Summer Dresses 2016

Last year I also wrote about my quest for the perfect summer dress. Of all those dresses from last year only one is still in my wardrobe, and only because I haven’t gotten around to making it into a skirt yet. This year I had a better idea of what I wanted (light, flowy, covering) and ended up with three new maxi dresses which have seen heavy wear so far this summer:

three dresses

The first was a case of the fabric dictating the dress. I bought this fabric way back in January, at which time it was only used as a scarf:


But when warmer weather rolled around it called out to be made into a swishy maxi dress. I drafted the pattern from a princess-seam top, moving the princess seams to be 2.5″ (6.5 cm) from the seam, and then cutting the side panel as one piece 5″ (13 cm) wide. With gathers at the pocket and at the knee this side strip adds volume to the dress.

2016.06.30 reused pic


My helper also enjoyed cutting out and hemming this dress:



2016.07.02 - Copy

The second dress is a free pattern, the Summer Drape Top by So Sew Easy. Turning it into a dress was as easy as extending the pieces. I added two triangles of fabric at the side seams for extra flowiness and swishability (of course those are both real words) but the dress would have been quite wearable without them. I also added patch pockets because, well, pockets. The print is so busy you don’t see any of the details:

2016.07.10 - Copy

Although the pattern calls for knit, I made this dress from a lightweight cotton voile and it worked fine; the only place I ran into trouble was that the straps ended up short at the front. So I unpicked the gathers in the middle, added a section, and redistributed the gathers.


The last dress was another simple self-draft: the back is plain, the front is a basic top slashed-and-spread to make some gathers at the bust and above the stomach. I’m glad I didn’t do anything more elaborate because the busy fabric pretty much hides all details.

A pleat above the knee gives extra volume to the skirt; this is just a rectangle of fabric added into the seam and stitched securely at the top.


And here’s the other side of the coin, the failed dress. Of course it was the one which I thought would be the easiest, based on something I saw a colleague wearing, similar to this:


Inspired by too much Pinterest, I imagined I would just whip together some squares and triangles and end up with a lovely flowy dress. Well, I won’t bore you with the series of my mistakes, but here’s the biggest one: fabric choice! My light flowy fabric did not give me nice crisp points like that dress above. In fact, it looked (and felt) like wearing rags:


Look at those sad limp points! I’m not sure what to do with it now. Hem it into a top or a really short dress, I guess.

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Me-Made-May 2016

Me-Made-May is over for another year.

My main goal, of wearing only me-made clothes outside the house, was a great success:

me made may

Where I failed is in the intention behind my original goal: “[I will] endeavor to wear me-made clothes every day outside the house in May”. Translation: on days when I stay home in my pajamas, who cares what I wear? I had a long hard think about that over the month, and I want to change what I wear at home and on off days. I obviously love myself and my husband more than my colleagues and students, and I respect us and the cat more than anyone I might run into on the street, so why not dress to respect that?

My other goals for the month were also mostly successes:

1) to try to wear the less-used items of my wardrobe and evaluate if they are worth keeping or not. I did! Most pieces are worth keeping; I rediscovered my love for a couple of pieces I thought I hated; and I found a couple things which are going to be donated.

week of 2016.05.02

2) to not buy any new fabric in May but instead focus on finishing projects and fixing up things that need it. Weeeelllll, I didn’t buy any NEW fabric. I mean, barely any. I bought several yards and big pieces from a second-hand store, and I had to order a piece to meet a minimum requirement on some elastics and finishings I was ordering. And despite not buying anything new, I didn’t make as much progress on the unfinished projects as I would have hoped. In fact, I didn’t work on any of them at all. But I did add several to the trash pile, so that’s a success.

week of 2016.05.09

3) to make progress on my Sew ’16 goals. As of now, I count that I’ve completed 4 goals (Newbie, Good Enough, Share the Love, Same Same But Different) and have a solid start on 3 more (Let It Go, Dream the Impossible Dream, Inspired). I ought to finish 8 by the end of June if I want to finish 16 by December.

week of 2016.05.16 but 16 was holiday

4) to sew more slowly and mindfully; a wonderful success. I set up three boxes next to my sewing area to hold my current projects – three projects at a time, no more. Each project has to be either finished or tossed: no more UFOs! I started a notebook of ideas so I can work out plans and problems before starting sewing. Unlike last May, I didn’t let myself get caught up in “if I finish this tonight I can wear it for tomorrow’s selfie!” In fact, I think I only finished one thing this whole month, which has to be a record low for me. And it was great!

week of 2016.05.23

5) to tidy up my sewing area and supplies. This was also my part of goal for MAGAM’s Mad May theme: to tackle the storage area under the bed. At the beginning of May it was a messy pile of scraps, larger pieces, half-finished projects, clothes waiting to be refashioned, and … who knows what else. Now it’s a tidy (small) collection of fabric pieces big enough to make something from, a very few garments waiting to be refashioned, and muslins from previous projects.

