Everyday Tote with exterior zipper pocket hack

Spoonflower’s new Lightweight Cotton Twill is an absolute dream to work with.  The weight is the perfect go-to for a multitude of projects, especially totes!  The combination of this easy to work with material and its tough weave will ensure that you’ll end up with something that will not just look amazing, but wear well. In this tutorial, Gia from the blog Sew Gratitude will to take you through a simple “hack” using the Lightweight Cotton Twill and an Everyday Tote project from Sprout Patterns


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Another fun option for your Everyday Tote is to add an easily accessible outside zipper.  Today I’m going to walk you through creating an outside pocket with a contrast trim.  In this sweet boho mermaid fabric, (design by Nouveau Bohemian) the zipper will be perfectly complimented by a tasseled pull. This technique is a little more advanced, but worth tackling!  Just go slowly.

For this project, you’ll need the following additional items:
• one 10 inch coordinating zipper (or longer, you can easily shorten it)
• a disappearing marking pen (I am using a Frixon marker)
• an Exacto knife
• a glue stick
• a ruler
• a rotary cutter

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Go ahead and cut out your bag as usual, again being careful not to cut into your extra chunk.  When designing this bag, you’ll see that I have two separate coordinating panels left!  I’m going to be working with the print that’s the opposite of the outside of my bag. Interface your bag with the interfacing of your choice, I always use SF101.

From the extra chunk, cut:
1 –  one 10 inch by 14 inch rectangle

Interface your pocket however you want, you might want to only interface the top due to the thickness of the twill, but it’s totally up to you!

Working with the pocket, fold it in half long ways and find the center. ON THE WRONG SIDE- from the top measure down about 1.5 inches and draw a long horizontal line.  Measure down from your first line about 3/8 of an inch and draw a parallel line.  Now, create a box that’s about 8 inches long centered.

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Fold the front panel of your bag to mark the center.

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Place the pocket along the front of your bag with the top about an inch down, centered, right sides together.  The rectangle you drew should be facing out.  Make sure everything is even and flat and pin this into place, leaving room around that rectangle to sew.

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Now, sew this rectangle carefully.  I go very slow and shorten my stitches as I reach the corners.  Leave your needle down and turn the fabric to get a sharp corner.

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Once sewn, carefully mark your rectangle as shown, these will be your cutting lines.

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This is the tricky part, so be careful!  I use an Exacto knife and a cutting board to cut the corners, this makes sure that I can get as close as possible to the stitching so that when I flip all this around, the corners are sharp and exact.  Go slow and be as exact as you can.

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Once you have your lines cut, flip this panel through the rectangle you just cut.  It’ll take a little finessing, don’t force it.  It’s super easy to create the contrast!  Instead of flipping the panel and pulling it all flat, go ahead and wiggle it so that there is a sliver of fabric on the outsides just under the seams, finger pressing it along.  The top and the bottom will lay flat, but the short edges might pucker.  Don’t worry, this will all flatten out and won’t make a difference on the front!

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Iron this like crazy.  I place pins on the side to keep everything square.

Now we’ll add the zipper.  Your zipper should be longer than the rectangle on each side.

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Open your zipper up a little bit and then run the glue stick along the edge of the zipper and then place so that the opening is just flush with the left of the rectangle and centered into the rectangle.  You can fuss with this some before the glue dries, so don’t panic.  Once I have it where I want it, I hit it with the iron to set the glue tight.  I put a few pins along the ends to hold the zipper center as I sew.

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Now, carefully sew about 1/8 of an inch around the outside of the zippered rectangle on the front side, just outside the edge of the contrast.  This will sew your zipper into place.  For good measure, I always backtrack and sew over the short ends twice.  Flip it over and trim your zipper ends.

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Fold the bottom of the pocket up to match the top and sew the edges!

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Press everything very well! Finish up the bag following the directions supplied from Sprout!

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Go ahead and attach your zipper pull!  I made mine, but there are so many amazing artists out there on Etsy you can support as well.

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You could easily use the rest of the extra chunk to add an additional zippered pocket inside!


