Sewing Fails: Jalie Dolman and Ottobre Statement Tee

Whenever I take a long break from either sewing or knitting, I experience a lot of stumbling and fumbling when I pick it back up again. It’s like I haven’t forgotten how to “ride the bike,” so to speak, but I’m pretty wobbly for a while. This wobbliness resulted in two failed projects (one of which didn’t even get finished) when I started sewing again mid-March.

The first failed project was a version of the Jalie Dolman Top (Jalie 3352) that I made with a really nice marled sweater knit—I’m fairly certain the fabric is a cotton/rayon/Spandex blend. It’s soft, lightweight but still opaque, has great drape, and washed and dried really well. I originally bought it with the intention of making a long-sleeved Concord Tee so that I would have just a basic, lightweight sweater in my closet. I’ve been kind of kicking myself for changing plans, but whatever.

Jalie Dolman

I don’t like this pullover. I’ve worn it a couple of times and it just feels sloppy to me. I think there are two primary issues at play: first, the fabric has substantially more stretch than the pattern calls for (~75% vs. 40%); and second, I made some ill-advised sizing choices in the hopes of getting something that would be more wearable during the spring as I moved into my second trimester and then again in the fall in the middle of unpredictable post-partum fluctuations. (This was also the logic that led to the pattern switch—I thought the looser style of the Jalie Dolman would be more wearable than the fitted style of the Concord. The overall lesson here has been that it really isn’t worth it to try to predict what my body will do or what I will want to wear in the future.)


Given the stretch in my fabric, I think I would have been best off cutting a size down from my measurements. But what I actually did was cut a size larger than my measurements. The result is something that just doesn’t feel good on me and that I don’t enjoy wearing. The body feels completely shapeless and dowdy and the sleeves are too loose and long—it basically looks nothing like the pattern photos or other people’s finished projects suggest it should look like. To add to the frustration of this project, my twin needle gave me a hell of a time and kept skipping stitches and breaking threads, which really made me feel like I had no idea what I was doing at my sewing machine anymore.


The twin needle issue was easily solved—I realized about a week later that I just needed a new needle. I ordered one and all my twin needle problems are magically gone. As far as the pullover goes, it’s still hanging in my closet, and I think at some point I will take apart the side and sleeve seams and either recut it as a smaller size or just take the whole thing in. But there’s no sense in even trying to do that right now. And who knows—maybe it will actually fit well in the fall and I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.


My second failure was the Statement Tee pattern from the Spring 2017 issue of Ottobre Woman. I was drawn to this pattern for the relaxed fit and because it is drafted for more stable jersey fabrics. However, I didn’t even end up finishing the first tee I made because I hated the fit on me. I found that the neckline on this is really wide. I added a neckband instead of the binding called for to get a bit more coverage and still ended up with a neckline wide enough to allow for frequent peeking bra straps. The sleeves are also quite long (which, to be fair, is more or less indicated by the fact that the pattern photos show the tee worn with the sleeves rolled up) and I would have to cut off ~2″ to get the length I want. Plus, I think it is too short in the body for this style—something I found especially surprising since I have a long torso and Ottobre tops are still usually a bit on the long side for me.


The unhemmed tee

There were enough issues and frustrations with the fit and style of this pattern that it just didn’t feel worth finishing right now. The failure of the project is mostly due to the pattern, which just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The real clumsiness on my part as a sewer was the fact that I cut out two of these tees before testing the fit of the pattern in any way. This gray fabric is no great loss at all since it is boring and inexpensive. But I cut the second tee from a really nice black and gray pinstripe cotton-rayon blend jersey from Mood that is super soft and lovely. So I’m really kicking myself for now having sacrificed two nice cuts of fabric to failed projects.


The sadly cut up pinstripe jersey

Ultimately, I think I’ll have enough of the pinstripe jersey leftover to be able to get something out of the fabric, although I don’t know what that will be yet. And again, maybe I’ll pull this t-shirt out of my project basket at some point in the future and find that it’s totally wearable and worth finishing. Either way, I’m happy to report that this was basically the end of my sewing wobbliness and I’ve had a lot more success at the machine since.

Catching Up: Unblogged Winter Projects

Hello, 2017. I’ve been off the blog radar for a while, both because we moved into our new house at the beginning of the year and because I am pregnant. I’m currently baking a very active little monkey who is due at the beginning of September. Unfortunately, I spent the first part of the year laid out with morning sickness and exhaustion. But I’m feeling better and have put the Spring semester to bed, which has given me lots of sewing and knitting time again.

new house

Our house!

I’ve been sharing things on Instagram as I finish them, which briefly led me to consider giving up the blog altogether and just sharing things on IG. And then as I started to plan out some future projects, I was reminded of how often I consult my own blog for project notes and details. More than anything, this blog is a very handy, searchable project journal for me. Sometimes, it feels time-intensive and onerous to take blog pictures and write up all of my notes for a blog post, but remembering that I consult those posts often as a reference makes it feel more worth it—especially since I can’t easily replicate that kind of record-keeping on Instagram.

