Sewing Darts

Readers, this post is overdue. So overdue, in fact, that I wishfully included it in the updated cabin instructions before it was posted 😬. Needless to say, life got in the way. But here it is at long last! And I’m so sorry for the wait! 


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Darts are used to form a piece of 2D fabric (your pattern piece) to a 3D shape (your body). Darts help shape the fabric around our curvy parts (breasts, butt, shoulders, stomach, and more) and they do this by closing a wedge of fabric following the shape of your body.

Here are some tips for marking, sewing and pressing darts, as well as tips for handling darts on a curvy figure, including contouring.

Dart Anatomy

A dart, before being sewn, is a big triangle. The tip of the triangle is often called the dart point. The sides are called the dart legs.

Before sewing, you want to clearly mark your dart onto the wrong side of your fabric. An easy way to do this is by sticking pins through your tissue at the dart point and the end of the dart legs at the seam allowance, then folding back the tissue to mark the point on the fabric.

Marking Darts

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Some patterns will include a circle at the end of the dart that you can use to easily mark your dart point. Occasionally, patterns will have additional circles along the legs of the dart at various spots. This is often done for darts who’s legs aren’t in a perfectly straight line, like a contoured dart or a dart that is at the end of a seam. Mark these circles in the same way you mark the ends and point of the dart.

Once you’ve marked the key points of your dart, use a ruler to draw the entire dart shape on your fabric.

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Drawing the whole dart onto the fabric makes it easier to pin the dart accurately. I like to fold the dart legs together and pin along the dart leg marking, flipping my fabric over to be sure that the pin crosses through the dart line on the opposite side as well.

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I also like to place one pin horizontally through the dart point, to make it easier to spot while I’m sewing the dart on the machine.

Sewing Darts

When it’s time to sew your darts, start from the edge of the fabric and sew towards the dart point along the dart line, pulling out the pins as you go.

When you reach the end of the dart point, try to skim the edge of the fabric with the needle before stitching off the edge completely. This helps to achieve a smooth dart point that doesn’t pucker.

While you’ll start your dart with a backstitch to secure, backstitching isn’t always the best way to secure a dart point. It can often make the dart pucker or bunch at the point. Here are three other ways to secure your dart point:

Leave long tails and tie a knot at the end of your dart.

Switch to a short stitch length 1/4” from the dart point and gradually decrease it to nearly zero at the end.

Sew to the end of the dart, then turn your fabric around and stitch along the fold within the dart.

Pressing Darts

Always press darts on a rounded or pointed surface to get a smooth point that doesn’t pucker. I like to use a tailors ham, but you can also use a tennis ball or place the point of your dart at the end of your ironing board, with the dart lying flat.

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You have a few options when it comes to pressing darts as well!

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From L - R:

Pressing open - stick your finger into a the dart and flatten it out on either side of the seam. This helps the dart appear more balanced from the outside and is good for darts with large intake.

Pressing to one side - this is usually how darts are pressed. As a rule, always press horizontal darts down and vertical darts to either the Center Front or Center Back.

Clipping and pressing open - On thick, bulky fabrics or fabrics that show pressing marks from the outside, clipping the dart open helps it to lie flatter and disappear into the fabric. You’ll also often need to do this on darts that are at the end of a seam. If going this route, be sure to reinforce the raw edges of the dart seam once it’s cut. This method is not recommended for sheer fabrics.

Contour Darts

One thing that is important to note about darts: They add shaping to a body with a straight seam. Do those curvy parts of your body happen in a straight line? Usually not. Most of the time, darts cinch in fabric to fit your shape, but the length of the dart still stands away from the curves of your body. In most cases, this is perfectly sufficient. When you get into more fitted silhouettes where the more curvy areas aren’t covered with fabric OR your curves are very prominent, this theory doesn’t always work out.

This, my friends, is where contouring comes in handy.  In pattern making, contouring is the process by which the sections of your garment that don’t lie flat against the body are altered to do so, usually because the part that did lie next to the body is removed. For example, a deeply cut neckline or armhole, where the ease from the original garment may leave the neckline or armhole to gape.

In the case of those who are simply curvier, in such a way that the size and straightness of the dart doesn’t quite fit right on the body, contouring can be used to create a dart with a better fit. The main thing this technique accomplishes is to make the angle at which the dart meets the edge of the fabric less severe, resulting in a smoother dart point.

You’ll contour by sewing along a slightly different line than what you drew. Start by measure about 2.5” from the end of your dart along the dart legs. Mark this point. Then, redraw the dart line so that it curves away from the dart line as it approaches the dart point. (Pictured below, the red seam is the original dart, while the blue line represents the contour.)

This makes it so that the dart point contours to the bust curve, rather than just a straight line. It also keeps darts from appearing too pointy. The larger your bust or dart, the more you might want to contour it.

Contour darts will often need to be clipped in order to lie properly as they have become more of a seam than a proper dart. I often slice the dart open and clip while pressing, to see how much is necessary. 

Do you have any tried and true dart sewing methods? Any pressing questions about dart sewing?

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:

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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:

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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.)

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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

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.

and

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.

OR

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)?

Overdue

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.

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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.

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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.)

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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?

 

 

Geodesic Renovation: Woven Geodesic Top

Though the seam lines look quite nice on a solid fabric or with one or two pops of contrast thrown in, I also envisioned Geodesic as a great pattern for using up scraps. I'm glad to say I finally made just that! I also used wovens, a super easy substitution with Geodesic (and paired it with a really wrinkly skirt... forgive me, it's nearly 100 degrees and humid today!)

 

While I don't have tons of large, coordinating jersey scraps, I do have lots of woven scraps just sitting in boxes languishing and waiting for their day to shine. As I've become more and more interested in quilting, these scraps which had previously been out of sight and out of mind have come to the forefront of my consciousness.

What can I use the scraps from this project for? Do these scraps work together? I've even started bundling like scraps together for future projects, quilting or otherwise. I may have a quilt all in earthone linen scraps next up in the queue.

I have a box labeled 'Large Special Scraps' on my shelf, which includes mostly the substantial side part of many cut-on-the-fold sewing projects. Cutting pattern pieces out on the grain is important, but certainly not the most economical in terms of cutting. With the goal of making a woven geodesic from scraps only, I dug into this box of goodies and pulled together a palette of lovely scraps.

I chose 4 fabrics that went together: An old nani iro print, a stripe/solid double cloth, some essex linen, and some vintage mauve percale. I cut a few triangles of each and started playing around with them on my 'design wall' (which is a felt back vinyl table cloth clamped onto a folded up ping pong table) I did this for the front and back, playing around with color and pattern placement.

While this isn't in my usual color palette (quite the opposite) I LOVE it. I also feel like it goes with things that are 'my colors' quite well! It has a bit of a Miami beach 1991 vibe.

