All posts 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.

Design Your Wardrobe: week two

This is the third post in my series about the month-long Colette/Seamwork Design Your Wardrobe course. I’m doing the fall/winter course, which started in early August. The goal is to develop a seasonal “collection” & sewing queue. You can see the first two posts here & here.

Week two: “colors & fabrics”. Obviously I’m only halfway through the month, but this was a difficult week for me. It had me questioning the logic & utility of the entire program. Maybe you can spot the problem: we’re thinking about fabrics before we’ve considered patterns! Unless a person has displayed a certain lack of imagination (in my opinion) in creating their mood board & just went ahead & made a bunch of specific pattern decisions then, who the fuck knows what fabrics are going to work?

Day six: “shop your stash”. Uh…shop for what, exactly? I have many great fabrics, but a pair of pants & a henley require a very different textiles. We were told to use our mood boards for guidance. I just swatched everything that seemed like it could be made into a fall/winter garment. Which was almost everything I have. You can still wear linen & Swiss dot in the winter! They can be layering pieces, or employed as trims or accents for heavier fabrics. It took me almost two hours & I wound up with over 100 swatches.

IMG_6886This isn’t even everything.

I don’t know exactly what I intend to make, but I know that I’m planning to make everything, which complicates things. Not just skirts/pants/dresses/tops, but also lingerie, pajamas, bags, shoes, a coat…I sew my ENTIRE wardrobe. Some people opt out of making their own bras or coats or whatever because they don’t enjoy that type of sewing. I have yet to find any kind of garment-sewing unenjoyable. & so I have an enormous variety of textiles on hand, everything from cork to powernet to denim to embroidered tulle. I even have heavy treaded rubber for soling shoes.

Day seven: “shop for swatches”. I was like, “Are you kidding me? Now we’re shopping & we still don’t know what garments we’re making?” The dispatch said, “You might find other fabrics that fit your mood board.” Well…of course! Put a person who sews in a well-appointed fabric store, & s/he is not going to struggle to find textiles s/he loves!

But I’m not going to ignore an excuse to go to the Mill End store, in southernmost Portland. I love that place. So much gorgeous fabric that I am dying to wear. It was a colossal struggle not to buy anything. I found a gorgeous mid-weight linen that was my exact favorite Pepto-Bismol shade of pink. I don’t know how I walked away without buying the entire bolt. I had to remind myself: I already have more fabric than I can reasonably sew in a year…or five. & it’s my personal policy not to buy fabric without first having an intention for it.

clockwise from top left: striped denim, that gorgeous pink linen, hot pink silk dupioni, a lovely lemon yellow Swiss dot.

That’s why this week was so hard for me. My funds are limited, so I can’t impulse-buy fabric. It would lead to financial ruin! There are a million beautiful fabrics in the world. I can’t buy them all, & I wouldn’t realistically wear them all. I’m often attracted to fabrics with red tones. But I don’t wear red–I don’t like how it looks on me & it’s an inexplicable anxiety trigger. Sometimes Ramona turns on lights mid-day, & that triggers the same suffocating anxiety. I’m already taking Prozac, but it seems to have no effect on weird lighting- & red fabric-triggered panic attacks.

Day eight: “categorize your colors”. We were instructed to look through the swatches we had gathered & note the dominant colors, & then categorize under three headings: “neutrals” (goes with everything), “basics” (goes with practically everything, but is a little more in your face), & “statements” (colors that really draw the eye). This was pretty easy for me: lots of black, gray, yellow, & pink. Pink is basically a neutral for me.

But I bowed to Seamwork’s more conservative palette concepts & duly categorized cotton candy & Pepto pink as basics, & bright pink (“wild strawberry”) & deep saturated pink (“lipstick”) as statements. I also had some wild cards–colors that were unexpectedly prevalent. I had some mint green, deep sea green, eggplant, & a saturated deep blue.

On day nine: “build your palette”. This was a straightforward exercise. We selected a couple of colors from each of the categories from the day before, along with a handful of coordinating prints. Boom. Palette. Done.

It was at this point that I gave up & decided that I simply could not complete these exercises without knowing what the fuck I wanted to make. So I sat down & made a list of everything I was thinking. Some of my ideas were fully-formed–I know I’m going to make a French terry Lady Skater dress with a hood. I’ve already purchased a few yards of black speckled French terry for that purpose. I want to make a paid of black linen Named Patterns Astrid wrap pants. I made turquoise linen Astrid shorts earlier this summer & I love them. I’m definitely making some T-strap sandals at the shoemaking workshop next weekend.

Me wearing my Astrid shorts & a lemon print Blanc tee from Blank Slate Patterns at the Portland Zine Symposium a few weeks ago.

I generated a list of 63 garments. !!! I drew some rudimentary sketches & came up with twelve different head-to-toe looks. After that, I could FINALLY envision my palette.


Day ten: “fill in the gaps”. In my opinion, this was the most WTF exercise of the week. We were instructed to go shop for fabrics that suit our palettes in the event that we had included colors that were not yet represented in our swatches. I was baffled–I’d already swatched my stash & gone hog wild taking photos at the Mill End. Those are the fabrics upon which I based my palette. Why would I need to shop for more? It felt needlessly acquisitive. All it did for me was sow a lot of angst over a jersey print I want to use for pajamas. Does it “go”? Is there too much teal? Is the yellow too mustard-y? Should I use something else instead…even though I already have the jersey in my stash & would have to buy a replacement fabric? I still haven’t decided. HALP.

