Category Archives: sewing

Adventures in drafting // linen dragons




This top completely unintentionally reminds me of Daenerys from Game of Thrones. I originally set out to copycat this top from Urban Outfitters and decided to use the leftover linen from my Mystery Fabric Contest dress. Somehow I ended up with a cute summery top that totally looks like something Khaleesi would wear if she were summering in modern day California.

This top, along with my off-the-shoulder tops, has basically been my uniform this summer, and I’ve been experimenting with different fabrics. The problem is that I feel like this linen is a little too stiff and sort of sticks out awkwardly from certain angles. But then I tried a much drapier fabric and it was too lightweight to hold its shape. I’ll have to keep playing. I did have to make a special bra to wear underneath which is basically a nude halter the same shape as the front.

Drafting was pretty simple. I drew lines, then contoured. The one thing I did differently that helped with fit was before I added the bias binding and straps, I put it on the dress form and pinned the straps and pleats into shape rather than trusting the lines. It ended up fitting pretty much perfectly that way.

Now back to fabric experiments.

Adventures in patterndrafting // mystery fabric contest

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

Mystery Fabric Contest dress

My school hosts a mystery fabric contest every year. This year participants received a bundle of mystery fabric, each one marked only with a number and the general color scheme of the fabric inside. You have from October to April to put together a garment using at least 50% of each piece of fabric included. Some people received several yards of the same fabric. Other people (ahem, me) received mostly tiny samples, with nothing bigger than a fat quarter. You can add as much fabric as you want too!

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I was pretty stumped for a while after getting my bundle. At first I was thinking of doing something big and dramatic a la Regina from Once Upon A Time (season 1-2), with one side done in a cool patchwork pattern and the other side in a solid or floral print, but I kept coming back to a fear of it coming out looking like a quilt so I nixed that idea. Then one day when I was working on Cinderella’s ball gown while simultaneously daydreaming about doing Cinderella’s wedding gown (I am a crazy person, yes.), I had a lightbulb moment. Why not do a modernized party dress version of Cinderella’s wedding dress, but with the same floral/mesh/gauzy look?

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I started off drafting a pattern for a dress with an upper yoke in a sweetheart neckline shape. Since I knew I wanted to sew the upper yoke in mesh and since I wanted it to have a more formal party dress kind of look, I did a lot of contouring around the princess lines and sweetheart neckline to make it more form-fitting. Then I just used the same skirt pattern as my Christmas dress. Since a lot of the fabrics in my bundle were linens in earthy colors, I went for a similarly earthy (but still somewhat fancy-looking) linen from Joanns in ivory.

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Construction-wise, I started off by taking the three identical pieces of sheer gauzy curtain fabric and sewing them together as a dirndl underskirt. Then I tore off all of the sample rectangles and cut up the backing fabric into similarly sized rectangles and sewed them together into a long piece (similar to what I did for my Cinderella ball gown). I then pleated  those and attached them in two tiers to the underskirt so they would peek out a bit under the main dress.

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I’d had a hard time trying to figure out what to do with all of the thicker embroidered fabrics (especially ones where the background fabric clashed) so I decided to cut the embroidery out of the fabric and sew it onto my dress.

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One of them was some kind of burlap-ish canvas and had a floral vine pattern so I cut out the vines and used them as the base for the hand-stitched design. Then I cut the background fabric into little flower shapes and folded them slightly and stitched them all over the garment.

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You may also have noticed the gorgeous colorful embroidered flowers on the horrid mustard background up there. Since the mustard really didn’t fit with anything, I decided to cut out all those little designs too and sewed them all over the dress for little hidden bits of color. Some of the bigger pieces ended up on the side of the skirt too.

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The end!

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You can check out some of the other submissions here. Tiny spoiler alert: my dress won first place!



review // my fabric designs


Insect dress


Insect dress



Insect dress

DSC_0175dress: self-made, pattern (which I hacked) here // shoes: Swedish Hasbeens 

*My Fabric Designs sent me fabric free of cost. All Illustrator work, thoughts, and opinions are my own. Except for the part where I copied the fabric from an Anthropologie dress.

You guys! I  have a fun new hobby. I was contacted by the lovely people at My Fabric Designs about trying out some of their fabric, which works kind of like Spoonflower. You can upload your own print, use prints offered on the site, or make your own print with their design tool, and have it printed on one of the 26 fabrics they offer.

They sent me a swatch booklet that has a swatch of each of the fabrics they offer, each one with some colors and fabric information printed on it. You can snag one of these for $5 and I highly recommend doing so so you can gauge the fabric and print quality before choosing your fabrics.

