Category Archives: Sewing Projects

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.

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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.

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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!

The Sewing Monsters

Sam is back for week two of impromptu sewing camp with Claire! And this time, she has brought her older brother Henry to join in the fun. Before I dive into our sewing marathon, these two cool cats will give you a sneak peek of the end products:



Another week with these kiddos and nothing to do… Actually, who am I kidding? We had tons to do. Between the swimming pool, $1 movies, geocaching app, and abundant climb-able trees, we barely had time to fit sewing time in.

When I asked Henry if he wanted to learn to sew too, his response was, “YOLO!” And then an explanation of the inadequacy of his home ec class. So we all got started, and the time flew. The events that follow occurred in a 3-hour time period. A veritable sewing marathon for 9 and 12 year old beginners.

Sam and I decided on PJ shorts for her second project. A 3/4 yd piece of yellow flannel with pink pigs fit the bill for fabric, and I had an old PJ pants pattern from when I was a kid (it was an old pattern). After a quick re-explanation of grainline I left her with some pattern weights to cut out the fabric.

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Henry picked up sewing super quickly. He chose some fake blue fur and red flannel from my stash to make a pillow. I explained pattern, pinning, and cutting and then left him to practice straight stitches on the machine.

I tried to stay as hands-off as possible with Sam. I let her read and interpret the pattern directions, and pin and sew with minimal corrections. Not that she needed much help after our last project.

By the time I got back to Henry and his pillow he had already sewn the front and back together and was stuffing the pillow inside. What a quick learner! Unfortunately no pictures of him sewing on the machine.


Sam easily constructed the PJ shorts but got stuck on the waistband. I pinned it into place but she sewed it and threaded the elastic through.

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Henry then decided to “hand-quilt” his pillow so it would look like his quilt. What a creative idea! He drew a design with tailor’s chalk on the red flannel and used white thread to hand sew over it. There was some slipstitching to close the pillow at some point too.

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We (I) accidentally cut Sam’s shorts a little on the short side, so I ran a quick rolled hem on the serger.

And then we were done!


They were so happy and their parents were duly impressed. In all, I’m glad to have helped in the creation of two sewing monsters *ahem* I mean enthusiasts.

Have you ever sewn with kids? Or beginner sewists?

Plantain… sorta. And the true cost of tees.


Remember when I said I was going to make some tee shirts? Well I did, and here they are!

For both tees, I started with the free Plaintain tshirt pattern from Deer & Doe… but it sorta turned into something else… Quick recap: I made the striped shirt first. Started with a full busted adjustment of a size 6 and turned the scoop neck into a v-neck (using this tutorial). Then shortened the pattern by about 6 inches. I used 3/4 yd of a striped jersey I found at the thrift store for a grand total of 50 cents. Boo ya! The striped shirt is my 50 cent tee shirt. I made the purple shirt second. I wanted something more fitted than the striped tee, so I used the same pattern, but graded the side seams to a size 4. The purple tee shirt is made from a cotton-lycra blend that I got at a fabric warehouse in Harrisburg.  Still cheap- $5 for 1 yd!


I’m amazed at how little it costs to make a tee shirt. This graphic (scroll to the bottom to see) from Everlane shows the true costs of their tees. The materials are really inexpensive. Never again will I spend $25 on a tee shirt from American Apparel! I can make it myself! I’m freeeeee!

(Thanks again to the amazing Brittany Frisch for her mad photography skills!)

Fit and Flare tutorial

Fit and flare dress tutorial

Well, friends, we’re nearing the end of my summer dress series, and I have this dress tutorial to share with you!  I might have one more after this, but the weather is starting to turn cold and I’ve come up with some other cool tutorials to share. We will see. In other news, I’m happy to announce that I’ve become a contributor to the Sew Mama Sew website! My first contribution is a tutorial for this fit-and-flare dress.

I wanted to come up with a simple knit dress that would introduce beginner sewists to the wonderful world of drafting patterns. I also wanted to make a dress that would look polished and feel cool in the hot summer months. Thus, this fit and flare dress was born- a dress with a fitted bodice, pleated skirt, and pockets!