All of that is to say that I’m going to try to catch up on all of my unblogged projects because it bothers me to not have any concrete details recorded. So here’s a big dump of the projects I finished over the winter:

Stowe Bags

Small Stowe Bag in Quilting CottonLarge Stowe Bag in Linen Blend

I made myself two Stowe bags to use as knitting project bags. These are my second and third versions of this pattern–I made my first version about a year ago. I’ve only recently started using project bags for my knitting. Somehow, it took me 10+ years to see the benefit of keeping my projects protected from cats that want to ruin everything. I made a small bag out of some Cotton + Steele quilting cotton and a large bag out of a medium-weight cotton/linen blend I had in the stash. I used packaged bias binding for both.


For the small bag, I flat-felled the side seams, finished the bottom seam with a zig-zag stitch, and boxed the bottom corners. I was worried that quilting cotton would feel too light for this bag, but I really like the finished result. For the large bag, I serged all the edges and pressed the seams open, which helped manage some of the bulk. I also did the last step in the instructions where you tack the bottom corners of the bag down to help stand on it’s own when it’s full. It’s kind of a bulky finish, but I appreciate the added structure it gives since the size and fabric make for an otherwise floppy bag.


Halifax Hoodie the Second

Last September, I made a Halifax/Brooklyn hoodie mashup that I’ve been wearing all the time. Just before Christmas, I made a second Halifax Hoodie using some super-soft sweatshirt fleece I bought from Girl Charlee. This time, I made View D with the kangaroo pocket and the funnel neck. I sewed up a straight XL. It’s not worth modeling for you now that I have a belly that distorts the fit, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that the fit was spot-on and very comfortable. I wore this piece constantly this winter and can definitely see myself making this pattern again and again, especially since it has so many options.

Striped Hey June Halifax Hoodie


Definitely not a very exciting project, but I’ve made a few pairs of leggings using the #9 Classic Black Leggings pattern from the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Ottobre Woman (Ottobre 05/2016). I’ve previously made the Sammalikko leggings pattern from an earlier issue of Ottobre and found that they were too long in the legs, had a bit more ease than I would like, and needed some adjustments to the crotch curve and rise. These leggings, however, fit perfectly right out of the gate—right length, great fit, and super simple to sew since there is only one pattern piece. My pre-pregnancy hip measurement was ~45.5”, so I sewed a straight size 48.

Ottobre Woman 05/2016 Classic Black Leggings

My only struggle was with figuring out the right length for the elastic. It turns out that the ideal, for me, is cutting the elastic so that it is the same length as the width of the waist (in other words, cutting it so that I don’t need to stretch the elastic at all while I’m sewing it to the waistband). I forgot about this when I made myself a third pair of leggings months after the first two pairs and ended up with a waistband that is tight enough that I think I’m going to need to rip out and redo the elastic. See—this is why I need project notes on my blog. One last note: I think the instructions recommend making a traditional waistband casing and then threading the elastic through. This is unnecessarily tedious for leggings. I used my serger to attach the elastic to the waist, then folded the elastic down and secured the waistband with a zig-zag stitch.

Zelda Pouch


This was a super simple project that Aidan requested at the beginning of December and that I finally made up for him sometime in February. This little pouch also has the distinction of being the first item I made in my new sewing space. I drew on the zipper instructions from the Petal Pouch pattern (which I made several times over for Christmas gifts last year), but otherwise based the dimensions on the size of the pattern repeat in the fabric. Aidan keeps a bullet journal and uses this to hold his pen stash for journaling, so this has been in regular use since it was finished.

And that brings me up-to-date on everything I finished before Spring Break, so now I’m only two+ months behind on blogging. Progress!

Black Fog

My current sewing project selection process is to simply sew whatever seems interesting to me at the moment. I’ve given up on making sewing plans since I never stick to them. I think when I’m in the process of planning, I tend to be very practical, privileging whatever projects I would most benefit from having in my (very lean) closet. But then when it comes time to actually sew, I find myself completely bored by the practical. The other thing that kills my plans is that my style is changing a bit. When I’m making plans, I end up talking myself out of some of the different cuts and style lines that I find myself drawn to right now and instead come up with lists of projects that reflect the kinds of things that I’ve been safely wearing for years but am now bored with.

ottobre 02-2016

Anyway. When I got the newest issue of Ottobre Woman, I was a little put off because it was pretty much full of things that I cannot ever imagine wearing. Skirts and dresses are always a hard pass for me, but I also hate jumpsuits, anything with a peplum, and especially any kind of cold-shoulder shirt. There are a couple of basic designs in this issue that I might make at some point if I come across the right fabric, but the only thing that immediately jumped out at me was design #5—the Fog Jersey Blouse.

