Wearing Homemade Through Europe

This past summer, I had the incredible pleasure of visiting our exchange student, Reinhilde, in France and Belgium! Reinhilde spent the 2012-2013 school year with us and truly became part of our family. This fun, adventurous young woman has returned several times to visit us over the years, and it was high time one of us went to visit her! She and her family were so hospitable and made sure I had an unforgettable time! I spent eight days there and loved every single minute of it, even the ones I spent regretting climbing the Arc de Triomphe in high-heeled espadrilles!

Choosing a wardrobe for the trip was oh-so-fun and a little stressful, because I didn’t have a huge clothing budget and, judging from the photos I’d seen, Europeans seemed to be much better dressed than Americans. Finally, I decided not to worry about it and just wear things I felt most attractive in. I did buy a couple outfits for the trip, but mostly went with what I had. I must not have looked too out of place there, because a German couple asked me for directions and several people spoke to me in French, before my horrible pronunciation informed them I was an American.

I’d love to write and write and write about all the fun things we saw and did, but I just don’t have time (or space for all the photos), so I’m going to just focus on the clothes I made.

The insanely photogenic Reinhilde even agreed to model a dress I made for her. So, without further ado, the pictures!

I made this top from the Sis Boom “Devon” pattern, in Sis Boom’s “Rachel” print from the Color Brigade line. (Here I must pause to brag–Jennifer Paganelli often names fabric after her fans, and this gorgeous floral is named after me!). The top is so cute and comfy, I wore it all over Paris–to The Louvre, Eiffel Tower (much higher than I realized), Napolean’s tomb, and more–and on my last evening in Brussels. Here’s a picture of Reinhilde in front of the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t make her outfit, but I just love this picture of her and had to share it: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I also wore this blue tunic during my travels. It’s made from soft voile using Sis Boom’s Patricia Tunic pattern. I ended up wearing a scarf over it the whole time, because I got a grease stain on it while (perhaps too enthusiastically) enjoying French cuisine. Here I am my last evening in Paris, in front of the Eiffel Tower (again) and the Notre Dame. I was crushed that the cathedral had closed before I got there and I couldn’t go inside! I had really wanted to see those famous gargoyles.

Here I am in front of Castle Gravensteen in Ghent and with Reinhilde in Bruges. I picked up that pretty blue and white scarf while shopping on the Champs-Élysées.



And here’s a picture of Reinhilde with her sweet and lovely mom, Simonne. The Laans were so hospitable! Reinhilde majored in tourism in college and was the perfect travel buddy. Simonne joined us for the last three days and was a lot of fun to see the Flanders region of Belgium with her! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s hard to pick a favorite day, because every day was absolutely magical, but the place I most enjoyed visiting was Versailles. I’m interested in French history, particularly the Revolution. It was enthralling to see first-hand the excessive opulence of the kings and queens, especially the tragic and beautiful Marie Antoinette. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wore a sundress I had made earlier that summer from Violette Fields Threads Ginger pattern. I had to do a bit of finagling to get that pattern to fit me, but I really like the end results. I used the same “Rachel” fabric as I did in the peasant top.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay, so the above picture was taken in my yard, not at Versailles, but I like the way it turned out better than the ones taken in France, so pardon my vanity! Here I am waiting in front of the Arc du Triomphe for the bus to take us to Versailles, and here I am in front of Versailles. Holy monkey, but the palace and its grounds were breathtaking!


I made Reinhilde a dress from Sis Boom’s Jenny pattern. I love the way it turned out, even though Reinhilde had dropped a couple dress sizes since I last measured her and she had to wear a belt. The fabric is from Sis Boom’s latest line, Hotel Frederiksted. I just love the blue! Someone commented “Tres jolie”on Reinhilde’s dress (which means “very pretty/sweet”) as she passed, and another person told me the fabric of my dress fit in perfectly with the surroundings. I would call that a sewing win!


I swear this beautiful Belgian should take up modeling!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was the trip of a lifetime, and I feel so blessed that I got to see some of Belgium and France with one of my favorite people!

