Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)
This time I went with a bias bound sleeve vent instead of a placket. Got some Golden Hour lighting going on!

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)


Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)
I found the neck on this VERY generously sized.


I needed to make something to fill in my weekend flannel shirt gap. During the cold months I wear a lot of fleece jackets, but when I go out on errands I prefer the more structured look of a regular shirt. If you are tall like me flannel shirts are one of the garments where you will save money sewing vs buying. If I am vigilant about stash and fabric sales I can easily make one for less than $10, whereas flannel shirts that come in women’s tall sizes seem to be at least $35 – if you happen to be lucky enough to buy during a sale. Along with RTW flannel quality always being a wildcard, I would still have issues like too-tight sleeves and not enough hip room.

My flannel Style Arc Safari Sam is starting to get very thin, to the point of starting to develop little holes in certain spots. Rather than make another Safari Sam I decided to try something different this time, so I traced off Ottobre’s 5/2012 Gardener shirt. The simple design is well-suited for plaids and stripes.

I don’t have much experience with Ottobre. I think I made an Ottobre blouse about four years ago. I remember it being looser fitting than I thought it would be, especially through the waist. Just didn’t mesh with my style back then. That being said, Ottobre has a lot of great basics. They’re not the sexiest, formal, or most fashion-forward patterns, but they’re solidly drafted and come in a large size range (euro sizes 34-52). I think it is very cool how they use everyday people of various ages and sizes as their models rather than defaulting to the young, tall, and very slim models Burda prefers. As I was looking through my previous issues I found myself wondering why I hadn’t made more of them.

Then I remembered why:

And I thought tracing Burda was bad. #ottobredesign

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

The lines are color coded per pattern, but unlike Burda ALL the lines for each size are solid. I found myself getting “lost” more than once, despite tracing on a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon. I think this is partially why Burda generally offers only 4-5 sizes per pattern as opposed to Ottobre’s 10. I found myself thinking wistfully about the simplicity of Style Arc and Marfy’s single size patterns.

The fabric I used was a beefy cotton flannel from Fabric Mart. It is a sturdy, durable fabric, but doesn’t have the best drape.



At $3/yard I didn’t consider it worthwhile to do a muslin first. Since I considered it a wearable muslin some of my stitching was rather suspect in some areas ;).

I used the lightweight Shirt-Crisp interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply for the collar and cuffs. Since I didn’t want to cut a separate placket I decided to add a placket extension to the center front, and folded it over and topstitched in place. The three layers of flannel fabric eliminated the need for interfacing.

My buttons are the pink 18L sport shirt buttons from Cleaner’s Supply. (You really can’t beat 144 buttons for $2.95!) Since I didn’t have any matching Gutermann thread in stock and was already making a trip with my mom to Joann’s this weekend, I took a chance and used Coats & Clark Dual Duty All Purpose XP thread. Normally my Janome 6500P loves to shred Coats & Clark thread, but that was not the case this time. As a precaution I went extra slow when doing the buttonholes, but for the most part it was well behaved. (Does anyone know if Coats & Clark “reformulated” their thread recently?)

I started with a base size of 38 and made the following fitting adjustments:

  • Lengthened the sleeves 2″. I knew this would be too much, but since I had little experience with Ottobre I added the extra length as a precaution. I would rather have a finished garment, especially a flannel one for the winter months, with sleeves that are too long vs too short. I’ll shorten them 1″ for next time.
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • 1/4″ sloped shoulder alteration
  • Added around 2-3″ width at the lower hip
  • Went up to a size 42 for the sleeve width at the bicep/elbow. (My arms and legs are always at least one size bigger than my torso.)
  • Added a couple of small darts to the back. I think I removed a total of about 1.5″ at the waist. Just a little bit to help rein in the ease.

A few notes:

  • I loved the back shoulder dart! This is something that really improves the fit if you have prominent shoulder blades.
  • I like how Ottobre tells you in the instructions where to place the first one (and how far apart to space the others) instead of just marking it on the pattern piece. I don’t know about you, but generally by the time I get to buttonholes the chalk has rubbed off…
  • Since I was working with a striped fabric with stripes of different widths and repeats, I went with a bias bound sleeve vent instead of a placket (which I normally prefer).
  • When I do a sleeve vent, I prefer to fold back the buttonhole side of the vent so the topstitching doesn’t show. This resulted in me having to reduce the size of the sleeve pleat.
  • The fit on this is roomy, but not boxy or overwhelming.  I do feel like it was less shaped through waist than what the line drawing indicated.
  • I had a hard time determining the fit from Ottobre’s photos. The model had it layered under a blazer, wore it unbuttoned with her hands on her hips, etc. Not too helpful. However, it does accurately depict that you can comfortably layer a t-shirt under it.
  • As I mentioned in the caption, I found the neck on this very generously sized. Without having much previous experience with Ottobre I have no way of knowing whether this is a design choice or if it is just the way their drafting is. Since the cuffs are also generously sized (I can slip my hand through them without undoing the buttons) I’m guessing it was the design. I should find another Ottobre blouse pattern and compare. I do found it more comfortable than the typical shirt collar. I also think it fits in with the overall roomy look.
  • I did not add length to this shirt. Out of the envelope it is nearly 28″ from back of the neck to hem.

Style Arc Tulip Dress

Full length view. (Why is it that pendants never seem to stay centered on me??)

Slash pockets
Bodice and skirt pleat detail. Notice how the skirt overlay hangs from the upper and not lower edge of the waistband.
Tulip style sleeve. Thought I would also mention that the neckline doesn’t really gape like this in person – it is just my posture in this photo.
I secured the waistband lining in place by slipstitching.
Back hem was catch stitched in place.
Hand rolled hem for the underskirt and front overlay.
Junction of where the back hem meets the front underskirt.


The Style Arc Tulip pattern gives you options for for different looks:

  • dress with tulip sleeves and pleated skirt overlay (which is the version I made)
  • sleeveless dress with regular crossover skirt
  • skirt with pleated overlay
  • skirt with regular crossover

The waistband is about 1″ wide and skirt length is about 21″. The overall fit is slim, but not tight. The skirt section includes slash style pockets. If you go with the pleated overly you’ll want to use a lighter weight fabric with good drape; if you want just the regular crossover look, any light-to-midweight woven should work.

The skirt isn’t lined. If you’re like me and not comfortable wearing just a single layer of thin silk on your bottom half you have two options: wear a miniskirt length slip under it, or create a hem facing for the front underskirt and underline both the front underskirt and back pieces. I wanted to use this project to learn how to do a hand rolled hem, so instead of creating a facing for the front underskirt (which would have saved a ton of time) I used it to practice my hand rolled hem skills. I’m glad I did, because my stitching on the overlay is much better!

Style Arc offered to send me this pattern free of charge, and I accepted. It wasn’t part of my fall/winter sewing plan, but I really liked the elegant and creative style and thought it would be a fun project.

I used the matte side of a silk charmeuse purchased long ago from Fabric Mart:

Picture 1

For the bodice lining I used another silk charmeuse from Fabric Mart:


For the neckline/armhole guides I used iron-on tear-away stabilizer. I also created guides from the stabilizer for the slash pockets.

Since I wanted my hand-rolled hem to look as nice as possible I used Magnifico thread from Superior Threads instead of my normal Gutermann or Mettler thread. Magnifico is a high-sheen polyester thread often used for embroidery and other decorative stitching. It glided through the silk. I also used it as my sewing machine and serger thread. (I know a lot of people love to tsk tsk serging as a seam finish for silks, but I think it looks presentable. I wound it onto two bobbins and did a three-thread overlock.)

Fitting adjustments:

  • Added a 3/4″ back shoulder dart to the bodice
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 1/2″ swayback tuck
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • Added 3/4″ width to the front waist and removed 3/4″ from the back waist
  • Took in the back darts 3/4″ each, and lengthened the back skirt darts by about 1″
  • Lengthened the skirt 3″
  • Added 5.5″ width to the skirt at the hip
  • Took in the center back seam about 1″ below the waistband
  • Tapered the waistband at the bottom about 3/4″

Some thoughts:

  • The neckline is really beautiful. Wide and deep, but not too wide and deep. No gaping either. I’m definitely using it as a template for other dresses.
  • I love the look and feel of the sleeves – they give more range of motion than ordinary cap sleeves – but the front “petal” doesn’t always fall back into place after movement. Just something to be aware of.
  • I really regret not interfacing the slash pockets. Despite using iron-on tear-away stabilizer they stretched out. I fixed them the best I could, but I’m not 100% happy with how they look. I’m pretty sure it was 75% the shifty fabric and 25% my bottom-heavy figure.
  • I didn’t take in the skirt’s back darts as much as I could have, as I didn’t want to further aggravate the gaping pocket issue. It isn’t a problem with this lightweight fabric, but if I made this out of a heavier fabric – and underlined the skirt – I would definitely take them in more. I will also omit the pockets next time.

