Category Archives: Sewing

Further diversions

I’ve been fantasizing off and on about making the twins wee little Regency style dresses. I kept talking myself out of it, but the idea kept popping back up to the surface like an old beach ball that just won’t quite sink.

I do have some white fabric in mind possibly, but my mother recently destashed a piece of somewhat vintage cotton with a lovely woven check and (don’t laugh) tiny old-fashioned selvedges. With selvedges like those, it just had to become something quasi-historical, and these aren’t the kind of colours I would wear myself. So.

Although my fantasies kept taking me over to this pattern from Virgil’s Fine Goods, in the end I went ahead and drafted my own, based on the Danish example linked in this post from the Oregon Regency Society. Partly because I was impatient but mainly I’m also cheap. Although I would love the period instructions for hand-sewing that would come with the Virgil’s pattern, which would I’m sure explain that everything I did here is wrong. But I knew I didn’t have time or inclination to fully hand-sew these dresses.

Gorgeous neckline. Less gorgeous waistline.

Anyway, I followed the pattern for the above dress pretty roughly, with several modifications due to the small scale and rapid growth rate of small children. I added gathering via drawstrings to both the front neck and the “waist” of the dress, for maximum adjustability.

Due to fabric limitations, I made the skirts from a single width of the vintage cotton, which in the end didn’t leave much extra gathering at the back, unfortunately. I really wish I’d had enough fabric to do at least two full-width panels for the skirts.

In theory, as the twins grow the drawstrings are loosened and the dresses keep fitting for a lot longer. If I’d had more fabric I would’ve added more length and put in some tucks for growth, too, but as it is they’re already ankle skimming on Tris. Which, I’m not really sure what the correct length for Regency children’s dresses should be—I’ve seen paintings with the dresses very long and others fairly short. Given the nature of children’s growth, I suppose some variation is inevitable anyway. I could also make drawers for underneath as they get taller.

I also made the sleeves puffy, again to accommodate future growth.

My “plan” was to have one version be as historically accurate as I can handle (meaning machine-sewn seams but everything else done by hand, and the other a quick ‘n dirty version with serged seam finish. In the end this actually doesn’t make much of a difference since the bodice seams are the least of the hand-sewing that was involved. But I did hand-overcast them in the second dress.

The most unexpectedly labor-intensive part was rolling the casing for the top drawstring. I knew I wanted to use the 1/4” stay tape for my drawstring, but I wanted to keep the casing as narrow as possible, and if I didn’t want visible machine stitching on the outside I definitely had to roll it by hand. It turned out that this was doable, but required sewing the casing with the tape already in place, and due to the narrowness, I had to check at EACH stitch that I hadn’t caught the tape with my needle. This took forever. And ever. That being said, I’m very pleased with the look it created.

First dress on the right with bulky waist gathering. Second dress on the left, less bulk but very high on the bodice.

I was a lot less pleased with the casing for the waist seam of the first dress, which I machine-stitched to the seam allowance since it didn’t show. I’m not sure if it was just that my casing fabric was a bit stiff, or if it was too many layers of machine stitching, but the whole seam is stiff and doesn’t gather nicely. I can’t imagine it’s too comfortable against the skin, either, but the twins are fairly stoic about their clothes for the most part, thankfully, and haven’t seemed bothered. For the second dress I used a lighter fabric for the casing, with one edge stitched to the seam allowance and the other to the bodice. This is a bit nicer feeling but does shift the gathering a little higher on the bodice—only by the 5/8” width of the casing, but when your bodice is less than 3” long that’s a fairly big shift.

The dress opens in the back and I cut the edges of the back bodice on the selvedge, and of course the skirt is the full width of the fabric again so the entire back seam was selvedge as well—yay to no finishing required, and an opportunity to show off that lovely vintage selvedge, although I have no idea if it’s actually accurate for a Regency time period. This is an easy closure for a kids’ style, but it does tend to leave a bit of a gap at the back, so I should probably make them some kind of little shifts to go underneath. Feel free to place bets on whether that actually happens.

