Noodlehead Petal Pouches for SewBoston swap


First of all, thank you for all your support and thoughtful comments on my previous post about Colette.  I write posts like this fairly often and never publish them, but this latest debacle was so egregious that I felt compelled to pull the trigger.  I’m glad to see that the sewing community is moving toward more open and honest feedback, and I hope this trend continues.

This past weekend I attended the first SewBoston, an all-day regional sewing retreat hosted by the Cambridge Modern Quilt Guild.  It was such a wonderful day!  As part of the retreat, I participated in a “sewing room organization” themed swap and whipped up a pair of Noodlehead Petal Pouches for my swap partner.  This was my first time using a Noodlehead pattern, and I was really pleased with both the instructions and the design of the pouch.  It was obvious that Anna put a lot of thought into what otherwise would have been a very simple pattern.  Everything fit together beautifully, and I was particularly pleased with the neat finish on each end of the zipper.

This was also my first time making a zipper pouch (how had I not tried this before??), so I was a little nervous about making a well-constructed item for my swap partner.  Not to mention that my partner happened to be the president of the guild!  No pressure.  :)

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Why Colette’s corrections to the Rue pattern are too little, too late

This post represents my personal opinions.  As this is my personal blog, I reserve the right to share them freely.

Integrity.  I think most of us would agree that this is something we all aspire to in our personal and professional lives.  It’s something that we look for in businesses when we’re choosing the recipients of our hard-earned money.  To me, integrity means honesty, transparency, and a willingness to “do the right thing,” whatever that may be.  Integrity is a characteristic of a well-meaning person who is hopefully worthy of our respect.

Based on the events of the past year or so, I would argue that integrity is something that Colette has been severely lacking.  They have been selling patterns with obvious and glaring flaws, publishing photos of unfinished garments with unsewn hems flopping open, and worst of all, disrespecting their own customers by repeatedly and consistently deleting customer comments that point out these obvious issues.  The only reasonable assumption, in my opinion, is that Colette has been ignoring and, when possible, actively covering up these issues in an attempt to (a) shield unsuspecting customers who might not know any better, and (b) continue to collect their cash.

To me, this is not honest, not transparent, and clearly an unwillingness to do right by their customers.

I think any hope of Colette displaying integrity is now lost.

Too little

Colette’s recent admission that “we made a mistake” with the Rue pattern is admirable, but only if you ignore the fact that (a) they published a pattern with such significant drafting and design issues in the first place (why weren’t these issues caught before the release?), and (b) they refused to acknowledge the issues for so long after the release.  Let’s be honest: everyone is allowed to make mistakes; we’re all human.  But this was a pretty huge pile of mistakes, and it was pretty unsettling to watch them being swept under the rug for so long.

Sending out corrected patterns to customers, as they have now promised, is a solid step in the right direction.  However, if I had purchased the Rue (which I haven’t) and experienced the drafting issues firsthand, I would have demanded a refund.  If you’re reading this and have purchased the Rue, I would encourage you to ask for your money back.  You purchased a defective product from a company with a history of deceiving its customers.  Will you be satisfied with a replacement product from such a company?  Personally, I would want my transaction voided and a complete refund.

Too late

Regardless of how Colette chooses to proceed with the Rue from this point on, I’d argue that their professional reputation has now been irreparably damaged.  In light of their long history of pattern debacles and unprofessional treatment of customers, this rather large debacle with the Rue isn’t all that surprising.  They’ve established their reputation in the sewing pattern business, for better or for worse, and any attempts to rebound from this latest crisis are simply too late, in my opinion.  The damage has been done.  I have officially written off Colette and, sadly, Sarai as its responsible party.

On integrity

As a scientist, I have to be brutally honest and completely transparent about my work on a daily basis.  This is the only way the scientific process can succeed.  I admit it: it’s hard.  We are so used to injecting our opinions into our everyday conversations that it’s really difficult to only report what you observed, nothing more, nothing less.  It’s also really hard to admit when I don’t know something, to admit when I’m wrong, and to admit that I’m imperfect.  But I’m an adult and a professional, and so I do it.  Without academic integrity, my reputation as a scientist could easily be ruined, and my professional aspirations squashed.

Why should any other business be different?

Can someone really sleep at night, knowing that they’re sacrificing their personal and professional integrity in order to swindle people and collect their money?

Sadly, many people can.  I refuse to be one of them.

