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Vogue 8804 Jacket Hacked

I’ve made this jacket before. It was a LOT of work and took a LONG time! I remember as I was making it, I kept feeling like I was doing everything the hard way.

Dress and Jacket Front

I actually wanted a quick jacket to go with my pink boucle dress. When I looked into my pattern stash, this one was on top. I decided to play with the pattern pieces, making the jacket my own way, just for fun

I used pink boucle from Fabric Mart and ivory polyester satin from Fabric Wholesale Direct. I buy this poly satin in bulk for costumes and such. The ivory braid came from my stash, as did the fun buttons. In fact, if I didn’t have those fun buttons, I probably would not have made a jacket!

Dress and Jacket Back

I serged the pieces as I cut them. I started with the back, serging the back seam, then finishing the edges all around. Then I cut one half of the front, sewed the princess seam, and serge finished all the raw edges. I repeated this for the other half of the front. I cut the two side pieces and serge finished them all the way around. I sewed the side pieces to the fronts and back with the sewing machine. I repeated these assembly steps for the lining but I didn’t bother finishing those raw edges.

I faked the vent on the sleeves. I first cut off that little flap piece. I extended the length a bit, and cut two flaps of boucle and two flaps of lining. I put one boucle flap and one lining flap right sides together, and sewed along three edges, leaving open the edge that was previously attached to the sleeve. I repeated this for the other flap, turned them right side out, and ironed them flat. Then, I applied braid along the top edge, vertical edge and bottom edge but stopped halfway along the bottom. I didn’t do the other flap just yet, because I didn’t want to cut the braid.


I cut the boucle sleeve pieces for one sleeve, and serged the raw edges. I positioned the flap with the braid at the spot where it belonged, where it lived before I cut it off the pattern. I basted it in place, making sure the braid stayed free of the seam. I sewed the sleeve together, on the regular machine. I turned the sleeve right side out, and laid the braid along the rest of the bottom edge of the flap, out onto the sleeve, and all the way around the hem of the sleeve. I sewed it in place, and, finally, cut the excess braid away. Now, I went back to the other flap, and repeated this whole procedure. After both sleeves were complete, I sewed the flap to the sleeve, with a decorative button on the flap.

I put the lining over the boucle right sides together, and sewed them together from one bottom front corner up, around the neck, and down to the other. I turned the jacket right side out and topstitched the braid in place.

Last step was buttons and buttonholes.

It was a fun experiment, and I like the jacket.


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Lekala Tunic Dress 2 Ways

When I saw Lekala 4590 I promptly fell in love! Lekala calls it a dress, I wear mine as tunics. Butterick has a similar pattern that I have not tried. I don’t know which one was issued first, but I saw Lekala first.

Material for Take One

My first take on this pattern was intended for the Activewear contest on Pattern Review. I barely finished it in time, but didn’t get a chance to get photos. My second take was also intended for a Pattern Review contest, the Serger contest. Because I was using scraps and leftovers, I ran into complications and didn’t finish it in time at all.

I used a sweatshirt knit for Take One, grey for the body and navy blue for the contrasting collar, sleeve and triangular insets.  I plan to wear it for hiking in cool weather, so I extended the sleeves to cover my hands, and added a thumbhole. Take two is made from a polyester sweater knit and black velvet.

Take One went together smoothly. Nothing major went wrong (I’m always ripping out a seam or two) but I had little time to work on it so progress was slow. I used a heavier fabric for the pockets, in case I want to carry anything heavy or sharp. One pocket zips shut, the other has a plastic ring sewn in, where I can clip anything like keys, etc. I used blue thread and a big, bold zig-zag stitch for the decorative top stitching.

Take Two started off problematic. I used the sweater knit fabric leftover from McCalls   Hacked Again for the body, and black velvet for the sleeves, collar, and contrasting triangle panels. I had two fairly big pieces, I knew the back could fit on one. And it did. The other piece was shorter – and there is where I made my first mistake.

