Category Archives: Sewing Projects

Seneca skirt

Seneca skirt

After seeing the Seneca pattern, I bought myself a Seamwork subscription a few months ago. I made a promise to myself that as long as I was making at least one of the patterns every month, I would keep the subscription. But this skirt is as far as I got. So no more subscription. For better or worse, I think I’m ready to move on to more complicated projects. Two items- jeans and a coat- are not only lacking from my wardrobe but calling  me to make them. I’m going to try to focus my creative efforts on them for the rest of this year. Maybe I’ll even take a jeans or coat-making class. Once I’m done with all my current projects, of course. I did just finish my sister’s bikini which I’ll have pictures of shortly.

Seneca skirt

I altered the pockets so they would attach at the waistband. I didn’t want pockets that hung down when I put things in them. This made the waistband slightly more bulky, but it was worth it for functionality’s sake. I drafted the pocket piece by placing the original pocket pattern piece on top of the skirt pattern, matching them at the circles and side seams. Then I added a piece to the pocket by drawing a curved line to the top of the skirt piece to extend the pocket to the waistline. I traced the original side seam and waistline. I sewed the pocket to the skirt following all directions. I also made sure to catch the top of the pocket in the front waistband seam. That’s it.

Seneca skirt extended pocket

Seneca skirt

Unaltered, the Seneca skirt is a little long and heavy for my petite frame. If I make it again, I’ll shorten it and use a lighter fabric. I made this version from a grey ponte knit, which is heavier than recommended. Still, it’s sporty and casual and very loungey-comfortable. It will be worn more this fall. Especially once I figure out what warmer shirts to wear with it. And probably with sneakers instead of rain boots.

Seneca skirt

Black High-Waisted DIY Bikini

high-waisted DIY bikini

I’d like to pause the sock deluge to say: I made another DIY bikini! It’s been 2 years (almost exactly) since I last dipped my toe into swimsuit sewing. I lost the bottoms to the first bikini 🙁 so I am making a couple more matching sister bikinis (if you’re making one why not make two? sister pictures later). I made mine first since *lapsed years=forgetfulness* and I didn’t want to mess hers up. The bottoms are the same pattern as last time (this pattern– pages 5 to 8- with a few inches added to the top), plus an elastic band around the top. The top is self drafted. I traced a stretchy halter top for the front, and used the back piece (page 4) I had drafted for my last bikini top.

high-waisted DIY bikini

The top is lined with self-fabric for more  support, since I wanted more of a sports-bra type top. I sewed 1″ elastic into the bottom band (all the way around this time, not just in front) and used fold-over elastic to finish the top seams. All fabric and elastic is from Their fold over elastic is a much better price than JoAnn’s.

high-waisted DIY bikini

I also attached the elastic differently for this swimsuit. On the last bikini, I was afraid of stitching the elastic directly to the fabric. Instead, I made channels for the elastic and then inserted it.  It kept twisting in its channels, especially around my legs, which was hella annoying. So I took the plunge and stitched the elastic directly to the fabric on this bikini. I was nervous but it WORKED! I used a regular zig-zag stitch for the 1/4″ elastic on the bottom and the widest 3-step zig zag that my machine would do on the 1″ and fold over elastic. Always remember to sew along the bottom edge of the elastic, never down the middle. I had to rip out some stitches once I realized the edge of the elastic was curling up. But it’s nice now. Observe:

high-waisted DIY bikini

This bikini was ocean-tested on a trip to VA Beach and it held up! IMO, that’s the true test of any swimsuit.

There are a couple things I would change about the fit of the top, like angling the side seams toward the bottom of the bust and maybe putting some princess seam lines in to eliminate the unintentional gathers, but I’ll apply those to my sister’s bikini. I also used my walking foot for the first time I can remember. It is awesome. New favorite foot (besides the two I walk on).

high-waisted DIY bikini

Matchy-matchy with mom

matching skirts

Remember those matching mother-daughter outfits that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s? Here’s a modern take on a blast from the past. When my mom saw the skirt I made last week, she liked it so much that she asked me to make her the exact same thing (except about 5 inches shorter). Then I picked up an almost matching crop top for her to wear. We got together for her birthday this weekend and wore matching outfits for the first time in years.  I think we’re a pretty cute pair in our ensembles.

