Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stretch and Sew V 1.0 a.k.a the Sweatshirt Dress

 sweatshirt dress

Dress: Made by me, Pattern: Stretch and Sew 305, Fabric: French Terry
Leggings: Made by me, Pattern :Etsy blog DIY leggings tutorial, Fabric: Jersey
Boots: Honey Blossom Studio on Etsy

 One of the items of clothing that I have been searching for FOREVER is a sweatshirt dress. I mean, a sweatshirt dress sounds awesome, right? You can wear it around the house on Sunday when you are doing your cleaning and its almost respectable enough to wear to the grocery store. Its great for long car rides in the winter and lounging around the ski chalet shack when on ski vacation with friends. Its probably even great for the airplane! And yet, for some reason, NO ONE makes a sweatshirt dress. Or rather, if they do make a sweatshirt dress its too short or too small or sack-like (and literally a thousand dollars) or too ugly or actually just a sweatshirt that someone is trying to pass off as a dress. Trust me, I have been looking for the elusive sweatshirt dress for a VERY long time. 

But now... now I can make one! Hurray! And when is stumbled upon this dated, ugly ass retro pattern at the local thrift store for 30 cents, I figured I would give it a shot. Its the 1977 special: Stretch and Sew 305 and I haven't found any reviews or info about it on the great, wide interwebs. And if I can't find it on the interwebs, that means I'm the only person who has ever sewn this pattern, right? That's what I'm telling myself, it makes me feel adventuresome and special. And helps me excuse my mistakes!

Thrift finds

Sorry for the shoddy photo, here is a scan from Vintage Patterns Wikia.And, if you are so completely green with envy over my dress that you need your very own NOW NOW NOW, there are conveniently a few patterns for sale on Etsy right now.

 See, this pattern contained everything I wanted, but not everything I wanted all in one version! I NEEDED a pouch pocket on the idealized version on my sweatshirt dress that was currently only residing in my brain, and I definitely did not want a cowl neck. I am not a cowl girl. Also, it needed a bit of grading up (story of my life). So, I added about an inch at the center seam (since the pattern is cut on the fold, this is the easiest way to add just a bit of width to the pattern: just line the pattern piece up on the fold then move it over an inch). Unfortunately, as is common with many 70s dresses I saw in my vintage clothes selling days, the top and the bottom are all one piece with an elastic casing around the waist. This means that to accommodate my badonka donk, I had to grade up the entire pattern piece, rendering the top section of the dress way too large. I guess it would have worked if I was going to for that late 70s blousey look the lovely ladies on the pattern envelope are sporting, but that didn't end up working too well with my fabric of choice. Lets keep track here: Mistake 1.

Speaking of my choice of fabric, did I tell you about this ridiculous mound of white french terry that I purchased in the discount fabric district in Dallas for $3 a yard while visiting my parents at Christmas? No? Well, here it is (with some of it dyed orange). Its even too large to fit in one photo!


I'm not entirely certain what I thought I was going to do with 9 yards of french terry, but $3! per yard! what! I couldn't pass it up. And I am slowly trying to work my way through it. Turns out it doesn't hold dye as well as I thought it would, though. This dress was supposed to be navy. Yeah. Mistake 2.

Anyways, back to the sewing saga. Well, in the process of distracting myself with the VERY CHALLENGING grading, I accidentally cut the front neckline on both the back and front pieces and quickly realized that I was screwed. Mistake 3. Fortunately I wasn't planning on using the cowl neck anyways. 

sweatshirt dress back

Following the directions, I applied the binding to the edges of the pocket and stitched, folded over, and top-stitched the top part of the the pocket. The directions only allow for the pocket on the shirt version of the pattern, with the edges of the pocket being sewn up in the side seams and the waistband. I figured I could top stitch those down later, using a regular old sweatshirt as a guide for construction, but I had to apply the casing first to avoid creating a catastrophe. At that point, I serged the shit out of the side seams (it still feels very dramatic when I use my new serger) and tried the thing on. Yeah, way too big on the top half ( a result of Mistake 1) and the back neckline was way too low (a result of Mistake 3). Here is where I started fixing things. I sewed a massive dart (about 2 inches wide at the top) down the center back to the waistline. Hopefully it just looks like a center back seam. It helped massively with the fit through the shoulders and removed some of the blousey-ness through the bodice. Its still a little big in the front, but trust me, its a MAJOR improvement. 

