Month: May 2019

Made by a Fabricista: The Leather Bonnie Handbag

Hey all!

Sometimes the pattern inspires and the fabric follows, and sometimes it’s the fabric that creates the drive to create.  The latter is definitely true with this make:  my first shot at sewing a leather handbag!

I’ve eyed the leather hides that show up at Fabric Mart here and there in the past, but never bit because I couldn’t decide what I would make with them.  When the Michael Stars goatskin hides showed up in full force I decided it was time to figure it out.  Sorry to say they’re sold out now.

This goatskin is so thin and supple and beautiful; it definitely seems thin enough to use with a home sewing machine, but my sewing it was not without issues (more to come on that).  The goatskin came folded up in large ziplock bags; when I’ve seen leathers in the past, they’ve been either hanging or on rolls, and the folding did create some creases that I was unable to get rid of and unavoidable in cutting, but really aren’t so bad.  There were also a few very severe creases along the edges that I had to avoid completely.

This is not my first rodeo at bag making (see here and here) but I by no means consider myself experienced in the art, and I’ve always used faux leather or fabric.  I decided to let this beautiful leather really shine by going simple with the Swoon Bonnie Bucket Bag.  So simple that I even decided not to include the external welt on the bag; I was nervous for the possibility of messing it all up.

To make up for the lack of that external pocket, I sewed one into the lining of the bag.  I’m a little surprised that there isn’t a pocket designed into the interior already, but it’s an easy thing to add.  The lining of this is a lovely double faced very sturdy satin.  It’s sold out now, but this would make a very nice substitution.

This pattern is definitely a great introductory way to start making bags: it has very minimal notions needs (two O or D rings, 1-2 zippers, and firm sew-in interfacing) and creates a very nice handbag with clean lines in a very usable size.

I had two of the 8-10 square foot skins, and ended up using about 1 1/4 of them to make this bag fully in leather.  This pattern also has an option to use a coordinating fabric for one half of the body.

Leather is certainly a snarky mistress; I had smooth sailing in some areas, and in others had some terrible looking stitching on the bobbin side of the stitches.  Unfortunately, some of this is visible from the top edge of the bag.  Since stitching leather creates perforations that cannot and do not “heal,” like fabric can, so I’ve left it for now for fear of weakening it by ripping and restitching.

I have a Pfaff Performance 5.0, which does have a walking foot, but according to a Pfaff Facebook group I’m in, I would’ve benefited from a Teflon foot, going super snail slow in my stitching (instead of just fairly slow), and even greater tension than I used (I was at a 7; the default on my machine is 4.6).  I used Coats & Clark “Heavy” thread and used a bit of a longer stitch (3.5) and a size 18 leather needle, which cuts/pierces the hide more than a sharp would.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot but there is still so much for me to know about working with leather.  My machine definitely seems to struggle with it, so I may not revisit it in the short term, but despite my struggles, I’m really quite happy with this bag!

Until next time, friends!

Stash Busting: Cuff Me!

A while back, I mentioned on the blog that a scrap of fabric has to be at least as big as a piece of paper for me to keep it in my stash. I’m pretty good about holding to that rule, but I have a much harder time with deciding how big a scrap of elastic or ribbon or other trim has to be to make the cut. The drawer of my sewing table is riddled with little bits of debris that I should have thrown away long ago, but I’ve always known in my heart that there must be some use for them. I think I’ve finally found it: easy little wrist cuffs!

For each cuff, I started with a 1-inch wide scrap of elastic, just 2.5 inches long. I’m using regular waistband elastic for these, but you could use a colored elastic or a fold over elastic, too. Really, the key is working through those scraps!

For the rest of the cuff, I used either a piece of ribbon 5.5 inches long, or a scrap of fabric 5.5 by 2.5 inches. My wrist is 7 inches around, so adjust as needed for your wrist size and desired tightness. 

For a fabric cuff, I sewed my 5.5 by 2.5 inch piece into a tube along the long edge of the fabric, and then turned it right side out and pressed it lightly.
If you’re using quilting prints or other lightweight fabrics, I suggest running a piece of grosgrain ribbon through the body of your tube to give it a little extra stability.

3-easy-cuff.jpgThen, it’s just a matter of stitching the ends of the elastic scrap to the ends of your tube, wrong sides together. Flip it right side out and ta-daaaa! Instant cuff!

