Put a Cuna Bird on It!


The sewing challenge for the month of April at “The Monthly Stitch” is to “Put a Bird on It”. What would I do? After thinking about it for a few weeks, I came up with an idea. I dug around until I found the white T-shirt with a beautiful hand-embroidered appliqué made by the Cuna (also Kuna) Native Americans who live on the San Blas Islands of Panama. I wore it a few times, but it’s on a white traditional T-shirt which is not really that flattering on me. I hung onto it because of it’s beauty and sentimental value. My oldest daughter lived in Panama for four years, and sent us beautiful Cuna Appliqués in the form of pot holders, T-shirts, and bags one Christmas. I also visited her one year, and brought back several molas and a few fabrics.

So,IMG_0404 with my tiny scissors in hand, I cut carefully around the appliqué, releasing it from the T-shirt. My vision was to attach it to a bodice and make a 50’s style summer dress. I chose two pieces from my stash that I thought would be interesting together, a sheer white floral, and a tiny checked rayon or blend of some kind. Both fabrics were purchased at the local senior center thrift for $1.00 a yard. It’s my favorite place to shop for fabric! I used Burda’s Modern Vintage Elizabeth dress bodice for the top. I changed the neckline to follow the curve of the applique  and then I used fabric glue spray to hold it to the outside bodice front. Next, I machine blanket-stitched it to the front. I attached the checked lining to the bodice and then I tackled the skirt.  I cut two rectangles of each fabric, layered them together, and gathered them as one. The side zipper is attached to both layers of bodice, but at the waist the sheer over-skirt is freed from the zipper. It is narrowly hemmed on each side and then joined at the side seam.


IMG_0452The overskirt  and underskirt have French seams. There were two bands of appliqué around each sleeve that I attached to a belt to bring the fabulous colors down toward the waist. Again, I was able to blanket-stitch the pieces to the belt using my sewing machine.



IMG_0418 IMG_0414 IMG_0401I’m very pleased with the outcome. The birds have flown of the T-shirt and onto a dress that will see the light of day after living in the dark cupboard for more than 20 years. Thank you, Monthly Stitch, for inspiring me and challenging me to be creative and inventive. This month I feel like a designer and not just a seamstress.


One of my passions when I travel is to admire the different textiles and styles of clothing and handicrafts made by native peoples. The Cuna Indians have a fascinating dress, from their intricate hand-stitched reverse appliquéd molas that they make into blouses using colorful fabrics, their bright colorful skirts and scarves, and their unique beaded adornments on their legs and arms.


Here is a typical mola, completely hand-sewn, and a piece of traditional fabric and scarve that I still have. I have several other pieces as well, and I plan to make some colorful pillows or tote bags with them in the next 20 years!


Here’s a little bit about the mola made by Cuna (Kuna) Native Americans of Panama:

“The mola forms part of the traditional costume of a Kuna woman, two mola panels being incorporated as front and back panels in a blouse. The full costume traditionally includes a patterned wrapped skirt (saburet), a red and yellow headscarf (musue), arm and leg beads (wini), a gold nose ring (olasu) and earrings in addition to the mola blouse (dulemor).[1]

In Dulegaya, the Kuna’s native language, “mola” means “shirt” or “clothing”. The mola originated with the tradition of Kuna women painting their bodies with geometrical designs, using available natural colours; in later years these same designs were woven in cotton, and later still, sewn using cloth bought from the European settlers of Panamá.[2]” from wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mola_(art_form)

Happy Sewing!



Posted in Art, crafting, DIY, nature, quilting, Sewing, Travel, Upcycle, vintage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Me and The Inspirational Tim Gunn!

IMG_0336I attended a discussion and book signing of the well-know television personality and author, Tim Gunn at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. My daughter works for the Commonwealth Club, the oldest and largest public forum in the U.S.

IMG_0329 She treated my husband and me to premium tickets for this very special event. You can imagine that I was more than excited to meet Tim and listen to him speak so personally about his life, his experiences on Project Runway, and about his new book, “Tim Gunn: the Natty Professor”.

