Monthly Archives: March 2015

It seems possible that even those regions that have been unfairly smothered in winter for ages are starting to see small signs of spring, so I thought I’d throw out these winter accessories I made for my trip to New York before they’re totally obsolete.

Now, I have a ton of scarves. A simple jersey infinity scarf is my favorite thing to do with a leftover half yard of fabric, and as a frequent nighttime bike commuter in a coastal area, I get a lot of use out of my lightweight jersey scarves. But for real winter I thought I would need something more substantial, like with wool. I am by no means a speedy or skilled enough knitter to knit a scarf in the time I had, so I was at a loss for what to do until an opportunity presented itself in the form of an 18 inch width of leftover gray merino french terry from a cowl sweater I whipped up.

The idea of the infamous lululemon snap scarf (called the Vinyasa scarf, of course) has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and while I didn’t have enough fabric for a double-layer version, I liked both sides of my fabric so I decided to make a single layer scarf. Extensive googling gave me lots of pictures of the scarf in various snapped and unsnapped states, and I improvised some finishing that I’m really happy with. So here’s a sort of mini-tutorial for my single layer version of the Vinyasa scarf:

vinyasa scarf knock off 1

I started with a roughly 18 inch by 60 inch rectangle of my french terry. I think this would work with any thickish fabric that you like both sides of – one of those reversible double-knits would be really cool. Luckily my fabric pressed well, so I was able to press a narrow hem along the long sides of the rectangle. I just did a single fold because I didn’t mind seeing the raw edge, but you could do a double fold narrow hem if desired. I used a wide zigzag stitch to hem the long edges, just barely catching the raw edge in the edge of the zigzag. I reasoned that this would be a nice sturdy and decorative edge for the scarf. (There’s a lot of decorative zigzag stitching on the lululemon clothes I’ve seen, perhaps it’s not the becky-home-ecky stitch I always thought it was.)

For the snap ends, I wanted to add a pop of color with ribbon a la some of the inspiration scarves, so I went hunting for a yellow grosgrain or petersham ribbon. What I found instead was yellow twill tape, which ended up being even better than ribbon. I found this great yellow color twill tape at a local fabric store, but I imagine you could also dye white twill tape your desired color. My tape was 3/4 inch wide, which was about perfect.

scarf tutorial edge     scarf tutorial tape

I also didn’t want the darker side of the fabric to show under the snaps on the non-tape sides, so I folded a slightly less than 3/4 inch hem toward  the right side of the fabric and laid the tape over it, folding the ends of the tape under. I stitched the tape on first with a zigzag stitch, then I edgestitched it as close as possible to the edges to really seal it down. (I used yellow thread in the needle and gray in the bobbin to match the respective sides.)

Finally, the snaps. I used the regular pound-in snaps, because I liked the ring that shows on the opposite side of the functional part. For my scarf width, 7 snaps made the most sense to me. I spaced them one inch from each end and one and a half inches between snaps. Hammer ’em in and snap ’em and you’ve got a scarf!

vinyasa knock off snaps

The appeal of this scarf is obviously all the ways to wear it (there’s even a video about it), but I found that I mostly wore it fully snapped and double wrapped, or double wrapped and half-unsnapped. I love the twisted two-color look from the contrasting sides of the fabric, and the little pop of yellow from the tape. Plus it didn’t cost me $50!

vinyasa scarf knock off cowled

The hat I’m wearing is the first ever hat I’ve ever knit. I learned to knit a couple years ago, but it never really took hold – I think I don’t have the attention span required for knitting. Nevertheless, I was determined to knit a hat for this trip. Fortuitously the perfect pattern presented itself in my blog reader in the form of Ginger Makes’ version of the Mock Rib Watch Cap. (That horse sweater, by the way, is totally amazing and a great example of something I would never ever have the patience to knit.) The lovely owner of my local yarn shop pointed me to an appropriate-weight charcoal colored yarn that is so soft and actually pretty warm. (It’s SimpliNatural by HiKoo in Slate Gray, alpaca/merino/silk, for those who are interested in those kind of details.) I used the recommended needle size and my gauge swatch was pretty close, but I found the finished hat to be a little big, if still wearable. I suspect I’m a rather loose knitter and my band is really stretchy. I’m not much of a hat-wearer generally, but I wore the heck out of this hat in the frigid New York weather.

scarf and hat

So about my New York City experience – just a couple things. First off, I absolutely loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. If you’re a theatre person at all, and you have the chance, go see it. The things they do with the ensemble creating the world of the main character are just really innovative and exciting.

