Saturday, February 17, 2018

All Appleton, All The Time

To celebrate the making of my second Appleton Dress, I figured I should finally write about the first one that I made 5 months ago.

But first, some monologue:

Cashmerette patterns are named after streets in Boston. The Appleton is named after a street in the South End, which happens to be within walking distance of basically every job/all education I had between 18 and 30. I'm talking like 6 different jobs here, and two degrees, and if I extended that circle a bit more I could encompass at least 2 more jobs. It's weird to think that for 12 years I spent the majority of my brain power in such a small area of the city. 

In case you're curious, my jobs did NOT include working at the AMC Loews or Escape Room Boston.
It was nice to be able to take a walk through the Boston Common and Boston Garden at lunch, or to pop over to all of the shopping in Downtown Crossing so easily. But, I can't say I miss the T delays and crowds of tourists. (Sorry, everyone who has ever visited Boston.)

I picked up my Appleton pattern at Clementine, a beautiful little haberdashery in Rockland, Maine. We were staying in Camden, Maine for a quick getaway sans child and I made a point to find a local fabric store so I could treat myself to a project. 

I also got several yards of a knit Art Gallery Fabric (Magnolia nightfall from the Charleston collection by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery fabrics). It says it's 95% cotton 5% Spandex.

My haul from Clementine.
 Here's a look at my first finished Appleton:

And here I am wearing it. We snapped this picture before dashing off to catch the train/drop off at daycare/drive to work:

This dress features heavily in my work wardrobe rotation, so I figured it was time to make another one. Since I've worn the first one quite a bit, I knew there was one primary change I wanted to make, but it was really to go back to the way the pattern was intended to be sewn up. More on that in a minute.

First, my original pattern alterations:

The front of the wrap

I wanted to preserve the original printed pattern, so I traced two sizes: a 16 and a 20. I needed a 16 on top and a 20 in my hips. You can see below that I cut the 16 in the shoulders/neck. I made sure that when I traced the neckband pieces, I cut a 16.

I have an absurdly long waist, so I measured the widest point of my hip from my shoulders and compared it to the widest part of the hips in the pattern. I needed to add 4", which also helped spread out the difference between my 16 top/20 bottom. You can see in the photo below that if the extra length wasn't added, I would have had to dramatically flare out at the waist. 

The first time I made the pattern, I thought that because of my long waist, the ties would hit too high above my waist, basically on my rib cage/under the bust. You're supposed to cut the right side (the side that sits on top) of the wrap slightly narrower than the left, so it ends about 80% of the way across your front, instead of 100% across your body like the left side of the wrap.

In the picture above, you can see the fold on the right of the pattern piece. You're supposed to cut the left side unfolded, then cut the right side without that 2" or so. Because the neckline is diagonal, if you fold over 2" the edge is higher than the left side edge by 1-1.5". That's where you attach the tie that goes around your body. 

Thinking myself clever, I thought that if I cut the right side the full width (i.e. cut it exactly the same size as the left side), that the lower tie would correct the too-high-waist problem.

I don't think it did actually make much of a difference, although I think it made the front of the dress perpetually lopsided when I tied it: because I was pulling the waist tie lower, it would throw off the angle of the vertical edge of the wrap, so it would rotate just enough so that the front edges of the wrap pieces didn't line up.

When I cut my second version of the Appleton, I actually followed the original pattern intentions, and weirdly I think it's actually straighter and the waist ties seem to hit appropriately. Above was the picture I took before I hemmed it or finished the sleeves to see if I was going to keep it as a dress or turn it into a wrap top.

Let's talk fabric. This was sitting on my Trello board (here's a post on how I use Trello to manage sewing projects) and I haven't found any other knit dress patterns I like so I figured I'd go for it.

I paid $16.20 for 3 yards of this DTY knit from Michael Levine when there was a 20% off sale. (It's no longer on the site, otherwise I'd link directly to it.) It's incredibly soft, and you can't beat $5-something a yard. I'd never heard of DTY before -- apparently it's the matte cousin of ITY (which has more of a glossy sheen).

The colors are super rich, and I love the large floral in theory. What gave me pause when I first sewed it up is I thought maybe the large floral had a muumuu vibe, if you know what I mean. 

Exhibit A: muumuu.
I thought maybe if I made it into a wrap top instead of a dress, it would mitigate the muumuu impression by reducing the amount of large floral fabric, but I decided to just stay the course and finish it. Please weigh in in the comments if I look like I'm walking around in a muumuu because I'd sincerely like to know.

Finished garment pictures. The morning light was shining right in my eyes, so I'm squinting quite a bit in these, but the only way I can take a picture in daylight is if we do it right before work. (Because there's no way in hell I'm going to get dressed up on the weekend to take pictures when I'm hanging around all day. Sorry, that's precious sewing time!)

