Christmas Sneaking! aka Wizard Robes

In the run up to Christmas, when we were all exchanging wish lists and making inquiries, I found out that my sister-in-law had begun reading Harry Potter to my niece, age 8. My nephew, age 5, while a little young for the series, had heard some of the tales and demanded to hear more. We were told that both were thrilled with all things Hogwarts and that a little magic under the tree would be very appreciated. Since, I’m sort of known for my Wizard Robes, I decided that it was only logical that I sew wizard robes for my niece and nephew for Christmas.

I was able to make both robes from two different colors of very similar poly satin from my stash. It’s not really kid friendly fabric but I figured that by the time the robes are totally destroyed they will either have outgrown them and need new ones, or perhaps ceased to care about Hogwarts (unlikely). I also used some metallic trim that I think I got at a yard sale? Who knows, but again, stuff that was perfect for this project and nothing else.

I used the kid sized version of the Simplicity pattern I used for my robes. This pattern sews very fast but is fabric intensive. img_1992Somewhere along the line, I decided that if was making wizard robes, then I was going all the way and having them delivered via Owl Post. I wrapped the robes in cut up brown paper grocery bags and tied them with string. I was very careful to make sure that the bags had no logos or any printing on them anywhere in order not to break the illusion. I actually argued with my mom on the necessity of this!img_2038After Christmas dinner, I slipped outside and left the two packages on the walk. I made a bunch of random noises on my phone from the kitchen. At that point, my husband, who was in on the ploy, said he thought he heard something at the door. My sister-in-law, who was not fully clued in, brushed him off but he convinced her and the kids to go check. They brought in the packages and immediately opened them while vibrating with glee and delight. img_2040They were all completely surprised! I played along and never said anything about making the robes, although all the adults knew. I think that my niece might have figured part of it out because later I was handed a “letter” via owl post from the headmaster saying that I would be going to Hogwarts. After that, I was handed another letter with my shopping list, which was copied directly from the book. img_2051My husband got a letter saying that he was only a muggle! img_2069Even a few days later my nephew was still talking about how mysterious it all was and the robes were still being worn all day. +10 to Slytherin (that’s where I’m always sorted)!img_2045




2016 Christmas Decorations

It’s December 31st, and very uncharacteristically for us, the Christmas decorations have already started coming down. I am a big believer that the decorations should stay up until the twelfth night (i.e. The 12 days of Christmas). Unfortunately though, that usually turns into the 12th week after Christmas. We are having work done on the house starting January 2nd so really getting the decorations down is much more of a priority this season.

We have a big open house on Christmas Eve so decorating is a serious deal. I grew up always having a fake tree. My husband would never permit that. He also loves bringing nature inside so we always decorate with natural roping and boughs. Yes, it does make a mess but it is so pretty and smells great.

We are huge enthusiasts of the Charlie Brown approach to tree selection. We cut a tree at a tree farm. We are always looking for a large, untrimmed tree. Why buy a real tree if it looks like a Lego? The past several years we have ended up with cedars. I always just let the tree speak to me. Usually they just say “Oh hai!”I made all the stockings. My mom’s old stocking is missing so she got a new one this year. Kim stayed with us last year but didn’t have her own personalized stocking so hers is new this year too. Slothy Claws visited us in his sleigh. It took him a really long time to fill the stockings which is why he was still with us Christmas morning. Mine and Brownlee’s stocking need an update. I was really into kitschy Elvis when I made mine but I’m not so much anyone. These stocking can go to the old stocking graveyard with the one for my old cat Pixie who has since passed on. My Uncle Ronnie did the painting in the background. It hung in my grandparents house when I was little. I called it the bottle men painting. Other decorated spots around the house…  Do you like our fire?


We had to break into our bedroom right before Christmas. The old latch had slipped and despite our best efforts, we just had to hulk it. This was my rig to keep the door closed during the open house.  Finally, in honor of this brilliant post from Vintage Everyday, here I am in my Wizard Robes posing next to the tree on Christmas morning.

Mod Christmas Dress

The past couple of years I’ve been really good about making a Christmas dress. I decided this year I wanted to go a totally different direction than just making a dress in a Christmas fabric. I’m attending a couple of 60s themed costumed based events in 2017 (Costume College and Anachrocon) so I decided to make an outfit that I could wear both for Christmas and in the future. I opted to be a swinging Mod elf.

These two photos were my basic inspiration:


I loved the look of the big tie and the jockey style cap. I figured the iconic 60s shift dress would also be fairly fast, easy and fabric friendly to whip up. I was sort of right.

I started first with the Jockey Cap. I used McCalls 8452 – Hat Wardrobe, View D from 1966.

