Set Sail


My mom has a wealth of experience and is a self taught pattern maker. She scours over vintage sewing books passed onto her from older friends. The books, nearly falling apart, are riddled with her notes written in pencil, pages are doggy eared, and in between some chapters I find her quarter scale sample patterns cut from newspapers – all techniques she uses to master her craft and know it by heart.

I can never decipher her cryptic notes and sometimes her verbal explanations get lost in translation. I wanted to learn the fundamentals and principles of sewing so that I could gain a closer bond with my mom through this shared love of the sewing machine and the craftiness that can be created with it.

So it was several fall semesters ago that I finally discovered and enrolled in my first sewing class at a community college. I had an advantage over some of my classmates who had never touched a sewing machine before (forget personal sewing machines – my mom has the real deal industrial Brother), yet there were still many gaps in my sewing knowledge that I needed to fill.


Daiso hat (similar) / sail shirt (similar) / Silence & Noise sailor pants (similar) / Urban Outfitters sunglasses (similar) / pendant necklace (similar) / vintage wooden cuff (similar) / vintage purse (similar) / J. Crew cardigan (similar) / J. Crew pumps (similar)

Over the years, I learned that the act of sewing itself is only a small part of the equation – and maybe not even the most important one. Operating a sewing machine in and of itself isn’t difficult per se, but the manipulation of different fabrics can be challenging. Unusual seam lines that require contorting the fabric in an unnatural way under the needle is enough to want to call it quits on a project. Order of construction and pressing the garment prove to be equally important, and drafting a pattern can be time consuming for the novice. But with enough practice and patience, I’ll be able to whip up a couture gown in no time.

This shirt is a reminder of how I set sail on my sewing education many semesters ago, using left over scrap fabric from a previous project I made with my mom. Drafted in the beginners class from a general block, I proudly wear this shirt even though it’s a bit ill fitting. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come (which isn’t that far at all), but even more so, it’s the French seams I put all over the place that deters me from altering it to fit me better.

The sailboats, bright pops of yellow and orange against a backdrop of sky blue always puts a smile to my face whenever I wear it, as if the shirt’s sunny disposition has the power to cast away any cloudy days or shadow of doubt I have over my sewing capabilities. The outfit wouldn’t be complete without extra splashes of yellow, and I found a spot for a little dandelion flower in the little pocket on my sleeve, sewn by yours truly.

Now that I am wiser and more experienced with garment construction, perhaps it’s time to set sail on a better fitting project.



Holla at a Colla: a DIY

Collar Necklaces

Pop your collar.

Fashion retailers these days have more collars than your local Petco store. Never has one’s neck and clavicles received so much attention since choker necklaces were in style. I first started seeing this trend many months ago, when a friend wore a cute metal collar necklace to a wedding. Since then, the stylized collar has really taken off. In fashion magazines, stores, and TV – you can’t escape the allure of the fancy bejeweled collar. And no, this isn’t your average Bedazzled job. From collar necklaces to actual collar embellishment on shirts, blouses, and dresses, this is one trend that keeps getting bigger and sparklier. Your dog will want an upgrade from her flea collar soon. Woof.

This inspired me to get DIYing for once. You will need: collared shirt, needle, thread, pliers, scissors and ball chain (purchased at a hardware store). Not to quote Brian McKnight, but here are the steps (no, you do not start back at one):

Step 1: Cut collar from dress shirt (this is optional). Lay the collar flat face up. Pull threaded needle from the underside to the top near the front facing edge of the collar.

Step 2: Lay the ball chain on top of the collar, with the space between the balls next to the thread. Pull threaded needle back down to the underside of the collar, ensuring that the thread is wrapped around the chain. Secure by pulling tightly.

Step 3: Bring thread from the underside to the top of the collar on the next space between the two balls. Repeat step 2.

Step 4: Clip the desired length of the chain with pliers before securing the end down.

Step 5: Repeat steps 2-4 for the desired amount of rows. Option: stagger each row so that the ball chain will tessellate, resulting in no gaps or overlapping.

I originally wanted to cover the entire collar with the chain except that: A) I miscalculated (by a lot) and didn’t buy enough chain, and B) sewing down 3/4 inch of the collar took me 1 hour – way longer than I anticipated. Total time spent: 2 hours. In actuality, it probably is cheaper to buy from H&M, but I wouldn’t have the bragging rights of saying that I made it myself.

I feared that a low neckline shirt worn with the crisp white collar would start to look Chippendales-esque, so I paired the collar with a crew neck sweater and added a vintage sweater clip. And then a librarian look emerged. Which book should I check out next?