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Red Scuba Dress

I am not much of a dress girl.   From the practical side they don’t play well with sweaters and jackets which are my staples for both winter and summer. Bare legs in the summer in the office are tough with the A/C so I typically wear pants to work.  In the winter I can wear skirts because I can wear them with tights and boots.

Mostly though dresses seem too feminine for me and put me outside my comfort zone.  I keep thinking that folks at work won’t take me seriously if I am too girly.  This latest wardrobe addition brings my dress count to a whopping 4 (two for special occasions and two for work all made by me)!  Maybe I need to channel Claire Underwood for some ‘serious’ dresses.

I made this dress for my brother’s wedding at the end of October, Halloween actually.  The invitation said “Wear your red dress” so of course I had to make one.  My inspiration was an image of Mary-Kate Olsen wearing a long narrow dress with a fur stole. I auditioned many patterns and ideas and finally arrived at the Kimono Wrap dress from Well-Suited.  It’s not a pattern per se but instructions and illustrations for drafting your own dress.

My attempt at the Kimono design was a hot mess and didn’t even make it to the muslin stage. I know, Kimono sleeves should be simple in theory.  Since I was under a time constraint for the wedding I tossed it aside for future cogitation.  I still liked the faux wrap detail so came up with something similar with set in sleeves using Armstrong’s Patterndrafting book.


The fabric is a gorgeous red scuba knit that came from Gorgeous Fabrics.  It’s a medium weight scuba with a little more stretch in the width than length, and almost too thick for the gathered detail at the waist.  I fussed around with finding the right stretch lining for the bodice and in the end removed it.


The scuba fairly easy to work with, much easier than a jersey knit, and came together quickly.  The seams are serged with woolly nylon in the loopers, and the hem stitched with a twin needle.  The neckline just has a long straight stitch.



Not bad.  I think I’ve got a bit too much length in the back but that’s it.  For future reference I think the neckline is too wide and would be more flattering for my face shape if it was narrower.  At just below the knee the length is also out of my comfort zone.  I pegged it to keep it from being frumpy, but someday I may shorten to my favorite length just above the knee.

The Stole

What fun!  This is a faux fur that I got several years ago from Metro Textiles.  I was there a few weeks ago and he still has some…  I draped it for the shaping.  It’s just a tube so no wrap or fasteners.  I reused some silk from an old garment for the lining, but the BEST part is that it’s interlined with Polar Fleece!  So warm, comfy, chic, and perfect for an October wedding.

Lessons Learned

  • Don’t try to sew something fancy, special, etc on a deadline.  I should have learned this one by now….
  • Pattern Drafting is fun, especially when you are rotating darts and creating tucks and pleats.



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!]

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?

Why Sewing is like Architecture

I’ve been practicing architecture now for over 30 years which is quite a long time. I hadn’t realized I had hit that mark until I started writing this post! Periodically I think about how my profession is similar to sewing. They both have a combination of design, craft, construction, and accountability.

1. We start with a client with a need. For sewing the client is mostly me and I have a list of needed garments, but it could be my LH needing new PJ’s, or my son needing a sheep costume or cape.

2. We then figure out the program such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, or number of stories or apartments. For sewing we figure out what kind of functional requirements there are such as “mustn’t be itchy” or wash’n wear, or “must have iPhone sized pocket”.

3. Then the fun part, the design. We design within the clients’ parameters given above, but then we get to decide whether the jacket has a peplum or if the pants have cuffs. We can go wild or be conservative.

4. What materials will be used? Wood flooring and ceramic tile, or wool and silk? What will support that fancy cantilevered top? Is it a steel beam or steel boning? What is stiffening the skirt?

5. How sustainable will the project be? Will we be using reclaimed timbers, or Goodwill finds? Will we be using natural fibers or plastics that don’t biodegrade?

5. We build small scale models of our buildings to make sure everyone likes what we’ve designed before the real one gets built. This is similar to the muslin test phase where we might remove and replace different components to get the fit or proportions we are looking for.

