In the recent spirit of my “Plan Less Sew More” pledge, I basically on a whim decided to make a dress that’s been floating around in my head for a year or more. In the spirit of The Quirky Peach’s summer stashbusting pledge, I finally cut into some lovely fabric from Michael Levine (the real store, not the Loft, gasp! from back when I thought I had to pay more than $2.50 a pound for fabric) that has been languishing in my stash for more than two years because I was afraid I would make it into something unworthy. And in the spirit of using whatever pattern has caught my fancy in the last few weeks (read: has not been put away yet), I decided to use as my base the indomitable Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono tee (previously hacked here, here, and here).

But this would be my greatest hack yet! I would make it into a cowl neck dress. Inspired perhaps by all the Myrtles showing up everywhere, I suddenly wanted a cowl dress with an elastic waist. I was reminded of this (no longer available) dress from Boden that has been in my inspiration file for a while, which has a contrast color wide elastic waist (and yes, basically an unaltered Kirsten for the bodice, but dammit I wanted a cowl neck), and I dug out the lovely striped fabric I’d been hoarding. I found the perfect contrast color in a beautiful merino knit I got at The Fabric Store in January, which I’ve been saving for cooler weather to make into a long sleeved cowl top (I decided I wouldn’t miss a few inches off one end of the piece). And chanting my “plan less” mantra for courage, I hacked away. And it worked!

kirsten cowl dress

First, the cowl. I knew it must be possible to convert a normal neck into a cowl neck, and indeed a casual googling turned up this diagram, originally from pattern-making.com, but now available on every sewing alteration pinterest board ever:

cowl neck alteration

Okay, seems straightforward enough. I traced the top of the Kirsten and made the cuts for the double drape cowl. It wasn’t at all clear to me if I was supposed to make a cut at the bust as in the diagram, but it turned out that I had to make a cut there (and a big one) to get everything to lay flat.

tee-to-cowl alteration

I then traced my slashed piece and added a facing to the top (it’s a straight line on the pattern piece, but when I cut out the fabric I curved it out about an inch more at center to give the facing more incentive to stay flipped to the inside). Sure looks like a cowl pattern to me:

kirsten cowl pattern piece

Just to make sure, I (gasp!) made a quickie muslin from some random knit and, yep, it was a cowl! The one thing that is not addressed in the diagram that I realized with the muslin is that using this method your shoulder seam ends up an inch shorter than on the original pattern, which means the front shoulder doesn’t match up with the back shoulder anymore. I wasn’t sure how to address this, so I just kinda futzed it in the cutting, adding a little to the sleeve of the front and shaving a little off the back sleeve. Knits aren’t fussy. But I don’t know what you should do in a woven fabric, or if you happen to have any desire for precision at all (I don’t, in case you couldn’t tell). At any rate, the resulting cowl is the perfect depth for me. Many of my commercial cowl patterns are of a slightly scandalous depth, but this one is modest without being choking.

kirsten cowl dress 2

For the skirt I wanted something with a little flare, not just a straight gathered skirt like from Vogue 1224 (which I’ve pirated before). I ransacked the pattern stash and came up with Simplicity 1810, a wardrobe pattern that I’m pretty sure I bought during my it’s-got-a-yellow-sample-picture-and-it’s-only-a-dollar pattern buying phase. The shape and fullness of the skirt looked just right. Of course, the pattern piece is an all-in-one bodice/skirt affair, so I traced the bottom half, freehanded a slightly curved line at the marked waist, and added a seam allowance to the top.

For the waistband, I measured the bottom of the bodice (19 inches) and the top of the skirt (23 inches) and split the difference, cutting two waistbands (front and back) that measured 21 inches long. I was using inch and a half elastic, so I made the waistband 2 1/2 inches tall (1/2 inch seam allowances). I didn’t want to use more merino than necessary, and I wanted to make the waistband a bit sturdier, so I cut waistband lining pieces from the main striped knit.

Construction-wise, because of the elastic waistband channel, I couldn’t leave the side seams ’til last like usual. I constructed the bodice (finishing the back neckline with a strip of merino turned to the inside and topstitched, because I like the pop of color at the back neck on the inside for just me to enjoy), sewed up the sides of the skirt, then attached bodice and skirt to the waistbands. I first sewed the side seams of both the waistband and the waistband lining (using a basting stitch for one of the lining seams, which I pulled out later to insert the elastic then sewed shut by hand), then placed the lining circle into the outer circle and stitched both as one first to the bodice and then to the skirt. The inserted elastic gathered the whole shebang up just the right amount.

kirsten cowl dress back

Now, as usual there are some sloppy hacking errors. The back bodice blouses out more that I might have liked, and the front is a bit too crumply too – I would probably have benefited from shortening the front and back bodices some, or figuring out how to make the cowl alteration work without adding that huge wedge at the bust. The skirt seems slightly higher in the back than the front, because I used the same pattern piece for both and my rear is quite a bit larger than my front, plus the waistband sits higher in back than in front. But overall I’m gonna call it a success. I feel strangely accomplished for kinda-sorta venturing into pattern making. I never cease to be amazed at the ways you can move ease around a plain ol’ bodice to make something that looks so different. I’m gonna want to cowl-ify all my bodices now.

