Since we last spoke waaaaaay back in 2016, I’ve taken up a new hobby – beekeeping!

I had my first class last Saturday at Randall’s Island. I’ve lived most of my life in NY, but that was my first time on Randall’s Island and it’s really quite beautiful, if a bit isolated.

The class was informative and fun. I learned so much about our bee friends and how to build and maintain a hive. We also spent some time inspecting the hives on the roof of the building. Since it was chilly, we didn’t open any of the active hives, but we did look at some of the “unoccupied” ones. We’ll do another inspection later this month and in April, we’ll get the bees that will populate the hive this spring/summer. The new bees are being driven in from California. They’re fancy like that.

The whole process of beekeeping is fascinating. From how to choose a queen, to the division of labor in the hive, to how they build those elaborate honeycombs and produce honey. And they’re peaceful unless they feel threatened. I wish I’d known that bees are friendly because I spent most of my childhood running from any and all flying insects. In my defense, I grew up in Brooklyn so I considered insects wildlife.

Of course we also went over the dangers. A bee sting will be unpleasant to most people, but if you’re allergic, it could kill you. I’ve never been stung, but I doubt I’m allergic. I will, however, have to find out. I love honey, but not enough to die for it.

Speaking of which, a hive provides about 20lbs of honey so I was totally excited by the prospect of having alllll that honey –  from my own bees no less. I just need a place to build my hive. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a big, fat NO from my landlord so I have to find somewhere else.

I took quite a few pics, but for whatever reason, I can’t upload them. I will post them as soon as I can though.


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Adjusting Sleeve Lift on My French Jacket

So in my last post I talked about finally finishing my French jacket (or my Faux-nel jacket as I call it). I really tried not to nitpick, but, well, I just can’t let some things go. I keep pinning and marking it up because every time I fix one thing, I see something else. It’s been a struggle to get it to fit the way I want. The main problem areas are the shoulders and sleeves.

First, the shoulder seam is too long. It was about an inch past where it should’ve ended. So that had to be adjusted. That was the easy part.

The sleeves have been giving me the blues since the beginning. I have NO idea why the Big 4 pattern companies make armscyes large enough to hold a toddler, but that’s also my problem with V8804, the Claire Shaeffer pattern I’m using. Not only is the entire underarm baggy, I couldn’t lift my arm at the shoulder without the entire jacket moving. I could only raise my forearms comfortably and it made me feel like a T-Rex.

Enter Threads Magazine. (If you don’t have a subscription, you need one. Seriously.) They always have a bunch of sewing articles that I read and say “Interesting, but when is that ever going to come in handy?” Well finally that day came. I recently read an article about sleeve lift (basically the amount of mobility your sleeve allows when you lift your arm), but I couldn’t remember which issue it was in. Luckily the Google machine works 24/7 so I tracked it down.

My friend-in-my-head Kenneth King wrote a pretty detailed article about how to adjust a pattern or muslin to make the sleeve fit better. It’s counterintuitive, but to make the sleeve fit better, it needs to have LESS room, not more.

For whatever reason I can’t embed his video, but here’s the link explaining the theory behind making the armscye smaller.

He offers three solutions: 1. Add ease throughout (lower the armhole and extend the biceps line of the sleeve); 2. Reduce the sleeve cap height; or 3. Raise the armhole.

I chose number 3 because it seems like the best solution for the silhouette of this jacket. And according to KK, it results in a “Chanel-like sleeve with a high underarm and a relatively slim sleeve with maximum lift” which is exactly what I wanted.

So that’s the alteration I’m doing now. There’s a side panel instead of a side seam so I taped the pieces together so I could just draw one curve.


I added about 2-1/2 inches to the side panel (number 8) and tapered the line off to the other two pattern pieces. The red ink is to fix a line that wasn’t curvy enough.


Here are the finished pieces with seam allowance added to the side front and side back.


The other adjustment I’m working on is lengthening the sleeves because I’m just not a fan of bracelet length. Even when I was trying on the muslin, I just couldn’t get past how odd they look. So I added 5 inches so that the finished sleeve will end at my knuckles. And I’m going to flare them out a so they look like the ones from Tracey’s jacket below (the picture is from A Challenging Sew’s blog. Read the entire post here. Actually, go read the whole blog; she’s pretty amazing.)

I’ll be making yet another muslin tomorrow to fine tune the sleeves. Hopefully it’ll be my last and I can start cutting it out soon.


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One Down, One to Go

Two week ago, I finished my first Alabama Chanin corset top and I’m very, very happy with it. As you know, it took much longer than I anticipated, but it was well worth all the effort. Remember when I didn’t like the Cretan stitch for this top? Well I changed my mind again because the plainness of the Cretan stitch doesn’t distract from the rest of the top.

