Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress


Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress
Yeah, so this happened.

While fabric shopping for fabrics I need, I occasionally find the fabric I “need”. And this, a lovely Tokyo Train Ride Lawn Octopus (Teal) by Cotton + Steel, certainly qualified. Isn’t it fabulous? Also, as a lawn: very very lightweight. A perfect summer dress!

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress
Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

As per usual, finishing is perfect: including an invisible zipper…

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

and vintage buttons from my stash.

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

For more, you can dilly-dally through my Flickr tagset, or read my pattern review, to know more. For now – let’s just sigh at my pretty young daughter in her pretty li’l dress!

Jury’s out on the quality of Cotton + Steel fabrics. I haven’t heard anything bad yet, and I haven’t researched. They certainly have some of the loveliest designs, at least to my aesthetic. This yardage wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last!

4ever in blue jeans

    Jeans, you bastards! (Excuse the wear wrinkles – Nels wore them all day.) Full disclosure – I acquired many of my current favorite jeans construction techniques from Kenneth D. King’s “Jean-ius!” class, which I purchased on sale some time ago and only recently took advantage of. I adored the class and learned quite a bit.

    Forever In Blue Jeans

    In this case, I created a custom pair for my tall, thin nine year old. I really enjoy making jeans. They are far simpler than your average non-sewist might think, but shhhhhh as I like to keep some of my mystique and perhaps impress a couple of you.

    Forever In Blue Jeans: Fly Topstitching

    Fly front! Aided with a chalk wheel for marking, and double-threaded double topstitching. All that means is that instead of hunting for denim or topstitching thread, I just threaded two threads of the same color through the jeans needle used for topstitching. And then I carefully stitched a row next to the first row. The two-thread method has advantages and disadvantages. When you live in the sticks, like me, and sew on a budget, like me, the two-threaded option is a nice trick to have.

    Forever In Blue Jeans: Outseam Finish

    Outseams: serge-finished before construction. It also helps to serge-finish everything involved in the pocket’s side seams. In this case, I was finishing the inseams with the welt-seam option, which means the outseams couldn’t also be finished that way.

    Forever In Blue Jeans: Belt Loop

    Belt loops, waistband, and front pocket. Not much to see here. All bartacks on these jeans are meticulously pulled to the back, tied, & threaded either into the seams or into the stitch itself, then clipped and Fray Check’d.

    Forever In Blue Jeans: Back Pocket

    Back pocket – my own design. Three parallel goldenrod lines of that double-threaded topstitching. If you look carefully you can see the top row has a pinkish tinge, from the wax paper I used to mark its position. This will wash out when the jeans are laundered, of course.

    Forever In Blue Jeans: Fly Shield (Inside)

    This is the pocket bag (left) and the inside of the fly shield (right). Go ahead and check your own storebought jeans’ fly shield and weep at how assy it looks in comparison.

    Forever In Blue Jeans: Pocket Stencil

    A pocket bag and a pocket stencil (a red star) – again, double-thread topstitched. This was done as many  jeans have this detail, and I knew Nels would appreciate it. Spoiler alert – he did.

    Forever In Blue Jeans

    Yes. Yes I do want to pinch his bottom. I have refrained for quite some time though. Be proud of me.

    Forever In Blue Jeans

    A modern, relaxed-thigh, slim fit!

    You know, and now that I’m thinking about it – really jeans aren’t even that simple to make either. They are simple for me because I’ve been sewing a long time. But even then, they take a lot of fairly meticulous detail. I also use three machines to make them: one machine threaded for construction seams, a serger, and one machine threaded for topstitching. Yes, you could easily make a pair with just one sewing machine – and a very old straight-stitch machine, at that! But having a few machines speeds things up quite a bit.

    My jeans also have better construction than anything I’ve seen ready-to-wear, and the methods employed mean they are more comfortable (hello! cross-grain waistband steam-fitted to a curve!). More comfortable construction means people really enjoy wearing the garment more – including children. If you look at RTW jeans construction you will see a lot of slip-shod details.

    Also – and many people don’t like to address this – the labor that goes into jeans and the very harmful practices employed in their production happens out of sight from most Western eyes, so many do not think about it.