My biggest departure from historical accuracy (other than the machine sewn seams) would probably be that I decided to put elastic in the hems of the sleeves. I considered both gathering to a band (harder to adjust) and adding drawstrings again, but I also wanted these dresses to be comfy to wear for toddlers accustomed to modern clothing, so I went with elastic. It doesn’t show and doesn’t look particularly different than a drawstring would, I think.

After all this work to make the dresses adjustable, I wound up having not quite as much fabric for the skirt length as I had hoped. While they’re long enough now, I had hoped to have a few extra inches of length to put tucks in that could be let out later. I also would’ve liked to have more fullness for the back of the skirt. But, such is life, and I think I made pretty good use of the two yards of fabric.

While they’re not as long or as full or as “historically accurate” as I might have hoped, I think they still turned out pretty cute. And Tris has actually requested to wear one instead of regular clothes at least once, so I’ll call that a major win!

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A wee widdle (Swiss) waist

As I toy with historically-inspired and whimsical touches to add to my wardrobe, I decided a modest Swiss waist would be a fun addition, that might make blouses like the shirt refashion something I could actually wear. I’ve never liked how I look in loose tops tucked into a waistband. Or gathered skirts for that matter. It has something to do with the shortness of my not-so-narrow waist. But, the addition of a wide belt can help with this, and a Swiss waist seemed like a very fun way to play with this idea.

This one is inspired by this original and pattern on Koshka the Cat, but definitely scaled down. I also decided to put the lacing on the side instead of the centre front or back, mainly for increased adjustability but also because I couldn’t quite face that many hand-worked eyelets. This choice is probably the least historically-justifiable in the construction, and, it turns out, my least favourite part of this make, but it’s still wearable.

A fair bit actually went into this little thing, not least because I did the vast majority of the sewing by hand. The nice thing about a hand-sewing project, though, especially a little one like this, is that I can pick it up and do a few stitches here and there, while watching TV with the family, whenever the twins are distracted.

I couldn’t find my cotton ticking (my first choice for light-weight corset-type things), so I went with hair canvas for the strength layer. By some miracle, my hunt for scraps of black fabric turned up the last remnants of my tropical-weight wool suiting used in this dress many moons ago, and there was just enough room in the odd-shaped scraps to cut the main pieces on grain and the bias strips for the piping more-or-less on bias.

I used two layers of hair canvas, stitched to create the boning channels. A bone at each short end to support the lacing and two at the centre, although in hindsight I could probably have done just one at the centre. When I made the pattern I was still debating on whether I would want to have it open at centre front or back, so I marked a boning channel on each side there, and didn’t think about it. I used 1/4” spiral steel boning, which is basically my default, although I might’ve gone with spring steel if I could’ve found my tin snips. (My corset-making box has gotten sorely denuded as I haven’t made one in a long while—the needle-nosed pliers also got plundered for other household tasks, forcing me to hunt down replacements, and my good wire-cutters somehow got switched for larger but inferior ones. All of which added time and frustration to what should’ve been a small and simple project. Anyway.

To give my thin wool a more substantial feel, and cover the scratchy hair canvas more effectively, I added a layer of flannel behind the fashion fabric. I added the piping and then catch-stitched top and bottom into place by hand.

The most annoying part (aside from finding my tools) was making the hand-worked eyelets. (According to the Dreamstress, who is much more of an authority than I, Swiss waists and other corset-type garments as outer wear, never had metal eyelets). Not so much the actual stitching of them, as the making and keeping the holes open through two layers each of wool and flannel, and four layers of hair canvas (since I included extra seam allowance of hair canvas at the sides, to support the eyelets. Fortunately my awl hadn’t gone missing, as I basically had to poke my hole open again after each stitch.

