Jalie 2806: One Pattern, Many Looks

Guess I went a little crazy in building a wardrobe of short-sleeved tops.  The drive for this was the Pattern Review contest titled “One Pattern, Many Looks”.  Now you know my philosophy – never underestimate the power of a tried and true (TNT) pattern, or “you can’t have too much of a good thing”.  Here goes:

Top #1: Lacy Tee


Beautiful London Textiles lightweight cotton 4-way stretch jersey with lace inserts and sleeves.  Sleeves were hemmed with a narrow rolled hem.  After the top was constructed, gathered gross-grain and lace half-circles were hand-stitched.

Sewing Tips and Instructions:

1. Cut the entire pattern from the main fabric.

2.  Cut the lace and sew onto the main fabric.

3.  Sew the main fabric and lace as one.

4.  Now cut away the main fabric under the lace inserts, cutting close to the seams 

For the embellishment, cut an 18″ x 2″ strip of lace.  Place a mark to divide by thirds.  Hand sew and gather each third (2 are gathered on one side of the lace and one segment of gathering on the other side of the lace) to create a shell design.  I also placed 2″ grossgrain ribbon under the lace and added a pearl to the center of each half-shell.

Top 2: Tucks and Pinches

Two-way stretch lightweight cotton-poly (Jomar’s in Philadelphia) is an Anthro-inspired top.  Because of the stretch factor, this version was cut a size larger.  Embellishment was completed by tucking and pinching a long strip of self-fabric to make a design that’s pretty similar to the RTW I was copying.

Instructions and Tips:

1. Cut  a 4″ x 4-5″ strip of fabric along the length of the fabric.  I had to piece the strip of fabric – just hid the seams in the folds of the design.

2. Using a decorative stitch and either a contrasting or the same color thread (I used chartreuse), sew a line about 3/4″ from the each edge of the strip of fabric.

3.  Beginning at the center back, in a “zig-zag fashion, pinch and tuck to form the desired design.  Stretch the fabric and fold the edges under to hide the raw edges.   Pin in place.

4.  When you are happy with the look, hand tack the design into place.  (I think the Anthro was machine sewn but I couldn’t figure out how to do it).

5. Place two 8″ strips under the design and tack. They will hang freely.

Top 3:  RTW Knock-off

Made from cotton 4-way stretch pointelle (Mood), this is an exact copy of a well-worn Talbots top I wore to work until I should have been embarrassed to wear it.  This pattern was the perfect pattern to make a copy.  Instead of a stretch band, 5/8” scalloped lace was used as the band.

Instructions and Tips:

1.  Instead of cutting fabric for a band, use a 5/8″ piece of scalloped embroidered lace.  For a size 12, I cut a piece 32″ long, which includes enough for overlapping at the start/end.

2.  Gather the front as if you are using a stretchy neck-band.

3.  Using a 1/4″ seam line, sew the straight edge of the lace onto the wrong side of the fabric.  (wrong side of lace must face the wrong side of the fabric).

4.  Trim the seam very close to the seam line without cutting into the lace.

5.  Fold the lace over onto the right side and baste into place.

Sew straight edge of lace onto the wrong side of the fabric

6.  Following the edge of the scallop, machine stitch the lace to the front of the top.  As you can see by the following photo of the wrong side, you will form a scalloped design.

Top 4: Teal Leopard?

Small black and self-fabric petals were sewed together and added for embellishment on this top which is made from 4-way rayon jersey from London Textiles.

Instructions and Tips:

1.  Cut dozens of small petals of the desired color or colors.

2.  Sew together with a gathering stitch.  I overlapped the black and teal petals.

3.  Gather the strips of petals

4.  Sew onto the top using a narrow zig-zag stitch.

Top 5:  From Etsy with Love

Embellished with an applique I found on Etsy (this seller has amazing items for sale), this is my favorite of the tops.

Instructions and Tips:

1.  This was straight-forward.  I made the top and then hand-sewed the applique onto the top.

2.  Only one caveat – so the front gathers would fall symmetrically from the applique, I made an additional row of gathering as shown in the following photo.

