I had some fun putting a guest post together for Portland blog Sweet Athena.  If you aren't yet familiar, Sweet Athena is a fun craft and foodie blog run by two friends, Jess and Lindz. They specialize in fun projects and delicious recipes.  (Really is there more to life than that?)

I put together a tutorial for a cloth belt.  You can read about it here or there.   Enjoy!


As much as I would love to be sharing a tutorial on making the most awesome dress of all time, I realize that: 1) "awesome" is open to interpretation; and 2) such an amazing feat may not be accomplished in a handful of simple steps.  

Instead I vote that we split the diff, so to speak, and make ourselves an adorable little fabric belt.  You don't really need much to get started. 
  • Fabric.  Choose something sturdy, like cotton, and without stretch.  Go nuts.  Any print you like.  How much?  See Step 1.
  • Thread.  Should match the fabric or choose something contrasting.  
  • Fusible Interfacing. It adds some stiffness and structure.  It glues itself to the fabric with you iron it on.
  • Two D rings.  You know?  Metal loops kind of shaped like the letter "D".
  • Iron.  For ironing.
  • Sewing Machine.  For sewing.
  • Scissors.  You get the gist.
  • Measuring Tape.  Obvs.
Use the measuring tape to measure around your waist, through the belt loops of your favorite jeans, or the circumference of wherever you will be sporting your new belt.  Take that number (in inches) and add ten more inches.  

The extra ten inches takes into consideration the finished edges, the part that encloses the D Rings, and extra tail so you can adjust your belt.  Example:  If I measure through the belt loops of my low-rise trousers the number I get is 36 inches.  Add 10 and I get 46 inches.  I need length of 46 inches of fabric.
I bought 1-inch D Rings, so the finished belt will have a width of 1 inch.  To add seams I need to include 5/8 of an inch.  We will be working on a fold, so there will only be one seam.  

Check this math:  (1" x 2) + (5/8" x 2) = 3 1/4".  Get it?  1 inch for each side plus 1 1/4" for the seams along one edge.

In my case I will need one piece of fabric that measures 46" by 3 1/4".  I'm going to use scraps I have of some really springy seersucker.  I think we all need a reminder that winter will be over.  Someday.  
Once you have your long strip of carefully chosen fabric, cut some interfacing of the same size.  Then iron the fusible (gluey) side of the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric.

Oh, yeah.  Now it's starting to look professional, right?
Fold the strip in half the long way.  The wrong side, with the interfacing should be on the outside.  You are basically looking at an inside out belt at this point.
Get your machine ready.  Sew along the long edge.  Remember we measured for a 5/8" seam allowance.  

When you are finished, trim that raw edge.  Trust me, it'll make the next step easier.
Flip it!  Yup, you have to turn the whole thing right side out.  Everyone's got their own method.  I'm partial to using safety pins attached to one end and guiding it through.  I'll leave it up to your imagination.

Phew.  That was pretty rough, right?  Well, you'll be happy to hear that the worst is over.  Now you are going to want to give your belt (which is actually starting to look like a belt) a really good pressing.  Make sure the seam looks good and that everything is nice and flat.

OPTIONAL:  If you are feeling fancy, this is the part where you can do some top stitching.  You can use a contrasting thread and sew all around the long lengths or perhaps sew some zig zag stitches.  

Now you are going to finish one open end of the belt.  Simply fold the fabric under itself, press, and stitch.   
To finish up, simply slip the belt through the two D Rings. Place them about three inches from the remaining unfinished edge.  "Trap" the D Rings by folding the fabric, making a loop.  Tuck under that raw edge and sew it in place on the belt.  

You're done!
That's really all there is to it.  You should now have a fun little accessory to add to your wardrobe.  I'd love some sharing when you've finished yours!  
 . . . and so is the February Dress.  Once again, I contributed over at The Sew Weekly and was featured as front page news.  For today anyway.  What fun!  The theme for this week's challenge was Red!  You know for Valentine's Day.  Read all about it here or at the source.

The "I Wish I Were a Ballerina" Dress

When I was a kid my mom bought me a tutu and matching bodice when the local ballet theater had a costume sale.  The top was pink water-stained taffeta with a big fake rose right in the middle.  The skirt had layers and layers of pink tulle and another fake rose at the waist.  I think it goes without saying, that little-girl-me was enamored.  I wore the outfit for Halloween that year, but would (when I thought no one else was around) put on my taffeta and tulle and a record and dance around the living room of my parents’ house.  I have very distinct memories of jumping and twirling off the brick fireplace to the crackly 33 1/3 rotation of The Nutcracker Suite.
Alas, I never took dance, (My folks were more instrument type people.) which is a shame since I grew to be a six footer, and I really think the training in coordination and balance would have helped me out.  Nevertheless, I still do daydream about high kicks and pirouettes . . . and also shuffling off to Buffalo, but that’s another dress.

Granted this dress is red.  I am just not so much into pink anymore.  But, the combination of the sheer fabric and fullness of the skirt at the hem sort of took me back.  The cut of this dress and the way it draped made me feel like I used to when I would dress up.  I like the way the fabric lightly tickled my knees.  I don’t think grown-up dresses do a lot of knee-tickling.

So . . . I may, or may not, have had the house to myself this past weekend.  There may, or may not, have been an obliging fireplace.  And I may, or may not, have done some twirling.
The Facts
  • Fabric:  Red (cranberry?) chiffon, probably synthetic, which someone gave me.  Satin for the lining.
  • PatternVogue 8615. I was going to go real risque and make the whole dress sheer and wear it over a slip or something.  I got a little shy, so underlined and lined the bodice and added a loose-fitting straight skirt to line the chiffon full skirt.  I have been wanting to try this pattern for quite a while.  With a stiffer fabric, I think it would be a totally different dress.  I want to try it again.  Next time I will remember to add length to the waist.
  • Year:  2009
  • Notions: Zipper and thread.  The latter of which I ran out of, so some of my hand stitching is done in a non-matching true red.  Embarassing!
  • Time to complete:  About 10 hours.  Hemming the sheer skirt by hand took forever.  Felt like it anyway.
  • First worn:  Just for photos so far.  I need more fancy parties to go to.
  • Wear again?  I think I will.
  • Total price:  zipper – $2 + on sale satin – $9.73 = $11.73
I originally started working on this dress because I had the red fabric in my stash and wanted to try out a new pattern.  When it all came together, I thought it looked like a 1970s bridesmaid’s dress.  (I know it’s probably the bow, but I like bows!  OK?) It wasn’t until I put on the finished product that I thought it was actually cute.  Sure, maybe slightly juvenile and very modest, but still cute.
If you only had a heart . . .shaped Valentine woven thing.  

But you can!  Want to learn how?  Then you might want to check out my latest endeavor: Keats|Yeats.  

It's all new and still figuring itself out, but we'll get there.
I am very excited about a new upgrade from my current dress form to (basically) a foam version of myself.  I spent hours (and hours) fitting the cover to get as close to my own body shape as possible.  Then came the all-out-on-the-floor fight to get that cover on the rather large foam body.  It wasn't easy.  I hurt one knuckle and broke a fingernail.  

The new me is a little stockier than the actual me - about 2" thicker in the waist - but everything else is in balance.  Vertically, she looks pretty good.   I might get around to further adjustment at some point.  Like, when I feel like another wrestling match.  It actually might be less troublesome to just eat a lot of ice cream and cookies.
For the January dress I took up a challenge over at The Sew Weekly that involved brocade.  For a little while, I was front page news.  Scoop!  

Read all about it here, or go to the source.

"Go for Brocade" Dress.  An Adaptation.

A personal goal of mine is to try (I mean really try) to dive into my fabric stash and use what I’ve got.  Years ago someone sent me a rather large brown metallic brocade 1960s dress.  At some point I cut the dress down to a skirt, which I then never wore.  That skirt was then packed away with my collection of fabric. My adaption of the “Go For Brocade” Dress finally put that dress/skirt/fabric to use.  As the original dress had a straight skirt on it, there was nowhere near enough fabric to do the whole project in brocade.  I opted to do the bodice in the brocade and add a solid colored skirt.
Fabric:  Brocade (that used to be a too-big 1960′s dress) on top, Double Georgette for the skirt, and satin for the lining.

Pattern:  None.  I searched my collection of patterns (which I am also trying to put to good use) and couldn’t find a single one with princess seams on the bodice.  Not too surprising, though, as  I tend to have trouble fitting princess seams.  Rather than taking the time to draft something from scratch, I used the bodice of a dress I had recently taken apart (upcycle!) as a guide.  As expected, I had to make some modifications.  Surely I am not the only person whose chest has issues with this cut. Surely.

