A Camel Overcoat

This particular make was the source of a lot of interesting conversations on my instagram a couple months ago, and it all started with curating my closet and defining my color palette. In culling a wide assortment of beautiful looks on pinterest to get a better understanding of my style goals, I found myself coming across the same duster over and over again. It was usually camel colored and in a very lux, expensive looking fabric, hitting at the ankles and unadorned with lots of bells and whistles. I loved the clean lines of these RTW dusters and how easy I knew it would be to wear with so many things in my closet, since camel is in my seasonal color palette already. I also happened to have the most exquisite, luxuriously soft cashmere wool coating from The Fabric Store in my stash that I had been saving for years, which was perfect for the look I was going for. I was planning to make By Hand London’s Rumana coat with the cashmere but once I discovered the boxier, less tailored style of these pinned RTW looks, I decided I would use the fabric for this instead, since I knew I would be getting lots of wear out of it.

All I needed next was a pattern, and here is where this sewing tale takes a detour into darkness, folks. I have a handful of great coat and jacket patterns in my stash, but nothing that checked all the boxes for this particular make. So I did a little online research and asked around IG for any recommendations that had the design details I was looking for: unlined, simple, boxy fit, a proportionate collar and lapel, and a drape that allowed the coat to kind of hang open on it’s own; I wanted this duster to be a compliment to whatever outfit I wore underneath it, not the main attraction. After receiving a few good suggestions, I settled on the Hot Toddy Coat by a company called Our Lady of Leisure because it seemed the closest match to what I was looking for. It was boxy, loose fitting, the perfect length, and the collar and lapel were exactly what I was looking for. The only thing I needed to change were the pockets- as designed, they are simple patch pockets stuck onto the fronts, but I wanted hidden side pockets that didn’t detract from the smooth lines of the coat. I hacked my pockets from the Oslo coat onto the Hot Toddy Coat and it worked a treat. Sadly that’s about the only thing that went smoothly with this make, lol!

I made the smallest size provided because I was in between a size 2 and a 4 and I didn’t want the coat to end up being super huge on me. When I decided on this coat I asked on IG if anyone had ever made designs from this pattern line before and I didnt get many hits (red flag number one). Two people reached out to say that their makes of different patterns from this company fit a little on the large side, so I thought I was safe in choosing the smaller of the two sizes I fit between.

I printed out the tiled PDF pattern, taped all the pieces together and then started cutting them out. I immediately noticed that there was an error in the layout of the sizes. This pattern uses letters for sizes (size A=US  2, size B=US 4 and so on) and nested patterned lines to differentiate between them, but one side of the same pattern piece would have backwards lettering, so that the dotted line for size A on one side of the front coat piece would suddenly turn into size G on the other side. I’ve been sewing for long enough that I know how to follow the right line for my size even if it’s not properly labeled, but for some reason the nesting of these pattern pieces was extremely hard to follow. I couldn’t tell if the pattern line for one specific size was mislabeled or if the letters were out of order, or both. So the ensuing fit issues I ran into? I am still not sure if its because I cut the pattern pieces out incorrectly due to their mislabeling or if the drafting was really that off. I think it’s the latter, but I honestly have no idea (you are required to add your own seam allowances to this pattern, which I did). The reason this ticks me off so much is because this was not a cheap pattern. For a $12 PDF, I expect there to be no major, obvious errors with drafting or labeling of pieces- if you are charging people this much money, you got to deliver the goods, and they simply did not. It’s one of the reasons I scoff good naturedly at BURDA patterns all the time- their instructions are atrocious and you have to add your own seam allowances, but their PDF patterns are usually no more than 5 bucks. You get what you pay for!

Once everything was cut out, I constructed my pockets and sewed the main pieces of the jacket. It came together very quickly because there is no lining and it’s already a very simple design, but even with such a beginner-friendly pattern I noted that the accompanying instructions were really poor, which was red flag number 2. The illustrations didn’t make sense a lot of the time, because if I recall correctly they didn’t differentiate interfacing and regular fabric in the drawings. Furthermore there was no information on pressing anywhere! Like, at all! I don’t just mean they didn’t specify which direction to press, I mean they didn’t suggest you press at all. On a wool coat! As my sewing wizard friend Grace says, “Pressing is sewing!”  For a pattern marketed to novice and beginning sewists, this pattern left a LOT to be desired.

Not crazy about the bright white pockets inside this coat cause they obviously dont blend in well and you can get glimpses of them if I am sticking my hands in my pockets or something, but honestly…these are the least of my worries with this coat lol!

I basted one sleeve onto the jacket, tried it on, and was very surprised at how ill-fitting it was. It’s a two-piece sleeve so I assumed it would have a pretty nice fit right away since it was built to allow ease of moment for your arm, but it was so tight that it got stuck halfway up my arm and I had to yank it down. The seam of the underarm was also so high that it cut into my armpit. On top of that, not only was the sleeve itself way too tight for a boxy coat that was supposed to fit my measurements, but it was also puckering all around the armscye. I took the sleeve out and redrafted the pieces with an additional 1.5-ish inches of ease while also scooping out the bottom of the armhole of the coat. Sewed everything back up again and tried it on. Thankfully the sleeve fit much more comfortably now, but the wrinkles and puckering around the armholes hadn’t disappeared at all. I went up to my mirror for closer inspection and turned my camera around so I could have a better view of the back and it…was…my god. What a nightmare.

The drag lines in the back made clear that there was simply not enough room in the body of the coat to lay across my shoulders smoothly. Because it doesn’t close in the front, I had no idea how badly it was pulling in the back when I first tried it on, but now that I could see it clearly, I was devastated. There was no way I could (or would even want to) get away with wearing such an ill-fitting coat. I kicked myself for not making a muslin, then admonished myself for feeling guilty- at a certain point in your sewing career, you can comfortably make all kinds of simple projects without doing a muslin first, and should have been one of those patterns! It’s got a boxy fit, simple design lines, no darts or curves to fit onto the body- by all means this should have been an easy project to sew and adjust without having to rely on a muslin. Anyways, I digress- I was just super disappointed in both myself and the pattern. I hated that I had saved this cashmere coating for over 3 years, just waiting for inspiration to hit, and I had ultimately squandered it on a pattern that didn’t work well at all for me.

Camel Coat From Hell

this is my “Im too mad to talk” face

I decided to walk away from the coat, to take a long break. I knew that after a couple days of letting it marinate on my brain, I would either decide to move forward with trying to save it, or…gasp…throw it in the trash, attempting to save as many large, unencumbered pieces of the cashmere fabric as I possibly could (to do what with? Who knows! But saving some of it felt better than trashing all of it). As much as I tried to get the jacket out of my head over my “break”, I was unsuccessful. I couldn’t stop thinking of ways to fix it, wondering which would be most efficient, which would lead to the sleekest looking final piece? I was dreaming about this thing! After my break, I knew I couldn’t move onto another sewing project before trying my best to save this one, so I got to work. I took out the back seam, cut out a 2 inch-plus-seam-allowances panel from my remaining fabric (from here on out I will be referring to this panel as my “racing stripe” lol) and sewed that to my back pieces. Because of adding 2 additional inches to the back body, I knew this would have to transfer to my collar and neck facing pieces so I recut all of them with the extra 2 inches included. These additional two inches would also mean that the coat would fit differently in the front, and I was hoping that the new neckline wouldn’t sag out or droop down too much.

After adding the racing stripe, I tried the coat back on and it was…not perfect, but definitely better. Still a few drag lines around one of the sleeves, and I actually kind of hated the idea of the racing stripe, but it was way more comfortable than before and didn’t look like the nightmare it started as. I ran into trouble again at the kick pleat (which, as designed, seemed to include way more fabric than necessary, but whatever) and the mitered corners. FYI hate mitered corners! They look so beautiful when finished properly but I always find it hard to get them even on both sides of a garment. This coat was, unsurprisingly, no exception, and after lots of fussing and seam ripping, I ended up just cutting the excess hem and kick pleat fabric off, omitting the pleat entirely and extending my racing stripe all the way down to the hem. Fin. UGH.

I have so many conflicting feelings about this coat. On the one hand, I am SO PROUD OF MY STICK-TO-ITIVENESS! In the past, I have given up on far less complicated makes, or fixed things in ways that made them wearable, but not as aesthetically pleasing. This jacket, though not the initial vision I dreamed of, toes the line between the two- it is absolutely wearable (which I know is true because I have been wearing the CRAP out of it since I finished it) and the weird racing stripe is in the back so I really don’t have to look at it and be reminded of how much I hate it! But on the other hand…I am still frustrated at myself for not making a muslin, which should be par for the course when working with fabric that is precious to you, or working with a pattern from a company you have never sewn before. And of course, I am frustrated with the actual pattern.

The coat elevates pretty much any outfit I wear it with, but it can also go from casual to dressy without a hitch. This is face is because someone handed me a box of french fries with caviar, and I do not think they go well together at ALL.

