Pink Kelly

If late June seems like a weird time to share a midweight Kelly anorak: I do not disagree, but I have reasons! One is synchronicity, as I sewed this jacket in 2017 for a trip to England, and I considered making another version for my summer 2022 trip to England until I ran out of time (mostly I sew things; occasionally I go to England?). Another is preparation, since I’m also considering modifying this pattern to make a raglan-sleeved rain shell, and I wanted to get reacquainted with it first. Third is record-keeping, since I have at various times considered leaving this jacket outside a fire station in a basket. But actually I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.

Now take a trip back with me to 2017! Shimmer shimmer shimmer…wait, was 2017 awful?! Cripes almighty. Anyway, I made this coat, and it was the longest and most involved project I had made at the time. It took me 3 hours to assemble and cut the pattern, and 4 hours to cut the fabric (main and underlining). The outer is Kaufman Ventana twill in Coral, and the underlining is an old Cotton and Steel quilting cotton bought in a misguided flush of love with the vague idea of making curtains. Instead I quickly and comprehensively took against it, and then years later shoved it into this coat.

This was a mistake, as I continued disliking it, and it made the better butter bitter. Not that this Coral twill was best butter to begin with – I happened to be in New York before starting this project, and I combed through Mood looking for a non-stretch dark olive twill, but when I couldn’t find any I settled for this (it was the boom times for Millennial pink!).

So why then spend 3 hours prepping, 4 hours cutting, and a dozen hours sewing materials I didn’t like (22 ½ hours with today’s inflation)?? Because I wanted a raincoat to take to England.

And no, none of these materials is water-resistant.

And so yes, the flaws in the final product are my fault. I actually really like the pattern. It’s achievable without being dumbed-down, and owning nice dense patterns like this has inoculated me against buying some really simple ones (it’s hard to pay $16 for like a boxy shell top with 2 pattern pieces when I once paid $12 for a classic coat pattern with 19). I sewed a straight size 14, and while there’s nothing remarkable about the fit, there’s also nothing wrong or uncomfortable. The support materials are really strong and enabled the me with 5 fewer years of experience to sew a coat that nobody would blink at.

Unfortunately, that stops at the outside, because I really didn’t bring my A game to the innards.

I was sewing to a deadline, and to save a few hours I serged and topstitched the seams. It’s probably true that I couldn’t have flat-felled effectively with the added bulk of the underlining, but my messily-applied, inexpert-looking, mismatched-thread serging bums me out.

The fact that I’m still wearing this coat 5 years later really shows that it’s worth taking the time. Relative to its lifespan, it would have been trivial to add bias binding! Also cute! Again, this is a me-fault, not a pattern fault.  

My one complaint about the pattern re: pattern is the hood. It went in fine, but I just can’t use it. This might be true of every hood, but I wonder if a drawstring wouldn’t corral it a bit. Right now it blows off my head in windy weather and obfuscates it otherwise. I can pretty much only see my feet when I wear it, so if I put it up, I get hit by every car.

Separately, it feels like a lot of me-color right up around my face.

This biggest reason I am still wearing this coat is the hardware. This kit is the bomb. It makes the final product look completely legit. Even though my Kelly soaks through immediately and weighs a ton in a drizzle, even though the inside makes me wince with embarrassment, even though I don’t like the fabric and my hood is trying to murder me, I can’t quit those cord ends. Every time I’ve hesitated over keeping this coat, the quality of the hardware reels me back in.

And I’ve been having a Kelly renaissance lately due to another pattern: the True Bias Marlo. My apartment is always cold with a deep and abiding cold so I wear my long Marlos a lot. And if I want to dash out for an errand or a walk, and I need another layer, the Kelly anorak is the only jacket I have that covers a long Marlo (a foot and a half of sweater oozing out from under a cropped jacket is not a look).

Anyway, 5 years on and I still don’t have a raincoat! I saw a cute drawstring raincoat on a woman at a farmer’s market (I told her I liked it and she stared straight into my eyes and whispered “IT’S FROM ZARA”) that looked a lot like this pattern, but I feel like I could get there from the Kelly. Alternatively I could just sew another straightforward Kelly out of something water-resistant, since its proven usefulness is in the length. Or maybe I’ll make another cotton twill Kelly in a color I actually like, and just get wet.

Since I don’t have time to do this before my trip, I have plenty of time to think about it! We shall see!

Pattern: CC Kelly anorak

Pattern cost: $11.90

Size: 14

Supplies: 4 yards Kaufman Ventana twill in Coral, underlining from stash, $31.44; hardware kit, $34.50; thread, $3

Total time: 18.75 hours

Total cost: $80.84

Embroidered Top

I’m going to need a new spreadsheet category, I think. Right now I separate items into keep/giveaway/gift, and ‘giveaway’, let’s be real, is polite for ‘flop’. However, this year I’ve occasionally sewed stuff not so much as gifts (unless I’m grandiosely making gifts FOR THE UNIVERSE (I am not)) or even as muslins, but just ’cause. Usually it’s scrapbusting or to make something unwearable into something wearable, but not by me. And this top fits into that new trial category.

I got this shift from a clothing swap.

It had made the rounds and been owned by a bunch of different swap participants, and was bought secondhand by the originator in the first place. It had clearly been used enough to wear out this underarm, but it was also fairly casually sewn in the first place.

The seams were sewn once and left unfinished (not even pinked). At some point what I assume was an attached belt was snipped off.

It was still darn cute, but the fabric was stained in a couple places and wearing out in others, and nobody wanted it in its current iteration, so I brought it home to remake.

I haven’t done of a lot of refashioning, but I wanted to try the elasticized square-neck raglan thing again, this time with a woven instead of a knit. It seemed like a good fit because there wasn’t actually a ton of fabric in this garment, and using that neckline meant I could shorten all the pattern pieces by a good 4 or 5 inches from the top. I began by unpicking the whole shift (it didn’t take long) and pressing the seam allowances flat.

I chose the True Bias Roscoe pattern as my base; it fit almost perfectly on the resulting narrow panels. I sew a size 0, by the way, which I continue to find staggering.

