Summer Style


cascade skirt by megan nielsen

Wow, the sun was disappearing on the horizon and it was still 105° as I was taking these pictures. Gulp. I feel like a wilting flower. Last week Austin went into an intense early heatwave and I tried hard to stay indoors especially during the afternoons. I think future summer outfit posts may have to be inside, too, but then of course I wouldn’t get to twirl about and let a skirt like this catch a hint of breeze.

cascade skirt

cascade skirt

This is the Cascade skirt pattern by Megan Nielsen, and exactly the kind of skirt I like to wear in summer. It has lots of elegance with no effort and is cool as a cucumber. This is something I just adore about my Lonsdale dress, and I’m thinking of making another one of those this summer, too. As soon as I saw Megan’s new collection, there was no pausing: I immediately went on the hunt for a light and drapey rayon print. The pattern is a simple design, a circle skirt with a graduated hem that wraps over in front, and when I walk about the hem has a lovely petal-like floating.

My man loved that part so much, we did a little “short” so you can see the cascading in action! Check it out on Vimeo. It’s my first attempt at editing video so I’m a little shy…

I was thinking of cascades when I braved the heat to the area where I took these pictures. There is a lovely little rocky stream along the part of Shoal Creek that runs through my neighborhood. It has a gentle sound, not waterfalls of the sort that Megan Nielsen was surely inspired by, but the trickle of a creek over limestone. Something I mightily needed on this day. I was willing to brave chiggers and heat to get to it but alas it was dry to the bone.

tube top

Outside of the pictures, I was barefoot all day and the shoes were a bit of an afterthought. I normally wear them out with shift dresses, and I think I like this skirt better barefoot. And bare-shouldered: I tried on a bunch of tops with this and decided that it just begged to go with a tube top. (Do we still call them that?) Of course I didn’t have any tube tops, so I made a pattern for one and sewed it all in an afternoon. I think it might look better, less bunchy, as a bodysuit and would need a little shelf bra to be truly, ahem, effective, but I really wanted it quick.

This skirt is total instant gratification sewing. It makes you look like you know what you’re doing, and quickly! Gotta love that. But since it borders on circle skirt territory and a baby hem is really the only option here, hemming is a patient exercise. Cutting and sewing main part of the skirt: 1 hour. Hemming: another hour. Anyone who’s hemmed a circle skirt groans with me!

cascade skirt and tube top

And p.s.: The original pattern is quite is long in the back. An easy way to figure out the right length is to measure the center back piece from waist to hem, which was almost ankle length on me. I’m 5’4″. I removed about 6 inches from the back hem length so it would hit mid-calf, slowly curving and tapering to nothing just past the side seams.

Skirt pattern: Cascade from Megan Nielsen
Skirt fabric: lightweight viscose woven, Emma One Sock
Strapless top pattern: self-drafted
Top fabric: cotton-modal jersey, hand-dyed (dye is Dharma Trading Procion, “Antique Lace”)
Gold strap rings: stash


The Little Tank that Could

my perfect silk tank

Hoo-ah, this week Austin was really heating up! Seems like about this time every year I come up with gads of strategies to keep me cool and feeling healthy and refreshed (#1: must drink more water). Usually by the end of July I start feeling pickled and strategize all over again. The last three summers I’ve been a bit obsessed with finding the perfect tank top pattern. I really love drapey tank tops and especially woven ones in silk.

Coming up with a perfect tank is a bit like trying to define the perfect t-shirt. I’ve made several different patterns and clearly obsessed about this a bit, but was never completely happy with the fit or style of my previous attempts. My perfect has somewhat narrow straps, a narrow neckline, and a slight racer back. It’s a little bit slouchy and drapes softly just around my hips. This time, I drafted one using my own bodice sloper, something I finally got around to fitting over the winter.

floral silk tank

And I think I finally got there! Sometimes the long road is the better one. Drafting my own block taught me some great things about my body lengths and widths and has really been helping me to fit myself better. For example, I’ve used it to adjust my bust length and fullness on this Style Arc shift dress and this Vogue top. I finally feel like fitting myself is starting to click!

