Tag: sewing (page 1 of 8)

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!

Darlow Pants

I sewed pants! 👖

For a really long time, trousers have been my Mount Everest as a sewist. I’ve sewed lots of dresses, shirts, and even shorts, but never a pair of actual trousers. I made a valiant but cursed attempt last year at a muslin for the Moji pants by Seamwork before accepting that a drawstring waist was never going to work with my shape…

Then a few months back I started to see the Darlow pants from In the Folds popping up in my Instagram feed. “No way,” I thought. Those curving seams?! These aren’t straight up-and-down pants; they have multiple curvy pieces that swoop around the legs and create volume. It seemed like jumping several levels of difficulty. The style was also slouchier and baggier than what I normally wear. But then I clicked on the #darlowpants hashtag, and I was able to see them on different body types and in different materials, and I started to think, “…maybe??”

I bought the pattern. Back in Australia I’d purchased several meters of a soft drill-type fabric for future pants — I never remember to write down the fabric I buy — and I’d shipped it all the way here. It seemed a shame to let it go to waste. Why not give it a go?

I decided to go with View B, which is the less voluminous version and has less pattern pieces. I cut a straight Size I and printed out all the pattern pieces and assembled. Just as I was about to lay out my fabric for cutting, I realised there was one crucial modification I needed to make right from the start – lengthening the legs! The pattern is drafted for someone 5’7”, and I’m 5’10”. So I added three inches at all of the length/shorten lines. This isn’t as straightforward as on normal pants, as the curving lines mean you have to redraw some curves and then “walk the seams” to ensure they still line up. (Thankfully the designer has provided a Fit Kit which walks you through several common modifications.)

Finally it was time to cut the fabric and start sewing! The first thing you assemble are the back panels, and I had a lot of fun using my special overlocker foot and stitch to finish the raw edges. Once the panels are sewn, you then create the rear welt pockets. I decided to make them a design feature by using some scraps of paisley fabric. The pattern instructions are pretty straightforward and suggest several places where you should hand-baste just to keep everything all lined up. Everything went well until I got to Step 23, when I got confused and just couldn’t figure out how to secure the welt. I ended up emailing the designer, who helpfully sent me a video that explained everything. The key is that Piece 17 (the pocket lining) needs to be folded up under the back panel and out of the way for Step 23. Then you’re meant to fold the welt on Piece 18 and then sew along it. If you look at the photo here, you can just see a line of white stitching at the bottom of each welt. That’s where I did it WRONG. Mine isn’t securing anything; it’s actually meant to go through both layers of the paisley fabric. Oh well – I’ll get it right on the next pair! (Note: the bodgy red stitching along the top is just hand-basting to keep the pocket flat while you assemble the rest of the pants.)

Welt Pockets

The rest of the pants assembly was pretty easy – even those big curvy bits! – and you end up inserting nice deep pockets into the side seams. Then it was time to insert the zip. I’ve sewn zippers before, but only side-seam ones. I decided that I really wanted a quality metal zip rather than futzing about with crappy nylon ones. I made a pilgrimage to a local haberdasher – which was amazing – and got everything I needed. I was nervous about inserting it, but the instructions were great and again had you baste things together to keep everything lined up. And guess what? IT LOOKS LIKE A REAL PROFESSIONAL ZIP!

The waistband assembly was pretty simple. You have the option of binding the inside edge with bias binding or enclosing it within the waistband. I had some leftover binding from a previous project so I went with that, and it actually makes it look really nice. Then I just needed to add a buttonhole, sew on a button, and also sew on a trouser hook for the tab. Here’s what it looks like on the inside…

Inside out waist

And here are the welt pockets from the inside as well.

Welt Pockets

The final step was to finish and sew on the hem facings to the legs. And then they were DONE!

