LW Dress

There’s a part at the beginning of Mulan where Shan Yu is like “the Emperor invited me when he built his wall” and that’s kind of how I feel about a $10+ PDF pattern constructed mostly of rectangles. Do I want to invade China? Not really. Do I wear many big gathered dresses? Also no. But when I became aware of this $14, two-size pattern, the ZW Gather Dress, I knew I wanted to test my mettle against it…by copying it.

That “ZW” stands for Zero Waste and its promise is that LITERALLY EVERY SCRAP will be used, but I read a handful of reviews of this pattern and while nobody said so, I still think the way some of the would-be scraps were applied was a little stupid. Basically, the two long triangle wedges that are trimmed from the left and right fronts to make the ‘v’ neck are shoved into the side seams as decorative elements, and the little piece cut away so the back neck can curve around the wearer’s body is re-attached as an extremely shrimpy non-functional facing. It’s like the “I’m-not-touching-you” defense. Technically true, but c’mon, guy. I decided I wouldn’t be dogmatic about my version – low-waste was good enough for me.

I told my sister about this project and sent her a link to the original pattern; her response was that it’s not zero waste if you never wear the dress, which is a fair point, but sometimes I get a little loopy around Halloween and I hoped this could double as a witch costume if needed. Or, cough ahem oops darn, a graduation robe. There’s a really good reason none of the samples are black. I actually went looking for something in the rust family but I’ve had poor luck finding my desired fabric lately, so I picked up this light semi-sheer black swiss dot cotton instead. It’s inexpensive and I assumed the gathers wouldn’t be too hard to handle in thin fabric.

One unexpected benefit is that it’s terrifically easy to rip, so my “cutting” process was actually just planning the proportions of the dress, snipping strategically, and tearing the yardage apart.  My rough proportions, which fit neatly onto 3 yards of 54” wide fabric: the bodice fronts are each 1×1; the back is 2×1; the cuffs are 1x long; the sleeves are 1x long and little more than 2x wide; the skirt is the largest available remaining rectangle; and the button band (in multiple pieces) and pockets are squished into the remaining fabric.

A dress like this can be really easy to put together, even without instructions. My seams didn’t even need to match because I gathered to fit. I tried the gathering technique where you zig-zag stitch over a piece of twine or floss, but I’m not a fan. I managed to sew through my twine almost instantly, and afterwards switched to classic gathering stitches. It requires more sewing passes, but I don’t like to sew because I love to avoid sewing, y’know?

The only place where I really yucked up the sewing was the inside corner between the sleeve and the bodice. I attached the sleeves flat and serged that seam, then I used French seams on the underarm/side seam. If anyone has a neat trick for attaching right-angled pieces with a French seam, please let me know. Mine is functional but definitely strained-looking.

I used slash pockets instead of side-seam pockets both because I prefer them, and because it’s easy to sew French seams with lightweight slash pockets.

This necessitated trimming another couple shallow triangles from each pocket opening, but I’d rather generate a few scraps and actually like my pockets. A couple notes on the pocket: I confidently decided that I wanted the swiss dots on the outside of the pocket bag, which leaves the wrong side visible as the back pocket facing, geez and also duh; and if you’re adding a slash pocket to a gathered skirt, wait to attach the top edges of the pocket to the skirt until after gathering.

As is the case with the canon version of this dress, my button band pops up around the back collar because it’s cut on the straight grain.

I also omitted interfacing since all my interfacing is white and this black fabric is a little see-through. I’m not worried about stretching the buttonholes because I don’t need to use them.

Heck, I probably could have skipped sewing them and just attached the buttons through both fronts. These are more Fab Lab buttons; I got the laser settings a little wrong on these and the edges are rough, so I’m glad to use them on a project where I don’t actually need to push them in and out of buttonholes.

Here’s the pile of my “official” scraps, next to the nest of my serging/French seaming by-products + thread trimmings. I could have repressed my scraps inside my deep wide hem, called it zero, and nobody would have known the truth! But nah.

Do I look like a spectral governess accepting a diploma for her master’s degree in bad choices? Maybe. I can’t pretend not to be ridiculously comfortable, though. We’ve had exactly 1 beautiful day so far this fall and I wore this. I don’t know if I’ll make another one, but you know, I actually might! Given the continuing lack of sunshine and plummeting temperatures (that’s what my start bar weather dingle always says – TEMPS PLUMMET!!), that’s probably a decision for spring.

You know what I definitely didn’t waste, though? Fourteen old-fashioned American dollar bills. Heck yeah.

Pattern: based on ZW Gather Dress

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 58” approximate finished bust/waist

Supplies: 3 yards of black swiss dot cotton, $12.00, Sewfisticated; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5.75 hours

Total cost: $12.00

Sling It Again

I’ve made a second Sandhill Sling, this time for Professor Boyfriend. His position requires weekly train commutes, but he doesn’t need or want to carry a full-size backpack for the iPad and book he brings for the ride (though no snack! Can you imagine? I once brought a banana to a wedding!). We suspected this bag pattern would be a good fit; after wearing my version around the house for a bit, Professor BF gave me the go-sign. 

The elements he wanted to carry over from mine: the ability to switch the strap from side-to-side and wear the bag on either shoulder, the water-resistant fabric, the same pocket view, and the self-fabric strap.

The elements he asked if I could add: a little extra height in the body of the bag, and extra zipper protection to keep his technology safe a little longer if he ever had to make a rainy dash for it.

I said: probably!! I’m not wildly knowledgeable about bag sewing! In the end, though, it came together.

 First, the additional height (or depth, really, if we’re measuring capacity). He asked for another ½”, which I didn’t think would adversely affect the proportions. It was easy to add it to the height of the back panel and back lining – just make ’em taller. On the front of the bag, I chose to place all the extra height above the zipper pocket, and extended the main panel of the front lining. I left the front pocket and elasticized pocket depth alone. I appreciate a deep pocket, but there’s limited benefit to a portable abyss.

