Le Manteau Ernest: Or, Ooh la la, I made a Coat

Is winter still hanging around where you live? We’ve had a really mild one in my neck of the woods, (Salt Lake City, Utah, FYI) but around the end of February we had a few major snowstorms to remind us what season it actually was. Utah winters are really unpredictable, and I myself really love the snow, so I didn’t mind. I was especially glad because it took me  until the end of winter to sew my coat, but I still got a few chances to wear it before next year. So I thought that before we’re officially on to spring, I’d tell you about my experience making my Ernest Coat, or, en français, le Manteau Ernest, by République du Chiffon.

Ernest Coat

I first saw the pattern for the Ernest Coat about a year and a half ago, when my sewing skills and/or bravery where nowhere near up to the idea of coat making. I fell HARD in love with the pattern. I’d never seen a coat like it and it was everything I love and have wanted. Vintage vibes, feminine, a little bit dressy, PETER PAN COLLAR, and yeah. I was smitten. But I knew it would be awhile before I could tackle that kind of project and I try to be good with my sewing budget and not buy things that I’m not going to be making in the near future. At least most of the time.

A couple months ago, I noticed when I was stalking RDC’s website (I’m seriously in love with like all their patterns. That international shipping kills me though, otherwise I’d own like all of them) and I noticed that it said they were down to the last few copies of the Ernest Coat. (The pattern is currently not available; I’m not sure if it will be again or not…) I threw that bad boy in my online cart and ordered it right away, despite the fact that it was THE MOST I’ve ever spent on any pattern. When it’s true love, you just have to go for it in a big way sometimes.

The pattern arrived pretty quickly and beautifully packaged. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the directions and the translation factor. RDC is a French company and I believe all their patterns are available in English as well, but I was nervous about not understanding coat making techniques because it was my first coat. I have a background in French (I always hesitate to say that I “speak French” because it’s been years and I’m SOOOO rusty, but I studied it all through junior high, high school, and college.) but I definitely never learned sewing terminology. The pattern pieces are only labeled in French, but there is a handy cutting guide in the pattern instructions that translates them for you and also helps you keep track of all of them, because there are a TON of pattern pieces.

The Ernest Coat pattern is labeled 4/4 for difficulty. That was a bit daunting to see, but after having made it, it made me feel pretty rad that I could handle a 4/4. I’ve never thought of myself as an “advanced” level seamstress, but after I made this, I wondered if I finally might be!

The hardest part BY FAR about this pattern was tracing and adding seam allowances. That took me hours. Literally three nights of work to trace each pattern and add seam allowances, which I’d never had to do before. I found out after starting that I could have ordered a tracing wheel with adjustable seam allowances, but I didn’t want to wait for it to arrive and I’d already started. I’ve never used patterns that didn’t include seam allowances before, and I might be hesitant to do so in the future, just because it was SO time consuming, but for this project, I was more than happy to invest the time.

Actually sewing the coat was really a lovely process. The Ernest Coat pattern is BEAUTIFULLY drafted, and everything came together so nicely. The directions were actually really clear and easy to follow and I didn’t have any problems at all. Only two things tripped me up, but I figured them out in the end. The first was that I couldn’t figure out how to tack all the inner linings together to keep the lining in place. They have a full tutorial on their website on how to line and bag out a jacket, but their blog is only in French and a few of the finer points escaped me. I was able to navigate the bagging out process just fine from this post, it was just the hand tacking of the lining I couldn’t quite figure out. Eventually my brain made sense of it and I think what I did will work.

The other thing was at the finish line with the button holes! My machine was not having it and it was a nightmare. I sewed and unpicked so many buttonholes that I was about ready to die. And unpicking the perfectly matched red thread from a fuzzy wool was nearly impossible. I actually ripped a hole in my coat (cue panic attack) but through luck and a prayer (literally) I was able to sew a new buttonhole on top of the rip where I was going to rip it open anyway.

After all this trouble, I realized that it was because the pattern doesn’t instruct you to apply interfacing where the buttonholes will be sewn. I suppose I should have known to do it anyway, but having never made a coat I didn’t think about it. So I had to turn my coat back inside out and iron some interfacing where my buttonholes would be. After I did that, my machine sewed them up with no problems. The pattern recommends four to six buttons, and you can see I only did four. This is why, haha.

You’ll also notice that in some of my photos there are no buttons on the coat. I shared a photo studio with some local sewing blogger friends one day and I stayed up WAY late the night before we shot photos frantically trying to get my coat finished. With my machine hating those buttonholes there was no way I could finish on time so I just decided to take some photos with my coat unfinished. At the time I was really upset (because I tend to get worked up about ridiculousness that doesn’t in any way actually matter), but I’m glad I did because these photos show off the silhouette of the coat really well. Special thanks to my gorgeous friend Tami of Sew Sophie Lynn for taking them!

Once I finally got the buttons and buttonholes on, I had my husband snap some photos in our backyard (my process for photos 99% of the time). Not quite the same quality of photos (I just had him use my phone), but I wanted to show the final effect with the buttons. The fabric I used was a red melton wool by Riley Blake Fabrics; I was actually a lucky duck to have won it in the awesome #coatmakingparty that some lovely bloggers hosted on Instagram. I won enough wool from Riley Blake to make my coat and a gift card to the amazing Closetcase Patterns. Since I already had my Ernest Coat pattern, I decided to use my wool for that and I used my Closetcase gift card to get the patterns and hardware kit for a Kelly Anorak, which will be my next bigger project that I hope to tackle soon. A huge thank you to the amazing ladies hosting the Coatmaking Party. It seriously made my whole winter!

I absolutely love my Ernest Coat. Honestly I am a little afraid to wear it because it seems so fancy and I don’t want to ruin it. But I’m incredibly proud of all the hard work that went into its making. I absolutely will make another coat in the future; in fact, I already have the fabric all lined up. I might try the Ernest Coat again, just because I find I usually do better the second time I make something, but I might try something new. It’ll probably be awhile, but it’s happening!

Making a coat is an incredibly rewarding project and if you think you might ever attempt it, I totally recommend it. I’m finding that the more I tackle these bigger, scarier projects like jeans and coats, the more I learn and the more I feel that there’s really nothing I couldn’t sew if I try. The sewing confidence I gain from finishing these slow sews is really invaluable. It makes me feel like a real sewing warrior. Or something.