Pocket ring to clip things to

Zipper pocket

I knew the front piece would be shorter than the back, but I thought the hi-low hemline thing would work, so I made the top with a shorter front (including the triangles) It looked weird, the proportions were all wrong. Frustrated, I pushed it to one side and ignored it for awhile.

A couple of weeks later I found another piece of the sweater knit as I was sorting scraps. It looked like it just might be barely big enough to extend the front. I hoped the seam would not be obvious in the knit, but knew any seam in the velvet would be inescapable. They had to be replaced.

Alas, they were sewn with a serger. In frustration I simply cut away the whole seam allowance, when I cut the panels out, knowing the sides would never fall as smoothly again.

I matched the fill in piece on the front as carefully as I could, but the seam was still pretty visible. Again, I tossed it to the side in frustration.

Finished Hiking sweatshirt

Take two,

Then I stumbled across a piece of laced velvet trim. Just barely enough to put across the front over the seam, and across the back at the same height. I pinned it in place, but didn’t like it. So on a whim, I moved the trim down close to the hem, leaving the patch seam uncovered. I thought – and still think – the black trim at the bottom distracted the eye from the seam, and looked better than it did higher up over the seam. I pinned it in place, cut it, and laid the second piece along the back. I had exactly enough. I mean exactly. Less than 1 inch of scrap trim!

Starting at the center of the top and working toward the sides, I stitched the top of the ribbon to the top on the front and back. Then, I sewed the new black velvet triangles in place, catching the raw edges of the trim. Finally, I turned the hem up and stitched the bottom of the ribbon trim, catching the raw edge of the hem as I sewed.

Take Two, Complete at Last

Finally, the only step left was hemming the sleeves. Ironically, my new-to-me serger/coverstitch machine had just arrived. On one hand I was anxious to bust it out and play! On the other, I just wanted these sleeves done as quickly and painlessly as possible, because the whole thing had already sucked up so much time and energy! So, I used an ordinary narrow zig zag stitch hem on the sleeves.

So Take One is great! Take Two is not a wadder, but it’s not my best work, either.

Pattern Description: Tunic/mini dress with darts, triangle insets in front, dropped shoulders, long sleeves, shaped neck band

Pattern Sizing: To your measurements

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, both makes

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, they were more detailed than usual for Lekala.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The insets, the dropped shoulder & contrasting sleeve, the length, the pockets, the neckband. Ok, I just like this pattern!

Fabric Used: Sweatshirt knit, sweater knit, stretch velvet

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: On Take One, I added a zipper to one pocket and a plastic ring to the other. I extended the sleeves so they cover my palms and added a thumbhole. On Take Two, I added black trim near the hem

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes and Yes.


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Vogue 9206 Tropical Asymetric

Blouse Front

I fell in love with Vogue 9206 instantly. I love the soft gathers, raglan sl

Pinning the neckband in place. It’s difficult to work with slippery fabric

The almost part is that chiffon is super sheer, too sheer for me tor a blouse. So it needed a black lining. The only question was which lining should I use? An inexpensive satin polyester, to match the polyester chiffon? Or should I indulge in black silk habotai from my dancewear stash? I thought two layers of polyester might be a little bit too warm to be comfortable. And, the chiffon was really nice chiffon. So I splurged and lined it with silk. It feels awesome! I also used silk to make the neck band, cuffs, and front facings.

I hate sewing polyester chiffon. It’s slippery, uncooperative stuff. In an effort to tame the unruly fabric, I machine basted the chiffon pieces to their silk companions before trying to use them. It helped a lot, but the chiffon was still grumpy.

I sewed the silk and chiffon layers together at the sleeve seams. I sewed the silk and chiffon layer separately at the side seams. The hem is a simple serger rolled hem with black metallic thread.

I love my finished top! I will make this pattern again, when the right fabric comes along. Next time I will make the armholes a little higher, to give a little bit more mobility.

