My friend Emily is so fun to sew for. She is tall and leggy and gorgeous; everything looks great on her. She brings all her sewing projects to me, and despite several last minute Halloween costumes she has needed in the past (like the Hershey Kiss dress of 2012 ), I can’t complain. This winter she asked me to make her this dress from the blog a Pair and a Spare. We spent an afternoon making the dress, but she hadn’t had a chance to wear it until it got hot out recently. This is the dress we modeled it after:


The tutorial was simple to follow- we made a maxi skirt and attached a long, wide strip of fabric (the bodice using) to the waistband using a zig zag stitch.

Directions and a video can be found here.


The main modifications we made to this tutorial were 1) to use a thicker fabric than recommended, and 2) to use a longer piece of fabric for the bodice so we could wrap it around her more. Using stretchy fabric also extended the wrapping potential.


I used my serger to make a simple rolled hem.

E-em3 E-em5

I love seeing how much she enjoys wearing the clothes I make for her, and it is always a good excuse to make the trip out of the city to visit her. She is also a very talented painter and decorator, so sometimes there is an EXPLOSION of creativity when we are in the same room.

Thank you to A Pair and A Spare for this great tutorial!


That’s the after picture. Here’s the before:

blue dress before

This is another thrift store dress. It started as sort of a prairie dress with shoulder pads, but I loved the detail on the front and the general structure of the dress. The waist fit, but everything else was too big.  Excuse all the awkward faces in these photos. That is about all I had in me when we were taking these pictures.

First I ripped off the sleeves. Then I used chalk to draw a new neckline. I followed this tutorial from Cotton and Curls to make a facing. You can faintly see a yellow chalk line above the bust in this picture where I drew the new neckline.

in progress

The top of the dress was baggy under the arms without the sleeves, so I took it in at the side seams above the waistline before I sewed the facing on.  Here is the dress post-cutting/pre-taking in side seams and pre-facing.

pre facing

I used twill tape for the straps, both blue and white (the white is under the blue)

The back of the dress originally had 6 buttons holding it together, spaced widely apart. When I lowered the neckline, there were only two buttons left on the dress. I added two more buttonholes and sewed on two of the previously removed buttons. The first and third buttons from the top are the ones I added.


I also lopped off about 4 inches from the hem so the dress hits just above my knees.


That’s it! Now I’ve got a nice airy fit and flare dress to wear this summer.

Thanks to my sis Ro for these pictures. I drove down to visit her and she was kind enough to photograph all my recent sewing projects. She has been away for the past 5 months in Spain, and I am so happy to have her home!

dress // thrifted / altered :: bag // thrift store :: shoes // Shoemint

And I’ll leave you all with a spinning picture:




So this one time I tried my hand at making a bathing suit and it worked out really well.

When one of my sisters (I have two) came to me moaning, “Claire, I just need one of those high-waisted bikini bottoms that are all the rage this spring!” I couldn’t help myself. Visions of this bikini swam (pun intended) through my head.

I found this phenom 4-way stretch fabric remnant at this crazy discount fabric place called Jomar in south Philly. What is it made of? I do not know, but it feels like super thick bathing suit fabric and seems to hold up in the water (I checked it in the sink before beginning bathing suit construction). The fabric has all these gorgeous bands of marbled purple, grey, tan, and black. I used less than a yard to m.ake this bikini

So here is a picture of the front and back of the bikini (also this is what my bod looks like, in case you care).


I started with a  tutorial and pattern from Sew Mama Sew (link here), and made alterations to the pattern. This is a great basic pattern for making a bikini if you have never made one.

I cut out the size 8 and added 3 inches to the top to make it high-waisted. From there, I followed the pattern instructions, except that I added a 1.5 inch waistband rather than sewing elastic around the waist. (I made basically the same bottom for my sister, but in a different size)

bottom diagram



The instructions for drafting the bikini top were what made me choose this pattern. They are straightforward and easy to follow. I drafted the top according to the instructions in about 10 minutes. I made the pattern for the top according to the tutorial instructions, but I changed the construction. The alterations I made from this point on are a little harder to explain. Bear with me while I explain.

Here is the finished top:


inside of top

I made two straps, 22″ long and about 2.5″ wide. Rather than leaving the top  hem rounded, I attached the straps to the outer third of the top hem and then trimmed the inner two thirds straight. I gathered the middle of the top (per the tutorial). I added elastic to the edges of the top and bottom. I lined the back pieces of the top and attached them to the front. I stabilized side seams with double rows of stitching. I cut the back hook closure from an old bra to use as the back closure of the bikini top.


bikini top diagram

And details:


The top feels pretty secure. I wear a 32 DD or DDD bra, and this feels like a light sports bra. I considered adding cups and a wire, but I wanted something more sporty. I think the key with the support here was attaching the halter straps to the top along a wide region rather than only at one point.