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I wore it this past weekend and it was sooo comfy. It also stretched a bit, but it still looked good.

Also, I finished most of my second corset top. (The pics are a bit overexposed, but I promise better next time. I’m still working on my photography skills.)

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I just have to do the binding (using the Rosebud stitch for this one). Then I’ll have two (!) corset tops to wear this summer.

Once I’m finished with the white top, I’ll finish the beading and binding on this beauty.


I have to tell you that while I was making these tops, sometimes I felt like they’d NEVER get finished. Still, it was a lot of fun sewing things completely by hand and refashioning old t-shirts into something beautiful. I still have a stenciled skirt to work on after these tops and then I’ll probably go back to my sewing machine (at least for a little while) before I tackle my next Alabama Chanin project; I’d really love to make a long dress with applique.

Corset Tops, Alabama Chanin Style

I started putting the binding on the collar of my first corset top and was about halfway around when I decided I didn’t like how it looks. I used the Cretan stitch with the dark blue thread (the white thread is basting the binding to the top.)



I didn’t like it because it was just too angular and didn’t fit in with the feminine look of the top. So I put it aside while I hunted for a curvier stretch stitch. Enter the Rosebud stitch. It took a while to learn because I couldn’t find clear written instructions or a video, but I finally got it. I’m going to continue practicing before I use it on the binding, but I think the overall effect will be much better.

In the meantime I started a white on white corset top made from a couple of t-shirts from my local thrift shop. I’m using the reverse applique technique, so it’s made of two layers of t-shirt knit.


One of the things I was concerned about was marking the fabric. I always had problems with leftover marks on white fabrics, then I found out that some quilters were using Frixion pens. I use a Frixion pen in my planner because it’s erasable, but I had no idea it could be used to mark fabric. When I tested it, it worked beautifully. And it disappears when you iron it. I swear it’s like magic. Now, I also read that if the fabric gets really cold (like freezer cold), the marks will reappear, but this is a warm weather top so I went for it. And if the marks do reappear, I’ll just iron it again.

I also decided to use embroidery floss instead of thread to outline the shapes (I think that’s why it took forever to finish the first one – millions and millions of tiny stitches.) So far I’ve finished 1 of the 8 panels and I did it in just a few hours while watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix. Yeah, I was seriously thrilled to see how much faster it goes with the embroidery floss.

So that’s what I’ll be up to this week: finishing the binding on the old corset top and the embroidery on the new. I’m pretty happy with my progress on both and, more importantly, I think my mojo may have finally returned just in time for spring!

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I feel like that friend that hasn’t called in forever, but then calls out of the blue and acts all cheery trying to deflect from the fact that they disappeared in the first place. Ugh. Awkward. But here I am.

Sure, I needed a break from blogging, but I didn’t think it would be this long. Truth is, I haven’t been doing much sewing lately. Okay, actually none except for a super simple stretch skirt last month. A lot has happened since my last post. Mostly good; some not so good, but I guess that’s life.

Initially I stopped because of my day job – video editing – but then I just couldn’t get motivated to make anything. I’d literally packed away my machine and every time I thought about sewing, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of having to set everything up again.
Now I have a couple of projects on my table. First up is the Alabama Chanin corset tank I started last fall. I finally dyed the cloth to make the binding and started stitching it on. When I tried it on a few months ago, it was so insanely tight that I could barely get into it. Once I got it over my head, it required a lot of wiggling, breath-holding and contortions to pull it down. And my efforts were not rewarded: it squeezed and flattened my D cups into a big round mass. It looked like I was trying to smuggle a loaf of peasant bread in my top. But now thanks to Shaun T, it fits – and creates perfect cleavage. Not too much, but enough to keep things interesting. I also have a black/charcoal skirt that I’ve been embroidering, but I may put it aside to work on another corset top. I really, REALLY want a white one now that I saw how great the blue one fits.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is a chiffon skirt that – for now – exists only in my head. I think I saw a polka dot maxi skirt on Pinterest or something, but I can’t find the picture. The one I’m imagining is damn fabulous – a large circle skirt that billows in the breeze behind me. I might even hire someone to follow me around with a fan just to keep the effect going.

I’m also super excited because I found a place to sew straw again. I used to make and sell straw hats, but I put my machine in storage at my friend’s house – and he moved to Portland. A local milliner is letting me practice on his machine until I can get mine back (hopefully this summer when my friend comes home to visit.) Anyway, this is the first thing I made in years:

It’s the size of a doll hat and has a bunch of holes, but I’m sure I’ll be a lot better after more practice time. When I first sat at the machine, I couldn’t remember anything, but then muscle memory kicked in and I started playing with the straw to create different shapes (that’s why it looks more like a vase than a hat.)

Anyhow, I’ll be back soon with pictures of my finished corset top as well as progress pics from my next project – whatever that is.


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