Category Archives: Sewing Projects

Snuggly thumbhole cuff tutorial

Snuggly thumb cuff

Winter sewing is in full swing in this part of the world. One detail I love to add to up the snuggle factor on shirts and sweatshirts I make to wear this time of year is to add thumbholes. I’m ALWAYS cold in the winter, and it’s really nice to be able to pull my sleeves over my hands. Once I need my hands back, I just slip my thumb out and push the sleeve down to my wrist. Here’s my method for adding thumbholes.

Thumb hole tutorial

When cutting out your pattern pieces, you need to cut your sleeves about an inch longer than normal (depending on the stretch of you fabric, it could be more). If you’re petite like me, just cut your sleeves the normal pattern length (rather than shortening them). Cut out the rest of your pieces as normal, and then construct your shirt. Stop before you sew the cuffs, and follow these instructions:

Thumb Hole Tutorial

1. Start with your cuff lying flat. 2. Fold it in half hotdog style. 3. Mark the seam allowance on one end. Also mark two short lines- the first is 3/4″ from the top of the cuff, the second is about 1″ lower. 4. Trace the curve of a quarter to connect the two lines. Remember to do the opposite side on the other cuff so you end up with one right and one left cuff. 5. Sew along the seam allowance line and around the outside of the curved line. If you have more substantial fabric, you might want to skip sewing the seam allowance. 6. Trim seam allowances. 7. Turn right side out. Then take the non-sewn end of the cuff and pull it over the sewn end. 8. Sew in a straight line along the matched ends, catching all 4 layers of fabric. 9. Turn right side out and sew to your shirt as normal.

Then enjoy having warm hands!

Hipster Zebra PJ Pants


As most sewists know, it is both a joy and a challenge to make things for one’s family. I find that my family doesn’t really know how long it takes me to make something, so they come up with all sorts of requests-quilts, hemming or tailoring pants, replacing zippers, curtains… it can be a bother to drop my current project in favor of a last minute request, but I love seeing how my family adores what I’ve made them. A prime example is my dad and PJ pants. Shortly after informing me that he needed new PJ pants (I last made him a pair in 2010) he called me from the fabric store to ask “where is the flannel section?”

“Ask the people who work there” I replied, laughing. “Get 3 yards.”

He showed up with this rad zebras-wearing-glasses print in a medium weight flannel. I pulled out the old pattern and whipped up a pair, complete with buttoned fly.


I remember the winter I made his last pair- they were green plaid. I had decided to make flannel PJ pants for the entire family for Hanukkah. Rounding out to 6 pairs- elephants, stripes, Navajo geometric, plaid, Matrishka dolls, and fish prints. I got so good at making them that I churned out the last three pairs in 30 minutes each (I timed it!). They were well received.

Back in the day when flannel was queen and the Hipster Olympics hit a million views, the certain mark of any hipster was a pair of big plastic frames. Those thick glasses have come back into vogue since those early 2K days, but these zebras remind me of those original hipsters.

My dad loves these new PJ pants. I know that when I call home from now on, I will be informed when he wears them and how well they fit. And I’ll grin when I hear it.

dad in pj pants

Thank you Dad for letting me talk about you on the blog.

Upcycled purple hemlock

DIY skirt to shirt

I know I’ve been sharing lots of tops lately, but I’m almost done-  promise! I’m just too pleased with my cleverness on this make to save it for later. It started as a vintage dress  made of a luxurious purple knit. Due to some issues (stains on the bodice, size) it wasn’t readily wearable, so it had been sitting in my stash for about 4 years. Now I know why I saved it! Slow sewing at its finest. Here it is before.

purple dress

The dress had this huge circle skirt made of 4 panels. I ripped off the bodice and folded the skirt in half, then tried to fit as much of each pattern piece on the skirt as possible. I used the Hemlock Tee pattern by Grainline Studio. Here’s what it looked like after I cut it (I whited out the spaces from which I cut the pattern pieces):

cutting diagram

I used the original hand-stitched hem, which made this an eaaasy project. I finished it in a couple hours since I didn’t have to spend time finishing the sleeves and bottom of the shirt. I finished the neck with some self-binding (per pattern instructions). Because the circle skirt was made of 4 panels, the skirt’s original center fron/back seams run down the middle of the shirt and sleeves, and the hems are curved. I think it makes a nice detail.
Upcycled purple dress to shirt

There’s some pulling around the armpits, but I think that’s due to a lower stretch % in the fabric and the fact that I need to clip those armpits closer. Overall, it’s super comfy and just the right weight for this southern fall weather.

