midnight blue ponte dress a.k.a my new uniform


Alrighty, I’m back – more pictures from the same photoshoot as the Belcarra blouse and my watercolor Hemlock tee! I was productive that day. Anyways – Happy New Year and all that! My school semester has started again, so I’m back to full-time-student living. I recently made two knit dresses from the same pattern, and I’ve used them tons already – I’m seriously (in a capsule-wardrobe kind of way) thinking of making them my uniform and make a couple more in different colors with a few different detailings, and just wear that all semester. How easy would that be!

Fabric: Navy blue viscose+poly ponte/courtelle jersey from Stoff&Stil.
Pattern: Dress #23099 from Stoff&Stil, bought in size 36 but probably closer to size 34 now after all the alterations.
Techniques: Sewing with knits, overlocking, twin needle stitching, neckline binding.


I actually came across this pattern while helping my students in the sewing class pick out their own patterns – to make it easy on everyone (slash me) all the fabric and patterns came from this one fabric store chain, so the girls could fairly easily pick out fabrics and patterns from one place through the catalogue or website (which has been down a lot lately – sorry if the links don’t work!). I thought the dress looked cute, and like it would be easy to wear – how can you not love being fully dressed with just one garment, which is comfortable as well? I also liked the exposed zippered pockets – dresses with pockets, yey! I already had a length of what Stoff&Stil calls courtelle jersey, which I assume and suspect is pretty much the same as ponte or double knit fabric. It’s a stable, moderately stretchy knit, it’s kind of heavy, and it drapes well.


 To make the zipper opening one piece of the pocket bag is sewn on with a rectangle, which is slashed and turned inside out with the zipper edgestitched on. Being the wise-ass I am, I thought the opening would be too small for the zipper, even though I bought the recommended zipper length. I made the opening longer only to find it stretched out during sewing and was too long! So – either interface to make it more stable, or trust the pattern and it will all work out. I also ended up basting in the zipper before edgestitching to make it easier on myself (not without attempting to sew it on with just using pins first! Whoa, no good.) The pocket is constructed by sewing the second pocket bag piece to the first – quite easy if we disregard my zipper blunder.


This was the first time in many many years I’ve used a pattern from Stoff&Stil. They are sort of retro in their usage actually! There is only one size per envelope, and they are precut with seam allowance included in a non-fusible interfacing type material. There are no printed markings, so notches are cut into the seam allowance, and drillholes indicate grainline and other markings. It’s a bit of a puzzle, but a cutting diagram and numbered list of pattern pieces show you what you’re dealing with. I would find it extremely frustrating as a beginner to attempt this though! Being able to identify different pattern pieces (say, a skirt from a sleeve) is an advantage in working with these patterns.

According to their size chart (I started with the EU36 size) I needed to add a few centimetres to the bust and the waist. I dutifully added them and then cut and constructed the dress. I barely even tried the dress on during construction since I had checked my measurements and eyeballed the non-interfacing patternpieces against my body, which looked fine. When the dress was done, it fit mostly ok, and I was really thrilled I was able to just quickly construct and have a wearable dress. Dressmaking made easy! The waist was a bit roomier than I prefer, so I ended up basically shaving off all the width I had added in during the measuring stage. Then I went to a friends surprise party, and revelled in all the lovely attention I got for wearing a handmade dress that looked like something storebought (yes, I totally eat those compliments up!). But it irritated me that the waist was still too wide and also too low. I finally unpicked the overlocked seams and took off a good 1″ from the front length, and 1,5″ from the back, and took in the sides by maybe 4″ total.


After that I was much happier with the fit – the dress now sits at my natural waist, it is fitted but not tight, so it’s perfectly comfortable. Oh, and there is supposed to be a zipper down the front, but I didn’t feel like having it there, so I didn’t bother. While I took quite a bit of length off the back bodice, it still looks like it is maybe too long. Look at all these wrinkles!


It definitely doesn’t feel like my backside is all wrinkly while I wear the dress (hah….), but I suspect that the wrinkles on the skirt is due to some static cling that could be solved with a slip, and that the wrinkles in the bodice is from some excess length, and maybe width? There is a swayback situation going on, but like I mentioned in making the muslin for my plaid shirtdress (which is just missing the buttons and the buttonholes, but I’ve totally stalled since I don’t think I will really wear the finished dress!) my back is quite narrow at the waist, and I think adjusting the pattern accordingly would be good. How informative taking back view pictures is!

