We need to talk about the Rue dress some more.

My plan for this post had been to whip up a second muslin, share some photos of what I’d produced & the changes/alterations/re-drafts I’ve had to make away, & basically just keep hammering away at how much this pattern sucks.

But then Colette let it be known through the grapevine (ie, telling Deepika over on Pattern Review) that they would be making an “announcement” about the Rue on “Tuesday”. I refreshed the Colette blog throughout the morning waiting for the news to drop, but it just kept showing me the news about the latest issue of “Seamwork”. (To which I say, no thanks. It’s bonkers that I don’t read “Seamwork,” given that I read constantly, sometimes three books a day, & will read anything I can find about sewing. But “Seamwork” just doesn’t hold my attention, & it’s a big ol’ nope on the patterns.)

I decided to cruise over to the Rue sewalong page to see if there were any back-asswards new constructions tips over there for me to laugh at. There were not, because the sewalong has been suspended! This is where Colette dropped their big news: due to “customer feedback” (ie, blistering disgust across the internet), they are redesigning the Rue to drop the cross-bust style line below the bust (like in Sarai’s infamous plaid Rue), & they are also apparently doing something about the armscye & sleeve issues. People who have already purchased the Rue will be re-issued new pattern pieces for free in the manner in which they bought the original Rue. I bought a paper pattern, so I will be receiving paper pieces in the mail. They’re saying PDF customers can expect to receive their new pieces in about three weeks, & paper customers are looking at six. The sewalong will pick up again at the end of the month, starting fresh with bodice alterations relevant to the new draft.

So! On the one hand: good! They’re “fixing” the problem. People who have already purchased the pattern will be receiving corrections automatically, & people who bought paper to spare themselves the trouble of the PDF format will be getting paper corrections, which is a nice (& undoubtedly expensive) touch. I’m especially glad to hear that they’re addressing the armscye. In my journey with the Rue pattern thus far, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that 85% of the problem is a shitty armscye/sleeve draft. Yeah, the curved style line hits in a weird place, but that’s fairly easy to address, even for a relative newbie. But even experienced sewers shy away from making major changes to sleeves & armscyes.

But there are still some problems.

  • Right now, the announcement of a fix in the works is only available on the sewalong blog, in the “errata” buried on the Colette website, & on the Rue pattern page. (Sales of the Rue are suspended until the new draft is available.) Colette is making a big fuss about how they want to be “honest & transparent” with their customers…which means that they could really do themselves a favor by including this news on the official Colette blog. It would also be nice for them to send it out to their newsletter subscribers, or at least as a mass email to the customers who bought the Rue. (I’m one & I’ve heard nothing, so…)
  • The sewalong post with the announcement has been closed for comments. I get that maybe they don’t want to risk getting dog-piled over an issue they’re trying to resolve, but closing comments doesn’t really scream “honest & transparent” to me. Maybe that’s just my bitterness as a person who has had comments deleted by Colette mods speaking.
  • This announcement is also the first time they’ve copped to the fact that there’s an issue with the armscye/sleeve. If you have some time on your hands, you can scroll through the posts about the Rue, both on the sewalong & on the official Colette blog, & find many people asking why their muslins have gaping, draglines, etc at the arm/sleeve. You can scroll through the “tester” photos (actually just dresses made for promo; no “testing” was done, & nothing against any of those bloggers–they didn’t know they were going to be handed such a shitty pattern) that Colette promoted so heavily right after the pattern release, & you will see lots of problematic fit issues around the shoulder (to say nothing of fit issues around the bust, because people were given a poorly-drafted pattern with odd style lines & no sensible garment shaping & told to sew it on a tight deadline with no guidelines concerning fit or alteration). Some of the most successful Rues so far have been the result of the sewer choosing not to include sleeves at all.

Here’s the original Rue armscye shape:


This shows how oddly square & shallow it is (as well as how narrow the shoulder is). This is the size 12 armscye, which ostensibly accommodates a 37″ high bust (like mine). & yet, the front armscye is only 5.5″ deep from seamline to seamline. That is more than inch smaller than the depth you’d expect to see on a size 0 pattern. The shape also does not seem to be designed for the ball-shaped socket that is the shoulder joint, & you can see that whatever shoulder slope may exist would be the product of the fabric being forced to twist to the side to meet front & back at such a squared-off angle.

Above is one of the sample dresses from the official Rue release. It was smart of them to use that fabric. People responded really well to it, & it plays up the opportunities for showcasing design elements by cutting different pieces on the cross-grain or bias.

It also serves as a good illustration of the shoulder/armscye issue. Look at the way the stripe runs vertically down the middle of the bodice, but fans out toward the shoulder on a more diagonal line starting at the center of the bust. There was a lot of curiosity & speculation about how that effect was achieved. Multiple pattern pieces for the upper bust? Some sort of interesting dart that manipulates the grainline?

Nope. Just a shitty draft. The armscye is so shallow & squared-off that the fabric is just pulled off-grain at shoulder point, radiating the distortion back toward the bust where the tucks create play in the fabric (as well as excess fabric across the chest, just looking for someplace to go). This causes all kinds of gaping & bubbling at the back & underarm. & the issue is exacerbated when you fit the poorly-drafted sleeves into the armscye.