Should I replace the one on the left with the one on the right? I’m leaning toward yes.

So. Weird week. Picking colors & considering fabrics before making decisions about garments/patterns 100% did not work for me…& judging from a lot of the chatter on the private Design Your Wardrobe boards, most others weren’t really doing it that way either. There was a lot of, “I want to make X pattern from X red fabric, so I put red in my palette.” Maybe I am misunderstanding something? Next week is all about garment/pattern selection. This strikes me as ass-backward, Y/Y? Obviously this program isn’t prescriptive, but I assume some thought went into the order of exercises, & I don’t understand why they chose to structure it this way.

Design Your Wardrobe: week one

Read this for background on what Design Your Wardrobe is & why I’m participating

The basic structure: folks are emailed a “daily dispatch” every weekday. Each dispatch features a keyword that shapes the daily goal. The dispatches are fairly brief, but they offer some explanation & context for how the daily keyword informs the overall goal of the Design Your Wardrobe program…. You know…designing your wardrobe. Each dispatch has an accompanying worksheet or activity. I see you rolling your eyes at the thought of doing worksheets to help you decide what to sew next. I feel you. I love this kind of shit, but it’s not for everyone.

I spent most of week one procrastinating. The keywords for this week: “setting goals,” “collect,” “story,” “iterate,” & “mood”. Sounds like gobbledygook, doesn’t it? Even after reading the daily dispatches, I still thought, “This is ridiculous. Who lets themselves get this self-important about sewing?” I thought, “I don’t need this, I know what I want to sew, I know what I want to wear.”

I finally started at the end of the week. I decided to address the worksheets & exercises in good faith, with an open mind, & you know what? I learned stuff about myself. I surprised myself. Going through the process was legitimately enlightening & helpful.

The first exercise is a worksheet. It focuses on what a person wants out of their handmade wardrobe–“setting goals”. I was like, “Duh, handmade clothes, next!” But I thought more–especially about the fact that I have handmade clothes that don’t get worn. I actually got rid of a lot of my me-mades whe I was packing to move to Portland. What separates the garments I wear from the garments I don’t? How would it feel to have a wardrobe comprised only of garments I love to wear? What are the missing elements standing between me & that level of contentment? The answers to these questions are then re-shaped into an overall goal for the wardrobe that emanates from Design Your Wardrobe program.

Of course there’s a little voice inside of me saying, “Dude. You are putting A LOT of work into thinking about clothes. Meanwhile, the world is being torn apart by war, climate change, racism, & unfettered capitalist imperialism. Surely you have bigger fish to fry?” I don’t have an answer for that voice. I just want to acknowledge that it’s there.

My biggest day one take-away is that there is sometimes a disconnect between what I like to sew & what I like to wear. I love making crisp shirtwaist dresses, for instance, but they rarely get worn because wearing them just feels like work. I need to think about how to adapt the elements that I love to sew into garments that are easier & more comfortable for me to wear.

Still need to blog this.

Day two, “inspiration,” was all about Pinterest. (Not everyone working through the program right now used Pinterest, but it’s certainly the path of least resistance for executing today’s exercise.) We were instructed to collect fifty “pieces of inspiration”. I thought, “Ugh, that will take forever, & nothing inspires me! All of my brilliant ideas spring fully-formed from my own imagination, like Athena being borne unto Zeus.” Next thing I knew, I had over 130 images pinned to my fall/winter inspiration board.

825fa5314f06396abc9d87b6d99543a8Inspiration: a beautiful embroidered purse by Olympia Le-Tan.

The secondary challenge is to pare the images down to fifty. That was rough. I didn’t want to delete any of my precious inspiration babies! But in forcing myself to edit, I realized my biggest problem with planning my sewing: I grab on to any tiger tail going by & don’t think twice about the consequences. (I’m like that with everything, actually. I have zero impulse control.) Becoming self-aware about the themes & elements I was most drawn to was the genius of the editing process.


Inspiration: antique stockings.

Day three, “my story,” was the day I was dreading most. I’ve been blogging since 1999. I wrote riot grrrl-inspired personal zines from 1994 until 2010. I’m very experienced at “telling my story”. So I kept my focus on my inspiration images while I did the worksheet, & surprise! A story emerged! I had Pinned lots of mori girls, medieval fairy tales, & Waldorf dolls. Concepts like “play,” “home,” & “resilience” kept popping up. I realized that I want to dress like a cross between a hobo & a doll, trying to make her way home through the Black Forest at midnight. I was also very drawn to embellishment. Almost everything I Pinned had layers of different textures, embroidery, beading, flowers.

IMG_4300The last zine I made.

The final challenge was naming the prospective collection. I came up with Poppet Emblazonry. I know, it sounds both precious & pretentious. They are both archaic words, which felt important. “Poppet” is synonym for “doll”–specifically dolls used in witchcraft. I’m not into withcraft spiritually, but I do like the aesthetics. “Emblazonry” means “embellishment,” & makes me think of blazes, fire, the resilience & patience necessary to work by firelight. It put me in mind of the misery & suffering of trying to make it through the winter of 1692 in Salem without getting accused of witchcraft. Read The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, & Hysteria by Stacy Schiff (it’s excellent!), & you’ll see what I mean. It’s a weird source of inspiration, but hey. The heart wants what it wants!

