Orchid Midi Update

There is this really awesome trend happening right now, in the indie sewing community, where designers are trying to be more inclusive with their pattern sizing.  The awesomeness of printing pdf files is that you can tape together an infinite amount of pages so we are not constrained to the size of paper that paper patterns are printed on.  I personally am super excited about this, because when  I first started sewing indie patterns I was at the highest size of almost everyone’s  sizing.  I felt like I had to squeeze into the pattern and I was pretty average sized for an American woman at the time.  I knew there were lots of woman that would not be able to make the patterns work at all as drafted.  I have since lost some weight and built some muscle due to health concerns and am a different shape than I was when I first started, but I still understand the importance of expanding the size ranges.

I have had the privilege to pattern test for Chalk and Notch on several patterns now, including the original Orchid Midi dress.  I also got to test the update that added 3 more sizes and includes cup sizing!  There probably still could be room to improve on the sizing options, but this is a step in the right direction!

Alexia2Let me start by saying that I love Chalk and Notch’s overall vibe on their pattern collection, it combines feminine details with on trend functional clothing in a super great way.  Sometimes, the amount of  ruffles are kinda over the top for me.  However,  I always love the finished product on and wear all of my Chalk and Notch garments frequently.    I personally am hoping that the Farrah Blouse and Dress is re-released soon.   This is one of my favorite makes and probably the worst fitting one, especially in the bust.  I think that cup sizing would have made a huge difference on this one for me.  I have two black Farrah dresses, one of each version I need to photograph soon.

The very first garment I ever sewed was a knit dress made out of coral ponte when I was probably 12.  It was for 4-H and it looked amazing on me.  I have always thought that color was my personal best color.  However, that dress looked terrible on the inside!  I hand hemmed it with a blind stitch which was good, because if I had used a machine that hem line would have been all over the place! Looking back, I’m not sure how I managed to cut it so wonkey in the first place.   Anyway, when Imagine Gnats had a sale on some coral rayon challis (sadly no longer available)  I jumped at it and then saved it for almost a year waiting for the perfect thing to make with it.

The Orchid Midi dress was it!  This fabric feels so luxurious on!  And it flows beautifully.  It also wrinkles easily.  Full disclosure, once I finish sewing something, I will never iron it again.  I hate ironing with a passion.  So, please excuse the vast amount of wrinkles involved.    This pattern has a cross over front, which I feel is flattering on almost everyone.  The flutter sleeves are awesome and it has a flowey  skirt with a front slit that is very feminine.  It also has the option for long sleeves.  I used the flutter sleeves on my original one and figured I might as well use the long sleeves on the updated one.  I sewed them on and I hated it!


Then I did an Instagram search and found this version  that Gabriela made, which is beautiful and simple,  and I realized that I liked it better with the sleeves pushed up slightly.  However, after wearing it once, I knew I would like it better with those beautiful flutter sleeves, so I took the long sleeves off and put on the flutters.

I think it is the Spring-ish ness of the fabric.  I think that in a darker, heavier fabric the long sleeves would be perfect!   I will be sure to add that to my fall sewing list.  This pattern will walk you through several complicated sewing skills in a very straightforward and and easy to follow manner.  The instructions for the mitered corners are awesome! As well as being a great introduction to dart sewing.  The front finishing with a bias cut strip is also pretty helpful for other projects.  Also, this dress has pockets!  (Which is a necessity in all dresses in my opinion.)  You should note that I totally spaced when sewing  the back and there are not supposed to be gathers all the way across, I just didn’t center them.  But I kind of like it this way!

So, all in all, I love this pattern and this dress and will wear it a thousand times more and already have  couple more envisioned for the future!

February Sew My Style 2018

AEB80A45-EA1B-472E-80BB-6900AB40B05C.jpegFor the Februral Sew My Style Challenge, there were two different jacket options.  The absolutely beautiful Rumana Coat from By Hand London and the very on trend Estelle Ponte Jacket from Style Arc.  I had every intention to try my hand a both this month, but February turned out to be pretty busy and I wanted to be able to give the Rumana the time it deserves.  I have some beautiful blue wool that I picked up from a fabric store that was closing several years ago, and have been saving for a project just like this.  So, once I have the time to devote to it, I will have a blue wool Rumana Coat some day.

