Refashion, Stylish Remakes book review and giveaway!

Hi, It’s hard to believe that September is well underway. I thought I’d sew more summer things but I didn’t quite have the time (or motivation) to sew as much as I wanted to.

In June, I wrote a post about my summer WIPs (works in progress). Out of the six things I mentioned, I finished two (my fourth Deer & Doe Chardon Skirt and my third By Hand London Anna Dress – for the International Anna Party). I said I was going to make the dress pictured on the cover of the Japanese sewing book Basic Black but I still haven’t traced the pattern (whoops). It was intended for the Sundress Sew-a-long organized by Handmade by Heather B. Maybe next year, Heather!

Did you do any summer sewing? What did you make? In August I started working on a refashion project for two reasons: 1. Tuttle Publishing asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing a couple of Japanese sewing books and Stylish Remakes Stylish Remakes by Violette Room (Tuttle Publishing)by Violette Room, was one of them. The other was Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I hadn’t heard of Violette Room, a Japanese clothing company, but the book seemed interesting.

2. I had just found out via Instagram about The Refashioners challenge organized by Portia Lawrie – create something from a men’s shirt. (See the impressive lineup of sewing bloggers who stepped up to the challenge on this Makery post.) So I was game and told Tuttle, “YES! Send the books!” [Note: I am not being paid to review these books. I was given the books with the understanding that I would provide an honest review.]

This super-long post includes my review of Stylish Remakes, my first men’s shirt refashion, and a giveaway of this book! Details on entering the giveaway are at the end of this post. (I’ll be reviewing – and giving away a copy of – Stylish Party Dresses in a later post.)

I took photos of this much-washed Brooks Brothers shirt that I got for free at a swap event in San Francisco a couple of years ago. As you can see, this size 17.5 “relaxed fit” shirt is quite voluminous.

Before - side shirtBefore - back shirt

I flipped through Stylish Remakes to see what ideas could be useful for the Refashioners challenge. The book features a total of 25 ideas categorized into six sections, labeled as follows: T-shirts, Flannel Shirts, Borders, College Sweats, Gabardine Coats, and Bandannas. “Borders” seems to refer to garments with stripes. Also included in this section is a detachable collar that you make and embellish with beads. “College sweats” refers to sweatshirts.

There are anywhere from three to six ideas in each category. Some of them are quite simple – shorten the T-shirt sleeves, add a bow, attach a skirt to make a dress, sew a scarf to the top to make a tunic (design no. 14). I’ve taken photos from the book so you can see some examples (excuse the poor lighting!).

Stylish Remakes by Violet Room - tunic

None of the ideas in the book are particularly complicated. Only a few designs approach the more radical transformations of Charity Shop Chic or Refashionista. BUT if you haven’t tried to refashion or upcycle a garment before, this book will give you some good ideas to get started – and then you can add your own design changes. The book seems aimed more at the fashionista than the sewist. The book flap says “With just a little cutting and sewing you can create fun and funky new pieces… Anyone can do it and anyone can wear it.”

T-shirt refashioned - Stylish Remakes by Violette Room -
Tank top and a t-shirt cut and sewn together (no. 3)

If you’ve made anything from a Japanese sewing book, you’ll be familiar with the format – photos of models wearing the garments, followed by instructions with detailed diagrams. There are only a couple of patterns in the book, a collar, a bow, and a cat, which you enlarge on a photocopier. There aren’t any patterns for the other projects because you’re refashioning existing garments (and bandannas) into something else.

Here’s an upcycled sweatshirt made into a mini dress (design no. 17) – not something I’d make or wear.

Refashioned sweatshirt - Stylish Remakes by Violette Room -

An outfit made from a striped long-sleeve tee and a Liberty print dress (design no. 12). A simple idea that I may use. I’ve got a RTW striped top and cheap skirt that may be more interesting as a dress.

Stylish Remakes by Violet Room - borders - csewscom

Here’s a coat restyled using different parts of a scarf as the collar and design elements sewn on the coat (“Coat with Scarf and Details,” no. 20). The horses are from the scarf. I really like the scarf-used-as-collar idea. I’ve got an old vintage coat with a rather dirty collar. I’ll try dry cleaning it first but if that doesn’t work, I’ll try this clever idea.

Gabardine coats - Stylish Remakes -

This tot is absolutely adorable in this camisole and skirt made from a bandanna (design no. 24).

Bandanna refashion - Stylish Remakes by Violette Room -

Both pieces are made from one 20.5 inch x 20.5 inch (52 cm x 52 cm) bandanna. The book recommends that you use an old bandanna that’s soft and drapey, which will feel nice to the little one. So cute!

The book has five ideas for refashioning men’s flannel shirts. They’re not complicated to execute but you need some basic sewing knowledge to understand the construction explanations, which heavily rely on diagrams as much as the words to explain the details.

This “Half-and-Half Dress” (design no. 7) is one of the more interesting and clever designs. You button the two shirts together (moving buttons if they don’t line up) and use the cut-off sleeve pieces to make the shoulder straps. The leftover sleeve pieces (still attached to the shirt) form pockets – very nice. I’m not a fan of flannel shirts but I really like this design idea. I could see making this with two (non-flannel) shirts.

Stylish Remakes - flannel dress -

Before I get into my project, here’s my conclusion about this book: I wouldn’t make most of the projects in it because they’re not my style BUT I really like the ideas for the flannel shirts and the coat collar. So it’s worth it for the sewing tips to create those garments.

I wanted to try making a blouse from the men’s shirt so first I thought I’d try the “Jacket with a Gathered Waist” (design no. 8), which wasn’t really a jacket (maybe a fault in the translation?). I liked the 3/4 gathered sleeves.

Stylish Remakes by Violet room - flannel shirts -

You remove the shirt cuff, shorten the sleeve and reattach the cuff to the shortened sleeves. Then you fold the hem up and sew a casing for the elastic. Pretty simple, right?