Which leads me to the tricky part of this blog post: attempting to offer an honest, personal review of a pattern without tearing that indie pattern company down. It is important to me to show respect to everyone in the sewing community- those who sew the patterns, and those who make them, but I also want to be specifically careful with discussing indie pattern designers, whose work and growth I want to support whenever possible. It’s easy to complain and nitpick and judge what we have purchased when it’s brought us grief, but the truth is that I don’t know the first thing about designing patterns and managing a small business, so I can’t comprehend all the work that goes into it- it does NOT look easy. If I had made tons of patterns from this company and had issues with every single one, I wouldn’t hesitate in telling folks to be weary- I’ve done it before and I will do it again! I have had consistently bad experiences with both bigger and smaller sewing pattern design companies, and I try to be very transparent about my experiences with them- I’m not offering honest contributions to the maker community if I am afraid of speaking my truth because I don’t want to offend anyone. But, although I don’t plan to make any Our Lady patterns in my future, I want to remind you all that these are my experiences, and not necessarily indicative of what other people have experienced- after sharing my rough journey with this coat on IG, I had a few people write in to say that they also had a terrible experience with this specific coat pattern, but others wrote to say that their makes from other designs by this company came out great! So what is the truth? Well, like so much in this world, it’s not binary. My experience with this pattern wasn’t great. But someone else’s experience with it was terrific. Above all, this pattern company seems to be helmed by passionate, enthusiastic makers who want to share the joy of sewing to a broader audience, and I don’t want to get in the way of that. I wrote an honest review on their etsy page so if they are interested in taking constructive criticism about what could be better, they have the opportunity.

There you have it, y’all. This was my weird experience. This is my weird coat. I get compliments on it every time I wear it. Sometimes the world makes no sense. We just gotta keep stitching!

Thanks to Claire for the photos! And FYI the dress underneath is another Rachel Wrap Dress in forest green ponte from Blackbird Fabrics- unfortunately I think they are sold out but they restock popular fabrics all the time 😉 !

Where In The World Is Sika San Diego?

I actually hate the nickname Sika and I only let a tiny few people in my family use it, but it does have kind of a nice ring to it in this context, lol!

This Vogue 1650 trench coat was a BEAST, but I expected it to be. Occasionally I’ll come across a design that is deceivingly fancy, the kind that looks like you put way more work into it than you actually did, the kind where you feel a little guilty accepting compliments on it because it wasn’t a particularly difficult project even though it looks super amazing. This is not one of those patterns. Every bell and whistle you see on this coat took all my strength to ring and all my breath to blow, but I do think it was worth it in the end!

The green fabric is from The Fabric Store, and I am so tickled that I chose this color even though I hadn’t gone on my color palette journey yet to discover that green is smack dab in the middle of my seasonal palette. One of the reasons I landed on this fabric (aside from the fact that it’s so similar to the version on the envelope, haha) is because it specifically seemed perfect for this project, but green is the only colorway it came in, so the color is just a happy accident! It’s a sturdy nylon and canvas blend, which makes it great for outerwear since it repels water very easily (it’s not treated with anything, that’s just the qualities of the fabric) but it was incredibly difficult to sew because…well, again, it repels water very easily!

Ironing interfacing to these pieces was a journey into madness- it wouldn’t take steam well at all and adding more heat just burned the nylon fibers of the fabric, but I had to press on because, what good is a trench coat without interfacing?? I was afraid that regular sew-in interfacing would alter the fabric’s properties (it is crisp, unwrinkling, and…unfortunately I can’t think of a better word than erect, lol- it just stands straight up at attention!) I worried that sew-in would either make it floppy or make it lose it’s crispness, and I also was lazy and didn’t want to go all the way downtown to buy some sew-in. Eventually I learned that spraying the interfacing lightly with water, then pressing down very hard with a medium-set iron and a press cloth worked 80% of the time. When it didn’t work, I would see little bubbles peeking up from the otherwise smooth canvas, and then I would have to use the strength of ten Serena Williamses to press even harder and push those bubbles out to the edges, which would also work about 80% of the time. In short, I couldn’t get all the interfaced pieces perfectly flat and adhered, but so far I haven’t noticed any bubbles when I am wearing the coat, so let’s just call it even: Trench:1 Jasika:1.

 

Aside from the bizarre properties of the fabric, this sewing pattern has 4,672 pieces. Y’all. Y’ALL. I feel like I might have spent one lifetime tracing and cutting out all the fabric, lining, and interfacing pieces of this damn coat. Then I died and was reborn again in time to actually sew everything together. Half of this coat was made by a ghost. This many pieces of a sewing project isn’t all that unheard of, nor is it that difficult for me to get a hold of under normal circumstances, but I started and finished this entire project in my apartment in Vancouver, which means I didn’t have my trusty cutting table or rotary cutters or the space I’m used to for laying pattern pieces in separate piles around the room for easy organization. And also. I had to cut. my. pieces. out. on. the. floor. I’m fast approaching the age where this kind of activity is a OH NO THE HELL YOU WONT! I was doing cat/cows, back stretches and downward dogs every 10 minutes because my body was SO not okay with being treated so poorly, lol. I think it took me a full two days to cut all these pieces out but I finally got her done. Then I went through the hell of trying to interface everything, which took another half a day. When I was finally ready to sew, I celebrated and hooped and hollered and flew through construction of all the big parts, but I got slowed down again once I finally put the sleeves on the jacket and realized that something was very wrong.

This next part of my sewing project became a dramatic saga detailed in my stories on instagram over the span of a few days, so if you missed seeing them, I’ll get you up to speed. Essentially the sleeves were drafted really weird on me. I made a size that my measurements fit squarely into and I didn’t anticipate there being any issues with fit, but once I tried the jacket on with the sleeeves, it was obvious that something was amiss. Mainly, the armhole felt way too tight at the underarm, and way to shallow around the bicep, so it pulled on the bust area of the coat even when the coat was open. I am not a busty person (32B here!) and I also have a small back, so whenever I have too-tight issues at the bust on a garment that I know for sure I made the correct size in, I know it’s something to do with the drafting and not with me. There were drag lines at the bust as the sleeves tugged around my arms, and that was just with me standing still with my arms at my sides- as soon as I moved my arms away from my body, the whole entire coat lifted up- instead of  being able to move my arms freely, the jacket was moving with them.

Thankfully Grace (wzrdreams for those of you who are unfamiliar, my friend and professional tech designer for RTW who is a virtual wealth of information for so many of us in the sewing community) had some ideas for me on how to fix the sleeves. She also shared lots of helpful information about the drafting of Big 4 patterns and explained why I always seem to have the same issues with their patterns but not any others. With my newfound knowledge from Grace, I unpicked the sleeves, made the armholes deeper by scooping out maybe 3/4″ at the bottom of the armhole grading to nothing about halfway up, and re-drafted my sleeve pieces (back on the floor, I went!). I added length to the top of the sleeve cap to accommodate what I scooped out of the armhole, widened the entire sleeve so I had more ease for wear, and re-cut the little band on the one side so that it would fit around the wider sleeve piece. I was nervous this wouldn’t work at all because I didn’t have any of the TOOLS that you are supposed to do this with, like curved rulers and math, lol. I was pretty much just eyeballing things and guesstimating, but it’s all I had to work with and guess what…it totally worked! I know it is imperfect in some ways, perhaps there is a version of this fix that is much more precise than what I was able to do, but by god, it worked! I could move my arms and wiggle around comfortably, wear a sweater underneath without it feeling like I was suffocating my arms, the bodice has no more weird drag lines, and there was no visual misalignment with any of my seams. So, take THAT, coat! Trench: 1  Jasika: 2, for those of you still keeping score.

The rest of the coat was put together without too much drama. The lining of this coat didn’t require me to birth her, sadly, so I did lots of hand sewing to attach everything at the hems, and a bit more hand sewing when I realized the  coat wasn’t hanging properly and the lining was tugging at the outer shell. That’s pretty much the last hurdle I had to tackle, right at the very end, and again, I attribute it to the wonderfully strange qualities of this nylon canvas- I’ve never sewn with anything quite like it, and it bewildered me as much as it made my heart sing. I think there is still a little tugging and pulling on the hem because of how the fabric wants to lay, but it’s something I can am living with. I’m not a sewfectionist and probably never will be!

I was excited to wear this coat even before it was actually finished- I wrapped the belt super tight around me and wore it without buttons when I went shopping for… buttons! Ha! Which, by the way, I found at Dress Sew, my favorite physical fabric store in Vancouver. The selection of buttons in the basement of Dress Sew is tremendously good but also overwhelming. Thankfully everything is arranged by color which at least gives you a place to start if you are trying to color match.

I am so proud of this jacket, not so much because of how well it turned out, but because of how much I persevered to see it through to the end. It’s so easy sometimes to run into one too many obstacles on a project and decide that your time is better spent starting over from scratch, with something different, something familiar, something easy-ish. That’s what my Butthole Bin has been for. But as I get further along in my sewing career, I have learned to trust my skillset and my ability to think outside the box when it comes to making something work that decidedly does NOT want to work. This doesn’t mean that the same answer applies to every project I work on- sometimes my mental health is way more important than figuring out how to fix that wonky zip fly. But trusting myself enough to at least try to fix things instead of immediately discarding them feels like major growth for me, and I’m very thankful.

Thanks to my babygirl, Claire, for the photos!

