Summer of Basics

A long, long time ago.

(Okay, it was last summer, but it’s October, so it counts.)

As I was saying… A long, long time ago I participated in a little Instagram inspired event called the “Summer of Basics.”  The general idea was to choose to make three garments before August 31 that would fall  into the wardrobe “basics” category.  Typical Diana, I started the summer with a serious list of epic projects (like jeans, coats and colorwork sweaters) that involved purchasing all new patterns, all new materials, a year off from my job, and the sale of one of my kidneys to afford it all.  Clearly, I needed to rein myself in.

I decided to use the self-imposed stipulation that I needed to already own either the pattern or fabric/fiber, as my guideline.  It felt good to move things from the stash to the hanger, and I’m finding that second kidney really handy.

After a summer of making lots of things for other people (which was great fun), it was nice to make a few things for myself.

Basic #1: Chambray shirt dress

All summer, I found myself reaching for a simple throw on dress that did not exist in my closet.  Something that would look nice, but also be casual…  Wiksten tank dress to the rescue.

Already owned pattern: Wiksten tank dress/top pattern

Already owned: Chambray from JA Fabs I believe.

Modifications: No pocket, serged seams

My take: I’ve made several tank tops from this pattern already, so the dress was an easy sell.  I opted to leave off the pocket so it would be a tad bit “dressier,” and took my time to match the stripes – using the bottom edge of the armpit as my guide.   Success!

Ginger makes an excellent pattern weight…

Basic #2:  Crop Pants

Already owned pattern: Emerson Crop Pants by True Bias

Newly Purchased: Robert Kaufmann Cotton/Linen blend Essex from Fancy Tiger



I grabbed this pattern last spring and finally their magic was realized. (Also, when sewing on a deadline, changing serger thread is optional… nobody has time for that nonsense.)

Mods: I did add back pockets, because I feel strongly that any additional layers between my cheeks and the world are a benefit for society… they do buckle a little at the top because of the elastic waistband, but since I won’t be tucking a shirt into these, that part is hidden.

My take: I will certainly be adding another pair (or three) of these to my wardrobe.  The pockets and pleat detail at the front elevate the simplicity of the elastic waist pants.  I’d definitely recommend this as a good first pants pattern, as the construction was easy and straightforward.  I cut a straight size six  with no adjustments. I’ll be honest – I have mixed feelings about elastic waistbands in general – on the Emerson, the flat front is a nice touch, but I find that where the elastic gathering begins at my hips isn’t super flattering with tops that shows off the waistband. Untucked shirts will be my go-to with these.

Basic #3: Knit Hat

Newly purchased Pattern: Proof by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed

Stashed yarn: Junegrass batch #1 from Fancy Tiger Crafts


Mods: I couldn’t figure out (read: didn’t have the patience to practice) the tubular cast on that the pattern called for, so I watched this video from Purl Soho and used their long tale tubular cast on method.  It worked fine, though perhaps doesn’t look as clean as Brooklyn Tweed’s method would have.

This hat was straight up fun to knit.  The cables look far more complex than they are to execute, and I adore the yarn.  Junegrass is a Colorado yarn project – sourced and spun right here in the beautiful state I call home.  It’s a DK weight in natural gray, and worked as a solid substitute for the recommended Arbor.  I used their recommended needle sizes, and found the hat came out as specified – it even covers my ears!! I’ll admit that day one of wearing it was a little itchy, but I think I’ll get used to it.  The hat is the tiniest bit on the loose side, so I may try to re-block at some point… maybe I stretched it too much the first time.

Summer of Basics – I think you’re pretty rad.

Until next time,

Di and Her Kidneys


High Hopes

I always have high hopes for summer…  projects at home, school planning that will revolutionize my curriculum, the stack of books I’m going to read, new recipes to try, and of course there is the new wardrobe that will come flying off my sewing machine.

Well folks, its July. Actually, it’s late-July if I’m going to to be more accurate, but still vague.  What the H. E. Double hockey sticks happened to the last two months?

