Projects · Sewing for Others · Tops



I thought I would write a blog post about the process behind creating two bridespeople vests for my friend Sarah’s wedding.  A little background: I’ve known Sarah since elementary school.  We were each other’s Spanish language partners in junior high and documentary filmmaker partners in our twenties.  She has been a great friend all these years and I’m a big fan of her entire family, who are all wonderful people as well.

Sarah approached me a few months before her wedding and asked if I would be able to contribute by sewing these vests.  After some consideration, I agreed – I’m less intimidated making flat pattern adjustments and doing fittings since taking Suzy Furrer’s classes on Craftsy and Lisa Maynard’s class on Flat Pattern Adjustments.  The challenge would be creating not one, but TWO lined garments for two differently shaped people.

Rachel and Adam were the people in question: thankfully, it turned out that they have extremely similar measurements in the upper body, which made adjustments a lot easier.

I already had a decent vest pattern in my collection: Simplicity 2895, a sort of Wild West costume pattern set that I actually bought for Halloween 2016.  I used it to make a black frock coat for Elias’s costume and saved the pieces.

I cut a 38 (the smallest size), and traced it off onto paper. I then used a vest that Rachel had given me to compare sizing.  I kept the width of the pattern piece the same, but I raised the armhole considerably, shortened the length, and took in an inch and a half for her vest to make it sit better on her shoulders.  You can see below that I raised the armhole up about an inch.

I sewed Rachel’s vest first, and then I made Adam’s adjustments on the same piece. Adam has broader shoulders and a slightly longer torso, so I added back an inch to the shoulder width and length (after removing for Rachel’s).

I also changed the location of the upper welt pocket, which was in a weird spot, I thought, in the pattern marking.  I moved it up and closer to the edge of the vest. You can see this below.

Welt pockets! These were a study in patience. And fray check. And seam ripping.  It’s been years since I did them – I suppose I could have left them off, but they’re so elegant looking on menswear. And practical.

Fully lined with rayon bemberg.

I did the buttonholes and buttons with my mom’s awesome Janome New Home 3000.  The rest was done on my 20-plus year old champion of a machine, a Bernina 1000 Special.

The back of the vest has a waist tie for more fitting. Here’s a sideview.

These vests were a labor of love and a pretty intense project! I’m not exactly set up for production line sewing; it would have been more efficient to cut out both vests and sew them together, but I wanted to see how Rachel’s fit before I started on Adam’s. I’m glad I did it that way since I made some adjustments that were easier to carry over on the second one.   I’m hopefully that Adam and Rachel will wear these for years to come.

Congratulations, Sarah!





Self-Drafted striped t-shirt

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 10.37.15 PM.pngAn old make, but one I have worn literally to death. This post is post-mortem, as the shirt’s stitching basically fell apart due to the fact that I don’t have a serger: sewing cheap knits on the bias without one is NOT recommended.  While I like the look of the stripes on the diagonal, I don’t love how gape-y the neckline is: I should have used stabilizer or clear elastic, but until I made my Sallie jumpsuits I’d had no experience using it.

It’s a simple pattern: two boxy rectangles with holes for sleeves, but the bias cut made it cling nicely in all the right places.  I’m excited to invest in a serger someday, but like all big purchasing decisions, I am agonizing over which one to get! Any suggestions are welcome. Leaning towards Janome because I know a dealer nearby, but have heard good things about Juki too.

Projects · Tops

Seersucker Belcarra


This blog has lain long neglected, but I thought I would begin the series of 2016 posts by writing about something that I wear on a near-weekly basis: this seersucker Belcarra Blouse, by Sewaholic Patterns. I actually made this in August of 2015, right before the school year started. Even though I’m an adult, an instructor, and not technically in need of “new school clothes,” I still like making something to celebrate the start of the new semester.

I downloaded the pdf of this pattern, and, after reading about the sizing for Sewaholic patterns (small busted/narrow up top, wide hipped, aka pretty much the opposite of how I’m built) I decided to do a full bust adjustment and cut a size 12 based on measurements. However, when I tried it on it was huuugge, and the necklace was way too wide, and gaped in front – plus there was a whole bunch of ease in the back. Since reading more about others who’ve made this pattern it seems like the neckline issues are pretty common.  I nipped in the back center seam, and took in the neckline with three darts on the front.  I actually like the way these front darts look with the striped seersucker I used – which incidentally is THE best summer fabric for the hot, dry summers we have out here in the Central Valley of California.

belcarra2belcarra3Since making this blouse, I have made two more Belcarras –  one in a polyester from Joann’s, and one from linen – and I sized down to an 8, without an FBA. Both fit fairly well, but the issue with the gaping neckline remains, and I still like this one the best.  I recently took a Craftsy class on making flat pattern adjustments, and learned enough to re-draft the Belcarra blouse into a more fitted style with flowy sleeves and used great rayon challis I picked up at Britex Fabrics.

All in all, I like this pattern a lot: especially the sleeve binding detail, which is a feature I’m noticing on a lot of blouses and shirts – even in knits – and the raglan sleeves.  I’m modeling it in the hay bale winter garden that Elias planted.  If you’ve never seen or tried this kind of planting, you can learn more about it here: a very cool way of container gardening.