The Moneta Dress…Or Rather, Three Moneta Dresses

If you don’t want to read a whole, rambly post, then read only this: the Moneta Dress by Colette Patterns is my favorite knit dress pattern of all time. Full stop. If you do care to read a rambly post, then by all means, continue at your leisure:

I love me a fit and flair dress, man. I really love vintage and feminine silhouettes and to me, the fit and flair is exactly that. Ever since I first started sewing clothes for myself I was drawn to patterns like that, so I’ve tried quite a few other patterns with a similar silhouette. They were the first kinds of dresses I tried to make for myself, and I used THREE different knit patterns to try to achieve the effect I wanted. Plus I even mashed up some other patterns to try to get the effect that I wanted. I had pretty much given up on making and wearing dresses like this because I never had much success.

The others I first sewed were the Lady Skater Dress by Kitschy Coo, the Out and About Dress by Sew Caroline, and the Penelope Peplum top with the skirt add on by See Kate Sew. I sewed five or six dresses based on these patterns and they were all…fine. Like, wearable, but I wasn’t in love.

The Lady Skater is really lovely, it’s got like a half circle skirt, so no gathering, and is quite fitted. I loved the way it fits but there’s no room to hide if you’ve been eating too many cheeseburgers, you know? I can only wear them when I’m feeling super skinny, which, as a mama of three young kids, is not super often.

The Out and About is a great favorite by many, and I was lucky enough to win that pattern (this was years ago), but it just doesn’t fit me well at all. I’ve made two, and the size range I fell into resulted in dresses that were way too big for me, so I tried to just take them in, but I’ve got major arm scye issues and the waist hits at a very unflattering point. I would have to see how it would look if I made a smaller size, but since I never loved any of my other attempts I sort of just gave up.

The Penelope Peplum was probably my favorite of the three. You can either do a circle skirt or a gathered skirt for this one, and the option for both is quite nice. But again the waist hits me at a weird point and I could never adjust it to my liking.

(*I don’t tell you this to disparage any of these patterns; I learned a lot from making these and I wore/wear the dresses I made, they just didn’t work for me perfectly. Keep in mind that we all come in different shapes and sizes, so what works for one might not work for another. If you think you might have a similar body type, or you’re wanting to try a fit and flair knit dress, then my recommendation is the Moneta Dress, after lots of thorough trial and error. If you have a different body type, then there are lots of other options to try!)

I had begun to think that as much as I loved it, the fit and flair was never going to work for me. I had seen the Moneta Dress all over Instagram, the pattern isn’t new, after all, but I already had these other patterns and couldn’t justify buying yet another fit and flair pattern when I had those. I thought either I couldn’t pull off the silhouette, or I needed to sit down and do all kinds of fiddling with one or all three patterns to get something to suit me. But about a year ago, I was given a gift card to Imagine Gnats wonderful online shop and I decided to go ahead and treat myself to the Moneta pattern. I just kept seeing so many beautiful versions others were sewing, and I had to give the old fit and flair one last try.

It took me awhile to get to the point where I was ready to make it; I didn’t have high hopes and I was worried I’d be disappointed again. I made a wearable muslin out of some pretty double brushed poly from my stash and it wasn’t my neatest knit sewing ever. I had a hard time gathering the skirt and so everything doesn’t line up perfectly (no fault of the pattern, just my own ineptitude on that particular day) and my neckline looked wonky, so I wasn’t expecting much when I tried it on.

You guys. I could not stop smiling when I put that dress on! It hits in exactly the right spot on the waist, is totally flattering, even though I’m not currently at my smallest, and is really just a beautifully drafted dress. I think the best testament to how much I love it is the fact that I’ve made three in the past two months.

My three versions are in double brushed poly, cotton spandex from Cotton and Steel, and a black stretch velvet. I sewed a size medium, and after trying on the first one, I decided to make the arm scye area smaller, which is a common adjustment for me. I loved the size, but I forgot to take into account the fact that my stretch velvet is less stretchy than my other fabrics, so that dress is a tad snug. I wish I had give myself a little more room in that one.

 

I also adapted the neckline, because the pattern recommends that you turn and hem the neckline with a twin needle, and I simply can’t abide a hemmed neckline. I’ve never achieved a good finish that way, and I just don’t think it looks as professional. To be fair, I’ve seen plenty on Instagram that were sewn this way and they look nice, it’s just a matter of personal preference. I played with several ideas on how to tackle this differently, and tried two different ways that both worked great.

On my floral muslin and this fun Cotton and Steel print, I tried a bias-bound neckline, which I’ve done on a lot of woven garments (it’s the method used to finish the neckline in the Scout Tee by Grainline Studio, if you’re familiar with that.) It’s a little bit different since you’re working with stretch fabrics, but I liked the idea of this one because the strip sits on the inside of the garment and therefore doesn’t change the shape of that beautiful boat neck that the Moneta Dress boasts. My first attempt at this looked really terrible, but once I’m wearing it, it sits beautifully. I did a better job on this technique on the Cotton and Steel dress, which you can see here.

 

(Gorgeous vintage ribbon found at Harmony Provo, my favorite local shop!)

On my velvet Moneta Dress I added a neckband (I measured the length of the neck opening once my shoulder seams were sewn together, and I made a neckband that was 80% as long as that measurement.) and I loved the finish. It gave a little bit more coverage too, so if that’s something you’d like, then I’d recommend the neckband.

The Moneta Dress is an adventurous beginner pattern, simply because it’s working with stretch fabrics. The hardest part is gathering the skirt with clear elastic before you attach it to the bodice. For some reason, this is one of those sewing techniques that I either do perfectly the first time, or have to redo like five times. I have no idea why. But slow and steady and keep calm and all that and you’ll be just fine.

I love all of these Moneta Dresses and I have great plans to make more, especially some short sleeved ones for summer. The pattern has pockets, which I simply must have in my dresses (I didn’t put them in the velvet one, because working with that velvet was not my favorite and I just wanted the thing DONE. Pockets are not hard, but they are time consuming, so I skipped it to finish the dress and save my sanity. I kind of regret it, but had I waited, that dress would still not be finished.) Colette patterns also has a download for all of these darling collar options for the Moneta Dress. There is a Peter Pan collar, which we know I love, AND a scalloped collar that is too darling for words.

