Culottes Jumpsuit Hack in Bathing Beauties

Although I love a good print, I’m not much for novelty fabrics for garment sewing- they can be so loud and make things look so twee, which is not necessarily bad, but I find it a little hard to balance out the aesthetics of a cutesy pattern in a cutesy print within my wardrobe. And on top of that, lately I have felt a pretty big shift in my fabric tastes, going from floral, colorful, eye-catching pieces of fabric to a more classic monochromatic palette (pastels, neutrals, stripes). That said, sometimes you come across a novelty print that just speaks to your soul on a deep level and you have to pass Go, collect $200, and buy the damn yardage without asking questions.

It happened to me a couple of years ago with that Zombie Pin-Ups print that Alexander Henry came out with (still haven’t used it!), and it happened again recently with this Bathing Beauties cotton. Curvy, stylish women of all colors and hairstyles confidently donning bikinis and having the time of their life? This is the representation I like seeing in fun novelty fabric! The only thing to make this print better would be for some of the beauties to have wheelchairs and underarm hair! The print comes in at least a few different colors, one being a purple pastel that I was really drawn to, but, as Claire pointed out, you couldn’t tell that some of the beauties were various shades of black and brown when the whole print was washed in a pastel color, so I went with this perhaps slightly less exciting color story to make room for my principles, LOL! It’s a strange color palette to me, this brown, yellow and blue, perhaps because there seem to be too many primary colors fighting for attention- like, if they kept all the various shades of skin colors in tact but limited the other colors (bathing suits, hair) to a smaller, more refined palette, it might be more within my preference? No matter. Even with the strange color choices, I am pretty in love with this bold fabric and I am very happy with how this garment came out!

Initially I was going to make a super cute fit n flare dress (see? cutesy pattern and cutesy print! So easy for me to fall into this trap!) but I realized that I would only wear a dress such as this when I was getting dolled up for a moderately special occasion and I already knew I wanted this fabric to be a bigger part of my summer than a party dress would allow. So my next choice was to make something still cute looking but more casual, and I quickly decided on another version of McCalls 7774 which I completed a few months ago (it will be up on the blog soon). It’s my absolute favorite summer dress right now because it’s so breezy and easy to wear when it’s hot out, and I would love to have more of that silhouette in my closet.

But then I glimpsed a different garment in my wardrobe that has been one of my favorite pieces to wear for nearly 4 years, Vogue 9025, a culottes jumpsuit with dress variation, and I thought this would be the perfect thing to hack with the bodice from the McCalls dress. I love culottes jumpsuits because they look like a dress but allow a bit more freedom of movement and a very unexpected surprise factor when I decide to randomly do the splits (my splits ain’t what they used to be but I can still get that front leg straight)! Although I love both versions of the Vogue jumpsuit I have made, the princess seamed bodice was a bit finicky on me depending on what fabric the garment was made out of and I liked the simplicity and straightforward details of the McCalls bodice. My Vogue jumpsuits are heavily altered, with the waistline raised several inches and the pants lengthened to make up the difference (more details in this post). I also added more width to the front pants so that they have a more relaxed fit around my midsection than the close fit they were drafted for. This makes for a much looser garment all around, and I am in love with it. It’s one of the most comfortable things in my closet!

As for the McCalls dress, I took out about 1/2″ of width at the center front of bodice as I did for the first version, but I probably could have taken out an even bigger wedge because this jumpsuit dips out slightly at the neckline (strangely it didn’t do that in my first version?). I stay stitched the armholes of the bodice which was a grand idea and kept me from having to add additional darts on either side of the bust as I did on my first version, and I also fully lined the bodice (but I had to use scraps of linen for the back pieces since I ran out of fabric). I remembered to lengthen the pockets to match up with the longer pants pieces but I forgot to double check my pleats and I totally sewed them going the wrong way on the front of the jumpsuit (they should be facing the side seams). But it didn’t bug me enough to take them out and redo them since they still laid flat and looked fine. I also shortened the pants to make this an above-the-knee garment since I didn’t have much yardage to work with and I wanted to do a variation of the other garments I had made from the same Vogue pattern.

The result is simple, comfortable, and super eye catching! But perhaps a little too bold for people to comment on? I can feel them staring but so far they rarely ask me about it, which is pretty surprising since strangers have asked me about my jeans before which are way less interesting looking! I think they might just be too riveted by the bold bathing beauties to muster up any words! No matter- I’m not sure I would know what to say if I saw someone walking down the street in this killer print, either- I would just stare with a little drool coming out the side of my mouth 😉

P.S. I changed shoes halfway through this photoshoot so some of the photos have me in gold Sven clogs and others have me in a pair of flat sandals I made a couple years ago!

MeMade Birkenstocks

The first question that I know the majority of you will be asking is where do I get authentic cork Birkenstock footbeds?, so let me go on and get that answer out of the way: I have NO idea! That’s something you will have to search for on your own! The footbeds are out there because I stumbled upon mine accidentally, but I don’t know of a one-stop shop where you can buy them (not that such a place doesn’t exist- I assume it does and can be uncovered by a bit of googling). If your city has a shoe components shop, obviously check there first- that’s where I found my footbeds. Saderma (no website) is a leather and shoe findings store here in Los Angeles that has been servicing shoe repair shops and cobblers for years, and once I started making shoes I would head there to buy shoe heels, Barge’s cement glue, and used lasts. On one visit I saw a shelf full of packages of what looked like Birkenstocks, and upon closer inspection I realized I was half right- they were Birks,but they were unfinished: just the footbeds with no soles or uppers. I bought a couple pairs not knowing at all how to make them, but I figured that I could suss it out on my own with my already-acquired basic shoe making knowledge, and I was right.

Another place to check for these footbeds locally would be a cobbler/shoe repair shop in your area, since these are the places that generally buy the footbeds from the distributors. You know how after years of hard wear the cork on a pair of Birks, if not taken care of, can wear down so much that they are threadbare in places? Well a shoe repair person can take your beloved old sandals and save the uppers by replacing the corkbeds and the bottom soles. So you might have some luck reaching out to one of those shops and asking if you can buy a pair from them or asking them to order a pair for you to use on your own. Maybe they will charge you a few extra bucks for them, but in my opinion it’s still worth it: I pay $36 for each pair of footbeds, so compared to the average price tag of $140 for a pair of finished Birks, they are a steal.

Here is a list of basic supplies I used for my Birks:

  • thick leather for the uppers
  • Barge’s rubber cement glue (I wouldn’t recommend using anything other than Barge’s for these- there are non toxic glues you can work with to put together uppers and glue them in place on certain shoes, but when it comes to putting together a hearty, strong sole, rubber cement is the only thing that wont melt on hot pavement or start pulling apart at the seams after time)
  • thick rubber soling for the bottom of the footbed (I get my Birkenstock bottom replica soling from Saderma, but I have seen thick rubber soling in cool colors on eBay- again, hunt around!)
  • nylon thread
  • a leather needle
  • a multi-sized hole punch
  • buckles, clasps, or decorative pieces depending on your design

I’ve made several pairs of Birkenstocks and I have come up with my own designs as well as used the standard two-buckle design. If you decide to use a standard Birkenstock design, I highly urge you to make a pattern based on a completed pair. Borrow them if you don’t have a pair of your own, or you could even purchase a knock-off pair from some place like Target, trace the pieces, then return them! The reason for basing the pattern off of a finished pair is that even though the sandal looks very straightforward, it is actually drafted very specifically to mold over the shape of a foot, which is why the uppers are so comfortable and easy to wear. I always assumed it was just two straps on one side, two buckles on the other and that’s it, but once I traced my own pair I realized that the shapes of the pieces were unusual and not something that could just be thoughtlessly sketched out onto some paper. If you have a flat last that will fit into a Birk shoe bed, you can also make a pattern using the masking tape method and it will probably yield similar results.

There needs to be enough leather added to the underside edge of the pattern piece so that it can reach around under the footbed. The straps also need to be the correct width of the buckles so that they can slide easily through them- it’s easier to shave off some extra width so that it will fit than it is to have straps that are too skinny.

 

Once my pattern pieces are laid out, I trace them out of my leather. I found a beautiful oxblood suede at The Fabric Store, but it was a little flimsier than I would like- since these sandals need to be able to hold up to heavy wear, I want the uppers to be soft for comfort but strong for durability. The fix for this was easy- I glued two pieces of the leather together (this is a great opportunity for using the non-toxic glue if I want to limit my exposure to Barge’s) and let it dry, then cut out my pattern pieces: double the weight of my original leather with very little fuss.

Since I am making a standard 2-strap design for this pair of Birks, I attached my buckles to the outer pattern pieces at this point. On authentic Birks, the buckles are held into place by a kind of metal staple that is formed around the bar of the buckle and clasped closed on the other side. They are discreet and you can’t feel them on the other side of the leather.

