Category Archives: Uncategorized

Making Goals


My life was in a rut. I had been a stay-at-home mom for a few years. I lost my passion for what I used to do for work. I hadn’t figured out a new passion. I felt like I was getting rolled by technology. (Picture me standing in front of a large snowball going downhill gathering size and speed.)

I decided to take the bull by the horns. I made a goal to get myself together. I decided starting a blog would be a brilliant way to help me learn new technology (writing a blog, using a blog reader, improving photography skills, using photo editing software) while narrowing down what my true passions are. I challenged myself to one year/100 posts.

Guess what? It worked. Don’t get me wrong. I went through a dark phase where I felt totally lost. I felt scared, stupid, amateurish, unimportant and bored with it all. But I also learned the following:

* It’s ok to be a pretty good seamstress/knitter and not an expert/indie patternmaker/tutorial writer/book author

* It’s ok to have a wide variety of hobbies

* It’s ok to not do any hobby at all for weeks at a time

* As much as I love my hobbies and all the wonderful friends I’ve made through them, my hobbies are not my life’s passion. I will always enjoy knocking out a sweater, sewing up a quilt, and scrapbooking about my boy’s childhood. But I don’t want to have a job doing my hobbies.

* Writing is for me. When I stopped trying to impress, my blog was fun and helped me sort myself out.

* Just because I don’t have anything big and new to share with the world doesn’t mean I have nothing worthwhile to contribute

* I’m pretty clever to have figured out how to choose a blog host, use blogging software, add sidebars, upload photos, and so on. Yep. Pretty clever.

My big news is, I got a job. It’s part time. I still have a million issues to iron out with my child’s transition to adulthood, so 12 hours a week of work seems perfect. I don’t know if I will still blog, or still blog here about hobbies, or if I will stop by here from time to time and add posts. I am very proud of myself for trying it at all, despite how stupid my mother thinks blogging is.

S’more and S’more and S’more


I have been busy the last few weeks, with several opportunities to eat S’mores. First I went camping with my family of origin at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois, then I went camping with a friend at Waterloo Recreation Area in Michigan, and today I made S’more cupcakes at the very strong (repeated) request  of my son. Omigosh, how are S’mores so good? I love them so much I actually ate them for breakfast while camping at Waterloo.

The cupcake recipe is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Highly recommend the book. I’m not vegan, but I am allergic to cow’s milk, so the book is perfect. So far I’ve made the Tiramisu, Lime Coconut, and now S’more cupcakes. Oh, these cupcakes are heaven. Today I even pulled out my piping bag for the frosting. I almost can’t wait for dessert time. I let my boy have one already as a snack, and then I had to hide the container.



Empire Waist for Bust Shaping


Today is another installment in my experiment to find good patterns for a busty gal — and by busty I mean anyone bigger than a B, the size most patterns are based on. Last time I showed some examples of princess seam blouses made with patterns from the Big 4 pattern companies with the adjustable cup option.

While princess seams are great for shaping around a wide variety of busts, they are very figure-hugging, which may not look so great on a fuller stomach. I’m going to reserve princess styles for dresses, where the bodice ends at my narrowest point.

The Empire seam is a clever way to accommodate a full bust, because it allows you to add fullness to the bodice while drawing attention to what is often the narrowest part of the body — or close to it: just under the bust.

In the past I avoided this style like the plague, for two reasons. First, the Empire seam often hit me right in the middle of my bust instead of below it. The second reason was because I had some early failures that left me looking pregnant. (A flattering look when you actually have a baby on the way.) Not actually being pregnant, I found the additional attention on my belly to be undesirable. However, after continuing to read fashion advice that the Empire waist would be right for me, I thought I’d give it another try.

What I realized quickly is that it isn’t the placement of the seam that is problematic, it is the addition of overly full gathers over the abdomen and length of the skirted portion! Not all gathers are bad, so it’s a matter of trying things on. Muslin is a stiff fabric, so you may or may not get an accurate representation of what a final garment will look like, so I highly recommend trying things on in a store and making notes of what works, including fabric choice, gathers versus plain front, whether gathers are placed over a narrow section of the abdomen or the entire width, etc. Length of the top is also very important! Longer blouses can have a maternity look to them.

Let’s look at some various tops with an Empire waist. Some of these are store-bought, some are knitted, and some are sewn. We’re just trying on at this point, to look for clues.

Berroco Asian Tee

This top doesn’t have any gathers at all, and is relatively short. It is made from a cotton yarn that likes to sag out of shape, but I love it. The stretchiness also allows the seam to sit below the bust, as it should. This says, “Not maternity.”

Sew Serendipity

I made a small on top and medium on the skirt section of the Sew Serendipity blouse. The bottom is clearly too big and too long, but the front is plain. If it fit right, I don’t think this would give a pregnant look. The top has gathers at the neckline and above the waist seam, and seems to be long enough to cover the bust.

Butterick 3385

I decided to opt out of the surplice top when I made this pattern, because I didn’t have enough fabric. The skirted section is plain and short. This doesn’t say maternity to me at all. I made this before I knew how to do a full bust adjustment (or that I needed one). The seam is just barely in the right spot.

