Hot Patterns Urban Gypsy off-the-shoulder top

HP Urban Gypsy Sew Paradise

I’ve had this on my must-sew list for at least a year. I wanted to make one for last year spring break, but ran out of time. This year, I planned ahead (and I sew more now), and it’s done, a full 10 days in advance. That’s the new me 😉

I love this top for several reasons – first, it’s very on-trend with the off-the-shoulder look. I made this in a gifted-to-me super light cotton lawn that is gossamer thin. The fact that it’s cotton is it’s only saving grace – in silk, I’d have drunk the entire keg of beer just trying to sew it. The cotton behaved well with a hot iron and some serging.

The pattern goes together very easily – the instructions are clear, and even though I charged ahead and sewed the fronts and backs together at the shoulder seams (like a raglan tee), I did note later in the instructions, that I wasn’t supposed to attach the front sleeves til I was ready to connect the flat, interfaced front band to the elastic-cased back band. It was simple enough to pick out about 2″ of seam and sew it back up once the neckbands were sewn on. I did read them first, I just missed that part. There’s a lot of “If you’re doing A, skip to 7” and things like that, so I missed the part about not sewing on the front sleeves til later.

This top has a shelf bra! Yes, you heard that, a shelf bra is built into the design of this top – there’s a stretchy white bra under this, so I won’t have to wear a strapless bra (who loves those? no one.) I used white ITY for the built in bra. You could sew some cups in there, but I don’t really need them.

I ended up making the back of the top longer than the front, quite inadvertently. I knew from other reviewers of this on the HotPatterns sewing club on Facebook, that petite people had shortened this top. I wanted to wear it with shorts (see below) and not have it look like I wasn’t wearing pants. So I shortened the pattern by folding it up before the hem makes it’s curve – but apparently, I was not even in my fold-up on the front and back (and fortuitously, it was the back that was longer.) Sometimes happy accidents happen. I’m going to actually measure that out and mark the pattern with a slash and tape to make it shorter next time.

I’m showing this with some of my capsule wardrobe for the spring break trip (six days, no laundry facilities) – the shorts are ones I bought at H&M in an emergency “how’d I gain weight?” in Europe this summer, after the shorts I brought with me were suddenly too small. And they’re snug-ish, but I’m working on that. I am wearing them as well with wide leg Perfect Pants from Christine Jonson Patterns.

I love this top, it was very easy to construct, and with the number of light cotton lawn prints in my stash right now, I’ll definitely be making a couple more of these. There’s a tie-sleeve version (seemed like a guacamole catcher to me) which I might try for my next version. There are also front pockets which I will also try in a future version. I did NOT make a muslin – in HotPatterns, I generally get a good fit right out of the envelope with tops (pants, I do have to muslin and adjust.) Besides, with a large stash, a good deal of it things gifted from friends, I really have wearable muslin fabric to work with. And a lot of it.

I highly recommend this pattern. It’s easy to sew, there are nice details and it’s very fashion forward. I’ll replace these images with pool and beachside ones once I’m on spring break!


Sewing a Spring Break Capsule Wardrobe

I love Spring Break! Warm sun, sand, a southern location. It gets me invigorated again. And as all sewists know, there’s nothing more fun than planning a trip AND sewing for it! My 2017 capsule wardrobe for Spring Break features three independent designers*: Christine Jonson Patterns, HotPatterns and Ann Normandy Patterns. All three are well-drafted by professional sewing pattern designers and produced in digital download formats.

Spring Break Sewing Pattern Capsule Wardrobe

Christine Jonson Perfect Pants Classic Wide Leg

First, I selected pants. I live in a cold climate and I have to wear pants on the taxi / bus / plane trip. I chose the Christine Jonson Perfect Pant in classic wide leg – nothing more perfect than a palazzo style pant for the beach. Yum! I dived into my stash and found a deep purple rayon/lycra, which will be drapey and still substantial enough with the folded over doubled yoga waistband that these pants feature.

Then, I added in the Hot Patterns Urban Gypsy off the shoulder blouse. This blouse features a built-in bra, so you can really wear it strapless. I chose a lightweight floral cotton lawn fabric from stash that a friend gave me. Cost? $0.

Hot Patterns Urban Gypsy

Christine Jonson Draped Vest & Jacket

I really wanted a vest and cardigan, so I selected the Christine Jonson Drape Vest & Jacket. This waterfall cardigan and vest is pretty ingenious; there’s a small H-shaped pleat in the front that helps hold the cardigan’s shape and neckline drape. Leave it to Christine to design this and tweak every tiny detail to perfection. THIS is why I sew independent patterns from actual fashion designers – they know their stuff. I’ll make the vest in a near-army-green crinkle rayon knit and the cardi in a dusty smoke blue crinkle rayon knit.


