Thursday, November 19, 2020


This is not a new pattern, but one that has languished in stash. Of course, it's from the Sewing Workshop. The envelope includes both the Pearl jacket and the Opal jacket, two very different jackets. I made the Pearl:

The Pearl has a very interesting shape and construction, so it was great fun to make. There is much to like about it. 

The center front piece is really a collar band. It includes a channel for a drawstring that allows you to gather the neckline in a variety of ways. The hem is symmetrical but definitely shaped, as the sides hang much longer than the front and back. There are princess seams in the front and then a back flounce that wraps around to the front. the upper back piece wraps to meet the front princess seams and so there are no side seams. The sleeves are set in and sit right at the shoulder line, something I really like in an otherwise unfitted jacket.

The envelope indicates that you can make this with a knit or a woven. I chose a medium weight linen and size small based on my measurements. I should have perhaps gone up a size given that a knit and a woven fabric (without lycra) are always going to result in a different fit. Sure enough the sleeves were a tad tight when sewn with 5/8" seam allowance. I let them out to 1/4" and adjusted the armscye accordingly. Now they are just right, I think.

Next time I hope to remember to do a forward shoulder adjustment. I see in some of my photos that unless I stand up very straight (and I should anyway!), the front appears to be longer than the back. They should be the same length.

It is not intended to be lined and I like it unlined. I finished the interior seams, mostly with quasi Hong Kong finishing, and a few with a mock flat felled seam. As mentioned above, I reduced the sleeve SA to 1/4 inch. I wanted to protect the seams from fraying and so added a bias strip of cotton batik to the stitching, flipped, folded under and hand-stitched to the jacket with a pick stitch. It's a kind of a hybrid between flat-felled and Hong Kong.

I used a strip of bias silk dupioni for the hems and to cover the seams where the sleeves are set in. My draw string is a bias tube of the linen with little silk bells on the ends.

And then I began to stitch and stitch and stitch. I hand-stitched the hem in place with a running stitch in variegated pearl cotton. I also added some top-stitch in the pearl cotton to the collar area, and sleeve hems. I am totally enamored of the feather stitch, which I've learned is also called the cretin stitch. So I added that to the hem and a bit to the back collar. I also added a tiny basket weave stitch to the upper center back. I think it looks almost a interesting on the back as it does on the front. Such fun!

After finishing it, I decided to add a simple patch pocket, again with hand-stitch and a little feather stitch across the top.

I've been wearing this around the house and thoroughly enjoying it. It is so cozy. I know it would be even more cozy in a beefy knit, so maybe that's next. And how about a vest? Here it is before I set in the sleeves.

Cool pattern. Try it. You'll like it. Or maybe you already have!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

New from Old

My most recent make is a re-make, so extra satisfying. I was able to convert a pair of Pencil pants into Helix pants, both patterns from The Sewing Workshop (TSW). I'm still a little amazed this did not turn into an expensive wadder. The fabric is a very nice rayon ponte also from TSW. 

My new Helix/Pencil pants in navy ponte, with a Grainline Archer shirt

The Helix pants are my go-to for pull-on knit pants. There is so much to like - smooth darted waistline, slim fit (limited only by my personal silhouette!), and the fact that they fit my flat butt without those old-lady wrinkles. I worked on fitting these in 2015 at one of those Sew Kansas retreats Linda has in Topeka, KS. This was a huge help because knit pants are very challenging to mock up in a toile.

The Helix pants

And I've made a zillion of them - black, red, navy, brown, eggplant, repeat. I take them to the dry-cleaners in the early days, then when they begin to look sad and have a few pills, I wash them. This always causes them to shrink a bit more in length, so they become cropped.

Then the Pencil pants came out in 2018. These too are a pull-on knits-only pants pattern. The silhouette is also slim. I made a first pair according to my hip measurements in navy ponte and loved them. And then I made another pair. 

The waistline was a significant factor. It is a separate piece, which I think is always a good idea. And the elastic is enclosed in the waistband, also a generally good idea. The elastic is zig-zagged onto the inside of the waistband so it's not really visible, and so a fairly smooth unbulkly finish.

The Pencil Pants

And I thought they looked great.

Then I took a look in the back. Good Lord! Totally old-lady wrinkles around my flat butt. I still wear them, but generally with tunics to cover that unsightly mess. Why oh why didn't I think to use the crotch curve from the Helix on the Pencil pants!?!

