Turtleneck Hack in Mustard

So far my fall/winter makes list has been coming together fairly nicely, but I have hit a few roadblocks along the way. One was the infamous pair of peg leg pants that I made from a rich butternut corduroy in the Style Arc Tully pattern. After all was said and done I ended up looking like an ensemble member from Oliver! and we had a real good laugh at my #sewingfail on instagram (prompting me to consider starting a submissions only IG account posting all of our worst/most hilarious/most educational sewing fails, because EVERYONE seems to get a good kick out of those!) Another roadblock was the drop sleeved hoodie made of a coffee colored raw silk. It came out fine for the most part, it just didn’t really wow me all that much. The drab design paired with the muted neutral color made the whole garment feel sort of blah, and I learned that I don’t like drop sleeves very much. I thought the hoodie would be a nice staple to use for layers this season, but so far I never really reach for it because it’s just about my least favorite thing in my closet.

The most recent roadblock I faced was figuring out how to recreate this turtleneck dress I have had pinned on my pinterest board for over a year. I was enamored by it’s simplicity- clean lines, no sleeves, and a big thick turtleneck to top it off. So simple, yet so incredibly chic, and I hadn’t really seen a pattern or piece of clothing in a store that looked quite like it (though admittedly I haven’t shopped for RTW in a long time). This seemed like a fairly easy hack to pull off, so I pulled out some muslin knit material and tried to draft it myself, something I very rarely do. A little while later I had a pattern from my draped fabric and it was not terrible- I might even say it was pretty good! But it turns out that it simply wasn’t what I was looking for.

The silhouette of the original dress that I was copying (shown above) had a very loose fit- it seemed to just barely skim the curves of the bust of the form underneath it. But, given my personal experience with shapeless sack dresses, I was too afraid to commit to that design because it never looks as good on me as I want it to. So instead I draped a design that was a little looser than a normal body-con dress but that still fit my curves. This was wrong both in theory and practice: loose body-con dress is an oxymoron, and on top of that, once the dress was constructed it just looked…sad. Part of this was the fact that my fabric, a glorious navy blue ribbed knit from The Fabric Store (I bought it online but I have recently seen it in the LA store) was not the right textile for what I was using it for. It didn’t have a ton of stretch, but rather a drapier quality than most knits, so using it to “hug” my curves was a lost cause- instead, it hung limply from my body, not quite clingy, but not loose enough to let the fabric flow the way it wanted to. On a body bigger than mine that could really stretch out the loose shape of this dress, it just might work great, but not so much for me (if I can modify the armholes a bit to make them larger, I might be able to gift this dress to my mom).

So! Back to the drawing board! I am not sure why or when, but as some point, after sitting in my disappointment for failing at this garment, I went back to the original dress and wondered if I should try again using the intended silhouette as the design. This time perhaps I could fully embrace the “sack” like quality of the dress instead of fighting so hard against it! Immediately the Tessutti Frankie dress popped into my head. It has a design similar to the Ebony Tee by Closet Case patterns, a bit of an A-line shape which could either be ramped up or toned down depending on the fabric used. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I bought a couple of yards of this really fantastic, luxurious ribbed knit fabric in gold from Blackbird Fabrics. I had recently been in Vancouver for work and was able to stop by their studio to record an episode of Helen and Caroline’s podcast Love to Sew (mentioned in this blog post), and while in the space, I ran my fingers over several bolts of fabric and was able to personally experience how amazing they were. Everything was so soft, beautifully colored, rich feeling, and I knew exactly what I wanted to buy once I got myself to a computer to place an order. This gold ribbed knit is similar in structure to the blue ribbed knit I got from The Fabric Store, but a little drapier, with a slightly smoother hand, and with better recovery. I imagined this gold textile would be a better pairing for the dress I was going to make from the Tessuti pattern, which was already in my stash and easily hackable.

The hack was pretty simple- I omitted the facings and brought the neckline in on both the front and back pieces, since the original Frankie pattern has a slight boatneck design and I wanted a more standard neckline to accommodate a turtleneck. I think I eye-balled my neckline, but you could also use a favorite tee shirt pattern and trace that neckline onto your pattern pieces.

I kept the 3/4 sleeve length as-is but added thick cuffs to the hems (pretty much my go-to these days) which brought the sleeves closer to my wrists for more coverage, and I lengthened the front and back dress pieces nearly 10 inches because, since I kept the sleeves long, I figured I should make the whole dress wearable for cooler weather. Somehow, probably because of eyeballing the curve of the bottom of the pattern pieces instead of being precise with rulers, I cut my dress pieces out with a very subtle hi-lo hem. It’s not quite noticeable, but it dips deeper in the back than in the front, and I noticed this after I sewed the pieces together at the shoulder seams, but I didn’t even the hems out. I thought it made the dress a bit more interesting, and it mirrors the hemline of the Tessutti Anna dress that I made a couple years back, which I also love.

This is a very quick dress to make, especially without the facings, so it came together in no time. After the sleeves and front and back pieces were serged together, I tried it on and HALLELUJAH I loved it! I’m not really sure how technically close it is to the pinterest dress I obsessed over, but it works really well on me. It doesn’t cling to any parts of my body underneath the bust, but surprisingly, I don’t feel like I am swimming in it- there is enough fabric to create pretty folds as it falls from the bust, but not so much that it looks like a tent, and my fabric choice helped a lot with that. If it were in a stiffer fabric (like the embossed ponte knit that I originally made this dress in last year), it wouldn’t work with this hack at all, so I love that I stumbled upon this perfect ribbed fabric after my trials and errors.

Ahh, the turtleneck- it’s the only part of this hack that gave me problems, and all of it is my fault! The first time I attempted to make this pinterest dress, I used a ribbed knit fabric that had two identical/usable sides on the front and back. I didn’t take into account that my gold ribbed knit had a smooth back side with ribs on the front, so when I tried to make a turtleneck out of one piece of folded rectangular fabric, as I had with my first attempt- well, you can fill in the blanks, lol.

I was cursing myself something awful when I realized that my neck folded to the wrong side, but it was fairly simple to fix- unfortunately I was running out of fabric and had to be very inventive with how I cut my next pieces. The easiest fix would have been to sew two rectangles together so that both the outside and inside folded with it’s right sides out, but I didn’t want to have quadruple layers of fabric at my neck and I didn’t want to have a seam at the top of the fold either. So instead I cut the top of the inside of the neck off about midway up, then I sewed my rectangle to the edge of the shortened neck so that the outside rib shows when it is folded over. If you lift the turtleneck all the way up you can see the underside of the fabric, but it doesn’t matter because the seam is far enough up the neck that you don’t see it when it’s folded over. I love this fix and it’s very comfortable! My only other issue is that I wish I had made the neck a TINY bit wider to accommodate a slightly larger turtleneck- it’s a very tight squeeze to get my head through the hole (one of those do your hair and makeup AFTER it’s already on dresses)! But I actually do like the slim look of the neck, and it doesn’t feel too tight at all when it’s on.

I am SO GLAD that I went back to the drawing board with this dress because it really is everything I imagined that it would be, and it’s even more wearable with the changes I made to it than what I initially envisioned. I am so glad that I have been actively looking for fabrics in oranges, yellows and golds for my fall/winter makes because let me tell you something- I get MORE COMPLIMENTS ON THESE GARMENTS THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN MY CLOSET. Like, from strangers. And strangers don’t normally come and talk to me cause I have a bit of resting bitch face if I’m stressed or busy or running late (I’m not ashamed- most people are not happy and approachable ALL the time, nor should we be!) Anyways, it has been surprising how often these colors spark kind comments from people on the street, and I am ALL FOR IT. Also, this dress is insanely cozy and fun to style. Since the fabric is so supple and the shape isn’t clingy, it flows well without accentuating bumps and lines and folds that body parts and undergarments tend to create under clothing. I personally don’t mind having faint panty lines because, guess what, I wear panties! But I don’t particularly like when they are distracting, so I appreciate that this dress looks really chic on the outside while allowing me to live that granny-panty lifestyle underneath.

Autumnal colors for the WIN, y’all!

Winslow Culottes in Pumpkin Tencel Twill

Every time I see or hear the word “culottes” I smile a little inside because I love them so much now as an adult, but MAN I used to hate them as a kid. Growing up in the deep south as mixed race, I was shuttled between my parents who resided on the literal white and black sides of town, respectively, and I stuck out a lot by merely existing. But I also often felt like I was invisible. I learned how to make myself small and quiet, always respectful to figures of authority, never begging for attention. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted people to say nice things about me, but unfortunately that wasn’t the kind of regard that most strangers paid me. They would say things like “where are you from, can’t be from around here” or “are you adopted?” or more commonly, to my mother, “my goodness she is so clean and well behaved!”, which I knew from a early on not to take as a compliment.

So rather than make myself known and therefore susceptible to backhanded compliments (or bold faced ignorance), I tried to blend in as much as I possibly could. Unfortunately, my mother, with her coiffed, dyed mullet, her 9 inch long “tail” and her high heels, wasn’t interested in blending in AT ALL. In any other major metropolitan city she would have been considered a fashion icon in the 80’s with her daring style, but in Birmingham, AL she was like a beam of electricity that most parents of the kids I went to school with tried to avoid at all costs. She would not listen to me when I said that I wanted to wear those handmade floral jumpers that practically every girl in the second grade started wearing at seemingly the same time (to this day I am convinced that all their grandmothers got together and had a jumper making stitch n bitch of the exact same McCalls pattern)- instead, she put me in neon striped knee socks and button down shirts with a big paisley scarf tied in a bow at the neck. She kind of went through a private-school-girl-with-the-volume-turned-up phase with me during my first years of elementary school (even though I went to public school). Of course, the me now would be EATING those looks up: “Yaaaaassss, honey! Wear those houndstooth stirrups and read them for filth in that cafeteria!” But back then, wearing funky styles that set me even more apart from all my peers was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. My most hated garment that my Mom picked out for me was a pair of knee length navy wool culottes. She liked to pair them with those aforementioned knee socks and my pink leather ankle boots and I HATED IT! All the other kids I was going to school with were wearing pretty  dresses with giant bib collars, their initials monogrammed in pink, ruffles sewn onto every hem in sight, and here I show up in penny loafers with a sweater tied around my shoulders, my hair in cornrows and beads, looking like a preppy baby DJ for MTV. It was awful.

