Category Archives: DIY journal and projects

Lip Balm Production

lip balm 3I’ve been working on this lip balm project for a long time. I had a hard time deciding on the ingredients I wanted to use in my formula. I definitely wanted the consistency of Burt’s Bees but I wanted a calendula base. So I started off infusing sunflower oil with calendula.

lip balm 1Next I chose to use coconut oil (instead of cocoa butter) as a secondary oil. It adds a lot to the texture, making it creamier, because it’s solid at room temperature. (If you want to confuse people at Whole Foods, ask them for “denatured” coconut oil.)

Years ago I made lip balm with my sister and my friend Sharon and was super disappointed in the texture. It was super slick and came right off my lips. We only used oil (liquid at room temperature) and beeswax that time. This formula is much nicer. It’s richer, isn’t as slick, and feels great.

For this batch I used a peppermint oil for flavoring. It’s pretty light. I prefer it stronger generally. I re-melted this batch after my first try because the first time the peppermint disappeared completely. For the next batch I’m going to be using a cacao oil.

This week I sold 8 of my 3x strength wound salves (thanks to being included in this post on The Kitchn “15 Stocking Stuffers That Don’t Suck“) and so I’m already working on a new batch of salve. This is my happy place. Making these apothecary products. Selling them means I get to make MORE.

3x strength Wound Salve

Angelina Versus The Broken Faucet

broken faucetIt is a well known fact of the universe that things break when:

You can’t afford to fix them

In threes

When you are most emotionally crippled

When there is maximum chaos in your life

Several days ago this kitchen faucet broke. Philip tried to fix it. He discovered that one of the shut-off valves under the sink doesn’t work which complicates the process of fixing it. So we decided we would just buy a new faucet and pay a plumber to come fix it. The next day I had to do dishes in my bathtub. But before I could do that I had to clean up the massive trash evisceration I came home to. The trash was left out from under the sink and the dog got bored. But before I could clean up the trash I had to change out of my rain soaked clothes because it was pouring on my way home from work.

I changed out of my clothes and sat around for two hours trying to psyche myself up to face the trash which Chick thoughtfully dragged through the living room and bedroom. I finally picked that all up and realized that I couldn’t do anything else until I’d mopped the floor. But to mop the floor I really needed to clean the bathroom. Also – if you’re going to do your dishes in your bathtub you don’t want the toilet to be grimy because you’ll see it out of the corner of your eye and you’ll never trust that the dishes got really clean. So I had to clean the whole bathroom and then mop the floors and THEN do dishes in my tub. By the time I did that I was so tired I took Max out to eat even though by now we’d realized that after paying all our bills and the mortgage we were getting low-ish on funds. Facing Max’s birthday weekend meant other meals out so in the end it became clear that we could not afford a plumber. Just the faucet.

under the sink sitchSo yesterday was my first day off after a grueling week at work and I spent the whole day watching kitchen faucet replacement videos and going to Home Depot to get the replacement, a basin wrench, and silicone sealant.

First thing I discover is that Philip was right about one of the shut-off valves being  broken. This necessitated shutting off the water to the whole house which, because I wasn’t sure if we had one I could shut off myself, necessitated calling the water department and waiting for their guy to show up and show me how unnecessary it was for him to come out and turn my water off.

I unscrewed the nuts connecting the old faucet to the water supply. It was just as easy as all the videos suggested it would be. The next step was to unscrew the nut holding the faucet to the underside of the sink. But there was no nut on mine. It looks nothing like ANY of the videos I watched. This is the THING I had to grapple with:

Satan designed thisAfter 45 minutes trying to use the useless basin wrench to budge this motherfucker I had to give up. Max was starting to feel like the broken faucet and lack of water to the house was infringing on his birthday celebration. It was. So I headed out to Home Depot to ask them what the hell this THING is and how to remove it and then off to get Max his cupcakes and other treats. Home Depot guy doesn’t know what the hell this is. So I ask him to show me how to cap off the water supply line with the broken shut-off so I can turn the house water back on, celebrate my kid’s birthday, and come back to this mess later. 60 hundred hours later…

dirty broken faucetLet’s not discuss how two Safeways let my boy down by not having his favorite cupcakes, how I now have this hideous unbudging mess in my kitchen. Seriously, gross. And I realize I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Note to plumbing newbies like me:


I managed to get Max his favorite cookie and frosting sandwiches from Sift which made him happy, hung out and watched him play one of his new video games, and opened presents and then I made him onion rings at 10pm. I was one exhausted human. I went to sleep with a leaky valve under my sink. I slept relatively well, for me.

