Astoria, twice

The time came for some easy sewing and I finally made the pullover everyone and their uncle already made a while ago: the Astoria from Seamwork.

First Astoria: in mid-weight ponte, pretty tight-fitting but fine for layering, thank the sewing gods. Curious about the skirt? Read on.

I downloaded the PDF in January according to the timestamp on the printout. I taped it and cut out my size some two months later. And that’s where I left it till now.

Why? Because I wanted to pre-emptively troubleshoot any armhole fitting problems and I don’t typically muslin with knits because I don’t keep any “throwaway” knit fabric. And while I like and wear my Mesa dress (another Seamwork pattern), if I could time travel, I would go back and raise the armhole.

So that’s what I did: I raised the armhole by around 2 cm and added my usual forward shoulder adjustment. That’s right: on the pattern everyone seems to use as is, mostly happy with that “straight out of the package” result, I felt I needed adjustments and I was right. That’s my pattern review in a nutshell.

My first version, made up in a charcoal ponte from Joann, came out pretty snug but luckily still allows for layering. In the photos above, I’m wearing it over a short-sleeve tee.

This weekend I made another one.


This one I made up in jersey that was an impulse purchase during a sale on Craftsy. I had the impression that the tie-dye was less stripey but the pattern is stripes printed, sadly, slightly off grain. For a moment I was toying with the idea of a dress but I think the stripes would have looked too intense and, ultimately, overwhelming.

I really like the length of this pullover. Finally something I can comfortably wear with high-waisted skirts! That was definitely a wardrobe gap. Most of my sweaters work with lower-waisted RTW pants but not skirts.


I made these two skirts about a year ago. I wore them a lot but I don’t think they ever made it onto the blog.

The red plaid skirt is the Delphine skirt from Tilly Walnes’ Love at First Stitch with added slash pockets. The fabric is a soft flannel from that year’s plaid flannel collection at Joann.

The tan skirt was made from a corduroy remnant — one of my lucky thrift-shopping finds. The pattern is a de-scalloped Meringue skirt from The Colette Sewing Handbook. Both skirts are lined.

Final throughts: I need more lined skirts for the cold months; my armhole depth obsession has its advantages.

What have you been sewing?

why I like a uniform

I made a skirt. This skirt. I broke out of the tracing procrastination loop and boldly cut a lining and waistband. And by “boldly” I mean “finally” because, dear readers, I’m patting myself on the back here for getting something finally done.

In these photos I’m wearing the skirt with a RTW shirt because “Operation: Shirt” is stuck at the muslin stage. While I like the one pictured here (because it’s rayon, the fiber of the minor gods), it’s not ideal. It’s two sizes too big and swamps my shoulders but gives my broad, broad back enough room to move. Trade-offs.

But back to the skirt. The stiff fabric hasn’t magically relaxed, which you can see very clearly in that second photo where the side-seam pocket is standing up awkwardly on my hip. Maybe there’s a reason why the original pattern didn’t include side-seam pockets?… Well, with winter coming I need a place to jam some emergency tissues, even if it’s not as discreet as I’d hoped…

I have a bad tendency to decide on pocket placement without referring to patterns that include side-seam pockets. Once again the result is pockets that are placed about an inch too low. Don’t do as I do. I also shouldn’t because I clearly don’t have good instincts in this respect.

But there are things I’m genuinely proud of. I followed Sheryll’s advice (can’t find the post right now but I encourage you to browse her ingenious blog) and liberated myself from the order of construction. I put in the zipper before sewing up the side seams and that gave me my neatest lapped zipper yet. (I did give myself a slightly larger seam allowance there. And, oh, the original pattern had a side-seam zipper and just one pattern piece for the back, so I changed that.)

I added a waistband. The pattern just tells you to line the skirt and it doesn’t even include facings, which, in my opinion, is a bad idea. If you don’t stabilize the waist somehow, it’s bound to stretch out. I prefer a waistband to a faced waist finish, so I drafted one. A wider one would need to be shaped so as not to gap at the top, so I decided to make mine fairly narrow.