Ottobre Woman 02/2016 Fog Jersey Blouse

This shirt is an A-line tee with a shaped hemline that is basically cropped length at the front. It also has invisible zippers at the side seams, so you can open the side seams up for a deep split. I’m not really sure what drew me to this design, except that I liked the way it hung with the zippers open and that it seemed to strike a nice balance of minimalist with a bit of interest. Regardless, it was what I was interested in sewing, so I didn’t think too hard about the practicality of zippers at the side seams or the fact that I would probably never try on a shirt like this in the store or about whether the neckline was deep enough to be “flattering” for me. I just traced the pattern off and sewed it up in some black cotton jersey I had on hand.


As far as sizing goes, I traced a size 46 for the shoulders and blended out to a 48 under the arm. The only adjustment I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves by 2” to get a true ¾ sleeve length. The magazine describes the sleeves as “cropped,” which I think means that they are sort of bracelet length? It’s hard to tell because the sleeves are pushed up on the model.


Neckline detail, complete with all the fuzzies black fabric inevitably attracts


Invisible zipper, partially undone

The neckline is faced with a strip of binding, which results in a nice, clean look. (And it turns out that I really like the shape of the neckline, even if it is higher than I normally wear.) Constructing most of the shirt was a no-brainer. The most time-consuming step was, of course, installing the zippers at the side. I’ve never actually sewn an invisible zipper before. It turns out that what everyone says is true—if you have an invisible zipper foot, it pretty much does all of the work for you. When the zippers are done up, they are actually invisible (although there is some reinforcing stitching at the tops of the zippers, per the pattern instructions, so that definitely makes them less invisible). Of course, I intend to wear the shirt with the zippers open, so no one will really appreciate my work, but that doesn’t make me any less pleased with the outcome on my first two invisible zips.


This is how the shirt hangs when the sides are zipped up

The shirt is fairly short at the front—all the shorter on me than on the model in the magazine because I didn’t do an FBA to add any length for the bust. But I always planned to wear a tank top or something underneath this, so it’s not a big problem. This isn’t the kind of pattern that I see myself making over and over again, but I do like the shape of it, and I’m glad I gave it a try. Plus, now I can mark “invisible zipper” off my sewing-skills-to-learn list!

Ottobre Woman 02/2016 Fog Jersey Blouse

Leggings: Aires and Sammalikko

All of my comfortable lounge/light exercise/work-at-home pants have given up the ghost. They are threadbare, tattered at the hems, riddled with tiny cat-claw snags and holes, stretched out, poorly fitting, and just generally sad-looking. I decided I would make a couple of pairs of simple leggings to replace them and bought a few yards of a medium-weight black cotton-spandex jersey blend at the beginning of the year. I finally got around to my leggings experiment last week and ended up with 3 pairs of leggings from 2 different patterns.

Seamwork Aires Leggings

The first pattern I tried was the Aires Leggings pattern from the January issue of Seamwork. This pattern caught my attention because it has a wide yoke-style waistband (which tends to fit me much better than the simple elastic-casing-style waistband you see on a lot of basic leggings patterns). It also has a crotch gusset for greater movement and the contrast leg bands offer a bit of visual interest without being as complicated as some of the other athletic leggings patterns around.

However, after seeing a couple of finished pairs online and knowing a bit about the fit issues people have had with Seamwork/Colette patterns, I was skeptical that this pattern would fit me well. Rather than cut right into my new fabric, I decided to make a wearable muslin out of a bunch of knit remnants I had on hand–hence the seriously questionable camo color-blocking.


Sizing and Fit:

I fall right between an XL and a 2X on the Colette size chart and decided to cut a 2X based on the finished measurements. I added about 5″ to the length of the legs and an inch of width at the calf. While sewing, I also removed about .5″ from the front rise before attaching the waistband.

While the fit at the hips indicates that the 2X was the right choice, the waist band is too big for me. (It looks all right in pictures, but doesn’t feel secure enough when I’m wearing these.) Meanwhile, despite adding extra width, the lower legs are still too tight. If I was going to make this pattern again, I would need to take in the waistband and add at least another inch to the lower leg. It’s hard to see in these pictures, but there is some extra fabric at the front crotch so I’d also need to make some adjustments there.



What I like:

The gusset piece is a nice detail and was very easy to construct. The waistband construction also results in something pretty professional-looking. It is a fully-faced, double-layer waistband with 1/4″ elastic sewn into the outer and inner yoke seam. I actually have a pair of yoga pants with a waistband almost exactly like this. If I made this pattern again, I’d probably cut a smaller size for the waist band, but I think the general shape of the waist band conforms nicely to my body.


