Do you have a type of garment that you’ve made consistently throughout your sewing life?

Aprons are one of those things that I’ve made throughout my sewing experience.  I use them everyday for all of my artsy messes and for my cooking which are two other things I’ve always done too.  My earliest memories are of me in the kitchen with my Gram or my Mom making something.  On the mess front, I had an art table that was encrusted with every possible known crafty substance when I was little.  Glitter, glue, crayons, paint–you name it, it was there.  Were it not for my collection of aprons, I certainly would have destroyed a lot more of my own clothes in pursuit of my hobbies.  In honor of The Monthly Stitch’s Amazing Aprons challenge this month, I wanted to look back at some of the aprons I’ve made over my sewing life.

Kitchen themed navy and red apron

This one I hand stitched because that’s pretty much how I did everything as a kid.  The fabric came from the basement of the coolest fabric store in Omaha when I was little.  My Mom is not a seamstress, but she always has done upholstery.  Sometimes go to that store in The Old Market when she was redoing chairs or looking for lace. I remember the old wood floors and open brickwork of this old building and the very bleak basement.  Against this backdrop were beautiful fabrics.  This print caught my eye and I convinced Mom that I needed it for an apron.  I traced one of her aprons and added red ribbon for straps.  I was somewhere between 8-10.

Gingham sunflower apron with embroidery

This one came a little later.  I sewed it with my first sewing machine, so that would make it from my junior high years.  That machine was one I never really learned how to use properly.  The tension was always off, and it frustrated me to no end.  I shelved it for years, frustrated with it’s efforts and knowing that I could sew just as well by hand with less frustration.  The embroidery I added by printing out a template in a font I liked.  I never wanted anyone to call me “Lizzi,” I just liked how symmetrical it looked…more so than Elizabeth anyhow.  This is my blockprinting/messy stuff in the garage apron.

Refashioned curtain

When I got my Janome when I was first married, this was one of my first projects.  It’s far too long, and the bias trimmed pockets were not well-managed, but I still like this apron.  I took off the curtain rings and added a waistband.  Sometimes I wrap a loaf of bread in this apron.

Bias tape trimmed vintage apron

This was one of the first drafting projects that I did as a beginner.  I bought a collection of vintage patterns from an Etsy seller.  You had to enlarge the patterns yourself using a grid by hand.  I loved this sort of thing as a kid, so it wasn’t too much of a to do.  I finished this particular apron the night before one of our first Christmas Cookie Extravaganza parties.

Toddler Smock Aprons

Since I’ve always been a cook, it was natural that I wanted my own kids to be in the kitchen with me.  I love this funky canvas from Superbuzzy, and it made great little smocks.  The Jack and the Beanstalk is my favorite.  You can see my love of decorative topstitching before I had any skill at doing it!  The boys have actually never loved wearing these.  The wrap-around style (from Amy Karol’s Bend the Rules Sewing) while super practical has never been comfortable for them.  I don’t care.  I will save these for my future grandchildren!

There’s many more aprons I’ve made, and this week I made 5 in one day.  As I went about sewing those ones up, it was interesting to go back and see my own sewing progress in this one particular genre of garment.  Tomorrow, for Mother’s Day, I’ll be writing up my next batch of aprons with my crew!


If you hadn’t heard, I placed 2nd in the Wardrobe Sudoku contest.  This makes for my first Patternreview voted win, so I’m proud for that!  I’m going to use my Sawyer Brook gift card towards some tailoring supplies I’ll need for a very special project for my husband later this year.  A big big thank you to all who voted for me!

dress like your grandma

Dress Like Your Grandma

The phenomenally talented Tanya of Mrs. Hughes has been in the process of hosting the Dress Like Your Grandma Challenge.  Tanya writes,

“This is a vintage sewing challenge where family history can inspire your wardrobe.  Take a photo of your grandma (or your grandpa, great-grandma, mom, aunt, someone else’s grandma —  you get the idea!) and re-create an outfit or piece that they are wearing.  Many of us don’t have vintage garments to remember our loved ones by or perhaps we can’t fit into what they left behind.  Re-create that image with vintage patterns, reproduction patterns or modern patterns.  If your style is different from a family member’s or you want to evoke a different era, find a vintage photo with a garment that suits you and re-create that.  The idea is to study a vintage photograph (1980’s or earlier) and transform that photo into a garment or outfit that you’ve sewn yourself.”