I also disagreed with the pattern when it came to the lining. The instructions tell you to simply eliminate the pleat on the front when cutting out the lining but I added about 5/8″/1.5 cm of “pleat remnant wiggle room” there.  Carolyn has a great post about how to add a lining to a skirt in which she spells out what sewing patterns typically don’t tell you when they say to use the same pattern pieces: convert darts to tucks and sew the seams with a smaller seam allowance to give yourself room for movement. So that’s what I did here. I also cut the lining about 1.5″ shorter than the skirt. The lining fabric is a colorful polyester I bought second-hand.

This skirt is part of my effort to come up with a work uniform. More precisely: I’d like to arrive at a small wardrobe of clothes for work that will act as elements of a work uniform. Anything to combat decision fatigue. So, not going as far as this brilliant lady but close to Barack Obama’s tightly curated closet. (Note: no presidential ambitions here.)

I also like a bit of a uniform outside of work but without any “productivity plan.” Recently I’m all about pinafore dresses. I sewed the denim version of the Colette Rooibos dress with the intention of layering it over long-sleeve tees. It took me a while to realize I could also do that with my first Rooibos. So this is what I’ve been wearing most of the time after work:

It makes me pretty happy that these are all fully me-made outfits (well, minus the shoes, dear shoemakers).

Do you have a uniform? Do you love the idea or loathe it? Please share.

Thanks for reading.

adventures in repeat offending

I like observing that rush of new projects online that follows a popular pattern release. I also have a lot of admiration for those of you who are always on the lookout for a new challenge.

But when it comes to sewing, I’m pretty intent on reducing the risks. Fabric — and increasingly also time — seems precious, even when it was a second-hand purchase. And it’s not the fabric, anyway, it’s the mindset. I know you can’t win them all, but I want to at least win most of them. And by “win” I just mean “get a wearable garment.”

It’s not that easy for me, I’ve found. It might be a matter of silhouette but I know I wouldn’t get that result “right out of the pattern envelope.” So it’s either muslining or at least baste-fitting before actual sewing. And, in this case, making several versions over which I worked on the fit of my tricky upper back.

Without further ado, here’s yet another Laurel shift:


So no novelty here, but knowing that I have the fit worked out (and witha few different fabrics), I can play with details. I added pockets (which are included in the original pattern) and cuffs (taken from the Seamwork York blouse and slightly redrafted to work with the Laurel sleeve).

I also replaced the bias finish on the neckline with a facing. I prefer the bias tape finish most of the time, but this time I wanted to give the facing a try. It doesn’t flip out too much (tacking down on the shoulders definitely helps keep it in check).

Here I am playing with the cuffs

I usually bring the side seams in above the waist a little bit but I left the original shape this time and skipped the zipper. I could have sewn the central back seam all the way up but I wanted to use a fun button at the top (you can’t see it very well but it’s a cat). And life would be too boring if I didn’t get to fight with a corded button loop every now and then, so I also added that.

unbelted and pleased with the darts on the back

Thoughts for next time:

  • do make those manila/light cardboard pocket templates for next time. Pressing the pockets into shape was difficult and only worked out okay because the fabric was cooperating;
  • the fabric was an incredibly pleasant surprise: it’s a polyester crepe. With some patience it pressed nicely and it wears well even if it’s not the most breathable (but it’s not the least breathable either, who would have thought?)

Most importantly perhaps, this dress has given my slender work wardrobe a boost, so I’m signing off with an invisible smile.

What have you been sewing?

Rooibos and the pinafore dress experiment

Long story short, I made the Colette Rooibos dress for the third time. I had a sizeable remnant of stretch denim and a desire to make a pinafore dress, and also a hope that the idea would work for me.

I had a pinafore dress once. I remember liking it a lot but I think I was twelve then, so you can understand why I had my doubts. That, and pinafore dress patterns that I’d been finding were, for the most part, very apron-like. There was a risk, too, that the lovely dark denim would give it all a decidedly early-shift-at-the-factory feel. Some can pull off that look successfully, give it a little edge, but I just end up looking very unhappy.

Those midriff pieces and bust shaping should introduce some curves and softness, I thought, and cut into the denim remnant. And then I sewed. This is the result:


Obviously, (a) you can’t see my smile in the photo above, and (b) you might disagree with me (and that’s fine, one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other, as we learn from Austen’s Emma), but I’ve been wearing this dress almost every day since finishing it. Love, unabashed.


