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Monday, February 28, 2011

Building a stone patio in the secret garden : Part one

Up beyond this shed lies an unused secret garden area. It's been awhile since we've done any projects in the yard and I can't wait till this project is finished. I will be posting another set of pictures as the project progresses. 

I always wanted to have a lounging area here, ( something I hope to do more of this Summer,) but the area was too sloped for a table or loungers. There used to be a little vegetable garden here but since we moved the garden to the back of the property , this area has been largely unused except as for a play area for Lily and her friends.

This is the soon to be patio after we moved the dirt around to try to make it more level

This is how it looks now. We have levelled it off and have had to make a little stone wall to retain the dirt which we filled the area with to level it. There will be bricks on the floor and stairs made from railroad ties when we are finished.

This is the view looking down from the potting shed shown below.

This is the cute little potting shed which was made from old windows and doors by the old owner. I love this little building. Its' starting to succumb to the elements so it needs to be painted to protect it. It has a little sink with running water which is a nice feature.

This is the back of our potting shed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marias Dress: Coming Along

It's been raining buckets today so I've been stuck inside the house all day . Today I attached the lace to the finished bodice of the wedding dress.

 First I made a muslin pattern to use to trace the lace bodice . It had to be sewn together first and then pinned to the lace.

I traced around the pattern with contrasting colored thread basting. You don't want to cut out lace like you would regular fabric since an applique seaming method is used. I then pinned the lace to the bodice and trimmed it and basted it to the bodice. You want to leave at least an inch and a half allowance outside the threaded tracing to give yourself some working room.

A pinned on sleeve. I think I will make it a little shorter. On closer inspection I saw that this sleeve had a little hole in the lace. I'll have to cut a new one. Now I need to find some trim to add to the neckline..

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lilys Breyer Horses

Lily would like to share some photos of her Breyer horse collection with you. To learn the names of her favorite horses you can visit her new blog

A family of Appaloosas. Daddy isn't in the picture shown. Look how protective Momma horse looks.

 A beautiful jumper

A stallion

Socializing by the barn.

I love the accurate horsey expressions.

The telltale Breyer stamp.

All of these horses were purchased over the last few years at various flea markets and yard sales. Usually I take Lily to the flea market with me and give her about twenty dollars to spend there. Getting up early with her and going to the Flea Market together is one of my favorite things to do.  She sometimes brings her own money to add to the pot. Her favorite TV shows are American Pickers, Pawn Stars and Project Runway. Oh and American Idol too when that's on. She is a girl after my own heart.
 As you can see she has amassed quit a collection. We bought her first one when she was about four. We have never bought a new one as they are about forty dollars  and we have made a point never to pay more than fifteen dollars for one. I've never found a Breyer horse at a thrift shop. The circle stamp you see above usually means the horse is from the 60's or earlier. The shiny finish on a horse means it's from the fifties to early sixties. The matte finish on the other horses dates them to the late 60's to the present.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wedding Dress update.

Well , I finished the bodice part of the dress. I underlined it in silk organza and lined it with China silk. The fabric on top is silk charmeuse. Marias' lace came in the mail the other day and I went to pick it up and mark the hem for the skirt which I finally got to fit her correctly. Her mother was there and when Maria tried on the dress she noted that the armholes were cutting in a tiny bit . The sharpness of the sweetheart neckline was lost and it looks more like a curved v- neck now. I think I need to take it apart and make sure I clipped the corners. I'm getting a little technical here, ahem. I wish I had taken a photo.. I'm not sure now if I should take it apart since I already understitched the lining or just go ahead and cut a new bodice. The whole thing is going to be covered with lace so I guess if there are stitchmarks at least they won't show... The lace is beautiful though and she got a great deal, only thirty dollars a yard and it's 58 inches wide. Wow!

Hand stitching the underlining to the charmeuse. If you machine stitch it the fabric layers will shift and probably snag too.

My Bernina Nova 900 I got at the thrift shop for 25$ I just had my Viking Freesia repaired but it started snagging the silk so I tried the Bernina and it works like a dream. I didn't even have it serviced yet. I guess they really are the best.

The bodice basted together and attached to the bias skirt lining. I wish she had mentioned the neckline at this fitting. Oh well.. BTW you should ALWAYS baste or mark with chalk the stitch line of a bias skirt before you take it off the table because it WILL get stretched out and you will lose your  stitch line if you don't mark it.

Here is the basted together dress on Maria. She looks good in everything and I'm lucky to be working with someone not only really nice but also with the same measurements as my Wolf form. My old measurements!

