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Zero Waste Gifts – Modified Sam Apron

I try to make some kind of Christmas gift for my family every year. Some years the gifts are more elaborate than others. Sometimes I have an idea well before Christmas, other years it feels more last minute. I’m sure if you have made handmade gifts you know this feeling well. And even though the official gift-giving season is over, for now, I thought I would talk a bit about the gifts that I made this year because really any time of year can be a time to give a handmade gift to a family member, a friend, or even yourself. Luckily, this year I managed to not only have an idea, but I had “plenty” of time to get it done. I say “plenty” because I did have lots of time to get the gifts done, but I still felt a bit of pressure – such is the nature of working in Santa’s workshop.

When Helen’s Closet released their pattern for the Sam Apron (free when you signup for their newsletter), I was hooked. For years I’ve been telling myself that I need to make myself a full apron – I had been sporadically wearing a half waist apron – and this was the perfect opportunity to finally get it done. I thought it would make the perfect gift for my family members as many are great home chefs and/or work in workshops where an apron would be readily used.

After reviewing the fabric requirements, I ordered some heavyweight linen hoping that I would be able to adjust the pattern to work with the width and yardage that I purchased. Since I was making aprons for a variety of people – different heights and sizes – I knew I needed to figure out a way that I could adjust the pattern so I won’t have a bunch of random pieces of leftover fabric. When I ordered the fabric I did not have a full plan yet, I was just hoping that I would be able to figure something out easily.

The pattern provides you with very helpful guidance on selecting a size. Because I was making these for people who were not standing in front of me, I needed to make some guesses. When selecting the sizes, I also wanted to take into account my fabric length and width so I would be able to maximize my fabric. Fortunately, I was able to divide the sizes of 6 individuals into 3 apron widths, i.e. 2 aprons at 31″ wide, 2 aprons at 33″ wise and 2 at 36″ wide. For the length, I decided to make them all the same by dividing the fabric width of 57″ in half and cutting the aprons out on the cross-grain. This allowed me to get 2 aprons for each width that I needed. This also meant that the aprons ended up being a bit short.

To solve this problem, I dug into my linen scrap collection with the idea of adding scrappy patchwork at the bottom of the aprons to make up for the missing length. Past me must have been planning for this because I found some already pieced-together linen that happened to be just about the sizes I needed. Needless to say, I was very excited about this find. It ended up being a huge time saver! I just sewed these patchwork strips at the bottom of the aprons and made the lengths different based on everyone’s height. This solved my length issue perfectly.

The next decision was to decide how to use the bib cutouts. I knew that I wanted to incorporate them into the apron somehow. For a bit, I thought of using them to lengthen the aprons, but that wasn’t going to work. Then I started playing around with various pocket ideas. The original pattern comes with ample pockets and I wanted to make sure the ones I made did too. In the end, I made a patch pocket out of the cutouts. I sewed the cutouts right-sides together, leaving a small opening so I could turn them right-side out. Once turned out and pressed, I had a nice lined patch pocket made for the apron offcuts. I sewed down the top edge and added a little indigo tag to each pocket.

I used more scrap linen for the top pocket and the towel loop – which by the way is an amazing addition to any apron! I also made it easier on myself and used twill tape for both the cutout finishing edge and the straps. I would have been able to piece enough scrap linen together to make the straps, but that would have increased my time spent by a lot.

In the end, I am very pleased with the outcome and so are the recipients. I even remember to wear mine while cooking – mostly! I would highly recommend the Sam Apron pattern – for yourself or as a gift. I enjoyed the process of taking a pattern and reimagining it as a zero-waste pattern. This one was simple and easy to do and I look forward to challenging myself more this year with this kind of work. I hope to share more of this in the coming months. If you have done the same, I would love to hear about it!

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Xanthea Zero Waste T-Shirt

Liz Hayward from The Craft of Clothes recently released a zero-waste t-shirt pattern – the Xanthea Top. Liz proposed a pattern swap with our latest patterns, as t-shirts and overalls are a perfect combo. I’m not quite done with the Simone Overalls pattern, but I’m looking forward to styling the Xanthea Top with my finished overalls and seeing Liz’s version of both together. It was also perfect timing, as I have been wanting to make some basics for myself and tees were first on my list.

