around here







Since last time, I have been…
- living quietly. I’ve been feeling like I had to be working on a project all the time, so that a day was wasted if I didn’t sew after work or improve my website or something. I’m working on telling myself that reading and playing with the cat are perfectly acceptable and worthy after-work-activities too.
- cuddling a lot with our brand new cat! We’ve only had her for a few weeks, but she’s a funny and sweet little thing. And loves to sit on my lap and watch (and swat) what I’m doing.
- reading my newspaper and loving it. It’s a weekly newspaper, but without sports or tv-guides or the like, and pretty much every page is an interesting read. Plus a weekly quiz, and I like quizzes.
- eating poached eggs for the first time. Yummy!
- visiting a brand new baby wearing some jersey pants I made him. I used this pattern, and it was very easy, fit right (or so the mama tells me!), and used a stupidly small amount of fabric.
- watching sunsets and sunrises and thrilled that we can see them at all on precious clear days. I’m so glad my work has a view of the water and the outside, so I can watch the weather and the boats roll by. I so enjoy that. And when I’m not watching water, I can watch the galaxy that appear on my wall from light breaking through glass building blocks. It’s kind of magic.

how to take in a dress shirt, part 2

I’m back with part two of how to take in a shirt! This post is a little more specific to dress shirts and their construction than my previous post on measuring and marking. I hope you guys find it useful!

howto_shirt_hemBefore we get going, make a note of how the seams are constructed. We’ll be putting everything back in the same way, so we want to note down how big the seam allowance is, if the seams are pressed to the front or the back, if one layer of fabric has been trimmed back or not. Jot it all down! This will be happening both before you start seam-ripping, and during.

Now we’re on to cutting, seam-ripping and re-assembling the shirt. Making sure you’ve removed all the pins, go ahead and seam-rip the side seams to within 3 or 4 inches of the cuff seam on the sleeves. Trust me when I say it’s super difficult to get close to that cuff seam on a sewing machine! The topstitching can be seam-ripped back a little further, as we need the fabric to lay flat to join the old and new stitching, and the topstitching is in the way of doing that.

howto_shirt_sleeveYou can see with my sleeve that the two layers have been cut to the same width, and folded under before topstitching. You can also see I’ve put my final pin right where I’ve stopped ripping the structural seam, while the topstitching is undone a good inch or two further.

Oh, the fun part! We are going to do the whole business with the pins one more time, just in reverse. Mark every two inches as before, and measure in at each point the amount you determined in the last round of measuring and note-taking. I like to pin with the pins pointing towards me, so that when I’m cutting the head of the pin isn’t in the way of the scissors and I can cut just on the inside of where the pin is. When I get to the point in the picture below I pull out the pin and aim for the next one. Try to maintain a smooth cutting line. If you’d rather use chalk or something instead of the pins, that’s totally fine.

howto_shirt_cutBut wait, I hear you say, what about the seam allowance? What if it isn’t the same as the shirt I’m showing you? Actually, it doesn’t matter one bit! As long as you resew with the same seam allowance as the original was done, you’re good. Since the original measurement was from the sewn edge to where we want the new sewn edge to be, that exact measurement still holds true when we measure from the original cut edge to the new cut edge.

By the way, in the picture above you can see that I move the pins marking the 2 inch points to the new cut edge after I’ve cut each section. I still need to keep my layers together when I sew the side seams!

howto_shirt_dart2At some point you’ll need to sew the two darts in the back. I don’t have a strong preference on when I do this; as the first thing; after seamripping; after sewing the side seam… Whenever you want to is fine – shirts are big enough that it’s not too much easier to do this flat than when the shirt is sewn up. Same procedure here as earlier – re-mark the measurements you calculated earlier, and sew.

howto_shirt_flatfelled_downloadBack to the side seam! I’m demonstrating how I’m folding my seam allowance in half and pressing under, in preparation for the flat felled seam to come. The picture isn’t quite accurate, as I went back and trimmed down that inner layer to about half the width. I found it difficult and lumpy to do both layers! I know that’s the way it was sewn originally, but factories have special machinery that does all the work, and I don’t. So I just find a way that gives as similar as a result as possible.howto_shirt_armpit-e1392730229537

