Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Top Fives

Thanks to Gillian's #sewingtop5, or else I would never get around to summarizing and reflecting on my creative year! Sometimes having assignments (even if they're purely self-assigned) is really helpful. First, let's look at my selfish sewing:

Row 1: Batman Beyond jacket applique, Galadriel, red lace dress (unblogged), and undies.
Row 2: Tunics, lounging clothes, and a cat blouse.
Row 3: Black sweatshirt and leopard pants refashion, cat tunic, striped dress and cardigan.
Row 4: Old-timey jodhpurs, two Walkley dresses, and a bomber jacket.

Not as much as in years past, thanks to SHB. Speaking of SHB, though, look how adorable he is in his mommy-made wardrobe!

Left column: Blue cat suit and hobbit costume.
Middle column: Terry McGinnis jacket, Blue Sun and biohazard shirts.
Right column: Kumamon, The Cheat, and scientist shirts.
Not pictured: Warriors pajamas.

I didn't make anything for him in the latter half of the year until Christmas, so it's kind of weird to see all these pictures of him from so "long" ago! I can't even remember what it's like to have a non-mobile baby. Besides garment sewing, there was also a lot of crafting, most of it geeky:

Pyrography: Hobbit-themed cutting boards, The One (Teething) Ring, Map of Thorin and Totoro boxes, Tolkien ornaments (not pictured).
Geeky sewing: Adult and baby versions of the Palantir/Eye of Sauron, Firefly-themed playset, hammerhead sharks, Smaug and Bilbo pillows, drool guards, aviator hat, toy bin, and Christmas decorations (not pictured).
Miscellaneous: Eye of Sauron headpiece, baby quilt (not pictured), Eye of Sauron ornament (not pictured).

Not bad, all things considered! And because I always like a nice chart...

I love that there are enough Eyes of Sauron to warrant its own category. I mean, I made more Eyes of Sauron than pants this year! Also, now that I look at the legend again, it looks like I made 10 SHBs this year, not ten garments for SHB. Oops.

And now, on to the reflection portion!

Top Five Sewing Hits:
  1. My bomber jacket: looks so real, relatively easy, goes with everything, and is just warm enough for most NorCal days. 
  2. SHB's The Cheat shirt: it fit when he was five months old, and it still fits now at 15 months, albeit as a 3/4 length sleeve shirt. But it's a good barometer for who was in college at around the same time I was, because those people recognize The Cheat and love it. 
  3. The adult Eye of Sauron, Smaug, and Bilbo: people who come over to our house love the former two, SHB loves the latter. 
  4. The So Zo undies: I made three pairs, and they're always the ones I reach for first. Every time I realize that all three are in the wash, I become sad and dissatisfied with my RTW ones, and swear I will make more. Unfortunately, sewing undies is not nearly as fun as new things that people can actually see.
  5. Baby quilt: I made a personalized quilt for the daughter of one of my dearest friends in San Diego. Her baby was a long-awaited answer to prayer and while I'm sad I can't see her as often as I would like, I wanted use my skills to wrap her (literally) in love. I'm kicking myself that I never took a picture of it, though! This is what happens when I cram in my sewing in the three days before getting on the plane. 

Top Five Sewing Misses:
  1. Birthday shirt for my brother: never finished because I realized that I had cut the sleeves wrong, and then I messed up the tower plackets because I was trying to finish it in a hurry. Stuffed it all into a bag and put it in the closet to stew. 
  2. SHB's blue cat outfit: too big when I made them, and when they fit again it was summer and there was no way he was going to wear a fleece outfit. 
  3. The tighter Walkley dress: I used a much less stretchy fabric than my first iteration, so it ended up too tight when I applied the same alterations. 
  4. Drool guards: right after I made them, SHB stopped wanting to be carried in the Ergo. 
  5. Jodhpurs: they were really a wearable muslin, but I'm still disappointed. Since it's based off of a 1910s draft, they are ridiculous in the crotch/butt region. Also the fabric is kind of hideous. 

