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Mustard Linen Jumpsuit and Windowpane Check Duster

Before I begin this post, I just want to take a moment to make my position very clear- I am a staunch proponent of #blacklivesmatter #blacktranslivesmatter #disabledtranslivesmatter and #defundingthegoddamnpolice. I am so worn out by the last couple weeks and I have tried to use my social media platforms as much as I can to share information on anti-racism, dispel harmful myths about blackness, shine light on the effects of white supremacy, and uplift the voices of my black, queer community. At this point I am exhausted from having these dialogues and dealing with the ignorance that is par for the course when we start talking about why black lives matter, so I don’t have much energy to write anything very eloquent here right now (other than this blog post that I wrote weeks ago and am only now getting around to posting, haha). My website will not be a space for debate or “conversation” with white people on why black lives need to be protected and police brutality needs to finally, FINALLY, end. You are either on our side, or you are in the way. I expect that I will write more on this at some point in the future, but ’til then, if you are not an actively anti-racist person, please feel free to begin the journey of defunding your own personal white supremacy/anti-blackness and seeking out information to enlighten your mind, your heart, and your spirit…anywhere but in the comments of my post 🙂

My inspiration for this jumpsuit came directly from themindfulsewist, who used FibreMood’s Carmella Jumpsuit as a starting off point and ended up with this beautiful thing!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B58fVDaAroa/

My jumpsuit has a slightly different fit than hers (which makes me want to give hers another go at some point) but I still love how mine came out. I already had so many similar jumpsuit patterns in my stash that I couldn’t bear cutting a new one out and figuring out all the alterations, so I combined 3 or 4 patterns to end up where I did, with a slightly loose-fitting, cropped legged jumpsuit. I started out with the pants of the Intrepid Boilersuit Pattern from Alice & Co that I tested a while back, then I added the Leah Jumpsuit pattern from FibreMood (I hadn’t made this pattern before but liked the collar and boxy but not-too-loose bodice). Next I used the popover button placket from the Kalle shirtdress to create that beautiful front button band, and I think there was a little taste of a McCalls jumpsuit pattern in there…but I can’t remember exactly where- maybe in the crotch curve of the pants? lol)

Anyways, it was a real Franken-sperience putting it all together, and I didn’t quite nail it. Aesthetically it’s great, but fit-wise I really don’t like the bodice. The arm holes are too low and I hate that webbed underarm look in garments where it seems like your arm and torso are connected. It’s not uncomfortable, but I like the fit of the arms on the Intrepid Boilersuit much better. Additionally, I’m not super pleased with the crotch depth- it’s just a teeny bit too short and has a tendency to ride up when I first put it on (versus once the linen has relaxed a bit). That part is all my fault- I usually leave like, a whole inch in the seam allowance of the waistband so that I can adjust the fit as necessary, but because of the order in which I sewed the button placket in relation to the rest of the garment, I had to make a decision on length before I was able to fully try it on, and I cut myself a little short.

The popover placket is one of the things that really drew me to themindfulsewist’s jumpsuit- it looks so finished and modern with it, much more interesting than the standard button bands I usually tack onto the front. And I always hate figuring out how to finish the bottom of the normal placket where it attaches to the crotch seam. Mine just never seem to turn out very clean. But this one looks great! Unfortunately, because I was hacking so many different patterns together and wasn’t following any one set of instructions, I painted myself into a bunch of weird corners in the process of sewing this. I got myself out of every single one of them, thankfully, but watching me figure all the details out in real time was quite the sight!

