running top

I’m not super into making my own activewear. Good patterns seem to be few and far between, not to mention the trouble sourcing appropriate fabric and home sewing machine’s limited capabilities of producing quality, professional finishes… Mostly, I don’t find it worth the effort. However, I had been looking for a long sleeve top and just couldn’t find what I wanted. I wanted a simple non-hooded, non-funnel neck top with sleeves that are actually long enough for my monkey arms.

These are actual post-run photos, fyi. Not that I’m super vain about my looks, but whatever. :P


I ordered some dri-fit knit fabric from Koshtex and decided to sew up the Lane Raglan by Hey June. A while back she added a few features to the basic tee, and now you also get pattern pieces for a hood and deep cuffs with thumb holes. I didn’t need the hood for this top, but the cuffs with thumb holes? YES. Instead of using body measurements for choosing a pattern size, she has the finished measurements listed so you can choose the amount of ease according to what fabric you are using. My current measurements are about 34″-28″- 39″ so I picked the size S, grading out to a L at the hip. It ended up being a bit larger than I wanted, so I trimmed down the sleeve and side seams by 1/4″ (removing 1/2″ from the sleeves and 1″ from the body in total), but left the hip at the original width.


Instead of the regular neck band, I did a narrow bound edge. I really like this finish, and it ends up being a little smoother on the inside, which is important for activewear. Also, instead of a hem band, I lengthened the CF by 2 1/2″, and the CB by 3″ to create a curved hem. I prefer my running tops to be nice and long, and I have a thing for curved hemlines.


I usually have to lengthen sleeves, but these were perfect as is. In fact, I had originally added 1/2″, but it was too much and I had to go back and remove the cuffs and cut off the extra sleeve length. The thumb hole cuffs are just fantastic for running. Now that it’s getting quite chilly in the mornings, I wear a fleecy pullover but, natch, the sleeves are too short. These cuffs help tremendously in keeping out the chill.

I think if I make another running top from this pattern, I will add a CB seam to help remove the excess fabric that pools at my lower back. It’s not a big deal, and frankly it looks worse just standing there in photos than when I’m moving around, but I’d really prefer a slimmer cut. Now I did try the Fehr Trade Surf to Summit Top last winter, which has princess seaming for shaping, but in the end I just didn’t enjoy wearing the top; the fit was slightly off and the raised neckline was very uncomfortable. I can usually make alterations to get things to work, but raglan seaming throws me!


All in all, this is a successful top, and the fabric is great! I’ll definitely be ordering from them in the future—the prices are very reasonable and the shipping was super fast. I placed my order on a Friday afternoon and it was on my doorstep by the following Monday. Love that!

lisa g.

Halloween 2015

Oh goodness, did I get piled on this year for Halloween! The entire month of October was spent sewing costumes for the kiddos. It’s not that I don’t love dressing them up for the occasion, but the planning and plotting is so much more fun than the actual doing!

Oliver waffled between many, many ideas, but in the end went with a construction worker. He loves to build things, put stuff together, help with home maintenance, car repairs, you name it. The hardware and auto parts stores are his happy places. All I had to make was a vest, which only took an afternoon and half a yard of fabric. I traced a safari vest pattern from the 3/2015 issue of Ottobre magazine; it already had some pocket details, so it was just a matter of using bright orange fabric and ironing on some reflective tape to get the look I needed.

Isabella decided on Sleeping Beauty for her costume. That was slightly more problematic because there are literally no good patterns (in print) for that dress. My kids have come to expect a certain level of authenticity, and I dreaded trying to figure out how to make the shoulder detail work. A desperate google search, however, led me to an out of print Simplicity pattern (5835) from 2002 (I think?). Finally! Um… except that it was listed for $20-30 everywhere I looked. Fortunately, I snagged one on ebay for under $20, because c’mon. It looks perfect. Okay, almost perfect. I really cursed that skirt. Under the peplum, the waistline is gathered. And the only satin I could find in the right color combo was that really heavy poly satin, which was a nightmare to gather. I don’t understand why costume patterns draft such huge skirts for such tiny people! There is over 60″ of width gathered onto a 22″ waistline (!!). If I ever make this again, I would take the time to draft a proper gored circle skirt, because the gathers keep the peplum piece from sitting nicely.