And it’s never too early to think ahead; I already know my goal for next year: to wear all me-made-clothes every day of the month, and have one day a week which is 100% me-made. Meaning everything from shoes, undies, jacket etc. That should give me something to work for in the next 11 months!

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April MAGAM: April Showers, Stash Flowers

The theme for April in the Make a Garment a Month group was “April Showers, Stash Flowers:” using up pieces from your fabric stash, preferably the oldest pieces you have. I don’t really have a stash of fabric, so I figured I was out this month. But since the group is very much about interpreting the monthly themes individually, I came up with my own stash challenge: using the month of April to build my stash of me-made clothes.

Me-Made May is right around the corner, so it was useful for me to stock up on some boring-but-useful basics. I made three cardigans in basic colors (black, cream, and blush) which got their own post. The base of all three is the infinitely useful free Plantain pattern.

april cardigans

cardigans flat

I refashioned a barely-worn polo dress (made last summer) into a much more practical polo top. I liked it so much that I made a second polo-style top from some leftover black jersey.

polo shirts flat

polo shirt on

A black-and-white polka dotty top was something I’d been planning for a while, and seeing the one Lauren of Lladybird made finally pushed me into making my own. I used my self-drafted button-down shirt pattern, cut the neck into a v-shape and replaced the collar with a strip which can be tied into a bow. I couldn’t decide on buttons, so I ended up just sewing up the placket; the fabric is so silky that it slips over my head no problem.

polka dot top

From a remnant of dark gray denim I made a simple skirt. This was one of three skirts I made this month from the same pattern (see the colorful ones below); it’s a copy of one of my favorite RTW skirts, improved by adding pockets. The pattern had been languishing in my pattern file for months because the original skirt, and the first version I made, were cut on the bias, which took a large amount of fabric.  Luckily I realized that I could cut it on grain and squeeze a skirt out of as little as 65 cm of fabric (which is what this remnant happened to be).

black denim skirt

The last of my practical items was a simple shrug based on one from Yoshimi’s blog. She even gives the measurements, so going to buy a meter of fabric was basically the hardest part of this project.


In addition to the boring basics, I also made some lovely colorful items as well. The first was this spectacularly gaudy skirt, the fabric of which was part of my Netherlands haul. I’ve been looking for something as loud as this for a while – it’s like whoever designed this print just threw a bunch of random things on the fabric and called it a day. I love it!

crazy skirt

crazy skirt fabric highlights

Third time’s the charm: after the success of the crazy skirt and the plain gray denim one, I used the same pattern again to make a skirt from a printed canvas fabric I’d been eyeing for a while but couldn’t imagine how to use. Unlike the other two which have exposed zips at the center back, I tried a lapped zip for this one which meant adding a seam at center back. Unfortunately, this destroyed the drape of the center back and it sticks out like a rudder behind me. Does anyone know how I could fix this?

maroon canvas skirt

I used an xxl shirt passed on by a friend and cut it down into a top for me, using the Plantain pattern but keeping the neckline of the original shirt.

pink top

And last but not least, I made this lovely skirt from a free pattern from the Polish website papavero (you have to register, but it’s worth it because there are hundreds of totally free patterns). Wonderful Google translate translated one of the comments as “The bacon pocket is brilliant!” so this skirt will forever be called the Bacon Pocket Skirt for me.

bacon skirt closeup

bacon skirt

So I think I was pretty successful in my month of stocking up. And since Me-Made May is right around the corner, here is my pledge for Me-Made May 2016: I sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16 and endeavor to wear me-made clothes every day outside the house in May. My secondary goals are to try to wear the less-used items of my wardrobe, and evaluate if they are worth keeping or not; to not buy any new fabric in May but instead focus on finishing projects and fixing up things that need it; to make progress on my Sew ’16 goals; to sew more slowly and mindfully; and to tidy up my sewing area and supplies.

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Plantain cardigans

I’ve mentioned in passing several times the cardigans I’ve made from the free Plantain top pattern. Having just finished the 10th version, I figured it was finally time to write about them!

Most of these cardigans were easy to draft, with only minimal changes from the original pattern. The original Plantain has three main pieces: a front, back, and sleeve.


