Nursing dress

I made something! It’s been a long time since I had time to sew, but I’m visiting my parents, and everything is easier with them around. This dress was sewn during nap time and photographed with the baby in his bouncy chair just out of the frame (I moved him from one side of the tripod to the other while shooting – can you tell where he is?).

This dress makes me really happy. While I haven’t had much time to sew, I have had a lot of time to think about what I want in a dress. Something stretchy to accommodate the ongoing changes in my body, soft fabric that is comfy for a nap but pretty for seeing visitors, a cross front for nursing, and a twirly skirt just for fun. Most of all I’m happy to have something made to fit my current measurements. It’s hard to feel pretty or even comfortable in clothing two sizes too small.

This dress is pretty much a standard faux wrap dress. I left out the waist seam by cutting one skirt piece with what would normally be two parts – straight parallel lines form the waistband, then flare out for the nearly-a-circle skirt. Like a mermaid skirt, only higher. This means I can tie the waist wrap without worrying about whether a waist seam is covered evenly, and makes the waist lie more smoothly.

I like wearing dresses, but they can be hard to nurse in. The solution: a surplice (cross front) top, easily pushed to one side when the baby gets hungry.

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Maternity dress

I’ve always enjoyed making maternity clothes for friends and family (and a few Etsy customers), but my baby’s due in less than a month an I haven’t made anything for myself. I’ve had some things in mind all summer – mostly lightweight dresses with pockets. But I haven’t felt up for making things, and while I have bought some adequate pocketless alternatives, my favorite maternity dress is one I made long before I got pregnant. I’ve written about it before, but it has a somewhat different look now.

This is almost what I would have made if I’d intended it as a maternity dress. The light weight fabric, pockets, long skirt that disguises the rising front of the hemline, and gathers to accommodate a growing belly are all great. The only thing I would have done differently if I’d known I’d be wearing it at such a variety of sizes is to give it adjustable straps. As I get bigger the armholes are crawling up a bit high. But it is still the most comfortable thing I can wear on a hot summer day.

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How big is a baby?

I sewed something for the baby! I’ve knit him a couple of hats, but these panda print pjs were my first baby sewing project. While I usually like to make my own patterns, my method relies on measuring the person a garment is for, which isn’t really possible in this situation. So I used Kwik Sew K2433 Romper Sewing Pattern. It was a pretty easy pattern to use, even for someone who’s not used to following patterns. My only note is that if you’re using a directional print, you have to turn the pattern piece for the top of the foot around (so the text is upside down) to get the pattern to line up. I cut it the other way up at first, but it’s a small piece so recutting it wasn’t a big deal.

Whenever I make something for the baby, I’m simultaneously surprised by how small it is (a full body outfit from half a yard of fabric!) and how big it is (so much bigger than my belly, and this is supposed to fit him when he’s born?). Another good reason to use a pattern – if I just looked up the size of the average newborn and tried to make my own pattern from there, I’m sure I’d make the neck opening way too small, or the arms much too long. I really have no sense of how big an infant is. I guess that’s going to change.

I got a set of press snap pliers for this project, and I’m so happy I did. The press snaps are easier to put in than sew in snaps, and so much more secure once they’re set. I used plain ring snaps for the leg opening, and decorative pearl snaps for the front placket. The pearl snaps are a bit too secure – they can be hard to snap and unsnap, but squeezing the stud a bit with pliers fixed that.

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Tulip print cover up

I bought this tulip print silk planning on making another summer sun jacket. But with the lighter texture of this fabric I wanted to make something a bit longer. So I used the full yard and made a simple rectangular version. I like it, but in retrospect I think the trapezoid I originally envisioned would have worked just as well.

This was almost as easy to make as the sun jacket – there are a couple more edges to finish so it takes slightly longer, but the concept is even simpler. I finished all edges, folded my 60″x36″ fabric in half to form a 30″x36″ rectangle, than sewed up the sides half way. To make the front opening and neck hole, I cut the center of one layer of fabric up to the fold and cut along the fold for 2″ in either direction, creating a t-shaped cut with a long stem and short branches. I finished the front by folding the fabric back 1/2″ and then 1 1/2″, to the edge of the cut, and finished the neck with a rolled hem.

