Sewing Indie Month Tutorial over at Paprika Patterns


Wow, Sewing Indie Month is officially over. Yesterday was the last day of blog touring and tutorials but you still have a few more days to enter some of the fun contests and possibly win one of many great prize packs.

My Onyx Shirt Hack Tutorial is up on Paprika Patterns for you to check out. It’s a double layered version of the shirt with a lace ruffle added at the hem.

On that post I mostly talked about the tutorial instructions so I thought I’d do a short post here on the details of the shirt itself.

The Fabric: I was surprised to find this 100% rayon challis print at Joann Fabrics of all places. This was stuck up with the “silky” fabrics which is just a nice way of saying “shiny polyester.” Luckily I checked the bolt end and was pleasantly surprised. Rayon was perfect for this project ’cause it’s so drapey and relaxed.

The lining fabric is a white rayon challis leftover from an old project.

The crochet lace at the lining’s hem also came from Joann. I don’t often include trim in my sewing so I’m glad I found a reason to use it.


The Changes: Besides all the details for the tutorial…

For the hem of the outer layer I did a blind hem by hand. I didn’t want a line of visible stitching distracting from the lace.

The pattern itself includes sleeve cuffs and cute little epaulets but I decided to leave those off to keep the focus on the lace.

I tried something new on the sleeve hems, though – a hand rolled hem. It’s a technique I started using on my historical costumes. It makes a truly tiny hem with the added bonus of having almost no visible stitching. It’s usually reserved for very lightweight fabrics like chiffon. This tutorial is a good example of the method I used.


Since the shirt had a lining I didn’t need to use bias tape on the neckline but I appreciated the series of tips included in the pattern instructions on making nice, flat, bias facings.

I did a couple other changes to the assembly but the instructions were very clear and the illustrations helpful.

The Results: This is a great shirt! It’s already in heavy wardrobe rotation. The only thing I wish I had done differently  would be to center the stripe pattern, something I didn’t notice when cutting out the fabric. I did a good job of matching stripes at the side seams but I wish I would have lined up the triangles and shapes within those stripes evenly. Oh well, I doubt anyone else will notice.

Go read the full tutorial over at!

Mid-Victorian underthings

Early Victorian Undies

Warning: this post is long. I’m sharing six (!!!) pieces I’ve made. All for costumes.

I’m working on several historical costumes right now but this group of garments is for my 1840s costume.

Early Victorian Undies

Some of these items are more 1860s/Civil War era, others much earlier, but they can still be used for the 1840s.

Early Victorian Undies

Let’s start from the innermost layer and work our way out…

Victorian Chemise and Corset

Made of white muslin, the chemise was like a big oversized 18th century t-shirt. It keeps sweat from getting on your corset (which cannot be as easily washed). Women would have had a bunch of these in their wardrobes, way more than dresses themselves.

I used Simplicity 2890. Had to remind myself that Big 4 costume patterns like to double down on the ease factor. Originally it was way too big at the shoulders so I cut a size smaller yoke pieces and re-sewed it.

In this era women would also wear “drawers” which are like big, poofy , open crotched bloomers, however I haven’t made any yet.

Victorian Chemise and Corset

Made with plain white coutil and steel boning. The Silverado version of Laughing Moon Merchantile’s #100 pattern, which is the longer style with the bust gussets. Only, not knowing how to properly pick size, the bust ended up too big and I had to hand sew the gussets smaller. If only I had seen this adjusted size chart earlier.

Victorian Chemise and Corset

It’s not the best, but it’ll do for now. It’s still decorated for my Elizabeth Comstock cosplay.

Bum Roll:

Victorian Roll

I used random cotton stash fabric and 1″ wide cotton twill tape. Originally from Simplicity 3727 but it ended up HUGE. Like, obnoxiously big, so I made it about half the size by cutting out the whole back seam and sewing it up again.

Victorian Roll

Much better. With all the petticoats and the final dress weighing it down it does actually look pretty nice.