Top Five Non-Sewing Highlights:
  1. SHB turned one! He is now ridiculously fun and a wriggling handful, especially since he can inevitably run faster, reach farther, eat more, and sleep less than I expect. He is generally a really happy guy, though, so I can't complain.
  2. Mr. Cation and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in June. Things keep changing fairly drastically every year (a lay-off, living in four different cities, business school, buying a house, having a baby) but we're still very happy and love and appreciate each other more. 
  3. Okay, I know this is actually sewing related, but I costumed my first show! It was an amazing, intense, stressful, and wonderful experience, and it really deserves a whole blog post. At some point. 
  4. The LOTR Symphony Extravaganza: it was lovely to revisit Middle Earth and wear fun costumes again!
  5. This is a little silly, but seeing Episode VII: Mr. Cation said to me as we sat down in our seats that we had been waiting our whole lives for this movie to come out (Episodes I-III didn't count), and I realized that it was kind of true. I've loved the original trilogy since I first saw it in elementary school, then loved all the novels in middle and high school, and after the disappointment of Episodes I-III, I had kind of given up hope in the whole Star Wars franchise. Episode VII brought back all the giddy excitement for me, and even more so because of the oh, I don't know, actual fleshed out character and storyline of a strong heroine? I am so excited for 2017!

Top Five Reflections:
  1. Rest is so important. When I was waking up five or six times a night and then carrying SHB for all his naps, I was an awful person. I snapped at Mr. Cation, couldn't be arsed to care about anything, and couldn't figure out why I hated my life. Scratch that, I knew why I hated my life, but couldn't see any way around it. Thankfully, SHB now sleeps through the night most of the time (and has for about half a year now!) and can nap in his crib (even if that's only once a day for 60 minutes), so I'm feeling much better about life. 
  2. Creating is so important. Even when I was sleep deprived and grumpy, I would occasionally give up sleep to sew (although this was pretty rare), craft (less rare -- all the pyrography is evidence that it takes less brainpower than sewing), or at least research/dream about future projects. That excitement kept me going. 
  3. Community is so important. Because I work part-time, I kind of get the worst of both worlds: I feel stressed about the work I need to get done, but because I have to rush home for nap time I have no time to actually connect with co-workers who get what I'm struggling with; I'm always teaching during prime mommy-and-me class hours so it's hard to connect with moms who can commiserate. (I also get the best of both worlds, in that I get to spend a lot of time with SHB, but not so much time that I'm bored out of my mind; I get to work with students without having to do the extra, unrelated stuff like lunch duty or staff meetings). In the last year, some of the most encouraging people in my life have been people I've never actually met. Mikhaela and Clio, who co-hosted the SHB Sew-Along with me, were my moms-in-the-trenches friends who could empathize about the lack of sleep and time to sew; at least as many emails were exchanged about parenting as were about the sew-along, and once the month was over I missed that comaraderie. Gillian, Brooke, Becky, and countless other IG sewcialists helped me feel like I could make meaningful connections even when I hadn't talked to another adult all day. All of you more experienced moms with older kids kept me going with your reminders that this, too, shall pass, and one day I'll have a teenager who doesn't need to constant attention (although they may still need feeding every two hours). 
  4. Stash is so important. Hah! No but really, when I was costuming the play, I was so glad to have a stash of fabrics and patterns that I could use. It saved me so much time and money to have a stash to pull from. And whenever I was feeling blah and uninspired, fondling fabrics helped me dream again. 
  5. Letting go is so important. I know we're all supposed to be KonMari-ing everything, but it's still hard to let go of me-mades that don't fit right or fabrics that you no longer love. I've donated a lot of stuff to make room for SHB's stuff, and you know what? I can't even remember what I donated anymore, so I obviously don't miss it! Besides letting go of physical things, I'm also letting go of any self-imposed obligation to sew a certain amount of stash or percentage of my/SHB's wardrobe. I know I already said this last year, but I need to remember that just because I can, doesn't mean I have to. 

Top Five Sewing Goals:
  1. Costume another show, but without stressing out myself and my family this time: I've learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, so hopefully the next one goes better! (I know I keep alluding to this theater costuming thing, and I promise a blog post is coming.)
  2. Get back into the Historical Sew Monthly. I pretty much dropped it while growing, hatching, and raising SHB, but I really miss it. My modern wardrobe doesn't really need any more items (even though I'm sure I'll continue sewing for it), and historical sewing lets me spend lots of time researching and planning, which I love. 
  3. Make more outerwear and/or menswear. See above re: my wardrobe not needing more items. Except underwear, because I really need more pairs I like. No bras, though. I am not going down that rabbit hole!
  4. Find more opportunities to wear the costumes I've sewn: because they're really too nice to stay hidden in my closet. Okay, that's not really a sewing goal, per se. 
  5. Take more classes! Figure out corsetry! Research historical fashion! Learn ALL the things! This is the same as last year, but I love learning. It needs to continue. 

