Eating my words / a new crop top

Hey, everybody! I ended up finishing my skirt and enjoyed THE CRAP out of myself at the wedding, which was held at a ranch in Mendocino County. In addition to attending the wedding, we stayed on the ranch for four days, doing everything from swimming, dancing, hefting around benches for the ceremony, running around the nearby small town, connecting with old friends and making some new ones. The wedding itself was a no-photography sort of affair, so I’ll try and get share pics of the finished skirt soon.


But let’s back up a bit, shall we, and take a look at a slightly older project?

A couple of weeks ago, I was completely and utterly fooled by a Burdastyle pattern. I take a foolish amount of pride in being adept at avoiding patterns that are only a couple of alterations away from my bodice sloper or patterns I already own. Not this time! A not-very-critical look reveals that this pattern is simply a dartless block with a yoke and horizontal seam lines.


Well, I do consistently lose my restraint when there’s a yoke in play. And after I finished softly berating myself and turned my attention to basting my garment for fitting, I noticed that the yoke had truly beautiful proportions. $5.99 for a gorgeous yoke shape doesn’t seem so terrible! | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

I did choose to baste-fit instead of making a muslin. I’ll do this when I’m pretty sure a pattern won’t have more than minor fit tweaks like adjusting the shoulder seam or taking in the sides. I’ve found that Burdastyle patterns are pretty good on my top half. Before baste-fitting, I added my usual 1/2″ square shoulder adjustment to the back only, and graded to one size smaller through the bust while keeping the shoulders and waist a larger size. I left 1″ of shoulder seam allowance in addition to my square shoulder adjustment, but I didn’t need it. | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

After fitting, I took additional ease from the bust – maybe 1.5″ total – grading to nothing at the hem and scooped the armholes.

I also skipped the shoulder wings and bound the armholes with bias binding I made. I love how they look on others, but they simply extend my already square and broad shoulders. | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

I used flat piping around the yoke only, skipping it on the tank pieces. The seam lines on the silver fabric stand on their own, you know?

This was mostly a stash project. I bought two yards of silver coated linen from Mood a few years ago for this dress and received something like four yards. Pretty sure it has some sneaky polyester in it. The yoke is the dull side of the fabric. I did buy some accent fabric for the flat piping. | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

I’ve worn this over top of light sweaters and my denim shift dress, and as a tank top over jeans or this (unblogged) black Gabriola below. I love it! I was a bit pissy when my husband likened it to a Star Trek alien costume, mid-construction – I think I was feeling insecure about all the shine and seam lines could look like an insect thorax. He got to roll his eyes when I showed him the final piece and proudly proclaimed that I did in fact feel like I was a TNG character, but in a good way. | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

In spite of slapping my forehead when I realized how simple this pattern was, I really like it and will probably use it again. And look what Sax Silverain did with print-mixing on hers! | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

Bossing myself

You may recognize this pattern – it’s Vogue 8926, and I sent it off to Sally for our Sew Bossy exchange. I was more than a little envious of her final piece and had meant to sew one up for myself ever since I laid eyes on hers! | Vogue 8926 | Vogue 8926

Based on my own fit quirks, I made the following adjustments to fit my broad/square shoulders and small bust:

  • small bust adjustment, removing 2″ total from the bust
  • square shoulder adjustment

I also lengthened the ties by nearly double and finished the sleeve hems by hand.

The fabric was a gift from Sanae and I made my own binding. I waffled between white and grey binding more than I’d care to admit. Grey won, as per usual! | Vogue 8926 detail

What I like, nay, love about this top is it’s a very simple sew (aside from two pivoted seams) with high style impact. I haven’t seen too many other patterns out there like this one and wouldn’t mind having one or two more of these in my wardrobe. Wouldn’t it be great in white as an alternative to a classic buttoned shirt? | Vogue 8926

I made this top about a month ago, before I cut myself off from any more non-wedding sewing. In a series of escalating (sewing) dares, I found myself making a bra/corset contraption for my sister. My sister possesses a similar figure to mine – broad upper back, smaller bust and rib cage – all of which make strapless designs creep towards the waist. After extensive shopping, all she could find were strapless bras that unflatteringly squeezed her back in order to stay up. I decided to create her undergarment as a time-saving device so we could continue fitting the bodice. I converted the dress bodice pattern, which is bustier-style, into a bra pattern and reduced the ease dramatically as I was using powernet.

