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.

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.

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.

Serena dress

I saw the Sinclair Serena crossover knit dress pattern a while ago and was a bit intimidated about sewing the crossover part, which is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. But I recently was looking for a knit dress pattern that would look great in a full length formal gown, and Serena looked like it could be adapted for this purpose. The gown project will be another story for later, but in the mean time I thought it prudent to sew a short version of this dress with inexpensive fabric to make sure this was going to work. So earlier this month I projected, cut, and sewed Serena in one weekend. Serena is an old pattern without projector files, but I was able to create projector files with pdfstitcher. [Correction: There are projector files, I just some how missed them!]

I used the 4 petite pattern and cut the skirt 1 inch below the above-the-knee length, making it sit exactly at the knee on me. I selected a floral double-brushed polyester for this dress. This is a light-weight, stretchy, and inexpensive fabric that’s very comfortable to wear. I looked at photos from others who have made Serena and saw some interesting approaches to color blocking this dress that really highlight the crossover (and/or the bust) and the jigsaw puzzling involved, but my favorites were all made from a single fabric print without any color blocking. Without the color blocking, you an hardly see the crossover, but you still get a lovely fitted top with a skirt that hangs from a point that I think will work really well for a gown.

Of course I made it with the pocket option (and added about an inch to the bottom of the pocket bags to make sure my phone doesn’t fall out of my pockets)! The pockets are great, but I think the openings sit a little low so in the next dress I will probably raise them about 2 inches higher. The pockets flop around when filled since they aren’t attached to anything except the side seams since there is no waistband to attach them too (and even if there was I probably wouldn’t attach them because I don’t like it when pockets distort the waist band), but I think they would flop less if they were attached higher. My favorite dress pockets are still the Alana dress pockets — no flopping or distorting — but that style of pocket only works with princess seams, alas.

The jigsaw puzzle was not actually too difficult to solve, although I do recommend reading the pattern tutorial very carefully and watching that you don’t try to assemble any of the pieces upside down or backwards (I had a couple of close calls). The pattern suggests optionally adding some elastic to the top edge of the v-neck if it doesn’t recover well from a stretch. I tested the recovery as suggested and it seemed fine, so I did not add the elastic. I have a very slight droop in the top layer of the crossover that might have benefited from adding the elastic, or at least a bit of fusible knit interfacing (maybe next time!), but it is subtle. (Later I realized that I actually ended the seam that holds the crossover down too early. Had I brought the same all the way to the center of the crossover it might not have drooped.) There is also optional top stitching that I opted out of, with no regrets. The arm holes are finished with a binding that I didn’t do a great job of attaching, especially on the left side, so the bottom of the armhole flops out a tad. Next time I will need to take more care with positioning and stretching the band. Most of these are issues that probably nobody would notice except me.

Anyway, I’m quite pleased with Serena, and am already planning to make another one soon.

Cleo pants in Pylos LiKnit

I’ve always liked the idea of linen pants, but have never actually liked wearing and maintaining linen pants. They are cool and breathable, until they become a wrinkly mess and you have to iron them. Some have a texture that isn’t that soft against your skin. This spring I ordered several pairs of linen pants online from a popular retailer and ended up returning all of them because I wasn’t crazy about the fit and I could see they were going to need a lot of ironing. So when I saw a new fabric from Surge Fabrics described as a “faux linen knit,” I was intrigued. The fabric is called Pylos LiKnit, which is kind of a weird name that I struggled to pronounce until I realized the K is silent. I’m not sure if other fabric stores offer it under a different name; this one seems to be unique to Surge. It is 55% rayon and 45% nylon, with 50% 2-way stretch (it stretches side-to-side but not up and down). It comes in lots of colors, although some seem to be selling out. This fabric does not contain any linen. It is not a linen knit; it is a rayon/nylon (viscose) knit that looks and feels somewhat similar to a woven linen, but with stretch.

I decided to use black Pylos LiKnit for my second pair of Cleo palazzo pants. I used the same approach as last time to hack the Sinclair Cleo shorts and culottes pattern into palazzo pants with self-drafted slash pockets, with a couple of modifications. First, I wanted to reduce the fullness at the bottom of the legs a bit, so instead of extending the outside seam straight to the bottom of the leg, I curved it in starting at the notch below the hips and the sent it straight down parallel to the inseam. This reduced the circumference of the pants legs from 40 inches to 32 inches. Second, because this fabric is a lot less stretchy than double-brushed polyester, I did not narrow the waistband. I used a stretchy athletic knit (Surge’s black quad performance jersey knit) for the waistband lining. This 300 gsm fabric is 88% polyester and 12% spandex, with 75% 4-way stretch. This gives the pants a waistband that feels just like a pair of leggings or yoga pants, and that doesn’t slip down when I put my phone in my pocket.

