Finding my sew-jo while risking my blog-jo

Has it really been three weeks since I last posted?


It was an unintended absence, I assure you. It’s not that I didn’t have things to write about. It’s just I got a wee bit distracted with other things.

Mostly, my new sewing room.

sewing room with cats

The dress by the ironing board is my latest project.

You’ll note that Merricat and Lady Grey are as fond of my sewing room as I am.

I kinda wish they weren’t.

cat sleeping, sewing machine

The room used to be Husband’s office. We emptied it and moved him downstairs, temporarily, while we refinished the floor.

He discovered there were advantages to being downstairs. For one, he’s right next to heater vents and his hands are staying toasty warm. For another, he doesn’t have to worry about sound-issues if I go to bed before him, and I’m almost always in bed before him.

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt there’s a big-screen TV down there, too. So there’s that.

Anyway, once we were done with the floor, he wasn’t all that sure he wanted to move back up and so rather than leave the room empty while he made up his mind, I moved in.

Bet you didn’t know I was into sewing, eh?

Actually, I wasn’t. Or rather, I used to be a long time ago, but fell out of the habit.

I started sewing in the seventh grade and by the time I was in high school, was making nearly half my clothes. My favorite things to sew were dresses, skirts and blouses. (I avoided making jeans on account of they made me question all my life choices.)

Yet rarely did I tell anyone I sewed because once people knew, they acted like I was their personal tailor, asking me to replace zippers and hem pants. (Eventually I wised up and started charging them. That put a stop to it.)

Even Husband didn’t know I could sew until after we were engaged and I made an offhanded comment about making my dress. He said, “Whaaa?!”

But yeah. I made my wedding dress.

It was the 80s, okay? Old-fashioned dresses were in.

Later, I made dresses for Daughter.

This was one of my favorite patterns;
I think I made over a dozen of these dresses in fun prints.

This next dress is an award winner. Literally.

I entered it in the County Fair, won Reserve Champion and got $60 in prize money.
Yeah baby!

Eventually the price of fabric, thread, etc., got so expensive, it didn’t make sense to sew clothes anymore. Especially when I realized what deals could be found at secondhand stores.

By the time we lived in Phoenix, nearly all our clothes were bought from consignment or thrift stores. Sometimes with the original price tags still on them and expensive price tags at that. (My theory was they came from Scottsdale women with little self control.)

Anyhoo, that’s why I fell out of the sewing habit. Other than making occasional repairs, alterations or Halloween costumes, I considered my sewing days behind me.

Until a few months ago, that is.

That’s when I read something that got me feeling wistful for my long-forgotten hobby: feeling the fabric, pouring over patterns, selecting thread… the whole nine yards!

Actually that’s two and a half yards for a shirt, three for a dress.

So what was it I read? It was this blog post from Andrew’s View of the Week.

Andrew has taken up quilting! Not only that, he went and bought the same brand sewing machine I have. (Though a fancier model; mine is pretty basic.)

Anyway, that got me to thinking about my poor little sewing machine sitting in the corner of our guestroom, dusty and feeling neglected. I gave some thought to joining Andrew in quilting, but decided it just wasn’t my thing.

But clothing? Now that’s something I enjoyed making. And beings how several of the items in my closet are starting to show wear, and beings how Central Minnesota women appear to have more self control than Scottsdale women (based on the offerings I’ve found in secondhand stores, they make use of their purchases), I am in need of new duds.

Three weeks ago, my first fabric purchase arrived in the mail (from

Here is the first shirt I made:

I had a little issue with the neckline and probably tore out more seams than is reasonable, but overall I think it turned out pretty good. It’s based on an Anne Taylor blouse I wore so often it was practically falling apart, so I went ahead and took it apart to use as a pattern.

The next shirt I made was based on a Ralph Lauren sleeveless top I snagged at a consignment store for $4. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that the shoulders were just a wee bit narrow for my taste.

But that’s the beauty of making your own clothes, right? If you don’t like something, change it!

Here’s the original shirt:

And here’s my version:

With those two shirts done and my dress nearly complete, I’m anxious to make more. Last weekend I spent several hours pouring over websites, looking up patterns and sewing tips, ordering fabric swatches, planning my summer wardrobe (a particularly good use of winter, I think).

My next fabric order arrives on Friday!

I’ve got my sew-jo back!

Now about this blogging thing… I might have to work on that.

35 thoughts on “Finding my sew-jo while risking my blog-jo

  1. I admire people who can sew. When my mom commented that a dress I had made looked like “the loving hands of home,” I took the hint and stuck to music and writing. But my daughter had the seamstress gene and, among other things, made all her bridesmaids’ dresses. Then a couple of days before her wedding, when she realized she couldn’t raise her arms in her wedding gown, she bought some white satin and whipped up a dress identical to the bridesmaids’ dresses except in white to change into before the reception so she could dance. Nope, that’s not me. 😏

    1. Wow! Your daughter’s skill sounds impressive! Fortunately there was no dance at our reception because I’m not sure how moveable my arms would have been. Though I did have pockets! I’m a sucker for pockets so pretty much add them to everything. It was always my chief dissatisfaction with ready-made clothes. They seem to think women don’t need/want pockets. Either that, or it’s a conspiracy to keep us disenfranchised. 😉

  2. I so loved this post. I taught myself to sew when I was 11. My parents put me n my sis on a clothing allowance so I figured sewing was the way to go. When I was pregnant, I made my maternity clothes. When my kids were little I made all their clothes (the most complicated being flannel “feetsie” snap up pajamas and denim overalls for my son). Then when they were toddlers, I started a home tailoring, alterations and repair business that I did for a little over two years. Then I discovered that sewing that many hours a week proved that I had issues with arthritis in my hands (at the ripe old age of 25). So I gave up my sewing business. But I had made enough money to buy a new machine (home/industrial combo by New Home). Now my machine is 40+ years old and still running strong. It gets occasional use for hemming, masks, and remaking men’s shirts into tops for me. My veterinarian does that and I found it inspiring. I did quilting for quite a few years but again, that arthritis thing kicks in pretty quick. The strangest thing is that I can make jewelry including bead weaving, wire weaving and bending, etc without problems. So my jewelry workroom is simply lined with stuff including a fair collection of fabric because one can never totally give it up completely. Plus I occasionally make things like potholders to justify keeping all the sewing stuff.

    Anyway, the last few weeks have been good for me creatively. I’ve made (and sold) two custom wire wrapped Moonstone necklaces. I have the makings for the next one. When I finish it, I will add it to my Etsy shop so I can justify my social nickname.

    1. This was the most delightful comment I’ve had in a long time! A fellow sewing enthusiast! I’ve made all my masks but I’ve never heard of converting men’s shirts into women’s tops — I’ll have to look into that. (The pockets alone would justify it.)
      Strange how beading works for you and sewing doesn’t, but I know someone else with the same problem. I suppose it’s just the different muscles you use, something like that. In any case, awfully glad you’re able to keep your creative juices flowing. Life would get a little a monotonous I think, without a fun project to tackle. 🙂

      1. For altering men’s shirts for women – the biggest thing is taking in the sleeves and sides which usually you can do with a single seam running from the bottom of the sleeve, then tapered from the armhole to about the waist. Of course most sleeve lengths can be shortened and most hems can be taken up. I just love some of the materials and, as you said, nice to have pockets. Plus it’s hard to find fun prints in a collared button up shirt for women. I’ve actually gotten compliments on Hawaiian print shirts with people not believing they were a man’s shirt until I point out the front buttons being opposite (why did they ever start doing that anyway??).

        If there’s anything good that’s come from Covid-19, it’s that more women are getting out their sewing machines. I made masks for my family from, what else, old men’s shirts (that were too worn to make into shirts for me). Oh and I forgot, my husband has a 27″ inseam so I always have to hem his jeans / pants. And have hemmed a fair number of jackets of his as well. He would be expensive maintenance wise if I didn’t sew.

  3. I love how the kitties are sitting up – posing for their picture. 🙂

    I can’t sew. Well, I sort of can. I sewed my fingers together in grade nine home ec. class and then got kicked out because the teacher thought I did it on purpose to get kicked out. Umm, there might be some logic in there, but I’m not sure where. 😉 It was entertaining sitting outside the principal’s office listening to the teacher and my mom get into a shouting match, though. I think the principal had the patience of Job – you did NOT want to get into an argument with my mom. I got re-assigned to odd jobs around the school – no homework! That was a good thing because everything else was loaded with homework. Anyway, you are very talented! 🙂

    I remember the great deals you could find in Phoenix. The second-hand stores were great – and you’re right, price tags still on many things, or it was clear that they maybe had been worn once or twice.

    You and your husband look sooo young. Didn’t we all? 🙂

    1. Hey, a girl in my home ec class sewed her fingers together! But I don’t think she was kicked out — frankly, it seems like there might be a easier, less painful way to do that. 😉
      As much as I loved home ec, I never understood why girls automatically had it and the boys got woodshop. Of course, others thought the same thing but rather than have both sexes take both classes or at least have the option of choosing, they just did away with both.

      Phoenix really is a great place for thrifting. Especially 7th Avenue — my daughter and I would spend many a Saturday checking them out.

  4. Looks like you have a great new setup!
    Like you, I haven’t sewn much in a long time, though I do shorten all my own slacks!
    I bought a very expensive Husquvarna electronic sewing machine decades ago when my daughters were first starting to sew. The salesman sold me on it because tension and all the other adjustments were simply a push of a few buttons – and it never needed oiling. Perfect for new seamstresses! 35 years of use and the machine has only had one servicing.