I was unable to replicate this exact technique because I couldn’t find what kind of metal staple was used to secure the buckle, nor could I figure out the device used to apply it, but even if I could, it seemed an extravagant thing to have for someone who just make Birkenstocks for fun for herself and her family. So instead I just sew my buckles onto the leather in a tiny criss cross pattern using Nylon thread (it’s important to use nylon thread when shoemaking with leather as opposed to a thread made of natural fibers or a sewing thread, because cotton will disintegrate over time and you need the thread to be thick and strong).

I made a pair of polka dot Birks about a year ago and the nylon thread has held up beautifully, but the stitches need to be tight and secure, knotted at the beginning and ends of them (I also held a small flame to the ends of my knot to melt the thread for extra security). It helps to punch tiny holes in the leather to sew the stitches into, and it also makes the criss cross look neater. Ultimately this area is covered up by the strap so if it doesn’t come out looking that great, it won’t be seen anyways!

After attaching the buckle, I positioned the leather upper pieces around the edges of the footbed. These Birks are actually for my brother for a Father’s Day gift so I wasn’t able to position them around my foot in the sole, but thankfully these footbeds come with markings on the bottom for where the straps should hit, which takes out a lot of the guesswork. Another cool thing is that they seem to use the same sized pattern pieces for a variety of sizes, so the pattern pieces I created for my polka dot Birks work just as well for this pair for my brother which is several sizes larger.

 

Once buckles are complete I punch holes the matching width of the buckle bar into the straps.

When making regular sandals around curved edges, you often have to cut some darts into the underside parts of the upper pieces so that you can mold them around the curve and they will fit the foot well and not gape anywhere (this is the same premise as cutting notches into a curved edge of fabric in sewing), but since I didn’t have the luxury of actually molding these onto my brother’s feet I didn’t really need to use them. Also the edge of the footbed is pretty straight as opposed to curved so the notches weren’t as necessary, but I cut them out of habit before realizing I didn’t need to. I did try to curve the upper outer edge of the pattern piece around the toe because I remember that it wanted to gape out a bit when I constructing my first pair.

This part is easy to figure out if you are molding them around your own feet though. When positioning the uppers around the footbed, I use the marks on the bottom of the footbed as a guide but you don’t have to be married to them- I played around with what looked/felt best.

Safety first when working with Barge’s!

Once I figure out the best positioning, I use tape to secure the edges to the bottom of the footbed, then mark the outer edges of each piece so that I know what and where to glue. I also make sure to mark the insides of the uppers and up the sides of the cork footbed- this rubber cement glue only adheres to other glue, so both sides being adhered need to have a thin, even coating. After applying the glue, I let it dry for a few minutes before sticking them together, pressing hard and then pounding with my rubber mallet.

The final steps are attaching the soles to the footbeds. I skive the edges of the leather on the underside to create less bulk, but I also could have poured shredded cork onto the bottoms to fill in the gaps between the leather and the footbed.

I cut out a piece of rubber soling for each shoe that is larger than the shape of the shoe. It is much easier to adhere the pieces together and cut around the soling than it is to cut an exact soling shape out and then try and line it up perfectly (trust me, I learned this from Rachel of RachelSeesSnailShoes and she is the shoemaking QUEEN).

I mark the general area of the shoe on the soling so that I don’t waste too much glue, then evenly coat the sole and the bottom of the footbed with glue. I wait another few minutes til the glue is tacky, then press hard with my hands to squeeze the pieces together, especially around the thick edges of the upper and the sole where it wants to gape, and then I gently pound the bottom and sides with a rubber mallet on my shoe anvil.

If there are any gaps still between the footbed and the sole, I try to squeeze tiny drops of glue inside, then press hard at that area. I used a clamp here to squeeze them for longer than my hands wanted to and it worked really well!

 

Once the glue is dry and the footbed and sole are pressed together, I take my utility knife (essential in home- shoe making…who knew?!) and very slowly and carefully guide my blade around the edge of the sole. Rubber soling is very easy to cut with a sharp blade, it’s just important to remember to keep your blade perpendicular to the shoe so that the cut is straight up and down along the side of the shoe as opposed to leaning in or out. Since the cut is so smooth it’s usually not necessary to sand the edges, but if I need to I will take it my belt sander, or I will use my Dremel if the spot that needs to be sanded down is pretty tiny.

One coat of cork protectant and voila! I have a beautiful pair of Birkenstocks made especially for my sweet brother Nick, who I am hoping will wear them with pride! Apparently he and his wife just bought my toddler nephew his first pair of Birkenstocks so I am hoping I can get some cute pics of them rocking them together!

Nick, for anyone who has been following this blog for a year or more remembers, got really sick this time last year and was in the ICU for Father’s Day and in a coma soon after that. He was in there for weeks and things got really really dark and terrifying before they got better. Last year I had made him a leather wallet with his initials engraved on it for Father’s Day but he got sick before he could open it, and when things were at their lowest I was afraid he would never see it. But WOW what a difference a year makes! He is all the way healed up now and I am beyond thankful for his recovery and his health, and I am so happy I got the opportunity to make him something special again. I know you don’t read this blog, Nick, but if by chance you ever do stumble upon it, for the ten thousandth time, I LOVE YOU MORE THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE AND I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE HERE!!!!!

Circle Skirt in Black and White

I bought this fabric for a different project but realized that it was too drapey for the structured dress I was planning, so I decided on a whim to whip it into something else. I was intrigued by a couple of images of Elisalex (owner of By Hand London)’s instagram where she is wearing a very soft, flowy wrap circle skirt and figured I could eek out enough fabric from my yardage to make this quick and simple replica (I was wrong- I had to go to The Fabric Store and get more, but it was worth it).

I’ve made plenty of circle skirts in my past based off of my measurements but never a wrap skirt, so I tried to use the nifty calculator and sparse directions on By Hand London’s blog post to sew it up. Elisalex has a tutorial for how to make the wrap circle skirt from start to finish in a UK sewing magazine but unfortunately they didn’t have the article archived online and I wasn’t about to try and hunt down/pay for a physical copy when I knew I could probably stumble through making it myself. So that’s what I did, because I’m what? TRYCURIOUS, thasss right! And it came out fine! The most important bit of information I needed to make this skirt was that 6 panels are required for a circle wrap garment, and once I cut those pattern pieces out based on the measurement of my waist circumference, all I needed was to sew those pieces together and add a waistband with long ties.

I think I spent more time trying to hunt down Elisalex’s magazine tutorial than actually sewing this thing, and ultimately all I needed were the brief instructions she shared in her blog post! What a fantastic skirt! My fabric is a rayon that frays like mad at the raw edges so I french seamed all the panels together, folded the side edges in on either end of the skirt and hemmed them. Next I measured the full length of the waist to calculate my waist band and I cut out a rectangle at the height I wanted my band to be, plus seam allowances for all sides. After going back and forth on the matter, I decided to interface the entire waistband and I am glad I did- it gives the skirt some nice structure right around my belly but since the waistband is fairly narrow it doesn’t feel like too much bulk.

I sewed up some long tubes of fabric for the ties, making sure the finished tube was the same width as my waistband (I think I made it 1.5″?), pulled them right side out, then sewed them to each edge of my waistband. I added a buttonhole from which to pull the waist tie through above the side seam opposite where the skirt opens, and then, after letting the garment hang overnight, I spent what felt 23 days sewing the hem (circle skirts, amirite??).

End result? SO cute! This fabric is borderline polka dots/leopard spots, depending on what category you love the most, which is a nice space for me to be in since I am not crazy about animal prints (not on me- I oooh and ahhh every time I see someone else rocking animal print, though). The dots are multi-sized and randomly scattered about so it gives the print a little more depth and visual interest than a regular dotted fabric, I think. After seeing these pictures and wearing it around for a bit, I am tempted to shorten the skirt just a couple inches to have it hit right at my knee instead of below it, because I feel like it might just be swallowing me up with that bold print and all the yards of fabric swirling around? But maybe it’s just how I styled it here, and with different shoes or a different top it will look more balanced on me. Honestly I don’t know if I have it in me to spend 23 more days re-hemming this skirt so I might have to sit on it for a while before I make a move, LOL.

 

Tackling Pattern Magic

I went on a journey with this one, yall. For the record, “went on a journey” is my euphemism for “worked on a project that was so challenging it made me want to beat my head against a wall while cry-laughing.” Sometimes the difficult journey a project takes me on is due to a tricky fabric or fit issues or confusing construction techniques, but the challenges this book brought me were brand new!

I’m sure most adventurous sewists are familiar with the Pattern Magic books, but if not, here is a brief rundown: written by acclaimed seamster and fabric manipulation sorcerer Tomoko Nakamichi, the series (Pattern Magic Volumes 1-3 and Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics) has now been translated to English and includes information on how to alter a simple Bunka bodice block by slashing and spreading, adding length/width and distorting the pattern block’s shape to create intriguing 3-D wearable art from fabric. The photographs in the book, created at half size for mini dressforms, are remarkable, and once I got three of the books for Christmas a couple of years ago, I spent a substantial amount of my holiday pouring over the pages multiple times, my mouth hanging open. I had simply never seen anything like the shapes Nakamichi was creating, never even knew most of the designs were possible. After glancing through the pages and trying to get an understanding of what was required to actualize the designs, I knew it was going to take a lot of brain power to stumble through the confusing diagrams, so I kept putting it off. But recently, after suffering through a couple of horrendous pants makes and feeling depleted and frustrated, I found myself in between projects and decided to slow down and dedicate my weekend to figuring out how to be a pattern magician.