In the original pattern, I wanted to include instructions for using wovens, but I decided to nix them to keep things nice and concise and consistent. The good news is that the process is actually quite simple and straightforward! Here is what you need to know when making Geodesic from wovens:

  • Size: Geodesic is pretty roomy, but if your jersey version is snug in the chest, you might want to go up a size or do an FBA (instructions for this are provided in the pattern!)
  • Cutting: While it can be tempting to cut triangles willy nilly out of scrap fabric, trying to cut them on grain is fairly important. You can cheat a bit if you're using stable fabrics, as I did for one of the stripes. Just something to be aware of, but not a 100% must if you're feeling experimental and extra recycle-y :)
  • Fabric: If you're using multiple fabrics, try to keep them in the same family in terms of weight and drape. I cheated a little as the nani iro and essex are on the stiffer side and the double gauze is a little drapier. For the most part, it's okay, but I can also see it starting to sag a bit as the day goes by.
  • Construction: Geodesic uses 1/4" seams and you can keep this for the woven version. I assembled my top entirely on my serger, but you can also finish your edges with a zigzag or over edge stitch. Since there's so many seams, I wouldn't leave them raw or you'll have a tangly mess inside your top in no time.
  • Neckline: I cut the neck band using the same pattern piece, but cut on the bias. I made this neckband slightly narrower than the original. My fabric was a very loosely woven chambray and stretched well on the bias. I folded the strip in half and attached just like the knit band is attached in the pattern.
  • Hem: You can do the hem in the same way as in the pattern, though you may want to add a bit of extra fabric since the knit hem band is slightly smaller than the shirt hem. I decided to serge and turn under 3/8" and do a blind hem, but I may go back and add a band of the essex. I like the look, but it's definitely very cropped.
  • Pressing & point matching: So much easier than with knits! Hurrah!

I also changed the sleeve length to short sleeves (easy, just crop the sleeve pattern piece wherever you desire and cuff, or not.) which has been one of my favorite Geodesic mods to date! Plus, it's been a million degrees lately.

While this may not be an everyday piece, I do really love it! It makes me happy. I hope if you try it, that it will make you happy too :)

I love it when my shirt matches my beverage! We just started getting this La Croix things here in MA and I <3 them.

Do you like sewing with scraps? Are you always searching for the perfect way to use them up? Any favorite patterns that are scrap busters?

The great #hashtagathon: Help me get organized and win a fabulous prize

I'm not exactly what you'd call a 'neat' person. Until I met my current partner (who is a total minimalist) I was what one might describe as a 'clutterer', amassing art/craft supplies and kitschy antiques.

These days, I'm definitely more discriminating in my collecting tendencies and I've also developed quite a healthy habit of getting rid of unnecessary stuff. However, I tend to always have a bit of clutter in my life, which makes it important to periodically tidy and organize.

I think artists inherantly collect and clutter (but also organize!) This photograph of the studio of Ray Eames is a great example.

I think artists inherantly collect and clutter (but also organize!) This photograph of the studio of Ray Eames is a great example.

Strangely enough, I'm also a lover of organization systems and efficiency. I make endless lists and categorize things. I love sorting and titling all of my computer folders. I organize my vintage buttons by colors, size, and material. Is this a particular personality type? Is this contradictory behavior typical of creatives? I'm always thinking of ways to organize, plan, and sort and when I follow through with said ways I am often a happy camper.

This is the long way of telling you that I've come up with a better plan for, you guessed it, hashtags.

I love that people can share their me-made brilliance over platforms like Instagram. The hashtag has given us a brand new way to organize content.

However, I'll be real and say that lack of organization in the Blueprints hashtag department is making me crazy. Now, I surely (unconsciously) set myself up for this. One can't simply tag their Cabin dress #Cabin and be cataloged amongst an array of shift dresses. There will be log cabins, airplane cabins, and other cabiny things.

Originally, I suggested the #blueprintsmakes hashtag. While it contains a great spread of beautiful makes, it doesn't specify which pattern the project is made from, so people had to come up with their own project-specific tags. I've seen #cabinshift #cabindress #cabintop, all of which make perfect sense and include some lovely projects, but also lots of unrelated content. And it made compiling all these projects a bit complicated on my end. I take full blame for this tagging confusion and today I intend to make things right.

The trick with hashtags is to assign a unique identifier that will categorize only what you want and not what you don't.

Two rows of the tag #Cabintop on Instagram   1st row: Grace of  Beyond Measure 's lovely Cabin and a few in-process shots of Cabin projects.  2nd row: A boat, a flight attendant, and a lady doing yoga?

Two rows of the tag #Cabintop on Instagram

1st row: Grace of Beyond Measure's lovely Cabin and a few in-process shots of Cabin projects.

2nd row: A boat, a flight attendant, and a lady doing yoga?

I needed to come up with some unique hashtags and make it easier for y'all to share your projects.

So, behold, the new hashtags!

#BlueprintsCabin

#BlueprintsAframe

#BlueprintsSaltbox

Re-tagging Blueprints projects with these hashtags will make sharing and searching for Blueprints garments easy and streamlined. Eventually, I'll re-vamp the project gallery concept to be part of each pattern's description page.

So I'm asking you, amazing sewists, a huge favor. Would you consider going back to your instagram posts and popping the corresponding hashtag into the comments? You can tag all past, current, and future Blueprints projects with #BlueprintsCabin, #BlueprintsAframe, and #BlueprintsSaltbox.

I know it's a lot to ask, so to sweeten the deal and encourage y'all to tag your makes, I'm throwing a little incentive into the mix.

If you tag all of your past (or current) Blueprints projects during the month of September, you'll be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to one of my favorite fabric stores:

On October 5th, I'll draw a winner at random from all the folks who've tagged their Blueprints projects.

This giveaway contest is open to all past, current, and even future Blueprints projects, as long as they're tagged before the 5th. Just hashtag your projects with #BlueprintsCabin, #BlueprintsAframe, and #BlueprintsSaltbox and you'll be entered to win!

And don't forget...

There's only a few more days left of the 2nd Sewing Indie Month Bundle Sale!

Pick up all these fantastic patterns for a song and support Women For Women. The sale ends Thursday, Sept 10th!

It's Sewing Indie Month!

Today is September 1st, which marks the start of Sewing Indie Month, a month-long celebration of indie sewing patterns where designers collaborate to bring you fun blog posts and informative tutorials. It's accompanied by a sew-along contest with fantastic prizes.

All month, participating designers will be posting tutorials and interviews. I'm super proud to be kicking off the month today with a Ginger jean skirt tutorial over at Closet Case Files!

Sewing Indie Month HQ will be the Sew Independent site, where you can keep up to date with the latest SIM news.

But wait, there's more! We'll be doing another bundle sale including up to 10 patterns by amazing indie designers.

The sale will run from Tuesday September 1st through Thursday September 10th.

