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Kid + Sewing = Teaching

2014 November 7
by elizabeth_admin

Hey sewing peeps!

In sewing news around here, I mean besides Halloween costumes and the such, I have started to teach a kindergartener how to sew.  How cute is that?

She is very interested in learning.  Before our first lesson she had already cut and glued together her first dress.  When her mom showed me a picture, I couldn’t believe how well she cut out the dress.  The neck hole and arm holes were perfect.  She has a very intuitive sense of turning a 2D fabric into a 3D shape.  I was very impressed.

For our first lesson, I taught her how to thread a machine and to sew on straight lines and curvy lines and how to pivot with the needle down.  Then we made a fleece pillow and sleeping bag for her Barbie.  She was a little afraid of the needle on the machine and kept her hands way far away, but she is getting more brave with each lesson.



For our second lesson, we made a reversible a-line skirt for her doll.  She used her new skill of pivoting the fabric while the needle was down.



Then for our 3rd and 4th lesson, we made a skirt to complement her doll’s skirt with the same fabrics but different pattern, an elasticized waist gathered skirt in two layers.  She was so pleased to put on her new skirt when we finished it today.  It fit perfectly and fell at just the right point under her knees.  SO CUTE!!!!  I hope she shows off her new skirt tomorrow at school.  😉



Initially, I thought that maybe she was too young to teach at 6 years old, but she is very motivated, has an intense interest and is a great student.  She soaks up the information and retains it from week to week.  She is getting much braver with the machine too.  I’m so pleased with her progress.

Now I have to figure out what we’ll make for her next lesson.  I better get a whole curriculum together!

Halloween Debrief

2014 November 5
by elizabeth_admin

Are you sick of Halloween pictures yet?  Well, I have the reveal of the costume I made for the daughter of a friend and my own last minute costume as well as my son’s store-bought costume.  So I humbly beg for your forgiveness for the lateness of this post with regards to the holiday, already long since passed.

Now I know there are two kinds of Halloween people out there: the die-hard make your own costumes with lots of forethought or last minute throw it together types AND the store-bought costume people.  I am definitely in the latter camp.  Since I’m such a slow sewer and have to over-think every decision, sewing a costume to be worn once or twice at the most is almost galling.  However, I can totally see the benefits of making a costume yourself.  It’s unique, you’ve put in the effort and it’s creative.

When Alex asked me to make her costume the week before Halloween, I couldn’t say no.  She had such a sweet, hopeful smile on her face.  She showed me the picture of what she wanted and I knew instantly that I could make it since it was so simple.  This is Wendy from the anime cartoon, Fairy Tail.




I immediately started to brainstorm on how I could make this costume.  I played with ideas in my head for days.  I formulated a plan and asked the cutting lady at Yardage Town if she thought I was on the right track.  She did.  Phew!  My idea was to make a tube for the bodice with elastic at the top to hold it up, and to add a circle skirt or a-line skirt at the bottom.  When I was searching for circle skirt tutorials on-line, I stumbled across a 1/4 circle skirt.  A 1/4 circle skirt????  I had never heard of that before.  I had heard of the full and half circle skirts, but never the 1/4 one.  When I saw an example of one, I thought, “That’s it!”  It’s the exact same drape and flare of the source photo.  And so, using just Alex’s measurements, I made the dress with an extra long bodice and extra long skirt so that I could change the length on the bodice and skirt to taste. The only thing I didn’t know was how much ease to calculate in.  I ended up using 1 inch negative ease, but with my fabric, a cotton double-knit, it was a little on the tight side.  Alex said she didn’t mind and at least that prevented any wardrobe malfunctions from happening, right?  Due to using an order of construction that was not quite right, I had to hand sew all the ribbons on.  Oh well, live and learn.

Here is the dress on a hanger and on Alex (photo used with permission).







Doesn’t she look great?  I can’t believe I was able to pull this off.  Phew!

And just for balance, here’s Jack’s store-bought costume.  He’s a golden ninja.



And I decided at the last minute to make my costume.  Make, not sew.  My costume was completely sourced from Home Depot purchases: duct tape, wood dowels, spray paint and twine.  I was a marionette doll.  It was a little unwieldy, but effective.



We had a blast at Halloween and I hope you did too!


