My New Favorite Sewing Pattern

In the past few years I’ve had a lot of wonderful experiences with patterns by the French pattern company Deer & Doe. You may have seen me blog about them before with my Sally costume (Belladone), Luna Lovegood shorts (Chataigne), and my Marauder’s Map skirt (Azara). I’ve also made some two pairs of Safran jeans, I just finished a Givre dress which I can’t wait to wear, and I have a few other patterns that need to get made (Bruyère, Pensée and Sirocco), but so far my favorite thing they’ve created is the crop top and skirt version of the Zéphyr dress.

The reason I bought this pattern is because I got some insanely wonderful Star Wars fabric from Knitorious that I wanted to make into something special, and once I saw this outfit option, I knew it was meant to be. And it turned out AMAZINGLY well. I’ve always been a little wary to sew with knits, and shirts have been daunting, but this pattern makes perfect sense to me, and the pieces fit together exactly as I expect them to.

Showing off my bling after the Star Wars race weekend

Derby Day and May the Fourth be with you 🤓

This is one of my favorite outfits I’ve ever made. The fabric alone gets a lot of comments - I don’t think people expect to see Darth Vader next to pretty flowers. But the outfit as a whole is truly wonderful. I’ve never been super confident about my midriff, but lately I’ve been jealous of all the cute outfits that include crop tops. Luckily high waisted pants and skirts are in style, right now, and this outfit gave me the courage to try it out. And I love it. I love the way the skirt accents my natural waist. I love the flirty bit of skin that shows, but that it’s also conservative enough to wear practically anywhere. I love the cut of the skirt and where it hits on my legs. It’s all around perfect.

And that first outfit turned out so well that I’ve made a few other pieces with this pattern since - all separates, so far. A big plus is that they can be mixed and matched with each other or with other shirts/bottoms depending on the style I’m going for.

I have never been sweatier in my life.

I have never been sweatier in my life.

First was a running top for my Star Wars half marathon in April. I used a similar floral Star Wars fabric, but this time in a swim material, and used black performance knit on the sides and arm and neck bands, to add a sporty touch.

Next was a cute pink skirt from a great ponte knit I found at Joann’s. This skirt pattern is so simple to put together. I only got a yard of this fabric, and because of the width of it I ended up having to do two back panels for the skirt rather than just one back piece, and that alteration worked easily. I have several other ideas for more Zéphyr skirts with fabric I already have lying around. I also made a black skirt out of the same ponte knit because black goes with everything and this has already turned into a great staple to have in my wardrobe. This ponte knit has a bit more body than the double-brushed polyester I used for the Star Wars skirt, so it stays flared, rather than flowy.

Then, around 10pm the eve before Denver Pop Culture Con (formerly Denver Comic Con), I finished making hubby a Star Trek uniform, and got jealous that he was going to have a handmade Star Trek outfit, but I wasn’t. I could have worn my usual red Star Trek t-shirt dress from past years, and still matched him. I also didn’t HAVE to match him, and was thinking that maybe I could go as Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas (as I have a handmade dress and a great backpack to match), reuse my Tardis dress again, go as Mary Poppins, or wear something nerdy and handmade, but not a cosplay. But what I really, truly wanted was a handmade outfit to match hubs. I had extra stretchy red and black fabrics from Nathaniel’s uniform, and I had the black skirt mentioned above, so, since I’d already made the crop top twice, I figured I’d whip one up as quick as I could (under 2 hours). I didn’t hem it perfectly, and I didn’t do all the top-stitching recommended, because I wanted to sleep as much as possible, but honestly, it turned out great, and someone even asked me where I got it! One of the highest compliments I can receive when wearing something handmade.

Needless to say, my love affair with the Zéphyr pattern is far from over. I have a few more skirts I already know I’m going to make, and I think I’ll try one of the dress versions somewhat soon. And if you see me wearing a black skirt, chances are high it’s this one here, because it’s perfect.

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I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up To No Good - The Azara Skirt in Quilting Cotton

I mentioned recently that I went into Joann’s and bought lots of nerdy fabric. It was a bit harder on our bank account than I intended, but if you factor in the amount of money we saved by not getting custom clothing made (or buying real drapes - will post about that soon), it’s not so bad, right?

One I found was the Marauder’s Map from Harry Potter. 😍 I’ve seen some beautiful (and somewhat pricy) skirts online with this pattern on it, mostly in cute circle skirt styles, but I decided I wanted to try something different.

The hard thing about finding this awesome fabric at Joann’s, though, is that typically it’s quilting fabric, which means it’s not necessarily intended to be turned into clothing. But when you see Marauder’s Map fabric for sale, you don’t ask questions, you just buy it. Trust me. I’ve thought about getting it custom printed, somehow scanning in the map my mom got me years ago and turning into something at Spoonflower, but that’s at least twice as expensive, and more time consuming since I’m mediocre at Photoshop. (Side note - a quick search on Joann's site shows that they do have the Marauder's Map in a knit fabric now, but I can't vouch for it at all - someone let me know if you get it!)

While hubby skied one day, I got brunch and brainstormed

So what is a Harry Potter fan-girl to do? First I tried to find a good, structured skirt pattern that I wanted to use.

I’ve been eyeing the Azara Skirt pattern for a while now on Deer & Doe’s website, but the recommended fabrics were all much flowier than quilting cotton. I emailed them to ask if they’d ever made the skirt with a quilting cotton, and got a quick response saying that they made some muslins, which ended up being a little more triangular and had less drape, but as long as that was a look I was ok with, it could work just fine.

The large format prints worked great for me - I'll definitely do it again!

I decided to go for it - I bought the PDF, and had it printed out at Fedex. For two large sheets, it was under $10 to print, which isn’t so bad. Including the price of the PDF, it’s comparable to buying the print and having it shipped from France, but you don’t have to wait as long, and you don’t have to worry about the folds in the paper.

The first thing I did was wash the fabric with fabric softener and dry it with tennis balls. Twice. This was to soften up the fabric as much as I could before beginning. I wouldn’t say the fabric became luxuriously soft or anything, but it definitely feels better than it did before I washed and dried it.

The Azara Skirt has two versions - one with buttons and one with a zipper. I decided to go for the buttons. Rather than cut up the large format paper, I traced my pieces onto tracing fabric. This is MAGIC because it's cheap and you're not destroying the original (and can then use different sizes in the future). This pattern definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit, because I’d never fully lined a garment (you don’t have to line it, but since this fabric was stiffer and had more friction, I didn’t want it to ride up too much), and I’d never put in a row of buttons. I also wanted to make the skirt as symmetrical as possible, so I very carefully placed my cutouts to accomplish this.

Pre-hem - plus a Ruby photobomb

I followed the instructions to a T, but decided that I wanted a scalloped hemline. I figured it would be another unique touch to my skirt, plus it might help soften up the look of the fabric. I used this super helpful video as a guide. I ended up having 26 scallops that were 2.5 inches wide.

The idea behind a scalloped hem isn’t super crazy - you sew it inside-out, then turn it right-side-out. What makes this technique challenging and time consuming is that you need to pay more attention to each stitch. First, you have to measure the hem and figure out how many scallops you want/how big they’ll be. Then you draw those onto your pinned fabric. Then comes the sewing. Often, sewing a hem can be super easy, you get the feeling of "Woohoo - all I have to do now is hem!" But because here you’ve got curves and corners, you can’t (or at least I can’t) just zoom through this hem. I sewed slowly over each curve, and picked up the foot and turned my fabric at the beginning of each new scallop. Then came turning it right-side-out. Maybe with a different fabric, this would be easier, but I had to take care to push each scallop out and make it as curved as possible (they wanted to be more polygonal), and then press them. Maybe as I get more practice, this won’t be an issue.

I loved that this project pushed me out of my comfort zone. I learned a new hemming technique, lined a garment, made a whole row of buttons, and tried a new skirt style. And now I am the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind Marauder’s Map skirt.

Mischief managed 😉

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A Quick Renaissance Festival Outfit Refresh - Flower Crown:

On a bit of a whim, we decided to go to the Renaissance Festival in June. I ended up re-purposing fabric from a skirt I had made, but I decided I also needed a flower crown. Because, who doesn’t?