The Curated Closet and Color Me Beautiful

I took a strong cue from my friend Renee of the Miss Celie’s Pants blog to read The Curated Closet, a lovely little book about how to cull your personal style and create a closet that works best for your tastes and lifestyle (full disclosure: I haven’t finished it yet because it was due back at the e-library before I was done with it, lol- consider this blog post part 1). Although I heard lots of good things about the book since it’s publication, I avoided reading it for a long time and I haven’t yet pinpointed exactly why. It might have something to do with protecting “freedom” in my making life, freedom to just make whatever I want to make when inspiration hits, freedom to create without boundaries, without plans, without expectations.

I also tend to connect the terms “curated” and “minimalist” together, and the word “minimalist” is not one I am usually very comfortable with. Again, not exactly sure why, but if me and my therapist had to guess (HA!), it would have something to do with growing up poor and hating not having access to all the things that my peers did. When you’re poor, you’re often living a minimalist life out of necessity, and while I made it through intact, the important thing that was absent from my life was choice. It’s possible that I wouldn’t have changed much about my material life at all if I had the power, but I still would have loved the opportunity to choose; choice is a privilege. And now, all these years later, as a working adult with financial freedom, I still carry this strange burden with me.

I have a tough time figuring out whether certain colors are warm or not, blue being one of them. Not entirely sure if this is in my palette, but I think it looks great anyways.

Anyways, I’m deciding to try something new, even if it feels a little weird at first. What is drawing me to this idea, after so long, of curating my closet with my makes? Well, I started asking myself how pleased I was with my closet in its’ current state, and although I anticipated being perfectly happy with it, after really marinating on it for a while I realized that I wasn’t. My dissatisfaction had little to do with the specific items I had made over the years, but rather the lack of cohesiveness. There were some items I had sewn that only paired with one other garment in my closet, but I seemed to have sewn even more items that went with nothing in my closet! A button down in a funky print that matched no bottoms, pants I never wore because I had no blouses or shirts to match them with, and so on and so on. The most successful “outfits” I had in my closet were just jumpsuits and dresses, things I could wear on their own. I did have a couple of ensembles comprised of more than one item that looked really cute, but because they were so few and far between I ended up getting sick of those outfits because I wore them (and wore them out) to death.

the top color in my sweater looks to be close to an oyster white, which is in my pallet, but maybe because it’s paired with the greys and black, it’s just not doing me any favors.

So what was I doing wrong? Besides, you know, making every new sewing pattern I thought was cute in every inspiring fabric I fell in love with? Well, turns out…that’s pretty much it. I wasn’t putting any thought into how my clothing worked together, I was only waiting for inspiration to hit, and then sewing impulsively from there. Guess what. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this method of making! You do what works for you and what feels right! For some reason, this stopped working for me so I am excited about exploring a different approach- I’ve seen all kinds of sewing wizards on IG and in the blogosphere who dazzle on either end of the spectrum, and I’m sure I will continue to be inspired by them all!

I love this pale, snowy pink in the Camus blouse but it is nowhere in my color palette lol- I never end up wearing it because it makes me look so pale and boring.

I hadn’t gotten very far into the book before having a couple of big revelations: 1. curating my closet was going to require me to start paying attention to color, an area in which I am mediocre at best, and 2. I did not actually dress at all like my preferred style! Shocker!!! Because I love pretty much all the things I have been wearing! But when I took an honest look at my wardrobe and tried to define my style, I couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried. And that is because my “style”, as disappointing as it is to admit, is all over the place.

holy shit I am so tan here! Thanks for the sun, hawaii!

I had always prided myself on not caving to fads and being thoughtful about the styles of clothes I wore when I shopped RTW, but I think that when I transitioned into sewing my own clothes, that intention got lost. As I moved out of sewing strictly vintage-inspired garments and started wearing more modern silhouettes, my focus broadened-  suddenly I was excited to make the shiniest, newest patterns, no matter if it fit in with a certain “look”. It was great in terms of learning new techniques and discovering new silhouettes that I never knew I liked on myself, but unfortunately it also led to lots of garments made over the years that weren’t sewn with much intention, and therefore didn’t get a lot of wear. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with following trends and fads of course, but this method of making made no sense for my closet because not all of the newest, coolest patterns actually worked for my tastes.

I am so in love with this dress but I have only worn it once…it is not in my color palette!

I figured all of this out after starting a Pinterest board (as recommended in the book) to gather all the outfit images and visual inspiration for the style that I envisioned for myself. Again, I was shocked to see how far off I was! My closet had several individual items from my board of inspo, but hardly ANY of the outfits, so my closet and my pinterest board were practically unrecognizable to each other. One big reason for this was because the color palette of my closet and the color palette of my dream style were waaaaaay off. I mean, I had never even thought about a color palette in my life til I read about it in the Curated Closet! But sitting down and looking at the dozens of images I had compiled onto this board, my color choices were pretty clear. I liked earth tones, oranges, peaches, tans and really soft pinks, with bursts of interesting colors. It was surprising how consistent the styles and colors were on my board (because that’s not what my closet looked like), and I started getting excited because this meant there was an actual direction that my curating could take.

Here are the main takeaways I got after examining the themes in my style board:

  • I preferred simple, graphic prints over florals, so there were lots of polka dots, plaids, stripes and grids. The florals that showed up were in medium to large prints and in a subdued palette.


  • I was drawn to a playful look that still felt sophisticated. Instead of relying solely on novelty prints or bold color combinations to get across my quirky tastes, I want to experiment with pairing different kinds of textures together and mixing and matching prints. This seems like a fun way for me to mix up simple silhouettes and classic garments while not looking boring (which is how my entire closet has started to feel the more I have honed in on my personal tastes!)


  • I LOVE MONOCHROMATIC LOOKS! But I don’t have one true monochromatic outfit comprised of separates in my entire closet! What gives?!? When Katie of What Katie Sews started the #dresslikeacrayon hashtag earlier this year, I would drool over every single photo she shared and make a weak promise to myself that I would try it out myself one day, but of course I never could because nothing in my closet matched! My board also had many versions of matching print top + bottom separates, or pieces paired together with fabrics within the same color family but with slight variations in texture or shade.


  • I love dresses in two silhouettes: a simple, fitted shape with delicate but interesting details in luminous fabrics…




    …and I like midi and maxi dresses that are well proportioned to my body with a close fitting bodice.



  • The other trends I noticed were ensembles with thoughtfully layered pieces,

    big blousey sweaters and tops paired with fitted trousers and jeans,

    playfully preppy looks,

    and pattern clashing.

Seeing all this together might seem like way too many variations in style to be cohesive at all, but trust me when I tell you that it absolutely is more focused than whatever is currently going on in my closet, lol.

In her book, Rees mentions color a few times and refers to a person’s specific palette and how some people have found a lot of power from only wearing “their” colors. I of course had heard the theory of people having “seasons” before but I didn’t know much about it, so I googled to learn more…and then I went down a whole color rabbithole! It just so happened that my mother in law heard me and Renee, who was over for a visit at my in-laws house over the holidays, discussing the theory of seasons of color. She then went on a hunt to find her copy of the original book that started this trend in the early 1970’s, Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson. It eventually fell out of fashion but at it’s height it was considered the “bible” for fashionable women.

I read the thing cover to cover within a couple days. It was jam packed with both a wealth of thoughtful and helpful information and some of the most antiquated, racist, sexist and fatphobic tropes that you could imagine. In short, the book shares a simplified theory about how skin tones can be categorized into 2 main groups, warms and cools, and 4 sub-groups, a.k.a. seasons: Winter and Summer (the cool side of the spectrum) and Autumn and Spring (the warm side). Cools have a blue undertone and therefore benefit from wearing cooler colors that make their skin and face brighten and look alive, while Warms have yellow undertones and look best in their own specific palette of colors. In addition to understanding how color works with hair and skin and eye color, there is a section about the kinds of styles women in the strictest binary sense of the word “should” wear and how certain clothes and shapes can “make you look fat” and how that should be avoided if at all possible. Sigh. It was appealing and appalling in the same breath, and I marveled at the mess of it! I’ve been told that the book has been updated for modern times and is less problematic now, which, if true, is great, but I can only comment on what I read in the version I recieved.

The biggest issue that I noticed right off the bat was that there were only 2 models of color out of maybe 19 or 20 images throughout the book, so determining the seasons for anybody not white or light skinned has proven to be pretty much impossible for me. There are several factors used in determining what your own undertone is, but the most common way seems to be looking at the veins on the inside of your wrist/hand/arm to see if they look greenish or bluish. If you have more pigment in your skin, the color of your veins might not show up that well or at all, and there are essentially no ways listed in (my version of) the book to apply any of the other the rules to brunettes with dark eyes and brown or black skin to figure out their season, a fact that the author essentially refuses to even recognize- I guess she doesn’t understand that black and brown people can be brunettes, too.

green is in my color palette but im not sure if this blush is

I knew what my color was before I even read the book because I found information online to figure it out (I’m a deep autumn!), but the book goes into detail about WHY your color palette exists, how it’s helpful and how to apply the use of your specific colors in your wardrobe, so that stuff was helpful to me. For folks interested in reading the book who have skin color that might not be accurately reflected in the pages, try figuring out your palette with some of the quizes available online first and then using the book to supplement that knowledge.

