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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!

A Rigel Bomber for Claire

I make Claire stuff all the time- hoodies, binders, approximately 326 pairs of Hudson pants- but not all of it gets catalogued here on my blog. Mostly because getting photos of myself in my makes seems to take forever, so trying to schedule an additional person feels downright preposterous. But every once in a while, I make Claire something so radical that it’s essential to catalogue here, and this Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns is a perfect example.

Rigel Bomber

Although I’ve pinned and pined over lots of photos of their patterns, this is the first one I have actually ever made. Hilariously it was gifted to Claire through me (since Claire doesn’t sew), because our friend thought it would be a good style match for her, and she was totally right- this bomber jacket has all the athletic/leisurewear essence of the clothing that Claire is generally drawn to, with a little bit of design flare included.

I have to be honest- I wasn’t a huge fan of this pattern, drafting-wise or construction-wise, but I am not turned off of it enough to not try out another of their patterns in the future, and I do like the outcome of this jacket! Let’s start with the fabric and notions choices, which are probably my favorite part of the whole project, but which definitely took the most time to collect. Last December when Claire and I went down to New Orleans to celebrate our friend Geri’s birthday, we made a stop at Promenade Fabrics because I had heard of what a special store it was. I guess they weren’t quite ready for our crew when we arrived- we were like, 10 people deep, and we barged in on the quiet store with a lot of conversation and squeals of delight (mostly coming from Claire). I got the distinct feeling that the people manning the store didn’t actually think we were going to buy anything. But we did! And this beautiful print is one of them!

Of course Claire is the one who picked this out- it’s got her personality all over it: bold, bright, and totally unique. We had already decided that I would make her the Rigel Bomber but it was taking forever to figure out what fabric she wanted- nothing online caught her interest but she also wasn’t sure what she was looking for. When we walked the aisles of Promenade, she kept asking ‘would this one work?….what about this one?’ and not finding the exact print-to-textile match necessary, but then she found this random little bolt off to the side that caught her eye. We pulled it out and it was stunning! A galaxy print with a bit of embossing on the fabric, lots of silver, gold, yellows and reds. The fabric was expensive but they only had one yard left and although I knew it wasn’t enough to complete the whole jacket, I felt confident that we could supplement the rest of it with something really cool.

Back at home with the pattern pieces cut out I determined that we could get the back and front bodice pieces from the galaxy print and we just needed a different fabric for the sleeves…but what?? I glanced in a corner of my craft room and saw a big box of leather that I had just purchased for a steal from the Brooklyn Shoe Space instagram account. Sticking out of it was a soft, pliable chocolate brown hide that matched the reddish, brownish hues in the galaxy print. “Ever considered leather?” I asked Claire, and her eyes widened.

Once we had the main fabric worked out, I forged ahead. I didn’t muslin (yeah, yeah, I know!) or make any big adjustments, but I did redraft the front neckline to be more rounded- as designed it slants into a V and pulls down kind of low at the front, which I just don’t like very much- I prefer the more classic neckline shape of a letterman’s jacket. Next I re-drafted the facing to match the curve of the neckline of the front bodice, and I liked the look much better, although I could have raised the neckline higher and rounded it out even more. Weirdly, I got pretty stumped by the welt pocket construction…well, not stumped, per se, but dissatisfied. I wasn’t impressed with the techniques they used but I didn’t realize how strange they were til I was already halfway through them and it was too late to change it up. I don’t remember everything I disliked about the method, but I do remember that it lacked a lot of key information, like which direction to press the pocket bags and facings, etc. Pressing properly throughout welt pocket construction is one of the things that makes this design feature look really tidy and professional, so omitting it was a big oversight to me (FYI I really like the technique used in Closet Case’s Sasha Trousers).

I also disliked the size and shape of the pocket- it’s not very deep or long and it was kind of frustrating to sew. Part of it is because the jacket is relatively short and narrow, but I still think it could have a lot more room in the pocket without compromising the design too much. Thankfully the unattractive pocket and welt can’t be seen on the inside of the jacket because I decided to underline it! A regular lining would have been nice but because I used a thick material (leather) for the sleeves, I didn’t want to bulk up that area even more, so I just underlined the back and front bodice pieces with some bright green quilted polyester by basting the lining and outer fabric together and then sewing it as one.

 

Claire had purchased a zipper and a length of binding on etsy once we found her main fabric, but I neglected to tell her not to purchase from any accounts shipping from overseas, since they can take months and months to get here and it’s not the most sustainable way to buy. Spoiler alert: we are still waiting on her zipper from China and it has been THREE MONTHS lol! I ended up having to hunt down ribbing locally once I got to that step in the instructions, and I also picked up a really cool zipper, but lo and behold, when I got back home to use them, they were all wrong. The “ribbing” I bought from Michael Levine’s was actually more of a thin, lightweight, ribbed stretch knit- it was incredibly flimsy when I basted it onto the neckline of the jacket, and the color was also not quite right- a little too bright and orange-y to pair well with the galaxy print. And then! The zipper I got was too long! Which normally wouldn’t matter, but because this is a separating zipper it needs to be exactly the right length for the jacket front.

I took to instagram asking my followers if anyone had any beefy, sturdy ribbing to suggest for me that I could buy online, and Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics wrote me with a link to the perfect ribbing that she carried in her shop. I bought two packages of waistband ribbing (I used the additional one for the neckband) and matching ribbed cuffs in a color that ended up being the absolute perfect compliment to the jacket- a deep purple-ish wine color that enhanced the purple in the galaxy print and was a nice pairing for the brown leather of the sleeves.


Next I looked on youtube for tutorials on how to shorten a separating zipper, and I found that I could remove some of the teeth with wire cutters and then cut the excess length, but I wasn’t sure how to close off the top of the zipper without an extra pair of zipper stops – apparently you can buy zipper repair kits at a local fabric store, but I wasn’t planning on leaving the house for the rest of the night so I was determined to figure it out with the tools I already had. Somehow, someway, I convinced myself that if I was careful, I could pull the stops off the orginal zipper with pliers and then close them back onto the zipper where I needed them to be, right below where I had cut off the teeth. It took a while and a lot of muscle, but I did it, and it was totally worth it- this zipper is just too cool to not be attached to this jacket.

Because I opted to use leather sleeves for this project, I had to be flexible with a lot of the construction methods- it would have been quick and easy to serge almost the whole jacket, but I can’t run leather through my serger, so I had to sew straight stitches with Nylon thread (which holds up better when sewing leather). I also had to try and reduce bulk in as many places as possible, sometimes skiving the leather down at intersecting seams, sometimes using my mallet to pound the seams flat or open. Using leather took a little bit more time but I adore the look is brings to the jacket.

Another design element I didn’t like so much was the facing, or rather the fact that the facing isn’t instructed to be tacked down inside the jacket around the zipper. On this jacket, the facing constantly wanted to fly open or get scrunched up inside the jacket when it was being put on, and tacking it down was easy since I underlined the outer shell, but on a single layer jacket, depending on the fabric, this might be a difficult thing to do.

