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Cielo Dress in Vintage-Inspired Silk

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

But I have my answer now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Jumpsuit in Watercolor Voile

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

A Jumpsuit in Wheated Silk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vintage 90’s Swing Dress


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks as always to Claire for these cute pics!

Blue Leopard Print Wrap Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the shoes!

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

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

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

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

Dawn Jeans, Zebra Shirt, Gold Heels

There are three separate makes in this post so this is gonna be a BLOOOONG one (I’m coining this term and I hope it really takes off lol).

First up are the Dawn jeans by Megan Nielsen, a pattern filling the holes of many jeans-loving sewists the world over. I must admit, when I first saw the release of this pattern I wasn’t super impressed, but I think it was because the styling of the jeans in the photos left a lot to be desired. The denim in some of the views looks pretty lightweight and of a questionable quality (that may not be true at all, just my perception) and the photoshoot in general just looked kind of bland. It was hard to pay attention to the style lines and design of the jeans when I couldn’t get past the fact that the overall look wasn’t very enticing. This is a skill I am still working on, ignoring the photos/illustrations on a pattern envelope and focusing on the line drawings on a pattern instead. Not every pattern designer has the same style as me, and that’s okay! Now that I have completed the jeans myself, I think it’s a pretty terrific pattern, despite how they were marketed by the photos. But it makes me wonder how many other patterns I have passed by because the styling/fabric choice/print/fit didn’t draw me in.

I’ve seen the Dawn jeans described as Mom jeans which is why I initially decided to give them a shot (I love a good Mom jean!), but I think they are a little more fitted and modern than my personal definition of the Mom jeans look. I made my own pair of mom jeans a few years ago by mashing the Closet Case Gingers (high waist skinny jeans made with stretch denim) with the Morgans (loose-fitting, low rise jeans made with non stretch denim) to great effect. The waist of my mash-up is high with a slightly loose fit in the thighs and calves, and they are made with a bleached woven denim. They bag out after a few hours of wear but are comfortable as all get out- I could probably wear those things to bed. The Dawns have a much tighter silhouette in the butt, hips and thighs and fit almost like skinny jeans but without the stretch factor, so they have to be very closely fitted to your body. I was really excited to make these after reading some reviews by other sewists who said they were drafted well and designed for a small waist to larger hip ratio. I wanted to see how they compared to Anna Allen’s Phillipa pants that took the sewing community by storm a little while after the Dawn jeans were released (I made and blogged about the Phillipa pants here– I really like them but they don’t give me the super fitted silhouette that I was hoping for, and they bag out in the butt pretty quickly which is a pet peeve of mine).

As for the instructions, I can attest that they were clear and concise- all of the Megan Nielsen patterns I have made have been easy to follow and understand, even for complicated techniques like zip flies, but, perhaps because I was unfamiliar with the details of her technique, I had a couple of mess-ups. The biggest mistake I made was adding a pocket stay to the design but forgetting to baste them to the fly openings before starting my zip fly construction. I didn’t have to deconstruct the entire fly to attach the stay but I did have to do a fair amount of seam ripping to make sure the pocket stay was solidly attached to either side of the zip. I elongated the zip fly about an inch but I could have lengthened it even more- it’s a bit better now that I am breaking the denim in and it’s softening up, but when I first wore them I had so much trouble getting the small waist over my big butt (as always, I graded up in the hips which makes it harder to pull them on) that I actually broke the zipper my third time wearing them!

(Full disclosure: I wore these to a photo/video shoot for LOGO celebrating LGBTQ artists and activists for this year’s Pride, and while in the dressing room, I got to meet some of the other people being photographed. Two gorgeous women I met went on and on and on about how amazing my jeans were and how great the fit was and when I told them I made them myself, they about lost their minds. They were so kind and complimentary and I was on cloud 9 because I knew and loved their work already and felt so special to have their attention! I excused myself to run to the bathroom real quick, but in the process of pulling my pants back up, I broke my zipper! I then had to come back into the dressing room to grab my stuff, surreptitiously trying to hide my open fly from the women after I had just bragged about how I made my jeans myself. Of course one of the women clocked the open fly and discreetly let me know I needed to zip up because she didn’t want me walking around with my crotch exposed, to which I thanked her and proceeded to pretend to zip my fly– which of course couldn’t actually close. I then placed my garment bag in front of my body to hide my crotch and I hightailed it the hell out of there so that my making skills wouldn’t be exposed as fraudulent! Hahahaha! The next day I took the jeans to my dry cleaners and had them replace the zip for me because I hate doing that myself and now they are as good as new!)

Okay, back to construction. I sewed my regular size but made sure to have them fit very tightly at the trying-on stage so that they would retain their shape after wear. There is a very fine line here of getting super-fitted woven jeans just right- of course if you make them too tight, they won’t give at all and will just cut into your stomach and feel uncomfortable whenever you wear them, but if you don’t make them tight enough, the woven fibers will loosen up after being stretched out from wear and body heat, and you won’t be able to enjoy a nice, close fit without having to wash them between each wear. I really wanted to make these jeans in a raw denim and not have to wash them over and over again (even my Phillipa pants could stand to be a little tighter) so I erred on the side of too tight, hoping and praying that they would mold to my body with very few washings. I honestly can’t tell how successful I was at this part- there are times when I put the jeans on and they feel so tight that I am worried I wont be able to sit inside of my car and drive comfortably, and other times when they slide on perfectly and feel just the right amount of snug but not uncomfortable at all. This is just how people’s bodies fluctuate from day-to-day and I’m not gonna stress about it because overall I really love how they look and feel, but I also could make a few changes to my next pair to help them feel like they fit more consistently.

Another mistake I made with these jeans was with the back yoke. I had intended to try out a swayback adjustment for the first time (I’ve never done this with jeans before) and I have a theory that it will help with the bunching up of my jeans. When I make high waisted jeans in a woven fabric, they have a tendency to bag out at the yoke right underneath the waistband as opposed to bagging out at the bottom of the butt or in the thighs. It’s hard to explain, but basically after wearing them for a while, a little fold forms underneath the waistband/ at the top of my butt and I think that taking out some of the length in this area will make the pants sit properly and lay over the curve of my waist without bunching, but I either forget to adjust the yoke pattern piece on each new pair of jeans I make, or I adjust them in the wrong way and get frustrated and then just use the regular yoke pattern piece as designed. One of these days I am gonna get it right, and I hope it’s with this pattern because I really want to make another pair in a railroad denim.

The denim I used for this pair is from Blackbird Fabrics, and it was lovely to work with. It’s rugged but not too heavy, strong but not so stiff it feels uncomfortable, and it’s got a subtle yellow-ish run of threads in it that gives it an antiqued look. I wanted to keep the wash as intact as possible so I opted to keep them relatively raw- before construction, I soaked the denim in a cold bath, let it hang dry, and I haven’t laundered them at all yet- I’m hoping I won’t have to for quite a long time. Only issue with this is that I decided to leave the leg hems raw, wanting regular wear and tear to shred the exposed fibers at the bottom, but that takes a long time when you aren’t washing, agitating and drying your garment. Oops! Hahaha, I know I could distress the hems in other ways but I don’t want to- I will let them age in their own time.

Another design element I added to this make was using the selvedge of the denim for the coin pockets and belt loops. I’m not normally an exposed denim fringe kind of person but I liked the coloring of the material so much that I wanted to show it off where I could. The effect is very subtle but I love it, and seeing the feathered edges on these jeans makes me smile every time I reach for them in my closet.

The last issue I had with these jeans that I would change for next time would be to adjust the curved waistband even more. I usually use my self drafted curved waistband when making any kind of non-elastic waist pants but decided to trust the waistband that came with this design instead. I should have compared it to my own drafted waistband as I ended up needing something with a deeper curve. I didn’t notice the issue when I fit them on at the basting stage, but once the garment had been fully constructed and I tried them back on, I realized they were gaping a lot at the waist in a way that was gonna drive me nuts. Instead of taking them apart I just unpicked my waistband and put a dart in the yoke and the waistband on either side of the center back seam (a seam I added so that I could easily let it out if I ever needed to have more room in them). I personally can’t stand darts in jeans but it’s the only way to salvage them sometimes, and they aren’t super visible so I will live!)

Overall, I would say that I prefer these jeans to the Phillipa pants in terms of fit, although both patterns are really terrific. The Phillipa pants are so unique because they don’t have a side seam and they are pretty quick to construct since they don’t have all the bells and whistles of a traditional jeans pattern (yoke, front pockets, miles and miles of top stitching, etc), but that also makes it more difficult to get a really close fit on a curvy body. The outer side seams are pretty much straight down the grain on the Phillipas, which is cool because you can show off selvedge denim with them, but to me, they don’t look as great on ny body that doesn’t also go straight down at the sides (I had to re-draft the side seams of my Phillipas when I made them because they kind of looked like clown pants on me at first). I’m including this little comparison because so many people wrote asking how I thought these patterns compared to one another since they had a similar silhouette- I’m team Dawn for this specific look, but I am sure I will make the Phillipas and of course the Persephones again!

Okay, onto my shirt now! It’s from a vintage Simplicity pattern (6531) that my friend Sean sent me from upstate NY. He works at a store that sells vintage/antique/secondhand items and he told me there was a big box of patterns that he wished I could rifle through if I lived closer. Instead, I told him my sizes and he went through the bins and chose everything that would fit me and that he determined was a good style (I don’t know if he normally pays attention to fashion or women’s clothing but he had great taste in vintage sewing patterns)! This one immediately stood out to me. I loved it’s 80’s feel and ease of wear, it looked comfortable and cool and it had some really lovely details that felt unique but not dated.

Image result for butterick 6531

I made up View C in a gorgeous zebra print silk from The Fabric Store and I love this marriage of fabric and pattern! The silk is lightweight like a voile but the colors are incredibly vibrant- I fell in love with it when The Fabric Store first carried it months ago but they ran out quickly. Luckily they got more in stock! The pattern was super easy to sew up although I somehow sewed the pleats down incorrectly (they are supposed to face the opposite directions on each side but by the time I noticed I had already sewn my French seams and didn’t want to risk fraying the raw edges in the process of re-sewing them). The end result looks like such a Dad shirt to me now, in a good way! Dad shirt + Mom jeans, what a pair! I love how the fit is loose but I don’t feel like it swallows me up. The drafting is pretty excellent for my frame, not too long or boxy, and again, the pleats at the shoulders offer enough detail that it feels like a notch up from a regular button down. It’s a really cool, dynamic looking shirt with this print, but I’m excited to make this in some neutrals, too- I already have plans to make the sleeveless one in a beautiful black and white striped linen in my stash from The Fabric Store.

Lastly, my shoes! These gold strappy shoes have been almost finished for months, but they sat gathering dust in my craft room after I realized I had made a mistake with them and I wasn’t sure how to correct it. When I took these shoes to get heel taps from my local shoe repair guy (his name is George, he is an Armenian immigrant, he’s sweet and funny and has been generously offering me lots of shoemaking tips, but if you follow my IG you know there was a whole thing that happened recently that kind of disrupted our relationship…), he showed me that I had miscalculated the height of my heel and that it was too tall for the last I used. I had not realized it, but the toe kick was non existent and the bottom of the shoe and bottom of the heel just didn’t match up. He told me the heels needed to be shorter but I wasn’t sure how to chop them off. For some reason I kept thinking that I needed to use a saw to fix them, and I just didn’t have one that could be used safely for this specific project (I have a jigsaw, mitre and circular). So they sat on the windowsill of my craft room for months until I was struck by a brilliant idea- I could just sand those heels down with my belt sander!

I had forgotten that these block heels were made of wood, not plastic with a steel bar inside of them (which would have made sanding with the sander impossible), and it took me all of like 5 minutes to shave about 3/8″ of the heel off. I took them back to George, he gave them his approval, and then he put the heel taps on them. Here is what he suggested I do for my shoes next time: he hates that I don’t sew my straps! He says that the heat from your foot can release the bond of the glue on the edges and the leather of the straps can come apart from the lining, so sewing the straps together is the smartest way to ensure a long life of the shoes. I sewed the side straps to the center piece of the upper but didn’t sew the individual straps together because I didn’t think I had a nylon thread color that looked great, but next time I will make that a priority.

These shoes are very comfortable and I love the way they look, although I realize I could have made the back strap tighter to the last during construction, and I am not crazy about the ankle strap design. I think they should come up higher on the ankle but honestly I was too lazy to keep figuring out the design by the time I put the straps on because it had already been months since I started making them and I just wanted them to be finished already! Laziness is not my favorite quality, but I consider it part of the learning process, hahaha!

Thanks as always to Claire who took these cute pics, thanks to The Fabric Store for the gorgeous textiles and the opportunity to share them with the sewing community, and thanks to George who has given me so much information about shoemaking in such a short period of time.

 

Green Silk and Velvet

Hi hi hi hi hiiiiii! It’s been foreverrrrr since I posted here, but not forever since I made anything, hahaha. Here are some excuses: I got a beautiful camera of my own for Christmas last year to replace Claire’s DSLR that I usually used to take blog photos and make audition tapes. Her camera is great, but it’s bulky and a little too professional for someone like me who takes pics and video out of necessity rather than for the fun of it. Claire got me the Sony a6000 mirrorless, which feels a little like using a point-n-shoot (way more my speed) but it took a long time to figure out the best accessories to use with it. We spent months doing research to get the lenses for her Nikon DSLR to work with my new camera, but ultimately there were too many incompatibility issues so we just bought the lens that was originally designed for it and now, at long last, I am finally able to take some great photos for the blog (and by “I”, I mean Claire, lol). Aside from waiting to figure out my picture-taking situation, I spent a lot of time over the past month making things for other people (button up shirts for my Dad for Father’s Day, pants and shirts for Claire) and getting ready for a temporary 6 month relocation to Vancouver. Ah, yes, Vancouver, my old stomping grounds!

Although I am so excited for this new adventure, it’s really hard for me to disrupt my life without my partner in crime, so the relocation feels bittersweet (we just celebrated our thirteenth anniversary this month and I’m feeling sooo emo). Anyways, Claire will hold down the fort in LA while I fly back and forth, so not only did I have to pack a lot of clothes and shoes and all my hair products and my body therapy tools, but I also had to get my travel sewing situation together. I didn’t bring a ton of sewing stuff with me, just fabric, my travel sewing machine, a magnetic pin holder and some scissors- I usually pack a small bag of essentials when I sew away from home but now it makes more sense to just buy a second set of the essentials and keep them up here.

All this is to say that for my flight to Vancouver yesterday, I fought the i’mgonnamisshome blues by wearing something that would feel like a big warm embrace: my recently completed green silk velvet jacket!

Woo doggie, I know I say it all the time but…this thing took me on a journey! The silk velvet is from The Fabric Store and it is ABSOLUTELY. EXQUISITE. The hand feel of this velvet, the drape, the buttery shimmer it gives off when the light hits it just right-my gosh, it is unreal! And for every positive descriptor I can think of to define how gorgeous this fabric feels and looks, I can think of just as many negative ones to describe what it’s like to sew with, haha. But this is not to scare you off! Some people love sewing with velvet because they love a good challenge! I am not one of them!  I’ve sewn with velvet to mixed results a few times in the past (1. 2. 3), and I certainly have gotten better at my technique, but it still requires very careful maneuvering and extra time and patience.

Because velvet is piled, it shifts very easily when the fibers crush into each other (especially if it doesn’t have a stable backing to it), so it can be very hard to keep the edges aligned. I always use a walking foot, but sometimes, like if sewing on the right side of the fabric, the feet can crush the velvet as it rolls over it, and ironing velvet is really tricky for the same reason- it can ruin the pile by flattening it and then it’s seemingly possible to revive. Add to that that this fabric has the additional shiftiness of silk? Like I said, woo doggie!

But look, it wasn’t impossible! Maybe it did take me two tries! But that doesn’t matter- I am in love with this jacket now! And every single fiber of velvet that gave me trouble was well worth what it took for me to get here.

First off, I couldn’t decide between two jacket patterns, this vintage belted one above, or the Artemis jacket from  I Am Artemis Patterns.

I AM ARTEMIS SEWING PATTERN WOMAN JACKET

Both were cute, one with a looser, more boxy look to it and one with a decidedly vintage flare. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I opted for the more fitted vintage one; it seemed right to pair a deep green silk velvet like this with a 70’s silhouette. Welp, guess what, folks? It was the wrong choice! The wrongest wrongly wrong choice. I didn’t take photos of the disaster that was jacket attempt number one so you will just have to trust me on how bad it was (but if you follow me on instagram, you know exactly what a Georgia O’Keef -inspied travesty it ended up being!)

Let’s start off with the pockets on the sides of the vintage jacket. Drapey velvet fabric such as this doesn’t wanna be top stitched. It’s so hard to get the straight stitches perfectly even and nice looking around the edge, because the nap of the velvet shifts around so much that even if you have sewn a completely straight line, it just doesn’t LOOK straight. After failing at attaching the pockets by machine stitch, I unpicked them and decided  instead to hand stitch them to the fronts, which took me approximately 5,000 years to complete, and they still ended up looking terrible. Also, because of the drape of the fabric, the way the pockets were sewed onto the fronts looked wonky- I pinned them on straight but they shifted so much by the handling of the fabric that for some reason they just leaned too far to one side and looked slanted. I decided to take them off again and just forgo the patch pockets on the front, but of course by this time the outline of those seams were were so pock marked on the front that it looked awful. I trudged forward because I had faith in myself and the jacket and because it’s green silk velvet and you just do what you have to do for green silk velvet!

But when I got to attaching the collar, things got worse.