If the shirt has a staggered seams (as in, one seam has already been trimmed before being sewn) you can either trim each layer independently the same amount, and then layer them staggered before sewing again, or you can measure in from the outermost cut edge, trim away the excess, sew, and trim down the inner layer before continuing with the flat-felled seam.Here is a tip, which is related to not having factory-style equipment as home sewers: Trim away a triangle from the inner layer, right at the underarm seam. There are so many layers of fabric at this intersection of seams, that trimming away one of them allows the other to fold over much more neatly. This is a matter of “turn of cloth”-allowance, which Sherry has written about on her blog.

howto_shirt_sewWhen you’ve pressed under the seam allowance you can take your nearly finished shirt to the sewing machine, and edgestitch the pressed under edge. You should be sewing this from the inside of the shirt, at least with traditional flat felled seam construction. The final step will be to resew the hem across the side seams – same goes here as with everywhere else, which is to sew it back the way it was done originally.

Step back and enjoy the results of your hard work! Model checking himself in the mirror optional…

john_shirt_front_after3I’d like to add on a “part 3″ to this at some point, showing how to deal with the shoulder if it needs to be moved up. I’m not sure when that would be – John and I will have to inventory his shirt-collection and see if we find a candidate.

I hope this is useful information to those of you wanting to make this kind of alteration, and please do ask if you have any questions!

how to take in a dress shirt, part 1

As I mentioned, here is the first part of my tutorial on how to take in a dress shirt! At least, the methods and tricks that have worked for me the last few times I have taken in John’s shirts. I’ve separated this into two posts; this one on pinning and measuring, and the next on cutting and general tips.

Let’s start! You can kind of tell that I’ve pinned in the sides in the picture below, but I also added another to show where the pins are. I pin the shirt in while on the person of course, making sure to make it as even as possible from side to side. For the sleeves I taper from the elbow down to a point 3-4″ up from the cuff seam, since it is very difficult to get close to that seam with a sewing machine. Make sure to always put the pins in pointing to the floor – it’ll reduce the chance of the person wearing the shirt pricking themselves! The whole point of taking in a shirt is of course to make it slimmer, but keep an eye on draglines.

There is a limit to how much you can take in without distorting the fit, so I’d recommend not taking in much more than 4 inches total at the armpit / side seam intersection. If you need to take in more, you might want to think about reshaping the armscye and sleeve head (not covered here).

howto_shirt_pin howto_shirt_pin_text2

I find that the biggest job in taking in (or letting out) any garment is this next step of recording the points you’ve pinned, then averaging those numbers out. This is the same technique I used when working in the bridal shop, and in pretty much any setting where I need to let out or take in seams equally on both sides of a garment. It makes sure you get a smooth line from top to bottom, and of course – being the same on both sides!

You’ll need:
- your pinned shirt
- pen and paper
- measuring tape or ruler


I start by measuring out every 2 inches (or every 5 cm if you think in metric) starting from the hem and working my way upwards. I mark each point by a pin perpendicular to the stitching line. When I get to the armpit I mark that seam with a pin even if it isn’t quite at the 2″ mark from the previous one. I start counting from zero at the armhole, moving towards the sleeve cuff. Repeat this for the other side.


Next I revisit all the 2″ marks and measure how far in the pins are from the original side seam. If the 2″ mark is between two pins, just eyeball it the best you can. Note down the distance for each point, first for one side and then the other. As you can see, I curiously marked points in 2-inch segments, but I measured from the side seam in centimeters! I find centimetres much more accurate for smaller distances, but whatever floats your boat works.

Now get in touch with your mathy side. Again, I find the next step easier to do in centimetres, mostly because I can so easily see where the midpoint between two numbers should be. For example, if I’ve measured a particular point on the left side to 2.4 cm and 2.8 cm on the other side, I average it out to 2.6 cm.


I average out each point individually first, and then I work my way down and make sure my new line won’t resemble a zig-zag, darting in and out. You can maybe make out in the picture above that I changed the average number for the 8″ mark from 1.9 cm to 2.0 cm. Looking at the big picture I can tell that the amount taken in increases steadily from the hem to the armpit, and then back down, so it makes no sense to dip down at the 8″ mark when the big picture tells me otherwise. So I changed it! This is the time to smooth out all these lines, and to trust your eye, your gut and your experience.


