Friday, March 24, 2017

One Pattern Three Ways : Girl's T-shirt

This is a project I did for Petit a Petit and Family last year, but it's an idea I'd like to revisit here. I love the versatility of a good basic kid's t-shirt sewing pattern, like the Oliver + S School Bus Tee. Any basic pattern can be so much more than what you see on the front of the envelope. Modifying a trusted design is a very satisfying way to flex your design muscles without the risk of total disaster. I'm looking forward to doing another capsule set for L this spring, and I'm a little depressed none of this one fits any more (oh, how they grow!). She still wears it all, skin tight, and scandalously short (with leggings of course) though it may be!
I've used the Oliver + S School Bus Tee to make a 3/4 sleeve gathered skirt dress, an A-line dress with front pocket, and a basic cardigan. The School Bus Tee is my go-to kid's t-shirt pattern, but there are plenty of others to choose from. I like this one because the sizing is always spot on, for my kids.
Construction Notes:
1. For the cardigan I cut a few inches off of the length of the front, back, and sleeves, then added knit ribbed cuffs to the waist and wrists. I cut the front piece in half along the fold line, and added a button band to each cut edge.

2. For the gathered skirt dress I shortened the body of the t-shirt to just under the arm opening. I shortened the sleeve by a few inches to make them ¾ length. The skirt is two rectangles joined at the side seams, gathered at the top, and sewn to the bottom of the t-shirt bodice. 

3. The a-line dress is the short sleeve t-shirt made longer, and wider at the bottom hem. The kangaroo pocket is drafted based on the size of my daughter’s hands.
I used the same 3 fabrics on all three garments so the finished pieces could be mixed and matched together. For this little collection I used the Doodles fabrics from Joann:  Navy Flock Dot Ponte KnitPink Butterfly Cotton JerseyGray Ribbed Knit.



Friday, February 24, 2017

Sew It Yourself : Oversized Sweater Sewing Patterns

I suppose that by this point in the season I should have moved on to spring wardrobe planning. But it takes a while to work out your ideas in fabric, and there is one more winter garment I've gotta get out of my head. I'm in hot pursuit of the perfect oversized funnel neck sweater. I've done a lot of sketching and a little tinkering, and way too much fabric shopping online. Here is my analysis:

Ready To Wear Inspiration.
image credit Hackwith / Everlane / Need Supply / Hackwith

My basic sweater criteria includes funnel neck, boxy body, falls at mid hip. The roomy fit makes it a great top layer over just about anything. (You can even wear it instead of a jacket when it's 68 degrees in February.) I'm most smitten with the Hackwith Design House sweater at the bottom right, the unstructured fit works with so many silhouettes. It's the perfect color, and exactly the drape and waistline I have in mind. I'm thinking longer sleeves would make it more of a wardrobe staple.

Sewing Pattern Possibilities.

There are quite a few sweater patterns on the market at the moment that would be a a good starting point for a sweater. The Makers Atelier Big Easy Top is a beautiful specimen. So cozy, but still sophisticated. (Anyone have experience with Maker's Atelier patterns?) I'm really taken with this version by Beyond Measure UK. The Karl Dress by Schneidernmeistern could be sized up and cropped into a great sweater. It is a quick sew, and I love the way Monika has styled her's as a top.  The crisp shaped neckline of the Named Clothing Talvikki Sweater is a more dressed up version of the oversized sweater. It's more structured than my vision, but Heather's sweatshirt version makes a strong argument for it's casual wearability. The neckline and arms of the Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater 1 make it an easy candidate for sweater of the year. It would be great made up in a wool knit, to add a little luxe to your loungewear. The Hey June Talinn Sweater (not shown) is another attractive possibility with its chunky neck, and wrapped front.

When it comes right down to it, none of these patterns have all the little details I'm looking for in a an oversized sweater, so some modification will be necessary. The beauty of a simple design is how easily it can be altered to suit your personal style. A basic top can be tweaked into a garment with a totally different look. You could add some swing to the Toaster Sweater, or graft the pleated neck of the MIY Collection Parkwood Cowl onto the top of a cropped Karl Dress.

