Monthly Archives: November 2017

Sweater dress (refashion edition)

I don’t refashion much. Generally I’d rather send something to a thrift store than take it apart. I’m pretty happy about this exception, though.

I made this grey sweatshirt (scroll down, the post has a bunch of little projects in it) for my husband about two years ago. It was Kwik Sew 2133, a classic “vintage” sweatshirt of a style it can be hard to find in stores these days. And to his credit, he did wear it. For a while. Then he decided to wash it.

With bleach.

By some miracle the main fabric was untouched, but the bands were pretty much ruined.

The shirt lurked. I removed the bottom band and hemmed, since he apparently doesn’t like bottom bands anyway (I am completely confused about what he means when he tells me he wants a classic sweatshirt, now). But then it was really too short. And it lurked.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the remnants of the original fabric in stash. There was about 40 cm left, not really enough for anything except a baby project—and I have no babies to sew for at the moment, thankfully—but it was just enough to turn a defunct sweater into a sweater dress.

I lapped the new piece on at my hem and attached with a zigzag. Then I started shaping. I cut the sleeves (with ruined cuff) to a 3/4 length, because that seemed fun, and narrowed, creating a side seam (the original sweater body was tube-knit). It’s fitted through the bust and then widens rapidly.

I considered shaping the hems, but went with a wide rib-knit band after I was able to find the same piece of grey ribbing.

In another miracle of hoarding, my new sleeve cuffs are a pair I had constructed for the sweatshirt back when I first made it, but they were deemed too tight by my husband, so I made another, wider set. This pair got tucked away in a drawer. It’s pretty miraculous that I was able to find them both last night as I puttered around.

I cut the neckline into a gentle scoop. At the moment it’s raw with some straight stitching for reinforcement, which I think is a fun, casual finish fog a sweater neck. We’ll see how I feel later on.

The only thing I’m thinking about now is adding pockets. EBoth my other grey sweater dresses have them, and I love the feature. As Syo pointed out, it would be easy enough to add some in the hip seam.

In the meantime, though, I’m just going to enjoy being warm and cozy.



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One of the recurring themes of Canadian life is the perpetual quest for clothing which is both weather-appropriate and stylish. And comfy. Comfy would be nice. Sewing my own clothes has made this quest a bit easier, but it’s still pretty easy to get sidetracked by fun but impractical makes.

In this vein, something I’ve wanted for a long time is a motorcycle jacket, but made out of sweatshirt fleece, so it’s more of a fancy sweater and less of a jacket.

I finally decided to make it happen for a shop project this fall, since all I want to sew right now is warm and cozy stuff.

I went with Burda 6800, a very cute little pattern with all the requisite moto details. For my “sweater” I wanted a cropped version, that would work with full skirts. I like the mental image of a 50s style dress with a teeny moto jacket. I haven’t had a chance to try it out like that yet, though. I cut the pattern off right at the waistline marking (and my pieces ended up varying in length about 1/4″). In hindsight I should’ve left a little more length for the hem.

I squared the shoulders slightly. Glad I have now figured out how to do that in a shoulder yoke situation.

The pockets are located below the waist, but I didn’t want to lose them, so as soon as I had the two front panels together I tried them on to make sure there would be room for little under boob pockets. There was. Did I mention I used the pocket piece as drafted? These are teeeny pockets.

I am just hoping they’re big enough for a credit card. In hind sight, since my version isn’t lined, I should’ve cut the pocket pieces to match the shape of the front panels, so their edges could be fully caught in the seams. Plus I’d get at least slightly bigger pockets that way. The pockets were cut out of cotton spandex jersey scraps. I fused a strip of fusible knit where the opening would be. There was a lot of fusible knit involved in this project. It turns the beefy sweatshirt knit into something that almost has the feel of laminate foam. Possibly a didn’t need quite as much as I used, but I find that a hard call to make when I’m constructing a woven pattern out of a knit.

After I got it to the try-on stage I realized I wanted to take in the princess seams in the back for a closer fit there. Of course, this was after I’d already topstitched. Pulling topstitching out of a spongy, thick knit is a special circle of hell, I think.

The shoulders are a bit wide, I think as a jacket vs. sweater consequence. I could’ve narrowed them but it would’ve messed with the evenness of the quilted lines on the shoulder yoke. First world problems. Speaking of which, those shoulders are pretty crazy. It’s a layer of batting sandwiched between two layers of sweater fleece, and they’re almost in football pad territory. I used my walking foot for the quilting and it still shifted a bunch, but I was able to more or less trim things back I to shape after.

I didn’t do my usual “petite” alteration, but I did raise the underarm on both bodice and sleeve. That was simpler given the pieces involved. Also lengthened the sleeve 2″. I could’ve probably gotten away with 1″, but extra long sleeves make me happy.

This is one of those projects I’m sad I have to let hang for a month. I would’ve worn it at least twice this week already. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to pay for the fabric. So there’s that.