Stylish Remakes - shirt cuff -

Well, I made a mistake when I trimmed my sleeves. I cut them too short. After I sewed on one cuff, I tried it on and realized it was too tight on my forearm. Ack. I measured from my shoulder point to where I wanted the sleeve to end. However, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that the sleeve is cut at an angle to give it additional ease so you’ll have more to gather at the cuff. Darn. I marked the sleeve on the fold a few inches below my elbow point instead of at the sleeve seam (below my inner elbow). Here’s what that sleeve looked like with the cuff attached.

Sleeve shortened cuff reattached - refashioned shirt -

If you make this top, put on your shirt, pull up the sleeve to determine what length you want it to be. Make sure the cuff is at a comfortable spot on your arm so it’s not too tight. Mark the sleeve at the length you want at the seam line, not on the outside of the sleeve. The book gives you a measurement for where to cut the sleeve but I ignored it because I have long arms and I knew it would be too short if I used the book’s measurement.

Now I had two cuffs that I wasn’t going to use. I played around with them, trying to see if there was another way to use them. How about a pocket? I liked this idea but didn’t reuse them for this shirt because the cuff was rather thick and didn’t seem right for this shirt. I’ve saved them though and may reuse them for something else.

Shirt cuff as pocket - refashion -

I had to change plans and decided to go with short sleeves. I flipped to design no. 9 – the “Big Bow Blouse.” I wasn’t keen on the bow but I liked the collar and sleeves so I thought I’d give it a try.

Stylish Remakes-plaid blouse with bow -

I removed the left front pocket and I made the sleeves shorter but the armholes were really gaping.

Sleeves trimmed - shirt refashion -

Clearly, I needed to get rid of some excess fabric. So I stitched a new side seam. The point of the pencil is where the new seam is.

Side seam - Get Shirty -

I trimmed off the curving parts of the shirt hem so I could have a straight hem all around. I saved those curving bits for later. Now the shirt looked like this. The hem is pinned. As you can see the sleeves stick out a bit.

Refashioned shirt - WIP -

The book says that if the sleeve opening was too wide (hell yes!), to “overlap the sleeve under the arm and stitch.” Hmmm. The translation is a little awkward here but the diagram offers a better explanation.

Sleeve diagram - Stylish Remakes - Violette Room -

This makes the sleeve fit more closely to the upper arm as you’ll see in the photos below.

Cutting off the collar left a slightly frayed edge, which I wanted to hide. Also, the collar seemed rather plain because I wasn’t using a flannel shirt with more visual interest.

Shirt collar removed - frayed edge -

So I looked at the collar I removed, then I trimmed off about 3/8 inch (1 cm) to remove the top-stitched edge. This left me with the top and bottom collar pieces and its interfacing (note: not a fusible). I joined the two pieces together in the middle with a flat felled seam to make one long strip with curved ends. Now I had a long strip of fabric roughly twice the length of the collar stand, which would make a nice ruffle.

Collar before gathering -

I finished the curved edge with a 1/8 inch (about 3 mm) hem and the straight edge with a zigzag stitch. Then I sewed two lines of gathering stitches on the zig zag side.

Here’s the collar gathered and attached reattached to the shirt. I don’t usually wear anything with ruffles so this was a fun experiment. The ruffle is a single layer of fabric but the gathering makes it stiff enough to stand up. I stitched it right on top of the collar stand, which is a bit of a sloppy finish but I didn’t feel like ripping out the stitching on the collar stand to open it up and insert the ruffle.

Ruffled collar - detail - refashioned shirt -

I nixed an elastic waist like design no. 8 (above). So I trimmed the bottom and I used the leftover sleeve pieces to make a belt. They were huge sleeves! I didn’t have enough fabric for one long piece so I used two pieces of fabric for each side of the belt. You can see the seam just to the right of my fingers.

Fabric belt seam - Get Shirty project - Refashion -

I had a belt kit I got from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse and used that to make the belt. It came with the belt backing, buckle and eyelets.

Fabric belt kit -

The shirt fabric was pretty thin though so it didn’t quite lay flat but one side looked better than the other so I put that on the outside, attached the buckle and inserted the eyelets, which are really huge and not too attractive. Oh well.

Fabric Belt - Get Shirty - Refashion project -

I tried on the shirt again but it was still too big because I didn’t take out enough from the side seams. Oops. But I liked the sleeves. I followed the instructions from the diagram above and now the sleeves don’t stick out as much. Nice, eh?

I posted this image to Instagram (@csews) wondering if it was too long and I received some helpful comments from several people. Mari (@ddisciplines) of Seamster Patterns suggested fish-eye darts and others suggested inverted pleats or tucks. Of course this meant I needed to remove/replace the pocket. Gee, I had done such nice top stitching on it! Poo.

Refashioned shirt belted -

I had finished one side seam with a French seam and I didn’t want to unpick it (lazy). Thus I decided to go with fish-eye darts, which would provide some waist definition. I decided to take an incremental approach so the dart was no more than 3/8 inch at its widest point (measuring from the center of the dart). And at some point in the process, I decided to go with a curving hem so it’s shorter in front and is longer in back as you’ll see in the finished photos below.

Fish eye darts added to shirt refashion -

Here’s the shirt with a total of six fish-eye darts. I started out with just two on each side but that wasn’t enough. Then I sewed six inverted pleats in the back, which brought in the waist a bit more and then it looked like this. Still a bit roomy but I decided to call it quits.

Fish eye darts sewn - shirt refashion -

By this time, I think I’d been tinkering with this shirt for a couple of weeks. If you follow me on IG, you may have seen some of my WIP photos. I didn’t expect to get so involved in it but I was having a lot of fun changing it as I went along.

OK, you might remember that I mentioned cutting off the curving parts of the original shirt hem. Here they are.

Shirt hem trimmed -

I took one of them and gathered the edge…

Fabric flower with gather -

… and made it into a flower, which I pinned to my hat.

Fabric flower for hat -

Now, drum roll please….

Here’s the final version without the belt. (Note on the pose: I’m trying out a “shoulders back, hips out” pose here  – not realizing that it makes the shirt stick out in front. Whoops. It I were standing normally, it would lay flat.)

