#365DaysofSewing: week 3

day 15: Federal holiday means no work for Jared! Since he was around to entertain Ramona for one more day, I got to go upstairs & see what I could do with the weird denim I bought that faded & had weird dye marks on it. I mixed together some various Rit dyes I have to make something approximating dark gray/black & started dyeing swatches. But no matter how long I left them in the mix, no swatch really looked any different from any other. The right side of the fabric did seems a little darker after it was all said & done, but it wasn’t a huge difference from where I started. I decided to just say fuck it & started cutting out my project anyway.

day 16: Snow day! Jared woke up before the crack of dawn to get ready to go to work, & luckily all of his wandering into the bedroom to retrieve belts & shoes & keys & jackets woke me up too, & I thought to check for school closings. Turns out the job he’d taken for the day was at a school that was closed for wind chill (like 30-below!). Seems like the substitute app they use could maybe send out school closure info as well as job posts, but what do I know?

I didn’t feel like doing anything today, so all I did was a little bit of cross stitching for a jeans pocket, because I can do that while all snug in bed under blankets. I also made an exhaustive to-do list of all the sewing I want to accomplish in the next two months, with a day-by-day breakdown of what exactly I’d have to accomplish each day in order to meet my goals. Then I instantly felt overwhelmed & stressed out & so did nothing.

I also bought some jeans buttons for the 97 pairs of jeans I am making in the next month (actually only three or four pairs, BUT STILL) & considered blanket stitching the hems on the embroidered hand warmers I made, but ultimately did not because I couldn’t remember how to blanket stitch, & I was too lazy to look up a video to remind myself. That is pretty damn lazy.

day 17: Started embroidering a jeans pocket, which is SO much faster than cross stitching. Though cross stitching appeals more to my obsessively precise, Sisyphean impulses.

day 18: Super-busy day. I had to go get more x-rays for my foot, meet with my orthotist, go to physical therapy, go to regular therapy, & also run a bunch of car errands I’d been putting off because it was all snowy out & I am not used to driving in snow.

All I really had time for was more embroidering/cross stitching, which doesn’t make for the most fascinating photos, so I posted an outfit photo instead. Because this outfit was especially cute:

All self-sewn except for the socks. We have self-drafted black suba leggings (so warm & cozy), a pink gingham M6696 shirtdress (sleeveless, but not just for summertime if worn with layers), a black henley, the Jenna cardigan I just made last week, & of course, self-sewn bra & undies. I wore the shoes I was wearing the day I broke my foot for the first time since the break. I haven’t worn them much because they’re really hard to get on without twisting my foot in a way that really fucking hurts. But I did learn that the break is now completely healed, & the lingering pain I still have is most likely just muscle & tendon aches from my foot & lower leg being immobilized for so long in a cast & a medical boot. Hence the physical therapy, & the motivation to fight my way into cute shoes.

day 19: Finished some jeans pocket embroidery.

I think this is a hilarious pun (which I’ve always employed on my custom garment labels), but Jared was like, “What if people just think you don’t know how to spell, since it won’t be immediately obvious that you made the jeans yourself?”

day 20: I actually sewed a lot today! I whipped up a pair of True Bias Lander shorts from the denim that I was trying to dye.

Look at that facing. Just look at it! I have been sewing the waistbands on my shirtdresses facing-first pretty much from the jump, in order to get a nice, tidy finish on the inside. I don’t know why it took me this long to try it on a pair of pants/shorts. I am definitely never going back, that’s for sure.

Incidentally, the Lander pants/shorts are drafted with an all-in-one waistband/facing. I just prefer a softer fabric on the inside, as well as an opportunity to use a fun print, so I cut the waistband as drafted in half the long way, added a seam allowance, & then cut one from my fashion fabric & one from my lining fabric. I seamed them together & understitched, & voila: a customized waistband. I’m planning a blog post on this pattern soon (tomorrow, even?) with more detail on the alterations I made.

day 21: I decided I needed to stop being a lazybones & start making a muslin for the McCall’s top I have been intermittently working on. I did all the flat pattern adjustments while I was dyeing my denim at the beginning of the week.

Over the summer, I placed in one of the Indie Pattern Month challenges on the Monthly Stitch & won a box of free fabric from Minerva Crafts. I didn’t get to pick what went into the box, so some of it was pretty great & some of it was just not to my taste. What to do with fabric you don’t care for? Use it for a muslin!

So I grabbed a length of this blue & white paisley rayon challis & cut it up to make a muslin. It’s not fabric I’d ordinarily wear because I hate paisley, & I HATE rayon challis. I know this is a super-minority viewpoint. It’s weird, because I love cotton voile. But rayon challis may as well be woven from the chin hairs of Satan himself, I loathe it so much. So I didn’t mind sacrificing it to a muslin.