IMG_1928.JPG Tim Gunn, is the mentor and advisor to the designers on Project Runway. These designers go through grueling fashion design challenges each week.  The outcome of the show is to see who will go to Fashion Week and who will earn some very awesome prizes to help them jump-start their career. Tim explained that it isn’t easy to complete the challenges in the time frame of the show. The judges can be pretty hard on any puckers, bad stitching, and finishes. He says that his roll is to listen very clearly to the designers, then advise and motivate them to “Make it Work!”


My daughter, Kimberly, presents Tim Gunn

I had to make a new dress for this special event, so I chose Gertie’s vintage inspired Butterick 6094. It has a close fitting lined bodice and contrasting facings. Version A has a full circle skirt cut on the bias, and a petticoat.

IMG_0322IMG_0328It has the cutest back detail, with the contrasting fabric opened out above the zipper and decorated with buttons. I made a muslin of the bodice first, tweaked the pattern to fit me, and then cut and sewed it together. I wasn’t going to add the petticoat, but at the last minute I decided that I should just go for it and make the dress as directed. I drove to the nearest fabric store, 40 miles round trip, and bought 3 yards of lining and 3 yards of crisp veil-like fabric for the ruffle. I sewed French seams on the petticoat and machine gathered the 8 inch ruffle that attaches to it. I was able to roll hem the ruffle, the petticoat, and the skirt bottom on my serger. I used wooly nylon on the upper looper and it worked like a dream! I covered two buttons with the dress fabric, and inserted an invisible zipper. The  lining was turned and hand-sewn inside the bodice and along the zipper tape.


At the reception, my daughter introduced me to Tim and we posed for pictures.

IMG_0334I told Tim that I had made my dress. He was impressed! I wore my RTW faster pin proudly and was delighted to explain that all of us fasters had pledged not to buy ready-to-wear clothing. Our goal is to make everything. You can see by his studious look that he was intrigued.

IMG_0338Not only was it a grand experience to be at this special Commonwealth presentation, but also to be with my charismatic and charming daughter, Kimberly.

10491253_10155354974425307_6564836230341245490_nShe facilitated on stage with introductions, and at the end with all the logistics for the book signing procedure. There were hundreds of people in that line!

IMG_0337Enough talk already! Here are some more pictures!



Thank you, Hannah, for snapping some cute pics of this darling dress!

IMG_0360 IMG_0354 IMG_0350

Posted in Art, Blogging, DIY, Family, Fashion, Sewing, theatre, Tutorial, vintage, Vintage sewing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Athena Top

IMG_0218This week I’d like to share with you one of my favorite tops for Spring, the Athena Top by Helena of GrayAllDayPatterns. What a creative designer! I volunteered to test the pattern through the design period before it’s official release. After working through all of the feedback from her team, she has recently released the final version.

IMG_0211I must say that I am in love with this top. I’ve worn it more than any other top I own! It’s easy to make too. There are only three pieces to the pattern, plus the neck and arm bindings. The bindings are measured out for you so there is no guessing as to the amount of stretch and ease you must account for. This top has a unique drape at the sides, which is a clever design. It floats effortlessly over your body in a very becoming way.

IMG_0213I made this first Athena Top, out of some lightweight sweater knit fabric, that I have had in my stash for awhile. I had no idea what to do with it until the Athena Pattern appeared. It’s  a perfect stash buster! The pattern is also designed for lightweight woven fabrics too. I think it would look great in a lace fabric worn over a camisole. That may be my next sewing project.

IMG_0215And here is where I make it eligible for the “Inside Out” theme for March over on the Monthly Stitch. I made the whole top with just the serger and the coverstitch machine. Is it neat inside? You betcha! Head on over to GrayAllDayPatterns and support our friend, Helena. She’s doing such a creative job!IMG_0217

IMG_0219Happy Sewing!


Posted in Blogging, DIY, Fashion, Sewing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Sewing in Seattle!

