Sew Paradise

Pick One Sew Two

A revolutionary way to sew a capsule wardrobe you love – EASILY

Planning a wardrobe is easy. I use the Pick One, Sew Two method that I wrote for Christine Jonson Patterns.

I pick ONE item in my closet and I go into my stash and sew TWO more. Sometimes I do not have stash for both, so I then head over to my LFS (Seams Fabric, y’all, all online too!) and pick something that works for both.

The beauty of the Pick One Sew Two method is that you build your wardrobe with things you already have in your closet. Yeah, I love Make Nine and capsule wardrobes too – I grew up on 5 Easy Pieces from Vogue Patterns, myself. But tackling five or nine pieces in a capsule wardrobe is daunting and most of us do not have time to sew that many things in enough time to make it actually work as a capsule wardrobe.

The other tip is to sew basics – sew the things you will wear every day! If you go into your closet and you see things you don’t wear because you don’t have anything to wear them with, that’s a clear sign you need to sew one or two pieces to make that item a wearable outfit.

It helps to organize your stash AND your closet in a similar way. For me that’s (closet) by color and by type or just by color (stash). I can then quite easily say “I really could use a navy blue cropped mock turtleneck to go with this striped skirt” and go into your stash and FIND navy knit in it that you haven’t sewn.

Recently I decided that I needed a cream, winter-weight midi skirt to wear with boots and gray turtleneck sweaters. Gray and cream are a luxe combo in the winter. I wanted washable and not see through. After I reorganized my stash by color I found a piece of fabric I didn’t know I had and I sewed a great washable stretch crepe A-line midi skirt to go with my cashmere sweater! The skirt took me about an hour and fifteen minutes from cut to finish and I wore it twice in the same week (to my home office, at my desk, and even over leggings and ice skates on my backyard ice rink.)

Pick One Sew Two is invigorating. Along with that cream skirt, I cut out a pair of Tailored Trackpants in a camel snakeskin print stretch knit fabric that had been just hanging out in my stash with almost no purpose! The gray sweater, the camel trackpants, the gray sweater, the cream skirt, my favorite gray booties and a camel coat in my closet all came together easily.

It’s been a while since I’ve sewing-blogged regularly under my own name. I’ve worked for about five years helping other sewing brands. It’s nice to be back! While I still work with sewing brands, most of my work now is in marketing coaching and marketing-tech training. I’d rather coach sewing pattern companies’ brands through developing content, as their authentic voices come through in what they write, photograph and record. A perennial challenge for any brand is maintaining that level of content (I do not have this problem!), but we work on that, too. Think of it as coaching AND motivation.

Sew Paradise

Make Nine Sewing Projects 2020

Recapping a #MakeNine for 2020

Maybe more accurately, make 18 or 24! The sewing world and crafting world usually abounds with #MakeNine in the later part of December and early January as sewists, knitters and crocheters, crafters of all kinds make resolutions to make more in the new year. Despite the pandemic, or maybe IN spite of it, I managed to sew more than 18 of them this year!

HotPatterns Tailored Trackpants
Scout Tees by Grainline Studio (2)
Wiksten Haori Jacket
Cambria Dusters (2)
HotPatterns WSG Dragonfly Kimono
Toaster Sweaters (3)
Gypsum Skirt
Emerson shorts & pants (3)
Curved hem midi skirts (Christine Jonson) (2)
HotPatterns FourSquare Tee
Slit front midi sweater skirt (Christine Jonson)
And two kids PJ Pants (Taylor Made book)
I’m also going to count the almost complete Closet Core Pietra Pants which will be done by the time this is published.

Why did I sew so many? In pandemic? First off, I had the time. Pandemic life slowed our personal lives way down. Second, it also amplified the need to change my wardrobe. I’d sewn a lot of unstructured blazers and tops in the past, which were perfect with my preferred jeans-and-flats look almost all year round. But this year, with working from home and the acceleration of my business life to online product sales and online marketing tech coaching meant that I really wasn’t going to need to dress up for any client meetings – the clients I had that had in person meetings with either were sold/bought or retired in 2020. There simply isn’t a need for me to attend a client meeting in person – maybe ever – again. I’ve switched to Zoom and I prefer this.

