Skip to Content

Weekend: Is it Too Early to Think About Sewing in 2015?

 Weekend: Is it Too Early to Think About Sewing in 2015?

Describing the function of fashion school, Nicolas Ghesquière was quoted: “It’s a time for pure experimentation — for pure research, to refine your perspective and to create things and to materialize things as an exercise.” Having never attended design school, Ghesquière considered his stint at Balenciaga as a long learning curve similar to that of a college or uni student. He “graduated” Balenciaga in 2012 and recently took the reigns at Louis Vuitton as Artistic Director.

It might be too early for some, but not for me – with the end of the year approaching, I’ve been thinking about how to end 2015, how to pat myself on the back for the goals I achieved, how to move on from the goals that were never accomplished, and how to compile a list a reasonable goals for the new year. As I’ve been tallying all this up in my head, I feel the same sentiments as Ghesquière – that the past 8 years of my sewing career and the past 2 1/2 years as a sewing blogger have been pure experimentation. In 2012, I made about 5 garments, most of which were occasional pieces. A dress for a friend’s wedding and another dress for… who needs an excuse or an occasion for polka dots?

Until this year, I couldn’t grasp how other sewers did it. How the hell did they make an entire wardrobe (or close to it) of me-made clothing? Alcohol? Fairy dust? Bribery? If I could only have a few sips of Lauren’s Kool-Aid, I could whip up tees, dresses and more just as fast and fashionable. Maybe it was Sarai’s The Wardrobe Architect or maybe it was the inspiration from other sewers, but this year, I finally feel like I got my style and sewing figured out. I feel like I have this whole handmade life on lockdown. At least somewhat. I developed 5 core silhouettes that are now the foundation pieces of my me-made wardrobe and I’m well on my way to doing the same for my lingerie wardrobe. While I occasionally make things for an occasion, I focus more on these three things – is it wearable every day, is it fashionable, and is it uniquely me?

I’m still not set my goals for 2015 – it flutters back and forth daily. But living relatively sizeable handmade life no longer seems like a far off, unachievable goal. Who knows, maybe I’ll make 100 garments next year. Beat that, Lauren!

Are you a major planner and already thinking about your sewing in 2015?

Also, there is a lot of announcements, changes and exciting things happening on the blog the next two weeks – sewing inspired art prints, sewing inspired gift wrap, a new website and the announcement of my in-person bra making workshops! Stay tuned.

What i Made: Marigold Eden

marigold eden 6 What i Made: Marigold Eden

While there are certain staples every woman knows she must have in her wardrobe – a pair of jeans, a white button down and a plain tee – a kimono is not usually in that equation, especially a polka dotted one. But when I spotted these oversized, marigold polka dots at Jomar, I was suddenly all about getting wrapped up in a dotty, floor-length super shrug. No, it’s not a direct iteration of the ones from Asia, but it is very Rita Hayworth, and gives me enough reason to pop open whatever beverage on whatever given night for no good reason at all. So, Blanche Dubois.

marigold eden 2a What i Made: Marigold Eden

A kimono has been on my to-make sewing list for quite a while. I embarrassingly admit that the amount vintage shops I follow on Instagram is almost as many as the amount of sewers I follow, which means a lot. Milly Vintage is one of my favs (shoutout to Mary!), Dalena Vintage is another and the crème de la crème of them all, at least in my opinion, is Gossamer Vintage. A chockablock of beaded, silk and lace garments, her feed is a constant inspiration for my sewing projects. Now, before I get to the particular garment that inspired this post, I must make my next point. While some sewers condemn buying vintage with the same arguments they use to condemn buying RTW, I’m not a part of that camp. I like giving vintage clothes a new life. My favorite dress is the one I remade and wore during my online bra making class. Purchased as a size 16, I recut and resewed it to my size.

Lately, Gossamer Vintage has uploaded gorgeous kimonos in blush tones that feature exquisite embroidery. I almost succumbed and purchased one, but the price was too steep for this seamstress to buy, especially considering patterning and construction are a cinch. Using Ralph Pink’s free kimono jacket pattern, I quickly made a muslin. The only correction I made was to shorten the body and neckband. Standing at 5’5”, I’m somewhat of a shortie.
The polka dots must have had an intoxicating effect because even though it is a poly, I purchased it without hesitation. I smacked myself later when sewing sans puckering wasn’t going so well. After a few test seams that rippled, I turned to the forums at for help. Thanks to the ladies who quickly responded, I had an arsenal of tips for dealing with petroleum-based fabrics:

