Sketching the City in Pen, Ink, and Watercolor

from Instagram: My latest @becraftsy class got a lot more complex than the landscapes class! @sharisketcher shares an excellent tip to slightly change the color as you paint across an area for interest. Sometimes it’s a little cooler or warmer, darker or lighter.
Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukop

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor class

I bought this class taught by Shari Blaukopf several months ago, along with her other class “Sketching the City in Pen, Ink & Watercolor”. Watching the classes was inspiring, but also a little intimidating. I kept feeling like I wouldn’t be able to make my sketches look as good as I wanted. And it felt like I would know how to do the techniques just by watching, not necessarily doing them myself. (Wrong!)

But motivated to take my skills up a notch, I finally jumped in and sketched along with her all the way through. And I’m so glad I did! Shari has lots of great tips throughout the class, and actually following along makes things stick better. Instead of completing the lessons as she assigns, I chose to mimic what she’s sketching and painting in class.

In the months since I bought the class, I became more and more drawn to Shari’s style. I particularly like the dappled brush strokes that make her work recognizable, and how her work looks accurately representational yet relaxed and loose. Watching her work and talk her way through her process was very helpful — it took some of the mystery out of it and made it more approachable and methodical than seeming like pure magic. She’s a great instructor!

My sketches

I’m on the hunt for a sketchbook and paper that will work best for me, so these lessons were done on a variety of papers to test things out. The morning sky, neutral sky, and fluffy clouds are on Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press natural white and the stormy sky is on Fabriano Artistico hot press white (folded from large sheets into journals using these instructions). The Flatirons sketch is in a Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook.

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - morning sky
Morning sky, with additional textures for trees
Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - neutral sky
Neutral sky with ink and dry brush textures
Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - fluffy clouds
Fluffy clouds with watercolor textures from other lessons
Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - stormy sky
Stormy sky with detailed tree
Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf - Flatirons sketch
Thumbnail sketches, value study, and watercolor sketch of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado

Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukop

I can see that in my main Flatirons project, I went too dark with the first big shapes layer, making the mid tone layers hard to distinguish and the darkest layers too dark and muddied. I’m still working on my techniques for layering color, leaving white areas, and nailing values.

This class is fantastic just to watch Shari work, but even better when you do the exercises yourself. I highly recommend it for developing ink and watercolor sketching skills!



  • Lamy Safari fountain pen with EF nib
  • Black De Atramentis Document Ink
  • watercolors (mostly Daniel Smith)
  • watercolor brushes (Escoda Versatil travel brushes sizes 4, 6, 8; Master’s Touch round size 24; Princeton Neptune size 10)
  • 5.5×8.5 Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook
  • Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press watercolor paper in natural white
  • Fabriano Artistico hot press watercolor paper in white
Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatched driving moc

Sketchbooks: Drawing the Everyday class

Once I realized I was most interested in the process of sketching and painting I signed up for a few Craftsy classes on the topic. Although I was itching to watch them all at once, picking just one to start seemed more prudent. So I started off with Sketchbooks: Drawing the Everyday with Paul Heaston.

Paul is a master at drawing with ink (his hatching is really special), and he’s an excellent teacher as well. This course was so good for learning basic things to consider when starting to draw. Many of the things covered were familiar to me from college art classes, but I’d forgotten them over the years.


There were seven assignments, and I committed myself to do each of them one at a time before moving on to the next lesson.

1: Blind contour drawing of my hand

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - blind contour hand drawing
For a blind contour drawing, you follow the edges of the subject with your eyes and your drawing hand follows — without looking at your paper while you draw

2:Explore points of view, space, and texture with 3–4 arrangements of a still life

I used this opportunity to draw the same subjects from the three different points of view that Paul covers in this section.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - birds eye point of view
bird’s-eye view (where you see the tops of an item than the side)
Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - traditional point of view
traditional (below or at eye level, where see a bit of tops and sides of items)
Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - eye level point of view
eye level (straight-on, where round surfaces become very foreshortened and squished)

3: Hatching values

One of the things I was most excited about learning from Paul was hatching. I’d been dabbling in it and struggled with consistency and direction of my marks. His techniques help with achieving a precise yet natural look.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatched paint box
My watercolor box, with different hatching values — the shadow was a big mistake! Looked better without it
Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatched driving moc
I took my time with this driving moc drawing, and it paid off — I’m really happy with the values and shaping
Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - hatching soap dispenser
With this soap dispenser, I practiced going darker with my shadow values to allow the actual white parts to remain white

4: Paint two objects that are the same color but different values

I had a surprisingly difficult time finding two objects that fit this description! For me the best part of this lesson was just gaining more experience with my watercolors, primarily with doing a background wash.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - value study
There’s work to be done with my rendering of the foreshortened ellipses and cylinders

5: Sketch a person that’s moving through my scene

The challenge with this lesson is to learn to sketch people quickly, capturing what’s necessary and unique about the person and letting go of the rest. This one was really intimidating for me to begin because it sounded just impossible. Finally I asked my husband to stand there while I quickly sketched him.

I also experimented with my water brush — it has a much different feel from painting with regular watercolor brushes. I like how precise it is in some cases, but find it too precise for other things. It’s really good for painting in little shadows or small washes of color.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - figure sketching

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - figure sketching 2

As additional practice for sketching people, I found a photo online and made a watercolor sketch version of it in my book:

watercolor sketch from vintage photograph

6: Use a viewfinder and draw several thumbnails of a scene, trying different approaches

The viewfinder was awesome for making it clear how the composition was going to look on paper. I took it outside to find something to draw, and it cut out all of the extra bits of what I saw in the environment. Paul suggests doing thumbnail sketches in a few proportions like landscape, portrait, panoramic, and square, to get a sense of what’s going to work well before diving into the larger sketch.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - final project thumbnail sketches

7: Create a detailed study out of a larger scene

Using my favorite thumbnail sketch from the previous lesson, I selected a part of my house and back yard in a portrait view.

Sketching the Everyday craftsy course with Paul Heaston - final watercolor sketch

I really like how the rosemary bushes look, and the general composition. But overall the house was a pretty boring subject! It was more about getting some practice in a convenient place than capturing something really interesting.

It looks a little too much like a cartoon for my taste — as opposed to a journal sketch — so that’s something I want to see if I can figure out.

This class is a great balance of learning a lot of techniques in a very accessible way. When I look back at all of the lessons I can see it was very informative and helps move my art skills toward my goals. My big goal is to record watercolor sketches in a travel journal. I sure wish I’d had this knowledge when we went to Paris a few years ago! I may still do some watercolor sketches of those photos just for fun.



completed waistband and button fly and rivets installed

Jeans drafted from ready-to-wear

One of my favorite times of the year is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I love taking a break from work (or at least letting up on work a bit) and focusing on personal fun stuff. For the last holiday season, I treated myself to the Craftsy class Jean-ius! Reverse Engineer Your Favorite Fit with Kenneth D. King. I was filling the break with some personal sewing projects:

And I also decided it would be my mission to sew a pair of jeans. Except I don’t wear jeans very often these days, so my husband signed up to be the guinea pig. He’s really good about wearing jeans until they fall apart (I’ve patched a few for him since getting my sewing machine), and loves wearing jeans.

The project started in early January, then took a big break while I prepared for the Spring Jackalope show. Once I felt caught up with my business I worked on The Jeans a little bit on weekends, making sure I never pushed myself past the point of enjoying the process. It was so much new stuff to learn!

I used the Craftsy Jean-ius class for my primary direction, and also the Ginger jeans sewalong from Closet Case Files for additional perspective.