6. We draw up the final plans and elevations, and draft up the different pieces so we know what size to build.

7. We finalize the design details such as the selection of door hardware or closures like zippers or buttons.

8. We spend an enormous time creating construction details.  These explain exacty how the parts and pieces get put together.  When constructing a garment I actually draw little sections and details to confirm the final number of layers of fabric in a seam or to determine the order of construction.

  Section at pockets of Jalie Denim Jacket

 So here’s the thing: These days I spend most of my work life with email, accounting, and meetings.  I don’t get to design and draw anymore so sewing brings me back to my creative roots whether it’s with a pen and paper or a needle and thread. 

St. Lucia at Last!

Back at the end of last year we decided that this would be the year to finally go on a tropical vacation so we booked  the week of February vacation at a boutique hotel in St. Lucia.   I had been picking away at my SWAP but put it aside to plan and implement the elusive Vacation Wardrobe.  My casual clothes consist mostly of well-worn exercise gear and free oversized Tee shirts with nary a complimentary or coordinating color in the lot.

I spent days obsessing over a small wardrobe based on both new and existing pieces.  The fabric was  bought online from lesss expensive sites like and Fabric Mart.   I sketched out the wardrobe  and mixed and matched them like paper dolls.  I also used this opportunity to try some Indie patterns. 

I worked on it through my December holiday, through January, and into February sewing up to the last minute.  Our flight was cancelled due to a  snow storm but we were able to reschedule for two days later.   Then that flight was delayed due to to a storm in DC causing us to miss our connecting flight.   We rescheduled AGAIN, this time for April.  I REALLY REALLY needed to get away in February  but April will do.  I was able to make one more pair of shorts  with the extra time.

 May I present the Tropical Vacation Wardrobe ready to be packed.  From left to right:

  1. Bright blue denim jacket  made last year.  Not needed on the island but worked great for travel. (Jalie denim jacket heavily modified for shape and fit. )
  2. Orange linen pleated skirt made a year or two ago.   I eliminated this one in the end since I was limited to carry-on luggage only.
  3. Striped orange shorts made last year.  They didn’t make the cut either.
  4. NEW green/white striped dress made for the vacation under time pressure and therefore not so much fun.  I went way out of my comfort zone here and did not make a muslin.  Instead I used my bodice sloper as the basis for the draft. (Franken-pattern)
  5. Plaid linen ‘big shirt’, a Salvation Army find, for use as a beach cover up.
  6. Teal slinky dress made last winter.  Not convinced I like the feel of the slinky on my skin.
  7. NEW pale aqua loose scoop neck tee in organic cotton.
  8. Stretch cotton chinos made a couple of years ago.  Used for travel. (Burdastyle)
  9. NEW crisp white cotton tank; my first Sorbetto.
  10. NEW cotton/Lycra knit Grainline Studo Day-to-Night top in pale melon.  My first cowl neck.
  11. NEW pale aqua and melon striped bambo knit long-sleeved Jalie cardi and matching vee neck tank.
  12. Stretch cotton khaki shorts wih pleated pockets made a few years ago. (New Look)
  13. NEW shorts in a brown wool/silk blend. (BurdaStyle with a twist.)
  14. NEW casual  turquoise elastic waist mini-skirt in cotton terry; self-drafted. 
  15. NEW orange pleated shorts in some sort of athletic knit. (Sewing Workshop)
  16. Last, a refahioned Izod shirt.  I removed the puffy ’80’s sleaves, Now looks like a babydoll top. Will ditch or rework.

My favorite part of this wardrobe are the colors which are mostly tan/brown, white, orange/melon, and turquiose/aqua. This means I can mix and match almost everything.  There are three items that I didn’t get to but, hey, being able to say that I made almost all of my vacation wardrobe makes me feel pretty proud of myself.

I promise I’ll post about a few of the key pieces soon.

Cotton Lace?