I had secretly prayed that the broken faucet would be taken home to hell in Satan’s arms so that I could get on with installing the new faucet. No such luck.

the nut to bustOver coffee this morning I have come to believe that this nut (pictured above) is the one to crush. I actually attempted to loosen it for 30 minutes last night to no avail. But I think I was trying to do it the wrong direction. So when I’m done drinking my courage in a cup and after I get dressed in grimy clothes I’m going to try this one more time. Failing this?



The Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit: put together your own or BUY MINE

first aid kit 1Last summer was a calamitous one. You know how you can go a long time without getting any cuts or sprains and then suddenly every time you turn around the kitchen knife is lodged in your thumb, table corners conspire to trip you so you sprain your wrist in a fall, and steps suddenly disappear under your feet sending you sprawling on the cement walkway below scraping off a big hank of skin so thick it makes you sick to your stomach to cut it off?

We had one of those summers. That was the summer I finally understood the value of having a first aid kit in the house. We had various components of one. We own at least six pairs of scissors, all suitable for cutting bandaging to size, but when I needed a pair to cut off some skin from my mom’s injury (yes, for real) and cut bandages, I spent 5 precious minutes searching for a single pair while she bled. We had bandage tape but it was not in the same spot as the bandaging. That was the day I decided I needed to put together a first aid kit for our family.

first aid kit 6I could have bought one, of course, but there is no first aid kit out there that blends natural medicine with some modern manufactured supplies. I don’t use Neosporin for cuts and abrasions, I use a handmade comfrey wound salve, or did until I made my own formula with antibacterial herbs in a triple infusion that is much better and stronger than the one I used to buy*. I don’t use Calamine lotion or anti-itch ointment from the store for poison oak, I use natural powdered clay. My son is the one who gets the poison oak and this has worked very well for him.

first aid kit 3I was also inspired by my dystopian novel “Winter; Cricket and Grey” to make a first aid kit that included some natural bandaging in addition to the sterile manufactured gauze pads and band aids. In the spirit of being resourceful during tough times when manufactured goods may be hard to come by I have put cloth bandage rolls in the kit made from natural cotton muslin that’s been pre-washed to improve absorption.

first aid kit 2I put a lot of thought into what should be included in my first aid kits. I’m going to list each item I included  below:first aid kit 4What all first aid kits should include:

Scissors – they don’t have to be fancy, they just need to be able to cut through bandages and bandage tape. Hopefully you won’t ever need yours to cut hanging skin off a wound.

Tweezers – make certain they are sharp edged otherwise they are useless. The ones in this kit are small but have a really nice sharp edge for pulling out splinters. Dull ones make it more painful and frustrating and you will end up cussing so loud you’ll surprise yourself.

Triple Strength Wound Salve – this is in place of using antibacterial ointments. It’s natural, it’s effective, and it’s really good for your skin. The bonus is that it’s made from ingredients that would most likely still be available during an apocalyptic situation. It can be made at home if you take the time to learn how.

Sprain Bandage – I can’t stand Ace bandages. We have one or two lying around and have certainly had cause to use them but they look creepy with that flesh-like color and they’re always too long and after a few uses get stretched out in an unpleasant manner. I have made sprain bandages from cotton stretch satin. Each kit has two lengths of it so you can use either just one or use both if you need more of it. They are pretty and decorated with a felt heart.

Muslin Bandaging – 100 percent cotton washable bandaging. Two different widths for different needs. It is for making pads and for fixing them in place. It is also perfect for using with the poultice.

Band Aids – I’ve included 20 in each kit I’m selling but it’s not a bad idea to add more to your kit of different sizes. I’ll be honest, we have a lot of different band aid sizes and types at our house but the ones I find most useful are the ones I’ve put in the kits (1″ x 3″) and it’s frustrating having so many less useful sizes and shapes lying around when this is what I most often need. I’ve chosen latex-free because a lot of people have allergies to latex.

20 Sterile Gauze Pads – These were really useful with my mom’s arm injury and I will make sure I always have some on hand as long as they’re available. They’re very porous, though, and the muslin bandaging is better for particularly bloody situations. In either case, where bandages sticking to wounds is a worry, rub some salve on the wound or on the bandaging directly to keep it from sticking.

2 Rolls Bandage Cloth Bandage Tape – You can use muslin to tie wound pads in place but it’s good to have tape on hand as well.

1 Use Comfrey Poultice – If you use this poultice for a wound you can get 2 uses from it but for a sprain you’ll want to use the whole thing. I’ve seen a comfrey poultice in action (my mom used it on my cousin’s sprained ankle and it worked wonderfully well) and is truly be a great value to every first aid kit. It reduces inflammation which is the main thing you want to do with a sprain. The added benefit of using a poultice instead of an anti-inflammatory pill is that it has healing properties on skin. Comfrey speeds up cell regrowth and is known to be healing for bones as well.