I knew I couldn’t make the new top full length, but that was okay. I folded over the top of my Roscoe pattern pieces at the height of the front sleeve notch, perpendicular to the grainline, and played around with placement until I found one that allowed me to save two of the embroidery motifs without sacrificing too much finished shirt length or smacking the flowers directly over my committee members. The finished side seams are 12” long. I saved the scraps with leftover embroidery for some murky and mysterious future.

I definitely didn’t have enough fabric for Roscoe’s usual sleeves, so I copied the sleeve hem curve of the original garment. I traced the armscye curve, again stopping at the height of the front notch, then marked straight across, and finally added 1.5” to the top for a double-fold elastic casing over the shoulder. I didn’t have space to add any fullness to this piece, but the Roscoe sleeve is pretty full already. Partly because of fabric limitations and partly to copy the original garment, my finished sleeve seam is only 1.25” long.

I cut the elastic casings for the front and back of the shirt separately. This was a bit silly. I could have cut them continuously, but I was operating on auto. It requires a smidge more math to make the height of an added casing match that of a sewn-on casing, but nothing too complicated.

Sewing the shirt was a snap. I used French seams on the shoulders and sides. The casings are 5/8” wide, for ½” elastic. I treated this fabric like a cotton and it probably is!

I wasn’t sure how long my finished elastic would be, so I basted together the underarms, stopping just short of the casings, and then inserted elastic cut a little long. I attached one end of each piece firmly and then stood in front of a mirror and pulled on the loose end of all 4 elastic pieces until I was happy with the fit. I was able to reach the front chest piece effortlessly, and I made sure to leave the front end of the shoulder elastics loose for adjustment, but I needed Professor Boyfriend’s help with the back. Ultimately, though, it turned out I liked it at the same length as the front. The final body pieces are 11” long, and the sleeve casing pieces are 12” long.

I had planned to sew the underarm seams with French seams as well, but the layers of elastic at the neck made that too bulky. The seam is pretty dimensional even with the finishing I eventually landed on, which is just bias binding with a scrap of cotton.

You can kinda see it from the outside so it’s nice that it looks nice!

I really enjoyed myself with this project. The final shirt is pretty cute. The inside is tidy. I know that doesn’t impact the function, but dang it, I like it. The sleeves want to slide off my shoulders sometimes, but it fundamentally works, and if I ever wanted to make another I could correct that by cutting an inch or so above the front notch instead of at it (which would bring the top edges of the sleeves closer to the center of the wearer’s body).

I popped this right back in the swap box, but gladly. I don’t have a new passion for refashioning, but I liked getting this back into circulation! Hopefully someone will enjoy wearing this new version of an old garment.

Happy about-to-be summer!

Pattern: True Bias Roscoe (kinda)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 0 (kinda)

Supplies: embroidered shift; thread, elastic from stash

Total time: 1.5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Mint Patina

If it’s safe & wise to travel this summer, then we’re going to England so Professor Boyfriend can finally, officially, graduate (he successfully defended his thesis in 2020, which required two early-March trans-Atlantic flights – fun, right?). In the meantime, I’m making this event an opportunity to re-re-rematch against a fabric with undeniable charisma (the drape, the weight, the colors!) and the price point to match: tencel twill.

Once upon a pre-blog I made a couple pairs of tencel twill trousers that looked like shiny wrinkly garbanzo. But that was then. This is now. Since I’m not really a dressy-dresser, I thought it could be the perfect fabric to elevate a separates combo if I chose the right pattern, and sewed smarter.

So I turned to the Patina blouse. With its simple silhouette and girly touches, I thought it would be ideal. I decided to omit the Chelsea collar both to make the finished top lessy faddy but also because I wasn’t sure about topstitching curves on tencel twill.

I also made sure to staystitch every edge immediately after cutting the pattern pieces. That defensive sewing mindset lasted…exactly that long. 

I used a Microtex needle (80/12) and a lonely cone of minty serger thread, because it matched well and it saved me buying a spool of all-purpose. The needle was a good choice, but using the cone was a mistake. I hand-wound some thread onto an empty spool first and then used the machine to wind a bobbin off that spool, so the bottom thread was okay; but for my top thread, I balanced the cone on the bobbin winding pole thingie and sewed directly from that. The cone overbalanced and fell over (both loudly AND frequently), but more importantly the tension was wrong. When I sewed over more than two layers, I got a ton of skipped stitches. For some reason I carried on like that, for like, the whole time, even though sewing the buttonholes was a skipped-stitch nightmare ballet and I knew I’d be joining two layers of French seams when I sewed the sleeves in the round. I went for it anyway, possibly because it was my last step and I was getting antsy.

After setting in the first sleeve – twice, because of the French part, but also more than twice because I wanted to reinforced the skipped areas – I realized I had done it backwards. My armscye seam was on the right side. I had gotten tunnel-vision when focusing on the skipped stitches and managed to sew SEVERAL times around the armscye without realizing my French seam was reversed. On the plus side I had also forgotten to shorten my stitch length after sewing the gathering stitches. Yay?

Obviously this could not abide, so after I unpicked the second line of stitching, I was left with a decision: would I unpick the remaining line, switch which side the sleeve was on, and use the scanty 1/8” seam allowances I had left myself going forward? Unpick etc. and take larger seam allowances? Or, since my first sleeve was already set in correctly, just with less SA, should I take the full remaining seam allowance and serge the raw edges to finish?

I serged ’em. I did the second sleeve the same way, immediately hated it, then threw this shirt on my giveaway pile and entered GIVEAWAY REASON: QUALITY OF WORK into my sewing spreadsheet, which is the spreadsheet equivalent of a temper tantrum. Later that day I pulled the shirt out again.

I unpicked the serger threads and the sleeve cap, rearranged the gathers to be neater, resewed the armscye with a spool of mismatched all-purpose thread with all stitches present and accounted for, and then pinked the seam allowances. Then a week after that I pulled it out a second time and added bias binding.

