plaid wool coat

A couple years ago my husband’s aunt sent me a box of fabric, which included several cuts of Pendleton wool in various weights. No idea where it all came from originally, but there were receipts mixed in with the fabric dated from 1992. (So does 20+ years make it vintage? Egads!) Most of the fabrics coordinate in a pink and teal color scheme—not so much my style, but it occurred to me that this plaid fabric would look great on my 10 year old daughter, Sylvia.

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Since the fabric is crazy bold, I wanted to pair it with a classic tailored style. I used Burda 8/2013 #143, which I’ve had on my favorites list for ages. It is quite a bit of work prepping a Burda coat pattern, but the lack of included seam allowances allows me to add SA widths of my choosing, which I actually love. I followed the RTW Tailoring Sew-A-Long over on Pattern-Scissors-Cloth (instead of the Burda directions), which makes the whole process go so smoothly. Gawd if she released an eBook with all that great information, I would be first in line to buy it!

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I used Pro-Weft Supreme, Medium fusible from Fashion Sewing Supply for the interior structure. This interfacing was an absolute pleasure to work with. It’s very soft and easy to fuse; perfect for a coat. I also used fusible hair canvas for the collar stand and lapels. I lined the coat with a thin poly satin (leftover from another coat project) and then underlined the main body pieces in flannel for some additional warmth.

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Cutting out plaid coating is no joke people. It took me several hours, even though there were relatively few pieces. Each piece was cut individually in a single layer, and painstakingly matched. Despite being suuuuper careful, I managed to cut the back pieces about 1/4″ off from the front. Thankfully, I was able to shift and trim things ever so slightly to fix it. Sheesh, that was a close one!

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I really waffled about whether to cut the welts on the bias or to match them across the front. I cut some scraps of fabric for comparison, and ended up nixing the bias cut. The plaid is so large that it was hard to find a spot where the bias cut looked good. Before diving into the welt pocket construction, I took a practice run on scraps. The coating fabric isn’t super thick, but thick enough to create a challenge getting everything to lay flat. Basting the welts shut and giving it a good press with steam followed by a clapper did the trick.

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Since this is a proper tailored coat, I made sure to add shoulder pads (teeny tiny ones that I made!) and sleeve heads. The shoulder pad is just one layer of thick fleece covered in muslin, and the sleeve head is cut from a scrap of flannel. You can kind of see all the inner structure in this photo where I’m attaching the lining to the facing.

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I decided to make fabric covered buttons for the coat because there was nothing in a store that was going to be just right. Remember how I said I had coordinating wool fabrics? That came in handy here! The pink wool that I used to cover the buttons is lighter weight (I made a blazer out of it a while back) and was just the thing for covered buttons. For the buttonholes, I used top stitching thread to give them a little more substance. My machine does’t have a keyhole feature, unfortunately, so these are just plain jane. I thought of doing them by hand, but these ended up looking good enough.

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For once I didn’t want to rely on top stitching to keep the lapels nice and crisp, so I made sure to under stitch the collar, lapel, and front edge. Then I basted the edges and gave it all a good solid pressing and steaming, and let it set over night. This step makes all the difference in the world on the finished product.

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I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome on this coat! The pattern is great, the fabric is perfect, and my daughter loves it. Initially, I was worried that the fit was a little too perfect, but It looks like she has a good 1.5″ in sleeve length for growing room. In other words, she should be able to wear it next fall/winter as well.

lisa g.

out with 2015… in with 2016

I’ve been trying to figure out what my sewing hits and misses were for 2015. It’s been difficult to even choose because I really love and wear pretty much everything I made. I seldom make frivolous things, or really experiment at all—I have neither the time nor the budget for that!  I think there is only one thing I made this year that could classify as a miss.

