Alabama Chanin Jacket and Skirt

img_0559Yippee!  I’ve been working on this Alabama Chanin jacket and skirt since April.  They weren’t on my SWAP list but looked like a great challenge.  I was inspired by the prolific Ruth at Corecouture.  My plan was to stitch during my train commute instead of reading blogs and going down the Pinterest rabbit hole.  That part was a success but it crowded out my regular machine sewing as it’s quite addictive!  I sewed on the beach, at soccer games, at my mom’s, on the deck overlooking the lake….. It’s a whole new world once you’re not connected to the iron and sewing machine!


For those of you not familiar with Alabama Chanin, it’s a high end 100% hand-stitched clothing line designed by Natalie Chanin and created by local seamstresses in Alabama.  The garments are all sewn from locally sourced organic cotton knit with various techniques such as appliqué, reverse appliqué, embroidery, beading, and sequins.  It often has raw edges and reminds me of folk art.  Natalie is happy to share her techniques with intrepid sewists and has written several books on her techniques complete with stencils and patterns.


Except for the peplum detail borrowed from a Marfy pattern, the jacket and skirt were both drafted from my slopers.  The fit is pretty good except that the front of the jacket doesn’t hang quite right.  It falls open at the waist and the bust feels bosomy which I am not.  I have several theories as to how to fix this but that will be another post.

The fabric and most of the thread (embroidery floss and ordinary button and craft thread) are from AC.  I also found some “hand quilting” thread at Joann’s which seems to be the exact same stuff as the button & craft thread except it comes in more colors.  The stencil pattern is Alabama Chanin’s Anna’s Garden.



This project had a lot of ‘firsts’ for me.  First hand sewn garments, first time stenciling, first appliqué, and first “embellishments” except for that denim skirt that I embroidered in high school.  I’ll try anything once.

I did a lot of experimentation with markers and paint colors and finally decided on Tulip spray paint.  The jacket is a teal paint on turquoise fabric overlaid on camel fabric.  This was originally supposed to be a reverse appliqué but after cutting out the shapes on several pieces I decided that I didn’t like the way the camel was working against the teal so I restitched about half the back.  The layers are connected using a backstitch with embroidery floss which takes forever.  Let’s say 6 to 8 hours per piece and I think there were 17 pieces.

Finally I added some sequins and beads around the front neckline.  I know, I’m a wild woman!  Oh and I almost forgot the snaps which have crocheted covers thanks to a tutorial on the Alabama Chanin blog.  I’m a newbie crocheter and this was amazingly tiny, done with thread like lace!  I just kept redoing it until I had three that looked similar.

The skirt is the opposite colorway with brown paint on camel fabric over a turquoise layer.  This was done with a running  stitch in a tan button thread which is much much faster.  It’s cut with a reverse appliqué and a raw hem that curls up ever so cutely.  The waistband is a foldover elastic sewn on with a stretch stitch.


  • Don’t spray paint outside, when it’s windy.
  • Have an excuse ready for when your husband finds a needle on the stairs.
  • Check the sofa throw for needles before sitting on it.
  • Use a the thickest mylar you can find.  Mine was too thin and would roll up when the paint was wet and stick to itself making quite a mess.
  • Needles travel well in a magnetic tray with a cover.
  • You will find tiny bits of fabric behind the car door handle, on the coffee table, in your tote, and in your bathrobe pocket.
  • Watch the thread tension on the backstitch.  I started with the back of the jacket which turned out a bit tighter than the front.
  • It pays to experiment.
  • This is not a race.  Savor the journey.

Cake – Camel and Gray Pants

I need pants. Long pants, short pants, wide pants, skinny pants, work pants….so I am officially checking two pair off my SWAP in camel and grey.  These are basic but will be workhorses in my wardrobe, hence the ‘cake’.  I’ll get to some icing soon.


Both pants were drafted using my sloper with modifications.  I borrowed the leg shape and width from a pair of RTW pants that I like.  They have an invisible zipper in the back to reduce any lumpiness in front and they have no pockets, again to maintain a clean look under my ubiquitous jackets and sweaters.  The only differences between the two pair is that the camel ones have a contoured waistband at the hip, and the gray ones have a 1″ straight waistband at the waist.  I also stitched down the crease in the front of the gray ones which I think makes a nice line.