 

This was mainly because I really liked the popover button placket technique for the Kalle shirtdress and didn’t want to draft a new one for the jumpsuit; I essentially just took the popover pattern piece, lengthened it to fit all the way from the neckline to the crotch, then followed the instructions as written. Since the popover placket gets sewn onto a flat, uncut bodice front (you cut the placket open during construction after it’s been sewn and stabilized to the front piece), this meant that I needed to sew the waistband before I sewed the placket, but sewing the waistband on first meant I also couldn’t try it on for fit adjustments (it’s a woven garment, so a closed front meant I couldn’t try it on until after I had already made the placket). I solved this by doing some very weird clothing yoga where only half the waistband was sewn so I wouldn’t have to unpick the WHOLE thing in case the fit was off, and then I just kind of held the bodice up to my body with my legs in the pants and eyeballed where the shoulders hit, lol. It was bizarre! And inexact! As I said earlier in the post, I could have given myself a tiny bit more room at the waist to create more room in the crotch and more of a bloused effect, but it’s not uncomfortable so I am not stressing too much about it. Again, the garment is made of linen, so it softens and stretches out quite a bit after some wear.

Speaking of the fabric, WOWZA, amirite? This is a stunning vintage washed linen from The Fabric Store in the most beautiful blend of green, brown and yellow I could imagine. Mustard is in my color palette (obviously!) and I think it’s brilliant, one of those colors that doesn’t say much when by itself, but when worn against brown skin, it just sizzles.

So you may be asking, what the hell is going on with those pockets, lol. I loved the pockets from the inspo make- extra big patch pockets that took up practically the whole thigh. I waited to draft the pockets until after the majority of the jumpsuit was constructed so I could make sure I got the proportions correct, but once I got to that point, I realized I had very little fabric left and I still needed to draft a belt. At some point I was standing in the mirror with a pocket pinned to one leg and a scrap of fabric held around my waist for the belt, just trying to visualize the proper placement. The top of the pocket and bottom of the belt were hitting at the same place on me, and when I lifted the pocket just a touch to be even with the belt, I got this interesting apron effect with it. I wondered if I had enough fabric to make this apron idea an actual design feature, and after a little puzzling around with my tiny scraps, I figured it out.

I would have loved to have even more fabric so I could make the pockets bigger and wrap the apron/belt tie around my waist more than once, but I am totally satisfied with how this came out and I think it looks so rad. I can’t explain why it works, it just does, and honestly those are some of my favorite moments in making clothes. I have only a basic understanding of color theory and would consider myself only an intermediate sewist, but when things click into place for me without any rationalizing, when I’m just overwhelmed by a moment of “THIS LOOKS SO RIGHT!”, I feel rejuvenated! Because there isn’t really a science of style- we all have different tastes and we like what we like, and when I put these pink memade mules on with this brownish yellow ensemble, I can’t explain to anyone why it works, I just know that it makes my heart beat fast when I see it. And I really want to hold on to that, hold onto being motivated by my own tastes instead of what I think I am supposed to like, or what advertisers and marketers assume I will like based on my demographic.

So yeah, here I am inspired by a jumpsuit that I didn’t quite end up with myself, but one that I love nonetheless. And truth be told, I will probably give my inspo jumpsuit another try in the very near future- after having hacked about 3 jumpsuits from different pieces of different patterns, I am ready for a regular old run of the mill pattern that will need much less work. My guess is that the new Closet Case Patterns Bianca Flight Suit is gonna work out well for me since all their other patterns do, and Heather always does a fine job of sharing smart ways to correct fitting issues along the way! So far, jackets and jumpsuits have been my sewing mainstays (did you know that I will have made SIX JACKETS in the past 6 months?!?!) and I don’t want to ruin a good thing. Speaking of jackets…

 

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this one- making it was a last minute decision because I had acquired the pattern (Simplicity R10013) on my hunt for a different coat project which I ended up not using it for. It is a very simple and quick pattern to put together, no real shaping, no lining (although I ended up adding one), and no special techniques required. It’s a great pattern for a newbie but doesn’t offer much in terms of style- it’s baggy and boxy even in the XS I made. I think the only reason I like it is because the fabric is so dynamic. The fabric is actually the wool suiting that I planned to make my Jasika Blazer out of, which, FYI, is on it’s way to the blog, I just need better photos of the jacket first. Once that post is up, you can read all about why I discarded the fabric in favor of something more stable and thick, but thankfully I figured out another way to use it. It’s actually pretty terrific as a warm weather jacket- the wool suiting is so light that it’s almost floaty, which is why I decided to line it with white dupioni silk from my stash- it needed a little more heft to ground it. Again, it’s not the most interesting jacket in the world, but it’s gonna be a dream to layer over things when the weather gets cool again; thankfully the window pane check gives it all the drama it needs.