After over a decade working in an office, Gia was done with the commute.  She gave up a job in PR to work from home to take care of her family.  She became a certified and licensed aromatherapist and herbalist and launched her own organic skin care company.  After one too many unsuccessful searches for JUST the right Halloween costume for her now ten year old, she got out her aunt’s old Singer and taught herself to sew.  You can find her now in her villa in Italy amongst her cats and a growing hill of fabric, always ready for the next sewing challenge.  She blogs over at sewgratitude.com, when she remembers.

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Sprout Everyday Tote transformed!

bag.jpgSpoonflower’s new Lightweight Cotton Twill is an absolute dream to work with.  The weight is the perfect go-to for a multitude of projects, especially totes!  The combination of this easy to work with material and its tough weave will ensure that you’ll end up with something that will not just look amazing, but wear well. In this tutorial, Gia from the blog Sew Gratitude will to take you through a simple “hack” using the Lightweight Cotton Twill and an Everyday Tote project.  Each Tote is printed to order on a full yard of twill.  Which means once you cut out and prep your tote you’ll have a HEALTHY chunk of fabric leftover to work with, almost 400 square inches worth!  It’s an amazing deal to have the leftovers to coordinate. Read all of the details and how-to on the Spoonflower Blog.

And if you liked this post, Gia will be doing more hacks using the Everyday Tote in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!

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In a Galaxy not so far away…

Today’s guest blogger is Allison Bowles, the patternmaker behind Artemis Clothing Co. and a pajama-maker extraordinaire. Her blog post is all about using Adobe Illustrator to create a repeating design for her Ezra pajamas, using outer space as her inspiration.


If you are like me, you love getting crafty when it comes to gifting. Sprout Patterns takes my gift crafting to the next level by letting me customize projects with my own prints so it’s super personal and I know it’s something that my friends will love.  My friend Jacob loves all things space; he is always telling me the latest stories in space exploration. I felt especially inspired by the recent Perseid meteor shower, so space it was for the design!

I typically use Adobe Illustrator to create my prints because I find it very versatile.  So for this tutorial, I’ll be using Illustrator to create my surface print.

The very first thing I do when I am making a repeating pattern in Illustrator is to find some inspiration photos. Since I was making space themed Ezra shorts I needed to find a great space motif for my pattern repeat. This photo of all the planets was my reference point and Saturn’s colorful rings were my inspiration for the color palette.

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When using Illustrator, I first need to prepare my workspace.  Once the program is open, I create an artboard that is exact size that I want my repeat to be.  I am going to start with a 5” x 5” square and make adjustments as needed as I go.  I also want to pull in my inspiration photos to the workspace so I can see everything around the artboard.

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Next, I need a color palette.  I love the bright blues and pinks in this photo of Saturn’s rings and I think it would be a wonderful color palette for the Ezra shorts.  To make the palette I need to select the color palette icon on the right toolbar.  Then I create a new color group by selecting the folder icon at the bottom of the color palette window.  I can use the eyedropper tool to select colors directly from my color inspiration photo and add to the color group.  Here I’ve selected a range of blues and greens from the photo as well as a few of the pinks for some color pops.

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After I have a color palette I can begin drawing the motifs, which in this case is going to be each of the planets in the solar system.  For each planet I’m using a combination of the shapes tools and the pen tools to create a very basic outline of each planet.

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After I’ve outlined all of the planets that I want to use, I can add color from my color palette using the color fill tool, which is the paint bucket icon on the left tool bar.  I want to make sure that I stick to colors that I have selected from the color group so that everything looks cohesive.

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Now that I have a bunch of planets drawn I can begin to place them in my 5” by 5” artboard to create the pattern repeat.  First I want to give the repeat a background color by creating a 5” x 5” square right on top of my arboard.  Since I’m working with an outer space theme I am going to choose a dark color for my background.  I think this dark, slightly-navy gray will really make the bright planets pop really well.

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Now I can move the planets around on the artboard so that they are spaced out well and fill up enough space in the repeat. I like the way these are positioned, but I still have a lot of negative space that needs to be filled.

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I’m going to fill some of that negative space by creating small starbursts to put in the background.  I think the starburst shape will contrast nicely with the larger planets. I’ve placed just a few in the largest voids since I don’t want to over do it.