The most helpful part of the book for me was seeing “right” and “wrong” color photos with some of the models. Although not many of them looked downright bad in the “wrong” color (and obviously there should be a different descriptive word than “wrong”, but I digress), seeing them in a hue from their specific color palette really did have a positive effect on them, which could be hard to describe in words. Sometimes it was obvious that a color washed a model out or made her look sallow, but other times I couldn’t articulate why the other color looked better on her, she just suddenly seemed to pop and look alive in the “right” color.

Seeing my Color Me Beautiful color chart for the first time made me audibly gasp- although the variety of colors seemed limited in comparison to the other seasons, it was hands down my favorite group of colors. And again, big shocker, but I hardly have any of these colors in my wardrobe. Autumns don’t have pink in their chart, nor is there much gray, two colors that show up a LOT in my closet, but there are lots of oranges, golds and browns, and more shades of green that I could even imagine! I hardly ever make things in green! There was also a lot of red, but it was orange-red, not blue -ed, and now I realize that I don’t actually despise the color red at all, I’ve just always been envisioning the wrong shade of it. Cherry red is no good on me, but brick and rust and sunset reds, all reds with a yellow undertone, are terrific. These little epiphanies were so exciting once they were revealed! I was getting direction on how to hone in on my ideal style, and instead of feeling overwhelmed about how to tackle the next steps, I was feeling focused. I mentioned this years ago in a blog post here, but earth tones, which my mom always said looked so good on me, just made me feel boring when I was a teenager- I always gravitated towards sparkly turquoises and purples and fuschias (colors not in my palette). But today when I wear those jewel toned shades, I feel like the color is what pops, not me. Well, guess what- I’m officially ready to pop!

while purple is absent from my chart, it doesn’t mean I can’t wear it- every season can wear any color they want, it just has to be in the right shade and intensity. This purple is warm and I think it looks really pretty against my skin, but I definitely should have chosen a different lipstick lol

While on the east coast visiting family for the holidays, I took a trip down to Alexandria, VA to go to Fibre Space and Stitch Sew Shop, both well reviewed yarn and fabric stores, respectively. Neither one disappointed; the moment I stepped into Fibre Space I felt overloaded with all the beauty! I wanted to touch every single skein, brush every fibre against my neck to test it’s softness, shroud myself in each sample on display. The store was cozy, beautiful, and well-designed, but the yarn selection was outstanding. The colors were exceptionally vibrant in the well-lit space and I got dizzy whipping my head around to behold everything, but then I remembered that I’d brought my color palette chart with me.

I pulled out the book and started comparing the squares of pigment on the page to what I was most drawn to in the shop, within the parameters of my palette. The bright golden yellow on the page (surprisingly the only yellow listed for my season) matched perfectly with the chunky, soft yarn I was eyeing to make a hat for myself, but the pinkish-purple-y red I liked didn’t make the cut because it had blue undertones, not yellow. Instead, I opted for a variegated mossy green with flecks of gray and forrest throughout. Easy peasy! I still brushed my fingers over all the pale pinks and powdery blues and grays because I adore those colors, but I didn’t waste my time with them- I’ve made so many sweaters in these hues that never got much wear, and now I know why!

 

the brick red hat and golden yellow velvet dress are both in my palette!

One line in The Curated Closet book stuck out for me a lot- the author says that she has always been drawn to dramatic floral prints, but that they don’t really suit her personal style so much. So instead of forcing herself into a print that didn’t make her feel her best, she started incorporating florals into her home decor, which means she still gets to see and experience the beautiful prints she loves. I love this simple twist of perspective so much. I am always, always going to love pale pastel pinks and heather grays and aquas and lemon yellows, but not having them in my color palette doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them; if it’s in a color that it is too cool for me, I can simply try scooting them over to other places in my life, through accessories or garment linings or jewelry or home decor, and see how that feels.

My trip to Stitch Sew Shop, a curated fabric and patterns store with a space for sewing classes, was just as successful as my yarn store visit. Stitch Sew Shop store was so beautiful and upscale that it felt like an atelier! The selection was considered and alluring- instead of being bombarded with a giant selection of textiles of varying quality, I got to revel in each carefully selected bolt, which of course made me want to buy everything I saw. But I showed restraint because I had my color chart with me, and I already knew what holes from my closet needed to be filled! I bought a grayed green medium-weight corduroy (which will probably become a pair of Landers), a pumpkin colored ribbed knit that I will most likely turn into a fitted turtleneck, and one yard of an expensive and incredibly lux 3-ply silk in the deepest, most vibrant shade of rust I’ve ever seen. I plan to make a simple blouse with this one, possibly a cami or tank. Looking at my stack of yarn and fabric together was the first time I can remember making a purchase where everything actually looked like it belonged together, which I think can only bode well for getting my wardrobe into better shape.

Thanks for joining me on this very verbose journey about style and color and clothing- I have been sharing stories about the Color Me Beautiful book on my IG all week and so many people have been writing to ask for more details about it that it seemed smart to write a blog post- after all, this new method is changing the way I make and dress, and that’s what this blog is about! Once I am back home in LA, I plan to go through all my fabric and keep only the pieces that I know are in my color palette and the pieces that I am most fond of (if I don’t want to use it on myself it might still work for Claire or someone else I know).

this pink is so far away from my color palette, GOOD LORD- it’s just not doing me any favors at all.

In part 2 of this subject, I plan on actually finishing The Curated Closet and sharing some of the things I’ve learned about my style goals and what I need to do to my closet to implement them. I’m also starting a list of the key, basic, and complimentary wardrobe items that are missing from my closet that I want to make, plus any accessories I can buy to round things out and help complete certain outfits so that more of my items can work well together. Stay tuned if you want to know more about the next part of curating my closet with my color palette!

 

 

let’s close out on the positive note that is ME in this CHARTREUSE, a color that is luckily in my palette and one that I always feel terrific in!

Snowbunny In the Desert

This is a two-for one post because the garments looked so good together I couldn’t bear to separate them! Let’s start with the jacket, which has inspired more ridiculous stories and posts on my instagram account than I ever imagined.

The jacket pattern is Simplicity D0899 and I bought it shortly after I moved up to Vancouver this summer. The warm days and cool nights had me wishing I had a lightweight, long jacket that I could throw on over summer dresses, and I thought a linen or silk noil would be beautiful in this very simple unlined trench style pattern. But it turned out that I didn’t have enough fabric in my stash to make it in the kind of fabric I wanted, so I decided to find something nice from The Fabric Store for my next order.

Although I was initially planning to make this in a slightly drapey muted fabric, I kept feeling drawn to this interesting animal print jacquard on the website (as of this post I think they are all out of this specific fabric now, but this is the same textile, I think, but in a different hue). The fabric was pretty much the exact opposite of my original idea- stiffer, bulkier, with lots of body, and in a very bold print- but once it was in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so the obvious choice was to take a chance and move forward with it!

I think that this fabric is described as “reversible”, which is totally legit, but there was only one side that I was really drawn to. The side of the fabric that looks decidedly animal print-y, is bolder and a little more…garish maybe. I think it could be really cute in like, a skirt or pants or blazer, but for a whole coat, it just wasn’t working for me. However the other side? I was crazy about it! It looked less animal print-y and more abstract, and the feel was softer, more pillowy, and frankly just a bit more interesting to me personally (for some reason I am really trying hard not to shade the other side of the fabric, as if it’s going to be offended, lol).

This jacquard was pretty easy to sew with and definitely not slippery or grippy, but I did need to make sure my needles were sharp so it wouldn’t snag any of the threads on the outside part of the fabric (the inside of the fabric is smooth and flat and has no raised threads). This was a very simple and straightforward make- the jacket is unlined and has no button or zip closure so it’s really just made up of the front and back pieces, sleeves, pockets and collar, therefore it came together very quickly. I considered french seaming the insides but the fabric is fairly thick and I didn’t want to battle the bulk so I decided to finish the seams with my serger, which was definitely the right choice.

I wish there was more to say about the construction of this jacket but there isn’t- it truly was an uncomplicated make! The dynamic look of the garment is not matched at all to it’s simple design, which I kind of love. It’s exciting when you make something with a huge wow factor but no wow construction- it almost feels like cheating! One of my other favorite things about sewing patterns is seeing them made up in fabrics or prints that they might not have been designed for, but still look amazing with when paired together. As soon as the garment started coming together and I tried it on for fit (no adjustments necessary for this one except for shortening the sleeves) I realized that, although I had set out to make a really casual, easy-to-throw-on jacket, I ended up with one of the most lux looking items in my closet!

I am still just so tickled about it! Whenever I put this jacket on I immediately start channeling the personality of a painfully wealthy woman who chain smokes and has so many lap dogs that she can’t remember any of their names, haha. My friend Carly and I have this idea to do a series of shorts based on this woman and her jacket so I will definitely post here if we ever get around to it, but until then, I am enjoying parading around town in such a sleek, sexy coat! It surprisingly goes with EVERYthing!

Next up are these amazing high waisted wide legged trousers from a new-to-me indie pattern company called Fibre Mood that Sophie of Ada Spragg told me about. There are so many really cute and thoughtfully designed PDF patterns on the site that it was hard to choose just one to start with, but I finally decided on the Peaches Trousers to try and get a taste for the drafting. Obviously I am in love with them.

