achievement unlocked: railroad denim Burnside Bibs


Yes, I have already sewn another pair of these overalls, even though the pattern has only been out for like six weeks! & even though it is overalls, & the question exists: how many pairs of overalls does one 38-year-old woman really need? Apparently I will not rest until I have a pair of overalls for every possible occasion.


This design gives me a real 1930s hobo vibe, so of course I had to sew a pair in classic railroad stripe denim (& damn, I’m glad I bought it when I did, because it’s out of stock now). Some years back, before Ramona was in the picture, Jared joined a hydrology research team for a summer. They did half their research in the Adirondacks & half in New York City. I spent the summer living in Philadelphia so it would be easy for us to visit each other. During one of my visits to New York City, we went to American Girl Place, because…why not? They had the most elaborate, museum-quality displays for each of their historical dolls, one of whom is Kit, a plucky aspiring journalist & baseball enthusiast growing up during the Great Depression. Her display included a huge TV that broadcast a loop of a young boy in tattered overalls held up with a rope approaching a house to ask for work. Jared & I found the juxtaposition of the real history of desperate, starving children (I have relatives who actually died of deprivation during the Great Depression) in this outrageously luxurious consumerist paradise absolutely hilarrible. So that is what was on my mind while I made these overalls.


I made a few small changes to this pair, mostly to just tweak the fit a little. I added a 1/2″ of length to the bib & extended the front crotch curve 1/2″. I shortened the legs by 3 3/4″ (I’m 5’5″, & Sew House Seven drafts for a figure several inches taller than that). I raised the back pockets…um…a lot. Maybe too much? They’re right up by the belt loops now. I’d lower them a smidge if I make these again, but I do prefer them very high instead of halfway down my thigh. It makes me feel kind of glam, in a tacky “Three’s Company” sort of way. I think it works okay with the slim-fitting darted back waist. Depression-era hobo meets Studio 54? Have I just defined my personal style concept?


I did press & topstitch the ties & straps this time. There was no way I was going to be able to pull tiny tubes of this heavyweight denim inside out. I even considered swapping the invisible zipper out for an exposed metal zipper because of the weight of the fabric. But I decided to try an invisible zip first, just to see how it went. Spoiler: it actually went surprisingly well! Hands down the best invisible zipper I have ever sewn, probably because I just kept ripping it out & doing it over until it was just right. I must have sewn it seven or eight times. Even with an invisible zipper foot, it was challenge to get right up under the coils through all the layers of denim. But it zips very smoothly, & the waist & hips are EXACTLY the right size for me, so the zip snugs things up without straining itself.


This is also the most perfect facing I have ever sewn. I spent a few days just unzipping it & admiring it because I was so damn pleased with myself. I still have not achieved that elusive “perfect sew” (this one was a bit of wobbly stitching at the back waistband, though it’s camouflaged by the fabric), but this is as close as I have yet come. Which was a really nice change of pace, because the two garments I whipped up before these were just a hot fucking mess. Like, they’re wearable, but I know I can do a LOT better.


It’s been unseasonably cool in Kansas this month, so I’ve actually gotten to wear these sooner than I expected. I wore them over the weekend to go see a friend who just had a new baby. She found out she was pregnant on the same day that I had my first cancer surgery–she actually picked me up from the hospital just a few hours after finding out, & kept it to herself so as to not further traumatize me while I was on my journey to uterus-lessness. But she’s really the only pregnant person I have not been wildly resentful of in the last year, & it was a real joy to meet her new baby. & because she is a good friend, she even took the time to compliment my overalls, even though she had literally just had a baby like 45 minutes earlier. I don’t think I even had it together enough to know my own name 45 minutes after I had Ramona.

In other news, the sewing room is coming together. I was just up there doing a bit of drafting. I treated myself to the high summer 2017 issue of the Japanese pattern magazine “Mrs. Stylebook” (I am obsessed with that title) & instantly fell in love with one of the skirt designs. Some of the looks in “Mrs. Stylebook” are featured as paper patterns, but the majority are drafted from scratch or from bunka slopers. On the one hand, I love this concept because it means that the size range doesn’t matter. You’re drafting from measurements, so it’s going to be a custom fit every time. On the other hand, the entire magazine is in Japanese. I know absolutely zero Japanese. Luckily there are some websites that include Japanese sewing glossaries, but it’s seriously a matter of being like, “Okay, that character kind of looks like a ladder with a roof over it…” & then poring over the glossary until I find a match. There’s barely even any context to help a non-Japanese speaker figure out if they are looking at sewing instructions or fabric types or what. You really need to have a solid technical knowledge of sewing patterns to puzzle it out. It’s fun, but also kind of exhausting. After spending a solid three hours yesterday translating Japanese terms & converting measurements, my brain just switched itself off & I spent the rest of the evening laying on the couch watching “The Octonauts” with Ramona. Maybe I should sign up for Duolingo?

& of course, I had to choose a somewhat complex skirt. It’s asymmetrical & has pleats & it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out exactly what edges are supposed to be sewn together. But as with all things sewing: you won’t learn if you don’t try!

pattern: Burnside Bibs from Sew House Seven
size: 18
fabric: 3.5 yards of fairly heavy Kaufman railroad stripe denim
notions: denim needle, navy thread, invisible zip foot, navy invisible zip, a bit of lightweight interfacing for the waist facing
total cost of all supplies: around $35
alterations: lengthened bib 1/2″, lengthened from crotch curve 1/2″, shortened legs 3 3/4″, & raised back pockets maybe 2″?
next time: lower back pockets maybe 3/8″?
remarks from the public: “What zipper? ;)” — Instagram comment in response to me bragging about my invisible zipper
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest, as always

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

4 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: railroad denim Burnside Bibs

  1. dang your overalls look terrific! and I’m going to have to check out that pattern mag. I speak pretty decent Japanese, so if you ever want a hand, let me know (@celandinesong on insta).

    1. I finally went my own way with the skirt & all I need to do to finish it is sew a hook & eye to the waistband. It definitely does NOT look like the skirt in the magazine. They could maybe be cousins, but not twins. Would it be okay to maybe send you a photo of the description next time & see if you can help me decipher it? It looked like the skirt in the magazine didn’t have any kind of closure through the waistband–maybe it was an elastic waistband? But the body of the skirt wasn’t gathered at all that I could tell, so I couldn’t piece together how that would work. It also occurred to me that maybe it was a knit skirt, & I made mine is a heavy-ish woven. I just couldn’t decipher anything in description that would clue me in to the textile. A lot of the other garments in the magazine were far more straightforward. Even though I basically made an asymmetrical wrap-around circle skirt with a couple of pleats, which sounds basic enough, it was a real puzzle just working off a diagram!

      Thanks for the compliments on the overalls! I love them!

      1. Of course! I’m more than happy to help – you can email me at cutselvage @ gmail. I’m currently having fun puzzling through Knipmode patterns when I don’t speak a single word of Dutch – at least the diagrams and seam numbering make that relatively straightforward.

        1. Yeah, the diagrams on the skirt I made were not terribly straightforward, & the seams were not numbered. I’ll try to take some photos & send them to you, because I think having a translation would make for a better blog post.

Leave a Reply to celandinesong Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: