Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!


Sweater surgery

Sweater renovation, I guess?  Sweater transformation.  I think that's the best term.

I bought this striped Forever 21 tunic-ey sweater at Goodwill Outlet in the bins for $1.39/lb or whatever.  It was a Large and was really loose on me, but (as you are well aware if you follow me on Pinterest!) I love stripes, and the price was right.

I tried to wear it loose, as-is, but it got even bigger as I wore it and it stretched out.

So I figured, while it was wearable, I really ought to take it in and make it fit better.  I used this method I've tutorial-ized before, and took in both sides all the way up as well as the sleeves a little.  Huge difference!

Want to see the "after"??

I seriously look like 6 inches off, I swear.  Now it's more of a dress/tunic, seriously, cuz it's so long as well as slim-fitting.

Great with leggings or something!  I think... would love to hear your ideas on how you'd wear it!  Or, have you done any remarkable sweater surgery lately??



Sewing Circle: Pattern for a mystery dress

More pattern-searching on Sewing Circle today!

I got an email from Katharine...

Q: I saw this dress in the window of a ridiculously expensive store in my city, and I kind of fell in love with it, but not enough to even be tempted to go into said super-expensive store to see the dress in person (it's REALLY expensive. I'd be surprised if they were selling this cute dress for less than $700). But I love the wide buckled belt, the polka dot fabric, the knee-grazing A-line skirt, the fairly fitted bodice, the button placket, and the high-but-not-too-high neckline. I don't know what kind of sleeves it has, if any, but that isn't really a big deal for me. 

I tried to find out who the designer was or a picture of the garment unobstructed, but the Internet sadly failed me there. I've also been looking for a pattern to adapt, but I haven't been having a whole lot of success. I just haven't seen anything with quite the right lines and I was wondering if you might have a few ideas of patterns that could be adapted into something like this inspiration dress?

A: Hi Katharine, thanks for reading, and thanks for your email!  It is hard to see the dress in the pic, but that means you can make whatever pattern you want that has the same look on the parts that are visible. You're right that the basic elements we can see are, full bodice/high or boatneck, covered buttons on the bodice, and self-fabric belt and buckle. Hard to tell if it has a midriff panel or not, but I think the bust/waist of the bodice are one piece. The skirt is not too full, looks like four pieces with a center front seam, probably for the placket if the buttons on the front are operational. The belt and skirt you can make up without a pattern, or add from other patterns, so let’s focus on the bodice. 

As for my pattern recommendations...

My first thought when I saw the pics was this pattern, Vogue V2960. My friend made it once, and it was sort of annoying and complicated with a bunch of steps modern sewers may not be used to, but it was super cute. You could cut the neckline however you wanted, using another pattern as an example. 

There’s also this one, Vogue V8577, which you could also modify in the neck area. 

 And, if you want to go the simple route, this Simpliticy Cynthia Rowley might actually be perfect for the bodice--Simplicity 2215.

 And, keep in mind that you can always add the button closure placket to any pattern, by adding several extra inches at the center front and cutting it on the selvage or a straight edge rather than the fold. It gets a little more complicated with lining treatments etc. Although you also could just add a row of buttons to the front of any dress to get the look, if you’re looking for something easy! In which case I’d recommend one of my fave patterns, Simplicity 2444.

Hope that helps! Readers, have you seen the perfect pattern?  Any great ideas for Katharine in her quest?  Chime in!



Weekend reading--the best kind!

What have you been up to this weekend?  Lucky me, I've had some lovely light weekend reading to do...

I've wanted Grace Bonney's Design*Sponge at Home since it came out last fall.  I should have gone to one of the signings, like at West Elm here in Portland... oops.  I met Grace once at an event at a cute boutique here, and have been reading her blog for ages!  And, in one of my proudest moments, I even had a DIY project featured on Design*Sponge!)

So I was so excited when the book came out.  I asked for it for Christmas, but didn't get it, so I treated myself the other week.  I ordered it online and... it came...

It's beautiful!!

I was shocked at how heavy it was!  It's like a real textbook or something!  But, the coolest textbook ever!

This weekend I finally got around to poring through it, and did a lot of sitting around and drinking tea while reading.  I put little flags on my favorite pages.  Wanna see my fave sections and projects??

