About Sara | An Elemental Life

I sew, knit, garden, keep chickens, teach sewing classes in Denver, CO

The Things We Make and Keep


I’ve been thinking a lot about my handmade wardrobe lately.

What is the difference in the things I make and keep wearing and the things that I just can’t bring myself to wear?

What do I want to wear?

What do I enjoy wearing?

What do I want my style to say about me?

Things like Me Made May, thought up by So, Zo, and the Wardrobe Architect series by Sarai over at Colette Patterns have really gotten my wheels turning lately.

About two weeks ago, I stumbled on the blog Un-Fancy. And her idea of a minimalist capsule wardrobe has really hit home with me. I’ve been feeling really frustrated with my clothes and my house lately. I’m chronically unable to keep my house clean and I always feel like I have NOTHING TO WEAR.


I own way too much stuff. For a while, it was a product of being broke as a joke. So, if I have it now, and I keep it, when I need it and can’t afford it, I can just pull out the thing that I kept for so many years that I have no idea of where I even stored it (let’s be honest, I probably never even remembered I was holding on to that thing, either). After that, I kept holding on to things just out of habit of keeping stuff.

To be honest, I have a harder time than usual with organization and getting rid of stuff. I was diagnosed with adult ADHD about a year ago (yes – also meaning, I went undiagnosed as a kid with ADHD). And suddenly, my whole life makes sense. People with ADHD usually have significant impairments in their executive functioning (see: organization). But, organization and routines are two things that can drastically improve your ability to function like an adult, in spite of your ADHD. So, I’m learning organization, even when throwing out something threatens to send me into a panic attack. I’m reminding myself of what I have to gain: calm, peace of mind, feeling excited to get dressed, knowing where things are.


I decided to take a look at all of my clothes I’ve made over the years and to evaluate what went well and what I could improve upon. The things we make and keep versus fashion failures. My goal is to see if there are any commonalities amongst the things that make it into wardrobe rotation land so that I can plan and use my sewing time better. I’d love for everything I make to end up making it into the wardrobe rotation. So, I’m also going to be looking for any common threads amongst the things that just don’t quite make it. I’ve got a few ideas about why those things don’t make it into regular wear. But, we shall see.

Today I’m starting with two of my oldest makes.

imageWhen I was in college, many years ago, I took a clothing 101 class. I’d been sewing random things since I could hold a needle in my hand, but I’d never actually made any people clothes. I had made quite a few Barbie doll outfits, though.

In this class, we were taught seam finishes, closures, and shaping devices. After that, we were to make two garments using what we had learned: one for the top half of our body, one for the bottom half of our body. The specific details of the garments were up to us. My bottom half garment was a pair of jeans-style grey pants, inset zipper and everything. I’ve since grown out of them, but I keep them in my Sewing Hall of Fame – a place for all of those me-made items that have too much sentimental value to actually throw away.

My top half garment was this fully lined wool pea coat. My teacher sort of scoffed at the idea that I’d be able to finish a fully lined pea coat in the time she had allotted. Which, had the effect of making me work as hard a possible to prove her wrong. I made this coat in the Fall of 2002, I think. I’ve worn it OUT. It’s missing a button on the front, the pockets have worn through and need replacing. I have extras of those buttons, I need to fix it soon. I also need to dry clean the thing, I can’t remember the last time I had that done. Gulp. The pockets won’t be too hard to replace, I don’t think. And, I should probably just replace the whole lining soon.

This was and still is a MAJOR home run in the make department.

  • I LOVE the color (and the pop of red!)
  • It filed a gap in my wardrobe at the time – I didn’t have a good winter coat
  • it’s made of natural fibers – wool outer, cotton flannel lining (sort of a pain to get on, but it’s pretty warm!)
  • It’s sized perfectly – I’ve gained and lost weight over the 12 years since I made this, but it’s always fit fine (except for that one winter when I had a broken arm – humerus – and no coats fit over my arm), and I can wear layers and it still fits.

With a little work, I may be able to get this coat to last another 12 years. Any tips on fixing the cloth at the cuff where it starts to wear out over time?

imageNext up, we have my Amy Butler fabric kimono-style robe. I took a pretty long break from making clothes after that sewing 101 class. This was one of the first things I made after that class, about 6 years ago now.

I don’t know about you, but I was OBSESSED with Amy Butler fabrics when the first came out. OMG SOMETHING THAT’S NOT MY MOTHER’S QUILTING FABRIC!! Not that her quilting fabric was bad, but something young and modern was a shock, in a good way.

