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Making my own bodice top sewing block

This sewing block journey started almost 1 year ago at the start of lockdown. I had just gotten back into sewing clothes, and discovered indie pattern companies, and fabric stores. Joann fabrics was running a special deal with then Bluprint (now Craftsy) for annual memberships. Craftsy has loads of sewing, cooking, photography, and general crafting classes, most of which you can access free as part of a paid membership (I am not at all affiliated with Craftsy, but just think it’s a great resource for sewists looking to learn pattern making). I signed up and started taking Suzy Furrer’s bodice sloper class. Body measurements were taken, a front bodice moulage was drafted, and then I rolled it up and stuffed it in the corner of my craft room. Six months later I was having some fitting difficulties and dreaming of fitted tops and dresses. I returned to Suzy’s class and my original drafts. While the class is only about 5 hours broken into sections, I would say it took me about 20 hours total to complete the process (spread over several months). Here I share some of my process, modifications, and eventual self-drafted fitted tank top.

To start, I just want to define some terms. When I started this class I knew nothing about pattern making. It wasn’t until I was at least half way through with the course that I started to understand these terms and what pattern making is really all about. So to start, a moulage is a really tight fitting (think second skin) template that is created based on an individual’s many body measurements. You would never wear a garment created from an unaltered moulage, but it’s important to make sure all of the little seam lines and points are just right. From the moulage, you add ease in certain areas to create a sloper. The sloper is really the basic building block of your future patterns. In this case I made a bodice, or top, moulage and then a sloper. From the sloper you can play around with darts, necklines, closures, sleeves, etc. to create any garment you can imagine. There are some great resources on pattern making including Suzy Furrer’s book, which is very similar to her Craftsy classes, Winifred Aldrich’s pattern cutting book, and various online blogs and websites such as Mood Fabrics tutorial and a how-to from In the Folds. You don’t need to know much beyond very basic sewing skills before taking Suzy’s class, as she walks you through many of the steps in a series of ~30 minutes sessions.

Drafting moulage #1 with my essential ruler, scissors, marker, and tracing wheel

Drafting the moulage

So I started by taking all of my measurements. When creating a moulage the measurements required are pretty extensive to ensure a proper fit. From there, I started drafting the moulage based on those measurements and ‘industry standards’ while watching Suzy’s class. She walks you through how to create a block (essentially a paper template that becomes the sewing pattern) from all of the measurements. It took my two tries to get the front, with plenty of video rewinding, pausing, and erasing. I eventually got to moulage number 1:

I then traced and cut out the moulage from my brown craft paper. Using muslin, I cut out the fabric and sewed it up according to Suzy’s directions. There were 8 pieces to ensure that seam lines were visible to make fitting and adjustments easy. It is soo tight that you cannot sew this closed, and my partner had to safety pin me up in the back. It was really tricky to tell if the back was fitting correctly because I realize that the fabric was pulling in all sorts of ways but really I was more concerned with the front and sides. I took many pictures to capture all of the fitting adjustments that may be necessary.

As part of the course, Suzy walks you through common fitting issues and ways to fix it on the moulage. Right as I put the moulage on I realized the armholes needed to be adjusted. They were causing some wrinkles that were going to be problematic down the line. The following changes needed to be made included:

  • The bust apex needed to be moved down by 1/4″
  • The waist needed to be moved up by 1/2″
  • The front armhole needed to come in 1/8″
  • The waist and hips needed to come in by 1/8″ (on both sides)

As you can see, these were mostly minor adjustments, but taking in 1/8″ on the sides results in taking a 1/2″ around the waist (1/8″ x 4 for all pattern pieces). I retraced the moulage and started on these minor adjustments, then followed the same process of creating a 2nd sewn up moulage. The fit was MUCH improved.

The much improved front moulage

I decided I felt good about the moulage, though I knew there were still probably some minor tweaks that could have been made with the bust line and waist shaping – but they were so minor I was able to address them in the sloper without making a 3rd moulage. As you can tell in the images, the wrinkles around the armholes were much improved in the second muslin. The waist was also closer to my actual waist since it was moved up and taken in. The bust apex also hit closer to the actual apex as evidenced in the last image below.

Converting the moulage to a sloper

Suzy then walks you through adding ease in all the right places to create a sloper. I added 1/4″ to all sides, and took in the neck and armholes a bit. The sloper can also be a bit simpler than the moulage by eliminating the back shaping and altering the waist shaping as well (I could go on on about these things here, but to keep it short, you can create a sloper that has no seam in the back if desired).

Using my tracing wheel I made the sloper on tag board (essentially manilla envelope paper) for easy storage and durability. I transferred all the necessary markings for a proper sewing pattern and made my first mock-up.

While it as VERY difficult to get this thing on, I was able to sew it up the back which helps for back fitting. Again, I used natural muslin for the sloper and transferred some of the lines (e.g. apex, hips, etc.) from the pattern to the fabric. I was pretty happy with the sloper fit. One of my motivations for creating my own sewing block was my difficulty with woven tops in the bust. I don’t really want to have to do a full bust adjustment (FBA) every time I want a fitted top or have to play around with getting the armholes just right. Even if I continue to use sewing patterns (which I will), I can now compare my block to the sewing pattern when I suspect changes may needed to be made.