In hindsight, those were actually the good old days, because when I was 8 my little brother Nick came along. Money got much tighter and I was lucky to get new back to school clothing from KMart, much less have my Mom shop for outfits from department stores that she wished she was wearing. KMart has come a long way these days and although it’s been a minute since I shopped in one, I’ve seen the commercials- they have pretty cute fashion now! But when I was a kid, the selection was abysmal, and even I could tell the difference in the quality of a pair of their jeans compared to say, a pair from JCPenny. And don’t even get me started on having to wear the Payless version of KEDS shoes! When I was lucky enough to get a real pair of KEDS (which literally ALL the white kids in my school were wearing), I would wear them til they were in stained tatters on my feet, then I would carefully peel off what was left of the little blue rubber label on the back and carefully glue it with Elmer’s onto my new $5 shoes. I wasn’t fooling anybody, but I think my friends respected the fact that I was putting forth the effort to not appear as poor as I was.

So now here we are, decades later: my Mom doesn’t dress me anymore, and I have somehow survived every awful fashion phase the 90’s and early 2000’s could muster. But I find myself instantly, surprisingly, inexplicably drawn to culottes ALL THE TIME! One of my favorite items/patterns in my closet is a culotte jumper (basically a combo of both what I wanted to wear and what I was forced to wear in 1st grade) that I sewed a couple years ago which I have duplicated at least twice, and I also consider these Flint pants to be a culotte contender in the flowy linen I chose for them. Mind you, there is a fine line between a culotte and a palazzo pant (the latter reminds me of my years in show choir where some high schools would forgo the typical sequined dress for flowy polyester pants to ‘shake things up a bit’ lol) so I always try to keep my culottes ankle length or shorter, which also helps to balance out the proportions on me a bit more since I am petite and can easily look swallowed up by skirts and pants with a lot of fabric.

I came across the Winslow Culotte pattern by Helen’s Closet a long time ago- it’s been pinned on my “Patterns To Sew” board pretty much since it came out. But I never actually bought the pattern because I already had a Big 4 culotte pattern in my stash that I bought for like, $3 at a Joann’s sale, and I hate several of the same patterns in my arsenal. But there was something about the Big 4 pattern that wasn’t quite right to me, so even though I was yearning for that silhouette, I was never inspired enough to actually pull the pattern out and make it. When I was in Vancouver recently, I got an invite to come to the Blackbird Fabrics studio to record an episode of the Love To Sew podcast  (dreams really do come true!) and Helen was wearing her Winslows, and I was like ‘scuse me ma’am, WHAT ARE THOOOOSE?!?! They looked like a skirt at first glance, but of course they were actually pants that fit loosely in the hips and thighs, with perfectly placed pleats, that, in the right fabric, flowed and swished around the body with ease. They immediately evoked for me the image of someone taking a casual stroll down a warm, breezy beach in Greece. How could I say no to that?!

Helen thankfully let me ogle her pants for a bit and then suggested I make them in a tencel twill like she had, since the weight and drape of the fabric were perfectly suited for the pattern. I meandered over to the wall of fabric in the studio and my eyes settled on this pumpkin colored tencel twill (after my initial disaster with the orange Dickensian corduroys from instagram, I was looking for something in the same color family to replace them with). The tencel twill was soft and supple and flowed just as nicely as Helen’s fabric did, so I made a mental note to put a couple yards in my shopping cart when I got back to my hotel and could place an order at Blackbird. As a US customer I had always admired the Blackbird merchandise from afar, thinking that shipping and customs would be too expensive, but Caroline assured me that she ships UPS so there was no customs, it was totally affordable, and my package arrived within a week!

The Winslow pattern is simple, the instructions straightforward, and the result is an absolute hit! I am so in love with everything about them, from the color and texture of the fabric, to the length (the Winslow’s come in 3 lengths: knee, ankle and floor), to the pleat placement, to the waistband. I normally use a curved waistband block for all my pants, but I used the pattern piece as drafted for the Winslows, and because there is so much ease from the waist to the hips, it looks great on my shape and works well for the pattern.

I did have some issues with the pockets but it’s because of my own preferences and the finishes I decided to use. The pockets are drafted as expected, roomy and well placed on the garment and inserted at the side seams. However, because I was using french seams for most of my finishes inside the garment and decided at the last minute to use them on the pockets as well, the corners are a bit bulky. I have french seamed pockets successfully before, but I was in a real hurry to finish these pants so that I could wear them to Claire’s surprise birthday movie and in my rush I might have breezed over some areas that needed a bit more care than I gave them, lol. As a result, the fabric around the sides of the hips gets caught up in the pockets and doesn’t lay smoothly so they poof out a bit, which I don’t like. The pattern suggests you use bar tacks on the tops and bottoms of the pocket openings to keep them in place, but again, because my seams were so weirdly bulky, I omitted this step so that I wouldn’t draw even more attention to them.

this is a shot of the pockets laying down nicely…

Now if these pants were made out of a stiffer fabric, the pockets would probably lay down just fine and not cause any poofiness at all, but in this flowy tencel, the pockets just kind of collapse on themselves, creating bulk at the sides. These pants made me realize that, because my curvy hips tend to obstruct the flow of side pockets, I actually prefer the kind of pockets whose tops are drafted into the top of the waistband, which keeps them laying flat in the front while still accessible on the sides. The pockets of my JNCOS jumpsuit mentioned above are actually drafted like that, and even though the front of the garment has waist pleats and lots of fabric, the pockets stay put and keep the silhouette looking smooth on the sides (can you tell that “hip bulk” is a real trigger for me? insert eyeroll…y’all know what I blame this on, don’t you! hahaha). Another way to avoid pocket frump on the sides might have been for me to use a silk fabric for the pocket pieces, which probably would not cling to the fabric of the pants as much and would lay down a bit smoother than these do. Ahhh, hindsight!

and this is a shot of the pockets caught up in the fabric at the sides. Not that noticeable…to anyone but ME!

So guess what I’m gonna do- I’m just gonna cut the pockets out and french seam the pants straight through the opening! I know, I know, I love pockets as much as the next person and I’m always complaining about RTW that doesn’t incorporate them smartly (or at all), but what I love even more than perfect pockets is learning more about my own needs and tastes for my future makes. I am 1000% going to make another pair of Winslows, and I think they will be in black tencel like the ones I fell in love with that Helen was wearing, and I will make adjustments for the pockets to suit my needs perfectly, and they will be GLORIOUSSSSS! In the meantime, pockets or no pockets, NOTHING will keep me away from this pumpkin spiced goodness! They match well with so many things in my closet, and although so far I have only dressed them casually with clogs, a t shirt, and my jean jacket, I think they would be fire paired with some heels and a button down, or maybe a silk blouse. And also paired with the the camel colored cashmere swing coat that’s on my list of makes in the new year? Whew, that could be HOT!!!!! These are some bold ideas for a little kid who never ever wanted to stick out….at least I know I am making my Mom proud!

Somehow I managed to save this post so that I could publish it at the same time that my episode of Love To Sew podcast airs, which is today! Blogging a project inspired by Helen and Caroline seemed like a nice tribute to their awesome work in the sewing community, and a way for any of you readers who haven’t heard about the podcast yet to take a listen. It’s basically shop talk for all things sewing, with lots of really great topics covered, interviews with guests from all realms of the sewing world, and a LOT of good laughs. Both Helen and Caroline are so enthusiastic and encouraging, and their interviews, while always fun, also feel intimate and thoughtful. I feel like I am making new friends every time they have someone new on the show, and I can’t say enough about the positive impact that this sort of media has on the sewing and crafting community at large. Thanks again for having me on the show, y’all! And thanks to Claire for taking these pretty pictures of me!

I’VE BEEN PUMPKIN SPICE LATTEED!!!

 

High Yella Swan

I’ve had this Vogue pattern (labeled as both V1471 and Vp926 for some reason?) for a couple years, initially too intimidated by sewing lace to tackle it, but once I had several lace projects (mostly bras) under my belt, I realized that working with lace was totally in my wheelhouse…of course, then I never found lace in stores that really caught my eye. Not, that is, until I saw a gigantic bolt of ELECTRIC CHARTREUSE hiding on the bottom shelf of a table at The Fabric Store  in LA earlier this year. Well, hiding isn’t quite the right word to describe this textile- it’s obviously much too brilliant to be ignored, but I had never seen it before and it was on the bottom shelf, out of my direct vision. Once I caught a quick glimpse of it, I pulled it out and examined the gorgeous lace and knew it was coming home with me. Much like animal prints, neon colors are not really my cup of tea, but something about this neon color felt different. Maybe it’s because it was made into an airy lace, which gives the fabric a bit more depth as opposed to looking like just a flat, constant scream? Maybe it’s because it wasn’t quite yellow and not quite green, but rather that brilliant mix of both that Claire says is her favorite color on me? Whatever it was that drew me to it, I took a leap of faith and convinced myself that I could make something infinitely cool out of it.

A couple of weeks later I brought a swatch of the lace with me to Michael Levine’s to find the right lining fabric for it (The Fabric Store has beautiful lining fabrics but nothing paired quite right with this color). It was tougher than I expected. Because the lace is such a dynamic hue, the lining underneath could either make or break the full effect, and all the soft silks and rayons they had that were an appropriate textile for linings were just not the right color pairing for the lace. I finally found a bolt of fabric that was the perfect electric marriage for the chartreuse lace- it was more on the green side, which brought out the yellow in the lace a bit more- but it was a heavier fabric than what I was looking for, with a lot of body to it. I don’t know what kind of textile it is- kind of like a medium-to heavy weight taffeta or something? It’s smooth on one side, a bit matte on the other, and it’s the kind of fabric you would make a prom dress out of, not use for lining. It felt weird to “waste” this supple fabric underneath the shell of a lace dress, but the color was the only thing in the whole store that worked with the lace the way I wanted it to. So, another leap of faith and the electric green fabric came home with me.

Imagine my surprise when I got home, pulled out the pattern to start looking at the details of the make and I realized that EVERYTHING I BOUGHT WAS WRONG!!!! hahahaha. Did I spend an entire weekend earlier this year arranging my patterns into an online database so that I could access my patterns whenever and wherever I went? Yep! Did I use said database to double check my fabric choices when I was out shopping? OBVIOUSLY NOT. Sometimes apparently I can’t be bothered? This story has a happy ending, but let’s just take a scenic trip down Wrong Decision Rd., shall we?

The pattern explicitly calls for a stretch lace fabric for the shell of the dress and a lightweight stretch knit fabric for the lining. Though soft and supple, my electric lace was sturdy as shit, not stretching in any direction whatsoever, and the prom dress fabric I bought for the lining was just as stable. Sigh. I figured I would have to go up a size or two to accommodate the change from knit to woven fabric, but I usually have to size down for Big 4 patterns anyways, so did this mean I could make the actual size matching up to my measurements and it would fit perfectly? I had a flashback to the jacket of the floral suit I made in spring, how that Big 4 pattern had also called for a stretch knit and I had mistakenly settled on a woven fabric. When I measured the pattern pieces for the jacket it didn’t have any negative ease, meaning that, in theory, my woven fabric would translate just fine (and it did). I wondered if this dress was going to be the same, so I pulled out my tape and started adding together all the measurements at bust, hip, and waist. Just like the jacket, there was no negative ease in this garment, either, and if I recall, a bit of extra ease in some areas? So what is the point of making these patterns exclusively in a knit fabric, I ask you. I’m sure there is good reasoning, I just have no idea what it is.

