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!

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Zippered battery pouch: like a fanny pack, but sleeker

from Instagram: I had fun making this custom project for my neighbor. He loves location-based gaming and needed a slim, belted pouch to hold his @anker_official portable charger. Like a fanny pack, but not so fanny pack-like 😛 My new machine sewed the ballistic nylon fabric like a dream ❤️ http://ift.tt/2qALODk
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!

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 ;)

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.

Piecy serger cover

piecy serger cover

Awhile back I accidentally ripped the plastic slip cover for my serger in half, and have been meaning to sew a new one. I just took my sewing machine in the shop for a tune-up, leaving me pining away for its return. I filled the void by finally making my poor coverless serger a new outfit.

Since I love finding good uses for fabric scraps I went that route. I used the serger to piece and my old backup sewing machine for construction. It made me miss my Babylock even more!

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.

PATTERN

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

Results

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

PATTERN

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)

Results

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.

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.