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Author Archives: profhurley

DIY Dog Collar … Easter Dress

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Patiently enduring his fitting

It all started when I saw a Macy’s ad for 25% off “Easter dress” for kids. Such an ad made me feel completely justified in shopping for an Easter collar for Cyrus. After all, how much could an Easter collar cost compared to a kid’s Easter outfit? And while a child might need a new Easter outfit every year, if only for fashion’s sake, a fully grown dog could wear his year after year with no concern.

With Dan enthusiastically on board, we walked down to our local pet store (the excellent Dogbone Alley) with the intent of applying Cyrus’ birthday coupon to a new collar … perhaps one with Easter eggs … or bunnies?


How adorable is this?! Sadly, all the collars in this print were much too large. So when I spotted the leash, sewing ideas started forming in my mind …


What really sold me on trying this out was the price. The leash, all 6 feet of it, was $20.50—the exact same price as the miniscule dog collar of the same brand. I could make six small-dog collars for the price of one! (Yes, I’m thinking of you, Maisy & Newport.)

All it took was a trip to Beverly’s for a plastic buckle and a D-ring. This collar isn’t adjustable the way store-bought ones are, but who cares? It’s custom.

But before any sewing could take place, Cyrus needed to get down and dirty with his favorite activity:



Nude dog (after a bath) awaiting his new duds

I worried that my Elna would balk at the heavy layers, but using a size 16 needle and a zig-zag stitch, I had no problems. To get a clean finish, first unpick some of the patterned ribbon away from the thick strap underneath. Then cut away  3/4″ more of the strap, seal the strap’s edge with Fraycheck (glue would also work), and wrap the excess ribbon around the sealed edge of the strap. That way you don’t have to try to fold over the edge of the strap, which would probably be impossible to do anyway. I didn’t take a picture of this, but if you want one, I plan to make more collars for my “niece” and “nephew” soon.






Grainline Scout Tee Hack

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Have you seen Angela Duckworth’s TED talk on grit? I showed it to my students last week as a way to continue an ongoing discussion about student success and growth mindset. We all took the grit questionnaire. When I encountered the question asking if I followed through on what I started, I cringed, thinking of the dozens of unfinished sewing projects taking up space in my dining room, china cabinet, and linen closet. Did this mean I wasn’t gritty?

So I made a rule: No more starting new projects until I finish or banish the old ones. That’s what finally got me to complete the Grainline Scout tee, made with this delicious, silk-like cotton Bromley voile. Thanks to Gail for inspiring me to buy this fabric with her Cambie dress. I cannot say enough about the texture of this fabric. It’s soft and delicate, presses well, and is opaque enough for shirts and unlined summer dresses. Sadly, it’s sold out at Hey, Westminster Fabrics, make some more, in solid colors, will ya?

I originally made this shirt with long sleeves using Jen’s tutorial, but once I put it on, the pattern just seemed too loud for so much fabric, so I hacked off the sleeves and improvised a sleeve band. I made a 1/4” forward shoulder adjustment using the Threads magazine method (probably wasn’t necessary) and lowered the armscye 1/2” as I always do.


(Notice Cyrus photobombing at bottom left.)

This shirt was an experiment in using a lining instead of a facing or bias tape. I never like how facings pop out or show through, and I don’t always like the look or the fiddliness of bias tape. So I used bemberg lining here to line the bodice of this shirt. I’m not sure I like how cold it feels on the body in so loose a shirt, but I *love* the clean finish it gives the neckline. It’s the cleanest, flattest, most gorgeous neckline I’ve ever done.

The inside …


Finally, I’m debating whether or not to put accent buttons on the sleeve bands. My wonderful sewing friend Joan gave me two exquisite Czechoslovakian buttons. They match the Bromley fabric well, but part of me wants to hold onto them for a more dramatic garment. Take a look:


Aren’t they gorgeous? ‘Til next time, be gritty :).



Tracing & Thoughts on Muslins

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Gorgeous, isn’t it? Except that with vintage patterns I never know whether I like the garment itself or whether I’m simply impressed by the model’s 20-inch waist.

Today I traced the pattern while Lolita looked on…


She’s sleeping in her heated cat bed, looking docile but secretly planning to get her tongue on my pattern paper. Seriously, this cat loves to lick tracking cloth. Last week I left my traced Coco dress on the cutting table while taking a walk and came back to find she’d licked the whole neckline off!

Anyway, I managed to trace the pattern without any undue cat interference and then proceeded to cut and sew a muslin.

I hate making muslins. I’m pretty sure I never would’ve ventured into sewing had I even known they exist. The very notion of ironing and laying out fabric, cutting, marking, pinning, and sewing a garment TWICE or maybe even THREE times still strikes me as totally overwhelming … at least for someone who sews as slowly as I do. However, I do see how a muslin can help perfect fit and how they are essential before cutting into a very valuable piece of yardage.

So here’s my result … and may I say how happy I am that I bothered to make the muslin. From the front, not too bad, though a little loose above the waist, but from the back: egads. And that side seam is not running straight at all!


I have some ideas of how to fix these things, but I am a little scared to get started. It seems that I’ll have to remove quite a huge wedge in the side back … not an alteration I’ve ever attempted before. Any input?

And just a side note about fitting …

I want to give some props to Simplicity for their “amazing fit patterns.” I wish I’d tried these first as a brand new sewist. These patterns provide 1-inch side seams to help with fitting, and the directions have you baste the dress together to check the fit before sewing. To me this step was far easier than putting together a muslin. Even a newbie like myself could follow the pattern instructions for how to adjust the fit, and I was really pleased with the end result. I made this dress, and it’s a beauty.

Sewing for victory … on spring break

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Itching to get started, but my pattern hasn’t yet arrived …

.duant sunback dress

What do you think?

I’ve never heard of Duant patterns before … surprisingly, a Google search of it yielded pretty much nothing. What drew me to this pattern was the drapey cape that attaches to the dress waistband via buttons (!?). I’ve seen lots of 1940s sundresses with matching bolero jackets, but never a cape! Perfect for an Irish lady with ultra-white, sunburn-prone shoulders. I practically never go sleeveless without something to protect my skin because I’d rather not wear sunscreen if I can avoid it.

The dress has so many seams that I expect I’ll choose a solid fabric. I’m hoping for a light to mid-weight chambray, perhaps in rose or coral? I have a lovely light red chambray in my stash, but in a heavier weight that is wrong for this cape. Is cape even the right word? The pattern piece looks like a bib, but the overall effect is of a wrap. In any case, this whole experiment might go wrong, but how can I not try??