This jacket was literally four months in the making but I am glad I kept working on it because it looks really freaking cool and it’s SO CLAIRE! I am hoping that the leather of the sleeves softens up more over time because as of now, even though the leather is soft and pliable, it’s still pretty thick and it needs to be broken in. If I made this again I would probably lengthen it a bit and round out that collar even more (and alter that pocket bag shape!), but I think it fits Claire well and is a beautiful collaborative effort on both our parts. Enjoy, Claire- I love you!

 

 

Plaid Shirtdress

(side note: I did a slight trim of my hair about a month ago to give it some more body around my face and I now that I am seeing these photos I took before the trim, I am already regretting losing the length I had in these pictures, lol- THERE IS NO WINNING WHEN IT COMES TO MY HAIR LENGTH!!!)

ANYWAYS. Back to the make.

I’m not sure what inspired me to make this dress- it wasn’t a pinterest image or someone walking down the street in an amazing ensemble that caught my eye. It was more a project of convenience- my stash fabric had grown considerably after The Fabric Store in LA closed down, and I was able to bring home lots of beautiful cuts of fabric and leather at deeply discounted prices as they cleared their inventory. A lot of pieces came home with me even though I didn’t have specific project ideas for what to do with the fabric, and this cotton plaid is one of them. I liked it because of the color palette, but the hand of the fabric is…interesting.

 

It’s not exactly rough, but it isn’t soft either. It kind of feels like paper, and it’s surprisingly lightweight considering how it looked on the roll. I assumed I would make a button down shirt from it, but when I pulled it out of my stash to find some inspiration, I realized I wanted something a bit different than a shirt- I didn’t really need another button down in my rotation. I knew I had just enough fabric to make a shirtdress using a pattern I had made before with this Velvet, Gold and Pussy Bowed make from last year, so I pulled out my pattern pieces and got to work.

For the velvet dress mentioned above, I had to make some adjustments to Vogue 8829  because the pattern calls for a woven and my velvet had stretch. I also made adjustments for all the extra ease that was included in the pattern, so on this make, I had to re-trace several pieces of the pattern as they were originally drafted to accommodate my woven plaid. There is a ridiculous amount of ease in the waist of this dress that was present even after I sized down and took in the side seams a bit, so I created a sort of box-pleat in the back of the bodice to size the dress down even more and I was able to adjust the skirt pieces accordingly.

Because this is a plaid fabric and I already had a limited amount of yardage to work with, there is a LOT of piecing together and pattern mis-matching at play here, but it’s nothing so glaringly awful to me that it makes the dress unwearable. The button bands and belt were pieced together from like, so many tiny remnants of fabric I had left after cutting out all the major pieces, but because it’s plaid and kind of busy, you can’t really see the details of it too much unless you look close, and looking close makes it seem a bit like an artistic choice!

Speaking of the belt, this was something I made for the dress of my own accord. Even after adjusting the back bodice piece and the side seams, the waist was still a bit looser than I would have liked, so I decided that adding a belt would not only help keep the waist nice and firm on me, but it would also give the dress a visual break at the waistline- the dress without a belt looks fine on my gold stretch version, but this one needed something to break up the flow a bit.

Instead of just creating a long fabric belt and belt loops, I decided to use a design element that I loved from my The $34 Dress and I sewed the middle of belt onto the dress at the back waistline to keep it in place. This means of course that I can’t wear any other belts with this dress, but I am 100% fine with that; I am not much of a belt (or accessories in general) kind of person and 9 times out of 10 I prefer to use a fabric belt made of the same material as my garment.

As a whole I am…fine with this dress, lol. I have worn it a few times now and it feels like a good staple to have in my closet, but I am still not crazy about the fabric. I love the print, but as mentioned before, something about the texture/hand of the fabric is a little off for me. I wish it was a little more supple and soft- something closer to a brushed cotton or a flannel (without the heavier weight) would be great. It works really well for a warm weather dress since the fabric is so breezy and lightweight, but the design and print visually seem more fitting for a fall/winter garment, so it seems to be crossing into different territories without landing firmly in either one. Regardless, I know I will continue to get good wear out of this dress, and I appreciate being introduced to this style of garment as a closet staple- now that I have a button down dress of this length and silhouette, I definitely want to add another, perhaps in a longer length and with a fuller skirt? We shall see what the new year brings!

Sew Frosting!

 

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the #sewfrosting hashtag that recently started trending on sewcial media. The #sewfrosting challenge is the brainchild of the creators behind True Bias and Closet Case Patterns. It is a call to arms for sewists across the globe to take a little break from sewing cake- cake being the sturdy workhorse portion of our garment sewing, like t-shirts and jeans and button downs- and spend a bit more time sewing frosting, the fancy, frilly, sweet, delightful garments that we perhaps have less opportunities to wear, like cocktail dresses, shiny pants, floral suits, etc. Although I wasn’t calling it by this name, I have been a big proponent of sewing frosting for a few years now. I always used the hashtag #redcarpetDIY because these were the garments I would have a chance to wear when going to work events and promoting tv/film projects, but I might need to go through all my old blog posts and add #sewfrosting to the hashtags now since it is so succinct. I like that the term “sewfrosting” represents something both specific and broad at the same time,  encompassing so many in the community- sewing frosting will look very different to different people, depending on their style, gender identity, culture, habits, ability and even geographical location, but this hashtag allows us to celebrate it all together. Whether your frosting is a gown to wear to an awards ceremony, a fancy pair of pants for church, or a simple shawl made of beautiful lace, it feels like there is room for us all in there to celebrate the idea of challenging ourselves, with fabric, design, and trends. Kelli and Heather Lou turned the #sewfrosting hashtag, which has apparently been around for a while,  into a bit of a contest with some prizes and deals to compete for if you create your garment before the end of November, but let’s be honest- the real prize here is adding something exciting, new and unique to your wardrobe!

My original idea of frosting was inspired (of course!) by this dress I found on Pinterest. I love love love the plunging neckline and armholes that manage to bare some skin but not look too revealing, and although my drafting skills are amatuer at best, I thought I could manage to recreate this look without too much trouble. Unfortunately I was wrong- I got all of the style lines right when I draped this on my dress form, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the sides of the bodice to not gape out around my bust. Initially I thought that perhaps my bust was fuller than the model’s in the photo and therefore this was not the perfect bodice for me, but then I realized that I might have been approaching the shape all wrong- maybe it wasn’t created from darts as I assumed, but created from panels, kind of like a strapless bodice. So I pulled out my trusty TnT strapless dress bodice from Gertie’s Ultimate Book of Dresses and I started the process of hacking the pieces to match the shape of the Pinterest inspo dress…but then I got impatient. I decided I wanted to spend more time on something that I knew was going to come out successfully rather than something that was going to require a lot of experimenting and testing to get right. And this made even more sense because I wanted my submission to get in before the deadline and I didn’t want to run out of time!