The pattern is Rooibos from Colette Patterns with a modified neckline, which I went with on both of my previous versions.

A further modification this time was replacing the facing with a narrow bias facing on the neckline and armholes. I also used a regular zipper this time in lieu of the recommended invisible zipper.

The fabric came from my stash: a dark blue stretch denim leftover from my Beignet skirt. I bought it about a year at a Craftsy sale. I believe it’s a Robert Kaufman fabric.

It’s probably time to sew something other than another Rooibos. Or not? Can you believe that the first time I made this pattern I thought it would most likely end up a one-off?

Do you like pinafore dresses or do leave them in the closet of memory, with your twelve-year-old self?

PS: That’s a Plantain/Tonic mashup tee underneath the dress — need to make more of those.

the sensible skirt and her wayward sister


I guess it’s #tbt since I’m writing this on a Thursday evening and I’m playing catch-up with two makes from August. Time flies! What follows, dear friends, is some truly mundane sewing talk. These were two fairly straightforward makes that used up stash fabrics.

I made these two skirts just before starting my new job. The one on the left, as you may guess, has been worn to work, while the other I’ve slipped into after work. I’m definitely one of those people who crave a work uniform. Not that the floral skirt is somehow wildly inappropriate, it just doesn’t fit in with my idea of what I need for work. That, and I need a contrast between work and not-work.

The orange skirt was made with the leftover linen from the Adelaide dress. I managed to use up all of it. It would have necessitated smaller seam allowances if the sizing hadn’t turned out totally misleading. The pattern is New Look 6231. That pattern envelope… Let’s just say I talked myself into believing the pants might work. I even muslined them but gave up as soon as I tried them on and discovered just how gigantic they were. I really didn’t have the patience to size down. The muslin is in the corner somewhere…

New Look 6231 skirt and RTW shirt (don’t judge)

The skirt was, of course, much easier to size down. I will be completely honest, dear readers: I don’t love this skirt. I do like the simplicity of the design — it just has two darts in the back. But I just don’t like how low it sits, so I think it’s fair to say I’m half-resentful of how practical it’s proved for work. I don’t think I’ll go with this particular pattern again. I think I’m more likely to re-make the Colette Meringue skirt without scallops and with an added waistband. And, possibly, pockets. That’s a plan. Do I recommend the pattern though? Eh… not really. It runs big and I think you can find many several similar skirts out there.

The other skirt is only really wayward in the fabric department. The pattern behaves well and, I think, is worth sewing up. It’s a By Hand London Anna hack you can find here. It would have been especially cool if BHL treated us to a PDF of the pocket pieces because this sewist ended up on the small side drafting them on her own. Well, I guess at least I won’t overstuff them.

The hem: oddly lumpy by nature, it seems.

I still haven’t told you what’s so wayward about my fabric. It’s a very unruly polyester. Somewhat stiff but still really slippery. Overall, not fun. Especially if, like me, you don’t always learn from past mistakes and decide on a nonsensical hand-sewn hem. Don’t (hear that, future me, don’t). Finish that hem on the machine or your it will resemble the exhibit above even after some serious ironing. The Anna skirt hack itself I highly recommend. I might try it again with a nicer fabric.

You’re probably not getting a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vibe from these photos but to me that difference between the work skirt and the after-work skirt is pretty meaningful. But more on that another time.

Do you have any simple skirt pattern recommendations to share? I’d love some new ideas.

climbing the WIP mountain

Suddenly, I find myself working on this skirt. Image from Burda Style.

Hello there! With my machine safely returned from repair, I’m desperately trying to fit in bits of sewing whenever I can. The result (so far at least) is a a jumble of projects in different stages of assembly.

The oldest one among them can’t really be even blamed on machine trouble. It’s a shirtdress cut on the heels of  McCall’s 6891. It’s another McCall’s pattern, 7314… which I only learned after some research because my copy of the pattern has that inane seasonal number you can never look up anywhere (why, McCall’s?). Here’s what the pattern envelope looks like:

Image found here.

The dress in progress doesn’t look like much yet, unfortunately. It’s still very much in parts, which is a shame because the fabric is very end-of-summer appropriate. But what can you do…

Apparently, what you can do is keep procrastinating by cutting out more projects, some of them on a whim.