The Patricia Tunic

I’m Rachel, and I’m super excited to take part in the Sew for the Holidays blog tour with Sis Boom Patterns! 14992016_10154736038224532_4809584453422002730_nI offered to write a post about The Patricia Tunic, because it’s one of my favorite patterns. (Okay, I say that about every Sis Boom pattern. I honestly don’t know which one is my favorite). I love it because, as a tall, broad-shouldered woman, it is really, really hard to find made-to-wear tops that fit. I’ve tried to make tops for myself with patterns from other companies, but even when I go by the measurements, they pull at the armpits and are too tight around the ribcage. I find this pattern to be very true to size, and it only needs the most minor of adjustments to fit my big-boned frame. I simply add a quarter of an inch length to the top of the shoulder seams, and make sure to mark the same adjustment to the facings. Even without that little adjustment, the blouse still fits me pretty well, but I’m a perfectionist! This pattern is super quick and easy to stitch up–it took me about 3 hours from start to finish (including cutting out the pattern). It would probably have taken less time if it hadn’t been for frequent interruptions from my two young children. I really like how the princess seams kind of smooth over my “problem areas”. There are also a lot of different things you can do with this one patten. You can put the facings on the outside for contrast, and there are different sleeve options. The tunic can be a shorter length or can go to your knees, if you want it to. I keep intending to make a breezy beach coverup from crinkled cotton gauze, and a nightgown from soft flannel. I made myself another tunic in blue, and one from the little girl’s version, the Sophie.


Here I am with my little daughter, in our matching tops!

The girls’ pattern ranges from size 6 months to 12 years. The women’s pattern ranges from size 0 to 26. Here’s one I made in a cotton batiste with 3/4 sleeves. I love how using different fabric changes this pattern up. The batiste was nice and breezy, while the cotton ones were crisper and more structured. 13886307_10153822686241245_9111147400852053029_n
 And here’s one I made with contrasting collar and cuffs. Sadly, it got caught on a jagged edge and tore irreparably before I could get a clear picture of it. Such a shame–it was such a great top: 10502131_10152307691391245_5274180507655581464_n

So fun to get to take part in the “Sew or the Holidays with Sis Boom” blog tour! I would recommend this company to anyone! Here are some more pics in my latest tunic in Sis Boom’s most recent line, Hotel Frederiksted. I am LOVING the birds.


I think Santa approves of this pattern, too! Check out the links below for some great crafting blogs that will be featuring more Sis Boom patterns. Happy Holidays, and happy sewing!
Here are the links to buying the patterns online:
https://mrspodge.wordpress.com/“>Nov 15 – MrsPodge.
https://annasheirloomboutique.com/2…“>Nov 17 – Anna’s Heirloom.
http://handmadeboy.blogspot.ca/“>Nov 22 – Handmade Boy.
http://seamofmypants.com/“>Nov 29 –  Seam of my Pants.   Dec 1 – Shanna’s Blog.
https://sunflowerseams.com/2016/10/…“>Dec 6 – Sunflower Seams.
http://acrazycraftlady.blogspot.ca/“>Dec 8 – A Crazt Craft Lady.
http://glitterinmycoffee.com/“>Dec 13 – Glitter in My Coffee .
http://www.troopstotots.com/2016/10…“>Dec 15 – Troop to Tots.
http://alicatco.com/“>Dec 17 – Cookie n’ Bees.

Sis Boom Pattern Co.’s “Kelsey” Pattern


Sis Boom “Kelsey” in “Color Brigade”

Recently, I had the pleasure of doing some more pattern testing for Sis Boom Pattern Co.. The Kelsey is one of my favorite girls’ patterns ever! There are several style options in this one pattern. You can make it hip-length, tea-length, or a maxi, with or without a ruffle, and mix and max fabric to your heart’s content!


Sis Boom’s “Kelsey” in “Color Brigade”

The size ranges from 6 months to size 14, and the elasticized back grows with your child. I’m confident the dresses I made for my daughter and nieces will still fit them beautifully next year. You can layer a tee underneath for more modesty and warmth, or leave as is and wear to a summer tea party. My daughter likes to wear a tea-length version as a beach cover-up.