The bag has a top and a bottom gusset. I lengthened both by ½” each. Because the gusset rectangles meet and are centered on the vertical edges of the bag, that distributes the ½” addition evenly to the left and right; each of the two sections then contributes ¼” to each side, for a total of the ½” height needed. Logical, right? Well, Ask Me About How My Gussets Were Still Too Long!

My gussets were still too long! I don’t know why. My working theory is that I cut to the outside of my marked lines, which were pretty thick chalk lines, so if I cut outside I could have added like an extra ¼” per piece. It was easy enough to fix, since I used a nylon zipper. I could just sew over the teeth to shorten the gusset as needed. Having learning from my similar mistake last time, I walked the seamlines before joining (what CraftTube calls “dry-fitting”), so I noticed the mismatch before sewing and saved myself some unpicking woe.

This is the same fabric that I used for my bag, Merchant & Mills dry-touch oilskin, this time in Cumin. I did a better job handling it this time and needed to unpick far less frequently and (fingers crossed) not as obviously. It still had the same “floating stitches” issue on the bobbin side, whether I used a topstitching or a Microtex needle (I tried both), but that might just be a fabric characteristic I need to accept! I could never get the edgestitching pretty on the strap connector on my version, so on Professor BF’s I decided to have fun with it! Time for my extremely intermittent motif, the random topstitched triangle.

Professor Boyfriend bought 5/8” yards of Cumin oilskin, and there was about half left after I cut the bag, so I wasn’t nervous to experiment by adding a zipper flap. You can see in the video sewalong how the top exterior gusset is joined to the zip and folded over (starting at the 1:40 mark). It seemed to me that if I added some extra fabric into the fold intake, I could make a zipper flap without needing another pattern piece. I widened one of the top gusset pieces by 1.5” inches and topstitched the extra flap in place. That ended up being basically perfect! The folded flap covered the zipper teeth, and the finished width of the top gusset was correct.

Professor Boyfriend reports that the flap doesn’t automatically lie smoothly after using the zip, but I’m still pleased that it worked.

One last extremely minor change was adding a very skinny pocket for his iPad pen. Its finished depth is 5.5” so he can grab the top of the pen without forceps, but the pen pocket is inside the elasticated pocket, so if it ever falls out it’ll land there instead of the body of the bag (or the wide wide world).

Professor Boyfriend picked this Nara Homespun Indigo cotton for the lining, which looks great with the hardware and outer he chose, but was a little loosely woven and prone to fray. Ultimately I decided to interface every lining piece and then quilt them all to scraps of batting. I used widely-spaced vertical lines. The extra cushioning adds some structure but is soft enough not to diminish the bag’s capacity.

The hardware is all from Wawak; the metal is Gunmetal, and the zips are Charcoal. Great quality as always, and the metal bits all came in exactly double quantities of what I needed, so between this and the leftover from my bag I have enough kit to make two more!

So far this Sling has been used just as intended – it’s been commuting with Professor Boyfriend for about 3 months, and shows a little wear and tear in one spot, but generally looks pretty fresh.

Overall a successful project, except for the discovery that he’s better at picking fabric combos than me!

Pattern: Sandhill Sling, view A

Pattern cost: NA

Size: NA; added 1.5″ to width of one top gusset piece; added pen pocket (5.5″ deep); increased bag height .5″

Supplies: 5/8 yard of M&M Dry Oilskin in Cumin, 3/4 yard Sevenberry: Nara Homespun Indigo cotton, 1/2 yard cotton interfacing (price unknown); hardware (Gunmetal, Charcoal), Wawak, $12.73

Total time: 6 hours

Total cost: $12.73

Tee for Two

I’ve been a real Johnny Two-Shirts lately. Anyway, here’s another two shirts! I spotted a cute mock-neck knit tee with elbow sleeves in a StitchFix ad and got two yards of cotton jersey from Girl Charlee to try making my own (chocolate for experimenting, caramel for final). I didn’t own an exact pattern but I thought Deer & Doe’s free Plantain tee would make a good base. And since it’s a free pattern I can pop a complete image of my altered pattern below!

I extended the shoulder slope towards the neck without changing the angle at all, raised the neckline to what I hoped would be a high crew, and slimmed the body. I widened and shortened the neckband from the original pattern piece, but more wide than short; now it’s 1:1 to the neck opening. I also shortened the sleeve, cutting it off around the elbow then adding hem allowance. This was easier than I hoped because the Plantain pattern has a placement marking for an elbow patch! These adjustments were all done to a size 42.

Here’s where things get a little hinky: when printing this version of the pattern, I had to load more paper halfway through the print job, and I did it a little hastily so some of the pages printed askew or printed across two sheets when the lines should have fit on one. And when I assembled it, it got weirder. I overlapped the paper when taping together the body pieces, but not the sleeve (the lines just flowed better that way). This potentially added as much as ¾” of an inch to the sleeve width. In my final paper version the sleeve head is the same length as the armscye – no stretching – which feels definitely strange! That said, I went ahead and cut and sewed the first one, bodge job and all. 

Sewing it was a totally standard knit shirt experience – shoulder seams; sleeves in flat; join the ends of the neckband; quarter, pin, and sew; side seams; hems; it’s a shirt. And then I liked it fine the way it was so I went ahead and made the other one too, exactly the same way!

 I used a zig-zag to topstitch as per usual, and put the neckband join in the center back, where it does the job of a tag in distinguishing recto from verso.

I’d heard good buzz about the Plantain, which has been out and free for years. Can Confirm. Obviously a nice and effective pattern that can stand up to a fair amount of arts and crafts! I quite like these finished shirts, too. I don’t know if I need two of them, but I expected one of them to be a flop, not these first-try-lucky twins.