First up, my favorites (in chronological order)

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Camas Blouse: I absolutely love this shirt. It’s the shirt I reach for when I want to feel put together while maintaing absolute comfort. The colors are great, the fit is great—wait. Why haven’t I made this several more times??? [blog post]

Linden: I made the Linden twice this year and they are probably two of my most worn garments, neither of which actually made it to the blog—the horror! The first I made to be oversized with a lighter weight french terry, the second was from a thicker sweatshirt fleece. After making the sweatshirt fleece one it felt a bit blah and boring, so I jazzed it up with some fabric paints. I love how it came out! [grey Linden | heart Linden]

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Liberty Granville: I muslined the daylights out of this pattern and cut into one of my precious fabrics, a Liberty Lawn. This is another shirt I can turn to when I want to look and feel put together. [blog post]

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Thurlow drawstring shorts: These were the hit of the summer! I converted my beloved Thurlow pattern to be a pull on short with drawstring waist. [striped | brown]

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McCalls 7242: I love this dress to bits! I wish my daily life included the need to wear dresses more often, because I LOVE this dress. [blog post]

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Butterick 6169: Despite finishing this very late into the fall, I was able to wear it several times. It just made me feel cool, and that’s always a good thing. I’ll be eager to pull it out again when light jackets are needed. [blog post]

The only “miss” would have to be my Morris Blazer. This makes me really sad, but the fabric bagging out at the front annoys me to no end. Also I have a hard time figuring out what to wear with it. I’ve thought of trying to sneak in some interfacing to stabilize the front better but I fear that would just be a mess. I’ll probably try to top stitch the facing in place, and if that doesn’t work, give it away, as much as it hurts. I’ll be revisiting that pattern in a cotton sateen or stretch twill in the spring, that’s for sure!

The takeaway from this is that I should stick to outfitting my daily life; comfortable, but still a little special. I also sewed several solid colored t-shirts that deserve honorable mention. They’re in constant wardrobe rotation, but not all that exciting to write about.:) The only near failure was due to poor fabric choice, and hopefully I can right that wrong.

ON TO 2016…

Jeans/pants/trousers: I really need to tackle the lack of pants situation in my wardrobe. My old handmade jeans are now too big in places (waist/butt/thighs), still to small in others (knees/calves), so it’s time I buckle down and make some new ones. I still have RTW skinnies that fit me, so I may try flares this go around. The pattern I use is up in the air at this point, but I have a few ideas. I also want to make at least one or two more Lily Ski Pants. I haven’t blogged about my first pair yet, but you can see them on IG. They’re great pants but I need to adjust the fit in a few places before making more. I’d also like a pair of Thurlows in stretch twill for casual-ish wear.

Coat: I really, really wanted to tackle the Cascade Duffle, but I fear time and budget will prevent me again this winter. I want to do it right with quality materials, and given that I have perfectly acceptable winter coats (including THIS ONE that I still wear) I can’t justify the cost. So to scratch that coat making itch, I’m currently working on a tailored coat for one of my daughters. I have all the bits and pieces for this in the stash, so at least I get some coat making practice, even if it’s not for me.

Husband’s wardrobe: The man needs some business shirts and dress pants. I’ve made them before, it’s just time to crack down and make them again. And really, it’s only fair that I sew for him more since RTW is hard to find for his small-ish frame. I have a hard time picking out fabrics for him though, so I’ll need to do some serious swatching. In the meantime, I have one good shirting fabric, and one good wool pants fabric, so I’ll start there sooner rather than later… I think. No promises though.😉

What about you? Any exciting 2016 sewing plans?

lisa g.

Christmas dresses

I didn’t have any grand plans to make a new dress for Christmas this year, but the stars (and a couple stashed and scrap fabrics) aligned and boom—New Dress. It’s been so long since I made a simple fitted bodice/full skirt dress that I forgot how much fun it is! To be honest, I could use a few new dresses like this. It’s been years since I was in the “always sew dresses” phase of sewing, and it would be nice to have my wardrobe better reflect my current tastes.

All these photos were taken on Christmas Eve… I thought about retaking proper blog pics but I figured that wasn’t likely to ever happen!

