a little home sewing

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I almost never do any sort of home dec sewing. Partly it’s boring, just cutting rectangles and sewing straight lines, and partly a little bit of me feels that it’s a waste of time and fabric. Who knows if the curtains will fit the windows in the next house, and couldn’t this yardage be clothes instead?

But yesterday afternoon, casting around for something creative to do in the few hours before work, I noticed the grubby, boring throw pillows in the corner of the couch and decided to do something about them at last.

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I had a raw silk sack dress that I had stopped wearing because I don’t particularly like sack dresses and the neckline didn’t agree with my shoulders, and had been saving especially for pillows, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it to make pillowcases for both of the old pillows, so I had to hunt through the stash for something complimentary. Doing only half of each pillowcase in the striped silk meant I had enough to make a third pillowcase for an uncovered pillow form I had lying around. There are still some scraps of the dress which will eventually become gorgeous bias tape.

I should have put zippers in, but I didn’t feel like it, so I just handstitched the fourth side of each pillow closed, which means I’ll have to unpick and sew them back on when I wash them. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

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This was actually a very satisfying project. Fast, easy, and I’m really pleased with the finished product. They feel much cozier than the old pillows (being half corduroy!), and a lot more grown-up. I’m happy that the fabric previously languishing unworn in my closet finally gets to be on display!

Anna in Liberty

Well! It’s been a long time since I dusted off this old blog. As long as it’s been (9 months!), it’s been just as long since I sewed something that wasn’t theatrical in nature. I’ve sewn dresses, vintage swimsuits, and biblical robes galore for at least three plays. I’ve altered countless pairs of trousers, I’ve taken dresses apart only to re-sew them, and I’ve torn beautiful tomato red wool to shreds with sandpaper. But, with the exception of an ill-fated tweed miniskirt that ended up several inches too large in the waist, I haven’t sewn a thing that’s meant to be worn in real life since Ryan shipped off to Morocco with a new shirt sometime around the first week of January.

Until now! We had a long stretch of house-sitting in which my sewing machines languished unused, my Kenmore gave out, I purchased a new one, and I discovered that all my machines were broken!–until I realized that I’d simply been threading my Featherweight from the wrong direction.

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So finally, I have a dress, and it’s destined to be a hit, I think. How could one go wrong with a TNT pattern and paisley Liberty?

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The fabric was given to me sometime last summer by my then-housemate’s mother, though why anyone would get rid of paisley Liberty I can’t think. I can’t find any information about the print, except that if I wanted, I could buy sneakers to match my dress.

With a fabric this precious I wanted to make sure it was really the right garment. After wearing my turquoise Anna for most of the weekend at Pickathon, I knew I needed another. I had hopes of finishing it for my birthday, but a month later is not so bad! It is a perfect late summer dress, being cool enough for hot days, but the colors will go with nearly all my winter clothes and with layers I can wear it right through to next summer.

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The pattern is By Hand London Anna, of course. I’ve made it twice before and wear the other versions a lot in their respective seasons. I like the simplicity and the shape and have to do very few alterations to the pattern as I cut it. For this version, I shortened the pleats by 1/2″ to make a little more room for my bust and it is just about perfect now.

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Grisly Details:

The insides are all french seamed, except for the back seam which is bias-bound in self-bias tape (catching the edges of the zipper tape for a super neat finish!). I used the same bias tape to finish the neck and arm holes. Neck, arm holes, hem, and zipper are all topstitched, but the pattern is busy enough that it’s barely noticeable, and I have greater confidence in its durability than if I had hand sewn them. The pattern in my size used a little over 3 yards of 33″ wide fabric. I could have got it out of less if the print wasn’t directional, but I still about 50″ left, enough for little bits of lining/bias tape.

So that’s that! I am back on the bandwagon, I hope! I have plans for my next two projects, both skirts. I got rid of a lot of my clothes in a panic while moving, so I am trying to slowly rebuild a grown-up and cohesive wardrobe. Here’s to layering season!

january ramblings

I am now nearing the end of my final winter break. In two days, I will be back at school, and in May, I will be finished with school forever. I’m not sad. I am looking forward to aspects of the new semester: reading LOADS of plays for my American Drama class, playing Eurydice in the beautiful play by Sarah Ruhl, learning to do stage makeup, putting on a site-specific interactive play in my house. To name the highlights. (Things I’m not looking forward to: writing anything, like my thesis.)