Refashioned Shirt - front view - Get Shirty -

And here it is with the belt.

Refashioned shirt - left view 2 - Get Shirty -

And all those inverted pleats! I should have taken more fabric out of the back. It’s a little puffy there. I used the width of the original pleat sewn in the back yoke to set the width of all the waist pleats. I started out with three and ended up with six! There’s another photo below without the belt.

Refashioned shirt - with belt - back view - Get Shirty -

And a few before and after photos.

Before-After - front view - Refashion - Get Shirty -

Before-After - side view - Refashion - Get Shirty -

Before-After - back view - Refashion - Get Shirty -

And a full frontal view with the belt….

Refashioned shirt - front view with belt - Get Shirty -

… and a final shot here.

Refashioned shirt with belt - Get Shirty -

I think I like it better with the belt. What do you think? I wore it to work last week and when I told people that it had been a men’s shirt, they couldn’t believe it. I showed them the before pictures and they were amazed.

To see other refashion projects, use the hashtags  #therefashioners2015 #therefashioners #refashfest #getshirty. Ceck out the official Pinterest board for The Refashioners 2015 and see some lovely tops and dresses. And it’s not too late to enter the Refashioners 2015 contest! You have until Sunday, Sept. 27 to submit your project. See the rules (and prizes!) here.

Last but not least, if you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Stylish Remakes, just comment below by September 30, 11:59 pm, Pacific (California time). UPDATE: This giveaway is open to everyone around the world. Tuttle Publishing will be shipping it so if you win and live outside the United States, you’ll just need to give me your address and phone number for the customs form.

If you don’t want to be entered, just say, don’t enter me. Have you done any refashioning? What did you make?

Thanks so much for visiting and happy sewing!

Cutting Chevron Knit Fabric and Matching Chevrons

Red Velvet Knit Dress - Cake Patterns -

The biggest challenge in making this dress from the Red Velvet Knit Dress Pattern (a lovely Cake Patterns design) was preparing the fabric for cutting and sewing. So here’s my promised rundown of my experience cutting chevron knit fabric and matching chevrons along the side seams. (You can see more photos of the dress and read about the Red Velvet sewalong in the post “My Chevron Red Velvet Dress.”)

This was my first time sewing chevrons so I don’t think I can call this a tutorial. But hopefully you can learn something from my experience. And hey, I’ve got plenty of photos of my side seams, which I’m really proud of. So excuse me as I insert one here of the bodice side seam. 😉

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

This chevron fabric is a rayon jersey by Ella Moss, which I got from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. The bodice fabric has chevrons that are about a 1/2 inch wide (about 1.3 cm for you metric folks) and each chevron from point to point is about 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall – with a really steep angle. The skirt’s larger chevrons are about 2 inches (5 cm) wide and each chevron is about 7 inches (17.75 cm) tall. I liked the contrast of having a larger print on the bottom.

I assumed when I got the fabric that it would be similar to sewing stripes. Hahahaha. Well, if your chevrons are shallow and the angle of the chevrons is 45 degrees, it probably is a lot more like sewing stripes. For example, the chevrons on this cotton jersey from Girl Charlee Fabrics are probably a little easier to sew than my fabric. The chevrons on this cotton knit are about 2 inches tall.

Chevron knit fabric - Girl Charlee Fabrics

Meanwhile, I’m approaching my fabric’s chevrons like they’re stripes. Before I began cutting I read a really great tutorial on matching stripes on a knit fabric on Sewholic’s site here. So I began preparing the bodice fabric according to her striped knit fabric instructions.

I folded my fabric in half. I knew I wanted the apex of my chevron to be in the exact center so I folded it right in the middle. The fabric seemed a bit clingy after I prewashed and dried it (yes, I put it in the dryer on low to ensure it wouldn’t shrink any further but I’ll air dry now that it’s completed). This cling factor was both good and bad – good because the fabric didn’t move much once I folded it but bad because it was hard to smooth it out the ripples to line up the chevrons.

I pinned through both sides of my folded fabric, placing my pin alongside a chevron. I did this every couple of chevrons. Luckily I could see through to the other side of the fabric (yay for black and white!) so it wasn’t too hard to line up. But it took a long time to get those edges to match because this is a stretchy knit. I discovered I could gently pat the fabric to get the chevrons to line up – patting it in whatever direction it needed to go.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Then I flipped over my fabric to check the match – you can (sort of ) see the two pins near the fold. The apex of the chevron is on the fold.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

I think it took me about an hour and a half to do the front and back bodice. Really! (At this point in the sewalong, most folks had already started sewing and I hadn’t cut anything yet!)

After pinning the chevrons, I placed and pinned my front bodice pattern piece on the fabric. My midriff piece was a solid black rayon and I wanted the tip of the black chevron to look like it was coming out of the black. So that’s what determined where I would place the bottom of the bodice. This pattern uses 1/2-inch seam allowances so I just made sure to add that amount.

When I cut the fabric, I left the pins in place unless they were in the way of my scissors. Here’s the front bodice (note: I added about 3 inches to the bottom of my bodice – you can sort of see the faint line I drew below the bodice, which is where I cut it).

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Here’s the back bodice – you can see the pins are still in the fabric. I didn’t remove the pins until I was ready to sew.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

The Mistake

I cut the front and the back bodice pieces separately. I had stripes (not chevrons!) on the brain and I just assumed that if I cut each piece with the chevron in centered on the fold and cut the bottom in the same place that everything would be fine. Uh, no. That would work only if the front and back pieces were the exact same width and everything was perfectly cut. But the front bodice piece has pleats so it’s wider than the back. Duh. Somehow I wasn’t paying attention to this detail.

I also needed to pay attention to where the seam line would go on the fabric. But I totally forgot about how I would match the side seams. If you want your seam to be at the apex of the chevron, then you need to make sure you place your pattern so that the seam line will go right down the middle of the chevron. So centering the pattern piece on the fold isn’t as important as paying attention to the side seams. Have your seam gauge in hand to ensure that you’ve got the right seam allowance.

Here’s what I saw when put the front and back pieces together so the chevrons would line up. Grrrrrrr.

