Shapes and Shades March Update

February flew by. So did March (which, I know is not over yet, but I can't believe it's half over).

I hate to say it, but when things are really cooking in the real world, this blog goes dormant. Such is the balance of work and social media, I guess. Even my instagram feed, with which I try to be a diligent post-a-day woman, has grown suspiciously sporadic*. But this is all for a good reason, my friends. A new pattern is coming.

I'll keep my details brief, since I like surprises, but this one is fun. I can't wait to share it with you in April.

Earlier in February I posted about my plans for re-evaluating and honing my wardrobe. Today I'm going to report on my progress with this!

*I can't help but associate this word with the movie Clueless.

Shapes & Shades March Update: Color Balance

For the last few weeks, I've made a concerted effort to think very intentionally about my outfits. I'd say this intention came to full fruition about 50% of the time. Since I work from home a lot, and the weather is still cold, there were plenty of days where a sweatshirt and a pair of flannel lined pants sufficed, though I didn't feel particularly stylish at the grocery store. I focused my energy on days where I taught, or had meetings, or went out. Here are some moments:

  • Vintage Bobble Sweater
  • One of Jordan's old EMS T-shirts, re-cut and refashioned.
  • Green french terry pencil skirt
  • Ceramic bead necklace (from a lady at the farmer's market)

A friend/former student gifted me this incredible vintage sweater. It's fussy in all the right ways. I was almost skeptical of its wearability but somehow it works. I think it's best when paired with simple solids. I decided I love cream as a color. And I also love bobbles. Another thing I realized is that texture is like a better version of print for me. More subtle and versatile.

I also discovered that sometimes I like plain tshirts. And I like that stiff, cottony jersey men's shirts are made of (this is a shirt J was giving to goodwill when I rescued it from the bag, intrigued by its color.) And I also really, really like grey. Need more grey.

What works: The color combination. The balance of colors. Texture as print.

What's next: Work more with texture. More grey pieces and perhaps work with some 100% cotton jersey like the Alabama Chanin variety.

  • LL Bean Button Down Shirt (2nd hand)
  • Uniqlo wool sweater (shruken, hand me down)
  • Levis Jeans
  • El Naturalista Boots

Sometimes it's just one of those days that you reach for the RTW. I didn't wear jeans for about 10 years until I discovered that Levi's makes a 'Bold Curve' stretch jean. No more waist gaping. Mid rise. The quality of the denim is pretty poor, and the polyester content forces me to launder them more than I'd like to, but they work. They are very wearable. I admit that I have become one of those people who defaults to jeans. It's weird.

But since I love to sew, I fantasize about replacing all of these pieces with handmade versions. The blue sweater is on its last legs...very mothy and pilly and stretched out. Again, not the best materials, but the color & cut are spot on. The shirt is a boys button down from LL bean circa 1992. I bought it used and it shows its age. I made a rub off pattern from it, but it needs some tweaking. I go back and forth on button down shirts. I think I'm for them.

What works: Boyish (but not too much so), rustic, comfortable, functional.

What's next: Ginger jeans to replace the so-so Levis. Knit a blue sweater to replace this one. Sew some button ups.

  • Cashmere/Silk grey v-neck pullover
  • Slouchy cotton slub tee from
  • Handknit Shawl (FunFunFun by Andrea Mowry)
  • Green French Terry pencil skirt
  • Black wool tights
  • El Naturalista Boots

This one's about the colors again. And the fact that really, really comfortable clothing makes me feel good. There's no reason to wear things that are stiff or uncomfortable. Though I don't necessarily want to make everything from knits (far from it) I want to prioritize making things that feel good physically, as well look good. And more grey.

I also love this shawl. I was on the fence basically the whole time I was knitting it. But once finished, I was in love. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I want to make another one. Perhaps in yellow?

This pencil skirt gets so much wear! I've started to seek out other fabrics in this color, because I LOVE it. And to think, this piece was an afterthought when I had fabric left over from making a shirt...

What works: Colors. Comfy Stuff.

What's next: Grey is a theme. Perhaps weeding my stash of fussy or uncomfortable fabrics. Knit another shawl.

  • Handknit Sweater (thrifted)
  • Tweedy Knit Skirt (hand me down)
  • Black Tights
  • El Naturalista Boots

I bought this sweater in the summer of 2010 at a goodwill outlet in Austin, TX while my band was at SXSW. I bought it for my partner, but it didn't suit him. I ended up throwing it on at a party on a chilly night and decided it worked as an oversized pullover. It's incredibly comfy and the best colors. I love how it's graphic but still simple. And I love brown. This sweater is a love letter to the color brown (and to wool).

I often wear it with a tweedy knit skirt that my Aunt gave me. Why haven't I ever knit a skirt? Knit skirts are brilliant and probably easy. Plus, remember how to talked about texture?

What works: Brown! Handknits!

What's Next: Knit a skirt. More brown.

  • Handknit Vintage Swacket (sweater-jacket)
  • Green french terry shirt (yes, same fabric as the skirt!)
  • Handmade Necklace (by me)
  • Grey knit skirt (thrifted)
  • Red tights (gifted)

I'm on the fence about this one. I like all the colors. I like all the pieces. Maybe it's something about the red legs that feels unbalanced? If the skirt were red and the tights were grey? The robin's egg blue is not usually a color I wear, but the sweater is too cool. So perhaps I need to work through some outfits that highlight and complement it better.

What works: The individual pieces

What's Next: Play around with other pieces to see what works best with pieces I like but aren't in my usual palette.

The Plan

So far, I have determined that I have a few holes in my wardrobe that would help expand my outfit possibilities if filled. My goal is to have many of my pieces go with the others. I have my color palette worked out pretty well, but I think really honing in on the combination of colors will be key. So far, my most successful outfits pair a neutral, earthtone, and pop color. In theory, if I have a few items of each color in the top, bottom, and outerwear category, my combos will be endless!

With spring in mind, I don't want to focus too much on coordinating with wintery outfits, but I think a lot of the concepts from these outfits will translate to spring/summer sewing. Of course, now that it's warmed up a bit, I'll be looking for similar combinations in current wardrobe and plan sewing projects for what's missing using my color palette. I hope to report back soon with some projects! I already have a few in mind, including some Closet Case Files Ginger jeans, a few button up shirts using my own pattern, a Merchant & Mills Factory Dress, and an A-Frame skirt in grey.

Have you be updating your wardrobe this year? Have you been able to nail down any key ideas that stem from successful outfits?


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.


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!