Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sew Indie Month: Pattern Hack Zsalya/Cressida Dress


Sew Indie Month is officially over for another year, but the contests are open until the end of today. Thank goodness I had this weekend off work, because I've been working madly on finishing my own Pattern Hack to enter. (and of course, you can go on over & VOTE FOR MEEEE, Please :)


I looked at all the patterns included in Sew Indie Month -- really, all of them -- searching for inspiration. Influenced by all the folkloric prints on the runways these days, I eventually decided to use one of my favourite stalwart patterns, Kate & Rose's Zsalya top & dress, and hack it into a fit & flare style dress, using Jennifer Lauren's Cressida skirt for the bottom half. This entailed a few changes.

The skirt was the easy part; I planned to take out the button placket in the front of the Cressida, and cut both front and back on fold. I used the regular waistband and pocket, but had to do a little adjustment on the left side pocket, as I was adding in a side seam zipper. Instead of getting really complicated about it, I just "made it work" with the way the pocket already sat. So now that pocket opens a little lower than the other side (about an inch lower). I also made sure the waistband opened at that side and not the front or back!

It ended up though, with the fabric I chose -- a narrow quilting width -- I had to cut the skirt in two pieces. I added a 1/2" seam allowance to the centre seam and just stitched it up and continued on. The print hides the seam very effectively.

It was the Zsalya bodice that really slowed me down, though. I've made the Zsalya three times before, and really love it. But my idea here was to take out the fullness of it, and taper it into a waistband. I made some pretty massive flat pattern changes to the bodice below the yoke -- shortening it by a good 10 inches, narrowing both front and back at the waist, and adding in darts to take up some of the remaining fullness.

Fuzzy shot of the redrawn, redone bodice pieces, with multiple attempts to get darts etc. right!

In my first muslin, the front looked great, with some gathering left in at the yoke seam, and darts adjusting the fit otherwise. The back was horrible though -- the darts did not work at all, the back was all wonky and puffy. So I tried taking the back darts out and replacing them with equal gathering top and bottom (reminiscent of McCalls 6696). But that also puffed out and made me look like I had a kangaroo pocket on my back. So then I switched it to an inverted pleat. It looked nice flat, but had the same puffy effect when I tried it on. So then I decided to just fold out all the gathering, and then took a 1" swayback type of horizontal dart across the centre of the back. It worked beautifully. The only other bodice fix I had to do was to make sure that the bottom of the bodice was going to be the same size as the Cressida waistband, which I used pretty much straight as it was drafted.

Front bodice with gathers left in & darts though you can't see them

Back bodice, with no gathers left
I finally got to the point where I was going to cut out my pattern in "real" fabric. I considered a number of choices from my stash, but when I saw these two side by side I knew they were perfect. I think that the Zsalya yoke gives this dress a folksy feel, but adding in the effect of these two fabrics also makes me think of Japanese design.

The floral print is a vintage sheet I've only owned for a few months, and the star print cotton is another 15-yr-old stash treasure that I originally bought with the plan to make a "Space Odyssey 2001" star quilt, alongside this other starry fabric I also used for a dress recently. The star fabric is a heavier cotton with a touch of stretch in it. I wouldn't really consider it quilting fabric but it did have a narrow width so perhaps it was sold as such; I can't really remember now! This info was on the selvedge:

In any case, I put it together, adding in a side zip on the left side, as the design made that the only possibility for an opening. I inserted a regular zip, as a centred zip, since I couldn't find a navy invisible zip in my local store. I'd have preferred an invisible one but this one turned out pretty well in the end.
Forgive the impressionist closeup -- I could not get a clearer image!

Then it came time for the sleeves. I wanted to use the Zsalya sleeve but change it from full length to elbow length. I had to extend the sleeve band as my elbow is larger than my wrist ;) When I tested it I didn't like the look of all the gathers that high on the arm, it seemed like 80's style puffed sleeves.