I bought merino wool blend felt from Joann. The merino wool felt selection at the closest Joann is really small but luckily of the very limited color selection they had exactly what I wanted – red and green.

The hat went together really fast. I lined the hat with red and green reindeer print cotton that I had left over from some Christmas crafting of the past. I lined the felt with fusible interfacing which was probably a mistake. It bucked when I ironed my seams. I used red topstitch thread to give it a nice finished look and added a two tone felt pom-pom.



For the dress I choose Simplicity 8844 from 1970. I used a lightweight cotton twill from Joann in red for the dress and white for the collar, pockets and sleeve cuffs. The tie fabric is the suitably groovy Moda Ho! Ho! Ho! Snowflake Bulbs Snow White.


Despite this being a half sized pattern, the dress was way too long at the waist and put the hip in the completely long place. I shortened the dress almost 3 inches at the waist shortening line. I also had to add a half inch to all the side seams. I had already set the sleeves when I figured out that they were completely too tight. I ended up resewing them with a 1/4 inch seam allowance but they really could have used more. The fit on this pattern was just not ideal generally. Also, despite my shorting efforts, the dress was still too long on its original wearing.


I wore two of my new Christmas brooches from Deer Arrow. I tried to do a mod eye makeup look but it was kind of mess. I just don’t have enough lid to get the fake doe eye from than era.


The fishnets are from We Love Colors and the shoes are Mildred in Poppy Red from B.A.I.T.img_1898

Everyone loved my hat but I’m not sure this outfit was a complete success. One comment I received was that I had kind of a “fast food” feel. That had already kind of crossed my mind so once it was said I couldn’t forget it. I later wore just the dress with black knee high boots (no hat or tie) to a Christmas themed rock show. In the bathroom line one girl said I looked like Little Orphan Annie, another reference that I had inadvertently made. I forgot what my response was but the girl then asked me what I was going for. When I replied “Christmas” she seemed confused.

Post-Christmas my original thought was to swap out the tie and hat for something not Christmas so I’d already have something in the bag for my 60s events. I think I can address some of the previous issues by seriously shortening the dress and by making a really smart fabric choice for the new hat and tie. Maybe then it will look a little less like I should be asking if you wanted fries.

Oh well.

Ho! Ho!



First make of 2016

New year, new energy. Or maybe I was just getting itchy to make something. I had to put my sewing and machine away in preparation for Christmas. Man, did that make me antsy! Really, I’m still finishing things up from 2015 as my first sewing project of 2016 is a belated 2015 Christmas present.

After I had put everything away until after Christmas, Facebook reminded me that I made my uncle a hawaiian shirt as his gift for Christmas 2009.

hawaiian 2010

As I hadn’t actually yet managed to get Uncle Ronnie a 2015 present, I thought that maybe, after six years, it was time that I make him another shirt! Of course, Facebook reminded me this when it was basically impossible to do before the holiday. But Uncle Ronnie won’t mind too much, I think. Also, he’s not a social media guy, so I can still post this before I mail it off.

I used the same pattern for both shirts, Simplicity 3852. It’s not a particular difficult pattern although I always feel like the collar assembly is kind of wonky.

hawaiian 2016

The fabric is disco (I assume) Michael Miller. It’s actually a really lovely cotton. I’m tempted to see if the shop has more to stash away for a future dress.

I used some of my many sewing Christmas gifts including my Gingher spring loaded shears from my inlaws. And this tower of badassery, courtesy of Mom, provided me with the perfect shade of purplish-brown thread. thread

That’s 80 spools! Now I’ll always have some color close to whatever I’m sewing — even if I have to get more later. I love just giving it a spin. So decadent, yet useful!

Beyond the burst of sewing, I’ve been enjoying a stretch of quiet time with the dog and the husband. I get that a lot with the dog, with the husband not so much. We’ve kind of just been chilling like this…

bear head

best paw friends.jpg


2015 Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge – Final Results

We’re just a mere 24 hours or so into 2016 so it’s time to do all the wrap ups from activities in 2015. I suppose a lot of people get on the ball and have this ready to go before the calendar turns but I actually tried to sneak one more pattern in under the 2015 wire by making a New Year’s Eve dress. I did the mock up and as it had issues and I had a great, never yet worn dress in the closet, that will be conquered in 2016.

My personal goal for the 2015 Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge was to sew five vintage patterns (for me personally, repros did not count, although I sewed those as well). Additionally, one of the patterns had to be made with vintage fabric. I’m proud to say that I ended up with completed projects from eight different vintage patterns and two repro patterns! While I didn’t exactly sew with vintage fabric quite as I had envisioned, I did use some fabric and trims of unknown age. I also made a skirt with vintage Christmas fabric, but I didn’t use a pattern to make it. I figure I came close enough though with this requirement to consider it fulfilled.

