2018 Make Nine Plans and Wardrobe Goals

Hello everyone! Blogging again in less than a week? It can't be!

I blame it on the sub zero - ok fine, sub 30 - temperatures in my barn that manage to defy the strength of my puny pellet stove. (Later today I'm meeting with some heating contractors, wish me luck!) Part of it may be that I'm quite excited to share my sewing goals for 2018. My personal, mostly non-blueprints projects to help round out my own personal wardrobe.

I've written really, really extensively about my wardrobe on this blog. It's an ever evolving process but I feel like I'm finally catching up to it. Either I'm speeding up or it's slowing down. I think that's part of moving into the adult realm.

Here's what I confirmed about my style in 2017.

I say confirmed, because many of these are things I already knew but have now crystallized in my brain, big time.

1. My style tends to shift and my love for garments waxes and wanes. This is my biggest challenge as somebody who covets the idea of a capsule wardrobe. I blame ADD and an overactive imagination.

2. However, I'm very content wearing pretty much the same color palette at all times. In fact, I prefer it. The more earth tones, the better. Here's my color palette for 2018:


I taught a graphic design class this Fall and one of the things that I had fun reviewing to teach my students was color theory. (Here's the powerpoint I made for my class if you want to check it out.) My personal color scheme is one of mostly analogous colors, so colors that are next to each other in the color wheel. It's got some complementary colors thrown in for contrast too.

It's pretty similar to my 2016 palette. Here are some outfits from 2017 that really capture this palette well:


3. I'm constantly searching for balanced items that are quirky and designed but still timeless and professional. This is a hard one too. I'm trying to make more basic items to pair with funkier stuff.

I've started to figure out the whole curator/designer/artist uniform thing and had a lightbulb moment about embracing the color black as a neutral. I always thought of wearing black as being essentially an aversion to color, perhaps from watching so many designers on project runway struggle with using colors in their designs. But I realized it can be a perfect canvas for colorful accessories and outerwear (I'm looking at you gigantic ochre scarf with fringe and tassles and embroidery!) So, as you'll see in my plans, some basics are a must to achieve this.

4. I need different types of clothing for different parts of my life. Nice stuff for teaching, rugged stuff for gardening and chopping wood, and those magical items that do both perfectly.

2018 Make Nine plans

For 2018, I'm joining in the Make Nine Challenge. Rochelle has set up this challenge to be very open and low pressure which is just what I need. My plan is not to make a specific nine items, but rather to make at least 9 items for my own wardrobe (aka not samples for Blueprints, though I'll most likely sew a few blueprints patterns and share them. So, win-win.)


Some of these might change along the way, but here's what I'm planning to make so far.

Row 1 is purely functional stuff

1. Desperately need pajama bottoms. Will most likely draft my own due to my prodigious booty.

2. Also really need a silky, not cling short slip for wearing under dresses. I'm 100% a slip gal and have plenty of vintage ones I should probably refashion. Most of them are weird pastel colors, so perhaps a dip in a dye bath is in order. But something about a really simple slip dress that can be underwear but also worn on its own is appealing too.

3. I would like to make a bathing suit that I actually feel comfortable and like the way I look in. I found a crazy dalmatian print lycra last year and I think I can make it work.

Row 2 is tops I don't really need, but can't stop thinking about

4. I'm envisioning a woven pullover that is super boxy to layer over collared shirts and dresses. With loose sleeves. Kinda like a woven sweater/sweatshirt type deal.

5. I've realized that my wardrobe desperately lacks pullovers. I want to knit one from something puffy like Quince & Co Osprey. Also considering carrying a lace weight yarn in a color I like for a subtle marled effect like this scarf.

6. Last year I saw the work of Lorena Marañon (you're welcome) at Quiltcon and my feelings about appliques changed forever. I can't stop thinking about a top covered in appliques (#stashbusting!)

Row 3 is stuff I need to round out my wardrobe and are currently missing.

7. My singular, go-to pair of jeans are getting ragged. I'm waffling back and forth between making 'business jeans' or more of a work pant. Also thinking about employing creative strategies for achieving a better fit. I'll most likely start with the Morgan or Ginger Jeans as a base and go from there.

8. Is pretty straightforward. I need another neutral-ish A-frame skirt. It's my go to perfect skirt pattern. Trying to decide between a dark grey denim or a brown linen-cotton blend.

9. I don't have a LBD (Little Black Dress). I've finally realized that my wardrobe can benefit from one. Just need to find the perfect fabric. I'm still trying to decide between a fitted sheath and a shift dress. Maybe I'll make both?

And something fun on the horizon!

Many of you asked about the capsule wardrobe workbook I created for a class back in August. I'm happy to say I'm working on developing it into a full fledged zine to release early this year! I'll be sure to share more updates and would love a few testers as well *wink wink*.

What are your 2018 wardrobe goals? Are you participating in #2018MakeNine

Introducing Moderne!