Playing with dart manipulation

This is by far my favorite thing about pattern making so far. My RTW clothes don’t really have fun darts, and I haven’t had too much experience with darts in sewing patterns beyond a basic side dart. Darts are used to create shaping they take out bulk from the pattern. There are several standard darts on the front of a bodice sloper: the shoulder dart, the armhole dart, the side dart, and the waist dart. The material taken out from these 4 darts is what creates the fit and shape of the garment. Dart manipulation is the process of moving the material taken away by a dart to another dart. In other words, you can move the shoulder dart, waist dart, and side dart all into the armhole dart to create one large dart that remove all of the fabric from the 4 darts in one go. There are plenty of resources on dart manipulation, such as this YouTube video by Made to Sew. I also really like the short videos from Pattern Making Deconstructed on Instagram.

Some of my quick notes from dart manipulation in my sketchbook

Dart manipulation can be used to create interested seam lines, as well as just to help with fitting. Suzy walks you through several kinds of dart manipulations in her course, Creative Darts and Seamlines. I am fascinated by this process and sit watching these sessions taking notes. Dart manipulation is really fun, and relatively easy compared with the rest of the process. After watching the many videos on different types of dart manipulations I made several mockups:

One of the mock-ups with a center front neckline

Suzy has other dart options including princess seams, gathers, a neck cowl, diamond dart, y-dart, etc. I sketched a couple of these out on MyBodyModel to think about what they might look like on my body:

After creating and trying on the mockups, I realized I did NOT like the side dart. Maybe in a print it would be o.k? I’m really not sure, but I did not like the way it accentuated certain features. Simply put, Suzy mentions that different body types/shapes/heights, etc. can result in darts looking different ways. In other words, it will require some playing around with angles to determine which darts and shapes I prefer. I decided to move forward with the center front dart and armhole dart for my tank tops. I also played around with different methods to do the bodice back. The back is not as complicated with only 2 darts to manipulate. I decided to consolidate the 2 darts into an armhole dart for the back as well.

Creating a simple self-drafted tank top

Once my armhole dart and center front dart were transferred to tag board and tested in a muslin, I took some scraps from my stash that I had been planning on using to make some scrappy tank tops.

I decided to ignore the waist dart for extra room in that area. I also cropped the pattern to halfway between my high hip and low hip based on the muslins. Additionally, I added more room for the neck. While these are still pretty difficult to get on (bust to waist ratio is important here) they do fit comfortably and am very happy with how they fit in the bust, waist, and around the armholes!

Some reflections

I am really happy I completed Suzy’s course. I realize it took a while and there was a break of several months in there, but it was totally worth it! For anyone that thinks they might be interested in pattern making I highly recommend by taking Suzy’c class (or any other pattern making class) to find out what it’s really all about. Leaving the class with a bodice pattern block that fits my body is a game changer – I can now compare it to other patterns and use it to draft infinite designs! I quite enjoyed the whole process – working with paper, doing the math out, drawing the lines and curves, sewing, fitting, etc. I plan to continue taking Suzy’s pattern making classes on Craftsy to learn more about sleeves and necklines, before moving on to pants!

As anyone else made their own sewing pattern block? What was your experience like? Feel free to comment below 🙂

Sewing Inspiration: Little Women

I realize it’s been over a year since the newest Little Women was released, but I still love to look back at the costume design for the movie. Last weekend I rewatched it, took notes, and started thinking about sewing my own Little Women creations. Several articles have been written about the costume design for this movie, with one of my favorites from Bazaar – the article describes how each character had their own colors and different wardrobes for child and adulthood. There’s another from the New Yorker about remixing the historical era of clothing. It’s no surprise that the costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, won several awards for Little Women, including a BAFTA. While I think about pattern inspiration for each character, many of these patterns are interchangeable and all present great options for playing with big sleeves and collars, color and plaid, capes and more.

Jo

I really adore Jo’s billowy tops, waistcoats, jackets, and plaid skirts. I found a lot of blouse patterns that remind me of Jo and have picked some of my favorites below.

The Simplicity 9044 has some beautiful tucks that remind me of Jo’s night dress and blouses. I think we can all agree that Laurie and Jo’s vests are fantastic. Thread Theory has a really nice waistcoat pattern, the Belvedere. Folkwear also has a Vintage Vest pattern with a double button option. A basic button down, like the Seamwork Natalie also has a lot of potential – you can size up for more ease and there are endless hack options. I also really like the detail of Fibremood’s Honey Top. Folkwear’s English Smock is another great option with beautiful details. The Poet shirt from Folkwear is yet another option with a fantastic collar and big sleeves.