This sort of dress is my bread-and-butter: appropriate for a variety of activities from work to evening out to vacation. The fabric is a heavy, very drapey knit with a super smooth hand and great recovery; I’m gonna guess viscose? (Ha, even though I bought it in a real fabric store I still have no idea what it is.) Whatever its provenance, it feels great to wear and I’m gonna wear the heck out of it. Thanks, random capricious whim, for making me make this dress so now it’s in my closet instead of my head!

I tend to be a planner. Some of this stems from the fact that I basically plan things for a living, and some from the fact that I have more time to daydream about sewing than I have time to actually sew. So I generally plan out pretty precisely what I’m going to make next. However, I’ve realized that the things I like best and tend to wear more are the things I made on the spur of the moment, right when the inspiration struck. So.

Last month I was planning on entering the PR Mini Wardrobe contest. I like this contest. I had a lot of fun with it when I entered it a couple years ago. I even had an awesome plan for an old school throwback wardrobe based around jean shorts and a bomber jacket, and I went so far as to make the shorts right at the beginning of the month to wear on the 4th of July. But then I didn’t make anything else. For weeks. I dinked around, read like 5 books, went to work, did not sew. I knew what I was going to make but I couldn’t get excited about any of it. And then, with the end of the month in sight and no realistic way I was going to squeeze in four garments including a bomber jacket, I thought, screw it. And I made the dress I actually wanted to make, instead of the things I thought I wanted to make.

knit lonsdale

This is a jersey knit Sewaholic Lonsdale. I’ve been wanting to try the Lonsdale in a knit for a while (knitify all the things!) and wanted to make it in this specific lovely striped bamboo jersey ever since the green colorway arrived on my front porch (upon which I went back to Girl Charlee and ordered it in yellow). The only thing keeping me from making it as soon as the fabric arrived and was washed was my grand plan to make other things. I can be very foolish.

I feel like the Lonsdale is calling out to be made in a knit. It’s got a casual summer vibe that I don’t think plays as easily with a nice woven fabric like a voile; i.e., I think this knit Lonsdale will be appropriate for more occasions than the lawn version I made a few years ago. Case in point: I wore this dress to a friend’s bridal shower and it felt totally appropriate for that event, but so would the woven version. Then after the bridal shower we went out to a pizza joint, and later in the day I wore it to a movie, both places the knit dress felt right for where the woven dress would have felt too fancy. Knit dresses for the win!

I basically didn’t modify the pattern at all for the jersey fabric. I omitted the zipper, obviously, but I kept the back seams in the bodice and skirt for shaping. Rather than the waistband that goes all the way around, though, I cut two waistbands, front and back, constructed the whole front and then back of the dress and sewed the side seams last for fitting, like I usually do for knit dresses. I made the waistband a bit taller than the pattern, but that’s just a personal preference. I also omitted the pockets, sadly, because that style of pocket is hard to make work in a knit. Oh, and I chopped 4 inches off the length (really! why is it so long?).

knit lonsdale back

I self-lined the bodice, and while I didn’t feel that stay tape or elastic was necessary in the front bodice, I did sew clear elastic to the seam allowance along the top of the back bodice for a little extra support. I maintained the loop-and-tie strap design of the pattern, although in the jersey the bow is a bit heavy and floppy. It would probably have been neater to just sew the straps into the back bodice and dispense with the tying, but I like the adjustability that provides to the front.

Size-wise, I suspect you’d want to go down a size from what you would make in a woven. I can’t be sure, though, because the woven version I made sadly doesn’t fit me anymore. I ended up cutting about a size larger than I made last time (just in the waist and hips, though, not the bust), because I thought I might have to go up almost two sizes to get it to fit in a woven again. I also shortened the bodice almost an inch because I remembered thinking the bodice was too long for me in the other version, and it turns out I could have shortened even a little more on the sides. I think this is less to do with the length of my torso (which is very average as far as I can tell) and more to do with the fact that Sewaholic’s patterns are drafted for higher armpits than mine. Putting the top bodice line where I want it under my arms puts the waistband too low, which makes the bodice blouse and wrinkle on the sides. This will likely not be a problem for you if the Renfrew top as drafted doesn’t cut off circulation to your arms the way it does to me.

knit lonsdale 2

Overall I like this dress. Some minor regrets: I wish I had played with the stripes a little, because I feel like this dress could use some chevron action. However, that would have required a lot more fabric and been more wasteful because of the shape of the bodice pieces with those looooong straps. Also, the skirt is an A-line rather than a full 1/2 circle, but I kind of wish I’d gone with a 1/2 circle, which I feel is more flattering on me. But if I’d taken the time to think about and make those changes, it wouldn’t have been the instant gratification project I wanted.

sew more

Which leads me to my new goal (for summer, at least): Plan Less, Sew More. I’ve been letting myself get bogged down in obsessive thinking and planning, at the cost of my mojo. At this point, I’d rather make whatever tickles my fancy than what is required for this or that contest or sewalong. That said, I don’t object when, by happy coincidence, I can have my cake and eat it too. I have almost unknowingly created a dress for Heather B’s Summer Sundress Sewalong. If this isn’t a sundress, I don’t know what is. Which is probably why it makes me so happy, and why it called me to make. it. now. (Even though our version of summer here is overcast with temps in the high 60s… sigh. I know, I know, but I’d trade any of you with regular ol’ 100 degree summer weather right now.)

