Category Archives: stashbusting

case of leather

leather case 1

One day I got the idea to make a leather tablet case as a present for a dear friend. I had a quarter hide of leather left over from my fashion collection project, and an idea for how I wanted the tablet case to look. I only knew he had an older iPad, but fortunately they are all pretty similar in dimensions so it was enough information to go by. Ready, set, start!

leather case 2

It was a surprisingly quick project once I had the measurements all sorted out, so it only took me about an hour from start to finish! I knew from last time working with this leather that the feed-dog on my sewing machine would leave marks on the bottom layer of the leather, so I opted to punch holes and handsew with a denim-weight thread (wax the thread first to avoid breakage). I think it came out quite nicely, and happily my friend is pleased with his gift too!

leather case 3

portrait blouse in bird print

portrait_blouse3Fabric: Same bird-print, polyester crepe georgette I used for my latest tiny pocket tank, underlined with a remnant of fallow colored plain weave cotton/poly mystery blend.
Pattern: Portrait Blouse from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing.
Techniques: Invisible zipper, facing, catchstitching, understitching, FBA.

My first project from Gertie’s sewing book! I have several more I’d like to make, like the wiggle-dress (ooooo!), pencil skirts (can you have too many?), and the coat dress (that looks pretty awesome). The Bombshell dress isn’t in this book, but it’s another Gertie-involved project that I’m looking forward to taking a stab at. Also – this is the first batch of pictures I’ve taken with my new fancy camera remote control thingy! It’s great – it focuses before taking the picture, so I don’t have to run back and forth between each timer-set picture only to see I wasn’t in focus. Dare I say it was even… fun?

portrait_blouse_untucked I *loved* the two Portrait blouses that Gertie made back in the day, as part of her VoNBBS challenge (I hope she continues and finishes all the projects some day!), so it seemed a natural starting point for trying the patterns in this book. I noticed that her Portrait blouse looked a little different – I’m seeing a higher neckline, a slightly less fitted silhouette, and somewhat shorter sleeves. I prefer the fit and proportions of the original vintage pattern, so I made some changes to the pattern. I lowered and widened the neckline, lengthened the body a couple of inches, did a 1″ FBA (full bust adjustment), and cut the smaller of the two sizes I landed between, based on measurements.

Perhaps you recognize the fabric? I’ve made a Grainline tiny tank with this fabric, but just with a single layer of fabric. I thought this blouse would benefit from a bit more structure, so I underlined it with some leftover cotton/polyester lightweight fabric. This also helped the slight sheerness the other blouse has, making it a little more office appropriate! I did the facing for the neckline and catch-stitched it to the underlining instead of just tacking at the shoulders, and I did a bias tape finish at the armholes instead of the stitch and turn method outlined in the book. I actually can’t quite figure out how that method work would work out, since the curve at the underarm is so sharp a double turn would seriously pull the fabric.

portrait_blouse_facingThis blouse is a definite stash-buster – Gertie quoted needing a yard of fabric, and that seems about right. I think it has a flattering neckline, which, after all, is the entire point of the blouse! I think the proportions work very nicely when tucked in – a little less so when not tucked in. For next time (since I will absolutely forget the details before attempting to sew this again!) I would bring the neckline back in a little, maybe 1″ in and 1/2″ up? That way I’d be a little more confident the blouse would cover my bra straps, but sill have the more open neckline I prefer.

I’d need to lower the armhole too, since they are super tight right now! It was pretty snug in the waist as well, so I ended up letting out the non-zippered seam – I’m thinking the size I chose was a little too snug. The dart also needs to be lowered and extended, between 1/2″ to 1″ I think. I can tell the blouse is designed to be tucked in, with inverted pleats ending and opening up right at the high waistline for a controlled blousy effect. If I wanted to make a next version to wear untucked I think I might let the tucks end closer to the bust to control the shape a little more. I should also use a longer zipper since I like a snugger fit, in fact I might actually try the zipper in the “usual” position at the underarm instead.

portrait_blouse2portrait_blouse_backIt looks good though! Paired with one of my first blogged garments (wow how long this simple linen pencilskirt has lasted!) it makes for a nice outfit with a little vintage touch.

wool marie


I shared this picture in the 2013 -hits and misses post, of a Marie-skirt in wool. I love Marie-skirts. This is the third so far, and there will be more. However – I listed this under the misses. Not a super-successful make!