Source: Sony Pictures

It’s been a bit more challenging finding some Jo jacket/blazer patterns. The Heather Blazer from Friday Pattern Co. is one option. I particularly like the collar of the yellow/brown blazer from up top but haven’t quite find a matching pattern, if you have any in mind pop them in the comments below! The Lichen Duster from Sew Liberated is one of the closest I could find and I particularly like the relaxed fit and collar. Seamwork also has a tie pattern, or you can make yourself a simple neck scarf (or here) to mimic one of Jo’s staples.

Amy

Amy’s style really progresses through the movie, starting with plaid school-girl dresses and transforming to elegant gowns, capes, and skirts while she paints in Europe.

Vogue 9076 blouse/dress is more of a modern take on Amy’s outfits, but I love the collar and tie option. The Bloomsbury Blouse from Nina Lee is another great classic option with a beautiful ruffled collar. The Passion blouse from Atelier Scämmit is another very similar option. I also really like Folkwear’s shirtwaist pattern, which you can make with or without the skirt. Urban Threads as a free tutorial on making a capelet as well, as Amy’s is one of my other favorite pieces in the movie. In terms of a full skirt pattern, the Walking Skirt from Folkwear is a basic skirt pattern that can easily be hemmed and hacked.

Source: Sony Pictures

Meg

Meg’s style is a little more sophisticated than the the others, I loved some of her simple blouses and shawls.

Fibremood Glory Top has a modern spin on Meg’s wardrobe, and can be made in both a woven and a knit. The Bakerloo Blouse from Nina Lee has a STATEMENT collar that could be fun to play with. One of my favorite things about Meg’s wardrobe are her simple button-down blouses, the Cornell Shirt from Elbe Textiles is a great option. Meg’s light jacket is also one of my favorite pieces, the Seamwork Quince has some potential for a simple day robe like Meg’s.

Source: Sony Pictures

Beth

I love the pale pinks/lavenders and browns of Beth’s wardrobe. Her outfits are definitely a little more youthful than the others and I’ve tried my best to pick a couple of patterns that remind me of her.

The Folkwear Gibson Girl Blouse collar reminds me so much of Beth’s youthful outfits. The Wilder Gown from Friday Pattern Co. is also beautiful and evokes Little Women to me. There’s also something about the Sagebrush Top from Friday Pattern Co. that also reminds me of Beth, but maybe that’s just me? I also love both the Estuary and Gypsum Skirt’s from Sew Liberated and see it as yet another modern spin on Beth’s full skirts.

Source: Sony Pictures

All of their winter outfits are fantastic. For the knitters out there, there are patterns for Beth’s shawl, including this one from Fibreworkshop. There is a free shawl pattern from Tin Can Knits, the Grain, which is also quite similar. The cape’s are gorgeous, and Seamwork does have the Camden cape which is a great simple option. Sew Over It also has a cape pattern, the Chic cape, which has a cute collar.

Marmee

Marmee’s style is very simple and classic. I love her plaid dresses and understated neutral colors.

Source: Sony Pictures

The Simplicity 8737 blouse is a modern, youthful spin on Marmee’s wardrobe. I also really like Folkwear’s Prairie dress which can be made into just a blouse, and into any of the girls style really. It can also be styled to be a bit more modern as well. The Coeli Blouse from Pauline Alice is also a beautiful, simple, yet detailed pattern that can be modernized.

While there are many ways to go full on 1860’s prairie to remake some of the Little Women outfits, I also see a lot of potential to give their looks a more modern spin with careful details, ruffles, and attention to fabric and design. Color also plays a big role in their wardrobes and tuning into those color combinations can also be a fun way to dress as one of your favorite characters. Have I missed any of your favorite looks? Let me know in the comments below!

Sewing the Seamwork Campbell Jumpsuit

I made the Seamwork Campbell jumpsuit/flight suit this month following along with the classroom videos. Each month they do a sew-a-long in the classroom and have a community thread to discuss the project. This was my first time doing a sew-a-long trying to sew from a video. I found the video a useful and a fun way to go through the pattern. The fabric is a linen blend in a dark purple/grape from Stylemaker Fabrics and the buttons are a really pretty rose gold from Tabitha Sewer. I used leftover Rifle Paper Co. scraps for the under collar and belt loops. This is also my first MakeNine2021 completed project!


I haven’t been sewing finished clothing too much recently, instead focusing on making a bodice sloper, so this has been the only wearable garment I’ve made this month. I’ve worked on it slowly over the past 3 weeks, not having too much sewing energy with the start of the semester. While it has been good to slow down, I do wish I made a bit more energy for sewing at the end of the day. I find myself zoning out in front of the TV after a day of working and know I would feel better doing some sewing (or anything crafty) but can’t seem to find the motivation!

I made a size 4 and increased the seam allowance along the waist. I also used floral scraps for the under collar and belt loops. Not sure if I like the belt loops yet…but can always change these later. I also plan on increasing the seam allowance at the shoulder since the sleeve is a little too low. If I were to make them again I would also make the facing wider around front as it tends to pop out. This is an entirely seasonally inappropriate outfit for a Maine winter but its nice to imagine wearing this in warmer spring days.

