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?

New Look 6251 – Khaki Cargo Shorts, and Jalie Tee


This is one of the Tees and shorts that I took with me to St. Lucia.  The top was made in January and the shorts, well, I thought I made them last summer but when I pulled out the pattern I saw they were made in 2011!  It was actually in the 70’s yesterday so we took Olive for a special walk at the nearby agricultural high school.


The shirt itself isn’t terribly exiting but I post it because it’s one step closer to a t-shirt sloper and I must say this is pretty darn close!  I started with Jalie 2566 except used the shoulders and sleeves from my bodice sloper. The fabric is very light-weight cotton with a bit of a slubby texture.

Construction was mostly done on the serger.  The sleeve hems have a band of matching fabric attached.  The neckline has the same band except it’s stitched to the inside and then turned to the outside and stitched down covering the seam allowances.

The hem was done with a coverstitch and I think that is the last time I will attempt it.  GRRR!  I have a 5 thread machine that can “convert” to do coverstitching, chainstitching, 5 thread safety stitch, etc.  In theory it’s great, but in reality it takes 20 minutes to switch it over and back again.  It also HATES to coverstitch over the thinnest tiniest of seams.  Even a hump-jumper doesn’t help.  In hind sight I should have bought a 4 thread serger and a separate coverstitch machine.



I see that there is a new New Look 6251 out which is for a sweater or top and NOT cargo pants.  I have no idea how old this pattern is as I couldn’t find a copyright date anywhere.  I can’t believe they need to recycle the pattern numbers.  I bought it used online I think.  I’m a sucker for princess seamed pants and these have the seam down the front.  The brilliant detail here is the way the cargo pockets are set into the vertical seams at the front and side. Cool huh?  The only design change I made was to leave off the belt loops.  I don’t wear belts very often and they just add bulk at the waist so why bother.  I also used a button at the waistband instead of a hook and eye.  Buttons seem to prevent the vertical edge of the fly from sticking out and gives the illusion of a flatter tummy.  (I see you rolling your eyes mom!)

IMG_0763     IMG_0754

Just to ease your fears, I would NEVER entertain the cropped version!

The fabric is a super stretchy cotton/lycra weave with great recovery.  The pockets work great for doggie bags!

Since the waistband is a contoured band, I stabilized the top of the band with twill tape.  It doesn’t work terribly well as the top of the band cuts into my waist.  It’s just not very comfy.  I want the waistband to move and stretch like the rest of the shorts but I have to add SOME structure to it so they don’t stretch too much.  I figured if I added a bunch of interfacing to the waistband it would be too stiff.

The fit is just OK.  I made a number of modifications and they are still a bit short in the crotch and a bit snug at the waist, nothing I can’t fix if inclined to do so.  In spite of their ‘short‘ comings these are the shorts I pull out most often on the weekend.

I have been taking sewing lessons for the last few months and our number one priority has been a well fitted pant sloper.  As of Saturday we. are. almost. there. and then it will be PANTS CITY around here!  Once the sloper is in place I’ll try this pattern again.


  • Don’t add twill tape to a waistband if the fabric has a lot of stretch.
  • In a wash’n wear garment pocket flaps need fasteners.

Marfy F1973 – Winter Coat

Last Fall I was experimenting with with different winter coat patterns and finally settled on Marfy F1973.  The most important feature for me was the raglan sleeve.  For a winter coat that I will be wearing over jackets and sweaters it’s easier to get on and off and doesn’t seem to bind at the armhole with a raglan cut.  It has generous sleeves and I liked the look of the swirly skirt and wide collar that I could use to showcase some faux fur.  The belt is plus to keep out drafts and the length works for most of my skirts.

Marfy F1973

This was meant to be a ‘super coat’ that would withstand the Boston weather on my daily commute and it did not disappoint!  I finished in December so I was able to put it to the test during our winter from Hell.  It’s definitely not very svelte but I’d rather be warm than chic.