Biu Biu blouse

I bought this top from Biu Biu, a company that specializes in tops for women with a larger bust compared to their waist — see my review for more information. This blouse is made of thin cotton jersey and has elastic over the Empire seam. It gathers only directly under the bust and not to the side at all. You can actually see where my jeans start, so this is a fairly long blouse. I admit, this one can give a pregnant look, but it looks worse in this photo than in regular wear. The seam definitely sits where it should.

Thrifted blouse (Skirt from Sew Serendipity)

Gathers in this blouse are centered in the front and covered by the button tab. It is made of thin broadcloth. The length is fairly short, and the skirted section is broken up by a very deep, sewn-on hem band. This doesn’t look like maternity at all. The Empire seam is too high and rides up all day.

Knitted Moska

Moska was hand-knitted with a cotton yarn that looks and feels bulky. Gathers are centered over the front only, and the blouse is not overly long. I think the bulkiness gives a hint of that pregnant look. Because the top is stretchy and the weight of the yarn drags the entire top down, the Empire seam sits right.

Burda 7798

It might be hard to tell anything because this blouse is all out too large, but there is a vertical seam down the center of the skirt, which definitely says, “Not a maternity top” to me. I made a larger size in the bodice and made the darts deeper than I usually would, but I didn’t add length, and I should have.

I used Nancy Zieman’s method for a full bust adjustment, but it didn’t add enough length to the bodice. Not only does this blouse (New Look 6869) not have any gathers over the abdomen, it has a button band with vertical ruffles. The top is short and pretty low-cut, so I think the open shot of my bewbs probably distracts from any notion about my uterus.

And that comment brings us full circle, as I started this post to discuss blouses for busts, not necessarily for tummies. My overall impressions are that an Empire waist:

  • must sit below the bust and not on it for best appearance and comfort
  • can be a very good way to get close fitting around the bust with looser fitting in other areas
  • allows for a Full Bust Adjustment to be made that does not also add width to the waist and hips
  • works with a lot of different darting options in the bodice, such as actual darts, under-the-bust gathers, neckline gathers, surplice tops, princess seams, raglan sleeves with ruching, and plain undarted tops.
  • can be very slimming or can add a lot of visual heft, so try things on and note what works for your body!

The Wonder of Goal Setting


I am one of those people that gets a little anxious when I don’t follow through with a commitment. No matter that it was a breezy, passing goal I made on a blog in January. It kept gnawing at me. So, true to my word, I have completed three sweaters. I am now very tickled with myself, both for being a Good Girl and for having added some much-needed warmth to my wardrobe.

For the first round of photos, I was playing with my new iPhone 4S camera, which is supposed to be better than the plain ol’ iPhone 4. Hmpff. You be the judge. I just got the phone two weeks ago when my perfectly serviceable Palm Treo (yes, I know, laugh it up) finally started acting funny. Husband convinced me to get the 4S due to the improved camera (and because he wanted to ask Siri ridiculous things, like, “Where is the nearest bordello?” Turns out there is one in Holland, MI. Who knew?) Anyway, I’m not in love with the camera, but here goes anyway.

Sweater one: Miette. Love, love, love. And blogged here. I will redo this one in another color, maybe changing up the lace. I forgot to note in my previous post that I used Berocco Comfort yarn in “Teaberry”.

Sweater two: #28 Buttoned Cardi. Oh, so love this one. I made many, many mods, based on my experience with Miette. I used Galway by Plymouth Yarn, in color 156 (sorry, discontinued). I didn’t love this yarn, but it’s ok. I will be wearing it over other things, so softness is not the highest priority.  I read that it felts readily, so I will have to be careful with it.

“Better” iPhone 4S camera. Right.

Ok, maybe not fair to complain about the camera, considering my boy took this photo while looking up from his videogame. But still.

Cable detail. Lovely!

Sleeve detail

Sweater three: Jewels. My, how lovely. Great pattern. I had a yarn emergency with an oddball color. Same dye lot, but it did not match. I had to make do with three little skeins, so it is a bit short. I like it though. I used Sheep Shop Yarn Company (out of business, see review here), in Sheep Number One weight, color A078. I want to love the yarn, but I am annoyed about the color. The last skein really isn’t the right color either, but it is better. Also, it seems like it will felt in a heartbeat. Maybe even with regular wear.

Short rows to the rescue

Bottom third still looks funky. I might have to frog. Grrr.

I had been avoiding knitting sweaters, hence the goal. I had a streak of bad luck in the fitting department. So I knitted a bunch of lace shawls, consulted friends, thought about sewing constructions, and did a little research. Using Ysolda Teague’s fabulous book, Little Red in the City, I learned to design and knit short rows. What a difference.

Catching a Cerulean Warbler


Today I got up at the crack of dawn to stalk a threatened species of bird, the Cerulean Warbler. The things we do for love, no? My husband is an avid birder who is a volunteer bird bander through the Kalamazoo Nature Center. As such, he was invited to watch (and assist) a research team in their CW banding project.