4-easy-cuff.jpgBut wait! There’s more! These little cuffs are so quick and simple that I’ve come to think of them as tiny canvases for creativity. (If I don’t like how one turns out, no big deal — it’s just scraps!)

I made a ruffled cuff by simply pleating some leftover ribbon to a grosgrain base, and then stitching some elastic lace trim on top of that.


These also can be used as an alternative to old-school I.D. bracelets. I used my the basic letter stitches on my sewing machine to make this simple corduroy cuff. If your machine has decorative stitches that you never use, this would be a great project to put them to work.
7-easy-cuff.jpgReally, the sky’s the limit here. You can just use fabric if you have a print or design that you really love. (What a wonderful way to keep your fabric favorites with you all day long!) You can add beads, buttons or fabric flowers. You can just use a small cut of beautiful ribbon. This is the time to make use of all those teensy pieces you’ve never been able to toss!

Here are a handful of cuffs that I made this morning: 

8-easy-cuff.jpgThe ruffled cuff mentioned above, a Star Wars cuff made from a scrap of quilting fabric, and a cuff made from velvet ribbon layered over corduroy and accented with hot fix rhinestones.

9-easy-cuff.jpgMy I.D. cuff and a pretty damask print.

10-easy-cuff.jpgThis project can also be useful! A 1-inch wide cuff makes a perfect spot to clip a small MP3 player like an iPod shuffle. And all of the ones I made here are machine washable, so I can take this on a run and then just throw the sweaty cuff in the wash with the rest of my running gear.


These can also be made as gifts or party favors. Theme them to a holiday party or event as a special memento. Depending on the fabrics you use, you can also use these as scent cuffs by putting a few drops of your favorite perfume oil on them (be sure to test for discoloration first).

My scrap stash has never been so inspiring! I’m super excited to keep going with these!

Chalk Cloth Santa Cookie Mat

Santa Cookie Mat.jpg
As the big night approaches don’t forget Santa in your holiday decorating. Just as in the top restaurants presentation is everything; insure you and yours will earn everything on your list by making a Chalk Cloth Santa Cookie Mat. The cookie mat will enhance any Santa snack by bringing Christmas cheer to every corner of your home. This decorative mat is a placemat made from chalk cloth with cotton flange and ornamental trim around the beverage and plate settings. Your kids can inform Santa which cookies he is sure to enjoy and point out his favorite beverage, be it milk, hot chocolate or a hot toddy. Your kids can even add a final plea for presents.
santa mat.jpg
To make your own Chalk Cloth Santa Cookie Mat you will need:
¼ yard of chalk cloth
¼ yard of quilting cotton
1 yard each various trims and ribbons
Cut a rectangle 17″ by 15″ from the chalk cloth. Trace your cookie plate and glass using chalk onto your mat and select your trim. Carefully pin and top-stitch your trim in place over your chalk marks. You can pin since you will be sewing right over any pin holes. Embellish your trim with rick rack flowers by simply rolling your rick rack into a roll until your flower is large enough and secure with some hand tacking stitches. Finally add your cotton flange using Sew4Home’s Flange Pillow instructions. It is so easy and adds just the right touch to finish off your cookie mat. This Pattern
santa Mat3
This Pattern can be easily modified for a birthday mat, Mother’s Day breakfast mat or just a kid’s place mat by changing the fabric flange. 
santa Mat4

Free and fabulous – the Lago tank and Spring shorts

Next up in my resort collection (can I also call it a spring/summer maternity capsule wardrobe? I reckon it qualifies!) are two patterns that are not designed for maternity, but with some little tweaks I have made them work for me. I’m well aware that my current sewing habits are going to be of little interest to the majority of seamstresses, however these two patterns are not only non-maternity, but are terrifically drafted AND free. So stay with me even if you’re booooored of maternity sewing – you just might discover a winner!

One of my favourite styles of tank for exercise and warm weather is the fitted scoop tank. I’ve been wearing some Witchery RTW cotton-lycra versions for years, to the point where the cotton threads are literally wearing out leaving nothing but the lycra behind. I did rub one off several years ago but never really managed to finish the armscye and neckline as well as I would like. So when Itch to Stitch released the free Lago tank earlier in the year I was super keen to give it a try. This is the first Itch to Stitch pattern I have tried. I know they are very well regarded in the sewing world, and I do have the Bonn Shirt/Shirtdress also in my pattern collection, but for the most part the other styles haven’t really floated my boat.