The construction of the bodice is pretty normal and straightforward. What will trip most people up are the sleeves and the skirt.

Skirt construction (pleated overlay version)

  1. First, hem both the underskirt and the pleated overlay. (For maximum control I went with a hand-rolled rather than machine stitched hem.)
  2. Sew the darts of the underskirt.
  3. Sew the left pocket to the underskirt. This is sewn like any other slash pocket.
  4. Take the overlay and pin out/baste the tucks. Then place it onto the underskirt.
  5. For the right pocket, start sewing the pocket bag to both the underskirt and overlay until point A (which is marked on the pattern).
  6. When you get to point A, clip just the pleated overlay to the seam allowance, then fold the overlay out of the way. Continue sewing the pocket to just the underskirt.
  7. Take the bit of overlay folded out of the way and press.
  8. When you sew the bottom of the waistband to the skirt, make sure you sew only the back skirt and front underskirt to the waistband. You’ll sew the overlay to the upper section of the waistband when you are ready to attach the bodice.

Sleeve construction

The sleeve pattern is a little odd-looking. There’s no underarm seam, and at first glance it may appear that the curved edge is the outside edge. Actually, that curved edge is what gets sewn to the bodice.

To construct them you first want to sew the outside (that long, straighter edge) and press.

Then you want to arrange it so the larger back “petal” overlaps the smaller front petal. Make sure you pay attention to those notches!

Baste all around to keep the two layers in place. You set it into the armhole after you attach the bodice lining to the bodice. 

Burda 12-2006-125: Flannel Pajamas

I made these pajamas last month, but just got around to taking photos last night. I’ve been wearing them a lot!

Portrait of a crazy cat lady. I got my inspiration for this pose from a couple of photos I found on  Google Images. 

I tried to get Bonnie to be in the shot with me, but the little diva wanted nothing to do with it.

I don’t like the feel of labels, so when I sew pajama bottoms I like to do stitch in a little square at the center back.
Top button
Collar detail. Instead of adding piping I just topstitched all around.
Double turned hem for the sleeves
Detail where the front facing meets the hem. Instead of finishing the facing with a serger I added a 3/8″ seam allowance and turned it under before stitching in place.

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Burda 12-2006-125 is my go-to pattern for when I want to make flannel pajamas. I think this is the fifth time I’ve used this pattern. Pajamas are cheap and readily available in RTW, but I like to make my own because the length is usually too short, and the flannel is often thin, poor quality, and some boring plaid or snowflake print. I prefer thick and beefy flannels, even if they don’t drape as nicely.

The fabric I used was a double-napped flannel I bought a couple of years ago from (Anyone else miss all the sales and coupons they used to have?) Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 2.55.18 PM

I bought six yards because flannel usually shrinks a lot. You probably noticed that I didn’t do print matching – if I did, I probably would have had to buy 12 yards!

Since the print is busy enough on its own – and I couldn’t find my cording – I decided to skip on the piping. I also omitted the pockets and hem band details.

I cut a 38 top and 44 bottom.

Fitting adjustments for the shirt:

  • 3/8″ forward shoulder adjustment
  • 3/8″ rounded back adjustment
  • 1/2″ swayback tuck
  • Lengthened the sleeves 3/4″
  • Added 1.5″ width to the hemline

Fitting adjustments for the pants:

  • Lengthened the bottoms 1″ through the rise
  • Added 11.5″ to the leg length (they are cropped length)
  • Added 5/8″ “body space” to the back crotch curve by slashing the pattern horizontally at where the back crotch curve starts to curve upward, then sliding it over 5/8″ toward the side seam and truing the side seam curve afterward.
  • Cut the elastic to the size 38 rather than 44 measurement.

When I did the waistband for the pants I didn’t do a casing as recommended in the instructions. Instead I decided to finish it like I would finish the waistband on a pair of knit pants. I sewed the ends of the elastic together, placed it against the wrong side of the pants, and serged it to the flannel, stretching it to fit. I used the longest stitch length possible on my serger to avoid overworking the elastic. Then I folded the upper edge of the pants over and stitched it in place with my regular sewing machine. Much quicker than doing a traditional casing, and less bulky too. The downside is that you have to be fairly certain about your elastic measurement- no easy adjusting after the fact, unless you’re willing to unpick those serger stitches. It is also a good idea to make the elastic a little bit more snug than you would with a casing, since the woven fabric will stretch it out a little bit more than it would for a knit.

