achievement unlocked: Alberta Street skirt


We are talking about the skirt this time. It’s the Alberta Street skirt by Sew House Seven, another pattern I picked up in the Monthly Stitch fundraising bundle. I’ve already blogged about the blouse & the jacket. The Alberta Street skirt is a high-waisted pencil skirt with a back zip & vent, faced contoured waistband, & large patch pockets. I made mine in a fabric that was billing itself as narrow wale stretch corduroy, but the wales were so narrow& the nap so fluffy, it’s almost more like stretch velvet. & it is VERY stretchy. I think the pattern states that it can be made with a woven or a fabric with some stretch (think, like, denim with 2% elastane or something). My fabric probably had more stretch than anticipated by the pattern design. I cut an 18 at the waist & graded to a 20 at the hips (which is weird, because my measurements put me in a 20 at the waist & an 18 at the hips–the reverse just seemed to fit better) & I probably could have sized down a bit thanks to the stretch.


After I took all my photos, I realized I didn’t have ANY that were full-length! I feel like you’d get such a better sense of the fit & proportion of the skirt if I wasn’t cut off mid-calf in every photo. & there’s nothing I can do about it now because the skirt is packed away in a storage unit thirty miles away while we move houses.

I’m also standing with a hip cocked in this photo, which makes the seam down the middle of the back look off-kilter. It’s just the way I’m standing, honest!


The pattern directions were for a tidy lapped zip, but I chose to do an exposed zipper to give the skirt a little edge. Please enjoy this photo, which may be the world’s all-time worst photograph of a metal zipper.


I also reversed the angle of the pockets. In the original design, the pocket is high at the side seam & slopes down toward the middle. To change the angle, I traced off the pocket piece, keeping the height & original proportion. Then I drew in the hip curve & placement notches on the lower side. Easy enough, really. I chose to do this because I do use the pockets on my garments all the time & having the higher edge toward the middle of the garment just feels more utilitarian.


I also lined my pockets, though the pattern said nothing about doing this. Just another “why not” decision.


Here’s a shot of the back vent, open so you can see my seam binding. I bound all the seams with the same voile I used for the Anderson blouse & the facings on the Salt jacket, both because this fabric started shedding & fraying the instant it was cut, & also just for my own amusement. I’d never done bound seams before. It definitely added time to the construction of the skirt, which would have otherwise been a pretty fast project. The finished garment looks polished, but construction is remarkably uncomplicated. The hardest part was probably the vent, & that’s just because I had never done one before. The instructions were really easy to follow & I got everything folded over & stitched down properly on the first try.


More seam binding. This also shows the stay I made out of quilting cotton to try to flatten the tummy area a little. It was an experiment. I don’t know how effective it is. But it’s not uncomfortable, so there’s that.

Now, the $10,000 question: Is this skirt wearable? Does it fit into my handmade wardrobe? This is a big question, given that it’s literally the first pencil skirt I have ever owned in my entire life. I never thought it was a silhouette that would flatter me, as I am bigger on top than I am on the bottom. I always assumed a pencil skirt would only emphasize that fact & make me look even more unbalanced. But I think it’s actually okay-ish.


With a sailor shirt I made like two years ago & never wear because it really needs a tight, high-waisted bottom, & until now, I’ve never owned such a thing.


With my Archer tuxedo shirt. This is maybe not the best? Maybe it’s just a shitty photo. I should try it again with hands out of pockets, in a full-length mirror, before I decide. The hands-in-pockets/cut-off-at-knees look is very stumpifying. But at least I now have a go-to outfit in case I am ever called upon to pose as a cater-waiter in service of unraveling the mystery behind a jewel heist or something.


With my black Jasper sweatshirt. I look cozy, that’s for sure! Add some sweater tights & my Sorels & I am all set for a walk in a snowstorm.

It also works with a plain black t-shirt, of which I have approximately 10 million, but I chose more interesting garments for my styling photos. So the bottom line is that this skirt will get worn once the weather cools off enough to permit corduroy.

I have to address something though: the skirt is called the Alberta Street skirt because it’s named after Alberta St. in Portland, Oregon. Sew House Seven is a Portland-based pattern company & a lot of their designs have Portland-inspired names.

I had a viscerally negative reaction to the name of this skirt, & probably never would have purchased it if not for the bundle sale. I used to do community organizing in North Portland, in the late 90s/early 00s. This was right at the beginning of the city’s efforts to gentrify North Portland, to transform it from a historically black neighborhood into the fancypants white neighborhood that it is now, rife with yoga studios, doggie daycares, cute little hipster sewing shops, etc. Here’s a video of one former business owner on Alberta St. talking about how the city pushed out the black population:

My office was just off Alberta St. & I walked around that neighborhood everyday. The city was not caring for the neighborhood when it was majority black. There were roads that weren’t even paved! My job was to work with residents in the community to address the needs they perceived. They had really basic concerns, like wanting the city to put in stop signs at dangerous intersections where kids were being hit by cars, or wanting less police harassment. No one could live or work in this neighborhood & fail to recognize that institutional racism was REAL & it was ruining lives.

The city succeeded in its efforts to transform North Portland into a playground for wealthy white people. The Alberta St. of today is unrecognizable compared to the Alberta St. where I worked just seventeen years ago. I’ve been back to Portland several times since I moved away in 2001, & it’s always unsettling because the entire city is different…& not necessarily in a good way, if you care about the lives of poor people & people of color. I know the name of this skirt is just a name, but people who tried to organize against the sweeping destruction of gentrification in North Portland, to say nothing of the people who were actually LIVING that destruction, who were displaced because of it, have reactions to the words “Alberta Street”.

I’m probably not doing a great job articulating myself, because my primary reaction to the fight over Alberta St. is just sadness & hopelessness. I think about the community of people that once lived there, raised kids there, made their livelihoods there. I went camping once with a woman who lived just off Alberta St., & she told me all about being in the Black Panthers Ladies Auxiliary in the 60s. She was an absolute wealth of information about Portland’s black power movement & the history of her neighborhood, where she had lived for decades. She & her family were pushed out by the city’s gentrification programs. To make room for $40-a-plate farm-to-table restaurants & boutiques selling hemp sheath dresses.


the state of the move

Unfortunately, it appears that I am not going to get through my backlog of sewing projects before the move. We’re picking up our Uboxes (apparently this is Uhaul’s Designer Impostors version of PODs) tomorrow evening. I’ve been wandering around the house on a rollercoaster of emotion, whipsawing between feeling like we’re in really good shape with our packing & feeling like there’s still so much to do.