The tank is described as having a relaxed fit, finished with arm and neck bands, and hip length. The size range is pretty terrific, ranging from 00 to size 20 (12 sizes!). Due to the fit being ‘relaxed’ and my preferred fit being snug I decided to cut my pre-pregnancy sizing and see where that took me – a size 4 in the shoulders/armscye, a 6 in the bust and grading up to the 8 in the waist. I cut the longest length just for a bit of insurance, and added a few extra inches of length to the front piece using this wonderful tutorial from So Zo for a bit of belly ruching action. Following Zoe’s advice I also drafted a hem band for my first version, which I have not photographed but is a fairly drapey viscose/lycra knit. I think from memory I ended up cutting some length off that one as it was too long and earlier in my pregnancy looked a little bit like a grey jellyfish with all the extra fabric (it’s filled out nicely now though!). For this striped version, in a cheap cotton lycra (with printed stripes – pffft!) I didn’t bother with the hem band and just relied on the extra length. Fit wise I’m very pleased – you can see that my bra straps are visible but I do suspect this is because I am now having to wear maternity/nursing bras which have much wider straps that seem to sit further out than my regular bras. I’ve not seen anyone else’s straps peeking out so that’s my theory anyway. A racer back bra would solve any visible strap problems pretty quickly.

I think it’s beautifully drafted – the bands for finishing the armscye/neckline are the perfect length and it all came together very satisfactorily. The seam allowances are 1cm or 3/8 of an inch – a nice compromise for seamstress that want to sew on either a standard machine or overlocker. The pattern has the option to turn off other sizes when printing and the instructions are top notch. I’m super impressed and I’ll definitely be making more of these in the future.

My shorts are made using the Spring Shorts pattern, a collaboration between Peppermint Magazine and Pattern Runway. As drafted these are a high waisted drawstring short, with a paperbag waist and a very cute faced hemline. Clearly not a look that was going to suit my current shape, but seen to very stylish effect here and here in all their high waisted glory. I think these shorts look best made in a drapey or very soft fabric – the only suitable fabric I had in my stash was some beautiful linen-rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics that I really wished I had bought more of. It’s a great fibre combination.

I decided to take a punt on adapting this pattern after purchasing a pair of RTW maternity shorts made from tencel online. The fit of these RTW shorts is decidedly average around my (even fuller) thighs and rumpage (no surprises there) however I was intrigued by how they were drafted in a woven fabric and for a growing belly. Essentially the centre front was a couple of inches lower than the back, curving up at the side seams to meet the back pieces. The elasticated waistband is quite wide, ensuring it does’t cut into the belly, but instead sits below one’s bump at a nice flat angle. The elastic is also adjustable, using a genius method where part of one of the waistband facing seams is left open at one side seam, and a loop of excess elastic is left hanging out but stitched to itself. As your belly grows you unpick the stitching and suddenly there’s more room – so clever!

So slightly disappointed by the fit of my RTW version I was determined the day before we left that I was going to have a crack at a pair of my own. I figured the Spring Shorts were the perfect starting point – all I needed to do was measure the front and back crotch depths of my RTW version to lower the waistline to where it needed to be, and work out the waistband/elastic method (which to be honest I already had done with a pair of Hudsons a couple of weeks prior). I cut the largest size (16) and added an extra inch to the length. I was concerned I might need to play with the pockets, as I was removing a good couple of inches of height from the pocket openings, hence reducing their size, but that wasn’t necessary. From memory I lowered the centre front by about 5 inches (!) and the back front side seams by a couple, curving up the CF in a nice line.  If you wanted to make these for a non-pregnant bod but without the super high rise waistline it would be so simple to just take a couple of inches evenly off the front and back.

The waistband width I narrowed by about 1cm, which eliminated the paper bag look and made it a fairly snug fit for my elastic. I did have a brainfart at this point and neglected to actually MEASURE the circumference of the waistline and had to patch in some extra fabric at the back to make ends meet. As such the side seams of the waistband don’t quite match up with the side seams of the shorts.

To construct the adjustable waistband elastic I left part of the seam open, top stitched the edges before attaching to the waist to prevent fraying and then added some elastic with an extra 3-4 inches of length, pulling it tight until comfortable then stitching the elastic to itself. If I need some extra room I can just unpick that stitching and restitch a little further out. So simple!

The drafting of this pattern is also spot-on. I ended up removing that extra inch of length – they really looked super frumpy – like a sack dress the volume of the gathered waistline needs to be balanced by a sassy short length. The hem facings fit perfectly and I just love that slight raise at the sides.

