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Garments & Garment Sewing

Sewing A Men’s Linen Sport Coat, Part 412: Sleeve LINING

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About a thousand years ago, I started sewing a sport coat for my husband using a beautiful navy linen we purchased on a Spring Break trip to Mood Fabrics in New York City–you can read the original posts here.

Along the way, I made a muslin, as any good seamstress would do with an investment piece like a sport coat, and my husband had a fitting.  I asked for his feedback, and he gave it.

And that’s when the brakes went on.

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I asked him what he would want changed, and he told me.  And I took it personally.  I was bummed that even though I considered myself more than competent, I didn’t get it “right” straight out of the box on the first try.  Which sounds crazycakes to me now, but at the time, I wasn’t listening?  I was just feeling?  And it felt bad to make something for someone else and have it not land the way I’d hoped.

I set the jacket aside for a bit.  I figured I’d come back to it.  And then we moved into a new studio space, and it got bagged and boxed up.  And then I moved out of that space and into our finished basement, which allows me a bigger studio space, and the bag and the box moved along with me.  The jacket was in a sliding drawer labeled “WIPs” and stayed there for a long, long time.

And then Valentine’s Day was coming up.  I thought, what would be meaningful to give my husband?  What would he WANT?  And I remembered the jacket.

This is starting to sound like a children’s book a little, but I swear this is how it all happened.

I remembered the jacket, and I thought: THIS would make him feel good, to finish this project which he has assuredly mentioned once per year since it was put away, tucked into a plastic zippy bag along with my Feelings.  I will make this jacket.

And I did make it, I worked on it up until Valentine’s Day, and I gave him the incomplete jacket, saying that a work in progress is a beautiful thing:

Which it is.

We did another fitting.  He pronounced it good.  I knew it wasn’t perfect.  I still wanted him to WANT it, to feel good about wearing it, but I’d taken myself out of the equation a little more than I could do six years ago, I’d asked my ego to maybe step aside on this one, and think about the act of sewing as a loving gesture that’s given with an open hand, and without concern for how it makes me look–like, maybe the product I’m producing isn’t about whether I myself am good, maybe we can learn to just make the gesture be good, and if the project needs refining, it’s not about my worth.

No good gift is given when we are pursuing our own needs, I think.  The best gifts are given with deep altruism, from a desire to show love to another human without expectation of return.

I got all the way to the final step: hemming the sleeves. And I was trying to get them to lie flat so I could pin the hem in place where it bags a bit at the wrist, and man, it just didn’t want to play. I was feeling frustrated, when I realized that the facings where the lapels turned back to the interior and partially line the jacket were all….lumpy.

There’s just no other word for it.

And the diagnosis I came up with was that the facings, when they were stitched BY HAND to the lining at the armhole, didn’t fit properly and are misaligned. So here’s this selfless act of love that I’m making as I slog my way through lessons about my own ego and how it tells me (false) stories about the source of my self-worth, and THE DARN THING DOESN’T WORK.

Here’s the funny part: I don’t really mind all that much. I ripped out those stitches by hand during a socially distant coffee date the other morning, and it was…FUN. It felt like a REAL gift to UN-do all the work I’d done, and go back and do it BETTER, as a statement about the care and effort I’m willing to expend for the people who matter to me.

Somehow, after gestating in that plastic zippy bag for more than half a decade, this jacket has morphed from being a finger pointing at me telling me how I’ve failed, to being a treasure that I’m delighted to complete to the best of my ability–still imperfect, but that’s not ME who’s imperfect, it’s me who’s doing what I can with what I have to show up as the best version of me for the people I care about.

TL; DR — The jacket still isn’t finished, and I’m growing as a human being.

Lost Project: Vacation Tova Top

I’ve loved this Amy Butler print for years and years. Back when I owned a retail shop, I made a sample Tova Top from this sweet cotton lawn and used it as a display sample. In a moment of weakness, I gave it away, and regretted it ever after–so quickly after that I went out and bought yards of it to hoard. But hoarded fabric isn’t a replacement top, so a couple years later, I made another–because that’s the magic of sewing! I can just MAKE ANOTHER! #noragrets

I think of this as my “vacation top.” Somehow, when I’m packing–usually at the last minute, usually from the pile of clean folded clothes that aren’t yet put away, usually just by grabbing things that I think will feel good to wear on our trip–this top always seems to make it in the bag. And no matter where I’ve worn it, this top is the perfect choice. With hiking pants, with dressy shorts, over a swimsuit, tucked into a denim skirt: it always works.

