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?

Free Pattern Friday: the Townhouse Bag

After the dust of Black Friday has settled, I'm super psyched to reclaim this Friday as Free Pattern Friday! That has a much better ring to it, huh?

I've been wanting to release a free pattern for a while (and plan to release more in the future) and decided sooner was better than later. I wanted to give something to you all for the holidays. So without further ado, a fun little free project just in time for holiday gift giving: The Townhouse Bag

Townhouse is a bag in two sizes. Originally, I designed it to be a reusable gift bag, but after making up samples I found myself wanting to add a shoulder strap or store my yarn inside. It closes with a drawstring to keep contents hidden and provide a handy way to carry it (though you can add a handle if you like)

Make it up in fun holiday prints or textured solids. The drawstring is a great excuse to use up all that colorful ribbon you've been stashing. For a bit of whimsy, add the door and windows applique and maybe even some house number embroidery. The doors & windows can be left open at the top to house small presents, gift cards, notes, and more.

In the same way that a handmade gift conveys to its recipient the amount of work and skill involved in its making, perhaps this handmade bag to house a gift will encourage us to think about the idea of gifting and how to give more thoughtfully. Plus, instead of throwing away loads of paper and plastic, they'll have a beautiful bag to re-use for all sorts of things.

And just because I'm sharing this pattern with you as a gift bag, doesn't mean it wouldn't be a great way to house non-gift things like knitting projects, toys, lingerie, shoes, produce, whatever. Fill it with fabric scraps and use as a stuffed toy or pillow. Enjoy it!

To download this pattern, click here!

Introducing: Foursquare

While working on a couple of upcoming Blueprints For Sewing patterns I thought I would put together a treat for you all:

A free knitting pattern for a hat called Foursquare!

The backstory:

I've been sewing since I was approximately 12. I definitely did what could be called sewing at a younger age, but at 12 I got my first sewing machine and I never looked back. Knitting is a more recent passion. In high school I taught myself to crochet and decided my first project would be a bikini from a 1970s pattern.... In pink and black acrylic yarn. Luckily, it never came to fruition.

But the seed was planted! In freshman year of college, a girl in my dorm (who would go on to be a friend and roommate) taught me how to knit, among other things (like making mix tapes and vegan Mac & cheese ). I learned what I would later discover was called "continental" style. It took me a few months to realize I was twisting all of my stitches. I went through knitting (and crochet) spurts, but without much regularity. Later on in my college career, I made another two friends who became very close and were also knitters.

This was the first sweater (any maybe 4th object) I ever knit. I taught myself stranded colorwork and went to town plotting out a modernist house on graph paper (do you see a common theme here?). One sleeve is, indeed, longer than the other. The project took me 1.5 years from start to finish.

This was the first sweater (any maybe 4th object) I ever knit. I taught myself stranded colorwork and went to town plotting out a modernist house on graph paper (do you see a common theme here?). One sleeve is, indeed, longer than the other. The project took me 1.5 years from start to finish.

I'm not sure if this falls into the category of a 'personality type', but I'm a self teacher. I learn by doing things and I also learn by deviating from the given instructions. When I used to be in a band, I taught myself to play the drums by experimentation and improvisation and that continues to be the way I enjoy making music best. I have a hard time following a pattern or a recipe...I always end up 'improvising' certain elements, or making edits on the fly.

This is one of the reasons pattern making (in all areas) is so appealing to me. It speaks to my proclivities towards invention but allows me to create order as well. Don't get me wrong, I can follow a recipe and a pattern when I want or need to (though it requires self restraint!) but my natural mode is to deviate.

As I became a more facile knitter, I began doing what I've always done with sewing: Developing my own patterns, techniques, and habits.

As a sewing pattern designer primarily, I find knitting patterns to be a nice change of pace! So flat, so mathematical, so fit-flexible. I have a collection of home-grown knitting patterns in various states of completion and detail and I would like to begin sharing them with you all, starting with a beloved hat pattern.

Here's the back story:

I have this acrylic hat and I don’t know where I got it. It is machine knit, pilly, baggy, and after a winter’s worth of wear, gets very “stinky”. My husband actually calls it the “stinky hat”.

Whenever I wear this hat, I receive compliments. It drapes just so. The color - a fawn brown, the color of an old table, or the interior of a 1970’s motorhome. It frames my face in the most pleasing way.


It’s so great that my husband decided that HE wanted to wear the stinky hat sometimes. Then, sometimes became often.

I decided I needed a more refined version of this stinky hat, so that I could bestow the original upon my him. What better yarn to use than Tosh Vintage? The color is similar, but more rich.

Here's the hat at Rock City, Chattanooga TN.

Here's the hat at Rock City, Chattanooga TN.

I don't like knitting ribbing, but I didn't want a hat with a rolled brim. I wanted something solid and flat, like the original.

For the pattern, I focused on perfecting the close fit and soft drape combo that the original provided. The decreases mimic the “tube-sewn-shut” crown of the original.

I knit this hat 2 years ago and wrote the pattern down as I went, which was good foresight on my part. It is still going strong and looking beautiful...thanks Madelinetosh! The hat photographed in the pattern is the original!

I decided I wanted to tie in the theme of home architecture to these patterns...a sort of sister knit accessory line to Blueprints. While this hat was not exactly inspired by its namesake architecture, the next few patterns definitely were.

I decided to name the hat after the American Foursquare, mostly for it's boxy shape and it's similarity in 'roof' construction: The crown of the hat and it's decreases look just like the pyramid shaped roof (a type of 'hipped' roof) on a foursquare.

This is a plan for a 'kit home' in the foursquare style and is a great example. For more fascinating house plans in different styles, check out  Antique Home Style , an amazing resource for these types of house plans and more (Image Source:

This is a plan for a 'kit home' in the foursquare style and is a great example. For more fascinating house plans in different styles, check out Antique Home Style, an amazing resource for these types of house plans and more (Image Source:

The building that gave the hat its name is a fairly ubiquitous sight across America, especially in the middle. My recent trip to Denver was filled with them, packed onto cute city blocks with all manner of decoration.

Here's a cool Foursquare in Denver

Here's a cool Foursquare in Denver

I hope you enjoy this pattern and that your Foursquare becomes your topper of choice! You can download this pattern on Ravelry.