There’s plenty of imperfections still – one side of the neckline has draglines, one doesn’t (I increased the facing width slightly, by the way – 1/4” on the vertical area, ½” on the curve). I have one lightly poofy shoulder and one IMELDA MARCOS BLAMMO shoulder. The topmost buttonhole is frankly odd. Also, despite taking the same side seam allowances I did the other two times I made this shirt, this iteration came up a bit snug on my hips.

None of that would matter if I really liked it, but I don’t. This is an important note to self: just because some desirable fabrics are expensive and finicky to sew, doesn’t mean every finicky and expensive fabric is desirable, charisma be damned. I’m not excited to wear this top, so it’s not fit to purpose, since ideally dressing up for an occasion means that the clothes are part of the treat. Not exactly an astounding comeback tour for tencel twill!

Annoyingly, also, I have a full selvedge-to-selvedge 18” left, so I could have bought a single yard of this pricey fabric instead of 1.5 yards and saved like $13.50! Hmm. I do have one completely unregretted purchase – I got my Microtex needle from a Schmetz cosplay pack (#1851), which I am frankly tickled by but is also full of useful needles. If the only thing preventing you from trying cosplay is heterogeneous needle acquisition, then brother, have I got two thumbs and some good news for you.

The question remains: what am I going to wear?? What comfortable dressy not-dress that packs well and accommodates weather that might be 60°F or might be 90°F would you?

Good luck with your upcoming projects!

Pattern: Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M, lower neckline; widened facing 1/4″ on the vertical, 1/2″ on the curved section

Supplies: 1 1/2 yards of tencel twill in Mojito, $40.50, Gather Here; buttons, $2.00, Gather Here; thread from stash

Total time: 5.75 hours

Total cost: $42.50

Ube Adrienne

Because I like to sew repeat, practical garments in workaday fabrics, I don’t take too many chances to stretch my sewing skills. I’ve lately been craving some skill building though so I think this will appear in two ways: first, more finicky fabrics; and second, using the little grey cells instead of a pattern. Basically, when I see a garment that I probably could work out on my own or cobble together from already-owned patterns, I want to at least give that the ol’ college try instead of defaulting to buying. This is a fancy way to say: I’ve started copying stuff.

My not-a-Field bag was the gateway to the slippery slope of the domino effect (actual purchasable pattern found here). Next and now, my not-an-Adrienne blouse (real deal found here)! A.k.a. an Adrian top???

I scrolled by this pattern any number of times without feeling particularly tempted until I saw it on Crafty Clyde. She dresses with a quirky, sassy edge and I thought if she was feeling good in it maybe it didn’t have to be straightforwardly romantic.

I also thought this was a good candidate to copy because everyone mentions it has just the two pattern pieces – the identical front/back and the sleeve. And since it’s an untailored stretchy sleeve I could probably make the sleeve and the body symmetrical, so that’s two *half* pieces! Surely I could come up with two half pieces! I didn’t know if I would like it, but I really wanted to see if I could do it.

I studied the finished top and it suddenly clicked that the Adrienne is a raglan tee with extra pizzazz. Oddly, I don’t own a fitted raglan top pattern, just a loose one. But I preferred a fitted body to balance the big sleeves, so I went poking around the internet and found a couple free ones – Life Sew Savory and It’s Always Autumn both look pretty good. Actually though I followed the It’s Always Autumn DIY raglan directions to modify my CC Nettie pattern. I don’t know what size this ended up being, but it has 2” of negative ease at the bust and 1” of negative ease at the hip, which I find fitted but comfortable.

I gave the sleeve vertical side seams and a horizontal bottom edge because it wouldn’t need to fit anywhere but the shoulder. Basically the sleeve piece is a box with a sleeve cap on top.

There was a hot second about a year ago where I thought I might want to wear more off-the-shoulder stuff. I never saw that through, but I remembered this tutorial, also for the Nettie. I followed that to trim the top of my pieces off. I love that it left my sleeve with a flat top edge to make an elastic casing easy to fold and sew, while I added a barely-scooped curve to the body neckline to mimic what I saw on the real pattern.

Because the sleeve was now basically a rectangle with bites taken out of two corners, it was simple to split it vertically and add a bunch of width. The final sleeve piece I made is about 20” wide by 18” long at its most extreme dimensions. Unfortunately this places the finished sleeve bottom edge annoyingly right in the crook of my elbow. I thought it was going to land a few inches above my wrist; the only reason I can think of for my confusion is that the flat top edge tricked me into judging its length as though it were a dropped sleeve, which it really isn’t!

Next time I would increase the length by a good 5” or 6”, and the width by maybe 2”. It’s as easy as extending straight lines.

Both top and bottom of the sleeve are simply folded over once at ¾” and sewn with a straight stitch at 5/8” to make casings. I used ½” elastic. I cut each shoulder elastic to 8”, but pulled out some on either side to make it easier to tack in place; the finished length is probably more like 7”, which feels pretty good to me. I cut my sleeve elastic at 11”, based on the measurement of my forearm, where the sleeve…isn’t. Looser would have been better at the elbow, but it’s not too tight to be comfortable. Just a little annoying!

I considered cutting a single casing to go across the shoulders, front, and back, à la the linked Nettie tutorial, but I thought the shoulders might end up at a right angle to the front and back necks and I didn’t want bunching (plus I was copy-catting), so I banded the front and back separately.

I think my bands are a little too skinny. I should have aimed for a finished width of 5/8” so the neck and shoulder stitching would feel more continuous. The back band (or what I decided would forever be the back band) wanted to flip, so I popped a little topstitching right in the center to discourage it.

The fabric is a simple no-name cotton jersey from Sewfisticated – I thought it was grey in the store but it’s definitely chromatic. Since I don’t really like purple (which some folks might say this is. Who’s saying that?!) I’m calling it ube peel! It was easy and cooperative to sew; they stock it in a couple colors, and I would happily buy it again, especially at $5.00/yard. I bought 1.5 yards and have 1/3 yard remaining. Kind of an awkward scrap. I might have to start sewing underwear. Phooey.