 

Unfortunately this book does not come with a PDF file or paper print out for the bodice block that all the patterns are based on. There is a page at the end of the book with the bodice printed at half scale (which you can use to create the projects at half size) and it is suggested that you photocopy that sheet of paper at 200% to get the full scale size of the pattern. I happened to be devoted to not leaving my house the weekend that I worked on this, so instead of taking the easy route and driving 5 minutes to a copy shop with the book, I sat down in my craft room with a ruler, my math bracelet (for all you non-instagrammers, math bracelet is what Claire has started calling my measuring tape for some reason), and some gridded pattern paper. OK, so, truth be told, I wan’t committing myself to this task out of sheer stubbornness. After perusing the pages of this book for two years, I realized that, even though it was in English, it still felt like it was written in another language. As someone who struggled with complicated mathematical concepts in school, I knew it was going to take a while to fully grasp some of the images and equations shown in the diagrams. English is my jam, I have always loved literature and reading and expressing myself through words, and math has always seemed a bit antithetical to that. If I made myself sit down and blunder through the trickiest parts from the start, then maybe that would make all the steps to follow a little bit easier. Right?

These are the diagrams given to sketch out your Bunka bodice block. In addition to the images above, there were like two sentences of instructions beneath them which basically said “Use these diagrams to make the bodice block” LOL. there are virtually NO instructions in the whole book, and the few words provided that are meant to instruct made absolutely no sense to me. It’s as if Yoda was the ghost writer for this thing- as few words as possible! The instructions say specifically to work through steps 1-14 in order to graph out the preliminary lines of the bodice. Step 1 asks for the length of the bodice (I assumed my neck to waist measurement) which seemed simple enough. But once I drew that line and looked for a number 2 with a circle around it? Well, it’s nowhere to be found. The numbers on the diagram skip around and then it appears that letters are thrown in for good measure, so I didn’t have a linear guideline to follow. I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, but I did not find this explanation in the actual book. And then out of the blue I see this symbol that looks like the planet Saturn, and I have NO IDEA what that symbol is supposed to represent. There is no key on the page. What does Saturn equal?! I am still not sure if this was so difficult for me because of something that got lost in the translation of the book or because I comprehend language better than numbers and symbols, but somehow I eventually figured it out by substituting some arbitrary number; the Saturn symbol looked like it was supposed to represent some part of the shoulder length, so I threw in an approximate measurement and figured that I could adjust it once I made my muslin.

It took me over two hours to complete, 30 minutes of which I spent looking for my compass tool, and once I found it I realized that what I meant to be looking for was a protractor because it’s been 80 years since I needed to use either of those things and I had mislabeled them in my brain. My shoulder lengths (aka my “Saturns”) were off of course, and once I sewed the bodice muslin I had to adjust the bust dart a bit, but…it worked! I FIGURED IT OUT! The muslin fit, which felt like such a massive victory, and I was very proud of myself!

I was excited to move on to the manipulation of the bodice for the Knot Dress because I figured that creating the bodice out of these wacky symbols and numbers would indeed be the toughest part but….no. The next part actually had me near tears in bafflement. The only thing that kept me going was googling “pattern magic knot dress” and seeing that at least three sewing bloggers had figured out the pattern manipulation and none of them had used the words “difficult”, “frustrating”, “confusing” or “fuck”. In fact, one of them described creating the pattern as “simple”. Flames may or may not have shot out of my head when I read this, I’m not sure because I think I had a rage blackout immediately after I saw that word in relation to this pattern, but once I came to, I decided to use it as a motivator. If they could figure it out, then I was determined that I could, too, damnit! I had already gotten so far!

In one last desperate cry for help, I brought the book to Claire, hopelessness etched deep into my brow. “This doesn’t make sense, honey! It doesn’t! Help me see how it makes sense, cause all I see right now is a lie!” Bless her heart, Claire, who is not a sewist and gets as frustrated as I do with confusing diagrams, very calmly looked at the picture and basically said “it looks like you need to add a piece here.”

That was it, yall. I just needed to add a piece here.

It turns out that after you draft your Bunka bodice, you have to make some slash and spread adjustments to it, then you draft the skirt onto the pattern piece, and then you have to slash and spread the bodice again, then you have to add the bow piece onto it, and then you have your final pattern piece from which to cut out your fabric.

Y’all.

Y’all.

Were they attempting to create a cheaper book by providing fewer pages? Was that why the book seemed so in favor of pictures over words? Do diagrams cost less money to print than paragraphs? (These questions are rhetorical). Drafting the sloper and then adjusting the pattern for the Knot Dress took me two days to complete, and I know for a fact that if they had given me just 6 more sentences, I could have been spared so much frustration and headache. Initially I thought that the “magic” in the title was referring to how beautiful all the garments looked- like, oh wow, these things are so magically beautiful! But after stumbling through every aspect of bringing this pattern to life, I realized that nope, the magic is in reference to WHAT YOU NEED TO HAVE SPRINKLED ON TOP OF YOU BY A TINY FAIRY IN ORDER TO COMPLETE ANY OF THE PROJECTS. But guess what.

I AM AN OFFICIAL MAGICIAN, NOW, BOYYYYYYYYYYY!

I was resigned to thinking that my finished muslin was going to be ill-fitting and wonky, and the fact that I had gotten that far would have been all the success I needed after the whole ordeal, so you can imagine my surprise when I tried my muslin on and saw that it fit me PERFECTLY. There are two tucks in the back which give some gentle shaping to the waist and bust area, but aside from the darts at the front bust and the drafting of the skirt, which creates a subtle flare at the hips, there isn’t much to this dress in the ways of fit. And yet it works! All based on a simple bodice sloper! I love how it skims my figure without feeling like a tent and it has a bit of swing to the lower half. It looks feminine and structured at the same time. Seeing how well it fit from the start definitely felt like magic!

Apologies for the photos that follow- I didn’t have time to iron the dress, which had been tightly stuffed inside my closet, before we took these pictures! 

Essentially the pattern of this dress has the shape of a simple shift, and to add in that magic, you slash and spread the dress out at the center bust, adding enough fabric to create two tubes which make up the ties of the bow. In theory it’s simple, but without any explanation or real instructions it took a while for my brain to grasp the concept. But as soon as I started sewing the pieces of my muslin together, it all made sense and was constructed in a tiny fraction of the time it took me to draft everything out.

As soon as I got the muslin right and made a couple of adjustments for fit, I went to cut out my fabric and I realized that what I had purchased was much too flowy and drapey. This dress requires a certain amount of stability in it’s fabric so that the integrity of the silhouette and bow are not lost, and my graphic printed rayon, while lovely, was not going to lend itself to the best version of this pattern. I rifled through my tiny stash and came across this cupro with a sandwashed effect that I purchased from Blackbird Fabrics. I had purchased three cuts in different colorways, 2 yards of black, 2 yards of blue and 3 yards of olive. I knew I needed at least 3 yards for this dress (it’s a real fabric eater because of the bow ties) but I didn’t like the idea of the dress in olive. I was beside myself with frustration, determined not to have to buy MORE fabric for this dress after just having gone to The Fabric Store, but at a loss as to how to remedy the situation (as mentioned before, my stash is pretty tiny). And then, with both piles of black and blue cupro on my cutting table, I wondered if I could use both by color blocking the dress, which just so happens to be drafted with a center seam. The black and blue looked really good together on my table, and I liked the idea of having the bow tied so that the opposite color was displayed on each side. It felt like a bit of a bold move but I had nothing to lose except fabric, and I am a bit of a risk-taker with my making, so I went for it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Be9HG9qgB8_/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Everything went smoothly until I realized that I had cut one front out on the wrong side of the fabric. It was SO HARD to keep the sides straight because the cupro looks the same on both sides at a glance, but as soon as you hold each side up vertically, the difference is super obvious (meaning I couldn’t get away with just using the wrong side of one of the pattern pieces because it would bug the HELL out of me). I didn’t quite have enough fabric to cut a new piece out of, and I didn’t want to rearrange my entire idea so that the color blocking was different than I had envisioned. I was married to the look I had created in my head and refused to compromise. My only alternative was to puzzle the remaining fabric I did have into the shape of the pattern piece. It took what felt like forever, but I managed to get it done with just one seam that I was able to hide behind the bow.

I had to figure out the finishings and construction method as I went along, since of course the book wasn’t offering me any help. I french seamed everything I could on the inside, and I covered the raw edges in the front center where the ties are formed in bias tape- it was too tricky to sew that part into a french seam. My cupro was relatively easy to sew with- slippery like a silky rayon, yet manageable- but the edges looked like they would fray over time so whatever was exposed got bound, frenched or, in the case of the back center edges where it zips, serged. The area where the bow ties emerge from the dress form a little tuck in the front which is really pretty and gives the dress some visual depth, but it’s hard to keep in place. Unfortunately there is no way to tack down the area on the inside without it showing through to the front, but as long as the bow is tied tightly and securely, the tucks don’t seem to move too much. I might make a line of stitching right down the creases to help make it more stable.