They’ll work well for fall, but if you’re trying to squeeze out a little more summer, read on…

While test-wearing my first shirt, Professor Boyfriend and I happened to watch Jaws. About two-thirds of the way through I realized I was dressed like Police Chief Martin Brody! And I was okay with it! Actually, the whole trio of shark hunters rocked some serious 1975 New England summer style.

Plus the Amity Island look is free, at least from the waist up! So when a shark bites you in half, the top half will be affordably stylish. I suggest pairing these free patterns with your favorite straight-leg jeans, dad glasses, and a big boat.

One leg exception: for a classic “unsupervised at the beach” look, you can sport a pair of these retro Sports Shorts. These call for woven fabric, but I recommend French terry and listening to your mother.

Next to the skin, customize a knit tee (like mine above, the Plantain) with a self-drafted mock-neck or this handy Henley tutorial. Choose dark neutrals for the mock-neck and pale pink for the Henley. Or go classic in cream with the Monroe turtleneck, and make sure to roll the neck down!

Then layer on an open denim buttondown. Size up in the Noa shirt and add some custom chest pockets with flaps. You can also sew it in ecru linen and roll the sleeves above your elbows. Or pop on a soft raglan sweatshirt – I like this super-slouchy version, but with a little effort you can also sport a fitted look. Choose cool, faded colors that say “namby-pamby college boy”!

For a topper, the obvious choice is a Paola workwear jacket. Green is recommended, but a pocket flask is optional.

For a finishing touch fit for the open ocean, you’ll want a hat. How about a bucket hat? An oversized camp cap also gets the job done. And if you knit, you can knit a ribbed beanie! Also, while so far I’ve focused exclusively on our boys on the Orca, I could write a whole post about Ellen Brody’s closet. I at least had to mention her iconic hair kerchief; to make your own, cut a square around 23” wide and hem with mitered corners. You might never be an islander, but you’ll look the part.

Try for natural fibers, cool-toned colors, and straight fits. A little faded pink is allowed, but take a page from the production designer’s handbook and avoid bright red! We want that blood to pop!

Honestly, Quint’s fit in particular is pretty impeccable. It might get me to sew a Paola jacket. What’s your favorite piece of Amity Island fashion, and why is it the mayor’s anchor blazer?

Thanks for taking a ferry ride to this themed pattern round-up with me! Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain!

Pattern: Plantain tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 42; raised neckline; shortened sleeve; widened and shortened neckband; slimmed body

Supplies: 1 yard of Chocolate Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread from stash/1 yard of Caramel Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread from stash

Total time: 2.5 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $11.68/$11.68

Tee Time

As I frequently do when I want to add a kinda boring basic to my wardrobe, I ordered a bunch of fabric to make a bunch of kinda boring basics instead. I’ve been seeing lots of images of solid tees knotted casually over or tucked into midi-length skirts, and I like the combo, so it was time for tees. I ordered 4 yards of cotton/spandex from Girl Charlee, one each of 4 different colors. The first two – Light Sage and Dark Olive – are now two Tabor t-shirts.

First, Light Sage. This color is hard to photograph – it looks greyer both in my pictures (it was a grey day) and on the website, but it’s mintier in person. I would maybe call it Toothpaste. Why don’t I get to name colors?! Anyway, I sewed a new-to-me Tabor view, view 2 with the drop shoulders finished with cuffs, but with the skinny neckband from view 3. The result is an extremely conventional and unexciting t-shirt that I actually like a lot.

I took longer than necessary fiddling over the neckband, determined to finally sew a v-neck without puckers. Contrary to the directions, I like to start with my needle down in the dead center of the v and then sew a few inches towards the shoulder, before returning to that same starting position and sewing the other side of the v the same way. Then I sew as directed, starting a few inches up from the center, sewing to the middle point, pivoting with the needle down and finally sewing towards the other shoulder. This should guarantee that there isn’t a gap between my stitches at center front. In this particular case, however, it guaranteed that I had to unpick three lines of stitching when I flipped everything right-sides-out and discovered I had clipped too far when releasing the center notch and made a hole.

I unpicked and lowered the point to hide the hole. So my v-neck is an extra ¼” or so deeper than drafted, and I think maybe a little stretched out too, because the mitered end won’t sit flat against my body. But no puckers!

I originally cut the cuffs twice as long so I could fold them. Then I realized they were already designed to be folded once. I basted on one of my extra-long cuffs as an experiment, but quadruple-folding the fabric or even triple-folding a wider cuff resulted in basically a t-shirt Water Wing. And Floaties are for babies!! Actually no, it was just uncomfortable. So these cuffs are exactly as drafted.

My one issue with this tee is the way it tips back. The cuffs are snug enough that the shoulder seam stays in place over my upper arm, but from the shoulder point up it’s like the shirt is trying to hide behind me.

Tucking it in keeps everything situated. Otherwise I have to occasionally tug the v to the appropriate depth.

My second version is a bit more loosey-goosey. This one is Dark Olive

It will perhaps not surprise you to hear I scooped the neck. Less obvious – and actually I forgot until I saw it in my notes – I also extended the circumference of the cuffs to match the circumference of the drop shoulders (in this size, 10, that’s 13.5″ unsewn). It’s pretty low-impact and I don’t have a clear opinion as to whether I prefer the snugger or looser cuff. I’m generally pro-cuff (or any banded finish), though! That’s two fewer hems!

Actually, the only hem on these projects is the bottom hem. I used a straight stitch to topstitch the necklines, and a zig-zag on the bottom hems.

I wouldn’t normally use a straight stitch on a knit but the pattern had plenty of noggin room even before the chop job this one got. I initially put the bottom of the scoop at the point of the v, widened the neckline 2 cm on each side, and freehanded the curve to join them. I sewed everything up to the neckband before trying the shirt on.

