Megan Nielsen Dash: A white denim dream come true

No, that isn’t a typo. I am aware that Megan Nielsen’s two mega popular jeans patterns are Dawn and Ash. And yes, I combined them to make my white denim dreams come true. Allow me to explain the origin of Dash.

White denim is scary. Not only due to the implied potential for catastrophe brought on by spills and leaks, but white denim jeans can be brutally unforgiving in what they reveal of the wearer. You know what I mean. All of that said, the unattainable nature of the perfect white jeans has only elevated their desirability. Wouldn’t you agree? Your favorite pairs are pinned endlessly and saved to Instagram. Only you aren’t sure if they’d look as good on you as they do on the model. And you’d really love to customize them to suit you better, but what fabric would you use? And honestly, are they practical for your lifestyle, that doubtful voice mocks you.

My inspiration photo hung out in the back of my mind for about a year when I stumbled upon a bolt of 10oz white bull denim at Jo-Ann. I knew bull denim was being widely used for non-stretch pants patterns but seeing it in person really helped me to visualize my plans. I pictured the thick, structured material hugging my dimply thighs and I was encouraged. This can hold me in, I thought. I brought it home and began to plot.


I had in my mind a cropped flare version from Megan Nielsen to match my inspiration but I had confused the option for Ash (stretch) as one for Dawn (non-stretch). Fortunately I had both patterns on hand already and was easily able to graft on the Ash legs to my adjusted Dawn pattern, which I began a couple of inches above the knee.

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As far as adjustments go, I started with a straight size 10 and added a one inch full thigh adjustment, same as on my Ash jeans. I did not add any extra seam allowance, and in the end let out the hip and thigh area by decreasing my seam allowance to about 3/8”. The fit is tight, but good I think and while the denim is non-stretch it does give some. When they were finished I enjoyed some major 1989 flashbacks as I squatted and wriggled around to loosen up the fit. That’s the way we used to do it before all this spandex entered our world, and somehow we made the best of it, eh?

My pocket lining is a very thin cotton lawn in pale peach and I had a little fun with a bright orange YKK zipper from my stash. I think the nude-ish pocket lining was a perfect fit as I also prefer nude undergarments to white for a better blend. They don’t show through at all from what I can tell. The hardware is from Threadbare Fabrics in the color brass. I went with a raw hem a-la inspriation photo and at the last minute did narrow that flare for a more subtle look.

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I can’t not mention the top I’m wearing here: the Grainline Hadley in Dotted Rayon Cotton Voile from Blackbird Fabrics. I’ve had this pattern forever but kept lagging in making it. I knew I needed to raise that V neck and it turned out to be super easy. I make a size 6 which is what I usually go for with Grainline, but it felt really tight around the armscye so I scooped into it a bit to give me some extra room. I also hacked off about 3 inches from the length and I find it to be the perfect crop for short-waisted me. I’m not 100% sold on this silhouette for me, but a long necklace does weigh down the front a bit to keep it from looking maternity, and I do think it pairs super cute with my jeans. I took a few shots to explain raising the neckline, with some bare-bones instructions. You’re smart, you’ll get it ;)

1. Cut out the center front section

1. Cut out the center front section

2. Slide up the cut section the desired number of inches

2. Slide up the cut section the desired number of inches

3. Tape in place and add extra paper to fill in the gap.

3. Tape in place and add extra paper to fill in the gap.

4. Use a dressmakers curve to smooth out the new line.

4. Use a dressmakers curve to smooth out the new line.

Wannabe Fashion Jackson

Wannabe Fashion Jackson

I’m pretty happy with the result, and clean or dirty I’ll wear them with pride.

xo April

Here Comes the Sun: a fresh Spring look with IndieSew

The projects that follow were made in collaboration with Indiesew.  The blouse fabric and jeans pattern were provided by Indiesew, however all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I write, my head in a perpetual fog brought on by too many days without sun.  This California girl is a true sunflower, and when she begins to wilt must find a way to brighten her view. Today this great new outfit is the golden remedy to my current blues.

The top is a modified Hey June Key Largo in striped goldenrod rayon crepe from Indiesew.  Choosing this fabric was a no-brainer.  It practically chose me. Perfectly drapey and lightweight with that subtle crepe crinkle, it promptly identified itself as a statement blouse for spring.  I toyed with a couple of pattern ideas before stumbling across the Key Largo.  Unfairly overlooked all this time (at least by me) Key Largo is classic Hey June:  a separate that fits effortlessly into any wardrobe, with comfortable practicality and subtle stylish versatility.  The pattern as written was almost exactly what I wanted, with the exception of the neckline.  Eager to replicate a Madewell top I’d been eyeing, I just needed to modify Key Largo into a V.  A more patient maker may have gone about this in a more methodical way, muslining and such.  But that just isn’t me.  So while I can’t provide you with a reliable tutorial for this hack, I will let you know what did and didn’t work.

