Getting Started on the Fall Wardrobe Plan

Using my magic quadrant for sewing planning, I came up with some priorities for my fall sewing time, by considering the ease or difficulty of each project and the cost involved, and factored in things I “need” vs. things I “want.”

sewing plan 3

I decided to start with “cheap and easy,” and something I needed, which left me with a cardigan or a sweatshirt. I tossed a coin and got the sweatshirt. I have all the materials and pattern in hand – two yards of bright red 100% cotton sweatshirt fleece, a sport-style nylon zipper and Kwik Sew 3452.


This pattern is copyrighted 2007 and I believe it’s out of print, but you can get it online. A fellow member of sent it to me for free, when I put a request out there for something like it. This pattern calls for a stretch fleece, but I prefer 100% cotton, and the fabric I have stretches enough according to the envelope guide. It’s a bit close-fitting, so I graded out a size in hips, to be safe.

I am copying an old sweatshirt I bought at a cheap tourist shop on Cape Cod years ago. It’s a half-zip pullover style with a kangaroo pouch and a collar, not a hood. There was NO pattern exactly like this anywhere, and this pattern is not exactly right. It doesn’t have a kangaroo pouch, just  fold-over pockets for the full-zip version, view A.


Simplicity 8174 to the rescue! I bought this pattern for the bomber jacket (which is AMAZING, by the way – I made it in cranberry red ultrasuede earlier this year). I couldn’t help but notice that the jersey dress has a kangaroo pocket, and I was happy that it sized up well with the Kwik Sew sweatshirt.

Now I need to decide if I will use my sewing machine or serger for this job. The pattern calls for 1/4 inch seam allowances, since it assumes you’ll either serge it or use an overlock stitch on a sewing machine. I don’t have any red serger thread. Do I spring for it, or do I keep the spirit of “cheap and easy” by using my sewing machine?


And Now for Something Completely Connecticut

I live in Connecticut, USA, where we have to make existential decisions all the time, such as:

  • Pants: Cuffs or no cuffs?
  • Dog breed: Sporting or nonsporting?
  • Carpet: Oriental or Aubusson?

I resisted this for a time. A long time. But as the pull of the Distaff Side grows stronger and my 50s grow closer, I start to think I should stop fighting and just OWN it.


It’s a boucle pencil skirt. Cue the “Ladies Who Lunch” music. (Also: notice I went with “Oriental” for the carpet choice.)

I made this for Round 1 of the Sewing Bee. I don’t know why I participate in these sewing contests. I have no prayer of winning. I just enjoy the camaraderie and looking to see what others made.

I bought the boucle at Banksville Designer Fabric in Norwalk, Conn. Because it’s fragile and frays like my nerves after a day with my mother-in-law, I underlined it with silk organza and used a Hong Kong finish on all the seams.


This really isn’t difficult, just time-consuming. But with a pencil skirt’s close fit, I could imagine it fraying away as I sashayed down the street otherwise.

The pattern is Burda 6895. I hate Burda. There, I said it. The directions make no sense to me and the fit baffles. I only got this because I needed a princess-seamed pencil skirt and this was the only pattern in the store in my size. I would have taken anything else.

As it was, I had to add two fat darts to the back and take a wedge out the zipper area to get it to fit – too big of a job for a little princess seam adjustment. The seams didn’t lie on the heaviest parts of my thighs but rather a bit off center, so they were not as much help as I would have liked.


I added an Art Deco reproduction button with tab to either side of the high hip, to riff off the vibe I was going for. I lined it with Bemberg rayon.

Now I am tempted to make a Chanel style jacket to go with it. I happen to have Simplicity 1202 in the pattern stash (the raglan-sleeve blouse is a TNT pattern).


Dare I? Will it make me look 70?


The 20 items I tried to sell at a consignment shop brought me a whopping $56.18. I could look at this two ways:

  1. That’s pathetic. I could have done better on eBay. I could have gotten more for a tax deduction if I had donated the items to Goodwill.
  2. That’s $56.18 I didn’t have before, so hey, money is money.

I am choosing to think about #2 because #1 is too sad.

IMG_20170602_103746 (2)

Some lessons learned are:

  • Clothes depreciate to almost nothing, overnight. I estimate the 20 items I consigned cost me, retail, about $1,500. (There were several $100+ items in the mix, many items in the $50-70 range and only a few things at $20-$30).
  • To be fair, I got a lot of wear out of some of the higher-quality items. And a few things didn’t fit anymore because I have gained weight. So let’s say that I wasted a third of it – about $500 – on cheap junk or trendy things that didn’t fit with my life.
  • I should buy less – a lot less – and really love the things I buy.

Every time I am tempted to go shopping to ease boredom, enjoy a retail rush, take advantage of a so-called “sale” or just to be polite when I am out window-shopping, I’ll look up this picture again and take a pass.