The pants were a pretty fast sew. The PyLos is cool and comfortable to wear and the quad performance jersey knit keeps the waistband in place. I love the results of putting performance knit in the waistband lining, and will try that with other patterns too. The reduced leg fullness makes them look more like normal pants. But I wasn’t entirely happy with the drape of the leg.

After finishing the pants one evening, I decided to work on the drape again the next day. I basted a new outside seam, starting the curve on the front pant leg about even with the bottom of the crotch, but ending up at the same place at the bottom. This seemed better so I sewed it in place. You can see on the image below part of the original front piece of the shorts/culottes pattern outlined in red. The green line is the full palazzo extension that I used for my first pair of Cleo pants. The blue line is the final narrower palazzo extension that I ended up with this time after a bit of trial and error (I started with a line that curved in from the notch, but ultimately ended up with the blue line you see here).

Even after getting the side seam the way I wanted it, I still wasn’t completely happy with the drape and realized that it looked a lot better when I hitched the sides of the pants up a bit. It seems in my effort to raise the rise to be more of a high-rise fit, I added too much fabric to the outside of the waist. The adjustment to the center of the rise was good, but the outside of the waist did not need that much adjustment. The right thing to do at this point would probably have been to remove the waistband, cut off the extra fabric, and sew it back together. However, the idea of picking out all those zigzag stitches was not appealing. So I basted a new seam connecting the pants to the waistband, taking the sides up about three-quarters of an inch and grading towards the center. That seemed to do the trick, so I sewed a zigzag along the basting line and pressed it in place. While the inside is not beautiful, the outside of these pants looks much better with this adjustment. I’ve marked my pattern so I can just cut it this way to begin with next time I make this pattern. I’m learning a lot about fitting pants and clearly I have more to learn.

After wearing the pants with the phone in my pocket I realized that the phone tends to tilt outward and cause a bulge to the side. I added a zigzag seam to the pocket bag from the bottom up about 4 inches, placed about an inch in from the outer edge of each pocket. This is completely invisible on the outside of the pants but it keeps my phone more vertical. I went back and added this to my palazo pants too. Here’s the self-drafted pattern I used for the front part of my slash pocket bag with the extra vertical seam (the back part of the pocket bag is cut straight across the top without the slash).

In any case, the final product looks and feels great. I took these pants on a business trip and they were very comfortable and did not wrinkle in my suitcase. I wore them for three days and the waistband did not stretch out. They were comfortable in the outdoor heat and kept my legs warm in the over air-conditioned meeting rooms. Here are the photos, modeled with a Bondi top I made last Fall. At the bottom I have a close up of the waistband, including the slash pockets.

Valley skater dress, three ways

I first found the Sinclair Patterns company because I was looking for a skater dress pattern. I ran across their free valley skater dress pattern, but the skirt wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so I went down the whole rabbit hole of drafting my own. But I saw their Alana dress pattern and after sewing a couple of Alana dresses, went back to the skater dress and found the add-on skirt pack. I liked the half-circle skirt option and bought the pattern. I’ve since made three valley skater dresses out of three different types of fabric and have a fourth planned.

On all my Valley dresses I’ve used the half-circle option, above-knee length, with pockets (lengthened about an inch to make sure my phone doesn’t fall out), and have replaced the neckline with a screwp neck. All are comfy and fit well. All are size 4P with no size alterations. The add-on skirt pack has lots of other nice skirt options and some day I may make those too… but for now, they are all half-circle skirts.

I made my first Valley Skater dress with a medium-weight, very soft and cozy cotton lycra (CL) fabric. I thought this would be a nice dress for cooler weather. Unfortunately, this lovely, cozy fabric does not have good recovery and I ignored the warning on the pattern about using fabric with good recovery. What does this mean exactly? Well it means the fabric stretches out as you work with it and it does not completely return to its unstretched length. As a result, my long sleeves ended up dangling around my fingertips, the above-knee length hits closer to at-knee length, and no matter how much I press it, I cannot get the waves out of the waistband. The sleeves were easy to address… I just lopped off two inches before I hemmed them. I left the length as-is. I tried futzing with the waistband a bit, and gave up and decided it is a casual dress that I will usually wear with a jacket or sweater, so I would just deal with a wavy waistband. Not my best effort but it is still comfy.