Back in brown

brown linen skirt

As soon as I wrote my last post I realized something- I didn’t have the right fabric for the projects I wanted to make. I had been so wrapped up in my little world, obsessed with needing to finish the projects in front of me before I’d let myself start anything new. Of course knitting was appealing (and it still is… but my hands need a rest) when I wouldn’t let myself have any fun with sewing. So I went back to the drawing board, and this is what I came up with. It’s a brown linen skirt that ends just above my ankles.

brown linen skirt diy


I traced the pattern from my favorite winter skirt and came up with one slightly wonky pattern piece. Cut on the bias, the 4 panels of this skirt easily consumed 3 yards of fabric.

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The waistband is a simple, interfaced rectangle. The 7″ not-so-invisible zipper is sewn into the left side of the skirt. There are seams running down the center front and back of the skirt. The hem is finished with stretchy lace and topstitched (a simple way to get those bias seams to lie flat). I didn’t finish the inside seams because they are all on the bias, and therefore won’t fray.

inside details

Paired with a crop top and birkenstocks, it’s one of two skirts I’m most likely to pull out on a hot summer day. I think I just needed to take a break from tricky, lengthy projects to return to some simple, feel-good pieces. This skirt was finished in a couple afternoons with plenty of breaks, air conditioning, and iced tea.

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There is a small mistake on the center back seam- I didn’t interface it so it stretched out, and I had to take out a couple inches from the the top of the waistband and CB seam (tapering to nothing at the bum). It left me with some weird whiskers in the back, but they’re not too noticeable (I hope). Next skirt I’ll interface the waistband the entire way around.

linen skirt waistband detail

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linen skirt hem

Princess complex

Princess dress

Once upon a time there was a girl named Denver who really liked the color pink. One day, she came home to find her roommate complaining of boredom (not to mention 4 days of vacation from work). Denver knew how to solver her roommate’s boredom! Right away she ran off to the magical fabric store. She returned with Vogue 2960, fabric, and accompanying notions. She handed these to her roommate and asked her to make a pink princess dress for her birthday.

Though the fabric was slippery, Denver was patient as her roommate worked diligently through many dark winter days and nights, fabric spread over the floor of their tiny living room.

Princess dress

After all the cutting and fitting and sewing and ripping and re-sewing, all that was left to complete the princess dress was a prince (our Armani model friend was happy to indulge us (ok so he isn’t actually an Armani model but he certainly fits the mold)). And she lived happily ever after in her pink princess dress.

Princess Dress

Princess Dress

(It took us until the spring to coordinate our schedules for this fun and silly photoshoot but it was worth it!)

Princess Dress

Simple Panel Curtain Tutorial

DIY Curtain Tutorial

I moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago. It is big and airy, centrally located, and- my favorite feature- it has a balcony (all meals= eaten outside). My bedroom windows have a nice view of the street, but they are east facing and the blinds are not enough to keep out that morning light. Not good for sleeping in. So, I made curtains for those naked windows.

DIY Curtain Tutorial

Curtain Tutorial

I used  58″ wide home dec fabric (gifted). This was wide enough to cover the width of my windows. Unless you’re planning on washing them later, you don’t need to pre-wash and dry the fabric. Many home decor fabrics are treated with scotchgard and only need to be wiped clean. Alternatively  you could line quilting cotton with muslin or use sheer fabric for your curtains. The basic premise for these curtains is that you calculate the length you will need to fold back for the hem, header, and curtain rod pocket. You add this to the target length of the finished curtain (how long you want the curtain to be when it’s finished). Then you fold and sew and end up with curtains! Here are the calculations:

A couple things you need to ask yourself before you start calculating the length of fabric you will need:

  1. where do you want your curtain to end?
  2. do you want a header on your curtain (the frilly part at the top)? I added a 2″ header to my curtains.

add together:

  • distance from the top of the curtain rod to where you want the curtain to end.
  • height of the header x 2
  • 4 inches for a 2 inch hem (turned under twice)
  • width of the curtain rod + 1″
  • 1″ seam allowance

My curtain equation was: 66+4+4+2+1=77″

  • 66″ length
  • 4″ = 2″ header x 2
  • 4″ for hem
  • 2″ = 1″ curtain rod +1″ <- value “B”
  • 1″ seam allowance

*you will also need to remember the sum of the last two numbers (value B + seam allowance), plus the height of the header (for my curtain, this number was 1+2+2=5). This is value “A”.

Curtain Tutorial

Once you’ve cut or ripped your length of fabric, it’s time to sew.  Turn the selvages toward the wrong side of the fabric, then pin, sew, and iron in place. Turn the hem under twice (~2″ each time), then pin, sew, and iron in place. Measure “A” inches from the top of the curtain panel and turn this to the wrong side (right side facing out).  Sew a seam the height of your header from the fold (eg 2″). Measure “B” inches (eg 2″) from this seam and sew another straight seam parallel to the first. Iron in place. Then hang your curtain!