-Polyester doesn’t shrink when washed or dried, so prewashing is not as important as with natural fibers.
-Use polyester thread, silk pins and a microtex #10 needle
-Iron on low to medium heat
-Cut on the crosgrain to prevent puckered seams (this tip comes via Sandra Betzina).
-Spray stabilizer and/or gelatin can also be used to prevent puckered seams
-If the above two fail, try using a slight zigzag stitch (rather than a straight stitch)
-Pull taught from the front and the back when sewing
-Reduce presser foot pressure

marigold eden 2 What i Made: Marigold Eden marigold eden 3 What i Made: Marigold Edenmarigold eden 4 What i Made: Marigold Eden

Despite their tips, I consider this project not one of my best. It’s not a complete failure, but it’s not a home run either. How is it that on the simplest projects, we make the most mistakes? The neckband, which was first machine sewn to the right side and then hand sewn to the wrong side (like a waistband), is not smooth, and at the hem shows directional sewing (it’s wavy). The only win on this project – other than the gold dots – was the hot pink understitch on the inside neckband. Now that’s a grand slam detail.
Despite the “mistakes,” this kimono has become very versatile. After I get out of the shower in the morning, but before I get dressed, I wear it with a me-made undie set like the one shown in the photos while blow drying my hair and doing all the other things we women do. I won’t get into those particulars – you know the routine. At night and to bed, I pair it with my Vera Aveline. Remember that DIY from eons ago? And on the weekends when I’m hanging around my house or running errands, I pair it with jeans and a tee/blouse like this.

marigold eden 1 What i Made: Marigold Eden

How does this kimono fit into the 5 core silhouettes that I’ve been working to create and perfect this year (I mentioned this in my last post if you missed it)? While it will not be a part of my everyday core patterns, it will become a foundation pattern for the lingerie wardrobe I’m also creating. Because I am just as passionate about making lingerie as I am about making garments, it would be a shame if I left my lingerie wardrobe dangling in the wind while I spent so much time on my everyday wardrobe. Amber Rosalind has because my go-to lingerie pattern and I plan to expand it next year to include other silhouettes.

I originally intended for this post to be as much about the lingerie set as the kimono, but well, the post didn’t come out that way. For all pattern and construction details, check out this post. I apologize about posing nearly buck naked versus in an actual outfit, but if it’s any consolation, I was freezing!

Handmade: Megan Swansen

megan swansen blog 1 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansen

From off-menu eateries to underground java joints, too many of the best things fly off the radar. Usually discovered through word of mouth, hidden gems go beyond the iconic and provide us with quirky, unexpected and different. Philadelphia is known for many local designers, Norman Porter and Priscilla Costa are just two, but for those who like a relaxed, minimalist approach to dressing, you will want to sit up and take notice of Megan Swansen. A less-hyped designer, she has churned out small collections since launching in 2011 that dovetail neutral colors and simple silhouettes with laid-back glamour. Another testament of what a hidden treasure she is – as I was taking photos towards the end of our interview, she pulled out her uncle’s notebook that was passed down to her, and inside were pattern making assignment from the 1950s! Her Uncle Frank attended a satellite fashion school, so he mailed his homework to be corrected.

Maybe, just maybe the reason why Megan remains under the radar is because those who know about her want to keep her their own little secret. Sorry, guys, but the word is out.

your story Handmade: Megan Swansen

I started sewing when I was in high school. I didn’t quite know what I was doing; it was more of an experimental stage. I mostly took garments apart to see how they were made. I made my prom dress out of recycled upholstery fabric that I draped and tacked until I had the silhouette I wanted to wear (I was looking a lot at Schiaparelli at the time).

I don’t remember what my first machine was – whatever was tucked away in our basement at the time.

I attended Moore College of Art and Design and a earned degree in fashion design. I’ve worked for several corporate companies in various capacities, and I’ve also collaborated with small boutiques and other artists. Touching many different projects and parts of the industry has given me the confidence to branch out on my own and create my own designs and business.

megan swansen blog 3 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 4 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 5 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 6 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansen

design process Handmade: Megan Swansen
A lot of designers start their design process with a story. I’d like to think that I’m constantly updating the same girl’s wardrobe and life. The general story and girl stays the same – she just grows and evolves a little each season. I usually have specific shapes and fabrics in mind, and then I develop how those keeping in mind what will look best and what they will work with. I pick key fabrics and colors, and go from there.

megan swansen blog 8 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 10 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 11 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansen

best thing made Handmade: Megan Swansen
A fitted fake leather moto jacket that was close to 30 pattern pieces! It was and still is my baby. I made a simpler version before I made it, but wanted to update the pattern and put it into production. At the time, I was working with factories in San Francisco. After a few sample versions of the jacket and many, many dollars, I was still not happy with it. So, I ended my relationship with the factory and made the changes myself. It was a labor of love and a big representation of my learning experiences and growth as a designer and a business woman.