For the neck and armholes, I used self-made bias binding out of the cupro and applied it to the openings, and for the hem I simply ironed, folded twice, then sewed down. The drape and silkiness of the cupro made the hem pretty wavy and I ended up having to take it out and redo it to get it even (the dress is not a cut on the bias but I still let it hang for a while on my dress form before tackling this part). It’s still not perfect, but I don’t think it’s too visible.

anybody watch Squidbillies? don’t my ties look like the grandma’s boobs??? LOLOL

 

Although I put in a substantial amount of work to bring this dress to life, it still took less time than some other projects I have under my belt and it was worth every second! I love the effect of the finished dress- it’s fun and feminine but the muted colors keep it from going over the top so it doesn’t look too costumey (something I worried about when looking at all the images in the book as a whole).

it took me 5 years to tie this bow the right way and in my haste to get these pics taken I untied it and tried to redo it AND IT LOOKS WRINKLY AND PITIFUL. I swear it looks better than this when it’s ironed.

I would absolutely make this dress again, but I am also interested in tackling something else cool from the book. When I finally finished this dress I immediately pulled the books out again to choose what I wanted to make next, assuming that since I had successfully completed one project, the rest would be a breeze. Turns out, not so much,! Each design is so unique and the techniques that work for some have nothing to do with the others. Looking at the pattern instructions was like starting over from scratch! The good news that I already have the bodice block completed and adjusted for my shape, so whatever I tackle next will go straight to the manipulation phase. I might need a bit more recuperation time for my brain to heal from all the hard work it exerted during this project, but I must admit, I am already getting antsy for that cool neck-tie-that-blends-into-the-shirt project. Wish me luck!

Sasha Trousers

I was over the moon when Closet Case Patterns released their Sasha Trousers at the end of last year, and not only because I had struggled through the process of making so many poorly drafted or not-suited-for-my-body pairs of pants of late. In chatting with other makers and talking about how not all indie pattern companies are of the same caliber, I have realized that there are some real standout designers for me in the indie sewing community and that there is no shame in sticking with what I know works best. CCP is definitely one of those companies. The amount of time and attention that goes into each pattern release is palpable, and I feel like just as much energy is focused into the instructions, techniques, and drafting as the styling and photographing (I used to be such a sucker for a well-styled pattern release, but I keep getting burned by beautifully styled designs that are poorly drafted!) You know you’ve found a good pattern brand when they release a design that isn’t necessarily your personal style but you buy it anyways because you know the integrity of the brand is so strong that it’s still going to look great on you. True Bias, Grainline, and Deer and Doe are a few other companies who seem to excel at these points, and as such I tend to be a loyal customer to their brand.

While I hadn’t been considering making a chino-type pant anytime soon, I basically dropped everything I was doing sewing to make these Sasha Trousers because I knew I would learn a lot, I would have some fun in the process, and I would end up with a great pair of pants that I would never have found in a store that fit me well. That’s actually one of the reasons I never considered this kind of pant before- I have lived an entire life free of well-fitting chinos, so eventually I stopped even thinking of them as a viable option in my wardrobe. Enter: Closet Case Patterns to the rescue.

Here is what I have always hated about the ill-fitting chinos of my past:

  • they gape at the waist
  • the slash pockets also gape out at my hips
  • they are too tight in the thighs
  • the back welt pockets always add extra bulk to an area that is full enough on it’s own, and those pockets also tend to bunch up in the back because the pants are usually too tight

As you can imagine, attempting to make a regular pair of chinos work for me, even with the ability to make the fit adjustments I needed, is a pretty tall order. As soon as I saw the pattern, I knew that View B (without any front or back pockets) would probably be best suited for my tastes, but I wanted to give the pockets a try anyways, just to see what a properly-tailored pair would look like on me, plus I loved the prospect of getting to try out CCF’s techniques- sewing practice is always welcome!

I decided to make a muslin, which I was hoping would be wearable, out of some fabric that was given to me when I got my Bernina sewing machine as a bday gift a couple of years ago (the woman who sold the machine to Claire included several yards of a stretch woven fabric in a light taupe-ish color that has served me and my muslins very well!) I graded between sizes, used my already-adjusted curved waistband from my Ginger Jeans (these two designs sit at different places on the waist, but the Ginger waistband still worked perfectly) and got to work with construction. As always, the instructions were incredibly thorough and fun. Having only made welt pockets on jackets and coats, it was really exciting to create them for pants, and the front fly was a piece of cake after having made so many pairs of jeans with a similar method.

I was really impressed with how well they fit, and I didn’t need many adjustments at all- I think I brought the knee and ankle seams in to make room for my thick calves, and I might have adjusted the crotch seam a tiny bit, but other than, the make was straight forward and didn’t need much tweaking.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdwjhIJHHJZ/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

But as I had imagined, the front slash pockets did not work for my tastes. To be fair, they were still the best looking pair of chinos I had ever worn, and when I was standing up and being still, the pockets stayed in place and looked great. But as soon as I took one step, the pockets gaped out and needed to be coaxed back into a flat silhouette. I stitched up a bit on the top and bottom of the pocket to keep it from gaping out from the side seams of the pants, and of course I used stay tape on the seam of the pocket, too, but…they’re just not for my body. I think it’s very possible that no one else would notice the gaping because it’s so minimal and it probably wouldn’t bother the majority of people out there if their pants were doing the same thing. But the simple fact of the matter is that I don’t like the way slash pockets look on me, and that’s totally okay!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdyPJPhH5lP/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I was thinking of next time omitting the slash part of the pocket and turning them into pockets that go into the side seams, but the other thing that didn’t work for me about my muslin were the pocket bags, which were totally visible through the legs of my pants (which you can see in the second IG pic above). My muslin fabric was a nice medium weight and my pocket bags were a lightweight cotton, so I don’t think they showed through because of the textile choice- it might be because I like my pants to fit closely in the thigh so they don’t look too baggy. They feel comfortably loose when I am wearing them, but they might be tighter on me than the pattern was intended, thereby not giving enough space between the pocket bag, fabric and skin? Whatever the cause, it was an eyesore, and since I knew I wouldn’t wear these pants with a gaping pocket in the first place, I cut my beautiful pocket stays out and sewed the slash pockets closed. I also wasn’t crazy about the back welt pockets: construction-wise they look terrific, but they added all the bulk to my booty that I imagined they would. I could have kept the design detail of the welt and just cut the bags out but I decided not to- the back pockets didn’t bother me nearly as much as the front slash pockets did.

So, my wearable muslin was a success! But I still opted to make my final version without any pockets, just as I expected that I would. I’m so glad I gave myself a chance to check out the details on my own body instead of assuming that certain things wouldn’t work for me. It’s nice to revisit apparel design elements with a different perspective, whether due to changing tastes, bodies, or ideals.

For my fashion fabric, I chose a mustard ponte (I think it’s a ponte?? Jury is still out but I’m like 90% sure) purchased from The Fabric Store. The Sasha Trousers calls for a woven fabric with a little bit of stretch, and this ponte, while not super stretchy, definitely has more give than the fabric I made my muslin in, which in turn made the fit totally different. I haven’t worked with ponte very often and never with trousers, so when these came out fitting way more snug than my muslin, I was totally surprised, but not at all displeased. I love the sleek look of these, and I think that the color and the fit take them out of casual territory and put them in a slightly dressier arena.

Omitting the pockets was super smart, especially because the fit of the mustard pair came out so much different than on my muslin- the bulk created would not have been a good match at all. I like the ponte in this design because they don’t feel tight at all since the fabric has so much give. I am worried that the fabric will start pilling eventually, but so far I have worn these several times and there is not a pill in sight. I am careful about what I wear with these pants and what I sit on, though- no velcro or abrasive textures get near me when I am in these- so hopefully they will last a long time!

I love how these pants came out, and I love that I was able to create such different looks with the same pattern- the light taupe muslin pair are such a nice alternative to jeans, and I wear them throughout the week when I am running errands or chilling at home. But the mustard pair works well for when I am jujhing it up and feeling a little bit fancy. I was worried about how to hem the legs of these pants because I wanted a very crisp edge on the bottom, but I knew that this fabric wouldn’t behave with just a simple folded hem (this plush fabric didn’t take to the iron well at all). Instead, I folded the hem up and edge-stitched at the very bottom it so that the fold looks very crisp and tight and I am pleased with the effect.

Overall this is a terrific pattern to add to my arsenal, and I am excited to make more! Thanks to Claire for the photos, and FYI I am wearing a Sointu Kimono by Named Patterns in a thick, soft merino wool from The Fabric Store.

