Pattern Review: 1 Dune, 3 Looks

As a former Floridian, I have extensive tank top wearing experience and hold firm beliefs on what makes a good tank.

First, the top should not be super tight to the body. When sweat is leaching from every pore, you don’t want fabric hugging your body and sopping up circles of moisture- ick.

Second, the straps should be wide enough that you can wear a regular bra (or racerback bra) underneath. The last thing you want to fuss with as you melt under the sun is a strapless bra sliding down your body.

Third, the neck should be on the modest side. I don’t think I am a particularly prudish dresser, but, as a part of the over 35 crowd, some things are better left to the imagination. (You know I love my lacy bras, but they shouldn’t be peeking out and upstaging my outfit.) Plus, a higher neckline allows the tank to be worn in a variety of situations, not just trips to the beach.

Because of my strict criteria, I had a tough time finding a tank sewing pattern.

Enter Dune by Valentine and Stitch.

I’ve sewn Dune three times so far and, not only does it meet my criteria, each version looks completely different. Non-sewists would assume I sewed three different patterns!

Dune #1

For my first Dune, I sewed a size XS. This was a mistake. I meant to sew a size small. I blame The Great British Baking Show. I was watching a particularly intense episode featuring French pastries on Netflix while cutting out and assembling the pattern. I got distracted and cut the wrong size. I didn’t realize my mistake until I was preparing to sew up version 3!

Dune offers both low and high necklines. The low neckline isn’t super low, but, as stated above, I prefer a higher neck. The only change I made to the pattern for this version was to finish the neck and arms with t-shirt style bands. The pattern suggests turning the bands under completely to give a smooth finish. I thought leaving the bands visible looked cool in this print, so I went with it.

The fabric I used is a cotton knit with a lot of stretch and a fun geometric print.

Despite sewing up the wrong size, the resulting top fits. As long as I don’t gain an ounce, it will continue to do so!

Version 2


While it is a simple top to make, the style lines have a big impact. The shoulders are slightly cut in and the waist flares gently out. This highlights a curvy figure and glides over the body in places where other tops cling unattractively.


Dune #2

I decided to make Dune #2 in a bigger size for a more relaxed fit. Thinking I’d sewn up a size small for Dune #1, I cut out a medium and selected a leftover piece of gray knit fabric from my stash. Dune’s construction is incredibly simple and I didn’t need to look at the directions for this version. I woke up early and was finished with my second Dune before my husband kicked me out of the sewing room/home office for an early morning conference call. It took me about an hour to sew.

Version 2

Like my first Dune, I finished this tank with exposed neck and arm bands. The result is a very casual top that seems to go with all the bright bottoms in my closet. So far, this is my most worn Dune. Since sewing it last week, I’ve worn it three times! It pairs really well with all my colorful summer shorts.

Dune #3

Dune #3 is a dramatic departure from the first two. Helen, the mastermind behind Valentine and Stitch, modeled a maxi version of Dune on IG recently. I loved the drama of the maxi version and thought it could transition nicely into fall with a jacket.

I selected a fairly thick burgundy floral knit from my stash and took over the living room floor to cut it out. It was during this process that I realized I’d cut an extra small for Dune #1. I recut my pattern pieces to sew the maxi in a size small.

Unfortunately, my chosen fabric wasn’t long enough to cut both the front and back pieces of the maxi, so I got creative. I cut the front of the dress in one continuous piece. Then, I cut the back in three sections:

  • Bodice back, ending above the waist
  • A panel at the mid back. I included a swayback adjustment in this piece.
  • Bottom half of the skirt

I sewed these three back pieces together and checked them against the front piece to make sure all the seams matched up. Luckily, they did!


Dune #3 sewed up nearly as quickly as the first two, but I struggled finishing the neck and arm holes on this version. Since the fabric was thick, sewing on the bands at the neckline and arm holes was a bit of a nightmare. Despite using a stretch needle and walking foot, the fabric at the neck bunched up terribly when I applied the neck band.


Plan B was to sew in a facing. This was also a failure. The fabric was too heavy to lay flat. Even with understitching, the inside of the facing rolled up and out.