For this month I did make the Estelle Ponte Jacket.  I probably wouldn’t have been a big fan of the jacket, because I feel like I get lost in the vast amount of fabric involved in jackets like that.  However, I had some reversable/ double sided knit from Joanns that was perfect for the project.  I have a cropped waterfall jacket I love, so I decided to try something similar with mine.  I measured my RTW one and ended up cutting about 11” off the bottom of the pattern to make mine.  This was my first ever Style Arc pattern I had ever made.  I knew that their patterns only come with the size you order and one size on either side of the one you order.  However, this puts a lot of pressure on you when ordering.

I measured twice and went with 18.  After sewing it up, I probably could have sized down at least 2 sizes.  However, it does fit well through the shoulders, so maybe this was the best size. I made no other adjustments other than cutting off the bottom of the front and back pattern pieces.  I used my RTW one as a rough guide and held it up to the back piece.  Once I cut it, I matched up the bottom of the armsycle to the front piece and cut it off at the same point.  I was tempted to cut it at a slant, but decided against it.  Although I might try that the next time to see what would happen.

I actually really ended up liking this pattern.  It is super comfy and it sort of elevates anything it is worn with.  I wore it with jeans and a pocket t and got asked by several friends why I was so dressed up.  Score!  I love easy glam!  It does have a lot of material in the body and the sleeves could definetly be taken in a lot, so I might try to make a little sleeker one in the future.  But for now, I love this one.  It is a very quick pattern to sew, I think from taping to wearing it took a little over an hour.  The neck construction is a tad confusing, and the pattern in general could use a few more words in the directions, but the diagram was very helpful, and ended up being all I really needed.  So, if you are not very comfortable with sewing without a guide, this might not be the best pattern for you.  I am not sure if the simplicity of the pattern made the instructions so sparse or if that is indicative of the entire pattern line.  I would be willing to try another pattern from this designer as it really is a very modern fresh looking end product.

New Pattern Aprés Ski from Striped Swallow Designs

8F584201-FE29-434E-8DCA-EA8993C2EFE7I had the opportunity to test a new pattern for Striped Swallow Designs  as part of their fancy sweatshirt collection this winter.  They have released some pretty great patterns this winter, and you should definetly check them all out.  However, this one is my favorite, and not just because I tested it.

Earlier this winter I actually wanted a fancy sweatshirt just like this one.  I hacked the Linden pattern from Grainline to make a shirt very similar to this.  I made it out of green ponte, and it was just like I imagined.   However, this pattern is better.  I was super excited when I saw the sample because I knew I would love it.

I am generally pretty enthusiastic when it comes to testing and probably make way more versions than i should, but I went overboard even for me on this one.  Also, I got to test the kids version too, which was a lot of fun.  I know what you are thinking…super cute Mommy and Me photos galore.  Unfortunately, my very independent two year old was not having it.

I did manage to get these two, and as you will see, we both have one out of that gray ponte, and one out of that black and white checked fabric.  However, we have been wearing them so much, the matching one was always in the laundry when we were taking pictures.

So for the kids pattern there is a shirt and tunic version.  They both feature the raglan exaggerated bishop sleeve. The tunic legnth hits right below the bum.  Although I would say that you should pay attention to the size charts and cut according to height.  Gema is pretty tall — she was squarely in the 2T size for width all around, but she measured at 4T for height, so I went ahead and cut the 2T size but then cut to the 4T length line for both versions.  I knew that this tunic would have been pretty short if i had cut a straight 2T.  But I feel like it is pretty perfect this way.  I also cut the sleeve length on the 3T line, just to sort of split the difference.

The shirt I also cut a 2T with a 4T length and the sleeves on the 3T length line.

The woman’s version also has a shirt and a tunic length.  I did not make any tunic versions, but there is a tutorial on the Striped Swallow Designs blog on how to mash up the Aprés Ski with the Stary Night Sweatshirt to make a dress version, and I did make a dress.

I made a straight XL in the shirt.

