Projectors for Sewing

I love when I am done projecting a pattern and my chromecast just starts showing pretty images in the dark room. If it weren’t so hard to sew in the dark I could just watch TV on this thing while I worked, haha

I read about this phenomenon over a year ago in one of the Closet Core Patterns monthly inspo emails- there was a blog post included by a woman who was sharing her experience working with projectors in her sewing room. Essentially she (and what seemed like a growing community of others) had figured out a way to rig a projector onto the ceiling of their sewing space that projected the pattern they wanted to cut out onto a table. Among many other things, it completely eliminated the need to print at-home PDFs or copyshop patterns because you could either project the pattern lines onto your own pattern paper (if you are #TeamTrace like me) or even directly onto your fabric and either cut out from there or trace the projected lines onto your fabric and then cut the fabric out. I was of course intrigued and I devoured every word of that blog post, but I was also overwhelmed. The idea seemed to be catching on in some corners of the sewing community quickly but it was still new enough that there would be a LOT of troubleshooting to contend with. It seemed like a lot of work, a lot of physical and technological jiggering and problem-solving (which my partner Claire always says is my specialty but I disagree with, lol). Now I’m not one to shy away from hard work- I did after all build and tile our entire master bath vanity from scratch when I couldn’t find a used piece of furniture that would fit in our newly built space (don’t worry, I had my contractor’s blessing!) But I tend to be more invested in doing a lot of work when I know ahead of time how much I will benefit from it, and while using projectors for sewing seemed incredibly cool, there just weren’t enough people talking about it for me to know whether or not it would actually be something that made my sewing life easier, something that would be worthwhile.

Keep in mind that at this time, I was still waiting for a bit of a Craft Room makeover where I planned to get some cabinets installed on one wall of the basement for storage, getting rid of the awful eyesore that I had been working with for the past several years. When we first moved in I tried to install some shelving on that craft room wall but they fell apart pretty quickly and in some places were literally hanging by the thread of the screws I used, lol. So we hired an excellent, affordable cabinet maker to work on my craft room wall, while at the same time getting a recording studio built into our storage-cum-pottery studio. As much as I wanted to dive into this rabbit hole, I made myself be patient and wait for a better time.

my new cabinets, which I designed and painted myself before they were hung!

That time finally came in December of 2020 when a very generous and smart instagrammer I follow, Minimalist Machinest, started posting about how she was converting her sewing space to include a projector! She has a patreon that she set up for people interested in consuming her deep dives for all things sewing related, so I decided to join hers for a bit to learn about the ways in which she was using her projector.  I hadn’t seriously revisited the idea in a long while and I realized that in all the time that had passed from when I first read about it, sewing with projectors had become WILDLY popular! The dedicated Facebook group (that I don’t even think existed when I first read about Projectors for Sewing) has somewhere between 20 and 30,000 members, all helping each other out with resources, tips and tricks, graphs, videos…one of the members even designed an app to help people make technical changes to their PDF patterns for use with their projector- the wealth of knowledge there is staggering!

I cannot describe to you how MASSIVE this facebook group is, how much information is crammed into dozens upon dozens of pages and hashtags and posts, and it is of course very overwhelming at the beginning, but there are two great and unexpected things the group does from the get: one is making it very clear that there will be no tolerance for hateful language, inappropriate comments or posts, racism/ableism/homophobia/transphobia, etc. You even have to take a quiz before being allowed to join the group where you promise to be respectful and keep all talk focused on the subject at hand. This was a HUGE relief to me as I had deleted my facebook account in 2016 and was terrified of coming back for this group and being subjected to some typical facebook bullshit, all the stuff that had made me leave that platform in the first place (my partner Claire still has their account and let me log in and join the group through it because I couldn’t bear to start a new account myself).

The other great thing this facebook group does is include a couple of posts that are pinned at the very top of the group’s ‘Announcements’ page that basically says “If you are new, START HERE”. It is suggested that you just read and take in all the information being posted before asking questions (as everyone has asked every single question there is to be asked and the answers are already there, you just have to be patient and look for them). Whenever I read someone say “I tried to look into that Facebook group but it was too overwhelming”, I assume that they didn’t heed this one bit of advice, start here. I never even had to dive into any of the other posts in the group because the “Master Announcement Post” information was SOOO GOOD, right off the bat. It includes:

  1. Visual Quick Start – gives you all the basic information you need to know about what, how and why people use projectors for sewing, and helps you figure out if it’s the right choice for you.
  2. What to Look for in a Projector – helps you figure out what projector is the best choice for your individual space.
  3. Setup and Calibration – this one seemed like a doozy initially, but it’s actually not THAT bad, it just takes time to physically set up your projector to project accurately onto your cutting area.
  4. Top Tips for Projecting – includes information about how and when to use your projector, with which patterns, how to manipulate Acrobat Reader and a few other programs to get the most out of your set up and your patterns, etc. 
I should note here that lots of people assume that projectors today are the same kind that were used when we were in grade school, the big bulky pieces of machinery that had to be wheeled in on a rolling cart so we  could watch Science videos- those are not the kinds of personal-use projectors being made today, and certainly not the kind that the majority of sewists are using. Most modern projectors are small, portable, efficient, and pretty affordable. I found my projector using this amazing graph that someone in the group put together that mapped out all the different projectors people were using compared with their throw. The first big thing about choosing a projector is knowing how much space you have to work with. Throw refers to the distance between the lens of your projector (which will most likely be installed in the ceiling and pointing down) and the top of your cutting space, which will be a table top for most people but can also be the floor if that’s where you plan to cut your fabric out. The object here is to get the largest projection onto your cutting space as you possibly can, and of course projectors project larger images the further away they are from the thing they are being projected onto. Which becomes a problem when you are projecting downward and have only a limited space (the ceiling height) to work with, as opposed to something being projected onto a wall, in which case the projector can, within reason, be moved forwards or backwards in the room to make the projected image bigger or smaller. You want the projected image to be as big as possible so that it can project more of your pattern onto your surface. My craft room is located in my basement and thankfully I have a decent amount of ceiling height down there, but not so much that a standard projector would give me the projected image size I needed. In the case of having less throw than is ideal, you need to opt for what is called a Short Throw projector rather than a standard projector. A standard projector needs approximately 4 feet minimum to provide a decent sized image, but I had less room than that so I got a Short Throw. These tend to be a little more expensive than the standard, but still in the $200-$300 range new (less if you find a used one on eBay), although they can also get REALLY high priced, like in the $6000 range. According to this graph in the facebook group, the largest projected image someone got with the same amount of throw I had in my space was with an Optoma Lv130 projector, so that’s exactly the one I went for. It was comparatively well-priced to other Short Throws, but doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, which came to bite me in the ass later.

my view of the projector looking up from my cutting table

My projector doesn’t have any adjustable pieces on it to angle, lift or shift the projected image when it’s sitting flat on a table, which is totally fine for me, as I wouldn’t need mine flat on a table, it would be hanging from a mount in the ceiling and didn’t need to be adjusted on a flat surface. However it also doesn’t come with a remote control, which means that you have to manually turn it off and on, which does not work well for the ways I need to use it. It means that in order to calibrate the projector (changing brightness, contrast, focus and keystone and shifting it) you are required to physically touch the projector, which moves it and knocks off the calibration incrementally. However the BIGGEST issue is that I can’t turn it on remotely, I have to stand on a stool and verrrrrrrrrry gentlyyyyyyyyy press the power button so that I don’t knock it out of alignment. Someone made the suggestion that I get a smart plug for my projector, which can be turned off and on remotely through an app on your phone. It seemed like a completely brilliant idea, until I realized that smart plugs only work on appliances that have physical on/off buttons, not the kind that have electric on/off buttons, and of course my projector has the latter kind, lol. This might have been a deal breaker for me at the beginning of my foray into this subject, but now that I’ve already set everything up, it’s actually not THAT bad. I have a stool close to my cutting table and I have to climb onto it when I use the projector to press the button on (I can still turn if off through the smart plug though), then I do a quick check through Acrobat to make sure it’s properly aligned, and so far it hasn’t been knocked off (I’m just waiting for an earthquake to ruin all my hard work, though).

the chromecast is the round thing with a cord coming out the side, and the other wire is my projector’s power cord

Figuring out which projector is right for your space is the easy part- next comes installing everything. I found a cheap ceiling mount on eBay and I bought a chromecast for my projector as well. You can very easily plug your computer or phone or tablet device directly into a projector with an HDMI port, but that entails having a bunch of wires hanging down from your ceiling and connected to your device, and I just personally did not want to deal with that. Aside from being unsightly, it also seemed very limiting- I wouldn’t be able to move my computer around easily and I would be weary of knocking the cords around which would in turn knock the calibration of my projector off- I just didn’t want to go that route. I hadn’t read great reviews about projectors with wi-fi capabilities so the chromecast seemed like the smartest option for me and I am so glad I went that route. The chromecast is connected to the HDMI port of my projector and it connects wirelessly to my computer so that I can share my computer screen through the projector. Sounds easy enough, but each new gadget I added to this set up required a fair amount of trouble shooting and I spent FAR TOO LONG trying to figure out why I couldn’t get my entire screen to share through my chromecast when I first set it up. I eventually figured it out (the culprit was terrible UX design, not my own shortcomings), but man, these troubleshooting steps took such a toll on my mental health!

this image is taken during the day with light filtering in through my window’s shades- I usually use the projector once the sun has gone down to make the most out of the low light

After I got my projector mounted to the ceiling, plugged in, connected to my chromecast, and my screen shared through the projector, it was time to…dum dum dum dum…CALIBRATE! This is the trickiest part of the whole process, not because it’s difficult, but because it’s tedious. Most set-ups make this a two person job, but I was able to get it done by myself, which made it take longer I’m sure but also meant that I didn’t have to drag my partner into this mess, hahahah. The facebook group provides a downloadable PDF with a few boxes on it that measure perfectly square, and your job is to adjust your projector so that the projected boxes match up with the grid on your cutting mat (if you have one, measured taped lines on your table if you don’t) that coordinate with the measurements of the boxes in the PDF. This is of course easier said than done. It is necessary to zoom in your PDF reader to make the projected boxes the correct size, and once you are more or less in the correct zoom territory, you have to physically shift your table/cutting mat and projector, utilizing it’s keystone/focus functions to get the projected image even on your surface, so all the lines match up and there are no warped boxes or overlap. It took me a few hours spread out over a couple of days to calibrate my projector, but once I did, the hard work was done. After calibration, you just have to note which zoom number helped you achieve the correct measurements through your PDF reader, and THAT is the zoom number you will use for all future patterns. So whenever I am ready to trace out a pattern onto paper or fabric, I open the pattern in my Acrobat Reader, put the zoom at 28.3%, maneuver the program to full screen, and then start my project that is now projected onto my cutting table.