Holding up the original front pattern piece to myself, I attempted to measure how low of a V I wanted.  I decided on four inches lower than where the scoop landed and marked that point of the center front.  From there I simply drew a diagonal line starting about where the shirt would hit the collar bone down to that point.  I traced around my new neckline from the shoulder (adding SA) to the point of the V and drafted a facing about 2 1/2 inches wide.  At the same time, I raised the back neckline 1/2 inch, and drafted a back neck facing to match. Instead of one of the binding methods included in the instructions, I attached my facing with raw edges serged, then understitched and topstiched 1/4” from the serged edge to secure.  Once sewn up, I found the V to be much top low for my taste.  Fortunately this was easily resolved by taking up the shoulder seam, leaving my beautifully shaped V in tact.  In the end it seems lowering the neckline 2 inches would have been the better choice.  But it’s true that all’s well that ends well and I just love the finished article.  I made a straight size 8 which is one size larger than my high bust measurement, and that worked well for this relaxed look. 

Now as  to the fabric itself, it is extremely beautiful and lovely to wear.  But if you value your sanity at all,  you may want to avoid projects that require a lot of precision or stripe matching.  Aside from the shifty nature of rayon, the crepe crinkle can make lining up stripes a challenge.  Personally I broke out into a bit of a sweat trying to match the center seam on my front pieces.  Even so, it was well worth the effort and I’d highly recommend snatching up a couple of yards before it’s gone!

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Now what’s that on my bottom half?  Yep, new jeans!  A new-to-me jeans pattern: the Megan Nielsen Ash jeans.  After four iterations of the Ginger jeans, I was eager to check out a different designer’s methods.  The vision was for a very fitted, minimal pair of dark jeans that would be great pared down or dressed up.  To achieve that look I went with version 1 of the 4, the skinnies.  I’m really happy with the result and stoked to add this pair to my me-made jeans collection.

As far as sizing goes, I measured between a size 28 and 30 and my fabric had less stretch than the pattern recommendation.  Having opted for grading between sizes with my Gingers, I decided to take advantage of a clean slate and take a new approach.  I pooled all of my resources on fitting before deciding on a method from Sew Over It’s pants fitting course.  Armed with that tutorial and experience from previous attempts at fitting my body, I decided to cut a straight size 29 with a 1 inch full thigh adjustment.  Next I got some help at mapping out my full calf situation, marking the fullest points on the pattern pieces and grading out the side seams to accommodate the width.  In the past, I’ve felt I needed a flat pubis adjustment, which I did by straightening out the crotch curve.  Finally, I added an additional 3/8” to the outer leg seam allowances to give myself a full one inch as a safety. 

Since I didn’t have enough of my fashion fabric (10oz Indigo Cone Mills slub denim from D&H Fabrics) to make a muslin, I bit the bullet and did the cutting from my adjusted pattern pieces.  After baste fitting, I decided that the flat pubis adjustment did not work, so I went back and scooped out the crotch curve as it was intended.  I also took advantage of 1/4” of the additional seam allowance from the lower hip to the hem, but kept the original 5/8: from hip to waist.  All in all, I think the sizing of this pattern is very true, and any discrepancy was to be expected since my fabric did not have the proper stretch percentage. 

Now I know what question comes next: which pattern do I prefer?  Ginger or Ash. I honestly don’t know.  The idea of both of these patterns is for them to hug all of you curves, so the final result depends greatly on how you choose to fit them.  I will say I favor the pockets of the Gingers: both the front pocket stay and the fact that the back pockets come in different sizes.  But I much prefer the shape and size of the back yoke on the Ash, which I think is a key element to rear end shaping.  I think I’ll have to make a couple more versions of Ash in different fabrics before it’s clear which pattern I’ll keep going back to.  Whichever way you decide to go, both patterns are conveniently available on the IndieSew website.

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If you fancy a chat about sewing Ash or Ginger or need a little direction in hacking your Key Largo into a V neck, feel free to leave me a note.  I’d love to be of support!




my favorite photobomber

my favorite photobomber

State of Flux: Two between-season dresses with IndieSew

Figuring out when to stop sewing for one season to start on the next can be tricky, can't it?  Me, my determination to get to the end of that never ending list sometimes blinds me to when that time has come.  Fortunately enough Indiesew had some fantastic options for cold and warm weather when it came time to choose my blogger projects and the result is two fab dresses that have me ready for whatever climate change has is store!