Just like the last bundle, you choose the price you want to pay. The more you pay, the more rewards you'll receive. 20% of bundle proceeds will be donated to Women for Women, which helps women dealing with violence, marginalization, and poverty due to war and conflict.

Click here to learn more, see samples of these patterns, and purchase the bundle on Sewindependent.com

This bundle features two brand new patterns: The Kinga Skirt by Kate & Rose and the April 1962 Coat by SomaPatterns. During the sale you can only buy them as part of the bundle. 

But that's not all...

We're also hosting a sew along contest for all of the patterns included in both bundles! There are fabulous prizes to be won in 3 categories

Want to learn more about SIM designers and the sewalong contests?

About the designers

Contest rules & Entry page

Contest prizes page

Blog Calendar Page

Indiesew Fall Collection

Lately I've been trying to create more outfit friendly garments. I've been having a bit of a waxing/waning wardrobe identity crisis lately (don't we all every few years?) which feels funny since 80% of my wardrobe is me made. Where did I go awry? I'm definitely guilty of making pretty things that I like in theory, but don't go with any of my other clothing. There are many reasons for this...style changes,  color palette realizations, and more. I've been working towards a more thoughtful sewing list (as I have seen many others do as of late!)

When I received the email that Cabin would be part of this year's Indiesew Fall Collection I was beyond psyched. The collection includes 2-4 other awesome patterns that pair perfectly with Cabin.

The mini collection features Cabin, the Laurelhurst Cardigan by Straight Stitch Designs, and the Sloan Leggings by Hey June.

The full collection includes those three patterns, plus the Beatrix Blouse by Made by Rae and the London Backpack by LBG Studio.

When I saw the collection I felt compelled to hop on the blog tour (bus? van? train?) and create an entire outfit from the mini collection! If I had time, I'd have gone for the other two patterns as well. In the future perhaps!

For my Cabin, I decided to use a Nani Iro print from last year that I'm pretty sure I bought with the intention of making a Cabin, but before I had my color palette realization. I don't think neon yellow and pink qualify as earth tones...though I suppose a pop of neon here and there is alright. But I'd bought the fabric and it had to be made. While it may not go into weekly rotation, I think it turned out quite well! And it goes nicely with earthier colors.

I had a heck of a time finding fabric to coordinate for the bias binding and pockets. I didn't want it to compete with the print and I couldn't find a solid that felt quite right. You know what I ended up using? Muslin! Scraps and cut up samples from my stash, no less! With some neon pink top stitching, it looks quite lovely. Here's to recycling!

   Who knew I had neon pink thread in my stash and that I'd ever use it!

 

Who knew I had neon pink thread in my stash and that I'd ever use it!

I also decided to use one of my little cabins (free embroidery pattern here) to embellish the back.

The Laurelhurst cardigan is a breeze to make! I think I cut and sewed the whole thing in an hour or so. I made it in a fairly stable knit - limited stretch -  so I added a 1/4" width to the sleeves to make sure they weren't too snug. Otherwise, I sewed up the pattern as is all on my serger.  This cardigan is super earthy and it makes a great counterpoint for the neon Cabin shift. At first I wasn't sure about all the front drape volume but once it was sewn up, I loved it. I can see this getting a lot of use in the fall! 

The fabric came from one of those discount fabric online retailers (specifically Fashionfabricsclub.com). I almost never order fabric online unless I know very specifically what it is, especially from these kind of sites. I bought this jersey on a whim because the color looked quite nice and seemed to have a texture. I have to say, I was really pleasantly suprised! I had bought it originally for the Sloan leggings, but it didn't have enough stretch. Luckily, it turned out to be the perfect fabric for the Laurelhurst. I think the fabric is still available here! The color could best be described as Texas Dirt, rusty colored with flecks of black and orange. The interior of the fabric feels slightly brushed...like a very light sweatshirt fabric. 

The Sloan leggings almost didn't happen, but I really wanted to make them! I've needed a good leggings pattern for running and wearing under shifts and this fit the bill. I made the capri version, the perfect length for having a little something under a short skirt on a hot day. And no, they're not hemmed yet. I couldn't make up my mind about adding a cuff this morning so I folded the excess under and they stayed. So it works for now.

 I really wanted to find an unusual fabric for these that would look neat without competing with the nani iro print. I searched high and low for the just the right fabric but couldn't find exactly what I wanted. Anybody know a good source for an indigo hue medium weight organic cotton spandex jersey with a slight slub? Didn't think so. I think I definitely struggle with the never quenchable desire for "the perfect fabric". I think for my next pair, I'll pick up some undyed heavyweight jersey and try my hand at Indigo (Indiesew has a fun tutorial on indigo dying, btw.)

Since the rust colored fabric didn't work for the leggings, I used a lightweight 4 way stretch jersey in my stash, in a nice cool grey that complemented my statement print. I wanted to utilize the contrast design, but without the right fabric to pair I couldn't see it happening. Since I'd already printed out that version of the pattern, I decided to use the seams as a design detail, figuring they would really show on the light colored knit. I think it worked out.

A friend helped me take these 'gritty back alley' shots (the alley behind JP K&amp;S of course!)&nbsp;She always makes me laugh and catches it on camera!

A friend helped me take these 'gritty back alley' shots (the alley behind JP K&S of course!) She always makes me laugh and catches it on camera!

I'm looking forward to making this pattern again (with a few alterations, it will d be my go-to leggings pattern) in a tech fabric for running and - hopefully - in a midweight indigo dyed jersey...perhaps even thick enough to venture into leggings-as-pants territory! We'll see.

Allie, as usual, has put together such a great collection: all the patterns work beautifully together! I'm looking forward to making up Beatrix, perhaps in the long sleeve layered over a Cabin, and the London backpack as well.

Be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour!

Monday, August 24th: Lauren |  Right Sides Together

Tuesday, August 25th: Lori | Girls in the Garden

Wednesday, August 26th: Kimberly | Straight Stitch Designs

Thursday, August 27th: Trine | Groovy Baby and Mama

Friday, August 28th: Taylor | Blueprints for Sewing

Monday, August 31st: Erin | Sewbon

Tuesday, September 1st: Elena | Randomly Happy

Wednesday, September 2nd: Tara | Girl Like the Sea

Thursday, September 3rd: Lola | Love Lola

The little blouse that could.

One of the patterns available as part of the 1st Sewing Indie Month bundle is the Sutton Blouse by True Bias. I've seen this blouse around a lot on the 'gram as well as the web. At first I thought, "This is cute and my style! It's a bit like the Cabin top...I'll just make another Cabin."

But upon closer inspection it had some details that were quite different. These differences became even more pronounced as I began to sew. Perhaps Sutton is similar to Cabin in style, but the construction is very different and I like it. Opportunity for french seams? Awesome. Center front seam? Not usually my thing...but boy does it make for a lovely & easy neckline finish! I love a side vent and the extra deep hem helps the fluid fabric hang nicely.