After a deep and calming breath, I employed Plan C. I pulled out all the stitches from the band and steamed the neckline in an attempt to relax the fabric back into place. I then folded the edge of the neck over and sewed it down. It worked perfectly. I did the same for the arm holes. Thankfully, all my stitching and unstitching didn’t seem to stretch out the fabric and the hemmed edges are flat and smooth. In retrospect and considering the thickness of this knit, Plan C should have been Plan A. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m pretty pleased with my maxi Dune. It earned a voluntary “I like that” from my notoriously picky husband.

The autumnal color and thicker knit mean it will transition well into fall. I played around styling it for cooler weather and like how it looks with my old RTW denim jacket and brown ballet flats.


Concluding thoughts on Dune

Dune gets top marks from me. The simplicity of the shape means you can use all sorts of prints and different knit weights. It’s a fast sew (instant sewing gratification is the best!) and the style lines are really complementary on those of us with curves. Plus, my three versions look very different. I don’t feel like I’m wearing the same thing over and over even though I used the same pattern.

I’m taking a Dune break this week and working on some more lingerie; although more Dunes are certainly in my future. I could use some more in basic colors… maybe black for fall layering with jackets and jeans.

Have you tried Dune yet?

Happy Sewing!


Pattern Review: Moana Dress/Top

I have junk in my trunk and I’m not talking about my car.

My challenge with this pattern? My bum!

Sometimes a pattern reminds us that, while we may be totally okay with our body’s quirks- narrow back, high bustline, short legs, etc., sewing patterns are not always okay with these aspects of our physical selves. The Moana Dress by Papercut Patterns sent me one such reminder this weekend. This project was nearly a sewing fail, but, after a short separation (I needed some time away…), I managed to turn it into a sewing save.

I picked up the Moana Dress/Top and two other Papercut Patterns recently at Stitch Sew Shop. They were trying to make room for the newest round of Papercut Patterns and running a sale on the older styles. I’d been eyeing Moana for a while. Stitch Sew Shop had an impossibly adorable version of the dress in their window a while back that prompted me to sew one of my own.

The colorful floral rayon I used was also purchased from Stitch. The fabric is part of Rifle Paper Co.’s Wonderland line with Cotton + Steel. It’s got a lovely hand and was nice to sew. I made a muslin of the top of the dress and determined the only adjustment I needed to make was to move the bust darts down 1/2 inch. In hindsight, I should have muslined the whole dress…

The final dress was terrible. The armholes gaped out at my armpits and the bottom of the dress was a bright floral billboard across the widest part of my body further highlighted with ruffles and gathers. So. Many. Gathers. It was so bad that I didn’t even take photos. I don’t want to be the cause of my blog readers’ retinal bleeding.

I ripped off the bottom of the dress and took in the side seams to reduce armhole gaping. Gaping wasn’t a problem on the muslin, so I wonder if I stretched the fabric as I sewed the armholes without realizing I was doing it. Because I had to take them in, the seams under the arms aren’t as neat as I would like, but it’s only visible on the inside of the top. Luckily, some careful picking and a run through my serger finished the ruffle seam. I don’t think anyone could tell that a horrifying mistake of a gathered skirt was once attached.

A little blurry, but you get the idea…

Despite the agony this pattern put me through, I do like the finished top with white jeans. It’s a bright summer look that suits me. I also really like the burrito rolling method of sewing the armhole facing to the armhole that the pattern featured. It’s a clever method I will use again. My full review of the pattern is below.

This review is also available on Pattern Review.

Pattern Description: Dress or top with a high-low ruffle at the waist

Pattern Sizing: Misses

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The top looks like the envelope, but in the dress version I attempted to make, the skirt was significantly more gathered than the skirt on the envelope front.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes. The directions for sewing the armhole facing to the armhole were particularly well done.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The dress version of this pattern was a disaster. Once I lopped the skirt off, the resulting top is cute and very wearable. It’s a cropped length, but just long enough for me to raise my arms over my head and not flash my stomach.

Arms up and my stomach is still covered! Whew!

