Simplicity 2212 – “Fiery Coral” is a hard to color match

Posted on Jan 27, 2014 in Projects, Sewing

fierycoral2_reducedThis dress started out as a solitary, ridiculously bright, Converse sneaker roaming the aisles of Joann fabrics in the child seat of my shopping cart. I feel a certain pressure these days to show up to events in clothing I’ve made myself, and this was for the wedding of one of my boyfriends’ college buddies, so we wanted to do something fun and matchy. Somewhere in our conversations we came to the conclusion that matching converse sneakers would be appropriately silly, picked a color from the Converse website, and subsequently discovered that “fiery coral” is actually code for “neon coral” and is actually much brighter than the internet might lead you to believe.

I wanted a pair of matching heels to wear to the wedding and the dinner, with plans to change into the sneakers for dancing. Turns out, high heels don’t come in “fiery coral.” At least not at any shoe store in Pittsburgh. So that was a DIY project all on its own (which you can read about here).

After my endeavor in shoemaking, I still had to make a dress. By this point I realized the dress itself had to be muted, and while I don’t usually wear black to weddings, I decided a little black dress was the only way to make this work. The dress is Simplicity 2212 with a only few modifications – I made the godets slightly wider and added them at the end, after debating for days on what kind of fabric to use for them, rather than before attaching the skirt to the bodice as the pattern requested. I also skipped the boning, mostly because I didn’t have any on hand, and it didn’t seem to suffer for it. I’m not a very busty girl, so the bodice ended up being a little large for me, but that was easily resolved by placing the buttons about two inches further along the strap.

I used a splash of coral stretch satin for the lining and added a pair of hotpants to the ensemble (which were actually an afterthought because I didn’t want the lace godets to make the dress toooo scandalous). The conveniently matching buttons arrived just in time as one of my perks from the Knit The Bridge indiegogo campaign. The dress isn’t my favorite or best fitted production ever, but overall it was wearable (and I ran out of time).

The shoes were a hit at the wedding. We were pretty proud of ourselves :-). Excuse my beat up legs, I got in a fight with a thorn bush on a rock climbing trip.

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Five Things I Learned in the Operating Room that Revolutionized my Sewing

Posted on Jan 18, 2014 in Life of a Medical Student, Sewing

As a medical student, I’ve spent a lot of time in the operating room learning how to sew people back together, and took away a bunch of cool techniques to use in my sewing (fabric, not people) at home.

Now I’m no surgeon, but after the emergency department, the operating room is without a doubt my second favorite place in the hospital. I like it so much so that I did an acting internship on the trauma surgery service and I’m still spending some weekends volunteering with the service (much to the horror of emergency medicine residents, who seem to universally dread the 80 hour weeks and endless scalp-suturing). I have a profound respect for the attention to detail, fine work, and value placed on technique that these surgeons develop. Here are some of the things I learned from them (still done with substantially less finesse than they do it with). These techniques may not be new, and maybe they have sewing names that I don’t know, but they were new to me so I thought I’d share.

1. Closing holes (invisibly) with a running subcuticular suture

subcuticularThe subcuticular suture is a technique used in skin closure, done with absorbable sutures, which creates a cosmetically pleasing and virtually invisible seam. The basic idea is that the sew parallel to the skin, immediately below the surface. I used to use an overcast stitch to close gaps in pillows and things when you turn them right side out, but it’s virtually impossible to do it without being left with external evidence. By mimicking the subcuticular technique, my seams are virtually invisible now.

The way I do it is to take small bites right at the fold line where the seam need to be closed, in line with the direction of the seam, making sure not to pierce the outside of the seam. If you line up each new bite with the exit point of the previous stitch, when you pull the whole thing tight, it lines up perfectly and invisible. Tie a knot at the end, and as a surgeon would say, “bury the knot,” by simply passing the needle down through the seam and out again at a point a fair distance from the knot. Cut the string and the end disappears into your work.

Subq stitching

2. Stuffing small things with tweezers

wound packingYou often have to pack wounds with gauze post-operatively (or after draining an abscess in the emergency department), and we use a lot of this packing strip material to do it. Often, you’re putting it into a hole that is just a centimeter or so wide, but sometimes quite deep. To get it all the way in, we usually use a combination of forceps and cotton-tipped applicators.

It never occurred to me to use tweezers to stuff little things (like the tiny pillows I’m making for my miniature dorm), but I’ve started using them now because it allows me to get a lot of stuffing into a tiny hole, which means shorter distances that I need to oversew. (I don’t need to use a cotton tipped applicator to get it in deeper, because there are no squishy internal organs in my pillows that I can damage with my tweezers).

pillow stuffing

 3. How to hold scissors (I’m serious)

I never thought that my whole approach to holding scissors would be changed by my time in the OR, but it was! And honestly, this is one of the biggest revelations I had while I was there. Scissors in the OR are, surprisingly, often dull and crappy. This means that you inevitably suffer an embarrassing moment where you try to snip a thread, the scissors awkwardly jam the suture thread between the blades, and you look like a fool who didn’t learn to use scissors in the 1st grade.

But one scrub tech (the poor soul who is responsible of making sure none of us mess up the sterile field and that the surgeon has all of the instruments he needs before he knows he needs them), gave me a simple tip: Push against the top finger loop with your thumb and pull on the bottom one with your fingers. It makes the blades align with more force and lets you cut through thick string (like suture), even with a really dull blade.