I don’t wear it often; the remaining two are sample sizes and don’t fit me well. They’re in my archive and available for stylists to borrow.

mentor Handmade: Megan Swansen
There are certainly people in my career who have taught me valuable lessons, but I wouldn’t call any of them mentors. Because I’ve worked in many different fields, I’ve absorbed a lot information and I’ve learned valuable lessons about what to do and what I never want to do. This combined body of knowledge I’ve accumulated has contributed to how I see my process in small ways, but not any single person in any specific way.

manufacturing Handmade: Megan Swansen
I’ll be producing my spring 2015 line using a local Philly factory that will handle all sewing. I’ll create the original samples, grade the patterns and cut the pieces. I chose this route because I can’t do all things all the time, so outsourcing is the next step in the growth of my business. I’m very fortunate to have a good relationship with the factory and the process has been pretty seamless. Maybe because it’s my second go at production? I’m looking forward to growing with the team there.

fabric Handmade: Megan Swansen
I buy my fabrics from a local wholesaler. There’s a great father and son team that handles a warehouse in Allentown. I’m really excited about the relationship I’ve been able to make with other local businesses in order to grow mine.

megan swansen blog 19 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 20 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 21 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 22 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 23 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 24 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 25 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 26 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 29 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 31 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansen

uncle frank Handmade: Megan Swansen
Growing up, I always associated my Uncle Frank with the Navy. My mom, aunts and uncles would always listen to his stories from WWII. He was sweet, but tough, orderly and focused. I didn’t know about his career as a successful pattern maker until I was in design school. He left me his pattern books when he passed away.

five to ten yearas Handmade: Megan Swansen
Rather than being the next big, famous designer, I hope that my brand is self sufficient in 5-10 years. I want to have a tight little brand – small and successful.

megan swansen blog 16 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 17 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansenmegan swansen blog 12 of 32 Handmade: Megan Swansen

Weekend: The Sewing Party Recap

weekend 11 14 Weekend: The Sewing Party Recap

Last Saturday was a big day for me. It was the launch of my online bra making class. One of the many workshops during The Sewing Party, it not only furthered skills but foraged new friendships. Sarah from Greys Fabric hit up my class as did other women. I have been receiving emails from other attendees throughout the week expressing thanks and excitement to make their first bra. Success? I think so!

This was not my first experience teaching, but it was my first experience teaching this subject. By the end of this month, I will announce the dates and open registration for my in-person bra making class here in Philly. For those who attended my workshop at The Sewing Party, I’d love to hear your constructive criticism. What did you like? What didn’t you like? The video was short, but I supplemented with a takeaway that provided more information. Because viewers won’t have access to the video forever, it was important to me that you had something to reference forever.

So in the comments below or via email, let me know what you thought!

Also, if anyone is interested in taking my in-person class, message me and I’ll add you to the list of people who will get first dibs on purchasing tickets.
post footers giveaway winner cheryl Weekend: The Sewing Party Recap

      Did you hear that I'm teaching an online bra making class? In 1 hour, I walk you through constructing a bra from start to finish, and I'll cover choosing a bra pattern, finding your size, tracing and cutting tips and construction. Click HERE to sign up now! If you can't attend the class, I will be teaching it in person this winter here in Philadelphia; EMAIL ME to be put on the waiting list.


      GRAINLINE STUDIOS just released its newest pattern, the Linden sweatshirt. A modern update to the classic sweatshirt, it features a relaxed fit, raglan sleeves and a scoop neckline. Ladies, this is the perfect winter staple!


      SALLIE is laid back cool in her me-made loungewear.


      Are you following LAUREN and the whole host of other sewers who are making V1419, a Ralph Rucci inspired coat? It’s going to be fantastic.


      She is and has always been an inspiration. AMY just made the most well constructed strapless bra. A combination of lace, lycra and powernet, this beats any bra on the market.


      Why use PDF patterns? MELISSA from Fehr Trade discusses.


      With the temperatures cooling off in the northern hemisphere, RACHEL just finished a colorful clover dress. I hope she layers it with tights and a sweater/jacket because it is too good to sit in her closet until spring!


      JEN shares a great way to finish the neckline of a wrap dress.


      KAREN diverted a serious dungaree dress disaster and transformed Pauline Alice’s Turia pattern into a pinafore dress.