Floral Maxi Stella Dress

I made this dress back in October but it’s only just now making it to the blog. I know I will wear this dress and overall I think it looks nice, but this is not my favorite make. It’s the Stella Shirt/Dress by Named patterns, and if you hunt deep enough into this blog you will see that I have a fairly complicated relationship with this pattern  brand. I LOVE the ideas, looks, and styling of all their pieces, but I have found that their sizing is always off on me, their construction methods can be questionable, and their finishes are not always super clean and professional looking. For me, this is one of those brands where I have to read through all the directions first so that I can alter or embellish the details they do (or don’t) include; I just don’t trust that the final project will look as finessed as I prefer. This, of course, is just my personal opinion- lot’s of people love this brand and make beautiful garments from the patterns, and I don’t dislike them enough to not to ever give them another try, but nevertheless, whenever I finish one of their garments I’m usually disappointed about some part of the process.

My hands-down absolute favorite thing about this dress is the silk I used from The Fabric Store. I LOVE the colors, the pretty floral design, and the large print. The silk is transparent, so I used a dark navy opaque lining for the dress underneath at the bodice and the skirt, and thankfully it doesn’t distort the print or colors. This fabric was packed along with my sewing machine, a few patterns and a couple other cuts of material on one of my last trips to Vancouver in 2017 where I knew I would be sequestered for 2 weeks without much to do outside of work. I had a blast with my traveling sewing station, filling up my off days with making in my hotel room, but this dress was unfortunately the only completed project that was worth a damn. I burned The Pennywise Paperbag Waist Clown Pants after I snapped some hilarious pictures of them for instagram, and the raw silk hoodie I made from a McCalls pattern is being gifted to one of my sisters-in-law as I type this (it just didn’t come out nearly as cute as I had hoped). The lesson I learned here was that I needed to spend more time planning what projects would accompany me for future trips instead of throwing a bunch of patterns I had never sewn before into my suitcase and hoping for the best. Nothing but TNTs for my foreseeable #sewnawayfromhomes!

Construction for the dress was pretty straightforward. Initially I didn’t plan on sewing the lining into the dress and instead planned to just wear it as a fully transparent shell with a slip underneath, but once I read through the directions and realized that the elastic casing at the waist would look very visible and sloppy in my see-through fabric, I changed my mind. I took a trip to a small indie fabric store in downtown Vancouver (whose name escapes me at the moment) and hunted for some proper lining fabric. Thankfully I found some, but not before feeling very annoyed that the person manning the shop barely even made eye contact with me, much less gave me a hello after I walked through the door and spent at least 10 minutes perusing the bolts in the shop. And no, the store wasn’t crowded; during this trip I was the only person in the shop for the majority of my time there, and it’s a very tiny space, a fraction of the size of Dress Sew (whose very busy employees still find time to give me a quick hello even when the store is at its most crowded). Honestly I wasn’t too surprised by the shade- Vancouver might be the most unfriendly city I have ever lived in, but I figured that the ties to the sewing community would lend this small shop to at least extend a quick greeting or some kind of acknowledgement- and by the way, this happened each time I went into the store over the span of a couple months- but no such luck. Anyways, I found what I needed even though it was of pretty poor quality, one of those super stiff linings that feels like it’s made of paper- I would have much preferred to purchase from Dress Sew but they were closed and this place was right across the street.

As for the design of the dress….I’m on the fence about it. When I initially completed this dress in Vancouver with nothing but a poorly lit yellow-hued bathroom to view my handiwork, I thought it looked great, but I think I was mostly responding to the pretty fabric. Once I got back to LA with a mirror with better visibility, the whole thing just looked off. Initially I picked this design because I knew it would be simple to lengthen the dress to a maxi, and I had been wanting one of those easy-to-wear-Boho-inspired dresses that I could pair with some heeled boots and a cute hat. But standing in front of my mirror, nothing about it looked relaxed or easy. The stiff lining underneath gives the silk more body than the dress I was going for needs, so it tented out a bit at the bottom and came off looking much more formal than I anticipated.

But the worst part was the bodice. I just…really am not crazy about it at all. I loved the idea of the raglan sleeves but these are drafted with so much ease that I feel like I am swimming in them. Maybe they wouldn’t look so weird to me if the rest of the bodice was a bit more fitted, but unfortunately it isn’t, so the whole bodice piece feels much too big and billowy on me. Ultimately I felt like this dress could fit a body several sizes larger than mine as long as the length of elastic at the waist was altered, and this matters because maxi dresses don’t quite work on me if they aren’t well-fitted; an overly blousy dress with a floor length skirt can make me look like a kid playing dress up in her mom’s closet if I’m not careful.

 

The only thing I could think of to save this dress was to chop it off at the knee (which is closer to the length of the original dress’ design- perhaps shame on me for attempting to hack it into something it wasn’t meant to be?…but also, you never know til you try!) Once it was re-hemmed it looked MUCH better, the blousy effect on top now balanced by the shorter skirt on the bottom. Proportions, amirite??? I still think the armscye is way too big, I don’t like the elastic casing finish on the hems of the sleeves, and the neckbow is awful! When tied, it won’t lay properly against my collar bone, instead it droops down (and my silk is very lightweight so it’s not the culprit) and the area where the bodice pieces meet directly underneath the bow gapes open, which I hate. Thankfully the bow mostly covers that peekaboo area up, but I still find myself fiddling with it to keep it in place. It’s just another reason that this dress feels like it’s drafted for several sizes larger than my own.

This isn’t the dress that I was envisioning in my head, but as I said, I still like it and I know I will get some good wear out of it. The colors and the print are so fun and it feels very feminine while also feeling comfortable (that elastic waistband basically makes this outfit nightclothes with heels). I want to try the look that I have inside my head again, but perhaps with a button down dress with a full flowy skirt, and regular sleeves? Not sure if I have anything like that in my pattern arenal or if I should just hack it, but I was gifted some beautiful rayon from Workroom Social for Christmas and I think it might be a match made in heaven.

Jackie Dress in Floral Velvet

I bought this Jackie Dress by Victory Patterns as soon as it came out- didn’t even let the pattern marinate on my brain! I loved the seaming of the dress, made of princess seams, coupled with the additional panels in the skirt, and I loved the subtle flare the dress has at the hips- it looks chic and classic, but also comfortable since it doesn’t hug every single curve of the body. Maybe it’s because of the styling in the pattern photos, but it has a decidedly 70’s vibe to me- and I have been GAGA FOR SEVENTIES for the past year or so after having never paid much attention to that era in the past. What can I say, my tastes are evolving! This pattern calls for a knit fabric with stretch, and a while ago I bought some cheap, slinky crap for it on a whim when I was purchasing fabric for other projects. I didn’t put a lot of thought into what I was buying because I was in a hurry, and my inattention really showed when I got it home and realized that the fabric was of super poor quality and I didn’t even like it that much. It was thin and showed every lump and bump underneath it, and it also looked like it would pill and snag very easily when worn. All was not lost- that cheap fabric ended up being a terrific muslin for some other projects I worked on that called for stretch knits, but the Jackie Dress got put on the back burner indefinitely since I didn’t have anything to make it with.

Then fall rolled around and I was sorting through my pattern stash and I realized that this design would be a terrific garment to add to my arsenal of fall/winter makes. It’s got a shortened turtleneck (providing a little bit of warmth, not that much is needed in LA anyways), an option for long sleeves, and, depending on the length you make, the skirt of the dress could be short, tea length or maxified, which works great for the silhouettes I was looking for at the time (in this post right here I talked about focusing on specific garments for fall/winter since my cooler weather wardrobe has been seriously lacking for forever). The floral velvet fabric that I ultimately used for this pattern was a total happy accident. I have only recently been exploring the fabric district in DTLA outside of Michael Levine’s, thanks to SewDIY’s blog post about her favorite LA fabric/notions spots. I’m not exactly sure why I’m not in the habit of exploring the smaller shops around the strip, but I think it has something to do with time– I rarely go fabric shopping to meander, I just want to get in and out, and knowing the layout of a place and what to expect from it works well for my goal-oriented sensibilities (my one exception is The Fabric Store- I love the shop, I love the staff, I could hang out there all day…and I have! lol) and also I don’t like to haggle. I have this idea that all hole-in-the-wall places don’t have set prices and want you to do the work to settle on a price and I don’t like that at all. Just tell me how much it is- if it’s too expensive then I won’t buy it, no back-and-forth price jumping necessary.

ANYWAYS, on one of my exploring trips to the fabric district I passed by a bolt of floral velvet placed on the sidewalk in front of a store (I’m sorry but I have no idea what the store was called and I don’t remember where it was, except that it was on a corner). I inquired about it and the guy inside stated a fair price. HOWEVER, when we went to cut it, I told him I wanted 1 and 1/2 yards, and he very quickly blabbered something about “3 yards cut, discount, only, special, you want?” and I was super flustered because like I said, I DON’T LIKE HAGGLING!!! and my brain shuts down sometimes when I am having a social interaction that is going a different way than I anticipated, so I just mumbled “umm, yes, ok? sure? ok…” and I walked out spending something like $50 cash for 1.5 more yards of fabric than I needed, so my whole trip home was spent wondering what the hell I was gonna make with all three of those yards… I envisioned an entire velvet suit comprised of an overcoat and long bell bottom pants and a matching purse, because 3 yards is way more fabric than I normally buy if I am not sure what I am going to use it for, and of course I felt I needed to use every bit of it because I didn’t want to waste anything. And then lo and behold, a few days later after feeling bad about how the whole exchange went and berating myself for not being able to ask for what I needed in my haze of anxiety, I pulled out the fabric to admire it and I realized that it was EXACTLY enough to squeeze the Jackie Dress out of. Whew! What a journey, right?