Matt's finished jeans
Matt’s finished jeans


Self-drafted pattern based on a pair of men’s Lucky jeans

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • sewing with Japanese selvedge denim
  • serged seam finishes
  • topstitching with jeans thread (with all purpose thread in the bobbin)
  • button fly
  • 5 pockets, including pocket bags
  • rivets installed at stress points

Process notes

  • used the jeans making kit from Clost Case Files (which came with a denim needle that I used, the buttons for the fly, and the rivets)
  • made a test fit pair of pants (with zipper fly) from a similar weight fabric — miraculously no fit changes were necessary
  • ordered 6 yards of 30″ wide denim (used about 3 1/2 yd, with about 2 1/2 yd left over)
  • traced pattern pieces with soap sliver before cutting out
  • consulted this post and examined the construction of the ready-to-wear pair to recreate the button fly
  • used selvedge for top of coin pocket and inside of waistband
  • finished all exposed seam allowances with serger

My construction order:

  1. Prepare the patch pockets and install on back pant pieces
  2. Attach the yoke to the back pieces
  3. Assemble the front pockets
  4. Prepare and install the fly (making buttonholes before installing)
  5. Attach front to back
  6. Install fly buttons
  7. Install waistband
  8. Make and attach belt loops
  9. Make buttonhole in waistband and attach button
  10. Install rivets
  11. Hem
back pockets of Matt's jeans topstitched and attached to back pieces
back pockets of jeans topstitched and attached to back pieces
front pockets of jeans topstitched and assembled
front pockets of jeans topstitched and assembled
yoke attached to back pieces and front fly installed
yoke attached to back pieces and front fly installed
button loops ready to be sewn onto waistband
button loops ready to be sewn onto waistband
completed waistband and button fly and rivets installed
completed waistband and button fly and rivets installed


For my first pair of jeans, I’m super happy with how these turned out. I loved working with this denim, and since it’s only 11 oz. it went through my machine really well everywhere but just a couple of places (e.g. at the top of the back pockets, it wanted to skip a few stitches getting through the layers and over the hump.)

Since the gold denim thread was going to be so visible, I paid close attention to my topstitching and the extra care paid off.

There were some areas that gave me trouble, which I’ll watch for next time:

  • before cutting out the pieces, I had increased the side seams to 1″, but forgot to account for this on the pocket bag pieces, so the pockets are a little too narrow
  • the fly ends too low, making the fly longer than I wanted, and the bottom button is too difficult to reach
  • the burrito method mentioned in King’s class for finishing the ends of the waistband was really tricky for me, so I may try a different method next time if I can find one
  • the waistband is a little narrower than I’d like, and when lining up the waistband at the front it sent me down a road of making the front overlap too thin
  • making the buttonhole for the top button did not go well because of the bulk at the bottom edge of the waistband, pushing the hole too far up and making the top edge of the hole rather thin (I compensated by attaching a patch to the back of the waistband around the hole)
  • it’s important to use a flat, smooth, metal surface for installing the rivets because anything softer like wood or textured results in either the rivet post poking through the front of the rivet head or imprinting the texture onto the rivet head
  • they seem to be a little short in the crotch length, something to re-measure next time

I’d like to make another pair of these some day, since a big part of the project was drafting the pattern — and that’s done now!

How long did they take? I started watching the Craftsy class around January 1, 2016, and finished the jeans on June 25, 2016. I didn’t track my time, but I’d ballpark it at 9 weekends, working about 3 hours each weekend. The basic steps were:

  1. make a pattern based on the existing jeans
  2. make a quick version of the pants from test fabric (for fitting)
  3. make the final pair of jeans
sleeve detail on chambray button-down shirt

Epic chambray shirt

I watched the Craftsy class The Classic Tailored Shirt all the way through some time ago, but never felt motivated to actually make the shirt. Although I was inspired by the hand-stitched collar band process when designing and making my Tailored Dog Jacket.

When I watched The Gunman the other day on Netflix, the chambray button down shirts that some of the characters wore stuck in my mind. I decided I needed to have a shirt like that. These shirts were certainly not classic tailored shirts, but the class helped me get through the confusing pattern instructions that came with McCall’s 6649. That’s the button down shirt pattern I had from when I bought Craftsy’s One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses.