IMG_0111My husband and I took a little trip to Seattle a few weeks ago. We attended the Sewing and Stitchery Expo at the Washington State Fairgrounds. I have never been to a  sewing/quilting expo in my life so this was incredibly exciting! Some of my sewing Facebook friends were also attending and we planned to meet up, but amidst the 1000’s of people and our schedules, we unfortunately didn’t have the pleasure. Maybe next time!


I was completely mesmerized by the rows and rows of vendors, classes, and the throngs of shoppers. While there I took a business class, and a bra-making class. Both were great, but short and too the point with no time for questions and answers. I found some lovely fabrics at the Vogue Fabric vendor and from the Simplicity site and attended an inspiring fashion show MC’d by Melissa Watson.

ebfd5f1164442106c462f3f28a88270cI paid close attention to the types of fabrics that were used, because I really need to focus on using the suggested fabrics instead of pretty quilting fabric, which is ok, but just doesn’t look or feel as nice. 


We stayed in airbnb’s for the first time ever. Both were exactly as described and we were not disappointed. We visited Tacoma, Mt. Rainer, the EMP Museum, Pikes Market, Volunteer Park, Bainbridge Island and walked around the quaint little neighborhood of our BnB in Capital Hill. While we were at Volunteer Park, we snapped a few shots of my new dress that I made for the trip.


It is made from Ponte Knit purchased from Fabric.com. I used the Itch to Stitch pattern that I had previously made up in a muslin to check the fit. It turned out to be a great travel outfit. I wore it with blue leggings and the colorful belt that I got while in Peru.

IMG_0136 IMG_0143 IMG_0142 IMG_0141


So, what did I buy at the expo? I bought rayons, knits, and only one cotton. Here are the treasures. Now I just have to imagine what I will make with them! Do you have any suggestions for me?

Posted in Art, Blogging, DIY, Family, Fashion, nature, quilting, sale, Sewing, Travel, Tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Little Maya the Mermaid

IMG_0261 I’m throwing my hat in the ring over at Sew Mama Sew’s Contest “Spectacular Softies Contest” This adorable little mermaid is made from Abby Glassenburg’s pattern at While She Naps.

IMG_0266This is a well designed pattern, with excellent easy to follow directions. She suggests using fleece for all of the parts, so that it is a child-friendly toy that can even be thrown in the washing machine.

IMG_0264My version is different in several ways. I choose to reduce the pattern size by 80% and make it out of natural materials. Everything is 100% cotton, except for the safety eyes, which I also purchased from Abby.

IMG_0262I cut the front tail and back tail in half vertically, then using some tear-away tissue paper for the patterns. I cut narrow strips of coordinating fabrics and sewed them at an angle to each of the 4 sections. This took the most time, but I think the result is more than worth it

IMG_0264I used coordinating fabrics for the fin and the bikini top and wool/rayon felt for the hair. The safety eyes just snap right on and make the little mermaid face so cute!

IMG_0263This is the second mermaid that I have made. My first was made, just before the cut off date for the contest, so she wouldn’t have been elegible. She is also just as adorable! You can read more about how I constructed the tail, midway through that post.


Little Maya with her sister


IMG_0265 Thumbs up for Little Maya the Mermaid! Wish her luck in the contest!

Posted in Art, Blogging, crafting, DIY, Sewing, Tutorial, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The inside story: Cotton and Steel Dress


“Come March, we’re asking you to show us your guts, and make your inside as pretty as the outside!” The Monthly Stitch.

This month for The Monthly Stitch theme we are challenged to show off the inside of our sewing project with lovely finishes and techniques. I am a bit of a perfectionist so the insides of my garments are usually finished very neatly.  I selected  Butterick Pattern #6090  for my example and took a few pictures of how I routinely finish the “guts” of my outfits.


There is a bit of a back-story about this dress and fabric. First of all, I bought a kit from Craftsy which contained 3 yards of Cotton and Steel luxurious cotton fabric and a pattern from Green Bee for a dress cut totally on the bias. While working through the muslin, I realized that I really didn’t care for the style of the dress, even after modifying it to fit me. I didn’t even bother with the skirt part.


