Me Made Basics Social Sew Round Up!

Thank you to everyone who participated in May's Social Sew. It was so interesting to see what everyone's "Me Made Basics" were--as someone who considers extra-full skirts a "basic," I loved seeing what y'all had created as your own essential pieces--everything from a silk kimono to jeans to tanks and tees!

Lisa from Pattern and Branch made some truly impressive Gingers. They fit wonderfully, and just take a look at that gorgeous rainbow topstitching!! Click through to look at the detail and hear how she tackled this ambitious project.

I'm really into new-to-me blogger Alexandra of Library of Alexandra--not only do we share the same name and profession, she's been making gorgeous retro shirtdresses from blogger favorite pattern McCalls 6696. Sooo cute.

Amy of SEWSNBOWS created a silk crepe de chine kimono--using fabric she designed herself! This garment is so luxe--and yet, is totally at home with jeans and boots. Ahhmazing. AND she bested all of us with even more basic, yet stylish, pieces: a stripy tank and some cute tulip shorts! Very "festival," Amy!

DoodleNumber5 was extremely productive and made loads and loads of those practical basics, tees and tanks in black, white, and grey. I'm very impressed by such dedication to Me Made May--she'll never run out of handmade tops to wear!

Yearling blogger The Petite Passions aka Laura took "basics" in a different direction and linked up an interesting look back at her first year of sewing, including her most worn items: a pussy bow blouse, a chiffon shell, and some pajama bottoms!

Almost a Hippy Alexa also made some Carolyn pajama bottoms, out of a pretty strawberry print. I usually do wear matching pajamas, but they take a ton of fabric, so I like this idea of breaking it up and making just the pants!

Belgian blogger Nathalie Sews returned to the Social Sew and made a very versatile bat-wing cardigan to fill the separates gap in her handmade wardrobe, and she's already worn it a bunch for Me Made May! Woohoo!

Melissa of Mahlica Designs took a leap and made a TnT skirt pattern in a bold yellow to go with all of her basic tops.

Miss Dixie O'Dare made a whole outfit--some chic pants and a very ladylike bow blouse. Y'all know I love a good bow.

Bilingual blogger Friederike from Sewing is Therapy (truth!) made a very impressive coat (the Roger from Republique du Chiffon) and checked off an item from her #2016MakeNine project list. 

Again, thank you for joining me! We had twice as many entries this month as last--let's keep it up! Up next, June's theme is Sun Dressing!

While a sundress is always a good idea, what about a bikini? a sarong skirt cover-up? a tunic? an off-shoulder top? The June link-up will go out tomorrow!


ps: there's still time to sneak in--if you add a creation to the link up today, i'll add you in to our round up above ;)

allie J.

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Me Made Basic White Tee

The craziness of Me Made May always sneaks up on me, and I didn't get as much sewing in as I wanted to. I did finish a quick Social Sew project for the month though! This is a jersey version of Simplicity 1364, the rereleased Jiffy pattern. I generally wear v-neck tees, but I really like this boat neckline, slightly dropped shoulder seam, and looser shape; I think with skinny pants or tucked into a full skirt like this, it's casual and easy, but reads more retro than a regular tee would, don't you?

This is such a cute (and versatile) pattern, but I never would have thought to make it in jersey until I saw a bunch of people making it this way (sizing down & in some cases eliminating the bust darts--I just folded mine out and fudged it) in one of my facebook sewing groups. I've sung the praises of the WeSewRetro Sew & Tell group before, but (I think) I got this particular idea from Those Darn Sew & Sews. It was really easy to throw together using the lightning stitch on my new Bernina 350 & my walking foot. Have you used the lightning stitch before? It's close to a zig zag, but prettier. From the McCall's blog: "it’s like a zigzag but the stitches are angled backward and forward, so it’s narrower and produces a cleaner-looking seam."