And then, to further solidify my pledge to not plan anything, at 10pm the night before the bridal shower I decided this dress required a new purse. Something casual but not informal, sort of like the dress. Into my quilting cotton stash I went, pulling out an ancient Echino camera print fat quarter which I decided needed to be a foldover-style clutch/purse. It took me a bit of thinking to make a fold over style work with a directional print, but once I realized I could just turn it on its side the thing came together in about an hour. I used a blue zipper, because why not?

foldover clutch purse

And I lined it in orange, because again, why not?

foldover purse open

And I love it.

It’s basically a big zipper pouch, which there are a bajillion tutorials for online if you’ve never made one. My pieces were about 14 inches tall by 9.5 inches wide (that’s what worked with the fat quarter in the orientation I needed). I added little tabs with D-rings to each side at about 9 inches from the bottom to hold the strap and encourage folding over at that line. For the strap I doubled up a piece of ribbon I had and edgestitched it, attaching a small dog clip at one end so I can convert it from a shoulder strap to a wrist strap. Instant gratification again!

So here’s to sewing what you want, when you want. Now I’m off to stare at my stash and see what else is begging to be made!

I can’t even remember the last time I made a dress from just one pattern. I’ve always liked frankenpatterning, but lately I’ve really been treating my pattern stash as more of an ingredient list than a recipe book, with individual elements to be extracted and combined to make the item I have in my head. Here are a couple of my recent concoctions.

Along the lines of my actual-weather-appropriate sewing epiphany, I wanted to make a doubleknit dress with cap sleeves. I love my two sweatshirt dresses (doubleknit with tall midriff and short full-ish skirt), and wanted another one. I immediately thought of Vogue 8685, which I made in the pencil skirt version years ago (and is sadly too small now). That pattern does have a full-skirted version, but I didn’t want the weird skirt yoke or a circle skirt. I grabbed the skirt from Burda 7739 instead. I considered using the trusty midriff from Simplicity 2281, which I have used several times for various frankenpatterns, but I went with the one from the Vogue for matchings-sake. I created my own pleats in the skirt, both because I didn’t want two dresses with the same pleats and so I could make the skirt match up to the midriff.

vogue 8685 frank

And, well, it kind of worked. As sometimes happens with me on center-pleated or -gathered skirts, the skirt pulls funny to the sides, like I need the fullness distributed more towards the edges rather than all in the middle. This seems to be exacerbated by the presence of side seam pockets (which I couldn’t bring myself to take out because I really like pockets when the fabric is heavy enough to hold my phone). I think I need to cut a bigger size in the hips? Or a steeper curve in the skirt from waist to hips? Or to just abandon center-weighted fullness? For now I’ll just keep my hands in the pockets to mask the problem.

vogue 8586 frank 2

Because I made it in a solid fabric, I wanted to add some detail so I topstitched on either side of all the shoulder/raglan sleeve seams and on the top and bottom of the midriff. In an attempt to make a clean and easy neckline finish, I zigzagged skinny clear elastic to the wrong side of the neckline before I turned and topstitched it, but I could’ve done without – it’s a little gathery because I didn’t get the elastic tension quite right.

vogue 8685 frank back

The fabric is a nice very slightly variegated ponte I found on a bolt at the Michael Levine Loft earlier this year. I’m hopeful that because it’s not one of the usual pontes I see everywhere (Sophia Double Knit, I’m looking at you), it won’t have a big rayon content and so ideally will be more impervious to pilling. Just in case, I’ll try to mostly dry this dress flat rather than in the dryer, which I like to think helps delay ponte’s inevitable decline into a textured pilly mess.


Frankendress number two started, as they usually do, with a dress I saw at Boden a while ago. I liked the idea of a striped tank top dress with a chevron circle skirt. So off I went into the pattern stash. My trusty half circle skirt is from the Tiramisu pattern, and for the tank bodice I pulled out McCall’s 6109, which I made in the cowl variation a couple years ago and I absolutely love and wear all the time. I sort of used the midriff pattern to make the waistband, cutting it the same width but about half the height to get the narrower waistband of the inspiration.

mccall 6109 frank

The bodice I made as drafted, in the same size as my other version, but the tank view seems a bit shorter in the bodice than the cowl view. I also found the neckline too high and small. This was probably because the pattern instructs you to just fold over and stitch the neckline – I wanted a neckband, but I stupidly didn’t cut the neckline down at all to accommodate one. I ended up cutting off my first neckband and sewing on a fresh one, which brought the end result back to what was drafted (which I still find a little high and small). It’s also one of those deep scoop necklines that is really hard to get a flat neckband on. I should always remember to make neckbands with steep curves narrower than I’d like, so they’ll maybe actually lay flat.