Green Bee bias cut dress. Too frumpy!

I switched to the Butterick pattern that buttons down the front, has a pleated skirt, side pockets, and a neckline design element. I cut the neckline design element from a blue silk (too small) dress. I did not use the neck facings as I wanted it to be light and scarf-like. I roll-hemmed the outer edge of the silk instead. I did line up the fabric design so that the dandelions would match, but I forgot about the overlap of the front, and so they didn’t match up after all. But I think the pattern is so busy that it doesn’t bother the eye.IMG_0196

The side seams are serged and then press open. Where seams cannot be serged, I use pinking sheers. The silk is serged neatly to the bodice, and the waist is sewn, then serged, and press up. The front bands are faced with a woven 100% fusible cotton interfacing. The inside edge is serged together with the interfacing for a neatly finished edge. I pressed the seam allowance toward the bands and then under-stitched close to the sewn edge. This helps the facing turn to the inside very neatly.

IMG_0048 IMG_0050










I marked all of the buttonholes when I was cutting out the pattern, so I knew just where to put them. The buttons are from my stash. I was surprised to find 10 buttons that all matched, but several looked worn around the edges. I flipped the buttons over and found that they were all a nice dark blue color. I used that side.












My buttonholes turned out beautifully and uniformly. I sewed the buttons on very carefully with my machine, first diagonally into two holes and then again diagonally into the other two holes. Finally, I serged the bottom of the dress and then machine hemmed the dress with the blind stitch!

IMG_0191During the final fitting, I lengthened the back darts to take in the extra fabric that appeared. I made bias tape for the armholes and sewed it so the outside edge would frame the silk.

IMG_0189I really like how it turned out and I am so thrilled to be wearing something made with Cotton and Steel fabric. When I make this pattern again, I’m going to cut a size smaller through the bodice and blend out to the next size through the waist. The roomy armholes and the extra fabric through the back may be resolved by doing that.

IMG_0209Happy Sewing, Friends!


Posted in Blogging, DIY, Fashion, nature, Sewing, Upcycle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Cascading Cardigan

IMG_0039This week I finished up all of my customer alterations in a timely manner, and took some personal time to make this (1 hour cardigan). Ha ha! It takes more than an hour to cut, sew, and topstitch, etc. But it is easily finished in an afternoon.

IMG_0040I read quite a few reviews on this particular cardigan, most of which said that it runs quite large. I took that under consideration when I cut it out. I would normally wear a “large” according to the size chart, but I decided to cut between the small and the medium lines of the tiled pattern. I could have just cut the small. It does run big! You also have to take into account that this pattern allows for 5/8 inch seam, so if you are using a serger, you cut off quite a bit from the seam allowance.

M6084 M6084

I ordered this kit with pattern and fabric from Craftsy.com. They sell sewing kits, as well as knitting, crochet and other craft kits. I like the fact that they have selected the fabric that works well with the particular pattern. That way, I don’t have to make a decision. :)


Don’t get me wrong, I love fabric shopping, but I usually buy fabric for the beauty of the fabric and patterns just because I like them. It’s down the road, that I choose a pattern from my stash and then try to find suitable fabric also from my stash. I think I do this because I live so far away from brick and mortar fabric stores.

IMG_0043Besides all those excuses, the kits are fun and reasonably priced, especially when they are on sale. I’ve found the fabrics to be top quality so far. This cardigan is a beautiful solid plum color (from the pink family) that suits Miss Bossy, I hope. My last name starts with C and C is for Pink! Yeah!

IMG_0046My granddaughter took several nice pictures of me in her backyard in front of the tulip tree. I’m also wearing a blouse I made a few years ago from an upcycled curtain. The fabric is some sort of synthetic, so I only wear it when the weather isn’t too warm. Today was the perfect day. Its been in the mid 70’s lately!

Thanks for looking and happy sewing!

See more of my sewing adventures at Zibergirl.com

Posted in Art, Blogging, crafting, DIY, Fashion, nature, sale, Sewing, Upcycle | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments