All about ME

Last week, Lisa G of Notes from a Mad Housewife very kindly tagged Melanie and me in the blog hop on writing that’s going around. Being something of a rule-follower, I tried to find the origin of the blog hop. I traced it back, 6 blogs deep – Lisa, Heather, Leila, and three new-to-me blogs – without any mention of the original hopper. This sewing blog land of ours is vast! Without being able to reference the original post, I don’t know what the intent of the hop is, but what swayed me to participate was just how much I enjoyed seeing these posts popping up in my reader.

Why do I write?
I don’t remember why exactly I started a sewing blog. My first few months of consuming sewing content on the internet are hazy. I wanted to make things and I needed a lot of help. I would look up projects on the internet and invariably end up mucking around Burdastyle without understanding how it worked. I joined the now-defunct Wardrobe Refashion because I was just so interested in what people were doing. After a few months of lurking on WR, I shared my first project with great trepidation – a Burda dress made from a thrifted sheet with some of my illustrations screenprinted on it, shot in Photo Booth on my computer – and people were both kind and helpful. I guess eventually I felt the pull to contribute my own content to the online sewing world in a more involved way. I started two other blogs before Crab & Bee – originally a collaboration with my sister – really took shape.

I’ve continued blogging because I really enjoy reading about sewing and the creative process, and it’s so heartening to know that other people share those interests. It’s about documenting, too: it’s exciting to have a tangible way to track my progress in and attitude towards sewing over the years.

I write in general because I’ve always written. I started a journal at age 5 and have kept one ever since. I don’t really understand something until I’ve written it down, whether it’s how I’m feeling or my grocery list.

How does my writing process work?
I suppose the writing process starts with the sewing process, when I start narrating to myself. It’s hard to justify my narration habit if I don’t blog, so at this point, I’m committed. Once my project is finished, pictures are next. I take the straightforward approach to photography – I’m most interested in capturing the look, fit and feel of a garment. I make sure to capture the details I want to discuss, and then order my photographs in a way that feels natural. By then, writing feels like a mad lib. I don’t try to control much of what I’ve written.

For someone who frequently shares pictures of themselves on the internet, I tend to be a private person with a tendency towards brevity. I think both of these qualities are fine, even admirable in certain situations, but I realized a couple of years ago that one of the things that makes a sewing blog more meaningful to me is the connection I feel with its writer. In the hopes of creating the kind of blog I’d want to read, I’ve been trying to put more of myself into my posts beyond just how large of a broad back adjustment I need. It’s a work in progress – as is the broad back adjustment.

How does it differ from others of its genre?
One of my fantasy projects would be doing a big affinity diagram of sewing bloggers. There are a lot of overlapping themes and interests in the sewing blog world. My main interests are sustainable sewing (and exploring what that even means), fitting and adapting patterns, durability and the techniques to achieve it, and sewing my entire wardrobe in styles I love, with a little textile art thrown in. This isn’t the ambitious affinity diagram, but I did want to share a few blogs I look to for inspiration around these themes:

Sustainable sewing: So, Zo, YoSaMi, A Handmade Wardrobe, Gloria & Me
Adapting patterns and pattern-making: Heather B, Madalynne
Durability and technique: Notes from a Mad Housewife
Creating a wardrobe: Fabric Tragic, What Katie Sews, Handmade by Carolyn
Styles I love: Sew StylistOh, She Dabbles
Textile art: Rolling in Cloth, Liza Jane Sews, SallieOh

I think what makes any blog unique is the combination of the writer’s personality and interests, their approach to the creative process and what they create.

What am I working on?
Too many things! I’m playing with a couple of Scraptember ideas as well as sewing scrap undies, making a couple of mens’ shirts as gifts, and muslining and planning some early-fall sewing so I’m not as cold as I was last year. That’s plenty, but I’d love to make another pair of jeans and play around with my newly-completed bodice sloper.

I’d like to nominate Ebony of Sew Stylist and Sarah from Fabric Tragic. I can’t get enough of Ebony’s style these days – I can imagine looking in her closet and seeing a harmonious wardrobe sewn up in a beautiful mix of solids and tasteful prints. I love Sarah’s intense focus on wearable workhorse pieces, with the occasional Sound of Music singalong costume thrown in for good measure. Also, she cracks me up with her choice phrases – “lady garden” comes to mind. (Ebony and Sarah – no pressure to write up your own post!)

What are some of your sewing interests, and which other bloggers share them?

Little linen outfit

Last year, Kelly made the Liesl & Co Everday Skirt. Since then, I’ve engaged in a monthly debate with myself – buy the pattern or try to approximate it on my own? “It’s a gathered skirt with an elastic waistband in the back – how hard could it be?” would be countered with “Do you really want to spend the time measuring out rectangles and tracing pocket facings?” The price seemed a bit high for the pattern. Finally, Katie sewed up her version and her verdict of “I was tempted to go the self-draft route for my dream skirt, but this pattern is basically it” pushed me over the edge. | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt


I haven’t been sorry. There are a lot of things to like about this skirt design: the flat side panels, back elastic waistband, nice pocket placement all come to mind. I’m not even a skirt person, but I love this one. And from a logistical standpoint, I was impressed. The PDF downloads directly from a link in your email receipt, there’s a print at shop version included and the print layout is delightfully lean. This was easily my best experience with a PDF pattern to date.

I made a test skirt in my kimono fabric and decided to remove some width from the back panel. I wanted it the waistband at my natural waist, and the shortness of the back elastic I needed made the back panel very gathered and pretty heavy. It’s still more gathered than the front, so if I make this a third time, I’ll play around with shortening the front waistband to lengthen the back out. After my trial, I knew I wanted to make it in a special piece of linen and bought a straight-up new piece of fabric for the occasion. | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

I bought 1.5 yards of 60″ wide linen (the pattern suggests 1.75) but I miraculously had enough to create a cropped tank AND join Sophie’s super fun two-piece party! | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

Unlike the skirt, the top is actually self-drafted. I started working on a bodice block last winter, with beyond-generous help from Maddie, who shared her pattern-making knowledge and gently let me know that my neck couldn’t possibly be as small as I’d measured it to be, the fit expertise of my friend Casey, and Nathan, who helped me take endless rounds of measurements while I shivered convulsively in a chalked-up bathing suit. I worked on it in spurts and finally translated it onto tagboard last month. From there, I consulted Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design to make a flared dartless tank and borrowed the Wiksten tank neckline. I wanted it to be boxy to emphasize the fitted skirt waist. | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

Victory! It fits!

Someday soon, I’ll share how weird my block looks. My back and front bodice pieces don’t even look like they belong together… unlike this top and skirt! | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

I’ll be back in a few days on the Sewcialist blog as I’m helping out with the September challenge. Get ready to bust through your scraps during SCRAPTEMBER (yep, I had to go there). Until then, I leave you with this: | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

Bossy bees

Alternate title: How Sally of The Quirky Peach bossed me into making a beautiful dress. Yes, it’s true – Sally and I engaged in some light-hearted bossing as part of Heather Lou and Oona’s brainchild, The Sew Bossy Initiative!


Normally, I’m not much for planned sewing. I can’t even tell my own danged self what to sew without facing major recalcitrance. This was different. I felt like an elf picking things out for Sally and got Christmas feelings when I sent them off to her. And I was eaten alive with anticipation after 3 weeks of email exchanges – what would I be sewing up? In addition to the excitement, Sally and I also pushed back every loose deadline we’d set for ourselves at least once (usually twice) so I never felt like I was rushing to make decisions or sew.

