Covet Wednesdays: Dreaming of Birthday Shoes

Throughout this process of planning my birthday dress, I've had Roisin's style on my mind. She's known not only for her fantastic handmade dresses, but also for her fabulous shoes. I'm not about to go out and buy a new pair of heels to go with my dress, but I did indulge in a bit of virtual window shopping. Here are the styles I would consider if money was no object:

Clockwise from top left:

Vintage-inspired Dancing in the Park heels from Modcloth. Depending on what material the sole is made out of, these could be great for dancing balboa, too.

Kate Spade? With a signature bow? Yes please!

T-straps look so beautifully feminine, and these Take a Little Dip heels from Modcloth are perfect for summer.

The only purple ones in the bunch, but I had to include these Seychelles All Dressed Up heels because they've been on my wish list for ages!

This isn't a sponsored post–I'm just a gal who likes impractical shoes!


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It Has Begun

Birthday Dress V1353After several months of pondering and planning, I’ve finally started working on my birthday dress. I’m using Vogue 1353, which I’ve decided to leave sleeveless, and this Italian cotton I brought home from my trip to the Garment District. This photo is a little better than the original one, but the print still looks much splotchier here than it does in person. It’s also not nearly so wrinkly–I had just pulled it out of the dryer.
Birthday Dress muslinI didn’t make muslins for my garments in the past, but I’m really trying to improve the fit of my projects now. I made two muslins of the bodice for this dress, and I’m really glad that I did. Out of the envelope, the bust dart was pointing much too high, and I needed to add 2″ to the length in order to hit my natural waist.
Birthday Dress piecesI spent the better part of Sunday cutting and marking the pieces. This has to be my least favorite part of the clothing construction process, and I’m pretty slow at it. There are so many pleats in this design that I had a lot to mark–luckily, I had Buffy and Angel to keep me company.
Birthday Dress bodiceThe bodice and skirt are now assembled, so tonight’s project will be attaching them at the waist and installing the invisible zipper. I hope this zip does turn out to be invisible. With fabric like this and the limited selection of my local store, it was difficult to find a color that worked. I ended up with a gray zipper (which matches my lining) and I cut out the dress so that the center back will fall mostly in the purple and green parts of the print.

Unfortunately, tonight will be my last night working on the dress this week. I’m taking the bus over to Sweetie’s, so I can’t bring my sewing supplies with me. Here’s hoping the rest of the construction goes as smoothly as it has been so far–I want to wear this dress on my birthday next Thursday!


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UFO Mondays: Vilai

Remember how I said on Friday that I needed to have a productive weekend? I did! I finished grading a round of papers, worked on my exam lists, came up with a topic for one of my final papers (I was really cutting it close…), finished my red pants, and started my birthday dress! More on those last two later this week.

Hopefully I’ve got my groove back, because on Wednesday I’m hopping a Megabus over to Sweetie’s for Easter Break (one of the perks of being on a Catholic campus. They won’t pay for birth control, but at least we get a long weekend for Easter). I’m going to spend most of the weekend drafting these papers, but I also plan to have some quality time snuggling my kitties and lounging around with Sweetie. Lounging, of course, means knitting.

I’m going to bring along the red scarf I’m knitting for a friend, but I’m honestly not sure how much longer that project is going to take, and I want to bring a UFO as well. I pulled out Vilai, one of my many unfinished socks. I’m looking forward to the day when I have only one pair of socks in progress.
vilaiLast seen: July 2009

Reason for abandonment: the Sock Innovation class that resulted in a lot of single socks

Assessment: I haven’t even started the second sock, and I remember this pattern being pretty involved, so this one may take me a little while.

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Wasabi Sake Socks

I was really hoping to write this post while wearing a pair of newly finished red pants, but that just didn’t work out. Ever since I got back from my conference in New York, things seem to be taking much longer than expected. Reading, research, writing, grading, lesson planning, and even crafting: it’s all moving in slow motion. I’m hoping to have a really productive weekend–I sure need one at this point in the semester–but who knows how it will go.

All this is to say that today I have photos of a project I finished in the fall and never posted about here.
Wasabi SakesThese are my Wasabi Sakes, one of the wildest pairs of socks I’ve knit to date. Surprisingly, I’ve received more compliments on this yarn than I can remember from any of my other socks. I didn’t expect such bright green yarn to be so popular! These socks were a ton of fun to knit, but they were pretty intense: some of the charts take up a full page in an already sizeable book.

Wasabi SakesWhenever I talk to knitters who are nervous about taking on a big project like a sweater or something knit at a fine gauge, I always assure them that those kinds of projects are merely exercises in endurance. They aren’t necessarily more difficult than other projects; the challenge is in seeing the project through to the finish line. This was definitely one of those endurance projects. The big charts and twisted stitches weren’t anything new to me–goodness knows I’ve knit enough Cookie A. patterns for these techniques to be familiar–but it was slow going, and they took a long time to finish. Worth it.