This is a shot of the projector working in my craft room in the evening with the overhead lights turned out. It shows up more brightly of course and you can see the boxes of the PDF sort of matching up with the grid of my cutting mat (I staged this photo for this blog post so if the grid doesn’t equate with the boxes it’s because I’ve moved my table around since I used the projector last)

There are lots of cool things you can do with your pattern at this point (most of which I haven’t even researched or attempted to be honest)- the standard is to open your PDF file to a website like sedja.com which allows you to manipulate your pattern for optimum use. Adding some extra room around the pattern let’s you move it around your computer screen without running out of room- hard to explain unless you’re doing it on your own computer with your pattern projected to your surface. There are also ways to stitch separate PDF files together all into one, get rid of edges and gaps in tiled patterns, etc. Eventually I will have to figure out how to do that stuff, but for now I am absolutely enjoying the sheer ease of eliminating a big chunk of paper products from my sewing practice, and only a week and a half in, all the labor and research seems to have been absolutely worth it.

this is an example of tracing a PDF onto pattern paper, which I can manipulate and then cut out

Here are the main pros and cons I have experienced with my new set up- I’m sure these will change over time- maybe it will be cool to revisit them in the future and see what has changed and what hasn’t.
Projector Pros:
  • I don’t have to get indie patterns printed anymore!!!! I would use tiled PDFs occasionally if I needed something in a hurry or if the pattern was small (less than 15 pages taped together), but generally I am not a fan of tiled PDFs because they are cumbersome, they take too much time to put together, they are difficult to store, and they require a lot of paper and ink to be printed at home. Most of the time, if the option was available and if it was a pattern I really liked, I would get them printed as a copyshop file, which could get very expensive. Depending on the size of the pattern, my local copyshop charged between $15 and $20 a pop. When possible I would use one of the discount architectural prints services online which was much more affordable, but they require a minimum order for prints so I would have to wait til I had several patterns I needed printed, which sometimes took months and would keep me from actually making the things I had planned on the schedule I wanted (I usually just broke down and got them printed locally for more money).
  • I find myself buying more patterns now, which could be considered a con to some, haha. But I would rather spend my money supporting the art of pattern designers I love than on paying to get a pattern printed up. Now patterns that I would see in passing and think ‘oh that might be cute, but do I really want to spend $14 on the pattern and another $20 on printing it up for something I am not 100% sure about?’ are more likely to actually get purchased and used quickly- it’s not easy to forget about a pattern you’ve purchased when it’s immediately available and you don’t have to wait to print it up.
  • I don’t have to worry about physically storing my copyshop files anymore! Before my projector, I was on the brink of doing both a cull of patterns to get rid of all the ones that I wasn’t likely to be sewing anytime in the future, and buying another bin to start storing future copyshop prints. My bin already took up a lot of space and was becoming an eyesore for me since they just didn’t get used very often. It was a constant reminder of how wasteful they were.

    my unsightly bin of copyshop patterns, barf!

  • I was on the fence about cutting directly into my fabric from my projector at first and therefore wasn’t sure if a projector made sense for me, (I have since done it and it was totally fine and not that big a deal, even though it wasn’t a perfect result, lol) but I realized that even if I didn’t cut each project directly out of my fabric from my projection, I would still massively benefit from not having to print copyshop files because again, I am #teamtrace and could still eliminate the need for the printed pattern by tracing the pieces onto my drafting paper from the projection. It’s quick, easy and still saves a substantial amount of $ and paper.
  • I actually haven’t tried this yet but I am so looking forward to it: I won’t have to use a tracing wheel to place my darts on my fabric anymore!!!!! This is one of those random tedious sewing things that I hate doing more than others. It’s just so fiddly and takes so much time and not all fabric responds well to chalked paper and tracing wheels but the only other alternative has been making tailor’s tacks, which I hate even more. Now I can just place my fabric under the projected image of the pattern piece and draw the dart on properly with my fabric pen, no flimsy paper and double layers of fabric to contend with!

Projector Cons:

  • After finally getting my cabinets installed in the craft room, painting them and organizing the whole area so that it looks really tidy and nice, I now have (what feels to me) like a huge eyesore hanging from my ceiling. All those necessary cords to make the projector fully operational thankfully aren’t hanging down in the middle of the room, but they still aren’t very sightly, running across the ceiling and then down the wall to plug into the nearest outlet. I have some white cord-wrapping that I might use at some point to get rid of some of the visual clutter but so far it hasn’t been a big enough issue for me to address it properly.
  • If your goal is to cut directly into your fabric without tracing your pattern pieces out, this set-up seems most ideal (read: less work) for straight sized sewists than sewists who need to make lots of adjustments to their pattern pieces (FBAs, SBAs, FBAs, etc) which require a lot of pattern manipulation that you would have to do in a computer program first.
  • There might be a way to do this in some app, but otherwise you are limited to the layout of your PDF pattern pieces and have to either manually adjust the rotation so that you are cutting your pattern pieces out properly on your fabric (making sure grainline of each piece is situated in the right direction) or move your fabric around to adhere to the direction of the fabric grainline (I have to do this with pattern pieces on the crosswise grain, as there is no way rotate the PDF incrementally, you can only go clockwise or counter clockwise at 90 degree angles).
  • The biggest con is that this set-up might not work for people with visibility issues, as the projected image on your table top is not going to be super clear and defined- most patterns you won’t be able to read the projected words on, which is pretty standard in the community from what I’ve read, and you also need to work in a dark room in order for the projected lines to show up on your paper or fabric brightly. This is also where the biggest request from Projectors for Sewing comes into play- having a special projector file from indie sewing designers makes our projects run so much more smoothly. PDFs that come with separated layers are also a godsend as you can just uncheck the layers you dont want and work with one set of lines to trace from, as opposed to squinting to figure out which line is your size in the midst of a fairly blurry image in front of you. Being on the lowest or highest end of the size spectrum here is definitely an advantage as it’s always easiest to pick out the first or the last set of lines in a nested pattern, but having only one line appear is obviously the most helpful. There are ways to try and get your projector image to show up as brightly and clearly as possible, like changing the colors of the PDF file on your computer to show up more vividly (having a black background with bright yellow lines was helpful on one project but the lines barely showed up in that color scheme on another designer’s pattern). You can also adjust the brightness and contrast settings on your projector. I’ve also found that lighter colored fabric has great visibility when I am cutting directly into it, and that when tracing onto paper, sticking another layer of paper underneath it to make it look more opaque helps the lines show up more clearly (I have a green cutting mat which makes anything transparent on top of it take on it’s green hue).

    The projected lines show up on certain colors of fabric fairly well. This is a textured peach silk.

  • You can’t map out a cutting layout with PDF files (although I haven’t used the suggested cutting lay out from a pattern in YEARS, so this won’t be an issue for people like me).
  • I have to manually turn my projector on by climbing on top of a stool and carefully pressing the button when I am ready to use it. Not a deal breaker, but definitely a hassle.
  • I’m not sure how you use A0 tiled patterns to work in your Acrobat Reader. There is a way to trim off the margins so that all the pieces connect, and there is a way to piece together a continuous row of pages in Acrobat, but not more than one row, so it only works if you have a pattern with pieces that adhere to those rigid constraints. There might be more information on how to accomplish this, but I haven’t found it (and I also haven’t looked very hard- I’m sure I will try and figure it out once I am ready to project an A0 file).

And that’s it, folks! So far I’ve used my projector for two projects- for the first one I just traced the pattern pieces onto my drafting paper because I didn’t have the fabric I needed for the project yet. It was quick and easy and fun and a great first project with the projector since I didn’t have to pay attention to any of the details required when you cut directly into the fabric. The next project I made WAS directly onto the fabric and let’s just say…I learned a lot! Thankfully I didn’t completely screw it up, but it was definitely an ambitious project for only my second time working with the projector, hahah!  You can read more about that experience when I share the details of my faux fur coat in the future.

Til then, thanks for reading, and keep wearing your mask!!!!

Sherlock Holmie

 

I was so intrigued when I came across Vogue 9288 a couple years ago that I feverishly hunted it down online (I *think* this was a pattern I couldn’t find in my size on etsy or ebay so I ended up buying it from an IG follower who had it in their stash), and waited to come across the perfect fabric for it. That day came when my friend Mimi destashed some of her fabric onto me and I received several yards of this perfectly-autumn-orange boucle that kind of looked like muppet fur and definitely looked fun and interesting. It took me a while to get around to finally cutting the project out as I was waiting for LA to get cold enough (sigh…I’m still waiting!) but by the time I did, I had made a HUGE mistake- I missed tracing and cutting out one essential pattern piece for the cape, the front center panel that each side of the cape buttons onto! So I had cut out all my pieces from fabric thinking I had PLENTY of room and not being frugal with the placement at all! Of course, by the time I realized what I had done, it was too late- there was not enough fabric left to squeeze that front panel from, not even enough to try and Frankenstein something together (although I’m sure I could have made it work with more thoughtful pattern placement). I searched EVERYWHERE for a remnant of this fabric- the fabric Mimi had originally purchased it from was out, so then I made inquests on instagram for anyone who might know where to find it, googling “orange boucle” fabric and scouring all the results. I found myself on European fabric store websites translating the pages to English, thinking I might have found it, but alas it just was not meant to be.

I banished the pattern to the back of my filing cabinet because seeing it brought me too much grief- what a waste of all that pretty fabric due to a shitty mistake on my part! But eventually enough time passed that I found myself re-inspired to cut out the pattern once again. This time the inspiration came from a beautiful (and also very autumnal!) wool I was gifted from The Fabric Store. It’s a classic plaid made of brown, tan and orange hues and it’s not-too-beefy for our mild LA winters.

As soon as I saw it, I was both excited to use it and annoyed with myself for always finding a way to make yet another coat or jacket even though I live in a part of the country that gets the least use out of them. Whatever- you’re supposed to dress for the climate you want, not the climate you have, right? Ha! I knew my vision for this cape was way different than the original one I had planned in the orange boucle, but I also realized that this is exactly where my tastes are today- classic, chic, and simple (she types, as a pile of animal print faux fur sits in her craft room waiting to be turned into a swing coat LOOOL).

Anyways, this time I made sure to trace the missing piece from the pattern that I had somehow forgotten about last time, and I cut everything out from this beautiful Japanese Glen Check wool. I figured that the plaid was busy enough that my non-pattern matching wouldn’t be super noticeable, but I’ve also learned after years of sewing that the less attention I pay to pattern matching, the better it comes out. I swear I have been meticulous about trying to get lines to match up before to absolutely no avail, while other projects seem to magically match up at the side seams. This cape is not perfectly pattern matched, but considering it was not a priority for me, it didn’t come out too badly!

This Vogue Easy Pattern was actually pretty easy (a lot of them are more appropriate for intermediate sewists, which I personally don’t mind, but I know can be a little stressful if you’re a beginner and feeling like the project is too advanced for your skillset- though I have to keep reminding myself that “Very Easy” doesn’t necessarily translate to “Beginner”), and suitable for a relatively quick sew, seeing that this pattern isn’t very fitted, so won’t require too many tweaks or adjustments. Mostly you just want to make sure the shoulders suit your frame well, that you have enough room in the front if you have a large bust, and that the length is right for you (I shortened mine just a bit as I am petite and I didn’t want to be completely dwarfed by a big wall of plaid when I wore this thing). The construction is very straightforward- it consists of two main pieces: the front center panel and the back cape, which attaches to the front panel on the sides with buttons. You can also make a belt that doesn’t actually attach to the cape but just ties around your body and holds the front panel in place. You can absolutely make and wear this cape without the belt and it’s super cute, but on me it was a bit shapeless so I love wearing it with the belt. You could also do well to sew a couple of belt loops on the front panel to hold it in place; depending on what you wear underneath it, the belt might want to drift around a bit so I might add them to mine just to make the belt feel a little more stable.

The one thing I did to elevate this simple make was to make bound buttonholes instead of regular ones, because the buttonholes are the main closures to get in and out of the cape and therefore will have a lot of stress put on them. Bound buttonholes are generally much stronger in terms of stability in a bulky fabric like wool, but I also don’t like how my machine makes buttonholes on thick fabrics- they just look a bit unkempt and unprofessional, so whenever I work with thick wool fabrics I opt for bound buttonholes (you can also get nice buttonholes professionally sewn in at a shop but I have no idea where to get that done in LA during COVID). And because I made bound buttonholes, the underside of the fabric was much thicker and took up more space than regular buttonholes, so I decided to face the whole top part of the underside of the front panel instead of just relying on the thin facings that were at the edges. It was a very smart idea and it also makes the whole panel a little bit warmer since it’s got two layers in the front (not that it will matter much here in LA, but who knows where the future will take me and my cute cape!)

I like making bound buttonholes, but ten of them is…A LOT. VERY MUCH A LOT. I think it took me a whole day and a half just to complete them, but of course now that it’s all over, I am SO glad that I spent all that extra time on them. They look so nice! And they set my buttons off so well! Speaking of buttons, I found these (and about 6 other sets that I immediately fell in love with) from a vintage button shop on etsy based in Canada. They have the most incredible vintage buttons- none of that plastic crap that Joanns sells, these are all beautifully designed metal pieces with the most lovely details. There were so many that I liked, I’m pretty impressed that I limited myself to just to the 6 sets I got, but I rarely come across buttons that make me stop in my tracks so this seemed like a smart investment. I bought two sets to pair with this cape in hopes that one of them would work, and these lionheads were the clear winners (the other art-deco set I got in the correct size have a great design but were too bright gold for the colors of the cape- the dark, muted antique metal of the lions ended up being PERFECT). I’m just crazy about how well the buttons work- they feel ornamental and extravagant paired with a fabric that feels a bit utilitarian and unfussy. A little too much paired with a little too little, ending up in “just right” Goldilocks territory!

This Vogue cape comes in size XS-to XXL which fits chests/busts from 29.5″ to 48″.

Thanks as always to Claire for the pictures!

 

Theirs and Hers: Plieades Dress and Gosling Shirt with Fabric Godmother Fabric

When Fabric Godmother reached out to me about collaborating on a blog post featuring their new line of vintage inspired fabric, I was prepared to say no because I was busy with ceramics and hadn’t felt very inspired to sew of late. But as soon as I clicked on the link showing all the fabrics they had to offer, I immediately changed my mind. They have prints and apparel fabrics that I just don’t come across very often online, and these were matches made in heaven. The fabric looked soft and drapey on my computer screen but it turned out they were even softer and drapier in real life, with that “loved and worn” texture that cotton gets after it’s been washed a bunch of times), and the print felt bold and extravagant and fun. It took a while to settle on a print, but eventually I chose the leopard- I love the color scheme with the bright yellows and lime greens, and because it’s on a black background I think it allows the colors to pop even more vividly!

 

To be honest, I think the fabric totally saved this dress because the pattern wasn’t my favorite. Initially I was looking to make a cute, flowy and fancy jumpsuit (most likely the tulip sleeved Burda I took a stab at a a couple years ago but chose the wrong fabric for), but once the fabric arrived and I saw how soft and cozy and pretty it was, I realized I wanted to make something I would wear more frequently, not a special occasion outfit. So I searched around for an interesting silhouette that I didn’t already have in my pattern stash, and someone on IG recommended the Plieades dress by French Poetry to me.

I loved the silhouette and the lantern sleeves- they had a little bit of drama but didn’t seem like they would get in the way of actually doing things, and it felt romantic and flirty but easy to wear. There are actually two versions of the Plieades dress available, the original dress1, which I used, and then a sort of expanded version of the design, dress2, with a button band on the front and a few more options for sleeves, collar and design details.

In the pictures, the dress looks like it’s pretty fitted through the bust and waist and then kind of expands out in the hips thanks to the gathered waistline, which is the look I was going for. Unfortunately the pattern doesn’t include finished garment measurements so all I had to go on were the line drawings and modeled photos. Sadly, the instructions were pretty poor, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt here- it’s a French pattern company and I imagine that someone had to translate the instructions, so I can only hope that the ones in French are much better than the English ones. But even so… in my opinion $14 is a lot of money to spend on a pattern that doesn’t have adequate instructions, even if it had to be translated. The discrepancy, if there is any, should be reflected in the price at the very least. But I would rather just have reliable instructions in the first place!

Right off the bat, the illustrations didn’t match the instructions- you aren’t told to ever gather the shoulder seams and stabilize them but the pictures show that this is what is supposed to be done. The instructions also provide an “Option 1” for the neckline, but there are no other options listed in the remaining pages. The most egregious omission was not describing exactly how to sew the neck facing and get it to lie flat. The front of the bodice is designed to have a delicate V neckline, but they tell you just to sew in the interfaced neck facing and they don’t explain at all how you should change to a shorter stitch length as you get close to the point of the V, pivot the fabric at the apex to sew the rest of the seam on the other side, then clip into the seam allowance so that the facing can flip in to the inside and lay properly.

Honestly this is all super basic stuff, and nothing tripped me up since I knew from experience what I was supposed to be doing, but for a beginning sewist? They would be pretty lost and I don’t think their garment would look as polished at the end as they might want it to. The Plieades dress is such a simple design that could be achievable by an accomplished beginner- it uses gathers, straight seams, a facing, and an invisible zip in the back- nothing too tricky at all. But with sub par instructions, I would not recommend this pattern to someone who didn’t know full well what they were doing.

My other big issue with this pattern is the fit- thankfully I didn’t grade up between sizes in the bust and waist as the measurements suggested I should, but I was smart enough to measure the waist width myself and holy cow there were several extra inches of ease in there! I figured I was just miscalculating something, or that the way the dress would hit on the body would accomodate all that seemingly extra room, but nope- once the main parts of the dress were constructed and I tried it on, I was swimming in it! I’m not sure why the styled photos make it look so much more fitted than it actually is, but I made a size 4 (the sizing only includes 2 to a 16) and easily could have gone down a size and probably taken it in even more, which is just very unexpected. I am only about 1 inch away from being able to pull this dress over my head with the zipper closed, that’s how big it is, and I kind of wish I had realized that early on- I probably could have made some adjustment where I could ommit the zipper entirely!

I’m not mad at the actual fit of the dress- it’s reminiscent of a 90’s babydoll dress with a waistline that is very loose and starts right under the bust, and it’s in turn very comfortable and easy to wear. But I would love to have known that this was what the dress was supposed to look like from the very beginning. The sleeves are my favorite part- I’ve never made a lantern sleeve before and I love how bouncy and flouncy it is, how it gives such a simple silhouette so much detail and is so easy to wear (again, coming from someone who is usually very “dramatic sleeve” averse). The hem is actually super short, which was a surprise to me. I’m 5’3″ and used to shortening hems, not having to lengthen them. I had just enough room to fold a narrow hem at the bottom and I am comfortable with where it lands on me, but I would have preferred to have more fabric to play with so I could make a deeper hem or change the length a bit if I needed to.

Because I ended up making a short summery dress out of this fabric instead of a jumpsuit, I had more fabric leftover than intended, so I decided to finally, FINALLY convince Claire to let me make them a matching shirt, lol. Thankfully they agreed, but only after looking at and feeling the fabric and deciding that it passed their test of comfort and aesthetics!

For their garment I used the Gosling shirt pattern from Sew Sew Def, and I graded between sizes to accommodate Claire’s narrower shoulders and hips- that’s kind of the opposite of how most men’s patterns are drafted but the grading worked great and it actually fits them better than any of the RTW button downs currently in their closet. This fabric gives the shirt major Aloha vibes which I like a lot- and there are some really cute details on the pattern that don’t show up with this print because it’s so busy, but I will definitely be making it again. I love the Sew Sew Def patterns because they have all been uncomplicated and very well drafted, and I love every one of the completed garments I’ve made from them. Plus they are so reasonably priced!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to our neighbor Ana for the couple’s shots! Green slides made by me, and animal print oxfords are RTW. Thanks for the beautiful fabric, Fabric Godmother! Every time Claire wears this shirt they say it’s the best thing they own!

Color Blocked Blanca Flightsuit

Yall know I love a jumpsuit. LOVE! A! JUMPSUIT! But my favorites have been ones that I’ve tweaked and hacked between as many as 4 different patterns, so when Closet Core came out with the Blanca Jumpsuit pattern, I was over the moon! I knew the chances of it fitting me pretty closely right out the envelope was strong, and I was excited to be able to make some small tweaks to one pattern as opposed to big tweaks to four (I don’t even think I could recreate the jumpsuits I have made in the past since so many adjustments were made to them in different ways- I try to keep up with them during construction and write them all down but I inevitably get so overwhelmed with all the things needed to tweak the fit that I usually abandon my note-taking duties to focus on the actual garment.

 

Anyways, the Blanca Flight Suit has some lovely details, as to be expected from a Closet Core pattern, but they are easy to adapt to one’s own needs. It has a relaxed fit in the bodice, a much slimmer fit in the hip and thighs, and a straight leg that can be either cropped, full length, or tapered in with little tabs and snaps (think authentic flight suit details). There are some different pocket options for the front bodice and options for the sleeves as well. I’m normally not a “zipper straight down the front” kind of person and I usually alter my boilersuits to give them a button placket down the front but, maybe because the zipper has a facing, I really like the way it looks a lot. Which is funny because I have read that a couple people don’t like the facing (think of it a little like a fly shield but for the whole jumpsuit instead of just the zipper area on a pair of pants), but I think it makes the jumpsuit look really polished and professionally made. It’s totally a personal choice and I’m pretty sure it’s easy to omit the zipper facing if it’s not your thing, but for me it’s the only reason the zipper down the front doesn’t bother me.

I decided to make the simplest, least adorned version of the jumpsuit for my first version so I could get a feel for the shape and fit and figure out what changes I might want to make for a future make (think wearable muslin with emphasis on the “wearable” part). As I have been doing lots of color and print blocking lately, I had a pretty zany idea for how I wanted to use color in this make. I’ve done the right side vs. left side before but I hadn’t ever done a front vs. back color block, so in my next order of gifted fabric from The Fabric Store, I rifled through their marvelous assortment of linens and chose a deep burnt orange to pair with a light sky blue- sky blue is of course not in my color palette, but I love the way an orange and blue combination looks and I figured if I wore the blue on the back of the jumpsuit, it wouldn’t do any of the things to my face that pastels normally do (wash it out, make me look grey, etc).

I didn’t make too many changes for my first version- I graded out at the hips to accomodate my measurements but kept everything else pretty much the same; short sleeves, cropped length, non-zippered chest pockets. The instructions were clear and easy to follow and the whole thing came together pretty fast, considering I was color blocking and having to pay extra attention to how I was cutting the fabric and which pieces were being used where. The back bodice has this interesting pleat thing going on that creates a little visual interest and allows the wearer room in the back body without it being too full in the shoulders, which I liked a lot.

Once the majority of the garment was sewn, I tried it on and was pretty pleased with it- it came out absolutely wearable, but it’s also just REALLY FUN, because I look like business in the front and a party in the back, which pleases me to no end. However I definitely had some issues with the way the waist was sitting on me, so I made a quick and dirty fix to make it work for this version that was already nearly complete. I have a swayback and a smaller waist size compared to hip size and the waist area on this jumpsuit was so big it was literally hanging down over my butt. The flight suit is supposed to have a loose fit in the bodice and a bit of extra length in the back so that you can sit, stand, and move around with ease without the jumpsuit digging into your nether regions, but this is the opposite issue I have with a swayback, where I need to take out length in the back to accommodate the smaller distance between my hip and my waistline. But the waistline was also just way too roomy for my liking, so roomy that even with a belt on, there was so much fabric that it bunched up and gaped everywhere.

 

I knew I needed to figure out a way to take out the excess ease in the waist so I opted to slide some elastic just in the back waistline piece to see how it looked and it was a great fix. I didn’t make it super tight, I wanted to keep in line with the loose fit of the jumpsuit, but using elastic allowed the extra fabric to be eased in without looking lumpy and bumpy.

In addition to the extra room in the waistline, it also lands really low for my body. I had actually seen What Katie Sews discuss this issue in her own IG stories so I kept it in mind but didn’t want to alter my own pieces til after I had made it as drafted and could see how it fit for myself. Turns out I had the same issue- it might just be a preference thing, but I like that most of my garment waistlines hit high on me, so I will probably bring this waistline up between a 1/2″ and 1″ on my next version. I will also make a swayback adjustment and take out a little length in the back bodice at center while adding a little length to the back pants at center- hopefully that will fix the issue and make it look nicer. You can kind of see how low the waistband is on me at the back- I placed the pockets at the appropriate marks and I think they hit in the right spot, but look how close the tops of the pockets are to the waistband- there isn’t much room between the two areas which I will hopefully be able to fix my raising the waistline.

Looking at the finished garment, I wished I had made the full length of pant legs instead of cropping them, but that’s an easy fix on the next version, too. For these pictures I wore the colorblocked belt I made (which was unfinished in this photoshoot- I was still waiting for my belt rings to arrive in the mail, lol), but although the rings eventually arrived, I’ve been wearing it without the belt. This is a style preference that I have to work out for myself, but for some reason the utilitarian elements of the jumpsuit just aren’t vibing with a belt for me, whether it’s tied, made with buckles or made with rings. It’s the center front zipper that distracts me from it- a belt just looks too busy on top of the zipper (again, this is just my own taste talking- I’ve seen lots of cute versions with belts and I think they all look great). Thankfully the elastic keeps the waistline in place so I can get away with not wearing a belt, but for future versions, I probably just won’t even make one.

 

I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what I want to make my next version out of. Although I think the linen is easy and breezy to wear, I think I prefer this jumpsuit in a much more structured fabric, especially because the design is so utilitarian. I have a lightweight canary yellow wool suiting in my stash that this would look so cute with, but I also just got a gorgeous earth toned twill from Blackbird Fabrics that would be an amazing match with this pattern come fall/winter, so…maybe one of each? HA!

The Blanca Flight Suit was a joy to make and it’s even more fun to wear (although I admittedly haven’t had a ton of opportunities to don it, seeing as how the temps have regularly been in the 100’s the past couple of weeks). Here’s to hoping for a nice cool down sooner than later!

 

 

Eggs/Animal Highlands Wrap Dress

Making this dress has been on my mind for over a year, and, par for the course for some of my most favorite makes, I was inspired by a dress I found on pinterest! It’s by designer Mara Hoffman (who has a really lovely eye for modern prints, color and style and knows exactly how to put them all together).

Mara Hoffman Amrita Dress Penny Dot from Alison Sudol's Exclusive Sustainable Fashion Guide for The Frontlash. Check out the rest of her feminine and stylish picks on our site.

I feel like this dress absolutely speaks for itself, but let me see if I can articulate just why it resonated with me so much. I love the large print of the polka dots, I love the sort of disparate color choices that somehow work so well together, I love how dynamic the colors look on the model’s skin, I love the easy, relaxed fit of the dress and how it doesn’t look boxy even though it isn’t body-huggingly tight. I LOVE the buttons down the side, and the extended sleeves are so cute to me! Now, having said all that, I didn’t actually end up implementing every single one of these design elements into my version, but I’m still crazy about what I ended up with, and excited to try out some other versions in the future!

I have several wrap dress patterns in my stash already but I chose the Highlands Wrap Dress by Allie Olsen because it was so close to my inspo dress and seemed to require the least amount of hacking. I wanted a narrow, yet loose-fitting skirt (as opposed to a circle or dirndl skirt), a wrap top that wasn’t too revealing, and sleeves proportionate to the rest of the dress without too much drama- the Highlands Wrap totally fit the bill.

It wasn’t until I actually bought the pattern, printed it out and looked over the instructions that I realized the back waist of the dress was gathered and had an elastic band (it’s hard to see this detail in the photos of the finished garments and the main line drawings of the pattern on the site only show the front views (you can only vaguely see the back views of the line drawings in smaller resolution on the pattern’s page). I knew that this design feature was likely going to present a problem for me since gathered waists coupled with slim fitting skirts do not drape well on my body at all- with such a large difference between my waist and hip circumference, a gathered waist like that hugs my hips and thigh creates tons of extra, bunchy fabric at the small of my back and I hate the way it looks and feels.

I made a muslin to see how I could address this issue and modify the back skirt to give me a more fitted, yet still comfortable garment, and I was thrilled to see that, except for the back skirt which I already knew needed adjusting, the dress fit everywhere else really nicely.

The sleeves were beautiful and fit my shoulders perfectly, the wrap in the front wasn’t too low or loose and therefore didn’t need a snap installed to keep it closed, and most delightfully, I discovered that it is designed with a button on either side of the wrap skirt to hold it in place, instead of having a hole for the tie to slide through and keep it closed. Having the skirt held in place with hidden buttons instead of a belt is SO BRILLIANT; it means that the tie won’t get loose throughout the day as I breathe and my body gets warm, and it won’t need to be tied more tightly; the dress feels really secure when it’s closed (it helps that it’s long!) and runs much less risk of exposing my bits and bobs if I’m ever caught in a strong wind, haha!

Once I knew that the dress was well suited for me in the front and sides and sleeves, I got to work fixing the back skirt. I had already graded from a 2 in the bust/waist to a 4 in the hips, so the measurements for my curves were accurate, but I needed to pinch out the excess fabric in the waist since I was eliminating the gathering ease/elastic at the back waist. I omitted the back waistband pattern pieces and raised the rise of the skirt to accommodate the missing length. Initially I tried to pinch out the excess fabric in two darts but I didn’t like the way they were laying- because there was so much extra material to take up, the darts had to be very wide and short, and they were causing a pucker on my buttcheek that I couldn’t seem to get rid of (part of this issue is because, in addition to a smaller waist/larger hip area, I also have a swayback). Then I remembered that in my favorite pencil skirt, there are four darts in the back skirt which allow the darts to be skinnier and therefore lay over my butt more smoothly without pulling or gaping anywhere. I pulled out the pattern pieces for my favorite pencil skirt and used them to loosely redraw the darts in my skirt. The skirt of my dress was of course a bit wider than the pencil skirt pattern pieces because it is drafted to have a looser, more relaxed fit than a fitted pencil skirt, but, amazingly, the darts still translated well onto the wrap dress and the silhouette from all angles is SPOT on. It took me approximately two toiles and then lots of extra adjusting on the third one, but it was all worth it cause the dress fits exactly the way I hoped it would!