My finished top doesn’t have all the glamour and personality of the original, but I like it! I might make another one with more sleeve! This is probably one of those cases where a positive sewing experience is influencing my feelings about the final garment, too – it just felt good to stretch my figuring-out muscles, and I want to do more of that. I’m never giving up my pattern collection though. You can bury me with it. I mean, if it’s good enough for Pharaohs…

See you soon!

Pattern: copycatted Adrienne blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 34” bust, 43” hip

Supplies: 1 1/2 yards of 95% cotton/5% Lycra, Sewfiscated, $7.49; packet of ½” elastic, Sewfisticated, $2.49

Total time: 2.75 hours

Total cost: $9.98

Mamarlo

This is the third of the gift items I made recently, and the one that really confirmed I don’t like sewing garments for people who aren’t within hollering distance. I have a little mother – one of those teacup mamas, high energy and very small – and I wanted to sew her a True Bias Marlo for mother’s day. This wasn’t a surprise gift (I had her choose the color) but I couldn’t get her to slow down long enough to send me her measurements, so I crossed my fingers and relied on our 35 years’ acquaintance and my wobbly ability to estimate sizes. I spent the whole prepping, cutting, and sewing time alternately convinced this sweater was too big or too small.

No modeled shots, since my family doesn’t know I have a blog (and my blog doesn’t know I have a family!), but it fits okay. The width is good, but I think the length is still a little much for her petite frame. I reprinted the pattern and cut view B in a size 6. I shortened the sleeves 1” and the body 1.5” on the lengthen/shorten lines, but I wish I had shortened the sleeves 1.5” and the body 2”. Ideally I would also have raised the neckline point, probably by using the view A neckline. This might have called for a 5th button, but that’s fine by me, because I am still into making my own and not sick of lasers yet!

I designed this set of homemade buttons with my mom in mind. These are 1” wide, and unlike my first batch, they actually have holes that an average sewing needle can fit through. Progress! I like how the laser engraving shows the warmth inside of the maple wood. You can also see the ‘dithered’ texture here; engraving is accomplished similarly to printing the comics section of a newspaper, lots of little dot-dot-dots. But with FIRE* (*mainly light, occasionally very small spurts of fire).     

Otherwise I sewed this up exactly as my most recent Marlo, except I used this waffle knit in Rose from The Fabric Snob instead of iseefabric for a change! They’re definitely not identical, so I cut a 4” square from each of my scraps and did a little side-by-side for the interested shopper. Neither is cheap, so if you’re considering ordering one or the other, hopefully this will be helpful.

Iseefabric’s square is ‘Pistachio’; Fabric Snob is ‘Rose’. My mini cutting mat is ‘unfortunate yellow’.

First, price (in USD). Iseefabric costs $17.50/yard; the Fabric Snob costs $19.37/meter (about 3 more inches). However, you can order half-meters from the Fabric Snob, so my ideal order of around 1.5 yards costs $29.06 from the Fabric Snob, and $35 from iseefabrics, since I have to round up to 2 yards there. I haven’t accounted for shipping, but it’s about even to my location.

For some reason I thought iseefabric’s waffle knit was pre-laundered, which I don’t actually see written anywhere; so while I had assumed it was zero, I’m actually not sure of their shrinkage. I did measure the 1.5 meters I ordered from the Fabric Snob after washing and the yardage was slightly over, so either the fabric grew in the washer or they cut generously! Fabric Snob waffle is 57” wide; iseefabric waffle is 51” wide.

Both waffle knits are certified organic cotton. Iseefabric is 95% cotton/5% spandex. Fabric Snob is 100% cotton. They’re both available in multiple colors with coordinating rib knits; iseefabric skews pale/beachy, and Fabric Snob has some brighter colors and good dark basics.

From my first fabric impression, iseefabric is loftier, warmer, and more relaxed, while Fabric Snob is brighter and springier. Iseefabric has 8 ‘ribs’ (waffle rows?) to the inch, Fabric Snob has 12. I folded each square to make four layers, and could compress each folded piece easily to 3/16” thick.

These are the selvedges – the iseefabric looks like it has two layers joined together, and the Fabric Snob looks like one. Neither fabric rolls at all, which is lovely for marking and cutting.

The iseefabric square showed 50% stretch parallel to the selvedge (widthwise), and slightly less than 50% perpendicular to the selvedge (lengthwise).

The Fabric Snob square showed more like 40% stretch parallel to the selvedge (widthwise), and functionally none perpendicular to the selvedge (lengthwise).

The iseefabrics waffle, which stretched more easily, also had better recovery. It grew lengthwise by less than 1/8” (less than 3%). The Fabric Snob waffle grew ¼” in width, and likewise shrunk ¼” in length (6.25%).

That said, there’s no bad choices here! I’d be happy ordering from either shop again; they both regularly have sales, so it’ll probably depend on which is cheaper when I next need a waffle knit. I ended up with 18” of this Rose leftover due to the wee-ness of my gift recipient, so I still haven’t broken the extra-half-yard-waffle curse. I have a feeling I’m going to end up with some mighty warm tank tops.

This sweater pattern continues to carry a rating of GOOD BUY, in my opinion. At some point I want to try cramming the sleeves and body of view A of the Marlo onto 1 yard of fabric, and if I can, then maybe I’ll spring for a coordinating waffle + rib knit combo. Or theoretically I could make a Marlo sweater out of non-waffle fabric. But I mean. Will I?

She won’t.

All the best!

Pattern: True Bias Marlo sweater

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 6; shortened sleeve 1″; shortened body 1.5″

Supplies: 1 1/2 meters of Organic Cotton Waffle in Rose, The Fabric Snob, $35.60; thread, Sewfisticated; tailor’s tape, Gather Here, $3.49

Total time: 3.75 hours

Total cost: $39.09

White Olya

This is my second Olya, in my second batch of Stylemaker Fabrics fabric. I’m always chasing a big white shirt ideal so I resisted the beautiful colors on offer and ordered this crinkle cotton in white. I thought it would be a safe bet. To my surprise, I prefer the softer, thinner yellow I used last time – both the color and the final shirt.