Pattern Description: Button front blouse with long raglan sleeves, neck band, gentle gathers, and asymmetrical front opening.

Pattern Sizing: Misses – exactly like usual Vogue sizing

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes,

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like the interesting asymmetrical front and soft gathers

Fabric Used: Polyester chiffon from Fabric Mart lined with black silk habotai from Dharma Trading Co and glass buttons from Ebay

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Only the lining because the chiffon is so sheer

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes I  recommend it. Yes, I think I will make it again, perhaps in a solid color.


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Quick Stripe top with Leather Tabs

Finished Top

This is a simple top. The stripe and leather tabs make it exciting.

I started with a basic long sleeved, tunic length, T-shirt pattern with no darts. I cut it with a slightly scooped neck and elongated sleeves. Instead of a neckband, I cut a simple rectangular cowl collar. I used the serger for everything except piecing the leather wrist straps, hemming the bottom and sleeves, and the buttonhole that the neck tab buttons through. I ruched the sleeves by hand, more on that later.  For the top hem and sleeve hems, I used a decorative stitch on my Babylock Symphony.

The fabric is a polyester knit of some sort, similar to a scuba or thin double knit. It came from my Fabric Resource Storage Area, and lacked a tag.

The leather scrap that became the tabs

I cut the leather tabs from a small piece of leather leftover from costuming. The scrap had some top stitching, and the holes from the top stitching are still visible. I cut the scrap into four strips. I used the nicest strip for the neck tab. I cut the worst strip in half, and sewed each half onto the last two strips, so they are long enough to go around my wrists.

Leather tab on cowl neck

One big potential problem – laundry!! Leather and polyester double knit have very different care requirements. I solved the problem by making the leather tabs removable. The neck tab buttons onto itself through a buttonhole in the top near the neck. The straps button onto glass buttons sewed to the sleeves. Leather doesn’t ravel, and these buttons are purely decorative, so the buttonholes are simple slits in the leather strap.


Finally, I ruched the elongated sleeves between the leather strap and the hem. This is where following a pattern can be helpful! I had no pattern, just an idea in my head. In retrospect, I should have run gathering stitches up the sleeve before sewing the sleeve seam. But, I didn’t. Instead, I sewed the sleeve seam and hem, then did the ruching by hand.

ruched sleeves with leather strap

When I wore this top outside on a bright sunny day, I was shocked to realize the stripes are not black but a super dark almost-black navy blue. The blue is noticeable only in super bright light, where the leather tabs are. Or maybe the dark leather simply makes the stripes near it appear blue in bright light? Either way, I still like this top and will continue to think of the stripes as black.

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I won! I won! Sewing a Trench Coat – Fabric Mart 2016 Sew Along

When I saw Round Two of the Fabric Mart Fabricista 2016 was a trench coat, I was not enthusiastic. A trench coat, any coat actually, is a lot of work. I didn’t really need or want another trench coat. And, I had a busy weekend planned.

Front of the Trench coat

Front of the Trench coat

Research was the first step. Trench coats started off as practical, utilitarian clothing, not as a fashion statement. The contest rules included a link to the Wikipedia entry for Trench Coats, but I found the Gentleman’s Gazette guide to Trench coats much more informative and entertaining   Many features of a traditional trench coat serve (or served) a purpose. The rifle flap kept a soldiers gun dry, the back flap provided rain protection for his back pack. The D-rings held canteens (or according to some sources, hand grenades). The deep collar could be turned up against the weather. Pockets covered with a flap provided water proof storage. IWrist straps pulled the sleeve hem close to the wrist, to keep rain from dripping in when a soldier raised his arms (this was before the invention of the ribbed cuff). Epaulets held rank insignia.

My pattern stash offered nothing suitable for a trench. So I turned to my favorite pattern download site, Lekala, where I found a classic trench coat pattern # 5488, called Double Breasted Raincoat.