mccall 6109 frank back

I hadn’t intended to make the bodice have vertical stripes, but when I went to lay out my fabric (a rare JoAnn purchase, which of course means that it’s already pilling and has taken on color from everything I’ve washed it with), I realized that it’s a vertically striped fabric with just two-way stretch, so vertical striped bodice it was. Luckily the direction of stretch doesn’t really matter in a circle skirt, so I still got my chevron front seam.

mccall 6109 frank skirt

As with most of my Frankencreations, I mostly am happy with the outcome but they’re not perfect. (Wait, that might be how I feel about all of my finished garments… but somehow it’s more personal with a pattern I assembled from assorted pieces.) The waistline on both dresses is slightly higher than I’d like it to be. Such is the danger with sticking a bunch of random pattern pieces together. I’m lucky in that I seem to be neither long- or short-waisted, and the big 5 patterns generally hit my waistline just right without adjustment. But something about the lazy mix-and-match I do throws that off slightly. I suppose I should make the effort to actually measure and check those things, eh?

Even imperfect as they are, I have a special place in my heart for all my Frankenbabies. I’ve already worn both these dresses a ton. I also made the bonus discovery that a circle skirt is fun to bounce in, when I wore the striped dress to a friend’s birthday party that had a bouncy house (yes, my friend is an adult, no, there were no children at this party, and yes, bouncy houses are absolutely for grown-ups too. So. much. fun.) BOUNCE!

frankendress in bouncy house

I realized recently that I don’t sew for the actual weather where I live. This could be because I’m simply in denial (“hey, I live in Southern California, summer should be hot!”) or I’ve fallen into the Seasonless Region Trap (“well, it’s technically summer on the calendar, even if it’s 60 degrees and not sunny”), but I am sewing for seasons we just don’t have here. I have in my closet a number of long sleeve dresses and tops, and a number of sleeveless dresses and tops, but I have relatively few dresses and tops with, for instance, some shoulder coverage – i.e., that are actually functional in the weather we have here most of the time. While all you other North Americans are having summer right now, we on the coast have Gloom. It’s not cold, but it’s not hot. The sun isn’t out when I get up, but is hidden above a thick layer of… something or other that is not rain clouds, not regular clouds, not fog, but is a depressing shade of gray that makes me sad, until it finally breaks anywhere between 11am and 5pm. In other words, not sundress weather. We get that in October. Or January. Coastal climates are weird.

So this year I’m trying to be more realistic. Luckily, I discovered the magic that is the Kirsten Kimono Tee. Not sleeveless, but not sleeved either. Warmer than a tank but still with a casual summery vibe. Let the hacking continue!

kirsten dress

This dress is based off a dress I spotted at Boden, of course. I’m realizing that waistbands are my friends in the figure flattery department, so I’m gravitating more toward waistbanded styles rather than the bags-tied-with-sashes or gathered-skirts-joined-directly-to-bodices that I’ve favored in the past. I knew this would be an easy hack. Waistband just a rectangle (in this case, about 3 inches tall). Skirt again borrowed from New Look 6122. But then I had to figure out how to make a gathered bodice…

I started with the Kirsten tee pattern, shortened to waist length (by the simple expedient of trying one of my existing tees on and measuring from the center neckline to my waist). Then I stared at it for a while. I wasn’t quite sure how to actually add gathers along the front waistline. In the end, I did what amounted to a Full Bust Adjustment. I never thought I’d say that on this blog! I knew what to do because I generally have to do the opposite. I slashed and spread, trying to concentrate my spreading at the bottom of the bodice rather than at the bust. Here is a terrible iPhone picture of what I did. I evened out the bottom hem by sort of splitting the difference.

kirsten gathered bodice

And, well, it basically worked… in the sense that if I had a full bust, there would be room for it now. If I stand up straight it looks okay, but if I slouch there’s a pretty big fabric puddle above the waistband. Any ideas out there about how to add gathers to the bottom of a bodice without making room for two or three additional busts? I’m fairly sure it’s not possible, since that is the point of gathers, but perhaps some of you are magical.

I didn’t adjust the back at all, and I still had to gather it a little to fit it to the waistband.

kirsten dress back

But all in all, I still like it. Kind of a lot. It’s basically just what I wanted. A casual but not too casual summery-feeling dress that isn’t so skimpy that I need a cardigan on a Gloomy morning.

