Zip front jacket designed with Sure-Fit Designs Shirt Kit

When I cleaned out my closet and dresser a few months ago I discovered an old zip up jacket that had a broken zipper, frayed edges, and many stains. But I couldn’t part with it — when I found it, it quickly became a staple again because it’s so easy and comfortable.

After completing the exercises in The Curated Closet, a replacement for this tattered old standby was high on my list of things to make. Using the Sure-Fit Designs Shirt Kit and my personal blueprint, I drew up a pattern based on my ready-to-wear version.

It came together really well, except for when I topstitched the hem band seam allowance down with the triple stretch stitch. I haven’t had much luck with that stitch on knit fabrics because it tends to ruffle the fabric.

wearing my handmade zip up jacket on our Grand Tetons-Yellowstone 2017 trip
Wearing my jacket at Schwabacher’s Landing at Grand Teton National Park

I finished it just in time to wear on our trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. It was perfect for the temperatures up there and I wore it almost every day! It’s super comfortable and I love the fabric.

Adjustments for next time

  • Reduce the size of the pattern so it’s not quite so loose
  • Skip the topstitching around the hem band
  • Make the hem band smaller so it cinches closer to my body
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Classic striped tee designed with Sure-Fit Designs Dress Kit

striped long sleeve tee designed with Sure-Fit Designs dress kit

I have a serious love of striped tees. Since I prefer comfy clothes, I end up with a lot of tees (both long and short sleeve) and the stripes help add more personality than solid fabrics. Navy and soft white are my favorite pairing, and while I have plenty of those in my closet they all have some issues.

One has amazing fabric and details like brass buttons on the shoulders, but it’s too snug and the neckline is too broad. Another is nearly perfect, with some solid color blocking and 3/4 length sleeves but the shoulders are weird and the neck gapes. The one that fits the best has been worn so much that it has stains and holes.

So once I got started with my Sure-Fit Designs Dress Kit a Breton-style top was high on my list of priorities. My inspiration was a top that Winona Ryder wore in Girl, Interrupted. It’s pretty much perfection.

I don’t normally care for a crew neck in tees, but I wanted to give it a try because it’s so cute on Ryder in the movie. And typically my crew necks are on sporty, promotional tees so this would be a different animal. I was happy with how it turned out!

Yikes, you can really see my sloping right shoulder in this photo!

I used Glenda’s instructions for removing the bust-fitting dart in the Dress Kit. For the neckline, I made a facing out of navy knit, sewed it on with the lightning stitch for stretch, and topstitched it in place with a twin needle. The bottom has a curved hem, inspired by this Pin that demonstrates a flattering hemline for tops when your hip measurement is quite a bit longer than your waist.

Next time, I need to make a few small adjustments to my SFD blueprint:

  • The length is a little short, possibly because my measurement from neck to waist was off. I’ll need to lower the waistline and add some to the hemline as well.
  • Shoulders have been an ongoing issue with fitting, but I think the shoulder seam is just a little bit too long here. Shortening that at the shoulder point maybe 1/4″ should help.
  • Definitely need to try this with a boatneck! Hopefully I have enough fabric left to do a shorter sleeve version with this alternative neckline style.
  • There’s probably something I can do about those folds going from underarm to neck…the Sure-Fit Designs Facebook group may be able to help with that.
sketches of my sleeveless dress done using my personal croquis

Sleeveless dress designed from Sure-Fit Designs Dress Kit

accent yoke sleeveless dress with boatneck- designed with Sure-Fit Designs Dress Kit

I’ve never been a dress person, but making this dress has changed that a little bit. Ever since I got my Sure-Fit Designs kits (Dress, Shirt, and Pants) my head has been spinning with all of the opportunities to design clothes just for me. Not needing to rely on what’s available off the rack is an exciting prospect for sure!

After receiving the kits in the mail, I had trouble deciding where to begin because I wanted to make all the things all at once. But my first priority was to make something to wear to an outdoor evening wedding so I started with the Dress Kit. I started with a bunch of research on dresses that looked promising to help give me direction on my design. With a Pinterest board of course.

