Category Archives: sewing


I made underwear! And here they are:

Ignore my toe at the bottom and the pattern weights in the upper right corner. I completely failed to frame this photo correctly.

I actually took some pictures of the underwear on me, but decided the internet was not ready for a photo of me in my underthings. Or maybe I’m not ready to post a photo of me in my underthings. Yeah, that’s probably it. The pattern I used for the panties was Kwik Sew 3554, here:

The front of the pattern only shows two chemise styles, but there is a pair of bikini panties included. Sadly, this seems to be out of print on the Kwik Sew website.

I originally tried to make the panties in the medium size with picot elastic, according to the instructions and they came out like this:

Unfortunately, the pattern called for 30″ of elastic around the waist and that wound up being far too big.

So, since I wanted to use fold over elastic (FOE) for the panties, I traced off the pattern again and took 1/4″ off the seam allowance at the waist and the legs. I also attached the leg elastic while the panties were flat (rather than in the round as the instructions would have you do) and then sewed up one side and attached the waistband elastic while flat. I stretched the waistband elastic as I sewed it and it wound up fitting perfectly at 27″ rather than 30″. I am actually amazed at how well these panties fit with only a waist elastic adjustment — no pulling at the legs or butt, no creeping up and the waistband is where I like it.

For the undershirt, I used Zoe’s free pdf pattern available here at “So, Zo…” She calls it a vest because she’s British, but I think of it as a camisole or cami. It’s a pretty easy pattern, but I forgot to turn off scaling (pay attention to those print instructions, people!) so it printed too small. I decided that because I was in a hurry, I would just cut it out in the largest size, which is 16. That turned out ok, but I think I want to reprint it in the correct size. It does feel a bit tight in the underarm area, but there is a good possibility that the sizing is less to blame than my wide-set ribs and large shoulders. Anyhow, the pattern is well-drafted enough and cute enough in it’s current fit to try again. I would have preferred to match the FOE on the tank and bottoms, but unfortunately I only had two-yard lengths and both the panties and vest require about two yards each. I plan to get more elastic off the internet, since even the stuff available in the Fabric District in LA is quite expensive when you need four yards. I should also say that the FOE on the cami is a closer match to the print than it appears to be in the photo. That kind of dark purple is indistinguishable from navy or black to my camera.

By the way, the word “skivvies” refers specifically to an undershirt/underpants combination. It was originally (and still is) used to refer to the underwear worn by men under their military uniforms. Nobody really knows where the word originated before that or how it came to refer to underwear. Fascinating, huh?

I Sew and Fitting Happens

I have been sewing. What I have not been doing is actually making anything worth wearing. Here is Simplicity 1808, the shorts version:

Now, if you are observant, you will have noticed that this is essentially Simplicity 1887 with the shorts about two inches longer. I made this pattern because I did the 1887 version and felt like it could use a bit more length. However, I think the longer legs make the shorts fit more awkwardly, and the stretch sateen I used is probably too thick for this pattern. The entire effect over my hips is less than desirable, but I would generally wear my top over it like so:

My feeling here is kind of “meh” but I might keep them around as sort of a wearable muslin, if I can get over the way the fabric catches on my underpants and on itself. I think the pattern definitely requires a more lightweight, slippery fabric.

I made three muslins this week in an effort to see if I could recreate some jean shorts. The only one worth considering is a mashup of Built by Wendy’s carpenter jeans pattern (now OOP), Simplicity 4110, combined with Butterick 5682 for the back yoke and waistband:

The bottom is leftover twill and the waistband is a way too stretchy and lightweight poplin — I just wanted to test the fit of the pieces.

That actually looks better in the photo than I thought it did. Hmm…of course, the back is a little awkward:

The back waistband is too wavy because of the material I used, but I think I’m more concerned with the weird fabric gathering around the back seam and under my butt. Does that mean I need more fabric back there, or less?