Last, I’m a sucker for a great maxi dress, and I chose the Ann Normandy maxi. I’m interested in this because when I inherited a lot of woven fabrics from friends (I have a large stash of knit fabrics), I wanted a pattern to help me sew these fabrics up. I’ve chosen a navy blue textured cotton – not the heavy linen the pattern loves, but pretty close in hand and drape to it.

Here’s how I’ll wear it:

Travel days: I’ll wear the Classic Wide Leg Perfect Pants from Christine Jonson with a simple tee and the Drape Jacket. Most likely this will be worn with a Gore tex parka (because, winter) and my running shoes (because, small suitcase, and chasing six and nine year old kids.) We fly through Metro Detroit, and if you’ve ever been in the Delta (McNamara) terminal there, there’s a giant fountain as you enter the main departures hall after security. It takes my son eleven seconds to run from the escalators after security to the fountain and climb on it while I am still fumbling with our carry on luggage and shoes! I love business travel for the simple reason that I get to walk silently with a cup of coffee, my roller bag behind me, looking calm and collected. When I travel with my loveable yahoos, I’m hollering all over the airport.

Upon arrival (at 11:30pm), I’ll collapse into bed, BUT the next day, at the Hilton (most likely; we move around during our trip, staying in up to three different hotels depending on our location and activities) I will don a swimsuit and the Ann Normandy maxi dress and head to breakfast and then the pool. I’m excited about making this dress for the first time because of the design details. These are elegant details on a simple dress. I’ll wear this with t-strap flat sandals.

For sightseeing, I’ll wear a tee with the Christine Jonson Drape Vest and (most likely) white shorts.

Dinner out will almost require the HotPatterns Urban Gypsy. I love this look and will wear it with the Christine Jonson Perfect Pant again. I think the Christine Jonson Draped Vest will be perfect over this, too, giving a cold-shoulder look to the outfit. Definitely flat strappy sandals with this look.

I can mix and match things all week long, by adding two basic tee shirts, two pairs of shorts and swimsuits. I always pack running gear and try to run every day I am on vacation, unless I’m walking around at a Disney park, in which case the 10 miles of walking will be sufficient!  There’s nothing that makes me happier than sewing…and traveling, and sewing capsule wardrobes is my kind of perfect!

*complete disclosure: I work with all three of these sewing pattern companies in some marketing capacity, and I consider them friends.  They make great sewing patterns, that’s why I love them.

Ann Normandy Maxi Dress




Still loving vintage sewing patterns after all these years

Vintage Butterick Sewing Pattern, wide leg trousers, crop top Today I’m wearing a pair of vintage linen wide leg trousers. I made them from this sewing pattern back in, oh, about 1997 or so.  The fabric isn’t 100% linen, and that’s why they’ve withstood nearly every Florida beach vacation I’ve had in the last 18 years, not to mention every summer vacation. They don’t wrinkle (much) and they press like a dream. The fabric is hard wearing and needs to be. These are my go-to summer pants.  They’re in an oatmeal/flax linen (like the model photo on the left) and go with nearly every summer outfit I have.

This summer, the wide leg printed trouser and the crop top both returned for a redux in fashion. While these pants are high waisted and I could probably wear them with the crop top, this is definitely a very casual weekend look for a middle aged mother of two. That conjures up a very specific visual, right? But I’m a runner, cyclist, duathlete, sailor, skier and all-around high energy mom, so a high waisted pant and a crop top would be just fine. I also have the skin of someone much younger (just as long as my stretched-out-post-baby-belly is covered up past my navel.) And, well, there is a full-length version of that woven-fabric camisole, too.

What I love about this pattern is the lounging-at-a-poolside-bar vibe. Deep in my past life as a Floridian (early to late 90s), my husband and I went to a Louisiana-style crawfish boil at a fancy condo on Biscayne Bay in Miami. Our friends hosted the party by the pool, complete with a coffin-sized box of crawfish, boiled with corn, potatoes and some delicious and probably secret-ingredient crawfish boil spices. THIS is the outfit that I needed for that party. I have zero clue what I wore (it was hot; probably shorts and a tee shirt) but I would like to think this pattern would fit in perfectly.

