christmas decorating.


decorating the house for christmas!
advent calendardecorating the house for christmas!
decorating the house for christmas!
decorating the house for christmas!
decorating the house for christmas!

I thought I would share some photos of our Christmas decorations. This year I finally put together an Advent calendar! I'm so proud of myself for actually doing one this year. Every year I wanted to make one, even just a little one with numbers on a string or something. Then I would get busy, as I do every year, and I never got it done in time. Well, this time I decided to just buy some little gifts and write some fun notes to my sweetheart. So every day Jed has a little gift to open or a note to read that I wrote to him. Sometimes there are little things and then there are a few larger items. Most of the notes have little ideas that we can do together during the holidays. Simple things like snuggling together while sipping hot cider or going sledding or ice skating. I had so much fun putting it together and I feel like a little kid watching Jed open a gift every day! I know, I'm such a sap! I hope this becomes a tradition, even if I'm only able to only write notes for each day. It's a fun way to make the holidays last a little longer than just one day.

We also picked up a real tree this year! I've never had a real tree, since my parents always got fake trees. We lived with a Charlie Brown looking tree for most of my growing up years. Mom picked it up at a garage sale years and years ago. I think she got it for $5 and we had it all my growing up years. Then one year we all decided it was time to upgrade and we all picked this huge tree out. It was one of those times when we didn't really think about where we would put the tree. But somehow we've managed to cram that big tree in the living room every year. But for Jed and I, we decided we wanted a real tree, so we went to Whole Foods here in town to see what they have. Since we really didn't have time to go out to get a tree somewhere at a tree farm, this was the next best option. They had some really lovely larger trees and some cute smaller trees. We decided this year it might be best to get a smaller one, since we're going back to Iowa to celebrate Christmas with our families. But I love this little one so much! I'll probably try to keep it up for a long time after Christmas!

For the decorations, since we didn't have any ornaments and I haven't had any time to make a lot of things, I simply sliced up a couple of oranges and dried them in the oven. Then I popped a whole bunch of popcorn (you have to make extra so you can eat half of it)! We also got some really wonderfully smelling pine cones at Whole Foods (that place is soooo tempting during the holidays)! I think we did pretty well for not having too much. Now all I need to do is wrap some more gift to put under the tree! Most of the gifts this year we had mailed to our parents' houses so that we don't have to lug a bunch of gifts home on the bus! But I am hand making just a couple this year. I think next year we are going to try to plan ahead and make more gifts. I feel so much better when we don't spend so much money and focus on making things instead. I have a bunch of ideas already. Perhaps I better start making next year's gifts now??

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far! We only have had a light dusting of snow so far, but I am still hoping we'll have a white Christmas!

Here's my Christmas playlist if you need help getting in the mood! xo


candles and christmas lights!
candles and christmas lights!
candles and christmas lights!

I feel like it's been a bit of a whirlwind lately and finally everything seems to have slowed down a bit. Not that I don't have a million things to do, but I somehow just feel like taking it easy these days. Jed and I finally got our little Whole Foods tree decorated a few nights ago. It was such a good night. We've been snuggling on the couch almost every night watching sappy Christmas movies. Tonight we watched Home Alone, which I've never seen before. One of Jed's faves and now it's one of mine too! The sappiest movie we've seen yet has to be 12 Men of Christmas with Kristen Chenoweth. I'm a bit of a fan of hers from when she was in Pushing Daisies (love)! I'm not sure I could recommend the 12 Men of Christmas movie to anyone, though, but I gotta say Jed and I DID kind of like it... :) Actually yeah, if you are OK with some bad acting and a not so-great plot, a bunch of guys that look like JC Penny models (or maybe more like Patagonia models?) and you like Kristen Chenoweth, go watch it! Sometimes I like sappy girly movies with bad plots. But I've also been watching some of the good old classics. Here's a list of my favorite Christmas movies!

Holiday (1938)*
Love Affair (1939)*
Bachelor Mother (1939)*
Remember the Night (1940)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Meet John Doe (1941)*
Holiday Inn (1942)
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)*
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
It Happened on 5th Ave (1947)
Holiday Affair (1949)
White Christmas (1954)
Desk Set (1957)*
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Little Women (1994)


*Not strictly Christmas movies, but they are centered around the holidays.

time for a second cup o' coffee.


i think it's time for a second cup o' coffee!

