Monthly Archives: December 2014

This seems like the time of year when you might be finding yourself in need of a cute party dress right quick, so I thought I’d share the dress I speed-made when I found myself in that predicament a few weeks ago. I had a wedding to go to (the wedding of a very stylish friend) and I wasn’t really feeling anything in my stash (pattern or fabric). I was working in LA the week before the wedding, so my cunning plan was to find a fabulous fabric downtown and make a simple dress with it on my only day off before the wedding. And, actually, incredibly, that happened.

salty kirsten

I had a sort of vague idea that I wanted a blousy, gathered elastic waist, kimono sleeve dress, after I saw a friend wearing a dress of that sort a while ago. I had a vaguer notion that I could probably hack the Kirsten Kimono tee (because I haven’t done that enough already), but I wasn’t sure about the rest. This of course was all dependent on me finding a nice drapey statement fabric somewhere. Luckily I scored at the Loft – a cool geometric print in a lightweight poly of the sort that I generally abhor working with, but the print was so. cool. that I had to get it. Plus because fabric at the Loft is sold by the pound (yes!) and this fabric weighs practically nothing, what did I have to lose? I also picked up some black ITY for lining or a slip or whatever, because a lady at a fabric store once demonstrated to me that sheer fabrics with white in the print pop a lot better on a black lining than a white one – who knew?

I then got it into my head that the Sewaholic Saltspring dress would make a good base for my Kirsten hack. It had the blousyness I desired and a built-in lining that controls the amount of blousing, which I remember thinking was a brilliant idea when I read about it back when the pattern was released. One problem – I did not own the Saltspring pattern. With no time to order a copy from Canada, and after coming up empty at a physical shop in LA that stocked literally every other Sewaholic pattern, Ms. McCall mentioned that she had just that day gotten an email announcing the addition of the Saltspring to the pdf pattern selection (I get the Sewaholic emails too, but that one never arrived for some reason), so I pushed aside my hatred of assembling pdf patterns and I downloaded it. (I do wish that there was a map of the pdf tiles as part of the file, so I could have avoided printing the 10 or so pages that were the bottom half of the maxi skirt, but sadly there was not so I had to lay the whole thing out, ugh.)

salty kirsten back

I used the Saltspring skirt and bodice lining as-is, used the skirt pattern to cut a skirt lining too (which is strangely not called for in the instructions), and used the bodice pattern pieces laid on top of the Kirsten top pieces to determine the length, width, and shape of my hacked bodice. I liked the idea of the sleeved bodice being lined by the tank-top shaped original lining, so the sleeves and shoulders would remain sheer (though my fabric is busy enough that you can’t really tell). I finished the tank top lining with foldover elastic (the only black FOE I had around was black with white polka dots on one side, so I applied it with the dots facing in for a detail only I can enjoy). I’ve used FOE like this a few times now with yet-unblogged tank tops and I like the technique – the FOE finishes the raw edges and extends out to form the straps. (The best free description of this I can think of right now is in the So, Zo free cami pattern.) I also omitted the zipper, of course, cutting front and back on the fold. I can’t imagine a scenario where I would need a zipper to get into this dress – the elastic waist and blousy bodice make it easy to slip into. Of course, as a straight-up-and-down I-shape, I can almost always omit zippers.

The hardest part of this dress was finishing all the edges nicely in this terrible floaty poly. I used a self bias strip turned to the inside and topstitched at the neckline, and did a narrow hem on sleeves and skirt by serging the edge and using the serging as a guide to fold over the hem twice and topstitch. The skirt hem is a little wavy, but the fullness of the skirt mostly distracts from the wonky hem. I also cut like four inches off the skirt. The longer skirt with the blousyness of the bodice felt frumpy, so I went for the short-is-dressy-right? idea and chopped off the length. I left the ITY lining unhemmed because lazy.

salty kirsten 2When the Saltspring pattern came out, I dismissed it as not flattering for me, but I’ve recently been rethinking that assumption and I’ll likely make it with the intended bodice in future. (I actually made a knock-off version of the Saltspring for my vacation, before I bought the pattern, and I like that dress too. Could I have hacked that hack into this hack? Certainly, but sometimes when I’m in a hurry I just want a real someone-else-did-all-the-work pattern.) I do think that in this case the flatteringness is improved with the addition of a belt, though I have not always found this to be true. As someone with a pretty slight decrease in circumference at the waist, sometimes I think a belt adds bulk there. With this dress, though, the belt helps define the waist in the midst of all that poufy.