I love all of the pockets and since I finished, have been wearing them around the house all day. The fabric is light weight and gives them an excellent bit of drape and softness. Overall, it’s a bit of a more involved sew but would highly recommend if you are looking for a jumpsuit that has a bit more of a flight suit look to it. I could envision this in all sorts of woven fabrics too!

Sewing Inspiration: Riverdale

I’ve been following the CW’s Riverdale since it’s beginning in 2017. While the show has gone through some ups and downs, I’m still watching every week. The show has just started releasing season 5, where the characters will jump in time to college. The show’s plot points may be questionable, but the fashion is consistent and a source of inspiration. Here I will be sharing some classic Betty Cooper outfits and matching them up to sewing patterns for you to recreate the look.

Betty’s Go-To: Patterned Knits

There are too many to choose from. Aside from these in knit fabric, she also is often spotted in knitted sweaters and cardigans.

These ruffle sleeve tops are almost an exact replica of Tilly and Button’s Billie Sweatshirt. The sleeve detail on the Iris tee from forget-me-not patterns is also a more subtle option. I also am getting Betty Cooper vibes from Jennifer Lauren Handmade’s Ostara Top. Fabricworm has some great interlock knit fabrics that would be perfect for these tops to replicate Betty’s floral look.

Source: The CW

These mutton/gigot sleeves can be replicated using the Seamwork Orlando or Neenah sweater base and gigot sleeve hack. I also really like Friday Pattern Company’s Adrienne blouse as a low neckline option with fun sleeves. I Am Patterns Zebre sweatshirt is also a really good option; however it only goes up to a UK 46.

Summer wear

Betty’s summer wear consists of light dresses, basic stripped tee’s and overalls. She has also worn some button up blouses and shorts! True Bias Rio Ringer Tee is the perfect basic tee that has a retro feel resembled in the show. Other basic tee options include Hey June Handmade Union St. Tee or the free Deer & Doe tee pattern. Betty’s many overalls (short, long, dresses) can be sewn with a couple of different options. I like Closet Core’s Jenny Overalls for the button hack in the shorts version. The Sloane Overalls from Victory Patterns is another overalls option, and match Betty’s winter style as well.

For Betty’s tie-up tank tops, I can picture Mimi G’s tie front top and skirt pattern. Her summer dresses are also reminiscent of Seamwork Amber for a fitter bodice dress, or Seamwork Penny for a more vintage feel. Simplicity 8635 is also a great option for a fitted bodice flow-y skirt dress as pictured above (explore makes here)!

Separates

Betty’s mock turtlenecks are similar to Seamwork Neenah as well as the Nikko Top from True Bias. Tilly and the Buttons Cleo overalls dress is also a great version for dress, which Betty has sported multiple times. Jennifer Lauren Handmade’s Pippi Pinafore is another version of the overall dress that has a preppy Betty Cooper vibe. Betty does sport some mini skirts, which are similar to Anna Allen’s button-up skirt, and True Bias Salida Skirt.

Source: The CW

Outerwear

Betty does wear several trench coats on the show. Cashmerette has a great option with a belt, the Chilton Trench Coat. The Seamwork Baz and Francis are two similar options as well.

I am a big fan of Betty’s bomber jackets. Sew Over It has a zip-up bomber jacket option, the Amelia. The Thayer Jacket by Grainline Studio is another great option that has a button-up closure. The Varsity Jacket from Folkwear is another more classic/retro option.

Is anyone else feeling inspiration from the fashion on Riverdale? Did I miss any of your favorites?

Book review: Threads of Life

I was gifted Threads of Life by Clare Hunter for Christmas this year. The book is a testament to needlework and those who have used their sewing super power to create change. Clare Hunter draws on her experiences as a community artist and banner maker to share stories that span centuries and continents. Each chapter highlights a different theme surrounding the power of needlework – power, captivity, connection, identity, community, place. In each chapter she shares multiple stories of individuals and groups using needlework to unite themselves, connect with others, make a statement, or mourn loss. Her prose illuminates the embroidery, sewing, and applique, providing just enough detail to captivate you as she fluidly draws on her own experiences and research.

I have to admit I am not much of a non-fiction reader. Most of my days are spent reading academic papers and non-fiction, so at night when I want to curl up with a book it is usually fiction, and light reading at that. For this reason I was hesitant when I received this book, unsure if I would enjoy it. While I primarily sew on a machine, I never really had an interest in historical sewing and needlework. The stories that she shares have truly inspired me to take up hand sewing and embroidery. I am not weighed down by the history of it all either – a state I usually find myself in when trying to read historical non-fiction. I highly recommend this for anyway that does needlework and has a sense of curiosity for the stories of others.

She writes of beautiful, tireless work done by individuals throughout time that have become passed through generations and used to enact change. She describes the connections we make with textiles:

The textiles we keep demand to be lifted, stroked, handled. They literally keep us in touch with our past. Cloth softens with handling. It absorbs human touch and the drift of odours that surround it during its making: sweat, spices, perfume, wood smoke. Bury your face in a textile and you can nose up the scents of lives far away and long ago. If it is an heirloom, it can transport you to a forgotten blend of family fragrance.

