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A long rambly post about creating and failing

2016 March 28
by elizabeth_admin

Hi to whomever is left!

I know I’ve been a bad blogger.  Leaving you for months at a time.  I have realized I won’t be a full time blogger ever again really.  I’m ok with that.  And if you’re reading this, maybe you’re ok with it too.

The last thing I sewed for myself were a couple of dresses that I made for my NYC vacation earlier this year.  I picked up the New Look 6298 pattern for a winter knit dress and made two in quick succession after getting fitting help from my LA sewing friends.  This dress was a winner after fitting.  I am not going to write a full on review here.  No time for that.  But I will mention that the sleeves are ginormous and needed a lot of alterations.  I probably could have solved a lot of the fit problems by making the sleeve pattern a two piece sleeve pattern, but I loved the dart detail at the top of the sleeve and wanted to keep it.  Now that all the hard work is done, I can just make this dress over and over.  I also kept the back seam in as it really helped with shaping.  I added more shaping as well at the side seams. Here are some pics…



At a sewing meet up in the Garment District

At a sewing meet up in the Garment District


I was so happy to get to see Carolyn, Karen, Claudine and Janice while I was in town.  So fun.  Of course I saw Kashi as well.

But other than those dresses, it’s strictly been sample sewing for my adult and kid sewing classes, sewing-wise.

In non-sewing news, I was accepted into the Art Certificate program at UCSD and just finished my first paper (for Art History) in almost 20 years.  I’m enjoying the classes immensely, especially the painting classes.

And this now brings me to the subject of this post, creating and failing.  This is my third degree program.  I’ve been around the block a few times now.  I’ve had many different careers.  As I’ve mentioned before, you have to have a pretty thick skin to be a musician, auditioning all the time and getting rejections or constructive feedback all the time. But you can rationalize a lot of that negativity.  One does have to be brave though, facing that negative possibility every time.  When I was a kid, searching for what would become my instrument, I chose something I excelled at without trying hard, singing.  Guitar was too hard.  Clarinet was too hard.  Piano was too hard.  But singing?  Oh I was already good at that.  So I chose voice as my instrument.  Little did I know how challenging it would be to excel at it, but that’s another story.

One of the most memorable voice lessons I ever had was when I was at University of Michigan.  My teacher asked me to dance around her studio as I sang.  But not just dance, but dance ridiculously.  I couldn’t make myself do it.  I couldn’t let myself act ridiculous in front of her or my accompanist.  It was not something I would risk.  Eventually I did it, but it took a lot for me to overcome my fear of looking ridiculous.  I realized she wanted me to loosen up, have my body concentrate on doing something else so I could free up my voice.  I knew it would help me, but I couldn’t let go.

Years later, I would have my own singing students do silly dancing while they sang.  And I demonstrated it to them not fearing being ridiculous at all.  It takes maturity, and overcoming fear to do something silly in front of other people.  It also takes practice.  What if I had practiced silliness earlier in life?

That fear, I think, is the fear of failure.  Maybe all fear is fear of failure.  Anyway, it’s coming up a lot for me right now and, in thinking about it, I realize that it’s always been there.  It was there when I started learning to sew and every time I would sew up a new pattern.  And it was there, way back when, every time I went to art class in grade school.  I told myself I wasn’t an artist from the very beginning.  If I didn’t draw a perfectly round circle, if I couldn’t mold the clay just like I saw it in my mind, I wasn’t perfect.  Ergo, I wasn’t an artist.  Because an artist would be able to draw it or mold it correctly on the first try.

Remember when I wrote about being an artist?  That post generated a lot of discussion.  I can’t believe it is almost two years ago now since I wrote that post.  So much has happened and it still feels fresh to me.  Now I am fully embracing my inner artist.  I am taking class after class completely devoted to art.  I adore painting.  Maybe as much as I love making mosaics.  Am I good at it?  No, not yet.  I have some good days.

Painting class homework

Painting class homework

painted while watching a youtube tutorial

painted while watching a youtube tutorial

painted while watching another youtube tutorial by the same teacher, Will Kemp.

painted while watching another youtube tutorial by the same teacher, Will Kemp.


But I have some pretty laughable days too.

unsuccessful landscape #1

unsuccessful landscape #1

Unsuccessful landscape #2

Unsuccessful landscape #2


Why am I showing my “failures”?  Well, I have always shown my sewing flops, so why not the art flops too?  I feel the need to keep it real.  I’m not perfect.  I suck at a lot of things as most of my family would love to tell you, schadenfreude being one of our shared loves.  But most importantly, if you are too afraid to fail, in public or private, two things happen: You never try and you never learn.  I won’t learn how to paint abstractly if I don’t attempt to paint abstractly.  I won’t ever make art if I never attempt to make art.  I can’t let failure or fear of it stop me.  I have to be ok with looking ridiculous.  Maybe I am ridiculous.  I’m ok with that.

