Tag: dresses (page 1 of 2)

The AWS Dress v2.0 (with matching shoes!)

If you’ve met me at a tech event in the past 5 years, there’s a good chance that I was wearing my AWS dress.

AWS dress

This was something I made in 2018 to celebrate and thank everyone that donated to Frocktober that year. The fabric was designed by me and printed by Spoonflower (4yds of Cotton Poplin Ultra), and the dress itself was a Colette Rue. I made my own piping for the waist panels. The fit on the Rue is/was notoriously weird though, and I struggled to get a version that fit me and would sit where I wanted it to. In the end, the bust is rather baggy and the shoulders are so wide I have to use fashion tape to stick them to my bra straps. (And I have wide shoulders!) I also wasn’t thrilled with the fabric, which wrinkles easily and looks a bit like bedsheets. But everybody seemed to get a big kick out of it, so I continued to break it out for AWS events over the subsequent years. I even got a selfie in it with Amazon CTO Dr. Werner Vogels!

AWS Dress t-shirtThis past February, I went to Singapore to co-present a big keynote for one of our AWS Innovate events. To my surprise and delight, my colleague Ethan handed me a special t-shirt to wear. How cute is that? It’s got a little illustration of me in the dress! I later asked him for the original image file, and I had some stickers made up to hand out at events. This thing was really taking on a life of its own.

That said – I was tired of the white, and I felt like it was past time for a new version. So I created a new design using 28 AWS service icons, arranged in a brick formation along with the AWS logo. I picked icons for my favourite services as well as ones that I thought just looked cool, and with a goal of getting a nice range of colours. Then I sent it off to Spoonflower to get printed onto 5 meters of their Organic Cotton Sateen fabric. It’s a heavier weight with almost a shine to it, thanks to the thicker weave. (Note: I found though that it’s very easy to create a visible snag when pinning, so I tried to only pin through the white bits where it’s less noticeable. Using better pins would probably help too, I think.)

AWS fabric and dressOnce I had the fabric, it was time to choose a design. I had deliberately purchased enough to make a full skirt if I wanted, and I thought for a while about doing some sort of retro style shirt dress. (I’ve had my eye on McCalls 6696 for a long time now.) But once I had all the pattern pieces printed out*, I realised that it was a bad choice. Any style that involved lots of seaming or shaping would either distort the printed icons, or result in me spending hours trying to line things up perfectly. I needed a simpler design that would show off the print to maximum effect. After a lot of research, I landed on the Seamwork Benning. It’s a loose and comfortable fit, with a simple shape (mostly rectangles) and not too many seams. No need for a zipper, and YAY RUFFLES!

*If you don’t sew or haven’t bought a pattern in decades, you might not realise that you can now buy patterns as PDFs! I’m a big fan, though it does mean you have to spend the first hour gluing all the pages together…

I wisely decided to create a prototype first to make sure I had the size correct, and that I understood all the steps. I used some random tropical light cotton fabric I had in my stash. I didn’t have quite enough meterage for the full version so I shortened the bottom ruffle. It was a quick project… but the shape ended up pretty sack-like on me. It looked better with a belt for waist definition, but the style isn’t actually meant to be belted. This showed me that I definitely needed to go down a size in the real version!

Benning Prototype dress

So finally it was time to start the real version. I spent a lot of time laying out the pattern pieces. I needed to make sure the icons weren’t upside-down, and I carefully adjusted the placement so that the two horizontal seams (at the waist and the second ruffle) would fall between rows of icons and thus not cut any in half. I also ensured that the repeat would be properly maintained the whole way down the dress. I actually overthought this a bit, as I also tried to make sure the horizontal pattern would be correct… before realising that the gathers for the ruffles would mess that up regardless.

Once I had the fabric cut out, it was time to assemble the bodice. There is a side bust dart to provide a little shaping. This dress is not fully lined, but instead has a simple facing around the neckline. This is like a partial lining, a bit of fabric that is sewn around the neck opening and then flipped to the inside. This gives you a nice finish around the neck and helps the garment to lie flat. I used some white cotton from my stash, along with some iron-on interfacing to give it a little extra weight. As you can see in the photo, I used my overlocker machine to finish the bottom edge of the facing.

Sewing the collar facing

One of the advantages of this design is that the sleeves are “cut-on,” meaning they’re part of the bodice so you don’t have to sew them on separately. So once you’ve sewing the shoulders together and attached the facing, you can go ahead and hem the sleeves and finish the side seams. I decided to be fancy and use French seams, just to challenge myself and to give a nicer finish. This way all the raw edges are fully encased on the inside of the garment.