I just need to get on my soapbox for a moment and give a shout out to SLOPERS!  Heh slopers, you ROCK!  It has taken me years to come up with bodice and pant slopers that finally fit.  For the longest time I thought that you were supposed to take a published pattern and then adjust it to match the fit of your sloper. No!  I learned from my sewing instructor  last year that I can use my sloper to add ease and style lines and I’m done!  This is a major sea change in the way I think about patterns.  I don’t have that many and now don’t really need that many.  Sure I’ll buy or download a pattern to copy a detail like a collar or peplum  but I don’t use the whole pattern.

Really, how many pants patterns do you need once you have a sloper.  There is no need to bang our collective heads against the wall every time we take a new pattern out of the envelope to fit it.



These are both made from Rayon/Polyester/Lycra (RPL) which has a fabulous drape.  Emma  One Sock stocks it in a decent range of colors.  Although they are suppose to be the same fabric, the two colors are a bit different.  The camel is a bit “spongy”, thicker, and stretchier than the gray.   Stranger still is that the camel has the greatest stretch lengthwise which the grey does not so I cut the camel on the crossgrain.  They even fit a bit differently due to the slightly different stretch factor.  I’ve worn the camel three times so far and sadly it’s already starting to pill.   We’ll see how the grey fares as I’ve only worn them once.

The jury is still out on RPL.  I have some in cream which is in the middle of becoming pants, and I have several more yards of camel for a jacket and skirt but I’m not sure I’ll buy more.  I typically don’t buy polyester for environmental reasons but I was looking for something with a bit of Lycra and the price was right.  Real wool gaberdine is pricey and hard to find.


Besides jeans these are the only pants I haven’t lined.  Any lining would need to have the same stretchiness as the fashion fabric which was a tall order so I didn’t bother.  The edges were first serged then sewn together.  The waistbands were cut on the same grain as the rest of the pants.  The RPL doesn’t take too kindly to iron-on interfacing so I used two layers of horsehair interfacing stitched together and it worked out OK.

Camel Contoured Waistband: Interfacing was laid in after the waistband was sewn on.  Then the top and bottom seam allowances were catch-stitched around the interfacing to keep it in place.   I then sewed the side seams and handstitched a facing made from Bemberg lining.  The final step was topstitching the top and bottom of the waistband.  I went back in and took in the waist a bit more and made a royal mess of the topstitching and facing.  I need to find a better way to make a contoured waistband that still allows me to adjust the side seams without too much hassle.

Grey Straight Waistband:  This was much easer than the contoured band.  I used a technique I found in Pants for Real People where the interfacing is stitched to the seam allowance of the waistband before being attached to the pant.  Brilliant!  I’ve probably said it before but Pants for Real People and Jackets for Real People, both by Palmer/Pletsch are the best sewing books I have.  (Power Sewing by Sandra Betzina comes in third.)

Hems were topstitched in a rush.  I usually do a catch stitch to some interfacing but couldn’t use it on this fabric.  Note to self:  Try blind hemstitch next time.


Pretty darn close to perfect!  The only change I will make in the future is raising the back waistband up about a 1/2″.  These are about as narrow as I can get before I start to get the dreaded under-the-butt wrinkles.


  • Just because you have a swatch of a fabric in one color doesn’t mean that it will be the same in another color.  Always order a swatch if you can’t touch it in a store.
  • Maybe topstitch the waistband before sewing the side seams for ultimate adjustability?
  • Invisible zipper foot on my BabyLock is a PITA.  Use the one on my Viking which is a sure thing every time.


The Orange Shorts – Sewing Workshop Plaza Pant

This is the third time that I have made the Sewing Workshop Plaza Pants.  They are loose fitting and gathered at the waist except for a flat section in the front.  They should be made from fabric that has some drape.  They have a 1″ pleated seam down the front of each leg which is quite flattering.

The first time I made them I used some sort of cotton slinky with a ribbed texture if you can picture that.  They kept getting longer with each wear until the crotch was almost down to my knees.  I exaggerate, but they were a fail due to my fabric choice.  I did really like the pattern though so the next time I made a pair a pajama bottoms in plaid flannel.  They are super comfy and get so much use that they are threadbare and nearing the end of their life.