I decided the depth of the scoop was fine but that it needed to be wider. I probably should have snuck up on whatever curve I eventually chose, but instead I lopped off another 3 cm each, for a total of 5 cm removed per side. That’s definitely riding the edge of too much! It also meant lowering the back neckline slightly to accommodate a smooth curve, but a trivial amount – ¼” or so.

Anyway, no takebacks! I had already cut an extra-long neckband the same width as the band from the v-neck view, so I trimmed its length to between 80 – 90% percent of the neck opening. Then I quartered the band and the neck, pinned, and sewed. I had measured by eye, but I probably should have measured by math. It’s a little floppy. I’ll tell you what, though: it slides every which way but back. Progress?

Once again, floppy neck and all, it’s a basic, useful tee! These aren’t the kind of projects I lay awake dreaming about, but I sure do wear them. And I guess that’s the point.

See you next time!

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10/10; widened neck 5 cm and scooped front; lengthened armbands to 13.5″

Supplies: 1 yard of Light Sage Green Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread from stash/1 yard of Dark Olive Green Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 3 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $11.68/$14.07

Pair of Pant

As I am nothing if not susceptible to trouser trends, these are the Adams Pant from Daughter Judy. By the way, that’s one of the silliest uses of the fashion singular I know of (“Put your pant on, you’re late for school!”). They’re described as a “painter’s pant” (just the one) but the part that sold me was “generous fit through the thigh”. I don’t know if I’ve increased my landholdings again or if I’ve just become more aware of constricting thighs, but my Morgan jeans are not as comfortable as they used to be.

These were a low-stakes sew because I had the main fabric left over from an unblogged pair of MN Dawn shorts I made earlier in the summer. I was bound & determined to own brown shorts and when I found this unlabelled fabric in a nice cocoa shade I ignored its two issues: first, that I had to buy the complete remaining yardage (2 7/8th yards), and second, its suspiciously low price. It ran me $8.61. I took it home and did a burn test, but in my heart I kinda already knew it was poly-cotton. Anyway, I had a hearty chunk leftover, a little more than half, so there was never going to be a cheaper time to try this new-to-me pattern.

There’s three possible Adam pant prices to choose from, all of which donate 5% to a nonprofit. I chose the cheapest. As an aside, it would be fascinating to learn what proportion of buyers choose which price. Does the Goldilocks Effect still apply when there’s no difference between the three products?

Since there’s two back leg views, this pattern took a lot of printing! Otherwise there’s nothing too revolutionary in the pattern pieces, except that the back leg piece, instead of a single shallow concave curve from crotch point to hem, is an “s” curve. It’s mostly concave except for the few inches leading to the crotch point, which are ever-so-slightly convex. In theory I thought this is maybe where the thigh room would come from; in practice, it leads to a beautifully flat crotch once the inseams are joined. No stabby crotch at all. You could balance an egg on it. Props, Judy!

I was a little less impressed by the back pockets. I loved the idea of darted volume, but when it came time to turn the edges under, they were bulky, man! Undeniably bulky! I couldn’t get the stitching to sit pretty and I was hoping for a tip and/or trick to wrangle that bulk, but none was forthcoming. Ultimately I unpicked the pockets, darts topstitching, and darts, and just sewed them flat. I didn’t alter the shape, which widens towards the bottom, in hopes of keeping the visual weight similar, but on my butt it kind of operates like the trick-photography forced perspective shots from FotR and the edges appear parallel.

I wasn’t totally happy with the front pockets either. Function A+ mind you, they’re nice and deep and anchored at center front, which I like, but the finish isn’t elegant or sturdy. The bottom edge of the pocket bag is in places a single layer of fabric, which you’re instructed to finish with serging. I made the poor choice of a lightweight Ruby Star cotton so it looks and feels very flimsy. Also, you can theoretically see the pocketing while the pants are being worn, as the pockets pop slightly open by design. Next time I would choose a more robust cotton in a matching shade.

The zipper instructions were new-to-me but I liked them fine! They’re not the easiest instructions I’ve ever used – that honor as always to the CC Gingers zip fly – but everything lined up as it was supposed to, and I only had to unpick once, for purely aesthetic reasons. I used a nylon zipper because I had it around. Since these are lower-stress than tightly fitted pants I think it will be fine long-term.

I used the waistband width and length from the Daughter Judy pattern, but the curve from a many-times-sewn pattern, sadly no longer for sale, the Fern shorts. Mine looks wide so I suspect my progressive tracing and cutting added another ¼” or so to the final waistband width. It crumples like a sonofa despite interfacing, which means next time: more interfacing!

Apart from the curvier waistband, I cut a straight size 14. I increased the back dart intake ½” total each, and removed ¼” from the height of the side seams at my waist at final fitting (the side seam “rise”?). These are definitely not wrinkle-free (especially after the half-a-dozen wears this pair has gotten before these pictures were taken!) but they’re comfortable to death.

I’m a little interested in the current fitting trend monster, top-down center-out, and this would be a good pattern to try it on. I’ve also got my doubts – it requires a level of faith in a designer’s specific crotch curve which IMO isn’t always merited – but this pattern has a low enough crotch (I daresay a general enough crotch) that why not go for it!

I could definitely see myself making another pair of these in a nicer fabric. I am LOVING the thigh room (“Let my people gooo!”), and I’m a little intrigued by the elastic-back view. These are already completely non-restrictive, so the elastic must be really easy to wear. Maybe an elastic-back version with a longer hem for winter warmth + stew room? In the meantime, the poly content has not prevented me from wearing this pair, so it’s official: I like ’em!

And I like you!

Pattern: Daughter Judy Adams pant

Pattern cost: $14.00

Size: 14; used waistband from Fern shorts (size D); sewed pockets without darts; removed 1/4″ from side seam “rise”; increased dart intake 1/2″ each

Supplies: leftover cotton/poly twill; 1/2 yard of Ruby Star Society Moons in Natural Unbleached Metallic quilting cotton, $6.50, Gather Here; button, $0.90, Gather Here; thread from stash

Total time: 8.5 hours

Total cost: $21.40

Ginghaaam, Girl

I’m not enough of a completist/lover of free stuff (though I do love free stuff) to sew every Peppermint Magazine pattern, but this wrap blouse is the fifth one I’ve tried.