Sylvia decided on the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. I was going to try and accurately replicate the dress from the Disney movie, but I stumbled on Simplicty 2834 (also out of print, but still in stores) and thought it looked fun. I probably should have stuck to my original plan, because this one really took a while to make. It has a under dress (with the front chevrons pieced) plus a fully lined coat. Um… didn’t notice how involved the outfit was when we decided on this pattern! The dress has a partially elastic gathered waistline, and pieced circle skirt. I didn’t realize the pattern called for a full lining on the coat (minus the sleeves), so I didn’t buy enough fabric for that. Instead I created a facing for the bodice portion, and used bias tape to finish the coat hem. I had to be super diligent about cutting all the pieces correctly and not mixing up the red and black sections. It took forever to check and double each piece, but fortunately I got it all right on the first try—yay! But holy cow. There were a LOT of pieces to cut for this outfit. So. many. pieces.

Anastasia is a huge Star Wars fan (movies, yes, but also the animated series, as well as the hundreds of books out there!) so she knew she wanted a Star Wars character. She generally dislikes going the well-known or popular route, so she picked Jaina Solo. I used a pants pattern from the 4/2015 Ottobre magazine, which are made in a ponte knit. They’re basically elevated leggings, so pretty easy to make. For the robe I picked up a brown interlock and used Jalie 2919. I kept the shoulder pleats free (because stitching them down is for crazy people) and she was able to cross it in the front, and keep it closed with a strip of black fabric wrapped around her waist. The pattern has narrower sleeves, so I simply re-drew the sleeve to have a wide opening at the wrist.

Now, the light saber was a bit of an issue, because apparently this character (almost always) has a purple light saber. My husband ran to the store Friday afternoon to see what could be cobbled together… He found some bubble wands with purple tubes (talk about luck!) and glued two together. Then he used electrical tape to tape a mini flashlight to the end and voila! Purple light saber! Best part is, we only had to spend $2 and about 30 minutes making it.

And that, my friends, was our Halloween! The kids were so excited about their costumes, and received many compliments. Most of them got a couple different outings with school parties and whatnot, so it’s not like it was all for a short two-hour window on Halloween night. I don’t go all out like this every year, but I’m willing to every once in a while. Let’s just hope they go easier on me next year!

lisa g.

a very floral McCalls 7242

Summer really lingered in my neck of the woods, so for all of September I had a hard time starting projects. I just wasn’t inspired to sew much! It was hot, so I wanted to make summer stuff, but I knew it was only a matter of time before cold temps showed up. Finally, the weather turned the corner and I’m feeling like I know what I want to sew again. When McCalls made their Fall release, I fell in love with, and immediately picked up M7242.


I go particularly weak in the knees for a floral print on a dark background, so this felt like a perfect pattern/fabric match. In the beginning, I had grand plans for making the dramatic long-sleeved maxi version, but this is a very bold print, so my gut told me to pick either the sleeves or the maxi  length. I was close to ditching the sleeves, but in the end I loved them too much to leave them off, especially since this fabric has a very Fall look to it.


I cut down the skirt length, but flared it out to have more volume than the shorter version provides (this is longer than the shorter version of the pattern, btw). I actually didn’t do this pattern alteration correctly, so the skirt doesn’t fall like I had wanted; I may go back in and take some of the fullness out later, since it mostly hangs at the sides. In retrospect, I really wish I would have just done view B and added the ruffle to the bottom. Totally forgot about that option when I was cutting! Maybe I’ll just have to make this dress again… :)


I was very pleased with the construction of this dress. Sometimes you end up with really odd finishing techniques in Big 4 patterns, but not so here. The elastic casing at the waist is particularly genius, in my opinion. Instead of joining the bodice and waist, finishing the edges together, then topstitching (as with the Saltspring, if you’re familiar with that) you are able to conceal all the raw edges very neatly and bulk-free. Here you sew the bodice and skirt together with a 1″ SA, then trim down the SA on the bodice side. Then on the skirt SA you turn and press the edge in 1/4″, press it all up to the bodice, then edge stitch it in place (here’s photo on IG to show the inside finish). So neat! I’ll be stealing this method for future elastic waist finishes.


The neckline is finished with a facing, then the rounded collar is added. I love this little collar stand since it sits nice and flat. It’s actually tempting to take the bodice and alter it to a blouse… it would be very easy to do.

There is a tiny bit of hand sewing necessary. The pattern instructs you to hand sew the inner yoke, whereas I prefer the burrito method, as in traditional button up shirts. Then the neckline facing is hand sewn to the yoke seam. The inner collar piece is also hand sewn down. I could have top stitched the collar piece, but my fabric is a rayon twill and things get real shifty and uncooperative real fast; sometimes a bit of hand sewing is less aggravating in the end, so I went with it.