A couple of months later, I used a soft double-brushed polyester (DBP) floral print for my second Valley Skater dress and sewed the short-sleeved version. This time I altered the pockets so that they attach only to the sides and do not connect to the waistband. I’ve found that when I put my phone in my pocket, it pulls down on the waistband if the pocket is connected and the fabric is stretchy (I have this problem in me-made as well as ready-to-wear dresses). So I figured I would give side pockets with no waistband connection a try. Because DPB is so stretchy I decided to line the waistband with a medium-weight cotton lycra (not the green CL with poor recovery!) to give the waistband more stability. I don’t know if the CL lining was necessary, but it doesn’t hurt.

I’m very happy with how this dress turned out. The dress fits perfectly and looks great from the front and the back, even when I fill the pockets! I love the swishy half-circle skirt, which is very flattering and has some nice movement, but is not too prone to Marilyn Monroe moments. I’ve had random people on the street stop me to complement me on this dress. And it looks good with dress shoes or sneakers (admittedly, I will almost always wear it with sneakers).

I made my third Valley Skater dress just a couple of days after finishing the second one. This time I used a smooth polyester interlock twist yarn (ITY) fabric. I decided to omit the waistband and followed the instructions to lengthen the bodice about 1.25 inches. I used the same pocket alterations as I used for the second dress. This time I raised the back of the screwp neck a tad and shrunk the neckband accordingly. I had a bit of an issue with the waist stretching and seams popping when I take the dress off, so I had to reinforce the waist seam with wide zigzag stitches (I normally sew all my knit seams with a very narrow zigzag stitch).

The dress without the waistband is also great and ITY is a nice fabric choice for this pattern as well!

Stay tuned for the fourth dress, currently in planning. I have some heavier-weight fabric in mind for it and am thinking long sleeves and a knee-length full-circle skirt. But it’s 85 degrees outside right now so this may not happen for a little while.

Cleo palazzo pants (and shorts)

In June I decided to try my first knit shorts pattern, Sinclair pattern’s Cleo knit shorts and culottes. These shorts have a comfy yoga-style waistband, optional side-seam pockets, and a full drape. I was intrigued by the comfy lounge shorts people were posting on the Sinclair Facebook group, and even more intrigued by the dressier looking long shorts and culottes. But what convinced me to purchase the pattern was the palazzo pants. This is not actually a pattern for palazzo pants, but I saw multiple sewists (especially Holly Stout and Kristi Käär) who simply took the Cleo culotte pattern, extended the side seams to pants length, and voila, lovely flowy palazzo pants. These sewists also executed and interesting pocket hack to get the pockets off the side seam.

Before cutting into 2 yards of fancy fabric for the pants, I decided to make a basic pair of soft knit shorts first so I could try out the pattern. Eighty percent of the work in making pants is in the top 20% of the pants — once you get past the waist band, pockets and crotch seam, the rest of the pants are a piece of cake.

I cut my size 4 petite shorts from one yard of plain black double brushed polyester (DBP) fabric. The DBP is super soft, so soft that I was concerned about keeping the waist band in place if I put my phone in my pocket. As the pattern advised, I sandwiched a piece of stretch mesh between the two DBP layers of the waistband. The waistband also has 1/4 inch elastic at the top, but that doesn’t provide a lot of support. Shorts construction was fairly straightforward, although as predicted most of the effort was in the pockets and waistband. The results look nice and are super comfy (will be great for PJs), but do sag when I load up my pockets. I also personally prefer shorts and pants with more of a high rise.

Here are my comfy black Cleo shorts. You can see how the side-seam pockets gap open a bit. The waist sits about an inch below my navel, and lower when I put my phone in my pocket.

I decided to alter the pattern a bit before attempting pants from a two yards of a lavender DBP floral print. I thought I might be able to get a higher rise by using the regular size pattern rather than the petite, but I checked and the rise was the same. I checked the tall pattern and saw the rise was about 3/4 inch taller. So I used the size 4 tall as my base and then added about half an inch to the top of the front and back leg pieces (drafting the alterations in Affinity Designer).

After debating a variety of solutions to the waistband sag problem, I narrowed the waistband by half an inch on the left and right side of both the front and back (subtracting 2 inches total from the diameter) in order to tighten it up. Instead of sandwiching stretch mesh in the waistband, I used a medium-weight cotton lycra for the waistband lining, providing more support than you get from DBP. I considered using wider elastic but stuck with the recommended 1/4 inch braided elastic. The result is a much more supportive and less saggy waist band than on the shorts. They still sag a little when my pockets are loaded, but not as much. I’m going to look for a more supportive athletic knit or possibly try wider elastic to see if I can make future pants even better.