My friend Rebecca came over with her daughter, Isla, the other day to help us out. Isla played with Ramona & Rebecca helped us pack & throw things out. An objective eye is always a good motivator for identifying the things you should probably just toss/donate, because they’re not looking at everything with the same sentimentality & emotion. She pushed me to make a decision I’d putting off for a long time: getting rid of Ramona’s baby clothes (except for the sentimental things, mostly stuff people made for us, hand-me-downs from when Jared was a baby, & the first sleeper she ever wore when she was finally given the okay to wear clothes because her skin was strong enough to tolerate it). & my maternity clothes. Baby blankets, swaddles, bottles, cloth diapers, baby carriers, & some toys she has outgrown. I’ve given away a lot & am trying to sell the stuff that is actually worth something. We’re not necessarily closing the book on ever having another baby, but it’s definitely not on the agenda right now, & toting that stuff along with us every time we move just makes me sad.

We have to have this place clean & empty by Monday, so the plan is to load up the Uboxes on Sunday. We don’t get keys to the new place until August 1, so we’ve booked an Airbnb in Oskaloosa for the interim week. I’m not super-thrilled about staying in Oskaloosa, which is a tiny town (less than 1000 people) about 20 miles north of Lawrence. But they were charging a two-thirds less than the cheapest place in Lawrence.

It’s going to be a whirlwind of change once we move into the new place. We’re finally moving Ramona into a toddler bed. She’ll be four in November & she still sleeps in a crib because she just never tried to climb out, so it was never unsafe. But we need to get serious about getting her 100% potty trained, & that means she needs to have the option of getting out of bed when she needs to go. This means we are also eliminating all diapers very soon.

& she starts preschool in mid-August. This will be a huge transition for both of us. She’s been home with me full-time since she was released from the NICU. Suddenly she’s going to be spending seven hours a week without me. I’m both excited & nervous. I am making all kinds of unrealistic plans for what I will do with that time. Sewing! Going to the pool! Home improvement projects! Reading! Like, way more stuff than you can really do in seven hours a week, especially when you consider that it’s a co-operative preschool, meaning that parents do a lot of volunteer work there. Like, they are required to do a lot of volunteer work. So that will be interesting.

All the parents I know at the school have transferred their kids into the afternoon program, so I will be getting to know a new batch of parents & their kids. I’m open to it, obviously, but a bit trepidatious. I wrote about the whole crazy TCBY-refusing-my-child-water-during-a-heat-advisory situation a few days ago. I shared this incident with some local online parenting groups, just as a kind of “heads up, this is not the place to go with a kid emergency” public service announcement. & the online parent groups totally lived up to their reputations by allowing the whole thing to spiral into recriminations & mama drama.

At the beginning, people were really supportive, but all it took was one person being like, “Hey, now, I think someone should be thinking about the feeling of Big Fro-Yo,” for things to go kind of crazy. Of course someone trotted out that old canard: “You shouldn’t expect other people to take care of your kids. It’s kind of parenting 101 to make sure you bring enough water if you’re taking your kid out on a hot day.”

Ah, yes. Time to get out your This Happened Because You’re a Shitty Mom bingo cards. Honestly, I expect bullshit like that from people who don’t have kids. Everyone is a great parent right up until they are actually a parent. & that’s not an indictment of people who don’t have kids. I’m just pointing out the reality that you truly cannot grasp the myriad challenges of parenting until you are in the shit (sometimes literally).

But from other parents? It’s insane! I would love to meet the person who has been parenting for three-plus years & has never once been caught out with one of the following situations: kid convinces you to go out without the stroller, but then refuses to walk. You forgot the snack. Kid decides the morning outing is the ideal time to take four shits in a row & you run out of diapers. Kid falls down & scrapes a knee & you are fresh out of Band-Aids.

These scenarios (like my TCBY incident, which was borne of my asking for a tap water top-off on my kid’s water bottle, because it was really hot & she chugged the water we brought from home faster than expected) are just everyday whoopsies & I defy the full-time caretaker of a child not to experience at least one of these in three years. We’re not even getting into big-time emergencies, like the car breaking down on the side of the road while you’re out with the kid, or the kid sustaining some kind of major injury on your watch, or your kid climbing into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. This shit happens! To bad moms & great moms & every other kind of mom in-between. & dads too. & grandparents, nannies, aunts, teachers, everyone who is responsible for kids!

What really surprised me was all the people defending TCBY on the grounds that the local shop is a sponsor of our library’s summer reading program. If your kid finishes their summer reading, they get a coupon for one free 3oz. fro-yo cup. This is a value of $1.38. I’m sure the owner is well-aware that most kids are going to want more than 3ozs. Parents are on the hook for paying for any overages, as well as toppings & cones, plus fro-yo for themselves & any other children they are with that do not have a coupon. Meaning that the owner more than recoups the value of the coupon, while also receiving the goodwill associated with sponsoring this children’s literacy event. This is why businesses do coupons like this! It’s not because they are altruistic. It’s because it makes money.

One person piped up to say that the local TCBY generously provided coupons to the school she used to work for, which was apparently in a “lower socio-economic district” (not sure what that means in Lawrence, which is kind of too small to have “rich schools” & “poor schools,” but anyway), so kids could come in & pay only $2 for some fro-yo.

What a pillar of generosity! Inviting poor children to patronize his shop & pay him money! What will he think of next!

But for whatever reason, these other moms weren’t seeing that. They probably think that stores have sales purely from the goodness in their hearts. They perceived of this child-exploiting money-making gambit as proof of his “family-friendliness,” & clearly much more important this his decision to turn away a sobbing three-year-old on a hot day when all she wanted was some tap water.