Working hard on orders! Just wanted to pop in and say hello! I'll be back when I have a little time to write. I still need to decorate our little tree, but I did get an advent calendar up this year! More on that later as well. Hope everyone is enjoying this festive time of year! XO

p.s. i started a little facebook page, if you'd like to check it out and "like" me! :)

holiday shop open!


anna allen clothing: holiday 2011

I just listed the items in the shop! Thank you so much for all the comments on my holiday collection! I'm just so grateful to my brother John who was able to take pictures last minute for me! Hopefully every year I will be able to have a little holiday shop. They are so much fun to put together! Thanks again for all of your support! It really means a lot to me!! xo

holiday 2011: lookbook


anna allen clothing: holiday 2011
anna allen clothing: holiday 2011

I worked all day trying to update my website and various things on the web. It took me forever to upload the lookbook! Something that should have been incredibly simple turned into hours longer than I planned. Oh, well. I got it uploaded anyway! Next I'm going to be working on my shop and will open it soon, so be on the lookout! I might surprise you with an earlier shop update. I hope you enjoy the photos of my holiday collection. John did a simply fabulous job. He has a way of capturing exactly the feeling I am going for. I was a bit worried that we wouldn't find any color among the grey, but you know there is a lot of color in nature during this time of year, you just have to look for it!

This year I wanted to do something really special and festive and one day I got the notion that I would like to make something in silk velvet. I've heard it is a rather troublesome fabric to work with, but I was determined! It's absolutely gorgeous. The color in this velvet is so intense, I knew it would make even the simplest of designs sparkle. I picked a beautiful rust for the top and a very deep dark black for the dress. The fabric is not easy to work with but with a few tricks, it's definitely manageable and actually, I find working with this fabric quite rewarding!

Btw, I updated my blog banner today as well and cleaned up a bit. It has been awhile since I've updated here. Hope you like it! xo

Photographs by John Allen

holiday 2011: coming soon!


holiday 2011

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday! At least for those who celebrate it. Jed and I came home yesterday and the journey was a bit more exhausting than usual, complete with pouring rain. But we finally made it home, safe and sound in our cozy little apartment. Thanksgiving was really a wonderful time and quite relaxing! But now is the time to get back to work and get a lot done before our next holiday! I'm going to be opening the shop again on December 1st (at least that is the plan), though I admit I'm itching to open it before then. Starting tomorrow, I'll be sharing some pictures of the new things I will be selling. Everything will be made-to-order so if you are interested in anything, plan on an extra 2-3 weeks from date of purchase. I hope you will enjoy my little festive collection. xo

photo shoot for holiday 2011


holiday 2011 "blooper" shots

holiday 2011 "blooper" shots

holiday 2011 "blooper" shots

Yesterday John and I went out to photograph my holiday collection and we were able to accomplish the whole shoot in about 2 hours. Pretty good I'd say! It was cold and rainy, though the rain stopped by the time we started shooting. I was glad to have it done, but it really was fun spending the afternoon with my brother! He knows his way with the camera. I only wished I had a camera to take a few shots of him taking photos. This season I didn't have time to rope someone in to model for me, so I did it myself. Sometimes it's just easier, since this was pretty last minute. I'm very pleased with this collection and am super excited to have something for the holidays this year!

These photos are all "blooper" shots (however even John's bloopers look awesome!). I wore grocery bags over my shoes and oversized rain boots when walking around since the ground was so muddy. The first one was taken just as the kitty was about to jump on me, before John stopped him, thank goodness!!!

So far our thanksgiving break has been marvelously fun. I hope you all are enjoying the holiday! xo



hair dryer curls
hair dryer curls
my feet for no reason.
ginger snaps

Well, it's been one completely CRAZY few weeks here! I've been working like mad on my new winter/holiday collection! But guess what happened last week just as I was finishing a sleeve? My serger broke!!!!!!!!! Well, the needle on the needle plate broke. So I was frantic to find a replacement online. I found a place (I THOUGHT I found a place, that is) so I went ahead and ordered the part and paid the extra twenty some dollars to have it by the next day. I knew it was the weekend when ordering, so I didn't think I'd get it til Monday. Well, I had this sick feeling that it might not get here in time, so I looked online to see if I could track the package. I hadn't heard anything as far as a confirmation shipping number, so couldn't track it. I did some investigation on the company and guess what I found? It was a fraudulent none-existent company by some crazy guy in TN who apparently keeps opening fake sewing part shops online. So when I found this out I decided to go find another company that sold the needle plate. I found one, or so I thought! It had good reviews and even noticed Design*Sponge had them as their friend on Twitter, so I thought what the hey? And guess what? When I got my PayPal invoice back, guess who's name was on the bill? THE SAME GUY!!!! Arghh! So not only was I ripped off once, but twice and both times I paid for express shipping! Gahh! Anyway, to make a long story a bit shorter/longer we got in touch with PayPal (via phone) and got my money back by the next day! So I've learned a few things through this whole ordeal. One, don't order sewing parts online and be very leery about ordering anything sewing machine related. At least be certain who you are ordering from. The only times I've been ripped off had to do with a sewing machine on eBay and now this. Second, PayPal rocks! They were awesome. If you ever have a problem like this, don't wait around doing the online form, just give them a call. And third, if you ever need a part for your sewing machine, call your local sewing shop!

