Purple fluffy pants!

I haven’t sewn many garments with woven fabric lately because I don’t like to iron my clothes after I wash them and I would also rather not deal with zippers. I also find knit clothes just tend to be more comfortable to wear. However, “fluffy” cotton double gauze is trendy right now, you don’t have to (and you really should not) iron it if you wear it crinkled, and when you use it for loose fitting summer clothes it is cool and comfortable and does not need a zipper. I bought three yards of purple fluffy from Mily Mae Fabrics and decided to make some woven palazzo pants.

I love the Pattern Emporium Walk Boldly and Urban knit pants patterns so selected their Vacation Vibes pattern for woven palazzo pants. The pattern has both a low-rise and high-rise option, as well as several pocket choices and options for subtle or dramatic flare legs. I love wearing high-rise pants so I went with the high rise waist, subtle flare leg, and foxy pockets. I cut a size AU10 short and made no pattern modifications whatsoever.

I washed and dried my fluffy fabric before use and did not iron it at all to keep it nice and fluffy. I projected the pattern onto the fluffy and cut it with a rotary cutter. It is a little tricky to sew because you want to avoid having it stretch out. I used a walking foot on my sewing machine with a slightly longer stitch length and surged all the seams after I sewed them to tidy up the edges. every time the pattern suggested pressing with an iron I ignored it, and just did some light finger pressing. I made a bias binding for the large foxy pockets (big enough for my phone without any modifications), but it requires several passes through the sewing machine to attach. By the time I got it attached it had stretched out a bit so I moistened the pocket openings with a damp cloth, reblocked them to their proper shape with my hands, and let them dry before I finished attaching the pockets. The pants were very easy to sew, and went together quickly. The waistband was super easy to assemble as there was nothing to stretch: I made a casing and threaded a piece of 2″ elastic through it. I’m 5’2″ and ended up hemming the short length 2.25 inches to wear with flats. The only time I touched my iron was to very lightly press the hems.

Here I am modeling the pants with my new Chorus top. I tucked it in so you could see the waist band but I will probably wear this shirt untucked. I like the subtle leg option, which is plenty wide on me. The dramatic leg could be fun with the right fabric, but may be more pants than I really need.

I thought the pants looked pretty good and were comfy to wear. But the rise was really sky high on me and the crotch was sitting pretty low. I am a big fan of high-rise pants, but as a short person, I sometimes find high-rise too high when there is no petite version. I also find I frequently have to size down and/or grade in the waist on PE patterns, despite choosing sizes that match my measurement. I decided to wear my pants to work all day and see how they did. They were comfortable and looked alright, and the double gauze was just right in both the 75-degree F outdoor weather and indoor air conditioning. but by the end of the day I was convinced that the waist was definitely too high for me. I also noticed that the pants slipped down a bit as I wore them and I kept stepping on the hem. The pockets were kind of droopy and I was concerned my phone could fall out when I sat down.

I cut off the waistband, removed about 2 inches from the top of the pants and graded in the sides from the hip up to the waist. I took about 3 inches out of the waistband circumference and sewed it back on. I think they fit much better now. They sit right at my natural waist rather than above it and there isn’t so much extra fabric around the waist. Next time I make these I think I would cut a size smaller (especially if I use double gauze since it stretches out a bit when you wear it), low rise, and still probably grade in the waist. I would also reshape the pocket opening to attach higher on the leg and hem them a bit higher. I might try a yoga waist band in a coordinating athletic knit (the pattern has instructions for that too!).

New photos show the reconfigured waistband. As an added bonus, since the pants are pulled up more the hems have risen and I no longer trip over them. I made a Sinclair Bondi v-neck tshirt (my first Bondi v-neck) out of a floral DBP in my stash to match the pants. I was going to make a dress from this fabric, but I liked how it paired with the pants so decided to make separates instead. I also like the shirt untucked. Skirt coming soon. I wore this outfit to work, and by the time I walked home it was 92 degrees F. The whole outfit was still comfortable, even in the heat and humidity!

Ruffles and Flutters

The Ellie & Mac Felicia Custom-Fit Cup Size Dress Pattern is super cute, but takes some time to make, especially if you include the flutter and ruffle options. It offers a nice custom fit by providing cup-size options and bodice darts. This isn’t all that critical for those with my proportions, especially when I sew with light, stretchy fabrics. However, I do think the bodice pattern will be nice for sewing heavier knits. I sewed my dress with a lightweight and drapey rayon spandex deadstock fabric form Califabrics.com. The lightweight fabric drapes quite nicely for ruffles and flutters, so I took advantage of that.

I made the high v-neck option with the long flutter sleeve. I made a couple of deviations from the pattern for both the neck and the sleeve. When I started basting together the v-neck, following the pattern instructions, I found that the acute angle that is marked for the v-neck back is too sharp an angle to smoothly match the high v-neck in the bodice. After trying unsuccessfully to make it work a couple of times, I cut a new neck band and cut the angle at 90 degrees. This lined up with the bodice perfectly and lies very smooth. (From looking at photos others have posted, it looks like others may have had this problem too and would benefit from a 90 degree cut.) The other change I made was to fold the arm facings in half so that I when I top stitched them down they have a finished edge and do not need to be trimmed. This might not work with heavier fabric but worked really well with my light-weight fabric.

I added work for myself by adding a ruffle to the bottom of the skirt. I cut the skirt mini-skirt length and cut a 4.25″ x 140″ ruffle, as suggested in the add-on ruffle tutorial. (I’m 5’2″ so miniskirt plus ruffle comes to just above my knee.)I hemmed the ruffle and gathered the ruffle in four sections before attaching it to the bottom of the skirt. The ruffle looks really nice, but it was time consuming to do all that gathering and get it even, especially using such stretchy fabric.

Because I refuse to sew dresses without pockets, I added inseam pockets to the sides of the skirt and secured them at the waist. I view this step as critical, but it did add to the time needed to complete this project. In addition, once I had the whole thing sewn together I realized that the fabric was so stretchy that the bodice had “grown” a bit from the weight of the skirt — and that was before I put anything into the pockets. The clear elastic didn’t help, and was a bit itchy around my waist. I ended up cutting off the skirt removing about an inch of fabric from both the bottom of the bodice and the top of the skirt, and then reattaching them with a 1.5-inch waistband in between, cut with a smaller diameter than the bodice so that it would stretch around my waist. I lined the waistband with athletic knit to add some stability to the waistband. This looks and feels a lot better, and I can actually put things in my pockets now too.

Overall, I’m pleased with the results, even if annoyed by the process. The ruffle at the bottom looks great with the flutter sleeves. The rayon spandex is soft and breathable and very comfortable to wear, but given my feelings about pockets, I will think twice before using it for anything other than a top in the future. I was very happy to figure out how to get the v-neck to lie flat and to recover from the growing fabric problem by adding a lined waistband.

A bunch of Bondis

I love the Sinclair Bondi tshirt pattern, and have previously used it to make long-sleeve scoop neck and screwp neck versions, as well as bishop-sleeve versions, and even a wool sweater. I think I’ve made at least nine Bondi’s previously. It’s summer, so I’m mixing it up now with some short sleeve variations.

I ordered a few colors of cotton Lycra to have on hand, and my daughter spotted the sage fabric and requested a cropped short-sleeve tee. I made this one in a size 4R but graded the waist to a size 0 and cut the bottom at the horizontal waist line shown on the pattern. In hindsight I probably should have cut it a half-inch longer, so I ended up sewing about a 3/8-inch hem rather than my usual 5/8-inch t-shirt hem. Actually, she probably wouldn’t have cared if I hemmed it shorter, as it does seem to be what everyone her age is wearing. I used the crew neck and cut the sleeves about an inch shorter than the short-sleeve length marked on the pattern. It seems to be exactly what she wanted.

I didn’t have enough black Pylos Liknit fabric for another pair of palazzo pants (my daughter is wearing the last pair of black LiKnit pants I made in the photo above and would desperately like me to make her another pair when it restocks), but I had enough for a Bondi. I made this one with a screwp neck and elbow sleeves in a size 6P. The Liknit has only horizontal stretch so you can see some lines at the side of the bust, but it still fits pretty well and is very lightweight and comfortable to wear. It looks great with my black LiKnit pants and also these LiKnit pants in the linen colorway.

Finally, I used some light-weight, wide-rib poly-spandex in a groovy print that I bought on $3/yard clearance from Mily Mae Fabrics last year to make a short-sleeve screwp-neck Bondi in size 6p that pairs perfectly with my seafoam LiKnit pants.

So now I’m up to 12 Bondis and I’m sure there will be more! I still need to try the V-neck version… perhaps I will try that next.

Join the Chorus

In the end, my Love Notions Chorus drape-neck blouse looks pretty nice, but I found it to be a rather frustrating pattern to sew, in part because the pattern doesn’t include very detailed instructions, and in part because it seems to be especially problematic for small sizes. The pattern has a variety of options, including shallow and deep drapes in the front and back or a plain back, plus it can be a top or a dress and have a variety of sleeves or not. I decided to make a plain back, deep drape front sleeveless blouse in size small out of a yard of slate blue ITY from my stash. I initially cut out the pattern as drafted, except I shortened the front by 2.5 inches and removed the side vents.