Whew! That's it! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

This Year's Christmas Projects

I knew the holidays would be busy this year, so I started my Christmas crafting early. As is tradition, there was LOTR-related crafting, this time in the form of painted and wood-burned ornaments:

The Eye of Sauron, painted on a papier mache blank sphere from Michael's (this makes three eyes now in my living room, all ominously watching everything), and JRR Tolkien's monogram and the White Tree of Gondor. 

Things got kitschy and punny real fast when I used the free Sewaholic Stanley Tree pattern to make a chemis-tree out of leftover science-y fabric:

SHB really enjoys hitting it because all the bells jangle madly.

I also made little felt ornaments for my brother and sister:

For my sister, a paramedic in training: a Gumbulance (ambulance on one side, her crazy orange cat Gummy on the other). For my brother, a car enthusiast: a Fenxibaru (the Subaru logo on one side, and his sleeping cat Fenxi on the other). There were many hours of meticulous cutting and blanket stitching. 

And then my mother-in-law unexpectedly passed away and all plans got thrown out the window. While I had the fabric purchased for several weeks, I didn't get around to making Mr. Cation's and SHB's matching Warriors jammies until a few days after Christmas. Thankfully, elastic waist pants are just about the easiest thing to sew, so I was done with both pairs in an afternoon. I'll wager it took longer to actually get a decent picture of them together, because SHB was having a hyper morning. Oh wait, that's every morning. And afternoon. And evening. And unfortunately, sometimes night. 

"Could you stop running around for just two minutes?" 
"Maybe it's easier if we just get Walnut into position first."
"No, this is not easier, because I can't chase him down with a cat in my lap."
I place toddler in Dad's lap. He chooses that moment to imitate a fish flipping out on the line, fighting for its life.
Let's try this again. "Look, I've got a basketball! Don't you want to come get it?"
(Also, check out my not-thought-through pattern placement on SHB's butt. The two Warriors logos slightly overlapped make...a butt. Good thing he's a toddler and nobody will care.)
Toddler tries to ram his head into Daddy's armpit, cat leaves. 
"Okay, sit in Daddy's lap. Walnut, come here."
"Try to look happy, everyone! Dangit, Walnut, I can't see your face."
Toddler seizes the ball, cat decides he's done.
Thankfully, he settles down not too far away. I think this is as good as it's going to get.
Attempts at a brothers' photo work slightly better because Daddy can help wrangle both boys. 

I had plans to make more LOTR-themed gifts for SHB, but those will have to wait until I have time. Let's just hope that I get to make them before he gets too old to enjoy what I have in mind! 

In the meantime, SHB continues trying to bug his older brother into playing ball with him. Typical little brother. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

That Diagonal Pants Dart!

When I get emails about my blog, 90% of the time they're about one of the following three topics:
  1. I love that ____ that you made! Can you make one for me, or can I buy yours? 
  2. Thank you for making your free dolman-sleeve top pattern available! Or less frequently, thank you for making your free raglan-sleeve top pattern. Here are pictures of my finished garment.
  3. Your pants alterations post is so helpful! But what did you ever do about that back diagonal fisheye dart? I can't find the answer anywhere!

While I try to respond to most emails in a timely fashion, sometimes I forget or am too busy, and then by the time I rediscover the email, it's been months and it's too awkward to reply at that point. So here are my standard answers:
  1. I'm glad you love it; I do too! If it's a sheet dress, there's pretty much a zero percent chance of me finding the same fabric again, so unless you have the fabric in hand, no. If you want mine, no, it's mine. But most importantly, you probably can't afford me, so unless you have at least a hundred dollars at your disposal, no. And even if you can afford it, I may not have time, as I have a day job and a small human being to wrangle.
  2. This is my favorite kind of email. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to let me know! I love seeing pictures of how it worked for you! 
  3. Ah, now this one deserves more than just a quick one-line reply. And it happens often enough that I feel like I should save myself some time and just put the answer in a blog post for easy access. 
Ironically enough, after I made my other adjustments, I didn't need the diagonal dart anymore. As I mentioned in my post about the finished pants, there was still a little bit of looseness at the back, but it was necessary for sitting ease. When pants are skin tight, there's no room for flesh to shift when one sits, walks, and generally lives life. 