Fabric: A wool/poly blend in a herringbone pattern, from Stoff og stil. I can’t find it on their website at all now, probably since it was bought several years ago.
Pattern: Marie skirt from BurdaStyle
Techniques: Full lining, stitched down pleats, handpicked zipper, elastic buttonloops.


The skirt looks perfectly ok – in fact, in the picture above it even looks good, but I’m totally cheating and holding it in and up. The skirt is meant to sit at the natural waist, but in my too-big version my waist unfortunately disappears when the skirt falls down. Looking back on the past two versions, that has also been a problem (being too big or the waistband stretching) – now I know what to be particularly aware of! Maybe it’s not just me? Maybe the skirt is a little to heavy and not formfitting to stay up at the natural waist?

While the fit is the biggest issue for me with this skirt, it’s more or less an example of all the practices I will try to avoid in 2014 – having many projects going at once; letting them sit with months between working on them; forgetting what changes I’ve made or were planning to make to the pattern and the construction. I started this skirt I think two years ago, and the on-again-off-again sewing shows. I drafted my own waistband and forgot to add an overlap on the waistband for the closure. I included absolutely no ease in the lining I added. The fabric is a little to heavy for the volume of the skirt, and I didn’t interface the waistband (that was pure laziness. Always interface the pieces that needs to be stable. Always).

I realize this is a somewhat negatively loaded post, and I don’t mean to just trash this skirt. I actually didn’t plan on blogging about this skirt at all, since it doesn’t excite me to blog about something I’m both not crazy about and not planning on wearing, but it’s also an interesting exercise in seeing exactly what it was that went awry.

For next time (oh, yes – I’ve already planned another one!) I’ll choose a more suited fabric (as in – a thinner and more drapey fabric); I think a hem-facing will make for a better result because of the curved hem; I will be less in a rush when drafting; and I will not blindly finish something I started 2 years ago – you know, in case my measurements might have changed in the meanwhile! This is a perfectly well made skirt, so I will either give it to someone who will use it now, or just put it away and see if it will fit me better at some other stage of my life.

wool_marie_backI actually really like the back view! I think the pleats are more flattering there, and a little less overwhelming… At least in this dense of a fabric.

pinterest for pattern stash

pinterest_for_pattern_stashYesterday I had an idea I thought was very clever – using pinterest to keep track of my pattern stash! I see on pinterest I’m not the only one to have had this idea, but isn’t it clever?

Often I think I should be better about using patterns I have instead of coveting new ones all the time (I’m looking at you guys, Deer & Doe, Named Clothing Patterns, and Thread Theory). The problem is just that I keep forgetting what I actually have available. I have a folder full of downloaded digital patterns on my computer desktop, but they’re not easily and visually accessible there, so they are out of sight and out of mind. No more though!

I linked to the pattern shops for the indie patterns I have, grabbed the line drawing from BurdaStyle’s website for the many patterns I downloaded before they started charging for nearly everything, and used my phone to take pictures of the vintage patterns I have. Phew – I feel all organized! And, I have many more patterns than I was aware of. That’s the deal with stashes I guess!

underwear: successes and failure

I think it’s well established that I like to make underwear. They are just so quick, and instantly gratifyingly easy! Most of the time, at least. Behold, two successes and a wadder:

underwear_jersey1Let’s start with the ugly. It’s my second go at the Amerson pattern, and with this one I do give up. I won’t be trying this again. With some lessons learned from the previous one, also a wadder, I was meticulous with seam allowances, and changed my color scheme to be less boxer-meets-clown-like (as witnessed in my previous attempt). And I still can’t make it work! I know there are many fans out there, so maybe it was my fabric choice being bad again, (a cotton voile or lawn might be better suited to give some structure), maybe my use of fold-over elastic was ill-advised since it is much softer in its elasticity, or maybe it’s just not a style I feel cute in. I don’t know, but this here thing will not be living in my underwear drawer:

I thought the chiffon layered over lace could look cute. I’m not sure I’m totally sold!

underwear_jersey2The other pairs were more of a non-brainer, since they’re made with my very own pattern (it’s free! Click here to read more and download). I’ve made these so many times I could maybe break into single digits of minutes spent sewing these up. Especially with this version – since the jersey I used was pretty stretchy, I could actually get away with not adding any elastic anywhere. This probably only works if you have a fabric that is both fairly stretchy, but also with good retention – that it will snap back into shape.