It’s times like these that I am very relieved to have a good solid foundation in radical anti-capitalism, & I’m glad I’m sending Ramona to a co-operative preschool (the first integrated preschool in the United States, in fact!) where hopefully the other parents will be thoughtful people not so ready to believe everything Big Fro-Yo tells them. I mean, obviously I can laugh about this to a certain degree, but I will also never patronize a TCBY for as long as I live (in fact, when corporate HQ offered me coupons to try to “make things right,” I declined), & I stand by the fact that the owner of our local TCBY is a monster who should be run out of business, & anyone who tries to defend him is pretty much dead to me. Actions speak louder than fucking coupons, for crying out loud!

achievement unlocked: Oki Style Salt jacket

Well, here’s a fun little piece:


If the internet is to be believed, I am the first person to make this jacket aside from the designer. (Though obviously plenty of people sew & don’t blog about it.) I discovered Oki Style Patterns through the Monthly Stitch. Oki Style was one of the sponsors of Indie Pattern Month. Her designs are really interesting. There’s such a glut of basic boxy tees, simple rectangle dresses, gathered skirts, etc in the indie pattern world. I do enjoy sewing basics, because I like sewing things I will actually wear, & I’m not going to wear a frothy party dress to walk my kid to preschool. Oki Style is a breath of fresh air in that respect. The Salt jacket is the only one I’ve tried so far, but the entire pattern line is full of unusual silhouettes & seamlines that seem like they’d be fun to sew (maybe even if they turn into unwearable disasters, haha).

The Salt jacket is an “experimental” piece with curved sleeves & an unusually draped back. I chose a weird fabric for it, a really stretchy, medium-weight faux leather. As a result, the back of my jacket doesn’t necessarily “drape” like maybe it is supposed to.


But you know what? That’s okay. It’s such a bizarre piece, who’s to say how it’s “supposed” to look? The back is cut in two pieces & the seamline bringing them together is a big curve. It creates kind of a Hunchback of Notre Dame effect. I mean, this is definitely one of those “love it or loathe it” pieces, & I truly didn’t know which camp I would be in until I tried it.

I’m not sure Oki Style offers paper patterns, & the PDFs are pretty rough. I think Oki is in the process of reconfiguring them to work better with American paper options. (She is from Mongolia & now lives in Germany, so the PDFs are sized for European paper sizes, which are just a little different than what Americans have. Just one of those things I know from zine-making that proved helpful when I got into sewing.)

The worst thing about the PDFs is that there are no notations to help you figure out how the papers get taped together. There’s no layout map or anything. It was literally like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, complicated by the fact that these “experimental” pattern pieces are not shaped like your average pattern pieces. There are only six pieces for this jacket, & this wasn’t my first PDF pattern rodeo, so I figured it out without too much teeth-gnashing & hair-pulling, but it was quite tricky. Maybe the next Sewing & Stitching Expo should feature a live-action challenge in which a group of sewers are given an Oki Style PDF & whoever puts it together the fastest wins some fabulous prize.


Due to the fabric I chose, I had to think about the construction order & go off-script a bit. (& by the way, this is probably not a pattern for a beginner. The instructions are mighty sparse, since English is not Oki’s first language, the English translation is pretty rocky. You can figure it out if you have some sewing experience, but if you still need a lot of hand-holding while constructing garments, this pattern may defeat you.) The entire edge of the jacket is finished with a facing. You are supposed to sew it on, right sides together, & then flip it to the inside & topstitch along the interior edge of the facing. I suppose I could have done that, but I had no way to hold the facing in place while I sewed, & I worried about puckers & not catching the edge. I mean, topstitching a facing in place from the exterior of the garment is always tricky, but when you can’t even use pins (because they would make permanent holes in the faux leather, & the facing was too wide for Wonder Clips to work)…

I wound up sewing the facing along the edge as instructed, right sides together. Then I understitched (though the front of the jacket terminates in sharp corners that I just could not access with understitching). That helped my facing turn under nicely, which was important, because my faux leather could not be pressed. I then edgestitched around the edge of the jacket, & I used double-sided fusible tape to hold down the edges of the facing.



I also topstitched all my seams, again because my faux leather couldn’t be pressed. I used the same voile from which I made my Anderson blouse, since the garments were constructed as part of an outfit, & I thought it would be fun to use the same fabric. The facing shows when the jacket is worn, so this crazy fabric is perhaps a limiting choice, but we’ll see. I wear a lot of all-black outfits, & I think the facing will look great with them.

Which brings us to the big question: is this jacket actually wearable? I styled it with three outfits to see if it fits in with what I have already made for myself.


Jeans & a casual button-down? Sure thing! (Especially if you ignore the wonkus collar situation I have going.)


Black tee & a gathered skirt? Looks great!


& this might be my favorite combo. I feel like the jacket really elevates this simple knit dress.

My only complaint is that the fit around the shoulders is super-weird. I did widen the sleeve because the largest size was exactly equal to the circumference of my arm with zero ease. In a perfect world, I would widen it a bit more, add a little extra depth to the armscye, & taper the sleeve to a narrower silhouette at the wrist. I didn’t muslin this jacket because I was making it for the Indie Pattern Month bundle challenge & was working on a deadline. It’s wearable as it is, but it definitely fits better over short sleeves, which means it will be a transitional jacket–an extra layer on t-shirt days. Oh, also worth mentioning: the pattern does call for buttons, but because the front is two big circles, the buttons would join them together with all kinds of wrinkling & bunching. Again, this is an intentional design feature, but one I did not love. I liked how the jacket looks without closures, & since I will only be wearing it as a bonus layer on cool-ish days, & not as an actually barrier against cold weather, I figured I could skip the buttons. I didn’t relish the thought of trying to put buttonholes into this fabric anyway.

The TCBY Incident

The Tour de Lawrence bicycle races happened this weekend. Today were the kid races, & Ramona entered the two-to-four division. She wasn’t the fastest kid, mostly because she is a very courteous rider & kept letting other kids pass her. She can be really fast when she lets loose. But she was definitely the best endurance rider. She didn’t stop when she got to the finish line (it was a half-block race for the little ones). She just kept going, & Jared had to chase after her. She got almost a block away before he caught up to her. All the kids were given participation medals & she was thrilled with the whole thing. She loves riding her bike. (She’s three, for the record.)

But it was really hot & unbearably humid today. We all brought water bottles downtown with us, & we all finished our water before the races started. Ramona started crying because she was still really thirsty. Ordinarily, we would go to Wonder Fair in such a situation. They are a local art gallery/gift shop & they are always great with Ramona & super-accommodating with us as a family. But it was Sunday morning & they weren’t open. I decided to go to the closest food establishment, thinking it would give me a better chance of getting tap water from a sink that was not in a bathroom, to try to get a refill for her.