It was really fun to take this pledge and play with vintage patterns. I must say I’m quite obsessed with them now and regularly search etsy and eBay for more to add to my collection. I’m not particularly interested in doing serious grading work so I tend to look only for patterns that come close to my actual measurements. That makes things tougher but I’ve found that the size 22 1/2 from the 50s-60s seems to work quite well for me. I wish they still made the half size patterns “for a woman who is 5’2″ to 5’3″” I think it would make a lot of sewers’ lives much easier!

Take a look at my makes below. I’m quite happy with them. I even tried sewing with knits! I’m far from having that mastered but it’s on my list of things to keep exploring for 2016. I also plan on doing the pledge again!

1. Tentacular Robe. Vintage Simplicity 8510 from 1969

2. Jiffy Knit Tunic. Vintage Simplicity 5556 from 1973

3. Derpy Mouse Toy. Vintage Butterick 3419 from the 70s

4. Groovy Flannel Tunic (modeled by my mom, made from what was originally her pattern. I gave her this shirt. It fit her much better than it fit me). Vintage Simplicity 7446 from 1976

5. Zip Front Step-in Dress. Vintage Simplicity 6499 from 1966. I used a goodwill sheet for this.

6. Batman Fabric Dress. Vintage McCalls 3191 from ?. I believe this Batman fabric is “vintage” of some variety. My friend Megan bought it quite a while ago at a fabric store in Florida that was going out of business. Based on the color and the style of the Batman design it has to be at least as old as the 80s. This pattern was a real pain for me. I ended up putting a dirndl skirt on the bodice versus the one from the pattern. I wore the dress successfully at Dragoncon but the fit was really problematic.

7. Rockabilly Day Dress x2. Vintage Simplicity 1577 from 1956. I made this one twice. The first dress was the test and it came out basically perfect. No adjustments! That never happens. The 2nd version was my Christmas dress. I used vintage red scallop trim on the collar and pockets. This is my current favorite vintage pattern.

8. Pencil Skirt. Vintage Simplicity 4491 from 1953. I used this skirt for my Rockabilly Boy Wonder costume for DragonCon. The top is Simplicity Retro 1460.

I wore a variation of this outfit to a Halloween party. I think I look cuter in this photo also!

My other reprint makes were both Butterick Retro 5748 from 1960. I’ve sewn this dress three times now, twice in 2015. I made a version with “steamderp” cotton I found in the NYC garment district and vintage tan eyelet trim. I also made this dress for the Nancy Drew tea at Costume College in a blood splatter print. I don’t have a good image of that one but I do have a photo of the matching Clue game fascinator I made.

Finally, I made a skirt from vintage Christmas fabric. No pattern used and executed about 90 minutes before I wore it to see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the Puppetry Arts Center. I only had two yards of the 36 wide border print so it’s not as full as I would prefer, but what can you do? Not bad considering.




January Crafty

Presenting my first crafty of 2015: a panel for the Fabulous Travelling Steampunk Yarnbomb. The yarnbomb is curated and based in the UK so I figured I’d try to make a panel that gave a bit of American flavor. It took me a bit to actually come up with what I thought was a good idea for my panel. When I finally thought of just making something Old Glory-esque, I also thought, why did it take me so long to come up with that idea!?

Steampunk America!

I did make some efforts to create a flag that was proportional to the genuine article but as I was not in a terribly exacting mood, it got wonky as I went on. I also ran out of the letter A, but found an acceptable sub in an upside down V.

When my mom was visiting over Christmas I was lamenting that I always want to sew during the holidays right about the time that there is no possible way I could get any crafting completed. For example, I’d like to make some of the cute advent calendars I see tutorials for but I usually think of this somewhere around December 20th when I remember I don’t have an advent calendar. Mom suggested that I do my Christmas sewing sometime in the summer. It’s true that there do seem to be lots of Christmas fabrics out around near Labor Day. That seems so lame though and also I’m usually in the throws of DragonCon sewing anyway. Since I don’t manage to undecorate until after the 12th Night (and before Valentine’s Day most years), I was still feeling in a holiday crafting mood even though Christmas 2014 had already ended. So I went ahead with a project I have been planning, Christmas Bunting.

I’ve had odds and end of various Christmas prints hanging out in my stash from a previous sewing bonanza. I thought bunting would be a perfect and cute way to use them up.

I managed to cut 8 triangles from each piece of fabric I had, out of maybe 12(?) various fabrics. I was awfully particular about the layout of the flags. I love the colorful bric a brac look I ended up with.

As you can see from the (admittedly crappy) photo below, I got a little zealous in my bunting making.

All the Bunting!

