Pack bag

We are planning a short hiking trip in Iceland which means I need to take my beloved Deuter backpack on an airplane. When my daughter took her brand new one away to Europe the first plane trip destroyed the bottom. With that in mind I have had it on my list to create a canvas bag for my pack. I had some leftover canvas type fabric I used for Roman shades in our last house. I had already taken a lot of it and turned it into laundry size bags I had intended to use for carrying plant waste between client offices (but came up with a much lighter option).  I took one of the bags and pushed the pack in.

bag with pack in it. It was too short.

I took another one of the bags and sewed it to the first one. Now the entire unit was too long.

Bags sewn together are too long

So I cut off about 15″ and cut a hole for a zipper. I had a long separating zipper (probably 26″) in my zipper stash that was a perfect fit.  I added two straps that I made by folding a 4″ rectangle in so the sides met in the middle and then folding it in half to either side of the zipper. The photo below shows me adding a reinforcement piece to attach the straps to.

Adding straps

I put the pack in the bag and discovered it was still a little too long so I added one more strap with D rings that could hold the excess fabric if it is needed. I was too lazy to fully load my pack and test the canvas bag so I wanted to keep a little extra room in case it is needed.

This was a fun project for me as it is the first large bag I have tried to make. It required that I think about the stresses and strains of air travel as well as trying to make it easier for a baggage handler to move my pack around. I look forward to testing it out and will let you know if my beloved Deuter survived.

Have you made a large bag yet? Please share!

Londi cardi

This is the drawing of the London Cardi pattern from Lori Anne patterns

As you may know I have been experimenting with making my own patterns. I have been stuck for a while trying to get the pants and bodice I drafted to be perfect (I know perfection isn’t always great). It has been draining. So I looked through my fabric stash and patterns the other day and found a winey purple knit that should be perfect with this london cardi pattern. I wanted to sew and not have to think.

Already I have skipped too many steps that I may regret later.

  1. I didn’t trace the pattern off. This means I can only use it for this size once. If it turns out fabulous I may regret this.
  2. I chose the size 16 because I couldn’t bear to go up to an 18. (ps this is the advantage to making my own patterns – I only have to think about measurements not the stigma of sizes – a ridiculous mental block on my part).
  3. I didn’t measure the pattern against my actual body nor even hold it up. I am sensing that it may be shorter than I would like – hopefully there aren’t other issues as well.

Time to go down and start sewing – face these fears.

Lori Anne designs her jackets with several pieces to put together and an easy pocket detail that I always love to sew.

The triangle on the left though took me a few extra minutes to put in place because I didn’t mark the notches (that I’m sure must have been there) before I cut out the pattern. I rotated it every which way until I finally got it lined up so the side front was the same length as the side back.

Tricky triangle on the left

The jacket did turn out much shorter than I envisioned from the pattern drawing and next time I will try to figure out how to make it longer without messing up the great lines at the bottom.

Finished jacket – shorter than I envisioned

But the back is a great length

In the end I got lucky with all the shortcuts I took. Are there any sewing shortcuts you have taken that you have regretted later?

Dad’s Shirt

You  may have gathered that I find myself more and more interested in re-creating and utilizing what is around me.  My husband recently quit working in an office and was purging his closet. He had a dress shirt that was a beautiful shade of orange and in spite of repeated wearings still had fabric in fabulous shape. My mother who loved to shop and buy Christmas presents had given it to him many years ago. I decided to try to turn it into a summer top for my daughter who is graduating from her Master’s program May 12.

When she was home at Thanksgiving I made her suffer through a duct tape wrap so I could make a dress form of her to utilize in trying to sew for someone besides myself. We used the instructions we found here at Offbeat bride. At one point the fume from the duct tape got to her and she over heated so I had to do some of it while she was laying down. It is a little off shape and quickly getting battered but I don’t think she is going to let me do it again. The first item I made was a peplum top that turned out to be too large. Hoping to alter that shirt when I see her next.

My first step was to pin my proposed seams on the shirt while it was on the form. I decided to make it sleeveless, leave the buttons and get rid of the collar.

Pinned seams

Next I did  a rough cut 1/2″ away from my pins (to create a 1/2″ seam allowance). I did this while it was still on the form.

Dad’s shirt with cuts made

I then took it off the form, refined the side seams and sewed it up. I cut facing for the armholes and neck from the sleeves. Here is the finished product. If she lets me and it looks good, I will share the completed project on her!

“Dad’s shirt” is complete

Last night I was catching up on my blog reading and found this post about how to turn Dad’s shirt into a dress for a much younger daughter. Super cute.

What have you done with Dad’s old shirt?