I had read the Love Notions Facebook group and had seen some complaints about the deep drape being too deep in small sizes and for short people (I’m 5’2″), so I cut the deep drape and basted it together just enough to be able to test it. Sure enough, the drape was too deep on me. If I positioned it just right it looked great, but if I moved the drape shifted and revealed my bra. I took a photo of the problem and posted it to the Facebook group, and within minutes I received suggestions for fixing the problem. Some suggested workarounds such as taping the drape to my bra or adding boning to keep the drape centered. However, there were also some marked up diagrams of how to adjust the pattern.

Inspired by those diagrams, I looked at the pattern again and realized that I could align the shallow and deep drape and see where they differed. I then drew a new cut line between the shallow and deep drape lines. While I was at it, I fixed another problem I had observed: the seam where the back facing and front drape line up at the shoulder didn’t quite match because the back facing edge was slightly longer. I thought it might be easier to get the shoulder and back facing to lie flat if everything lined up. So I adjusted my new cut line to be the right length to match the shoulder seam. You can see here the outline of the deep-drape front in blue, the shallow-drape front in green, and my new cut line in red.

I unpicked the shoulder seams, recut the top of the drape based on the new red line I drew on the pattern, and sewed it back together. This time the drape was just right. Although the pattern doesn’t call for it, I put a few stitches in the outer shoulder edges to hold the facing in place.

Next I started working on the arm hole binding. This is a point in the instructions were more details and a photo or two would be helpful. I wasn’t sure whether to sew the binding on with a stretch stitch, straight stitch, or surger. After consulting with the Facebook group, I used a stretch stitch to sew one of the bindings, but was not happy with it so I unpicked it and tried again. After much futzing I ended up flipping the binding to the inside instead of using the wrap around binding the pattern calls for. I did not execute it all that well on the first side, but it came out better on the second, but still more puckered than I would like. I suspect my binding might be a bit too short for the size of the arm holes.

Once the arm holes were bound I tried the blouse on and found that the back facing kept rolling up and sticking out the back of the neck, despite being understitched. I tried top stitching close to the edge, which helped some, but not enough. I added another row of top stitching 5/8-inch from the edge and pressed, the seam, which ended up being a lot better.

Finally, I hemmed the top and here it is! Overall I like it and if I make another one it should be a pretty quick project. I might try one with sleeves instead of arm bindings, or if I try another one with bindings I will probably try adding about half an inch to the length of the bindings so the bindings do not have to stretch as much. I might also try adding some shaping to the waist. I think a shorter facing, and possibly even a binding for the back neck would work better too. You can see in the back photo that the outline of the ITY facing.

Photos above with Pattern Emporium Urban Boldly mashup pants in seafoam LiKnit.

Ruffled Harper cardigan hack

When I saw the Sinclair Harper cardigan hack on the SewYouThinkYouCanSew blog about a year ago I knew I wanted to give it a try. This hack is based on an Anthropologie Cardigan. I loved the look so much that I bought the same fabric, Impressionist Double Sweater Knit in eucalyptus from Serge Fabrics. Then I got busy with other projects, including a Sinclair Laura cardigan in the tea leaf color of the Impressionist Double Sweater Knit. When I bought Pylos LiKinit in seafoam and discovered it was exactly the same color as eucalyptus, I knew it was time to make a seafoam/eucalyptus outfit (see my post on my Pattern Emporium Urban Boldly mashup pants).

I followed the instructions for the Harper cardigan hack on the blog with a few modifications. I started with a size 6p. Since I prefer not to have neckbands that creep up my neck, I lowered the back neck band and narrowed the whole band, just as I had done for a previous Harper sweater I made. I used patch pockets (but without the top band) but still split the front pieces as was done in the hack. I also added a slight flare to the outside seam of the lower front pieces. I omitted the sleeve cuffs and lengthened the sleeves slightly to compensate. I was able to cut all the pieces from 1.5 yards of fabric in my size. I’m very happy with how the ruffled harper came out! It is a jacket I can wear to work and look professional, with a fun ruffle in back. This one is a light-weight sweater knit good for spring and fall or keeping warm in overly air-conditioned buildings. I might make a warmer one for winter in French terry or a cozy sweater knit.

Since I had fabric leftover I made a Sinclair Cache top to go with the cardigan. I followed the cache pattern but added a scoop neck and cut the back hem to match the front. I actually don’t love how the Cache came out in this fabric with the scoop neck as it doesn’t lie flat under the cardigan, but I’ll wear it anyway.

Urban Boldly mashup pants

Pattern Emporium offers two different wide leg knit pants patterns that are fairly similar but have some important differences. Walk Boldly has the widest legs, the highest rise, lots of pocket options, and an elastic waist. The wide leg option in the Urban Pants Collection is not quite as wide, doesn’t have as many pocket choices, and has a yoga waist band. Both pants are pretty much the same from the crotch up to the bottom of the waistband, with the same back pleats that I love so much. I have seen a number of questions in the PE Facebook group about whether these two patterns can be mashed, and of course the answer is yes!

I like both patterns a lot, but I like the comfort and fit of a yoga waistband, especially one that has been modified to fit me perfectly. But sometimes I want the look and swooshy feel of extra wide-leg pants. So I started with my wide-leg urban pants modifications (laid out in Affinity designer) and digitally traced the Walk Boldly legs onto the front and back urban wide-leg pants leg pieces. Since the crotch lines up perfectly, this is easy to do. I shortened the leg pattern pieces by 2 inches and was able to cut all the pieces in size AU 10 from 2 yards of 58″-wide fabric.

I used seafoam Pylos LiKnit fabric for these pants — not the first time I’ve made summer pants out of LiKnit, but the first time with this pattern. LiKnit is a rayon/nylon lightweight knit that looks and feels somewhat like linen. It has horizontal, but not vertical stretch. I realized the lack of vertical stretch might be a problem when making these pants, but I decided to give it a try. it turned out not to be a problem at all for me except for the waistband, which I lined with athletic knit. I basted it on and realized immediately that I would need it to be bigger to comfortably get this low-stretch fabric over my hips. So I removed the initial waistband and cut out a new one. I added about a half inch vertically and an inch horizontally from the yoga contour waistband I had customized for my grey ponte wide-leg urban pants. This one worked perfectly. These pants looks and feel great to wear!

Pants modeled with Sinclair Harper cardigan with ruffle hack and Sinclair Cache top in eucalyptus Impressionist Double Sweater Knit

Totally Tartan! (Part 3)

(See also Part 1 and Part 2.)

I still had some cotton lycra diagonal tartan Spoonflower fabric leftover from my tartan dress project, so I decided it was about time for my husband to get in on the tartan fun. I paired the tartan fabric with royal blue cotton lycra from knitfabric.com and made him a short-sleeved Sinclair Tao semi-fitted classic raglan tshirt. I also made myself a cap sleeve, scoop neck Sinclair Demi classic raglan knit top. Both came together very quickly and easily even though it was my first time using both patterns.

The Demi is semi-fitted, similar to the Sinclair Cachet relaxed top (which does not have separate sleeve pieces). It is not as fitted as the Sinclair Bondi. I really like the scoop neck option, which is not as low as the Bondi scoop neck — more like my invented Bondi screwp neck. The fit of the Tao is almost identical to the fit of the Sinclair Kai semi-fitted crew neck for men.

How to sew a $1000 prom dress for $120

Last winter my daughter was browsing online looking for prom dress inspiration when she found the dresses of her dreams: Teuta Matoshi’s Flourishing Meadow Corset Dress, Flourishinig Meadow Midi Dress, and Flourishing Meadow Gown. She loved the sage green embroidered tulle, full skirt, and enormous tulle puff sleeves. She preferred the long sleeves on the corset dress and the V neck on the gown (but maybe not cut quite that low). What she didn’t like was the $850-$1050 price tag. Just in case, she showed me the dresses. When I suggested that we could try sewing something similar she objected that reproducing the embroidery on the tulle would be difficult and time consuming. I assured her that we could buy the tulle already embroidered.

I asked my daughter to look at online pattern shops for a suitable dress pattern (ideally with projector PDF files), and to check online fabric stores and Etsy for embroidered tulle. Over winter break she got to work and emailed me a list of URLs for dress patterns and tulle. The dress patterns were designed with zippers for woven fabrics, and all would require some modification to get the look she was going for. It occurred to me that one of my favorite indie pattern companies Sinclair Patterns had a knit dress in a similar style. I wondered whether the Sinclair Yasmin dress might be adapted to have deep front and back Vs (but not so deep as to preclude wearing a normal bra), a full skirt, and a tulle overlay. I remembered seeing a post from a sewist on Sinclair’s Facebook group in which she had used the Yasmin pattern to reproduce the Internet famous Lirika Matoshi strawberry dress, which also has a tulle overlay. I decided the Yasmin pattern could work.

My daughter debated which tulle to use at length, and eventually selected tulle that appears to be exactly the same as the tulle used in the original flourishing meadow dresses. The embroidery might be a little bit looser than in the original, but otherwise it seems to be the same. We ordered the tulle from an online lace store in Hong Kong that sells on Etsy.

