Monthly Archives: May 2014

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!

Well, it only took me four years of sewing, but I finally made a real pair of jeans. And, as previewed in my last post, they are – gasp – skinny jeans! Which weren’t even on my radar when I first started to consider making real jeans, but now with my daily bike commuting (not to mention current trends), I didn’t really consider making any other kind.

skinny jeans front

They are, of course, based off my skinny Thurlow mod. I had a pretty good fit there, so I just jeansed them up a little. I started by converting the back darts to a yoke. The internets actually don’t have a lot to say on this matter, so I just sort of winged it. I drew a horizontalish/diagonal line on the back pattern piece that juuuust touched the bottom point of the dart, and was at an angle that seemed yoke-y to me. I traced the pattern above the line I drew, cut out the dart, and closed it up. Ta da! Yoke piece. Luckily I remembered to add a seam allowance to both new edges (and I added a note to the pattern piece for future me also).

dart to yoke conversionWhile I feel like maybe the depth of the Thurlow dart makes a larger yoke than you’d see on most jeans, it’s what I need to get them to curve nicely around the ol’ giant bum!

skinny jean thurlows back

The back pockets I traced off a pair of RTW jeans forever ago (and have used them on all pants makes so far), and the front pockets I sort of traced, sort of winged off that same pair of jeans. I even made a tiny useless coin pocket, because, jeans. I have also, on these and the last few Thurlows I’ve made, omitted the front pocket facing (the piece of self fabric you’re supposed to sew to the pocket lining on the side that faces your body). I have been topstitching my pockets, which prevents the lining from peeking out at all, obviating the need for a facing piece that just adds bulk.

skinny jeans front pockets

skinny jeans back closeup

I kept the topstitching pretty simple on these, but I took more care with it than is my wont and I’m mostly happy with it. (But please ignore the wonky off-center back belt loop… after several attempts to sew it on top of the center back seam, my machine cried uncle and I settled for an askew belt loop. No one but you will ever see it, as I haven’t worn a tucked in shirt in… ever.) I topstitched in light blue quilting thread, because I had it, and I think it works well with the dark denim. I also didn’t have jeans rivets, so I made bar tacks in all the places that should rightly have rivets.

The fabric is a really nice stretch denim that I got at Mood last time I was in LA. The stretch combined with the fact that I sewed these with a 1/2 inch seam allowance rather than 5/8 means I finally have a pair of jeans I can ride a bike in!

skinny jean thurlows side

Overall I’m happy with the fit, but I do find that the front rise is a little high for my liking. In the side view you can see (in addition to seeing clearly why all my dresses get hung up on my thighs) that the front rise is substantially higher than the back… I’m not sure why this is. Does it have to do with my yoke creation? My front pocket modification? I’ve noticed a tendency of the Thurlows I’ve made to have a little extra fabric up-down-wise across the stomach, but this is the first time it’s translated to super-high front rise. I’m trying to figure out how to take this excess out for next time. Do I just slash horizontally across the front piece and pivot the top down a little at center front? I would much prefer a lower rise in front (but keep the high back – mullet pants rule!)

I mulled over the hem length of these for a long time. I can’t tell you how many articles on skinny jeans length and styling I read… But in the end I just pinned them up at a bunch of lengths and tried them on with all my shoes and settled in the end on longish. After some amount of wearing, I’ve decided that I like them unrolled with heels or long skinny ballet flats only, but cuffed with more casual flats or sneakers. I have puny ankles for the size of my thighs and knees, so I think the cuffs help balance that and I’ll wear them cuffed unless the situation calls for a dressier look.

skinny jean thurlows cuffed

I actually made these jeans a couple months ago and (obviously) procrastinated the blogging of them until now. The weather in our area has moved pretty much past long pants season now, but they did get a lot of wear in the early spring. I’ve already moved on to shorts sewing, but I’m really glad I managed to eke these out in time to actually wear them a bit. I can see making another pair or two come fall, as my need for pants-that-fit skyrockets upwards again with the (slightly) cooler weather.