Although one of my favorite things about the inspo dress were the buttons down the side, I ended up eliminating them for my own version- I wasn’t entirely sure how well the dress would lay and I didn’t want to hack too much of it during the first make and then end up having something that was just a little wonky in too many places. Now that the dress is complete I realize that I could omit the ties and use buttons instead and it would lay like a dream. One of the reasons I was too nervous to try the buttons out on this dress is because, aside from reworking the back of the skirt and eliminating the waistband and elastic, I also had to pay close attention to the fabric details since I was print blocking it and…it required so much of my brain space!!! Hahaha! It seems like it would be totally easy, and it’s certainly not complicated per se, but you just have to pay really close attention that you are cutting the correct side of the pattern on the correct side of the fabric, adding seam allowances for pieces that are supposed to be cut on the fold, making sure the facings are cut on the proper side and in the right direction…it was a lot! Instead of cutting out everything in advance, I cut out the main pieces first and then cut the remaining parts out as I went along so I would make sure that I didn’t cut anything upside down or wrong side up. I messed up just a couple of the facing pieces but for the most part I got everything right the first try and didn’t waste a lot of fabric (I was even able to cut out a mask and an Ogden Cami from my prized animal print fabric)!

Speaking of the fabric…how spectacular are these prints, both alone and together? They are printed tencel twills from Blackbird Fabrics, and I cannot rave enough about how perfect the fabric choice is for this garment. For this dress to lay beautifully, in my opinion it needs to have a bit of drape since the skirt is long and a bit of flow looks nice with it, but it also needs to be stable enough to maintain it’s striking silhouette on the body, which this tencel does beautifully. These prints are from the same designer and were released at the same time so imagining them together wasn’t difficult at all. I wanted to choose prints that were bold enough to stand on their own but that also worked well together, and these fit the bill perfectly. The orange-y brown in the fried egg fabric (yes, I think they look like sunny side up eggs, lol) isn’t quite the same color as the orangey brown of the animal print, but they are definitely siblings, and the black in each print helps pull them together. Even though black isn’t in my color palette, there is enough earth tone in the pops of egg yolk and the background of the animal print for me to pull it off, but honestly, even if I couldn’t “pull it off” I would still wear this dress. It’s just so cool!

Again, I cannot stress enough how pleased I am with how this came out. It was a long time in the making but it was well worth every single decision to get there, and if I come across another set of beautifully contrasting prints like these in the future, I might be inspired to make another dress just like it!

 

 

Flowery and Romantic; A Departure

Lol, this blog title. I was struggling so I just went over the top.

There is little in life these days that allows for spontaneity, and I’m a rule follower by nature- I’m an avid mask wearer when in public or in spaces shared with others, I rarely leave the house except to go to the grocery store/drugstore/ post office, and I DON’T eat out al fresco or otherwise because I am unconvinced that it’s safe (I have gotten some fries from the McDonald’s drive thru a couple of times though, lol). All that is to offer an explanation of why I made this dress, which is sooooo far outside my normal wardrobe style. It’s frilly, it’s ruffly, it’s got sleeve drama, and it’s off the shoulder.

 

It would be rare for me to choose any one of those details for a make, much less all of them in the same one! But alas, desperate quarantines call for desperate measures, and every time I saw this pattern pop up in my feed or across my computer screen, I thought, “this would be such a fun dress to wear”. I think it just reminds me of those carefree pre-pandemic days when I would get dressed up and meet friends for brunch or head out for a stroll in a new neighborhood with Claire, totally overdressed and feeling like a million bucks. A dress like this feels so over the top when all you’re doing is driving to pick up your groceries curbside at Sprout’s, but there are so few opportunities to feel (safely and smartly) frivolous these days, so I bit the bullet and made something totally out of the norm for my taste and style. Although I don’t plan on making this a habit, I think it came out great and I really enjoyed sewing it!

Although I have issues with how the pattern was styled on the pattern envelope (I love a casual shoe with a more dressed-up kind of outfit, but to me, the chunky sneakers just don’t look right with the proportions of the dress), I was drawn to how overly romantic and flowy McCalls 8108 looked without going into maxi dress territory. Of course The Fabric Store had the most perfect floral fabric for this pattern, a crepe viscose (which I was gifted) that I also think would be a perfect match for a 90’s inspired Shelby romper. The tiny flowers are pink and white on a green background, so I figured I could get away with it color palette-wise, and the drape is certainly ideal for this pattern. It’s flowy and lightweight so it doesn’t make the ruffle on the bottom look too heavy for the breeziness of the garment (which is another issue I had with the way they styled the garment on the pattern envelope- the textile they chose looks stiff and a bit voluminous, which could certainly be an intentional decision, but I’m not into it so much- I much prefer it in a less crisp, flowy fabric).

This garment came together fairly quickly and I didn’t need to make any size adjustments to it, probably because it was mostly like making a bustier without the bells and whistles. I sized down to an 8 as per usual with Big 4 patterns, and lined my bodice with a dupioni silk from my stash to give it a bit more stability and weight. I also used steel boning at the seams because on it’s own, the bodice seemed a little…flimsy. I don’t have big boobs, but something about the view I chose, the one with the detached sleeves that just kind of connect under the arms, coupled with the weight of that ruffle, made me think I should include as much support as possible. And this is a note to anyone thinking of making this pattern- I would consider a muslin or at least a double-check of the measurements against your body to make sure the bodice isn’t too short/shallow for your tastes- if I made this again I think I might add just the teeniest amount of additional length…this one works fine on me, but I wouldn’t go to the club in this and attempt dancing very hard, lol.

I could probably get away with wearing this without the boning but I would be constantly worried the dress was going to slip down. Since the bodice is so short (it ends right under the bust), I can’t really rely on  waist shaping to help hold it up, which is how I usually have success with strapless garments, so taking the extra time to sew channels for boning was well worth it, and also reminds me that I have a strapless, boned bodice jumpsuit in my roster of imaginary makes that I might as well get around to soon- I love a well-fitted strapless sweetheart bodice!

I kind of stopped paying attention to the instructions for this dress early on because I have made enough paneled strapless bodices to know my preferred way of construction. But because of this, I’m not entirely sure that I put the sleeves on in the right place, or attached them the proper way. I just used a double strand of thread to hand tack the sleeves to the bodice under the arm where I felt like it would allow me the most movement, and it seems to work well. My biggest issue with this dress is that I don’t particularly like elastic wrapped around my bicep- it feels very restrictive even if it isn’t technically too tight (but you kind of need it to be relatively firm so that the sleeves don’t look limp around your arm- the fitted elastic also helps to hold the bodice up just a bit).

The ruffle at the bottom was pieced together in three parts. Unfortunately did not have enough room to cut them from my fabric in the proper direction, but because the flowers are so small I don’t think it’s very noticeable…and if it is, it can be a considered a style choice, right? Right!

Pretty straightforward make in these very UN-straightforward times, but I’m making it work as best I can. I hope all of you are taking good care of yourself, staying as safe as you possibly can, and keeping optimistic whenever possible; we won’t come out the other side of this if we aren’t staying both vigilant and hopeful! I’m sending you all love and well wishes for good health, good thoughts, and good making!

P.S. Shoes are memade slides I completed a couple years ago I think? Time seems to have lost all meaning these day, maybe I made them last year! I love them but the leather is looking so dingy! I’m crazy about the shape of the peep toe looks on these so I’ll probably try and recreate it in another pair of flat slides soon as soon as I get some shoe-making mojo back! Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

 

 

Jasika Blazer

Alas! I have finally, finally, FINALLY made the Jasika Blazer by Closet Core Patterns, the sewing pattern that Heather Lou so generously named after me! Spoiler alert: I LOVE ITTTTTT! SO DEEEEEEPLY!!!!!!! Now you might be saying to yourself, wow, this pattern came out about a year ago-ish, why did it take so long for her to make it? And that is an EXCELLENT question! Readers, buckle up, this is a long blog post lol!

I was so stoked when the pattern was finally released that I bought my fabric for it before I even had an actual copy of the pattern in my hands. Even though I don’t normally shop at Mood (and don’t plan on doing so ever again after their appropriation of Masai culture for their most recent fabric print release), I knew they would probably have the best selection of wool fabrics suitable for this project, so I scoured their website and narrowed down all the options til I came up with something I loved- a sky blue and white windowpane check wool suiting. It was expensive (having a pattern named after you seems like a great time to splurge on a beautiful fabric!) and clean and crispy and springtime-y , perfect for the season, and I ordered enough to make myself a pair of matching pants. When it arrived in the mail shortly afterwards, it was just as stunning in person, but it had a much looser weave than I anticipated and I immediately wondered if it would be the right kind of weight for a tailored jacket…but I put the doubt out of my mind and waited for the pattern and additional blazer materials kit (which Heather sells in her shop) to arrive.

Life got busy and I found myself putting the blazer off because I wanted to give it my full attention, not squeeze it in between a bunch of other projects I was trying to get done. And then my work life changed dramatically when I found out I was going to be spending much of my next year in Vancouver, so the blazer got pushed back indefinitely. On one of my weekends back in LA, I pulled out the pattern and cut out all the pattern pieces (heads up, folks, there are a LOT of them!), gathered my fabric and notions and carted everything back to Vancouver with me so I could work on the project in my apartment up there, but I quickly realized this was not the smartest decision. The Jasika Blazer is a beautiful tailored jacket with lots of pressing and tweaking and special techniques required in the construction process, so sewing it away from home without all my special tools handy made no sense (I didn’t bring my tailor’s ham or clapper with me to Vancouver cause they were too cumbersome and weren’t necessary for most of my projects, but it would have been a grave mistake to try and make the blazer without them).

All of this is to say that the blue windowpane fabric sat untouched in a closet in my vancouver apartment for about nine months til I moved back down to LA. By this time it was February and I had just come out of my Curated Closet/Palette Color stupor. By the time I pulled out that beautiful windowpane fabric again, finally ready to tackle the project, I realized….oh my god, I didn’t want to use the fabric anymore! I still thought it was beautiful of course, but I had learned that baby blue is just not in my color palette and doesn’t make me shine the way so many other colors, like oranges, browns, yellows and greens do. That’s not to say I won’t ever wear the color- I can totally make blue work when it is used as an accent for my seasonal colors, but I just didn’t feel excited about sewing a complicated, time-consuming garment in something that wasn’t smack dab in the middle of my palette, something I could get tons of wear out of with everything in my wardrobe. So the project went on hiatus yet again…

Sometime in early February of 2020, before all the proverbial shit hit the fan, I found myself in Michael Levine’s (the only LA fabric store I frequented in the past few years which has had to permanently shut it’s doors thanks to coronavirus, RIP!) looking for a specific type of fabric for some project or another, and I came across the most remarkable tweed I had seen in recent memory. It was a remnant bolt from some designer’s collection, and it immediately caught my eye because it was so stunning.