As someone who is completely satisfied with bralettes, I was grateful for the bra-making craze that’s swept through the blogging community. I surprised myself by having a basic knowledge of the supplies – I must have absorbed that by osmosis! Big thanks to Cloth Habit’s fantastic bra-making sewalong, too. | bridal undergarment

There’s lots of things I would do differently now that I’ve tried my hand at it, like make it longer, lowering the bridge, using sheet foam instead of molded cups, etc, but I think it’s going to work for our purposes.

Next up, constructing the bodice. Wish me luck!

Something different: a two-piece dressy set

I’ve been working hard to focus on my sister’s wedding dress, but quite a few so-called palate cleanser projects have sneaked their way in. One was directly influenced by my sister’s dress – I’ll be attaching Sewaholic’s glorious Gabriola skirt pattern onto the bodice.

I sewed the skirt in muslin and couldn’t resist trying it on myself. I rarely wear skirts these days, but the instant I put it on, I fell hard for this design. I’d always admired it but just couldn’t imagine myself looking like, well, myself, in it. The muslin was convincing enough to lead me to believe that I should sew up a practice version in appropriately flowing fabric to use during bodice fittings that I could ultimately keep for myself. | Sewaholic Gabriola

Who was I to argue?

After combing the internet and local fabric shops for an interesting viscose print, I surprised myself by settling on a loud floral print. The color wasn’t quite what I’d hoped so I dyed over it with a lovely blue and used the wrong side. | Sewaholic Gabriola

There have been a lot of these gorgeous skirts shared on other blogs, so I’ll just give you my construction bullet points:

  • I changed the front waistband from a rectangle to a curve
  • I did a lapped zipper (stabilized by a silk organza strip) and made the button tab overlap longer
  • I wish I’d stabilized the front and back chevron panels because they distorted over time. The skirt is heavy in viscose and you can still see that those panels can’t fully support the weight of the skirt.
  • Even after grading down a size in the hips, I still had to take some extra width out – perhaps due to the distortion mentioned above
  • By reducing the flare at the bottom of the skirt by a few inches, I was able to sew my skirt on 2.5 yards of 55″ fabric instead of the recommended 3.5 yards.

How could I not put that extra yard to use in a matching top?

I used my sloper and my trusty ol’ Helen Joseph-Armstrong textbook and made a bias-cut cowl-neck top. I love how the dark floral motif looks like a big dramatic necklace. | cowl neck top based on sloper | cowl neck top based on sloper

I think this getup (and maybe even the skirt on its own?) is just a *smidge* too dressy for work so I’m eagerly awaiting the first opportunity to bust it out. Wearing yards of viscose from head to toe is like being swathed in a fluffy dream cloud – certainly something to look forward to. | Sewaholic Gabriola

My sewing recently has been quite practical – coat, jeans, shirts, blue, white, grey. Everything about this project took me by surprise… and I liked it.

Raglan progression

Like many, I’ve been taken with the raglan-sleeved sweatshirt trend. I had a vintage 1980s pattern in my stash, which turned out to be disastrously large through the armpits, chest and sleeves. (Every time I’m facing extensive pattern changes, there seems to be a McCall’s/Butterick/Vogue sale and a pattern that promises to save me from my fit issues.)

I bought McCall’s 6992 and tried it out using a thrifted jersey sheet. I used my hip size all around, but the bust came out huge. And my sister, bless her heart, tried to hide the wrinkles by pulling the shirt down before taking a picture. I felt like a cat with a coat on. | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

Here I am, trying to get that blouson feeling back. | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

And here’s the usual swayback scene. | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

For Version 2, I traced a smaller size up top graded to the larger one through the hips. I used some organic cotton French terry and honest-to-goodness RIBBING! And please enjoy a liberal dose of wrinkles, because I’ve been living and sleeping in this sweatshirt.