Once those were done, the final phase of adding the lining (which again I did by hand, slip-stitching it in place) was positively pleasant. The lining fabric is a slippery poly charmeuse used originally for lining this jacket (where it made me want to set things on fire) and then again for lining my winter walking skirt, where I merely hated working with it. Good thing it’s absolutely gorgeous. I have about a yard left, but I have to say applying it by hand to the insides of the waist was supremely meditative and satisfying. Maybe I need to only sew slippery fabrics like this by hand.

Anyway, the result is cute. The lacing gaps are about the size I planned, but overall look would be better without them. However, I wanted the adjustability. I think it would look nicer with a wider lacing—I was planning a black 5/8” ribbon, but I used up my stash of that on Syo’s grad dress last summer. Not sure if it will make the jump from costume to real-life use, but we shall see!

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Pre-Christmas presents

A few weeks ago my husband started cooking with the twins, and since then he’s been badgering by me to make little aprons and chef’s hats for them.

Since I ended up with a free Saturday afternoon when the older girls took the twins to spend time with their Auntie, I figured I could whip up a couple of chef’s hats and aprons for Christmas presents. Some digging in the stash unearthed the rest of the white poly-cotton twill I used to make the twins these pants, so I got to work.

Of course, since the twins were gone I didn’t have them around to take measurements. I did Google around and found a diagram for a kids’ apron (size 4-7) and basically took an inch off everywhere.

They are pretty basic aprons, but the size turned out PERFECT for my rather runty two year olds, and they’re just what I wanted. My husband would’ve preferred a loop around the neck to the ties, but I wanted them to be adjustable and also a loop big enough to go over baby heads would put the bib quite low on their chests.

The angles edges are finished with double-fold binding (made of the same fabric, so they’re a bit bulky… twill tape would’ve been a nice alternative in hindsight). The top has a teeny facing, which I stitched on the right side, which fortuitously turned out almost the same width as the waist band/ties and the bottom hem. The other edges I just turned under twice and hemmed. For the waist ties, I knew I wanted them wider but less bulky, so I serged the edges and just turned them under once and topstitched down. Then I topstitched them onto the front of the apron. I like it.

The hats were even more slapdash. I did Google “size 2 hat” to get a circumference for the band, but other than that I just kinda made it up. The circles are about 30” each since I cut 2 from a 60” wide fabric.

They’re pretty extra, but I was pretty sure that ridiculously oversized would still be ridiculously cute, and I was not wrong, if I do say so myself.

Ready to start their own cooking show.

For the bands (stands? Brims?) I was going through my box of interfacings when I found the remains of a package of thin bag-making foam, and I think it was perfect: soft, cushy, and unlikely to be damaged by two-year-olds mashing it around.

I decided I wanted them a little taller at the front than back, for a slouchy chef look, but not too high. I topstitched the foam to the inner part of the band fabric. I purposely made the foam a little short, and put a short elastic across the gap, so there’s some stretch at the back. I like how this turned out, but I wish I had made the bands just a little bigger. However, I suppose when they’re outgrown I could open up the back seam and add a little panel there, and just adjust the back couple of pleats to fit.

As it is, though, they’re wonderfully, ridiculously, over-the-top adorable. Despite my best intentions, we did not wait until Christmas to give them to the twins. They did get used for making some (not terribly successful) Christmas cookies and any number of other meals, however.

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Pseudo-Victorian Skirt

Still wandering blithely down the garden path of “how far can we get from mainstream fashion?”

Back in October, maybe, I spent some time fantasy-fall sewing and pulled out several candidate fabrics for fall and winter pieces that would complement what currently passes for my wardrobe. I wanted a skirt that would fill the same role as the Adventure skirt, but for the grey/red/black subset of my wardrobe, and this grey “flannel” got tapped.

First of all, you know those fabrics that you buy and then they’re too precious to use for fear of ruining them? Well, this fabric is basically the exact opposite of that. It was billed as some kind of flannel, which I guess it maybe is, but I would more describe it as a lightly brushed twill suiting, 100% polyester. I bought it quite a few years ago to make a shirt for a Christmas present, and even paid a significant chunk of full price. At the time, I was thinking the poly flannel would be durable. Which, I mean, hopefully it will be. But it’s also so, so nasty. Although it has a nice drape, it frays like crazy, and worst of all does not want to take a press. Anyway, I’m profoundly grateful to have it out of stash, and that I didn’t turn it into a gift.