So, I had Amy’s books, and in one of them was this kimono-style bath robe. I found an amazing fabric store in Nashville, TN, where I lived that carried all of this amazing fabric. I spend more money on this fabric than any other fabric to that date (other than that wool above, I guess). I was soooo excited. And, I used sharpie to mark all of the dots and notches and such. Hot pink sharpie. I didn’t have any chalk. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? And, I forgot about all of my seam finishes. So, all the edges are raw inside. I also used HOT PINK THREAD. I’m sensing a trend. I had a serious hot pink obsession for a while. I even wore hot pink eyeliner. No, they didn’t make hot pink eyeliner. Me and my best friends at the time used hot pink lip liner for eyeliner. OMG.

But, back to the robe. I’ve worn it a lot over the past 6 years, but I’m filing it under a fashion failure now because:

  • you can totally see the hot pink sharpie and thread
  • NO SEAM FINISHES! This thing is really close to unravelling at the seams because of that. It’s been a good run, but I think it’s time to send it to the Sewing Hall of Fame Heaven.
  • I’ve totally grown out of florals. I want simple patterns, geometric patterns, neutrals.

So, I’ve got two questions for you:

  1. What do you notice about the things that you make and keep versus the things that are fashion failures?
  2. What do you do with your fashion failures? How do you let them go? I’m still not sure what I want to do with a few of these things I’ve made that I know I’ll never wear. I’m boxing them up, for now.

Peacock Gap-tastic Cowl

So, about 6 years ago I found this knit hat/cowl/something and decided that I HAD TO HAVE IT. So, I bought some awesome peacock blue bulky alpaca yarn and tried to replicate the pattern. I was knitting in brioche stitch (which I had to re-learn every time I picked up the project). And it was awful. It never ended up looking like my inspiration. So, I did something that I’m so not good at: I frogged it. Ripped it out and looked for a pattern to start over with. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve done that.


I finally decided upon the free Gap-tastic Cowl pattern by Jen Geigley. I wanted something that would be a fast knit and make good use of a bulky yarn. This pattern fit the bill perfectly.


I think this *might* have taken me 2 weeks to finish. It wasn’t long, I just didn’t knit much at any given time. I’m so glad that I took the time to rip out that failed project and re-make it into this. This yarn is so amazing and soft and warm and squishy. I wear it on most chilly days. I think it goes with everything. I usually wear it double wrapped, but it does have enough length to be triple wrapped. I even wore this skiing (triple wrapped!) and it was amazing!

DSC04416vAre you good at ripping out projects and starting over? I think my issue is that I don’t like admitting that I failed. And starting over, you have to admit that you failed. I’m getting better at that. Failing doesn’t mean that *I’m* a failure. 🙂



Moss Making Month: Classic Denim Skirt, part 2

It’s DONE!

My first Moss skirt is complete!


The verdict? I LOVE IT!

I seriously went all out in the construction of this baby. I was going for that classic jeans-style. I flat-felled all the seams I possibly could. The front seam I did a fake flat-felled seam since a correctly constructed one would have made the zipper insertion much more difficult. I top stitched EVERYTHING. I used rivets on the pocket edges. I did French seams on the bottom edge of the pockets. And, I used gimp cord in my button hole (added strength and durability). Now, I’m totally not worried about throwing this skirt in the washing machine.

I used a stretch denim I’ve had in my stash for AGES and probably bought at Joann’s with a coupon once upon a time. I also used some left over Anna Maria Horner Pastry Line cotton voile for the pocket linings.


Look how pretty it turned out! One of my recent discoveries was my edge stitching foot. It made the flat-felled seams almost mindless. If you’ve never used the edge stitching foot, it’s the one with the rudder in the middle of the foot. You guide your fabric edge, or folded edge in the case of flat-felled seams, down the rudder and it ensures that your stitching is always the same distance from that edge. It also made top stitching the waist band a cinch. Brilliant! Try it some time! Also: thicker top-stitching thread is TOTALLY worth it on denim. Regular sewing thread just doesn’t have enough visual weight, in my opinion.


If you look closely at the center front seam above and the side seam, you can see the difference in the two. The side seam is a true flat-felled seam, the center front is the fake one. From the outside they look almost identical, the inside is where the difference shows. I love seam finishes and creating the perfect finish on a garment. I’m still annoyed that I don’t really know how to make a fly front without some semi-raw edges. I used my Bernina’s faux-overlock stitch to finish the edges of the fly facing and the fly shield. I went over the raw edges about 3 times each. Those threads don’t stand a chance of coming loose. At one point, when inserting my fly, I did completely stitch through the fly shield. That would have been awkward, there would have been no way to open it. Oops.


The one thing I’m trying to figure out is what I did wrong with the pockets. Do you see how the bottom edge wants to curl upwards? The second one I’m working on looks like it’s going to have the same issue. It makes the front of the skirt a bit bulky, since it won’t lay flat. I’m curious if I cut out the wrong size of one piece? I can’t figure it out. I don’t want the bulk like that on my next one. The denim disguises it, and with your hands in the pockets, no one can tell.