Red Velvet side seam -

To get the pieces to line up perfectly, I should have cut one bodice piece, put it on top of the fabric, aligning the chevrons of the cut piece and the fabric. Then I could mark the side seams on the fabric so they would match.

I panicked for a moment wondering if I needed to run to the fabric store and buy some more fabric. But then I took a breath, and pinned and basted the side seams. Thanks again to Katie of Kadiddlehopper for the advice and reassurance on Instagram (her IG handle is @kid_md, mine is @csews)!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Then I basted the midriff pieces together, pinned the bodice to the midriff and adjusted the width of my pleats to compensate for the side seam change.

I removed all the pins after I basted. Then I tried on the bodice. It still fit! Here’s the photo I posted on Instagram (@csews is my handle there) of the basted bodice. (Excuse the dirty bathroom mirror!)

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

And basting this short side seam was good practice for the skirt. I basted down the exact middle of the chevrons. Basting is an absolute must if you want to match your pattern. After I basted, I checked the seam to make sure I wasn’t off anywhere and then I sewed my side seams.

Because I had such a tiny seam allowance, I decided to leave my seam unfinished (I don’t have a serger) but I wanted to make sure I had a strong side seam so I used the ugly straight stretch stitch on my machine. The stretch stitch goes over each stitch three times. Here’s that side seam.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Here’s my bodice side seam from the wrong side…

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

and here it is from the right side. You can’t really tell where it is, can you? Well, it’s where the apex is slightly shorter than the two chevrons next to it (third chevron from the left). So I was slightly off but you can’t really tell because the chevrons are the same width so it all blends in!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

So what about the shoulder seam? Well, I decided to forgo any attempt at matching the chevrons at the shoulder. I decided I would just let it be whatever it was. Plus I wasn’t sure if it was even possible to match anything there.

Here’s what the shoulder seam looks like:

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Nothing matches but it’s fine with me. I’m side-seam obsessed anyway.

Now for the skirt – big chevrons! For this pin job, I put pins at the apex of the chevrons. You can see how the fabric isn’t quite flat. I spent at more than two hours (two!), getting the first skirt piece to line up and lay flat. I began one evening and then had to stop and go to bed and then the following day got back to it after I got home from work. I had no idea the large chevrons would take longer to prepare than the small ones.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

The great thing about the Red Velvet pattern is that you use the same pattern piece for the front and back of the skirt. Perfect for matching! Cutting the back was so much easier! By this time, I realized that all I had to do was lay the first piece down on my fabric and make sure the chevrons at the sides top, and bottom matched. If there were wrinkles in the middle, I left them. It was only important for the first piece so there wouldn’t be any distortion.

Here’s my first skirt piece. I lengthened it by several inches as you can see below. The pattern piece has a curving bottom to allow for the pleats at the top of the skirt.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Now’s a good time to show the line drawing of the Red Velvet pattern so you can see what I mean. I used a box pleat on my dress.
Red Velvet Knit Dress - Cake Patterns




















After I cut the first skirt piece out, I opened it up and put it on top of the fabric, pinning and lining up the chevrons. I didn’t use as many pins here, most of them were near the edges (top, bottom, and sides). My table wasn’t as wide as the fabric opened up so I moved it over to cut.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Then I pinned and basted through the apex – notice that I needed to come in a bit in the hip area and down the sides so I could place my seam in the middle of the apex. Lucky for me Cake Patterns are drafted with zero ease so I could come in a half-inch on both sides and the skirt would still fit.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

After I checked and adjusted my basting, I trimmed the excess so I would have a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Then I sewed and finished my side seam…

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

and got this!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -


Then I attached the midriff piece to the skirt, adjusting the front pleat to fit. Here’s a close up of the front with the bust pleats and front skirt box pleat. See how the black chevrons emerge from the black midriff band?

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

And here’s another side seam view. The bodice and skirt look like one piece, don’t they?

Red Velvet Dress -

One last thing – I used white thread at the hem and then I used a Sharpie on the white thread on the black chevrons. Thanks to Staci (@arubyrosebud on Instagram) for mentioning the Sharpie to me earlier this month. And thanks also to the folks who voted that I use a Sharpie when I posed the question on Instagram (@gjeometry aka Catja of Gjeometry, Staci, @kid_md aka Katie of Kadiddlehopper, @sewbrook aka Brooke of Custom Style, @theseedsof3 aka Melanie of The Seeds of 3, and @Sewsowninlove). Whew!!!!! Thanks for reading!

Matching chevrons in rayon knit fabric -

Have you ever sewn chevrons? Were your chevrons on knit fabric or woven? What was your experience like?

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My Chevron Red Velvet Dress

Red Velvet Dress -

When I went shopping for a knit fabric for the Red Velvet Dress Sewalong, I decided to challenge myself and bought this Ella Moss chevron rayon jersey fabric at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. (You can buy the paper pattern here or get the PDF.) I bought small chevron fabric for the bodice and the bigger chevrons for the skirt. Then I got some solid black for the midriff.

I’ve only sewn knit stripes once so I admit that I was a little intimidated so it took me a while to get going on cutting the fabric. I felt that I needed to do some research and I found a really helpful tutorial “Cutting Striped Knit Fabric & Matching Stripes” on Sewholic‘s site. (Thank you Tasia!)

I’ll have to do a separate post on preparing the fabric for cutting. So for now I’ll just give you an overview of what I did to make this version of the Red Velvet Dress.

I should mention that this is my second Cake Patterns make so I was pretty confident that it would be easy to adjust the pattern. (I’ve made three Hummingbird peplum tops, which you can see here.) The week before this sewalong began I was busy on my Emery Dress so I had no time to make a muslin – yes, I was sewing dangerously! No muslin!!

Sewing chevrons is a little more tricky than stripes, which I really didn’t realize until I made a mistake in cutting the bodice. I was so focused on making sure that the chevron apexes lined up perfectly on the bottom edge and at the center fold that I didn’t pay attention to the sides. Big oops. So I ended up being 3/4″ off to line up the chevrons! Ack.