I purchased this Elie Tahari 100% cotton lace at Vogue fabrics while at the Expo last week. Yes, it’s an impulse buy, but did I mention it was only $10/yd? I’m a big fan of this designer as his garments often have interesting details or fabrics. I got 3 yards at 38″ wide. The color is a very pale yellow with a geometric pattern. It’s fairly thick and has a heavy drape. I’ve draped it over Helena. So what should it be? IMG_8984 IMG_8983 And how is this stuff sewn together anyways? My closest experience is with eyelet which is a different animal. My first reaction was that this should be a sheath dress with simple style lines. I think it would work well with the drape and weight of the fabric. It could be fully lined or just have a matching slip underneath. Sounds good but I have no occasion to wear such a garment. I’m getting cold just thinking about it! Maybe a “big shirt” to wear over something else? But why would I wear something that didn’t cover me up or keep me warm? Maybe lined or underlined? A tunic over a solid sheath? A skirt? A jacket or coat? This could be very successful if done right but….it could also look like I decided to sew up my grandmother’s tablecloth! I’d like to go funky rather than dressy. I’m polling my friends asking just what should this be. Any ideas?

Jacket Refashion – Peplum Hack

This post is for my friend Celine who saw me working on a jacket refashion at an American Sewing Guild retreat.

Once or twice a year I shop at the Salvation Army.  I look for color, and fiber content, specifically all natural fibers like wool and linen to harvest. Many of the newer jackets I find tend to contain polyester which I avoid, but I can still find older ones made with natural fibers.  They just have dated shapes from the 90’s and 00’s with minimal waist and hip shaping and a long fingertip length.
I’ve taken a few of these older jackets and refashioned them to fit me and the current decade.  Often they fit my shoulders and bust, but are a bit snug at the hip which is noticeable when buttoned.  However the smug little seamstress in me says “I can change that!”
This type of jacket needs three things to Suit Me:
1. Waist definition.
2. Shorter length.
3. More room at the hip.

The Fix
What I do to correct these problems is remove a horizontal band approximately 4″ wide starting from the waist down. I first take in the width of the top half of the jacket by a few inches at various vertical seams to create the waist circumference I want.

I then attach the remaining bottom section of the jacket, now a ‘peplum’ which already contains the hem. Since the bottom part is now several inches wider than the new waistline I have created, I taper, gather, or add tucks to the lower section to match the width of the top half while maintaining the alignment of vertical seams and darts.
In creating this peplum you’re essentially moving the hip and hemline of the jacket where it’s too snug up to an area on the body that is narrower. Et voila, I’ve solved my problem!

I have found that the most important part of this hack is to make sure the front edge seam, where the facing meets the fashion fabric, must match perfectly both horizontally and vertically.


  • Before putting scissors to fabric you also need think about where the buttons will end up.  Sometimes I can work one into the horizontal peplum seam.
  • Make sure the shoulders fit before buying.  I’m not willing to make the shoulders narrower.

Kwik Sew 2905 – Kids’ Pajamas

I saw on PatternReview that Kwik Sew is going out of business. So sad. I have a series of their patterns that I have used again and again so I thought I would post this one in memoriam. By the way, if you’ve never made a Kwik Sew pattern they have excellent instructions and graphics, and best of all the patterns are printed on bond paper with multi-colored ink for different sizes. What a luxury.

Kwik Sew 2905
Kwik Sew 2905

I don’t sew a lot clothes for my son since he grows out of them so fast, but I have made this pattern three times so far (all in cotton flannel) and he just loves them. What can I say except that they are easy to make and super cute. This pair is his favorite as they are printed with his favorite animal of the moment – sheep.

Sorry I don’t remember where I got the fabric. I do know I did an online search specifically for a sheep print that wasn’t too babyish.

I had fun with the print and put a seam in the back of the collar so I could get a black sheep on each side of the front. I also pattern matched the pocket and front edge. I think it was a good practice exercise for more complicated print matching for my own garments.