In other news…

Excuse me while I get giddy for a moment over the fact that I have a JOB and live in VIRGINIA! Srsly guys, I’ve been dreaming of moving down here since I was 18, and now (at age 25) I’ve arrived! More or less permanently. It feels great to put down roots. Especially in a place as warm (weather and people) as Richmond and close to many, many friends and a phenom creative community. It has been a very happy first couple of weeks.

upcycled shirt


Weekend Rambler Skirt :: Snapdragon Studios

Red velvet midi skirt

Recently I discovered midi skirts. A couple weeks before making my Senna dress, I went thrifting and found a vintage midi skirt made of raw silk. I was in love and wore it nonstop through the last few hot days of summer. But summer love ends, and it was soon time to pack it away. So when Kim of Snapdragon Studios contacted me about participating in her blog hop, I took one look at the Weekend Rambler skirt before deciding it was a perfect next project (and immediately emailed her an enthusiastic YES!). While not quite a midi skirt on me, the length is much longer than what I usually wear, and fits right into that midi niche created by my prior thrifted find.

The Weekend Rambler skirt is a beginner project, but quite a clever one. It includes front and back triangular yokes and ingeniously fits two pockets into the front. I made mine from a rich, textured burgundy fabric that was found at an estate sale. I was saving it for something special, and this fits the bill. Its a great fall skirt, especially with a light sweater, tights and boots. The fabric is so warm that I’m sure I’ll be wearing it into the winter.

Onto the details: I made a size M skirt, but took 2″ off of the hem (to make it a petite size) and 1″ out from the side seams (so it would sit at my natural waist). I also made a 1/4″ swayback adjustment at the back yoke (booty booty). I’d say my skirt is in between sizes S and M. The pockets I lined in a gold colored cotton- I like how it peeks out just a little and looks like piping.

Weekend Rambler skirt

There was a bit of a zipper snafu- I accidentally bought a regular zipper instead of the invisible zipper recommended by the pattern. So I decided to insert it as a lapped zipper instead. In the process I accidentally inserted the zipper 1/4″ too low, so there is a little gap at the top (but it doesn’t make much difference in terms of fit).

I used the same gold cotton as the inner waistline facing and serged all seam allowances.

skirt detail

Another great thing about this skirt is that, even though the yokes look complicated, the instructions make them very easy to match up. I’d definitely recommend this pattern to any beginner sewist looking to upgrade from making pillows and PJ pants. If you want to check out the other projects on the blog hop, here’s the schedule:

9/3: Morgan at Thread Theory

9/10: Beth at Sew 110 Creations

9/17: Meg at Cookin’ and Craftin’

10/1: Teri at Fa Sew La

10/8: Maris at Sew Maris

red velvet midi skirt

Slinky Senna


E-photo 3 (3)It’s slinky, it’s sexy, and it’s easy to make. It’s the Senna dress! Excuse me while I saunter all over town like Sophia Vergara in this perfectly balanced kimono top and ruched midi skirt. It’s a bombshell- I bet Marilyn Monroe would have worn a gold Senna. It’s clingy around the bottom, but long enough and loose (on top) enough to be super classy. My version is made of a busy cotton/lycra knit from JoMar (Philly love!). It’s a veritable dot party!

E-photo 4


I was a pattern tester for Design by Lindsay’s Senna dress. She was a joy to work with, and the pattern was so good the first time around that I hardly had any feedback to give her! It sewed up quickly (two short evenings) with only a few fitting adjustments. I made view A in a size 8 top and size 10 skirt. I made a mini swayback adjustment and lined the back of the skirt in self fabric to hide panty lines (gaah I hate that word).

TESTsenna instructions2

If I made it again, I’d make it in a solid color to show off the ruching more… dark grey or black maybe? I’m almost afraid to make a second version of this dress, because it might be the only thing I wear out. And I don’t go OUT that much, but wearing this dress might be an excuse to go out, since it’s all confidence-boosting and beer-belly-hiding. My wallet is cringing at the thought of visiting all those Richmond bars. So it’s up to you, my readers, to go forth and make your own Senna dress. Get slinky! You can find the pattern here and Lindsay’s blog here.