This top almost didn't happen, as I'll explain below, but I'm so glad it did! I love both the muslin (wore it yesterday) and the altered version (wore it today). But getting to this point was quite the process!

Part I: Pattern printing problems

We've all done it. Without thinking, I printed the pattern 'sized to fit page' instead of at 100%. I had been printing non-pattern things earlier and had wanted something resized to fit the page. Then when I went to print the pattern, it was still on that setting. After printing, I noticed that the top seemed awfully big and I was right. When I went back to the computer to check, it appeared I had printed the pattern at 107%. This doesn't sound like much, but it made a big difference.

I managed to re-draw the pattern to scale by choosing a reference point and plotting new points after calculating where they would be at 100% scale. Sound confusing? It took me a while to figure it out, but I think I did it. I'm thinking about posting a tutorial for this in the future...though arguably it's easier to just re-print and assemble the pattern :)

Part II: Not enough fabric

I picked out a beautiful polka dot rayon crepe from my stash that I bought at Stounemountain & Daughter. But I ran into a problem: I only bought a yard of this fabric! And from a store in CA no less, so no opportunity to run over and pick up some extra. Why?

Now, I wouldn't call myself cheap per say, but when it comes to 'stashing' fabrics - aka fabrics that aren't purchased for a specific project - I tend to be pretty frugal. Super fancy fabrics I sometimes only buy 1/2 a yard! What could I make with that? Most fabrics I purchase a full yard, but still...there are seriously very few garments to be made with 1 yard of fabric. I may have to up my minimum to 1 1/2.

After wrestling with layout after layout, I decided it would help to squeeze a bit out of this top. From looking at the flat pattern, it appeared some length/width alterations might be necessary anyway. I really really really wanted to use this fabric. I had to make it work.

So I decided to make a wearable muslin. I used a mystery fabric from my stash that had languished unused and could either be awesome or hideous as a final garment. I had originally planned to give the fabric away, so I decided to give it a go. The fabric was very stiff...felt like it had starch in it. You'd think it would make for easy sewing but it was quite shifty! Think like a loosely woven cotton organza.

Here's me snuggling Pin outside in the grass in my muslin.

Here's me snuggling Pin outside in the grass in my muslin.

Anyway, the finished muslin turned out great, but it does give a bit of a 'wings' effect as the sleeves stick straight out rather than drape. Though with my body shape, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. (I've been working on a cool wardrobe planning project which I hope to share soon...very helpful for visualizing silhouettes on the body).

Ready for the serious version, I laid out the fabric in a single layer and wracked my brain for possibilities. I ended up just squeezing all the pieces in there by:

  • Cutting the yoke as two pieces (adding a center seam)
  • Cutting front & yoke on the lengthwise grain and the back on the cross grain
  • Shortening the final pattern by 1" and taking 1" from the center front of both front pieces (basically, a poor man's SBA), redrawing the neckline.
  • Shortening the yoke/sleeve by about 1/2"

And you know what? With all those changes, I think the fit is perfect! I'll be sure to carry those on to the next version. There will definitely be a next version!

This crepe is beautiful but shifty as all get out... did a lot of rotary cutting on this one! Sewing it was a lot of fun. I'm a big fan of french seams, both in how they're sewn and the way they look in a sheer fabric. I really took my time sewing due to the tricky fabric and am happy to report that I only made 1 really silly mistake: sewing the CF french seam backwards. Luckily this fabric was very easy to unpick. Shifty fabrics are usually also a pain to pick. Perhaps I picked just the right stitch length!

Fabric choice is key for this pattern. Though I like the way the stiff linen mystery floral version turned out, I definitely prefer the drape and flow of the rayon crepe for this pattern. I think it's just the right fabric for this pattern!

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The skirt, by the way, is A-Frame! It's made up in some Robert Kaufman Essex Linen. I made a size bigger than usual for a more relaxed fit...nice for summer. More of a straight skirt than a pencil fit. After looking at the pictures, I think I might forgo the high-low hem on the next one. But there will definitely be a next one!

The Sutton Blouse, as well as my new pattern Saltbox, are available as part of the Sewing Indie Month August Bundle.

Click here to check out this awesome bundle!

Have you ever pulled a serious craft 'MacGuyver' to save a project? How'd it turn out?

A-Frame Renovation: Flex-fit waistband for A-Frame

Want a comfier high waisted skirt? Add an elastic waist to your A-Frame!

A-Frame skirt Version 2 here in a fine pinstripe linen from my stash, nice and drapey.&nbsp;Shown with an  Aster blouse by Colette Patterns  in some Anna Maria Horner "Loominous"

A-Frame skirt Version 2 here in a fine pinstripe linen from my stash, nice and drapey. Shown with an Aster blouse by Colette Patterns in some Anna Maria Horner "Loominous"

I love a high-waisted skirt. There was a time in my life where the more fitted at the waist something was, the more I liked it. I liked being squeezed a bit around the natural waist. (This was, not coincidentally, the time in my life where I wore the most vintage clothing, which is notorious for waist-squeezing)

There came a point where this changed, perhaps when I re-discovered pants and wore them a lot for the first time since I was 13. Or maybe when I started to move away from vintage and towards more abstract and "body unconscious"* silhouettes. I think this time had reached its pinacle when I released Cabin, and A-Frame is definitely a swing in the opposite direction in terms of waistlines. And who doesn't like being comfortable?

*this term came from a great interview with Sonya Philip on the While She Naps Podcast, which I highly recommend

Something I often do with my high-waisted, waistband having skirts is to add a bit of elastic. Not enough to created a pronounced gather at the waistline, but just enough to give you that extra inch you might need while sitting for long periods of time or after an awesome meal.

The nice thing about this technique is it also adds some structure to the waistband without using interfacing.

Start with a slightly larger pattern size

If you're making A-Frame V1 (the pencil skirt), you'll want to follow the instructions for blending between two sizes and go one size up at the waistline only. If you like a more relaxed, less wiggly pencil skirt, you could go one straight size up. If your measurements are different than the pattern (aka, your waist is smaller than the pattern for the size that fits your hips) then lucky you, you don't have to do a thing. In fact, this alteration came about as a way for me to work with patterns & even RTW skirts where I had this same problem.

If you're making A-Frame V2 (the a-line), simply go a size up. Already cut out your size and don't fancy tracing/printing/cutting again? Just add 1/4" to the waistband and skirt side seams as you cut your fabric. Definitely works in a pinch.

Gather Supplies

The waistband itself is 1 1/8" tall. For this tutorial, you'll want to use 3/4" non-roll waistband elastic. This gives the elastic a bit of breathing room in your waistband. Some of the difference is eaten up by the thickness of the elastic as well. And it makes it easier to sew down your waistband without elastic  getting in the way (and for this tutorial, you don't want to sew down your elastic as you sew the waistband).

Skip the interfacing. Since there will be a nice piece of elastic in that waistband, it wont collapse. You may want to fuse a small square of interfacing under the spot where your buttonhole goes if your fabric is thin or loosely woven.