On another note….  I want to thank you all for your kind and thoughtful comments on my last post about being an artist.  I am proud of that essay.  I am proud to say I am an artist, whatever that means and whatever connotations it has.  It helps me to frame my life and what I want to do next.  We all need a plan in life, even if we change it up occasionally.  I had a wonderful meeting yesterday with a local designer and she gave me some really great advice.  She was both realistic and optimistic — two qualities not often associated together.  I left our meeting with a blueprint to follow and feeling energized like I have never felt before.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82



What are you?

2014 October 23
by elizabeth_admin

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.  For the last two years actually.  About life, next steps, what I want to be when I grow up.  You know, the big picture.  I have been many things already…  An opera singer, a voice teacher, a corporate worker bee, a serial hobbyist, a mother.  I have been itching to get back into the workforce again.  I need to be busy.  I need to make money.  But what kind of job/career/business should I do?  That has been the million dollar question.

When I left singing as a career, the decision was relatively simple and painless, as I had been forced to shed that identity towards the end of my career (read more about that here).  Do I miss it?  Yes, sometimes, but not in the way you might think.  I do not miss practicing, auditioning, or even singing itself, but I miss the collaboration of it.  The singing with an orchestra or pianist, and singing with other performers.  I loved teaching, but I can’t really make a living wage doing it.  I have been there and done that with working in Corporate America and don’t really want to go back to that, but what is there besides that?  Sewing doesn’t pay either, at least when you’re slow like I am or don’t really have any design skills to speak of.  And we all know how well motherhood pays.  😉

So what’s left?

I wish I had an answer.  But I don’t.  What can I do?  What path can I take?  Over the last two years I’ve done a lot of ruminating and have discovered a thing or two.   One question that keeps coming up for me is, “Can I be an artist?”   I’m sure at this point you’re all thinking to yourself, is she serious?  Artists don’t make any money.  And this leads to the more important question, “Am I an artist?”

When I was a singer, I never thought of myself as an artist.  Other musicians were, but not me.  I was just a singer.  I didn’t write the music, I only sang it. I didn’t even give myself credit for interpreting it.  I was not an artist.  I have a friend, a fellow singer I met at Northwestern, whom I admire very much.  Shannon can sing, play piano, paint, draw, sculpt, and she even made a gorgeous koi mosaic tabletop.  She can do anything and everything well and beautifully.  I think she is the most talented person.  She is an artist, in the truest sense of the word.  But not me.  Back then, I couldn’t draw or paint I thought.  I never even tried.  I couldn’t and still can’t play an instrument except for sing.  I wasn’t that talented.

But when I look back on the life I’ve led thus far, I notice a pattern.  I have been making stuff my entire life.  I’ve made music.  I’ve made mosaics.  I made Jack.  I’ve made clothes.  And  I’ve even painted.  I’m quite proud of my subway lady painting.

Woman in a NYC Subway Car

Woman in a NYC Subway Car


20 years ago, I would have said, definitively, that I would never be able to paint a face.  It was too hard, too detailed.  But I have.  And while it doesn’t look exactly like the source photograph, it does look like a real face of a real person.  I can scarcely believe it.  Every time I look at it, I can hardly believe I painted it myself.  I’m not saying it should be on a museum wall.  I’m just saying it’s not a sadly lopsided unrecognizable slop of a face.

But what is an artist?  What does it mean to be an artist?  I’m constantly thinking about projects, whether it’s the mosaic table I’m planning right now or the impromptu Halloween costume I’ve been asked to make or what my next painting subject will be.  I am constantly creating in my head.  My head is filled with next projects.  I want to make stuff.  I don’t care what medium it is, I just want to make something.

Sample for large mosaic table

Rough sample for my current project, a 3×7 foot table


I’ve never thought of myself as an artist because I’ve never thought of myself as being creative.  When people tell me I am creative, even today, I demur and say, “Oh no, not really.”  But what if being an artist or being creative isn’t only about talent?  What if it is about the urge to create.  What if it is about the willingness to show up and do the work, the process of creating.  Well, if that’s the case, then I am an artist.  I have a constant urge to create, every day.  I may not create something or finish something every day, but I am thinking about it or puzzling out the small obstacles that crop up on the road of creativity.  It’s taken me 30 years to realize that I am an artist, much less feel comfortable saying I am one.  I will leave the question as to why it’s so hard for me to admit it for another time.  Right now, I just have to figure out how to make a living as an artist.  Anyone have any suggestions?  😉

Hi, my name is Elizabeth. I’m an artist and I make stuff.

So what are you?  Are you an artist too?

