Dec 16

Sometimes I do that acting thing…

In October 2015 I did a promotional video for a book by Dr. Katherine Loflin – ‘Place Match: The City Doctor’s Guide to Finding Where You Belong’.  Loads of fun, great people, and my first video acting gig (well, since high school!).

Dec 15

A Very Vintage-y Christmas

For the first time in a few years we actually put up a tree, and I’m super excited to use some of the mid-century holiday ornaments that I’ve collected from estate sales over the past year!  I am madly in love with 50’s and 60’s glass ornaments – and these pop up in estate sales all the time. :)




Santa isn’t an estate sale find – this was my mother’s ornament.  I have very distinct memories of her very carefully putting him up in the place of honor right at the top of the tree – and that’s where he lives on my tree, too!





Dec 05

Macbeth – June/July 2015

Over the summer I had a new-to-me experience – designing for outdoor theatre.  I designed costumes for Bare Theatre‘s summer production of Macbeth – and the Great Summer of Tunics began.  We wanted a very classically medieval look for the show – and Bare didn’t have a large stock of medieval costumes to pull from, so I ended up building the majority of the show from scratch.  Worth it, though – because that meant that I had the chance to be incredibly specific with color families.  The show was mounted on two large outdoor stages (Raleigh Little Theatre’s outdoor amphitheater and UNC’s Forest Theatre), and the director requested that the families be costumed in color groups.  So the Macbeths were in red tones, the Macduffs in blue tones, Banquo and Fleance in greens… it was a fun challenge to keep the color families together while still having variety in tones, textures, and trims.  Overall I feel like it was successful – everyone looks like they live in the same world without being too homogenous.  And we heard countless patrons indicate that the color families really helped them keep track of who was who – especially in the large amphitheater situation where, if you’re sitting in the way back, you may not be able to clearly see faces.

It was an amazing experience – large, passionate cast and crew, outdoor theatre in a Southern summer, anxious days of weather-watching.  I am so grateful to have been able to dress these remarkable people and witness their stories.

This is just a teaser – I’ll be doing a full portfolio update over the holiday break, as is my norm.  But I wanted to share a few photos with you fine folks.  All photos by Yorgason Photography.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (played by Wade Newhouse and Benji Taylor Jones)

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (played by Wade Newhouse and Benji Taylor Jones)

The Witches (played by Kacey Reynolds Schedler, Arin Dickson and Lucinda Danner Gainey)

The Witches (played by Kacey Reynolds Schedler, Arin Dickson and Lucinda Danner Gainey)


The Porter, Donalbain and Macduff’s Son (played by Jason Tyne-Zimmerman, Chris Gagel and Lorelei Mellon)

Dec 03

Sewing 101 – Cross Stitch Hem

One of my favorite hand-finishes for hems is the cross stitch (also known as the catch stitch) hem.  This interlocking stitch looks like a series of little pyramids, and is extremely strong yet flexible, allowing the hem to float a little. The interlocking stitch will keep your layers of fabric close to each other, reducing bulk.  This is also a great stitch to tack down facings, or open seam allowances on the interior of a garment.

Step One – Mark, press, and secure your hem.  Mark your hem, press it into place, and secure your hem using pins or by basting it into place.  Note that in the photos on my sample, my hem is not pinned or basted.  These photos were on a sample project for a class I teach, and I wanted the photos to clearly show the stitches without anything extra going on.  In these photos I am using red thread for clarity, however if you use a matching thread this stitch should be invisible from the right side of your project.

Step Two – Thread the needle and knot your thread.   Thread the needle and knot your thread, using any knot method you prefer. When sewing the cross-stitch, thread your needle place a knot on one end. You will NOT double up your thread, like you did for buttons, snaps, and hooks. Your hem will typically be folded up, as shown.


Step Three – Beginning your stitch. When working a cross-stitch, you will be working from left to right. Insert your needle into the folded up edge of your fabric on the far left (or at any point of a circular hem), and pull through.


Step Three (continued) – Thread pulled neatly through and ready to begin stitching.


