Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress
Yeah, so this happened.

While fabric shopping for fabrics I need, I occasionally find the fabric I “need”. And this, a lovely Tokyo Train Ride Lawn Octopus (Teal) by Cotton + Steel, certainly qualified. Isn’t it fabulous? Also, as a lawn: very very lightweight. A perfect summer dress!

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress
Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

As per usual, finishing is perfect: including an invisible zipper…

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

and vintage buttons from my stash.

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

For more, you can dilly-dally through my Flickr tagset, or read my pattern review, to know more. For now – let’s just sigh at my pretty young daughter in her pretty li’l dress!

Jury’s out on the quality of Cotton + Steel fabrics. I haven’t heard anything bad yet, and I haven’t researched. They certainly have some of the loveliest designs, at least to my aesthetic. This yardage wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last!

on being a tailor: #realness

Three sisters doing needlework on the verandah of their Toowong home, ca. 1918

The fiber arts are here to stay. I don’t want to hear one more blessed word about how “sewing is a dying art” and, “it’s too expensive to make clothes” when our entire retail and internetz worlds are scrote-deep in knitting, crochet and quilting books, blogs, magazines, craft fairs, and meetups.

I make garments. I mean – I can, and do, mess with that abovementioned stuff occasionally. But clothing is my forte. My beginning, middle and end. My alpha and omega. I don’t make clothing via mass-production or support my habit through any other social-media-saturated hustle, and it chaps my arse when people tell me I should.

Me? I am like many struggling tailors before me: educated first as a child in a lineage of home sewing, emboldened via experts and tuition for classes, and – most importantly – forged in the crucible of a whole, whole lotta trial and error, groping through books and other printed material, and mashing my way through acres of fabrics. And, it must be said: failing many, many times! #theStrugglesIsReal

In my world, sewing ain’t all that cute!

First, and foremost, you need to know I can obsess on garment design and construction like you might not understand. At any given moment I am probably creating at least one item, and planning about five more. In fact if you’ve ever spoken to me in person and you can tell I’m listening, you are speaking to me in a rare state where Kelly’s home. Enough said.

silence of the lambs

This drive has resulted in sometimes regrettable, epic battles at my machines. Where I sometimes lose.


I am only not sewing out of a barely-maintained modicum of social courtesy. There sure are an awful lot of meetings and gatherings where it would not be mindful or courteous participation if I brought my hand-sewing, so I don’t. Yes, I cry a little on the inside. But I try to focus on the task at hand.

And hey – what is all this shit about scissors? You’ll see this in a lot of “things to know about people who sew” top ten lists: don’t cut paper with our fabric scissors! tee hee!

But – really? My family doesn’t mess with my scissors. Maybe they know when it comes down to it, I will spend their grocery money on new ones!

Also: AS IF I don’t always have a set out being sharpened, and one or two pair at home ready to rock!


Stitcher’s kryptonite… it’s real. You know, something that I should avoid, but will lure me to my doom, every time. In my specific case, I have to make rules about when I allow myself to shop for wool tweeds. And I can’t pass by a vintage sewing machine selling for practically nothing at a local thrift store.


Yeah, I can get a little obsessive. Certain large-chain stores coupon schemes-I-mean-programs are an organizing factor in life. 

crazy eye

“Sew your own wardrobe!” is flippantly hailed (by non-sewists) as a way for plus-size women to finally have decent clothes. But: 

sewing didn’t solve my self-esteem issues… 

Thing is, I used to fly up my own rear end obsessing on fit. But the endless tweaking of pattern blocks can be a real red herring when what we’re often dealing with are body image problems and aspirational thinness-fantasy, which plague women mercilessly. I know a lot of sewists who make garment after garment for themselves – only to never be satisfied: making tweaks and adjustments and endlessly looking for “the right pattern”.


… except when it did!

The good news is, I stuck to it. I stopped kidding myself I liked styles that I didn’t like. I found some mentors built like me who love how they look and love to sew for themselves. And I think I got so tired of obsessing on my body’s supposed flaws and supportive undergarments and “flattering” patterns and stripes and shit that I just moved on.


Sewing is so much fun I want to share it – with everyone! After a while I got pretty good. And I found along the way that there are totally mean, snarky people out there who are forever talking trash about beginners and bloggers…


… but I don’t have to be one of them!


I’ve sewn for over thirty years. My experience in the craft has been full of successes, sure – but also so many, many mistakes, and regrettable choices…


that at a certain point, I started getting fearless.


I am no longer a perfectionist (although my pieces are often perfect – hey-oh!). I can take risks. I can cut into that fabulous yardage instead of saving it for a rainy day. If I’m not happy with the end result – I gift it to someone who will be. And for my pains, I have made a lot of garments which are either rockin’ it on my hot bod – or out there somewhere, making someone happy!

So yeah. Sewing as a Life Choice isn’t for the faint of heart. But I’ve stuck to it long enough that these days I sew exactly what I want, when I want

and I love it!

the dude


noticed I’ve been watching all these old films so YOU can be convinced to watch them TOO!