Please excuse my rumpled appearance. I’m having a bad hair month (I’m growing out my bangs–argh) and this outfit has been through two hot and busy days (I wore this outfit twice, don’t tell anyone!).

me and my rumpled tank

silk tank back

This is a silk crepe I bought almost four years ago from Tessuti. I had it in mind for a sleeveless top back then but feared cutting into it because I just didn’t have the pattern right. And now I do. The print looks like paint splatters but these are actually large pop art flowers that seem to jump out of black negative space. I wish I had more for a drapey maxi dress–because that would really show off their scale.

My favorite, favorite finish for these kind of tanks is an all-in-one neck and armhole facing.


It looks so clean and pretty and turns out miles better than my bias bound finishes. And my favorite tutorial for sewing (and drafting) an all-in-one facing is by Sherry at Pattern Scissors Cloth. She hasn’t been active on her blog for awhile, but don’t go missing out on a goldmine of tips from a patternmaker!


Speaking of which, I’m also a big fan of her method for rolled (aka handkerchief aka baby) hems. My mom asked me about rolled hems recently, so I thought I’d mention my favorite! I think this method is quite easy and ends up less wonky-looking than using a rolled hem foot especially on those evil bias hems, and with every top my hems are getting better and better looking. Alternatively, Jen at Grainline published a roll-hem method which involves sewing a line that you can follow as you roll, until you get used to rolling by eye and learning how to keep slippery fabric from unrolling. (My tip: wet your fingers, roll, stitch a few inches, repeat. It’s weird but it works!)

Floral silk crepe: Tessuti
Pattern: self-drafted
Earrings: Native Clutter (by Stephanie at Makes the Things – just had to mention because I love her jewelry!)
Jeans: old and much loved


Silk Shorts, Deja Vu

My my, is it August already?

This has been one of the more pleasant summers we’ve experienced in Austin, but August is always the hardest, like an oven that’s been slowly heating for a few months. It’s that time of year I like to read more, just chill more, and generally halt all forms of pressure and deadlines. And really just enjoy basic Southern pleasures like sitting on the porch at night with a iced tall something. (I love making lemonade.)

One of those summer pleasures was going to include that floaty pair of silk shorts, the remix of last summer’s ill-fitting pair. You are about to experience a bit of blog deja-vu because here I am 10 months later, posting some pretty pictures again of pretty purple silk shorts with pretty interior details, but NOT on me.

These became an epic do-over. I bought more of the same gorgeous silk charmeuse (this time in stretch, just in case) from Mood. I made three muslins and redrafted the leg to my liking. I hacked off the fly and just like my last pair drafted my own with a fly shield. I changed the waistband to a longer and folded tab front. I spent even more time on the insides than I did on the last pair. Things were going so well…

And then, you know what’s coming, I did a try on before sewing in the final buttonhole and hemming up the cuffs. They were girnormous! So much so that I can’t model on me or I’d be indecent without a paper bag waist belt. An epic do-over turned into another epically unwearable piece.

I went back over my fitting notes and realized two things: 1) Don’t try on muslins at night and right after you eat. I’d made a good adjustment to the waist and hips but then decided against the changes after trying them on again. And 2.) Stretch fabrics can play a number on you. I made my muslins in a light rayon challis which has gave me an idea of the weight and drape, but I really didn’t think about how the stretch would strettchhh. I so wish it was easier to predict stretch behavior… and perhaps I need to get in the habit of fitting as I go.

However… I love this fabric too much so I am going to unpick. I will have to unpick quite a bit of understitching and somehow make my way into my very tiny trimmed waistband seams. Unfortunately, charmeuse is prone to needle marks, but I will have to live with that. Am I crazy? I don’t know what it is about this project. Normally I’d be really disappointed but I wasn’t the last time, either. More than anything I feel as if I’m getting the hang of trouser interiors and perhaps am ready to attack the satin tuxedo pants I’ve always dreamed of making…


It Was all Yellow

Last summer I was having a serious love affair with almost the entire spectrum of yellow. Gold. Ochre. Lemon. Canary. Sunflower. Mustard. There were a couple of spring 2011 runways that were to blame for this. Marc Jacobs clever use of marigold and diaphanous yellow with plum and coral. And Salvatore Ferragamo’s sun-kissed yellows falling into skin tones. It wasn’t just the color; I was very taken with the 70s influences of both collections and wrote about my plans to hijack one of these peasant looks back in May 2011.