Here’s the Colette sleeve cap. Rather flat, isn’t it? A flatter, wider sleeve cap can work quite nicely for a garment with a more relaxed fit through the shoulder. But the sample photos & line drawings make clear that this is a garment with a fairly fitted sleeve. A fitted sleeve with a sleeve cap this flat will just pull, causing draglines across the sleeve & around the armscye. Which is exactly what you see in pretty much every Rue floating around online so far.

I’m glad they have FINALLY copped to this being an issue, & that they are planning some kind of fix, but the dates they are giving people mean there’s not really going to be any time for thorough tests of the new draft. & there’s also the question of whether we can truly anticipate a well-drafted solution from the same company that let this mess out of the workroom in the first place. Once you understand how the garment is constructed, the fit issues are obvious in the sample photos, & yet, somehow, everyone involved with this release was like, “Lookin’ good! Let’s roll!” All I can figure is that they either decided it was good enough & that they had enough fangirls that any criticism could easily be dismissed, or they really didn’t see the problems until scores of irate sewers pointed them out. Neither option is good.

Now I have to decide if I should keep plugging away with my own fixes or if I should cool my heels until mid-November when the new draft is due to arrive. I did go out & buy fabric for my billionth M6696 yesterday. Maybe I’ll whip that up & give myself a mental health break from the Drafting Murders of the Rue Dress.

& PS–Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on my last post!


We need to talk about the Rue dress.

Part one.

The Rue dress is the most recent release from Colette Patterns. They billed it “a return to vintage” after a long string of bland, ostensibly more “modern” patterns. It comes with two skirt options: an unadorned straight skirt, & a multi-paneled full pleated skirt. It has two sleeve options: a cap sleeve & a three-quarter sleeve. The neckline is scooped both front & back, & the most compelling detail is in the front bodice panels, which curve across the bust & meet in a V at the center waist. Where the panels meet the upper bodice, there are tucks over the bust.


This pattern could have been a smash. Long-time Colette fans have been missing the vintage design elements that had been so prevalent in early releases after slogging through lumpy pencil skirt after shapeless pinafore after after basic knit tube skirt. (Seriously, the Mabel? If you’ve been sewing consistently for more than, let’s say, two years, & you need an $18 pattern to make that skirt, you have bigger problems that we can address here.) To say nothing of the “Seamwork” offerings. The big selling point with “Seamwork” patterns is that they can be whipped up in three hours or less: sew your own throwaway fast fashion. Be your own sweatshop. They look like they were each drafted in three minutes or less. Lots of shapeless rectangles.


What is this even? It’s kind of like a weird hat for your boobs. I don’t think the hem band for this official sample garment is even finished.

Lest you read these opening paragraphs & conclude that I am nothing more than a Colette hater, let the record show that I own the Colette book & have sewn from it. The Crepe dress was one of the first dresses I ever sewed for myself. & yes, I own the Rue pattern. I paid for it with my own money. The Colette aesthetic is overall a bit more sticky-sweet & pastel than I prefer, but if you can get past the bland color palette, often unfortunate fabric choices, & twee styling decisions, there are sometimes appealing elements there. I pictured the Rue in a casual, hard-wearing textile that would result in a comfortable, practical transitional weather dress with interesting style lines. Something I could wear to volunteer at my daughter’s preschool, with all the paint, playground time, messy eaters, & baby goats that entails (really, the kids are sometimes visited by an adorable baby goat named Tango!), something that is just as comfortable as jeans & a tee, but is a little more elevated style-wise.


Tango, posing with one of Ramona’s teachers.

This vision was predicated on my hope that a pattern company as successful as Colette would actually know the first thing about drafting patterns. Alas. The Rue pattern is a complete mess.

Like I said, I’ve sewn two Colette patterns in the past. Both were sewn when I was pretty new to garment sewing & didn’t really know much about either how garments were supposed to fit, nor how to change garments to fit properly. Neither dress is really worn anymore. I am fairly close to the Colette block. I’m short-waisted, flat-butted, & large-busted (a D; Colette drafts for a C). My body shape is an apple-ish hourglass. My measurements put me in the upper end of Colette’s original unexpanded size range.

The Crepe dress I sewed was irritatingly short-waisted. The waist seam rode above my natural waist & was exposed when it was supposed to be covered by the waist tie. No amount of futzing with the ties, making the wrap tighter or looser, solved the issue. I probably should have done a bit of an FBA on the pattern, but I didn’t realize that at the time, & for all their talk about offering “patterns that teach,” they still confoundingly fail to include high bust measurements in their size charts. You can extrapolate if you know what “drafts for a C-cup means,” & if you know that they draft for a C-cup, & if you know you will achieve best results on most dress/shirt patterns by choosing a size corresponding to the high bust & altering from there as needed, but the pattern didn’t include any of that information, hence leaving me, as a fairly inexperienced new sewer, with an ill-fitting dress that didn’t get nearly as much wear as it should have. The cut on sleeves also fit oddly under the arms (a bit high & tight) & the crossover wrap in the back was too low for my personal preferences.

The other Colette pattern I made was a modified version of the Licorice from the Colette Sewing Handbook. I did my best to overlook the atrocious fit of the blue dress on the model, & I abandoned the futzy collar & shortened those awful leg of mutton-inspired sleeves into a short puff sleeve. The result was essentially a shapeless sack with a constrictive armscye & ludicrously wide neckline. It languishes in my closet.