The fabric is from Girl Charlee (ordered using my 9oz-or-more/designer-overstock rule). It’s a more vibrant turquoise and gray check than is evident in these pictures, taken as they were indoors on a typical Gloom-struck morning. I bought it because the bold graphic appealed to me, though I didn’t quite know what to make with it. I pulled it out when I thought of making this dress hack, and I think the simplicity of the dress helps tame the bold fabric. I will say that this is the second GC printed fabric I’ve bought that the color rubs off on everything. My hands were green by the time I finished this dress, and my white bike seat was smeared green when I arrived at work the first day I wore it. It doesn’t bleed, exactly, just rubs off like the dye on new denim. It doesn’t affect the look of the fabric, and in my experience stops after a few washes. The fabric is nicely stretchy and was super easy to work with (other than the green hands), and there’s a ton of it left in stock (and on sale!)

kirsten dress 2

So as we near the end of June, my eternal hope that the Gloom will lift springs, and my mind is drifting from practical weather-appropriate garments to shorts and tanks again. I managed to make one other shoulder-covered dress, but I’m afraid my resolve is crumbling and real sundresses are calling me… So I’m sure this odd little dress will get a lot of wear. Because I’ve lived here long enough to know that Gloom lasts until September, no matter how many sundresses I make.

I’m a garment spotter. The first thing I notice when I see a stranger is what they’re wearing, and if I like what they’re wearing I spend the time they’re in my sight trying to figure out how to make it. I do this everywhere. In restaurants, in line at the grocery store (lots of time to stare there), just walking down the street. It’s a great game. What patterns do I own/know of that I could frankenpattern into that garment?

This particular dress was inspired by one I spotted on a girl walking on the path near the beach as I rode my bike in the opposite direction, so I only glimpsed it for a second. But I immediately knew how I would make it. And further, unlike most of the things I play this game with, I really, really wanted to make it.

And when I realized I could attend the LA Sewist Meetup, I had an occasion to make it for. As a bicycle commuter working in a profession that largely involves moving large awkward pieces of furniture all over a stage all day, maxi dresses are not really an option for work wear. But what better than a halter maxi dress to wear to a luncheon with a gaggle of sure-to-be-well-dressed ladies in warm and sunny early summer Los Angeles?

Vogue 8380 maxi

I am kind of in love with the gathered-sack halter dress style. (Why doesn’t this neckline style have its own name? It’s not a true halter, really, but I guess that’s what you call it. Gillian was recently musing the same thing.) Vogue 8380 was the very first dress pattern I ever made, and last year I hacked it to copy a dress I spotted on a TV show. This hack is based on that hack. I used the front bodice piece from that hack (which is extended from the original pattern to go to the true waist rather than the empire waist), and I extended the original back pattern piece in the same way. The neckband I cut from the neck tie pattern, but only made it 25ish inches long because I didn’t want a tie. The waistband is again just rectangles 3 inches high and waist-sized. The skirt I bogarted from New Look 6122 (which I bought because it has several bodice variations I like, none of which I have tried yet) with the skirt cut down at the top to the waistline from the empire line. (Could I have drafted a maxi skirt with center gathers? Almost certainly. Did I feel the need to when somebody had already done the work for me? Nope.)

I just stuck it all together and hoped it would work out. Luckily gathers are your friend when frankenpatterning, so I just gathered the bodice and skirt to fit the waistband.

Because maxi dresses are generally pretty heavy, I used clear elastic when hemming the armholes (zigzag to wrong side, fold along edge of elastic, twin needle over, same as my usual crossover neckline technique) as well as inside the neckband (sewn into the seam) to provide as much support as possible to those little shoulders holding up all that dress.

Vogue 8380 maxi back

Let me talk about this fabric for a second. I. love. this. fabric. This was a Girl Charlee success story. I’ve gotten burned ordering from there in the past by thinner-than-I-thought knits, purchased before I understood what weight of fabric I really wanted. My tip: unless you want a sheer or burnout look fabric, don’t get anything that says it’s less than 10 oz weight. Especially if you want to use it for a skirt/dress. Also, buy everything they have labeled as “designer overstock score” or anything like that, it’s always fabulous. This fabric is a bamboo jersey with lycra that was described as a 10 oz “famous designer score”, and it is amazing. It’s so soft, and springy, and a pretty color, and striped, and just generally awesome. Also, it’s wide enough to make a halter maxi with just two yards. I bought this green one and a gray one too, and I liked it so much when it came that I went right back online and ordered it in two more colors. Yep. Go get some now before it’s gone! (Obviously I’m just telling you about it now after I got all I wanted.)

And after a long spring of buying fabric online without being able to touch it first, I was really excited to go gorge on fabric I could wrap myself in. Because the meetup was only scheduled to shop at The Fabric Store (with Mood still inexplicably closed due to earthquake damage), I made arrangements to hit the downtown fashion district the day before. Nhi, Sandra, Julianne and I made a huge dent in the Michael Levine Loft striped jersey supply, I can tell you that. We also hit the FIDM store and a few of the strange these-zippers-have-been-here-for-decades type shops typical of the fashion district. And let me tell you, the only thing that makes digging through giant piles of fabric of dubious origin more awesome is doing it with other sewists!

LA Sewists!

