handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top wittner tan maryjane heels

What a year so far! I’m sort of on the road to recovery after a very long and very boring hiatus from sewing.

I wish I could say that there was a good reason that I stopped sewing for all those months, but they’re all the lame, trite excuses of a seasoned procrastinator. Truth is, I had a bit of a sewing block, and watching Netflix in bed with my bebs until the wee hours of the morning seemed way more appealing than dragging out the ol’ sewing machine so I could sit for a few hours in the freezing cold, cramped sewing room. Now that the weather is heating up, so is my sewing machine! The fact that I now have a giant sewing desk in my room somewhat helps too. I have a million vintage patterns, it’s time to get started on them.

Last night, I sewed on the sleeves on my WIP McCall’s 2329 project, which was exciting. AND it now buttons up at the back. Just need to whip up that skirt and I’ll have another me-made dress for the blog! I’m trying to phase my wardrobe into more handmade items, but gosh the lure of AliExpress and eBay is mighty tempting. Especially since AliExpress is having another mega-sale tonight. There goes all my money, oh well.

handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top wittner tan maryjane heels

You’ve already seen this skirt but I wanted to show it off again, because my new resolution is to make lots of these. They’re comfortable, work-appropriate, versatile, and made-for-me-sized, so no gappy waists and saggy hips. Albeit the hips are slightly tight on this one (or has my butt gotten bigger? Again?). Nevermind, the next one will be better.

How good are these heels? I bought them from a jumble sale because they were barely-worn Wittner heels and my size to boot (ha, not my best shoe-related pun) but they were a kind of weird pale yellow brown sort of colour. A bit of tan shoe polish and some time later, hey presto! Perfect shoes to coordinate with my favorite tan belt.

handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top

What I’m wearing:

  • Bronze Amber Elephant Necklace – Mum’s, vintage
  • Navy wool top – Aldi (gift from mum but I think it was $25?)
  • Tan Belt – ASOS, free with a dress
  • Green Pencil Skirt – DIY, $1.80
  • Wittner “Jordy” Tan Cutout MaryJane Heels – Jumble Sale, $8

handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top wittner tan maryjane heels

Pattern Envelope Template

pattern envelope template a4

When you operate as a highly frugal seamstress, you naturally begin to develop a variety of tricks and penny-pinching measures for saving money and cutting corners when sewing.

As part of a new series on my blog called Spartan Sewing, I’d like to share some of these tips with you!

Having a lust for 1950’s fashion means that it’s often difficult to stay on-budget. With select vintage sewing patterns reaching $200 in price (value is debatable…), what’s a Spartan Seamstress to do? One way that I cut corners in this area are buying incomplete patterns (missing inane little things like facings or rectangle pattern pieces for skirts that I can easily draft myself, or whatever), patterns with obliterated envelopes, or even patterns with missing envelopes (like most vintage mail-order patterns come nowadays)! But then I have this little misshapen plastic bag in my drawer with random pattern pieces inside and is a complete nuisance to organize.

It hit me like a bazooka: I’m an anal-retentive graphic designer, I really shouldn’t be having these kind of issues!!

I decided to try my hand at creating my own pattern housings from A4 pieces of paper, but I was frustrated and disappointed with the amount of envelope templates from A4 sheets available on the web, which is why I decided to create my own and make them available to you today as a free PSD (Photoshop) download! This is what it looks like:


But wait, there’s more! (I feel like a dodgy salesperson)

I have also included fully scalable vector logos within the file of some of the most popular sewing pattern brands, free for you to resize and position on the pattern however you’d like (whether you want it at the top or running down the side, or on the back too, but smaller, etc etc). The brands are:

  • Simplicity
  • Butterick
  • McCall’s
  • Vogue
  • Advance
  • Marian Martin
  • Anne Adams

All the text is editable, so you can just substitute the numbers to match your pattern, delete and re-position wherever you want. The font I’ve used is Century Gothic which happens to be the best font in the world and if you don’t have it, you ought to get it.

Steps to making your own pattern envelope:

  1. Source high-quality images of your pattern online. Go and Google that shit. Here is the Etsy listing for one I recently used, Advance 7027. Etsy has the ability to save large, high-quality images from sellers so sourcing them from there is a good idea if you can. Just click on the “zoom” link under the bottom right of the images and check how large they are. Smaller than the one I linked? Look elsewhere.
  2. Bring the image of the front cover into Photoshop and cut out the illustrations on the front using the polygon select tool (don’t even think about using the Magic Wand..). To soften the edges to be less angular, go to Select -> Modify -> Feather… (SHIFT+F6) and pick a low number, like 1 or 0.5. Now CTRL+X and CTRL+V onto the front section of your template. You can adjust the curves (CTRL+M) and colours if you need to.
  3. For the pattern details at the back of the envelope, roughly select around just the text area and paste it into the back section your template. Scale to fit (try not to scale up too much or it’ll be blurry). You will want to desaturate this image (since it will undoubtedly be an aged yellow colour) and adjust the curves until the background is pure white. (Tip: On the curves graph, see how there’s a diagonal line? Grab the end at the top right and move it left until the background disappears. If the text is too light, click in the centre of the line and drag down a bit until it’s readable).
  4. This is a bit of a no-brainer, but change the text on the front section to reflect the details of your own pattern.
  5. Print. Absolutely no auto-scaling allowed. The only thing that should be getting cut off by your printer is parts of the cutting guidelines, but it doesn’t take a genius to draw them back on if you really require them.

