Cold Shoulder Tops

The cold-shoulder style top is very “on-trend” these days and I really like the way they fit and look. I had purchased a cute one from Old Navy (in a sold grey) so I used it as my guide to draft my own pattern for the same style tops but in some cute print fabrics.

Here are two of my cold-shoulder tops I made recently, both in stretchy knits.

I used my serger for almost the entire construction of these tops. All but the hem stitching of the sleeve ruffle edge and the bottom hem. Using the serger for most of the sewing made this a quick project. From cutting to finishing I think it took less than 2 hours.


Sewing Custom Underwear

I have been on a roll the past few months, creating lots of cute pieces.

Sure, I made the usual stuff…dresses and tops, but I also made underwear! It took making a couple of test pairs in stretchy fabric to get the pattern I drafted to fit just right.

I followed a Craftsy class on underwear making for the initial pattern. Beverly Johnson is the instructor and she’s fabulous! (She also teaches bra making which I recommend.)

I was going for a boy short style or something similar.

Here are two sets that I made recently. It took less than one hour to make multiple pairs. Because of the variation in stretch of the two fabrics I made 2 patterns to account for the difference in stretch.

4-way stretch knit fabric with self-fabric waistband and leg opening bands.

2-way stretch fabric with self-fabric waist and leg opening bands.

My family and friends laughed at me for making my own underwear but they are missing out! These are so comfy and they fit my body shape perfectly. And I can make them in any color I want.

I’ll definitely be making more of these. They take very little fabric so they end up being very inexpensive to make.

Drafting an Off-the-Shoulder Top

I work in the fashion industry and it seems like every woman at the office is wearing some version of the off-the-shoulder top. So I decided to draft my own version and add straps so I can still wear a bra with it.  I wasn’t sure exactly how the top would be constructed or how low the armhole shaping needed to be, so I made a half-scale mock up as a test run (without the straps for now). 

Many of you may have never seen a half-scale dressform. They are especially handy when trying to figure out how a garment will work, without having to cut/waste a bunch of fabric doing it. It looks much smaller that 1/2-scale, but all of its measurements are exactly half of a standard dressform ( approx half of an industry size 8). If I were really serious about my mini dressform I’d pad it to have a bigger bust ( ha ha), but this will do for my off-the-shoulder mock-up. (I have a full size dressform too, for real sized fitting.)

Here’s the finished mock-up, because I know you are dying to see what it looks like. . . 

It’s a bit stiff, because of the muslin, but I think when I cut the real fabric I’ll be using a much softer, drapey fabric that won’t stand away from the body so much.

Here are my drafting notes for the real (full-scale) version. . .you’ll see that I’m toying with a facing for the top edge instead of the fold-back facing. I’m only considering that if my fabric yardage isn’t enough to allow me the turn-back height. 

I’m thinking to decrease the elastic width to only 1″, instead of 2″, since most of my stash of elastics are 1″ wide. (Tip: Try to use items already in your stash, instead of buying something new, if you can.)

It took me about 10 min to cut out the muslin fabric for the mock-up, and only about 15 min to sew up the mock-up. Granted, it was a quickie job without any pressing or attention to detail, but it got the job done. 

After making the mock-up, I’ve decided to re-design the sleeve opening to be wider. Compare my initial sleeve shape from the sketch above to this new one below…a bigger opening. I think it will look cuter with a wider, looser opening. I may also shorten the sleeve length from my “pattern”. (Because there is so little shape or detail to the this style of top, I won’t actually make a full pattern, I’ll just use my measurements and the above diagram and cut directly into the fabric, to make the armhole shapes and each of the pieces.

I’ll cut out the real fabric soon, probably tomorrow night so, stay tuned. . . I’ll post the pics of the cutting and assembling as I go.

My 5 Favorite Sewing Tips

When I was thinking about how long I’ve been sewing and all the cool stuff I’m able to make, I remembered all the great advice I’ve received or things I’ve learned along the way.