Clare Hunter, Threads of Life, p. 85

In the end, Hunter share some links to resources to look at some of the images she describes. These images are also shared on her site as well. I follow with some images of needlework described in her book that really captivated me.

Embroidery of John Craske

I did not realize the capacity of embroidery to show dine detail, shading, and color until Hunter described the work of John Craske.

Source: John Craske, Threads by Julia Blackburn

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots was an extraordinary needleworker, who during her captivity spent her time doing many embroider works, such as the one below.

Skirt of Life

The Liberation skirt was a symbol of unity and diversity in the Netherlands following WWII, after Adrienne Minette (Mies) Boissevain-Van Lennep created a patchwork skirt from old cloth while held in prison during the Dutch resistance.

Source: Skirt of Life by Mrs J. de Jong Brouwer. © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Miao story cloth

The Miao people of China create intricate embroidered works of ancient myths, with talismans of animals to protect against evil spirits.

Source: Sewing Matters (Clare Hunter)

Suffragette banners

During the suffrage movement in the early 1900s, embroidered banners were created during protests. Many of the banners were designed and inspired by Mary Lowndes simple designs.

Source: Museum of London

Harriet Powers’ Pictorial Quilt

Quilts and embroideries of this nature truly amazed me in the book. Hunter describes individuals putting their life stories and experiences into their needlework to tell a story. These pieces can last through time, providing accounts of lives previously unknown. Harriet Powers, an African American woman who was born a slave created this 15 piece quilt to tell her story. A description of the quilt can be found here.

Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Dinner Party

The Dinner Party was a piece of feminist art of the 1970s, created by Judy Chicago to remember important women from history. The settings are embroidered table runners intricately created to capture the individual women at each setting.

Source: (Mary Wollstonecraft place setting), 1974–79. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Sewing Inspiration: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

If you’ve watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it’s hard not to be captivated by Midge’s endless wardrobe and the 1940s fashion. There is so much sewing inspiration packed into this hilarious show, and I could not help but compile some of my favorites in anticipation for the new season. Several articles have also been written about Midge’s outfits, including this one from NPR I particularly like.

Summer wear

There are a variety of halter top patterns similar to those sported by Midge, including the Simplicity 5555 tie top. The Dana Point Top from Itch to Stitch is another take on the halter but features buttons down the front. Mimi G’s S9097 also has so many possibilities, and I can picture this in the iconic rainbow stripped fabric dress above. Looking for other patterns inspired by Midge in the Catskills. Check out Simplicity 1426 vintage top, or Cali Faye’s Dress 47.

This yellow dress from the Catskills is one of my favorites. Simplicity 8096 is similar. There is also McCall’s 8033 and 8091, though neither has the pleated skirt.

Leisurewear

There are sooo many options for vintage button-up tops. The Salt and Pepper Dress from Lara Sanner has some cute details that can be both a top and dress. Sew Over It Penny Dress/top is another option with a vintage feel. Seamwork also has several options including the Willis Top and Violet Top. Simplicity (8445) also has a great vintage pattern with a statement collar, so does ‘Til The Sun Goes Down (Amelia Blouse). For a long sleeve option, check out Seamwork Rachel.

In terms of bottoms, we have Sew Over It Pencil Skirt and Trousers. Seamwork/Colette also has several options including the Elaine Pants, Brooklyn Skirt, and Iris Shorts.

For 1940s leisure wear I also highly recommend Gertie’s Sew Vintage Casual book, which features full pattern pieces and many hacks. The book includes a cigarette pants pattern, a knit top pattern, a camp collar shirt, and more.

Coats

Midge’s coats are pretty spectacular. Gertie’s Princess Coat is a long coat with a lot of drama, similar in detail to the Colette Lady Grey Coat. Sew Over It’s Chloe Coat is a little more simple, with clean lines and a vintage feel, same with their 1960’s coat which features double-breasted buttons. The Collette Anise coat is a shorter version of the double-breasted jacket with an adorable collar. I also like the simple collar of By Hand London’s Juliet Coat, similar to Seamwork’s Jill Coat.

Dresses

Midge’s elegant dresses are simply endless. A simple search of vintage/1940s dress patterns also results in soo many possibilities. Here are just a couple that remind me of Midge. I love the sweetheart neckline on this Simplicity 8691 dress. Vogue’s 1738 is a vintage pattern from the late 1940s that is extremely elegant as well. The Anne Dress from By hand London is a modern twist on the elegant dress that is absolutely stunning. I also really like the closing of the Vogue 9370, and can picture Midge wearing something very similar. Other favorites include Number 16 Sevilla Dress, the Colette Ceylon dress, Simplicity 8460, Tilly and the Button Etta Dress, Gertie’s Liz Dress (looks very similar to the red number above), Butterick 5708 (elegant tie shoulder dress), and Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

Suits

Midge doesn’t wear work wear, or two pieces often, but I particularly liked these two combinations. That plaid two piece remind me of Sew Over It Coco Jacket and Colette’s Iris shorts. While her woking outfit is a bit harder to place, there are several vintage sewing patterns that it remind me of, including Simplicity 3337 and 8251, both of which might be tricky to track down but they do exist.