I am always wary of people who say they like to learn from other people’s mistakes.  You see, I don’t think you can.  Seriously.  Not the real mistakes.  The living life kind of mistakes.  Yes, you can learn from someone else burning themselves on the hot stove.  But can you learn how to love without actually loving?

Did you know that Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27?  Did you know that he died at the age of 37?  He painted only for 10 years.  That’s it.  Just 10 years.  I’m rambling now, but that really inspires me.  It’s never too late.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  It’s a teacher.

Speaking of teaching, I teach my son’s 3rd grade class art twice a month.  California schools don’t have art classes with certified art teachers.  They have parent volunteers, most with no art background whatsoever, come in to teach some old art program that the school district purchased years ago that they recycle every year.  This is all the art instruction these kids get.  Just twice a month, sometimes only once a month depending on break/holiday schedules.  And they don’t even get it from a real art teacher or with an education degree.  That is depressing to me.  And then I hear these kids say at the ripe old age of 8 that they’re not artists.  How sad is that?  Every time I’m in that classroom I tell them they are artists.  I tell each of them something I like about the piece they are creating that day.  I tell them there are no mistakes, only design features.  I tell them about Van Gogh.  They’re probably sick of hearing about Van Gogh by now, but I don’t care.  I want them to experience trying, and failing, and I want them to realize they can learn and that they are artists too.

Don’t worry, I’m going to wrap this up soon.  I just want to leave you with one thought.  I don’t expect to become famous.  I don’t think I’m especially talented or like Van Gogh.  I don’t even expect to make money being an artist, whatever kind of artist I am (mosaics, sewing, painting, drawing, etc).  What would please me though is that when people think of me, they think of me as someone who creates and who isn’t afraid to fail.

If you need me, I’ll be dancing ridiculously in my studio.

Never say never

2016 January 11
by elizabeth_admin

So, um…  Yeah…  Remember when I said I wasn’t ever gonna be a quilter?

Yeah, well, never say never.

My adult students have been enjoying the home dec projects that we have been working on in the last class which finished up a couple of weeks ago.  And as I was running out of quick beginner projects, I asked if they wanted to try more involved projects like a light quilted placemat or table runner.  The response was an enthusiastic yes!

So I searched up some projects on Pinterest and found one that I thought might be good.  It was a downloadable pdf pattern with a video tutorial for a small fee.  Besides that quilt I made for a friend and the squares quilt I made for the community center’s gala auction, I haven’t ever really done any serious quilting.  So this project was a huge learning curve for me.  I made 6 instead of just 4 placemats, repeating some of the patterns.  I have five people in my family now and wanted to have place settings for six.  Quilting cotton prints are so darn cute.  I can totally see how someone can go overboard buying quilting fabric.

In working on this project the last week, I have come to the conclusion that it may be too complex and a cause for frustration for my students, but I learned a lot and will be able to help them with whatever project I do find for them.  And, bonus! I get new placemats for my family!

Here they are…



In non-sewing news, I start my painting class this week and am so excited.  I.  Can’t.  Wait.


Jammiepalooza 2015

2015 December 29
by elizabeth_admin

Happy holidays!


I made it!  I made it through another holiday and another Jammiepalooza.  I made 13 PJs altogether including 3 nightgowns and 10 pj pants.  One of those pj pants I sold to a friend after realizing that I made the wrong size for my stepdaughter.  I even made a pair for me this year!  Woo hoo!  Of course, not all the adults were that lucky, so there were some grumblings that they didn’t have any pj pants.  Sigh.  You can’t make everyone happy.   That would have added 5 more pj pants to my total.  Maybe if I started earlier…  But that’s a post for next year.

Anyhoo…  Here is the photographic evidence of said Jammiepalooza 2015.









The pj's I sold to a friend

The pj’s I sold to a friend


Next up on the sewing table?  Not sure, but I did just order some knit dress patterns for my stepdaughter.  Also, I have to plan for my next adult sewing class which starts in a couple of weeks.  I may be teaching a mosaic class this session too!  AND…  I’m taking a painting class at the university starting in January.  I will be one busy mama.

Bis später and happy new year!

A tale of two legs and revenge sewing

2015 November 30
by elizabeth_admin

Did you hear the one about the seamstress who sewed two left legs?  Yeah, me neither.  You know why?  Because it’s not funny when you sew two left legs.  And this is why…  Because then you only have two left legs and no more fabric.  Because you remember that you bought the end of the roll when you originally bought the fabric and now you want to cry.  Nope, not a laughing matter at all.  So now the two left legs mock me from their crumpled pile on my sewing table as I move them around to cut out my student’s weekly projects.  They mock me, I tell you.

