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 8 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 I of black LiKnit pants I made 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 that pairs perfectly with my seafoam LiKnit pants.

So now I’m up to 11 Bondis and I’m sure there will be more! I still need to try the V-neck version.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.)

Bishop Sleeves

I’ve been seeing lots of bishop sleeves tops so I decided to make some using the Sinclair puffed sleeve add-on pack and the Sinclair Bondi classic fitted t-shirt patterns.

First I made bishop Bondi for myself using sangria microsuede jersey knit from Surge Fabrics. This is a soft polyester-spandex jersey knit with 50% horizontal and vertical stretch. It is not very thick, but it still has a warm, cozy feel to it on the inside. It was easy to work with a drapes very nicely but has a terrible tendency to be clingy. It behaved a little bit better after I sprayed it with anti-static spray, but it was still more clingy than I would like.

I made the Bondi in my usual 4P size with my usual hip adjustments and screwp neck. The bishop sleeves are cut wide at the wrist and gathered before attaching cuffs. I used a long stitch on my sewing machine and pulled the threads to gather. I sewed on the cuffs to the sleeve with my serger. This is not in the instructions, but I stretched the cuffs after they were sewn on to pop the gathering stitches and then pulled out the loose threads. I figured that would inevitably happen when I wore it so I might as well do it now and keep the cuffs nice and stretchy. I love both the look and the feel while wearing of bishop sleeve cuffs made from a folded piece of knit fabric.

I made the second bishop Bondi for my mother. I had extra ITY fabric from a Joanne dress I made last year with a beautiful blue swirly pattern that I love. My mother has commented multiple times how much she likes that fabric so I decided to use it to make her a top. This was the first top I sewed for her and I sewed it based on her measurements. She doesn’t live near me so I wasn’t able to check the fit until she tried it on later. She reports that it is very comfortable and the fit is perfect!

I was so happy with the way my mother’s bishop Bondi came out in ITY fabric that I decided to make myself one. I have a purple suit (I didn’t make it, but I bought it on sale from Banana Republic Factory and tailored the pants myself to fit better) and have been looking for a print blouse to wear with it. I scoured lots of online fabric stores for a nice ITY print with royal purple in it. I found this print at StylishFabric.com, an online fabric store I had not previously noticed. My bishop Bondi goes perfectly with my purple suit and is much more comfortable wear with a suit than a traditional woven, button-down blouse.

I love these bishop-sleeve tops and I’m sure there will be more! See also the Lakeisha top I made for my daughter, which has bishop sleeves too.

Cozy Quilted Soho Tunic With Pockets

A few weeks ago I made a Sinclair Soho dolman v-neck sweater from a marled dark green sweater knit. It was easy to make and super cozy. I’m wearing it a lot, but I have one complaint: I feel the sleeves attach at a rather awkward spot, which on me is too close to the elbow. I think the sleeves would look better and be more comfortable if they seam were moved up closer to the top or eliminated completely. So for my latest Soho I hacked the pattern a bit and extended the front and back bodice to include the sleeves. I basically just took the sleeve pattern piece, (digitally, in Affinity Designer) cut it in two and attached part of it to the front bodice and part to the back. I shortened the sleeves by .5 inch to account for not needing the seam allowance, and then I shortened them by another full inch because the Soho sleeves are a bit too long for me. I ended up cutting the two bodice pieces with attached sleeves on the fold, which I can do because I was using 58″ fabric and I’m a size 4p. So I just had a top-length front, back, neck band, bottom band, and pockets to cut. I cut the whole thing out of 1.5 yards of fabric.

I made a few other minor modifications to the pattern, including grading out the lower few inches of the bodice and extending the bottom band to be the same size as the bottom edge of the bodice so that the bottom of the sweater would be looser and not cling to my hips. I made the pockets about an inch deeper to make sure they would be deep enough for my phone and so that I could anchor the pockets in the seam attaching the bodice to the bottom band. (I usually don’t pass up any pocket opportunity and often add or enlarge pockets, but I didn’t include any pockets or bottom band on the green soho as I made that as a regular knit sweater top.)

