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.