With that 3 yards I eeked out a size 2/bust graded to a size 4/waist and hip with sleeves and the longest skirt version. I find that Victory Patterns tend to be too small on me but I figured that since this was a knit dress that was supposed to be very fitted and would stretch out a bit on my body, I could get away with it. Turns out I was ALMOST right, but not quite. Construction of the main part of the dress was straightforward and fast- I serged all the dress panels together (definitely my preference when working with velvet) and the bulk of it was constructed in less than 10 minutes. The more time consuming part came when piecing together the facings for the back bodice, which creates a modest but beautiful slit for a peekaboo glimpse of skin of the upper back, closed at the neck with three fabric loops + buttons. I used some knit interfacing for these pieces, which in my experience doesn’t work well with all knit fabrics, but it worked a treat on the velvet, stabilizing the pieces without bubbling and gaping anywhere.

This pattern is labeled as Intermediate probably because of the back facing and loop closures, which require some careful sewing, clipping to the seam allowance, and understitching, but the construction wasn’t difficult at all- I think that a beginning sewer could figure it out if going slowly and carefully. Once I finished my facing pieces and had everything constructed and laying perfectly flat, I sewed the short turtleneck collar onto the dress and tried it on. I was NOT impressed. As per the instructions, I sewed the neck seam with a zig zag stitch instead of serging it so that it wouldn’t be too bulky, and I under stitched to keep the top of the neck from rolling out, but it just wasn’t behaving at all. It looked messy and awkward, but even more importantly, IT WAS TOO TIGHT! I didn’t adhere to my go-up-a-size-with-this-company’s-patterns rule and I thought I was going to get away with it, but NOPE, turns out I was wrong. I hoped that I could squeeze out a bit of extra room since the back of the neck isn’t closed by a seam, but with a button, which provides a tiny bit of wiggle space. Maybe if I moved the button to the verrrry edge of the seam I could get a bit more breathing room? I tried it out by safety pinning the button loop to the furthest edge of the opposite seam, but it didn’t work- it was just too uncomfortable, and I knew that I would get no joy out of wearing the garment if I was constantly fidgeting with the fabric around my neck. But the ill fit didn’t end there- the back slit wasn’t behaving properly either; instead of laying flat, it was gaping slightly open into a subtle diamond shape and the inside edges were rolling out. The bodice did not feel or look too tight at all front the front or the sides, but the slit was splaying open as if it were too tight. UGH.

As per usual when I am stumped and frustrated by a project, I put the dress away for the day. I don’t remember if I dreamed the solution to my problem with this dress or not, but that happens often- when I am deep in a sewing project that isn’t working, I have anxiety dreams about it. When I waited tables back in the day, after particularly busy shifts I used to dream about being at work all night, and I would wake up in the morning so pissed because I wasn’t getting paid for the “work” I was doing in my dreams! My sewing dreams are similar- I replay the sewing issue I am having on a loop, trying out different possibilities until I figure out what will work. More than once I have woken up in the morning and remembered the solution to my problem after dreaming about it. But I have also woken up before, excited that I had the perfect fix, and then, after recalling what I was supposed to do, become completely disheartened that the fix made absolutely no sense at all (once it went something like  wake up: “Oh, It think I know how to fix this blouse now! Okay, what was it again?…I have to….glue…glue something….glue a….plastic…wait, I’m supposed to glue a plastic tube into the threads of my fabric?? what the hell??”). Anyways, I can’t remember if I actually dreamed about this Jackie dress or not, but regardless, I woke up knowing exactly what I needed to do to fix the super tight neck and hopefully the gaping peekaboo slit in the back.

I unpicked the turtleneck and it’s facing (which was bulky underneath the dress and never wanted to lay down properly anyways), and I added a simple neck binding in it’s place, folding the ends on either side under since the neck wasn’t a closed seam. This obviously lowered the neckline of the dress, which in turn affected the placement of the buttons, and that mostly fixed my issue with the gaping back- with lower buttons, the pieces were closed further down the back so there wasn’t as much room for it to splay open. It still doesn’t lay down as flat as I would like, and in hindsight I should have used some stay tape at those seams to keep them more stable, but I don’t think it’s that noticeable…and if it is, I simply don’t care at this point- the rest of the dress is too pretty to get stuck on that small detail.

I really did like the look of this dress with the turtleneck, but I am super happy with my regular neckline now. For one thing, it is WAY more comfortable, and for another, I’m not entirely sure that the turtleneck looked that good on me in the first place. I love turtlenecks, but I sometimes feel a bit swallowed up by them, like I just have a big, round, floating head on top of a mass of fabric. The garment still looks dressy and feminine with the more casual neckline, in part because I was able to keep the back of the dress as is with the button closures and slit. I love the length of the dress and the width of the swingy skirt paired with the long sleeves, and I have already worn the dress a lot this season. But most of all I am REALLY into this beautiful velvet! I have seen other floral velvets on the bolt that look so dated and tired that I half expected them to smell like mothballs, but the design of this fabric is so great! The size of the print and the bright colors against the black work really well together, and coupled with this pattern, it’s got the perfect 70’s vibe that I keep finding myself drawn to. Unfortunately I had a really hard time photographing this dress- I’m not sure why! But after two separate photoshoot attempts with sub par results, I decided to just stick with the 3 or 4 photos that looked decent enough to share here and call it a day. Thanks for your help with the photos, Claire!

First Completed Project of 2018: Niizocraft Sunny Day Bag Kit (and a Bonus Ogden Cami!)

Niizocraft wrote me a few months ago asking if I would be interested in a free bag kit to review for her etsy shop where she sells bag patterns and kits that are complete with all the materials you need to make her designs. I was honored by the request but my initial response was to say no- I don’t really do many sponsored posts, and at the time my schedule was too hectic with work and Christmas gift making to commit myself to a project with a deadline. However, I changed my mind after I went to the Niizocraft site and saw the patterns and bag kits that she sells. The designs are GLORIOUS, and I immediately saw three designs that I really wanted to make at some point in the future.

I loved the color collections that she put together for the kits- they were combos that I probably would never have chosen for myself, but they looked great together, and she had a nice range of canvas colors to select for the main fabric. I was intrigued by taking a more passive position behind the maker’s wheel and letting someone else do the work of fabric selection and material sourcing for once. So I changed my no to a yes (Niizocraft graciously allowed me to make the bag in my own time instead of giving me a deadline for the Christmas holidays) and I received the bag kit in a matter of days. I chose the mauve colored kit in the Sunny Day Canvas Bag design because I wanted something a little more chic and put together than the bags that I usually sub for purses on a daily basis. I, like most shoppers in metropolitan cities trying to do what they can to eliminate waste, have no less than 30 cloth shopping bags that I keep in the trunk of my car and various places around my house so that I don’t have to use paper or plastic in the check out line, and even though they are all stained and smell faintly of old vegetables, they are easy to grab when I’m running errands or heading off to appointments. Those cloth shopping bags get the job done but they aren’t very stylish, and the Sunny Day bag seemed like the perfect answer to my everyday bag needs. I love that it doesn’t have long handles where the bag part is constantly banging my waist- instead it’s designed to be worn high and close to the body. It’s also super roomy with LOT’s of pockets so I can put headshots, sides, books, my bullet journal AND my water bottle inside without losing track of where they are and having all the small items sink to the bottom (those large, deep pockets on either end of the inside of the bag fit my 32 ounce Nalgene water bottle with room to spare!)

I must say that I was super tickled to open the box from Niizocraft and see the all the contents so painstakingly organized, labeled and packaged. It even came with a little card that said “birth certificate” on it! Come on, that’s the freaking cutest thing ever! It reminds me of Cabbage Patch dolls! When choosing the kit I wanted, Niizocraft asked what I would like to be stamped on the leather tag that is sewn on the outside of the bag. I made a little squeal when I saw the stamped leather piece in the kit, complete with two leather needles and waxed nylon thread to sew onto the canvas. Also included were two zippers, belting, a brass hook, and enough canvas, batting, and nylon lining to complete the project, each with a label stuck onto it so you would know exactly what you needed to be working with: she includes every single thing you need to make her bags except the sewing machine.

As this was my first sewing project of the new year and I had not sewn anything for weeks thanks to the Christmas holidays, I was excited to have a simple project to ease me back into my groove, and this bag didn’t disappoint. I printed out my pattern pieces, loaded the instructions onto my iPad and went to work.