Around last fall I started scheming about my ideal co pattern. I wanted something that was unique but subtle, simple but with all the necessities. After months of development, a fit party to see how the style worked on a variety of bodies, an intrepid group of pattern testers and months of editing and refining, I bring you:

The Moderne Coat

Version 1

Version 1

I wanted something that I could make up in lighter fabric for the spring and fall or heavier fabric for the winter. Pockets were of course a must. I'd been thinking about my favorite coats in the past, the way they fit, the kinds of finishes they had. After playing around with several cuts I decided upon the basic shape you see here and dug deep into studying a style of architecture that had intrigued me for years. I knew the style lines of this architectural language would translate perfectly to a coat. (The building that was perhaps the spark for this whole project was the Butler House in Des Moines, Iowa)

Version 2

Version 2

I've always been a big fan of design from the 1920's-40's. I love the geometry and futuristic qualities of the early 20th century's romance with modernism. I am fascinated by the art created by forward thinking artists and designers of the period, from the Gesamtkunstwerk of the Bauhaus, to the utopian problem-solving of Buckminster Fuller (who's geodesic dome inspired the Geodesic Sweatshirt.)


Version 1, which I've dubbed 'sport', featured rib knit cuffs and collar in the style of a bomber jacket. This detail makes the jacket cozy and relaxed while still feeling put together. You can even knit your own cuffs and collar! It also features piping at the seam lines. The pattern includes instructions for making your own piping and tips for sewing it in. Version 1 is unlined, but I'll be sharing a tutorial for adding a lining to this version in the weeks ahead. For the sample, I chose to finish my seams with bias binding made from muslin scraps. (The piping is made from muslin too!)


Version 2 is a more 'chic' take on the cut, swapping casual ribbed cuff and collar for a flat band collar. The piping is omitted and optional top stitching emphasizes the seams. It also features a 3/4 length sleeve with a decorative notch. This detail is also echoed at the side of the coat in the form of a curved vent.


Version 2 is also fully lined! It includes a shaped hem facing. For my sample here, I decided to quilt the lining (tutorial forthcoming). With the un-quilted 3/4 sleeves, this coat functions more like a puffy vest in the winter which I've actually found incredibly useful. I hate having bulky arms (due to many layers of coat and sweater) so this keeps me super warm without the bulk. In a cotton with a lightweight lining I can see this being a perfect transitional piece. You can also omit the lining entirely with a few extra steps. For my lining, I used a cherished vintage silk/cotton blend I'd had in my stash for years.


Closures are optional on this coat (in fact, many of my testers decided they liked the look of the coat without them) but instructions are given for adding snaps or buttons. I'll be sharing a tutorial for two ways to add a zipper to this coat in the upcoming weeks as well.

One very intentional detail for both versions of this coat was the style of collar. For those of us who spend the better portion of November through March bundled up in outerwear, the opportunities to decorate our appearance beyond the winter coat are often limited. Even if you want to keep your coat neutral, Moderne allows of all kinds of accessorizing. The minimal neckline allows you to showcase your favorite hand knit scarf or the beautiful wrap you picked up in a special boutique, without the layers getting bulky and putting a crick in your neck (does anybody besides me struggle with this?)

I've also been a big fan of wearing my Version 2 sample with 3/4 sleeves over a long sleeve sweater, allowing more opportunities for layering and adding a little flair to otherwise repetitive winter fashion.


The design lines of this coat are inspired by Art Moderne, a style of design prevalent in the 1930's and 40's. It was a descendant of Art Deco, swapping the exotic wood and elaborate ornamentation for simpler, more aerodynamic forms. You may be familiar with Art Moderne (also called Streamline Moderne) in the form of your favorite roadside diner.

Modern Diner, Pawtucket RI

Modern Diner, Pawtucket RI

From the pattern story included in the Moderne PDF:

Art Moderne ... developed in tandem with industrial design, mirroring the streamlined elements of trains, airplanes, and ships.
This fascination with “tomorrow” made its way into the domestic space as well, in the form of Moderne homes filled with items in harmonious style: clocks, radios, lamps, vacuum cleaners were all designed to outfit the home’s inhabitants on their journey into the future. Many of these thoughtfully designed articles were even considered works of art. Architect and Designer Norman Bel Geddes prophesied a future in which the design of everyday objects would necessitate a marriage of function and style. He wrote that, “art in the coming generations will have less to do with frames, pedestals, museums, books, and concert halls and more to do with people and their life.”
A Moderne home via roadarch.com

A Moderne home via roadarch.com

A streamline locamotive from 1938

A streamline locamotive from 1938

Art Moderne clock via Collectorsweekly.com

Art Moderne clock via Collectorsweekly.com

Moderne is now available as a PDF pattern! Since the print version won't be ready for a few weeks, I've made the PDF version as user friendly as possible. The download includes a layered multi page PDF (so you can print only the sizes you need using Adobe Acrobat) as well as both a 36" wide copyshop and A0 copyshop version.

Slow Fashion October: Slow Whenever, Loving Change, and Uniform Goals

I think something in my last post flipped a switch inside me that made me reconsider blogging. This is something that you always think is going to happen but never does. And in all honestly, I'd imagine my newfound enthusiasm will probably be short lived. But who knows? Let's go for it.

A few years ago, Karen Templer (of Fringe Supply Co.) started up an 'event'* called Slow Fashion October. It's easy to get wrapped up into an entire paradigm shift in terms of your wardrobe for the sake of participation, but I also know that in general my process is slow and calculated, sometimes too slow for even a slow fashion month. I think I live a slow fashion life. However, I think having an opportunity to highlight my slow fashion pursuits for a month is a good opportunity to share my experiences (and challenges!) with others.

* while the verdict's out for me on these social media based 'events', I do love a collective call to action. It creates a sense of community in a realm (the digital one) where it's easy to feel alone or isolated.

constantly scribbling wardrobe plans and ideas in notebooks.

constantly scribbling wardrobe plans and ideas in notebooks.