As a wearable muslin, I’m pretty happy with these! I think the three inches I added to the length was just right. There are definitely some fitting issues remaining though. You can’t tell in the photo, but I think I actually need to go down a size in the waist (but leave the size through the hip) – they’re actually quite loose around my middle. (And since there are no belt loops, you can’t really cinch it up.) I also think I need to add a bit more room to the seat, possibly by extending the back crotch point. But still – entirely wearable PANTS! I’m looking forward to making the next pair even better. 🙂

Making Bella’s Hug Book

Back in January, I was checking out my Mom’s shop – The Quilt Shop at the Essenhaus in Middlebury, Indiana – when I saw she had some quilted fabric books made up for children. Each one was made from a single fabric panel that had all the directions printed right on it. Since I know lots of folks having babies, I bought four of them and brought them home. I’ve since made up two of them, and I recorded the process for Bella’s!

If you’d like to make your own, here’s one of the panels at the Quilt Shop site. (They have others that aren’t online; just get in touch and I’m sure they can help you out.) Beyond that they’re pretty basic, and the only fancy thing I did was use my new sewing machine to embroider Bella’s and my names on the back. A fun and rewarding little project! ❤️

Making an Aloha Shirt

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished a new shirt for the Snook. I decided that I’d document the whole process in a video.

It’s not often I get to put my Film degree to use! I had a lot of fun playing with iMovie and editing this thing together. I hope you enjoy it as much as the Snook likes his new shirt!

Montrose Top

I think this is my fastest sewing project yet! This is the Montrose Top from Cashmerette, and I whipped this up in about 4 hours today.

The fabric is Liberty Saville Poplin in a lavender print that I bought at The Fabric Store during their last sale. (Savvy blog readers will notice that I used it for the Snook’s most recent Simon Shirt. I deliberately bought enough so I’d be able to make something simple for myself too!) The only real design feature on the garment is a curved and gathered back yoke, which was pretty simple to do.

In terms of sizing, the pattern offers 9 different sizes, 3 different cups, and 2 different sleeves, so it’s suitable for pretty much everybody! I cut a straight 20 C/D, and it’s comfortably roomy. (I might go down to an 18 next time.) This is definitely the best sleeve fit I’ve ever had on a garment I’ve made for me. I made one alteration to lengthen the front and back, just based on the fact that the pattern was written for someone who’s 5’6″. I’m closer to 5’10” but I’m also short-waisted, so I decided to add in 2″. However, when I tried it on it was still too long, so I ended up chopping that length off and rehemming. Next time I’ll go back to the original length.

I can see myself making these in lots of different colours. Just a great little wardrobe staple! I reckon I like it even better than the Colette Sorbetto…

Colette Iris Shorts

I realised today as I was wearing my fancy handmade Colette Iris denim shorts that I had intended to blog the whole process for you back in February. Whoops! Better late than never.

These were my fifth iteration of the shorts, and I’m extremely happy with how they turned out – especially since the 1st and 2nd versions weren’t even wearable! Over the course of refining the previous versions, I ended up adding some room to the butt, lowering the crotch, and then scooping out the front seam a little. I also added custom piping (which I blogged about here) to both edges of the waistband.

Here’s what I used to make these shorts:

You don’t actually need all of this stuff. For sewing supplies, all you really need is a good pair of scissors, some pins, a ruler, and something to mark your fabric. I have a fancy cutting mat and rotary cutter, and I sometimes use carbon paper to transfer markings. My sewing machine is an old (nearly 20 years, I think?) Janome that I’ve had serviced once or twice. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but it does the job. For this project, I used denim needles which are a bit stronger than normal ones (since denim is thicker to punch through). I also have a very basic Janome overlocker that I bought at Aldi a few years back, but that’s optional too. (You can just zig-zag your seams with your regular machine.) You’ll also need the pattern, of course, cut out in your chosen size. For fabric, I used 100% cotton denim I bought at The Fabric Store as well as some leftover Liberty Clarks Canvas for the pockets and piping. You also need some iron-on interfacing.

Let’s get started! I began by laying out my front and back pattern pieces on my pre-washed fabric.

I used my clear ruler to make sure the grain lines on the pattern pieces were parallel to the fabric edge.

I used my rotary cutter to cut out the pieces, but you can also use scissors if you prefer. (You’ll probably want some sort of pattern weights to keep your pieces from moving around. I don’t have special ones; I just use my rulers and whatever desk supplies are lying around.)

Next I transferred the markings from the pieces. For notches, I just made tiny snips into the edge of the fabric.

