All posts by June

New York dress

I recently sewed a summer dress for my daughter. This project is so simple but had been incubating since last year! 🤦🏻‍♀️ We discussed the design she wanted (sleeveless and knee length) and bought interlock at Joann’s. She loved the stripes and dots, thought it was so sophisticated, “like the kind of dress you’d see in New York!” (New York, I love it!)

I chose the racerback dress from Hey June Handmade, a great free pattern. The biggest size was too small for my tall 9-year-old, so I graded it up another size (winged it).

The dress is super easy to assemble, only three pieces. I cut and applied the neckband and armscye bindings by using Sarah Veblen’s foolproof technique. Coverstitched the hem and that was it. It’s a winner!

Stripe matching on the seams!

My “Armani” slouchy beanie

My sister loves to shop and sends me stuff that she thinks I might like. We’re not the same size (she’s considerably taller than me), so some of the items are hit or miss in terms of fit.

This is an Armani vest, new with tags, fiber content of rayon/wool/silk/cashmere.

But we have major problems in how it fit. The vest looks nice laid out flat, but once we put a 3-dimensional body inside, it turns into navel-baring, hi-lo shell that I’m preeettty sure violates Mayo’s dress code in more than a couple ways.

However, I do need a winter hat. 😀 I thought I had enough material to make a slouchy beanie, and I loosely followed this Craftsy tutorial to draft a pattern. The pattern suggests it fits an “average-sized head” and is drafted for a final brim circumference of <20 inches. I added 2.5 more inches to fit my giant (22.5") noggin, I hate when hats feel like they are squeezing my brains.

Given the deep V of the vest front, there wasn’t enough fabric to make a double-layer hat. I opted for a single layer with foldover brim. Construction was straightforward, with only a couple seams. I sewed the seams with a 3/8-inch seam allowance, using a zigzag stitch, and then serged the raw edges.

With Casey

I love this hat! I may or may not have worn it all day. 🙂

FO: Jalie pull-on jeans

TL;DNR – I sewed funky flare jeans!!!

But let’s go back to the beginning.

If I manage to get up at 5:30 AM, I can sew for ~15 minutes before I get ready for work. What can be sewn in twice-weekly, bleary-eyed sprints? Well, how about a sloooow pair of Jalie pull-on jeans! Cumulatively, this project probably took about 8-10 hours to cut and assemble, so while it was a multimonth project for me, normal people could probably pull it off in a weekend. 🙂

I deviated from my usual cautious self and didn’t make a toile. Instead, I took flat-pattern measurements at the waist and hips and decided to go with a size X at the waist and blend it to a size V at the yoke bottom and then to a size T at the hips. I kept it at size T from the hips through the bottom hem, although I shortened the inseam length by 2 inches.

I didn’t blend between sizes quite right because the yoke extended into the side seam, oops. I just trimmed it off, and it didn’t seem to affect fit.

Fabric was from the stash, a nice midweight dark stretch denim from Lura’s Fabric Shop, purchased in 2011. (Excellent service at that shop, btw.) I’d originally planned to sew a few pairs of Jalie 2908 jeans (inspired by the Selfish Seamstress), but I lost steam after the first one (never even blogged it) and put the rest of the fabric away.

I set up 2 machines for sewing. I used a Bernina 830 Record for seaming and a Bernina 1030 for topstitching. I bought the 830 last year (totally lemminged Renee when I saw her post and then found one available semi-locally) but never gave it any serious time until this project. It’s a little jumpy (rabbity start, but possibly from user error), the lighting is pathetic, and the foot control is literally held together by packing tape, but it otherwise sews a fine seam.

For topstitching, I threaded the 1030 with 2 spools of regular sewing thread. I didn’t use a fancy triple stitch setting or anything because I anticipated the inevitable tearing out and redoing. Honestly, I am terrible at topstitching.

Gahh, where’d it go…

Picked it out and redid it. Not perfect, but better!

Even though I tried using specialty guide foots and other bells and whistles, the only way I could generate 2 parallel rows of stitching was to first draw lines on the fabric with chalk and then sew over the lines. Anyway, I’m happy with how it looks, especially considering that most of this was sewn before 6 AM and without any coffee!

Chalk line

Open toe for better visibility


Two major fitting challenges cropped up, swayback and muscular calf.