I just don’t understand how that blue thing is an official sample photo.

Obviously, it’s the rare pattern that fits straight out of the envelope. & I am well-aware that I have a figure that consistently presents a few fit challenges. My high bust & waist measurements always put me in radically different sizes. I have a pretty pronounced swayback. I don’t mind making fit adjustments. I don’t love making muslins, but I’ll do it for sure. I even enjoy making style changes, rotating darts, all that good stuff. I love a sewing challenge, I love learning new things.

The Rue dress is not a sewing challenge. It’s just a disaster. Colette has said that the curved panels on the front bodice are just “style lines,” & the tucks at the bust are “decorative”. There are no other darts or anything else to provide shaping to the front bodice, & the basic physics of how fabric is manipulated would indicate that the tucks exist for shaping. They’re the equivalent of darts. But Colette is doubling down on their insistence that the curved “style line” should fall 1″ below the bust apex on the larger sizes (like mine). That means the tucks radiate upward beyond the apex & release their fullness over the sternum, smashing down the bust & creating baffling & unflattering lumps across the upper bodice. This is a look that would work great for a woman with boobs on her clavicles, but for the rest of us, it’s a mess. It would work much better to place the curved seam below the bust, with the tucks releasing their fullness just below the apex. (Not over it! When questioned about this on the Colette blog, Colette HQ keeps saying that the tucks release “over” the apex, which is a really great way to get a lumpy bust fit & a gaping neckline. Does anyone over there actually know how to sew?) For reference, there’s a 3.5″ difference between my bust apex & the wire line of my bra. This will differ according to bust size & tissue distribution (some woman are fuller at the top or the bottom of the bust, which is why two women who wear the same bra size might not have the same bust point if they were to draft themselves bodice slopers).

& then there’s the armscye/sleeve issues. This is already a long post, so I’m going to have to turn this into a series. I just can’t fit everything I have to say into one post. I’m thinking about all this because I am determined to put the work in & see a) if I can make the Rue work, & b) what exactly is involved in making the Rue work. I am only one muslin in so far, but I have already lengthened both the upper & lower front bodices to drop that style line & get the bodice down to my (unusually high!) natural waist, changed the placement of the tucks (& converted them to gathers), redrawn both the front & back neckline, widened the shoulders to actually cover my bra straps, straightened out the back center seam (it was weirdly curved & caused a hot mess of bubbling across the upper back), completely redrawn the armscye to make it fit a human arm & drafted a fresh sleeve from scratch, shortened the skirt 3.5″, & swapped out the side seam pockets for curved side-front pockets. I’ve been keeping an eye on the official sewalong, which is telling people to choose a size based on the WAIST measurement, which is just straight up gobbledygook.

Stay tuned for more excoriating commentary, coming soon…



achievement unlocked: cat print jersey jammies

I’m alive!


& to prove it, behold my pajamas.

I am still suffering from some sewing malaise. I’ve been working through a spell of moderate depression, which has been dragging me down. One of these days soon I will muster up the energy to move some furniture around & create more of a cohesive sewing studio in my bedroom. I think that will be a big step toward getting motivated to sew more, but a lot of books need to be moved in the process, so I’ve been putting it off.

Which is really too bad, because I have been needing these pajamas for a few months. In my quest to wear a 100% handmade wardrobe, I have needed to make a lot of pajamas, because let’s be real: I wear pajamas ALL THE TIME. I have shorty pajamas with open backs & ribbon ties, cozy flannel old man-style pajamas sets, even a few comfy dresses that can double as pajamas if I’m feeling especially lazy. But I’ve really been needing some medium-weight pajamas with full length legs & short sleeves. What do you wear to bed when it’s like 65 degrees? Flannel is too warm, but shorts & a tank are too chilly.


My solution is a basic Blanc tee from Blank Slate Patterns teamed with self-drafted pajama pants, sewn from this Lizzy House cat print jersey (I think the fabric is called “Cattitude”). & yeah, I didn’t have quite enough, so I subbed in solid fuchsia for one of the back legs. I probably could have eked the whole thing out of the yardage on hand if I’d made the pants a little shorter & a little slimmer, but oh well. The contrasting back leg kind of helps break up the sea of cat faces.


Incidentally, I fully did wake up like this. No bra, uncombed hair. This is basically how I look 23 hours out of everyday, minimum.

This was a really straightforward project, kind of a palate cleanser in between all the work I am doing on another project. That project is the newest release from Colette, the dreaded Rue dress. I decided I wanted to try it for myself & see how poorlydrafted it really is. (Note that almost every participant in the Pattern Review Sewing Bee contest either “does not recommend” the pattern or “recommends with modifications”.) Yes, I actually purchased it with my own money. & the answer: it’s a complete disaster. It really deserves a whole series of blog posts of its own. the whole thing is a mess, but I actually just sat down yesterday & drafted a sleeve & an armscye from scratch because no human arm could possibly fit comfortably into the Colette draft. (Beware the pattern sample photos in which the model is obscuring the fit with a cardigan.) I really feel sorry from any brand new sewers thinking they’re going to have a good outcome with that pattern. I feel even worse for the people following the insane sewalong & picking a size based on their waist measurements. (My waist measurement puts me in a size 18. I cut a 12 & was absolutely swimming in it in the shoulders & bust, & I have a larger cup size than that for which Colette drafts.) Anyway! Those are war stories for another day.