It is mostly golden yellow and dark brown, but there are tiny flecks of pretty much every other color in there as well- reds, blues, blacks, grays, greens. It’s so brilliant that it’s almost hard to decide what the main color is- in certain lights it looks green, in others it looks like a muted gold. Whatever it is, it’s very obviously in my color palette so I brought a yard and a half home with me, thinking it would make a great pair of wide legged trousers. A couple of weeks later I was hit by a bolt of sewing inspo and I ran to my craft room to see if there was enough of this fabric to make the Jasika blazer with- I had suddenly realized that it was the most perfect, plushy wool for the blazer, and thankfully I had enough fabric to make it happen!

The beginning of my blazer making timed out pretty perfectly with the coronavirus quarantine so I suddenly had LOTS of time to dedicate to this project. Even so, I decided to take my time with it, to divide it up into little bite sized chunks so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed by working on the same project for such a long time. I gave myself little palette cleansers in between some of the bigger steps, for example, I cut my muslin out first and made some small fit adjustments to the paper pattern pieces, then I worked on pottery for a couple days. Next I cut out all the main pieces out of my fabric and attached the interfacings, then I worked on a less complicated sewing pattern. It was fun to divide it up this way, as it gave me something to look forward to while ensuring that I didn’t get bored or saturated by the project (which only became important because of the weird atmosphere of staying at home for so many weeks months seasons?? in a row).

I love sewalongs for complicated or new-to-me projects so was SUPER excited to be able to have my hand held through each step of the blazer process by watching the class that accompanies the Blazer pattern. Heather Lou and her team put together a BEAUTIFUL, professional class series that guides you through each step of the construction process, from discussions about what fabric to use to the differences between interfacings to why we need sleeve heads. But I want to ensure you that the class isn’t necessary to make the blazer. As always, Close Core Patterns has excellent instructions with very clear images and descriptions of each step, and I relied mostly on them to get through the blazer, but I liked having additional visuals to ensure I was doing everything correctly. I also learned a lot just by listening to Heather talk about the process and share interesting tidbits of information along the way. I got in the habit of watching the next lesson over breakfast or lunch before I went downstairs to sew, and then implementing what I learned in my work that day (although occasionally the laptop had to come downstairs with me so I could watch it in time with what I was doing). In short, the class isn’t necessary to make the jacket, but it takes out any guesswork you might have about certain steps that might be unfamiliar to you, and if you generally like to follow sewalongs, the video is definitely going to add a lot of ease to your experience of making the blazer.

As far as fitting goes, I graded the hips out to a size larger (I think I made a 4 in the bust/waist and went up to a 6 in the hip) but once I made my muslin, I realized I had miscalculated the ease somehow. I’m not entirely sure how this happened since the pattern clearly states the finished measurements on the envelope, but I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention or just misjudged how much hip ease I would need. Either way, the muslin fit like a dream through the shoulders, bust and waist, and viewing from the front, the hips looked like they fit great, too, but the back told a different story; the vent was splayed open about a 1 1/4″. I evenly distributed that 1 1/4″ across the hip areas of the front, side and back on my pattern pieces and then transferred that additional width to the lining pieces as well. I shortened the sleeves about an inch or so (customary adjustment for me) but didn’t need to take any length out of the body- CCP tends to be proportional on me in this arena.

The adjustments I made were all great but I could probably use a teeny tiny bit of extra room in the underarms. I had no issues at all with my muslin, but of course my muslin didn’t have the sleeve heads, horsehair, interfacing and lining attached, and it wasn’t made out of thick wool. I did use my shoulder pads in the muslin fitting, but it still wasn’t a great approximation for how the arms would ultimately fit. The shoulders are perfect on me, I just wish there was a little more room for my arm to move around and feel comfortable in the underarm area, but I think it’s just a matter of personal preference for me personally because…ummm….well, I like to do impromptu dances and kicks at a moment’s notice, lol. The fit is definitely wearable and most importantly it doesn’t cut into my underarms at all, it’s just something I will probably make a tiny change to the next time I make it. After an in-prpgress try-on, I went inside the jacket and trimmed off the teeniest bit more from the seam allowance (you’re instructed to trim no less than 3/8″ in this area), and it seems to be a little bit looser now that I have worn it a couple times.

I chose a fairly bold leather for the elbow patches on this jacket, which I love- it’s a vintage-y 70’s green that looked out of place in my wardrobe before my closet curation and now matches everything. Ironically, this is where I got snagged the most while making this jacket- I have no idea how, and I am embarrassed to admit this (I blame Covid-19), but I sewed the sleeves on backwards, ugggggghhhh!!!!! Obviously this has happened to all of us at some point in our sewing career, but these sleeves are actually drafted to be slightly curved to follow the natural line of the elbow and arm as it moves towards the front of the body, so I feel like I should have known better. Regardless, when I first tried the jacket on to see how the sleeves fit, the elbow patches were on the fronts of my forearms (LOL) and my immediate assumption was that I had accidentally put the patches on in the wrong place. It wasn’t until I had unpicked them, sewn them onto the proper sides of the sleeves and tried the jacket on again that I realized the entire sleeve was set in backwards, and I hadn’t needed to take the patches off at all. UGGGGGHHHH again. So I unpicked the sleeves from the armholes and opened the inside seam of the sleeve so that I could lay the sleeve flat to re-sew the elbow patch on again. Re-sewed the sleeves right ways, tried it on again. Claire was visiting me in the craft room and said “those elbow patches look kind of low”. I gave her a foul look but she was right, somehow I had sewn them on so low that they looked almost like wrist patches, UGGGHHHHHH for the third time! So off they came again, and this time I trimmed them down a little on all sides because 1. I thought they were a little big proportionally on my jacket (the patch is drafted to be one size fits all), and 2. they had holes from my sewing machine needle on the edges from sewing them so many times. Although I think I could probably have sewn them a little more towards the center of where my elbow rests, you can imagine how uninterested I was in sewing them a 4th time so we are going to act like they are perfectly and exquisitely placed now, lol!

After the elbow patches the rest of the jacket came together quickly…or, wait, that’s not true. I got stuck and stumped a couple more times, again, through no fault of the pattern, but because my brain needed more breaks than I was giving it. I sewed the lining together and took it out twice because I thought I had put it together wrong; the lining of course has different right and left sides to match up with the different sides of the back vent, and I kept convincing myself it was incorrect. It wasn’t.  LE SIIIIGHHHHH. Eventually (after a long break!) I got my shit together, sewed my correctly pieced lining to the outer jacket, and birthed it. Ahhhh, sweet satisfaction! A lot of people feel squeamish about sharing their coat birthing videos with the public but I personally LOVE it, and I was very excited to share the experience of bringing my beautiful new blazer into the world on instagram! (will make this a highlight on my instagram cause yall just LOVE coat birthing videos! lol)

This wool was absolutely MADE for this pattern- it’s so thick and plush and the stitching just sinks into the surface of the fabric. I truly think that one of the reasons this jacket looks so stunning is because it’s such a good match of fabric and pattern. Like, I’m a decent seamstress, but this thing looks damn near PERFECT- any flaws or wonky stitch work is totally covered up by the thick wool fabric, and I am NOT mad about it! And now that this jacket is done, I can see what a pain my thin, slightly airy window pane check wool suiting would have been to make in this pattern. Initially I was disappointed in how long it took me to finish this blazer (it’s such an honor to have a pattern named after you, who in their right mind would wait so long??) but now I am ridiculously happy that I didn’t push myself into the project before I was ready because I know I wouldn’t have come out with such a pristine, stunning garment. Whether it was the sewing gods intervening, my own sixth sense being stimulated, or just a coincidence of the universe, this blazer wanted to be born into the world in a perfectly suitable textile that was in my color palette, created at a time when I had plenty of physical and mental energy to give to it. I am so thankful! Failures are an important part of the creative process, but I don’t think I would have been able to handle a big loss like this blazer during quarantine, so I feel very lucky to have it turn out such a success!

As you can see, there are several more memade garments included in this blog post, and I am just going to briefly chat about them since I don’t want this blog post to turn into a whole novel.

The Jenny Shorts are another CCP make that I sewed in some stunning bull denim from Blackbird Fabrics. I have made the Jenny Overalls before and used the bottoms from the pattern to hack onto other bodices, but this was my first time making the shorts and I absolutely LOVE them. Great coverage, comfortable, interesting details I love the warm color and the weight and feel of the denim was so fun to sew- very stable and substantial for bottomweight but not super stiff and rough like a lot of woven denim tends to be.

The button up shirting fabric is gifted from The Fabric Store – I made this garment from Butterick 5526 a while ago but was never happy with the photos I took of it. Lladybird raved about this pattern on her blog forever ago which is why I bought the pattern (I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if it weren’t for her) and she is right- it’s a terrific design! The version I made has princess seams and 3/4 sleeves and it fits like a dream- I made no mods and was able to make the size I actually fit into and it’s so lovely. It fits my petite frame so nicely but doesn’t feel too tight anywhere, and I absolutely plan on making more, as soon as I feel inspired to make dress up clothes again. I have worn regular clothes pretty much every day of quarantine (yes, even bras! What can I say, I have comfortable soft bras that I love wearing!) but have kept it quite casual- I can’t remember the last time I dressed up for anything other than blog photos or putting myself on tape for an audition. Anyways, white is not in my color palette, but I think this shirt works if I’m wearing with other colors from my palette, and I can definitely get away with it in summer time when my skin is a deeper shade of brown.

Next we have the yellow Alphonse Trousers seen in the photos towards the beginning of the post which has been my favorite pattern discovery of the past several months. I am a huge fan of the high waist, loose fit in the hips and thighs, and tapered ankles of the pattern, and it’s relatively quick make since they fit me right out of the envelope. I made them in silk velvet here and in a stunning drapey tweed here and these yellow ones are made of a super soft. almost velvety cotton from The Fabric Store.