Don't you love the picturesque view from my deck? A winter wonderland!

Much like my soul, the trees are barren of signs of life.

The view most people see as I race past them up the corporate ladder.

These flats are my "wearing tights" shoes and I've had them for like 6 years. Maybe time to invest in some new shoes.
I will say after having worn it at work for a full day that this version is even comfier than my last version. The fabric is soooo soft that I might not even stop wearing it if you tell me it looks like a muumuu.

I do have an exciting update on the "sewing better" front.

Tip Numero 1:

First, I used 1/4" Washaway Wonder Tape to stabilize any areas that needed top stitching. Normally if I do a zig-zag stitch on a knit, the machine stretches the fabric a bit and warps the seam. I read a hot tip on Cookin' and Craftin''s review of the Blackwood Cardigan that suggested doing this and guess what, it really does work!

Here's how I did it (demonstrating on a scrap as I forgot to take pics in progress):

First, I laid the sticky side of the tape down along the edge of the hem (for both the sleeve hems and the bottom hem).

Next, I tore off the paper side to expose the other sticky side.

Then I just folded it to the appropriate hem length and sewed directly on top of the tape sandwich. It added enough stability to prevent stretching, which made a perfect stitch. Once I wash it, it will just dissolve away. Another bonus is you don't have to pin, because the stickiness holds the fabric in place. 

Tip Numero 2:

The instructions call for a piece of clear elastic when you're sewing the shoulder seams to prevent over-stretching and add stability. On my first Appleton, I first tried to serge the seam but the fabric seemed to just shred. I think part of this was a fabric issue - it didn't like the serger - but using the elastic would have definitely helped.

When I started my second Appleton, I knew I wanted to use my serger and after testing fabric scraps this knit seemed much more amenable. However, I still hadn't picked up some clear elastic and I did want to stabilize the shoulder seams, so I did a Google search for alternatives to clear elastic and found an awesome tip.

All you do is cut a bias-cut piece of fabric and add it to the seam sandwich. I used some scrap quilting cotton. Because it's cut on the bias, it's a little bit stretchy, but much less stretchy than the fabric would be on its own. That means that there's less stress on the shoulder seam.

It worked like a charm and now that's my new favorite trick for sewing with knits!

That's all folks. Don't forget to let me know if I'm committing the most egregious of fashion faux pas and also please let me know how many wrap dresses are too many wrap dresses. Asking for a friend...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How I Use Trello to Manage Sewing Projects

I'm the kind of sewist who has a million projects going on at once, and I work on a wide range of projects, including quilts and garments.

Because I have so much going on, I sometimes struggle with getting clarity on what I want to work on next, and I also tend to forget progress and blockers like "oh crap I can't work on this quilt again until I find the perfect backing fabric" or, "I'd love to make a dress with this challis but I haven't found the perfect pattern yet."

In order to solve these problems, I created a workflow in Trello to manage all the important details for each project and help me keep things moving.

I'm going to go through how I use it and some of the functionality so hopefully you'll be able to see how it might be helpful for you even if your needs are different than mine.

How to Set Up a Trello Board

Trello is a free, web-based tool and has all sorts of ways to customize the set up to meet your specific needs. A huge benefit of a tool like this is it helps you visualize everything, however you could easily set up a similar system using post-it notes or something else low-tech. I'll cover that later!

1. Sign up

Go to Trello's website and set up a free account. 

2. Create a Board

Next, create a new board by clicking the "+" sign on the top right and selecting Create Board from the dropdown.

3. Name your board, set a privacy level, and choose a background. 

You can get to more board background options by clicking the "..." box on the right.
Set privacy level.

Board backgrounds - if you click "See more" there are a gajillion more options to choose from.

Click "Create Board" and you're done.

4. Set up your sewing workflow. 

Use "Add a list" to create column headers for each stage of your sewing workflow.

What a new, blank board looks like.

To show how this works in practice, I'll jump ahead and show you my finished board. You might want to set yours up differently depending on what challenges you experience.

My "Lists" aka workflow

I set up 5 steps in my workflow.

  • To Do/Backlog
  • Doing/WIP (works-in-progress)
  • To Photograph
  • To Blog
  • Done
Personally, I use Pinterest as my holding zone for all ideas that appeal to me, and projects only make it onto my Trello board once I'm seriously considering it. However, if that's the aspect you'd find most helpful to track, you may want to make more granular "To Do" columns.

I've included some links at the bottom of this post to others in the sewing blogosphere who are using Trello in different ways. There are a million ways to customize it: sewing workflows are definitely not one size fits all.

