Simplicity 8913 – A Kilt for my Scottish Co-Worker

A Scottish co-worker asked me if I could make him a kilt to wear at formal events. Kilts can be quite pricey and it had been his dream to own one for a long time so I wanted to make this project perfect.

I began with a lot of kilt research and was very surprised at the kilt’s origins and adaptation over time. A kilt was originally a long piece of wool fabric, about 7 or 8 yards depending on how big the man was, that was a very useful article of clothing. It was a blanket at night and in the morning, it was arranged around the waist, flat in the front and folded in pleats or tucks in the back. A large belt would be used to hold the fabric in place and extra fabric was thrown around the shoulder. A tunic top that goes past the hips is worn underneath. If it was cold, they could wrap the extra fabric around both shoulders or if it was raining, they could cover their head with the extra fabric. The reason why the kilt ends at the knee is to keep it from getting wet while walking through tall grass. I own a sari from India and was surprised at the similarities; It is also pleated, although in the front, and the extra fabric is thrown over the shoulder.

Wearing a kilt
How the traditional kilt is worn. Note that they put it on by laying it out on the ground first!

The traditional wool fabric used for a kilt is called tartan. Historically, there would only be one weaver in an area and that weaver would use their local resources to dye their wool. Over time, the color and pattern of the tartan would become known to be from a certain area – the area that the weaver served. Since families lived close together, the tartan would also be known for certain clans of family. Because of this historical and familial aspect of the tartan, my co-worker wanted to pick a tartan that he had a connection to, either from his family history or place of origin. That task proved to be a bit difficult so he chose The Black Watch tartan which is considered a generic tartan. If you are trying to pick out a tartan and having trouble finding a connection to a particular tartan, don’t worry too much about it. Pick a pattern you like; I promise the tartan police won’t be after you!

The Black Watch Tartan
The Black Watch Tartan

My co-worker had some special requests for the kilt so I ended up using a combination  of instructions with and Simplicity 8913. While typically kilts are worn around the waist, my co-worker wanted to wear the kilt around his hips because of a large belly. In addition, Simplicity 8913 only goes up to a 44″ waist and my co-worker’s hips were 48″. Because of this, I used the Simplicity pattern instructions as a reference but didn’t cut out any of the pieces. The instructions were helpful for the sizing and how to fold the pleats.

Simplicity 8913 Andrea Schewe
Simplicity 8913 Andrea Schewe

As mentioned, I figured out how much fabric I would need by using I used one long piece of fabric, as is traditional, but I could have saved some money by buying half as much and sewing two pieces together. The seam could be hidden in the pleats.

After measuring, measuring and measuring some more, I cut out the large rectangle of fabric and brought out my blind hem foot to make the hem. It’s best to hem a kilt before doing the pleats. My co-worker had already given me a waist to knee measurement of 18″ so factoring in the seam allowance on the top of the kilt, I was able to hem it correctly. The blind hem foot was a lifesaver since I had to hem 6 yards of fabric!

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When I made the pleats, I made them one inch in size and tried to keep the pattern consistent. I did this by using a ruler to make sure it was folded even and eye-balled the pattern. Something I wish I had done is laid a piece of the fabric flat above the kilt so that I could more easily match the pattern.

Pleating the kilt
Pleating the fabric, you can see the kilt is very thick! Some people suggest trimming down excess fabric on the inside of the kilt, towards the waist. If properly fitted, the excess fabric and weight shouldn’t be an issue, and I did not trim down any excess fabric.

I chose to use velcro on the inside of the kilt and a metal clasp on the end for closure. The velcro made it so my co-worker could adjust and still wear the kilt if he were to gain or loose some weight. I also added belt loops since he wanted to wear the kilt around his hips and use a belt.

Kilt from the back One funny mistake I made was I modeled the belt loops off a pair of my DH’s jeans. My DH is only about 34″ around and only had 5 belt loops on his jeans. My co-worker had to give me the kilt back after he wore it once to put more belt loops on! I didn’t even think about how I would need more belt loops if the kilt was bigger (he needed 2 more)!