The back which I raised two inches from the previous fitting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Make the Diana Messenger bag from

Lily needed a new bag for school. We bought her a Hello Kitty backpack for the new year but sadly it was too small to fit her folder in. Her teacher sent her home on Friday with the message . "Please get Lily a new schoolbag."

It was pouring rain and I knew I wanted to make her something but I didn't want to drive a half hour into town to buy a pattern so I searched the net and found this great downloadable pattern calle the Diana Messenger Bag from Burdastyle.

Oh, and it's only one dollar to download it!

I added a little flower from my flower tutorial a couple of posts ago. 
If you would like to view the sew-along for this project press here

Sunday, February 20, 2011

why do I blog?

Tonight I am fighting a cold so I stayed home while our kids went to a Family dance at their school without me.For those of you with only small children just remember there will come a day when your oldest will be driving. That creates a whole new set of worries but it is great sometimes when they can drive themselves around. After putting my baby to bed I thought I might get to work on the wedding gown I'm making but somehow I ended up sitting at the computer and checking out sites like for new blog design ideas. Would I gain more visits if I switched to something less folksy?
It seems lately I have become overly concerned about how I can get more followers for my blog. Blogging is starting to feel like a popularity contest. When I get a new follower I get all excited and when I lose one I wonder what I'm doing wrong. Just the WORD follower brings to mind other words like peer pressure, popularity, etc. Its so juvenile! Why not use some other word like " subscriber " ? It's like I'm in high school again but I'm the loner who can't quite figure it all out. I'll go on some blogs and they'll have 5,000 followers and I can't help but feel a little envious. How are these other bloggers shining so bright in the blogging stratosphere? Of course their photography can be amazing and they might have amazing content and just basically be way better than me.. See, why am I reverting back to being an insecure teenager?
I started blogging because I thought it would be a fun way to express myself and share
information with people about my sewing projects, my love of all things vintage, and our life on a little orange ranch.I totally appreciate the Followers I do have and I love it when someone comments but I'm starting to compare myself to other bloggers too much. I'm actually considering removing my Followers widget and just focusing on getting back to the fun of blogging and not worrying about anything else.

Sew Country Baby goes urban !

Here is Sew Country Baby sporting a leather jacket...

and skinny jeans and her England T-shirt. Ready for a night on the town. All that's missing are her Converse sneakers !

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How To Customize a Dress Form

If you do much sewing  for yourself I can't tell you how indispensable a dress form is. Sure you can try what your making on and pin it but that gets so tiring and if you ever plan on doing any original designs which include draping, well then you really have to buy one! The problem is they are very expensive. It's easy to find them used on Craigslist and I have seen a few in thrift shops and at flea markets. If you do buy one used it really should have one measurement that fits you and that is the high bust measurement, the area above your chest and going under the armpits. You also should never buy one that is bigger than you because as you can see you can pad it to fit perfectly. If your lucky you will find one that fits you perfectly. 
This is my dress form that my husband bought for me when we were still dating and I was turning 23. It was a pretty extravagant gift at the time costing about 500 dollars if I remember correctly. It is a WOLF form, one of the best ones in the industry. You don't have to buy one this expensive, Singer makes an adjustable one that cost about 200 dollars.  Now as you can see it is too small for me now. I guess I can blame those four kids for that ! I can pretend I'm still the same size or I can get realistic and drape my projects on a form that will actually resemble me. My high bust measurement is still the same as it was back then so all the form needs is a little padding.
 You can find expensive kits on the internet for about 100$  or you can simply do it yourself like this:

Use an old bra that fits you if the form is too small in the bust line and pad it till it fills the bra. Measure to make sure you haven't overstuffed it!

Pad the waistline with batting. Buy the kind that comes in a roll like a sheet. Wrap it around the waist till you get the right size. I had to go from 26" to 28 1/2.

Buy one of those shaper tanks and pull it over. Adjust padding if you need to and double check your measurements. She looks a little lumpy to me but it should work. We'll see...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bias Rose Tutorial and sewing Simplicity 2599

We have been having such unusually warm weather this week that I felt like sewing something Springy. The top is a version of Simplicity 2599 that I have sewn once before. I love this pattern because it is sized for cup sizes and you cut it out by the cup sized piece. There are separate pieces for A,B,C,and D cups . I lowered the neckline of the pattern and trimmed it with some charcoal grey crochet. The pattern included a rose but it has too many steps to it so I'm going to show you how to make a rose with a softly frayed edge . The secret to the frayed edge not shredding after washing it is to cut the rose pattern out on the bias grain because fabric edges that are cut on the bias grain don't shred! I've been a little preoccupied about bias garments lately since I have been doing so much research for the wedding gown I'm making. So here is a fun little project incorporating it.