Bentonite Clay – any pink or green clay powder will do just as well. I include this because it worked so well soothing my son’s poison oak that he’s a real believer and we always have some around. It helps dry up weepy rashes and reduces the itching. Plus – it’s full of minerals that are good for skin.

Alcohol for Sterilizing – I’ve included an empty bottle with atomizer top in my kits for sale. I can’t sell alcohol without a lot of trouble so you must fill it yourself. You can fill it with rubbing alcohol OR moonshine OR Everclear. The higher the proof the better. Use it to sterilize the scissors or tweezers before use. It can also be used to sterilize wounds, but only do this if you don’t have access to clean running water which is the best way to clean wounds.

There are a few other things that would be fantastic additions to your first aid kits but which I couldn’t include in the ones I’m selling:

Fever/Pain Reducer – We don’t treat fevers in our house until they reach 103 degrees OR unless they are causing terrible discomfort. So we don’t use fever reducers often but there have been times I’ve been really grateful to have it on hand. Pain reducers are also truly beneficial in my opinion and I have never been satisfied with natural pain relievers (except for beer – true story) so this is a case where I believe in modern medicine providing superior care to natural and why in my household we blend modern medicine with natural remedies.

Epi Pen – No one in my house has any life threatening injuries but many people do have them and while they usually have an epi-pen close at hand, having one in your first aid kit is wise.

Thermometer – Not a necessary item but very useful in determining if a fever should be treated or allowed to run its course.

As always, I have to hope you never have need of any of these things, but I also hope you’re prepared in case you and your loved ones are hit with a string of injuries as we were.  Either put your own kit together or buy mine:

Post Apocalyptic First Aid Kit from Stitch and Boots

first aid kit 7*You can buy my triple strength wound salve separately from the first aid kit in my Etsy shop.

Pale Green Plaid Smock and My Cleaning Playlist

green plaid smock 5I made this cute smock from an XXL men’s shirt from the thrift store. I have a tutorial for a different version of recycling a men’s shirt into a smock. This time I did something more complicated and I’m really excited about the results.

green plaid smock 4Smocks are an essential part of a post apocalyptic wardrobe. They were also an essential part of most pre-80’s wardrobes. Back when clothes were more precious, they were made better, and people had this idea that they should be protected from the grime of creativity and work. Who wears smocks and aprons? Painters, cooks, welders, butchers, food preservers, gardeners, farmers (sometimes), woodworkers, fish mongers, housekeepers, and me.

green plaid smock 3Any person of action and/or creativity needs to protect their clothes and do it in the most stylish manner possible. I believe in putting on lipstick to clean the house. I believe in playing folk songs on my accordion to serenade bread dough (to make it rise higher). I believe in blasting opera while gardening or making jam. I believe in blasting Laibach’s cover of “I Me Mine” while scrubbing the floor. I believe in looking natty while foraging mushrooms near the misty forest floor.

When I was 17 years old I went to a standing room only opera dressed to the nines in a 1940’s inspired outfit, gloves and ALL, and ended up standing next to this really old man who was dressed in a pressed western shirt and slacks with his hair pomaded in place. This man was easily 90 years old and leaning on a cane. He told me he gave his seat to a young girl who was at the opera for the first time in standing room only. He said no one should see their first opera standing up. He told me he loved that I dressed up like people used to do. Watching the opera standing next to this old gent was the best opera experience I ever had.

I’m a casual person. I tend not to do what’s “proper” or expected unless it makes good sense to me. Tradition means very little to me as an institution. It’s only meaningful to me if it’s worthy in a modern setting to keep it alive. Dressing up for the opera is something I GET. You probably do too. Most modern people don’t get dressing up to do chores. Why wear a smock over a dress to cook in or clean house in?

green plaid smock 2Because cleaning can be dreary and dirty but if you play music that makes you happy and dance and you dress up – it’s a hell of a lot more fun! It goes faster too.

green plaid smock 6If you can’t blast music because you live in an apartment or a super stuffy neighborhood – you can stash an MP3 player in your smock pocket and listen on headphones. So I suggest if you don’t have a smock – make one or buy one of mine!

green plaid smock 7

You can buy this smock at my Etsy shop:

Light Green Plaid Smock

Wanna know what my cleaning playlist is these days? Here’s what’s on it right now:

Respect – Aretha Franklin

I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles

Help! – The Beatles

I Want You – Bob Dylan

The Quest – Bryn Christopher

Rie Y Llora – Celia Cruz

Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps – Doris Day

Rocket Man – Elton John

Like a Prayer – Madonna

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues

Bella Biao – from the album “Italia; A Festival of Music”

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

Dancing Queen – ABBA

Volare – Dean Martin

Mambo Italiano – Rosemary Clooney

And a new addition just for scrubbing the toilet to:

Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi – Carl Orff

Post Apocalyptic Clothing Line Notes

IMG_20140827_120209[1]I’m designing a micro line of post apocalyptic style clothing inspired by my novel Cricket and Grey. I’m starting with smocks made from men’s shirts. As I’m making these I’m thinking about whole outfits to wear with them.