In the meantime, I’m supposed to be making a motorcycle cover. That isn’t nearly as fun as the jacket, by the way.

I even like it with my new swing dress! I also can’t help but think that a version with a hood would be fun…


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Hallowe’en 2017 II: The Aviator

Tyo’s costume this year was both simpler and more frustrating than Syo’s. Simpler in that she had it picked out early, it required making a single piece, not three or four, and I bought a marked-down twill for it so no precious or sentimental fabric was sacrificed. Frustrating mainly because Tyo didn’t prioritize the making of it, so she kept making other plans and disappearing, and I was not prepared to sew it all for her, both because she’s old enough to do it herself and also hello, fitting. But mainly the first reason.

In case you’re wondering, she’s a Top Gun pilot. I believe she went with “Goose’s granddaughter”. She bought the patches, but was unenthused by the “girl Top Gun” costumes (one was a stretch Lycra flight suit, the other was a mini-dress version). She wanted coveralls, but that fit her.

The first tricky bit was the pattern. A dig through my Burda mag stash (thank you, Zena!) turned up a few jumpsuit possibilities, but nothing that would work in my heavy twill. (Maybe not the best fabric choice, but I’d already bought it at this point.)

Next best would be a combination of a high-waisted pants and a shirt pattern. I had made her Burda 6849 in plaid flannel a few years ago, which seemed perfect, and I found a pants pattern fairly quickly in my pattern database. Unfortunately, my intermittently-meticulous pattern organization failed me, and I couldn’t find either pattern. I think I maybe lent the pants pattern to a friend a couple of years ago. I have no idea where the Burda shirt has gone. Obviously some Quality Assurance* activities are in order.

(*My day job is at a government lab and QA is an obsession to the point where it’s alternately hilarious and ridiculous.)

Anyway. Obviously plan B was in order. A further search turned up Burda 3038, above, which had all the required style elements—except that it’s a young junior size range. It goes up to a 37” hip, which is close, but, um, the drafting was definitely for a preadolescent body.

I raised the back rise a bit over an inch, doubled the size of the back darts, and added a bit of width to the hips. I should’ve added a bit more to the hips, but all in all it worked out surprisingly well. I’m not saying they fit “well” for pants, but, well, they fit!

The rise would be great as pants, but was not quite as high as I was hoping for for coveralls. But since we were on a project-runway style deadline, we made it work.

Oh yeah, deadline. Because my darling, sociable seventeen-year-old couldn’t make herself stay home long enough to work on it until the day before Hallowe’en. Aside from tracing out the patterns, this was entirely cut out and assembled on Oct. 30 between 4:00 and 11 pm. Which is well past when I need to be in bed, by the way.

Since I couldn’t find the shirt pattern, we fell back to Kwik Sew 433. Tyo had made this before for an unblogged Terry Bogard cosplay, so it was traced out and I knew it would fit. I added about 2” in length to the body, to accommodate the whole “it’s a jumpsuit now” thing. I also added a small tuck on each side of the back to make the waistband fit. It was a very small tuck—I could easily have taken the width out at the side seams or something.

And, by some miracle, it all worked. I thought maybe I added too much length at the back, but then she sat down. Less in the front might have been possible, but I don’t think it’s a problem, really.

I tried to make Tyo do most of the work, but as the evening wore on and time grew short I wound up doing more of it. So she did the cutting out, and constructed the pants (including cargo pockets!) mostly on her own, but I did all the sewing for the top except the darts. Fortunately I noticed that the KS seam allowances for the jacket/top were only 1/4” BEFORE we sewed anything at 5/8”, which would’ve been both hilarious and painful. I did manage to insert the zipper inside out.

You may have noticed the cuffs at both sleeve and pants hems. This is because both are unfinished. And yet, sometimes that’s good enough. She can finish those for next year, when it gets reworked into a ghostbusters costume.


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Hallowe’en 2017: Interview with the Steampunker

I didn’t really mean to do intense Hallowe’en costuming this year—frankly I was more excited about decorating the house (which we ended up not even doing!)

But my kids had other ideas. Fortunately for me, they’re also old enough to contribute to the process pretty significantly.

We’ll start with Syo, because that’s who got her shit together and started sewing first. She wanted to be steampunk again. Wow, clicking that link was a flashback! Actually she wanted to be a vampire, but a classy one, with glue-in fangs. She even got the fangs, except that they don’t really work with braces. So, steampunk. But every choice she made it seemed like she really would’ve rather gone vampire. After some debate she settled on wearing my red Angel Underbust corset and making a coat, skirt, and blouse.

Repeat patterns help a lot for speeding up Hallowe’en sewing. For the coat, we settled on McCall’s M6800, which I made ages ago in camo denim and lace.