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For the most part the last several days have been a blend of sleeping a lot, watching TV (all of Peaky Blinders, wish there was more), reading, exercising, and generally relaxing. I haven’t been doing a great deal of sewing since I got back from Massachusetts a week and a half ago, though there are a couple of projects just waiting for pictures, and I finally got around to fixing the hem on a dress that was horribly uneven.

The main reason for this is that my life at the moment tends towards the minimalist. Coming back from two weeks of travel I felt a desperate need to purge my wardrobe, and though that has subsided somewhat (the latest pile of outcasts is still heaped on my desk chair), my outfit most days consists of leggings or jeans and a giant cozy sweater. There is barely anyone to see me and the days are often cold and rainy so there seems little point in dressing up nice. And when 90 per cent of my closet goes unworn, it’s hard to imagine sewing more, new things. Still, I’ve got two days, so I’ve got to decide how to put them to best use. Do I sew:

A Betsy pencil skirt in red? (excuse the cat hair, it’s a way of life around here)

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This Palmer Pletsch skirt in navy?

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Or do I move on to the muslining/pattern-tweaking stage of my self-drafted high-waisted bell-bottoms?

Too many choices can result in nothing getting done at all…

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to sew for gaps in my closet, and to make sure I sew things that will go with other things I own. Hence, the basic skirt patterns. I am working on transitioning my closet from the hip-riding skirts of high school to the high-waisted styles I prefer now. I am almost there with my skirts, but pants are another matter entirely.

My other New Year’s Resolution is to “be healthier”! I have begun exercising, am trying to eat better, and have already given up my habit of morning caffeine. I miss it, but I don’t miss the headache that I get if I skip it for even a single morning. I am also mostly giving up things like pasta and ice cream. But I’m not being strict about it, because I know myself and that is the path to failure.

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In other news, this year I am taking the Vintage Pattern Pledge! I have pledged to sew up at least three vintage or reproduction patterns, which shouldn’t be too hard, considering that nearly half my stash is vintage or reproduction. The above Palmer-Pletsch skirt is vintage, so that’s one planned. Also considering: some 70s blouses (see top right corner), a bra top for summer, a vintage men’s bathrobe for Ryan–or for myself, if he refuses the offer. We’ll see what strikes my fancy next.

If I have time, I would like to run a bi-monthly craft group for the rest of the semester, in the hopes that setting aside time to sew and socialize at the same time will help me do both. We’ll see!

ashland, v.2

 

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This dress was the labor of more or less an entire semester, plugged away at in bits and pieces for a couple of months. It’s been finished for a couple of months, and I wear it often, but I only now have got around to taking pictures. It’s even harder than usual in winter, as the light goes so quickly.

I wanted to make a comfortable, simple dress that could be worn with layers and boots for winter. My ideal winter silhouette is a short, a-line dress with long or three-quarter sleeves, ideally cuffed. I love sweater dresses but I can’t seem to find good sweater-knit fabric anywhere, so woven it is.

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The pattern is the Sew Liberated Ashland, which I initially was not too keen on, but I wear my other version fairly regularly, so I guess I’ve been won over. The fabric is an extra-long twin bedsheet, but I’m pretty sure it’s sateen. It’s 100% cotton, anyway.

I sewed the same size as before, size 2, D cup, and my only real issue came with adding the sleeves. When I finished the dress I couldn’t put it on! I could barely wriggle my arms into the sleeves and couldn’t raise them at all. I did an upper arm adjustment to add an inch, but I could add more. One thing I’ve also noticed is that the bodice ends about half an inch above the underwire of my bra, so I could probably safely size up to a 4. The shoulders seem about right though.

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I don’t have any pictures of the guts, as they’re not really much to look at, but they’re sturdy. I used a combination of lining, handsewing, bias binding, and zig zag (now that I finally got my zigzag machine to work! I have to warm it up with a hairdryer before use). I’ve washed the dress a couple of times and it’s holding up well.

This dress is more or less exactly what I wanted it to be. It’s simple, pretty comfortable, and goes well with a variety of tights, scarves, and sweaters. I never feel like I’m lacking the right shoes or coat or accessories to make an outfit with the dress, which makes it the sort of easy-to-wear piece I want more of in my wardrobe.

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a blue dress

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It seems as though nearly everything I sewed this summer was blue. My Lisette lawn Anna, my Alice dress (since disassembled and waiting for pattern inspiration to strike), my nautical shirtdress, two bridesmaid dresses for my friend’s wedding… And this dress, which I actually made over a month ago for the Summer Sundress Sewalong, but am only just blogging now!