Of course, other people may still need this dart, so I've done my best to illustrate how to alter the back pattern piece. I'm using a tiny pants pattern piece (it fits on a piece of printer paper) to show the steps, so if it looks a little weird, it's because of the scale of cuts I'm able to do on such a small pattern piece.

I've sketched the dart take up here in pencil. 

Cut a diagonal line from the edge of the pattern piece, up the outer edge of the dart, and then a diagonal line back to the edge of the pattern piece. I've sliced it and pulled it slightly to the side here so that you can see where I made the cuts.  

Make a series of horizontal cuts on either side of the stitching line about 1" apart (mine are about 1/4" apart on this tiny pattern piece) so that the stitching line stays intact and the little flaps are free to move on "hinges." This is difficult to explain, and the photo makes it difficult to see some of the apologies. 

Once the cuts are all made, you can line up the bottom stitching line and push the stitching line until the outer edge of the dart (which you've cut) now meets the inner edge of the dart. The points on the new stitching line may need to be smoothed out, but you've essentially just removed the dart take up while still keeping the pattern piece flat!  

Hopefully that helps if that alteration is necessary for you. I'm going to put a link to this post on the pants alteration post so that I don't have to keep repeating myself in emails!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bomber Jacket, Ten Months Late

Back when Rigel Bomber Jacket January was happening, oh, ten months ago, I was seriously sleep deprived, so I didn't have enough brain power to do more than glance at pictures and think, "Hmm, that looks like something I'd like to make, but with a higher neck." I filed the idea of a bomber jacket somewhere in my mind palace, and probably would have forgotten about it if it weren't for Tanit-Isis' cream lace bomber. I have a serious crush on everything she makes, so when I saw her non-collarbone-exposing jacket (why have a jacket that's so v-necked? I mean I guess you could wear a scarf, but it just seems weird to me), I decided I really needed to make my own. I collected McCall's 7100 at the next Jo-Ann's pattern sale, but every time I had the mental energy to think about finding an appropriate fabric, SHB was sleeping, and fabric bins are all in his room, so it wasn't until July that IG sewcialists helped me match a fabric to the pattern. In fact, it was Sewprettyinpink's version that finally tipped me over the edge because I'm pretty sure her fabric is exactly the same as mine!

After reading all the pattern reviews about how it runs small, I decided to cut a medium instead of my usual small. Good thing I did, because once I added in my lining, it's quite snug. In fact, if I were to make this again, I might even go up to a large if I use really bulky fabrics. Anyway, I cut out my jacket pieces, couldn't decide what I wanted to use as a lining fabric, and then stalled again because school started and then I was making play costumes. After the madness of the play (I will share pictures of the costumes soon!), I wanted to make something for me, so jacket it was! Since it's gotten so cold (don't laugh, Tanit-Isis of the #whinycanuck in wintertime hashtag, but it's in the low 50s and this California girl is dying), I went ahead and made a fleece lining. I was a little worried at first about not being able to slide my arms in and out of the sleeves easily, but ohhhhh the warm loveliness of fleece! I regret nothing, even if I always have to do an awkward tug to pull my sleeves down inside.

To add the lining, I just cut another set of the body pieces and stitched the front facing on top. In retrospect, I would have taken the time (all of two minutes, seriously, past me, are you really that lazy?) to trim the fleece out from under the facing pieces, because my seams got really, really bulky. Houndstooth + heavy jacket zipper + more houndstooth + interfacing + fleece + another layer of interfaced houndstooth = no actual lowering of the presser foot when I pressed the lever. Since the original pattern doesn't call for a lining, I had to improvise my steps, and when I finished I realized that I had bag-lined my jacket without any directions! Including that weird sleeve bit that I never understood in diagrams before! I know people bag-line jackets all the time and it's really not a big deal, but I'm secretly (publicly) proud of myself for visualizing and executing the procedure without having to look it up.