Funny enough, the photos of the pants on the website feature a pair of powder blue Peachers Trousers that I was so obsessed with I knew I would have to essentially make the exact same pair. And I just so happened to have an almost identical fabric in my stash that was perfect for this make, a lightweight crepe wool also from The Fabric Store. I got it years ago from the LA store before it closed down- I had no idea what I would make with it at the time but the look of it was so vintage and the color was so fabulous that I couldn’t not bring it home with me. I never got a chance to sew it up because the width is really narrow and it just wasn’t enough yardage to make anything I was ever inspired by…til now!

The wool isn’t exactly transparent, but it’s so lightweight that the outline of whatever is underneath it is pretty noticeable, so I had to be thoughtful of what I used to line the pockets, etc. I went with a white silk from my stash and it works pretty well, although you can still see the outline of the welt pockets in the back, which I am actually okay with. I usually hate welt pockets on my pants because they have a tendency to bulk up on my butt and jut out in a way that I find unflattering, but for this make I wanted to try them out anyways since the pants would be wide-legged. My theory was that welt pockets stick out on my butt when the pants are super fitted, but if the pants had more ease around the hips, they might lay down and look less obtrusive. Thankfully I was right and now I know that welt pockets aren’t the enemy, it’s just the silhouette they are attached to that matters. Which is great news because I LOVE the way welt pockets looks on pants! Just so professional and slick! Since this was my first Fibre Mood pattern and their directions are written in another language and then translated to english, I skipped over their zip fly and welt pocket instructions and used the ones from the sasha trousers by Closet Case, which I had already made before and was familiar with.

My zip fly is a little wonky up close cause this material was a bit tricky to work with (at least with the fiddly bits- the crepe wool has some stretch but is also really lightweight, so it liked to scrunch up and gather under the machine foot if I wasn’t careful…and it liked to snag, too) but my welt pockets are beautiful and I am so pleased with them! The general fit of these trousers is exactly what I was looking for, and I actually made no adjustments to the size except for letting the hips out a tiny bit after I baste-fit them on my body. I could probably stand to do a tiny sway back adjustment, which I am realizing seems to be necessary the higher my waistband is on a pair of pants, but the fit of these is entirely acceptable for now and I am very happy I made them.

FYI, the top is a handknit sweater I made several years ago from a vintage knitting pattern- I don’t think I ever blogged about it here but there are a few details about it on my ravelry page (which I don’t really tend to anymore, but I knit much less often these days so, whatever). As always, thanks to Claire for the photos, and thanks to everyone on IG who played along with my #dresslikearichbitch hashtag with this coat on IG- it was too much fun and we should absolutely do it again!

 

Cielo Dress in Vintage-Inspired Silk

The fabulousness of this dress was a huge surprise for me! I thought that the design might be a bit too simple to pack the big punch I was hoping for, but it absolutely delivered and I am happy to learn, once again, that you can’t always judge a pattern by it’s model photos! Not to say that the model photos aren’t brilliant, it’s just that the dress was intentionally styled to look casual, comfortable, and easy to wear, so I wasn’t sure how well it would translate in a fancier fabric like silk.

But I have my answer now!

Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns released The Rome Collection earlier this year, and it includes the Fiore skirt (I am teaching some Vancouver friends how to sew and we are using this pattern!), the Pietra Pants (love these and will be making another pair soon!), and the subject of this post, the Cielo dress. The Cielo came out shortly after the Wiksten shift by Wiksten Patterns was released, and at first glance they are very similar designs. Since I had made a Wiksten already I didn’t imagine I would get around to the Cielo any time soon- while the Wiksten is lovely, it’s a bit of a shapeless garment and I didn’t have much need for more than one of those in my closet at a time. But while in Vancouver and in between projects, I found myself staring at the tiny stash of fabric and patterns I keep in my apartment and at a loss as to what I should make next. I glanced at my yardage of printed silk de chine from The Fabric Store and got an idea.

You can’t tell so much from the pictures, but if you have ever gotten silk from The Fabric Store before, you know what I mean when I say it’s SO JUICY! It’s just got a gorgeous hand feel, it has body, and it drapes beautifully, like any high quality silk should. But what drew me to this particular textile is the print and color! I love skin-toned peaches and tans, and the vintage motif, reminding me simultaneously of 1930’s Art Deco and 1980’s Saved By The Bell, was an immediate eye-catcher for me (btw it comes in two additional colorways– vanilla and black!).

I wondered if the star power of this fabric could carry a simple silhouette like the Cielo, but once I opened up the pattern instructions and really examined the details, I saw everything that I had missed about it at first glance. It’s not a simple shift dress like the Wiksten at all- it has beautiful enclosed pockets on the front (I didn’t use them for this make but I definitely will on the next one), a lovely back shoulder detail that creates a nice, close fit without having to use a dart, and a set-in sleeve (the Wiksten’s sleeves are flat and extend from the bodice/dress).

But it’s not just ANY sleeve- this sleeve is soooo unique! It’s beautifully drafted and fits around the curve of the arm at the shoulder so perfectly, but do you see the detail??? It’s billowy and dramatic at the top, then it tapers down ever so gently and folds in on itself a few inches above the wrist, so there is no traditional hem at the bottom. Instead, there is a facing, which gives the tiniest bit of weight to the sleeve and allows it to move and float while still maintaining it’s structure. HOWWW??? I could never have imagined such a shape myself, but this is why I am such a fan of Close Case Patterns- their attention to detail, to trends, to options, to the fun of making and wearing clothes, is unparallelled!

Once I finally recognized how exceptional the sleeve was, I was even more interested in seeing how this pattern would pair with my pretty silk, so I took a leap of faith and cut it out. I graded from a whopping 2 in the bust to an 8 in the hips because I wanted ample wiggle room and no catching or wrinkling around my thighs, just silky smooth drape- thankfully that’s exactly what I got. Construction-wise, I flew through this dress. CCF is known for having some of the clearest, most comprehensive pattern instructions on the market and this pattern was no exception. The only thing that took me a long time was cutting out my meager yardage of slippery silk fabric in one layer, but once that was done, it was just french seams and red carpet dreams, baby!

I didn’t have enough printed fabric for my sleeve facings and didn’t have much to replace it with from my meager stash, so I settled on a cut of very lightweight transparent silk instead, which works fine. The facing fabric has a very faint animal print on it which doesn’t exactly go with my printed silk, but it turns out that it doesn’t matter- you can’t see too deep inside the sleeve and the fabric is so transparent that it barely shows up anyways. I suppose I could have done without the facing and just hemmed and french seamed the insides, but I loved the idea of a closed sleeve hem and I am glad I figured out a way to get it done- it’s truly a thing of beauty.

I liked the idea of a curved hem on this garment, but it was kind of a last minute decision that could have been executed a bit better- if I had had more fabric to work with I could have done a slightly more dramatic hem and made an appropriate facing out of self fabric, but instead I kept the curve pretty tame and used bias tape to hem the bottom. Next time! Although I think this dress looks really cute without being cinched in at the waist, I prefer wearing it with a belt. Partly because I don’t feel super comfortable in loose garments with little-to-no waist definition, but also because I feel like the sleeves look even more dramatic when paired with the cinched in waist.

I am truly blown away by how fabulous this dress looks- for something I finished sewing in less than two days, I would have expected something a little less sophisticated and stylish. But here we are, beautiful fabric married to beautiful pattern! It’s one of my favorite pieces of magic in sewing- playing around with the “rules” to find new dimension and shape and texture and sense of self in everything we make! Thanks to Claire for the photos, The Fabric Store and Heather Lou for the silk and pattern, and thanks to this dress for giving me a reason to get the hell out of the house and go somewhere!

Oh, and I know I’ve talked about this before, but CCF also sells these stunning Maker and Sewist (not pictured) necklaces in gold and silver that I basically never take off unless I have to work- so easy to wear, such a good conversation starter, and such a terrific reminder that even on my worst day, I am capable of bringing love, value, and beauty into the world. Don’t forget that you are, too!

Amy Jumpsuit in Watercolor Voile

Well I am definitely late, in North America at least, with sharing this make since it’s top of the summer wear but decidedly fall now. This jumpsuit still works well in Los Angeles where it continues to bake like an oven (high of 93 degrees yesterday) but here in Vancouver it’s a whole 30 degrees cooler, plus clouds, plus rain. Just like that, I need to change out my entire closet and transfer all of the sun dresses and cute rompers I brought up to Vancouver in June back down to Los Angeles. But it’s about to be summer in Australia, so shout out to all the Aussies looking for cute patterns to make for the upcoming heat! This is your guy!

Closet Case is my number one favorite indie company to sew from so I am embarrassed to say how far behind I am in catching up with all their releases (at least here on the blog)! They keep coming up with new, amazing patterns (don’t even get me started on the stunning Jasika Blazer, named after yours truly, for which I have already purchased fabric but haven’t gotten around to muslining yet) but my life keeps getting busy because of work, so my output is lower than normal. I am not complaining at all, but I do I miss being caught up with everything on my to-make list.

Although I liked seeing a lot of people’s versions of the Amy Jumpsuit on social media, it didn’t really speak to me much when it was first released, so it took me a while to get around to making it… and then when I finished my own and put it on my body, I realized what a special pattern it is! It’s comfortable like pajamas and easy to live around in, but, at least on me, putting a belt on it elevates the look tremendously and I love wearing it “dressed up” in this way. I made my jumpsuit in a watercolor voile I got from The Fabric Store a long time ago- it’s been in my stash for forever and I was planning on making a Big 4 pattern out of it, but I didn’t have enough fabric. While looking through my pattern stash for something else, I randomly came across this jumpsuit and thought it might be an interesting pairing.

