Category Archives: Books

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

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I don’t make much menswear (yet), but when I saw the exciting announcement that Thread Theory was opening an online supply shop for menswear and general sewing materials (which is now live), I got to thinking about children’s books with sewing in them.  Morgan (the owner) said that she was stocking one such book, and I suggested one of my own favorites:  Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

In our house, we have a lot of children’s books…but they don’t all belong to my children.  Most of them do, but a few are mine and can only be used with permission.  These are books with illustrations and/or stories that I love for various reasons.  When I discovered this book, I was entranced by the super cool cutouts that led from one page to another (and also appear on the dust jacket, which I didn’t photograph).  I didn’t really sew at the time that I got it, but I made a lot of things, and I love clever and surprising art.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

As I thought through my books, I realized something that is BEYOND OBVIOUS to me now that I have noticed it.  This is the PERFECT book for anyone who sews and anyone who refashions or makes do (or wants to secretly indoctrinate their children in the ways of sewing and making do–you know who you are!).

The story in this book starts out with a man with an overcoat.  It gets old.  It gets worn out.  Rather than tossing it or donating it and buying a new coat, he cuts off the bottom and makes it into a jacket.  When this begins to wear, he makes it into something else.  He goes on and on reusing and changing up the garment, until…

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

SPOILER ALERT–don’t read on unless you are ok with knowing how this book ends!!!

He loses the last little bit of it.  What will he do now?

Write a book about it!

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

This is such a creative, inventive story, both on the level of the character in the story and on that of the author and illustrator himself.  The copy I have is a second take on his original version (which I haven’t seen), and it’s just brilliant.  I don’t know the author.  I don’t get a kickback from telling you about this.  I just think this is the best book for those who love handmade, and I think the kids in your life will love it as well.  There is even a song about the story printed in the back for extra fun.  Check it out from your library and see what you think!

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (and Other Interesting Stuff)

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I’ve got a fun book to share today.  Hunt, Gather, Cook:  Finding the Forgotten Feast by Hank Shaw has made it to my house from the library twice, if not more.  The very best how-to books, in my opinion, give you the feeling, “It’s possible!”, whatever the “it” is that you are learning about.  This cookbook/foraging guide by Hank Shaw is exactly that kind of book.  I also love a good back story for recipes, and this book often gives you not a brief description, but a true (and interesting) back story.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

As you might expect, he talks about foraging for certain plants, but he also gives you pointers on how to get started if you want to clam, fish, or hunt, and then what to do with all that you collect.  While Shaw grew up on the East Coast, he’s lived throughout the USA and now lives on the West Coast, so his experience with wild food covers a broad range of places and environments.  Check out his blog, Honest Food, and you can keep up with him and his adventures.

Here are some images from Hunt, Gather, Cook.

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

Hunt, Gather, Cook by Hank Shaw (Pattern and Branch blog)

Thanks to Hank, I tried my first rose hips this year, since the very roses that he mentions in the image above grow all over our beach here.  The first try was bland, but the second was better.  Now I’ll have to try more!  If you have a food-lover in your life, you may want to encourage them to check out this book.  It’s a very interesting read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Now for some more fun things to check out!

  • For more foraging information, try out my two current favorite pure foraging books.  (These are not cookbooks, but they do give you some guidance in that area.):  The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden both by Samuel Thayer.  This guy is smart, experienced, but also adequately cautious when it comes to wild food.
  • What if you love food, but hate the wild (or would rather grow your food instead of search for it)?  Try The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy.  This is such a fun book for garden planning.  Most years I use it to try out one or two new edible flowers, just to keep things interesting.
  • You know how some people have “twins” that they aren’t really related to?  In college there was a girl that people always confused me with.  She was actually awesome at sports I did not or no longer played, so it was nice to get compliments meant for her, even though I had to disillusion people afterward and tell them I hadn’t played basketball since high school.  (Also, I was a bench warmer.  I made two points my freshman year of high school.  It was my 15 minutes of fame.)  While the two of us resembled one another, it was NOTHING like the resemblance between actor/comedian Will Ferrell and drummer Chad Smith.  I think these guys were separated at birth.  Want to see it?  Here is their “drumoff” on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”.  If you choose to watch this clip, though, you should probably watch Will Ferrell’s famous cowbell sketch first, just to be fully prepared. 