Here's what my board looks like with cards on it:

5. Create cards.

Click "Add a card," which you'll find at the bottom of each column, to add a piece of work that will move through the workflow.

Name your card: 

In this example my card is called "Cashmerette Appleton," named after the pattern I used for this garment.

Add Attachments/pictures: 

I've already taken in-progress photos of this pattern so I added it as an attachment. Because it's a photo, it shows up in the main view of the card, which is helpful for visualizing your work. For something I haven't made yet, I might add photos of inspiration photos, line drawings, potential fabric choices, etc.


You can enter any static information about the pattern in the description. For example, I could link to the pattern's website/purchase link if I was still considering it, or enter sizing information, price, etc.


I use comments for progress information, like details on why something is blocked.

Due Date: 

If you have an actual due date you can add it and it will show up on the card for easy reference and you can even view it on a calender. For example, if you are making a quilt as a gift for a baby shower and you have a hard deadline or you want to make a dress before an event.


Labels can be used like tags. Here's how I set up my labels:

I created labels for different kinds of projects (Quilts, garments, other projects) and also to denote blockers. I differentiated between a "material" blocker (like waiting for fabric) and a "decision" blocker (like deciding on a fabric). 

Labels are helpful because you can easily visualize projects on the main board because of the colors, and also because you can sort with them. So if I want to only see my quilting projects, I can filter the board.

To filter, you want to click "Show menu) at the top right, and then click "Filter Cards":

Then select the filter you want to see:

Now, I can see all of my quilting projects without the clutter of all my other projects.

If I was about to do a fabric purchase, I might want to filter on all my blocked cards to see if I needed to get anything to unblock them:


I use checklists almost as a sub-workflow for different kinds of projects.

I have a standard quilting checklist that I use to track the different standard stages of a quilt. I started this by adding the checklist to one card and then simply select the same checklist in other cards like by creating a checklist in the other card and selecting "Copy Items From..." and then selecting the checklist I want:

My garment checklist looks a bit different:

Different kinds of cards: 

My workflow is generally linear, in that something starts at the beginning and works its way through each column to the end. Of course I might decide not to photograph or blog something, and move it straight to done, but I usually don't. I can also abandon a project that was in-progress and move it straight to "done" (as in I'm done with it, even though it's not done), or can decide to never pull a project from the backlog.

I also sometimes write blog posts about things that are not strictly sewing this one. I also use my Trello board to create cards as placeholders for those ideas.

You'll also notice that my backlog is mostly my garment fabric stash. I put a visual reminder of the fabric and note how much I have, as well as fabric properties like knit/stretch, pattern, etc. In order for one of these cards to make it into the workflow, I'd have to marry it with an actual pattern, at which point this card would start to look very different.  

I tend to start with a fabric and then decide on a pattern, so this works for me and helps me keep my fabric stash top of mind when I'm browsing patterns. So if I see that I have lots of nice knits in dress yardages, maybe I should go look for a knit dress pattern!

Once I find more tried-and-true patterns I might need to alter the structure of this board a bit.

6. Move cards through the workflow:

Just drag and drop! That's what makes Trello so easy to use. You can move things around without needing to go into each individual card and make changes.

Low-Tech Options

If that all sounds like way more detail or technology than you want or need, you can also apply the same principles to a low-tech option.

You can set up something similar with a whiteboard/corkboard or even just a wall and some post it notes. Use tape or marker (if you're using a whiteboard) to draw columns and you're in business.

You can just write the name of the project on the post it, or even tape on a photo you've printed out to it. You might find you need somewhere else to track additional details, but a simple dedicated notebook with each project getting its own page would probably work just fine.

Smash the Stash has a great post on using post-its to manage her workflow and a notebook to track the finer details of her projects. She has some nice photos to show her process in action.

Elita Sharpe wrote a nice guest post on Angela Walters' site that shows how she manages projects for her professional longarm business using a low-tech system.

Was that helpful?

I hope you found this helpful and I'd love to hear about your own sewing workflows and organization methods, or even just the challenges you face that you're still trying to solve! Thanks for reading. :)

Other inspiration:

Ivete at Gotham Quilts uses Trello to create a quilting workflow.

Helen at Helen's Closet organizes projects by type and uses tags to note status and things like pattern format.

Camille at Attack of the Seam Ripper uses Trello boards to track her fabric stash, patterns, and set sewing deadlines.


