Birch Floral Robe

Let’s just gloss over the fact that I haven’t used this blog in literally years, and get straight to the point.

This robe. It’s a bit special, as it’s an example of extremely rare (for me) selfless sewing. I made it for my little sister for Christmas– I’ve been promising to sew her something for ages– and she seemed really happy with it.

The pattern is M6659 from McCall’s Patterns, sewn up in lovely Rifle Paper Co rayon, printed by Cotton + Steel. The print is Birch Floral in Crimson, bought from

The fabric is everything I wanted it to be. Vivid color, lovely drape. Just perfect for a cool, summery robe. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy Cotton + Steel Rayon again, I can’t think how it could be any better. In fact, I’ve got three more cuts of the stuff in different prints, waiting to be turned into more robes.

The pattern was not everything I wanted it to be, although it got the job done.

I modified it to add ties instead of a belt (much less prone to slipping open), a loop at the back neck for hanging on a hook, and pockets. It drives me nuts how many patterns don’t include pockets– why on earth would anyone want to go without them! It seems so simple for the designers to just include them, and saves the person sewing the hassle of figuring out where to place them. I firmly believe pockets should just be standard. I love all three of these modifications, and will definitely make sure that any robe I sew has them.

I also made some minor fit alterations. My sister is B37.5″, W30.3, H41.5″. The size 16 size chart measurements are 38-30-40, so I went with that. She was closer to a size 18 (42″) in the hips, but due to the loose fit there, it was fine. The only alterations I made were sleeve length and hem length– the sleeves were ridiculously long, while the robe itself was excessively short. I took off 2″ at the sleeve hems, and added 2″ to the robe length. My sister is quite tall, so I imagine that most people would need to shorten the sleeves. As for length, well, if you want to lounge comfortably without putting on a show, a bit of extra length is definitely a good idea! I did make the shorter variation of the robe, the longer variation is probably about mid calf length. On the pattern the short version is shown being worn over pajama pants, but I prefer to wear robes on their own. My sister has been wearing hers over her swimsuit, by the pool.

The biggest point of dissatisfaction I have about this pattern is that the armholes/upper sleeves are a bit tight. Tighter than you’d want for a casual robe (are formal robes a thing?). My sister has relatively slim arms, so it’s still definitely wearable, but it’s still slightly tighter than I’d like. I read this in the reviews before making the pattern, so seems i’m not the only one who has found this issue. If you make this pattern for someone whose arms aren’t relatively slim, keep in mind that you may need to do some alterations there.

Another issue was that I was unable to fit all the pieces on my fabric. The pattern called for 4 3/8 yards of 45″ wide fabric, for both the robe and belt. I had 4 1/2 yards of 44″ wide fabric, and it wasn’t enough. I should have laid out the pieces according to the instructions, to see if that 1″ really made the difference– I kind of doubt it, but I didn’t check. The problem may have been that I lengthened the robe 2″, but I’m not sure. In the end, I had to cut each neck band in two pieces. The fanric is busy enough, fortunately, that the seam isn’t visible.

My next sewing project will be a robe for my mum. I’m worried about the sleeve/armhole fit, and I can’t be bothered to fuss with major alterations on something like this, so I’m planning to abandon ship on this pattern and try out the Suki Kimono pattern by Helen’s closet. It seems pretty popular, and I’m eager to compare. I think I’ll use that for a robe for myself, too– will post about how that goes.

Volcanism Southport

True Bias Southport dresses in Liberty Tana Lawn

My first and second Southport dresses

I made this True Bias Southport dress immediately after I made the last one. All the  (intentional) modifications are the same, except that I created a narrower hem to add more length (I had shortened the pattern 1″). This time, I turned it up 1/4″ and then 1/4″ again. This makes it just 1/4″ shorter than the pattern as drafted. Honestly, I shouldn’t have shortened the pattern…If you’re tall, you may even want to consider adding length! This time, I managed to french seam the bodice correctly without messing it up.
Like my last Southport, the fabric is Liberty Tana Lawn. It’s such a great fabric for this pattern. The print is called Volcanism, and I ordered it from Shaukat at the same time as the Matt Madison print from that last one. I ordered 3 meters of Matt Madison, and 2 meters of Volcanism, because I thought I would like the former better. Wrong. I do like the Matt Maddison, but I absolutely LOVE the Volcanism print. Purples and blues with a gentle splash of yellow– it’s perfect for me and completely my style. Fortunately, because of the wide width I managed to squeeze this dress out of less than 120 cm of fabric, so I have enough fabric left over for a top of some sort. Shaukat is sold out of this fabric, but it has the same print in a different colorway, if you’re interested.

LIberty Tana Lawn Volcanism

A closeup on the Volcanism Liberty print

Speaking of fabric usage, I had a bit of a head scratching moment when cutting this out. By tracing off the bodice pieces so that they are full sized (rather half-sized pieces cut on the fold), I managed to squeeze them in side-by-side on the past Southport. Only barely, but still. Then, when I laid out the pattern pieces on this one, I was pretty perplexed to find that they didn’t fit. How could this be?
Well, I hadn’t ironed the fabric yet. The fabric didn’t look very wrinkled at all, so I was going to be naughty and skip that step. However, it turned out that ironing was key– once that was done, the pieces fit.  That was a relief, because I really wanted to save as much fabric as possible. I’ve learned my lesson– always iron the fabric before cutting, even if it doesn’t seem like it will make much difference.