Red Velvet side seam -

This was a bit discouraging. On Instagram, Katie of Kadiddlehopper (@kid_md) suggested that I baste and see if it still fit. (On IG my handle is @csews.) Thanks for the encouragement along the way, Katie, and for reminding me that rayon knit is forgiving!

I basted so that my chevrons lined up perfectly in the middle and it still fit. Yay! But what to do about the excess?

Red Velvet Dress side seam

I posted a photo of my sideseam basted and asked what to do – trim and then sew? Susan of Moonthirty and Steph, the talent behind Cake Patterns reassured me that I could just trim off the excess and sew it. You can see the discussion on this Flickr photo. I had MATCHING chevrons! My sideseam was exactly in the middle of the apex. Wahooooo!

I promise to post plenty of photos about it in a later post. Meanwhile here are the details.


Red Velvet Knit Dress pattern – $20
1/4 yard of solid black rayon jersey – $2.75
2 1/4 yard of large black-and-white chevron rayon – $21.25
3/4 yard of small black-and-white chevron rayon – $6.37
Matching thread (I used black and white)
Schmetz jersey needle
Fusible interfacing (black) $5
Fusible stay tape

I got extra yardage to compensate for mating the chevrons and because I wanted a longer skirt. I rarely wear skirts that end at the knees. I just like a longer length.

My pattern adjustments before cutting my fabric:

Bodice – I lengthened the bodice by about three inches. When I held a measuring tape against my body, the bottom of the bodice seemed to end right in the middle of my bewb. Though I knew the bodice would stretch a bit with the weight of the skirt, I thought it would still be too high. I was surprised that the length of the bodice wasn’t one of the things that you draft to your measurements, like the Hummingbird top. For the Hummingbird pattern, you take your shoulder-to-waist measurement to determine the length of the top above the peplum. Of course you can make adjustments to the Red Velvet bodice yourself, which I did before I cut my fabric. I recommend taking your measurement from the top of your shoulder (going over the middle of your bewb) and then ending about an inch below your bust. This measurement will give you extra length, which you can easily trim later.

Shoulder – I moved the shoulder point 1/4″ out I have broad shoulders and did a 1/2″ shoulder adjustment to my Emery Dress for a woven fabric so I figured with a knit 1/4″ would be OK.

Waist – Moved my waist point on the midriff and skirt to a spot right in the middle of 32.5 and 30

Skirt – Made my skirt tea length – about 33 inches long on me

My adjustments after I cut my fabric:

Construction: Because I had to match my side seams, I sewed the side seams of my bodice, midriff, and the skirt separately instead of sewing the side seam all in one seam. This meant I had to line up the side seams of the midriff to the bodice and then the midriff to the skirt.

Sleeves: My sleeves were a tad short because I had to trim them down to line up. On Instagram, Melanie of The Seeds of 3 suggested that I might want to add a wide binding to the sleeve. So decided to add a band of black to the sleeves. I had done sleeve binding on my Hummingbird tops but here I would have to insert the binding. So I guessed at the length. The sleeve width from the bottom to the shoulder was nearly 6 inches so I cut a binding that was 5 3/4″ folded in half (11 1/2″ total). I didn’t take photos of this and explaining in words is a little hard to follow so I’ll just say that I stretched it as I sewed and it worked! Be sure to check out Melanie’s Red Velvet Dresses – yeah, she’s more more than one! Here’s her most recent version – a lovely polka dot one.

Neckline: I didn’t topstitch around the neckline because I didn’t like how that would look. Instead I did a bit of hand stitching to tack it down. But you can see some of the stitches so I’ve taken some of them out and may just leave some stitches around the shoulder. Steph also suggested that I stitch in the ditch at the shoulder seam.

Pleats: To match the chevrons on the side seams of the skirt, I had to move my seam line in 1/2 on both sides. This meant I had to adjust the front pleat to accommodate – so I didn’t overlap the tucks on the inside. Instead the tucks meet in the middle. (More on this in my upcoming post on matching chevrons.)

The Pattern

The beauty of Cake Patterns is that they are drafted with zero ease, which give you a LOT of room for adjustment. Patterns for knits usually have negative ease because knit fabrics stretch. See Steph’s explanation of why her patterns have zero ease here. If she didn’t have this ease I wouldn’t have been able to match my chevrons – and I would have been really frustrated. But instead, I got to match my chevrons. Yay!

When I make this dress again, I’ll give myself a little more room below the arm.

If you make this dress, be sure to visit the sewlaong pages on Cake Patterns site You’ll find more information about constructing the dress and plenty of tips. The instructions that come with the dress are rather minimal so I highly recommend reading the sewalong pages.

I haven’t sewed rayon knit in a couple years so I had some doubts – at one point I was wondering about whether I needed stabilizer to sew the side seams. I posed the question on Twitter (@csewsalot is my handle) and got some answers. Melanie told me she’s used fusible webbing (Steam-a-seam) with great results on striped knits. Katie of Kadiddleshopper suggested using a walking foot and Leila of Three Dresses assured me it would be fine to sew the side seams of my rayon knit without any stay tape and that I should only use it if it the seam was “wavy.” Good advice from all. It turned out that this rayon was easy to sew and was perfectly fine using a regular foot and no stay tape. But I did decrease the pressure on my foot, which I think helped.

Working with this rayon knit has been a dream (now that it’s done!) and a nightmare (took me hours to prepare my fabric for cutting). But my chevrons match so perfectly on the side seams that I’m going around telling everyone at work – “Look, my side seams match!”

Here are more photos – on the side views – my hands are near the side seams. How’s that for matching!

Red Velvet Dress -

Red Velvet Dress -

Red Velvet Dress -

And here’s my celebratory twirl.

Red Velvet Dress -

And thanks to all the sewcialists who gave me advice as I was making this dress. You helped me get through the sewing process!

What’s on your sewing plate?

