Kiss A Wookie

Professor Boyfriend isn’t usually a scoundrel, but in the year 2015 he had an excuse to dress like one. This was before our current Star Wars saturation (how many series about morose beardy men mumbling lawlessly around the galaxy do we need?? Though Prof. B.F. loved Andor, so YMMV), when it was hopeful, nay reasonable, to show up to a trilogy premiere wearing a jacket inspired by whatshisface, you know, that lawless grumbly guy. Well, these space operas have a type.

I’m crossing my fingers for the day when there’s a selection of nice, tailored, men’s jacket patterns to choose from, but so far I’ve found few and in 2015? None. So this jacket was actually based off the Colette Negroni! With the exception of a lot more pockets, it’s simpler than the initial pattern; no closures, a band instead of a collar, and sleeves that are merely turned and hemmed instead of vented and cuffed. I straightened the hem, kept the back yoke, and added a front yoke that serves no purpose other than referencing Han Solo’s costume.

Speaking of reference, I don’t remember where I found it, but I assume it was somewhere like this! There’s no shortage of Star Wars support materials!

I used 10 ounce navy duck canvas to recreate this casual Bespin topper, most likely from before b. it stopped existing and a. I learned it was owned by Amazon and therefore embargoed (though I will still go into a Whole Foods and eat their free cheese when available. Justice!!). Cotton canvas is durable, cheap, and easy to sew – not very warm, but a lining is always an option. I wanted something sturdy to feel more like outerwear but also light enough to fold easily into the gusseted pockets.

These were the first cargo pockets I sewed, long before the Kelly anorak (for example). I followed this tutorial, just modifying the sizes based on pictures of the original piece. The tutorial is as clear as can be, and cargo pockets are a useful sewing skill to try for anyone who’s bracing for the ongoing 90s fashion comeback. The finished pockets look pretty good, though I say so who shouldn’t, but the extra-thick top edges of the pocket openings make the pocket flaps curl at the corners. Even a hot iron can’t convince them to get flat and stay flat. More interfacing required, perhaps?

Meanwhile, the sleeve hosts a patch pocket instead of a cargo pocket, and its flap sits neatly (hold for amateur sleeve cap easing, please).

I omitted one pocket visible on Han Solo’s costume – the wide flapped pocket on the jacket’s middle back. I believe this sort of pocket, in its original state, was meant to hold an umbrella when shooting? Unless that fact was a spider baby dream, which is certainly possible. In any case, it didn’t look comfortable to wear, so we skipped it!  

I took this photo to show how simple the finishes were – folding a narrow hem at center fronts first, and a wider hem at the bottom afterwards, all straight lines. But it also revealed the fact that the pockets aren’t square to the jacket edges! I can be a fussbudget, but I don’t notice this hinky angle when the jacket is in use, so I graciously pardon myself! And then look away quickly!!

All the internal seams are French seamed; the yokes, shoulders, and armscyes are also topstitched (sort of a mock flat-felled seam). I *believe* the neckband is essentially a cuff – two stacked rectangles cut on the straight grain – but it’s also possible I cut two curved pieces based on the Grainline Archer collar stand (that would have been the only collared shirt pattern I owned at the time; the Negroni has a camp collar). The wide-set pleats under the back yoke are pure Negroni, though!

This was an unusual early success for me. There’s not many things I sewed in 2015 that I still feel okay about, and while this isn’t perfect – wonky band collar topstitching, ahem – I actually like it as an everyday wearable jacket. Possibly because of the sedate color/workaday fabric (and possibly because it’s not paired with a chef shirt and stirrup pants), it doesn’t read as too costume-y. Though Professor Boyfriend can still recreate iconic action poses in it!


Because of the collage/trash-diving elements of the original films’ production, it’s probable the Star Wars costume – costumer? Costume team? – just grabbed a jacket somewhere, another reason it might function well in a realistic wardrobe. I think it stylistically suits a smuggler character, being full of pockets, and it turns out to be useful for actual smuggling, too – by which I mean bringing outside candy into the movie theater!

If you share my opinion that Professor Boyfriend looks dashing here, just imagine how happy you’d be to see him if every one of those pockets was filled with boxes of Sno-Caps!

