Budget cuts / trying to be a grown-up

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In January, we decided to try something new with how we budget. Instead setting individual budgets for various non-essential categories like coffee, eating out, entertainment, and, oh, fabric! (basically any spending beyond food, bills and housing), we decided we’d each get a set amount of cash to cover all discretionary spending.

The amount is on the VERY lean side compared to what I’d really been spending in each category added together. And so, I was suddenly faced with choices: daily coffee with my coworker, a dance workshop, occasional brunches out with my husband competed with denim for new jeans, yarn for my next knitting project and even new zippers and thread. (PS Did you know zippers and thread cost real money?! I’d been writing them off as free…)

I’ve always prided myself on being a thrifty-ish person, thinking I never really needing a budget until recently because I’ve always lived so cheaply. I have amazing restraint in most retail settings. My expenses have gone up in the past few years, though, especially since I’ve prioritized eating well and taking classes that get me moving like dance and yoga. We started budgeting when we both took time off from full-time employment a couple of years ago (an absolute necessity!) but when I went back to work, I didn’t do a great job of factoring in the increased “fun” spending I felt entitled to. I expected my natural thriftiness to effectively temper my spending.

And to some extent, it has; I don’t spend more money than I have. But my savings goals really weren’t being met. And equally importantly, what I was buying – all sewing stuff – felt burdensome by the time I had to make room for it, like shoving a bite of the most amazing chocolate cake into my mouth when I was already full. I’d been sacrificing my financial goals only to create a sense of stifling obligation.

I know lots of people find joy and make great use a large stash, but I’ve realized I’m not one of them. I like constraints. Any more than several full cuts of fabric in my stash, and I can easily feel overwhelmed and uncreative. I have plenty more than that now but I’m excited to see how the budget will help me use the lovely fabrics I already have.

Which brings me to the project above! I was holding off on buying yarn for a new knitting project, which inspired me to turn my attention to a lawless region of my stash: scraps, large and small. I sewed myself a new dance bag. I’d long regretted the state of my freebie drawstring backpack every time I went to dance class – too small with a busted grommet, impossible to pull one thing out without everything flying out, etc. – but I never wanted to buckle down and sew a better bag. The sewing one wasn’t as boring as I feared, though. Neither the construction nor the shapes were complicated, but I had fun playing with the pocket design and making some construction changes based on the materials I had. Instead of using interfacing, I used two layers of blemished thrifted shirting fabric.

Continuing on the frugality theme, the bag is based on the free Everyday Tote tutorial from Purl Soho, with a few modifications – shorter contrast panel, lining instead of bias binding, front pocket and longer straps inserted at the contrast panel.

I’m on a bit of a high from a good first month of budgeting, but I’m not expecting this to be easy. I’ve already spent time today not buying stuff on two different online fabric shops! I think breaking that habit of constant browsing will be one of the toughest things about this whole endeavor. But it’s time to adjust my spending and stashing to support my goals of creativity and thrift alike, and I’m pumped about it.

I’ve been storing up some inspiration on budgeting, stash reduction and mindful crafting; here are some of my favorites!

  • The impressive Stash Less series by The Craft Sessions
  • This fantastic post by Gillian from a couple of years ago specifically about sewing budgets (the comments are awesome too!)
  • Andrea’s stash assault is fierce and thorough, just like Andrea herself
  • I love Tasha’s blog for the thoughtfulness she brings to her making process; it shows in every post.



Late to the (clown) party

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

Hello, hello! I missed Halloween festivities this year due to a plague that blew through my husband’s family. Ironically, my symptoms came on just as I’d sewn up the last rosette. (Last year, I was still sewing up my tiger costume minutes before I left for my friend’s party; I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t scrambling to get a costume together the day of Halloween!)

Anyway. I have a hard time picking costumes because I’m afraid I won’t be able to get into character. Anyone who’s ever heard me try to speak with a fake accent knows that this concern isn’t unfounded. A clown, I decided, would be perfect – I can make exaggerated faces and hop around silently as well as anybody.

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

The foundation of my Pierrot-style costume was a billowy white 80’s pajama shirt pattern. I love a full gathered sleeve, costume or not, and I would have welcomed more puffiness. Still, I’m tempted to see if I can integrate it into my daily wardrobe. And really, how different is it from this? The neck and leg ruffles are from a linen sheet gifted from my friend (and cosplay whiz) Meris, and the edges are finished on my serger with a very short stitch length. The rosettes are scraps from this top.