I absolutely love the pattern and am so happy to have finally found a fit and flair knit dress that works for me. The moral of the story I suppose is that sometimes it’s worth persevering to find the right pattern when you want a particular look.

*If a fit and flair dress of the woven variety is what you seek, then check out the Emery Dress by Christine Haynes. I’ve got big plans to make some more of these as well, it’s practically the perfect dress.

YOU Can Sew a Button Up Shirt!

Ah, January, so full of hope and ambition and goals and all that jazz. Aren’t we all just raring to go and ready to conquer the world? Or at least our own little corner of the world. That’s how I often feel this time of year. THIS year I’m having a hard time finding motivation, if I’m honest. We’ve got some home renovation projects that are sort of sucking all my energy these days, and we were all SUPER sick and of course crazy busy in the month of December, so I’m not as filled with vigor and vim about my 2018 goals as I would like to be.

LAST year, on the other hand, I made SO many resolutions. I was gonna do ALL THE THINGS, man. In December, just a few weeks ago, I turned 30 (yay! Or…yikes? I dunno…) and at the beginning of 2017 I made a list of 30 goals I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30 years old. They ranged from house goals, to family goals, personal ones and spiritual ones, frivolous ones and meaningful ones. There were a lot of ambitious sewing goals on that list as well. I crossed a lot of big things off that list, and I’m proud to say I accomplished all but five of my 30 goals. I could spend this whole post, or several, expounding on my 30 before 30 list, but I specifically want to talk about one of those sewing goals today, which was:

SEW A BUTTON UP SHIRT

Archer Button Up

In my mind, sewing a button-up shirt is one of the major milestones in garment sewing. It seems so scary and technical but like a bridge we all must cross to be considered an accomplished sewer. This was a huge reason I wanted to learn to sew one. Another was the fact that button-ups NEVER look good on me off the rack; I’ve bought several over the years and then promptly never wore them. Another still was the fact that my husband kept begging me to make him a men’s shirt. I told him once I had a better sewing machine, I would. Well, he bought me a new sewing machine a few months ago, so I couldn’t hold on to that excuse any longer. It was go time.

So, after lots of rambling and probably unnecessary backstory here (I’m chatty, sorry guys), I want to tell you about my journey sewing not just one, but FOUR button up shirts last year, and give you some advice if sewing a button up is that scary goal on your list in 2018. Away we go!

Tip #1: Start Small (and I mean that literally)

Sketchbook Shirt

The first button up I made this year was the Sketchbook Shirt by Oliver+S and it was the perfect introduction to shirt making. I made this for my little three-year-old son (though the pattern is unisex!) and it was a fast and incredibly satisfying project that gave me the confidence I needed to tackle this whole button up shirt thing. I let him choose the fabric for a special fashion show we did at Harmony Provo, my favorite local shop, and he picked these darling alligators in Cloud 9 organic cotton. The following photo is from the fashion show, and I think it needs no other commentary:

Harmony Fashion Show

I mean, right? I confess I didn’t get the buttons or buttonholes on his shirt in time for the fashion show, so he wore it open, but I went back and finished them and they were not at all as scary as I’d feared. The hardest part for me was sewing the collar on this shirt, but it was the first collar I’d ever done, so I was happy with it even though it wasn’t perfect. Which brings me to…

Tip #2: Start with a one-piece collar.

This just means the collar is sewn directly to the neckline of the shirt. Traditionally tailored shirts have a collar stand. Collar stands ARE NOT that scary, but it is an addition step that intimidates some sewers, so a good way to start out is just using a pattern without one. The Sketchbook Shirt is like this, but if you’re looking for other patterns that don’t have collar stands and you’re not really interested in sewing for kids, try the Willamette Shirt by Hey June or the Penny Dress by Sew Over It. There are so many great options for shirt patterns! If you’re not sure if the pattern you want to make has a collar stand, the description might tell you, or just go ahead and ask the pattern designer!

Tip #3: Skip the cuffs and sleeve plackets!

At least, at first. I opted to make my first couple shirt-making projects short sleeved, to save on fabric and time, but also because I was a little wary of cuffs and plackets. My second button up is a pattern I’d be dying to try for over a year: the Archer Button Up by Grainline Studio. I made two Archers this year, and for my first one I was in a time crunch so I opted for short sleeves.

Halloween Archer ShirtIt’s this cute cute Spellbound fabric by my favorite Cotton and Steel, and it came together so quickly and beautifully that I almost couldn’t believe it. Going easy on the sleeves allowed me to really concentrate on getting a perfect collar (this one is the traditional two-piece collar with a collar stand) and I was really pleased with my results.

I will say that the short-sleeve Archer isn’t quite the silhouette I was hoping for; it looks a bit like a bowling shirt on me unless I wear it with a cardigan or tucked in, but I will still wear it proudly every Halloween! To get the more feminine short-sleeved collard shirt I’ve been dreaming of, I’m soon attempting both the Mélilot Shirt by Deer and Doe Patterns and the Sara Shirt from By Hand London. I’ll keep you posted on those beauties!

Collar Closeup

But I’m not finished talking about the Archer Shirt, as I made two, I’ve got more to tell you! If you want to make a traditional shirt with all the bells and whistles and you want a pattern with really great, clear instructions, then the Archer is for you. It is a relaxed, almost boyfriend-fit shirt, and it comes together really well. There are great illustrations and the pattern even links to detailed tutorials on how to get that collar on perfectly and do other cool shirt making tricks, which leads me to…

Tip #4: Slow and steady makes for beautiful shirts.

I can tell you right now, that button up shirts are not even really difficult, so much as they involve a lot of techniques that require time and careful sewing. Sew that collar slowly and carefully. Press everything really well. Opt to take the time to top stitch. Definitely give flat-felled seams a try, maybe not on your first go, but especially do it on a shirt made with special fabric or one you know you’ll wear often. It takes a little more time and effort, but man, what a beautiful and clean result! In flat-felling my seems, I realized that shirt making is about dedicating your time and attention to detail. It wasn’t instant gratification, but the slow sewing was a really lovely and enriching process.

Gingham Archer

Tip #4: Be Mindful of Pattern Matching

I made my second Archer from the Robert Kaufman Carolina Gingham and I wear this baby ALL THE TIME. As my first shirt with cuffs, plackets, and a full-blown collar, it took me some extra time especially given that I had plaid matching to deal with. If you’ve got your heart set on a plaid button up shirt (which, why wouldn’t you? It’s an American classic, after all) then by all means, go for it! Just realize it’s going to take more time and fabric to match that pattern.