Faux Fur Collar


The fashion fabric is a very soft tweedy wool twill that I purchased from Sawyer Brook several years ago.  Amazingly it’s not itchy at all!  On my screen it looked like a very warm brown, sort of a camel color so I pounced without ordering a swatch.  I should know better when spending the big bucks.  It’s actually a very cool brown and drab tan and not something I would have selected if I had seen it in person but heh, I’m already over it.

A Live Model!
A Live Model!

I got the faux fur from Kashi at Metro Textiles the last time I was in NYC.  Buttons are from Joann’s I think.

Lining.  Support buttons on inside.
Lining. Support buttons on inside. Photobomber: Waffles


Marfy patterns have no instructions so I used my trusty ‘Jackets for Real People’ by Palmer Pletsch.  I also drafted the lining.  Big picture:

  • Construct the outer shell complete with the undercollar
  • Assemble the facing, lining, and overcollar.  The lambswool was basted to the individual lining and facing pieces before being stitched together.
  • The windproofing is a seperate interling extending from the neckline down to the waist.  The sleeves of the windproofing are only connected only along the top half of the armhole and are cut back a bit at the underarm to reduce bulk.
  • Attach the entire outer shell to the inner shell along the front and collar edge.
  • Buttonholes at the front are bound.  I made standard buttonholes on the sleeve tabs.
  • Oh the collar – it’s actually a double collar.  The faux fur is a separate piece that is tacked on for the season so I can send the rest of the coat to the dry cleaners.
Marfy F1973
Marfy F1973


Since it’s not very close fitting I only made a couple of changes:

  • Lowered the beltline by an inch
  • Lengthened the sleeves by an inch -something I should be doing on all my Marfy coats/jackets.
  • Flared the side seams out starting at the waist so that the circumference at the hem is 4″ larger.  It just didn’t have that twirly Mary Tyler Moore thing going on that the pattern image shows.  Not sure it was necessary.
  • Added 20″ to the length of the belt!
  • What I didn’t notice on the muslin is that the back neckline is a bit low. It’s drafty at the back neck unless my scarf is positioned just so.  Not sure if I needed to just raise the back neckline or make a rounded back adjustment.


  • Order a swatch!  Don’t be so impulsive when ordering fabric except at Emma One Sock.
  • Check neckline when reviewing fit.

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.

Vogue 1212 – The almost coat

When I was auditioning patterns for my faux fur coat and looking for something with a large collar, I made a mockup of this Sandra Betzina pattern, Vogue 1212. It’s got two awesome collar designs, two sleeve options, a hidden zipper, welt pockets, and a cool little flap option at the back waist. I like the simpler option in green on the pattern envelope. Here is the mockup on Helena. It’s being worn over a work jacket that has shoulder pads.

What’s with the curving seam under the bust line? It looks like it’s designed for a baby bump! Why would they do this intentionaly? It also seemed like it wasn’t very shapely.

At the time, i said no way is this going to be my faux fur, nor did I want to cut some of my precious wool for it. I figured that if I made this pattern, it would have to have the underbust/waist curve banished, and replaced with some shapely lines. Looking at it now a few months later, the curved seam must still be changed, but it doesn’t look so bad overall. I still LOVE the collar!


So what do you think? Is it worth making? I still don’t want to use my wool on it, but perhaps some microfiber of some sort would work; like a windbreaker or raincoat.

Vogue V7937 – Pin-striped Kick-pleat Skirt

This is the skirt I made to coordinate with the Puffy-sleeved Tracy Reese jacket. I’ve had it made for a while now but wanted to work it over first before photographing it.

I know, you may need some sunglasses for my blindingly white legs!

This is a wool/cotton blend that I got from Sawyer Brook fabrics.
It’s a cross-weave of black and off-white in wool, with a pinstriped pattern in peach and pale blue cotton.
I lined it with with Ambiance, and I’ll share this secret; the front and back are lined with two different colors, grey and black! You won’t tell will you?