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In the middle of sewing the bridesmaid dresses, I decided that I wanted to sew myself something. Naturally. But what with full time work I didn’t feel like I had a great deal of time to sew at all, much less things that weren’t related to the fast approaching bridesmaid-dress deadline, and so my dress came out a little slapdash and messy as I tried to cut corners.

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The fabric is a Lisette lawn that my mother gave me, with rough, almost diamond-shaped white polka dots that have little teal polka dots in the centers. The pattern is a mash-up of my own invention. I knew when I saw the fabric that I wanted a fit-and-flare with a sweetheart neckline, a waistband, and a bias-cut skirt (a la the Sewaholic Hollyburn). The bodice was easy, as I used a heavily modified version of McCall’s 5927 (I added the sweetheart, and scooped out the back, and shortened it to accommodate a waistband), which I used for my bridesmaid dress–that way I could call it a wearable muslin! The skirt was trickier–I wanted a Hollyburn skirt, but I can’t justify spending money on such a simple skirt pattern that I could draft myself. BUT, I couldn’t just draft it myself without feeling guilty, because you’re supposed to support indie pattern designers and all that, rather than blatantly copy their designs. Which I would love to do, if I could afford it, but I can’t.

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In the end I went with a slimmer bias-cut skirt pattern that I took off of a RTW skirt last fall, and I really like the shape. I wear a lot of full skirts but lately I have been feeling that I want a slimmer line. The bias-cut nature of the skirt turned out to be quite disappointing, as I realized after cutting the first piece that the polka dots are printed on diagonally, so that rather than forming a nice V on the center seams, they would go straight up and down. “Ah, whatever,” I said, and kept cutting. (I did actually consider making the skirt into a half-circle cut on-grain, but my fabric conservation instincts got the better of me, and I decided not to waste the skirt piece I had already cut.)

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The slapdash nature of this dress means that it is definitely not without its problems. I need a giant swayback adjustment to my skirt pieces, and the hem is longer in front than back due to the swayback (easily fixed though). The bodice is a little tight in the bust (and after looking at these pictures, damn it is low cut), and the waistband is about half an inch too long. I made a hot mess of the zipper since I didn’t want to “waste” too much time handsewing, and the pattern matching on the center seams is, frankly, abysmal.

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Another thing I noticed is that the back gapes whenever I put my shoulders back, which does not exactly encourage me to improve my posture!

Normal (bonus trying-to-look-into-the-sun face):

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Shoulder back:

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See? Gaping! Any suggestions on how to fix this? Should I take out width and risk it being too tight, or is this just normal on low backs?

OH WELL! I still think it’s pretty. And since we will eventually be going into cooler weather, the flaws will mostly be covered up by sweaters, so no harm done.

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And the insides are tidy. There will be some retroactive seam finishing when I get my zigzag machine back from the shop, but it hasn’t fallen apart yet, so we’ll count it as a win!

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backlog

With the new blog and my new commitment to blogging (temporarily dampened by my lack of a camera), I’ve decided that I want the blog to be a more comprehensive record of my sewn items. After all, it usually takes a while for things I sew to get on the blog, and often they never do. Luckily, before my camera broke I pulled a bunch of last summer’s projects out of the closet to photograph. I didn’t bother modeling them, as that would have guaranteed they would never get photographed.

So, without further ado, my project backlog:

sailor shorts

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High-waisted sailor shorts! I made these last summer out of a linen/rayon chambray from Modern Domestic. Gorgeous fabric. Unfortunately, when I prewashed the fabric the threads shrank unevenly, so now it’s a bit nubbly. Still lovely, but not the greatest choice for shorts as it stretches out a ton over the course of day and wrinkles like mad. I wear them lots anyway, but the pattern (which I drafted myself) has some issues, and the zipper is too short so there is too much strain at the bottom and the fabric is beginning to tear. There will eventually be another iteration–next summer, probably.

green gingham dress

green gingham dress

Green gingham dress. I made this last summer in a fit of boredom, using my princess-seam-bodice pattern from years ago, which I have since ditched. It always took so much tweaking, it wasn’t worth it. The green and black of this dress can be difficult to style with anything but black (and I’m not really crazy about black, to be honest), but recently I’ve started wearing it with a tan corduroy jacket and brown boots, which works surprisingly well.

button-back blouse

button-back blouse

White sailor collar blouse. This is a (rough) copy of a vintage silk buttonback blouse I have and love, with some modifications: fewer pintucks, longer hem, bigger dart-tucks in front, and somehow or other, less ease. Also, a sailor collar, which was my first attempt at drafting a collar and requires some strategic tacking to lay flat. It doesn’t get worn super often, but despite its imperfections it is just too cute to get rid of. I actually made two versions of this pattern, but the first, in pink chambray, gaped like mad at the neckline and had uneven buttons, so I threw it in the scrap bin.

