Sewing Projects


Hello friends. I’ve been trying to settle back into civilian life after an incredible weekend in New York where I spent just as much time wandering the city alone as I did in big groups of ladies gabbing non-stop about sewing. I hit that point in a vacation where you stop thinking about what everything costs and just mindlessly hand over your Visa about 20 times a day. If you don’t hear from me in the next few weeks it’s probably because I had a heart attack after looking at my bank balance.

To say I hit the fabric district would be akin to saying that Godzilla tiptoed across Tokyo. I think I dislocated a shoulder carrying all my spoils around town; I know relatively speaking Montreal has pretty good fabric shopping but the sheer quantity and quality of what’s available does force you into this half-mad state where you’re just fondling and buying without end. I just kept whispering “Business expense business expense business expense”. I got lots of supplies for my next few patterns, but I was determined to find good basics for my much needed home office wardrobe.

My old handmade work wardrobe of sheath dresses and pretty blouses isn’t really appropriate for waking up and walking to the computer. And wearing ratty pajamas isn’t really the best recipe for “LET’S BE PRODUCTIVE!” It’s more, let’s work for a few hours and take a catnap. So I scored a bunch of great ponte, organic jersey and wool knits for comfy but cute stuff I can throw on in the morning.

My biggest priority was making Tilly’s Coco. I’ve had the pattern for a few months but as you may know, it is REALLY hard to find perfect Breton stripes, and I had a “Heather Lou in the Riviera” vision in my head I wasn’t going to compromise. This white and black ponte from Mood fit the bill. It has a touch more poly than I would have liked, but the weight was good and it had the perfect stripe ratio happening.

Coco dress by Closet Case Files Coco dress by Closet Case Files

I went for a classic boat neck dress with 3/4 sleeves, and I’m pretty sure I’ll make a lot more. It’s a “make in the morning, photograph in the afternoon” sort of garment; super comfortable and a great blank canvas for accessorizing. In my “money means nothing” fugue state I picked up a great straw fedora and shades in the East Village, and *may* have actually bought a watch on Canal street. All the New Yorkers laughed at me when I admitted it, but at the time I was happy to dole out $40 to watch the hilarious transaction go down. I think they learned how to get away with selling knockoffs by watching The Wire; it involves a relay of about 4 people. I kept expecting to see a tiny hand pass them the goods through an opening in the sewers. My other two fake gold men’s watches have bit the bullet, so feeling like i was in the middle of a high stakes drug deal was an added bonus to acquiring a new one.

Coco dress by Closet Case Files-3 Coco dress by Closet Case Files-7

Not much to say about the construction. I serged all my seams and zigzagged my hems because I’ve been having issues with my double needle stitching unraveling. I’ve accepted that it may be time to buy a coverstitch machine, and I am hoping some of you will chime in with suggestions!

  • This is fantastic! I love the Coco, and you look so classy and comfy in yours. I hear you on discloating a shoulder in the garment district. I actually sprained my wrist (I mean it, really) lugging fabric around when I went in March. My doctor acted like I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, imagine!

    I have a coverstitch/serger combo, that I was just saying today is still giving me some tension problems when I top stitch over seams, although that seems common no matter the machine. I’ve got a Baby Lock Evolution that doubles as a serger, and it’s amazing. It does automatic threading too, which makes life so much simpler. It’s a bit pricey, but my sewing machine shop gave me a trade in value for my old Janome one, which took off a good chunk of the price. Good luck!

    • Thanks Rosie! I looked at the those fancy double machines at my Bernie dealer. I’m moderately happy with my Brother 1034 right now, which is actually really easy to thread. But it might be worth it to think about a double since I do want to upgrade my serge at some point….

      • carrieinstitches

        Such a cute dress! You look so chic as usual and the necklace is great with it. I love striped dresses and yet I don’t have any, why? Need to fix that ASAP. (-: I have the evolution, just got it in January and I looooooove it. It is a bit of a pain to switch back and forth but it really only takes 5 mins or less and since it has air threading you don’t have to thread the lower loopers. I love it and am happy with my purchase, although I did almost die when I paid for it (-; no regrets at all though!

        • Hahaha, it’s funny how we can be so thrifty in life but will happily plunk down hundreds of dollars for a sewing machine, right?

          • carrieinstitches

            Yes! And fabric (-;

  • I love this! Such classic stripes. You look like you need to hit Paris right now.

    • I’m “hitting” a Parisian man. Does that count?!

  • Michelle Rose

    I bought a traded-in Babylock Evolve about a year ago, and I couldn’t be happier. (I was upgrading from a Brother 1034D myself.) I’m getting the best of three worlds this way–an awesome two-in-one machine, a hefty price break for buying used, and dealer support when I need it.

