we do something different for Thanksgiving but I always find a way to be the one who brings the turkey.

turkey so yumm!

So pretty… (and so gone by now!)

I love filling my house with those big roasty smells. I wrote down my own recipe years ago and called it “Turkey So Good”. There are a million ways to get a good roast but my “secrets” involve first soaking the turkey in a brine over night, which is usually just a simple soak with kosher salt and lemon. Sometimes I get more involved and add all sorts of herbs and loads of garlic. Then I begin roasting the turkey breast side down till it is nearly done. For the last 30 minutes I flip the bird over and turn the heat up–that way I still get all the nice crispy skin on the breast side. Flipping a hot turkey is a two-person job but worth the moist meat!

Now because food is on my brain, I’d love to your about your favorite holiday treats. Do you have a specialty you like to cook or bake?

{p.s. I promise I’ll get back to sewing posts soon. I just finished making a muslin of a jacket, which I’ve been meaning to sew for oh, about a year? I wish winter lasted longer here because I love, love, love making jackets.}

Run Free


Gosh, the last two weeks have been full of highs and lows. I know I don’t write much about my personal life here but I want to tell you about our friend Freda.

It seemed like just a month ago when I was taking pictures of our pets after making my kitty-puppy dress, and thinking about the best way to shoot her. Shortly after that, Freda suddenly fell ill with a serious illness that the vet thought was lymphoma. We thought it might be something like kennel cough that goes away in a couple of days–nothing like a death sentence. We kept hoping for the best, and hoping she would improve enough to have some proper tests.

Freda has been our companion since 2004, since our first apartment in Austin. We travelled a lot back then and took her with us everywhere we went. She got to visit Belgium, Germany, New Mexico, North Carolina, most of it when she was young–it was so hard to leave home without our first kid!


She was a very special border collie, bred from working stock dogs, and had all the sought-after qualities in herding collies. Even from eight weeks old she was already herding leaves in the yard. But Freda was so much more than that–I have never loved an animal so much. She was our friend, our favorite “child”, a free spirit and one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever known.

She loved fetching and hunting for frisbees, balls and even socks, but nothing held a candle to a plain ole stick.


I’ve had many pets throughout my life but after Freda, there was no greater dog than a border collie! (Okay, Aussie Shepherds are pretty cool, too.) She took care of her baby sister Pearl (they came from the same dame)…


They were BFFs until we got our third dog Jakey, a wild energetic guy keeps everyone busy. This was one of our “family Christmas photos”–the only time we were able to get all three of them to sit still. Jake was still a puppy so he was easy to grab!

family photo!

After our initial vet visit she improved for a week, thanks to steroids, and we were able to have a few more fun days of playing all kinds of stick, ball, frisbee with her… but sadly, last week she took a sudden turn for the worse. We were in and out of the vet with infections and all sorts of worries. By the weekend, she just couldn’t hang on.

I’m sure those of you who have lost pets know how difficult it is… I’ve been trying to keep my hands busy but everything is a trigger right now. Freda “talked back” to all the neighbor dogs and every time there’s a barkfest in our neighborhood I’m a mess… Freda brought so much joy to us. So much love. We are thankful she didn’t suffer long but it was very shocking to lose our companion so suddenly. She was only nine. Life is so short… so short.

Run free, Freda… may the fields rise to meet you…

freda running

Are You a WordPress Blogger?

I’ve tried to avoid throwing up a random public service announcement, but it seems I have nowhere else to go. I’ve got to hit the streets (my blog) to solve this funny problem: WordPress peoples, I’m having trouble commenting on your blogs!

I’ll craft a comment and it just disappears into the inter-ether. This has been happening for over two months. Eventually, I just stopped commenting, and now watch some of my favorite blogs as a silent bystander! Would you help me? If you are a blogger, and I’ve ever left a comment on your blog, it’s highly possible you have one of my comments in your spam.