7272bafbdf38b3a253f28af25c51dfcaInspiration: floral pterodactyl fascinator.

Day four was about grounding the inspiration in reality–“iterate”. We were challenged to think about how our clothes are really worn. Not what we would wear in some fantasy best life, but our actual responsibilities everyday, the weather, etc. This forced me to accept that I will not, in fact, be spending the next six months brewing mysterious potions in a cauldron & fleeing hungry wolves in moonlit, snowy forests. Bummer, dude. We then edited our inspiration images in light of these realistic contexts. This is when I started adding actual patterns & fabrics to my board. I’d been avoiding it, focusing on visual & atmospheric influences. But thinking about real garments I might make helped ground my inspiration aesthetic.

260229917cacdcff99f11c0baf71ff5dInspiration: mori girls.

Day five was “mood,” as in board. Time to bring out the foamcore & double-sided tape! I made a special trip to the art supply store to get foamcore, as recommended. But posterboard, cardboard, easel paper from Ikea–all would have sufficed. I had to borrow Ramona’s kid-sized lefty scissors, even though I have giant ham hands & am right-handed. That’s how dedicated I am! I felt that my mood board should be a fantasy piece–something that evokes a mood, as it were. So I stayed away from most images of actual clothes. I started with large images & added paint chips, fabric swatches, & washi tape. I included drawings of mori girls & photos of cloth dolls. I added lots of images of tiny bottles containing weird shit like teeth & garlic bulbs. I thought a lot about my friends Ivanna & Jessika Rae while I worked. They both have pronounced, beautiful personal styles. Drawing on my memories of them helped guide me.

fullsizeoutput_83bMy mood board.

I didn’t look at anyone else’s mood board beforehand. So mine is an outlier, maybe? Almost everyone else went heavy on garment images. Some people included actual patterns & fabric swatches. I used tons of fabric swatches, but more for color & texture than because those are the fabrics I plan to use. I figured there will be plenty of time to get into the weeds of specific fabrics & patterns later, & that my mood board should just be about mood.

jessie-wilcox-smith-little-red-riding-hood-by-sofi01Inspiration: well-dressed child about to be eaten by a cross-eyed wolf.

So that’s week one! We are just finishing week two, so I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on it. Week two was harder for me. I look forward to processing it in an excessively long, self-involved blog post!

Design Your Wardrobe: prologue

Seamwork, the online sewing magazine that is devouring Colette Patterns whole, has developed a program called “Design Your Wardrobe“. I assume it’s a descendant of the Wardrobe Architect series that Colette did a few years ago, & which I ignored because I was pretty new to sewing at the time & didn’t feel like I needed &/or was ready for that kind of deep thinking about my personal style, wardrobe needs, et al.

Design Your Wardrobe is a month-long program aiming to help a person develop & identify their personal style & brainstorm a sewing queue that reflects their wardrobe needs & wants, in terms of color, silhouette, life context, etc. It’s still not something I felt I really needed. I know what I like to wear (black & pink, easy clothes in natural fibers, but the more embellishment, the better) & I am not hurting for ideas. When my foot was broken & I couldn’t sew, I made a list of everything I wanted to sew. Guys. GUYS. The list was almost 150 items long. (Not all of it was clothes for me, but still.) I have PLENTY of ideas.

But my main objection to joining in is that it’s a Seamwork member exclusive, & I swore I would never sign up for Seamwork. I mean, why would I? You can read the magazine for free (if you want–it’s mostly just an eleaborate monthly advertisement for itself), & I can’t over-state how uninterested I am in actually sewing a Seamwork pattern. I know there are people in the sewing community who swear by them…I don’t claim to understand.

IMG_6705This cat has nothing to do with anything. It’s just a really cute cat that came up to me & scratched my car tires when I went to enroll Ramona in kindergarten the other day. I’m including it because this post is heavy on snark, light on pictures.

My beef with Seamwork is essentially an extension of my beef with Colette, & comes down to two words: shitty drafting. I’ve sewn a few Colette patterns, & I had all the fitting problems that others have struggled with: darts too long & too high, crazy wide necklines, armscyes that haven’t been drafted for three-dimensional arms…I imagine these issues are present throughout the Seamwork line as well. Seamwork also churns out two new patterns every month, & claims they can all be sewn “in three hours or less,” which aside from being dubious, also doesn’t fill me with confidence that these patterns are thoughtfully designed, with the kinds of smart finishes & construction details that I prefer.

I will add: I’ve met people who know their way around a sewing machine–professional fiber artists–& they had so many fitting & construction problems trying to make their own clothes from Colette & Seamwork patterns that they just gave up on garment-making. They assumed that they didn’t have the requisite skills. Again: these are people who literally sew professionally. But they were completely discouraged by these patterns.

So! Why did I swallow all of this & sign up for the current round of Design Your Wardrobe? GREAT QUESTION! The answer: I don’t fucking know. All I can say is, I love to sew, & I love to plan. I might enjoy planning as much as I enjoy sewing, which is A LOT! & that means that Design Your Wardrobe is a marriage of my two favorite pasttimes, & that’s hard to ignore.

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 8.04.30 PMRemember this?

Also, if forced to say something nice about Colette/Seamwork, I would say that they really shine when it comes to self-obsessed navel-gazing. I know that sounds perjorative, but trust–I am not above a little self-obsessed navel-gazing! I’ve said for years that Colette should just re-brand themselves as a creative lifestyle brand: life coaching for garment-making hobbyists. Viewed through that prism, the Design Your Wardrobe course is kind of a gimme. I asked Jared whether or not I should do it. He observed, “You like to sew. You like to plan. …I’ll be honest, I’m not seeing a downside.”