I also really love the model here – she looks like she fits the part, she’s got cropped hair and an attitude of hipster fun about her, doesn’t she? She is probably my age now, as well, maybe a middle-aged mother of two herself. And maybe, just maybe, she would also look good in this crop top and wide leg pants, too.

In my searching for this vintage pattern, I ran across several others that I am intending to sew, yet. Bucket list sewing, if you will. And I’ll feature one of them in a post in the upcoming months. I encourage you to do the same, go find a vintage pattern YOU have in your stash. Can you use it? If so, sew it up! There are some vintage coulottes in my stash, and you know they’ve returned to fashion among the young and hip.

Sewing a knit boyfriend blazer

ChristineJonsonBoyfriendJacket -Sew-Paradise

ChristineJonsonBoyfriendJacketAnn1 ChristineJonsonBoyfriendJacket -Sew-Paradise ChristineJonsonBoyfriendJacketAnn2Christine Jonson Boyfriend Jacket

I have wanted to sew a new boyfriend blazer for some time. I wore them back in the 1980s and early 1990s and decided when the trend returned, I’d sew another. A boyfriend jacket is a slightly oversized blazer that you wear with a slim skirt or skinny pants. It’s relaxed, and lean, and looks like you nipped it from your boyfriend’s closet. You know, if your boyfriend had skinny shoulders and slender arms. MY man’s jackets swim on me; you could insert two of me in them in real life. But the boyfriend style, slightly oversized, long and lean, is chic and effortless looking without looking like you are wearing a jacket that fits a 6’2″ man who outweighs you by 60 lbs.

I chose the Christine Jonson Boyfriend Jacket and a cream ponte knit. The ponte is drapey and heavy, with just enough body for this blazer. The front facing and shawl collar are interfaced with interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply.

This is a really, really lovely jacket! I can’t say enough about how easy it was to sew. See this review at for more details about this jacket.

The thing I loved is the facing construction. There’s a notch you sew on the back neck at shoulders on both the jacket and the facing. And this makes the facing lie FLAT against the jacket across the shoulders and back neck, so you can then topstitch the entire facing down. No floppy facings on the inside! Let’s face it, tacking the facings at the shoulder and center back is just not as nice as having the whole thing sewn down to the jacket. The seaming on the front from this topstitching adds a long design element too.

I added a fun hidden pocket in the facing on this jacket for my phone and credit card. Read the tutorial here.

The jeans are from CAbi, their Ruby style. But they don’t make this dark denim stretch anymore. You can find a similar style from Levi’s (midrise skinny) for about $40. The top is an asymmetrical, boat neck top with ruched hem. I bought it in La Jolla at the Goodwill store (no kidding!) for $6. I get tons of compliments on it, and I will hack it back onto two other patterns to make another just like it.

But sewing often has it’s challenges, and tonight, the piéce de resistance? I sewed the buttonhole on the guy’s side of the jacket (left side) and the button on the right. Sigh. At least it truly IS a boyfriend jacket!

Hot Patterns Classix Nouveau Uptown Downtown Knit Dress Review

Hot patterns uptown downtown dress sewing review

Hot patterns uptown downtown dress sewing reviewIn what has to be a marathon sewing session for me (three plus hours today! with virtually no pressure whatsoever), I finished a top, a turtleneck and a dress in one weekend! The dress and the turtleneck I finished this afternoon, between 1 and 6pm, too! I have to admit, these were all easy-to-sew patterns (of course) and that is the most satisfying sewing for me. But it was blissful in a way I can’t describe. The projects came together well. The day seemed effortless. I was in flow most of it.

And this was the final result of the day, the Hot Patterns Classix Nouveaux Uptown/Downtown knit dress. Modeled after a classic sweatshirt, with raglan sleeves, rib knit hem, cuffs and neckband, this casual knit dress is super chic. I plan to wear this dress at least two days this week. I’ll start with it under a loden green leather jacket tomorrow (tights and boots) and I’ll wear it Wednesday with a black leather jacket, black tights and boots. It’s also a great Saturday dress with perhaps a bomber or moto jacket in a cream heavy sweatshirting, hmmm? I’m really loving sewing right now and so happy I am doing more of it. It’s really helping me walk through this winter with a smile on my face most of the time. Nothing better than crafting something awesome from your time and expertise.

And this is an awesome mom dress. It’s made of knit for pete’s sake, and if you had this in sweatshirting imagine how comfy this would be. It would be a dressy version of sweats like no other. You could truly say you spent the day in sweats, and honestly still look like the cool mom at the pickup line.


The couture jacket chronicles continue…

Two years later…I am still poking away on this jacket. It will be beautiful and it is taking me forever!