This started because I am faced with the reality that I need to make some money and I can either try to sell my own things in my Etsy shop or I can get a job at an office or retail store. I don’t want to have to work outside my home. So I made a push to label my salves which I was already working on because I wanted to make some apothecary items inspired by my book. Then I asked myself what else I could make that wouldn’t bore me or annoy me.

IMG_20140823_184433[1]That’s when I decided to turn my Stitch and Boots shop into a shop wholly inspired by Cricket and Grey. To create a shop that might exist in my own novel. I did the whole apron thing in the past and am tired of making retro style aprons. I want smocks! I want to recycle some things in the spirit of a post apocalyptic world. As I started cutting and pleating this first one I couldn’t help but imagine what I would wear with it.

IMG_20140825_140541[1]Especially because it looks like a cute sun dress. Designing and selling clothing is tricky if you don’t have a professional pattern grader or grading skills or a set of slopers in different sizes to work with. So in all the years I’ve been sewing professionally I have never attempted to make and sell my own clothing designs.

I had a revelation yesterday in a facebook conversation about selling hand made goods that being a fashion designer was my only design ambition and it’s the one thing I’ve never done. I’ve been the shipping manager for a fashion designer, I’ve been a costumer, I’ve designed aprons and pot holders, and I’ve been a design assistant at a men’s necktie company but not once have I attempted to design and sell my own line of clothing.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it on my terms and with pretty much no budget. No budget means a lot of limitations but this is perfect because anyone sewing clothes in a post apocalyptic world would have many limitations such as buying materials and lack of industrial machinery.

In talking with people out loud about this I have found that I’m very clear about a few things. I’m going to list them here:

  • I will do NO custom orders. People really take advantage of you when you offer custom. They don’t think that’s what they’re doing, but I’ve had a lot of experience with this and I’m not going to offer it.
  • I am going to price my line like a professional fashion line and that means I’m not catering to the bargain hunting crowd. If you want cheap, go to Target. My price range will be $45 – $300 per item. My sewing skills are professional and I went to school to learn this shit so my prices will reflect the quality and expertise I bring to my sewn things. No apologies. And anyone who says “I can make that myself for much cheaper” – good, go do it and stop being rude.
  • There will be pockets! There may even be one or two secret pockets.
  • Every garment will be designed with these activities in mind: gardening, bicycling, walking, running from zombies or angry mobs, going on road trips, foraging and hunting, and doing all kinds of urban homesteading activities. So no ball gowns or tight pencil skirts.
  • Sizing: I will be doing general size ranges rather than number sizes. S, M, L, and XL.
  • No wholesale orders. I can’t afford to do wholesale and am not interested. There will be no selling in other people’s shops.
  • I need to figure out a cheap way to make labels.

Alright – it’s time to get to work on my second smock!

Hope you have a great weekend!



Windowpane Quilt as Allegory for Hope and Patience

windowpane quiltThis is my finished windowpane full sized quilt that I started in 2007.  It’s taken me a whole 7 year cycle to finish it.  I had no idea when I started it that I was about to be the loneliest and fattest person I knew.  I had no idea my old cat was about to die and I was going to go bankrupt and that my son’s problems were going to come to a head.  I had no idea that we were going to spend almost $2,000 we didn’t have to save two tiny kittens from the claws of death.  I had no idea that before I finished this quilt I would start feeling so sick inside I would wake up most mornings wishing I could just peacefully go back to sleep and not wake up again until it was time to die.

windowpane seven years agoI had no idea that I would finally write the novel I’d been trying to write my whole life.  Or that I would take Kung Fu from an unbalanced but brilliant Kung Fu master and discover how empowering it is to punch and kick things.  I had no idea that the town I was living in which treats some people wonderfully would become an iron trap holding me and my family down with our faces in the dirt.  I had no idea just how poisonous a location can be to a spirit.  Nor did I have any idea that such poison could simultaneously inspire such raw creativity and beauty in the people it infects.