sweatshirt dress pocket

I applied the casing and elastic as directed and then finished up the pocket by sewing down and top stitching the sides of the pocket and then the bottom of the pocket. The pocket is pretty wide and I would venture to say it would look better if it was a bit less wide, but I was OVER it at this point. I tried the dress on again and guess what? It was WAY too short! Mistake 4. 

Well, at this point I was ready to embrace the "make it work" moment. I was out of the pre-dyed "navy" fabric, but fortunately I still had at least 6 yards of that white french terry laying on my floor. Good thing color blocking is trendy right now! I cut out a nice long panel, sewed it on to the bottom of the dress, and then hemmed it up to a length I liked. My serging skills are a bit lacking so the side seams at the the intersection of the panel and the dress are a bit wonky. I finished things up by applying knit binding made of the white french terry to the sleeves and neckline and the put a fork in it and called it done!

 sweatshirt dress side

By some miracle clearly contrived by the sewing fairies, I managed to end up with a wearable finished project that ticks most of my sweatshirt dress boxes! I have indeed worn it to clean the house and go to the grocery store and will be certain to wear it on my next ski vacation. I haven't washed it yet, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the dye job doesn't run or fade too badly. 

And that, my friends, is the saga of the sweatshirt dress. Whew!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finished: Green Pepper F700 V1.0


Finished! Green Pepper Patterns F700. This was QUITE a project! Lots of steps and pattern pieces and zippers and alterations, at least more than I am used to. However, the intended recipient was quite pleased- as evidenced by the demonstration below of how the jacket will look when he takes it on its first tele skiing outing to Canada in a couple of weeks.


I'll go ahead an apologize for the photos- my friend wanted the jacket in his hands as soon as it came off the sewing machine and he couldn't wait ONE SECOND longer. Hence, the after work, kinda fuzzy, hat hair, insulated carhartt wearing, iphone photos. Plus, as I'm sure ya'll know, those of the male persuasion can be a bit impatient when it comes to modeling! I think you can get the idea anyways. 


This project was conceived of when said friend found himself in the unfortunate situation of having to accompany me on a trip to the fabric store. When all of the errand running is an hour away, you often find yourself going to the big city moderately sized metropolis (Santa Fe, for those of you that don't know, is only considered a big city by New Mexico standards) for lunch or dinner and then running all sorts of strange errands with other people. I have accompanied this particular friend on many trips to the guitar store and the ski shop, just so that I could have the Thai food reward at the end of the journey. 

ANYWAYS, I was just planning to run into the fabric store to pick up some fabric for my mother's (yet unfinished) birthday present. We emerged and hour and a half later with this Green Pepper pattern, way too much fluorescent green and orange fleece (half off!), and three water resistant zippers. I'll have you know that this was TOTALLY his idea, apparently he has been wanting an incredibly ugly, fluorescent  fleece for a long time (I think he is reliving his high school experience in the late 80s). However, I was super enthusiastic about the project, what with the claims I have been making about learning to sew outdoors gear. Plus, I owe the guy quite a few favors, he has helped me move twice,  assisted with the construction of a few projects, and always drives my drunk ass around when needed!


Sorry IN ADVANCE for all the ad nauseam details, but I had a hard time finding any info on this pattern, so I want to have this a reference for both myself and for anyone else looking to use this pattern or the updated Green Pepper 507. The directions were fabulous. Actually, let's be honest, they were clearly designed for some dude who was taking his first turn at the sewing machine without his mother/wife's assistance, which was perfect for me because I have never made anything like this before. 