And hooo boy, other sewists there were aplenty at the meetup on Saturday! It was so cool to discover how many of us there are in Southern California (for a while I was pretty sure there were more sewing bloggers in New Zealand than in California… I still think it’s pretty close.) We occupied a very long table plus some at the cafe, and then we swarmed The Fabric Store, where their huge table in the front of the store was barely long enough for the piles of patterns and fabric people brought to swap. All the fabric I brought found new homes (I’ll be excited to see if any of it pops up as a garment anywhere!) and I picked up a couple patterns and one nice piece of oatmeal slub jersey. Then in the giveaway I won my choice of any Deer and Doe pattern! I chose the Centaurée, which I’ve been eyeing since it was released. It’s winging its way to me from France as I type, and I’m going to see if I can make it up in a knit, obviously. Thank you so much to Erin, JillLaurie and Kathy for all your work organizing this meetup! And thank you to all the generous pattern designers who donated patterns to the (extensive) giveaway! I can’t wait to get my Centaurée (and put my college French to the test with the French version of the instructions…) I had a great time at The Fabric Store meeting folks and talking fabric. It’s a beautiful store, and actually a great place to hang out and chat – here’s Nhi and Juliane hanging at one of the tables. It’s like an awesome fabric bar – they just need some fancy cocktails…

at the fabric bar

I only bought two pieces myself, surprisingly restrained (and I’m pretty sure they happened to be the two least expensive fabrics in the store, my bill was only $16!). So, what did my whole trip net me?

LA haul June 14

Across the bottom are my two Fabric Store purchases – a stretch denim and a mushroom colored viscose jersey. Above that on the right are the two pieces from FIDM – a gray stripe jersey and a lovely drapey pink jersey that feels like upscale yoga top fabric (the Pneuma Tank is calling its name…) On top is my swap snag, the oatmeal jersey. And all the rest is my haul from the Loft – so many stripes! My favorites are the neon pink and gray stripe doubleknit, several awesome variegated stripe jerseys, and on the top left, a weird quilted-y fabric of mysterious origin, which reminded me of Tasia’s recent quilted skirt. I also scored an assortment of fold-over elastic in various colors and prints and a long purple zipper for the project I spent hours coverstitching at Nhi’s.

Yes, the amazing Nhi was kind enough to let me stay overnight (as she is located closer to LA than me), and doubly kind to let me occupy her coverstitch machine for most of the night. I hemmed the maxi dress to start, then coverstitched the heck out of a knit hoodie/jacket I’m making (more on that soon). And, obviously, I want a coverstitch machine now.

I got to enjoy Nhi’s awesome sewing room in her new house, and of course I also had to use her backyard vineyard (seriously – the previous owners were so obsessed with wine that they planted a vineyard) for a dress photo op.

vineyard maxi op

Hmmm, are these grapes ready yet?

mmmm...grapes

Inexplicably I kept posing like I was smelling the grapes, but that makes very little sense, of course. I am the. worst. at photo posing. Sandra, on the other hand, is a natural with bizarre props (never mind that the wheelbarrow is almost entirely obscuring the object of the shoot, the fabulous red jeans):

wheelbarrows are fun

I had an amazing time all in all last weekend – it was so fantastic to hang out with awesome people I can talk to about not only sewing, but also life, and work, and food, and pets, and anything and everything. I’m so grateful that this weird little hobby of mine and the weird giant internet has connected me with great friends I would never have encountered otherwise. Let’s do it again soon!

Sometimes, most times, the things I make have been rolling around in my head for months, even years, just waiting their turn patiently to go from idea to garment. But sometimes, out of nowhere, a garment latches on to me suddenly and won’t let go until I make it happen already. That was the case with this blazer.

indie outfit

When I saw the announcement of Sewing Indie Month, I knew I wanted to participate, and I perused all the participating designers’ patterns, but nothing immediately called out to me until I was cruising fabric.com (as though I needed any new fabric), and a striped doubleknit practically jumped out of the screen and shouted “I’m a Victoria Blazer!” And that was that. I ordered the fabric (and a plain black ponte for the collar and cuffs), popped on over to the By Hand London site to buy the pattern, and… it was out of stock. But boy, that blazer had sunk its teeth in me and was not letting go. That ponte was going to be a Victoria, dammit! So I stalked the BHL site for a week or so, becoming more desperate each day, and I was about to put a plea out for someone to loan me their pattern when: poof, back in stock. I ordered it immediately and hoped the transatlantic shipping wouldn’t take too long…

While I was waiting I put together an outfit to go with the blazer, figuring it would be fun to enter the Indie Love Affair category. Surfing through all the indie pattern sites, I was reminded that I’d wanted to make Dixie DIY’s Movies in the Park Shorts since they came out, but back then I was afraid to make anything with a crotch. But not anymore! I knew I had a cool graphic black and white print in the stash that could work with the striped ponte. Then I had to find a nice colorful top to complete the look – enter the Kirsten Kimono Tee, colorblocked of course, because I can’t leave well enough alone. I’d finished the shorts by the time the Victoria pattern landed in my mailbox, and then I put together the top and the blazer in about a week. Outfit complete with time to spare! Deadlines are my best motivators.

indie outfit side


 

