Dip dye


Another of my Brattleboro dye projects was dip dyeing this dress. I made the dress a while ago, but always wanted to dye it. It was just a bit boring in plain white. The design was fun, with a low backed lining covered with a higher eyelet overlay with a keyhole back and shallow v-neck front. I finished all the edges with bias tape binding, and closed the back with a sparkly glass button. But it needed something more. So I brought it up to Prima’s with a lot of red dye and dip dyed the skirt.


To dye the dress, I wrapped the part I wanted to keep white in cling wrap. I never put this part in the dye vat, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t get splattered. It was also helpful to have the end of the plastic as a marker for how high I wanted to dye to come. In the past I’ve ended up dyeing quite a bit more than I meant to  because it’s hard to judge how much is under the surface of the dye. I left the exposed end in the dye vat for about an hour, turning it from time to time so the dye would come out even. The dye was Cherry Red from Rit. It’s not really red, but it’s a nice shade of dark pink. To get this color, rather than a bright hot pink, I used three times the recommended concentration and rinsed it cold. Even with a color that sets better than red, you really have to hand wash a dress like this and make sure the water runs from the white to the color. There’s no other way to keep the white white.

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Photos of me taken by Prima at the Smith Botanic Garden.

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Quilted shibori



Last weekend I went up to visit Prima in Brattleboro and did a bit of fabric dyeing. I was particularly excited to try some different shibori techniques.

This piece was the result of a slight misunderstanding. I conflated a technique where you pleat the fabric and clamp it with one where you stitch a pattern and gather, and decided what I needed to do was pleat and stitch. This actually worked well. The layers of fabric have sort of the same effect as gathering, stopping the dye from getting in. I would not be surprised if this is also a common method of resist dyeing, although it’s not one I read about. My approach was:

1. Pleat the fabric into a 2 inch wide strip
2. Mark out 2 inch increments in the other direction
3. Draw curves from one corner to the other (look at the photos to see what I mean)
4. Stitch along these curves
5. Stitch another curve 1mm under the first
6. Dye
7. Pull out the stitches and iron


It’s one of my favorite pieces I dyed this weekend. It was also one of the easiest, since the pleating means you only have to sew an eighth of the lines, and it was the only piece I sewed on the machine.

Since this technique requires pulling out tight stitches it’s only suited to reasonably sturdy woven fabrics. Quilting cotton is perfect. Prima and I later tried it on a piece of jersey, and ripping out those stitches was pretty frustrating. Not recommended.

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Forsythia Dress


I love Golly Bard’s watercolor fabric prints. These forsythia branches look like the coming spring. Despite this misleading vacation photo, nothing is blooming here yet and I can only wear this dress under a sweater. But it reminds me of what’s coming, and the pretty watercolor design makes me happy.

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Hyderabad dress


I made this dress a while ago and never wrote about it. Mostly because I made a top around the same time that was so similar in construction, it seemed repetitive to post this dress as well. Both are made by gathering the front into seam binding, which runs up to form straps. This version is a maxi dress, made from 2 yards of 60″ gauzy cotton, and cut to use almost all of that fabric. The body is made from two large trapezoids with a bit of armhole shaping, and the left over triangles went into bias tape and inseam side pockets.


This is a pretty simple dress. What makes it special is the fabric. It’s light and floaty and the wind goes right through it, making it comfortable on even very hot days. I like the texture of the fabric – a thin gauze with heavier cords running vertically every two inches or so. The vegetable dye block print is subtle and pretty. But mostly I like it because the fabric is full of memories of a trip to India with my dad, and the fun we had finding it.


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Endpaper mitts


Tania works in Times Square, distributing tickets to theater goers. This time of year it can get quite chilly, and she spends long stretches on street corners waiting for stragglers to come collect their tickets. She has big warm gloves she borrowed from her dad at the beginning of winter and has yet to return, but she has to take them off to pick out the right ticket and complained to me about how cold her hands get on snowy nights. I volunteered to make her fingerless gloves she can wear under her dad’s big warm gloves, to keep some of the warmth in while she sorts through tickets. It wasn’t an entirely altruistic offer – I’ve been eyeing the Endpaper Mitts for a while, looking for an excuse to try some color work.

This was a good project for someone just learning color work – the pattern covers the entire glove so you get a lot of practice and if your tension is a bit off, as mine was, the whole thing just ends up a slightly different size than you expected. No weird transitions from color work gauge to solid gauge as in my last complete failure at color work. Plus the pattern is pretty and easy to memorize, making this excellent subway knitting.