In terms of comfort they’re great. I could probably have gotten away with the size 14, rather than the 16 but when a girl has no idea just how big her bottom is going to become that little bit of wiggle room is a nice piece of insurance. My sexy stability belt fits underneath comfortably, and with a nice snug long top like my Lago Tanks I don’t feel like I’m going to lose my pants. I have worn these with a Hemlock tee, but needed to wear a belly band to ensure my ab didn’t flash the world. But in the interest of fit and furthering sewing knowledge I will give you a just a little glimpse of how and where they sit on my tummy…..

Have I convinced you on the fabulousness of both of these patterns?


More time has passed that I had anticipated…but the memories of the Paris
trip are still warming my heart!

photo by Shams

 This was at the large flea market at Clignancourt, which Shams and I visited to test our Metro skills before the Tilton Tour began. A lotta red!

One of the thrills for me was the evening boat trip on the Seine, in the rain. In all my trips to Paris, I had never done this, and it was magical!

We had a few days of rain on the trip, but not pouring, and for this California
girl, the rain was welcome! Here are the beautiful clouds after a storm.

 The cool weather made dishes like this bouillabaisse all the more welcome…

 Here I am at Cafe Strada for a quick lunch with Shams…

 photo by Shams

I amused myself by taking a “Shamsian” shadow portrait…

and this is a photo of me at the Musée Galliera…

There’s that sillhouette again!


I was pretty happy with my choices for the travel wardrobe; I took more clothes than usual, mainly because we were staying in the same room in the same hotel for a little over two weeks. Not having to continually re-pack and schlep a suitcase from place to place was a 
true luxury.

I wore everything I took except for the last-minute red pants. I preferred wearing jeans and I had red jeans in the suitcase, added after this storyboard was made, which were better suited for the weather. 

I also wore the Minoru Coat, the inspiration for the wardrobe, only once. Again, the other jackets and raincoat were better suited to the weather.

I LOVED my raincoat and wore it often.

I wore all the tops a lot; the silver shirt jacket not so much. Again, turtlenecks plus vest plus jacket or coat was more suited to the weather.

I wore all the vests (except for the “Keith Haring” one, which I pulled out at the last moment), and didn’t wear the poncho. I find ponchos a little fussy at the best of times, and it just didn’t suit the occasion and the weather.

I wore all my boots/shoes (bought 4 more in Paris, of course!), both hats (bought some hats,

too!)and both bags. I carried the Professional Tote as my plane carry-on, coming and returning, and used it several times in Paris. I need to add a strap to it so that I can wear it

So, I’m pleased with the wardrobe; again, I wouldn’t take quite as much if I was traveling from place-to-place.I took just the right amount of jewelry and scarves, and the only reason I had
to buy a new suitcase was because of the shopping I did!

I cannot emphasize strongly enough the joy that I experienced on this trip…Marcy and Katherine are the perfect leaders, sensitive to the needs and desires of the group, extremely knowledgeable about where to go in Paris, and a heck of a lot of fun to be with! DO IT!

I made a very good potato recipe last night...Crispy Parmesan Potato Stacks… I halved the

recipe and we’re having the other half tonight! Highly recommended!

Books? I just finished reading My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I haven’t been spending much time in the studio, so the Audible book I’m listening to, Moonglow, by Michael Chabon, is still being listened to. It’s good, so far!

Teddy is growing and thriving…he turns 7 months on the 20th. Here he is in my office…

and this is our usual view of him in the kitchen while we are cooking dinner…

I probably won’t post again till after the holidays…we are having a quiet Christmas, and leave for Iowa on the 29th to attend our oldest grandson’s wedding on New Year’s Eve. I am watching the weather reports to make sure I take enough warm clothing.

A very happy holiday to those of you who celebrate, and to those who don’t…

from Margy, Dave, Teddy and Micmac

I will be hanging out over at Patti’s Visible Mondays; come on over and say hi!


A frock for the resort collection – Vintage Simplicity 9489

So I’m pretty sick of sewing with knits. Or maybe I’m a bit sick of wearing mostly knits. Maybe I’m sick of wearing the same 8 garments.  Maybe it’s a bit of column A, B and C! For my last piece of the Resort Collection I decided I really wanted to try to make a frock that could be worn post partum, and was made from a woven fabric. When I saw this beautiful navy and white bird print rayon at The Cloth Shop a couple of months ago I hesitated and hesitated, until it was nearly all gone and fomo kicked in. I’d been planning to make my dress from another less loved rayon in my stash, but then decided if I was going to go to all that effort I really should make it from some thing I loved and would enjoy wearing. I’m glad I went with it – it’s superb quality (no surprise there – Kim’s got a great eye for fabric) and was delightful to sew up. 