The process is pretty much the same for the darts I took in. The darts are more freestanding in the middle of the shirt back piece, so you’ll have to get some important measurements recorded and evened out. They include how far up from the hem you start the dart, the length of the dart, the deepest point of the dart, and the distance from the side seam to the bottom of the dart. You can see my drawing in the picture below. As with the side seams, I measured out 2″ distances, recorded the pinned in amount at those points, then figured out the averages.

howto_shirt_notesThat’s it for today! And quite honestly, it’s the part requiring the most concentration, and is the groundwork for everything coming after. The hard part is now done! I’ll have the next post on cutting, sewing and general tips up later in the week.

taking in a dress shirt

Well, hello there! Let’s talk about dress shirts. John has a closet full of perfectly nice dress shirts, but they are a little loose on him. Especially since he’s in a business casual environment at work, which in Norway is waaaay more fitted than the standard is in the US. So I volunteered to slim down his shirts and give them a longer shelf life (heh, literally). This is, I think, the third shirt I’ve taken in, if anyone remembers this “around here” snapshot.

I wanted to share this as a tutorial, so this time I took some pictures I’ll be posting separately as a how-to for taking in a men’s dress shirt. But now, the before and after!

john_shirt_front_before  john_shirt_front_after3

As you can see, John had a haircut in between the pinning and sewing of the shirt as well! With taking in a shirt you’ll mostly shave off from the sides, and there are some limitations. For example – the breast pocket has a tendency to end up a smidge too close to the armpit, and there will be some draglines from the shoulder to the underarm. The draglines are mostly from the flat curve of the top of the sleeve that is common in shirts, and something that can be fixed by taking the sleeve off and reworking the shape of both the sleeve and the armscye. I don’t think it’s worth to do that alteration that unless the shoulder seam hits too low, and the body and the sleeve is really big.

It’s a definite improvement from the front, but the major difference is the side view! The first picture is the before, and then where I’ve pinned the sides and a couple of darts in the back, and finally the finished after. Much better! This is the first time I made darts in the back. Even after pinning in the sides there was a lot of billowing in the back (which was John’s biggest annoyance with this shirt), so a couple of moderate darts did the trick to contour the shape a little.

The billowy before

Pinned in

Tucked in and ready.

I’m including the back view because I was a little worried about the darts showing. I’ve seen mens’ shirts with darts in the back, and they look perfectly fine, but I was still concerned about it looking too… girly? You can definitely see them if you look for them, but I’m pleased that they aren’t overly obvious.

john_shirt_after_backIt’s not a spectacular sewing project, but a very satisfying tweak that means John has a closet full (well, eventually – when I do this to the rest of them!) of shirts that actually fit. I’ll leave you with a slightly out of focus picture of John demonstrating how happy he is with his newly fitted shirt. I promise, he really is happy!


I’ll be back with a tutorial on how to measure and distribute what is being taken out, and tips for sewing.

a wardrobe peek

I was folding and putting away my clothes the other night, and I was reminded of calling purple a preferred color in my post on the Minoru jacket I just finished (using a purple color, of course). Seeing my clothes all (fairly) neatly hung and piled, I found it funny to see my clothing color preferences so clearly!

DSC_4919 DSC_4920 DSC_4921

A huge part grey and dusty blues, a fair presence of mustard yellow and yellowy green, and a dash of hot pink. It’s interesting to see that I clearly favor warm purples in the tops that I wear (top left), but I have no sweaters or skirts in that color. Similarly, most greens are found just in the sweater pile (top right), and not much anywhere else.

Anyone else have recurring colors in their wardrobes?

minoru jacket, part 2


I’m back with more Minoru pictures! First off, look at how nicely this cherry blossom cowl I made a long while back matches my new jacket? I didn’t even notice it until I randomly paired them one day, but I guess it pays off to have some preferred colors in sewing and crafting! (By the way – check out how nicely Tasia’s newly knitted sweater matches her newly made skirt! She’s recently blogged about how her preferred color is orange).



I had so many details and small changes I wanted to share about this jacket, and I figured two separate post would be better to avoid picture overload. Still, I have 14 pictures here, so it’s still photo-heavy!