Process notes

  • used sloper from One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses class
  • used dark blue chambray fabric
  • only used interfacing on upper collar and neck side of collar band
  • yoke: I did it so the top stitched side faces out, so when I joined the shoulder seams to it, and slid the yoke piece down 1/8 in. for turn of cloth, it was too bulky inside and the outer yoke pulled on it. I compensated for this by pressing it with slight folds in seams to straighten things out.
  • collar band and collar: I got quite confused with this component, between which sides get interfacing and which pieces get pressed at 5/8 in. After doing some Googling, it seems like there are multiple ways to do this correctly, except that typically the non-interfaced collar band piece is the one that gets pressed up 5/8 in. And the important thing is to make sure the button hole is on the right side of the collar band.
  • cuffs: this was all kinds of confusing. I’m pretty sure I sewed the plackets in on the wrong side because of where the top stitching ended up being, and there’s a pinch in one of them, but they function just fine so I didn’t rip anything out.
  • using a double thread for sewing on the buttons was problematic for me, and I kept getting knots and mistakes, so I switched to single thread and it went much more smoothly


What a feat! It took 3 big days of sewing, but it’s done. I’m SO glad I my sloper to make sure the shoulders actually fit me. And I’m glad that my sloper didn’t require changes to the neckline, shirt length, or sleeve cuff — making those adjustments on my first shirt would have been really challenging.

chambray button-down shirt

Next time, I’d leave out the interfacing all together because I like a softer more crinkly look. I’d also like to figure out how shirts get that rippled edge near the topstitching — not sure if it’s in the construction, or just happens after several washes or what.

And now that I’ve seen how the shirt comes together, doing some contrasting accents, like in the collar band, button placket, or cuffs would be cool.

boatneck tee drafted from ready to wear

Boatneck tee drafted from ready-to-wear

contrast yoke boatneck tee from JCrew painter tee |

original ready to wear boatneck tee
The J.Crew boatneck tee that I used as a source

There’s one short-sleeve tee in my wardrobe that I depend on as my go-to tee. It’s a boatneck tee from J.Crew from several years ago with sleeves that come just above the elbow, a flattering shape, interesting overlapping shoulder construction with buttons, and the perfect color. Whenever I put it on I feel more put together yet still comfy and casual. It works with all of my pants and shorts, it’s not too thick or too thin.

Sadly, it won’t last forever.

Happily, I know how to draft a pattern from ready to wear.

boatneck tee drafted from ready to wear
My version of the boatneck tee, with side vent and contrast yoke

The previous patterns I’ve made from some of my favorite clothes have gone very well. The 3/4 sleeve white tee and linen drawstring shorts are not without room for improvement, but the fit is pretty good because I started with something off the rack that already fit. Fit has been my biggest challenge by far when it comes to sewing my own clothes.

Project features

  • knit binding on stabilized neckline
  • twin needle hemming
  • side vents
  • contrasting yoke
  • button detail on neckline

Process notes

  • used a reclaimed tee for the striped lower portion of the shirt
  • added a contrasting yoke
  • for the neckline, used techniques learned in Sewing on the Edgestabilized the neckline with fusible tricot and stay stitching, then sewed on the binding by aligning one raw edge with the stay stitching line, trimmed off the excess along the neckline, folded the binding over to the back, and topstitched in place with a twin needle.
  • flipped the sleeves around so the flatter slope was in the back and the sharper curve was in the front
  • added vents in the sides
  • even though the pattern was drafted for 3/8″ seam allowance, I reduced it to 1/4″ for closing up the sleeves/side seams because the striped fabric didn’t have much stretch


I love this color combo! My only regret is that the striped fabric isn’t very stretchy, making the tee rather snug and difficult to put on. If the bottom were as stretchy as the top, it wouldn’t be a problem. I also used a straight stitch to attach the yoke to the bodice, which was a mistake. The first time I put it on, that seam ripped, so I had to go back and use a stretch stitch and pull out the original stitches.