Of course, as soon as I finished this new top and popped it on, I realized I already have basically this exact pattern made for jersey--the Liesl & Co. Maritime knit top has the same neck facing, boat neck, and dropped shoulders. I've even made it before! If you want to replicate this look and don't mind doing some hacky alterations, you really can't beat Simplicity patterns on sale for $1, but I think my next version of 1364 will be in a woven--I saw a really cute matched set of this top tucked into a pleated midi skirt in the same fabric. I'll stick with the Maritime for my knit boatneck tees going forward! Have you ever reinvented the wheel like this before? Ugh!


ps: what other sewing facebook groups do you recommend? i find they are a great place to discover new patterns.

allie J.

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Castle Hill Cider + Bosom Buddy Bags


I had the nicest time this past weekend in Charlottesville. One of the best things to do if there's pretty weather is stop by one of the local farmers markets and then head out to one of the million vineyards, breweries, or ciderworks. We all trooped out to Castle Hill Cider for some of the best views in town, not to mention delicious dry ciders. Alex got in on the Me Made action wearing the belt I needlepointed for him. Although overcast, we had lovely warm weather and cool breezes, and spent some time lounging on the expansive lawns eating fresh strawberries, hummus and bread. There's no better way to spend an afternoon! 

I wore my chambray skirt and crop top set--still love this combo--and brought a pale pink cardigan to slip into when the sun dipped behind the clouds. I accessorized with a purse from one of my favorite local (to my parents, not me) brands, Bosom Buddy Bags. I love their handcrafted straw bags, made by artisans in Bali and then decorated to your specifications with a huge selection of ribbons and charms. This is my second bag, my other one (seen here) is the large rectangular Bali bag with a navy bow and the XL gold bee, and this one is the small oval Bali bag with a pink bow and gold bee. The large one holds all my stuff--oversize wallet, planner, sunnies, phone, 15 lipsticks--and this littler one is perfect for an afternoon out, holding my phone, sunglasses, cards, and a more reasonable amount of lip colors. If you would like your very own Bosom Buddy Bag, use code alliej10 for 10% off your purchase. Just FYI, I do get compliments every time I wear mine out ;)

Go check out the Bosom Buddy site and just look at all the gorgeous trims they have--I obviously love all the various bees, but they also have great equestrian and nautical options, and the cutest little multicolored tassels! Which handmade bag would go best with your handmade items?


ps: when you pick out your bag, tell me which colors and charms you get--i'm always in the market for another summer bag!

allie J.

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Happy Mother's Day, Diana!

a cozy coco in a plaid mystery knit

so thrilled to be modelling :)

beautiful double needle hem 

dad joins the fun

30 years next month :)

a beautiful mother's day brunch


If you follow me on instagram, you may know that I spent the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of my very favorite places. My husband and I met up with our parents for Mother's Day, and we had a great weekend with nice weather and lots of delicious food and drink! But y'all are here for the sewing, right? My mom, who you met here and who taught me to sew, has been sewing up a storm--she's way cooler than me and makes a lot of indie patterns--seen here are is just one of her several coco dresses! (Coco is totally one of her "basics" and she excitedly told me to link it up for the Social Sew!) She is participating in Me Made May over on her instagram, but over the weekend I took some proper pictures to share here. I love you, mom! Thanks for teaching me everything I know.


ps: i took these pictures (even the salad!) with this method from last week...

allie J.

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Easiest Ever Style Blog Photography

All the photographs in this post were taken using this method on my Nikon D3200.

Okay, y'all, in honor of selfie month #MMMay16 today we're talking about blog photography.

Raise your hand if your significant other/bff/mom/whoever-you-can-rope-into-it takes your outfit pictures. Now, keep your hand raised if that significant other/bff/mom/whoever-you-can-rope-into-it also happens to be a photography expert. Nooooo?

Yeah, me neither.

Actually, my husband really doesn't care about photography at all--he just cares enough about his wife (me) that he's willing to do me the huge favor of taking zillions of blog pictures. (awww)

I got myself a DSLR for Cyber Monday (a Nikon D3200), and asked for an additional lens (a NIKKOR 35mm 1:1.8) for Christmas. I took a photography class in high school (developing prints and everything) so after a bit of brushing up, I could take decent snaps in manual. I can do it.

But... all I really want is to have nice, "top fashion blogger" photos with sharp details and a blurred-out background. And I want my husband to be able to do it with minimal effort, because the simpler I can make it, the less frustrated he gets, the more pleasant the whole blog-photos-please thing can be.