trying out for sizeI had no idea any of this was coming.  I just wanted to make a quilt to keep us warm and to cheer up our house.  I just wanted to have fun with my sewing.  Which I did.  I had no real plan when I started it.  I just cut a bunch of rectangles the same size and then started stitching them together.  This quilt was a bright puzzle I put together as I went along.

macro quilt viewIt’s about the joy of surprises and how color and pattern can come together and work in unexpected ways.

quilt five years agoThis quilt was about letting go of expectation and using what I had on hand.

flannel layerWhich is how it ended up with a layer of ugly cotton flannel in addition to the usual layer of cotton batting.  About a day after I took this picture I started basting the layers together and suddenly came down with influenza for the first time in my life.  The real flu.  And not just any strain of influenza – this was the first round identified as H1N1.  Ten days of fever, shaking, excruciating pain, and wracking cough that caused me to break a rib.  I didn’t work on this quilt again until last month, February 2014.

latenight quiltingFinishing this quilt stands for a triumph over adversity.  It stands for creation over destruction.  It’s about never giving up and keeping hope alive with the little things like not tossing WIPs just because so many of them never get finished.  It’s a willingness to see something through, no matter how long it takes.

IMG_20140208_175307It’s the first full sized quilt I’ve ever made, my fifth quilt in all.  I’ve made 3 baby quilts (for Adriana, Ben, and Ivy), 1 twin sized quilt (for Lili), and this one.

IMG_20140304_002007All my animals love it and claim it.  My sister was the first to break it in.

IMG_20140228_014400I re-watched most of Alias (for the 3rd time) while making it.  I stayed up until 3am working on it on more than one occasion because I wasn’t drinking alcohol and consequently have returned to my insomnia.

IMG_20140302_171253I learned to make my own binding and how to machine quilt something bigger than a twin.  Finishing this quilt has set something free, I’m not even sure exactly what.  The past?  Pain?  Creativity?  Faith in myself?  The future?

Maybe it’s an allegory for hope and patience.

I don’t know.  All I know is that a whole lot of shit has happened since I cut out the first stack of rectangles.  I started it in McMinnville, Oregon and finished it in Santa Rosa, California and in spite of all the bad stuff that’s happened, this quilt reminds me of the good friends I made in Oregon and miss.  It reminds me of the blueberries and the asparagus.  It reminds me of the rain and the snow.  It reminds me of Hotel Oregon and the geek techs with M16’s.  It reminds me of the brambles everywhere that make the best jam on earth.

This is my windowpane quilt – finished.

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 3

pyjama sew along 2To keep elastic from getting stuck in the seam allowance as it’s inserted, use fusible web or machine-basting to anchor them to garment within the casing area.  Be sure to remove basting after casing is finished.

Do the machine basting but do not bother with the fusible web option.  For experienced sewers I can’t imagine this step is necessary (I’ve never done it before) but I think it’s worth doing if you’re a beginner.  A basting stitch is much longer than a regular stitch as its purpose is simply to hold something in place temporarily, so if you’re using a stitch length of “3” increase the length to “5” or something equivalent.  It makes it much easier to remove the stitching later.

turning hem underPress 1 1/8″ on upper edge to INSIDE, forming casing.  Press under 1/4″ on raw edge.  Stitch close to lower edge of casing.

turning edge underI hope these pictures help make it clear.  The casing is the channel through which your drawstring is pulled.

ironing casingOnce pressed, pin the casing down to help keep it in place as you stitch along the edge, removing the pins as you get to them.

ready for twill tapeFor new sewers – go slowly.  Don’t rush.  When you get good at stitching close to a pressed edge you will naturally start going faster.  Until you build your skill – just take your time.

There are directions for making a drawstring out of your pants fabric but on the pattern envelope it calls for twill and elastic which is what I did and frankly – if you’re new at this you will want to do the twill version.  Which they don’t exactly mention in the instructions.  Just skip their step 7 and for step 8 – I’m replacing “drawstring” with “twill”.

Cut a piece of elastic the length of back elastic guide.  Pin each length of twill to one end of the elastic, overlapping ends by 5/8″.  Stitch overlapped ends together securely in a box, as shown.

The “back elastic guide” will be indicated on the pants pattern piece.  For the twill: I cut the length the pattern calls for in half.  If the ends are way too long when you wear your pants you can easily cut them shorter.

pushing the pin throughInsert twill and elastic through one buttonhole opening in pants front casing and out remaining opening so that lapped ends are at the side seams and having ends extend evening in front.  Distribute fullness evenly in back waist.  To keep casing flat in the front area, stitch in the ditch or groove of side seam.  Knot ends of twill tape.

Patience help us with commercial patterns!  They do not tell you how to get that twill into the casing and I promise it does not magically slide on through.  Fold the edge of your twill back and put a safety pin through it – as big a safety pin as will fit through the button holes.