Some sewing

2014 October 5
by elizabeth_admin

The sewing mojo is slowly returning to these parts thankfully.  I don’t know what did it for me.  Was it working in another medium?  Was it looking in the closet at all my clothes, all of which I am now tired?   Or was it that the mojo just simply decided to return of its own accord?  I don’t know, and at this point, I don’t care.  At least it’s back.

And I have something to show for it too.

First off, I made spa/sleep mask for a friend’s daughter as part of her birthday present.  I just found a random tutorial online, here.  It worked out rather well.  I used lingerie elastic for the band.  My deviations to the pattern were to 1. add dried lavender to the mask for a nice aromatherapy touch, 2. use one elastic band, and 3. not to add top stitching.  I used a poly charmeuse that I bought at Chic Fabrics in NYC a few years ago.



I totally want one too now.  :)


Next up is a gift for my dad.  His birthday was last week.  I whipped up (I have always wanted to say I whipped something up I must confess) another S5271 lounge pants.  This time, I made it San Diego appropriate fabric by not using flannel, but just a ltwt cotton from Yardage Town.  I did better on the in seam pockets this time and he can now actually put his hands in the pockets.  I used a wider elastic as the 1/2 inch size the pattern calls for seems kind of skimpy.  I used a 1 inch elastic this time and it was awesome.  He loved them and has been wearing them every day since.  I hope he washes them soon.



Check out that plaid matching!  I’m pretty proud of myself.  I mean I meant to match it, but I always mean to and it doesn’t always turn out so well.



I love how I catch the top of the pockets into the waistband so they don’t flop around inside the pants.  In related but sad news, the first pair of lounge pants I made for him two years ago finally gave up the ghost when two long tears in the seat of the pants appeared recently.  Fabric fatigue.  At least this was a timely gift.


And last but not least, mama has a new dress!  I wanted something new to wear out with the man yesterday and I thought another tank dress, M6559, was in order.  It’s such a simple dress.  I think this version is a little loose, which just goes to show you that every fabric behaves differently and one should baste, baste, baste to fit each time.  Sigh.  I might take it in, but then again, I might not.  I think y’all know how much I like to alter things.  NOT!  Oh, and again, I used Karla’s most excellent tip of using FOE (so aptly named, as it is indeed a foe to sewing) to stabilize the neck and armhole edges.  If you haven’t tried this out yet, you must.  Super easy way of finishing those edges.  I used a sweater knit that I picked up from Yardage Town recently.  It was so cute and I love that coral stripe.  I just so happen to have a cardy that exact color in my closet; although I ended up not using it at all last night as it has been so warm here lately.  Speaking of which, I am really missing a true fall, like the one NYC has every year.  What I wouldn’t give for trees turning color, a nip in the air and the smell of wet leaves on the ground…



I think the little boy who lives with me has a future in photography as he is very good at putting a thinnerizer filter on each picture.  😉


So now that the mojo is back, I hopefully can start and finish those super late birthday presents for my nieces.  So embarrassing.

Bis später!


Something new to show, but not sewn

2014 September 25
by elizabeth_admin

Yeah… I didn’t salvage that tank dress.  It’s still laying wadded up in some dark corner.  But I have made something recently.  Since I started this blog many years ago, I have always stated that someday I would get back to making mosaics. But I never did.  But I’ve been toying around with the idea of making them again and finally just got out my mosaic making tools and stuff out of the moving boxes in the garage.  I thought I would maybe do a small project with Jack’s class, but I think it might be too unwieldy a project for them.  I don’t know.  I still might come up with a workable project for them.  We’ll see.

But since I had everything out, I thought I may as well make something.  I had a wooden trivet base and tons of plates, so I made picassiette trivet.  Boy was I rusty!  I used the wrong tile cutters for the project, the spacing is a little on the large side, and my alignment isn’t perfect, but it turned out ok I think.  It’s my first project after a seven year hiatus.  Give me a break!

Without further ado, here it is…



For scale reference, this is about a 7.5 inch plate on a 10 inch wooden base.  Jack helped me glue down the middle pieces.  You can’t see it in the photo, but I added a bit of deliberate “wabi sabi” to my piece by using one slightly greenish yellow tile for the side when I ran out of the yellow tiles.  A slight imperfection for my “broken” plate piece.

Not sure what my next project will be.  Sewing or otherwise.  Still in a little creative rut.

Anyhow, cheers!

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