The pajamas!


I have a real love affair with the Blanc tee, just because it’s so damn comfy. There are more flattering t-shirt patterns in the world for sure, but this thing is quick & easy to sew, & just basically my platonic ideal of an easy tee.

I do a few construction things differently: I stabilize the shoulder seam so they don’t stretch (I used satin ribbon for this). The directions say to finished the neckline with a bias tape facing, but instead, I do a small, narrow zigzag where I want the turn to be. I press it under & then do a straight stitch at a slightly longer-than-usual stitch length.


Voila! This gives a nice, tidy finish with no rippling or puckering, & without having to fuss with stabilizers. I’ve experimented with a few different ways of hemming knits, & I think this is my favorite. A zigzag stitch looks a little homemade (not in a good way), turning under clear elastic is bulky & sometimes it’s hard to get all the elastic tucked in, & turning under without the aid of that zigzag can result in an inconsistent hem width. I also love a banded finish, but if you’re aiming for simplicity &/or economy of fabric use, this is a quick & easy solution.


I turned the bottom under with some hot pink ribbon. Just for fun.


I’ve used this self-drafted pants pattern a few times for other pajama pants & shorts, & it even served as the base for my shorty overalls. Obviously it has a lot of ease, which I like in a pajama pants. I like being able to curl up & roll around without feeling constricted by my pajamas. & of course, there are pockets:


I didn’t make a separate waistband piece. I just added a little extra (like 1.5″) to the rise & then sewed on elastic like you do with lingerie. I zigzagged it to the front, stretching the elastic as I went. Then I turned it to the inside & zigzagged in place. I find this method a lot easier than making a casing & feeding the elastic through, & it also precludes the possibility of the elastic getting twisted.


I mean, this isn’t blue ribbon quality sewing, but for a basic pair of jammies, it’s fine.


My favorite part of these pajamas is this cute little ribbon piping detail on the cuff. I had to cut the cuffs on the cross-grain due to fabric limitations, but with such a loose silhouette, it doesn’t matter. Truthfully, I had to cut the pink back leg on the cross-grain too. I only had half a yard of 60″ wide fabric. It worked out fine. I originally bought this cat print to make another Lady Skater dress, but I’m really glad I used it to make loose-fitting jammies, because the print is easily distorted under the most minimal degree of stretch. It would have looked awful on a dress bodice fitted with negative ease.

So that’s that! I wish I was wearing these pajamas right this second because they are so damn comfortable. I wish I was wearing them while curled up in bed with Sady Doyle’s book Trainwreck (I just can’t get enough of reading about feminism through the eye of pop culture–this is actually what I studied in college almost twenty years ago, believe it or not), but we’re going to a birthday party for one of Ramona’s preschool classmates this afternoon, so I am wearing real clothes instead (black Blanc tee & gray wrap skirt). There’s just no justice in this world.


achievement unlocked: Simplicity 7915 wrap skirt


Let me just explain this photo situation first. I am still figuring out how to best photograph stuff I make for the blog in the new house. To zoom out enough to get the entire outfit in the shot, there was also an undue amount of width, so you can see my messy sewing table area & Ramona’s bedroom in the background. This was a good spot in terms of light, but it probably needs better staging. OR NOT, because who cares. I’m not exactly a blogging professional here.


As you can see from this wonkus angle.

This is vintage Simplicity 7915, a wrap skirt made in gray twill.


I made view 3, as seen on the blonde lady sporting a turtleneck. This was my first ever vintage pattern. I’ve never bothered with them before because basically no vintage patterns exist in my size & I don’t want to bother grading up when it’s easy enough for me to find modern patterns in my size, or in need of only a few fitting tweaks.

Jared’s mom sent me this pattern. She paid me to make her two versions of view 3, one in black cotton lawn, & one in plaid cotton. The pattern she sent was for her size, a 26″ waist. & the fabrics she chose were not really the most appropriate for the garment. The lawn was downright sheer. I cut the whole thing on a single layer to conserve fabric, in the hopes of having enough extra to squeak out an underlining for the front. (The back doesn’t really need one because it wraps in the back, making two layers there regardless.) Cutting the fabric was far & away the worst part of making these skirts. It’s a pretty full skirt & none of the pieces are symmetrical, so nothing is cut on the fold. I have a fairly large cutting table, but my pattern pieces were too wide to fit, even in the tiny (to me) 26″ waist size. I got there in the end, & managed to even include an underlining, but it was not fun.


Here is a blown-out photo of the black one. It turned out all right. I misunderstood the instructions for topstitching the pocket flap & stitched it to the pocket (before sewing it on to the skirt, so it still functions as a pocket). The hem is kind of a mess because I was trying to fold up two layers of fabric at once. If I had it to do over again, I would have hemmed the underlining layer separately. & the less said about the keyhole in the waistband for the tie, the better. I definitely whiffed that bit on my first try.

Once the black one was done, I moved on to the trickier plaid version.


Tricky because I wanted to match the plaid. This skirt has big ol’ patch pockets. Do you see them? Maybe not because I matched the plaid so well! The only give away is that the flap is on the bias.


