Helmi, Owyn, and SEWING LOVE Patterns

Happy almost May! I’m still sewing. I’m also comparing other patterns to my own. They say comparison is the thief of joy, but this is actually a joyful kind of comparison for me, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying myself.

This month, I’ve been sewing a bunch of hush-hush things for my upcoming trip to California because I’m leaving next weekend to teach more Creativebug classes (if you want a couple of months free, check out this post). Very excited. Earlier this month, in order to get into the sewing groove I decided to play with some patterns that I’ve been wanting to try forever.

First up: The Helmi Tunic Dress by Named Clothing. I claimed that I would sew this many years ago on Instagram, and I had to wade through a crazy number of images to locate the date. June 22, 2017!!! Okay, not forever ago, but almost 6 years ago. Wow. 

Well, it was worth the wait. When it comes right down to it, I was intimidated by the hidden button placket, which seems like a funny thing to stop me when I’ve managed far more challenging techniques. And yes, it turns out that it’s not difficult at all. Just a little origami-like folding action and boom: a hidden button placket. I love everything about this dress. It’s kinda uniform-esque and maybe it’s a Japanese thing, but I dig this utilitarian look. In fact, when I was browsing through Kinokuniya the other day, I saw a book entitled “The Factory Sewing Book,” and the patterns seem to be inspired by a variety of uniforms.

I used a lightweight cotton twill with a bit of stretch and it’s a good pairing with this pattern. I love the inky, murky color! I cut a size 8 and the fit is great, except…


I don’t know why, but I didn’t think to adjust the bust darts. The dart is basically announcing, “Hey, here’s the bust ‘apex’! Right here, just in case you missed it!” Luckily, the fabric is forgiving enough to hide this error and the dart isn’t too noticeable. I hope. I mean, from a distance, it’s very cute:

I’m partial to these types of tunic dresses and designed my own for Sewing Love:


I really, really love this dress pattern which I’ve named the “Banded Collar Dress.” It’s super comfy and has pockets! Compared to the Banded Collar Dress, the Helmi is more streamlined, wouldn’t you say? They’re both wonderful to wear.

Anyway, because I liked the Helmi Tunic Dress so much, I sewed up a true tunic version by shortening the hem by about 5 inches; I used a beautiful white linen:

I also made sure to adjust the bust darts. Despite the fact that it was my second time making this pattern, I messed up the curved hem and had to re-do it. Twice. Look, here’s that hidden button placket (I feel quite proud):

I have to admit that I don’t like it as much as the dress version. I’m turning 52 in June, and as my hair becomes more and more grey and my features soften with age, lighter colors seem to wash me out. The fabric feels lovely, though.

I tried the tunic with the Owyn Trousers from Lotta Jansdotter’s Everyday Style book:

The Owyn trousers aren’t very flattering on me. Since I have no butt to speak of, the pants feel weirdly pouchy around my hips.

(sorry for the blurry photos — these are all taken with my phone and a remote and sometimes the focus gets wonky)

I compared the Owyn trousers to my own Straight-Leg Pants (again from Sewing Love), and yup, I prefer my own self-drafted pants. They’re both remarkably similar in design but the construction methods are quite different. Additionally, my version has pockets — can you tell that I have a thing for pockets? Even though I don’t adore the Owyn trousers, I suppose you can never go truly wrong with elastic waisted black linen pants. Is it my imagination, or does one leg look longer? Huh.

It was edifying to see how my own patterns stacked up against other sewing patterns. Because my patterns are based on my slopers created from my unique body measurements, the fit is superior across the board. In ways that may not be obvious, my self-drafted clothes just hug my curves better, even when the garment itself is loose. Love it!

Oh, in case you were wondering, in the very first image I’m wearing yet another Sewing Love item — one of my very favorites called the Minimalist Drapey Jacket. It’s made from a lightweight wool and is in constant rotation. I thought it looked rather chic with the Helmi tunic and Straight-Leg Pants. What do you think? I’ve had that plaid scarf for nearly 20 years! Just goes to show you that certain styles can be timeless.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this month, and I better finish preparing for my California trip. I hope you’re all having a lovely end of April and have marvelous plans for May. See you back here next month!


Tops: Matcha and More

By the time I submitted my final draft of Sewing Love back in late 2021, I had sewn hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of test and photoshoot-ready muslins and garments. You know that my tendency is to overdo things, and boy, I overdid the overdoing. I hate to admit it, but I was well and truly sewed out. I developed an uneasy and complicated relationship with my sewing machine (I still loved it but felt resentful of how time-sucky it had become, tethered to seemingly never-ending deadlines) and I stopped using my finicky serger.