Before I aborted my original plan I knew exactly what fabric I wanted to make my #sewfrosting in and thankfully the fabric translated easily into my new plan. The fabric is a beautiful, geometric jacquard purchased from The Fabric Store in LA many months ago, and it’s been sitting in my stash just waiting for the perfect opportunity to be used. This fabric is medium weight with a lot of body, and I knew I wanted to show it off by sewing it into something with a big shape.

My first idea was a strapless bodice with a big wide poofy skirt, but because I am obsessed with jumpsuits right now, I kept coming back to the idea of trading the big skirt for some big pants. Immediately the Winslow Culottes by Helen’s Closet came to mind because of the pleating at the front and back and wide legs- that garment actually looks like a skirt when you’re standing still and it seemed like a really interesting pairing to match with my bodice, but I worried that the body of the fabric wouldn’t marry well with the style lines.

What if it gave out too much poof, or not enough poof, or just ended up looking dowdy? I tried to take my uncut fabric and fold it around my body to give me a good idea of how the end result would look but it was practically impossible to tell, so I took a leap of faith and just went for it- worst case scenario was that it wouldn’t look good at all and I would have to cut shapes out of the pants pieces to create a skirt (which wouldn’t be too hard to do since the pant legs are so wide). With a little urging from sewcial media I went forward with my plan and ultimately it came out beautifully! I wouldn’t change a single thing!

Okay, that’s a lie- I totally would change the fabric of the lining that I used, lol. I cut out my pieces from my fashion fabric, then cut out the same pieces from hair canvas to give the bodice additional stability, and then I cut out another set of pieces from some black silk organza in my stash to make the lining (I opted to create channels for my boning by sewing them onto the lining and hair canvas instead of using separate channeling). I didn’t really have any other fabric in my stash to make the lining out of that would match the color scheme of the fabric and I thought the organza would provide yet another layer of stability for the bodice, so this seemed like a great idea at the time.

Unfortunately I didn’t take into account how scratchy the hair canvas in the middle of the bodice would end up being- it was so itchy that it poked through the organza and immediately started irritating my skin when I first tried the garment on. BIG FAIL! It was so bad that I knew I would have to make some sort of adjustment or the garment would be unwearable, but taking the whole thing apart was out of the question- the bodice was literally ENTIRELY complete: under stitched, hand stitched closed at the waistline and everything! I didn’t have the time or patience to dismantle the whole thing since I had a bunch of birthday gifts to sew for claire, and I also was just NOT FEELING DOING ALL THAT WORK.

So I had to come up with a quicker fix that would work almost as well as replacing the entire layer of organza lining. I opened the bodice back up from the waistline seam and I decided to fill in the spaces between the boning with another layer of silk (this time a white silk habotoi from my stash) to serve as a buffer between the hair canvas and organza lining. It was tricky, imprecise, and took some very delicate maneuvering- I cut out the rough shape of the space needed to be filled from my habotoi silk, carefully slid it into the area underneath the lining, then stitched around the edges of the organza and hair canvas to keep the silk in place. There was one triangular space at each of the top sides where the opening was simply too tiny to stuff the silk into, but I was able to effectively cover the hair canvas everywhere else in the bodice. I wasn’t sure how well it was going to work, but thankfully it did the trick, and the two spots that aren’t covered with the habotoi seem to be too small to be of major concern. I tried the garment on and my skin didn’t start turning red and getting itchy- success!

Other than that snafu with the bodice, everything else came together beautifully. The Winslow Culottes pattern is a STUNNING match for this fabric- I love how the pleats puff out from the waistline and how perfect the length is, and I did some very careful and successful pattern matching on the pieces, too. I changed the shape of the pockets on these pants as I wish I had done on my original pair. They are designed to have a teardrop pocket that hangs from the side seam, but I prefer my side seam pockets to be drafted to the waistline and sewn down into the waist seam which keeps them in place and makes sure they dont wiggle around, get bunched up, and bulk up the silhouette of my hips. I re-drafted this pocket by raising the height to match the waist of the front pants piece and it came out beautifully.

One thing I find hilarious about this make is the fact that used the same black organza for the pockets as I did for the lining- organza is strong and soft, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, but I didn’t take into account that this would give me transparent pockets, which you can get a tiny peekaboo at when I pull them open on the sides. This was a happy accident- I LOVE a little peek of skin in an unexpected place! I just need to make sure that my underwear match the fabric a little bit more, lol!

 

All in all I am thrilled at how this garment came out and I am so happy with the journey I went on to get here. I had such different ideas for how I wanted this piece to look at the beginning of the project, but I came out with something entirely unique and very me. This isn’t to say that I won’t give my original Pinterest dress another try at some point in the future, but I am really happy with where I ended up and I probably wouldn’t have created this strapless jumpsuit without starting from where I did. The marriage of fabric and pattern here are so exquisite and this is one of those garments that I haven’t really seen around before- it’s a dynamic shape in a bold print, and I feel so special in it… kind of like a dollop of frosting! Mission accomplished! Thanks for the inspiration, Kelli and Heather Lou!

P.S. Photos by Claire Savage (thanks, honey!)

Boiler Suit Pattern Testing

I’ve never pattern tested before because I like to limit my “deadline sewing” as much as possible. Sewing with the pressure of a due date takes the fun out of the craft for me, so, with the exception of being an ambassador for The Fabric Store and sewing up holiday gifts for others, I just don’t do it very often. However, sometimes my trycuriosity gets the better of me and I will say yes to things I haven’t done before so I can at least have the experience under my belt and know whether I like something or not based on knowledge instead of assumptions. When Alice & Co. reached out to me on IG and asked if I was interested in testing their new Intrepid Boiler jumpsuit pattern (how did they know I was on a major jumpsuit kick???), my instinct was to say no, but then I saw an image of the design. It was essentially the Madewell one-piece that inspired this jumpsuit, the one I saw Heather Lou in, fell in love with, and then consequently tumbled down a jumpsuit rabbithole in an attempt to recreate it! If you read that blog post you’ll know that I diverged from my original inspo and, while I love where I landed, it’s different from the utilitarian, no-frills jumpsuit that first caught my eye.

Well, surprisingly, the Boiler Jumpsuit ended up being the answer I needed all along! And now I am glad I didn’t waste too much time trying to cobble together a pattern for it because this one is surely better than what I would have been able to hack. This jumpsuit was a relatively simple make, although there are of course some changes that have been made since the tester versions went out. I think the majority of the changes address design details as opposed to fit details, and my jumpsuit fit really well right off the bat.

The tester pattern was comprised of sleeves, a yoke, front/ back bodice, pant legs and pockets, and the waistlines of the bodice and pant legs have extra seam allowance included so that you can baste the pieces together and decide how much or how little room you need for comfortable bending and moving around. You know how some indie pants patterns give an inch of seam allowance at the side seams so that you can adjust as needed throughout the hips and leg area? Well this pattern allows you do that when connecting the top and bottom of the jumpsuit and it is super helpful to have included. Since the general fit of the jumpsuit is loose, the length through the torso and waist was the only area I needed to adjust, and the extra seam allowance makes this very straightforward and efficient.

I was surprised to see that there were no side, slant or patch pockets included in the tester design, and I had no idea how much I was going to miss them til the whole garment was completed and I tried it on and realized that my hands were aching to be jammed into something (that’s what she said); the jumpsuit is just so functional looking and utilitarian that to wear it without pockets felt wrong- where will I put my tools? My candy cigarettes? My lovenotes?? So I went back and added patch pockets to the front legs of mine after it was already finished, only because they were simpler and quicker than taking the legs and waistband apart and drafting a whole pocket. I think the patch pockets work fine on this (I used the pattern pieces from my Madewell hack) but a regular side seam pocket would be great, too.

Unfortunately I can’t speak much on how well the instructions are written because the ones for the tester version were sparse in a couple of places and they said they added more information but I’m not quite sure what they look like; I used the burrito method when attaching my yoke to the bodice pieces (they used a different method in the instructions) and unfortunately they left out the zipper installation instructions for the tester pattern (which they said will also be included in the finalized pattern). The zipper is where my only real issue with this pattern came into play. There was literally nothing about how to attach the zipper to the front pieces, so when I came to that part of the construction I decided to forgo the zipper altogether. The front zipper was my least favorite part of the jumpsuit design, only because, at least for the tester version, there was no hidden placket or flap to conceal it, so it was just a big zipper going from crotch to neck. As I’ve said, I love how practical this garment is, but I felt like the zipper made it look a bit too simple or costumey- for me it was just missing some element of sophistication. I decided at the last minute to draft some front facings to each bodice piece so that I could fold them in and use snaps to close the garment up instead of the zipper.

I wish I had taken better notes on how to achieve this look because, although Alice & Co. loved my finished jumpsuit and told us testers that they were going to include some button/snap placket options to include with the zipper, I just found out that they thought the placket was “too complicated” to include in the pattern and they decided not to add the option after all. I beg to differ on this point since I was able to figure the placket out on my own and I am by no means a designer- I think that with the proper instructions, a beginning sewist could just as easily create a beautiful placket as they could a front zipper, there are just more steps. I must admit, I was disappointed to find that they were leaving the placket option out of the pattern because they seemed so excited about it at first and it felt like my most significant contribution as a pattern tester. But then this morning they sent me an email saying that they might offer the plackets as a hack to be released in the coming weeks, so I will keep my fingers crossed that they offer that option up to future makers of the pattern.

I can’t remember exactly what I did to create my front button plackets but it wasn’t very scientific anyways. I modeled it after another jumpsuit I made (hasn’t made it to the blog yet) which has a front button placket. Essentially I drafted two facings for each side of the bodice that extended from the crotch to the neckline which were about 4 inches wide, interfaced them, sewed them to the bodice front edges, then I understitched them. Because these pieces were not drafted and taken into account from the beginning of the make, they aren’t lined up perfectly in the center of the jumpsuit, and the overlap of the bodice fronts is pretty narrow- there is only like an inch or so of overlapping fabric underneath the snaps, but it was still plenty of room for me to attach them. If I had known I wanted to add these plackets from the beginning of the make, I would have extended the front bodice edges out a couple of inches so that they overlapped instead of met at the center (a zipper means each edge will meet together roughly in the center, with the zipper taking up a little bit of space, but for a placket, the pieces are drafted to be wider so that they can overlap, if that makes sense- you need the right and left front bodice edges to sit on top of each other so that a button or snap can be attached to both pieces of fabric and connected).

On the bottom of the crotch, after snipping into the seam line to allow the facings to be tacked down to one side, I topstitched the edge of the placket onto the front of the pants to keep it in place. I also extended the collar just a bit to accommodate the adjusted neckline. Lastly, I extended the waist band pieces further towards the front center of the jumpsuit and I inserted a length of elastic inside it and sewed it down on the fronts and side seams. I knew I would never style this jumpsuit with a belt the way that the pattern photo showed, but I also knew I didn’t want the waist to be totally loose around my body, since there is a a lot of ease drafted into the pattern. I left the elastic pretty loose so it doesn’t hug my waist but it cinches in enough to make me feel like I am not wearing a tent. Aside from shortening the lengths of the sleeves and pants legs to fit my petite frame, those are the major adjustments I made to the pattern.

All in all, I really love how this jumpsuit came out and I think it’s a dead ringer for the original Madewell jumpsuit (above) that I fell in love with, except this one actually fits me. My favorite thing about the design of this garment (besides the great drafting) is the collar- it’s a very simple one-piece collar, nothing particularly special about it, but I think it works so well on these coveralls, and I wish I had made my dusty rose jumpsuit with this collar instead- next time!

Although I absolutely want to make one of these jumpsuits in a lightweight yellow twill like the Madewell inspo one, I like how this striped linen (gifted to me by Mimi G…and by “gifted” I mean she let me rifle through her shelves of giveaway fabric one day lol) works with this pattern- I knew I was toeing the line to have it look like a prisoner’s uniform with the vertical stripes and subdued color, but it doesn’t look nearly as drab as all that. It’s really fun and easy to wear and I have had NOTHING but compliments on this thing every time I wear it. I have dressed it down with my memade sneakers (as seen in these photos) and I have also worn it with clogs which made it feel slightly more dolled up- there are a lots of cool ways to style this garment and I am excited to discover more of them (I’ve always wanted to wear something like this with a t shirt underneath and the top half off with the sleeves tied around my waist! It’s like Car Mechanic Realness!)

As for whether or not I will ever pattern test again? Who knows! Maybe if it’s for a design I am super excited about, like this one, or a pattern company I love. Alice & Co. was friendly and gracious throughout the process, and despite my disappointment about them not offering more options for the final version, I think the jumpsuit is a great pattern and will be fun for beginning and intermediate sewists alike. The real question is… has my my thirst for jumpsuits finally been quenched?!

Dotted Named Outfit with Slate Leather Flats

As mentioned before on this blog, Named is not my favorite indie pattern brand. They have some great looking designs and I love their styling, but the drafting and instructions generally leave me always desiring more. Sakijane describes her complaints (which happen to mirror every single one of mine) very succinctly in this post about her most recent Kielo Wrap Dress and I felt so validated when I read it- I was not alone in my disappointment with their patterns! But I also know that there are tons of talented makers out there who love Named and have lots of successful garments to show for it, so when I saw Katie of What Katie Sew’s 100th pair of cute Ninni Culottes, I decided to take the plunge and get the pattern myself. For one thing, this pair of pants seems like a good staple to have in my closet- elastic waist and cropped legs scream nothing but comfort to me, and I like that it can translate from houseclothes to streetclothes pretty seamlessly. I also figured that I wouldn’t have any issues with the construction methods since it’s such a simple design. I was (mostly) right on both counts!