Oh, and the top I’m wearing? I just threw on a top from my closet for the pictures, and realised later that it was an unblogged top I made probably a year ago now. It’s a slight mod of the awesome Cation Dolman top in a sweater knit from Girl Charlee. (If you’re interested, the sleeve mod is as follows: Cut sleeves 1 1/2 inches shorter than pattern, and cut 2 sleeve pieces in a trapezoid shape, with the top edge matching the cut-on sleeve circumference plus seam allowance, and the bottom edge 3 inches smaller.) This sweater knit was a bit fiddly, and the neckband turned out rather wobbly. I was really mad about it at the time and I let the finished top get buried in one of the massive fabric piles lying around at our old place, and I didn’t discover it again until months later after we moved and I was unpacking the stash into my new fabric shelves… boom! New shirt! And I was so not mad about the neckline any more. That’s maybe my best piece of sewing advice: let your stuff stew. If you leave it alone in the closet (or, you know, a random pile of fabric) for a few weeks, you’ll forget all the little things that drove you crazy about it and you will just wear it and love it. I’m sure there were a million little things about these jeans that I was mad about while I was sewing them, but now? I’m just stoked I have real jeans that fit. Sewing is pretty awesome.


In what is apparently becoming a tradition around here, I present to you another seasonally appropriate item: in the midst of this incredible mid-May heat wave we’re having in California, here is… a long sleeve top. Yep, I’m really with it.

striped plantain front

Not only am I late blogging this top, which I made last month, but I am really late to the Plantain Party generally. I’m just one of those people who resists trends for so long they have time to become standards (see: skinny trousers). I’m the least trendy person ever. Or maybe it’s just that procrastination is my super power. So when the tsunami of Plantains hit the internets, I was like, well, it’s cute, I think, but is it really my thing? Do I need another tee pattern? Do I really like the elbow patches? Turns out the answer to all these questions was yes. It just took me a while to figure it out.

I bought this fabric at the Michael Levine Loft last year, just because I thought it was random and cool. The stripe progression intrigued me. And there was a ton of it there, at the time. (Side note: I walked into a friend’s party a while ago and spotted this very fabric as a maxi skirt on a partygoer I wasn’t acquainted with. Turns out she had gone to school at FIDM in LA and had also bought the fabric at the Loft around the same time as me. Recognizing fabric from my stash on a live person was a new one for me!) At the time I knew it would become a top, but no pattern seemed quite right for it, so it languished in the stash for a while. Then out of nowhere the Plantain popped into my mind and yelled “contrast stripe elbow patches!” and the rest is history.

striped plantain back

I’m pretty pleased with my stripe placement on this top. I actually thought it out before I cut, which is not my usual m.o….

The pattern itself, is, of course, lovely. I minored in French in college, and although most of my French has melted into the ether from disuse since then, I retain an affinity for all things Francophone and I’ve been wanting to make a Deer and Doe pattern. And this one is free! I cut a straight size 40 (but with the length of the largest size plus a little more – I like my tops long). I generally grade out a size in the waist and hips, but this pattern is designed with some swing, and I wanted a more traditional fit, so I chose the straight size. The fabric is on the medium-heavy weight side, so it doesn’t drape much – if I make it again in a flowier fabric I might grade out a size in the bottom half. I’m getting the same strange above-boob wrinkles that I get on the Renfrew; I’m thinking it might be a forward shoulder thing? Or I need more room in the bust (seems unlikely)? Anyway, I’m not bothered. The neckband was the right size to go in easily, something I very much appreciate in a pattern. And the elbow patches are just the right amount of unexpected, I think. Oh, those French!

striped plantain patch

I made this shirt to wear with my skinny jeans (consider this a preview – post coming soon!) to see The National in concert at our local outdoor amphitheater. Of course, the only day of rain we’ve had in this super dry spring was on the night I was standing outside for three hours. (Still, totally worth it. That band is amazing.) But sadly the awesome elbow patches were hidden by my jacket for most of the night. And now that it’s been 90 degrees for a week straight I can safely say this top has been shelved until the fall. But I’m not ruling out some summer Plantains, even if they won’t feature elbow patches. So I guess what I’m saying is, if for some reason you both live someplace that is having long-sleeve weather and you have somehow managed to not yet make a Plantain, give it a try!