So after all that, I decided to take a trip down to my local Vogue Fabrics and I brought in the broken needle plate with me to show them. They told me I could fix it by ripping out the broken needle (it was hard, that thing was really stuck in there!) and then super glue another needle back in there (sewing needle that fits in the slot and cut to size). And guess what? It WORKED!!! I am so thrilled! I was able to finish my collection and all the seams are beautifully serged! They are also ordering me a new needle plate, since my little makeshift plate probably won't last forever. But it's nice to know I can fix it if it ever happens again. Btw, I took pictures while working on it, so I hope to do a bit of a tutorial on how to fix a needle plate if it ever happens to you. It was pretty hard to find any information about it online, so hopefully this will help someone out there!

In other news, I'm heading back home tomorrow for vacation which will include a highschool performance of Pride and Prejudice, a photo shoot with my brother, lots of coffee with good friends, hopefully a bit of shopping in my favorite little Mt Vernon town, annnnd lots of Thanks Giving! I think we have two Thanks Giving dinners to go to next week. It sure will be full! And that's a good thing too, because we've been living off of one week of groceries for the past two weeks and we are ready for some down home cookin'! :) See you all when I get back! Have a super duper holiday! I have A LOT to be thankful for, that's for sure! xo

p.s. lately i've been doing this to my hair after a shower. works so well and so easy too!

3 day sale! {all sold}


black linen top with vintage trim.

Edit: Wow! Everything has sold out! Thank you guys! That was fast!

I updated the Big Cartel shop with items from a few past seasons that I'm selling for 50% off! Today through Sunday. All of the garments are in size small. Anything sold will ship Monday. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!


it's getting darker...


sample dress
sample dress

It's getting darker now with the time being an hour earlier. Took these quick photos after finishing a sample dress. Will make a few changes to the design, but I'm pretty happy with it! It's quite twirlable, I'd say. ;)

happy hallowe'en!


I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend! It always seems to go by much too fast, doesn't it? Although I am not planning anything too special today, I thought it might be fun to post a list of a few fun Hallowe'en movies I like. I am thinking of putting on a few of these tonight and maybe get some knitting in. Perhaps make a batch of caramel corn for a little Hallowe'en treat!

One of my all time favorite movies to watch growing up was Arsenic and Old Lace. We used to show it to our friends on Halloween. I could watch this movie over and over again and not get tired of it. Of course, a movie with Cary Grant in it really doesn't need much explanation. I'll just leave it at that. ;)

The next one I always like to watch is The Great Pumpkin! I'm sure you've all seen this one before, but I just love Charlie Brown. It makes me so nostalgic. If you haven't seen it, go watch it now! You can see it on Hulu for a limited time.

Another one, that isn't quite Hallowe'en related, but we still considered this a Hallowe'en movie growing up, is Meet Me in St Louis. It is one of those movies you can watch for Hallowe'en and then again around Christmas. There is a fabulous Hallowe'en scene in the movie that always gets me in the mood. It's just a really classic movie. Starring Judy Garland. I just can't get enough of her and yes, I totally sing along to all of the songs! (The Boy Next Door is my favorite!)

You'll Find Out is a silly one and not a very well made movie, but I got it years ago for a party I threw and it worked out to be a pretty good flick. It stars Helen Parrish, who I love. She's not very well known today, but you may know of her if you've seen many Deanna Durbin films. The movie also has Kay Kyser and his band along with Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Here's the trailer if you are interested in checking it out.

The Invisible Woman I happened upon a few years ago and I'm so glad I did! It stars Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore and John Howard. I don't think this movie is well known and I'm not even sure that it's on DVD, but it's really a delightful little film. It's about a scientist (John Barrymore) who discovers a way to become invisible. John Howard is a rich playboy who is helping finance the scientist, but is starting to lose hope since his "mad scientist" friend hasn't come up with anything yet and he is losing money. Well, finally Barrymore thinks he really has discovered a way to become invisible and puts an ad in the paper to see if anyone is willing to test out his formula. Virginia Bruce is a model at a local department store and is sick of her mean boss Mr. Growley and wants to get even with him. So she responds to the ad and decides she could get even with Growley if only she became invisible. The plot isn't all that wonderful, but it's fun and of course there is romance between Bruce and Howard! There's also some gangsters involved in the plot who are sent to steal the formula, which make for some silly slapstick scenes. And you may also notice Margaret Hamilton, who played the witch in The Wizard of Oz! Do try to find this one and watch it. You won't regret it.