Corded petticoat:

Corded Petticoat

White muslin and yards and yards of 1/6″ cotton cording. This was a common item in the days before metal cage hoop skirts. Rows of cording plus lots of starch helped the skirt stand away from the body, accentuating the bell shape that was popular at the time.

I based the petticoat on a bunch of extant examples found online and modern versions made by costumers. Originally I used the width of two lengths of fabric (90″) but that made the skirt so wide that it would fold in on itself. I lopped off about 10″ of width to compensate.

Corded Petticoat

I sewed a total of 40 rows of cording in 5 row groups spaced about 2″ apart. I would have done more but frankly I was sick of it and gave up. I then pleated the fabric into a waistband made of twill tape with a side opening.

Middle Petticoat:

Hand sewn petticoat

White muslin, 1″ wide cotton twill tape, all hand sewn! Yep, that’s right. I sewed this entire petticoat by hand! So accurate! BASK IN MY ACCURACY!!!1!

This is technically an 18th century style petticoat which is fine, because it works well in several eras.

I followed this basic tutorial. It’s 36″ long because I used 36″ wide fabric and put it lengthwise around me.

It’s basically two pieces, seamed partially up the sides, hemmed at the bottom, and pleated to two separate lengths of twill tape ties. The twill tape folds over the raw edge, encasing it like a binding. You end up tying it on kind of like an apron.

Hand sewn petticoat

The box pleat in front keeps it nice and flat at the waist and the knife pleats go all away around to the back.

Outer petticoat:

Early Victorian Undies

And the final petticoat! White muslin, two hooks and eyes. This petticoat is huge! It’s from Butterick 5831 but the original pattern called for an 8″ wide eyelet trim. Ha! Like I could find 8″ wide trim, and even if I did those things are like $20 a yard.

Early Victorian Undies

So instead I went with a long gathered strip of fabric. But I had a hard time getting the gathers spaced evenly on such a long line (this skirt is like, 5 yards wide) that eventually I thought “You know, maybe pleats would be easier?”

They were not. But at that point I was committed. Committed to 15 freaking yards of pleated fabric. Yet it is complete so I am happy now.

Early Victorian Undies

All together it forms the basis of the early Victorian era silhouette – slopes shoulders, nipped in waist, and big wide bell-shaped skirts with some emphasis in the back.

I even tried to do my hair in the standard – middle part, pressed down over the ears style but my hair isn’t long enough to stay in place.

And after all this work to look “accurate” for these pics, I completely forgot about my bright blue toenails. Oh, well, can’t fix it now.

All I need at this point is to finish my bonnet and hem my dress and I’ll be ready to show off my full outfit.

Sewing Indie Month with True Bias: Summer Concert Tank

I have followed and loved Dixie for years now so I was super excited to be paired up with her to create a tutorial for her blog as part of Sewing Indie Month. I already loved the Summer Concert Tee by Dixie. I made it up a couple of years ago in some hand dyed shibori fabric and that top is still in regular rotation in my wardrobe. I’ve always wanted to make a tank top version of this swingy top, so I figured this was the perfect occasion.

To start off you just need to assemble your pattern pieces and cut them out as usual. You will not, however, need the cuff piece.

Starting on the front pattern piece, mark the width that you want for the shoulder of your tank. I decided on 2 inches, knowing that I could make it thinner later on. You will also need to add 1/4″ seam allowance to each side. So I made a mark 2 1/2″ total from the neckline.

Now move down to the underarm and draw a line out from the armpit that is perpindicular to center front for about 5 inches.

Draw another line up from the flat part of the side seam (right before it curves back out for the sleeve) and continue that line up for about 5 inches. The place where the two lines connect will be the new top of your side seam.

Either by freehanding it like I did, or by comparing it to a tank from your wardrobe, curve the underarm point to meet your new shoulder point. Repeat these steps for the back pattern piece.

Here is what your two pattern pieces should look like. Don’t worry too much about it being perfect. Knits are super forgiving.

Sew up your shoulder seams and side seams and try it on. You may choose to thin out the straps or take a bit more out of the side seam at the armpit. Make those changes now.

Finish your neckline and hem according to the instructions.