I think this is an out of print pattern, its not listed on Green Pepper's website and their pattern numbering has changed. The Plush Polar Jacket and Vest seems to be the updated version of this pattern, and it looks like it has a few more professional finish options. After reading a few reviews of the newer version on Pattern Review, I incorporated some of the finishes into the jacket. I don't know how long this pattern was sitting on the shelf at the fabric store, but I can't find any info about it online and it does have a bit of a retro look. We measured my friend and according to the pattern, we should have cut an XL. A little judicious pattern measurement suggested that we cut the size L instead, and it ended up fitting just like he wanted. We added two inches to the length through the torso and two inches to the collar height (at his request) to accommodate a 28" zipper instead of the suggested 24" zipper. FYI, I think it would have looked and functioned better if we added four inches to the torso length instead, but that is NOT what he wanted! Either way, this pattern is SHORT (he is about 6 feet tall). He also requested that we carry the color blocked yoke onto the back of the jacket. The original pattern has a solid colored back. This was easily accomplished by slashing the pattern at the same height as the yoke on the front of the jacket and adding a seam allowance. 

The only other request my friend made was that I include a zipper guard to keep the cold zipper pull off his face when the jacket is zipped all the way up. I did a little improv on this one. I didn't find too much info online, so I looked at a couple of my own jackets and came up with this. 


I cut a half circle shape out of the fleece, edged it with Italian nylon lycra from Seattle Fabrics, and sewed it into the seam allowance at the top of the zipper. You can see the water resistant zipper nicely here, we picked this up at the fabric store and I think it looks a bit more professional than a regular zipper. You can also see my kind of shoddy topstitching- I used a 4 mm double needle and tried to use contrast thread, though it ended up that you couldn't tell at all because the thick fleece covered it up.  


I also ordered some Groovy Zipper Pulls from Seattle Fabrics and got some 1/16 inch cord at my local fabric store to make zipper pulls. Its pretty hard to grab that tiny zipper when you are wearing gloves! I can't believe I forgot to take a photo of it, but I added the nylon lycra to the bottom of the sleeves following this tutorial (using the steps labeled "lycra" at the bottom of the page). I think this step really added a more professional finish; rather than just having a straight hem at the sleeves which would allow them to hang over the hands, or a band of elastic which can be tight, the lycra keeps the ends of the sleeves resting lightly above the hands. The lycra binding is what you see on the jackets made by companies like Patagonia, so it was important for me to give it a try. Surprisingly, it worked quite nicely!


Yes, the collar looks ridiculous when unzipped! But he likes it! (BTW, I'm assuming this is the face that some of your children make when you try to take their pictures. Some men never grow up!)

There are a few changes I might make next time. The pattern calls for two layers of fleece on the lower front, which are used to make a pocket that extends from the seam across the chest to the bottom hem. I've seen this construction in some professionally made jackets, but the inside piece is a mesh or lightweight nylon instead of fleece. I think this would reduce bulk and make it much easier to sew. My sewing machine did not like top stitching through 4 layers of thick fleece! I've added a small zipper guard at the top of the zipper, but most jackets have a zipper guard that extends all the way down the length of the zipper, to keep that cold zipper off your body. If I can figure out how to do it, I'll extend the zipper guard next time. Also, I'd like to lady-fy this pattern for myself. Obviously the first step will be to pick a more appealing color palette, but the second step will have to be altering the pattern. Has anyone lady-fied a men's pattern before? Any tips?

Whew, if you've made it this far you probably deserve a jacket yourself! I'll take your requests in the comments... or not! 


Friday, February 15, 2013

Exciting news from around MY blogosphere!

The amazing thing about the blogosphere is that MY blogosphere isn't necessarily YOUR blogosphere. The blogosphere is so customizable, and for every interest you might have, there are a million (or so it seems) blogs that you can follow. In that light, I thought I would share two exciting things that popped up in my google reader this morning, just in case they didn't pop up in yours!

The New Vintage Lady just announced that she is doing a sew-a-long for her new and totally adorable plus- size vintage bathing suit pattern.