4. Hemostats are the pliers, clamps, and extra hand of delicate work

This tip is all over the internet already, so I don’t feel a need to elaborate too much, but everyone should have a hemostat in their tool kit for sewing, or any other type of DIY really. In the OR, they go by all sorts of names – the Kelly Clamp, Mosquito, Kocher, Halsted, all sorts of others. But they all serve the same basic function – they hold really tightly onto thin things and lock into place. I have three types – one curved, one straight with a serrated jaw, and one straight with a smooth jaw. You can buy them for virtually no money at all on amazon. I’d also recommend buying a complete dissection kit (like this one). The scissors pictured above also came from my dissection kit, and they’re great for precision cutting.


5. Using a loop and extra thread to tie a knot when the thread is too short

This was a technique I saw a surgeon use (after biting a resident’s head off for letting me cut a suture too short), and I saw it several times thereafter. In surgery, if you can’t tie a knot, you basically have to take the whole length of suture out and do it again, so being able to tie the knot even when someone messes up, is a good thing. This isn’t exactly the same as was done in the OR, but it’s the same basic idea: making a loop to put a longer string through, so that you can use that length to tie a knot on a really short string.

Knot Tying

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IKEA Rope Bag on IKEA Hackers!

Posted on Oct 24, 2013 in Climbing, Projects, Sewing

superchute_comparisonIf you haven’t discovered IKEA Hackers yet, you really should. It was part of the inspiration for the IKEA LACK cutting table in my sewing room (everyone at some point in their life should transform a LACK table into something else) and it’s basically just awesome. So I’m pretty excited to show off my first post on IKEA Hackers – a rope bag for rock climbing made out of $0.59 FRAKTA bags.

It wasn’t too hard to put together and we had a lot of fun with it during its first outing out at the New River Gorge :-)

Go to the the IKEA Hackers post for more photos and info about how it was made.

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Put a Bow on it (or seven)

Posted on Mar 13, 2013 in Projects, Refashion, Sewing

bowshirt back reducedI’m going through a bow phase. The tinier the better. I even have a pinterest board dedicated to them right now. So when I saw Asperge’s awesome shirt with bows down the back on BurdaStyle, I couldn’t help myself. I had a plain blue shirt that I bought at Target a few months ago sitting in my closet – I didn’t try it on beforehand and it ended up being way too big for me, especially in the bust area, so it got slated for transformation. It went together easily, I cut a significant chunk of fabric out of the upper back and then I used green scrap jersey to make the bows and bind the cut seems. Originally it was going to be 5 bows, but it was hanging off my shoulders so I took it two notches higher.




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Frankenfruit (a byproduct of teaching Julia to suture)

Posted on Mar 6, 2013 in Life of a Medical Student, Projects, Sewing

sofort3256I’m on my surgery rotation right now, which means getting up at 4am and working 16 hour days, roughly 12 hours of which I seem to be standing in a sterile operating room hardly daring to move much for fear of contaminating myself (there is no scratching your head in the OR – I haven’t done it yet, but medical students are notorious for such behavior). It should sound awful, really, but somehow I’m having the time of my life.

And the fact of the matter is, no one should have ever let me near a suture kit, because I’m sort of enamored with the whole process. Not to mention all of the surgical instruments used in laparascopic surgeries, which I think could revolutionize the way I sew (I haven’t quite figured out how, yet). And when I got home from work the other day, I took it out on some helpless fruit.

I’m just a beginner, but I think the results are kind of fun! Click the images in the left column for vertigo-inducing gifs of the process :-)

P.S. I ate all the fruit except the grapefruit – turns out I forgot I don’t actually like grapefruit.

P.P.S. Before any surgeons berate me, I should clarify that although I learned these during my surgery rotation, these are not suture techniques that are used in the operating room, they’re more like the kind that you would use in the emergency room to close lacerations.


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Rescuing a Too-Short Dress

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 in Projects, Refashion, Sewing

skirt5bluesequin1 reduced

Every once in a while I find myself at a clearance rack in a store and end up talking myself into buying a dress that is gossip-girl-short because it’s super cheap I have nothing to lose, right? Then I get it home and remember that I’m 5’9″ (which Wolfram Alpha tells me is in the 98th percentile for women) and that a short dress is always a really short dress on me. Really I have no idea how Serena Van Der Woodson ever sits down. Then it sits in my closet for years while I wait for an event where I might find it acceptable to wear it.

So I decided it was time to get realistic with myself and make some of these dresses wearable!

Dress #1 was 10 years old (H&M in 2003!). I was a simple refashion – I cut it down and turned the raw edge into an elastic casing with just a little stretch to it so it didn’t gape at the waistline:

Dress #2 was a post-prom 2011 find –  $150 Haley Logan dress which I practically stole for $7. I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it because really it doesn’t even cover me up standing straight up, let alone in any other positions. But I couldn’t just give up the ruched tulle and sequins, so I found some jersey knit at Joann fabrics that was a pretty close match to the lining of the dress, cut off the bodice, and made a tie-back waist band

They both ended up making for really great skirts. Maybe I should buy scandalous dresses even more often than I already do?
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