I did end up really liking this dress, and therefore have worn it to not just the wedding but also two additional parties. I feel like I successfully mild-winterized the Saltspring pattern, and even though the Kirsten bodice in the woven is a smidge tight across the back, it still worked out pretty well. So if you’re tackling any holiday party dress hacks, I wish you the best and assure you as always that a tight deadline can actually be your friend!


I have slightly unusual feelings about pajamas. I consider pajamas suitable only for sleeping in – not lounging around in during waking hours. I change into pajamas right before bed and change out of them first thing in the morning. I have many friends who will happily wear pajamas at all times they are not outside their house, but that is just not me. The one day of the year, though, that I do wear pajamas for longer than I’m asleep is Christmas – it somehow seems just as wrong to me to open presents and eat Christmas breakfast in regular clothes as it does to do basically anything else in pajamas. So, naturally, I wanted a new and exciting set of pajamas for this year’s Christmas morning.

chevron pjsI’ve been eyeing the Robert Kaufman chevron jersey line for a while, but it seemed just a little too crazy to make a regular garment out of. I considered making a scarf with it, then realized it would make totally awesome pajama bottoms! I went ahead and ordered the yellow colorway from, along with my best guess at a solid yellow color match from the same line. It was during the Black Friday sale, though, so of course I got a notification that the solid yellow was out of stock and did I want something to replace it? I requested the solid gray in the same line, but when it arrived not only was it too pale gray to be a nice match to the chevron fabric, but it was thick and rough and just generally not very nice jersey. The chevron fabric, by contrast, is lovely, soft and stretchy and with good recovery, and I was very disappointed that the solid wasn’t similar at all. In the end, I discovered that I already had not one but two suitably color matched cotton jerseys in my stash from way back when, so I decided to make a contrast raglan pajama top with those instead. (The terrible Kaufman jersey has been reassigned to muslin leggings, so not a total loss.)

chevron pjs 2The top pattern is New Look 6230, which I picked up because I don’t have a great raglan pattern yet. And, well, I still don’t. It’s a good pajama top, but the neckline is a bit wide (which, to be fair, is obvious in the envelope picture), so bra strap showage would be a problem in a daywear top. I also prefer a scoopier neck to a wide neck, so I’ll have to look elsewhere for my TNT raglan. The fit, though, is spot on in my usual size 10-12. New Look is like my spirit pattern company – I think they draft for wider shoulders and a smaller bust than the rest of the Big 5.

The bottoms I cobbled together from Simplicity 2317, my one and only sleepwear pattern, from which I have made one blogged set of pjs and two more unblogged bottoms. I used the knit shorts pattern as the base and extended the legs out roughly based on the woven bottoms pattern narrowed slightly. Pajamas don’t strike me as requiring too much precision.

I constructed the top on my conventional machine, but I put the bottoms together just using the serger, which is actually a super fast way to make knit bottoms. I’m getting more comfortable now (after my swimsuit making adventures) with using the serger to construct garments rather than to just finish seam allowances, so I’m trying to use it more for simple knit garments. I finished the whole set in just a few hours the other night.

chevron pjs presents!

So now I have some snazzy new pjs for opening presents in the morning. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and I wish you a comfy pajama morning too!

I suppose it’s odd to find oneself finally having some time to breathe in the second week of December, but that is how it’s fallen out for me. The pre-Christmas frenzy seems somewhat calm in comparison to the preceding weeks, which for me included: an extremely challenging period at work during which I frantically sewed unseasonable summer clothes for my Hawaii trip, consisting of three dresses, three tank tops, two swimsuits and two cover-ups for me, and a dress, skirt, and coverup for my mother (which I will share in a huge Christmastime summer clothes roundup post soon); said trip to Hawaii (which was amazing); working in Los Angeles for the three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (which happily featured hanging out with Det Houndstooth and Ms McCall and buying an obscene amount of glorious fabric, of course); hosting said Thanksgiving at my house (which is such fun but a lot of work); and all the while frantically trying to make sellable items for my first-ever craft market last weekend.

Yes, I actually sold my handmade goods! It’s one of those things I’ve always half-considered and dismissed for various reasons, but I finally took the plunge when a friend conceived of and organized a sort of neighborhood pop-up market made up mostly of crafty friends who are at that point in our chosen craft that we’ve made enough stuff for ourselves but we want to keep making things… It was a great opportunity to experiment with selling in a somewhat safe environment of newbies, as opposed to trying to jump into an established professional craft market.

craft market booth

This was my “booth” – a table dressed with a length of poplin from my stash and laid with my wares: several zipper pouches, some foldover clutches, a couple tote bags, and a selection of silver charm and bike chain necklaces and earrings. It was so interesting to see what people liked and what they weren’t really that interested in. As I suspected, the graphic pattern bags sold well, though it seemed that people were more interested in the color than the cool prints. The foldover clutches with straps sold right away but the ones without didn’t sell at all, so clearly more straps needed in future. Also, smaller zipper pouches were more popular than larger ones, which makes sense in retrospect.

The jewelry was less popular, which was disappointing but not totally surprising. I know I’ve never been “on trend” in my jewelry taste, and it would seem that the reason I can never find pieces I like in stores is not because there’s a market niche that needs to be filled, but rather because I’m the only one who likes that kind of thing. I also realized about halfway through the market that people weren’t understanding that I had made the silver pendants myself (having never heard of silver clay until last year myself, that makes sense), and interest picked up when I started telling people that the pendants were handmade and pure silver.

craft market jewelry

I actually had a really good time selling my wares, even though it was rather nerve-wracking. I would absolutely consider doing another market, and possibly even selling on etsy if I ever found myself with a ton of free time to make things. I could say I “made money” at this market in the sense that I sold the items for more than they cost to make in materials, but the primary problem for me with buying supplies is the “one for me” syndrome – buying extra of a fabric or notion because I like it and I want to keep it for myself. So in that sense perhaps crafting for money is a terrible trap. But it was fun to buy a bunch of great quilting cottons again – I’d forgotten how pretty that fabric can be. And I also enjoyed sewing things that don’t have to fit a body!

But after all of that I was way, way behind on seasonally appropriate selfish clothes sewing. With the weather finally turning toward real (California) winter, I’ve found myself wishing that I already had all the lovely winter garments I’m planning on making (why yes, 30% off merino from The Fabric Store that I bought last month, I’m looking at you). So in a bout of determination that I would have the perfect outfit for today’s activities of visiting the farmers’ market, doing a matinée at work, and the evening’s trip to the tree farm for our Christmas tree followed by our annual post-tree-decorating traditional watching of Love Actually, I stayed up til 1 last night making a dress with deer on it.

Butterick 5246 deer

(And yes, I absolutely acknowledge and am thankful for the fact that I live in a place where I can buy fresh local tomatoes(!) and a Christmas tree on the same day while just wearing leggings and a three-quarters sleeved dress. I love California.)

This fabric is from, obviously, Girl Charlee, and although it broke my rule of thumb for online fabric purchases (9oz and above only), well, it had deer on it. I shamelessly copied this Boden deer dress, and to that end I pulled out Butterick 5246, which has a similar empire line and I’ve made twice before. My last version was in the super stretchiest knit ever, which hid some of the fit problems that this version, made in just about the un-stretchiest knit ever, reveals – strange armpit wrinkles (which Nhi advised me how to fix but I didn’t bother to this time), terrible low back pooling, weird off-grain looking sleeves. But whatever, it has deer on it.

B5246 deer detail

I actually had to cut the bodice out twice, because of an ill-advised decision to attempt an exposed neckline binding. It turned out terribly, but luckily I had enough deer left to cut another bodice (I was not unpicking that binding at midnight). I also scooped out the front neckline by about an inch, which I prefer to the original can’t-decide-if-it’s-a-boat-or-scoop-neckline of the pattern. This pattern has a single back piece, but when I redid the bodice I had to cut the skirt off the old one and make a back waist seam to attach the new back bodice piece, so now it has a back waist seam. Oh well. Deer.

I have a ton of gift sewing to accomplish in the next week (because I so cleverly decided to make everyone’s presents this year…), as well as some actual cold-weather items for myself to wear in actually-has-winter Northern Nevada over Christmas, so back to the sewing machine for me for now. But hopefully I’ll get around to sharing all my (seasonally-appropriate or non) previous projects over my holiday break. ‘Til then… deer!

B5246 deer 2