IMG_0245 copyThis latest iteration is a pair of shorts made for my St. Lucia wardrobe at the beginning of the year.  It’s some sort of technical fabric (New Balance maybe?) that I got from I’m guessing  This knit is thick and drapey and most likely wicks sweat.  It also has a very soft finish that makes you want to pet it.  I love the color and have plenty more to make a running top and/or sporty zip jacket.

When tracing the shorts I replaced the crotch curve with my own and lowered the front waistline.

Even thought this is a simple pattern and has an adjustable waist I think a muslin is is a good idea. This is because there are no side seams to adjust, and due to the construction order the hem must be made before the front pleat.  Basically you need to get the fit right the first time.


[So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  What in the world are all those wrinkles in my lap that the camera picked up?  It’s a beefy knit for crying out loud!]


White Skinny Jeans – Burda 7863

Finally! A pair of pants completed, white pants, at the end of August.  I worked on my pants sloper on an off with my sewing instructor for about 6 months.  We got the sloper worked out for a standard pair of narrow (not skinny) pants.  The concept is that I can use the sloper to draft any other kind of pant but when dealing with a stretch fabric the whole pattern basically needed to be narrowed in the X direction inlcuding the pockets and crotch width.

I threw caution to the fashion winds and wore them to work today — way after Labor Day!  :P

White jeans are on my SWAP by the way so yeah me!



I used Burda 7863  as the basis of design.  Basically I used the measurements of the pockets and back yoke.  The top of the jeans is about 1/4″ lower than my sloper.  For the next pair, and there will be several more, I won’t lower the back at all and will dip the front by another 1/2″.  The legs here are much narrower than the Burda pattern.

The pattern calls for a straight waistband but I made a contoured band instead with seams at the sides to allow for adjustments. It’s a bit bulky but I am always tweaking.

The one thing I messed up was the pocket placement on the rear.  It was fine until I started taking the sides in and now they are too far apart.  I’ve put the pants back in the sewing room for the winter  in the hope that I ‘ll get inpired to move them by spring.


And yes, those are houndstooth Connies!



I struggled a lot with the nature of the stretch denim which I am guessing has about 3% Lycra.  I think I got it at NY Elegant in NYC.  I prefer 2% Lycra but I had a hard enough time finding a white that was also thick enough to avoid show through.  The pretty floral waistband and zipper guard is actually the last of an old set of sheets.The pocket bags are just a buff colored quilting cotton purchased specifically for this project as I didn’t want anything to show through.


These are fresh out of a hot dryer for the photo shoot, but they loosen up in after an hour of wear.

I took them in at the waist, hip, and even reduced the crotch extension to accommodate the stretch properties.  I also narrowed the legs for style purposes.

The only fit issue that bothers me are the wrinkles below the derrière. My sewing instructor says that they need to be there if I actually want to SIT in my pants. Bummer!



I’ve made jeans before so there was nothing new for these.  I always have difficulty at the ends of the waistband though where there is a lot of bulk.  Need to work on that. Jeans button and rivets are from Joann’s and were easy to intall.

The topstitching was done with white jeans thread which worked just fine.  I had my serger and two sewing machines running for this one so I didn’t have to keep changing the thread.


  • Take fabric stretch into account when drafting the pockets.
  • Attach rear patch pockets AFTER fitting the waist and hip.

Tree Ornaments

I know Thanksgiving has not even passed but Christmas is almost here!  Yikes!  I still haven’t made the plaid tunic that I promised to make my niece last Christmas.  Except for my St. Lucia vacation wardrobe detour I have been working through my SWAP list which calls for a blue linen jacket.  I’m about 75% complete, and when it’s done the tunic will need jump to the front of the queue.

I don’t consider myself a crafter but I sometimes do crafty things.  These ornaments were made years ago before I started my ‘me-made’ wardrobe.  Sorry but I have no idea where the patterns came from.

These were easy and fun.  Just felt and embroidery floss, and no fitting!

IMG_0109 IMG_0099 IMG_0111 IMG_0087

Now back to fashion sewing.

Are you a Pattern Tracer?

I have noticed several camps of sewists out there when it comes to envelope vs. PDF patterns.

There are those who loathe PDF’s because they must print, cut, and tape them together. I sew from a lot of PDF patterns but have never had a problem. It seems that everyone is trimming the edges before taping. The good news?  You don’t have to trim! No need.   Just overlap them and tape. Trimming is not required. Actually I think it would be more difficult to get the edges to align properly if they were not perfectly trimmed.

