Category Archives: Sewing Projects

Guitar-playing skirt for Denver


Half-circle midi skirt

It has been feeling like spring in Virginia lately. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s been about 50 F outside. Perfect timing to have a little photoshoot with the roomie (her name is Denver). And to show you the skirt I made a season ahead of time! (just like those big fashion folks, yo).

There’s a bit of a story behind this skirt (as there is with everything I make/everything handmade). I recently discovered that Denver has a fabric stash. I, like every other sewist out there, understand the allure of the uncut bolt, just waiting for my hands to grace it with shape and form. But Denver doesn’t sew. When I inquired about the purpose of this pile of fabric and patterns, she replied that she had bought the fabric because she liked it, and “in case I ever learn to sew one day or someone wants to make something for me.” Around this same time, the coat I’ve been working on was getting me down. I needed to step away from my coat project, and Denver had already assembled all the necessary ingredients for what could be my next project. Perfect palate cleanser. Challenge accepted.

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A couple evenings later, I popped out this half circle midi skirt with waistband and exposed zipper. I drafted the pattern using her measurements and the BHL Circle Skirt App. I had heard about the app before but hadn’t used it- it was helpful. One weird snafu though was that the app kept telling me the measurements I was using wouldn’t fit on 45″ fabric, but I had no problem getting the pattern to fit. I used 2.5 yds of 45″ quilting cotton and a zipper salvaged from another piece of clothing. For the exposed zipper, I followed this tutorial. I used my serger to finish the center back seam and finished the top of the skirt with a 1.5″ waistband. The hem is a simple 1/2″ hem that I turned under twice while carefully ironing and pinning.

Exposed zipper

It was indeed what I needed to get my creative mojo back in action- easy, quick, and wearable. The other thing about Denver is that this girl lives in circle skirts. She is a guitar teacher, and needs skirts with enough volume to drape across her knees while playing. I foresee that this skirt will get a lot of wear.

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Button it up

Button down collared shirt in Chambray

I like a good button down shirt. For years, I’ve struggled to find one that would button without the dreaded boob gap- occupational hazard for many possessing a bust. This fall I sat down and decided to put the time into making myself a collared shirt that would actually fit.

And here it is. Those of you who know me know it’s gotten a lot of wear. It’s high time this shirt made it to the blog.

The pattern started out as a Built by Wendy pattern from a Sew U book from my high school sewing days. I made a muslin in a medium, but it needed a lot of tweaking. So much tweaking that I eventually drafted the arms and back of the shirt myself, and then totally re-drew all the darts on the front of the shirt. I widened the collar to give it a more relaxed fit and added gathers at the top of the sleeves (one of my favorite features in a shirt). There was thought put into adding some embroidered details along the front and around the collar of the shirt, but I ended up liking how clean the shirt looks without it. I made it in a cotton chambray with 10% stretch  from The buttons are from Joann’s.

Chambray button down shirt

I hadn’t appreciated till now how much work goes into all the small details of a button-down. The shirt has vertical darts in the front and back, as well as horizontal bust darts. There were some very enjoyable late nights in December where I stayed up pressing bias binding for the cuffs and researching the best way to attach a collar. LOOK NO BOOB GAP! Hallelujah.

Chambray shirt

I hope I’ll find time to make this shirt again this year. There are a few fitting tweaks I’d make, namely I’d remove some ease, bring the shoulders up (they’ve stretched out a little despite the twill tape I added, I’m not sure why), and interface the button band (which I didn’t do this time… oops). I’d also like to experiment with adding some vintage inspired details around the button band. For now, I’m really happy wearing this shirt!

Thanks to my friend Rayne for taking these pictures! You can tell how cold out it was by my clenched hands.

button down shirt

Maternity Belly Bands

maternity belly band diy

25 years.  The time when you move on from college and start feeling truly settled in adulthood. Also the time when some of my friends decided to start having kids. Which means I get to start sewing for pregnant friends (yay new projects). This amazing photographer friend of mine (she took all these pictures this summer) will soon join the ranks of phenom moms, so I made her some belly bands. Worn over jeans that won’t button or under a shirt that has become too short, they help extend a non-maternity wardrobe and accommodate a growing belly far into a pregnancy. They’re like wearing only the bottom portion of a long tank top.

I used 1/2 yard of a rayon/spandex blend for each band (this tutorial from ABM shows how to make a belly band). Using a fabric with good stretch and recovery is key for this project- you want a fabric that will fit snugly but expand with a growing belly. The green measures 24 inches around and is slightly larger than the white (22 inches). She texted me Friday to say they arrived in the mail and they fit- I hope she gets lots of use out of them!

Oh and here’s a picture of the white one on my (non-maternity) dress form:

maternity belly band DIY

Phlox Tunic- my version

Phlox tunic pattern

Long sleeves in winter. Hanging over my hands long. For me, they make the difference between being sorta warm/sorta itchy and actually forgetting that it is freezing outside.  Especially when worn under a sweater. So of course I was happy when asked to be a tester for Lindsay Woodward’s new tshirt pattern, Phlox. And I made the long sleeved version.

Phlox tunic pattern

It’s definitely a decent pattern and well drafted. The shoulders and sleeves fit nicely, the neckline is a good depth, and the sleeves taper to your wrists.  I would recommend sizing down if you want a tighter fitting tshirt. I made a size 6 in a rayon/spandex blend but ended up taking in the sides and the sleeves of the shirt by a few inches. Next time I make this tshirt, I’ll probably make a size 4 and use a less stretchy fabric. For all you petite gals, I’d recommend shortening the body by about an inch, depending on how long you want your shirt to be. The pattern is on sale now until 12/17, and it’s a great pattern for an advanced beginner. Phlox rox my sox off!

Another neat feature I added to my shirt was the thumb holes in the cuffs (tutorial here). Boy oh boy do I love how warm they make my hands.

Thumb hole tutorial

In other news, coat fabric has been found, ordered, and arrived last night. I’m excited to get started. Thanks for all your tips on where to look!  I just moved to a more permanent housing situation, and coat sewing is first on the list after I get settled in.



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!

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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.





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