Paisley Park


Handmade knit tank top and dirndl skirt / Wanna Be Sewing Something Blog

One afro, two elbows, and a UFO walk into a park…

The start of a curious joke? Or the list of accessories for the paisley knit tank top I made?

It’s the latter, of course. Though a suitable punchline for my setup is still a goal.

With help from a quirky, patchwork paisley printed stretch knit, I executed the binding technique I wrote about in July to sew a companion for a chambray dirndl skirt that waited a year to be hemmed.

Handmade knit tank top

Even though I still have to draft new sleeves for it, my beloved fitted t-shirt pattern (debuted here last winter) is officially operating as a block now that I’ve got the shoulders and armholes fitting just right. I traced it to create a tank top pattern with a lower neckline.

Unfamiliar with drafting for knits, I referenced my Helen Joseph Armstrong book. The section on patterning kids clothes made with knit fabric covers how to measure and plot a lowered neckline.

Had I attempted it on my own, I wouldn’t have accounted for the bit of contouring that seems to build in just the right amount of negative ease at the chest.

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

The position of the neckline on this tank top is EXACTLY where I want it. Plenty of skin showing to give the eyes a place — other than the obvious one — to land. With a shape that isn’t too scooped…but soft and rounded. Like my hair. Which I styled carefully for a look in the middle of the spectrum between Angela Davis and Pam Grier.

Examining the symbiotic link between neckline and hair shape… is for another blog post.

Let’s enjoy a photo collage tribute to binding construction instead.

Knit binding with mitered seams

From left to right: (a) When I sew wovens, I cut patterns from a single layer of fabric. For this pattern, I folded in the selvedges to the middle and used my rotary cutter. (b) The 45 degree line on the grid of my cutting mat and chalk-marked stitchlines kept the mitered seams of my binding looking sharp. (c) I know it’s overkill, but a steamy iron and my tailor board got in on the action. (d) I always get a little nervous before attaching freshly cut bindings. Did I get the ratios right? I can usually tell if I’m off by laying the seams next to each other.

knit tank top, chambray dirndl skirt

About the skirt. My usual dirndl. It’s origin story is ancient.

95% of it was sewn over a year ago!

I even lined the skirt and the pocket and Instagrammed my results to the world before noticing there wasn’t enough fabric for the waistband.

A small tear was shed before I hung it up in a corner to display it as an unfinished object (UFO) in distress.

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Lined denim pocket or smiling muppet mouth.

A post shared by Najah Carroll (@wannabesewingsomething) on


I picked it up a few months later after I learned a machine sewn technique for interfacing a waistband with petersham in my Skirt Skills class.

I tried it out on a straight waistband cut from bottom weight denim that happened to match my chambray.


Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

After admiring the results, I abandoned the dirndl AGAIN so I could use the denim to sew that game-changing pencil skirt.

By the time I returned to finally hem and fasten the chambray dirndl (last week), it was three seasons later and I was ten pounds lighter.

If its muppet mouth could speak, it would’ve cursed me out.

Handmade denim dirndl skirt: waistband, lining

Even though the waistband was a bit thicker than I’m used to, and the hook placement had to be sewn an inch deeper, the peterhsam interfacing performed like a champ.

My waistline did not grow like it did in the un-stabilized, chocolate linen maxi version of this skirt.

After a day of wearing and eating, and through the weight of keys and phones in pockets, my waistband was a solider.

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

These separates are a uniform silhouette for me that leave me feeling comfortable and confident. I may not be able to craft a swift punchline for a joke, but I can certainly craft a slow, wonderfully wearable outfit for my body.

12 thoughts on “Paisley Park

  1. Love this outfit! You and your skillfully created denim pencil skirt totally inspired me to join Skirt Skills 2016. We’re in week 1 and measuring and drafting the block. I cannot tell you how excited I am about creating a garment that fits me…and only me! Thanks for the inspiration and tips! I absolutely love that paisley print. Gorgeous!


    • Hey, Staci!! Week 1 is the bomb! She’s got you diving right into drafting…I love the sweet blend of anxiety and power you feel at that stage. Take your time to enjoy and absorb every step of the process. Life-changing moments are around the corner.

      Thanks for your note. It’s great to meet a future Skirt Skills alum. Send me an email when you finish your skirt (or anytime along the way)!


      • I most definitely will post my skirt! So exciting! We have a few ladies in class now that are repeating for honing their process and also in prep for the Pants Skills course coming. I plan to join that one as well as most days, pants are my life 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes. I agree. A great look. I have tried contouring from the same book and it has worked well for me, especially on a halter top. I also agree the neckline is perfect, and for the reasons you suggest. And your hair is very flattering that length and style. You look super.


    • Thanks, Kate! Your post on contouring was in the back of my mind when I sought out the steps in my HJA book. At first, I pulled out my curved ruler and just drew in a lowered neckline, then I thought “wait, that’s not gonna work like that” and went for a trusted source.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on perfecting your knit T-shirt block!!!! You worked your butt off, and what a fabulous job. Perfect fit 🙂 Also, crazy in love with your denim dirndl, and the fact it is so beautifully lined puts it in a class of its own.


    • I did work my butt off, Ebi! Getting a t-shirt to fit just right felt like a bucket list item I had to cross off. And, you’re right about the lining….the skirt feels extra special with it in there. Thanks for the love.


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