The vintage pattern calls for interfacing the collar to give it a little bit of structure, but my iron on-woven interfacing would not attach to the underside of the silk velvet with the light touch of my iron (I couldn’t press harder or I would ruin the pile on the right side). So I decided to make some sew-in interfacing out of organza instead. I meticulously cut out my collar pieces, basted them to my shifty velvet, and then sewed it all up. It looked horrendous. The light, voluminous body of the organza was not a good match for the drapey velvet, and the collar now poofed out around the neck and refused to lay flat. I looked like a Santa’s elf during the off-season.

I opened all the seams around the collar and cut the organza interfacing out- maybe I didn’t need interfacing at all, maybe the velvet was heavy and stable enough on its own to maintain the shape of the collar without the aid of interfacing. I sewed the seams closed again and took a look in the mirror. I don’t know how, but this looked even worse! The collar wrinkled and draped around my neck, flopping around the shoulders and not holding its shape at all- honestly, each side of the collar looked like a gigantic labia fold, and although labia folds are wonderful, I simply don’t want to be wearing them on my body if I am not in a production of the Vagina Monologues.

Each attempt to fix this jacket was destroying the nap of the velvet more and more and it was starting to look tattered and tired. But that didn’t stop me from making one more attempt to fix it, which, spoiler alert, didn’t work out. I wondered if the wider shape of the collar was keeping the velvet from laying down nicely around the neck, so I tried shaving off the width higher up on the collar to make it thinner and more like a band. Perhaps that would have worked if I had done it before constructing the whole jacket, but as a fully sewn garment being manipulated and hacked to bits, the adjustments couldn’t stand on their own and the whole thing looked a messsssss.

There was no saving it as a jacket anymore, so I picked it apart to make some scrunchies with the leftover fabric pieces and I started the jacket over with fresh green silk velvet. This time I opted for the Artemis jacket, and as you can see, it came out beautifully! It was a very straight forward make and was way less stressful to put together because it behaved so much better with this pattern design. One cool thing about this velvet is that the nap isn’t directional like on other velvets, so I was able to jigsaw my pieces together from my meager yardage- I think I squeezed this jacket out of about a yard and a half of fabric, which is great because this pattern takes up a lot of space due to the unique shape of the pieces. I shaved the sleeves down about 2 inches in order to make the cutting layout work, but I could have shaved them down even more- since this fabric is so drapey and the underside of the velvet isn’t very pretty, I didn’t like how the sleeves looked rolled up once the jacket was finished, so I ended up chopping off an additional couple of inches from the sleeve hems.

As I said, the Artemis is a very easy and straight forward make- only four pattern pieces (front, back, pocket and collar), and it comes together very quickly. Even with this finicky velvet I was able to sew this up in an afternoon. I love the way the pocket is designed- it attaches to the front of the jacket and folds in on itself so there are no visible seams on the outside. In fact, the only top stitching for the jacket is done to tack down the inside fold of the collar to the inside of the jacket, but after trying out topstitching on a few inches and seeing how terrible it looked on this fabric, I carefully unpicked it and just handstitched the inside of the collar to the inside of the jacket so that it was invisible on the outside.

Because the pockets are not attached to any seams of the jacket, they kind of flop around on the inside, which wouldn’t be so much of an issue with a more stable fabric, but in a drapey fabric like this it can feel a little weird. There wasn’t an easy way to tack the pockets down after construction was completed without it showing on the outside, so if I made this again in a drapey fabric, I might elongate the pocket piece, sewing it closed so that it isn’t too deep, and that way it can be caught in the bottom hem of the jacket. Other than that, though, I am really happy with this pattern and how it looks in this velvet. I love the richness of the green and the ease of wearing this jacket with so many things in my wardrobe- I am so in love with it that it feels like a neutral! I’m expecting to get lots of wear out of this jacket in Vancouver with her breezy sunny days and chilly nights, so if you follow my IG, get prepared for an onslaught of silkyyyy greeeeen!

The shorts I am wearing in these photos are the Flint shorts by Megan Nielsen , the top is a crop from a Mimi G Simplicity pattern that I haven’t blogged about (and sorry, I don’t have the pattern number off the top of my head) and the shoes are Sven clogs. Thank you to Claire for taking these photos and gifting me this magnificent camera! You’re the best and I love you!!

The Eponine Dress and Furry Heels

I call it The Eponine Dress for reasons that are obvious if you are familiar at all with Les Miz- Eponine’s character is beautiful, sad, and tragic, having faced more hardships than any one young woman ever should, pining after a lost love while surviving on the streets of Paris during the French Revolution (well, sort of…the show is entirely historically inaccurate but that’s not what we are debating here, I’m just painting a picture…a picture of Eponine, beautiful, sad and tragic!)

Image result for vogue paris original 2352 nina ricci

I bought this vintage Vogue #2352 by Ninna Ricci on Etsy several years ago when I first learned about the glory of Vogue Paris Originals, and I was drawn to this particular design because it reminded me of the ladies on the tv show Designing Women- broad shouldered, bossy, and feminine. I loved the silhouette of the collar, sleeves and bodice and the intricate detailing of the pleats on the front and back of the dress, but I had no idea what fabric I would make it in or when I would get around to trying it out. Earlier this year I very randomly packed it into my sewing suitcase for #sewnawayfromhome, but I still I had no idea what the hell I was gonna make it in. To be honest, I didn’t think I would even have enough time to even get to it on my trip- I had packed two other patterns with me and would only be out of town for about a week and a half, so the chances of me cracking it open were slim.

But lo and behold, I blew through my first two patterns (this piece and this piece) is quick succession and with a few days to spare. Because of fabric restraints, I wasn’t able to use the leopard print tencel twill with this VPO pattern (I used it for the DKNY pattern I linked above instead), but I did have a couple of wide yards of this olive green slubby linen viscose fabric I bought at Dress Sew while in town. Since that was literally the only fabric I had on hand, I just went with it. I was drawn to the admittedly drab looking fabric because I loved the texture (soft, but nubbly) and I don’t come across this type of linen very often. The color was subtle and not very exciting, but I knew it would look great on my skin tone.

Because the fabric is so soft and pillowy, it’s not exactly a great fit for the detailing of this pattern- linen doesn’t iron super crisply and as you can see, a significant portion of the bodice is made up of very precise pleats. Well, they are supposed to be precise. Mine are anything but, and this section of construction had smoke floating out of my ears cause I was so frustrated. I wish I had taken pictures of the pattern pieces for this garment- they were bananas- not easily identifiable pattern pieces at all, which honestly is one of the reasons I love VPOs so much- the patterns are so unique that the methods and pattern pieces can be super untraditional and challenging to put together, but it pays off because there are so few other designs out like it. There was not a traditional bodice for this pattern, it was effectually a large rectangle labeled as “yoke” with a couple of slices through it that would become the opening for the head and front of the garment at the neckline. The shoulders and sleeves are raglan but put together like no other raglan garment I have ever sewn- now that I am on the other side of it, I can say I loved this process, but while I was in the middle of it I hated every second, lol.

When I started marking and working on the pleats, I realized immediately that it was nearly impossible to keep them from looking sloppy- again, I couldn’t get crisp, clean edges on the folds, so I decided to edgestitch them down to keep them in place, but the lines of stitching looked wobbly because of the slubby texture of the fabric, even though they weren’t- it’s like a trick of the eye! I almost gave up at this point and decided to call it a mistake of right fabric paired with wrong pattern- it was just looking so street urchin-y (apparently a recurring theme in my sewing)! But then…I got indignant. This fabric was  pricey! But even if it wasn’t, I hate wasting fabric! What if I was wrong and the dress wasn’t a loss? What if I could just get over this one hump of figuring out how to make the pleats look decent- would the whole thing look better then? I had another full day in Vancouver at this point in the construction process and nothing better to do with my time so I decided to keep working on it til it was time to go- if I couldn’t successfully save it? Well, at least I could say that I tried!

honestly had no idea how gratuitous my nips were in these pics til I started adding them to the blog post lol

I kept toiling away at the pleats, and maybe they didn’t all look perfectly straight and crisp close up, but by the time I was done, the 3 foot rule applied- you couldn’t see anything askew or horrific looking when you were maintaining my personal space, so I gave myself permission to keep working. Next came attaching the “skirt”, which really isn’t a skirt at all but rather the bottom of the dress, and that gets connected above the bust area, at a seam line hidden under the bottom pleat on both the front and back of the dress. See? So strange! But so effective! It means that there is no visible seam at the waistline or anywhere else on the dress so it looks as if the garment is made of just one piece of fabric, which I think is really cool.

Since I couldn’t figure out how the hell this dress was supposed to come together from the start (reading through directions ahead of time rarely helps me in understanding construction because I am a visual learner and need to see the garment in my hands at each step to comprehend what comes next) I didn’t make many adjustments to the pattern pieces in advance, but I did shorten the sleeves, and thank god I did. The sleeves were also very strangely put together (they weren’t set in the shoulders, but instead attached to the bottom of the yoke) and I could tell by holding them up to my body that they were drafted for a giraffe. Seriously, these things were like 4 inches past my fingertips! I liked the idea of the sleeves being so dramatic and voluminous, but I hate sleeves that get in the way of like, eating or using the bathroom, so I shortened them significantly and the length came out great- they’ve still got that Labyrinthian look to them with all that body and poofiness, but they don’t interrupt me living my life.

 

love all the random but pretty details of this dress! Also I picked out these buttons from memory because I forgot to bring the fabric with me to the button store lol

Once I had finished the funky pleating and constructed all the main parts of the dress, I tried it on to see how it was looking. It was looking…like a massive failure. UGH! So drab! So shapeless! Beautifully big, dramatic sleeves and shoulders that cascaded into a garment that overall actually looked, and I am not  being hyperbolic here, like I was wearing a potato sack. The WORST. But I didn’t feel overwhelmed- I had come too far with this damn thing and I was too close to GOOD to turn back now. I had imagined that I would be able to wear this garment without it being cinched at the waist, as per an image I had saved on Pinterest of a dress very similar in shape to this one, but I quickly realized that this was not the proper silhouette to pull off that look, so I sewed up a belt and belt loops for the dress and tried it on. It was much much, better- having a clearly defined waist made me feel like I was actually wearing the dress instead of drowning inside of it. But I still had the issue of the hem, which was cut straight across, hitting my legs in a place that made them look very short (in real life I’m 5’3″ but in fantasy life my ass is pushing 6 feet!). I decided to take a risk and alter the whole shape of the hem by curving it up at the sides on both the front and back pieces, an idea inspired by the Kalle shirtdress. If it was a disaster, I would have enough room to cut it off straight again, but shorter.

I’m still amazed at how instantaneously the altered hem changed the whole look of the dress- the curve at the bottom makes it feel modern, fun and trendy, while the rest of the dress looks pieced together from different eras of fashion- shoulders from the 80’s, detailed pleat work from the 40’s/50’s…she looks designed by Frankenstein! I actually left off the shoulder pads suggested for use in this dress because the pleating at the shoulders created enough structure on it’s own and they weren’t necessary. As drab as the beginnings of this dress were, I receive lots of compliments every time I wear it- on paper I feel like it shouldn’t work at all, there are too many design elements fighting for space, but somehow all together it totally works, and I don’t have anything else in my closet that evokes the energy that this dress does. I love it!

Now for these cool shoes! This is my second pair of shoes made with this last (my first pair of pointy toed heels with the faux snakeskin leather are here) and they are really terrific! I was inspired by an image on pinterest of a pointy toed heel with some cool straps and I based my design completely on those, but with different upper material.

X21QX Alice + Olivia Davey Lizard-Embossed Pump, Hot Pink

I lined the shoes and the heels with a black sueded pigskin leather, used a faux leopard print “fur” for the toe of the shoe, then used a really cool deep dark gold for the straps. Few people on instagram thought this selection of materials would work and suggested I use black leather for the straps, but I was really drawn to the variety of textures in the gold/black/fur combo and decided to trust my gut- thankfully they came out beautifully! I was worried about lasting the fur over the pointy toe but it was totally forgiving, and the horse hair covers up any imperfections that might be going on underneath. Aside from figuring out the placement of the straps, these shoes came together very easily and the impact is strong- I have never seen a shoe quite like this before! I actually haven’t had a chance to wear these yet outside of the house so I can’t say how comfortable they are after more than 20 minutes of wear, but if they are anything like my snakeskin heels, they will be great- or rather, great if you like wearing heels. They certainly don’t feel like wearing sneakers, but as far as heels go, they are pretty damn comfortable.