Sometimes the matchlines or symbols are not dark enough to see through the paper so I use a window to tape against. Sliding glass doors are the best.  At night when there is no light coming in I’ll tape against my shower door which has a light behind it. I’m also lucky enough to have a built-in light box which works well for smaller pieces.

Once taped up I roughly cut the pattern pieces apart, trace them, and put the originals away for safe keeping.

There is also the camp that doesn’t like the overlapping pattern pieces on one sheet like BurdaStyle magazine. Did you know that they tell you where they are located on the sheet? Just use a highlighter or marker around the pieces you need, then trace them onto your tracing paper.

You are tracing your patterns right?  Right?  I’ve learned from experience never to cut or modify my original pattern pieces except to cut them apart.  You never know when you might need to go back and look at the original after you have tried to fit or modify something beyond recognition.   Also if you decide to do some selfless sewing you will most likely need a different size.

Are you a taper? Cutter? Tracer?

Polo Anyone?

I wouldn’t go out of my way to search out a Polo-style shirt but I was swayed by these great colors, MY colors.

For this teal one I convinced my LH that teal is not his color and he surrendered it to the sewing studio without much fuss. Coincidentally teal IS one if my colors.  No really.  A total coincidence.  Really.


I removed the sleeves and filleted the shirt opening it up at the sides and shoulders with only the collar holding everything together. I then recut the shoulders, armholes and sides using my trusty SLOPER! Yeah sloper!  Instead of side darts I eased in about an inch of fabric at the side seams at the bust which lent itself to a subtle  hi-low hemline. I can see in the photos though that I should have made the “dart” larger as I see some drag lines at the bust.  I kept the original hem and added flattering side slits. I also recut the sleeves maintaining their original hem as well.

So now I have a sassy little tunic I can wear as a beach coverup or with leggings.


I picked up the turquoise Izod shirt at the Salvation Army for a few dollars knowing that it would get a make-over. It was 80’s vintage, wide shouldered and loose, with puffy sleeves.

Photobombing by Waffles

I removed the sleeves and took in the sides. I used fold-over elastic on the armholes and stitched it to the inside of the garment. This type of binding is a first for me and I don’t think it’s quite right. There’s really no need for elastic here but the FOE color was a good match so time for experimentation! The armholes are now a little too snug which means I must have stretched the elastic during installation. The shoulder slope is off too.  I keep walking around yanking my shirt down so too snug in the bust. Considering that I only paid $2.50 and its second hand, I’m calling this one a fail and It’s going back to Salvation Army. Eew!  It’s not woth my time to unpick.  I am calling it a learning experience.


  • In some knits you can’t ignore or reduce the bust “darts”.  This is very firm stable knit that deserved a bit more shaping and ease.
  • Fold over elastic is too bulky for cotton knit pique.
  • Don’t stretch the fold over elastic or binding at the armholes. I don’t need ease here.
  • Slopers are awesome!
  • Learn how to SMILE for the camera!

Meg dips her toes into the Indie pool


When I was searching for patterns for my vacation ensemble I decided it was a great opportunity to try a few Indie patterns. Many of the Indie patterns I see are dresses, which I don’t wear very often, and knit tops.  I’m a jacket and pants kinda gal so most of them don’t appeal to me although I always need something to wear under the jackets.  I thought I should at least try one or two Indie’s to see what all the fuss is about. I don’t think twice about downloading PDF’s and I pay little attention to instructions so my focus is on the details and the cut.

I had a white scoop neck woven top listed in my SWAP queue and thought the Sorbetto might fit the bill.

I had originally envisioned a “chemise” style in a loose weave to wear under jackets so I ordered a cotton/Lycra blend that turned out to be too stiff for a chemise style. Duh!  In my pre-vacation delirium to make all things SUMMER I then decided that it would make a great Sorbetto. Not!

I surged the side seams and used bias binding on the inside of the neck and armholes. Instead of a straight stitch I used a wing needle and a decorative stitch to stitch the binding down. This technique looks lovely on a linen but is quite muddy here.
The pattern has no darts in back so there were gobs of fabric at the back waist all puffed out. I tried to tame it with some pleats but they look a bit snug in the photos.

