Julie Bowersett


Blog Writing Course Alumni

From Guide to Art Schools



My Birthday Dress

Not to be confused with my birthday suit :-)

Last year I made this dress in honor of my 10th wedding anniversary.

I love how easy this dress is to wear.  It is a lengthened version of my Pamela's Patterns Perfect T-Shirt and has the comfort of, well, a t-shirt.  I have wanted to make something similar ever since.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in October and decided I needed a new dress for an evening out with my husband.  I chose a simple princess line fit-and-flare dress which I have made a number of times out of wovens.  This time I decided to try it from a knit, eliminating the zipper to make this a pull-on affair.

The fabric is a tissue-weight knit from Vogue Fabrics.  The fabric is unusual in that sections of it are more sheer than others.  It is sheer enough in areas that it needed to be lined.

I used a nude, 4-way-stretch piece for the lining.  To hide the seam allowances, I underlined each dress section individually and then treated them as one.  I machine stitched the seams with a zigzag stitch and then finished them with the serger (the method I often prefer for sewing knits).  I like how the princess seams disappear in the fabric's pattern but still provide lots of nice shaping and fit. 

The sleeve hems gave me trouble.  I first tried a method I heard Sandra Betzina talk about recently in a workshop.  She stay stitches 1/2-inch from the cut edge, folds along the stitching line and zigzags just above the fold, trimming the extra fabric away after stitching.  This fabric was too unstable (even when I stitched over stabilizer).  Next I tried fusing a lightweight bias tape to the hem edge.  I solved the stability problem but now the hem stuck out in a stiff manner.  I had enough fabric left to recut the sleeves.  This time I cut the hem on a fold, making a double-layered sleeve.  I sewed the under arm seam then folded along the hem line and treated both layers as one.  This compromised the sheerness of the sleeve a bit but made for a lovely, bulk-free hem that looks very nice.

The neckline was bound with a fabric strip cut on the crosswise grain.

Already this has become a favorite, worn with a little jacket for cooler days.

My husband and I rarely exchange gifts, so imagine my surprise when I walked into my sewing room on my birthday morning and found a beautiful Alabama Chanin jacket draped on my dressform.  It was this one that I tried on when I visited their studio last November:

After I blogged about that experience, including a picture of this jacket, he contacted them and arranged to have this sent to him.  Then he held onto it for nearly a year before surprising me with it for my landmark birthday.  What a keeper (both the husband and the jacket).  I am really grateful for this beautiful heirloom piece.  It has been almost exactly one year since I traveled to Alabama for that wonderful weekend workshop.  The dress I started then is nearing completion -- it is in the construction phase, and I hope it will be finished in the next couple of weeks.  When I started that dress I proclaimed it a year-long project, and it will be just about that.  I can't wait to share it with you.


Angry Birds, The Party

I cannot remember a busier time in my life than the last three or four weeks, not even the weeks leading up to my wedding.  I, quite literally, have not had a "day off" for a very long time.  Things look only slightly better over the next three weeks though I do have a few blank days on my calendar.  When I complain, my husband just says, "you must like it like this".  He has a point; I do tend to overbook.  I have been snatching small bits of time in my sewing room but mostly doing so in the afternoons or late at night, not my favorite time to do work.  I'm sure I won't see a true break in this pattern till after the Christmas holidays.  Then there's January:  I have always found the bleak days of winter the best time to hibernate and really get to work on projects.

One of the things that has had me so busy recently is planning and executing birthday parties for both of my boys; one turned four and the other six within the last two weeks.  My oldest son wanted a party based on the game Angry Birds which he has been enjoying recently.  This actually turned out to be a very fun and easy party to plan.  The hard part was deciding which of the hundreds of ideas out there on the internet to actually do.  If you Google "Angry Birds party ideas" you will be amazed at the ideas.  Pinterest is also a great source for additional ones.  This website contains a list of links for lots of Angry Birds party ideas.  Here are some of the ones I adapted for our party.

I began with this fabulous free printable graphics package which contained an invitation I easily personalized in PhotoShop.  Even the Angry Birds font is included in this download. 

For decorations I used some paper lanterns (ordered from Oriental Trading Company) and a set of free printable templates to create some birds (and a pig) to hang. 

During the party we had several activites for the kids to do:  two games, a craft and a tattoo station.  Here's my husband working on a "pin the tail on the donkey"-like game (pin the bird on the pig?).  Here's a shot of the finished work of art:

The table where he is working also shows all of the eyes I cut out of foam to make Angry Bird visors:

I pre-cut the various foam pieces, and the kids applied them to the visors with glue dots.