What I don’t like:

  • I think the contrast leg bands on these is too low for me, and I would be happier if it hit higher on my thigh.
  • The way these are constructed makes it difficult to adjust the fit. The legs only have one seam, which means that it’s harder to customize the fit by taking them in a bit here or there. You also can’t really gauge the fit of the waistband until it’s fully constructed.
  • Frankly, these require more work than I find I’m willing to put into a simple garment like this. I’m not opposed to a more involved pattern, but apparently I’m lazy when it comes to leggings. Making these made me wish I had just bought a pair from Old Navy.
  • This was probably the most inefficient PDF pattern I’ve encountered. So much white space that just got cut off and thrown in the recycling bin. Also, 26 pages of instructions? Excessive.



Ottobre Sammalikko Leggings

So rather than continue to mess around with the Aires pattern, I decided to try the Sammalikko Leggings from the Fall 2014 issue of Ottobre Woman. I cut a straight size 52, using the black jersey I had purchased, and adjusted the fit as I went. I didn’t actually photograph that first pair because, well, they were in the laundry. But, they fit pretty well and once I made the necessary alterations to the flat pattern, my second pair turned out even better.

Ottobre 05/2015 Sammalikko Leggings

(I know this set of photos is cropped weirdly, but my tripod was acting up and there were some landscaping guys lurking around so I settled for weird, crooked pics.)

Sizing and Fit:

Like I said, I cut a straight size 52. I ended up shortening the front rise by 1.25″ and scooped out the front crotch curve. I also shaved about 3/8″ off in the front inseam. I shortened the legs by 3″ (I’m actually taller than the height given on the Ottobre size chart, but their patterns are always too long for me.) The legs on these are cut fairly straight from the knee down, so I ended up tapering the legs more. Finally, when I was sewing this pair, I took them in a bit at the waist by sewing the outseam with a 5/8″ seam allowance through the yoke and tapering back to a 3/8″ seam allowance at the low hip.



What I Like:

I know that seems like I had to make a lot of fit adjustments for a simple pair of leggings, but the pattern is easy to adjust and the initial fit was pretty good–much better than the Aires pattern. That, combined with the straight-forward construction, meant that I was able to fit and sew this pattern in significantly less time than it took me to make the Aires leggings. So this pattern meets my personal requirements for a minimalist, un-fussy leggings pattern.


I also really like the waistband/yoke. It’s a single-layer yoke with 1″ elastic sewn into a fold-down casing at the top. It may not look as polished as the Aires waistband, but the construction is more streamlined, it’s easier to adjust the fit, and the wider elastic feels more secure. This pattern also has a slightly higher rise, which I find more comfortable and less likely to migrate.


What I Don’t Like:

Nothing! In future versions, I might shave off just a little more length from the leg or taper them just a bit more. But overall, I’m really happy with the fit. They are, of course, very comfortable and I’m pleased to once again have a pair of lounge bottoms that don’t make me feel gross.

I started doing yoga again, so at some point, I might make a pair of these in a different fabric with even better recovery (a bamboo jersey would be really nice) and actually try inserting the the gusset piece from the Aires pattern–if it works, it would be the best of both worlds!



Ottobre 02/2014 “Till Dawn” Jersey Top

Several months ago, I decided that I could use some shirts in non-neutrals to wear with all of the black and gray cardigans I own. So I found two pieces of rayon jersey in my stash, cut out some pretty simple patterns from Ottobre, and then left the cut out shirts sitting on the end of my ironing board for weeks on weeks on weeks. I finally got around to sewing them up in the week before Christmas. And while one of them was a flop (and was featured as #5 on my Top 5 Misses list), I’m pleased with how this one turned out.

Till Dawn Jersey Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2014

This is the “Till Dawn” V-neck Jersey Top from the Spring 2014 issue of Ottobre Woman. It is just a basic tank, but uses a half lining (kind of like one of those useless shelf bras that they sometimes put in camisoles) to clean finish the neckline and armholes. I didn’t notice until after I’d cut my fabric out that the pattern calls for a jersey with 30% stretch—the rayon-spandex jersey I used has about 60% stretch. If I was wiser, I would have also taken note of the fact that the pattern photo shows a shirt that skims the body rather than being fitted, and that the tank is fairly long. However, I noticed none of these things and had to adjust for them all after the fact.

Till Dawn Jersey Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2014

I found the instructions on this pattern a little bit confusing. I’ve never lined a garment like this before and managed to majorly screw up the armholes the first time. I ended up cutting the armhole seams off and re-sewing them the right way. The trick is to imagine the right side of the neckline as your “home position.” From this position, you twist the pieces to get the right sides to match just for the half of the armhole that you are sewing (the other half of the armhole will be enclosed in the fabric), sew the seam, and then turn it right side out so that you are back at your “home position.”


The instructions for sewing the side seams and attaching the elastic to the bottom of the lining were also confusing and possibly had a step or two missing. I just ignored them and added elastic to the bottom of the lining pieces first, and then sewed up the side seams in one go. I also substituted fold-over elastic for the clear elastic called for in the pattern since it’s more flexible.