I began this little exercise looking for the perfect sweater pattern, but what fun would that be? I think I've got enough tracing paper, tape, and fabric to figure it out for myself.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Plaid Flannel Shoreline Boatneck

A few months ago I started sewing and blogging as a Blank Slate Patterns affiliate. When Melissa asked for volunteers, my hand shot up. Her simple designs have a ton of versatility and if you've been hanging around here for very long, you know that's right up my alley. This Shoreline Boatneck (affiliate links ahead) is my most recent Blank Slate project, and though the decor in these photos is dated, I want to share it here because it's been one of my most worn winter tops.
In our house Christmas is a pretty physical holiday. You've got about 47 family members to greet with hugs, elderly relatives to help out of the car, 22 pound turkeys to heave in and out of the oven, and Santa-crazed, sugared-up kids to pull off of each other. Clearly, this is not an occasion for fussy attire.  With a no holds barred holiday ahead of me, I decided to make a simple top to wear to the family celebrations on Christmas day.
The Shoreline Boatneck is written for woven or knit fabrics, comes with 3 sleeve options, and can be a shirt or a dress (ahem, versatility). Fabric choice was key in making this a post holiday winter favorite. The flannel makes this top warm enough to wear alone, and my first choice on chilly mornings. The neckline is faced with a black and white scrap from another project. My only alteration was to extend the sleeves a skosh so I could make a sleeve hem deep enough to cuff.

For the Holidays I chintzed it up with some bright red beads, and skinny black pants. But it's just as great in February with jeans and a cardigan, as long as I steer clear of wayward christmas trees.

Coincidently Blank Slate Patterns has just updated the Shoreline Boatneck pattern to include more sizes, and a ton of great modifications. I love the button back version!

Project Notes:
Pattern: Shoreline Boatneck by Blank Slate Patterns
Fabric: Plaid Flannel (similar) from Joann Fabrics

Monday, February 13, 2017

Banff Hats

I'm pretty sweet on the Banff Hat by Tin Can Knits. The simple repeat of the tree pattern is more interesting than knitting a plain hat, but doesn't require so much concentration that you can't knit it while doing something else, like listening to a piano lesson, or watching a peewee basketball game. It's got everything you could want in a pattern, colorwork, a simple chart, and speed.

The Banff is also written for worsted weight yearn. I have a ton of worsted weight yarn. My stash is heavy with single skein colors I bought 100 years ago when I was first experimenting with improvising my own kids' clothes. My goal is to get most of that yarn out of the box and onto the body in the next few months. The Banff Hat is a great way to use smaller quantities of colorful yarn. When I cast on the first one I didn't intend to make three. I've been struggling to commit to a longer term knitting project, and like to keep my hands busy, and my mind focused, so I just kept going. 
Details: This is a simple knit, and with simple projects it's nice to focus on the details. I used a tubular cast-on. It's my very favorite cast-on, and creates a nicely polished edge in 1x1 rib. The pink and green pompoms are made with a 2" pompom tool. They looked a little puny so I used a 4" piece of cardboard for the black hat's pom. 

Size: All 3 hats are the Adult S/M (sized to fit a 21" head). Both kids have 21" heads, mine is 22". The circumference is fine on all of us, the height is just a bit slouchier on the kids. 

Needles: I cast on with 7US straight needles, switching to 7US dpns to knit the brim in the round. The body is knit with 9US 16" circular needles, and when the crown decrease got too small for those I switched to 8US dpns, not in the pattern, but no dire consequences for such a short stretch. This sort of detail bores even me, but if I don't write it down I'll have to re-swatch when I make this again. Nobody wants that.

Yarn: The tree pattern on all 3 hats is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes. The green is Forrest Heather, not sure what the pink is, and Black. The main color might be Mink Heather, but it's from a frogged toddler sweater so I can't be sure.

We've already got more hats than heads, more than we can even loose in the bustle of the school commute. These three are off to warm the heads of dear ones, and I'm looking for something new to put on the needles. Cables perhaps...