The same thing happens on those blogs which run their own wordpress software ( and which have Akismet turned on. I think Akismet flagged my IP. Has this happened to anyone else? It’s the only explanation I can think of and I’ve tried everything else on my end.

If you don’t know how to check, try looking in your comment spam and use the search tool to get past the hundreds of spammers trying to sell you counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags. (Am I the only one who gets those?)

I’ve also written WordPress and Akismet to try and solve my dilemma but I’m a month into trying to contact them and still no responses. Hence the PSI.

*If you use Disqus without activating Akismet to block spam, then I don’t usually have a problem.

Sorry to bother up the blog space with this. Now back to sewing blogging goodness…

UPDATE: Just found out that Akismet has definitely flagged my IP as spam, which bans me as a true commenter. Good to know I wasn’t going crazy. Stinks because now I know my comments have ended up in many a junk folder and will continue to end up in WordPress purgatory until they resolve it.

Jersey Love and Cloth Habit 2.0

My sister and I saw Illegally Blonde in this theater.

I am feelin the Jersey shore today. I have so many childhood memories of funnel cakes and salt-water taffy, of tacky jewelry and pinball machines. I’m from Michigan, but nearly every summer, my mother packed us kids up in the green station wagon and we went to visit grandma and many of my 30-some-odd cousins in New Jersey (my mom is one of 10). There was always a trip to the shore. I cherished the boardwalk memories so much that when I was in college, I spent a couple summers working crazy waitressing hours morning and night during the tourist season in Ocean City. (Good way to make college money!) Some very late nights after work, a bunch of us would drive up to Atlantic City to blow our tips on slot machines. During the calm midweek, we’d take a drive down to North Beach Island to watch the surfers or Sea Isle City for a coffee. For my 27th birthday, I drove out to Asbury Park to visit Bruce Springsteen’s old haunts. For my 30th birthday, my roommate and I drove all night from Ohio through the Pennsylvania turnpike to do some vintage shopping in Philadelphia and then straight to the beach just in time for sunset. (I had to have a slice! Sorry New York and Chicago, there is no pizza like Jersey pizza.)

Anyway, I hope those in the storm are staying peaceful and dry.

In other news, I’ve done a bit of site redesign. Whenever I get a new creative bug or project going on, I turn my house inside out. I have to re-arrange everything. I’ve dragged 300-lb furniture between rooms. I want new things on the walls. If I had time and money I’d re-paint the entire house and replace all my cat-destroyed chairs. This time, I went at my blog. I wanted to re-do my blog design a year ago but the project sat on a shelf while my headers and other little designed navigations slowly started to go wonky as I continued to upgrade my WordPress theme. I got most of the new look up today and I hope you like it!

On a very important tech note, if you subscribe to my blog, you might need to resubscribe. I am no longer using Feedreader so my subscription links have changed.

If you use Google Reader, you can either go into your account, click the big red “Subscribe” button and add my website name. That’s it. (An even easier way to subscribe to blogs in Google reader is to add their bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar, which is in the “Goodies” tab of your Google Reader account. Any time I’m at a website I want to follow, I just hit that button and bam! it’s in my Reader.)

If you use Bloglovin, you shouldn’t need to do anything, but I’ll keep checking on it to make sure it’s working. FYI, here is my site’s feed on Bloglovin.

Annnd, if you use something else like an email program to read blogs, you will have to re-enter the feed address, which is

And alright, while I was at it, I made a Facebook page. A little birdie told me that more people are reading blogs through Facebook, so I thought I’d shoot my feed through FB, too.

A Birthday Stroll

This week was a bit of funny one. I had a long-overdue surgery and my first stitches ever in 20 years. Nothing major, only a skin surface thing, but it was hard to move for a few days and I’m of the low-pain-threshold variety. The tiniest toe stub sends me screaming across the house in high-pitched drama.

But it was birthday week! Around here “birthday day” usually means ‘do favorite things for an entire day at your own pace’, but you can pace it out all week long if you want.

