Sew Zoey...

a Sew Zoey book review | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

I think I've mentioned before that I am a children's librarian. One of the best things about this job, after getting to see beautiful little shining faces every day (but not actually being responsible for them in any serious capacity, ha!), is that it gives me both access to basically every new book and a great excuse to read them!

I try to read one book from all of the most popular series, just so I know a little about them, and feel confident in recommending them (or not) to library patrons. That's how I've gotten stuck reading Rainbow Magic fairy books, which are really popular but certifiably terrible, but it's also how I've found some favorites. It's hard to claim you are reading for professional development as you plow through book six of the Ranger's Apprentice series, for example. Similarly, I've recently been hooked on this series for older elementary school-middle school students called Sew Zoey. It's about...

a sewing blogger!

Oh my gosh, right? Our little community has hit the big time. We've made it. We're in.

I thought I would write a little review, in case any of you want to read them have small friends who you think might want to read the series. They're short (well, short for a grown up) at around 150 pages, so I've been picking up whichever ones are checked in and reading them on my lunch breaks. Overall, I think they are very cute, and it's hilarious to read about the glamorous life of a sewing blogger!

a Sew Zoey book review | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)
Here's Zoey, planning out which sewalong to participate in this month.
Zoey Webber is a middle schooler whose school just decided to get rid of uniforms. Zoey, a budding fashion designer, decides that she'll use this opportunity to sew up a unique wardrobe for herself (and occasionally her friends)--everything from daily outfits to dresses for the middle school dance! Zoey's creations don't exactly make her popular at school, where cool kids don't usually wear homemade clothes, but her blog, Sew Zoey, rapidly (very rapidly!) gains a following and Zoey becomes Internet Famous. 

You think that's horsehair braid in those ruffles? or just 500 miles of rolled hem?
Each chapters begins with a quick blog post, including sketches of outfit ideas. The illustrations in these books are all black and white, so unfortunately we only see sketches. Also, strange for a sewing blogger, we never see finished products? 

Maybe I'll transition my blog to pencil-drawings only?
Zoey quickly moves from Internet Famous to Actually Sort Of Famous when it turns out that real-life designer Daphne Shaw is a fan of her blog. In several books, Zoey gets asked to do famous-people things because of her blog.  

If you've ever read Teen Vogue and seen the "best dorm ever!" or whatever column and been super jealous of some 19 year old's living space/wardrobe and confused by how some "regular 19 year old" has such great stuff and your house is full of misassembled ikea, then gotten to the part in the article where it says "daughter of designer _________/son of actress _______" and been like ohhhhh, these storylines will be familiar to you, because this totally rings true to all sewing bloggers only happens to the children of celebrities. In Lights, Camera, Fashion!, she's asked to be a guest judge of Fashion Showdown (Project Runway)--but the filming is the same night as the middle school dance! Luckily, they wrap early, and Zoey gets to wear the winning dress to the dance, arriving fashionably late. In another, she gets invited to a personal tour of the Daphne Shaw studio (the famous designer, remember?). In a third, she is part of an up-and-coming designer showcase in Tres Chic magazine. These star moments provide some nice aspirational fluff, backed up by a behind-the-scenes look at exactly how hard Zoey is working to keep on top of her sewing and schoolwork. In yet another, a teen celebrity who reads her blog(!) sees Zoey's sketch of an outfit on Sew Zoey and requests one for herself(!!), which she then gets photographed wearing on the cover of Celebrity magazine(!!!).

a Sew Zoey book review | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)
I feel you, Zoey.
My favorite one I've read so far is Stitches and Stones, which deals with online harrassment/cyberbullying in an age-appropriate way. Zoey's blog comments start filling up with nasty comments, and Zoey starts feeling really down about her fashion design and her blogging.  She's nervous to talk to her dad because she thinks he'll make her shut the blog down, but wise older brother convinces her to confess what's stressing her out, and dad and the principal get involved. Turns out (and I'm not giving anything away here, it's fairly obvious if you are an adult reading these) it is the mean girls at school, who have been using multiple pseudonyms to make it look like more than three mean commenters. Very sneaky.

