Being Donald Duck (a real man)

November 3rd, 2015 - 


Being pregnant on Halloween presented a welcome sartorial challenge. I spent some time researching options and decided I wasn’t crazy about anything that had been done before. I settled pretty early on Donald Duck but wasn’t sure I could pull it together until just last week, so I was also considering Ursula or Miss Piggy. I just kept coming back to Donald Duck though, so I’m glad I went with it and had some success.

A few months ago I was thinking about my new body shape and what to do for Halloween. I had just listened to the first Brad Hammerstone appearance on Comedy Bang Bang (where Brad and all his “real man” friends like to waddle around, eat bread, and wear sailor suits…they are ducks) and it really made me laugh to think about dressing as this character, especially since Donald Duck has a fat bottom just like my pregnant body would.

I was just a *little* disappointed to be pregnant this year because I really wanted to be the tightrope walker from Haunted Mansion for my next costume, but hopefully I can do that another year. Would love to actually dress as the tightrope walker for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween sometime, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I thought about the best approach for being Donald Duck and couldn’t get it going. I thought I’d do a weird hoop skirt or paper mache bottom worn kind of like a barrel with suspenders, but it was just overwhelming to get started and I wasn’t sure I could sit in something like that or be comfortable for a whole night.

In the end I went all fabric with nothing to shape the clothes but me (which seemed to be enough!) by cobbling together a bunch of already existing patterns. Pretty pleased with the results!

Here’s what happened from top to bottom.


I cut fabric for the hat after I’d already cut the shirt, and didn’t think I have enough. I made as much of a circle as I could, then gathered the edges. I measured my head where I wanted the hat to go and cut a 2.5″ band of black fabric to roughly that length (23″). I sewed that into a circle, doubled it over, and serged the gathered edges from the blue fabric along the open fold of the black fabric. I then cut two identical pieces of black fabric into a forked tail shape, for the top of the hat, and sewed it along its edge. Then I flipped it right-side out and ironed it flat. I found a button that would work to accompany the little tail, and sewed that on top to connect the tail. I decided to wear my hair in a high bun and put the hat around it, cinching it to my head as much as possible. I think it gives the hat a nice lift like cartoon Donald has, and it managed to stay on my head all night, which was a miracle.


I bought this from Amazon. It’s a whistle that looks like a duck bill. It’s very like the official ones you’d get at Disneyland but much cheaper. I kind of wish I’d gotten something that was always on the face instead of this one, which needs to be held in the mouth, even though the shape was very realistic for the character.



The main body came from McCall’s 6793, a loose-fitting top with no bust marks. I made this last year, grading from a L at the top to an XL at the bottom (I think?) and found it was WAY too large to be flattering. It sort of fits now that I’m pregnant, but I still graded the front bodice out at least an inch at the waist since the broadcloth I used for the top had no stretch. I kept the pattern pieces the same length (just didn’t add the peplum), lengthened the arms, and shaved about .5″ off from the sleeve cuff, since it had been gathered in the pattern. I think I could have added 1″ more length to the sleeves and maybe lengthened the front pattern piece a little bit to help cover my belly a bit more, but it’s fine.

I took the sailor cape from McCall’s 7141 and made adjustments to it and the body fabric inspired by this tutorial. Rather than inset the yellow stripe on the cape, I just bound the edge in yellow, to save on time. I did inset and top stitch the yellow stripe on the sleeve cuffs, however. I used a blue and yellow broadcloth for the top and hat. This was my first time making binding tape. I probably could have bought some pre-made, but I liked the golden color of this broadcloth, it seemed more authentic than what I found in the store. (The black fabric used on the hat was just leftover from some other project, I can’t even remember what I bought it for specifically, but it was also used on my pilgrim dress.)

Again, as a time-saver, I just used my hem roller to finish the sleeves and bottom of the top. This went much smoother with the stiff broadcloth than it has with my other more silky projects!


I used an old timey bloomer pattern from Simplicity 2777 for the duck bottoms. I went with view E, in the largest size, and dropped the crotch by several inches. I thought this would leave enough fabric to cover my belly, but I was wrong! I should have added a few inches to the top front of the shorts.

I made a channel at the bottom of each of the legs and inserted some 1/4″ elastic. Then I gathered the top of the shorts and took a 1″ band of white elastic cut and sewn into a circle to the length I wanted, and sewed it to the gathered top of the shorts.

I noticed the top and shorts gaped a bit at the belly, so I did decide to add some big yellow buttons to the front. I sewed them to the shorts and made button hole openings on the shirt, so once they were both on, I could button them together and hopefully keep everything in line.

I decided not to add a tail to the rump. I just wasn’t sure how I’d want that to look, and thought it might add too much weight and make the duck bottoms less fluffy.


I tried very hard to find a pair of tights I could dye or wear that would fit my pregnant belly and be yellow. It was basically impossible, so I made a pair of tights using McCall’s 6173.

I made a muslin of these leggings ages ago and figured they would work. I made them long enough to cover my feet, then did a little bit of adjusting to get them to fit more snugly around the foot. Still pretty loose, but not bad.

This is my last big project before the baby comes, glad it’s over! It was fun to wear and piece together, but I’m ready for a break.

Sewing Maternity

October 14th, 2015 - 

I had big goals coming into my pregnancy that I would make a lot of my maternity clothes. It kind of happened? I’m definitely still wearing handmade clothes, just not as many as I’d planned for!

My projects got waylaid recently due to a necessary serger repair that took my machine out of commission for 3 weeks, but I’ve also been incredibly busy. We had guests, two baby showers, classes, house and baby room preparations, and appointments filling most of my sewing hours anyway, so it wasn’t the worst time to put sewing on hold.

Still, Halloween is coming up, as is my anniversary and a wedding, so it’s time to get back on track.

I’d just like to say: Shopping for maternity clothing is the worst. Like most mass produced clothing, the quality isn’t that great and clothing starts to shrink or look faded before it should. There are Very Few options for nice clothing or special occasions unless you’re able to shop online, and I fall into a size range that is difficult to shop for, so I’m really grateful I sew!

I’ll give an update on my dress clothes and Halloween outfit once they’re done, but here are some of the patterns that seemed to work the best for me:


Kwik Sew 3611

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I made this in view A and graded from a Medium at the shoulders to a Large at the waist. I also raised the neckline by a few inches for better coverage (recommended if you’ve got boobs to cover). The fabric has some stretch to it and I’ve been able to wear it comfortably throughout my pregnancy. 5 stars!


Vogue 8755

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I’ve made this dress before and noted it had a high waist, so I just remade it with a few adjustments. I graded the center bodice piece to get a little larger at the tummy (maybe an inch?), and I added two inches of fabric to the center seam of the front skirt piece, which just made deeper pleats and allowed more room for baby.


Simplicity 1419

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I made this dress before I got pregnant and made some of my usual adjustments, including raising the waist. Well, I raised it so high I always kind of thought it looked maternity anyway, and it works! The pleating in front is definitely enough for your bump and raising the waist (I think I went an inch?) means you can wear this when your belly is high, too.

I’m 33 weeks pregnant now, and I think I have enough everyday clothing to last me through the end.

Here are some special things I still plan to make:

Here are some things I made but don’t necessarily recommend:

  • I actually made a dress I love using Simplicity 2365 but it required some pattern hacking that I’m not sure I got right (and wouldn’t know how to explain) plus that pattern is out of print so it seems rude to recommend it
  • I made a coat that is just fine using McCall’s 6255. The shoulders are pretty narrow so I should have made a size up (made a Medium should have gone Large?), but the arms are also kind of short, even though I lengthened them, and the sleeves are quite narrow so layering is a challenge, not great for a transitional fall coat! So, with some edits, it’s serviceable, but not ideal
  • I made a shift dress using Simplicity 1609 that I get compliments on all the time, but I still feel like kind of a boat in it. I removed the center seam and just graded out from the center, I also cut the back to fit more closely to my shoulders/waist so it still has *some* shape

Things I would still recommend buying:

  • Maternity leggings
    • I wear these a lot now that it’s fall! I have 4 pairs and wish I had more but I’m getting by
  • Maternity jeans
    • I’m not much of a jeans person, but I bought one pair that I wear occasionally
  • Maternity athletic pants
    • Going to prenatal yoga class has been really great!
  • Maternity tank top and t-shirt
    • I got one of each for yoga, sleep, whatever. But I’m not much of a t-shirt person at all so I didn’t need much
  • Cardigans
    • I got some bigger cardigans that would transition back to “normal bod” with me

If you’re someone who wears a lot of t-shirts and casual clothing, buying for maternity is going to be easy. I just really struggled with work and special occasion clothing, which I end up wearing most of the time. Also, workout clothing if you’re planning to stay somewhat active.

Pattern Choices

August 27th, 2013 - 


Clockwise from upper left: Wiksten Tova $10, Sew Liberated Esme Top $14.95, Tessuti Mia Tunic $10, Pancake Tunic Blouse $6.85

Awhile back, I had a RTW shirt like this, cotton, with mini pockets in the front. I totally loved it and wore it out. I might still copy the pattern and try to remake it. Meanwhile, these types of shirts keep catching my attention.

I don’t know what style of shirt this is — I’ve heard it called a tunic or a blouse — but I just love it. Some gathers in the front gives a nice, feminine drape, but otherwise the shirt is pretty plain and comfy-looking.

I had a hard time deciding between these four patterns. They look the same in overall appearance, but once you start to analyze them, their differences really start to stand out.

Let’s count down:

4. Tessuti Mia Tunic :: This was my least favorite. I don’t care for the sleeves — I think the fullness over-expresses the blousing in a bad way. Too frou-frou for me.

3. Pancake Tunic Blouse :: I actually had a really tough time convincing myself I didn’t care for this one. It looks very beautiful in the photo. If I had nothing to compare it too, I might have gone with this one. However, the blousing here crosses the bust entirely, giving extra fullness to what is already a pretty full area for me, except down the center due to the placket. Anything that separates my bust and also gives it more fullness has got to be a no-no because it makes me look SUPER PREGNANT. Maybe I will return to this pattern when I really am pregnant.

2. Sew Liberated Esme Top :: This is really a beautiful top. I love the shape of the yoke and slight dip of the neckline. It’s very feminine and sweet in a nice way. However, I just can’t get behind the sleeves on that shirt, for me. They’re puffy. I can’t wear something that fills out so much of my upper body, it just makes me look big. I had to pass.

1. Wiksten Tova :: This is a garment I really look forward to making. The pattern includes directions for both a shirt and a dress! I will definitely be making a dress. I like the open neckline a lot, the sweet little gathers in front that don’t dominate the figure, and my decision was set after finding so many beautiful makes (and remakes) online. This seems to be a very well-loved pattern. And it’s made in Iowa! Midwest <3

I have some green and pink flannels, both with a strawberry motif. I think that’s what I’ll use on the dress. Check out this make, in flannel, of the Tova dress. I’m feeling very optimistic about this pattern becoming one of my favorites.

Why Sew?

August 26th, 2013 - 

I’m relatively new to sewing, and have enjoyed many hobbies over the years — singing, songwriting, guitar and ukulele, baking, cartooning, photography, book- and print-making, blogging, zine-making, podcasting, knitting, event planning and organizing — but why has sewing become so important to me now?

I have one grandma who sews, who taught me to sew, and another grandma who loves fashion.

My sewing grandma makes quilts — or did until macular degeneration got to be too bad.

My other grandma loves thrift stores and finding a good deal on a top quality brand names. She is also legally blind, from retinitis pigmentosa. It fully overtook her sight a few years ago, and now we describe her beautiful clothes to her. She has a good memory for things she has owned, and probably treasures good clothing more than anyone I know.

There is a pretty good chance I will be blind someday, I know it’s in my family, and I think about that a lot.

There aren’t many hobbies you can take forward into blindness. I’m hoping I can do as much of what I love now as I can, just in case.

I’ve always loved clothing, and weird colors. Clothing and styling used as an expression of self has always been important to me — something I value, though I can’t claim to be an expert.

I’ve had trouble with fit over the years, and have almost completely given up on jeans. I hate them. I will never find jeans that fit. Dresses forever!

My weight has fluctuated over the years, and I’m woeful to wear what I have that’s maybe a size too small, though I have been just as woeful to throw it out if it’s something I liked. The yo yo goes both ways!

It’s tough to move into a larger size, for vanity reasons, but even more difficult to find cute clothes in my size that fit nicely, are well-constructed, and use good materials. I almost always feel like I’m overpaying for ready-to-wear garments that are see-through or short or badly fitted, and I’m sick of wasting my money.

I like to be creative and express visual ideas.

I had some of the basic sewing knowledge, from my grandma teaching me to quilt, and the rest I’ve just been picking up as I go. I’ve tried sewing garments over the years, without patterns, without success. This time I’m taking a more formal approach, and having much more satisfying results. With the basic rules down, right now with my sewing, I’m definitely comfortable taking more risks — mixing and matching pattern pieces, adjusting patterns for sizing, etc. I’m glad when I came back to sewing, I started at the beginning!

I’m happy to be challenged and I love to learn. This is a skill that I hope will help me, to put focus on something that’s tough and rewarding, and will help my family, by making remarkable garments that are loved and useful.

Right now, the act of making something for myself and people close to me is very appealing. Of course I think about making things to sell or something like that, but the scale of what I’m approaching right now is very small and relaxing. After focusing on hobbies in the recent past that were very deadline-driven and did much to account for the needs and interests and timelines of other people, I’m just really feeling good about what I’m doing now. It’s done when it’s done. It’s good if I say it’s good.

Wedding Dress Update

August 16th, 2013 - 

I’m working on fewer personal projects right now because I know I should be entering lock down to complete my wedding dress. I’ve managed to still work on a few things here and there, but never without the crushing guilt!

It’s been a slow process to work through my dress. It combines a few pattern pieces and original ideas so there’s no clear path to success and the whole thing has required a lot of thought.

Right now I’m mostly anxious about how to finish the hemline. Previously, I had been concerned about the bustle, boning, fit, and pleating, but those problems have been mostly solved.

What’s left is this: measuring and cutting the skirt’s second layer, finishing the hemline, and completing the bustle.

I don’t want to post progress photos until the dress is complete and I have worn it at my wedding! So you’ll have to wait a few months before I share the deep details.

To help with my current dilemma, I signed up for the Craftsy course Sewing on the Edge which has been a huge help so far in the way it’s been walking me through most of my options.

At intervals I’ve been convinced that either a rolled hem or hidden bias binding would be the way to go, which now seems stupid. Now I’m sure it has to be enclosed horsehair.


McCall’s 8107 #1

July 1st, 2013 - 


All told, this dress probably cost $10 to make. My target price with most garments is $15-23. Other people reading this will think that sounds crazy, but when you can often find a good pattern sale online, in-stores, or at vintage shops (under $3), buy fabric half-price at a place like SR Harris, thrift shops, and remnant piles ($3-6 per yard), and stock up on notions at vintage shops or garage sales ($.25-1), I see no reason a garment should cost more than $25!