I decided that I should remove all the gathering and change the sleeve to the width of the band -- to do so on my muslin, instead of recutting another sample sleeve, I quickly sewed in a few tucks to take the fullness out and basted the band on again to check it out. But I was so taken with the look of the irregular darts around the sleeve that I repeated the same technique on my final make (there are about 7 darts in each sleeve). I love how it leaves the fullness of the upper sleeve but tucks it smoothly into the sleeve band. With the starry fabric, I feel like there are starburst darts in the sleeve, and I love the effect.

This pattern hack took much longer than I anticipated, but I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a lot of fun to look at a familiar pattern in a new way, and to do the "adjust & test & adjust again" until I had things just right. I might shorten the front bodice by another inch if I try this again, but I'm satisfied with how this turned out. I really love the final effect of these two fabrics next to each other in these two patterns.

I hope you all enjoyed Sew Indie Month as much as I did!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Not a Sham Skirt

This week I had to take a break and sew something easy and satisfying. Mostly because my sewing time was being taken up with watching live fashion shows from New York Fashion Week** -- have to keep up on those, you know! So with reduced time for actual sewing of my own, I decided to remake a wonderful fabric into a practical skirt.

I found this fabric at the Goodwill a week or two ago, and could not resist its autumnal colour and print. Even if it did come in the form of a giant pillow sham! I took a look at it and thought that I could make a quick and easy gathered skirt by putting some elastic into the existing button band and just cutting the bottom open and hemming. But when I tried that....well, not so much. It gave far too much of a dirndl effect -- too much fabric, not enough waist...

So on to Plan B. I looked through all my skirt patterns to find just the right one for this fabric. I ended up going with the basic A-line view of New Look 6843, which is also the pattern I used to make my first ever skirt, one I still wear! I pressed the pillow sham so that the serged seams were now in the middle, so I could cut my skirt pieces avoiding that chunky seam. I also left the skirt a good bit longer than the pattern, as I didn't want to waste any of my wonderful print.

I found the perfect button from a bunch I also recently thrifted

This pattern is so basic and reliable! I cut size 16 and the only adaptation I made was to add some side seam pockets (I just grabbed Butterick 6090, as it was handy in my sewing queue basket, and copied the pocket piece). I wanted to use self-fabric but there just wasn't enough -- so I cut them out of white cotton and just used a strip of the remaining print at the edge of the pocket. That way, if/when the pockets gape there won't be a flash of white.

This pattern used up most of the fabric -- this was nearly a zero-waste project. Only 4 buttons, and this little bit of fabric was left over:

Anyhow, it's a simple, well-fitting skirt pattern that I recommend, having made it twice now. It has a narrow waistband that actually sits at the waist, which I like. Comfortable and sleek, with two darts in front and four in back, which allows for a very nice fit. I like this version in its below-the-knee length, and feel like it was a great project to get back on track, just in time for autumn to arrive!

Wearing it with old standby KwikSew 3658 in the perfect colour 

**New York Fashion Week was very absorbing. I loved lots of the new looks -- much lace, embroidery and romanticism, which I am very drawn to even if I don't wear it much myself. But the highlights were some of the wonderfully produced runway shows. My favourites were Prabal Gurung's ode to Nepal, and Givenchy's stunning Sept. 11th show

Monday, September 7, 2015

SIM #2: Pinot + Walkley Casuals

Since Sew Indie Month is just getting started, and there is still time to pick up Bundle #2 for a great bargain (about $3.80 a pattern!) I thought I'd share the two patterns I made on this long weekend -- which are both part of this bundle.

Walkley Top & Pinot Pants
I decided to make two of the very easy beginner patterns. Because it was 40 degrees Celsius around here and extremely humid, I hid out in the basement sewing for much of the weekend! I traced off and sewed the Walkley top (probably unrecognizable with my changes) and the Pinot Pants

The Walkley top is a very simple t-shirt style top and dress -- it's basically one pattern piece, but it does have little "wings" at the ends of seams to make the turn & stitch finishing much easier and neater. There are also instructions in the pattern on how to personalize it -- how to add design seams, colour-block etc. I think this would be a great beginner pattern, as it's non-intimidating to work with, but also encourages new sewers to experiment and try things out. It could also teach them the importance of measuring and fitting a pattern to yourself before you cut. Ahem.

I traced it off at the largest size, knowing it would fit my hips that way. But then I totally forgot about taking in the neckline to compensate and merrily stitched away with this knit remnant from my stash. When I tried it on, the neckline was far, far too wide. I'm far too old to wear off the shoulder tops...what to do? I had a few ideas, but went with the simple one of handstitching in some lingerie straps to hold the shoulders in place, and give the neckline a cowl effect, front & back. I really like it.

I also decided to add some tiny patch pockets, big enough to hold my keys, as I was thinking about wearing them with pants like these Pinot pants, that don't have any pockets. Plus the print was so crazy that I knew even if I messed up the pocket stitching nobody would notice! I just sketched out a pocket piece on some tissue, and then eyeballed the placement on the front of the top.

closeup! they are teeny pockets

In all of these photos you can also get a look at my Pinot Pants. It's the first time I have ever attempted any kind of pants, and thought that these easy yoga-style ones, made by SBCC, a company that focuses on petites, might be a good bet. And they were! I used a soft, thin knit -- while the pants are very soft and comfortable, they are too thin for me to feel comfortable wearing them out anywhere -- but they are a great first try at some comfy everyday house pants. The only alteration I made was to adjust the crotch curve a little, using Nancy Zieman's Fitting Finesse for tips, and I think that it worked well. I am not posting a closeup of my butt on the internet, so you'll have to trust me when I say they fit exactly like they should and have no untoward pulling or drag lines. Not too bad for a casual pull-on style, and my first try at them!

Anyhow, these are two fun patterns to try out. Just remember to measure the Walkley, as the design does have a wide boatneck, and it looks so nice when it's made properly ;)

I'm excited about trying the Pinot pants again with a slightly sturdier knit and seeing if I can get the fit *just* right. Until then, I hope to see some of you try out some of these Sew Indie Month patterns as well. I'm having lots of fun with them.


You can check out my previous post for all the details on Sew Indie Month & all the activities -- including sewalongs and prizes -- but don't forget to also visit these participating bloggers for more visuals of all the patterns in Bundle #2 -- available until September 10th.

Friday, September 4, 2015

My Sew Indie Month Jasper Bunnyhug!

So glad it's Friday and I've got a chance to show you my new Jasper Bunnyhug, a pattern by Paprika Patterns which I received as part of the Sew Indie Month pattern bundle #2. I shared some info about this bundle in my last post but wanted to share it again -- from now until Sept 10, you can buy up to 10 patterns for a very good price indeed. More on that later!

I should begin by explaining my terminology, as most of my readers probably won't know what I am talking about when I say how thrilled I am with my new bunnyhug ;) Where I grew up, a sweatshirt with a hood and a pouch pocket was called a bunnyhug. Why, I don't know. It just was. And so that's what this still is to me -- I really can't make myself use 'hoodie' without feeling like something is just not right... :)
I've never worked with sweatshirt fabric before, but I had this lovely blue stuff in my stash, from a sale last fall. So using that and some knit scraps from an earlier project, I made up this Jasper.

I love how smooth the seams are with this fabric

The pattern was really clear, with additional help via tutorials on Paprika Patterns' blog. I was really glad for the extra photos when putting the welt pocket in -- somehow I just couldn't get it, and had to read through and examine the detailed instructions a few times! I did eventually get it finished, and it is mostly straight, haha. I used bits of the coloured knit for the welts, the covered buttons and to line the hood. 

