Monday, January 9, 2017


I've been really inspired by everyone's #2017makenine's on Instagram! I like the idea of focusing my next year of sewing around a few patterns that I know will fill gaps in my wardrobe. Some of them will also challenge me to improve my sewing skills! Of course, other makes will find their way into my queue when I'm inspired by a pattern or fabric or event, but I'd like to prioritize these makes given my limited sewing time. Here they are:

As you can see, I have included a mix of Indie and Big 4 patterns. Many of the patterns have been highly reviewed on blogs I trust, but some have simply been pulled from my pattern library. From top left, they are:

(1) Butterick 5526 button-up collared shirt: Inspired by the amazing Lauren and her collection of B5526's. I'd like to have a go-to tailored shirt pattern. I want to make this in a navy blue polka dot fabric as well as a turquoise plaid.

(2) Simplicity 2446 Amazing Fit jacket: I want to make a jacket, pants, and skirt in matching black wool suiting from Vogue Fabrics. Perfect for mixing and matching for professional talks/interviews/etc.

(3) True Bias Ogden cami: I've seen so many beautiful versions in the blogosphere! I have at least 2 versions planned, one in navy blue flowered rayon and one in brown rayon.

(4) Simplicity 2154 vintage suit: This will provide the pencil skirt for the black suit. I selected the pattern after snooping around Scruffy Badger's blog. I may also use the jacket pattern for a black Chanel-inspired jacket. And maybe that bow blouse...

(5) In the Folds Acton dress: Not sure which fabric I will end up using! Fleurine, Helen, and Caroline each used a different fabric, and all are beautiful.  

(6) McCalls 5400 two-piece bathing suit: One of my New Year's resolutions is to learn how to sew swimwear! I was looking for a two-piece with simple style lines, and Rachel's post convinced me this pattern is worth trying.

(7) Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt: I have a lovely gray woolen plaid in my stash (I have no idea where I got it) that will be perfect for a long winter version of this skirt.

(8) McCalls 3128 high-waisted pants: I found this 1970s vintage pattern on Ebay. Excited to see how these turn out as part of my suit.

(9) Closet Case Ginger skinny jeans: Another one of my goals for the year is to learn how to sew jeans! I got Heather's Sewing Your Own Jeans Ebook to go with her pattern.

Looking forward to a more focused year of sewing, with some new techniques and new wardrobe basics by the end of 2017!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Frocktober No. 1

Inspired by Froctober on The Monthly Stitch, I made two dresses on my Fall 2016 Makes wish list. The first is Vogue 8766, view D. Vogue describes it as a lined dress with a fitted, sleeveless, underlined bodice, French darts, and a scooped neckline.

You can see the style lines well in this drawing:
I used a cotton fabric purchased at The 15th Annual World's Largest Textile Garage Sale. The dates for 2017 are already on my calendar! This is an awesome awesome event. The fabric feels like a quilting cotton, so a bit thin for a fall dress. However, the bodice is underlined, which adds to the warmth (not to mention decreasing wrinkling, with the heavy cotton blend that I chose to use). I intend to wear this dress with sweaters, cardigans, and tights for the next few months. The rich jewel tones are so cozy for a fall/winter wardrobe! 

I used size 6 at the bust grading to 10 at the waist and hips. I thought I could get away without a toile, but this was a poor decision. I had to use a 3/4 inch seam allowance at the bust and 3/8 inch seam allowance at the waist! The bodice was also too short, so I added a waistband cut on the bias (to avoid pattern matching and because it looked awesome). Lesson learned: a toile of the bodice for a new pattern is always indicated! (Although I really like the waistband, so I'm kind of glad I made this mistake.) I added some tucks on the front of the bodice--I think it gives it a vintage feel:

Since this was intended to be winter appropriate, I had originally planned to make view F, with the 3/4 length sleeves. However, the bodice for both sleeved and sleeveless versions was the same, so, not surprisingly, I did not have enough ease to move my arms easily! Here it is on my old dressform, Ms. Blueberry, before I took the arms off the dress:

I wanted a clean, demi-couture finish on the inside, so I turned the seam allowances under and hand-stitched them to the underlining. I don't know if there is a special name for this technique! The neckline and armholes were finished with bias binding made from the fashion fabric. The waistband is interfaced with a lightweight fusible interfacing (Pro-Woven Light Crisp Fusible Interfacing) as well as a stiff interfacing (Pro-Woven Super Crisp Fusible Interfacing), then hand-sewed on the waistband lining after ironing under the seam allowances (per the "Couture Waistband" instructions in The Dressmaker's Techniques Bible). 

I used a dark red invisible zipper purchased from Joann Fabrics. So proud of my pattern matching at the back!