Three-way mirror shot

For the swayback alteration, I followed the Jalie gaposis fix and added 2 small darts to the yoke. I started with a single dart, but it was not a subtle change; to my eye, the curve looks much better with 2 darts and probably would be perfect with 3, but I’m OK with what I did. I’ll redraw the yoke piece to eliminate the darts in the future.

See how nicely it hugs the back now?

Up to that point, I’d basted the side seams only to the knee because I was working on fitting the hips and waist. When I finally sewed the side seams all the way to the ankle, I got an unpleasant surprise – the calf circumference was super tight and very uncomfortable! Yuck.

I’d thoughtlessly assumed that these jeans would fit a big calf. The designer even said, “These are not skinny jeans, but are ‘skinny friendly.’ As a big-calf girl, it is SO frustrating when a pair of skinny jeans fits perfectly everywhere but [just wants] to explode at the calf!”

Shame on me, I never measured the pattern below the knee. With a 3/8″ seam allowance, I had no fabric to let out. Gulp. I channeled Mrs Mole and tried to think outside the box. I found the inspiration I was looking for in a $280 pair of True Religion jeans.

Hello, flare! I drafted and inserted a godet following the instructions in Sandra Betzina’s Power Sewing. For the first trial godet, I drafted it such that the tip matched exactly where my knee hinged, but it was too low (no pics, sorry); I redrafted to make it 2 inches longer, with the tip starting at the top of the knee.

Ah, better. My jeans don’t quite look like the True Religion inspiration, but I will chalk that up to the model probably having a 36″ inseam and weighing 130 lbs. Ha! Next time, I will redraft the leg for a bootleg cut or swap that portion with the relevant part from Jalie 2908.

I remembered to shorten the waistband to match the darted yoke.

Some of the reviews for this pattern suggested the 1″ elastic was not wide enough for the waistband. I had 2″ elastic that I trimmed down to 1 7/8″ (Pro-Stretch, you can cut it horizontally without it falling apart).

At 1 7/8″, the elastic fills out the whole waistband and gives it a nice sturdiness. I also shortened the length of back elastic by 1″ and stretched it to fit.

It still gaps a tiny little bit at the center back, so next time, I will probably make a deeper concave curve to the waistband edges and shorten the back elastic length by another half inch.

Pretty bar tack

Next time, I will change the pocket placement ever so slightly. The pattern has the pockets centered on the back seam, not the topstitching. However, because the eyes reset the center back on the line of topstitching, it looks like the pockets are slightly malpositioned.

Will it be seen on a galloping horse? No, and hey, if someone notices being off by 1/4 inch, they’re looking a little too closely, anyway.

Laid flat, unhemmed

Lastly, I serged the raw hem edge and then washed and machine dried the jeans 3 or 4 times before hemming. I didn’t want a thick, bulky hem because the jeans were so flared (thought it might give the lower half a “hoop skirt” look). Instead of making a double-fold hem, I turned it up just once and topstitched.

Are you still with me? (I know, too many words.)

Back and front

The mini wrinkles and creases seem a lot more evident in the photos than they are in real life. Still, I’m not concerned about them at all, they have to be there so that my body can move in these jeans. I also rarely stand as stiffly in life as I do for photos, so the creases appear and disappear as I move.

Love this flare!

I like that it doesn’t gape appreciably when I squat down (critical wardrobe feature when you’re wrangling kids).

OK, to sum up – blending sizes, gaposis fix, flare legs. Thanks for reading!

FO: A tale of 2 skeins

I previously mentioned that I’d gotten the unexpected gift of spinning time when my then-first-grader was assigned to read out loud for a half hour daily. Here is what I was able to spin before school let out for the year.

I had 2 batts from Franquemont Fibers, purchased back in 2007, when Abby had an eBay store. (Mmmm, my stash is ooooold.) She called this colorway “Spring Rain”; it includes superwash wool, Bluefaced Leicester, Merino, kid mohair, tussah and bombyx silk, tussah silk noil, and nylon. (Altogether, it is not machine washable.)

Because I’d purchased 2 batts, I decided to make this into a 2-ply yarn. Singles (American long draw) were spun on my Butterfly electric wheel. I was aiming for a fingering weight yarn.

After the singles were transferred to storage bobbins, I wanted them to chillax for a while and thus started spinning singles for a new yarn. This is a Merino Tencel kettle-dyed blend from Misty Meadows. I’m pretty sure it was a souvenir from the MN State Fair, probably from 2006 or 2007.