French side seams

And with that, the bodice is done! You can see that the facing wants to flip out a bit, despite my understitching. I think this is something I just need to practice more.

Completed bodice

The next step was to assemble the skirt. The middle section has the pockets (of course it has pockets!), so I again French seamed those and inserted into the side seams. For each ruffle, you run a few rows of basting stitches and then pull those tails to create the gathers. I was really paranoid about my gathers being even, so I used a LOT of pins.

Sewing the ruffle

Yeah, these seams took a long time to sew. I made a little video.

Once the first ruffle seam was finished, I used the overlocker to finish the raw edges. Then I had to do another even longer one for the bottom ruffle!

Pinning the bottom ruffle

Then all that was left was a quick hem, and it was ready to try on. The moment of truth…

AWS dress v2

Hm. I was pleased with my sewing and finishing skills, but not so much with the fit. Even going down a size, it was still giving less “breezy summer dress” and more “giant Victorian nightgown.” I decided to shorten the bottom ruffle by chopping off the bottom row of icons. I also performed some very delicate surgery on the waist seam. I carefully unpicked just the center portion of the front waistband and created two small matching vertical darts, each of which took in 1/2″. Then I redistributed the ruffles and resewed the seam. That meant I took out an additional 1″ at the front, which is subtle but really helps it look less like a tent. Much better!


After finishing the dress, I still had a fair bit of the fabric left… and I decided that I needed to craft some accessories. That’s when I discovered SneakerKit. This company will sell you everything you need to make your own pair of shoes! While most folks use them to make leather shoes, I could see on Instagram that many people were also creating fabric shoes. I ordered my kit from Maker’s Leather Supply in Australia, along with a packet of the metal eyelets.

The first step is to prepare your pattern. I downloaded the Classic 3 in 1 and chose the high-top. Then I had to cut out my pieces.

Cutting out pattern

The SneakerKit site has really good instructions, but they’re intended for working with leather. To use fabric, I had to do some research and figure things out myself. Most of the blogs I’d read about making fabric shoes suggested using some very thick interfacing to help stiffen the sides. So my next step was to trace my pieces onto my thick iron-on interfacing. I used a bit of masking tape to join the two side pieces together at the heel. You have to remember to flip each pattern piece over to create the mirror-image piece for the other foot. (I marked mine with L and R to keep track.)

Tracing the pieces

Next I cut out the interfacing pieces.

Cutting out interfacing

I decided that the insides of my shoes would just be white fabric. So I took the interfacing the ironed it to white cotton, and then cut out around the interfacing. Note: I left 1/4″ excess along every edge that would be sewn to use as seam allowance. (You can see this better on subsequent photos.)

Cutting out the pieces

I then used the interfaced lining pieces to cut out the exterior fabric. For the tongues, I decided to use some of the leftovers from my v1 dress, and I tried to line up the pieces so the AWS logo would be nicely visible on the toebox. Once I had them placed, I cut them out.

Placing the pieces

For the side pieces, I made sure to line the heels up exactly between two icons so I could ensure both shoes looked the same.

Cutting the side panels

Now it’s time to sew! I sewed each piece together going just around the edge of the interfacing. (All of the bits along the bottom of the shoe are left open so you can turn them inside out afterwards.)


Then I trimmed down the lining piece seam allowance by half just to make it lie flatter when I turned it inside out.

Trimming seam allowance

And then I turned each piece out and gave it a good press to make sure it was flat and all the corners were properly turned out.

Turning the pieces out

I placed the pieces on the rubber soles just to get an idea of what they were going to look like. Hey, this is pretty good!

Coming together...

I decided to some topstitching around each piece. This means I sewed a decorative line 1/4″ from the edge around the tongue and each side piece. (Again, I left the bottom edges unfinished.)


For the side panels, I discovered I had some red ribbon that would work perfectly for the loop at the heel (to help you pull them on). I cut out appropriate length, doubled it over, and sewed it down as I was doing the topstitching. (You can see it in the photo below.) Then I used the overlocker to close off the bottom of each piece. Later I went back and sewed down the edges of the ribbon to make sure it was extra secure.


The pattern has a LOT of little holes marked on the sides that need to be transferred to the fabric pieces. I started by using an awl (a very pointy tool) to poke holes in the paper pieces, using some cardboard to protect my worktop.