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Everyday Dresses

Emery Dress and Red Velvet Dress Sewalongs

A few weeks ago I realized that I don’t have any everyday dresses in my wardrobe. Not one. I have everyday skirts but no everyday dresses. Yep. I’m more of a separates kinda gal so that’s part of the reason. And I guess the other reason is my attitude toward dresses. I guess I think of them as being something that you don’t wear everyday.

The five dresses I own only get worn a couple of times a year or not even that. They include a vintage black dress that I got years ago; the dress I wore as a bridesmaid to a wedding; two dresses I made from vintage Vogue patterns, and the dress I made for my BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern contest entry earlier this year (I was a finalist but didn’t win). I usually end up wearing a vintage hat with these outfits and even a crinoline with the one I made for the sewing contest – not exactly everyday wear but I do wear them to work when I’m in the mood and the weather is warm enough in San Francisco.

So when I heard about Christine Haynes‘s Emery Dress and the Red Velvet Dress by Cake Patterns – I had to take a closer look. At first I thought the Emery Dress was a touch too girly for me – I think the bow made me hesitate. But then I saw the striped Emery Dress by Devon of Miss Make blog and it convinced me that I should get the pattern. She cut the collar on the bias and it looks fabulous, doesn’t it? She kindly let me repost this photo from her blog post Emery Dress Pattern.

Emery Dress - sewn by Devon of Miss Make - pattern by Christine Haynes

The Emery Dress Sewalong has just started but Christine is only on fabric and notions. Muslin sewing starts on Oct. 30. You can view the schedule here. I think you could still join in on it if you order the pattern right away. In November Christine will focus on bust adjustments – small and full. I’m looking forward to that!

The Red Velvet Sewalong starts on November 11! So there’s still time to participate.It’ll be a series of ten sessions over two weeks. I participated in the Cake Patterns Hummingbird Sewalong earlier this year, which was a lot of fun. So far I’ve made three Hummingbird tops, which you can see here.

Melizza of Pincushion Treats was a pattern tester for the Red Velvet sewing pattern. You can see two of the dresses she made here.

And I also love the Lady Skater Dress that Katie of Kadiddlehopper made. She wrote about it in Lady Skater: Sakura Blossom Style and graciously let me post this photo of her twirling around in the dress. Check out her post for more photos of this pretty dress.

Lady Skater Dress by Katie of Kadiddlehopper

And last but not least, today my copy of Clothing for Everyday: Stylish Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori arrived! I pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Clothing for Everyday Wear: Stylish Dress Book by Toshiko Tsukiori

This is the English translation published by Laurence King. There are dresses, tops, jackets, and pants in this book – a total of 26 garments – according to the book flap. There are plenty of photos in the book – slender, winsome, and unsmiling  Japanese models, which probably means grading the pattern up a bit for me. The pattern is sized for XS, S, M, and L. No XL folks.

The dimensions for large are 36 5/8″ (93 cm) bust; 29 1/8″ (74 cm) waist, and 38 5/8″ (98 cm) hips. Based on that, I’m more of an XL in the hips and height. Oh, and the pattern gives the same height for all four sizes – 63″ (160 cm), which must be a mistake. 63″ is 5′ 3″. I’m nearly 5′ 8″ so who knows what the height measurement means.

I’m looking forward to adding everyday dresses to my wardrobe. Have you made any dresses that fall into the everyday category? What patterns have you liked? Have you  made anything from Japanese pattern books? What was your sizing experience like?

And do let me know if you’re participating in the Emery Dress Sewalong or the Red Velvet Sewalong. I’d love to see what your version looks like!

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My Sew Red October Project

Fitted tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas -

OK – my Sew Red October project seems a bit lazy (and lame) in comparison to the oh-so-pretty Red Roses Dress that Heather of Handmade by Heather B made or this red polka dot beauty by Roisin of the Dolly Clackett blog. But I wanted to do something super easy after spending many, many hours on my Fall for Cotton blouse, which involved delicate 60-something-year old vintage swiss dot fabric, hand embroidery, and an invisible side zipper (see pix here My Fall for Cotton 1940s Girl Friday Blouse Is Finished!).

I made a fitted tee using the front and back pattern pieces of the Sewing Cake Hummingbird top and drafting a piece to extend the bottom, which you can see in my my post Hashtag Sew Red October. (I made my first Hummingbird peplum top during the Hummingbird Sewalong.)

This my first Sewing Cake pattern hack – and I’m sure I’ll do plenty more. Melanie of The Seeds of 3 has done a quite a few Sewing Cake hacks – see the links in her comment in my Hashtag Sew Red October post.

Thanks to Lady Katza for coming up with the initial hashtag and to Gillian for creating the very cool button below. Love it!

Sew Red October

Now I’ll subject you to a bunch of photos (or what my husband calls narcissism). As I mentioned in the earlier post on this top, I was just guessing about the width of the hip area. I did want a snug tee but this seems a tad too fitted. Actually I prefer not wearing it all smoothed out because then it makes my waist look slightly less pudgy than it currently is. Hehheh. (I need to get back to the gym!)

One thing I forgot about this knit fabric is that it’s a heavyweight cotton knit (with 5 percent lycra) and doesn’t have a lot of give in it. Sure it stretches but it’s got a tight weave so you don’t have much ease.  The red Hummingbird peplum top I made was snug. So for a tee, I should have traced another Hummingbird top at the next size up. Oh well, next time. (You can see my three Sewing Cake peplum tops in the post More Sewing Cake Hummingbird Tops!)

Thanks sewcialists for this sewalong idea! It was a good way for me to

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas -

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird top pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird top pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas

Tee using part of Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas

Tee using Sewing Cake Hummingbird top pattern - photo by Chuleenan Svetvilas


60″ wide heavyweight cotton knit with 5 percent lycra $9.99/yard
[I had two yards and much of it had stains (from a prewash disaster), which I cut around. I think you could make this top with about a yard of fabric.]
Schmetz jersey needle
Matching thread

Accessories: I’m wearing a cheap hat made in China from paper fiber but I like it a lot and wear it often. In my hair is a strip of the knit fabric with the ends knotted together – a great way to use up scraps and make headbands or hair ties! The vintage bracelet was a gift from one of my sisters. Jeans are RTW – trouser cut by Tahari that I’ve had for a few years.