For me, as I’m sure for everyone else, it was good to talk to my family members and just to plain remember a special lady.  One of my aunts sent me a string of great pictures, and I found my Czech Great-Grandma’s wedding picture.  That look, straight out of 1930 I couldn’t do justice to in the time I had available to me.  Another time!

dress like your grandma

Do you read Faye’s Sewing Adventure?  Of course you do.  If you do it’s because like me, you are constantly wondering what this prolific blogger is up to.  Even if she’s just writing a line or two, Faye always manages to ask engaging questions, and she generously responds.  When she announced her Tops that Pop sew along, I had to join in.  Many of my tees are getting ratty, and though my time is feeling a bit limited right now, you can almost always sew up a top in a few spare minutes here and there.

I may or may not get to making another top before the April 30th deadline.  Even if I don’t, I’m glad I forced myself to fix this tee that I really do love.

Tops that Pop

I completely cheated.

I admit that my first top here I cheated quite a lot in that it’s a top I just altered to fit me.  It’s a sewing machine print kimono sleeve tee from an Etsy seller.

To my credit I asked her if she had the fabric for sale, but I guess somehow she had it made specifically for the tees.  It turns out, that she now offers the fabric on Spoonflower (she didn’t at the time, though at Spoonflower prices, you might as well just buy the ready-made shirt).  I forgot about it, and my husband bought it for my birthday last year.  The fit was quite generous, but at the time, I had just had my daughter.  I found it in the laundry last week and decided it was time to get it to fit me properly.

Quick fix

20 minutes with a marker, my French curve and some pins got me an approximate fit which I refined with a row of stitching.  I serged off the excess seam allowance when I was happy with the fit and buried my thread tails at the hem.  In total, I took out more than 6″ from the waist.  Although it’s a basic, quick fix, I’m glad to have this as a tee I’ll actually wear, and boy, does this fabric pop for sure!

You have until April 30th to sew up any type top you’d like and email Faye a picture.  The details are in the links above.  Sew something fun!

Tops that Pop


Whew, these last 2 months have been a haul!  I didn’t expect or plan at first to enter this contest.  10 garments seems like a really big commitment, but in the end, the projects that I’ve been working on kept fitting in the same color scheme.  Aside from writing and picture taking, the pace of this contest hasn’t felt too overwhelming.  Unifying a capsule wardrobe by color is a good strategy, and it worked out well for me here.  First, here’s my grid for Wardrobe Sudoku 2017:


Wardrobe Sudoku is really an exercise in combinatorics. My PhD in Physics/Programmer/Math Man husband informs me that there’s 256 different ways to pull a set of 4 out of a grid of 16.  He wrote out a simple formula in Excel, and indeed, there’s 256 combinations.  No doubt some of these will work better than others, and you may not get as many real combinations if your items clash somehow.

Klarisbet got me thinking about “advanced” Sudoku, and I think it’d be a fun thing to explore.  I came up with nearly 60 different possibilities on paper before we turned to Excel to generate the rest of the combos.  I photographed 30 combinations.

Across combinations:

wardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudoku

Down combinations:

wardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudoku

Diagonals and corners:

wardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudoku

Quad combinations:

wardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudoku

Split quad combinations:

wardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudoku

Monkey business combinations: because at some point, it’s all bananas

wardrobe sudokuwardrobe sudoku


In case you missed them, here are all of the items that make up my grid:


  1. Burdastyle 2-2013-109 striped asymmetric top
  2. Hummingbird tee (Burdastyle 2-2011-106)
  3. Ottobre 5-2007-15 cotton lawn tunic with pleated trim
  4. Lace bodysuit from Jalie’s Bella


  1. Nanette Lepore Giraffe Sateen Ottobre 5-2014-19 skinny jeans
  2. Burdastyle 1-2008-111 denim skirt
  3. Burdastyle 8-2017-105 asymmetric skirt
  4. Pale blue Designer Stitch Alyse pants


  1. Burdastyle 12-2009-111 blue twill motorcycle jacket
  2. Itch to Stitch Lisbon Cardigan with fringe trim
  3. Reverse Applique Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan
  4. Burda 7018 sea glass denim jacket


  1. Bleached Canvas Dritz Espadrilles

  2. Bare Traps Adalia boots in cognac

  3. Toffee wedges

  4. Nine west cream flats

Is anyone up for a Wardrobe Sudoku wearing challenge?  I’m thinking about doing something with this for Me Made May.


sea glass denim jacket

I’m pretty sure this Sea Glass Denim jacket was the whole reason I decided to attempt Wardrobe Sudoku at all this year.  This is a project I’ve wanted to make for 3 years now.  I could blame my procrastination on pregnancy or the time it took to find the right fabric, but anyhow, the time for this project was now.