I picked Vogue V7937 because of the princess seaming, and the pleat detail in the back which I thought would work with the sleeves of the coordinating jacket. I’ve made this pattern once before with success. It’s a great little pattern with several options at the back and waist and I think it’s been around for a while.


I omitted the facing at the waist since it usually adds bulk. Instead I fashioned a tiny 1/2″ binding from the fashion fabric.

I also thought I’d get all fancy and underline the skirt with silk organza but it’s not holding up very well. It’s starting to shred at the stress points! I had a terrible time keeping the seams from rippling. I didn’t have this problem with the jacket so I don’t know why it happened on the skirt. I’ve pressed and pressed. I just can’t believe it’s the organza. It shows up in the photo above but not the photo below. Hmmm…

It was also looking quite frumpy which is why I finally brought it back to the sewing room. I pegged it by 2″ and shortened it by an inch. These two changes took it from frumpy to downright sassy! Yeah me!

I also tweaked the invisible zipper AGAIN as the stitching wasn’t close enough to the teeth. I usually don’t have any trouble with this type of zipper but I ended up working this one over four times!

Detail of Skirt Pleats

Lessons Learned
Careful of my skirt lengths and widths.

Faux Fur “Parka” – Vogue V8933 – just in time for summer

I had to have an Astrakhan coat. On my commute to work I walk across a very windy bridge in Boston so I wanted something that had some super neck protection. I also wanted it to be super warm.



I was holding out for brown and finally found this faux fur Persian Lamb on a visit to NYC last year. It was the fancy Tissavel stuff so I only bought about 2 yards. That’s pretty skimpy for a coat so I knew it would have to be a short one.

I had read that you should keep the seaming simple with fur, so enter Vogue V8933 with an almost double breasted angled front, and ear height super collar. The pattern is very simple with no princess seams or front darts. It comes in several lengths and has inseam pockets. I made view A, the shortest one. The front is fastened with giant #10 snaps.


The faux fur wasn’t that hard to cut or sew but fitting it into the 2 yards WITH nap was tricky. It’s quite pliable and actually very forgiving. I used a catch stitch on the seam allowances to keep the seams flat, and because the fur is short there was no need to pull the fur out of the stitching at the seams. I’m calling this a parka because it has a Thinsulate interlayer (the thick stuff) stitched to the lining.


What was I thinking? Of course, with no darts or princess seams it was quite boxy and shapeless. Duh! With the Thinsulate I was worried that it would be too snug so I sized up. I also planned to wear it over a jacket so added a little extra room at the shoulders. In the end I had over-compensated and it was WAY too big. I had made a muslin mockup but that couldn’t help me with the question of thickness and bulk.

I was also disappointed with the fit of the shoulder and sleeves so I switched them out with those from another pattern. I’m on the fence as to whether it was worth it. Oh, I also lengthened the sleeves a bit and added a slit at the bottom.


I completed the coat last November and wore it only a few times before I sent it back to the sewing room. I finally went in and did the major alterations in February when I went to an ASG sewing retreat. I took out about 2″ each at the shoulders, waist and hips by creating princess seams at both the front and back, and gave it a bit of shape at the sides. That was about the time I lost half a snap and it took until now to finally buy and sew a new one on along with some hooks and eyes at the collar. Sad, I know; finished just in time for summer!

I won’t use this pattern again as I need something more shaped. I’m just warming up with the faux fur and will definitely use it again. Now that everything has been tweaked on this coat, the only change I wish I could make is to lengthen it. Because the Thinsulate and fur make it bulkier, I think it needs to be longer to maintain good proportions.

Lessons Learned
1. I need shape so use patterns that help with this. When will I learn?
2. Don’t touch or rub your eyes while cutting faux fur.
3. Cats especially like faux fur.
4. Don’t cheap out with fabric length. If I can’t afford the length I really need I should wait until I can.

I’m working on my photography skills. The detail shot gas the truest color rendition.

Last word; the hat is my second crochet project completed just this spring. It’s cute but not very windproof. I like how the crochet work feels very organic compared to sewing.