Lastly are the green slides seen in the top photos which I made from the same leather as my elbow patches, because again, IT’S IN MY PALETTE! They were a super simple make, but when I tell you that I wear them about 5 days out of the week because they go with EVERYTHIIIIING! I actually plan on making another pair of slides in an orange color to fully round out my summer slides game, and then I should be set (and hopefully wont wear the green ones into the ground any time soon)!

Whew that is a LOT of makes! Thanks for the pictures, Claire!

And thank you again Heather Lou for including me in your illustrious line-up of makers to name your patterns after. I truly could not be more honored by the recognition, or more impressed by the pattern! Your team continues to push the sewing community to challenge themselves and tackle exciting projects like these, and my personal sewing skills have grown so much thanks to your designs! Sending fist bumps and shimmies to you all in Montreal!

Colorblocked Kalle

Colorblocked Kalle

FYI: This post is about the Kalle Shirt/Shirtdress by the artist formerly known as Closet Case Patterns- they have now had a name change and can be found at Closet Core Patterns! Same great patterns, cool designs and inspiring and informative blog, but with a new name! You can check out their blog to learn a little bit more on the why’s of the name change. As a massive fan of this brand of patterns I have made just about everything they have released, so I plan to go through all my old blog posts to find where I have tagged their company so I can change it to their new name.

Colorblocked Kalle

I stumbled upon the idea for this colorblocked Kalle by accident. In my stash were two cuts of raw, nubby silk that I had purchased from different fabric stores, and I bought them with no idea whatsoever of what I planned to make with them, I just really like this kind of raw silk and I snag it up whenever I have a chance. I had saved both pieces when I did my fabric palette color cull at the beginning of the year, even though one was only marginally in my deep autumn palette.

The sunny, bright yellow was an obvious yes, but the salmon was debatable. Warm, orangey peaches definitely work within my palette, but this salmon-y color is more cool than warm, and I could even tell when I held it up to my skin that it made me look pretty grey. But I kept it anyways because I’m the boss! Although I love having parameters to work with in my makes, I don’t ever want to feel like the PALETTE is in total control, and I like experimenting and seeing how I can involve other pieces outside of my normal style/color scheme. I wondered if the yellow might be lively enough to bring up the kind of dull mood the salmon silk was conveying, and the Kalle shirt seemed like a brilliant pattern to test out my theory on.

 

I’ve made the Kalle a bunch of times, both for myself and for Claire, and it’s a real TNT for me. It’s so easy to wear and it’s a very straightforward make, but it also has lots of room for playing around with the design. I’ve made the kalle shirtdress in a silk that I sandwashed in my washing machine and one of my fav versions is in a striped grey and white linen that I changed directions on so that one side was vertical and the other horizontal (never made it to the blog but it’s been on my IG feed a bunch):

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAoDEDxn68V/

The construction was very straightforward- again, I am familiar with this pattern because I have made it about 5 or 6 times now, so I don’t have much more to say about the make itself that I haven’t mentioned in my other blog posts (here is my first make of this pattern)! I decided to french all the inside seams since I knew you would get glimpses of the innards while I was wearing it and I wanted it to look nice and clean.

Fiddling around with the color blocking for this project wasn’t too tricky either, it just required some thoughtfulness of where I needed to add seam allowances (if I was splitting one pattern piece into two) and which sides needed to be a certain color. I will admit that I had to go slow with the collar pieces, lol. My brain gets easily confused with this sort of stuff but it doesn’t help me to plan it out by writing it down in advance- I have to see the fabric and the pattern pieces all laid out for them to make sense to me. I decided to do the collar all in one color to add just a tiny bit of visual interest to the garment, and since yellow is the warmer of the two hues, I wanted to have as much of it close to my face as possible (the inside of the collar is colorblocked the opposite way of the outer shirt, which I guess is just a little something for me to enjoy when I put the shirt on, haha.

Josephine’s Dry Goods kindly provided THE MOST PERFECT buttons for this top, and we did it all through instagram DMs which I am very impressed by; the color is spot on!

Oh, one other huge thing I did with this top besides colorblock it was to lengthen the back piece, haha- can’t believe I didn’t start this post with that information. I see these pics and forget that this isn’t exactly how the pattern was drafted!

 

I got the idea for this dramatic high-lo hem from, you guessed it- pinterest!

…and the bravery to try the yellow and salmon together from this image. My color choices aren’t quite the same, but the spirit is there!

My kalle is obviously a much more wearable version of the first image above but I do love the idea of a shirt as kind of a cape (I’ve been going around calling this top my “butt cape” lol), and I’m really happy with how this ended up! It’s fun and its interesting and I got to use two fabrics from my stash that, until this point, I couldn’t figure out how to utilize! Altering the back piece was super easy, I just added a lengthen line on the pattern piece and added several inches, but you can’t forget to transfer that same length to the hem facing. One of my favorite details about this pattern is the hefty hem facing that gives the garment a bit of visual and physical weight- I loooove that curve at the sides, and the dramatic drop on the back is so nice!

My only issue is that I am not entirely sure how to style it. I threw it on with some persephone pants for the purposes of this photo shoot, but truth be told, I had taken photos of like, 7 other garments already before we photographed the Kalle shirt and I was too tired to work on putting together a nice outfit- I just wanted to get it done. So I’m not sold on this outfit (I personally prefer this top with more slim-fitting bottoms), but I am curious to see what it would look like with a couple other items from my wardrobe- namely these hot pink pants (also made in raw nubby silk!) or these baby blue Peaches Trousers that might tell a beautiful color story. I’ll probably share some more ideas on what to style this with on IG stories or something at some point in the future, so if you follow me there, stay tuned!

Espadrilles: me made

Persephone Pants: me made

Kalle shirt: me made

Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

Ombre Dress

 

I got this fabric for either Christmas or my birthday several years ago, I can’t remember which. It’s an ombre silk charmeuse from Mood and there were several colorways to choose from- I’m also not sure who this gift was from (I think it was Claire?) but I am SO HAPPY they chose this golden and deep brown version because, even though I hadn’t curated my closet and gotten into my colors when I put this fabric on my wishlist, it’s smack in the middle of my palette and looks really nice with my skintone.

I fell deeply in love with this silk as soon as I held it in my hands but I had NO idea what I wanted to make with it- I didn’t even have an idea when I saw it on the Mood website, I just knew that I wanted to have it. So it has sat in my fabric drawer, unused, for about 3 or 4 years. It wasn’t one of those “this fabric is too nice and expensive for me to use it on anything” pieces, I just kept getting stumped on what pattern would best match it’s qualities. I wanted something that would allow the full measure of the ombre to stand out, which was tricky because the color gradation of the silk occurs from one selvedge edge to the other, as opposed to having the ombre spread out in measured panels lengthwise. This meant that I had to be smart about which pattern I chose and I had to make sure that my layout would work within the confines of my yardage (I think I got three yards), but since I had to follow the rules of working with a directional print, it meant there was much less space to play around with and I would be squeezing as much as I possibly could out of the fabric.

I don’t think I realized when I bought the SashaMcCalls 8036 pattern that it might be a good match for this fabric- it actually took me a few weeks of the pattern hanging out in my craft room to make the connection! I was just casually going through my smaller-than-before stash one day and I pulled out this silk, as I had done a million times before to no avail. I glimpsed this pattern  out of the corner of my eye and poured over the pattern details to see if I would have enough fabric for it. It seemed like a good match because 1. it has a waistline, which meant I would have a little wiggle room in matching the ombre from top to bottom, 2. the skirt was full and swingy, which was important to me so that the beautiful soft drape of the fabric could take centerstage, and 3. it had some interesting design details, like those dramatic sleeves!

Although I love the version with the buttons down the side, I thought this fabric would work best in the most simple, uninterrupted silhouette possible- putting buttonholes in charmeuse felt like it would have been the biggest mistake ever- I personally like to mess with this type of fabric as LITTLE as possible. It wasn’t terrible to sew with, but the tiniest little threads in the fabric wanted to snag every once in a while, even with brand new microtex needles inserted into my machine, so the less I had to handle it, the better.

I was smart enough with this project to make sure that I made a muslin before cutting into my precious silk, and I only made some minor, customary (for me) adjustments on the pattern pieces, like grading between sizes at the waist and hips. I usually shorten the bodice on big 4 patterns but I think this one didn’t require it, which was a nice surprise. I was on the fence about the sleeves at first, worried that they would not look very proportionate on me because of all the drama they are drafted with, but turns out they are my favorite part of the dress!

Once my muslin was finished and I was happy with the fit, I laid out the pattern pieces so that the brighter yellow gold at one end of the ombre would be closest to my face and the deeper brown would fade to the bottom of the skirt. I’m sure it would have looked really nice the other way, too, but since golden yellow is one of my favorite colors, I wanted that to be the part that got the most action. I ombre matched the bodice and skirt so that the fade of the colors would look uninterrupted from top to bottom by overlapping the placement of the pattern pieces by the width of the seam allowance along the same lengthwise line of the fabric, and it worked out well. I just barely got my sleeves in on the same line of the fabric, though to be honest, one of them had to be cut slightly off the parallel line of ombre because I had do little fabric to work with. I figured it wouldn’t be obvious since the sleeves would be separated by my torso and therefore any discrepancies would not easily be seen, and I was right- I can’t tell where on the sleeve there is the slightly color variation!

The construction of the dress is pretty simple, the only trick for me was being gentle with my delicate fabric and making sure the pleats of my sleeves were aligned properly. This charmeuse doesn’t recover well from holes made by machine or hand sewing needles, but I couldn’t easily get around them when constructing the sleeves- since the fabric is slippery, I had to baste the pleats down as per the instructions (I was worried that sticky tape would have left gunk and stained the fabric) and the price I paid for this is that you can see several faint 2 inch long trails of needle holes at the heads of the sleeves where the pleats are. Small price to pay as you have to really be looking hard for them, but still annoying. While I love the overall look of this dress and am so happy I made it, charmeuse is just not my favorite fabric to work with- believe it or not, I would take silk velvet any day of the week! Ha!

