Category Archives: Sewing

A shrunken little cardigan

One of my favourite things in the (wardrobe) world is a teensy little cardigan. I have one favourite and several less favourites that I wear almost daily over my less-seasonally-appropriate dresses. They’ve even ousted the vintage shrugs for my favourite little topper, if only because I find the lower neckline more versatile. (And they keep your core a little warmer.)

And they’re all store-bought. I’ve been collecting odds and ends of sweater knits for several years, at this point, meaning to make my own, but I hadn’t quite taken the plunge, for whatever reason. 

Well, now I have. 

I used my handy-dandy knit sloper pattern. While I think this was a wise choice, it is intended for fairly fitted, stretchy things and while I do like my little cardigans little, I think a wee bit more “fitting over other clothes” ease might be in order. This is a fairly firm “quilted” knit, but I was assuming the ribbing would be a little wimpy, when in fact it is an extremely beefy ribknit. 

I cut my pattern at the “waist” line (which is a little high). I planned the V neck to end where my rather deep scoop normally does, but due to the snugness I don’t think I’ll bother adding snaps all the way up. 

The fabric is a quilted knit from a couple of winters ago, the same as I used for this white sweater. (In a bit of a wearability report, The fabric pilled almost instantly but didn’t get noticeably worse after that, and it has been the best snuggly thing to wear under my winter coat for two winters now, until the bottom portion of the two-way zippercame off a few weeks ago leaving me crushed and bereaved.)

I reinforced the bottom of the bottom band with clear elastic, which as it turns out was a bit of overkill. Noted. I also used knit interfacing on the portions of the front bands meant to be part of the closure, but that wasn’t terribly effective at least on the bottom band. 

I actually think I like it best open.  You can see the marking where I meant to add another snap, but my snap hardware supply is a little more depleted than I realized, and I had enough caps but not all the other bits. 

I promptly misplaced this after I finished it, and then got sick, so it hasn’t been worn in the field yet, and I don’t think the grey will be quite as versatile as black but, on the other hand, you know how much grey I’ve been sewing lately. 😉 

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Can’t leave the linen (look)

2017-04-02 18.17.25The day I finished the linen(ish) jersey Vogue 1312, a minor miracle happened: my husband and the kids all went to dinner at my brother-in-law’s, and left me home alone.*

MORE SEWING TIME!

Since I was still feeling the love for the linen-flavoured knits (and was about to surrender my new dress to hanging in the shop for a month), I pulled out a bargain centre end piece, maybe 1.5m, of a mystery knit that looks very similar to my lightly-linen knit—though I think it’s mainly, and perhaps entirely, rayon. Also quite raggedy around the selvedges.

2017-04-02 18.18.16Wanting a more typical riff on the handkerchief hem, I grabbed my knit sloper and modified to make it more of a dress length and flaring to a handkerchief hem, kinda like this:

Swing dress schematicThough I think my width was wider (basically the full width of the fabric, less whatever I lost trimming down the tattered selvedge.) I did this with Oona-esque abandon, drafting it right out on the fabric. It’s not particularly even and I’m not particularly fussed. I was pleasantly surprised to find it’s dress-length, as I wasn’t really expecting more than a tunic. Not complaining.

2017-04-02 18.17.58Once that was cut, I didn’t have enough fabric left for full-length sleeves, so, 3/4 sleeves. Ah, well.

2017-04-02 18.17.41

That was some way-too-instant gratification. Also I feel like I could way overdo the handkerchief hems. Just sayin’.

*Let me insert a bit of clarification, here. I love people. I love MY people. But at my core, I’m an introvert. And these days, except for the few minutes in my car to and from work, I’m almost never, ever alone. So when I do get a few hours to myself, it’s like plunging into ice water, like suddenly being able to breathe, like waking up after a long, refreshing sleep. It’s very hard for my extrovert husband to understand, though I know he tries. 

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Linen shift for the 21st Century

Because I’m a sucker, I signed up for two versions of Vogue 1312 for this work project. For the second one, I impulsively pounced on this marled jersey with a hint (15%, actually) of linen. The rest polyester. I’m more forgiving of polyester in knits than most other situations but it does annoy me when they add a “good” fibre (usually linen or wool) in such a small quantity that they’re basically just going for the name on the label. To be fair, you can feel the linen in this—it makes it slightly scratchy. Also there’s no spandex. Knits without spandex almost always make me nervous. 

I was a bit leery of using a pattern for a woven in a jersey, too, but considering how snug the grey version was (and how high the armscye) I went for it. I did make one initial alteration—I lengthened the long sleeve pattern piece by about 10″, so that I could add clear elastic to the seam and scrunch them up. I am very content with how this turned out. 