I left Ramona outside with Jared so her crying wouldn’t disturb the customers (with the races going on, it was a lot louder outside than it was in any business). It was surprisingly dead for as hot as it was & as many people as there were milling around downtown. There were only two other customers in the shop. A man emerged from the back & asked if he could help me. I held up Ramona’s water bottle, which is a small Mason jar with a handle, fitted with a straw. I know. That sounds really hipster-y. We went through A LOT of water bottles, trying to avoid the whole Mason jar cliche. But if you can show me a water bottle that is better at being washed by hand (we don’t have a dishwasher), I’d like to see it. Every other bottle we tried was too narrow to accommodate a sponge, or had a plastic spout that trapped moisture & grew mold, or had some kind of double-sealed lid situation that also trapped moisture & grew mold. We used a double-walled plastic cup from the library for a while, but the exterior wall cracked & then part of the lid broke off. It had to replaced & Ramona chose the little Mason jar with the handle, which has worked out really well so far.

This is relevant to the story.

I held up Ramona’s Mason jar & asked if I could get it refilled with tap water, or if there was a water fountain nearby. The guy was like, “No. No. We can’t do that. We sell bottled water.” Well, I didn’t want to buy water when I had a reusable bottle that kid likes & all I needed was tap water. I explained that it was for my three-year-old, who was outside & crying because she was thirsty & hot, & that it was 96 degrees out. He said, “No.” I said, “Okay. I will never set foot in here again.”

Because who the hell denies a child water on such a hot day?

We did end up getting her some water & we had a nice morning. But I was still upset about the TCBY situation after we got home. I asked an online mom group what they thought. I wanted to know if I was overreacting. Because the voices of anti-mom idiots online are totally in my head. I didn’t know if the guy at TCBY was being a dick or if he was just following a “no free tap water” corporate policy, but I could just imagine me complaining & all the anti-mom/anti-kid people pouring out of the woodwork & being all, “Typical moo cow thinks her crotch dropping deserves special water privileges.” I mean, right? Isn’t that exactly what they would say? & it’s not that I think my kid deserves special privileges because she’s a child. I think she deserves basic human rights, like tap water on a 96-degree day, because she is a person.

One mom suggested I call the store & get to the bottom of whether the guy was following policy or what. Maybe it was just a grumpy employee on a power trip? Maybe he needs some retraining? Or maybe it actually was corporate policy, which is also good to know. So I called, & I discovered that this man who refused to give my sobbing three-year-old tap water on a 96-degree day was the OWNER. He had full latitude to do whatever he wanted. He could given her a free fro-yo if he wanted to! & he chose to deny her water.


So. I shared this information with all the local parenting groups I am in. I posted on the local TCBY Facebook page. I posted on the corporate TCBY page. I dusted off my long-neglected Twitter count & tweeted the corporate TCBY account. I wrote a Yelp review. TCBY corporate HQ got in touch pretty quickly. They apologized & said that this was a violation of corporate policy & that they would be in touch with the franchise owner first thing in the morning to offer better training. At least a dozen local moms, most of whom I don’t know at all, left reviews on the local TCBY page detailing the ways their own families have had shitty things happen to them at that shop (mostly along the lines of the owner refusing to let young children use the bathroom, resulting in public potty accidents).

A few people have pushed back. All men, it’s worth noting. Because mostly the world is not anti-parent. It’s anti-mom. These guys suggested that I am a shitty mom for not bringing enough water for my kid. As a family we had like 40 ounces of water, & it was so hot, we drank it all in half an hour. & assumed it would be okay because we were in downtown Lawrence, Kansas, where fresh drinking water is reasonably plentiful. & it was okay–we got water for her somewhere else.

The owner’s argument was that I didn’t have a kid with me (I had left her outside with Jared, remember), & I had a Mason jar, not a proper sippy cup. Reading between the lines, I assume he thought I was lying about the child & was just trying to get free water for myself. 1) It really was for Ramona, who really was outside, crying, & that really is the cup she uses. & 2) so what if it was for me? I’m 37 so it’s fine for me to be denied water on a 96-degree day?

This whole thing made me think about how rare it is for me to pipe up in defense of myself or Ramona, which is a tremendous change from the person I was ten years ago. Last week, I took Ramona to nature school. There was a grandmother there with her two granddaughters, & she (the grandma) was SO disruptive. She talked over the kids, she talked over the teacher, she asked so many questions that the hour-long class ran over by a full half hour. At one point, the kids were invited to look at some turtles swimming in an aquarium. The grandma hustled her grandkids to the tank & blocked Ramona’s access to it. Ramona is a pretty quiet, meek kid when she is around strangers. She just stood there quietly, her eyes level with this woman’s backside, while all the other kids learned about the turtles. I pointed this out to a friend I was with, & she instantly got up & asked the woman to move so Ramona could see. & I was like, I could have done that. Why DIDN’T I do that? Ciara from ten years ago definitely would have done that.

I think it’s because I’ve internalized these critiques of pushy moms trying to get special treatment for their little snowflakes. I’m like, “Well, that lady just wants her grandkids to get a good view, I shouldn’t expect my kid to be more important to her than the kids she’s with.” & she shouldn’t, but she should maybe be cognizant of the other kids in the room at this kid event, right, & maybe not stand directly in front of them? & with this water thing, I was like, “He was probably just following policy, it’s not his job to care that my kid is thirsty.” Well, it wasn’t policy, & obviously I don’t think he needs to devote his life to ensuring that my child is properly hydrated at all times, but when it’s that hot outside, maybe he can spare a few ounces of tap water & I shouldn’t be made to feel like an unfit mother or an entitled asshole for asking.

I really want & NEED to start sticking up for Ramona more. & for myself. Sometimes people are WRONG. & sometimes I am wrong too. But what is to be gained by just letting everything go, by saying, “Well, that sucked, but it’s over now, so oh well”? I am STILL angry with myself for not turning some of Ramona’s NICU nurses into the charge nurse. Like the one that wouldn’t let us hold her, or all the ones that literally stood over me while I was trying to breastfeed, telling me that it would never work & that I was wasting my time, preemie moms just don’t make milk. (Tell that to the twelve babies BESIDES Ramona that subsisted almost entirely solely on my donated breast milk.) I have a DAUGHTER. I need to raise her to stick up for herself & be a badass! What kind of example am I setting if I let a local business owner get away with refusing to give a child water during a heat advisory, or a self-involved grandma shut Ramona out of a learning experience I have arranged for her?