After a bunch of messing around on different settings, I think I have cracked the code and figured out the easiest possible way to create that "manual" look with literally NO effort or photography know-how necessary.

Keep in mind, I'm not a camera expert, but the brilliant thing is that this should work even if you aren't either. I won't be explaining all the terminology, because other people can do it way better than I can. Also, these are all Nikon settings, because that's what I have and I don't want to get too confusing and list a million jargon-y camera terms for both Nikon and Canon.

First, put your camera in Aperture Priority mode, usually represented by an A on your dial. This allows you to dial in your preferred aperture. The lower the number, the shallower the depth of field, so you can get outfit in focus and have the background blurry. For most of my pictures, I set my aperture as wide as it goes/as low as the number gets, or 1.8 (for my lens).

Aperture Priority mode is a step up from Auto, but basically just as easy. There are two basic elements of taking a picture: the shutter speed and the aperture (well, there's three, but we're just going to ignore ISO for now). If you are in manual, you're in charge of both. In auto, the camera is in charge of everything. It will always get the exposure right but won't get any of those nice effects you are looking for. In Aperture Priority you're in charge of the aperture, and the camera adjusts the shutter speed to suit the light levels.

Next step is focusing, and here, we want to make this as automated as possible. There are two settings that control focus on my camera. Focus mode controls how your camera focuses, and AF (that's autofocus) Area Mode controls how it knows what to focus on. The magic combination, I've found, is setting the focus to Auto-Servo Auto-Focus, and the focus area to Auto-Area Auto-Focus. This basically lets the camera choose what to focus on and how to focus on it. I have found that it works pretty well, especially for the type of pictures you're taking for style/sewing blogging: outfit shots, detail shots, etc.

Are these photos going to win awards? Um, probably not. BUT until I can afford to hire a pro photographer to follow me around 24/7, this is pretty simple and foolproof. You can hand your sister/husband/mom/whoever the camera set in this way, they can literally just point and shoot and you should end up with some decent photos!

EDIT: Since I took the pictures in this post, I've tweaked one more thing--instead of using matric metering (the default mode), I've been using spot metering, which uses the spot your camera is focused on to control the brightness. That way, if you are standing in the shade but it is bright behind you, it will use your face to determine the brightness.

You don't need a DSLR to use these settings, but you do need a camera that has a bit more functionality than an iPhone, you know? I would explore your settings menu and look for Aperture Priority mode as a first step, or even break out the manual. My old camera is a Sony alpha NEX-3N, which is a nice (and portable!) camera that Sony designed to be somewhere between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR. It has Aperture Priority mode, so I can do the same thing there! On my little Sony, the AF area mode I use is called "multi" and does the same thing, and I only have one autofocus mode, so I use that. The aperture on the lens I have for that camera only goes down to 3.5, so I can't get my depth of field quite as shallow as on my Nikon, but I could always get a second lens if I felt I needed to.

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or if you want to know anything else about my photography or gear or whatever. As I said, I am not an expert, I've taken one photography class (10 years ago)--and then experimented a lot to make this as simple and easy as possible.

If you try out these settings, let me know how they work for you: If it's bad, I'd really like to continue improving this method, and if you try it and like it, I'd appreciate it if you linked back to this post, if you want to.


ps: works for tripod shots, too--the blue gingham shots were taken with a remote and tripod.

allie J.

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Inspiration: The Me Made Basics Social Sew

In celebration of me-made may (omg, it sneaks up on me every year!), this month's Social Sew theme is Me Made Basics. Zoe is very clear that #MMMay is never about frantic deadline sewing, but sometimes we get into it and realize we've been relying on RTW jeans and tees and have nothing to wear come the weekend. I have three iconic basics assembled here, to form a mini last-minute capsule--which ones are missing from your handmade wardrobe?

Remember, my main goal is designing the Social Sew link-up was to make the theme narrow enough that someone unsure of what to make next could find some guidance, but broad enough that someone with sewing plans could find a way to make their pieces fit. If you're a bit stumped on what to make for this month's theme let me suggest...