As far as sizing goes, I started with the same size blending I’ve been doing with the other Ottobre patterns I’ve made–46 at the shoulders, blended to 48 at armscye, to 50 at waist, to 52 at the hip. I also added ½” of extra length to the center front of the lining, blending to nothing at the sides of the lining piece. Of course, if I had realized before cutting into my fabric that the pattern calls for a jersey with moderate stretch, I would have cut a smaller size. Instead, I just ended up taking this in a ton as I was sewing—I removed a total of 3.5” through the body and pinched out additional width under the arm to remove armhole gape. Ottobre shirts seem to run a bit long for me, but this one was especially so. I cut two inches off the bottom and then folded up a slightly deeper hem then called for.

Till Dawn Jersey Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2014

Anyway, that seems like a lot of work and detail for a straight-forward tank top, but I like the end result even more than I expected to. It looks a bit more polished than the cheap layering tanks I’ve bought from Old Navy before. I like the color and the fabric and the shape of the neckline is perfect. I’ll definitely be wearing this one a lot this spring.

Top 5 of 2015


I decided to participate in the Top 5 series hosted by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. It seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on what I managed to accomplish during a particularly stressful and busy year. All in all, I managed to knit 19 items (3 baby sweaters, 4 adult sweaters, 8 pairs of socks, 2 cowls, and 2 Christmas stockings), and I sewed 28 items (22 garments for me and 6 kid/gift items). I didn’t want to do this in several posts, so here is one long monster post with all of my thoughts on the year:

Top 5 Non-Sewing Highlights


A post-dissertation defense pic with my committee, including a committee member who had to Skype in.

#1-3: In March, I accepted my first full-time teaching job. In June, we moved to Cincinnati. And in August, I finally graduated with my PhD. All of these things made for an incredibly stressful and exhausting year, but they have also all been exciting and positive changes.


#4: Aidan’s sister and her wife had twin boys in August, so we have two new nephews. They are bald, adorable little Charlie Brown babies, and I could eat them up.


My dad exploring the lemur bubble at the zoo.

#5: My dad and his girlfriend rode down to Cincinnati on his motorcycle at the end of July. We spent a week exploring the city with them, which was a lot of fun and a much-needed, reenergizing break for me.

Top 5 Sewing Hits:

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

#1: Ottobre Fox Shirt–Still one of my favorite things in my closet.


#2: Onyx Tee–When I started making this, I wasn’t at all sure I’d like it. But I ended up wearing this all the time until the weather turned colder.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

#3: Get Moving Hoodie–A recent finish, but I love everything about this project. I’ve been wearing this almost daily since classes ended.

Simplicity 1062

#4: Simplicity 1062–This is the only thing in my closet that actually makes me feel kind of cool when I wear it, so it remains a winner.

Little Wave Cardigan

#5: Little Wave Cardigan–I haven’t had the chance to wear this a ton since I finished it so recently, but I’m just really proud of this piece. This is definitely the best thing I knit this year.

Top 5 Misses

Jalie 2921

#1: Jalie Tie Front Top–This shirt fits well and looks good in pictures, but it just isn’t my style. I think I’ve worn it once, maybe twice? I thought I’d be forced to wear it because I’m so short on work clothes, but I actually ended up getting more creative with work outfits in order to *avoid* wearing this shirt.


#2: Featherweight cardigan–I’ve already thoroughly explored my disappointment with this one, and the fact that it made this list will be a surprise to no one.

#3: Style Arc Becky Yoga pants–I never blogged this project, but I made two pairs of these in an effort to replace my ratty lounge pants. I didn’t particularly like the fit of the pattern, and I used a fabric that was too thin so these are basically glorified leggings that I would never wear outside of my house. I’m still choosing my thread-bare, holey yoga pants over these and am actively looking for a better pattern so let me know if you have any recommendations.

SBCC Tonic Tee

#4: Tonic Tees— I hesitate to call this a “miss” because I have worn these a lot since finishing them, and I do really like the pattern. But, I’ve grown more dissatisfied with the fit (I think I made them a bit too small) and dissatisfied with my fabric choice (the cotton-spandex jerseys I used for these t-shirts is too firm for my tastes). I’m actually in the process of trying this pattern again in the next size up with a lighter weight cotton jersey to see if I can get something that is closer to my t-shirt ideal.


#5: Solid Green Jersey Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2014–I haven’t and won’t blog this project, but it was a whole series of “what was I thinking?” moments. I tried to use up a length of jersey that was much different than pictured online and not a color I wear by using a pattern that is not at all my style and, not surprisingly, ended up with a shirt that makes me think “WTF!?” When I put this on, I feel like the scenes in Orphan Black when Helena wears Allison’s clothes. Good riddance.