1f8b45ed86132ac29f49f6dd930c7dc9Evidence for my lifestyle brand idea: this hilarribly tone-deaf post that was published at the height of the furor over the Rue dress debacle. Nope, I’ll never forget, & I’ll also never stop laughing.

I’m about two weeks in now, & what do you know? It’s been enjoyable & illuminating. Being idea-rich & time-poor means that I can get stuck in my head easily, churning through concepts without managing the focus to make them reality. & that can trigger my ever-waiting anxiety. The exercises thus far have forced me to get specific about swirl of images & ideas in my head, which has been really helpful.

fullsizeoutput_83dMy binder (on top of a cross stitching project).

It’s also triggered more resource accumulation than I’d prefer. The “getting started” dispatch instructs one to  procure a three-ring binder & three dividers & print out the Design Your Wardrobe worksheets & the Seamwork planner. The planner is free to everyone, not just Seamwork members, which is nice, but it’s definitely designed to be used in conjunction with the Design Your Wardrobe program. I don’t know how useful a person would find it outside of that context.

IMG_7004Does this mean anything to you? It would if you were doing the Design Your Wardrobe project. PS–Ignore the hideous font used for the word “criteria”. Seamwork used a nice font there, which my browser refused to recognize & print accurately.

The program also assumes you have a color printer. I know it’s 2018, but…I didn’t. I’ve wanted one for years, but Jared always said, “It’s a scam! The color cartridges are too expensive!” I went to therapy & talked about all the money anxiety I’m having because guess what? Moving across the country is fucking expensive! I said “I want a color printer but the idea of spending the money makes me so anxious!” & she gave me one! I don’t know how professional that is from a therapist-client relationship standpoint, but I’m not a Rockefeller. Gimme gimme free stuff!

So, my plan is to work through the program (this sounds so 12-step-y) & post updates here on how it’s going. I intended to make this post the week one wrap-up, but I felt the need to contextualize my feelings about Colette/Seamwork first & that got a little out of hand. I wanted to make clear that I am coming from a place of skepticism regarding this brand, BUT I am going into this project with as open mind. Come back soon for my thoughts on week one!

August sewing plans

Time for a life update! Before you close your browser in disgust over the lack of the sweet, sweet sewing content you have come for, rest assured: this post is almost 100% about sewing, because I am almost 100% about sewing!

The biggest news: we live in Portland now! We used a moving pod companies, where you load all your possessions into a big metal box & a stranger drives it across the country for you on a giant truck with a bunch of other big metal boxes. We set our separately in the car—me, Jared, Ramona, & Catberry Butterton (the cat formerly known as Biscuit; Ramona changed her name). We thought that would be easier than renting a moving truck & towing the car.

The harness didn’t always work out as planned.

The drive from Lawrence to Portland was a lot easier than I’d anticipated. My family took a lot of road trip vacations when I was a kid, & I remember how awful it was for my parents to be driving with kids. We were loud, whiny, constantly asking to stop for food & bathroom breaks. I expected the same sort of behavior from Ramona, but she’s a great traveler! She amused herself with LEGO, toy cars, & stuffies, barely whined at all, & she LOVED staying at motels. I recommend her for all of your road-trip-with-children needs.

We got to Portland a day early because we made such good time, so move-in day was pretty relaxed. However, our new house is SMALL. Thank goodness I had the foresight to rent a studio for my sewing, because there’s no way my sewing stuff would fit in the house. My friend Alex, who has studio space in the same building, has a truck, & she came over soon after our pods arrived & helped me drive all my sewing stuff over to the new studio.

Me & my studio.

Fabric Depot, a big independent fabric store in SE Portland, hosted a “Block Party” event the day after we moved in. Ramona & I went to check it out…in large part because I decided I needed to replace all the mismatched, mis-sized curtains in the house (I think one of them is seriously a shower curtain) with proper self-sewn curtains. I let Ramona choose the fabric for her room. She fell in love with a comic book print, & because she scored a 60% off coupon when she spun Fabric Depot’s “Deal Wheel,” I also let her pick out a superhero print jersey knit for new pajamas.


I also stopped by Montavilla Sewing shop that operates out of Fabric Depot, ostensibly just to browse. I’ve found myself often wishing that I had an embroidery machine. I’ve had my eye on one from Amazon, but kept telling myself I couldn’t justify the expense. So…surprise! I bought one that cost more than twice as much from Montavilla Sewing. I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. But I’m really enjoying it! It has some fancypants features, like a low-bobbin indicator, & automatic threading. & my vast collection of presser feet (foots?) works with it without having to put on a whole new shank.Invisible zippers just got a whole lot easier!


My studio is not large–only 80 square feet, but it’s of course a dream to have a dedicated space for it. It’s a game changer to be able fully focus on my sewing without worrying about Ramona putting LEGO creations on my sewing table, or interrupting me to demand bowls of frozen mango or new episodes of “The Magic School Bus”. I’m hoping to be able to spend a lot more time there once Ramona starts kindergarten (this month! How is she already such a big kid?).

