Sew Paradise

Dear Mom at the water park

I see you sitting there in your Capri pants and your book. You look after your beautiful kids swimming in the warm water but you sit, uncomfortable with the  literal and figurative weight that motherhood has left you with.

Girl, get up, put on a swim suit and get in here. Your kids will remember that you played with them and swam with them. They will remember laying their water chilled little bodies on you as you all soaked in the sun.

I bought a new suit this year, a mixed bikini. I tried on one of those high waisted suits but discovered that less fabric suited me more than trying to cover up the jiggly mom belly. My favorite suit is a string bikini. It’s looking a bit worn, but the confidence this suit gives me is not because it covers my mom belly; in fact it doesn’t. This suit is the fierce sailor girl, the windsurfing, brave beach girl with the long wavy honey blonde locks I had as a young 20 something. It’s her that I slip on, with the suit.

Get out on that paddle board, get in the pool, swim in the lake. But don’t spend you kids childhood missing out. No other mom (or dad) is judging you for the love handles and jiggly bum. They have theirs to worry about. And the dads, they never judge; they appreciate.

You have a date with childhood. With seeing your tanned legs sliding down the water slide in the sun, pretending you are your kid. Go. Mom. It’s worth it.



Sew Paradise

Kwik Sew Swimsuit – You CAN Sew Your Own Swimwear!

Sew Paradise Kwik Sew SwimsuitThis week, I’m sewing a Kwik Sew 3608 bandeau tankini swim suit out of gorgeous Chanel swimwear knit from France. I purchased this fabric last summer from Elliott Berman Textiles in NYC, and it’s luscious. It’s heavy 4-way stretch in a florentine pattern in aquas and blues. It’s spongy-textured and very, very nice. I’ve made this view B suit once before – I sewed it as a modified suit for breastfeeding my children, and wore it through both of their nursing careers. The modifications I made to the bust lining, which included openings in the lining for nursing, I taped back together as one piece for this suit, my kids are now 8 and 5.  I also made a tank style suit with really nifty nursing openings hidden in princess seams (Elizabeth Lee pattern) and that, also, was a huge success. I wore that suit til it wore out.

So what do I love about making swimsuits? I’ll dive back into my childhood for the answers. Growing up, I was a pretty awkwardly skinny kid, and my mom didn’t believe in bikinis. I thought this a travesty, of course, being a teenager. When I was twelve, an older cousin gave me a green terry cloth bikini and my mom wouldn’t let me wear it initially. I remember my mom’s younger sister saying “If she can’t wear a bikini at twelve, when CAN she?” Thanks Auntie for coming to my rescue. But she wasn’t fond of the suit and I never wore another bikini until I could buy them myself.

One summer, my mom gave me a suit of hers, a navy blue one piece bandeau suit. Today, I would love this suit, it had white trim on the top and on the sides and a white tie around the neck. I have a similar suit in red and white stripe and love it for it’s old Hollywood chic. But as a fourteen year old, I was mortified to wear this suit –  it was a MOM suit – and wore it with a tee shirt over it every summer I had to wear it. Which seemed like aeons! One summer, I purchased, with my own money, an aqua blue tank style suit at an inexpensive local store, and the very first day I wore it, I slid off the bow of my dad’s ski boat and caught the back of the suit on a cleat. I was hung there, on the boat, my brother howling with laughter, with a giant wedgie suspending me from the side of the boat. I was both furious and mortified. It was probably the worst day of my teenage life. And the worst part? The suit tore, and my mother wouldn’t buy another. It was the worst summer ever! I’m kidding, but my cheeks still flame thinking of hanging there while someone came to help me down from my cleat-hook swimsuit at the boat ramp.

I swore I’d learn to sew my own swimsuits that summer, but it wasn’t til I was a mother myself that I attempted this. I really don’t know why – they are ridiculously easy to sew! You don’t need a serger, although I did sew mine with one – a zigzag machine is sufficient, and it follows along with the directions which is shown sewn with a zigzag stitch.