Second, yes, I did do some fabric shopping. I hit up Mood, Metro Textiles, and Paron (everything was an extra 40% off when I was there, so that was cool). I also popped into Spandex House (or was it World? one of them) which was impressive but I didn’t need any more swimsuit fabric. Here’s my haul:

NY fabric haul

Top to bottom: from Metro, a super soft poly jersey that feels like cotton, a nice gray ponte, a gray herringbone stretch denim for pants of some kind, and a spotty poly charmeuse; from Paron, a crazy blue pinecone print stretch twill for awesome shorts, a lovely poly crepe de chine print from Italy (which they made me buy the remainder of the bolt, 3 yards, but I think I’ll use it all for something), and a dotty stretch poplin for more awesome shorts; and from Mood, a fantastic Anna Sui silk that I couldn’t pass up. Not a bad pile, and worth cramming in my suitcase, I think, but overall I didn’t think I found anything crazy special or super different from what I might find in LA. The feeling of the Garment District is totally, totally different from the LA Fashion District, though, and way less intimidating, even though I did have to take elevators to two of the shops. The one store I did want to import to the west coast, though, was Pacific Trimming. That place has everything you might need for any number of projects, but is absolutely the kind of place you visit with a particular project in mind, not just to randomly shop. I’m sure over the next year I will wish I could drop in there for some specific item, but as it was I tried to pre-buy for some theoretical projects:

NY trim haul

Two lengths of high quality strapping and some accompanying hardware, some white cotton rope and some gray faux leather rope for bag handles, and a couple random buckles and clips. The store was so well organized, and while I know all this stuff must exist in LA, it’s much more of a pain to locate.

So I guess I did enjoy a little taste of real winter, but all the same I’m glad to be back in California, where spring cannot be denied. It was fun to make winter clothes, but now it’s time to pull out all the sleeveless top patterns!

I still have a couple more things I made for my New York trip to share, plus my fabric haul, of course, but first I wanted to pop this up here because I like it so much: the Thread Theory Camas Blouse. And it’s basically the opposite of black and white. camas front I downloaded the Camas pattern very soon after it was released, because I thought it would fill the wardrobe niche of Dressy T-shirt. I like the idea of button down blouses, but would always rather be wearing jersey, so this is my perfect solution. I ordered this cherry blossom print jersey from Girl Charlee, and immediately discovered that the coral orange centers of the flowers were a spot-on match to the coral stripe merino left over from my Lekala top. I adore color blocking, but it’s so rare that I find fabrics that match, so I had to go for it. camas back Despite having a button band, which are usually a huge hassle, this top went together in just a few hours today. I wanted it, I had it. I love when that happens. I did deviate from the instructions slightly and I attached the inner and outer bands together before sewing them onto the blouse, because I thought that would be easier and less likely to cause brain explosion (curved bands are one of those things I find very confusing to attach correctly). The band went on in one try, thankfully, even if it isn’t a totally consistent width all the way around, and the inner band peeks out a little (but I’ll blame that on my malfunctioning iron – lately it had some kind of aneurysm and is now super-heating itself after being on for just a few minutes, which means I have to iron quickly or risk scorching my fabric). I credit the pattern for having you interface both the inner and outer band. Most knit patterns with button bands that I’ve seen only have you interface the inner band, which makes everything go wonky when you try to topstitch. These bands were very well behaved. And as many have noted, you don’t need the button bands to actually be functional because the neck is so big, so rather than muck about with buttonholes, I marked where the buttons should go and stitched the bands together at each mark with a short wide zigzag before just sewing the buttons on top. I had to resort to buying plain white buttons at Michael’s, of all places, because it is literally the only store that sells buttons (but only, like, 5 kinds of buttons) that isn’t a 30 minute drive away, sigh (and keep in mind that I live in a population center of around 150,000), but I’m holding out for the possibility of finding some awesome coral buttons next time I make the trek to JoAnn. camas detail Size-wise, I followed the measurement chart exactly and cut a 10 in shoulders/bust grading to a 12 waist/hips. I probably could have cut a straight 10, but just because of the billowy back. When I pull the front flat, the side seams hit right at my sides, so all the ease is in the back piece. Because my fabric is cotton and on the stiffer side, it tends to tent out at the sides, but if I were to make this in a drapey jersey it would fall beautifully, I bet. If I did make this again in another cotton knit, I would consider omitting the back gathers. And, oh, I think I will make this again. camas side I have to say, I’m really loving Thread Theory as a company. I made The Man a Newcastle Cardigan for our trip (more on Man Sewing soon) and on both patterns everything is just drafted so nicely, the pattern markings are clear, the instructions are comprehensive and nicely formatted, and the design aesthetic is just clean and lovely. I really hope they release some more women’s patterns, because let’s face it, I will always be a selfish sewist. Speaking of which, I am entering this make into the Indiesew Spring Selfish Sewing Week Challenge. I stumbled on Indiesew just recently – they’re primarily a retailer of independent patterns, many of which are from designers I had never encountered before, but it looks like they’re trying to create a sort of community as well, with mini pattern reviews and member projects featured on the pattern pages. Check it out, and if you’re a member and so inclined, your vote in the challenge would be appreciated! (I am straight-up coveting that lemon merengue leather hide.) Here’s to the start of Spring!