One element that wasn’t clear to me from my research or the pattern art is that the one-piece sleeve has a shoulder dart. At first I was irritated to sew a dart into knit fabric, but it really improves the shape. | McCall's 6992

Satisfied with the fit, I began working on what was my ultimate goal: a raglan-sleeved sweater-knit dress. The only initial change I made was extending the hem. I also underlined the front and back (with cotton-hemp jersey from a failed dye experiment) because the fabric was scratchy. It was supposedly a wool/acetate blend and felt a good deal cheaper / a lot less wooly than its price tag led me to believe. | McCall's 6992 dress

After basting together the pieces, I trimmed down the arm/side seam multiple times. I also added a hem band at the bottom and finished the neck and sleeve hems using – surprise! – this tutorial – which adapted quite nicely to my sweater knit. | McCall's 6992 dress

I hated every minute of sewing this fabric, but I like the dress quite a bit; it’s warm and easy to wear. There might be some room for improvement in the fit of the back raglan seams, but it’s comfortable. | McCall's 6992 dress

And speaking of raglans, my coat progress continues. I figured out the main problem with the back fit and added a whopping 3/4″ to the back shoulder seam. Everything fell into place! | Named Patterns Yona muslin

I still have some work to do on my lining pattern pieces, but I was starting to feel scattered and kind of hopeless I’d never get to start sewing with my real fabric. So, I’ve begun constructing the shell! I began with the back, just to get my bearings with the fabric and underlining on a simpler piece.

So the verdict after all this raglan-ing? I’m not sure the raglan is the best design for me, as my shoulders are supremely broad and square, but I appear to be riding this silhouette until the wheels fall off.

Isabecca tunic

Didn’t expect to see me back so soon, didja?


As I mentioned in this post, I re-visited the Rebecca Taylor pattern (Vogue 1367) to emulate an Isabel Marant tunic I’ve had a crush on for a few years. A super-stylish former coworker of mine has the shirt version, so I got to admire it in person a number of times. It only fanned the flames of inspiration!


I adapted the pattern in the following ways:

  • Added 8″ to the front and back pieces below the yoke
  • Made separate pieces for the curved hems, cutting two of each to create hem facings
  • Split the front yoke into two pieces
  • Added flat-piping to the front and back yoke seams to emulate the original’s raglan sleeves
  • Added trim down the front


The trim and flat-piping I used were actually precisely-cut pieces of printed quilting cotton. I searched high and low for the right trim, ribbon, whatever, with no luck! Most of my wardrobe is quite unembellished, and it’s highly possible I didn’t know where to look. | Vogue 1367 modified tunic


Even though the design is printed and not woven like I was hoping, I love the final effect.


The main fabric was a serendipitous acquisition. I like the cruise the thrift store for fabric, and came across a lovely lightweight linen! It was an unpalatable-to-me brownish-creamish color, but at $5ish for over 2 yards, I swooped it up. I dyed over it with a blue-ish black. Weirdly, it didn’t get much darker, but it cooled off the offending warm tones.


The curved hems are quite deep, which makes this more of a tunic than a dress. I just couldn’t force my sweaty little legs into leggings when my sister and I were taking pictures!


I was surprised by the broad back of the sleeveless version I made, but in making this version, I learned that it’s because these sleeves are very upright. (Is that the right word for it? They are angled parallel to the side seams.) They look quite voluminous in the pattern photography, but in real life they’re fairly fitted at the top with no gathering. I love a poufy sleeve and would add some gathers at the top if I made this pattern again.



I started this project shortly after my sleeveless version and finished it over a month. It’s not a complicated project, but I sewed slowly and took my time making design decisions. I tend to have plain tastes, so I can easily talk myself out of extra details or modifications. Since I was inspired by someone else’s design, however, it was fun to study and mimic the details as closely as I could.