Top 6: Japanese Screen Print

Also purchased from London Textiles, this top was made from a 2-way stretch cotton with a Japanese-influence screen print.  It has small stitch lines and sequins that are also screen printed – quite unique.  To add color, a silk “smushed” flower was added to the top.

This was taken from Tip Junkie.  Because of the sequins all of the color going on, this fabric was very difficult to machine hem. (Couldn’t get it to look straight) so the sleeves were hand-stitched with seed beads – a nice finishing touch.

Whew!  That’s it for now.

The Traje in Guatemala

It’s now been months since we were in Guatemala, but as you can tell by my posts, I continue to be fascinated by the culture.  By no means am I an expert on the “traje”; that is the traditional clothing worn by Mayan women and girls in Guatemala however I’d like to share the little bit that I know. As a fabric lover, it is captivating to see the variety of beautiful fabrics and the proud manner in which women wear their traje.

With her Mother at a Craft Market (Antigua)
Coban: Traje Store

In a previous post I wrote that women of Guatemala literally wear their culture on their backs.  Unlike other countries where traditional clothing is a cultural marker and where the clothing is worn only for special occasions, in Guatemala there are large numbers of women or girls who wear traditional clothing for daily life.  Of course there are also women who also wear the traje only on special occasions.  From what I could see, the clothing for special occasions does not differ in style from what was worn for daily use.

Selling fruit at the Market
Typical dress in Coban

Even after seeing several photos of women in traditional clothing, you may notice the different skirt and top styles.  Each community has a style which is unique to that area.  For example, in the north (specifically Coban), women wear gathered skirts and lacy tops such as the preceding photo.  On the other hand, in a cooler area such as Santiago Atitlan, the blouses are made of fairly heavy cotton which is then embroidered with birds such as the following photo.

Santiago Atitlan: Typical Blouse

 In Antigua and the Lake Atitlan area, skirts are made from a large panel of fabric tied at the waist with a wide hand embroidered belt.  The fabric is made by women in their homes – densely woven Guatemalan cotton in a variety of plaid designs, which also vary by region.   Like backstrap weaving, fabric weaving is one of the ways in which women stay connected to their culture.

San Juan: Schoolgirls in the Traje
Weaving Loom for Skirt Fabric
Fabric for Traje skirts
Lace only fabric store: San Pedro

In the following photo, I love the hair ribbons woven into the braid.  In Quetzaltenango the skirts are full and have an embroidered band at the knee.  You can also see the hand-woven shawl resting on the woman’s shoulder.

Waiting for the Bride: Quetzaltenango

Not surprisingly in this craft-based economy, many of the garments are hand-sewed and embroidered by family members.  I’m not sure about the cost of blouse fabric but we were told that a skirt-length panel of woven fabric costs $40-$80, incredibly expensive in a very poor country.

What about men?

Unlike Mayan women, it is uncommon to see men wearing their traditional garments.  I was able to capture one example in San Pedro – wool pants with embroidery.  Like with the garments worn by females, the designs vary by community.

Traditional pants: San Pedro

Cute is Always a Hit

Cute  adj

 1. a. clever or shrewd often in an underhanded manner

b.  impertinent, smart alecky,  <don’t get cute with me>

2.  attractive or pretty especially in a childish, youthful, or delicate way

This is Megan is wearing her new “cherry skirt” I sewed for her.  The fabric is a lovely (cute) pindot cotton organza with embroidered cherries. I found it all gnarled and wrinkled in the bins at London Textiles.  Since this skirt was such a hit with my daughter, I thought you might like the pattern and instructions for this very easy drop-waist skirt.

Free Drop-waist skirt pattern pdf

You will need:

  • 1.5 yards of fabric (more if you’d like more gathering or a longer skirt length)
  • 1/4 yard of interfacing
  • 7-9″ zipper


  • Yoke: 4 pieces.  Here’s the Drop-waist skirt pattern – one for the front, one for the back and one facing piece for each the front and back.  I used scrap fabric for the facing but a self facing would work as well.  This pattern is 33″ at the waist and 37″ at the bottom of the yoke.  If you need a different size, add to the fold line or the at the side of the yoke pattern.
  • Interfacing: 2 pieces – same size as the yoke pieces.
  • Skirt: 2 pieces.  I used a 20″ length of by 54″ wide.  Note:  Cut the length equal to the  finished skirt from waist to the skirt bottom, as it will allow a sufficient length for the hem.   If you would like more gathering, use more fabric.