The Xanthea Top is very versatile, as it is designed to be used with knit or woven fabrics and it is drafted up to a 70″ bust. The top has a fun, unique construction, and a slightly boxy fit. The final top hangs on the bias so it has a nice drape. It also has options for short sleeves or long sleeves. Liz provides a printable mockup of the top so you can fully understand the construction before you get started.

Short-sleeved version with neckline for knit fabric
Long Sleeve version with neckline for woven fabric

I decided I wanted to play with and highlight the unique design lines created on the front of the top. It has been a while since I made a handstitched garment so I was excited to jump in again with the Xanthea top. My goal was to use mock flat-felled seams for the body and finish the neckline with a more stretchable stitch. I made a few minor changes to the overall design; including using the woven neckline for the knit version, omitting the sleeves, and taking out a bit at the shoulders.

I made a size 10 based on my body measurements and I’m very happy with the fit. I also made a version out of woven fabric in the same size and while it does fit, I think I may size up for future versions made with woven fabric as it does pull a bit in the shoulder area when I cross my arms. I’m not sure if this is because of my fabric choice or the size, but I will experiment with that further.

The original pattern does not have shoulder seams, but I decided to slightly modify my top by taking out 1.5″ | 3.8cm from the top of the shoulders. To do this, I constructed the top as directed until I got to the step to cut out the neckline. I traced my desired neckline on the fabric and then I measured down 1.5″ | 3.8cm at the side fold (there is no side seam). I made a diagonal cut from this point up to the neckline. I was left with a triangle cutout that I used to create a facing around the armholes.

I also chose to use the woven neckline for the top because I wanted a lower neckline. When I cut out the pattern, I cut an additional 1″ |2.5cm strip the same length as the required square. I used this strip as the binding around the neckline. I did have a little bit of this strip remaining and I used this to help finish the facing at the armholes. I used the neckline cutout as a back facing and I really like the detail on the back of the shirt.

The last thing that I changed was to eliminate the sleeves for my knit version because the boxy fit creates cute little cap-like sleeves. As I said above, I used the excess that was cut off the shoulders as the facing for the sleeves. Because there are no shoulder seams, the excess triangle that I cut from the shoulders needed to be cut open so that I could stitch it to the arm opening. I matched the center of this elongated polygon with the top shoulder seam, right sides together, and stitched it to the arm opening. I finished the facing by turning it to the wrong side and stitching around the perimeter of the armhole and along the diagonal edges of the shoulder cutout. I wish I had gotten better pictures of this process because it is a bit hard to describe, but the video I recorded while doing it was blurry – oh well. I am really pleased with how this detail turned out and how it compliments the original design lines of the top.

As the weather cools, I’m looking forward to making more versions of the Xanthea Top. I have plans for a woven version with slightly puffy sleeves and I also like Liz’s idea of making it a sweatshirt with a hood. This is definitely a pattern that I will be coming back to often. Please let me know if you have any questions about my mods.

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Lawrence Top Dress Hack

I have been thinking about making a dress version of the Lawrence Top for a while. I began with the idea of lengthening the tunic version and adding a wide ruffle at the bottom. I did the math, adjusted the pattern pieces, and selected fabric, but something was holding me back. The more I thought about my idea, the more I realized I couldn’t see myself wearing the final version. I loved the idea, but the design didn’t fit my wardrobe or lifestyle. I love the look of ruffles and frills, but I don’t necessarily like wearing them. I didn’t want to make something that I would only wear once or twice.

I put the idea on hold for a bit while I tried to decide what direction to go with it. When I found a piece of navy double gauze in my stash, my motivation for making a dress was renewed. I decided to blend the two views of the Lawrence Top and make an oversized shirt dress with a tie.

As I looked at the original pattern, I tried to think about what aspects of each view I wanted to use in the hacked dress. I wanted to use the shape and inseam pockets of the tunic version, but with shorter sleeves that could be rolled up if I wanted a different look. I also knew I wanted to incorporate the split hem from View B, but I wanted the hemline to be even.

Once I started laying out all the pieces on my fabric, I was able to work on more specific details of the design. My piece of fabric was 59″|150cm wide x 90″|229cm long. I began by switching the orientation of the original pattern pieces (to be oriented with the grain instead of cross-grain) so I could get more length. Based on the length of fabric I was able to get a dress that hits above the knee.