Every time my little kiddo wears one of hers in public, she gets numerous compliments. I’ve had several requests from friends to make one for their daughters! This cute PDF pattern is sure to be extremely popular for spring and summer sewing. You can buy it online here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/295078115/sis-boom-kelsey-top-and-dress-pdf?ref=shop_home_active_15

I’ve already made half a dozen, and plan on making at least that many more!


Sis Boom “Kelsey” in “Color Brigade”

Scattered, but Pushing Through

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes it seems like I tackle too many projects at once, but whenever I pare down and just focus on one thing at a time, I can’t focus on it. It’s like trying to look directly at one star in a crowded sky–it disappears the instant my eyes lock on it. It’s as if my brain needs distractions to function.

I have been working on two sewing projects while trying to clean my house, chip away at the novel I’ve been working on for over a year, raise two young children, and learn how to create sewing patterns using Adobe Illustrator. I was having some sort of mental block and the online instructor’s videotaped words held no meaning for me, but I pressed through and kept watching and reading, and something “clicked” and it’s all starting to make sense to me again.

I really hope that happens with my novel soon. I’ve written about two hundred pages, but have only been writing an average of a paragraph a week for the past few months. Sections I’ve written that seemed so full of promise a few months ago seem dull and mediocre now. I must keep reminding myself that this is only my first novel, and it’s only my first rough draft of it. It’s my “practice novel”. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even close to perfect. It’s just something I have to push through to do what I have longed to do for almost three-fourths of my life, and that is write books.

I feel I should mention that my romance novel is going to be pretty tame as far as those sort of books go. You see, I want to publish it under my real name, and it would never do to have one of my aunts or ministers or (Heaven forbid) children read it and stumble upon a sex scene. I’m sure I could write a good one if I tried, but I’d just rather not. I don’t enjoy reading that sort of thing, myself. (I feel all embarrassed, like I’ve been caught spying on someone in a hotel room. Also, sex just looks really corny in black and white letters. Just my two cents). My heroine has fairly old-fashioned values and cares a lot about doing the right thing, which is great, but I’m concerned that she’s coming across as priggish or saccharine a lot of the time. However, when I give her the exact thoughts I’d be thinking in some of her circumstances, she reads like a real bitch. That may or may not be a good thing. Very virtuous people are often quite boring. I just don’t know if I’m a skilled enough writer to make her sweet, neurotic, sarcastic, sincere, jealous, generous, a little judgmental, and lovable all at once.

I’m not really sure what genre my novel is going to fit under. I don’t want to make it a Christian romance novel, because I’d have to clean it up a bit, and I like the swear words and unrepentantly bad attitudes where they are. Besides, I have read dozens and dozens of Christian romance novels, and only a few were any good. The obvious moral extractions took so much fun out of things. So, I don’t want to write a book that will fit in that particular niche. There’s no way my book is going to belong in the Harlequin bodice buster category, either.

All I can do is try, and chip away a few sentences at a time until the story falls into place for me again.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s practice. It’s practice. It’s practice.

A New Language

So, I’m learning a different language, and that is pattern drafting on Adobe Illustrator. I’m taking a course that is pretty good. Exciting in places (the exciting parts are where I imagine myself making adorable outfits from my own patterns that end up becoming wildly popular and profitable, and using the profits to buy myself ridiculous amounts of unique and overpriced jewelry. Ahem! …And donating to charity). When I’m not doing the daydreaming, the course is a wee bit maddening. I hate watching someone click and click and move lines around a screen, saying things like “That doesn’t look quite right to me”, “Now it looks good!”, “No, I need to just move it up a little more. There now!”. This isn’t learning to paint happy little trees with Bob Ross. This is creating sewing patterns digitally. Black and white lines. With math.

Sometimes my mind starts to wander, and I realize I have no idea what the instructor been trying to teach me for the past ten minutes. I am learning a lot, and I sure wouldn’t do as good a job trying to teach an online video course on any subject, let along digital sewing pattern drafting, but still, the monotony is driving me crazy. What is also driving me crazy is that I sometimes have the feeling she is explaining a really simple process, but my mind just draws a great big blank. I can’t make it make sense in my head. There’s just a blank space where comprehension ought to be. No lightbulb turning on. Just a weird staticky noise.