Here’s my first list, in no particular order! I say “first” because I’m sure more tips will come to me after I post this. 🙂

  1. Never buy fabric you don’t love.
    Because you’ll end up with a garment you won’t want to wear.
  2. Always do to the fabric what you expect to do to the garment . . washing-wise, that is!
    I throw ALL of my fabric in the washer and the dryer before I cut anything out. Since I don’t dry clean anything if I can help it — in NYC it’s too expensive — everything I create needs to be able to make it through the washing machine and, usually, the dryer.
  3. Make a muslin (a proto sample) of your garment first so you can make any corrections to the pattern before cutting into the “real” fabric. Unless you know the pattern you are using already fits you great, or the style is so loose and forgiving it doesn’t matter how it fits — in those cases, just go for it!
  4. Your iron should be your best friend! Press. . . frequently!
    This is the KEY to a professional looking garment. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how much better a garment (or any fabric project) looks if you press the seams (and any other parts that need it) after each major step.
  5. Figure out how to fit your personal body shape.  If you are busty, learn the Full-Bust-Adjustment technique. If you are petite, learn how to shorten the body and sleeve lengths of patterns. If you are tall, learn how to increase sleeves and body lengths in the right place on the patterns.  Go search out fitting techniques that will improve the fit of garments you like to make. There are some great books on fitting out there and lots of websites and blogs that will walk you through the steps. (** See note below.)  Just remember…A great fit will always improve the look of your garment.

** Note: I didn’t learn to sew until I was in college (my first project was curtains for my dorm room), even though I’d been watching my Mom sew when I was growing up.  While I originally learned to sew from books (this was before the internet! ha ha), I learned how to “fit” years later when I was a pattern maker and draper at Anna Sui and a Technical Designer at Tommy Hilfiger and Banana Republic. There’s nothing like fitting garments on a fit model and on a dress form, correcting patterns and describing how to improve the fit of a garment to a factory to improve your “eye” at fitting!



The dress is done!

I finished the polka-dot dress tonight and I’m pleased with the final results. Instead  of a normal hem, I decided that I’d add a bias trim along the curved hem, in the same binding that I used on the armholes and neckline.

The bodice has both a bust dart and a French dart (that starts in the side seam and angles up toward the bust. (That was needed both because of the big boobs and because I originally made the width of the dress too wide and had to take everything in for a better fit. That’s what happens when you don’t make a muslin! Ha ha)

This is the first time I’ve made a V-neck anything, which is odd since I own a lot of v-neck styles and like them and I make a LOT of my own tops and dresses, but they are always crew-neck shapes or cowl necklines.

This fabric is from my favorite store here in NYC, MOOD FABRICS. Love them!! If you don’t live in NYC you can still access their amazing collection of fabrics through their website. I only bought 2 yards of the polka-dot fabric and I had more than enough for this dress and all of the bias trim I made. Fabric was $16/yd, in case anyone was interested, so the dress cost me $32 in materials. (I didn’t end up needing a zipper in the center back seam since the v-neck made the dress easy to slip on over my head.)

I enjoyed making this dress and now that I have corrected my pattern (based on my adjustments made while Constructing and fitting it), I’ll probably make another one. I might even widen the shoulders and add a cute sleeve for an alternate style. 🙂

— Jenny

Creating your own bias binding

While you can find lots of tutorials on creating your own bias binding, I’ll go ahead and give a little tutorial of how I created mine for use as trim detail on the armholes and neckline of the polka-dotted dress.

First, I cut a piece of fabric 16″x16″. (You may think this won’t create much bias trim but you would be wrong! Ha ha. It created at least a couple of yards for me. I used it for the armhole trims and neckline trims of my dress, and I still have lots left over.)

The top and btm edges should be noted in some way –I used blue pins on the top and bottom– and then the two sides should be noted differently — I used yellow pins. Cut the square piece of fabric diagonally in half. (Step 1 below)


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