Poking holes

Then I placed the paper piece on the fabric panel and used a pen to make the placement of the holes.

Marking the holes

For the laces, I didn’t have the recommended tool for cutting the holes and setting the eyelets. Instead I used a regular paper holepunch to make the holes, which thankfully were the right size. It actually worked pretty well! Occasionally it had trouble completely cutting out the hole, but I was able to use the awl and some scissors to fix it up.

Punching holes

To set the eyelets, if you don’t have the tool you can use a hammer. I’ve done this in the past and had a couple of the little hammer tools in my craft box. I tried it in the house on a piece of plywood, but I needed something a bit firmer. I ended up doing it outside on the pavement, with a bit of cardboard to keep the fabric from getting dirty. I only mangled one of the eyelets, which necessitated using needle-nosed pliers to peel back the little bits and remove it to try again. So do your best not to screw any of them up!

Hammering the eyelets

With that, all of the pieces were complete and ready to be sewn onto the soles!

Finished pieces

The rubber soles have holes marked around the edges, but you need to use a thick, sharp needle to pierce through and open them up. Note: sewing through rubber is really, really tiring on your hands! I had to take frequent breaks.

Piercing the soles

Now it’s time to sew the pieces to the sole. The SneakerKit comes with heavy waxed thread and a long sharp needle to help you out. I had to watch the video many times to make sure I was doing it correctly. (There’s a very specific order you’re meant to sew the holes in.) As you work your way around, you sew on the tongue as well.

Sewing the shoes

Again, this is murder on your hands. I found that even with pre-poking the holes, they were hard to find in the rubber and for every stitch I had to dig around to find it.

Sewing the sides

When you finish the stitching, have to use a lighter to melt the threads on the inside. Then you simply put in the insole, lace them up, and you’re done! (Well, except there’s a whole other shoe to assemble. 😩)

Finished shoe

I managed to find some AWS Training & Certification laces in my swag bag, which went perfectly. I also bought a can of Scotchguard and gave them a good spray to help repel stains. They’re pretty comfortable, but I’m not sure yet how long they’ll last. If I were doing it again, I’d try to get even stiffer interfacing, as this is still pretty soft. I figure if/when they fall apart, I’ll pull the tops off and try something else!

AWS Shoes

But guess what? I still had some fabric left over, and with less than week left until AWS re:Invent, I decided to make a shirt.

Starting a shirt

I had to piece a few bits together, but I just managed to eke out a Tessuti “Arkie” shirt. Again, I used white cotton for the facing and for the underside of the collar. No French seams on this one as I was flying to finish it in time!

Arkie shirt

My AWS capsule wardrobe should hopefully be enough for the near future. 😜 Let me know if I’ve inspired you!

The “Knitted” Laurel Dress

As you may have picked up on yesterday, I made yet another Colette Laurel dress for Frocktober! I used the same mods as the Big Data dress: sleeveless, notched neckline, and pockets. On this one, I moved the pockets outwards slightly as they felt too close together. I also cut the back in one piece rather than having a waist seam.

The fabric is called Breeze by Rosemarie Lavin for Windham Fabrics. It’s actually a quilting cotton that I picked up at Morris & Sons earlier in the year. I bought it on a lark, mostly because it’s printed to look like knitting! I thought I’d make a simple blouse out of it, so I only bought 2m of fabric. Unfortunately that was barely enough to make this dress, so I’ll have to wear shorts under it for modesty. Still – cute dress for a hot day!

The Big Data Dress

I made a new dress last weekend! This is a sleeveless Colette Laurel that I modified to have pockets(!) and a notched neckline (using this free hack). I’ve made a few sleeveless Laurels before, and the main attractions (besides looking nice) are that they’re fast to make and don’t use very much fabric. I had about 2.5m of this fabric, but it’s a quilting cotton and thus very narrow (less than 45″ wide). It’s navy blue and covered with a stream of binary numbers in light blue and silver. (So cute!) It’s called “Binary Solo” from RJR Fabrics’ collection “Silver Circuits.” My Mom made a point of showing it to me at her shop back in Indiana, and I just had to have it!

I’m calling it my “Big Data Dress” because, as Juliet Houghland pointed out at YOW! Data recently, all stock images of “Big Data” are blue and involve binary. 😂 I wore it to Girl Geeks last night and it was a big hit!