The main fabric and pattern for this dress came from a Textile Center garage sale, costing roughly $4 altogether. The lining fabric along the neck was a Jo-Ann Fabrics remnant I bought so long ago I feel like it’s free. I used just a small amount of interfacing along the neck and shoulders, and I bought a new 22″ zipper for the back. A full spool of thread plus serger thread brought it all together.

The used pattern was partially pre-cut. The previous owner had made this a knee-length dress, which was perfect for me on this project.

I ended up making adjustments to the bust/back/shoulder area but not enough. The neckline feels a little floppy and open and I found throughout the day it was too tight in the bust. I might take it out a little along the zipper from mid-back to top, or I might just suffer and use the discomfort as a reminder to add more ease into the next version. It would help to have a fabric with some stretch, too. The stretch in this fabric is very limited.


Since this is a simply-styled dress with thick conservative shoulder straps, a sensible neckline, and a knee-length hem, it made for a nice little work dress. Which is why its maiden voyage was out to a work event.


See how much we work? So serious.

Full length, live tweetin’:


Kwik Sew 3506 #2

June 28th, 2013 - 


The whole reason I’m sewing so hard these days is because this guy:


…wanted a shirt. A western shirt. Like a cool little cowboy.

This is the first shirt I made him:


Long-sleeved with pearl snaps, I used Kwik Sew pattern 3506 for these projects. The pattern worked out completely, except for the arms, which were too long, so I adjusted those, and the sleeves, which Adam says are too full.

My dad tried it on though, and he liked it just fine:


Now I’m making him a shirt too.

Found this green Carhartt fabric at SR Harris fabric outlet in Brooklyn Park, MN, and knew it would be perfect for him:


He lives in a cold-weather climate and this fabric is very durable and warm. Uninterested in having the contrast color up top, Dad’s shirt will be all green. He also wants it a bit longer than Adam’s, so it’s easier to tuck in.

I feel like I really hit home with this shirt, even though you can probably detect a few issues.


I intuited how to add the piping details and they turned out real nice.

One thing I didn’t have when I made the last shirt is my serger, which helped speed up this project quite a bit, when the serger was cooperating.

And look at these snaps! The color all-metal snaps are SO MUCH better than the pearl snaps, which broke constantly under the pressure of the tool designed to attach them.


What a lucky boy. Only now he wants me to make him some kind of crazy western shirt, with a huge detailed cowl.

Having trouble finding a pattern for that right now, but soon!

Simplicity 1779 #1

June 20th, 2013 - 


I finished making Simplicity 1779!

This is my first time working with buttons, my automatic button hole maker, and my rolled hem presser foot.



Previously, I had been working on a blue Kenmore Mini Ultra, but I recently purchased a Janome Sewist 500, which has more presser foot options and abilities, and I also found a White Super Lock serger at a thrift store which has been helping me achieve nice finished seams.

–    3-2-13KMiniUltraSM
+    4073761508
= Basically, I’m living large.

I’ve been trying to find projects that allow me to use the new features available through my new machines, while also using up old remnant fabric. Generally, I get my best results from working in muslin first, adapting the pattern, and working in the final fabric, but I know more now about how my particular sizing works, so it’s becoming easier to make early adjustments to patterns before fully sewing them.

Also learning more about structure and when and how things should be sewn to achieve the best look. Also trying to do a better job of tracking overall cost on supplies and time spent, to figure out the real cost of the things I’m making.

This shirt used a remnant fabric from Jo-Ann Fabrics, roughly 8 years old, a sheer pink fabric I also had on-hand, vintage yellow flower buttons from my mom, some interfacing, about a full spool of machine thread plus some amount of serger thread, and two detail buttons for the arms. It might have taken 20 hours?


Unfortunately, this shirt didn’t work out for me, but it did work out for my pal Joanna. I’d need to make some major adjustments to it if I made it again for myself, and should probably just start working from a larger size with a new pattern.

So far, my biggest successes have been with dresses. Onwards and upwards!