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Bias-cut skirt. (Photo courtesy of my friend Sullivan, taken at beautiful Glendalough months ago now–I want to go back so bad!) I made this skirt before leaving for Ireland, in a desperate need for more wardrobe basics. I took the pattern off a vintage (?) wool skirt from my closet, which was a little too big in the waist. The fabric is a suiting, probably polyester but maybe with some wool, purchased from the costume shop’s annual sale years ago. It has a fairly subtle plaid, which I completely and utterly failed to match. The insides are a bit messy too, as I wasn’t making things to last at that point so much as I was trying to make things to pack in a few days! Still, it’s held up better than expected and makes an excellent work skirt. The pattern is quite nice and flattering too, though it needs a swayback adjustment, and I am sure I will be making it again sometime.

shirts for Ryan

There’s something very satisfying about making menswear–well, men’s button-down shirts, anyway, as that’s the only menswear I’ve made. The fitting is easier (or maybe I’ve just been lucky), and the styles tend to be looser and not have any darts, which allows you to get right down to the actual construction, which has lots of lovely precise-but-not-too-fiddly details to work on getting perfect.

…Like pleats…

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…and plackets…

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…and seams flat-felled and french…

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I have made Ryan (my boyfriend, for those not in the know) two shirts over the last year. The first one was sewn up last summer out of a length of pink chambray found at a yard sale. At the time he owned a nice pale blue oxford that he wore all the time, so I took a pattern off that, narrowed the body slightly, and lengthened the sleeves.

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The first shirt was made pre-buttonhole-machine, so I hand-stitched every buttonhole, which is not very nice-looking if you are looking close… I also put three buttons on each cuff, one on each collar point, and one on the back of the collar, which is Way Too Many Buttons, especially when you’re doing your buttonholes by hand.

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(I also embroidered a little tag, which is that blue scrap you see in the back of the collar.)

There were other fiddly bits, like my first ever collar stand, which didn’t turn out too great, and I insisted on skipping the interfacing because that’s what I do. It does make a difference though, having interfaced pieces. You get a much crisper look.

Overall I was really pleased with it as my first proper shirt, and Ryan’s worn it a fair bit so I’d count it as a success!

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Shirt number two was made this summer. I’d been wanting to make him another shirt, but never seemed to have suitable fabric, until I dug up this lovely un-dyed linen. I had plans to dye half of it blue to replicate the (now lost) original blue button-up, and also to make an undyed, more casual version for Ryan’s trip to Italy to excavate a Roman villa (jealous? I am).

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(I still haven’t got around to dying the other half of the linen, and to tell the truth, it is very narrow fabric so I’m not sure I can get another shirt out of it, but we’ll see, eventually.)

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Back to the shirt! The only alteration was to add an inch and a half to the center back and pleat it in with the rest, as Ryan has got quite a bit broader in the back over the last year due to constant parkour training, and the pink shirt was getting too tight. It was a little baffling to try and remember all my pattern-drafting logic from a year ago, such as the fact that one side of the shirt has an extra quarter inch added to the front. This is supposed to help with the placket, somehow, but it’s just folded a couple of times, pressed, turned, and topstitched, and there are no tucks of any sort–so I have no idea why that extra quarter-inch is helpful. I don’t even remember if I included it in this iteration, to be honest.

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tacking

Speaking of tucks. On the last shirt, something went wrong with the sleeve placket drafting and I had to make a tuck in the underside of the placket. I didn’t like it, and didn’t feel like messing with my anciently-drafted piece, so I just did a continuous loop. I justified it because it’s a casual shirt (I also didn’t put interfacing in the collar or cuffs), but then I had to tack it down because it was sticking out, and it puckers in places, so I am not doing that again!