My Slow Fashion October 2017

I've been a slow fashion (and a slow most things, really) advocate for many years. From conversations about the issues within manufacturing supply chains to the psychology of the American fashion consumer, it's rare that my mind isn't contemplating a more thoughtful, meaningful way of interacting with soft goods.

So in many ways, every time 'Slow Fashion October' comes around, I get a rush of excitement and concern that I should reign back in my business pursuits and focus on these greater issues.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm a deep thinker. I love to analyze and evaluate and think about the why and how of our current situation. When it comes to slow fashion, I feel like my mind is always asking, "how can I sew more thoughtfully, have a wardrobe that works better, and find the answers to big questions about fast fashion."

I've come to realize that for me, it's sort of Slow Fashion whenever. The idea of pushing aside projects to dig my heels feels weird when my mind is always steadily pushing in this direction. My slow fashion project for last year is still not finished (though I made some good progress!) but I've decided that's okay. It's all part of a life that revolves around clothing and fiber. So instead, I'm going to declare two big, continuous goals for whenever.

The ever evolving practice of evaluating and curating my clothing collection.


Being a champion of, creator of, or facilitator of thoughtful fashion in whatever shape and form it has and will continue to take.

In this blog post, I'm going to focus on the first goal. Can you tell I love making lists and setting intentions? I'll save part II for a later blog post.

I wish I could pinpoint a specific turning point or 'wardrobe epiphany' over the last few months, but the reality is less glamorous. I feel like I've been considering and re-considering and evaluating and troubleshooting my wardrobe for years.

One thing that really strikes me after all this thinking is that I still periodically have trouble getting dressed in the morning and putting together outfits. And, though I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, I haven't quite figured out why. I'm still searching for the formula that will give me a magical pantry of wardrobe staples that allow me to effortlessly throw outfits together with panache and sophistication. Does it exist? I don't know, but I enjoy trying to find it.

Part of the equation that makes this a never ending pursuit is that humans are always changing, myself included. I've heard tales of women who come up with the perfect 'uniform' which satisfies them for the rest of their life. I think this is something I could achieve, or at least approximate in my own way. I think the recipe has two main ingredients that take time to source:

1. You have to not get bored easily.


2. You have to have a certain level of life experience that has either crystallized your visual identity via presentation and/or made you give less fucks about how you look.

While I feel like I'm slowly getting closer to the later (Hi houseplant earrings!), the former is the issue. I go through phases with clothing. I also love to sew and that itself presents a problem for the 'capsule uniform'.

On having a uniform

Even though I'm perhaps not a good candidate for the 'uniform' approach, I do have the knowledge and ability to make my wardrobe (evolving as it is) as thoughtful, low impact, and effective as possible. But the allure of the uniform still lingers. Efficiency is so wildly appealing to me, but so is looking fab on a regular basis and sewing for pleasure. The three often seem at odds, especially when you throw a politically minded aversion to waste, excess, and consumption into the mix.

So far, I've figured out a lot of things that form the basis of a uniform, like the fact that I love wearing earth tones, that I have specific shapes that I like. I also know that generally, I go through phases of loving particular garments and wearing them over and over. I also have found that, though having a sewing business cuts into my personal sewing time to an unpleasant degree, there is something to gain from having to wait.

I've started making tiny sketches of hopefully future projects and storing them with my fabrics.

I've started making tiny sketches of hopefully future projects and storing them with my fabrics.

Time is a great editor.

Doing sewing and design for work is a blessing and a curse. While it leaves me with very little time to actually sew for myself, it provides TONS of time for wardrobe additions to ripen and percolate and age. What starts out as an epic dress project turns into a simple (more wearable) shift. What starts out as an impulse fabric purchase becomes a practical brown bottom weight fabric for a skirt I know I'll wear all the time and will make me happier in the long run. It's less sexy, but it's practical and comforting (I'll avoid the relationship analogies, though the comparison is spot on)

I've started to notice that either having a smaller wardrobe or cycling out items makes for a clearer vision for me in terms of how I want to dress and feel good. Many people put this same idea into practice very successful, including Karen herself as part her Slow Fashion October project this year.

How to deal with change and turnover in an equally thoughtful way.

So, if we've come to terms with the fact that our style WILL change and, as a result, necessitate the relinquishment of unworn items, we can start to approach the issue of 'what to do with what you don't want' in a thoughtful manner. You all know my love for clothing swaps. That's one option. I've also realized that, since I only wear natural fibers, I can compost my old & damaged clothing or scraps! (Clothing company Elizabeth Suzann did a field test, composting scraps from their garment production, and was quite successful!) There are also many more impactful places to donate your clothing than your usual thrift store, like groups who provide free professional clothing to folks applying for jobs or relief organizations who need clothing (because our climate is in a crisis and many have lost everything to natural disasters). I outline some other uses for discarded clothes and fabric in my post about clothing swaps too, if you're interested.

One of my favorite ways to recycle old clothes and scraps etc is by quilting.

One of my favorite ways to recycle old clothes and scraps etc is by quilting.

If I can cultivate a sustainable clothing practice, it will allow me to sew to my hearts content, follow the winds of my changing style, and not feel like I'm having a negative impact on the world around me.

Next time, more on bringing thoughtfulness outside of your personal sewing/dressing practices and into your community!

