Sewing Projects



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.

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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

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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. 

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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.


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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




Rachel from House of Pinhero hosted a nametag swap recently, and I decided to join. I was paired with Marilla, an amazing seamstress from the UK. The idea for the swap came from a fat quarter retreat she (Rachel) attended, where everyone had beautiful handmade name tags. There is a sewist meetup going on soon in the UK, but I will not be able to make it 😦 Fortunately, I did get to make and receive an awesome name tag!

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First off, the nametag I made for Marilla: All this geography and travel stuff got me thinking about maps! So that is the theme I went with for her nametag. I used felt, fabric, printable cotton, an embroidery hoop, and thread (and needle). I also printed out a map of the UK from Google Maps.

I cut a square from the fabric and the UK shape from the felt. I carefully aligned England/Scotland and Ireland up and pinned them to the fabric square.

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Then I sewed the UK shapes on to the nametag with a blanket stitch using regular thread (the kind you use on a sewing machine). It looks so cute in the embroidery hoop! Makes me want to just leave it framed like that… mayhaps an idea for another project?

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After that, I embroidered her name and a couple of stars over the felt map of the UK.

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I also printed out some “Hoopes Park Studios” labels on the printable cotton and sewed one on the back of her nametag. The printable cotton I bought from Dharma trading. I think the price was really reasonable, and the product was easy to use. The instructions for printing on the fabric were clear and the labels turned out well. I have about 5 more sheets left over and I’m excited to see how color printing turns out.

I used some white and black animal print velvet for the back. I made sure to sandwich a loop of ribbon between the front and back pieces of the nametag so I could hang it.

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Next, the “nametag” from Marilla (which is the best part of this post).  It is actually a handkerchief.



A bit non traditional but still wonderful! It is super detailed and carefully stitched. She even sent it with this adorable card she made. With a robot!



Here’s a little detail of the spool and scissors:


I love it! For more of Marilla and the stuff she sews, check her out here.


I did a little summer clothing swap with one of my friends. I gave her some sweat pants and she gave me this black wrap dress- win! Only problem was that there was barely any overlap in the skirt when I wrapped it around my waist… the downfall of cheap wrap dresses. It was a windy day disaster just waiting to happen.

Before (BTW I’m wearing capris under the dress so I can demonstrate its lack of coverage without flashing you all):


To add more fabric to the skirt, I cut out a panel and sewed it to the part of the skirt that wraps “under”. I basically just laid the dress out flat over some black fabric, and used chalk to draft the shape of the panel. Then I added seam allowances and cut it out.


Here is the panel sewn into the dress:


Mmm. Comfy.


jewelry // handmade :: dress // clothing swap :: shirt // thrifted

shoes // Shoemint :: sunglasses // street vendor in France



There is this gorgeous nature reserve outside of the city. Paths meander through fields, forests, and farms. Each time you reach the top of a steep hill there is another breathtaking view to see. It is one of my favorite hiking spots. I always feel accomplished and recharged after a couple hours there. Our hike there was almost too warm for layers, but it got windy once we hiked up high and I was glad to have this cardigan with me.

I found this soft, deep blue sweater that used to be my dad’s (read: too big, but nice and long!). It was perfect to make into a long cardigan.



I cut the sweater open straight down the front and around the neck.


I used some leftover flannel from making pajama pants to make bias tape to cover the raw edges of the sweater. E-74_collage

Then I slimmed the sweater down. I turned it inside out and used chalk to draw a new seam line before I pinned, sewed, and trimmed the seam.


inside out view

Here it is all done and keeping me warm.

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Also, that tank top is a dress that I cut off at the waistline. The dress was way too short but still fit up top.

Here’s to a successful hike!


tank top / cardigan // DIY :: shorts / northface :: shoes / socks // old :: earrings // art fair




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I found a collared shirt at the thrift store, made of this lovely, silky, pink seersucker. Unfortunately it didn’t fit well, so I decided to make it into a peasant blouse. I’ve found it’s a good type of shirt for spring and fall. I actually made this shirt last spring. Since then it has been one of my favorite things to wear- the fit is airy but not matronly. Last fall, I wore it with this denim shirt I altered.

It was a pretty easy modification. I cut off the sleeves of the shirt and around the neck. I also shortened the bottom of the shirt.

peasant shirt tutorial


I serged the raw edges of the shirt sleeves and hem. Then I turned them under 1/2 inch and sewed a hem.

peasant shirt tutorial 2


Next I made a gathered collar. I serged the raw edge of the neck and turned it under 1 inch. I sewed around the edge, leaving room to insert elastic. I made a gathered collar by pulling the elastic until I liked the shape of the shirt. Then I sewed the ends of the elastic in place at the front of the shirt.


We were taking pictures under the tree and Em said, “hang from one of the branches!” So of course I did. I think this shot also shows the bottom of the shirt well. I left the hem longer in the back than in the front.


The cat came over to take part in the photoshoot, so of course I had to include him. He is the friendliest cat I have ever met. Also, my sister is studying abroad in Spain and will be happy to see him! Hi Ro!

You can see the gathers around the neck and the texture of the fabric in this shot.


That’s it!

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 jewelry / pants / belt // thrifted :: shoes // Shoemint :: shirt // DIY