I decided to make a straight size 10 to match up with my measurements, even though I usually make an 8 in bust and waist and grade up at the hips of Big 4s. Since the skirt of this dress was so full, though, I knew I wouldn’t need to adjust that area. And then, LEAP OF FAITH #3 for those of you who are counting, I cut straight into my fabric, no muslin! I usually make the same simple modifications in Big 4 garments that are are drafted with a close fit- I shorten the sleeves, shorten the shoulder seams and shorten the bodice, but because of the openness in the chest area of this design I thought I could get away without making the usual shoulder and bodice adjustments, and it worked. I did shorten the sleeve pattern piece since the edge of the sleeves have no hem and I knew I wouldn’t have any wiggle room to adjust them. This pattern utilizes the scalloped edge of the lace (a detail I just LOVE) and that’s pretty much all the adjusting that I needed to do.

Now for the tricky part- as I said, I had sewn with lace before, but mostly with bras, which contain lots of tiny, fiddly bits that are sewn at 1/4″ seam allowance. It didn’t take me long to get the hang of bra making with lace and I figured that sewing with such large pieces of non-stretch lace would be a walking foot in the park. And it was…until I got to the tiered gathered skirt pieces. Y’all. These skirt panels are like 8 feet long. 8 feet!!!! Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit…it  might have been more like 7 feet, hahaha. Ok, ok, never mind the actual footage of the panels, but trust me, they were surprisingly long! Imagine what looks like an 8 foot rectangle of lace that has to be gathered on one end down to 40 inches. Gathering so much material would have been fine with a lighter weight fabric, but like I said, my fabric was strong and stable, and on top of that, it was lace, which means there were gaps and holes along my gathering line where my stitching couldn’t pierce any fabric, so there were little sections that simply couldn’t be gathered at all. And then on top of even that, my thread kept breaking because my lace was made of kryptonite and the thread made apparently of the dust of an angel’s wings. Gathering the edges of my skirt panels took forever, and in hindsight, using a different technique to gather the fabric would have worked a treat- say, a zigzag stitch sewn over a long thread of yarn that I could pull taught. Of course I only realized that after I had gathered all the tiers of the skirt. And then ON TOP OF EVEN THAAAAAAAAT, I french seamed all the tiers of the skirt panels!!!!!!! Which was very bulky and fiddly and time consuming!!!!! But whatever, I got it all done and it didn’t look messy and learned a couple of lessons in the process (like, don’t do this again). Of course, in the midst of sewing all those frustrating gathered panels to each other, I would hold the pieces up to myself in the mirror to check my progress and think nervously, “ummm…do I look like an 80’s Punk Rock bride?” but I had to keep moving forward in leap of faith #4 because at this point the bodice was complete and there was absolutely nothing else to do but finish the whole thing and hope for the best.

The skirt came together, finally, and I attached it to the bodice, which had a straightforward construction although there were a lot of extra steps to create the lining- parts of the dress are underlined and other parts have a separate lining, so it was not complicated to complete, but it definitely took longer than most bodices do. Lastly I inserted my zipper. The pattern calls for a heavy metal zipper but I just was NOT feeling that look on this garment, so I used an invisible zipper, which has been a real challenge- it’s difficult to zip it up or down because the lace fabric is so thick at the zipper edges, and you have to zip verrrrryyy carefully and I can’t do it by myself. Still, I prefer the way it looks.

My choice of lining fabric ended up not being absolutely terrible – it definitely makes the dress a bit tighter and bulkier because the fabric is so thick and takes up so much room. This worked to my advantage in some ways because without it the dress would feel a little looser/baggier, but it also makes the dress look thick at the seams- particularly around the neckline, I feel like the dress looks like it’s hovering off of my skin. The lining also makes the entire dress pretty heavy, which also isn’t horrible- the weighted feeling of it makes me feel secure in it, like I am not on the verge of having a wardrobe malfunction, an incredibly feat considering how deep that neckline is in the front. But I should point out that I moved the bottom edges of the bodice pieces a tiny bit closer together so that they were touching instead of a few mm apart as the pattern suggests (if I recall correctly, at least). The reviews of this pattern read that many people thought the V was much too deep and immodest, and it works great for me, but I have a smaller bust and less risk of something falling out. Even so, I noticed that if I moved those two edges closer together, the whole bodice clung a bit tighter to my bust and made me feel more comfortable in such a skin-baring dress. Amazingly, I don’t feel at risk of having a nip slip at all in this thing, even after bending over and moving around a lot to take these pictures.

The only weird thing I noticed about the pattern (aside from the fact that it calls specifically for stretch fabrics when it doesn’t seem necessary) is the fact that the skirt lining is not one layer of fabric- it’s basically a completed skirt underneath the skirt shell. The lining skirt is comprised of 4 pattern pieces, 2 identical fronts and backs, which are sewn together, under stitched at the bottom, and then turned right side out. In regular lining fabric this probably barely registers as noteworthy, but in my bulky prom dress lining fabric, it felt like an entire finished skirt that was being stuffed under 90 yards of lace. Since the dress shell uses the scalloped edges of the lace as finished hems on the sleeves and skirt bottom, the designers probably didn’t want the lining to be the only thing that a hem, so they make you sew it in a way that keeps the edge clean. I guess it’s an interesting detail but it seems a bit unnecessary if your lining fabric isn’t completely transparent and you aren’t at risk of showing your goodies through the garment. Plus it uses up more fabric than it needs to. And the lining of the skirt is pretty short (another thing that was reiterated in reviews of this pattern) so you aren’t at risk of showing your hemmed lining through the lace of the dress unless someone is specifically lifting the layers up to look for it. I’m not mad at the design feature, I just wish I had realized how the lining of the skirt was meant to be constructed before I blindly cut out all my fabric pieces- then I could have just made it in a single layer. Without that extra layer of lining in the skirt, the dress would definitely be less heavy, but I also appreciate that whenever I step into the dress, those enclosed seams make me shiver just a tiny bit with delight- I do love a clean finish! And the one good thing I can say about my heavy ass lining fabric is that it is super soft and luxurious feeling against the skin, and that’s never a bad thing.

Once I finished all my hand stitching and I tried on the dress, my first thought was “ICE SKATER REALNESS”, and then when I did a twirl in the mirror I thought “HIGH YELLA SWAN!!!!”, which I like even more, as anyone familiar with southern slang in communities of color might recognize (I even have a whole series of comics called High Yella Magic here on this website). Whether you get the 80’s bride vibe, the ice skater vibe or the ballet dancer in peril vibe, I think we can all agree that this dress is electrifying! I am surprised that even though it has so much connotation of specific cultural archetypes, it doesn’t look too costumey- when I let this garment take centerstage and I keep everything else understated, it actually looks pretty sleek and sexy. It’s a LOT of design elements rolled into one with the deep V of the bodice and the tiered skirt and the lace and the underlining and the sleeves (the sleeves are my favorite part of the dress, which aren’t lined and are the only part of the garment that give you a glimpse of the lace directly against skin). But somehow, even in this ridiculously bright color, it all works together and most importantly, it still feels like me. My leaps of faith totally paid off, and I cannot WAIT to wear this dress at an event where every other person in the building is decked out in all black LOL!

 

Hampton Jean Jacket

I have never been on the jean jacket train because I have never owned a jean jacket that I loved. I had a couple of RTW ones when I was younger, but they were either gigantic on me or too short or the sleeves were too long (I am almost positive that I owned a severely cropped denim jacket in college whose hem ended at my ribs and no, I’m not proud of it). In the 90’s and early 2000’s the bulk of denim jackets in RTW seemed to be variations on a theme instead of just, you know, THE ACTUAL THEME, so I never had much of a connection to them. Now fast forward a couple of decades to today, where one of the few remaining RTW items in my closet is a black and white bomber jacket that I bought from Penguin a few years ago. It has a big felt P emblazoned on one side (which I love because that’s the first letter of my actual last name), and the fit is just PERFECTION. It’s the perfect length, hitting right above the curves of my hips and butt so you can see my figure, but it has enough structure in the shoulders to give my silhouette a really nice overall proportion. The sleeves are made of a white and black knit fabric which contrasts well with the stiffness of the jacket’s body, so I can push them up to my elbows, giving the whole look a bit of softness and comfort that is sometimes hard to find in a well made casual jacket. The jacket looks amazing with jeans, skirts and dresses, and it is a staple of my fall/winter wardrobe in LA. My only wish has been that I had another one in a different color and textile. The black can look a little heavy with certain outfits, weighing down pastels, which my closet is full of. It can also be a little too warm to pair with early spring/summer outfits that call for a little extra coverage on top. In short, I have needed another jacket for quite a while that is almost a replica of my beloved bomber jacket but with some tweaks.

Enter The Hampton Jacket by Alina Design Co.

Once I realized that a denim jacket would be the answer to the big gap in my wardrobe, I started googling patterns and this is one of the first ones that popped up. I was also introduced to a jean jacket pattern by Style Arc, but ultimately I chose the Hampton because 1. it seemed to have concise instructions and a thorough sew-along posted on their blog while Style Arc, from what I read from pattern reviews, has very sparse directions, more in line with Burda and 2. the completed Hampton jackets seemed to have a tighter, less boxy fit than the Style Arc patterns I saw online. I wasn’t planning on wearing my jean jacket layered over bulky sweaters so a slimmer fit would work best for me.

Alina Design Co. posted a terrific tutorial on how to bleach and distress denim to get a very worn-in look for your jacket, which I found fascinating. I had never bleached denim before and there were lot’s of interesting things I learned, like how bleaching stretch denim doesn’t look super great because the lycra threads in the fabric turn orange, and how much of the color change from bleaching happens in the first hour of the soak. Ultimately I was not all that interested in bleaching the denim myself, but I LOVED learning more about the process. I went the much easier route, which was to buy a denim that was bleached already. At The Fabric Store in LA, they had a bolt of bleached-denim that was such a perfect shade of faded blue jean that I’m not even sure if I could have replicated the effect on my own. What’s even better is that the denim, while a solid medium-weight, is still super soft, and it folded and scrunched up in my hand easily without crunching like cardboard, the way some brand new stiff denims will. I liked that using this denim would take out a lot of the grunt work from bleaching and distressing (you are advised to wash your jean jacket at least 3 times after construction to soften it up, but I didn’t need to- I only washed mine once to remove all the extra distressed denim fibers that were still clinging to the jacket).

In all honesty, I can’t tell you if the instructions for this pattern are good because I followed the sew along and only glanced back at the instructions to double check which pattern pieces I was using, which is the only issue I had with making it. There are a LOOOOT of pattern pieces for this little jacket (I think they were labeled A-S?) and the sewalong referred to them only by name instead of by the letter it coordinated with (‘front side panel’ instead of ‘piece D’), which got confusing for me pretty quickly. This is a small concern to be sure and I might be the only person who got confused by this, so this is just a tip for any of you who might have the same issue- keep your instruction booklet/window open to cross reference the pattern pieces if you are following the sewalong. Other than that, I thought the sewalong was terrific so I can only assume that the instructions are clear and concise as well. I only follow sewalongs for pattern designs that I have never tried before, like jeans or complicated bags, because the photos are usually clearer than the illustrated line drawings included in the instructions.

As far as sizing, I tried to model it off the measurements of my beloved bomber jacket. I wanted it to have the same overall length, but more importantly, I wanted the sleeves to actually fit me- shortening sleeves is probably my most frequent adjustment. I took out about an inch in the body to match up with the length of my bomber jacket, and I took about the same amount from the sleeve length, if not a titch more.

I made this jacket over a period of three days off and on, and the construction was a breeze- it starts coming together fairly quickly, which feels very satisfying. The most time consuming parts are the distressing (if you are doing it) and the flat fell seams, and they have to be done in that order (distress, then sew) at each part of the construction process so that you don’t end up ruining your topstitching. Based on the tutorial provided in the sew along, I used two methods of sanding to distress the denim: some I did with a Dremel tool and some I did with 150 grit sandpaper. I liked the Dremel for sanding the corners and the edges of the flat felled seams because it was easy to navigate a smaller surface area with the tool. But for getting worn-looking patches on the overall fabric, the 150 grit sandpaper did the job great, and I alternated the direction of my sanding so that it wouldn’t look too precise. Since my fabric was already bleached, the distressing was a breeze and I had less distance to travel between the light blue of the denim and white patchy areas I was going for.

I also followed the suggested advice of using double sided wash-away tape to hold down my flat felled seams right before I topstitched them- this was helpful to keep everything in place while topstitching, but it also allows you to distress the edges of the seams while they are in the proper place without, as mentioned before, ruining the topstitching thread. I had a bit of trouble doing the keyhole buttonhole shapes with my topstitching thread, not sure why, so about halfway through I switched to regular rectangular shapes and you can’t tell at all. I used buttonhole glue, or whatever it’s called, to put on the back of my buttonholes to keep them nice and sharp and safe from unraveling, used a big back of jeans buttons that I got for like $5 at a store downtown that the lovely and always helpful Beth of SewDIY recommended to me, and I was set!

 

I COULD NOT BE MORE IN LOVE WITH THIS JACKET, Y’ALL. The fit is so spot on for everything I wanted and needed in a lightweight jacket. The sleeves are the perfect length, and the denim is soft enough that I can roll them up easily and not feel like my elbows are weighted down with fabric. The length of the overall jacket is perfect, too- it hits right at the top of my butt/bottom of my back, which is very comfortable for me. It’s a little too short for wearing long shirts underneath because it changes the proportions in a way that is not appealing to me, but I’m fine with that because I am rarely an untucked shirt kind of girl. So far it pairs well with fitted trousers, dresses, and skirts: YOU NAME IT!!!! (greens, beans, potatoes, lamb, ram, ham!) I put this make in my fall/winter queue because it’s a jacket and that makes sense, but you BEST BELIEVE this thing is gonna follow me into the spring and summer- LA summers are certainly not mild enough to merit needing a jacket all the time, but most buildings are always air conditioned and therefore FREEZING and I never want to lug around a full on sweater with me on hot days, so I usually just suffer til I’m outside again. This jacket is the PERFECT accessory for keeping warm but not burning up- I can’t tell you how good it looks with summer dresses! Very, very happy with how it came out, and I enjoyed the process all the way through! If you have made jeans before, this pattern will be a CINCH to get through- but even if you haven’t, you’ll probably want to try a pair after you complete this piece of art!

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to Claire who took these pictures for me since I was too sick and tired of doing my normal backdrop photos. I needed to mix it up a bit and I love how these came out, although I think it’s apparent how uncomfortable I am taking photos in public spaces lol! I can be surrounded by a film crew and have no problem posing for the camera, but as soon as you take me out of the realm of “work” and make it just me in the middle of the street, I would rather melt into a puddle and evaporate into the desert air than model me-made garments in front of curious eyes. Sigh. I’m working on it. Also, this is the Fumeterre skirt paired with my favorite Archer shirt by Grainline Studios.

Coming To America

It is embarrassing how long it took me to put this little number together- I think from start to finish two and a half years passed between the skirt and the top! But better late than never, right?

I made this wrap skirt from a vintage 70’s pattern (Butterick 6809) that I saw on someone else’s blog and purchased from etsy. The skirt made me nostalgic, because even though I was a teenager in the 90s, I was always a HUGE fan of a good wrap skirt, and I collected a lot of them throughout my high school years, some from thrift stores and consignment shops, others from some of the cheap fast fashion retailers in the strip mall down the street (do any of y’all remember ‘Rainbow’? or ‘5- 7- 9’? We also had a spot in Birmingham that I loved called ‘Warehouse of Fashions’ that was filled with enough statically clung polyester to make a small army sweat profusely in a snowstorm). No one really thinks of the 90’s as being the era of the wrap skirt, but I’m here to tell you that it was! These skirts were way less stylish and fashion forward than their 70’s-centric counterparts, but they were most definitely available in RTW, often found positioned next to the infamous skorts garment, which was like a mullet for your bottom: a pair of shorts that came equipped with a flap of fabric attached to the side that could be buttoned or clipped closed at the opposite hip to make it look like a skirt in the front. I had these in denim, cotton, plaid, you name it! My love of fashion has come a long way, right? I can only imagine what kind of ensembles I would have put together if I had known how to sew way back then!

Anyways, my love for the wrap skirt waned after I got to college when my attention focused more on cheap JNCOs knock-offs and stretchy boot cut pants (sigh), but I have continued to reserve a little space for the iconic garment my heart. I like the simplicity of a wrap skirt- depending on the fabric you make it in, you can get a lot of drama out of the look, but the architecture remains simple; it’s basically a big rectangle with a long tie at the top and a hole with which to pull the tie through. I can’t remember the name of the blog that I saw this specific pattern on, but I loved how structured the skirt looked on the maker in a stiffer kind of fabric, so I immediately snapped it up to add to my pattern stash.

A little while later when I saw this bright geometric print at The Fabric Store in LA (again, from so many moons ago!), I knew it would be a great pairing of fabric and pattern. I loved the geometry of the textile, the clean white mixed with the bright gold, and it’s also reversible! It isn’t easy to tell in the pics but the main part of the skirt is made with the golder side of the fabric while the waistband and bodice are made with the whiter side (I accidentally put the skirt on the dressform inside out in the above photo so don’t pay attention to that lol). It’s a slick little design choice that doesn’t seem glaringly obvious but succeeds in breaking up the print a bit. So yeah, I knew it would be a great pairing, but I had no idea of the actual outfit I would try and create with the skirt, and once it was completed (again, this is one of the quickest garments to make, definitely a contender for easiest ‘first sewn garment’) I realized that I had no idea what to wear with it. In my head I was gonna pair it with a cute, tight t-shirt or make a nondescript silky tank that wouldn’t detract from the dramatic fabric of the skirt, but alas, I never got around to it. For one thing, I didn’t actually own the t-shirt that I was envisioning would look cute with this skirt, and if I’m honest, that kind of rock’n’roll meets couture look is not really so much my vibe anyways. And as far as the tank is concerned, I couldn’t for the life of me find a fabric that would look good with the white and gold foil.

Skip two and a half years-ish, where the wrap skirt has sat in my closet collecting dust because it doesn’t have a partner in crime yet. I had been perusing sewing blogs and I came across a lovely maker who had just recently made this MimiG crop top (Simplicity 8394) with a gigantic bow on the front. The top was adorable and sweet without looking juvenile. The blogger had paired it with a full skirt in a very pretty soft floral fabric with a bit of body, and I was in love with the whole look. I wondered what I could possibly wear with the top, which was pretty dramatic and unique in it’s style, when suddenly a flash of my gold and white wrap skirt popped into my head. Although it had been years since I had made it, I was almost positive that I had a tiny cut of the fabric left in my stash, probably enough to make this blouse, which surely didn’t require that much material.

 

I grabbed the pattern during the next sale at Joann’s, cut out the pattern pieces, and pulled out my remnant of fabric to see if I had enough to make it. I did. Just baaaaaaaarely. It required a very inventive cutting layout, some shaving off of certain pattern pieces, and the use of a different type of fabric to line the top with, but I made it happen! And it was just as cute as I had hoped! It has a few pieces of boning at the seams to give it some structure and help it maintain it’s shape, but it feels very comfortable and I love the length of the bodice- it’s not so high that it feels like you’re wearing a bikini top, but it is low enough that you get a little peek of belly skin, depending on what garment you are wearing on your lower half. I like that the back of the top buttons up, and I love that the bow isn’t stationary; it is sewn into the side seams, so you can tie the bow in the front or in the back, depending on your preference.

I had planned on tying the bow in the front as the pattern envelope shows, but once I paired it with the skirt, which has a wrap with a side tie, I didn’t quite like how it looked- it was overkill with two big bows screaming for attention, and this is coming from someone who LOVES bows. I was a little disappointed with the final result at first- imagine waiting nearly three years to complete an ensemble and then choosing the one pattern that doesn’t quite pair up perfectly! But then I played around with the bow placement and realized that I quite liked it when the bows were not tied on the same side (like with one in the front and the other in the back). My preference is: bodice bow in the back (party) and skirt bow in front (business). Looking at the profile I think it gives the whole look a bit of artistic flair that I wasn’t anticipating. Now I need to be real with y’all- when the bow is in the back I can’t tie it myself so I had to get Claire’s help with it, and ummm…Well, let’s just say that she doesn’t have a lot of experience tying big bows and making them look nice, even and full. That’s all I’m gonna say! I’m sure she will get better with practice LOLOLOL!

I obviously look like an extra in one of the most prolific movies of my lifetime, Coming To America, so I hope it doesn’t look too costumey because I am really digging it. The fabric isn’t an Ankara or Dutch wax print, but the bold geometry and stiffness of the fabric seems synonymous with it, particularly paired with the patterns I used. All I need is a head wrap and I will be golden! Oh man, I just realized, this would be such a great Halloween costume if I walked around in this ensemble with a basket of flower petals that I dropped all over the ground for people to walk on – I wonder if anyone would get it?

All in all, this was an easy, straightforward make, it doesn’t look like anything else in my #redcarpetDIY wardrobe, and I can’t wait to actually wear it to an event, although I will have to figure out the bow situation first. Maybe it’s because of the heaviness and stiffness of my fabric, but the bow starts to sink down a bit after a while and look pitiful, so I might need (Claire) to tie it perfectly and then sew it closed just to make sure that it stays perky, because you never know, someone might ask me to hop on one foot and bark like a dog (“a BIG dog”) and I want my outfit to pass muster 😉

 

DIY Sunscreen Recipe

 

I’m finally back in my own neck of the woods after a couple of weeks in Vancouver, and although my trip was fun (and the weather was nice MOST of the time) I am so thrilled to be back! I’ve made a habit of bringing my sewing machine on work trips that I already know will have a considerable amount of down time because the sewing keeps me busy, happy, and productive; since I am not a big TV watcher, it’s imperative that I have something other than Netflix to bide my time (you can read more about #sewnawayfromhome here). On this most recent trip, I brought my travel machine and three cuts of fabric plus three patterns that I cut ahead of time. I figured that this, in addition to some socks on my knitting needles, would easily fill up my two weeks out of town. Of course I finished all three projects within my first week (to varying degrees of success, but more on that later) and was left with nothing else to do for the remainder of the trip! Thankfully Claire was able to come up and spend Halloween weekend with me which was a big time-sucker (in a good way- ha!) and on my last day I got invited to be a guest on Caroline and Helen’s terrific podcast, Love To Sew! Being a guest on a sewing podcast has been a dream of mine for a while now, so to have it realized was SUCH A TREAT for me- you should have SEEN my face when Helen messaged me and asked if I wanted to come to the Blackbird Fabrics studio to record while I was in town- my eyes were shimmering like a Precious Moments doll! It was a bit tricky to coordinate our schedules, but the stars must have been in our favor because it all worked out beautifully and I had such a good time hanging out with them and talking all things sewing. I will let you all know when my episode airs but I assume you have been listening already because it’s such a fun show- Helen and Caroline have a great rapport, and they present really intimate and thoughtful interviews with people from all corners of the sewing realm.

Anyways, during our conversation we briefly discussed my interest in making bath and beauty products and I realized that I had taken photos of my sunscreen-making process but never blogged about it. Caroline was super into the idea of making the sunscreen herself when I told her how great the product is and how easy it is to make, and I promised myself that I would knock this post off of my to-do list just for her. So Caroline, THIS POST’S FOR YOU!

A little backstory about why I started making sunscreen in the first place: I’m cheap! Ha! I feel like that’s my answer for everything I make, but it’s usually true! Sunscreen is a big part of the daily regimen in our household: Claire uses it because she is a ginger with super freckled skin that is prone to problematic moles (which often require removal), and I use it because, DUH, I want to keep this skin looking PERKY, Y’ALL. Sure, we’ve all heard that black don’t crack and whatnot (I mean, have you SEEN Angela Bassett lately??), but my skin is pretty fair and even if it wasn’t I would want to protect it. It’s a popular misconception that people of color don’t need to use sunscreen because they are at less risk for skin cancer, but the truth is that, while the melanin in our skin protects us from certain harmful qualities of the sun, it also has a tendency to make our skin extra sensitive and therefore more susceptible to a whole list of additional environmental irritants, including UVB rays. All this is to say that we go through sunscreen like NOBODY’S BUSINESS. And at $13 a pop for that tiny little bottle of Neutrogena with Helioplex (what we used to use until I read some articles saying it might be toxic), I knew there had to be a better alternative.

You can find a pretty decent array of homemade sunscreen recipes on the internet, and like everything else, I urge you to do some research on your own if you have more questions about how or why the ingredients work, or if you want other options than what I offer in the recipe below. Mine isn’t the end-all-be-all of recipes and I have tweaked this one to fit my own needs based on others I have found online/in skin care recipe booklets. If you have super fair/sensitive/damaged skin and want to try using this recipe, you should probably discuss it with your dermatologist or doctor first. Claire did so with her derm, and we were both surprised to hear how thrilled she was that we were using a homemade product for our sunscreen care- she said she doesn’t really trust store bought sunscreens because of all the chemicals they often put in them, and when Claire told her the ingredients list, the doctor gave us her blessing to keep using it regularly.

DIY SUNSCREEN RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 0.5 to 1 oz cosmetic grade zinc oxide -this is the powdery mineral that gives sunscreen it’s white color. I bought mine from amazon and it has lasted years- a little goes a long way. You may want to use less than this suggested amount for your batch- more zinc means a whiter lotion, and the darker your skin is, the grayer the lotion can make your skin look. I prefer to use less zinc in mine and try to make up for some of the lost sun protection with the other ingredients in the recipe.
  • 2 oz shea butter – this is the base of the sunscreen and I love using it in all my lotions because it isn’t greasy or oily. You could also substitute a different kind of butter like cocoa. I try to buy brands that practice fair trade since most shea butter is manufactured and sourced in smaller countries by hard working women who don’t always get paid decent wages.
  • 1 oz coconut oil (solid and unrefined is best)
  • 1 oz almond, castor, olive, OR jojoba oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons carrot seed oil- while most oils have some small amount of natural sun protection (between 2 and 7 SPF), carrot and raspberry seed oil are thought to have a much more considerable amount in them (up to 38 SPF), but there hasn’t been any definitive scientific research to prove this in relationship to how it works on human skin and how it works in tandem with other products. As long as you are using the actual fatty oils and not the essential oils of these plants (which are two different products), adding it to your sunscreen won’t hurt and will probably help by providing at least SOME additional SPF- but it’s imperative that you are using it with the other ingredients inthis recipe (like zinc oxide) as the main barrier to the sun’s rays
  • 1-2 teaspoons raspberry seed oil

TO MAKE:

  1. Slowly heat the shea butter and coconut oil over a double boiler on your stovetop. 
  2. Once completely melted, stir in the almond/castor/olive OR jojoba oil.
  3. Add in the zinc oxide and stir well- the zinc will want to settle at the bottom, which is fine, you just want to make sure you have no lumps in the mixture.
  4. Put your bowl in the fridge for around 20-45 minutes to cool it off and firm it up- you want the top to start to solidify while the middle/underneath is still pretty wet.
  5. With either a handheld or stand mixer, mix your lotion on medium high to whip it like a batter for about 4 minutes, or until the mixture is thick, aerated, and creamy. At this time I add in my carrot seed and raspberry seed oils. You can also add essential oils here for smell but in my experience they tend to get buried by the fragrance of the carrot/raspberry seed oils. I read that you should stay away from citrus scents because they tend to burn with sun exposure- I haven’t had that experience but it seems like sound advice.
  6. I use small plastic dishwasher safe containers to store my sunscreen in and I re-use them when I make new batches. It will keep more several months at room temperature in a cool, dry place (like in a cabinet) but I am not sure for long it lasts because we use ours up too quickly.

According to what I have read from various online sources, it’s difficult to say what EXACT SPF a homemade recipe is because, as this blogger puts it in her post about DIY Sunscreen Myths, the SPF rating is not cumulative, meaning that you can’t add up the SPF of each individual ingredient together and come up with a final scientifically accurate number at the end. The best you can do is guestimate. Another source I found says that a rough estimate for achieving an SPF of 20 is 4 parts lotion + 1 part zinc oxide powder in weight. With the addition of the raspberry seed and carrot oils, the SPF might be raised slightly, but again, that is up for debate. All I know is that we have been using this sunscreen consistently for about 3 years now and we both really like it. Some testimonials: 1. Claire has had less moles removed in the past few years (whether that is a direct correlation to her using this homemade sunscreen or not, I have no idea, BUT it’s certainly better than her getting MORE of them removed!) 2. my good friend who’s face kept breaking out every time she used store bought sunscreen asked to use some of mine and said her skin immediately cleared up after a couple days of use and 3. I get mistaken for a 26 year old all the time. What more proof do you need??

A few tips before I leave: If you find that your sunscreen is too white with the amount of zinc oxide you put in it, you can always “dilute” it with more lotion. I have made a few batches that worked better for Claire’s lighter skin than my browner skin, so I just put regular lotion on first and then applied the sunscreen over it. Since it isn’t greasy or sticky, it doesn’t feel gross to pile it on like some other sunscreens would, and adding extra plain lotion helps take the “gray sheen” away by moisturizing the skin before applying the SPF barrier.

Seeing as how the cold seasons are beginning in our hemisphere, I’m sure many of you won’t think you need sunscreen at all since you will be so covered up by coats, hats, gloves and scarves, but here is a gentle reminder that if your face is exposed to the sun, even on a cold winter day, it will STILL be susceptible to harmful UV rays from the sun- and if you’re walking around in snow, the effects will be even greater because the sun is bouncing off all the white directly onto your face. Protect your skin no matter the weather! Make it a habit! Also drink lots of water! And get yearly physicals with medical doctors or naturopaths if you have the means to do so! Okay, MomPSA over!

 

 

Bra Turned Bodice in Golden Green and Ombre

This make is not perfect, but I am really proud of it, because I went on a REALLY long journey with it before I ended up where I did, and even though it’s so different than what I initially envisioned, it came out much better than I anticipated.

I got the gorgeous gold and white lightweight silk fabric at The Fabric Store many moons ago, and it has been sitting in my stash for the longest. I think I got three yards of it, but I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. The silk is a bit transparent and very delicate, but the print, as you can see, is very bold. It’s an ombre print in gold that, up close, kind of looks like scribbles that get darker and darker. “Scribble” probably isn’t the best way to describe this graphic because I feel like the connotation of that word is “careless” and “messy”, and nothing about this fabric looks like that, but as a doodler myself, I like the idea of a scribble being the jumping off point for this print.

Anyways, a few months ago I came across a cool inspiration photo that Tessuti had posted on their instagram (the garment on the right) of a dress from a designer’s fashion show. I really loved the silhouette of the dress with the big print and the full flowy skirt that looked so lightweight that it was practically floating around her body. I also loved the simplicity of the design. A very simple, almost boxy long sleeved bodice with a high waist that connects to a gathered skirt. It didn’t take me long to imagine my gold and white ombre fabric paired with this design, because it checked all my boxes: I wanted something long to show off the full transition of the ombre, a lightweight, drapey fabric that would flow around the body, and something simple that would let the dynamic print shine.

I spent a few weeks trying to hunt down a pattern comparable to this dress and when I had no luck, I decided that it couldn’t be that hard to draft or hack my own pattern, right? FAMOUS. LAST. WORDS.

It's soooo delicate!!!