Birthday cuddles with T-bone. Well really, it’s my favorite part of every morning!–he’s a very spazzy cat but I love when he’s so sleepy and sweet.

In my front yard with my brand new hula hoop!

On a recent trip to California, we ended up being in the middle of two hula hoop jams in separate parks. I had no idea how big hooping really was, nor how acrobatic people are with these (I thought, ‘you just go round and round?’), but it is crazy fun. Everybody gets into it, all ages, and everybody laughs the whole time. So I got addicted by the idea and threw a hoop jam over the weekend with friends and all the kiddos. The kids were inventing “robotic hooping” which just makes sense with Daft Punk as soundtrack.

My actual birthday day almost always involves a stroll through a garden of some kind or perhaps a hike through a preserve. Austin is really at its most beautiful this time of year. Things are blooming madly.

Birthday dinner involved beets with sorrel puree, olive oil drizzle and parmesan crisps at Contigo. I’ve been on a serious beet kick this year and this was so perfectly done. (Main course was rabbit stew with cipollini onions and sage dumplings… Yummmm.)

I love to eat.

Contigo is a great place to sit outside and chill over a drink on a warm Austin night. I’m severely proud of my Scottish roots so I always have to have a taste of scotch at the very end of my birthdays and they have a great selection. (This year it was Oban.)

All in all, a perfectly chilled out birthday!

Fresh Starts and Wish Lists

Happy Happy October! I love this month. It cools off, the weather is gorrrgeous, the roses come back out to play. It’s my favorite time of year and alright, I’m not totally unbiased. I’m an October birthday.

It’s a few weeks away but I’m already starting on my wish list. Here’s one fantasy…

Have you seen this beauty? It’s not in production but a finalist in this year’s James Dyson Awards. UK university student Sarah Dickens designed her “Alto” as a basic make-do-and-mend machine. (I love the name, too–I’m an alto!)

This would be an awesome Kickstarter project. About time someone made the “Mac” of sewing machines, right? You can read about the Alto and watch a video of it in use at Ecouterre. (Thanks Steph for the link!)

Wish list aside, I like fresh starts and I almost always hit the reset button on a lot of things in October. Maybe it’s that beginning-of-school-year feeling. And I have a confession for this new year… Over the summer I got bored with blogging. Maybe restless is a better word. Every time I went to write a post, I’d write and rewrite sentences 15 times before I’d blast the whole thing and assign it to blog draft purgatory. There are a lot of lonely ideas in there that would like to be free. A month-long break from blogland helped, but I still wanted a bit more focus, perhaps some new direction. Up till this point I’ve written mostly about personal sewing projects. The problem is, I start to feel pulled and nagged by a project queue, rushing toward the finish line just to have something to blog about and that’s no fun, is it? Blogging is an art in itself and I want to get better at that.

So sat down for a few hours and wrote out some thoughts about the topics I like, where I’d love to go with this whole blogging-sewing-fashion-thing and how to keep a natural rhythm with it. And one thing really stood out to me. I LOVE to teach, and more than half of my blog ideas were teaching about sewing and designing, not just sharing my own makes. I spend far more time experimenting with patterns and fabrics than finishing them because I love to learn more than I want finished clothes. I love the process of problem-solving, too, and my constant instinct is to help others solve problems. But teaching is a skill and I need to sharpen it.

So to that end I’ve just initiated a local sewing workshop with friends. It’s still in the planning stages but I’m so excited about this! I’d like to bring that here too by sharing some of my own patterns, technique tutorials, re-fashioning. And I heard y’all about the bra-making sew-along. It’s in the works! Friends, that will really sharpen my scissors.

I’m going to start simply this week, with a new weekly post called “Lingerie Friday” featuring some of my favorite designs with a big sprinkle of DIY. I like having a little something to hang my hat on each week no matter what I’m working on.

And thank you to all my readers and friends for following thus far–you are amazing people and I hope that what I express here can be a source of refreshment for you.