I’m on my way to New York! Yes, I’m actually writing this on the airplane, though I’ll post it later – wifi on planes still seems wrong to me somehow. Anyway.

As usual, in preparing for this trip, my eyes were bigger than my mouth (or my time, in this case), and I decided to make All the Clothes. My crazy ambition was kicked into high gear by the ridiculous timing of the Pattern Review “Wardrobe for Travel” contest, which, yes, had the deadline for entry two days before I was set to leave. How could I resist? I started planning my wardrobe before we even had plane tickets.

My inspiration was some family friends who make frequent trips to New York, and who have so totally committed to the idea that if you wear only black then everything goes with everything else that they now dress primarily in all black even when not traveling. I wanted to riff on that classing packing idea of everything going together, but with a little more fun than all plain black. It would be a good challenge for me, actually, because I wear so much color and pattern that my usual travel wardrobe requires three pairs of shoes and as many jackets. Not so feasible when you’re going to someplace that requires boots and a real coat. (In this case – a fabulous yellow wool coat I bought from Boden. Yes, I did manage to restrain myself from planning to make a wool coat. Thankfully.)

I decided to build my wardrobe off of some lovely black stretch denim I got at The Fabric Store during the LA Sewists Meetup last summer. I started seeking out black and white prints for tops, and also became obsessed with finding a black dimensional or quilted knit to make a circle skirt like this one Tasia made forever ago. Two black bottoms, two or three black and white print tops, and a black and white dress or three. Easy, right? Well, the best laid plans…

travel wardrobe collage

Let’s look at what I did get done. I did manage to finish, photograph, and post reviews of all my contest items in the nick of time, with my contest entry review being posted at literally the last moment of the contest, 11:59p EST (I do wish these contests rolled with the time zones, the extra three hours would have reduced my mad shouting at the photo collage I was attempting with 10 minutes remaining). Here’s a quick rundown (there are some links to individual pattern reviews for more detail if interested):

I made myself a pair real skinny jeans with the black denim, using the same skinnified Thurlow pattern with the yoke I drafted last year. I only had a yard and a half of the denim, which is plenty for jeans in a 60in width, but what escaped my notice in the shop was that this was more like 49in, so it was a real squeeze. In my concern over jigsawing all the pieces onto my fabric, I totally forgot to add the seam allowance to the top of the back piece where the yoke attaches. Thankfully, my yoke pattern piece includes a 1/2 in seam allowance, so I was able to just attach the yoke to the back with a 1/4 in SA and end up with the same amount of bum room (just a slightly larger yoke). The rest proceeded fine, except that for some reason that I can’t adequately explain (perhaps I interfaced the wrong waistband pieces and they got switched?) my waistband was short on one side and long on the other. So rather than sewing up the back seam and back waistband seam in one go as is the hallmark of the Thurlow, I sewed the seams separately and then joined the waistband to the pant in the back. I then cleverly covered the off-center waistband with a belt loop, which I mirrored on the other side. Crises averted!

To go with my jeans, I made two black and white print tops with really nice rayon from Emma One Sock. Yes, that stuff is pricier than I’m usually willing to pay ($20 a yard instead of $2.50 a pound…), but it’s very, very nice. I’m starting to think of relaxing my cheap fabric standards. I had also read that “dry” rayon is the only rayon jersey that won’t pill, though I think I’ve only ever seen that descriptor at Emma One Sock, so I’m not sure it’s exactly an industry standard. It does feel more matte and not shiny smooth soft like the cheap rayon jerseys I’m used to that pill if you look at them funny. But it’s also nice and heavy and drapey and actually, totally worth $20. I squeezed both of these tops out of a yard and a quarter (bless you, EOS, for being like the only online shop to sell in 1/4 yard increments!), so the tops cost me about $25 each. But a jersey cowl or wrap top from Boden in similar fabric is like $60, so maybe it is still a bargain? All a matter of perspective, I guess.

S1716 black and white

The cowl is my go-to cowl pattern, Simplicity 1716. I. Love. It. The perfect cowl for me (omitting the armhole bust dart, of course), and I’ve made like 5 and I’ll probably make at least 5 more. It was a no-brainer that I would make one with my nice fabric. I chose the mod print for it, because it’s slightly heavier and drapier.