The last thing I thought I’d mention—the pattern has the button holes positioned horizontally instead of vertically. Since this dress gives off a definite shirt dress vibe (back yoke with pleat, collar, etc), I did mine vertically. It just made more sense to me, though it would probably be fine either way.


I went down one full size from my measurements, grading from a 10 at the shoulder/bust to a 12 at the waist. Since I didn’t muslin first, I pulled out my trusty Archer to get an idea whether or not I would need to make alterations. I frequently have to shorten armhole depth and raise necklines, but not this time! The shoulder line falls slightly off my shoulder, but it also does so on the model on the envelope, so I’m thinking it’s just part of the design.


The sleeves are very bell shaped, so I cut a size 10 sleeve but graded down to a 6 at the wrist to eliminate some fullness but still keep the general silhouette. I typically need to add at least 1″ to sleeves but kept these as drafted so they wouldn’t be too billowy.



I’m pretty in love with this dress, and am particularly enamored with the 70’s vibe happening. I left the length longer than I usually would for dresses and skirts, but it seemed the right thing to do for the silhouette. If I made this pattern again, I may narrow and top stitch the facings down. It’s not that they want to pop out, but they do catch on my bra and I end up needing to adjust them every once in a while. This isn’t a major annoyance, just something I noticed. Overall, I found the pattern to be well-drafted and genuinely fun to sew! Seriously. I’m trying to stop myself from ditching the Halloween sewing for the kiddos and immediately start making this pattern again!

—lisa g.

Tiny Pocket Tank in silk

I’ve made several Tiny Pocket Tanks over the years and I wear them all the time in the spring, summer, and fall—definitely a wardrobe staple for me. I’ve always sewed it up in rayon challis, so when I spotted this great designer silk crepe de chine I decided to make a slightly more luxe version. I guess I was a little gun shy about cutting into this fabric since it sat in my stash for a few months. It’s not that I haven’t worked with floaty silks before, but you know how it is—must not ruin the pretty fabric!


shorts are my favorite thurlows

I had a good think about how I was going to finish the neckline and armholes and in the end, decided to draft an all-in-one facing for a nice clean finish. I made sure to trim about 1/16″ off the facing at the neckline and armholes to ensure that it stays neatly tucked to the inside. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when I remember to do that! Between that and tacking the facing down at the side seams, the facing feels super secure with no risk of it flipping out.

I usually do that little trick where you sew the neckline and armholes completely by machine, but sometimes I feel like pulling the top out through the straps makes for unnecessary manhandling of the fabric. For this reason, I decided to go a different route, which includes hand sewing part of the straps to the facing. Hard to explain, but it felt more appropriate for this delicate fabric. Then I french seamed the side seams, and machine stitched the hem.

Since I’ve made this pattern so many times (though not much blog documentation—sorry!), I’ve been tweaking the fit as I go. I’m pretty close to perfect, however the top still seems to pull to the back. It’s almost as if the front straps are just too long, which may be partially due to some of the alterations I’ve made to the pattern. Grainline junkie though I am, this tank has been a real mind bender to fit properly! I’ve done a SBA, raised the bust dart, raised the neckline, and opened up a wedge into the neckline to adjust the angle of the strap at the shoulder seam. I’m sure I’ll continue to tweak this pattern, but in the meantime, all my iterations are perfectly wearable.


I’m definitely loving this top in silk. Since it doesn’t require much yardage, I don’t mind splurging on nice fabric!

—lisa g.

Named Clothing | Alexandria Peg Trousers

I’ve long admired many patterns by Named Clothing, and yet it’s taken me until now to make any of their designs. It’s silly, because they draft for a taller woman, and I definitely fit that demographic. Well, aside from my weirdly petite upper body… totally out of proportion to the rest of me. Anyhoodle… I picked up the Alexandria Peg Trousers when they had a sale a few weeks back. I’ve made True Bias’ Hudson Pants and I wear them all the time (oops, never blogged!), so I thought a less sweat pant looking alternative would be really nice for actually leaving the house in. I found a rayon twill at JoAnn’s in a nice olive color and thought they would be a perfect match.