The neckline finish is awesome, and I’d like to use that technique again — as long as it doesn’t need to stretch over my head. The boatneck worked fine, but since the fusible tricot prevents that edge from stretching it wouldn’t work if it were a typical crew neck. I think it’s going to be an improvement on the original tee because that one gaped at the back of the neck and this one appears to be sitting closely against the back of my neck nicely.

boatneck tee drafted from ready to wear
Neckband detail, with overlapping shoulder seam and button

Switching the sleeves from front to back appears to have worked just fine. It bunches up a little radiating from the under arm, which would be nice to remedy, but I haven’t yet found the trick to that.

Pipsqueak getting in the picture
Pipsqueak, dancing for attention while we were shooting the photo

Next time:

  • make the neckline binding 1/4″ wider
  • use a stretchier fabric or increase the size of the pattern to accommodate
  • attach yoke with stretch stitch
  • lower armhole at side seams about 1/4″
Simplicity 1202 woven cap sleeve blouse detail

Wardrobe Architect Project: Cap Sleeve Blouse

The final garment to sew for my Summer 2015 wardrobe project was going to be the Simplicity 1693 blouse in a blue-and-white striped fabric. But I took a detour after:

  1. reading that the sleeve on that top was rather voluminous
  2. re-watching the One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses class and feeling inspired to draft my own custom design
  3. drafting my own  blouse from my sloper from that class, including cap sleeves
  4. sewing a muslin from said self-drafted pattern and getting totally stuck because the cap sleeves did NOT behave as I wanted (they were far too tight across my arm no matter what I did to try to remedy it)

So. I switched up my plan and instead went back to a commercial pattern. And I didn’t think that the raglan-style sleeve in that pattern would look very good with my original striped fabric choice (awkward things might happen where the angled sleeve joins the bodice), and instead subbed in a tissue-thin fabric of blue pinstripe plaid.


Simplicity 1202 cap sleeve blouse

Project features

  • raglan sleeves
  • keyhole opening with center back seam
  • baby French facing neckline finish

Process notes

  • skipped the muslin
  • made size 10, view A
  • replaced the facing instructions in the pattern with the baby French facing technique from Crafty’s Sewing on the Edge: Finishing Techniques class, with bias pieces cut 1 1/2 inches wide, joined, and folded in half
  • after trying the top on for fitting, took the underarm and side seam in by 1 inch (1/2 inch from each piece) and re-finished the seams/hems
  • removed the button tab because the neckline is large enough to fit without needing to unbutton it; stitched on a decorative button to hold the keyhole opening closed


I just can’t win with sizing on commercial patterns! It’s becoming kind of a joke. This top is rather billowy on me, including arm holes that went down too low on my sides. I could have made the size 8.

Blue plaid woven cap sleeve blouse Simplicity 1202

Simplicity 1202 woven cap sleeve blouse

While I love the idea of pullover woven blouses, I’m struggling with them on my particular shape. My back sways in, and my hips and shoulders are the same measurements with my waist being smaller. By the time the top fits my hips and pulls over my shoulders, it’s gotten pretty boxy and isn’t flattering for my shape. I could belt this one, but I don’t like the way sitting with a belted top makes it puff out in front and pull at the back. I’m fussy that way.

Maybe shaping it along the back seam and side seams and adding a side zipper to pull it over my shoulders would help. Or that might just make a stiff, uncomfortable side seam. Not sure the solution, but I’m not quite ready to give up on casual woven tops all together.

I’m really happy with the construction (all of those School of Sewing projects paid off!). The baby French facing is a great technique, although I wish I had made the fabric 2 or 2 1/4 inches wide. It was really narrow by the time it was stitched to the neckline. After stretch pressing it I had to stretch it wider again so it wasn’t too narrow.

After sewing all of these garments I’m learning that I wear fabrics with stretch SO MUCH more happily than fabrics without stretch. Whether they’re stretch wovens, or knits, they’re more wearable in my life. I’d like to focus on those types of projects next.

Linen drawstring shorts copied from ready to wear

Wardrobe Architect Project: Linen Drawstring Shorts

My Summer 2015 wardrobe project originally include a chambray gathered skirt. But my test muslin was far from flattering, so I called an audible and switched it to a pair of linen shorts.