Overall, I quite enjoy reading these books. As an accurate representation of the life of a sewing blogger, they are a failure. Everyone knows that these blogs are a labor of love, and the vast (vast) majority of us make $0 (or -$, depending on if you count fabric, boo). However, they do feel very real on the middle school front. I didn't sew in middle school (nor did I blog, that wasn't a thing), but almost everyone feels like they stick out, especially if they are on the creative side, and the treatment of Zoey's everyday problems--friends, mean girls, homework--felt true to life. Add in the stress of sewing four fancy dresses to a deadline and middle school seems tough! Plus, often these more fashion-centered books for tweens get catty and mean, and the Sew Zoey series has a lot of heart. It's very moral without being preachy.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about Zoey's sewing and blogging. Its funny to relate to a character's sewing problems. Have you ever read any fiction books about sewing? Any recommendations?



100 follower giveaway!

I have 100 followers!

Okay, 100 bloglovin' followers in particular, because I don't know how many of you follow me on google plus or some other reader. Not that you aren't important, you just aren't as easy to find & count!

I want to thank all of you who read and (especially) who comment on my blog, it really means a lot to me and y'all are the best. I know 100 isn't a lot but I love having you out there and I love being part of this great community we have going. Thank you so, so much!

In honor of this occasion--a giveaway :)

You have a choice of two prizes, should you win! 

Option one: all four of these groovy patterns (three are 32 bust and one is 34 bust):

Simplicity 7133 is a jumpsuit/overalls, McCall's 9711 is a jumpsuit/dress in two lengths (this is the 34 bust), McCall's 2434 is a very versatile shirtdress, and McCall's 2146 is an adorable dress with 4 sleeve options and cool princess/hip darts. I tried to pick some that could be totally retro or modern cool, depending on how you style them.

Option two: option two is a mystery box so mysterious that even I don't know what it is! It will probably include some vintage patterns and some cute notions :) 

In order to enter this giveaway, all you have to do is leave me a comment down below and tell me what item of clothing you could make 100 of! Fit and flare dresses? Pants (haha just kidding, this is no one)? Underwear? Alder shirts? Jumpsuits? 

This contest will be open for one week (so until Thursday, April 16 at 12 am). I'll announce the winner here and send you an email if I know where to find you. The contest is now closed. Congratulations to Sarah of StyleSixties, I'm sending you an email!



couture-ish lace jacket (aka THE WORST THING)

Black Lace Crop Jacket | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

I have been really out of the loop blogging-wise recently, and instead of being a grown-up and admitting it is because I am busy reading Phryne Fisher mysteries wedding planning, I'm blaming bloglovin'. They changed their setup, and I can NOT figure out how it works! My #1 source of blogging inspiration comes from reading everyone else's gorgeous blogs (jealousy may be a deadly sin but it is such a great motivator).

Speaking of wedding planning--most of my sewing time has been spent working on my wedding dress. When I have a big project looming, it really cuts off my desire to sew, since I get nervous about important projects (um, hello, wedding dress!) and stall but feel guilty about working on anything else. This means I just avoid my sewing room and don't produce anything.

This project--I'm getting to it, I promise--was a nice compromise!

Black Lace Crop Jacket | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)Black Lace Crop Jacket | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

My university, Washington and Lee (seen here) has a crazy-supportive alumni network that would be super useful if I had a job like politician, investment banker, lawyer, etc. etc. There's not so much in the way of networking for public children's librarians, but they do know how to throw a good party. At school, we have a Fancy Dress Ball every year. I think in the UK "fancy dress" means a costume party, but our Fancy Dress isn't costumed, it's basically just 4 more years of prom.  Then, after graduation, alumni groups hold similar events in NYC and various other locations. You could go to prom every year forever.

Obviously, an Event means a Dress, but Wedding Dress Fear/Guilt meant No Dress. I got around this by "muslining" my little lace jacket, the one that goes with my wedding dress.

I'd never sewn with lace like this, and I'd certainly never done a handsewn lace jacket or any hand sewing project this extensive. It took forever and I hated it. I hated every second of it.

I thread traced the pattern in white before slowly (SLOWLY) hand seaming every horrible dart and seam, using Susan Khalje's lapped lace method, making the seams practically invisible:

A photo posted by @alliemass on

By the time I got to the sleeves, I had listened to about 7,000 hours of podcasts and was cursing the day I ever thought this was a good project.