First a bit about the pattern. I got the .pdf version, which includes two sizes per file (you get all the sizes, they’re just not nested like other patterns) with seam allowances included. I thought it was pretty handy to have the SA line drawn in, as I typically need to grade between different sizes for the waist and hip. I lucked out in that the two sizes I needed happened to be in the same file, so it wasn’t all that difficult to compare the two and make the necessary alterations. Even though it should have been simple I made it as complicated as possible. Way to go, self. For the back piece I took width off at the outer seam from waist to hip, then at the CB seam from the waist to maybe 4″ or so down (just above the bum, since i need plenty of room there). Then the front piece is where I made things difficult; sine there are pockets and pleats it was kind of a mind-bender as to where to grade in or out. But if you need to grade down for the waist, just take the extra width off the side seam (most of which is pocket) from waist to hip and call it a day. The pocket opening is far enough in from the side seam that you won’t mess up the proportions.

My fabric (rayon twill) was a real pain to work with; it’s nearly impossible to cut on grain, it’s shifty, it’s fray-prone, and stretches out of shape easily. It has so much drape that the fabric itself kind of bags out under its own weight. Because of that, the pants seem to have drag lines all up and down the seams. Kind of a bummer really. To be honest, I was super unhappy with the pants when I tried them on mid-construction as I was testing the elastic length. The rise was so high, they looked like clown pants! I tossed them aside for a few days as I contemplated whether or not to even finish them.


Buuuuut I really, really hate to leave projects unfinished, so I decided to try and save them. I basted the pleats down to keep them in place so I could lower the rise. I cut 1″ off the front, tapering to 1/2″ at the back (I usually need to add extra to the back rise for boo-tay coverage, otherwise I would have done 1″ all around). I cut a new waistband, which I made about 1/2″ longer to compensate for the lower rise. I finished the pants, tried them on and was so much happier with them! Completely turned around how I felt about these pants.

However, even though I’m happy with how they look on me, they’re still oddly restrictive when I sit. I have to kinda pull the legs up to sit down, then they’re a little snug in the thighs, and tight at the knee and calf. It’s possible I should have lengthened them (I’m 5’8″—most of my height being in my legs…) as I don’t think I have particularly large calfs (13.5″). So in the end I have mixed thoughts about these pants, just not for the reasons I anticipated while I was in the throes of construction. Ultimately, I don’t think I’ll return to this silhouette in a woven fabric, but rather stick to knits.

Now to switch gears… The tee I’m wearing is a Grainline Studio Scout Tee, made in a rayon/poly blend knit. The poly is a bit eh but I super love this tee anyway. I think for a slouchy tee, the scout will always be my go-to pattern. The only thing I did differently here was scoop the sleeve hem up slightly at the center (3/8″ or so) so it doesn’t sit as straight across. Then I used my possibly favorite neck binding method of sewing the binding to the right side at a 1/2″ SA, then pressing the binding up and around the raw edge, then top stitching in place. I think this looks better than a banded finish, and involves less guesswork regarding how long to cut, or how tight to stretch the binding strip.

All in all, I’m pleased with my experience with Named patterns, and I look forward to making more of their offerings. I’ve seen the Inari tee/dress made up so many times (and I love every one) that I really want to give it a whirl. And they have new designs coming out very soon… can’t wait to see what they’ll be releasing!


lisa g.

a “probably different than you’ve seen before” flat-felled seam tutorial

Many months ago, I was deep internet researching jeans-related construction, and came across a forum convo about flat-felled seams. I can’t remember exactly where this was posted (pattern review maybe?) but I tucked that info away in mah brain and pretty much forgot about it until now. I pulled out some denim for a pair of jean shorts and decided to do some testing on scraps. I was pretty excited about how my seams came out (as were you!) that I immediately tried another sample and snapped pics. Like I said, I didn’t come by this method independently, so if you’ve seen this discussed elsewhere, give me a holler so I can give credit where credit is due. [*UPDATE* Found it! It was a pattern review thread… I can’t seem to link directly to the convo, but it’s under “sewing techniques and tips>how to sew RTW style flat felled jeans seam.”]

There are two things that have always bothered me about the center back crotch seam on jeans (now there’s something only someone who sews might say…). First, the way things are usually constructed, the seam allowances are pressed to one side of the seam line. This means that the top stitching is not centered, and the pockets are not equidistant from the top stitching. You can space the back pockets differently on each side to offer a little more symmetry, but ultimately I would prefer a centered seam. The second thing that annoys me is that the original stitching line can end up looking a little bit strained. Even though the seam is perfectly secure from all the lines of stitching, sometimes you end up pulling on the original seam and you’ll see the lighter part of the denim showing through. Hard to explain that one, but if you’ve ever noticed this, you know what I’m getting at.