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Heart Pockets

I made this dress back in December. I thought I’d photograph it the next day, but the next day I was just exhausted. I found out a few days later I was pregnant, and I remained much too tired and queazy to take photos (or do much of anything) for months. But now, at 20 weeks, I’m feeling more myself, and when the tulips started blooming on my patio it seemed like time to revisit my last sewing project. I hope that soon I will be back to sewing new things. Tiny things!

The dress has slit pockets hidden under the heart patches, since the patches themselves aren’t big enough to be useful as pockets. The sleeves and body of the dress are cut together, with one piece for the front and one piece for the back, joined along the sides and the top and bottom of the sleeves. This works because the double knit fabric it’s made from is so stretchy, and it made for a quick and easy project.

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Button Skirt

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This simple a-line skirt was a quick project for a rainy morning. I planned the skirt to show off the vintage shell buttons. The fabric is a lovely mid-weight cotton with a subtle blue and black woven pattern.  Like most of my skirts it has pockets in the side seams and a full skirt – about a half circle. To make something similar, draft a half circle skirt, divide the front panel down the middle, face the center cut on both sides, and add the buttons and button holes. I finished the top with a 1″ waistband and the bottom with a quick machine hem.

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Isabel’s (somewhat late) birthday skirt


For Isabel’s birthday I made her a summer version of my chalk lines skirt, by far her favorite thing to borrow from me. I had forgotten how long it takes to put in all the piping, and I didn’t have it ready for her birthday. But three weeks later, I’m very happy with this linen variation on one of my favorite skirts.

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The mid-weight linen actually made a really good substitute for the light wool I used last time. This is the fourth time I’ve made this skirt – there was the original, someone bought one from my Etsy store back when it was active, and I made a heavier, slightly longer one from a taupe wool, which didn’t work quite as well. I’m not sure if it’s the longer length or the heavier fabric, but it’s not quite as cute as the black version and feels a little more professional. I never really have an occasion to look that sort of professional. If I want to look serious about my work I put on a lab coat (also if I want to keep bio-hazardous materials off my clothes – it’s a practical sort of professional). But this linen version, copied directly from the original skirt, worked really well.


The only change I made from the original was to switch out the big exposed zipper for a half length invisible one. I’m not entirely happy with that change. The exposed zipper was always a little out of place (I used it because that’s what I happened to have in the way of zippers the day I made the first skirt), but the invisible zipper is stiffer, and leaves a tiny bump when it ends. If I make this skirt again I’ll either go back to the exposed back zipper, or put an invisible zipper in the side seam, which is a pain to do with the piping, but looks better.


I put up a tutorial on how to make this skirt when I first started the blog, which you can find at I also took some photos of the process this time, so you can see how the many pieces of the side panels fit together:


I have been told that people don’t necessarily want to celebrate their birthdays by modeling for my blog, so I took photos of myself before giving Isabel her skirt. Which means you can also see the project which has been taking up most of my crafty time lately: growing vegetables!


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Natural dyeing: coreopsis and marigold


When planning my little container garden this spring, I really wanted to include some dye plants. I don’t know how long I’ll be in this apartment, so they have to produce dye the first year (no madder for me, sadly), and I wanted plants that could double as pretty flowers in my small garden. Coreopsis tinctoria (or tickseed) and marigolds are perfect for the job. They’ve been blooming happily for months now, but I didn’t get around to dying with them until this week.


I used a solar extraction so I could start it quickly on a week day morning. I used only the petals of the marigold (they pull out easily, but sometimes bring the seeds with them. I did not use the seeds), and the entire flower head of the coreopsis. I put each type of flower in a separate glass vase. I poured in very hot (but not boiling) water, and placed the vases outside in the sun on a hot day. The coreopsis water immediately turned orange, and the marigold water a lighter green-yellow with a strong marigold scent. I dropped in a couple of swatches (although you’d get more even colors if you extract and dye in two separate steps) and left for work.