Photography Setup

For my light source I used a single 24″x36″ square softbox about 45º to my right, positioned high and aimed down toward my face. A large silver reflector was placed directly to my left to help fill in the shadows.

My heavy but much-adored Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens was used for the modeled shots, and my Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens was used for the detail shots. I think I shot the full body photos at 1/125, f/8, ISO 400. For the detail shots I used my tripod and shot at f/22 or f/25, ISO 100, and had my shutter speed set to 18 or 20 seconds. (I had not so great lighting and wanted a wide depth of field.)

My background was Savage seamless background paper in Super White. It comes off as light gray in the photo because I don’t have the room (or extra strobes) necessary to “blow out” the background to make it pure white like they do in e-commerce shots.

First Hand Rolled Hem

For the current project I’m working on, I wanted to try a hand rolled hem. I’m not a fan of hand stitching, but I thought the shaping of the hem on this particular project could benefit from the control of doing it by hand vs machine. I learned how to do this technique from a tutorial on Unlike most tutorials I found her technique didn’t require any machine stitching. Along with the best photos, it seemed to give the nicest result.

My project entailed hemming a silk charmeuse, using the matte side as my right side. Here’s the initial stitching – note that it is done entirely by hand, no overlocking or regular sewing machine stitching. The further I went along, the more even my stitching got.


And (part of) the finished result, once I pulled the thread taut:



Here’s a HD video I took of how it rolls back on itself when after I pull the thread. You can also view it on Instagram.

I’m kind of surprised at how people are in such awe of the video, especially since at least some of them must have done a hand rolled hem before. I wonder what technique they’ve been using, and how it differed from this one.

The Silverstah tutorial is excellent, but I wanted to add some of my own notes:

  • This is yet another case of “practice makes perfect.” If you’re very picky about a certain project, practice on some scraps first. (I am not so picky.) Eventually you’ll notice you develop a rhythm, and your stitching gets quicker and more accurate. But keep in mind it is still a tedious and time-consuming method – I think it took me about 2 hours to hem 2 feet of skirt. Ugh! Hopefully the second half of stitching will go quicker.
  • Keep some scissors nearby, and trim any fraying seam allowances as you go along.
  • For maximum effect in the video I think I went about 2.5″ before pulling the thread taut. (Hey, part of photography is learning how to present for maximum impact.) In practice I pulled the thread taut every 1/2″ around the curves, and maybe every 1-2″ for straight edges. The hand rolled hem really shines along bias edges, as you can pull in the fullness as you go along. With machine hems I often get waviness or ripples, especially if I’m sewing a bias edge using a rolled hem foot.
  • I used a #10 John James sharp needle. This needle was the smallest and finest I could find on Cleaner’s Supply. I’ve heard that a good quality brand needle helps make hand sewing a little bit more enjoyable, and I have to say that I agree with that statement.
  • Instead of my normal Gutermann Mara 100 (or all-purpose) thread, I used Magnifico polyester thread. This is a shiny, slippery, lighter weight thread used for embroidery, quilting, and decorative stitching.
  • I kept the stitching at 1/8″. You can see the section below where I tried it at 1/4″ spacing. Not pretty, though it might be ok if you planned on pressing the hem flat rather than keeping the soft roll effect.



Sewy Linda Bra


The Sewy Linda is a full coverage comfort style bra. For shaping there’s one vertical seam, and the straps extend upward from the outer cup. It is basically a cross between a partial and full band bra. You have the look and feel of a full band, but the underwire channeling is sewn to the inside of the cup rather than to the band. I’ve seen this occasionally in RTW – the Cosabella Never Say Never Prettie is one example – but I haven’t seen this design feature in any other bra patterns. The instructions say the powernet lining for the cups is optional, but I think that is the case only for the firmest of stretch fabrics and smallest bra sizes.

For my Sewy Linda I used a lightweight 4-way stretch microfiber from Spitzen Paradies.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 4.57.49 PM

Despite the light weight it has a fairly firm stretch. My modified Maidenform boyshort rub-off is meant for knits with about 50% stretch. While this fabric technically has at least 50% stretch, it also has a very firm stretch which starts encountering resistance at the 25% mark. I’ve learned from previous experiments that while the boyshorts may technically fit at first, the firmness of the stretch combined with my pear shape results in them riding up during the day. To compensate for this I slashed and spread the pattern vertically in the center of the leghole, about 1/2″ for both the front and back (adding a total of 2″ circumference to the pattern). I found this did a better job distributing the width evenly rather than just adding to the side seams. The result was very good – I walked around wearing this with some wide leg knit pants all afternoon on Saturday, climbing hills and such, and not once did I have to adjust them.