I also recently finished a Scout Tee from Grainline Studio in a super light and flow-y chambray. I’ve been wearing one or the other of these two garments just about every day since I completed them. This might be my summer uniform this year. This shirt is so comfortable, I think I need about 100 more garments made from chambray.

My sandals are also one of my favorite pairs of shoes. Piper sandals, they have been handmade in Texas since 1971 by the same family. And, they offer repairs, new straps put on for free, and re-soling (not for free) for as long as they are in business. They are amazingly comfortable, too.

I also realized that when I got home and took off my complete Grainline outfit, I then put on my (as of yet unblogged) Polka Dot Chambray Lakeside Pajamas. ALL GRAINLINE ALL DAY.

It’s pretty much a Grainline love fest around here EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Jen’s patterns are just really great wardrobe basics. I love all of them.

How’s Moss Making Month going for you? Have you made any Moss skirts yet? Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram with #grainlinestudio and #mossmakingmonth !

One last shot, from the back:


Thanks for taking pictures of me, Allie!!

Moss Making Month: Classic Denim Skirt, part 1

20140406-074924.jpg I had planned to start earlier last week, but my inability to even walk in my craft room because of all the crap overflowing onto the floor had me at the point of a nervous break down. I proceeded to organize (and trash) the remnants of everything I’ve ever purchased for craft projects over the past 8 years. Seriously, the amount of CRAP that I held on to because “I might use it, one day!” was staggering. I threw out 4 trash bags of crap, and I have another box of fabric and patterns that are all awesome, but I know I won’t ever use them, my style has shifted away from those styles. So, blog give-a-way soon!!

Now that my craft room is clean and organized, I just want to sleep in there. Relax in there. Drink my morning coffee in there. Just everything.

So, I finally started my first Moss. I just went with a straight size 10. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it fits. But, Stephanie pointed out: slightly too small, just tell everyone that you meant for it to be a high-waisted version. Slightly too big, just tell everyone that it’s supposed to be low-rise and hang on your hips. Brilliant!

20140406-075831.jpg I found my edge-stitching foot while cleaning! I’m sure that it’s one of those things that a few years ago – when it got misplaced doing whatever it was I was doing with it – that I didn’t realize had such magical powers. I’m really good at edge stitching with my regular foot, partly because I’m a perfectionist and I go so slow that I might as well be hand sewing. But, seriously?? This foot is AMAZING. It makes edge stitching (and it’s cousin, top stitching) almost mindless. The blade in the middle just makes the whole seam glide by and my flat felled seams are damn near perfect, if I do say so myself.

I’m inserting my zipper today (fingers crossed!), so I think I’ll have my first one finished tomorrow. It’s too bad that my work wardrobe says I have to have skirts to my knees. Actually, that’s probably a really good thing. I’m just a bit sad I won’t be wearing my mini skirts EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I might try a Moss with the band at the bottom so that I have something I can wear to work. But that’s lower in priority for me.

Oh yeah! What Mosses am I planning?


1. Classic denim with gold top stitching and a brass zipper and brass jeans-style button. Mine is pretty dark, kind of like this fabric from Mood. I’m considering adding butt pockets because I always use pockets. Always. Oh, and I bought brass rivets for the pocket edges, classic jeans-style.

2. Gold stretch denim with METALLIC THREAD TOP STITCHING (if you’re gonna do gold denim, you might as well DO GOLD ALL THE WAY!). And, I just got a fantastic gold zipper. So, I’m thinking I’ll move the zipper to the back and do an exposed zipper and then have dance parties in my new skirt every single day. I bought this fabric from Joann’s on sale back before the holidays with plans for a NYE party skirt or something. Never happened. And Joann’s doesn’t have it on their website anymore, so I’ll take a photo as best I can later.

3. Random red organic cotton twill/sateen (I bought this fabric at the same time that I bought the fabric for my wedding dress FIVE YEARS AGO. And it’s never been used. It’s super nice, too.) with red top stitching to blend in, maybe a red button if I can find one.

4. Robert Kaufman railroad denim stripe with navy top stitching and brass hardware.

5. Mochi Dot (by Momo for Moda) cotton/linen polka dot – black & natural dots – with black top stitching and probably brass or just black hardware

6. [bonus work-appropriate round] I’ve got a couple of suit-weight wools in my stash that I might break out for this. A navy pin stripe and a grey and blue plaid. I’d like a lining of some sort with the wools so I can wear tights in the winter.

Don’t forget, you can grab your copy of the Moss Mini Skirt from Grainline Studio and if you’re on Instagram follow along with the #mossmakingmonth and #grainlinestudio tags!

Aaaand…. 1-2-3 GO!