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!)




achievement unlocked: teal & black bra & undies

I have a garment post! & not just any garment post. It’s another bra! Bras are totally my favorite garment to read about on sewing blogs right now.


This is another Shelley bra. I’ve made seven now. At this point, the fit is tweaked to perfection. I don’t think there’s anything I would change. Of course, I always do something different with the fabrics. Here’s how I switched this one up:

  • used sheer nylon tricot on the upper cup instead of lace
  • applied the black & teal lace to the sides of the cup
  • sewed the wire channeling to the exterior of the bra (this is probably my favorite detail on this particular bra)
  • attached the straps balconette-style, which is to say, I eliminated the strap tab on the power bar & bar tacked the straps to the cup & covered the stitching with other details
  • finished the entire top edge of the bra with fold-over elastic & applied double-sided ruffled elastic over the top of that
  • made my own bow
  • did a Gothic arch with a nice cross-over on the interior of the bra
  • covered the powernet in the back with lace


I think it looks a little better on an actual body, so let’s go to the tape:



Sorry these photos are a little bit dark. Our new bathroom is much smaller & darker than our old bathroom, & contains the only mirror in the house. I tried to lighten them up in editing to show the details better.

One weird thing about this bra is that the cups seem just a hair too big. You can see that there is some space between the right breast & the wire on the first photo, & a little flat spot at the bottom of the right cup in the second photo. I’m not totally sure what the issue was there. When I put in the wires, I noticed that the cup overall seemed to have a larger diameter than any of the other bras I have made, even though they are all the same size: 40D. I wonder if finishing the top edges differently made some kind of weird difference? A bra requires so much precision, even being out 1/4″ can make an appreciable difference. But the bra is still completely wearable. It’s comfortable & I am happy with the lift & support it provides. I’ll see what happens with my next one.

Of course, no bra is complete without undies to match.


These are teal jersey, with 2″ black stretch lace for the waistband & legbands. I used some lace scraps to decorate the front. I experimented with ruching under the lace, which is why that area looks so wrinkly. I feel like the result was a little meh. I covered the unfinished edge of the lace with black ribbon & added a little black bow just because I like bows.


I think the back is a little more interesting, thanks to this little cut-out. I just kind of guesstimated where to put it, & I think I placed it perfectly. I’m not going to include a photo on my actual body because for some reason, I feel weirder about showing myself wearing underwear than I do about showing myself in a bra…Maybe because a bra is kind of a bigger achievement, as far as sewing goes? So I feel like it’s earned a proper unveiling? All I know is that the cut-out is right at the lowest low point of the back, which is perfect.


Both sides are finished with fold-over elastic. I really like fold-over elastic.


So there we are! I now have enough sets to wear a different one every day of the week. Not that I don’t plan to make more! More! More! The undies pattern, incidentally, is good ol’ Butterick 6031. I just like to change up the style lines & details every time I make it.

I found the iron yesterday, in a box labeled “Ciara stuff”. So now I can get going on the skirts for my partner’s mom. The problem is that I’m having a hard time getting motivated to sew. I bought a couple of small dressers at IKEA the other day to serve as fabric storage, & I started moving fabric into them yesterday. I found all kinds of lengths of fabric I’d completely forgotten about. I sat down & made a list of all the projects I could conceivably make with the fabric & notions I have one hand. I might have to go out & buy the occasional zipper or whatever to complete a project, but I have everything I need for about fifty more garment projects, from bras to swimsuits to jeans to jackets! I have some kind of plan for every length of uncut fabric in my stash–& even some of the scraps! It’s just a matter of doing it.

& my mind is already fast forwarding to fall, even though it stays hot in Kansas through October. I have been thinking about taking up knitting for a long time, but I haven’t pursued it because, you know, I don’t have time for all the other things I already want to do (sewing, reading, swimming, doing elaborate craft projects with Ramona). People are like, “Knitting is cool because it’s more portable than sewing. I can do it on my commute to work.” That would be awesome if I still lived in Boston & spent an hour on the bus everyday going here or there. But I don’t have any downtime like that in my current life. & yet, I would love to knit myself a sweater or two. If I could knit my own gloves & socks, I would truly be able to make my entire wardrobe (except for shoes, which is definitely still something I’d like to try one day). (I know you can sew those things, but it seems like knitting provides more options.)

Jared is going to start going to work again tomorrow (oh, the weird summer work-at-home life of an academic). I’m hoping that this return to normalcy will motivate me to tackle some sewing. How do other people get themselves going when they feel this way?


moving is the worst

I wish I was writing with new sewing projects to show off, but alas! I finished a new bra & undies set last month right before we moved, & I fully intended to bring it with me to the Airbnb Family Vacation Week, but there was a miscommunication with the bag I packed it in. It wound up in our storage unit instead of with us. I did have some other unblogged projects with me, like this really cute skirt I made like a month ago & still have yet to photograph, but every time I thought about taking pictures of it, I would instantly spill something on it. Soon!