Back to the bra…

  • The lace trim and strap elastic, along with the picot elastic used on the strap inner edge and along the outside armhole edge, are from Sew Sassy. I didn’t have any laces or elastics that matched either the pink fabric or burnt sienna polka dots, so I decided to go with beige trims and have an analogous color scheme.
  • I underlined the inner cup, outer cup, and back band pieces using a heavier weight powernet. It is either from Spandex World or an old Elingeria purchase.
  • The 5/8″ beige underbust elastic is from (Note: if you use a wider underband elastic like this, you’ll have to trim the elastic around the cradle after attaching it to the band.)
  • The non-stretch cup lining used to stabilize the front bridge is from Bramaker’s Supply.
  • The channeling is an old purchase from Elingeria.
  • Underwires are from Bra Essentials.
  • The rings, sliders, and back closure were pilfered from an old Maidenform bra. (Before I throw out any bra I cut off the straps and back closure.)
  • Satin bows were from Etsy.

My main style adjustment was adding a lace trim to the upper cup. To accomplish this I zigzagged the stretch lace to the upper cup, then trimmed the fabric under the lace. Then I sewed the inner cup to the outer cup. I finished the outer cup inner neckline edge with a lightweight 1/4″ picot elastic and topstitched the seam toward the outer cup using a 4mm straight stitch.

I started off with a 70D (32D), and made the following fitting alterations:

  • Took a 1/4″ tuck out of the center front of the bridge, removing a total of 1/2″ of width.
  • Moved the apex upward 1/4″
  • Moved the vertical seam 1/2″ toward the center by taking out a 1/2″ tuck from the inner cup piece, and slashing and spreading the outer cup piece 1/2″.
  • Slashed and spread the band directly under the arm 3/8″, tapering to nothing where the underband elastic is sewn.
  • Added 2″ length to the strap.

The original shape was very similar to this photo:


A little bit too pointy for my personal taste. I shaved off a scant 1/8″ from the apex curve of both the outer and inner cup pieces, removing a total of 1/4″ for each cup. (Not enclosing the seam allowances within either the outer or inner cup pieces gave me the flexibility for doing this alteration after the bra was finished.) The resulting shape is softer and rounder than your typical cut-and-sew bra with non-stretch cups, but is a little bit more defined than a molded foam cup.

I will definitely be making this bra again. It is probably the most comfortable bras in my drawer, and the shaping of the band gives one of the smoothest back appearances of any bra I’ve ever owned. (I think Spanx bras have very similarly shaped bands.) The integrated strap combined with the full coverage cups give this a very smooth appearance under higher necklines. I think the design is a little bit more attractive and sophisticated than the Pin-up Girls classic full band bra pattern from Bramaker’s Supply, and the vertical seaming made alterations much easier for me. The part partial, part full band styling also makes some design features like a dropped bridge easier to accomplish.

Style Arc Greta Cape

Facing/lining. To keep the layers from shifting the lining is tacked to the collar seam at the shoulders and center back.
Undercollar – notice how it is lining rather than self fabric. More about that below.
Fur hook closure


The Greta cape is a cropped collared cape. It hits at about waist level and fastens at the center front with hooks and eyes. (I used white fur hooks from Cleaner’s Supply.) There’s a single facing piece seamed at the center back, which acts as both a front facing and collar.

You may have noticed in one of my photos that the undercollar is cut out of lining rather than self fabric. This was recommended by Style Arc in their instructions if you’re using fur. The collar rolls nicely, and the lining doesn’t show at all.

I’m wearing it with my Cleo dress. I love how the bulkiness of the cape contrasts with the slimness of the dress – it makes my waist seem tiny. Take note, fellow pears!

I made this to wear to a wedding I’m attending this weekend. It is being held at a farm, and the ceremony will be outside in a field, on a hill, during late afternoon. So far the forecast for Saturday is a high of 57F/14C. The invitation stated “wear sturdy shoes and bring layers” and “ceremony will be outdoors rain or shine!” That’s why I decided to pair this cape with a long-sleeve dress and boots.