My 2021 Sewing Intentions and Make Nine

After only really starting to sew my own clothes in 2020, I am going in to 2021 excited to continue to learn new sewing techniques, try out different patterns, and continue to work with amazing fabric. When I first discovered the sewing community and indie pattern companies, my creations were a little all over the place. Granted, I’ve never been able to really establish a singular sense of style; however, I am approaching 2021 a little more strategically. As I continue to learn what I do and do not like, what makes I wear weekly and which ones sit in the back of my closet, I feel myself getting closer and closer to defining a style, or at the very least, figuring out what styles I’m drawn to.

My primary sewing intention for the year is to just continue to learn as much as I can. I’ve recently re-discovered Craftsy (formerly Blueprint) which has loads of sewing tutorials, videos, and practical help. So far I have approached sewing as a means to an end, or a finished product. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the process, and don’t cut corners (that much..), but many times I find myself kind of just winging it – messily increasing seam allowances along the hip or waist lines, not really knowing how to properly sew darts, etc., etc. These are all fine really, especially as I am relatively new to this and learning as a go. But this next year I do want to properly learn to sew a dart and make it part of cherishing the process. Last year I sewed ~40 garments, this year I want to sew less finished projects, but continue to practice and learn new techniques.

I am a definite seasonal/semester planner. Living in the the Northeast, we get extremes on both sides. Plus, I am an emotional dresser – my mood largely dictates what I wear and the seasons have a big influence on this. In planning what I sew, I so far have created spring/summer plans (spring doesn’t really exist here it’s kind of just a weird transition between snow and cold and warm and humid characterized by lots of mud), fall plans, and winter plans. I do currently have a couple of items planned for winter, but for my larger yearly sewing goals I have chosen 9 items that I am very excited about because they challenge me in a unique way, or are somehow new to me.

  1. Campbell Jumpsuit (Seamwork)

Seamwork released the Campbell late last year, and in the month of January, they are hosting a sew-along/class to sew the jumpsuit. Therefore, this jumpsuit is the first sewing project I am tackling and it is currently 85% complete on my sewing table. It’s sewn up in a very soft linen blend and accented with floral prints. This is my first button up style jumpsuit/flight suit. The side pockets are also a first for me, resting on the inside but visibly stitched on the outside. I sew this linen jumpsuit as the snow piles up outside, realizing it is completely seasonally inappropriate. However, it has me dreaming about spring and summer days that will hopefully involve visiting friends and family.

2. Scrappy Top

Over the past several years sewing my scrap pile has exploded. Many of my scraps found a home in my Closet Core puff; however, the pile continues to grow. Additionally, some of those scrap pieces are absolutely beautiful and deserve to be showcased rather than stuffed in a bag. I’ve recently been inspired by Christi Johnson’s scrap projects featured in Seamwork, and stories I have been reading in Threads of Life about patch-working, embroidery, and applique. Patchwork clothing appears to be a recent trend as well; though, I would argue it’s pretty timeless. My first job to tackle is organizing my scraps – they are somewhat organized by size but I tend to keep long tails of fabric which just get in the way. The pattern to be used is TBD, but some potential options include: the Wilder gown, Ashton top, or a self-draft top or dress.

3. Knitted Hat

For Christmas I was gifted a beautiful ball of wool from a local yarn shop, needles, and instructions to make the Barley hat from Tin Can Knits. This is a free simple hat pattern, that was suggested by the women at the shop to be a great entryway into knitting. Tin Can Knits has some great beginner friendly resources and blogs that will surely help. I am very intimidated by knitting – all the different types of needles, yarn weights, terms, etc. I am hoping this will be a simple enough entry into the craft as I do really want to learn to knit.

Tin can knits – Barley hat

4. Jasika Blazer (Closet Core)

The Jasika Blazer has been on my list for a long time. This past fall I ordered several velvet fabric swatches from a variety of fabric shops before settling on a velvet blend from Minerva Crafts. I also purchased a rayon bemberg lining fabric, shoulder pads, bias tape, and all the notions – I was READY to go. The fall semester got in the way and I put aside this big project. As I go into 2021 this is one of my bigger projects to learn new tailoring skills and slow down. I will likely have to muslin the blazer as well (something I never like to do, but alas..)

5. McCall’s 7974 Dress

I first saw this pattern mentioned in Sally’s (Modista Sewing) Make Nine 2021 post and was immediately intrigued. It has all the vintage feels, and beautiful silhouette. I realize this may be a challenge for me – I have only ever used one Big 4 pattern years ago and it was a rough experience. I am up to challenge for this one though, and also am considering a muslin. This dress also gives me an opportunity to play with print, which I have not been doing recently. I can picture it in a floral rayon for instance which makes me very excited.