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The long way home: Seamwork Jill

Have you ever wanted a finished garment so badly that you had to force yourself to slow down in attempt to produce something that lives up to your vision?  This is the story of me and Jill.


Several years ago when the idea of sewing was just a glimmer in my eye, I bought an over-sized wrap coat at Target.  It was green and black tweed in a dreadful synthetic fabric but it was hooded and belted and perfect to bundle up in on cold early mornings on my way to work.  Of course almost immediately it began to pill- first under the arms and then everywhere else.  Me, I have extremely low tolerance to this kind of imperfection. Yet it served its purpose and so year after year, kept an undignified place in the back of my closet. 

This fall with a few outerwear projects under my belt, I impulsively let go of that old coat. My hope was that the obvious gap in my closet would push me to replace it. That definitely helped. But - as I generally find to be true when I’m searching for something too specific - that perfect green was illusive, as was the hooded wrap coat pattern. Sure I found some nice options in wool coating, but the high price and low potential for comfort when unlined just put me off. The weather was turning colder and I busied myself with completion of my proper winter coat, but that vision of green would not let me rest.

Now finding patterns is not my strong suit, and I admitted defeat on finding a match for this one early on. That may have been mostly once I saw Jill.  She didn't have a hood or a belt, but something about her loose cocoon shape, huge pockets and the allure of a quick unlined project drew me to her. What did not appeal was the nearly 4 yard fabric requirement. You do the math: 4 x any wool soft enough to be worn unlined = $$$. Then finally in late December I stumbled upon a very unique tweed-like 100% wool at 30% off. It seemed soft enough and the look and texture were much like my vision, only in black and white. I brought home the last two yards on the bolt, hoping I could somehow produce a coat out of half the fabric I needed. And so the hacking began. Literal hacking away at the pattern pieces to whittle them down to a size I could cut out of my fabric.

In the end I shortened my Jill by 6 inches. In order to preserve the back vent, I took off 4 inches at the lengthen/shorten line and the other two inches I removed further up on the body. Nothing short of a miracle, I was able to leave the rest of the pattern pieces in tact and successfully cut out the complete coat.

Off to the races, I threw myself into the construction. But soon into the sewing I realized that I would not be happy with the look of exposed seam allowances. It was clear that I needed to slow down. I had spent a good amount of money on the materials and wanted it to last, and so resolved to bias bind all of the seam allowances. It was quite the undertaking, but definitely worth it in the end.

On to the review!

Pattern and Fabric: Seamwork Jill Coatigan in 100% Wool from Michael Levine

Size:  Straight size Small

Fit:  My bust measurements (35) put me in the range for a size Small, my waist and hip (29-39) put me in a Medium. Really though, this is a very over-sized coat, and I think I would have easily fit into an XS (a pretty absurd thought). That being the case this pattern would be tough for an actual extra small person to wear unless they know how to grade down.

Changes:  I removed a total of 6 inches off the length due to fabric limitations. If I had enough fabric, I would have only taken off 2 inches to accommodate my 5’5” frame. I also chose to add a closure, which is not included in the pattern. I went for one large shank button and one invisible snap. I also modified the shape of the patch pocket to a straight rectangle for personal preference.

Verdict: As far as the pattern goes, I think the style is great. The cut feels modern, even though the length and fabric of mine have a distinct 90’s vibe (I know you were thinking it). And in theory the idea that this is to be a quick and easy make with few pattern pieces is also very appealing. But I did find the pattern instructions to be overly simplified and I personally am just not satisfied with the suggested finishes. For example, not all fabric types may require it but I think there should have been a mention of hem interfacing. I’ve learnt by experience that if you want a sturdy coat, you must interface your hem! And my wool is fairly comfortable to wear sans lining, but soft wool is really hard to find and wool by itself can be thin or loosely woven so isn’t always very warm. I’d suggest for anyone interested in this pattern to take a different approach to making it: Either make it in a heavy sweater knit (more beginner friendly and then exposed seams make more sense), or make it in a nice wool coating and be prepared to add a lining- what I still plan to do if I can muster the motivation!

Truth be told, through no fault of the pattern, this Jill has very little in common with it’s predecessor. And while I do wear it on my way to work on cold early mornings, it really isn’t that blanket of warmth I set out to create. More than anything it is the manifestation of so many of the less than desirable qualities I posses: myopia, exaction, impatience and willfulness to name a few. But in my sewing practice each garment that I make is like a journey and I embrace & appreciate everything it has to teach me. Like this one where I started off sprinting, then ended up taking the long way home.