That said, there’s nothing actually wrong with this cotton and it sewed like a dream. I was just anticipating something both fussier and finer – more see-through, and with some unwanted-but-expected stretch from the crinkles. Actually this has the dry, stable, semi-crisp hand of a paper towel. I ordered 2 yards as directed and used every inch of length, leaving just some funny-shaped large scraps that will make terrific interfacing for a future project.

I shortened the sleeves of this Olya by 1”.

I also cut the pocket pieces as one piece each, with the fold at the bottom of the pocket bag. Those were my only adjustments this time, though commenter M-C suggested a forward shoulder adjustment, which I’m sure I’d benefit from. Unfortunately, given the odd shape of these pattern pieces, I found that adjustment intellectually intriguing but practically, beyond me. I’d like to try it on a more traditional shoulder seam first!

The finished shirt is okay. I’m having trouble styling it at the moment – surprising for such a basic piece – but I think it’s because it’s such a summer fabric. I’m hoping it will come into its own with shorts. I really want to like it, mainly because I like the buttons. Which I made!! With a laser!!!

Our local public high school has a fabrication space open to city residents in the evenings. It’s called Fabville and it’s terrific in every way! It’s actually one of the many available in our area – Somerville (soon Allston) also boasts the dazzlingly complete Artisan’s Asylum, and the Cambridge Public Library hosts The Hive, but Fabville is free, friendly, nearby, and open after my workday, so it’s obviously my favorite. I strongly recommend checking out a space like this if your town has one, or several (how many is probably a function of proximity to MIT, ha).

I wasn’t really sure how to take advantage of this kind of tech until I realized I could make buttons. I got a piece of maple 1/8” thick by 1.5” wide by 24” long from Rockler Woodworking and Hardware (another high recommend, if you have one handy). So far I’ve used it to cut 5 dozen buttons and I have about 1/3 of the piece left. Fabville has a two laser cutters; I used the Epilog Mini 24, which is smaller but more precise. I set up my files in Illustrator, though they were ultimately opened in Inkscape and converted to PDFs.

This isn’t a tutorial (I’m assuming design software competency), but here’s some spec-y stuff if you have access to a machine and are interested:

I work with vectors so I can resize elements without changing the stroke width. Please note, though, the printer calls the cutting/engraving lines “vector” and the etching lines “raster”, regardless of the file type. The cut lines should be strokes, ideally .001 mm but allowably as thick as .004 mm. The etched areas are fills (without strokes!). For the densest, darkest etching, set the fill to black (#000000) with a 0% tint. For shallower, lighter etching, change the percentage of the tint of black, but don’t touch the opacity. You can use both vector and raster cuts in one file, or just one kind; either is fine. All cutting and engraving is perfectly vertical, so there’s no beveled cuts, but it’s beautifully precise.

And a final tip: double-check your measurements in the real world. My first set of buttons was very, very small! They’re functional, they’re adorable, but getting a needle through those wee holes was dicey. After cutting this first batch I belatedly took some measurements and observed that the holes within the button should have a diameter of 1/16”, and be placed anywhere from 1/16” to ¼” apart (that second number is my aesthetic opinion).

Luckily, once attached, these hand buttons actually go through the buttonholes pretty well. I thought the bitty fingers might get snagged, but if I push them through with the heel of the palm first there’s no trouble. My buttonholes are sized for a 3/8” button – just over the width of the hand, not the length.

They’re subtle but I love them anyway! I tried resizing and cutting another batch of hand buttons to have functional holes, but it turns out their tininess is also their strength; when these hands are sized up, the fingers break off. Sad face. I’ve been experimenting with other button designs (beyond symbols carved into a circle, though those are cool too), and so far my best one is below!

Jaguars can represent protection, transformation, and power, plus those big kitties are stylin’ as hell. I don’t know if there will be any interest in this, but: if you donate to a pro-choice advocacy group, an abortion fund, or a pro-choice care provider like Planned Parenthood, contact me and I’ll send you four laser-cut jaguar buttons. If you make that donation recurring, I’ll send you eight. The jaguars are maple, 0.75″ wide x 0.6″ tall x 1/8” thick.

I’m also interested in learning about new-to-me ways to protect and defend reproductive freedom (or more impactful places to give money or time), so please recommend those if you’ve got them!

See you soon, stay mad!

Pattern: Paper Theory Olya

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14; shortened sleeve 1″

Supplies: 2 yards of Washed Crinkle Cotton Solid White, Stylemaker Fabrics, $29.00; thread, Michael’s; 1.5″w x 24″l by 1/8″ thick maple, Rockler Woodworking, $10.58

Total time: 6.5 hours

Total cost: $39.58

Green Bean(ie)

As far as I can tell, a leftover skein of yarn is sort of equivalent to a spare half-yard of fabric. A psychological burden that will weigh increasingly heavily upon you until you eventually use it for something, anything a chance to make accessories! And I had an untouched skein remaining after knitting my first knitted thing. I didn’t really have any sense of what to do with 160-something yards of DK-weight wool, but then I happened strangely effortlessly upon this free Purl Soho pattern, which called for my existing weight of yarn and my owned size of circular needles (US 3). Whaaat! So I made a hat for Professor Boyfriend.

I cannot recommend too strongly knitting a sweater, then a hat. I feel like I sneezed this out in less than a week. Also, I had some extremely helpful voices suggest I was twisting my purl stitches on my sweater, which was massively useful to this beginner, because it led me to read about stitches generally and I learned a whole handful of things. The real biggie: I wasn’t twisting my purl stitches. Because it turns out I wasn’t actually purling at all, because I didn’t know how! I was doing some other thing! But now I do know how to purl, without twisting! Ta-da!

I realized this accidentally while watching a YouTube video about stitch mounts in which an experienced woman slowly and kindly pointed out how one thing is different from a different thing, which is more knowledge than I used to have about stitch mounts. Reading about twisted stitches also led me to discover twisted rib, which I find a lot handsomer than the flimsy 1×1 DK-weight ribbing I made before. So I disobeyed the Purl Soho pattern and knit through the back loop instead. Ohoho! They don’t own me!