Cast On and Brim Needle: 7 US
Body Needle: 9 US 16" circular (link to my favorite)
Crown DPN:  8 US (because I didn't have size 9)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Black Vogue V1460

If Audrey Hepburn came back from the dead for a little black dress contest,  Vogue 1460 would kick her butt all over town! That's big talk for an article of clothing, but it's just the sort of outsized confidence imparted by a garment that fits like a glove. I wanna have breakfast at Tiffany's, get something cheap engraved, and belt out a few verses of Moon River from the roof deck (Philly's not really a fire escape kind of town). Vogue 1460 is not to be trifled with, it is a simple dress with an outsized influence on the one who wears it.

The lovely people at Michael Levin Fabrics sent me a copy of V1460  along with some fluid rayon jersey to try out. This is a Badgley Mischka design for Vogue that has a fitted skirt, and blouson bodice with 3/4 sleeves and a draped neckline. The front sleeve is dolman, the back is partially set in. There is a draped neck constructed from a pleat at each shoulder, and all kinds of origami in between. The front bodice pattern piece is one of the most unique I've ever cut into, and could possibly be off putting to someone looking for a simple project. Trust me, the hardest part is figuring out which lines to trace for your size, the actual sewing is pretty simple. Mette (@sewbluedresses) advised that I be careful when transferring the marks for the bodice. So glad she gave me a head's up, as this is normally a step that I gloss over at my peril. There is a square corner at the back shoulder, creating a very simple clean finish, assuming you get the dots and triangles all lined up (ahem, I didn't the first time).
My sewing time is short lately and likely to get shorter in the future. I would like to stay home until my kids get accepted to the right old folks home, but given the price tag for a decent urban education that may prove impractical. Even with self imposed pressure, I've been trying to give myself the time, and head space (so hard to find the head space) to tackle more complicated projects, and enjoy the muslining process rather than disdaining it as an obstacle to a new outfit. I'm a shameless process person, and I'd like to learn something through basted stitches, rather than churn out basic woven tops (not giving up my beloved basics, just taking time for more complicated garments!).
So, I dug deep to find my inner perfectionist and made a muslin to test fit the bodice lining and the skirt. I measured a 12 at the bust and 14 at the hip, but ended up sewing a straight 12. I shortened the bodice by about 5/8". These are just my notes, your tweaks will be completely different. The fitted bodice lining keeps the blouson waist at a consistent drape, and is the structural support for the skirt. Therefore, the bodice lining fit is important. 

The pattern calls for an invisible back zip. My goal from the beginning was to engineer the zipper out of the design. If I had to zip up the back,  I'd be much less likely to wear the dress.  If I had to install a zipper at the back, I'd be much less likely to make the dress. The muslin was key in verifying that I could get the waist over my shoulders without a back opening. I serged the waist seam, and added some clear elastic to reinforce it, so it  could withstand the stress of dressing. Eliminating the zipper also took a big chunk out of the construction time. 

I used a black rayon knit from Michael Levin Fabrics for the dress, chosen for it's fluid drape. I also used it for the lining. The pattern calls for tricot lining, but I forgot to order it, and couldn't find any locally. This fabric is relatively thin, and slippery so it worked just fine. If you're using a thicker knit like a wool jersey, or a ponte knit you'll want to remember the tricot. 

The pattern is written for knits, but could easily be made with a woven fabric. The zip back, 5/8" seam allowance, and seam finishes would translate easily to a delicate wool suiting. The skirt could easily be lined. Next time I would line the skirt anyway. I'm wearing a slip and panty hose to keep the fabric from highlighting every nook and cranny. 
If you're looking for more inspiration check out Rebecca's Dior Gray version, it's so soft and sophisticated. Erica's blue velvet version makes my heart skip a beat. And of course, Mette's double knit version is the perfect workwear. Different fabric choices really dress this design up or down, and add to its versatility. 

