The Graduate Blazer

In grad school, my classmate and friend Toni taught us about power poses. Before an important presentation or event, she would have us strike a pose that made us feel powerful, like we could take on any task at hand. And then we did - pose and take on that task. And as silly as I thought it was at first, it really did help! I felt ready to take on the world!

This blazer is my power pose. It's professional but casual, and also has a special little touch that will always remind me of my time at grad school and all the hard work we put in.

Pattern: SBCC's Rickey Jacket with shawl collar view
Fabric: cotton linen blend for shell, cotton sateen for lining
Cost: $30 for the shell, $50 for the lining = $80

The thing that makes this blazer so special is the lining fabric. It is printed with the data code that I used to process my data for my master's thesis (that's R code for you nerds out there). It looks a bit like the matrix in there, but it's something I spent a lot of time on and was very proud of. For me, this fabric was a great way to commemorate learning new skills and completing this massive project before graduation.

For those who are curious, I worked with the Oakland Police Department for my public policy thesis to analyze over ten months of traffic stop data. The research built on findings that traffic stops in our community have been racially imbalanced, with African Americans significantly more likely to be stopped than white residents. My analysis looked at how officer stress and fatigue, such as not taking breaks, working long shifts, and responding to multiple 911 calls might affect these interactions by amplifying interactions. Most notably, I found that officers have a culture of not taking breaks during their shifts, which could exacerbate bias in their interactions. You can read the full report here, or hear me on the radio toward the end of this broadcast here.

While I mostly complained about my personal stress and lack of sewing time on my blog at this time, I was immensely excited to participate in such valuable research in my own community, and earn a degree while doing it. In celebration, I originally ordered this fabric for my graduation dress, but it didn't come in time. So there it sat in my closet for a couple of years, waiting for just the right project. Finally. I decided - a blazer! It was the perfect opportunity to put something powerful in something that made me feel powerful. And it's just quirky enough to be fun!

The pattern I used was the Skinny Bitch Curvey Chick Ricky Jacket. Some of you may know that this is a petite pattern in a wide size range, from 00 to 28. I am not petite. But what attracted me to this pattern was the cool shawl collar and I couldn't get it out of my head. So I de-petited it by lengthening each piece by two inches at the lengthen shorten time. It's not altogether necessary given all the great blazer patterns out there, but it was interesting to do and let me try out a new-to-me pattern maker.

Overall I thought the SBCC pattern was great. There are instructions for tailoring and lining the jacket. It's also got a great technique for making the welt pockets that makes them a lot easier. My only complaint is something that bothers me on a lot of patterns: sometimes the directions are very hand-holdy, and other times it leaves out steps that I would think a sewer who needs handholding might not know. For example, it includes instructions for what an edgestitch is, how to sew stitches for easing the armhole, and how to mark a buttonhole for stitching, but doesn't talk about how to clip the seam allowances to reduce bulk at the collar or create the turn of cloth on the lapel. On a lot of indy patterns I'm left wondering, who is this sewer who doesn't know what edgestitching is but knows all about what seam allowances to trim and how? Anyway, small grievance that I see all the time.

On my jacket, I wish I hadn't put the buttonhole up so high. That wasn't how the pattern was designed and I'm not sure why I did it because it looks a little silly now. If I'm remembering correctly, I think I also had to lower the height of the sleeve cap because I just couldn't get that thing set in there without some puckering.

But I am super proud of my jacket and that little touch that helps me celebrate becoming a professional in my field. Now off to do some more power poses before I psych myself out!

Custom Printed Sweatshirt

Not sure if working remotely is causing a slow backslide of my fashion sense, but I am all about this sweatshirt.

Pattern: McCall's Misses'/Men's Tops and Hoodies #6614 
Fabric: 2 yds Drake Sweatshirt fleece in heather grey from Stonemountain
Cost: $30

The text says "seamstress for the band," the lyric from Elton John's Tiny Dancer and, in my opinion, a great graphic tagline for a sweatshirt. I think I saw it on a ready-to-wear jacket and just couldn't get the idea out of my head. For this project, I borrowed my officemate's Silhouette Portrait machine and bought some heat transfer vinyl and went to town. I think the knife on the Silhouette needed to be replaced though because after a good start I ended up needing to cut out the rest of my design by hand. Despite my troubles, I have always wanted some sort of Silhouette or Cricut machine and now I think I may have to do it because I'm addicted. It is just small enough that I think I may be able to justify it in our cramped space.

The sweatshirt is McCalls 6614, a unisex pattern for raglan sweatshirts and zip-ups that I've had on hand for a while. I ditched the princess seams and just cut the zip-up on the fold for this simple look. The sleeves also have darts at the shoulder, which is a nice touch. My only complaint is that this pattern is definitely sized for a man - both the sleeves and the body were loooong. Luckily, that is easily fixed. I probably could have also found matching ribbing for the cuffs and collar but this is just in the same fabric.

Of course, with a little extra left over I got carried away and, before I knew it, the dog had one, too.

Hers features another song lyric, this time from Jay-Z: "99 problems."