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Once I have all  of my motifs placed the way I like I’m ready to use the pattern tool.  This is a very powerful tool in the newer versions of illustrator that allows me to put my motif in different types of repeats very quickly and easily.  You can find the pattern tool in the options tab of the top toolbar.  Scroll over the pattern option and select “Make.”

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I love that this tool allows me to preview all kinds of repeat tiling before I have to commit to one.  I can even adjust each element while I am working in the pattern repeat.  So if I decide I need to slide one of the planets over a little or change a color I can do that in this window and see the total effect it has on the repeated pattern.  I am going to select “brick by column” from the tile type drop down menu, as I think a ⅔ repeat offset works well for this pattern.

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Once I have selected the tiling that I like best I simply close the window and Illustrator automatically adds the repeat to my swatch palette. As a final step, I want to check the new swatch for any repeat errors, like pixel lines or shapes that have been cut off, so I am going to create a large square and fill it with my swatch.

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I can see from the pattern fill that everything looks good, so now I am ready to prepare the repeat to upload to Spoonflower. Since I changed the tiling of my repeat with the pattern tool, I need to use the new swatch tile instead of the original repeat that I was working with before.  I can easily do this by dragging the new swatch out of the swatch palette into the workspace.

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Now that I have the new repeat in my workspace, I want to create a new artboard that is the exact same dimension as the rectangle that surrounds my repeat.  Then, I am going to add the background color back in the same way that I did in the original repeat pattern.

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Ok, I am ready to export this new repeat pattern. Keep in mind as you work, that Spoonflower accepts JPG, TIFF, GIF, or PNG files. I want to make sure the “use artboards” option is checked at the bottom of the dialogue box so that the artboard that I set up as my repeat creates the boundary for the repeat tile.

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Now that I have a JPG repeat that I can upload into my Spoonflower design library.

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Once the file is uploaded into my Spoonflower design library, I can select the repeat in the Sprout design palette for my Ezra shorts.

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The coolest thing about making a Sprout project is the 3D simulation of my garment.   I can see exactly what my print will look like on the Ezra shorts before it is ever printed!  I think it looks pretty good!

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I love the way the planet pattern looks printed on Kona cotton!  The colors looks great!

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Sewing the Ezra shorts was so easy, just stitch up a few seams, hem, and throw in a drawstring.

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I even used one of my Artemis tapes as the drawstring for an extra special touch.

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There you go! Here’s Jacob lounging around on campus in his new pair of Ezra shorts! Looking good, Jacob!


artemis_headshot.jpgAllison Bowles is a graduate of North Carolina State University College of Textiles, where she is currently finishing up her Master’s degree studying zero­ waste garment design. She founded Artemis Clothing Co. in 2014 after working in the textile industry for several years and realizing that she wanted to focus on locally ­made sustainable clothing.

Allison Bowles is a graduate of North Carolina State University College of Textiles, where she is currently finishing up her Master’s degree studying zero­ waste garment design. She founded Artemis Clothing Co. in 2014 after working in the textile industry for several years and realizing that she wanted to focus on locally ­made sustainable clothing.Extra-photo-5.jpgSave

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Altering The Alder, Part 2: Adding Sleeves

Our guest blogger today is Kelly Walsh, the Director of Engineering at Spoonflower and an avid seamstress who loves a good hack. In the second of two parts, she explains how to alter the very popular Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio to add sleeves. If you missed it, part 1 of this post is here.


I don’t know about you, but I’m a sleeves girl. Short, long, three-quarter, poofy, flowy, bell, cap—about the only sleeves I don’t go for are the old historic ‘leg of mutton’ sleeves, I can’t imagine many things less comfortable looking. Sleeves are an extra element to an outfit, they’re another place to add detail, structure, balance, or style. The shape of a sleeve can totally change a garment. When I was looking at the Alder dress after my first round of alterations, I just felt like it was crying out for sleeves!

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Good news! Drafting a simple short sleeve is actually a lot easier than you think it is. There’s a fair number of choices to make along the way, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. The Alder is actually great for this modification because the bodice structure is pretty normal, and the armscye (AKA the armhole) is quite standard. If there’s a blouse or dress you’ve made before that has a similar shape, and sleeves you like, there’s a really good chance you can just lift that pattern piece wholesale and sew it right into the Alder. I wouldn’t recommend trying that without testing it on some scrap fabric first, just in case. But I can tell you that it’s worked for me in the past! There are a whole lot of great tutorials on the internet that go into a lot of detail, but I’ll touch on some of the basics of a simple short sleeve, and then look at how you might modify it for different shapes.