I’d actually hoped to make this tunic during Shield Maiden March but wasn’t able to secure supplies or sort out patterns and modifications in a timely manner – basically, I had nothing I needed to make it happen! Consider this my (6-month late) submission, please.

Little linen outfit

Last year, Kelly made the Liesl & Co Everday Skirt. Since then, I’ve engaged in a monthly debate with myself – buy the pattern or try to approximate it on my own? “It’s a gathered skirt with an elastic waistband in the back – how hard could it be?” would be countered with “Do you really want to spend the time measuring out rectangles and tracing pocket facings?” The price seemed a bit high for the pattern. Finally, Katie sewed up her version and her verdict of “I was tempted to go the self-draft route for my dream skirt, but this pattern is basically it” pushed me over the edge. | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt


I haven’t been sorry. There are a lot of things to like about this skirt design: the flat side panels, back elastic waistband, nice pocket placement all come to mind. I’m not even a skirt person, but I love this one. And from a logistical standpoint, I was impressed. The PDF downloads directly from a link in your email receipt, there’s a print at shop version included and the print layout is delightfully lean. This was easily my best experience with a PDF pattern to date.

I made a test skirt in my kimono fabric and decided to remove some width from the back panel. I wanted it the waistband at my natural waist, and the shortness of the back elastic I needed made the back panel very gathered and pretty heavy. It’s still more gathered than the front, so if I make this a third time, I’ll play around with shortening the front waistband to lengthen the back out. After my trial, I knew I wanted to make it in a special piece of linen and bought a straight-up new piece of fabric for the occasion. | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

I bought 1.5 yards of 60″ wide linen (the pattern suggests 1.75) but I miraculously had enough to create a cropped tank AND join Sophie’s super fun two-piece party! | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

Unlike the skirt, the top is actually self-drafted. I started working on a bodice block last winter, with beyond-generous help from Maddie, who shared her pattern-making knowledge and gently let me know that my neck couldn’t possibly be as small as I’d measured it to be, the fit expertise of my friend Casey, and Nathan, who helped me take endless rounds of measurements while I shivered convulsively in a chalked-up bathing suit. I worked on it in spurts and finally translated it onto tagboard last month. From there, I consulted Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design to make a flared dartless tank and borrowed the Wiksten tank neckline. I wanted it to be boxy to emphasize the fitted skirt waist. | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

Victory! It fits!

Someday soon, I’ll share how weird my block looks. My back and front bodice pieces don’t even look like they belong together… unlike this top and skirt! | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

I’ll be back in a few days on the Sewcialist blog as I’m helping out with the September challenge. Get ready to bust through your scraps during SCRAPTEMBER (yep, I had to go there). Until then, I leave you with this: | self-drafted top and Liesl & Co Everyday skirt

Solar-Lunar panels

I’ve been having a major Rebecca Taylor moment. Now there’s a designer who knows her way around both yokes and gathers. I bought one of her newer Vogue patterns, 1367, and wanted to try a sleeveless wearable muslin before using it to mimic an Isabel Marant design I’ve been taken with for a few years. | Vogue 1367

The yoke is three different pieces (front, back, and shoulders), which affords some opportunity for fun piecing.

I chose coated metallic linen for the front and back (fabric last seen here) with textured hot pink silk shoulders (fabric from SCRAP). The gathered bodice fabric is an organic-cotton hemp scrap left over from a quilt for my new nephew. | Vogue 1367

The instructions suggest sewing the neck binding to the inside and turning it out and top-stitching. Maybe this is for aesthetic reasons, but it sounded like a recipe for a sloppy-looking finish! I did the opposite. I did follow the top-stitching instructions, however. | Vogue 1367

I also bound the armholes with 3/8″ SA after shaving off 1/4″ (since they were designed for sleeves and the corners meet up with the sleeves quite precisely.) | Vogue 1367

You’ll have to take my word that the back hemline is also curved. This is what happens when you put a native Washingtonian in a hot car without AC and fully functioning windows.