The dress I pretty much followed the blog instructions exactly, but I added 2” to the length.  I am 5’7 “ and so I am taller than Striped Swallow drafted height of 5’5”.  Also, I like my dresses a little closer to the knee.

All of the fabric for these I got from Joanns apparently so long ago it is no longer available, because I cannot find it on their website.  That blue fabric was on the sale table.  I first saw it and immediately wanted a shirt out of it, as it reminds me of a shirt my grandma used to wear when I was little.  However, I resisted because I had no idea what sort of shirt the fabric would work with. Then I saw this pattern and was like, that would be perfect!  Perhaps, slightly untraditional, but that one is my favorite.

If you can’t tell, I am a big fan of this shirt.  So, if you also want to make one, you can grab the pattern today from Striped Swallow Designs.


Sew My Style 2018 – January

In an effort to try to improve my sewing techniques, build my me-made wardrobe, and experience new designers, I decided to join this years #sewmystyle challenge. If you haven’t heard about this, it is a challenge “started by  Alex Bartholomew from Bluebird Fabrics in 2017 to raise awareness about the slow fashion industry movement and to encourage young women to take up sewing.”  In this challenge every month there is a set pattern that all the participants sew. You all sew it together and participate in the Facebook discussion for advice and tips while sewing along.   Then there is a reaveal on the last Sunday of the month and of course there is a winner each month.  If you still want to participate I think you can jump in anytime, you just have to sign up to join the Facebook group.

For January the pattern was the Sunny Top/dress by the Friday Pattern Company.  Who really have a pretty cool business model, you can read all about it here.  I will say this this pattern did not receive much love from the group as a whole.  The Sunny Dress really doesn’t have the level of detail that the indie sewing community has come to expect from pdf patterns.  However, if you have a general sewing knowledge and have ever sewed sleeves and bound a neckline you are pretty much set.  There is not really a specific guideline for the neck binding in the pattern, but I used my two favorite methods for the ones I made and they turned out great.  To be fair, I had read about how sparse the directions were, and I glanced over them and then just sewed the dress together the way that made the most sense to me.  So, I did deviate some from the directions they did give.

I personally was very happy with my final products, and I did not really make any alterations to the pattern.  Which just goes to show that you should always try something for yourself.  I made a dress first.  I cut based on my measurements and so I did grade between an XL at the top and a XXL at the hip.  As this was where my measurements placed me.  The dress turned out to be both tighter and longer than I had anticipated.  Which worked out, as I really like fitted knee length dresses.  I am 5’7” and I frequently have to add length to dresses to make them work appropriate.  This one totally works as drafted.  However, I probably would add a couple of inches in the future as it comes to the knee in front, but the shirttail hem, (which I love!) comes up pretty far on the sides.  I also personally love the length of the sleeves, although they are a tad untraditional.


On the dress I used a pretty sturdy ponte, it is from Joann’s (I think, as it was from my stash and does not seem to still be available).   It does not have a lot of give, which I think gives it a pretty professional look, and helps to skim over my rolls a little. I used woven bias tape to bind the neckline, sewing and folding over. It worked well with this fabric and it adds a pop of color to the inside.

To style it I decided to mix up the slightly buttoned up look of the ponte with a little leather and/or my go to statement necklace.


Also note that this pattern is supposed to be reversible and in the first two pictures above I am actually wearing it backwards from the last two pictures.  I prefer it with a lower neckline in front, but options are nice.

After I finished the dress, I still had a good bit of the month left and I have a slight addiction to black tee shirts with shirt-tail hems, so I decided to give this a try.  I love it!  It is much more fitted than my other shirts in my wardrobe, and I think that is a good thing.  If your wardrobe is as monochrome as mine, variety in the fit is a great thing.  That way people know I have at least changed my clothes.  (Kidding, sort of ) I used my current favorite black knit fabric, which is super stretchy and I added an inch for length, as most of my height is in my torso rather than my legs.  Although based on where the dress hit my waist I almost didn’t add the legnth.  I am really glad I did though, because it would have been really short for my taste.  I think that is the general idea though from the pattern maker, to be slightly cropped.  I will definetly add another inch to my next shirt.