Winter Coat Miniseries Part 4: the Finished Article

Getting around to the final post in this series should be no indication that my love for this project has cooled off.  Quite the opposite is true! Winters in Southern California are famously mild but I've taken every opportunity possible to bundle up in this beauty ever since the day it was completed.  In case you missed them you can find posts about my planning process, fitting, and construction in parts 1-3 of this series.  Now on to the review!

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Pattern and Fabric: Lisette for Butterick B6385 in 'brown' Riley Blake Melton wool from  Underlining is cotton flannel and lining is bamberg rayon, both from JoAnn.

Size:  Size 10 from top to the waist, size 14 at the hip with broad back and full bicep adjustments made. I also shortened the coat slightly at the waistline.

Fit:  As usual with commercial patterns it is safest to use the finished garment measurements as a starting point.  This pattern didn't have as much ease as many do, but it was still more generous than I prefer. For reference the Butterick size chart put me between a 12-14 at the bust and a 14-16 at the hip.

Changes:  I made view C as written with the exception of shortening the hem about 4 inches.  I think my buttonholes ended up on the opposite side than instructed, but I did this intentionally in order for the tidier side of the collar to show when closed.

Verdict: After all the planning, deliberation and fitting obsession the actual sewing of this coat was sort of a breeze.  Working with wool is a dream and the pattern construction is simple and straightforward.  I especially laud this pattern for a perfectly drafted sleeve in which both set perfectly on the first try. I think the shoulder pads called for add beautifully to the tailored look and proportions. My only regret is that I didn’t learn to hand sew or brave welt buttonholes. The buttons I selected were too big for my machine’s buttonholer so I had to do them as manual 4-part. The result is alright, but not to my current standard. I also should have skipped the tear away stabilizer because little pieces of it are still stuck between the threads.

I learnt so much through this process. I realize how much I value quality fabric and professional finishes and that no matter how much I combat my impatient nature, I can always stand to slow down a bit more and really take my time. Most of all I feel impassioned to spread the message for anyone who’s holding them self back from starting an ambitious project to just go for it. Not many things are as hard as we can build them up to be in our heads and we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. I hope you liked following along with this project as much as I enjoyed making it. If there’s a question I can answer for you, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email through the ‘get in touch’ form. I’d love to hear about your project and give you a boost of encouragement. I’ll leave you with way too many gratuitous photos of my finished coat.

xo April

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Not the end of the world: Accepting imperfections in a Hampton Jean Jacket

Ever since this perfectionist was in a much smaller body, these words from loved ones and teachers have echoed in her head.  When she didn’t get that straight A report card or when all the cookies on the baking sheet melted into one.

It’s not the end of the world. 

As an adult I still have trouble seeing past perceived failures, and now dealing with imperfection in my sewing practice I try hard to remind myself.  It’s not the end of the world.  Usually If I hang in there I find that some mistakes can be corrected and others can be overlooked.  One day they may even be  embraced...I’m still working on that part! One of the most recent challenges was the making of my Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket

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Part 1

The biggest obstacle came about before I even started sewing. I started off with two precious yards of 12 oz Cone Mills denim in Indigo from Blackbird but I had a lighter medium blue jacket in mind. I did some swatch testing in a bleach bath, but not enough as I would soon find out. To say the bleaching process did not go as planned is an understatement. Once wet, that cut of very heavy denim became extremely heavy and it was really hard to stir and agitate it adequately. I also did not account for continued lightening when I washed the bleach out. What I pulled out of the dryer was not only a much lighter blue that I wanted, but looked to me like a blotchy acid washed mess. Devastated, I folded it up, put it away and sulked in defeat. The next day I went online and found to my surprise that a lot of the jackets I saw were made with denim very similar to the hot mess I had at home. That night with my forces revived and inspiration photos at hand, I laid out the denim and strategically cut out my pattern pieces- avoiding the worst areas. The construction part of the jacket was surprisingly simple, with the most challenging parts a result of the very heavy denim I was using along with jeans topstitching thread. More on that later.