I knew given the thinness of the jersey that I wanted to self-line the bodice. To give the neck a clean finish I sewed up the shoulders and then sewed the necklines together in a circle, stabilizing with 1/4″ clear elastic. I love 1/4″ clear elastic. I flipped the pieces so the wrong sides are together and the stitching and elastic was hidden between the two layers, then I basted the edges so the two layers would stay together and constructed the rest like a regular unlined T-shirt. There was a bit more ease in the sleeve cap than I like in a knit, but not much, and I did get them in without much difficulty, so I can’t really complain. Once I had the bodice put together I did take in the side seams and upper parts of the sleeve about 1.5cm on each seam, to snug it up a bit in my no-spandex poor recovery fabric. 

I did a lot more basting on the jersey version, to get the skirt on nicely as well as control the double-layered bodice, and it worked well for the most part.

 My corners on the skirt aren’t good, but I wasn’t sufficiently fussed to unpick. On the soft jersey skirt I like them better poked to the inside out of sight anyway. The only thing I’m second guessing at this point is not lining the upper portion of the skirt. I didn’t want the weight, but it’s kinda sheer, so I will need to wear a slip with the dress. Not the end of the world, but one of the things I was hoping to avoid with the self-lined bodice. 

I stabilized the waistline with clear elastic. I was initially worried this pulled it in too much and would create a bloused effect, but once the full weight of the skirt was in place it seems to be ok. 

I debated on the hem quite a bit, as I liked the softness of the raw edge, but this fabric has a strong tendency to curl, which I knew would drive me nuts in short order. A rolled hem was equally flippy, so I eventually settled on a steam-a-seam-enhanced turned and twin-needled hem. It doesn’t add much bulk or stiffness and hopefully won’t flip up too much. Youch  that was a lot of steam-a-seam though!

Sadly, there are no pockets in the jersey version. Right choice? I’m not sure. 

We’ve been watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix and this is reminding me, in a completely-not-historically-accurate way, of mediaeval shifts and linen undergowns. And it seems to demand silly ballet poses, as well. I was completely at a loss as to the right shoes, hence the sock feet. 

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Yet another grey dress

I’ve been on a grey kick for a while now. And I’ve already got two pale grey woven dresses made in the last year. So I tried really hard to resist this pale grey shirting/chambray stuff that came into the store. Also it’s a cotton-poly blend, so not nearly as exciting as, say, linen. 

And then I happened to be flipping through the book and stumbled on Vogue 1312. Very unlike either of my previous light grey dresses. Sold!

I made a refreshing number of zero changes to the pattern (!)—straighy size 10. Which is technically down a size. It’s a bit snug—would’ve been perfect if my fabric had more give, unwearable if it had less. 

Those are some amazingly high armholes, by the way! Great for me, but if you have large arms beware. (Dude, this is not a new pattern, I’m sure there are a million other reviews out there with the same info.)

This is, by the way, the same kind of skirt as Shams’ Tablecloth Skirt tutorial from way back in the mists of 2011. Not sure if the Vogue pattern precedes Shams’ tutorial or not. Edit: Pattern is copyright 2012, so after, but I bet they were working on it already. The skirt is totally simple to draft your own. That being said there’s a subtle up-and-down to the bodice’s raised waist that really adds to the look, so I wouldn’t say the pattern’s a waste either. 

There is no back zipper, which makes neat-finishing the self-lined bodice a little trickier. 

I didn’t do the tidiest job ever on my points, but I’m not sweating it too much. 

I added pockets to the side seams just below the zipper. So happy. I am trying harder to remember to do this, as I’m just so much happier when I have a pocket to stuff my keys in at work. 

The best part about that up-down hem? It’s a perfectly straight line to hem, and you don’t have to correct for the skirt dropping on the bias because it’s supposed to be up-and-down!

My biggest dumb moment was deciding to put the side zip in upside down, so I wouldn’t have an annoying tab in my armpit all day. Well, the annoying tab is now annoyingly visible down on my hip. So, not a win, really, especially since the zipper is considerably darker grey than the fabric. A white zipper might’ve been better. Also it was a brat to set in—I should’ve used a lot more stabilizer. Someday I’ll learn. I keep saying that. 

All in all pretty happy. What a fun shape, and it feels springy without being something I’ll have to wait months to wear (unlike these red heeled sandals I just found at Value Village.) And I had barely used up half my project budget on this dress, so I added a second on the way in a marled linen-blend jersey (left in the first pic)—I’ve been warned the skirt gets quite heavy in jersey, but it’s lightweight so we’ll see how that goes. 

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An accidental wedding dress. 

For some reason I got excited and took all these photos before hemming the under-layer of the skirt. WTF, Tanit?