For most of the cardigans I kept the sleeve as is; the only change was shortening the sleeve length or adding a band. For the front and back pieces, the most frequent change was to get rid of the Plantain’s A-line shape by redrawing the side seams straight down from the armpit. I also played with the length, and in some versions added a band at the bottom. The bands were always cut slightly smaller than the length of the bottom; ditto for all the neck bands, wrist bands, etc. I usually cut the band to length, and then removed a centimeter or two.


This purple cropped cardigan was by far the easiest variation. All I did was chop the front and back a few inches below the armpit (this was dictated by the amount of fabric I had), add 2″ to the front for a foldover button placket, and add a band at the bottom.


The basic cream cardigan also had minimal changes: I straightened the sides and added an inch to the center front.

capsule wardrobe Fall 2015


Navy and white stripes – to avoid having to match stripes at the side seams, I drafted a side-seam-less version. I also added width at the center back and center front for a looser fit, and raised the neckline. I might have loosened the fit of the arms also but I don’t remember.


This yellow version was a bit more complex.  I added a welt pocket, as well as bands on all sides – that is, neck, center front, and bottom. I ended up not adding any closures to this one, because the fabric was a bit stiff (it’s that sort of thick jersey for sweatshirts) and it hangs mostly closed by itself.


This version with drapey pockets was so nice that I made it three times – twice for me, and once for a friend (after she gave me about a hundred compliments about how nice the gray version was, my thick brain finally realized I could make her one). The gray one was the first and is finished at the bottom with a band. For the orange and green versions I improved on the design by cutting the back double, on the fold at the bottom. This way, no band is needed, and the side and shoulder seams are enclosed inside the back for a nice-looking inside.


This tie-front version was inspired by the several versions made by Carolyn. I more or less followed her instructions as to how she put her versions together. Drafting the front on the fold means you have one less edge to worry about finishing, so in the end the only exposed seams are the armholes.


This black wrap version can be worn open or closed. It was drafted by simply extending the front out in a long curve. As shown, the front should be three times as wide as the regular front in order to wrap around and meet at the center back. The edges are just turned over once and zig-zagged, and there is a single button and buttonhole at the point so it can be buttoned at back.


And the most recent version… well. You know that feeling when you make something so nice that you’re actually afraid to wear it? At least I’ll never have that problem with this cardigan. Halfway through this project I had to choose between tossing it out unfinished or finishing it as an at-home-only type of garment. I’m glad I finished it, and actually the details, if I had bothered to do them right, could have been nice. Even the pictures turned out so bad that you can’t actually see the mistakes (terrible loopy seams and dropped stitches, mismatched thread, unfinished edges, gathers and puckers everywhere). Anyway, the concept here was a simple cardigan with rounded front corners, edges finished with a single long band of folded-over fabric.

So I’m well-stocked with cardigans for a while. And good thing too, because spring in Hungary is chilly this year and every extra layer is needed!




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When I showed my wardrobe contest plan to a colleague, one of her first comments was “Pants? But…. you don’t wear pants.” She was kind of right. For years I’ve worn mostly skirts (and, for work, only skirts) because I think they are more comfortable, more versatile, more easy to wear, and of course more easy to sew.


And since I wear pants so rarely, I’ve sewed them rarely – one pair of pajama pants back in college, to be exact. But one of my resolutions for 2016 was to try sewing pants. First I made a pattern, based on a pair of RTW corduroys that I inherited from a friend years ago (Hi, Jamie! Thanks again!!) and have since worn so often that they were quite literally falling apart at the seams. I used the “tape method” to make a pattern of the pants. You can read about that method here on Instructables or here on a private blog. It took some time, mostly because my original pants were very stretched out from years of wear.

For the front fly (the first one I’d ever tried) I looked at two great tutorials, one from Grainline Studio and the other from Closet Case Files’s Ginger Jeans sew-along.



The finished brown corduroys were part of my entry in Pattern Review’s 2016 Wardrobe Contest (if you’re a member of Pattern Review, you can vote on the results from April 3rd to April 9th). Since the competition was all about making pieces which work together, I already have a lot of options for how to wear the new brown pants:


The brown ones are great, but definitely a learning-curve type of garment. My pattern that fit perfectly as a muslin turned out a bit baggy in the corduroy, which had 5% elastic. I also cut too much off the bottom hem, and they are juuust barely long enough. They are extra super comfortable though because instead of a normal, interfaced waistband I used the stretchy corduroy and a bit of elastic at the center back. When I’m wearing them the elastic is stretched out and you don’t see it, but it makes them as comfy as sweatpants.