A white blouse. Goes with everything, great in any fabric from silk charmeuse to cotton jersey, and endlessly customizable to your individual style. Plus, once you perfect your white shirt, you have a tried and true pattern you can easily make in a few more colors or prints. I have the Granville all traced and ready, it's just waiting for time and fabric...

Patterns: Granville, Roscoe, or literally any blouse pattern you can think of. Or do as I do and use your favorite dress pattern to make a crop or peplum top!

A blazer. This was first on my list of my Kate Middleton-inspired sewing plans last autumn--and in fact, I've actually completed everything else on that list, except for this. I must admit it is because I am scared of tailoring! I have all my supplies (except buttons) and I even have my muslin done... Could it be time for me to just do it?

Patterns: My original plan for my "Kate Capsule" was Simplicity 1421, then I switched to Simplicity 2446. For a more casual option, Named's Kaisla or Grainline Studio's Morris seem like cool, chic looks. Simplicity 8093 has an cute notched front, like a deconstructed blazer, it's been calling out for me to copy it in camel!

A pair of dark denim jeans. My very favorite jeans are Paige denim skinnies from 2008. At this point, they are totally unwearable. Should I take them apart and try to clone them? Or should I just get over them and get myself a jeans pattern? I love love love the look of the Birkin flares... I'd ideally make myself a pair of flares and a pair of high waisted skinnies so that I have great jeans whether I'm feeling 70s retro or more 2016...

Patterns: Birkin and Ginger seem to be the top choices, followed shortly by Jamie. I like the flare on the Birkin better than the Ginger's flare option, but I'm a bit reluctant to buy the Birkin pattern without seeing the skinnies option there...

I'm slowly working on replacing my ready to wear with handmades. Adding my new labels from Dutch Label Shop (c/o) is a perfect finishing touch, making everything feel a bit more polished. Ideally, I'll be consigning some old RTW stuff... more money for fabric!

What's missing from your Me Made May closet? A shirtdress, maybe? Black pants? Pop over to my guest post on the Dutch Label Shop blog and check out the rest of my picks for the top ten items essential to any handmade wardrobe (post will be up later today)! While you're at it, check out their labels and take 15% off your order with code alliej!


ps: i'll be snapping and instagramming my makes all month--my account both places is helloalliej, see you there!!

allie J.

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Social Sew #2: Me Made Basics (and my #MMMay16 pledge)

It's Me Made May!! aaaand if you are anything like me, you are panic sewing basics expressly against Zoe's instructions

May's Social Sew theme is Me Made Basics!

Not to encourage frantic, last-minute sewing, but you know, it happens. This is a crazy busy month for sewing bloggers--and one that invites reflection on our handmade wardrobe--regardless of where we are in our sewing. 

My first MMMay (2013!!!!!) was SO hard--I ambitiously said I would wear handmade every day, and I failed even though I remember just wearing the same like five things over and over. Every year since, I have tried to sew "a few basics" for me made may. I am inevitably distracted by like, pretty sundresses... but this year! Let's sew basics--whatever that means for you!! If pretty sundresses is your "basics" sew sundresses. Make a Lark or a Renfrew (and Gingers?) if you are a tee shirt (and jeans!) person. Again, the idea is that the theme is narrow enough to inspire if needed, but loose enough to fit anything in you have in mind, really... can't wait to see what y'all are making!!

The link up will be open from the 1st of the month (at about 8 am est) and will last just about until the next one opens. 

Some rules: 
1. This is for adult apparel sewing, so no kids clothes or home decorating (unless specified otherwise in the theme).
2. Newly blogged garments, please: the things you add to the link up should be made in the month the link up is for. Remember, the theme and the link up are there to inspire you! 
3.  Please click on the logo above to download it, and put it either in the post you are linking up, or in your sidebar. I'd also appreciate you linking to the Social Sew--the more people who discover it, the more participation we'll have, the more inspiration! 

Upcoming themes:
May (this month) | Me Made Basics
June | Sun Dressing
July | Vintage

If you have any problems linking up, etc., let me know and I'll try and sort it out right away.


ps: i, allie of and @helloalliej, pledge to wear one handmade item each day of may and to do a better job styling them in interesting ways--i'll be documenting my outfits here and on instagram and snapchat!

allie J.

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