Summer has been lovely – we recovered from the end of school-year slam, drank coffee that wasn’t in a travel mug, camped, spent time with family and dear friends, did a bit of patio gardening, and I managed to not die riding my mountain bike.   I also made some things…. or more accurately – I made progress on things, most of which are for other people.  I love making things for other people, but admit I’m getting a bit nervous.  School starts in two weeks, and going to work naked is generally frowned upon.

In the midst of my summer of unselfish sewing I did jam out this Axel skirt by Megan Nielsen.

Photo taken with the flatirons and Chautauqua Dumpster

Fabric: A lovely ponte from the Indiesew collection
Source: Fabric purchased at Fancy Tiger Crafts; pattern from Indiesew
Size: Small
View: Version 2 – No alterations
Colorful Language: Besides jamming myself in the finger with a pin – None!
Elementary Appropriate: Not really – A long cardigan to cover the fitted toosh area would be a requirement, and you definitely cannot sit criss-cross applesauce in it.
Things Learned: I finally tackled a double needle. Why did I wait so long?
Next Time: I’ll definitely make this skirt again, but may try to give the “seat” area a bit more ease. The waistband fits perfectly, so I don’t want to make any adjustments there – I wonder if blending the skirt into the next size would work…

This pattern came together so quickly! I serged all of my seams and used a double needle on the hem.  I finished it just in time to wear it to G’s concert with the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra – perfect excuse for some selfish sewing.  Of course, this skirt doesn’t help solve my school wardrobe crisis.  More on what I learned about my wardrobe needs way back during Me Made May and how that is playing into my last minute Summer of Basics plan, next time.


While Sitting

We spent yesterday on Mary Jane.


The ski hill kind, not the smoking kind.  Winter Park Ski Resort is broken up into seven “territories.” The Mary Jane territory is infamous for big moguls, tree skiing, and burning leg muscles.  We skied hard, making the most of an awesome day on the mountain, but today… let’s just say that I’ve been doing a lot of sitting.

Things I’ve done while sitting:

  1. Drink coffee
  2. Almost finish Sara’s hat
  3. Complain about how sore I am
  4. Finally put button holes in my Alder Shirt Dress

Last spring, almost a year ago, I crossed my fingers, took a deep breath and tackled the Alder Shirt dress, sans ruffle.  I’m a big fan of the simple silhouette, back yoke, button down placket, and classic collar, but those design elements also made me pretty nervous about the sewing.  I followed the Alder sew-along that Grainline studio has on their blog, and boy was it a life saver! The instructions are clear, well organized, and thorough, so the dress went together much more easily than I anticipated.

When we are skiing, G often reminds me that I can ski anything (this lesson is most often reiterated when I find myself staring down that narrow, tree-lined, mogul filled run) as long as I take my time.   So goes the sewing of a many step garment – I can do anything, I just need to take it one bit at a time.  Now, I won’t pretend it all went perfectly smoothly. My issues had nothing to do with the pattern – it was all operator error.

Operator Error 1 – Something went wonky with the button band length.  I’m guessing I just cut out the wrong length pattern piece, because when I put it together that band was definitely an inch short.  Of course, I didn’t have enough extra fabric to recut it, so I attached the band anyway, did some very precise eyeballing, and trimmed the entire hemline to match.


Operator Error 2: The collar was a trick.  Jen, of Grainline Studio, does a really excellent job of laying out the order of operations, and explaining (there are even videos) the collar assembly clearly.  Even so,  I was less than precise when it came to the inside stitching on the collar stand, and the curve at the front of the collar stand.  On the front curve, I’m not sure if it was the weight of the Robert Kaufman Yarn Dyed Essex I was using that made it tricky or if I just didn’t sew accurately (highly likely).  Regardless, I decided to call it close enough, and was left with only the buttonholes and buttons to contend with…


Eleven months later, I finally got around to them.  I do have an excuse – I sewed this dress using my Grandmother’s beloved tank of an Elna sewing machine.  A wonderful machine for me to hammer away on, but buttonholes involved a lot of turning of cranks and complicated finagling, which still left them looking wretched. In the last couple of months I bit the bullet and bought a new machine – a Bernina 350B (I adore it).  When I upgraded, the buttonhole features were a major selling point, but the idea of putting holes into a garment that had taken so much time to finish?  Scary.  Turns out there was no need for the nerves – I practiced on a scrap, did some careful measuring, and my machine did all of the work.  Slick.