While Holly and Kristi borrowed their pocket design from other Sinclair patterns that I don’t have (yet), I found an online tutorial on making slash pockets and just drafted my own, with a very slightly sloping slash. I found the slash pockets actually easier to construct than the side-seam pockets because you don’t have to deal with the awkward part where you sew the side seam just up to the pocket opening and stop.

Finally, I extended the inseam and outside seam on the legs to full pants length, keeping the same angles. The width at the bottom hem is about 26″. (I used HeatNBond Soft Stretch on the hem and zigzagged over the edge.) At 5’2″, I can just barely get full length wide-leg pants out of two yards of fabric.

The finished results (see pants modeled blow with my Cachet top and Laura cardigan) are fantastic light-weight swishy pants for summer. They are quite comfortable with pockets that easily accommodate a cell phone and small wallet. I’m eager to make more in other knit fabrics, and also try curving the outside seam at the hips so that the legs are straight and not quite so wide for another look.

Laura + Cachet cardigan twinset

After my success with the relatively simple Harper cardigan, I decided to try the fancier Sinclair Laura relaxed-fit shawl-collar cardigan. Except I don’t like shawl-collar cardigans because I don’t like how they feel on my neck, so I decided to make a shawless shawl-collar cardigan. The reason I selected the Laura cardigan despite the fact that I obviously don’t like its primary feature, is that it has a really cool peplum in the back. Besides looking cool, the peplum is created by cutting the fabric on a tight curve and attaching the inner curve to the bottom of the bodice, creating a sort of flounce effect with no need to gather or pleat. Cool!

I hacked the size 4P Laura cardigan by reducing the shawl color to a 1-inch band. That would have made the front pieces too narrow to meet in the middle, so I used the Harper pattern as a template to draft wider front pieces, except I left the Laura shoulders and blended it together. I also wasn’t a fan of the handkerchief hem, so I rounded the square corners. In hindsight I should have just lopped off the front dangling part completely (which I saw another sewist do in the Sinclair Facebook group), which would also have made for a smoother front line as it avoids the 45 degree turn in the front binding. The cardigan is supposed to be made with a closure at the point that the 45 degree turn in the binding occurs. The closure helps straighten everything out. But I didn’t want a closure so left that out.

The Laura pockets are very cool — they form cute little pocket bags that are big enough for my iPhone, although depending on the fabric you use they may sag if you put an iPhone in them.

I used a poly-rayon impressionist double sweater knit fabric from Surge Fabric shop in the tea leaf color way. This fabric is a loose, fairly light-weight but still somewhat substantial — good for a summer sweater. What is really unique about it is that the reverse side is smooth. So I used the revers for the bands and had smooth, perfectly color matched bands. I was inspired to use the impressionist knit for my cardigan after seeing another sewist used it to for a Harper cardigan hack in the eucalyptus color. I have some of that color as well and may try that hack too.

Since I bought more of the impressionist fabric than I needed, I decided to make a short-sleeve sweater to match my cardigan and turn it into a twinset. I used the Sinclair Cachet t-shirt pattern in size 4P, but used my Bondi screwp neckline hack instead of the Cashet crew neck. I used the reverse side of the impressionist fabric for the neck band. The Cachet is only two pieces plus the neckband, so it is very fast to cut (especially with a projector) and sew. I like the high-low hem that is longer in the back than the front.

The impressionist knit was pretty easy to work with, but almost impossible to remove stitches from if you mess up (well most knits are difficult to unsew, especially if you sew with stretch or zigzag stitches). I used HeatNBond Soft Stretch for all my hems on the top and cardigan and it worked great, producing crisp edges on the curves. The impressionist knit also washes well and goes in the dryer. Since it is a fairly loose knit on the front it does sometimes catch on things and I expect over time to see some loose threads and pilling. I’ve been wearing the twinset to work a lot and the cardigan is a good weight to wear when it is 69 degrees and air conditioned inside and much warmer outside.

Harper cardigan

Sinclair patterns has a free cardigan pattern called Harper that is very nice. I decided to make it in the classic length, size 4P with pockets (of course!) using a glen plaid polyester spandex double knit. I started out very keen on matching my plaids, until I discovered, after much fiddling, that the plaids on the bands and pockets were not going to line up due to the evil plaid having no horizontal repeat plus the fact that you have to stretch the band. I don’t understand why the plaid has no horizontal repeat and it was completely non-obvious to me until I spent a lot of time desperately trying to figure out where the repeat was.