Except that it was fucking impossible to sew! My stitches kept skipping & gathering & breaking. I threaded & re-threaded my machine, I tried new needles, different types of needles, larger stitches & smaller stitches, but this demon cloth thwarted me at every turn. I think I got like 80% through the muslin before I was like, “You know what? Fuck this, fuck this fabric, fuck everything, I quit,” & I went downstairs to cross stitch instead. Trust me, cross stitching denim using waste canvas is NOT fun. It kind of fucking sucks. But it was like a spa vacation compared to working with that godforsaken rayon challis.

So. Really, not the most productive week. But I still did some kind of sewing thing every single day, even when I didn’t want to or when my projects seemed to be conspiring against me. Victory!

#365DaysofSewing: week 2

day 8: Jared started a new job today! He’s a substitute teacher in the Kansas City schools. So I was really looking forward to the day, knowing I was going to be spending it with Ramona, just like it used to be when she was a toddler & Jared was teaching at KU. He basically stopped working after my cancer diagnosis, which was more than a year ago, because I needed so much extra help with my health in decline. So his starting a new job was a sign that things are returning to normal.

Ramona & I had a great day playing together, & mostly I just worked on my sewing plans for the next couple of months. I’ve committed to a couple of guest blog posts, which require sewing on a deadline, & I’m participating in a few other challenges & thinking about trying a Pattern Review contest.

Patter Review could really stand to update their branding. That swirly-headed stick figure character is giving me major flashbacks to, like, the 1992 Rock the Vote campaign. & not in a fun, nostalgic way.

I didn’t really get my hands on any fabric until Jared came home, when I finally had some time to go upstairs & cut out a few new projects.

(PS–I love my cutting table set up! The dedicated lights & the hanging bar for my rulers, scissors, & pattern weights–the best!)

day 9: One of the challenges I am trying my hand at is the 52-Week Sewing Challenge, which seems to be consolidated primarily in a Facebook community. There’s a different prompt for each week, but the goal is really just to sew something every week. You’d think this would be kind of an irrelevant gimme in the face of my own personal #365DaysofSewing challenge, but I enjoy interpreting challenges (mostly), & I like seeing how other people interpret them.

I’m putting together a sewing planning binder to keep track of the prompts, as well as my plans for other challenges/contests, & my own personal seasonal sewing plans. I bought the binder & the special six-hole punch during a 50% off everything planner-related sale at Michael’s, stacked with a 20% off everything coupon. I just love that moment at the register when they’re like, “Your coupons saved you $37,” or whatever. The best is when you buy a bunch of patterns during a JoAnn $1 Simplicity sale & they say, “You saved $213!”

The one annoying thing about putting together this binder is that I was using construction paper that Jared bought several months ago to make a paper chain counting down to Ramona’s birthday. So Ramona views the construction papers as HERS, & of course threw a tantrum when she saw me using it.

day 10: https://www.instagram.com/p/BdxoW0FnA7k/?taken-by=ciaraxyerra

This was my to-do list for the day. I managed to get like three things done. One of those three things was embellishing these handwarmers/fingerless gloves I made. I was using flat-back plastic rhinestones & hot glue. Turns out…hot glue is not the most intuitive tool a person could employ. But bonus: the fact that I have very little feeling in my extremities due to mysterious medical issues (doctors are leaning toward MS) meant I could burn the crap out of my fingers with 400-degree hot glue without it actually hurting that much.


I also whipped up a Muse Patterns Jenna cardigan. I made one a few years ago but rarely wear it because the fabric I used likes to ravel & is viewed by cats as essentially just an irresistible ball of yarn that I happen to be wearing. I made a waist-length short-sleeved version last spring & found that I really liked that length. But I never blogged it because Kansas basically has two settings: cold & hotter than hell. We just don’t have a climate that invites things like short-sleeved cardigans. I also used black interfacing on a yellow hacci knit, which was a dumbass move. So this was my attempt to make a cardigan that will actually get worn, & I think I nailed it!

day 11: I was not really pleased with the hot gluing job I did on the handwarmers. So I made another pair. I just “drafted” the pattern myself by tracing around my hand & adding seam allowances. They were sewn from scraps. Jared suggested embellishing them with a knuckle tattoo motif, so this is what I came up with:

Hand-embroidered! As if you couldn’t tell.

I also accepted the reality that I really need to wash the bolt of Cone Mills denim I bought during the mill sale over the summer before I try to make it into anything. So it went into the wash, along with two yards of other denim I bought for stripes month over at the Sewcialists blog. I don’t know what the fuck happened, but all the color leached out of the other denim, & the indigo from the Cone Mills created a horrifying kind of batik/tie-dye situation on it. The Cone Mills itself washed up no problem, even though it was a gigantic ten-yard cut.