Both marigold and coreopsis are pH sensitive, in different ways. When wet the marigold color is more vibrant in an alkaline solution (that is, if you add baking soda), but as it dries this color fades. The final color is a light golden brown with baking soda, and a soft yellow-green without. Coreopsis changes color more dramatically: in a fairly alkaline solution (lots of baking soda) it makes pink, where as in neutral tapwater it makes an orangey-yellow. It tends to become more pink as it dries – a wet flamingo pink will lose it’s orange tones as it dries. I imagine adding vinegar would shift the color further towards yellow, but I didn’t test it.

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Click for larger image if you want to actually read the labels

Recipe for marigold dye (dyes 1 lb fabric):

  1. Collect the petals from 15-20 marigold flowers
  2. Put in a glass container and pour in 6 cups hot water
  3. Leave in a warm place for several hours to extract dye
  4. Strain out flowers, add fabric, and leave in a warm place for at least an hour

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Travel pants


The first pair of pants I ever made was for a trip to Guatemala. I wanted something light weight that wouldn’t wrinkle, and most of all I wanted a secure pocket for my passport. I ran into some problems along the way – I never quite got the fly right, and I cut the legs too short and had to add mock cuffs around the bottoms just to get the length right. But on the whole, they came out surprisingly well, mostly thanks to the fabric, a wonderful linen/bamboo herringbone, which was light and airy, didn’t wrinkle (except around the unfortunate mock cuffs), and was quite pretty. I ended up wearing the pants a lot after the trip, and lending them to other people who wanted a secret passport pocket for their trips. Eventually they completely shredded and I had to say goodbye.


Last week I went on a road trip through the Southwest and in packing for that trip I really missed my travel pants. I didn’t want to wear shorts, because I was afraid the backs of my legs would get sunburned hiking, and then driving would be terrible. But I didn’t want to wear long pants in the desert, because even my summer pants get pretty warm. I have another pair of pure linen pants, but they get so wrinkly. It was clearly time to make another pair of travel pants.


I couldn’t find anything with quite the beautiful sheen of the herringbone I used last time, but this linen blend had the key features I was looking for: good airflow, somewhat wrinkle resistant, and with enough pattern to hide a bit of dirt. I didn’t put in a passport pocket this time, but I’ll add one if I ever take them out of the country – the patch pockets in front give plenty of space to hide a zippered pocket inside. Like my old pants these have wide legs (for extra airflow), and these new ones are high waisted (just for fun) and uncuffed (like the others should have been).

The pants did their job. I felt a little out of place on hiking trails full of people in fluorescent wicking fabrics, but I think I was more comfortable than any of them, and I didn’t have to change for dinner.

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Peacock Dress


I really like long jersey dresses. They’re so comfortable, especially when they’re made from soft bamboo-lycra like this one. They’re my favorite clothes to travel with – they don’t wrinkle and can be dressy or casual depending on your shoes and jewelry. So when I found this wonderful soft fabric, I knew exactly what to do with it.


I found the black first, and began imagining this dress, with the braided back and a long skirt. But there was only a yard a half of the fabric, not nearly enough for a floor length dress. Fortunately, the same fabric came in peacock blue, so I got the extra yardage in that. I made a fitted knee length dress in the black, cut the skirt on the diagonal, and added a half circle of the blue at the bottom. There’s a pocket at the top of the long side seam of the blue section of the skirt. It’s in a sort of awkward place, down by my knee, but it’s important for a dress to have a pocket, and it would look weird and lumpy higher up in the fitted black skirt. It takes a bit of leaning over and a bit of lifting the dress up to get to (see top photo, where I have my fingers in the pocket), but it works pretty well as a place to keep my phone.



The most fun part of making this dress was figuring out the braided back. It starts as a six strand braid, which splits into two ordinary braids. You could do this by doubling the six pieces at the bottom into a thick ordinary three stranded braid, but I wove each piece separately, like in a braided friendship bracelet. I cut long, inch wide strips of the black fabric, and pulled them so the edges curled in. I sewed the base together and taped it to the table so I could braid, braided up 4″ (it stretched later…), then split for the straps.

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One problem with a long jersey dress is that the weight of the skirt stretches out the top part of the dress, especially the straps. This has made for a much lower neckline than I’d intended. If you’re making a dress like this, I recommend just tacking down the straps to begin with, and then adjusting them when the whole dress is assembled. I’ll probably go back and shorten the straps before I wear this out.


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