Anderson blouse: let’s talk about it some more

So, when I wrote about the sleeveless Anderson blouse I made recently, I think I mentioned that I had actually written to the team at Sew Over It with my concerns about their directions, sizing, etc. I’ve never done that before, & I don’t think it’s because these were OMG the worst directions of all time. It’s just because I’ve only been sewing for three years, & I am just starting to feel skilled enough to recognize not-so-great patterns when I see them. Had I made this blouse two years ago, I would have made too big a size based on the size chart, I would have made the “drawstring” (if you can call it that) according to their “instructions,” & I would have foregone any sort of closure, because there’s no mention of closure options in the pattern. & the result would have been an enormous, unflattering, unwearable garment that would have made me feel like I did something wrong, because surely I’m the weakest link here, right? They’re the ones who are designing & selling patterns. They must know what they’re doing!

Or not.

I contacted Sew Over It & asked if they were interested in some feedback. They replied, “I’m sorry to hear that you had a bit of trouble making up the Anderson Blouse. I’ve just read through the instructions and can’t identify which part is missing from the construction. Could you possibly give me a little bit more detail about what you had trouble with?”

I was like, okay, I didn’t say I “was having trouble” with it. I said that the directions were not complete & would result in an unfinished, unwearable garment, but moving on.

This is kind of a rehash of my last post, but here was my lengthy reply:

“Sure. I read & reread the instructions, & as far as I can tell, making the drawstring casing the way they are written would result in an unfinished casing with a bit of ribbon sticking out of it on the inside of the garment, to be tied into a bow to fit. I couldn’t find anything on finishing the casing or what to do about the bow being on the inside. I made the blouse as instructed, but cinching it to fit made the open casing flip to the outside. It just looked messy.

“My solution was to stop sewing the right-hand side seam 1″ from the bottom of the garment. I clipped into the seam allowances, pressed the unfinished edge on either side in 1/2”, & topstitched them. (Forgive the imperial measurements; I’m American.) I finished the hem & pressed up a casing per the instructions, & then edgestitched all around, which gave me a casing that is open on either side of the side seam (pretty crucial for a drawstring), but also finished–no raw edges, casing fully-sewn with no gaps. & best of all, the drawstring emerges at the side seam on the outside of the garment, so the bow becomes a decorative element as well as something to cinch in all the ease at the hem.

“I also felt that a wrap blouse with no closure is…maybe not really a blouse? I read through a lot of blogs & looked at a lot of Instagram picture of other people’s Andersons to get a sense of how they tackled this challenge. Almost everyone was wearing tank tops for modesty. I didn’t want to have to wear a bonus shirt to contend with the fact that my shirt couldn’t function as a shirt. I didn’t want to add “hand stitches at the bust point,” because the blouses where people had done that seemed to be showing some pulling & distortion at that point. The hand stitches interrupted the drape, which is kind of the whole point of the blouse.

“So instead I added a row of tiny sew-in snaps. I did some research & the blouses that the Anderson is modeled in all have closures: hidden snaps or buttons. You can’t see them, but they’re there, & it makes sense. No one wants to spend $500 on a silk blouse they can’t move in. The snaps held the wrap in place without pulling out the facings or distorting the drape. I was surprised that a solution like this wasn’t even suggested as an option.

“The sizing is also way off on this one. I am a larger person. Had I gone strictly by measurements, I actually would have had to grade up the Anderson just a bit & probably do an FBA. Luckily I am in the habit of consulting finished garment measurements when choosing size (something that many new garment makers are not), so I made a straight size 16. I probably could have even gone down to a 14 without any issues. A straight (slim) size with shoulders/bust proportionate to her waist & hips may not have any trouble picking a size, because she’s probably picking based on a bust measurement commensurate with her shoulders. But that kind of body is rare, & the boilerplate bit about how ‘Sew Over It’s patterns are more closely-fitting that average’ has led more than one curvy sewer to choose a size that absolutely swamped her in fabric. It would be nice if there was a note in the pattern about how the design is such that getting a good fit in the shoulders is crucial, so maybe just consider bust measurement. Or if there was a high bust measurement to consider in the sizing chart (very helpful for those of us above a B-cup).

“Obviously we all make alterations & construction changes on the fly while we’re sewing. I can’t remember the last time I sewed a pattern without making some kind of tweak. But this pattern really surprised me. Had I sewn it when I was first starting, when I was a lot more devoted to following the instructions, I would have ended up with an unwearable garment. I know Sew Over It teaches classes, so you probably work with new sewers everyday. I think you can better set them up for success with this pattern by addressing some of the issues I have brought up. In the end, I ADORE my finished blouse & have been wearing it non-stop. But it would have been a wadder if I hadn’t thought through the size, drawstring issues, & closures.”

I then kicked back & waited to see if I’d actually get a response. I had drafted my blog post already, but would have been willing to rewrite based on any reply that I got. Several days passed so I just posted what I’d written.

I finally got a response today:

“Sorry that I’ve not been able to get back to you before now. I understand where you’re coming from when addressing the casing at the hem of the Anderson Blouse, but the way we have constructed it at this step is actually intentional. In step 33 you are instructed to finish the hem with a zigzag stitch or an overlocker before turning it up to ensure there are no raw edges on show. Having the ribbon bow on the inside of the garment is meant as a quick and easy way to cinch in the blouse, and for people to be able to alter the degree to which they tighten it. The style of the Anderson Blouse is that the hem will be gathered in, and the fullness of the front actually falls over this line so any ribbon malfunctions, if they did occur, would be covered. The way you have amended the pattern with the casing opening at the side and the decorative ribbon is a great idea! We definitely want our customers to adapt our patterns to suit them rather than sticking rigidly and not ending up with a finished garment that they liked.