Once I threw in the towel on the plaid matching, I still had to figure out how to turn under the pocket edges and attach the patch pockets to the front of the cardigan. Again, much fiddling ensued as I tried to pin the pockets in place, but it was difficult to get the thick double knit aligned and pinned properly. Then I remembered that I had bought a package of Wonder Tape after having read that it was nothing short of the seventh wonder of the world. I dug out the Wonder Tape and then wondered how to use it for a while as I couldn’t get the tape unstuck from its backing. More fiddling, and I got it and applied the tape to hold the pockets in place. It was indeed wonderful and my non-matched plaid pockets actually look pretty good.

I’m pretty pleased with the jacket and I wear it a lot. It is more comfortable than a blazer but more polished than a sweater, and I can dress it up or wear it with jeans. (OK, usually I wear it with jeans.) Here it is with jeans and my black Bondi t-shirt.

Sinclair Harper jacket in a glen plaid poly spandex stretch designer double knit, worn over a Sinclair Bondi shirt in black cotton lycra

I plan to try it in other lengths and fabrics. I may try it without the cuffs and bottom band, and may try a narrower front/neck band.

Crew-, scoop-, and screwp-neck Bondi tops

For years I have been buying scoop-neck long-sleeve t-shirts in a light-weight cotton blend from Landsend.com. I’m not a big fan of woven button-down blouses. These t-shirts are dressy enough to wear under blazers, the scoop is not too low, and they come in petite sizes so the sleeves aren’t too long. I have bought them in all the colors they come in that I like. But over time they get stained or worn out. This was not a problem until a few years ago when Landsend stopped making them. So when I discovered the Sinclair Bondi classic fitted t-shirt pattern, I decided to try making my own long-sleeve t-shirts.

I made my first Bondi in size 4 petite using a black cotton lycra fabric with a scoop neck and elbow sleeves (because I had only 1 yard of fabric, which isn’t enough for long sleeves). I liked the fit but found the waist a tad shorter than my preference and the scoop a bit narrow. I made my next Bondi with a yellow cotton lycra print, the wide scoop neck, long sleeves, and an extra inch in length and graded in a bit from the waist down. I don’t seem to have taken photos of these two shirts, maybe I’ll do that later.

For my third Bondi, I used a fabric pattern I designed and printed on modern jersey at Spoonflower.com. (The pattern is based on my interleave quilts.) Once again I went with the wide scoop neck, long sleeves, added inch and slight grading. I really like how this one fits but wish the neckline wasn’t quite so low.

Next I collaborated with my 16-year-old daughter to make a crew-neck Bondi for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. My daughter designed the fabric and we printed it on modern jersey at spoonflower.com. We used coordinating turquoise DBP for the neck band and sleeves.

I made my next Bondi in red and white polka dot DBP to wear to my daughter’s robotics tournament and cheer on her team, the Girls of Steel, who have a Rosie the Riveter theme.

I wanted to try a neckline in between the crew and the scoop — I call it a screwp. I used the neckline and band for a size 26P crew on a size 4P bodice. If you were starting with a larger size I think you could achieve the same thing by using the scoop neck and band from a much smaller size. The Bondi pattern has nice notches on the neck band with matching notches on the bodice so that you can easily line things up and get the right stretch in your neck band, so it’s nice to have this and not have to guess.

Showing the screwp side-by side with a regular Bondi crew neck and scoop neck.

Having now achieved t-shirt perfection, I have no choice but to make more.

July 2023 update: Ok, not quite perfection. The back of the screwp is a little bit lower than a normal neck in my size due to using the larger size template. I’ve been grafting this neckline onto other tops and dresses and have decided to raise the back about half an inch and shorten the neck band by about an inch. Now we have perfection!

Joanne dress

In October 2022 I ordered some funky paisley ITY fabric I found on Amazon and used it to make a Sinclair Joanne dress. I sewed it according to the pattern as written in size 4p with the knee length option and used clear elastic to stabilize the waist. I used my go-to HeatNBond Soft Stretch for hemming and zigzagged over the edge. I was planning to make it three-quarter sleeves but after looking at some lovely examples of the flounce sleeve on other sewist’s dresses I decided to give flounces a try. I was worried that the flounces would be difficult to implement and would get in the way when wearing. However, the flounces were very straightforward to sew, and I was able to omit hemming the ITY. Positioned at the elbow they don’t tend to get in the way either. And they look awesome with this particular fabric design.