I didn’t want to freehand the pattern as I did for the Adventure skirt (the fabric alone was going to be annoying enough) so I pulled out an old Burda envelope pattern I had made back in the day. I figured I could modify it a little bit to get the effect I wanted. (Actual pattern options would be the Folkwear Edwardian Walking Skirt, which I should actually have a traced version of somewhere, from when my mom made it for herself back in about 1992, or the Scroop Fantail skirt, which conveniently went on sale shortly after I started this project. But I already knew I loved the shape and length of the Burda pattern). I actually couldn’t even find the original pattern (curse words) but I did find my traced out version. I knew I needed to add at least 3” at the waist, and I was hopeful that adding a bit more fullness thorough the hips would make room for pockets (since my hip expansion hasn’t matched my waist expansion the last few years.)

My pattern changes were simple. I cut the centre front piece a bit back from the fold (probably adding about 1.5” there, and I cut the back piece not on the fold, but extending out to the edge of the fabric so I would have extra fullness for the pleats. I added a more precise 3” to the waist and length, but in hindsight I should’ve added more because the wide underlap I tend to use on the closures of my “Victorian” style skirts needs more overlap than the narrow zipper closure the waistband is designed for. I also cut pocket bags, shaped to attach to the waistband. This nicely keeps the pockets from pulling on the side seams, but in hindsight I should have cut them using the upper part of the side front pattern piece for the shape, as that would’ve been a good size and supported the pocket nicely. Also I didn’t add quite enough length to accommodate the pocket reaching the waistband, so the actual part of the bag below the hand opening is really shallow. Though my phone didn’t fall out at work when I put it there, so they’re functional.

I came incredibly close to underlining the entire skirt in (real cotton) flannel, but didn’t have enough that I was prepared to sacrifice, so I just went with a single modern-style layer. It makes for a swishier skirt anyway.

I spent a LONG time fussing with the pleats to fit them into the waistband, and they’re still not great.

In the pics the rear closure isn’t lying especially flat, but I’m hoping it’s just my pinning because I got impatient and wore this before I made a button hole for the closure so it’s just held on with a big safety pin.

I was hoping for an invisible hem with hand hemming, especially since it required a LOT of easing, but I don’t know that it’s much more invisible than a machine blind hem. Oh well. It’s done now.

It maybe says something about the weird state of my wardrobe right now, but I’m hopeful that this skirt will be a really practical addition.

Unfortunately, I still have about a mètre of the fabric left. I’m tempted to make a matching top, or at least waistcoat, to extend the historybounding look, but we’ll see.

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Refashion and repeats

I haven’t had the oomph to tackle anything big this fall, despite digging out some fabrics I’d like to use and some intense fall wardrobe capsule fantasizing. But words like “cottagecore” and “historybounding” have been inspiring me, and I’ve been puttering at an assortment of little things.

Tyo was looking for an elf-y white shirt for her Hallowe’en costume, and didn’t find quite what she was looking for in the house. However, her search inspired me (a few days after Hallowe’en) to pull out an old shirt my husband had retired as the sleeves weren’t really long enough. It was a bit of a romantic style, purchased from one of those booths that sells Central American hand-crafts at various festivals many years ago, with a bit of embroidery and a lace-up neck opening, but a standard round shirt collar and shirt cuffs. Since it became too small for my husband, it’s been kicking around in the “not in use but too cool to throw out” pile. (This pile is Too Big. But that’s another issue for another day.)

I cut off the sleeves just below the elbow. In hindsight maybe I should have cut them not quite so short, but I was thinking of Tyo and she finds it annoying when puffy sleeves flop down over the cuff, and her arms aren’t as long as mine. I hemmed the edges into a casing and added a narrow elastic for a blousy sleeve.

