Monthly Archives: December 2011

I must at last admit defeat… at least where fall sewing is concerned. I managed to complete four (hmmm, seems like it should be more than that) of my planned nine fall items, which is, well, pretty good for me I guess! I also did make a couple unplanned things too (and a big tutorial!), so I’m okay with moving on to real winter sewing. But here is my last fall piece, and it’s totally the most fall-y of all:

Simplicity 2758

It’s Simplicity 2759, the plaid circle skirt I wanted to make last fall and ran out of time. Well, it wasn’t going to escape me this year! (Even it that meant completing it the week before Christmas…) I cut the skirt out the day after Thanksgiving, since the table was at its biggest and cleanest, but didn’t start sewing it for a few weeks after that. It’s a very simple skirt, with just two pattern pieces (skirt front/back and one-piece waistband), but I was determined to make the plaid matching immaculate, so I took my care (and time) cutting it out. It turned out that I wasn’t quite as precise as I thought I’d been, and I had to take a larger seam allowance on the back piece on one seam to get the alignment right, which made the skirt a smidge smaller than I’d have liked (it sits a little above my waist right now, hopefully it’ll fit lower when I rid my house of all the holiday goodies…), but looking at the pictures now I’m pretty pleased with it (and my plaid matching!) The pattern as drafted/illustrated has the seams at the sides, but as several people on PatternReview pointed out, you can just wear it with the seams at front and back to showcase the way the plaid comes together, which I much prefer.

The fabric is a wool/silk blend from FFC last year, and I picked up some kind of nice non-static lining fabric in navy at Michael Levine in LA last January to go with it. The pattern doesn’t call for a lining, so I winged it. I looked around the internets for a technique for lining a skirt with an invisible zipper and a waistband with an overlap and hook closure like this one, but I didn’t find anything. I sort of used the Slapdash Sewist’s method, skipping the first step, so I just sewed the lining to the zipper tape but not the skirt top. Then I attached the waistband to the skirt and lining as one, enclosing the seam allowance with the waistband facing as instructed. It worked out well enough; there’s some extra lining fabric around the zipper that won’t quite lay flat, but lining fabric is so thin and slippery that it doesn’t matter. I wish I could remember what kind of lining fabric this was, because it’s awesome and I want to use it always and forevermore for everything. Not one hint of static!

I hung the skirt unhemmed for a couple days because I’d heard that bias skirts stretched out and that could make the hem uneven, but funnily enough it looked like only the lining stretched and not the main fabric. When I hemmed it, I used a trick I read somewhere and set the differential feed on my serger all the way to “gather” when I finished the bottom of the skirt, so it made it easier to turn up and press, which worked great. I toyed with the idea of using lace hem tape for a nice inside hem finish, but my lazy ways won out as usual and I just did a machine blind hem. I also may have not hemmed the lining at all, and just finished the edge with the serger, but that can stay my dirty secret…

My full pattern review of the skirt is here.

So farewell fall sewing! To all the uncompleted projects, I’ll see some of you masquerading as winter sewing in the coming months, and the rest must melt sadly back into the stash – see you next year!

Well, after a rather long hiatus from my Christmas crafting (justified by my early completion of my first three gifts), I rushed out a couple more things the night before I gifted them:

For a friend at work, this is a purse organizer and a small zipper pouch. She always wants to change her purses to match her outfits, but complains about what a pain it is to transfer all her purse contents all the time, so I thought this might help. It’s basically a strip of pockets that she can fill with purse stuff, roll up and stick in one purse, then pull it out and move it to another purse easily. To make it, I cut two 10 by 20 inch pieces of fabric, interfaced them both with midweight interfacing, sewed them wrong sides together, turned, pressed, and edgestitched all the way around. Then I sewed a line across 4 inches from the bottom of the long edge, folded along that line, and sewed lines from top to bottom in somewhat random intervals to form the pockets (I think there are 6 pockets ranging in width from 1 to 5 inches). The zipper pouch is from this tutorial. It took me a minute (or several) to wrap my head around how it would all come out finished on the inside and such, but it worked great and I may make one for myself sometime too!

I also made a quick circle scarf for the same friend:

This has got to be the easiest gift of all time to make. I bought a third of a yard of jersey from the bulk bin at my local fabric shop. I trimmed off the selvages, then used a ruler and rotary cutter to make the long edges nice and straight, and sewed the short ends together. Done. So if it happens to be Christmas Eve and you’re one gift short, might I suggest a jersey circle scarf? I think it took me longer to buy the fabric than to make the scarf, seriously.

Finally, I made one more thing for my mom that I’ve posted over at the Crafty Christmas Club.

Woo-hoo, Christmas Crafting complete! So to all those who celebrate it, have a Merry Christmas. May it be filled with family, friends, food, and plenty of crafty gifts too!