While they do have some really awesome looking prints, I was most excited about trying to design my own. I use the term “design” very loosely because my first two ideas were copycat projects. You may have seen peeks if you follow me on Instagram.

The first problem I ran into is that I had no idea how to use Illustrator. I watched about 7 Youtube videos and slowly started to figure it out. I also recommend the videos at (for wayy more than just Illustrator too, they have classes on all kinds of stuff). There’s a monthly membership access fee involved, but there are two ways around that. 1) They offer a 10 day free trial. 2) Check to see if your local library has access! Mine does, so I was able to log in on the library-specific Lynda login page with my library card information (NOT on the actual Lynda website).

Another hint: if you have one of the more recent versions of Illustrator (and a computer that can run it), it comes with a patternmaker software where you can really easily make seamless patterns! My 2012 laptop complained a bit but in the end we got through it.

Anyway, I’ve always loved the fabrics used in dresses at Anthropologie so I clicked around for a while until I found this one. I just love how it’s a floral sundress but between the flowers looking like insects and the color scheme, it’s really not overly girly.

Many hours on Illustrator later, I came away with this:

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Pretty spot on, right?? My friend (who STILL has not given me the write-up on her Hunger Games butterfly dress) described it as like insect tea parties, except some of them are left out and lonely.

I also tried another color scheme:

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I ended up ordering the yellow fabric in the Organic Cotton Sateen, and the lilac one in Cotton Poplin. It took a while to get to me due to the whole custom-printing thing; I think this order took about two full weeks. (I’m completely spoiled by Amazon Prime.) I also just received my second order that you may have seen on Instagram that turned out SO BEAUTIFULLY and I’m so excited to share that one.

In terms of the fabric quality, the number one issue I’ve heard of with fabric printing is the colors fading in the wash so the first thing I did was cut off a piece of each fabric and run it through. I used the permanent press cycle on cold and then hung it to dry because that’s how I usually wash my clothes.


IMG_1425I took these photos while the fabric was still wet, so they look a little odd. They don’t actually look smudgey in real life, just slightly faded.

There was some slight fading, especially with the purple print, but  nothing super noticeable unless you look at it really closely at the original. I want to test it out with more vivid colors too but for these lighter prints I’m happy with the way it came out of the wash. The only thing I wish they had was a zoom feature on the preview screen so you can zoom in on what your fabric is going to look like. I stupidly left the stroke set to the brown color of the flowers so there are thin brown lines that form rectangles all over the fabric. I tried to be strategic with where I put them and I don’t think they look super terrible but I kind of wish I’d been able to zoom in to see that they’d be there. Or that I had thought to check for that in Illustrator. *headdesk*

Onto the sewing! So far I’ve only sewn up the yellow fabric, but holy crap I love this stuff. It’s super soft and drapey and lovely. It’s a bit on the thinner side so I lined the whole dress (with muslin because I’m lazy and have a ton of it lying around for school so why not?). The cotton poplin is much more crisp and it’s absolutely perfect for the other dress I have in mind. More on that later.

I used McCall’s 6740, which I bought a few years ago and couldn’t seem to find the right fabric for. I added a waistline seam by hacking it at the waist, and then drew in yoke lines for the top edges of the cups (~1.25″ wide). I decided to leave out the cup shaping because it seemed too complicated and frankly it looks fine the way it is. To be honest, I probably could’ve found a more accurate pattern to go from but I already had this one and it was already traced so I just went with it. It does need more contouring along the top edge which I’ll definitely fix if I decide to sew this one up again.

The skirt was pretty simple. I just did lots of little pleats until it fit the bodice. Then I made two button plackets and sandwiched the side seams into them and added these cool brown buttons from Joann’s.


Adventures in drafting // red wedding

Red dress

Red dress

Red dress

Red dress

Red dress

Red dresspattern: self-drafted // shoes: Cathy Jean

Haha just kidding. My friends’ wedding was lovely! No murderous musicians.

Anyway, I made this dress because a day before hopping on a plane to DC, I realized that every dress I owned was either black, white, one of the wedding colors, or more appropriate for winter.  So, I took a break from the Epic Peacoat Copycat of July to draft a quick pattern and then made an extremely panicked trip to Joann’s.


I had found this photo somewhere on Pinterest (not sure where the original is from!) and wanted to do kind of a high-ish front, low-ish back sort of thing. I basically just lowered the neckline ~2″ and drew a new flatter neckline, did a sleeveless adjustment (bring armholes up 1/2″ and in 1/2″), then drew connecting curves from the new armhole up to the corner of the new neckline. Then I contoured the crap out of all it and moved the bust darts up and turned them into princess lines. The back was easy, I just repeated the sleeveless adjustment, closed the waist dart, and drew a line from from the armhole dipping lower at center back.