Once I had some basic ideas in mind, I sketched them onto my personal croquis. I drew my croquis in Adobe Illustrator a couple of years ago and it’s been invaluable for sketching garments because I can see what proportions and silhouettes look better with my figure and which I can safely skip. Although I need to update it with my short hair…

sketches of my sleeveless dress done using my personal croquis

I knew I wanted a boatneck, fitted bodice, the waistline accented with a contrasting color, and just above the knee length. Since I don’t wear much jewelry, I was leaning toward a contrasting yoke for some interest on the bodice area. I settled on a blend of the two sketches on the right: the skirt from the middle sketch and the bodice from the righthand sketch.

SFD Dress Kit muslin

With everything drawn out, I made my pattern pieces using my body blueprint from my SFD Dress Kit. I sewed a muslin to test fit and after a few adjustments came the hard part: finding good fabrics. And sheesh, was that challenging! I wanted to buy in person, because I have trouble knowing exactly what I’d be getting and didn’t have time to send for samples. I explored a solid poly-cotton broadcloth but they didn’t seem opaque enough and I didn’t want to line the skirt. Plus, natural cotton seemed like a better way to go since it was an outdoor wedding and the weather could get warm.

Some people have had success sewing dresses with quilting cotton, and I really like working with Kona Cotton, which is readily available in my area. So that’s what I went with for the outside (navy blue and tan) and on the inside of the bodice I lined it with some of the tan Kona and also used a lightweight chambray from my stash.

accent yoke sleeveless dress with boatneck back - designed with Sure-Fit Designs Dress Kit

I hadn’t sewn a dress before, let alone line a bodice with a back zipper. This video was incredibly helpful for walking through the process and while it seems like an overwhelming process, when you break it down and just take it step by step it’s really not bad at all.

I’m happy with the outcome, although there are a couple of things I’d change next time:

  • I should have checked the alignment of the bodice and skirt before sewing on the accent waistband. I ended up ripping out some stitches and using some of the seam allowance of the skirt, sewing too close to the raw edge. To secure the stitching I used some fray block, which made it rough and scratchy there against my leg.
  • The armscye is too snug. I need to lower the armhole a little bit at the bottom and scoop the front more. After the bodice was lined, the seam that joined the exterior to the lining got stiff and tight.

I’m going through the exercises in The Curated Closet (which is super helpful for people who want to take a methodical approach to building a sustainable wardrobe that they love) and I’m not sure whether more dresses really have a place in my closet. But at least now I know more about the process and feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of both making and wearing them. I’d say besides achieving a great fit, my favorite thing about the Sure-Fit Designs kits and instructions is the freedom to create exactly what you want without relying on existing patterns.

Excited to make my next pieces!

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

Pattern

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

Results

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
woven drawstring sleep shorts drafted from ready to wear

Woven drawstring sleep shorts drafted from ready to wear

Pants (and shorts) fitting is an ongoing endeavor for me. One day at the mill ends and remnants fabric store, I picked up a couple of yards of printed fabric (meandering little duck footprints I think??) for cheap. My intention was to get fabric I don’t care about and sew some bottoms to see if I can zero in on a good pants block. At least it’s 100% cotton!

PATTERN

Self-drafted pattern from a pair of ready-to-wear shorts (also knit version)

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • drawstring with casing
  • finished seam allowances

Process notes

  • finished seam allowances with serger
  • joined side seams and waistband on the serger, stitching and finishing the edges all at once, with 3/8″ seam allowance instead of the original 5/8″ drafted into the pattern
  • made drawstring from cotton twill tape

Results

woven drawstring sleep shorts drafted from ready to wear

These sleep shorts are feeling pretty good. I’m really happy with the construction, and it was nice to get more comfortable finishing seams on the serger.

My on-the-fly decision to use the serger on the side seams resulted in a narrower seam allowance than originally intended, so the shorts are essentially a total of 1″ wider around the body. That’s something to watch for next time I make a pair of these.

I was going for a boxer short style, but because of the way I did the fitting, they’re a little slimmer than a typical roomy boxer short. They’re also a little too long, and when I crouch down the front of the legs tug more than I’d like. Going shorter would help that.