Besides the slipperiness of the fabric and extra care I had to take to sew it every step of the way, it’s just not particularly easy to wear. It likes to wrinkle A LOT, but ironing it is tricky because it loves to soak up the imprint of whatever is underneath it (seam lines and edges and folds) and steaming was difficult because the fabric just LOVED to pick up water stains. After completing this dress I actually found it so hard to do a final press that I took it to the dry cleaners. It came out looking great, but just in the transition from cleaners to car to closet it picked up wrinkles again, lol. And what’s more, when I wear it, the fabric is so slippery that it doesn’t really want to stay closed at the front bodice wrap- just in the process of taking these pictures I found myself constantly looking down to make sure my bra wasn’t showing. The fabric is much too delicate to sew in a snap at the front, which I normally do on wrapped garments that like to loosen up over wear, so I will have to see if fabric tape will do the trick. This is of course not even mentioning the fact that one mediocre gust of wind is enough to blow this floaty fabric up and away from my entire body, a la Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate, so wardrobe malfunctions are high on my list of worries when wearing this thing, lol.

So I’ve barely worn this dress and I already have some limitations on how, when and where I can get away with wearing this dress: preferably inside, possibly outside with a coat/jacket worn on top, with plenty of fashion tape in my purse, and ideally with a very plain slip underneath! But oddly, I’m still happy I made it! Each of my makes is an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the marriage of fabric and pattern, about new techniques and classic ones, and about my own preferences when it comes to construction and taste. I hope I get an opportunity to wear this dress to the perfect event sometime in the near-ish future (seems like it’s mostly zoom calls these days, but a girl can dream!) and I am also excited to make this pattern again in a more appropriate, easy-to-wear fabric, like a lightweight linen or cotton. See you next time, Sasha!

Photos by Claire Savage, maker necklace from Closet Case Files, RTW shoes.

 

(I Can’t Believe I Made) Silk Velvet Pants + Adrienne Blouse

I want to start out by saying that these pants are very imperfect, and I know it. I don’t say that to denigrate my skillset or self aggrandize or anything, but rather to serve as proof for any other sewists out there that things don’t have to be perfect for us to enjoy them, for us to be proud of them, for us to get good use out of them! I know where every single flaw is in this garment and yet when I look at it, all I think about is how fluid the gorgeous fabric is, how perfectly it fits into my autumnal palette with it’s deep golden brown, plush texture. I am too proud of creating a wearable garment out of this tricky-to-sew silk velvet from The Fabric Store to be concerned about it’s imperfections…

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to talk about them! Ha! A quick reminder- not all velvets are created the same. Velvet is generally trickier than say, a quilting cotton, but some are waaaay easier to sew with. Stabler velvets, like the kind you might make a blazer out of, or the kinds with a backing that is used for upholstery fabric, haven’t been that difficult to work with at all (other than not being able to iron it like normal fabric), and stretch velvets seem to be much more forgiving, too. But slippery woven velvets, especially the kind made of silk like these brown pants? My god, the journey is arduous! But totally worth it, because the fabric is just SO stunning.

RACHEL ANTONOFF BEA SUIT PANT (JADE) - RachelAntonoff.com

Pinterest Inspo Image

I last worked with this velvet about a year ago when I made this jacket (which just so happens to be the color of my inspo pants above!), and once I was done I swore I would never work with it again, as much as I loved wearing the fabric. It’s just so delicate and finicky! But eventually I stumbled across the above image of a pair of bright green velvet cropped pants and I couldn’t get them out of my head. I had actually tried my hand at a pair of silk velvet pants last year but the pattern was not a good fit for the fabric at all- they had pockets on the fronts which I tried lining with silk so that they wouldn’t be too bulky and would lay down nicely, but they refused. The pockets gathered and pulled on my body and were such a sore sight for me to look at when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I also didn’t like the leg shape on me that much- so I moved on to another project and figured my velvet pants dream was dashed: I just didn’t have it in me!

But of course, after a few months away from the idea, I started dreaming of them again and challenged myself to try once more, but with a different pattern. In some ways this pattern, the Alphonse trousers, was even more complicated than the first one I had tried, because it has a zip fly (and if anything says FIDDLY AND FRUSTRATING, its a zip fly made in silk velvet). But I told myself I could go very slowly, take my time, pull out all the stops, and triumph in the end. I knew that once I got the zip fly looking good, the rest would be a relative breeze, because the Alphonse Trousers are a TNT for me and they look good in just about every fabric I have paired them with. They have pleats at the front waist which creates a beautiful drape in this fabric, and is also a bit more forgiving with fit in the hip area.

Sewing the zip fly was really tough, and I had to carefully take the stitches out more than once to make sure everything was laying right and looking good. This velvet shows every single mark you make on it, from the needle holes to the actual tracks of the foot of your sewing machine, so I had to make sure that my top stitching on the right side of the garment was as close to perfect as I could get it the first time around. I did pretty good, but it took twice as long to complete as a zip fly normally takes me, and I definitely smashed the nap around the zip fly more than once while trying to press it. I don’t have a needle board to use for ironing velvet, so I tried using all sorts of other things to gently press it when needed. Nothing worked as well as placing a big scrap of velvet upholstery fabric on top of my silk velvet and carefully pressing it from the wrong side, but I learned this a little too late and had a couple of shiny spots on my velvet where the heat of the iron and smashed down the nap.

doesnt my butt like it’s from a Ren and Stimpy cartoon??? WTH! LOL

I was able to revive the nap in these places by wetting it lightly with water and using a really soft nail scrub brush to fluff up the nap. By the end of making these pants I finally caved in and invested in a “velvet” brush, which has stiff but delicate bristles that help fluff up the velvet and revive it to its original plushiness.

My zip fly was imperfect, but it looked pretty darn good to my naked eye so I moved onto the rest of the pants construction. I have used fabric sprays to adhere velvet, I have used tape, I have sewn with paper in between the pieces of fabric, I have used a walking fo0t, you name it- most of these techniques were either too messy or too complicated to work well for me on this silk velvet (although they have worked to varying degrees on other types of velvet). So far my favorite trick to sew super shifty velvet has been to hand baste all my seams together before running them through the machine with a straight stitch, then I serge the raw edges (which gives me no trouble at all- if I could just serge the whole thing I would be in great shape but serging doesn’t allow for me to do any fitting adjustments during construction). Hand basting (I prefer inside the seam allowance, not directly on it) takes a bit more time but is so worth it in the end- my raw edges don’t shift around as much under the presser foot when I have hand basted the pieces already and I get mostly even lines of stitching. I also prefer to increase my stitch length when I sew velvet at the machine because the plushy fabric tends to drown the stitches in it’s surface and it’s really difficult to unpick any errant stitching without ruining the fabric.

Of the three or four pairs of Alphonse trousers I have made, I haven’t put side pockets on any of them- the pattern is drafted with in-seam side pockets which don’t well for me at all on most any patterns, and because of the placement of the pleats I haven’t been interested in trying a different kind of pocket on the fronts for fear of interfering with the way the pants will lay. I did put welt pockets on one of the pairs of alphonse trousers I made but decided to forgo them for this velvet- the less challenging the pattern, the better!

Once the seams of the pants were all put together, I moved on to the waistband. I interfaced a piece of raw, stable silk from my stash and used it for the inside of my waistband since I wasn’t remotely interested in trying to interface this silk velvet. I underlined the waistband pieces so the silk wouldn’t peak out the top of the waistband and it worked well enough. The belt loops were extra fiddly of course, but I managed to get them all on, and the only thing I need to fix now is the waistband closure. I have completely run out of the large hook and eye notions that you use for pants so I decided to use snaps instead. Unfortunately they pop open every time I sit down, so once my local sewing shops are open again and it feels safe, I will grab some and redo this closure. I didn’t want to do a regular button hole on this silk because I was afraid it would garble up the fabric and make it look messy.

And I guess that’s that! I think my grain was off when I cut these out of the fabric because one of the inside leg seams drifts towards the front of my body, hahaha. It’s ok though- I am really, really happy with how these pants came out because at the beginning of the project I was convinced they would end up a total fail, and I proved myself wrong! What a happy surprise!

Last, but certainly not least, is this beautiful little Adrienne Blouse I made from Friday Pattern Company. It’s the first pattern I made from this popular indie pattern company, and what a gem it is! I had seen various versions of it going around the sewing blogosphere but I was always on the fence about it. I’m not usually one for dramatic sleeves in casual wear- maybe because I’m always futzing about and doing stuff with my hands and I was nervous these billowy sleeves would get in my way – I hate in-the-way sleeves lol!. I also saw a lot of versions that used thicker, heavier weight knit fabrics that made the garment look dense and burdensome which turned me off- we are already in the thick of summer weather here in LA so I didn’t want to make anything that would trap in heat and be uncomfortable.

Thankfully I kept the pattern in the back of my head and then remembered it when I came across this stunning turmeric linen knit from Blackbird Fabrics. I’d worked with linen knits before and figured this would be a dream fabric and pattern pairing- it’s very lightweight and breezy, with a looser weave than some cotton knits, and it gets softer after washing. The pattern was very straight forward and simple to put together, and I love how they suggest you use bra elastic in the neckline and sleeves because its stronger- I never thought about that before but it’s true, and it worked beautifully in this garment. I didn’t make any adjustments other than shortening the sleeves just an inch or two, and I made a straight XS which seems to work great on me. I was worried about where the neckline and sleeves would hit on my body in terms of my bra straps- I didn’t want them laying completely outside the line of the blouse but I also knew this fabric would be too sheer for me to feel comfortable wearing it without a bra. Good news, the ruching of the gathered sleeves is tight enough that it kind of holds my bra strap down around my shoulder and it doesn’t peak out much at all. Of course it will lay differently on different bodies, but I wanted to share how it works on mine.

I love the shape and style of this shirt, it’s such a nice change from a plain tee shirt or boxy top style which seems to be the default for knit tops sewing patterns these days. I tried the blouse on before I put in the bottom elastic for the sleeve hems and was absolutely delighted by how fun and easy it felt to wear it with full billowing sleeves. I thought I would hate it, but they were beautiful! Maybe it’s because the sleeve (which I shortened slightly) hit around my elbow, so it didn’t get in the way at all and felt very loose and flowy and romantic, but not cumbersome. Ultimately I decided to finish the top as designed with the hem elastic, but I plan on making another one and leaving the sleeves loose as soon as I come across another beautiful, lightweight knit!

In case you couldn’t tell, the golden yellow of the linen knit and the buttery brown of the velvet are right in my palette and I feel glorious wearing them together. My IG feed is becoming the kind where all the colors match my palette and I am just so thrilled to keep benefiting from this color theory!