For the neckline on this one, I was afraid that it would ruin the drape to use the bias tape so I drafted a neck band.  I made it 2” shorter than the neck line and I made it 2” wide.  Which was way too wide, so I folded it toward the inside in half and then coverstitched around the neckline and I think it looks pretty good.  I could have done a better job with the cover stitching and I probably could have made it 3” shorter than the neckline and it would have fit a little better, but it works.


I have worn this shirt three times a week since I made it, so I guess that makes it a success.  Side note, check out those Chelsea Flares from Greenstyle Creations out of brown corduroy in the middle.  Those are pretty much the first pants I have ever made, and granted they are stretch pull on pants.  However,  I am pretty excited about them.  D625B0CB-5A42-41EA-9F03-6D4AB9A5F869

I added on the button-front add-on because I knew I wanted them to be super high waisted, and I was afraid they would be difficult to get on and off otherwise.

Anyway, back to Sew My Style.  I was pretty excited about the Sunny Dress being the first pattern, because I have been wanting to try Friday Pattern Co’s patterns, but had not pulled the trigger yet.  This definetly would not have been my first pick from their catalog, however, it does tell me that their block and I are not that far off and I am more willing to go ahead and try some others, like their Grace Top, for work.  Or perhaps their Sasha skirt, for weekends. So, that means that so far my goals for this challenge are being accomplished.  I am really excited to make the By Hand London Rumana Coat in February.  That will really take me out of my comfort zone, as I have never made a coat before.  However, I do already know and love By Hand London patterns.  I have a green velvet Anna Dress that is my favorite thing in my closet and I wish I had more opportunity to wear it.

I will keep you updated on next month’s makes.  Also, you can follow along on my instagram @alexisdcook1 .




I HATE vomit.  I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.  I hate to do it, and I definetly try to never have to deal with it afterwords. I spent most of my pregnancy, when I was not at work, laying on my back breathing real slow and drinking ice cold water – so that I could stave off the vommitting.  And I was successful, I only vomitted like three times, the entie time I was pregnant, and all were from my prenatal vitamins. (which a switch to gummis was a game changer!)

This morning at 2 am my one year old vommitted all over her crib.  I, thankfully, missed the actual event, and she seemed fine afterwards, but all those vomit soaked sheets almost did me in.  I always heard that you don’t notice gross stuff when it is for your own childern.  NOT TRUE!!!  It was GROSS!!!  I noticed.  It smelled.  I am still trying to figure out how to come back and clean the carpet. I just put every sheet pillow and piece of clothing that was anywhere close to the crib into the washing machine, and turned it on super duper clean mode.

However, after I put her sheets in the washing machine (gagging the whole time) I came back in and saw her sitting there on the floor, looking sad and tired, and I realized, she couldn’t help it, and she couldn’t clean it up herself, and this was the first time she has ever vomited, she was probably scared.  I went over and picked her up, and turned my head away to avoid the vomit smell in her hair, and I hugged her and kissed her until she laughed and then we put new pajamas on, and she helped me put new sheets on, and she went back to sleep.

There will probably be many, many more nights of sheet washing from vomit in my future. As for this first, all I can say is, I survived.

Me Made

After I had Gema I started sewing again.  I learned to sew in 4-H and sewed several things in middle school and high school.  I was very impatient in high school and never did a very good job with the cutting and hemming and once I just taped my hem up and I wore it that way!!  My mom was always mortified every time I left the house in something I made, because she was very afraid that people would think she made it.  However, I was always pretty proud.  It is crazy how creating something yourself, gives you the pride of ownership and it gives you a little extra boost of confidence when you wear it.  

You know how when people go do those tipsy painting events (or whatever they are called in your town) -where you sit in a room and someone shows you the steps to painting something while you hang out with your friends and drink wine- and every time the class is over, everyone loves the painting THEY made?  That has always baffled me, because sometimes people post pictures on facebook and I am like, that looks terrible – but they are always so proud of their painting.  I think it is the process.  The process of overcoming your fears, or  your perceived weaknesses and creating something with your own hand.  That is the same idea with sewing.  A goal I have for this year is to make something new for myself to wear every month. I love wearing things I made, I feel like I stand a little taller when I wear it.  I feel like it makes me look a little better too.  Now, I am not a perfect seamstress and there are definitely flaws in every single thing i have ever made, but I still feel like it is awesome, because I MADE IT.  