And now, on my list is a white bikini. I purchased one of these specimens, a triangle-top, tie-side bikini when I was in my 20s living in Florida. I wore it in the ocean exactly once, and my husband told me to cover up when I got in shore, as it turned entirely see-through!  Now, in my mid 40s, I’ll make a bandeau tankini in white (THREE layers on the inside, two white, one nude) and finally have my white swimsuit day in the sun.

When I first learned to sew swimwear, sewists on PatternReview recommended Kwik Sew for it’s awesome directions and drafting of swimwear, and this was an excellent recommendation to take.

The tankini I chose has a bandeau top and hipster bottom. On me, they meet and overlap (depending on my hem length), but you can choose your own length, if you want more (or less, as the pattern shows) coverage.

I highly recommend making your own swimwear – they take a ridiculously small amount of fabric to sew (usually a yard, including self-linings) and they are very easy. The negative ease built into them makes for easy fitting. The most critical fit is the torso length measurement, and I highly recommend you follow the pattern directions for this if you’re making a one-piece suit. For a two-piece suit, this is not necessary.

One thing that is absolutely is necessary is to use swimwear elastic. This is natural-colored, natural rubber elastic with cotton that won’t get destroyed the first time you go in seawater or chlorinated pools. Don’t use traditional polyester elastic; it will disintegrate quickly. You can buy this at any big fabric / craft store, or online in bulk, in many widths. It’s cream colored, so it looks different. I buy it in bulk from SewSassy.

Making your own swimsuits – particularly out of this expensive and awesome fabric – is easy and rewarding. For me, the making of my own suits allows me to come full circle on awkward teenage-hood life. I made this myself, it’s exactly what I want and I can make as many as I want to!


Fashion for moms Sew Paradise

Hot Patterns Urban Gypsy off-the-shoulder top

I’ve had this on my must-sew list for at least a year. I wanted to make one for last year spring break, but ran out of time. This year, I planned ahead (and I sew more now), and it’s done, a full 10 days in advance. That’s the new me 😉

I love this top for several reasons – first, it’s very on-trend with the off-the-shoulder look. I made this in a gifted-to-me super light cotton lawn that is gossamer thin. The fact that it’s cotton is it’s only saving grace – in silk, I’d have drunk the entire keg of beer just trying to sew it. The cotton behaved well with a hot iron and some serging.

The pattern goes together very easily – the instructions are clear, and even though I charged ahead and sewed the fronts and backs together at the shoulder seams (like a raglan tee), I did note later in the instructions, that I wasn’t supposed to attach the front sleeves til I was ready to connect the flat, interfaced front band to the elastic-cased back band. It was simple enough to pick out about 2″ of seam and sew it back up once the neckbands were sewn on. I did read them first, I just missed that part. There’s a lot of “If you’re doing A, skip to 7” and things like that, so I missed the part about not sewing on the front sleeves til later.

This top has a shelf bra! Yes, you heard that, a shelf bra is built into the design of this top – there’s a stretchy white bra under this, so I won’t have to wear a strapless bra (who loves those? no one.) I used white ITY for the built in bra. You could sew some cups in there, but I don’t really need them.

I ended up making the back of the top longer than the front, quite inadvertently. I knew from other reviewers of this on the HotPatterns sewing club on Facebook, that petite people had shortened this top. I wanted to wear it with shorts (see below) and not have it look like I wasn’t wearing pants. So I shortened the pattern by folding it up before the hem makes it’s curve – but apparently, I was not even in my fold-up on the front and back (and fortuitously, it was the back that was longer.) Sometimes happy accidents happen. I’m going to actually measure that out and mark the pattern with a slash and tape to make it shorter next time.

I’m showing this with some of my capsule wardrobe for the spring break trip (six days, no laundry facilities) – the shorts are ones I bought at H&M in an emergency “how’d I gain weight?” in Europe this summer, after the shorts I brought with me were suddenly too small. And they’re snug-ish, but I’m working on that. I am wearing them as well with wide leg Perfect Pants from Christine Jonson Patterns.