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There’s several important aspects to a basic sleeve shape that I really look at. The circumference of the bicep of the sleeve, the circumference of the armsyce (aka the armhole) of the garment you’re fitting it in, the “height” of the cap, and the length of the sleeve. On my super high tech drawing below, the red line represents the bicep of the sleeve. The purple line is the length of the sleeve from your shoulder until the end.

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The green line is the circumference of the armscye. And the light blue line is the “cap height,” or if you think about it another way, the difference between the length of the sleeve at your inner arm (armpit) and the length of the sleeve from your shoulder. You can also get this measurement by looking at the pattern pieces for your bodice, and measuring in a straight line from the side seam top corner straight up to the outside corner of the shoulder seam.

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Now, one of the most subtlest things about sleeves is how you draw that curve along the armscye. It can absolutely make the difference between a poofy sleeve, and a sleek tight fitting sleeve, and it’s all in what effect you want. I didn’t really want a poof sleeve here, but I’m also too lazy to do some of the intense work that is required for getting a perfectly fitted inset sleeve. And that’s where “ease” comes into play. It’s the fudge factor, the simplifier. It means that, for all intents and purposes I kind of eye-ball it, test it out, and in the end just go with it. Ease is your friend. The curve I draw might not fit perfectly into my armscye, but with some basting stitches and a tiny bit of fidgeting, I make it work.

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After taking my measurements, thinking about how long I wanted my sleeves, and using some tricks I learned before, this is the sleeve shape I came up with. One of those tricks, by the way, is to use Spoonflower to print what is effectively graph paper fabric. It’s a 1-inch grid printed directly on their basic cotton fabric, and it is GREAT for pattern drafting. You could even get a roll of it on gift wrap and use that way!

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Above you see my sleeve shape, with the red line representing the sleeve length. It’s about 9” inches, which I know from past experience works for me, and is similar to most other sleeve shapes I’ve found.

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This green line is the bicep line. Now, if you want sleeves that really hug your arms, you’d make measurement similar to your own bicep circumference. I like a bit of moving room, so I usually just draw the cap lines nearly vertically down. You can also even expand them a touch further out if you want a more flared shape. As long as this measurement is more than your bicep, it’s more about what style you’re looking for.

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The sleeve cap curves I usually draw with my french curve ruler. Its useful that way. But finding that “inflection point” where the concave curve becomes a convex curve is pretty important. Its easiest to do it with your bodice pattern pieces in mind. Think of it as the same point where the curve changes in the shoulder of those pattern pieces. This is where the fabric is curving around your arm, and finally folds into your armpit.

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There’s a blog post by ikatbag that goes into a whole lot more detail in this area that I really like. Check out her cardboard box demonstration if you really want a good understanding of how this curve and the cap height of your sleeve can really change its shape. If you’re curious I definitely recommend if.

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If you just want some sleeves and you want them now, then forge on ahead, trust yourself, and trust pattern makers who have gone before you. And when you’re drafting it all up, don’t forget your seam allowance! Trust me. It’ll go downhill fast if you forget that. Not that I ever do that of course (yeah right!)  If you want a basic short sleeve, you’re done, it’s really that easy. But there’s also a lot of things you can do to get interesting sleeve shapes.

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If you like cap sleeves, it’s as simple as shortening the length so that your entire sleeve is basically the cap height, and if you want the edge higher, just give that line a curve upwards.  There are so many sleeve options, but one of my favorites are called “tulip sleeves” or “petal sleeves.” They’re really only one extra step beyond a basic sleeve shape, but they add such a lovely detail that it instantly becomes the start of any garment.

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Tulip sleeves are made by visually layering the fabric in the sleeve with a curved edge, so that it looks like two flower petals over top each other. Seamwork Magazine has done a great tutorial on transforming a simple inset sleeve into a tulip sleeve, and I definitely recommend reading it as well, you can find it here.