I have been very interested in fabric design and printing lately. I just designed my own Oakland-themed pattern and had it printed on sports lycra from Spoonflower. It is AMAZING. I am fascinated by being able to design something all my own, from fabric through sewing. In fact, I have an extra special fabric print coming up next week to show you!

My Comfy Clothes

I used to think that the goal of sewing my own clothes was to be glamorous all the time. Make the prettiest dress for the party! The most interest top for work! The best fitting slacks. And there are still plenty of occasions for glamour (I am designing a really fun wedding guest dress right now). But in my current job, where I work out of an office with some friends who aren't my professional coworkers, I mostly just want to be comfortable on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it's those casual days that make dressing up, whether for a client meeting or a party, all the more fun. And not having to care all the time about what I'm wearing can make way for getting other shit done.

Does comfort always have to be at odds with glamour? No, probably not. But I don't think I'm ever going to be as comfy in my dressy clothes as in my stretchy pants and loose fitting shirt. And that is what I'm sharing with you today: my comfy clothes. Hopefully, I have made them somewhat interesting, but deep down these are the functional fabrics of my wardrobe.

Pattern: Victoria Jones's Waimea Ranch Shirt and my trusty Mambo No. 5 pants block
Fabric:  2 yds windowpane plaid flannel and 1.5 yds stretch bottom-weight fabric
Cost: $22 for the shirt, and free fabric from our fabric swap for the pants

Both of these patterns I've made up before. The top is the Waimea Ranch Shirt, designed by Hawaiian patternmaker Victoria Jones to include lots of hidden shaping in a comfortable performance shirt. The pattern is a joy to sew up and has lots of great techniques, like how to cleanly attach the collar and stand. The only difference I made from last time, other than not sewing it in a horribly off-grain fabric, was to shorten the sleeves by 2 inches and sew a straight size small rather than grading out to the waist. I love the shaping in this shirt and how it is still curvy without being fitted. It can be sewn in sizes small (31-inch bust) to 2X (48-inch bust).

I am especially proud of my pattern-matching across the front and the fact that I finally bought a snap setter, which made this whole process a lot easier. The cuffs, collar, and pocket are all cut on the bias, too.

The pants are the same old pants block I have been playing around with for a few years: my Mambo No. 5. I picked up this rather thick corded stretch mystery fabric at the Bay Area Sewists fabric swap meetup and decided they would make the perfect pair of pull-on pants. To keep them looking more like pants than leggings, I was careful not to overfit them, using my pants pattern rather than a leggings pattern. The waistband has elastic encased inside to keep everything secure. These are by far my comfiest pants right now, and I have to try to not wear them every single day of the week.

So, this is my comfy, cozy, share-an-office-with-dudes, wear-every-day outfit. Do you have any favorite comfy patterns I should be trying? 

Sleeveless Elwynn Top in Silk and Velvet

Today I'm here testing the first pattern from Fig and Needle, a new company by sewing bloggers Ping and Sandra. Having followed Ping's blog for quite some time, this Elwynn Top is definitely a reflection of her girly style with its collar and gathered sleeves. As you can see, mine is a bit different, but more on that in a minute.

If you've been following along with the recent conversation on size-inclusivity in sewing patterns, one way you can support this movement at any size is by sewing size-inclusive patterns like this one. The Elwyn Top ranges from size 0-12 in a D cup and 14-26 in a DD/E cup. How fun!

Pattern: Fig and Needle Elwynn Top
Fabric: 1 yd velvet applique on sheer netting and 1/2 yard silk lining from Stonemountain 
Cost: $35

I've often heard people wonder why anyone would bother testing patterns. While you get the test pattern for free, the fabric and time are your own, and there's often quite a bit of work involved sewing it up and providing feedback. Personally, I volunteered to test this pattern because I've been curious about this company and wanted to check them out as well as have the chance to work a bit with the founders. Every once in a while it's interesting to see people's pattern development process, check out their instructions and drafting, and hear from them throughout. Plus, as I mentioned above, I love their commitment to offering their patterns in a wide range of sizes.

As you may have seen, Fig and Needle are actually releasing two patterns - the Elwynn Top and the Faron Dress. I couldn't make up my mind about which I wanted to try, so I volunteered to test them both. However, gone are the days when I jump right into a new pattern brand with my expensive fashion fabric. I sewed each up in one of the old bedsheets I've been hoarding for making muslins, following the directions exactly and cutting the pieces without making any modifications. This allowed me to test the pattern as written, and pinpoint any fit issues before I decide if I will make it up for real.

Here's how the Elwynn Top fit straight out of the envelope, with the one modification being that I graded to 4-6-8 at the bust-waist-hips.

Not bad, right? The bust darts were a little low on me, and there was some slight puckering where the yoke met the front bodice piece. It also looks like I didn't need to grade out at the hips, where it really flares out. The tester version of the top was also very long, almost a tunic length. Bedsheets are very unforgiving fabrics in terms of draglines, so this helped me see all the little things that weren't working for me in the testing stage.