The skirt is nothing much really, just two rectangles of cotton sewn together and gathered and then tacked on to this fabulous waistband elastic I found last year in Paris and have been waiting to use. 

This is the bias cut rose trimmed with the crochet trim. It's a little hard to tell the edges are raw but after washing they should get nice and fuzzy.

Making the Rose

 Take a long piece of paper about 25 by 6 inches and fold in half. I use packaging paper I buy for a dollar a roll at the 99 cent store for patterns. It's nice and thick for patterns although you do have to iron it first to flatten it. Draw a line 1 1/2 inches up from the fold the length of the paper and taper to points at each end.

Fold your cross grain over your straight of grain to find the true bias line. You can iron it and place your pattern on the line and trace it and cut it out.

 A diagram from Craftstylish on finding the bias. Click here to read more about it.

 The rose piece cut out. It should be quite stretchy since it's been cut on the bias.

Sew along the straight edges with a basting size stitch, around 4 to 5 mm and then gather the strip.

Gather it until it is about 6 inches long. Tie the threads together to secure the rose.

Now gather the rose around your finger with the sewn part on the bottom. It should look like a flower now. Hand sew it from the bottom to secure the flower so it doesn't come apart.

Simplicity 2599

The first version of simplicity 2599 I made. It was made with a silk by Anna Sui and has neck ruffles.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pattern review: Burda 7678

This is Burda pattern 7678. It's a great basic piece to have in your wardrobe because you can wear it over skinny jeans or leggings. You could also dress it up with some sexy heels for an evening out or put some flip flops on for the day.

This was the first version of 7678 I made in a yellow and black striped jersey. The top ended up being so long it could also be worn as a dress shown below.

This is the second version I made. I shortened the pattern by about five inches so it wasn't so bunched up at the hips.

   I read about this fluttery detail in Sew Stylish magazine. You cut out hearts and then gather them in the middle. You then tack them on the garment and they resemble butterflies. This fabric was a light pre wrinkled beige cotton jersey with a slight gold metallic sheen which is not evident but gives the top a casual evening feel.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Making a custom wedding gown part 2

The first prototype I used was a Burda pattern. It turned out the neckline was all wrong and the sleeves weren't right as well. Come to think of it, the whole thing was wrong, but since I didn't have any photos yet to study it was a learning experience about not starting a project without the proper research. I was too anxious to get started. Since I am charging for my time I didn't add this to Marias' bill because it was actually my mistake. I came to realize you that the only way you can  have a straight skirt that drapes the body the way Maria wants  is to make that  skirt on the bias.
Below is the Oscar De La Renta  lace dress which is Marias' inspiration for her dress. With a 20,000 dollar price tag we are choosing to replicate a work of art.

 The new sweetheart neckline. This prototype had a waist seam and a straight skirt which still was somehow wrong from the picture. What I did get right was the back scoop below. After spending alot of time studying the Oscar De La Renta dress I figured out I would have to go back to an empire waist seam but I would need to add a bias skirt to the bottom to get the right drape which is slinky and flowing. Back to the drawing board!

I bought this Vogue pattern during one of Joanns'  four dollar pattern sales. The bodice is close to the design Maria likes but I would have to draft the skirt from scratch

For the skirt I made a paper pattern for a bias skirt and then slashed and spread it to create flare at the bottom.
Draping the bias skirt. 

More adjustments for the skirt.

 Adding a train to my skirt pattern.
After our last fitting we decided not to use a train after
 all because a bias skirt looks odd bustled.

After cutting out the Vogue pattern I was to learn it didn't have a sweetheart neckline even though the photo on the pattern looks like it, don't you think? Patterns can be so annoying! I had to redraft the pattern with the new neckline and change the square back opening to a scooped one.

The pattern pinned together above . My sewing machine needed to be repaired so I could only pin the prototype together. You might be wondering about my choice in using bright orange. I had run out of muslin and I was at the thrift shop and I found this orange poplin for a dollar. There were four yards so I couldn't pass it up. Muslin can actually be more expensive than other fabrics, especially if you buy it a at a local shop or online. The dress will have three layers ; a silk charmeuse underdress with a China silk lining with a lace overdress.

One of the choices for the overdress. A beautiful silk chiffon embellished with embroidered flowers.

I think this Alencon lace would be lovely since I will be draping the lace on the bias as well.

This was Marias' pick but unfortunately the shop in Downtown LA ran out of it. That was actually a good thing since I have since realized I need to make the overskirt on the bias to match the underskirt and this lace is only 36" wide so that would have been impossible. It's the same lace I made the Baptismal gown from in one of my earlier postings.

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