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Anyway, I cut the bodice from the skirt of a failed dress from a long time ago. It’s a cotton sateen I picked up for $4/yd at a local shop eons ago. Despite the bargain price, it happens to be really nice fabric. The skirt is also a cotton sateen that I bought a year and a half ago from the same shop. It was one of those cool fabrics I stumbled upon and just had to take home with me. I always had this particular dress in mind, but never took the time to sew it up until now.

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I didn’t use a single pattern, but rather a combination of two. The bodice is highly tweaked and modified from it’s origins as the Colette Patterns Hawthorn. I spent so much time fitting that pattern perfectly that I traced it off and altered the design details (eliminated the button front, made a scoop neckline, added CB seam for a zipper) to work as a kind of bodice sloper. So glad I did, because it was there right when I needed it. For the skirt I used McCalls 6833 (previously used HERE) because I love the deep pleats, and the hemline is straight—perfect for this sort of print.

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This is the only side view photo I have… no idea what’s going on here!

I drafted an all-in-one facing for the bodice, which I cut from a plain cotton since I didn’t have enough of the sateen. I could have fully lined the bodice, but I just really like facings, especially with a thicker fabric like this sateen. I didn’t line the skirt, but I plan to add a lining in the future to keep it from sticking to my tights.

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I also made a quick dress for my oldest daughter, Anastasia. I used the Flashback Skinny Tee as a base, chopped off at the waistline. This tee is cut straight down at the sides, so I brought the side seams in at the waist, and curved the front waistline down a tad so it wouldn’t ride up in the front. I did a narrow binding at the neckline, and drafted a half circle skirt. The dress is still a little big, but she’s 11 and bound to grow.😉 The fabric was purchased from Joann’s. It’s a thick stable knit, but thinner than a ponte. It has a hint of shimmer, which makes it a little special.

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As it turns out, everyone was wearing a garment I had made at some point! The grey wrap sweaters were from two years ago (and finally fit like they’re supposed to!), the white dress is a first communion dress I shortened to a more casual length, the green dress I made five or six years ago, my son’s button down was made over a year ago, and even my husband’s shirt was made by me.

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Happy 2016, everyone!

lisa g.

Butterick 6169

Man, life has been busy! I made this jacket, took photos, and drafted a post that has been sitting here for exactly a month. So yeah, this jacket was a last minute fall project, but the weather here has been cray cray warm, so I’ve managed to wear it so much more than I anticipated! I figured it would have been closeted until spring, but even this week—Christmas week—we’re looking at 60F degree weather. Unheard of out here in the Northeast. So anyway… I’ve been wanting a lightweight jacket as an alternative to my RTW denim jacket for a really long time. I love a denim jacket, but every once in a while it just doesn’t work with an outfit. So I decided to make Butterick 6169, which had been on my mind ever since it came out this past spring.

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I used a lightweight canvas from Joann’s for the shell and bemberg rayon for the lining. The canvas was pretty inexpensive, and I don’t think I’d really recommend this particular fabric. It’s thin, which is fine, but it’s a little bit “crispy” feeling. It has softened up a with wear, thankfully. Even though the fabric quality is a bit meh, its redeeming quality is the color—it’s the perfect neutral olive green and will go with so many different things in my wardrobe. I used a solid black bemberg for the lining. As much as I like bold colors or patterns for linings, I decided to keep it simple this time around. Ugh bemberg I hate working with you SO MUCH. But, it’s soft as buttah once all is said and done… worth the headache for sure.

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This pattern has been really popular, and for good reason. It’s fairly quick to make, as far as lined jackets go, and the exposed zip is a great feature. I did feel that the zipper was a little awkward to put in, though. The center of the zipper teeth are supposed to sit right on the seam line of the pattern piece, which means that you have to sew the zipper with a smaller seam allowance. So when sewing above and below the zipper, you have to kind of scoot your stitching line back to 5/8″. It looks totally fine in the end, so maybe I’m just being weird?

