toaster sweater 2 mustard

Toaster Sweater #2

Almost two years ago, I made my first Toaster Sweater #1 by Sew House Seven. I even braved the cold and snow for some photos! After seeing about a million cute versions of the Toaster Sweater #2, I decided I needed to try it out. I was not, however, as brave with the cold this time, so… thus begins the season of questionably lit indoor photos!

toaster sweater 2 knit DIY

The Details

Pattern: Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater #2
Size: Medium (I’m 6′ tall and 36″-29.5″-40″)
Alterations: Added 1″ of length to body and 1″ to the sleeves
Fabric: Telio poly-spandex rib knit
Construction: Serger for side and arm seams*; regular sewing machine with ballpoint needle for the neck facing and hem


*The instructions direct you to stop serging at the large notch and continue the seam with a straight stitch down to the vent dot as indicated. This was a little odd, as you can’t backstitch on a serger. I ended up trailing off the serge a bit before the notch, and sewed a straight stitch farther up the side seam to keep the seam allowance uniform. It’s kind of hard to explain, so I’m including a shameful ugly innards picture to illustrate. #JudgmentFreeZone

innards toaster sweater 2
Optional instructions suggest serging the side vent before finishing everything, but I would skip that step next time since this is a thick knit that won’t unravel.

The Verdict

I love it! Not only is this top comfortable and really easy to wear, but it’s also got some surprising design details. The split hem, which is 1″ longer in the back, features mitered corners for a polished finish, and the funnel neck adds some visual interest.

toaster sweater 2 DIY

toaster sweater 2 close up

The one thing that feels slightly off is the funnel neck facing. The neckline seems to bunch a bit at the collarbone on almost all of the versions I’ve seen floating around the internet, and the same is true for mine. It seems like blindstitching the facing down might be the best bet according to Meg, but it doesn’t bother me enough to try (and I think the stitching might look wonky on this fabric).

toaster sweater vent

What I’ll Do Differently Next Time

  • Consider adding another inch (making 2″ total) to the body. I like the semi-cropped look, but I think longer-torsoed ladies like myself could benefit from extra length, especially if you pair this with a mid- or regular-rise pant. I should mention that the sleeve length feels perfect for me after adding 1″ to the pattern.
  • Buy a new twin needle! My twin needle broke a couple months ago and I haven’t gotten around to buying another one, so I hemmed this with a zigzag stitch. It gets the job done, but I prefer the polished look of the twin needle finish.
  • Forego serging the vent edges.

toaster sweater 2 back

toaster sweater 2 mustard

Sewn up in a thick knit, this sweater definitely lives up to its name as it’s TOASTY warm for the winter. I highly recommend this pattern if you’re in the market for a comfy sweater with a little bit of a twist.

Bonus pic: My Toaster Sweater in the wild on a coffee date with my girl Veronica—thanks for the gram!

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I just love her.

A post shared by veronica: (@veronicawitteman) on

crunch and hook

Halloween 2018 Postmortem: DIY Captain Hook and Cap’n Crunch

October is over, which means one more Halloween has come and gone for this costume-loving DIYer. In an effort to avoid overthinking, I decided to dress up as the first thing that really spoke to me: the villainous Captain Hook.

“Which Hook?” you ask? As in, the larger-than-life, murderous pirate from Disney’s Peter Pan, or the delightful Dustin Hoffman in Hook, one of my favorite childhood films? The answer is…

DIY captain hook costume

…a little bit of both, I think! Here’s how I put my version of Captain Hook together:

anatomy of a DIY captain hook costume

The Anatomy of a DIY Captain Hook Costume, from Head to Toe

DIY captain hook hat

The Hat

I’ve made hats from scratch before, and it ain’t fun for me. This time around, I wanted to start with a pattern as a guide, and Pinterest delivered with this free sunhat pattern. After some printing frustration, I ended up freehanding a copy, drafting a slightly asymmetrical brim.


  • Red felt
  • Sew-in interfacing
  • Gold ribbon with wired edges
  • Feathers

I doubled up on the felt for the brim, sandwiching some medium-weight interfacing in between. The edges are finished with some cheap gold wire-edged ribbon, which added additional structure. To attach the feathers and keep the right side of the brim folded up, I used duct tape and a few hand tacks.

wig and moustache

The Wig and Moustache

I bought the wig on Amazon for about $15. It is SUPER curly and relatively comfortable, though somewhat hot. Would buy again!

As for the moustache, I can’t complain too much since it came in a pack of 36 stick-on moustaches that cost under $10 total, but it was itchy and kept coming un-stuck whenever I laughed. I actually ended up drawing on an eyeliner moustache at the end of the night after sweating through two stick-ons. #UpperLipSweat

The Cravat

While I could have made the cravat with a couple of pieces of white fabric or muslin, I went the super easy route after finding some ruffled white trim at JoAnn. I folded and pinned it as I saw fit, and sewed it together with a few machine stitches at each edge. I attached a strap of elastic to either end to make a cravat necklace, which I wore over an old white Levi’s shirt.

hook and tick tock
An intense battle with Tick Tock

The Coat

Does this red coat look familiar? It’s the ghost of a previous Halloween costume: my red Willy Wonka coat from 2014, which I made using McCall’s M7003 men’s pattern.

At first, I was convinced I needed to make a brand-spanking new, cherry red, flared coat à la animated Hook:


Then, I realized I was being EFFING CRAZY and decided to add some flair to an old costume I would probably never wear again. Here’s how I altered the coat:

nautical buttons

  • Added braided gold trim to the collar and front, until I ran out and had to use some cheaper gold ribbon at the bottom :-/
  • For the cuffs, I unpicked the sleeve hems and:
    • Drafted a cuff using a quarter circle skirt pattern to fit the cuff circumference
    • Gathered a rectangle of muslin to create a fake sleeve ruffle, sandwiching that between the cuff and sleeve hem
    • Finished the cuffs with store-bought black bias tape
    • Attached two gold nautical buttons to each cuff

velour hudson pants

The Pants

“Why wear leggings when you can make your own breeches!” says the dummy. I kid… kind of.

Since I’d made Hudson pants many times before, I decided to make my own Hook breeches with some berry-colored stretch velour. They turned out fine, except that I somehow managed to cut the calf bands the wrong width and had to cut them off and try again. The outcome left me with shorter breeches than I wanted, but… I honestly didn’t care too much. Halloween costumes need not be perfect!

The Socks and Shoes

I bought some white knee-high socks from Target. Ta-da! For the shoes, I wore my black chelsea-style boots and cut some black foam to fashion oversized tongues, which I fastened with duct tape and wore over each boot. I also cut buckles with yellow foam and glued those onto the tongues, but they fell off within the first hour of the party.

And finally…


The Hook

You can’t have a Captain James Hook costume without… a hook. Luckily, this cost about $2 total. I found a cheap ceiling mount hook from Home Depot and covered it in duct tape. I then covered a Solo cup in narrow strips of duct tape and screwed the ceiling hook to the bottom.

At this point, you might be wondering if anyone went as Peter Pan. Since my fiancé, Marc, had already dressed up as Peter (albeit seven years ago), he didn’t want to repeat. I begged him to go as Smee, to which he responded, “That is literally the exact opposite of my body type.” True. Very true.

Since I couldn’t have my Smee, the idea of having another captain—or should I say cap’n—in the house won out.

captain hook and capn crunch DIY

The Anatomy of a Cap’n Crunch Costume, from Head to Toe

DIY capn crunch hat

DIY capn crunch foam hat

The Hat

Marc made the hat, woot! He free-handed a pattern and then cut two layers of blue foam. He fed some thick elastic through two slits he made in one layer of the foam, and I sewed the elastic into a circle to create a headband. He then glued the two blue pieces together before finishing up with a big, bold yellow “C” and those ridiculous white eyebrows.

anatomy of a DIY capn crunch costume

The Jacket

This DIY costume from the Domestic Heart served as great inspiration for Cap’n Crunch’s jacket. I used the trusty McCall’s 6044 men’s shirt pattern as a base, making the following alterations:

  • Lengthened the short sleeve pattern to a long sleeve with a standard turned hem
  • Extended the right front pattern piece by several inches to create more of a nautical jacket look
  • Eliminated the button bands
  • Lengthened the collar stand piece, which served as the main collar
  • Trimmed the collar with yellow ribbon
  • Used a few pieces of sew-in velcro as closures
  • Sewed three pieces of yellow ribbon to each sleeve to create stripes
  • Sewed four pieces of doubled-up yellow felt on the front to create the buttons

I used a simple blue quilting cotton for the body. Marc created the epaulettes with yellow foam and yarn and duct-taped them to the shoulders.

The Pants

Marc bought some white Dickies. Done and done.