    And now here is the drumoff (and the shocking “twinness” of these two men):

Have a good weekend!

Try It: Learn about Clamming

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Two summers ago, I got my first recreational clamming license.  I really wanted to learn to forage, but I was nervous about teaching myself.  I also felt like I needed a little guidance if I wanted to learn to fish, but I thought I might be able to learn to clam.  Why clamming?  Well, this part of New England is pretty big on clams, so it seemed like a good way to learn more about the place I now call home, and I thought it would be fun.  Why not?

The only problem was, I didn’t actually know any clammers, despite the fact that it’s a big industry around here.  (We even have a Shellfish Constable.  Isn’t that the coolest?)  So, I turned to books and the internet.  Just in case you share the same interest (You were probably hoping I would post on this, right?), I thought I would point you toward the resources I used to get started.

First up:  The Compleat Clammer by Christopher R. Reaske.

The Compleat Clammer

This book is an interesting read on more than just clams (as you can see from the book cover).  It tells you about clams and other shellfish, where and how to find them and how to “catch” them (it’s not like they really run away, but they do dig), and how to prepare them for eating afterward.  It also has an interesting trivia section.  Here are a few pictures from the book:

The Compleat Clammer

The Compleat Clammer

The Compleat Clammer

This was a great book for learning about the different tools I would need both for clamming and in the kitchen.  It was also really interesting.

Next up:  Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them by Curtis J. Badger.  While The Compleat Clammer is written by a New Englander, Clams is written by a Virginian.  It was great to get a bit of a look at clamming in another part of the country.  While much of the information in the two books overlaps, every region has slight differences, so I say, read widely and learn as much as you can!

Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them

Clams gives good strategies for those with and without a boat as well as interesting history and lots of good recipes.

Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them

Clams:  How to Find, Catch and Cook Them

I also spent time on Google and YouTube looking for clamming and cooking videos.  One of the most helpful, was this one on “How to Open Clams” by Rich Vellante of Legal Seafoods.

I also had to learn about tides and how they worked (Google it!) and read the town’s shellfish laws.  No illegal clamming for me!  It was a fun learning experience, but the part I love the most is being outside, knowing the beach and ocean better, and being able to bring home treasures for my family that we can actually eat!  It’s so cool!

If you have the chance, I hope you try it.  And don’t worry!  More information on clamming will follow.  I’m sure you were worried, but you don’t have to be any more.  😉

A Mystery…

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While going through some old books, I came across this book that I’d read and saved from my childhood:

A Mystery! (Pattern and Branch)

Illustration by Jon Nielsen

I can’t remember the plot of the book, but what I really like is this cover picture.  My husband and I started to reimagine the story that went with it:

Donna Parker:  Who are you?  What are you doing here?

Intruder:  I, uh, um….

Donna Parker:  Wait a minute!  What…?  Are you…?  Are you doing the DISHES?!!!!

Intruder:  No!  I…Of course not!  I’m a man!  Men don’t do dishes!  I was, uh, fixing your blinds!

Donna Parker:  Where are all the dishes I left when I stepped out?

Intruder:  I don’t know!  Someone else must have broken in before me and done them!  You know, there have been a lot of these do-gooder break-ins lately.  I’ll just be going now.

Donna Parker:  You can’t fool me!  You have DISHPAN HANDS!  Have you been using my hand-softening dishsoap?!

Intruder:  I TOLD you!  I don’t wash dishes!  I just used it to wash my hands.  Is that a little old lady who needs help crossing the street?  Gotta go!  ‘Bye!

Donna Parker:  Where did those flowers on the window-sill come from…???

Full disclosure:  My husband washes dishes even more than I do, so I know men wash dishes.  We thought our version made a pretty great mystery for Donna Parker, though.  What do you think is going on in this picture?

Note-taking 2.0

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How do you learn and remember things?  There are supposed to be all kinds and styles of learning…visual, auditory, etc., etc.  I’m not really sure what type I am, but I do know that writing things down helps me remember.  Whether or not I ever go back to those notes, the act of writing helps cement them in my mind.

Some time ago, my husband and I read that studies have shown that people who doodle while listening retain more.  Well, this was all I needed to hear.  I had often doodled, but now we started being a bit more intentional about it, occasionally adding little images to our notes or just drawing while listening.