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First you take your basic sleeve shape, and draw a curved line from one of the shoulder notches to the opposite corner. Yep, here comes that handy french curve ruler again!

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Then you do the exact same thing going in the other direction. Your one sleeve piece has now become two separate pattern pieces. Your two sleeves will actually require four smaller pattern pieces  (or 8, if you choose to line them.) See how their shoulder points line up, and overlap in the middle, and the bottom edge creates a flower like shape?

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Actually, this is the other reason I chose tulip sleeves for this Sprout Patterns project. When you’re working with scrap material, it’s frequently easier to find lots of small pieces than a few large pieces. I found it easier to fit four of these smaller curved pieces within the margins of fabric. But, if I’d wanted more expansive sleeves, I could have just bought a fat quarter of the same design from Spoonflower and that would have been more than enough extra fabric. It’s part of what makes the whole Sprout Patterns concept amazing!

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In the end, my sleeves looked like this, and in my mind they are just right for this dress. I love the playful effect the tulip shape gives them, which I think matches the gathered skirt and adds an overall balance to the garment.

Don’t be afraid of drafting your own sleeves, and experimenting with other shapes. It’s part of why so many people enjoy sewing, because they get to have some creative expression with what they make, and what they wear! There are a lot of great resources out there if you’ve seen a sleeve you like but have no idea how you’d go about making it.

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And don’t think that just because the lines are printed on the fabric, you’re trapped into that shape. Sprout Patterns is about helping you express your creativity in sewing, and it’s about giving you a starting place. Add onto what you’re given and change it up. See how many different ways you can use the scrap fabric to add unique details. A pocket, or a ruffle, or some sleeves. It’s all in what you can imagine.


kellybiopic.jpgKelly Walsh attended the NC School of Science and Mathematics and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Philosophy. She spends most of her free time reading, sewing the most elaborate Halloween costumes she can envision (and the occasional everyday outfit), and learning to weave on her 1900s Leclerc floor loom. Her favorite Sprout Pattern of the moment is the Archer Button Up. She joined the Spoonflower team in 2011 as a printer operator, and is currently the Director of Site Engineering.

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You Had Me at Honey: Halloween at Sprout

Today’s blogger is Nicole, Sprout’s Product Development Manager. Halloween is one of her favorite holidays, as you can see in the photo below. 😉


As far as I am concerned, Halloween is the best holiday of the year. It’s the one day where there are no restrictions to what you can be, dreamers rule and the sky’s the limit. Plus, you get to watch scary movies while stuffing your face with candy. OBVIOUSLY, the BEST holiday. And here at Sprout, Halloween opens up a world of endless costume possibilities!

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Most people flock to their local party shop in search of the latest in sexy costumes during the month of October. Not me, I would much rather create something original and more importantly, that is work appropriate. For someone who has several DIY costumes under her belt, making a Halloween costume through Sprout this year was an obvious choice. Though nothing will ever compare to the rainbow glitter unicorn costume that I wore last year…..

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Since I already had clocked SERIOUS hours of mocking up projects, I couldn’t resist making a bee costume using our fun Vanessa wing pattern from Mainsail Studio and the Inari Tee Dress from Named Clothing. These wings are really perfect for playing year round and now I basically want a pair for every kid I know.

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I wasn’t really feeling the Madame Butterfly look at the moment, which is when I had a stroke of brilliance and thought…BEES. Bees have wings! Plus our amazing city of Durham, NC was officially certified as a Bee City USA this year. Basically we are obsessed with bees. Save the bees, y’all!

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The Inari Tee Dress’s cocoon shape is perfect for showcasing the honey bee’s stripes. I paired the dress with the Vanessa Wings in a size Medium – a great size for a kid and a great size for some little bumble bee wings. I found awesome repeat designs of dragonfly wings on the Spoonflower marketplace, which I used on shiny satin.

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The dress was very straight forward to put together (shout out to Named Clothing for having incredible patterns and instructions!). A tip for Silky Faille and stripe matching: if you are attempting to match stripes, I highly recommend basting or using wonder tape along those side seams before sewing the garment up. Silky Faille can be slippery and will slide your matching skills right into the garbage.