I thanked Jeebus that I had had the foresight not to also toss in some delicate light-colored seersucker, which would have been ruined, & started pondering whether this weird light gray stripes-with-navy blue-batik situation was remotely tolerable or if I was going to have to dye the yardage to make it wearable. I’m still undecided.

day 12: Cut the back pockets for THREE pairs of jeans, each a different pattern from a different company. I was like, “Oh, I’ll just embroider these really quick so they’re ready to roll when I magically sew three pairs of jeans tomorrow.” What the fuck, Ciara. It’s not like I’ve never done embroidery/cross stitch before & don’t know that it always takes ten times longer than you think it will. I feel like I spent the whole damn day cutting out the pockets, interfacing where the embellishments will be, basting on the waste canvas…It didn’t help that Ramona was being a handful. Every time I was more than two feet away from her, it was a national emergency.

But I did finally get around to making the mosaic for my #2018makenine. We’ll just ignore the fact that we’re already like halfway through January.

day 13: Weekend! That meant I could go clean my sewing room while Jared chased after Ramona. It looked like an apocalyptic hellscape. I should have taken before & after photos. It’s still not great. There are piles of patterns & fabrics everywhere, stacked in a manner that only I understand, which means absolutely no one can touch any of my sewing stuff unless they want me to cry. But everything is useable now, & bonus: I picked up all those pins I spilled last week. Yes, it took me this long. Let’s collectively ignore that I STILL haven’t swept up all the sequins that are all over the place from when I made a pair of sequinned leggings A MONTH AGO.

I printed a pattern.

day 14: It’s so cold. I just couldn’t bear the thought of going to the sewing room. So I was like, “I’ll just work on these pockets all day & make awesome progress!” This is how far I got:

Just that tiny bit took more than an hour, after which I became deeply discouraged & fell asleep. When I woke up, I decided to just read for the rest of the day. I read two books & one magazine. Sometimes you just need a break.


#365DaysofSewing: week 1

day 1: Today was a travel day. We flew home to Lawrence from Boston. So I needed a mobile sewing project. I wound up doing some cross stitching in the morning before we had to leave for the airport. I thought about bringing my cross stitching on to the plane with me, but decided not to chance it, as I am very prone to motion sickness. Ramona barfed all over herself mid-flight on the way to Boston. I didn’t want to replicate that horror show by making myself sick trying to cross stitch in motion.








day 2: Crazy day because it was our first full day home & we had a million things to do. I did make some time to go up to my sewing room & start pulling fabric for the projects I want to work on in January. My ambitious plan was to pull everything I had for all fifteen projects on my list, including thread, needles, notions, interfacing, patterns, et al. That wound up not happening at all. It was just too much. But I did at least manage to put together a shopping list for the last few bibs & bobs I need for the first five projects on the list.




day 3: Worked on my shopping list some more. Was dumbfounded to find that I have every color of cotton/spandex jersey under the sun…Except for purple. How? I have like five different shades of green & no straight-up everyday purple (the Pantone color of the year!).

Jared took Ramona to the library & I seized the moment to print & tape a couple of PDF patterns. I discovered pdfplotting.com last year & became an instant convert to having my PDF patterns professionally printed. (I now become enraged when a designer doesn’t offer a copy shop option.) But I have several patterns I have to print myself, so I took care of some of that. I had to put Biscuit outside because she kept pouncing on my freshly cut pattern pieces & shredding them.







Cross stitched for an hour or two before bed.

day 4: Hit JoAnn after physical therapy. They were having a sale on needles so I stocked up. I looked for purple cotton jersey & struck out. They only had three solid purple knits available. One was a disgusting 100% poly that felt like a gym shirt from 1987. One was a dusty kind of mauve color that just wasn’t going to work for my purposes. I went with a cotton/poly ponte. I am not thrilled, because it has a weird hand, but it was the best I could find. & it’s just for cuffs & the neckband on some pajamas, so it’s not like the world will end if it’s not my all-time favorite fabric.

Also picked up a few different kinds of foam & interfacing to experiment with in my shoemaking. & I snagged the last tube of Shoe Goo!

Somehow, JoAnn sells like three different kinds of dungaree hooks & four different kinds of jeans buttons, but no rivets. I bought rivets for leatherworking from Michael’s instead. They’re not the same. They’re a little wider & more flat. But I kind of like the different look, & I think they’ll work fine.

I came home & used my new chartreuse upholstery thread (JoAnn has that, but no jeans rivets?) to sew up the couch cushion that has been detaching from the back of the couch for literally years now. It was the kind of sewing that was not fun, but I had a fancy chocolate bar to keep my energy up, & now we can invite people over without feeling like hobos. Because of the couch, anyway. I also fixed a little hole in the underwire channeling on my most recent bra so the underwire would stay put.





day 5: I volunteered for a social media assignment that requires me to sew at least one garment that was not on my list before the end of the month. & I also had to buy fabric for it. I got really stoked about my fabric choices. But I mean, pink striped seersucker. It’s a classic.