Knocking off the Ferragamo outfit was near the top of my list last year and a must-finish this summer.

Normally, I’m not into big skirts but something about the easy Italian glamour thing appealed to me, romanesque sandals and all. How to translate without feeling too costumey is always a good challenge when being inspired by runway looks. And since I’m past the age for cropped tops, I wanted a similar cotton-y blouse without the belly-show.

You got to see a sneak peak of the blouse earlier this week and I really love it to pieces! I’ve worn it a few times already. A few of you commented on my buttonholes, and I wish I could say I could do that by hand, but the hand-stitched parts were only the buttons themselves. I’ve been blessed for the last year or so to have a machine that makes buttonholes which don’t make me scream. I once spent a week of nights practicing tailored buttonholes with gimp and button thread and needless to say I think it would take me another year practicing until I actually put them on a garment.

Blouse: Simplicity 7892, dated 1977. I dug this gem up on Etsy. It’s been awhile since I’ve sewn from a vintage pattern and boy, this one is a beaut. I don’t know if it’s the 70s cut, but it has a narrow-to-wide shaping from bust to waist that’s perfect for a pear-ish figure like mine. Here’s how it looks untucked:

There are a lot of little details I really liked about this pattern, like a curved sleeve hem–a drafting detail that seemed to disappear from patterns after the 70s–and lots of little helpful dots and notches to get all that gathering lined up. I didn’t make any fit changes but trimmed the seam allowances on the tissue to 3/8″, and raised the sleeves to 3/4 length (which I liked in the Ferragamo blouse).

Skirt: I think both of my inspiration skirts are basically dirndls (two rectangles). So that’s what I cut. I measured my waist and multiplied by 3 to get the total skirt width and then measured down to mid-calf to get the length. I added a button stand to the front panel and a wide waistband with belt loops (which you can’t see because I couldn’t find a small enough belt!). That width is a good idea in theory, and true to the runway style, but the gathering was a beast and after an hour working it all out and trying it on, the cotton was so poofy it gave me an extra set of hips.

So I ended up unpicking and drawing in a hip curve at the side seams, taking in the waist by a good twenty inches. When you do this to a straight rectangle, the side seams will drop a bit. So I also drew up a little curve along the the hem to compensate.

Fabric: I really had in my mind a goldenrod colored cotton poplin to match the runway outfit. And I was absolutely delighted to find a Radiance silk/cotton poplin in–ooh, yes–butterscotch! Do you know about Radiance? It’s a lovely fabric, with a cotton-ish drape but one side has the silky sheen of a satin. It feels like heaven. I’ve used it before as a purse lining but never in a garment. Usually this fabric prettier and richer with the satin side facing out but I really didn’t want something that dressy, so I used the “homespun” side, and for a touch made the sash with the satin side.

Despite it being a waylaid project for so long, I’m glad I still feel inspired by it and think it adds some fun pieces to my wardrobe. Isn’t it fun to be surprised when a style risk clicks? And this golden Klimt yellow is surprising, bringing out the amber in my eyes.

And p.s. the photos were taken on a very grey day, in an uninhabited but historic art deco home that we’ve adored for years. At one point we trespassed (tsk tsk) just to get a look at the truly surreal deco fish tanks in the living room. We tried to get inside again but…


If It Weren’t for the Skeeters

{update: Oops, I didn’t realize comments on this post were disabled. I had a conflict with one of my plugins. All is working now!}

I’ll go for months and months without shopping and then suddenly I get a get a bee in my bonnet to make a whole day of it. I rarely drive anywhere–most of my week happens within a five-block radius–but I love my car so it gives me an excuse to tool around town in my Ladybug.