The Honest Truth

My original intention for this site was to help teach others to find their colors and style. It has taken me 18 months to find my own so how can I help anyone else? I think the answer is to encourage you to experiment until you find the answer. A camera has really helped. Things I think look fabulous in the mirror are shown to be not so true from the camera’s objective eye. There are also some general “rules” which I will begin to share. But the “rules” can also hamper so don’t believe any of them are set in stone.

As you can tell this is also turning into a marvelous excuse to sew and experiment with fabrics, improve my skills and see what’s around me in a new way. It is also helping me see what my values are and how I want to spend my time. It is still a blog in the process of forming. As I am and as we all are. I am enjoying the journey. Because really all we have is the journey. The end is not the goal. It is everything that happens along the way. What you learn and discover are valuable.

Things that led me down the wrong path were “RULES”:

Tim Gunn’s recommendations. One was black and one was never wear shoes with rounded toes. I felt like a limping uncomfortable fraud. And when the camera showed me in black I can see why it is worn to funerals. Spanx. No comment needed.

Things that were difficult but that helped:

“Color your style”  book by David Zyla

“Looking Good every Day. Style Solutions for Real Women” by Nancy Nix Rice.

And a hundred little books, blog posts and photos.

Things that make sense

Tim Gunn’s rules of right silhouette, proportions and fit. (But figuring that out is hard work).

The other things that hampered me were internal.

Fighting against learning something new.

Recognizing habits and beliefs that were holding me back that I wasn’t aware of.

Fear of looking silly (and I’m sure I did a few times but everyone so far is polite enough not to say so).

Fear of spending time on myself.

Lack of desire to take and post pictures of myself.

What rules and excuses are holding you back? What has helped you? I look forward to your comments.



When I visited my dad in Michigan in January I found myself with not a lot to do. I had seriously injured my hamstring while ice skating and it was snowing so driving wasn’t an option. I was starting to get a case of cabin fever so I decided to dig through the drawers and closets to see what I might discover.

I found a bag of patterns in the closet. Some were things I had sewn when I was in high school. Some were dresses my mother had sewn for herself at some point in her life. Needless to say none were my current size. I found some fabric that wouldn’t have been my first choice for just about anything but the rose and grey colors were good and the print was fairly small. I picked the dress pattern with the least alteration needed and began to measure and make the changes I hoped would create a dress/long open top that would fit me. I took the waist darts out and moved them to try to make it large enough for me around the waist. My other issue was a sewing machine that had only basic stitches. This meant I had to use an overcast  stitch on my ravelly seams. And the needle could have been a little newer so the inside of the dress was a mess. Once I took everything home it was better with new needles and a serger.

It has some nice details that you can’t see with this print. The collar is nice and large and could stand up if I used a thicker interfacing. The sleeve is not set in and makes a quick sew.

Collar could stand up

No set in sleeve

As you can see this first effort ended up being too big around the waist and looks pretty dowdy. I already feel most vintage looks dowdy on me as I become vintage.

Dowdy Dress

But now that I have a shape on a dress form I can start to play around and make changes to turn it into something a little more stylish. (I hope). My first step is to add some darts to the bodice so it is not so huge. I also noticed I am longer waisted than this dress form. Not sure how to fix that on the form.

I pin up my first change to the hemline. Oops a little too revealing. I would have to find another dress or leggings to wear under this one.

I set the opening a little lower and I am in business.

Lower opening

Now for my favorite part! I dig through the button tins – most of them from my mother’s stash and select some. I don’t pick my absolute favorites because I am not sure I will actually ever wear this dress (if I do I will share). I was also delighted to figure out how to use the buttonhole setting on my new machine. It was actually a joy instead of a pain to do buttonholes.

Final with buttons

And the best part is finishing a project that was clogging my flow. I put it on for Easter but couldn’t style it quite right to be comfortable wearing it. Will I ever wear it? Still not sure.

Can’t quite figure out how to pull off wearing it.

Do you sew vintage patterns? If so what do you find to be your biggest hurdle?

Re sole

The REI member coupon for 20% off came in the mail which meant it was time for me to get my yearly pair of utility shoes. Having spent years on my feet caring for plants this was my yearly splurge and when you put on that new pair of shoes you feel like your feet are brand new. Joyous style for me.

This year when I was shopping I noticed one of the filters was could the shoe be resoled. What an old but newly novel concept! Don’t get new shoes, resole your old ones. Unfortunately there were only two styles advertised as having the ability to be resoled. Neither of them were of the heavy duty style I needed although I was tempted to try the Ahnu but settled on the Salomon because my hiking boots made by them are very supportive.

As you can see I have not put much effort yet into stylish hiking clothes but at least I am not in black.

My husband seems to be able to pull it off much better than I. These photos were taken in the Yakima Canyon in April. The wildflowers are small but perfect. I saw these beautiful violets and believe they are called sagebrush violets.