Before and after ironing. In the bottom picture, you can see that the two bodice pieces fit alongside each other after ironing, but with no room to spare!

I also managed to squeeze in the skirt pieces alongside each other, like last time, by folding the selvedges in towards the center to create two folds.

The pockets are cut from a light navy blue cotton, and the armholes, neckline, and drawstring are done with navy blue bias tape. I really need to just suck it up and make my own bias tape, because this store bought stuff is a bit too stiff for the lawn.

Excuse the wrinkles, I’d been wearing it all day. This is its natural, unpressed state!

After wearing this and my previous Southport a lot, there are just two little fitting issues I’ve noticed– the bust darts are a little high, and the bodice is a bit too short at the front. These are minor problems. My Volcanism Southport has  become the most worn item in my closet– at least of the clothes which aren’t work appropriate. It’s the perfect casual warm-weather dress.

Shweshwe Coachella

Coachella shorts by striped swallow design, south african shweshwe cotton
Here’s a simple, satisfying project: a couple weeks ago, before the Southport dress I recently posted about, I made myself a pair of Coachella Shorts. The pattern is by Striped Swallow Designs, and I purchased my PDF copy from, here.

I used some shweshwe  fabric that my friend brought back from South Africa for me. It’s a bit heavier than a quilting cotton, and was super stiff before I washed it, but softened up quite a bit in the wash, and seems to be getting softer with wear. I really like it, and wouldn’t have cut into it for casual shorts like this, except that I’m sure I still have enough left over for a dress.

I really like the pattern, it makes great comfy shorts which you could just as easily wear out or to bed. I went camping soon after I made them, and spent most of the weekend in them (yes, sleep tested!). I’m certainly not going to be running off to the bar in them, but they feel perfect at the beach, in my apartment (when I choose to wear pants…), and running out to the store. I’ve mostly worn them with an untucked tank top or a loose woven top, but I wore them tucked in here so that you can see them properly.

Coachella Shorts by Striped Swallow Designs in South African Shweshwe cotton
The pattern comes with a lot of variations. I cut the slim fit, which comes as separate pattern pieces to the relaxed fit variation. I haven’t made the relaxed fit, so I can’t compare. I will say that the measurements for each size are given as a range, and if you’re at the upper end of it and making the slim fit, size up. My hips are 44 inches, but the muslin I made in size XL (43-44″ hips) was unwearably tight. For the real thing I made a size XXL and the fit is okay.

The pattern also comes with low, mid and high rise options. High rise is supposed to hit right at your belly button. The instructions advise using the height two sizes down if you’re under 5’3. I’m 5’2.5 (clinging to that extra half inch!), but I wanted them a bit higher, so I only went down one and used the size XL high rise height. They actually ended up well over my belly button, and sit at my natural waist, but feel like they want to go higher and are only chilling there because it’s the narrowest part of my torso. Next time, I think I’ll use the size L high rise height, so they’ll sit more nicely at my natural waist.

Another note on pattern options– I used the 4″ inseam length. There’s also a 2″ inseam length– but I certainly don’t want these any shorter than they are now!

Finally, I left off the trim because I didn’t have anything appropriate, and I just wanted something basic and versatile. I know, the fabric isn’t exactly “basic”, but it’s the closest I’ve come to sewing something plain since last year!

Coachella Shorts by Striped Swallow Designs in South African Shweshwe cotton
Speaking of fabric choices, does anyone else feel like sewing has really helped to solidify their personal style? I used to wear more diverse clothes (and far more solid colors) because, being bigger, I’d settle for anything that looked reasonably good. I couldn’t be too fussy. But now, since I’m the one choosing the fabric, I don’t have to accept what I’m offered by the shops. There are so many beautiful fabrics out there, and the only limitation to getting them on my body is money, time, and my own skill. And so, over the past year, my wardrobe has been slowly but surely filling up with fabrics I specifically chose myself, and a trend is making itself apparent. The colors are almost entirely purples and blues, often with splashes of yellow, and a couple of greens. Almost everything has a print. It’s funny but I now look at my wardrobe, and really see a reflection of my self (whatever that means). I love it so much that my store-bought clothes have been relegated to the closet, while the me-mades are hanging in full view on an open rack.

I’ve decided to embrace my love affair with prints. I used have very low self esteem and wanted to avoid any “out there” clothes which might call more attention to me, but here in Korea, everywhere I go, people stare. As a chubby blonde in a rather un-multicultural society, I have zero hope of ever blending in here, regardless of what I wear.  So I may as well wear what I really want to wear. In this way, the impossibility of conformity is actually really liberating. These days, more than ever before, I’m dressing for me! However, I still do need and want a few more plain basics… so I guess these shorts are a jaunty step in that direction.
Coachella Shorts by Striped Swallow Designs in South African Shweshwe cotton