Once we settled on the pattern and the tulle, we needed to find light green fabric that matched the tulle. It is really difficult to shop for fabric by color online as the color looks different on different monitors and different lighting conditions impact the fabric photos. I also wasn’t entirely sure what kind of fabric I wanted. I knew I wanted a knit, something with some sheen to it, and ideally a bit of structure but also fairly drapey. I ordered about 20 different green fabric samples from four different online fabric stores. I tried scuba, ITY, tricot, and various other fabrics with combinations of spandex, polyester, nylong, and rayon in their fiber content. I ordered variations on sage green, light green, mint green and “greeninsh” (yes that’s what one fabric store call it) colors. You can see most of the samples in the photo below. Note how much variation there is in the fabrics, including those that have the same color name.

The winner was Sage Sparkle Nylon/Spandex from Califabrics, which was the perfect color and weight for this project (and a little lighter than the green in the original dress). This is a fabric that might be used to make leotards or bathing suits, but also has a nice drape for a dress. When I went back to the website to order five yards of it, I discovered they had only one yard left. As it was a designer deadstock, I feared it might not be possible to get more, but I emailed the store to find out. About a week later, Ron from Califabrics emailed me to say he had found another 15 yards of this fabric (Thank you Ron!). I was so excited I ordered it immediately!

Before cutting into the beautiful prom dress fabric, I decided I would do some prototyping first. I sewed myself a Yasmin dress out of floral ITY fabric without alterations and then sewed my daughter a Yasmin top modified to have front and back deep Vs. Finally, I sewed myself a lovely baby blue knee-length dress with the V alterations, a full-circle skirt, and a tulle overlay with embroidered daisies. I learned a lot in the prototyping process and got a really lovely dress for myself that I probably would not have otherwise attempted (and I wore it a couple of weeks ago to perform with my flute choir).

After my extensive prototyping, I opened the Yasmin pattern in Affinity Designer and modified it for this final prom project. I started with the 2R size and drew in a square shoulder adjustment (that I had discovered my daughter needed when I made her the modified top) and the modified front and back Vs from my prototyping. I moved all the dots for marking the pleats closer to the seam allowance so that I could mark them on the fabric without fear of them showing up on the finished garment. Having learned from making my blue dress that the tulle overlay substantially reduces the bodice ease, I added about an inch to the side seams of both the front and back bodice pieces, starting at the bottom and tapering up to a quarter of an inch at the armscye. I also added about an inch to each side of the front and back waistband pieces, effectively adding almost 4 inches of ease. (That seemed like a lot to add, but I needed it for the blue dress and I figured if it turned out to be unnecessary I could always trim it off and resew the side seam.) I further modified the bishop sleeves I used in the blue dress to make them even wider and puffier, including stretching out the top of the sleeve so that it needed to be gathered before being attached. Finally, I drafted a full-length (40 inch) full-circle skirt pattern based on the Sinclair flared skirt add-on pack for the Valley Skater Dress. I then opened a new Affinity Designer file and made a a page the size of my 5-yard fabric piece. I copied the pattern pieces onto this page and laid them out so everything would fit. The big puffy sleeves just barely fit (I had considered making them even bigger to more closely match the original, but this was all I could do with the fabric I had). I decided I could cut the skirt as two giant semi-circles and avoid the center seam.

I realized that the projector wasn’t going to be much help for cutting the full-length full-circle skirt. So instead of projecting I moved all my cutting mats to the floor and spread the green lining fabric out on them. Then I enlisted my husband to assist me in making a giant compass out of a pencil and a piece of string to draw the semi-circles on the fabric (you never know when things you learned in geometry class may come in handy!). I then cut the semi-circles with a rotary cutter. I used the lining semi-circles as a template to cut the tulle semi-circles. I then moved my cutting mats back to my sewing room and projected the bodice and pocket pieces as usual. I cut the bodice pieces on the bias to maximize the stretch I could get out of the tulle in both directions. The waistband needed the most horizontal stretch, so I cut that entirely in the horizontal stretch direction. You can see this in the finished dress if you look at how the flowers are angled in the bodice. The flowers on the skirt are vertical in the center and horizontal on the sides due to the semi-circle construction.

Once everything was cut out, I zigzagged all the tulle pieces for the bodice to their corresponding lining pieces so that I could sew the two layers as one (flatlining). Then I started working on the pleats, first pinning and taping on both sides them before zigzagging them in place. Then I sewed together the bodice and checked the fit on my daughter. It fit well without any further modification, so I went ahead and attached the sleeves and made a casing at the wrists for 1/4-inch elastic. I checked the fit again on my daughter and she approved.

Next, I moved on to sewing the skirt. I sewed the to tulle pieces together with a shallow zigzag and a quarter-inch seam allowance. I left a 5.5-inch opening in the side seams to align with the pocket opening in the lining. I attached the pockets to the lining with my sewing machine and understitched them. Then I used my serger to sew the lining side seams in place. To help keep things from slipping out of the pockets I sewed the pockets partially closed from the top down 1.5 inches, left a 5.5-inch opening, and then sewed to the bottom of the pockets.

The next step was to join the two skirt layers and attach them to the bodice. I sewed the tulle to the lining at the waist with a shallow zigzag stitch and a 1/8-inch seam allowance. I then machine-basted the bottom of the waistband layers together with a 1/8-inch seam allowance. And then I basted the bottom of the waistband to the skirt layers. I had to remove some of the basting when I realized some of the layers had slipped out, but eventually I had everything securely basted together. Finally, I sewed the waistband (with bodice already attached) to the skirt layers with a shallow zigzag and 1/4-inch seam allowance.

At this point the dress was ready to try on and probably finished except for minor adjustments and possibly hemming. However, I had to wait two days for my daughter to return from a college visit before she could try it. You can see it here on a hanger both with and without a long crinoline underneath.

I think it looks nice both ways… more princessy with the crinoline and more sophisticated elegance without. After my daughter tried it on we decided to leave it unhemmed as the length looks about right with the heels she is going to wear to prom. I cut a pretty clean edge on the circle skirt and it is not going to unravel. This probably saved me an hour or two of hemming, even with my folded hem foot. In the end my daughter cut a layer off the crinoline to make it a little less poofy and not as hot to wear.

And here she is all dressed up and ready for prom. We did a photoshoot outside of Phipps. I got some good twirl photos and a nice back view, but forgot to take pictures of the pockets… you can’t see them but they are there, and she was quite pleased to go to prom with her wallet and phone in her pockets and no need to carry a purse.

So in case you are wondering… how much did it cost me to make a $1000 prom dress? The cost of the fabric, pattern, and thread for the dress was about $120. I probably spent another $50 or so on fabric for the two prototype dresses (the prototype top was made from scraps from a previous project) and about $50 on fabric samples (and some of the larger samples will get used in other projects). I didn’t add up the amount of time I spent on this, but it was a labor of love and a lot of fun!

Update: She went to her second prom a week later since the friend she went to prom with goes to a different school. I came home from work early to do her hair and makeup and her “tax” was she had to pose for more photos in our yard. This time I got some pocket photos too.

Totally Tartan! (Part 2)

If you haven’t read Part 1, read that first, and when you’re done with this read Part 3.

Ready for a bigger challenge, I decided to make a pair of pocket leggings out of the tartan Spoonflower sport Lycra. I selected the Sinclair Flex No Front Seam Leggings pattern in size 4p. No front seams meant no worries about matching plaids in the front: all I needed to do was center the main front leg pattern piece on a vertical line in the plaid. Of course, then I had to align the waistband piece to the main front pattern piece and figure out how to cut the two back leg pieces symmetrically and somewhat aligned with the front leg piece. I decided to use the color blocking option and make the side pocket pieces in a solid black 300 gsm QUAD performance jersey knit from Surge Fabric Shop to avoid any plaid matching issues. The QUAD fabric is a similar weight and composition to the sport Lycra, but has more stretch and a brushed side that feels really nice. I wish it came in more prints because I really like this fabric. I ended up using up almost all my remaining QUAD fabric, which was too bad because I accidentally folded down and trimmed the wrong pocket pieces. Since I didn’t have enough black fabric to recut those pieces, I carefully unpicked them and then sewed a small patch on the corners I had trimmed off. It’s not very noticeable unless you know where to look (in the black section just below the waistband in the back).

The leggings were more challenging than most of my other recent projects, in part because of the slippery plaid fabric, but also because the waist construction involves joining many layers. As I rarely pass up a pocket opportunity, I included the back waistband pocket (highly recommended by the pattern designer). Adding the waistband pocket was fairly quick and easy, but it meant an extra two layers to join when I attached the waistband to the rest of the leggings. I did most of the sewing on my serger, but had so much trouble aligning the waistband that I basted it on my sewing machine. Even then, it still didn’t align and I had to unpick and ended up hand basting and then finally serging. The pattern also calls for optional top stitching. I top stitched some of the seams with a zigzag on my sewing machine, but wasn’t super happy with how it looked on the plaid so I didn’t top stitch all of it.

In the end, the leggings came together, the plaid is mostly (though not perfectly) aligned where it needs to be, and the leggings actually fit me. I chose the high-waist option and they stay in place pretty well, even though I did not include the optional drawstring (because I like my leggings to fit tight without a drawstring). I think on my next pair of Flex leggings I might add elastic in the waistband fold for a little extra hold. Overall, I think the leggings look good. However, one disappointment is that when the sport Lycra stretches, a lot of white shows through between the printing (“whiteout”). Since the legging pattern is designed to stretch the fabric, it means the fabric is not so bright, especially in the hip area. You can see it looks l a lot brighter near the ankles, where it is not as stretched. I think if I had a rotated the pattern 90 degrees on the fabric the whiteout might have been reduced.