First up – I added a zipper guard to the separating zipper. I saw it on  this jacket by Rocket sews, and I think I found the link in the sew-along on Sewaholic, and I just had to copy her! She has a diagram in her post on which layers goes where that I found helpful, but I had to figure out the right order of sewing. Since the top of the flap isn’t caught in the collar seam, I trimmed the left size of the zipper tape above the zipper pull so it would start in the right place even when avoiding that top collar seam. I sewed the top of the zipper guard first (the overlapping part), then the actual zipper, and then the same stretch again to attach the rest of the zipperguard that lies behind the zipper. (I wrote a little more technically about how I did this in a comment in this “working on…” post)


I love the look of the zipper guard! I think it adds a professional looking touch to the jacket, and it does protect my clothes a bit from the zipper when I do up the jacket. Another thing I did differently from the pattern and instructions was how I sewed the top of the zipper. I did it according to the pattern first, but found it so lumpy and awkward that I knew it would irritate me forever. I played around with it and decided to not attach the top of the zipper tape in the top collar seam, but instead fold the excess down and just nestle it against the top collar seam. I think it came out great, very nice and flat – except that I folded the zippertape to the front instead of the back! At first I was annoyed, but then I decided it looked perfectly neat as is, and doesn’t necessarily look wrong. So there.

As I’ve mentioned several places, one of the reasons I spent about 2 years (!) on this jacket were these extra things I wanted to add, in addition to the pattern. I spent a ridiculous time on the pockets for example. I’d seen the inseam pocket add-ons around the web, but they didn’t feel right, so I landed on a patch pocket instead. I wanted to add some volume so I had some room to put things in the pockets, and I thought a pleat would look cool. I also wanted to line them , but not have raw edges – a lot of thought went into the construction of that step! I ended up folding under the main fabric, and slipstitching the lining fabric flat, very close to the folded outside pocket edge. This way the raw edge would be completely enclosed between the two rows of topstitching that I did.


Speaking of topstitching – I would not do contrasting topstitching if you didn’t feel very confident in your topstitching skills! I have a magic edgestitch sewing foot that does most of the work for me, and topstitching is usually a breeze. I struggled with a couple of the seams here, like the bottom collar seam, and the hem for starters. I think part of the reason I did, was from choices I made – the fabric is a little too thick to comfortably handle all those gathers, and the fact that I trimmed down the seam allowance severely made it more difficult to properly align the seams.

So why did I trim down those seam allowance so much? Well, I wanted to avoid something I’d been reading about – the raw seams inside the collar. And here we have another reason for delay! It was a complete puzzle, and I so understand why it’s not part of the pattern instructions. My solution was to trim down the seam allowance so the raw edge would be nestled in between the two rows of topstitching (like on the pockets), and the insides would look like this:



As you can see, I still got a little bit of raw edges somewhere, but on the whole, they are enclosed. However! To make sure that they did get enclosed, I had to trim down the seam allowance quite far – to 1/4″ or so, and with “load-bearing” seams this isn’t necessarily such a good idea… Look what happened to my hanging loop: Minoru_hangingloop

It’s coming apart at the outer edges! No wonder – the entire weight of the jacket is hanging on that little loop. It hasn’t really gotten much worse in the couple of weeks of wear I’ve put it through, so maybe it’ll just stay that way. Regardless! Don’t do that. I still think I would prefer a collar that doesn’t have raw edges on the inside, but I would either use very wide topstitching so I didn’t have to trim down the seam allowance so much, or I would bind the seam allowances in bias tape or something. The bottom would have to be bound in two separate rows, so to speak (the shell fabric seams, and the lining seams by themselves), and that could get a little lumpy. I don’t think any of the solutions are really excellent, so again – I totally understand why this isn’t part of the instructions, it just gets really complicated! Minoru_dressform_liningThe lining is an old kid’s duvet cover – I don’t know if I’m just imagining it, but I’d like to think this is something I used when I was a kid. It does make it feel a little more special, to have a fabric with significance as the lining. As I mentioned in the previous post, I interlined the front and back pieces with some wool flannel to make it warmer. I thought about doing the sleeves too, but that really would have been too bulky to be comfortable (I checked!). It’s the same lining fabric for the sleeves as the rest, and yes – they aren’t as easy and slippery as a traditional lining, but really, it has not been an issue getting the jacket on and off.