Operator Error 3: Well… except for the buttonhole on the collar stand.  My button hole foot quit moving half way through the second long side.  Instead of stopping I just laid on the pedal a bit harder – because going faster and ignoring the problem always works.

Half an hour later I had managed to seam rip that sucker out, and made the executive decision that a buttonhole on the collar was unnecessary this time.


Next stop, actually cutting the holes and sewing on the buttons.  I can’t wait to add this dress to the wardrobe rotation – boots, tights, and a cardigan for winter weather, and sandals come spring/summer months.  I will definitely be pulling this pattern out again… as soon as I can stand up.

Mary Jane photos – cred goes to G

That Time I Started A Blog And Didn’t Write Another Post For A Month

My grandmother, is the best. My quilting skills, are not.

She is a Grandma who deserves only the finest.  She’s smart, kind, beautiful, and hilarious. She makes the best cinnamon rolls in the history of ever anything, is a total card shark, embroiders beautifully, and always has time and love for her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. In the last year (because I’m never actually on time) she had a milestone birthday, so I thought it was high time to make her something special… like a quilt.

I’ve dabbled with quilting in the past… a poorly executed table runner, which my mother is kind enough to continue to let grace her table; a case for my iPad, strategically made with super busy fabric so nobody can actually see my quilting; and a lap quilt that I ended up hand quilting (in a panic) on the floor of my husband’s apartment in Wisconsin.   None of these efforts were overly successful, and yet it had been long enough since my last attempt that I allowed myself to believe that, A. I knew what I was doing, and B. I enjoyed it.  Of course, instead of making something reasonable like quilted pot-holders, I decided to make a full-on throw sized quilt.  Pot holders won’t keep her warm while she watches NBA games from her recliner.  (Seriously. She’s super cool like that.)

Filled with misplaced confidence I selected my pattern, the Four Winds Quilt designed and sold by my local shop, Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I was at least self-aware enough to realize that big blocks were smarter than a tiny intricate pattern.

SIMG_6014ewing the quilt top was definitely the best part (outside of fabric shopping – obviously). The method for creating the flying geese blocks was smart, and made the assembly quick (relatively speaking) and easy. I was pretty proud of that quilt top –  the corners met where they were supposed to, and the final product was relatively square. Clearly my over-confidence was warranted.

And then I had to quilt it.

I was so diligent. I even went to school (oh, the horrors) to use my classroom floor for basting, as it’s the only floor space that is #1 – big enough, and #2 – wouldn’t have a puppy walking all over it as I pinned.

Side note: My classroom floor had just been deep cleaned for summer. This is a booger free quilt.



They recommended I have extra batting and backing… clearly I took that to heart.

I watched an hour long Creative Bug class on making a quilt sandwich and made sure not to cut any corners.

I carefully pin basted the whole thing, hand basting the edges at the end. It was a thing of beauty.  This quilt was not going to get the better of me.

One line of stitching in on my machine and I knew I was in trouble.  My walking foot did a funky little jog every five stitches and I couldn’t get my tension settled.  All of that basting?  Pointless.  I had to re-pin to accommodate for all of the stretching and dragging, and snip out that beautiful hand basted edge.  It was miserable.  However, I persevered and at some point decided that I should quit trying so hard and just let all of those tucks and pleats continue to happen…. you know, for the sake of consistency.

The quilt uses a self-binding technique, where you cut down the batting to match the top, but leave the backing an inch or so bigger. The backing gets folded over the top edge and you sew it down.  Slick.  At least I was able to end the misery project on a positive note.

Artfully draped and photographed by my sister. Thanks Sara!

As previously stated, my Grandma really is the best, and loves me (and the quilt) regardless of my remarkably poor quilting.  Though my skill and patience were tested, I loved making something for a woman who has given me so much.  Many a lesson (on what not to do) was learned while making this sucker.  I’ve sworn off quilts for awhile, but it’s only a matter of time before I become delusional enough to try again.

With my pretty Grandma Bonita.

And really, if you stand across the room and squint – it looks pretty darn good.