I was going to make a tartan sports bra to go with the leggings, but then the new Sinclair Wave Athletic Knit Tank Top With Waistline Shaping and Pockets pattern came out and I decided to make that instead. I paired the tartan fabric with a black polyester/spandex stretch mesh from Knitfabric.com for the front and back side panels. (I still have enough tartan fabric left over for a sports bra and maybe also some color blocking on bike shorts.)

I debated whether to go for a 4p or 6p and in the end decided to sew the Wave in a 6p because I prefer my athletic tops to be loose. I think the 4p could have worked but would have been tight across the bust. Next time I might grade the sides in towards the bottom. I used the scoop neck option with bands, the cutout back, and hemmed bottom. The cutout back is a super cute feature that is easy to make. I ended up not doing any top stitching except on the hem and cutout.

Putting the wave pieces together is a little bit like assembling a puzzle, but it all worked out ok. My main frustration was with the Spoonflower sport Lycra fabric, which is slippery and doesn’t press easily. It made the bands and curved hem more painful to sew than they should have been. I did reasonably well with the plaid matching on this one, and even aligned the plaid on the top with the plaid on the leggings, although the top is darker because it doesn’t get stretched as much.

This is a top I will workout in, but it also looks great with jeans. I like the fact that there is enough shoulder coverage that this can be worn with a regular bra or a racerback, and it offers more sun protection on the back than a lot of sleeveless sports tops.

Because I don’t know when to stop and you can never have too much tartan, I made a headband to match and now I have a totally tartan athletic kit! I love the pockets in the leggings and the fact that the black panels on the top align with the black pocket panels on the leggings. I wore the leggings a few weeks ago in the Carnegie Mellon “Random Distance Run” and will certainly wear the entire outfit for future CMU races.

Songbird Kimono Jacket

I love my lightweight Pylos LiKnit palazzo pants and wanted a jacket to go with them. I was looking for something unstructured and drapey that I could throw on over a tshirt or a dressier shirt in warm weather. The Pattern Emporium Songbird kimono jacket/duster/cardi seemed about right. I decided to give it a try in the cropped length with the narrow binding option. I made it in AU size 10 with the semiflared sleeves, shorted 1 inch. I made it in a 2-way stretch fabric, but it is also suitable for wovens.

It was pretty quick to cut and sew from the black LiKnit. (I took a couple of days off this week to sew after having spent last weekend on campus at graduation.) I used 1″ fusible knit stay tape for the interfacing on the binding, which is not exactly what the pattern called for, but it seemed to work pretty well. I cut the bottom of the binding at an angle, but messed up and cut one side at the wrong angle. I fixed it and then forgot to adjust the length of the other side to match and didn’t notice until the whole jacket was put together and I discovered that the binding was lower on one side than the other. I pondered how to fix it, and then decided I didn’t really like the binding ending a few inches below the hem anyway. I considered attempting to unpick the whole binding, which didn’t seem like much fun. I also considered just cutting off the binding and redoing the whole thing, which probably would have worked ok but I was too lazy to do it. In the end I decided to splice additional binding pieces to the bottom of both sides and bring the binding down to the hem line. This is not really the right solution, but since the whole thing is black, unless you look at the jacket in bright light, the two diagonal splices are not very visible. Other than the splices, I really like this look and when I make another Songbird jacket I will almost certainly plan to extend the binding on purpose this time. Here’s a closeup in the bright sun so you can see what I did.

Even though I shortened the sleeves by 1 inch, I still felt they were too long for me (a problem I often have for garments that don’t come in petite sizes). The sleeve hem is 1.5 inches so I folded it over a second time and effectively shortened the sleeves by 2.5 inches, which was perfect for me. The pattern comes in a choice of semiflared, flared, or tapered sleeves and multiple sleeve lengths. I was looking for something to cover my arms so I chose long sleeves. I wanted something loose but I didn’t want flared sleeves that would get get in the way, so semiflared was the right balance.

I’m modeling the jacket here with a Sinclair Yasmin dress, but trust me it also looks great with the palazzo pants. Also note my little tricolor beech tree in the background, which struggled last year but is hopefully making a comeback.

Low waist, high waist band: More Urban Wide Leg Pants

My first pair of Pattern Emporium Urban Wide Leg pants came out great in purple ponte. However, I thought I could make the waist band fit me a bit better and improve the pockets. I made another pair in black ponte but this time I changed the waistband to a contour and flattened the top of the front pockets. These were even better, but I felt the waist could be more fitted while still leaving more ease through the seat and legs. So for my third pair I used the low-rise pattern instead of the high-rise pattern, but added an extra inch to the height of the contour waistband piece. I also graded in the tops of the pants legs at the side seam on both the front and back pieces. I cut the updated pattern out of a yard and a half of charcoal grey super soft “charming heather” legacy ponte from Zelouf fabric (69.1% Viscose, 27.1% Nylon & 3.8% Elastane). I cut back pockets too but in the end didn’t use them as I wasn’t sure whether they would look good with the low rise. Now that I see how the pants look in the back I think the back pockets would work but maybe a little shorter than the ones I borrowed from the Walk Boldly pants pattern — and I still may add them.

I love the fit of this latest hacked version of Urban Wide Leg pants. The high waist is both comfortable and flattering. I can wear with shirts either tucked or untucked. The waist looks good and the pants stay snuggly in place without pinching. This is also the softest ponte I’ve used so far. (Pants modeled with Sinclair Bondi top in CMU tartan.)

I really like this version and will probably make more with these modifications or try this waist style with the wider Walk Boldly legs. So to summarize what I did, I made the Urban Wide Leg pants, low waist style with jeans pockets in size 10 with the following modifications:

  • I changed the waistband into a 3.5-inch tall contoured waistband. I cut separate front and back pieces as well as inner and outer pieces. I used an athletic knit for the two inner pieces. I sewed 3/8-inch elastic to the top seam joining the inner and outer layers and then understitched it to the inner layer.
  • I moved the side seams in about 1 inch at the top of the pants and graded them out to the original size 10 side seam line about 5.5 inches below the top.
  • I changed the top of the front pockets to be straight diagonal slashes and I lengthened the pocket bags by about .75 inch.
  • I shortened the legs by 1.5 inches and then sewed a 2-inch hem to fit my 5’2″ height.

Totally Tartan! (Part 1)

When I joined the Carnegie Mellon University faculty in 2003, the school mascot was tartan. Yes, a plaid scarf. Kind of strange, but maybe not in a town where the terrible towel is also a thing. But in 2007 CMU decided to adopt the Scotty Dog as the official mascot, which is much better if you want someone to put on a costume and run around at sporting events. Nonetheless, the official CMU tartan remains a major part of the university identity. The CMU Kiltie band (affectionately referred to as the band without pants) wears tartan kilts and the CMU doctoral robes and hoods are adorned with wool tartan trim. You can even buy wool tartan fabric at the book store along with matching tartan flannel pajamas. I have purchased both and have even used the wool tartan in an original quilt design and as part of an original fabric design.

I’ve wanted to buy the tartan design in a fabric other than wool or flannel, and thought I might just digitally print some tartan knit fabric. However, the digital tartan file on the university website since 2010 does not actually properly tile for a fabric repeat. I have spent many hours futzing with it and trying to figure out if there was a way to crop it so that it would tile. I succeeded in a vertical tile, but not a proper horizontal tile. I came close, and maybe nobody else would notice that it is a little off, but I couldn’t bring myself to use it. You might say I was “mad about plaid” and you would be right. So last Fall I reached out to friends in CMU marketing and communications and asked if anyone knew where I could find a version of the digital tartan that would properly tile. After a few weeks of searching my friends reported the answer was “no.” Apparently the lack of repeatability was a known problem and I wasn’t the first to ask, but nobody had ever fixed it. But as CMU was winding down for winter break, one of the designers offered, in the holiday spirit, to fix the digital tartan for me for. I was thrilled! A few days later I received my first repeatable digital tartan files and uploaded them to Spoonflower for printing. I printed a sample of a cotton spandex jersey knit, a couple of yards of polyester modern jersey with 4-inch squares, and a couple of yards of sport Lycra with 5.5-inch squares.

When my fabric arrived I checked out the printing and the sizes of the plaid. After looking at lots of pictures of plaid dresses, I decided I wanted the 5.5-inch version printed on point for a dress, so sent a request to the designer for a diagonal version. In the mean time I decided to make a shirt out of the modern jersey, using the Sinclair Bondi pattern, a pattern I have used many times before. I tried to cut the plaid so it would match horizontally, but otherwise didn’t worry about plaid matching. I’m pretty happy with the results.

After printing up the diagonal tartan in Spoonflower cotton spandex jersey knit, I started working on my tartan dress. I was looking for a pattern that would allow me to keep all the tartan running in the same direction, and thus chose a gathered skirt rather than a circle or semi-circle skirt (which would have had the plaid appear to curve). When I saw a Styla Dublin dress with enormous puff sleeves sewn up in cotton-lycra plaid by another sewist, I decided to try the Dublin pattern. I first used the pattern to make a cotton-lycra Dublin top. Since this pattern didn’t come in a petite size, I was tempted to shorten the skirt of the dress, but decided to go ahead with the size 6 pattern as written, only shortening the shoulder elastic. This seems to have worked just fine. My tartan dress came out great and looks much like the plaid dress that inspired it. And, of course, I made it with usable pockets (lengthened slightly to better hold my phone). The pattern suggests optionally adding clear elastic at the neckline. I didn’t do that but I did understitch the font and back neckline and also understitched the pocket openings.