Seriously, are her graphics not the most adorable thing ever? Unfortunately, it only comes in one size, which is NOT my size! She says she plans to cover grading in the sew-a-long, so I'm going to to wait to see how hard it looks before I buy the pattern. I wonder if it must be made in a woven or if I could do the retro style in a modern bathing suit fabric...hmm...

I've had my eye on NVL's bra and tap panties pattern for a long time (way before I started sewing). I'm thisclose to clicking the purchase button on this one (plus, its really close to my actual size, less grading required!). Has anyone worked with NVL patterns before? I'm wondering if I would be getting in over my head with my beginner skillz.

In other news, I recently purchased the Alabama Studio Sewing + Design book from Alabama Chanin. If you don't know about Alabama Chanin, then you are missing out! They make beautiful, beautiful had sewn garments out of organic cotton jersey that they sell for millions of dollars (ok, hundreds maybe). Both their design aesthetic and their effort to operate sustainably while supporting local craftspeople are very inspirational. Their journal (i.e. blog) is beautiful and thoughtfully written.  And, get this! They are based in my father's hometown of Florence, Alabama.

Hundreds or millions, either way its out of my price range! I just recently discovered that they have been launching a major DIY effort over on their website- they have three books, fabric, notions, and even kits available for purchase. I've been getting acquainted with my new book (very slowly) and am working on a couple of shirts, one of which you should be seeing here shortly. I find that the hand sewing to be quite enjoyable- and its keeps my hands busy while I'm watching some guilty pleasure TV like the new season of Downton Abbey or (even worse), the new Carrie Diaries on the CW (seriously, am I too old to watch high school soap operas? WHATEVER). 


Well, just this morning, they announced on their blog that they are launching a Craftsy course called Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric. Color me intrigued! While the book is fabulous, not much compares to seeing techniques in live action. It sounds like Natalie is going to be covering a wide variety of techniques, some of which seem positively overwhelming when you read about them in the book (reverse applique, anyone?). I'm definitely considering this course!

Well, that's the news for now. From my blogosphere to yours. Is anything happening in your blogosphere that I need to know about? Have a lovely Friday!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finished: Grainline Studio Scout Tee V 1.0

Clover and Scout Tee 2

Pants: Made by me (Colette Clovers)
Shirt: Made by me (Grainline Studio Scout Tee)
Shoes: Nine West Outlet

Here is is, my fist (and only finished- the second version has ended up in the unfinished object pile) Grainline Studio Scout Tee. I do believe this is the third patten that I tackled in my sewing adventure; the first being the Dixie DIY Ballet Dress and the second was the yet unblogged Grainline Studio Tiny Pocket Tank. I can't say enough good things about the patterns that Jennifer at Grainline Studio creates. Most include up to size 18 and her instructions have lots of pictures and details, perfect for beginners. Plus, all of her patterns are great MODERN basics, with an emphasis on the modern. Nothing frumpy or frilly over at Grainline, which is just what I like!

Scout Tee Back

Here is the embarrassing back view! I think the front view has tricked you into thinking this shirt fits me well, but alas, no. In the back, the fabric bunches up over my hips as soon as I move. I neglected to grade up this pattern even though my hip measurements are 5 inches larger than the size 18 that I cut. I'm not sure what I was thinking- chalk it up to beginners error!

Scout Tee Fabric

However, I love, love, love the fabric (super cheap from Fabulace on Etsy) and I always get compliments on the shirt when I wear it, as long as I am wearing a cardigan to cover up the backside! And yes, I do typically wear a tank top under this sheer fabric, don't worry.

Scout Tee Sleeve

I think the little sleeves are just adorable in this fabric. This was my first time setting in sleeves in a woven fabric and I think it went alright, thanks to the pattern's great directions. 

Scout Tee Inside

As you can see, I finished the neckline and sleeve seams with pre-bought bias binding, I knew there was no way I would be able to make bias tape out of this slippery chiffon! I'm still not really sure what the proper way to finish sleeve seam allowances might be, but this mostly works, though it is a little tight through the armpit now. The size seams are french seams and are holding up great, even with repeated machine washing (don't tell, I'm sure I'm not supposed to machine wash something this delicate!). 