    • Thanks for the tip Michelle! Is the Evolve self threading?

  • lisa g

    this is so cute! those stripes are perfect. i’ve been planning more shift-type dresses for fall–love the comfort and ease of layering!

    i bought a coverhem recently (the brother 2340cv) and i love it! there’s nothing like sewing a hem… that stretches! too fun. i considered the janome, but the attachments and presser feet were significantly less for the brother, plus you can do a 3 thread top stitch, and a wide or narrow 2 thread top stitch. to get those features you have to buy the more expensive janome, which i wasn’t willing to do for such a luxury (to me) item. i imagine i’ll upgrade someday, but it’s nice to test the waters at a reasonable price!

    • Thanks Lisa. It seems like toss up between the Brother and the Janome but I didn’t even consider the attachment/feet issue! And lrod knows I’ve dropped at least $350 in the last year on Bernina feet.

  • Thewallinna

    I can say only one thing: C’est mortel!

  • Nice work! (And don’t regret the shopping – just enjoy the spoils!) Nw all you need is some leggings and you are set for fall!

    • Have any suggestions for a leggings pattern? I need some but there are a lot of options to choose from.

  • truebias

    its great. i have a really similar dress from uniqlo that i seriously wear at least one a week. black and white stripes means perfection to me.

    • ME TOO! I wish i bought more ponte cuz I want a million more.

  • Clare

    I have a cover stitch machine and can’t quite understand how people who sew more than I do live without one. For me, that purchase was money well spent, I’m not just enabling for the sake of it. Gorgeous Coco!

  • Debera Massahos

    Love your dress and your blog! Good luck to you, you’re too talented to NOT do what you’re doing. Last year, I bought a Janome CoverPro machine and I love it. There are a couple of things you might want to consider. If you’re trying to tough it out and make do with a double-needle, have you tried pulling your stitches through and tying them off, in lieu of backstitching? That might solve your current issue, at least long enough for you to pick your new machine. If you’re going to go for it (business expense!!!) you might not want a machine that doubles as a coverstitch/overlock. I found that they were downright painful to use and that it’s much easier to just have all of your machines threaded and ready to go back and forth at will. You’ll be amazed at how fast you can go and how much fun you will have with three machines!

    • Aw thanks Debera! Your comment made my day. That’s a good tip, but I’m having issues with unraveling in the middle of the stitch line – like several times on the hem of a black knit maxi. I basically have to rip it out and try again but I’ll see if pulling the stitches through helps.

  • This is so cute! Looks really comfy too, and has a great summer fun dress feel. I’ll be checking out the comments section for the coverstitch recommendations because I want to hear these!

  • Lauren Taylor

    I cannot believe you finished this so quickly! Well, I can. Me, I haven’t even set foot into my sewing room since I got back 🙁 Been too busy trying to catch up on everything I neglected during my trip. OH WELL IT’LL BE THERE NEXT WEEK I GUESS (sob).

    I can’t help you on the coverstitch, as I’m looking for one myself and I’ve got my eye on either the Bernina or the Babylock (I tested the Babylock yeeears ago, and, if I recall, it threads itself like the sergers do, but I haven’t tested the Bernina because I knew I’d immediately buy it if I did, ha). I *can* tell you that my mom has the serger/coverstitch combo from Babylock – the Evolve – and while it’s nice, I don’t recommend it if you actually plan on using both machines. You have to completely unthread it to switch from serger to coverstitch (or vice versa), and even with the air threading, it’s a giant pain in the butt. I have no idea what they cost now, but when I was pricing them 6-7 years ago, the combo machine cost the same as buying the 4 thread Imagine (which I have) and the additional coverstitch. So, it’s not like you’d be saving money or anything by getting the two-in-one. Just my two cents! 🙂

    • Dude, I’ve made 3 things since I got back. You guys were like a defibrillator to my sewing practice. Choking on London jealousy. Thanks for the hot tip! I’m tempted to Babylock just to see what all the fuss is about.

  • This is so gorgeous on you… I love that it’s a knit dress with no waist seam, but there’s enough ease around the middle that you don’t need to suck it in. It just drapes right over you beautifully… hmmm. might need to make this. I have a coverstitch and LOVE it. definitely don’t get a combo machine. I’ve heard that it’s just so annoying. I have the brother 2340cv, which is on the “affordable” end of things but sews beautifully. The only drawback is that it’s tricky to end your stitching. you have to do a little dance. There are instructions, but there are better tutorials out there if you google how to release after you’re done stitching. It’s easy for me now, so I say it’s definitely worth the minor annoyance to save a bunch of cash.