Also, the back yoke seem was astoundingly wide, but – as I learned later – it’s probably because of the sharp angle of how the sleeve meets the bodice. | Vogue 1367

I suppose it goes without saying that I love this design. I try to buy patterns that are unique, and alter patterns I’ve already fitted to try new styles, but my weakness for yokes and gathers got the better of me. I probably could have hacked the Mathilde pattern to get this look, but since I’ve been back at a desk job, my sewing hours feel more precious. Spending a few dollars instead of hours sounded appealing.

And then there’s the Rebecca Taylor factor… I’m just really into her right now. Do you have a designer crush?


Cloudy Polly and the drama pants

I found myself with a hankering to replace my dissatisfying black pants during May. I found them at the thrift store a few years ago, and never loved them even after slimming the leg and cropping the hem but never hated them enough to stop wearing them when jeans wouldn’t do.

And, I’d always meant to use my altered-beyond-recognition Burda 7250 pants pattern, and the perfect fabric (or so I thought…) fell into my hands at Our Fabric Stash recently – black linen-rayon with a nice light-to-middle weight and drape. | pleated pants and Polly top


These were also the pants I used on my waistband finish tutorial. I love how they turned out, but they were giving me grief from the moment I finished the tutorial. Part of it was the unpredictable fabric – there’s quite a bit of stretch I hadn’t anticipated when I’d bought it, and the waistband was dramatically wider. I usually baste the outer waistband to the pants, staystitching the top, to make sure there are no surprises. I felt overly confident using a pattern I’d worked with before and stitched/understitched my outer and inner waistbands together. Taking apart and altering a finished waistband is the pits. And though it’s much better, the problem wasn’t completely solved by taking excess out of the waistband; the fabric grows quite a bit during the day. | pleated pants and Polly top


The silver lining to all this unpcking was that in doing so, I realized I’d only basted the outseams together! I’m glad I caught them before a tearaway pants moment occurred.

Oh, and I put in single-welt pockets in the back and forgot to take pics of them! I referred to Melanie’s wonderful tutorial again. I slip-stitched the welts closed as I never use back pockets for anything other than breaking up an expanse of rump. | pleated pants and Polly top

I love these pants (in spite of? because of?) the struggles and I’m not done with this pattern by a long shot.


I also made another BHL Polly top! I scored this fantastic cloud-printed quilting cotton at – where else – Our Fabric Stash. One of my good friends, Jen, is getting interested in sewing garments, and we chose the Polly top as her first project. Of course, I had to be companionable and sew one up, too. | BHL Polly tops


This time around, I ditched the cap sleeves I’d made as part of my tiger costume. I revisited the fit, and concluded that I needed more length through the upper chest. I added 1/2″ to the pattern. I did a square shoulder adjustment as before, but added 3/8″ on the outside rather than subtracting it from the inside. Jen shortened her straps a bit after trying it on. I think this picture is a pretty good indication of how long I must be through the chest. | pleated pants and Polly top

It’s much more comfortable than my other version, but some pesky wrinkles crept in next to the armpits. (The wrinkles at the bottom were from wearing this top two days in a row.) It’s not too tight anywhere – any wrinkle-readers out there know what might have caused them? | pleated pants and Polly top

And I think it’s really time I started making swayback adjustments. I’ve been fighting this one for a long time. Any favorite tutorials out there? Or maybe I’ll just keep my back curved forward for now… | pleated pants and Polly top

Yokes and gathers, part II

Aloha! I’m warming my bones and porcelain skin in beautiful Kauai this week, and the conditions were perfect for a second installation of Yokes & Gathers. This pattern is Vogue 1387, a new-ish Rebecca Taylor design, and I just love the design lines. | Vogue 1387

I have the front pinned right now, and plan to stitch it once I find exactly the right spot. I think it’s a bit high in the photos. My bust point is pretty low, and the bodice still gapes too far. I love the wrap look, but am considering another version with a v-neck instead. | Vogue 1387