I’ll start with the blazer. I knew I would have to make some changes to the way it was put together because I was using a knit. Initially I thought I would line it with a knit lining, but the one I ordered was both too thin and not quite the color I was imagining. So I hit on the idea (thanks to Dixie, actually) of sewing down the lapel/collar seam allowances with bias tape in a bright color. I knew no amount of pressing would tame those seam allowances. Luckily on the cropped version of the blazer the lapels go to the hem, so they would hide the line of stitching holding the bias tape in place.

victoria blazer insides

After some not insignificant amount of consideration, I decided to unfold the bias tape and sew it to the seam allowances along its first fold, raw edges matched. Then I folded the bias tape around the seam allowances and stitched the whole shebang to the shell of the blazer.

victoria bias tape finish

It’s not perfect, but I like the little pop of color on the inside. All the rest of my seams I left unfinished, just trimmed and pressed open. I could have serged them, but somehow I liked the look of pressed open better – like a hong kong finish without all that pesky finishing. I also created a hem facing, because I wanted a deep hem – if I was going to topstitch the hem I wanted to make a statement with it – and I thought a facing I could understitch would make a neater hemline than a turned-under hem. The hem facing is just a strip of fabric as long as the hem and about 2 inches tall. I stitched the rest of my bias tape to the top of the hem facing; as a knit it doesn’t need a finish but I liked the extra line of color. I think the weight of the hem facing helps with the drape of the back too.

victoria blazer back

I narrowed the bottom of my lapels using the quirky peach’s tutorial – I like the more traditional blazery look of the narrowed lapels. I understitched the new seam that created to try to keep the sharp edge of the lapels. The collar is just folded as per instructions, but this ponte pressed fairly well and the collar behaves. However, as expected, in the knit these lapels have a mind of their own. I tacked down the corners closest to the center front (basically making little bar tacks the width of the bias tape on the inside) on the top and bottom of each lapel, but the middle of one lapel still wants to flop open. Ah well, let’s just say it contributes to the casual vibe of the blazer.

victoria blazer

This pattern comes together really fast and easily (with the possible exception of my bias tape interior finish). I do think it works in a doubleknit, even if it’s a bit floppy. It’s probably the comfiest blazer ever. I made a straight size US8/UK12 based on my bust measurement and the knowledge that it’s got a lot of swinginess to it. At first I wasn’t totally sold on the voluminous back, but that’s the style, and the knit drapes fairly well so it’s not too tenty. It’s actually a really cool pattern, and while it’s not obviously my kind of thing, I’m glad my subconscious or whatever made me make it because I like it. I might even make another one, in a woven with a proper lining and lapels that stay put on their own.


Moving on to the shorts: I’d purchased this strange waffly woven fabric right when I started sewing, with the intention of making a pencil skirt (remember, early fear of crotches). I never got around to the skirt, though, which I’m starting to learn is my subconscious’ way of telling me a fabric is actually going to be more perfectly suited to a different pattern or type of garment in the future. As soon as I thought of making the MitP shorts, I thought of this fabric. And oh, I went back and forth for a while about using a crazy bright color bias tape to finish the edges, but in the end the fear of only being able to wear the shorts with one color of top made me opt for safe black trim, with white buttons.

movies in the park shorts

The pattern is pretty fab. No fly means they go together in a snap (with the exception of having to sew on 12 buttons…), and the fitting can be fine tuned at the end when you overlap and sew the sides. This is my first non-Thurlow pant-type item, though, and I was worried they wouldn’t fit over my… generous backside. After comparing the pattern pieces to the Thurlow shorts, this was confirmed. The front looked okay, but the back center seemed way too low. So I made what is basically a big butt adjustment (BBA?) following this diagram from the Colette site. I slashed and spread the back piece as follows (I later filled in the holes with more paper, but I took the picture first to better show how I spread):

shorts BBA

I cut a size large, except I cut the medium back crotch curve, as I have to scoop that curve out even in the Thurlow pattern. I probably could have made a medium all over, and there would have been less side overlap, but I was playing it safe (and I like my shorts on the roomy side). I feel like the back fit is really good – hooray for the BBA! The front crotch is not as perfect, but I’m not sure what I should do about it. Perhaps I need a deeper front curve as well.

movies in the park shorts back

The bias tape finish went on surprisingly easily. Before I bound the edges but after I made the pockets and attached the waistband, I fused a strip of interfacing to the back along the buttonhole lines to reinforce them. I made the buttonholes vertical as called for in the pattern, except for the waistband buttons which I made horizontal for durability and ease of use.

shorts buttonholes

I can get the shorts on and off with just the waistband unbuttoned, actually, but I made the top two buttons on each side functional just in case. I left the bottom four buttonholes on each side closed, then stitched the front and back together with a straight machine stitch through the center of each unopened buttonhole before sewing the buttons on top. I felt like this was safer than having the shorts held on my body simply by my poorly-hand-sewn buttons…


Completing the outfit is another Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono tee. I had this teal fabric in stash, left over from this dress, but I didn’t quite have enough for a whole shirt – colorblocking to the rescue! The gray is a mystery remnant given me by Ms.McCall last summer (most of which I used to make a top for my mom for Christmas). I color blocked both the front and back pieces this time, again folding the pattern at the first paper seam to create the two pieces. I made the neckband in the teal because that fabric is so much stretchier than the gray, and also because if I have the opportunity to make a contrast anything, I will take it.

