Fun with Vintage Piping on New Jammies

I have a couple of TNT sleepwear patterns, but I was hankering for something new for my “easy and cheap” jammies project. I chose McCall’s 7297 because I like the close-fitting top, and I thought the cute neckline detail would give me a chance to use some vintage piping from my grandmother’s stash. Plus, Joann had a $1.99 special on McCall’s patterns – must be thrifty! I had everything else for the project in stash, including four yards of 100% cotton jersey in sky blue.

My grandmother’s favorite color was hot pink. She had hot pink tiles in her kitchen and bathroom and an oriental rug prominently featuring hot pink. I inherited that rug, but I had to get rid of it when I realized the color was the exact shade of Pepto-Bismol.

We found a small stash in her home when she died – a few patterns, some thread and needles, a baby-food jar full of buttons, and a few odd trims, like iron-on hem tape. We also found a couple of packages of piping, including one in hot pink, natch:


Three yards for 19 cents was quite a bargain! I love the offer to send 3 labels and 15 cents to Wright’s in Massachusetts to get a bag of trimmings for doll clothes. I wonder what would happen if I tried that now?

I walked the pattern with a measuring tape, and I thought I had just enough to add piping to the neckline and cuffs (wrists and ankles) of the PJs. I sandwiched it with some fleece binding for extra comfiness. I got the top done and went on to the pants. Oh no!


Six inches too short for the second pants cuff! CRAP!

The vintage piping is color #67, Rose, 100% cotton. Wright’s does not make this color anymore, but it offers something similar, color #1232, Berry Sorbet, a bit more purply than the original. And it’s a cotton-poly blend. Boo.

I toyed with the idea of buying some cording and a fat quarter of quilting fabric in as close a color as I could find, and making my own piping for that second leg. But what a chore for one pant leg!

Then I wondered if a vintage store near me, the English Building Market, would have something similar. I’ve had fun looking through their antique buttons and I’ve bought old zippers and trims there before – could lightning strike twice? Behold!


The original cost 15 cents for 4 yards. The vintage shop sold it to me for $1 (I think a new package of 2.5 yards costs around $2). It’s the right color but uses slightly smaller cording than the original from my grandmother. I don’t think it’s noticeable. Can you tell on the pants which is the larger?

This piping was even older than my grandmother’s, to judge the packaging. You can get a bag of trims for doll’s clothes for 10 cents! They also call the fabric nainsook, which I had never heard of. The dictionary says nainsook is a fine, soft cotton fabric, originally from South Asia. Cool!

And I love how these old-timey packages would have a picture of the moldy founder of the company – like, “If some old white dude’s face is on the label, it’s got to be good!” Later Wright’s put a model “of a certain age” on the label, Notice her blouse uses no trims of any kind that you can see, but she does look like she knows her way around a sewing machine.


And now there’s no model at all. Double boo. Maybe if I send them a picture of me in my new jammies, they’ll make me a cover girl?

IMG_20171128_181210 (2)

I wouldn’t count on it. Nonetheless, here I am in my finished project. Note the geeky owl-face slippers.

Jammies are a great project for beginning sewists because they’re relatively loose-fitting and they require few complex construction techniques. This pattern, for example, has an elastic waist and no buttons. You can use nice soft cotton that’s easy to work with. And if they’re not perfect, you can still wear them. For example, I goofed a bit on the legs and there are a couple of small tucks in the fabric where the cuffs went in. So what? Also, the topstitching at the neckline’s a bit wavy. Who cares?


The Big Winter Coat Project

I am astonished that there are so few winter parka patterns out there! Patterns for dress coats and casual things like zip-up fleeces abound. But a parka that’s water-resitant, insulated and suitable for skiing and cold-weather activities? Hardly anything! Burda had a couple of options, but I don’t love their sizing and directions, and Jalie had nothing I liked.

I settled on Green Pepper Patterns, a sentimental favorite anyway since I made a hiking anorak from Green Pepper back in high school. I ordered online today the Women’s Fairbanks Pullover. I can make View B (no hood) and get something that’s warm and covers my butt.


I think I see why this is not a popular project. I will need probably $100 worth of fabric (almost 7 yards altogether for a water-resistant shell, insulation and lining) not to mention zippers, Velcro, cording, etc.  I found no reviews of this pattern online, so I am flying blind. I will definitely make a muslin to check for makeability and fit – and to be sure I love the thing before I lay out that kind of cash. If it’s a hit, I will probably wear it for 20 years, so there’s a bright spot. I can’t say that about anything else I’ve ever sewn.

While I am awaiting the pattern’s arrival, I chose something easy from the Magic Quadrant for Sewing Projects:

Sewing plan v2

I figured I’d do another “want” (blue dots in the grid) since I’ve had to put my big “want” project on hold. I have everything in stash to make some nice pajamas, and they should be easy, so that’s the next project.

The Penguin Meets the Joker in a Fabulous Shirt

Finished my “Joker” shirt from Oki Style. Behold:

I need to get my husband to get some pictures of me modeling it.

I think it’s not as penguin-like as I had feared, with the addition of the black collar. I think it will be a very sharp look with a pencil skirt or cigarette pants.

The shirt is not really hard to make, it’s just very different from any shirt you ever had. The pleats and darts are symmetrical, but the hemline is not. And the wrap-around yoke-raglan sleeve combo is a strange shape. It all goes together very well though. This is close-fitting, but you can manipulate the darts and pleats to adjust for fit. I took in the massive center-back pleat a bit, so it doesn’t come to  sharp point at the yoke. I can live with that.

As per usual with indie designers, I dislike that the pattern does not include bust point, waistline or center front markings. Also, I kind of wish that the sleeves had a cuff or other detail – the plain fold-and-topstitch treatment is a little “meh” for such a cool shirt. I might add some black cuffs. We’ll see how it wears.