The other game was a simple ball-toss style game.  I purchased three green sand pails at the Dollar Tree and my husband added foam pig features to each one.  The kids took turns launching (throwing) stuffed Angry Birds at the pigs.  We kept score and the winner received a prize.

We also had an egg hunt and used these pig bags to collect the eggs.  The pig faces were a smaller version of the printable templates that I used for the paper lantern decorations.  I made goody bags in a similar fashion:

I had the good fortune to find "sling shots" at the Dollar Tree for the bags.  I also made zipper pulls from Angry Bird graphics and dog tag supplies I found on Etsy.

I also included some Angry Birds tattoos and a candy bar with a custom cover that I ordered online, printed and wrapped around the candy.

We also had an ice cream truck come to the party, which was a big hit with the kids (and grown ups, too).

OK, so this is not the typical stuff that fills the pages of my blog, but at least you can see what has been keeping me busy recently.  I am almost finished sewing a new dress which I hope to have completely done in time to wear for a hot date I have on Thursday.  I'll be sure to get some pictures so I can share that with you.  I'm also working on some beading for an otherwise-finished project, and I'm still plugging away at my blue dress (I am cutting the reverse applique on the final panel now).  Till next time.


Caring for Others

In my last post, Kanzashi for Kathy, I made this pin for a dear friend who is undergoing chemotherapy. After she received the pin, she sent me the following message and suggested I share it with the readers of my blog.

I am Julie’s friend Kathy.  I am currently in chemotherapy for an early-stage breast cancer.  I found that to keep a scarf on my head, I had to position it so low on my forehead that my face looked squat.  So I first put on a stretchy little cap and then drape a scarf over it.  I  don’t have to worry about the scarf covering every bit of my head, and if I pin the scarf to the cap, I feel secure.

I tried using jewelry-style brooches for pins. As I am not a very bling person, the brooches felt heavy and looked, to my eye, too overly styled.  I had one of Julie’s Kanzashi flowers, and I loved using it.  The fabric-on-fabric of the pin-on-scarf looked effortless, but polished.   That flower, however, was designed as a piece of jewelry. It was so vivid that I could only use it with two of my patterned scarves.  So this new black-and-ivory one, which she was kind enough to make me, is ideal.  I can wear it with almost any scarf that I would be wearing at this time of year.
I’d love to think that none of you reading this blog will ever know anyone who needs to slog through chemotherapy, but until that time comes, consider making such a woman a pretty fabric pin.  Unlike the chemo caps she may receive from other friends, such a pin is a lasting gift. When my hair comes back, I will get rid of the chemo caps as fast as I can.  But I intend to wear this pin in a more traditional way for years and years, and it will remind me of what a generous friend did for me at a difficult time.

Kanzashi for Kathy


Trolls and Summer

Dear recent visitor to my blog:  while you were busy leaving your comment, the Billy Goats Gruff snuck across your bridge. 

I guess I should be grateful that in the almost-three-years since I started my blog, this is the first time I’ve had to deal with a troll.  An internet troll is someone who posts inflammatory or mean-spirited messages on a public forum with the intent of causing harm.  This morning I awoke to a comment posted on my blog that was a very unkind commentary on my work.  Very unkind.  I’ve had to deal with my share of spam comments on my site, the sort that invite me to purchase handbags or watches, but this was new to me.  This was from a real live person who, it turns out, I know (isn’t that friendly?).  Not that they left their name for me (trolls typically like to remain anonymous) but in today’s world I’m just two clicks away on the internet from identifying someone’s email address. 

I try to keep the mood on my blog upbeat and positive, to use this space as inspiration for others and to uplift and support everyone who loves to create things with their hands.  So, dear readers, you’ve been given notice:  if you post mean comments on my blog they will be removed.  And, unless you are willing to pose naked, so to speak, and share your own work for the internet world to see, you have no right to criticize my work.  This doesn’t mean you cannot disagree with me; but please do it in a way that is true to the spirit of this space.

Well, now that I’ve gotten THAT off my chest, let’s move on to the last day of summer.  Which it is.  Tomorrow my oldest starts kindergarten, and one week from today my youngest goes back to preschool.  And I can’t wait for the extra time I will have to put my hands to work.  But, the summer had some lovely moments.

We spent a wonderful week with family on our little island in Maine where I managed to get some stitching done

and other family members got in on the craft action, too.

We swam


climbed and skipped rocks

played board games

and ate good food.

Mostly we unplugged and relaxed.  It was great.

I also took my boys on some local-to-home adventures where we experienced nature up close and personal.

Now the days are getting shorter and it’s time to refocus our attention a little closer to the hearth and home.  I’m looking forward to sharing some of the things coming out of my sewing studio with you soon.