6. Dawn Jeans (Megan Nielsen)

This is another pattern that has been on my list for some time. Like the Jasika blazer, I was ready to make this one in the fall. But, working from home life is not very conducive to tight fitted pants and so I put it off. Instead, I made the Pietras and Lander pants, both of which I love but don’t often wear given their tightness around the waist. Yes, I realize the same is true for the Dawns, BUT – there are just too many raving reviews of this pattern to not at least give it a try. At the very least I expect to learn a lot about jeans fitting, which are skills I can take into my future sewing.

7. Bodice Sloper

I have recently gone down a rabbit hole of pattern making. Making my own patterns that fit my body, in any design I can dream – sign me up! Yes, that’s a bit of a fantasy at this point and I have a long way to go, but I am entirely intrigued by the thought of pattern making. I have been taking a Craftsy class with the famous Suzy Furrer on creating a bodice sloper. She has a series of videos up with hours of content on making a moulage and sloper based on your measurements, manipulating darts, making sleeves, creative necklines, and designing your own clothing. As I write this I currently have a pretty good bodice sloper (blog post to come soon) and am playing around with dart manipulation.

8. Rachel Top (Seamwork)

My wardrobe does not consist of any good workwear. Granted, as a graduate student I sit in my little lab space cubicle with minimal social interactions; however, I realize I need to step up my game a little in this department. The rachel top represents my leap into a nice fitted collared shirt. I want to experiment with both more structured cotton/linen tops, and also more drape-y rayon tops for this pattern. I can picture it being quite the TNT in my arsenal and am excited about getting the fit of this one right.

9. Flax Sweater (Tin Can Knits)

This will be my next knitted project after the hat. I have been dreaming of knitting my own sweaters for a long time now and will be starting with another freebie from Tin Can Knits – the Flax Sweater. This is a very simple knitted sweater, but in my mind opens up all the possibilities to knitting!

I know that I will be making more than 9 items this year, so here are a couple of others that I am excited about. Some of these are TNTS and/or fill the loungewear WFH needs at the moment. Others

Reflecting on 2020 Sewing

2020 was the year I really got in to sewing my own clothes. Prior to 2020 I had only dappled in sewing clothes, with most of my sewing being quilts and bags. One of my only real sewing garment experiences before this year was a self drafted dress (based on a RTW dress) out of this floral Joann’s polyester. It was quite frankly a sewing disaster. My grandmother tried to help me salvage it, and we got close to a almost complete wearable garment…BUT, I was so frustrated with the process I tossed the almost finished dress and fabric scraps in a bag and tossed them in my closet. Fast forward 3 years to April 2020 when we are in pandemic lockdown and I’m in quite a state of boredom. I’ve always been a creative, but when the lockdown set in my usual crafts were not keeping my attention. The forgotten dress was pulled out of the plastic grocery bag and work began. The dress was ripped apart and re-sewn to fit my changed body, and while it is real wonky, it is wearable.

The self-drafted dress that started it all

That one dress sent me off on a deep dive of sewing your own clothes. I discovered the sewing community on instagram (‘There’s a whole group of people that make their own clothes and post about it, what’?) With that revelation, I also discovered indie sewing patterns, and slowly, indie fabric companies. The Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit and Helen’s Closet Yanta Overalls were some of the first items on my ‘to sew’ list.

Now in May of 2020 I started one of my first sewing patterns: the Sew Over It Penny Dress. Not knowing too much about fabric at this point, I picked a cotton/linen blend that was a little heavy for the dress, but nonetheless I was hooked. I made my button holes my hand (not yet realizing my machine had that ability) and threaded my first elastic waist band.

My SOI Penny Dress – my first Indie Sewing Pattern!

My next project was the Zadie Jumpsuit in a beautiful linen blend. At this point, I could not believe the possibilities of sewing patterns and my new found super power. I ventured down a path of pattern alteration and was way out of my league as I attempted to increase the rise. At this point, I didn’t even realize I was looking for the word ‘rise,’ but somehow I managed to make a wearable item.

Zadie Jumpsuit

Similar themes carried me through the summer as I strived not for perfection, but for wearability. My fabric stash grew and I spent countless hours researching sewing patterns, fabric, and other makers. I made my first shorts (the Dorian from Seamwork), collared shirt (Natalie from Seamwork), overalls (Yanta’s), and knit garment (Union St. Tee). As I learned a bit more, I become more adventurous with my fabric choices, sewing a Suki robe in Crepe de Chine from Spoonflower and experimenting with tencel twill for my Arenite Pants.

Up until this point I was mostly just sewing up patterns that caught my eye and pairing them with fabrics I selected for similar reasons. In August I took part in Seamwork’s Design Your Wardrobe Challenge, which really changed the way I planned my makes. I started paying more attention to colors, and items that would be easily interchangeable. This is not to say that I don’t just impulse purchase fun sewing patterns and fabrics; however, I have gotten a bit better at planning and organizing my sewing.