It was 23 degrees in the shade in Philadelphia on the day we took these photos (probably why I keep suggesting wool for this design!). Cape-scarf to the rescue. The lightning fast wrap has been the sleeper star of my winter wardrobe. You can get the free tutorial on Petit a Petit + Family

Outfit Notes:
Pattern: Vogue 1460 from Michael Levin
Fabric: Black Rayon Knit from Michael Levin
Cape-Scarf: Tutorial by SweetKM (me) for Petit a Petit Blog
Earrings: Brass Bar Earrings by Laura Lombardi Jewelry
Shoes: Billie Boots from Madewell




Monday, January 30, 2017

Blizzard Bonnet : Free Hat Sewing Pattern in 5 Sizes

Last winter I shared the Blizzard Bonnet sewing pattern with the Petit a Petit + Family blog readers. I love the classic look of a knit pixie bonnet, and a sewn version seems like the logical next step. My daughter still loves the hat, so I decided to bring that free pattern and tutorial back home to SweetKM with expanded sizing from newborn through child's large.

This design is a very simple, beginner friendly sewing pattern. The woven exterior is lined with warm sherpa fleece, and has a bias bound edge that extends to make strings. It can hang open, or tie at the chin for extra warmth. It's a great way to showcase a favorite print, or use flannel for the lining and create a quilted layer for the exterior. The possibilities are endless.
For my version I used (affiliate links ahead) the delightfully warm and soft RK Mammoth Flannel in Red Buffalo Check . The fabric is very thick and is perfect for outerwear, hats, and mittens. I love the classic buffalo check, but there are plenty of other great prints to choose from (beware they sell out quickly). I've tried a few different brands of sherpa fleece as I was testing out this pattern. My favorite is the dependably sturdy Michael Miller Organic Sherpa.
I've got a few new knitting and sewing patterns in the works for Spring. If you'd like to be the first to hear about them (and possible testing) sign up for my new newsletter. You'll only get it if something is happening like a sale or new pattern. No spam here!

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Belted Karl Dress

This is the Karl Dress from Schneidernmeistern, the latest addition to my growing custom turtleneck collection. I love the cool urban styling, and easy wearing fabrics of Schneidernmimeistern designs. It's not the first of Monika's designs I've made, but it is the first I've blogged about. I have a couple of Just Another Tees that are in heavy rotation under (also unblogged) Driftless Cardigans.

The Karl Dress is a relaxed fit, funnel neck dress with long sleeves and a midi hemline. It's designed to be worn loose, but I think it's great belted, and more true to my personal style. There are tons of really great unbelted versions out there (Ute's, and Sabra'sNicoletta's, and of course Monika's), so I'll spare myself a second round of beltless selfies.
The Karl Dress is as easy to sew as a t-shirt, and easy to tweak the fit. The slightly dropped shoulder, and roomy cut is a simple design, but creates an overall look very different from other knit dress patterns. The dropped shoulder seam works well to balance out my pear shape.

I ordered my English language version of the Karl Dress on Kollabora, you can also get it on Nah-Connection. I cut a 40 at the bust and waist, graded to 42 at the hips, then I shaved some off each side of the hips, so I guess this is a straight 40. I'm a little shy of the 5'7" the dress was designed for, but I kept all of the length. If I were going to make another version to be worn without the belt, I'd hem it a bit shorter. I was a little worried the tapered skirt would be difficult to walk in, but the stretch easily accommodates my full stride.

The fabric is Telio Stretch Rayon Bamboo from This french terry is the ideal weight, and drape for this design, it has 100% stretch (it says 25% in the listing, but mine is much stretchier across the grain), and comes in a few other colors. This espresso/taupe hue isn't exactly the color I hoped for. I wanted something a bit lighter gray to go better with the rich tone of the boots and belt. Considering how well the fabric satisfies the other requirements, and how lovely it is to wear, I can hardly complain.
Husband asked if this is my Princess Leia tribute dress, and he is having a hard time keeping a straight face when I'm wearing it. Vogue tells me the covered-up-and-belted-Princess-Leia look is on trend, so I'm just gonna ignore him.  My muse was someone more along the lines of a late 80's christian rocker, or Jean Smart in the first season of Designing Women, anyway. Where are my shoulder pads... 


Pattern: Karl Dress by Scheidernmeistern from Kollabora
Fabric Telio Stretch Rayon Bamboo from (affiliate links)