I have been making a lot of Gema’s clothing too, and I love it when her daycare teacher tells me that they really like her shirt and they notice that it does not have a tag, and did I make that?  That makes me feel super great.  Now, I know that those same teachers are probably thinking, you could get a shirt just like that from target for $8 why on earth would you go to all that trouble?  That is a fair point.  However again, it is the process of making the shirt, or the dress, that makes it worth it.  The fact that I put in the time to connect with my daughter in that way.  There is definitely something magic to the artistic process.  

New Adventures

I have been working on a new venture for several months now, and I keep putting off actually launching it, partly because of fear of failure. However, I have everything lined up and am ready to go.  So, my new handmade doll line is going to go live on Monday!  It it terrifying to put my creations out there into the cyber world.  I have no idea if anyone will like them, or if anyone will want to buy one.  That fear of the unknown and fear of criticism keeps me from doing lots of things.  However, no more!  


I have recently gotten back into sewing.  I have also recently found the wondrous world of heirloom quality handmade dolls.  There are so many creative people out there!  I love it.  Gema has a pretty large collection of handmade dolls, all of which she could care less about, they really do not seem to entice her at all, but I keep hoping she will grow into them.  Anyway, I started working on my own pattern and playing around with creating my own dolls.  I have two different patterns, one with hair and one with fabric hair that is safer for smaller children.  I am launching my site – www.paramiprincesa.com with the fabric hair dolls first and then I am going to add the second line hopefully in the next month.  


I am planning to make a small batch each week, probably alternating the two patterns and listing them for sale on the website on Monday nights.  Each doll is thoughtfully created and dressed by hand.  With lots of love and care going into each and every one.  
I know that there is a wide variety of handmade dolls being made out there, and there are tons that are way more creative and beautiful than mine, but I hope that my dolls can find homes that will love them and appreciate the care and time that went into making each one. Even if I never sell one, the effort that has gone into the process has helped me to find a creative outlet and I have learned how to take joy in the small details.  That is something that I have struggled with for a long time.  

The Power of Sleep

Two nights ago Gema was crazy!  She just got home and melted down.  She cried and cried, she wouldn’t eat, and she keep throwing her paci down and then crying and reaching for it.  So, finally at 5:30 I gave up and took her to bed.  Which was only like 30 minutes early for bed.  But still, as I get off work at 3:30 –  5:30 bed time does not give me and my girl much time together.  However, she went right  to sleep and she slept until I woke her up at 6:30 the next morning.  When she woke up she was all smiles and sunshine. Then last night she ate everything on her plate, she played with all of her toys, and especially delightful – she asked for a bath. (she is her mother’s child, and she usually is resistant to this idea.)   At 6:30 after I had put her to sleep, I looked around at all the things that i needed to do, and I just felt tired.. and sore… and cranky…and like I wanted to throw my paci on the floor over and over.  And I was like, you know what?  I am going to see what twelve hours of sleep does for me.  So, I went to bed.  This morning I felt like I was walking on sunshine.


I think that sometimes, we get all wrapped up in the grind and all that we need to accomplish, and all that…adulting, and sometimes we just need to be still.  We just need to realize that there is a time when we need sleep, and the time for working will wait.  So, no guilt.  I slept for eleven and half hours and it was wonderful!  Next time you look around and just want to throw something, just stop, and read a book, take a bath, or be like me and just go to bed instead.  Take time to rejuvenate so that you can face the rest of the week with a better outlook and with energy.



So, I grew up on a dairy farm and we ate “local” “clean” food every day. I mean virtually all of our meat was grown on our farm, and most of our vegetables were sourced from neighbors. We NEVER ate “out” because my mom would always say, “I could have made this better at home.” Now, I never tasted anything at home that (to my 10 year old self) tasted as good as McDonalds chicken nuggets. However, we did eat pretty good at home and it was almost entirely “clean eating” way before that was cool.