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It took me a while to figure out what to do with this fabric. It’s soft and drapey and I love the way it feels, but it’s somewhat more patterned and brightly colored than I usually wear. I considered making this romper (which I have a pattern for lying around somewhere), hoping that the fairly small amount of fabric involved would make it less overwhelming. But, sadly, my life does not really call for such a garment. I then considered making it a gift for someone else. Rosalie has started wearing bright colors since moving to Miami, and might have liked a skirt from this fabric. But skirts aren’t a very interesting sewing project, and Rosie makes so many for herself, she doesn’t really need another. So the fabric sat, for nearly a year, its destiny unknown. Finally last weekend I decided I wanted a robe, and this fabric was perfect for the project.



I’m not entirely happy with this robe. I really should have done french seams – the rough edges show, and every time I wear it I pull off another loose thread. But it’s soft and comfy and was a nice little weekend project.

The body and sleeves are cut together into a t-shaped piece of fabric. The hem of the robe curves up so the back is longer than the front, to offset the way the fabric naturally pools at the sides. The contrast band along the bottom mimics this curve, but the contrast band along the front is a long straight strip of fabric which runs all the way up one side, around the neck, and back down to the hem. I always lose sashes, so it closes with a ribbon loop and button.


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Berkeley Sweater


Berkeley is a sweater place. It’s never really cold, but it’s never quite warm either. Even in the summer the fog comes in most mornings and you have to bundle up a bit. In the winter you might wear a coat, but a thick cozy sweater is better. My mother has an excellent sweater collection, with a full range from lacy cotton summer sweaters to thick cabled winter sweaters.

Last time I was in town, my mom took me to A Verb For Keeping Warm, perhaps the coziest store there is. I picked up four skeins of this outrageously soft alpaca to knit up a sweater which would feel at home in her closet. It’s a boxy, slightly cropped sweater with simple textural details. It’s warm enough for the coldest Berkeley night, and makes an excellent layer at home in New York.


This sweater has no waist shaping. This gives it a boxy shape, which is balanced by the drape of the loose knit and the slightly cropped length. Pick a size that is slightly smaller than your bust measurement. The sweater begins with a band of garter stitch around the hem and ends with one around a slight boat neck. It has seed stitch panels up the sides and along the top of the sleeves. It is worked in the round up to the arm pits, and then flat to the shoulders. The garter stitch neckline is picked up and knit in the round after the shoulders are sewn up. The set in sleeves are worked flat.

Gauge: 16 stitches / 21 rows in 4 inches
Needles: 6.5mm/ US 10.5 (larger than the recommended 4mm/ US 6)
Yarn: 4(5,6) skeins Shibui maai, 175 yrd/160m per 50g ball

Finished size: 29.5(32.5,35.5) inches around.

Shown in smallest size with 3″ negative ease.


Abbreviations used:
k – knit
k2t – knit two together
m1 – make a stitch
p – purl
p2t – purl two together
pm – place marker


Cast on 118(130,142) stitches and join to work in the round.
Row 1: knit all stitches
Row 2: purl all stitches
Continue to work in garter stitch for a total of 20 rows.

From here you will work 12 stitches of seed stitch along each side, with stockinette between them. You may wish to use markers to identify the seed stitch panels.
Row 1: [k1 p1]X6; pm; k47(53,59) k; pm; [k1 p1]X6; pm; k47(53,59)
Row 2: [p1 k1]X6; k47(53,59); [p1 k1]X6; k47(53,59)
Continue to work in pattern for 14 inches.


You have reached the arm pits. Now you will separate the front and back and work each flat, decreasing at the sides to shape the armholes. Remove stitch markers as you work row 1.
Row 1: Work 3 stitches as established; bind off 6 stitches; work 53(59,65) stitches as established, transferring these stitches to waste yarn as you go; bind off 6 stitches; work 53(59,65) stitches in pattern and turn work. You are now working flat. There should be53(59,65) stitches on your needles.
Row 2: p3 p2t p43(49,55) p2t p3
Row 3: k3 k2t k41(47,53) k2t k3
Row 4: p45(51,57)
Row 5: k3 k2t k39(45,51) k2t k3
Row 6: p43(49,55)
Row 7: k3 k2t k37(43,49) k2t k3
Row 8: p41(47,53)
Row 9: p41(47,53)
Row 10: p41(47,53)
Row 11: k3 k2t k35(41,47) k2t k3

43(49,55) stitches remain.