Pattern: Colette Negroni

Pattern cost: long time ago

Size: M

Supplies: 10 ounce navy duck canvas

Total time: far far away

Total cost: 2,000 credits with the promise of an additional 15,000 upon safe arrival at Alderaan

Sassy & Classy

We’re preparing for a baby minimally, mostly sourcing from hand-me-downs and the Buy Nothing, so we’re not exactly aiming for an aesthetic experience. But when it came time to fill in the gaps with some shopping I was surprised to discover that not only were so many baby products useless tat (which I expected), but that they were ugly, useless tat. Things I truly don’t understand: why is the surface design so predictable and generic? Why wouldn’t I want jewel tones and deep or dark colors? Why is so much baby stuff just plain boring? I have to look at it too! So, I buckled and sewed a couple things.

Definitely not clothes – I’m not really interested in kids’ clothes, with the exception of Megan Nielsen’s children’s Book Week costumes, which I hope she keeps making and sharing for a hundred years. But many people asked “So are you going to make baby clothes?” to which my answer was NAH, I’m going to make more me clothes, same as ever, as soon as the me in question settles down a bit size-wise – but I will make a few items of use/organization. First among these, lightweight sleep sacks.

I can’t sleep uncovered and it’s possible the baby won’t either, so I prepared for the spring/summer (i.e. the first few months of their life) with two versions of one design. It’s the Small Dreams Factory sleeping bag. I used the free pattern pieces though not the directions. And actually I resized the pattern too – I printed it at 96%, and then shortened it a further 2.5” because that puppy looked enormous. My top priority (at the advice of my delightful midwife) was sewing a sack with a zipper that opens from the bottom. That didn’t require any pattern piece adjustment, I just had to nudge myself to remember!

First up: my sassy sack. This was an opportunity to pick colors, prints, and combos I was unlikely to have used otherwise! I didn’t pay enough attention when cutting and I got some jarring almost-doubling right in center front, but I don’t think that’s the main takeaway. Was I aiming for the seventies? I was not. Did I hit it smack on the money? Boy did I!

As I understand it, the buttoned over-the-shoulder flaps are for getting the baby in and out more easily, while the buttoned front tab is to keep the zipper pull away from their skin (and later, their grasp). The upside-down zipper installation may have made the front tab unnecessary but this was my chance to use goofy little flower buttons and I was taking it at the flood! I sewed the buttons on, then interfaced over the sewing, then sewed them on again through the interfacing too. No choking, please.

I added a second layer of cotton to the curved tab ends to reinforce the button holes, a last-minute addition when I realized I hadn’t made accommodation for interfacing there. The button interfacing, however, is just hanging out fancy-free.

Otherwise, this bag is neat and tidy, with nothing scratchy or snaggy inside.

I added a shield behind the zipper and bound all the seams, plus the edges. I’m really pretty pleased with that binding!

And as a bonus, I tucked in a little selvedge tag. I’m not saying I’d buy a fabric just to get my mitts on the selvedge, but sometimes it’s tempting.

Secondly: my classy sack. I wanted to try refining the design as a fully-lined, no-binding-necessary sleepsack, because while I loved the finished look it certainly took a minute. This edition is made out of a pair of well-used linen pillowcases. We recently replaced our duvet cover because it was basically de-cohering; you’ll be seeing more projects made from this linen at some point. But just the pillowcases yielded the perfect amount of fabric for a fully lined sleep sack, provided I wasn’t too fussy about stuff like fading, which I wasn’t.

I actually learned a lot about how to sequence the bag lining from sewing waistcoats this past winter. I assembled the fronts, except for the long curved outer edge, then sandwiched the fronts between the two backs right-sides-together. Then I sewed the entire perimeter of the backs except for a little opening for turning, turned it right-sides out, and zip zap zooey, it’s a finished bag.

The curved ends of the over-the-shoulder tabs are less than perfect. I allowed myself to adjust them one time, and then considered it necessary practice in lowering my standards. If someone is going to pee on something I sew, it is not a good use of my time and energy to noodle endlessly on one tiny curve, let alone two.

Though I wish, wish, wish, I had made the zipper shield extra-long, long enough to meet the bottom edge of the sack. This separating zipper is wider than the one I used for the quilting cotton bag, so my initial plan – to sew each front as a separate unit first, and join them under the zipper later – proved misguided. A lengthened, pieced shield and a little topstitching to fix it in place bridged the gap nicely. But I could have skipped an unnecessary seam! Alas!!

This also got the sturdy button treatment, this time with ~classy~ flower buttons. I like a motif!