The fabric I used was a faux Siberian husky fur from my stash, purchased a couple years ago from The quality is great – very soft, without that cheap look or plasticky feel that makes me shudder at most faux furs. There’s still a few yards in stock.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.01.37 PM

I lined it with some off-white polyester lining from my stash. I think it was an old JoAnn’s purchase.

If you’re like me and have never worked with faux fur before, do not pick a long pile fur like this for your first fur sewing project.

Right after I cut each piece out (with my Gingher shears instead of my usual 28mm rotary cutter) I shook it outside to get rid of the worst of the loose fur. Despite vacuuming ASAP after cutting I’m still finding random chunks of fur here and there. And while my Janome 6500P went through all of the layers fairly easily, it was just really thick and shifty and bits of fur kept obstructing my view of the seam allowances. I used my walking foot to help with the unevenness, but as you can see below the needle was almost bottoming out. I used a long stitch length (about 4.5) and sewed at the slowest speed possible on my machine.

Since this fabric was impossible to press, I catchstitched the seam allowances of the side seams and facing in place to minimize bulk, finger-pressing them as I went along. This was the most time-consuming part of the project. I finished about 75% of this step at work during my lunch break (and more later on when I was stumped on a programming problem).

Of course I made a couple of mistakes:

  • When I was cutting the hemline, one of my cats distracted me and I chopped the upper layer of the fur instead of snipping just the “undercoat”. So I ended up cutting it all around so it would match. I am not the biggest fan of the choppiness of the hem.
  • I really should have allowed a turn of cloth allowance for the front facings. It is really supposed to be straight at the center front; in my case the sheer bulk of the fur fabric makes it turned slightly upward. Oops.

Fitting adjustments:

  • Raised the back neck 3/8″ (essentially a rounded back alteration)
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration

In other news…our baby girl (who is not so little anymore) turned two yesterday. She’s officially an “adult” Great Dane now. Happy birthday Sallie!

Fall/Winter Sewing Plans

My engagement – and relationship of six years – came to an end this month. While the first week was horrible, I am actually recovering more quickly than I thought I would. Getting rid of most of the old relationship gifts and mementos last weekend was extremely helpful, along with no longer having any contact with him. It was my first long-term relationship and I have many fond memories of our time together, but ultimately we just weren’t meant to be. (I’m not elaborating beyond that!) So now I’m working on moving onto the next chapter of my life. My friends and family, along with all my pets, have been a big source of comfort to me. I’ve been busy cooking up a storm for my parents, taking Sallie for long walks every day, and making plans with friends. I also indulged in some “retail therapy” by taking some of the money I was going to use for the wedding and buying myself a really nice new Canon lens that I had been admiring for the better part of a year. (I told my mom it was my “congratulations for not marrying the wrong person” gift to myself.) My two closest friends have been through similar situations, so they understand me completely and have been great about letting me lean on them. They know better than to keep saying stuff like “you’ll find somebody else!” (umm, unless you can somehow see into the future you don’t actually know that) and “better a broken engagement than divorce!” (ok, I actually do agree with that one.)

As part of the whole “moving onto the next chapter in life” process I culled most of my wardrobe, removing any items that no longer looked or fit right, or just reminded me too much of the relationship. Now I have a lot of sewing to do…

For Work


I’m definitely a dress person. They’re just easier; no worrying about coordination, no tucking, no worrying about twisting during wear, and easy to wear under cropped cardigans and sweaters.

My all-time favorite sheath dress is the Style Arc Heather. It is perfect for wool suitings. I love the square neckline, detailing around the bust, and extended shoulder line. It gives good coverage when worn solo, but also layers very easily.


Since I live in a colder climate, I also want to make more dresses with sleeves. My preferred knit dress pattern is Burda 09/2006 #114/115.

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The skirt on this hangs so beautifully. I’ve made the collarless version (#115) at least three times. It is perfect for silk jersey, and goes together so quickly. I want to make the collared version (#114) this time around, and lengthen the sleeves to full length.

Burda 09/2015 #116 has beautiful classic lines, and I really like the shape of the skirt. If the sleeves have a deep enough facing they can be probably be turned back for a split cuff look.


For something more distinctive, I really like Marfy 2940:


and Marfy 2956. (This one uses a woven for the plaid part and knit for the upper bodice and sleeves.)