The next thing is you’ll note I made multiples of things, this is my new goal – to make at least three of any one pattern (usually in succession but not always) as if I’m going to invest in a pattern, I should use it. This is my aim for 2021.

What am I sewing for work from home in 2021? More casual clothes, this time with a nod to being upscale casual. Check out this article here for a few patterns to consider for your 2021 wardrobe.

What I discovered is that I love making things I wear every day. I know some sewists who will buy (poorly fitting) basics like tee shirts, turtlenecks, pants and skirts and sew things they hardly ever wear such as fancy dresses or suits. I prefer to have well-fitting things I wear each day and purchase fancy items (if I ever need them.)

Sew Paradise

Creating a Home Office

In your laundry room!

In the spring of 2020, we all locked down. My spouse moved home, he took over his desk in our shared home office, our kids started doing school in the playroom and I moved to my “summer office’ – my laundry room!

Creating a private home office in your laundry room seems crazy, but it actually worked pretty well for me. First off, no one comes back here. Second, I have a good window with southern-facing natural light, there’s a door, and well, when there’s laundry to get done, it gets done!

When we built our house, we installed this countertop and the desk-height cabinets below it. But for most of it’s life, this has been mainly a drop off point for bills, batteries, and junk people didn’t know where else to put. During a house painting project, our painters suggested this bright coral color, which is a fabulous upgrade to a boring beige room. I added a pink rug (soon to be dyed coral) on the dark tile floor, and hung up plants overhead. I also added two plants to the top of the dryer – another dumping ground for the family – and for the washer when it’s not in use. The laundry tub is hidden by a curtain that I can draw across. The upper cabinet storage uses bags and baskets (for a uniform look on Zoom calls in the background.)

I have two filing cabinets, but also added two file crates in black metal mesh for additional storage.

Sew Paradise

What do I wear now? Sewing wardrobe planning for a post-pandemic work-from-home-life

What do I wear now? Sewing wardrobe planning for a post-pandemic work-from-home-life

For most of us, the pandemic has caused a permanent shift in worklife.  If your company hasn’t completely shifted to remote work, you may now be offered the chance to work remote part time. And remote workers are all WFH until June at least, until a wide use of vaccines brings people back to offices (part time) safely.

So what do I wear now? What do I sew now? I looked at the things I was wearing, and picked the best, most comfortable patterns that fit my new life.

My bet is fixed waist pants might never return – so there are a lot of options here to help you sew comfy. This is the fall/winter/early spring edition.:

Chic, but still comfortable bottoms:

Track pants/joggers:

I like the Tailored Track Pant from HotPatterns. Released probably 8-9 years ago, in the very early days of chic track pants, these are easy to sew and come with trouser cuffs below a slim track-pant leg silhouette. A classic channeled elastic waist (sewn on) with pockets rounds out this well-fitting track pants. I added a classic jogger cuff, but you can also do elastic channels on the ankles if you’re using woven fabric. People also rave about the Jalie joggers (Jalie runs slim but comes in 27 sizes so it’s versatile). A tip, the HP joggers feature a fit that is perfect for curvy hips (you can see this in the line drawing). But if you’re not curvy, just flatten the waist curve before sewing the waistband for a more straight fit!

Elastic waist woven or knit pants:

My go-to pant is the Christine Jonson Taper & Wide Leg pant. This pant has a wide leg pant with a slight taper at the ankle, perfect for pants that are roomy but not too crazy wide. If you prefer a straight wide cut from hip to hem, just chalk that onto your fabric as you cut. These have no sideseam and take about 20 minutes to sew (perfect if you suddenly find yourself with pandemic weight gain!) I love adding a cargo pocket to the side, there are some stylish options in the September/October 2020 issue of SewNews magazine to try.  This one is for woven OR knit pants (in the wide leg), for the skinny leg one, make these in Ponte with a yoga waistband instead. Like ‘loose leggings’.

Pietra Pants and Shorts are my newest fave for woven fabrics. With a center front seam, angled front pockets, a high front waist with stay and back elastic, these pull on pants come in wide leg, shorts AND skinny leg pants. Seriously, I’m in love. I might never go back to skinny jeans with these.  A similar one for ponte knit is the Christine Jonson Perfect Pant Skinny.