You are going to finish the armholes in the same manner as the neckline. Measure your front and back armholes and subtract 2-3″ from the length for your binding. Cut out two pieces of binding that are the same width as the neckhole binding but the length that you just calculated. Sew them to your armholes.

That’s it! A fun, swingy tank that is ready for a summer concert or day at the park.

Thanks so much Dixie for having me!


Big thanks to Kelli from True Bias for this tutorial! I love how Kelli seems to be able to take the simplest garment and make it look effortlessly chic. I’m always inspired by her personal style.

Follow along with Sewing Indie Month 2015 and check out more tutorials like this neat button loop hack of the True Bias Southport Dress from Lisa of Paprika Patterns.

Sparkly Box Pleated Skirt

Self Drafted Box Pleat Skirt

Oh, look, it’s my old standard photo background – the moldy green backyard fence! It’s not the prettiest place but its shaded and gets amazing light in the afternoon.

I hadn’t used it much lately because the giant trees surrounding our house make for a thick blanket of leaves over everything each spring. I finally got around to clearing out the leaves this week – I filled thirteen(!!!) of those big kraft paper yard bags!.

The leaves are never ending. Oh, well. In the mean time let’s talk about skirts!

Self Drafted Box Pleat Skirt

This skirt occurred as an experiment. Maybe I was inspired to sew pleats because I had been pleating petticoats lately for my historical costumes and wanted to apply that to modern clothes. Maybe I was sick of this fabric growing lonely in my dresser.

I’d had this nice sparkly black fabric for so long and with no clue what to do with it so I brought it out from the drawer, washed it, and as I was ironing, started playing with pleats.

What you see now is the result – a stitched-down pleated skirt. I think I may have stumbled on a new closet staple.

Let’s get to the details:

Self Drafted Box Pleat Skirt

The Pattern: None! But after fits and starts I realized I had to do some math to get the skirt to fit me.

The skirt is simply a length of 45″ wide fabric split up the middle into two rectangles, pleated and seamed together with part of the pleats stitched down. Each pleat is slightly larger than one 1″ in width, so each pleat takes up probably 3.25″ total.

Self Drafted Box Pleat Skirt

The Fabric: This fabric is, I believe, a cotton (maybe linen blend?) with metallic threads interwoven horizontally. Since I cut the fabric in half, I did the pleats up the selvage side so the stripes run vertical on the skirt. I bought it at least a year ago and I honestly don’t remember where it came from now…

The Changes Construction: Mostly trial and error until I got my math correct.

Originally I wanted to make a facing but decided drafting a facing based on a patternless skirt with a bunch of wonky pleats was too much work. Instead I cut 2.25″ wide bias tape and bound the edge. I think the diagonal angle of the stripes adds contrast and it proved an easy alternative to a facing.

Self Drafted Box Pleat Skirt

At first I planned on simply zig-zagging down where the pleats meet but then I noticed a spool of velvet ribbon and had an idea… I carefully edge stitched the ribbon over each pleat section, folding in the raw edge at the bottom. Luckily, I had exactly enough ribbon left on the spool to fit.

I tried to accommodate the measurement difference from waist to upper hip in my pleats by making the pleats deeper at the top than at the bottom.

Self Drafted Box Pleat Skirt

The skirt closes with a invisible zip that’s hidden behind one of the pleats. I made that pleat slightly wider and extended it over the edge of the zipper teeth (kind of like a mock-lapped zip). Then I stitched the ribbon over that very edge of the pleat so when I wear the skirt it mostly looks seamless.

Finally I added a hook and eye to the waistband but I didn’t do that good of a job ’cause you can see the hook. I should have considered that and possibly sewn it to the inside. Oh well, not going to fix it.

Self Drafted Box Pleat Skirt

The Results: For not knowing how it would turn out, this skirt has made me much happier than I expected. The body of the fabric holds the pleats well and makes the hem poof out nicely. Since it’s mostly black it can go with several tops but the metallic threads add a bit of bling. There’s something inherently feminine about a little box pleated mini. I’d call this make a success!