In the fall, I selected 9 items as part of a mini capsule wardrobe. I sketched out my sewing plans and recently finished making them in December. I made my first fitted pants (Lander Pants), a beautiful day robe that feels like a warm hug (Seamwork Quince), and turtlenecks that have become a staple (Seamwork Neenah) among other loved items. These items have been worn again and again throughout this winter as I try to incorporate my me mades into my everyday wardrobe. Seasonal planning is definitely my way forward in sewing and a great way for me to think about what I really need in my closet and new techniques to try.

In terms of some of my favorite makes my top three would have to be:

  • My collection of Seamwork Neenah’s
  • My Seamwork Shelly leggings (they already need to be mended)
  • My Sirocco Jumpsuit – this was on a weekly rotation in the fall
My Sirocco

As I’m reading this I’m noticing these are all knit garments, and all very comfortable.

Some of my least-worn makes have been:

  • Seamwork Natalie – this is mostly because I choose a quilting weight cotton and just do not like the weight for the pattern. Plus, I cropped the shirt too much.
  • Sew Liberated Strata Top – it’s a beautiful fabric and I like the design but it just doesn’t fit me and I think I needed to do an FBA
  • Astoria Sweater – not the right fabric choice

Ultimately, my least worn makes are a result of poor fabric choices and this has been something I’ve been working on throughout the year. As I look through my Instagram feed and other pictures it is clear that my sewing choices have evolved and I’ve been making things that I like more (and my picture taking ability has increase ever so slightly).

Breakdown of 2020 makes:

19 top

10 dresses/jumpsuits

9 bottoms

In 2020, I made almost 40 garments! In reflecting, I am so very thankful I found sewing and the sewing community. This hobby has made this lockdown bearable, giving me a hobby to look forward to on the evenings and weekends, and a way to connect to others in this new world we all found ourselves in. I learned SO MUCH just in this past year and am looking forward to learning more in 2021 as I challenge myself with intentional making and fitting.

My New Year’s Seamwork Erica

This was my holiday dress, a hacked version of the Seamwork Erica. Even though I was just staying at home it felt nice to get out of my pj’s…

The pattern is a really soft stretch velvet in the color Peacock from Minerva Crafts. Many firsts for me: 1) first time working with velvet 2) first time making a knit wrap dress 3) first time doing a mutton/gigot sleeve. Which meant there were some definite stumbling blocks along the way!

I used MyBodyModel to think about the hacks for the dress based on the TV inspiration from Normal People. I am a big fan of the book and it’s depiction of complicated relationships – Sally Rooney is incredible when it comes to millennial relationships and characters. Therefore, of course I watched the show and was also a big fan of Daisy Edgar Jones, and of course, the costuming. Several articles have been written on the costumes, like here, and here. I was especially captivated by that blue velvet kimono Marianne wears and wanted to try my version of the costume.

I ended up doing a mutton sleeve hack using the Seamwork tutorial for the Neenah Sweater by Emma Bonsall. It was my first time doing the mutton (or gigot) but the instructions were super helpful. I also made the arm holes bigger to get a looser fit.

I struggled a bit with this project. I sewed part of the neckline upside down (so the slanted edge of the neckline is NOT supposed be attached to the back of the collar..whoops!) and the skirts all flipped around. For those that are unfamiliar, velvet has a nape, meaning a direction to the fibers. When they are rotated 180 degrees they will look different, and I learned my lesson on this one!

I was able to salvage it by re-attaching the skirts; however, the neckline is a little extra wonky. I’m not 100% happy with how it turned out, but learned a bit on this one and will hopefully bring it out on special occasions in the future. Has anyone else had a bit of a sewing fail they were able to recover from? Or not recover from? No judgements here!

Adventures in Fitting Denim Jenny Overalls

These were a challenge, yet fun to make, and even more awesome to wear! I made the Closet Core Patterns Jenny Overalls in a 12 oz. Japanese denim from Blackbird Fabrics (unfortunately they are currently sold out at the moment). These overalls make me feel very 1940s working women, but with a modern twist…I honestly like them more and more whenever I see them in my closet. I was unsure of them one I first made them, but they are truly growing on me.

So now, some of the challenges.

These were definitely one of the tricker things I’ve sewn. I made a size 8 and took 1/2″ out of the front rise. This is something I usually do (coming in at only 5’2″), BUT in doing so they were just too snug down there. After getting some feedback on instagram stories (thank you!!) and lots of googling (for example, I went onto this thread) I had to make some adjustments after the fact to lengthen the rise. I ended up having enough room in the seam allowance to let them out a bit in the crotch curve and I had to extend the straps. After wearing them twice now I do like the fit and find them 85/100 on the comfort scale. Bending over is still a challenge, but I find this is the case with most overalls/jumpsuits that I have made.

This was also the first time I did a lapped zipper (yayy!!) and topstitching on the back pockets. The lapped zipper instructions were a little challenging for me to follow to be honest, especially the last steps where I was supposed to enclose the zipper via some magically stitching. I’m not sure if I was having so much difficulty because of my lack of knowledge, or trying to force 4 layers of thick denim through a (admittedly) not so great sewing machine.

I also added a second button the side for extra flexibility depending on what I’m wearing underneath. I also took about an inch and a half off the side seam allowances for a closer fit.