As soon as I saw this organic cotton jersey from The Fabric Store, I knew I wanted to sew it up into something coordinating (I got yardage of both the white and the blue dotted, but as of this blog entry they seem to be out of the blue- if you’re interested in this fabric I would keep checking back since they restock frequently)! I knew I wanted the culottes in the blue dotted but I wasn’t sure what to pair the white with for my top half- I liked the idea of a boxy crop top but I didn’t have any patterns like that in my stash for knit-specific fabrics. And then I remembered the Named Inari Tee Dress pattern. I’ve had it for years and the one time I tried to make the dress, it was a disaster on me- not suited for my body at all and very unflattering. But I had never given the tee a go, and the tee seemed like it would be much less tricky to make work on my body. The pattern is suggested for wovens or fabrics with a light stretch, which my jersey was not, but I thought it would work just fine since there is no negative ease drafted into the pattern.

Both the pants and the tee came together very quickly. The pants have deep side seam pockets that attach to the top of the waistband, and I cut out the smallest size since Named tends to run big on me. The only issue I ran into is when I tried to fit the waistband. As with most elastic waist garments, I measured out the amount of elastic that felt most comfortable and then fed it through the tube of the waistband. But it was very difficult to feed the amount of elastic I wanted through the pants and have the waistband lay right- it was like the waistband was too long for the short amount of elastic I wanted, so the fabric was bunching up and squeezing together all over it. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it just felt like the waistband was too big and needed to be made shorter. But I couldn’t do that without taking the whole pair of pants apart and taking out width from the top of the legs. So I left it as-is, trying to make the waistband as smooth as possible as I sewed the zigzags around it that keep the elastic stable inside of it’s casing. It looks a bit lumpy and bumpy to my discerning eye, but you definitely can’t see it thanks to the dots on the fabric, which cover up any inconsistencies.

After all that, I think the waist is still too big on me- the pants ride down, particularly in the back, and I have to keep pulling them up on me- I almost wish these had belt loops, which totally defeats the purpose of an elastic waist, lol. But I’ve still worn them a lot and think they are really cute! The next time I make them I am going to take at least an inch of width from each of the pants legs, plus the waistband, and see if that makes them fit me a bit better.

The tee shirt had issues, too, but it wasn’t because of the drafting. I wanted to add a band around the bottom edge of it because without it, the hem looked a little stretched out and haggard (again I think this is because there was no negative ease in the pattern and the hem isn’t intended to fit around the waist or hips of the body to help pull and stretch it out, it’s just kind of floating around my rib cage willy nilly). As you probably know, when adding a band to the edge of a neckline or the hem of a sleeve in stretch knit fabric, you usually need to cut the band a bit smaller than the opening you are attaching it to so that the band will ease in the stretch of the fabric and lay properly. If you cut it the same size, the hem will look stretched out and wavy. I applied this to the bottom hem of my shirt, but I slightly miscalculated the measurement so that the band was a tiny bit too small for the hem. The result of this is that there is a bit of wrinkling where the band is eased in too much in a couple areas along the seam. Again, not a glaring mistake, but definitely something I notice and frown at every time I see it.

As a whole, I love the silhouette of this outfit- I love the loose fit of both garments that somehow manage not to swallow me up thanks to the break that the crop top provides by showing a little of my belly. I love the matchiness (that isn’t too matchy) of the complimentary dotted fabrics, and I love how comfortable it is. Although I made these pieces to go together, I mostly wear these pants with a non-cropped t shirt (which helps the pants stay up on my waist) and a jean jacket, and I really want to pair this crop top with my Persephone pants at some point, because I think it will have a similarly interesting silhouette.

OK, so on to the shoes!

Rachel of RachelSeesSnailShoes (she is my unaware and unofficial mentor, LOL) has so much shoe inspiration on her IG, and my pair of shoes was inspired both by one of her designs and a RTWpair I found on pinterest by Rachel Comey.

Ultimately I changed the design a lot as I was working on the lasts, but I love the journey that I took to get to where I ended up, and they fit pretty great! They are comfortable, and the straps stay on my feet, something I always worry about when I don’t use buckles on slingbacks. Interestingly, the slingbacks tend to slide off the back of my foot when I’m sitting down, but when I’m standing and walking, they stay perfectly in place.

I used a patent leather from The Fabric Store in LA that I got many months ago and I love it- its a cross between gray and blue, not too loud but not too subtle either, and I think it makes a pretty cool neutral. I also decided to line my slate gray leather with a thinner cut of leather so that I could put a toe puff in the toe of the shoe. A toe puff gives the foot of your shoe some extra rigidity and keeps the shape of your toes from imprinting into the leather as you wear them over time, and I am very happy with my decision. They aren’t always necessary, but they can make your shoes last longer depending on what kind of upper leather you are working with.

The last time I made a pair of patent leather slides (which sadly I never blogged here so I can’t link to them, damnit!), they came out okay but there was a lot of room for improvement. My heel hangs off the back of the shoe just a tiny bit, which I HATE (the last fits my foot but the upper must be a bit too narrow in the toe resulting in the back of my foot sticking out of the shoe) and the lasting around the toe leaves much to be desired. You can’t see it from the top of the shoe, which is great, but if you look closely and the bottom and very front, you can see that there are wrinkles and folds and it’s not very smooth at all. Thankfully I have gotten much better at lasting this tricky area and the toe on these shoes looks damn near perfect, at least for my skill level.

The lasting process around the toe usually requires a lot of patience and hand strength from me, and I almost always slam my thumbnail with the hammer at least once getting those little nails all around the edge. But I can see how well my patience pays off when I look at a pair like these and see that it doesn’t have a handmade look the way some of my older pairs do- and nothing is wrong with a handmade look because…well, they ARE handmade! I just like to see concrete evidence of a learning curve, to see that I am growing and getting better and feeling more confident in my construction and design!

I am very happy with these shoes and excited to get started on my next pair, which will probably be using the beautiful new round toed lasts I just bought from I Can Make Shoes. They just stocked their online shop with some really cool block heels and I bought a couple pair for future use and I am just itching to get started. The only thing holding me back is trying to narrow down what design I want to use and that feels like it could take months! Wish me luck 😉

Madewell Inspired Jumpsuit

Heather Lou of ClosetCasePatterns posted a selfie a few months back wearing a version of the above jumpsuit that I immediately fell in love with (although I am realizing more and more lately that I sometimes might not be in love with a garment so much as in love with a garment on someone who looks amazing in it, if that makes any sense). Anyways, I did a little research and found the jumpsuit on Madewell’s website and decided that I could reasonably make it for myself with a bit of pattern hacking. Although Madewell is a really great clothing brand in terms of transparency with their customers and sustainability, I must admit that buying RTW does not provide even a fraction of the thrill for me that it once did. I much prefer making my own and figuring out ways that I can recreate a garment myself based on what I see online and in stores, and I am sure that much of this stems from the fact that I can GUARANTEE you that this jumpsuit would look awful on me right off the hanger.

I pinned images of the jumpsuit to my pinterest page and set out to find a sewing pattern that could easily accommodate the main style lines of the jumpsuit. In the midst of doing this research, my Dad was in town and we went to the mall to buy him some sneakers. I rarely go to malls nowadays so I had forgotten that there was a Madewell store there, and once we walked by it, I figured we could hop inside so I could see the jumpsuit in person and get a better understanding of the garment’s construction. The store was small and it didn’t take me long to see that the jumpsuit I was looking for was “so last season” lol and had now been replaced by late summer/early fall garments. We were about to walk out when a different jumpsuit caught my eye. It was a similar idea to the original one I was looking for, but, dare I say…even better suited to my tastes and body!