I sent my feedback to Ping and Sandra, and they ended up shortening the top by two inches and removing some of the flare below the waist. I then set about making plans for my final version.
I tweaked my muslin by bringing the waist and hips back in, shortening it by 2 inches, raising the dart by half an inch, and shaving a quarter inch off the top of the front.

While I sewed up my test version exactly as drafted, I also had a few modifications in mind. The peter pan collar isn't really my style, and I wasn't in the mood for sleeves, either. I also had visions of making the top yoke in a sheer fabric, taking advantage of those seamlines to play with the fabric a bit. Here's what I did:

Tips for sewing a collarless, sleeveless version of the Elwynn Top with a sheer yoke and binding: 

Cutting:  Cut the yokes and main body from your sheer overlay fabric, and the main body pieces again from your lining fabric. Optionally, you could just cut the yokes from sheer fabric and use a contrasting opaque fabric for the body.

For cut-in shoulders, I modified my pattern using the cut-in shoulders of another pattern.

Skip the sleeves and collar.

For the yoke opening, neckline, and sleeves, trim the entire 5/8" seam allowance off to prepare for the bias binding.


Binding: Finish the yoke opening, neckline, and sleeves by binding with bias tape - when working with embellished fabrics, it can be very difficult to turn the raw edges under, so binding offers a much easier finish.

For a softer look, use a home-made bias tape from your lining fabric. Another option is to use a quality foldover elastic like I did in this project.


Construction: If using a sheer overlay for the body, baste the two front pieces together, laying one on top of each other. Repeat for back. Then assemble the pattern as instructed. I finished all raw edges with my serger.

When attaching the front yoke to the body, I also inserted a piece of decorative trim.


Seam finishing: 

Remove the basting stitches from the hem at front and back. Open up the layers, and understitch the side seams and yoke seams to the lining fabric so everything lies nice and flat. Re-baste the hems, noting that things may have shifted as you sewed and they may need to be basted at a different place than before.

Finish the raw hem, turn under with a narrow hem, and hand sew to the lining.


I think it turned out rather lovely! Ping and Sandra had asked in the feedback survey where I would wear my top. This is definitely a nice top for a night out - paired with jeans it's casual, but it could also be dressed up to make it fancier. I've paired it here with my faux leather skinny jeans.

The silk and velvet feel really divine against the skin. I'm happy with my modifications and feel that the top is quite wearable for me now.

As for the rest of the testing process? During the testing phase, the directions were pretty sparse. It looks like they have been fleshed out considerably since then with illustrations, tips, and other information. They also provide a lot of detailed measurements, like the torso length that the pattern is drafted for, along with the cup size.

As you'll notice, I didn't end up sewing the Faron Dress. Originally the pattern was described as being drafted for a C/D bust, but the final version is labeled as a D bust. That's just a bit too big for me without a small bust adjustment, so I let others do the testing on that one. Very convenient though if you normally have to make full bust adjustments!

I wore this top for the first time at Thanksgiving and most recently out with friends. It even survived a trip through the washing machine (!). Congrats to Sandra and Ping on their new patterns!

Experiments in Twists

Last week, I posted a trio of basic tees. But I've also been experimenting with how to make my favorites a bit more interesting. This top started out as the Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee, but with a twist.

Pattern: Named Inari Tee, with twist borrowed from the Style Arc Dee Knit Top
Fabric: remnant cotton eyelet
Cost: free from Bay Area Sewists fabric swap

I first started experimenting with twists when I made this cozy sweater for the Britex blog last winter. I took the twist from the Style Arc Dee Knit Top and grafted it on to the hem of my favorite Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee pattern. It's not terribly difficult to do (you can read the step-by-step on the Britex blog) and was a fun little transformation.

In fact, I liked it so much that I thought I might give it a try again, but this time on the sleeves. I used the same method to graft the twist onto the bottoms of the sleeves of the Mandy Boat Tee. However, this time around things were a bit more tricky. First off, I didn't cut the sleeves nearly wide enough to accommodate the twists. As you can see below, it is quite a full sleeve and all that volume gets eaten up in the twist.

Once I added another piece to the sleeve (I didn't have enough fabric to re-cut), I didn't like the proportions at all. The dropped shoulder of the Mandy Boat Tee made everything look frumpy. So I recut the body using the Named Inari Tee, which is slightly narrower and has cute little set-in sleeves. I also shortened my sleeves so they hit right below the elbow. Still not quite happy, I also scooped out the neckline so things didn't look quite so Victorian.

Honestly, I'm still not so sure about the proportions on this one. I know the big sleeve trend is/was in, but it is something very new one me. The Mr. was not a fan at all, but I got some compliments and encouragement at a recent Bay Area Sewists meetup (love those folks!) so I'm going to hold on to it for now. Plus with some new photos taken in the crisp winter sun, it is growing on me.

Of course, after I finished all this experimenting I spotted the Sadie Tunic on the Style Arc website, which is basically this pattern all drafted out for you. But what's the fun in that, right? I noticed that Meg of Cookin' and Craftin' is also experimenting in twists, so I hope this at least inspires you to get out and try your own.

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