I wore it on our recent hiking tour of the Utah National Parks, I wore it salt water fishing in the Florida Keys, I wore it on our trip to Japan by bullet train, I wore it to visit my in-laws and to fly to Paris.

When I was recently invited to host a Friday cocktail hour with Mom2.0 on Insta, I initially picked this top to wear behind the bar–it’s soft and comfortable and easy to move in, the sleeves are just the right length, and the open neckline keeps me from overheating and getting The Sweats under lights and pressure. (I ended up going with a yellow short-sleeved knit top that evening because: Signature Color, but it was a game-time decision, for sure.)

I’ve made the Tova Top before and want to double down on my review: I can’t believe this thing has ZERO interfacing, and boy, is that the EXACT RIGHT CHOICE. It creates a real drape and softness in the placket opening and collar, and I’m glad every time I put it on that I followed the instructions.

As with so many of my Lost Projects, this one has seen a lot of Instagram time, but never appeared here on the blog. Funny how the things I wear the most don’t get blogged? but worn? I wonder what would happen if we all pulled our Most Worn garments out of our closets and laid them on the bed, maybe did some analysis of what themes emerge…

I smell a plan cooking. I’ll probably wear this top while I ruminate.

Men’s Pocket Square in Liberty of London Lawn

As I near completion of the men’s sport coat I started six years ago, I am sprinkling in small projects that I can easily complete. It’s not really a deliberate move to make me more “productive,” although I’d love to give myself credit for that. It’s more like, that coat makes me feel a little underwater sometimes, where I’ve painstakingly hand-stitched the sleeve lining to the armholes only to realize that the facings aren’t straight and it all has to come back out…and turning to another project so I can step back from that one for a minute feels like a good thing.

In this case: it’s a companion project. My husband and I were at a men’s store that he loves about two months ago, looking at ties and pocket squares. The pocket square, I suspect, is making a comeback after seeming to be overlooked in men’s fashion for a long time? Back me up on that, someone.

The ones we liked were very, very expensive. Like, $75 for a 16″ square of cotton, expensive. And as we browsed the selection, I realized that while some of them were clearly exotic and imported, a lot of them were Liberty lawns. I have an impressive array of Liberty lawns in my studio, which I kinda famously bought one evening when I was enjoying a glass of wine and unwisely in front of my computer with my wallet nearby and a discount code burning a hole in my self-control.

I figured, why not? Let’s give it a shot to sew our own pocket squares. Worst case: they’re only OK. Best case: we discover limitless possibility.

I started by considering the hem. I wanted to do a tiny machine-rolled hem at first, I think because after all that hand sewing that needed to be ripped out of the sport coats lining where it was falling crookedly, I didn’t feel up to attempting a hand-rolled hem. But the corners really eluded me, they were just so teensy tiny I didn’t feel satisfied with the quality of the work. Since a pocket square is so small but also highly visible along the hemline, I figured the hem really needed to be excellent.

In the end, I made these identically to my fancy napkins tutorial, but used a scant 1/4″ hem along the edges, and mitered the corners. They look lovely, and I don’t think the slightly wider hem adds too much weight–if these were heavier fabrics, I’d be concerned that the thicker hem would drag the corners down when it’s worn in the sport coat pocket, but that hasn’t been the case so far.

I love a simple project. I love when sewing saves money by allowing us to feel “fancy” but without the price tag. It feels like winning. And even more than that, maybe most of all, I love the feeling when my husband comes into the kitchen in a suit and he’s fussing with the pocket square I sewed for him, excited to wear it for his digital conference that day, all dressed up to work remotely. Sewing, even small things, gives me such giant rewards when it makes our today better.