1. Fuse or hand baste the interfacing to the front and back yoke (not the facing).

2. Sew one of the side seams of both the yoke (with interfacing applied) and the facing.  Leave the other open for the zipper.

3.  Sew one side seam of the skirt.  This will be the right side.  Leave left side open for now.

4. Gather the top of the joined skirt pieces.  If you are lining the skirt, gather the lining and skirt as one piece.

5. With right sides together, sew the gathered skirt to the yoke.  

6.  Sew yoke facing to the yoke at the waist.  Clip seams and press.

7.  Insert zipper  (I hand-picked an invisible zipper).  Instructions are here.

8.  Hand or machine stitch the bottom of the facing, to hide the gathered edge of the skirt.

9.   Sew the left side seam below the zipper.

10.  Hem the skirt.

Hopefully only two hours later and you have a new cute skirt.

Why Would Anyone Sew a Backpack?

After just having completed a backpack, I think the only reasonable answer to that question is: “Because he/she can.”  There’s just not another rational answer to the question.

Several weeks ago there was a sewing listserv discussion about the best pattern to use for a backpack, where to get the hardware, etc.  I watched the discussion and thought, “why in the world would anyone sew a backpack?”.  Even for a small backpack, availability of zippers in the correct size could be a limiting factor. In addition, some of the other hardware and needed supplies are difficult if not impossible to find.

The story starts with Kevin and me taking a day trip to NY. The Bolt and Megabus drop-off’s are nearly in the heart of the fabric district and truth be told and in case you’re wondering, I only stopped at one store.  Interestingly it was to buy zippers but not for this project.  Otherwise we passed right on by the fashion district.  Kevin really liked his old worn drawstring daypack for a short trip such as this but like most drawstring daypacks, it was deficient of the often needed water bottle pocket.

Well loved and used string daypack

Several days later at Jomar’s in Philly, I was lured by these really unusual but fashionable 7″ zippers at $.50 each) and fabric to match off the $1 rack.  Impulsive and thinking, “I don’t often sew for Kevin”.  Maybe I could knock off his old Nike daypack, and while I’m at it, add some features he would like such as a water bottle holder and straps instead of strings but still without too much hardware.  With fabric in hand, that’s what I set out to do, forgetting that only several weeks prior, I thought this a pretty dumb idea.

The idea got out of hand.  

How about putting together a tutorial for my blog?  I created a pattern from the old Nike daypack and took the obligatory photos to share every step with you.  Then came the two lower pockets and at that point my only desire was to finish, abandoning all good intentions to create a tutorial.  Without those two very useful small pockets with a miter at each corner, the bag wasn’t all that difficult – how naive I was.  Without previous experience with this type of bag, I messed up on sequencing – like do you put the big pocket on before the small ones?  And when do you sew the straps to the body?  Oh, and how do you not put the clasp on backward?

Why is there a flap covering a navy zipper?  Surely not to keep the rain out.  The reason is that the silver zippers only came in a 7″ length so for the larger pocket I used a navy zipper and hid the it under a flap.  (Pretty clever, huh?)

Strap anchor - part of it got sewn into the miter at the bottom of the pack

Why is part of the strap anchor sewn into the bottom seam of the bag?  Oops. Because I didn’t think ahead when inserting the strap anchor.

Water bottle holder - nice and tall but not quite enough real estate

Why was the water bottle pocket sewn onto one of those precious difficult to sew pockets?  Again, I had an idea without a plan, leaving experience as the teacher.

Back of the pack - straps inserted with anchors at the bottom and into the seam at the top

In the end……

Despite all of the challenges, I felt very proud that I could complete this bag.  If use is a measure of love, my seam ripper was well-loved during this project.  But in the end, I am really proud of how well this turned out.

If you are interested in the pattern and directions, the photos are waiting.  Just let me know.