  1. I feel like I did more knitting than sewing this year, or I at least knit more consistently than I sewed. I’ve been knitting for long enough and knitting is so much a part of my daily routine that it’s easy to keep up with even during stressful periods. So far, I sew more in bursts when I have big blocks of free time open up.
  2. This year, I sewed my first pair of pants (the HP Tailored Track Pants) and my first woven shirt (the Onyx Shirt), which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with sewing knits, so I’m glad I finally started to branch out a bit.
  3. I feel like I saw a noticeable increase in the quality of my sewing this year. The finish and the fit of my clothes is getting better, as is my matching of pattern with fabric, which has resulted in more items that I am happy to have in my closet and that are getting worn a lot.
  4. This is an ongoing process, but I also feel like I’ve made progress in figuring out what I really like and want to wear. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I feel like I finally have a good handle on what I like in a hand-knit sweater. But I’m also embracing my love of black and gray and being more discerning about the style of the sewing patterns I’m making (hot pink t-shirt disaster notwithstanding).
  5. I bought a lot of fabric this year–more than I feel comfortable with, especially given how little I sewed. I know that what I have wouldn’t seem like a lot to many people, but I am not a stasher and don’t really want to stay in the habit of stashing.

Top 5 Goals for 2016:

  1. Try to focus on sewing in smaller bursts of time so that I can make sewing a more consistent part of a my routine.
  2. Knit more sweaters. Now that I’ve figured out what styles I’m most likely to wear, I’m hoping to get more hand-knit sweaters in rotation. My working goal is to make 8 new sweaters this year.
  3. Focus on sewing pants. I wear pants everyday and have a horrendous time trying to find pants that I like and that fit in stores, so it just makes sense to focus my attention here.
  4. Make myself some button-down shirts. Right now, I’m planning to make McCall’s 6649, the BurdaStyle Button Up Blouse, and the Itch to Stitch Mila shirt.
  5. Whittle down the fabric stash. I think the question of whether to keep a big fabric/yarn stash comes down to personality and how you go about planning projects, and my personality does not mesh with the stashing lifestyle. Right now, I’ve got just under 80 yards of fabric stashed, and I’d like that to be a significantly smaller number by the end of next year.

I feel good about my goals for 2016 and am looking forward to a great year of making!



Get Moving Hoodie

The name of this pattern taunts me. So bossy! Despite its imperative, this hoodie has not gotten me moving in the way intended. Instead, I have been wearing this while engaging in low-octane activities like grading, lounging, and grocery shopping. Still, it’s really comfortable and I’m very happy with the way this project turned out.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

This is my third Ottobre pattern–it comes from the 05/2015 issue of Ottobre Woman. Like the other two patterns I’ve made, I like this piece because it is a comfortable basic but has enough details to make it interesting to sew and interesting to wear. This hoodie has a saddle shoulder and pockets that are hard to describe—they aren’t really welt pockets, but the concept is kind of the same. I guess they are kind of a more casual, informal version of a welt pocket? The sleeve and hood seams are all topstitched, which make them look professional and kind of sporty. Like my Gym and Sport Sweat Shorts, I used a honeycomb stitch for the top-stitching. The fabric is a cotton blend sweatshirt fleece from Girl Charlee.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

The most difficult part of this pattern was actually the tracing. Ottobre using the crazy pattern sheets with the overlapping lines that you have to trace off. I’ve traced five other Ottobre patterns that were very easy, but this one was a pain. The pattern pieces for this hoodie are the same basic pieces used for three or four other views in the issue. However, the other views involve different pattern markings and have different cutting lines for length and necklines. All the different markings made it quite a chore to distinguish what, exactly, I needed to trace for this view from what was irrelevant. Of course, the upside of all this is that I can use the fit adjustments that I made with this pattern as a starting point for any of the other views I might be interested in.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

As far as fit adjustments go, I started with the size 46 at the upper torso, blended to a 48 at the armscye, to a 50 at the waist, and then to a 52 at the hip. I also did a 1.5” FBA and eased the resulting dart into the side seam at bust level. I removed 1” of length from the sleeves.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

When I first finished this piece, I was worried that there was too much ease through the hips, although after sending it through the washer and dryer once, I’m more satisfied with the fit. I’m also glad I made this piece in black because my work with the pockets is kind of sloppy—sewing around the sharp turns for the pocket bag was tricky. But the dark color hides most of the issues.

This was my first time installing grommets, which was pretty fun. I used a Dritz eyelet kit from JoAnn’s that was pretty inexpensive and easy to manage. Now I just need one of these mini anvils.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

I have a weakness for hoods and shawl collars. I’m glad to have this sweatshirt, especially because I like the fit through the shoulders. But I also have more sweatshirt fleece coming to me so that I can make the SBCC Brooklyn Hoodie. And then, maybe, I’ll consider sewing something I can actually wear to work. We’ll see.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

Another Faded Stripes Tee

My sewing has been extremely slow going lately. Life just keeps getting in the way. Between being totally overwhelmed by this semester and my dad having heart surgery a couple of weeks ago (he is thankfully doing well), I’ve only found very rare and brief bits of time to sew. And given how busy the end of the semester is, that is likely going to continue to be the case. Such a drag!

