New sewing patterns from Hot Patterns! Poncho and twist front top and dress


This week, new sewing patterns arrived in my mailbox from HotPatterns! I got the Fast & Fabulous Jet Setter Poncho and the Metropolitan Verano Dress & Top. I added these to my collection that I got over the winter (back row), the Fast & Fabulous Tailored Trackpants (new rayon/tropical wool blend ones coming this weekend!) Fast & Fabuous Four Seasons Kimono Jacket and the Riviera Cote D’azur Dress, tunic & top.

After our incredibly cold and snowy winter (which we just LOVED over here in SewParadise, what with XC skiing, downhill skiing, ice sailing, snow tubing and snow shoeing) our spring has been equally slow and cold in coming. However, I’m not at all upset it’s only 50 degrees today, as it’s perfect poncho wearing weather.

Read my review at for the typical sewing pattern review details you’ll want to peruse before selecting this one for your collection. Read on for my take on upcycling former garments.



So I journaled recently that I needed to get rid of a lot of stuff. Some stuff, like my sewing stuff,  or things I have made but no longer wear, I have a hard time getting rid of. I made a simple practically no-sew fleece ruana about a decade ago. I liked it, but oversized Ruanas have fallen from fashion a bit, so I never wore it much in the last four years. Also it collected dog hair like a magnet. We just needed to be in the same house, the dog and I, and this fabric would attract it. In fact, she’s been dead 7 weeks as of this post and the poncho, in the sewing, attracted tons of it. I cherish the wiggly, crinkly white hairs now, as I pluck them off while sewing. Zuzu, I miss you, even your hair!

But the ruana was not large enough for this full poncho. I had also made a gray ruana for my grandmother at least a decade (or more, she died in 2003) ago, and intended to bring it to her long term memory care facility, but she died before I finished it. So I never wore it. It sat in my basement for 10 years. I moved it once. So today, I upcycled both in to this lovely and stylish new garment!  The big win with this is the cowl is giant – in fact, so large, you can wear it as a hood – in my opinion, this is a wonderful feature in a poncho. The only thing missing is handwarmer pockets set in the seams in the front. It’s a perfect spot for them, and I’d top stitch them right to the center front (no flappy pocket bags inside the garment, they’ll be sewn down.) Next version, I’ll add those to this poncho.

Being Earth week and all (Earth Day was Tuesday) I am trying to not purchase anything. We met with our financial advisor for a full portfolio and retirement planning review on Friday so that also has me conserving cash and getting my wealth building in order. Wealth building does NOT involve frivolous shopping, but it sure does include upcycling stuff from your basement!

The upcycling went well. I first had to determine, roughly, if the pieces would fit on the fabric I had, so I cut out my size (a 12, mostly just for the hem opening, so you can experiment with a smaller size if you want a less roomy poncho, just be sure you can fit it over your hips when you sit down.) I placed them in various spots on at least five different fabrics. Fortunately they all ended up on the upcycled ruanas, as it’s a better use of these former garments. I think this poncho could be made from a fleece blanket, and those you can find at secondhand stores, so I may try that. Be wary, linen closet, as I’m coming for YOU too!

I think this is such a cute garment, that I would like to make one for my daughter. She’s 7, and the smallest size is a woman’s 6, so I’m just going to wing it and hand-draw the same shapes in a much smaller size for her. And yes, in the linen closet, we have a blanket-sized embroidered fleece that I think would be perfect for this!




Legging looks for moms



A recent discussion online about whether moms can wear leggings with tops spurred this blog post. The consensus is yes, with an appropriate top and a longer cardi or jacket that covers one’s bum.  I thought I would post a few legging looks for moms over the next few weeks.
These two looks are good examples. In the first, I am wearing a modern animal print blouse from the.fall CAbi collection, a long plum cardi I bought secondhand and leggings that are 27 years old, and that is not a typo. I have on a belt, a scarf and ballet flats to finish the look.
In the second look, I have paired leggings with a tunic, admittedly a very long one. The tunic is Jalie sewing pattern 3312, and the leggings are the same.
Each of these is a casual look suitable for weekends, not work, unless you stay home with children. To upgrade the first look, switch to skinny stretch woven trousers and pair the second with boots and a blazer for work.