Work in stockinette until sweater measures 5 (5 1/2, 6) inches from the beginning of the armhole. Now you will begin the neck shaping.

Back left

Row 1: Knit 12(13,14) stitches, transferring these stitches to waste yarn as you go; bind off 19(23,27) stitches; knit 12(13,14) stitches. There should be 12(13,14) stitches on your needles.
Row 2: p7(8,9) p2t p3
Row 3: k3 k2t k6(7,8)
Row 4: p10(11,12)
Row 5: k3 k2t k5(6,7)
Row 6: p9(8,7)
Row 7: k3 k2t k4(5,6)

Work in stockinette for 1″. Total length from beginning of armhole should be just over 7(7 1/2, 8) inches. Bind off all 8(9,10) stitches.

Back right

Set up: attach a new ball at the right edge of the neckline. You will begin with a wrong side row. Pick up 12(13,14) stitches of waste yarn.
Row 1:  p3 p2t p7(8,9)
Row 2: k6(7,8) k2t k3
Row 3: p10(11,12)
Row 4: k5(6,7) k2t k3
Row 5: p9(10,11)
Row 6: k4(5,6) k2t k3

Work in stockinette for 1″. Bind off all 8(9,10) stitches.


Set up: Pick up 53(59,65) stitches off waste yarn and attach a ball of yarn. You will begin with a wrong side row.
Row 1: p3 p2t p43(49,55) p2t p3
Row 2: k3 k2t k41(47,53) k2t k3
Row 3: p45(51,57)
Row 4: k3 k2t k39(45,51) k2t k3
Row 5: p43(49,55)
Row 6: k3 k2t k37(43,49) k2t k3
Row 7: p41(47,53)

Work in stockinette until sweater measures 2 1/2(3,3 1/2) inches from the beginning of the armhole. Now you will begin the neck shaping.

Front left

Work rows 1-7 as for back left. Work in stockinette for 3″. Total length from beginning of armhole should be just over 7(7 1/2, 8) inches. Bind off all 8(9,10) stitches.

Front right

Work rows 1-7 as for back right. Work in stockinette for 3″.Total length from beginning of armhole should be just over 7(7 1/2, 8) inches.  Bind off all 8(9,10) stitches.



Make two identical sleeves.

Cast on 32(34,36) stitches. You will work 4 stitches of seed stitch down the center, with stockinette on either side.

Row 1: k14(15,16); pm; [k1 p1]X2; pm; k14(15,16)
Row 2: p14(15,16); [k1 p1]X2; p14(15,16)

Work in pattern until sleeve measures 12 inches. You will now begin increasing one stitch on each side every 8th row. You will do this 5 times, over a total of 40 rows.

Row 1: k3 m1 k11(12,13) [k1 p1]X2 k11(12,13) m1 k3
Rows 2-8: work in pattern
Row 9: k3 m1 k12(13,14) [k1 p1]X2 k12(13,14) m1 k3
Rows 10-16: work in pattern
Row 17: k3 m1 k13(14,15) [k1 p1]X2 k13(14,15) m1 k3
Rows 18-24: work in pattern
Row 25: k3 m1 k14(15,16) [k1 p1]X2 k14(15,16) m1 k3
Rows 26-32: work in pattern
Row 33: k3 m1 k15(16,17) [k1 p1]X2 k15(16,17) m1 k3
Rows 34-40: work in pattern

There should be 42(44,46) stitches on your needles. Now you will work the sleeve cap.

Row 1: bind off 3 k16(17,18) [k1 p1]X2 k19(20,21)
Row 2: bind off 3 p16(17,18) [k1 p1]X2 p16(17,18)
Row 3: bind off 2 k14(15,16) [k1 p1]X2 k16(17,18)
Row 4: bind off 2 p14(15,16) [k1 p1]X2 p14(15,16)
Row 5: k3 k2t k9(10,11) [k1 p1]X2 k9(10,11) k2t k3
Row 6: p13(14,15) [k1 p1]X2 p13(14,15)
Row 7: k3 k2t k8(9,10) [k1 p1]X2 k8(9,10) k2t k3
Row 8: p12(13,14) [k1 p1]X2 p12(13,14)

Work in pattern for 6 rows. Bind off all stitches.


