Moving the Needle, Vol. 02


This week

There’s a new ritual in my sewing life. I make a date with my skirt block every time my favorite sewing teacher opens up registration for her Skirt Skills e-course. Sometimes I even re-take the course (alumni get a discount) to inject some organized sewing motivation around a new custom skirt project. Sharing with other students in the forum and the chance for one-on-one support from a couturier is almost irresistible every time.

When Brooks Ann announced another course starts on September 5th, I got ready to sew-along by pulling out my skirt inspiration sketches (like this one), poster board skirt block (which gave birth to my bifurcated trouser block), and self-drafted denim pencil skirt pattern (with original construction samples) to help me plan and design a second denim skirt (the first one I made is the highlight of my wardrobe right now). This one will have plenty of features to warm me up for jeansmaking.

Sew Inspired

Skirting the issue further, there’s Ebi’s purple animal print pencil skirt released into the wild just before her birthday (too damn cute). 1 out of the 18 sewing meet-up activities Kate shared on her blog includes draping and drafting a bodice using cling wrap! The difference between flounces and ruffles, as explained by The Cutting Class, has unruffled the subject in my mind. That time Eliza rotated the back darts of a pencil skirt to the side seams, I vowed to do the same one day. On her blog, Brooks Ann explains how she learned to sew without ever using commercial sewing patterns (its how I knew she was the right teacher for me). The 5-minute video interview with a Levi’s Master Tailor about making bespoke jeans that re-fueled my fire for the process.

Quotes to Sew By

The quest to create something from nothing is a wholly irrational act, do it anyway. ~Jonathan Fields

I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match. ~ Mia Hamm, double Olympic soccer champion


I shared a simple hack on Instagram for assembling a set of 1 lb. pattern weights with hardware store washers and plain white glue. Let me know if you try it!

New Jeans Without the Work

Levis Refashion

Everyone and their mother is making jeans these days. The Ginger jeans from Closet Case files has become the Mt. Fuji of sewing patterns — all the seamstresses wanna reach the summit. And, I am here to tell you I would love a pair, but have NO PLANS to make any….not when I can alter the jeans in my closet to fit like I made them myself.

The pair of high rise bootcut jeans I bought at the end of my maternity leave (to ease me back into real waistbands) was starting to feel frumpy. I’m not sure if my taste in jeans has changed or if my eye for fit has sharpened (probably both), because I couldn’t stand all of the fabric below the knee and wished it fit more snugly in the hips. So, I took a pair of slim fitting, tapered jeans I bought more recently and used them as a model to alter my disappointing bootcut ones into a fit somewhere between the two.

I basted the outer seams and inseams to test-fit and try on the reduction. The final seam was sewn with my machine while my overlocker took care of cutting off the original seam allowance while finishing the new one. I even dug out my jean-a-ma-jig to sew over the bulky, top-stitched crotch seam.

I did this on a whim, so there’s no before photo, but here are professional models wearing the same pairs of Levis involved in my experiment.

Untitled #42

What is thoroughly rocking my world is how the back is fitting now! No gap at center back and a nice, close fit around the hips, leveraging the stretch in the denim.

Levis Refashion

After getting the fit in the thighs the way I wanted, I realized the back waistband needed to be taking in by a couple of inches (I always wore the original jeans with a belt to workaround the issue), but there was no center back seam on the waistband. The simplest thing I could think of was to add elastic. I sewed on a casing the width of the waistband, inserted 3/4″ elastic, and secured one end of the elastic by catching it as the short end of the casing was stitched. I put on the jeans, stretched the elastic until it hugged tight, and safety pinned the position until I could sew it in place with the other side of the casing.

Levis Refashion, back casing

The only dumbass move I made was sewing through the belt loops to attach the casing. The day I decide to wear these jeans with a belt again (not that I have to anymore), I’ll unpick those stitches and hand stitch the correction, but for now, the goof stays. A small price to pay for jeans that don’t give you plumber’s crack.

Levis Refashion

I have a small stash of maybe I’ll alter these one day jeans in a bin tucked away somewhere. I will find it and make this happen to each one.

Levis Refashion

Have you had success with refashioning or altering ready-to wear? Got any tips now that I’m hooked?