So.... back to the second version of this shirt, which is turning out to be a real wadder. In fact, its been on the floor of my spare room for at least two months! I attempted to grade the pattern up, but its looking awful! I'm not sure if its the cheap fabric I'm using or my grading skills, but it needs some serious help (and maybe a full bust adjustment, though I really don't have a full bust for my size). Maybe it has metamorphosed into something beautiful during its time on the floor. Perhaps I'll un-wad it and see how it looks. In the mean time, I'll be studying Susan at Moonthirty's beutifully fitting versions. I've got my fingers crossed that she'll post some photos of her altered pattern so that I can copy study them. Oh, wait, she has already done that! Duh, guess I should have referred to this BEFORE cutting my fabric. Thanks, Susan! Perhaps it can be salvaged.  


Saturday, February 9, 2013


Here she is! My new Brother 1034d. I know how I'm going to spend the remainder of my weekend....

New brother 1034d

Any advice welcome!

On a less expensive note, here are this weekend's thrift finds. Two sheets for muslins, a groovy (and possibly awful) 70s pattern, bemberg rayon in gray, tracing paper, and a couple of yards of blue fabric that I'm a little on the fence about. All for 10 bucks!

Thrift finds

In other news that is only exciting to me: summer holiday plans are solidified! 

Middle Fork of the Salmon
(photo borrowed from EchoTrips on flickr)

Heaven willing and the creek don't rise (or fall), I'll be spending a week on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, alternating between lounging on a raft with a beer in my hand and trying not to die in the rapids. A friend of a relative of a friend somehow scored a much coveted (in the boating community) permit and I was lucky enough to get invited along. This is a once in a lifetime trip (though with any luck, I'll be able to repeat the feat). Preparing gear sewing plans as we speak!

My Dad and me in Desolation Canyon on the Green River last summer, chillaxing on the raft under the umbrella.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Finished: Colette Patterns Clover Pants

Clovers and Scout Tee

Pants: Made by me (Colette Clovers)
Shirt: Made by me (Grainline Studio Scout Tee)
Cardigan: Anthropologie
Shoes: Nine West Outlet

OOOOOOOOOH, Hey yo! The Colette Pattern Clover Pants are finished. I MADE PANTS! Can you sense my excitement? Whether or not I could/should wear them out in public is debatable, but we'll get to that later. I also made the Apple Wine that I am drinking while writing this post, and its of unknown alcoholic properties, so proceed at your own risk. 

Brief programming note: I'll blog about that delightful Grainline Studio Scout Tee later in the week. Onward to the pants................!

Clover and Scout Tee 2

Like many other plus size ladies and sewers and plus size sewer ladies and just ladies in general, I have an AWFUL time finding pants that I like and are (at least somewhat) flattering. I've had my eye out for some straight-leg, slim-fit, high-waisted pants to wear with longer tops and tunics for a couple of years now. Once I decided this sewing thing was going to work, I directed my laser-like vision to the Colette Clover Pants

They checked all boxes! Well, I am partial to some diagonal hip pockets (like on khaki pants) which these pants were lacking, but otherwise these pants were just what I was looking for. And I knew that the outstanding directions in the Colette Patterns would hold my hand through the scary experience of making my first pants. 

Clovers Grading

The first step was tracing the pattern. I went with the size 18. After measuring the pattern pieces and comparing them to my own measurements, I decided to grade up the entire pattern by 4 inches- adding one inch to the center of each pattern piece. I figured it was better to be safe than sorry! 

Colette Clover

Then, it was time to cut the fabric! This was basically the cheapest stretch fabric (the Stretch Cotton Poplin in Dark Navy) that I could find on that I thought would be wearable if the pants didn't turn out to be a total disaster. Its a little thin, but I actually think it will be super comfortable for the summer. Or these freakishly warm 50 degree days we have been having this February. You know, either way. 

Next up was the INTERFACING, which I neglected to photograph as I was so distracted by my first ever INTERFACING. Those capital letter basically sum up how I felt about it. Terrified yet excited. After some googling, it turned out fine. But I really had to talk myself into cranking that iron up high and using a LOT of steam. 