Sea Glass Denim Jacket

Burda 7018

Almost exactly 3 years ago, I bought Janet Pray’s Sew Better Sew Faster class on Craftsy.  The pattern that comes with the class is a denim style jacket, but I knew it was not going to work for me.  The finished bust even on the XXS is 39 1/8″ and the finished sleeve 30 7/8″.  I don’t know precisely what my inseam is, but it’s not that far off from that sleeve measurement!  While I could have gone through multiple rounds of fitting and pattern alteration, there’s comes a time when it’s just more efficient to start with a pattern that’s graded closer to your measurements.

Burda 7018 is a good match.  It has all of the detailing of a classic denim jacket, and it is sized 32-44.  I typically always down grade to a 32 in my shoulders and neck, so the fact that the 32 was printed on the tissue was a huge draw for me.  Grading is something that I’ve gotten more efficient at over time, but being able to save that step was so nice.


Burda’s sizing is really consistent, so I knew there wouldn’t be much for me to do in the way of fitting.  The jacket on the model is very slightly cropped, so on me, it’s just right!  Sleeves were the only thing I really needed to change.

I also shortened the sleeves by 2″.  It should be noted that what looks like sleeve cuffs are actually sleeve bands–that is sleeve facings that you turn to the right side and topstitch down.  I didn’t understand this when I make my initial muslin, so my 2″ off the sleeve was just a little too much shortening.  I borrowed from the seam allowance of the sleeve hem bands, reducing it to 1/4″ vs. the 5/8″ allowed in the pattern.  To keep the sleeve band the same width, I had to press under the edge that would be topstitched down by 3/8″ extra.  This new length is perfect for me.

The pocket that wasn’t.

sea glass denim jacket

I thought briefly about adding a faux pocket under the flaps.    I saw both faux and real pockets on several RTW jackets and thought it would be a nice touch.  Here’s a template I drafted and chalked around.  In the end, the topstitching just didn’t look right.  On this pattern, I would have loved to have added functional pockets, but there’s just not a lot of space to do so.  A longer jacket would’ve opened up more pocket possibilities.

Mockup of a faux pocket for topstitching. #denimjacket #isew #sewcialists #handmadewardrobe #imakemyownclothes

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sea glass denim jacket

If you’ve made jeans, you know that topstitching is a both a big feature and a big time suck.  I actually don’t mind the time suck factor of topstitching.  By far, it’s my favorite sewing task.

foot tray

I’ve written before a few tips for using a tray to organize all your feet and also topstitching with non-topstitching thread.  For this project, I used a #16 denim needle for construction and a #16 single topstitching needle for all of the topstitching. The topstitching thread is ivory Coats and Clark heavy thread.  It very well may be that you could do all of your topstitching with a denim needle, but I’ve found that my machine makes nicer topstitching with a dedicated topstitching needle.  That’s one of those things that’s good to test out on scraps.

Construction helps

Finishing seam allowances first

The instructions would have you sew each seam then finish the seam allowances together. With my heavy denim, this would have been too bulky. I had better success serging around the edge of each pattern piece (except the edges that would be enclosed like the collar and flap pieces) before sewing things together. My serger just had a better time with the one layer of denim vs. two.

Tie interfacing vs. “easing” sleeve caps

I also differed from the instructions in the sleeve. Instead of using rows of basting to “ease” the sleeve (not an option in my heavy denim), I used bias strips of tie interfacing. I learned this from Peggy Sagers and it really does make the prettiest sleeve cap that goes in perfectly the first time really without using any pins.  Make better jackets!

sea glass denim jacket

Nice stitches with heavy fabric

I did this for my Shelby Nallo jacket, but it’s quickly becoming my favorite technique for heavy fabrics:  Start every seam by sewing on a folded scrap of the fabric.  You’ll have to vary the thickness of your scrap based on which area you’re working on.  A doubled layer will be the most common choice, but on thicker areas, and buttoned areas, fold the scrap more to avoid the thread being pulled down into the machine.  Basically, you want the back of the presser foot at the same thickness as the seam that you’re about to sew.

A “hump jumper” or “jean-a-ma-jig” will do the same job, but I’ve found sewing on the scrap is more reliable.  Keep sewing onto the seam once you’ve sewn a few stitches on the scrap.  This is especially useful for topstitching to keep those first few stitches even and the correct length.