I didn’t have much time for tweaking but I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out! We were going through a bit of a heat wave last week so I was way too hot and miserable (and lacking in time) to deal with figuring out a bra for this one so I decided to just go bra-les. Eh, it worked out I think.


How cool is this fabric though?? I briefly considered adding trim or some other detailing to the dress but a) no time, and b) it really didn’t need it because of the cool texturing. Also, thank you Great British Sewing Bee for teaching me that even more subtle patterns should really be centered.

(Yes, it’s still bothering me that I was totally off on this dress but I feel slightly redeemed after getting it right this time.)

In other news, all this red is making me miss my red hair.

Adventures in patterndrafting // tent labeling

Tent dress

Tent dress

Tent dress

Tent dress

Tent dress
dress: self-drafted // shoes: Seychelles

Dutch Label Shop sent me custom labels to try out free of charge, and all opinions, drafting errors, and leg injuries are my own.

I have a bit of a ridiculous obsession with tent dresses. I blame Lauren and 90% of Keiko Lynn‘s wardrobe. Anyway, when we reached the “dresses without waistline seam” part of my flat pattern class, I pounced on the tent dress draft for my homework garment.

My first idea was to go absolutely nuts and make something super flowy out of chiffon. But I decided to dial it back so I could see what the basic tent draft looks like, and so I could be responsible and use up some peachskin I had in my stash.

It’s a pretty basic draft. I started with a torso sloper (drafted using the method in Nora MacDonald’s Principles of Flat Pattern Design book). For the front, I left the waist darts alone but transferred the side bust dart to the waist as flare. Then I added a bit more flare by going out at the side seam. I did the same thing on the back except by transferring the shoulder dart to flare. Then you mark the point halfway between the armhole and waist line and blend a line about 1/2″ inward there. Lastly, I put the front and back pieces on top of each other to make sure the side curves matched up.

What you don’t want to do at this point is mistake your new indent that’s halfway up from the waist as the actual waist, and measure your skirt length from there. I didn’t realize I’d done this until I’d already cut the fabric and therefore ended up with a dress that ended mid-vagina. Not attractive. I thought about making it into a tunic but it just didn’t quite look right in this fabric. I ended up drafting a 3″ panel at the bottom which I think looks kind of cool. Another thing you probably don’t want to do is forget that you meant to have an upper back yoke and therefore don’t need a center back seam on the bottom piece. For the next one I will definitely cut that lower back piece on the fold.

Dutch Label Shop

Andd the best part is that inside the neckline is a lovely professional looking garment label! My Bernina does letters so I’d tried my hand at making my own labels on twill tape before. They turned out pretty cute actually, but a bit too rustic for fancier clothes. These labels from the Dutch Label Shop are much more polished and will go on absolutely everything, especially since I ordered them in both black and white. These ones are the basic woven labels. You pick from a few fonts and colors, and they even have some themed clip art you can add. They also offer a “double white” option for white labels with dark lettering, to prevent the black from being too visible. It doesn’t make it completely opaque though, so you can still kind of see the shadow/outline of the black threads behind it.

They also have another option where you can send them an image of your logo/graphic and they’ll do custom woven labels in all kinds of shapes/sizes with it. It’s a bit more pricey but their example labels look really cool! I don’t actually have a logo for my blog so I just went with the simpler option.

Shipping was a bit tricky; my first order was actually misplaced in the mail. But once they discovered it had gone missing they immediately sent out a replacement and I received it within a few days. And now I can’t wait to put these guys on everything! If you want to order your own custom labels, Dutch Label Shop is offering Peneloping readers a 15% discount on your order from now until July 21st with the code PENELOPING. — CODE IS WORKING AGAIN – yay!

Anyway, no joke guys, this is officially my Indian lunch buffet/all-you-can-eat-sushi/Thanksgiving dress. Next I want to make one out of something a little drapier with no sleeves and cutaway armholes. And one out of linen. And one with double the amount of flare and made in chiffon, possibly with three layers. (Imightbecrazy.)

*Ignore the weird attempt at photoshopping out the giant bruise on my leg. I was mauled by two adorable puppies who were very excited to see me.

**I still haven’t heard from Leigh-Anne about receiving the Mood giveaway prize! If you could shoot me an email by Sunday, that’d be great! After that I’ll be randomly selecting an alternate winner.  Thanks! :]