This post was inspired by an interaction I had with a fellow sewist on Instagram. She was using a simple and effective post-it method to track sewing and it got me thinking about combining the way I organize projects at work with the problems I was having with organizing my sewing. Unfortunately I can't find that interaction, otherwise I would shout out to my muse!
This post started as a 3-part series that had 2 parts that went into wayyyyy too much detail about Kanban, lean manufacturing, the concept of "waste" in the process, user stories, acceptance criteria, etc. I realize that that's probably too far down the rabbit hole for most readers, but if you're interested in the theory behind this kind of workflow, I'd encourage you to do a web search for some of those terms. These kinds of project planning theories and tools have become very popular in the business/technology world since around 2005, so you may even be familiar with it from your own 9-5. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

There Will Be Duds

I want you to stop what you're doing right now (why am I sending people away from my blog? What about the sweet ad dollarz?!) and go look up the movie poster for "There Will Be Blood."

Are you not impressed by my sweet pun and spot on graphic?

I had to start out with something light and frivolous because it's only going downhill from here folks. We are about to descend into the bowels of hell. AKA: really terrible garments.

Every time I sew some piece of clothing successfully, I come off the project feeling infallible. Like, I have obviously cleared some sort of hurdle and will never again sew an unsuccessful garment.

But now that I've sewn lots of garments, I can say with certainty that this is not so. I predict that it's a fact of life that There. Will. Be. Duds.

  • My body is very three dimensional. Three dimensional objects are difficult to sew fabric coverings for. 
  • I haven't yet mastered fabric choice. I'm getting better, know.
  • Furthermore, I have the longest waist on earth. It's weird. I find that a lot of patterns for plus sizes assume you have a big bust, with a waist line just below the bust. That's not me.
I'm willing to press on of course: to better myself and continue to learn, improve, etc. In the spirit of examining my previous mistakes as a way to better understand my garment failings, let's take a look at some recent duds.

McCall's 7429

I saw a couple of lovely versions online that made me think this twist-front dress might look nice on me.
So, nope. I mean, I basically look like I wrapped myself in a big blanket and clumsily knotted it at my waist. The high neckline is not flattering on me, I cut it to be way too long, and the knot basically throws off any hope of an hourglass figure. 

Embarrassingly I actually wore this to work one day. Thank god I didn't have meetings with actual people that day.

The fabric was a really nice knit from Michael Levine. I'm sad I wasted it on this dress.

Obviously other people have made this dress work so I'm not sure I can entirely blame the pattern. I added length to the waist because of aforementioned super long waist, and I wonder if I left the knot right under the bust if it would have looked better? 

But maybe not because I do think the knot is way too big. The design is such that there's basically 30 layers of fabric. I think the other ladies who made this had larger busts and the knot was therefore not quite as large proportionately. 

McCall's 7120

I first blogged about this dress here. It's not even fair to call what you're looking at M7120 because I completely refashioned it after the initial design looked like I took a sack and cut some holes in it. Not a great recommendation for the pattern, to be fair.

What you're looking at is a valiant effort to save it. Unfortunately, the dress was dead on arrival, so it was kind of a futile effort. I took the liberty of modeling the dress inside out so you can get an idea of my resuscitation attempts. 

I think I also wore this to work at least once. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Can you see how the fabric is fraying at the hem? I wore it with a giant black cardigan to hide the hideous shoulder/armscye area, but STILL.

My husband has a particularly strong hatred for this dress. Sometimes I put it on and ask him "is it really that bad?" just to make sure he hasn't been body snatched.

Cashmerette Washington

I tried to make this work. I especially like the versions I've seen by Jennifer on Curvy Sewing Collective.

Once again, my long waist might be behind this not working out. In the first photo you can see approximately where the skirt is supposed to be positioned. The top of the waist band is well above my natural waist, then flares out an inch or so away from my body.

In the photo below I've let go of the skirt and let it fall to where it would naturally sit on my body. As you can see, there's a BIT of space between the bottom of the bodice and the top of the skirt.

Now I know that this look is in, but yeah no. 

Here is what it would basically look like from the side if I sewed it together. It's OK, I guess, but now my heart's just not in it. I could cut the bodice to be longer, or recut the skirt to be a bit smaller and fit better when properly positioned. But I hate the skirt fabric I chose, and I'm tired of trying to find three fabrics that work together.

McCall's 7561

Ooh what a fun, SUPER EASY EVEN AN IDIOT CAN SEW IT dress! Look, it says "Learn to Sew for FUN."

For fun, guys. For fun! Like, you weren't expecting a wearable garment, were you? Oh you silly child. Go back to having FUN.

I'm going to let my dead eyes and American-Gothic-potato masher pose speak for itself here.

I will add one more thing, which is that McCall's does this thing where it assumes that if you have some junk in the old trunk that you also have the shoulders of a linebacker. I cut the bodice according to my bust measurements and had to create a seam down the middle to narrow it so it fit. 

I might not be done with this one. Don't be shocked if you see it again, somehow getting worse.

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All Appleton, All The Time