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Because the Vanessa wings are made to attach to your wrist for a massive incredible amazing wing flappin time, I had to rethink how I was going to create them for this costume, as there is no way that any adult arms were going to attach to those little babies. I ended up utilizing some aluminum, very bendable, jewelry wire and hand stitched it along side the outer edge of the wing pieces using the fleece interfacing as a backing.

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This is by no means the best method of adding more structure to the wings, but it was the best idea that I had at the time so I just winged it ;). This method proved to work decently well, although turning the wings right side out was the biggest pain. After sewing the center piece to the wings, I decided to add an additional piece of black elastic to connect the wings together and add stability. It worked perfectly.

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As news spread about the fantastic bee making going down in the Sprout room, the requests started pouring in from fellow employees dying to rock the bee look. Honey, please. No really, please bring honey – Julie did, so she won the modeling gig.

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We drove over to Perkins Orchard, the largest and oldest fruit stand in Durham, to stock up on sweet natural goodies, grab pumpkins for our desks, and to let the bee out in her natural environment. Side note: if you’re local and haven’t been to this place yet, go! It’s full of fresh, local produce and other affordable goodies.

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Julie really embraced the Queen Bee life and upped her supply of honey at the same time. I like to call that a costume success.

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Trying to recreate this look on your own? Don’t have time to sew? Order with our White Glove Service and we will sew it up for you. YAS QUEEN BEE! (Wire not included.) Which brings me to my next costume…add a crown to this look and channel the queen bee of lemonade. If you think Julie is as cute as we do and wanna see more pix of her, head over to our Flickr album. ;o)

Need more costume inspiration? Don’t worry, I GOT YOU.

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Use the Kielo Dress and this makeup tutorial to become the most beautiful giraffe in the Savannah. Or be a deer with this makeup and antlers tutorial and pair it with a deer hide Moneta.

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Start the babe’s fandom early with a baseball romper and a matching lil baseball cap to match. Take it up a notch and have your little one SIT IN A BASEBALL MIT! The cuteness…it’s just too much…can’t handle it.

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If you have a young honey lover in the family who isn’t into bees, you can make a furry hoodie and even create ears with your extra fabric to attach to the hood! Add a faux fur trim and a trick or treat bag made out of honey fabric and voila! Hello baby bear!

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The ideas don’t stop there y’all. I’m like a treasure trove of Halloween Sprout inspiration, don’t worry. How cute would my baby niece look as a lil watermelon?!

pop.jpgLike punny costumes? Why not pair this popcorn shirt with a cute movie theater bucket skirt? Popcornception. What time is the movie? When will these previews ever end??  HAHAHAHA!

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And finally, we can’t leave out your little furry friends. Don’t they deserve to dress up for Halloween too? I am dreaming about making the littlest Aaron wings for my cat so that I can be the MOTHER OF DRAGONS, but until then I did create the perfect pizza princess costume for the pup in our house. The happiest pup, decked out in her favorite food for everyone’s favorite time of year.

Now let all of this beauty and inspiration settle into your minds and…get SPROUTIN’! The only question is, WHAT WILL YOU BE??


nic.jpgNicole has a background in fashion development and design and a passion for businesses that do good, which has taken her to places like Uganda, Pakistan, and now Durham, NC. She is thrilled to be working to empower indie pattern makers through Sprout! In her spare time, you can either find Nicole in her home studio creating with her kitten by her side or exploring new places around town and abroad. She loves live music, Asian cuisine, and laughing.

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Altering The Alder, Part 1: Adding Darts

Our guest blogger today is Kelly Walsh, the Director of Engineering at Spoonflower and an avid seamstress who loves a good hack. Over the next week, in two parts, she will explain how to alter the very popular Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio to add sleeves and bodice darts.


If you’re like me, you got into sewing clothing because you’re never quite satisfied with the options you’re given. You always want to change a garment in some way, just to make it different, make it yours. It might be the fit you want to tweak, or maybe it’s the color or design on the fabric, or maybe it’s those small details to add flare. Whatever it is, the whole point of sewing your own clothing is that you can do whatever you want!

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The original 3D model on Sprout and my finished alteration!

I love the concept for Sprout Patterns, but whenever I tell friends about it, I usually hear the same thing: “That sounds so cool! But I’m not just one size, I grade between sizes. They can’t do that (yet!)” Or “That’s nice, but I always like tweaking the patterns I get. If it’s printed on the fabric, I can’t do that.”