Three ways to wear shorts with a blazer or jacket

Three ways to wear shorts with a blazer

It seems like an awfully long time since women’s shorts were in such fashion – I don’t mean that women weren’t wearing shorts, just that high fashion hadn’t zeroed in on shorts. Or even trickled that down to trendy retailers. But this season – and I saw it two years ago in BurdaStyle and SewStylish – the polished, higher-waist (with a real waistband!) short is definitely on the must-wear list.

Right now the shorts are being paired with jackets, which, just like pairing a jacket with jeans – is a great way to elevate a casual shorts-and-tee outfit. But you really need some casual, lightweight jackets to pull this off. With the exception of a white linen jacket, unlined is your best bet.

Good sewing sources for unlined jackets are Angela Wolf’s Unlined Jacket class on PatternReview, the awesomely comfy knit jackets from Christine Jonson patterns. You can make any jacket unlined with good seam finishes, so also check out jackets from HotPatternsBurdaStyle and Kwik-Sew for good fit and fashion-forward designs. Shorter, tighter fitting jackets are back in style and these look great with shorts. The only real rule here is that the shorts hem MUST be below the jacket, and by a few inches, too. You shouldn’t look like you are going around pantsless!

The shorts-and-jacket trend is accessorized with layered necklaces and flat strappy sandals, or wedge espadrille sandals.

I have a lot of shorts, and several of that true-waistband look. Right now, check out Simplicity, BurdaStyle for shorts patterns with front pleats, pockets, waistbands that are popular. Tuck in your tops, so be sure that your fit is excellent, and that your top has enough volume that if you have a bit of a muffin, a tighter tee doesn’t accentuate the muffin when it’s tucked in.

In ready-to-wear, try JCrew for excellent shorts that will wear forever (still have a pair in my drawer from 20 years ago), or locally, Jeanologie Boutique in East Lansing has high-waisted dark denim shorts in stock now (they may have other styles, too.) You can also go thrift and take a pair of trousers from a thrift store and shorten them to your perfect length. Secondhand boutiques like K2 and Kellie’s Consignments in Okemos also have a good selection of shorts right now.

For moms, I recommend if you can’t or don’t want to tuck in the top, belt the jacket over it. A woven leather belt is casual, a skinny patent belt is more dressy.

Are your legs not in shape for shorts? I recommend riding your bike. Yeah, that one. In the corner of the garage. Get out some chain lube to quell the squeakies, put helmets on you and your kids and make all of the small errands (returning books to the library, going to the park, riding your older kids to and from school, going to church, running smaller errands (quart of milk) or transporting to playdates by bicycle. Lansing, where I live, is flat, flat, flat for bike riding, we have a good network of trail systems, bike lanes and quieter neighborhood streets to do some riding, including Michigan State’s beautiful campus. You might have to be creative, and if you’re with your kids, jump up on the sidewalk. Bike trailers are essential for your not-yet-riding kids and while harder to find used, are well worth the investment – you’ll sell them for almost what you paid for if it’s in good shape at the end.

Biking works the gluteal muscles, the hamstrings and the quads. It also works your calves too. It’s an awesome exercise for great legs up and down!

I guarantee if you ride several days a week (just try it, you’ll see how much more fun errands become!), you’ll have great short-worthy legs starting to emerge in two weeks or less.

Three ways to wear shorts with a blazer by asiegle featuring topshop

Sewparadise is on vacation! Fun and fashion in Delray Beach, Florida.