The book is divided into five sections: Sneak Peeks (my fave! Like they have online, hometours of some very cool, stylish, creative homes):

There's also DIY projects...

And DIY basics, which all of you readers know, I'm sure!

And a section on flower-arranging, about which I know virtually nothing... gotta learn someday, though!

And my other fave section, Before + After!  I love the Before + Afters on Design*Sponge, and here are some of the best ones in the book!

It got me even more antsy for finding a house!  We're still house hunting and have an offer out on a short sale, but aren't holding our breath.  But I'm so anxious to move into a place we can call our own!  I wanna paaaaaiiiint.... aaaaaaaah!!!!

I'm so used to browsing decor ideas online, and pinning things, that it was nice to flip through a real book.  I started collecting design ideas in a binder, years ago, but now things are digital.  But hey--what about you?  Where do you go for design inspiration?  Have you read the Design*Sponge book yet, or any other great decor books?



How to Wear DIY: A red skirt and a winter nautical look

Every January I ooh and aaah over the nautical looks that pop up at stores after the fall colors.  It's so nice to see fresh, bright, contrasty looks like navy, red, white... and some fun icons like the occasional anchor.  And some luggage tan shoes and accessories, and maybe a fisherman's sweater.  The look is so classy and classic, very J.Crew or Land's End Canvas, although I saw some great stuff in this flavor last time I was at Old Navy, too.  Oohhh, I love it!!

(If you follow me on Pinterest you know I love my stripes...)

So now that it's not freeeeeezing all the time anymore, I was excited to pull out this skirt that I made a while back, and add some stripes and other pieces!

It's been in the 40's and 50's this week, which is amazing!  Not sure how long it will last... but this week, the weather was right for this outfit.

It's not THAT warm, though.  I did add an Oregon winter touch... some navy tights and tall riding boots.  Without boots I would, like, die. They are seriously essential this time of year!

Tee: Old Navy. Jacket and necklace: Target. Belt: Vintage.
Boots: Fred Meyer. Earrings: ? Skirt: DIY!

Here's to more 40 and 50 degree days!  (We've been on flood watch this week and last week, too... but during the sun breaks, it's been gorgeous).  Do you start doing the resort wear/nautical look in January, too?

P.S. This was my first take on playing with color and lighting in Photoshop--cut me some slack--I'd love to hear what you think, but be nice, k? =)



Clothing sizes are weird. But so are the fits on patterns!

Clothing sizes are weird--I know that's like the understatement of the decade.  But let's talk about clothing (and pattern) sizes.

I've complained before how commercial pattern sizes are not only different than what we expect from storebought clothing, they are also meant to fit terribly.  IMHO.  I've even done a Sewing Circle on how to pick the right pattern size.  But I read an article on Hello Giggles the other day about clothing sizes for store bought clothing, with a lot of good points and sources on the background.  There was a recent NPR story about how stores have their own special sizing (we knew that, if we've ever compared Gap to Target to J.Crew or Forever 21 or anything...), and about the history of standardized sizing.

I knew this from what my professional dressmaker-mother has told me, but sizes were standardized (6, 8, 10, and so on) during WWII.  Measurements were taken on young women, who were paid a small fee... many of these were poor 18-year-olds, so of course they were smaller than we are today.  Here's more of the story:

"During 1939 and 1940, about 15,000 American women participated in a national survey conducted by the National Bureau of Home Economics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture…A technician took 59 measurements of each volunteer, who was dressed only in underwear.Volunteers were paid a small fee for participating…The purpose of the survey was to discover key measurements of the female body…and then to propose a sizing system based on this discovery."

Stores can change their sizes all they want, so we've gotten used to our 2012, well-fed American sizes.  But, what does this mean for us, me and you readers of this blog??  Many of you sew your own clothes.  I've been dealing with picking the right pattern size for some years, and I've got a system down for my fave patterns--but the stakes are high when you're cutting into fabric and putting your time into something, and you really want your project to turn out.

Sewing your own clothes and picking the right size = kinda a bigger deal than trying on clothes at a store and picking a size.  But I've sort of worked out my system for doing this!

The short of it?  In patterns, and according to the standardized sizing of 1940, I wear a size 12.  In stores, I wear a size 2.

Well--My measurements say I would be a size 12 in patterns, but unfortunately it's not totally a science, because while patterns use standardized sizing, one dress may be meant to fit differently than another.  Some patterns will tell you the wearing ease of the finished garment, and you can decide if you want yours to be that loose.