DIY curtain tutorial diagram

It took me a couple evenings to make these curtains. The hardest part was making sure they were exactly the same length, but this was remedied by careful measuring throughout the folding and pinning process. Good luck with your curtains.

DIY Curtain Tutorial



Anatomy of an upcycle

upcycled maxi dress

When I first dipped my toes into making clothes, upcycling- that is turning a piece of clothing you don’t want to wear into something you do want to wear- was an easy, nonthreatening way to start. Through reading sites like New Dress A Day and Paris Ciel, and with practice, I got better at recognizing pieces with potential and transforming them. My most-worn pieces to date include this blue sundress and this red button down .

why so much sleeve?
before: too much sleeve, too much boob

The brown maxi dress pictured here is my latest success. When I was still living in Philly, post Philly-blogger-meetupAndrea and I went thrifting (sorry for all that name dropping). She spied this beauty at Philly AIDS Thrift, and despite my reluctance at the $15 price tag convinced me to buy it.

The first thing I focus on when choosing a piece of clothing to upcycle is the fit. If the part of the dress I want to keep fits- I keep it. It is easy to change the hem length, but can be much harder to change the shoulders or waist. On this dress the bodice fit perfectly. No changes needed there. The first thing I did was cut about 7″ off of the skirt length and used my serger to sew an easy rolled hem. Be careful while hemming knits- removing fabric (and weight that stretches the fabric out) allows the hem to spring up. The hem can end up shorter than you intend, so it’s best to cut fabric off a little at a time.

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Next I had to address the matter of boobage. You can see my bra in the before picture- the neckline plunges waaay too low. I sewed the sides of the neckline together with a blind stitch to add a couple inches of coverage. You can see in the above picture what a difference a couple inches make to the neckline.

After that, I chopped the sleeves off, leaving some space below the arm. The original sleeves attached to the band at the bottom of the bodice, so I needed to leave fabric there so I could raise the armhole. I pinched the fabric together and sewed it in a straight line, creating a new side seam. You can see the line down the middle of the V under the arm  hole that this created:

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The last thing I needed to do was finish the straps and neckline. I used tailors chalk to draw the neckline I wanted on the front and back of the dress. Sometimes I make a paper pattern to ensure that both sides are even, but I eyeballed it on this dress since I wasn’t making a super drastic change. I widened the front neckline by about an inch, narrowed the straps, and lowered the back of the dress by 2 inches.

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The neckline and straps were intimidating but not very difficult. I used bias tape to finish the edges, first pinning and stitching the bias tape along the chalk lines, then trimming off the extra fabric, and finally turning the bias tape under and topstitching it in place. The dress was originally finished with facings, and I wanted to keep this feature. I made sure to catch the facings as I sewed the bias tape.

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And then I was done. Another great dress added to my closet. Have you had any upcycling successes recently? What techniques do you use to complete an upcycle?

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Setbacks and a coat update

Kimono in progress

You know how you’re working on a project, and it is going so well, rolling along smoothly like a car on a freshly paved road on a sunny day, and then you hit a really big bump. Out of nowhere. With this kimono project, that exact thing happened. I’d been lovingly poring over 4.5 yards of drapey, ivory silk replete with luscious hydrangeas, red berries and blue daisies. I took great care, from cutting in a single layer to the french seams and the burrito’d collar. I planned every detail of this project to ensure I would not have to subject this beautiful, delicate fabric to any seam ripping. And then, just before putting the finishing touches on the garment, I realized I made a big mistake at the beginning- I attached the collar of the kimono backwards. So I ripped out that beautiful burrito finish you see in the pictures. I flipped it around and am now stuck deciding between top stitching or hand stitching the collar in place.

A similar thing happened to the coat I made this winter. The muslin fit, but when I tried on the almost finished project, it turned out that I had made the shoulders waaayy too huge. And then other, smaller, more immediately satisfying projects stole me away from the coat. It is folded, unfinished, in my stash, waiting for the day when I have the energy to rip the entire coat apart, cut the pieces smaller, and then reconstruct it. A dizzying prospect. But I will not allow my kimono to meet the same end as the coat. I’m swearing a solemn vow, right here on this blog, not to start another project until my kimono is finished.

I’m getting better at working around setbacks, but they still (obviously) slow down or halt a project completely. What do you do when you realize you’ve made a mistake? Do you take a break? Abandon the project or push through?

kimono in progress

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

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