Who says downloaded patterns are instant satisfaction?? My printer seldom has a decent cartridge. I like to send my stuff to the local FedEx-Kinkos to print. They usually have it done the same day, and they are open 24-7. But, I still have to drive over and pick it up.  Then the pages must be taped together, and, finally, the pattern pieces must be cut out. That’s not my definition of instant!

On the plus side, Lekala patterns are customized to your measurements. When you’re in between or crossover sizes the way I do, this eliminates a lot of time consuming tweaking for fit.

As my downloaded pattern file went off to Fed-Ex Kinkos, I dug down into my fabric stash. I had some nice water resistant and repellent pieces, in burgundy, emerald green, and navy blue. The emerald is a sort of double-cloth, with a black lining. I also had some pieces of canvas, including a water-resistant Greek key design in an olive green and gold. But, the solid colors weren’t exciting and the Greek key canvas was too busy.

The bolt for the fabric

The bolt for the fabric

Then, I stumbled across an old bolt of fabric. The label said only “Assorted Wovens”, with price tag of $1.99 per yard.

The fabric itself is a wonderful ivy print. It looks a lot like a Dorothy Draper print I saw in the Trellis Room when I visited the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia earlier this summer. I knew it would make an exciting and different trench coat. And, when I spilled a little white wine on it, I learned it’s actually quite water resistant. Or at least, white wine resistant.

My limited stash of polyester lining fabric had nothing suitable. I found an army green challis-like rayon that might have worked, but it had the price sticker still attached, and I didn’t want to use $5 yd fabric to line  $1.99 yd  fabric.  I kept searching. I was very close to giving up and using the rayon when I popped open a bin of old sheets. And there, right on top, was a sheet in the perfect color, in perfect condition.

I trekked to Fed-Ex, picked up my pattern and some tape, came home, and made dinner. Afterwards, while watching TV with hubby, I taped the pages together and cut my pattern out.

Back of the coat. The flap matches so well it disappears into the back

Back of the coat. The flap matches so well it disappears into the back

Most Lekala pattern instructions are little more than a brief outline of assembly steps. This coat had almost a full page of instructions, 17 steps. Some steps were quite verbose, yet cryptic. I’m still not sure what the relieve edge is. Throwing caution to the wind, I  set the instructions on the china cabinet and tackled the project my own way.

First, I laid out the pattern pieces matching the bold print as best I could. This time consuming process gobbled up fabric. The back of the coat is three pieces, center, left side, right side, princess seamed. Starting with the center back, I matched the pattern along the princess seams. Then I matched the back flap to the back. The front is also princess seamed, with four pieces. Two center pieces that overlap to make the double breast, a right side and a left side. Ideally, I wanted both center fronts to be exactly the same with the sides matching at the princess seams. But, I didn’t have enough fabric. So the right side front matched one center front piece, the left matched the other. But the center front pieces do not match each other.

The patch pockets match the fabric under them, the pocket flaps are made from the contrasting lining fabric.  The sleeves are two pieces. I wanted to make them so the pattern is mirror image, but it was impossible. The print has a distinct up and down and a clear left and right side. So the pattern runs front to back on one sleeve, and back to front on the other.

Then I cut lining, belt and contrast pieces from the cotton sheet. I omitted the interfacing in the coat itself because the fabric is really stiff on it’s own. The belt is interfaced, because the sheeting was way too soft without it.

Back of the Trench

Back of the Trench

I sewed the back pieces together, the right front to the right center, the left front to the left center, then the shoulder seams. I did the same with the lining. I applied the pockets to the front, then the contrasting pocket flap. I stitched the upper and under back flap together, trimmed the corners, turned it right side out and top stitched it. I basted it into place along the neck.

I made the collar using the print fabric for the under collar and the contrasting lining for the upper collar. I basted the collar to the neckline, over the back flap.

Then, I sewed the lining into the coat, sandwiching the raw edges of the flap and collar between the coat and lining at the neck. I top stitched around the front edge.  Next I added buttons and buttonholes. Usually a double breasted coat has two vertical rows of buttons. One is functional, the other is decorative and provides visual balance. I used only one vertical row of functional buttons.