I love the way the jumpsuit came out, but the fabric is practically see-through, so it wasn’t exactly ideal to use. Even so, I love how the fabric is so light that it almost floats around my body- its a beautiful garment for summer because it isn’t clingy, the cotton is very breathable, and the colors are so light and airy. Thankfully the jumpsuit is designed with a partial, free hanging lining at the front and back bodice which takes care of any modesty issues at the bustline; the neckline and straps of this jumpsuit are so soft and beautiful that I didn’t want to wear a bra with it and mess up the pretty lines if I didn’t have to. It’s of course still a bit see-through in the legs, but I can get away with it because the fabric is gathered at the waist so there are folds of fabric spread around the waist and hips which makes it more opaque.

 

I decided to make a straight size 4 in this jumpsuit even though my appropriate sizing required grading to at least a larger size at the hips. I figured that since there was so much ease in the body I wouldn’t notice the missing width, and technically I didn’t. Instead, I missed the depth, for the space that would have been taken up by my butt and hips in a larger size was now transferred into a slight shortening of the crotch depth, so when I put on the jumpsuit, it hugged just a bit too closely in that area. I opened up the crotch seam and put in a gusset which sufficiently fixed that issue and I made a note to lengthen the depth of crotch on my next make since I don’t mind the slimmer fit in the waist and hips but do want room to kick and stretch like I’m 50!

I included pockets in this make, and although I normally hate free hanging tear drop pockets that aren’t sewn down at the waistline, these work well and don’t bulge out, partially because of my super lightweight fabric and partially because the gathered waist gives them less opportunity to move askew. I sewed a fabric belt for this since I knew I would prefer to wear it belted, and as always, I sewed the middle of the belt down at the back waistline to keep it attached to the garment so I wouldn’t have to look for it if it got separated. It also helps to keep the belt in place on my body where I want it to lay, and usually means that I can forgo having to make and sew belt loops.

This jumpsuit was simple and straightforward to make, it was drafted beautifully, and I had no issues with the instructions. I love how beautiful and summery it looks in this fabric, and how the silhouette kind of looks like a dress at first glance, but I also love it with these shoes! (Because I made them, haha.) They were pretty simple and straightforward too: I purchased the pre-made espadrille rope soles on…etsy I think? It was a while ago. They had a few different designs- platform, heel and flats- so I got a couple of pairs. The quality of them is great, they seem durable, and they come with thin rubber soles on the bottom. These shoes were fun to make because they required hand sewing a blanket stitch to attach the upper onto the sole. Originally I planned to have an ankle strap on the shoe but the slide looked really cute and unfussy without it and it stayed on my foot just fine, so I ditched my plans and left them this way.

I actually didn’t end up wearing these shoes very much this summer, and I’m not sure why- they are certainly comfortable and cute! But sometimes it takes me a while to figure out how to style stuff I make, so hopefully by next spring and summer I will have a million things to pair them with. Thanks to Claire for the lovely photos, and hopefully before the year is over I will have finally made and blogged about my very own Jasika Blazer (since I have already made 2 out of the 3 of the patterns in the Closet Case Rome Collection– which is excellent, by the way!) Don’t worry, I’m catching up!

Oberlin Tote from Klum House

Hey, y’all!

Have you ever seen a cuter cutie????

Today’s post is brought to you by Klum House, an online store for makers that sells patterns and bag making kits in streamlined, simple designs with beautiful, high quality tools and materials. Klum House reached out to me recently to help launch their new and improved Oberlin tote bag release, and my initial instinct was to (graciously) say no, only because I have a lot on my plate right now with traveling back and forth between LA and Vancouver for work and wasn’t sure if I would be able to get it done in time without stressing out. But then I clicked on the link to their site and saw their beautiful designs and I changed my mind, lol! I am a sucker for a well designed bag, and I love that their kits include waxed canvas (a personal fav textile) in addition to simple yet sophisticated prints. The bags all look very high quality and remind me of something you could purchase at J Crew (for about twice the price, lol).

photo taken from Klum House Workshop’s website!

 

Klum House sent me my Oberlin kit and I was immediately impressed by the packaging once it arrived. Of course you aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes it’s hard not to! Instead of the traditional flat packing into a box or thick envelope, this kit comes rolled up in a packing tube, which is brilliant- it keeps the waxed canvas free from the creases and wrinkles that would set in if it was folded up in a box and allows you to develop that coveted rich patina more organically.

Inside the tube were the pieces of rolled up waxed canvas and a few small packages holding all the notions and findings needed to complete the bag: zippers, leather straps, metal snaps, rivets, D-ring, etc. The only things it didn’t come with were the hole punch and rivet setter, but they sell those items on the website for makers to purchase along with their kits which is great (IMO I think these tools are a must-have for enthusiastic makers- I use my hole punch, anvil and rivet setter for all kinds of things- jeans, shoes, toys, bags, wallets, you name it!)

I will warn you that there are many terrific color and fabric combos to choose from, so if you aren’t great at making these kinds of decisions, give yourself plenty of time to peruse their gallery and absorb all the options! Thankfully the designers have great taste and have put together a lot of classic, fun color schemes that go well together, so you can’t really go wrong! I ended up choosing a slate gray main bag with marigold colored accent pockets and zippers and blonde leather accompanying straps and zipper pulls, and I am super happy with my choice. As I sewed the bag up, little marks and creases and folds started to settle into the fabric which I thought was so fun- it’s like you’re fast-forwarding through the aging process of the bag, so by the time it was complete it already looked well-worn and loved, like a favorite denim jacket.

Klumhouse has recently expanded the design options for this bag, so while the original is just the tote with a zippered pouch on the inside, you now have the option to add a lining and a top zipper closure for the bag, both of which I decided to incorporate into my make. I started my bag in the morning and finished it that same afternoon, so I was pretty on par with the suggested production time of about 4-6 hours. The skill level is described as ‘Confident Beginner’ and that seemed accurate, too (although reading comprehension skills aren’t factored into the skill level, which I will get into later, ha!)

Here is what I loved about making the Oberlin:

  • The pattern pieces for the kit are pre-cut and they even marked the notches and hole punch dots!!! Lot’s of sewists would agree that the most laborious part of a sewing project is cutting out all the pieces and marking the notches, so the fact that this step is already done for you allows you to dive right into the bag making and quickly see your progress. But the PDF instructions still include all the measurement information for the pattern pieces so you can easily make the bag again with your own fabric.
  • The waxed canvas I have used in the past has been much thicker, which isn’t a bad thing depending on what you’re making, but it can get very bulky and require careful navigation under your sewing machine’s foot. The waxed canvas used in these kits is thinner but still durable and high quality, and it is a dream to sew!
  • With the exception of the lining and zipper closure add-ons, the instructions were terrific- easy to follow, great illustrations, and smart bag-sewing techniques. I particularly loved the way the bottom of the bag is sewn. I’ve made a lot of bags in my life and in my opinion, this part right here can make or break the flow of construction. Some bags have a separate rectangular bottom that gets sewn to the walls of the bag, kind of like a cube, and others are designed similarly but with curved edges instead of right angles. Either way, I usually hate them. Trying to get extremely sharp corners out of thick fabric at the intersection of so many seams usually just ends up looking messy, as does trying to get the curved bottoms perfectly aligned while sewing it on the sewing machine- in my experience it takes a lot of physical manipulation and arm and finger strength to pull it off on a regular home-sewing machine. This design employs a totally different technique that I found exceptionally easy to complete and nice to look at. Instead of trying to sew three corners together, you fold the square edge down and then open it into an even triangle and sew across it so that when it opens up, it settles into a soft, four cornered bottom with only one seam. Probably hard to understand what I am describing if you haven’t done it before, but trust me- it’s a beautiful technique and I might never go back to the other methods I learned!
  • As mentioned, the kit included notches and marks on all the fabric so you don’t have to make them yourself, but they also include hole punches on all the leather pieces- the only thing I needed to use the hole punch for was the fabric.
  • Because you can’t put a hot iron to waxed canvas to press the seams (it will melt off the wax from the fabric and gunk up your iron), they suggest you just press any folds or seams down with your fingers and use something like a point-turner to flatten the edge out crisply. I used a smooth rock from my collection of pattern weights to “press” the seams and it worked a treat! It was fun to breeze through all the “pressing” so fast, which definitely contributed to how quickly this bag came together.