The big challenge for drawstring woven bottoms is that on my body, the waistband is quite a bit larger than my waist in order to get the shorts over my hips. I don’t love that, but this was a good project for learning more about pants fitting.

I’d really love to switch to knits and make a pair of shorts like the American Giant Essential Short. I think my knit version of these shorts would be a good place to start!

short sleeve scoop neck tee with rounded hem

Short sleeve scoop neck tee

After I made a long sleeve scoop neck tee from a pattern I drafted from a ready-to-wear tee, I was so happy with it that I knew there would be more of them in my future. And all of a sudden, it’s 100°. Meaning it’s time to make a short-sleeve version of it.

For a more polished look, I like a longer, slimmer short sleeve that comes almost to the elbow. I’ve also been wanting to do a rounded hem on the bottom, inspired by a tee in my closet that has a flattering rounded hem but is a little too small.

Process notes

  • used pattern from long sleeve scoop neck tee and constructed in the same manner
  • shortened sleeve length to match the boatneck tee drafted from my J.Crew top
  • rounded hem based on a tee from my closet
  • used red and white striped knit fabric

Results

Love it! It came together relatively quickly once the pieces were cut out. Eventually I want to get to the point of using the serger for the arm/side seams once the sleeves are attached.

The fit is great, and the rounded hem is a keeper. I could see going shorter with the sleeve, maybe something like this or shorter with a slight curve.

Update: After wearing this top a few times, I see that it could be a little longer, so I’ll try adding 1″ length to it next time. The scoop neck could also be smoothed out at the sides — it angles too sharply at the front center.

short sleeve scoop neck tee with rounded hem

blue knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

Knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

PATTERN

I drafted my own pattern from a pair of knit drawstring shorts (originally used for a linen pair) 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
  • twin needle on knit fabric

Process notes

Results

I keep forgetting that with knits, I don’t need to make the waist the same measurement as my hip measurement, so these are a little big around the waist. But with the drawstring it’s not a big deal.

blue knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

I learned a lesson about cotton twill tape: cut to length after washing and drying! My string shrank so much that I can only make a tiny bow at the waist.

The construction went really well, which I’m happy about. And the fit is relatively good, too. The only thing I’m not wild about is the color, but it was what I found at the remnants and mill-end store, so it is what it is ;)

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

Results

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.

neckline detail on red and white scoop neck tee

Long sleeve scoop neck tee

I’ve been meaning to make some copies of my Loft long sleeve scoop neck tees for ages. I picked up several of them a few years ago, and for some reason they’ve all developed little holes in the front, around the area where the waistband of jeans would rub. They’re such a wonderful wardrobe staple, and drafting a pattern from them for my stash is a no-brainer.

red and white scoop neck long sleeve tee

Process notes

  • used red and white striped knit fabric
  • moved shoulder forward 1/2 in.
  • modified the shoulder slope to be a little flatter in the top-back, and sharper in the top-front
  • constructed with lightning bolt stitch, 2.0 width & 3.5 length
  • neckline:
    1. did not use tricot interfacing at neckline
    2. stay stitched at scant 3/8″
    3. cut single fold collar band 1 1/2 in. x 34 in. and pressed in half
    4. stitched collar band, right sides together, raw edges aligned
    5. top stitched seam allowances towards shirt, using stretch twin needle.

Results

red and white scoop neck long sleeve teeAbsolutely thrilled with how this tee turned out! The shoulder is great, the length is good for regular pants (not so much leggings), and the scoop is a great size.

I’d love to turn this into a short sleeve tee as well, but with a curved shape at the bottom instead of straight across. I’m hoping that makes it look more feminine and not so unisex.

I think this sleeve will be a good model for my knit pattern block.

