2016 in Review: Top 5 Hits and Misses

It’s that time of year: Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow is hosting her annual Top 5 event, a chance to look back at your sewing year and evaluate yourself. Last year I wrote just one post evaluating my “year”, but I’m breaking 2016 into a handful of posts: my hits and misses of the year, my reflections and plans for the future, and a round-up of how my Sew 16 goals turned out.

The Hits

Looking back on my daily outfit photos, the weeks that stood out where the ones when I wore the same three summer dresses, repeatedly, over and over, again and again. These dresses really pulled their weight this summer! I wore them so often that I stopped bothering with the daily outfit photo and just reused the same picture again and again:

weeks of 2016.07.04-2016.08.08

In February and March I made 10 garments to enter in Pattern Review’s 2016 Wardrobe Contest. Of those 10, the yellow cardigan is by far my favorite, and the most-used piece. Who knew such a bright color would be so versatile?

yellow card

After 4 muslins (FOUR!) and multiple in-progress alterations, I finally managed to sew myself a fall jacket. By the time it was done I only got a few weeks wear out of it, but at least I have it ready for next year!

fall coat

Sometimes the simplest things are the most successful: using this free papavero pattern I sewed a black linen skirt. It was comfortable enough to wear in the hottest days of summer, and when the weather cooled down I added a temporary lining for warmth and so I can wear it with tights.

black bacon skirt

I sewed  several  bags, as usual. The light brown fake leather was hair-tearingly painful to sew but the resulting bag is lovely (if you don’t peek closely at the top-stitching, woof).

brown fake leather bag

For winter I needed a new black bag, and again simple is best. It’s basically a duffel, narrower at the top and wider at the bottom:

black bag

The front zipper opens wide so I can get at everything, and the shorter back zipper is a separate pocket for papers and folders so they’re not crushed by everything else in the bag.

black bag front and back

The Misses

I tried to like this shrug, but it just didn’t work. Luckily a year later I could buy more of the fabric and turn it into a proper cardigan.


This is technically from 2015, but oh well. I spent a long, long time suffering with making this black skirt suit and I never wear it, neither together nor as separates. I don’t have a good shirt to wear with the suit. The skirt is too floofy for my current style. The jacket might have a chance to redeem itself, but I’m not hoping. And the whole thing is cotton and wrinkles like crazy (that second picture even hurts to look at).

black suit

I sewed several short-sleeve shirts and wore none of them more than twice. Lesson learned: short sleeves aren’t my thing.

This origami boat raglan top is so pretty by its own, but I don’t know how to work it into my wardrobe. This is only a partial fail, because I like it enough to keep trying!

origami boat raglan top

And finally, the pants that were so unsuitable for me that I only wore them once. Since then they’ve been at the very very bottom of my “someday I’ll fix this” pile, but I doubt they’ll ever see daylight.


Hit or Miss?

And finally, two things that were part hit, part miss. I like my red corduroy pants (pictured just above), I wear them occasionally, and it was great to finally work out a nice pants pattern for myself. On the other hand, for a girl who wears mostly skirts, a bright red pair of pants was not the wise choice, and nor was the corduroy.

The other hit/miss would be my daily outfit photo project. Although I did succeed in taking a picture every day for nearly a year, I rarely posted them because the quality is pretty bad. Oh well, from a distance they make a nice collage 🙂

some weeks collage


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Sew16 update

Now that fall has arrived, the end of 2016 seems to be just over the horizon… so how am I doing on my Sew 16 Challenge? I’m pretty sure I’ll manage 16 challenges by the end of the year; many are in progress but there are some which I can confidently tick off:

1. Newbie – Sew a type of garment you never have before.
Success! My original plan was to sew pants, two kinds of them: American pants (trousers) and British pants (undies). And I managed both! I sewed two pairs of corduroy pants:


And a selection of undies, which I’m not posting pictures of, but imagine some basic briefs in jersey leftover from my other projects and you’ve got the idea.