I actually have another dress from this pattern, so I’ll be posting about that one soon. In the meanwhile, I leave you with this lovely outtake of what most of my pictures looked like, trying to get the wireless remote to work properly:


twisted jersey skirt

twisted jersey skirt

John’s camera did some really wacky blurring on this photo, but I thought it was still cool! This weekend Bergen has been host to 70 sailing ships in this years Tall Ship races, the couple thousand crew members of the ships, and about half a million in visitors. It’s been a lively weekend, to say the least! There has been concerts, beer gardens, activities and open ships to visit. We took a stroll on Saturday and enjoyed the sunshine and the crowds, and I made a skirt for the occasion. This was seriously a 30 minute project from start to finish! It might look like a dress in the picture above, which is of course because I’m wearing my nearly perfect tshirt in the same fabric. A belt in a contrasting fabric helps the illusion that the two pieces are actually a dress – double duty garments are the best!

Fabric: A rayon jersey from Stoff og Stil, in a heathered blue.
Pattern: Totally and experimentally made up.
Techniques: None. Well, if you count overlocking and twisting fabric, then sure, those.

twisted jersey skirt

That is the Russian vessel Kruzenshtern in the background, the largest participating ship. It’s crazy big! And that is me cooling my feet on a recordbreaking warm day for Bergen. It felt so nice.  So, the skirt! I’ve been wanting to make a jersey miniskirt to fill a gap in my wardrobe – I’ve realized I reach for my striped miniskirt a whole lot, and it’s the only miniskirt I have! I’ve seen these twisting jersey skirts several places, and think it’s a great way to make a jersey skirt more interesting. The tutorials I found on the webs were really confusing to me, so I sort of went with what I thought would work.

This is pretty much just a tube that has been twisted before being joined together along the short end. Let me explain: I cut a square about 1 yard x 1 yard (that is 2x the length of a well-fitting miniskirt x a little less than the hip circumference of a well-fitting miniskirt), folded in half with right sides facing in, and sewed the long edge shut. Then I turned the tube right side out, and before lining up the two short ends to overlock across the four layers, I twisted one side so the first seam intersection was nudged about 1/3 of the way down from the top. This means that the long, first seam runs from the top edge on one side of the center back seam, around the body but spiralling very gently downwards, and ending at the center back seam further down than the starting point. Yeah, so not the easiest thing to explain, but I can expand if anyone is interested! I did have to shape the back seam a bit, to hug the waist but not be super-tight across the hips.

twisted jersey skirt

Later in the evening we went back downtown to sit outside and have a beer after it had cooled down a bit. We took these pictures right about midnight actually, so that tells you 1. how warm it still was, and 2. how much light we’re still getting here at night! Love that. I did an outfit change too, so you can really see that it’s actually a skirt, haha! I call this a success, and looking forward to wearing this well into fall with tights and boots. But for now, I’ll be baring legs for as long as I can. Happy summer!

outfit: easter sunshine


Happy Easter! We had such lovely sunshine yesterday, so we took a walk around town and took some pictures. I wore what I’ve been calling my “dotty cowl dress”, which is the wearable muslin for my Ireland dress that I finally went back and properly finished.

Fabric: Polyester crepe (?) from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL. I found this poly in the discount section, but it’s been nice to work with. And the color and print is so fun!
Pattern: Self-drafted, finally wearable muslin for the Ireland dress. See the not-so-wearable in-progress muslin here.
Techniques: Self-lined bodice, fabric cut on bias, invisible zipper, bound armhole seams, understitching, bra strap carriers.


I think my favorite part of this dress is the irregular dotted fabric in a purple-putty/bright peach color combination. It made me laugh out loud at the fabric store, and since I have an ongoing goal of wearing more patterned fabrics, I snatched it up. You might have seen this dress before, as part of the process of making a floor length gown to wear to a wedding in Ireland. The finished dress turned out beautifully, which was of course thanks to making several muslins to tweak the fit!


One of the things the muslin helped me see was some excess fabric diagonally on the back bodice. I fixed the pattern for the final dress obviously, but since I just wanted to make this muslin wearable I wasn’t going to recut anything. Below is a picture I took while doing the fitting adjustments, and then the finished wearable muslin. I’ve taken the excess out of the side seams only, but it did help! The armholes are a little oddly shaped now (a little high and tight, and abruptly shaped from the armhole going up), but this is a totally wearable muslin. In fact, I’ve worn it several times since finishing it – while giving a gallery tour, at a nicer dinner, and at an evening work event. Success!



In sewing for myself I don’t make muslins often, mostly just when I make very fitted garments like strapless bodices or blazer-style jackets. I think this is actually the first time I’ve even made a test garment out of “real” fabric instead of the standard unbleached cotton muslin! I hate letting things go to waste, so I’m glad this dress was salvagable.

