the completed stitchbook and rookie garment sewing

Ann is wearing a hand stitched double gauze top and holding the completed stitchbook - there are plants in the background
Let’s start with the finished stitchbook and then we gotta talk about this hand sewn top – there are awkward selfies and everything.

Finishing is good! I’m definitely a process person but wrapping up a 100 day practice feels great. And there is a prize at the end. The book feels substantial and I love looking at it.
A little bit about the finishing details, the edges of the tabs and slots were stitched with red embroidery thread.

And a little piece of trim was hiding in my bag of scraps that made an ideal fastener, it’s stitched to the middle of the back cover. I used little whip stitches on each side and was careful to only go through one layer of fabric.

You can check out the assembled book and all the pages in the video above. Don’t see the video? click here.

This book, this process was full of surprises for me. Daily practice reveals things and it’s an excellent place for ideas to turn up. Ideas like a reliable place to show up. I’ve already started another book to stitch in France next week. Find all the info on making your own book here.

Let’s talk about the top.

The pattern is by my friend KZ Stevens. It’s been my recreational sewing project for a couple weeks. Parts of it can be machine sewn but I opted to do most of it by hand.

hand stitching seams on a top and hexies by a pool

It came everywhere with me. Hand finishing the seams is a slow, relaxing, chill process. In fact as soon as it was finished I started another so I’d have more hand seams to finish. Plus I’m a rookie garment sewer, I’ve only made a couple things, and the slow process and simple construction were perfect for me. I learned a bunch.

The result is super cute. It’s all about the drape. The fabric is double gauze ( I got it on sale at joann’s – they had tons of pretty colors). And it goes perfectly with the scrap garland necklace – I love the bluish gray with the deep pink and berry shades.

Ann is wearing a hand stitched double gauze top a- there are plants in the background
It’s inside out in this photo but it works that way too since all the seams are neatly finished. It’s a perfect addition to my middle aged art lady wardrobe. As is the cute but somewhat iffy smock below.

hand sewn gray linen smock on a hanger

I also used KZ’s top pattern as a jumping off point for a little smock dress. It’s iffy because a lot of it was made up as I went along and the fit isn’t perfect. And maybe it’s a little short. There are side pockets added and a bunch of other little details that mostly sprung from me screwing up and then fixing stuff.

It took forever and technically isn’t quite finished. There are a few things to neaten up on the inside. It’s wearable though and nice for hot days. You can check out a super awkward mirror selfie here.

other summer news

very small garden with repurposed cedar chest container

The tiny garden is producing! There’s ruby red lettuce, the first strawberries, herbs and tiny squash have appeared. Pretty exciting.

What are your summer sewing projects? Have you tried sewing clothes? Do you prefer hand or machine (I vote hand)?



  1. Tammy G.

    Hi Ann,
    This is all so cool!! LOVE your stitch book, I think you did GREAT on the garment sewing (last garments I sewed for myself were back in high school, but maybe again when I retire…..) and that tiny garden is fantastic! I get so much inspiration from your blog, your talent, and your generosity in sharing it. THANK YOU!! Have a great summer.

  2. Hi Anne, great to see your hand sewn top and your face! Normally you’re chopped off at the neck (or even lower) so we never get to see you properly. Stitch book looks great, it’s on my “to do” list, along with 1001 other projects……
    Keep on creating, I love what you do.

    • Thanks Lynn! I did almost chop it off – last minute decision to say hello!

    • Edith Csokmay

      I love all your projects. The Book feels very freeing, no rules, just creativity. I love that.
      The garments . . .
      Both pieces look very comfortable. The dress, i could see me in that drinking coffee on my porch in the morning before the day gets started.
      I love sewing most things. It’s been years since I’ve made any garments for myself. Interestingly, i have been in the mood to make something wearable. I pulled my patterns just yesterday to see what I had to work with. I love embroidery, so I’m hoping to incorporate some on a top or maybe a smock.

      Thank you for sharing and inspiring me.