Push the safety pin through the casing.  You will have to inch it through, it’s a little tedious.  When you get it out the other button hole you can follow the rest of their directions.

pulling twill tape through

They don’t mention it, but now you can remove the basting stitches if you used them.

You can knot the ends of the twill tape but I would trim it in an inverted “v” instead.

almost doneAlmost done now!  All that’s left is the hem.  Making the hem is the essentially the same as making the casing.

pinning the hemPress the hem up 1 3/8″.  Then press the raw edge under 1/4″.  Pin it in place.  Stitch it down close to the edge.

finishedYou’re almost done.  It looks like you’re done but you really aren’t.

Because now you need to press the crap out of those pajama pants!  After this you probably won’t ever press them again but a really good pressing at this point will set all your seams and hems to behave well.

NOW you’re done!!

What’s next?  Once you’re completely done you need to take a picture of your pants to share and email me the jpeg at  Once I have gotten all the pics I will share them in a post and then I will randomly pick one of you to get the pair I made.

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Introduction and Supplies List

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: First Steps

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 1

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 2

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 2

pyjama sew along 2

Once again I’d like to apologize for having put this sew-along on hold for such a long time.  After my mother came home from her month long stay at the hospital I was helping her recover and had to start looking for a job.  It’s been very hard to come back to sewing after such a long hiatus.  Thank you for your patience!

Now that you’ve cut out your pattern pieces we come to the first of the pattern’s instructions.  But they aren’t very detailed.  You need to make two button holes for your drawstring to be threaded through.

buttonhole markingsUsing a sharp pencil, poke through the pattern piece to mark the beginning and end of the button hole making sure you can see your pencil marks on the fabric.  Once you’ve done this to one front leg piece you need to turn the pattern over and do the same to the other front leg piece. tracing button holeUse a ruler to make a line connecting your two markings and make it dark enough that you can see the pencil line on the wrong side of the fabric.

Next you need to cut out two 1″ squares of fusible interfacing and iron them onto the wrong side of the fabric centered over the buttonhole you’ve marked.  This will reinforce the button holes.

one inch square interfacingNow make your buttonholes.  My Pfaff machine has a really bad attitude about making buttonholes which makes it a frustrating experience.  Hopefully your machine likes making them.  New sewers – If you haven’t made them using your machine yet you may want to go to a sewing machine shop to get a demo or study your manual and practice a number of times on scrap fabric.  I can’t actually tell you how to do them because all machines do buttonholes differently.

sucky buttonholeI share with you the best (crappy) buttonhole of the two I made.  Honestly, sometimes my machine makes them beautifully and other times not a prayer in heaven will help my machine cooperate.

The next thing you want to do is serge all the raw edges of your fabric except for the waistline and the hem which will be turned under later.  If you don’t have a serger you can skip this step.  I told you in Part 1 that you can zig-zag the edges to keep them from fraying but after doing this on some edges to test it – I can’t recommend it.  It’s totally fine to have raw edges unless the fabric you’re using is a very loose weave.  At the end you can use pinking shears on exposed edges if you want to – but it isn’t necessary.

About sewing the pant legs together – I do it differently than they do in the instructions but I’ve given this some thought and for beginners (and even experienced people) their instructions may actually be better than the way I’ve been sewing pants together my whole life.  So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m sharing photos with you of the way I put pants together because it’s worth knowing how to do it this way too.  But I suggest following their instructions, especially if you’re new at this.  I am going to put their instructions in italics from here on out.

If this is your first ever sewing project you may not already know that you need to always back-stitch a seam at the beginning and end to keep it from coming undone.  To do this you sew forward for just a few stitches, put your machine in reverse and carefully stitch over those stitches.  Then go forward again to the end of your seam and put your machine in reverse again.  Sew just a few stitches backwards and then go forward to the end of the seam and clip your thread.

Stitch front to back at inner leg seams.

press seams openThey do not instruct you to press your seams open.  Which is stupid.  Please press your seams open.

Doing it my way you also stitch the front to the back at the inner seam and then you also stitch the outer seam.  And press them open.

With RIGHT sides together, pin center seam, matching inner leg seams and notches.  Stitch.

You can reinforce your seam by stitching over it once again as their instructions suggest.  I would only do this if you have a tendency to split your seams while wearing pants.  They have you trim the seam allowance down and I suggest you do NOT do this.

right side going insideMy way: you want to turn one pant leg right side out and then slide it into the other pant leg matching up the crotch seam at the notches and the inner leg seam.

sewing the crotchStitch your crotch seam.  Then pull the inner pant leg out.

pant legs togetherThere you are!