Part 2

Overcoming my initial failure, I now had a really beautiful jacket to show for all my hard work. I had (mostly) embraced the color and imperfect bleach job and I had a lot of positive feedback from the community. My jacket fit well and was made with quality materials. It just looked The thick fabric was still stiff and all the pressing had left it very crisp. The bleached and distressed denim was begging to be rumpled and softened with wear. To expedite that process, I tossed it in with my next load of laundry. From the dryer I pulled out a much softer crumplier jacket that looked pretty great from the outside. On closer inspection, I found that many of the flat felled seams whose topstitching I had agonized so carefully over, were not secured after all. While the topstitching was in tact, it had not caught all of those 1/4” allowances tucked under. I felt a wave of failure and disappointment come over me all over again. I was so upset that I couldn’t bear to deal with it. I stashed it in the closest, where my failure could stay hidden away. This dirty little secret was safe, but each time I opened my closet I was reminded. More than a week later, I pulled it out and forced myself to have a closer look. I debated attempting the affected seams again but didn’t have it in me. Anyway I was sure that those frayed edges would be way to tricky to work with. For now, most of the frayed edges have been tucked back into place and secured with ***gasp*** fabric glue. I know. There’s a twinge of physical pain in my chest even typing that out. I have no idea how long this fix will last, especially after washing. But I honestly don’t think it will compromise the integrity of the jacket, at least not for a long time. Hopefully by the time it’s cool enough around here to wear it, I will have gotten over most of my trauma.

Now for the review!

Pattern and Fabric: mentioned above. This is a pdf only pattern, and I had the luxury of getting the copyshop version printed by Patternsy. This company is run by a very sweet couple that clearly loves what they do and gives great service. I especially love the sturdy tissue they print on and the black ink for printing. Seriously, who can see the pale stuff a lot of companies print with? My jeans buttons are the antique brass ones from Threadbare Fabrics and they are top notch. I used the classic yellow jeans topstitching thread from Gutermann.

Size: I made the size 6 based on my bust measurement. I’m actually 35 1/2 so technically I sized down. I ignored the waist measurements which would have put me between an 8 and a 10.

Fit: I really love the fit, it’s exactly what I want in a classic denim jacket. I think the armscye is drafted especially well. It sits very close you your armpit, allowing for great range of motion.

Changes: I made only one change to the pattern, which was shortening at the waist line by one inch. I am very short wasted, and I think this adjustment makes the jacket look on my frame the way it was designed. It does not come across as particularly cropped.

Verdict: I would hate for my personal drama to dissuade you from trying this pattern, because it truly is fantastic. Alina has included all of the classic details and the cut and proportions are perfect. Honestly, it looks so legit, no one would ever tell it apart from a classic rtw jacket. The instructions are excellent and there’s even a sewalong to hold your hand through the process. As noted before, the construction of the jacket itself is not hard at all. Really, it isn’t as long as you take note and learn from my mistakes!

To consider if you’re planning this project: 12 oz denim might be too thick. If I were to make this over again in the same fabric I would mock flat fell all of the seams. My theory is that the thickness of the denim threw off my folds by a millimeter or two, so that my topstitching juuust missed its mark. I would also use a thinner fabric to make the pocket lining. There’s just no need for all that bulk. Another a challenge with super thick denim is the topstitching. I found that even when my stitches were nice and even on top, the bobbin thread was a mess. I had to really bump up my tension to correct this. Lastly, the buttonhole conundrum. I was hell-bent on making my buttonholes with topstitching thread. My first two buttonholes on the breast pockets (keyhole style to boot!) turned out fantastic, and that gave me a false sense of confidence. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the ones on the button band, especially the lower few, would be going through an extra layer of fabric. I had an extremely difficult time here, and at least one of them had to be done 7 different times. My hands were cramped and fingers were pricked and raw when I decided I had done the best that I could. To add insult to injury, the thickness of the fabric actually makes them nearly too small to actually fit buttons through. I doubt I’ll ever want to wear this jacket closed up, but it will be a struggle if I do. Moral of the story? Use the 10oz denim or twill recommend and you can avoid a lot of unnecessary pain.

All stressful details behind us, here are some gratuitous photos I took against my neighbors’ wall. Feel free to comment with your perfectionist horror stories!

xo April

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Miniseries: Winter Coat 2018

I thought it might be fun to chronicle the making of this year’s coat in something more interesting than a finished garment post, but not so involved as a sewalong. Cue the miniseries! Miniseries are my favorite to watch as they allow for more depth of content than a film without the commitment required to watch a full length series. To be perfectly honest I’m making this up as I go along, but I’m envisioning a four-parter, presented to you in (relative) real-time:

Post #1 Planning and gathering supplies

Post #2 Choosing a size and muslining

Post #3 Progress and challenges with construction photos

Post #4 Final Reveal with outfit photos

Fancy following along with me? Let’s go!