Kilt from the front


Simplicity 1552 Jon Snow Renaissance Festival Costume

Game of Thrones is really one of my favorite TV series, and Jon Snow is the character everyone loves. He is brave, handsome, romantic, goodhearted, and an underdog. The Renaissance Festival comes to South Florida once a year for 7 weeks, and I have been 2 years in a row. Last year and this year, I wore a wench costume that I made. It was one of my first projects down here and although it doesn’t fit perfect, it’s great for the Renaissance Festival.  This time, I wanted to make an outfit for my DH. Since he almost exclusively wears black, what better costume is there than Jon Snow?

I found Simplicity 1552 and thought I could easily adapt it into something Jon Snow inspired. There are lots of pieces to the costume so I gave myself several weeks to complete the outfit. The costume has lots of options but I chose to make the jacket, coat and boot covers, as seen in view C. I will probably add more to the costume at a later time like the gauntlets (the faux armored gloves) and some straps for the coat like Jon Snow has, but this was a good start.

First constructed was the jacket. Jon Snow would have worn an all-leather jacket but because I didn’t want to kill my DH in the South Florida heat, I just made the collar and front panel out of faux leather. The rest of the jacket is made from black linen and hidden underneath the coat. I loved the black linen because it has a medieval look. If he got hot, he could take the coat off, still look very medieval and get some quick relief. The jacket was easy to construct, but I had a bit of trouble with sewing the leather collar. The layers were a little difficult for my machine (Pfaff Passport 2.0) but not impossible.

Jon Snow Costume

Next up was the coat. I splurged for a stretch fabric that had texture. Wool would have been very appropriate but, again, way too warm. I looked at wool-like fabric such as fleece but it would still be too warm and look too cozy and soft for a rugged man of the Night’s Watch. The textured fabric I found matched perfectly with the Grizzly Fur I had for the collar and looked regal and tough.

I followed the pattern very closely but there were some changes I made. For the coat and jacket sleeves, the pattern suggests using the fabric for the main part of the coat for the jacket sleeves. Likewise, it suggests using the fabric from the main part of the jacket for the coat sleeves. Hope that isn’t confusing! I didn’t want to do that for this look so I kept the fabric of the sleeves matching to the corresponding body of the jacket/coat. I also skipped interfacing the coat collar because I felt the fur was sturdy enough that interfacing was unnecessary.

Overall, I thought this pattern was great with easy to follow instructions!

To complete the look, I made a pair of linen pants from a separate pattern, BUTTERICK 4574, since this pattern did not have them included. I also made the fur boot covers which was a fun project and I wrote about in my blog post, Simplicity 1552 Furry Viking Boot Covers. My DH added a belt he already had and some gloves.

Simplicity 8243 – 40’s Pants

Betty from Bomb Girls
Betty from Bomb Girls in the typical working-girl 40’s fashion

I got really interested in 40’s style after watching a couple shows set during the second world war. The first was Bomb Girls. Bomb Girls is about Canadian women during WWII who worked in a munitions factory making bombs. Most of the fashion in this show is simple and utilitarian since they are working in a factory and going through the tough times of war.

The second was Land Girls which is a British show about women who worked in the Women’s Land Army during WWII. You can see from the picture below that they were working girls, doing what would have been men’s work if they were not occupied with the war, and wearing the appropriate clothes to get the job done.

Land Girls
The Land Girls

For my first try at 40’s fashion, I wanted to construct the women’s pants commonly seen during this era. Pants during the 40’s were very inspired by men’s working clothes. Women needed something practical to wear in factories while men were away at war. This was an interesting time for fashion because beforehand, women really didn’t wear pants.

Historically, in fact, women only wore pants when they needed to do things like hunt or do physical labor. Men essentially displayed their wealth and how well they could take care of their women by having them in clothes not fit for working in like dresses. Think of it as a sign of luxury. The fancier, the better. Don’t get me wrong – I adore Victorian fashion with all the ruffles, corsets and huge dresses that are difficult to even sit in, but there is an appeal to the independence and strength of a woman wearing pants.