I’m going to figure it out eventually. I suspect I’m going to come up with my own mumbo jumbo way of making patterns that produces pretty good results, but I won’t be able to tell anyone for the life of me how I achieved them. It reminds me of my daily torture sessions, a.k.a. “high school Algebra”. I could arrive at the correct answer, but couldn’t explain how I got there, and certainly couldn’t get there by using the sole teacher-approved formula. So, I’ll just chip away at learning pattern drafting and hope there isn’t a pop quiz with an “explain your steps” question at the end.


Playing “Fashion Photographer”

12009587_10153210057176245_5247593270830494000_nEvery now and then, I get the urge to play “fashion photographer”. I’m the kind of person who always has to be imagining something, or life seems a little flat. Sometimes I like to imagine I am a soon-to-be highly acclaimed photographer and designer, seconds away from being discovered and whisked away to work for Elle or Vogue magazine. Fortunately, I have some dear friends and family members who humor me by letting me dress them up in clothes I’ve made (I let them keep the clothes) and costume jewelry, and pose patiently while my camera snaps away.

Of course, I need to take about thirty photographs to get one good one, especially when kids are involved. It is difficult to get your adult subject situated in the most flattering light when your children are grabbing hers by the hand and leading them toward a muddy river bank. It is near impossible to get small children to hold a pose, especially when they would rather explore the scenic area you want to photograph them in. I resort to bribery, and when that fails, I chase them around, taking photo after photo, hoping one of them turns out well. I try to photograph all my subjects between 5:00 and 7:00 PM, when lighting is the best, so at least I won’t have harsh shadows or washed-out faces to deal with, but that isn’t always possible. People have schedules to work around.


Some children are easier to photograph than others. My daughter is always ready to turn on the charm and is usually very amiable about posing, but my son often turns sulky when I whip out the camera. I’ve given up trying to get him to smile and either photograph him stealthily or just accept that he is going to look sulky in his new outfit.

I feel very blessed to have such photogenic family and friends who let me imagine I’m some big shot photographer as I take their pictures with my oldish, reliable point and click camera. Maybe one day, I’ll take a class or two about photography and invest in a better camera, but in the meantime, I pick up tips on Pinterest and do the best I can. It’s lovely to have some great pictures of the people nearest and dearest to me. Thanks for the fun times, guys!



Queen Bee


My beautiful little daughter, Zee, is four going on fourteen–an especially cranky version of fourteen. A version of fourteen that can’t be reasoned with, refuses to put on shoes, has completely forgotten how to say “please”, and runs about, peremptorily making demands as though she is a queen and I her lowly scullery maid.

“Mommy, you work for me now,” she informed me this morning. I would have laughed, but she was perfectly serious, and apparently took for granted that my answer would be: “Sure thing, your Highness. How may I serve you?”. We had a little discussion which began with me explaining that I was the mother and therefore the boss, culminated in her screaming that I would do her bidding, and ended with my threatening to put her remaining toys in the attic. Three fourths of them are already up there. Time-outs don’t always work, spankings (though rarely employed) only succeed in making her vengeful, but incarceration of the dollies is proving a pretty darn effective tool.

When Zee isn’t planning a household coup, she is lovely to be around. She has this way of giving hugs where she just melts into you. She cries in sympathy when one of her little friends skins a knee. She puts on plays with her dolls that are full of mayhem and gore, but always end with air kisses and apologies. She chases her brother around and squeezes the breath out of him when he gets tired of running. She grabs my hand and invites me to dance with her. She tells me: “Your eyes are like stars and your lips are like roses and I love your heart”. She creeps up behind me, jumps on my back, and kisses me. She is the world’s best cuddler. She draws pictures of people with spidery eyelashes and makes up exciting stories about them. She wants to hug all the Disney princesses “’cause then they will be happy”. She sings sweetly to the flowers as she waters them.

Then she orders the brightly shining sun to go behind a cloud, and is shocked when it doesn’t obey. She finds a way to blame her brother for the light glaring in her eyes, and orders him to make the sun obey her. He laughs at her, and she quivers with rage.

Never have I met a child with such a relentless drive to be in control. It’s pretty clear that she was born to rule. It’s just my job to help her become a leader instead of a dictator.