One handy tip is to cut your button placket and your yoke on the bias. This is both visually interesting, and makes it so you don’t have to match on those areas. Do make sure your plaids run nicely across both front pieces and do your best on the side seams, but also realize that it’s probably going to be impossible to get it to match perfectly everywhere.

(Warning: when cutting on the bias, the fabric will stretch! The button placket is interfaced so that will help with this, and when I cut my yoke pieces for this Archer, I cut the outside piece (the one that shows) on the bias, but I left the inside one on the grain, so that it would stabilize the one on the bias and keep it from stretching out of shape. I tried to have my cuffs on the bias, but they stretched out terribly, so I just cut new ones on the grain and let go of that idea.)

Gingham Archer Button Up

I really can’t recommend the Archer enough. If you want an intermediate pattern that will stretch your sewing, but give you the resources to succeed, then Archer is the shirt for you.

Tip #5: Put some pressure on!

My bargain with my husband to make him a shirt was pretty effective in getting me to tackle button ups. I wanted his to be really good, so I started with my son and me as practice before I dove in to his shirt. He chose this awesome Cotton and Steel Bluebird fabric, and he chose the short sleeves, which was a nice shortcut for me, but he did bug me relentlessly to finish his shirt, so that kept me going!

Agree to make a shirt for someone else, or agree to make one at the same time as a friend. The support (or the nagging, whatever) will really help you!

As for my mister’s shirt, it’s the Fairfield Button Up by Thread Theory and it is an incredibly thorough pattern! There are a few options on fitting and the instructions are really detailed and helpful. I have only used Thread Theory for the few menswear items I’ve made, and I can’t say enough about how awesome they are. Especially if the men in your life like a slim fit, like my husband does. I am really happy with how this shirt turned out, notwithstanding…wait for it….

Fairfield Button Up

Tip #6: Embrace the mistakes.

Picture this: I stayed up late sewing the buttons on this shirt so my husband could wear it the next morning. It’s not the most seasonally appropriate for our cold Utah winters, but he was so excited to wear it. He was getting ready for work in the morning and I, still abed, groggily told him that his shirt was finished. He was so excited and put it on right away. Then he says “Um…I don’t want to be that guy, but did you sew the buttons on the wrong side?” I’m a very rageful person in the morning, and I don’t remember exactly what I said, but basically it wasn’t nice. After he left I went to check my pattern pieces and realized that I hadn’t cut it out correctly and that indeed, the buttons were on the wrong side. So, in the style of ladies’ shirts.

Fairfield Button Up DetailI was really mad, and I was really embarrassed. This was supposed to be the crown jewel in my conquest of shirt making! How could I have failed?! It was a very depressing morning. To be fair, mornings are like poison to me in general, but this was particularly painful.

A few hours later, my husband called me and told me that everyone loved his shirt and simply could not believe that I had made it, and that nary a soul had noticed the buttons. So I decided to swallow my pride and just rejoice in the fact that I made a really awesome shirt that my husband loved. Even if I did make a mistake. He wears his lady shirt proudly, like Michael Scott in his bargain-bin lady’s suit. (I tried to find a clip of that amazing scene from the office, but I couldn’t right away and didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of Michael Scott clips.)

Fairfield Button Up

“This is what you do when you’re modeling, right?” Um, okay…

I know this post is long, but if you’re still reading, I just want to leave you with one last tip about making shirts, and that is:

BE BRAVE!

If there’s one piece of advice I can give about sewing in general, it’s don’t be afraid to tackle something that scares you. Yes, work your way up to it, and yes, take things one step at a time, but don’t ever let yourself think the words “Oh, I could never make that.” You could. You can. AND YOU WILL. Sewing a shirt is an incredibly satisfying project that will teach you so many new skills and make you feel so proud of yourself. It’s not the easiest thing you’ll ever make, but it’s not scary, it’s not impossible, and it’s really quite fun if you immerse yourself in the process and let it take your skills to new heights. Good luck to you, aspiring shirt sewers, and may 2018 be the year you sew a shirt like a rock star!

I MADE JEANS, PEOPLE

Ginger Jeans Party

That’s right. I actually SEWED my own JEANS. I made the Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns and I’m gonna tell everyone I know. But let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? I’ve been wanting to sew a pair of jeans for awhile, but I had planned on doing it next year. Mostly because I was scared, but also partially because I have a lot on my plate, both sewing-related and otherwise. I knew I wanted to make the Ginger Jeans, because everyone has raved about them and I am a fan of Closet Case Patterns in general. Really I was just hemming and hawing about it and didn’t know where to start.

Enter my amazing sewing friends, Rachel of Little Fish and Tiahna of Ammon Lane. They hosted a fantastic Ginger Jeans party on Instagram and invited everyone to join them in sewing up the Ginger Jeans pattern during the month of October. It was just the push I needed. I decided to rearrange my project queue and just go ahead and sew them jeans. I’m really glad I did. It’s WAY more fun to sew things along the way with others, especially because you can ask questions, exchange opinions, and support each other through the process. The community of sewing friends I have met through Instagram is seriously invaluable to me. I love them all and they are incredibly encouraging and supportive.

Here I am with Rachel (she’s the tall one with legs for days. I’m the short one with legs for five seconds.) She lives near me and we met up to grab some photos of our booties in our new jeans. It’s not awkward, it’s all for the sake of sewing.

Ginger Jeans Party

We both used this amazing Cone Mills denim for our jeans. From all my research I learned that Cone Mills is the real deal when it comes to denim. Sourcing denim is one of the hardest parts about making jeans, honestly. I got mine from Threadbare Fabrics; they as well as Heather from Closet Case Files were awesome and offered coupon codes for all the #gingerjeansparty sewers.

Ginger Jeans Party

And here is why sewing your own clothes is awesome. Tall or short, you can make the pattern work for your body. Which brings me to my next point, which is to tell you that the absolute hardest part about making jeans is getting the fit right in the beginning. The actual sewing of the jeans themselves is NOT EVEN HARD AT ALL. I promise. It’s not scary and it’s not difficult. It’s just a matter of taking things one step at a time.