Self delusion is painfully real, and even the best fall prey to it. I do it all the time, so you’ve probably heard this story here before. 

A fabric came in at work. Specifically, a beaded bridal lace. Look, I dunno what fancy bridal fabrics YOUR Fabricland gets, but mine is not the fancy store. We don’t see this stuff often. 

But I don’t need to be making a wedding dress. I have neither time nor desire. Nor a use, so we’re very clear. Hubs and I are perilously close to 18 years shacked up, I am not setting that count back to zero, thank you. Why would I even consider making such a thing?

On the other hand, I could make it as an Easter dress. Because that’s totally a thing I need. We haven’t even done a turkey at Easter in years. 

So yeah, I made an Easter dress. That just looks suspiciously like a wedding dress. Erm. 

Ok, it’s totally a wedding dress. Sue me. 

A short, cute, fluffy wedding dress. 

The pattern is Gertie’s new one, Butterick B6453. I was initially far more interested in the narrow-skirt version, which is much more my usual speed. A few of you long time readers may recall my long-ago Project Dropwaist posts, where I obsessed over my dislike (on my own particular body) of gathered skirts that hit at the waist. I very successfully adapted a number of those patterns, including Sewaholic’s Cambie, to a drop waist, and I’ve worn the snot out of all those dresses. 

I could have done that this time, as well, but I was doing this as a shop project and sometimes I don’t feel like spending the whole display month telling disappointed customers that actually this major design feature is quite different on the source pattern. Dropping the waist isn’t an easy hack like changing a neckline. In hindsight I suppose I could’ve used the top couple of inches of the fitted skirt version, but I’ve only just thought of that idea now. And hey, that’s a really great idea, now I totally want to try it!

Um. 

So basically this dress is way outside my comfort zone. Much too fancy for daily wear (seriously, those lovely beads snag on everything!) not to mention being unforgivably bridal. And in a style I’m not comfy with? WTF, Tanit. 

What can I say—sometimes we want to run with an idea. 😂

Anyway, let’s get a bit technical. I made minimal versions of my usual bodice alterations—shortening and swayback—and am quite satisfied. The nice thing about that pesky waist seam is that I could do the swayback alteration AFTER trying it on and determining that yes, my back waist/hips are actually up that high. 

While playing around with laying out the motifs, I decided to sew the rear darts only in the taffeta under layer, rather than mess around trying to incorporate them into the lace without destroying the motif. This seems to have worked just fine, thanks. 

Should’ve added underlining to the underlining.


I really wanted to use the scalloped edge of the lace along the upper front of the bodice. While keeping the curved neckline of the underlay free. But still having the lace sewn into all the other seams. This wound up working out beautifully, but I had some head-scratching moments on the way. Since I was using white, I fully lined the bodice rather than using the facings (and frankly I think I’ll generally do that) but I should’ve used a double layer of taffeta under the lace as my seam allowances still show through. You’d think I would know better by now…

Because I had decided to use this pearl and rhinestone trim (but I wasn’t making a wedding dress?!? WTF, Tanit), I had to widen the straps, which are super-narrow as they come with the pattern. I would like to try it again with the original straps. I did keep the adjustable feature, though. I know some people have poo-poo’d this as unnecessary on a custom dress but those people are obviously better seamstresses than I. I NEVER get the strap length right. And I hate going back and fixing it after. Speaking of Project Drop Waist, I’ve been wearing my Minnie Mouse dress  for YEARS with straps that are just slightly too long. 

On a side note, this pattern is a total fabric hog, BUT, if you have a double-edged border, as I did on the lace, or are willing to compromise the skirt fullness slightly (as I had to do with the taffeta underlayer, since apparently no one at my store remembered to order more of the white bridal taffeta) it becomes much more manageable. 

But the single best feature? 

POCKETS! Giant, iPhone-holding, glorious pockets! I want to make a copy of this pattern piece to use instead of all the other weenie pocket patterns I ever encounter. I spent almost as much time 

Ok, so after all that, I don’t hate the dress on me as much as I feared I might. Straight on isn’t a good view, but there are other angles that are better. My photos here are terrible, but will have to do until the dress is done display and the weather improves. (Note: its gorgeous here right now. By which I mean windy as hell but well above freezing. Like, double digits C yesterday, which is so amazing and glorious I can’t even describe it. And eastern Canada’s had a pounding this week so I am suffering weather guilt.)

So I don’t think I’ll be mainlining dirndl skirts quite yet, but I did enjoy this project, and I’m curious what I will think if I can manage to get some proper photos. Part of my shift in attitude is a shift in my own body, which is rather more hour-glassy here in the latter half of my 30s than it was in my formative years. But still short-waisted. That part actually gets worse as I put weight on my hips. Anyway, it was a fun exercise. And I am now accepting ideas for what to do with a completely superfluous wedding dress. 