So like … Christopher Lee? Sneering his way around the place as a bony, condescending professor. OMG I think I’m in love!
City of the Dead (1960)

Um, a Japanese zombie/karaoke/claymation/horror/sweet family epic?

And an actually beautiful, romantic, stylish not-so-horror film:

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Some more Japanese nuttiness but I promise, way lowkey compared to Katikuris:

The Golden Bat (1966)

Then there’s a man in a big rubbery suit. HOW DARE U JUDGE ME

It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

It is lonely being a woman, in B-movieland. Not even kidding. Join meeeeee

a bend in the river

Take Me 2 The River
I live somewhere incredible. Only about twenty minutes from my house you find pristine waterways – with no one else there, even in 80-degree weather. It’s like a little bit of Paradise, and I grow fonder every year.

Above? That’s me after our trip. Nels probably has chocolate on his lip. My hair is two shades lighter than when I went in the water at noon! It was hot as Balls.

That said, today’s three-hour river-float down the Wynoochee (yes my lovelies from far far away – we have the best names where I live – especially for rivers!) – was also a lesson in anticipatory terrors. Most of these terrors were experienced last night while planning the trip: the fear I’d select the wrong leg of a river, and we’d end up (best-case scenario) having to squelch a few miles on foot, in our swimwear – or (worst-case scenario) drowning and/or skinned alive by an errant black bear or redneck murderer. I am an Adventurer in very specific ways, sure – but outdoor unknowns that involve the safety of my children? I’m more of a Planner. (or an Obsessive.)

So I did all the planning, and last-night’s worrying. This morning after Ralph and I take a brisk morning walk with our dog, we roll the kids out of bed and pack up five kinds of sunscreen. My husband makes up some food and secures some water, then straps our huge truck-sized inner tubes into the back of my mom’s old pickup.

And I resolutely ignore the silent pleas of my all-time-bro Hutch, who knows we are up to something fabulous. Maybe next time, li’l dude! (so many regrets!)

Finding our base and access points is easy – for the upstream put-in, a friend lets us park at her lovely place. We have the obligatory, run-into-a-super-local who says a bunch of cryptic stuff that makes me think we are going about the whole thing wrong.

Finally, we’re in the river. The water is cold, the sun is hot, and I am still a little worried. I mean we are talking crawdads, leeches, horseflies (seriously!), sunstroke or hypothermia (or ye Shit Gods, both!) if I’ve misjudged the right distance – and fishing hooks hiding in the riverbed! As well as: I am terrified of water that is over two inches deep and not crystal-clear (for obvious reasons).

So: the first forty minutes is a little edgy. For me. The river is about as low as it’s been in about a hundred years (no joke), so floating over the occasional deadhead is a little unnerving. My husband and I are sharing the largest of our tubes when we hit our first rough rapids; he immediately and inadvertently almost drowns my ass with his frantic scramble to avoid a nasty stump and branches snarl. He is apologizing as we are still flying around the bend to our doom and I am laughing uncontrollably at the transformation from placid meander to sudden deathfall, and I am angry at his mistake, and kind of stuck in both those places for a bit.

Ultimately we have a wonderful, trip, and a safe one, Saints be praised. We also met my friend’s donkeys (unbelievably sweet!) –

and after all of this, ran right into town for pizza and Pepsi, which after all that sun and water was more satisfying than can be expressed in words.

It was a beautiful trip, and just the right amount of time out on that river.

Maybe the best memory of the day is showing my daughter how to pull the straps down the swim top, to avoid strap tan lines. Maybe the best memory is knowing my kids will remember our trip the rest of their lives.

Summer? It’s a little different.

More, please.

On Like Donkey Kong

only a little

Today I spent some time in an in-depth mentoring session, then gave blood, then ran my mom over across town for errands, then got my ass to yoga, then went to a meeting. On top of the kidcare and housecare and petcare. I’m beat.

Post-Blood Donation

It’s been a very busy summer. But a beautiful one.

Walking Buddy
Moral Support
I have these ethereal beings in my life and I don’t want to spend one moment of the day forgetting this.

i can’t give you anything but love! – in silk

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
I have put together three patterns from Bootstrap Fashion in the last couple weeks, and I am impressed. For those stitchers not yet in the know, Bootstrap uses algorithms to craft a custom pattern. You measure yourself, plug your body’s specs into their fields, and receive a pattern via PDF – in whatever printer width you require! (Um, joy!)

I wouldn’t go so far as to guarantee nothing will go wrong – but in three garments of varying levels of complexity – nothing has gone wrongThe sheath dress with asymmetrical draping shown here fit my daughter perfectly!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress

Most people would have a hard time sewing with this fabric. But treating the silk – and the lining – appropriately yields great results.

And I made a video – my first-ever! Check it!