Sometimes we do business with companies who are deceiving us, but maybe we’re not aware of it.  (In reality, this probably happens to all of us, everyday.)  Sometimes we do business with companies who are deceiving us, but we don’t have another option (e.g., cable companies with local monopolies).  But sometimes, on the rare occasion that we’re pretty damn sure that a company is deceiving us and we actually have a choice as to whether we do business with them or not, why in the world would we choose to give them our business?

I encourage you to ask yourself this question and vote with your dollars.

For me, Colette’s attempt to rectify the Rue debacle is far too little, far too late.

Floral Robson trench: more bias binding and lining assembly


Folks, I’ve come to the conclusion that sewing a 3-layered trench coat is no joke.  Not that I thought this was going to be a quick and easy project, but still!  As I get deeper and deeper into the sewing process, I realize just how much more there is to go.  Really, a 3-layered coat means sewing 3 separate coats, not to mention all the little details.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of sewing this coat.  It is just a beast.  :)

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Floral Robson trench: adventures in bias binding


[Oops!  I hit publish on this post before I finished writing it!  Hopefully those of you who read this post early enjoyed my slew of photos with no explanations.🙂 ]

Work on my floral Robson trench continues!  I’m happy to report that I seem to have found some motivation to actually work on this project now that (a) the epic cutting part is complete, and (b) the cool fall weather is arriving.  Today’s installment: bias binding.  One of the defining features of my trench (aside from the beautiful floral fabric, of course!) will be black bias binding that will boldly outline various parts of the coat, including the collar and lapels.

This past weekend I started binding a few of the small pieces: the pocket welts and shoulder epaulettes.  It was… time consuming.  Of course.  This is me we’re talking about, after all.  :)  I’ve been mitering the corners, which is both extremely fiddly and extremely satisfying.  I bound a total of 4 pieces, and each took about 45 minutes!  But, I really like the finished effect, and I think it will give the trench a unique touch.

I took a few in-progress photos of my ad-hoc (aka totally made-up) binding technique.  I’m using what is essentially double-fold bias tape that I cut from a black cotton/linen blend, and I’ve folded over the 5/8″ seam allowance on the part that gets folded over to the back.  The rest of the folds get made during application.  If you have any advice on how to apply the tape and miter the corners better than what I’m doing here, I’m all ears!

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Floral Robson trench: finally finished cutting


After many months and what seems like an epic number of hours hunched over my cutting table, I’m happy to report that all the millions of pieces of my floral Robson trench coat are finally cut, interfaced, and ready to sew.  Hooray!  :)

As you can see above, I’m using fusible hair canvas on the front facings to give the lapels a bit of structure.  This is the good stuff from Fashion Sewing Supply.  It’s my first time using it, so we’ll see how it goes!  I opted NOT to use sew-in hair canvas and pad stitch it in, mostly to preserve my sanity.  The lapels may stick out a bit as a result, but I think I’m ok with that.


I’m using regular interfacing along the jacket and sleeve hems.  I’ve done this before with my Simplicity 2446 blazers to great effect.


There is quite a large pile of cut pieces currently sitting on my sewing table.  It’s a little overwhelming!  Between the floral outer fabric, flannel interlining, rayon lining, and all the little pieces for the pockets, sleeve tabs, welts, etc…. I think this coat is going to weigh a ton!  Not to mention the awesome black bias binding that is going to be outlining all the major pieces.  :)


I’ve been reading up on how to assemble a jacket with both an interlining and lining.  I think I may leave all 3 layers as separate as possible to allow for movement, but I have a feeling I’ll wing it as I start assembling.  One thing I’ve decided is that I won’t be treating the interlining like an underlining (assembling the main fabric and interlining as one) since I don’t want the bulk of the flannel in the major garment seams.  We’ll see if I live to regret this or not!

At this point the sewing has officially begun: I started putting together the interlining pieces over the weekend.  I’m excited!  The cutting on this project was really weighing me down, but now that it’s done and fall is approaching, I’ve found some momentum on this project.  I’ll keep you posted.  :)

Coloring: Koi Pond


“Koi Pond” – Ink design by Johanna Basford in Secret Garden.  Colored by me with Prismacolor Premier colored pencils.  Time to complete: approximately 1 million hours.

Not much else to say except that this one took forever!  Apparently I started it in March, after which it sat neglected for many months.  Finally finished it up over the last few weeks.  There are a few “mistakes,” as usual, but I tell myself that they add character.  :)

Check out the rest of my completed coloring pages in my Finished Project Gallery (scroll down).