I have some exciting sewing plans lined up for August. Aside from the curtains, & the 87th pair of pajamas I’ve made for Ramona. The theme for the Monthly Stitch this month is Denim Never Dies, & I’m making a paid of railroad striped Lander shorts (in part because I am still in disbelief over the incredibly short crotch curve). The Monthly Stitch is undergoing an editorial transition, incidentally, & I’m one of the new folks that has come on-board. My role right now is coordinating & announcing the challenges. Go check out the post I wrote announcing the Denim Never Dies challenge! I put A LOT of work into brainstorming pattern ideas & coming up with unusual examples of denim yardage available for sale for folks that maybe need a little inspiration beyond your basic indigo. I truly love the Monthly Stitch project & am excited to be part of its future!

Curtains I have finished so far.

I have a few mending projects that need attention, & a few projects that are all done except for a bit of hand-stitching. But new projects are where the excitement is! I desperately need a new bag. I have everything I need to make both a new Noodlehead Supertote (my viewfinder print Supertote has been my daily bag for a couple of years now) & a Swoon Patterns Nora doctor bag. I will make them both eventually. I just can’t decide which should come first.

I’m also working on a commission for a friend who needs a dress to wear in a wedding party. She wants a black lagenlook style. We’re brainstorming patterns & we’re going to talk textiles this weekend. It’s going to be fun to sew something a little more dressy & dramatic than I would ordinarily sew for myself!

Though I’m overwhelmed with ideas for garments I want to sew for myself. A pair of black linen Astrid pants from Named patterns. A hooded Simplicity 8447 blouse from Cotton + Steel banana print lawn. Combining the Closet Case Jenny overalls with my go-to A-line skirt pattern to make a pinafore dress—black twill? With some elaborate embroidery or cross stitching? Definitely another paid of Cashmerette Ames jeans. A hooded sweatshirt dress from this great black speckled French terry I picked up at Fabric Depot. That’s probably going to have to be some kind of Frankenpattern. & I am actually in serious need of new pajamas.

In an effort to corral all these ideas, I’m doing Seamwork’s Design Your Wardrobe course for fall/winter. This necessitated becoming a Seamwork member–something I swore I would never do. But they found my weakness: drawn-out, prescriptive, unnecessarily navel-gazing methodologies for planning one’s sewing. I truly do love shit like that! & trust, I will be canceling my subscription as soon as the course is over.

But perhaps the thing I am MOST excited about this month: SHOEMAKING. I snagged the last spot in an upcoming sandal-making workshop with Rachel Corry of Rachel Snail Sees Shoes. I’ve already starting sketching out some design ideas. I can’t wait! (Jasika wrote a post about a shoemaking workshop she took with Rachel a couple of years ago.)

I think that’s all the news I have right now! Stay tuned for some finished project posts, thoughts on the Design Your Wardrobe challenge, a possible expose on the bizarre crotch curve on the True Bias Lander pants, my summer 10×10, SHOEMAKING, & more!

top 20 new sewing patterns: July 2018 (part two)

I’m back with part two of my top twenty fave patterns released in July 2018! (Here’s part one.) Putting this post together took a little longer than I expected because I went to my studio in the morning & banged out a couple of curtains for our living room, & by the time I was done, it was super-hot & I was super-tired & then Ramona commandeered my computer so she could watch “Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone”.

But the curtains are nice, Y/Y?

I feel like I need to issue a warning. Some of these patterns look horrifically ugly at first glance because they are sewn up in some truly hideous fabric. The styling is extraordinarily questionable. It’s almost like people don’t want to sell patterns! But I have trained myself to look past samples that have clearly been sewn up in the cheapest available polyester at the fabric store & see the decent bones underneath. This is why it’s always so important to include technical drawings/line drawings with your pattern information. Some people have a really hard time seeing past the sample styling, & samples are often sewn up in colors or prints that obscure the style lines.

I’m DEFINITELY including fabric pairings with these bad boys, because some of them are in desperate need of re-imagining.

& again, my primary caveat: I don’t own & have not sewn all (or any) of these patterns. I’m not necessarily recommending them. I can’t speak to the drafting, the size range, the PDF options, or anything else. They are just new releases that caught my eye. On to the skirts!

McCall’s 7813


It’s wrap skirt. Not like we’ve never seen one of those before. But I like the high waist, I like the wrap-around waist tie, & I REALLY like that this pattern has a cool asymmetrical view that I’d be willing to splash out on during a JoAnn 99-cent sale. I might just be feeling the back-to-school vibes, but I’m seeing this in a plaid flannel, rather like this lovely fabric that I in fact already own! Though it’s earmarked for a shirtdress that I’m still hoping to make once the weather cools down.

Burda 7/2018 #127


This is really cute, & I wish it wasn’t styled here with that stupid “I just rode the Hamptons jitney for the first time” belt because the awesome thing about this skirt is that all that fullness is created by about a gazillion darts stitched down to create the waist shaping. Burda of course simply recommends “fabric with some body,” & I know this is kind of crazy, but I fell in love with the idea of this gorgeous upholstery jacquard. The finished skirt would weigh about forty pounds, & you’d have to snip out each dart to reduce the bulk, but it would be BEAUTIFUL.