So, there are many ways to work with silks and what non-sewists might call “fancy” fabrics – in fact, I’m enrolled in a Craftsy course on sheers. People will fiddle with starch- or gelatin-washes to get the fabric to behave in a more paper-like fashion. And I’ve done those things – with decent-enough results (although please note: not every fabric is starch- or gelatin-friendly and not everyone will want to use gelatin). Stabilizers (wash-away, tacky or non-tacky, etc) also can help – and y’all know I’m a huge fan of using those!

However I’ve found that superior silk and sheer results can be accomplished by a few guidelines:

1. selecting the highest-quality fabric you can afford (always! honor your craft!)
2. cut pattern pieces in a single layer – without folding, ever
3. cutting via rotary (so as not to lift the fabric) and using a sheet of paper under the fabric while cutting
4. making sure the fabric is entirely supported while cutting, sewing, serging, pressing, and interfacing (in other words – that it isn’t sagging off the table)
3. using the proper needle (usually a sharp, for a sheer woven)
5. not disturbing the garment pieces after cutting; sew them as soon as possible
6. sewing slowly! take your time to really love the experience!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
On that note: notice above, the edge I’m turning up to set a tailor’s tack. Like I said: paper works well for not just cutting, but handling. In this case, the static electricity of the paper under the fabric “glues” the fabric and keeps it from shifting while I apply these tacks. Using paper yielded pieces cut accurately and perfectly on-grain, so I was able to confidently underline with a rather annoying exciting fabric – a Bemberg rayon.

For the bodice: in every way except the neckline, the bodice is underlined. The neckline – which I created after stitching the shoulders of both shell and underlining – is stitched, graded, and understitched. Maybe you’ve asked – “but how do I get a beautiful invisible zipper installation, Black Dynamite?” Well I’ll tell you! You interface your shell, you serge-stitch that seam allowance together for a tidy 3/8″ (and hide the serge-tail at the neckline), and your zipper tape will hide the beautifully-finished seam! BOOM!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress

This dress pattern featured seamless cap sleeves. A baby hem was out of the question – the curve around the armscye wasn’t playing! Instead I cut 1 1/4″ bias strips and made enough length to comfortably finish both sleeves. I sewed staystitching at the seamline (3/8″ allowance), trimmed to 1/8″, then measured and finished the bias-strip binding via diagonal seam (in other words, made a tube of bias-strip). Then I pinned around the armscye, stitched, pressed, and carefully hand-tacked the bias fold to the underlining.

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
The hem – easy-peasy. I let the dress hang for a bit (keep in mind the asymmetrical draping of this dress will make a perfectly-behaved hem a bit of a challenge), then put the dress on my model – in her correct undergarments and heels –  and marked the hem, pinning the underlining to the shell. I then sewed 1/4″ from the marked hemline, trimmed off excess, finger-pressed, then flipped again to stitch a hem. Beautiful!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
For the belt, I used a pumice-colorway sateen and tore along the grain to get the perfect strip. I used a 7/8″ grosgrain to give body to the belt, and applied snaps in a colorway that matched the dress: (OH MY I am loving oyster/bone/pumice/etc colors this summer!)
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
And of course: a hand-crotcheted belt carrier – shown here at one of the dress’ two invisible zippers. Since I don’t like the look of a zipper in the skirt of a dress, and since this bodice is quite fitted at the waist, I needed another zipper:

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
I am not even lying that I owned that invisible zipper installation – with a cheesy plastic invisible zipper foot, too! I even installed the side-seam zipper in the side with the large gathers! #bigPimpin

The dress fit is amazing. The hand, drape, and breathability of the fabric is the loveliest I’ve seen in a while. I think I might have to make myself a dress like this – then wait to get asked to a summer wedding or formal event.

All told: a success!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress

brewing up stews / of cats’ mews

We are back to what seems, to me, one of the more idyllic ways to live – my husband off to work early in the morning, and I about my house, making coffee while the kids sleep. They sleep for hours and hours, unfettered by school’s schedule.

Busy as I am – currently making a video tutorial on a silk dress – when I hear them stirring I go sit on their bed, or crawl in for a bit.

This morning: “What was the deal…” my son asks, his brown body curled up with his back to me, “with witches?”

I ask him what he means.

“Why did people put them to death?” I can see he is troubled. I breathe. It hurts to think about.

I tell him what I know: men are afraid of women. So women with power affect them most of all. .”Witches” were independents: midwives, women who worked on their own or in some way did not meet cultural standards. So it wasn’t right, but some of these women were persecuted, tortured, and killed.

He asks if witches are real, though. I’m like – I don’t know. But my friend N____ is a witch. He asks, “How does that work?”

“It’s like religion. It’s very personal. So you can’t always go up to someone and ask them ‘how it works’.”

As we talk I feel his body, which had been curled up defensively, possibly a bad dream – I feel his body soften. He turns his cheek under my arm, and pulls me close. “You are so nice,” he says. “So lovely!”  Because it’s not that children can’t handle harsh reality. It’s that they aren’t meant to handle adults who don’t give shit, or adults who don’t commit to being the one to make it better.

I’m thinking how powerful it is to be a parent. I am almost never prepared for the responsibility.