Get Dressed To Stay Home

text image describing the author's journey to dressing better

A little over a year ago, I was inspired by a review of my own handsewn wardrobe–following months and months (and months) in a sewing rut–to GET DRESSED TO STAY HOME.  I have worked from home for more than a decade, and had begun to think of getting dressed as an unnecessary waste of time, something I could skip in favor of More Important (or more enjoyable) tasks.  It took a huge toll on me, y’all, in a quiet, sneaky way–breaking free from that has been work, but it’s been JOYOUS work.  I’ve actually been cataloging the outfits I put together each day and taking photos of them, and am developing the whole series into a project I’m sharing with the League of Dressmakers, where I’m pairing sewing pattern suggestions and video guides with the four concepts I’ve developed to formalize what’s worked for me.

Given the Current Situation, where nearly the entire globe are now finding ourselves sheltering in place and unexpectedly, indefinitely staying or working from home, I want to share these ideas in a five-part series here with all of you.  These posts are about getting dressed, but they’re also about taking active steps to keep ourselves mentally well when we don’t “have to” go anywhere–and are tempted to stay in pajamas all day, every day.

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Toaster Sweater #2

This is easily the most aggressive sweater I own.


I bought this fleece when Hancock Fabrics was shutting down (RIP, messiest fabric stores evar, but let’s be honest: in the face of social distancing we would take that messy shop with the sticky floors in a HEARTBEAT), because they were basically paying you to carry fleece away at that point.  I love All The Yellows, all the time–and this one seemed like just the right half-neon/half-borderline-green-ish color that I could work it into my wardrobe.

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Christmas Pajamas: the Ultimate in Deadline Sewing

I wasn’t going to sew Christmas pajamas two years ago.  Until my children heard about it.  They were actually speechless.  Aghast.  Appalled.  Couldn’t IMAGINE a world in which they didn’t launch into bed on Christmas Eve wearing new handmade pajamas.

We work hard not to go (too far) overboard for Christmas, to the point that we only get our children two gifts each.  We stuff their stockings full, though, and I personally love the tradition of wrapping new pajamas and opening them on Christmas Eve.  It makes for a nice preview, and for snappier Christmas-morning photographs.  Side benefit: since we have grown even more fond recently of giving gifts that are experiences over items–our children have gotten tickets for family trips the past three years, and will again this December 25–they can take their jammies with them when we travel, and have a little home comfort while we’re away.

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Personalizing with Patches


I have self-diagnosed as having a massive patch problem.  I am a patch addict.

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I’ve written about the satchel-style backpacks I made for our children who vigorously pursue the Junior Ranger program at every National Park we visit.  They love these backpacks, and so do I (especially now we’ve upgraded them with an interior zipper to give it more structure and prevent their treasures from falling out).  But they have rapidly run out of space for new patches–we have taken trips to Southern California, Colorado, Kentucky, and Virginia in the past 14 months, and visited a stack of National Park destinations in each, so in addition to seeing the properties nearest to where we live here in Atlanta, we’ve added a couple dozen more park patches, and suddenly find we have no remaining backpack real estate on which to put them!

Compounding the problem is that there are so many great organizations supporting the National Parks since the centenary, and many of them produce patches of their own.  One is Every Kid In A Park, an initiative founded in 2015 under former President Obama to fund a program allowing every family in the US with a fourth grader to receive a free access pass to all the national parks for the year (that program runs through August 2018, and there is some question as to whether it will be renewed, so if you have a fourth grader this coming school year, jump on it while you have the chance! the program also applies to homeschool families with a ten-year-old this school year).

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Emerson Shorts in moss linen

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When our family took a trip to Maui this spring, I started packing pretty late in the game, for me: only a week ahead.  Because, for real, I get SO EXCITED when we travel that I am honestly thinking about packing weeks in advance, and have to hold myself back to only start putting things in the suitcase seven days before the wheels come up on the plane.

And the thought of spending a week on Maui in the last days of winter, with my family??  SIGN ME UP.

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Lost Project: Beatrix Top in Liberty Cotton

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This is the Beatrix Top from Made By Rae, which I made up in Liberty lawn before ever making a muslin, and learned a valuable lesson.