I used the interwoven squares quilted knit fabric in the clematis color from Surge Fabric Shop. This is a 60% cotton, 35% polyester, 5% spandex knit with a cool pattern, reminiscent of the tumbling blocks quilting pattern, that looks like interwoven 3D cubes (or just a bunch of upside-down or right-side Ys depending on how you orient it). I love the fabric, but it wasn’t quite what I expected when I ordered it online. Based on the photos on the Surge website, I was expecting a brighter, pinker purple, similar to the boots I’m wearing in the photo. In reality, the color is more of a dusty violet. In fact, it almost exactly matches the grape brushed sweater knit I also bought from Surge. (To be fair, this is a tricky color to photograph in indoor light. My initial indoor iphone photos of this fabric looked very pink and I had to futz with the color in my photo editor to get an accurate representation. The color looks more accurate in my outdoor photos, which I did not color correct at all.)

I also didn’t fully understand that the fabric is actually quilted. I was assuming it was a quilted look, but actually it is three layers of fabric joined together. The top layer is where all or most of the cotton is, and it feels very soft. The bottom layer is a smooth polyester, and the middle layer is a fluffy polyester that looks dark purple like quilt batting. The result is a very warm and snuggly fabric on the outside that is fairly smooth on the inside. However, I did not realize that when I cut it, purple fuzz would start to seep out of all the cut edges. It’s not a huge problem, but it does mean you should be prepared to cut away fuzz balls as you sew and fold under or overcast all of the raw edges.

The end result is soft and cozy and looks great. The v-neck looks awesome and the pockets and band look pretty good. The fabric is heavy enough that there is no way to make the pockets completely invisible, but with the understitching, they tuck in pretty well and don’t look bulky, even when I put stuff in them. I felt pretty warm wearing this outside over a cotton t-shirt on a chilly winter day while my photographer was bundled up in a parka.

Soho and Loop Sweaters

My past attempts at knitting a sweater ended badly. Some day I may try again, but for now I’m just really happy to buy fabric that has been knitted on a knitting machine and sew it together into a sweater. Today I will show you two sweaters I sewed, both from Sinclair patterns.

I sewed my first sweater last spring using the Sinclair Loop drop shoulder knit top pattern. I used a lightweight black and white polyester sweater knit from Cali Fabrics with 2-way 100% stretch. I sewed it with the basic sleeves, medium scoop neck, and long-line high-low split hem. The pattern has lots of options for sleeves, and even a kangaroo pocket, but I stuck with the basics. The best feature is the split hem, which looks complicated, but is very cleverly designed so all you have to do is cut out the right shape, sew it together, turn it around, and a lovely tailored split hem with a beautifully mitered corner just pops right out.

This week I sewed a warmer V-neck sweater using the Sinclair Soho dolman relaxed style top, tunic and mini dress pattern. While the Loop and Soho are both fairly relaxed and have sleeve seams that aren’t right at the shoulder, the Soho drops the seam all the way to just above the elbow and has a wide curve through the arm pit. The bodice also has a little bit of shaping. The loop is a boxier fit. For the Soho, I used a very soft and fluffy marled hunter green brushed rib sweater knit from Surge Fabrics made from polyester, rayon, and spandex. It has a 75% horizontal stretch and minimal vertical stretch.

The pattern can be made color blocked, with diagonal stripes, with pockets, with or without a back V-neck, with or without a bottom band, and at various sleeve and hem lengths. I made the most basic version in the regular top length without any pockets, color blocking, bands, or back V, and I cut the front and back on the fold rather than with a center seam. I considered having the ribs run diagonally (check out some fun diagonal stripe looks on the Sinclair website), but was concerned about how it might hang with a lot of horizontal but not vertical stretch, so I took the easy-peasy approach. The ribs run vertically on the bodice and also on the bottom part of the sleeves. I cut out the bottom band but decided not to use it, so I made it into a matching headband.