I really don’t know where I’m going to hang all this bunting but I think it looks damn adorable! I sort of want to make bunting for all occasions, or all occasion bunting — bunting that has 12 panels representing a holiday for every month. Perhaps 2015 will be the bunting year?

Speaking of a new year, I’ve started doing hot yoga. I did not so hot yoga several years ago. I had already planned on trying out something to reverse of some of ick from last year. I wouldn’t say that it is a resolution or anything. I just knew that trying to start a new exercise / lifestyle routine would be futile during Christmas party time. I don’t know if I am “hooked” on hot yoga but I like it enough to have paid for some classes in advance and also to buy my own yoga mat and towel. Now that I have my own gear I needed something to haul it around with. I used this tutorial from Sew4Home to make a yoga bag.

Yoga Bag Front with extra Deery Lou!

I didn’t want one of those tube mat bags because I also needed something that could handle my towel, sweaty clothes, etc. I think I read the tutorial wrong and made the straps too wide. I gathered them at the shoulder and that fixed the issue and it looks like a nice detail also.

Dragon (or bird or something) Interior Pocket

I added an inside pocket so I had somewhere for my driver’s license or other easy to lose objects. I used some home furnishing sample fabric that I had lying around and animal print cotton from the stash. I finished the bag off with vintage buttons. I feel a lot cuter walking out of yoga now because now I am a sweaty mess with a super fun yoga bag versus just a sweaty mess! Namaste Bitches!

A Baking Adventure with Nana’s Almond Cookies

I don’t cook. Most Decembers, however, I will attempt to bake something. Usually it is either sugar cookies cut out with cookie cutters or oatmeal raisin cookies. Both recipes are ones that come from my inlaws, although I have slightly doctored the oatmeal raisin recipe by adding more raisins and subbing the “sweet milk” (my southern husband told me that is just regular milk versus buttermilk) for actual sweetened condensed milk. The past few years I have gone to a big annual cookie party. I wasn’t sure what to make this year. I decided to trot out the recipe that is synonymous with my Nana, the Almond Cookie (From the Chinese).

My Nana was a pretty regular baker. She usually had a tin of something at her condo and more often not it was these delicious almond cookies. They are reminiscent of almond cookies that you sometimes get in American Chinese restaurants. You know the ones — in the waxed paper baggies. I have made these cookies before but while they tasted correct, the texture was always wrong. Every time I made them, they were too chewy. Attempts made by my mom and aunt were the same. The flavor was spot on but it still wasn’t Nana’s cookie.

The recipe very specifically calls for 2 cups “soft shortening” which the recipe states is 2 sticks butter and 2 sticks margarine. Margarine is against my religion so I decided to try swapping the margarine for actual shortening – Crisco in bars. Behold! I think the code is cracked! Of course, I can’t be completely sure. My Nana died several year before I even considered trying to make these cookies so I can’t ask her nor can I pull just one more out of the cookie tin. But I think I got it as I remember which I guess is just fine nowadays.

It’s not totally random that I decided to make this cookie this year. I have just returned from a trip to mainland China. My Nana visited China in, I think, the early 80s. I don’t exactly remember when honestly but I was a fairly young kid. Her travels to exotic places fascinated me and really had an impact on me and my future love of travel. Nana was not exactly what you might think of when imaging an adventurous older traveller. She wasn’t particularly outdoorsy or a crazy glamorous Auntie Mame type. She was a long time widow who was curious to see what she had read about and had the means and the ambition to make it happen. She took to tours to China and India and other places, although the very exotic China and India stick the most in my mind. I assume that the relentlessly modern and industrial China that I just saw has little in common with the China that Nana experienced. I really wonder how she managed or what she would think about my travels now. I was not as close to Nana as I was with my other grandparents but the older I get the more I realize what an impact Nana and her travels made on me — and the more I look like her too! I don’t have any photos at the ready sadly but sometime I’ll post some for comparison. Here’s one of my favorite photos I took on this China trip instead.

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#china #jingdezhen #ceramics #gawker

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I posted a baking photo on social media and someone asked me for this recipe. I figured since I was typing it out anyway I’d share the recipe and a little about Nana with all of you! Happy baking, Happy travels and very soon Happy Holidays!


Nana’s Almond Cookies (From The Chinese)

4 cups sifted flour

1 t. baking powder

2 cups butter

2 cups Crisco

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 1/2 t. almond extract

1 t. vanilla

1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

1/2 cup blanched almond slivers

Sift flour and baking powder into large bowl. Add next 5 ingredients. Knead mixture until thoroughly combined. Form dough into 2 inch pieces. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls. Combine egg yolk and 1 t. of water. Brush top of cookies with egg yolk mixture. Press a few almond slivers in center of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.