I got an email last night to let me know that I would be the featured member on the front page of PatternReview today! Check it out:

PatternReview has been totally invaluable to me since I started garment sewing. I’m always browsing the review gallery for new patterns and inspirations (I’ve found some great blogs through links in reviews too!), and I always read all the reviews of a pattern before I attempt it. It’s a fantastic resource and if you don’t use it I highly recommend it!

I’ve got a couple more gifts finished as well as another skirt for me that I’ll get to posting soon – I can’t believe how fast Christmas is approaching…

I’ve taken a break from gift making to finish off some of my fall sewing… yes, I know, it is manifestly not fall anymore. That didn’t stop me from making an orange skirt and wearing it to the company holiday party today!

It is, of course, Colette’s Beignet skirt, beloved by fashionable sewing bloggers everywhere. I gave into the peer pressure (in the form of me encountering so many lovely button-laden skirts all over the internets) and ordered the pattern a few months ago, and I cut out the fabric before Thanksgiving (!) and it sat folded for a couple weeks while I entered Christmas-crafting panic, but once I finally sat down at the machine it went together pretty quickly. It’s got a lot of pieces, but it’s not difficult at all. I did not line it, though, so that made it easier for sure. Bizarrely, the easiest part of making this skirt was the buttonholes, thanks to my totally awesome new machine with its make-one-buttonhole-and-all-that-follow-will-be-the-same-length automatic buttonhole feature! I never thought I’d be the kind of person who’d admire buttonholes, but… just look at them! They’re so perfect and pretty!

Even the backs are nice (well, except for the third from the bottom, I don’t think I cleared the bobbin thread tail out of the way and it got caught up. Oh well). You can also see my facing here (I kind of love  the orange on the black and white, it makes me want to make something with contrast buttonholes!) The main fabric is a heavyweight twill from Jo Ann, and the facing and pockets are scraps of a cotton poplin leftover from a dress I made last year. I also lucked into some cheap plastic buttons in just the right color – I like that there is contrast provided by the texture but the color is monochromatic. If the buttonholes were super easy, though, the 12 buttons took forever to sew on. I confess that I’m a hand sewing hater, and repetitive hand sewing tasks are the worst! But I did get them all on eventually and they totally make the skirt, obviously.

Ultimately I like this skirt, though maybe not as much as some of the others who’ve made it. I must say that what continues to amaze me about sewing is that I would probably never have bought a high-waisted button up skirt in a store, but making it myself allows me to experiment with the style and make it my own (by which I mean, make it orange). Somehow the fact that I’ve made a garment gives me ownership and the courage to try out a style I might not be comfortable buying, if that makes sense. I think that may be why I get more compliments on my self-made items than things I’ve purchased – not because they look better, but because they tend to be bigger style statements for me. I will say that this skirt was a hit at the party, which of course makes me like it more than I did last night in my living room. I do need a narrow brown belt, though. I photographed it with my white belt, but I didn’t wear the belt today because I knew I would be mercilessly mocked by my no-white-accessories-after-Labor-Day colleague. I know the rule’s outdated, but she won’t listen to reason, so I chickened out although I prefer it with a belt. But anyway, here’s one more picture because, well, pockets! You know how I feel about those!

My full review of the pattern is here.

I’ve finished some gifts! Having sewn garments exclusively for a while, I’d kind of forgotten how quickly little bags/pouches go together (and how little fabric they use), and I was able to finish these two things in one evening – crazy!

They are both gifts for my interns at work, and both from terrific tutorials from Noodlehead. The top one (for my female intern) is the gathered clutch, a fun take on a regular zipper pouch that is really pretty and not really much more effort. I added a removable wrist strap by sewing a tab with a d-ring into the side seam and attaching a strap to a tiny dog clip. Her favorite colors are purple and black, so I was glad to find this fabric. The bottom item (for my male intern) is the zippy wallet. I love the pearl snap on the little tab! I added a key ring to this (à la the little cutie pouch) in case he wants to clip it to his keys or belt. It’s so hard to find adult-male-appropriate fabric, but I like this plaid. It’s a thin shirting, but I interfaced it with a sturdier interfacing. Both pouches are accented/lined with the same fabric, since the recipients are good friends and always joke that they’re the same person inside! All the fabrics are from Jo Ann, where I avoid buying garment fabrics because the quality is terrible, but it’s fine for bags.

I’ve also completed another gift, which you can check out over at the Crafty Christmas Club, as long as you are not my mom.

With the Christmas season actually here (by which I mean it’s December – I am resoundingly not an early holiday-season-starter), I’m trying to kickstart my gift making. To that end, I’ve joined the Crafty Christmas Club (founded by the lovely Tilly). There’s tons of great inspiration over there for your gift-making from loads of talented sewists. I’ve just shared my messenger bag tutorial, and I intend to post the other gifts I make there too. Some of them I’ll also post here (if it’s a gift for someone who doesn’t read my blog), but others I’ll just put up over there, so no peeking! (I’m looking at you, mom.)