Lining the hood was my own adaptation. I just thought it would add a little more colour in to this top, and wouldn't stick to my hair as much if I had the hood up. It was also a very handy way to finish the neckline and hood seams; I trimmed the sweatshirt fabric closely, and folded the edge of the stretchier knit over what was left, and then hand-stitched it down all around. It didn't take long and it looks very clean and tidy. And I love the hit of colour. 

I also made my own covered buttons using the same knit. I'd read a tip somewhere that adding some batting under the top of the button made the buttons cover more smoothly -- well, I didn't have batting but I did have lots of sweatshirt scraps, so I cut a circle the size of the button for each. I think they look pretty nice.

I knew those covered button kits from the thrift store would come in handy!
Otherwise this was a pretty straightforward make. The design is really good, making this into a flattering sweatshirt, something you can't say everyday! The princess seams are great, the bands finishing the sleeves and bottom are such a nice and easy way to finish it, and the hood is so big and droopy, it's just lovely. I was able to make this up over the last couple of evenings, although this post was delayed by my needing to finish the hand-stitching before I took photos... 

clean-edged seams!
This is a super project; it has many size options and other than shortening the body and sleeves I didn't make any other changes. Everything matched up and did what it was supposed to! Always nice. It will be a perfect addition to my fall wardrobe -- I lack warm and casual me-made items, so this is wonderful. 

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of my Jasper Bunnyhug, and don't forget to check out all the pattern bundle options as well as all the contests, blog posts and activity over at

The Kinga Skirt by Kate & Rose and the April 1962 Coat by SomaPatterns are brand new patterns that are being released with the bundle. During the sale you can only buy them as part of the bundle.

Not only is the bundle a great way to affordably try out some new patterns, it also helps a great cause. 20% of bundle proceeds will be donated to Womenfor Women, which helps women dealing with violence, marginalization, and poverty due to war and conflict.

This year the Sewing Indie Month HQ will be SewIndependent, which Mari from Seamster Sewing Patterns took over from Donna, who decided to step back from the site. You can buy the bundle and keep up to date with the latest SIM news on Sewing Indie Month (SIM) is a month-long celebration of indie sewing patterns where designers collaborate to bring you fun blog posts and informative tutorials. This year SIM is taking place in September. It's accompanied by a sewalong contest with fantastic prizes. Since the patterns in the SIM Bundle 2 are mostly knits, this sale gives you time to make quick projects for the contest while supporting small women-owned businesses and raising money for charity.

Here are all the patternmakers who are participating in this bundle:

And if you want to wander over to these other bloggers, they'll also be sharing their makes from Bundle 2 while the sale is on – always great for some more inspiration!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

September = Sew Indie Month!

I'm so very excited to be part of Sewing Indie Month this year. I had a ton of fun last year and discovered many new designers. 

I'll be posting my first Bundle 2 make on Friday, and can't wait to share it. But until then...details on how you too can join the fun!

For the next 10 days (through September 10th), the second (of two) Sewing Indie Month pattern bundles is available

What's included? Massive chances to make something new! Check out the:

Pinot Pants by Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick
 Fit and Flare Skirt by Maison Fleur
Bess Top by Imagine Gnats
VNA Top by Fehr Trade
 Nettie Bodysuit and Dress by Closet Case Files
 Walkley Vest & Dress by MIY Collection
Jasper Hoodie by Paprika Patterns
Nautilus Swimsuit by Seamstress Erin Designs
The new Kinga Skirt by Kate & Rose
The new April 1962 Coat by SomaPatterns

It’s pay what you will -- at varied bundle levels -- for an wide-ranging assortment of 10 different Indie patterns! Here's how it works:

Not only do you get some cool new patterns, 20% of bundle proceeds will be donated to Women for Women, which helps women dealing with violence, marginalization, and poverty due to war and conflict. 

Sew Indie Month runs from Sept 1 - Oct 4, and is full of sewalongs, inspiration, and fun. Be sure to check out the Sewing Indie website, for more information on rules and the details on the 3 sewalongs! 