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The fire is so delightful

So WAAAY back in January, I wanted to do a long cozy sweater for a work project for Valentine’s Day. McCall’s M7476, in specific. 

“Sounds great!” said my boss. “Are you going to make it red or pink?”

Um. 

“Put a heart on it?” 

Er, no…

Grum. So I floundered for a couple of days. You could wear the sweater over your sexy lingerie. I didn’t really feel like doing full-on lingerie. Over a crop top and leggings out of something red? Doable but a little boring. 

How about over a slinky velvet dress for an at-home date night involving champagne, a roaring fire, and possibly a bearskin rug? Ooo yes! (Hey, if I’m imagining the champagne and fireplace, why not the bearskin too?)

This was SUPPOSED to be a super quick and simple project I could throw together in a day or two around all the other commitments I have going on right now. Cry. It wound up being less simple. 

First, I spread out my chosen fabric and realized that the subtle marled cotton sweaterknit I’d fallen for was in fact a subtle stripe. (Also, that gorgeously matched pocket up above? That’s the one I sewed on upside down. )

The I spent a lot of time stabilizing things I probably didn’t need to (like the dropped shoulders) and the upper collar, and not stabilizing things I should’ve, like the undercollar. Not quite sure what I was thinking. 

The Nettie dress underneath was supposed to be simple and quick as well, just blinged up with the shiny chain, but then I had the idea to make a deep scoop in back. 

And then that was sort of loose and flaccid, so I wound up adding little jump rings to hold the lacing. Which works and looks cool but kinda distracts from what I was going for. 

Anyway, there’s not a lot more to say. Both of these were simple projects (relatively) with minimal fitting. All I did to the sweater was add sleeve length; for the Nettie I find I have to take about 1/4″ off the height of the shoulders. If I did the sweater again I would blend out a size larger in the hips, but it actually looks better in the photos than I had thought. 

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The (elusive) Perfect Tee Shirt

My husband has always liked a bit of that James Dean look, and key to it is that perfect white tee shirt. Which isn’t always easy to find. But his last few purchases have been largely disappointing (Hanes used to be a staple brand, but the last several… ugh. I didn’t know 100% cotton could feel that yugly.)

Anyway, while I won’t presume to have done better, I did want to throw my hat in the ring. I had attempted a tee for him before from the Thread Theory Strathcona, but it didn’t fare well—the fabric was wrong, the fit not right, and my attempts to hack a V neck version were either too high or too low. I even ordered some expensive cotton interlock from them to try again with a more “typical” fabric, but was too chicken to cut into $18/m fabric without a more successful trial. 

Last Christmas, a friend had great success making tees for her various male family members with Jalie 2918, so I thought I’d give that one a shot. And then, like mana from heaven, my Fabricland got in a shipment that, for the first time since I’ve worked there, included actual white interlock. For $14/m, but half-price sales are a dime a dozen at Fabricland. And then I was able to snaffle up a grubby remnant—just barely enough to squeeze out a trial version. Perfect. 

Anyway, I mainly just want to note down the fitting changes I made, for next time. If there is a next time. 

(for the sake of both Jalie and Thread Theory’s good names, I feel compelled to mention that these changes have more to do with my husband’s personal fit preferences, as well as an unusual body type, than with the patterns themselves.)

I cut the size Y, for a 40″ chest. The shoulders are good but the rest was a bit loose. 

Before anything else, I took a 1/2″ tuck through the shoulders (what I call a petite alteration when I do it for myself.) My husband, like me, has a lot of leg and a short torso for a man of his height. 

I have also noticed, in altering some storebought tees for him this past year, that he likes a much higher armscye and tighter sleeve than is typical (actually, pretty much like the black shirt on the right of the pattern photo looks). So I raised the underarm a good inch as well, and took a vertical tuck to remove 1″ from the sleeve width. 

The V-neck went in very nicely with the provided band piece, and that, at least, got husbandly approval without alteration (and given how fussy he is about necklines I’ll take it.)

I took in the sleeves a full 3 cm off the underarm seam (so 6 cm per sleeve, in addition to my first tuck) before the fit in the sleeve was “right”; I only took 1.5 cm off the side seam, so 3 cm per seam, 6 cm around the body of the tee. So I could perhaps go down to a 38″ chest pattern. 

And that’s the story for the moment. The tee is finished and in the drawer, and at least he seems to like the fabric this time. I’m going to see how he likes wearing it (and if he wears it 😉 ) before I try another one, though. 

(Did I mention that, other than the tracing, which I did back before Christmas, this took less than an hour? And that included fitting. I could knock these out SO fast if we could nail the fit…)

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