Tack buttons!!!

sea glass denim jacket

Tack buttons are by far the most difficult thing to contend with when making jeans.  On a denim jacket, your problems are multiplied exponentially because of all of the buttons.  The shanks can break off, set in crooked, and twist around because they’re not set right.  I have so many tack buttons that have no shanks because of all of the buttons I’ve set improperly.  A few pairs of jeans ago, I found Dime Buttons.  They’ve got a great selection of different buttons, and all of them have the screw type backs.  Once in a while you’ll find a back for a tack button that has smooth sides.  These are no good.  The screw types grip the inside of the tack button much better.

The other thing that Dime Buttons has is this little plastic setter.  You can buy it separately, or it comes included in the 50 tack button assortment.  When I first popped it out of the package, I thought, “We’ll see if that works.”  Well, work it does.  The back and the buttons snap into place while you hammer, and in just a few hammer taps, you get a straight, secure button.  I was so excited about this little $4 tool, I filmed it in real time.

Overall, I love this jacket.  The fit is just what I was hoping for, and the color goes with nearly everything in my wardrobe.  This will be an absolute staple piece!

sea glass denim jacket

Tomorrow we get to see how everything fits together in the Wardrobe Sudoku grid!

Dritz espadrilles

Ever since Maria posted about her espadrilles a few months ago, I’ve been wanting to give shoemaking a proper go.  I bought some soles and vowed to make them a part of my #2017makenine.  I knew the time was right when it was announced that Wardrobe Sudoku would be incorporating footwear into the matrix.  Here’s my bleached sage Dritz espadrilles!

Bleached Sage Dritz Espadrilles

The kit

It’s a little misleading to call the kit a kit as not all of the parts needed for the espadrilles are included.  You get a pair of soles and the basic pattern for the shoes.  For a pair of shoes, you’ll still need fabric, interfacing, yarn and other things you’d already have for sewing–an upholstery needle and pins.  Dritz also recommends some little rubber finger tips that they sell to help you pull the needle through the jute.  I did not get these and I’ll get to why a little further down.

Modifying the pattern

The basic shoe has kind of full coverage on your foot.  It’s not unlike the fit of a Toms shoe.  There’s nothing wrong with that look per se, but I was going for more of a ballet style flat. Image result for toms navy painted stripe

To get the shoe I was looking for, I did a couple of mockups.  Dritz suggests that you do this for fitting purposes anyhow.  Just make up your test shoe, pin it down and cautiously slip in your foot.  I found I still had to do some further fitting once I got to the real shoe, but this gave me a good idea.

The first one above is really cute, but I was a little too severe with my curve on the sides.  The second one worked out better.


Using a French curve and my rather technical method of eyeballing, I altered the curve on the top of the foot.  The heel piece I also altered to fit into my smaller, narrower curve of the toe piece.  I later added straps for some interest and for a better fit.  The straps fasten with velcro, though I think I will substitute snaps in the future for a more secure strap.

Here’s my modified pieces vs. the original pattern pieces.  The weird slant at CB on the heel is there to remind myself to take out a dart at CB for the next pair.

Dritz espadrilles

Dritz espadrilles

Fabric: adding texture with a bleach pen

For the fabric, I chose a sage canvas I’ve had scraps of in my stash for some time.  I introduced some color change with a bleach pen.  The bleach turned the canvas a pretty cream color.  I had already washed the fabric when I originally used it, but I washed it a second time to get out all the bleach.  The lining is a lightweight denim.  The two fabrics together plus a little Pellon Shir Tailor felt rather “shoe-like” to me.  Any kind of home decor fabric or canvas or denim would do well here.

Dritz espadrilles


So, to put the shoes together, you sew the toe sections, turn and topstitch, then the heel sections (turn and topstitch).  Then you pin them in place as you can see in the mockup pics, then it’s hand sewing time.  For this you need an upholstery needle and yarn.  I did not use the Dritz espadrilles yarn.  Instead, I found a cream cotton yarn of similar weight at the craft store.  I think it was originally intended for making bracelets.  I liked the gold threads that are running through it.  Here’s a picture of the Dritz yarn vs. the yarn I chose.  You can see they’re of similar weight.  I’ll throw out there that there was enough yarn in the yarn I chose to make 2 separate pairs of shoes vs. just 1 for the Dritz yarn.

Dritz espadrilles

Dritz recommends all kinds of little doodads to help with the actual sewing of the uppers to the soles which is far and away the hardest part.  I did not use the rubber fingers or their needles they suggest to help you pull the needle through.  I have a friend whose husband does a lot of leatherwork professionally and he suggested using flat-nosed pliers when I had a pair of boots last year that had a zipper that needed to be replaced.  Using an upholstery needle, the cotton thread was easy to pull through the soles.