Measured Ramona for a pair of pants I want to make for her, & did some flat pattern adjustments on a pattern for knit pajamas. Went upstairs to cut out some projects & was confronted by the reality that my sewing room looked like a tornado had swept through. Spent a shockingly long time cleaning it, including crawling around on the floor picking up every single loose pin. Returned all the pins to their bowl…& instantly knocked the bowl off the table again. The pins just live on the floor now. That’s fine. Cut & started sewing a shirt.


I volunteered for a second social media assigment that requires a metric ass-ton of sewing between now & mid-February. With actual deadlines on the calendar, I decided to write down all of my sewing plans & when I’d like to have them finished. It was…um…intense. Let’s just hope I don’t come down with a cold.

day 7: Had a sleepover with Ramona last night, so I didn’t sleep well. Even though I was in her bed & she was in the trundle, she still kept me up late asking questions about pirates, & every time I dozed off, she would shriek that I was gently snoring. So I wasn’t firing on all cylinders when I went up to the sewing room to work on the shirt a bit more.

I dropped a needle into my throat plate. I’d never done that before, so. Now I know there are some little furrows built into the base of my machine, & loose needles can be set free with some gentle tipping to & fro. But before I realized that, I took off the throat plate, & then I spent half an hour trying to screw it back on upside down. I was wondering why the tops of the screws were protruding from the plate, & why there were all kinds of weird plastic bits sticking up. Wouldn’t they get in the way of the fabric? But I figured, I’ve been sewing for over five years & it hasn’t been a problem yet, so full speed ahead! Once I realized my mistake, I flipped the throat plate over & screwed it down properly, & then I went & played some board games with Ramona, because clearly I could not be trusted around a sewing machine.



(PS–This is a sewing meme I am trying to get off the ground. It’s based on the line drawing for a new Butterick pants pattern that looks like a grumpy face from the back. Use it for all your sewing complaints!)

Stopped by my local independent fabric shop & picked up some really lovely cotton sweater knit with which to make another cardigan. Drove out to Michael’s to buy rhinestones & a hot glue gun with which to bedazzle said cardigan. Wandered for literally an hour looking for the mysterious “aisle 78”. The aisles only seemed to go up to 74. Turns out the last few aisles are in the middle of the store. It also turns out that my local Michael’s has three separate aisles almost entirely devoted to various adhesives & sticky unguents, & there’s not a glue gun to be found in any of them. No, the glue guns are stocked in the same aisle as the florist wire, because why not?

Finished the shirt.

achievement unlocked: two Toaster sweaters

I have finished garments to show!

I made two Toaster sweaters. The pattern is by Sew House Seven, & I used the version that was licensed to Simplicity–pattern number 8529. It only cost me a buck in one of the $1 Simplicity sales at JoAnn. For a while, I was like, “Who needs patterns! I’m going to draft everything from scratch!” But in my personal opinion, the Big 4 (which is now the Big 1, as they are all oqwned by the same corporation) have been upping their game lately & turning out a lot of designs I’d like to try. & when the cost is only a dollar or two during a sale, why the hell not?


I made view B, size XL with both sweaters. The gray one is sewn up in the snuggliest, softest cotton fleece sweatshirt knit. It’s super-cozy. The black one is a slightly more lightweight organic black cotton sweatshirt fleece. I splashed out for organic because it resists pilling better, as I have discovered the hard way with a couple of other sweatshirt projects over the years.


I embellished the sweaters with squares from the Cotton + Steel panel they released as part of the Beauty Shop collection. I bought it several months ago on a whim, not really having any particular plan for it. That’s unusual for me. I usually don’t buy without a purpose. Then I made a couple of t-shirts for Ramona’s doll, embellished with little designs cut out of quilting fabric, & I liked the combination a lot. I realized I could embellish my own tops the same way!


I’m pretty into this pattern. I made the cropped version with a funnel collar, & finished with a banded waist. It’s deceptively simple. The funnel is created with a cut-on facing. I don’t love the way an exaggerated drop shoulder looks on me, because I am kind of narrow-shouldered to begin with, but I can’t deny that it is comfortable, & definitely elevates the design beyond a basic boring sweatshirt. & imagine it in stripes, with the body meeting the sleeve with the stripes running at a nice crisp 90-degree angle! I’m unlikely to ever sew anything like that, as Breton stripes are not my style, but I suspect other people would be all over this idea.


The whole thing came together super-quickly, which is why I made two in less than 24 hours. I feel that I should mention that I sewed the cuffs & waistband using the ham-hot method I learned from Mallory & Zede at sewhere.com. They do the podcast “Sewing Out Loud,” & I’m a member of Mallory’s Facebook community, The Self-Sewn Wardrobe. I think I was one of the first hundred people to join, & now there are over 12,000 members. That is bonkers! I also coined the hashtag #teamcutthatshitout (in reference to cutting directly into patterns, rather than tracing & then cutting) in the group, which has kind of become a thing.