Thanks to the same sister (Ro) who inspired this project for taking pictures. She seems very happy with the bikini bottom I made for her, and is going to wear it with a black bikini top she already has. In the end, I made two sets of bottoms and one top. We’re ready to hit the pool!



bikini // self made :: earrings // vintage and Spotted Moth :: sunglasses // street vendor in France

E-DSC_0104 copy

So after last weekend’s miserable fail, I looked through my fabric stash for another Nettie attempt.  I found a green ribbed lycra/cotton blend with well over the 50% stretch recommended. The ponte I used last week barely had 50% stretch, and the green ribbed blend for this dress easily stretches past the 50% mark. Pay attention to fabric stretch if you make a Nettie. As you can see, the green ribbed blend works well!

In addition to the same modifications I made to the last dress, I also added even more room in the shoulders and bust- I added a full two inches to the top of the shoulders and graded the sides of the bust to a size 14. The rest of the dress is a size 12. It is still a little tight under the arms! But it fits.


I also made the sleeves longer than the short sleeves. I cuffed, ironed, and tacked the hem of each sleeve in place (rather than sewing all the way around). I used my serger on all the seams except the hem. For the hem, I sewed a straight stitch while stretching the fabric.


I also went back to my original Nettie to see if I could make it wearable. To do this, I cut off the sleeves and deepened the armholes 2 inches under each arm. I also ripped off the original binding around the neck and then cut out the back of the dress for the medium back option. I’m wearing the dress over a sports bra in these pictures, but the dress completely covers a regular underwire bra.


So now I have two Nettie dresses to wear all summer. The green ribbed dress is pretty clingy and very comfortable, while the grey ponte is smoother and silkier. I’m saving this pattern in my pattern folder, but I think I’m done with it for now. Figuring out the fit was a challenge, and I am proud that I was able to make it work. Makes me want to try another commercial pattern… maybe something with a woven fabric?


Thanks to my sister Ro for taking these photos.




I have a confession to make: I am afraid of commercial patterns. Until I made the dress pictured above, I had not made a piece of clothing from a pattern (that I did not draft) since some epic tragedies in high school.  A conservative estimate is that I had not made anything except pajama pants from a pre-made pattern in 8 years.

But then Closet Case Files came out with the Nettie pattern, and I thought it might be a good first step back into the commercial pattern world. I am much more comfortable sewing with knits than with woven fabrics, and the pattern is pretty simple. It also fits one of the silhouettes I chose after working through Coletterie’s Wardrobe Architect series. It seemed like a perfect project.

So I made a Nettie this weekend. You may recognize the pattern– it has been all over the sewing blogs lately. I put it together in about an afternoon.

I made a size 12 with some extra space added to the shoulders (1″ on top) and the bust (1/2″ to each side). I also shortened the dress by 2″ at the “shorten/lengthen here” line

But it didn’t fit. Here’s why:

1) shoulders and bust- I had read that the Nettie runs tight in the shoulders. And I’ve got some serious shoulders for a short person (thank you swimming and rock climbing!). Even though I added extra space to the shoulders and bust, when I tried on the finished dress, the arms and bust were still too tight. I might have been able to fudge the fit, except for the next mistake:

2) stretch- I didn’t pick a knit fabric with enough stretch. This grey knit ponte barely had the 50% stretch recommended.

Only slightly daunted from this bump in the road, I resolve that next time I’ll do better.


E-Summer dress 2

Today I have a guest post for you (it’s also the 100th post on my blog)! This dress comes all the way from sunny Nevada, made by the talented Alisa of Go Ask Alisa. I was seriously impressed by her eye for color and fabric, so I reached out to her to inquire about her summer sewing projects. She sent me pictures of this gorgeous strapless mini dress. I’ll let her tell you about it. To read the tutorial on how to make this dress, click here.

“This is more of a party-summer dress. Made out of stretch knit and fine crepe, in real life it is combined from two colors: blush pink and beige cream. I tried to style it two ways, with jacket and without. I believe with jacket it looks a tiny bit more sophisticated. I must say I am not a strapless dress/gown person, neither am I a fan of mini-length. But I decided to try something  – and here we go.

E-Summer dress w jacket 3

The idea originated in a Burda sewing magazine, if I am not mistaken – a couple of years ago. There the dress was done in shades of grey and green.