Flat nosed pliers really help! #handsewing #shoemaking #sewcialists #diyshoes #isew #handmadewardrobe

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Why use flat-nosed pliers vs. regular needle-nose?

If the blades of the pliers have any texture on them, they will weaken the needle and cause more needle breakage than the smooth blades of a flat-nose will.  Sewing the soles to the uppers is rather physical.  Pulling the stitches taut and keeping everything even requires a lot of muscle.  I kept my stitches even by following the topstitching on the bottoms of my uppers.  Every other machine stitch got a hand stitch down into the soles.

These soles are big they are!

I’m guessing that because they only come in whole sizes, they’re a little bigger for those who wear half sizes. I am not in the half-sizing wearing camp. I wear a straight size 6, and occasionally a 5 1/2. Better to be bigger than too small I suppose. My suspicion is furthered by the recommendations for making the shoes smaller on the Dritz blog. I did indeed have to move the point where my toe hit the heel at the sides, and I had to add elastic.

You can think about your foot being a little like your waist. What kinds of things would you do for a loose fit on a waistband?–take out a dart(s), add elastic etc. You want to make the same (albeit much smaller) alterations for your feet for a good fit.

Dritz espadrilles

Changes for next time!

Next time I’ll take out a dart at the CB of the heel to start with so I can get a better fit without the aid of elastic.

Overall, this was a really fun project, and it was really gratifying to make shoes that are wearable!  And all without fancy shoemaking gear like lasts or glues!  I’m fascinated with Marilla Walker’s latest no-glue options she’s been exploring lately in her shoes.  It’s interesting to think that this used to be a craft and there weren’t all these big industrial tools or glues to help you out.  Just muscle power and expertise.

I’ll leave you with a couple of shots of the shoes in context:

Dritz espadrilles Dritz espadrilles

Have you ever tried shoemaking?


sew precious

Are you participating in Deepika’s Sew Precious?  

When Deepika first announced her #sewprecious2017 pledge on Instagram, I nearly dropped my phone to jump on that wagon.

I don’t have a giant fabric stash, but I do have several pricier fabrics that have been hanging around for a long time.  Some of them were purchased with projects in mind that have long since been forgotten.  Others were bought because they were just lovely.  There’s others that haven’t been touched for fear of messing everything up.  Still, you get to the point when you realize what am I waiting for?  As such, I cut into not 1 but 2 of my nicest fabrics for this Sew Precious Embroidered Asymmetrical Skirt.

Sew Precious Embroidered Asymmetrical Skirt

The fabric

sew precious

Sew Precious is about the fabric, and I’ve got 2 here that are just beautiful.  Both of them I bought 3 years ago at Mood LA on a birthday trip with my husband that included a night at the opera.  Fabric is about my favorite travel souvenir.  My mother-in-law catalogs her memories in pictures, and I reckon, I do the same with fabric and opera.

Embroidered voile

sew precious

The first fabric is a blue green embroidered cotton.  You’ve already seen it in the trim of this cardigan.  I believe it was labeled voile, but it’s a little heavier than most of the voiles that I’ve sewn with.  There are threads of green and gold running in big loops all over the surface of the fabric, though there are several inches that are not embroidered on the selvedges.  I clearly did not notice the wide plain edges, or I would have bought more.  As such, I only bought 1.5 yards, thinking it’d be plenty for a skirt.  The full width of the fabric was just 45″, and with just over 6″ on either side, I didn’t have much to work with.  If I haven’t gotten around to using this fabric before now, it’s for a lack of knowing what to do with so little.

Giorgio Armani Silk/Cotton

The color scheme of my Wardrobe Sudoku solved the problem of not having enough of the voile.  All of the greens and blues that I’ve been able to combine in my past several garments gave me some confidence in adding a piece of contrast to the voile.  This pale green Giorgio Armani silk/cotton was the perfect fit.  Not only do the colors blend well together, but this fabric has a similar weight and body of the voile.  The embroidery makes the voile rather beefy, and the added silk makes the cotton have a particular texture that matches the voile nicely.  Both of the fabrics have just enough drape to do what I wanted them to do…

The pattern: Burdastyle 8-2014-105

While I look to Ottobre for excellent basics patterns that I can adapt at will, I always reach for Burdastyle for more unique patterns with interesting details.  This asymmetrical skirt (Burdastyle 8-2014-105) is a perfect example.  Take out the draped side panel and it’s a plain slight A-line skirt.  Add the side panel, and it becomes a perfect showcase for interesting fabric.


The pattern suggests brocade, so I figured both of my fabrics with their full body would work well.