This is a bit of a different style than I usually wear, and I usually prefer circle or semi-circle skirts for less bulk around the waist. The Spoonflower cotton spandex is somewhat stiff from the saturated inks that sit on top of the fabric rather than absorbing into it so the gathers do poof out a bit. I don’t think this is the most flattering waist style for me, but I still think the dress looks pretty cute. I do love how the stiffer fabric poofs out the sleeves and the ruffle at the bottom of the skirt. The dress is fun to wear and looks great with my Scotty dog necklace (an inexpensive online purchase to keep the outfit on theme). Also, thanks to my neighbors for letting me pose in front of their dogwood, which was in full bloom on the day we took these photos.

I’ve started working on making some athletic wear out of the sport Lycra fabric and have ideas for using up the rest of the cotton spandex fabric. Stay tuned for more totally tartan posts in Part 2 and Part 3!

Perfectly purple pants! (Urban Wide Leg, also in black)

I love the two pairs of Pattern Emporium Walk Boldly pants I made earlier this year. I especially like the high rise, back darts, and bold wide legs, which seem to look great on me with minimal adjustments to the pattern. But I also love the feel of a yoga waistband (which doesn’t dig in at the waist as much as an elastic waistband and is tight enough to stay up with fully loaded pockets). I had some success with the Pattern Emporium Urban tapered pants (poor fabric choices aside), so decided to try the Urban wide leg pants.

I selected the gorgeous plumberry viscos nylon ponte from Surge Fabrics (65%viscose/30%nylon/5%spandex, 320gsm, 50% horizontal/40% vertical stretch). It is a really lovely and intense shade of purple with a nice drape and good stretch. I inadvertently cut the pants legs 90 degrees rotated the wrong way on the fabric and it really made no difference.

I made a few adjustments to the AU size 10 pattern. I added .75 inch to the length of the front pockets. I added back patch pockets from the Walk Boldly pattern (positioning them based on the suggested mid-rise positioning). And I split the yoga-style waistband into four pieces: front/back/inner/outer and graded them down a size towards the top. I cut the two inner pieces out of the waistband with heavy 300 gsm poly-spandex athletic knit, which is my go-to fabric for lining waistbands because it is soft and comfortable but also has a strong hold. I sewed the two fronts to their corresponding backs and then sewed the inner pair to the outer pair at the top. Then I sewed 1/2-inch elastic to the seam allowance and then understitched the elastic and seam allowance to the inner band.

I tried glueing the layers of the bottom of the band with a fabric glue stick as suggested in the pattern, but I found the glue didn’t hold well on this fabric. I ended up machine basting the two layers of the waistband and then machine basting the band to the pants, checking for puckers and gaps, and then making a few adjustments before surging the band to the pants. I cut off 1.5 inches from the bottom of the pants before sewing a 1-inch hem (for some of the flats I will wear these pants with, I probably should have raised the hem a bit more, for reference I am 5’2″).

The pants fit wonderfully and are super comfortable secret-pajama pants (modeled here with Sinclair Bondi tshirt). The Walk Boldly pockets look great on the back too. I finished them a few weeks ago and immediately put them on and headed to the airport for a trip.

The finished waistband looks good, but it took a lot of pins and basting to stretch it as I sewed it to the pants. Overall, I am very happy with how these came out looking and fitting so well with minimal pattern tweaks!

I wanted a pair in black and decided to make a few more tweaks. I used a black 67% Rayon/28% Nylon/5% Spandex 310 GSM ponte from Mily Mae Fabrics. I made a 58-inch wide panel in Affinity Designer and laid out all the pieces so I could use my fabric more efficiently. I was able to cut all the pieces from less than 1.5 yards of fabric.

This time I made a contour waistband, allowing me to make the top of the waistband a little smaller and the bottom a little bigger (and easier to attach to the rest of the pants. While I was at it I made the waistband about a quarter inch taller. I lined it with athletic knit and added elastic as I did for the purple pants. I also changed the front pocket opening to a shallow diagonal as I think the shape of the pocket opening in the pattern ends up being a little bit too low. I cut the pants leg 1.5 inches shorter to begin with, and gave it a 2-inch hem.

I love how the contour waistband came out. It looks smoother than the non-contoured band and feels really nice to wear. I also really like the high waist and the back darts, and of course, all the pockets. I’ve been seeing ads for expensive yoga dress pants, marketed as pants you can wear to work. These pants seem quite similar to me. I plan to make more! (Modeled here with Sinclair Bondi top with bishop sleeve add-on.)

How do the Urban wide leg pants compare to the Walk Boldly pants? They are actually very similar patterns. The main differences are that the Walk Boldly has an elastic waistband while the Urban pants have a yoga waistband and the Walk Boldly pants have a leg that flares out more and is extra wide (but the crotch and hips are the same). Also, Walk Boldly comes with more pocket options. Because the yoga waistband is higher than the elastic waistband, the rest of the pants have a shorter rise, but when you add the waistbands, the total rise is not much different.

If you wanted to mix and match and make your Walk Boldly’s with a narrower leg or your Urban pants with an extra wide leg, I expect tracing the leg shape from one pattern onto the other would work just fine since the crotch and darts are in exactly the same place in both patterns. In fact, I plan to make a pair of Urban wide leg pants with extra wide Walk Boldly legs (with waistband and pocket modifications used in the black pants above).

Vintage blue daisy dress: mom prom practice

Having selected the Sinclair Yasmin pattern to modify for the prom dress and prototyped bodice modifications, my next step was to prototype with a tulle overlay and sleeves, and a full circle skirt. Since the floor-length gown version will require a lot of fabric and I fear I won’t get it right the first time, I decided to prototype a knee-length dress with some inexpensive blue daisy embroidered tulle on Etsy and matching blue nylon spandex for the lining (tranquil aqua 82% nylon, 18% spandex, 210 GSM stretch bodycon satin from Zelouf Fabrics).

I modified the bodice pattern using the same approach I used for my daughter’s top to add deep front and back Vs. Then I mashed the Yasmin sleeve with the bishop sleeve pattern from the Sinclair puffed sleeve add-on pack so that the puffed sleeves would fit the Yasmin armscye. I used the full skirt pattern (with pockets!) from the Sinclair flared skirt add-on pack for the Valley Skater Dress. I prepared all the pattern pieces in Affinity Designer and projected them onto the tulle and lining fabric. In total I cut 16 pieces from the lining fabric and 12 pieces from the tulle fabric (but who’s counting?).

I wanted to attach the tulle to the corresponding lining pieces for all the bodice pieces so I could treat them each as one unit. My original plan was to do this with my serger (and I even rethreaded it with a suitable light grey thread), but I found the serger stitching a bit bulky for this purpose. Instead I used a zigzag stitch on my regular sewing machine to prepare the lining-tulle units. In the end I sewed the whole dress with my sewing machine and did not use my serger at all. I think I could have used it to join the 4 pieces of the lining for the circle skirt, and when I sew the full-length skirt for the prom dress I may go ahead and do that.

Once I had the lining-tulle units prepared, I worked on creating the micro pleats in the bodice. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be with the units properly joined. I did use scotch tape to hold down both sides of the pleats. I had marked the dots for pleating with a pink washable Crayola marker, and some of them are just barely still visible on the finished dress. Next time I will mark them closer to the edge to avoid that problem.

Next I sewed the bodice together, carefully wrapping both sides of the shoulder seams. I hand basted the waistband to the bodice to keep all the pieces aligned. Even so, the point in the center front did not come out very sharp and I ended up redoing it. Actually, that point did not come out particularly sharp in my previous practice pieces either. I found that if I sewed one side of the V all the way to the edge and then sewed the other side, it was easier to get a sharp point than if I sewed it all in one line with a pivot at the point. Someone probably has pointers on how to do this better than I did.

Once the bodice was fully assembled, I tried it on with some trepidation, as I wasn’t entirely sure it would fit. While the lining is a nice 4-way stretch fabric, the tulle only stretches side-to-side (horizontally the way I cut the bodice), and not nearly as much as the lining. Thankfully, I was able to get the bodice on (and off), but it was a bit tight and suffered a bit from not having any real vertical give. This wasn’t so noticeable in the front due to all the pleating, but the back had numerous creases and pulled against the back of my bra in an undesirable way. I also wasn’t entirely happy with the way the back V folded under without quite laying flat; again, the front V worked fine.

I decided to unpick the side seams and add a resew with a wedge of fabric inserted. I experimented with different size and shapes of fabric based in. Eventually I settled on adding about a 1.25 inch wedge on each side at the bottom of the waistband that tapered to nothing when it reached the armscye. I cut the wedges from the lining, layered them with the tulle, and reassembled the bodice (you can see the wedge below the armpit in the finished dress). I will add a bit extra to the side seam of the front and back bodice on my daughter’s dress, baste the side seams, and adjust until I get it right. Even after adding the wedge, I still wasn’t fully happy with the when the back V was folded, but decided to hold off on further modifications until I attached the skirt, as I expected the weight of the skirt to pull the bodice down a bit.