As a muslin, this isn’t terrible but I’m not sure it’s anything to write home about either. WHY don’t pattern companies make patterns for the clothes we see in the stores? I’m sure there’s a good business reason for their refusal to acknowledge fashion, but I DON’T GET IT. Either everything has to be designer and way overcomplicated (which I do understand — that type of sewing definitely has its place) or completely dowdy and something my grandmother wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. My kingdom for the ability to use a CAG drafting program!

Fabric Hate

I’ve had a frustrating week, creatively speaking.

1) I tried to make a Renfrew out of two cheap t-shirts. That did not work, partly because the material was too cheap and nasty but also because I tried to make the V-neck view and let’s just say….it has a steep learning curve.

2) I tried to make a t-shirt from my TNT pattern (New Look 6735) and the material was so shiny, scratchy and nasty that after two different machines chewed on it, I decided to take that as an omen and bin it. The print is cute and I still have quite a bit, but no idea how to use it. It will NOT take a crease, is impossible to press, and is slightly sheer.

3) I started cutting out a shorts pattern from this fabric today:

I don’t think I like this material either. It is a medium weight stretch sateen with a satiny surface that has a slightly rough feel under the satin. It collects fuzz like crazy. It also has ginormous flowers on a black/gray/cream background, and the flowers are of the size and style that invariably look obscene in the wrong place. You know what I mean. I have to cut it very carefully, and the whole time I can feel the rougher weave underneath the satin surface. AAAAAGH. I just creeped myself out describing that.

I find the shorts pattern rather disagreeable as well. I’m annoyed by shorts that expect me to do a full fly front treatment for material that is lighter weight than denim or twill.

(Your homework activity for today: Say “full fly front treatment” three times fast. Whee! That was fun.)

4) One of my former bullies from high school started following me on Pinterest. Ok, that one is just weird. I’m positive he’s not looking for crafty tips. Maybe he needs to prove to himself how dorky I still am? But then, who collects ammunition to use against someone they see, at best, twice a year? I am baffled. BAFFLED, I TELL YOU.

Anyhow, my sewing mojo has gone completely to hell and it’s all the fault of my whimsical fabric buying habits. I am going to exercise restraint from now on! I will confine myself to jerseys and twills! I will purchase better quality in much smaller quantities!

P.S., I gave myself this pep talk before. I didn’t listen then either.


Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Am I quoting a song here? I have the distinct impression that I am, but I could be hallucinating.

I did sew another skirt last week, this one from Simplicity 5101 (long since OOP). 5101 is a juniors pattern, and features elastic-waist pleated skirts. It is also super-comfy so I made one out of jersey:

I didn’t bother to stitch the pleats down because jersey has the tendency to fall back into place when you sit down/stand up. I made this in the largest size (15/16) and I feel like I could go down a size in the front, but that might just be because of the forgiving nature of the material. This stuff only has two-way stretch, so it’s not great for super-fitted clothing but it’s very comfortable otherwise. I also wanted to make a skirt because the main background of this material is cream and cream has a tendency to make me look like I’m carrying the Black Death. Keeping it away from my face is best. However, I couldn’t pass up the rows of roses in varying stages of decay….very Snow White and the Huntsman, I think.

I did the waistband and hem with my coverstitch machine and I really like the way it turned out:

See how neat and (almost) professional? If I could just get it a little closer to the edge….

Anyhow, this is a bit shorter than I really prefer (and I know I’m getting old because I’m starting to want to LENGTHEN my skirts) so I don’t know if I’ll make more like this or if I’ll try to add some inches to the pattern.

The kids have two more days of school and I’m barely able to focus myself. I have a few other projects in the pipeline, but I keep pushing them back because HELLO SUN and NO MORE HOMEWORK. Dirty little secret of adulthood #2543: the school calendar still holds way too much sway over our lives. Who doesn’t feel renewed and ready for growth in September? I rest my case.



The Hubs is on a business trip this week. For some weird reason, business trips make me feel like a teenager whose parents are away for the weekend. PARTY, MY PLACE, 10 PM. I’m never going to sleep again! I can sew all day and night! I can stay up late and read books! I WILL DO ALL THE THINGS.