For darts, I used my carbon paper and tracing wheel to transfer them. I folded the paper in half (right side out) and slipped it between the layers, which means I could transfer to both pieces at once.

For marked dots (like for pocket placement), I poked a hole in the pattern and then used a special marker for marking on dark fabrics. It leaves a white dot that’s very visible! You can also use chalk for this.

Just to show you a more lo-fi method of cutting out pieces, for the waistband I traced the pieces using chalk and cut them out with scissors. These are cut “on the fold” so each pattern piece is only half the size of the resulting fabric piece. (To maximise fabric usage, I flipped the front waistband pieces over so they nested better and resulted in less waste.)

I also cut all of my pockets out of my lining fabric.

The last bit of cutting was to cut the waistband pieces out of iron-on interfacing.

And it was finally time to start sewing! The first task is staystitching, which I hate because it’s boring. I had to sew lines of stitching along the top and bottom edges of all four waistband pieces to stabilise them and keep them from stretching. I also had to staystitch at the waist edge of the shorts pieces.

Next I had to iron on the interfacing to two of the waistband pieces. (I used a damp tea towel as a pressing cloth for this.)

Next it was time to sew the darts! I put a pin at the point of the dart and then folded them to bring the legs together. I sewed from the top to the tip, shortening my stitch length as I got closer to the tip. (I normally sew at 2.5 length; by the time I get to the tip I’m as short as my machine will go.) Then I knotted the tails and trimmed them off. I ironed the darts towards the center.

The next task was to finish the edges of the pockets, which I did with my overlocker. (You could also zigzag these with a sewing machine.)

Next, I lined up the pockets with the marked dots on the side of each piece and pinned them in place. I sewed them down (with a smaller seam allowance than normal), then finished this entire edge with my overlocker. Then I ironed the pockets so they flipped away from the piece.

The next job was to sew the front pieces together to finish the pocket openings. I lined up the pieces and pinned them together. I sewed from the waistband down to the leg (with a normal 5/8″ seam allowance), pivoting 90 degrees to sew around the pocket pieces as I went. Then I ironed the seam, pressing the pockets towards the center. You can just see the pocket fabric peeking out!

Time to sew the crotch! I joined up each front piece with its corresponding back piece and pinned the short inside leg seam. I sewed the seam, then overlocked each side of the seam allowance separately so I could iron it open.

Next, I lined up the two halves of the shorts and pinned the crotch seam from front waist to back waist. After sewing this seam, I cut into the seam allowance along the curved bits to allow it open up. Then I overlocked each side of the seam allowance separately and pressed it open.

It was finally starting to look like a pair of shorts!

I turned them inside out and pinned the right side seam together. (The left side is left open since it will have the zipper in it.) Then I sewed the seam, overlocked the edges, and pressed it open.

Before I could insert the zipper, I had to attach the waistband. I sewed the interfaced bands together at the right side. Because the non-interfaced waistband is on the inside, I had to sew the left side for that one. (Takes you a while to get your brain around the geometry, I know.) I finished the edges and pressed them open.

Here’s the point where I deviated from the pattern to add my piping! I pinned it to the top and bottom of the interfaced waistband piece, making sure to place it 5/8″ from the edge so it would just poke out from my eventual seams. I sewed it down using a zipper foot (which only has one prong and allowed me to sew very close up to the edge of the piping).

Next, I pinned the interfaced waistband piece to the top of the shorts and sewed it down. Again, I used my zipper foot so I could get close up to the piping (which was sandwiched in between the pieces). Then I ironed the seam towards the waistband.

It was time to install the zipper. Rather than walk through all the steps, I’ll just direct you to Colette’s excellent tutorial. I refer to it every time I have to insert one! Pro tip: It helps a lot to have an invisible zipper foot, which has special channels that your zipper teeth travel through. It allows you to get very close to the zipper!

Once the zipper was in, I pinned the remainder of the left side seam. Then I sewed it, making sure to overlap a bit past the point where the zipper ended. This is where I made my one mistake of the project: I should have overlocked these edges before putting in the zipper! I managed to do it after the fact, but it was a little messier than it could have been. Then I pressed the seam open.