Recently I saw something about a new book called The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde.  Well, I was intrigued, and I requested it from my library so I could see what it was all about.  You know when you find an idea, and it all just clicks?  It’s like someone has taken your nascent or half-formed thought and fleshed it out in the perfect way.  That was how I felt when I looked through this book.

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde via Pattern and Branch

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde

Actually, the truth is, it took me awhile to look through the book, because my husband was so intrigued that he snagged it first and read through the whole thing…and loved it.  It’s an easy and quick read because a lot of the information is in…you guessed it…sketch notes.  Mike Rohde put a name to all the “doodles” that so many people draw to illustrate their notes and then took it to the next level by intentionally making his notes a combination of graphics, type, textures, and symbols.  He listens for the big ideas and those that resonate with him and then converts them into this more visual form of note taking.

He also makes it accessible for everyone.  I studied art in college, but I am not great at drawing people.  He addresses that–it’s not about art, it’s about recording ideas.  My husband has no art training at all, but he creates great sketchnotes.  In fact, both of us are more excited about note taking than we have ever been.  We go to church on Sundays and listen to sermons and Sunday School classes, and occasionally we’ll go to a talk at a college, grad school, or (in my case) an art gallery.  We’ve become excited to write down ideas and compare our sketchnotes afterward.

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde via Pattern and Branch

One of the things that I really appreciate is that Mike Rohde gives you ideas and strategies to learn to take notes in this way if you have never done it before, as well as illustrations from professional designers, so you can see what is possible.

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde via Pattern and Branch

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde via Pattern and Branch

Even if your life doesn’t involve listening to lectures, sermons, talks, or panels, you can use these principles in your day-to-day life for writing down contact information, dates and appointments, or lists of to-do items.  It’s a great way to remember better and have more fun with information.  In fact, I think it could easily go beyond recording information and also generate new ideas.  I guess it’s sort of like going down a note taking version of the rabbit hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  You never know what to expect, but you can be sure it will be interesting.

Project Day!

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Project Day!

Today was project day.

Project Day!

Drinking coffee and getting to work

I usually reserve Monday mornings for blogging and for projects, but often it’s just the blogging and maybe some photography that happens.  When I planned out my time to start this blog, I found little pockets where I could write posts, but still haven’t found my rhythm for continuing to make new work, write posts, and take care of my family.  This year is for attempting to figure some of that out.

I realized that I was sort of stuck with my creative projects.  There was one that had me stumped, and when that happens I tend to avoid working on things.  It sort of feels like a roadblock to getting anything done.  My roadblock was some vintage pants I was altering.  So, after gathering advice and thinking about the problem for a long time, I decided to take the easy way out so I could get them done and move on.

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The pants in question

I got these pants pre-kids and, even then, they were snug.  In fact, they met their demise when I wore them one day, sat down, and split the butt seam.  (Luckily, I was on my way home, so I didn’t have to figure out a creative fix at work.)  Anyway, in the end, I decided to let out the seams, but that meant that my waistband was now too short.  I tried adding an extension to it, but it wasn’t quite long enough, and there were some other reassembly problems that I ran into.  That was when I decided that the most important thing was being able to wear them again.  So, I finished the top edge with single-fold bias tape that I already had, which also makes the waist less high and more comfortable for me.

Here they are!

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Wearable again!

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It’s so nice to have these wearable again, just in time for the colder side of fall and the coming of winter.  They were, I think, originally meant to be ski pants, so they are made of handwoven wool from Ireland, and are lined inside.  I won’t say they are the most slenderizing pants out there, but I love that blue on blue check, and that they are warm and cozy.  I also think fashion is more fun if it’s just a little bit weird.  🙂

The pants were the only project that got finished (well, I fixed a hole in a jacket, so I guess that got finished, too).  The other two projects are in-progress.

I have a little bit of a long-sleeved shirt shortage, so I’m trying to alter some shirts I got last winter to fit better.  These two are going to be sewn together and then reverse appliqued a la Alabama Chanin.

Project Day!

You can see the other shirt where I folded up one of the sleeves.  Both shirts came from Lands’ End.  They are basic t-shirts and are the same style.  Both are inside out and safety pinned to one another so they can be sewn together.