Colored pencil technique 101: more leaf sketches

Colored pencil amateur hour continues here at Allspice Abounds.  I think the key to learning something new is to not take yourself too seriously.  I’m trying to give myself the freedom to just try things and not worry about perfection (which is really hard for a perfectionist).  :)  Below are my latest sketches, and what I learned from them.

Blue and orange leaves with shadows

Colored pencil sketches - blue and orange leaf cluster

My objective here was to experiment more with using complimentary colors to create rich shadows.  Last time I used green and red, and here I tried orange and blue.

What I learned: (1) It works, but you have to be really restrained when using blue over orange.  I think I pressed too hard with the blue.  (2) I have to pay attention to which direction the shadows are supposed go.  Art 101, right?  Here I added a shadow every time the leaves overlapped, but I don’t think I did it right.

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Colored pencil technique 101: leaves with shadows

Cluster of leaves with shadows

Brace yourselves: I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of YouTube colored pencil tutorials.  Whoa, there is SO much awesome stuff to learn about drawing and coloring with colored pencils!  My innocent adult coloring book obsession has turned in a full-blown fascination with the big, bad world of art technique.  Who knew there was so much to learn??

I made the sketch above using my Prismacolor pencils after watching this delightful video from expert colorist Peta Hewitt (warning: it’s 43 minutes long).  The sketch took me about 2 hours (!!) to complete.

Two mind-blowing things that I learned in the making of this sketch:

  1. You can blend colored pencils on paper just like you would with paints.  The key is using a white pencil or a colorless blender pencil.  The effect is pretty startling.  The colors blend together pretty fluidly, and the colorless blender brightens the color significantly.
  2. To create a rich shadow, use a color complimentary to the original color.  For the green leaves above, I created the shadows using bright red.  Cover up the red with more green, blend, and enjoy your beautiful shadows.

Did you ever stumble upon an entire world that you never knew existed, and then voraciously learn everything you can like a rabid beast?  That pretty much describes my week.  I may have visited my local art supply store three times this week.

If you’re looking for me this weekend, I’ll be glued to more YouTube videos with my pencils and new sketchbook in hand.  So much to learn!  :)

Coloring: The Butterfly Gardener

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford - The Butterfly Gardener - finished

“The Butterfly Gardener” – Ink design by Johanna Basford in Secret Garden, coloring and custom artwork in the center square by me.  All coloring was done with Prismacolor Premier colored pencils (36 pack).

The coloring bug has bitten me yet again.  I don’t know what it is about adult coloring books that I find to be so ridiculously addictive.  All I know is that when I get the itch to color, it’s like entering a mystical time warp of colorful, flowery bliss.  My latest finish is this flower garden filled with a melange of delightful creatures.

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Rainbow raspberry kiss quilt top

Rainbow raspberry kiss quilt top in progress

After much indecision, here’s what I came up with!  Still a rainbow, but not as linear as my initial arrangement.  I added more warm blocks to better balance out the cools, and I mixed the blocks up a bit so the color transitions wouldn’t be too harsh.  If I’m honest, I’m not 100% happy with it, but I am NOT ripping out any seams at this point!

One thing I learned during this exercise is that I wasn’t born with an eye for color arrangement.  Getting that perfect mix and balance is really hard!  I admire people who are good at this, and I hope to get better with more practice.  There are few things in life that can’t be learned, right?

Raspberry kiss quilt - seams pressed open

Here’s a close up of the back.  The internal seams of the blocks are pressed to one side (to the darks whenever possible), and the seams connecting the blocks are pressed open to avoid bulk at the points.  All seam allowances are 1/4 inch.  There are approximately a million loose threads stuck all over this quilt top, but hopefully I’ll catch them all during basting!

I’m debating adding a thin white border around the edges, for two reasons: (a) to give the blocks a bit of room to “float,” and more importantly (b) to give myself a little wiggle room during basting and quilting.  Maybe it’s just my lack of quilting skill, but having only 1/4 inch seam allowances on the edge of the quilt often results in uneven edges for me.  I feel like the quilt top shrinks a bit during quilting, and it’s nice to have a little more fabric along the edges to compensate.

By the way, this quilt is huge.  It’s currently about 74″ x 90″, without the border or binding.  I don’t know where/how I’m going to baste it…. so suggestions are welcome!  I may have to use the huge table at Gather Here for this beast.

Will keep you posted!