This usually lasts for about 24 hours, or however long it takes me to fall over from fatigue.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Simplicity 1887, View E

I wore this skirt today, and it’s pretty comfortable. The fabric is a soft stretch woven that I might call poplin, but it doesn’t seem nearly crisp enough. This pattern does call for softer materials, so the weight is fine as far as that goes. I was a bit worried at first that it might cling to my legs while walking but that hasn’t happened. The design is far too busy to pick out any of the waistband/pocket details, but I think this is a nice pattern for folks who like the flat front/elastic back waistband treatment. The longer version of the skirt is knee-length at 21″ so that would probably work better for most people but I like to live dangerously.

I also made this epic fail:

RUN! It’s McCall’s 6566!

It may be partly the color, but I can honestly say the last time I wore anything that looked like this, I was in the hospital. I made McCall 6566, View D a while ago and blogged about how badly it turned out. This attempt was View B, which I made in an XS because the Small was too big last time. Yes, the pattern went straight into the circular file after that. In my own defense, I did the neckline EXACTLY the way they described even though it made absolutely no sense. Note to self: when instructions make no sense, don’t follow them. Someone screwed up, and that someone usually isn’t you. Also, HOLY SHOULDERS BATMAN. I look like I have a set of pads on under there.

Other things I’ve done while not sleeping:

— Looked up twatwaffle on Pinterest. There are not nearly enough twatwaffle pins. GET ON IT, PEOPLE.

— Plucked a silver dollar-sized patch of hair out of my shin. Not for any good reason, just because I like plucking hair and didn’t want to remove my eyebrows.

— Looked up everybody in Babylon 5 on IMDB. Did you know Richard Biggs died young? OMG, TRAGIC.

— Drank two White Russians (on two different days, I’m not a complete lush).

— Made another skirt, which I will attempt to wear tomorrow. I used my coverstitch machine for the second time, with much better results. I AM A ROCK STAR.

— Bookmarked instructions on how to cut, bleach and dye my own hair. It costs over $100 to get my hair done, people. Even a hair cut alone is $60 with tip, and  I need that money for fabric. I may end up bald but I will be WELL DRESSED.

I could list more things, but for some weird reason I can’t stop yawning…

Another Renfrew, Another Show

Seriously, where did this week go? I know we had events every night, but it still feels like we accomplished absolutely nothing. I DID manage to sew another Renfrew between yesterday and today (go me!):

Renfrew #2!

I did what I said I would do last time; all of the body is in size 8, while the sleeves/cuffs are in size 12 and gathered to fit the sleeve cap. I don’t like gathering knits and probably won’t do it again, but I tried tracing the 8 sleeve and doing a conventional full bicep alteration and it wound up distorting the sleeve cap badly. The way I did the sleeves here fits ok, but oddly enough, the armscye is a little tighter than I prefer (just a smidgen) and I know it’s because I sewed the entire underarm and side seam at 5/8″. So, my general feeling is that I will need to enlarge the armhole to a 10 or a 12 then use the sleeve from either of those sizes. I am confident this will improve the fit, but I am startled at how hard it is to truly SCREW UP this pattern. I mean, I feel like I could tweak all day and still wind up with something wearable. That, folks, is what a well-drafted pattern looks like!

The fabric I used here is a lovely and stretchy jersey knit — it’s a bit more soft and flexible than regular jersey, and I fell in love with the print:

My attempt at a fabric close-up.

The print has seagulls, ducks and boats on a white background. It’s very busy, but I still feel like it looks grown-up without being overwhelming. And in a purple/white color way, it goes with all my black.

For those of you who care about my hair saga, I dyed my hair violet on Saturday (for the zebra party that night) and it turned out blue with gray highlights. It looked AWFUL, so I dumped Manic Panic’s Hot Hot Pink on top and muuuuuuch better… It wound up being a cool variegated purple/pink for the party, and now it’s fading out in lighter tones of pink and purple. It’s astonishing how much it’s faded in 6 days, but I still think the pink is taking longer to fade than purple usually does on me. I may have a new favorite hair color….