IMG_0373

I’m pretty happy with how this outfit turned out. And as much as I like the pieces together, the best thing is that they are all pieces that I can, and will, wear with other things. Plus it was really fun to comb through a ton of indie pattern catalogs and see what all is out there. And I can tell you, it’s all of it more fun and interesting than anything the Big 5 pattern companies are coming out with lately. So even though the “official” Sewing Indie Month is over, I can say that I plan to keep sewing indie all summer – my desktop is currently littered with pdf patterns I’ve downloaded in the last month from all kinds of independent designers, not just the ones participating in this particular contest. Although I despise printing and assembling pdf patterns, there’s just too many good ones out there to justify avoiding it any longer. So thank you to all you designers out there, for taking the time to share your innovative ideas with us! If you’re interested in checking out more indie patterns, there’s a huge list of companies here and another here. Be prepared for a time-suck of massive proportions when you dive into these lists. But you’re sure to find something unexpected that will latch on to you and demand to be made!

Free t-shirt patterns make the world a better place.

I am not one of those people who can work without a pattern. My brain just isn’t able to wrap itself around free-form drafting (that’s why Project Runway continues to amaze me), and I honestly don’t own any garments that fit well enough to rub off. At the same time, I feel silly buying a pattern for something as simple as a t-shirt. Enter free t-shirt patterns, my new favorite thing. I’m accumulating a good collection of them: the Cation dolman tee, the scoop top, the Plantain, and now the lovely Maria Denmark‘s Kirsten Kimono tee.

I’d been vaguely aware of this pattern floating around the internets for a while, but Sewing Indie Month really made me check it out and finally download it. I knew it would be the perfect staple top for the outfit I was putting together for the Indie Love Affair contest (more on that soon!) But it sews up so fast, I might as well make up a couple more while I’m at it…

And of course, what’s a t-shirt but a blank canvas? I’m somehow never satisfied with making up a plain ol’ shirt, so obviously I had to hack it a little. After I “muslined” it (as though it needed one) by making a plain one for my mom for mother’s day, I decided to play with some colorblocking. I had recently seen this tee at Boden (one of my favorite clothing companies for inspiration) and I happened to have some similar fabrics in stash. A few hours later I had an awesome t-shirt!

colorblocked kirsten kimono tee

Colorblocking this pattern couldn’t have been easier. My first attempt at colorblocking a dolman tee ended as a wadder because I guessed at the proportions and got them all wrong. You really need the dividing line to hit above the bust for maximum flattery, which on a dolman top means that, yes, the line will continue onto the sleeve. (On my disaster version I tried to put the line under the sleeve, which placed the line right across my bust, and it was like a Starfleet uniform gone wrong. Trust me on this one.) But on the Kirsten tee pattern there happens to be a paper seam (from assembling the pdf) that falls exactly at the most flattering place for the dividing line to be. Happy accident or smartest pdf layout ever? No idea, but it’s brilliant. When I cut my fabric, I simply folded my pattern piece along the top paper seam to cut out my two pieces (adding a seam allowance by eyeballing). I kept the back all striped, as the inspiration top is. Business in the back:

colorblocked kirsten back

Party in the front!

colorblocked kirsten front

I love the addition of the smaller-stripe pocket. I wish I’d had some yellow and white stripe fabric in stash (it seems like I should have…), but the little bakers’ twine stripe works well too. I “drafted” the pocket piece myself (meaning I cut a rectangle about the size of a pocket) and placed it where I thought it worked best.

I think these colors together are really fun. It’s got a summery watermelon thing going on that I love. Here’s an up-closer look that shows (sort of) that I twin-needled the hem (hmm, somewhat wonkily, I see now) in pink thread and topstitched the pocket in mint. (Plus this is a truer representation of the colors than the other photos – I’m still trying to figure out how to take good indoor pics…)

colorblocked kirsten closeup

So, obviously, this is a great pattern. It’s free when you sign up for Maria Denmark’s newsletter (which is actually full of useful tips and is not just an ad for her patterns). Do note that there are no seam allowances included – a problem I neatly solved by cutting my pattern pieces out in the size large for the top I made my mom, and added seam allowances by eyeball when I cut that one out (while I still remembered I had to do so), then on subsequent tops for me I just cut right on the large line without adding seam allowances (basically resulting in a size medium). I always cut the largest size’s length, because I like long tops, and also so I don’t have to remember to add the hem allowance.

This tee is super easy and goes together from cut to hem in just a couple hours. I’m glad Sewing Indie Month got me to finally check it out! So this is my entry into the Pattern Hacking category. And hey, even though it’s the last day of the month, there’s still time to grab this pattern and make a quick tee for the contest… or just because, you know, it’s great to support indie pattern designers no matter what month it is!

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