I knit a size M since Professor Boyfriend has, I’m pretty sure, an average, medium-ish head. Also because I had the one skein of yarn it called for, which I just realized THIS SECOND is irrelevant because different skeins are different amounts of yarn!! Aahhh!! Well, I got away with it! Cripes. I do wish it was an inch or two longer, but I haven’t blocked it yet because I’m waiting for hot weather, so maybe I can get a little more length out of it then. Professor Boyfriend says it fits fine, and it’s his noggin, so either way we cool.

Thanks to YouTube stitch mount lady (a link I sadly did not save to my spreadsheet; weird), I learned to distinguish between a knit stitch and a purl stitch. This distinction was previously invisible to me. Those were the only two choices for the majority of the hat so I was feeling pretty good and competent, especially on the part that’s just a tube! Also, for a while it was a knit-until-it-measures-etc. pattern, not a count-your-rows kind of pattern, which is much more relaxing.

My single most triumphant moment (which I can also credit directly to the YouTube maven): if I were to have followed the directions for one of the decrease rounds, I would have ended up purling my knits and knitting my purls – and I noticed, and corrected it! I caught a pattern error! Or who knows, maybe I miscounted something and messed up, but if so I didn’t compound my mistake, and I still get to feel triumphant.

Eventually the hat stops being a tube and starts becoming a hat. The decrease rounds go quickly, even with the counting involved. I got to apply my magic loop skills but there’s a moment near the end where you’re working with like, 6 stitches, and it feels like surely not? This is not enough of stitches? But somehow it came together, and without a hole (which I was going to brand as a sunroof)!

The twisted rib is very stretchy and I like the whirly effect as seen on the crown of Professor Boyfriend’s head. And the color (which he was not consulted on) looks nice on him! He’s a nice-looking guy! I know this was an outrageously simple project but I feel good for getting through it without errors.

Kind of hilariously, a few days after I finished this and gave it to Professor Boyfriend, a birthday gift from my sister arrived in the mail. She’d knit me a hat that looks like it could eat this one for breakfast. Also green. I knew she was making me something because she ran some allergy stuff by me – I can’t remember the exact details but this is seriously luxe; the words ‘silk’ and ‘alpaca’ both came into it somewhere. And it is GORGEOUS.

Professor Boyfriend is lovely and gracious about his lightweight hat though. Sometimes we wear our green beanies at the same time, and this event is known as Hat Club. All are welcome.

Anyway, I’m proud of my knitting progress so far! I’m definitely not a natural, but I can feel my understanding getting better, and I think that’s the most important part – my technical skills improve more meaningfully if I actually get what I’m doing. And it’s nice to know a knitting project doesn’t have to take over a year!!

Back to sewing as per ushe next week! And thanks again to all the knitters who shared their expertise. 😊 Mad grats (⬅️gratitude with attitude). Ta-ta!

Pattern: Classic Ribbed Hat from Purl Soho

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: Adult M

Supplies: 1 skein of DK (leftover Cloudborn Highland DK in Ocean)

Total time: 2/24 – 2/28, 2022

Total cost: $0.00

Witch Hazel Olya

Might as well rip off the band-aid: $28.49. This pattern cost $28.49. It was only last week that I complained about a $16 pattern, so if you’re thinking “well well well” and “the worm has turned” and “la-di-DA”…you’re not alone. I’m a 1%er! I’m gentrifying my own pattern collection! I get targeted ads for yachts now! Also, I used a gift card!   

This pattern and party-I-am-late-for is the Paper Theory Olya shirt. For a while I’ve been been casually searching stuff like “Olya sewalike cheap Reddit”, but it’s been a no-go, so finally I took a deep breath and bought the OG. At the same time, I bought two lengths of fabric from Stylemaker Fabrics with my annual birthday coupon, both intended for this pattern (I was banking on liking it). Today’s version is made from this yarn-dyed cotton.

First, I loved this fabric. That shininess in the sample photo washes right out, and it’s beautifully soft with little wrinkling. Also, the color isn’t solid, but super-thin green and orange stripes. The result reads as a slightly sickly yellow which I can actually wear. I adore yellow and I think it’s finally having its day – not just that one foot-in-the-door mustard yellow, but a whole buffet of yellows seems to be arriving. I love most yellows, to be honest, but butter yellows are often nude against my skin tone and rich mango yellows tend me wear me, so I’m crossing my fingers for more acid and old-honey hues!

Second, I used every last bit of it! I’d read in various places that the Olya fabric requirements are extremely accurate – my size, a 14, calls for 2 1/4 yards of 45” wide fabric, and I bumped that up to 2 1/3” because why not. And I’m glad that I did, because even with my extra 3” I couldn’t fit the pattern pieces according to the lay plan (though it was AGONIZINGLY close) and I had to rearrange the cutting on the fly. So while I can’t promise I was the most efficient cutter, the remaining scraps *do* fit in the palm of my hand, which is fun. To be fair I cut my collar and collar stand ‘interfacing’ from those scraps first. And I cut my undercollar on the bias with a center seam, and reshaped my collar stand ends – pretty routine for me.

I used fusible tricot on the button bands and just the short edges of the cuffs. I also interfaced 1” wide sections of the sleeve plackets, avoiding the seam allowances. I’ve never sewn a tower placket in two pieces like this before but it’s so tidy, I love it.

And this is the sewing on the side I couldn’t see! I mean!!

Unfortunately you won’t see either side much because a shirt this light is going to be worn in rolled-sleeve weather, and also my sleeves are an 1” or so too long.

You can of course see my serger thread with the sleeves up. Even if I can figure out how to French that front yoke/sleeve seam in the future, I had to fundamentally understand it first, which meant sewing it straight the first time.

I think a lot of attention is paid to the sleeve/yoke inverse corner. In terms of difficulty, though, if you’ve sewn a banded V-neck, you’re golden. I interfaced the snipped corner and added a line of staystitching just barely inside the seam allowance, which I don’t think was recommended, but it’s easy to do and in general that step is very well-supported.

Actually where I think the directions let me down was at the far end of the seam – the armpit end. It’s not clearly marked that the sleeve piece needs to overhang the body by one seam allowance to match the front yoke seam later, and because it’s a bias curve you can make it meet or overhang pretty easily. Plus, that area isn’t photographed/illustrated in the photo sewalong or the paper directions. Once I read ahead a bit I understood how I was going wrong, but if you’re like me and you often take new processes one step by one step it might throw you off.

I wasn’t wildly jazzed about the pocket directions either. I don’t need a decorative pocket to have relatively bulky French seams when an actual construction seam is just getting the ol’ sergeroo. Instead, I ignored the booklet and attached the pocket front to the front body, then the pocket back to the pocket front, then the whole body/pocket unit to the yoke. That way I didn’t have to line up the little pocket rectangles and the major seams simultaneously. Something went a bit awry with the width of the opening but the pockets are gewgaws anyway, so I’m not sweating it!

I now call them “PITA pockets” because I am very, very funny.

Originally I hoped to find small bronze metal buttons, but I couldn’t. The wooden ones at least capture the warmth I wanted, if not the shine. They’re quite lightweight; I think metal (or just heavier) buttons would help prevent the shirt from slipping backwards, since I find myself tugging it forward every so often. But the big question: do I like it?

Yeah! I’m not like OMG SQUEE but it’s serviceable and I really like the fabric. The pattern is a fun sew too. Most other indie patterns have doppelgangers in other indie lines, or in the Big 4, but this one doesn’t seem to, so that offers unique value. My biggest concern is that I broke the seal – now that I’ve spent silly money on one pattern, what prevents me from doing that again? Specifically on yet another jeans pattern?

I’ll just be over here, resisting. Have a beautiful day!

 Pattern: Paper Theory Olya shirt

Pattern cost: $28.49

Size: 14

Supplies: 2 1/3 yards of Grainline Yarn Dyed Woven Shirting Citrus, Stylemaker Fabrics, $27.39; thread, Michael’s; buttons, Gather Here, $8.39

Total time: 8.5 hours

Total cost: $64.27

(Not a) Field Bag

A series of not-quite-flops but certainly-not-triumphs have left my soul damp and robbed my hair of its vigor. I’m pivoting briefly to sewing gifts for others while I rebuild my powers!

This first is a knitting bag for my sister, who is unaware of this blog and hates surprises anyway. I was leaning towards the Noodlehead Crescent Tote pattern but feeling a bit blah about sourcing the notions when I remembered the Grainline Field bag. My vague sense of this bag: trendy, but something off about it. The off thing, I rediscovered, is the price. The PDF is $16 dingitty dang dollars! I spent a few minutes skipping around the video sewalong at 2.5x speed to discover what justified this price point and was aghast to realize it’s as simple as it looks. The whole pattern is three rectangles. And two of those are the same width!

That said: the technique of folding in the boxed corners at the base is lovely, and the sewalong is excellent. And I like how slim the notions list is. But whether I’m with a fox, or in a box, I will not spend an amount of money that nets you 32 pounds of sweet potatoes at Haymarket for the privilege of sewing a dead simple tote, so I just sort of went ahead and made one. Well, two. But first, one!

Mine is not an accurate, proper Field bag, obviously. I used the dry oilskin scraps leftover from my Sandhill sling and based the dimensions on that available fabric. This version was meant as proof-of-concept, so I only used stuff I could find around my house fo’ free. It’s got two grommets instead of the Field bag’s three; I harvested the leftover grommet from an old Kelly anorak kit, plus the extra grommet from an otherwise-unused Kelly anorak kit (it’s a good kit). The drawstrings are just grosgrain ribbon from my drawer of gift wrap supplies. I’ve got some odd lengths of natural cotton webbing kicking around; this one was 11” long. The finished base of this bag is about 5” x 8.5” inches.

Overall it works! A boxed-corner tote is a boxed-corner tote, etc. My least favorite part is that the stitching to attach the internal pocket is visible on the outside, and my bobbin stitching is almost never as pretty as my topstitching. Especially on this oilskin, where the bobbin stitches almost ‘float’ on top of the fabric and seem to scar the surface. I decided to choose something toothier for the final version in hopes that the stitching would sink in more.

To jump ahead, I *still* don’t like the look of it, even on this nice textured cotton/linen canvas. If I was doing this again I would cut an underlining layer, attach the pocket just to that, and then afterwards treat the underlining/outer bag as one. It’s too late now…unless I start over, which is tempting. On the one hand, it’s a gift and I want it to be nice. On the other hand, it’s a gift destined for Germany, so pretty soon I won’t have to look at it anymore. In the meantime I’m just quietly disliking it.

This final version is a slightly different size than the oilskin one, by the way, because this time I based the dimensions on ½ yard of 45” fabric. I was given a generous cut (19”, <3), but the base is a little wider than the first time (skinnier pocket = wider base + shorter sides), 5.5” x 8.5”.

This one has the three grommets, though I’m not at all clear what they’re for! Buying the grommets was an unexpected pain. Neither Gather Here nor Michael’s carries 6 mm grommets, which is the size I have the tool for. Gold Star Tool will sell me 100 6 mm grommets for about $11 including shipping, which I could then share, but without the tool, so the next user would have to have a 6 mm tool of their own. Wawak will sell me 25 grommets for about $9.00 including shipping, with the tool, which is a strictly worse deal but easier to share because I could give away the extra tool too. I could also buy a similar but different size of grommet and its corresponding tool locally, but then I’d be spending money and ending up with two tools, and I don’t want two tools! I already have one tool!

It’s a cursed economist’s word puzzle: if Lia can buy 100 grommets at 11¢ apiece, and 25 grommets at 36¢ apiece, why can’t she just have 3 grommets? Why?!! Just gimme! I eventually got 25 grommets for around $7.00 from this US-based etsy shop, feeling like Alice through the Looking Glass with her two hard-boiled eggs. They’re fine.