Pattern: McCall's 7100, with a lining added
Fabric: Three yards of 44" wide cotton houndstooth fabric, quite loosely woven and drape-y, from a donated stash, and 1 yard of 60" wide gray microfleece, from Jo-Ann's
Notions: I wasn't sure where I was going to get the ribbing for the cuffs, collar, and hipband, because I didn't want this jacket to look Becky Home-Ecky, so sweatshirt fleece from the stash wasn't cutting it. Enter WAWAK, a dry-cleaning supply company that also does sewing notions. They were recommended to me before by other sewists years ago, but I kept forgetting to look them up. I decided to try out their "garment enhancers" (their catalog's words, not mine), and you guys, this ribbing looks so real. I'm so glad to have discovered them!

Ribbed collar band, courtesy of WAWAK. I also added a little back facing piece so that I could attach a hanging loop.  

Cuffs and a close up of the faux welt pocket.
Ribbed bottom band and antiqued brass zipper.
Hours: I've gotten really bad at keeping track ever since SHB came along and my projects take weeks to complete. I'm going to estimate fifteen hours?
Total cost: The houndstooth was gifted from another stash, and the notions (about $7 worth) were provided free of charge by WAWAK, so it was just the fleece lining, about $6.
Will you make it again? I don't know that I need more than one bomber jacket, but it was a pretty easy and satisfying make (there's something about sewing your own outerwear that's especially rewarding), so I could totally see myself making another one at some point.
Final thoughts: As I said above, I am really pleased with making such a real-looking jacket! It's surprisingly cozy, too, which is nice, and while some may look down on the faux welt pockets, I liked that they were so simple (anything that doesn't require brainpower is a plus for me these days) but still look relatively good. I feel like I'm using all the English teacher blacklist words -- nice! good! -- but I think that's okay (look, there's another one!) because this is such a normal jacket. I toyed with the idea of a colorful lining or even fun pocket fabric, but in the end I just opted to use all the black, white, and gray fabrics from my stash. Which is fine (gah, can't stop) because it matches everything!

The whole time I was trying to take pictures of this jacket, SHB was wandering around squealing in excitement; apparently the self-timer function on the camera amuses him to no end.

Fancy your own ten-month-late bomber jacket? If you order your garment enhancers from WAWAK, for the month of December you can use the code WCD1215 for 10% off your order of $40 or more. If you're worried that you can't find $40 worth of stuff to order, allow me to offer you reassurances: you will find plenty of things! (Stuff, things...I am really working that English teacher blacklist.) I'm already making my own list (and checking it twice?); I love that I can get hair canvas and glow in the dark thread and a leather hole punch and brass blazer buttons all from one place. Seriously, looking through their catalog is like the sewing adult version of a Christmas toy catalog. Merry Christmas to yourself, anyone?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

You Get A Cat! You Get A Cat! You Get A Cat!

Actually, nobody gets real cats...just cat fabric! It's time for the Put A Cat On It! Sew Along winner announcements: I chose a random winner from each category to win a yard of cat fabric from Feline Dezine.

In Category 1, Cat Fabric, congratulations go to Carihomemaker! You get cat fabric!

In Category 2, Cat Design Elements, congratulations go to AJmeows! You get cat fabric!

In Category 3, Cat Accesories, congratulations go to The Fabric of Time! You get cat fabric!

And our final winner, for the "grand prize" of a Spoonflower welcome pack, Megan! You get cat fabric! Well, actually you can get whatever fabric you want; it doesn't have to be cats.

Ladies, please email me at cationdesignsblog[at] so I can arrange to have your prizes sent to you. Thank you to all fourteen of you who participated; it was a small sew along, but $112 has been donated to the SFSPCA from Walnut, so I'm grateful to you all for helping to celebrate his birthday!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


*sheepish wave*

Ahem, sorry for just disappearing after announcing the Put A Cat On It Sew Along! Halfway through October, I suddenly discovered that I was in charge of costuming my high school's theater production; it had previously been canceled, which was why I thought I had time to run a sew along. Of course, it would be re-booted, but with a different play that required more costumes...but that's a story for another post. Also because my first project was a fail (thanks to mis-measured seam allowances), and then the play took over my life for the rest of the month, I didn't actually sew anything for myself or Walnut. *gasp* Go ahead, award me the Worst Sew Along Host Ever award.