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Here is a detail after sewing.  I used the t-shirt/bolero back pattern piece from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin as my guide for the side seams.  I laid it over the pinned shirts and used chalk to trace around it.  Where the side seam touched the armhole, I tapered to the wrist opening (you can sort of see that above).  Once the two shirts were sewn together, I cut off the excess fabric.  Next, I’ll work on doing the reverse applique.  I’ve made a lot of the patterns from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design as basics in only one layer of fabric to test them out (although I have been using my machine, rather than hand-sewing them….I hope Natalie wouldn’t be disappointed 🙂  ).  I’ve really come to love and trust her patterns and working with knits, which I was always afraid to do before I discovered the Alabama Chanin books.

The other project I worked on was a muslin (test garment) for a shirt pattern I’m developing.  I mentioned before that I had gone through Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch.  While I’m starting to get the basic ideas, I still need a lot of practice.  I’ve made a button down shirt pattern before, but wanted to make another pattern and then make some variations from there.  This is the test garment for the initial pattern.  Here it is so far:

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I found a cute sheet to use as my muslin fabric at the thrift store, so I’m hoping that even if this isn’t perfect, it will still be wearable and I’ll get two shirts out of the process.  Once I put the cuffs on, I think I can try it out.  I’m not great at fitting and transferring my corrections to my pattern, but I’ve been reading up on it, so I need to give it another try.  I loved the first shirt that I made, but it wasn’t fitted as well as it could have been.  It’s all progress, right?

Hopefully I’ll make some good headway on these projects sooner rather than later so I can share them with you as they get finished.  I’m looking forward to showing you how they turn out!

Book Love: King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

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Book Love:  King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

Today we’re going to look at one of my favorite cookbooks.  I have many cookbook loves, but one of my all-time favorites is King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains.  

Book Love:  King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

Before I had even heard of the book and movie Julie and Julia, I discovered this book and decided that I needed to try every recipe because they all looked so good.  It may take me 10 years, but eventually I’ll try them all.

This was one of the first cookbooks that I decided to take notes in.  I don’t always remember things well and I knew I would forget the little discoveries I’d made in each recipe as well as which optional ingredients I had or hadn’t used.

I also wanted notes in the book for whoever used it after me.  How many beloved family recipes do we have?  Wouldn’t they be all the dearer for some notes on exactly how to make each one from the person who first brought the recipe to the family?  In some ways, these notes become a love letter to my family and future family as I record our favorite recipes.  I even include things like when I tried a recipe and for what occasion.

Recently, I decided to cook through the doughnuts section of the book (Are you sensing a doughnut theme?  I’m starting to.  Should I be troubled by this?).  I had never fried anything in oil before.  My first batch wasn’t stellar, but they started to improve as I made more.  They also improved when I discovered that cast iron isn’t the best frying container.  (Thanks, Jo-Alice!)  Actually, the last time I used our cast iron skillet, I sloshed some oil over and inadvertently started little grease fires which luckily did not turn into a big grease fire (but could have with the pool of oil I didn’t realize was still under the stove burners).  Now I fry with this close at hand.

Safety first!

Safety first!

Anyway…….by the time I took these pictures, I was on batch number four of my doughnut experiments.  I’m totally an expert now!  (Why are you laughing?)

I tried out the recipe for Yeast-Raised Beignets.  Here’s a little look at the process:

Book Love:  King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

the dough

Book Love:  King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

cutting the dough

Book Love:  King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

putting the beignets in the oil to fry

Book Love:  King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

frying in progress

Book Love:  King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook

beignets cooling and ready for a glaze or a dusting of sugar

All in all, these turned out well and everyone seemed to really like them.

This book is always an education.  It has detailed information on all the different whole grains used in the various recipes.  Since I’ve begun baking from it, I’ve learned that I love spelt flour and oat flour more than whole wheat, and that whole wheat’s bitterness can be tamed with orange juice.  It has helped me make doughnuts, scones, cinnamon rolls, waffles, and even simple syrup (think coffee shop flavorings).  Today I’m trying out a blueberry pie from the book for a birthday party tonight.

If you are ready for an adventure, I’d suggest checking this book out from the library and giving it a try.  You’ll open up a whole new world of baking.