So now my first pair is just plain too big on me. There's a lot of time spent staring at the TV screen and listening to political pundits, so plenty of time to unstitch all those stitches, even the zig-zag waist elastic. And it's good for the mind to keep the hands busy during these unsettling times in the USA.

I laid out the Helix pattern on the Pencil pants pieces. They did not fit perfectly, so I lost a little through the hips and the length. But, basically, it worked. And knits can be forgiving of a little fudging. 

After completing all but the waistline and the hems, I tried them on. Voila! No old-lady butt wrinkles. I love that. But I decided to change the waistline completely. The old Pencil pants waist piece was sufficiently wide and long to allow me to simply cut an on-grain waistband and slide 3/4 inch elastic into it. I stitched down the front part of the elastic to keep the tummy part flat, and allowed the rest to gather just a little. It's still pretty smooth and I like that it sits perfectly at my waistline. So comfortable.

And then there was the length. It's a good thing I don't wear heels anymore. Actually I never did much. These finish at my ankles and will be great with the flats I usually wear. I was tempted to leave the hems unfinished but decided I would not be happy with that. So I added a bias strip of matching silk dupioni, a go-to fix-it fabric I keep on hand in many colors. 

So my new go-to pull-on knit pants pattern is the Helix with an added waistband!

Thursday, October 22, 2020


It is always such fun for me to open and make up a new pattern. I so enjoy the puzzle. The Bristol top (or dress) is not a new pattern from the Sewing Workshop, as it has a 2015 copyright but it is new to me. It took me a while to warm up to it.  

This is an interesting knits-only shirt pattern with a yoke that extends across the shoulders into the sleeve area. The sleeves are made much like raglan sleeves. There are deep cuffs. There are no side seams as the front piece wraps around to the back. The back is narrow at the bottom which can be flattering, I think. Then there are bands attached to the angled front hemline. So this is definitely a little different from an ordinary tee shirt pattern.

It has mixed reviews over on Pattern Review. And I was uncertain about the fact that the back hem is higher than the front. Ultimately I decided it would be a good layering piece, and I always need those. And, as I said, I do love digging into a new pattern.

The mixed reviews on PR are more about the shoulders. They may droop a bit unless the shoulder fit is spot-on. In fact, mine are not perfect. You can see in the line drawing that the yoke hem is to curve down in the front/back and up at the shoulders. This is hard to achieve with a very soft and drapey knit fabric. 

My selected fabric is one of those Alabama Chanin organic cotton knits. It is a stable knit and firm, with not a lot of stretch. The pattern does not include a stretch guide and so I was actually a bit lucky that it did not end up too small. A few pounds ago, it would have been a wadder, for sure.

So I traced the pattern tissue and cut out the shirt. Then it just sat on my cutting table. After months and months, we are still waiting for our bathroom make-over to be finished. I don't like to work in my sewing room when workers are here because we share the guest bath in my room. And I was wanting more hand-work. 

One day I pulled out an older tank I had made in AC knit to wear and noticed how droopy the neckline looked. It looked like an old sweat shirt to me. The neckline was constructed following TSW instructions for knits, with a slightly smaller circle of fabric attached to the neck opening, and then top-stitched to hold the SA under. This works really well on most knits.

I searched my stash for some kind of woven fabric to use to replace the neckline. My idea was to cut it on the bias and attach a bias binding to draw the neck in a bit. I found a few possible pieces but nothing that I loved. As I unstitched the band, I decided I might like it better if I just reattached the original band using an old Stretch-And-Sew technique. This technique involves sewing one layer of the band to the neckline and then wrapping it around the SA and stitching in the ditch. Do you remember that?

I hand-stitched it in the *ditch* using a beautiful variegated pearl cotton. Then I added feather stitch to the surface. I'm think that, because the pearl cotton shrinks a bit in the wash, this will draw it up even more as I use it. In any case, it was satisfying to add this stitch. Sewing zen, for me.

So that motivated me to finish the Bristol, just so that I would have another opportunity to add the feather stitch. And I was lucky to find another variegated pearl cotton to match this gorgeous burnt orange knit. 

I think the fit is pretty good. I was surprised at how long the sleeves were though. My arms are not short, relative to my body. Then I noticed that in all the pictures online, and on the front of the pattern envelope, the cuffs are rolled up. I like the deep cuffs showing. So I removed the cuffs and cut off an inch. They are still pretty long, but they feel cozy when the mornings are chilly here.

I was going to make this up again in a rayon knit from stash, but after noting the problems people have with droopy shoulders, I've decided against that. I really think this pattern works best in a very stable knit fabric. All in all, I count this as a success and recommend it.