Last year I made my first two outerwear pieces ever in preparation for some Fall travel: a boyfriend style wool Bamboo coat for Amsterdam and an all-weather Kelly Anorak for Iceland.

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My inspiration for the wool coast was in a rich dark rust, but I sadly could not find anything like it in my price range.

image c/o New Darlings

image c/o New Darlings

For that project I settled on a light camel on clearance from and while it worked out well, that inspo pic haunted me.

Later that winter the obsession to find the perfect colored wool intensified when I saw this beauty on Pinterest in a very dark toasted caramel. I just love this look!

photo c/o Fashion Jackson

photo c/o Fashion Jackson


I’ve been periodically scanning online fabric sites ever since hoping to find an off-season steal but found nothing too tempting. Last month, completely fed up with summer I scoured and without much expectation ordered a few samples. The winner for me was a medium weight Riley Blake Melton Wool (90% Wool, 10% Nylon blend) in the color brown. The color in person is much lighter and a lot closer to the inspo pic. I thought the price was pretty good at around $25/yard and a 20% off sale was going, so I ordered 3.5 yards

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It felt so good to finally have my fabric, but the question of what pattern to use was unresolved. I had the Grainline Yates printed by Patternsy and ready to go, but the posiblity of a more tailored silhouette kept nagging at me. The boxy oversized look is everywhere and I do love it, but it isn’t really what I wanted for this coat. I did a lot of hunting and I finally settled on Butterick 6385, specifically the funnel neck version. It’s a completely different collar design & it doesn’t have all of the elements I wanted, but I think that in the end the fit and silhouette are most important. As a bonus, the lovely Fiona has a very comprehensive blog post on her B6385 and if I look half as cute as she does in her, I’ll consider this a success! I’m also scheming moving those welt pockets up along the princess seam and adding a jetted pocket with flap. Let’s see how brave I’m feeling…



The wool is slightly lighter weight than I wanted, so I picked up some brown 100% cotton flannel from JoAnn as an underlining. Also from JoAnn is the ambiance bembeg lining I chose, in the color medieval blue. In my opinion this is the best & only lining to use. Here’s a shot of my fabrics together. The colors are extremely tricky to capture on camera, but here’s the best I could do with a little editing. Also pictured are the first shoulder pads I’ve ever purchased in my life. I wonder if wearing them will make me feel as great as the model seems to…

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Still to decide on are buttons and interfacing. With regards to the interfacing I think I’ll have to test and see what works best. The buttons may end up being covered, or I might go with one of these two I saw the other day.

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Next up I’ll be prewashing my flannel and lining as well as “steaming” my wool in the dryer. While that’s happening I’ll have a look at the finished measurements of the pattern to decide what size to make and whether I need to make a quick muslin.

Feel free to let me know what you think and if you’ve got any tricks under your me-made sleeves. And stay tuned for part two!

xo April

Act like a lady: Sew Over it Kate Pattern Review

When I first became aware that indie designers used regular people to test their patterns I couldn’t wait to get involved- I just had no idea how.  I was also insecure and unsure that my skill level would qualify me.  Luckily, before too long Sew Over It made an open call for testers on Instagram and I responded with interest before I had time to chicken out.  I was so happy to be selected and always get excited when a new testing opportunity comes up.  This time around I had the  pleasure of testing a couple of patterns from the new Sew Over It Work to Weekend eBook by Lisa Comfort.

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I can never resist a shirt dress and as I had a dress in my sewing plans at the moment, I happily swapped it for Kate. She wooed me with her timeless vintage holiday vibe and the finished garment definitely did not disappoint.

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Pattern:  Kate is a classic shirt dress with a proper collar & stand, hidden button placket and cuffed sleeves that hit above the elbow.  Since the buttons end at the waist, there’s a concealed side zip under the arm to help you get in and out.  The skirt is made up of six panels and you have the option to leave 2 slits open at each side for a flirty detail.  As a bonus the pattern includes instructions to make both the top and the skirt as separate pieces- super versatile!

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Fabric: I made my Kate up in an absolutely delicious viscose linen from Sew Over It that I had in my stash.  The pattern called for 3.5 meters for my size but I was able to squeeze it out of the 2.5 I had on hand without too much trouble.  Kate is fabric hungry mostly due to the 6 panels that make up the skirt as well as her midi length.

Size:  I made my Kate in a size 10 which is my usual size for Sew Over It patterns that aren’t fitted around the hips.

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Fit:  I love the way this dress fits and I did not make any adjustments.  I am quite short waisted though, so next time around I’ll definitely take off about 5/8 inch from the bodice length.  If you look closely you can see that my belt is at my natural waist, but the seam line is quite a bit lower. 