Winter looks for busy moms

Winter looks for busy moms


Winter looks for busy moms by asiegle featuring JVL

This is one of my favorite seasons. As fall deepens, leaden clouds scurry across low November skies. Geese fly south. Moms and kids curl up in front of the fireplace and read books… But this season also heralds in the time of year I like to affectionately call ‘I’ll be freezing til June.” I love winter, I am an active outdoor sports enthusiast. But I’m also always cold. So for me, layering in the winter is the only way to survive. As moms, we also need great basics that can do triple or quadruple duty. Get a great coat. I love a good camel coat, belted. It is chic, timeless and you’ll look like a million bucks even if you toss it over your dirty jeans and a ratty tee (just hide that tee under the great coat!

You can’t go wrong with the slouchy boyfriend jean. Pair it with a lean slim turtleneck, stripes are fun. And yes, anyone can wear stripes. Wear a coordinating (but not matching!) gray boucle zip front jacket, and the stripes of the turtle are not as overwhelming peeking out from under. A bright flat adds more fun to the outfit. I do wear these with socks, because, well, it’s Michigan. It is cold. It may snow this week. But not a lot (otherwise this outfit would have tall, fur-accented winter boots. I’m not dumb, it snows; ballet flats are ridiculous in snow.)

And since you’ll be cold (or wait, I’ll be cold, but you’ll be stylish and warm), add a nordic print infinity scarf and arm/hand warmers.

The very last thing: even if you wear no other makeup, wear a bright lipstick. All the time. Not gloss, not Chapstick. Real, actual lipstick.  Whatever bright suits you, a cool bright, a warm bright (shown here) or a neutral, pick something that you love and that loves you back when you put it on.

Vintage Maui wrap dress pattern

Fashion for moms | October 29, 2014 | By

Somehow I inherited a Stretch and Sew Maui Dress sewing pattern. Maybe someone gave me thisStretch and sew maui dress or I got it at a sewing sale or rummage sale. I can’t even remember.  But this dress is a perfect vacation dress. It looks like a 1970s dress, doesn’t it? And with the spring collections heralding a very 70s vibe, this is right on target.

In February, hubby has a conference he’s putting on in Orlando. We lived in Florida for 6 years and our favorite place of all is the Space Coast – from Cape Canaveral to Melbourne, including Cocoa Beach. So we are traveling to Florida to stay near his conference in Orlando, then for the weekend, the family is going to Cocoa Beach for five days. Love. THIS is that dress.  This is the sort of dress you toss on over a string bikini (yes, my really skimpy string bikini days are over, but I’m making a high-waisted double-tie string bikini and wearing THAT this winter!) This is the sort of dress you toss on over absolutely nothing at all. This is the dress you toss on over flip flops and grab a longboard and skate on down to the beach. This is the dress you hop on a beach cruiser bike with a striped tote and a big hat and cruise to the shore. This is the only dress you need on vacation.

Chic Mom Six Events

I do mom style shopping and style planning events for moms. At a recent event for Moms of Preschoolers group in Eaton Rapids, MI, I took 25 moms through a style planning and fitting session for an hour, including bringing all six Chic Mom essentials (and a few more), as well as inviting moms to come up to understand what fit and proportion look like by folding, pinning and explaining their own outfit choices.

Moms can download Chic Mom Style Guide by SewParadise, including section on fit and proportion and finding personal style!

I have many personal missions in my life, and one of them is to help moms see themselves as unique and independent people who are worthy of value. Moms tend to take care of everyone else but themselves, and I’d like moms to think of supporting themselves to be able to support their families. It’s the “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others” theory of motherhood. You’ll be so much of a happier mom if you do make sure you are the best mom you can be in that moment. XO –Ann

A few additional resources:

If you sew, or just love fashion and how to wear it, follow Trudy Hansen, designer for Hot Patterns. Trudy is a plus-size model and designer/seamstress extraordinaire. (and check out their YouTube with lots of videos of Trudy showing how garments are made AND worn well.)

The wrap dress I showed has a double-layered top and is an easy-to-sew garment even for beginners. Check out designer Christine Jonson and her awesome designs for sewing with knit fabric. My favorite no-waistband pencil skirt is one of Christine’s, as well as my favorite jacket made from knit fabrics.

DIY Strapless Bandeau wide leg jumpsuit – sew your own!


CJPatterns-Jumpsuit-225x300This DIY jumpsuit with wide legs is super simple to make. Drafted from the Christine Jonson Wide Leg Pants and sewn with an attached tube top is a very fast-to-make and easy, elegant weekend look.