It is difficult, it must also be said, to house that many clothing items, especially in a tiny townhouse with pint-sized closets. I had nightmares about loaded garment racks and bins of textiles collapsing on me, and my dream of becoming a minimalist died with a quiet, fabric-choked whimper.

In the last couple of years I haven’t sewn much apparel. I stitched a little bit to prepare for the Creativebug classes that I taught based on Sewing Love projects and whipped out a few roomy tops to wear on my morning walks to replace the haggard ones that I kept in constant rotation.

Instead, I painted a lot more (I dove especially deep into digital painting). I started cooking elaborate meals. I kept my sewing machine covered and let the dust accumulate on it.

Time passed. And then, a few weeks ago I felt that inner stirring, a hankering to sew something just for fun, not because it’s required or practical. It might have something to do with spring and the wondrous blooms I encounter on aforementioned walks. I want to bloom too. I want to wear pretty clothes and — because I am me and I can’t help it — make those pretty clothes. Yes, I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to handmade clothes already, but I sewed the same patterns over and over to test them, and I craved something new and different.

Which is where the Matcha top by Sew Liberated comes in. I blew off the dust and removed the sewing machine cover. I felt shy around my machine, like we were entering a rekindled romance. I stroked a blue-grey linen and knew it was exactly what I wanted. Trace, cut, gather, sew. Like the flavorful green tea that the pattern is named after, sewing the Matcha top was a simultaneously soothing and invigorating experience.

Shall we go more in-depth? The Matcha top is generously proportioned with a v-neck gathered into a mandarin collar. There are gathers in the back as well. The sleeves are 3/4-ish, just the way I like ‘em. You can also make it sleeveless. There are no closures and the looseness makes the putting on and taking off of the top a cinch. The pattern includes shoulder pieces as an added design element, but I opted to leave them out for both the sleeved and sleeveless versions.

I really like the design; it looks way more complicated to sew than it actually is. I would say the trickiest part is the collar, and I chose to hand sew the facing for more control. Also, I’m so glad I have a sloper (which was at the heart of Sewing Love) because based solely on the printed dimensions of the Matcha instruction book, I would have chosen a size 12. However, by placing my sloper against the pattern pieces I sussed out that a size 10 would fit better. I was right!

I love it in the blue-grey linen:

I made the sleeveless option in a long-hoarded silk (I think — or it could be a silk blend?). I also added a couple of extra inches to the hem to account for my long torso. The armhole facing technique was one I haven’t used much, so that was educational. I also French-seamed this baby due to the sheerness of the material. I noticed that the shaping is slightly slimmer for the sleeveless pattern. You may have caught that I didn’t cut out the front pieces entirely symmetrically, but I actually adore the wonkiness:

This is the long-suffering face of an allergy-addled person. It might be hard to see, but my lips are chapped and swollen and my nostrils are raw and unhappy from all the sneezing and nose-blowing. Oy.


My sewing machine and I are on good terms again. In fact, once I scratched the sewing-for-pure-fun itch, I was more than happy to throw in a couple of familiar patterns like a modification of my very own Sewing Love Batwing Top in a mystery knit:

And a Perri Pullover by Cali Faye. I made this pullover for K many moons ago on two occasions here and here, and though she ultimately never reached for them, I’ve wanted one in my size. It’s a nubby, comfy, hemp? (again, don’t hold me to this) stretchy fabric. And talk about generous sizing! I used my sloper as a gauge again and cut out the XS, though I would have veered toward the M had I relied on the provided dimensions:

Now this is an excellent neckline. I usually mess up these types of neckbands and facings, so I was quite proud of this one. Because it was such a wide neckline and I don’t need to worry about breakage, I used a straight stitch instead of my usual zigzag for knits. I did the same thing for my self-drafted top…come to think of it, the neckline for that one turned out nicely too. Hurray!

Alright, that seems like enough for now. I’ve got a dress on my cutting table that I’ve wanted to sew for years, and I’ll share photos and details of the dress along with the Owyn pants (from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style) next time! Plus, I’m working on culling my outrageous clothing collection — my dreamy streamlined lifestyle still has a chance of emerging from the dregs of sartorial scraps like a magnificent minimalist phoenix, fingers crossed.