Look at that! Near flawless. & it only took me approximately 70 billion hours to cut.

The pocket construction for this version of the skirt is really interesting. The flap is formed from the facing. The main pocket is shaped like an open alligator mouth attached to a big rectangle, & the facing is just the alligator mouth. The curved edges of the mouth are sewn together, right sides facing. Then all the edges are trimmed, the curve is clipped, & the facing is turned in, as are the raw edges of the pocket. Everything is pressed nice & flat & the curved edge is topstitched. The top part of the alligator mouth is then folded down to the exterior of the pocket at an angle, forming the bias flap. The pocket is topstitched to the skirt & the flap is secured with a button.

It took me a long time to figure out exactly how to construct the pocket, but once I got there, it was very easy & pleasant to sew. & this skirt is near-perfect. My only issue with it is a little wobble in the front middle seam, but hopefully it will be covered by the tie ends & no one will ever notice.

Once Sarah’s skirts were finished, I decided to grade the skirt up to my size. I’ve sized up patterns in the past, but it’s generally been an issue of maybe adding one more inch to a skirt waist or something. Not really a huge undertaking. But this time, I was grading a pattern made for a 26″ waist up to my 38″ waist. Adding a little extra for wearing ease & knowing that a wrap skirt is essentially tied to fit, I went ahead & made the front 20″ (including seam allowances). The original skirt was 14″ wide at the waist, & cut in two panels, so I had to add 3″ to the panel (2 panels times 3 inches each equals 6, plus the original width of 14″ equals 20″). I distributed the extra width by slashing & spreading the skirt 1″ in three places. At the end of the day, I probably made it just a little bit too wide (I’ve lost some weight recently), but it’s fine, because it ties to fit.

The back was a little trickier because I had to guess at ratios. For a 26″ waist, let’s say the 26″ are equally distributed front & back, making the back waist 13″ wide. Because the back is the wrap panels, & neither covers the back entirely, each one was a little smaller than 13″. Let’s say they were each 10″, roughly 75% of the back waist width. Rather than making my back panels 3″ smaller than my back waist width (16″ on 19″), I used the 75% ratio, which came out to 15″, including wearing ease. I slashed & spread 1″ in five places. This also made the waistline significantly more curved, which is good for my swayback & relatively larger badonk-a-donk. I used the same ratio math to lengthen the ties, because it really sucks, as a larger person, to have stubby little ties sticking out because they aren’t long enough to wrap around the body & fall nicely like they do on slimmer people.


You can see one side of the back wrap ends over on the left here, & the skirt is a nice full shape with a lot of body, thanks to making it out of twill. I also shortened it about 3″, because I like my skirts to end at or just above the knee. The tie end for the other side of the back wrap feeds through a keyhole in the waistband so it can wrap around & tie in the front.


Like so.


I used pink thread for my topstitching (pink, gray, & black are my neutrals) & secured the pocket flaps with these little cat face shank buttons I ordered from M&J Trimming a few months ago.


The weight of this skirt makes it perfect for transitional weather…which has yet to come to Kansas. It’s still summer here, for sure, in the 90s for the last few days. But it will cool down eventually & then this skirt will get a ton of wear. It goes with everything, it’s comfortable, & it’s one of the better sewing jobs I’ve done. I didn’t get a photo but the hems on the sides of the back wrap pieces are far & away the most perfect hems I have ever done on anything, perfectly straight, each stitch perfectly formed, about 1/16″ from the fold of fabric. Flawless! There are a few things (like the crooked cat button above) that keep me from classifying this as a perfect sew, but it’s damn close.


achievement unlocked: Mariner pa’u skirt & Blanc tee

I’ve got a twofer to show today!


I cannot believe how long it’s taken me to write up these garments. I made the t-shirt in May & I made the skirt in late June. I think the issue is that I wore them constantly all summer, but somehow never managed to get photos before I spilled Ethiopian food or pasta sauce or whatever all over myself. I guess I’m kind of a messy eater.


^^^ Same t-shirt, same skirt, at the Kansas City Zoo in July.

Let’s talk about the t-shirt first, because it’s pretty simple. The pattern is from Blank Slate Patterns, & I think it’s free if you buy another pattern. I picked it up when I bought the Marigold shirtdress for my entry into Indie Pattern Month’s “new to me” challenge.29104507022_8d160e13da_z1

This is a super-simple tee. It’s just two pieces with cut-on cap sleeves. Raw edges at the hems & neck are turned in & stitched. I did a narrow zigzag at the seamline to help things turn under neatly (a little tip I picked up from Beverly Johnson’s Craftsy class on sewing a supportive one-piece swimsuit). The bottom hem does roll a bit, because I made it VERY narrow. When I make another in jersey fabric, I will have to remember to add a little extra length so I can make a deeper hem.