I’ve got a few vintage dress patterns in my stash from the late 70’s and early 80’s of a similar style – mid length, maybe some gathering detail on the shoulders, either a cross over or button front, gathered waist or belted. Simplicity 9489 looked ideal for what I was after – shoulder gathers to accomodate an unpredictable bust size,  a button front placket for bebe feeding access, no waist seam so suitable to cinch above a growing belly and not need adjusting post bebe, and nice and cool for summer. 

It’s a size above my pre-pregnancy bust  measurement, but doesn’t quite match my current measurements of course! It does however have so much ease that I knew after measuring the pattern pieces it would be fine for late pregnancy and accomodate my pelvis belt. It’s basically a mumu that is shaped by topstitching the belt to the dress after gathering the back and sides at the waist. I’ve left the gathering off and belt unattached until I can retrieve the exact location of my waistline in due course!

It’s got a few interesting construction techniques. I always learn something new making a vintage pattern, even from the 80’s. The back neckline is finished with a facing that also finishes the yoke – nice and clean and simple. The front placket wasn’t terrible to make, but the instructions did have some errors so if this was one’s first placket there might be a little angst and head scratching. If I was to make this again I’d actually reverse the recommended order – the instructions recommend the application of the inside placket facing first then the outside placket gets applied and topstitched. A neater finish would be achieved if the outside placket was attached first, then the facing, then topstitched from the outside. 

I was feeling lazy and after an Instagram poll decided to cut the pockets as one with the main dress pieces. I would imagine pockets that were undergoing a lot of stress would be better separately seamed but I don’t imagine I’ll be working these ones too hard. I didn’t allow extra length at the front for the belly so it does have a bit of a high-low effect but it doesn’t bother me that much. If one wanted to prevent this in a non-waisted dress I presume you just hem the centre front a little longer, curving up to nothing at the side seams. 

I like the belt – it’s made with a wider section that is topstiched to the waistline, then narrower pieces that get tied – a nice variation. Of course it I topstitch in the future I won’t be able to wear a different belt with it. Always the styling quandry is the attached/integrated belt option…

The verdict on my frock? I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s cute, comfy and breezy on a hot day. It’s definitely too big in the shoulders and bust, even with my bust measurement increasing a rather shocking 5 inches(!). From these pics it looks like it falls back a bit on my shoulders – I forgot to do a forward shoulder adjustment, but I must investigate how one does a FSA when there is a yoke that extends forward of the shoulder line…..I could probably take an inch of ease out each side. I’m tempted to take the side seams in now but will wait until after the baby arrives. Would I make this again? I’m not rushing to but that might change once I improve the fit down the track. I’m hoping this gets me through to the end of my pregnancy as my fancy outfit choice. I was about 29 weeks in these pics (I’m now 33) but haven’t had much chance to wear it since our holiday as we’ve had a pretty cool spring. If I can be bothered I’ll do a late preggo round up of how my me-made maternity wardrobe has held up…… 

Finished – Tokyo in linen

Before my holidays in September I’d popped into The Cloth Shop (which happens alarmingly regularly) and spotted a beautiful Lithuanian linen double gauze sitting there, doing what linen does best – looking rumpled and uber-stylish. One side was black, the other beige, with little stitches joining the two layers creating subtle spotty stripes. I stroked it and coveted it, but didn’t know what I’d do with it. Once on holidays I began obsessively binge planning my spring/summer wardrobe, and realised I had a definite gap for a neutral but stylish lightweight layer. The linen would be the perfect partner for a little kimono-style jacket. Overcome with FOMO I messaged Kim at TCS on Instagram and she put aside the last couple of metres for me. Seriously people – the benefits of shopping from,  supporting and getting to know your local retailers cannot be underestimated. #shoplocal whenever possible!

Once I had my fabric safely reserved it then came down to pattern selection. This kimono, made on a whim a few years ago from a vintage dressing gown pattern, is still very much in regular rotation and has been worn a heap but I wanted to try something different, with narrower sleeves. I’d never been really tempted by the Tessuti Tokyo Jacket, but saw a cropped and pocketless version on Instagram and realised I really liked the proportions with those alterations. This jacket from Anthropologie had caught my eye on Pinterest, and just like that the deal was done.