A shopping day starts with a latte from my favorite coffee shop and then I visit a few local boutiques. There’s always a stop at Anthropologie, and mostly I just drool over their furniture and all the little knick-knack housewares. Sometimes I’ll cruise as far as the mall to check out lingerie sales at Nordstrom. But I really love small boutiques that have their own creative voice, that operate more like galleries rather than try to serve everyone at once. Kick Pleat is one of those shops, with a tightly edited, small collection of designers, mostly independent European brands you wouldn’t find elsewhere in Austin.

Two of my absolute musts for the summer were a blouse-y white tee shirt and silk shorts. I really thought I’d get around to making a tee by now, so I couldn’t resist this floaty white tee which has that right amount of haphazard slouch I like to throw on with everything.

{I’m a sucker for lady sandals, especially ones with bizarre slug ornaments…}

If it weren’t for the mean skeeters, I’d probably wear something short every day. I had a few pairs I planned to make this summer, including a remake of my pretty purple silk charmeuse shorts. They were one of those projects on which I spent more time working out the finishing techniques than fitting them properly and I accidentally cut the wrong size (down). I mocked up the next size up only to realize that the pattern is better suited for a more structured fabric than charmeuse. The original pattern was in the Burda June 2010 issue and is a sweet little short pattern, but has a bit of tailored fit and not quite the drapey loose-fitting style suited to something like charmeuse. (There were two looks in the magazine, which are both available at BurdaStyle here and here.)

My sewing hours the last week have been spent working out a new pattern, but keeping all the trouser-y details. A contour waistband, fly, options for cuffs and welts are all unexpected touches in silk, dontcha think? I’m working out sample #3 and I think I’ve got the pant leg just right. It’s almost a different pattern entirely and sometimes I wonder why I just don’t have a trouser block to begin with!

A few of my inspiration shorts:

{Credits: Shopbop, ForwardForward, Ralph Lauren}


One in Every Color

Do you have a signature pair of sneakers? These are mine, in my favorite summer color of the moment, a cooling mint–like a mojito on my feet.

I tend to find a classic and stick with it. For years I loved Chucks, then classic Vans. Then I discovered Superga. They are Supercomfortable and seem to last longer than Vans. Unfortunately, all of my sneaks eventually get holes and turn into muddy-colored garden shoes. Derek and I once considered making a wall sculpture out of our dead but sentimental shoes from the past, but quickly realized it’d be a rather stinky sculpture…

So sneakers and tanks are the mode du jour. We are officially in the dog days of summer. The 100s have arrived, and just like last summer I have realized my wardrobe doesn’t have enough floaty, breezy tanks. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been refining a tank pattern I started in on last summer. I’m determined to have one in every color!

These are a few samples from leftover yardage. Each one is from a different knit (modal/lycra, rayon/lycra, and an organic cotton jersey). I was trying to learn a bit about fabric fit and behavior, particularly with bindings.

One of my favorite tank shapes is a loose sort of a-line fit with a deep u-neck and a slight racer back. My first version (not pictured) looked more or less like a sleeveless tee with a slightly tented hemline. On the next three I added a shirttail hem and kept scooping the neckline and armhole a little bit more each time. It’s super easy to draft a tank from your favorite tee pattern and it’s only taken a few experiments to get the right scoop shapes to my tank. If you need a book to guide you, I really like Built by Wendy’s Home Stretch, a good beginner’s guide to sewing with knits. It includes a few starting patterns, like a tee, and walks through modifying a basic tee pattern into other shapes. Although I’ve never used the book’s patterns, it gave me some starter drafting ideas when I first started playing with my tee shirt pattern (BurdaStyle’s Lydia) a couple years ago.

I think I’d like deeper armhole scoops for future versions. I was being a bit conservative at first, worried I might reveal too much. You can see that the white tank looks a little tighter around the bustline. When I first drafted this pattern off my tee, I narrowed the bustline to account for stretch. The stripey modal fabric stretched over 100% and fit just perfectly. Even though the white knit is about t-shirt weight, it’s quite stable and stretches only about 20%, so I’ll probably need a second pattern adjusted to fit stabler knits.