Linen drawstring shorts next to the original ready to wear pair
My linen shorts on the left, with the original off-the-rack knit pair on the right


I drafted my own pattern from a pair of knit drawstring shorts using the skills I learned in Steffani Lincecum’s fantastic Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear.

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • drawstring with casing
  • front patch pockets
  • bartacks

Process notes

  • traced the pattern pieces using Steffani’s techniques
  • before making the muslin, added to the side seams to accommodate a woven fabric (the original shorts are knit), and adjusted the shape of the crotch seam to be more like an “L” than a long shallow curve, based on Kathy Ruddy’s One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants class
  • after making the muslin, increased the length of the back center seam by raising the waistline at the center back and smoothing to the side seams to accommodate the shorter length between the legs (this was a problem I ran into on my olive ankle pants and didn’t realize it until I started wearing them and they rode down in back and pulled at the front when I sat down)
  • made the drawstring from lightweight chambray, double-folding and stitching down the length, making clean finishes at the ends (I use this clean-ends bag strap method all the time)
  • the single buttonhole for the drawstring didn’t work — the chambray strap didn’t slide when I tried to cinch it closed because the linen had no flexibility like the knit casing does — so after assembling the shorts I ended up cutting two slots next to the center buttonhole and dabbed some fray block on them (I’m not entirely optimistic that this will keep the holes from fraying though, but I wasn’t about to rip out the finished waist band and do it again)


The construction went very well (except for that drawstring buttonhole) and I’m really happy with how they look. The fit is good, although they’re a little bit loose around my body and I didn’t need to add as much to the side seams as I did. When I cinch the drawstring around my waist, there’s a bit of extra bunching up with the fabric requiring some shuffling around to even things out. But they are comfy, which is one of my priorities.

Linen drawstring shorts copied from ready to wear Linen drawstring shorts copied from ready to wear

I love the pockets! The stitching came out nice and even, and they help add interest and functionality. Without them I think these shorts would be quite dull.

I want to try this pattern with knit fabric, too. Especially since the original pair I bought is starting to fray apart because I wear them so much.

Simplicity 1696 Olive Ankle Pants

Wardrobe Architect Project: Olive Ankle Pants

Next up for my Summer 2015 wardrobe project is sewing the olive ankle pants.


Simplicity 1696 Amazing Fit Pants

Project features

  • front zip fly with bar tack
  • hook closure
  • mock welt pockets
  • waistline facing
  • 4-piece waistband for fitting
  • slip-stitched hem

Process notes

  • made size 12 average fit
  • made a fitting muslin, then took quite a bit off of the crotch/inseam on the pack piece and lowered the front waistline a little
  • used a 100% cotton twill (no stretch)
  • omitted front pockets
  • omitted carriers (belt loops)
  • finished waistband facing with serger instead of bias binding


I’m so glad I started with a fitting muslin on these pants, because it would have been really frustrating to make all of the changes necessary on the final fabric. On my first muslin there was a lot of fabric pooling under the “bum” as Kathy Ruddy puts it. I’m also really glad I had One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants to guide me through fitting. Even though it’s not a pants fitting class, Kathy provides excellent information on getting pants to fit well. I was able to use her instruction for seat fullness adjustments and for the crescent leg adjustment at the thigh. The pattern instructions for fine-tuning the fit would not have gotten me the fit I was after (or the fitted look as described on the pattern).

At a certain point I had to accept that this project was going to be slow-going. After spending pretty much a whole weekend on fit, it took me a couple of weeks to get through the final construction, sewn in little bits here and there. In the end, it was probably good to go slow because if I’d tried to power through making this pattern for the first time it could have led to frustration and exhaustion. Or a half-made-pants bonfire in the back yard.

I’m super happy with the final construction. Since I didn’t rush, stitching is clean and even, even where I had to stitch in the ditch around the waistband. The front zip fly took me a LONG time to get through, but it’s my first and it turned out well so I can’t complain. However, it’s awkward to zip them up using my left hand — the fly overlaps from right to left, but I apparently prefer pants that overlap from left to right.