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*I was not paid to test this pattern, and was given a free copy of the final pattern as compensation.  This post contains only my own opinions. I love to support independent pattern companies and believe that pattern testing is a valuable resource to new designers*

Quick+Easy Inseam Zipper Tutorial



I’m back with the inseam zipper tutorial! Look/read on:

pants diagram

Rip open the inseam slightly shorter than the zipper you are going to insert and tack it at the end of the opening (so it rips no further). With the zipper closed, carefully pin one side to the seam allowance so that the old seam line (the one you just ripped out) is flush with the middle of the zipper. Use your zipper foot to sew in the first side of the zipper. Starting at the top of the zipper, with the zipper closed, carefully pin it to the second seam allowance so that the sides of the inseam match up. Open the zipper and sew into place. Check that the zipper can close and open easily and that the inseam hides the zipper when closed.  Hand tack the cuff into place (if you are altering a pair of slacks) or redo the hem. Turn the pants inside out and sew the top of the zipper to the seam allowance.

Other tips

  • make sure that the zipper pull, when the zipper is closed and the zipper pull is hanging down, does not hang more than a couple millimeters past the end of the hem
  • the zipper should open at the bottom, at the hem of the pant leg
  • trim the top of the zipper or sew a piece of cloth over it so that the sharp end does not scratch the wearer or the artificial limb
  • encase the bottom of the zipper in the hem when finishing the pants

Happy altering! If you have any questions let me know.





Artificial Limbs and Garment Fittings

The story: Growing up, my family had a good friend named Ed. Like most people, Ed had two complete legs. Unlike most people, one of those legs caused him a lot of medical problems. Four years ago, he lost part of that leg (the right one) below the knee, and had to get an artificial limb. Once he recovered from the surgery and got used to his new high-tech limb, life mostly returned to normal (as normal as it can get after losing a leg). There was one major problem besides his lack of leg- pants. Ed travels a lot for work and spends a lot of time flying on planes. When I get on a plane, I find my seat, shove my bag under the seat in front of me, buckle up, kick off my shoes, and settle down with a good book. Easy peasy. For Ed, it’s a bit of a problem. On long flights, it may be necessary to adjust the leg or even remove it (on an overnight flight). However, he can’t do that without removing his pants.

Ed found an ingenious solution- inseam zippers. Adding a zipper along an inseam makes it very easy for Ed to remove his leg if he wishes, or show his leg to airport security for inspection. The zipper provides quick and easy access for any adjustments he may need to make as well.

E-DSC_0323 E-DSC_0339

Thought those were regular pants? They all have inseam zippers!

Soon after he lost his leg, Ed showed up at my parents’ house with a pair of bespoke pants that included a zipper in the right inseam. He enlisted me to create more of these. I’ve slowly worked my way through his closet, inserting 20 and 22 inch zippers in the inseams of many pairs of pants. As the process has gone on, I’ve gotten good at quickly inserting invisible zippers. The process is simple and works best on pants without a flat felled inseam.




This is one of the coolest and most unusual projects I’ve ever undertaken. I could go on all day about it, but I’ll leave off here. Check back tomorrow for the tutorial! Thanks Ed for letting me write about you!



Scraptember Polly

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I’ve been sewing lots of tops lately. After my Wardrobe Architect deep clean, I didn’t have many tops left. They have always been an item of clothing I’ve had trouble finding; I’m petite but busty, and its hard to fit that shape into RTW clothing. So I ended up with a lot of tops that didn’t fit, or fit but that I didn’t like (and wear). WA changed all that, and left me with only a few tops that have been seeing a lot of action. Which necessitated that some tops be added to my sewing queue. You can see some of my other recent tops here and here.

This shirt is genius. The geometry of the pieces, how they fit together, negates the need for bust darts while leaving enough room up top and falling perfectly on the waist. This is the first pattern I’ve tried from By Hand London, and I’m impressed.

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This was also a stash buster Scrap-tember project. The green front is leftover from this skirt that I reconstructed. The bias tape and the patterned fabrics were 3/4 yd scraps from long ago projects. Not enough fabric to pattern match, but enough for a tank top.