“With regards to the closure at the front, this is simply more of a design choice on our part. I agree that a lot of ready to wear blouses in this style do have a fastening across the bust, but we didn’t set out to design a blouse that was a copy of one we had seen, we simply used these as a basis from which to develop the design. Again this is a point at which we would encourage our customers to do what suits them best, however you are right and maybe suggesting a few options at this point would be useful to some of our customers.
“When working out sizing we unfortunately can’t cater for every body type, and we find it very frustrating that we can’t be more inclusive with the block that our patterns are made from. However we believe it is more important to stick to the same block when making different designs so that if customers get used to making a certain alteration with our patterns then they will know where to start. As someone who has to do a large FBA on every pattern I make (I by no means fit in Sew Over It patterns out of the package!) I do understand this frustration from a customers point of view and I almost exclusively use the finished measurement to make up any pattern, because that is what works for me. However, I believe that providing high bust measurements for this pattern would be beneficial so I will pass this on to our pattern development team.
“Fitting is a contentious area and what may suit one person may not be the perfect solution for another – at the moment we don’t have the resources to provide a range of fitting pointers for every pattern that we produce but we do encourage all of our customers to get in touch with their fitting queries and we will always give them the best advice that we can.
“I completely understand the points you have raised and will pass them on to our team. Sewing up garments is an immensely personal experience and it is very hard to come up with designs and methods of construction that will suit everyone. We always strongly advise our customers to personalise their garments to better suit their style or shape, and to follow their own means of construction if they are more confident in it, or would prefer to use a different technique. Sewing clothing is all about individuality after all!
“I hope this answers some of your queries, and allows you to have faith in our other patterns. You are always welcome to get in touch at any point it you have trouble with a pattern or are in need of a little advice.”

I don’t really know how to reply to this. She seems to think that in changing the drawstring casing, I have sewn the drawstring in place so it can’t be adjusted? Um…no. I made an actual functional drawstring, like any 12-year-old would make in a home ec class. & it’s obviously a cop-out to say, “It was a DESIGN CHOICE to eschew closure & make our blouse non-functional as a blouse! But sure, add closures if you want to copycat actual articles of clothing that people can wear.” & I don’t even understand the point of all that stuff about fitting. I’m not saying their size range is too narrow (though, obviously, most indie designers’ size ranges ARE too narrow, & that goes for Sew Over It as much as anyone else) or that I demand plus sizes now. I’m saying that their size chart doesn’t correspond to the measurements on this garment. It’s probably just a matter of having added too much ease at the wrong points in an effort to achieve the loose, drape-y silhouette.

As far as “not having the resources to provide a range of fitting pointers for every garment”…That’s just bullshit. I’m not necessarily the world’s biggest fan of Closet Case Patterns, for instance, but when Heather comes out with a new pattern, she also goes all in on walking people through everything they need to know to make it. She just came out with the Sophie swimsuit & put together an entire class (that you have to pay to see, but you know, for some people that is probably a useful resource) on how to sew a swimsuit. She offered kits for sale, complete with fabric & notions. She’s been doing blog posts on some of the trickier construction elements & fit alterations. I’m not saying Sew Over It needs to do a sewalong on making this not-very-challenging blouse, but maybe a quick “fit tip: choose a size based on your high bust” in the pattern description? That’s it. It’s that simple.

It’s really that motherfucking drawstring that gets me though. I’m imagining that 12-year-old home ec student that turns in a drawstring pouch using Sew Over It’s instructions. They would fail the assignment. Because THAT IS NOT HOW A DRAWSTRING IS SEWN. I don’t give a damn if you’ve serged the raw edge of your fabric. HOW did this pattern get published? Do they have a testing process? I can only assume that they don’t because I just don’t understand how NO ONE would have flagged this. & even after I explained it an email, they are apparently still not getting it? I know this seems like a really small thing to get so hung up on, but that’s exactly WHY I’m so hung up on it. There are literally HUNDREDS of free tutorials online about how to sew a drawstring, & yet this garbage is not only what got printed, but it’s being SOLD to people. For money!

achievement unlocked: sleeveless Anderson blouse


Let’s get into this. Despite my smile for the camera (I do like my finished blouse), I am less than thrilled by this pattern.

I bought it as part of one of the pattern bundles the Monthly Stitch was selling in conjunction with Indie Pattern Month last month. I purchased the basic “Nine to Five” pattern bundle, & made all three garments. The weird part is that I don’t work. I’m a stay-at-home mom. But I felt the patterns could be incorporated into my busy schedule of library storytime, preschool drop-off, & wading pool playdates, right? It’s strange that this was the bundle I was drawn to, given that I was utterly convinced that none of the three would flatter my busty, apple-shaped figure in the least. But that’s motivation for trying them at a discount. Plus, sewing for yourself gives you an opportunity to find fitting solutions & incorporate new shapes & styles into your wardrobe.


While experimenting with new shapes & styles is all well & good, I just could not with the sleeves on this pattern. They look okay on other people (Heather B in particular really rocks that 40s bombshell look), but I was getting major Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl” vibes. Since the pattern specifies lightweight fabrics with a fluid drape, I decided to experiment with making it sleeveless & even more appropriate for summer.


I was very concerned that this would end up being a Boob Hanger blouse—you know, where the fabric just drapes off of your breasts like a waterfall, obscuring any waist you may have & making you look at least twenty pounds heavier. I suspected that it was a style that a slim, relatively small-chested woman could work, but I expected the worst for my shape.


I made a quick muslin & lo! I didn’t hate it! Like…at all! & this brings me to my first problem with this pattern & my suggestions for making it work for you: the sizing chart is all wrong. Based on the sizing chart, I should have cut the largest size, done an FBA, & graded up in the waist. Thankfully, I know to consider finished garment measurements before I commit to a size.


This blouse has enormous amounts of ease in the waist & hips. I’m talking 12+ inches. It is meant to be flowy (some could say billowy if they wanted to be a bit less charitable). All that really matters with this pattern is that you get the shoulders right. That’s the only place that is really fitted, & it’s where all the details (shoulder gathers) are. If you pick too large a size…let’s just say the blouse can easily have an “embiggening” effect. You need the armscye to hit right at your shoulder point & not a fraction beyond. Sew Over It includes some boilerplate fit tips with the pattern, explaining that their patterns are more “closely fitting” than the average home sewing pattern. That is not relevant to this particular pattern, so don’t size or grade up if you’re on the larger side of their sizing chart.

I wound up cutting a size 16 after mulling the sizes & considering things like bust ease & the relative narrowness of my shoulders. I probably could have sized down even further, but I’m happy with my blouse. Had I sized up, this would have been a wadder for sure (though I easily could have repurposed the fabric to make a circus tent or build a hot air balloon).