It’s good to know the stretch percent of knits particularly when it comes to bindings. The more elastic the fabric, the shorter the binding needs to be. I experimented on scraps before binding each tank to get the right reduction for a flat, clean look. So, for example, on the striped fabric, I narrowed the binding length by 30% and for the cotton knit by 10%. Too long bindings cause all that ugly rippling and the binding to stand away, while too short bindings gather too much and pull in and up.

My favorite edge finish is a sewn-on band using this method, which I’ve been doing for most of my tees the last couple of years. I start out by basting the folded binding to the seam (right sides together), then I serge over the basting, then I fold the binding out and topstitch the seam allowance down from the front to keep the seam flat. I see a lot of store-bought tees with this sort of binding, in which the seam isn’t actually “bound”.

For actual bindings that enclose the seam, I think it’s difficult to get a clean, consistent look unless a binder is involved. And I actually have a couple of binding attachments for my old Bernina, but still need to do some experimenting to get them right on knits. For some tanks I’d love to have a little baby binding with just a single stitch on top (rather than twin needle or coverstitch) for a more elegant look. For the white cotton version, I knew the fabric was a bit more stable and would take better to this kind of single fold binding so I tried a method Sherry described on her blog. It came out very clean and pretty!

Stay cool everyone! Now back to that glass of lemonade…


First Summer Shot: Red Scallop Shorts

These shorts were really fun to make. Or at least I was having a lot of fun saying scallops, scallop. Isn’t it a cool word? The consonance, I guess.

They were finished over a week ago, but I really, really wanted to wear them with this exact top–a body suit, actually–which is a straight-up knock-off of Daughter Fish’s. And that turned into an adventure of drafting not one but two different bodysuits. (More on that later!)

As I got to my unshaded location, the sun went behind clouds and the chiggers came out. Ouch, ooh, ouch, they sting. Ahhh, signs of summer in Texas!

Now, I have to admit that styling shorts is not my forte. I have one pair of ikat shorts, kind of shorty shorts, that I love pairing with floaty blouses. There’s something about floaty and oversized with a smaller silhouette on bottom that looks right on me. I like these two together in a classic nautical way, but looking at the whole outfit in photos makes me feel a bit, um, revealed.

What do y’all think? A white button down with these might be cute. Or perhaps a drapey tank? Definitely not these sandals, if only because they are wearing out and I’m kind of bored with them. I’ve already got my eye on the “every day” sandals I want for this summer. They have just a smidge of a wedge heel, which I like. I usually only wear flat sandals with things that cover my legs, like maxis or long trousers.

Pattern: Pattern Runway Sweet Scallop Shorts. Lots of cool little details, like separate front pieces with lots of top stitching, hem facings, welt pockets, yoke pockets with again, facings. This pattern is facing-happy! I really like them on hems–they make such a nice finish. It also has some good little “industry” techniques, such as how the invisible zipper is inserted, by machine, into the waistband facing. I’ve used this method several times before to line and face zippers, and it really turns out beautifully.

(Note: I bought the pattern in September and it had incorrect instructions for the welt pockets, which gave me a bit of a head mash and I ended up sewing the underwelt backwards. If you make these make sure you have the updated instructions or see Sarah’s tutorial. She kindly pointed me to it when I thought I was going crazy!)

Fabric: Red organic cotton twill from Mood, a nice twill with a soft hand. It was terribly off-grain, but after a lot of pulling on the bias, I was able to get it all straight. They have some other really pretty colors, too. I only had a yard, and that was enough; I even had just the right amount left over to cut a 2nd front piece, after I serged a hole right through my original front while putting in the pockets. OOPS.

Fitting notes: I’m exactly in between an XS and S in the pattern sizing so I went with the XS and made up a quick muslin. I mentioned before that this pattern has a lot of ease, but when I made the muslin, it didn’t seem so gargantuan and in fact looked slightly more fitted than the model picture. I still think going down a half size was a good idea.