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Assemble your skirt

Sew your skirt following the pattern direction until you reach the waistband steps. Sew on the first part of your waistband and press, but leave the 2nd part unsewn.

1. Cut a piece of elastic equal to your waist measurement - 2". I like my waist elastic to be essentially unstretched until I need it to stretch, but if you like your waistband a bit more snug all the time, subtract 3".

2. Pin one end of the elastic into your waistband, lining up the top of the elastic right below the fold on the waistline piece and 1" away from your center back seam (where the circle mark on your waistband pattern piece is).

  

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3. Wrap the elastic around the waistband to the other side. It should be smaller than the waistband itself. Be sure not to twist the elastic! Pin the opposite side in place as you did for the first.

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4. About 1/4" in from the edge of the elastic, sew it to the waistband. I started at one end, sewed to the other end and reversed stitched back to my starting point. The elastic should be positioned close to the waistband fold, not where the waistband is sewn on.

Repeat this step for the other side of the elastic.

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5. Sew your waistband closed as shown in the instructions. Slide the elastic up against the waistband fold so that you don't sew through it.

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When you approach the end of your waistband seam, give the elastic a bit of a tug, scrunching up the fabric past the sewing machine foot, so that you can lay the waistband flat to sew.

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Once you'd sewn your waistband shut, you can redistribute those gathers around the waistline. Since you're only really reducing the waistline by 1-2", you might not even see an obvious scrunch. When the skirt is on, it is barely noticeable...very different looking than an actual elastic waist skirt (which is why you still need the zipper!

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Be careful when you sew your buttonhole. The extra raised elastic might throw off your groove. It certainly did for me. Check out the first time I did the buttonhole. Yikes! I'll give myself a little credit...I was definitely rushing. The 2nd time, the buttonhole was great (see the image on the right for evidence!)

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If you're somebody who likes being comfy, but it looking for a "gateway" high waisted skirt, this could be a very nice option.

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How do you all feel about elastic waists? Do they remind you of toddler clothes, 7th grade math teacher pants, or bad 80's dresses? Or do you relish in the opportunity for something cute that fits without cutting off your circulation?

Down with OPP

Yeah, you know me! (yes, this is a reference to the Naughty By Nature song. What can I say? I have a soft spot for 90's hip hop. If you do too, definitely go and re-watch that video. Queen Latifah makes an appearance.)

In this case OPP stands for Other People's Patterns.

As you know, along with designing patterns for you, I make a lot of patterns for myself. Lately I've been experimenting with using other people's patterns when I would normally make my own. As a pattern maker, it's a great way to do research and it is also a great way to distinguish 'work sewing' from 'pleasure sewing'. I tend to make up patterns rather than use pre-existing patterns for almost everything, including recipes (as discussed here!)  So using OPP gives me an opportunity to relax and not think too hard about what I'm making. Which is nice.

This is my 3rd Aster shirt by Colette Patterns. When I first saw this pattern it spoke to me immediately. I love Colette Patterns' designs, but usually they're not quite my style. This top, however, fits the bill for something I've been thinking about a lot lately: variations on button up blouses (especially without collars). This was definitely a quick and easy sew, though I'll admit, the button band threw me off a bit (I blame this on not using Colette's instructions. There are some differing seam allowances I didn't expect! Note: Always read the instructions, even if you think you know what you're doing ;)  )

 

My first Aster was a a 'wearable muslin' made from a stripey cotton gauze. Colette Patterns are drafted for a C cup, so I already knew I would need to do an SBA (Small Bust Adjustment). The results were good, thought the fit was not perfect. Having a very petite upper body (not so much on the bottom), I found the fit comfy but a little too low cut all over to feel comfortable. I figured this was due to the bodice/armhole length being a bit long.

For this version, I shortened the pattern by 1/2" evenly at each shoulder seam, bringing the armhole up to a more comfortable place. I also narrowed the sleeve by 1" to compensate. However, I still found the neckline to be a bit gape-y. I think I should have taken 1/2" from the shoulder only at the neckline, tapering to nothing at the sleeve, like a sort of 'square shoulder' adjustment. The is usually an adjustment for square shoulders. I have what's often called a 'forward shoulder'. I think in subsequent versions, I can take out yet another wedge shape from the shoulder seam to eat up the extra length at the neckline (as shown in the pic above).

Tiny fit issues aside, it's absolutely wearable as is and I love it! As you can probably tell, I changed the V-neck to a scoop neck. I also shortened the sleeves and omitted the bias cuff. I see many more Asters, or at the least, more button down variations in my future.

Can we talk about this fabric for a second? This was one of those 'love at first sight' fabrics. I picked it up at Britex when I was in San Fransisco. Their selection is truly overwhelming, but luckily I was able to browse enjoyably without having a panic attack. I decided to treat it more like a gallery visit than a shopping trip.

I picked up this amazing Japanese cotton print. I find it super unusual in the best way (though who knows, maybe it's super traditional in Japan. A friend pointed out that a lot of the motifs appear in Japanese scrolls). The fabric was only 35" inches wide, which seems scary but in reality worked out quite well and resulted in less waste fabric. The color palette is perfect and the fabric feels sort of old and worn in the best possible way.

I couldn't wait to cut into it! I defied the oft held fear of charging forward on a project with beloved fabric. And it worked out well!

Have you ever seen a fabric in a shop and just knew it would make the perfect so-and-so? Did it work out?

 

February and March

Today's blog post is a brief and scattered one, but hopefully fun. I've been hard at work on the new BFS pattern which has taken up quite a lot of my mental energy.

This month I decided to try something new that's been a long time coming. If you guys can believe it, I've basically never done any quilting! Last summer I made up a patchwork bag sample for JP Knit & Stitch with some of their newly arrived fabric and it undeniably piqued my interest.

My first quilting/piecing project. Not actually 'quilted', just patchwork made into a bag. Here's the process (can't find image of the finished piece) but the pattern is great and you can find it here:  http://blog.misusu.co/p/archive/diy-projects-quilted-diamond-tote-bag/

My first quilting/piecing project. Not actually 'quilted', just patchwork made into a bag. Here's the process (can't find image of the finished piece) but the pattern is great and you can find it here: http://blog.misusu.co/p/archive/diy-projects-quilted-diamond-tote-bag/

I've been very inspired lately by Carolyn Friedlander's house quilts, as well as her general philosophy about sewing (savor each stitch!) Plus the domestic architecture connection is undeniable.

I've always been into house portraits and so I thought I'd try out some quilting with that in mind. At first, I was set to plan out a very elaborate paper pieced project, but the precision of it had me a bit turned off (I love overly technical things, but I needed a respite from pattern making at the time). A friend suggested I go the 'improvisational piecing' route, using my pattern as a guide. Though it's not finished yet, I'm pretty pleased with the result and I LOVED the process! Not sure what the final product will be, but I'm enjoying every bit!