At any rate, here I am, back to say that WOW, I am loving what you guys have made to show your love for cats! I did my best to round up all the IG, Flickr, and blog posts that I could find, but if you sewed and I didn't catch you, post a link in the comments and I'll add you to the prize drawing pool!

Category 1,  Cat Print Fabrics: This category was terrible because all of your guys' projects made me want to go out and buy more fabric.

Adrienne made a cat skirt for Halloween (the perfect time of year to wear cats!):

Megan made good use of the Gertie cat chiffon and made a delightfully swishy circle skirt:

If skirts aren't your thing, there's also this running top that Sarah Jane made for herself:

She also made a pair of leggings from the same fabric for her daughter...lucky girl!

And if like me, cold days make you want to snuggle at home instead of go out running, check out the flannel jammies and neck warmer (with tutorial!) that Laura whipped up:

Chrichrimano made a Seamwork Akita top from this cool neutral fabric with "cattish leopard animals" on it.

While I can see how the no-waist-definition look might not suit everyone, I still think it looks cute! Speaking of cute, check out Cari's little boy!

And then if you're not so into wearing your cats, Ginny made a very useful pouch with a perfectly centered black cat:

Category 2, Feline Design Elements: AKA, I am seriously in awe of the patience of quilters and embroiderers!

Lemonadefish made several awesome quilt blocks featuring quilts, so you should definitely check out her Instagram, but this is my favorite because it's cat-on-cat.

Ms. Lusty's appliqued mini-quilt is also gorgeous:

AJmeows made several items for this category: a cat quilt block,

a cat hat,

and a cat dress! I think I'm going to die now. Why didn't I have a little girl?

After a brief dabble in embroidery, I sort of forgot all about it, but Erica's adorable embroidered cats for a baby quilt make me want to take it up again, you know, in my copious amounts of free time...

Molly's embroidery of a cat head peeking out of her shirt pocket was directly inspired by her cat Potato:

A photo posted by Molly Pruess (@mtoferet) on

Category 3, Actually For Cats: There were only a couple of sewing projects that fell in this category, but I seriously love them.

The Purling Princess made Halloween-themed bandannas for her cats so that they could be festive for Halloween. They're made to go over breakaway collars, which is awesome, and she made a tutorial, which is even more awesome:

It's a black cat wearing a black cat print meta is that?

The Fabric of Time made the most adorable little tents for her cats. I'm seriously tempted to make matching ones for Walnut and SHB!

It's like a Portal game, but with cats!

Okay, that's all I could find...let me know if I missed you. I'll announce the winners on Friday after Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Everybody Wants to Be a Cat

And if you grew up watching Disney movies, go ahead and sing the rest of with me: "...because a cat's the only cat who knows where it's at!"

If you're not into using (or buying) cat-print fabrics, you can always join in the cat sew along fun by adding cats to your normal fabric/garments. This is also an easier/faster way to join in if you're pressed for time but still want to join in the cat-along! I've previously added cat faces with fabric markers and with appliqué, as well as entire cat silhouettes. One might argue that four cat sweaters is enough for anyone, but I confess I'm still eyeing these pins that I've saved:

Colorblock with applique.
Easy to recreate with a fabric marker even if you can't draw!
I can't decide if this is creepy or amazing. Oh come on, who am I kidding, it's totally amazing.
There are no words for how much I love this.

While poking around Pinterest for inspiration, I also came across some old-timey cat fashion -- okay, okay, they're Halloween costumes or outfits for fancy dress parties -- that shows that crazy cat ladies desiring to broadcast their status goes back at least a century!

I can't find an original source for this picture, but it appears to be a Victorian roller derby girl with a black cat theme going on?
In the category of what NOT to do: put a taxidermied cat bust on your head.
This 1920s Halloween dress has the most adorable spooky cat silhouette on it!
I can't seem to find any information about this image, but I'm in love with the panniers and the little cat corsage. That staff looks like a big feather duster though...

What can I say, those toxo parasites make us do ridiculous things...anyway, I hope these have been inspirational if you're still trying to figure out what to do!