I often buy only one or maybe two patterns from a given small designer, so that’s legacy-indie numbers for me (we’re talking yer Grainlines, yer True Biases), and in fact the only designer I’ve sewn more from is – Megan Nielsen?!

That count is a bit disingenuous because Peppermint collaborates with different designers – this blouse is by In The Folds – but I was still surprised at the numbers. (Also, by the way, really surprised that MN is my top indie. I associate her with a lighthearted warm-weather feminine aesthetic, but I guess I’m not the chilly functionista I thought I was.) So this was really my introduction to In The Folds patterns, and my first impression was that they overdid the notches. So I omitted some, went ahead and cut cut cut, etc., and then sat down to sew this blouse.

Only to discover that the instructions called for French seams but didn’t actually give the seam allowance. You can see where this is going, right? I resentfully downloaded an In The Folds ebook about seam allowances, but they didn’t mention specific measurements either. Thanks to some angry Googling, I discovered Diary of the Chainstitcher’s review of this pattern, and she cited the same issue. Solidarity! Rise up, my people! Burn baby burn! And then she pointed out that, actually, the seam allowances are marked by the notches.


Yah got me. I’m responsible. 24601!! I still think the instructions could have said to use a total seam allowance of ½” though. It wouldn’t take much space. Just a wee little corner by the fireplace, and a crumb to keep it! Anyway, the benefit of this searching is that I also (a la Fiona) decided to scoop my neckline 1″ at center front, blending the scoop to nothing at the tie, and to widen the neckline 1/4″ at the shoulder. I had already decided to shorten the sleeves, so they have a finished underarm length of 2.5”, with a 1” deep double-fold hem.

Otherwise I sewed a straightforward size E.

In the end, I also recut the waist ties, replacing the straight ties with long teardrops folded in half to give the bow a little more oomph. These aren’t perfect, but the first set was too skinny! Mangia, mangia! Since I was adding them after the fact I folded under the seam allowances of each tie’s short end into a little pocket and tucked the shirt inside, topstitching to capture all the layers. Not the height of elegance, but an improvement.

I had purchased the exact fabric requirement for an E (1 ¾ yards) but even after recutting the ties I had 1/3 yard leftover, because, it will probably not surprise you to learn because this fabric has been everywhere and also you can see it with your whole own eyes, my gingham is ✧double-sided✧. I knew I wanted to make this pattern in gingham because I misremembered this outfit by Caro Made This (attempted imitation is also pretty sincere!), and I wanted that gingham to be fairly large, fairly soft, and in the yellow-brown family. So I went to Gather Here to check out their Atelier Brunette gingham double gauze BUT I WAS JUST GOING TO LOOK AT IT (also I linked to Rust just there, my runner-up choice, because my actual Ochre is sold out).

At one point in the store I was one of three women walking around with one of three bolts of this fabric in our three preferred colors and we kept seeing each other and asking with our eyes if we were going for it (read: $$$). And then I said “I don’t know if I want this enough!” with my mouth this time and one of the other women said “I DO” with hers and I was swept away on the gingham tide. And generally I think it was the right choice. This was pleasant to sew, comfortable to wear, and I got to play with the two scales of check to my heart’s content. I hemmed everything inside-out to change scale as much as possible.

I also wanted to sew the back facing on the outside of the top, but I couldn’t figure out how to do so and keep the clean finish. Too bad, because it would have balanced the small-check sleeve nicely.

I struggled folding under the seam allowances of the tie-opening side and stitching them down in a way that looked neat outside, so I called it sushi and let them be raw.

I would feel worse about how this will impact the top’s longevity if the other side seam – which experiences no unusual stress, by the way, and which is French-seamed – hadn’t instantly started doing this.

Yikes, right? That’s not surviving too many wash-and-wears. I’m not super upset, though. I’ve had a few good wears out of this shirt already, and I’ve discovered that as cool as it is, temperature-wise, and as adaptable as the color is in my wardrobe, the ties are a little too fussy for me.

It sits a little better if I tie it deliberately a little too loose, but arranging the ties nicely is still a pain, and it all sort of bunches up my hips no matter what. I don’t hate it – it definitely did its job on hot days – so I think this is going to be a “use it up, wear it out” top, and frankly I don’t think it’s going to take that long. I do like the deep V, though, so if nothing else it’s a reminder to get some sun on my upper slopes!

See you soon!

Pattern: Peppermint Magazine wrap blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: E, scooped neckline 1″ at center front, blended scoop to nothing at the tie, widened neckline 1/4″ at shoulder; shortened sleeve (unhemmed, 5.5″); recut new wider folded ties

Supplies: 1 3/4 yards of Atelier Brunette gingham off-white ochre double gauze, $42.00, Gather Here; thread from stash

Total time: 5 hours

Total cost: $42.00

 “Est-il heureux?” 

Cardinal Mazarin believed that to evaluate a general, you shouldn’t ask “Est-il habile?” (“Is he skillful?”), but rather “Est-il heureux?” (“Is he lucky?”). Well, was I lucky?


I mean, even a rousing victory would have netted me a very small shirt. This little fitted bodice is made from the scraps of my last week’s skirt, and it exists because I figured I had to take a run at a princess seamed bodice sometime. I also thought I might wear some vaguely princessy co-ords, which surprise, I won’t! But in this case, that “might” meant I started with a muslin.