Ham-hot means that you fold your cuffs right side together “hamburger-style” (so the shorter ends meet, & then you fold again “hot dog-style”. Then you stitch the short edge where all the raw edges meet. Flip the cuff (or waistband, neckband, whatever) right side out & boom! It’s all sewn together with only one line of stitching, which reduces bulk. & it has the added bonus of securing the inside & outside cuff seams together, so you have a better chance of getting perfectly aligned seams when you join your cuffs to your sleeve.

For real, people have been going nuts for this technique for months in the Self-Sewn Wardrobe, & I was like, “What’s the big deal? Who cares about having two seams?” Then I tried it for myself & seriously, it’s a gamechanger.


I sewed these sweaters up right before Jared, Ramona, & I left to spend the holidays in Boston with Jared’s family. I have been wearing them almost non-stop ever since. I have always avoided cropped tops because I thought they didn’t flatter my top-heavy body shape. But the magic of sewing for yourself is that you can make adjustments to make sure a cropped shirt still reaches the waistline, even if you are busty (the main problem I’d always had with cropped RTW tops). You can also make fit adjustments for your pants & skirts to make sure they fit well across the belly, so you can feel confident about that area rather than attempting to obscure it with a longer top (to name another styling issue I have struggled with). Sewing has also just made me more confident about my body overall, because I can sew things that fit, rather than feeling constrained by all the RTW that wasn’t drafted & adjusted perfectly for my specific body. I’ve also accepted that nothing I wear is going to trick anyone into thinking I am thin, so I might as well just wear what I like!


Another thing I love about these sweaters is that I think they are my first truly perfect sews. There’s usually always something I can quibble about with a sew, even if it’s just an interior seam that got flipped over & stitched down the wrong way at an intersection, or a wobbly bit of topstitching, or a button placket that is just slightly misaligned. But these are both absolutely flawless in their execution. If I had to identify a flaw, I’d say that I probably could have sized down to a size L & done an FBA, & then maybe the sweaters would be a little more fitted & flattering through the shoulders. But since I made these guys to layer them over long-sleeved tops in cold weather, I ain’t mad at the looser fit.

A quick note on my schedule of posts: I am going to aim to post my #365daysofsewing round-ups on Mondays, & completed project posts on Thursdays. I really wanted to get this one up on Thursday, but there was a pretty steep learning curve on figuring out exactly how to use my new camera. I am obviously still fiddling with it. But hopefully I will be able to stick to this schedule!

pattern: Sew House Seven Toast sweater/Simplicity 8529
view: B
size: XL
fabric: gray cotton sweatshirt fleece, black organic cotton sweatshirt fleece, & the Cotton + Steel Hankies panel, pink colorway
likes: They are so comfy & so cozy. The funnel collar & dropped shoulder set them apart from the average sweatshirt. Construction is quick & easy. I love the panel embellishments I added, especially the “measure twice, cut once” one.
dislikes: The gray fabric is already starting to pill a bit. The funnel collar facing is only secured at the shoulder seams, so it is inclined to flip out. I fixed this in the back by adding my label, but it’s still an issue in the front.
quality of sew: 10 & 10
make again?: 100%

reflections & plans for the new year

I suppose it’s the time of year to do a little reflecting on the past year, & share some thoughts about what 2018 may hold.

1. I beat cancer! Not that there was a huge amount of doubt. I knew from the initial diagnosis that my endocervical adenocarcinoma had been caught early & was very treatable. I was fortunate enough to avoid chemo & radiation. I had a hysterectomy on Valentine’s Day & the pathology came back clear. I was released from oncology in April, & now I just have to stay on top of doing annual screenings for the next 25 years. The annual screenings for a person who no longer has a cervix or uterus, & a history of such a particularly pesky & challenging type of cancer, are kind of a big deal & no fun at all, but hey–things could be a lot worse.

I feel like I am still in the process of re-building my physical strength, as the post-surgical recovery was enormously taxing. I’m also still struggling emotionally. After Ramona was born, I had hoped & planned to have another baby at some point. I had a late-ish (ten weeks) miscarriage in the summer of 2015. But being diagnosed with cancer a year later cemented our status as an only-child family, & I am still having a tough time making my peace with that. This was reinforced the other day, when we met up in Boston with some friends we hadn’t seen in a few years. The mom in the family is pregnant with her second child & did not let us know in advance. So, just a PSA on that front: please don’t surprise your friends & loved ones with your pregnancy. Especially if you know they have a situation going on that might make pregnancy/babies a sensitive topic for them. But even if you don’t know that, as so many people experience miscarriage & infertility without sharing it openly. All you have to do is say, “Just so you’re not surprised when you see me–I’m pregnant.” This lets your friend process the information on her own time, privately, so that she can be happy for you when you see each other in person. & then you don’t have a situation where someone is sobbing in the middle of the Predators of North America exhibit.