Emerson Pants & Shorts: A cropped wide leg pant, perfect for warm weather or showing off your fancy booties, these pants are a pleated front, elastic back pant that looks like a trouser. If you have to go back to the office, make these. You can also quite easily extend them to full length pants too. Just draw them longer with chalk on your fabric when you cut them out.

Try longer midi skirts instead of pants

I like the Christine Jonson Base Wear Two knit skirts or the Pencil and Tapered skirt. I’ve sewn both in knit fabrics and they are so comfortable. These look great with booties or sneakers.  Knit skirts, in my opinion, are the perfect bridge between casual and workplace. When I travel, I wear these as they are way more comfortable than pants. I love the Christine Jonson Ruched Pencil Skirt in the midi length sewn in a soft rayon/lycra. I made one of these in a fun print, and wore it on an overseas, overnight flight. With my thick plane socks and a warm sweater, I was so comfy. Yet, when I landed, in Dublin, bleary eyed, at 5:30AM, I still managed to look good!

Hot Patterns makes a fun curved-hem drawstring waist skirt, a 2-hour A-line skirt both of which sew up in about an hour (I think the two hours is “check Instagram a bunch of times and go get some coffee” rating!)

Perfect WFH tops & tees to sew:

With the pandemic, I’m a sucker for a cozy sweater or sweatshirt. HotPatterns makes the most stylish tops that look fancy but are comfortable. To that end, the Beatnik Sweatshirt, the Superstar Sweatshirt and Sweater Dress are both great options for stylish, but fancier sweatshirts.  You can wear these to work, no problem. Whether that be the commute down the upstairs hall or to your actual office.

For a base layer, hands down, my favorite base layer tee shirts for well-fitting basics are from Christine Jonson. The Banded Neck Tee, the Raglan Tee and Turtlenecks are my favorite. The Shirred Turtleneck is the nicest looking turtleneck you’ll ever wear solo.

If you want a woven tee shirt, I like the Scout Tee from Grainline Studio. Well-fitting (make the top a smaller size or two than usual, as the neckline will gape, the size lines are close together, so I just use a larger seam allowance of ¾” to alter for this.) I’ve made this in cotton voile and silk noil from my LFS, and it’s divine. Looks great with jeans or any of the pants or skirts listed above. Hot Patterns makes a number of tee shirt style blouses for woven fabrics, too.

And for a cozy sweater option, check out the La Megeve Top and Pants from my new favorite line, Naughty Bobbin Patterns. This top is for faux fur (OMG!) or fleece or other heavy-ish fabrics. PLUS, in the “looks like a classic shirt, but in knit” try the Cookie knit shirt! The pattern company offers both a Hollywood-inspired set of patterns, as well as basics that are exceptionally well drafted and thought out.

Wraps, capes, jackets and coats in a WFH world:

I love a good cape or wrap – blanket style at my WFH desk (slippers on my feet) or draped just so cross my shoulders when I walk the dog, these are perfect for your wools that you’ll never make into business suits again. Go for a ruana cape, or a rectangular cape or even a poncho.  You don’t need a pattern for a ruana or a rectangular poncho, instructions abound on the internet.

For cozy knit fabrics like ponte, French terry and fleece, I like the Hot Patterns Glamour Poncho and the HP Fast & Fabulous poncho. These all look great with track pants.  Some people have made both in woven fabric, and I concur, with the RTW sizing, you can make your sewing pattern size and get by with a drapey woven fabric. In HP I wear my RTW size which is an 8, instead of my sewing pattern size which is a 12-14.  

If I have to wear a jacket, the knit moto jacket from Christine Jonson Patterns is a favorite. I sewed one in navy ponte and left it on a connecting flight in Los Angeles and was so sad. But I got way better navy ponte from my local fabric shop, so I am making another. I also have one in black. This jacket makes everything cooler. Wear it over anything I’ve listed here for an instant style update. But, still feels like a knit cardigan – because it is!

Coat-wise, I’ve sewn the Cambria Duster twice now, which my LFS owner says is a “socially acceptable bathrobe”  – just be sure to use a more coat-like fabric (I used heavyweight linen) or it will look like a robe!  Feels like one at your WFH desk though, so go for it over track pants and a tee.

I’m also going to make a couple of longer cardigans from the HotPatterns Birthday Mini-midi-maxi Cardigan pattern. And I have a coat-weight heavy rib for the Mighty Morphin Cardi Coat also from HotPatterns. Seeing a theme here?