I also want to make another shirt dress, preferably out of silk, using the Style Arc Mara:



I made Kwik Sew 3494 around four or five years ago. While I was initially not crazy about that skirt (mostly due to the sedate fabric choice) I wore it quite a bit! I had to get rid of it last winter after I accidentally put it in the wash and it shrunk the wool. A replacement is definitely on my to-do list.

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Jackets and Cardigans

For my jacket needs I like the Style Arc Bronnie:


and Burda 10/2014 #122:


For my cardigan needs, Lekala 4211:


and Burda 03/2013 #107:



I have a pair of  Sewaholic Thurlows that I made several years ago from a heavier weight RPL from Gorgeous Fabrics.


They’ve held up beautifully and are one of my most comfortable pairs of pants. I want to make two more. I think last time I went down at least one size and used a stretch woven. The resulting look was sleeker and more flattering than my suggested size.

My stretch bengaline Style Arc Elle, Barb, and Linda pants have held up really well, so no plans to make more of those.


I really love the Style Arc Lolita top I made from a wool jersey. It gives the warmth of a turtleneck without the choking feeling! I also loved what the front draping did for my figure. I have a ton of wool jersey that can be used to make subsequent versions.


For Play

First up: a lot more Style Arc Jilly jeans! The Jilly jeans I made last time had significant progressive shrinkage, and are now at least 2″ too short and much tighter. I have no idea if I didn’t pretreat them properly, or if it was a flaw with the denim. In any case, I need to make more of them. They have a more relaxed fit than most jeans, which I find very practical for doing outside work. Less tugging and adjusting after moving around a lot. Tight jeans looks nice, but are more trouble than they are worth when it comes to doing stuff like stacking wood or working with the ponies.


Speaking of outdoor work, more flannel Safari Sams are in order. (Note: the line drawing shows it as being much more fitted than what it actually is.)


I continue to be very satisfied with my Lekala 4011 sweatshirt. It is a really good choice for bulky sweatshirt fabrics with minimal stretch.


I also want to use my Style Arc Elle pattern to make fleece pants. The narrow leg makes them more practical for tucking into boots, and they aren’t as skintight as leggings.



I badly need new flannel pajamas for this winter. My go-to pattern for flannel pajamas is Burda 12/2006 #125. I always lengthen the pants to full length, and will raise the neckline a little this time around.

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Style Arc Skye Top

First photo shoot with my studio strobes!

I’m showing this top both tucked and untucked. I prefer wearing this top tucked.  It is too boxy untucked, and does nothing for my figure. I’m wearing it with my Candice skirt.

I swear my back is not crooked – I just forgot to straighten it out after tucking!

I turned off the fill light for this one.
All facings are topstitched in place.


The Style Arc Skye top has cut-on sleeves, two bust darts, and a center back seam. The neckline and curved hem are finished with topstitched facings. The length falls at around high hip level for most people.

This was a UFO project that was cut out sometime last summer, and I left it to “marinate” until last weekend, when I needed an easy project to distract myself. (September is turning out to be just as f*($’d up for me as July and August.)

I used this 4-ply silk crepe from Fabric Mart. Style Arc doesn’t recommend one particular fabric for this top.

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For the back closure I used an orphan button from my stash. While Style Arc includes a pattern piece for the back button loop, you can also use a hook and eye.

Fitting adjustments:

  • Added a 3/4″ back shoulder dart
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 1/2″ swayback tuck
  • Moved the bust dart inward 1/2″

After making this I realized the bust darts are probably about 3/8″ too high. Judging from the other Skye tops I’ve seen the bust darts are drafted a little too high for most women. Definitely check the dart position before you sew this!

A couple of things to be aware of:

  • If you are a pear or hourglass, you’re probably going to be happiest tucking this into a high-waisted skirt. And if you do tuck it in, you should consider lengthening this top a couple of inches. I just barely got away without adding extra length, and that is only because the skirt I am wearing with it (the Style Arc Candice) has a 1.5″ waistband and the bottom of the waistband sits at my natural waist. I also have to be mindful during wear.
  • For the sleeves I just folded back and topstitched, as directed by the instructions, and IMO it is a little bit too “homemade” because the sleeve is short and not extremely fitted, so bits of the wrong side peek out at times. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with serged seam allowances, but at the same time I feel like they are best reserved for seams and hems that aren’t publicly displayed during wear.  If you think this will bother you, plan on cutting out some bias binding strips out of a lightweight fabric to finish them off.
  • The way this top is finished requires you to press the side and center back seam allowances apart. (You can finish the shoulder seam allowances together.)