It is a beautiful morning in Delray Beach. Cool especially by Florida standards. Even Michigan me is wearing white jeans, black cardI sweater and an aqua pashmina. Today I pick up my bicycle transportation for the long weekend. Delray is a fairly bike friendly community but like all of south Florida,  the roads are busy, wide and mainly devoid of bike lanes. Today I plan to hit a secondhand store, a bead store, some beachy thing for the kids and wander art galleries. It is
a bit cool for sunbathing. But imagine me riding a beach bike with my new Hot Patterns Palladium backpack (pics coming today) in my white jeans and sunglasses and you see why sunbathing maybe is not needed.

Preppy nursing fashionista

I had a friend describe my style as ‘preppy’ a few months back. I always termed this ‘modern classics’ myself, but OK, preppy. It fits. I’m a sailing mom in a midwest college town, and I love beaches up north Michigan. Yeah, that’d be preppy.

So what’s the preppy nursing fashionista wearing these spring days? I love a striped top with wide leg pants. It just feels so summery. But of course my boat neck striped top is not nursing compatible. I define this as it covers my belly AND breasts. I get by this by wearing a nursing camisole, but I am also going to sew a nursing top (Jalie 3132, with some mods for a different neckline, a lapped bateau neck).

This mama pairs this outfit with a big sailing canvas tote. I have bunches – made from actual sails which are not as nice as the one I saw at Land’s End Canvas tonight, of course, since they’re cut from 30 year old sails left in someone’s attic (or the sailing club, for years!) But I think if I found one of the white-ish ones, added some blue canvas trim, and leather handles, it would be a chic version of my grocery shopping and boat sail totes.

Wedges. Boot cut jeans, a pretty top with a seersucker jacket belted over it (this is why you need a nursing top, otherwise, every time babe/toddler asks to nurse, you’re unbuckling belt, opening jacket… yada, yada.Of course you could buy a cheap or thrifted striped tee and follow these instructions for making a nursing one to wear under a jacket, too.

Yeah, I could rock that as a casual friday or weekend look. Preppy, indeed. This summer, hoping to finally get out sailing again, now that our toddler is a bit older (2 in June) and our preschooler will big enough and experienced enough around the boat to be reasonably helpful.

I also have docksiders, the actual Sperry ones, that I bought years ago at a marine flea market (about 15 years ago). They’re in good shape, but my foot got bigger after babies and they’re tiiiight, so I don’t like wearing them a lot. I need to stretch them out somehow. Of course I don’t wear any of this on the actual boat 😉 It’s more like shorts, a tee shirt (nursing is fine) and Keen sandals.

Winter basics and some shoppin’

Cape, trousers, fur vest, leather dress, fun!

I pulled this from BurdaStyle (the German web site). I have inherited a couple pairs of ‘carrot’ pants, vintage Escada, and am making them skinnier at the ankles like this pair. I like the roomy trouser look as well. But I can see how these look great with a cape, so I’m going to try them. Yes, I wore them once, you know, back in the 1980s, and, yes, I’m trying it again.

I also visited my local consignment boutique with my extra fancy local daily deals coupon and I shopped. Oh boy did I! I had two hours to myself, it was a blast. I tried on nearly everything I liked that was in my size, and came home with a bunch of new stuff to invigorate my wardrobe. I got five jackets or cardigans – two cardi’s – one a cropped-sleeve one, a ruffled one, a gray jacket, a teal velveteen, a black leather and a pea-green leather(!) Very cool. I also got two dressy wide leg trousers, a pair of trouser jeans in a dark flare, a pair of cream corduroys (to replace my very old/too large ones) and two pairs of shoes, platform purple suede peep toes, and silver ballerina. A very nice haul and I’m pleased with everything. I still covet a cape I saw there, but I’ll check back in a week or so and see if it’s on sale. (you know more of a sale than a consignment shop would usually have!!)