Stitch front to back at side seams.

Now press.  This is not an easy seam to press because it’s curved.

crotch seam ironedLater, when the pants are completely finished you’ll press any creases out that your iron created while pressing this seam.

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Introduction and Supplies List

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: First Steps

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 1

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 3


Plum Skirt, Blue Skirt

purple skirt on taraThis is my sister Tara.  The day after this picture was taken she took off in her car full of belongings headed for Colorado on a long adventure that would take her to Tennessee and then back to Colorado for a meditation retreat for two months and then…?  We had been shopping for skirts for her.  She couldn’t find what she was looking for.

tara in purple skirtThere was a moment in Target when a whole lot of information coalesced in my head to deliver this message: the skirt my sister is looking for is something I can make in less than two hours from fabric we can buy at the store.  It isn’t often when a moment of clarity shows me how I can be of service to my sister.

Her birthday is soon.  I told her I would make her a skirt for her birthday.she wont like itAn A-line skirt of knit fabric.  Casual, comfortable, classic.

Tara and I do not have the same style but we both love a few of the same classics.  The A-line skirt is one of them.  It looks good on both of us.  I made her two.

my adorable sisterTara is one of my favorite models.  We didn’t take much time with this photo shoot.  Time was wastin’ and the hour was nigh.  In the morning she took off for hot tarmac winding relentlessly through Utah, Wyoming, and finally Colorado.

Then a few days later she flew back to us from Tennessee where she was supposed to work the Bonnaroo concert for ten days.  She flew back to be close to our mom during her emergency hospitalization.  No one wanted her to give up her job to come home.

Except that I desperately wanted her to come home.

She did.

I made her two knit skirts.  One plum and one blue.

She’s going to fly the coop again soon.  It’s almost time for her to rejoin her solo adventure.  It’s almost time for her to find her meditation and her healing again.  I’m used to letting my sister go.

I’m going to fortune tell here: if my sister would shed her native guilt she will find she has an incredible power to heal people, to heal herself, and to blaze new pathways through life.  If I could erase her self doubt through an A-line skirt – it would already be done.

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: part 1


pyjama sew along 2

Before you cut your pattern pieces out of fabric you are going to have to cut the tissue pattern pieces out and take some measurements to see if you need to adjust the length of the pants or the crotch depth.  So if you haven’t already pre-washed your fabric – get it in the wash now.

How to pre-shrink your fabric and when you should do it:

Whenever you sew clothing out of natural fibers you need to pre-shrink your fabric unless you only plan to dry clean them later.  Polyester and other synthetic fibers don’t shrink and blends that have a large percentage of synthetics don’t generally shrink either.  Cotton shrinks at first.  If you don’t preshrink it before cutting out your pattern you may end up with a garment that doesn’t fit you.

Wash your fabric with a like colored load.  I have not had a problem with fabric dye bleeding in years as most dyes are truly fixed but if your fabric is red or red is a dominant color in a print – I would wash it by itself to be safe.  Wash the fabric exactly as you will be washing the finished garment.  If you always use cold water and delicate cycles – do that.  If you wash on hot or warm – do that.  Dry the fabric exactly as you will be drying the garment.  Be sure to remove the fabric as soon as it’s done drying to prevent deep wrinkles from setting in it and iron it right away.

Cutting the tissue pieces out.

Unfold your sheets of tissue and look for the pants pattern which are numbered 8 and 9.  You will notice that they have included the cutting lines for pajama shorts.  If you want to make shorts instead of pants go ahead and cut along the lines for the size you’re making.  If you are making the pants – note that the shorts hem protrudes out of the side of the pants’ cutting line.  If you can eyeball cutting right through it go ahead.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing that here’s how to deal with it:

cutting out pattern 2Using a clear ruler (you can use an opaque one but it is much harder to see what you’re doing) connect the cutting line above and below the shorts hem and mark that line with a pencil.

cutting pattern out 1Now you can cut the whole piece out and the cutting line is unbroken and easy to see.

cutting out pattern 3Cut both pieces out.  Disable the steam function on your iron and iron the pattern pieces.  I can promise you that this is not a wasted step.  Crinkled pattern pieces can cause your fabric pieces to be misshapen and not sew well together.

Making fit adjustments for length and crotch depth:

Pattern companies can’t make patterns that fit every single person.  They work with averages and that might not be you.  So before you cut your pattern out of fabric you want to compare a couple of measurements and if necessary, make adjustments.