Late Summer Escapes

Well hello again. I’m writing this post from a somewhat sunny California, on a much-needed rest at the tip of summer’s end. Sometimes space is good, nobody knowing where you are is good.

That I’m wearing a windbreaker should give you an idea of how happy I am! When I last saw Texas, the heat was still pretty killer. I experience a certain late-summer languishing akin to those late-winter blues in climates that actually have a sense of winter. Too hot to think, too hot to get inspired about clothes! I’ve been traveling quite a bit and have hardly been home in the last month but I’m hoping some of this time away from heat and le blog and interweb activity will bring some fresh perspective and direction, both in my sewing and my writing.

Not that I haven’t been sewing or at least thinking about it! My free time has been filled with visions of pretty underthings and a few experiments in my own designs. Friends, I am utterly taken with lingerie design. Making my first bra a year ago tapped into something deeper for me–more than just another thing I’d like to learn how to make. Gardeners often talk about “signature plants” and my flowers became sweet peas. I even tried breeding my own varieties. Their history, fragrance, short-lived ephemerality, small but radiant blossoms and attraction to bees essentialized everything I loved about flowers. You can probably see the connection. I might have to stop myself from turning this into a lingerie blog! But seriously, I might start a regular feature on lingerie design, sewing and sourcing.

But first things first. Thank you for your sweet comments about my silk bra. It’s already become one of my favorite bras and definitely one of better-fitting ones I’ve made. I can’t wait to get back home and experiment some more with the pattern. Several comments gave me some good ideas for later later posts. Katherine asked me about how I adjusted my patterns for stretch and this is a little something I’ve been researching and working on, with a help of a few books about lingerie design. I’ve even come up with a geeky cool calculator that is helping me adjust pieces for different stretch percents. In an upcoming post/s I will share more ideas on how to adapting and fitting bra patterns.

Now to catch up on all your lovely blogs… Or just keep enjoying the bits of cool sunshine on my face.

I Need a Brain File Cabinet

I so so want of these to put all my little treasures. Lost keys, weird European change (oh, I saved all the pre-Euro coins!), sewing supplies.*

Lately, my brain has felt like it’s on inspiration speed. So many ideas coming at me, all at once. When I was younger, I’d just ride the wave, worried that the muse wouldn’t strike twice. But since then, the tsumanis can be as much of a burden as the droughts. Every single idea being “a rare opportunity, the one that never knocks!” And I keep hearing that song in my head.

I’ve taken personality tests in the past just to get a grip on what tends to motivate me and how I organize (or don’t). On the popular MyersBriggs, I’m usually an INFP which explains my passion for ideals, intensity of feeling, love of learning new things, and a lot of my past jobs and education (and my not infrequent changing of jobs and education). It also, unfortunately, tells me I have trouble organizing, setting goals and sticking to them. I do like finishing things, the sense of satisfaction that comes with it, but if something very interesting and important and new comes up, it’s hard to concentrate.

The one thing I’m always wishing for more of is organization. I’m just not the personality type who comes up with brilliant organizational strategies although I love to death the kind who do. (Y’all are a gift, and you know who you are!) At this point in my life I’ve made peace with my creative impulsiveness, but I’m always searching for a better way to sort through all the ideas that come at me. For awhile I was trying to keep a visual logbook, sort of like this one.

I also get real pleasure out of following my mental rabbit trails until a few of them connect in some meaningful way. Lately I’ve taken to mind-mapping software.

I have two highly organized business-owner friends who’ve suggested I try it out. I downloaded MindNode because it has a Mac-friendly interface. (There are free ones, but they run on Java which I don’t like.) For example, I used it recently for a blog post idea. As I started writing, the post started turning into a tome (a frequent problem) and I needed to map out all the rabbit trails I was going on. Visually, my mind works more in circles than branches, but it’s been really helpful to use this so that I can 1. find the theme that ties all my ideas together, 2. happily follow the ideas to their extremes, 3. decide which branch is important–at this moment.