We’ll see if these get any use – I’m frankly skeptical that babies need much of anything, but these were fun to sew and I had a good time shopping uncharacteristic quilting cottons. And if they somehow prove essential I can make more, in yet wilder combinations!

Just think of the selvedges! What an excellent reason to add a entire person to the world!!

Pattern: Small Dreams Factory sleeping bag

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: printed at 96%, shortened 2.5”

Supplies: 1 yard of Ruby Star Clippings in Honey, 1/4 yard Ruby Star Grid in Soft Blue, Gather Here, $16.60; zipper, 3 buttons, Gather Here, $4.12/2 linen pillowcases, from stash; 16″ separating zipper, Sewfisticated; 3 1/2″ buttons, Gather Here; thread, Michael’s, $6.59

Total time: 7 hours/3.25 hours

Total cost: $20.72/$6.59

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

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

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

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

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 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

Tiger Archer

Today we are going way, way back in time, all the way back to the dawn of sewing (kidding, but I did buy this pattern in 2013). You can probably tell from the date that it’s a Grainline Archer! I don’t have any specific notes on this shirt since it’s at least 6 years old, possibly 8, but it’s made from pre-rift Cotton and Steel quilting cotton and despite the kind of crunchy fit and my not-so-hot sewing I use it plenty.

I actually remember the fabric provenance pretty clearly – I bought some for pockets for Professor Boyfriend’s pants, fell in love and decided it MUST be a shirt (mine), but my local Gather Here had sold out in the meantime, so I called my mom and she found some in her local, Ryco’s (which is an awesome place but closing at the end of this year when the owner retires, unless someone wants to buy the business, which one of you should. Go do that now, and then come back here). The buttons were from JP Knit and Stitch before it was online-only. This shirt is a time capsule shirt!

Quilting cotton isn’t the most comfy-cozy fabric to wear, but it’s hard to argue with chartreuse tigers. A quick Google reveals the Archer has been made in a ton of different fabrics – and heck, everyone seems to have made at least one.

In thinking about why the Archer blew up so quickly, I have two theories. One is that it was the first buttoned shirt pattern to offer exceptional support (which is why I bought it). My second is that, for the sizes available, it fits accurately and predictably. The deliberately loose fit helps, I’m sure; my pattern is graded from a 6 bust (!!) to a 12 hip, and it fits fine now, and was presumably fine way back when, or it wouldn’t have lasted this long. That’s flexible.

The sewalong and the easy fit are both awesome building blocks for a ‘beginner’ pattern, but looking back now with all my greybeardy wisdom, the Archer doesn’t always use the easiest techniques. Most notable is probably the collar stand construction, but the technique I hate with oh such hatred is the bias bound plackets.

It’s possible that you, dear reader, find them easier than a traditional sleeve placket, but I big-time don’t. Either way you’re cutting into the sleeve piece, but when using a binding, the pieces of fabric are so much more fiddly and the margin for error is smaller. And they’re stupid and flimsy and tiny and pointless and also I did them wrong.

You might notice the lack of buttons and buttonholes on the cuff. That’s because even my beginner eyes were filled with so much blergh at the sight of this placket that I decided this shirt would only be worn with the sleeves rolled, forever, and I took steps to ensure that.

I moved the proposed cuff button to the sleeve and added a little button strap (it’s actually a bit longish, since it begins and ends where the button is stitched). I also sewed everything with French seams despite that ½” seam allowance. A ½” sa is for nobody. Nobody wants that. Give me liberty 5/8” or give me the other thing 3/8”.   

This is another shirt I wear on a perma-tucked basis, but the hem has a perfectly nice curve, which I feel proud of wee beginner Lia for handling well (even if my topstitching is a bit hideous, partly because my stitch length on this whole shirt was bonkers short – why did I sew everything with like a 1.5 length stitch?!).

You don’t need my extremely lukewarm take, but the Archer is an approachable shirt with mostly-classic details – a button band, a lined yoke and a pleat at the back, PORS (Pockets of Respectable Size). A history of indie patterns would be sure to include it (I know it’s the first PDF pattern I ever bought!). Just, for the love of Mike, use a tower placket. Any tower placket will do.

Not too much else to say about this, except a few years ago I wore it to a book signing by beloved childhood author Tamora Pierce in order to bait her into saying she liked my shirt, AND IT WORKED.

I can never get rid of this now. It’s Alanna-approved.