    It’s pretty cool to make something that is more ethical, wears longer, feels better, and looks better than the typical fare.

    Yup. I’d love to teach a jean-sewing class… but alas, I fear my locale does not have many who are committed to the time it takes to learn the craft of home sewing.

    Forever In Blue Jeans

    You know here’s how my sewing works: I made the above hoodie – as in drafted the pattern and cut and sewed every bit of it – one day after buying the cowboy knit from Sew Now Studio in Shelton. I designed the round-hole kangaroo pocket, the double-athletic stripe hood and sleeves, cuffs et cetera. An organic grey knit to compliment the cowboy fabric. Finished it and, since I didn’t get a picture right away, immediately tired of the idea of documenting it. Any time someone wants to move in to help me document my sewing, please do. I sew too fast to do a thorough job, myself.

    In other sewing news a client told me the silk jacket I made her was “the best fit [she’s] ever had.” Now you know what? That makes a tailor feel GOOD.

Blue Goth

My children are not too particular nor focussed on fashion; perhaps having a mother who could literally sew them anything they wanted (because I really could!) grants them a luxury of some kind. More likely, at their young ages and not surrounded by commercialism and materialism as much as others, it’s just not their interest. They have preferences and garments they particularly like, but neither kid could ever be described as particular or fastidious dressers.

That said, Phoenix cites a few colors and a few styles as ones she likes – and I still remember pulling a frilly skirt off the sewing machine and realizing at that moment she wouldn’t care for the frippery (my son was down with it, however).  Favoring soft, pull on garments with simple pockets and clean lines, my daughter’s tastes are easy to consider.

Today’s hoodie dress had popped into my head a while back (thanks to reader Jenn for her suggestion of this lovely cotton velour).

Pensive At The Coffee Shop

OK, that’s the pensive/arty shot. Here’s some tried-and-true authentic Phoenix:

Piratey... & Lovely

The sleeves and hood were both lined fully; there are no seams to be felt therein. The double-knotted hood of the Farbenmix: Olivia pattern really works for me. I can’t just have a regular boring round hood – at all:

Double Knot!

The dress hem and sleeve hems left raw – an advantage of sewing with knits. The trickiest part about a garment like this is the layout and cutting – making sure the knits are perfectly on-grain (seamsters will note there are cross-grain stripes on the Michael Miller stripe and lengthwise grain stripe detail on the velour). Once I’d cut and marked, the dress went quite quickly.

Phoenix was very happy with her dress and played, read, ran, ate, and tended naughty chickens.


She only took the garment off briefly to wash the dishes (and she did a bang-up job of those).

Dishes, By Phoenix

Dishes, By Phoenix

Dishes, By Phoenix

All-in-all, a successful fashion adventure for the girl and I.


In other sewing knews: Patterns by Figgy’s announced their upcoming Sewing For Boys book; a project I’ve been busy helping test for (Nels will be featured in the lovely pictures therein). I haven’t been able to share any pictures of resultant garments and I’ve been agonizing to! Having some intimacy with this project and with the women helming it, I can say I’m very excited to be involved – and gladdened to see these ladies’ dreams coming to fruition. craftivism w00t!

angel in blue

My daughter loves this ensemble but personally I think it’s a tiny bit too matchy-matchy. For my taste, anyway. One won’t deny the teal is a lovely color for this time of year.


Funny: as soon as I finished it (handsewing at the soccer practice last night) I knew my daughter would love the dress but be less enamored of the pinafore: and I was right!


Both she and I love the hood more than anything (the pattern for both pieces is Olivia from Farbenmix).

Grimms' Fairy Tales

The dress is a 100% cotton Michael Miller; the pinafore is made from one of my favorite current fabrics to work with, a linen/rayon blend.


The linen/rayon looks better and better with age, too.

“It’s the pleats.”

Button, Flowers

Handsewn flowers via a tutorial by my lady Karen.


Phoenix laughs, watching her dad play hackysack.

I’m offering either/or/both pieces in my little shop; you can also view more detail photos in the Flickr tagset or read my pattern review.