a self-stitcher goes shopping

So here's a story for you...

Yesterday I decided I needed to venture off the island to buy myself some lining fabric for the dress I'm making out of my hand-painted fabric. I wasn't really feeling up to making the long trek allll the way to civilization (Houston, in my book - and where the only mildly decent fabric stores are) so I settled for the JoAnne's conveniently situated at the halfway point. 

First of all, JoAnne's was in total, full-out, Halloween cray-cray mode and I was slightly terrified, but I soldiered on because I'm brave like that. Turns out that the majority of their fabric, including their skeptical selection of lining fabrics, was on a 50% off sale! Awesome! So I pawed through the polyesters, setting my "natural fiber" bigotry aside for the time being. I mean, a sale is a sale. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I'm pretty incapable of impulse buying these days - especially on mystery fabric - and so I pretty easily talked myself down from purchasing anything other than what I came there for: white rayon lining fabric - the bemberg variety.

Well they were out. Completely. They had orange and black, but... you know. 

So I'm feeling a bit deflated because this means I'm going to have make the long haul up to Houston anyway. But, alas, I wasn't going to do it this day. However, there I was, in the midst of this huge shopping complex, and I decided to do something that used to cheer me up in my pre-sewing days - I decided to go clothes shopping. 

Now this wasn't a total coincidence - word on the street had it that the Houston area is finally home to an H&M, and it just so happens to be at my halfway point - right across the street from my JoAnne's. Once upon a time I used to love me some H&M. It fit my graduate school budget and it catered to literally every look and occasion. Trendy? Check. Office appropriate? Check. Hipster? Check. Bohemian? Check, check, check....

I have grown up some since those college days (thank god) and so have my tastes in clothing - helped along mainly by the fact that I've sewn every major new garment that's been added to my wardrobe since 2010.  I'm far more pickier about fit, fabric and quality than I used to be. And I'm a fair bit more educated on the, shall we call them "dangers" of fast and cheap consumption, especially within the clothing industry. But despite all this, a morbid curiosity drew me in. And I'm glad I went, because otherwise I would have never known that Kelly Clarkson was still making music (where have I been?!?)

Truthfully, I knew from the outset that I was not going to buy anything (see above, re: impulse buying).  But I figured this might be a fun opportunity to try on some trends I've been thinking about and see if they would actually work on me.  The looks I wanted to try? Oversized sweaters, leather leggings, wild prints.

So without further ado, here are some of the outfits I put together on this pretend shopping spree:

Glitter sweater and faux leather pants.

I first became aware of my desire for faux leather leggings while trolling one of my favorite style blogs, sea of ghosts.  The inspiration to pair them with an oversized sweater perhaps came from Pinterest? Not really sure. Anyway - these H&M faux leather leggings were not very stretchy. I grabbed them in a size 6 and a size 8, not really sure what my size is in that store and mainly eyeballing the waist. The size 6 fit the best, but oddly. Tight in the waist, baggy in the crotch. I'm not sure why I was surprised by how... squeaky these were... but there you go. Squeaky pants. The sweater was acrylic and cozy, but I probably wouldn't actually pair these two in real life (I think I can come up with a better top for leather leggings, don't you?)

Cable knit sweater and crazy print, cropped trousers.

I was very drawn to this whole display of stuff in this wild, floral digital print. There was a ton of it. Apparently Lucky magazine put this stuff as its "top pick" because there were signs all over the place! So these trousers are a size 2, to give you an idea of the crazy sizing. They only had a size 2 left, and I decided to give it a go. They fit, but they are what a friend of mine once fondly termed "yeast infection pants" - meaning the crotch seam was where no crotch seam had a right to be! So I'd probably size up in the pants and size down in the sweater (there's oversize, and then there's sloppy...)

Crazy print dress

This dress was the most ill-fitting of the bunch. It was made from a stretchier fabric than the pants.  It was rather loose in the upper chest, and real tight over my belly and butt. The waist line also kept wanting to hike up. And it was short! Like, whoa! When I first spotted this dress I thought that if it fit it might actually make a fun work dress, but it would need at least 6 inches!

Another crazy print dress.

This was the last dress I tried on. This was a thinner fabric than all the rest, pretty silky to the touch at first, but even for the short time I had it on it became kind of scratchy.  It's a simple A-line shift dress, but I liked the way the pattern was placed. There was even a bit of tricky seaming that happened at the shoulder to keep the illusion going - an unexpectedly thoughtful detail.

All in all, I have to admit that the quality wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be! Of course there is no telling how any of these things would hold up with repeated wearing and washing.  In the end, I came away from this little pretend shopping spree with some ideas for fall/winter sewing, and feeling like my style mojo might have just got a kick in the pants. This isn't to say that I intend on copying these looks, but sometimes you need to step out of your daily routine to get the old wheels a-turnin' !

Does anyone else go pretend shopping when they need a bit of inspiration? I'd love to hear about it!