On another note, I recently came across a reference to ball-pointed pins. For me, ball-pointed needles are essential to sewing knits like this, and sometimes, it's hard to push pins through knits so I thought these might be helpful. 

They are not, at least not with this project. My ordinary pins are easier to use because they are longer and they are sharper and slide into the fabric much more easily. 

Go figure!

Sunday, October 18, 2020


(drum roll, please) I have finally finished hand-quilting a quilt for my niece and her new husband. I started it about 2-3 weeks before their wedding on August 21 and finished it last night. I haven't worked on it continuously, of course, but it has been a fairly constant companion.

It's now in the wash, so fingers crossed, it doesn't turn into a massive wad.

It started with this inspiration board on her pinterest page. It is so charming, I think. I did not mimic it particularly but did use the same colors. For me, it is hard to capture the difference textures, shapes and finishes. I am particularly drawn to those little smooth shiny turquoise tiles.

But I came close enough. I hope. I see now that my color choices are more blue and hers are more green.

The design and the size evolved based on my desire to make a bunch of appliqued circles. After I grew tired of appliqued circles, I left many squares blank, knowing I could pick up the theme with the quilting. It finished at about 65" x 65". This is why I can never follow a quilt pattern. I get bored too easily.

Piecing the top and a back was not fast, as I hand appliqued each of the circles to the front, and the interlocking circles on the back. But then I decided to hand-quilt it. And, really, I'm glad I did. It was so satisfying.

I am not an exquisite hand-quilter like some I know. Their tiny stitches are so precise it's hard to believe it is done by hand. My style is sashiko, or big stitch, and I'm totally fine with the inconsistencies and wonky stitches. I used number 12 pearl cotton for the whole thing. It required 2 plus balls of it!

So, now, many hours, many podcasts, many newscasts later, I am done. Last night I added a little hand-stitched label to a back corner

I'm going to miss this companion. So what next? Maybe some clothes for me, though of course, there is no place to wear them during these covid times. So maybe more hand-stitching, like this sketch book cover and pin cushion from an online class with India Flint.

Happy sewing to you!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Good Cheer

This was a fun and quick make. I needed that. 

I spend hours happily hand-quilting the wedding quilt described in my previous post. But sometimes, I need a quick maker's hit. Does that every happen to you?

This fabric is a cheerful design from Sarah Campbell who taught the last workshop I attended before covid. It was at the Sewing Workshop in Topeka KS and was a blast. Linda Lee had acquired about 3 bolts of Sarah's designs for Michael Miller fabrics. In honor of her teaching I did my duty and bought some yardage from two bolts. This is the second of those two pieces.

Here it is before sleeves. A fairly simple but cute sleeveless tunic too, I think.

Technically it's quilt cotton and that carries with it less *give* than cotton shirting and other cotton fabrics intended for clothing. But it's super easy to cut and sew and feels pretty good on me.

Rather than get twisted around, trying to match a pattern that reads random anyway, I just cut it out. I only had 1.5 yards (44 inches wide) so it was sort of close. That way, I had enough left over for pockets.

And a mask.

As I often do, I cut the neckline facing from another fabric, a light weight striped linen piece I've used a number of times. It's such a good fabric to have on hand.

I have no idea when I purchased this book by Lotta Jansdotter. I follow her on IG and see her patterns proudly reviewed on Each time, I think I should get that book out and make something from it. One time I got as far as measuring and preparing the pattern pieces for the Esme top/tunic/dress. 

No technical drawings, but the directions and pattern pieces make its structure fairly clear.

The book contains maybe a dozen very simple garments, enough for a wardrobe of sorts. The book is also chocked full of inspiring pictures of her designing fabrics with block prints, as well as versions of the garments. Given all that she has attempted to include, the instructions are not bad at all.

The Esme could not be much simpler and provide any fit at all. It does have set-in sleeves and bust darts, and I generally like those features in any top. 

The seam allowances require that I pay attention since they are only 0.5 inch. And that doesn't give you a lot of insurance. With the firm cotton, I feel the sleeves are just a tiny bit snug. 

I chose the length based on the fabric I had. It is tunic length. Rather than cutting it straight across, I curved the hem into a shirt tail style. 

I had a bit of trouble with her pocket markings and so just figured out where I wanted the two patch pockets. I really like the result quite a lot.

So do you have this book in your stash? If so, I recommend that you use it. It is really quite lovely.