You CAN make your own leggings!

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You CAN make your own leggings!

Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified by Cal Patch

When I was growing up and had just enough sewing skills to be dangerous (read:  knotting up my mother’s machine and messing up projects that I then begged her to fix for me), I always wanted to sew without a pattern.  You hear stories about people who can do that (my great-grandmother, for one), but if you are a basic, everyday American sewer, you don’t see it a lot.  Any time I would sew from a commercial pattern, I would mess something up (actually, that still happens, but it’s happening less as I practice more).  Then I started to read the blogs of people who made their own patterns.  MAGIC!  How does this happen?!  That’s when I discovered Cal Patch’s book Design-It-Yourself Clothes:  Patternmaking Simplified.

This is a great beginner book for learning to draft patterns.  It completely changed the way I went into Anthropologie (just as an example).  Instead of lamenting the fact that I didn’t have an endless amount of money to buy whatever I wanted, I started to study silhouettes and shapes of clothing and think, “I could make that!”  (By the way, this is a really useful phrase if you want to buy a lot of stuff, but can’t.  If you COULD make it, you don’t have to buy it.  It doesn’t mean you ever WILL make it, but once you feel like you COULD, it gets you off the hook and you can walk AWAY from the leather leggings or the hot pink cuckoo clock–that WAS what you were after, right?)

When I finally decided to go through the book, I made a comment on Cal’s blog, and she e-mailed and told me about a few draft-alongs happening on other blogs.  A little accountability and someone else working through the glitches can really help when you are in new creative territory, so I followed along and did the projects.  It completely changed sewing for me.  Now the sun was starting to shine into the “black box” of patternmaking and I could begin to see how things worked.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I found that Cal had written a tutorial on how to draft your own leggings on the etsy blog about a year ago.  I found some clearance fabric at Joann Fabric, and gave it a try.  My first attempt was definitely off.  The back was low and I had a few extra inches of fabric, so I went back a few more times and kept working on it, until I got a pattern that I thought would work.  And finally…SUCCESS!

Self-drafted leggings

In order to get things just right, I went to a few other resources.  Because the drafting instructions are for beginners, they don’t have a lot of confusing information on fine-tuning, which is great.  However, if you need to fine-tune, you’ll have to look in a few other places.  My main sewing reference is Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing circa 1976/1978.  I found this used online for a couple of dollars.  I think I got the recommendation from Cal’s book.  I also bought the Spring 2013 issue of Threads magazine, which was a best of Threads issue specifically covering fitting.  In the end, after some chopping and taping, my pattern looked like this:

Leggings pattern

Once I was pretty sure I had it right, I recut my leggings and tried them on…and they fit!  It was so exciting!

From my extremely limited drafting experience, I’ve found it easier to sew from the patterns I’ve drafted than from commercial patterns.  My trouble with commercial patterns, I chalk up to my own inexperience, but it really is easy to sew from the patterns you make.  Three seams, and these are assembled.  Add a waistband and maybe hem the bottoms, and you are done!

Self-drafted leggings

leggings: drafted and sewn by me; tuxedo shirt: Pierre Cardin, thrifted; jacket: Original Alphorn Trachten, gift/thrifted

If you are interested in sewing and learning to make your own patterns, here are a few blogs with lots of exciting projects, some that you can try, and some that will inspire you:

  • Sew Country Chick  Justine’s blog is the one I followed as I went through Cal’s book.  She has designed costumes, kids’ clothes, and adult clothing.  She also covers crafts, decorating, and more.
  • Esther-fromthesticks  This blog is beautiful and inspiring.  Esther is a young designer studying at Savannah College of Art and Design.  Check out her prom dress and bathing suit drafts to see what you can aspire to.
  • Male Pattern Boldness  Peter Lappin is constantly sewing and trying new things, which he shows you step by step.  His blog is funny and thought-provoking.
  • The Selfish Seamstress Elaine only wants to sew if she gets to keep the finished product, something I can totally relate to.  She does her own versions of designer pieces and, while she is selfish, she occasionally throws out a free pattern.
  • Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing  Gretchen Hirst is an amazing seamstress and pattern designer with a vintage flair.  She’s also the author of Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing.  She’s a great resource if you want to learn to take your sewing up a notch or if you just like to look at vintage-inspired designs.