The Uninvited is the last one I'll write about here, though I admit it is one I haven't seen in a long time, so I won't say much about it. I do remember it being pretty scary and very well made. Plus it stars Ray Milland, and you pretty much can't go wrong with him! Do check this one out if you can. And be sure to make some popcorn and grab your favorite snugly blanket (or in my case a snugly Jed)!

There are probably many more Hallowe'en flicks out there, but these are some of my favorite. I also enjoy some of the Abbott and Costello films (Hold That Ghost, The Time of Their Lives, and Meet Frankenstein are a few favorites) and there's also some fun spooky movies starring Paulette Goddard (The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers) that you'll have to check out as well.

I hope these have inspired you to watch some old classic Hallowe'en films this year! And for those of you who need a last minute snack, here's a really easy recipe for Caramel Corn found in The Tightwad Gazette (Mom used to subscribe to it!).

Easy Homemade Caramel Corn

3/4 cups brown sugar (use white if you plan to use molasses in place of corn syrup)
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbsp. corn syrup (I used honey, though it gives it a distinct honey flavor if you do this - I bet molasses would work really well! edit: just made it and molasses works wonderfully!)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. vanilla
8 cups popped popcorn

Combine first four ingredients over low heat until butter is melted. Cook without stirring three minutes. Add baking soda and vanilla. Pour onto popcorn and mix until coated. Spread onto greased cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes at 300. Let it cool for a bit before digging in!

pattern drafting


pattern drafting.
pattern drafting.
pattern drafting.
pattern drafting.

I've been doing a lot of pattern drafting lately. I thought it would be good to get back to the basics and make some new slopers (pattern blocks). And since the last bodice sloper I made I lost somewhere I decided to sit down and just draft a whole new one. I have been using Modern Pattern Design by Harriet Pepin, published in 1942, for most of my drafting (along with a few other books). Although it is pretty old, it has such wonderful timeless information in it. I absolutely adore this book! I don't own it, but found out that Jed's university library carries it so I had him pick it up for me. But I also found this PDF download online for those who don't have access to the book. I highly recommend it if you are just learning or would like to learn how to draft patterns.

Having a well fitted sloper that fits your body measurements really is a good thing to have even if you don't ever plan to make your own patterns. I found this incredibly helpful tutorial on how to use your sloper to grade a pattern to your size. I tried it on a vintage pattern I have and it looks like it will work perfectly, just haven't had the time to make the dress yet! Taking your time to make the pattern fit before cutting out your garment will save you a lot of time in the long run, not to mention some hair pulling. ;) If there is anything I've learned from years of sewing it's that it never pays to rush or cut corners. And I might also suggest that if you do end up making a sloper, take your time with it. Test it over and over until you are truly happy with the fit. I ended up cutting out two or three sleeves until later realizing that the first sleeve actually fit, it's just that I didn't take the time at the start to cut it out and slowly assemble it.

In other sewing news, I am working on a new pattern for a few new garments for the shop. Yes, I am planning to open the shop soon! I thought it might be good to take a wee little break to work on pattern making for awhile. But stay tuned for an upcoming shop update!

{P.S. Another super pattern drafting book you might check out is "Make Your Own Patterns" by René Bergh. It's a little outdated (published in 1995) but still very helpful and gives clear instructions for drafting your own patterns.}

better homes & garden sewing book


better homes & garden sewing book
better homes & garden sewing book
better homes & garden sewing book
better homes & garden sewing book

I've been looking through my 1961 Better Homes & Garden Sewing Book a lot lately and finding some really fun illustrations throughout the book. Not to mention a lot of great sewing tips! I was lucky to find a copy at a thrift store for almost nothing. I like these old sewing manuals so much better than the modern ones. I find they have a lot more helpful, not to mention fun, descriptions in them. What are some of your favorite sewing manuals?

sunday morning breakfast.


sunday morning.
sunday morning.
sunday morning.
I don't know about you, but there is nothing like a weekend breakfast. I sometimes make something special for the end of the week (or beginning, however you look at it). It's especially comforting now that the seasons are changing and it's getting colder every day. Little things like baking more often or maybe just making another cup of coffee or tea is just what I need on a cold autumn day.