Also can I say I’m LOVING this outfit a lot more than I thought I would?

Then I cut a wide scoop neckline, starting just above the top of the neck lacing. I used one of the sleeve off-cuts to cut a series of on-grain strips, connected them together and pressed in the edges with a bias tape maker, and used that to bind the neckline. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the squishy, heavy-gauze type fabric curved around the neckline, even when cut on grain, but I should have stay-stitched or even slightly gathered the neckline first as the same squishiness of the fabric let it stretch out quite a bit under sewing, and the resulting neckline is a bit wide and deep for Tyo. It works ok on me, and hopefully will be ok for her—worst case I might unpick the back neck and add a pleat there or something.

Despite how long it took me to write all that, the entire mod was probably done in under an hour.

As I was musing over the shirt refashion, I still felt that I wanted a light/neutral coloured top with actual swishy sleeves, so I decided I needed another Adrienne Blouse. My previous versions are red and black, in heavy rayon knits. This one is a heathered oatmeal colour cotton knit, not nearly so drapey and a bit thinner, originally purchased from Blackbird Fabrics. I’m relieved to say the sleeves work just as well in this fabric, and the body still fits nicely (with just the right amount of ease). The elastic I used in the shoulders for this one is VERY firm, which makes the neck a little higher, and I wouldn’t mind if it were a smidge lower, but other than that I’d call it a pretty flawless make. There’s nothing like a TNT pattern when you just need a win. (Also, I’m going to be so sad when the big sleeve trend passes. I’ve always kinda liked puffed sleeves, and it is glorious to finally be able to revel in them without feeling slightly guilty that I’m too old or dignified for them.)

The only change I made with this version was to remove the extra sleeve length I had added. It’s not a huge difference in the look, and it saves a few inches of fabric. I’m excited to try it with some skirts and belts, but of course the twins goobered something dark right on the front about five minutes after I got home from it’s first wear, so my pictures are pretty limited.

So basically I just want to dig through my closet and play dress up figuring out all the possible outfit combos with these things… and I mean the twins would be all over the pulling out part, but they are still not too fond of the cleanup parts.

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Wee black bats

The twins came home from the NICU shortly before Hallowe’en two years ago. I was tickled by an impossible fantasy: tiny twin bat costumes. Well, those didn’t happen, and other costumes came our way last year but this year, the bats came home to roost.

It maybe starts with capes, though. The twins are getting to an age where they’re excited to dress up, but their motor skills are still about fifty-fifty whether they can put their own pants on. But capes—capes are easy to put on and off. (And also fairly simple to sew, which is bit an important feature in our current time-poor phase of life). Some of my older girls’ friends growing up had a dress up box filled with fancy capes their mom had made, a cape for every occasion.

So I’ve been thinking about capes off and on. And bats on and off. So maybe bat capes was inevitable.

First came the pattern. I wasn’t going to go out and buy one (although there are plenty available). A full-circle cape, while easy to draft, would be too fabric-hungry, especially if I’m making two. But I definitely still wanted a cloak feel, not a chincy superhero cape. Eventually I settled on a half-circle style, still plenty of swish but not quite as big of a fabric hog.

The clincher was the above diagram, which showed up in a Google image search from I don’t recall where. But it made it very clear how to adapt a half-circle cape from an existing shirt pattern. Which I already have, in a form complete with hood, in Jalie 3355, all traced out in the twins’ size (or at least size 2, which is close enough.)

The twins were, of course, terribly excited to help me out with the drafting.

So the only thing you really need from the original pattern is the neckline and the shoulder, which gives you the size of the dart to take to make the half-circle sit nicely on the shoulders. (I wouldn’t mind making a version that converts the dart into the top of a side seam, for more efficient fabric usage…)

And of course, the hood. I wanted to make sure, though, that the hood was nice and roomy. I’m a fan of a feature of the hood of McCall’s 6800, which is a dart that makes the oversized hood fit on the neckline. So I added about an inch of extra depth, to be taken out with a dart aligned with the shoulder seam, and then added about 1/4” of height as well, just in case, as the hood is designed for stretch fabrics.

My fabric of choice was a black polyester suiting, extremely drapey and exactly the kind of slithery, fraying, impossible-to-press fabric that I most loathe sewing with. But, it was in stash, and I was happy to have it not be in stash, and that was the main thing.

To bat-ify the cape, I made the hem reverse-scalloped, but the main thing is of course the ears.

I did a bit of googling of bat ears, and a bit more googling of methods for adding animal ears to hoods. I went with the “cut a slit in the top of the hood and sew the ears in, tapering to nothing” method. I free-handed a shape that seemed about right, directly on the fabric, and cut and sewed. Living dangerously, though honestly as long as they weren’t round I think they would be fine. They are a bit floppy due to the fabric; I thought about adding interfacing but since I wasn’t prepared to interface the whole hood I was pretty sure they’d fall down anyway. I think they’re still fun.

There is nothing much to say about the construction, other than the fabric was a bitch and every machine acted up on me.

The coverstitch (which NEVER gives me issues—nor should it at that price point) was gathering everything no matter how I played with the differential feed. My rolled hem on the serger worked fine in tests but on the actual cape managed to miss catching the cut edge and then form a giant tangle of thread around the prong that the fabric is supposed to roll around, and which actually bent the prong. So I may never do another rolled hem again. Then the regular machine had the inner end of the thread on my nearly-empty spool come loose and tangle with the outgoing end.

It turned out that literal gremlins, aka the the twins, had gotten at the differential feed of the coverstitch, and cranked it to max. However, since I NEVER touch it, I actually forgot where it is and I kept adjusting the presser foot pressure instead. Facepalm.

But, I got them done. River got her first training in pulling pins as I sewed and putting them in the pin cushion (this was ALMOST enthralling enough to keep her from pulling them right back out). The older girls provided childcare (husband is sick as a dog with the non-covid cold the rest of us are just getting over) enough for me to get them finished, despite the recalcitrant machines. And they are utterly, battily adorable, if I do say so myself.

My mother-in-law has suggested Red Riding Hood capes next, but really the sky’s the limit, right?

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Dark Academia

Is apparently a thing? And the older girls want to assemble outfits and take pictures. So they have been collecting, among other things, pleated plaid skirts, which are apparently having a Moment again.

So they thought the twins needed some too.

A few months ago Tyo picked up an old plaid flannel duvet cover at Value Village, purely for the fabric. While flannel isn’t exactly ideal for this kind of skirt, I wasn’t going to go stash-diving, or sacrifice anything precious, for this quick make. Also, the edge where the buttons had attached was already hemmed.

So, I measured roughly what seemed like a good skirt length for a two-year-old, plus a bit for folding over elastic, and tore off the long, hemmed edge. Oh, I removed the buttons, too, in case you were wondering. Once I had a long, hemmed rectangle, I cut it in half (because twins) and started pleating. In the end I didn’t have quite enough fabric for fully-pleated skirts, so they have a flat front reminiscent of a kilt, which I am ok with.

The wavy hem is not my fault!

Once I had lengths a bit bigger than the twins’ bottoms, I stitched them up into a tube, and added elastic at the waist, so they pull on just like pyjama bottoms.

Action shot. Also: first fashion dolls!

The only hitch was actually that time-saving pre-finished hem from the original duvet. Of course the fabric was cut, and then hemmed, off-grain, while I had torn the upper edge of the skirt so as to be perfectly on grain, so the hems didn’t line up perfectly when I sewed the skirts into tubes. To manage this I unpicked a few inches at each end and then “blended” (aka fudged) the two lengths together, and the jog isn’t overly noticeable. They definitely won’t take home any sewing awards, but they’re still pretty cute.