After reading every review on the interwebs I decided to make a size S as the general consensus was the sizing runs large. I figured with a relaxed fit sticking with my prepreggo sizing would work fine and I was right. I agonised over pocket options. I didn’t really care for the pockets as drafted, and considered patch pockets, in seam pockets, and even an internal pocket, but decided in the end to stick with my inspiration version and keep things simple. The idea of matching those little dots on my delicious but rather wiggly linen filled me with horror.

Based on the length of my aforementioned kimono I knew I wanted a finished length of about 23 inches – hip length. The Tokyo hem is finished rather curiously – due to the pocket construction the front and back are finished separately, before the side seams are closed, and there are different seam allowances for the front and back hems. So before cutting a single thread I had to redraft the hem on my pattern, allowing for a nice generous hem all the way round. Apart from adding a hanging loop to the neckline this was the only pattern change I made. I kept the sleeve length and cuffs as drafted, and chose to handstitch the inside facing in place (my ditch stitching never pleases me).

I’m quite pleased with the fit but I find that it does fall back off my shoulders a little. I made no forward shoulder adjustment, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to do it in a magyar sleeve (thoughts on this most welcome!). So that may be part of the issue, or perhaps the giant belly displacing it may have something to do with it. It may just be that sleeve design though. If I was to make it again I’d add a dropped shoulder seam to be able to add a forward shoulder adjustment, then attach the sleeves separately.  A similar sleeve can be found on the Oversized Kimono Jacket, featured in the latest edition of Making, and available for download here.

I’ve worn this an absolute heap in the last month or so – it’s great over tanks and the dropped armscye means that there’s very minimal armpittage contact so frequent washing is not required. I adore the fabric, and feel it’s rumpling is fabulously insouciant. And it’s hard to feel insouciant when you’re 36 weeks pregnant, I assure you.

Sweeten your Sunday with a Sale!

Sunday Sale Alert!

To sweeten your Sunday, here are some beautiful collections at a great new price!

On Sale for $7.50/yd!

Anna Maria Horner English Summer Fabric at Hawthorne Supply Co
Vestige Fabric Boohou at Hawthorne Supply Co
Wild Bouquet Fabric Poster
Dirty Laundry Fabric Windham at Hawthorne Supply Co
Into the Wild Fabric Poster
Gingko Fabric Poster Dear Stella at Hawthorne
Pawsome Fabric Poster
Rhythm Fabric Poster Shell Rummel at Hawthorne copy
Forest Gifts Fabric Poster
Fruitful Pleasures Fabric Poster Lila Tueller at Hawthorne Supply Co
Camp Wander Fabric Poster
Underwood Stories Esther Nariyoshi Cloud 9 For Hawthorne Supply Co

Organic – On Sale for $9.95/yd


Last Chance Quilt Kits On Sale!


Sadly Tula Pink’s stunning Spirit Animal collection is out of print and we are clean out – EXCEPT for a few more of these stunning Wayfinder Quilt Kits!


Only 1 Left!


Only 1 Left!


Only 3 Left!


Only 3 Left!


Thank you so much for reading along with us, and for your continued support of our little shop!

Kindest regards and happy making!

Lindsay and Charlie

Finished – A Frocktails maxi! Again!

So it seems that I have a penchant for making maxi dresses for Frocktails! Nearly 2 weeks ago now Melbourne Frocktails was hosted by the lovely Kat, Libby and Renay, and as always they produced a fabulous event. I was determined to go – only premature labour was going to hold me back! I’d had my dress planned for ages…. It was a fabulous fun night, and Anna was kind enough to snap some pics for me before our grand entrance….

This late in my pregnancy I wasn’t about to go making something that I couldn’t wear again, and the Named Kielo Wrap dress seemed like a winner.  It really is a dress that needs minimal introduction – simple but stylish, a unique sugar glider shape with wings that can be wrapped to the front or the back, 2 lengths and the option for adding on a sleeve if you choose.

Like so many of the Named patterns it is chic, modern and unique – and hugely popular for good reason. It seems to be flattering to many body shapes, heights and ages, easy to wear and simple to make. I’d seen a couple of maternity versions floating around, and gambled that with minimal adjustment I’d have a fab dress to wear to Frocktails and post-natally. The fabric recommendations are a little… unclear…. not specifically for knits, but a fabric with stretch is the recommended fabric choice. I know many have made it in a non stretch woven, and if this was your plan I would highly recommend some flat pattern measurements to ensure a good fit across the bust.