This pattern sewed up very quickly on my serger (in a couple of hours). The only bit of trickiness was the V-neck. I had never attempted a V-neck before. The pattern has great instructions, although it took me some time to get my head around them. Now that I did it once, it will be even easier next time around. The fact that I was dealing with a very stretchy fluffy knit made the V-neck a bit more challenging, as the instructions call for making a very sharp point at the center of the V, which was hard to do with this fabric, but I got it done. I can see grafting this V-neck onto other patterns too, for example to make a V-neck Loop. It is a fairly low V on me so I might raise it a smidge or shave half an inch off the center seam/fold line.

I did have to shorten the sleeves by about 2.5 inches before I hemmed it. Looking at photos from others who made the long-sleeved version, it looks to me like most of them have sleeves that are a couple of inches too long. That might be the intended slouchy style, but I prefer sleeves that don’t go past my wrists.

The sweater if very soft and comfortable. The fabric feels very light but it is actually quite warm and cozy!

I look forward to trying other variations of the patterns in different sweater knits, and maybe even trying some color blocking or making a longer length for a tunic or sweater dress.

T-shirts for my guy!

I finally sewed something for my husband. Sinclair has a bunch of men’s patterns and the sewists in the Sinclair Facebook group often post smiling photos of their husbands and sons modeling their creations. After Chuck recently went through his drawers and removed a mountain of old long-sleeve t-shirts with holes in them, I decided to sew him some new ones. He loves striped shirts, so I have been on a quest to find good yard-dyed striped fabric in t-shirt weight knits (which is surprisingly difficult, pointers to good sources welcome).

I selected the Sinclair Kai semi-fitted crew neck t-shirt for men pattern. This was very easy to sew and is essentially the same as Sinclair’s Bondi t-shirt pattern for women, but with a different cut and sizing. The instructions for measuring and fitting were clear. I ended up making only a minor adjustment, grading between two sizes on the lower half of the bodice, but the pattern offers instructions for addressing more difficult fitting problems. I also shortened the sleeves and the bodice by about 1.5 inches before hemming. With my serger each of these shirts took only a couple of hours to sew.

For my first Kai, I selected Surge’s Sedona mini stripe jersey in Tuscon sun (a gold color). It is a lightweight stretchy fabric that is a blend of rayon, cotton, polyester, and spandex. It’s great for drapey summer-weight tops (maybe a summer cardigan), but ended up being a little too light and slinky (as Chuck put it) for a long-sleeved men’s t-shirt. It works fine as an under layer, and he was seemed happy with it none-the-less.

For my second Kai, I selected a stretchy rayon/polyester/spandex yard-dyed rib knit in navy and olive. This fabric is also fairly light and drapey, but it is more substantial and has a more suitable weight for a long-sleeved men’s t-shirt. I like this one better. This fabric was fairly easy to sew with, but I found it almost impossible to mark notches with my washable markers, so I ended up improvising the collar band a bit. I probably should have marked the notches with clips.

I think he enjoyed being photographed rather than being my photographer this time. I was excited about using the fall leaves as a backdrop but he was more interested in a photo with our new car.

I’ll make some more Kai t-shirt for him after I find some good cotton-lycra striped fabric.

Stretch velour corduroy palazzo pants

I love my Pylos LiKnit palazzo pants made with my adaptation of the Sinclair Cleo pattern, but they are more of a summer weight and not so good for our chilly Fall weather. So I made a new pair in black Surge’s stretch velour corduroy last week. This is a somewhat slinky corduroy, very soft and a medium weight and horizontal wales. It makes for a super comfy pair of Fall pants (with pockets, of course!), perfect to wear with a chunky sweater. When it gets colder I’ll probably wear tights or leggings under them. Wide-leg pants are very comfortable and cool in the summer because they let the air flow, but that’s less desirable for cold-weather wear and thus may require layering. But either way, these pants are comfy like my pajamas.

I sewed the pants using the same adaptations of the Cleo pattern I used previously, and lined the waistband with Surge’s black quad performance jersey knit. To keep the tops of the pockets from sagging I sewed a strip of clear elastic into the seam allowance of the diagonal seam at the top of the pockets.

I’m also wearing a Sinclair Bondi shirt here I sewed last year and never got around to photographing. This is a grey cotton-lycra fabric. I tried a binding rather than a band on the neck for this one.