While I was just starting sewing the brown corduroys, I had a dream about sewing a pair of red ones. Actually, they might have been red twill, but the bright cherry red color was the more important aspect. And for the girl who barely ever wears pants, a bright red pair is clearly a useful wardrobe addition, right?


The pink pockets were also part of the dream.


What the dream didn’t tell me was how on earth I should wear a pair of bright red corduroy pants. I took them along as part of a me-made mini capsule wardrobe on a recent trip and came up with a few possibilities:


The two pairs of pants were my MAGAM (Make A Garment A Month) items for February and March. Freaky February was all about making something that scared you, and Moreish March was about making more of an item. Check and check!

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Pattern Review 2016 Wardrobe Contest

In January I started eyeing Pattern Review’s 2016 Wardrobe Contest. The basic idea is to sew a capsule wardrobe of 10 pieces which can all be worn together. I loved the idea from first read, but didn’t seriously think about participating. Ten garments in two months isn’t such a stretch for me, but at the time I didn’t need any new clothes, much less 10 new pieces; and since I don’t have a stash I didn’t think I could afford that much new material in such a short time.

Then it started sneaking up on me: in the first week of February I sewed a dress, one lone little dress:


Then I needed a cardigan to match it:


I’d been planning to sew some brown corduroys for a while, and they would match the cardigan:


I found some lovely black sweater knit and made two toppers from it:



And then I had to balance all that black with some more bright color:


In the meantime, I bought this little remnant and made this pleated skirt:


And then suddenly since I had half a wardrobe already, I figured I might as well enter the contest. Plus, around the same time I got some generous late-birthday gifts, including a gift certificate to my favorite fabric store, and figured I might as well spend the money on something I wouldn’t do otherwise.

I finally got around to making up a plan on, using RTW items similar to mine. The picture of the plan made me so happy that I set it as the background on my computer, and every day I could see my plan and think about what I had finished, and what I had to do.

plan and mine

The last few pieces of the wardrobe were a button-down shirt:


A maxi skirt (this was the only stash piece I used; I bought it for a shirt for Tomi but it’s polyester):


And a waterfall top with an open back:

img_3930 s


Despite thinking that I would never be able to sew 10 items in 2 months, I actually finished most of the sewing in February. By March I only had to finish the wine top, and do some hemming and finish some buttons. In early March I had a fun afternoon taking pictures of all the outfits, and then there was a lot of photo editing and pasting to make a collage of all the outfits:


I think by the end of the photo shoot I had gotten a bit silly, and there were some pretty funny outtakes:



And when I realized I had missed one or two combinations, I had fun photoshopping them together:


Overall, I REALLY enjoyed this project. There were one or two moments where I felt like I was sliding towards not doing my best work, just sewing to be finished and take the pictures and be done. But those moments were minimal, and I ended up with 10 (well, maybe 9) comfortable and wearable new garments, and who wouldn’t be excited with that?

If you’re a Pattern Review member, you can check out my entry in the contest here, and between April 3rd and April 9th you’ll be able to vote for your favorite here.


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Sew 16 Update

How is everyone doing on their Sew ’16 Challenge? I’ve completed, uh, exactly zero challenges so far. But I’ve made progress on several!

Challenge #1 Newbie – Sew a type of garment you never have before. For me the goal is pants. In particular, recreating a favorite pair of stretch corduroys which are long past their expiration date. This week I made a successful muslin, so the actual pants should be done soon.

pants muslin

Challenge #10 Aliens Out – Get rid of your UFOs. All of them. A big chunk of my unfinished projects is a suitcase full of large and extra-large clothes gifted to me by a friend. Slowly I’m going through them and remaking them.

Claire's refashions

Challenge #7 Share the Love – Sew for someone you never have before. I’m making a shirt for my husband, but that only sort of counts. I’ve made things for him before, but nothing on this level. By the end of the year I’m sure I’ll find some other people to make things for (any volunteers? 🙂 )

Tomi's shirt

Challenge # 18 Piles of Styles – Take one homemade garment and style it as many ways as you can. I’m working on this one in a personally very painful way: daily outfit shots. Me Made May proved to me that fashion photography will never be my thing, but at least the photos are giving me an insight into how I wear my homemade and RTW clothing. 

week of 2016.01.11

week of 2016.01.04

And these challenges aren’t the only things I’ve been working on. One of Pattern Review’s current contests is about making a 10-piece capsule wardrobe; I’m not sure if I’ll join in or not but playing with ideas is certainly fun!

capsule wardrobe, maybe

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