Do you have methods for (or struggle with) how to negotiate a love for fashion/changing style and being responsible about how you consume/dispose of items in the process? Do you constantly think about slow fashion or do you take the opportunity to do so during Slow Fashion October (or other social media calls to action like Me Made May)?


Wow. This blog is overdue for an update.

I apologize, blog, for leaving you neglected. My other social media outlets have been sustaining my online presence while you were left in the dust. I promise it's for a good reason. I've never been much of a blogger the way other people excel at it. To me it always hovers somewhere weird in between journal and editorial, and I haven't quite found the cozy spot where I want to sit.

I thought, in lieu of blogging for blogs sake, I'd give a bit of an update as to what's going on in the Blueprints world as I transition into Fall. A Note: I started out thinking this would be a light and fluffy blog post with fun updates but then, apparently, I wanted to dive into some real business and personal talk. So maybe blogs are a valuable part of my practice after all...

All the planties at the beginning of summer. I try to make gardening part of my practice when the weather is good because being outside around plants makes me a better human.

All the planties at the beginning of summer. I try to make gardening part of my practice when the weather is good because being outside around plants makes me a better human.

1. I've been re-prioritizing how I spend my time

I love teaching. I love designing patterns too. Though, in many ways, I have always wanted the patterns to be a vehicle for teaching and enabling people to sew (from afar rather than in person). I had the realization big time over the summer that I needed rethink the way I was looking at my business. I wanted to devote more of my energy into teaching and developing classes. At times I felt twinges of guilt for scaling back my pattern making goals because I was lagging behind.

But I decided: It's better for me and for you if I slow down and really take the time to develop patterns that I love (and hopefully you will too), packed full of cool information and back story. And a major part of the slow down has been allowing myself to focus more on teaching, an area that really inspires a lot of what I put into my patterns. I plan to keep making patterns, but I've come to terms with the fact that I don't need to keep up with fashion seasons and I'm not obligated to produce a certain number of patterns each year just because everyone else does. I prefer to think of each pattern as an artwork, an experience. That was my original intention and I've made my way back to that place after a few years spent growing my business.

Having this new outlook feels right for Blueprints and I'm excited to see what I come up with in the space freed up by letting go of what Blueprints 'should be' and instead focusing on what I want it to be.

2. I'm teaching. A lot.

Last year I started teaching in the fashion department of a local college. I love it. I've always wanted to teach college and I sort of can't believe I finally made it here. I've been expanding my range to teach classes I am interested in and have experience behind but had never taught before (history of fashion and graphic design to name a few). I've also been trying to develop new classes and workshop ideas with the hopes of traveling outside New England to teach. I'm not a half way in kinda person. I spend a lot of time developing assignments and lectures and activities and workshops. And this takes time.


3. I've been changing and improving my workflow

Real talk time: I don't talk about it much publicly, but I struggle with anxiety and what I'm realizing for the first time in my life could probably best be described as adult ADD. I've spent the last year or so really working on how to create a workflow that makes me feel productive and helps me stay focused without feeling disorganized, stressed or depressed. Part of this means I've tried to prioritize creating a better, more manageable workflow for my business (new, streamlined pattern development processes and biweekly newsletter) and holding off on other areas (I'm lookin' at you, blog!) until I have the bandwidth for them. This is as an alternative to trying to juggle a million things, falling behind, not meeting expectations, and then panicking or crashing. Life's too short for that.

Some of you may remember a certain pattern inspired by Southern Italian folk houses that was meant to come out in the spring. After running into unexpected issues - on top of struggling to balance a small business / job /personal life - it seemed impossible to have it ready on time. So I pivoted, shifted focus to my fall pattern, and tabled it for next spring/summer.

I'll admit that my fall pattern is not quite where I hoped it would be around this time (AKA, done and printed and in shops!) but I'm trying to channel my inner turtle and remember that slow (well, maybe a brisk walking pace) and steady works best for me.

However, I put a ton of work into creating an organized system for pattern development and I am already feeling it in action with my fall pattern. When you're playing all the roles (designer, digitizer, grader, illustrator, marketer, graphic designer) having systems helps tremendously in keeping organized. I've started using a system called Asana to keep projects organized.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 3.08.21 PM.png
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4. I've been focusing on building a great newsletter

If y'all aren't signed up for my bi-monthly newsletter, check it out! It's sort of become my defacto blog, with a personal 'letter from the editor' in the beginning and special features like sewing tips, features showcasing your awesome blueprints makes, links to cool stuff around the web, etc. I was very inspired by other designers/bloggers newsletters and have found that it's a platform I enjoy. Plus something about the bi-weekly accountability is awesome. I love accountability (so much that I co-founded a business accountability group with some friends a year ago... there's a blog post about that in the works too, as promised.)


5. I've become involved in extracurricular activities!

Some of these fall on the self care spectrum: Yoga, Gardening, Cookbook Potluck Club, etc. But I've also become involved in local town groups and issues. I co-chair my local cultural council and organize/participate in regional arts advocacy groups and programs. I've continued to work with the craftivist art collective I've been part of since 2010.

Now that I've got it all out on paper, I don't feel so bad about things like the blog falling behind. I'm hoping that as I work on my systems that I can carve out time and space for more blogging (and hopefully weaving? Basket making? Making shoes? Basically, all the crafts...)

How do you juggle multiple jobs/roles? Do you have good systems for yourself that work or have you only figured out what doesn't work? Do you try to make time for non work things?