Someone asked for the recipe in the comments, so I'm adding it here. It's from my 1969 Better Homes & Garden Cookbook. However, I have another really really good cinnamon roll recipe, but will save that for a later date. Enjoy!

Makes 16 rolls

Basic Roll Dough (1/2 recipe)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup raisins

On lightly floured surface roll 1/2 recipe Basic Roll Dough to 16x8-inch rectangle.

Mix sugar and cinnamon; add butter. Spread over dough. Sprinkle with raisins. Roll as for jelly roll, starting with long edge; seal. Cut in 1-inch slices. Place, cut side down, in greased 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Cover; let rise in warm place till double, to 45 minutes.

Bake in preheated moderate oven (375 degrees F) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan. Frost with Confectioners’ Icing, if desired.

Add light cream (I used 1% milk) to 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar for spreading consistency. Add dash salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen rolls

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided use
I package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg

In mixing bowl combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast.

Heat milk, sugar, shortening, and salt together just till warm (115-120 degrees), stirring constantly till shortening almost melts. Add to dry mixture; add egg. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for 1/2 minute, scraping bowl. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. By hand, stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Shape into ball.

Place in lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease surface. Cover; let rise in warm place till double, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down; turn out on floured surface. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into desired rolls. Place on greased baking sheets or in greased muffin pans. Cover; let rise in warm place till double, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake in hot oven (400 degrees F) for 10 to 12 minutes.

weekend in iowa.


hanging out at the mall!
hanging out at the mall!
hanging out at the mall!
hanging out at the mall!
hanging out at the mall!
Last weekend Jed and I took the Greyhound bus headed towards Iowa City to hang out with Jed's family and celebrate Moriah's 21st birthday. We had such a lovely time in Iowa! And I must say it was really an easy and pleasant drive taking the bus. I was expecting all kinds of discomfort on the bus, but it was not bad at all. Plus we got super cheap tickets, like the cost of a tank of gas cheap! And that included two round trip tickets. I think we will be taking the bus again, that's for sure!

During the weekend, while Jed was off playing paintball, I met up with the lovely Jenny of Wiksten fame! We met once before when I lived in South Amana but we both haven't gotten around to posting pictures from that visit yet. That will happen in time, I'm sure. Anyway, we met at the mall (yeah, totally!) and walked around for hours talking. It was exactly what I needed to get my working groove back on! I have been in a bit of a slump where work is concerned lately. Just haven't had the energy to work on much. But Jenny gave me some great ideas and now I'm bursting to get back to being creative! She's such a down to earth fun person to talk with. It's nice to be able to meet and relate to others in the same field of work. And especially fun to meet bloggers you've been following for years. I'm so glad I've had the opportunity to get to know Jenny. She's a true inspiration!

rag curls!


rag curls
rag curls
rag curls
rag curls
{first two pictures before brushing/styling hair, last two pictures after styling and make-up. pardon the messy bedroom in the last picture!}

Last night I decided to attempt doing my hair up in rag curls. This is one method of curling I have not tried before. It turned out to be super easy and incredibly comfortable to sleep on. You kind of look ridiculous, but that is no big deal. I made myself look even more ridiculous by putting a hairnet on over the curls so they would stay in place better. Anyway, I didn't get a picture before taking the rags out, but you can see a great tutorial on how to do it over at Vixen Vintage. I did find, however, that 7" long rags work better for longer hair. The 5" length strips were almost too short. I think I used somewhere around 16 rags. Also, I have really thick hair, so I like to use a spray bottle filled with water to spritz my hair rather than dunking my head under water. :) Otherwise my hair will not dry in the morning and I hate it when that happens!

After I woke up, I left my hair in the rags a bit longer since I wanted to make absolutely sure the curls were totally dry before taking them out. You can always tie a pretty ribbon around your curls to keep them out of the way while you get breakfast! When styling my hair, I like to use just a tiny bit of argan oil rubbed between the palms of my hands. I first work it into the ends of my hair and then continue up to the top of my head, smoothing out any frizzies. It has worked really wonderfully ever since I discovered it last spring. Then I brush the curls out and away from my face, using my other hand to smooth out the hair while brushing. If you like, you can add a few bobby-pins to keep your hair out of the way.

I'm excited to see what my hair will look like tomorrow!

Note about my hairbrush: I use this brush by Sonia Kashuk and although I have never used the Mason Pearson brush before and can't say how good it is, Sonia's brush is amazing on my hair. Every now and then I will clean it by immersing it in a glass of warm water/baking soda solution and let it soak overnight. In the morning, just rinse it off with water and it's sparkly clean! I've had this brush for about two years now and can definitely recommend it!