I won’t lie, making this coat hurt. Not because of construction or kid-wrangling issues, but because it used up not one, not two, but three fairly “precious” fabrics in stash. Most particularly a stretch denim with flocked velvet medallion pattern that I only got two mètres of, years ago, around when Cindy of Cation Designs made a pair of pants from similar fabric. I’ve been planning to copy her shamelessly ever since.

but now I won’t be. Since 2m is not enough fabric for this pattern, we had to continue stash diving to find something compatible. Settled on a nice, beefy bottom weight cotton stretch sateen. Not as precious as the flocked denim but still a nice basic I’d hoped to turn into something practical for ME. For lining, we used the last of my precious red Kasha, (what did I say about vampire wannabe-ism?) which would hopefully make the whole thing a little more Hallowe’en-friendly (Hallowe’en here is either on the cusp of winter or in full on winter so making costumes warm is a priority).

I’m telling myself it’s ok because she loves the resulting coat and will probably wear it for lots of other things, but mostly I’m only ok with it because we’re actually the same size these days other than height so all I need to do is make some detachable cuffs from the scraps and then I could wear it.

Syo did most of the cutting out and basically all of the sewing on the shell. I directed and sewed the lining and hems. And the main hem is the main thing that we probably should redo, because I hemmed the two layers together and I shouldn’t have, but we were on a tight time schedule. So it doesn’t hang as nicely as it should. I made the buttonholes but she selected and sewed on the buttons.

The skirt(s) and blouse were much simpler and quicker. I drafted the skirt as a high-low half-circle on some black stretch velvet. And by drafted I mean, took a measuring tape and some chalk and and drew lines right on the fabric. I made a bunch of ruffle with some still-kinda-precious-to-me stretch mesh, and added various gathered bits until it started to look ok. There’s an underskirt of red mesh made much the same way, too. It was harder to let Syo help with this part, since I was flying by the seat of my pants. But it also didn’t take too long.

The blouse was both last and least. The pattern is just a peasant blouse from the late 70s, not unlike the first pattern I ever sewed. 😂 the only alteration was to shorten the sleeves a bit, though I suspect she would’ve preferred a more plunging neckline. The fabric was a remnant of black rayon twill that, again, was way too nice for a Hallowe’en costume. At least it wasn’t expensive. But rayon twill might be my new favourite fabric.

Guys, I love this costume. Like I wish it were for me grade of love. None of the snapshots really do it justice—it deserves a proper photo shoot. Someday. 😂


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The dress that nearly killed me

I feel like this is a title that should be reserved for something significant—a wedding dress, say, or a grad dress. (I may be in for the latter next spring, unless Tyo finds one at a thrift store or something. How is it possible that this kid is finishing high school?)

But nope. This is just another basic work project.

Partly the timing was bad. I took it out a bit before Thanksgiving (Canadian thanksgiving being the 2nd Sunday in October), thinking I’d have it done before the holiday, and then I didn’t, and then I way overestimated how much time I’d have to sew in around cooking two turkeys and hosting three dinners (don’t ask.)

And basically the whole thing just snowballed and took forever and I had to stop in the middle and make some quick, satisfying projects before I gouged my eyes out with a seam ripper, and then work on it in little fits and starts. Ugh.

The pattern is Vogue, V1559.

My first mistake was getting carried away. I meant to skip the lining. I didn’t need to do piping. But I found this quilt cotton that was an absolute compliment to my chosen corduroy, and, well. I guess I was hoping for some sneaky or cool construction tips with the lined sleeve plackets or skirt vent.

Spoiler: there were none. The instructions were of the “if it’s tricky, do it by hand” grade. Which is fine—great advice in a lot of situations. It’s just not what I’m looking for from a clever, intricate Vogue pattern.

The fit turned out well enough. I cut a size 10 in the shoulders and sleeves, 12 in bust and waist, and added a little extra at the hips. Not quite out to the 14 line but a little more.

I did shorten the bodice. I’m a bit torn. It changes the proportions of the dress and it doesn’t look as elegant. On the other hand the waistband ends right at my waist. Much as I might wish my torso were longer, well, it ain’t. I did a swayback adjustment above and below the waistband, which worked just fine.

Then there was the booboo.

I don’t want to talk about it, but for the sake of truth in blogging, and completeness, I will. The centre front piece in the bodice is only slightly shaped, wider at one end and narrower at the other. I sewed it in wider end up. (Where the bust is, right?)

This was not correct.

By the time I realized the issue, the entire bodice was constructed, piped, and lined, except for the band around the shoulders.

I cried a bit. Then I eased it into the shoulder band. It’s more or less worked out, but the fit is a bit awkward in the bust and I can’t help but wonder if that’s the pattern, or my booboo.

I added my usual amount of length to the sleeves but they’re actually a bit too long. I know, I have a hard time wrapping my head around that, too. But they look a little sloppy. I could take off the cuffs and shorten a bit. If I get ambitious.

This dress was a work project and it’s now on display, and it looks damn good on the mannequin—so hopefully by the time I get it back I’ll have forgotten the struggle and can decide if I actually like it or not!


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