With the white shiny streaks in the red, doesn’t it remind you of well-marbled meat?

So that got spun up (from the fold), also on the electric wheel. I was hoping to maximize the yardage and aimed to make a laceweight yarn.

After those singles were transferred to storage bobbins, it was time to go back to ply the blue singles.

Final weight is 97.7 g; final length is 325 yards.

A few close ups:

Plying the red was tricky. For some reason, the wire yarn guides on the wheel pushed back the plying twist on this one, and the final yarn was fairly underplied. I wound it off onto a niddy noddy and placed the skein right back onto a swift so that I could ply the yarn again. Not the greatest picture below, but possibly you can see the difference between the plied and underplied portions.

Final weight is 49.6 g; final length is 234 yards.

Given the meat-like color, I was joking with a friend that I should make it into a lacy scarf – a caul cowl! (Ha! But I think Jessica mostly beat me to that joke by a few years.)

A few close ups:

I’m sad that my big blocks of spinning time are gone, but nothing good lasts forever, right? 😉

FO: Skirt and top

[Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.]

These items have been finished since May – figured it was time to blog about them!

I made another Flirt Skirt, this time out of a striped ponte knit, purchased a few years ago from Gorgeous Fabrics. I had a heck of a time matching the stripes on the side seams because the angles of the front and back somehow weren’t quite the same (?), but I used a gazillion pins and matched every. single. stripe. to make it work.

I made a really cool t-shirt using a digitally printed knit of a city skyline reflected on water (from Sawyerbrook Fabrics [now sold out]). I am on their mailing list and saw the fabric when it was first offered for sale toward the beginning of 2015. I resisted – obsessed – worried about the price [$23/panel, and I’d need 2 for a shirt] – obsessed some more – gnashed teeth – gave in – made the shirt. Whew. It probably is the most expensive t-shirt that I own. But I like how it looks.

I had to forgo all of the darts and fancy fitting tricks that I’d been developing because it would mess up the vertical lines. Also, I could not make the front as long as it needed to be – see how the skyline angles upward and it still rides up at the hem?

But I ran out out stripes in the hem allowance and thus didn’t dare try to make the shirt any longer.

Pattern placement was interesting. I wanted the skyline of the shirt to be fairly high and the neckline fairly low without the two running into each other. I also wanted the skyline to be more or less at the same place visually on the front, back, and sleeves.

I was scratching my head for a while, trying to figure out what part of the sleeve should match the bodice – I found this visual from Knits for Real People, which was a big help.

So there you have it!

FO: Business casual

I bought a short piece of ITY from Nancy’s Notions in March. It was advertised as “fronds,” but when I got it in my hands, it started to look like “feathers.”

Feeling indecisive during layout, I put out a call for advice on Instagram, and Kathy very helpfully suggested that I drape it on myself in both orientations. Ah, in the feathers direction, I looked like a miffed bird, so fronds were the way to go!

I pulled out all stops and used my ever-evolving shirt pattern with the custom shoulders and sleeves. This time, I added French darts (borrowed from Silhouette patterns’ Ann’s top) and back darts (borrowed from Maria Denmark’s Audrey dress).

Chalk would be near invisible on this fabric, so I marked darts using tailor’s tacks.

I realize you can’t really see any details on this print, but that’s OK. I’m still mustering up the courage to make this up in a solid color. 🙂 But please note, if you can, the very limited number of drag lines, the lack of saggy-baggy in the back, and the even hemline. I added an extra half-inch to all side seams but ended up cutting them all off again. I set the sleeves in flat but attached the cuffs in the round.

The skirt is also new (review is here). This is the Magic Pencil Skirt by Pamela’s Patterns. Fabric is some kind of rayon-poly-lycra blend from FabricMart that I bought a couple years ago. I’d assembled the skirt last year and gotten to the pin-fitting, try-on stage when I got discouraged (sewing late at night after a long day of work and kids is not really conducive to success). It sat as a UFO for months, but it’s finished now. The amount of skirt pegging seems universally lauded by everyone who’s ever sewn one up, and I have to agree – it really is spot on.