Simplicity 1696 Olive Ankle Pants waistband and fly


Simplicity 1696 Olive Ankle Pants mock welt pockets
I sure hope those needle marks in the center back come out after washing…

My hope is that these pants soften and mold to my body over time. Right now they’re heavier and stiffer that I’d like or am used to. I really like pants with stretch, but I wanted to experiment with this twill to see how it went.

Adjustments for next time:

  • switch fly from right to left
  • lengthen the crotch depth on the back piece
  • use the lightweight stretch denim in my fabric stash
  • use a softer cotton for the waistband facing
  • continue fiddling with the fit of the back upper thigh area
  • finish the raw edges of the mock welt pocket flap

I’m also considering what it would take to turn this into my pants block, and using the fly installation technique from One Pattern. Many Looks: Pants.

Warm grey scoop neck tee detail

Wardrobe Architect Project: Fitted Scoop Neck Tee

For my first item in my Summer 2015 wardrobe project, I chose the fitted scoop neck tee with elbow-length sleeves.


Scoop neck tee from Crafty’s Sewing with Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials class + banding technique from Sewing on the Edge: Finishing Techniques

Project features

  • working with slinky knit
  • fusible tricot and stay stitching around neckline
  • clean join on neck band
  • twin needle topstitching

Process notes

  • made size small, with elbow-length sleeves
  • curved in at the waistline, roughly following the Coco shaping
  • 3/8 in. wide band of fusible tricot cut the same shape as the neckline
  • 2 1/4 in. wide strip of fabric for neckline banding, about 4 in. longer than needed for neckline
  • used the default settings for lightning stitch to sew in the sleeves
  • for twin needle, set thread tension to 8 with 3.0 stitch length using straight stitch
  • 3/4 in. hem on bottom


Warm grey scoop neck tee

I’m happy with my construction of this tee, but there are several things I don’t like about it:

  • the lightweight slinky knit isn’t great for a fitted tee because every little thing that isn’t smooth (like a bra for example) shows up more than I’d like
  • the fabric is too tight in the back and my shoulders are pulling on it
  • the arm holes are too small and the fabric is pulling there
  • there’s a lump at the upper back sleeve where the sleeve cap is too sharply curved

I love the clean join on the neck band. Waiting until after the banding is applied to finish the length seems was a nice experience, but the band was pulled a little too much and flops open a teeny bit. And stabilizing the neckline with tricot was an extra step but I do think it made the whole neckline process go more smoothly and the result is quite refined.

I’m still working on shoulder fit and am considering next steps. My two thoughts that I’m deciding between are:

  • go up a pattern size from the underarm to shoulder seam
  • or add 1/4 in. to the back armscye and sleeve back, adding 1 in. total to the finished back width, a forward shoulder adjustment, flatten out the curve at the upper back sleeve, sharpen the curve at the upper front of the sleeve

I also want to add 1/4 in. to back armscye and sleeve on the Coco size 3.

I’m determined to make this pattern work for me as a close-fitting knit torso sloper — after wearing it for a day, it was so comfortable and the neckline is really flattering.

Simplicity 2215 blouse detail

Sewing the Simplicity 2215 Sleeveless Blouse

While not typically not a dress or skirt person, I’m open to becoming one some day. And at a recent $1 pattern sale, Simplicity 2215 struck me as a classic-yet-modern option that just might work for me. But first, I dip my toe in the water with the blouse.

Project features

  • collar
  • facing
  • bias tape facing
  • darts
  • buttons

Process notes

Simplicity 2215 Cynthia Rowley Blouse, Skirt, and Dress

Instead of using the pointed collar that comes with the pattern, I drafted a Peter Pan collar. This was a nice blouse to try that on because it doesn’t have a collar band.

After making a size 8 muslin to test the fit, I made some adjustments:

  • omitted the front waist shaping darts
  • replaced the arm hole with the size 12 arm hole
  • added about 3/4 in. to the back side of the armscye (broad back/shoulder blade adjustment)
  • shaved 5/8 in. off the neckline

For the fabric, I used some of the mystery challis from my stash because it has such a nice soft feel. I love sewing with regular cottons, but they tend to have a stiffer shape in tops that I don’t care for. I like my tops to look polished, but not stiff.