Here's my house about 50% complete (still have some yard, a 2nd chimney, driveway, and garden to complete). I used a combo of new FQ's and scraps, including some prints from Friedlander's Doe line and the Denise Schmidt 'goth feedsack' leftover from my refashion rescue! I love using up scraps! The plan was to also do a portrait of our former condo and make throw pillows, but the improv method resulted in a much bigger panel than what would work for a pillow, so I'll have to go back to the drawing board. Lap quilt? Wall hanging? Eurosham? Table runner?

I'm excited to continue on this path and show you all the result. Any maybe even do some actual quilting to go with my patchwork!

I've also been teaching like mad! This month had me teaching a workshop for sewing Cabin, a few 1 day learn-to-sew crash courses, 2 sections of a long form clothing construction open workshop, an intro to clothing design class, and a shorter intermediate sewing open workshop. Next month I'm excited to teach a Learn to Sew with Knits workshop, where students will be making a sweatshirt using the greatly admired Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studios.

Here's a sample I made up in some french terry, aka the comfiest vintage-feeling sweatshirt material ever. I like the grainline pattern, though in the next one I make for myself, I'm omitting the bottom band in favor of a twin-needle hem, shortening the sleeves, and using a wider neck band.

Here's a sample I made up in some french terry, aka the comfiest vintage-feeling sweatshirt material ever. I like the grainline pattern, though in the next one I make for myself, I'm omitting the bottom band in favor of a twin-needle hem, shortening the sleeves, and using a wider neck band.

I love teaching and every time I work with students I learn more about how sewing works for different people, how different clothes fit different bodies, and how to prioritize time and skill when working with a range of student skill levels. My students are definitely my most valuable resource in building my skills and developing my business and I appreciate them tremendously.

I'm not ready to reveal the new pattern quite yet, but I'll let you in on the nitty gritty details of putting it together. I'm also excited work with a broader cross-section of pattern testers this time around. (Want to test a future blueprints pattern? Sign up for our mailing list...it's where I put out the call for testers!)

Flat fellin' on a Cabin sample!

Flat fellin' on a Cabin sample!

Nitty is the fact that the pattern has a lot of pieces, since it features two variations on the same item but without sharing pieces (the original intention, but the technical end of that didn't work too well). Gritty is the work that goes into grading patterns without special software. In fact, after grading two patterns on the computer, I think I may hand grade the next pattern and have digitizing be nearly the last step. I'm by and far very computer literate, but keeping track of layers and versions and if I deleted something by accident is a drag. I think hand grading may make more sense in the long run...

I'm pretty pleased with how Cabin turned out, but as my first pattern, there was a big learning curve. There are definitely some things I wish I would have done differently and tiny errors I wish I could go back and tweak. I have to remind myself that there's always room for improvement. I had to build my whole process and make decisions about all aspects of the pattern.

Cabin is sort of like my very wearable muslin of how I want my patterns to be. It's not perfect - though I doubt any pattern can be perfect - but it works and has been fun for many people to sew. I've already decided on some small changes to layout and format for the next pattern, though it will still have the same feeling as the first.

Any suggestions or things you'd like to see in the next pattern?

Have you every done any improv piecing?

Refashion to the rescue!

I spend part of every fall and spring, culling my wardrobe as many of us do. Lots of folks lately are writing about this process. The Coletterie has touched upon this more recently as part of their Wardrobe Architect series.

At this point, I feel like my style is shifting again. Maybe it's getting older, moving to the country, feeling subtle shifts in how I want to be perceived. As a result, the need to re-evaluate my wardrobe as I have in the past is unavoidable, but familiar.

I know what I wear all the time. And I know what I'm not going to wear. Since I cull my wardrobe so frequently, I don't have too much to work with as things start to change. There are some serious gaps. And I'm also at the point where a majority of my garments are self made. I've astonishingly been able to part with a few ill fitting or ill conceived makes, but it's the pieces in between that confound me.

I'm still figuring out what to do with the maybes...

There's loads of criteria for whether or not to ditch something and many of these maybes only fulfill one: they don't get worn. For many, I like the fabric, the style, the color, and they go with things I own. But I don't wear them, and I think that's due all sorts of factors.

I find one of the hardest things to do when making clothing for oneself is to distinguish between what you like and what you like to wear.

I decided to take some unworn pieces from my wardrobe that I really, really like and figure out how to make them wearable:

Exhibit A

This is a Hazel Dress by Victory patterns, modified to be a shirt. I used some incredible cotton voile and lightweight sateen. I love the colors.

But I discovered that despite the fact that bow blouses were designed for small chested women, it doesn't feel right for me. It's too fussy and feminine, even though it's made up in the least feminine colors possible. Too much bow.

I think the best way to save this is to do away with the bow. There's quite a bit of fabric in there that could be used for other details, but I think it would be best to stay simple. Perhaps I'll keep the neckline as a sort of band collar and add a button placket. I'm a big fan of the Henley shirt and fantasize about making them all the time (though no pattern exists to my knowledge...I'll have to make one!). The silkiness of the fabric will be the star, offset by a more masculine palette and balancing out the feminine puffy cap sleeve.

Exhibit B:

This was a pattern I was developing for myself after seeing a little boys shirt with button closed neckline. I had, I believe, 1.5 yards of this awesome Nani Iro double gauze and decided to make it happen with this shirt. I think the fact that I was short on fabric, combined with the fact that my posture has changed a lot in the last year, resulted in a shirt that's just a bit too short. It's not a crop top, and it looks ok with high waisted skirts, but as a result of being a pants person lately, it's just not getting worn.

I'm thinking for this one, my best bet is to turn it into a dress, or at least a tunic. The drawing on the left: Find some more of this fabric and attach a skirt right below the purple stripe at the waist, then add elastic. On the right, cut shirt in half as pictured and throw in a contrasting double gauze to add length...most likely cropping right below the bust line.

We'll have to see if I can find a fabric that works...

Exhibit C:

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This is from the Japanese pattern book I Am Cute Dresses.  I made it originally as a sample for JP Knit & Stitch and took it home when the fabric (one of my favorite - and unlikely - Denise Schmidt prints) and the book were out of stock.

In theory, I love this dress. It's over sized and very Japanese, just right. Since I'm a similar build as the models, it looks quite nice on me too. But here's the problem: I don't want to look girlish and demure like the book models. Which I certainly do, despite using a fabric one could describe as feedsack-goth (can that be a thing?). I think this look is great for others, but for me is somewhat retroactive.

The plan here is to eliminate the 13 yr old dressed in mom's 90's sundress cut and make it into something more oversized-in-the-right-way Japanese artist in late 1960's New York.

I decided to crop the dress at thigh length (right now it hits at low calf) and use the remaining fabric to create raglan-ish dolman sleeves. This one inspired the most clear and manageable fix, so I decided to give it a shot. I wrote the majority of this post before attempting this fix, but decided to wait to post until I had a picture of the finished product.