Well, I’m here to say that yes, you absolutely can alter a Sprout Patterns garment. You have to get a little creative about it, and you have to plan ahead, but I’m convinced that 9 out of 10 alterations are possible on a Sprout Patterns project. You might have to play with the seam allowances, you might have to get creative with scrap fabric, you might even have to re-draft the bodice. But you’d be doing those things with a normal pattern anyways!

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To prove it to you, I’m going to show you the alterations I did on the Alder Shirtdress (View B) by Grainline Studio. I love florals, so I picked a beautiful vintage-ish design called Royal Garden by Oksana Pasishnychenko. Now, everyone I’ve talked to has either loved or hated the “B” option for the shirt dress. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about those gathers, or that line drawing which people either fall in love with, or are completely turned off by. Full confession: I was one of the people who swore I’d never sew it, it wasn’t for me. It’s not that it was a bad dress, just that I knew I’d look like I was wearing a bag. I love shirtdresses, but I’m all pear shaped, and I just didn’t “feel” that silhouette. So I gave myself a challenge: How would I use Sprout to turn the Alder Shirtdress B Variation into a dress that I loved and felt good in?

I made the bodice a bit more fitted and defined my waist by adding some darts, and I drafted some cute tulip sleeves. Here’s what the Alder looks like sewn up exactly as in the instructions.

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It’s not a bad dress by any means, but it just didn’t feel flattering. My hips are wide enough that I have to choose a larger size to fit them, and my bust is small enough that I lose all shaping between my shoulders and my hips. But once I added a couple of darts in both the front bodice and the back, I got a dress that looks like this:

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I already loved this alteration. I felt like I had a waist again! I could have stopped here and been perfectly pleased with myself, but that was almost too easy. I wanted a challenge to see what else I could do to change this dress just a bit more. I decided that I wanted something to balance the fullness of the skirt, and give the dress a bit more construction. I’m always more of a sleeves girl than a sleeveless girl, so I played with a couple of options and eventually decided on tulip sleeves. After all my alterations and playing, here’s the dress I finally ended up with:

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How to: Shaping up and adding darts

There’s a whole lot of ways you can change the shape of a bodice. Some of them are more dramatic than others, and some of them definitely take more effort than others. When considering doing so with Sprout, there are some important considerations to think about. If you’re going to attempt something a little more complicated, like a full bust adjustment, do the math ahead of time and make sure it will work.

Sprout does include a seam allowance in the printed area, which considering that is on every side of every pattern piece, does add up to a lot of “flex” room in how far you can shift a pattern piece before you reach the edge. You can also increase your “margins” by ordering up a size. You’ll have to do some drafting to get it back “down” to your size in certain areas, but it adds some possibilities. I’d definitely recommend checking out the “finished garment” dimensions if you’re planning anything complicated as that will help you plan out how the fabric pieces will match with your body, and how much room you have to shift things. And remember, the darts aren’t actually printed on the fabric for sprout, so you have all that fabric to play with too.

Personally though, I’m usually too lazy to go about doing the math to draft up a whole new bodice draft full bust adjustment craziness. With something that has a relaxed fit, like the Alder Shirtdress, I’m much more likely to simply drape any alterations right on my body or on the dressform.

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The Alder only has two horizontal bust darts that come in from the side seams. This is great for creating a subtle shape with a relaxed fit through the waist. However, I have a fairly small bust, and larger hips, and since I had to order the size that would fit my hips, it means the bodice is fairly large for me, and my waist gets utterly lost. According to the Alder size chart, my bust is a size 6, while my waist is a size 10, and my hips are a size 12. I ordered my dress as a size 12, and sewed it exactly according to the instructions, but I wasn’t a big fan of the results.

My goal was to re-emphasize the waist and find some definition around the bust area. The easiest way to do this was to follow classic bodice traditions and add in two vertical darts going from the waist up. I also added slightly smaller darts in the back as well.