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Changes:  At first I was skeptical about the midi length and my instinct was to shorten the pattern pieces before cutting.  In the end, mostly out of respect for Lisa’s design I decided not to.  I’m so glad that I trusted her choice.  I did find that on me the slits came up quite high, and I lowered them about 4 inches for modestly.  Other than that, this version is was made up exactly as the pattern is written. 

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Verdict:  This is one of those garments that makes me feel 100% myself when I pull it on.  I’m not particularly girly in my style and I love how the design softens the structure of a menswear-inspired top with drapey fabric and a breezy, feminine skirt.  Made up with this subtle geometric print in a natural palate it’s that easy, classic, understated piece I’ll be reaching for again and again. 

Sewing up Kate was not at all complicated.  If you’ve made a collared shirt in stable cotton, that experience will help as you work with a slippery rayon or crepe.  New techniques I learned were the hidden button placket and concealed under arm zip, both which were surprisingly straightforward.  Also if you’re in a time crunch, be aware that the hem and slits are all finished with hand sewing.  This results in a lovely soft, flowy hemline, but does take time.  I finished mine on the sofa during two evenings of Netflix.

I can’t recommend this pattern enough and I’m already scheming a set of matching separates for my next go ‘round.

xo April

My first swimsuit pattern was a vintage one + the choices we make

Confession: I am deeply affected by aesthetics.  I struggle with this concept, because I don't like to think of myself as a superficial person.  But I am emotionally and physically moved by beautiful things.  You know when something is so good it hurts?  So while I aim to be a person of greater substance, I'm aware of how visual appeal influences my choices.  In terms of sewing, I've observed this when it comes to pattern selection.  I find myself scrolling past designs that don't appeal to my personal style without giving them a second thought.  Later I'll see a stunning project using the very pattern I disregarded and am floored by how much vision the maker had.  It's a huge source of inspiration, but at the same time leaves me feeling a bit narrow-minded.  A true creative can look past styling or fabric choices that are different from their own and I really admire that.  So I'd like to say that today I'm sharing with you the progress I've made in this area, but I’m afraid not.  With the intent of self-reflection, today I’m taking you with me down a different path.

I've been subscribing to the "no fear" philosophy in sewing for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before I tackled my most recent challenge: swimwear!  Plans started to take shape during a routine trip to Joann's when I found what looked to me like swimsuit fabric.  It was stretchy and shiny in a really sleek dolphin grey, had a Nicole Miller label and was priced for clearance.  I was sold.  (An uninformed choice, based solely on appearance. I didn’t even check the exact content or percentage of stretch.  Bet you can guess how that went.). I picked up lining & elastic and started searching for a pattern.  My inspiration was the one-pieces in this year’s J. Crew collection but I hadn't seen too many pattern options.  I had just about settled on Laminaria by Tuesday Stitches (Seamstress Erin) when I decided to check out vintage patterns on Etsy.  I was completely swept away by the styling of the late 70’s & early 80's.  Some of my earliest memories are of my mom in a super shiny one-piece, glammed up in full hair and makeup (rouge + perm, natch) for a day at the pool.  So when I came across the gorgeous ladies illustrated on the envelope of Stretch & Sew's V-swimsuit from 1979, I wanted to be one of them.  Laminaria is similar in so many ways, it probably would have been the smarter choice.  It's hard to beat the detail of indie pattern instructions, plus it has a sew-along.  But I had fallen so in love with the image of those ladies so I clicked through to purchase.  Here's the rundown:

Pattern: Stretch & Sew V-swimsuit; version A

Fabric: Nicole Miller nylon/spandex from JoAnn, exact content & percentage of stretch unknown; nude power mesh also from JoAnn

Size: Graded between 34 at the bust to 38 at the hip (my measurements put me just under 36 and 40, so I went with the smaller size)

Changes: I followed the version A construction method for the most part.  Instead of soft halter ties I wrapped my ties in elastic and attached them to the back, straight down on either side.  I also chose to fully line the suit with power mesh and added a shelf bra because I’m not fancy-free like they were back then, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).

Verdict: This was my first attempt, so I consider the fact that it actually came together and fits as major wins.  It isn’t the most beautiful thing to look at when it’s just laying there, but once it’s on you really don’t notice the imperfections.  My biggest regret is the fabric.  My impulsive choice based on color was not the wisest.  The wrong side of the fabric is a lighter grey, so it shows through at the stress points-  most notably at the side seams. The questionable percentage of stretch must factor in here as well, or maybe I should have sized up.  For my next attempt I will 100% choose a fabric marketed for swimwear.  I can’t say with certainty if the power mesh as lining was a smart choice.  But I don’t think it was a bad one.  Regarding the pattern itself, I know it’s unlikely that you’ll try the same one.  Even so, I think it's a good one and the instructions were very clear and helpful.  I’d say vintage swimwear patterns are a viable option.