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Other notes: The collar and collar stand were too long for the neckline, again! I have no idea why. It wasn’t a problem in the first shirt. Luckily, it’s a casual shirt (my motto, apparently), so why would anyone button it all the way up to the top? I didn’t even bother cutting open the buttonhole.

I cried about the buttons. I wanted off-white or brown buttons, and the only ones I had enough of were white shirting buttons, which were way too white for the linen and the dark topstitching. I got very upset and shed real tears, much to the annoyance of everybody, and then I picked out all the best buttons and sewed them on even though they didn’t match. It doesn’t really matter, but in the future I may start buying buttons specifically for certain projects, because there is nothing like having the wrong buttons to kill your enthusiasm.

Both shirts have their ups and downs. The linen one is better fitted and better constructed, but far from perfect. Still, it’s a learning curve, and I’m getting better. And most importantly, it’s fun! I love not having to sew any darts…

nautical shirtdress

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Last winter I decided to make this nautical broadcloth into a breezy summer shirtdress–isn’t it funny how I always have the urge to make sundresses in the dead of winter, and once summer gets into full swing all I can think of is tweed and tights?  In any case, I was without a sewing machine for a solid three months, and so by the time I was able to realize the dress, it was practically summer here in Portland.

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The pattern, of course, is McCall’s 6696, as that is the only shirtdress pattern I have. (I’d like to try the Hawthorn, but I don’t really know if Colette patterns will ever fit my small upper body.) I made some adjustments from my green shirtdress, taking in the waist, lengthening the darts, and trying to make the whole thing generally smaller without tracing a smaller size. I also left off the sleeves, obviously, but the armholes are somewhat too large. I left the back gathers, but combined with the too-big armscyes and my forward shoulders, I feel like it makes the dress look too big and my shoulders look very round. It may be too late at this point, but I might go in and take some of the gathers out because I just don’t care for the way it looks.

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(In this photo: my terrible posture, and probably half the reason for my square shoulders. I don’t even notice when my shoulders are around my ears, it’s so habitual.)

I used a circle skirt instead of either of the pattern options, because it looks good with a petticoat, and I don’t need a pattern piece for it (the truth comes out! I wear circle skirts all the time because I’m too stingy with my tracing paper to use patterns).

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I gave the waistband some negative ease, because that’s what I like, but unfortunately forgot about the inevitable gaping that would result. A couple of hooks and eyes fixed that easily enough.

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When I started this dress I was using only my straight stitch machine, and dreading the buttonholes. Then I found a vintage Kenmore with an awesome buttonhole attachment for only $20! Now it’s broken, and I’m not sure how to fix it, but at least I got two garments worth of buttonholes out of it… And the buttons match so well!

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What else… I put the armhole binding on flat, thinking it would be easier that way, but neglected to understitch, so it rolled. Oops. Luckily it’s a busy print. I also tried to fix the collar drafting issue that my last iteration of this pattern had, but even with pinching an inch out of the collar and collar stand pieces, they were still too long! It’s a good thing I never button the top button anyway. I didn’t even bother making the buttonhole functional.

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Overall, it’s not perfect (nothing ever is), but I like it a LOT. It’s a good casual dress (worn here with my fantastically grubby Converse), but it also looks great with red lipstick and red heels, and as soon as Zappos restocks those red saltwater sandals in my size, it’ll be a perfect summer outfit! It’s also lots of fun to wear with my giant red petticoat. I’m not sure how well it will transition to winter, as there is a distinct lack of red cardigans in my closet, but it’s definitely a winner for hot weather.

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bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Though there may be a more streamlined way to do this, I don’t know how to transfer everything about my old blog over to this one, so I really am starting over, and claiming this blog as well as my old one (which, to the best of my knowledge, is not actually accessible by anyone, including myself).

begin again (again)

For some time now, I have been thinking about the possibility of sewing for money. Whether this will come in the form of custom dressmaking (something I have practicing lots), selling simple handsewn garments, refashioning, or all three, is not yet clear, but I knew that I wanted to make everything consistent: my blog, my Etsy account, my Flickr, etc. Around the time that I first wanted to move everything over to alicecharette.com, my old blog got hacked, and so the whole process was slowed up considerably. Bother.

Fortunately, my dad has been awesome and has taken out all the bad code, and moved everything over to my shiny new domain name, so now I can start blogging again! Unfortunately, my camera just broke this morning (figures). Fortunately, I have taken plenty of project photos in the time that I haven’t been blogging, so I will have some content until I come up with a camera solution.

Here’s to having a blog again!