I didn’t measure exactly how much, but I did cut the waist- and leg-opening bands shorter than the openings themselves, 10% smaller maybe? I used my still new serger to whip these up, which both takes less time and makes them look more professional, score! Isn’t the fabric fun? I totally fell for this funny tetris-like print at my local fabric store, and I have an almost finished jersey dress in the same pattern that I intend to finish some time soon. It ended up being to big in the sides, so I just have to decide how much, shave that off, and finish the edges. Haha, I could have a matching dress and underwear set! Didn’t think of that until now. I was just using up the jersey remnants in my favorite way!

Ireland dress, swanky and finished

Hold on peeps, this is a picture-heavy one! John and I just came back from celebrating a friend’s wedding in Ireland, and I’ve been working (well, ruminating and planning at least) on this dress for quite a while, so it’s a big sigh of relief to have it done and looking good. And so much fun to photograph in a castle (!) in Ireland! So many exclamation points!

Ireland_coupleThat’s not the castle, by the way. This is right after the ceremony at the Irish-catholic village church. Don’t we look nice!

Fabric: Mystery mustard colored fabric I got for free from a friend of a friend while living in Chicago. It has a beautiful drape to it and a subtle sheen, and I’ve taken it for a viscose rayon this entire time. When ironing it however, it smells unmistakably like polyester (though I haven’t done a burn test to confirm) – as a fabric snob (and being ok with that) I’ll chalk this up as one of the nicest polyesters I’ve met! Lining is a jaquard weave poly from Joann Fabrics.
Pattern: Self drafted with a-line full length skirt, bias cut cowl front, and v-neck back. I’m thrilled I had time to make both a bodice mock-up, and a wearable muslin ahead of time.
Techniques: Bias cut neckline drape, waist-stay, self-lined bodice, bias-tape bound armholes, and fusible seam tape at all cut edges of bodice seams.

Oh, where to start! I felt so damn swanky in this! I don’t often wear floor-length gowns, but it totally felt right for this occasion, and for this fabric. I shared this picture below a while back, of a dress from the 30′s that has been my visual inspiration for what I wanted to wear to this wedding:

wpid-20130629194618663.jpgI realized pretty quickly that as much as I wanted to take the opportunity and do a full-on replication of this dress from the 30s, I just didn’t have enough fabric to do it. And being a random mystery fabric, I certainly didn’t know where to get more! I’m ok with that though. Even if the inspiration dress is way more dramatic and stunning, I felt dramatic and elegant enough in the castle wedding setting – and looking back at this picture I’m quite amused at how similar the finished dress ended up to the super-quick draped mock-up I did back then!

The wearable muslin I made was incredible helpful. It meant that I could make the changes to the pattern, and then cut into the mustard colored fabric, confident that I didn’t have to recut, and confident that I wouldn’t have to make more alterations.

Alright, here comes construction notes – if that’s not your thing, just skip to the picture of the hat below – interspersed with somewhat non-related, pretty pictures of the finished thing (sorry about the lack of detail-shots and process, just didn’t prioritize it this time around!).


So – the bodice is self lined – the front bodice cut on fold at the cowl neckline edge, and the back bodice cut twice. I spent a whole lot of time ironing on the fusible seam tape on almost all cut edges, which I did since I was terrified of stretching out seams so they wouldn’t sew together nicely! I’ve learned through some nearly failed projects that you can gather and ease a stretched out seam to the right length, but the fabric beyond the seamline is still stretched out, and will never lay nicely. Hence all the seam tape, haha! It really did make a difference though I think, and everything sewed together very nicely (in terms of seamline lengths). While making the wearable muslin I managed to iron on the fusible both too short on some seams, and too long on others. For this dress I actually ended up laying the fabric on the paper pattern, and pinning both of them to the ironing board (just with a pin straight down, vertically, into the board) to really make sure the length ended up correctly. I was quite pleased with this method!