Step Four – Move your needle about ¼” to the right of where you began and take a tiny stitch ABOVE your folded-back edge (the black serged edge here) from right to left. The goal is to pick up a single thread of your fabric – this is the stitch that will be seen on the outside of your garment. The right to left stitch will lock your hem into place, making it nice and sturdy.


Step Five – Pull your thread through. Your thread should be firm, but not tight – if your stitches are tight, they’ll pucker and your hem will be untidy.


Step Six – Move your needle another ¼” to the right, and take a small stitch through the folded-back hem moving from right to left. Pull your thread through. Since this stitch is not visible on the outside of your garment, you can take a slightly larger stitch here.  Still, make it a goal to keep your stitches small and tidy. Pull your thread through, keeping your tension firm but not tight.


Step Seven – Repeat these steps until your hem is complete.  Knot off in your favorite manner and hide your thread tail in the fabric fold before snipping your thread.



Your finished hem should look like a tidy little row of pyramids on the back:

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 11.12.13 AM

And tiny little pin-prick stitches on the front!

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 11.12.06 AM



Dec 02

Sewing 101 – How to pin a seam

I know, it seems ridiculous – how can there be a whole blog post about pinning?  Like everything else, it’s a little more complicated than it seems at first glance.

Cull the herd.  If you’re like me, you’ve had the same ratty old pincushion for about a hundred years, with a hodge-podge of pins that date back to the Miocene period.   Before your next project, take some time to go through your pins and get rid of any pins that are bent, barbed, rusty or dull.   Damaged pins can snag or mutilate your fabric.  I keep an old water bottle with a lid in the sewing studio that’s labeled “sharps” – broken needles, damaged pins, and anything else that may hurt someone who handles our trash gets thrown in the sharps bottle.  When it eventually is filled, the whole thing can be thrown out safely.

Choosing your weapon: pick the right pin for the job!  Shopping for pins can be intimidating – there are so many options!  Basic pins can be distinguished by their heads, length, and points:

  • Heads – The most common type of head is a Flat Head.  It has a tiny head made from the same metal as the shaft of the pin.  These pins can be pressed with an iron, but can sometimes be hard to see on a busy patterned fabric.  Heads can also be plastic balls or glass balls.  These are typically in bright colors which are easy to see against your fabric.  Glass ball head pins won’t melt, but plastic ball pins will – so if you anticipate ironing over your pins, glass is the best choice.  Plastic head pins also come in large, wide flower-shaped flat heads – these are great for eyelet, lace, or looser weave fabric, where a flat head pin or a ball head pin might slip through the weave.
  • Points – pins typically come in three point styles.  Sharps are the most common – they are appropriate for the majority of your sewing projects.  Extra Sharp pins are just as they sound – extra sharp – and are used for very fine or delicate fabrics such as lightweight chiffons or organza.  Ball Point pins have a rounded end, and are used solely for knits.  The rounded end helps the pin work it’s way through your knit fabric without snagging it.
  • Length – Short little pins either 3/4″ in length or 1/2″ in length are called applique pins.  These short little pins are handy when you’re pinning on appliques or trim, since their length means you can fit a lot of pins in a small area.  Dressmaker’s pins are suitable for most purposes – medium length (about 1 1/16″ – 1 1/2″), this is the go-to size for garment sewing.  Quilting pins are longer – 1.5″ – 2″ in length – and are designed for pinning through multiple layers of batting and fabrics.  They are also great for dealing with multiple layers of padding or interfacing in a doublet, or thick wool layers in a cartridge pleated skirt.

The wrong side is right!  9 times out of 10, you’re going to position your fabric so that the right sides of the fabric are facing together – like this:


Parallel vs. Perpendicular – Sewists seem to be split down the middle between placing their pins parallel to the stitch line or perpendicular to the stitch line.  I am a firm advocate of placing your pins parallel to the seam line.  Treat your pins like stitches, and pull them out as you go – then your finished project will look tidy.  Placing the pins parallel to the stitch line also gives them a greater surface area within the fabric – keeping your fabric where you want it to be.  Although some fabrics (wools, cotton broadcloth, etc.) aren’t slippery, once you start getting into fine silks, chiffons, satins, etc. you’ll find that parallel pinning works wonders to keep your pieces from shifting as you sew.