Here is what I found tricky about making the bag:

  • Because the expansion instructions came after the initial design of the bag, two additional PDF’s are included  for creating the lining and the zipper closure, and I really hope that at some point they are able to incorporate everything into one file, with instructions to “skip ahead” to a future step if you don’t want to do one or both of the design add-ons. As it stands, I had to flip back and forth on my device between all three instruction booklets, which got a little confusing, and while the expansion packs referenced the main instruction book, I don’t recall them referencing each other at all, so I got slowed down making sure that what I was doing for the lining wasn’t going to get in the way of what I was doing for the zipper closure, and vice versa.
  • I’m not sure how, but I fudged up the instructions in regards to placing the snap closure on the bag. For this part, I followed the instructions for the main bag but when I switched over to the zipper closure instructions, they didn’t seem to add up. In some illustrations it looks like the snap is on the fabric of the zipper closure but the instructions I followed seemed like it was telling me to put the snaps on the main bag panel.

    placement of the snap is incorrect here

    I have since gone back to try and figure out where I messed up but I didn’t have much luck without the actual deconstructed bag placed open in front of me. Not sure if this was a mistake on my end or vagueness within the instructions, so just pay attention to this part if you’re making the zipper closure! Since mine didn’t look right when the bag was closed (the bag’s top had to fold in on itself for the snaps to adhere) I decided to take them out and place them on the zipper panels like in the illustration, but of course that meant I was left with some tiny holes and creases where the old clasp used to be. So I pulled out the handy piece of “scrap” fabric that was included in the kit (they thought of just about everything!) and sewed it over the area so that my mistake was covered up). I’m sure I could have done something perhaps more functional or visually interesting than a simple rectangle, but, whatever- it works, and now I have a pop of red on my bag!

    I *think* this is where the snaps are supposed to go, or at least this is where they work better for me

    I covered the old holes from where I removed the snaps with this scrap fabric that came in the kit

     

  • *edit*: As described in detail below, I had some trouble figuring out how the bag’s lining would match up with the outer shell, as there seemed to be a big discrepancy between the sizes of the outer and lining panels. Klum House reached out to me to clarify the instructions for this part of the bag, and graciously filmed a whole video for me to explain exactly how it was supposed to look! Hahaha, so sweet of them! Apparently a lot of of people were confused about this part of the instructions, so they have re-written the instructions for the lining to clarify them for makers, which is awesome. I absolutely understood what they were explaining in the video they sent me and I’m sure that will be translated well in the new instructions (the extra fabric in the main panel is supposed to be taken up by the top hem of the bag, which is a smart feature of the construction) but I think my misunderstanding came in when I was trying to include both the zippered closure and the lining in my make, so just pay close attention if you’re adding both expansions and don’t try and fly through the construction quickly the way I did. I was trying to complete my bag before I had to leave LA, which is my own fault, lol! I have left my original review intact on this blog post, so please keep in mind when reading below! Thanks!
    The only thing I actively disliked about the bag’s design was the size of the bag’s lining. I provided my own fabric for the lining, cut out the proper dimensions, and commenced to sewing the lining to the bag, but as soon as the seam was done and I examined my work, I saw that there was about a 5-ish inch gap between the bottom of the outer bag and the bottom of the lining.

    lining fabric is on top and outer shell on the bottom- pretty significant gap between the two!

     

  • Thinking I had made a mistake, I went and rechecked the measurements, and sure enough, the main panel fabric is cut at 39″ and the lining at 29″. I’m guessing that this is so there is less stress on the outer shell of the bag and all the stress of the bag’s contents can be concentrated within the lining, but it just didn’t work for me. For one thing, the difference in depth between the lining and the bag means that whenever you set the bag down somewhere and there is enough stuff inside of it, it will make the top of the bag cave in (cause it has to make up for the difference between the lengths of the outer shell and the lining at the bottom). This is definitely a personal preference, but depending on what it’s made of, I prefer for a bag to retain its’ shape and silhouette whether it’s hanging on my shoulder or sitting on a table. Secondly, it cut the capacity of the bag down by 5″, which seemed silly for a bag that I was initially drawn to because of how deep it was. Thirdly, it just didn’t seem necessary to me; again, I have made a lot of bags in my sewing career and I have never sewed one up that had this much of a difference between the lining and outer shell. In fact, many of the designs I have made have no difference between the outer and inner bags’ sizes at all, but some have had a small difference, maybe within an inch or so. I have never had any issues with the outer shell bagging out or bursting out at the seams because it had to take too much of the load of the bag’s contents, so maybe this bag’s design has a different reasoning for it than what I can come up with. Either way, it was a very easy fix- I unpicked the lining and cut out another panel, but this time I cut it out at a depth of about 3 inches smaller than the main panel, and it looks and feels much better- now I have lots of room in this deep bag, and when I set it down, it continues to stand tall and retain its’ shape, even if there is stuff in it to make it heavy.

I love how cute this bag came out, but I like using it even more- I don’t have a lot of totes with this much room inside of it and the outside pockets are AWESOME, easily my favorite design feature. Because they are on the outside they are super accessible but not super deep, so I can find what I am looking for very easily, and best of all there are 4 of them! Perfect for all the quick things I need to grab from my bag, like chapstick, my phone or a shopping list, without having to reach deep down inside the bigger part of the bag to fish them out.

I love the zippered pouch on the inside!

I’ve said before that I am a huge fan of sewing kits for people who are newer to the craft and still learning about fabric and tools and techniques- it takes away the frustration of being on that learning curve when you have all the appropriate things you need to complete a project right in front of you. But this is a kit that I think would be a lot of fun for seasoned sewists for the exact same reason- sometimes we want a break from garment sewing or from thinking too hard and having to troubleshoot fit or fabric issues. The Oberlin is a relatively quick, definitely fun sew, with a whole assortment of gorgeous kits to choose from, and I think it makes a great gift for yourself or someone else who loves to make, no matter how experienced a sewist you are.

Thanks to Claire who let me take pictures of her with this bag because she was dressed like the it’s twin lol

The Oberlin officially launches on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 and is in pre-sale now, with all kits automatically at 15% off. If you order after the launch on Wednesday you can use the discount code OBERLINREFRESH for a continued 15% off the kits, but the discount will expire a week later on September 18. Get in while the gettin’s good and click here to order your own Oberlin kit!

Thanks so much to Klum House for gifting me the Oberlin kit in exchange for an honest review! I’m thrilled to have been introduced to their company and excited to try out more of their kits!

A Jumpsuit in Wheated Silk

This fabric, which I believe is a silk crepe, was gifted to me by a woman that teaches at the pilates/yoga studio I go to. She was a fashion student at FIDM and accumulated lots of beautiful fabric over the years from friends and family adding to her stash, but apparently she just never really got into sewing beyond school and all the textiles that had been given to her were gathering dust in a bin at her home. After following me on IG, she wanted to gift me the pieces because she figured I would use them before she ever would. And she was right! I had a few immediate favorites from the pile she gifted to me, and this bizarre number this was one of them! The actual print, which appears to be, of all things, a wheat stalk, isn’t particularly inspiring on it’s own, but I think the brilliant contrast of the gold and blue coupled with the nice quality of the fabric (which feels so lovely against my skin!) really spoke to me.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to make with this til I stood behind a woman in the airport who was wearing the cutest black double gauze jumpsuit that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and though I don’t remember all the details about it now, I can say that this garment is a decent interpretation of it. Her jumpsuit had wide, open legs and a gathered waist which I liked a lot, so I decided that I would hack the Ninni Culottes by Named Patterns (my first version of these pants is here) onto an interesting bodice and go from there. Seemed easy enough, but I had a lot of trouble deciding on which bodice I wanted to use. After lot’s of hemming and hawing, I settled on this Project Runway for Simplicity #1803 that I had made once before here.

I chose a different bodice view than I had made before (the top left floral version on the pattern envelope) and went to work sewing everything together, having tissue fit the bodice already. As I sewed my fabric together, I loved how everything was looking, but when I tried the bodice on by itself, something was just not jibing with me about the neckline. It fit great and looked like the image on the pattern envelope, but I just didn’t like that neck detail on me at all; it felt fussy and distracting and looked a little like I was being choked with that band hitting across my collarbones. I decided to cut the neck detail off, which immediately looked better, but now I had to figure out how to connect the front bodice to the back bodice since the front yoke had also served as the shoulders of the garment. I decided to cut out some spaghetti straps and use them in lieu of the wide shoulder band straps that are designed into the garment. I liked that it would add a nice little romantic detail to an otherwise fairly bland garment.

Because I used spaghetti straps instead of the neck band/shoulder straps, I also now had to troubleshoot the bust area. I don’t like when a bra shows beneath delicate shoulder straps like this, but I also knew I wouldn’t want to go braless with this jumpsuit. I go braless all the time when I am wearing either a super fitted, rigid bodice or something very flowy, but for anything in between I prefer more support. I decided to take a pair of bra cups from my collection of bra pads that I am always pulling out of RTW sports bras and sew them onto the inside of the lining of the bodice so that they were sandwiched between the lining and the outer fabric and didn’t show on the inside of the garment. This worked an absolute treat! The cups are soft and unobtrusive and the shape fits my girls nicely so you can’t tell that there are cups inside the jumpsuit- no outline of the cup shape or anything, and I feel perfectly supported!

Once I got the bodice just how I liked it, the rest was a breeze- I made my usual pocket adjustment for the Ninnis (I don’t like “free floating” pockets and prefer mine to be extended and sewn into the waistband and side seams), and then I sewed the pants onto the bodice, which was fully lined with self fabric. I realized that I should have lengthened the crotch depth of the pants to give myself a bit more room in the seat area (the rise of the Ninni’s by itself vs the rise of the Ninnis when attached to a bodice is not equal) but they pass the comfort test- when I am putting them on it feels like the crotch will be just a tad too short but as soon as they are properly on my body and zipped up, the jumpsuit feels much better- just need to make sure I don’t impulsively drop into the splits with these, lol!