I also knew that my fabric would work better if the shorts were more fitted. This twill is stiff (and non-stretch), kind of like a mid-weight denim. I tend to think that the stiffer and weightier a fabric, the more it is suited to a fitted style, which is why it’s so hard to predict the look and fit if you use a lighter or drapier fabric on the muslin. I’m glad I didn’t overfit the muslin, though, because after adding all the fusings, facings, etc, the shorts felt even tighter. Thankfully, the fabric relaxed a little as I wore them about!

On the muslin, I folded out just a smidge of a wedge out of the back for a swayback, and took in the waistband by a teensy bit. I might be able to stand even just a smidge more of a swayback adjustment. I made the biggest change to the center front seam/crotch curve. Commercial pants patterns often do this weird thing right where the center front seam forks. That looks funny now that I’m writing it, but tailors use the term “crotch fork”–why can’t I? It looks baggy in the front but feels tight from side to side. In most of my rtw pants, including jeans, that curve is much shallower (and usually the inseam is closer to the front). So I redrew the curve to be shallower, which also makes it shorter AND adds extra room for the hips. Does that make sense?

Happy summer sewing!


In Progress: The Good Times Dress

Finally, I have moved more than halfway through my ready-to-sew garments from the summer. The latest is a little bit of Studio 54.

This is Hotpatterns Good Times Dress, which is inspired by a DVF style, and in a totally glam silk jersey. I might be having a silk jersey crush. It’s so lovely and easy to sew, and skims the curves in a very flattering way.

I originally cut this dress for a friend who was performing in a 25-year reunion concert with her band. This was back in July and I didn’t really have time to complete it but I probably needed an excuse to cut it out. I’d always wanted to try Hotpatterns as I’ve accumulated a few. I’d bought the lovely hibiscus-colored jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics over a year ago, for a project for another friend and we ended up going with something else. In the end, I really wanted that fabric (and dress) for myself anyway!

As you might notice, the dress remains unhemmed (the sleeves and hem will be about four inches shorter). This is because I’ve decided to put the dress in time out for awhile so I don’t make any more holes or mistakes.

It took me a couple of days to figure out the yokes. The HP instructions have you roll up the bodice into its yoke “like a sausage” for a clean finish, much like the “burrito method” in shirtmaking. The problem with doing it this way is that the neckline is already closed, making it impossible to turn inside out. Ask me how I know–I had some kind of origami puzzle going on after sewing it according to the illustration.

To do this correctly, one must roll the entire garment (including the opposite yoke), into the yoke, sew and then turn out through the open armhole.

After figuring out the yokes, my serger started acting up. It needs a tune-up like last year. I kept ripping out a lot of serged stitches before I figured out that the problem was not with me or my needle but my machine. I wound up poking a big hole in the garment where the pocket goes, and had to sew over it.

I’m exaggerating by pulling on the dress but sometimes pockets in knits just don’t lay well. I love pockets but might just serge them out of the picture when I come back to the dress.

The whole pattern is basically a bunch of rectangles, which I think is pretty clever in its simplicity. The sleeves are sewn in at right angles to the straight line of the shoulder. I’d probably call them kimono-style, with a square armpit. But I can’t figure out how to sew that intersection of seams at the armpit without all the bunching and this is the point where I stopped before I ripped out yet another seam.

I love the proportions of the shapes in the dress. It has just a little bit of waist-shaping but otherwise relies on the drape of the fabric and ties for style.

I’m excited to see this done and will be back modeling this dress. It’s too much pretty to waste.

In the meantime, I’m going to have to set aside the rest of my project list since most of it requires a fixed serger (except the bra) and I’m ready to get on with some fall sewing!


Silk Tank, Version 4.1a Beta

At long last, a deep drenching rain came to Austin over the weekend. The ground was soggy, the morning had a sweet breeze, and I celebrated by pulling out just about anything with long sleeves. Despite that, I’m still finishing up my summer clothes including the latest in my silk tank top experiments. The latest is a pattern from August’s Burda:

Before this, I’d been working and re-working a Kwik Sew pattern. My last version underwent my first-ever FBA (thanks to advice from pattern whizzes), and came out fitting well, but still felt too boxy and shapeless.