Make your own clothing labels using stamps

One of my favorite finishing touches to a handmade garment is a personalized tag. I've seen all kinds of beautiful DIY versions, like overstitched fabric scraps, screenprinted bits, and even just special ribbon loops. I've also recently come across lots of label producers who are offering small minimum orders for professional looking woven labels.

Since I love a good DIY fix (and find most woven labels very itchy) I thought I would share my favorite tag making method, using ribbon or fabric and stamps!

The process is very straightforward. Get stamps, stamp on ribbon or fabric. Set with iron and sew in!

Here's what you'll need:

Something to stamp on

1. Use a flat, plain weave ribbon. The smoother, the better. This helps get a nice, clean stamp. Any ribbon that is tightly woven and made from natural fiber should work well.

My favorite ribbon for tags (pictured above) is a chambray ribbon made in France, which I buy locally. Your local fabric shop might carry something similar. I had a bit of a hard time tracking down an online source for it, but came across this Etsy seller that offers the same ribbon.

2. If you can't track down the right ribbon (or you just want to start your project right away) the selvedge from your favorite light hued fabric works well in a pinch! You can also use bias tape.

3. You can also use any plain woven fabric. Light colors and tight weaves (like poplin, voile, or shirting) work best. Trim the edges with pinking shears, cut on the grain and pull away some threads to create a fringe, or finish the edges with a serger. Press your fabric to get it nice and smooth before stamping.

2. Twill tape, which is a bit easier to find in shops, works okay but the texture prevents you from getting a really clean, clear line. Pressing it with a hot iron first will help smooth the texture a bit. This guy should be a last resort.



My favorite way to get clear, consistent text on tags is to use alphabet stamps or kits that include stamps and letters. Kits are great because they include multiples of each letter, upper and lower case, and symbols. You can arrange the type and stamp them over and over.

Each type has their pros and cons. I have a few vintage kits I've collected over the years and I love them. Kits make stamping easier, but leave you a bit limited in terms of font. Loose letter sets come in a wider variety of size and font, but you have to stamp each letter individually and line them up.

Your local craft store will have a variety of alphabet stamp sets and Etsy is a great place to track down old stamp kits. You can also find new stamp kits at office supply stores. Martha Stewart makes a kit that comes with round pieces to set letters in a circle. If you know of any other brands that make these stamp kits, please share!

Images & Decorative elements

Your local craft or stationary store will likely have a nice variety of fun stamps. Keep in mind the size if you want it to fit on ribbon of a certain width. Sets of small stamps are a great way to add decorative elements to your text.

You can also create your own stamps! I wrote a holiday tutorial a few years back that covers the basics. Remember, your image will stamp in reverse, so be sure to draw it backwards.


You can use any stamp pad that is formulated to work on fabric. Be sure to check, because many of them are not. My favorites are Yellow Owl Workshop's large stamp pads (note that their smaller ink pads are not formulated for fabric!). Tags I've made using this ink have withstood years of machine washing with little to no fading or bleeding. They'll also last at least a couple years without drying out (as long as you keep the lid shut). Mine are about 5 years old and still work brilliantly.

Remember, most fabric stamping inks must be heat set using your iron! Be sure to review the instructions for heat setting that come with your ink.

You may also want to run a stamped piece of fabric through the wash if testing out a new ink to make sure it doesn't run or fade.



+ Test your design on paper first! I can't tell you how many times I've flipped something upside down printed the wrong thing. Do a test first.

+ Plan your spacing. To keep stamps in an even line, use masking tape to create a guideline on your fabric or ribbon.

+ Ink evenly and press firmly on your stamp!

+ Mind your P's and Q's! Remember, certain letters look the same backwards and forwards. Always do a test print to make sure you've got the right letters.

+ Heat set your tags! Iron on the cotton setting for 5-10 seconds and let cool.

+ If you want to print only part of a stamp, or break up lines of text, use a piece of scrap paper to catch the ink and only stamp the part of the text or image you want on your fabric.

Do you have a favorite technique for making your own tags? Please share!

Pattern Renovation: Saltbox Sundress

I've been thinking a lot about Saltbox this week, after receiving a beautiful book full of old New England houses from a friend. I love looking at photographs of old houses and seeing how much charm and character exists even in the most modest house.

It's hard to say the same about the majority of housing built today. Where I live, the new homes being built - often in big developments - are a hot topic. Last night I went to a workshop to help create an affordable housing plan for the town. Though they sometimes lack in amenities, small towns make for easier access to the decision making process that shapes the outcome of local projects. Whether town politics are your thing or not, the spirit of collaborating with your neighbors for the greater good is exciting!

This is a strange lead-in to a post about pattern hacking, but I promise there's a bit of a connection! One parallel I see between these two issues is the idea of building new constructions with new materials vs. renovating old buildings. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a fresh bundle of fabric and a new project as much as the next sewist (I also see the benefits of buying a brand new house!) But there's also something that feels really good about reworking something you already have, that already exists.

So, to bring the conversation back to sewing: Today I was craving a quick, summery project. Instead of whipping up a new design, I came up with a simple renovation using things I already had: A Saltbox dress!

Update: This idea had been floating around in my head since I saw @weboughtamanor's super cute version on Instagram a few years ago. I couldn't find her original picture when this post was first published.

View through the pear tree.

View through the pear tree.