Thanks to Claire for the beautiful pictures! When we get our backyard deck and landscaping done sometime in the next 20 years this is gonna be a killer place to take photos, lol!

 

 

 

Starry Night Dress

It’s been a while since I said this but….this dress was a JOURNEY, hahaha!

I have a conservative but beautiful stack of Vogue Paris Originals in my pattern stash, most of which were gifted as Christmas and birthday presents over the years, which I am slowly making my way through. I think I may have 3 or 4 of these makes under my belt by now, and some of them have been easier than others, but all of them have been challenging. I have found that the sizing for these garments, save for the normal adjustments I make on patterns regarding length, is pretty spot on and don’t have as much ease and therefore require as much futzing as most Big 4s. BUT! The instructions can be INSANE to follow. Part of it is because the distance between construction methods and materials then and now continues to get larger as time goes on. For example, a lot of vintage patterns from around the 70s and before include the use of interfacing, but iron-on interfacing either had not been invented yet or wasn’t readily available to home sewists, so the instructions always account for sewn-in interfacing, which of course needs to be attached to a separate fabric facing. As a modern sewist I am often so used to just ironing woven interfacing onto whatever pieces need to be stabilized, whether it’s the facing or the actual garment, that I forget that those aren’t always what the instructions are asking for.

Another reason these VPO designs can be so tricky to sew up is because the designs are so unique that they require construction methods that are very strange/unfamiliar. VPO patterns are pretty special, created by famous clothing designers of yester- (and sometimes today!) year to recreate some of their  designs for the home sewist, and these aren’t just your everyday bodice and gathered skirt kinds of dresses- these have interesting details and often complicated construction techniques that up the ante of your regular sew-at-home outfit.

Image result for vogue paris original pierre balmain

So back to this dress. Pierre Balmain was a couture designer of women’s gowns and dresses and hit his stride in the 40’s/50’s/60’s creating voluminous skirts with “nipped in waists”, using luxurious textiles with embroidery and beading, but as you can see, this VPO # 1625 is a very wearable, simplified silhouette, which is why I was so drawn to it; without having an excessive amount of frills and pleats, it screams decadence! The woman who wears this is SO FABULOUS AND UNCONCERNED that SHE CAN’T MOVE HER ARMS ABOVE HER HEAD…AND SHE DOESN’T EVEN CARE! It’s not the most practical design, those batwing sleeves that keep me from reaching up higher than my shoulders, but then again, red carpet ensembles don’t really have to be, and I am crazy about the look. It’s kind of like a cape dress, but the cape isn’t free-flowing all the way around- it’s tacked down at the front and back waistline and the “wings” of the cape are only free underneath the arms.

I was gifted this gorgeous Star Print Crepe de Chine from The Fabric Store and was  overcome by a surge of inspiration when I unboxed it. The print, small white stars of varying sizes stretched out across a dark navy background, is eye-catching and subtle enough to not look twee but bold enough to feel really special. It has a crisp hand, and even though it’s very lightweight, it is opaque on the body and holds it’s structure really well- it isn’t drapey or silky (although the texture is very soft), and even though it’s listed as a crepe de chine, it has a very smooth hand and the textured effect isn’t very prominent. An idea popped into my head that I could use this fabric for one of my VPOs, but I kept talking myself out of it, thinking that it would be too lightweight to pair well with this pattern in particular. Eventually I decided to go for it anyways- once I realized that the pattern didn’t require a heavy or lightweight fabric, it just needed something that held it’s structure well, I felt confident that the fabric would translate beautifully, and thankfully I was right!

First I traced out all my pattern pieces and (thankfully) remembered to shorten the bodice, but it required some extra work. I’m not sure if I have ever seen lengthen or shorten lines anywhere on a VPO pattern except the skirt/pants, and because the bodice is curved on the bottom and has indents to make way for attaching the bodice to the skirt in certain areas, I had to create my own lengthen/shorten lines by redrawing the bottom of the cape a couple inches shorter, then truing the lines of the side seams. Easy peasy!

Next I got to working on the skirt. I had no idea how well it would fit as-is, so I extended my side seams at the hips- VPO patterns come in one size as opposed to nested with multiple measurements, so you can’t grade between sizes and instead have to take in or add extra allowance where you usually grade.  I also widended my seam allowance on the side seams of the skirt from 5/8″ to 1″ so I would have ample room for making adjustments if I needed to. Next I cut the skirt out, basted the front and back darts, then tried it on to see where it needed more adjusting. I brought the back darts in a bit more and toyed around with the side seams til the skirt fit well in the hip and butt area, then I french seamed the side and back seams. All of this was pretty standard fitting stuff for me, but I made one big mistake- I adjusted the fit the skirt without taking into account that the front has an overlapping button band, so when it came time to constructing this part of the design, my skirt fit me perfectly when the front seams met at center, but not when they folded over to accommodate the placket. OOF!!!! ROOKIE MISTAKE, J! Somehow, some way, I was able to fudge things and I ended up squeezing just enough room out of the back french seam to give me a tiny bit more breathing room at the waistline of center front.

This dress is designed to have a lining underneath it, but I was confused as to what it would look like and whether I would end up needing it (I have trouble reading ahead in patterns if I don’t have a 3D visual aid, ie. the garment, to refer to), so I just moved full steam ahead but used french seams everywhere that I could in the event that the lining didn’t work and the insides needed to be finished. Another thing I neglected to take into account when adjusting the skirt was making sure that my bodice matched up with the smaller waistline. The bodice is attached to the skirt at the front and back waistlines and then flows freely underneath the arms, but now my back bodice was much too wide to match up to it. I decided to sew a big dart, beginning at the neckline and extending all the way down to the waistline, to cinch all that extra fabric in, and it turned out beautifully- it just looks like the back was cut into two pieces instead of on the center fold, and the print of this fabric is very forgiving so it looks intentional.