I’d show you the darts and waistband, except my tummy is covered with little Xs of Steri-strips, and I’d rather not photograph that. So, yeah, I had to undergo laparoscopic surgery last week to remove some diseased lady parts (1 ovary and 1 tube). Everything went as well as could be expected, and the pathology results are negative for cancer [big sigh of relief]. Recovery has also gone as expected (postoperative day 1 = miserable pain; postoperative day 6 = off all meds), but I look like I’m 5 months pregnant. (I’m seriously holding my breath for the above photos… except I can’t seem to suck in my belly much any more.) I guess 4 incisions through all the core muscles will do that. Hopefully, this preggo belly is temporary…

FO: A simple towel

I inherited my mother’s ultrasensitive sense of smell. It’s like… the closest way I can explain it is, you know how you can smell EVERYTHING when you’re pregnant? It’s like that, except my nose has functioned at this higher level all my life. It’s a blessing and a curse, really. Everything has an odor. All those things that you think don’t smell like anything? You’re wrong. I can totally smell that. From pretty far away, too. 😉

Last year, Katy @ NoBigDill talked about their family’s solution to sour-smelling towels. She described buying thin cotton Turkish towels that dried fully between showers, and my nose perked up at the thought.

I bought 2 yards of Robert Kaufman linen/cotton (55/45) Essex fabric (the “wide” version, which is 56″), and I used scraps of the same fabric in plum for a band of color. Essex is considered a lightweight fabric (6.00 oz. per square yard), but I think it has a fairly firm hand; in fact, it’s the same fabric that I used to make my Flirt Skirt.

This was a very simple project. I laundered the fabric about 4 times to shrink it up, ironed the whole length, and then cut the fabric in half (to make 2 towels). I cut off the selvedges and made deep mitered corners following this tutorial.

I cut a strip of purple fabric (perpendicular to the selvedge) and pressed the edges to the wrong side center by passing it under a single pin (like making bias tape without a tool).

I sewed the stripe (edgestitch) onto the fabric and then edgestitched the hem all the way around. Pressed it one more time, just for photos. For sure, life is too short to iron towels on a regular basis! The final dimensions are about 50×30 inches.

Of course, I had to try it out with my shower today. It felt weird drying off with such a thin fabric, but it worked out just fine, of course. I kind of wish I could have made it a couple inches bigger (53 inches?), but shrinkage and the 1″-hems precluded a longer towel.

I stitched this on a Husqvarna 6460 that was my late grandmother-in-law’s machine (purchased in 1979). Although the machine sat unused for several decades, it seems to work just fine. I really enjoy sewing with purely mechanical machines, they make me happy.

FO: Felted Sweater Dog

I still get hand-me-down clothes from my sister – we’re not quite the same size, we have kind of different styles – but she often buys at places that I only “snoop shop” at, so it’s always fun to receive a box of clothes from her.

Last year, she sent a lovely brown sweater with a draped neck. It actually fit me perfectly, so I was pleased to wear it this past winter. I unthinkingly tossed it in the wash one day and was shocked to pull out a toddler-sized sweater. My sister NEVER wears handwash-only clothes, it’s either straight to the machine or to the dry cleaners, so I had just assumed it was a washable garment (because who dry cleans sweaters?).

After kicking myself for my stupidity (the tag clearly said 80% wool – and COME ON, as a Wool Person, I should have known better), I pondered the options and decided to make a doll out of the fulled fabric. I mulled over my stash and found the perfect thing – a plush Dog by We Wilsons. I found the stegosaurus pattern in my archive, too, so I must have grabbed the patterns during the giveaway, so many years ago. The pattern is still available for sale on Etsy.

I had just enough fabric to cut out the upper body and tail. I used Polartec (Windbloc, I think? Leftover from diapermaking days) for the contrast because I love brown and blue together.

Assembly was straightforward. The instructions confused me for a while about what to nip and tuck out of the underside legs to stop the dog from splaying out, but I figured it out eventually.

The fulled fabric was so stiff, I knew I didn’t have a chance at turning the tail inside out. I chose to just sew the 2 pieces together and leave it flat.

I stuffed it with some scoured Romney that I bought to spin a million year ago, before I realized that Romney is too harsh against my skin.

The ears were making me crazy, like he was trying to take off or perhaps was perpetually confused. This would be the second dog I’ve made with antigravity ears (2006!), and I just wanted to do it differently.

Taking a lesson from the leg tucks, I made ear tucks. Long stitches were pulled tight to bring the ear down. Does it look better?

The eyes and the adorable fuzzy brown nose were purchased from Suncatcher Eyes (9-mm nose and 12-mm eyes). I followed Planet June’s guidelines for eye placement.