I love this top, it was very easy to construct, and with the number of light cotton lawn prints in my stash right now, I’ll definitely be making a couple more of these. There’s a tie-sleeve version (seemed like a guacamole catcher to me) which I might try for my next version. There are also front pockets which I will also try in a future version. I did NOT make a muslin – in HotPatterns, I generally get a good fit right out of the envelope with tops (pants, I do have to muslin and adjust.) Besides, with a large stash, a good deal of it things gifted from friends, I really have wearable muslin fabric to work with. And a lot of it.

I highly recommend this pattern. It’s easy to sew, there are nice details and it’s very fashion forward. I’ll replace these images with pool and beachside ones once I’m on spring break!



Sew Paradise

Ann Normandy Maxi Dress

This is a really cool dress! I recommend this for intermediate sewists.  It is a dress with many wonderful details that make it a joy to sew, but, there are a few tricky spots. Let’s break it down:

This is a classic maxi dress – floor length, sleeveless, and designed to be made in a mid-to-heavyweight linen (or similar fabric). I chose a textured heavy cotton with a herringbone weave to it. It’s close to the hand of a heavyweight linen. I wanted to test out the dress and I have a lot of fabric. It’s perfect for tall people (that is, if you are tall, you’ll have no issues making this dress and having to lengthen.) I removed 9″ from the dress during the layout stage. Fortunately, for me, the perfect spot was right at the vent opening (you can see the high side vents in this photo.)

I chose a size M from the measurement chart, and it fits beautifully with no alterations. I’m a C cup, and it works on me in this size. I like that the top of it is fitted, but it opens up below the bust and slides right over all the squishy bits. It stands away from the body, which will be great for spring break and for this summer. Normal years, it would be chillier in early March in Florida, but this year, they’re having record high temps down there. I’m under no illusions: this summer is forecast to be hot, and this dress will be perfect for work – it’s polished enough to wear to a client meeting but casual enough for work at home and weekend.

This dress has pockets that are sewn to the inner front,  and it has a very nicely sewn folded pocket edge that’s captured in the side seam. This was one of the really nice details of the dress to sew and it came out very well.

There are some tricky bits – the sideseam (which is flat felled) and the vent really threw me on this one. I read the instructions again and again (and there are pictures, too, which are detailed.) But I still messed it up on the first try.

The instructions are to create a lapped vent with 3/8″ folded and narrow hemmed seams. And then, to connect a flat-felled side seam to this vent. I screwed it up by cutting away the wrong side of the seam allowance on the dress, so my flat fell would be on the wrong side, and my only save was to serge this seam to capture both raw edges, and then flat fell it the correct direction. I serged it with white thread, no less (I was not about to rethread my serger at this point.) I will not be showing you those interior photos. I vowed to make it correctly the second time and screwed something else up – but this time, I’m not quite sure what it was. So I plan to digest the instructions again and make a test sample of a sideseam and vent. I’ll report back. Fortunately, overall, it was a save; I was able to get both vent and felled seam to work, but they did not go together as beautifully as instructed.

At this point in the project, I required a beer. Ann Normandy Maxi Dress Beer So my choices were: “Do I feel sufficiently distressed to have the big beer, or can I just chill with a smaller one.” Fortunately, it was the latter. It wasn’t a crisis – it was more determination to see if I could make the dress look good on the outside (with that faux serged-flat felled seam. What will I do differently? I’ll probably make a sample sideseam. In linen next time, although this cotton pressed really well and was not difficult to sew.  It’s hard to justify buying more fabric when I have (nine or ten) big bins full of it and a cabinet besides.

A tip: When sewing the flat felled side seam the first time, the dress is ‘open’ – so it’s easy. But the second side seam, you should sew from the vent UP to the underarm, because that that point, the dress is tubular and you’ll have to keep the other side of the dress from being captured in the seam as you sew the flat felled seam. I still ended up catching a collar tip, but it was one stitch and easily removed. Be careful to sweep the underlayers out of the way as you go.

The squared neck AND the unique squared off underarm facings are really a lot of fun to sew. They are interesting without being too complicated, and there was something so deliciously satisfying to pivot 90 degrees at an underarm facing seam. So precise!