I'd been contemplating a Saltbox dress after seeing one somebody made up on Instagram. I decided to use some vintage Marimekko fabric (from 1979) in my stash, thrifted a few years ago and waiting for a project. When I couldn't decide on a contrast, I went with an old standby trick: use the wrong side of the fabric!

And of course, since I was using the wrong side, I thought, "why not make the whole thing reversible?" I love setting myself up with epic challenges when a simple trek will do. I stopped short of trying to devise a reversible pocket. At 87 degrees and 60% humidity, it's way too hot for that much thinking. So no pockets...already regretting it ;)

I made it reversible by finishing each seam with a flat felled seam. I pressed the seams up towards the shoulder pieces so that the stitching was on the white of the fabric, but you could also press them down as instructed by the pattern. I made bias binding from the same fabric and sewed it on so that it would match the inside shoulder pieces. I lost the point of the Saltbox, but I think the bias facing in reverse has a nice effect. You could also do bias binding instead and press the seams down, which would give you with nice points on both sides.

Altering the Pattern

To create the Saltbox dress, first go ahead and cut out your pattern in the size you want, completing any necessary alterations. Slide a sheet of paper underneath your pinned together pattern.

Overlap your pattern pieces and pin them together to form the bodice front. They should overlap by 1" total (1/2" per each seam allowance.)

Measure 1" out from each hip and mark with a short line. Measure from the bottom edge the amount you would like to lengthen the pattern. Check the measurement on the pattern envelope to see how much you want to add. I added 12".

L: For a straight shape like the one in my version, connect the underarm to the line you drew, then draw a light straight down and connect it to the hem line at the bottom. Use a hip curve to smooth out the point where the two lines meet.

R: For a more a-line shape, align a ruler with the underarm and the line at the hip, then draw a straight line down to the hem guideline.

Trace just the bodice front (lower section) onto the paper below. Then, lay some tracing paper over each shoulder piece and trace around them, using the new side line.

Repeat with the back pieces (you'll be able to omit the back right shoulder, since it doesn't touch the side seam). Unpin, cut out your pieces and lay out on your fabric.

I didn't keep the side vents because of the flat felled seams, but you could easily recreate the vents at the bottom of the hem and/or add in-seam or patch pockets. I did turn up the hem with a double fold and got a bit of contrast on the hem that I really love.

Have you ever made anything reversible? Do you wear one side more than the other?

Me Made May Recap 2017

I went into Me Made May with a goal: to take items from my wardrobe that didn't get a lot of wear and try to build outfits around them. How did it go? I'd say for the first week, I managed to put together some nice outfits using these neglected pieces, like the two looks below:

I love this tiny stripe linen maxi skirt, but I never know what to wear with with. I like it here with a button down and cropped Geodesic.

I love this tiny stripe linen maxi skirt, but I never know what to wear with with. I like it here with a button down and cropped Geodesic.

The floral Sutton Blouse here is one of my favorites in theory, but it always feels too girly and loud. I think it works well here paired with casual knits in similarly loud colors.

The floral Sutton Blouse here is one of my favorites in theory, but it always feels too girly and loud. I think it works well here paired with casual knits in similarly loud colors.

About two weeks in, I was having a lot of trouble choosing items and putting together outfits. I had tons of pieces I really liked but couldn't find them companions. I ended up reverting back to some of my tried and true outfits.

I'm at a point now where I have a wardrobe of primarily me mades, a few vintage pieces, and some thrifted RTW pieces that I love. I tend to repeat a lot of the same outfits. The basis for a great capsule wardrobe, right? So, why do I still have trouble picking out outfits some mornings, especially when trying to include some of the pieces I really love?

This was one of my favorite outfits from the month. I think it's because it pairs a couple of pop colors (green, orange) with more neutral hues (warm grey, tan, and black).

This was one of my favorite outfits from the month. I think it's because it pairs a couple of pop colors (green, orange) with more neutral hues (warm grey, tan, and black).

Midway through may, I decided to shift gears and focus on taking mental notes about why it felt weird to put outfits together. I've done a pretty good job of revamping my color palette and silhouettes to be more in line with what I actually want to wear. But when it comes down to it, I have a wardrobe full of great pieces but not necessarily tons of workable outfits. The verdict? My wardrobe is missing basics, both in terms of style and color. I'm somebody who gravitates towards color and print, but I'm realizing that I prefer to pair them with more simple, perhaps even 'neutral' pieces.

Time to fill some holes in my wardrobe! I've broken down my wardrobe needs into a few basic pieces (just in time for the #summerofbasics, right?) and I've listed them below.

Wardrobe needs


I wear jeans a lot these days. I've never really been a jeans and t-shirt person, but I'm starting to see the appeal. This time of year there's a lot of garden planting, dog walking and errand running involved; I end up throwing on the same pair of jeans. My Levis are getting quite stretched out, there's paint on them, they're fraying at key seams. I'll keep them around for work at home days with some cute mending, but I think it's high time I made myself a new pair of everyday jeans/pants.

My inspiration for the Morgan Jeans: these Sweetwater Trousers from Gamine Workwear

My inspiration for the Morgan Jeans: these Sweetwater Trousers from Gamine Workwear

I've been thinking of trying out the Morgan Jeans pattern. I'm not sure if the style will work for my body, but I love the relaxed look on others. I need a good pair of black or brown pants, so perhaps a pair in twill is in order. I may also make another pair of Gingers, since I know I like the look and fit of high-waisted jeans. (I've made a pair before, but they aren't too wearable. They ended up needing some significant alterations and a denim with a higher stretch percentage to be comfortable.)