Sew together front and back shoulders together.

Pick up 66(74,82) stitches around the neckline: 19(23,27) along the front and back and 14 stitches along each side. Join to work in the round and work three rows of garter stitch. Bind off all stitches.

Sew up the long seam of the sleeves. Sew the top of the sleeve into the armhole. Weave in all loose ends.


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Half circle skirt

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Half circle skirts are the best sort of a-line. The seams are on the grain, so they sew up without pulling and make it relatively easy to put in zippers. A half circle is a nice amount of fabric for an every day flared skirt. It’s not a dramatic as a full circle, which makes it easier to wear. And a half circle pattern is very easy to draft.


To make a pattern for a half circle skirt, you will need your waist measurement and the skirt length. In this pattern the front and back are identical. For patterns this simple I generally just draw on the fabric with a piece of chalk. For each piece, you will start at a corner and draw two quarter circles – a small one near the corner for your waist, and a larger one farther away for the hem.



Divide your waist measurement by 3 to get your waist radius (people who like trigonometry may be tempted to divide by pi, but rounding down helps balance out the stretch along the bias angled parts of the circle). Hold one corner of a yardstick or tape measure at the corner of your fabric and measure out your waist radius. Swing the yardstick along the fabric, keeping one end in the corner, and mark out points as you go. For example, if your waist radius is 10″, you would mark out several points 10″ away from the corner of the fabric at different angles. Connect these points with a curve.


Add your skirt length to your waist radius to get your hem radius. Mark out points at this distance, as you did for your waist. Cut along both curves. This is the front of your skirt. Do the same thing at the opposite corner (or trace the piece you have) to make the back.

Sew up the side seams, putting in pockets if you want them, and a zipper on one side. Hem the bottom and finish the top with bias tape or a buttoned waistband.

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Gathered skirt tutorial


Gathered skirts are by far the easiest skirts to sew. I made the black and red skirts in the photo above in about half an hour each. They require a yard of 45″ fabric, enough 1″ elastic to go around your waist, and the ability to sew in a straight line.

Before you begin, launder your fabric the way you plan to launder the finished skirt and iron out any major crinkles.


Cut the fabric in half horizontally, to make two pieces half a yard long and as wide as the fabric. With 60″ fabric you can buy half a yard and cut it in the other direction to make 30″ by 18″ pieces.

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Put the right sides of the fabric and sew up both short sides. You now have a big tube.


Next, make a casing around the top of the skirt to put the elastic in. Fold down and iron 1/4″ all along the top of the skirt, folding onto the wrong side of the fabric. Then, fold down another 1 1/4″. This should make a casing which is slightly larger than your elastic.


Sew along the edge of this casing, beginning a few inches before a seam and leaving open a 2″ gap.

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Make sure your elastic is an inch longer than you want the waistband to be. Starting with a piece of elastic as long as your waist works well, since the elastic should be a little stretched when the skirt is on. (This is the force that holds your skirt on. Very important). Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and feed it through the casing, gathering the fabric as you go. Make sure to keep hold of the other end of the elastic!


When the elastic is fed all the way through the casing, overlap the two ends by 1″, being careful not to twist the elastic. Sew up one side, across the diagonal to the far corner, down that side, and back to the far corner to complete a bow tie shape.


Carefully sew up the gap you fed the elastic through, making sure not to catch the elastic.


Check if you like the length of your skirt. This is the time to cut it shorter if you’re so inclined. To finish the bottom of the skirt, fold 1/4″ to the wrong side of the fabric all along the bottom of the skirt and iron down. Fold another 3/8″ and iron again. Sew along the edge of the folded fabric.


Your skirt is done!

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Over Christmas I spent an afternoon at my grandma’s looking through old photo albums. Grandma has always dressed carefully and had beautiful clothes, and looking at old pictures of her often inspires new sewing projects. This time a red skirt with white buttons caught my eye. I liked the colors, and the contrast stitched placket looked like a fun thing to try to recreate.


My version is a basic fitted skirt with a sailor bib front. The plackets were indeed fun to make, and a little tutorial is coming. The only problem with this skirt is that the buttons stop at my hips and the skirt is a bit too tight to step into – I have to pull it over my head. It looks like Grandma’s might have been a wrap skirt, which would be easier to put on.





Thanks Rosalie for taking the pictures!

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