I Thought I Was Sewing a Dress But It Turns Out It’s a Bathrobe With Storage Compartments For Groceries

Vogue 8825 pattern

A couple of weeks ago, Project Sewn had a sew-a-long challenge called “Leading Ladies” — sew something inspired by a leading lady. I had recently purchased V8825 (pictured above), a pattern for a 70’s style faux-wrap dress with long puffy sleeves. I figured I’d use Faye Dunaway’s Oscar-winning performance in the 1976 movie Network as my leading lady inspiration. She plays a television producer in the late 70’s, and wears blouses with similar styling to this dress. (Added bonus is her character is a role model — one of only a few women being taken seriously in a producer role at the time. She’s pretty much the only woman in a big sausage party of a movie.) If you want 70’s style wardrobe inspiration, look no further than Network. This article talks more about the film and in particular, the wardrobe worn by Dunaway.

Faye Dunaway in Network Faye Dunaway in Network

So, here’s my attempt at recreating this vibe. (If I’d really wanted to stay true to the inspiration, I would have sewn this in brown — brown was pretty much THE colour of the 70’s, it seems — but I couldn’t picture myself enjoying wearing this in brown. Instead I bought a couple of yards of ponte knit in purple.) In any case, HOW FAR OFF IS THE FRIGGIN’ SIZING ON THIS PATTERN. I thought I was sewing a dress but it turns out it was actually a pattern for an oversize bathrobe. Seriously. LOOK AT THIS DISASTER.

Vogue 8825 dress

Gah! Sized for someone 5 inches taller and about 50 pounds heavier than me.

Vogue 8825 dress

Even the tripod thinks it’s awful, being no longer able to stand erect (a-hem).

The only saving grace about this one is that if I wanted to, I could transport groceries in the extra space in the bodice. Allow me to demonstrate: plenty of room for the sweet peppers I picked up at the farmer’s market, with room leftover for a bunch of bananas!

Vogue 8825 dress

Vogue 8825: It’s a dress with plenty of storage room!

Hey, that’s actually not a bad impression of Joan Holloway from Mad Men (well, if you pretend I’m a drop-dead gorgeous redhead). I’m quite sure this dress would fit her. It definitely is no where close to fitting me. After checking the sizing specs, I cut and sewed a size 10 (2nd smallest; I normally wear size Small), but this came out at least a Large if not Extra Large. If you choose to sew this pattern, be warned that you can go down two or even three sizes if you’re not interested in the grocery cart model, particularly since it calls for stretch fabric and has pleats along the lower edge of the bodice that create even more room.

So, I don’t know if I’m going to attempt some surgery on this one, or just send it off to the Salvation Army store. I’m not sure I’m so in love with the design that I want to spend a few frustrating hours hacking it down to size. What do you think, worth a try?

Thanks for reading.

Going, Going, Ghana: batik dress and tales of adventures in Ghana


I’m really happy to have finally completed this dress. I started it almost a year ago! It was almost a wadder a couple of times…in fact, I wadded it up last night and chucked it dramatically in the garbage can when the zipper broke. (The same zipper that I had already sewn in and ripped out and sewn in again a second time.) Bless my darling husband, he fished it out of the trash and repaired the broken zipper for me. He knows just how to handle my sewing drama queen outbursts. He’s a keeper.

Anyway, thanks to Project Sewn’s Going Global challenge this week for giving me a good excuse to ‘unwad’ this and get it done. The dress pattern is Burda’s “Fatina” #6051 , a simple design that shows off this amazing batik fabric I purchased last year in Ghana to its best advantage. The market in the city of Ho in Volta Region has a bunch of stalls that sell gorgeous Ghanaian batik cloth in a riot of colours.

Batik Fabric Stall at the Ho Market, Volta Region, Ghana

Batik Fabric Stall at the Ho Market, Volta Region, Ghana


Close-up of the batik fabric


The fabric before I cut it for the dress

So how come I was lucky enough to have gone to Ghana, you ask? (Or maybe you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway!) I was there on my second volunteering holiday with Disaster Volunteers of Ghana. The first time I went, in 2011, I helped raise money for and construct a new school house for the village of Biakpa. Here’s a picture of the finished 3-room school house, along with some of the kids who use it:

The new 3-room school house in Biakpa

The new 3-room school house in Biakpa

I wrote more about my experience with the Biakpa school on the Going Going Ghana blog…that’s the organization my friends and I run to help fund projects in Ghana.

The second time I went to Ghana, in 2013, I brought some of my university students along with me because I knew that spending 2 weeks volunteering in a rural village would change their lives like it had for me. So off we went to the village of Adaklu Dawanu, this time to build a school and a community radio station. But before we went, we spent months and lots of energy raising money to fund the projects. My sister and I turned my dining room table into what we called our “jewelry sweat shop”… we created lots of beaded necklaces and bracelets and my wonderful friends and even strangers bought them to show their support. You can view some of the pieces that sold in this Facebook album.  I was delighted to tally up that just with jewelry sales alone, I turned a $500 investment in materials into a $2000 donation to DIVOG. All told, our group raised over $25,000. Amazing.

