Ottobre Autumn Palette

Otto Autumn PaletteAnother Ottobre shirt. For this one, I went back in the archives to find a shirt without front darts. This is model #18 from the 5/2014 issue. I wanted dartless because I wasn’t sure how they would act with the pintucked bib.

A few months back, I got interested in finding some hemp fabrics to try. This 6 oz. denim came from Mood, so it was an easy one to order. Most of the other sources I found were wholesale types, or Canadian. Some of those Canadian Etsy vendors have some yummy-looking goods, so I will probably try some of them later this year. I’m guessing that laws in the USA make selling hemp a little complicated.

The mood fabric is available in three different shades of blue. I ordered the darkest, indigo, because at first I thought I would make some drapey pants. (These photos have all been lightened so they don’t just look like dark blobs.) When it came, though, it seemed just a little too lightweight. Browsing the internet I saw denim shirts with pintucked fronts, and thought that would be a nice change from a plain front.

Otto Autumn Palette pintucksThere were a few changes made to the pattern. First, I decided that I wanted an applied bib front, rather than pintucks that were released or ran the length of the front. The bib is shaped with the bottom at an angle – longer at the center and shorter at the sindes. It seemed like a separate button band would be the best way to handle the center front, because there was a definite difference between the front and back of the fabric, and I wanted the seamlines and topstitching. So the right front was converted to a button band. The left has a cut-on facing. Of course, the pockets were left off, and I shortened the body 7 inches. Again, used real sleeve plackets instead of a binding.

This is a very loose fitting style with dropped shoulders. The sleeve caps are somewhat flattened, but not enough for me to fell the armscye. Maybe a better sewer could do that. I fake-felled that one, even though the others are felled Otto Autumn Palette backfor real.

The back is gathered, like the original pattern.

The hemp fabric was just as easy to work with as cotton or linen. One interesting finding: I got the best pressing with a dry iron. This particular hemp has a very nice drape and a silky feel. It will be really nice to wear.

So nice, in fact, that now I’m thinking about ordering another length and making the pants I had in mind in the first place. Two things are giving me pause: the indigo dye from this piece came off on my hands, ironing board cover, everywhere. I’ll wash the shirt a few more times with some vinegar and see if that helps. The other little problem is that the fabric is so silky that it snags. That’s not something you would expect from denim. But it feels so good, I can’t help but think about it.

OK, I have three new shirts now. Nice!

Ottobre Seashells

Happy new year!

Otto Seashells

This was my last project of 2019, but I didn’t get to write it up until now. It’s from Ottobre Woman, the spring 2019 issue. Otto often has a shirt in its collections, and this issue has two – a regular button front shirt or blouse, which is what I made here, and a camp shirt. Both patterns share the same body and sleeve, so once you get one of them fitted to your liking, you have two styles all ready to go.


The shirt as modeled in the magazine has a collar on a narrow stand. I wanted collarless, so I widened the band a quarter of an inch. Added pockets and little side vents, and I used a regular placket on the sleeve instead of the turned and stitched method they used (which would work fine on a lightweight material), also narrowed the cuff a bit.

It’s nice that Ottobre uses darts. The fit is always a little neater because of that, and anyone needing a full bus

t adjustment at least has a place to start. This style has bust darts and there is a dart built into the back yoke. The fit of this one is boxy but not oversized, quite trim actually. The shoulder is not an extended one.

The fabric is a cotton chambray.

Making shirts is slow sewing for me, but I do enjoy making them. There is a lot of edgestitching and topstitching and lots of fiddly little details, like those sleeve plackets. But the construction is really modular, and breaks down into nice little bite-sized pieces. The other really nice thing about shirts is that I wear them for years. They don’t wear out and they don’t really go out of style. Knit tops just don’t last as well, at least for me. They pill and stretch out of shape quickly. I’m coming to the point were I don’t think I will buy any more knit fabric. It is such a crap shoot as far as quality goes, and I don’t really enjoy working with it either.


Another construction note – I’ve used spray starch or fabric finish to tame silks and make them easier to handle, but have not routinely used it with cottons or linens. For some reason, I decided to use Best Press when making this shirt. What a difference! It made every step a little easier, I used a lot fewer pins, and all the topstitching looks nicer, too. So that is my new year’s resolution: use starch.

Ottobre “Cable Knit”

Otto Cable Knit 1This is pattern #10 from the 5/2019 issue of Ottobre Woman. The pattern is designed to be made up with knits in contrasting textures: the body and sleeve are in a cable knit, and the front/neckband and an insert running down the shoulder seam and sleeve is made with coordinating ribbing. 3/4 sleeves to show off layering. Side vents. I really like their sample.

The way I made it up, it’s just a simple cardigan with dropped shoulders. I got a wild hair about sewing up a really bulky piece of fabric that had been taking up space on my stash shelf for a long time. It was probably the oldest piece in there. Fiber content is pretty much a mystery, but I’m guessing it’s a poly/acrylic with a curly lamb kind of texture.

The contrast insert wasn’t going to show at all with this fabric, so I modified the pattern by measuring the width of the insert (a simple rectangle), and adding half to the front at the shoulder and half to the back. I also added the total width down the center of the sleeve and made the sleeve one piece instead of two. This is the kind of stuff that is so much easier to do when you are working with a pattern that doesn’t include seam allowances.

Otto Cable Knit 2The photo was taken with a long sleeved tshirt underneath to give an idea of the sleeve length.

It was very quick and simple to put together, and it feels great to have finally sewed that old fabric. It also feels good to sew something from a current magazine issue. This will be a great topper for the fall; it tones right in with denim, and will look good with any narrow pants or leggings in black or gray as well.

Ottobre Crispy Texture

Otto Crispy Texture 1On an Ottobre kick. My MO for this project was to pick a stash fabric that I really wanted to make up – in this case a coarsely woven ikat – and pick a pattern that would make the best use of it.

For the ikat, I was reaching for my usual minimalist-type jacket design, Anything But Ordinary. And while I have made that pattern many times and certainly appreciate the aesthetic, I’ve been wanting a little more refinement in the fit of the shoulders. This pattern from the 2-2019 issue had the bones to test as a substitute. The original in the magazine is a longer zip-front linen jacket with patch pockets and a drawstring split hem in the back, but it looked like it would be easy to adapt to a button-front, and shorten up.

Attractive features that made me want to try it as an ABO substitute: shoulder slope that is a closer match to my own, shoulder darts for additional fit, and an armscye and sleeve cap that differ from back to front.

This should have all been easy-peasy, but I have been really, really easy to confuse lately and got the center front mixed up with the front fold. At least I thought I did. I might have been confused about that, too.

Anyway, in order to fix my mistake, I added an extra strip of the fabric border on both sides of the front and took the opportunity to make in-seam buttonholes.

Otto Crispy Texture 2Not crazy about the buttons. JoAnns used to have a pretty good selection, but not any more. For shirts, that’s no problem. I go to the thrift store and for $1 buy a shirt with buttons I like. It’s not so easy with jacket buttons. So I bought some plain white ones at JA, even though they were shiny. Before sewing them on, I scuffed them up with sandpaper to remove the shine, because it just didn’t go well with the rustic weave. They are still too white, and one day when I have a better button selection I will replace them.

Other details about the construction…the ikat is a little loosely woven and I stabilized it by underlining with cotton batiste. The jacket still has a nice soft feel, but just a little more structure than it would have had with out the extra support. Narrowed the sleeve at the wrist.

Next time I will get the ABO out to copy the center front and neck opening onto this pattern, so I can get the front right and also copy the very cute collar it has. The Otto original was sized to be outerwear, so I might also size it down just a little still keeping it loose.

All in all I’m really pleased. I like the fit so much better and am really pleased to be able to refine a style that I use so much.

This will work just fine with a white top and my blue jeans or natural linen pants. The color is a little strong for me, but it won’t be a total wardrobe outlier.

start of an endless chain

There’s a conversation on PatternReview related to a no-contest-no-rules-no-deadline wardrobe sewalong. That is just about my speed. I want to move into some lighter colored neutrals and move away from the black but don’t want to come up with a big plan, so the endless chain approach seemed suitable. The idea is that each piece sewn goes with the previous one (at a minimum). That way, you never end up with orphans.

My first piece was going to be a pearl gray knit tunic that would go with some existing jackets. I used a piece of ITY because it is so light and fluid, and it should layer easily.

After stitching it up, I decided I didn’t like the tunic length, and cut it off so it is just a regular top. That’s the one on the left in the photo. The pattern is a morph between the body of an Ottobre tunic I made before, and the neck from Jalie’s Yoko top. I didn’t just use the Yoko because it has a rectangle for a body — no shoulder slope at all. The Otto pattern has more fitted shoulders and shaped sleeve caps. It’s still plenty loose.

endless chain 1

I might make the Yoko as intended sometime, if I ever have the right fabric….but I am starting to reconsider messing with knits, so that might never happen.

There was enough of the ITY left over to cut a little tank top. It was cut from an old Marcy Tilton Vogue pattern, V8559. I first made that tank ages ago, liked it, and have never felt the need to try another.

Neither of these ITY things will ever be worn without a jacket or cardigan. Without the camouflage of a print, the fabric is too revealing. They’ll only appear with something like one of my old Tabula Rasa jackets, like the photo on the right.

Next up, next link in the chain, is a cardi that could be worn with either of the two tops.

Ottobre 5/2014 “Autumn Palette”

My new sewing machine, a Janome DC4030P, is here and has been put through its paces by sewing a white shirt. The machine did great. The seamstress, not so great. I love sewing shirts, but am out of practice. Foolishly I dove right in without giving myself a little review or pulling out some good instructions. Everything came out OK, but it could have been accomplished in a much more elegant manner. NEXT TIME.

Since I need to re-fit a bunch of basic patterns, I started from scratch with this Ottobre shirt. It is number 18 from the 5/2014 issue and is called Autumn Palette. The design features a back yoke with a gathered back, forward shoulder seams, collar on stand, loose fit with no darts, and sleeves gathered into two-button cuffs with a bound placket. This shirt is voluminous enough that I sewed a straight size 44 with no extra added at the hip/hem.

There is also supposed to be a collar. I meant to sew this up pretty much exactly as given to have a good clean starting point for future design departures. So I made it the full length (which is long – tunic length). The only changes to the pattern prior to cutting was shortening the length of the sleeves. I did some thrifty cutting, and thought I would be able to squeeze in all the pieces, but nope! It came down to a decision between the collar or cuffs, and I decided to keep the cuffs.

Evidence of thrifty cutting. This is all that was left.

The material came from Farmhouse Fabrics. Last year, they had a very good price reduction on some vintage cottons (in vintage 36″ width), mostly very drapey fine weaves. I had been thinking that the oversized patterns that I like would be more flattering made in fabrics with less body than the usual quilting or shirting cottons, so I gambled and ordered 5 or 6 cuts in mostly neutral colors. This thin cotton crepe is the first one to be cut and sewn.

I love neutral colors. I also love androgynous garments, like basic shirts and trousers. So I look a lot to menswear, where small details really make the style statement, for inspiration. I love Pam Erny’s old blog posts when she showed the details of her custom shirts. I aspire to workmanship like her’s.  So, to make this white shirt a little special, I decided to angle the corners of the cuffs and the neckband. Behold my style statement.

daring, right?

As far as the pattern goes, everything went together just like it was supposed to, and just like we expect from Ottobre. Here is the shot on the grabby dressform, which defied all my efforts to get the shirt to hang straight, which it does on my non-grabby body. The pockets don’t hang up like that, either. You can also see by how the red shows through how lightweight the fabric is.


The shirt is completely clean-finished, with french seams on the sides and flat felled ones on the sleeve cap. As I made this up, I thought about doing french seams on the sleeve cap – what do you do in cases like this? French or flat fell?

I used the edge stitch foot that came with my new machine in combination with the needle positioning feature to get nice even topstitching on the front bands, collar band, and cuffs.

My notes on fit for the next time…For this pattern, I really some sort of forward neck/shoulder alteration. The collar band is pulling to the back a bit, and the shoulder seams, which should be visible from the front, are pulling back, too. Will make those alterations for the next time. Other than that, I’m very happy with my new shirt that will keep me comfy and covered even when the weather turns really hot.

On to the next project! I am still working on developing new TNT basics. Next up – plain old pull-on pants.

Ottobre basic T

Now that I am not going to the office every day, the things I make are pretty simple and basic. Those are just the styles I tend to like the most, and it also makes combining different garments and accessorizing easier. More things go together when they aren’t all statement pieces. That’s all to explain why I have made another plain top, and here it is: #1 from Ottobre Woman 5/2017. They called this style “Weekday”.


I am using this pattern for my new T-shirt block. It has a wide neckline (good for balancing hips) and a loose and easy fit. Otto sleeve heads are never the same front and back, so thumbs up for that. The neckline is supposed to be a topstitched facing, but I bound it instead, turning and handstitching the underside. I also shortened it a lot. Otto tops usually run long on me, sleeves too, and I am on the tall side. I used a banded hem and have included a step by step pictorial on that below, in case any reader has not done one before.

Changes I need to make to perfect the block: Otto tops generally fit me really well. The only thing I will do to this pattern is narrow the shoulders. After all, it is unfitted. There is just a hint of waist shaping.

The fabric is a beautiful wool jersey that I got from Michael’s AGES ago. It was one of those pieces that I was saving for something special. That makes even less sense now than it ever did. I ran it through the washer and dryer to see if it would felt up, but it came through feeling just like new. Good stuff! I’ll dry it flat from now on, but will feel confident about washing. Good thing, because I have two dogs that are champion shedders…I have to be able to wash everything.

The banded hem

This is a nice trick that gives a nice finish, especially for a plain solid fabric where every boo boo shows. The hem is nice and stretchy, and you don’t need a coverstitch machine. The examples were done with a piece of scrap fabric.




I keep the hem on the top because that means I will have the soft wooly nylon next to my skin. If you have regular thread in all your loopers, then I don’t think it matters which side is up.

I run the edge just beside the cutting blade, so that nothing is really cut. No worries if you do slice some fabric off, though, because the edge is serged.


Give it a little press, directing the seam allowance up.

Of course, you could cut an actual band strip and attach it with the serger if you wanted, either with self or contrasting fabric.

Back to the 5/2017 issue of Ottobre Woman. I thought it was a really good one. In addition to four knit tops, there is a knit cardigan, two short jackets, a coat, two blouses (one more shirt like than the other), jeans, two trousers, loose knit pants, and two dresses. There is a skirt, too. You could sew for a long time and make a whole wardrobe from this one issue. I made one of the blouses and will blog it later. I plan to make the second shirt/blouse, too.

It is approaching 15 degrees F as I type. Folks, I live in the sun belt and this is so unusual! A wool T shirt (it is soft enough to wear with bare skin) sounds really good.

Happy sewing, everyone!

1/18/18 update – here are a couple of closeups of the hem outside and inside, complete with the dog hair I mentioned.


Here’s to new beginnings

A very happy 2018 to all readers!

It’s a good day to begin again with this old blog. It has been a very long time since I have posted, and there are plenty of reasons for that. For one thing, since the last post we have moved twice. It seemed like the entire year was filled with downsizing (again and again), packing, and preparing three houses to move into or out of. It has taken me a long time to feel somewhat settled in what we intend to be our permanent home, even though I am very happy to be here.

Meantime, my old blog theme is no longer supported and there is no telling what this post will look like, but I really wanted to get back in touch with the sewing world out there. This is a first step in that direction.

So, enough with the background and excuses! I have some sewing projects to share. They are unimpressive, but show that my heart is in the right place.

The last two days of the old year I sewed two much needed tops. They are both loose pullover tunics in stable knits. The fabrics were purchased from back in the fall, both manufactured by Telio. I have much better luck with when I buy fabrics with brand names. It’s not fun to open the box and be disappointed with fabric quality.

go_to_aCutting Lines Designs fans might have heard of the “Go-To” top. This is not a printed pattern, but a set of instructions for changing up the top from the Anything But Ordinary pattern. Basically, the body is widened, the sleeves lengthened, and the details are omitted. A link to the directions is at the end of this post. I extended the bottom to tunic length, easy to do because it’s perfectly squared off and you just add as many inches as you want.


CLD patterns are designed for woven fabrics, but this one worked up just fine in a stable knit. I even used the neck facing, topstitching both the edge and near the seam, rather than binding the edge. Looks OK to me.

Top number two is from Ottobre 2/2017. It’s style number 2, called All Day Long.


It has binding on the curved hem as well as the neckline, and is supposed to have ribbing for the cuffs. My fabric had a horizontal rib which made a nice little detail when vertical strips were used for the binding and to replace the ribbing.  (Heads up – if you want to do this, make your own pattern piece for the cuff. The one in the magazine is sized for genuine ribbing fabric and won’t work unless your fabric has significant vertical stretch.)

Pics of this top:



These were both really quick sewing, and both will work with black leggings. Nice comfy basics that I really need.

What’s ahead in 2018

No long list of sewing resolutions, but there are two things ahead that I will be working on and blogging about.

  1. New sewing blocks and basics. In the last few years, the projects where I adapted a basic block (already fitted to me) to copy an admired design have been my most fun and rewarding garments. Those old blocks don’t fit any more. Good news, it’s because I lost weight about two years ago. So a project I really need to get to work on is picking some new patterns to be my starting blocks, or re-fitting some old favorites.
  2. Downsizing means I need to say goodbye to most of my old sewing machines. I used to have the space to collect…and the spouse knew that whenever he needed a present, he could do well by going to a second-hand shop or antique mall and buy the weirdest-looking machine for me. My plan is to buy a new basic machine with a good automatic buttonhole, and let the other machines (except the Featherweight) go. They will either get traded in or go on something like Craigslist.

Thanks for visiting! I will be trying to get the blog refurbished, better organized and whatnot, so that the next post will look better.


directions for the “Go To” top can be found in the first post on this forum thread: artisanssquare

Browse or purchase the Ottobre Woman 2/2017 issue here: Ottobre



Miss Fisher coat – complete!

otto 5_07_20_frontSide note – there is a planning post on this project here with photos of the inspiration coat.

This was a super fun project. I enjoyed sleuthing out the details to make a semi-faithful knockoff, enjoyed sewing, and will get plenty of wear out of this coat.

After waffling between the Ottobre pattern (# 20 from the 5/2007 issue, “Raglan-sleeve trenchcoat”) and some possible candidates from old Burda magazines, I decided to go with Otto. It has an a-line cut, while the Burdas were either straight up and down or extremely swingy. Besides that, I am just going through a period of Otto love and wanted to use theirs.
Modifications: Converted to single breasted, added length, eliminated their sleeve ties and carriers and substituted tabs, and rounded the collar points to imitate the inspiration coat. Eliminated the back facing. Shortened the sleeves a little bit, too. Otto sleeves are always too long on me. I did not do a forward shoulder alteration; maybe a small one would have been in order.

The fabric was a Kaufman linen/cotton blend from stash. I thought I’d be able to order more (the pattern is for a shorter coat) in order to not worry about getting the length I wanted, but the source was sold out. With some thoughtful single layer cutting, I was able to get the whole coat out of the original piece! I was really pleased, because even though my fabric is a little heavier than Miss Fisher’s actual coat, I really wanted the weight and drape of this particular material.

otto 5_07_20_backBack view – the back is plain except for a center back seam.

All the seams were flat-felled, so the inside of the coat is clean finished. For the facings and hems, I thought about finishing with bias strips from lining fabric, but remembered I wanted to try the “Hug Snug” rayon seam binding that Wawak carries. I liked the Hug Snug very well. It molded itself around the facing curves nicely, and the shiny contrast to the linen makes it look a little bit like piping.IMG_6780

The coat was sewed on the trusty old Singer 66 with buttonholes courtesy of an old style buttonhole attachment on this rotary Kenmore machine. I was surprised at how easy the attachment was to use, and am glad that the unreliable computerized machine that I was keeping around for buttonholes can finally be retired. Now I’m on the lookout for more buttonhole templates, if they exist. This particular kit was complete, but only contained 5.


kenny buttonholer

I like the coat and don’t have any cautions to pass on. I made my usual combination of Otto sizes, and the coat is plenty roomy to go over sweaters and other layers. I have lost some weight, but feel like the coat would still be big enough for layers even if I hadn’t.

otto 2007_05_20

This coat is item #1 in my 2016 SWAP. There are a few made-before-the-deadline pieces allowed in this year’s rules. This will probably be the only one for me. Because I had so much fun copying this piece and the Eileen Fisher tunic earlier this year, my SWAP will feature knock offs. This will be my first SWAP in years, and I am really looking forward to it!

fall 6-pac

The extra material for the Miss Fisher coat is on the way and should be here later this week. took their time getting it in the mail, but shipping is free so I am not complaining.

ejvc hosts seasonal sewalongs on Stitcher’s Guild that are built around 6 coordinating garments. There are always some resulting collections that are really inspiring. The threads are great sources of ideas for both simple and challenging projects, and usually also have lots of discussion of color, as well.

I bought a couple pairs of leggings for fall, something I never thought I would do. Because of that, I really did need to make some tops to wear with them. No short tops with leggings!  2 pairs of leggings (one black, one navy), one purchased gray top, and the three sewn pieces below make up my “cheater” 6 pac.

This Ottobre top was written up a couple of posts back. The more I think about it, the less I like the high/low hemline. I won’t do that again. But I like the fit of the rest of the top with the slouchy extended shoulders. Good for casual and relaxed wear. This is #17 from the 5/2015 issue of Ottobre.

The silk tunic was adapted from Burda Style 5/2011 #131. I chose it because it has both front and back gathered into the yoke, and bust darts in addition to the gathers. This particular pattern also fit me well in the shoulders and has an armscye and sleeve that I like. I added extra width to both the front and back because I was afraid that without the extra it might look skimpy in the lightweight silk. Maybe I overcompensated? It does feel very lovely and swirly to wear, and probably looks a little more body conscious in motion than in a still photo.

One of the features of the 6-pac is the suggestion to include a jacket. I went with a long cardigan. This is also from the 5/2015 Ottobre, #4. There are two versions of the cardigan in the magazine. One has a curled raw edge on the front band, the other is pieced of different colors and has a hood. I made the pieced version and went to the trouble of topstitching the seam allowances down on either side of each seam in an attempt to emphasize the piecing. This was mostly wasted effort! With the texture of my fabric, the topstitching doesn’t show unless you look very closely.

I wanted a really drapey cardigan and that’s what I got. The fabric was described as a rayon sweatshirt knit. The textured side has silky short fleece-like fibers, kind of hard to describe. Ottobre called for merino wool, and I think on the whole a more stable fabric, like a medium weight wool knit or real sweatshirt knit, might have been a better choice. Especially if you plan to put in the pockets as designed. I interfaced the heck out of my pocket openings, but they are still droopy, so they are going to be sewn up.

Lastly, here’s the whole shebang. The purchased tunic is the last on the right…and I only photographed with the navy leggings. If I were sewing this over again there are a few things I would do differently, but that’s always the way it is. I’m satisfied with my little 6-pac and will wear all of these items a lot this fall and winter.