I will add, I finished these several weeks ago and am still waiting on the older girls to put together their photo shoot. So, you get messy living-room action shots.

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Simple white T-shirts

(I made these shirts, and wrote this post, months ago, but never hit publish because I wanted better photos. I should never do that; it never works out. So if the twins look vastly different in age between pictures, that’s why.)

There’s been a debate in the sewing community over the years on the value of making tee shirts, when they’re so readily and cheaply available. Obviously I’m on “team make it anyway, at least if it’s fun for you.” But I did question my sanity a bit on deciding to make these. Surely there are plain white toddler tee shirts to be had fairly easily for a couple of bucks? But in the end I’m glad I made them.

I’ve honestly been wanting to make the twins shirts like these since I finished their Christmas overalls. I held off because, well, see above about tee shirts, and when we switched over to the 18-month clothes the volume of hand-me-downs in their wardrobe doesn’t even fit in their dresser, plus their dad has made a bit of a hobby of scouring thrift shops for matching second-hand baby outfits—he enjoys the challenge. Frankly he’s a better baby stylist than me. But he has increased the number of overalls in their wardrobe substantially, and one thing you are NOT likely to find at the thrift store is multiple white unstained toddler shirts. So these were actually a practical addition.

Look how much more hair River has now than when I took the pics with the overalls!

For the pattern, I used Jalie 2805, which I had traced the smallest size way back when I made the white sweatshirts. The Jalie size F (=2T, I’m told) is still pretty roomy on the twins, but this is also a pretty fitted style. I figured I’d start with the short sleeve because a) summer, and b) no worries about excess length.

And I already have the fabrics and the patterns, so might as well, right?

And the shirts are a little bit big, but that also means they’ll fit for a comfortable length of time.

The fabric is a beefy cotton interlock I bought at some point when thinking I would make tee shirts for my husband. It turns out he’s ridiculously fussy about tees, both fit and feel, and while I won’t swear that I’ll never try again (because finding him a tee he’ll wear at a store is also pretty hit or miss) it won’t be with this fabric, which apparently doesn’t “feel right.” I was actually looking for a cotton Lycra for the twins but this seemed pretty good for a start so I ended my stash search.

Other than that there’s not much to say. The construction is simple. I will brag a little as I think I’m finally making some progress with the precision of my topstitching on the coverstitch (although the hems aren’t quite as tidy.) The heavier fabric is a little puffy, but I also could probably have pressed better. Making a garment entirely on the serger and coverstitch still feels a bit like cheating, though.

Oh and they probably wouldn’t even be finished if I hadn’t needed to change the thread on the coverstitch to make Syo’s grad gown…. (But that’s another story for another day!)

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The Sundress that Missed Summer

So I blinked and my summer disappeared, how about yours? We got ourselves caught up in some renovation that spiraled far out of control and I’m still reeling from it. Not to mention two year old twins are a HANDFUL. anyway, when I started this sundress there was still a comfortable amount of summer left ahead—now it’s finally finished, it’s Labour Day. I don’t know why the stupid thing about not wearing white after labour day is the one fashion rule I feel anxious about breaking but, well, there it is. Anyway.

The dress is loosely based on a tutorial By Hand London posted in their Instagram stories, I thought last spring but apparently a year ago in the spring? Anyway it’s a simple shirred sundress with rectangular puffy sleeves added, so to what extent a tutorial is really necessary I’ll leave up to you.

The real experiment for this dress, though, was using my coverstitch machine to do the shirring. No hand-winding the elastic into bobbins that always run out at the worst moment! This experiment was inspired by me noticing that the twins’ shirred storebought dresses are, in fact, stitched with a chain stitch. Which my coverstitch can, of course, do.

I tested it out, and it worked fabulously (or potentially fabulously, see below). I will be doing my shirring on the coverstitch from now on!