Then I grew up, I went to college, life got crazy busy and I got lazy. I started eating “out” more and more. I grew to love fast food of all types. I learned to cook at home, and was perfectly capable of doing better for myself, I just lacked the motivation.


THEN, I turned 30. Everyone says age is just a number, and that is true. However, at 30 my body started telling me NO! It had never done that before! I would abuse it and eat junk and sporadically work out and it just plugged along, slightly over weight but still moving forward. Then one day, I realized, 3 hours of sleep a night is not cutting it. I am so tired!!! Then like a month later, I was like, “hey, why does my stomach hurt when I eat French fries?” Then, a month after that, I was like, “the circles under my eyes are so dark when I don’t drink enough water!” All of these new revelations came at me and still I resisted change. I did sleep more, but the rest, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Then when I was 31, I became pregnant. My body abruptly told me, ENOUGH!!! I started being more consistent about eating at least 2 meals a day, I mean you can’t grow a tiny human on one grilled cheese sandwich a day!!! I sometimes made dubious decisions about the content of the three meals, ( I mean Fruit Loops are fortified people!) but I did eat more regularly. Additionally the addition of the doctor telling me every month that I really needed to drink more water, spurred me on to being better hydrated.5.jpg

After the baby left my body, however, my motivation ceased. I was still breastfeeding, and that should have given me more motivation than it did.( Mommy is so sorry baby!) I went back to my old ways, and now I was even more sleep deprived than before!!1.jpg

In December my baby was 6 months old, and I realized, something has to change! I started looking for ways to make our lives better. It needed to start with food. Food really is the foundation of everything. Food, water, sleep, environment, and state of mind all needed to change. But food was the beginning.8.jpg

I looked around and I read a book called The Plan. This book was great. It talked a lot about how food interacts with our bodies and how we needed to detox from the harmful things we put in our bodies and then once we have returned to a baseline level, slowly introduce different types of foods and see how our bodies react to different types of food. This made since to me and it had a handy 30 day eating plan for detoxing and introducing food groups back in, and I followed it religiously. I felt good. I got more sleep. Then 30 days ended. What do I do now? The author had told me that I would know what to do. That I had been given all the tools. However, there was math involved, and it seemed like too much work. Then I read the book, It Starts With Food. Well, lets be honest, first I read the website, whole30. Which had lots and lots of pictures and a well thought out plan that had the same basic basis as The Plan did. There are types of food that cause inflammation and reactions in our bodies and we need to get rid of these in order to discover what foods…yada yada…. same idea, slightly different plan of attack. This new plan, involved 30 days of detoxing and then adding back in different foods. It also did not hold my hand each day telling me exactly what to eat for 3 meals a day and then just leave me cold and dry to do math on my own. In fact, no math. I did the 30 days. I finished, and felt great. I was sleeping better, and this was the month before the Bar Exam so the fact I was sleeping at all was a miracle. Then, after all that, I read It Starts With Food. This book gave me a revelation. We need to have a better relationship with foods. We can drown our sorrows in a pint of ice-cream. Food is meant to sustain our very life. The love hate relationship we all have with sugar is not normal and is not healthy. Sugar shouldn’t be our everything! It shouldn’t even be our anything!!

This is just background on where I am at today and where I am at starting this blog. I just want to chronicle the journey that I am taking to better living for me and my family!13.jpg

Today, as I have added cream and the occasional cheese back into my diet. (because I grew up on a dairy farm remember, lets get real cheese is my everything.) I have managed to keep from eating added sugars for an additional 30 days since finishing my month of whole 30. I have also managed to eat minimal grains save for the occasional corn tortilla. (Who can live without tacos?!?!) and I have even resisted most legumes. I notice the biggest difference personally with this one. My body really doesn’t like them very much. I LOVE hummus, but I ALWAYS have a headache when I eat it. So, it probably isn’t a very good thing for me to eat. Also, I am eating meat everyday. Which I have not done since I was little. As an adult, meat is expensive, and takes time too cook, and I just didn’t eat much of it.

Keep following along with me and my family and we start an adventure for a better life!