2. Ramona starts school this fall! & this is big because it means that we need to finally decide where we want to live. We talked about moving back to Massachusetts a year ago. (If you don’t know, Jared was born & raised in Massachusetts, in the Boston area, & I moved there in 2001. That’s where we met & started dating. We moved to Kansas in 2009 so he could get his PhD at KU.) But we decided to postpone it so Ramona could finish her last year of preschool with her friends. Well, that didn’t work out, to say the least.

We’re feeling a lot more serious about making the move this year. Jared is getting licensed to teach secondary school in Massachusetts & we’re exploring western Mass to try to find the right balance of affordable housing & decent public schools. We’re hoping to make a commitment to either Kansas or Massachusetts in time for Ramona to start kindergarten.

3. #365DaysofSewing starts tomorrow! This is my own personal sewing challenge. I didn’t get to sew as much as I would have liked in 2017 due to my health challenges. (Aside from the cancer, I also broke my foot in October & am still recovering from that!) I did develop some new skills that I could do from bed or the couch, like cross stitching. But it was still a bit of a slow year for me.


Starting tomorrow, I am challenging myself to engage in some type of sewing thing everyday in 2018. In order to build in a little wiggle room, I’m going to count things like researching techniques, sourcing supplies, mending, etc. Especially if there’s a cross-country move happening sometime in 2018, I can’t limit myself to just work I do with the sewing machine. Tomorrow will be the first big test because we are flying home from Boston. It will be interesting to see what kind of sewing work I can fit into a full travel day with a five-year-old. (I did bring a cross stitch project with me, so I might be able to do that on the plane if my embroidery snips get past security.)

4. Shoemaking! This is the 2018 goal I am most excited about right now! I’ve done a ton of research while we’ve been in Boston for the holidays, & it’s amazing how many resources there are around here for people who want to learn shoemaking. I talked with a woman yesterday who does workshops teaching people how to make entirely hand-sewn leather shoes. She offered to let me be her guinea pig to see if I could figure out how to use her methods to make shoes at home via a kit, rather than in her workshop. Obviously, I don’t think I am ready to dive in at that level! But I’ve been accumulating some basic supplies, including a pair of wooden lasts I am really stoked about. I have wide feet & I’m especially particular about the shape of the toebox on my shoes. I hate tapered or pointed toeboxes with the fire of a thousand suns. I found a vintage set of extra-wide lasts with the nice round toebox I like best. I think I’m going to start small–I’m thinking lasted flats with a rubber sole. But ultimately, I’d love to get to the point where all of my shoes are handmade by me.

5. Reviving this blog! I was looking at my archives the other day & it really struck me how infrequently I wrote here in 2017. That was mainly due to my many health issues. I wasn’t sewing as much, so I didn’t have as much to share, & even when I did finish a project, I didn’t always have the energy to do photos & posts. (I have quite a few yet-to-be-blogged garments waiting in the wings…Like these mermaid sequin leggings!)


I’m hoping to stick to a posting schedule in 2018. I want to post at least twice: a weekly wrap-up on my #365DaysofSewing project (which I will also document on Instagram using that hashtag), & a completed project post once a week. Jared surprised me with a brand-new camera for Christmas, which is compatible with a remote. I’m really hoping this ups my photo game! Ramona does a surprisingly decent job of taking photos, considering that she’s only five years old, but her patience for the endeavor is limited, & for every usuable garment photo she gives me, I get like three photos of her thumb or a rock.

365 Days of Sewing

I’m alive! & out of the cast! In case you missed it, I broke my foot at the end of October. I was walking down the street with Jared when I tripped over a loose sidewalk brick hidden beneath some fallen leaves. I fractured my second metatarsal in a weird vertical break. Thankfully, there was no ligament damage, so I didn’t need surgery. But I was in a cast for five weeks.

Photo on 11-1-17 at 4.19 PM

I had hoped that I would still be able to sew with the cast on, but I just couldn’t manage it. Our house is two stories. The main floor is where we live: kitchen, bedrooms, living room, bathroom, etc. The second floor is a big open space, which Ramona & I share. It’s my sewing room & her playroom. Jared is thinking of moving a desk up there after the new year so it can be an all-family workspace, which would be nice.


Getting around with a cast on was just way harder than I expected. I got a wheelchair for moving around the house, but stairs were really tough. I wasn’t supposed to put any weight on the broken foot at all, which meant scooting up & down stairs on my butt. I did go up to my sewing room a few times, but usually by the time I got up the stairs, I was too exhausted to do anything else. Going down the stairs was even more treacherous, & the last thing I wanted to do was fall AGAIN & get hurt in some new way. So I just sucked it up & accepted that I wasn’t going to be doing anything except hand-sewing while my foot healed.