Pattern: Cookie A’s Sake from Knit. Sock. Love.
Yarn: ~1 skein Araucania Ranco Solid #126
Needles: US 0 dpns
Made for: Me
Timeline: 30 April 2011 – 12 November 2013
Modifications: none
Worst Part: the huge charts limited where I could work on these
Best Part: they make me feel like a badass knitter

Thanks to Mom for photographing these while I was home for a visit and tolerating my polka dot tights (even though I don’t think she wanted to be seen in public with me).

I’m planning to work even harder on cutting down my UFOs this summer as I prepare to (most likely) move yet again, so this won’t be the last you see of Cookie A. socks around here–I still have plenty of second socks to finish from my Sock Innovation project. Some day I’ll get to the bottom of this UFO pile I’ve built up.

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Purple Sheath Dress | Simplicity 2648

Purple Sheath DressMy purple sheath dress is finished! That’s another UFO off my pile!

This pattern is from Simplicity’s “Amazing Fit” collection. The difference with these patterns is they have 1″ seam allowances in key areas, and the instructions tell you to baste together those seams and adjust your fit before moving on. You’re then supposed to mark your alterations on the pattern pieces for next time. I didn’t have the patience to do that (who knows if there’ll be a next time, and I may require a different fit), so I just took down some notes.

If you’re a seamstress who hates facings, this is not the pattern for you! In the sleeveless and cap sleeve versions, both the neckline and armholes have facings, and they overlap at the shoulder. That seems like a lot of unnecessary bulk, and I think I’d rather have a lined bodice.

Purple Sheath Dress

This is a nice, basic silhouette, and I very well may return to this pattern and try out the scoop neck version. But it does feel a bit conservative for a twenty-something working in academia. I had to omit the waist tab (it looked like ass when I sewed it up!), so I toughened up the dress with this awesome lion belt and some of my favorite shoes. This other wall in the photo above was too bright, but the wind made my hair look great!

Purple Sheath Dress Outtakes
In these outtake photos, I’m either thinking what in the hell should I do with my arms? or, I frickin’ hate this dress. I really prefer shopping in person so I can touch fabrics before I buy, and in Pittsburgh that means JoAnn. I’ve found some decent fabrics there, but this wasn’t one of them. It’s a “wool suiting” that has more than it’s share of synthetic, and it will not press to save its life. Those wrinkles along the princess seams? Not poor fitting or seam treatment–they just wouldn’t press nicely. The topstitching along most seams? Not decorative–necessary to keep the seams from looking even more terrible than they do.

I got some compliments on this dress when I wore it to work the other day, and maybe it will grown on me, but right now I think I need a little distance.


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Sleeves or No?

I’m totally over-complicating things with my birthday dress. I can’t help but think that my fabric would look just stunning done up in Vogue 1353:
Vogue 1353
I love the neckline pleats and full skirt on this pattern, and I’ve been wanting to make it for a while now. The problem, of course, is that it’s sleeveless, and I’m not sure what to do about that.

One thought was to add sleeves. I’ve found a few resources that tell me how to do so, and I could try it out on my muslin. Leaving aside the potential extreme frustration of that plan, I’m not even sure if this dress would work with a short (but not cap) sleeve. And if I do add sleeves, how does that work with the lining? I’m pretty sure all of my dresses with sleeves are unlined, but I like the neat finish of a lined dress.

I could also leave it sleeveless, but I’m worried that I won’t wear it as often if I do. As I mentioned before, I get self-conscious about sweating when I wear sleeveless dresses, and that’s especially true on the dance floor. I also read some reviews that said the straps and neckline run wide on this pattern, which could be a problem with my sloping shoulders.

Any suggestions? Am I crazy to still be considering this pattern?


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UFO Mondays: Return of the Red Pants

My purple wool sheath dress is finished (yay! photos to come later this week!), and I’m not quite ready to work on my birthday dress in earnest, so I’m pulling out what I hope will be a quick finish: my red pants (S1696).
Red Pants UFOI actually brought these home with me over winter break because I was having such trouble fitting them. My mom can help me with a lot of sewing problems over the phone, but fitting isn’t really one of them. If we got things sorted out like I think we did, then things should go smoothly. I sure hope they do–these will be really cute for spring and summer!

Last seen: July 2013

Reason for abandonment: fitting issues

Assessment: Once I adjust the fit based on my mom’s suggestions, I just need to finish off the waistband and hem the pants.