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I could easily have draped a bodice pattern for the dress myself- I’m not an amazing draper but I learned a little about it in college and from books and have done it successfully on super simple garments. I knew that the task wouldn’t be too challenging…except for when it came to the sleeves. Sleeves require math and a bit (ok, a lot!) more pattern drafting know-how than I have. I decided against giving it the old college try and instead I went back to my pattern stash and chose a dress pattern from which I thought I could utilize a bodice that also came with sleeves. I was surprised that I had nothing in my stash with as simple a bodice pattern as I was looking for; everything that had the right shape had lots of extra darts and tucks and design elements included, which I did not want.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXwAjEIBn15/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I won’t bore you with the details of how my process went for the hacking of Butterick 5919, so let’s just say that I didn’t make it didn’t work. I made a muslin of just the bodice which came out great (or so I thought), so then I moved to cutting and constructing my fashion fabric and added the long panels for the gathered skirt to the bodice’s bottom. The incomplete dress looked okay enough on my dress form to continue with it, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself, but as soon as I tried it on for fit, it was a disaster. There wasn’t enough room in the bodice for…well, my body! I don’t know exactly why- the sleeves, which were a perfect fit in my muslin, were surprisingly tight in the silk, but they weren’t the main problem- it was the actual bodice that made me feel claustrophobic. I could barely get it closed in the back, and on top of that, I wasn’t able to lift my arms very high or take a deep breath without the dress riding up or constraining my breathing, and this of course was without a zipper installed. There were just too many things wrong and uncomfortable about the bodice for me to even stress about trying to fix them, and I didn’t have enough fashion fabric to start over with a new one or make a separate top in the same fabric to turn it into a two piece, so I walked away from it. Put down my seam ripper, turned off the lights, closed the door. I kept the dress in my thoughts all night, which I usually do when I feel overwhelmed by how to make something work, and it almost always puts me back on the right track within a day or two. The next morning, re-inspired, I decided that instead of figuring out how to keep the garment as a dress, I would just salvage the skirt and make a totally different kind of top to pair with it.

 

 

I had this tiny cut of a goldish/greenish brocade fabric that I had purchased at Michael Levine’s like, 2 years prior, and never used, and it kept calling my name from the corner of my craft room. It was a totally different kind of weight and feel of fabric, but I held it next to the white and gold ombre anyways. It was like magic. The colors matched each other in the gold of the silk and the sheen of the brocade, and the brocade also had this imprint of an oval, leaf-like shape on it that mirrored the scribbles in the silk. It seemed like such a bizarre pairing, but when put together, the two fabrics were kind of a perfect, unexpected match. I didn’t have much of that brocade though (maybe 1/2 yard of a narrow yard?), and I couldn’t imagine what kind of top I could make with it. I thought that something tight and figure flattering would look cool when juxtaposed with the simple gathered skirt, but I had no patterns in my stash like that. Then I wondered about how a bustier would look. I have no idea why this garment popped into my head, and I also didn’t really have a pattern for this style either, but I did have a strapless push-up bra pattern that I had made once before. It had amazed me how beautiful that make had looked, and when I tried that bra on after completing it, my first thought was wondering how I could possibly get away with wearing it not as intimate apparel but as an outer garment (you can see here that I did figure out a way to make it sportswear appropriate!) Could I use the Esplanade Bra pattern with this brocade fabric? Was that a reasonable hack? Was this something even in my wheelhouse?

The answer to all of these things, I found out, was YES! But I doubted myself practically the WHOLE way through. I did a quick google search to see if anyone else had hacked the Esplanade into a proper bodice garment, and I found one post by a well-known maker who had successfully made it happen. My biggest concern was wondering whether or not I would need to size up in the bra. I was thinking that I would not, since the bra pattern can be made with either knit or woven fabric (I used a Tailormadeshoppe kit to make mine and the bra fabric was comprised of non-stretch satin); the only reason it looks like the bra has negative ease is because of the elastic sewn onto the top and bottom edges, and also the back panels are made of powernet. But the business part, where the cups are, can be totally be constructed from woven. However, the blog I read said that she sized up because of the difference in the pattern calling for a knit material and her final garment being made of woven. I was really stuck here on what to do- do I size up as she suggests or do I just construct it in my normal size and simply modify the back piece that is made of powernet by making it longer in my woven fabric? After double checking the pattern details to ensure that it didn’t require a knit fabric, I decided to trust my intuition and make the same size in my brocade as the one I made for my original bra. Thankfully it was the right decision!

The hack was actually not too terrible to accomplish, and although some things could certainly look a lot better, I think it’s a pretty fine garment considering I did not make a muslin first. First off I added a few inches to the length of the pattern pieces because the bra as drafted ends above my belly button and I knew I wanted more coverage than that to match up with the waistband of my skirt (btw, in these photos there is a substantial gap between the top of my skirt and the bottom of my bustier, and I have since tightened the waistband a bit to bring it a little higher up my waist). Because I was not using elastic on the edges, I added a bit more room for seam allowances on the tops and bottoms of the pattern pieces so that I could enclose the raw seams. I also lined the entire bra with self fabric to give it more structure (I knew that for this thing to work it needed to be fitted very close to my body, especially since I wouldn’t have elastic or powernet to help me out in this department). Pretty much everything else was constructed according to the instructions and it came together nicely.

The biggest issue I had was deciding how I wanted to close the garment. Obviously a bra closure would work best on this type of design but I didn’t have any closures that were the right color match with the brocade (and I don’t really enjoy dyeing). Grommets seemed like a pretty cool idea that would make it look a bit more like a corset, but ultimately I decided to use another Orange Lingerie pattern and just make my own bra closure out of the brocade fabric. I had seen this pattern, the Leverett Hook and Eye Closure, when it came out, intrigued by the offering but sure that I would never actually need to to use it… little did I know it would ultimately save the day (and thanks to IG for reminding me of this pattern)!

The closure pattern is very labor intensive because you have to hand sew all those hooks and eyes onto the fabric, but it was still really fun to do and well worth it in the end. Most importantly, it is easy to adjust the length of the closure pattern depending on what you’re attaching it to, which is ironic for me to type out now because I totally miscalculated the length I needed and made it too short (I am so used to sewing bra closures with raw edges that I forgot to include a seam allowance once I lengthened the piece to match!) So I had to add an additional piece of fabric to the closure since I didn’t have enough fashion fabric to cut out a whole new piece. Like, I said, it’s not perfect! But I made it work and it’s not super noticeable.

 

The one thing that does bother me about the completed bodice is the little bubble of fabric in the front middle of the piece in between the cups. I actually have that same bubble on my original bra as well, so I know this isn’t a side effect of forgoing elastic and changing the fabric weight from satin to brocade.

When I posted the issue on instagram, lots of commenters said that 1. they didn’t notice the bubble/it didn’t detract from the overall look of the garment and 2. that they had RTW bodices/bras of a similar style that had the exact same bubble. So that made me feel a lot better. And then, bless her, the designer of Orange Lingerie patterns chimed in to say that adding an additional piece of boning right up the middle of the bra would get rid of that pesky gaping once and for all. By this time I had mostly made my peace with the bubble and decided not to stress out about it (read: take it apart to insert more boning), but I will most definitely try it on my next version of this pattern to see if it works.

So, to recap:

  • I made the same size in this bodice as I did when I made it as a bra, because the pattern does not explicitly call for stretch fabrics (except for the powernet in the side back panels)
  • I omitted the use of bra channeling to cover the boning and instead I added a lining of self fabric to the inside of all the panel pieces of the bra (not the cups) which covered the boning and also gave the bodice a bit more structure.
  • to accommodate the loss of stretch in the side back panels, I lengthened that pattern piece by several inches and and then tried it on towards the end of construction to see where I should cut off the excess before I added the bra closure.
  • I added seam allowances to the top and bottom edges of all the bra panel pieces to make up for the elastic that would normally cover those raw edges.
  • Because there is boning sewn into the front and lining pieces of the bra, I needed to turn it right side out, enclosing all my seams. So I sewed the top seams right sides together across the bra edges first before turning the bra right side out, created my boning channeling through the lining and outer fabric, and then when I was ready to close it, I trimmed the inside seam allowance flush to the just beneath the edge of the boning straight across, then folded my outer seam allowance to the inside twice so the raw edge was covered and sewed it down, creating something close to a flat felled seam on the inside of the garment. I’m sure there was a better way to do this but it’s what was available to me at the time, lol.

The skirt was much less intensive than the bodice, obviously. It’s just a dirndle skirt that I drafted a waistband for once I decided it would no longer be part of a dress. Because the silk is transparent (and also because this is now my preferred method when working with silk) I chose to baste white organza to the waistband instead of interfacing it. I used a narrow hem to get the full effect of the heavier gold on the bottom of the print, inserted a zipper, and voila! I will need to wear some kind of slip underneath it since the skirt is a bit see-through, so I plan to make one using some lightweight white silk in the near future.

I love the full effect of these pieces together, but I also love the idea of pairing this skirt with a knit sweater- I have no idea if that’s my actual style or if I’ve just seen that look in a magazine before, but I would most definitely give it a shot. The juxtaposition of the light, airy skirt with a chunky, grounding garment on top seems really interesting to me, and something I can get away with any time of year because I LIVE IN LOS ANGELES (I haven’t found tons of things to brag about LA in the few years I have lived here, but a less bundled up winter season always makes the cut). Anyways, for me, the coolest thing about this ensemble is that I don’t fancy myself creative enough to have just come up with the silhouette on my own, but after trial and error and problem solving, this is where I landed, and it’s pretty awesome. More proof that luxuriating in the process of sewing provides some of the most exciting results!

Turia Dungarees in Yellow Linen

I made these overalls once before in a shorter version, and they have been a warm weather staple for me ever since. On a whim I decided to make another pair,  full length this time, and in a really fun color. Initially I was going for pink or mauve twill, but after I hopped into The Fabric Store a couple months ago, I became fixated on making them in one of the gorgeous linens they have in stock, which I imagined would be comfortable and relatively cool to wear even on hot LA days. A bolt of bright yellow mid weight immediately called to me from the wall of linens- more sunny day yellow than butter yellow if you’re wondering, since pics don’t really do this color justice.