Full-circle valley skater dress

I’ve been holding onto this fabulous ivory and black geometric polyester double-knit fabric since last spring, with the plan to turn it into a long-sleeve Sinclair Valley Knit Skater Dress. The fabric has some body (and just barely enough stretch for this pattern) and a nice drape, so I decided to use the full-circle skirt from the add-on pack for a skirt that would naturally poof out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite enough fabric, so it took some tetrising to cut it all out (with my projector), and I ended up having to split two of the skirt panels in half and turn the long sleeves into 3/4 sleeves. But by splitting the skirt panels I was able to avoid a seam in the center front of the dress.

Sinclair Valley Knit Skater Dress with full circle skirt in black and white geometric double knit

I made the pattern mostly as written, lengthening the bodice as recommended when omitting the waistband. I also used my Bondi screwp neck modification, as I have done for my previous Valley dresses. This time I sewed the pockets to the waistband as the pattern suggests, since this is a pretty stable knit and I wasn’t worried about the pockets getting pulled down. I did lengthen the pockets by about an inch to reduce the risk of my phone falling out. The pockets on the finished dress are great and with the full skirt they are nearly invisible, even when full.

This is the first Valley I sewed with a serger, and it went very quickly. It only took about 3 hours to sew after cutting the fabric. Of course, it took a while to hem the 13-foot circumference full-circle skirt. But my teen daughter approves and says the full-circle skirt was definitely worth the effort. Indeed, this is a dress that really is fun to wear.

Sinclair Valley Knit Skater Dress with full circle skirt in black and white geometric double knit. A perfect fall dress?
Such nice pockets!
Fun to twirl!
The circle skirt has a 13-foot circumference.

Password dress: ball gown edition

I made my first bad password dress back in 2013 — a simple, short, sleeveless sheath, that has become quite famous. After wearing it to give a lot of security talks, it started showing wear and so I made a second one — the original is in the privacy art collection of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. But I finally got tired of wearing it to places like Davos in the winter where everyone insisted that I needed to be photographed outside in the snow and experiencing cold arms and lack of pockets, so I made the long-sleeved version last winter. But now I have taken this whole wearable password game to the next level and I give you the password dress: ball gown edition. So as not to keep you in suspense, I’ll jump right to the photos. But scroll past if you want all the details about how and why I made it.

It’s made from a luxurious custom printed crushed velour fabric from Contrado. It’s vibrant and shiny, especially in the sun. And it feels stretchy and soft and is the most comfortable ball gown ever. All of my past custom password fabric orders have been from spoonflower.com. But they didn’t offer a suitable fabric that was both dressy and stretchy, so I started looking for other custom fabric vendors. Contrado is based in the UK so I was a little bit uncertain about placing an international order, but they offer a ton of fabric options so I ordered a fabric swatch kit. A few days later I opened an envelope with more fabric swatches than I knew what to do with. I didn’t count them, but I think there were over 100. So many fabric choices! I dumped them out on the floor and tested each one for light weight, softness, and stretchability, narrowing down the pile to a short list of scuba variants and crushed velour. They were all nice, but I loved the feel of the crushed velour and the way it catches the light. So with that in mind I ordered some cheap crushed velour to make a muslin of the pattern I intended to make (Sinclair Serena), but at a shorter length. The cheap crushed velour did not feel luxurious at all, but it made a nice dressy summer dress that I have worn several times this summer.

Once I had picked out the fabric and settled on the pattern, I worked on the fabric design. I took the PDF file for the Serena dress in the size 4 petite, and extended the skirt length to be long enough to graze the tops of my feet after hemming. I then created a PDF file the width of the fabric (53.15 inches) by 108 inches long in Affinity Designer. I pasted the Serena pattern pieces into the file, mirroring those that needed to be mirrored. The skirt back at that length was wider than 53 inches, so I decided to add a back seam and print the skirt back in two pieces. I split the skirt back and added a seam allowance to the center back seam. The skirt front is not as full so it fit the fabric width without a problem. I made all the pattern lines red and deleted all of the internal pattern markings, keeping only the outlines. Then I added a solid purple layer under the pattern pieces. The next step was to add all the passwords to the dress. I started with my previous password dress fabric and cut and pasted the passwords inside the pattern pieces (removing the naughty words this time). In some cases I rotated them or scaled them slightly from the previous design. I spent a lot of time rearranging the passwords to fit them all into the puzzle. I also chose some of my favorites for prominent placement. I decided to cover the entire skirt and back of the bodice with passwords but leave the bodice front solid purple.