By the time we left at 10 am, we had caught one Cerulean Warbler that was already banded (caught first last summer), and we coaxed one new bird into the net. Very exciting.

The bird is a stunner, and just as tiny as can be. Look sharp to see him in some of these photos!

I was afraid he would get away, so I held him close at first.


Male Cerulean Warbler, as docile as can be.


Hard to get good sun while standing in a forest


Beautiful, right?




Unblocked Maluka

You know how it is when someone in your knitting group makes something great, and you all gush over it? A few weeks ago Lisa showed up with a Maluka. MMMMMmmmmmm! So pretty. She said it was really fun to knit. We all passed it around the table and petted it. Several people started writing down the name of the pattern so they could make it, so I said, “Let’s do an -along. A Maluka-along. NO! A Malukalong!”

It IS fun to knit.

You cast on and knit just 20 stitches, working the border first. After you make the 30-something 12-row repeats, you will have a lovely, long sawtooth edge. You pick up all along the top, smooth edge of this band, and knit short rows to complete the stockinette upper portion. It makes a very pretty crescent arc. This is a shawlette, really, though I suppose you could easily knit more teeth and then increase the number of stitches you pick up.

I am using Plucky Knitter yarn. Oh dear, so beautiful. Go see.

Biu Biu Review


Do you have trouble with Ready-to-Wear blouses with buttons that pop and gap? Do empire waists ride halfway up your bust? When you sew, do you have to do a Full Bust Adjustment? In knitting do you use short rows to accommodate your bust? If your bust is larger than a C cup, my guess is yes. The Big Four sewing pattern companies, knitting patterns, and most RTW clothing are based on a B cup. As you can see, you don’t have to be terribly large busted in order to benefit from clothing made with your bust in mind.

Luckily, several companies cater to the larger-busted woman. Colette sewing patterns are based on a C cup. Silhouette sewing patterns offer a variety of cup sizes. Ysolda Teague offers outstanding knitting advice and patterns for accommodating a large bust in her book Little Red in the City. Finally,  several RTW companies offer blouses and dresses for the woman with a large difference between the waist and bust. Unfortunately, many of these are quite expensive. Not so with Biu Biu.

I read about Biu Biu on Thin and Curvy’s blog — she has a wealth of information about fitting the bust, even if you are neither thin nor curvy. She provides a review of the company, including photos. Go see! Based on her review, I decided to give Biu Biu a try, and I was not disappointed. Far from it! The quality is fabulous, the fit is wonderful, and the prices are terrific, even accounting for shipping.

I ordered 5 items:

  • Vanity Fair long-sleeved white blouse
  • City short sleeved blouse in cappuccino and white
  • Hanoi knit top in bright green
  • Fuego knit top in raspberry (see photo above)

My total bill for 5 shirts, including postage, was $150. I paid about $27 in priority postage. I thought I was ordering parcel post for $16, but apparently not. As it turned out, I am glad it worked out this way because I got my tops in 10 days instead of 2 months. If we divide the postage evenly into 5 items, it adds less than $5.50 to each piece. I think $40 for the long-sleeved blouse seems very reasonable, especially considering similar tops list for $120 on other Not-to-Be-Named websites catering to the same target market. With postage, I paid $22 for a short-sleeved blouse and about $35 for each long-sleeved knit top.

Ok, let’s stop talking price now and get to the point! These tops all fit like a dream. I was nervous about having to ship ill-fitting items back, but I just found my measurements on the chart and crossed my fingers. I was on the cusp on the waist size, but since I have a little paunch, I decided to go to the larger of the two sizes for the waist. My waist is about 30″ (or 76-77cm) and bust is about 38″ (96cm). I chose the 40B for the woven blouses and the 40B/BB for the knit tops. The size was perfect.

Here is the City short-sleeved blouse. Side shots show no button popping! The Vanity Fair is the long-sleeved version with a little more flair at the hip.

I am very happy with the fit. The quality is also outstanding. The knit tops are made of soft cotton, and both have interesting details that make them more visually appealing than plain t-shirts. The Hanoi top does not have any gathering under the empire waist like Fuego does. Fuego is very full and would accommodate a wider belly, but it doesn’t have that pregnant look.

I recommend going to look at the Biu Biu site, even if you make your own clothing, just to see the styles. Biu Biu knows how to dress for a full bust. Their style is made for women like us, so the blouses are very flattering.

Usually t-shirts look like hell on me because they pull across my bust and my stomach, leaving a baggy area inbetween that hides my waist. Not flattering. I often buy a larger blouse than my shoulders really need because I can’t button them. Or I buy the right size, knowing I will always have to wear it unbuttoned with a camisole peeking out. Biu Biu takes all that into account. The shoulders fit, the waist fits, the buttons stay buttoned. Biu Biu offers dresses, blouses, and knit tops. There are a variety of colors, styles, sleeve lengths and collars to be interesting. I look forward to seeing their new offerings this spring!