Fabric Used: Wonderland rayon from Cotton + Steel

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I moved the bust darts down 1/2 inch and took in the armholes by about an inch at the side seam due to gaping.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I probably won’t make this again any time soon. I would recommend the top version if you’re on the hunt for a cute sleeveless top with a ruffled bottom.


Conclusion: This pattern made a nice ruffled top for summer. If you have curvy hips and a bum, stay away from the dress version. It’s not flattering.

Happy Sewing!


Pattern Review: Penny Dress or ‘A Modern Woman Makes a Case for Vintage Sewing’

I officially declare this the Summer of the Shirtdress!

They are popping up everywhere in sewists blogs and on Instagram with the #sewtogetherforsummer sewing project. Three independent pattern companies have put out lovely shirtdress patterns to fuel interest and keep sewing machines busy. Closet Case Patterns released the Kalle Shirtdress (my version is here), Named Patterns’ put out the Reeta Midi Dress, and Sew Over It offered the Penny Dress as it’s June PDF Club pattern.

When news of the Penny Dress release arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t purchase and print it fast enough. It is everything I love in a dress- a full feminine skirt, fitted waist, and unfussy bodice. The pattern and instructions didn’t disappoint and I am very pleased with the finished dress.

While I like my new dress, Penny did not get a five star review from my husband. His verdict? “You look like June Cleaver.” This was not a compliment.

He isn’t wrong. This led us to a discussion of 1950s nostalgia that forced me to critically consider my love of vintage fashion. My affinity for vintage styles horrifies my husband. He reminds me that in 1950, our marriage would have been illegal in many states (Thank you, Lovings!) and that my feminist viewpoints wouldn’t have been tolerated by society. He can’t separate the social context from the fashion of the era.

He’s right in that they are tightly intertwined. The most obvious example I can think of are women’s undergarments in the 1800s and earlier that restricted physical activity and reinforced ideas of female weakness. Even in modern times, fashion is tightly bound to social forces. Hemlines are a well-documented  indicator of national economic well being. Ultimately, a dress is not just a dress. It’s a reflection of the social and economic forces of it’s time.

I contemplated dramatic action. I debated burning the dress in a show of feminist resistance and social justice angst. I thought that at the least I probably shouldn’t wear it…

I felt like a hypocrite for a few days until I made a discovery in my pattern stash. I was organizing my growing pattern collection (more on that in a later post) when I came across this McCall’s pattern from the 1980s. I had completely forgotten ordering it from an Etsy seller months ago.


The first view looks awfully like Penny, doesn’t it? This pattern was created long after the social horrors of the 1950s, but here is virtually the same dress reimagined in a soft draping fabric. This discovery reminded me that, while we can’t separate fashion from history, we can remake it in our image today.

I decided that I am going to wear my Penny and other vintage-inspired me-mades with the knowledge that this dress may have roots in the past, but is very much tied to the present.

Below is the full pattern review. This review is also posted on Pattern Review.

Pattern Description: 1950s inspired shirtdress

Pattern Sizing: Misses

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes. My dress is a bit stiffer due to my fabric choice.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I’ve been impressed with the instructions for Sew Over It’s PDF patterns. Consistently, they have been very clear and produced a professional finish.


What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love how easy it is to wear. The elastic waist allows for large pasta lunches and the the full shirt is cool in hot D.C. summers.

Dress without belt and showing pasta-lunch-ready elastic waistband.

Fabric Used: I used a cotton oxford shirting from the latest Vogue Fabric‘s fabric catalogue. I’m not a huge fan of the color purple, but I really like this shade of lavender. It’s one of the few pastel colors I can pull off with my pasty skin.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I shortened the pattern by 2 inches at the bottom. I made no other adjustments. Sew Over It tops generally a great fit me well without any adjustments and this was not an exception.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I will sew it again, but, to make it a little less June Cleaver-esque, I will go with a softer draping fabric.


Conclusion: Another great sew from the Sew Over It PDF club!

Happy Sewing!