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

Is there a socially acceptable way to wear a neck ruff in daily life? Should I just do it? I love how it looks.

crabandbee.com | Pierrot clown costume

After getting gussied up for a mini-shoot with my sis, I couldn’t resist running outside to freak Nathan out from his office window. Happy belated Halloween from this clown.


Triangulated scrap dress

How’s your Scraptember going? Mine got a whole lot better this weekend when my project finally started to look like a garment. I got so excited that I finished it sooner than I’d expected. Sometimes I get a little antsy when I’m doing piece work – it can take a little longer than normal projects to look promising.

crabandbee.com | scraptember scrap dress

Anyway, it’s done. And surprise! It’s made from grey and blue linen scraps!

I was planning on making a longer, button-less version of what I made for my two-piece set, but I kept returning to the idea of adding a gathered-rectangle skirt to the bottom so I could wear it as a tunic. I had some actual yardage of one of my scrap fabrics, the silver coated linen, and I went for it. (I probably would have picked one of the other fabrics if I’d had the choice as the linen is pretty heavy, but they were down to their scrappiest scraps.)


Nothing too fancy to note in terms of construction; I stitched the scraps together and serged. I liked the idea of a triangle in the middle and placed it so it would end right on the finished neckline. I used my dartless tank pattern that I drafted off my sloper and pieced around the triangles until I had enough fabric. The neckline and arms are finished by – what else – more scraps.

crabandbee.com | scraptember scrap dress

I was thinking about mimicking the triangle on the back but went for strips instead as it fit the scraps I had better.

crabandbee.com | scraptember scrap dress

I was a little concerned that the transition from the solids to the strips would be jarring, but I really like it.

Just for funsies, here are the projects that my scraps came from:

In other scrap news, I took a spin through my scraps during this project and decided to remove the pieces I didn’t like. It’s a complete no-brainer, but the artist (hoarder) in me always thinks I’m going to strike on some fantastic scrappy color combo even with colors and prints I don’t like.With a few years into scrap hoarding under my belt, I’m noticing it doesn’t really happen. Another part of me – a hoarder without artistic ambitions – has a hard time throwing anything vaguely useful into a landfill. I’ll be researching textile recycling options for those undesirable scraps… aided by triangle power!

crabandbee.com | scraptember scrap dress

Solar-Lunar panels

I’ve been having a major Rebecca Taylor moment. Now there’s a designer who knows her way around both yokes and gathers. I bought one of her newer Vogue patterns, 1367, and wanted to try a sleeveless wearable muslin before using it to mimic an Isabel Marant design I’ve been taken with for a few years.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

The yoke is three different pieces (front, back, and shoulders), which affords some opportunity for fun piecing.

I chose coated metallic linen for the front and back (fabric last seen here) with textured hot pink silk shoulders (fabric from SCRAP). The gathered bodice fabric is an organic-cotton hemp scrap left over from a quilt for my new nephew.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

The instructions suggest sewing the neck binding to the inside and turning it out and top-stitching. Maybe this is for aesthetic reasons, but it sounded like a recipe for a sloppy-looking finish! I did the opposite. I did follow the top-stitching instructions, however.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

I also bound the armholes with 3/8″ SA after shaving off 1/4″ (since they were designed for sleeves and the corners meet up with the sleeves quite precisely.)

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

You’ll have to take my word that the back hemline is also curved. This is what happens when you put a native Washingtonian in a hot car without AC and fully functioning windows.

Also, the back yoke seem was astoundingly wide, but – as I learned later – it’s probably because of the sharp angle of how the sleeve meets the bodice.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1367

I suppose it goes without saying that I love this design. I try to buy patterns that are unique, and alter patterns I’ve already fitted to try new styles, but my weakness for yokes and gathers got the better of me. I probably could have hacked the Mathilde pattern to get this look, but since I’ve been back at a desk job, my sewing hours feel more precious. Spending a few dollars instead of hours sounded appealing.

And then there’s the Rebecca Taylor factor… I’m just really into her right now. Do you have a designer crush?





I took a 6-week collage class recently. I felt a little silly signing up (was there more to collage than glueing paper cutouts onto other stuff?), but I felt very drawn to it, and it turned out to be a fantastic class. I learned all kinds of cool new techniques, and my teacher and fellow students were very inspiring. We got to raid an enormous pile of salvaged art supplies and the wood shop scrap pile.

My teacher noticed that I was making a lot of work in black, white and grey. This seems to have been true for my more recent sewing projects, too, so I thought I’d share a little color-coded photo essay.


Paste-paper mobile, now hanging in our living room.