Sewing notes: Based on my measurements, I cut a straight 18 (the largest size) on this pattern. It’s roomy, but given the style of the dress and the crispness of the cotton, that’s what I was aiming for. It’s very comfortable. There are bust darts on the front and diamond-shaped darts on the back that keep it from being a completely shapeless sack. The hack instructions were easy to follow, but I didn’t bother tracing the pieces onto new paper. I bought the pattern PDF, so I can just print another one, right? So I just cut the front and back in two and then taped on some extra for the seam allowance. I had been worried about getting the print to line up across that center front seam, but then I hit upon the obvious solution. Cut it on the fold as one piece, and then split it up the middle. Voila! Lines up nicely. I finished the neckline and armhole edges using bias tape that I made – as always – using Colette’s continuous method. (For reference, I used a 9″ x 9″ square and just managed to eke out all three openings.)

What I’d do differently next time: I’m not sure why the back piece needs the corresponding horizontal seam. Maybe it’s because Sarai made hers out of linen, so it’s more visible and looks weird if it’s not there? But my print is so busy that I could have easily left it out and saved myself some cutting and sewing time. I’d also move the pockets out a little bit further as the 2.5″ from center she suggests seems a bit close for me. Lastly, I’d probably consider putting some interfacing behind the neck notch. (I still might do that, actually.) I noticed when I was wearing it yesterday that one side wanted to flop forward and fold down occasionally, so a little bit of extra stiffness there couldn’t hurt.

Overall I’m very, very happy with this one! It’s cute, comfortable to wear, and a real conversation starter.

Lady Skater Dresses

Lady SkatersFinally blogging these two Lady Skater dresses that I made at the start of Frocktober. This pattern’s been on my wish list for a long time. It’s pretty fast to sew up, especially if you have an overlocker. I made the pink one first, and I used a fine merino jersey that I bought at Tessuti’s on clearance a few years back. It has a subtle texture through it, I think created by elastane that has been woven in narrow stripes. It was a pain to work with though, because it was nowhere near square and it curled like crazy. Still, I made that first one in about a day. I could tell while I was sewing it that the waist was going to be too low, but I shrugged, told myself it was a wearable muslin, and kept going. (The fabric had been really cheap as it had a hole at the end that I had to cut around.) The end result doesn’t look too bad in the photo, but it’s practically a drop-waist on me. That waist seam is supposed to be at my natural waist (ie the skinniest point), which is a fair bit higher.

So for the black one, I shortened the bodice by about two inches. (You can see the difference in the photograph.) Better, but I still reckon I could go a bit higher next time. The fabric I used is really, really weird. I bought it at a remnant sale a long time ago, and I have no idea what it is. It feels quite heavy, almost like a rayon, with elastic shot through it. I feel like you easily could use it for leggings or even a bathing suit! But I made a dress out if it, because WHY NOT. It’s actually pretty comfortable to wear.

The pattern itself is clear and easy to follow. I did have a hell of a time with the clear elastic though. It sticks onto my machine and refuses to feed through, so I came up with the idea of putting some wax paper over it. That helped, but it was still annoying and fiddly. Applying the neck and sleeve bands wasn’t too hard, but I haven’t quite mastered getting the joins to line up nicely with the seams. I still find the overlocker very satisfying though! I just need to remember the Cardinal Rule – when it starts misbehaving, check that it hasn’t been threaded wrong. (Every damn time…)

Denim Hazel Dress

Hazel DressI finished another dress! Back in July I was passing Sew Make Create and did a DOUBLE TAKE when I noticed they were having a fabric sale. I couldn’t resist. I ended up buying three pieces, one of which was an interesting stretchy denim with a pintuck detail (almost like stripes). Of course, as soon as I bought it I couldn’t figure out what the hell to do with it. I knew those vertical lines would be difficult to match up. Donna came through with the best suggestion: why not make another Hazel? (I’ve made two before.) I decided to fully line the top of this one with some red voile, and I used that for the pockets as well. I had a hell of a time with the strap placement and length though, and I’m still not 100% happy with them. (I think I unpicked them three or four times.) On the plus side, the denim was so stretchy that I was able to forgo the zipper entirely. But on the negative side, I didn’t use a walking foot so the top of the bodice got a bit stretched out and gapey. I eventually settled on topstitching a line around the top to create a casing that I was able to thread some thin elastic through. That’s enough to pull the top a bit tighter around my bust and armpits. Despite all the headaches, it ended up being a very cute, functional sundress!

New dress: another Moneta!

I made myself a new dress! Still getting the hang of knits.

I made myself a new dress! Still getting the hang of knits.