Head over to their website to check out the full tutorial and make a dress for yourself!



A Vera Aveline to beat the heat


It’s been a while since I’ve shared projects, but I’m back!

So I jumped on the bandwagon and made myself a Vera Aveline dress. In defense of bandwagon jumping, I made it during one of this summer’s heat waves when I was aching for something airy and cool to wear.

This certainly does the trick.


I wore it to a fancy dinner with my grandma and some of her friends (they’re museum docents so they appreciate fashion)- they liked it. I also wore it to a BBQ, where no one got it. But I was cool and comfortable and thought I looked fly so I didn’t care what they thought and laughed at all those people in their stuffy overheated clothing.


Summer heat, I DEFY YOU in this Vera Aveline dress!!

If you want to make your own Vera Aveline you can find the tutorial here and you can see other versions of the dress here.

I ended up cutting 5 inches off of them hem to accommodate my short stature (5 ft 2 in) but made no other modifications. I added a lining in a silky brown polyester that ends just above my knees. The materials in total cost me about $25- a bargain for this great dress. I had a minor issue with the fabric mysteriously gathering along the side seams (seen in 2nd picture) but mostly remedied it with some pulling and pressing. Excuse the bra straps, but I kind of like how they look- they sort of match the dress straps, and I am too busty to deal with strapless bras.

Merci beaucoup to my wonderful friend and amazing photographer Bree Frisch for taking these pictures. See more of her work here. Seriously. This girl is an amazing photographer. If you live in NY or eastern PA, look her up.


Teaching Kids To Sew

E-sam sewing

When it is time for you to pass on your sewing wisdom, here are some steps to follow:

Find child of appropriate age and enthusiasm

Exhibit A- Sam, age 9.

Claire: Sam, on a scale of 1 to 10, how enthusiastic are you about learning to sew?

Sam: Oh I’m a 9. sometimes a 15!

sam sewing 3

Come up with appropriate project idea

Tell her she has a choice to make a pillow, or a pillow. Next we can make something harder… maybe pj pants. This will motivate her to get to work on the pillow.

Design the pillow

Give her a pen and paper and let her draw pillow ideas while you take her on an hour long drive to retrieve your sewing machine from the shop where it was getting fixed. You will have to listen and sing along to AT 40 on the way. Cue Iggy Azalea.

Make a pattern

This is the easy part- she is pretty sharp with rulers and pens. Explain how to figure out the size of a square that will fit an old throw pillow you procured. When you start talking about seam allowances, her eyes will glaze over. Instead, explain it in simpler terms. Show her the inside of another pillowcase and explain that extra fabric is needed around the edge.

Decide on fabric

Raid your stash for all the crazy patterns and separate from the “good” fabric. Anything pink is a bonus. Especially if it is fuzzy. Also animal prints. Then let her choose from this selected pile.


Let go of all control. Give lots of encouragement. Resist the urge to say “yes” every time she asks you to do it for her. End up doing half of the pinning yourself.



Have her do some practice stitches on scrap fabric until she can sew a decently straight line. When she gets really enthusiastic about sewing straight stitches on scrap fabric, redirect her to the pillow project.

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Remind her to slow down, backstitch, take out the pins before she sews over them. Expect that she will tell you you are being pushy. Take a deep breath and remind yourself you are having fun.

When she gets disheartened, remind her how awesome she is at straight stitches. Maybe let her practice them on some plaid scraps. Tell her that the PJ pants will be much, much easier than this mixed-fabric pillow (and rue the day you pulled the lime green lycra from your stash)

E-sewing on plaid

Expect to take lots of breaks.

Finish the pillow

Have her trim the corners and turn the pillow case right side out. You will be the one to stuff the pillow inside the case and slipstitch it most of the way closed. At this point, she will be tired of the project and will only want to do a couple slipstitches.



But all will be well again because you are finished! Give her the pillow to hug and pet and enjoy. Laugh when she does a happy dance. Sit back and smile and relax and know that you have created, as her mother will later say, “a sewing monster.” Look forward to more collaborative projects.


E-sam hug pillow

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