For the first release of this review, I’m in my bedroom. It’s February, and it’s snowing out and I’m not even bothering to adjust the photo. It’s a bit of a mess up here (I had to move my laundry hamper and some other things out of the way), but I did put on lipstick, and fancy long earrings. A big win for me tonight is that, in this photo, I’m sporting my natural hair, which is growing in very well now, and probably I will go on vacation without a wig. I have an autoimmune disease and this was my second round of baldness, which has lasted nearly 16 months. This time last year, I was almost completely bald and wore scarves and headwraps on vacation.

This dress is definitely a must-sew-again. It has distinctive details and a great fit. It’s a bit of a challenge, but I think that if you’re making such a simple dress, a challenge is a good thing; you learn how to do interesting techniques on an otherwise very simple garment.

I will update this review to include a poolside photo once I’m in sunny Florida!

A note, I was given this sewing pattern in exchange for some marketing and web site consulting work for Ann Normandy Patterns. The review is my honest review, I was not compensated for it. I do this type of consulting for a few sewing pattern companies and love it. I love helping these independent designers – and these are GREAT designers – get their beautiful patterns out to the world. This review, and my sewing of the garment, is entirely for me personally.


BurdaStyle Magazine Reviews

DIY easy to sew bandeau jumpsuit with wide legs

DIY Sewing bandeau strapless Jumpsuit with wide legs

This fun jumpsuit is an easy to sew garment from a wide leg pants pattern from Christine Jonson Patterns, with an attached tube top that is a self-drafted rectangle.

The simplicity of the Wide Leg Pants pattern (just an inseam and crotch seam, the pants are cut together on the side seam), and the addition of a simple rectangular tube top, this jumpsuit is elegant and comfortable.




Sew Paradise

Creating a Handy Pocket in an Unlined Jacket

20150713_195124 DIY Pocket in an Unlined Blazer or Jacket 20150713_19514420150713_19505720150713_195258This handy technique will enable you to insert an interior pocket in an unlined blazer or jacket that can hold a smart phone, ID, credit card or lipstick. I love blazers. My lined blazers (being of a woman’s cut) rarely have interior pockets like men’s jackets do. I add them when making my own lined jackets, but how do you do the same thing when you have an unlined jacket? Simple, use the facing space to create a pocket!

In this series of photos, you can see a Samsung S(about the size of an iPhone4) with plenty of room. A Samsung S3 will also fit, and so will an S6 (which is similar in size to an iPhone 6.)

The pocket is plenty big enough for credit card, cash and a lipstick tube (although I probably will not be putting a lipstick tube in this cream colored boyfriend jacket.

The technique is very simple:

  1. Sew the facing down from back neck edge to just below the buttonhole.
  2. Backstitch to secure this topstitching
  3. Then, leaving an opening roughly the size of your hand width, start the stitching on the facing down to the bottom hem stitching, and backstitch to secure
  4. You can see the L-shape, down the front facing to where the hem stitching begins

Leaving this opening allows you to slip the phone (or ID or credit card) down into the pocket created by the hem and facing. It’s secure and nearly hidden. This is a knit jacket so I wouldn’t store the phone in here, or it might stretch, but for an evening or a trip to the park with the kids, the interfacing will hold the jacket shape.

How to sew a cord for a corded buttonhole

Take six strands of standard thread, roughly the same length. Knot them all at one end. String them under your presser foot with a zigzag foot and set the stitch length to short (1.5mm) and the stitch width to medium (3-4mm). Zig zag over the threads to create the cord! Although I’m skipping showing you the buttonhole because it and I got into an argument, and it decided to be all pouty on me.


Sew Paradise

Minimalist packing for conference – travel with one backpack

I have a 30 minute layover in one of the largest and busiest airports in the world tonight: From commuter terminal to the main terminal. I figure I’ll have to break my sub-10-minute-mile personal record to make this connector flight. I’ll be running with three other companions (or at least breathlessly saying to the gate agent: there are three more coming!)