The waist was cinched with elastic at the back and drawstring ties at the front, the legs were wide and cropped (which is my favorite pants style right now), and it had nice big buttons on the front and top stitching all over. I didn’t bother trying the jumpsuit on because I didn’t want to base my make off of the fit of an existing garment (which would most likely have been ill-fitting)- I would rather start from scratch and just incorporate the design elements into a fresh look inspired by the RTW garment. I decide to use McCalls 7330 to base my make from, but it took a lot of adjusting and hacking to get it exactly how I wanted it.

This pattern comes in Small/Medium/Large and I graded from a small at bust and waist to a medium at the hips (but later end up taking the pattern in significantly at the waist and high hip so the grading out wasn’t necessary). Major hacks/changes to the pattern included:

  • adding width to the legs and cropping the length (I based the shape of the pants legs off my Persephone Pants)
  • using View F of the pattern with 2 piece collar and extending the length of the collar so that Iit could accommodate…
  • …an extended front button band (because I wanted my button band to be wide like the inspo jumpsuit)
  • reshaping the bodice front piece and adding a facing that extended from the bodice fronts down to the crotch (I based these design elements off of my Republique du Chiffon Domonique jumpsuit that I haven’t yet blogged about)
  • using the shape of the front pants pockets from View A but making them wider and longer to look more like the inspo jumpsuit
  • omitting the waistband, and adding that length back to the bodice and pants (which I ended up taking out, but more on that later)
  • adding a casing to the inside of the back waistband (to house the elastic) and the outside of the front waistbands (to house the drawstrings) on either side of the bodice opening
  • adding drawstrings for the front waist

Seems fairly simple now that I am writing it all out but everything felt much less straight-forward while I was making it. I made the majority of these changes to the bedsheet muslin I sewed up first, and once I was happy with how it was looking (or could look with a few more tweaks), I cut out my fashion fabric. Now a word about my fabric: I bought about a yard and a quarter quite a while ago while on a trip to Joann’s looking for twill fabric to make some more CCF Sasha trousers. A good stretch twill isn’t always something I stumble on when shopping at my main squeeze fabric stores so when I saw the pretty salmon color of this fabric I immediately put it in my cart. Of course when I saw the Madewell jumpsuit in a similarly colored fabric, I decided to take fabric inspo from it, but I didn’t have enough yardage.

I cut a little swatch of my already-washed twill from my stash and brought it with me to Joann’s, hoping I could find it again, and I did! I bought another yard of it, took it home and washed it. Then I pulled out my two separate yardages to start cutting and…the two pieces were from different dye lots. L O L, immediately followed by an EYEROLL. The difference between them was very subtle, Claire couldn’t see it all, but of COURSE I could. I decided to cut out the pants from one of the pieces of fabric and the top and sleeves from the other, so that at least the fabric would all look the same among the separate halves, and I cut the bodice pocket out of the pants fabric to try and pull it all together. Now that it’s complete, Claire says she still can’t see the color difference, meanwhile the garment looks practically color-blocked to me, haha.

 

The main changes I made to the garment all seemed to work really well, but perhaps because of the difference in textile from muslin to fashion fabric, there were still some issues. The salmon twill version was still too long in the torso, even though I had already chopped off about 2 inches from the pants and bodice. Thankfully my top and bottom pieces were still basted together at this point so I was able to take them apart and chop off even more from the bodice, but the completed version is still about 3/4″ too long for me, so if and when I make it again I will try and address that. The crotch also ended up being too long and sagging down in a weird way between my legs so I brought the bottom of the crotch up at least 1/2″ more, too. Honestly, the weight of this twill is a little heavier than I would like it to be (it’s also heavier than the inspo jumpsuit) and I am really looking forward to making this again in maybe a linen or cotton blend fabric that makes it a bit airier and lighter.

Another thing I am a little on the fence about is this collar, and I think it also has to do with the weight of my fabric- it feels and looks more like a jacket because it’s so thick and sticks out a bit from the body. The design of it is cute, but I think that for this fabric I should have made a one-piece fold down collar instead of the two-piece collar (the RTW jumpsuit is a one-piece). But in a lighter weight fabric, the collar would have looked just like a nice button up shirt collar and would have probably laid down much more neatly. As it stands, the collar looks a bit like it’s making a statement, and I’m not mad about it- although it’s not what I was initially going for, I do think it’s cute and very much in line with the grandma-chic vibes that the rest of the garment gives.

Overall, I am really happy with this make and impressed with how it came out- I have rubbed off RTW clothes before but never have I started from scratch with the design of a RTW garment and tried to turn an existing pattern into a replica of it. It was really fun, and I would definitely do it again!

 

Thankfully there is a pattern out in the world for pretty much everything you could possibly find in a storefront window, so that makes the job easier- and I know there are at least a couple of instagramming sewists out there who are dedicated to matching patterns with RTW garments (I keep forgetting their handles but I definitely need to follow them). Still, I felt like this was a very challenging project that I learned a lot from, and it has inspired me to keep testing the limits of my knowledge and learning more. And the BEST part? I just got asked to be a pattern tester for a new pattern that is practically the spitting image of the original yellow Madewell jumpsuit that I first took inspiration from. So it looks like I’m gonna be able to have my cake and eat it, too!

 

The Kelly Dress

the cast!

This summer I was in a short film that my friend Kelly produced and also starred in, and we had a crazy amount of fun. Although me and Kelly have been friends for several years, this was our first opportunity to work together, and I appreciated us to getting to know each other in a new way through our “work” modes. Although short indie films almost always have a wardrobe supervisor, they tend to try and pull from an actor’s own closet whenever possible, which cuts down on costs and time since they won’t have to buy anything new for an actor and they know that whatever the actor brings will fit them and not need alterations. My character wore a cream colored pair of Ginger Jeans and a Grainline Hemlock Tee (it’s a free pattern!) pulled from my closet, of course, and Kelly brought in a white RTW button down dress that she found at the mall. I loved this dress as soon as I saw it on a hanger and I loved it even more once I saw her wearing it. It was a very simple design, but still not one I had seen out in the world very often. It had a fitted darted bodice with short sleeves attached to a gathered skirt, large buttons going down the front, and two big patch pockets on the sides. Needless to say, I immediately started dreaming up my own version!

You would think that such a simple silhouette would be an easy pattern to track down, but I had a really hard time finding exactly what I wanted (I made this dress several months ago, by the way), and ultimately it seemed easier to just hack something I already had. It took a while to figure out which pattern to use the bodice from- again, such a simple design and fit, but I couldn’t find a bodice that also had sleeves I liked. I decided to go with the Holly Jumpsuit from By Hand London, a pattern from my stash that I tried making for myself years ago with no success. I had issues getting in and out of the garment since it has a side zip that was still too short to accommodate my hips fitting through the waist circumference, and I wasn’t skilled enough at the time to know any other way to make it work. The bodice was exactly what I wanted for the Kelly Dress- it had a bust and a waist dart, roomy sleeves, and a front button placket opening.