A photo posted by @alliemass on

Black Lace Crop Jacket | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

See any seams? THE ANSWER IS NO.

Black Lace Crop Jacket | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)


In the end though--because YES I FINISHED the darn thing--I was so proud of my work and it looked great and I really think it will be very versatile. I'll definitely wear it again, layered over other dresses for formal events or over a tank top or something on a Saturday night.

Black Lace Crop Jacket | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

I meant to bring my real camera to Richmond, but I totally forgot, so unfortunately, here's the only picture of me wearing it at the event. I really am horrible at taking pictures! Is there an award for worst blogger? It's me!

The best part? Remember when I mentioned waaay up at the top of the post that this was a "muslin" for my wedding jacket?


A photo posted by @alliemass on

I get a little melodramatic when it comes to handsewing, ugh.

Wish me luck!



a second peter pan collar shirt

Here's my second variation on Simplicity 4888, a blouse pattern from c. 1963.

I have been bombarding you with so many white blouses because I often find myself wearing handmade skirts with cheap (but comfy) knit tee shirts from Target. This is a super versatile style that means I can easily step that go-to combination up a notch. Also I have a lot of white fabric available to chop up, so until I tackle knits, this is what you're going to get. You have seen a first peter pan collar blouse here (Butterick 3324), and then the first version of Simplicity 4888 here, and now this second version. Thanks to all these versions, I think I've managed to create a nice go-to blouse pattern.

Now that I have my pattern fitting better, my first two shirts will probably be tossed (after I rescue the buttons). I stocked up on shirt buttons at Joann's so I can play around with this pattern, but I know it can be boring to see the same thing over and over even if they are super useful to make (Renfrews, I'm looking at you) so I wont blog a million of them, I promise.

My issue with Butterick 3324 was tightness across the back, which I think is a lot better in this pattern (it probably helps that while the Butterick was a 30 bust, this one is a 32). It looks a little snug there but I think it's just how I have my arms.

And do you recognize my shorts? We've been having terrible weather (you can see the patch of icy slush I'm standing on) but it was warmer when I took these photos so I decided to wear my me-made shorts (looking not quite so short over tights)!

For this second version, I did a 1/2 inch SBA. The pattern is definitely designed for someone who is either much more well endowed than I, or wearing a different style of undergarment, or (quite possibly) both. My SBA ended up eliminating the bust dart entirely, which is a little unnerving, but I double checked an RTW top I have and it had not bust darts either, so I plowed on. 

Here you can see version one on the left (straight from the packet, no modifications) 
and version two on the right (1/2 inch SBA). 
I think I like the pointed flat collar better, what do you think?

Turns out that this shirt has like NO SHAPE without bust darts--the side seams are totally straight. A Granville this is not! I decided to cut the whole blouse body as one, pinning the front and back pattern pieces together at the side seam. Since I've been french seaming these shirts, this saves me 4 seams and some pressing. If you do this, just remember to mark where the bottom of the armscye is so you know where to match your sleeve seam to! I also sheared 5/8 inch off of the sleeve cap height. No more puff sleeves! I just did this by feel and it seemed to work out, but I probably ought to do it properly and make a new pattern piece for more consistency going forward.

I'm tickled by the fact that my go-to 50's dress is the ever-popular Project Runway pattern, Simplicity 2444 and this blouse pattern is Simplicity 4888, twice 2444! I suppose next I'll have to make Simplicity 1222--Girls' Frozen Coronation Day Anna & Elsa costumes! ...or maybe not.

Have you ever picked a pattern because of lucky numbers or anything?
My favorites numbers are 13 & 42; if I found a pattern numbered 1342 (or 4213), I think I'd have to check it out at least :)


ps: american readers stay warm during all these cold fronts and snowstorms! southern hemisphere readers, spend some time in the sun for all of us snow day sewers stuck inside!


Vintage Pattern Haul (video)

Oh heyyy...

My mom sent me a HUGE box of patterns she found while thrift shopping and I thought I would do something fun and make a video instead of just posting pictures. Recording yourself is awkward and weird but I think it turned out alright, except for introducing myself as Miss Allie like a dork instead of just Allie. That's how I introduce myself while working at the library, and it just slips out. You can watch all the awkwardness here or click through to youtube where I have a couple links, too.