This is a pre-Covid sew. I worked on it while Professor Boyfriend was at a conference in Deepest Pennsylvania, which was not a good strategy, since having someone to binder clip/photograph my back for reference would have helped a lot. That SAID…

I think I *was* lucky! I drew out what I guessed the pattern should look like, walked my seamlines, then cut and basted some scrap fabric. I had my measurements handy from this project, so I wasn’t totally uninformed, but I thought shruggingly this would open Round 1 of a zillion rounds of changes.

But actually it was already pretty good?!! As Mazarin might have said: “Sacrebleu!”

I made two changes to the muslin. I gave myself an extra 1/8” ease at the armpit ends of the side seam allowances, blending to nothing at the waist.

And I pinched out 1” of unneeded length under the bust, blending to nothing at the size seams – basically, adding a horizontal fisheye dart across the front.

After that, my adjusted muslin seemed even okay-er. So I made these changes to my paper pattern pieces and cut my fashion fabric, feeling MIGHTY SUSPICIOUS BY THE WAY, but…

That’s, um…that’s not bad, right? I’m assessing this accurately?

I’m definitely packed in there – I think we can safely say overfit – but it’s tacking to my upper chest, and that feels like a minor miracle. The armscyce curve is a little high under my arm, but again, there’s no gaping. And I’m usually never not gaping! This was totally unearned. I’m as surprised as anyone.

The back is full of issues, though. Well, you can’t roll nat 20s every time! This must be why mad scientists clone themselves: if I could have adjusted this on my own body from outside my body, I think I would have gotten a lot closer to a technically-correct result. As it is, I couldn’t actually fasten the back by myself, so I was just guessing until Professor Boyfriend got home and buttoned me in. And then I was pretty unimpressed.

The upper back (relatively upper) is surprisingly satisfactory, but WHAT is the story with those WRINKLES. I MEAN. I went through this clear, detailed Shapes of Fabric post on common bodice fitting issues, but didn’t see mine on there. Not to preen too much, but I guess I’m ~uncommonly~ bad at fitting.

Some possible causes: 1. It’s too long. It’s already only 6” long at center back, but since it’s definitely piling up on the back waistband of my skirt, I guess even six wee inches could be too many. 2. And it’s too tight – maybe? Would that be the sort of thing you adjust with the back darts, since the front fit is okay? 3. It’s because of some third thing I don’t even know about yet! Please feel free to tell me if you do!

It’s possible that a zipper would help distribute fabric stress more evenly, but I didn’t have a separating zipper of any length kicking around. I actually considered lacing for a hot second, using loops instead of eyelets and adding dressing ease (or whatever you call what you need to get in and out of a garment) in the form of a central back panel, like a backwards stomacher. But in the end, it was me and my pal buttons.

I decided on a column of rouleau loops because I think they’re fun to sew, and also because they were easy to apply with my plan to fully line the bodice. That was a priority for me (I don’t like it when darts originate in a double-fold hem). I sewed the loops to the outer fabric within the seam allowance of the center back, then pressed all the center back seam allowances to the wrong side on the lining and outer.

I sewed the top and bottom edges of the bodice shell and lining right sides together to create a tube. Then I turned the tube right sides out and hand-finished the center backs, using a ladder stitch to join the already-folded edges. My last step was to hand-sew the buttons – which I can unbutton by myself, but not button up! It’s a one-way shirt!

I took a 5/8” seam allowance when sewing the bottom hem, except near the side seams, where I blended to more like ¼”. Despite that I’m still getting little side divots.

I promise you my stitching line was smooth and continuous, though you’d never know it by looking.

Oh, and my lining: lots of lovely double gauze scraps, which seemed like the kind of thing I’d want directly against my skin in a tight top.

I was right about that, though wrong about whether I wanted to wear a tight bodice at all. I don’t! C’est la vie. Still, if I ever change my mind, the process of fitting one now seems a bit more achievable.

And in Other Business: I used some of my Covid isolation to review every death on Stranger Things, partly so I’d stop complaining out loud so much. This is purely personal and mostly without context (though packed as tightly with spoilers as me in this top), but it kept me busy. Feel free to weigh in with your own opinions or complaints! 🙂

Pattern: Self-drafted (a.k.a. wild, strangely effective guessing)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 37.5” bust, 32” waist

Supplies: scraps of Telio Silky Noil Washed Viscose Linen Slub Thyme, Nani Iro double gauze; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Pocket Corner

I am healed! There was a period of about two days where I was allowed out of isolation (masked & distanced) but hadn’t yet tested negative, and I basically spent them prowling around the shady parts of my neighborhood feeling like an apex predator. Now I’m once again a delicious healthy zebra. But for a shining moment, the world had to wash its hands after seeing me.

Professor Boyfriend is also home and healthy, and our new fridge has ice cream in it, and the future is now, sweetcakes! It seemed like a good time to slap on a new skirt I sewed for vacation (“vacation”) because it’s official: I’m a skirt person now.

I have three more skirts in the pure-imagination phase, but I can already picture how useful they will be. This one, the Peppermint pocket skirt, is not only useful unto itself, but it’s also unlocked the usefulness of a lot of my summer tops that had been yielding diminishing returns. That includes my 7 remaining Ogden camis, a pattern I was wearing less and less for no clear reason.

This year I hit a sort of style plateau; I was bored by a lot of what I owned but lacked a clear goal of what I’d rather be wearing. But this skirt, and skirts generally, have helped me realize I was primarily Confused By Shorts (working theory). Ogden is back in my life! This skirt is a friend to summer dressing, and casual slight tanks & tees are its natural companions.

It’s also an easy sew. It is, in essence, a glorified tube. I like it. I like the saggy saddlebag pockets (I might be making a virtue out of a necessity, but I like to emphasize my hips). I like how the pockets slump into relaxed folds but stick out enough that my hands easily land there.

I like that it’s full enough to be muy muy comfortable but narrow enough to look contemporary. It’s a tricky width to find, but a good one to hit! Pretty much the only change I’d make next time would be to experiment with wider elastic. I could also add a little length to the back panel, since it looks like the journey over my bum is hiking up the back hem a bit, but I probably won’t.