Construction is fairly straightforward on this skirt.  The only tricky bit is the corners where the side panels meet the front and back.  As long as you mark the seam allowances and sew to the corner exactly, it’ll be no problem.  In some of the pictures, it looks like my corner is puckered, but that’s actually the weight of the drape making a little fold at the corner!  The other issue with the pattern is the suggested hem allowance.  Burdastyle suggests 1 5/8″ (4 cm) which is too deep.  It might be just fine for the straight portions of the skirt, but that deep of a hem on the curved portions of the side drape will = big lumpy hem.  I reduced the hem allowance to 3/4″ which was just right.

sew precious

I used some of the unembroidered voile for the waistband facing that I trimmed with some bias tape I made for the Hong Kong finish I did on my Alyse pants.  Having the nice smooth voile as a facing was much nicer than the bulkier, textured outer fabric.  Plus it matches perfectly!  The facing is stitched down invisibly by hand because I can’t abide floppy facings.

Business in the front…

sew precious

While I have never sported or condoned the unfortunate mullet hairstyle (oh the things that are “of an era!”), but I do think the description of “business in the front, party in the back” is hilarious.  As this pertains to my skirt, I had to cut my side drape and the skirt back on the crossgrain to accommodate my shortage of fabric.  While I could have cut both of the side drapes from the Armani fabric, I kind of liked the idea of just having the contrast at the back of the skirt.  Not only could I conserve the Armani for another project, but I get the best of both looks.  Embroidered in the front, contrast at the back.


This is just the kind of skirt that bodysuits were made for.  sew precious

That big full skirt really does well with the smooth fitted bodysuit underneath.  And I love it with the cardigan too.  It’s a bit of a nod to the styles of the past with a modern twist of the inset side panels.

sew precious

sew precious

I am in love with the mustard stripe dress ensemble and black cardigan.:

Designer Stitch Alyse

I became acquainted with the delightful designs from Designer Stitch during the Day and Night Dress Challenge.  The pattern designer, Ann reached out to me on IG to be a sponsor, and I had such a great time getting to know her.  I picked up a few of her patterns in the course of the challenge, and I’m glad to finally be trying out my first one!  Here’s my Designer Stitch Alyse slim leg pants.

Designer Stitch Alyse slim leg pants

The Alyse pants are available in 3 leg widths, slim, tapered, and wide leg.  I went for the slim leg pants because I love a slim leg pant!  Over much trial and error with styling, I’ve found that slimmer leg silhouettes just sit better on my short, narrow frame.

When I first saw this pattern I thought it had the styling of a good cigarette pant.  I recently rewatched Sabrina and was reminded about how clean a nice cigarette pant can look:

Totally expect to see that back v-neck on a bodysuit here soon.  Audrey Hepburn was such a fabulous dresser!

A quick trick for dealing with negative ease

It should be noted that this pattern is created with negative ease. I saw this at first and I panicked a little. Negative ease with a woven, what? I was about to sew 2 sizes bigger when I read Ann’s really helpful bit in the pattern.  She instructs,

“The fit of the Alyse pants has been designed as negative ease when comparing the body measurement
chart with the finished garment chart. The garment is smaller than the body size. When constructing these pants they have to fit very, very snugly on your body when first wearing them. After an 1/2 hour or so the fabric starts to relax and it will stretch.”

You will want to pick a size based on the sizing chart, not the finished measurements of the garment which are definitely smaller than your body.

I was a bit dubious about the sizing, so I employed a trick I learned from Peggy Sagers.  Take the yardage of your fabric and wrap it with the stretch around you at your widest part.  Next, stretch it to a comfortable point.  You want to think about how the fabric is going to behave in a real garment; i.e. don’t stretch it to its maximum or its minimum.  After measuring how much fabric this takes against a yardstick, check the finished garment measurements.  When I did this, sure enough the fabric measurement matched the finished garment measurements perfectly.


Designer Stitch Alyse
pictured with my Fringe trim cardigan

My fabric for these pants is a pale blue stretch cotton.  To be honest, I don’t remember where it came from.  I’m equally clueless as to what weave it is.  It’s not a twill, it’s not a sateen, but it is cotton with a reasonable amount of lycra.  The wonderful recovery on it makes these pants absurdly comfortable despite the fact that they are fitted.  A swatch of this fabric is going to go into storage with this pattern so that I can compare future fabrics to it when I want to remake this pattern.

My sewing friend Linda asked me if I could breathe in them because of the fit!  Ha, with no problem!  Thanks lycra.  You’re a champion.