Despite its simplicity & my usual preference for a banded finish at the hems & neck, I am obsessed with this tee. I don’t know that it would necessarily work for every body, but I love the way it fits me. It shows some shape, but it’s not tight enough to make me self-conscious. The fit is really casual & summer-y. I have been wearing it seriously at least four times a week all summer. I’ve cut another in some gorgeous plum-colored double knit from Style Maker Fabrics. I won a $25 gift certificate to the shop when I won one of the Indie Pattern Month challenges at the Monthly Stitch. (My final winner’s haul for Indie Pattern Month was $25 in free fabric, an instructional DVD on zippers, & nine free patterns from various indie designers–pretty impressive!) This pattern takes less than a yard of fabric (60″ wide) so it’s very economical. & it’s so fast to sew. The only reason my double knit version wasn’t done an hour after I cut it out is because I’ve been dragging my feet on tracking down matching thread.


Bottom line: this is not the most sophisticated pattern in the world, but I love the way it looks on me, & when you add in the fact that it was free & it takes an hour to sew…nothing but raves from me.

On to the skirt. This was a featured make-at-home project in “Threads” magazine a couple of months ago. Apparently the pa’u skirt is a traditional native Hawaiian garment often used in hula. It’s usually midi length, & there are three rows of channeling at the waistline. A ribbon is inserted through each & cinched to fit, which also creates dense gathers. There’s only one seam in the garment, at one side, where the ribbons are fed.


I had some qualms about making this skirt, & I’d love some opinions. Given that this is a traditional garment from a culture that I am not a part of, & which is not a privileged culture, social justice-wise, it seemed like maybe it was culturally appropriative of me to make it. I asked Jared for his input, & he voted that it was culturally appropriative. Obviously I made it anyway, because I had my eye on this fabulous border print & was already planning to use it for some kind of a dirndl skirt. This skirt has the whole ribbon element, & I loved the dense gathering at the waistline (even though it definitely adds bulk in an area where I require no assistance)…I am basically helpless when it comes to ribbon. I’ll make practically anything if I can use ribbons.


The crossroads of fashion & cultural appropriation are difficult & thorny. There are a lot of styles that have made their way into “mainstream” (read: white) fashion that began in the traditional designs of marginalized cultures. Some of the styles are used specifically to evoke the marginalized culture, like dresses with cheong-sam styling (think frogs & maybe a stand collar) or heavily embroidered poblana-style blouses (thank you, Mexico). But some elements have basically become completely assimilated into mainstream fashion (kimono sleeves, for instance).

& it’s a constant issue for privileged Western white people to just buy (or make) the styles that appeal to them & never stop to consider the fact that they may be appropriating a really important part of a marginalized culture. Consider, for instance, the Navajo Nation suing Urban Outfitters for slapping their name all over clothing made in vaguely “tribal” prints. (Consider “tribal” prints in general.)

So. These are the thoughts I had while making this skirt. I still feel unresolved on the issue. Obviously this style of skirt is important to hula culture, & hula culture is important to a race of people who were colonized & exploited. Am I contributing to that exploitation by making this skirt, just because I think it’s cute? Maybe.


I do like the skirt, & I wear it constantly, & I get loads of compliments every time. (I think people just really like the print, & a one-seam gathered skirt is an ideal way to showcase a fabulous border print.) I used a full three yards in width, but I shortened it a bit so it’s knee-length or a little above (depends on where I wear the waistband). I also did the ribbon treatment the same way I did on my Anderson blouse, by sewing ribbon to 1/4″ elastic, to give the waist a little stretch & facilitate being able to put it on & take it off without untying. I made the ribbon a little long for the bottom tier, a little longer for the middle, & longest at the top, so they all fall to about the same length.


The fabric is a laser printed print from the Hawthorne Threads in-house line. It comes in a pretty big selection of colors. I honestly had a hard time choosing. A warning to those who may be tempted to order Hawthorne Threads prints for garments: the print is indeed 44″ wide, as advertised, but the selvages are enormous. The average selvage is like an inch. Each selvage on these bad boys was like 10″. The fabric also feels a lot more stiff than your average high-quality quilting cotton. I was not thrilled with the hand or the drape at first. Washing it made it a little softer, but it was still really stiff, & all the gathering on this skirt requires a certain degree of drape, you know? But like I said, I’ve been wearing it, & hence, washing it, all summer & it’s softened up a lot.


assorted sewing ruminations

Remember those shorty overalls/dungarees/”ovarees” I made last month? I submitted the design to the Maker’s Wish competition over at Schnittchen Patterns. People can vote on which designs they would like to see turned into actual Schnittchen patterns. The four most popular choices will win. It’s kind of a cool idea, letting the people that ostensibly may buy your patterns have a say in the options available. Maybe go check it out & vote?

& if I may include a bit of reasoning for why you should vote for my pattern: I intentionally submitted a garment that is perhaps a bit more unique in silhouette because I feel like there’s a lack of that in the indie pattern world. As a person who aims to have a completely handmade wardrobe, I need a lot of options–NOT just skirts & dresses. I wear pants, jeans, & shorts all the time, because that is what is most practical for my lifestyle. When I got a bee in my bonnet to make my shorty overalls, I really couldn’t find a pattern I liked. I wanted classic jeans detailing (topstitching, rivets, mock fly, front & back pockets), a full front & back bib, & I was absolutely obsessed with wanting a waistband. I also had a vision of having buttons at the hips to facilitate fit. I guess that’s a detail I remember having on some overalls I had in high school (circa 1993, when overalls were all the rage).