Shredded knit fabric scraps on a wood background. (Video tutorial on how to shred t-shirts here, by Childhood Flames).



Python leggings, with swap fabric gifted to me by the lovely Heather B.


Collaged wood blocks for my nephew.



The most basic of basics, a white tee for my husbo.


Collage and paint on wood.


Medium transfer (teeth), shredded fabric pieces, dot collage, vintage magazine collage. I think my multi-talented sister made the ceramic piece?


A work in progress.

I noticed that it was really hard to keep the photos themselves monochromatic! The lighting colored the whites yellow or blue, I have some earthy wood backgrounds on a lot of my pieces and furniture, and I apparently like blue accents. As soon as I look at my photos with a white background, it becomes apparent how much tone is behind them.

I know I won’t be creating in monochrome forever, but there is something liberating about it – I’ve been focusing more on texture and composition – even as I’m looking forward to the colors of spring.


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.

crabandbee.com | 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.

crabandbee.com | 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.

crabandbee.com | 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!

Queen quilt

Holy crap. I finished a queen-sized quilt!

I’ve been thinking about scraps all year long, as many of you know. At this point, I think scraps make up more than half of my stash by volume. When I was going through some of my knit scraps making So, Zo undies I realized that I was keeping scraps for quilting but I don’t quilt that much!

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

It was time to justify all that hoarding. I appealed to the mistress of Sewing Dares herself, Gillian, to sign me up for a scrap quilt. Initially I was thinking of a lap quilt size but decided to go all out and make quilt for our bed as our other quilts were looking shabby. I picked all of the blue, white and purple scraps out and started to play around.

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

I had trouble starting, and I realized it was because I wanted to maximize my scrap yardage so much that it was preventing me from making any design decisions. I also love the look of irregular quilts, which didn’t help. I finally settled on making horizontal “blocks” that went the width of the quilt, which made it easy for me to measure my progress on the quilt top.

I made all of the strips and then played around with the arrangement. I settled on placing the lighter fabrics towards one corner and the darker ones towards another, with the goal of adding a bit of harmony to the irregular rectangles.

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

The look can change completely depending on whether the light or dark side is at the top.

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

The quilted lines are 1″ apart. I marked lines every 4″ on the quilt back, which was a solid color. I sewed those first and then used the guides that came with my walking foot to sew every 2″ and then 1″. That’s eighty-eight 108″ lines, and I was definitely counting.

I reorganized my sewing space, mashing my cutting and sewing tables together so the quilt wasn’t falling on the floor.

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

I used up some of my favorite scraps, including a shibori linen piece that I dyed. You can also see scraps from two shirts I made Nathan (the gingham and the western shirt), hanging out together!

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

I was considering piecing the backing as well but just couldn’t face it. And the fact that I found 110″ wide organic cotton sateen on sale at Organic Cotton Plus was just too tempting – I wouldn’t have to sew a single seam on the backing. I used the Bering Sea color, also seen on Lucky Lucille. I bought 4 yards and had enough to make a 1″ double-fold binding, with some left over.


Just for fun, here’s a picture of the first “quilt” I made in 2009. Wow, have I learned a lot since then! The only thing these two quilts have in common – aside from being scrappy – is the blue and white fabric in the middle.


The only real quilting on this blanket is some random cross-hatched stitching. I wouldn’t mind donating this quilt as I really dislike the colors I chose, but I’m impressed with my beginner-sewing chutzpah for making it!

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

Orson hopped on the bed the moment I started documenting the quilt, so here are some gratuitous kitty photos.

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

He’s generally interested in any cloth that ends up on the ground, and was a nuisance during many of the construction stages. Given how willingly he modeled for this photo shoot, I’ve forgiven him completely. How could I stay mad at that little face?

My other thank-you is to Nathan, who read one of my favorite books – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – aloud to me as I sewed. (Also, Nathan never raced around on the quilt top when I was trying to lay it out.)

crabandbee.com | scrap quilt

When I finished the quilt, the first words out of my mouth were “I”ll never make a quilt this size again!” Thirty minutes later, I was thinking that a whole-cloth quilt with less quilting lines would be really nice to have. I remember having a similar reaction after I’d run a half-marathon – a feat I have yet to repeat – so we’ll see if I make another one. I will say that I’m really, really excited to get back to sewing garments.

I shall return on Wednesday with the button winners!

So many projects, so little light!

I’m in the same seasonal paradox I’ve found myself in  for the past few years – loads of time to sew, with very little daylight to document what I’ve made! I’m probably 5 projects behind at this point. Hopefully, I’ll get to share them with you soon….