Sewing this fun, comfortable and easy-to-wear garment is easy. You’ll need your choice of knit pants pattern. The one I’ve selected is Christine Jonson’s Wide Leg and Taper Pant. This pant has a choice between a wide leg (shown here) and a skinny pant. If you want a skinny pant under a bandeau top, go for the slim leg pant, if you want a wide one, like I have on, go for the wide.

Christine recommends that you chalk around your pattern pieces, remove them and then cut them out. I highly recommend it, as you’ll be able to adjust the width of the leg at the hem. This pant (even in a wide leg) has a slight taper, and I prefer it to go straight down from knee to hem.

This pant has no side seam, and neither does the bandeau top, so it’s a perfect match up.

To begin, you need to calculate the bandeau top dimensions. The reason for this is that the bandeau top is a rectangle and your pants are not. So mating up your pants top to the bandeau bottom is best if they are the same width (you’ll see photos in a moment.)

I’m marrying the wide leg pants to a bloused tube top. The tube top’s width is determined by your full bust size  – mine’s 36 inches and to create some ease, I’ve added 4inches to this width (2in. each side) for 40in., plus seam allowances, to 42in.  You might want MORE ease, so just add more to your full bust measurement. I’ll be using a center-back seam on the tube top. Measuring from my high bust to my waist is 15 inches, so I’ve added 6in. to this measurement to account for the waistband seam allowance, a casing for elastic at the top and blousing. My finished flat pattern measurements will be 42w” x 21h. If you want to be sure you have enough blousing, cut this longer and you can always hem the casing at the top shorter when you get there.

In measuring the flat pattern waistband top of the trousers, the size 12 is 38 inches across. I tapered out to a 14 for my slightly wider waist, but you can still see that 42 inches married to 40 inches means I ‘ll have to add 2in. to the waistband (you’ll be gathering this later with elastic casing.)



As you can see at left, pants, (back) and tube (back) are ready to be sewn together.  I have also provided a drawing of this part of the instructions as well.




To do this sewing together AND making a casing at the same time, you will mark the actual waist line of the pants on to the right side of your fabric (see the dashed line on the drawing).  Then, you’ll flip the tube so it’s right sides against the right side of the back of the pants. You’ll actually be laying the seamlines together but NOT the raw edges – you could just match up the raw edge waistbands here too and sew a 1.75″ seam allowance, trim away one layer and then fold that up as the casing, but I actually lowered the tube down so it’s seamline matched up with the drawn waistband line on the pants as shown in the drawing.



Once sewn, you’ll now have a big seam allowance with which to create a casing, so fold that up on the inside, enclosing the raw edge from the tube top part of the garment.

Pin the casing down from the right side of the fabric. Stitch along the pin line, leaving an opening to insert elastic on the back side of the jumpsuit.

In the photo at left, you can also see I’ve folded the top tube casing down for stitching as well as pinned the waistline casing from the outside. Turned under 1/4″ and then 1.25″ (I’m using 1″ wide elastic). You can topstitch that down too, leaving an opening in the back for inserting elastic.

Casings done, it’s time to insert some elastic! Cut elastic to your high bust measurement – this is above your full bust where the top of the tube will rest. Snug it up comfortably, you won’t want this to slip down, but you also won’t want it to be too tight.

Cut your elastic, thread it through the casing and stitch it together before stitching the opening closed.

For the waist, measure a piece of elastic around your waist plus 1″ overlap on each end. Again, snug, but not too snug. You’re not holding up the pants with this (that’s the high bust casing) but you are looking to add definition and sag at the waist = bad. Thread the elastic through, overlap the ends, sew the elastic then sew the casing shut.

You’re almost done!

Hemming tips: I measure a pair of well-fitting pants and do a press-and-pin to that inseam measurement to try them on with the shoes I think I’ll wear. I tend to wear flat shoes most often, especially in summer casual wear, so I hemmed mine with a deep 2.5″ hem straight stitch. Because these are wide legs, I do not need stretch at the hem. Skinny legs, though, you’ll want to use a stretch straight stitch or zigzag or twin needle hem for stretch over your ankle.

That’s it! Slip on the jumpsuit, add some fun jewelry, grab a bag and go!

I also frequently blog about fashion for breastfeeding mothers, and this one is a perfect match of style plus baby feeding friendly. If you feel more comfortable, drape a scarf across your chest (but not over baby’s head) as you nurse to cover your cleavage. I didn’t like to feed my babies under a cover, and they didn’t like to eat under one either.


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