I cross stitched a lot. This is where I was with my most recent Ramona portrait when I broke my foot:


This is how far I got by the time the cast came off:


I got the cast off a week & a half ago, & after a few days of resting & stretching the muscles that had been going unused for so many weeks, I finally managed to get upstairs & back to work. (Full disclosure: I am still in a medical boot, but it’s a lot easier to get around in it compared to the cast. I should be out of the boot in a few days, & I’m scheduled to start six weeks of physical therapy after the new year.)


In the last week, I have sewn three tea towel calendars, a pair of True Bias Lander pants, two Sew House Seven toaster sweaters, a new set of pajamas for Ramona, & a full-on pajama onesie for myself. I also drafted & cut a pair of sequin leggings, but I have to cut all the sequins out of the seam allowances before I sew them, & that is a more tedious & time-consuming task than I anticipated. I’ve also cut & prepped the patterns for another set of flannel pajamas for myself, & a winter-weight shirtdress. I have extra flannel standing by to line our black-out curtains so we can hang them up in Ramona’s room whenever Jared remembers where he stashed them, & I have plans for a hand-cut pocket wristband. I had wanted to finish all these projects before we leave for Christmas in Boston on Wednesday, but that’s just not practical. Hopefully I’ll knock out a couple of them & the rest will be waiting for me when we get home on January 1.


Which brings me to my big 2018 sewing resolution! A sewing group I follow on Facebook (it’s called The Self-Sewn Wardrobe, but sometimes people post non-clothing items & I quietly seethe & fantasize about starting my own Facebook group that is all adult garment sewing all the time, no exceptions whatsoever, even though obviously I sew my fair share of non-adult garments) did a challenge in November they called the sewing binge, or the #sewlongsewhappychallenge. It was 21 days of sewing. I had really been looking forward to it, but then couldn’t join in due to breaking my foot. I cross stitched everyday as a compromise, but that just gave me time to mull.


I’m going to try to sew EVERY DAY in 2018. I’m calling it 365 Days of Sewing. My definition of “sewing” is going to be somewhat expansive. Prepping patterns or fabric counts. Teaching Ramona how to use her sewing machine counts. Hand-sewing (including cross stitching) counts. I’m even going to include research & planning, because that stuff takes up a lot of time, but pays big dividends to both process & product in the end. But I don’t want to fudge it & say, “Oh, I wasted an hour looking at the Mood website today, so I ‘sewed’.” I want to really get in there & use my machines.

2017 wasn’t a great year for my sewing. I was dealing with the whole cancer situation at the beginning of the year, & I broke my foot in October. There were months at a stretch when I physically could not use my sewing machines! So, you know, shit happens. I’m really hoping that 2018 will be free of medical emergencies & that the only barrier to my 365 Days of Sewing will be my own laziness & inertia, but I don’t doubt there will be some challenges. We are talking about moving back to Massachusetts this summer, which means there may be a period of time when my sewing stuff is packed/in storage. I’m hoping to set myself up with some handwork to do then to stick to my goal.

So, accountability: I’m hoping to post here once a week with a round-up of my progress, & I will also be posting on Instagram using the hashtag #365daysofsewing. I hope this will be an interesting challenge for people to follow…or even join?

I’m also hoping to post here once a week with a new finished project. As little as I have been able to sew this year, I have shared on this blog even less. I have quite a few projects that I wear all the time & haven’t blogged about. I’ve also managed to whiff it a couple of times, & I want to share those fails too. (Sewing fail posts are some of my faves!) The Cloth Habit Harriet bra? Sewn it a few times now & LOVE it! Heart eyes for life! The Pin-Up Girls Sweet 16 bralette? Oh my God, burn it with fire. Possibly the biggest mess I’ve ever sewn. I’ve fallen for cropped sweaters (the waist-length Jenna cardigan from Muse Patterns! The afore-mentioned toaster sweaters!) & I really want to share the Lander pants I made, which would have been a disaster without a few little alterations I had the foresight to add.

behold my sewing planning spreadsheet!

I haven’t posted recently because, you know, my foot is still broken. It actually had to be casted. I chose pink, of course. I’ve never broken a significant bone before (maybe a few odd fingers & toes over the years, but nothing I ever saw a doctor about), so this is a whole new experience for me. The cast is really heavy. It’s hard to keep my foot held up when I’m making my way around on crutches, & I’m definitely not supposed to be bearing any weight on the broken foot. I cheat & walk on it sometimes anyway (well, limp & shuffle). Yes, it hurts. A lot. But I can’t just hop around on one foot for two months straight. Thankfully, I had the foresight to buy a cheapie wheelchair off Amazon, which enables me to get around most of the house, retrieve my own snacks from the kitchen, & even do some light tidying…on any surfaces that are about coffee table level. I tipped the chair over trying to pick some laundry up off the floor & landed with all my weight on the broken foot. Cue the tears & hydrocodone. It REALLY hurt.