That night, we had out annual JP Knit & Stitch holiday/winter dinner party and I decided to wear this to it.

Here's me an Genevieve at the party (she's wearing her Cabin top in Nani Iro sparkley double gauze.) I can definitely foresee this getting a lot of wear!

I've noticed a lot of other folks taking this approach to their handmade garments, too! Teresa of Dandelion Drift recently made a Cabin shift out of a lovely double gauze. When she decided she didn't like the length and wasn't much for tunic length tops, she decided to turn her potentially unworn Cabin shift into a shirt, and it turned out awesome!

Stay tuned for the other two rescued tops!

Have you performed any successful wardrobe saves? Was it a simple fix, or did it end up being more complicated than the original?

My Top 5 Sewing Tips

I'm very excited to say that I'm hard at work on the next Blueprints pattern, set for release in Spring 2015. I'm hoping it will be a great spring & summer wardrobe addition.
Keep an eye out for sneak peaks by signing up for our newsletter (on the right) or following us on Instagram.

In the mean time, as I get my studio into working order now that it's a habitable temperature, I'd love to share a small collection of sewing tips with you all. These are things many often overlook, but I find that they're key to happy, successful sewing.

1. Get a new seam ripper and learn how to use it.

Do you sharpen your kitchen knives? Do you replace the blade on your razor (semi) frequently? We know in other areas of life that implements for cutting work best when they're sharp. You know that seam ripper from your grandmother's sewing kit you've been using? It's likely as effective as using a dull knife from 1979.

Do yourself a favor and buy a handful of little seam rippers, or if you prefer the fancy kind, find one with replaceable blades. If you can figure out a way to sharpen them, more power to you! When you use a new seam ripper, you'll notice a difference instantly if you've otherwise been using one that may be older than you. Ripping seams will go more quickly and smoothly. Just be careful, cutting tight seams with tiny stitches can cut into your fabric if you're not careful!

Here's a tip for ripping seams quickly. Using the pointy end of your ripper, break a stitch every 1/2" or so along one side of the seam. Then, flip your fabric over and pull on the thread. The whole line of stitches should pop out quickly and easily. I learned this from a 1950's sewing text book.

2. Mark everything and embrace the notch

"Little triangle notches? Whatever! I'll just match up the sides of my pieces, " you say, defiantly. Now, I'm not one to observe convention or follow rules in many other areas of my life. But notches...they're important. So are the other markings you often find on patterns. Here's why:

Notches

Notches are clues the pattern maker has given you about how to put everything together. Ever noticed how an armhole & sleeve have a single notch on one side and a double on the other? This is to indicate the front and back of the armhole and help you get your sleeve into the right place. Sometimes there will be a notch at the top of the sleeve to help you match sleeve cap to shoulder seam. Sometimes a panelled garment will have single, double, or triple notches to aid in sewing the right pieces together.

Notches also help you correct your sewing or cutting errors. Ever sewn a seam together only to find one piece extended longer than the other? Trim it even it out, right? Well, perhaps the opposite end of the seam is where the error is. Now you've got problems at both ends! If you match your notches, you'll know where the discrepancy comes from and you can trim or re-sew accordingly. Perhaps one of the fabric pieces has stretched or bunched or your seam allowance was off

Center Front(CF) / Center Back (CB) lines

When making a garment with a closure like a jacket, shirt or wrap dress, the CF and CB lines help you overlap (and in the case of a shirt/jacket, add buttons and buttonholes) and see how the garment will fit once closed. Without those lines, our tendency is to close it so it fits, which is not always on this line. This can cause fit problems in other areas too. It also helps a lot in preventing wavy button plackets.

Other Markings

If you notice a variety of circle marking around the perimeter of your pattern, these might be points to indicate your seam allowance. Often found at corners, they'll tell you where to turn when you're stitching, as with a collar. This is especially helpful with unusual construction.

Sometimes these circles indicate pleat placement or the end of a zipper or where a pocket gets sewn on. Missing these points is a typical source of confusion for the new sewist. When in doubt, your pattern should give you the information you need to decipher these marks.

My suggestions? Mark everything you think you might need. More questions about marking? Check out my tutorial on Marking & Cutting

3. Develop a good work flow

Set up your sewing space so that you can keep it tidy, find all your tools, and practice good habits. On of my favorite things to keep my space tidy is to have little tin thread 'trashcans' around the workspace. This encourages me to trim my threads and put them somewhere. In the past, they've wound up stuck to my pants or in the cat's grip (thread can be dangerous to animals if they ingest it!)

I keep a small pair of scissors at the sewing machine, ironing board, and cutting table so I don't keep looking for the same pair of scissors that have migrated.

I sew all seams that don't have another seam intersect. Then I trim threads on all pieces and press them. Then repeat with each 'group' of seams.

I try to take stretch breaks (super important) and drink lots of water (something I always forget to do)

If you work in a shared space, try keeping all of your essentials in a tackle box, an old silverware tray or a cool caddy.

4. Use pins sparingly

I'm a minimal pinner. On any given straight seam, I don't even use pins. I think to be a confident sewist, you need to develop a real tactile relationship to the fabric and feel comfortable guiding it.

Additionally, so much time is spent pinning, only to take all those pins out as the seam is sewn (and often find that you've pinned unevenly and the seam doesn't line up!)

Not pinning at all may sound crazy to some, so I suggest following these guidlines:

  • On all seams, pin only at the beginning, end, and any notches.
  • Use less pins for stable fabrics, but feel free to use more pins to help keep slippery fabrics that are hard to align by hand at bay.
  • Pin at key points where you're matching an intersecting seam - like waistlines or panels.
  • At places where you require a lot of pins to keep difficult sewing steps aligned (waistbands, zippers, etc) try thread or glue basting instead, which will prove much more effective.

One thing to note is that if you don't use many pins (or any at all) you much take care to match your seam allowances carefully. Since you don't have pins in place, you are responsible for keeping your seam allowance in check! This is a totally worthwhile skill to hone.

One area where you might think pins are essential is the area where I find pins to be the most hindering...curves! Any time you sew a curved seam, pinning this seam will often feel awkward and yield less than ideal results. Try pining beginning, end, and any notches for the sake of alignment, then work slowly, matching the seam allowances a few inches at a time. I like to keep one curve flat (in its natural curved position) and align the other curved piece to it (as in the case of the bias binding, pictured above)

The main reason I champion less pinning is that it encourages the sewist to have a more hands on relationship with the fabric. The more you can feel the seams and know how to make your hands do what your brain wants, the more you'll be able to sew with ease and make your fabric behave.

5. Steer your fabric, don't drive it

I often tell students that the way you should hold your fabric when sewing is like the way you use a Ouiji board. Rest your hands on it and let the sewing machine do the work.