Many moons ago, when I was just a young buck in grad school, I discovered the joys of watercolor. Having devoted the majority of my young adulthood to studying oil painting (I mean, is there any other medium if you're going to be a serious painter? Wink...) it felt somewhat naughty and subversive to put down the turpentine and fill a jar with water, pin some paper to the wall and set to work, letting the colors bleeeed. I didn't do anything super cool or smart with those watercolors - I just painted still lives - huge still lives - of all the dirt and crap that was sitting around my studio (I kept a very untidy studio.)

little details of those watercolors...

I don't know that I've ever really given the full story on this blog of how I made the switch from painting to sewing, but that's because there really isn't much to tell. I think like a lot of people that pursue a passion extremely hard, I just experienced burnout and needed a break. I also never stopped working with art and artists on a daily basis, albeit in a much different capacity, and so it has never been far from my mind. But the long and short of it is: Shortly after moving to Houston with Nick, I stopped painting. Around this same time I received a sewing machine for my birthday (for lack of any other birthday ideas, Nick suggested I ask my parents for a sewing machine - that man is clairvoyant sometimes, I swear...) and left it sitting in a box for a number of months. Finally my fingers started to itch for a creative outlet and I buckled down and learned how to thread my machine and sew my first few tentative stitches...


One of my earliest frustrations with sewing was with my fabric choices. Perhaps I'm exceptionally picky, but I was never happy with the prints readily available to me at the local fabric stores. I find it exceptionally frustrating when you have a mental image of your dream garment only to find that the fabric in your minds eye simply does not exist!! You guys have seen enough of my makes to know that I tend to favor loose, abstract prints with a hand drawn/painted quality. Prints that looks like I might have made them...

So from the very beginning I've had "learning to hand dye fabric" on my sewing bucket list. This summer I got really excited to see that The Art of Cloth Dyeing was being offered as a class on Craftsy.   I enrolled and began leisurely working my way through the classes, not really taking notes or doing any of the techniques shown, but just trying to get more information on how dyes work, what you need, steps, etc. My husband, Nick, kept raising his eyebrows at me because much of the samples shown in the class are what I might call "fancy tie-dye." While I think some of these immersion dyeing methods can yield really beautiful and unusual results - and I plan to try them out in the future - I was really watching this class with my own agenda in mind.

What I really wanted to do was direct application dyeing. So after waiting patiently for a few months until I had enough money to gather supplies, I finally put in an order with Dharma Trading Company (anyone watch Lost...?) for some bulk fabric, chemicals and a small selection of procion dyes.


This past weekend I hand painted my first length of fabric - three yards of some diaphanous silk habotai (habutai?) I had to work very quickly (thats the reason why all these pictures show me with my dust mask and gloves on) just barely touching my brush to the fabric and letting it bleed outward. The more layers I put on the looser my "hand" became and I began to have fun letting the colors mix and travel directly on the fabric. It reminded me very much of how much joy I used to find in those grad school watercolors, touching my brush to a surface...





You guys were all so nice when I posted pictures of some of my sketches in a recent post, that I thought I'd give you a more in depth look into my sketchbooks. That, and I have nothing sewing related to show you as I'm waiting on the mail. You know how it goes...


Drawing in a sketchbook used to seriously stress me out.  I never used to feel like my sketchbooks were private (this is because they weren't, they were always looked at by professors and classmates, critiqued for content, or else I was being told to draw in them more...) My relationship with sketchbooks always felt rather forced. It wasn't until I gave my entire studio practice a rest that I started to realize that my sketchbook didn't have to be for anything. And it could be really really ugly, and that was okay. This was of course the sort of thing I was always told in school, but perhaps it never sank in because of the environment (or my own pride.)

Now my philosophy on sketchbooks are pretty relaxed. Sometimes my grocery list ends up in there. Sometimes my drawings end up in the notebook I use for work. I draw when I feel like it, and I don't even think about it if I don't feel like it. 

I occasionally make technical drawings, or drawings of clothing - sometimes copied from somewhere, sometimes just imagined. Usually if I'm working through a design in my head I'll make a few different sort of drawings, some with measurements or mini pattern pieces. And sometimes I just can't quite see a design clearly in my head and I need to draw it out. This is helpful for me when I'm deciding what pieces I want to make. Something can sound good - you put the right pieces together - but when you actually sketch it out you might see that the shape is all wrong... its like a pre-curser to making a muslin.


Some of these ideas are still in the running to be made, others have been nixed...Usually when I draw clothing it's more for a purpose than making a nice drawing - like walking through a design. I might make notes or include elements of color or things that might be inspiring me.  But sometimes I just want to draw for the sheer joy of it, and this is usually when I sit still for awhile and do some observational drawing. My husband and I are still drawing each other, and lately it seems all I want to do is draw my plants...


Do you guys feel like drawing is a useful tool for you in your sewing process? Do you find the prospect of drawing intimidating (I can relate)? Do any of you just draw for the heck of it? 

For the record, it's still hard for me to make a drawing and not judge it as "good" or "bad" - even the technical drawings.  But thats not what it's about.  Just a little reminder to myself...