In my stash was a couple of metres of a beautiful viscose crepe/lycra knit purchased earlier in the year from Tessuti. I’ve never seen a crepe knit before, so 2 metres went into the stash and was just about enough. I sized up from my pre-pregnancy measurements at the bust line and below, but kept my pre-pregnancy size at the neckline. The copy of my pattern was one of the older paper patterns, which of course required some tracing and addition of seam allowances. I know this irks a lot of non-European seamstresses, but with Named I don’t mind, because over the years I’ve found that their standard recommended 1cm seam allowances can be a bit stingy, especially when it comes to vents.

I’d noticed that many found finishing the neckline and armscye challenging with the recommendation to simply turn and topstitch the seam allowance. I elected to not add any seam allowance to these areas and instead finished with narrow self fabric bands, similar to finishing a t-shirt.  I know some may consider this not the most stylish finish but I was very pleased with the outcome. I applied them flat, as I was planning to have a key-hole opening at the centre back neck just to make it a little dressier, but in the end with the 4-way stretch and weight of the fabric it drooped disappointingly and I had to close that seam up. If I’d known this was the outcome I would have applied the band in the round instead. C’est la vie!

Again like many ladies I found the recommended armscye closure far too low and closed the side seams a good inch or so higher – even still my bra was just visible, so it’s definitely something to be aware of. I added some extra seam allowance to the slit/vent to be 3/4 inch rather than 3/8, just so it was a bit more substantial when top stitched (see above thoughts on stingy seam allowances! I had a similar opinion to the side splits on the Inari dress too). The only maternity-related alteration I made was to raise the “wings” about an inch higher to ensure I could wrap them over my bump (as of course my waist is non existent at the moment).

Length wise I ended up not hemming it for the event – I was very pleased with the unhemmed length (I’m 178cm for reference) and the fabric doesn’t fray. Once the bump is gone I’ll reassess where it all sits and decide what to do from there. The darts in the back add some nice shaping, especially for a fairly pronounced sway back!

I didn’t quite have enough fabric to make the ties without piecing them, but had been considering how to make it a little more snazzy for Frocktails. I can’t for the life of me remember who, but somewhere in the quagmire of my memory I had a scant memory of someone making a Kielo with contrast ties. I considered grosgrain or velvet ribbon, something with sequins or faux leather and took myself off to Jimmy Buttons, Melbourne’s foul-mouthed pureyor of all things trim and came home with some black and silver twill tape and some beautiful black and white grosgrain ribbon. Just to make life a little more complicated I also decided that I wanted to make the ties interchangeable – silver for night and the black and white for more casual day wear. I made thread belt loops and used some hand sewn snaps to be able to the remove them. I’m not certain that there’s great longevity with this plan – the weight of the fabric does put a lot of strain on the loops so I may need to make a permanent choice and incorporate them into the side seams…. Time will tell….

Conclusions – I love it. It was comfortable and I felt so stylish. The knit meant it draped beautifully over my bump, and was super easy to wear. It’s a terrific pattern for a maternity dress that can work post partum too – I’m nearly 37 weeks pregnant in these pics. Couldn’t be happier.  I’ve got no urge to make it in the shorter length – I think the proportions are much better as a maxi. 

What would you do with the ties? Sew in the razzle dazzle permanently? Tone it down with the black and white? Or get some black grosgrain ribbon? Thoughts and opinions very welcome!


Angel-Wing Chambray-and-Lace Top & GIVEAWAY!!!


Angel-Wing Chambray-and-Lace Top

A few months ago Mood Fabrics seduced me in that way they do. I had purchased some denim and they sent me one of those “you may also like…” emails. It featured this Denim and Ivory Novelty Cotton Lace, and I was smitten. This fabric is a bit misnamed: it is not denim. It is a cotton chambray, but it is denim colored. 🙂

I purchased 2 yards. I rarely buy or wear lace, but I have been focusing on hot-weather clothing (for Florence and NYC this summer) and this was!

I played with the fabric and quickly decided that I wanted to use the lace vertically, rather than horizontally. (I posted these pics to Instagram and Facebook and most people thought I should use the fabric horizontally, but I didn’t like it as well when held up to my body.)

I quickly decided I wanted a simple angel-wing-style top. I didn’t bother with a pattern, so I started with a tape measure. The fabric is 60″ from selvedge to selvedge, or 58″ if you ignore the lace peaks. I measured from wrist to wrist and my wingspan is 52″.