A 'Neutral' Skirt

For many years, this was a slightly flared navy linen skirt. I still have it and pull it out of the closet now and again, but the navy doesn't really suit my style these days. Plus, it has no pockets.

Also, there's the issue of 'neutral'. I've been trying to figure out what neutral means to me. The basic idea is that it should be a color that goes with my brighter, patterned pieces but blends nicely into the background. I'm not really a black or navy or white gal, which are most people's neutrals. I think my neutrals are grey and brown.

My future neutral skirt will likely be an A-frame straight skirt in either caramel brown or charcoal grey.

Brussels Washer in Khaki from Fancy Tiger Crafts

Brussels Washer in Khaki from Fancy Tiger Crafts

A Light Colored Cardigan

This one is pretty easy. I have no light colored cardigans. This will be a knit project. I've even chosen the yarn! The hardest part is deciding which pattern to use. Any suggestions?

More Simple Tops

I have a lot of really cool skirts in fun colors and prints and textures. I love to wear them, but skirts like these call for simple tops, of which I have approximately 2. I'm thinking a few Cabin tops and boxy t-shirts in colors like creme, warm grey, and maybe mustard are in order.

I wore this eggplant-y knit top quite a bit, since it goes with a lot of my skirts.

I wore this eggplant-y knit top quite a bit, since it goes with a lot of my skirts.

Bonus Items

Here's a few things I don't need but could definitely find a place for in my wardrobe.

A Grey Chambray Button down

I'm thinking of a Grainline Archer. No frills.

A Shirtdress

I've got some great vintage shirtdress patterns I'd like to try, though the Kalle Shirtdress and Named Helmi are calling to me.

A Fall/Spring Jacket for Weather

Perhaps a Kelly Anorak or a Lone Tree Jacket? The key will be tracking down waterproof fabric and deciding if I will add a lining or not. I also may be working on a new pattern that would fit the bill *wink wink, nudge nudge*.

I'm excited to get started making these wardrobe boosters, though I may take breaks occasionally for a few 'frosting' projects I have lined to go with my cake ;)

Are you participating in #Summerofbasics? Did you learn anything interesting by participating in Me Made May? What are you planning to make this summer?

Alternative Cutting Layouts for Geodesic

I wrote the first half of this post up in January, but I backdated it so that it would show up in the tutorials section, but not make its debut until I had enough alternative layouts added. Now I'm posting it to the blog for real!

Here are some alternative cutting layouts for Geodesic. This section will be updated periodically, so check back or leave a comment if you're looking for something specific!

54" wide fabric

V1: Sizes A-H


V1: Sizes I-L


V2: Sizes A-H

V2: Sizes I-L

Using the Solid Back Piece

Version 1

44" Sizes A-F

44" Sizes G-L

60" Sizes A-D


60" Sizes I-L

60" Sizes E-H


Version 2

60" Sizes A-D

60" Sizes E-H

60" Sizes I-L


For a scrap-buster: Just the sleeves, hem band, neck band, and cuffs

Version 1 or Version 2

44" Sizes A-D

44" Sizes E-H

44" Sizes I-L


60" Sizes A-D

60" Sizes E-H

60" Sizes I-L


Geodesic Addition: Solid Back Piece & Cuffed Short Sleeves

One of the suggestions from my intrepid Geodesic pattern testers was the option for a solid back piece, as an alternative to having both a pieced back and front. So I decided to make one! To be honest, it's been drafted for quite a bit, but I've been reformatting Geodesic for print and decided to update the PDF version and tidy up the back piece pattern in the process.

So, at long last, here it is! **Updated 1/6 to fix error**

Geodesic Back Piece

Today, in honor of this pattern addition, I thought it would be fun to make another Geodesic using the solid back piece and a bunch of knit scraps that were taking up real estate in my stash. Geodesic is an awesome scrap buster and gives you an opportunity to get a little wild and wacky with color & fabric combos. I've seen some amazing scrappy Geodesics popping up on the #blueprintsgeodesic hashtag on Instagram. Be sure to check them out if you need some inspiration!

When I finished it, snow was falling. So I ventured outside in the flurry to get a few pictures for y'all. Hopefully the charm of these snowy pics will make up for the fact that they're a little slapdash and underexposed.

Here's the solid back piece in action!

After taking these shots, I promptly ran back upstairs to sit in front of the fire. Though being out in the snow in short sleeves was a bit refreshing, my hands were freezing! Any other sewists have constantly cold hands? My hands are icy even when it's mild out.

This is the 3rd Geodesic top I've made with short, cuffed sleeves, a look I really dig. Each time, I've experimented with a different method of cuffing the sleeves. While I'm not sure this one is my favorite, I think it does the job well and is a bit fancier than simply turning up the hem. This method also allows you to do a contrast cuff. For this version, I thought I'd include some pictures of what I did in case you'd like the do the same!

First, shorten your sleeve to however short you want the final sleeve to be. Cut a piece of contrasting fabric that is as wide as the hem pattern piece and as long as your armhole opening. Sew one side closed.

Fold the cuff over along the edge so the raw edges meet. Press lightly, but avoid creating a major crease.

Put the cuff inside the sleeve, raw edges together. We're going to attach it in the opposite way of the pattern instructions, so that the serged seam is on the outside. Sew and press the seam up towards the sleeve.