And don't forget that all the patterns from the first bundle -- and all patterns by the 21 participating Indie designers -- can be sewn up as part of the sewalong celebration this month. Go on, try something know you want to :)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Kwik Sew Two-for-One: Bookish Inspirations

My "Book Dress" -- you can vote for me at

PatternReview has a regular series of monthly contests; this month's was the "Inspired By A Book" contest. As a librarian, how could I NOT enter this one?

I went back and forth with ideas, but finally decided on using the idea of a physical book as my inspiration. Rereading a favourite author, Ray Bradbury, made me think about the importance books play in civilization. There's a scene in Fahrenheit 451 in which a woman refuses to abandon her books when the Firemen come to burn her house down -- she'd rather not live without them. As Montag (our hero) encounters her:

"Come on, woman!"

The woman knelt among the books, touching the drenched leather and cardboard, reading the gilt titles with her fingers while her eyes accused Montag.

"You can't ever have my books," she said.

The idea of physical books vs. ebooks is also a constant refrain in my job -- I love both, in different settings. But the book as object is what inspired my idea for this dress.

Because I really wanted this to work, I first made a (hopefully) wearable muslin from a grey printed sheet and some leftover grey cotton from last summer's sewing. 

I'm very glad I did, because KwikSew 4098 is one messed-up pattern. The sizing was way off from what I expect from KwikSew. The finished measurement for the Large waistband, for instance, was indicated at 37". It was close to 34" in reality. Even with that, the Large skirt didn't quite fit itself to the waistband either, so I did a lot of last minute fixing and trimming and restitching of seams to get it all together nicely. My fault for not measuring all the pieces before cutting, so I'm glad it was a first go, not my good marbled fabric! 

I added trim to the grey dress, to try out the idea of piping my final make. Thanks to Facebook groups Monthly Stitch & MAGAM for their advice -- I decided to place the trim against the patterned fabric. It turned out very pretty, I think.

Then I added sleeves -- I chose two patterns, McCalls 6503 and Kwik Sew 4068 (both patterns with a sleeveless & sleeve view) and tried out each sleeve style. I ended up going with the other KwikSew for the grey muslin, and leaving it ungathered as I liked the bell shape. But for the final dress, the McCalls' narrower shape worked better. 

When I made the grey muslin I realized that I was going to need a big sway-back adjustment. I've never had to use one before, but adjusted the pattern to take a wedge 1/2" in length at the sides but nearly 1" in the middle. It seems to have worked nicely on the finished Book Dress, but I have to redo the original grey one.

I used a centre back zip in the grey, as called for in the pattern, simply because I couldn't find an invisible zip in the right colour. It worked okay, but was another reminder that I like invisible zips better, and so that's what I used in the final Book Dress. 

So I was super happy that I did a trial run on this one, and with a few unpickings & resewings, the grey one will be wearable as well. I tried out the cute patch pockets on the grey and really like them, but went with side seam pockets on the final make as I didn't want to interrupt the regular pattern of the marbling. 

Cute patch pockets

I don't think I'll use this particular pattern again, I had so many problems with sizing. Lots of redoing got the dress to the wearable and fitting stage, thankfully. But having to put in a zip three times is not my idea of fun. Still, I ended up with two very nice dresses so I am grateful for that, and the final Book Dress was exactly what I'd imagined in the first place.

closeup of bodice

closeup of back -- the piping is *nearly* perfect.

I match my marigolds!

So this is a two-for-one pattern in many ways -- I made two dresses from the same pattern, meaning I had 2 full weeks of cursing and jabbing myself with pins and washing blood out of fabric and having to do everything twice (hey, another two!) For some reason, this pattern was a massively complicated affair -- besides the sizing issues, there seemed to be something going wrong with nearly everything at some point. I'm so glad I had TWO reasons to continue.

I've entered the Book Dress into the PatternReview contest (and hey, you can soon vote for me there if you like) and this is also my project for the Monthly Stitch August theme, Two is the Magic Number!