I’ve been inspecting the backlog in my sewing room, and some things have got to GO. I did get a big new plastic box and pack away my winter clothes, but now I am busy being horrified by my stash. Does anyone want to own 5 yards (in two yard and three yard lengths) of non-stretch black twill? A whole bunch of leftovers in various sizes? What the heck am I supposed to do with all this STUFF? Don’t tell me to sew quilts because I will laugh hollowly at you and freak you out.

The End of Me-Made-May — Lessons Learned

I didn’t manage to post my last picture for Me-Made-May yesterday so here it is:

Me-Made-May, Day 31

Top: Me-made Renfrew shirt, combination of Views A and B

Bottoms: Me-made shorts, McCalls 6328, View F (with a hem rather than cuffs)

This was pretty much the only fully me-made outfit I wore this month, although I own several other me-made shirts. The thing that distinguishes this particular outfit from some of my others is that the materials are all completely comfortable, and the look is close enough to RTW that I feel like I look “appropriate” whatever I’m doing. Yesterday, Youngest had a new friend over for a playdate and that’s not the time I want to be busting out my wildest skull skirts.

I found this Me-Made-May experience to be very challenging. Partly because my body size and the weather both started changing halfway through the month, and partly because I’m going through a shift in my style. I also tried to do 5 outfits with at least one me-made element per week, no exact repeats, and didn’t quite achieve my goal because I had some weeks with only 3 or 4 me-mades. I didn’t have any repeat outfits, though! What I’ve learned so far:

1) I get really, really grumpy if I don’t shop. I don’t need to buy a lot, but I don’t like an entire wardrobe of me-mades either. Some people enjoy that, but I don’t sew fast enough and I prefer having a mix of clothing options.

2) Last year, I started feeling like full skirts were too childish and I began working on straight skirts, tulip skirts and slight A-line skirts. After all this time, I have only an A-line skirt pattern as a TNT and I can honestly say that full skirts are far easier to fit and more flattering on my body. I have no idea why I thought they were too young, except that I may be getting long in the tooth for some of the shorter lengths. At this time, I plan to shift back to sewing fuller designs.

3) My most successful makes (in terms of wearability and how much I like them) have been shorts. I don’t like wide-leg pants, but I do like my shorts with a lot of leg room and that seems to make them both easier to fit and more flattering. I think I want to experiment a bit with pants shapes, to see if I can find a compromise between wide legs and the more fashionable narrow legs which don’t suit me.

4) I still have a “subcultural” style, but I find myself moving away from the typical goth motifs. Although my favorite neutral is still black and I don’t think I’ll ever get over a good skull print, I’m starting to get bored with the same old homegrown Hot Topic look. Along with more comfortable fabrics, fuller skirts and wider pants, I’d like to experiment with a modern take on period clothing. Petticoats, vests, peasant tops…that sort of thing.

5) I need to pack away seasonal clothes. I live in an area which has, at best, two and a half seasons — summer, fall/winter, and a truncated spring. Because of that, I’ve always kept my clothes out and accessible in all weathers. Unfortunately, that means I get heartily sick of looking at them and end up getting rid of perfectly good clothes that happen to be temporarily too small/too large and out of season. I also need to pay attention to materials when I’m making clothes and buying fabric, because it looks silly to wear heavy twill skirts in the middle of summer.

6) Things I should stop buying:

a. slinky knits for dresses (do I wear knit dresses? no)

b. silky material for any reason (HATE sewing silkies and don’t like wearing them all that much either)

c. blue denim material (prefer to buy blue jeans and make denim/twill pants in other colors and patterns)

d. large t-shirts to use for material (real jersey fabric is cheaper and more versatile)

Things I should start buying:

a. rayon blends or challis (after embracing spray starch, I’m starting to really appreciate the flow of challis)

b. patterns for loose garments that still have structured lines (I have enough basic patterns, I need to do more styling)

c. lengths of heavy twill in three yards or more (if I can’t make pants out of them, it’s pointless)

7) Thanks to the way my body fluctuates, I really need to err on the side of looser when I am buying and making clothing. I am getting better about picking out potentially flattering designs and matching them with appropriate fabrics, but having a stable of patterns that fit within ten pounds up or down would really help (I’m not going to say five pounds because I fluctuate that much in 48 hours. Trufax).