There aren’t a lot of overalls patterns available, full stop, & every one I found was not quite right. The bib was cut too low, it called for buttons at the shoulders instead of classic dungarees hooks, there were pleats around the belly/hips, it was cut all in one with no waistband (or even a waist seam in some cases), the fit was too snug, the legs were too wide, something. I could have just bought the pattern that was closest & tried to alter it to suit my vision, but instead I took a chance on just drafting my own, & I LOVE how it came out. Those ovarees are probably my most worn item of summer 2016.

There are so many dress patterns in the world. I’m not saying that we don’t need another. I’m just at a point in my sewing where I can easily alter & hack the dress patterns I already have to get pretty much any style I want. People seem to find pants a lot more challenging & want a pattern to guide them. So…pick my pattern! Or, seriously, any of the others. There are some really intriguing designs to choose from.

In other news, I guess I am co-hosting a sew-along in this crafty mom FB community I am in. Not quite sure how it happened, but I’m okay with it. The selected pattern (I had nothing to do with making the choice) is the Key West tank by New Horizon Patterns. I had never heard of this pattern company before. It just goes to show: there are so many indie pattern companies out there, it’s literally impossible to keep track of them all.

I’ve never been of a sew-along before. Like, I’ve never even silently followed along with one online. I haven’t cut out the tank yet (I’m waffling between two fabric choices), but it looks super-fast to sew. I imagine that once it’s cut, I’ll be done sewing it in less than two hours.

After that, the group is arranging a knit-along. The pattern in the offing is the Zinone top by Andi Satterlund. & the most exciting part is that I kind of inspired the knit-along! I have been thinking about taking up knitting for a long time. I even had a roommate who tried to teach me way back in 2004. I don’t know why I didn’t stick with it…Just a lack of commitment, I guess. Jared knows how to knit & has offered to teach me on numerous occasions. I’ve just always been really intimidated by it. All those different kinds of yarn & needles & something called swatching & the possibility that whatever you knit could potentially be ruined in the wash, if it’s wool & you forget. I guess it’s not so dissimilar from when I first started sewing & was utterly flummoxed by all the different kinds of fabric that are out there. Cotton is cotton is cotton, right? Surely there’s not really an appreciable difference between, say, voile & quilting cotton. People just act like there is so they can feel fancy, right? I really did think that. & it really didn’t take me that long to learn how wrong I was.

We have a really nice local yarn shop in Lawrence, so I stopped in there & bought the stuff I need to tackle the Zinone. I let Ramona help me choose the yarn. I decided to just focus on getting the weight right. The pattern calls for linen yarn & I am too incompetent to know if it makes a big difference to use a different fiber. Ramona chose a really soft yarn that is mostly merino, in dark gray. At first I wanted to choose something else, because…gray? Bor-ing. But gray is actually a really utilitarian color in my wardrobe, & I wanted to honor Ramona’s choice. She was so excited to be helping me.

My logic is: my first garment project ever was a fully lined fitted skirt with darts, a yoke, curved pockets trimmed with bias tape, & an invisible zipper. Did it come out perfect? Definitely not. But it came out Good Enough, & I actually still wear it. I jumped in with both feet with sewing, & therefore, I’ve never been intimidated to try a new technique or fabric or garment pattern. Why not take the same approach to knitting? The worst than can happen is that I will hate knitting. But if I can complete even an imperfect knitted garment & enjoy the process & learn something new, that’s a big win. I told the crafty moms this, & one of the experienced knitters offered to put together a knit-along so there will be a crew of people to help me (online) if/when I get stuck. Fun!

I think that’s most of my sewing news that isn’t actually the sharing of a garment. I spent the morning cutting out some new projects, though, so…more to come!

achievement unlocked: pink bird print swimsuit


I already made one swimsuit this year, & although it did not display my sewing proficiency to its greatest advantage, it fit well, it was comfortable, & I liked it. There was just one problem: I used a plastic locking closure on it, positioned so high up on my back that I simply could not clasp it by myself. Every single time I wore it, Jared had to clasp it for me. I knew I needed a suit I could put on without help. & also, Jared broke the clasp a few weeks ago. It just kind of snapped into like five pieces one day when he was trying to clasp it for me. Obviously the suit can be salvaged. It’s not difficult to just replace the clasp.  But I decided to just get a jump on making a suit with no clasps, in the interest of satisfying a need without having to buy any new notions. I already had this swimsuit fabric & plenty of lining on hand.


There’s also a backstory as to why a swimsuit rocketed to the top of my sewing to-do list, even though summer is drawing to a close.

In June, I found a lump in my right breast. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled, because I needed her to sign off on my health so I can volunteer at Ramona’s preschool. She did an exam & also felt the lump. She referred me for an ultrasound to get it checked out. I’ll cut to the chase here: I am fine. I don’t know if it wound up being normal breast tissue or a benign cyst or what, but in any case, I do not have cancer, or even a non-cancerous tumor that requires any treatment. Whew! But it was definitely a scary few weeks. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family, & I’m only 37, but I know way too many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer at around my age. One of them, a woman who wrote a zine I was really into in the 90s/early 00s, even died, leaving behind young children.