    • Is it as loud as the Brother 1034? That serger could wake the dead, but i’m sure using a companion machine would be an easier transition.

  • I have been having troubles with my double needle stitching unravelling too! What up with that?
    I love your coco and your fake gold watch! When it comes to fabric, I am always mindlessly handing over my visa LOL! Glad you had a great trip!

  • I got a used Brother 2340cv on ebay a few months ago, and I don’t know how I lived without it. I used to HATE hemming and now it’s a breeze. I considered the CoverPro, but in the end I’m very happy I got another Brother (I have the 1034d) because it was an easy transition. Worth every. penny.

    • Thanks Beth – the Brother seems to be a popular machine!

  • You got some serious air in that first photo! Looking chic in your coco. Love the NY accessories too!

    • What you don’t see is the trampoline just out of frame, hahaha.

  • Your dress is awesome! It was also nice hanging out with you last week, glad you enjoyed NYC!

    • Thanks Melissa – Loved meeting you! And thanks for commenting because I remembered to add your blog to my feedly (GREAT BOMBSHELL!)

  • Such a great staple of a dress! The hat is perfect with it too. I swear I’ve gone to my closet thinking I have that dress (just because everyone should) and never do. 🙁
    I have the Janome 900 CPX (one stitch width) and love it soooo much! I decided against the one that converts widths and has 3-needle capability because while it does seem more versatile, the two widths seemed too large and too small, while my machine’s is “just right”. The perfect width for hemming casual knits. If I were a lingerie aficionado, I may be into having the smaller width capability. I would advise against getting a serger that converts to a coverstitch though- having separate machines is extremely convenient and would cost less, since you already have a serger.

    • Thanks for the hot tip! I should see if my Bernie dealer carries Janome.

  • A Stitching Odyssey

    Very, very chic!!!

  • Looks unreal but really I’m the kind of girl whose anyone’s as long as they throw stripes at me, and when paired with red accessories, I’m gone – objectivity is not present here…. Why is it so hard to get good quality striped knits I wonder…. Regarding double needles – I’m not sure if this is the way to go but I’ve started leaving long ends, giving the hem a gentle but decent stretch then threading the ends to the wrong side with a needle and knotting them. A bit of a faff but it seems to work. Another option is to shorten the stitch length right down to lock them in place but the knotting helps stop the start and the finish unravelling. I do this for topstitching thread now too.

    • Great tip! I’ve been having issues with them unraveling in the middle of hems, not where they end. AT least on my black maxi dress, it’s less of a problem around necklines. Maybe the shorter stitch length would help?

      • It seems twin needle settings are so specific for individual machines. My machine is as old as me, and through trial and error I’ve found a stitch length of about 3, ever so slight zig zag (0.5) and dropping the bobbin tension down a smidge stops thread breakage when stretched…. It has a complete shit-fit if I sew over clear elastic, but otherwise is pretty reliable. If the seam start/finish is not visible I’ll do some really short stitches at the start/finish but otherwise just tie them off. But on my last knit project I ended up doing a triple straight stretch stitch and it worked a treat on the hem which was a tight miniskirt length. I don’t doubt you could make room in your divine studio for a lovely cover stitch machine though!

  • [sharp intake of breath] Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!! Looooooooove!!!

  • And I will be reading those suggestions closely as I am also considering taking the cover stitch plunge! They seem so fabulous, right? Love the shift dress – comfort plus without sacrificing looks 🙂

  • such a lovely coco!! you sure can rock the hell of the breton stripes (maybe having a french boyfriend helps?)

  • sundaricarmody

    This is exactly what I am doing right now. I started needing more home/studio/work dresses that I could feel comfortable working in at home and also being able to dash out for errands. It seems like I should add some knit fabric to my stash for this purpose – though I’m yet to try sewing with knits. Eep!

    • Sundari, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!! The Coco is a great knit pattern to start with since it’s only 3 pieces (if you do a bateau neck), no fiddly knit bindings and Tilly really walks you through it. This is a total TNT pattern and as long as you have stretch needles you can totally whip one up on a regular machine (also, ponte is a good starting knit since it has the stability of a woven).

      • sundaricarmody

        I’ll keep an eye out for some cheap stable knits to trial when I go to Spotlight (Australia’s JoAnns I guess) for their sale on *everything* (again).

  • sallieforrer

    Holy hell girl, you got some serious air in that first picture!! Love this!! I could absolutely live in knits, stripes and shift dresses. This Coco looks perfect, pretty much as good as pajamas comfort-wise, but with the added bonus of mentally feeling like actual clothes, which, I agree, does help productivity. Glad you had such a stellar time in NYC! Although I’m not gonna lie, my heart does ache a little bit at the thought of all your galavanting and shopping and shady, back alley, gold watch dealings!! GAAAAHHHHIWISHIWASTHERE!!!!!!!!!!!
    Love your new hat and your new shades too! So fucking cool.