8) DO SOMETHING WITH THAT HAIR, HONEYCHILE. I mean that with love, but holy carp. I really don’t do enough to make sure I have a “proper” hairstyle. Growing out the layers and blowdrying it would help enormously. I have Helena Bonham Carter hair — all unruly, and I look like I should be a Tim Burton villain. Oy.

Anyhow, here’s a shout-out to Zoe over at “So, Zo…” for starting and organizing the Me-Made experience! Go and check her out if you haven’t already; she’s awesome. What about you all, my chickadees? Have you learned anything about yourself, your style, and/or your sewing from Me-Made-May?

Me-Made-May, Day 30 — Almost Finished!

Tomorrow is the last day of MMM, and good thing too. I’ve had trouble finding things to wear, largely because I’ve gained weight this month and most of my favorite makes don’t currently fit. It’s frustrating, but such is life. I’ll have more insight into the Me-Made experience tomorrow. Here’s today’s outfit:

Top: Old Navy polo, with me-added patch

Bottoms: Me-made black pleated skirt with red plaid insets, adapted from Simplicity 5101 (juniors pattern).

This is an old outfit, made back in my super-goth days when I desperately wanted a black and plaid pleated skirt from Hot Topic but couldn’t fit into any of them. I was not a great seamstress, so I used an elastic waist, drop yoke pattern for this skirt but that turned out to be a good thing. I have worn this skirt for AGES, through several weight fluctuations. I’m actually considering making more of them because they’re very much throw-on and go dressing. I do recommend edge-stitching the pleats, however, unless you really like tweaking your skirt back into place every time you stand up.

The copious amounts of zebra in the background are because one of my friends is having a zebra-themed party this Saturday. I spent $30 on fabric and I’m about to give up and go buy something because half of this stuff is too silky, and the other half is too stiff. My sewing mojo does not like these conundrums and runs away whimpering when I try to force it.

Renfield is a Vampire Familiar, Renfrew is a Top

….At least, that’s what I have to keep telling myself because my brain insists that this should be the Renfield top. Silly brain. But here’s the Renfrew in all its glory!

Yep, that’s me with wet hair. I took this shot in a rush because we were heading out to lunch with some friends.

This is my Me-Made-May, Day 28:

Top: Renfrew top from Sewaholic

Bottoms: unflattering and dowdy capris, refashioned into still unflattering but less dowdy cut-offs.

So, y’all want to know the pattern deets, right? Here they are:

The Good:

1) I ordered from Canada and got the pattern three days later. Over the weekend. That is some fast shipping, people!

2) The pattern and its instructions are very clear and well-written. I was able to match all the notches with nary a problem, and I am not a jersey-stretching virtuoso by any means. I also found it easy to trace, even though I traced out full patterns instead of tracing everything on the fold.

3) It’s comfortable and has stood up to a day of shopping, being pulled over my head and put back on, then having lunch with friends.

4) The finished product looks relatively professional, at least to my exacting standards.

5) The band at the bottom makes it long enough for my long torso, and I think the fit is loose enough to accommodate many body types — even if you have, say, a bit of a tum. I also like that the neckline is not TOO low cut.

The Bad:

1) If I were going by the pattern measurements, I would have cut a 6. As it is, I compared it to my t-shirt TNT (New Look 6735) and traced/cut an 8. I am SOOO glad I did, as my shoulders would not have fit into a 6.

2) When I first got the pattern and looked at the back, I panicked because the fabric requirements are ENORMOUS. You might need up to 3 yards for the long sleeve, cowl neck top and I never buy more than two yards for shirts. However, when I traced off the pattern in full instead of using the “fold” lines, the need for material was dramatically reduced. I think I squeezed my version out of one and an eighth of a yard. The “cut on fold” method really uses up a great deal of yardage.