Queen Anne Book Company: A bibliophile’s haven

Hello, my friends! If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that Queen Anne Book Company has a very special nook in my heart. In March, the store will be celebrating its 10th year since becoming QABC under the purview of the current owners (the bookstore itself has been around for about two decades in the same location). My very first book deal (Little Kunoichi!) came about because of this wonderful store — I wrote about it here (I go on and on about my thoughts on criticisms for a while, but the summary of the book deal inception is towards the end)

To commemorate this momentous 10-year-anniversary, the lovely staff printed up limited edition posters and postcards and guess who painted that illustration? Yep, yours truly, and I’m so honored! A former QABC bookseller commissioned me to paint the illustration back in 2016. The bookseller was retiring and wanted to gift the bookshop something unique. At the time I was still rather new at the whole watercoloring thing, and I was so nervous to take on the project! They also printed personalized notepads and Blackwing pencils for the occasion. I love Blackwing pencils. Naturally, the generous folks at Queen Anne Book Company gave me my own set of a poster, postcards, notepad and pencil.

The display at Queen Anne Book Company

So awesome. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, please stop by this delightful haven for bibliophiles. The booksellers are warm and knowledgeable and always at the ready with spot-on recommendations. For me, it has always been and continues to be a magical place. My Hogwarts, if you will. And here’s a fun fact: my friend Wendee — one of the amazing booksellers — modeled for my book Sewing Love. Isn’t she beautiful? She’s also brilliant and fun and super stylish and I aspire to be like her one day.

Photos of Wendee by Manuela Insixiengmay | Styling by Rachel Grunig | Hair and Makeup by Kaija Towner

Cheers to many more decades of Queen Anne Book Company goodness!

Valentine Origami Papers for YOU

Hello, hello! If you’re looking for some last minute, why-did-I-wait-till-now Valentine’s Day craftiness, you’re in the right place. I designed some origami paper for you and had fun folding them into different shapes. The heart above is iconic, of course.

Envelopes are fun – you can write a secret or lovey-dovey message on the back of the origami paper and fold it up.

I am particularly smitten with the origami box. It’s surprisingly easy to fold and is a perfect container for little sweets!

There are several designs included in the PDF that you can click on the image below or download here.

I referenced a bunch of different origami tutorials online and meant to create my own illustrated tutorial, but well, I’m one of those why-did-I-wait-till-now people. If you search on “origami heart” or “origami envelope” or “origami box with lid,” there’s a wealth of video and step-by-step instructions on the interwebs. 

Alright, just wanted to quickly pop in to share this. Have a lovely week whether you celebrate this day or not, my friends!

And check out my Valentine’s Round-Up for more printable goodies:



New Creativebug Classes + Get two months free!

Hello, hello! January has been a full month. I’m working on my next book and a scad of other exciting projects, I’ve been dealing with health issues (luckily I’m getting better), and I’m reorganizing/streamlining so many areas of my life. I lift the curtain and share the details of these types of things with my lovely Patreon group, and I like to mention bits and bobs here on the old blog too.

The online world has much to say about how this is around the time that New Year’s resolutions sputter and die. Has that been the case for you? I don’t really make resolutions anymore — my focus is to create habits that I want to keep for the long haul…preferably for as long as I’m breathing. When I think in those terms, I’m far less militant and punishing with my goals. “I’ve got time, and a little something is better than a whole lotta nothing,” I repeat to myself over and over and over.

Anyway. Creativebug classes. I’ve taught a bunch of them in the last couple of years (and more in the works!), and I’m thrilled to announce that quite a few classes were released this month. Most are based on sloper-making and projects from my latest sewing book, Sewing Love. Perhaps you prefer video-based instructions? Or maybe you like to learn from different modalities to solidify your skills (I do)? If that’s the case, check out the Creativebug classes. I even have a special code for you to get 2 months free and 50% off for life HERE. There are so many wonderful classes on this platform, it’s definitely worth signing up!

Click HERE for a little video promo. I still get twitchy about seeing myself in photos and videos, but hey, promotion is a good thing when I deeply believe that learning how to create clothes for ourselves to fit our own unique, beautiful bodies is powerful and enriching.

I better get back to my book illustrations. I am having so much fun painting this one, though of course I always love painting book illustrations. I’m being conscientious about doing it at a steady yet leisurely pace. I promised myself not to overwork, which as you know, is my default mode. I definitely overdid it in 2022, and I paid the price with aforementioned health issues. Once I’ve got the illustrations in good shape, I have some sewing projects that I’m super excited about. More on that soon!

Photos and video courtesy of Creativebug