My favorite story I read about women in pants was about the Greek story of Scythian warrior women riding on horseback and fighting alongside men. These women are also known as Amazons and were brave, independent warriors, equal to men in fighting. They lived in small, nomadic tribes so naturally needed to defend themselves just as men did. They also smoked pot, had tattoos and wore pants! You can read more about the Amazon Warriors in this National Geographic article, Amazon Warriors Did Indeed Fight and Die Like Men
1957-pants-coat-togs-227x800While pants started as a necessity for work during the second world war, they transitioned into women’s fashion at home
and for leisure. They evolved from being made out of simple, plain cotton, denim or wool garments to have better fit and more style. Still very masculine compared to today’s women’s pants, they were high-waisted, wide-legged and had a zipper or buttons down the side or back.



I found Simplicity 8243 and really loved the plaid look. Although I don’t have many stripes and plaids in my modern clothing, I love them in vintage clothing. Look how tall her legs look!Simplicity 8243 Pattern Envelope

Side view of Simplicity 8243

I haven’t done much work with plaid yet so although the pattern said to buy extra fabric to match plaids and stripes, I wasn’t sure how much to buy. I ended up not buying any extra. I knew it would be most important to match the plaid along the center front and center back so I focused on that, cutting each pant piece individually to make sure the stripes would align at the center back and center front. I used this article, How to match prints along seams, by Sewaholic as my guide.

In the end, while the plaid did match pretty perfectly in the center front and center back, the side seams were significantly off. In addition, the center front seam looked nicer than the center back because of the part of the pattern I chose to match. I will definitely need some more practice with plaids to make my next outfit more aligned.

Talucci Plaid Pants Front ViewTalucci Plaid Pants Side View
Talucci Plaid Pants Back View
The construction of the pants was straightforward and easy. So easy, in fact, that I was not paying close enough attention because I originally sewed the zipper in the side instead of the back! Because these pants feature great side pockets, I was left to my seam ripper and, in the end, wasted about two hours installing the zipper and side seam and then taking it all out.

I used shirting fabric for these pants found at Joann’s which was only about $8.99 for the fabric needed (with a 50% off coupon). I am a little concerned how they will hold up over time since pants take more stress than shirts do. I added some interfacing where the zipper is to make it strong and lay flat, and there is also interfacing fused to the waistline. I did notice some blemishes in the fabric after I was all done. I wasn’t happy that the quality was so poor but that’s what I get for choosing cheap fabric!

My measurements are 33″ bust, 26″ waist and 36″ hips. The envelope suggests a 12 for those measurements so I sewed a 10. I have found with Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick and Vogue patterns, it’s best to go down a size of the recommendation. The pants fit great! Because they are on the skinnier side, I think they more closely fit the late 40’s look instead of the more practical, wartime fit.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Talucci Plaid Pants

Simplicity 1552 Furry Viking Boot Covers

I’ve been working on a Jon Snow inspired costume for my DH to wear at the Florida Renaissance Festival this year. One of the easiest and most satisfying parts of the costume construction was the fur boot covers!

Since the members of the Night’s Watch wore all black, and my DH’s favorite color is black, the costume is all black. Here are the materials I used to make these boot covers (all from Jo-Ann Fabrics):

  • Grizzly Fur
  • Fleece
  • Suit lining fabric
  • Faux leather that I cut into strips
  • Heavy apparel fusible interfacing
  • Black thread, scissors, comb, clothes pins, straight pins and elastic
  • Sewing machine with universal needle

You only need one pattern piece for this part of the costume. Cut 4 of each the interfacing, lining, fur and fleece. You definitely want to watch a tutorial on cutting fur if this is your first time. Cutting it correctly will avoid a furry mess in your work area and also give you a much better final result. This video on how to cut faux fur is what I watched.