  3. Your garments look incredibly comfortable, with the fabrics and colors you chose. I can’t wait to get my book done. I started late to finish another project, as I didn’t want to be rushed. I can’t believe how much I am enjoying the whole process. Also, I made two of your little wire beds for my Winnie Pooh “club house” that the grandchildren play with. They are so adorable and the “Pooh” crowd can have sleep overs at the club house (a discarded doll house I found in a dumpster, and restored it for a woodsy hangout. I so enjoy your site.

    • Thanks so much Pam! It’s a good project not to rush. And I’m with you on the process – it surprised me.

  4. I have recently discovered the transcendent calm that comes from doing handwork. But I’m currently experiencing severe inflammation in my hand, making sewing in any format impossible! So I’m building up a “wish list” of projects I want to manifest as soon as it is possible. I find the entire website enchanting.

    • Hi Jolynn – I have struggled with hand and shoulder stuff too. Smart to rest. For me it’s the only thing that helps. I hope it’s better soon!

  5. I love your top and iffy smock! I love KZ’s pattern too! It is very easy to use. I have been making my clothes since 7th grade. And, at 70 yrs, I continue to make them for myself and 1/2 dozen grands! Hand stitching is my favorite because I can take it everywhere but if I am in a hurry machine is good too.
    I so enjoy reading your newsy newsletter. Thank you for sharing and keeping in touch!

  6. Karla King

    You did a great job on your sewing! I bought the pattern as soon as I read your last blog post – it is on my list to sew – I have the fabric pre washed and ready to go! It was nice to see your face, behind all the small art I have been collecting!

    • Hi Karla! Thanks you! And good luck with your top. I feel like we might need a KZ minimalist top convention some day.

  7. Susan MacLeod

    Love your stitch book! I will have to do one, probably even slower due to arthritis in my thumbs. I mostly sew by machine these days. Want to get back to my EPP one of these days. Love your new garments! I did handsew a shirt when I was in college a long time ago.

  8. Sharon Stanley

    I vote hand sewing as well. I’m a real chicken when it comes to trying garments but yes to anything that compliments the middle aged art lady wardrobe! You did a lovely job and the selfie is spot on

  9. Val Thorneyend

    Hi Ann, look forward to your newsletter and blog, you feel almost like a penfriend. Like the tops a lot and enjoyed the book making process. I’ve been doing something similar with a concertina sketchbook and mixed media to get me back into making art. But I keep getting sidetracked into making clothes for 6 grandkids and the adults in the family too. It made me realise I should think more about my art being textile related, and smaller in size as my shoulders and hands become weaker and more painful.

    • Hi Val – I’m with you – they go well together – painting, drawing, collage and sewing. And mixing it up can really help with repetitive stress stuff.

  10. I adore the shirt – and you are cute as a button!! I am checking out that pattern today – I really want to start sewing more for myself. Your creativity is so inspiring.

    • Thanks so much Dianne! I’m encouraged by the experience with this top. And I can never find stuff I like so I want to try making more too.

  11. My Mom taught me to sew as soon as my legs were long enough to reach the foot pedal of her Singer. I started with clothes for my Barbie dolls and graduated to human sized clothes when I out grew Barbie. Teaching me to sew is the best gift she ever gave me! I started quilting in my 30s and now in my 70s I’m back to making doll clothes for my granddaughters dolls. Quilting is a necessary activity for me. It feeds my soul. Thank you, Ann, for all the inspiration! I just love it when I see a post or email from you!

  12. Hey Ann! I live vicariously thru your work! Such inspiration, cleverness, and boldness to ‘just do it’. I love hand sewing, it’s so meditative. I’m thinking I just might have to make that top… along with all my other projects. Love your posts. Love your garden. Have a beautiful day.

  13. Dear Ann,
    So nice to meet you. Been an admirer since I discover your collage work of horses. Your book is amazing. Haven’t got far but know it is one process I want to go through with full enjoyment and not to rush through. Thank you sharing your finished book. Like the adjoining pages with same background color allow one to compose a larger composition to feast our eyes. Thank you again for such a treasured project. One can do a lot with this book format.

    • Thanks Anna! And yes – i love the possibilities of it.