Photos: The top photo was shot when a beam of late afternoon sun was hitting the shed I was standing in front of – thus the sun glasses. But then that bit of sun disappeared so I shot the rest against the back of the apartment building. By then the area was all in the shade, which gives the photos a bluish cast.

Thanks for reading! What have you made or are in the process of making for Sew Red October? Please let me know and include links so I can check out your project. I’d love to see what you’ve made!

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Hashtag Sew Red October

Sew Red October

I’m participating in Sew Red October (#sewredoctober) – initially called #redoctober but then it was changed when folks realized that it was a hashtag being used for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. The idea is simple –  sew something in red in October.

I first heard about it from Leila of Three Dresses Project in her September post The Sewcialists do it again with Red October. Then you post your photos to the Sewcialists Flickr page. There are some great finished projects up already so check it out!

The great logo was designed by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. I love the periscope, which oh so cleverly evokes the entertaining film (and book) The Hunt for Red October. Thank you Gillian!

Red is one of my favorite colors so I wanted to participate as soon as I heard about it. But first I had to complete my Fall for Cotton project and my Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank. (You can see photos here: My Fall for Cotton 1940s Girl Friday Blouse Is Finished! I haven’t posted about the tank yet.)

We were going through a couple of heat waves in the Bay Area but I knew that wasn’t going to last so I had to get the tank done.

Meanwhile I thought about what I would make for Red October. I had a couple yards of red knit fabric that was ruined in June when I prewashed it with three other knits – black, brown, and blue. For some reason the red was the only fabric that got these blotchy stains on it from the black! I was so disgusted I just put it away. Here’s one splotchy area. Grrrrr!

Stain on my red knit fabric from prewashing

When I heard about Red October I decided to take another look at the fabric. A couple areas didn’t have random dark areas on it so I thought why not see if I could make something from it? So I decided to do my first Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern hack and make a red tee shirt. (You can buy the Hummingbird pattern in Sewing Cake’s Etsy shop as a printed paper pattern or a PDF.)

I’ve already made three Hummingbird peplum tops and I like the binding on the neckline and armhole so why not make a tee? (Photos of my blue, striped, and red ones are here: More Hummingbird Tops!)

I used the front and back pieces of the Green top and then I drafted a bottom piece 9 inches (22.9 cm) long to attach to the existing Hummingbird top pieces. I really wasn’t sure how much to add to the hip width to accommodate the stretch. Also I wanted it to be a fitted tee, not a loose one. I used my hip curve to draw a line from the waist to the widest hip point. I decided to add about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) – it may not enough but hey, this is essentially a muslin, right?

Cutting around stains

Here’s a closer shot of the bottom piece I drafted and just placed beneath my pattern piece for the Hummingbird front top piece. I drafted another bottom piece (also 9 inches long) for the back.

New bottom piece for Hummingbird hack

My pieces are cut and ready to sew! (Yeah, they’re wrinkly because I folded up the fabric to cut elsewhere and didn’t have an iron on hand.)

Hummingbird hack - cut pieces

Have you hacked any Cake Patterns? What did you do? And if you’re making something for Red October, please share your link in the comments below. I’d love to see what you’re working on!

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More Sewing Cake Hummingbird Tops!

So far I’ve finished three Sewing Cake Hummingbird tops, green version! My first two were knit jersey fabrics with 5 percent lycra in solid colors, which I got at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley: a blue lightweight cotton knit and a red heavyweight cotton knit; and my third a striped black-and-white cotton knit with lycra (percentage unknown because I got it from San Francisco’s Discount Fabrics, which doesn’t list much fabric info on the bolts).

Blue Hummingbird-mural1

This pattern is so flattering (love the peplum!) and it’s easy to fit to your figure because you customize the pattern based on your own measurements. All you need are three numbers: your full bust, front waist (measurement from your shoulder to your waist), and waist. I stood in front of a mirror to make sure I got the correct front waist measurement – in my case 17 inches. Then you pick the size closest to your bust measurement. My bust is 37.5 inches but I went with size 35 for a closer fit. I figured that the knit would stretch enough so it would still be comfortable. For a looser fit, I could have picked size 40.

For more on my blue top, see my earlier post “My First Sewalong – Hummingbird 30 Minutes a Day.” You can buy the pattern on Etsy at Cake Patterns by SewingCake.

Hummingbird top pattern

The pattern paper has a nice weight to it. It’s not the tissue-thin paper that some patterns are printed on. The patterns lines are easy to trace, which is great. I drew a line from the “dot” for size 35 to my waist measurement marking (triangle).

Once you’ve traced and cut out the pattern, it doesn’t take very long to put it together. There are only six pattern pieces (front, back, peplum, neck and arm binding. But you do need to do some pressing in between certain steps.

Striped Hummingbird pieces2

In case you’re wondering, the peplum is one piece (cut on the fold), which looks really cool when you use a striped fabric. (As you can see from the photo above, I cut my sleeve and neck binding for my striped top on the bias.) You can also opt to cut a four-seamed peplum on the bias, which would look quite striking.

I used bias fusible stay tape on the hem. I wasn’t sure how it would fare in the washing maching but the blue and red versions have been through one wash and look fine.

My Materials

1 3/8 yards of jersey fabric for each top

All-purpose polyester thread (Gutterman 430 for the red top, Coats and Clark blue thread for the blue top, and Coats and Clark white thread for the striped top)

Fusible stay tape (I used 3/8 inch Design Plus bias fusible stay tape for knit shoulders)

Schmetz 70/10 jersey needle

Fabric cost: The red and blue knits were between $9 and $10/yard. I can’t remember what I paid for the striped knit. It’s been sitting in my stash for a while. My guess is less than $10/yard. It has a nice weight to it. So I’d say it’s about $15 a top.

The Hummingbird top is versatile.

Striped Hummingbird - standing2

It looks good with pants and can be dressed up, like with this silk polka dot skirt.