Ready to Sew Justine skirt


Okay, this is one of those styling fails I warned you about at the top of the post. This fabric. THIS FABRIC. It literally hurts my eyes with its sheer ugliness. I know there are people out there who like this kind of thing, & if you are one of them, I’m sorry…I’m sorry that you have such atrocious taste. Kidding! You do you! Leaves more actual pretty fabric for the rest of us. If you can get past the fabric, the skirt isn’t bad. It’s also not remotely original, but it IS free, so there’s that. I personally am still here for the button-down skirt trend, I like the big pockets, & this skirt would actually be a nice showcase for a border print, which I always love. I think this is really pretty–especially for the coming spring weather in the Southern Hemisphere! But you could also make it from a solid, lightweight twill & have yourself a perfectly serviceable work-a-day skirt.

Daughters of Style Mulligan skirt


I love stuff like this. Before I learned how to sew, I would pounce on anything with ribbon ruching I could find at H&M or Anthropologie or whatever. There was some episode of “Project Runway,” or maybe it was “Under the Gunn”? Sorry, I am a “Project Runway” obsessive & have even watched the spin-offs with kids. But a contestant made a skirt that you could alter using a mechanism that changed the length & drape. It was obviously ridiculous & unnecessarily cumbersome, but I loved it, because I love all this goofy stuff, even though I know I’ll adjust it to a length I like & never touch it again. One of the recommended textiles is raw silk. How insanely beautiful would this be?!

Moving on to…miscellaneous?

Burda 7/2018 #115 swimsuit

burda 115

How cute is this? I love it. I draft all my own swimsuits, so I’m not going to buy this pattern…but I might knock it off. I just love that little peekaboo of skin at the bust, & the way the bust mimics the waistline on the bottoms. I think Burda made a good choice with the gingham here, & I recommend this gingham swimwear fabric. I have it in yellow & it’s great–opaque even when stretched to the limit, really nice quality…I am almost sad I didn’t buy the mint colorway as well.

Studio Costura Mia panties

mia panties

I draft all my own panties as well. (Content warning: I’ve decided to start saying “panties” instead of “undies”. I know a lot of people are really grossed out by the word “panties,” but I think it’s sexy. Sorry not sorry.) So I won’t be buying this pattern. But it’s VERY cute, & I always love looking at the samples for lingerie patterns because they give me tons of ideas for my own makes. This pattern is obviously a real showcase for some gorgeous scalloped stretch lace, & it doesn’t have to be terribly wide. I think this 6″ pink lace is so pretty.

Tessuti Melbourne Trench Coat

tessuti melbourne trench

Before I saw the photos for this pattern, I was like, “Another trench coat, BORRRRR-ING!” I’m just not a trench coat person. But this isn’t your usual flasher-in-a-dark-alley trench coat. The thing that really grabbed me about it is its design simplicity. It seems like a perfect blank canvas for a special textile, & my mind of course went straight to RAINCOAT. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect raincoat pattern for years. I basically want to look like a cross between the Gorton’s fisherman & the Morton’s Salt girl, which I guess means I want a really simple, utilitarian, straightforward raincoat with a slightly more feminine silhouette, & it must have a hood. This is checking my boxes! I wonder if it would work in this waterproof outdoor canvas…In a shocking twist, I am REALLY feeling that pink color.

& we’ll close out with a surprising quantity of jumpsuits.

Seamwork Lucy jumpsuit

seamwork lucy

Here’s another truly lamentable styling catastrophe. What is wrong with the folks over at Seamwork? They truly have the WORST taste in colors & textiles. They are based here in Portland, & let me tell you, this town has SO MANY fantastic local fabric shops. This poop-colored knit trimmed with a white drawstring is inexcusable. & I refuse to even acknowledge the existence of those shoes. BUT! A sleeveless knit jumpsuit with a drawstring waist? That’s almost stepping out of “secret pajamas” territory & jumping right into “actual straight-up pajamas”. I’ve never sewn a Seamwork pattern & am very skeptical of their drafting, but I like the idea of this pattern. It’s downright heroic. You could even do the top & bottom in different fabrics to make it look more like real clothes. I’m thinking a really pretty print for the top & a coordinating solid for the bottom.

Mood Fabrics Ursi ensemble

ursi ensemble

This is one of the free patterns from Mood Fabrics. It includes both the top & the pants. They bill it as an “ensemble”. Not only does this look really relaxed & easy to wear, perfect for all of your laying-around-on-the-edges-of-fountains needs (I actually do do that whenever there’s a fountain around), but the sleeves are detachable. The armscye is finished & attached to the bodice with belt loop braid & buttons. I really like this effect! I don’t love the braid also being used as piping on the pants cuff. It makes the pants suddenly look like very glamorous pajamas. You’d want a fabric that can hold its shape, for the collar, but isn’t so crisp that it won’t knot well. Honestly, I would love to see someone (…me?) make it up in this fabric. Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice!

DP Studio 3001 playsuit

dpstudio playsuit

Our final pattern of the month, & another brutal crime against eyeballs everywhere. How many Urban Outfitters dressing room curtains had to die so this sample garment could live?! BUT this is a really cute pattern! & if sewn in the right fabric, you don’t have to look like a tragic hitchhiker killed on her way to Coachella. This is actually a playsuit–the bottom half of the garment is culottes! The legs are so voluminous, it looks like a skirt, but you don’t have to worry about flashing anyone when you get tangled in the nearest beaded curtain & fall over. As has become my refrain, this just looks really cool & easy to wear. I’d use a nice voile or lawn. Or, here’s a clever idea: double gauze! That links to an amazing double gauze that is woven to resemble chambray, so you will look like you’re all business, but you’re actually wearing the most luscious, baby soft secret pajamas!