I used wide piping cord for the drawstrings, but I hadn’t anticipated how much it would fray. Luckily my on-the-fly fix seems to be holding – I had a handful of zipper stops purchased in haste and never used, and I clipped them onto the ends of each cord. While they don’t wrap around the whole cord, they seem to be pinching it together just fine.

I also made a little tag from the selvedge, just for fun. This Ruby Star canvas has a really wide selvedge on one side, but the pattern bleeds to the edge on the other, so it evens out.

The last minor change I made was to fold and sew the edge of the handles – I’m not really sure what that one dinky handle is for, but I thought this treatment gave it a little more polish. I went back and did the same thing to my practice bag, but upside-down, oops! Whoever gets this version from the Buy Nothing (if anyone wants it) can change it with my blessing.

And there we have it! Hopefully my sister will find this useful, but if not she can pass it on. I believe in the ‘it’s yours now’ school of giving – once a gift is given, the gift-ee can do whatever they want with it. Boil it, mash it, stick it in a stew.

Anything they like. No matter what, I’ll enjoy how few scraps remain!

Pattern: almost but not entirely unlike the Grainline Field bag

Pattern cost: NA

Size: finished base 5” x 8.5”/5.5” x 8.5”

Supplies: scraps of M&M dry oilskin in Navy, thread, hardware, webbing, string from stash; zipper stops, Gather Here, $1.00/1/2 yard of Noodles Dove on Canvas, Gather Here, $7.50; 2 yards of 1/8″ cotton piping cord, zipper stops, Gather Here; eyelets, etsy (WeiFashionDesign), $9.07

Total time: 1.75 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $1.00/$16.57

Noa shirt

I have an oversized double-gauze men’s Steven Alan shirt that has survived almost a decade of RTW culls, and I eventually figured out that I love it. Since then I’ve had an eye out for a sewing pattern that would allow me to replicate it. Around the end of last year I found the free Noa shirt pattern from Fabrics-Store.com. I thought this could be the one – per to the website, it’s got “classic tailoring”, a “relaxed silhouette”, and plenty of comments saying “watch out, it’s BIG”. Hello, sailor!

I chose to sew a 12/14 because the approximate finished chest measurement of 49” matched my existing RTW shirt, but my finished Noa shirt actually has a 46” chest so they’re really getting their money’s worth out of the word “approximate”. On the other hand, the pattern cost me approximately $0.00, sooo. And it’s a very functional pattern. The Noa is a nice professional-looking conventional button-up for people who prefer a dartless fit, but alas, it is not my dream shirt!

Sorry to spoil the ending, but the fact that I lopped the arms off probably gave you a clue! In large part my ambivalence is due to the fabric. This crisp yarn-dyed striped cotton grabbed me in the store, and I thought I could make something that was kind of winking at the idea of a business guy’s dress shirt, but I accidentally made a straightforward, non-winky, business guy’s dress shirt. A perfectly nice one – the fabric is stable, on-grain, and it pressed like a dream – and I enjoyed sewing it, but wearing it? I don’t know.

I used the Fabrics-Store blog to find out the seam allowance (3/8”) but otherwise sewed everything in my usual mish-mashy way, lots of techniques from different patterns all smooshed together.  I used the asymmetric back pleat from the Willamette, Archer’s burrito yoke, this collar, and Sewaholic’s continuous bound sleeve placket. Because OH YES, I sewed the sleeve placket. I sewed BOTH sleeve plackets, AND I added the cuffs, for all the good it did me. Even though I’m not scared of bias bound sleeve plackets anymore I realized that they’re not totally suitable for vertical stripes – by design, you sew on a slight diagonal, so the finished placket will never be parallel to the stripes.

Do I lie?!

This shirt looked so dang office-ready with the pleated full-length sleeve. If that’s what you’re looking for, vaya con Dios, get thee some sharp cotton and sew the Noa. I wanted something relaxed, more like this breezy Coco’s Loft edition, but it was clearly too late for that. It’s never too late to grab a pair of scissors and chop your sleeves off, though! I thought this baseball length looked sort of wacky and modern (finished length 6 ¾”) but mostly I wear it with a rolled cuff. Also, rolling the sleeve up hides the fact that I ran out of thread and hemmed the sleeves (truly, widely, deeply) with the only nearby shade in my house.

In retrospect, an actual contrasting thread color might have been fun, especially because my topstitching is pristine (I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it is). A couple more details I enjoy: I sewed the hem inside-out because when I attached the sleeves, I loved the candy-stripe effect of the seam allowance.

Also, this button-up is a button-*down*, because I sewed some wee little buttonholes into the collar points and buttoned those fellahs down! I copied a technique I saw in a RTW shirt to reinforce the button area, using fusible hem webbing like double-sided tape to attach a scrap of self-fabric to the inside of the shirt. All edges pinked, of course.

I thought about not opening the buttonholes and sewing the buttons through the collar, but I’ve done that to one other shirt and it makes ironing the collar a pain in the neck.

Not that this fabric needs a ton of ironing. It gets some wear wrinkles, but nothing too severe. If it weren’t for the hand, color and pattern – you know, its characteristics – I would probably really like it. I actually sewed this Noa at the end of December (strangely right before Very Peri got announced as the color of 2022) and so far, the weather hasn’t been such as would let me wear it, so I’m not sure I’m avoiding it for practical reasons or prejudiced ones.

I feel like lately whenever a project doesn’t quite live up to my hopes, I gaze out the window and whisper in a melancholy voice “ah, but ‘twere it linen…”, but…what if it was linen? Black linen, or sand-colored maybe? In any case, I’m not recycling this pattern quite yet. Or giving the shirt away either, though if summer comes and I’m still not wearing it, I’ll dump it like some shorted stock (that’s business talk, right?).

Buy, buy! Sell, sell!

Pattern: Fabrics-Store Noa shirt

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 12/14

Supplies: 2 yards striped cotton, Sewfisticated, $7.98; thread, Sewfisticated, $2.49; buttons from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $10.47