I’d also love to sew a sleeveless Nikko turtleneck (and sleeved turtleneck dress from the same pattern) for 2020, to wear under cardigans.

I work at my desk at home, and I work standing in my basement – my shoe of choice in the winter is a FUgg boot (faux Uggs), and in the summer, sneakers. All of these are chic enough to wear with sneakers or booties for walking the dog, or riding to my LFS, but still comfy enough for WFH.

I will WFH forever more (I used to own a building for my office, but sold after 15 years), but when I do return to my nomadic coffee shop life, these garments will come with me!

Sew Paradise

Emerson Pant & Shorts Review

The Emerson Pants and Shorts Sewing Pattern from True/Bias has quickly become one of my go-to patterns. It fit me well right out of the envelope, which is surprising (and it’s not always the case with other reviewers, so do a muslin or test garment, as I did.)

Emerson Pants by True/ Bias in Essex Linen from Seams Fabric in East Lansing, MI
Emerson Shorts by True/Bias sewing patterns in heavyweight Brussels Washer Linen in black from Seams Fabric in East Lansing, MI.

What I like about this pattern:

The style first off. The cropped wide pant, stitched down front pleats and back elastic waist don’t scream “WFH Sweatpants” but they feel like it! I know others who love the cropped pant well into fall and winter with the help of cute booties. I’ll probably do the same.

The construction:

The pockets are really clever. They are a slash pocket on the side, but the interior pocket bag is actually a folded rectangular piece. This means the pocket lays flatter across the front, and it’s deep and roomy.

The waistband:

A flat-front, elastic-back seems tailor made for the pandemic work from home life we live. Who wants to go back to fixed waist pants? I gave up dress pants for jeans years ago, but am happy to find a comfortable, tailored-looking pant that is easy to sew.

The leg length:

Whether in shorts or in pants, the length is perfect. The shorts are not too short, but not too long. The pants are not too cropped but aren’t too long either- and in both cases, these lengths are easy to modify by just adding onto the bottom near the hem.

The speedy construction:

These are some fast pants to sew for all the details in them. I had three successful sewing sessions (test shorts, real shorts and pants.)

How I’ll wear them:

I bought the Cambria Duster pattern (Friday Pattern Company) and the Ogden Cami (also by True/Bias) and I’m sure I’m the LAST person in the sewing universe to make the Ogden cami, I like how these were released together, they go well together.

I also plan to wear a knit moto jacket from Christine Jonson Patterns with these pants. It’s like a great cardigan, only a lot more stylish.

I made ZERO. Yeah. zero alterations. Zero, zilch, nada. This isn’t the case for all sewists, though, and I’ve seen reviews of them where they have had to alter the pants to fit themselves. I didn’t have to do this at all.

Sew Paradise

There’s a blazer hanging in my closet

Oh how we miss our lives before. Will they ever be the same again?

There’s a blazer hanging in my closet. I sewed it myself. Fellow blazer friends of it also hang nearby, they were also made by me. I wore a blazer (with jeans or a dress or skirt) every day, for my work-from-home, work-from-coffee-shop, work-from-client-office life. I’ve worked from home for half my professional career, save about 15 years when I owned a building in a “trendy” gentrifying neighborhood. I’m a work-from-home pro. Up until March, I still wore the blazer. But right now, none of us need that blazer hanging in our closets.

What did we lose along with the blazer-wearing meetings? We lost interactions with our “third place” coffee shop staff and regular customers. I wonder how Larry, the elderly single gentleman who frequented my favorite coffee shop, is doing now. Larry and I saw each other three times a week or more, through three owners of one coffee shop, before they closed and we both moved our third place to another coffee shop nearby.

We lost driving to out of town meetings (or flying to conferences) to engage with clients, feel the energy of colleagues and learn.

We lost sending our kids off to school, running to catch up with their friends, before Mrs. Sara walked them across the crosswalk. I lost hearing the bell ring and the delightful cacophony of an elementary school that I can hear from my back deck.

We lost being home when our middle schooler unlocked the door and dropped her backpack in the front hall. We lost racing off to hockey practice, getting home to make dinner at 8pm.