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I decided to top stitch many of the seams, using my 1/4″ foot as a guide. I wanted to use actual top stitching thread, but I couldn’t find a good color match and had to stick with regular thread. At least that saved me the trouble of switching out my thread constantly.

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I’m happy with the fit of the jacket, and I really didn’t fuss around with making many adjustments. I made an 8 through the shoulder and bust, grading out to the 10 at the side seams around the waist (my measurements here are approx 34″-28″-39″ and I’m fairly petite through my upper body). If I were using a heavier fabric I would have to go up a size, but for the most part this jacket will be worn with sleeveless tops and dresses, so I wanted it more fitted. I can easily wear a fitted long sleeve tee, but anything bulkier would be uncomfortable. I do like that the armhole is nice and high and the sleeves are narrow. I usually have to make alterations for that, but not this time.

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If I were to make this pattern again, I would do a forward shoulder adjustment and lengthen the sleeves. I usually add 1″ to sleeves but just forgot! Also, since I used a stiffer fabric, I had trouble with the seams that that required easing. If I were using a wool, or other more tailorable fabric, it would be totally fine. Overall, this is a really solid jacket pattern, and I wouldn’t mind making it again. It’s both streamlined and detailed and the style works with many different types of fabrics. Since our fall has lingered a bit I’m so glad I didn’t wait until the spring to sew it up!

lisa g.

Megan Nielsen | Mini Virginia Leggings and Briar Tee

When Megan Nielsen announced her line of “Mini” patterns for kids, I was super excited! I immediately signed up for testing, and tested the Mini Virginia Leggings. One thing I particularly love about the new patterns is the size range. Now that my oldest daughter is a, um, “tween”, she’s outsized of most kids patterns. These patterns make it up to a size 12, so they’ll cover all three of my girls for now. For testing, I made the larger size for my oldest daughter. I prefer to make a straight size (unaltered) for testing purposes, and really I made them a size too big and ended up taking them in significantly. In retrospect, my fabric was also a bit too stretchy, so unfortunately my test wasn’t the most accurate representation of the pattern. Regardless, she wears them all the time even if the fit is a little off.

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I still wanted to give the pattern another shot, so the other day I made up a pair for my youngest daughter, Isabella, who is 8. She’s itty bitty for her age, so I always run into the problem of her clothes being way too wide, or way too short. Also, being the third girl in line, her clothes are practically in rags by the time they make it to her closet! Basically, the leggings situation for her was dire. Her waist puts her in a size 4/5, but her height is in the 6/7 range. To accommodate, I traced off a 4/5, but added length to the rise and legs to correspond to the 6/7.

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This sizing alteration worked out perfectly, and she is so very happy with them! The fabric I used is a nice thick cotton spandex that was leftover from an older project. Since my machines were all out and threaded, I quickly made her a second pair in grey, also from leftover fabric. I suspect more requests for leggings will be rolling in, as daughter no. 2 was giving me serious side eye for making Izzie not just one, but two new pairs of leggings.

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Oh, and let’s not forget this tee… more scrap busting here! I found a large-ish scrap of this fabric in one of my bins, and I was able to just squeeze out a Briar Tee. Bonus points that it matches both pairs of leggings! I was on limited fabric yardage here, so I went with the longer variation, but cut it shorter by a size (6/7, cut to a 4/5 in length). I think this worked out really well, and she is absolutely in love with it. My girls really love the longer back hemline, so… more requests have been made. Isabella wore this outfit to school the very next day and bragged on it to her friends who were totes impressed that I made a tee shirt and two pairs of leggings in one afternoon.

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So far, these patterns are huge winners in this household. I love them, my kids love them… there will be many repeats!

Mini Tania Culottes | Mini Briar Sweater and Tee | Mini Virginia Leggings | Mini Wardrobe Pack

lisa g.

Disclosure: I was a tester for the Mini Virginia Leggings, and received the whole trio of finished patterns gratis. No blogging required, but hello! They’re adorable and I would have shared anyway.

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.😛

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.