Some of my problem was the design of the garment itself. It’s amazing how something so simple as a tank or shell can have so many subtle style and fit variations. Since I was teen I’ve always instinctually veered away from wide scoop necklines–I just don’t think they frame my angular face very well. I fiddled with the neckline a lot, trying to narrow the scoop which also requires narrowing the back into a slightly more racerback shape, and eventually decided to just try another pattern.

I think I was taken in by all the romantic styling (I’m really obsessed with blush tones right now) so I dropped the Kwik Sew pattern and traced this this Burda pattern

I left out the side zipper and just sewed it as a pullover.

I love this fabric and darker coral hue (a half yard of stretch silk charmeuse that I ordered as a swatch a couple years ago–I’m trying to use up my yardage ends!). The recommended finish is a folded bias strip that is sewn to the right side then pressed inward and topstitched. I thought I’d try it, but think I prefer using facings. (You can see that the bias stretched too much and doesn’t lay flat against my neckline. You can also see, erm, that those darts are not the greatest.)

Just for the color and the fact that it’s sleeveless, I’ll probably wear this to death, despite the fact that its neckline is even wider than the Kwik Sew pattern. The straps almost fall off my shoulders. I’ll continue the hunt for next summer, or just perhaps draft my own darn tank.

Mondays are kind of like pajama day around here (rarely make-up, rarely even brushing the hair) but I decided to snap pictures anyway. This get-up is more or less representative of my default personal style (the kind which requires no thought when I realize I need to at least leave the house for groceries, or in this case, get in front of a camera)–jeans, a top, some kind of jacket or funky wrap, and brogues. I love brogues–flat ones, heeled ones. My husband calls them my collection of “teacher shoes”. Yep, I was a saddle shoe kid.

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If the Riviera Were a Dress

Hey y’all, how’s your summer going? Mine’s all kinds of hot. I’ve just gotten back from an extended trip to my old hometown of Cincinnati, and as I was flying over those blue mountains of Kentucky, I was shocked at the stark contrast between the deep forested greens and the sort of sandy-colored, yellow-lit landscapes of Texas. The midwest was almost as hot as Texas but at least my eyes felt better.

Several years ago my husband and I spent an anniversary walking the Camino de Santiago, an ancient religious pilgrimage trail that extends from Barcelona to the coast of Spain. While hiking through small villages whose dusty natural landscapes resembled the hilly outskirts of Austin, I kept noticing the widespread use of a very cool blues painted into architecture and everyday items from doorknobs to dinner plates. They range from the more lavender-toned blues to the very deep cobalt blues that are more a southern Spanish Moroccan influence.

Blue Door - Spain

These blues were very welcome to the eyes in the middle of those extreme heated and white-lit Spanish afternoons. I finally understood that whole traditional Mediterranean blue and yellow palette. It’s about relief!

I wondered why Texans don’t use more blue in their buildings. The light here is very white and direct and like Spain, reflects off the white limestone landscaping. New Mexico’s architecture uses healing colors so well, and its celebratory pueblo colors are very reminiscent of some of those tiny Spanish villages.

{Credit: Taos, New Mexico}

Even the gardens here tend toward the hot in summer–what few native flowers are in bloom right now are very hot reds and yellows. Interesting…

So I’ve been taking a bit of time off of sewing but also rethinking all my project ideas. I got sidetracked by seeing the new Sewaholic dress pattern on Tasia’s site.

Isn’t it lovely? I really wanted to sew a maxi this summer, but couldn’t find a pattern I liked, and I like this one, just released today. It’s not an empire-waisted maxi (yay!) and I love the neckline. Since I don’t have 5 yards of anything to make this I have to (poor me) buy some new fabric and after a bit of searching I found this appropriately named “Riviera blue” linen/rayon fabric at

Now if the Riviera (or northern Spain, or Provence) were a dress, this would be it. I need to set aside all my coral fabrics for the time being to cool my eyes off.