I’ve made no secret I don’t buy new clothes (well, hardly ever). Shoes, yes, accessories, yes, but not clothes. I save so much by buying used, and I find I shop with more, well, restraint. I won’t like everything, a lot won’t fit (must have tried on every pair of size 4 jeans I liked, only to discover I’m a 0/2 size jean (!) I tried on a bunch of THOSE too, before finding one pair that actually fit my waist. I think I paid $12 for them. I can also buy higher quality items that way, and still spend as little as if I’d have shopped at a discount fashion store. Plus, we have a proliferation of nice upscale consignment shops, several decent middle-of-the-road ones, and then the usual dive-thrift stores. None that are truly scary, I would not take my kids there if it were.

So it was a good day for my wardrobe. Tomorrow, running and yoga. A good day for my health.

This just makes me happy

Shopping | January 1, 2012 | By

They're like candies in a box!

Lovely, just lovely. Look at all those colors! If I had a grand to spend and had to spend it (because I’d probably save it, in my retirement account!) I’d buy 10 pairs (and ask for a volume discount!!) I am obsessed with ballerina flats. I can’t really tolerate high heels every day anymore, with running and two very small kids. But ballerinas, they just make me happy. I will have to save up for a pair or two of these this winter 😉

DIY No-sew nursing tops


Reach in, pull over the lowered armseye to access breast

This is a super easy tute, and cheap to do. You can purchase inexpensive knit shirts, or get some from thrift or second-hand stores. Don’t be afraid to cut up a trendy tee with some detail at the neckline or down the front, to make stylish versions of this. I’ve used a basic tee from my Goodwill bag.

Lay your tee shirts on a flat surface. Measure down from the neck/shoulder edge


Measure down 12.5" from neck/shoulder edge and pin at the sideseam

to 12.5″ and put a pin at the sideseam. This is about the right measurement for almost any nursing mom (assuming the tee fits you in the bust). Then, using a curved ruler (this is a french curve) or even just hand-drawing a curve, cut a shallow curved shape in from the sideseam, curving up to the shoulder. You’ll be cutting the sleeve off close to where it’s sewn on, making a low-armhole tank top.

Using a french curve or freehand, draw a nice curved shape

Then, you wear this tank under a jacket or cardigan as I’ve shown here, and when you want to nurse, just reach inside and pull the lowered armhole across to access your breast.

You can even sew these too – any basic shell (woven fabric) or tank top pattern will do just fine. You do not need to finish the armseye edges if it’s a knit fabric. This can go dressy in silk under a work blazer or leather jacket. It can go casual in knit cotton under a denim jacket.

Two low armseyes, ready for nursing!

The peach knit top example was too large for me, so I added pintucks across the midriff to cinch it up a little. This involved actual sewing 😉

Worn under a jacket or cardigan, this nursing tee looks like a regular tee

My fantasy travel packing list…

…I pack for a sun vacation like this: swimsuit, sexy maillot style (it’s what all the French girls wear…)poncho, wide legged linen pants, wrap skirt, big sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen.

I would consider buying this, if only for the suit (I have everything else in other patterns)

That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. It all fits into a swank carry on. I have some chic oversized bag to go along with this, my e-book reader and an ipod. Could I travel this light? Could I travel this light on this trip? It’s not looking like it – the problem is, not that I don’t have laundry facilities, or even these items, it’s that I want to take more. I have so many fun things I’d like to take!

But in this fantasy world, I’m on a yacht in Greece (I do know how this works, I have sailed on a yacht in Greece…) and this is my single bag and I cruise down to the cobalt seas of the Adriatic (though I actually sailed the Ionian.) I am hanging out with a rich guy (maybe my guy, but somehow we are rich). Our children are there, and they, too, impeccably dressed. Someone else fixes PB&J for them though, while I sip a cocktail. And of course I am dressed in my black maillot, wide leg linen pants and big sun hat with oversize sunglasses.