While installing an invisible back zipper, I also attached two fabric belt pieces to both sides of the back waist seam so that I could tie it in the front- whenever I have a garment that only looks good to me with a belt around it, I try and attach it to the garment in some way because I hate fishing around my closet for lost fabric belts!

And there you have it: a very easy, breezy jumpsuit inspired by something I saw a woman wearing in the security line of the airport, made up in the strangest fabric I have in my stash. Somehow, it works! My wife has celiac disease so the fact that I made a jumpsuit depicting one of the most dangerous foods she can come across is pretty funny to us, but thankfully the jumpsuit hasn’t caused any physical reactions…yet!

Thanks to my Babygirl, Claire, for taking these pictures!

 

Vintage 90’s Swing Dress


Technically this pattern is from 1989 but I think it’s fair to put it solidly in the style of the 90’s- that close fitting, raised collar, that back tie, and that high, curved waistline are just so reminiscent of babydoll dresses- it all screams PAIR ME WITH SOME DR MARTENS! Which I have clearly not done, hahaha. The 90’s is nowhere close to my favorite decade for fashion but because I was in middle and high school during those years, the nostalgia bug bites me all the time when I see styles from that era. I was very into babydoll dresses back then, paired with those flat velvet mary jane shoes with absolutely no arch support or cushion for your feet, so this dress is a nice throwback that I think still works well for my current style.

My favorite design element of this pattern is the swinginess of the full skirt. Tent dresses can very easily engulf my short frame and make me feel like I am swimming in fabric, but the draft of this dress is perfectly proportionate to my height and size. I was a little concerned about the dramatic curve of the bottom of the bodice at first because, oof, that is also not my favorite design element in dresses, but the seam’s curve is much more subtle when the dress is sewn up than it looks on the pattern envelope. Strangely, the bodice has very slight gathering under the bust which does not show up in the envelope illustrations- not sure if that was a ME-stake or an oversight with the pattern translation, but it’s something I will pay attention to when I make it again. The pattern has deep pockets that don’t jut out at the hips, most likely thanks to the fullness of the skirt, and it also has a lovely squared armhole shape that I rarely see in patterns today.

While I love the final result of the armholes, I thought the construction for the bodice left much to be desired, mostly because you are made to use facings to finish the armholes. Unfortunately those facings want to flip out at every opportunity, despite the fact that I tacked them down on the inside wherever the facing intersected with a seam.

just a little bit of deodorant remnants, don’t be alarmed lol

The next time I make this I will draft a lining just for the bodice that will eliminate the need for the button band and armhole facings, and will also hang loose in the back, since the back of the dress doesn’t have a waist seam to attach it to (I’m not sure if “waist seam” is the appropriate name for the bottom of this bodice since it hits closer to the bustline than the waist, but you know what I’m talkin’ about)! This will give the armholes a much cleaner looking finish and will also eliminate the tendency for the facings to bunch up and poke out of the armholes.

The fabric I chose for this make is a beautiful sandwashed rayon I found at Promenade Fabrics in NOLA, and I absolutely love the color and the texture, although it seems to behave more like a silk and soak up oils very easily, which means it just gets washed more frequently than most of my makes. Because this dress needs a surprising amount of fabric for the full skirt, I think that sticking to a light-to-midweight textile is smartest, otherwise it will get weighed down and feel too heavy (linen and silk would also be gorgeous in this pattern).

Other than my issues with the facings, this dress was incredibly simple and quick to make once I adjusted the sizing. I graded down all the pieces using the difference in measurements between the nested sizes, which was time consuming, but easy enough. The fit is snug at the bodice and neck but comfortable, which I think is why the design looks so dynamic- that ultra-fitted shoulder and neck area contrasted with the full skirt is just ACE. The back ties give you wiggle room to adjust the fit at the bust and also provide a pretty but simple detail to highlight the back of the dress.

I am super into this make, I think it’s beautiful and it’s so very easy to wear- I wore it in a short horror film that a friend and I made together over the summer and it really seemed to glow onscreen. I absolutely plan on making this dress again- a similarly casual version in linen would be beautiful but I also think a floor length version in silk would be pretty dynamic, too- somehow a floor length version of this design feels very 60s all of a sudden!

Thanks as always to Claire for these cute pics!

Blue Leopard Print Wrap Dress

This stunning, buttery, vivid leopard print silk was gifted to me from Elisalex of By Hand London many months ago after we decided to do a fabric exchange. I was working in Vancouver and oohing and ahhing on instagram over the beautiful slubby linen Blackbird Fabrics had recently stocked. Elisalex wanted to get her hands on some but was hesitating because of the shipping rates (Blackbird has great shipping for Canada and the US but shipping overseas is always a bit pricey), so I suggested I send her some of the color she wanted (a really beautiful, deep red) and she could send me something in return- anything she wanted, because I trust Elisalex’s taste in fabric, haha. Thankfully she was game and within a couple months I had received the most gorgeous bundle of fabric I could imagine. She included some beautifully bright summery lime silk in the package that I need to use up while the weather is still brilliant, but it didn’t take long to decide what to make with the deep spotted blue silk she sent me.

When the parcel arrived I knew I was heading to a wedding in Playa del Carmen in a few months and thought this would be the perfect fabric to make up something elegant and summery for the event.

I chose this vintage Vogue 7334 faux-wrap pattern that I bought on etsy specifically for this fabric. I had initially wanted a wrap dress that was a bit more A-line and flowy on the bottom but once I saw this pattern, I was happy to make a compromise, and it turned out to be a smart move- MEXICO IS VERY HOT IN THE SUMMER, lol. I mean honestly I expected it to be, but I didn’t think much about how the more fabric my garment had, the more there would be to cling to my sweaty skin, so this ended up being the perfect silhouette, especially since I have never been to a wedding at which I didn’t dance my ass off.

This pattern was pretty simple and straight-forward and I made it without adjusting the size at all, but I did make some aesthetic changes. I was on the fence about whether or not to forgo the elasticized waist and instead add waist ties so that it would be more of a standard wrap dress, but I got nervous that my silk would be too shifty and would move around all over the place, so I stuck with the elastic but added waist ties anyways- having worn this out in the world now, I can say it was a smart decision. I am currently debating whether or not to cut the ties off and put a black belt around the waist instead because the ties ended up feeling like they got in the way and they did NOT want to stay in place, lol. I also added a snap to the inside of dress at the neckline where the left and right wraps meet because you know how wrap dresses are- they love a good reveal!

Oh, and one more change I made to this dress was to line the bodice with self fabric to get extra coverage/stability in the bust area- I can’t stand a flimsy bodice when I am not wearing a bra, and although the fabric is completely opaque, I thought an additional layer would be nice and also make the insides look neater. I  measured out where the waistline of the dress was, then cut out another front and back dress piece from my fabric at about an inch past the wasitline to make room for the seam allowance and the elastic channel (instead of cutting out a separate casing for the elastic and sewing it to the waistline as per the instructions, I created one by sewing a channel through my bodice lining).

This worked beautifully and makes the top of the dress feel a bit more structured. Surprisingly this dress has pockets which is a nice detail, but I would probably omit them if I made this pattern again. The pockets on this don’t splay out too much or add a lot of bulk but they don’t really like to stay in place very well either (might be an effect of the slippery silk) so I was constantly double checking to make sure they were laying flat.

My favorite design element of this pattern is the subtle curved edge of the wrap fronts. They are not super obvious and they were very tricky to navigate at my sewing machine since I had to use silk bias tape which didn’t want to stay in place around the curve, but the end result is so soft and romantic and I want to do it on all my front edges now!

Now for the shoes!

I AM IN LOVE with these shoes! This is one of the few pairs I have made without creative inspiration from Pinterest- for some reason I just had this idea of a big poof-ball detail on a high heeled shoe (very Zsa Zsa Gabor, sans the kitten heel) and they came out exactly as I wanted. I had no idea what I wanted for the design of the shoe underneath the poofball but I knew I should make something sturdy and simple since it would be almost entirely covered by my poof ball.

(FYI- I had not made insole socks yet when I took these photos (the “sock” is a piece of leather that covers the foam that covers the heel screws and adds extra cushion and comfort to a pair of heels), so if you glimpse a bit of white underneath the heel of my foot, that’s why- it’s just the uncovered foam!)

I taped up my lasts and drew out a strappy design that I could loop the poof ball’s hidden rubber band around, then I cut it out of black leather and went to work. This is probably the last pair of heels whose edges I will not sew to the lining, thanks to George’s input, but my back straps are properly sewn thanks to the shoe findings store I get all my materials from. They started selling pre-made skinny straps with buckles in a variety of colors and I picked up several pairs because they are brilliant- so easy to use and design around! I am so obsessed with the the look of the skinny strap on the back of these heels- they are hard to come by in RTW, maybe because they have to hit at just the right spot on a shoe or they wont be comfortable, but luckily I found the sweet spot with these.

These shoes toe the line of being almost over-the-top, but because they are in a neutral color and the design is so simple, they work really well for me and I cannot WAIT to wear these out and about (not just in pictures)! Thanks to Claire for snapping these cute shots and Elisalex for inspiring such a fun dress!