Fold the cuff up along the seam line.

Here's the tricky part: roll down the cuff slightly, so that the seam attaching the cuff to the sleeve is about 1/2" from the bottom edge of the cuff. Then, from the inside where seam is, pull out the excess fabric, creating a new fold for the top of the cuff.

In the picture below, you can see how the cuff has been shifted up by looking for the shadow of the original seam. This is right after pressing...when worn, the shadow/outline is not very visible. Part of the lumpiness of the seam is from the serger. If working with a thick knit, you could probably avoid this by straight stitching and trimming down to 1/8" or pressing the seam open.

I decided to do a small tack at the top of the sleeve as well, to keep it from unrolling. You could also do a second tack at the underarm.

I'm pretty excited about how this guy turned out! Looking forward to wearing it this week.

I hope you enjoy these additional options for Geodesic. If you ever have an idea for a pattern renovation or addition, please feel free to share!

How to host a clothing swap

I love the spirit of Slow Fashion October. The social media slow sewing month is only in its second year and I feel like its already gained a huge following in the sewing (and hopefully fashion) world. If you'd like to learn more about the goals and origins, check out the official info on the Fringe Association blog or read my posts from last year (one, two, three).

I'm making progress on my weaving project, but work and cold weather have me lagging a bit behind.

Each week has a theme and this weeks theme is Long Worn.

It's no secret. I love old clothes. Old stuff, really. I love things with a history. (Not a big surprise coming from a fledgling history professor).

I've been discussing the origins of our desires as fashion consumers with my students this week. Clearly, at some point in history, fashion quickly became a bit of a game, a pursuit, a pastime. Desires were forged through class aspirations and struggles for power as well as encouraged and even manufactured by a growing industry built to cater to these desires. This eventually grew into the fast fashion industry we see today: buy cheap and buy often, discarding what no longer suits our tastes.

But what about those of us who don't get up at 4am for Black Friday sales, shop the latest fashions, bulk buy at H&M, or participate in retail therapy. Sometimes you and your clothing have to part ways, for better or worse, and many of us love it enough to care about where it's going: a landfill or an ambiguous 'charitable' organization (often via large metal dumpster-esque receptacles) simply won't cut it. So what do the slow fashion minded do when they want to part with their clothing?

One of my favorite tools for giving old clothes new life is to have a clothing swap! A clothing swap is a great way to give loved clothes (that you no longer wish to own) a new lease on life. Plus, it makes for opportunities to get new, exciting clothes without shopping. Or exchanging money whatsoever. It's a form of clothing exchange outside of Capitalism. I love it.

How to Host a Clothing Swap

1. Set the date and decide on the details

Choose your date and time. A great time for a clothing swap is at the change of the seasons (if you live somewhere where they change) since it's the time of year most people sort through their clothes.

Make an invitation that sets out the specifics. I like to set a limit on how many bags of clothing people can bring and what types (I discourage people bringing things like underwear, socks and t-shirts, but that's because my swaps are often public and there's the 'hygiene' question.) If you're having a swap with your besties and these types of garments are ok by you, go for it! Decide whether or not people should bring shoes and accessories.

Invite people! The more people, the more clothes to choose from. I like to try to invite people of all genders and body types. Once clothing is free from it's associations on a body, 'gendered' clothing becomes a bit more ambiguous and I love when this happens.

Make it a party! Plan it around a fun event (like a birthday) or even just hold it on a weekend afternoon or Friday afternoon.

2. Decide how it all goes down.

Most of the time, the best way to 'organize' clothing is to not. I like to lay out sheets and blankets and encourage people to dump out their clothes on the floor. Things like shoes and accessories. If the 'clothes pool' involves a lot of walking through in order to browse, ask people to take off their shoes.

Have snacks and music. I like to have a potluck and keep the tunes going.

Find a way to help folks keep their 'picks' organized. Save some paper grocery bags (or even the ones your invitees brought with them) for people to put their picks in to keep them separate from the pile. It's easy for individual piles/collections to get lost or picked through in the mix. You could even label them with each person's name.

If you have a full length mirror, bring it into the swap room. Or have invitees try clothes on and get votes from the group and get yes/no votes.

Set up a sewing machine (or two) and some supplies for on-the-spot alterations. Invite a few friends who sew and see if their willing to help others alter after the swap commences. Encourage people to be experimental and think about different ways to wear things.

3. Decide what to do with the leftovers.

Inevitably, you will have clothing leftover from your swap. Here's a few things you can do with the leftovers:

  • Look for a local organization that provides clothing to people in need free of charge. Often, this is a much more impactful way to donate your clothing than the random thrift store. Shelters, outreach ministries, school coat drives, and disaster relief organizations are great places to start.
  • Host a re-fashion party or have a project runway style sewing competition. Have friends bring over sewing machines and upcycle the swap leftovers.
  • Make a patchwork quilt for somebody who needs it. A lot of times swap leftovers are things that are past their prime or need crazy repairs. If the fabric is still good, cut these up to make blankets. There are many organizations that distribute charity quilts.
  • Make a woven or braided rag rug!
  • Repurpose clothes into other useful goods like grocery bags, stuffing for pillows, cleaning rags, etc.

Most of all, have fun! You'll be giving old clothes a new lease on life.

Have you ever hosted a clothing swap? What was your experience?

PS. I talk a bit about why I love clothing swaps in the Have Company podcast I recorded back in May.