Our future is unknown. But here’s what we gained in the process:

Our kids are safe at home. We have played many games of Monopoly and Clue, checkers, backgammon and Slamwich. We have baked many batches of brownies and cookies. We’ve moved our house around to accommodate two reluctant home learners, and two busy (and equally reluctant) homeschool parents. We bought a WiFi mesh router to extend our network to the far reaches of our house and deck.

We gave up the blazers for Zoom sweaters and Zoom shirts. I even have Zoom hair!

There’s a blazer hanging in my closet. It is waiting for the return of meetings, of parent council meetings, the coffee shop work sessions. The blazer in my closet is waiting for me to put on jeans (fixed waist pants? Haven’t done that in six months.) The blazer in my closet is waiting for normal.

I’m not sure we get to normal in 2020 at all. Maybe not even 2021. And if the blazers sit that long, will I even want to wear them?

The blazer sits, and while it does I change my business. I lean in to product development, so I can sell things online to people anywhere. I lean into marketing tech training, and I work with clients everywhere but here. The blazer might not even need to come out of the closet with my new business. I love my new ideas, forged even before the pandemic, honed by the changes in life and business along the way.

But I still want to visit the coffee shop, it’s noisy mass of mobile humanity. I still want to work to the hum of the espresso machine every now and again. I still want to ride my bicycle around town, the blazer flying out behind me as I cruise to the post office, all those online commerce packages behind me on the rack.

The blazer in my closet represents normal. It represents work, purpose, and fulfillment; something I’ve always defined as a professional career. I spend much of my time with my kids now, where blazers aren’t required. I love my kids. I miss who I was, the woman in the blazer, jetting off to a conference, checking the departures board.

There’s a blazer in my closet. And I miss it.

Sew Paradise

Adding a paper bag waistband extension to any skirt or pant pattern

The “paperbag” style elasticated drawstring waistband is super popular right now. And it’s a SUPER easy hack too!

  1. Any elastic waistband skirt or pant pattern.
  2. A ruler
  3. Some tracing or large-format paper (even newspaper will work fine.)
  4. A pencil/pen/marker
  5. Fabric marker

Trace your pant or skirt pattern.

Add a piece of paper under the top of the pattern near the waistband.

Using your ruler, draw up from the sideseam 2″ (this will allow for a 1/2″ ‘paper bag’ at the top, if you want more, add another inch here)

Repeat for the center front seam and the other piece of the front/back of the skirt or pants.

Connect these two new lines with a perpendicular line to create a new, taller waistband.

Sew the pants as directed; when you get to the waistband instructions, follow these instead:

Mark the waistband at 1.25″ from top – this is your fold over line

Fold wrong sides together, and press on this line. This will allow for a casing plus a turn-and-stitch hem for the waistband on the inside.

Follow directions here for making a self-fabric tie plus elastic waistband

Mark and sew a buttonhole on the front of the pants, below the fold line. This is where your drawstring elastic waist will exit. You do not have to do this step if you do not want ties exposed here.

Stitch the folded hem edge of the waistband down, leaving a 1″ gap at center back to insert elastic.

Mark 1/2″ below the top of the folded waistband, and stitch along this line. Do not leave a gap. This is your paperbag part.

Insert elastic into the channel below the paperbag section, try on, adjust and stitch ends of elastic together securely.

Stitch the open section along the center back.

Voila! Trendy paper bag waistband!

Elasticated drawstring is inserted in a paperbag style waistband for a trendy look in a high-waisted pants or shorts pattern!
Sew Paradise

Sew an easy Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Sew an easy Summer Capsule Wardrobe

“The Stack”

One of my favorite RTW brands, J. Crew, does this thing called “the Stack”. A stack of curated essentials / capsule wardrobe. They photograph it as a stack and show you how the pieces work together. I know many, many sewists struggle with this idea of a capsule wardrobe. And since I prefer to align with the slow fashion/sustainable fashion movement, I buy my J. Crew mostly secondhand these days.

Over the years, I’ve developed a VERY simple capsule wardrobe formula for myself, extended it to sewing brands that I have worked with, as well as shouted it from the rooftops. Make what you love to wear, make just one or two pieces to work with the rest of your wardrobe and build on it. This way, you’re not overwhelmed by the six, eight, ten pieces you have to sew, you build gradually and work in your existing closet, which is the ultimate in wardrobe sustainability.