This weekend I also fixed my Candice skirt. I ended up ripping out the invisible zipper and waistband (ugh), shortened the waistband 1.5″ (which essentially brought it back to the originally drafted length), and resewed the hip curve to match. I’m much happier with the skirt. I feel like it hits a more flattering point on my torso, and it brings the hem up to my originally intended length. Definitely worth the extra time it took to fix.

Photography Details

I shot these at f/8 or f/9, ISO 400, using my Canon 70-200 f/4L IS lens. Shutter speed varied – some were at 1/60, others at 1/80, and a couple at 1/125.

As I mentioned in my first sentence, this is my first project photoshoot with my new studio strobes.  I positioned two strobes at a 45″ angle from where I was standing. One strobe was set at a lower power than the other. The more powerful strobe was aimed into a 60″ silver umbrella. (That was my key light.) The other strobe was meant as a fill light, so it was set at a weaker power, and aimed into a much 36″ white umbrella. For some of my photos I forgot to turn off an incandescent lamp near the camera, so the definition isn’t as good as it could have been, and for others I had the fill light set too powerful.

My “secret” to the studio background look is good cropping and Savage seamless background paper. This paper comes in several widths and around 40 different colors. Since space is such a priority for me I stick to the 53″ width. I used Thunder Gray for this particular photoshoot. I love this stuff. It is fairly inexpensive and comes on a big roll, so if you stand on it with muddy shoes you can just cut that section off and unroll some more. Easy to handle, and unlike traditional muslin theres on need to steam out wrinkles. I got mine from B&H.

After I mounted it on my backdrop stand (which is stabilized with the help of some sandbags) I untaped the edges, pulled them down, clamped the top of it once I had pulled enough off the roll, and secured the bottom edge with a small floor mat. With the exception of resizing and converting from a RAW to JPG file, this photo is straight out of my camera. Kind of crazy how, with the help of some cropping, it transforms an ordinary living room into a “studio”.

Colored Silks from Dharma Trading

Just a FYI – in addition to the PFD (Prepared For Dyeing) white silks, Dharma Trading now offers silk charmeuse, chiffon, and habotai in 31 different colors. The prices are very good. For the 45″ widths the 8mm chiffon is $7.25/yard, 12mm charmeuse $11.09/yard, and 8mm habotai $7.99/yard (with further discounts if you buy more than 10 yards). If you are concerned about color accuracy they sell swatch sample packs too. Shipping for three yards to the lower 48 states would be around $5, if not less.

All these fabrics come in 55″ widths as well, but only in natural white. You’ll have to dye it yourself if you want a different color.

I’ve ordered silk from Dharma before. For quality I would give it a B. I found some of the silks, like the georgette, not quite as refined in texture as the silks I’ve bought from Apple Annie Fabrics, Gorgeous Fabrics, or Sawyer Brook. 12mm silk charmeuse is also on the thin side, so the lighter colors may be a little sheer. If you’re fussy about that sort of thing, order a swatch!

First week of September 2015 on Net-A-Porter

I look at the newest collections on Net-A-Porter on a fairly regular basis. I like comparing the styles to sewing patterns and taking note of the fabrics they use. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned after a decade of sewing, it is that fabric choice can make or break the finished garment.)

Anyway, I saw these three items on Net-A-Porter today and couldn’t resist sharing.

First up: the $1995 Tamara Mellon Sweet Revenge stretch-suede legging boots.


Tight suede leggings with built-in boots. I guess it is nice that the inseam can be tailored to fit your calf. But how would you clean them?? Skintight suede pants that can never be washed don’t seem like the…freshest idea to me. I guess you wear pantyhose under them?

Next up is the $4200 Delpozo Mouflon wool and mohair-blend coat:


Aside from overwhelming the 5’9″ size 36 model with fabric…can you imagine going about your daily business with those sleeves? They’re like elbow panniers. I would be trying to cart groceries inside the house and be getting them caught on the door latch. (Then again, if you can afford a $4200 coat you’re probably not hauling in your own groceries.) I am also not sure about how much range of motion the sleeves even offer in the first place, since the model has her arms straight down by her side in every single photo. I do admit that the top of those sleeves are a good design detail if you want to strengthen your shoulder line.

Finally, the $1,935 mostly polyester Merchant Archive Duchesse-satin jumpsuit:


I think this is the most extreme example of culottes I’ve ever seen.