Attaching the waistband facing is really counterintuitive and weird, so you just have to follow the pattern instructions and trust that it will turn out! I started by turning up the bottom edge 5/8″ and pressing it in place. Then I opened the zipper and flipped out the seam allowances. I aligned the waistband facing to these edges and sewed them down as close to the zipper teeth as I could get.

Then Colette has you do something really weird: you turn the zipper away from the opening again. Then I stitched down all along the top of the waistband, sewing slowly over the zipper and using my zipper foot to get as close to the piping as I could. Then I trimmed down the seam allowance at the corner and graded it down all along the seam. Then I flipped the facing away from the seam and understitched it as far as  I could (meaning I sewed the seam allowance to the facing along the edge of the piping – it’s supposed to make sure the waistband rolls to the inside).

The final waistband steps were to turn out the waistband completely and poke out the corners, give it a good press, then hand baste down the folded facing edge on the inside. Then I edge stitched on the outside of the garment along the piping to make sure the facing was caught and sewn down securely.

And the final, FINAL step was to hem the legs of the shorts. I folded them up twice and pressed, then sewed down the hem. And they were finished!

I hope that gives you an idea of the amount of work that goes into a single garment. I think there’s a perception that sewing your own clothes saves money. It really, really doesn’t. Think of it this way: all up, these took me about 7 hrs over the course of two days. (That includes an hour to make my own bias binding and piping though.) At current Australian minimum wage of $18.29, that means there’s well over $100 worth of my labour in these. The cost of materials would push that even higher.

Now think about how much you might pay for a pair of denim shorts in a shop. I’m guessing it’s a lot less! (And no, it’s not solely due to automation. Sewing clothes is still a largely manual process, as robots can’t yet handle textiles very well.) Someone got paid to make your clothes, and they probably got very little for it and worked in very crappy conditions. No, I haven’t stopped buying clothes in shops yet. But making my own things makes me more appreciative of the work that goes into it, and less willing to shop at the “fast and disposable” fashion places these days.

Plus they look really cute! 🙂

Summer of Shorts!

I realised back in December that my wardrobe was pretty light on shorts and set out to rectify that. I ended up making FIVE different pairs from two different patterns, and I’m pretty happy with how they turned out!

These three pairs are all based on Colette Patterns Iris Shorts. They’re sort of retro, with pockets set into a front seam rather than on the hips. They open with a zipper on the left side. I bought this pattern years ago and made a first attempt at them, but they didn’t fit at all and I was too disheartened to try again. This time I was determined to crack it.

This was my first attempt. I didn’t want to use anything too fancy until I had fixed the fit issues so I used this blue floral quilting cotton I had in my stash. My first attempt was again a complete disaster, so I ended up pulling them apart and recutting the bum pieces to add more width to accommodate my hips. That seemed to do the trick! Wearable, but not perfect.

For my second attempt, I made further adjustments. The blue pair felt like they were, uh, riding a bit high, so I lowered the crotch by half an inch on both the front and back pieces. (The first adjustment detailed on this page.) For this pair, I used a pink fine-wale corduroy I bought from Jody‘s Mum’s destash. I didn’t have much of it, which turned out to be problematic when I screwed up the cutting and had to recut one of the front panels. There’s definitely some bodgy bits around the pockets on these, but overall the adjustment was a success. The fit is relaxed and comfortable!

The last pair were just finished today. These are made from a beautiful denim that I picked up during The Fabric Store‘s recent sale. I made one final adjustment to the fit, to “scoop out” a little more of the front crotch and remove a little excess fabric there. I decided to get a bit fancy with these and apply piping to the top and bottom of the waistband. I used some beautiful Liberty cotton canvas for the piping and the pockets, and I’m so happy how they turned out! (I also documented the whole process of making them, which I’ll be posting soon.)

The other two pairs of shorts I made were from the Prefontaine Shorts pattern by thatmoxiegirl. I ❤ this pattern!

This pattern is a roomy cut and features very inclusive sizing, so I didn’t have to make a single change. These were the first pair I made, which used some quilting cotton I’ve been holding on to for years, waiting for just the right project. I’m slightly annoyed that I wasn’t smart enough to vary the placement across the fronts to avoid the obvious repetition across the crotch seam, but it’s fine. The waist is elastic so you don’t have to bother with putting in a zipper. The black trim along the edges is actually recycled from an old t-shirt! That’s a trick that the pattern suggests, and it’s brilliant. Since it’s a knit it goes around the curves easily without needing special bias tape, and it feels great against your skin.