In this “Stack” are some of my favorite me-made garments (all except one from the past 12 months.) They go with many things in my existing wardrobe and are things I wear every day (in fact, two of these I plucked from my “not quite dirty” pile of clothes on a bench in my room, because I’d worn them this week! Two were in the clean laundry.

From top, a linen curved hem skirt with hybrid elastic drawstring waist (tutorial here) using Christine Jonson Patterns Base Wear Two straight skirt pattern. Hacks shown here for the curved hem (including a clever way to hem the thing without tears!) Printed geometric linen is from Seams Fabric in downtown East Lansing.

The second item is the Ann Normandy Designs Slip Dress pattern, a really wonderfully constructed and simple dress that I sewed from Kona cotton, batiked the designs myself and then stitched it up in an hour on my children’s Janome SewMini sewing machine (I took it with me in a backpack!) at a Seams Sewcial, back when we did such things in person, together, last summer.

Ann Normandy Slip Dress Batiked Kona Cotton

Below that the Scout Tee from Grainline Studio in a cotton voile black print from Seams Fabric in downtown East Lansing. This fabric is incredibly lightweight and goes well with this tee pattern.

Next up, my favorite, favorite white “linen” pants (in a linen/poly blend that is virtually indestructable) made 25 years ago, from an OOP Butterick pattern. Any basic elastic waist relaxed fit pant will do, I show you how to craft the paper bag waist here. If your pants don’t come with pockets, you can draft one. Try this one from Sew News with a fun side square pocket and add my hack for the waistband paperbag add-on. The Sew News pattern has several other patterns, all in the same casual chic vibe, so it’s a great value. I’ve taken my version of these pants on every warm weather vacation for the past 25 years, summer, and winter getaway. Plus, I wear them at least once per week. There are a few minor stains that work their way in to the slubby look of the “linen” and I let them go. An alternative is the Christine Jonson Taper/Wide Leg pant. Designed for knits, you’ll need to select a size at the waist that will go over your hips (e.g. use the waist measurement that fits your hip size) to make it in a woven fabric. This one also doesn’t have a sideseam, but there are tutes on the site for how to add one using a dart, which is very clever!

After that, another Scout Tee from Grainline Studio in fuscia silk noil, washed for a faded look. Also from Seams Fabric in East Lansing.

Last up, the Gypsum Skirt from Sew Liberated in a gorgeous rayon border print from, again, Seams Fabric (this one is one of their vintage “estate sale” collection, so as far as I know, no other exists, but any cool border print works with this paneled, pocketed skirt.)

Planning a wardrobe is easy. I use the Pick One, Sew Two method that I wrote for Christine Jonson Patterns. If it’s no longer available there, you can download this here (with my branding.)

I pick ONE item in my closet and I go into my stash and sew TWO more. Sometimes I do not have stash for both, so I then head over to my LFS (Seams Fabric, y’all, all online too!) and pick something that works for both.

It’s been a while since I’ve sewing-blogged regularly under my own name. I’ve worked for about five years helping other sewing brands. It’s nice to be back! While I still work with sewing brands, most of my work now is in marketing coaching and marketing-tech training. I’d rather coach sewing pattern companies’ brands through developing content, as their authentic voices come through in what they write, photograph and record. A perennial challenge for any brand is maintaining that level of content (I do not have this problem!), but we work on that, too. Think of it as coaching AND motivation.

Very last, the fedora hat is one of my favorites, from Sunday Afternoons. It’s adjustable, it’s durable, affordable and its called aptly, their Havana Hat. Get it here. They offer a lifetime guarantee, and for such an affordable hat, that’s a bonus.

Sew Paradise

Adding a shelf bra to a maxi dress

Adding a shelf bra to a maxi dress sewing pattern hack
Inside of a maxi sundress, a knit shelf bra added to a woven maxi sundress. Pattern is the Greenstyle Creations Havana Dress.

We love Maxi Dresses in the summer! But we also don’t love wearing a bra in summer’s heat or wearing one peeking out of the dress spaghetti straps. Fortunately, even if your dress doesn’t come with an option, it’s easy to add a knit shelf bra to a maxi dress (with or without molded cups sewn in.)