This is another Moneta made with a light jersey print I got at Fabric-a-brac earlier in the year. It was only a small off-cut and the print is directional, so I had to keep it simple. I didn’t put any collar on it, and I used some simple white cotton knit for the bodice lining and pockets. I still find the whole “shirring with clear elastic” thing really annoyingly difficult, so it’s a bit of a bodge. (Maybe the elastic I got at Spotlight isn’t the right stuff?) When I first attached the skirt and tried it on, the waist wasn’t hitting me in the right place. So I undid it and moved it up about 2 inches. The whole project took less than two days. It ended up being a nice little sundress!

Tsumugi Who and Moneta Dress

Actual finished craft objects! I should probably blog these before I completely forget.

Tsumugi WhoTsumugi Who
Is this going to be my ONLY knitting finished this year? Only time will tell. At any rate, earlier this year I decided to splurge and buy myself the Tsumugi Who kit from Dairing that I admired at Camp last year. (Note: They have since changed the name to Seta Soie. I don’t know why. Supplier change? My kit did come with grey instead of the beige.) I cast on in the winter – probably at the Abernethy knitters retreat? – and I remember questioning the pattern. (Teresa Dair’s “patterns” are only patterns in the strictest sense of the word.) I decided to go with garter stitch so it wouldn’t curl. And I was off. I went through the entire pattern once and found myself with significant silk left over. So I kept going. Once it got to about 14 feet long, I figured Tom Baker would be happy so I cast off. Then it took me a few more months to finish weaving in the ends. And now it’s done. I even managed to wear it a few times before it got too warm. The colours are gorgeous and strangers have complimented me on it, even guessed the reference. That was nice.

MonetaMoneta Dress
I haven’t sewn much this year either. But at one point I ordered the Colette Guide to Sewing Knits along with the Moneta dress pattern. That was step one. The history of making this dress is one of diving in before my brain had a chance to object. Step two involved making an excursion to Tessuti’s during a sale with some of my (then) co-workers where I picked up a couple different knits to experiment with. This was a black merino double-knit. Step three was me cutting it out many, many weeks ago… and then packing it away in my office. Finally, this past weekend, it occurred to me that if I actually finished the damn thing, that would be one more unique dress for Frocktober. So on Sunday I pulled it out and finished it during a Gilmore Girls marathon on Netflix. I think my seam allowance was inadvertently too wide and my waistband elastic was HELLA WONKY, but to my delight I found that the knit fabric completely hides every flaw. It looks great. I’m very, very happy with this project.

Out-of-this-World Washi Dress

Out-of-this-World Washi Dress

Now for the big reveal: my finished Out-of-this-World Washi Dress! #partytime
Now for the big reveal: my finished Out-of-this-World Washi Dress! #partytime

Edited to add: The Snook’s company Christmas party is tonight and the theme is “GLOW”, so I had the idea a couple weeks ago to make a glow-in-the-dark dress. I found this cool fabric and realised it would make a great Washi Dress. (I’d used that pattern once before.) It came together really well! I especially like the little cap sleeves, which give it a very spacey, “Judy Jetson” feel to me. I was so excited to wear it to work today, and a random lady on the bus this morning evening complimented me on it! I’m very happy with this one.

Shared today on Instagram

Shared today on Instagram:

Hem length: above the knee? I'm inclined. (But this belt is squeezing my SPLEEN.)
Hem length: above the knee? I’m inclined. (But this belt is squeezing my SPLEEN.)

Adding sleeves... Nearly finished!
Adding sleeves… Nearly finished!

Laurel Dress

Laurel Dress
Don't tell anyone in CorporateLand, but I'm wearing a self-made dress today! #laurel @saraiatcolettepatternsDon’t tell anyone in CorporateLand, but I’m wearing a self-made dress today! #laurel @saraiatcolettepatterns

So yeah, I finished another dress! This is Laurel from Colette Patterns. It’s a very versatile shift dress, and I opted to make a sleeveless version (since I didn’t have much fabric). The fabric itself is a stretch cotton that I got at Fabric-a-brac last year. I actually cut it too large at first, not realising how much ease it had in it. I then went back and took in the side seams, which helped it fit a lot better. I did have an issue with the back neck gaping, which I’m not sure is attributable to the fit or whether I stretched it out when applying the bias binding. Miss Fee was kind enough to pin out the excess for me, so I then added a few darts there to take it in. I’ll know enough to make lots of changes for my next one! It’s a very simple and quick pattern, and I think I’ll be able to use it for work wear – in a more somber print, of course. 🙂