The Ouiji analogy falls a bit short because you do need to 'steer' your fabric, but the point is to do it with a gentle hand: don't push or pull (except in rare circumstances).

Sewing machines are designed to move the fabric for you and to guide it straight. Often, the trick to keeping an even seam allowance is taking an almost 'hands off' approach. Many folks grab the fabric in front and back of the machine, which probably does more to throw the fabric off than to guide it.

Try keeping your hands in front of the needle, holding the fabric lightly, and guiding it when necessary, such as around curves or to correct a narrowing seam allowance. Sometimes, when working on a large object, the weight of the fabric will throw off the alignment on the machine. This is a bit like driving a car who's tires are out of alignment. A slight pull in one direction or the other tends to do the trick.

Do you have any sewing tips that you think are key to easy, accurate, or fun sewing?

Cabin Renovation: The Coat Dress

Introducing: Blueprints Renovations!

If you take a look around your neighborhood, you'll see all sorts of interesting renovations: additions, improvements, facades, details, and more. Customizing our houses is one of the ways we present our identity, from the most conspicuous Tuscan styled McMansions, to ultra-efficient and adorably decked out tiny houses on trailers. As an inherently creative species with a predominantly non-nomadic culture, cultivating living spaces (like adorning our bodies) comes naturally.

It is in this spirit that I'd like to introduce you all to a new feature on the website I like to call Renovations. Renovations are pattern alteration tutorials, designed to stretch each Blueprints pattern and inspire your own DIY spirit! I've re-imagined and altered clothing as long as I've been sewing and BOY is it fun! I hope these renovations with inspire you and encourage you to create and share your own renovations as well! The DIY spirit is contagious!

Cabin Renovation #1: The Cabin Coat Dress

This 'renovation' is inspired by one of the owners of JP Knit & Stitch in Boston, the always stylish Genevieve Day. She came to an event one night in an adorable vintage coat dress: simple blue corduroy with big, round brass buttons.

I love pieces that walk the fine line between garment types and this way a prime example. Quirky and sweet...just fitted enough to be flattering but trapeze-y enough to be comfortable and effortless.

I especially love corduroy. Often banished to the realm of musty college professors, hacky-sacking stoners, and elastic waist toddler pants, corduroy is a fabric with great warmth and lots of character! I decided to create a Cabin coat dress based loosely on Genevieve's vintage find, using Robert Kaufman's awesome 14 Wale Corduroy. (A wale, by the way, is the unit of measurement for corduroy's stripes). I figured I'd stick with the vintage vibe and use a 60's looking cotton print for the pockets and binding

I took these photos as the sun was setting and upping the exposure made the photos looks grainy and more vintage. This is what we call a "Happy Accident" and they're my favorite kind.

In keeping with the original inspiration, I decided to use big vintage brass buttons. It has a decidedly 'pretty smock' look because of the body of the corduroy, and I like it.

To make your very own Cabin Coat Dress, follow these instructions:

Decide whether you would like to finish your Coat Dress with bias facing or bias binding. You'll want to align your top button with this in mind. I did mine with bias binding, and decided to use 1/2" double fold binding, instead of the 1/2" single fold that the pattern calls for.

1. Trace a copy of the cabin front bodice. Mark the fold line as the center front(CF).

Here I used alphanumeric pattern paper to trace my pattern. This paper is slightly transparent, a bit heavier than tracing paper, and has letters, numbers, and crosses at 1" intervals. Here I've lined my fold line (now CF) with these markings.

Here I used alphanumeric pattern paper to trace my pattern. This paper is slightly transparent, a bit heavier than tracing paper, and has letters, numbers, and crosses at 1" intervals. Here I've lined my fold line (now CF) with these markings.

2. Choose your buttons. Go with 5 - 7 large statement buttons for maximum impact. Those among you with masochistic tendencies may want to choose 30 tiny shell buttons ;)

3. Lay out your buttons along the center front line of your pattern, spacing them evenly. Usually, one goes slightly below the neckline, then they are placed an even distance apart, with the final button having one last equal 'space' after it.

I opted to go with the original inspiration and use vintage brass buttons!

I opted to go with the original inspiration and use vintage brass buttons!

A note on top button placement: If you plan on finishing your coat dress with bias binding, you'll want to place your button further from the neckline, to give some 'breathing room' between the top button and the binding.

4. Once you are satisfied, trace around your buttons on the pattern then remove the buttons. Now you are left with button markings.

If you're using shank buttons like these, flip them over so they are easier to trace. Trace your buttons in pencil first, then go over with pen so you don't get pen marks on your buttons.

If you're using shank buttons like these, flip them over so they are easier to trace. Trace your buttons in pencil first, then go over with pen so you don't get pen marks on your buttons.

5. Next, extend out from the CF to create the button placket. A good rule of thumb for larger buttons is to make the extension width equal to 1/2" the width of the button. First, square out this distance from the CF, then use a clear ruler to draw a new edge parallel to the CF.

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6. Add to this edge extension 1/4" seam allowance for bias facing or 1/4"-1/2" for bias binding. In this version, I'm using a wider 1/2" double fold bias binding (to make your own, press a 1" wide strip of bias, then fold in half) so I'm adding 1/2" seam allowance on the edge.

7. Mark your buttonholes.

If you want vertical buttonholes, use these marks as a guide, drawing a buttonhole along the CF that extends just beyond the button marking.

For horizontal buttonholes, make a point at the center of each button, then draw a horizontal line, perpendicular to the CF equal to the width of the button + the height of the button.

Sewing Steps

This new pattern piece will serve as both the right and left side of your dress front. On one piece, mark the buttons and on the other, mark buttonholes. Cut your pieces as instructed. You can still place the front near the fold, but cut all the way around it.

Sew as instructed until you reach the step when neckline binding is sewn on. Do not sew the neckline binding. Instead, proceed to the 2nd shoulder. Continue following the instructions until you reach the step where the hem bias tape is applied.

Shoulder seams and one side seam sewn and bias tape is attached to the sleeves.

Shoulder seams and one side seam sewn and bias tape is attached to the sleeves.

Staring from one side seam, apply bias tape as instructed around the hem, up the coat front, around the neckline, down the opposite side, then back around to the side seam opening.

When you approach the corner, stop with the needle in the fabric a seam allowance's distance from the fabric's edge.

With the needle still sunk in the fabric, pivot around the corner. Fold the bias tape at a 90 degree angle as pictured.

Continue sewing along the edge. Repeat this process for the other 3 corners.

After attaching binding around the neckline, fronts, and hem, sew up your second side seam as instructed and finish the seam allowance.

Finally, finish your bias facing or binding as instructed. At the corners, fold in the bias as pictured to curve it around the corner. I wanted a rounder looking corner, but you can also create a very crisp mitered corner (perhaps a tutorial for another time!).

If you have a great idea for a Cabin renovation, please share it! Tag us on instagram or email links to your personal blog!