I assembled the sleeve and sleeve lining pieces. I turned the sleeve right side out, and the sleeve lining inside out. I slipped the lining over the sleeve and trimmed the lining to be a bit shorter than the final sleeve length. Then I slid the lining down the sleeve, so the hem raw edges lined up. I sewed the raw edges together. I slipped the lining off the sleeve, and stuffed it back inside the sleeve. I pulled it up on the inside so the raw edges at the top of the sleeve and sleeve lining lined up. This pulled the lower edge of the sleeve, which was longer than the lining, to the inside of the sleeve, making a hem. I pressed the hem in place, and inserted the sleeve into the coat.


D-ring on Pocket Flap

D-ring on Pocket Flap

I had loads of o-rings and split o-rings and even a few square rings in my stash but no D rings. So I went to the hardware store to find some D-rings. As I was picking through the bins, a helpful store associate asked what I was using them for. When I told him they were for a trench coat, he said a lot of artists had been in that week buying hardware bits, and asked if a big art show was coming up. He seemed a little disappointed when I told him it was for an on-line sewing competition.

D-ring as belt loop

D-ring as belt loop

I added the D-rings to the pocket flaps, the collar and the back flap. I also used D-rings for belt loops.

I finished the raw hem edge of the coat and lining on my serger, turned them up and top stitched the hem.

Two features that appear on traditional trench coats that I did not add were epaulets and cuff straps. The slightly strange collar would hide epaulets anyway. I originally planned to add cuff straps in the contrast lining, but I simply ran out of time and energy.

The final step was photos for Facebook. I uploaded my photos just hours before the deadline.

And I won! A rotary cutting tool and two patterns. Yay me!


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Fun Floral Knit Top

A sheer, chiffon Nichoals top for 385 inspired my floral sweater knit top. The designer top is lovely but SHEER! Way too sheer for me. Instead of chiffon, I picked a light sweater knit.

Designer - Nicholas Price- $385

Designer – Nicholas Price- $385

The inspiration top features decorative trim along the princess seam lines. As if the sheer chiffon did expose enough, the decorative trim is open cutwork.

Aside from the ephemeral sheerness, the inspiration top has some lovely style lines. The princess seam from the shoulder is slimming. The sleeve ends in a delicate double flute. The upper flute looks like it might be from a border print or matching print. A decorative band accents the flutes. Tiny ruffles edge the neck.

I had a piece of black open cutwork trim that I knew would look nice along the from-the-shoulder princess seams. I thought about lining the open trim with flesh colored mesh. Then I stumbled across an old scrap of fabric. The odd, not pink, not red, not brown color of the polished quilting cotton blended wonderfully with the roses on the sweater knit. So I cut strips of bias from the quilting cotton, and used them behind the openwork on the decorative trim.

The biggest obstacle proved to be finding a basic princess seam from the shoulder top. There were none in my stash. There were none on the commercial Big 4 sites. There were none on the smaller, independent companies sites or the overseas downloadable pattern sites. I did find a LOT of coats and jackets with a from the shoulder princess seam, but no tops or dresses.

Finally, I decided to start with a from the shoulder princess seam jacket pattern already in my stash.

Here is the Princess seam from the shoulder line, open at the top and bottom of the seam

Here is the Princess seam from the shoulder line, open at the top and bottom of the seam

The next problem was a pattern for the flute sleeves. My stash offered up caftan sleeves that should work.

But, I just didn’t have enough fabric to cut double flute sleeves. Back to the stash. This time I discovered a vintage pattern with different flounces on a short sleeve. So I switched to the vintage sleeve, with a double flounce. The inspiration sleeve is full length, mine is only 3/4.