I moved on to the sleeves. I sewed the long seam of the tulle sleeves and then basted and sewed the sleeves to the armscyes. I then folded the sleeve wrists under about half an inch and stitched down a casing, leaving a small opening to add 1/4-inch elastic. It all worked out fine, but as soon as I finished the sleeves I could see that they were not as big and puffy as my daughter wanted. I’m happy with them on my dress, but I will need to go much bigger on my daughter’s dress. I tried on the bodice to confirm that the sleeves fit and that I could still get the bodice on and off without ripping anything. This was not too difficult as long as I took it off by slipping my arms out of the sleeves and then dropping the bodice past my hips rather than trying to pull it over my head.

Next I worked on the skirt. I had cut the full-circle skirt in four sections with pockets in the lining. I attached the pockets flush with the top of the skirt, understitched the pockets and stitched the top and bottom of the pockets into the side seam with pocket openings from 1.5 inch to 7 inches. Once the lining was assembled into a complete skirt, I assembled the four tulle sections, stitching with a narrow zigzag stitch. I did not add tulle pockets, but left slits to match the pocket openings in the lining, as I have seen with some ready-to-wear dresses. Next I machine basted the tulle to the lining at the top of the skirt, and then hand basted the skirt to the waistband. I tried it on and everything seemed to have worked, so I went ahead and sewed the skirt to the waistband with a zigzag stitch.

The moment of truth: I tried on the whole dress… and it fit! And it mostly looked good, but I still wasn’t happy with the back V. I futzed with the folds on the back V a bit and top-stitched the V along the edge. I still wasn’t entirely happy with it so I trimmed the underfold of the V down to about half an inch and then added another row of top stitching at 3/8 inch. This resulted in a much cleaner finish. I plan to modify the pattern for my daughter’s dress to use this approach from the beginning.

The last step was the hem. A full-circle skirt involves a lot of hemming (and usually a lot of hem tape). There are multiple techniques for doing this, which all require multiple passes with a sewing machine or iron. The lining fabric doesn’t unravel or roll so I could have left it unhemmed but hemming gives a nicer finish. I decided to invest in a folded hem foot (Bernina 66 foot) to do the hem in just one pass. It took some practice to learn how to use my new foot, but once I got going I did the whole hem in about 45 minutes without using any hem tape. I expect without the hem foot it would have taken a couple of hours. As the full-length skirt on the prom dress has an even bigger circumference, this approach will save even more time. I did not hem the tulle as that seemed completely unnecessary.

The dress looked great on, and with its 50s vintage vibe, I decided it totally needed a crinoline. (I also love that I achieved a vintage look with modern spandex fabric and thus no need for a zipper or fasteners of any sort). I tried it with my daughter’s short crinoline, but it was too puffy, so I found an inexpensive 50s crinoline available for next-day delivery on Amazon with a smooth waist and puffs that start a bit further down. I can wear it sticking out the bottom of the dress or pull it up further to hide it. The dress is totally wearable without the crinoline but so much more fun with it! I don’t really have an occasion to wear this dress, but I will find one.

Prom practice: prototyping a dress and top with Sinclair Yasmin

I have been commissioned by my high school senior to make the prom dress of her dreams, styled off some photos of ~$1000 Teuta Matoshi gowns with tulle overlays she fell in love with. I was looking for a pattern to use… and I think the Sinclair Yasmin V neck knit dress with pleated accents will do the trick with some tweaks (I was inspired by seeing another sewist post in the Sinclair Facebook group about using this pattern to make her version of the famous Lirika Matoshi strawberry dress which also has a tulle overlay). The original dresses have zippers and were likely lined with woven fabrics, but I think a knit dress will be easier for me to sew and fit, and it will be more comfortable to wear. But before I start altering this pattern, I thought it would be a good idea to sew the pattern as designed first to make sure I understand it.

This is not a projector pattern, but the A0 copyshop pattern projected just fine after I ran it through PDFstitcher to unlock it.

I chose a floral ITY from my stash that I had purchased at Stylishfabrics.com and cut it as a sleeveless dress in my usual Sinclair 4p size with the knee-length non-gathered skirt option (basically a half-circle skirt). I used a heavy 300 gsm poly-spandex athletic knit for the waistband lining. I cut the pockets about an inch deeper than the pattern called for. I also added about an inch of stitching along the side seams from the top of the skirt down into the pocket to hold the top of the pocket flat.

I had never sewn pleats before, and this pattern requires pinning and sewing 24 little tiny pleats. This was not straightforward to achieve with slippery ITY fabric. I did a lot of unpicking and basting until I got it (sort of) right. There are a lot of layers that have to come together at the waist and that also proved difficult. I basted the layers and still didn’t get it right the first time.

The finished dress looks great. I think it is quite figure flattering and also comfortable to wear, and I don’t think the bad pleat job is easily noticed (at least not until I point it out). This is a dress I expect to get a lot of wear out of this summer. Some how it was warm enough to model it outside in the first week of March in Pittsburgh, but I’m not actually expecting this to be a dress I wear much for another couple of months. The 300 gsm lining means the waist is quite secure and not going anywhere, even with stuff in the pockets. It is a bit thick though and perhaps that weight for the lining was overkill on a summer dress.

Now that I understood the basics of how this dress goes together and fits, I hacked the bodice pattern to make it more like a prom dress. First I lowered the front V by about 2 inches. Next I split the back bodice on the fold and copied my new lower front V to the back. I chose the depth of the Vs so that the dress would be wearable with a normal bra. I wanted to test this out with just the bodice and not an entire dress, so I added about 5 inches to the height of the waist pieces so I could hem the bottom and make this a wearable top. I didn’t bother with the inner waistbands. I cut this out of sangria microsuede jersey knit from Surge Fabrics leftover from another project. (This is not my favorite fabric to sew with due to it being both slippery and rubbery/clingy at the same time, but my daughter likes the color and I had enough scraps for this project.) I made this in size 2R, my daughter’s size.

This time I taped the pleats down on the front and the back with scotch tape about a quarter inch from the edge before I sewed them down an eighth inch from the edge. The pleats came out a lot better this way. I seem to have inadvertently miscalculated the back shoulder width when I added the back V and they ended up slightly wider than the front shoulders so I added a couple of pleats to even them out. I will widen the back V slightly next time. My daughter tried it on and liked the deep Vs. However, there was extra fabric under the bust. To adjust for her small bust, I ended up removing about 1.25 inches from the front and back inner shoulder, thus changing the slope of the shoulder seams (a square shoulder adjustment), but also raising the bust area that wasn’t been filled out. Since I did this after it was already sewn and pleated it doesn’t all lie as smoothly as I would like (so much for my beautiful pleats), but I think it will work fine when I cut it this way to begin with. The actual dress will also have weight from the skirt pulling the waistband down, which I think will also hold the V neck in place better (I considered top stitching along the Vs but I think it is ok without that – and I can always add top stitching later if she wants it.)

My daughter selected a fancy embroidered tulle fabric for her dress, which I will line with a sparkly nylon/spandex fabric. She wants long puff sleeves made from unlined tulle and a full-length circle skirt. Before cutting into all this fancy fabric, I want to test out sewing this pattern with tulle and adding sleeves and a circle skirt. My plan is to make the V-neck modifications in my size and sew myself a knee-length dress with inexpensive tulle and lining. Then if all goes well I will be ready to sew the prom dress. Stay tuned!

Plush and warm double sweater knit

I stocked up on sweater knits from online fabric stores during the winter clearance sales and now my sewing room is overflowing with soft and cuddly sweater fabric. Most of it will wait until next fall before I use it, but I was eager to sew up some of it while it is still winter.

I decided to start by making a cardigan sweater out of the super plush and warm ebony Morraine Double Cashmere Sweater Knit from Surge Fabrics. This fabric is 44.5%Rayon/35.9%Poly/19.6%Nylon with a weight of 320gsm and 75% horizontal/50% vertical stretch. It is a thick, lofty fabric with a somewhat squishy and very soft feel, but it is also fairly stable with good recovery. I used the Banff Ultra Thick 1×1 Rib Sweater Knit for the bands and cuffs. Banff has similar fiber content — 50%Rayon/28%Poly/22%Nylon — but it is slightly heavier at 350 gsm and has 75% horizontal/25% vertical stretch. Although the specs are similar, the Banff is much less stable and tends to stretch out (as I discovered when I used Banff to make a dress a couple of months ago) and unravel at the edges. In fact I had a hard time cutting the bands out without inadvertently stretching it in the process. But it produces lovely bands and it matches the Morraine perfectly!

I thought about using the Grab A Cuppa cardi pattern I tried last week, but decided I didn’t want to make something so slouchy out if this heavy fabric. Instead I went with the free Sinclair Harper pattern with some modifications. Based on my previous Harper sew, I knew my usual size was fairly snug so I sized up one size to 6p. I also wanted a slightly shorter length, but not as short as the crop length, so I shortened the classic-length bodice by 2.5 inches. I don’t like the feel of neck bands that creep up my neck so I lowered and widened the back neck and narrowed the band by .5 inches on each side (cutting the band 1-inch narrower). To compensate I widened the inner edge of the front bodice by .5 inch and narrowed the shoulder to match the altered neckline on the back bodice. I estimated the new length for the neck band, but it ended up being much too long, so I iteratively shortened it until I got it right.