I could have continued futzing with the password layout for quite some time, but I was not sure how long it would take for my order to be delivered and I had a deadline for finishing the dress, so I saved a giant jpg file and called it done. (I subsequently spotted several small glitches but hopefully nobody else will notice.) I went ahead and placed the order on a Sunday morning in August. Much to my amazement, the fabric was printed in the UK, shipped across the ocean, and was delivered via FedEx to my doorstep in Pittsburgh, PA just TWO DAYS LATER on Tuesday! The custom fabric is expensive. Even with a discount coupon it was $42 per yard. But I paid only $9.95 for standard international shipping.

The Contrado website said the fabric would be machine washable, but was a little vague on whether to expect shrinkage. Given that it was 100% polyester fabric I took a chance that there would be minimal shrinkage (definitely a risk if you print your pattern pieces directly on the fabric) and I was right.

I laid the fabric out on my magnetized cutting mat and cut it out along the red lines with my rotary cutter. I knew from sewing the muslin that crushed velour is slippery and hard to pin in place, so I did a lot of hand basting and then serged most of it, leaving the cutting knife retracted so I wouldn’t accidentally cut anything I didn’t want to cut (since the pattern had 1/4-inch seam allowances there wasn’t really any need to trim as I sewed). The first few steps of the bodice assembly went pretty well, until it came time to join the F1 piece to the F2/F5 piece of the bodice. There are multiple points to line up and after basting and unbasting multiple times I realized that there was no possible way to get everything simultaneously lined up. After about three hours of this I finally gave up and sewed it together so the outside looked good, but the inner lining (purple ITY) looked like a train wreck. But nobody will ever see it, except for the fact that I am showing you this photo right here so that you can see that the inside is a complete disaster but the outside still looks really good. You will see there is a diagonal piece that goes from the top left to the bottom right. There is another diagonal piece that starts in the middle and goes to the bottom right. Those two pieces are supposed to be sewn together on top of each other, but yet there is a bout a 1 inch gap between them. So that nothing would be flapping in the breeze, I sewed the loose edge to the inner lining. I believe the problem has to do with the fact that my fabric stretches only in the horizontal direction and has almost no vertical stretch (going against the advice of the pattern maker). The fabric I used for my muslin was similar, yet somehow I did not end up with this particular problem. I’m perplexed, but it all worked out in the end.

Of course, I chose the pocket option, since Cinderella and I always need pockets, even when we go to a ball. I decided to make the pocket bags out of the purple stretch velour so that they would not show if they fell open. Stretch velour is not really ideal pocket bag material, especially since I stitched the pocket openings up a bit to prevent things from falling out. Sticking my hand in a pocket tends to cause the pocket bag to come out with my hand, but it works well enough for holding my phone and a small wallet. From past experience with this pattern, I know that I prefer the pockets to sit a bit higher than the pattern calls for so they don’t jiggle around when I walk, so I ignored the marks and just tried on the partially completed dress and pinned the pockets where I wanted them to go.

I’m really happy with the end result. It is exactly what I wanted. I was so excited that I put it on and made my husband follow me around my yard with my DXLR camera while I played fashion model and posed for photos. He has no formal photography training but he is starting to get the hang of fashion photography as I explain to him that there is a difference between zooming in and moving closer to the subject.

Did I mention that this dress has some twirlability?

Ok, so why did I make this dress? Well I’m the director of the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. This is our 20th anniversary year and we held a gala to celebrate on Tuesday. Obviously, I need a password ball gown to wear to the gala. (And of course my husband needed a matching tie.)