And to add to this fantasy, I’ve sewn this all myself, every piece. Lest you think I’m crazy, this all started with a pattern I saw on Ebay. I was going to buy it, but the only thing I really needed was the swimsuit (I have a zillion poncho patterns, even more wide leg pants patterns, and at least three or four wrap skirts, maybe five or six). I do have a maillot pattern, of course, this one was more of a plunging neck halter maillot, rather than the classic style.  But I didn’t buy the pattern. Yet. But I do want to sew, and I set myself a goal to someday, pack just like this for one trip. The islands. a private plane…oh who am I kidding? It’ll be coach, but I am seriously doing that trip.

The best thing about sewing is this wardrobe is in your reach for, oh, about $50. $6.99 for the vintage pattern. Say, five yards of some gauzy fabric for the poncho and skirt. Two yards of linen or chambray for the pants. One yard of swimwear fabric (you could get by with one suit, though they show two). One yard cotton twill for the hat. Voila! Nine yards of fabric, if you shop well (that is, coupon, sale, your friend’s stash @ $4.50 per yard – average – totally doable). YOU could be this glamorous for $50 and a couple weekends of sewing. For an extra $6 you could get a print swimsuit fabric and make two! (swimsuits are easy and fun to make!)

The most fun thing of all though is how a pattern sparks this idea. This daydream of sailing in Greece (it’s been twenty years this year), this fantasy brought to you by a single vintage pattern I happened to stumble across on ebay.

woo hoo! I won!

I won a gift certificate to Motherwear! This is a breastfeeding clothing web site, from which, I own a lot of their tops and dresses. They’re always coming out with new designs, which I like. And I comment in their blog, which is how I won! I read their blog when I pump milk for my baby. Anyway, I decided to get a few tops I can layer under things now, and wear in the spring and summer. I expect to still be nursing by then. She could surprise me, but I think I’m pretty safe, because I can wear tops under sweaters and jackets now at least.

So that takes a bit of pressure off sewing nursing tops a bit. I do still need to sew some non nursing tops, especially Christine Jonson’s patterns. And I do want to sew a long sleeved nursing dress or two (and the wicking turtleneck for skiing).

Part of why I love sewing for nursing is that whole form-follows-function that I get into. Ever since I could remember, I have wanted my clothing to be perfect for me – and that’s centered largely around functionality.

I wanted to sew when I was pregnant, too, for the same reason. But I got blindsided first by multiple miscarriages, and then, when I finally felt comfortable (and not nauseaus), I was put on bedrest and given only a short time left to be pregnant. So I’ve dived into the nursing clothing with gusto. Perhaps even more gusto than I should have!

Aah, probably not. I think whatever motivates you to sew, is a good motivator. If I could stay pregnant easily, I’d have sewn the greatest maternity wardrobe ever. I still keep the patterns (I’m not alone, I inherited one from a mother who’s son started college this past year!) I’m not sure why. But I do hold out hope that I’ll use them again (hopefully for myself). And the next time, if I know in advance that I’m going ahead, I may just sew in advance, the hell with it. Of course, I’m in much clearer spot now – I’ve succeeded at having a baby (with an enormous amount of help, that’s in my other blog) and so being confident in sewing is easier than it was before.

The other thing I have to address is the fact that my office is frigid. It’s always cold, so I bundle up, but I don’t want to be wrapped up in ruana til March, no matter how nice of one it may be.

Turtlenecks, scarves, layers, warm wool pants….they all work. I inherited a gorgeous pair of merino wool flannel trousers that FEEL as soft as cotton flannel (they’re unlined). I’m shocked at how nice they are. They’d look yummy with my red capelet and a cashmere turtleneck. Or my slate blue Parisian poncho. They are fairly wide, roomy, pleated high-waist pants (I read in Lucky this month that at vintage stores, they cannot keep the high waisted pleated trousers in stock.) They’re very Katherine, actually.

It’s time to get sewing this week. No matter the reason, it’s good to be sewing again.

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