The vintage pattern showed a plain short sleeve, and three different flounce options (but it did not show multiple flounces). I picked two of the flounces to imitate the double flute sleeve on the inspiration top. The under flounce is a semi-circle. The upper flounce is shaped and comes to a point at the elbow, exposing the under flounce.

The sleeve, both flounces, and the trim

The sleeve, both flounces, and the trim

I assembled the sleeves first, just to see how they would turn out.

I finished the hem of the sleeve flounces on the serger with a version of faux piping. I was too lazy to remove the right needle, so I used four threads instead of the three normally used for faux piping.

Edge of the Flounce

Edge of the Flounce

I used ordinary Maxi-lock thread in the needles, and black wooly nylon in the loopers. I reduced the stitch length to slightly less than 1. I tried hard to NOT stretch the edge into a lettuce leaf. I wanted a bit of flare, but not ruffles.

The trim is in place

The trim is in place

Next I basted the princess seams together along the front and back. I pinned the shoulder and side seams along the stitching lines. Then, I tried it on, expecting it to be a touch too big because it was loosely based on a jacket pattern. I was right. I took all the seams in just a touch, and it fit well.

The Finished Top - except for ribbon rose trim at the flounce

The Finished Top – except for ribbon rose trim at the flounce

The strip of quilting cotton I used behind my cutwork trim covered the garment seam. I sewed the front and back princess seams with the serger. Then, I topstitched the trim over the front princess seam lines.

Finally, I sewed the side seams with a serger, then inserted my pre-assembled sleeves.

Now, I had to decide what to do about the neck and the hem. Originally I thought I’d make a neck band and a small rolled hem. But, as I looked at the almost finished top, I realized the cutwork sections were really bulky. The cutwork trim was stiff, it was backed with quilting cotton, and layered over the top. I wasn’t sure a rolled hem would work!

The Final Touch - Ribbon Flowers

The Final Touch – Ribbon Flowers

I realized the finish I used on the sleeve hems didn’t require turning the edge under. I simply serged along the final edge over a single layer of fabric. The test run over a scrap of the trim came out beautiful, so I that’s how I finished the hem.

Finally, I decided to finish the neckline the same way. I worried that it might be tugged out of shape, so I reinforced it with a slim strip of fusible interfacing before edge stitching with the faux piping.

The Fabric Mart Sticky Tag

The Fabric Mart Sticky Tag

Still, it was missing something. It needed a touch of something on the sleeve. The inspiration garment had a band of cutwork just above the elbow where the upper flute started. I didn’t have enough trim for that. I tried a bow, then a piece of lace, and last, a tiny ribbon flower. The ribbon flower was just a touch too small by itself, and I had only 2 dark red ones, so I added a black one on each side.

Finished top back view

Finished top back view

Finished top front view Pants Style Arc Elle

Finished top front view Pants Style Arc Elle





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Cafe Time!

Where did summer go? Between road trip vacations, sailing, yard work, county and state fairs and family gatherings left little time for sewing. And much of that time was gobbled up by my attempt at the Vogue Little French Jacket pattern. But that’s a story for another post..

Peach Raspberry Almond Pie

Peach Raspberry Almond Pie

So, here’s what I planned to enter in the fairs this year. Peach melba almond pie! I baked it in a cast iron skillet for a family event. But fair rules are very strict about presentation, it will have to go into a regular pie pan for that. And it will have to go next year, too. It took several tries for me to get the filling to gel, it kept coming out soupy. And I had a schedule conflict with the fair dates. So, next year!

Made with Ohio peaches and raspberries.

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Designer Inspired

Fabric: White scuba techno-knit from Fabric Mart, blue and white striped jersey scraps from the stash

Pattern: Basic 3 piece tunic; front, back, long sleeves

Inspiration dress from Milly

Inspiration dress from Milly

I liked the fresh, almost nautical look of this Milly dress. I see a lot of chat about the new techno-knit and scuba knit fabrics and wanted to try some. Fabric Mart had a sale on scuba knits, I had the blue and white jersey knit in my stash leftover from another project.