CyLab 20th Anniversary Gala

As an added bonus, the Carnegie Science Center held their Geek Out Gala on Thursday, and this was the perfect outfit! So many people I didn’t know came up to me to talk with me about my dress.

Crushed velour Serena dress

A few weeks ago I made a Sinclair Serena dress to try out the pattern, which I plan to use to make a fancy gown. The pattern worked out pretty well in double-brushed polyester, but I’m planning to use a fancy (expensive) custom-printed crushed stretch velour fabric for the gown, so I decided to make the pattern again with some cheap velour. I bought two yards of purple crushed panne velour from Cali fabrics for $4.99 a yard. This fabric is pretty and has similar stretch as the fabric I plan to use, but it is not as soft and doesn’t feel quite as nice. It is also not really purple – I would call it lavender, but it is not the royal purple shown on the website. This is not meant as a high-end fabric, but it is fine for a muslin.

I projected the pattern and cut out the velour. I decided to use a purple ITY fabric for the lining pieces. Then, throwing caution to the wind, I decided to sew the dress together using my brand new Serger, having never serged before. It actually wasn’t that hard, except for the fact that velour is a super slippery fabric and no amount of pinning could get it to hold still. The slippery ITY lining just made it worse. There are parts of this pattern that call for two layers of regular fabric and 2 layers of lining, and getting them all lined up to complete the jigsaw puzzle bodice was a real challenge. I eventually basted together the layers before sewing, and it was fine. But parts of it that I sewed early on are not quite lined up right, although I managed to mostly hide them. Note to self when I make the gown, plan to do a lot of basting.

Besides being very slippery, the velour as almost no vertical stretch. That doesn’t seem to be a problem with this pattern, other than reducing the ability to ease out mistakes. Somehow the back ended up being and inch longer than the front when all was said and done (I’m pretty sure it was cut correctly, but there were numerous sewing errors), and I ended up just trimming it before hemming.

I did make a few mistakes that are mostly attributable to learning how to use my serger while making this dress. I now have a full understanding of the knife function and how not to use it when turning a corner. Repairing some of these mistakes might be one of the reasons the back ended up longer than the front.

I did manage to fix some problems from my last Serena dress. This time I added clear elastic to the neckline for good measure, and I sewed the crossover all the way to the edge. With both of these improvements, there is no possibility of drooping. I also did a better job stretching the armhole bands around the curves, so they look better than last time. In order to reduce pocket flapping,I made the pocket bags a little slimmer and attached them to the skirt a bit higher than the pattern calls for – about 1 inch below the point where the skirt meets the bodice. I made the pocket openings a bit smaller to keep my phone from falling out. I used the velour for the back pocket bags and the lining for the front to reduce bulk. But the lining still peaks out a bit so I may just use the velour for both sides next time.

The good news is that the whole dress did end up coming together nicely. The proof of concept worked and the muslin is a dress I would actually wear in public. In fact I wore it to an outdoor theater production this evening and can report it was both stylish and confortable.

Pattern testing the Linda twist neckline top and dress

I love the Sinclair seeing all the things people make and post to the Sinclair patterns Facebook group. It’s exciting when a new pattern comes out and all the testers post what they made over the first few days. There are some sewists who seem to test every pattern, and many of them make several versions when a new pattern comes out. I assume they don’t have the sort of day job that I have, and maybe they sew faster than I do. Or maybe they have a serger? Maybe I should get one? Anyway, I’m enjoying their posts and I feel like I’m starting to get to know some of the regulars.

I’ve been tempted by the last few calls for pattern testers. I’ve now sewn over half a dozen Sinclair patterns, so maybe I could get selected. But generally you have only 3 or 4 days to make the pattern, and that usually doesn’t fit my schedule. But when Sanna Sinclair announced the call for testers for their new Linda twist neckline knit top and dress pattern, I checked my calendar and saw that the timing might work. I filled out the application form and waited to see if I would be selected. Early Friday morning I got the email from Sanna Sinclair with the link to the test pattern, the private tester Facebook group, and a request to finish a garment and post fit pictures by Sunday evening.