But fitting is a little bit tricky. If you’ve never made pants before (I hadn’t), you may not know (I didn’t) that the first step is to cut out the size you think you need based on the pattern measurements, baste together the legs, yoke, and waistband with a long, temporary stitch, and try them on for fit.

Ginger Jeans

My first try I sewed the size 10, and right away I could see they were miles too long and I didn’t have a very good fit in the crotch or the back of the thighs. Closet Case has a Ginger Jeans Sewalong that addresses how to tackle fit issues like these and more. I adjusted the front crotch curve and took four whole inches (yeah, super short legs) out of the length and tried again.

The second basting was not perfect, and I was pretty discouraged. (I told you, fitting is the hardest part.) I still had lots of excess fabric in places and I was tired of spending so much time on fit. I decided to try a couple more things, sizing down to an 8 being one of them, and just to go ahead with them without doing a third basting. Heather from Closet Case has a really great philosophy about fit. It’s nice if you can get a perfect fit, but the goal in fitting handmade clothing should really be about improvement rather than perfection. I figured they’d turn out fitting at least as well as my store-bought jeans, so I embraced that idea and started sewing.

The actual sewing of the Ginger Jeans was FUN. They have these incredible pocket stays, the fly instructions were so easy to understand, and I felt like a legit sewing BOSS each step I completed.  I will say, I would not have been able to make these on my old sewing machine. My new Bernina is the real deal. It has a really awesome top-stitching stitch that made all this top stitching a breeze. It was also able to get through all the layers of this heavier denim. (P.S. Use a denim needle!) Also, ripping out heavy duty top stitching is no laughing matter, so make sure things are as they should be before you top stitch!

Ginger Jeans Party

It only took me a couple days after I started sewing to complete my jeans. I hit a snag when I ran out of top-stitching thread, and I had a little bit of unpicking I had to do here and there, but nothing terrible. At first I was really disappointed though because I thought they were going to be too tight. They were really snug when I first tried them on. But they’ve relaxed a bit, and hopefully as I stop eating all the Halloween candy, they’ll fit a bit better.

Ginger Jeans and Archer Shirt

I am really thrilled with these jeans. It was absolutely empowering to make something I never in my wildest sewing dreams thought was possible. They’re not perfect, but they’re mine, and I’m incredibly proud of them.

Here are some things I’d do differently next time (and there will definitely be a next time!). I debated a long time about buying the original Ginger Jeans pattern, which includes high rise and low rise options, or the midrise pattern, which is what I ultimately chose. I thought that it would be super high and I also never plan on making a low rise pair (because low rise pants are a fool’s game. What were we thinking in the early 2000s?!). Most of my ready-to-wear jeans are midrise, and I like that fit really well. But I wish I had gone with the high rise.

Ginger Jeans Back

I think I must have a longer rise than most people, and I have a long torso (and the shortest legs, man. Why couldn’t I have had the opposite?!), because the midrise Ginger Jeans do not hit me as high as I thought they would. I think the high rise would be just perfect. Luckily the midrise pattern has instructions for changing the rise, so I will try that next time.

For my waistband, I chose not to use interfacing and to line it with a cotton which I also used for my pockets. There are several options for the lining of your waistband, and I think next time I will line it with denim instead of the lining fabric. Mine is just a bit wrinkly and not as stable as I’d like.

Ginger Jeans Party

I also want to use a slightly lighter weight denim. This one is pretty hefty, which I love, but I think a 10 ounce or so would be just perfect. I am DYING to get my hands on a light wash denim. So far I can’t find quality stretch denim that is a medium or light blue wash anywhere, which is the only thing keeping me from making a second pair of Ginger Jeans right away. If you see any, point me in their direction!

Ultimately, I am so happy I decided to be brave and tackle this project. Completing these really made me feel like there’s nothing I can’t sew. Huge thanks to Rachel and Tiahna and also Threadbare Fabrics and Closet Case Files. I love my Ginger Jeans, not just because they’re a high quality pair of jeans, but because of what I learned and what I gained from sewing them. To anyone who may read this post, the one thing I hope you take away is this: be brave! Push yourself to try something scary and new. It doesn’t have to turn out perfectly, and you don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing when you start. You’ll learn so much along the way and you’ll surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.

Ginger Jeans Party

Happy sewing, loves!

The Dress Shirt

If you thought I was done with the Summer of Dresses because it’s now pretty much autumn (in my hemisphere, anyway), then you were wrong. I should call it Lifetime of Dresses probably. My next project also happens to be a dress. And oh, what a dress she is. The pattern is the Dress Shirt by Merchant and Mills. The fabric is the 2″ Carolina Gingham by Robert Kaufman in black and white. (I purchased both at Harmony Provo, a little jewel of a local shop.)  And the feeling is true love.

The Dress Shirt

Merchant and Mills classifies the Dress Shirt as a beginner pattern. While I think any confident and spunky beginner could definitely make this dress, there are a few parts that require extra time and care. The hardest part is the bib front and the bib lining. It’s just a big curve to sew and you’ll want to go slowly and make sure everything is lined up properly.

Side note: It’s called the Dress Shirt. But it’s a dress, and not a shirt, so I kept calling it the Shirt Dress. But then I was like…”That doesn’t sound right. (insert checking of the pattern yet again) Oh yeah. It’s the Dress Shirt. But wait, it’s not a shirt, it’s a dress….” and repeat. I’m insane probably, right? Yeah…

The Dress Shirt

I set myself extra challenges with this huge plaid print (which is so gorgeous I could kiss it on the mouth, by the way). It’s large enough and simple enough that it’s easy to see where you need to match, buuuuut that also makes it more noticeable when it doesn’t. So I had to give all that plaid matching a little more time. I decided to do the bib front and the back yoke on the bias for design purposes, but I cut the corresponding lining pieces on the straight grain to stabilize the bias pieces. My plaid doesn’t match everywhere, but I was pretty darn proud of my plaid matching on the front piece. I cut the sleeves identically on the plaid and the back yoke and all my pleats are fairly centered, which was no small feat.

The Dress Shirt, detail

This dress has a very loose, relaxed fit which makes it extremely comfortable to wear. I always have to be careful with these silhouettes though, because they can be a bit unflattering on me. I’m on the petite side and also pretty curvy, so I’ve gotta be careful with clothes that have volume. The first thing I did was make I chose a fabric that wasn’t too heavy. The Kaufman gingham is 100% cotton but really soft, light, and not stiff at all. I would stay away from anything super heavy, unless you’re tiny and can pull off the extra volume and boxy shape.