Colette Clover
oh hi, big mess under my bed. i like to pretend thats not there.

I sewed up the inner and outer leg seams and did a fit test. The front was awful, as predicted. This bunching in the crotch-al area is something that I see quite a bit when I try on pants (especially of a lighter-weight material), so I wasn't shocked. I read a LOT of stuff on the internet (I really need to get some books) and decided the problem was crotch depth. In the end, this tutorial from Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch was the most helpful one-stop-shop for help with this problem. Oh, and my bad, I guess that's a crotch depth problem. So confusing! I think they were also slightly too big in the front due to the grading up I did when cutting the fabric. Here's how I fixed it:

Clover Front Crotch Curve

I have this legging pattern (the paper piece on top of the cut fabric) that I drafted using this tutorial on the Etsy blog (highly recommended, btw, I'll blog it eventually). I figured that since I measured myself for that pattern, the crotch measurements would work pretty well, especially since the Clover pants are supposed to be fairly tight fitting. I'm not sure if this is proper, but I basically just sewed along that line between the paper and the fabric, tried the pants back on, and it essentially fixed the problem! I think this method allowed me to fix both the crotch depth problem and it took two inches out of the center front seam that I needlessly added when I over-enthusiastically graded up the size of the pattern. There are still some wrinkles when I wear the pants, but I don't think I can totally avoid that with this very light weight fabric and my body shape. Ok, I'm not going to lie, I totally avoided dealing with the backside issues. I've never had a pair of pants that look good on my butt and I was doubtful that it would be achievable. So I gave up before I even got started. Kinda lame, but hopefully I can tackle that on my next iteration, maybe with help from some of ya'll or the lovely people at Pattern Review??? Help!!

Colette Clover

After my crotch alteration victory, I decided to get crazy and add some pockets using this tutorial from Sallieoh and this tutorial from Casey (a little easier to understand for this beginner). It was terrifying, considering I have never actually made pockets before, but I suspected I wouldn't wear the pants without pockets and the pockets that were included in the pattern aren't placed in the most flattering place for those of us with a bit of a belly. Once I got up the nerve to cut the fabric, things went pretty well. I might make the pocket bags a little bigger next time, but otherwise I think they are almost perfect (but feel free to disagree). 

Here is the finished pocket from the outside:

Clover Zipper

and the inside:

Clover Pocke

After that, I finished up the seams with some rayon seam binding using the tutorial from Lilacs & Lace and then swore that I would buy myself a serger for my 30th birthday (spoiler alert, I received one as a birthday gift and I'm contemplating a "sick" day this week to figure out how to use it).  After that, I inserted my first invisible zipper using the tutorial on the Colette blog, complete with video. Clearly, I never would have made these pants without the help from the many lovely ladies of the sewing blogosphere. I am so very grateful! The waistband went in without a hitch, thanks to the very good directions that came with the pattern. 

Clover Inside

I hand sewed the hem because I thought the suggested machine method would look a bit tacky, and that was that. I really do think the front looks ok, if I do say so myself (much better than a lot of my store bought pants), and I like the length a lot (for warmer weather). But now, the horrifying moment you have all been waiting for! The horribly unflattering backside! 

Clover FrontClover Back

I'm hoping to make these up in denim ASAP (or, at least as soon as I figure out my new serger), so fitting help for the derriere would be much appreciated! Pretty much all of my store bought pants look this awful in the back (which is why you see mostly dresses when you flip through my archives), so I'm not 100% convinced its fixable. Maybe I just have an absurdly shaped ass (all evidence points to that inevitable conclusion), but I'd at least like to try to make a go at getting these pants to look good. 

And that, my dear friends, is my Clover saga. Thanks for listening!

Oh, and P.S. Am I allowed to wear these out in public? This is both the first pair of pants I have owned that is this... ahem... close fitting and the first pair of pants I have made. Thats a lot of firsts for a girl that doesn't really like pants that much. I can't decide if they are suitable for public consumption!