5 muslins in 5 days challenge

A couple weeks ago, I had a week off work, so I set myself the challenge of fit-testing five muslins in five days.  I figured if I had some patterns already tested and ready to go, maybe I’d make something other than a T-shirt for a change.  Proper reviews will come when (or if) there are FOs.  For now, just a few comments.

HotPatterns 1217 – Weekender Utility Cargo Pants

First up was this pair of trousers.  It took me two days to get the fit right.  HotPatterns’ crotch curve is fabulous for flatter, lower butts, but that’s the opposite of what I’ve got.  And since I lost weight, my shape has changed, so the custom crotch curve I made for myself this time last year, didn’t really work when I drew it in for these pants.

On the other hand, once I created a crotch curve for my shape as it is now, these pants were quite easy to adjust because of the princess seams.  I think this is going to replace my previous go-to trousers pattern after a tiny bit more tweaking.

HotPatterns 1192: Metropolitan Chimera Cardi/Jacket/Vest

I started on this one when it was released last year, and had a terrible time with it.  Because I couldn’t figure out how to do a FBA on this kind of darted princess seam, I tried to make it work in size 26 (as chosen by my full bust measurement) instead of two sizes smaller plus a 2″FBA, the armholes and shoulders were gigantic and it was just a mess.  Then on top of that, the sleeves were extremely tight.

This year, I started with a size 20, based on my high bust measurement, then did a FBA.  (I’ll post a tutorial on my cheater FBA… sometime – it’s OK the way I did it, but I think I can make it still better).  And I added a seam along the outside of the arm to make room for my arms.  It seems to have worked but I’m going to test it one more time before cutting into my nice, “real” fabric.

 HotPatterns 1121 – Riviera Cote D’Azur Top/Dress

This is a more shapely and fun version of a knit T.  I had trouble with the gathers at the bust – a 3/8″ seam allowance doesn’t really leave room for gathering stitches to hide after the real seam is sewn.  Also, as is often the case, the sleeves were too narrow for my heavy upper arms.  For the next iteration, I plan to add to the seam allowance at the gathers, and drop the sleeve opening (they’re cut-on cap sleeves, with a sewn-on extension to make them 3/4 length) by about 1″.

HotPatterns 1206: Fast & Fabulous Layering Tank

As I’ve learned through experience, I started with a size 20, then added a 2″ FBA.  The fit is mostly good, except, surprise surprise, too tight under the armpit.  For my next iteration, I’m going to redraw the armhole to be a bit deeper and wider, and then also I feel like it’s a bit too A-line to be flattering on me, so I’m going to rotate the darts created by the FBA, to be more like French darts.  And also shorten it six or eight inches.

I really like the shape and depth of the neckline, and the finishing method for the combined neck and armhole facing is slick and polished.  Looking forward to doing one more test, then trying it for real.

HotPatterns 1208: Fast & Fabulous Dressage A-line Skirt

I’ve already completed one of these and worn it in public; I’ve submitted a review to Curvy Sewing Collective that I hope will be published soon.

It was super-easy to get a good fit – I just needed to add about 3″ to the front waist of a starting size 26.  Also super fast and easy to whip up.  I’m having trouble staying on track mentally with my capsule wardrobe plan, because the possibilities of this skirt demand execution in a huge variety of fabrics.

Pattern Review: HotPatterns 1152 Origami Knit Top


The story

A few weeks ago, I was going to sing a number at a cabaret, and I wanted something a bit different to wear.  I decided to go with HotPatterns #1152: Fast and Fabulous Origami Knit Top.  It definitely had to be fast, because it was about noon the day of the cabaret, and the call time was 5PM.

Because of the unusual shape of the main pattern piece, it didn’t look like something easy to do a FBA on, and I didn’t see any point in doing any other adjustments because it has an adjustable tie waist that was big enough to go around me.  It’s not like there was time to mess with it anyway.  So I made a straight size 26; the only adjustment I did was to attach the waist ties higher, because the narrowest part of my torso is just under my boobs.

The instructions were clear and simple , and the construction process should have been super-easy (all you have to do is attach two tubes into two holes for sleeves, attach the back ties, and sew one other seam.)  Even including printing and taping the pdf pattern, I really should have been able to get it done with plenty of time to shower and do fancy makeup.  Unfortunately, I rushed, which resulted in me sewing one sleeve on upside down and inside out.  And then unpicking black thread on black, somewhat-delicate (lightweight ITY knit) fabric.  And then my sewing machine jammed when I went to carry on.  So I wore something else to the cabaret, and finished this a week later or so.

I’m really happy with it and have worn it a few places and gotten lots of compliments.  The only reason I don’t think I’ll make another one is, it’s very unique and much dressier than I generally wear for everyday, so I don’t think I need more than one.

The details:

Size range: 8 – 26, roughly corresponding to ready-to-wear.  A size 26 is 52B/44W/54H.  I would rate the size range as 3 – good but could be more extensive.

My body: I’m not sure how to classify my shape. When I was thinner, I was definitely a pear, but now I have boobs and a belly and heavy upper arms too.  I’m 5’3″, 52B/47W/54H.  I wear a DD or D bra.