  1. Mark the underbust spot on your sewing pattern by holding the pattern up, measuring from the neckline or shoulder or up from the waist mark on the pattern to your underbust. This will be your finished shelf bra length
  2. Mark a spot 2” below this on your pattern
  3.  Trace the top of the dress front and the dress back to the line you marked. You’ll trace out a copy of each of these. These will become your shelf bra.
  4. If your dress has folded-and-stitched facings, your shelf bra will replace these facings
  5. If your dress has applied binding, you will sandwich the shelf bra and dress wrong sides together, baste the raw edges along the top of the dress and apply the binding to both at the same time
  6. Sew the top of the dress and the top of the shelf bra.
  7. Fold up the shelf bra bottom band .5” and press
  8. Fold up the shelf bra bottom band 1” and press
  9. Stitch around the bra band, leaving an opening to insert ¾”  non-roll elastic. You may also cut off the hem allowances and apply soft waistband elastic instead, stitching it directly to the raw edge of the shelf bra
  10. If you’re using a casing, measure elastic around your underbust, and subtract one inch. This is your elastic cut length
  11. Thread elastic through the casing and pin with a safety pin. Put on the shelf bra and try the fit. The band should be snug but not too tight.
  12. Once your shelf bra is finished, you’ll apply this either as a facing, right sides together with the dress, stitch around the dress top/neckline and fold inside the dress, or you’ll apply this wrong sides together to the inside of the dress, baste the top edges and apply binding to the neckline and armholes.
  13. If you are applying this as a facing, you can use the facing instructions for your dress OR apply the facing to the neckline only, then turn/press under both the armholes on the dress and the facing and stitch together. If you choose the latter, you’ll finish both the armhole edges at the same time.

I’ve used the Greenstyle creations maxi dress with bias binding.

Sew Paradise

How a sewing mistake led to my favorite summer pants

Using a precious fabric bought on an Italian vacation, I made a sewing mistake. And I fixed my sewing mistake to become one of my favorite summer outfits!

Sewing mistake to favorite wide leg summer palazzo pants. Pic of wide leg pants summer porch tank top.
See that side seam with crossgrain stripes and a ruched hem? A total mistake! My favorite mistake pants!

Around the corner and up two twisty blocks from the Duomo in Florence, along cobbled streets, zig-zagged with crazy Italian scooter drivers and bicyclists, there’s a three-story fabric store. On the first floor, the premium fabrics – silks, Italian wools, leather and suede. The second and third hold better bargains. On the first floor, in the silks, I selected a beautiful silvery grey hammered silk with black and purple stripes. I bought two meters. Intending this to be a blouse of some sort, I figured that was enough fabric. I also bought gray windowpane lightweight Italian wool (still in my stash! Must sew!)

Sewing mistake to favorite wide leg summer palazzo pants. Pic of wide leg pants summer porch tank top
Close up of the hammered silk fabric. Variegated stripes in black, brown and purple add to the dimension of this beautiful Italian fabric. It’s withstood nearly 20 years of wear, every summer (machine wash, hang to dry.)

My two fabrics went home with me in a large gallon ziploc bag in my small 40-cubic inch “going to Europe” backpack.

The next spring, I sat down to sew the blouse, but it didn’t want to be a blouse at all. It wanted to be palazzo pants. I selected a no-side-seam pattern (now OOP, from Sandra Betzina, but a similar pant, with modifications, is the Christine Jonson Wide Leg pant #824.) Except, during cutting, I realized I didn’t have enough fabric.

At first, I pondered adding in a patch in each crotch seam. Too weird. Then, I looked at splitting the pattern at the side seam, and using actual scraps left over from cutting the pants, cut across the crossgrain of the bottom of the fabric to create long, ruched panels down the side of the legs.

The crossgrain panels put the stripes sideways, and the long lengths I had of these scraps I ruched from about mid calf to the hem. This ruching and crossgrain stripe ended up being the very best part of these otherwise simple elastic-waist wide-leg pants.

I had quite literally zero fabric waste on these pants when I cut them out (except for the crotch cutouts, and I’m pretty sure I saved those in a scrap bag somewhere to make, I don’t know, a bookmark or something.)

A complete screw up during cutting led me to making my favorite summer pants. This precious fabric became one of my perennial favorite summer garments, super lightweight pants with enough style to hold up a simple tank top and flip flops.

Top: Christine Jonson Flyaway Top and OOP Sandra Betzina pants (similar, Christine Jonson Wide Leg Pants #824 with leg width modified below the knee.)