The Dress Shirt

The original pattern features a box pleat at the center under the bib front. For this version, I chose to invert the pleat so the fabric would move inward, for a more streamlined and flattering shape. The back of the dress is also gathered in the original pattern, and I instead sewed another inverted box pleat for the same reason. It took a little volume out of the dress and the pleats were just really well suited to the plaid print. This dress has a fabulous curved hem which gives it a beautiful shape but I added extra length by grading to the largest size at the very bottom so it wouldn’t be too short on the sides.

The Dress Shirt

Oh, and I added pockets, because duh. I always add pockets to my dresses if they don’t have them. Dresses always ought to have pockets if they possibly can.

The Dress Shirt

Seriously though, this dress makes me feel things. Happy things. I’m planning to live in it ALL YEAR LONG! I strategically chose the print, colors, and short sleeve so it works all year, because I knew I would love it so much. With tights, boots, and a cardigan, it will be perfect this fall and winter. Come next spring and summer, I can throw it on with sandals and be golden. Three cheers for the Dress Shirt!

P.S. My gorgeous friend Rachel took these fab photos for me. She sews, has an adorable Etsy shop, and is an awesome photographer, so check out her page over at Little Fish! A few of us seamstresses got together to take photos in the city (SO FUN). Made a nice change from my backyard, eh?

Summer of Dresses: the Tea House Dress

So maybe it’s not summer anymore? But it’s Indian Summer where I live, so I say the Summer of Dresses lives on! And this dress deserves its praises to be sung, you guys. I had originally intended to post about tons of dresses (a Summer of Dresses sounds like it has a lot of dresses involved), but you know, I moved. Instead I’ve been putting a lot of my heart and soul into working on my 1920s cottage. That old lady is high maintenance, I tell you.

Speaking of vintage treasures, I’ve got this new dress to show you. It’s the Tea House Dress pattern, by Sew House 7, and it’s got this 1930s day dress feel about it that I’m really in to these days. This dress was the very first project I made in my new (er, old) home. The Tea House Dress is what gave me back my sewjo, or “sewing mojo,” if you like. I was a little bit nervous about how this silhouette would look on me, but I don’t even care if it doesn’t look good. It FEELS good, and that’s good enough for me.

My Tea House Dress was crafted from Cotton and Steel’s lovely gingham in their Checkered collection. I scored some of this pretty medium gray on clearance at a local quilt shop and thought it would be just perfect for a dress in the last days of summer. You’ll notice that some of my pieces were cut on the bias; I wish I’d had enough to do the front yoke as well, but I squeezed every last bit of fabric out of the three yards that I had.

The nice thing about this pattern is that the fit is very forgiving, as it’s meant to be relaxed and it ties at the waist. If you love dress making but dread complicated fitting issues, this dress is a good bet. I didn’t have to muslin and I love the fit of my dress.

Sew House 7 classifies the Tea House Dress as an intermediate pattern, and I’d agree, but only because there are more pattern pieces than a basic dress would have, and you’re dealing with facings and things. That was the hardest part for me, stitching the facings in correctly. But the pattern is extremely well written with very clear directions, so as long as you follow the pattern, you’ll do just fine. It’s a good “intermediate” pattern to try if you feel like you might be a beginner but want something a little more challenging. No zippers or buttons, so that’s always nice.

You guys, I was not expecting to love this dress as much as I do. It’s like a prairie gingham dream, I tell you. I wore it to a concert with my sister Chloe (check her out on Etsy!) at the most beautiful venue that we have in Salt Lake City. (It was the Decemberists at Red Butte Garden, if you care about all the intricacies. Prettiest venue, one of my favorite bands of ever, and a lovely time to debut my new dress.) As we walked on the trail into the concert area I picked a wild sunflower and put it in my hair, because it just felt right, you know? This dress has summer magic.

I shook my quilt out on the grass and as I sat down, this girl in front of me said “You look like a dream in your gingham dress with your braid and flowers in your hair.” Then my sweet sister said “She made that dress herself! Last night!” and I confess it was a nice feeling when the girl and the surrounding people further marveled at my hard work. It’s nice to get compliments, isn’t it? And it’s even nicer to give them. It made me want to go about my life complimenting strangers because I think if more people did that, there would be more good vibes and less horribleness in the world.

But anyway, the Tea House Dress is true love.

I don’t have any photographic proof, but I wore this dress three times the first week I made it, and I got SO MANY COMPLIMENTS on it everywhere I went. Like, more compliments than I ever get on any of the clothes I make. It’s a special dress, I tell you, and only good things happen when I wear it (except for the fact that I spilled buffalo sauce on it, but I sprayed it and that mess came out, thank heavens.).

Make yourself a Tea House Dress (I’ve already made a second!) and please hop over to my lovely friend Nicole’s blog to see her Tea House Dress. It’s too good to miss and she has some great things to say about it as well. And maybe go out and compliment someone today. It’ll make more than one person feel happy.

Happy sewing, loves!

Stella Weekender Bag

This post is a love letter to my darling Stella Weekender bag. Ahem:

Dear Stella Weekender,

Oh beautiful Stella. My heart swells with pride whenever I carry you around and someone gasps and says “You made that?!” You were a labor of love and also of last-minute madness and also I probably shouldn’t have tried to make you in such a hurried fashion, but I just couldn’t help it. Once the idea took me that I needed to sew up a Stella, I was a girl possessed. I had to have you for my British Isles trip, so I slaved like a fiend to finish you in time. There were many hurdles, and many late nights spent in anguish, but I believe you were worth it. You saucy minx.

Your devoted admirer,

Vienna

Ha. But in all seriousness, the story of me+Stella is pretty crazy. A few months back, the husband and I went on the coolest trip ever to Ireland, Scotland, and England. It was our first big trip in a few years, on account of the babies we keep having, and we were both really excited to go. Since the only bags I own are diaper bags that have eternal crumbs and dum dum sucker sticks plastered to the insides, I got the idea to make myself a cute bag for my carry-on and to tote around Britannia.