    • I think I’m gonna need to go back in the spring to stock up for future patterns so maybe we can both start putting money in a swear jar or something so we can gallivant together. Missed you so much and Nettie kept saying it was weird not seeing us together because we’re such a package deal, hahaha.

  • Natalie @sewoutnumbered

    Ahhhhhh JEALOUS!!! NYC is pretty much as far away from where I live as you can get – as in opposite side of the planet! I went about 10 years old (pre-fabric/sewing addiction)…feels like such a waste now haha!

    • That’s how I felt when I realized what I didn’t buy in Paris a few years ago!!

  • Amanda

    Ahh I’m so in love with this dress! Those stripes ARE perfection. I finally bought the pattern a couple of weeks ago, and am waiting until I have my baby in November to open it up!!! After seeing yours, though, I totally want to alter it to fit a growing baby bump, though I don’t know if I can be bothered altering another pattern to wear for just another 3 months. I guess I’ll have to wait.. 🙁 Anyway, wanted to ask you if they sell that particular ponte knit on their website? I’m always disappointed by the ponte knits I order online – never thick enough – and would love to snag a couple of yards of this one, based on your recommendation. 🙂 Thanks chica! I am so in love with all your makes lately – such an inspiration!!! xo

    • Hi Amanda. I hear you on the ponte frustration! I just checked their site and they don’t have it online….. Which sucks because I would love to buy about 20 more yards!

      • You can always call/email the store– they’re pretty good about that!

        • Amanda

          Oh wow – thanks so much for the tip, Ginger!! I think I might do that. I don’t live close to any legitimate fabric stores (closest one in Dallas is still 5 hours away!), so I’m always stalking what ponte / knits others use for a pattern before I take the plunge myself. Thanks to you both for your help!! 🙂

  • Kaci

    I’ll chime in for the Babylock — it’s a great machine and has automatic threading. I got a steal on Craigslist with the older model, which based on the specs is basically the same as the current BL coverstitch. The best part is that generic attachments fit perfectly, and they go for under $30 each.

    • It would have to be secondhand since they are SO expensive!

  • This looks fabulous and your styling is ON POINT! So glad I got to see you!!!

  • Your Coco looks so beautiful and the styling is perfect 🙂

  • You look amazing!! That is the perfect stripe, and I love your accessories.

  • I bought the exact same fabric and made two long sleeve and one short sleeve breton shirts out of it. I wore them to death – the only downside was that the fabric eventually pills. Your dress is great, and i love it with the red necklace.

    • Frigging pills! The bane of my existence.

  • This is so cute! I tried making a coco earlier this year and the sleeves just did something really weird on me and it was essentially unwearable. I think my cheap fabric may have had something to do with it, but I also don’t think boatnecks are really my cup of tea. I did make a stripped Plantain / Coco hybrid that I’ll be posting on my blog sometime really soon, and I love it and it’s super comfy (in the same, pajamas make me feel sleepy and not productive problem) but for some reason it sometimes makes me feel like I’m wearing pajamas. Maybe the scoop neck with the dress combo? I’m not sure. It’s just fleeting moments of pajamarama though so for the most part I wear it almost every day

    • That’s too bad about Coco. Curious to see your hybrid – I adore the plantain pattern.

  • Awesome! I’ve been dreaming of just this very dress. I even bought Coco but haven’t attempted it yet. That really is the perfect stripe ratio. I always zig zag my knit hems. I actually prefer it to a twin needle.

    • I think it looks fine if it blends in and you don’t really see it but it kinda bothered me on the dark stripe.

  • Girl you better hope I don’t get my Canadian visa sorted out, because if I’m allowed into the country that dress might just go missing from your wardrobe. Also, that whole outfit might.

    • Hhahahah, whatever it takes to get you here!

  • So chic!! I love this dress on you, especially with the stripes. I bet it’s ridiculously comfortable too.

  • Crystal Rice

    I will be watching for your work wardrobe posts with great anticipation. I’ve worked at home on a computer for the last 13 years. Let me tell you….I just can’t seem to motivate myself to get dressed lately, might be school summer vacation, but my staple bottoms: jeans, are just not comfortable anymore. I’ve never been a skirt person and so getting out of these flannel elastic-waisted pj pants (with ratty not-matching t shirts) has been nigh on impossible.

  • juliana calado

    perfect fabric indeed!