Wow! Getting deep into these patterns & doing these fabric pairings was almost as much fun as actual sewing! I will definitely be doing this series again. What do you think? Do you see yourself sewing any of these patterns? Are there any I skipped over that really grabbed your attention in July?

top 20 new sewing patterns: July 2018 (part one)

Hello & welcome to a new series I hope to share with you all on a monthly basis! It’s pretty straightforward: I’m going to dish on my top twenty new sewing patterns of the month. I always enjoy new pattern round-ups, but I don’t love it when they are only links & no images, or when they are limited only to indie releases, as I am a seamstress of omnivorous tastes. So I’m going to share photos as well as links, & I’m going to share a mix of indies & Big 4. However, I do not have the wherewithal to comb every corner of the internet to round up every single new pattern under the sun, so I’m limiting it to my personal top twenty. Mostly just because I had a list of 31 patterns I liked that came out in July, which felt like way too many, but culling a list of 31 down to, say, ten, seemed impossible.

A few caveats: I haven’t sewn, nor do I even own, all (or any) of these patterns. I’m not unilaterally recommending them. I can’t speak to the quality of drafting, the breadth of size ranges, or the specifics of the PDF versions that people get so opinionated about (I don’t even know how to use layers). These are just patterns that caught my eye. I’m also including a fabric pairing for each, just for fun. It’s all incredibly subjective, & if you think I have terrible personal style, you’re probably going to hate it!

Let’s start with dresses!

McCall’s 7802


This dress isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but I like it. I like the blousy sleeve (this whole statement sleeves trend has been AWESOME for me), I like the gathering at the bust, I like the wide, defined waistband. It includes a scoop neckline if this plunging V is a bit too much for you, & a simple short sleeve or no sleeves if you’re not feeling this boho jam. It also has a maxi skirt variation with a slit. A gorgeous lawn like this would be great for the drape of the sleeves.

McCall’s 7812


I haven’t bought this yet, but I think I will for sure the next time McCall’s patterns are on sale at JoAnn. This pattern is for knits, & I love the front ruching with the ribbon, the neckline shape, & the flared skirt. The sleeves are a nice length for transitional fall weather. I’m imagining it in something like this.

Cali Faye Dress 47


I love this! It looks like a cute crop top tied at the waist with a matching skirt, but it’s actually a dress, which seems really clever to me. I’m not sure how bra-friendly it is–that V is mighty deep. But it’s adorable & it looks really comfortable & easy for hot days. This might end up on my to-sew list for next summer. I’m feeling the stripes here & thinking maybe something like this?

Republique du Chiffon Florence Pinafore


I’m still waiting for a pattern company to come up with my dream pinafore dress. There have been several contenders, but no one has managed to check all my boxes yet. But this one comes close! I like the waistband, the nice big pockets, the wide crossover straps, & the button attachment for the straps in the back is really cute. I question if the shape of this bib would work that well on a person as busty as myself, & I think the neckline is a little high. But the styling here is great, & I want to keep encouraging pattern companies to develop their pinafore visions. I’d love to see this in a gorgeous metallic linen!

Jennifer Lauren Handmade Raine dress


This another dress that isn’t exactly breaking any new ground…but it’s cute! This version is my fave, with the gathered skirt & Queen Anne-adjacent neckline, but there are also scoop neckline & pleated skirt options. The print here obscures the wide, curved waistband, which is one of the best things about the design, but picture it in a fabric like this? (The only reason I haven’t bought that yet is because I’ve already made two strawberry print dresses this summer.) The style lines would shine & you’d have a near-perfect spring/summer dress (shout-out to the Southern Hemisphere!).

Moving on to woven tops.

Republique du Chiffon Paula top


Yet another pattern that is pretty simple & straightforward on the face of it. But it’s also just so elegant, & it looks cool & easy to wear. I’m seeing it in some kind of voile or lawn? I love it in a print, but it would also be just gorgeous in a solid color. I’m on a big yellow kick right now, so of course I am gravitating toward something like this.

SBBC Flora blouse


When it’s hot outside, I need my woven tops to be breezy & light. This top is figure-skimming & doesn’t bind anywhere, & looks like an amazing potential canvas for a statement color or print. Personally, I instantly imagined an eyelet fabric, & maybe keeping the scalloped selvage for the hem.

I am really feeling these patterns for knit tops!

Indiesew Kila tank


I know. It’s a tank top. But I love it! When you sew all your own clothes, like I do, a decent pattern for a basic like this is worth its weight in gold. I am really choosy about my tank tops. I like a lot of back coverage, & this one nails it. It has a nice scoop & is long for layering purposes. The neck & arms are finished with a narrow binding. This seriously rings all my bells. I’ll probably buy it. My favorite part is that the recommended fabric is rib knit, which is my #1 preferred fabric for tanks. I want one in every color, starting with banana.

Burda 7/2018 #107 wrap shirt


I’ve never sewn a Burda pattern before. I know! It’s because I didn’t start sewing until after the Burda boom calmed itself. & they have a weird size range, & there’s the notoriously sparse instructions & complicated tracing…But maybe this will be my first? I really like this top. I’ve been wanting to make a ballet-style wrap top & have been comparing different patterns. I like that this one looks like it has decent chest coverage & is a good length for both tucking & not-tucking. I don’t love the squared-off ends on the ties. I think they’d look better cut on an angle. I’m also grappling with the fact that even the cutest wrap tops still kind of make a person’s boobs look asymmetrical. It’s just the nature of the beast. This would obviously be great as a print or in a solid. I, of course, would start with a solid in my preferred color of Pepto-Bismol pink.