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Manu Cardi for Me

Manu CardiganI haven’t finished much of anything lately (aside from writing papers…lots of papers…), but I do have some new photos to share! We finally pulled my Manu Cardigan out of the finished-but-not-photographed pile and took it out for a photo shoot.
Manu Cardigan back…although Sweetie was feeling impatient, so some of the photos look like this. You should see how crazy my legs looked before I cropped them out–awkward much?
Manu Cardigan pleatsThis is the second Manu I’ve knit. The first one went to my sister-in-law and is blogged here. For my version, I again mirrored the neckline pleats on each side, and I cropped the sleeves to 3/4 length. Now that I’m looking at this photo, I think I should probably go in and stabilize the neckline before it stretches out.
Manu Cardigan pocketThis sweater is all about the details. Pleats, gathers, pockets. And I-cord edging. Miles and miles of I-cord edging. Wanna know how I feel after finishing all of that I-cord edging?
Manu Cardigan jumpLike this!

Pattern: Kate Davies’ Manu
Yarn: ~7 skeins Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool #60
Needles: US 4, 5, and 7 bamboo circulars and dpns
Made for: Class Sample/Me
Timeline: May 31 – December 28, 2011
Modifications: mirrored yoke pleating, 3/4 sleeves
Worst Part: the slogging, and the class didn’t go
Best Part: I’m really pleased with the fit, and this is one of my all-time favorite yarns

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Covet Wednesdays: A Birthday Dress

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m planning to make a dress to celebrate my birthday, which is coming up in just under a month. I picked out a beautiful watercolor print cotton during my visit to the Garment District, and now I need to choose a pattern. I’m pretty sure that I want a fit-and-flare style dress, and it has to have sleeves! There are so many sleeveless dresses, both in terms of RTW and patterns, these days, and I always get self-conscious about odor when wearing something sleeveless (even though I’m not generally a sweaty person!), especially when dancing.

Speaking of dancing, I want the finished dress to be multi-purpose: on my birthday, I’ll be teaching my last class of the semester, attending my last class as a student ever, and going to our weekly swing dance.  Sweetie also thinks that this fabric will make for a great “artist’s wife” dress–that’s what I call the clothes I wear when attending his gallery openings.

I’ve been poking around, and here are my finalists for a birthday dress pattern:


I have to admit, I didn’t think much of the Christine Haynes Emery Dress when the pattern was first released, but I’ve seen so many gorgeous versions popping up–just look at the sewalong roundup! I don’t yet own this pattern, but it’s so versatile that I’m sure I would make multiple versions, and it looks like the sewalong posts would be really helpful for any fitting issues I may have.


The By Hand London Anna Dress looks simple, but I’ve loved just about every version I’ve seen sewn up. I’m not sure what it is about this pattern, but it seems to be universally flattering. I would make the shorter length, as I don’t have birthday plans quite fabulous enough for the maxi length and serious slit!


I’m breaking my own no-sleeveless rule here, but I just love Vogue 1353 by Kay Unger. I picked it up on sale a while back, and I’ve been trying to decide if I can deal with it as-is or if I should try to figure out how to add cap sleeves even though that might be asking for trouble. Maybe it’s the fabric used in this photo, but I think this would work especially well with the print I’ve chosen.


If you’re thinking that these patterns look like those that Roisin makes, you would be right! In fact, I learned about Simplicity 2444 from her blog. If I finish in time to take photos before the deadline, maybe I’ll even enter my dress in Sew Dolly Clackett. I would likely make the version with the slight boat neck and short sleeves.  Simplicity patterns are on sale at JoAnn this weekend, so maybe that’s a sign?

Did I miss any perfect patterns? Do any of these stand out? I’d better make a decision soon so I can pick up additional supplies and muslin the bodice of whichever I choose.


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Checkerboard Lace Scarf

One of the cool things about being in a small PhD program like mine is getting to see friends who I’ve watched work long and hard  earn the title “Dr.” My mentor in the program just recently defended and presented her dissertation, and I realized I had better get going on a graduation gift for her, so I packed up a project to bring with me to New York.
Checkerboard Lace ScarfAfter spending more time than I care to admit in Ravelry’s pattern browser, I ended up choosing the Checkerboard Lace Scarf, a pattern that was already in my queue. I wanted a rectangular scarf rather than a shawl, and I wanted the pattern to be elegant without feeling overly delicate.
Checkerboard Lace Scarf ProgressThis Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock from my stash is just perfect. It’s not as glowingly psychedelic as it appears here, but it is a very vibrant red that matches E’s go-to lip color. I cast on for a scarf that is one repeat narrower than the original design, so I hope I can get a substantial scarf while using every bit of this skein.

I have to admit, I’m getting a little nervous about the length of the “Currently Making” list over in the sidebar. I’d better finish a few things up before my list gets unreasonably long!

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