However, the villain of this particular make (aside from my house for forcing me to spend the summer renovating instead of sewing) was actually my elastic thread. I had a whole spool of the cheap stuff (I do know better, but it wound up in my stash somehow, and if I waited until I made it to a fabric store to buy actual good elastic thread, the whole thing would’ve been left ANOTHER year. .) And it was not evident at the start, but at some point this spool got water-damaged, and as the project proceeded the thread became more and more grody and decayed—and stuck to itself more and more, which caused endless problems with the shirring. So there’s a non-zero chance that after the first washing I’ll have to unpick and redo that entire step, which I won’t lie, is kind of horrifying. So we’re just not going to think about it right now.

The fabric was purchased from Fabricland in my last year or so of working there, which makes it five or six years old? Yikes! I’m always a sucker for border embroideries and this one is near the nicest I’ve seen, although the stitching quality isn’t the best. I wanted to use all of the three or so mètres I had, so I decided to add a gathered seam above the top of the embroidery, so I could have a little less fabric bulk in the upper portion.

It did require lining, though. One of the biggest delays in starting the dress was in finding the time to locate an appropriate lightweight cotton in stash. However, eventually I did… my stash organization is pretty rudimentary, which given my stash SIZE is not ideal.

I stitched the cotton voile lining to the outer fabric along the top and then flipped them so that edge was pre-finished, then shirred away through both layers. I was a bit nervous about the two layers feeding evenly and not getting distorted, but if there was any shifting the gathering hides it well. I sewed the back seam after. I cut the lining short so it doesn’t show through the cut-out lacework, however. Other than the piece of lining I cut off, though, this is a zero-waste dress—the sleeves dimensions were determined by what I had left over from the bodice.

Because of my issues with the thread, I stopped my bodice shirring higher than I had meant to, but I actually think I really like where it lands. When and if I get more (better) thread, I might add a few more rows, but not many.

I did need to tweak the attachment of the sleeves a bit, in the hopes of keeping them on my shoulders a bit better (it helped but they do still tend to fall down—a ribbon tie across the back may be needed). I also ran a line of 1/4” elastic around the top to try to help keep things up better, especially when the sleeves fall of my shoulders, but there still isn’t a huge difference between my high bust and full bust so this kind of support doesn’t work well for me.

The only thing missing, I fear, is pockets. Side seam weren’t an option (since there are no side seams) and patch just didn’t seem right. Also there’s that gathered seam right over prime pocket territory. I don’t know if it’ll be too much of an issue as I think this is going to have to be more of a special occasion dress anyway.

Assuming I can get out the weird pink stain one of the twins left on it already…

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Camouflage pinafores

There’s a pattern by Helen’s Closet for a simple, pull-over adult pinafore, called the York Pinafore. I made one a few years ago, here. Well, a few weeks ago I got it into my head that matching mini Yorks for the twins would be adorable.

Can you spot the pocket?

I had actually started taking some measurements and drafting a pattern when I realized that I already had one—the stretchy overalls I made the twins over the winter are actually the exact same shape, minus the legs.

So I grabbed a kangaroo pocket in the twins size from Jalie 3355, and a yard of camo-print corduroy that I wasn’t sad to see go from the stash, and made them.

This was a simple project that would’ve been quick under any normal circumstances, but I can rarely “sew” for more than ten minutes at a stretch these days (Though the twins are very interested and excited to help me sort through everything, especially if it involves pins or pulling thread off of spools.)

For the bias tape finish I used some red quilting cotton tape I had made at some point for… something? Anyway it was in stash and ready to go. My application wasn’t particularly perfect, but I’m not going to fuss too badly about it. I do like the pop of colour.

My least favourite part is the hem; I did a quick blind hem on my machine, but in the black thread it’s not the least bit blind. I should’ve used a tan thread and just coloured the bits that showed with a sharpie. Or just topstitched the hem like the bias tape, which would’ve been easier. But I don’t think it will bother me enough to change—sewing time is too precious and summer is too fleeting.

Despite the cuteness these are a bit heavy for the weather we’re having, which has most days reaching higher than 30C, so I’ll just have to hope they still fit come fall…

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