To download, click on the link below:


Thinking of sharing my file somewhere? Showing off your new covers on your site? Feel free to do so, but please credit! If you’ve found my file useful, please share using the social media icons below, and if you’re so inclined, I’d much appreciate a “Like” on Carbon Chic’s Facebook Page :)

Don’t have Photoshop? Have a pattern with a different logo? Just feel lazy and you don’t want to go to the effort? If high-quality images of the pattern exist out there somewhere (from your own scans or on the web), I will make a neat little envelope for you (that you can print yourself) for $5 (USD), just ask.

Straight Lines

I tried to think of some kind of poem about my new skirt that rhymed with the ever-so-popular song of 2013 Blurred Lines, but then I decided that I was a raging feminist who wasn’t going to support that nonsense thank-you-very-much, so that’s why you’re going to have to settle for a post rife with various different squeals about how much I love my new skirt. If you could imagine the following in different pitches all the way through, that would add to the drama I think, so thanks in advance.

Ta-dah! I was flipping through some dresses that I had pinned to my vintage inspiration board on Pinterest and came across a gorgeous little number by Lana Lobell. The popular candy swirl dresses that people sew for children had always caught my eye every time I saw another one, but I hate how piece-y and home-made most of them look (seriously, those bizarre fabric choices) and I’m not a fan of circle skirts in general, so I had to think of another plan of attack.

This skirt is self-drafted, and it took quite a while to create the pattern myself. So many angles. So much trigonometry. I tell everyone how much I hate math but then when I self-draft my own things, I invariably end up doing a lot of math. However, my pattern didn’t even come to fruition because the fruitcake at the store I bought this fabric from (that was a nice way of putting it, actually, I was rightly bitching about her all day as my photographer will attest) sold me 106cm wide fabric instead of the 110cm she claimed it was. All the spools of fabric were listed in inches and instead of using a calculator like a smart person, I just asked a staff member. Good job, Demi.

Anyways, that threw all my calculations out and I had to slash open the skirt for a zip. This skirt was a nightmare, but so worth it. I wanted to make a dress like this but wasn’t sure how it would work so I’m glad I made this test run. It’s not 100% perfect, because of all the various different techniques I tried to avoid slashing into the skirt (elastic waistbands look terrible on me, I’ve decided), but it’s good enough to wear to the shops, so I’m generally happy with it.

Gotta have that self-covered button.

Anyone interested in the pattern/tutorial for when I make the dress? I’m planning on sewing a full candy striper dress soon using this pattern! (We’ll see how that one goes, and this time I’m not asking the staff at the fabric store anything.)

Pink Striped Blouse Mashup

Who says you need a pattern to make something cool? I am a big fan of Patterns by Gertie but not a fan of wasteful pattern purchases. So with a heavy heart, I left the simplistic Butterick 6094 on the shelf for another seamstress and vowed to attempt a fold-back detail on a garment of clothing sometime in the near future. Turns out it ain’t that hard!

Meet my newest wearable muslin! I found this fabric in the remnants bin at Spotlight and it hurt my eyes so badly just looking at it that I decided I simply had to have it.

I didn’t want to complicate the project too much, so I forwent some darts and made it a pull-on blouse instead. Screw zip-up blouses, seriously.

The shoulders and neckline was inspired from Vogue 8789 (I’m a sucker for buttons). I wanted to try out a variety of different techniques for my mockup, so it features all of my favorite styles and techniques–Pattern matching, excessive buttons, bows, and open backs.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and will definitely not shy away from sewing a back like this in the future! Tutorial, anyone?

My First Dress!

I am unbelievably proud of this one! I only started sewing seriously last year and I’ve been putting off dresses for the longest time, worrying that it would be too hard to tackle as a beginner.

Turns out, dresses aren’t as hard as I thought! They’re like a skirt and.. (not being able to compare to a top, because I’ve never made a top before) a skirt joined together! Or something.

I bought this fabric last year at some point, intending to make another gathered skirt from it. (Skirts are easy and don’t lift me out of my comfort zone very far.) Unfortunately, after deliberating on my fabric choice (and you can bet I do a lot of deliberating when I’m starting a project), I decided that the teapots wouldn’t stand out enough in a simple gathered skirt–it just wouldn’t do the print justice! But as it turns out, the pattern is exactly large enough for 6 teapots to fit around my hips. That’s what made me the most excited–the prospect of matching up my patterns on the skirt!

It’s not 100% perfect, but from a distance, the sides are practically seamless and I’m utterly thrilled!

For the dress, I used a vintage reproduction pattern from Butterick–B5747, and went for the pencil skirt instead of the a-line version. The model on the website really doesn’t do the pattern justice; I’ve seen some other bloggers do some fantastic work with this pattern, but I hadn’t seen a pencil skirt version out there, so I’m pretty pleased with how everything turned out.

To review the pattern a little bit, the instructions were pretty straight-forward, although some mention that the part about sewing on the waistband was kind of ambiguous. Truthfully, I skipped their instructions on the waistband and sewed it on the way I knew was easiest for me. Everything inside the dress is finished with bias binding (I can’t get enough of the stuff), and the bottom hemline has been sewn down with clear thread instead of an invisible stitch. Ain’t nobody got time for invisible stitches.

I bought about two metres of the teapot-printed linen for around $20 from the upholstery section at Spotlight (I think it’s fabric meant for tablecloths or curtains or something) and stiff, white bridal satin from a local gem called Trad’s Liquidation Store for a couple of dollars! The button kit is the 27mm variety from Daiso Japan covered with scraps from the bridal satin. I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to add teapot patch pockets to the dress lined in the satin, but after several days working on this dress, I think I’m done for the month!

My verdict? Definitely a pattern I’ll use again and again. Next time, I plan to turn the neckline into a sailor collar and sew up a flared skirt. I’ve only ever sewn flared skirts from self-drafted patterns, so I want to see what it’s like to follow someone else’s guidelines for a change!