Not much else to say, I guess! Enjoy the cuteness!

FO: A sashiko adventure

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links.]

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago that was mostly white and mostly Jewish. Even though I’m a nissei (second-generation Japanese), I’m not culturally Japanese by any stretch. I say this only to explain why, when the Surviving Tsunami Waves exhibit came to Rochester, it wasn’t exactly on my radar.

However, the event was partly sponsored by Mayo, and so a number of items were on display in the atrium right next to where I work. I passed by one afternoon, glimpsed some handstitched garments (ooh, textiles), and wandered down to check it out.

It’s painful to think about the people who lost so much in the Japanese tsunami that hit the Tohoku region in 2011. In addition to losing loved ones, homes, and possessions, many women in that area also lost their livelihoods that were based on the sea – gathering seaweed from rocks, harvesting sea urchins, that sort of thing.

The Senninbari Project came about to give these women a new source of income and to reestablish their sense of community and identity. The founders of this project are Tsuyo Onodera, a kimono maker and instructor for 50 years (analogous to a European couturier), and her daughter, Maki Aizawa; they went to the shelters and taught embroidery and sewing. The women displaced by the tsunami learned these handstitching skills and now collaborate to create handmade, traditional garments. I think the hope is that they will form a sewing collective (?). Their goals bear some similarity to Alabama Chanin.

Family crests of survivors

Is it wrong that this reminds me of a bowl of ramen?

In any case, the exhibit that I saw featured kimonos, quilts, and wall hangings. I went home, googled some more, and read that they were offering a 3-hr workshop on sashiko embroidery. I knew nothing about this type of stitchery, but hey, what a great chance to learn, right?

The master kimono maker herself was our instructor for the night! That was a nice surprise. We were all given a kit to make a “fukin” (btw, pronounced more like “foo-keen” than like a curse word), which is essentially a dishcloth. The cloth is printed with water-soluble ink.

The fabric is folded in half, roughly basted (as in stitches 1″ long). Sashiko is a plain old running stitch, nothing fancy or difficult. In (Western) hooped embroidery, the fabric is held taut and the needle is pushed down or pulled up perpendicular to the plane of the fabric. However, in sashiko embroidery, one hand holds the needle mostly parallel to the plane of the fabric as the other hand “wags” the fabric up and down over the point of the needle to form the stitching line. The fabric has to be smoothed out very frequently to avoid gathering.

The thread is knotted only at one end. We were taught to slither the needle in between the folded layers to hide the knot at the beginning of each length of thread, but at the end of the thread, we were to duplicate stitch over previously embroidered areas and then just snip the thread at the surface of the fabric, no knots.

The patterns are usually quite geometric. The traditional way of embroidering is to do all of the horizontal lines first, then the vertical lines, then diagonal lines 1 way, then diagonals the other, and then fill in whatever remains, including the border. Some duplicate stitching is inevitable.

The class itself was slightly chaotic because the teacher spoke no English and her daughter, the translator, was often preoccupied by her toddler son (who was having a nighttime fussy period). But we managed to get through it. Two other Japanese women were at the workshop, so among the 3 of us, we were able to decipher the teacher’s instructions and help some of the other students. (I can understand some Japanese but cannot really speak it.)

You can see me stitching away at the workshop. I was sitting next to a gal with a great sense of humor, and we joked about whether we would have the nerve to actually scrub our kitchens with hand-embroidered towels. We laughed even harder when the teacher remarked that we should be able to finish one of these cloths within a few hours. In fact, it took the better part of a week to get mine done.

Holding up >2 hrs’ work

When it was finished, I pressed it carefully, took a few photos, and then wondered if I should save it.

This is the “asa no ha” (hemp leaf) pattern.

Then I reminded myself that I vastly preferred keeping useful stuff (as opposed to strictly decorative stuff), so I briskly got it wet and scrubbed my kitchen table. It felt great.

In its native habitat

My parents see my Instagram feed and knew I had taken the class. My mom dug through her closets and sent me a surprise gift. This is a fukin that was embroidered by her cousin some 20 years earlier. My mom could not bring herself to use it. Now it is mine, and it is in as pristine a condition as it was when my mother received it. Isn’t that something?

I bought a couple more preprinted washcloths, plus a set of needles
and thimble that are specifically for sashiko. I have at least 2 more washcloths in my future!