  14. Love the top Ann! It looks great on you, and love the necklace too. Very inspiring – maybe I’ll have a go at hand sewing a top too… never thought of doing that before. Seems as though it would be much more relaxing than machine sewing (I always end up going too fast, or breaking the thread, or going wonky and having to unpick…)
    Well done, love your work!

    • Hi Jessica – Thanks so much – the hand sewing is so slow it does takes away a ton of anxiety of trying something new. – way more relaxing.

  15. Heather Smith

    I’ve recently embraced the middle aged art lady look and it feels so good to find clothing in my 50s that is comfortable as well as stylish, in a middle aged art lady way. I’ve also become a bit addicted to mending (still can’t believe I said that I hated mending, in front of you IN one of your workshops). Mending always meant shoving something awkwardly into my sewing machine, with poor results.

    Didn’t you also make a linen smock dress years ago? I’m looking for a pattern. The linen garments I covet are a bit out of my price range.

    • Hi Heather! The mending never ends. I do love the process though and keeping things basiclly forever. I think you mean the smock by Cal Patch – it is awesome. I don’t think there’s a pattern yet but I’m hoping !

      • Heather Smith

        Ah yes, that’s where the Squam Art Lady uniform comes from. If I can’t go to Squam retreat, maybe I can someday look like I have.

  16. Really cute top and smock dress. It was so nice seeing your selfie! You are adorable and your garden is precious. I haven’t sewn much for myself but used to sew for my girls when they were little. I sew a lot for the home though. Really enjoy hand sewing small quilts and such. I just might try KZ’s pattern, thank you for the link. Jan in MA

  17. Dear Ann – I’m a lawyer who really wants to be a late-middle-age art lady. Looking at your creations brings me joy and a desire to do more handwork. I’ve begun KZ’s minimalist top. Thank you for making your ideas and process so readily available.

  18. Jennifer

    I just love you and your work. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world.

  19. Well…I didn’t know there was a name for it – “middle aged art lady look” – but I love it and am now striving for it :). I have always loved square necklines, and your top Ann looks fantastic, beautifully finished. I love seeing you pop into my inbox – always motivating and inspiring – thank you.

  20. Fabulous inspiration! I think I might begin my foray into hand stitching garments! And, honestly, beginning to expand my middle-aged art lady wardrobe. Because really, being an art lady is how I want to live in this world.

    Thanks for showing your face- it’s nice to meet you.

  21. Marcy Mahle

    I love your stitch book. Its is wonderful. You have inspired me to finish a wonderful set I bought from the Grovian Doll Museum/Carmel Doll Shop on line called Dressmaking Charts for practical instruction in needlework progressive method. It is a box filled with both the fabric and directions for practicing different hand stitches. Thinking I must work on this and when finished put in a special fabric book like yours. Love everything you do and look forward to your emails. I also think I own pretty much all your patterns.

    Wondering how you are doing in your new home. How do you like living away from the big city. Hope you are happy in your new home.

  22. Ann, I made the one yard shirt last week as well. The only change I will make next time is to make the sleeves a bit longer so that the neckline is a bit smaller. I made my first one in linen, and sewed the entire thing by machine. I am planning a bit of embroidery on the next one. So fun. Love the look. Love the book. Gosh that 100 days went by fast.

  23. I love the stitch book and your new tops. I really should branch out into sewing my own clothes. It’s such a powerful practice to make clothes that please and fit you exactly. As always, you have inspired me. At the very least I shall be making one of those lovely darling scrap garland necklaces.

  24. Tami Hook

    The top you made brought back a wonderful memory for me. My grandmother kept a bag of fabric scraps. When I was around 8, I picked fabric from her scrap bag and together we made a top very similar to the one you’re wearing. She always made her own sewing patterns and instilled in me my love for creativity.

  25. I adore that tiny patch detail on the corner of the dress’s neckline. *Swoon!*

    I love sewing my own clothes and will mix hand sewing with machine sewing. I think I will try that kz stevens top – should go great with my specks and keeping April skirt!

Comments are closed.