Red Hummingbird peplum

It’s a very nice staple to add to your wardrobe and very comfy to wear. I’m sure I’ll be making more!

Striped h-bird - handStriped h-bird-window

Blue h-bird-benchBlue h-bird - akimbo

Striped h-bird-adjustingStriped h-bird - red rail

My First Hat Fitting

I won the drawing for a straw hat fedora! Last weekend I was thrilled to go to my first hat fitting.

How did this happen? Well, I donated money to hat designer Elwyn Crawford’s Indiegogo campaign and one of the donation levels was to contribute $5 to be entered into a hat drawing for a straw fedora. I had already made one contribution to her campaign but when she added that perk, I couldn’t resist.

Elwyn wanted to raise funds to expand O’Lover Hats, her custom hat business, and start an internship program. I interviewed her last month about her hat business (“Q&A with Elwyn Crawford of O’Lover Hats“) and about her campaign (“O”Lover Hats Indiegogo Campaign“).

I usually buy ready-to-wear hats – either vintage or from a store or craft fair. As some folks may know, I wear hats everyday. (You can read more about my love of hats on my Hats page.) It was a new and exciting experience for me to actually be fitted for a hat.

The hat-fitting experience is similar to what you would do when you sew a garment. You choose your fabric, your pattern, and you have your measurements at hand. In this case, I was choosing which straw form would be made into a fedora.

4 straw hat forms
A range of straw hat forms to choose from

The first thing Elwyn did was to measure my head. Then she brought out a stack of straw hat forms. There are many different forms woven in different patterns and with straw of various shades. Elwyn will then shape the hat into a fedora (cutting down the brim, shaping the crown, and so on). She told me to pick out a few that I liked and then we would narrow it down. I chose these four. I really liked the lacy look of the two hats above. Elwyn has pushed in the crown of three of the hats in a fedora-like shape to give me a sense of what it would look like.

The white straw form that will be made into a fedora
The white straw form that will be a fedora

I put each one on but the lacy ones had more of a yellow tone that didn’t do much for my skin. The white hat form looked the best so that is the one I chose.

Elwyn brought out a few hats for me to try on to see which shape and brim width were the right shape for me. She took into consideration the height of the crown as well as the width of the brim and how the hat shape went with my face. We decided that the black straw hat fedora was The One (see photo below).

I wanted to give Elwyn a sense of my style, which would help her decide what hat design is best for me. I decided to wear something that I would wear to work. So I wore my Cake Patterns Hummingbird peplum top along with a silk polka dot skirt. (You can get this easy-to-make sewing pattern at Cake’s Etsy shop.) I finished making this top last week. I made a blue one in June, which I blogged about (“My First Sewalong – Hummingbird 30 Minutes a Day“).

Elwyn asked me if I had any fedora hats and I told her I had one wool one but hat I didn’t wear it very much. Fedoras are a rather masculine hat. She assured me that she would make sure it had a feminine look to it. She also asked me if I wore polka dots a lot. I told her I just had this one skirt but that I had other skirts with circles and swirls on them.

Creating a hat is a personal endeavor – and Elwyn strives to make something that is not only the right fit but suits the client’s personality.

So now I’ll be waiting a few weeks for Elwyn to do her magic and then I’ll meet her again to see how the hat fits and to decide on how to trim the hat. I can hardly wait!

Here are some more photos of Elwyn’s studio, which is part of the 25th Street Collective in Oakland. She not only creates her hats here, her creations are also on display. As you can see, she’s very talented!

My Hummingbird top (pattern by Sewing Cake) and black straw fedora by O'Lover Hats
My Hummingbird top (pattern by Sewing Cake) and black straw fedora by O’Lover Hats
Hats on display at O'Lover Hats, designs by Elwyn Crawford
Hats on display at O’Lover Hats, designs by Elwyn Crawford
Hat blocks
In Elwyn’s studio: Hat blocks Elwn uses to shapes hats

My First Sewalong – Hummingbird 30 Minutes a Day

Finished Hummingbird TopI began the Hummingbird 30 Minutes a Day Sewalong last week. It’s also  my first time participating in a sewalong.  I made the Green top from this bright knit blue fabric I got from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley (love that place!). And here’s my first Hummingbird Top. I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

All these photos were taken with my iPhone so please excuse the quality.

I didn’t exactly work on this 30 minutes a day. I traced my pattern on Day 1 – my waist is currently in between the 30 and 32 to I traced a line in between the two measurements for the top and for the peplum. I figured it was knit so I didn’t have to be too exact. ;o)

I cut my pieces out on Day 2 and did the neckline on Day 3. I don’t have a serger so I used a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine. The stretch stitch on my machine is way too bulky – sews each stitch three times so it’s really slow going. So I just used a zigzag that wasn’t very wide or long.

The trickiest part of this top is sewing strip of knit fabric to the neckline. Be sure to watch Steph’s helpful video on her Day 3 post before you do it! I gently pulled on my strip of fabric as I sewed it and it was fine.

I pressed it and it lay flat! It looks quite professional. I love this neckline.

Then I didn’t work on it again until the weekend.

I didn’t make a muslin – I like sewing dangerously sometimes. Plus I figured that my measurements were accurate and knits stretch so it had a very good chance of fitting.

I decided to hem my top as an experiment. I don’t usually hem knits because they don’t unravel. But I decided that because this top has such nice binding on the neckline and arms that it would be good to finish it off with a hem.

I decided to use some 3/8-inch fusible bias stay tape by Design Plus, which I got at Stonemountain and Daughter earlier this year. It’s not a fusible knit tape so it doesn’t stretch, which might be a problem down the road – I’m not sure. But I just ironed it on, folded it over once. So it’s just a single-fold hem. The last photo below is the zigzag stitch I used on the hem. For this my stitch width was slightly below “1” and my length was slightly over “2” on my Kenmore sewing machine. The stitch doesn’t really look like a zigzag unless you squint at it really closely.

The cut pattern pieces
The cut pattern pieces
My neckline!
My neckline!
Hemline with shallow zigzag stitch
Hemline with shallow zigzag stitch
Back view
Back view