How my body worked with the pattern:  Great, if I do say so myself.  I might have done better with a bit more room in the sleeves, but other than that, it clung to my boobs and showed them off, and skimmed from there on down.  The tie waist made it really easy to adjust.  I would rate the final fit a 4.


  1. The instructions didn’t say to, but I sewed clear elastic into the neckline to prevent wardrobe malfunctions.
  2. Because of the shape of the main pattern piece, you MUST use a wide fabric.  There’s no way the main pattern piece will fit on a fabric much narrower than 60″.  I got away with 55″ but it was close.


I really like how this looks on me.

The back is really unusual with fabric draped interestingly. You could probably see it better in a not-black fabric.

Size Range (1-5): 4.  This design is limited by the width of available fabric, so while 26 is not the greatest upper limit, it’s the biggest you can really make this top unless you get super lucky with extra-wide fabric.

Instructions (1-5): 4. Great for anybody with a grasp of basic techniques, but doesn’t hold your hand.  An absolute beginner would need help.

Construction Process (1-5): 5. Super easy, super fast.

Final Fit (1-5): 4.  Almost perfect; could have used more room in the arms.

Overall Rating (1-5): 4.  Overall, I would rate this pattern a 4.  It’s fast, easy, different without being out-there, and easy to adjust to flatter a variety of body types.  It falls short of a 5 for the limited size range, and the slightly sparse instructions.



Creation Report: Hotpatterns 1026 Divide and Conquer Culottes (OOP)

HotPatterns recently hosted a Sew Something Saturday on their Facebook page, and I had a hell of a time deciding what I would make.  Originally it was going to be a Deco Vibe Delicious Dress – T&T; appropriate for work or a nice evening out; easy; and the forgiving fit means it would look good regardless of what happens with my weight.  But I just wasn’t feeling it.  I do a lot of instant-gratification sewing.  Quick, easy, and office-appropiate.  I guess sometimes instant gratification isn’t gratifying any more.  Sometimes, I have to heed the call of the epic make.

I don’t know how long I’ve had this pattern in my stash, but considering that the copyright date is 2005, I must have had it for quite a while.  I didn’t make them until now because they’re flamboyant and attention-catching and I often prefer to blend with the wallpaper; because I hadn’t mastered pants-fitting; because I didn’t feel my skillz were up to the task – with all those panels, if you’re off by even a mm, that error can add up to 16mm petty quickly, and in a slim-fit garment, that’s difference between fitting, or not fitting.

I’d had this fabric in my stash since 2008 – bought with this pattern in mind.

It’s nothing particularly precious or expensive – a loose-weave polyester houndstooth suiting with multicolour tweedy slubs all through it.  But it called out to me and had to be these culottes; nothing else would do.  And so it sat and waited.

And for Sew Something Saturday, I finally made it happen!  (Though I only just finished them; today is Tuesday.)  They are not quick.  They are not particularly easy (though not particularly difficult either, just picky).  I can’t decide if they’re office appropriate.  They feel more appropriate for wandering the desolate moor while pining after a lost love, then dieing of consumption, like a tragic Victorian heroine.  I kindof love them.  They’re swishy and over the top and really me, as opposed to the ever-appropriate face I generally try to present.  Also: they’re basically a skirt, but have a built-in chub-rub barrier.

As for actual construction, like I said, they’re pretty simple.  A center front, a center back, and a side panel that you cut 12 of.  Plus a waistband and fly.  And other than having to manage 3m of fabric flapping all over the place, they make up just like any other pair of pants.  I made my usual swayback, big bum, and big tummy alterations, and frankenpatterned in the countour waistband from a different pair of pants because straight waistbands tend to be uncomfortable for me.  The other design changes I made were to add a lining, and to lengthen them a little.  I think they were intended to be mid-calf length on a not-short person, so on me they were just above the ankle – I lowered the hem to just below the ankle.

Here’s how they turned out:

Pardon the lack of fancy styling to show them off.  You get the idea, though.

Also, because I am a masochist, I changed the hems from a 5/8″ turn-up, machine stitched hem, to a 2″ turn-up, hand-stitched one.  I’m so glad I didn’t measure before I started that hand-stitching: 4.2m of hand-hemming. Not gonna do that again.

But I do think I’m going to make a couple more pair of these – yes, a pair in black.  And also maybe something more summery.

Choir Uniform

My choir decided to go with a tighter dresscode, to give us a more “unified” look. Long skirt, or wide-legged pants that look like a skirt, plain top with 3/4 sleeves and a conservative round neckline. Fabric should be knit. (Previously, it was just: all black.  And people interpreted it as anything from sweatpants to eveningwear.)

Everybody is scrambling to find something as we phase in this new look… except me: I scrambled to make something. (It also didn’t hurt that Fabricmart was having a sale on ITY jersey at the time the announcement was made.) I made the HP 1190 Pull-on Palazzos (cut wider through the inner leg to be more like a culotte), and a straight-hem, extended-arm Shirt-tail T (HP 1189). I made the neckline of the Shirt-tail T more conservative by splicing in the neckline from Saf-t-pockets Simply Terrific T.