Photo on 11-1-17 at 4.19 PM

If I really put my mind to it & cheat on the weight-bearing restriction, I can make it upstairs to my sewing room. (Thankfully, the entire living space in this house is on one level. The upstairs is just my sewing room & Ramona’s playroom.) Getting anything done once I’m up there is its own challenge, however. Anyone who sews knows that time spent actually sitting at the machine is only a fraction of the job. You spend a lot more time doing pattern alterations, cutting out fabrics, pressing, wandering around the room looking for that zipper you just had a second ago, rummaging through all your bins wondering where the hell your screwdriver went because you need to change your needle, etc. It’s hard to do all that stuff when hobbling around on one foot.

But I miss sewing so much! So I am trying to do at least a little everyday. I can’t be nearly as productive as I want to be, but every little bit counts, right?

Mostly I am stuck on the couch. I’ve created a little nest, with wheelchair parking & a three-tired cart from Ikea containing all of my medications, cross stitching supplies, magazines, bullet journal stuff, chargers, headphones, etc. I can elevate my foot on the coffee table & keep an eye on Ramona whever she is, as long as she stays downstairs. (Though she’s old enough now that we let her go up to her playroom by herself. It’s REALLY nice to have a child approaching the age of reason.)

All this time on the couch has given me a lot of time to PLAN all of my sewing! Planning posts are always my faves on sewing blogs, so let’s get into it!

First of all, I had the brainstorm a few months ago to keep a spreadsheet tracking my sewing projects. I’ve gone through a few different iterations, adding & taking away various elements, but this is what I’m using right now. It might go through some edits in the future, if I find that I require more or less detail.

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 8.04.30 PM

My (incredibly ambitious) goal is to complete the first fifteen projects on the list by the end of 2017. It’ll be tricky, but I tried to make sure that I had a good mix of really complex, time-consuming projects (the cross stitch project, the felt wall calendar for Ramona) & pretty straightforward projects that won’t take more than an hour or two (undies, the sweater). I’m also trying to focus on projects that will get used/worn right away. The calendar will be Ramona’s Christmas gift from me, as will the long underwear for Jared. (Too much information?) I am in desperate need of new flannel pajamas because I am low on warm pants I can wear over my cast (& later, my walking boot). The Lander pants have rocketed to the top of the list for the same reason.

With every task I complete, I color in the relevant box. Not all tasks apply to all projects, but here are my categories:
* pattern procured/drafted. Meaning, I have the pattern in hand, even if it’s still just a PDF on my computer.
* pattern printed & cut. I’ve started sending PDF patterns with copy shop options off to pdfplotting.com for printing. Prices are quite reasonable, shipping is super-fast, & it means I’m not spending days on end assembling PDFs, which is especially nice for bigger projects like pants or coats. I’m not getting any kind kickback for saying that, by the way. I’m just a satisfied customer.
* flat pattern alterations. I like to do flat pattern measurements & make relevant adjustments before I do anything else. I’ll do a muslin on occasion, like if I have reason to believe that the fit is going to be a hot fucking mess. (Looking at you, Rue dress.) Or if I’m planning to use especially special/expensive fabric for my final garment. But nine times out of ten, I just use my accumulated drafting/fitting knowledge to make adjustments to the pattern before it gets anywhere near fabric.
* fabric procured. Meaning, ALL fabric, including little bits like pocket linings or whatever.
* fabric pre-washed. I just cannot with garments that need special handling, so everything gets pre-washed save for things that are probably never going to see the inside of a washing machine, like a winter coat or something.
* notions procured. Zips, buttons, special interfacing, coordinating thread, specialty hardware, embellishment tools, elastics, etc etc.
* fabric/other stuff cut. Everything cut & ready to roll, including interfacing, appliques, bindings, whatever.
* interfacing applied. Speaks for itself. Obviously not relevant to every project, but worth including because it ALWAYS takes longer than I think it will. & I’ve made structured bags where just applying the interfacing took hours.
* pre-sewing embellishments completed. Again, not relevant to every project, but I do like to embellish my makes. This includes stuff like embroidered collars or pockets, appliques, ribbons, pintucks, piping, etc.
* primary sewing. Whatever needs to be done to get the project to a state of completion, save for hems, cuffs, etc.
* finishing embellishments. Meaning, embellishments that can’t be applied until after the garment is completed, like beading, or the bows on lingerie, etc.
* closures. Buttons, zippers, hook & eye tape, snaps, etc.
* hems/cuffs/elastics. You know what this stuff is!
* final touches. Seam finishes, construction-relevant topstitching, making sure all the threads are trimmed, & most importantly: the final press!
& that last box is my shopping list of patterns/fabric/notions I still need to buy for each project.


sewing & complaining with Ciara Xyerra