My Tunic Version

My Tunic Version

The scuba knit has a firm, almost rubbery texture, and a bit of weight to it. The jersey is light, thin cotton. I decided the jersey by itself did not have enough body to mix well with the scuba knit. So I made the entire garment out of the white scuba knit and laid wide bands of the jersey over the scuba knit.

I used my basic tunic pattern with a jewel neck and long sleeves. I didn’t have a lot of the blue stripe, so my center band is narrower, starting below the bustline instead of just above it. The bands on the sleeves are narrower to match the body.

I cut the tunic out of white scuba knit. I sliced the pieces (front, back, sleeve) horizontally where I wanted the blue bands to start and end. I cut the bands from the blue stripe and pressed along one stripe. I layered the bands over the cut band sections  of scuba knit and based them in place. Then  I reassembled each piece and finally sewed all the pieces together.

Then I left it sit unfinished for several weeks, because I could not decide how to finish the neckline.  I finally decided the day I wanted to wear i, and settled on a slim, rolled edge because I didn’t think I had time to make a band.

The scuba knit is a little on the warm side. It was surprisingly slippery, and very stretchy. I’m not sure I like it and not sure I’ll use a scuba knit again.  I do like my finished top,.

Just for comparison, the Milly dress is available 5/15 at Neiman Marcus for $355. My top cost less than $15. I think of the jersey as “free”, because I bought and used it for another project, but if you insist on including it in the cost, my copy still cost less than $20.


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Fun Top And Shorts

Made with athletic wear knit from Fabric Mart

Fun top Kwik Sew 4404Top is Kwik Sew 4404

Fun shortsShorts are based on the Linda pant from Style Arc


Summer is almost here!

I’m not an athletic person, but I like to have fun. I crew on a sailboat in the yacht races twice a week. I enjoy riding my bike and hiking in the nearby Cuyahoga National Park.

And every now and then I like to do something a little bit crazy. In June I’m going zip lining in West Virginia.

Naturally, I needed a new coordinating set of ath-leisure clothing for this exciting adventure.

I love the bright paisley print. I didn’t have a blue that matched or resembled the darker blues in the print. I had matching aqua, but that seemed a little washed out, so I chose royal purple for my contrast color.

I’ll use the aqua for a pair of pants with the print as an accent and maybe some purple piping. I might try squeezing a hoodie out of the leftovers from all three fabrics.

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Designer Inspired Dress

My inspiration dress

My inspiration dress

I like to browse designer fashions on the net, then sew my own versions. One evening a blue and white Oscar de La Renta dress from the Neiman Marcus site inspired me. It has pleats down the front from yoke to hip, which  release into a full skirt (but a bit too short for me). Essentially, it’s a tube that expands and contracts and expands again from top to bottom.

A stretch sateen blue and white floral from my stash. This print includes green and the piece was too small anyway

A stretch sateen blue and white floral from my stash. This print includes green and the piece was too small anyway


I had a lovely blue and white floral print in my stash, but the piece was too small, just a little over 2 yards, and included green. The blue and white floral cotton sateen I found at Mood Fabrics has a lot more blue and a lot less white than the inspiration dress, but it’s in the same colors with the same spirit.


I posted my inspiration on  forum at Pattern Review, and was advised to start with pre-pleated fabric. It was great advice, and I took it.


I’ve made my fair share of pleated skirts, but never used pleats to make a fit and flare dress. I searched for a pattern to guide me. The closest I came was Vogue  1461. I disliked the boaty neck and short hem, but bought the pattern anyway for insight on how this dress is made. Hems are easy to move up and down, and boaty necklines aren’t hard to redraft. My inspiration dress had a yoke, the Vogue pattern did not, also an easy adjustment. I’ll replace the sleeves completely.