I tend to work faster with a deadline (and this “Christmas Day” deadline is pretty firm), so hopefully I’ll be able to get all the gifts I’ve got planned done in time! It wouldn’t be the holidays without feeling rushed, right?

Well, the gift-giving season is upon us, and my holiday present-making is beginning… a bit later than most other people’s, I imagine! So if there are any more craft procrastinators out there, here’s something for you – I thought I’d share this little messenger bag I came up with a while ago:

About a year ago, when I started riding my bike around town to dinner and pubs and whatnot, I discovered that there was a hole in my bag wardrobe, and what I really wanted was a purse-sized messenger bag. Something that would hold my wallet, phone, water bottle, and a light sweater, a bag that I could wear across my body on the bike and then the strap could be shortened up to a shoulder bag length to make it more manageable in crowded places. Of course, I wanted to make it. But when I went hunting for a tutorial online, I didn’t find exactly what I wanted. So I sat down with some graph paper and sketched out a sort of pattern/plan, and just went for it. (Click on the sketches to enlarge.)


Inspired by my Timbuk2 messenger bags (which I love, but they’re giant), I created a three-panel front with a pocket. There is also an interior zipper pocket as well as a set of patch pockets on the inside front. There is no closure on the front flap, I’ve found I haven’t needed anything and it stays closed on its own, but velcro could easily be added. Here’s a better look:


I’ve made two of these bags for myself so far (one in browns and one in greys, have to have one to match any outfit!). I wanted to make one for a friend for Christmas, so I thought I’d use the opportunity to photograph all the steps and put together a tutorial, if for no other reason than my own personal future reference. The sketched pattern is great, but I needed to document a sensible order of construction if I’m going to keep making these! I think this bag would make a great gift (obviously, since I’m giving this one to someone), or you could sew selfish and use your holiday break to make one for yourself!

I’ve used quilting cotton for all my bags (this one is fabric from the Avalon line by Jay-Cyn Designs for Birch Fabrics, aka Fabricworm (love that store!), but you could use a heavier weight canvas or something as well and not need interfacing. I think it’s a great showcase for your favorite fabric – large or small scale print (I sort of fussy cut this one to get the birds in good places), and one, two or three fabrics (the contrast pockets are fun but not at all necessary).

The finished bag measures 8 inches tall by 11 inches wide by 3 inches deep. It can probably be enlarged by adding, say, 10% to every measurement except the strap (which wouldn’t be practical any wider than 2 inches). But I like the small size – it’s a purse for your bike! Here are some pictures for scale:


The tutorial can be found after the jump. I’ve also made a pdf file of the tutorial to download (here), if you’d like to save it to your computer. Disclaimer: I am by no means a professional or even moderately skilled bag maker. I’ve made a bunch of bags from other people’s tutorials and used a lot of those techniques to construct this bag. If you’ve ever made bags before, most of the steps will be familiar to you. If you have questions or something is confusing, let me know, or check out other bag tutorials for  a different look at the same step. I’ve also always thought that patterns and tutorials are springboards for customization, so make this bag your own! That is why we sew, after all, right?

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I realised recently that what my fall/winter wardrobe was really lacking was casual jersey dresses/tunics  to wear with leggings (good for biking to the market, nice enough for work but as comfy as pajamas, the perfect garment!). So I pulled out a couple pieces of 99 cent jersey (from my favorite store) and some old patterns and actually sewed something! Two somethings! I know, it surprised me too.

The first is Butterick 5246:

I’ve had this pattern for a while (it’s out of print now, actually), but hadn’t really looked at it until now. The instructions are crazy – the techniques and construction order are rather old fashioned, like for a woven dress. I changed them all around to make more sense for a jersey dress. I also had to take in the bodice/waist a bit to give it more shape, and ultimately it did end up looking like a cute dress and not a nightgown, which was what I thought when I first tried it on! I do like this pattern a lot, actually, after all my fanangling – I love an empire waist, and I think the center gathers are really nice. The bodice is fully lined, and the back bodice is lined too, but since the back is all one piece, the lining just kind of ends at the waistline… weird, but it works, I guess. The back is shaped well, so I don’t mind that there’s no waist seam. Here’s the back view, with special guest Blurry Malcolm:

My full review (with details of all the changes I made) is here.

The other item is a kind of Frankenpattern of mostly McCall’s 6078, view C:

I’ve made this pattern before (here), and I thought it would be a good candidate to add sleeves to for a winter tunic. I pulled out the sleeve from McCall’s 6120 (which I made last year and like a lot), and it fit pretty well. I also used that back pattern piece as a guide for the tunic length/shape, as the cowl top doesn’t have a tunic option. For my first Frankenpattern, I think it turned out pretty well! My full review can be found here.

I should add that these two pieces sewed up really fast – I cut them out on Saturday and was done with them both on Monday, kind of amazing for me. I love this kind of near-instant gratification. I’ll be making more jersey dresses for sure, but maybe not for a while… I have two skirts cut out that I need to finish, and a bunch of Christmas gift sewing to do!