Itch to Stitch Plitvice top


I read Itch to Stitch Patterns for filth a few months ago when I reviewed the Liana jeans for the Curvy Sewing Collective. But I could tell just by looking at the pattern that adjustments were going to be needed, & I’ve heard good things about Itch to Stitch tops (I’m actually wearing a Lago tank right this second!). So I will permit my intrigue regarding this top. Love the princess seams, love the banded finishes, love that it’s not just another everyday tee. I feel like this is the obvious choice for a print, Y/Y?

Check back tomorrow for part two!


We’re moving to Portland!

Hello, Constant Readers! Long time, no talk. There’s been a lot going on.

I mentioned a few months ago that our family may be moving to Portland this summer. It was kind of a slow-motion decision, but it’s happening! In less than two weeks! We are scheduled to arrive in Portland & move into our new house in the Humboldt neighborhood in North Portland on July 20. For any Portland sewing folks who may be reading this, the house is about nine blocks away from Modern Domestic on Alberta St.

The house is teeny, less than half the size of our current place. I could probably make space for my sewing stuff–it’s not the smallest house we’ve lived in. But instead, I’ve decided to rent real studio space! There’s a warehouse about a mile & a half from our house that has been converted into a warren of art studios, & I’m renting one. A friend of mine runs her button-making business out of the building. My hope is that I will sew more & better with a dedicated space for it–especially once Ramona starts kindergarten at the end of August! Plus it will force me to leave the house, enjoy the Portland weather (a huge factor in making the move–rumors of how much it rains there are greatly exaggerated, & I’m looking forward to more a more temperate climate, after nine years in a place that is 100 degrees everyday for six months), & perhaps most importantly, actually WEAR all the fabulous outfits I sew for myself! Left to my own devices, I will just wear pajamas all day & never go outside.

The rent on the studio is pretty reasonable, but it’s still a new expense, which is scary. Rent is also going to be more expensive. Not by much, because we did luck into a pretty affordable place, but still. In general, our expenses are going up, & my base income is staying exactly the same.

So I need to make some money! To that end:

1) I signed up for the Amazon Associates program. Yeah, affiliated links. Consider this your official disclosure. I’m not going to link to stuff all willy-nilly. The vast majority of links here are still going to be to other blogs, patterns, etc. But there will be a few here & there that will hopefully generate a little pocket change I can put toward studio rent.

2) Sewing commissions. This is perhaps not of much interest to most people reading this, because I assume most of my readers sew. But if you don’t, or if you just really want something & don’t want to make it yourself, hit me up! I charge for materials plus $20/hour for my labor, & I can sew pretty much anything: clothes, bags, accessories, toys, quilts, home decor, you name it. I’m also happy to do commissioned cross stitch pieces. Let’s talk!

3) Sewing lessons. If you’re in the Portland area, come by my studio or schedule a time for me to come to you & I will teach you how to sew/cross stitch! I can teach you the basics or walk you through a project of your choosing–a quilt, a garment, whatever! $15/hour if we’re using your supplies, $25/hour if we’re using mine (you supply fabric either way).

I’m also hoping to do a kind of blog re-launch in August.I’ve been tinkering with the layout & links. I updated my “sewn in 20–” pages to reflect all the posts up on the site. (I somehow got like a year behind–whoa!) I’m hoping to post more often, on a more regular schedule, starting in August. It will mostly be project posts, but maybe some other things too: planning posts (love those), posts about exploring the sewing community in Portland, takedowns of particularly egregious new pattern releases, maybe the occasional tip, trick, or tutorial.

I am still trying to make some time for sewing, even though there is so much packing to do, & all the other little details that need to be considered during a cross-country move (transferring prescriptions, lining up new doctors, making sure all the library books have been returned, training the cat to walk on a harness…)

I’m working on the Simplicity 8342 knit top right now, view B, with the cap sleeves, using this fabric, which was NOT that expensive when I bought it! Tasha has made several & they are all adorable. & I’m really hoping to whip up a Closet Case Patterns Charlie caftan in this insanely gorgeous strawberry print double gauze. I’m also putting aside some hand-sewing work (cross stitch, appliques) to work on during the drive to Portland.

While I pack & move, please enjoy a few guest posts I’ve written this year (…which would have been GREAT platforms for a comprehensive blog re-launch, had I had my shit together at all…It’s been a weird year, guys).

In February, I wrote a Pattern Throwdown post for the Curvy Sewing Collective. I sewed THREE pairs of jeans: the Cashmerette Ames jeans, the mid-rise Closet Case Ginger jeans, & the Itch to Stitch Liana jeans.

Also in February, I wrote a post on pairing stripes with other prints for the Sewcialists blog. It’s all part of the neverending quest to avoid closet orphans.

& last month, I wrote a post about my sketching process for the MyBodyModel blog. In case you don’t know, MyBodyModel is a new program that allows you to enter your measurements & generate your own customized fashion croquis! Right now it’s only available in a traditional adult female body style, front view only, but other body types & views are in the works. It’s pretty cool! I’ve been having lots of fun sketching sewing ideas for a croquis that is actually shaped like me.

You can also keep up with me on Instagram. I’ve been pretty active there, & semi-consistent about posting new sewing projects.