If you want to see more non-tutorial live-action weirdness, leave a like on my haul video, and I'll brainstorm some more video ideas. Maybe I could do some video "modeling" instead of pictures in future blogs?

And here's a list of all the patterns you can see in the video, in order of occurrence!

McCall's 2082 bust 34 (1969)
McCall's 8293 bust 33 (1966)
Advance 9690 bust 34 (?)
Simplicity 7019 bust 32 (1967)
Simplicity 8381 bust 32 1/2 (1969)
Simplicity 7366 bust 34 (1967)
Simplicity 9030 bust 30 1/2 (1970)
Advance 8762 bust 34 (?)
McCall's 9711 bust 34 (1969)
McCall's 6655 bust 34 (1962)
McCall's 2146 bust 32 (1969)
Simplicity 8923 bust 32 1/2 (1970)
Simplicity 7133 bust 32 (1967)
McCall's 2432 bust 32 1/2 (1970)
McCall's 8351 bust 32/34 (1966)
Simplicity 8664 bust 35 (1969)
Simplicity 6970 bust 32 (1967)
McCall's 2421 bust 32 1/2 (1970)
Vogue 7810 bust 34 (?)
Simplicity 8098 bust 34 (1969)
McCall's 8151 bust 34 (1965)
Butterick 4799 bust 34 (?)
Butterick 6288 bust 32 1/2 (?)
Simplicity 9332 bust 32 (1971)
Simplicity 5567 bust 32 (1964)


Some other notes of interest:

SIX of these patterns are jumpsuits/overalls/skorts/things that have pants that should not. Even the Vogue evening dress is actually a short or long tunic with the option to wear either a skirt or pants underneath. I'm sure this was very cool when it was printed.

The last pattern, S5567 has what I would call the "overblouse" or more likely the "tunic thingy" listed as a "weskit." Weskit is a term I've never heard before but it apparently means vest and I presume its a version of "waistcoat."

Leave a comment (either here or on youtube) and let me know which your favorites are! I kind of love the crazy flower power overalls in Simplicity 7133 even though they are totally not the look for me!


"pointed flat" (???) collared blouse

As part of my quest for wearable vintage separates, I'm searching for a good tried and true blouse pattern. I showed you my wearable muslin (er, wearable under a buttoned-up cardigan with just the collar peeking out) of Butterick 3324 here but I thought it was too small. I posted a couple of sneak peeks of pattern option #2 on instagram so this isn't brand new if you follow me there (which you should #duh). Today I have for you Simplicity 4888:

Zzz new stuff 0017 copy3
As of now, it's still available in a 14 on etsy if you love it like me!

Vintage Patterns wikia has it as "ca. 1963." I didn't see a date on my pattern, but I would say that 1963 sounds reasonable--the hair and styling looks early-60s to me. Disclaimer: I don't really know what I'm talking about. For actual facts about 1963, see Catherine's post here!

As springtime approaches (slowly, slowly) I've definitely been gravitating towards more sweet and girly looks. I had lovely lavender nails (Essie's "Full Steam Ahead") to go with my coral skirt and my new little blouse and I feel quite springy despite my black tights and the fact it was 35 degrees out.

I don't have tons of garment photos since this is more of a wearable muslin, and because I forced my fiance to take them at night before a Doomtree show (you can watch their super creepy new music video here, oh man!) and he was feeling a little conspicuous I believe, so perhaps this post is toeing the line between "personal style" blog--yes, this is what I wore to a hip hop show--and sewing blogging so if you're JUST here for the sewing, #sorrynotsorry. Okay fine, here's some sewing.

The construction of this top is simple and easy, just what I am looking for in a TnT blouse.

I like that it doesn't have a neck facing, and I changed it a little bit to eliminate front facings too.

I like the collar I made, and I'm sure I will like the peter pan collar too. A lot of the patterns Cat has in her '63 post have the same collar as this one. I think it is called a "pointed flat" collar. This one's not a round peter pan shape, but its also not really what I would consider a "flat" collar. You can see it does stand away from the shoulder seams a little bit. I don't know! (I think I'm just confused by the terminology because some peter pan collars really are totally flat! I think Christine Haynes' sewing patterns have truly flat collars, and I have not purchased the Emery dress, despite it's popularity, as this type of collar is not one of my favorite looks. I have nothing against this style, this is just my personal preference, but I would have to redraft a collar, and at that point, I have dresses that look similar sans collar and I may as well just use one of those.)

The shoulders/sleeves fit fine, although I may take some ease out of the sleeve cap next time to eliminate those little puffs. I like the sleeve options and I think it will be very versatile, once I fix my fit issues with it. If you remember, the back of the Butterick blouse was too small for me. I think the back of this one fits better. I'm not looking for it to be very fitted, it's not a fitted type of shirt.

Please excuse the wrinkles as I wore wearing this all day 
and spent some time crawling on the floor as part of my fairy tale club at the library :)

However, look at that front! It's huge! Plan: SBA. Next time you see this blouse, it will be inches smaller in the bust. 

Overall, this is another wearable muslin blouse--but better than the last one. This one I can wear with an unbuttoned cardigan. Baby steps. And I did get a compliment on my outfit from a stranger.

Slightly off-topic: I find it very difficult to find peter pan shirts without puff sleeves RTW. I get why this is, but there are twee things I like (like peter pan collars and bows) and twee things I do not like (ruffles, generally), and then, in a third, special category, there are puff sleeves, which I detest. Peter pan collars and puff sleeves are always paired and they do not need to go together! Thank goodness for sewing :)

Questions for you:
Where do you think sewing blog ends and personal style blog begins?
How do you feel about puff sleeves and other twee details?
And what do you call one of these collars?! I would love to know.



january sunshine!

January Sunshine! yellow wool a-line vintage skirt | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

January in North Carolina is a mystery to me. Just a few days ago it was freezing and then yesterday it was 45 and sunny! I suppose the ten degrees between 30 and 40 make a big difference. For those not-so-sunny days, though, I now have a cheerful yellow (YELLOW) skirt to perk myself up!

January Sunshine! yellow wool a-line vintage skirt | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

I don't have too much to say about the pattern or the construction. I used McCalls 7704 from 1965, and it's was a quick-and-easy project with minimal fuss. I didn't make any pattern adjustments. I'm wearing it with my t swift top.

Do you like my new jacket? NO I did NOT sew this (haaahaha), but I decided to include it in my pictures because it's upcycled! Plus it makes me feel like this:

January Sunshine! yellow wool a-line vintage skirt | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

I got it from Olga Road--I'm not positive about their production practices or anything but they make these jackets out of old leather trench coats and things. They aren't paying me to say this (although if they want to send me another jacket, I would not say no, duh).

Back to the sewing!

Some interior shots (inside the garment, and inside my house):

For the hem, I simply folded up twice and slip stitched it to the lining. This isn't really the best treatment for such a thick wool--really it would be better to use some hug snug and just fold it up once--but while hemming, I wanted to retain as much potential future length as possible. I was worried I had hacked off too much! After trying it on again, I think it looks good, but I guess there's no harm in having a little extra length in the hem, you know, in case I go through a growth spurt...

I decided to go with the pattern instruction for the zipper insertion since it was a new way I hadn't done it before. You snip the fabric and lining at the end of the zipper so that they work as one (like interlining) for zipper insertion and still look nice at the bottom. If I made and lined this skirt again, I wouldn't do it like this, I would just hand stitch the lining down or sew the lining and fashion fabric together the whole way down and hong kong bind it or something. As written, I ended up with raw edges, which I just zigzagged over (I don't have a serger).

January Sunshine! yellow wool a-line vintage skirt | allie J. (alliemjackson.com)

I've officially adopted the lapped zipper as my very favoritest ever. It is easy, seemingly foolproof, and I love the way it looks with a button tab, as shown here. Mine look much neater than my centered zips, too, with only one sewing line to try and keep even.  

I originally saved this fabric to make a pencil skirt with. It is EXACTLY pencil yellow (for reference, the walls of my house below look blue, and that is because they really are blue, not blue-tinted white). I decided instead to try out this more a-line silhouette, which I don't think I have a single thing with. Now I do, and I love it. Next quandry: what colors would you wear with insane yellow??