The Burda skirt at the top of the post is the most unexpected project of the lot. I’ve had a length of a strangely stiff poly-cotton twill fabric (misguided online purchase) that I’ve been meaning to cut into if only to have real grounds to complain about it. The pattern is from Burda Style: Wardrobe Essentials. I need to make some tweaks to the fit. I’m also thinking of adding pockets and a waistband. The pattern has no waistband and, oddly, no facing. It just tells you to line the skirt and that, to me, sounds pretty insufficient in the waist support territory. What would you say?

To take advantage of the tracing frenzy that I knew would soon fade I also finally traced the blouse that I first wrote about eons ago. No sewing progress on that one, ha ha. But hey, it’s traced so maybe some day I will stop going on about shirts and finally make one.

Let’s pretend that the only other WIPs remaining are a spur-of-the-moment Laurel dress and an equally spur-of-the-moment Rooibos dress. Let the others be covered by a blanket of silence.

What have you been up to?

Rooibos with piping: the details

Hello! I’m happy that today’s post finally brings some proper photos of my new Colette Rooibos. Please ignore the flyaways and rejoice that I’m sparing you the sight of my tired face. Here’s the dress:


As Liza Mae pointed out, piping really makes this dress. That is, you can make it without piping and still get a pretty dress but piping is this design’s soulmate. Or whatever the sartorial equivalent of soulmate is.

I had a length of vintage premade piping (scored at a wonderful store that deserves a post of its own) and I used almost all of it on this dress. I did prewash it before use. I’m not sure what level of shrinkage I should anticipate with a poly/cotton blend and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

(Ironing before photos is an ideal that I aspire to.)

Oh, piping. I have tried it once before and it turned out okay but the make was unsuccessful for other reasons. This time I really wanted it to be either okay or more than okay, especially since I was dealing with more serious curves and twists than that first time.

The Colette tutorial on sewing in piping is good, but it wasn’t even really the how-to I was particularly concerned about. It was accuracy. So I measured (my piping was narrower than 5/8″ so that was absolutely necessary), basted, and tried to be patient. That’s all I can say. I wish I had a trick to add here but all I learned from this was to go slow and aim for precision.

I overlapped the piping ends on the back of the neckline like the sewalong post told me to, but on the armholes I decided to shorten the piping so it ended before the side seam. That was to avoid bulk in a spot that is not very visible but that can get potentially very uncomfortable.

In my previous post I mentioned my doubts about the durability of the invisible zipper in the side seam. It does look very nice, but I’m still not entirely certain (though hopeful) that it can do the job.

Finally, the length of the dress and hemming. I lengthened this version by 1″ and I definitely recommend lengthening it at least that much. I hemmed by first version with a ribbon and on this one, thanks to the added length, I was able to get a twice-turned hem of about 1″. It was hand sewn, as chosen by my machine’s refusal to cooperate, but that was actually a great choice because the hand stitching is invisible in this beautiful linen.

I’m pleased, overall. Now I just need to get more serious about ironing the finished garment with at least a fraction of the dedication I’m able to put into pressing the work in progress. Resolutions…

What have you been up to, dear readers? Any piping in your present or planned projects?

the dress that almost wasn’t


Everything conspired against it: the machine was on the blink for most of it, refused to cooperate mid-way through the zipper insertion, then agreed to give one final push as long as it was treated very gently, and then decided it was enough on the last seam. The final inches of that one were cranked out on the hand wheel. Needless to say, the machine’s going in for servicing.

Speaking of machines: I could use a time-producing or temporarily time-slowing one to write some blog posts (and get some sewing done, but see problem above). I’ve started a new job and am still figuring out my schedule as well as how to keep my repertoire of interests extended beyond sleeping.

Sewing this dress took more than two weeks, most of which were filled with longing to sew rather than any sewing. I hope that once I have a healthy machine again I’ll be able to work on breaking up sewing into steps I can squeeze into a busy day.

Not many photos today — and no modeled shots — but here are some details.
The pattern is Rooibos from Colette Patterns. My first version exceeded my expectations. I liked it but I wasn’t sure I was going to make the dress again since the design is pretty striking. By which I mean it’s not exactly a blank canvas type of pattern, so it seems like you can only pair it with as many things, and change up the design as much… But I had already simplified the design by leaving out the neckline detail that it broke out of its original style. (You can take it as either a good or a bad thing. I do like the original design a lot, I was just never sure that neckline detail would work for me.) I think the simplified neckline made a crucial difference for me — the dress became more wearable for me in more situations. I found myself reaching for it so often this summer, I realized I’d actually love to have another one.