So in my ignominious state, I decided to revenge sew.  Yes, that’s right, I said revenge sew.  I got out my trusty S5271 baseball tee pattern and proceeded to sew up a super cute top.  How do you feel now, two left legs?  Still trying to mock me?  I showed you!  I now have a cute top and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But let me backtrack a bit…  A few weeks ago, Susan from Knitters-delight and I decided on the spur of the moment to meet up at the National City Swap Meet to see what the LA jobbers had brought.  We went to my favorite stall and found some really good fabrics for a steal.  There was some great Italian linen, and super cute knits.  I bought two knit prints that were super stretchy and soft, and bonus, had a NYC vibe.  One even said New York on it.  I made out like a fabric bandit.  So did Susan, I might add.  We had a good old bitch session, caught up on each other’s lives, and bought lots of fabric.  Sounds like a perfect day, doesn’t it?  Ahhhh…

So fast forward to the two left leg debacle and you know I needed some therapy.  And that’s how  revenge sewing came to my rescue.


Making sushi over Thanksgiving break

Making sushi over Thanksgiving break


And that, my friends, is how you return back to the land of garment sewing after a super long hiatus.  Revenge sewing.  Of course, my pals Jeanette and Sherril also helped me figure out proportions for this tee.  Since the fabric was super stretchy, I needed to rejigger the sizing a bit and the raglan sleeves had me a little stumped.  And now the shirt is a little on the short side.  Revenge’s revenge?  You be the judge.  I did get a few unsolicitations when I wore it though, so I think the revenge worked.

The other fabric I bought might be too similar to this print to use the same baseball tee pattern again.  I might have to think up a different pattern for it.

Anyway, I highly recommend revenge sewing after a wadder.  It is extremely satisfying.

Do you revenge sew?  Did you get sweet satisfying revenge?  Do tell!


Teaching Sewing

2015 November 5
by elizabeth_admin

Since Spring this past year, I have been teaching sewing to kids and adults at my local community center.  I’ve taught a total of 6 classes which includes one whole week of summer camp.  I have had to source the projects, fabrics, and supplies.  I have had to write instruction booklets for each class as each new class had different projects.  And I have had to sew up all the samples to show the students a finished product.

It’s been quite a learning process for me as well.  I’ve learned which projects are too hard for beginners.  For example, really small fiddly sewing is too hard for a beginner.  The shoelaces and the superhero mask were way too fiddly for my students.  So I’ve taken those projects off the list of possibilities.  I’ve learned that cutting the projects out for them is absolutely a must.  Just learning how to use the machine is intimidating enough without fearing a badly cut out project.  Even pressing is something I will do ahead of time to cut down on the kids waiting on me to help them with the next step.

My first class was unisex, but I have had difficulty coming up with simple projects that would appeal to both sexes.  My last two classes have been for girls only.  I have started incorporating home dec projects as well, since most garment sewing involves fitting and/or you must have the correct size cut out.  So, even though I don’t opt to do home dec sewing on my own, I recognize that these kinds of projects lend themselves well to teaching sewing.

Here are some of the projects that I’ve taught to my students…

Fall 2 Sewing Class

Fall 2 Sewing Class

(Clockwise from top left)  Knit head wrap, cross body bag, hair scrunchy, pj shorts, bookmark, and envelope style pillow


Fall 1 Sewing Class

Fall 1 Sewing Class

(Clockwise from top right) D-ring belt, Parisian headscarf, elasticized waist skirt, half apron, infinity scarf, Halloween trick or treat bag, and turban headband.


Summer Camp

Summer Camp

(Clockwise from top left) Placemat, coaster and napkin, full apron, hand warmer, key ring, drawstring bag.


One of the adult class projects

One of the adult class projects

This was one of the projects I had the adult students make, a faux leather lined clutch purse.  It was a huge hit with the adults.  I loved making this bag; I think it’s super cute.  For the next adult class which starts next week, I have five projects lined up:  A table runner for Thanksgiving, a head wrap (like the one the kids are doing next), a coffee cozy, the envelope pillow (like the kids), and a wine gift bag.  I think it will be a great class.


It’s a lot of work coming up with the class projects, putting together the booklets, buying and pre-washing the fabrics, AND prepping the projects for the students every week.  In fact, after this session, I am taking a break from teaching sewing until at least Spring.  I don’t want to get burned out.

If any of you have any ideas for easy beginner projects, I would love to hear about them.  I think I’ve reached the end of the internet for new projects.   I haven’t listed all the projects above that I’ve covered already, so if you’re going to suggest pillowcases, I have already done that one.  😉

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