I found this lovely (second-hand!) floral rayon at – where else? – Our Fabric Stash when Cindy came to town last month. It was my second blogger meetup (the first being coffee with the delightful Sanae) and it was loads of fun! Cindy was as funny and cool as you might expect from her blog, and it was great to meet new Seattlite, Amy from Sew Well, who had Baby Brynn with her and is one of the most laid-back new moms I’ve ever witnessed. Meris (who I already knew was awesome because we went to college together) joined in for brunch. I really enjoyed how our conversations meandered from fabric to science to costumes and corsets. | Vogue 1387

Anyway – I’d like to say a couple more things about this (very un-corset-like) garment. First of all, if you too are influenced by the siren song of yokes and gathers to make this pattern, pick your size based on your bust measurement – the waist and hips are voluminous. I made a wearable muslin first based on my waist and hip measurements, and it was very large through the bust and even the shoulders. I went down a size for this version, and it’s perfect.

Second, I’m pretty sure there’s an error in the instructions. Vogue says to make buttonholes only on the right side of the wrap and make a drawstring casing by folding up the waist seam allowance. I’ve gone over this in my head more times than I care to admit, and I’m almost positive the drawstring would shoot out the side of the wrap as you tried to pull it through. I doubted myself on the wearable muslin, so I tried it Vogue’s way on this version and I just can’t imagine a way it would work.  Next time, I’ll make the buttonholes through both wrap pieces after I’ve basted them together.

Lastly, after hearing Erica B. had lengthened the bodice of her version by 1″, I followed suit and the waist hits in the right spot. (Whenever I read that someone else lengthened a bodice, I just do it without question. I’m 5’8″, but I have the legs of someone who’s 5’5″. Does that give me the torso of someone who’s 5’11”?) | Vogue 1387

It’s been utterly luxurious to field-test this top in a suitable climate. There are some aspects of home that I miss, however; on the top of my list is definitely being able to dispose of food waste properly. It’s been driving me crazy to put kale stems and banana peels straight into the trash! I know Seattle is in a bit of a bubble when it comes to recycling and composting food waste. It’s such an easy way to reduce waste going into landfills. I’m spoiled! (Also, I miss Orson, our kitty.) But I’ll be back in Seattle before I know it, composting my food scraps, hanging out with Orson, and wishing I were still in Kauai!

Yokes and gathers, part I

There are some design features that I’m just a sucker for. They may fall in or out of favor with prevailing trends, but I’ll seek them out. Yokes are one and gathers are the other, and providence help me if a pattern has both.

Recently, two (!) such patterns crossed my sewing table. The first and more successful one is Simplicity 3964. I have searched high and low for this out-of-print pattern on and off for a few years with very little luck until 1. I finally found a size-too-small version on Etsy that I bought anyway and 2. shortly after, I won the right-sized version from Philippa’s amazingly generous Sew Grateful giveaway. (Thank you again, Philippa!) | Simplicity 3964

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I started tracing and sewing the instant it was delivered… | Simplicity 3964

I used an embroidered white cotton from Our Fabric Stash for the body and sleeves, and some plain white cotton lined with the embroidered fabric for the inset and yoke pieces. Both fabrics are pretty rumply, but I don’t mind it on this top. | Simplicity 3964

I needed the length of the larger size through the shoulders, but had to take out quite a bit of ease at the top of the side seams. There is still quite a bit of ease in the back, even though the bust is pretty fitted now. | Simplicity 3964

You can see the back ease in action as I kick somebody’s emptied vodka bottle out of the frame. Thanks for the action shot, Nathan! (Semi-related side note: I’m sure you all saw, but I laughed HEARTILY at Katy & Laney’s 1st anniversary blooper reel.) | Simplicity 3964

The back is closed by ties, but it looks like even my gigantic dome could fit through the neck opening. The visual break provided by the ties is kind of nice, though. | Simplicity 3964

I took my time on the inset point, and sewed one side of it at a time instead of pivoting. I think this made a world of difference. I love this design, and it looks just as I would have hoped. Even though it’s distinctive, I plan on making a tunic or dress length version.

Stay tuned for Part II! And now I must take a poll; what design features do you love beyond reason or trends? Have they stayed the same through the years?