At my doctor appointment, there was also a full blood panel done. My labs came back showing elevated blood sugar & elevated liver enzymes. The obvious conclusion here is type 2 diabetes. Unlike breast cancer, pretty much EVERYONE in my family has type 2 diabetes. It killed my father at the rather young age of 48, & my sister (she’s 35) has been experiencing all kinds of awful complications recently. My grandmother had it, & God knows how many aunts, uncles, & cousins. Honestly, if I make it to age 50 without a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, it will be a miracle. But a follow-up fasting blood test gave me the all-clear.

But that doesn’t mean I have to just sit back & wait. Before Ramona was in the picture, & then for about 18 months after she was born, I was pretty devoted to doing water work-outs at the local pool a few times a week. We have a gorgeous outdoor facility here in Lawrence, but also a really nice indoor pool for cold weather. When Ramona was 18 months old, I slipped into a horrible depression & had that whole financial crisis where my disability was rescinded (I am on disability for depression; kind of ironic that the government decided I wasn’t disabled while I was in the midst of one of my worst depressive episodes in recent memory). I felt I couldn’t justify the expense of a pool pass anymore (even though water work-outs are really good for my mental & physical health) & I let it lapse. (Haha, or I let it “laps”. See what I did there?)

In the two years since I stopped going to the pool, I’ve gained thirty pounds, which is kind of whatever, who cares what a scale says. But I’ve also had more chronic pain, including debilitating migraines, more insomnia, more low-grade constant depression, & a lot less energy for being an involved & engaged mom.

So, I decided: Ramona started preschool on Thursday, & after I dropped her off, I went straight to the pool & bought a new pass. My goal is to go every other day. We’ll see if I manage it. Since a lot of the time I’ll be going while Ramona is at preschool & Jared is at work, I needed a suit I could get into by myself, stat.


I made a pattern from scratch to make my last suit, & I used that same pattern for the bones of this suit. I changed the back to have more coverage, with just a teeny little cut-out. To keep the edges snug against the body (the scoop on my last swimsuit stood away from the body a little bit), & sewed swimsuit elastic to the edges, stretching as I went, & then trimmed the raw edges with fold-over elastic.

I didn’t line the ruched section on the front this time because, duh, it doesn’t need to be lined. That means the hemming is much tidier this time around.

The biggest change I made was the top/bust area.


I constructed cut & sew foam cups using my trusty Shelley bra pattern. I layered swimsuit fabric over them & made these little pleats/tucks along the bottom of the cup. The frame is made from Duoplex covered in swimsuit fabric. I sewed the swimsuit-covered cups to the swimsuit-covered frame & attached the channeling so the topstitching would be on the exterior of the suit. The bra on my last suit was completely internal, but I wanted to experiment with bra styling for this one. I added a seam allowance to the bottom of the frame & sewed my band elastic to the Duoplex only, just above the seam allowance. That way, everything is supported, but there isn’t an unsightly bunch of zigzagging all over the front of my suit. The Duoplex layer is attached to the rest of the suit at the wide seams & along the top, but is left free at the seam between the frame & the torso. I tried attaching it, but it caused the frame to ripple & I wanted it to lay smooth as a contrast to the gathering on the cups & the ruching on the torso.


I covered the seamlines on the cups with scraps of swimsuit fabric. The straps are made of bra strapping sandwiched between swimsuit fabric, finished on either side with fold-over elastic. They still have a bit of stretch to them, but they’re pretty stable.

I added a layer of swimsuit elastic to the bra part of the suit to snug it up against the body & finished with fold-over elastic. The only bummer part is that the swimsuit elastic is a lot wider than the fold-over elastic once it’s folded, so it shows on the inside. I would have preferred for it all to be completely enclosed. I could have ordered wider fold-over elastic, but I was really racing the clock to get the suit done before Ramona started preschool. Next time!


I also finished the legs with fold-over elastic. If you’re curious, I got the swimsuit fabric during the Hancock close-outs. I think it was literally like $1.50 a yard? It’s not my favorite print (I kind of really do not like birds; they attack me a lot), but it is my favorite color, & with the black trim, I actually love the way this suit looks. I’d usually gravitate toward a louder print, but this just goes to show: sometimes the fabrics that don’t really sing on the bolt are the ones that make really nice-looking garments.


Close-up of the cut out. This is easy to do. Just draw lines on your pattern piece indicating where you want the cut-out to be & add a seam allowance if necessary. (I just covered the raw edges with fold-over elastic, so I didn’t bother with seam allowances). Use the bit you cut off to figure out out how you want to crossover to look. Both pieces will be sewn together in the side seam, & for this suit, I secured them together in the fold-over elastic all the way to the cut-out. When I attached the straps, I bartacked them to lower fold-over binding first, & then the top. Because the lower binding is angled, this enabled my straps to angle perfectly to cross over in the back. I love me some crossed straps! I don’t know if I am being very articulate about how to do this (there’s a reason I don’t do tutorials), but once you figure out, you can use this technique on everything: dresses, t-shirts, undies, whatever.

So, that’s that! I leave you with an obligatory mom photo: Ramona on her first day or school, standing next to one of those chalkboard things that are so popular on Pinterest. Yes, I made it myself, it’s not digitally printed or anything. It’s chalkboard posterboard & hand-lettering/drawing with chalk markers. I’m pretty proud of that airplane drawing. Drawing is really not my forte, so I’m pleased with how it came out. (PS–Ramona LOVES preschool. Yay!)