What… you don’t tape your tape measure to your body?

That means I needed to remove at least 6″ from the width. I didn’t want to cut the lace, or mess with the lace at all, so I had to remove the extra fabric from the section between the lace. That section is 16″ wide. To complicate matters, I didn’t want to remove width in the area where I would have a neck opening, and I needed about 10″ for the neck hole, so I had to remove 3″ on each side of the neck opening (or 6″ total). I sewed the tucks so that they would end above the bust—they release above the bust, providing my full bust adjustment (FBA).

Sheesh, I didn’t have a lot of room because, as it was, I had only 3″ on each side of the neck opening. So I decided to take 1/2″ tucks, directly on top of each other, at each side of the neck opening. This required careful marking, sewing, pressing, and topstitching.

Next, I drew a standard round neckline opening, but it was too small for my head. I added a slit. It now went over my head, but I didn’t want a slit, so I turned the slit into a v-neck. (A boat neck would have been easier, but I avoid boat necks – I don’t like them on my frame and, anyway, I didn’t have enough width for a boat neck once the tucks were sewn in.)

I used a scrap of fabric to make a neckline facing.

I wanted to place the hem on a lace “valley”. The valleys occur every 4-1/4″, so I experimented pinning the hem at different lengths, but always landing on one of the valleys. I even tried a hi-low hem, but I ended up choosing a longer hem that was the same front and back. I thread basted the hem.

Thread basting
I hemmed the chambray portions by machine and the lace portions by hand

I finished the top by strategically tacking the front to the back at the side bust and side waist. I also tacked a pleat into the front, below the bust, to control the volume a bit.

This top was made from a rectangle and has no shoulder or side seams. I used a 60″ by 69″ rectangle, plus some tucks and tacks for shaping and taming the fullness.

Do I like this top? I think so. I made it specifically for hot weather and wore it over a cream tank top for these pics at 7am this morning. I was freezing, so I take that as a good sign, as far as hot weather goes. I wore it over a sweater for a local arts festival today and it is fun to wear with those lacy wings. I can’t wear a sweater or jacket over it, and I put my cross-body purse under it, which maybe wasn’t the best look, but I didn’t want to carry a satchel. I doubt I’ll take it to Florence, because the cotton has a tendency to wrinkle, but I think it will be a cool and fun wear on a hot day!

Style ’17 & Giveaway

Last year I blogged about Style ’16. The Style show provides a great opportunity to buy gorgeous wearable art and jewelry directly from the artists. I love events like this! I made sure to get Style ’17 on my calendar many months ago—April 29th and 30th. This year the event will be held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View—walking distance from where I work one or two days each week.

Then, last week, one of the co-producers of Style ’17 kindly reached out and offered me two free tickets. I bought my ticket months ago, so I asked if I could offer the tickets to my blog readers. She agreed, so, if you would like two free tickets to this fabulous event, please leave a comment indicating your interest! I will post the winner next weekend, so you have until Friday to enter.

For those who don’t win, you can still save! They offered my blog readers 40% off the ticket price, so it will cost $6 instead of $10. (To be honest, I don’t mind paying full price for this event because it benefits Art in Action, a national non-profit that provides visual arts curriculum to 75,000 students each year, including children in 185 Bay Area schools.)

To get the ticket discount, enter SHAMS40 on the last page of the checkout. If you do come and you see me, please say hi! In short… a fun day at the Computer Museum, great shopping, benefitting arts programs—it’s a win-win-win!

(By the way, two of my artist-friends have booths at this event. Winnie of Eccentric Designs jewelry, and wearable artist Carol Lee Shanks, who sometimes teaches at Design Outside the Lines.)

Can you believe it’s April already? My weekend calendar is becoming uncomfortably full. Things are heating in my History of Italian Fashion class. In fact, we are each giving a presentation while in Italy and I’ve selected my subject. I am giving a short preso on designer Antonio Marras. Mr Marras has been designing for Kenzo since 2005 and he also has his own line—his designs are quite compelling. I plan to visit his high-concept store while in Milan this summer. I hadn’t heard his name before, but it was instant love when I googled his designs. You might check out his Fall 2017 line.

I’ve just washed the fabric for my next Britex project, and I’ve selected a pattern, so that’s my activity for next weekend.

Please join me on Patti’s Visible Monday. I hope you have a great week!