Adjusted pattern piece layout

I also wanted a little more volume to the dress, so I made the front and back panels wider. I didn’t change the width of the yoke and I was able to gather the panels more. I did make the yoke taller – making it 9”|23cm instead of 6”|15cm – to go with the proportions of the more oversized look.

The buttons are one of my favorite parts of the dress. I found these yellow, vintage buttons last summer and when I got them I had no project in mind. I just loved how all the different shades of yellow and different shapes went together. Once I started sewing the navy gauze, I remembered that I had the yellow buttons and I knew they would be the perfect fit for the dress. I love how they pop on the navy fabric and add a bit of whimsy to the dress.

While I was making the dress, I thought about various ways that it could be worn. I wanted to make sure that it worked in a variety of situations and seasons. The dress definitely feels fancier when it is tied at the waist, but it can also have a casual feel. I like how it feels flexible in its style. The dress layers well over leggings and it can be worn in the cooler months. And I discovered (after we took these pictures, of course) that it layers well over wide-leg culottes. Worn without the tie, it creates a very artist smock vibe which I really like. Wearing it untied, without pants, is also an option. I think it will be great to throw over my swimsuit when we head to the beach.

If you have made the Lawrence Top and/or tried hacking the pattern I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment or post and tag me on Instagram @goldfinch.limited #zwlawrencetop. I love seeing everyone’s makes!

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Lawrence Top Tester Recap

I wanted to put together a special post to highlight my testers final garments. I would not have been able to complete the Lawrence Top sewing pattern without their wonderful help. I really enjoyed working with these women and seeing their finished garments makes me very happy. Thank you again for all your help!

What is great about the pattern is it’s versatility; not only in how you wear the garment, but also how it can work with different types and sizes of fabric. Seeing all the tester versions next to each other really highlights how flexible this pattern is.


Andrea made View B in a lightweight viscose from her stash. Due to the size of the fabric, she didn’t make the low/high hemline. She also used a different piece of lightweight fabric for the interior yoke. Both of these mods are great places to change up the pattern if you have less fabric than recommended. If you click through on her post, you can see her pattern pieces all cut and laid out, along with the very minimal waste she has when finished.


Eli made View A in a more structured gingham cotton. I love how she styled the top in a variety of ways; over jeans, layered with a cozy scarf, and open as a jacket/cardigan. I really enjoy wearing oversized button-up shirts over tank tops, so this will definitely be my go to way to wear the tunic this spring.


Sarah made View A in viscose rayon. She used a wide cut of fabric and was able to lay out her pattern pieces with the fabric grain, as apposed to cross-grain that the pattern calls for. The top is wonderfully drapey and looks good open or closed.


Rebecca made View A in a crisp, white linen. Rebecca styles the tunic with and without a turtleneck showing that the top can be worn throughout many seasons. Rebecca has plans to make another tunic, but making it a bit narrower by adjusting the width of the front and back panels. She also mentioned the idea of modding the pattern into a dress and now I’ve been thinking about ways to make one for myself.


Rose made View B out of a beautiful piece of linen. She made size 2 as her bust size fits right on the lower end of the size range. I love how she styled the cropped top with cozy linen pants. I can’t wait to see her tunic version.


Michelle (@zoetemeyer) made View A in a drapey rayon. Due to the size of fabric she had, she rearranged the pattern pieces and ended up making a longer, narrower version of the top, with a low/high split hemline. She also omitted the seam facing details and instead used this leftover fabric to test her buttonholes. It’s nice to see how she took the pattern pieces and moved them all around the fabric she had to make it work.


Elana (@the_solstice_studio) made a View B of the top. She had a lot of wonderful ideas to mod/hack the pattern: “I thought of a number of ways to use excess fabric or mistakes to keep the top zero waste including ruffles, a tied bow at the front, sleeve details, making an even longer top that’s actually a dress (I fantasized about a dress version of option B the entire time I worked on it, cinched at the waist with a ribbon made from excess fabric or a belt), or even longer sleeves for a winter version of option B.”


Thank you again to my testers! I hope seeing these finished tops gives everyone some inspiration and I look forward to seeing many more finished Lawrence Tops. I would love to see not only your finished garment, but also your process – post on Instagram using #zwlawrencetop and #goldfinchlimited.