The Penguin Strikes Again?

The Joker shirt from Oki Style has such interesting seams that I thought I’d color-block it a bit to showcase the design. Crisp white shirting with black accents seemed like a great idea, for looks and wearability. But as I sewed up the unusual yoke-sleeve pieces together, I worry that I have gone wrong

Will I look like a penguin?

As you can see, the front is all white, with the black starting at the shoulder. The back has this color-blocked detail in the yoke, training into the sleeves. The final look is not unlike penguin wings.

I haven’t sewn on the collar yet – it’s a standard pointed collar with collar stand. I was thinking I would make it black to draw the color into the front of the shirt and create one line in the back, but maybe now I will make it white. The shirt will end up with a “business in the front, party in the back” look, though.

Also, the sleeves have no cuffs, and I was thinking of making black cuffs just to complete the look. What do you think?

Baby Showers

I spent the afternoon at a baby shower for a friend. Is there any thing more “Distaff Side” than a baby shower?

Cucumber sandwiches? Check.

Mini pastries? Check.

Fancy teas served in real teacups, with saucers? Check.

I spent a lot of time figuring out what to wear. The mother-to-be is about 15 years younger than I am, so I fell into the trap of decisions – do I dress younger, to fit in better with the 30-something friends, or do I dress a bit older, to blend in with the moms and aunts? Also, it’s an artsy crowd, so I needed to avoid anything normcore.

I went for a “High School Art Teacher” look, with a Babette asymmetical white blouse, my wide-leg black jeans from Simplicity 3688 and my red bomber jacket from Simplicity 8174. I wore Cole Haan booties and this big heavy necklace made of some iridescent stones. The necklace was a big hit. You know you hit at least one right note when some Art History Ph.D. asks you where you got your necklace.

If I am close to the mother-to-be, I will sew up a little gift or even a small quilt. I am not that close to this friend, and I wasn’t sure how well “handmade” would go over with her anyway, so I bought something from her registry – this “Boppy” pillow thing. Whatever is it for? I couldn’t say.

It was a nice party. Thankfully, it was not one of those showers were everyone sits around for an hour watching the mom-to-be open presents. Rather, there was a little speech by the grandmothers-to-be, and otherwise we all mingled and snacked. I met a lot of fascinating people. It was fun to be among all women, of different generations, bumping in to one another and finding common ground.

I don’t have kids, so I don’t get the cultural parts of motherhood. One of the grandmothers-to-be speech was about this greeting card that she got back when she was pregnant with the expectant father. The card depicts an illustration from The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Turns out, the other grandmother-to-be got a photo album with the same image when she was pregnant. And two women among the guests got the same album when they were pregnant. Of course, this album was purchased as a gift for the shower. (Image: source)


Everyone held this story up as proof of some cosmic connection we all have. The way I figure it, if you’re an artsy type, you’ll buy your cards and gifts at art museums, and art museums probably have a few staple cards they’ve sold  forever, based on items in their collections. So when you have a bunch of artsy people together, voila! Coincidences!

I bought my card at Walgreen’s, so what does that say about me?

Weirdest Sleeve Ever

I was a guest blogger this week on Sewcialists, blogging about the “generation gap” between younger and older sewists, and their derision or devotion for indie vs. Big 4 patterns. Here’s a link in case you missed it and you want to weigh in. Oddly enough, the WordPress comments mostly were pro-Big 4, while the Instagram comments were mostly pro-indie. And there were plenty of comments from people who like both.

To prove that I am not that old, I do sew indie patterns from time to time. Right now I am working on the weirdest pattern I’ve ever tried, the Joker shirt from Oki Style:

Fascinating, no? I have been obsessed with it since I first saw it while reading up about the designer. Oki is originally from Mongolia and lives in Germany. She says that some of her designs are “experimental,” which is charming and true. But many, including this shirt, also look very wearable.

The Joker shirt accomplishes its asymmetrical shape both from lots of huge darts and pleats, and from asymmetrical pattern pieces. Here’s a picture of the cutting layout so you can see what I mean:

Cutting layout for the “Joker” shirt from Oki Style.

Piece 8 is the heavily darted and pleated asymmetrical back piece – definitely not a “cut on the fold” job! And it takes almost every inch of a 60″ wide shirting fabric.

I spent 7 euros (about $8 US) for the pattern and $4 to have it printed on large-format paper at my local printing shop, because I wanted to tissue-fit this before sewing it up and the thought of taping this crazy thing together made my brain ache. (This is a good example of an indie pattern that is not overpriced, BTW.) I added extra seam allowances too – 1.5 cm to everything but the collar pieces, just to have a bit more wiggle room. If I don’t need the room and if I feel extra insane, I will flat-fell the seams.

I was mostly worried about the sleeves, since I usually need full-bicep adjustments for my dinner lady arms. They’re sort of a raglan sleeve/yoke combo – piece 10 in the layout is a yoke of sorts, cut on the fold, that has a raglan shape at the neck and also wraps partly down the back of the arms. The unnumbered piece in the layout is the rest of the sleeve, cut on the bias. Here’s how they work together.

IMG_20171029_140133 The fit was fine! Good to know, since I have no idea how I could adjust this. Plus, a bias-cut piece will probably help with fit and movement if it’s a bit tight. Also, I am using some stretch shirting for this. It’s plain white fabric, but I can see this looking very interesting color-blocked or with a pinstriped fabric too.  The wrong side shows a bit at the hem, which could also be interesting, with the right fabric.

It seems like a quality pattern for other reasons. There’s a proper collar with a collar stand, and a hidden button placket, which I adore. Wish me luck!

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?