One complaint about the PDF: one entire page was blank, save for borders. What a waste. The fabric requirements for this pattern may also be overstating the case a bit. The suggested fabric layout is laughably wasteful. (Literally. I laughed when I saw it.) I did eliminate the sleeve, which saved some fabric, but even with the bonkers ease through the waist & hips, I probably used less than 1.5 yards of fabric for this blouse.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.53.06 AM

I made my own bias tape to finish my back neckline & armscyes. I hand-stitched, per the pattern instructions, but it’s really not necessary. I say hand-stitch if you like to hand-stitch (I do—I quilted an queen-sized quilt by hand last fall), machine stitch if you prefer.


The neck binding.


Hand stitches around the armscye.

Let’s talk construction. The instructions for this pattern are very detailed, & quite well-illustrated, but…not great. A few things are just head-scratchers, like being instructed to hand-stitch the bias facings when machine stitching isn’t going to make your garment spontaneously combust. Similarly, the instructions say to finish the cut-on blouse front facings with a zigzag stitch or serger. There’s no reason you couldn’t give them a proper hem if you prefer. This garment is so loosely-fitting, you don’t need to worry about hem ridges.

But the instructions for the drawstring hem are downright troubling. I know some people have left the drawstring off altogether, saying they don’t want to add “bulk”. Read again what I said about 12+” of ease at the waist & hips. When you’re trying to tuck that much fabric into your waistband, a drawstring is not going to be the dealbreaker.


The instructions say to just use a ribbon for the drawstring. Instead, I sewed lengths of ribbon to either side of a strip of 1/4” elastic. Only the ribbon shows, tied into a nice bow at the side, but elastic is much more comfortable & helps keep the shirt where I want it to be. I imagine I’d constantly be adjusting, retying, & jostling the hem if I was just using a ribbon.

Here’s the exact wording for adding the drawstring: “With wrong sides together, press the hem over by 1.5cm. Pin and edgestitch in place leaving a 2cm gap where the folded edge of the front blouse hem meets the right side seam for the ribbon to be threaded through. Using a safety pin to help, thread a ribbon through the channel at the hem and tie a bow to fit.”

That’s it. Do you see something missing? Like instructions on how to finish the casing? These are like instructions for threading elastic into a casing for pajama pants. It works in with pajamas because the elastic is entirely enclosed within the casing, which is sthen stitched closed. A drawstring is different. Both ends of the ribbon need to be accessible for tying, & these instructions seem to indicate that they should just be hanging out the unfinished hole in the casing, which is INSIDE the garment. It simply doesn’t make sense!

& here is where I’m gonna go deep. I made two sewing samples to show the differences between the Sew Over It directions & the method I employed, both to show how a drawstring ought to be made, & to illustrate the differences in the finished product. Just to warn you in advance: I didn’t knock myself out trying to do my all-time best sewing on these samples. But hopefully they get the point across.

So, the Sew Over It instructions say to sew up each side seam & finish (I serged the raw edges together & pressed to the back of the garment), like so:


I chose to finish one side this way. On the other side, I marked the side seam 1″ up from the bottom.


I sewed the side seam up to the mark & then clipped into the seam allowance at the mark, making sure not to actually clip into any stitching.


I finished the side seam like the other, save for the clipped part. I finished either side separately & pressed open.


I topstitched either side down.


From the front.


From the inside.

Now the Sew Over It instructions say to serge/zigzag around the entire bottom of the garment to finish. Like so:


& this is how the version with the folded in bits looks:


Not a huge difference there. Just make sure the serging doesn’t connect the two sides of the clipped seam.

Now Sew Over It says to press up the bottom to the inside the width of the casing. I used a 1/2″ for this, because my ribbon was 3/8″ wide. That’s why I clipped into my seam allowance at 1″. If you want a casing of a different width, you’d have to plan & measure accordingly at the clipping stage. You could also give your garment a proper small hem instead of serging, but you’d have to decide if you wanted to add length to the all-over garment before committing to that.

After pressing, Sew Over it says to edgestitch the casing in place, leaving a gap to feed the drawstring through.


Like so.


& here’s how it looks from the front. Again, definitely not my best sewing. & if this was a real garment, I’d be using matching thread.

But using my technique, you can edgestitch the casing all the way around, starting at one turned in side & ending at the other. Ta da!


This is where the difference in construction really starts paying dividends.


& from the outside. (Just imagine it, you know, sewn nicely.)

Feed your drawstring into the casing. Here’s the Sew Over it version:


& this is my version:


& then tie your drawstring into a bow to fit. The Sew Over It version exterior:


& inside:


Do you see how the bow just kind droops sadly from beneath the hem because the drawstring opening (if you can really call it that) is INSIDE the garment? You also can’t sew up the hole in the casing without stitching the ribbon in place, making it impossible to ever tighten or loosen it again. That is what I consider an unfinished garment.

Here’s my version:



Isn’t that so much better? The casing is actually finished all around, & the bow is on the exterior of the garment, where it is both functional for being tied, untied, & adjusted to fit, & decorative, in case you want to wear the blouse untucked.

Finishing the shirt this way is perhaps slightly more involved than doing it the way the directions are written, but it’s not some sophisticated couture touch. It’s a logical finish for a drawstring. This was my first Sew Over It pattern, & these instructions did not leave me with a positive impression. I’m the first to go ahead & alter construction order, install a different kind of zipper, finish a seam a different way, etc. But this wasn’t a simple matter of preference. This was fundamentally changing the instructions because the instructions as written would have left me with an unfinished garment!

I also found it a bit shocking that the pattern makes no mention of any kind of closure options. It just says that you can add a few hand stitches at the bust point if you’re worried about the wrap falling open. If you Google the pattern, you will find that most people who are wearing it have chosen to wear a tank underneath for modesty. Because the wrap WILL fall open. Unless you are a living statue busking at a street fair, you need some kind of a closure, & I guarantee that “a couple of hand stitches at the bust point” will distort the drape of the facings.

I fixed this problem by adding a few tiny sew-in snaps. I put the shirt on, pinned the wrap in place, & sewed in my snaps accordingly. They’re secure, they’re invisible from the outside, & they don’t warp the drape of the facings. It’s an obvious solution, employed not just by me, but also by designers making tops like this & selling them for hundreds of dollars. This pattern was inspired by the wrap blouses that Gillian Anderson wears on “The Fall”. Those blouses? HAVE CLOSURES. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. A pattern designer should take an inspiration image & translate it into not just an aesthetic copy, but also a functional one. A blouse that one cannot move in for fear of exposing herself is not a functional garment.