I admit the takeaway here is a bit feeble.  I chose a pattern because the illustrations were pretty and it worked out alright. Will I do that again? Probably.  But I hope my future self will remember this reflection and not limit her options solely based on aesthetics.  It can be a really positive thing to question why we make the choices that we do.

There are a ton of photos of this project.  So  even though this isn’t a tutorial, I hope they help other first-timers visualize the process.

mee-yow =^_^=

mee-yow =^_^=

3 front layers held together with wonder clips: main fabric, lining and shelf bra.  I used elastic the length of the front width minus 2 inches to create tension.

3 front layers held together with wonder clips: main fabric, lining and shelf bra.  I used elastic the length of the front width minus 2 inches to create tension.

All sides serged together for handling.  Thanks to  Allie at Indie Sew  for the tips!

All sides serged together for handling.  Thanks to Allie at Indie Sew for the tips!

The front ready to go.

The front ready to go.

One side of the back, curved to go around the bum.  3D pattern pieces kind of blow my mind.

One side of the back, curved to go around the bum.  3D pattern pieces kind of blow my mind.

The back ready to go.

The back ready to go.

Crotch seam.

Crotch seam.

Crotch lining is attached only to one side- at the crotch seam.  The sides are caught in the leg elastic and the other end stays open.

Crotch lining is attached only to one side- at the crotch seam.  The sides are caught in the leg elastic and the other end stays open.

I love wonder clips.

I love wonder clips.

Side seams serged together.

Side seams serged together.

Elastic stabilizes the V-neck, the same measurement as the fabric.

Elastic stabilizes the V-neck, the same measurement as the fabric.

Elastic add to the scoop back, 2/3 the measurement of the fabric.  I didn't get a photo of the leg elastic insertion, but it was cut the length of the leg circumference opening minus 2 inches.  On the front of the leg opening, the elastic was inserted at a 1:1 ratio, meaning no gathering.  The back of the leg opening is where those 2 inches were gathered, to create a tight fit around the bum.

Elastic add to the scoop back, 2/3 the measurement of the fabric.  I didn't get a photo of the leg elastic insertion, but it was cut the length of the leg circumference opening minus 2 inches.  On the front of the leg opening, the elastic was inserted at a 1:1 ratio, meaning no gathering.  The back of the leg opening is where those 2 inches were gathered, to create a tight fit around the bum.

This resulted in some pretty extreme gathering around the back scoop, only slightly less so when the elastic is turned in.  I found this strange, but it does smooth out completely when worn.

This resulted in some pretty extreme gathering around the back scoop, only slightly less so when the elastic is turned in.  I found this strange, but it does smooth out completely when worn.

The V-neck finish reminded me a lot of the continuous sleeve placket construction on the  Grainline Archer

The V-neck finish reminded me a lot of the continuous sleeve placket construction on the Grainline Archer

The V-neck before turned under.

The V-neck before turned under.

The V-neck turned under.

The V-neck turned under.

Straps attached & all elastic turned under and top-stitched with a zig-zag.  Shelf bras really pull at the sides under the arm.  To remedy this I stitched the end of the strap to the shelf bra elastic on each side.  it's not pretty, but it looks 10x better from the outside.  

Straps attached & all elastic turned under and top-stitched with a zig-zag.  Shelf bras really pull at the sides under the arm.  To remedy this I stitched the end of the strap to the shelf bra elastic on each side.  it's not pretty, but it looks 10x better from the outside.  



Hard to get a flat lay of the back, what with the shelf bra pulling and all the elastic gathering.  But then again, my body is anything but flat!

Hard to get a flat lay of the back, what with the shelf bra pulling and all the elastic gathering.  But then again, my body is anything but flat!

If you’re still reading at this point you may be wondering where the photos of me actually wearing the swimsuit are.  Spoiler: there aren’t any.  Rest assured, my body image is fairly heathy and I’ll wear this swimsuit with pride.  It’s nothing more than a personal choice to limit how much of myself I share on the internet.  To see this one in action you’ll have to catch me on the sand or at the pool...if you can!  I’m usually hiding under an umbrella or in a caftan.  Stay protected, friends.  And if you make your own swimwear, tag it #nofearnewswimsuit so I can see!


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