The pattern itself is really excellent—I love the sleeve styling and length, and the buttons up the back (mine are faux, see below).  The pattern also includes adjustments for various cup sizes, which is great if you’re someone who always needs a full bust adjustment every time you sew up a new pattern.  Here’s where I went wrong, though: the bust adjustment used most frequently doesn’t work for me.  So I made up a “muslin” version of this top in the final fabric and didn’t take into account that I wasn’t sure the shaping would work for me.  #sadtrombone

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Lost Project: Liberty Lawn Tuxedo Tank Top


This particular Lost Project actually got a lot of screen time, just not publicly: I originally drafted this pattern for my League of Dressmakers, and we worked with it in various capacities for a few months in 2016, and then re-visited it in 2017.  I used one of my all-time favorite Liberty of London lawn prints to sew this up, and honestly, if my budget allowed it I would probably have an entire closet filled with nothing but Liberty, linen, rayon and jeans.  I might be 95% serious about that.

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Florence Kimono in rayon–with cherries!


I have a truly absurd number of garments hiding in my closet.  Things that I’ve made, for myself, over the past few years that have never been shared or blogged about.  Or more accurately, have made it on to my Instagram feed, but have never been written about at length in a format where I can actually archive them and make them searchable, like here.  I’ve been calling them Lost Projects.

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How to Store Wool Yarn & Fabric

how to store wool yarn and fabric | whipstitch

When I started knitting, I realized I needed to think about storing my textiles differently.  For one good reason:  MOTHS.

Moths are the enemy of long-term textile storage, which we learned the hard way at our house from one vintage jacket purchased at a second-hand store that worked its way through three prized sweaters before we discovered what was going on.  Textile moths LOVE wool, which is why closets have been made of cedar and old ladies have smelled of naphthalene for decades.

With my fabrics for sewing, I admit that I didn’t think too much about storage, certainly not specialty storage.  I mean, cotton, right?  Fold it up, stick it on the shelf, done!  I have had a number of wools rolled up in a basket for years and never gave them a second thought, probably (and I’m ashamed to admit this, but it’s true) because I got them cheap at a closeout sale, so I didn’t ascribe any particular value to them.  Insert conversation about cost vs value here.  Sigh.

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Hand-Knitted Socks

Hand-knitted? Hand knit?  Whichever.  I thought at one point I would never, ever, ever knit socks.  The stitches are just soooooo tiny, you guys.

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But my friend Alexia assured me that once I got going they were really fast, and the appeal of knitting something that was so eminently practical was pretty strong.  Like when I started thinking about Sewing All The Things, the idea that another entire sector of my wardrobe had the potential to be Made By Me was hypnotic.

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Make This The Year You Sew Your Own Wardrobe: The League of Adventurous Dressmakers

Years ago, before I started Whipstitch, I was a schoolteacher.  Schoolteachers are not, as a cultural group, widely known for their fashion sense.  For the most part, I suspect I dressed like a sad librarian.  I know this because the most common days on which I received compliments from my students for looking “nice” were the days when I DIDN’T get dressed by choosing the top thing from the unfolded pile of clothing and instead ironed something that had been in the closet.  Short version: I didn’t dress like I cared all that much about how I dressed.

But that wasn’t a wholly accurate reflection of how I felt on the inside.  In point of fact, I cared a great deal about how my clothing fit and looked.  I was (and remain) particularly focused on silhouette, and in how garments work together to create a pleasing whole when layered and combined.  Most of my inspiration came from magazines and window shopping–this was before the internet, so I couldn’t Pin my ideas or create a virtual inspiration board.  Instead, I tore sheets from fashion magazines and made literal, actual, old-school bulletin boards of looks and colors that I loved, that I felt reflected on the outside how I saw myself on the inside.

A teacher’s salary, though, wasn’t really up to the price tag of my taste level.  Most of the clothes that I admired were far beyond my reach financially.

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The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers: BACK FOR 2017!

This past year has been one of the happiest, most rewarding years I have ever spent sewing, and that is down to a single factor: the people I spent it with.  I made the decision almost exactly one year ago that I was going to focus on two groups in 2016: The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers.  The first has been a pet dream of mine for ages, because who doesn’t love a mystery??  The second was a passion project, born directly out of my desire to sew better clothing with people who love to learn.

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