Now, yes, you could get out your ruler, and do the math, and draw on your fabric, and if you’re like me get utterly confused. OR you could simply put the dress on inside out and pinch and pin the extra fabric around this area until you like the shape it creates on your body. Let’s be real, no one’s body is exactly symmetrical, no one’s body follows a set of generic math rules. You can draw all the straight lines you want, but I have yet to find a single straight line in my body. I find it so much easier to just map the fabric to my body while it’s on my body.

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It’s easiest to do this technique if most of the major seams (especially the shoulders and side seams) in the bodice are already sewn, even if they’re only basted together. I didn’t plan overly well, and so I had done everything on my dress, down to even finishing the interior seams, before I decided to add these darts. That’s probably going too far, as you never know if you’ll want to let out a side seam to make the front dart larger, but it ended up working out in the end.

Here’s me with the dress on inside out, and where and how I ended up positioning the darts. They’re not perfectly even, that’s because my stomach isn’t perfectly flat. Maybe yours is, you lucky duck! There’s not identical, because one side of my body is actually a slightly different shape than the other. This isn’t unusual either, most people are slightly asymmetrical.

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IMPORTANT: Definitely double check yourself on this one. Put the dress on and off and on and off again, inside out and right side out, look and see if the fabric is puckering anywhere. Shift things around. Realize you liked it better the other way and shift it back again. Take in the side seams, let them out again. Make sure the dress is hanging off your shoulders straight, and you’re not slouching. Wear the bra that you’re most like to want to wear with this dress. Don’t drape a dress on your body while wearing a bra that you won’t want to wear with the dress, it changes your body, and therefore will change the shape of the dress!

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Once you feel good about where your darts are pinned, bast them. Then triple check yourself one last time. Then stitch them, and press them towards the center, just like always. And presto! You’ve made a bodice that fits your body, and fits how you want, better than any pattern could ever guess. All without any math at all.

Here’s some inside out photos of my darts, front and back.

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The front darts taper off at the top and the bottom, because of how the front panels of the Alder work. The top of the dart rests just below the point of my bust, and the bottom dips just under my natural waist. The back darts end at their widest point at the waist line. Remember that you’ll have to compensate with the gathers here, since you’re effectively removing fabric from the waistline, your gathers in the back skirt will have to be slightly denser to match lengths.

This one simple change was easy to do and changed this dress for me. And it doesn’t require any extra fabric, any math or drafting skills. I’ll say it again, you can alter sprout patterns projects! It’s okay if your entire body is not just the one size. You can get great results by simply adding some darts and shaping the fabric to your body.

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Tune in next week for Part 2: DRAFTING SLEEVES!


KellyBiopic.jpgKelly Walsh attended the NC School of Science and Mathematics and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Philosophy. She spends most of her free time reading, sewing the most elaborate Halloween costumes she can envision (and the occasional everyday outfit), and learning to weave on her 1900s Leclerc floor loom. Her favorite Sprout Pattern of the moment is the Archer Button Up. She joined the Spoonflower team in 2011 as a printer operator, and is currently the Director of Site Engineering.

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The Secret to Mitered Corners

Guest blogger Katie shows us a simple sewing tip to make any project look top notch.


Have you ever found it tricky to get a neat-looking corner where two hemmed edges meet? It can look like this sometimes:image_01.jpg

Why not try mitering your corners instead!  It’s a really simple way to get a crisp, clean effect.

I used this technique on the sleeves of the Asaka Kimono that I made in Poly Crepe with the Design Challenge winning design by Judit Gueth.

1. Pin a rolled hem along one edge by folding the fabric over twice.image_02.jpg

2. Fold up a corner, using the full seam allowance of the other edge.image_03.jpg

3. Fold over the second edge.image_04.jpg

4. Fold it over again, press, and pin.image_05.jpg

5. Sew, taking your pins out before you get to themimage_06.jpg

The finished corner! It’s neat and clean and very professional looking!image_07.jpg

The finished Kimono – perfect and elegant!kinono.jpg


12509779_951623122887_894740084662195081_n.jpgKatie is an artist, an engineer for Sprout Patterns, and a developer at Spoonflower. Her latest adventure has been learning Ruby on Rails. With a background in sculpture and costuming, if she isn’t sewing, she’s building dovetail boxes in the wood shop. She also loves hiking, contra dancing, Iyengar yoga, and mindfulness meditation.