Ireland_stair3Deer caught in headlights descending stairs in beautiful shoes, while holding glass attempting not to spill any more drinks on herself (total tally by the end of the night was 2 plus a broken glass, which was a total fluke, and a dress rinsed out in the sink that dried to look pristine).

I knew I wanted a waist-stay on this dress (you must know by now how much I adore trying new techniques and adding little touches to what I sew!), but it took a lot of internal debate on how exactly to do it! Most often the waist stay is sewn to the waistline seam-allowances, both self and lining fabric layers, and is visible from the inside. I don’t mind the waist-stay being visible, but this alternative would mean an unfinished waistline seam that I would want to bind in bias tape, which I was afraid would get too bulky with 5-6 layers right above the waist-seam, and only the 2 layers of the skirt below. Also, it would mess up having a clean zipper finish on the inside. Alternative 1 nixed.

The next alternative I considered would be to sew together all waistseam layers but the bodice lining, attach the waist-stay, and slipstitch the bodice lining to the seam. That would be better than the first alternative, but I was still worried that any little difference in the grain of the fabrics would end up pulling weirdly by being solidly attached at the waist, in addition to the issue of bulk. Alternative 2 nixed.


Ireland_dress_backPosing in the rose-garden, swoon! I can see the draglines from the wearable muslin ar still there somewhat (probably exaggerated a bit here), and I’m pretty sure it’s from the straps having slid down too far on my sloping shoulders. A bra sitting further in plus bra-loops keeping it anchored should fix that.

This was honestly such a long back and forth conversation in my head, where I kept forgetting why I had nixed the different options! I’m sure I considered other approaches, but what I ended up doing was to attach the skirt and bodice layers separately for the lining and the self, sewing the waist-stay to the outside layer waist seam allowance (pressed upwards), pressing the lining waist seam allowance downwards, and loosely slipstitch the seamline together at center front, center back, and at the side seam. I did that to keep the layers together where they were supposed to be, while allowing everything to move a bit too. I couldn’t get around this little oddity of having to leave a gap in the lining by the zipper, right where the waist-stay comes together with a little hook. It’s a trade off to not having exposed seams, but I’ll admit a little fiddly to avoid loosing the ends of the waist-stay, since they aren’t attached all the way to the zipper tape! Oh well. I found Tasia’s multiple posts on waist-stays very helpful, such as this one sewn fully to the waist seam allowance, and also this more traditional one.

Who knew I would have this much to say about waist-stays? Ok, moving on… sewing really was quite easy, there aren’t that many pieces to this dress. But making sure that they don’t stretch, and that they’re on grain, that is the tricky part. I had such a hard time hemming the skirt – the lining especially. I totally recommend having a second person helping you when hemming these types of long dresses! At the bridal shop I used to work at, we would mark the skirt with pins set in vertically where the fabric touched the floor. Then we hemmed a certain amount up from those marks, based on the type of fabric the skirt was made of (generally cutting at the pins and aiming for a finished hem about 3/8″ off the floor, but for chiffon you’d cut less since it tends to crawl up and shrink in length when cut). Anyways, I think my lining must have been a bit off grain because it was waaaay longer in one spot off to the side. Oops! It took several rounds of trimming but turned out ok. Having made myself very few floorlength dresses, it’s a new way of thinking for me that this dress is hemmed pretty much only for these shoes, and these shoes only! (loved, loved, loved, loved my shoes by the way!)

purple_suade_shoesMy purple suede peeptoe platform patent leather wedding shoes! Crappy cell picture, but none of the other pictures really showed these beauties.


Ireland_dress_stair2So glamorous!

Finally, let’s admire the beautiful fascinator that my talented and lovely Sara custom-made for me! She knew the color and style of the dress I was making, and she knows me and my style. Then she took that and melded it with her aesthetics to create this smashing headpiece. I loved wearing it, and got lots of compliments on it all day long. I don’t think this outfit would have been complete without it. (Thanks Sara, you’re so lovely!)

ireland_fascinator Alright, that wraps it up! I made a mustard-colored fancy dress, I wore it, and I loved it. It’s a win.

beignet corduroy skirt


Sorry for the kind of blurry photo – the rest of them are better! We were in a slight hurry to get to a birthday party, and since this picture best shows the shape of the Beignet skirt I’m running with it rather than retake the photos. The birthday party was lovely, and I got to wear my very recently finished Beignet (so recent I, ahem, didn’t finish the self-tie or the beltloops. They’re coming soon).