I circled my snaps in red, because they otherwise kind of blend in with the print. They are all sewn to the interior facing & underwrap of the blouse, & thus, invisible when the garment is being worn.

I do really like my finished blouse, & I’ve been wearing it constantly since I finished it. But I clearly have many caveats that preface any recommendation for the pattern. I think a person who considers what I’ve written here & approaches size selection & finishes accordingly can create a very successful garment, but in a perfect world, Sew Over It will revisit & rewrite the instructions. (I did drop them a line about all this already.)

Also, just for fun, I brainstormed some other, non-office-y ways this blouse can be worn. & will be worn by me, since I don’t work in an office. No sense making clothes that don’t fit into your existing wardrobe, right? So here are three completely handmade looks for this blouse:


It can work with full skirts! & it can be teamed with a sweater to be multi-seasonal!


Wear it with pants! They don’t even have to be high-waisted!


Go super-casual with shorty overalls! This is a great summertime playground look. Cute, cool, & practical.

achievement unlocked: Mariner summer jammies


Yeah, I wasn’t going to go outside to photograph these. & I have a three-year-old. There is no part of the house untouched by her maelstrom, so you’re gonna have to deal with seeing some kid mess.

Cool & easy summer pajamas were a big hole in my handmade wardrobe. I had some stuff for cool weather, but as soon as it got hot, I was reaching for RTW tank tops, old maternity tees, & RTW  jersey pajamas bottoms worn almost to tatters. I am on a quest to banish all RTW from my wardrobe by the time I turn 38 (so, I have one year & four days to fill all the gaps), so I needed something easy & comfortable to wear for hot weather sleeping & lounging.


& of course it had to have pockets too. Actually being remotely “flattering” was way less of a concern.

My first thought was to make the freebie Madeleine bloomers for Colette Patterns & some kind of a matching tank top, probably from a light, silky jersey. I even printed out the bloomers pattern. But have you ever looked at the actual construction of those things? It’s so fussy & impractical. There’s so much threading of ribbons, & the legs are cinched with ribbon too, which might look pretty when you are standing around posing for a photo, but seems ridiculously impractical for actually wearing your bloomers to sleep, or sit on the couch reading blogs & eating Ritter Sports, or to chill on your porch swing with a “New Yorker” while your kid plays with her sand table…You know. The stuff I actually do.

So I just ganked the bloomers idea & went my own way. I started with the same pajama pants pattern that was the seed for my shorty ovarees. I added width for my waist & hips, shortened them into shorts, & added jeans-style pockets (my fave). I was going to make a separate waistband, but I just didn’t have enough fabric. I wound up making three garments with the yardage I bought in this print, & by the time I was done, there were just slivers left. Luckily the rise was high enough that I was able to zigzag some waistband elastic to the top & fold it under.


I actually made these pajama shorts before I made the ovarees, & thank goodness for that, because I actually added too much width. Even with the waistband elastic pulled as tight as it will go, the finished result is right on the verge of being too big. Which is fine. Better too big than too tight when it comes to sleepwear, right?

I considered just doing a hem on the legs & calling it a day, & that probably would have been a better way to showcase the border print. But I had this garter elastic in my stash that matched the print pretty nicely, & it’s not like I am ever going to use garter elastic on actual garments that I will wear out of the house. So I used it to cinch in the legs & create the bloomer effect.


So yeah, the finished effect is perhaps a bit diaper-y, but I don’t care! They are really comfortable, & for what it’s worth, Jared has complimented me on them.


& yeah, some of the print placement is a bit unfortunate. But like I said, I had just enough fabric to eke these out. I was able to maintain the border print, so I didn’t worry too much about the whale setting a course for my uterus.

The top is a hacked version of the Blanc tee from Blank Slate Patterns. I redres the front & back necklines & eliminated the sleeves to turn the tee into a tank. I redrew the front to have more of an A-line shape. I converted the back into a tulip open back situation, & then I added ribbons to tie over the shoulders as straps.


Such a lovely showcase for all of my most unfortunate tattoos. I keep thinking about doing cover-ups, but they’re on my back & my neck, where I can easily forget about them. Maybe someday…It also shows off the tan line I am developing from my swimsuit.

I finished all the edges with wide bias tape. I fully concede that this is not the tidiest bit of sewing I have ever done, but comfort? Yes. Keeping cool in hot weather? Yes. A menacing kraken emerging from the depths of the ocean to menace a boat? Yes.

The fabric is one of the in-house digital prints from Hawthorne Threads, specifically from their Mariner collection. This is the first in-house fabric I have bought from them. I loved the print even more when I saw it in person, the colors are great & have help well to washing so far, but the hand of the fabric is completely weird. It’s 100% cotton, & I expected something along the lines of quilting cotton, since that is mostly what they sell. But this stuff feels both thinner & stiffer than any quilting cotton I’ve ever worked with. Supposedly it softens up with washing, but it hasn’t happened yet. Certainly the stiffness of the fabric is part of what is contributing to the weird toddler-y lines of the top. It’s certainly not draping over my womanly curves, you know? It wound up being kind of a really shitty fabric for the other garment I made from it (yet to be blogged)…which isn’t to say that I haven’t been wearing it non-stop with no plans to quit any time soon. It also feels a bit more fragile than other quilting cottons. I sewed it with a microtex needle because it needed a little babying.


That print though!


So close to some unintentional pattern-matching in the back. Oh well.


Pretty sloppy bias facing. It got the job done though.


I had Jared tie the ribbons in place & then I sewed through the bows so they don’t come untied when I’m rolling around in bed (I sleep like a rotisserie chicken) or if Ramona plays with them. I would have liked to enclose the ends under the bias tape, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Oh well.

Ocean-themed jammies wound up being a perfect choice for last night. We had an insane thunderstorm with thunder like I have never heard in my life. It was just a constant roll & rumble for well over an hour. It sounded like the ocean, or, more terrifying, a tornado. I have experienced several tornadoes, & they are LOUD. I kept wondering if I should spring out of bed, grab Ramona, & head for the basement, but we live half a block from the tornado siren & it wasn’t going off, so…