DSC_5583DSC_5558I wish a Happy Easter to all – for me that includes a lot of oranges and tea and chocolates, knitting, reading, and sitting against a sunny wooden cabin wall wearing sunglasses. Aaaah!

portrait blouse in bird print

portrait_blouse3Fabric: Same bird-print, polyester crepe georgette I used for my latest tiny pocket tank, underlined with a remnant of fallow colored plain weave cotton/poly mystery blend.
Pattern: Portrait Blouse from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing.
Techniques: Invisible zipper, facing, catchstitching, understitching, FBA.

My first project from Gertie’s sewing book! I have several more I’d like to make, like the wiggle-dress (ooooo!), pencil skirts (can you have too many?), and the coat dress (that looks pretty awesome). The Bombshell dress isn’t in this book, but it’s another Gertie-involved project that I’m looking forward to taking a stab at. Also – this is the first batch of pictures I’ve taken with my new fancy camera remote control thingy! It’s great – it focuses before taking the picture, so I don’t have to run back and forth between each timer-set picture only to see I wasn’t in focus. Dare I say it was even… fun?

portrait_blouse_untucked I *loved* the two Portrait blouses that Gertie made back in the day, as part of her VoNBBS challenge (I hope she continues and finishes all the projects some day!), so it seemed a natural starting point for trying the patterns in this book. I noticed that her Portrait blouse looked a little different – I’m seeing a higher neckline, a slightly less fitted silhouette, and somewhat shorter sleeves. I prefer the fit and proportions of the original vintage pattern, so I made some changes to the pattern. I lowered and widened the neckline, lengthened the body a couple of inches, did a 1″ FBA (full bust adjustment), and cut the smaller of the two sizes I landed between, based on measurements.

Perhaps you recognize the fabric? I’ve made a Grainline tiny tank with this fabric, but just with a single layer of fabric. I thought this blouse would benefit from a bit more structure, so I underlined it with some leftover cotton/polyester lightweight fabric. This also helped the slight sheerness the other blouse has, making it a little more office appropriate! I did the facing for the neckline and catch-stitched it to the underlining instead of just tacking at the shoulders, and I did a bias tape finish at the armholes instead of the stitch and turn method outlined in the book. I actually can’t quite figure out how that method work would work out, since the curve at the underarm is so sharp a double turn would seriously pull the fabric.

portrait_blouse_facingThis blouse is a definite stash-buster – Gertie quoted needing a yard of fabric, and that seems about right. I think it has a flattering neckline, which, after all, is the entire point of the blouse! I think the proportions work very nicely when tucked in – a little less so when not tucked in. For next time (since I will absolutely forget the details before attempting to sew this again!) I would bring the neckline back in a little, maybe 1″ in and 1/2″ up? That way I’d be a little more confident the blouse would cover my bra straps, but sill have the more open neckline I prefer.

I’d need to lower the armhole too, since they are super tight right now! It was pretty snug in the waist as well, so I ended up letting out the non-zippered seam – I’m thinking the size I chose was a little too snug. The dart also needs to be lowered and extended, between 1/2″ to 1″ I think. I can tell the blouse is designed to be tucked in, with inverted pleats ending and opening up right at the high waistline for a controlled blousy effect. If I wanted to make a next version to wear untucked I think I might let the tucks end closer to the bust to control the shape a little more. I should also use a longer zipper since I like a snugger fit, in fact I might actually try the zipper in the “usual” position at the underarm instead.

portrait_blouse2portrait_blouse_backIt looks good though! Paired with one of my first blogged garments (wow how long this simple linen pencilskirt has lasted!) it makes for a nice outfit with a little vintage touch.

outfit: travel wardrobe

imageIt’s funny to notice what I choose to pack for different kinds of trips. For our recent summer vacation on the eastcoast of the US, I knew our casual activities would be sitting in the yard, family time, and trips to the beach. So I packed breezy skirts, easy dresses and simple tops.

This trip to Ireland is much more city-dominated, the weather is cooler, and attending a wedding a lot less casual. Even though these trips were just a couple of weeks apart, I ended up packing totally different for this Ireland-trip, being drawn to muted colors and pencil skirts, pumps and tops and dresses with interesting detail. And a fancy evening gown of course, but we’ll get to that!

beignet corduroy skirt


Sorry for the kind of blurry photo – the rest of them are better! We were in a slight hurry to get to a birthday party, and since this picture best shows the shape of the Beignet skirt I’m running with it rather than retake the photos. The birthday party was lovely, and I got to wear my very recently finished Beignet (so recent I, ahem, didn’t finish the self-tie or the beltloops. They’re coming soon).

Fabric: Pinwale cotton corduroy from Fishman’s Fabrics in Chicago. Beautiful quality fabric, like everything from that store (though often on the expensive side by US standards). I cut the pieces out so long ago, I don’t know how much I’ve used, but I think at least 3/4 yards of a full 58″ width, possibly a little more for the odd facing piece. I still have fabric left over, though no plans for it yet! For lining I used remnants of kimono silk left over from a theater production. Beautiful stuff!
Pattern: Colette Patterns Beignet. I’ve had this pattern for a long time, so it actually has the watercolor illustrations of the first round, which I sort of prefer anyways. First, but not last time making this, for sure.
Techniques: In-seam pockets, fully lined, bound buttonholes, twill tape for stabilizing waistline.


I started this skirt over a year ago, and meant to finish it for a Sew Weekly challenge on buttons. For someone who enjoys the process of sewing very much, and in her perfectionist tendencies decided that all twelve buttonholes must be *bound*, it was a bit of a foolish endeavor to undertake in a week. So – the night before the challenge deadline I conceded I would not in fact have time to attach lining to shell, hem it all, and construct the 9 remaining buttonholes. And so it was put away.beignet_buttons_inside beignet_buttons_closeup

Clearly I finished them eventually, but my goodness, there is a lot of fiddly steps to the bound buttonholes! After you’ve actually measured out and attached all the little pieces (which I decided would have the wales running in a horizontal direction and therefore needed much precision in applying) and then sliced and turned and steamed and stitched down flaps…. Then you have to make all the corresponding windows for the backsides! They did turn out lovely though, and in many ways I enjoy doing these fiddly bits – making corners for myself, as Kristen called it – but definitely best done not under time constraints.

beignet_front2 beignet_inside_seamallowance The fit of this skirt is lovely. It curves beautifully over the lower back, and I think it’s a flattering shape. I will definitely make more of this – I’m thinking a sturdier cotton drill, unlined, with fun bias binding on all the seams for the next one. At the same time, I will probably also make some pattern changes, and also deviate from the instructions in the same way I did this time. For example, the width of the skirt front facing is absolutely killing me. I realized it when constructing the inside windows for the bound buttonholes, and then remembered that I’d seen this problem with other people’s skirts: the facing is too narrow. If you notice in the second buttonhole picture up there, the buttonholes should not be that close to the seamline attaching the lining. Not only did it make it very difficult to properly construct those little windows, but it’s not structurally very good.

I also made steps to reduce bulk over how the pattern is written. For example, all my seams are pressed open instead of to one side, including by the pocket where I just snipped in to the seamline above and under where the pocket is attached. Since the corduroy doesn’t fray super crazy, I also turned up just once for the hem. It won’t really show since the lining hem covers it. Finally, though the pattern doesn’t specify how to attach the twill tape, I chose to butt it up against the waist seamline, but only be caught in the understitching, as I thought it would get too bulky to have it sewn into the actual waist seam and folded back on itself. Oh! I changed my mind – here’s the new “finally”: Finally, I anchored the pocket seam allowance to a skirt panel seam allowance, since the pockets kept flipping back in the wrong direction while I was trying this on. I just laid the skirt flat, and pinned where the pocket could be attached to a vertical seam allowance – if that makes sense?



As mentioned, I used remnants of kimono silk from a theater production to line this skirt. I had to piece several of the panels in order to have enough fabric, but look how lovely it is! I think it was a good choice for the soft corduroy since it provides some body (the silk being a little on the sturdier side). Unfortunately it also makes the skirt just a little lumpy in a way, since the corduroy is so very soft. That’s why for the next Beignet I want to try a sturdier fabric and not line it.

Criticisms aside, I really do like the shape of this skirt, and look forward to making it again. Not to mention how happy I am to have both this fabric out of my stash, and finally – this skirt out of the UFO-pile!


Pinwale Corduroy

outfit: pile on the neutrals

IMG_2690-2One of my favorite ways to build an outfit, is to pile on as many shades neutrals as possible at the same time, and lately I’ve been favoring a brown-toned, greeney grey sort of neutral. I don’t think I noticed I have so much in this hue until putting together this outfit! On a sunny winter’s day I felt like brightening things up with this fuchsia shirt-dress for a day of running errands, and taking my new-to-me bag out for a spin.

A new bag may not seem like a big deal, but I’m not very in to bags, which means I don’t have many. I usually just have one in constant rotation until it more or less fall apart, and for the past few months I’ve been lugging around a faded cotton tote bag that was getting more and more pitiful by the day. So it’s such a relief to have a bag that makes me feel put together instead of embarrassed!