Final fabric choice, a cotton stretch stateen

Final fabric choice, a cotton stretch stateen


The Vogue instructions left me feeling a little dismayed. They drafted shape into each pleat. In other words, the pleats did not maintain a steady shape. They got narrower at the bust, deeper at the waist, then narrower again before releasing into the full skirt. Now, if I were making the dress for a body that fit Vogues measurements, that would be great! But, I am not. I am making it to fit my measurements, which are not what Vogue had in mind when they drafted this  ( or any) pattern.

This is the modified lining cut out of an old sheet, and fitted to me. I'll disassemble it and use it for my pattern

The mock up I’ll use as a pattern


I didn’t want to mess with putting shaping in pleats. I wanted to use a single panel each for the front and back of the dress, using the same number of pleats as the original dress. My idea was to push the shaping into the side and center back seams.


I decided to use the lining pattern pieces from the Vogue pattern as my base, and do my own thing with the outer layer. I traced the lining pieces onto an old sheet, cutting a yoke into the front section. I assembled the pieces and tweaked them to fit. Then I ripped it apart.

The pleats marked on the wrong side of the fabric

The pleats marked on the wrong side of the fabric


I measured the length from shoulder to hem and added a few extra “Just In Case” inches. Note: My just below the knee hem is considerably longer than either the Vogue pattern or the original inspiration dress. I cut two pieces of fashion fabric that same length and pleated them, leaving one large piece unpleated.


After tinkering a bit, I discovered the width of my yardstick was exactly half the width for each pleat. Using the yardstick and blue tailors chalk, I marked the pleats on the back of the two cut fabric pieces. Solid lines indicate fold lines, horizontal slashes indicated the gap between pleats.


The pleated fabric, showing both wrong and right sides

The pleated fabric, showing both wrong and right sides

I stitched the pleats down the entire length of the fabric sections, because I thought it would be easier to handle the fabric. First, I layed and cut the lower front out of one piece. Next, I laid both back pieces out on the second piece of pleated fabric, and cut them. I searched through my stash  of commercial and homemade patterns for a relatively narrow peasant sleeve, and checked to make sure the cap would fit the armhole. Then I cut the sleeves and bodice from the last unpleated piece of fabric. Finally, I cut a lining from the thin silk habotai I keep in my stash for dying scarves and veils.


Shoulder seams are often the first construction step, but I chose to sew the center back seam first. I attached the yoke to the lower front, and finally got to the shoulder seams. I used my serger to finish all the seam allowances before sewing the side seams. After I had the main sections together, I realized I forgot to add a zip! But, the fabric has a bit of stretch so I can still get it on and off.


Using dental floss and a wide zig zag stitch to gather the hem of the sleeve

Using dental floss and a wide zig zag stitch to gather the hem of the sleeve

I assembled the lining, and sewed it to the dress at the neckline. I turned my attention to the sleeves, finishing the raw edges before sewing them together, leaving about and inch unsewn at the bottom. I didn’t know if I would finish the sleeve with a narrow cuff, like the inspiration dress, or cheat and use a simple elastic casing. Finally, I inserted the sleeves into the dress.


I anxiously tried the dress on. And discovered that it was just too loose and baggy around the waist. As hard as I tried, I could not avoid it – I would have to add shaping to the pleats. At this point, the pleats still extended the full length of the dress.


Finished Sleeve Band

Finished Sleeve Band

I finished the sleeves with a narrow band and a small snap.


I put the dress on inside out, and carefully used safety pins to deepen the front pleats at the waist.  After restitching the pleats I tried the dress on again. Although I took in only a tiny bit on each pleat, it made a huge difference in fit. Bonus – I can still pull it on and off without a zip.


Finished Dress

Finished Dress

The neckline stubbornly refused to lie flat until I topstitched it into submission. The final step was marking the point where I wanted the pleats to release, and opening the seam from hem to release point.


I wore this dress to the theater to see Matilda the Musical. The play was great! The dress was wonderful – except I think the jewel neck is just too high for comfort. I think I will cut the neck lower, and use some scraps to make a thin bias binding.



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