I decided to make this a minimalist trip. It’s a conference where I’m representing Sparrow Hospital at the Best Fed Beginnings Baby Friendly learning session 2. The conference will be attended by 30 hospitals across the country (there are 90 in total, they divide us in three, and hold three group sessions for us to learn from one another in the 2-year Baby Friendly certification process.) I’m one of the two official parents on the Sparrow team and this is the “parent conference” where best practices and good ideas from parents will be presented to the hospital teams.

So I need to dress comfortably but semi-professionally. I opted to start with a black boucle suit jacket as my base and build around that:

  • Black boucle suit jacket
  • Teal and teal-black-white snake print colorblocked wrap dress
  • black leggings (for under the dress and for yoga)
  • Black and white knit print tops – 3/4 sleeve and short sleeve
  • Aqua pashmina scarf
  • black ballet flats
  • black ponte knit pants (they can work as ‘suit pants’ under a jacket)
  • Skinny jeans
  • black trench coat (it’ll be cold  here, and rainy in Austin)

That’s it! A nightie, robe and undergarments round out my bag. The vast majority of stuff in my backpack is not clothing, but snacks, work folder and conference packets, iPad, knitting and a tote bag that will double as my purse at the event. I almost left the jeans at home – the black pants could be worn twice easily, and if I come back having not worn the jeans I’ll remember that for next time.

The breastpump was the limiting factor – you’re only allowed one carryon and one personal item and the breastpump counts as the purse/laptop bag. So I had to leave my laptop at home and take my pump instead. I opted for the iPad; I won’t have time to work but I can check in via email if needed.

I’ll be running in the ballet flats (taking an extra pair of shoes for running just wasn’t in the cards for time or space.) I should have on something like these:

But my Keen Ballerinas are not that fancy and certainly can’t pass as dressy shoes in case I need that.

Sew Paradise

What to wear: Beach getaway weekend

What to wear: Beach getaway weekend

SewParadise is going on vacation! I’m leaving the kids and hubby behind and going to visit a good friend who happens to live in the lovely seaside town of Delray Beach, Florida. Snuggled in between tony West Palm Beach and urbane Boca Raton, Delray Beach is an arty community with only one big high-rise hotel on their beachfront. It’s laid back, loose, and 15 years ago you wouldn’t have gone there in broad daylight without a concealed weapon. What they’ve done there is nothing short of miraculous.

What to pack for a Florida beach weekend looks a little bit like my fantasy vacation packing list post: beach glamour. But I’ve mixed in a few things that get you there – from a cold-weather climate to a sunny destination – and handle the cool nights along the waterfront.

What to wear: Beach getaway weekend by asiegle featuring a beach swimwear
The Nursing Fashionista

What to wear with white jeans: cobalt blue and gray heather.



Cobalt blue georgette top, cobalt bag from a few years back, white jeans, and oweing to the season, wool flannel jacket. A bronze skinny belt finishes it off. First decent day this week that is not raining, this is the outfit! Moms, top is tunic length with a button front, not too sheer that it showed the nursing clips on my bra and it dips low at the back hem. You can nurse in this top for sure.

Sew Paradise

Chanel jacket progress

I am just about up to quilting the pieces. This is a process, let me tell you, and it’s the very thing that at first I’m quick to say “oh, what have I gotten myself into.”

It involves first, pinning the lining to the jacket (wrong sides together) piece, then hand-basting up and down the jacket in rows, then machine-quilting these along those rows, (keeping jacket and lining grainlines aligned) then pulling the sewn threads so they are between layers, knotting them and THEN removing the basting. Fourteen pieces. Gulp.

It’s about, I figure, close to a half hour per piece so that’s 7 hours of quilting before we even get to sew the jacket pieces! BUT, before I start hyperventilating and cutting out an unlined, serged jacket (same jacket, that’s the actual style of this particular one) in a chevron silk twill, I must remember, that THIS is the reason I chose this jacket. To do this very process.

But I still might cut out that silk twill, LOL. Then at least I’ll have one jacket done in the time it took me to quilt two pieces of the couture version.

And truth be told, I have four other projects that are in between this too – some fast ones, some slower ones – and the Chanel jacket, which is  a process, a lovingly precise, beautifully slow process.