I used a dark grey wool flannel for the collar to have a softer fabric against the skin, and I’m quite happy with that. I think I first saw Kristen do that on her Minoru (which, by the way, is an awesome English countryside version with elbow patches and flannel and a great color). I like having flannel there, and I also put some piping between the plackets and the lining in the same flannel fabric, just because I could! The inner flannel collar is quite floppy when the hood is out and about. It would benefit from interfacing, but then again – it would be more bulky when the hood is in the collar. I think the hood and collar is a real balancing act. If I had a lighter fabric I would have interfaced the inner collar for structure, and if I had a heavier fabric I would avoid lining anything (including the hood) to reduce bulk.

Minoru_collar_zipperAfter mentioning I had used the “wrong” side of the fabric, I got some questions about what the right side looks like. Luckily for you, I hadn’t actually completely finished the jacket with the last slipstitching step, so I’ve included a peek at the hem, where you can see a bit of the selvage – which looks the same as the “right” side. The bit of pink from the fraying edge is mixing with the dark blue-black, and making the purple color somehow. I still much prefer the purple side, I think it is much more interesting and rich looking!DSC_4913_JMB_1800pxIn conclusion, I am thrilled with this jacket. I’m glad I took the time to do things thoroughly, and add touches I knew I’d be happy with. It’s a win!

minoru jacket, part 1


I finished my Minoru! I only started it two years ago, hah. I think this must be my second longest unfinished object ever (but these mittens still win). I realized I would have way too many pictures in one post, so the “outfit” ones are here, and I’ll do a second post with detail shots and more construction notes.

Fabric: Denim fabric with some stretch in it. Mom bought it for me one Christmas specifically to make this jacket, from her local fabric store. The purple is actually the wrong side of this fabric! It is much more interesting than the real right side, which was just a duller dark dark blue with a hint of purple in it.
Pattern: Minoru jacket from Sewaholic.
Techniques: Separating zipper, patch inverted pleat pockets, fully lined, interlining, piping, hanging loop.



I finished this jacket just in time for our trip to the Netherlands last weekend, and made use of the beautiful city of Haarlem (ooh, go there if you can) as the backdrop.  The dutch, in my limited experience, are open and have a wry (but friendly) sense of humor. We got some looks doing this photoshoot on the bridge, but in Norway, people would have tried not too look too much and keep to themselves. In Haarlem however, I got several friendly comments from the people biking by – “smile!” and “take a picture of me too!”. It was pretty funny!


This is a very comfortable jacket. I meant for this to be a winter jacket, so I underlined the lining (minus the sleeves) with a wool flannel, so the core of the jacket is warm. It was a perfect weight for the weather we were having, between zero and 7°C (that’d be in the 30s and 40s for you Fahrenheiters). It’s a little heavy, being made from denim and lined with wool – not something I noticed with it on, but it was noticeable while carrying it around in museums.

Seeing the pictures I have a few things I’d fix for a potential next jacket, fit-wise. It’s a little baggy in the back above the waist, so I think a swayback adjustment would be in order. Also, I did a FBA of 2″ total, and I think I could have gotten away without it. It’s not a fitted garment like a dress could be, and the jacket is a little roomier in the chest than it needs to. For a next jacket I think I will extend the waist elastic wrap around almost to the front plackets so it looks a little less flat from the front. I like waist definition!





The hood is usually tucked away inside the collar, and I like the structure it gives the collar. Overall my choice of fabric is maybe a little too heavy to both line and tuck away, so the hood ends up a little bulky, but not unmanageable. I lined the hood as well, since I liked the thought of having a pop of color there, and thought it would be more comfortable against the skin.

I was a little particular when getting zippers, and ended up prioritizing color instead of correct length. Both zippers are actually too short. It’s not a big deal with the main zipper, especially since I have a zipperguard that visually fills the space, but the hood zipper actually needs to be the length specified! I ended up having to pleat a section of the hood to allow it to lie nicely when it is in use. Oops. Don’t do that. Other than that, the hood comes out of the collar easily enough, but I might have to retrofit it with a cord and pullstops – it was a little windy the day we took these pictures and the hood blew off my head several times from being too wide I think.


I love the color of this jacket. I love that it is lightly rainproof (from a round in the washer with Nikwax), I love the professional look from all the topstitching. Living in rainy Bergen means that you often have to choose practical outerwear over stylish outerwear, so most of all I love that I have a utilitarian jacket I can wear in cold or rainy weather but still makes me look pulled together.

Alright, come back in a few days for part 2!