E-Burda vs Me

The pattern is so incredibly easy, anyone can do this dress – you just need to be careful choosing fabric for it. The top part and middle part should be stretchy to hold the dress itself on the body. As for the fabric: this fabric is brought from United Kingdom and bought at Abakhan (that’s a very well known Russian fabric dealer shop), they have all sorts of fabrics that I have never even seen before!

Note from Claire: the tutorial for the dress can be found here.

E-Summer dress details 10

Clutch, by the way is also handmade by me.” Tutorial for a similar clutch can be found here.

E-Summer dress clutch 9



I’m impressed. Thanks so much for sharing! If you want to see more of Alisa, you can find her at, where she blogs about life, art, writing, and sewing. 

E-Summer dress w jacket 7



Thrift stores seem to have an endless supply of dresses from the 1990’s. Wearing them is not so popular these days. So I assume that everyone who cleans out their closets gets rid of them, and they sit at goodwill… until… I find them. And transform them into something cute and totally wearable. I made this dress last year and it is one of my favorites.  It makes me feel like I could be sitting around sipping espresso in a French cafe.

Alas, no before picture. But here is how I did it.

All you need is one out of date wrap dress that is too long.

wrap dress modification


1. Hem the dress the length you want it.

2. Use the extra length to cut cap sleeves and bands to wind around the front straps. If you cut along the original hem, you won’t need to re-hem the sleeves.

3. Cinch the front straps and stitch them in place. Then sew on the cap sleeves. It is helpful to have a dress form or another pair of hands when pinning the sleeves in place (it is hard to pin behind your shoulder when you are wearing the dress). My savvy grandmother helped me with some of the pinning during a visit last year. You might need to hand sew the sleeves to the cinched part (I didn’t).



4. If the sleeves stick out to the side too much, take out the excess fabric by putting a dart in the sleeve.


Here’s the back of the dress (camera died so this is a low quality phone pic) and the side.


photo 4 E5

I also usually put a pin in the front to hold the wrap together over my boobs to make it a little more modest. Otherwise the wrap front of the dress would be too low. One modification I would make would be to add a button here instead of a pin.

As the French say, “fin.”



dress // thrifted and altered :: moccasins // minnetonnka :: earrings // handmade



summer dress series header

Hey lovely followers!

I know I’ve gotten away from sewing and DIY posts lately, but I am about to remedy that. This spring and summer, I have a new series on my blog: the summer dress series! I’ve lined up some posts on dresses I have made and altered, as well as some guest posts. I just about live in dresses all summer. As soon as spring peeked its head over the horizon I was back to wearing dresses (albeit with leggings underneath). Look forward to a couple posts a month this spring and summer (maybe more, we’ll see how I keep up with it). I’m so excited to share these projects with you!

– Claire

P.S. If you have a dress you’ve made and want to see it featured on Hoopes Park Studios, send me an email with some pictures and a synopsis of how you made it at hoopesparkstudios [at] gmail [dot] com

Image sources (clockwise from top left): 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7




My roommate made this quilt when she was in high school, so it is at least 20 years old. That the quilt is made of solid colors, rather than patterns, makes it one of the most unique quilts I’ve ever seen. She once told me her inspiration for the solid colors came from quilts made by the Amish in Lancaster. It hangs on our living room wall and its vibrancy is a focal point for the whole first floor of the house.



up close and personal

Also, this skirt!  The pattern on the lace is so pretty! It is one of a select few midi skirts that doesn’t make my legs look stubby. Another plus is that it is decently easy to bike in for a body con skirt. It is a couple years old but has held up well.




wearing two sets of dangly earrings, as usual.

I have finally upgraded to a point and shoot from my ipad, but I am itching to get my hands on a DSLR. I borrowed my sister’s tripod, which has drastically expanded my picture taking capabilities. Blogging has really peaked my interest in photography.

I’ll leave you with a detail of this fantastic quilt.


top // thrifted :: skirt // TJMaxx :: earrings // old

 (I’m standing on a bench in front of the quilt in case you thought the floor looked weird).


In my last post I said I couldn’t do as much cool braiding stuff with my hair now that I have an undercut. Then I thought, “Boo. You can still do lots of cool stuff with your hair, Claire.”  I tried this tutorial from Twist Me Pretty (minus the extensions) and it worked out really well.

I wore my hair down almost this entire winter, mainly to keep my next warm. But now it is warming up and I can wear braids again!


So the braid is the only DIY thing in this post. But it is still awesome! Also all the layers (sweatshirt over dress) have done their job keeping me warm but not too warm while the weather is indecisive about temperature. It is SO nice to finally be through this long, harsh winter.



jewelry // handmade :: dress / belt / sweatshirt // thrifted :: shoes // Shoemint

“Springtime is the land awakening.  The March winds are the morning yawn.”  –Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You