I serged my black cardi with my usual medium-grey serger thread. That’s the only serger thread I have and when I bought my serger last year I swore I would never rethread it. But threads break and I was forced to learn how to rethread it earlier this year. After many failed attempts I think I am now capable of performing a complete rethread of all four threads in about 5 minutes. Now I think having black serger thread on hand would be a good idea, as I have a number of projects planned with dark fabrics and it would look a bit nicer.

My Harper modifications worked pretty well. The Morraine was easy to sew on my serger. The Banff was mostly ok, but my serger was definitely not happy about sewing through four layers of Banff where the two bands meet. I resorted to sewing one side on my sewing machine. In the end the bottom corners did not work out as well as I had hoped (same problem I had with the Cayambe last week), but with some hand sewing and a lot of pressing I got them mostly straightened out ok. I debated whether to top stitch the seam allowance of all the bands but decided not to as the top stitching would add a significant ridge to this squishy fabric. I can always go back and add the top stitching later.

Overall I’m very happy with this cardigan. It is very warm and cuddly feeling, and has a nice tailered look.

Rosemary ribbed twin set

Last week I made a Pattern Emporium Grab a Cuppa Cardi out of rosemary Cayambe rib knit from Surge Fabrics (95%Poly/5%Spandex, 240 gsm, 75% horizontal/25% vertical stretch). This is an oversized pattern and I didn’t want it to swallow me, so I sized down from an AU 8/10 based on my measurements to an AU 4. I’m glad I did as it is still is quite ample width, but now the sleeves fit pretty well. I used the hip-length pattern. I don’t like the feel of collars creeping up my neck, so I lowered and widened the back neck by about an inch and adjusted the front bodice so the shoulder width matched the lower back neck.

The cardi went together pretty quickly using my serger and the neck adjustment worked well. The pattern includes some good tips, including pointers on adjusting the differential feed and great advice on how to gather the sleeves and attach the cuffs. I accidentally serged the bottom band on backwards (seam on the outside of the sweater… oops), so I ended up just cutting it off and resewing, but I lost about 3/4-inch of length in the process. I could have cut a new band out and lost only 1/4-inch, but I was feeling lazy and decided I was happy with the shorter length for this cardi. I struggled a bit with the bottom of the front band and it isn’t quite as even as I would have liked, despite following instructions to baste, etc. I think the stretchy ribs made this harder.

Since I had more of the Cayambe left, I decided to make a short-sleeved sweater and create a twin set. I used the Sinclair cachet relaxed tshirt pattern, with some modifications. Before cutting the fabric I tried on a Cachet I made previously with my new cardi and noticed the back hem of Cachet hung down considerably lower than the back of the cardi. So I adjusted the back bodice of the Cachet so that it was similar to the bottom of the front bodice and did not dip down so low. It is now uniformly a bit longer than the cardi, rather than just in back. I also wanted more of a scoop neck so I borrowed my screwp neck modification for the Sinclair Bondi pattern.

The Cayambe fabric is kind of a light-weight sweater knit, good for a spring/summer sweater. (Not really appropriate for winter weather, but it warmed up enough today that I ran outside for a quick photo shoot. I’m laughing in the photo because my photographer is making fun of me for standing outside in Pittsburgh in February in short sleeves without a coat.) The Cayambe has a bit of a sheen on the right side of the fabric and nice ribs. The web site suggests not putting it in the dryer, I’m assuming to avoid it catching on other garments as opposed to a danger of shrinkage. I did put the fabric in the dryer when I initially washed it without any problem. The rosemary color is similar to sage, kind of herby. It could be called sage too I guess.

Overall I’m reasonably happy with how this came out and I’m looking forward to wearing this set in warmer weather. I don’t love the Cayambe as much as I thought I would — it is soft but also kind of looks and feels like polyester (which it is) and isn’t as soft as I thought it might be. I like the Grab A Cuppa cardi pattern and think it will be nice with wide pants, but even sizing down 3 sizes it still looks slouchy and I think I generally prefer a more fitted look for tops.

I just bought some custom woven clothing tags from wunderlabel.com so I sewed them into these garments as a finishing touch.

Quick wool sweater

I bought some sapphire blue wool spandex jersey from knitfabric.com and decided to make a quick sweater. This is a lightweight wool with 3% spandex, 220 gsm. It has 4-way 75% stretch and it is machine-washable (and it seems to have survived its first wash just fine). At $12/yard, it is also a great price for wool (although it is only 44-inches wide). I wouldn’t describe it as super soft, but it is also not itchy. I found it comfortable against my skin. I’ll probably buy more in other colors when they restock.

I was planning to make a dolman sleeve sweater, but realized I only had 1.5 yards and at the 44-inch width, that wasn’t enough. So I turned to my trusty Sinclair Bondi screwp-neck t-shirt pattern, and sized up one size (to a 6p) for a looser sweater fit that could be layered with a t-shirt underneath.

This was my first time sewing with wool. The sweater was quick to cut and sew and it looks and fits great. (Modeled here with Walk Boldly pants.)

Flying over Dublin

I selected the Styla Dublin top and dress pattern to make a dress I have planned. It seemed perfect for the cotton-Lycra (CL) fabric I plan to use (which you will see when I actually get around to making it). However, I have never used a Styla pattern before and I have never made a garment with big puff sleeves or shoulder elastic, so I decided to try the top pattern first in some CL from my stash (a soft turquoise and navy print by Art Gallery Fabrics that I bought last year from Cali Fabrics). I honestly probably would not have made this top pattern if I didn’t want to make the dress later, but now that I made it, I am very glad I did and will probably make more. It has a short sleeve option too, but these long puff sleeves are just so much fun. CL fabric is great or this pattern because it has a little bit of body that helps the sleeves puff out, but I’m also thinking about trying it in a lighter weight fabric for summer.

The pattern does not come in short or petite sizes, but does offer advice on how to adjust it. I decided to make the size 6 as-is based on my measurements, and adjust later if needed.

The Styla instructions were fairly thorough and easy to follow, and even their tips for a more professional finish were not actually difficult to execute if you have a serger. I could have used some more guidance on shortening the shoulder elastic, as advised to accommodate shorter people (the pattern is designed for someone who is 5’5″ and I am only 5’2″), but I figured it out. After basting the sleeves to the bodice as directed by the pattern, I tried the top on and saw that the sleeves were in danger of falling off my shoulders. So I opened up the end of the elastic casing in the back and shortened the elastic by about .75 inch, which seemed to do the trick. The instructions did not indicate when would be a good time to check shoulder fit or how much to shorten the elastic, but this approach worked for me.

Attaching the facing to the basted bodice and sleeves required some puzzling over the geometry. But once I figured it out, the instructions made sense. The instructions did not suggest serging this seam (although they also didn’t say not to), so I opted to sew this with a stretch stitch on my sewing machine and I’m glad I did, as it made it much easier to correct a mistake I made. It also turns out that the seam in question gets entirely encased between the bodice and facing, so nobody will ever see it. I skipped adding the clear elastic as the CL seemed substantial enough not to droop, and I also realized the elastic could be added later if needed. I considered under stitching or top stitching the neckline but didn’t do it, and figured I could always add that later if needed.

This top sewed up pretty quickly, and once I adjusted the shoulder elastic, I think it fits perfectly. I was worried the sleeves might be too long (often a problem for me when I don’t have a petite size, but once I tightened the shoulder elastic the sleeves fit fine as well. Then bodice length also seems about right so I’m going to proceed with this approach for the dress, although I imagine I may need to shorten the skirt. The top is more of a spring/fall top than a winter top, as the neck line is somewhat low in the back. I’ll probably keep a scarf handy to keep my neck and back from getting cold. The big puffy sleeves will fit under a jacket or a loose sweater, but do limit layering options.

We had an unseasonably warm winter day today so I got to wear my new top and even my 17-year-old daughter approved. Now I’m excited to make the dress!

Pants fitting with slim pants, two ways

Having now successfully made several pairs of wide-leg and palazzo pants, I decided to give slim pants a try. I made two pairs of grey slim pants this week, with two different types of fabric and patterns. Neither came out quite as I had hoped they would, but they are wearable and I learned a lot about pants fitting in the process, and also why I should probably just stick with wide-leg pants.

Take 1: Pattern Emporium Urban Pants Collection

I was so happy with my Pattern Emporium Walk Boldly pants, that I wanted to check out other Pattern Emporium pants. I saw the Urban Pants Collection for knit fabrics, which includes in a high rise with back darts, similar to Walk Boldly, and decided to give the pattern a try. The collection includes wide leg, tapered, and flared pants patterns, all with yoga waist bands and a jeans pocket option.

I selected the tapered style for my first pair. I was originally going to use a grey ponte fabric, but read the warning about the pattern not working well with some pontes, and I decided not to take the chance. Also, the pattern designer highly recommended doing a fit test. So I used some grey cotton lycra from my stash that is soft and comfy but doesn’t have great recovery, so I’ve been reluctant to use it for anything I really care about. I figured it would at least make a comfy pair of PJ pants.

I cut out the pants in size 10 with a size 8 waist band. Since I’m 5’2 I shortened the pants by 2 inches, and because I love big pockets, I added 2 inches to the length of the pocket bags. I also zigzag stitched a circle of half-inch elastic inside the waistband fold because I often have trouble with yoga waistbands staying in place when I put things in my pockets and I prefer the feel of a snug waistband to feeling like my pants are falling down all the time.