Just to be on the safe side – stage lights can make the most solid fabrics unexpectedly sheer – I lined both top and bottom with wickaway tricot.  This also helps with the unpredictability of climate conditions on stage, which can vary from frigid to tropical in the space of a single performance if you sing in drafty old churches.

I might change the top back to shirttails: in the photo I can see that it’s a little snug around the hips, which I didn’t notice as much in the mirror.

As if I needed another hobby


Many years ago, I got hooked on tropical fishkeeping.  And then I got un-hooked because it’s a lot of work.  First I gave away my big fish and went to a nano tank, and then I put my last two fish into the tank I kept at the office, and that was supposed to have been the end of it.  Except that now our office is moving and there’s nowhere to put a fishtank at the new place.  So guess what I got to take home yesterday…

I’ve already started fantasizing about critters to add: more rasboras? More zebra loaches? Amano shrimp?  A betta?

Will I keep up with it?  Will it become a repository of algae, snails, and shame?  Will a cat sit on the somewhat-flimsy lid and fall in?  Watch this space for updates!

On Creativity

Recently in my favourite online knitting/crochet/etc. group, somebody asked a seemingly-simple question: do you see your projects as art, and/or yourself as an artist?

First we got into the kyriarchal implications of the word “art” – how some forms of making are valued more and classified as Art, while others are not –  along lines of race, class, and gender.  The classic example would be cooking, where (largely) well-to-do white men are revered as chefs, but everybody else – no matter how skilled or inventive – is just getting a necessary (and low-status) job done.  Work that is traditionally associated with women – the fiber and textile arts being another major exemplar – tends not to be classified as Art, regardless of the level of skill and scope for self-expression involved.

Nonetheless, I don’t see my endeavors with fabric and yarn (and who knows what all else) as Art, nor myself as an Artist.  For one thing, I’m not skilled enough to deserve the title.  Plus I absolutely want what I make to be beautiful, but functionality takes precedence over whatever expressive quality it is that makes something a work of art and not “just” a useful item.  (As if such a distinction is relevant)

To be honest, I don’t see myself as particularly creative.  I don’t think anything I’ve ever made has been particularly original.  I’m good at taking bits and pieces of things I’ve seen before, and combining them in ways that accomplish my current purpose. I’m good at tweaking and improving small details of things.  And I really enjoy seeing interesting designs and trying to figure out how they work, and borrowing and re-purposing elements.  I would say I’m a maker, and occasionally kindof a textile hacker, but certainly not an artist.

I wonder if I’m setting the bar too high for what counts as creativity, though?  After all, I certainly do make things!  There’s a whole series of functional and aesthetic choices that necessarily has to go into any created object, and it’s entirely possible that my particular combination of choices is original – and even if it isn’t, there is a certain amount of creativity and skill involved in making all those choices.

I think what I have in common with Artists and other creative types, is the ability to see what could be, and the drive and skills to bring it into being.  I see the potential to become something else, just throbbing under the surface of every bit of raw material.  I love to look for what is necessary to a particular design, and what could be tweaked and how much that would change the result.

I once thought everybody did that, but apparently not.  There are people who see a crochet pattern and think they have to make it in the same yarn, in the same colourway, as the pattern picture.  There are people who think you have to always, always make a sewing pattern as drawn.  There are people who won’t make substitutions in recipes when they cook.  There are people who don’t even get that far, who decline to try with a mumbled “I’m just not creative…”  Maybe some people really aren’t?

I think what I am, is a person fortunate to have had (and continue to have) the leisure time to develop some skills to a point where I can not only execute many instructions towards the making of textile objects, but also make good judgment calls about which instructions to follow and which to ignore.  And somebody who gets pleasure in the process.

A Paean to HotPatterns 1189 the Shirt-tail T

Can I just say how much I love this pattern?  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made it, and at this point I can get one done from flat fabric to photo ready in under two hours.


It does what it says on the envelope: a dead-simple t-shirt, with some clever variations.  Great for showing off interesting knit fabric.  And no set-in sleeves to worry about, but the cut-on cap sleeves are long enough that I don’t feel self-conscious about my upper arms.

Here are just a few versions I’ve made:

hp1189-1 hp1189-2hp1189-3 hp1189-striped

I’ve got plans for (yes, another) argyle version – with contrast neck and sleeve bands, and possibly another directional stripe one in a lavender and white linen blend (if I don’t use it for something else).

And then Trudy Hanson, the mind behind the designs, made herself one with 3/4 sleeves, and posted a diagram of how to turn the cut-on cap sleeve into a dolman.  So I had to do it too!

hp1189-sleeves hp1189-sleeves2

Construction notes:

  • This top fits very, very loose.  The first three (swirls, space print, pink argyle) are a size 24, which I selected according to the measurement chart and my full bust measurement.  For the final three, I went down to a size 20 (despite the fact that my high bust measurement would put me in a 22) and I would say 20 is about right for my preferences.
  • The version with the directional stripes really, really calls for precision and pickiness.  Every tiny waviness in your stitching lines will show.