Full length vs. 7/8

For my version, I chose the full length as opposed to Audrey Hepburn’s cropped styling.  Trying to figure out precisely where 7/8 hits on me sounded like an exercise in advanced proportions.  I’m not entirely sure I can pull off a cropped pant.  At my height, do I need to look shorter?  Would it look too twee?  So many questions!  I figure if I really want to try out the style, I can always fold up a cuff.

Pants alterations

You’ve made pants, surely, and you know that altering a pants pattern can be a long trip down a very deep rabbit hole.  The good news is, once you’ve altered a pattern and got a fit that you’re happy with, you can lather, rinse, and repeat with very little hassle.  For this pattern, I compared it against my favorite Ottobre skinny jeans.

For me, that means that every pattern gets a flat seat adjustment.  1/2″ taken out is what I need and it really helps.  I also shorten the length for every pair of pants.  I shortened these by 1 7/8″ to match my Ottobre jeans length (full length for me).

Designer Stitch Alyse

The last thing I needed to do for fit was to shorten the back crotch length.  There was quite a bit of excess on it vs. my Ottobre.  Without taking it out, I would have had a lot more excess fabric on my backside than I want/need.  I didn’t measure precisely because I just traced the Ottobre pattern onto the Alyse, but I think I took out something like 1.5″ from the back crotch.  It was a lot, but I felt confident in doing so since I was comparing the pattern to a pattern that I’ve made multiple times with great success in the fit.

Best waistband ever

The self-faced waistband is really wide on these pants.  It’s almost like a skirt yoke it’s so wide.  but man, it fits perfectly. The contours of it fit the body so well.  I always have to fit waistbands while I’m constructing a pair of pants.  First, I have to baste on waistbands and then rotate out little darts to get a good fit.  I did not have to do that at all on this waistband. It fits just right as is. Yay!

Side zip

The Alyse pants feature a side zipper.  Side zips are a fun alternative to a fly front and a lot more dressy.  The pattern calls for a centered zipper on the side, but I chose an invisible zipper for an ultra clean look.

Designer Stitch Alyse

Back flap pockets

Pants without pockets always leave me feeling a bit bare.  To remedy this, I added some back welt pockets with buttoned flaps.  I purposely wanted a pocket that wasn’t just a denim style patch pocket, and I think the welts make for a dressier choice.

Designer Stitch Alyse

Designer Stitch Alyse

Breaking Ground Blog Tour

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Melissa, of Mahlicadesigns is hosting the Breaking Ground Blog Tour this week.  The idea is to try out a new style or pattern designer you haven’t before.  Check out the fun there.  These Designer Stitch Alyse pants are my first foray into sewing Designer Stitch patterns and they won’t be my last.  It’s always interesting to try out something new, and it’s even better when the results are just what you were hoping for.

Designer Stitch Alyse

Ottobre makes

Are you an Ottobre fan?  Do you sew often for your little one?

I’m in the literal middle of some serious reverse applique work on a Jalie drop pocket cardigan.  While there’s bits of embroidery thread all over my house, I’m popping in to write a quick post about what I’ve made the past few weeks from my Ottobre subscription that my husband so thoughtfully got me for Christmas.  Here are my January-February Ottobre makes.

When I had my baby girl last year, I knew that Ottobre would be high on my wish list of pattern subscriptions.  It’s true that Ottobre does better than the vast majority of pattern companies out there in providing cute patterns for boys, but you guys, the baby girl cuteness is absurd.  I may never be as prolific as Katie is in her Ottobre devotion, but I kind of am seeing how quick and fast it can be to make Ottobre items en masse.  Kids clothes take so little fabric, and their pattern pieces are equally small.  A little tracing paper and a half an hour and you can practically be ready to cut out a wardrobe for your little one.

Toaster Sweater #1

Surely this has happened to you: you delve into a pattern that everyone is sewing and find that it’s just okay for you.  So it has been with the Toaster Sweater #1.

As I tackle my #2017MakeNine, the top of my list is Sew House Seven’s Toaster Sweater #1.  I’ve been really looking forward to this pattern!

This pattern seems to be the pattern of the year from all of the veritable love fest it’s been garnering.  It has a lot of things going for it: a unique neckline, an easy style for cold weather, just a few pattern pieces and excellent directions that make this pattern a joy for a beginning sewist, paired with a current style.  Check out these other boxy cropped sweaters from RTW:


J.O.A. Boxy cropped rib sweater
Chloe Iconic cashmere sweater
Autumn Cashmere boxy cropped sweater

The Toaster Sweater #1 absolutely keeps with these current sweaters.