Fabric: Pinwale cotton corduroy from Fishman’s Fabrics in Chicago. Beautiful quality fabric, like everything from that store (though often on the expensive side by US standards). I cut the pieces out so long ago, I don’t know how much I’ve used, but I think at least 3/4 yards of a full 58″ width, possibly a little more for the odd facing piece. I still have fabric left over, though no plans for it yet! For lining I used remnants of kimono silk left over from a theater production. Beautiful stuff!
Pattern: Colette Patterns Beignet. I’ve had this pattern for a long time, so it actually has the watercolor illustrations of the first round, which I sort of prefer anyways. First, but not last time making this, for sure.
Techniques: In-seam pockets, fully lined, bound buttonholes, twill tape for stabilizing waistline.


I started this skirt over a year ago, and meant to finish it for a Sew Weekly challenge on buttons. For someone who enjoys the process of sewing very much, and in her perfectionist tendencies decided that all twelve buttonholes must be *bound*, it was a bit of a foolish endeavor to undertake in a week. So – the night before the challenge deadline I conceded I would not in fact have time to attach lining to shell, hem it all, and construct the 9 remaining buttonholes. And so it was put away.beignet_buttons_inside beignet_buttons_closeup

Clearly I finished them eventually, but my goodness, there is a lot of fiddly steps to the bound buttonholes! After you’ve actually measured out and attached all the little pieces (which I decided would have the wales running in a horizontal direction and therefore needed much precision in applying) and then sliced and turned and steamed and stitched down flaps…. Then you have to make all the corresponding windows for the backsides! They did turn out lovely though, and in many ways I enjoy doing these fiddly bits – making corners for myself, as Kristen called it – but definitely best done not under time constraints.

beignet_front2 beignet_inside_seamallowance The fit of this skirt is lovely. It curves beautifully over the lower back, and I think it’s a flattering shape. I will definitely make more of this – I’m thinking a sturdier cotton drill, unlined, with fun bias binding on all the seams for the next one. At the same time, I will probably also make some pattern changes, and also deviate from the instructions in the same way I did this time. For example, the width of the skirt front facing is absolutely killing me. I realized it when constructing the inside windows for the bound buttonholes, and then remembered that I’d seen this problem with other people’s skirts: the facing is too narrow. If you notice in the second buttonhole picture up there, the buttonholes should not be that close to the seamline attaching the lining. Not only did it make it very difficult to properly construct those little windows, but it’s not structurally very good.

I also made steps to reduce bulk over how the pattern is written. For example, all my seams are pressed open instead of to one side, including by the pocket where I just snipped in to the seamline above and under where the pocket is attached. Since the corduroy doesn’t fray super crazy, I also turned up just once for the hem. It won’t really show since the lining hem covers it. Finally, though the pattern doesn’t specify how to attach the twill tape, I chose to butt it up against the waist seamline, but only be caught in the understitching, as I thought it would get too bulky to have it sewn into the actual waist seam and folded back on itself. Oh! I changed my mind – here’s the new “finally”: Finally, I anchored the pocket seam allowance to a skirt panel seam allowance, since the pockets kept flipping back in the wrong direction while I was trying this on. I just laid the skirt flat, and pinned where the pocket could be attached to a vertical seam allowance – if that makes sense?



As mentioned, I used remnants of kimono silk from a theater production to line this skirt. I had to piece several of the panels in order to have enough fabric, but look how lovely it is! I think it was a good choice for the soft corduroy since it provides some body (the silk being a little on the sturdier side). Unfortunately it also makes the skirt just a little lumpy in a way, since the corduroy is so very soft. That’s why for the next Beignet I want to try a sturdier fabric and not line it.

Criticisms aside, I really do like the shape of this skirt, and look forward to making it again. Not to mention how happy I am to have both this fabric out of my stash, and finally – this skirt out of the UFO-pile!


Pinwale Corduroy