Ottobre Woman 02/2015 Faded Stripes Tee

So despite the extensive fall sewing plans I made awhile back, the only thing I’ve managed to finish so far is this one very simple shirt–a second version of the Faded Stripes Tee from the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Ottobre Woman. This is exactly the same as my first version, except that it features a self-fabric binding rather than using ribbing.


The striped fabric is another rayon-spandex blend from It’s incredibly soft and nice to wear, but the stripes are hard on the eyes. It actually made me nauseous when I was cutting the shirt out. Luckily, when I pair it with a cardigan and a scarf (which is how I’ve been wearing it to work), it tones down some of the psychedelic effects of the pattern.


Aside from this easy tee, I’ve been very slowly making progress on the Get Moving Hoodie from the fall issue of Ottobre Woman. After squeezing in a decent sewing session last night, I’ve got everything but the hood finished, and it’s looking good. I’m hoping to share a finished hoodie soon.

I’ve also finally started work on the Style Arc Misty Jeans, although I’m only as far as having the pattern assembled and cut out. The good news is that the crotch curve on the pattern matches the jeans I normally wear almost exactly–I just need to shorten the front rise a bit. Given the similarity in the crotch curve, I’m thinking about playing things fast and loose, forgoing a muslin, and just fitting as I sew. I might end up regretting that decision, but I don’t have the patience for the muslin process right now. We’ll see what happens.

While I haven’t been getting in much sewing, I’ve managed quite a bit of knitting. I think that since I’ve been knitting so much longer than I’ve been sewing, it’s just easier for me to manage knitting projects when I’m stressed out or pressed for time. Over the last month or two, I managed to finish both the Featherweight Cardigan and the Little Wave cardigan that were part of my Fall Essentials Sew-Along plans. I’m working on posts for both of those right now and will hopefully have them up soon-ish. (A preview: I hate one and love the other.)

Madigan Pullover

I’m also about halfway through knitting up Madigan, which I’m making up in Valley Yarns Northampton in Medium Gray. I’m through the cowl neck, yoke, and bust shaping, so that project should be pretty smooth sailing from this point on. But I’m going to need to start some Christmas knitting soon so it’s hard to say when I might finish that sweater. How is it already the middle of November!?

Ottobre Woman 02/2015 “Gym and Sport” Sweat Shorts

I do not wear shorts and yet here I am, modeling a pair of shorts for you on my blog. These are the Gym and Sport Sweat Shorts from Ottobre Woman 02/2015. Since I do not have actual gym or sport needs, I think of these more as my “lounge and laze” shorts. (Actually, I did wear them once on a walk but my thighs don’t play well with shorts and there was enough ride-up action for me to consign these to at-home only status.)

Ottobre Gym and Sport Shorts

As far as lounge and laze shorts go, these are supremely comfortable, and I’ve been wearing them a lot since I finished them. I was drawn to this pattern because of the details—the ribbed waistband, the decorative raw edges, the top-stitching, the front patch pockets. I had fun sewing these up, they were a good way to practice some new techniques, and am happy overall with the way they turned out.

Ottobre Gym and Sport Shorts

However, since I suspected these were going to end up being exclusively for hanging around my house, my bar for what was “good enough” for these shorts in terms of the fit and some of the aesthetic details was a little lower. I would have preferred a different color ribbing, maybe blue or purple, but I had the black on hand and wasn’t willing to go out of my way to get something different. The fit in the back isn’t ideal—I have some wrinkles at the back thighs, although they are still very comfortable while wearing so I just let it be. The position of the back pockets isn’t ideal but I also think the proportion of the back pockets is off. I actually enlarged both the back and front pockets to account for the fact that I graded these up a couple of sizes, but I think the back pockets still need to be a bit larger.

Ottobre Gym and Sport Shorts

I would have made more adjustments if this had been a pair of pants that I was actually wearing out of the house, but again—these are good enough to meet my “lounge and laze” standards. I confess that I also decided not to press these before taking blog posts. I just couldn’t bring myself to iron the wrinkles out of what are ostensibly pajamas. Life is too short.

Ottobre Gym and Sport Shorts

As far as fitting goes, I started a muslin for this pattern before I left NY, although the fabric I used had slightly more stretch than my fashion fabric so the muslin wasn’t as useful as it could have been. Before starting my muslin, I graded the pattern up by two sizes, added some extra width to the waist, and added about two inches of length to the legs. Then based on my muslin, I ended up raising the center back by about an inch, removed a two-inch wedge from the center front, added 3/8″ to the front inseam and added about 5/8” to the back inseam. I also enlarged the pockets by about 3/8” on all sides to make them more proportional to the size I had graded to. During sewing, the last fit change I made was to peg the legs of the shorts a bit to keep them from flaring out too much.