So for example, remember in my last post I was talking about re-doing my website? I had a theme all redesigned and almost ready to go and then some other ideas popped in my head. I tried them out and kept fiddling and fiddling. At no point during all this did I take notes on what I had done or why. Did I want a typographic-y theme that felt like an old book? and how old? Did I want a very clean look, kind of modernist and straightforward? I have a soft spot for designs with little clutter, with simple visual cues. Or did I want some feminine-y sort of retro vibe? I should’ve had my mind-mapping software when I started!

And as a sort of creative exercise this week, I did some serious spring cleaning of all my sewing stuff and my books and files in my home office. This was really good. I spent hours and hours going through papers and tossing. I fasted a bit from Pinterest and other distracting muses.

And I weeded, a lot. Weeding is good for the brain, too.

(See, Oona, I got dirty hands!)

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your ideas and how do you organize them, just the ideas?

*As a kid, I loved flipping through these for hours and was endlessly fascinated with the Dewey decimal system and book titles. I remember sitting in a farm country library circa 1998, researching for my grad degree. I was the only one in there with a laptop; it was just at the the beginning of the dot-com boom. There were two lone card catalogs left and I felt a little pang of sadness; I knew the weight of that type of organization, the beauty of its craftsmanship, would be gone in a matter of days, months. (I remember thinking, time to get one now on ebay before they are like $1000. Um, too late.) These things are a beast though, the smallest weighing at least 150 pounds.

Liebster Love

Last week I had the honor of being nominated by three lovely bloggers for the Liebster Award. Thank you Amy (Sew Well), Lavender (Threadsquare) and Christine (Daughter Fish) for bestowing your blog love. Shucks, I feel a little sheepish. Some days I feel as if I’m blogging my own private Idaho, so thank you for reminding me otherwise!

The Liebster is for blogs with followers of 200 or less and I admit I’ve never actually looked at my numbers so I went digging around in my Feedburner account. It didn’t help much with follower numbers, which seems to change from week to week (Feedburner averages how many times blog is viewed per day in readers) but I was totally geeking out looking at all the statistics. Apparently I have nothing on the geekdom that seems to land on this site. Namely Battlestar and Tricia Heifer fans. Over 90% of the hits on this site relate to my Number 6 Dress. I’m sure by linking that in here yet again I’m in danger of attracting even more of these hits, and if you are here because of that, Go Battlestar!

Although these days I’m more of a Fringe fan, and I’m praying they get one more season because this show is just warming up. Instead of Cylons, we get three versions of each character, who cross alternate universes to talk to themselves. Self, meet self. Fun. It’s not much to talk about in the clothes department but I do like The Observers’ hat style.

And now part of the game is to pass the award on to five more bloggers. I think I’ll make it six. I kinda like finding rarefied corners of the interwebs, don’t you?

The Thinks. Well, this might be cheating, but this is a blog by my dearest friend Han Stoney. She’s a lovely illustrator and rabid book reader and I appreciate her observations on art and life.

Pattern Vault. Sarah does elegant research into fashion history and the media behind Vogue Designer patterns. I confess I was the first in line to buy a few from her collection of Alexander McQueen for Givenchy patterns.

Blooms Fabric Obsession. It always helps me to follow stylish Aussie sewists… they teach me how to be funky yet relaxed in a hot climate. And remind me that I need to be living near a beach.

Fool For Fabric. I kinda stalk this blog. I want to be her when I grow up. And in 10 years if I’m not living near a beach, I should be living in Northern California. (Near a beach.)

Sallieoh. All around lovely blog on color and sewing and fashion and food. I think I felt better about my Rachel Comey shoe collection after discovering her!

A Good Wardrobe. Liz is designing, patternmaking and crafting her own wardrobe. And she lives in my favorite city in North America. (Near an ocean… am I sensing a theme here?)

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