Do you have a favorite yearly ritual?

The crap up

Today I want to share with you the steps needed to create your own pattern for a handbag.I recently decided to begin to create handbags made from re purposed fabric. I had seen some messenger style bags in the store recently that I like. My goal was to create something similar with a little more style. And of course to eventually create more of them out of fabric and ex clothing that is destined for the rag pile.

While I was creating I was listening to  a book called “The Achievement Habit” by Bernard Roth. He suggested that when you have an idea you start working on it without caring if the outcome is perfect. He suggested making a prototype (a muslin in sewing) or a “crap up” .His theory was that calling it something different would help prevent the perfectionism that can take over and that leads to project abandonment. I like that concept and this is my new name for my muslins – my crap ups. It also makes the initial creation process faster.

Step 1: Have an idea. For most of us this is the easy part. We see something we like and think “Oh I could make that,” My inspiration came wandering the aisles at a department store and seeing the piles of bags.

Step 2: Sketch it out. Think about how big you really want it to be, what shape you want it to have, do you want zippers or snaps or a strap or……….. Lots of design decisions begin here and may or may not stay in the final plan.

sketch of purse idea

Sketching your thoughts will be the first step

Step 3: Begin to create the pattern pieces. This is like geometry from high school. You have to think about how the different shapes will come together to create your design. It is fun because at this point anything is possible. To start I drew a square with the sizes I wanted the final bag to be. I then marked them on the square.  I drew the shape I wanted and refined it until it was the size and the shape I wanted. At this point I made some changes. My first idea of bag size seemed too big when I held it up to my body so I made it smaller. Also at this point don’t worry about seam allowances just finished size.

Step 4: Look at other items you have around the house to see how they are put together. I knew I didn’t want a flat bag so I looked at some grocery bags and other items I have around the house to see how they are put together. There were many choices. I chose the one I could visualize best for this bag – a side band that is sewn around the edges of the front and back to give it shape and depth. At this point I sketched pockets on the inside and outside of the bag in desired locations. I thought about how to attach the strap and close the purse. What would make it practical.

Step 5: Finalize the pattern pieces remembering to add seam allowances. I chose 1/2″ so there would be less to trim.

Step 6: Choose your materials. Since this is a muslin or prototype or “crap up”, I chose some upholstery fabric left over from a chair I recovered many years ago, some felt from a costume project and for the lining a muslin curtain we didn’t use in a house we recently sold.

fabrics for the prototype bag

Use inexpensive materials for your muslin or crap up

Step 7: Cut them out and try to figure out what order to sew them in. This again tested my brain. I ended up sewing the pockets on the lining with the middle felt attached. This made it easier for me to see this as one piece – the lining. Three pieces was too much. High school geometry was more than 40 years ago. The tricky part for me was how would the lining and the structure and the outside fabric go together? I put them together every which way but really couldn’t see how it would work without actually starting to put it together. I machine basted the pieces together and at the very end saw how the flap would come over and be completed. At my final stitching I managed to break a machine needle  Stopping and taking the time to put in a heavier needle might have helped me complete this project the same day I started. Instead I lacked the patience, broke a needle and stalled out for two more days.

Lack of patience caused this broken needle

thick fabric needed a different needle

Thick fabric needed a different needle

Step 8: Refine and adjust and try again. My final project is too bulky so I will use a thinner interfacing next time – or a thinner fashion fabric. I also want a zippered pouch front and back. I will do another crap up  before I use my final fabric.

Almost Done

I can hide my bag here and the burglars won’t find it

Messenger bag in use

Muffin top is a choice

It is tempting to try to wear things that fit last fall after an active summer and before the holiday eating bonus that happens from Halloween through New Year’s. But unless you are more disciplined than me that will result in muffin top!
I used to say that it was great to be over 50 because muffin tops are expected! However expected they may be, they are avoidable.
This morning I put on my tightest pair of jeans just to make sure I could still get them zipped. Yes they zipped but……….. look at that fabulous bulge. (I believe the last time we embraced that was when we were 2). If I choose to wear these jeans and this outfit today I will be too self-conscious to take the jacket off if I get warm. Not a great outfit choice even if it looks good. After looking at my photos it is obvious the short sleeved t shirt – in addition to being too thin of a fabric – is too small. Guess what I need to add to my make it/buy it list – longer short sleeve tops in my basic colors made of thicker fabric in a larger size.

The immediate solutions to this problem would be:

  • Wear a larger size jean so the bulge disappears
  • Put on a heavier knit top that is not quite so form fitting. (this is the one I chose)
  • Or you embrace it as you did when you were 2 as a beautiful part of your body!

As you can see in the pictures as I tried these solutions it looks like I and my muffin top shrank.