The bodice, though very simple looking, has a very interesting construction. There is a V-shaped dart at the lower front center of the bodice to accommodate the bust area since the dress isn’t fitted at the arms and there are no side seams in this area. I had never created darts like this- they start at the apex of the bust and then pivot before trailing out towards the front center, and because they intersect at the button band, the placket overlaps at the darts. Sewing this dart wasn’t difficult, but the instructions were pretty rough, and the maker should have been advised to use a tracing wheel to mark the seamlines of the darts on both bodice pieces (since it’s not a typically constructed dart, they didn’t show the normal dotted wedge line on the pattern piece to pin together and sew closed). I had to take my darts apart a couple of times to get it exactly right, but once I did, the effect was really cool!

The back neck facing was meant to be cut out separately for this pattern (which was difficult to tell in the instructions- there was a pattern piece specifically for the interfacing but not for self fabric) so I just applied the back neck interfacing directly to the back bodice, which worked out fine except now I had to figure out how to finish the neckline since I wouldn’t be sewing the outer shell of the dress to separate facings. To be honest, I am still unsure of exactly how they wanted the neckline to be completed, since, as I mentioned, the front facings are not separate and are merely extended pieces of the bodice folded in on itself. This is what I meant when I said that sometimes with these patterns you just have to do what makes the most sense to you instead of adhering to instructions that may or may not be correct. I trimmed the neckline of my fabric, made some bias tape, then sewed it to the seam line, understitched, and folded over and under to enclose the raw edge and give a nice, clean finish, which I am very happy with.

Lastly came the lining, and because I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make one, I hadn’t purchased any fabric to use specifically for it. I dug through my stash and found some black organza that I thought would pair well with the qualities of my poly crepe de chine, and it just…wasn’t quite right. The organza was a tiny bit too stiff for the star print poly, and the poly also creates a lot of static, so the dress just clung to the lining underneath instead of gliding over it. Although I loved the way that the lining was meant to be attached to the dress (just at the button band and shoulders, and designed with regular bias bound armholes as opposed to mirroring the lines of the batwing sleeves), I had already finished most of the seams inside of the dress so I just decided to omit the lining and wear a slip underneath if I felt like I needed more coverage- in these pictures you can still see that I am dealing with some static cling wearing a simple silk slip underneath, but in all honesty, the slip is unnecessary.

I bought a few packages of inexpensive but really pretty gold-rimmed white buttons to use for the front of the dress and I think they look great- they don’t interrupt the print of the dress too much and flow well with the rest of the stars around it.

This dress was a LOT of work to complete and of course if and when I make it again I know a million things I will do differently (or not do at all!) but overall, I am pretty stoked at how it looks, especially after seeing these pictures. The print is dynamic but so is the fit- I don’t often see many structural sewing patterns like this and I love the silhouette, specifically that swoop from back to waist to hips and the flow of the sleeves floating off the sides. So cool! I really want to make a pair of bright yellow heels to pair with this dress- I think it would be a nice nod to the bright stars of the print, but I also just love yellow and navy together and think the color combo would be brilliant!

Again, many thanks to Lawrence and Claire, who art directed this photo shoot and came up with some of the most beautiful photos we have ever taken- you guys are a real dream team, we should do this more often!

 

Starburst Dress for Stylemaker Fabrics Blog Tour 2019

Hey hey hey! I am chuffed (can you tell I have British friends on IG??) to be a part of this year’s Stylemaker Fabrics Spring Tour! The tour is an opportunity for fabric lovers to be introduced to and inspired by all the new textiles that the Stylemaker Fabrics online store has to offer, and there have been some really fantastic makes on the tour so far!

I had a really hard time figuring out which fabrics I wanted to work with for my make- there were so many pretty colors and interesting prints that I could have stared at the fabric swatches for days, but then I stumbled across a new-to-me-pattern by Amy Nicole Studio called the Roksi Dress and felt a surge of inspiration. This dress has a simple but clever design- it’s basically three of the same garments of varying lengths layered over each other, so a knee-length swishy spaghetti strapped dress goes underneath a hip-length swishy spaghetti strapped tunic which goes underneath a belly button-grazing swishy spaghetti strapped crop top. Cool, right? I love how this design leaves so much room for playing around with color and print, love what an easy dress this probably is to wear and make, and I love how far you can stretch the pieces out for various looks…the pieces can be worn individually or together in various ways to create completely new looks! Thinking that this was the garment I was going to make, I spotted three different, very summery shades of tencel twill from Stylemaker Fabrics that I knew would look really lovely together, reminding me of a popsicle, or sherbert. Something summery and fun and breezy in the California heat!

Me trying to be in West Side Story

No sooner had I ordered my fabrics than I stumbled (it appears that I stumble around a lot on the internet) upon a version of McCalls 7894 that Bianca of Thanks I Made Them recently completed. I came across it because the McCalls instagram shared a picture of her make on their account and I! WAS! SMITTEN! I had not seen this Big 4 pattern before and if I had, I’m sure I would have overlooked it. For some reason the pattern envelope just didn’t call out to me in any way, shape, or form…however, with Bianca’s spin on it? WHOAH! I loved the use of color in her fabric choices, which made the whole dress feel like a day at the beach, and the style and fit were just so flattering, even with it’s weird waistline which dips down at the sides (not usually my cup of tea). Even though I had been dead-set on making the Roksi Trio, I was suddenly in the McCalls 7894 camp, and I imagined that my three cuts of fabric would transition beautifully into this dress. Ultimately I decided that switching these patterns was a brilliant idea because the Roksi Trio, while it would have looked great in my three sherbet hues, would be better served by playing around more with print and color than just color- every version of the Roksi Trio that uses prints and solids together stands out, and I would love to make this pattern in the future using some exciting prints from my stash!

So onto this here make…I was very out of Big 4 practice when I started this project. Because of my Family Crisis/December Hiatus and a busy work schedule in Jan and Feb, it had been a while since I had created much of anything, much less a Big 4 pattern I hadn’t sewn before, and I was out of practice. Because of this, I made a lot of mistakes that I normally don’t, but fortunately I was able to fix pretty much all of them!