 

I’ve never had my ‘colors done’ per se, but, now after 37 years of living in this skin, I know exactly what hues make it SING. Yellow, chartreuse, rusty orange, any shade of brown- they all tend to look great on my skin, which has yellow undertones and pops when draped in these colors. This used to bum me out when I was younger because I would always be drawn to the bright purples and pinks and reds in stores. Few high schoolers, at least in my day, gravitate towards a neutral + orange + yellow palette, which are colors that more often than not look kind of ‘meh’ on the rack. But as soon as I would try those colors on (always urged to give it a try by my mother, who already knew the transformation that would happen), the result was undeniable. Brown was my color! Olive green made me radiant! Paprika made my eyes pop! In contrast, bright reds, hot pinks and brilliant purples just washed me out, made the bags under my eyes look a bazillion times heavier, made my skin look gray and sallow (yes, I had awful bags under my eyes, even in grade school- I had terrible allergies and stayed up too late reading most nights). Now this certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t wear colors I love even if they don’t “go” with my skin (although red has remained a no-no for me since it doesn’t elevate my skin OR my mood), but as I have gotten older and started paying attention to different facets of what I like and dislike, I’ve noticed that I rather enjoy stomping around in colors that you don’t see people wear as often. This skin I’m in, it BUCKS TRENDS! Funny how it takes decades to appreciate the littlest things…

BACK TO THESE OVERALLS. There isn’t really much else to share, since not only did I make these overalls once before, but I even made the EXACT SAME MISTAKE in sewing them that I did the first time. And guess what! I didn’t forget that I made a weird mistake in the construction process when I first made them, I just forgot what the problem was specifically and was too lazy to read my previous blog post about it (which literally would have taken me only 60 seconds, I know, I know- I’m rolling my eyes at my own self). I think I assumed that once I came to my wonky misstep, I would totally remember what the initial problem was and I would be able to fix it easily. And that did happen, but about 2 steps too late. The issue is in the way that the back upper pattern piece is nested on the pattern sheet (and this is no fault of the designer- I should have been paying closer attention! Although it’s interesting to note that I did make the same mistake twice!) Most of the pattern pieces are nested in a similar way with the largest size on the outside and the smaller sizes graded smaller and smaller inside those lines, but on this particular pattern piece, the largest size is on the outter-most side on one half of the piece, but on the other side it’s on the inner-most side. Does that make sense? Lot’s of patterns are formatted this way and haven’t been a problem for me, but I guess I usually see patterns drafted as all one way or the other, so the switch that happened on the pattern paper didn’t register in my brain, and I ended up cutting the correct size on one half of the pattern piece and a smaller size on the other. Essentially this means that the back pattern piece that connects the straps is too narrow to accommodate them, so (two times, now) I have had to add an additional slice of fabric to the back side seams to make up for the smaller size I cut out. Bah humbug. One of those things no one else will notice, or will think is a design feature. BUT I KNOW. I KNOW FOR TWO PAIR!

Aside from that snafu, everything came together beautifully. Because linen likes to fray so easily I tried to finish and/or bind all of my seams, and for some spots that didn’t get special treatment in the construction of the overalls (instructions suggest you use flat felled seams on many of the pieces, but some are left raw) I made some self fabric bias tape and used it to cover the raw seams, specifically in the bib area and the back straps. As with the overall shorts I made, I only used one zipper because two were unnecessary, and I graded to a size larger in the pants at the hips (38) and kept the top a straight size 36. I also used my Ginger jeans pockets for these overalls (the pockets drafted for this pattern are really tiny), ignored the pocket placement stated on the pattern pieces, and instead tried the almost-completed garment on and positioned the pockets on my butt where they would look best. This should be standard procedure for all pants making that comes with back pockets, since everyone’s booty is different and pocket placement can really make or break the way a butt looks.

When I first finished sewing them up, the overalls fit pretty snugly in the thighs, but, as I had hoped, literally within minutes the linen had relaxed significantly and the legs were very comfortable and loose-fitting without looking too big. When I make this pattern again in a sturdier fabric than linen, I might go up one more size in the pants so that I can ensure that they don’t fit too tightly in the hip and thigh area.

I am in love with the color of these overalls and other people seem to be, too- I don’t think I have worn them once without a stranger coming up to me and complimenting them. But linen is a tricky fabric to pair with this kind of garment. Overalls are designed to get a lot of wear and tear and as such they are usually made with a very stable fabric, most commonly denim. After a few weeks of moderate wear, mine are already starting to pill in the seat and the thighs, and of course they are always wrinkly when I first put them on, as linen tends to be. This of course will not keep me from wearing them into the ground, but they might not last as long as, say, the first version of this pattern I made a couple of years ago, which are comprised of a heavy twill and are still going VERY strong.

Whatever I decide to do for my next pair, I am really happy with how these yellow linen ones turned out and I am glad to be reminded of how NOT to cut out that back pattern piece out next time. Third time’s a charm, right?

 

An Interview with Claire!

Someone wrote a comment recently on my post about making Claire a bro/binder– they thought it would be a fun idea for me to interview Claire and post it to the blog. Claire and I had joked a bit about doing that very same thing, not thinking that we would actually do it, but after I read the commenter’s suggestion, I thought, WHY NOT? Initially I was just going to ask Claire some questions and then type out her answers, but it seemed like making a video would be quicker and more fun. Also, I can’t ignore the importance of queer visibility across any all platforms- these days, whether you’re taking a knee during the national anthem, correcting people on their use of your preferred pronouns, or calling your senators to demand that they provide smart and affordable healthcare options to ALL their constituents, making yourself seen and heard on your own terms feels revolutionary. So here we are! Talking about binders, bros, intimate apparel and the gender binary! Cause my sewing is just as intersectional as my feminism is!

I hope you enjoy!

Suits Me, the Refashioners 2017 Challenge!

Well, bless it! The sewing community has come through again with a rush of encouragement, appreciation, and smoke blown up my bum, this time in the form of an invitation to join the illustrious Refashioners Blog Tour! For those unfamiliar, the refashioners take on an annual challenge of refashioning some specific type of garment into something new and (hopefully) improved. My introduction to the group was maybe a year or so ago when the theme of the refashion was ” jeans”, which obviously conjures up all kinds of possibilities, and the sewing bloggers who participated did NOT disappoint! This year’s theme is “Suits Me” and you can only imagine my amazement when coordinators Portia and Elisalex asked me to join their talented group of contributors. Although I have certainly re-worked an old garment or two in my past with some mending or re-hemming, I don’t actually have any experience with completely revising a garment from top to bottom, and I wondered briefly if my skillset would translate at this level of talent. Fortunately, the thought was quickly replaced with “You’re trycurious, damnit!”, and I quickly wrote Portia back to thank her for the consideration and to tell her to please count me in!

First up? Finding my suit! This was the most time consuming part of the challenge for me, since I don’t buy much clothing at all other than shoes and am out of the loop with the good consignment and vintage shops in LA. My only parameters for the suit were for it to be inexpensive (which can be a real feat in price-jacked Los Angeles) and I wanted it to be made of a quality material, namely NO POLYESTER, which has a tendency to absorb funky smells easily and makes me sweat like a Trump supporter reading Black Twitter. I spent days reading Yelp reviews of vintage shops around the city and jotting down their addresses when, on a whim, I decided to drive to Out of the Closet, a well-known chain of thrift stores in the city whose proceeds go to supporting LGBTQ and AIDS affected communities. It’s clean and well-stocked and I walked straight to their rack of suits and rifled through the thirty or so they had on display; within 10 minutes I had found my match- a black and white birdseye 100% wool two-piece that was several sizes too big for me, leaving me what I hoped would be plenty of room to play around with. The suit cost only $25 and if memory serves correct, one of the tags said the suit was made in Malaysia with Italian wool. The designer tag said “Andre Vachon”.

I didn’t think long and hard about what was to become of this suit before I pulled out my seam ripper, I just sat down on the couch and began taking it apart while watching season 2 of Last Chance U. At the end of a few episodes I had a pile of fabric puzzle pieces at my feet and a smaller discard pile consisting of things like lining and pockets. I decided straight away not to salvage the lining because, although the suit itself was made of what seemed like a good quality wool, the lining was a cheap acetate that I wanted no part of. I saved the buttons, too, though they were also cheap. I was amazed at how complicated the innards of the jacket looked once the lining was removed. I had seen and worked on certain elements of tailoring a jacket like this from books and websites, but I had never seen the handiwork up close and personal before. So many interfacings and pad stitched hair canvas, my goodness! I got rid of what I could but kept the interfacing on the front pieces because I figured they would offer whatever I ended up making a bit more structure.

As I took the suit apart, a solid image of the suit’s potential began to take shape. Thanks to the awesome suit-inspired pinterest board that the Refashioners had set up, I had lots of ideas floating around in my head, but I also wanted to keep in line with how the suit originated. As I mentioned, I had never taken on this kind of project before, so maintaining some simplicity and honoring the original architecture of the garment seemed like a good vibe to follow.

What if I just slightly altered the concept of The Suit, which has a tendency to feel a little stuffy and buttoned up? What if I took The Suit and made it a little more casual, a little more comfortable, a little more current and applicable to the needs of my life and career (which, as a professional actor, has virtually no dress code whatsoever)? If you follow my blog at all then you know that this concept is not out of the ordinary for me, as I just recently finished making a Jacket + Shorts outfit that upends the classic idea of a tailored two piece. I wanted this new refashioned suit to do the same thing, but I had to adhere to certain rules, namely sticking with the traditional suiting fabric it was made of, and incorporating some of the original design details in the suit that would prove impossible to work around.

The idea of a kimono jacket suddenly popped into my head, which I heartily latched onto. Maybe because it was one of the most recent patterns I had added to my stash? Or because the kimono silhouette, relaxed and so easy to wear, seems to be everywhere right now? (Although kimonos have certainly been fashionable and culturally relevant for far longer than when us westerners got hip to them)! A kimono provided an interesting twist to the idea of a classic suit jacket but the two still felt connected to me- both garments look structured and traditional, and they both feel like cultural identifiers. Kimono robes, at least the ones I have worn, are so comfortable, yet something about those wide sleeves that jut out from the body look very presentational to me. Couple that with the elegance of the band that flows around the neck and down the fronts of the jacket- a band that has the same visual impact of a necktie, but of course, looser, and perhaps more inviting. The more I thought about it, the more I loved the beauty and symbolism of subbing a kimono for a suit jacket, but who is paying attention to symbolism when you’re trying to refashion a garment into something wearable?

I am, damnit!

Once I settled on the kimono jacket, it made sense to make myself another pair of pants out of the suit bottoms, but obviously a pair that would fit me well and look good with the larger frame of the top- perhaps something high waisted with a slim leg. So that was it- I had my design! Now I just had to implement it.

With all my fabric pieces separated from their siblings and the seam allowances ironed out, I cut out the paper pattern for my jacket (I used McCalls 7200) and tried to figure out how to use them with the meager amount of fabric I had. It really was like trying to solve a puzzle! Looking at the suit on the hanger in Out of the Closet, I thought I was going to have yards upon yards of fabric to work with, but once the suit was deconstructed, I had much less to play with. I pulled out a couple of yards of black tencel from my stash that LA Finch Fabrics had kindly gifted me over the summer and planned to use it to supplement what I couldn’t create with the wool.