My second pair turned out so, so well. As soon as I saw this Liberty Meandering Chrysanthemums cotton canvas at The Fabric Store’s sale, I fell in love and immediately knew it was destined for these shorts. The dusty pink trim is again from an old t-shirt.

For this pair, I also added welt pockets on the back. They’re a perfect size for my cell phone!

I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to make your own clothes! It’s getting to the point now where Rodd and I will both be wearing garments that I’ve made, out in public or to work or whatever, and nobody knows that there’s actually no label inside. Hm. Maybe I should get my own labels, huh?

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.

Sewing notes: Georgie Tops

It’s time to get serious about my sewing, so I’ve made a resolution this year to not buy any new clothes (excluding undergarments, which are in the Too Hard basket for now). Towards that end, I’ve sewn two more new shirts so far in 2017 from Tessuti’s Georgie Top pattern.

Georgie #1: The first was this short-sleeved version in a vintage fabric remnant I had. (We did a burn test on it and it melts so I reckon it’s probably either nylon or polyester.) I cut the largest size and did an FBA – more on that in a sec – and finished with exposed bindings. For the bindings, since I had limited fabric I didn’t bother cutting them with the provided pattern pieces but instead used a square to make continuous binding via the Colette method. I really like the Tessuti method for doing the back neck keyhole opening. I don’t get their insistence on using tearaway Vilene to stabilise the neck though – it seems like stay-stitching would work just as well? Overall I’m really happy with the finish on this one. All this practice is really paying off! The only outright mistake I made on this project was cutting the sleeves upside-down, so the motif (which looks a little like an insect!) goes the wrong direction. It’s small enough though that (the Snook claims) you only notice when I point it out. 🙂

Okay, so the FBA. Based on my experience with other Tessuti patterns, I decided to do a Full Bust Adjustment on this one before I started. The problem is that I trusted the first result that Google gave me: this Craftsy tutorial. People, this tutorial is WRONG! But I didn’t realise it at the time. So I followed the instructions, not realising that step 7 had a massive error. Then when I went to sew up the side seams, guess what? The front was massively longer than the back. Which makes sense, as that stupid tutorial has you draw the new dart in such a way that you’re adding material to the side. I ended up having to rejig my bodice front on-the-fly and try to make it work, and I still ended up having to cut material off the bottom. So though I’m pleased with the finish on this one, I feel like the fit is slightly weird. The neckline is a little high for me (not really the fault of the FBA though), and there’s excess material on my upper chest. It’s wearable, but not exactly great.

Georgie #2: The second Georgie is this sleeveless version in a vintage cotton remnant. (It’s got little medals all over it!) I was inspired by Gertie’s keyhole blouse to try for a keyhole neckline detail on the front. The first thing I did was print a new bodice front, lower the neckline, and then do a proper FBA. Then I free-handed a U-shape at the center of the bodice front piece and cut it out of my fabric. Rather than using Vilene, I simply stay-stitched the neckline, keyhole, and sleeve openings before I started. I again made my own continuous bias tape via the Colette method. Binding the keyhole was tricky but doable, and I’m really pleased with how flat it turned out! When I bound the neckline, I initially left a gap of about an inch across the keyhole (so it was more of a U-shape than a teardrop). Then I tried it on, and I again had the problem of excess fabric in the upper chest. When I pinched the top of the U-together though (simulating a tuck), it magically disappeared. Huh! So I unpicked half the neckline binding and then redid it, joining the top of the U together into the teardrop. Very happy with that outcome! (If I make this again without a keyhole, I’ll adjust the bodice front to remove that wedge.) As for the sleeves, I did actually cut them and I intended to use them, but when I tried it on for my neckline alterations, I realised I liked it better sleeveless. I debated whether I needed to adjust the sleeve openings – I know that sleeveless garments tend to have larger armholes – but they looked fine. So I simply added an exposed bias binding to each armhole. So far I’m really happy with it!