Fuse the interfacing to the lining to give the boot some stiffness and keep it up!

The instructions say to baste the fleece to the fur but since it was sticking together pretty well already, I skipped that part (not recommended unless you are the same type of lazy I am!). I almost skipped using the fleece all together because I wasn’t sure what the purpose was and I was concerned about making the costume too hot. My DH is probably going to be very hot in this costume already because the event is in South Florida so I was looking for ways to keep it as cool as possible. I am not positive if it’s necessary but it seems to give the boot a nice, sturdy quality.

Fur Boot Lining and Interfacing
These are the boot lining and interfacing. Fuse the interfacing to the lining material.


Fur Boot Fleece Lining and Fur
Here are the fur and fleece pieces. They are supposed to be basted together.

Note that the fur is running from the center back to the center front. You will probably want to cut the fur so that it runs from the top of the boot to the bottom. This was a mistake I made when cutting the piece out but I didn’t think it was a serious enough mistake to re-cut.

The next step is going to be the center seam on the boot. Comb the fur away from the seam. This way, the fur will not get trapped in the seam allowance. The fur will also cover the seam when you are done.

Combing the fur away from the seam Comb the fur away from seams

The pattern designer, Andrea Schewe, also wrote about this along with some other techniques for sewing with fur in her blog about Simplicity 1552.

Sewing the center seam
Here is how it looks when sewing the center front seam of the boot. The fur is right side together on the inside and the fleece is on the outside. Note that there isn’t any fur sticking out along the seam I am about to sew.

You will also need to sew the center front seam of the lining together. The next step is putting the lining and the boot together! This is done by sewing the top and bottom of the boot with right sides together.

Sewing the lining to the fur boot
Next, we sew the lining to the boot, right sides together, at the top and bottom.

Turn right side out and before the center back seam is sewed together, there is a nice touch to add – straps. I made my straps out of some leftover faux leather I had from making the jacket.

The boot before adding the straps
Here is the boot turned right side out before we add the straps.
Tack the straps onto the boots
Tacking the straps onto the boots
Boot before sewing the center seam
Here is the boot with the straps tacked on before we sew the center back seam.
Sewing together the center back seam
There was so much fabric at this point that I needed to use clothes pins to hold the center seam together. I hand basted this seam so that it would fit in my machine.

The last step is to tack some elastic at the bottom so that they stay in place above your shoes while walking. This project can be done in an afternoon and I found it very fun and satisfying! I didn’t have any problems with the construction and would even use this pattern again to make rave furry boots!

Finished Viking Boots
Finished viking boot covers

Simplicity 1105 Cynthia Rowley Shirt

I originally began this top to wear to the Dirty Bird BBQ in Miami. It seemed pretty simple and contemporary. Making it in 100% cotton black, with white binding and the white Dirty Bird Label‘s logo on the center front would be perfect. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get it done by the show because a friend unexpectedly came into town.

Here is how it looked once finished according to the pattern instructions:

This shirt was easy to make. The only problem I had was stretching the binding to fit around the arm holes. That didn’t turn out perfect but close enough, especially because once I put the flowers on, I was able to hide the imperfections!

Check out the inside:

I wasn’t expecting the facing from looking at the pattern envelope but it definitely gives it a nice finished look. While it takes a little longer to add features like this, they are well worth it once you see how nice the finished product looks.

Since I used just a plain black cotton, I wanted to add some white features. While I originally wanted to put the white Dirty Bird logo on it, I thought something more feminine would work out best. This fabric from Joann’s was perfect because the white flowers were on top of black mesh which would blend into the black cotton of the top!

I cut out the flowers, arranged them on the finished shirt and then hand sewed them on. The hand sewing took about 5 hours which ended up being a nice way to spend a Saturday because I had a cold. I watch the entire series of Rebellion, the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, while doing this!

I have a pair of white pants that will be perfect to wear with this top but I would also love to have a white, waist high, knee length skirt to wear with it.

This top seems either 80’s or 90’s to me and I am not sure why. What do you think?