I’m giving this project a FAIL mostly due to the wrong fabric but also because I should just stick to my style of more fitted garments.  I also want to change the shape of the neckline to something more square and perhaps add a center back seam that I can tweak.  You live and you learn.

Next up was Maria Denmark’s Day-to-Night Drape top. I had never tried a draped neckline but  was smitten by Sew Busy Lizzy‘s  awesome version.  It’s a very simple pattern that gets its “cool” from the drape of the fabric.  I had purchased a very thin sorbet colored cotton knit which feels luscious but really needs to be a bit heavier for this pattern. I tried it with a weight at the neckline but found it dragged it down a bit too much for me.  This is more on the “night” end of the scale rather than “day”.  I could see it in a more liquid-like material, a metallic, or sequins.  There is also a lot of fabric pooled down the front below the bust which I suspect is inherent for a cowl neckline.  Hmm…maybe I’ll try to marry this neckline to my sloper and have a two piece front.  I’ll give this one a passing grade.



  • Simple is not necessarily better.  I need more fitted styles.  This is not the same as tighter.
  • Start relying on my sloper more.
  • Pay more attention to the drape of the fabric. Both of these projects could have been better with different fabric.
  • Check sloper to make sure their are no drag lines at the bust.

BurdaStyle 06/2013 #111A Shorts


These shorts were part of my St. Lucia vacation wardrobe. The fabric was leftover from a failed pair of pants. It’s a lovely fine twill weave of wool and silk in a warm brown with silver undertones. It looks sturdy but is actually rather delicate and doesn’t like to be stressed so we’ll see how long they last. I downloaded this pattern (06/2013 #111A) because of its relaxed look, faced waist, and width.

As designed the shorts have a side zip, faced waist, rear vent pocket, and rolled cuffs. They sit slightly below the waist. I omitted the useless and potentially lumpy back pocket and moved the zipper to the back. I also changed the bulky facing to seam binding and omitted the roll up hem. 

IMG_9859I laid the pattern out over my almost done pants sloper and found that the side seam sits towards the front.  I know this is an optical trick to make one look slimmer from the front but wasn’t sure if or how to translate that to my sloper.  Then somewhere along the way I lost an inch in width on each side!  Must have been late at night.  Hmmm….this is a design opportunity!  I added a 1″ strip down each side using the back side of the fabric which is a grey/silver.  It looks a bit crooked at the top but I won’t be wearing my shirt tucked in anyways.


In the end I am quite pleased with the fit.  I need to work out the bug with the stripe but I will be making these again.  They definitely suit me!



  • Take your time.  Don’t sew under time pressure.
  • My pants sloper already rocks! (Thanks Astrid!)

Anatomy of an Etcetera jacket

I found this jacket in a local second hand clothing store called Second Time Around in Needham. Basically the only time I shop for clothes these days is when I sneak in there after my haircut every seven weeks or so.  I always have my eye out for unusual jackets.  The back vents were still tacked together so I am assuming that it was never worn – although I can’t tell you how many men and women I see on my daily commute with the tacks still in place on skirts, jackets, and coats. This epidemic requires a public service announcement!


But I digress.  The brand, Etcetera, is one I had never seen before and it’s lovely. I have been fascinated by the construction and thought I would share it with you.

The sleeves have deep vents faced with the fashion fabric so you can fold them up.  It’s made of a heavy linen/cotton blend with a yellow and grey cross-weave.  (The first photo is actually the truest color.) It’s got a little bit of pick stitching in there too.


Will you look at these cut-outs in the front? The top, middle, and bottom sections of the mid-fronts are each lined and then stitched into the front and side panels. The sections even overlap at an angle.  Brilliant!  Let’s look at the inside. The front is lined and the back has bound seams.

IMG_9924 IMG_9926

IMG_9921The configuration of the back stay is new to me.  It has two overlapping triangular panels stitched into the shoulder and armhole of the lining.  There is a small shoulder pad underneath.  In theory this should allow for flexibility but in reality it’s quite constricting.  Maybe the grainline is running in the wrong direction?  I may actually remove the stays.

Also the back vent is nicely mitered at the bottom.

I want to try the cut-out idea.  Now if only I had something to wear with it…  I’m thinking grey or navy skinny pants.

Who shops second hand?