METHOD 1 | 3/8″ SA

I’m going to show two slightly different methods. The first method requires a 3/8″ SA, and is particularly useful on thicker fabrics because the final seam ends up with only 3 layers of fabric. (Click on the photos to enlarge)

Take the fabrics you will be joining, abut them, and sew a wide zig zag stitch to join them. Do not overlap the fabric. It doesn’t matter what thread you use, because this stitching will be hidden at the end.

This part gets difficult to explain, so bear with me and when in doubt, refer to the photos. Press the fabric just to one size of the zig zag stitching (about 3/16″ from the abutted edge), then turn to the other side and do the same. If you look at a cross section, your fabric will form a “Z”. The abutted seams are on the inside of the folds and completely covered.

Top stitch from the right side, then make a second pass, which will just catch the folded edge on the wrong side. I like to use my blind hem foot as a guide, and I found that the folded ridge on the under side is lumpy enough that the foot can follow it for the second pass. This eliminates any guesswork or need to sew from the wrong side. Given that most machines have difficulty producing a nice stitch with top stitching thread in the bobbin, this is most useful!

At the begining I had marked the 3/8″ SA, and you can see that my marking is neatly centered. Also, you will note that the finished seam has three layers of fabric, making it perfect for thicker fabrics.

METHOD 2 | 1/2″ SA

The second method is essentially the same as the first, but it ends up being a little bulkier, and requires a 1/2″ SA.

Start by pressing one of the SA’s to the right side by 1/4″, and the other SA to the wrong side by 1/4″. Open it up, and overlap the pressed SA’s, using the pressed line as a guide.

Once overlapped, run a line of basting stitches down the center. Again, thread doesn’t matter, the stitching will be hidden in the final seam.

Since the seams have already been pressed, top stitch as before: first at the outer folded edge, then again along the inside folded edge. Since the fabrics are overlapped instead of abutted, you end up with 4 layers of fabric in the seam.

You can see from my chalked marking that I got off ever so slightly, but this is a sample and a super unprofessional blog, so I didn’t feel compelled to re-do it.

It occurs to me that you could also mark 1/4″ on one SA, overlap the other fabric, baste, then press the seams after basting. Give it a go on some scraps and see what works for you.


Before you ask, I did try the first method (though not the second) on a curved edge in order to simulate the back crotch seam of jeans. I found that I had absolutely no issues with the curve. If anything it was easier because all the top stitching was closer to the edge of the fabric. When you press a curved edge to one side, the edge of the fabric is shorter than the line where you would be top stitching. You can clip the curve if you are faux flat-felling, but the seam will be inherently weaker. That’s not to say you’re in danger of splitting your jeans, but if there’s a better way I’m all for it. I hope you give this a try!

—lisa g.

floral blouse | Simplicity 1106

I wanted a quick top out of a rayon challis I picked up on clearance at JoAnn’s recently (seriously, I’ve found some great fabrics there lately!). I was originally going to make something a little more detailed, but the heat and humidity has zapped all the energy outta me. Instead, I decided to sew up a simple kimono sleeve top using Simplicity 1106. There’s nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering about this pattern, it’s just a nice, simple top.


I made view D, which has a front pocket and cute cutout detail in the back. However, I omitted the cutout because I was afraid it would dip below my bra. I meant to measure the cutout so I could see for future reference but I’ve already folded all the tissue up and put it away… oops.


I always seem to have a problem with tops being too big on top, so I gambled and traced off an XS at the neckline and bust (I measured at the top of the S range), then graded out to the M for the hem. My shoulders may border on the narrow side (I think? Not sure what the standard is for shoulder width though), and the XS turned out to be perfect. The fit through the hip was a little more fitted than I had anticipated, but that’s partially due to the length of the top, which I cut down. I took 2″ off the hem, and 2.5″ off at the side seams to give it a little more of a shirttail. I think this shortened length is good for either tucking in or leaving out.


The top isn’t actually tight around my hips, I just have the front tucked in this picture.

I know most people (it seems) have a real hate for facings, but I was pleased to find that that is the method used by this pattern. Of course you could always sub a bias facing if that’s your jam, or if your fabric is on the sheer side. I top stitched the facing at 1/2″ to give it a subtle “design feature” element.


Overall I’m pleased with this top, though I wish I would have paid more attention when cutting! I managed to get the only dead space of the print front and center, with the brightest flowers cutting into the neckline. Meh. The pattern placement on the back looks great, so I’m really bummed that I didn’t get similar placement on the front. Live and learn!


I should mention that my shorts are another modified Thurlow made in linen. I loved my first pair so much, that I quickly cut out a second pair, and both have been in constant rotation!

—lisa g.