The lining for the skirt was Ambiance Bemberg rayon in Cardinal. I chose the color based on my Vogue Fabrics swatch card, but was able to find the right color at Joann Fabrics and avoid the cost of shipping (my local Joann's is hit or miss in their color supply for Ambiance). The lining was hemmed by machine, but I used lace hem tape for the skirt and made a 1.5 inch hem by hand, rather than the narrow hem recommended in the pattern. I know some people find lace hem tape to be "Becky Homecky", but I love it! It reminds me of homemade dresses and skirts I had as a child. There was a disaster when I was trimming off the extra hem after sewing on the hem tape. I make a large cut several inches above the fold of the hem! I was not about to make the dress any shorter. I used Pro-Sheer Elegance Light Fusible Interfacing to hold the cut together from the inside and applied Fray Check to avoid any loose threads from the outside. The repair is pretty subtle (especially down at the hem) and I'm hoping it will continue to look good after washing!

Here it is from the side:

And with a sweater, as it's being worn in the winter! I think it's probably easier to layer without those 3/4 length sleeves. (I really do have legs--the navy blue tights are just blending into the dark floor!)

I'm happy with this dress--a nice project to follow the failure of my denim Ginger skirt! Next up, my #2017make9, then another dress from Frocktober (I am a couple months behind in posts!)

Sunday, December 25, 2016


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A Tale of Two Pouching Pockets

I had high hopes for this make, but I'm not pleased about how it turned out! I used the Ginger pattern, version 1, from Colette Patterns and indigo denim fabric from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL. I'm not sure which denim it is--it's pretty heavy, with minimal stretch and minimal recovery. That might have been the source of some of my issues.

I interfaced the denim for the waistband to support the center point, but used fabric from an old skirt for lining the waistband to prevent it from getting too thick. I used the same fabric to add in-seam pockets.

I finished all the exposed seams with a 3-thread overlock stitch to prevent fraying. I topstitched using normal thread in a double thickness. I wanted something more subtle than the usual gold or yellow topstitching usually used with denim, since I wanted to be able to wear this skirt in a more professional setting. I combined navy thread and a brighter blue thread for a bit of contrast, and I like the way it turned out! The hem was turned over twice and topstitched.

I think that the bottom of the skirt--especially in the back--sticks out in a funny way. The skirt wrinkles quickly and obviously. Finally, the pockets pouch out and interfered with the smooth line of the side seam.


As you can tell by these pictures, I am several months behind on blog posts! I had hoped that a few washes would help things hang better, but this doesn't seem to be the case. If anything, it's gotten worse:

I think that by taking in all the seams and making the skirt less A-line, it might hang better. Perhaps this fabric is just not right for a Ginger skirt! I have about 1.5 yards of the fabric left--I plan to wash it a few more times and find a more structured pattern without any bias-like seams (if I bring myself to try again).

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

T-shirts Galore!

Over the past couple months, I've added a few knit tops to my wardrobe. I've been working on perfecting the fit. After I started trying to fit these tops, I started looking critically at my RTW knit tops, and was surprised at how few of them actually fit me. Looking at fit on others wearing knit tops, I don't think RTW is actually designed to fit anyone--more like just not fit too badly.

First, I make a Sewaholic Renfrew in size 6, view B. I basted using a long stitch on my sewing machine, then used my serger for the final seams. I used fabric from several old pieces of clothing for color-blocking. I love mustard yellow, but I'm not sure it looks that great close to my face, so this was a good way to incorporate that color! I had to add a center back seam to fit my pattern onto the fabric I had, and I really like the way it looks. I ended up taking the shoulder seams by about 3/8" and taking the side seams in a bit as well, so I decided to make a size 4 the next time I used the pattern.

Next, I tried a free pattern, Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick Tonic Tee. This fit me best in an XS. I used some blue and white-striped bamboo knit that I bought from Vogue Fabrics in Chicago in the spring. The fabric is so beautifully soft  but was not very easy to work with, at least not for someone so inexperienced with knits. I cut on a single layer to try to match the stripes at least a bit (and failed miserably), and I used a small rotary cutter, which was extremely helpful (not an affiliate link!). For this one, I also used some clear elastic in the shoulder seams for more support.

To try the Renfrew in size 4, I used an XXL T-shirt rescued from the thrift store. The fabric is a lovely light gray heather, is very comfortable against the skin. I cut a size 4, view B. Instead of using bands at the sleeves and waist, I hemmed them with a twin needle and woolly nylon in the bobbin. I did get some tunneling with this--next time I will try adjusting the bobbin tension or invest in some knit stay tape. Although the fit feels fine when I'm wearing it, it seems a bit tight under the armpits--though it seems not very noticeable in these photos.

Finally, I drafted a boat-neck knit top using the body of the Renfrew, the sleeve cap of the Tonic, and the neck and shoulders of a very old shirt from Old Navy that fit me the best out of all my fitted knit tops. I used a red and white striped cotton knit from Joann Fabrics, which doesn't seem to be available anymore (at least not online). The top is inspired by a Breton shirt. If you are interested in a bit of history or a commercial or indie pattern suitable for your own Breton shirt, Julie of Jet Set Sewing has a lovely post on the topic. I cut the neck band on the bias, to break up the stripes a bit. My husband tells me that it fits well, but that I look like a candy cane or Waldo (thanks for taking the photos, dear!). The sleeve bands gave me quite a bit of trouble with making sure the stripes matched up reasonably well, but I finally wrestled them into submission! The next time I make a knit top with stripes, I will either skip the sleeve band (as I did for the Tonic) or cut it on the bias, as I did for the neck band, with good results. I did a better job on matching the stripes on this one than I did on the blue/white T.