Like, look at the girl in the green dress on the cover of Simplicity 2444, which has recently become one of my fave patterns.

And look how I wanted this dress to fit on me, the first time I made it!(skirt from a vintage pattern)

To get that fit, I did not make the size the pattern would have had me make.  Srsly, check out my Sewing Circle post about how to pick a pattern size, but also...

Think about the style of garment you're making, and assume that Simplicity or Butterick or even Vogue plans for it to fit generously on you.  Clearly, this:

Should fit more loosely than this:

But duh; they're totally different dresses with different silhouettes--but you get what I mean.  Some patterns, you want to fit like a glove, and others are meant to be roomy (at least in some places).

But you think, well, if it's too big, it's easier to make it smaller than bigger, right!?

Well, sort of.  But, it's really frustrating when you cut out a pattern and to be safe you cut out a 10 cuz it says you're a 12, but it's HUGE and the bodice front is so wide it cuts into your arms, and the only way to make it smaller would be to take in the center front, and make a seam down it!  Which would be a totally different style of dress than the original!  So you have to measure the pattern pieces and plan ahead.  Check out that Sewing Circle post.

On a pattern that you want to fit closely, be really careful.

Sad story, recent project--not really paying attention, I cut out a skirt from this pattern, which I hadn't used before: skirt D of Simplicity 2343.

Normally (and OMG don't try this at home!), I check my measurements on the pattern, which tells me I'm about a 12, and I cut out an 8 and it's HUGE.  Don't try this at home.  I'm not advocating cutting out two sizes smaller than the pattern recommends.  I would feel terrible if you wasted your fabric.

But anyway, I cut this out and made it 90% of the way and assembled the backs to front, and tried it on and realized the side seams were like 2" past the center of my hips, I swear.  Enormous.  Gotta either take them in a ton, which might change the shape, or make a seam down the center front.  Because that skirt, view D, was meant to fit snugly!  Not roomy--it's a pencil skirt!  It would look terrible baggy!

But I digress.  A lot in this wordy post.

All I really wanted to talk about was... sizing is weird but it's not just the size, also the FIT.  (Be careful before cutting into your fabric, or make a muslin first or use some cheap fabric you don't care about, or draft your own patterns that fit you perfectly).

Have you had frustrations in the past, with things fitting more snugly or loosely than you wanted?  What do you do to make sure you get the right size, for patterns and shopping?



A three-hour dress. I like to get creative.

A three-hour dress could be a bad thing, I realize.  But this one I'm really happy with!

I bought this simple rayon print at JoAnn on clearance, I think $1.50 a yard cuz it was half off the clearance price of $3 or $5/yard.  I love the black/warm brown/navy/pink/red color combo!  I wanted something relatively loose, a dress, not a top, but I was originally thinking a dolman sleeve or open sleeve.  But I didn't have any patterns that were quite close enough, so I used this old standby.

Simplicity 2497--I've used it a million times but I never make it like the pictures on the cover show.  This time, I didn't do the waistband and instead zigzagged some elastic to the seam allowance pressed up, and I made it shorter.  I  used the sleeves from view A and the rest was more like view C, although shorter.  Since I had elastic instead of a waistband, I didn't need a zipper in the back so it just pulls over the head!

Click for the rest of the story after the jump!

I know, it looks a little droopy hanging on the hanger... that's how rayon drapes, ya know.

I gave it a bias binding on the neck and sleeves, of some black china silk.  After working on heavy cottons and wools and knits this winter, this project was SO much easier to press.  OMG.  Like, barely any heat on the iron, and both fabrics did exactly what I asked.  Sweet.

It's pretty fun to wear--lightweight and comfy, but not bare or anything.

I'm hoping this will transition from winter to spring, cuz it's a lightweight fabric but dark color.  For now, I'm thinking I'll need to wear it with dark tights or leggings, and maybe boots!  What would you do??

P.S.!  OMG!  I posted this this morning, but while perusing ModCloth this evening I saw this dress...

Very similar, am-I-right?!!?  It's also a lot like these (also ModCloth) cuties...

Always nice when you can back up your assertions, right?  My point: this style of dress is cute.  ModCloth proved it for me ;)!



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