All in all I started and finished the bag in a little over a day. The instructions were mostly clear, but I had to rely on the photos a few times when I got stumped, and there were a couple of small typos I found, mostly in the measurements- if you have any experience sewing at all, these things would barely register as a blip on your radar. One things that was a little tricky for me were the seam allowances. Most of the seams of this bag are sewn at either 3/8″ (pretty standard) or 3/16″ (not as standard) so I had to pay close attention to when they allowances changed to make sure that I was actually sewing 3/16″ instead of 1/4″ since the former measurement is not marked on my machine. There are some construction techniques included in the instructions that I had never seen before- they were really fun to do, but they slowed me down a bit just because I was unfamiliar with them. This bag has a difficulty level of 4 out of 5 stars, which seemed accurate to me, but there are many bags on her site with varying levels, so a beginning sewist would probably do well so start out with a design that was a bit simpler (although it is certainly possible for a beginning sewist to complete this bag with no problem!)

I made one mistake with a couple of the pocket pieces that I didn’t realize til I had already sewn it to the bag, and then when I tried to unpick the seam with my seam ripper, I sliced open the canvas in a very obvious place! Thankfully I had juuuuust enough canvas left over to re-cut the pocket piece in the right size (two of the main fabric pocket pieces look the same but one is a little bit longer and I had used the wrong ones in the wrong areas). I reattached the correct sized piece to the bag and it looks terrific. This is one of my favorite parts of the bag- the outside piece of the outside pocket is folded up and sewn so that it conceals the zipper behind it. Very clever design element and it looks very sleek on the outside.

The bag is crowning!!!!

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I am incredibly happy with how my Sunny Day Bag turned out and I am so glad that I added it to my roster of makes. As you can see, the Niizocraft designs are pretty fantastic, and I appreciate that you can buy them without having to get a whole kit if that’s not how you like to make things. BUT! I can also say that, as someone who prefers to choose her own fabrics and buy her own materials, it was such a treat to have everything done for me and just concentrate on the making. Obviously this is a great gift to give to a new sewist who might not have all the odds and ends in their arsenal needed to complete a bag of this caliber, but I think seasoned sewists would get just as much joy from a kit like this, too.

Now, for a short Part II of this blog post, I finallyyyyyyy made a True Bias Ogden Cami! It’s been on my list for the longest, I even drew it out in my fashion sketchbook, but it took me a really long time to finally make it. It’s an incredibly popular pattern (and now that I have made it I see why!) because it’s generally quick to make, it doesn’t take up a lot of yardage, and the results are beautiful and satisfying- it is flattering and pretty on every single person I have seen wearing it. Because it’s such a simple make I don’t have too much to say about it- the instructions were great and it came together in a few hours, AFTER I realized that I CUT THE BACK PIECE OUT IN A SIZE 12?!?! Hahahaha, y’all, I have NO IDEA what happened! I was just putting my pattern pieces away and I realized that my lining piece for the back was a way different size than the actual back piece. I laid it over the PDF of the pattern and yes indeed, the pattern piece was 4 sizes larger. The craziest thing about this is that the lining still fit! When I was lining up the pieces of the lining to the shell, I did notice that the side seams were not matching up at all, but I didn’t think much about it, I just eased some of the fabric on one side and gently stretched it on the other side, and the pieces fit together- you totally can’t tell from the outside! I must have been in a big hurry because the pattern lines are clear and the sizes aren’t confusing at all. So the back of my cami is a little wider than it would be if I had cut out a size 4 (I could have gone with a 2 but I didn’t want the bottom to hug my hips so I went with a 4 and shaved off a tiny bit of fabric under the armholes on each pattern piece).

All in all I am in LOVE with this cami! When visiting Seattle recently, my friends took me to a fabric store that had a bolt of sandwashed silk, which I hardly ever come across in person, so I got 1 yard, more of a souvenir than anything else. Of course I realized later that the Ogden would be perfect to use up that tiny cut of fabric, but I had to be VERY strategic in how I cut out my pattern pieces- it just barely fit onto the silk, and now I know why…because I was squeezing 4 additional sizes into one of the pattern pieces, lol! But I made it work, and the cami feels both dressy and casual at the same time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BeowMJ7AFUB/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I read somewhere, maybe in my comments on IG, that a lot of people found that the lining inside wasn’t long enough (it hits me just at the bottom of my boob), but since I didn’t have much fabric to work with I cut the pattern out as is, and so far I am happy with it. I am able to go braless with this tank because I am a card wielding member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, but maybe someone with bigger tatas might need more coverage with the lining to feel comfortable. The lining doesn’t offer any actual support, but it does provide an extra layer of fabric which feels a little more stable, like you aren’t wearing something that’s gonna blow away in the tiniest breeze. Since half of my tank is cut out in the wrong size, I feel like I can’t really speak to how the actual garment is supposed to fit, but I love how it billows and floats around my body without feeling like I am too exposed, and I love the slightly deeper curve of the back hem. The slight v of the neckline in the back and the straps hitting at the perfect place in the front are lovely, too- they make this garment look and feel both a little effortless and a little glam at the same time. Beautiful drafting and I can see myself wearing this garment all over this spring and summer…and fall, because, well, this is LA! (Ogden Cami is pictured with my latest pair of Ginger Jeans…will never tire of this pattern!)

 

Velvet, Gold and Pussy Bowed

When I randomly saw this dress on Beate J’Adore’s blog sometime last winter, I was more than a little obsessed. The rusty chocolate silk velvet she used was so luxurious and stunning, and I loved the easy shape of the garment: fitted and flirty and feminine without looking too buttoned up. But of course, most of all, I just loooooved that long bow at the neck! So GORGEOUS! I was so obsessed that I even started perusing the silk velvet she used from Mood Fabrics, and y’all know I can’t STAND Mood- the only way I ever use fabrics from that place is if someone buys some for me as a gift! Anyways, I pinned the image onto my Clothing Inspiration board on Pinterest and kept drooling over it periodically, even when the weather in LA turned hell-fire hot and the mere thought of wearing velvet could make you break out into a sweat. And then, as the seasons began changing around the rest of the country, velvet started popping up in all my favorite fabric stores- I’ve always loved velvet but I haven’t had the easiest time hunting it down. Thankfully it was a huge trend this season and I was able to snag a few beautiful cuts of it.

I went back to the blog post and read the notes on the dress. They were very scant, which I am not judging because I do the same thing on my blog- when I make pattern hacks, I am not very forthcoming with all the minute details, only because when I’m in the middle of the process, I rarely take notes since I’m not interested in doing tutorials. Of course, now I have experienced firsthand the frustration of reading about a beautiful garment on a blog and not knowing exactly how they got to their end result! But this is the beauty of sewing and pattern hacking in general- sometimes you have to figure out how to make it your own, and that’s what I did. I even took notes! It’s still not a tutorial mind you, and definitely not as detailed as they could be, but it should be enough to put you on the right track if you want to recreate the lovely garment that J’Adore inspired!

She used an older Vogue pattern that I think is out of print, so I got my hands on a cheap copy of Vogue 8829 from etsy. I laughed when I saw the pattern envelope- the image art looks pretty dated and I just don’t think I would ever have seen this pattern and thought to myself, “this would make a stunning garment,” which is one the reasons I love following sewing bloggers- some people can find diamonds in the rough where you see nothing but a pile of dirt. First issue I ran into: which version of the dress did she use?? This is one of those patterns with a lot different variations- long sleeves, short sleeves, knee length, maxi, regular collar, pussy bow, etc. I could figure out the top half the dress, but I wasn’t sure which skirt shape she used, the slightly flared skirt or the one with pleats. Ultimately I chose Version A which most closely matched the photos of her dress, and then I dove into making all the tweaks she mentioned in her blog post: cutting the front bodice and front skirt pieces on the fold instead of as drafted with button bands down the front, adding some width and length to the bow (if I make this again I might add even MORE length!), and making room for a side zip (since the front opening is omitted).

I was a bit confused on the back piece- she wrote that she added darts to the back bodice, but there were no photos of her in the dress with a view of the back so I had no idea where they were placed or if she had eliminated the pleat at the top of the back bodice where it meets the yoke. In hindsight, I should have redrafted the entire pattern piece because it’s actually huge, but I didn’t realize how big it would be at the time so I constructed it according to the directions, creating two pleats at the top middle of the back bodice piece. I tried it on and it had a poofy, bloused effect at the back waist- way too much fabric back there, which ended up looking really heavy in my velvet fabric. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough velvet to redraft the back bodice piece so I decided to do a moderate adjustment and take out some of the length at the back bodice where it met the waistband of the skirt. Then I sewed the extra fabric poofiness down into darts on either side of the center back. It’s not the most glamorous adjustment you’ve ever seen- pleats at the top and darts at the bottom of a back bodice is not exactly a design choice that you see too often with good reason- it looks so busy! But I would rather my silhouette look nice and smooth with some weird darts thrown in than have a clean looking bodice that is poofy and too big for my frame. I also shortened the shoulder seams which I often do on Big 4 patterns, and I ended up taking the waist of both the bodice and the skirt in over an inch on each side.