7. Share the Love – Sew for someone you never have before.
After one of my best friends complimented me several times on my drapey-pockets cardigan, it finally dawned on me that I ought to make her one. It was an easy sew; the only change needed was to shorten the arms a bit. The green one went to her and I’ve seen her wearing it several times – no higher compliment than that!


8. Stash Stretcher – Sew something entirely from stash materials: pattern, notions, and all.
Actually, my recently-finished ginghamalong top was all from the stash. The pattern is my go-to button down, the fabric was bought last spring, the thread and snaps were leftovers, and even the bias-binding hem was from some other project.

finished collage

12. Same Same, But Different – Sew the same thing from different fabrics.

One of the first things I posted on this blog was a green skirt, copied from one of my favorite RTW skirts and improved by adding pockets. The original and my first copy were on the bias, but last spring I re-found the pattern and realized I could just as well cut it on grain and get a skirt out of a minimum of fabric (the black one was a 65cm remnant). So I made three in quick succession:

black denim skirt

crazy skirt



maroon canvas skirt

18. Piles of Styles – Take one homemade garment and style it as many ways as you can.
Yes! Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been taking daily outfit photos, an incredibly painful and humbling experience. The upside is is that it’s given me a great insight into the things I’ve worn, how I wore them, and how I felt in them. A good example would be my maroon self-drafted pencil skirt, which I’ve worn frequently and loved every time.

skirt (1)

On the other hand, there’s this dark purple bolero / cropped sweater thing that I wore in several ways but never really got into.

purple bolero

And, inspired by Carolyn’s 6-different-ways posts, I tried to see how I could make one single item look different by combining it with different things. Like this bright sunny yellow cardigan:

yellow card

Or something like a basic striped shirt:


19. Sew Less Frosting – Stop sewing pretty, photogenic things that you will rarely wear. Stop sewing impractical things.
I mentioned at the end of my ginghamalong post that I thought I had fulfilled this goal: instead of a pretty floofy picture-perfect dress that would have sat in my closet, I made a boring-but-useful button-down shirt, and that was a good feeling.


So… that’s 6 challenges done and dusted. A handful more are also finished, but I don’t have nice pictures to accompany them, so that’s a later post. Several are in progress, and will probably be done before December 31st. Or not, no worries 🙂


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Ginghamalong / gingham top

Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed the Ginghamalong coordinated by Karen of Did You Make That? It was inspiring to see the awesome awesome projects on Instagram and on blogs. And I was finally prompted to cut into the 2 meters of teal-blue gingham I bought from Van Gool Stoffen (Tilburg, Netherlands) when I was there last Easter.


The top is a self-drafted princess-seam button-down that I’ve made several times before. I cut the side pieces on the bias, which is both a nice detail as well as a clever way to avoid pattern matching.

bias sides

There was a considerable amount of matching involved in the back, in the darts, the yoke, and the joining the yoke to the back.


The original position of the back darts put them in the middle of a stripe, but that looked kind of odd so I picked them out and moved them inward.

back before and after

When the basic shell was finished I ran into some questions… what kind of collar? What kind of sleeves? What kind of buttons?

Recently I updated a shirt dress  whose collar bothered me by taking out the upper collar and just leaving the stand. I decided to do the same here, just using the collar stand without the upper collar.

The sleeves were the next hurdle. I had originally planned it sleeveless but having asked for opinions (on Instagram, plus whatever friends happened to be online when I was asking) and got a landslide vote towards sleeves. I had a good long think about it and realized that in addition to looking better, the sleeves version will get more wear.


I made matching bias to hem the sleeves, but I hemmed the bottom using a bit of leftover. Because why use matching when I could use a totally different blue gingham instead?? The pearl snaps up the front are from my stash.


I’m really happy with the result (despite my faces in these photos…). The color is so cheerful;  plus I have a pair of matching shoes.


The back also turned out brilliantly, it fits my sway back like a glove.

back and sides

close up

One last great thing about this top: it definitely fulfills one of my Sew 16 Challenges, to sew less frosting and more cake. I dithered about making this fabric into a pretty, theme-y, photogenic gingham dress, but in the end I went with a garment that I know I will get more wear from.

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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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