First mistake: I pre-washed a bunch of new fabrics in one load (these tencel twills plus a couple more) and got bleeding on the yellow and peach cuts of my tencel twill (surprisingly the pink didn’t take the bleed). The bleed wasn’t super dark and it wasn’t completely covering the yardage, but it was definitely noticeable and annoying. I think forgot to put a dye catcher sheet in the wash when I was pre-washing these, but I shouldn’t have washed all the pieces together in the first place- this was totally my bad. Also, before anyone suggests in the comments that I should have used that smelly dye-remover stuff to get the spots out, I chose not to use it because I think the results can be ineffectual- when I have used it in the past it has gotten most of a dye bleed out, but never all of it, and it has faded the original color of the fabric I used it on, which I didn’t want to happen- the vibrancy of this tencel twill is one of the reasons I picked it out! As a result of the bleed, I had less fabric to work with because I had to avoid the areas that were dotted with blue. Stylemaker Fabrics very generously offered to replace my fabric, but I wanted to avoid that at all costs- I HATED the thought of wasting all that fabric and I was determined to make this project work with what I had. With some artful placement of my pattern pieces, I successfully cut out most of the dress without getting too many of the blue spots anywhere, although there are a couple of tiny, very inconspicuous places where the dye spills over- but I would have to point them out to you (and you know I’m not gonna do that!)

Next mistake: I totally forgot to grade out from my waist to hips when tracing out my pattern pieces, even though I do it on literally ALL BIG 4 PATTERNS I make, so when I tissue fit my pattern pieces onto my dress form, there was no ease whatsoever in the hips! Instead of recutting my pattern pieces, I decided to simply add extra seam allowance (via paper taped to the edges) to my skirt pattern pieces to accommodate the room I needed. Once I made those tweaks, I sewed the dress up, serging the insides close to the seam line to finish them since there are a lot of curves on the dress and I was afraid french seams would be too bulky. I basted the skirt and bodice pieces together and tried it on and…. I HATED IT!

Image result for hated it gif

It looked awful- ill-fitting, super frumpy, too long…issues I am used to addressing early on in construction with my pattern tweaks. Then I realized why- I had ALSO totally forgotten to shorten my bodice like I also ALWAYS do! What was wrong with me?!? I was such a mess! I didn’t have enough un-spotted fabric to re-cut my bodice so I had to take the easy way out and chop off an inch of the length from the shoulders to raise the dress higher. Of course this was not an ideal fix because it changed the drafting throughout the entire bust area, affecting the armholes and sleeves and making the upper bust area have much more room in it than necessary, but it was the easiest, most efficient fix and it isn’t too noticeable. To accommodate the raised/shorter bodice, I had to take out an inch from the height of the sleeves so that they would fit the shorter armholes, and I also had to extend the opening of the armhole below it’s original drafting so that they wouldn’t be too tight.

Completely separate from the bodice length issue but just as frustrating was the front bust area. It is designed with gathers under each side of the bust, and then it crosses over to wrap at center front, but on me, it looked hideous. Part of this was because I had not yet shortened the bodice, so the waist was way too low making my boobs look like they reached to my belly button (low swinging boobs might be in my future, but I am not there yet!). Beyond that, the look just wasn’t flattering on me- maybe because I don’t have a very full bust so the gathers had nothing to hold. Regardless of the why, I knew I wanted to omit this design detail. I contemplated trading them out for darts but ultimately saw that pleats worked much better, still giving me lots of ease and wiggle room in the bust and keeping in line a little more closely with the original design.

 

Those were the major mistakes changes I made to the dress- once I lifted it up by shortening the bodice, the skirt fit much better (it had initially been too low and wasn’t hitting my bottom in the right spots). Thankfully this tencel twill was a real dream to work with and the fabric was able to withstand a lot of hustle and bustle as I made major and minor changes to the dress throughout construction. I have always been drawn to tencel twill because it has a sandwashed look to it, a tiny hint of sheen that bounces off the fabric when the light hits it in the right spot, so it makes something that would otherwise look ordinary seem much more luxe. The weight of this tencel twill is also particularly nice- it’s got such a nice hand feel, and as you can see, the drape is terrific and pairs well with this dress. The fabric looks beefy without actually being heavy, and it took my sewing AND my unpicking beautifully!

This dress is only lined in the bodice, which makes it feel substantial and supportive while the skirt gets to stay light and breezy. I had been referring to this project as the sherbert dress as it sat in piles of fabric waiting to be sewn together in my craft room, but once I actually started construction I was amazed to see myself transformed into a package of starburst! In this dress I look like a trio of red, pink and lemon candies, and I am not mad at it one bit! This color combo still screams summer, just as I had hoped it would, and I think the choice looks really chic and fun without looking like a kindergartener (no shade to kindergarteners!)

This dress was a lot more work than I was anticipating (again, all because of my own mistakes), but it was totally worth the blood, sweat and tears- I love the overall look of this dress, and something about it feels a little bit vintage to me. I don’t know if it’s the poofy sleeves or the color blocking, but it looks ripped from a page of a seventies teen magazine, and I dig it, man!

Thank you, Stylemaker Fabrics, for inviting me on your fabric tour this year- I never would have made this dress without inspiration from your spring collection, and I know I will have a lot of fun wearing it out in the world! For this dress I used tencel twill in coral, yellow, and melon, and you can find more of the beautiful fabrics in the newest collection at Stylemaker Fabrics here! There is one more stop on the tour tomorrow, by none other than Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics herself, and you can check out her make here!

Lastly, big thanks to Claire and Lawrence (BFF) for teaming up together to art direct and shoot my looks today- Claire is always a big help to me in documenting garments for my blog, but Lawrence’s keen eye for detail and enthusiasm in helping us stage everything was amazing- it was one of the most relaxing and fun times I have ever had shooting blog photos, which normally feel like a chore. I am so so lucky for you both, and thrilled that we got to work together like this- we gotta do it again!

Lawrence doing final touches LOL!