This ought to get you started.  If you are feeling intimidated, you should know that at one time, these people didn’t know how to do this either.  If they can learn, you can, too!  If you run across any other amazing and interesting resources, let me know!

Color. What’s in Your Paintbox?

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Color.  What’s in Your Paintbox?

Do you ever think that you can’t love non-fiction?  Have you ever thought history should be interesting, but often isn’t?  Maybe you haven’t, but these were thoughts I have had in my adult life.  I tried and failed to read numerous non-fiction books, but hadn’t made it through them.  “I’m only cut out for literature,” I told myself.  And, while I knew I ought to learn more history (art history, American history, world history), it wasn’t very appealing.  Then I picked up this book.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

Color:  A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay is a look at where colors have come from throughout history.  Have you ever considered how such ingredients as…PEE…or…BUGS went into colors historically (and still might!)?  You think I’m kidding, but I’m not!  Finlay travelled the world to find out  where we’ve gotten the colors we use to paint, dye fabric, color our Coke.  Wars over color?  Yes.  Danger?  You know it!

Now, I’ll admit it’s been a few years since I’ve read this, and I tend to forget books after a bit, but I always recommend this one.  No one is paying me to say this, and I don’t work for amazon, but it’s an interesting read, one you can most likely find at your library.  It just might convince you to read more history and non-fiction in general.  Hopefully it will inspire you.  Actually, I should reread it myself.

“Let’s start at the very beginning…” with a dress

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“Let’s start at the very beginning…” with a dress

Hello, Blogland!  And welcome, Readers, to Pattern and Branch.  Let’s get started!  I hope that we can inspire each other to new acts of creativity, artwork, and craftsmanship.  I look forward to meeting you.  If you’d like to know a bit more about me and the focus of the blog, you can visit my About page.

For our inaugural post, I thought I would share with you my latest project, which took me several months to complete:  a dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding.  The challenge I gave myself was to create a party-style dress out of a completely different fabric than what was called for, hopefully adding comfort, flexibility (thanks to knit fabric), and a unique touch.  This garment came about through several of my recent influences and interests, specifically The Party Dress Book by Mary Adams, where I got my pattern, and the Alabama Chanin books, where I found many of the techniques I used (Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design).

"Let's start at the very beginning..." with a dress

For the bodice, I used three layers of fabric to add stability and also so that I could do more than one layer of reverse applique.  Originally, I had in mind a coral motif, but after several revisions, I found my inspiration in a shirt I saw fabric designer Anna Maria Horner wearing on a pattern instruction video.  I decided to decorate the bodice piece by piece so that it could be “finished” at whatever point I ran out of time.  In the future, I may add more details to the dress.

"Let's start at the very beginning..." with a dress

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"Let's start at the very beginning..." with a dress

Party dress (detail:  beading and reverse applique)

The skirt is two layers since I had planned (or at least wanted the option of) an all-over design.  There was some unforseen stretching of the underlayer after construction, but when it’s on, you don’t really notice it.  The dress feels heavy to hold, but is comfortable when worn.

At some point, the straps will have to be reworked.  I’m still learning a lot about grainlines in fabric.  I think the white knit that lies over the grosgrain ribbon needs to be cut in the opposite direction and redone.

So, the dress could be finished or could be a continuing work in progress.  After a few months of thinking, planning, constructing, and embellishing, I’m finished for the moment.  I’m really happy with how it turned out and have gotten several compliments.  My daughter loves the dress and always asks me to show off the “spin factor” (as my friends call it) of the circle skirt.  (This picture is right before I almost fell over after spinning myself into dizziness.)

"Let's start at the very beginning..." with a dress

“Spin factor”

Here is the not-so-secret best part:  this dress probably cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to make.  Know why?  It’s made out of sheets–knit sheets.  Incorporating a surprising element in a design is something I really enjoy.

I even found a cute vintage beaded purse to go with it.

"Let's start at the very beginning..." with a dress

Vintage beaded purse (front)

"Let's start at the very beginning..." with a dress

Vintage beaded purse (back)

What about you?  What are your current design influences?  What surprising elements do you like to add to your work?  I’d love to hear about them!