Year:  Bodice fabric – 1960′s/Style late 1950′s/”Pattern”- 1990′s

Notions:  Zipper and rust colored satin piping which was salvaged from the original dress.

Time to complete: About 10 hours (including picking apart the “original”) (oh and I was watching a movie while doing the hand stitching, so . . .).

First worn:  Today.  Just to snap some quick photos.

Wear again?  The next time I have a fancy event and the mood strikes me . . . yes.  Although, I can’t say I am completely sold on this dress.  Maybe it’s the color – too much brown? Maybe it’s the cut – is the skirt too full?  I’m on the fence with this one.

Total price: Double Georgette – $11.98/Satin – $9.98/Zipper – $1.26/Thread $2.65 for a grand total of $25.87.
I am such a sucker for fitted bodices matched with full skirts, but I am coming to terms with the fact that it is just time for a more grown-up (and slimming) go-to style.  More wiggle dresses in 2012!  Alas. A wiggle dress would not have worked for this project.  So, if I were to tweak this dress and still keep the silhouette and style of “Go for Brocade” I would probably have made the neckline just a tad deeper.  I also would have done something more interesting with the back.  You can’t see it, but it’s just real high and real snoozy.  (But effectively guards against drafts and sunburns.)  I do like the vintage brocade very much.  I will have to keep my eyes peeled for vintage dresses for the purpose of re-purposing.  I mean, after I use all the fabric in my stash, of course.
As some of you may have already seen, I am going to try something fun and new by contributing to one of my favorite blogs, The Sew Weekly, over the course of the coming year.  If you were wondering, I have absolutely no intention of making a dress a week as the blog encourages.  One a month is more than enough for me to handle.  Although I am tempted to plan on a little extra for 2012.  Maybe a baker's dozen of pretty dresses?  

You can check out the details from my first contributory post below, or go straight to the source.  The first theme was just to serve as an introduction and show off something made in the last year.  You'll remember my blue gingham A.K.A. August Dress.

The “Taffeta Gingham 
For Every Day Wear” Dress

Name & Location: Liz Cowin.  Portland, OR.

Blog: I just finished up a year long personal challenge with Dress of the Month Club.

How long have you been sewing: Sewing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  My mother was at her machine for a good chunk of my childhood.  As soon as I was tall enough to reach the pedal she showed me the basics and it all grew from there.

Why did you want to commit to The Sew Weekly Challenge:  The Sew Weekly is a super fun read and I have to admit that there were a great many challenges I wish I had participated in last year.  Now I have my chance.

What do you love most about sewing garments: Being able to answer “Yes!” every time someone asks “Did you make that?”

What do you hate most about sewing garments: I don’t know why, but I can’t stand marking darts.  I love the darts, themselves, though.  Curious.

What do you want to accomplish this year with regard to the challenge: I am really working to stock my closet with classic, quality pieces that fit well and will stand the test of time.  All the better if I can make them (and show them off!).

Your biggest non-sewing goal of 2012: I guess I hope to pull off a really fun, stress-free wedding.  We just “decided” to get married about a week ago so . . . we’ll see.

What are your favorite sewing/fashion blogs:  Apart from this one, I enjoy A Beautiful Mess and Coletterie.  I really wish The Selfish Seamstress would make a prolific return.

Well, that's twelve of twelve for the year 2011.  December's dress is a really beautiful dark, dark blue wool.  I admittedly splurged.  

The deep squared neckline is something new for me, as are the long princess seams and 3/4 length sleeves.  I like the outcome -  not too dressy, but not casual either.

I added a cutesy leather bow belt because I like to accentuate waists.  The back is very high.  For the lining I used a bright plaid that used to be a dress.  The red shoes are a non-sequiteur.

Happy New Year everyone!  That's a wrap!

Happy Holidays!


It's always fun to dig into the holiday decorations box.  I had forgotten about the stocking I made for Adorable Boyfriend last year.  He loves mountain climbing, so wool socks and crampons seemed very fitting.  I used little black nubby buttons to look like shoelace hooks.  I was going off the cuff, so it's not perfect, but I was pretty pleased with the end result.

I don't have my own stocking in Portland, so I whipped one up this afternoon out of some scraps of Sari fabric that I have been hanging on to.  See?  Hoarding pays off.  Everything eventually finds a purpose.  I wouldn't say that sequins typify my personality by any means, but the colors were just too perfect.  And sometimes shiny is nice.

Now if someone would just put presents in it.  I am guessing my stocking could hold about three kittens.