The easiest adjustment you can make is the length of the the pant.  You will need help measuring your inseam to see if you need to shorten or lengthen the pattern.  Here are some good instructions for how to get this measurement: 12 Ways to Take Measurements

To shorten your pants:

adjusting length 1This is my friend Chelsea’s pattern.   She is 3″ shorter than the pattern so I showed her how to shorten it.  She wanted to know why she couldn’t just take the inches off the hem.  If the pants were perfectly straight you could do this but they taper in from the top to the bottom and have a shaped hem.  So you want to adjust the length roughly in the middle of the pant legs.  This will preserve the proportions of the pattern the best.

Most patterns provide a line on the patter to show you where to adjust the length.  This one provides a line for adjusting the crotch depth but not the length.  You will need to draw one yourself.  use a ruler and to make sure it’s perpendicular to the grain line.

adjusting length 2

Fold the pattern up 1/2 the total amount you’re shortening the pants by.

adjusting length 3Once you’ve done this your cutting line will be messed up.  Use some scrap tissue from your pattern – cut out a piece that is about 2″ wide by about 8″ long.  No need to be exact.

adjusting length 4Use a ruler to match the pattern line above the adjustment to the pattern line below it and mark it with a pencil.

adjusting length 5Now you have a new cutting line.  Trim off the excess tissue following your new cutting line.  Remember that you need to make the same adjustments to BOTH your pant pattern pieces.

To lengthen your pants:

adding length 2Draw a cutting line across the width of the pattern about half way between the waist and the hem that is perfectly perpendicular to the grain line (the long line with arrows running the length of the pattern).

Cut the pattern in half.

adding length 7Tape a long piece of scrap tissue that is at least 2″ wider than the amount you need to lengthen the pants by and is at least a couple of inches wider than the pants on each side.

adding lenght 8Measure down whatever length you need to add from the cut edge of your pattern and mark it.  Either mark it in a solid line all the way across the width or do a few marks with your pencil to help you tape the bottom of your pants back onto the top evenly.

adding length 6Tape the cut edge of the lower half of your pants pattern to the new line you have made on the tissue.

adding length 5Like so.  You have to draw a new cutting line on each side to smooth out the differences the lengthening created.

trim along new edgeTrim the excess tissue off.  Remember that you need to do the same adjustments to BOTH your pant pattern pieces.

Measure your crotch depth.  Every time I say or read that word I think of “crotch rot!” and am thoroughly disturbed.  It’s an unfortunate word but this is very important.  So those of you who are new to sewing  clothes – listen up!  There is nothing worse than sewing a pair of pants and then discovering that the crotch hangs to your knees gangster-style or that it barely covers your pubic area.

measuring crotch depthSit on a hard flat surface and use a measuring tape to measure the distance from your natural waistline to the hard surface (I didn’t have a hard flat chair so my friend Chelsea sat on my work table for this shot – whatever works!).  Add 1 1/4″ to your measurement to allow for ease.

crotch depth 4Adjusting crotch depth: 

Measure the pattern’s crotch depth from the finished waistline (it is marked on this pattern) to the crotch line (also marked on the pattern).  If this measurement is more than your measurement – you will want to shorten the pattern at the line provided (it’s that double line you see near my notations and you can use either one).  Fold it up just like I showed you in the instructions for adjusting for length.

crotch depth 2Redraw the cutting line to match up above and below your fold.  Trim off the excess.  Remember that you need to do the same adjustments to BOTH your pant pattern pieces.

To lengthen the crotch depth:

crotch depth 1If the pattern crotch depth is shorter than your measurement you need to lengthen it.  Cut the pattern apart at the crotch line.

crotch depth 5Follow the instructions for lengthening the pants – you will take all the same steps.  Remember that you need to do the same adjustments to BOTH your pant pattern pieces.

You are now ready to cut the pattern out of fabric!  My friend Chelsea and I have discovered that what was supposed to be 45″ fabric shrank to a mere 42″ for her and my own fabric is barely 41″.  We are both sewing the XL size.  The pattern indicates that you can lay out your pattern with your fabric folded lengthwise and it turns out that this is a big fat lie.  If your fabric is truly 45″ wide or if you are sewing one of the smaller sizes you should be able to follow their guide.



laying out the pattern 1This is how both Chelsea and I had to lay out our pattern.  Pin your pattern down to the fabric to keep it stable while you cut it out.cutting out fabric 2Cut the whole thing out.

cutting out notchesCut out the notches – this is how you will match up your pieces correctly so it’s important.

Don’t unpin the pattern from the fabric until you’re ready to start sewing.  Fold up your pieces neatly and put them somewhere safe.

That’s the end of the first tutorial.  I’ll be back next weekend with the next set of instructions.  In the meantime – please let me know if you need more clarification on anything in this post and I’ll answer your questions.

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Introduction and Supplies List

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: First Steps

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 2

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 3