Pinning – Step by Step

Step 1 – Place your pins.  For the majority of my projects, I’ve drafted the pattern – which means that the seam allowance is not included in the pattern piece.  In my tutorial on working with vintage patterns, I covered how to trace a pattern and add the seam allowance.  Even when using commercial patterns, I find it helpful to trace stitching lines to make sure that my pieces line up perfectly.

Here, I have the stitch lines marked 5/8″ from the cut edge.  The pins are placed parallel to the cut edge, directly into the stitch line, with the points facing away from you.  Think about how the fabric gets fed into the sewing machine – you want to be able to pull the pins out as you sew, and the easiest way to do that is to ensure that the points are facing away from you and the heads are facing towards you.  Insert your pins so that there is a scant distance between the head and the point of the following pin.  IMG_3026Step 2 – Ensure that your stitch lines match up.  If you have marked stitch lines on your pieces, you will want to make sure the pins are going directly through your stitch lines on the back, as well.  The more accurate your pinning is, the more accurate your final garment will be.

IMG_3027 Step 3 – Prepare to Sew – Line up the center line on your presser foot with your stitch line (or the cut edge with the proper seam allowance measurement on your face plate) and drop your presser foot.  Remove the first pin, and begin sewing. IMG_3029Step 4 – Remove the pins as you sew.  The must important rule of pinning and sewing on the machine is that you must remove pins as you sew.  Sewing over pins could snap the needle or pin, and the metal bits could get into the machine mechanisms and cause damage.  There is also the potential for the metal bits to ricochet back towards you, causing injury.  Do not sew over pins.


If you have pinned carefully and accurately, you should now have a nicely stitched seam where your stitch lines match up on the front and back of your project.


Press open your seam, and admire your handiwork!


This method of pinning may take a little more time, but once you get into the habit it’s not so bad – and it produces a really clean, tidy, accurate garment.  Try it out!

Dec 01

Late 16th/Early 17th century embroidered jacket

So, back in 2009 while strolling through the Los Angeles fabric district, I came across this fabric in a hole-in-the-wall store:



A lovely silk taffeta with the most spot-on reproduction machine Elizabethan embroidery I had ever seen.  And the guy had about 1.5 yards of it.  Naturally, I bought it all with the intent of making it into an Elizabethan jacket.  But I was afraid of cutting into that gorgeous fabric… so it sat in my studio for five years until I got the nerve.

I wish I had taken more construction photos – but I was in a time crunch to get it ready for Twelfth Night, and just powered through the build.



A nice close-up of the embroidered fabric and my original lining choice – a very, very fine (low-slub) gold duiponi.  I ended up lining in plain white linen, since I was concerned about silk on silk being a bit warm for our North Carolina climate.  The interlining of the jacket is horsehair canvas, which I pad-stitched the silk so the body of the jacket would have some strength and shape.



Here’s the jacket in progress – you can see the stem-stitch embroidery detail I added to the seams through the body and around the gores.

And – the final jacket!


Dec 27

Much Ado About Nothing – Final Production Photos

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ – William Peace University – April, 2013

Directed by: Wade Newhouse and Eliza Laskowski

Costume Design: Laura J. Parker

Set Design: Sonya Drum

Lighting Design: Jennifer Becker

Technical Direction: David Jensen

Photos by Ian Dunne

Dec 27

Spring Awakening – Final Production Photos

‘Spring Awakening’ – William Peace University – February, 2014

Directed by: Jason Dula

Costume Design: Laura J. Parker

Set Design: Sonya Drum

Lighting Design: Jennifer Becker

Technical Direction: David Jensen

Dec 15

Vintage Vogue 2569 – in action!

In my previous post I shared my finished 1943 wool dress, made using the Vintage Vogue 2569 pattern.  This dress was made for a local community theatre production of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ – here are some in-action shots of the dress on stage!  Such a fun production – can’t wait to do it all again next weekend!





Dec 09

Vintage Vogue 2569 – A 1943 Wool Dress – Complete!

In my previous post, here, I talked about the 1940’s wool dress I was making – it’s finally complete!





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