The Lure of “Free” Patterns

Shortly after I started sewing apparel, I got into a “free pattern” kick. That is, FREE PATTERN! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD!

Some have been great (the Deer & Doe plantain shirt and the Maria Denmark kimono T):

Some have been “good for what they are”, such as the Sew So Easy bolero jacket (embellished heavily), the Halloween Hat Pack from Fleece Fun (made for the Womens’ March on Washington in January) and these three chemo caps I sewed for my mother-in-law’s friend from three different patterns found online):

And then there’s the stuff that just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the pattern. Maybe it was a full moon and Mercury was rising. Whatever. The latest disappointment was the Noelle racerback bralette from Madalynne:



I am reluctant to be too critical of a free pattern – getting what I paid for and whatnot. But this is really off. I made it out of stretch lace with a stretch mesh lining and about 4 yards of picot elastic.

For starters, the instructions stink. They’re written out but there are no drawings or photos to help. I had three major construction problems:

  • The instructions never refer to the lining (when and how you’re supposed to put it in). I just basted it on – basically treated it as an underlining.
  • The instructions for how to install the sliders on the straps made no sense. I just figured it out.
  • You sew picot elastic around the whole thing (the top, armholes, under the bust and at the bottom of the band). The instructions say to sew the elastic flat. So basically the elastic doesn’t do its job at all. I stretched as I sewed and it was not enough.

I wanted a bralette for Pilates – something soft and breatheable for exercising. I had made the Colette Florence bralette last year and loved it, so I wanted to try this style next. Unfortunately, this was a waste of time and money. The fit is very off – even stretching the elastic as I sewed, the bottom band is way too big and the underbust area does not remotely offer enough support and I can’t make the straps any shorter. And I’m a mere B cup. Also, the whole thing just looks sloppy and unfinished.

So, downloader beware? What are your favorite free patterns?


I just finished sewing a classic Breton top in striped cotton jersey.

Not a bad job, if I do say so myself. The pattern is from “Simply Sewing” magazine’s July 2016 issue, #17. The pattern came from the  Great British Sewing Bee book.

The drop shoulders are an essential part of the look, but I needed to re- draft them a tad to keep them from cutting across the thickest part of my dinner-lady arms. I think it came out ok but I might play with it a bit more if I make another.


I finished making a top from Simplicity 8137. I feel so betrayed. It looked like a quality project, just the kind of thing my work wardrobe needs. I need a dressy lined top in my life – the kind of thing that looks like a jacket but isn’t, to look crisp and cool on hot summer days.


The love affair started with the fabric. I picked out some really nice rayon crepe at B&J Fabrics in the Garment District in New York. It had just enough drape, just enough texture. It was a daring and flattering shade of cobalt. I picked out excellent Japanese-made Bemberg rayon from my stash.

The love affair progressed at a torrid pace. The pattern was a bit of work to cut out – 11 pattern pieces – but that was fine because I was after a quality experience.

We had our first fight when I realized that Simplicity 8137 is a lined top but there was no lining for the sleeves. Seemed a bit daft to me. A flaw to be sure. But the rest of the experience seemed good. A nice solid match for me. I continued on.

We got along well together. A few tricky bits around the tie belt went smoothly with a bit of guidance. I fashioned crisp pleats, understitched with precision, and rejoiced when all the notches and seams lined up. I even had a great experience with the humungous narrow hem.

But then…

I tried it on.

And I saw this:

IMG_20170716_180801I could hear my grandmother’s advice – “Stand up straight!” So I stood up straight and took another picture. Same deal.

I was mystified. Why did the back slope down on one side? The front wrap section has a bit of drape to it, but that looks cute and flowy. Why is it all going sideways here? And what’s with the drag lines across my back? It fits fine so where are those coming from? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?

As if often the case with torrid affairs, you blame yourself. Surely, I thought, I made a cutting error or a sewing error to end up with such a sucky back line. Surely, this can be fixed, right?

Ever have a lover’s quarrel where you wish you’d been taping the conversation, so you could play your lover’s nasty comment back? Well, when it doubt with sewing, I go back to the pattern as the ultimate version of the truth.



The pattern piece on top is the left front. Under it you can see the right front. Notice how different they are, how the right front tapers way away from the left, two inches at the end? Why would anyone think this is a great idea? It’s not enough of a taper to look like an intentional asymmetric look. Rather, it just looks like a mistake.

Can this relationship be saved? I am tempted to trim off the taper and make the hem even, but then I worry it will look funny in the front. Here’s the front look:


There are other problems, as you can see. The tie has this pleat to gather a bit, but it just sags and looks sad. So that needs to be fixed too. And those drag lines will still be there in the back.

So, I think we need to break up. Sorry, Simplicity 8137, but it’s not me, it’s you.