Pattern Review: Closet Case Patterns Kalle Shirtdress

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The Kalle Shirt and Shirtdress from Closet Case Patterns has been a big deal for D.C. area sewists. The pattern is named after the owner of our local sewing store and studio, Stitch Sew Shop. A busy mom and entrepreneur, Kalle’s laidback and classic style is reflected in this easy-to-wear silhouette.

The Kalle features three different versions: a cropped top, a tunic length top, and a dress. The pattern can be customized with different button placket and collar options. A full button placket or a popover placket can be sewn. You also have a choice between a band collar or a traditional collar. A pocket can be added to the shirt front. The shirt/shirtdress can be further customized with either a box pleat or an inverted pleat in the center back.

Several versions of the Kalle have been sewn up by D.C. area sewists:

For my Kalle, I decided to sew the dress version with a popover placket, traditional collar, and box pleat. I purchased the pattern and fabric at Stitch two weeks ago and finished the final button hole this weekend.


Kalle accessorized with my furry child. She insisted on being in the photos. (I’m not checking my phone- it’s a remote for my camera!)

While I’ve modeled it here with stacked heels, my husband announced it would look best with sneakers. As I was trying on various shoes from my closet, he did a quick internet search and announced he’d found the perfect shoes for my Kalle. He ordered them before I could pretend to protest and they should arrive soon. He selected sparkling white Tory Burch sneakers. Aren’t they the perfect combination of sporty and classic?

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 9.07.00 AM

If you, too, need to complete your Kalle with these shoes, they are currently on sale at Tory Burch’s website. I think there should be some sort of best husband award for my guy’s smooth shopping moves and impeccable taste.

The full review is below and available at

Pattern Description: Loose fitting summer shirt/shirtdress with various collar, placket, and pleat options.

Pattern Sizing: Misses. I sewed a size 10 which matches my bust measurements. Since it is a flowy silhouette, it is unlikely you’ll need to grade between sizes. There is lots of ease. I am short (5’3″), but decided not to shorten the pattern. I like my dresses to end at my knees. If you prefer a leggier look and are my height, you will need to shorten the pattern a bit.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?: Yes! Initially, I was on the fence with this pattern. It looks kind of boxy and shapeless on the envelope, but when I saw it sewn up in drapey tencel, I was sold. It turned out more flattering that I’d anticipated.

Back view. Stacked heels from Nine West Outlet and are currently on sale. I love a sale!

Were the instructions easy to follow?: For the most part they were. I’ve made a traditional collar and popover placket before, so neither were new to me. I think the directions for both are very clear. The collar construction in particular is well done. If you haven’t sewn a popover placket or collar before, this pattern is a great way to try your first.

I did have a head-scratching moment with the cuffs. For the last few tops I’ve made, I’ve attached cuffs by first folding the cuff in half and then sewing both edges of the cuff to the edge of the sleeve. For Kalle, you sew only the edge of the cuff closest to the sleeve to the sleeve edge. The second cuff edge is folded over and sewn to encase the raw edge of the sleeve and cuff. It makes a neat finish, but the directions aren’t clear. The illustration does show only one edge sewn to the sleeve, but I was relying on the text and missed it. I spent some time unpicking my initial cuff insertion once I realized my mistake.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?: The finished product looks professional. Closet Case Patterns focus on finishing touches and Kalle is no exception. The attention to detail (lots of topstitching and thoughtful construction methods) results in a make that looks tough to execute, but is do-able for an intermediate sewist.

Fabric Used: Yummy tencel in olive green from Stitch Sew Shop. The shop also carries this tencel in navy and black. The store isn’t set up for online ordering, but if you give them a call, they will take a phone order and send it to you!

Side view of high-low shirttail hem

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None. (How wonderful is that?!)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?: Yes, I think I might try the cropped shirt length. I feel like once you’re over 35 (ahem… I may fall into that camp…) cropped is no longer cute. I will likely add to the length so it falls below my waist rather than at or above it.

Conclusion: Kalle is a lovely pattern that delivers a professional finish.

Closet Case Patterns is hosting a sew-along for Kalle. If you haven’t yet sewn yours up, the sew-along posts may be helpful. You can find them here.

Happy sewing!