 

It took a while, but eventually I came up with a plan for the pattern pieces. I didn’t have enough fabric to make a full sleeved kimono as I had intended, but I didn’t mind; instead, I would use suit scraps to apply binding to the edges of my short sleeves, giving it a more finished look. I used the fronts of the original suit jacket for the fronts of my kimono, and because I didn’t have much room to play with, I kept the front welt pockets and darts intact. The pockets are functional, though very thin (actually perfect for glasses!) and although I tried to fight the inclusion of those details at first, I quite like them now. I love that echoes of the original suit are still peeking their way into the refashion in unexpected ways, like the breast pocket/handkerchief slot at the top of the suit jacket- when sewn up into my kimono the breast pocket ends up as a shoulder pocket on me, but you know what? That’s kind of a cool design detail! I feel like it’s something Rachel Comey might utilize, haha. And of course I chose to highlight this detail by sticking a little matching handkerchief inside it, lest it go unnoticed!

I had to do a lot of hacking to make the back pattern pieces and yoke for the jacket work- I didn’t have any original suit pieces large enough to accommodate them so I halved the pattern pieces on the fabric I had left, added seam allowances, and worked with them as if the jacket had a center back seam. Easy peasy. I used my black tencel for the band since I didn’t have enough suiting fabric, and I really like how it softens the stiffness of the jacket, and, as mentioned earlier, gives a bit of a symbolic nod to a more traditional necktie which is usually paired with a suit jacket. I used french seams for all exposed jacket seams and serged the hem before turning it up and hand stitching it down.

The jacket came together relatively quickly and I’m not gonna lie, I was really feeling myself at this stage of the refashion! I was like ‘oh, girl- you GOT this! You have SKILLS and you are SLAYING this challenge!’

But then it was time to work on the pants.

Cue horror music ending with a blood curdling scream.

I have had some great success making pants this year! The Palmer Pletsch method of tissue fitting was super helpful to me once I moved on from stretch jeans to slacks, and, having successfully nailed down the fit more than once of my most hated pattern brand, BUUUURDA, I felt confident that I could tackle a suit refashion with no problems! Unfortunately I made the mistake of using a pattern I had not tested out before. The pattern I chose, Burda #118 01/2015, has pleats with a plain waistband in the front, and in the back, an elastic waistband gathers the excess material instead of darts, which is a look I have loved for a while but never attempted to create myself. I tissue fit the pattern pieces for the pants, hoping to achieve a slim fit in the leg, and once I was happy with them, I proceeded to cut out my suit fabric

Here is the tragic retelling rundown of everything that went wrong how I Tim Gunned my pants:

  1. The fit of the original suit pants was gigantic on me, but when I deconstructed them I had much less fabric to work with than I thought I would,  meaning there was little to no room for error.
  2. I eliminated the pleats in the front of the pants thinking that the wool fabric from my suit wasn’t drape-y enough to keep them looking right.
  3. The suit pants had back welt pockets that were impossible to work with because of their placement- I tried hard to integrate the pockets as-is into my refashion, but because I intended to have a gathered, elasticized waistband in the back, the bulky welt pocket openings wouldn’t lay flat on my body and looked ridiculous.
  4. I decided to get rid of the welt pockets and openings to accommodate my back elasticized waistband. Of course that meant I would have huge gashes in the fabric right on my butt, so I planned to construct large patch pockets to cover the cut fabric (I also interfaced the pocket openings and used my machine’s darning stitch to cover them and keep them from stretching out/ripping further).
  5. With pockets omitted, I constructed the waistband for the pants using the original waistband. I removed the belt loops and used my tencel as a facing for the waistband. I sewed one edge of the elastic to the side seam of one side of the waistband, then tried the pants on so that I could cut my elastic to fit my waist. One look in the mirror and I realized that the decision to gather the back waistband was bad bad bad. I should have known the fabric would look way too bulky when pushed onto elastic, given that I omitted the front pleats for the same reason. But sometimes you have to see it to believe it!
  6. I changed the design of the pants, ditching the elastic back waistband idea for a more streamlined look with darts in the back. Which meant that I now needed a closure for the pants (the previously planned elastic waist meant I could just pull them up- in theory anyways, but when I tested them out I could barely squeeze them over my hips)!
  7. Enter: two darts on either side of the center back seam, and I also opened a side seam so that I could apply a zipper (I didn’t use the original zipper that came with the suit pants as it was just a cheap, regular plastic dress zipper and I prefer metal zippers for pants).
  8. The addition of these design elements requires a second a third a fourth an outlandish number of fit alterations of the pants, so I end up removing the waistband several times to do things like raise the rise of the pants, make way for a side zipper, change the curve of the waistband, take the side seams in (over and over again), cut up the waistband to accommodate all the changes, etc. This is where my waistband starts looking like frankenstein.
  9. I notice, not for the first time, that the waistbands of men’s pants have a center back seam, while literally NONE of the women’s pants I have worn/bought in recent memory comes equipped with the same. I can’t imagine why they don’t- a center back seam at the waistband means that if you want to give yourself or take away room in the waist area of your pants, all you have to do is open the center back seam and remove/add fabric to the seam without having to fuss with cutting the waistband up or opening the side seams. What gives? I am determined to remember this detail and cut all my future waistbands with a center back seam!
  10. I should have taken out some length at the hip line of the pants during my tissue fit phase, but it’s too late to do that now, so I keep bringing the crotch in more more more so I don’t look like I have a diaper on.
  11. Where am I? What day is it? Am I still working on these pants? What are pants??? What…is…life???
  12. WHAT ARE PANTS, I ASK YOU???
  13. The fit at this point is about as good as it’s gonna get, so I can now start focusing on how to cover up the horrendous slashes from the welt pockets in the back. I had decided that big patch pockets would cover them up nicely, but of course, because of the weird positioning of the welts which are very high and close to the side seams, this is easier said than done. On one side of the pants I am able to cover the welt completely with the large pocket, but I can’t seem to get it even on the other side without the slash from the welt peeking through on the side.

    And here is where I achieve my proudest moment in this make. I spy the black designer tag from the inside of the jacket chillin’ on the edge of my cutting table- I saved it because I thought it would have been fun to position the Andre Vachon tag and my own TryCurious tag together somewhere inside of the garment, but now it looks like the perfect way to conceal the cut from the welt pocket. I fold the tag and place it inside of the pocket so that just the AV emblem is peeking out of the side, which perfectly covers up the cut and looks like a design element I have seen on a million RTW garments before.

    Because the tag is black, it matches the wool fabric and looks intentional. I sew the edges down onto the wool to ensure that it won’t flip up and reveal the cut underneath, and for extra good measure, I sew a button through the pant leg to the top of the pockets, holding the open edge down. Because the cuts are so close to the top of the pocket edge, they have a tendency to slide into view and I want to make sure that they stay covered. This makes the pockets less functional, but I don’t mind, as I’m not a big back pocket user. Besides, the pockets were only added to cover up the cuts in the first place.
  14. I reattach all the belt loops around the waistband thinking they will help cover up some of the mad piecing together of this pattern piece, which has so many seams in it at this point that I could just refer to it as a quilt. Pants are tried on to scrutinize my handiwork. Belt loops are immediately removed because they look too distracting.
  15. I tack down the zipper tape, hand stitch a blind hem in the pants legs, and…I’m done? My pants saga is over? Could it be???

As a final result the pants are… not terrible! Ha! But of course there is room for improvement. The zipper on the side of the pants is wavy, which, in my experience, means the seams need to be stabilized with stay or twill tape. The big patch pockets on the back of the pants don’t look as bad as I thought they would (they remind me of the 70’s when all pants seemed to be extremely high waisted and pockets were positioned halfway up the wearer’s back!), but I am not crazy about the way that they peek out underneath the kimono jacket. This could have been avoided if the jacket was the length that I initially wanted it to be (a few inches longer), but of course I was constrained by the amount of fabric that the suit gave me to work with and I couldn’t squeeze any more length out. I ironed out the creases that were originally in the suit pants because I don’t like the way creases on pants fronts look on me when they don’t disappear into a waist dart, and I omitted the darts to keep the front looking crisp and clean. However I think they look fine without the creases, and I love the slightly tapered ankle length.

My last and final decision for this make was to add a belt for the kimono jacket, because the silhouette just looks way better to me when the waist is cinched in. Thankfully I was able to use most of the jacket collar for this piece (and it was already interfaced!); my pile of suit pattern pieces dwindled quickly- pretty much everything I had left was small or curved and I really didn’t want to have to make a belt comprised of 32 seams to rival my waistband, LOL.

As for the styling of this outfit, I have no idea what initially sparked me to pair it with this Esplanade Bra from Orange Lingerie, but once the main pieces of the jacket were completed and I was ready to try it on, it was the very first thing I grabbed from my closet (the strapless bra is gorgeous and since I have made it twice now, I am planning on blogging about it, but til then, know that this one was made with a kit from the wonderful TailorMadeShoppe’s etsy store) ! I’m sure it has a little something to do with the fact that I had just recently finished making the bra in a different fabric as a bustier to pair with a skirt (coming to the blog soon!), so the look was fresh in my mind. Either way, I tried it on and it immediately conjured up images of a 90’s Madonna, with her baggy suit pants and torpedo bra. The bra shows a fair amount of skin, so pairing it with this suit feels unexpected, but I still really like it. The lines of the front of the jacket do a great job of revealing just a tiny bit of the surprise that’s underneath, and it also ties in well with this Budoir For the Streets theme I have going on. For me, the idea of a kimono robe draped over a stately, beautifully shaped bra in pinks and reds is totally incongruous to the look of a black and white wool birdseye men’s suit, but surprisingly, the two together really work.

And that’s it, folks! I finished this project in record time, mostly because I was obsessed with getting it done as soon as I started working on it- I didn’t want to procrastinate and then be stressed out trying to problem solve at the last minute. I like my sewing to be fun and pressure-free! Plus, my job can take me out of town with little more than a day’s notice, and I hated the thought of being in the middle of this refashion with a deadline looming and then having to hop on a plane. As a whole, I am so happy with how this make turned out- I tried really to hard to create something that I would actually wear at some point in the future, not just something that would suffice for this challenge, and with that, I think I have succeeded. There are definitely some little things about the make that bug me, like, as I mentioned before, the pants pockets not being totally covered up by the jacket, and how there are lots of teeny tiny tears and holes throughout the wool fabric, which couldn’t be avoided- most of them came from the holes that were leftover after I carefully removed buttons, seams, welt pockets, etc. It’s just par for the course when you’re working with fabric that has already been manipulated into a garment. Fortunately, this just adds even more character to an ensemble that already has a pretty remarkable story. I feel so grateful to have been able to participate in this challenge, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and proving that I have both the creative chops and skillset to compete with the rest of The Refashioners, so here is a big thank you to Portia and Elisalex for believing in my abilities and inviting me into the fold- this has been such a blast and I feel very proud 🙂

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