I used a gorgeous pink silk linen from Blackbird Fabrics as both my fashion and lining fabric and got to work on making the adjustments necessary for the bodice- mainly I wanted the button band to be wider, which I also needed to adjust to attach it to a skirt that would also have a button placket (the original Holly Jumpsuit  design has a bodice that attaches to a closed-front waist). I sewed up the bodice first without the sleeves to try it on for fit and realized that the back was puckering up around my shoulders and neck (which it also did the first time I had made it!) so I had to add a small dart at the back neckline on each side.

Next I attached my sleeves and was really disappointed to see that they did not work on my body at all. The sleeves were super tight and the fabric was stretched taught across my bicep. Now, to be fair, I do work out, but to be even fairer, I only use like, 3 pound weights in my body sculpt classes, so I’m not the Incredible Hulk or anything! I am unsure why these sleeves were so tight since I have made other BHL patterns with no issues at all, and was stumped on what to do to fix them- I wasn’t convinced that giving the sleeves more width would resolve the issue since the sleeves were making the whole bodice sit awkwardly, even in areas where it seemed like the tight part of the sleeves wouldn’t affect it. I thought maybe the whole bodice needed some kind of adjustment around the arms/bust, but then I remembered that when I tried the bodice on without the sleeves, it fit almost perfectly. So I saved myself the headache and left the sleeves off the final version. Although I love the look of the sleeves on the dress, it wasn’t what originally caught my eye about the garment, so all was not lost.

Once I got the bodice looking how I wanted it to, I attached it to the skirt of the Jessica Dress by SewDef Patterns, a dress I absolutely love. It’s basically just three rectangles sewn together with a button placket in the front center, but that’s all I needed! In hindsight, I could have gone with a skirt that had less gathered material at the waistline (my skirt is fuller than Kelly’s, and I actually did take out some of the width of the pattern pieces of the Jessica dress for this hack and it still came out this full)  but I was too lazy to try and find another skirt in my stash that had this shape. I attached the big patch pockets to the sides of the skirt, sewed the top and bottom halves together, and then worked on my button placket.

Aside from getting the bodice to fit right, the button placket was the only other thing to give me a lot of trouble. It’s because of the silk linen I used, which was easy enough to sew regular seams with, but once it came to top stitching, the fabric had a hard time staying put. It would gather and gape and stretch and pull, even with my walking foot, and I had to take the stitching out more than once to get everything lined up and looking clean. It’s fine- not perfect, but fine! The stitching on the button bands is a little bit wobbly and it’s even more apparent because I didn’t use a thread that was super close in color to my fabric, but I’m not pressed about it- the 3 foot rule applies beautifully to this make!

This is a pretty great and easy dress to wear- although it was drafted to fit very closely to my body, the linen softens and relaxes very quickly so that it has a slightly roomy, loose fit around the waist without looking like it’s hanging off my body. I LOVE the big pockets and how they look on the dress, but they are SO big that the tops tend to collapse a bit, something that is also owed to the beautifully soft, drapey fabric I used. I keep debating whether or not to add buttons to the top of them and attach it to the skirt so they will stay closed, but if I do that, I won’t be able to stuff my hands in my pockets, which is pretty much the only thing I want to do when I wear this dress. Speaking of buttons, I bought these at my favorite store, Button Button, in Vancouver last year and I am so glad I found a great project to put them on! They are copper colored like a penny, and have a really cool graphic design on them, and I think they liven this simple dress up a lot.

These photos were taken at Hearst Castle when we took our friend Lawrence to the estate for the first time- he had never been before and Claire and I have gone multiple times, so we thought it would be a fun trip! We did our first night tour the day before these pics were taken and then took advantage of the daylight and stunning views for our second tour. I didn’t have a lot of makeup with me, I was tired, and I am generally uncomfortable taking pictures in front of random people, so these aren’t the best photos in the world, but when you have an unblogged garment with you at Hearst Castle, YOU TAKE THE PHOTOS ANYWAYS, lol.

Oh yeah, and a one good shot of my sandals that I made this past spring! I love these shoes- they have gotten looser over time because leather relaxes and because I was experimenting with this style and probably could have made them fit slightly tighter but at the time I didn’t know any better…but they are still super comfortable and pretty!

Thanks, Claire, for the shots, thanks, Lawrence for the fun road trip, and thanks, Kelly for the inspiration for this dress!!!!!

 

The $34 Dress

A couple of years ago Claire took me on a surprise weekend trip for our anniversary to a small town in southern California a few hours away from us in Los Angeles. The town was quaint and pretty- it had one main street running through town that was home to a few restaurants, a couple of bars, an ice cream shop, and a surprising number of antiques stores. Since it isn’t always safe for us to eat out (Claire has dietary restrictions and can get sick from cross contamination), we ended up spending much of our time in town visiting the thrift stores and antique shops, looking for nothing in particular. It was fun because, unlike LA where everything minutely vintage or mid-century mod gets a hefty price tag slapped on it to make money off the stylish Angelinos with disposable incomes, the items were mostly moderately priced. They still weren’t as cheap as they would be in, say, a vintage shop in Alabama, but they were reasonable!

Since we aren’t collectors of anything in particular, we decided to hone in on sewing supplies, asking each shop owner if they could point us in the direction of their buttons and needlework items, and we found tiny stashes of some pretty marvelous finds. I took photos of them at the time and I definitely shared them on instagram but I am too lazy to go back into my feed and hunt them down! At one point we came upon a vintage clothing store that looked very well curated and tidy, so we stepped inside and ended up spending an hour roaming it’s collection of clothing. We tried on stuff for fun, I ooohed and ahhhed over the collection of 80’s heels, and I rifled through all the accessories. We were about to leave when I commented on  the dress in the window that had caught my eye when we were walking into the store. I didn’t want to bother the salesperson to go through all the trouble of pulling the dress down, but Claire coached me through it (you wanna talk about an everyday cheerleader? Claire is IT)!

I went into the tiny bathroom that was also being used as a storage room and changing room and I slipped the dress on over my head. I could not BELIEVE how perfectly it fit me. There wasn’t even a mirror inside the bathroom but I could tell immediately by the way it felt that it must look glorious. I knew I was right by the look on Claire’s face as I walked out of the bathroom. “Oh my god, honey!”, she said. “WOW!”. The lady tending to the store said that tons of people had come into the shop just to try this dress on but it had never fit anyone before. When I got to a mirror, I marveled at my luck- vintage clothes don’t often fit me so well right off the hanger, but this looked like it was made for me. The tag on the dress said $34, and it was labeled as “30’s/40’s”.