I decided that the linen I bought in Poland would be a great fabric to try. I kept seeing wool recommended by bloggers who made the dress when it first came out but wool in a sleeveless design not really made for layering doesn’t make much sense to me. I did worry that the linen might be a bit crisp for the design lines here (and you can see the bust shape so clearly in these hanger shots). But it’s actually fine.


I cut the facings and pockets from an intense floral cotton I need to write more about (on a different occasion). And I should honestly say: I did debate going with the original neckline for a moment. It’s probably fair to admit that my laziness won out — my final muslin had the simplified neckline and so the reliable (i.e. altered to fit) pattern pieces have it. I was definitely not up to muslining this again, so simple neckline it was. It was a little bare without the buttons but with them I think it’s just the right amount of interest and not too much.

As you can see, I did in fact challenge myself a bit on this make. I decided to give piping a try. I’m glad I did even though it required basting and patience, the latter being in low supply these days.

One final thought: I’m worried about this invisible zipper. This one feels exceptionally fragile in my hands. I did decide to go with Angela Wolf’s trick from her Craftsy class and sew a little farther from the zipper teeth at the horizontal seams. But still, I’m not confident this zipper will last. I think it might be worth substituting a regular zipper if I make the dress again (ha!), even if it means sacrificing that invisible effect.

That’s it for now. I guess though I admire people who always boldly make up new patterns, I’m a committed repeat offender. I just really like the comfort of sewing something I’ve already fitted.

tyranny of choice: help me!

Hello, sewists! Are you feeling the change of seasons coming on? I definitely am not, though I’m happy that the nights are getting mercifully cooler. That said, I did pick up a nice cut of plaid brushed cotton and now I’m in two minds about what to make with it.

joann15010598 I dug up this image from the depths of confusion that make up the Joann website (here it is on said website). It’s not easy to tell from the photo but the pattern is pretty large scale. So large, in fact, that I’m beginning to doubt my original plan, which was an autumnal, cozy, work-appropriate Laurel dress.

There’s another reason why I’m not so sure about that original plan. Charlotte from English Girl at Home had the genius idea to try making the Oslo cardigan from Seamwork in wovens. I love her versions of this pattern.

What would you sew: Laurel or Oslo? Or maybe a different pattern entirely?

Hazel in a heat wave

Do you have this too? My reaction to the recent heat wave was to quickly sew up a dress for that weather. The motivating logic was that if I sewed fast enough maybe I could outrun the heat. That more mature part of me knew it doesn’t work that way, but I let wishful thinking take over. And at the end I was rewarded with this:



This is the third Hazel dress for me. I made two last summer and I’ve been wearing them a lot.

I have to admit, though, that since last year my approach to fitting has changed a bit. I put in a lot of work into fitting the bodice in those first two versions and as a result they fit like a glove. It’s not a bad thing but a year and several heat waves later my focus has changed. I now want clothes to move well along with my movements.

So this one is more relaxed. I did, however, take in the side seams a little bit (not as much as in the first two, but still). I cut a size down from my measurements and the fit is still pretty relaxed.

The fabric is seersucker partly underlined (skirt and bodice front) with cotton lawn. This was my first time sewing with seersucker and I was a little wary of the crinkly texture. It went fine, though, since the fabric’s stable.


I rarely wear white, so of course the first time I wore this out I ended up with a cinnamon stain. It only makes sense. (I got it out and these pictures were actually taken post-stain, so whew.)

Concluding thoughts:

I have a lot of love for this pattern and I thoroughly enjoyed sewing it again. Sewing something you’ve already cut out (yes, I’m often that lazy) and already fitted is really relaxing — even when I’m basically melting in the heat. Having said that, after three versions, all of which are in heavy rotation in the summer, I think it might be wise to retire this pattern for a while. (Well, we’ll see what happens next summer, right?).

What’s on your summer go-to pattern list? Or do you always try new patterns? Looking forward to hearing from you.