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The whole shirt is a mish-mash of different sizes. The neckline, straps, and hem length are a size 2, but the bust is a size 6 and the waist is a size 4.  The side seams don’t quite hang straight, but the shirt feels like it fits.

E-photo 5

It is still very hot out here in Philly. I think it was 95 outside when Emily took these pictures last week, and I kept having to wipe sweat off of my face so it wouldn’t show in the photos. She is helping me with the move to Richmond on Friday- what a dedicated friend! She and I have been friends for almost a decade, and this will be the first time we haven’t lived in the same town. I will miss having a sewing pal! In fact, I will miss all the sewing friends I have made here in Philly.


How to line a tote bag


Just as every blogger, I have a long list of blogs I find inspiring. One is the lifestyle and travel blog of Valentina Duracinsky. Recently we swapped blog buttons, and I wanted to highlight a project I made for her in one of my posts. Her style is  minimalist, chic, and very Parisian. She sings and dresses like a modern day Joanie Mitchell  meets Audrey Hepburn. Anyway, after some conversing between her and myself, I decided to make her a colorblocked tote bag- and line it. Here’s how I did it.

1.Make the body of your tote bag. *updated for clarity 9/10/14* I used two pieces of fabric to create the colorblocking effect. I sewed them right sides together and then topstitched before sewing the side seams. Then I cut two 15″ x 17″ colorblocked rectangles and sewed them together on 3 sides.


2. Make the lining. It should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch smaller than the outside of the tote bag.



3. With the wrong sides together, match the bottoms of the bags at the corners. Fold the corners out so that the side seam and bottom seam meet, making a triangle. Check out this video (start watching at 0:49) if you need more illustration.


4. Stitch in a line several inches above the point of this triangle, perpendicular to the side seams. This will create a corner, giving the bag dimension and space inside.

5. Flip the outside of the bag over the lining, so the corner seam is hidden.



6. Fold down the top of the bag twice, to the inside. Stitch along the inside edge. Add straps.


That’s it! You can see another tote bag I’ve made here. Be sure to check out Valentina’s blog here.  I’ll let you all know when she posts about it so you can see how she wore it!





Tiny polka dots on a little cami


I’m on a roll with these free patterns. This is the Diana camisole from Sew Loft. It has a bit of a story behind it:

I was seriously lusting after this cami from J Crew but it is $$. I tried it on at the store, but it definitely did not fit me nicely like it did the model.  So I went searching for a pattern and fabric to make my own. Looking at the two tops side by side, you can see the huge difference in their shapes! I think this picture illustrates how poorly RTW clothes fit me. Not only is my cami shorter, but it is straighter, wider, and has bust darts. All this to accommodate my petite-ness and curvy-ness.

carrie cami compare

Once again I made a lot of modifications to the original pattern. This is a size 4 with a full-busted adjustment and bust darts. I also raised the front neckline an inch, but it is still pretty low. Took me 3 muslins to get the fit right, and I’m happy I stuck with it. I’ve been wearing this top all the time. It catches the breeze in just the right way and keeps me cool in this Philly heat.


The fabric is a silky synthetic something from Joann fabrics (I should start taking notes from the bolts so I can remember what kind of fabric I bought). It was quite sheer so I self-lined the front but not the back. The construction of this top was NOT easy (as purported by the pattern). The instructions were really confusing and didn’t work with such a delicate fabric so I eventually gave up and did it my way. First I sewed the bust darts and hemmed the top edge of the back. Then, I burrito’d the side seams by sandwiching the back piece in between the two front pieces. Once pinned, I sewed the side seams and front neckline all at once (making sure to catch the straps in front). Then I flipped the whole thing right side out.  All that was left after that was attaching the straps to the back and hemming the shirt. Doesn’t that seamless neckline look GOOD?!


And again, bra straps. Welcome to my life of bustyness. But look at my ripped shoulders! They look so strong yay. I digress- last thing is that I ran a blind hem around the bottom of the shirt using my newly discovered blind hem foot!

I spent about $15 on fabric for this top, so compared to the $70 J Crew top, it’s a steal!


All photos courtesy of Brittany Frisch Photography. She is an amazing photographer for all your family portrait, graduation, engagement, and wedding photography needs!

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