The pants went together pretty quickly and easily, and the pattern was easy to follow. The bad-recovery fabric made the pocket construction a little finicky, and cause the top of the pockets to stretch out a bit. My 2-inch pocket extension was probably over kill on these pants and 1 inch would be sufficient. The length ended up maybe a tad short, but they look ok with a 5/8-inch hem (held in place with fusible hem tape and then finished with a narrow zigzag stitch). I could probably have shortened by 1 inch instead of 2.

I struggled a bit with stretching the waistband as I sewed it to the pants with my serger. I ended up with a couple of unwanted puckers, so I unpicked part of the waistband and sewed it again. It worked better the second time, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as I would like. I had pinned it in 8 places, and clearly next time I should add more pins (as the pattern designer recommended). Another option I might consider next time is to split the waistband into two pieces and angle the sides so the bottom is a size 10 and the top is a size 8, which means there is less stretching of the bottom needed. Adding a contour to the waistband could also work.

After finishing the pants, I scrutinized the fit to see if any of the extensive modification described in the pattern tutorial were needed. I thought it looked pretty good as-is, and my husband (who is not afraid to tell me the dress I just sewed looks like a sack) agreed. They don’t cling too much to my bottom or hips. They do cling to my calves a bit, which causes some wrinkling at the knees, so perhaps I should adjust a bit for wider calves.

These are pants I will wear with t-shirts on weekends (or as pajamas). The grey CL fabric gives them an athletic vibe, and they look like joggers without bottom cuffs. I like the back darts and the yoga waistband (except for the unwanted puckers. I think they fit pretty well, although I think they look better when my shirt is not tucked in, so that’s how I will likely wear them most of the time.

I would like to try another pair in a dressier looking fabric that has better recovery. I’m still not sure whether these would work well in ponte. I will probably try the wide-leg version in ponte first. The wide-leg style is not as wide or high waisted as the Walk Boldly pants (and it has the same yoga waist band as the tapered style, while the Walk Boldly pants use an elastic waist band), and the Urban pants use a lot less fabric. Unlike the Walk Boldly pants, the Urban pants do not have back pockets, but I think I could borrow the pocket design from the Walk Boldly pants and add pockets to these.

(I modeled the pants above with one of the first Sinclair Bondi shirts I made, and never blogged about, in a yellow cotton lycra print and wide scoop neck.)

Take 2: Love Notions Patterns Sabrina Slims

I still wanted to make a pair of slim pants with my grey ponte fabric, a stretchy 320 gsm viscose/nylon ponte in the wrought iron color from Surge Fabrics. I looked for other slim pull-on pants with high-waist options and pockets that listed ponte among their recommended fabrics. I decided to try the Sabrina Slims pants from Love Notions Sewing Patterns. This pattern is intended for stretch woven fabrics and stable knits. It has jeans pockets and patch pockets, and a 2-inch elastic contoured waist band.

This pattern instructions are a bit terse and the pattern does not come with as many explicit instructions and suggestions or diagrams as some of the other patterns I’ve been using. I have enough experience that this wasn’t a problem for me, but I think it makes this less of a beginner-friendly pattern when there’s actually not much particularly difficult about it. I followed the measurement instructions and selected a size 6 based on my hip measurement, as recommended. I noted that my thighs were size 8 and my waist and calf were size 10 (although based on the finished measurements there is a lot of extra room in the waist so a size 6 waist should be quite ample in a stretchy fabric). I graded the inseam on the front and back pieces to a size 10 but left the rest a size 6. I also extended the pocket bags to have room for my phone. I cut out a 28-inch inseam, which is longer than I expected to need but would give me room for error.

The pattern comes with a fit handbook, which was very helpful. They recommended sewing a muslin for a fit test and offered suggestions for a quick a dirty approach to basting the muslin together. I decided to take a chance and cut my muslin from my grey ponte fabric in the hope that it would be wearable by the time I got done with it. I basted it all together (using the recommended 3/8-inch seam allowance) and tried it on, and was not too happy with it. The front looked ok, but the back was too tight against my bottom, and the sides puckered where my hip crease is, and the fabric had folds around my knees. I read the fit guide but wasn’t entirely sure what to do, so I posted some photos to the Love Notions Pattern Support Facebook group and asked for help. I received a large number of responses, which was great. People pointed out that these pants were fitting me more like leggings. People suggested sizing up and sewing with a smaller seam allowance, offered tips on scooping the crotch or lengthening the crotch seam, noted that the fabric was pulling on my calves, pointed out that I have hip dips, suggested better underwear choices, and wondered whether my troubles were caused by the heavy ponte fabric. They also sent me pointers to a number of pants fitting videos. The “Lifting Pins and Needles” pants fitting video series was very informative.

From all this I learned a number of things. First, I had been oblivious to the fact that the shape of my hips has a name (hip dips). Now that I know the name I have learned that my inadvertent discoveries about selecting flattering clothes align pretty well with what people recommend: wear wide-leg pants and fit-and-flare dresses. Next I learned that I have largish calf muscles, something that had never occurred to me before – I don’t think they are enormous, but they are indeed larger than the pattern measurements for my size. Now I understand why none of the slim pants I own are smooth over the knees: they are all getting pulled by my calves. Going forward, I guess I will widen the calves of any slim pants I sew. From the videos, I learned how to measure myself for pants and adjust patterns based on this, something I will do before attempting another pair of slim pants.

I decided to try to salvage the muslin, so I removed all the basting and sewed the pants together with my serger using a 3/16-inch seam allowance everywhere except on the waistband, which makes it closer to a size 8 instead of a size 6. I also did some scooping of the back crotch and I recut the extended pocket bag in purple ITY to reduce the bulk since the ponte is pretty thick.

After I got it all sewed together and added the back patch pockets, I tried it on and found that my changes had helped improve the fit somewhat. The back and hips looked better, but my hip dip was still prominent. There was a bit more room in the legs, but still not enough for my calves. I think I may have inadvertently added too much to the front crotch, which you can kind of see in the side view. The patch pockets also served as a camouflage, although I’m not entirely happy with the pocket placement, and would move them closer together, lower the outer corners, and also consider slightly smaller pockets next time (the pattern offers the same size patch pockets regardless of pants size). The waistband did not sit smoothly and was a big disappointment. While I was focussing on making my butt look better I hadn’t noticed the waistband problem, and just assumed the gaps were due to the fact that I hadn’t attached it completely. But now I see that the waistband is actually too big for me and I should have either sized down or added more of a contour. With the elastic it fits and isn’t going to gap or fall down, but it isn’t as smooth as I would like. I decided that the muslin was about as good as it was going to be, so I went ahead and finished the pants, cutting 1 inch off the bottom of each leg and sewing a 1-inch hem (effectively a 27″ inseam).

The muslin is wearable and I expect I will wear it, despite the flaws. It looks much better if I wear a longer shirt and don’t tuck it in. I expect I will likely wear these pants with a longer sweater or jacket and they will look fine. The ponte is actually super comfortable to wear and it has a somewhat dressy look.

My sense from reading the Facebook group is that other people did not have as much trouble with this pattern. The pattern states “as sizes get larger, the less negative ease there is.” With less negative ease in larger sizes, I think the pattern would be more forgiving. My choice of fabric may have played a role in my difficulties, but I’m not sure. And in the end, although these pants do not have my ideal fit, they fit similarly to most of the slim fit pants I have bought in a store. So maybe Ill make more adjustments and try again, but probably I’ll go back to wide-leg pants for a while.


This wasn’t a controlled experiment because I used very different fabric for the two pants. Nonetheless, I can make some comparisons. The Sabrina Slims are a slimmer style: the Urban tapered pants include a lot more ease. I expect to make the Sabrina slims look better on me would require a number of adjustments to the crotch, waistband, and calves, while the Urban tapered pants would likely need only a more minor calf and waistband adjustment and optionally the addition of back pockets. The back darts and fit with more ease are likely going to make it easer to get a good fit on the Urban pants for me and I am curious to see how they will look in ponte. However, I do like the slim look and it may be worth making more adjustments to the Sabrina Slims to get a slim pants pattern I can use for both dressier pants and pull-on jeans. Or maybe I’ll just stick with wide-leg pants for a while.

Update, 1 week later

So I wore the Sabrina Slims to work with a long jacket, and loved how comfortable they were. They feel like secret pajama pants (and after my daughter suggested it, I discovered that I could fit a water bottle in one of the back pockets). Most of the flaws I wrote about above didn’t really bother me, but I was still unhappy with the waist band. So after running through the wash, I took a pair of scissors and cut off the entire waist band. Then I cut off the bottom stitches, removed the elastic, and reduced the circumference of the waist band by about 2 inches. I carefully basted and then sewed the whole thing together. Now the waist band was smaller than the pants, so I had to stretch it as I sewed, similar to sewing a yoga waistband. Because I cut the waistband off instead of unpickiing it, I lost about 3/4-inch of rise in both the front and back. However, I realized from wearing the pants that I had more rise than I needed. Then I threaded the elastic back in and tried on the pants. I think they look a lot better now, despite a wee bit of puckering in the back. There are still some issues that I will try to address when I make this pattern again (more tweaking of the crotch and seat, more room through the thighs and calves, slightly smaller and better placed pockets), but I’m now pretty happy with these pants and I expect I will wear them frequently.