I knew that it probably wasn’t a dress I would ever actually wear. It was made of what looked like a cotton and linen blend, and it had held up very well over the past 8 (!!!!!) decades, but the fabric was very worn in some places and stained in others. Amazingly, the entire thing was handmade- the seams inside were raw, but each seam had been edge stitched on the outside to reinforce it, so there were no holes or tears anywhere to be seen. I am really not a fan of wearing the color red and I also thought that the print, although beautiful, took away from the gorgeous pleats and draping of the design, so my immediate instinct was to buy the dress and then make a pattern out of it, using a fabric that suited my tastes better…and that is exactly what I ended up doing- a full 2 years later, lol!

Initially I considered trying to rub the pattern off without taking the actual garment apart, something I have done in the past with simpler designs, but there were too many details that I was afraid I would miss if I didn’t fully deconstruct the dress, and I also wanted to know more about how it was put together. There were certain techniques implemented that I had not seen before, like the side button closure used in lieu of a zipper (which I ended up not being able to do with my own remake of this dress, but more on that later).

Taking the seams apart was more painstaking than I anticipated because of the aforementioned edgestitching over almost every single seam of the garment, but I managed to get it done over a couple of episodes of something unmemorable on Netflix. Once I took apart all my pieces I ironed them flat and used chalk to try and mark all the foldlines of the pleats in the bodice, sleeves and skirt. The chalk didn’t hold up too well, but thankfully the decades-old fold lines were pretty embedded in the pattern pieces and I was able to still see them pretty easily. After ripping out all the seams, I was left with sleeves, a front collar, back collar and back neck facing, a bodice front cut into two pieces, a bodice back cut on the fold, button bands, two skirt fronts that I decided to cut on the fold, a skirt back, a belt, and the tiny bindings used for the side opening of the dress. I then placed each pattern piece over translucent paper and traced them, making sure to mark the stitch line and add 5/8″ seam allowance. This part was also painstaking because the stitch line and the edgestitch lines were hard to tell apart, so I guesstimated when necessary and tried to true all my paper pieces once I had them all plotted out (I didn’t do a very good job of this, but I did well enough that I am wearing a finished dress in these photos that isn’t falling off my body, lol).

Cutting this dress out from the narrow 2 yards of mint green raw silk I have had in my stash for over a year was very challenging. I was terrified that I wouldn’t have enough room for all the pieces but I forged ahead because I was so determined that this was the fabric that needed to be paired with this design (and I am very glad I was so headstrong because I think the end result is pretty stunning). Ultimately I had to puzzle piece everything together very carefully and shorten the sleeves by a couple of inches to make enough room for everything else, but I DID IT!

 

This dress came together fairly easily, and the most fun part was seeing the large, oddly shaped pattern pieces for the bodice accordion together to make the most beautiful pleated bodice I have ever sewn. Raw silk behaves very differently than the manageable cotton/linen that the original dress is made of, so of course the finished product also looks very different- they are almost like two different dresses. I love sewing with raw silk- it’s unlike anything I have ever worked with, but it doesn’t press super well and it has a lot of body and cushy-ness to it, so the pleats didn’t like to stay put as I was constructing the bodice and I had to reposition them a lot. I also learned that I prefer to make pleats based on ironing the folds down rather than based on pinning notches together, so it took me a lot of time to get everything just right since I was essentially creating the construction order as I went along. I realized that there is only one set of actual darts in this dress- everything else is a pleat folded into a triangular dart shape, which gives the dress a lot more ease and comfort, and is probably why I fell so in love with it when I first tried it on.

After finally getting the bodice pleats uniform and neat looking, I moved onto the button bands and realized that I should have constructed them differently than in the original dress, only because my fabric was so thick and made those seams a lot bulkier than they needed to be. I easily could have omitted the band and simply added length to the front center of the bodice and folded it in on itself, applying some interfacing to the inside piece. To make up for the bulk, I graded the seams to make them as flat as possible, and although it’s a bit thick there, it’s not visually noticeable.

The pleats on both the bodice and skirt are sewn down for several inches to ensure they hold their place and stay looking nice and neat, a technique I have applied to other garments in the past and appreciated seeing on this vintage item. After sewing the back skirt darts and front skirt pleats, I basted the bodice and skirt together and tried it on to see how it was looking, and it! was! GLORIOUSSSSS!!!!! I decided at this point to use a side zipper on my dress in place of the tiny snap band that the original dress was sewn with. I love how the the hidden snap closure looks on the red dress and it seemed relatively easy to replicate, but I could tell that my cush-y, ravel-y raw silk was going to be a huge pain when working with all these fiddly bits and I was worried I would not be able to get the bulky seams to lay very flat. Using a zipper allowed me to get away with just serging the raw edges instead of having to enclose them with binding, and I’m okay with that, although a future iteration of this dress might feature the cute snap enclosure.

I did decide to bring in the side seams a tiny bit more at the waist, and now that the dress is complete I realize I could have brought it in maybe even another one inch in total- I could stand for it to be a tiny bit more snug. Thankfully the attached belt kind of eases in that extra fabric around my waist without the dress seeming like it’s too big, and I can alter the pattern pieces a bit the next time I make this dress. I am SO glad that I ended up having enough fabric to squeeze out the belt! Of course I had to puzzle piece some of my scraps together to make it happen, but I did it! One of my favorite things in sewing is when I manage to use up almost my entire yardage with barely any scraps leftover. I always try and get the bare minimum of yardage required for a garment, which of course can bite me in the ass when I make a mistake or miscalculate how my pieces need to be laid out for max efficiency, but when it works out well and I have only a tiny handful of pieces to throw into the fabric recycling bin? There is nothing better!

Now that I am finished, I am super impressed with how this dress came out, and I am glad to be reminded at how fun and rewarding deconstructed pattern making can be. With the difference between my fabric choice and the original garment, this dress could have easily come out ill-fitting or missing that special something that attracted me to the dress in the first place, but I love everything about it- how it looks, how it feels on, and how it feels in the thicker, softer fabric. One thing I really like about this dress is how it works so well with a slip underneath it. I don’t wear slips very often because they are often not a necessity for the garments I make, but this mint raw silk likes to get a little clingy to skin and undergarments, so having a simple, slippery garment underneath it makes it flow right over my body and lay perfectly. Which puts it even more firmly in the “vintage” category since I equate so much of women’s vintage wear with beautiful slips, undergarments and stockings.

I will most definitely be making this dress again- I can see it in a slippery charmeuse or a satin, or this rust colored crepe I bought several yards of right before the LA location of The Fabric Store closed, and I think it would be really cool to cinch the waist in even more so that it doesn’t need the belt and to make it tea or floor length. So glamorous! In all my years of sewing I have never once wanted to start a business within the realms of the hobby, but making this dress was the first time I considered it, albeit briefly- I love the idea of finding beloved, well-designed vintage garments, deconstructing them to create a pattern, and then grading and selling the design to make it available to sewists the world over. Not that it’s something I could or would actually do – making patterns is a LOT of work (bless all you indie designers out there who are making it look so easy), and things get a little tricky when working with the intellectual property of others when you can’t get their permission/attribute work to them because the information is missing or unavailable), but it still feels nice to be inspired in such a new way with this old hobby of mine!