At this point I made an accidental discovery that actually worked in my favor for once. For some reason I had entirely forgotten to leave enough room at the skirt and bodice seams for a side zip since there were no other openings to get in and out of the dress with the omission of the front button bands. And then I realized that J’Adore’s silk velvet must not have been a stretch knit, which is why she had to put in the side zip. I’m not sure why it took me so long for this realization- I had been happily serging all my seams together from the very beginning, which I prefer when working with velvet because for me, it’s so much easier to serge fabrics with pile than it is to sew them on a regular machine, even with a walking foot. So, now with all my side seams completely serged together, it was time for a moment of truth- would this dress fit over my head easily or would I have to unpick all my stitching and figure out a way to squeeze a zip in? I suddenly remembered one of the adjustments J’Adore made that didn’t make sense to me at the time. She said she added two inch panels to either side of the dress underneath the sleeves. The panels, which are barely visible in the photos, don’t seem to offer much in the way of a design choice, so maybe she had an issue with fit, or maybe she forgot to put in a side zip to get in and out of the dress just like I did, and then added panels to make it a bit easier to stick the zip in at the last minute? I don’t know exactly what her process was, but thankfully, with my serged seams and stretchy velvet fabric, the dress fit over my body through the neck hole with ease- no need to add a zip- hallelujah!

After fixing the back bodice to hug my body better, the rest of the dress was a breeze. I lowered the neckline as directed by her blog post, enough so that my head could squeeze through, but I took out less than she did (I think about 3/4″, since I had more flexibility with my stretch knit). I attached the band of the bow at the neck and hand sewed it close to the edges of the neckline.

This area was a little tricky since I was sewing a rectangular pattern piece to a circle, whose edges had to simply end front and center instead of being attached to a left and right button band as the pattern was initially drafted for.  I sewed the edges of the bow as close together as possible at the center front neck and it looks fine on the outside, but a little more visible on the inside. I don’t anticipate that the neckline edge will stretch out much since my stretch fabric has a lot of resiliency, but on a less stable knit, this would be something to be aware of.

The last adjustment came with the sleeves. I had to take out additional length from them even though I cut the lines for the “petite” option on all portions of the garment- I think they might be drafted as very baggy and drapey over the hands, which is not a design element I like at all. I don’t like stuff flowing around my hands or getting in their way, it takes all I can muster to wear a bracelet for longer than 10 minutes. Here I took a cue from J’Adore’s post where she wrote that she put pleats in the sleeves and used elastic at the hems. Another thing I don’t like about sleeves? Elasticized hems, lol. Not sure why, but I just prefer either a regular folded hem or a cuff. Thankfully I was able to use the stretchiness of my fabric to my advantage once again, so I attached a self drafted cuff at the bottom of the sleeves and I didn’t need to use elastic at all (the original cuff was as weirdly long as the sleeves).

And voila! Although I wasn’t using a beautiful silk velvet like J’Adore was, I think the dress still came out really nice- I love the way it shimmers and shines in the light and the fit is spot on! It’s a very luxe looking dress to me and I think it will serve me well if I ever go on a trip to a place that’s cold as it’s still SEVENTY DEGREES IN LA RIGHT NOW. Sorry, I shouldn’t complain when the east coast is suffering through a snow bomb or whatever they are calling it, but a little bit of breezy weather would be such a treat considering all these nice fall/winter makes I have in my closet! Even if it does get cooler I’m not sure if I can pull off the dress-over-jeans-look like J’Adore did in her photos, which looks stunning, but who knows- I was inspired enough to do a mad pattern hack based on her style choices make so maybe I will be brave enough to test out her layered look, too!

 

P.S. Sorry, I don’t remember where I got my hat from, and also, THANK YOU FOR THE PICTURES, CLAIRE!

#LanderPantsDance

When I finished these pants and ran upstairs from my craft room to see how they looked with shoes, I got so hyped when I saw myself in the mirror that I started dancing in my bathroom, and I managed to press record on my phone just in time to capture it. This is how the idea of a hashtag joyously celebrating a sewist’s Lander Pants completion officially began on instagram, and with the help of a few lovely sewists who chimed in to suggest it be a thing (including the awesome designer of the pants herself!), LanderPantsDance went viral!!!!

How I Feel About the Lander Pants™ #truebiaslanderpants #landerpantsdance #landerpants

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Okay, maybe not viral.

But I’ve been tagged in AT LEAST 4 posts of other sewists dancing in their Lander Pants, and that’s enough for me, haha!

What can I say about these pants?? First of all, I was SO STOKED when True Bias released the design. They happened to be the spitting image of a pair of wide legged jeans I tried to hack early this year only to watch them suffer a bizarre and untimely demise when the front legs twisted so dramatically in the front that the side seams traveled across the fronts of my legs. Only thing I can come up with is that they were cut severely off-grain, but…they weren’t! I know, because I was there! Anyways, that WIP has been languishing in the Butthole Bin for the longest, so when I saw the design for the Lander Pants, I realized that my dreams of owning a 70’s inspired pair of wide legged trousers could still be a reality for me! Weirdly enough, I didn’t make them in denim, but more on that later.

I made these pants in less than two days, and I have to say, the fit is pretty terrific. It helps that they have such wide legs, so after you get the shaping and fitting for the waist and hips right, the rest is a breeze. But also know that I have read Heather Lou of Closet Case Files’ e-book for jeans making and blog posts about pants fitting extensively, so all the successes I have with pants is 100% due to her (if you are stressed about/unsure of the process, read her materials! They are concise, easy-to-comprehend, and most importantly, they work!)

One thing I learned from Heather’s series of how-tos is that I need to draft a curved waistband for pretty much any fitted pants design I want to wear. I actually just use the same pattern piece from the Ginger Jeans that I adapted for my body, and I sub it in for other pants patterns that have roughly the same waistband size. Instead of a straight or very slightly curved rectangle for the waistband, which works on many bodies that don’t have a big difference between their waist and hips, I redrafted it so that the top of the waistband has a deeper curve, which allows it to lay right up against my waist instead of gaping like pretty much every RTW pair of pants does on me. I used this waistband on my Landers and of course it worked a real treat!

For a round bottomed girl, I thought these pants fit pretty great right out the box. I didn’t do much adjusting with them after using my curved waistband; I think I brought in the back seam just a bit at the very top at the waist, and when I make them again I might 1. dig out a tiny bit of room in the back crotch curve for the teeniest bit more space and 2. elongate the fly (why I didn’t do this from the beginning I have no idea- sometimes I like to try the original pattern as-is before making too many drastic changes to it but I need to be real with myself- a longer fly front on pants is pretty much a necessity for me across the board). My favorite thing about the pattern is that the leg pieces are drafted with a 1 inch seam allowance on the outside seams so that you can baste and fit as you are going, which was incredibly helpful! I muslined these pants and I needed to add about a 1/4 inch more room at the side seams around the thickest part of my body, but that was just to ensure that I maintained a 5/8 seam allowance- I definitely could have made the adjustment with the pants pattern pieces as drafted.

As is well-documented here on this blog, I am not crazy about wearing black clothing (how Katie from What Katie Sews does it so brilliantly, I will never know!) and this make honestly did little to change my mind. The fabric itself is brilliant- perfect weight, easy to sew with, feels soft but sturdy- I just wish it was in a different color, and unfortunately black was all I could find when I was shopping for corduroy. Why did I choose corduroy instead of denim, you may ask? No idea. In my quest for a beautiful and versatile fall wardrobe, corduroy kept popping up for me so I just kind of stuck with it- I thought it would be a fun textile and a nice change from denim. But in addition to the color just not doing it for me personally, I think it also hides all the cool details of these pants (textile included) which is what got me so excited about making them in the first place. You can’t really see how cute the big patch pockets are on the fronts, can’t see the meticulously sewed topstitching on the waistband and pockets and belt loops- I feel like the dark color just sucks up all the extra cool things about this make. But it’s ok! I am just going to consider them a wearable muslin (because I still think they are super cute and I know I will get some wear out of them) and make my next pair in the washed denim that I originally envisioned them in! And then I can also put a tiny bit more room in the crotch and lengthen the fly front so that getting in and out of the pants is easier.

Speaking of fly fronts, this button fly was the first I had ever constructed and it was SO fun! After making so many jeans I have become pretty confident with inserting a zip fly, but for some reason I was anxious about a button fly- probably just because it was a journey into the unknown. But I shouldn’t have been worried at all; the button fly was way easier and quicker to construct than a zip fly and I absolutely love the way it looks. The instructions for the fly, as with everything else, were super easy to follow and well thought out, and I honestly couldn’t believe how quickly this pattern came together. They were a dream to sew! I decided to use the longer view of the design (they also come in a cropped and shorts length) and then I added a few extra inches because I wanted my hems to cover my shoes and just barely skim the ground, which the longest view of this pattern does not do. It was an easy fix and I am happy with the length. The only real thing I am unhappy about with these pants (aside from the color) is the fear that my thighs are going to start a fire every time I walk around. The zipzipzipzip sound is deafening! I forgot what a weirdo fabric corduroy can be, but whatever- people won’t even notice it when they are so bowled over by this wicked FIT! 😉