Simplicity 2215 sleeveless blouse with Peter Pan collar

The challis feels wonderful, but it’s tricky to sew with — it wants to slither around quite a bit. And I think it’s going to be snag city with this particular fabric. Just during the sewing process some little snags appeared, causing little hiccups in the fabric pattern.

I’m super happy with how the collar turned out. It was challenging to figure out where exactly it should stop in front, but I lucked out big time. Some of my Craftsy classes were a huge help for getting me through this top successfully: 40 Techniques Every Sewer Should Know, One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses, and The Classic Tailored Shirt. And I’m sure if I watch Sewing on the Edge again I’d pick up ways to improve the arm hole binding process.

The arm holes ended up being too large, and the broad back adjustment could have been reduced by about half. On the plus side, this top fits over my head if the top button is unbuttoned, which gives me some good direction for designing a popover blouse.

Somehow the fabric got uneven on the bottom front — either when the facing was attached or when the buttons were sewn on. I’ll have to watch for that sort of thing in the future.

This top would look wonderful with slim navy pants. And on that note, perhaps making the skirt from this pattern in a navy is the way to go.

Adjustments for next time:

  • make size 10
  • shorten the length of the back neck facing a little bit to lie smoother

Simplicity 2215 sleeveless blouse


Tee drafted from ready to wear

T-shirt Sewing Mission: Shoulders

As an addict of online courses (Craftsy and Creative Live in particular), I enjoy learning what different platforms have to offer and how they differ from each other. There are many Craftsy classes in my library, so when BurdaStyle opened up a new sloper class, I wanted to see how that platform works as well. I own the Craftsy course Sewing with Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials and it has been tremendously helpful for getting me comfortable sewing with knits. The first tee I made was from the pattern that comes with that course, with my adjustments for square and broad shoulders. But the adjustments didn’t pan out:

White tee from Sewing with Knits
The shoulders are too square and it’s too tight under the arms

The square shoulder adjustment was totally wrong for me, and the shoulder seams were too short. It was also too tight under the arms and there are pull lines on the fabric (and I can feel it pulling uncomfortably). After seeing how square the shoulders were I pinched out some of the fabric and re-sewed the top of the sleeve/arm hole seams but it didn’t fully solve the issue. When BurdaStyle opened up their Draft Your Own Personal 5 Piece Sloper Collection for May enrollment I jumped on it. Through this course we learned how to draft slopers for the bodice, sleeve, pant, dress/torso for wovens, and the sleeve and torso for knits. One of the great things about the course is gaining familiarity and comfort with the drafting process — drawing over and over helps me feel like it’s no big deal to rip off a sheet of tracing paper and get to work. After drafting each of the woven slopers I sewed up muslins to see how the fit was going. I learned that just because the sloper is drafted from my measurements, it doesn’t mean the garment will fit right out of the gate. The shoulder area was challenging, especially once it came time to add the sleeves. I fell pretty good about where the woven bodice/torso slopers landed, but we’ll see what happens when I eventually draft a pattern from the slopers. I was really excited about the knit sloper. But when I constructed a tee from mine, the arm holes and shoulder placements were off.

White tee from sloper class
Shoulders are too wide and it’s too tight under the arms

It’s also too short, but that’s an easy to fix in the future. After these two experiences, I was looking for a win. So I drafted a pattern from a tee from my closet that I know fits me well following the Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready to Wear. I love this class so much. It takes a lot of the mystery out of garment design and construction — not in the sense that it teaches how to design and construct garments, but rather by reverse-engineering the pieces of the garment it demonstrates that it wasn’t created through magic.

This tee turned out much better, and I’m pretty happy with the fit. I think the under arms are still a bit too small, and the neckline in front is a little high. There are several more tees in my closet to copy — my goal is to get a good basic fit to which I can apply different necklines, hemlines, and sleeves.