    1. I had a Husqvarna! It was the most basic of their electronic models so not a lot of features, but I really loved it. Unfortunately the computer portion died and a repair was just too costly for me, so we had to part our ways. It was a dark day in the Hartwell household. A dark day, indeed.

  5. I love your “helper” in that last photo. Your projects look so nice! I made some of my own clothes in high school. I have a rather cheap sewing machine and it doesn’t get used much, but I’ve done a few small quilts, upholstered bench cushions for our camper, and do odd little repairs and alterations, so I’ll never not have a machine. No more clothes, though, I think. You did get me a little wistful with your talk of fabrics!

    1. Re-entering the sewing world after so many years away has been eye-opening, let me tell you! The fabric sites, sure, but also the videos and tutorials that are available. It’s pretty incredible. But the most surprising part was how many young people are sewing. I had no idea!

  6. I wondered where you had gone! I am in awe of anyone who can sew. I remember in high school Home Ec class, my best friend and I decided to sew sundresses. I lacked the patience and manual dexterity to finish mine, so my best friends mom finished it for me! BTW, those tops you made are very cute. Great job!

    1. Thanks, Rhonda! I like how they turned out but making that first cut into the fabric was a little scary, especially as I didn’t order cheap fabric. (I decided if I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right.) Only later did I think it might be wise to start with something lower priced!

  7. That’s a fine machine. I just took my bargain basement simplicity out of mothballs, first time since the move back to Arizona. It’s going back to the bargain basement. Now I’m a teensy bit sorry I gave my 1960’s Singer to my grand daughter. Not really. But I too made my wedding dress on that old machine, innumerate other wedding parties, alterations and then taught FourthGrand to sew on the same ol’ Singer (with zig-zag, button hole and handkerchief hem attachments – that’s right). I’m still settling in, almost ready to get back to work, and newly inspired over God’s timing with our like-mindedness. Oh! And I’m glad to see you too lost track of time since your last post!😀😃😆

  8. That’s a fine machine and an excellent article right there, Christi.

    I just took my yard sale Simplicity machine out of mothballs, first time I’ve attempted anything creative since the move back to Arizona. It’s going to the thrift store.

    So, now I’m a teensy bit sorry I gave my 1960’s Singer to my grand daughter. Not really. But I too made my wedding dress on that old machine, innumerate other wedding parties, alterations and then taught FourthGrand to sew on the same ol’ Singer (with zig-zag, button hole and handkerchief hem attachments – very old school).

    I’m still settling in, almost ready to get back to work, and newly inspired over God’s timing with our like-mindedness. Oh! And I’m glad to see you too lost track of time since your last post!😀😃😆

  9. Wow, Christi! I really admire your skill. Sigh! When I was in Grade 8 Home Ec class in Calgary, all the girls made a blouse. I made a sleeve. . . .

  10. We used to shop at the Scottsdale Salvation Army. I love rich people. Oh and if you’re looking for practice I could use a two-button tropical weight linen with slant pockets and conservative lapels (I love eclectic.) cheers

    1. Rich people are the best. So much disposable income coupled with so little sense.
      I know you’re kidding about the shirt, but I found a lovely fuchsia batik that would really bring out your eyes.
      Waiting on your measurements…

  11. Bit of trivia: The first sewing project I completed was an assignment issued in our Home Economics class in middle school. (Sixth or seventh grade, no longer sure, but leaning toward sixth.) We had to make a stuffed animal, and we could choose from several options. I went with “The Mouse”, which was essentially a pillow. I used purple fabric (because I was never one who adhered to tradition, even then) for the body, accented by felt circles for ears. Once the deed was done, I named him “Junior” (no idea why) and he lived on the family couch for several years.

    I have no idea what eventually happened to him, but I must confess to missing him a little bit…

    1. Your story reminded me of a beloved stuffed… whatchamacallit that my sister made. She actually made two, one for my brother and one for me. They were triangles, stuffed, about sofa pillow sized, with eyes and a mouth. On the sides and bottom they had long arms and legs made from braided yarn, just the perfect length for swinging around and throwing up in the air. Mine was made from a wild 70s print, orange/pink/green floral… you get the idea. I named her Harriet and I loved her dearly. But whatever happened to her, I’ve no clue…

      You don’t suppose she and Junior are together?!

      1. I think it’s a rather fine thought that Harriet and Junior are together somewhere, spending their golden years on a lovely sofa in a charming home where nice people love them and pat them every day…

  12. Hey Christi, You seem to have an endless string of talents. I know its not bad joke Monday, but by posting about your sewing machine, does that make you a Singer-blogwriter?

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