Anyway. Without further adieu, I present the Bossy Bees dress! | Vogue 1395

Sally really kept me guessing. We both tried to ask vague questions about each other’s likes and dislikes, and by the time we were ready to send each other our projects, I was pretty sure I was going to be challenged to a knits project! Instead, she sent me one of her favorite woven fabrics – rayon challis, printed with bees to boot! – and this glorious new Rebecca Taylor pattern (Vogue 1395). She also included lining fabric, a lovely note AND a fat quarter of crab fabric (!) that I’m hoarding for something special. | Vogue 1395

The bodice of this pattern is interesting; the ties reach around from a back overlay with a gathered detail close to the neck. | Vogue 1395

I ended up adding an lightweight underlining to the bee fabric as it was slightly sheer and I’m a prude who can’t be trusted to wear a slip. This added some weight to the back. If I were to make this pattern again, I would forgo underlining the back overlay as it pulls the shoulder seams back a bit. | Vogue 1395

The pattern suggests a narrow hem on the sleeves, ties and skirt. I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle the corners of the ties. They look good to me from the outside, but I’ve been wondering if there’s a technique for narrow hemming a corner. Anybody know? I trimmed off the bit of excess on the side that ended up on top. | Vogue 1395

I also made my first attempt at catch-stitching the seam allowances of the skirt. It took a bit of time, but it really does keep those seam allowances flat! The challis has such a lovely drape, and I thought it might be tempted to roll closed if left to its own devices. I didn’t want the lining hem to get too much body, so I serged it instead of finishing it with the narrow hem. Sacrilege! | Vogue 1395

The only change I made to the pattern was adding 1″ to the bodice length. Since the bodice is pretty loose-fitting, I only made a muslin of the front and back pieces and skipped the back overlay. I was concerned about the skirt length from the pattern photo, but it’s perfect with the extra bodice length for this 5’8″ gal. | Vogue 1395

I’m smitten with this dress, and couldn’t resist taking a wedding-dress style photo of it. It feels amazing to wear, too – I may be a rayon challis convert! | Vogue 1395

Here’s a closeup of the bee print. | Vogue 1395

I had such a fun time with the Sew Bossy process. It was delightful to take a break from my normal sewing of separates and tunics to sew a straight-up pretty dress. And, I tend to pick a lot of solid fabrics, so I was excited when I saw that Sally had picked a print that I both loved and never would have found for myself. And, at the time of writing this post, I can’t wait to see the project I sent Sally! | Vogue 1395

Big thanks to Sally for being such a good boss, and thanks to Heather and Oona for Sew Bossy. And, if you haven’t already, wander on over to Sally’s blog and see what she made!

Changing it up a bit

Isn’t film photography pretty? My brother-in-law snapped this photo of us on his old SLR, overlooking the Waimea Canyon in Kauai. I’m wearing a secret self-made tank (secret because it’s never been blogged), and the gentleman is wearing his well-documented birthday shirt, both of which are real work horses.

I’ve gone back and forth about participating in Me-Made-May this year. It’s an incredible event, one that deserves much of the credit for helping me sew truly wearable, versatile pieces that fit into my life. Thanks to MMM, I really do wear something I’ve made every single day. On the other hand, I’m starting some contract work and would like to give myself the proper time and resources to ease back into it. I’ll also say that my jeans form the backbone of what is essentially a uniform; they get worn nearly every day with whatever sort of top suits the weather and my whims, and I’m just not sorry. The jeans will always win, and they certainly are self-made, but they don’t always make for the most thrilling daily outfit documentation.

So! This May, my pledge will be a little different:

I will document one unique head-to-toe me-made outfit per week.

The rest of my Me-Made-May observance will consist of loving on the beauteous outfits that the sewing blogosphere creates with their self-mades. Happy May, everybody!

Kicking off the Spring Clean Swap Meet + giveaway

This week, I re-folded all of my fabric, sorted through my patterns and cleared off my working spaces. Boy, did it feel good – so good, in fact, that I got inspired to start a new project and now my work table is messy again.

Anyway, I found some fabric and some patterns that I’d like to add to the swap meet!


First up! 1.5 yards (plus some substantial scraps) of floral cotton lawn.


Vogue 8884, sizes 6-14.


Vintage McCall’s 7500, size 12.


Vintage McCall’s 7931, size 10.


If you’d like the fabric or one of the patterns, just leave a comment! This giveaway is open to all blog readers, with an extra entry for those participating in the swap (previous swap participation in the flickr group totally counts). I’ll ship in the US for free, and will split shipping with international folks. I’ll close the giveaway by this Sunday 3/30, 11:59pm PST and draw a winner shortly after.

And, if you’ve got your own items to swap, feel free to add a link below! Happy swapping :)

Spring Cleaning Swap Meet


Have you been spring cleaning (or fall cleaning) lately? From the looks of my sewing table, it’s time! If the urge has struck you and you’re finding you’d like to streamline some of your sewing accoutrement, we – Gail, Andrea and I – invite you to join the Spring Cleaning Swap Meet!

The idea is simple:

  • Round up any any fabric, patterns, notions, or even sewn garments that you don’t want anymore
  • Post them on your blog or in the Stash Diet flickr group
  • Let your readers know how they can win (random drawing, first-come-first-serve, etc) and how you’d like to handle shipping (who pays, where you’ll send to, etc)
  • Bask in your tidy sewing space and shop the swap!

Put up your post anytime on March 29 – 30; keep your eyes peeled for a kick-off post here where you can add links to your swap posts! (I’ll post on Friday as most time zones are earlier than mine.) And, if you’d like to get involved in swapping but aren’t able to participate this weekend, fear not – the regular Stash Diet Swap is going strong all year round in the flickr group.

Let us know if you have any questions, and happy cleaning! And best of luck to you if you’ve got a kitty infestation in your sewing area…


Scrap challenge camisole

Last year (it’s still weird calling 2013 “last year”), Philippa and I challenged each other to make a project out of scrap fabric. After sharing some inspiration and putting some thought into it, I decided to try making a camisole out of my bag of silk scraps. I had ambitions of piecing really tiny scraps, but given my relative inexperience with silk I decided to go with more substantial chunks left from my wedding dress.

Another obstacle was feeling overwhelmed by possibilities – a camisole is a simple garment but the piecing options are limitless! In the end, I focused on a piece by Tocca that was close in color to my fabric.


I used Simplicity 9296, a vintage camisole pattern, as a base. All the views are intended to be cut on the bias, but I didn’t have enough fabric. I’d used the pattern once before and knew that there was enough ease for me to cut on the grain.


My original plan was to make a stripe of habotai going through charmeuse. When I actually finished my French seams, I liked it much better inside out! The seams created an interesting line, and I just didn’t like the charmeuse. Now the dull sides of the charmeuse show, and I think it’s really pretty. | simplicity 9296

Instead of making a facing, I lined the entire camisole with habotai. I didn’t have enough charmeuse for the back, so I used habotai there as well. | simplicity 9296

The light was waning as we took these pictures, so they’re pretty grainy! They give you an idea as to how the camisole looks on me, though. I’m really liking the V-neckline with spaghetti straps. | simplicity 9296

I’m wearing my jeans, of course, and that “Worst of 2013” cardigan that I can’t seem to quit.

Even though I used matching fabric, this project was truly a challenge! The layout was dependent on the size of my scraps, and I had to cut carefully because I didn’t have any spare fabric if I made a mistake. I wanted to get a bit more experimental with color-blocking, but my scraps didn’t look good with one another. I think the uncertainty and required forethought made me procrastinate on this project quite a bit, too.

Now that I’ve completed it, however, I’ve been considering another pieced scrap project! I’ve certainly got the supplies for it.

Have you seen any beautifully pieced garments lately, from sewing blogs, RTW, haute couture? Please share! And go see what Philippa’s been piecing together over at Gloria & Me!

Kimonos and coats

After all that pantsing, I was ready for a dead simple project. I’d been considering making a kimono-like garment for awhile, and decided that the floaty Thakoon fabric (sold as cotton, but it’s got some major drape to  it) I’d bought last year would be perfect for the occasion. | kimono

I mostly used this tutorial and added a neck band for luxury and to break up the vertical-striped-ness of it all. I also went my own way with sleeve width – mine are huge! (I’m getting an R. Kelly vibe from this photo.) | kimono

I also made a white tank to with it, since the reason I’d delayed using this fabric was because the lighter color was cream. Wearing beige or cream colors near my face makes me look seasick. It had been a year or so since I chopped up my beloved, completely trashed, totally off-grain American Apparel tank to make into a pattern. Since I’d bought some white organic cotton jersey (with no elastic whatsoever, hooray!) it was time to replace it. | kimono

I used this knit binding method, which I really like. The neckline and armholes gaped a bit after sewing but shrunk up nicely after a wash and a dry. I love the bumpy texture that the binding has now! | kimono

After I finished these two pieces (which I’ve been wearing non-stop), I realized that I’d abandoned my coat project for far too long! Last we talked coats, I was considering a change to the View C collar. A couple of nights ago, I gave the new collar a try along with an SBA. Sooo much better!

photo 1 (1)

Question: what do you do if there isn’t a roll line included with your pattern?

I also decided to shorten the hem 7.5″. I’m a tall-ish person with average-to-short legs and anything past the knee tends to make me feel stumpy.

photo 2


I thought I was smiling…


I’m not sure I’m totally sold on this length, though – it’s better than the full length, but maybe I should play a bit more with it. I may shorten it 4-5 inches when I cut the pieces out and see how it looks in the real fabric.



I inherited some wool herringbone that I plan to dye over with a blueish charcoal color. It’s pretty lightweight, which doesn’t fulfill my original intention but may allow me to wear the coat into spring.

Next, I need to make decisions on interfacing and buttonhole type, as well as secure supplies. Oh yah, and learn some tailoring techniques…

Stash swap update


Just a quick update on the epic Stash Diet swap! First off, thanks to everyone who’s added stuff so far. If you haven’t taken a look at the flickr pool yet, do it! There’s awesome stuff in there.

Next, there’s no need to trade directly (unless you would like to!) You can request an item up for swap even if you don’t have anything posted yourself.

After you’ve shipped a swapped item, please remove it from the flickr pool. We initially were thinking it would be fun to keep track of swapped items by changing the title to “TAKEN”, but it’s getting a bit unruly having a mix of available and taken items! Instead, let’s keep track of our swapped items in this flickr discussion. After you’ve shipped an item, please feel free to share what you sent (a pattern, yards of fabric, etc) there.

Finally, a reminder to add “SWAP” in the title of your item that you’d like to give away so people cruising through the flickr pool can easily identify it.

Happy swapping!

Stash Diet swap

When I first read Andrea and Gail’s posts on their Stash Diet, I immediately honed in on their idea of a stash swap. I LOVE SWAPS. I told them as much and offered my services to help in any way. They graciously accepted and the 2014 Stash Diet swap is kicking off today!


How to start swappin’
Join the Stash Diet flickr group if you haven’t already and check out this thread on posting your stuff. Please feel free to join even if you aren’t setting other Stash Diet goals.

Think of the Stash Diet swap as a big giveaway
This means you can send fabric from one person but receive a pattern from another: no need to make a direct swap between two people (unless you want to!) A giveaway mentality keeps the lovely goods circulating between Stash Dieters who really want/need them.

When to swap
Feel free to start swapping right away! We are planning four big quarterly swap events in 2014 (more information coming soon) but anybody can swap anytime outside of the events.

Share what you can spare
Purging your stash can be an emotional rollercoaster, so pick items you know you’re not going to use (perhaps that fabric in a color that doesn’t flatter) when you’re starting out. You can always share more later as you get more comfortable trimming down your stash.

Fabric and beyond!
Feel free to swap fabric as well yarn, notions, patterns, tools – anything you think your fellow Stash Dieters would be able to use and enjoy.

Shipping is best worked out between two swappers! If you are feeling generous, why not ship for free within your own country? PayPal or Amazon Payments would be an easy way to receive shipping payments or reimbursements for expensive shipping.

I hope to see you in the flickr group! Please feel free to email me crabandbee {at} gmail {dot} com or get in touch with Andrea or Gail with any Stash Diet or swap questions or ideas.