Pattern: Grainline Archer shirt

Pattern cost: nowadays, $16 minimum

Size: 6 bust, 12 hip

Supplies: unknown quantity of quilting cotton in two lengths, which my mom bought most of, Gather Here & Ryco’s

Total time: So unknown

Total cost: So so very unknown


This handsome sonofagun is back and putting my own plain-Jane pajamas to shame! Professor Boyfriend spent most of his twenties wearing variations on mud color, and then one day this wonderfully be-catted fellow just sprang into being and now I’m a peahen. I’m the opposite of complaining!

This is more of a lounge set than strictly pajamas, and it was unplanned. Prof. B.F. picked this sensational leopards-print (as opposed to leopard-print, singular) cotton for a casual summer button-up, but it had been a while since I’d sewn something for him and I couldn’t remember the right yardage, so we got nervous and overbought. After cutting and sewing the shirt I still had about a yard left from the original 2 ¾ yards and I broached the idea of matching shorts.

Backstory, I’ve been hinting about coordinated sets since seeing those made by Emma of Emma’s Atelier (most recently, this one) but Professor Boyfriend wasn’t biting so I pitched these as “cotton sleep shorts”. Prof. B.F. is not a wide guy, but 1 yard of 45” wide fabric wasn’t going to make full-length shorts with all the fixings. I Googled around for free woven boxer patterns but modifying his Jeds pattern seemed easier than printing and assembling an unknown quantity. I was pushing these as pajamas, so it didn’t need a fly opening, and I didn’t have enough fabric for slash pockets, so these were really as simple as could be.

I blended the front pocket into the front leg, and the back yoke into the back leg. I abbreviated both inseams to a 4” finished length and straightened the hem extensions. A quick walking of the seamlines to confirm everything would match, and badda boom, pattern pieces. However, at this point courage failed me and I decided I needed more ease. I retook his measurements and those of the flat pieces; his widest point was 38”, and the pattern was 35”, so I freaked out and added 4” of ease by splitting the front and back legs vertically and adding 1” of width to each.

I now think I measured him wrong, because his commercial pants size is a 34” or 35” waist, and he probably could have wiggled in and out of these without me adding anything. I’m pretty annoyed with myself because I could have used the fabric more efficiently (often a point of pride). I might go back and remove some of that excess, even though that essentially means disassembling 75% of the shorts, just to prove that I can do math.

The waistband is a big old folded rectangle with elastic threaded through it. I learned my lessons from my own PJs and made the casing’s finished width just a smidge larger than necessary. I couldn’t cut it continuously, but I could match the seams with the short’s side seams. I left a bit of each of the short edges of the waistband unsewn so I could attach the whole waistband before adding elastic.

I left this opening on both sides as part of my cunning plan to reach in and untwist the elastic as necessary, but of course this meant the elastic went in without a fuss, so I just had two short seams to hand-sew closed. Which I did…NOT. Hey! It’s ongoingly adjustable!   

The shirt is Professor Boyfriend’s usual short-sleeved Fairfield. When I handed it to him he said “Wow! You pattern-matched across the button placket!” because he is a nice person who pays attention and because DID I EVER. In a stable fabric with a largish repeat like this quilting cotton, it was a straightforward pleasure.

Nothing really to add about this pattern, except that I’ve officially converted to French-seaming the armscyes instead of flat-felling them. I might tweak the sleeve cap next time for a narrower sleeve, but that would be harder to sew. I’ll keep yah posted.

So after this shirt and the matching ‘sleep shorts’ were finished, I convinced Professor Boyfriend to try them on together, and while he originally described them as “very cool pajamas” he might be warming up to the idea of this being an outside-the-house outfit (the shirt has been in public, but the combination hasn’t).  The shorts don’t have any pockets, but I have just enough scrap left to add one bum pocket, and if you can carry your keys you can leave the house, right? I’d want to narrow the legs a bit first to make the bottoms a little less casual, but personally, I think the world is ready. I probably won’t be able to talk him all the way into a romphim, but a set is excellent progress!

And I think he looks meowvelous!

(Forgive me.)

Pattern: Thread Theory Jedediah pants and Thread Theory Fairfield Shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: ??? waist = 38.5″ inches stretched, and M

Supplies: 2.75 yards of Leopard in Jungle cotton, $33.00, Gather Here; buttons, Gather Here, $5.10; thread, elastic from stash

Total time: 2 and 5 hours

Total cost: $38.10