The main fabric is a medium-weight cotton blend sweatshirt fabric from Girl Charlee, and the ribbing is a rayon-spandex blend that is a medium-weight but also kind of flimsy. A ribbing with more body, like a medium weight cotton ribbing, would have been ideal but again—I just used what I had on hand. The instructions called for making your own drawstring, but I wanted to use black cotton twill tape instead. I didn’t have quite enough twill tape so I cut the length I had in half and attached each end to a length of ¼” elastic. The elasticated drawstring is nice because it doesn’t cut in when I sit down. The pattern also calls for grommets for threading the drawstring, but I just put in some buttonholes. Good enough.

This is my second Ottobre Woman pattern (my first was the Faded Stripes top from the same issue), and I’ve got three lengths of rayon jersey sitting on my ironing board that are all set to become tops from various Ottobre Woman issues. Ottobre Woman isn’t flashy but it’s pretty perfect for me—casual styles with clean lines. So expect to see more Ottobre soon.

I can only imagine that there are neighbors near by and this is my “mind your own damn business” face.

Ottobre Faded Stripes/Foxes Shirt

It turns out I was just kidding when I suggested that I wouldn’t sew again until my dissertation was done. I had thought about having Aidan take my sewing machine with him when he left for Cincinnati, but I decided against it at the last minute. And then as soon as he was gone and I had no one around to entertain me, I started sewing in little bits of time while taking a break from work. This is first thing I managed to finish—the Faded Stripes Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2015. The main fabric is a rayon/Spandex jersey from and the bindings are a rayon/Spandex ribbing from Girl Charlee. I rarely find prints that that I’m interested in wearing–I don’t want anything that is too bright, too busy, or too feminine. So even though this fox print is verging on hipster nonsense, I liked it enough to spring for a yard’s worth. I think this shirt is now the coolest piece of clothing I own. (Although, to be fair, I am extremely thin on clothing at the moment, so the bar isn’t very high.)

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

I started subscribing to Ottobre Woman last summer and have three issues, but this is the first Ottobre project I’ve actually made. The two things people always note as a word of caution about Ottobre patterns is that 1) they come with the crazy, color-coded pull-out sheets that you have trace your pattern pieces from and 2) the instructions are on the spare side. I didn’t find either of these things a problem, but this is also a really simple pattern with only 3 pattern pieces plus bindings. I mean, you could easily figure out how to put this shirt together just by looking at the line drawing.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My one quibble with the instructions has to do with the binding around the sleeves and neckline. The instructions tell you that for binding fabric with 40-50% stretch, you should cut the binding strips at 70% of the length of the opening you are binding. Now, when I read that, I thought it seemed way too short for binding. But my ribbing has ~60% stretch, so I followed the instructions anyway and sewed the first strip of binding to the first sleeve and it was, indeed, way too short—the entire sleeve opening was gathered. I went back and recut binding strips at 85% of the length of the opening (Ottobre’s recommended length for binding fabrics with 20-30% stretch) and that worked much better. But it also makes me think that if you had a fabric with significantly less stretch, you’d probably want to cut the bindings just a tiny bit smaller than the opening. Anyway. Lesson learned.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My high bust measurement puts me in a size 46 on the Ottobre chart, but since the style of this shirt is more relaxed through the shoulders, I just traced a straight 48 to give me a bit more room at the bust to start with. I did a 1” FBA, and rotated most of the dart to the hem to give me a bit more room at the hips. I eased the rest of the dart into the side seam at the bust level. I’m relatively happy with the fit, although I did have an issue with the back neckline drooping and collapsing on itself. I remember seeing a tip from Debbie at Stitches and Seams for dealing with drooping knit necklines by running some elastic thread through the stitching line at the back of the neck to tighten it up. It took me about 5 minutes to do, and it worked out perfectly. When the shirt is laid flat, you can see some rippling at the back of the neck from where the elastic is, but it lays flat when I wear it.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

And finally, not to belabor a post about a very simple t-shirt, but I did end up using a twin needle to top-stitch the binding and sew the hem. It’s the first time I pulled out the twin needle since I swore them off a few months ago, and it wasn’t so painful this time, primarily because I saw this post from Pandora Sews Plus Size Clothes. I was already doing most of what she recommended, but she had one tip in particular about threading a twin needle where she explained that you aren’t supposed to hook the thread going into the right needle over the bar in front of the needle. This one little trick—not catching the second thread through the bar above the needle—made a huge difference and resolved almost all of the problems I was having with thread tension and skipped stitches. So, I have tentatively invited the twin needle back into my life, although I still maintain that people tend to oversell its virtues and ease of use. The twin needling around the binding worked out much better than the twin needling at the hem—it’s almost like the twin needle responded better to sewing through a more substantial thickness of fabric? I’m going to see how it wears, but I might actually end up redoing the hem using a narrower twin needle. We’ll see. At the very least, I’m glad to have stumbled across the first tip that has made a serious difference for using a twin needle on my current machine.