I tend not to evaluate myself with a level.

I also like that it’s free! This pattern was designed by Paper Theory, one of those super-spendy British indies, and it’s a great way to get that disposable-income look. It’s a solid pattern and the instruction booklet covers everything necessary. I just followed along like a good little listener. I sewed a straight size 16, finished the seams as directed, and even turned up the hem the recommended amount.

Oh! I did add one line of topstitching to the waistband though, because I’m a free spirit (whose elastic always twists)!  

The fabric is a linen/rayon blend in the color “Thyme”, and it’s very nearly not a color. Actually I was such a conformist when making this skirt I tried to find a dupe of the dark-olive linen used in the pattern sample (sidebar: when did we start calling olive “khaki”? Isn’t khaki the sandy-pants color that Seinfeld wore?), but this grey-green is actually pretty versatile (double sidebar: thyme is dark green! This should be called, like, wormwood! It’s more accurate, and also awesome!). I started with 2 yards of Telio Silky Noil Washed Viscose and was left with 14.5″ selvedge-to-selvedge. I’ve already made it into a…something. You’ll see. This blend wrinkles, but the wrinkles mostly fall out with wear.

The pockets, which are, broadly speaking, the whole dang point, are actually wider than the skirt panel below them. That’s why they wing out so reliably. They’re also understitched, though in my floppy substrate that doesn’t prevent the inside from making itself known…but discreetly.

I could try using a stiffer coordinating fabric for the pocket interior to emphasize the shape if I make another flow-y version. Might be fun!

Oh and! Because all the pieces are vertically symmetrical, I was able to open the digital file, split the biggest pieces, and then stack them in pairs, which meant printing this pattern only took a lithe and lovely 13 pieces of paper!   

If you like skirts and you’re in the mood for a straightforward, almost-mindless win with lots of wearability, I recommend this freebie. I can’t tell if I’m over-praising a simple make because I’m euphoric to be dis-infected, but hey, either the skirt or the lung capacity feels good!

By the way, I’m trying to get past my style block with a fun exercise: picturing a self-insert Mary Sue who happens to look exactly like me in fictionalized scenarios (giving an interview! Opening a witch bakery! Cutting a foe, in the Austen sense, not the “Butcher of” sense!) and looking at what she’s wearing. Is it wide stiff mid-thigh shorts? No? What, never?! Then why am I? The parallel real-world experience to this is catching my reflection in an uncontrolled surface (i.e., a plate glass window) and then recording my own reaction (“OH NO”).

More summer makes to come. Thanks everyone for your comfort, commiseration, and TV recs! Stay frosty! ❤

Pattern: Peppermint pocket skirt

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 16

Supplies: 2 yards of Telio Silky Noil Washed Viscose Linen Slub Thyme, $43.70; elastic, Sewfisticated, $0.99; thread from stash

Total time: 3.5 hours

Total cost: $44.69

It’s my blog, and I can cry if I want to…

I’m back from my England trip, which was straightforwardly bad. Unfortunately Professor Boyfriend tested positive for Covid on the morning of our first full day there. We’d travelled from separate locations, but since we’d spent the previous night in the same room, I also isolated for the remainder of the trip (with the exception of food-and-paracetamol quests), though I still wore all the fun vacation clothes I had packed; hopefully the occasional pharmacist occasionally appreciated them. Professor Boyfriend had to change his return ticket and extend his trip an extra week (between that and the second room so I could isolate separately, this terrible trip cost the earth!). I actually flew home on schedule and left him there (our original flight date was now the day Prof B.F. was allowed to go outside with a mask, and y’know, feed himself), and then *I* tested positive on my first morning back. By the way, I departed England on the 41°C Tuesday and returned home to a severe and prolonged American heat wave. My apartment, which I cannot morally leave, hit 91°F, which is almost impressive. Also, then my fridge broke.

That’s the moment where this became a comedy, in my opinion! Professor Boyfriend is going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. My groceries that I ordered for quarantine, especially the fancy ice cream I was using to soothe my loneliness and illness? Opposite of okay! But better it than us!

I’m a little dizzy and very very warm, but I really like blogging and I’ve got NOTHIN’ BUT TIME, so I had a look around my house for something I could amateurishly photograph and realized it was finally the season to share my beloved sleeve board. More accurately, my sleeve board cover, which is the only part I made.

A few words on the wood construction first, which are based on my memories of someone else’s experience. So have this salt grain. You can keep it.

Professor Boyfriend built the base without benefit of power tools. The curvy middle section is pine, I believe, or something pretty soft, but the base-base and the actual board part are hard maple. Hard maple is also known as rock maple, and it is ridiculously hard – he had to revise his plan to attach the three sections with screws, because the steel screws kept breaking, and switch instead to dowels and glue.

This wood was challenging to work with, but it hasn’t warped even with the repeated application of steam from my iron, and it doesn’t leak any resin or sap when heated. Also it’s so smooth and pretty and would never snag anything and I unscientifically believe it could stop a bullet.

I stupidly broke the middle section recently, but Professor Boyfriend mended it, what a guy!

I made the cover by tracing the finished surfboard-shaped-top onto medical bum paper and adding 2” seam allowance. I used that pattern piece to cut two layers, one from quilt batting and one from cotton canvas. I trimmed the batting layer to be a little smaller than the outer canvas, and stacked them wrong-sides-together (not that the batting has a wrong side, but you know what I mean), and afterwards treated them as one piece. I used the same cotton canvas to cut wide bias strips, which I joined and then sewed around the edge as a bias facing. This bias facing was intended to function as an elastic casing.

If I ever make another cover, I would do that differently. Folding around the tight curve of the ‘nose’ of the piece was hard but doable, but feeding the elastic through that area was memorably too difficult. I had to unpick some of the facing’s edgestitching so I could yank the elastic past the trouble point, and it’s still not altogether even.