In the meantime, I made a project that I can share without modeling – slippers! They haven’t left my feet since Saturday.

crabandbee.com | slippers

I used a combination of this Instructables tutorial and Andrea’s guest tutorial. I didn’t have a pattern, so I traced my foot and guessed at what the upper shoe pattern should look like. I added 3/8″ seam allowances. And, I used up a whole bunch o’ scraps: cotton canvas scraps from my first Minoru for the outsides and soles, a chunk from a trashed wool blanket for interlining, stash quilting cotton for the lining and bindings, and a scrap of cotton quilt batting  between the outsole and interlining sole.

Speaking of the soles, I should have at least interfaced them because they’re already starting to look a bit worn! I may need to patch them or replace them sooner than later. I’m still chalking these up as a win, as my feet are warm, I used up scraps and I drafted my own pattern!

crabandbee.com | slippers

And just look at those little tabs on the back! They’re my favorite part.

I’ve also started the coat project – Simplicity 1759 is the winner. The pattern is traced and my muslin is cut out. I’m going to go with the View B front. I’ll be hitting you guys up for advice once I make my muslin, no matter how bad the light is! (And psst, Heather B., the sleeves are two-piecers!)


This time of year also raises the question, how much gift sewing should I be doing for the holidays? If memory serves, I made one gift last year and really enjoyed the low stress level. I’m considering making 2-3 this year, but I’ve got more time on my hands so it feels like the same level of commitment. (I still think about and chuckle over Karen’s post last year about why she doesn’t make presents – and I have to say, her logic against gift-crafting is pretty bullet-proof.) Are you making gifts this year or keeping your sewing time delightfully selfish?

House warming

Our house is gas-heated and quite drafty, which is an expensive combination. Our solution has been space heaters, which are less costly and allow for targeted heating. Our living room/dining room has two entrances and no doors, however, so it was tough to heat. My solution was to make curtains for the doors.

I briefly considered cutting into a piece of thrifted white linen – it would have been so easy – but started to feel guilty when I caught sight of my scrap heap. Between scraps and fabric harvested from my busted couch cushions, I had enough of that tan linen to piece two 37″ x 80″ door curtains. The brighter pieces are small scraps of white linen and tan cotton voile I added for visual interest.

crabandbee.com | scrap curtains

I dyed the fabric twice because the yellow I chose initially blended badly with the tan color – baby poo brown, Nathan deemed it. I like the orange a lot – it’s one of my favorite colors – but I’m open to dyeing over it again because it dominates the space. I’m going to let it go for now.

crabandbee.com | scrap curtains

This project felt like total drudgery – french-seams! long hems! tan for days! – but I’m writing this post in a nice, warm living room, so the effort was worth it. My resistance to this project made me worry that I won’t be able to complete a quilt this winter, but at least the quilt will involve the fun of mixing different fabrics and no French seams.

crabandbee.com | scrap curtains

And hopefully that smug “I just used scrap fabric” feeling is addictive.


crabandbee.com | fabric scrap illustration

I’ve got my stash pretty under control; it’s contained on 4 out of 5 shelves of a skinny-ish bookshelf. What is out of control right now is my scrap stash. It takes up just as much space as my uncut fabrics. Given the size of my scrap stash, it should come as no surprise that the barrier for entry into the stash are pretty low – I’ll keep anything that could be used to piece a quilt. And my quilt output (one quilt) really doesn’t justify my hoarding! I also keep knit scraps, which aren’t suitable for quilts anyway. They were just taking up space – until now!


I had tried to make some scrunds* a year or two ago by cutting up an old pair that fit pretty well. I didn’t understand how much extra fabric I needed to translate between stretch synthetic to 100% cotton t-shirt material, and I cut the elastic too small. Woof. I was pretty discouraged and not super comfy. My jersey scraps motivated me to try again. I downloaded So, Zo’s pattern last month and made 5 pairs in rapid succession. They’re simple to make and they fit me perfectly. I made a sizable dent in my jersey scrap pile!


After my first two pairs, I went a little crazy on Etsy and bought a bunch of picot elastic in a few of my favorite colors (check out that persimmon color!) I felt like it was a small investment in the service of a greater goal.

Do you feel extremely virtuous when you use up fabric scraps?

*”Scrunds” is my favorite euphemism for unmentionables. I use it here to (hopefully) fly under the radar of creepers, but also because it’s the word I use most often! My friend Elizabeth once shared that her mom likes to use the admonishment “Don’t get your scrunders in a bunch!” and I’ve been using some variation of the word ever since.