We moved into our new place on Monday. Our friends Ellen & Mike helped us, which was amazing. Ellen in particular combines some kind of superhuman super-strength with a really calm, sensible demeanor that is packed with helpful hints for moving. I lost track of how many times I said, “Oh, that’s a really good idea,” or, “That’s a good point,” & I have moved like thirty times. (Literally.) I hurt my arm partway through the move-in process. I tore a tendon along my bicep, which hurt so bad I actually sat down & cried. (Shocking as it may be to anyone who knew me before the age of 25 or so, I am not really a big crier anymore.) I honestly thought it was broken, but a few days of Vicodin & icing it with a bag of frozen cranberries have restored me to health.

The new place is kind of meh. I mean, it’s all right. But it’s definitely smaller than our last place, so we are struggling to find sensible places for all of our possessions. The biggest casualty is undoubtedly my sewing area. In the old house, all my sewing stuff was along one wall in the living room. It was like a sewing zone. Of course it would have been my preference to have a sewing room with a door I could close (just to keep the cat out), but it worked for me.

That’s not really an option in the new place. The living room is a lot smaller & doorways are positioned in such a way as to make the placement of large furniture (like sewing tables & cutting tables) really hard. I also sacrificed my desk to downsizing, which is where I was storing a lot of my harder-to-store notions.

So, right now, my sewing table & quilting cottons storage are in the living room. The table I use for pressing, along with some of my fabric stash, are in the little nook with the washer & dryer. We’re going to put the cutting table & the remainder of the fabric stash in the bedroom. (We have a really large bedroom in this place, which is nice.) I put my serger in the laundry nook, so I can get it out easily & set it up at the kitchen table when I need to serge, & my extra sewing machines are on a shelf in the closet. My cabinet of lingerie fabrics, sewing reference, & patterns is next to the bed.

So, everything is kind of scattered everywhere, & a lot of it is in the bedroom, which I don’t love because it makes it inaccessible if Jared is napping or sick or whatever. Not that that happens much, & I can easily work around it, but it’s just not a perfect situation.

I got everything set up yesterday & started cutting out a couple of skirts that Jared’s mom has paid me to make for her. It’s a really cool pattern, & I’m thinking about grading it up to my size when I finish her skirts. The problem is that she purchased her fabrics without consulting me & one of them is a lovely but incredibly lightweight black cotton lawn. It’s okay for the back, which will have two layers (it’s a wrap skirt that wraps in the back), but it really doesn’t work for the front. I mean, it’s practically translucent. It needs a lining, & I’m thinking a self-lining would be best, but the pattern calls for 3.5 yards & I only have 3. I don’t even know if I have enough fabric to make the skirt as-is, let alone adding a whole lining panel to the front. I can usually eke out extra yardage by cutting on a single layer, so we’ll see where that gets me.

I’ve also decided to make myself a new swimsuit. I love the suit I made in May, but the closure is perfectly positioned for me to not be able to clasp it myself, & last week, the closure broke while Jared was clasping it for me. Like, the plastic just kind of shattered. I could just replace the closure, of course, & I probably will at some point, but I learned a lot making that suit & I’d like to transfer what I learned into a suit with improved fit & finish. I’d also like to experiment with different design lines & make it something I can wiggle into without assistance.

& of course I am still on the bra-making tip. I realized I had the same lace design in three different colorways: fuchsia, teal, & purple. I used the fuchsia a few months ago to make this set, I used the teal to make the still-unblogged set last month, & I’m thinking about using the purple to make a third set & showing all three for the August Monthly Stitch challenge. The theme is “Triple Trouble,” in honor of the blog’s third birthday.

I sketched out a design the other day, with Ramona’s help. She weighed in on what color elastics & findings I should use, & where I should add lace. She has a surprisingly sophisticated eye for bra design, considering that she’s only three! It was her idea to leave a scalloped lace edge on one side of the straps & use fold-over elastic to finish the other side. I made pattern alterations yesterday, & honestly, this set & the swimsuit might jump the queue over the wrap skirts because we’re almost completely unpacked & I haven’t found the iron yet. I can’t really make a cotton lawn skirt without an iron. My Sanita Mary Jane clogs are also missing in action. This means I almost have no choice but to replace them with a pair of brogues by Fluevog. My hand is being forced (though it will have to wait until the money situation improves a little).

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.