I would recommend either of these patterns to a knit beginner. They give instructions for using a sewing machine, but until I got a serger I was never brave enough to try sewing knits--maybe some of you are!

Fall is finally here in Minnesota--it was late in coming this year. My next make is a denim skirt, which will be perfect with tights and a sweater. I love this season!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jeanius Jumpsuit

Until I started reading sewing blogs about 6 months ago, I never even considered sewing my own jeans, and I certainly would never have considered wearing a jumpsuit, let alone a denim jumpsuit. Now, having been influenced by some inspirational ladies (especially Lauren of Lladybird and Marcy of Oonaballoona) I took the plunge. Portia's Refashioner's 2016 Jeanius Challenge was the final tipping point; a jean jumpsuit now seemed an absolute necessity.

I bought two large pairs of dark wash denim jeans at a Goodwill in early September; I know a lot of folks have been mixing different washes but I wanted my jumpsuit to be one solid color. They match pretty well, considering they are different brands. There is a difference in shade if you look closely, but not one that I find bothersome (unfortunately, I lost the "before" picture of the jeans, but one makes up the top and the other the bottom of the jumpsuit). I pinned a few looks on a Pinterest board, then used NewLook 6446 as a design starting point. Other than the used jeans and the NewLook pattern, I only used stash supplies.

I started with the pants, since they were the scariest portion. I kept the fly intact, but unpicked the waistband, side seams, and inseams. I based the hip and thigh shape on a pants sloper that was an August make (Vogue 1003), then pinned on the jeans on myself to get the final shape that I wanted. Unlike NewLook 4664, there are no darts at the leg waist, since the jean material had a decent amount of stretch. I cut just inside the pockets for the front, then modified the NewLook front hip pocket pattern using remnants from a cotton shirt for the pocket bags. This fabric came from my grandma's stash--the shirt had already been cut in pieces and partly used for other projects. There was enough left to make the pocket bags and a facing for the top band on the bodice.

The seams were finished with a 3-thread overlock stitch on my serger, and topstitching was done using gold topstitching thread in my stash (also inherited from my grandma) that matched the topstitching on the fly and back pockets. I used regular thread in the bobbin--this is the first time I have used different weight thread on the top and bottom, and it turned out much better than previous attempts to use topstitching-weight thread on both sides.

I sewed the crotch and the inseam and topstitched, leaving the side seams open to sew in one fell swoop with the bodice, as well as leaving the back seam open a good 6 inches to allow for back zipper insertion. The fit in the legs seemed reasonable at this point, so I worked on putting together the bodice. I drafted new pattern pieces for both front and back bodice from NewLook 4664, completely eliminating the waist dart in the back and significantly decreasing it in the front. This was partly to avoid bulk, but also to work within the limitation of the width of fabric in 2nd pair of jeans.

I was pretty pleased with the basted fit of the bodice, so sewed the front and back bodice pieces to their respective leg pieces, then sewed up the side seams. The legs I kept as wide as I could within the limitations of the jeans. Unfortunately, I had trouble with twisting of the lower legs once I got the top portion fitted perfectly. The inseam twisted out to the front of my leg by the time it reached my foot. After looking through lots of sewing books and blogs, I decided that the issue was not in the leg but in the butt fitting. Of course I did not figure this out until the bodice was attached and the seams were serged! I detached the back bodice and undid the side seams (at least these were basted), pulled the back leg pieces up significantly in relation to the front pieces, then sewed the legs back together. Much better! Pants fitting is still a bit of a mystery to me--the three-dimensional shape of the pelvis and how fit there is translated to the lower limbs is kind of crazy. I'm looking for books to add to my library on this subject. Pants for Real People by Patti Palmer seems like the best option.

Now I had a new problem: the front and back waist seam were at different heights, and the back patch pockets were very high on my butt. I considered adding a strip of fabric as a waistband to disguise the difference in seam heights, but decided that I liked the funky look, and would highlight the mistake design feature with topstitching. I also considered lowering the patch pockets, but the fabric underneath was significantly darker, so I decided the high positioning was also a "design feature." Sometimes better is the enemy of good, right?

I inserted a simple slot seam zipper using a bright pink zipper removed from a thrifted pillow (bought for the cushion, not the cover) that picked up the pink in the pocket bags. I like the way the zipper pull peeks out and provides some contrast. I sewed on the straps exactly per the pattern, then cut a front facing and some bias strips from the pocket bag fabric for the top of the bodice, rather than inserting a full bodice lining as suggested (the bodice certainly did not need any more bulk).

I added as much topstitching as I could--I only had 12 inches of topstitching thread left on the spool when I was done, so that was the limiting factor! I'm pretty pleased with how these turned out. I learned a ton about pants fitting, worked on my topstiching technique, used up a few stash items, and made something lovely out of a couple pairs of unloved jeans. Thanks for the challenge, Portia!