Here are some pics from my second trip to Ghana last year.


Hanging out with some girls from Adaklu Dawanu. They had just given a dance performance. And that poor baby on my back looks rightfully worried. You need a decent set of boobs to hold up one of those baby slings.


My nephew building bricks for the new school. Everything was done by hand — no construction machinery!


Some children from Adaklu Dawanu ham it up for the camera.


Bringing donations to one of the smaller villages.

Digging trenches for the foundation for a new community radio station

Digging trenches for the foundation for a new community radio station


A village elder schools us with some dance moves. Just look at those gorgeous fabrics!


There’s always time to dance!

If you’re interested to know more about volunteering in Ghana, you can check out Going Going Ghana.com, DIVOG.org,  or feel free to get in touch with me! I’d be delighted to tell you more!

It’s Official: I’m a Fashionerdanista

fashionerdanista Skirt fashionerdanista skirt - twinkle, twinkle!

I made this skirt as my final project for the Wearable Media courses I took at OCADU.  Wearable media refers to garments, accessories, shoes, etc.–anything you wear–that contains  Boring details! Who cares? This skirt bloody LIGHTS UP WHEN I SHAKE MY BOOTY! Check out the video demo:

The skirt is a basic pencil skirt design — I grabbed one of my go-to pencil skirts from my closet and used it as a template to cut out a pattern for a new one using black ponte knit fabric. I also cut out an overlay from flower-covered stretch mesh fabric (which, for readers linked here from Project Sewn’s website, is my admittedly tenuous connection to this week’s Floral Frenzy Challenge). On top of the inner skirt, I stitched a long length of RGB LED string lights. I attached the string of lights to the skirt in a curvey-snakey pattern so that the skirt still can stretch in any direction, and I used a wide zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine to tack the lights down every few inches. (I of course managed to stitch right into the wire of the string lights at one point, breaking the wire and forcing me to test out my soldering iron skills.)

The innards of the skirt: LED lights, Lilypad Arduino microcontroller

The innards of the skirt: LED lights, Lilypad Arduino microcontroller

Attaching the LED string lights using a wide zig-zag stitch every few inches.

Attaching the LED string lights using a wide zig-zag stitch every few inches. (No square inch in my house is not covered in cat hair.)

There’s a pocket at the waistband of the skirt that gives access to a neoprene panel onto which I sewed the “brains” of the skirt: a Lilypad Arduino micro controller, a battery, and conductive thread circuits that connect everything together.  On a separate fob I sewed an accelerometer, which basically detects motion, also connected to the micro controller with conductive thread. With help from the class TA, I wrote a program and uploaded to the Lilypad so that whenever the accelerometer detects a significant amount of movement, the lights twinkle.

Trying to figure out how to put together the electronic circuit

Trying to figure out how to put together the electronic circuit

I put the accelerometer on a sort of fob so that the wearer can choose to either tuck the fob into the pocket (in which case if you want the skirt to light up, you have to give your ass a shake), or you can wear the fob outside the skirt and give it a shake with your hand whenever you want the skirt to light up.

The fob that contains the accelerometer (motion detector).

The fob that contains the accelerometer (motion detector). I’m trying to pretend it doesn’t look a bit rude.

The little opening at the waistband seam to access the circuit board, battery, and accelerometer fob.

The little opening at the waistband seam to access the circuit board, battery, and accelerometer fob.

Such a fashionerdanista, no? Sewing and crafting mixed in with programming and electronic circuits. Right up my left-AND-right-brained alley. And by the way, I hereby copyright the shit out of that clever new term, if I do say so myself. Google has never even heard of it. UNTIL NOW.

Fashionerdanista? Never heard of it.

An Embarrassment of Blogging Riches!

I have been creating things like mad lately and have a LOT to blog about! I’m going to take some time over the coming days to craft some posts that will hopefully be interesting to read, but being windswept and interesting takes a fair bit of time and effort and in the meantime I am bursting at the seams. So here’s a quick preview of more detailed posts to come…

I made this ring! Like, myself!

Silver Curlicue Ring with Amethyst CZ

I made this necklace! And the big deal (for me, anyway) is that I made it at home out of silver clay. No need for a fully equipped jeweler’s studio!

Silver Rectangles Necklace

And I made some silver stacking rings — my first home soldering experiment. I have a picture but I realize my unmanicured, ruddy hand with angry red scratches from scrabbling around in the garden yesterday does NOT make an excellent modeling form.

And just today I completed a ‘sparkle skirt’ — a skirt for which I built electronic circuits and programmed it to twinkle with light whenever I shake my hips. It’s crazy.

Sparkle Skirt Wearable Electronics

Can you see those little red lights? They change colour, too.

I’m also trying desperately to get a Leading Lady entry ready for this week’s Project Sewn challenge, for which I’ve chosen Faye Dunaway as inspiration and a 70’s-style dress pattern with big-ass drapey sleeves. Not likely I’ll finish, though, with a big mother’s day dinner to be prepared for both moms tomorrow.

Hope to see you here in these pages soon with more details about these projects! Thanks for reading!