3) It is not obvious from the pattern if the sleeves and other options are interchangeable. I just assumed they were, and carried on making the A/C bodice with the B sleeves. That may have caused the sleeve fitting problem I’m about to mention….

The Ugly:

1) This is not a pattern for people with biceps. I cut a straight 8, and I ended up sewing the underarm/body seam at 1/4 of an inch, then the cuff seams at 1/8 of an inch to accommodate my arms. Granted, I have big arms for my overall size, but the neckline and shoulders fit well so I don’t want to size up and I don’t like my sleeves that tight. HOWEVER, part of the reason I bought the Renfrew pattern was because I was hoping it would work for 2-way stretch jersey. Some two-way jersey has very minimal stretch, and I wanted to be able to make shirts from that material (my TNT pattern won’t work because it requires more stretch in the fabric). The jersey I used for this shirt has minimal stretch, and I’m relatively happy with how it turned out. However, I think I would prefer to use a stretchier material next time, as well as a larger size for the sleeves/cuffs. I have the idea that I could just gather the excess into the sleeve cap, like very slightly puffed sleeves. Call it a design detail. And yes, I plan on making this pattern again — it’s too good and too easy not to!

Projects, Me-Mades, and My Usual Mess

I haven’t been around as much because the end of the school year is upon us, and with it the usual rounds of carnivals, open houses, concerts and meetings. I expect no relief until school actually lets out over the third week in June. I’m reading all your blogs and loving them, just can’t comment as often!

Thursday’s Me-Made was a little bit of a cheat. I had to take the car in for an oil change, and our favorite place has an outdoor waiting room. On the coldest day of the month. So I wore my Christopher Webb jeans and several layers for most of the day, then changed in the afternoon right before we went to Open House for our two middle school students:

Top: Target Mossimo sweater, Gap Outlet tank top

Bottoms: Me-made Bird Sh*t Skirt

Socks: Gold Toe black crew

Shoes: Doc Martens 8-eye 1460 boots

Friday, I spent shuttling people back and forth since two of our kids had a minimum day and Oldest was leaving on a retreat. When not in the car, this is what I wore:

Top: Old Navy Perfect T-shirt

Bottoms: Me-Made skirt, New Look 6083

Belt: Gap Outlet

Socks: Gold Toe black crew

I wore my Doc Martens but took them off before this picture. The cat was sitting on my lap so you’ll have to imagine all the cat hair you could see in closeup.

Today, I spent my time doing a number of projects. First off, I needed a skirt for an event on Sunday and this was the best option:

Unfortunately, that cute little tulle ruffle on the bottom? Tends to cling to the legs and cause the entire thing to ride up in spectacularly unattractive fashion. Twenty minutes with a seam ripper, scissors and an iron gave me this:

Less cute but ultimately, more functional. Anyway, it’ll do for this weekend.

I also altered these jeans:

Get a load of that back waist gap and super long legs!

I put elastic in the back, which I discussed in a blog tutorial here. That fixed the back waist gap, but thanks to this denim being particularly inclined to ravel, I added a few sections of 1/4″ Steam-a-Seam to each side of the inside waistband cut. This is what that looked like:

With those in place, it was a simple matter of sealing the seam before I sewed it up.

I also used the standard hemming technique that preserves the original jeans hem. I could do a tutorial, but there’s dozens of them all over the web so I’ll just leave you with the results:

Much better!

I can use this as a Me-Made for this week, right?  I’m a day short….
Top: Gap Outlet
Bottoms: Old Navy jeans, size 8L, altered to fit
State of sewing room: appalling
So, I spent the rest of the day working on THIS:

Say hello to the RENFREW.

I traced out the pattern pieces in full instead of on the fold, because I HATE trying to get knits to line up on the fold. And this lovely white material? Is the special pattern tracing stuff they sell at JoAnns in the interfacing section. It’s like interfacing without glue. It is AMAZING. Easy to see through, traces like a dream, clings to the fabric and doesn’t move, hard to tear…and you can fold it on the grain line and match it to the pattern grain exactly. I don’t know where this stuff has been all my life, but I think I’m in love.
More Renfrew adventures to come soon!