S1916 wrap top

The wrap top is from Simplicity 1916. I had previously made the other view, which I like, but I wanted a full faux wrap top so decided to try the other view. I didn’t want the little half-moon ungathered section on the corner, though, so I studied the pattern and figured if I just extended the piece along the neckline and hem edges I could then construct it as a normal wrap top. I did have to futz with the neckline quite a bit, ultimately taking out more than an inch to get it to stop gaping, and it’s still super low cut. Luckily I have no cleavage to spill out! The crosshatch fabric seemed most appropriate for this pattern because it’s on the thinner side, so good for a crossover front because the front hem is double thickness and you don’t want it too bulky. It’s also a black jersey with a white print, not a white jersey printed black like so many, so it can stretch without fear of color distortion. It was a real squeeze getting it into a yard and a quarter, but because of generous cutting I actually had a bit more than that and I got it all in, cutting single layer. I did switch the wrap direction by cutting the pattern pieces upside down, because I like it better gathered on the right and also that was the only way I could fit the pieces.

McCall's 5974 black

As an additional piece, I also made a McCall’s 5974 with a fabulous micro dotted bamboo knit. I love the polka dot bamboo knits so. much. They’re springy and soft  and heavy and also have a delightful texture from the dots. This is a great pattern, I can’t believe this is only my second version. It’s such a fabric hog, though, I barely got it into 2 and a half yards. This dress will be a workhorse, though, I’m sure. It’s my version of a little black dress, I guess.

McCall's 6844 back

To increase my combos (for the contest, anyway) I also made the ubiquitous McCall’s 6844 peplum cardigan. I had absolutely zero interest in this pattern until I saw Ms. McCall wearing hers in person, and I suddenly had to have one. Awesomely, she happened to have an extra pattern for me! So I picked up some lovely merino doubleknit in a stone color (not white, not off white, sort of gray-white) from The Fabric Store for one. I knew going in that I didn’t want as high-low a hem as the pattern has, so I decreased the back length a few inches, which still kept it longer in back. When I had it all put together, before I hemmed it, I decided it was still too much length difference from front to back and I carefully cut off the extra in back so the peplum was the same length all the way around. That’s still plenty peplumy for me, thank you. The fabric is pretty thick and a bit spongy, so the collar lays a little wonky, but luckily it’s wool and I can probably steam and press it into submission, like I did the hem. And hoo boy is it warm!

NL sweater dress

What did not happen was the black quilted skirt. Long story* short, I had a bit of a “customer service” misunderstanding with and did not end up with any suitable fabric. So that’s a bummer. But frankly, the skirt would have been better for the contest but worse for the actual weather in New York, so I suppose it’s not that bad. Instead, at the total last minute, I threw together a sweater knit raglan tunic that I actually ended up really liking. I had two yards of this gray/black stripe sweater knit from Girl Charlee from my last big fabric gorge from them laying around, and out of nowhere I grabbed New Look 6230 again, the raglan I used to make my pj top that I had dismissed as having too wide a neckline. I decided to solve that problem by finishing the neck with a cowl, the length of the neckband pattern piece but 13 inches tall. This made about a 6 inch cowl. It’s a pretty measly cowl, I should have made it taller, but it’s okay. I also finished the hem and sleeves with bands for a sweatshirt-dress look. It’s a pretty comfy plane dress, I’ll give it that.

So that’s my contest wardrobe, which will all see action in the city. I also made a couple more dresses and some accessories, and even some man sewing(!) that I’ll share later. But first things first: I’ve got some fabric shopping to do in the garment district!


I ordered the perfect fabric from back in January. After a week or so, I of course got an email that they had less in stock than I ordered, would I like just the one yard that was left, or something else entirely? I knew I couldn’t get a skirt out of just one yard, so I opted for replacement. Sadly, when my order came like 2 weeks later, the replacement I’d selected was not even a little black. It was more gray, but a purpley gray that didn’t go with any of my other fabric. Plus they’d only sent one yard of it. Seriously. So I wrote back, informing them of the mistake and asking if I could order something else that had since arrived on the site that was better, maybe with free shipping, or could I exchange the replacement I didn’t want after all? After a full week, and emailing them twice, I got a response that just said: an order has been dispatched to you, keep what we sent before. Okay, I thought. I had specified the new fabric item number in my emails, so I just assumed that that’s what they sent. Aaaand, you know what they say about assuming. The package took more than two weeks to get to me – several days before it was sent at all, then it got stuck in some storm and UPS couldn’t get it out for a few days. Anyway, when it came, 5 days before my departure, it was, in fact, more of the purple-gray fabric I didn’t want. Yeah. I shouldn’t have assumed that a company that large would actually have people carefully reading and responding individually to customer service inquiries. Every email I got read like a form letter, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when they totally didn’t understand what I actually wanted. It did really make me realize that while smaller companies may be more expensive, sometimes it’s worth it. When I ordered from Emma One Sock, for instance, my order confirmation email was clearly personally written to me by the owner, and she noticed I was a new customer and applied a new customer discount of 10%. Now that’s customer service. So yeah, still learning about the online shopping thing.