Boatneck long sleeve tee in navy

One of my favorite tees is a hip-length black and white striped tissue tee with 3/4 sleeves and a boatneck from Loft. It’s a great fit — roomy enough to be super comfy, yet slim enough to look polished. For this project, I drafted a pattern from it and sewed it up in a nice, soft, navy knit.

navy boatneck long sleeve tee

Process notes

  • lengthened 3/4 sleeve by 5 in., bringing it to a full wrist length
  • 7 in. width at wrist end of sleeve pattern
  • neckline:
    1. neckline is constructed to include the shoulder seams right in the boatneck shaping
    2. for binding cut (2) pieces of same fabric 1 5/8 in. x 20 in.
    3. fused 1/2 in. wide tricot interfacing along neckline
    4. stay stitched at 3/8 in.
    5. aligned binding along the stay stitch line and stitched 1/2 in. from it
    6. trimmed off 3/8 in. (most of tricot interfacing got trimmed off)
    7. turned binding to inside and topstitched with stretch twin needle
    8. slightly overlapped shoulder areas and top stitched together
  • used 5/8 in. seam allowance to join arms, but 1/2 in. at side seam
  • added side vents

Results

I got lucky with this fabric — it’s very comfortable with a nicely balanced amount of stretch. We’ll see how it wears. I got it at the mill ends and remnants store where fabric content is unknown.

The first thing I noticed after trying it on was that the back shoulder need reshaping with a gentler slope to account for my forward sloping shoulders. But I do like how the boatneck works on this pattern, with a smoother overlap compared to my pattern drafted from my J. Crew tee.

The shaping along the sides and the overall length are good, although the bottom hem wants to flip up. This might be because of the side vents.

Next time, I’d lengthen the sleeves by 1/2 to 1 in., and adjust that shoulder curve. The adjustments are minor — overall it’s a winner.

Black knit lounge pants (not quite yoga)

After sewing another Coco, I moved over to some personal sewing projects drafted from ready to wear. I have several patterns in my pattern stash from this technique. (It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Craftsy class, but Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear is so great because of the versatility of the skills learned.) There’s a lounge pant drafted from Gap yoga pants blended with a lycra Nike workout pant, a hip-length boatneck tee with 3/4 sleeves from Loft, and long sleeve scoop neck tee from Loft.

I’ve had better success making garments from this type of pattern — vs. using one from the big pattern companies. I know the original fits, and I’m able to make some fit refinements when making the pattern.

Pants have proven tricky for me to get right. Not the construction, but the fit. I don’t have a basic pant block that fits yet, so each project is another learning experience in pants fitting. The learning continues with this pair.

Process notes

  • used black rib knit fabric
  • after constructing, went back and trimmed a bit off the inside seam at the crotch
  • the front and back leg lengths don’t match — need to research this more
  • used elastic instead of drawstring

Results

They’re not terrible, but there are definitely some fitting areas I want to address. The front rise is too long, and the legs are too wide. I wanted something a touch looser than the original yoga pant, but this was too far. And the waistband needs to be taken in more to achieve more of a slim fit. They hang pretty well in the back though.

If I can muster the patience, making a pants block that fits right would be an excellent step. Between One, Pattern Many Looks: Pants and this blog post about pants fitting, I could make real progress in this area.

funnel neck detail on Coco top

Pique Coco top with funnel neck and cuffs

Between Christmas and New Year’s, I took some time off of my Oxford Dogma making to indulge in some personal sewing. On my list were:

  1. a Coco top
  2. lounge pants
  3. long sleeve boatneck tee
  4. long sleeve scoop neck tee
  5. chambray button down shirt

First, my new Coco

Many months ago I bought some dark blue pique knit fabric, and have been wanting to make a Coco with it. This time with the funnel neck collar, 3/4 length sleeves, and cuffs (my Pinterest inspiration). And a good length for wearing with leggings.

navy pique Coco with funnel neck and cuffs

Process notes

  • funnel neck
  • 3/4 sleeve with cuff
  • lengthened 1 in. at lengthen/shorten line
  • used size 3, tapering to size 2 from waist down
  • used lightweight twill tape for shoulder stabilizing (next time: align 3/8 in. from cut edge on shoulder seams)
  • joining stitch: 75/11 stretch needle, with zig zag stitch set to 1.5 stitch width & 2.0 stitch length
  • top stitching: stretch twin needle, 3.5 stitch length

Results

So cute! I love the timeless yet mod look.  I like this longer sleeve better than the short sleeve on me — the short sleeve is more blunt and boxy, and the longer sleeve seems more graceful.

And as I was hoping, this Coco looks great with leggings and slim pants.