The best part about wearing roughly the same size pants and shirt as your significant other? You can get more mileage out of both costumes!

capn crunch and captain hook reversed
Marc refused to wear the berry-colored breeches

And now for a few more gratuitous Halloween photos:

malloy squad
The Dude, a Workhorse, and Hook (AKA me and my bros)
fake moustache
The moustachioed men and women of the party.
Finger hook, eyeliner moustache… Can you tell it’s the end of the night?

Happy post-Halloween! May you all find something equally pointless to care deeply about.

Did you DIY your costume this year?


Why I’m Not Making My Own Wedding Dress

My name is Dani, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I can thank sewing for the “recovering” part. Most of us who sew can spot our mistakes from a mile away, even if they’re barely noticeable (or downright invisible) to others. Learning to embrace the imperfections in my work has been a struggle at times. But I’d much rather wear an imperfect garment than throw something in the UFO pile to die a sad, slow death.

Sewing has taught me to let go. Be zen. Choose my battles. So the neckband is a little wonky. So the fabric pools a bit at the back. Is it comfortable? Is it wearable? Then it’s perfectly fine.

It’s exactly this attitude that led me to make an important decision…

I’m not sewing my own wedding dress.

Now, some of you might read this and think, “DUH! No one in their right mind would try to concurrently plan a wedding, which in itself is a part-time job, and sew their own dress.” And to you, I reply, “My mom did!” But many of you sewing-people may face this same conundrum. (Maybe you already have.)

Since Marc and I got engaged last December, to sew or not to sew was the big question, posed both by others and myself.

“Are you going to make your dress?”
“Do you want to make your dress?”
“Do I want to make my dress?”
Could I make my dress if I tried?”

I was excited, confused, and ultimately filled with anxiety considering my options. First and foremost, I knew I wanted to try on some dresses to see what I liked.

Enter the Jenny Yoo showroom in Chicago. Cue a choir of angels, because holy hell JY dresses are stunning. I don’t want to give too much away (unless you see me and ask, in which case I will gladly show you pictures of my dress!), but JY had exactly the type of dress I envisioned myself in: a classic shape with a modern twist.

I left the showroom in love with a few dresses (one in particular), but I was more confused than ever. I’d always said that if I fell in love with a dress, I wouldn’t have a problem pulling the trigger and buying it. But some part of me still felt like I should try to make it myself. Sewing is kind of my thing now, ya know?! (You know.)

Here are the reasons I stopped should-ing myself and pulled the trigger on the best decision I’ve made since saying Yes to Marc.

There’s no way to foresee the finished product until it’s done.

For the 99% of us who don’t wear fancy gowns on a regular basis, they’re kind of a big deal. There’s something magical about a voluminous, floor-length dress. The thing is, you have NO IDEA how you’re going to feel in a gown until you try it on. What if my handmade dress looked cheap, or just didn’t feel right? The margin of error was too great.

Finding the “perfect” fabric felt like an insurmountable challenge.

I encourage you to Google “embroidered silk organza fabric.”

Did your head explode? I realized that if I really wanted to do this right, I’d need to either fly out to NYC’s fabric district or start buying a godawful amount of swatches from Etsy,, and probably a zillion other online fabric stores. A wedding dress is all about the fabric. Which brings me to my next point…

It probably wouldn’t be much cheaper than buying a dress.

Luxury fabric can run upwards of $150/yard. Consider everything that’d go into this dress: practice fabric (muslin, cheap chiffon), patterns, swatches, lining, tulle/crinoline, main fabric, notions, and my blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a lot. Maybe less than I spent at JY, but maybe more.

What if I cut a hole into it?!

Nuff said.

I feared the dress would become my boyfriend.

I’ve never made a structured gown and rarely work with difficult, fine fabric. While I think I could have pulled together something nice, I would have felt obligated to really dive into learning about construction and maybe even commit to some classes. While this sounds wonderful in a lot of ways, I work full time during the week. I’d prefer not to spend every waking minute of free time working on or thinking about the dress. I’d like to, ya know, have a relationship with my future spouse as we plan this giant party.

My workspace is small and prone to dust-bunnies.

This is the straw the broke the camel’s back. I bought 10 yards of practice muslin when I was still in the “maybe-I’ll-sew-it” camp. Folding that ginormous piece of fabric was a two-person job, and I’m sure the fabric picked up dust, hair, and whatever else may have been lurking around in the basement of our apartment. I could not imagine how I’d keep luxury ivory fabrics clean in my dank, dark workspace. Don’t get me wrong, I love my shitty little space. But it’s not cut out for a wedding dress.