So I went off to Joann’s and got floral wire, floral tape, and a few different fake flower bunches (which happened to be on a crazy sale!), and for under $10 I was able to put together something I am really proud of.

I loosely followed Lauren Conrad’s tutorial on her blog, and I also used some hot glue, since I was using fake flowers with stiff plastic stems. I decided to just do the back half of the crown, because I liked that picture from her blog the best. I didn’t really want to figure out how to keep a half circle on my head, though, so I made a full circle. And I suppose I could wear it with the flowers in front, too!

Wrapping the floral tape around the entire circle before adding flowers was a bit tough because I couldn’t think of the right way to keep the tape from getting tangled. I ended up twirling the hoop rather than moving the tape roll around, and I think that’ll be my strategy for next time, too. Ripping smaller pieces off for attaching the flowers worked nicely.

It probably could have stayed on my head all by itself, but I decided to secure it with a few bobby pins. And I still have enough flowers to make another, or to replace any flowers that might fall off (it is my first attempt, after all) or get damaged.

If you’re looking for a good afternoon project (I did this while waiting on hold for hours), or for something to wear to any number of festivals (music, Renaissance, conventions), this one is very accessible to all skill levels, and can be totally customized based on your needs - you could use fall foliage, feathers, beads/gems, pom poms... Now I just want to make more!

Feeding my favorites at the festival. And this is probably the best shot of the back of my head so you can see the detail 

How to make your own bows

Last year's Easter bow

I'm a girly girl. I love Minnie Mouse. So naturally I love bows. (Bowties are cool, too)

Before I started sewing, I bought quite a few bows, because - let's face it - you need one to match every outfit. There are specific uses for the warm colored paisley vs. the navy blue floral!

After beginning my sewing adventures, I found myself accumulating a ton of fabric scraps, but they weren't small enough for my packrat tendencies to just dismiss and throw away. So what better way to use up some extra fabric than to make a cute bow?

What you'll need:

  • Two pieces of 6" x 4" fabric (it's good if the fabric is slightly stiff - floppy fabric makes floppy bows)
  • One piece of 3" x 1" fabric or some ribbon (either matching the above fabric, or contrasting in a way you like)
  • Matching thread
  • Needle
  • Sewing machine (optional - you could do it by hand)

Steps:

  1. Place the two pieces of 6" x 4" fabric together, right sides in. Sew along the edges, leaving 1.5" or so unstitched (enough to pull the fabric right-side-out).
  2. Pull the the fabric right-side-out through the hole you left, and stitch up the remaining 1.5 inches (this is why you want matching thread).
  3. Gather the rectangle in the middle, and make a simple hand stitch to keep it from unfolding itself. This will be hidden in the end.
  4. Stitch up the small piece of fabric into a narrow strip, which will be used to wrap around the middle of the bow. (Skip this step if you're using ribbon)
  5. Wrap the strip (or ribbon) around the middle of the bow, and hand stitch it in the back (you'll have to choose which side of your bow is the back).

One of my favorites - a plain linen bow

And voila - You've got a bow! Now, what can you do with the bow? Right now it's pretty but not too useful. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you've got a thin headband, you can slip the bow onto the headband and wear it that way - this is nice because you can re-use the same headband for multiple bows
  • You can glue it to a barrette (or you could have waited to stitch or tie up the narrow fabric strip or ribbon around the barrette)
  • You could attach it to a simple hair tie
  • You could put it on a present or make an ornament for a Christmas tree
  • If the fabric is thin enough (or you've modified the above to create a smaller bow), you can slip it on a bobby pin
  • You could make it into a [cheater's] bow tie (I did this for my TARDIS dress I made one Halloween and wore to Comic Con)

A patriotic bow

Want to get creative with your bows? Try different fabrics, different sizes or multiple colors! You can even layer smaller rectangles on top of larger ones to make a spirited bow for your favorite holiday or sports team!

There are many, many more bows in my future, and I'd also love to see any that you make, or any fun tips you have to spice them up even more.

Happy crafting!