That being said, I have to be honest.  It turns out I’m not a fan of boxy, cropped sweaters.  I hate saying bad things about someone else’s pattern that they’ve obviously invested hard work into.  Still, there are times when you just end up with styles that you don’t like or simply don’t work for your body.  Let me state clearly that the pattern itself is absolutely fine, it’s just not for me.  I’m filing this is in my “recommended with modifications” category on Patternreview.


Peggy had warned me when we were talking about the prizes for the Day and Night Dress Challenge that the Toaster Sweater #1 and particularly the TS #2 are both drafted to stand away from the body.  I had originally thought that this would make a really cute sweater dress from a nice chunky jacquard knit.  Her thought was, yes, but you’d have to work to bring in the sides considerably.  She was absolutely right.

My only experience with Sew House Seven patterns was this Mississippi Ave dress.

I had definite fitting issues with this pattern even though I really love my final dress.  To be fair, I almost always have issues with sleeveless styles.  I’m a shorty, and I’m specifically short between my shoulder and the bottom of the armscye.  It’s why I tend to sew from Burda and Ottobre which are drafted with higher armholes to begin with.  The side-flashing problem is what drove me away from RTW for good.

Grading down: what I should have done

The fitting chart states that I should in theory be within the size range on the low end.  I should have read the finished measurements more closely.  With a full bust measurement of 31.5″, I just don’t want to wear a knit top that measures 37″ at the bust.  Everything is just too wide.  I know lots of people love loose styles, and I am not one of them.  Loose fabric hanging off me is really uncomfortable.

I should have done what I eventually did at the outset; I compared the pattern to Jalie 3245 and basically turned it into Jalie 3245 with a bottom band, long sleeves, and sleeve cuffs, and the neckline.

Attempt #1: Green sweatshirt refashion

Toaster Sweater #1

In my first iteration of the Toaster Sweater #1, I cut it pretty much as is.  I did adjust the length of the sleeve which I knew would be far too long on me.  2.5″ chopped off from the upper sleeve, it’s close to where I want it.  If I lift my arms, the sleeves do pop up a little, exposing my wrist.  I added 1/2″ back to the sleeve length in my second version.

I cut the top from a very heavy green sweatshirt.  The ribbing is cut from a rib knit sweater.  Dealing with limited yardage, I shortened the band by 1″ and used a hem facing to make up what I was missing.   I really thought that 1″ was an appropriate length adjustment for my height to get that cropped look.  The two layers of the hem band are quilted with a diamond pattern for some interest on an otherwise plain top.

Toaster Sweater #1

That cropped look

It turns out when you’re 5’2.5″ a pattern that originally looks kind of short ends up being, well, pretty close to normal.  It is a little cropped, but just barely.  As I was cutting, I thought–wow, this looks short.  Yeah, not so much.  I know Heather had this same experience, and I thought it was as funny as she found it.  The sleeves and the sides are taken in considerably–about as much as I could with the inflexibility of this knit would allow.  The top does fit over my head, though I’d gladly trade for a zipper in the neckline and a closer fit.


I still like this top being that it’s one of my greens in my color palette.

Toaster Sweater #1

Even paired with these crazy ponte leggings that are a wrinkle fest (Obviously what happens when you make knit pants from a knit with no recovery) I like it.  The main issue with this top is that it’s drafty.  That boxy look? It shoots in air around my sides in a very un-winter kind of way.  It’s not totally in line with Rachel’s Fail February, but it’s not my favorite either.


Adjusting the fit

Toaster Sweater #1

As I said above, I first compared the pattern to my Jalie 3245, using the Jalie for all of the fitting.  Next, I used all of the style lines are from the Toaster Sweater #1.  Effectively, the side seams and sleeves are narrower. I kept a little bit of the relaxed look without it being too boxy for me.  The body is lengthened by 1.5″ and the original length of the hem band is intact.

A second version with the changes was born in about 45 minutes with various knits.  The body is from the same poly sweater knit in these Hudson pants, the sleeves from more of the wool/cashmere knit that made up my winter Lillian dress, and the neck binding is from a lined lace t-shirt (ironically a Jalie 3245) that had outlived it’s wearability.  I even added a kangaroo pocket to add a bit of sweatshirtyness.

A Mixed Bag

This second version is much more wearable.  It’s warm, I can add a t-shirt underneath for extra warmth, and the length is a lot more practical in my wardrobe.  So while I’m not super thrilled with this pattern, I’m glad I soldiered on to get a top that I really will wear.

Sew RED-y