How do you reconcile changing body size in your wardrobe?

Too tight clothes result in muffint op
Do I want the world to see this?

I’m bothered

Brown town Neutrals

When I started this blog I was attempting to transition back into things I enjoy. I had a lot to learn about style after neglecting it for years. It has been fun! Along the way I have learned how to incorporate color into  my wardrobe (funny I was never shy about using it in my home), what lines enhance my body and how things fit. This blog has encouraged me to experiment, start sewing again and appreciate the art and craftsmanship in a beautiful garment. It has encouraged me to spend time on contemplation and my self.

It has not changed my attitude about how much to spend on clothing (although I suppose if I had a lot of disposable income I might be tempted to buy or try to create some of those beautifully crafted garments I mentioned above). It has changed my attitude about how many pieces of clothing I need in my closet and how they get there. I am still defining how many and what and I believe that is an ongoing process as the days and weeks go by. Most of the things I own come from thrift stores or I make them myself. The more I read fashion/style blogs and go to stores to see what clothing styles and colors are current the less I want to buy new. There is SO MUCH out there.

When I was a teenager I took great joy in taking all my babysitting earnings and spending them on new clothes or new fabric to create new clothes. Now I get a little sick to my stomach when I think about grabbing armfuls of new clothing to take home. I know it is part of what keeps our economy rolling but………. at what cost? How do we reconcile keeping creative designers at work designing those beautiful garments with having too much stuff?

I will continue to share with you my thrift store finds and some of my upcycled items I am creating as well as any brands that have figured out how to get creative and reconcile their product with their impact on the environment.

My outfit above is courtesy of Value Village and Goodwill earlier this week. It is an attempt to move from the gray that has been the backbone to some more spring like colors as it finally gets a little warmer here in the Pacific Northwest.

The leggings are generic, the jacket is from a company called Modern Soul which I can find nothing about online. The jacket goes with my gray and my brown and would also work with green which I don’t have  much of.  Both items are made with polyester and spandex along with cotton or rayon which makes them feel drapier and soft. There were lots of chemicals that I can’t even pronounce used to create these original garments. I love flowy wash and wear garments that feel great as I move through my day. The shoes (found on this same thrift store trip) are something I could wear all day. They are brand new Clarks in my size!

For my body type which is that bottom heavy lovely pear (or triangle) with an occasionally growing middle longer styles (but not oversized styles) with curvy lines help me look balanced. The scarf draws attention up and away from the unbalanced heavier lower portion of my body. The colors blend together and don’t overwhelm my blended natural coloring.

How do you reconcile your fashion purchases with your environmental consciousness?

Style shows in everything you do

Old truck staged as a wreck

This creative roadside tableau in a field strewn with lava boulders was outside Hagerman Idaho.

Your style shows in everything you do and this person (whoever it is) got creative in a big way staging an old wrecked truck to look as if it had crashed into this tree stump with a body thrown through the windshield and been left to age. The writing on the door says Mr. Pickens moonshine.

I would enjoy meeting the creator of this. They think just a little bit differently than the rest of us and take the time to manifest their ideas. Your clothing can do the same thing for you. Take a little bit of time and express what you are thinking and feeling inside to show the outside world who you are. For me personally this is easier said than done. Even though I quit working at the beginning of 2017 I have found myself on the road or preparing to be on the road. This has left me little time to think or express myself. And maybe that is my way of hiding and resting during this transitional time. I need to create alone time and speak up to get it so I have time to process.

We all have different needs. It is easy to ignore them and harder to do the work to figure out what they are. I admire those who find the time to pull together a unique interesting wardrobe that looks fabulous. I wonder if it takes them less time than it takes me. Is it effortless for them? I am sure they have done work at some point to learn about colors, fit and styles that work for their body shape. Have they also thought about who they are?

It is easy for me to get lost on the way to finding myself. To let myself get tied up in what others think I should be doing, to rush from one thing to another, to spend time on social media or defending myself and how I want to spend my time to my partner. I spent 30 plus years as a small business owner. That was my excuse for not having time for myself. I pushed to get everything done and rarely stepped back to see what I wanted my life to be about. It was work all day, cover for employees, spend time on the rest of the family’s hobbies/needs, cook, sleep and repeat. I thought this was how life had to be. It made me resentful.

Instead I realized it was a choice I was making. Everything we do is a choice. You might feel like you have no choice but there is always another choice. Your choices have put you where you are. Now it is time to joyously accept that and make conscious choices in the future. Realize that not making choices is choosing. Letting someone else choose for you is a choice.

For me spending 30 minutes or so a day (mornings are best for me) pausing and reflecting help me be more conscious of living a life I mean to live. Not spending that time these last few months has put me in a state of limbo and anxiety. How do you become conscious of where you are and how you got there?