Enter Stella Weekender. This pattern is by Swoon patterns and it’s PERFECTION. Such a well-written pattern, so beautifully designed, and all-around gloriousness in a bag. It’s rated as an intermediate/advanced pattern (3/4 on their scale) and I would agree with that. They specifically state that it’s not difficult, but time consuming. So of course deciding to make it a week before our departure on an international trip sounded like a great idea at the time. Spoiler alert: it was not. Not a great idea. Did I mention it’s the first bag or purse I’ve ever sewn? Because it was. Really bit off a lot to chew with this one.

Stella Weekender, In Progress

I ran into hurdle after hurdle making this bag. Accidentally printed the 30+ page pattern full color at a shop which cost me a fortune? Check. Bought the wrong zippers? Check. Bought the wrong snaps? Check. Ran all freaking over town looking for the right hardware? Check. Tried to take a shortcut and use half the required number of snaps, then having to unpick and resew the ENTIRE front panel when I realized that half the number of snaps was, gasp, not enough? Check. Lived in a constant state of fear that I was ruining two of my very favorite and long-hoarded fabrics? Check. Sewed the main compartment zipper incorrectly (the very last step, the NIGHT before our flight) so the zipper wouldn’t close and fear that the whole bag was useless? Check.

Never mind that I had other things I should have been doing, you know, like packing and caring for my children. I became a girl possessed and had to finish this bag. Lots of unpicking. Lots of self loathing.

Had I not been under such a terrible (self-inflicted) time constraint, this really wouldn’t have been a bad project at all. It was really satisfying to follow each step and see little by little how it came together into an awesome and totally professional looking bag. If you are smarter and less insane than I am, you can sew this bag like a champ. Order your hardware online, or collect things here and there, and you’ll be just fine. It seems intimidating, but it’s just a lot of steps, a lot of pattern pieces, and a LOT of interfacing. But just follow each step one at a time and you’ll be fine.

At the Airport with Stella

The Stella Weekender is a BIG bag. It was great for the long flight and the hours in the car. (We flew to Dublin, rented a car, drove to the Irish countryside, back to Dublin, flew to Scotland, rented another car, drove all around England. IT WAS AMAZING.) My cardi, a book, my knitting project, wallet, passport, huge stash of British sweets (Cadbury, yo. Also rhubarb and custards.) and then some all fit in my bag. It has an interior pocket that I actually split into two to keep it from being floppy, two side pockets (that fit a water bottle!), and the exterior zipper compartment and two snapped pockets you see on the front panel. There’s also a pocket on the back.

The only problem was that once I had it all packed it was far too heavy to cart around all day. We did a ton of walking and lots of places like museums won’t let you take big bags in anyway, so I mostly left it in the car and took nothing with me. As a longtime lover of carrying all my stuff with me like Mary Poppins, this made me feel a little sad, but there’s no way I could’ve lugged it all over. I really wanted pictures of it with famous British landmarks too, so it’s a shame I didn’t get any. That’s probably the most insane sentence ever typed. The day and age we live in, amiright?

Stella Weekender: The Inside Look

That being said, it’s still one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I used my tiger canvas from Cotton and Steel’s very first collection (squirreled away in my stash for years) and decided to pair it with some Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs canvas for contrast. If you cut my heart open to see what fabric combination was inside, it would be this one. That makes no sense, except for it does. These two fabrics are true love. For the lining I used this hounds tooth quilting cotton I’ve had forever. Happily there were leftovers to make a zipper pouch from the floral (pictured above) and this rad toiletry bag from the tigers. I roughly followed this tutorial to make the boxy pouch. I made it bigger though so I could fit all my crap.

Matching Toiletry Bag

Now I use my Stella Weekender as my traveling sewing bag, and it’s perfect for that. Fits fabric, a pattern or two, my smaller rulers, scissors, pin cushion, snacks (not as much Cadbury to be had here, alas) and more. I thought about using it as my new diaper bag, but I just can’t bear to subject it to such a disgusting and sticky fate.But I’d consider making a second one as a diaper bag, should I ever need a new one. (Will I have another babe? Depends on the day. And who you ask.) Anyway, that’s another topic for another time.

In conclusion, I really love my Stella Weekender bag. I’m absurdly proud of it, probably because making it was so stressful (again, MY fault!) that it probably took two years off my life. A real piece of my soul is in that bag. Like a horcrux. Except I didn’t murder anyone, promise. I want to make another bag soon; I purchased this pattern to try a smaller one, which I probably should have attempted BEFORE I did this larger and more complicated bag, but I always dive into projects with wanton abandon and foolish optimism. It usually kinda pays off.

Summer of Dresses: The Emery Dress

Summer of Dresses: The Emery Dress

Welcome back to my summer of dresses! At the end of summer! Today I’m talking about the Emery Dress by Christine Haynes. I started writing this post in July, when I actually sewed this particular dress, but then we moved and my life was over. Just kidding. I’m fine. But seriously moving is the worst. We’re in our new house now (and by new, I really mean super old, because it was built in 1925) and I’m slowly but surely getting settled in.

I was initially going to just skip this dress and pretend the summer never happened on the old blog, but the Emery Dress is too good to be missed.  Designed by the incredibly talented Christine Haynes, the Emery Dress is a vintage inspired fit and flair dress with darts in the waist, bust and back shoulders for a fitted look and nipped in waist with a full gathered skirt and glorious pockets for added fabulosity.

I actually made my first Emery two years ago for my baby sister for her to wear for her engagement photos. Here she is in all her cuteness. She chose this fabulous print designed by Sarah Watts for Cotton and Steel. Hummingbirds!


I was pregnant at the time, and I almost made myself one to wear to her wedding, but obviously would have and to make several modifications. Not quite sure how to go about that, I emailed Christine Haynes and she gave me the best response! She told me to do a full bust adjustment, remove the waist darts, and shorten the bodice for a sort of empire waist that would be maternity friendly. I didn’t end up making the dress because my sister found a ready to wear dress for me, but I was so impressed that Christine responded with such helpful advice.  I thought I’d include that here for anyone who might want to make a bump-friendly Emery Dress.

Anyway, back to present day. I decided to make myself an Emery because I’ve been wanting one so badly ever since. But as pregnancy and nursing and all that jazz do strange things to one’s bod, I decided to wait until now.

I won a fantastic contest from fabric.com for last year’s Sewvember. (YAY!) With my store credit I chose this darling strawberry print in the navy colorway by Kim Kight for Cotton and Steel. (If you don’t like Cotton and Steel, you best look elsewhere. Because obviously I’m a bit of a fan girl for those guys.)