Next time, I would add a separate casing made from extra-wide double-fold bias, essentially a bias binding instead of a bias facing. Ultimately, this worked, though.

And the benefit to sewing it this way was that I could trap short lengths of elastic neatly under the edgestitching. These little belts help the cover stay in place during use.

I used the same elastic for these as I did in the casing, and that elastic, you may recognize, is the scavenged straps of many bras! Even a so-so bra tends to yield pretty good elastic. Chop up your bras today! Leave no survivors!

If you like to sew shirts, a sleeve board is a joy in the morning. I can’t imagine flat-felling a sleeve seam without one now. Heck, it even improves wearing shirts. Professor Boyfriend often borrows this to iron, and he is not someone who routinely seeks entertainment in ultra-specific ironing. This is joyfully, conveniently, attractively fit-to-purpose!

I don’t know what the wood materials cost, because Professor Boyfriend made this as a gift, but the cover was free. I made it in January of 2021 and it still looks fresh. I’ve been known to iron non-sleeves on this board as well, if I don’t feel like hauling out the big one, but you’ll never prove it, copper! Anyway, I love it. 10/10.

I hope you’re all keeping well – be healthy, be cool! TV recommendations are actively solicited, by the way; I still have a few days of solitude (and heat, phwew) before I can rejoin society. And even better, when society can rejoin me, both in the person of Professor Boyfriend and also, hopefully, the miracle of refrigeration!

Pattern: I traced the wood thingie

Pattern cost: NA

Size: NA

Supplies: scraps of Cotton and Steel canvas, batting; thread, elastic from stash

Total time: 3 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Wrap Crop

It would be too bombastic to say I’ve gotten into drafting, but I have had fun experimenting with pattern manipulation lately. And when looking at the Peppermint pocket skirt pattern page, I got interested in the top that model wears. My foggy memories of their styling showed the skirt paired with the Peppermint wrap top, but that’s incorrect; actually, it’s this RTW wrap top, and it’s lovely and hemp-y and the RTW website also sells womb balm, which I saw a sale banner for but did not interrogate further (how do you get the balm onto the womb though?!).

Anyway, I considered following this clever how-to for a cropped wrap top. Actually, I did follow it – I took my measurements and drew out the traditional Sarah Kirsten Morning Glory top and this variation in Illustrator, but I changed my mind before printing. I might want to make one of those someday soon, but this time around I wanted sleeves.  

So I ended up at this youTube tutorial. I’m not here to dunk on free videos, but it’s pretty incomplete. For some reason I stopped looking after that though (satisficer!) and just made guesses about the parts she elides over – most importantly, I completely winged the shape of the armscyce. I ended up back at Sarah Kirsten after that and followed her sleeve drafting tutorial, which is terrific, by the way! I still lacked faith in my armscye curve, though, probably because I had drawn it based on what looked kinda normal and no actual, you know, data.

So then I downloaded the Peppermint wrap top and grafted on their armsyce (size E) as much as possible onto my smaller piece, added a little more ease to the body of my design because I was nervous that the Peppermint one in my size was so much larger, and shortened the sleeve cap to accommodate my shortened armscye curve. I also shortened the Peppermint sleeve to 6” and straightened the edges to make the sleeve wider. Then I added seam allowances, printed my pattern, and cut out the fabric.


If that’s a confusing sequence of events, it’s because I had no idea what was I doing. But I found this soft, not-too-light bone-colored cotton at Sewfisticated and paid $3.99 for one yard, so I figured I had learned all I could from theoreticals and might as well jump right in. Potential outcomes included:

The probable – this pattern/garment would comprehensively fail, but I’d learn something from it.

The possible – this pattern/garment would be unsuccessful, but in obvious ways that I could adjust the existing pattern to improve.

The improbable – this pattern/garment would work on the first try.

The impossible – two shirts.

Right off the bat, I spotted an error (own goal). When I had lowered the back armscye curve I failed to add that length back into the side seam, so the front was a healthy inch longer than the back, and there was already no long-ness to spare. I cut one more piece, a waistband/cuff-type piece for the back only, to make up for the missing length. This turned out to be a case of failing up. I didn’t have a clear plan for hemming the back because of the darts, and now I didn’t have to figure it out. And as a nice bonus the wrap ties cover the extra seam.

I also read the Peppermint wrap top instructions to see how they handled the side seam with a tie opening. I don’t know if it has an official name, but I’d call it like a self-finishing open seam? You press the seam allowances open, fold under the raw edges, and topstitch the folded edge through all layers. I applied this to both side seams, the sleeve seams (though not the armscye), and the shoulder seams, for practice and because I thought it was pretty!

I used self bias binding on the neck edge.

The ties are long rectangles folded in half hot-dog-style, with the seam rolled to the center of one side. Once again I didn’t have a clear plan to attach these, so I just kind of jammed them under a fold at the front piece edges to contain all the raw edges.

At a first try-on the wrap ties wouldn’t stay on the body of the shirt. They slipped under the back hem and the shirt stuck out instead. “Oh well what the hell” sang McWatt; and I threw on some rouleau loops.

You can tell at this point I expected the probable outcome, educational failure.

Actually, looking at these photos, I was surprised to see this top looks alright! It’s not the easy breezy womb balmy vision I saw above, but it’s fine. Wearable, even. But ultimately it’s not really to my taste. Having learned that, it’s not important to work this out, but it also has one mysterious issue: no matter how tightly I pull on the wrap ties, I can’t convince the fronts to tack to my body. Theories??

I’m trying to get comfortable with the higher rate of missteps that goes with a higher rate of experimentation. Growing pains, I hope!

Pattern: NA

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 37.75” bust, 32” waist

Supplies: 1 yard of bone cotton,$3.99, Sewfisticated; thread, $2.49, Sewfisticated

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $6.48