This was my first time sewing ITY and I was worried that it would be slippery and hard to sew, but it actually wasn’t bad at all. I also wondered whether I would need to line it as it has a lot of white areas that are not 100% opaque. It seems fine without linking. Sewing the bodice with the faux wrap looks tricky as it relies on proper stretch for it all to work out. But I found if you follow the instructions it all comes together pretty easily.

One minor complaint is that the clear elastic at the waist can sometimes be uncomfortable since you can end up with plastic elastic rubbing against your skin. I think I might use braided elastic or forgo the elastic in the future.

My biggest complaint was that my phone kept falling out of the pockets, which aren’t deep enough, especially with slippery ITY fabric. I ended up grafting another two inches to the bottom of the pockets after the fact to solve the problem. If I make this dress again (I’m sure I will!) I will definitely make the pockets deeper.

This dress has been great to wear in fall and spring weather, and with a sweater or jacket on chilly days. The print I used is fairly eye catching and regularly brings complements.

Alana dresses

Last September I bought my first Sinclair pattern and sewed an Alana dress. I have since sewn two more (and there will probably be more) and several other Sinclair patterns. I’ve found the Sinclair patterns to be well drafted and pretty straightforward to understand. They can be downloaded as PDFs and printed on a home printer, printed in large format at a copy shop, or projected.

I chose Alana as my first pattern mostly because I liked the pockets. I continue to love the pocket style, where the pockets are anchored by two princess seams. I also liked the neckline that used a facing instead of a binding or band.

I obsessed over what fabric to use, and continuing with my privacy research related theme, I selected fabric with eyes on it — evil eye blue by Laura May. I got the same fabric in the small size for the sleeves. I had both printed on Spooflower modern jersey.

Then I printed out the PDF layer for the size 4 petite pattern on the laser printer at work and spent about an hour taping it together and cutting out all the paper pattern pieces. Then I laid all my cutting mats out on the hallway floor and laid out the fabric as shown in the pattern instructions. I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough fabric for that sort of layout. Puzzled, I looked on the Sinclair website for where to ask questions, and discovered the Sinclair Patterns Group on Facebook. This FB group is a great resource for sewing Sinclair patterns. I found you can easily search for the name of a pattern and find lots of photos of garments other people have made with that pattern, including tips on fabric selection and alterations. You can also post questions or show off your own makes. In any case I soon learned that the layout in the instructions is just a suggestion and may not work depending on the fabric width, garment size, etc. I figured out how to fold the fabric to cut it and get it all in. I also learned from the FB group about a YouTube video tutorial for making the Alana dress.

I used large washers as fabric weights and used my rotary cutter to cut out the fabric. Then I followed the instructions to sew the dress. I selected the regular neckline, long sleeves, and knee-length options. On the advice of the video tutorial I extended the length of the front facing so that it would fall below the bust line. I used a very narrow zigzag stitch for all of the seams and a medium zigzag to finish the seam edges. I finished the sleeve and bottom hems with HeatNBond Soft Stretch and zigzagged over the edges.

When I tried on the dress it looked OK, but the waist is not designed to be fitted, and it looked a little baggy on me. Indeed, the pattern explains that there is about three inches of ease at the waist. So I decided to take the dress in at the sides and the back princess seams to remove most of that ease. The dress looked much better on me without the ease.

I made my second Alana dress in December using a rich purple scuba suede fabric. The fabric is soft, stretchy, washable, and pretty easy to sew. I used a lighter ITY fabric for the front and back facings and extended both of them below the bust. I thought about using a lighter fabric for the inside of the pockets but decided to try the pockets entirely in scuba suede, and they worked out fine. A line of top stitching across the top of the pockets might have been helpful, but it is ok without. I did not bother stitching over the seam edges. Once again I ended up removing the ease. Months later the fabric is holding up pretty well after many wearings and washings, although it is showing some slight signs of pilling.

My third Alana dress was another dress in Spoonflower modern jersey. This time I removed the ease in the pattern when I cut it. Cutting out this one took a while because I obsessed over the fabric placement. This was the third version of my bad passwords dress (there’s a whole story behind it), and this time I wanted to have long sleeves and pockets.

New password dress with sleeves and pockets

And see the original passwords dress below

Lorrie wearing password dress at Privacy@Scale, photo by Adam Mason