By the time I got home from work on Friday, the first testers had already finished their tops and posted photos. I thought about getting right to work on mine, but first I had to finish sewing a pair of black Cleo palazzo pants (to match mine) that I promised my daughter. I got those done Friday night and selected fabric from my stash and decided to sew a top rather than a dress, as I was a little concerned about whether I would have enough time for a dress.

The pattern called for very drapey fabrics, so I selected a medium weight modal-spandex knit in turquoise. This was my first time sewing with this type of fabric. It is soft and stretchy like double-brushed polyester, but more breathable and a little less tightly knit. I think it has less body and a more fluid drape, which makes it a little bit harder to work with, but it is very comfortable to wear and it suited this pattern well.

On Saturday I projected the pattern on my fabric, cut it out, and began to sew. I periodically checked the Facebook group to see what other sewists were working on and their comments on the pattern. One small error on the pattern was caught early on and a clarification posted. There were concerns about a few fit issues, but otherwise people seems to be doing well with this pattern. The completed tops and dresses looked pretty good. I thought about making a dress instead of a top, but decided not to over reach on my first pattern test.

I followed the instructions without too many issues. Doing the twist itself was very easy, in part due to the short video provided with the pattern that demonstrates exactly how to do it. I had some trouble overcasting the flimsy fabric with my sewing machine and contemplated buying a serger. I think I will buy one as soon as I figure out which one. I had some pressing issues, again mostly due to this particular type of fabric, but eventually I got them sorted out. The sleeves were a tad too short and the length was a couple of inches too long. So I used a narrow hem on the sleeves and chopped off some of the length before hemming the bottom. I observed the same problem with the keyhole flopping open as everyone else in the Facebook group, and followed the advice to hand stitch it closed. I posted my feedback and my V1 fit photos. All of these problems have been corrected in the final pattern so you shouldn’t have these any of these problems.

Monday morning Sanna posted her comments on our feedback and her plans for adjusting the pattern. She announced that V2 would soon be available the next day but said it was fine to take final photos of our V1 creations. So I put on my new shirt and asked my husband to snap some photos. When I got home from work I selected my favorite photos and uploaded them. I had a busy week at work and did not have time to make a V2 top, let alone a dress. But I enjoyed watching the Facebook group and seeing the sewists who had time to create several garments from this pattern over the course of the week.

I usually like to wear twistneck tops. I had a couple of ready-to-wear dresses with twistnecks, and found I kept futzing with and repositioning the twist as they never seem to lie perfectly right, and I just can’t leave well enough alone. I have to admit I did my share of futzing with this one as I was sewing it. But once I got it set I let it be and it stayed put. Then my husband washed it and called me over as he pulled it out of the dryer because he thought the twist had gotten messed up. But it happily popped right back into position. I expect with a more substantial fabric it would not have popped out at all. I will probably make more of these some time (maybe in ITY, double-brushed polyester, or cotton lycra). I love some of the results other testers got sewing this pattern with prints. I still love the simplicity and fit of the Bondi top and think that style works better under sweaters and blazers since it is smooth and symmetrical. But Linda is a cute top for wearing on its own that looks more elevated than a basic t-shirt, but is just as comfortable to wear.

This morning was the pattern launch and I was excited to see that the first two photos on the Linda pattern web page were mine!

It was fun to be a pattern tester and if Sinclair does another test at a time when my calendar is relatively clear I will definitely sign up to do it again. Also, this is such a good excuse for keeping more fabric than I really need on hand… these testing opportunities come up quickly and there isn’t time to shop for more fabric on short notice!

More Pylos LiKnit Palazzos

My resident teen daughter liked my Cleo PyLos LiKnit Palazzos so much she requested her own pair. They meet all her criteria for pants: feel like yoga pants, pockets, flowy, and black (she hates wearing jeans). She tried mine on and said she just needed them longer with a higher rise and they would be perfect. So that’s what I did. She put them on so I could take a photo and decided to wear them to her band gig.

And here we are wearing all our me-made clothes. I’m wearing my self-drafted cups dress and my daughter is wearing the muslin top for her vintage sundress with her new palazzo pants.