I sewed up my Emery just in time for the 4th of July!

And it’s love. This silhouette is my ultimate favorite for dresses. I love the vintage vibes and I just feel like it’s flattering on most people and so feminine.

This pattern is one of the most well-written patterns I’ve ever sewn. The directions are superb and extra clear. This is a more intermediate pattern because of the darts and the lining and invisible zip and all that stuff means lots of steps. Everything was easy to follow and understand. If you consider yourself a beginner apparel sewer but would like to tackle something a little more involved, the Emery Dress is a great pattern for you. It’s easy to follow and it’s also drafted really, really well.

Let’s chat about the modifications I made, and the ones I would make in the future. I would absolutely 100% recommend doing a muslin for this pattern. It’s supposed to be quite fitted and the better the fit, the prettier it will be. I chose not to do a muslin because I had tried on my sisters as best I could in my early pregnant state and I thought it would be fine. It is fine, but there are a few fit issues.

It’s not obvious to others probably, but my dress is too large in the shoulders and arm scye. I almost always have to size down in those areas and grade up in the bust and waist because I have a petite frame. My bust and waist measurements always put be in a larger size brackets (on account of the childbearing) but if I make the size I fall into it’s always too big. I believe my measurements put me at a 10, so I made an 8, and I still think I need to do a 6 in the shoulders and arms. But fit issues and all, I still love this sweet strawberry dress.

I also added length to mine, as the pattern falls at or just above the knee, and I like my skirts below the knee for all my baby chasing. Maybe I’ll shorten the sleeves a little next time, just for a different look. Or maybe I’ll do the long sleeves (the pattern comes with those!) There is also the option for a cute Peter Pan collar (and we know I’m obsessed with those) so I think that’ll be my next attempt.

I hope you liked reading about my experience making the Emery Dress. Check out the #emerydress on Instagram to see about a billion gorgeous version, and as always, let me know if you have questions! Happy sewing!

Summer of Dresses: The Réglisse Dress

I’ve come to the decision that this is to be the Summer of Dresses. I’ve been up to lots of dressmaking and have several more dress patterns I’ve been dying to try. Couple that with the fact that dresses are perfection for summer heat, and you’ve got the Summer of Dresses. It’s official. Okay it’s totally not, but it can be official in my own little world, no?

I haven’t exactly worked out all the details yet, but my rough plans are to sew and wear lots of dresses and feature them here on le blog. If any of you lovely dressmakers out there would like to join in, that would be fab!

First up in my Summer of Dresses lineup is the Réglisse Dress from Deer and Doe Patterns! I adore Deer and Doe. I absolutely love the styles of French sewing pattern designs. (No surprise. If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a Francophile.) They are so different from what most people wear and have gorgeous feminine elements and shapes. If you have never sewn anything from Deer and Doe, I highly recommend them! They even have a fantastic FREE pattern, the Plantain Tee, which is one of the very first things I ever sewed for myself. You can download the PDF for that one here (you’ll need to create an account with Deer and Doe) and then you’ll be hooked.


The Réglisse is a sweet, ultra-feminine style dress that has a lovely vintage vibe. I bought the pattern about six months ago; I had been searching for something like it and once I came across the Réglisse Dress, it was true love I tell you. In fact, I almost exclusively use PDF patterns because of cost and convenience, but the Réglisse was my very first purchase of a paper pattern AND I ordered it all the way from France. That’s how much I had to have it.

The instructions for the pattern come in both French and English, and they are extremely clear and easy to follow. The Réglisse is rated an intermediate pattern, and I would agree with that simply because it has lots of pattern pieces and techniques, including shoulder yokes, bust darts, and of course the darling bow neck collar. BUT there are no closures, so if you’re intimidated by zippers or buttons, this might be a good intermediate pattern to try. It’s simply a matter of following all the instructions.

I didn’t make many changes at all to the pattern. Some added length to the skirt was a must because I like my dresses and skirts to fall below the knee. Initially, I tried to change the sleeves up because I was worried they wouldn’t have the coverage I like. I cut a sleeve pattern from another dress and tried to sub it in, but that didn’t work very well at all. The Réglisse has pretty large openings for the sleeves, and the cap sleeve pattern is really the best fit for the silhouette of the dress. Once I’d made it, I realized that the shoulders are wider than most bodices so even though the sleeves are quite petite, it actually gave me enough coverage. I may try to add more fabric in the underarm area next time I make this dress, just to lend a bit more coverage there.

I sewed my Réglisse in a lovely gray clip dot fabric by Michael Miller Fabrics I bought from fabric.com. It looks like they no longer have the gray, but it comes in black or white, both of which would be lovely for the Réglisse! The fabric was perfect for a light summer dress. It’s so floaty and feminine!


Love my little eye-patch wearing, Gogurt-eating assistant! Here you can kind of see the sleeve issues I was talking about. I wore a Down East Wonder Tee underneath and it gave me a bit more coverage without showing too much.

I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this dress this summer. Yesterday was quite warm and I wore it all day and loved it. Plus I think with tights and a cardigan it’ll be just perfect in winter as well, so the Réglisse Dress is an absolute triumph in my book. C’est magnifique!

Pattern Hacking

Hey lovelies! I’m current across the pond in the U.K. (you can follow my adventures on Instagram @thelatesew) but I wanted to pop in and let you know some details about my next round of sewing classes I’ll be teaching at Thimbles and Threads this month! These ones are all about pattern hacking our good old favorite Scout Tee by Grainline Studio. 

Peter Pan collar Scout Tee

I’ll be teaching you how to take one sewing pattern (the Scout Tee, in this case) and change it round to get at least ten different looks! You can use pattern hacking to make dresses and a variety of different tops to build a whole wardrobe with just one pattern. 

Make dresses, add ruffles, a collar, and more and I’ll give everyone in the class detailed instruction on how to create ten different great pattern hacks. 

Ruffle Scout TeeScout Dress
Come to the class planning on making one version of the pattern but going home with the instructions for all! You most certainly can and should take this class even if you didn’t take my first class. I’d love to have you! If you’ve never made the basic Scout Tee, I’d recommend starting with that, but I can still help you with that and show you how to do the pattern hacks. 

If you’re a confident beginning sewer and you’d love to make some handmade clothing, I would love to have you in my class! Sign up here!!!

Scout Dress