That night, I woke up panicky at 2 a.m., at which point I jotted down the bones for this very blog post. I had a rare moment of clarity on the subject of my dress: I felt obligated to sew it, but I didn’t want to.


I found a dress that I absolutely love.

I went back to JY a second time and loved my #1 dress just as much—maybe even more. I felt confident, pretty, and, most of all, like myself.

When I finally said yes to the JY dress, an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m pretty sure that means I made the right choice! (It doesn’t hurt that I bought the dress during a 20% off sale—CHACHING!)

The moral of the story here: Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over something that should be joyful! If you want to make your own dress, GET IT GIRL. I’m sure there’s nothing more satisfying envisioning, creating, and wearing a once-in-a-lifetime garment. (This DIY dress is particularly impressive!)

If you don’t have the energy, time, drive, or emotional space to make it (or you just don’t want to!), that’s fine, too. We’re all doing our best.

Thanks for reading, and cheers to all you other brides out there!

P.S. You better believe I’m dreaming up some badass outfits to sew for my bachelorette party, shower, rehearsal dinner… what else am I missing?

alder shirtdress

Finally, I Made an Alder Shirtdress

Sewing this dress was a comedy of errors on my part. A series of unfortunate events. A big ol’ bag of brain farts.

alder shirtdress grainline studio

That said, it turned out great! I absolutely love wearing it despite my handful of mistakes. You can read about those later, but for now, let’s dive in!

grainline alder

The Details

Pattern: View B of the Alder Shirtdress by Grainline Studio. I sewed a size 8.

Fabric: Rifle Paper Co. Tapestry 100% cotton from Oak Fabrics. I used the Natural colorway for the majority of the dress and Midnight for the collar stand and inner yoke. (P.S. The gold bits sparkle in the light! Props to my mom for picking it out at the fabric store.)

Alterations: Added 1″ at the waist and 2″ to the hem. I ended up taking in the side seams by about 1/2″ total, tapering to nothing at the underarm. I also added inseam pockets using this Colette tutorial.

Construction: Regular sewing machine for all seams and topstitching; serger to finish all seams.

alder shirtdress 2

alder shirt dress grainline

grainline alder front

alder collar

alder shirtdress cappucino

The Brain Farts

I’d like to preface by saying that I could have avoided all of these mistakes by paying a little more attention when cutting my fabric—and especially by sewing a damn muslin. But I convinced myself that I didn’t have time for that! So here we are:

  1. Left is right and right is left. As in, I cut the wrong right front and left front, so my shirt buttons in the “men’s” style: left over right instead of right over left. Apart from being a little awkward since it’s the opposite of my norm, not a big deal.
  2. I’m 99% sure I printed off the collar stand at a smaller scale, because it came up a little short on either side when compared to the sew-along photos and illustrations! I had to re-print the collar stand at a coffee shop when I couldn’t find it in my pile of pattern pieces, and I have to assume I didn’t double-check the scale when printing. Oops! Guess I won’t be buttoning it up to the top.
  3. I snipped a hole, albeit a small one, into the right front bodice when clipping the bias binding. I covered this mistake by flipping the bias binding to the right side.
  4. I tried to fix the back armhole/yoke gaping by easing in the armholes a bit after reading this tutorial. Unfortunately, this meant seam-ripping the aforementioned binding. It was all very fiddly and added a lot of stress to an already small seam allowance. The adjustment made a small difference, but I’m not sure it was worth the time. Live and learn!

alder dress gs

alder back grainline

alder brooklyn
This is how Marc prefers to pose for photos

The Verdict

Aside from some gaping at the back armholes, I LOVE the fit of this dress. I’m glad I took it in a tiny bit at the sides to give me a little more shape. I might tweak the location of the button across my bust after wearing this a few times, as you can definitely get a view of my bra if you’re sitting in the right spot.

It did me well in the sweltering heat of NYC for not one, but TWO days. My flight was canceled so I got a bonus day (not complaining!). Zero shame in outfit repeating with this Alder. I can’t believe it took me this long to make one!

allie olson coram dress pattern review

Coram Dress in Rayon

Who knew a woven dress could be so comfortable?! My new Coram Dress, designed by Allie Olson, is a complete joy to wear. Of course, it helps when the design has ease for days, and when you sew it up in buttery-soft rayon.

coram top and dress line drawings

Per the pattern description, Coram is “a boxy woven top or dress with cuffed raglan sleeves and shoulder and bust darts for shaping.” I’ve never sewn a woven dress with raglan sleeves, so I was thrilled to give this pattern a spin to help celebrate #CoramWeek and the launch of the paper Coram pattern!

Let’s dive in.

coram dress pattern review

The Details

  • Pattern: Coram Top and Dress by Allie Olson.
  • Size: 6. My measurements are 36-29-38, so I fall between sizes 6 and 8. Allie mentioned that this pattern is designed with a ton of ease, so I decided to size down to a 6.
  • Fabric: Art Gallery 100% rayon from the IndieFolk collection, purchased at Oak Fabrics in Chicago.
  • Pattern alterations: Added 2″ of length total, 1″ at each lengthen/shorten line. I’m 6’0″ tall with a long torso, so this is a pretty standard addition for me. For reference, the pattern is designed for someone who’s 5’6″.

allie olson coram dress

coram dress close


  • I used my regular sewing machine for all construction, except for finishing the seams of the shoulder darts. Those went for a very short trip through my serger.
  • I took the pattern instructions’ suggestion and flat-felled all the seams. If you have the time and energy, I highly encourage you to finish your seams this way. Pretty innards are so worth the time upfront!
  • I sewed the optional 1/2″ waist tie to add some shaping. I might also try this with a braided leather belt from my closet at some point.

coram dress binding

coram dress belt


  • Cut the neckband a little longer than the pattern piece, and for the love of god BASTE IT ON FIRST like the instructions suggest. I’m not sure if my final neckband ended up shorter or longer than the pattern piece, but when I first basted it on, it was gaping quite a bit at one of the shoulders and center back. I shortened it based on look and feel, and now it lies flat.
  • Double-check the placement of the bust darts before you sew them. Mine turned out a little low (but not so low that I could be bothered to rip them out and re-sew).
  • Spray starch and an iron are your friends when handling shifty fabric! (Thanks for the tip, By Hand London.) I made my own spray starch using this tutorial from Bren Did.

coram dress hem

allie olson coram dress review

My Favorite Design Elements

The shoulder darts add elegant shaping, and the sleeve cuffs are simple but surprisingly cute!

coram dress without belt

coram dress flat felled

The Verdict

Coram is a breezy dress that’s easy to wear and relatively pain-free to sew. Just take your time with the neckband and hem!

It’s a great pattern to showcase a large- or small-scale print. I’m even considering doing a kooky color-blocked shirt in the vein of this sweatshirt.

And that’s it, folks! What say you? Would you wear this style?

Indiesew provided the Coram Top and Dress pattern free of charge. All opinions are my own.

true bias nikko dress side

Nikko Dress

Some of my handmade clothes are total workhorses. An Archer that I wear once a week in the winter. Jeans that replaced a worn-to-shreds pair of Levis. My go-to house sweats.

true bias nikko dress striped

true bias nikko dress

true bias nikko dress close

This dress is not a workhorse. I made Nikko as a birthday present to myself so I’d have something to wear to my annual house party. And I love it. Sometimes, you’ve gotta make a dress that makes you feel like a badass, even if you know it’ll spend more time in your closet than on your body.

Read More »

grainline studio tamarack front

Grainline Tamarack Jacket

When I first started blogging about my clothes (in 2013!), I’d try to get a post up pretty soon after I snipped the last thread. That often meant snapping ill-lit photos in a dirty mirror, using my phone’s timer to take poorly composed photos inside my apartment, or nicely asking Marc to snap a couple pics on the way to dinner. (The latter always yielded the best results.)

The point? I cared less about quality and more about showing my makes to the world as soon as humanly possible. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I blog about a sewing project within a month or two of finishing. Sure, I give sneak peeks on Instagram, but something (freezing Chicago weather, work, social life, laziness) usually gets in the way.Read More »

driftless cardigan close

Driftless Cardigan

Per usual for me, December was a mad rush to finish sewing Christmas gifts: namely flannel robes for my brothers, lounge pants for Marc, and a Pendleton wool purse for my cousin. Anyone who sews knows how painstaking it can be to make a gift for someone for fear that it won’t turn out perfect.

When it comes to sewing for myself, I’ve learned to let go. To not care if that topstitching isn’t 100% parallel or if the invisible zipper is slightly… visible. It takes a lot for a perfectionist to surrender to flaws! But that chill attitude flies out the window when it comes to gifts. That’s why I was so glad I had time to squeeze in a quick palate cleanser for myself before our holiday trip.Read More »