You might recognize that this icy blue color is not in my autumn palette (one of the other reasons I decided not to make a blazer out of it!) but it pairs beautifully with this mustard yellow and also with other oranges and browns in my palette, so although I haven’t had many opportunities to wear it yet, I think it will be a nice addition to the outerwear portion of my closet.

FYI, shoes are memade suede mules that you can read more about here. Thanks as always to Claire for the pretty pics, and thanks to you all for continuing to show support and love for me and my black community!

Spotted Shelby Romper

I LOVE THIS MAKE, I LOVE THIS MAKE, I LOVE THIS MAKE!!!

This is one of those garments that worked for me right from the very start- directly out the envelope and every step of the way. Such garments can be pretty few and far between for me, I usually need to make some sort of adjustment along the way, even if it’s just taking length out of the body or the sleeves, but nope, this one was solid the whole way through. What a joy to make!

I have been a fan of True Bias patterns for a while now, but for some strange reason it took me a long time to appreciate the full beauty and simplicity of this design. The Shelby Romper/Dress pattern came out a couple years ago I think, and…I dunno- it just didn’t jump out at me at the time. But that’s ok- better late than never, right? This design has a firmly 90’s vibe and I think that might have been one of the reasons I didn’t connect to it initially- I was in middle and high school in the 90’s and that decade isn’t cemented in my head as a particularly wonderful time in my life.

It was typical teenage angst stuff- hormones, crushes on all the wrong boys, managing the pros and cons of newfound independence- but with the addition of recognizing a sexuality I thought I needed to repress, dealing with racism every day while not always knowing how to defend myself against it, and confronting blatant misogyny and patriarchal standards of beauty. Although I probably fared better than a lot of people, I still connect those years with massive feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and confusion. Today when I see 90’s styles, I don’t always have a positive association with them- I only remember the feelings of inadequacy, the urge to pretend to be the confident, carefree girl that I so desperately wished I was.

But this is the beauty of adulthood, right? If we are lucky, we get to struggle through the tumultuous years of wanting to fit in and be liked by everyone and eventually settle down in the land of I’m Proud Of Who I Am, If You Don’t Like It, Feel Free To Get Lost. I’ve been living in this place for quite a while now, and wow, it’s so freeing! And it gives me the opportunity to reaquaint myself with pieces of my past in a new way. Like Doc Martens! I never wore them when I was a teenager because the fear of being seen as a “poser” was so terrifying to me- I wasn’t brave enough to explore my identity outside of what was expected of me, and I didn’t know of any black or brown cheerleaders who did show choir, excelled in English class, and wore Doc Martens.

While so many of my peers were trying to experiment with how they presented themselves to the rest of the world, I was exactly the opposite. So many things about my identity were ambiguous to others, so all I wanted was to be stuck in a box, to have a category, to feel known. Thankfully I don’t give myself those kinds of limitations anymore- I feel much more comfortable asserting my identity to others instead of trying to meet their expectations, and as a result, me and my Doc Martens have been living a pretty beautiful life together, trying out different styles, exploring our connection to fashion and queerness and identity on our own terms.

Enter: The Shelby Romper. My high school was mostly preppy, but I did see this style occasionally when I was out and about, usually as a dress (the romper option provided with this design has absolutely elevated the whole look for me). They were often made with Liberty-style floral prints on a black background, polyester or a rayon blend, and only the cool girls with really good taste in music wore them. They paired them with chokers and shit-kicking boots and fishnets tights, and while I feel pretty solid that I am *never* gonna be on the black velvet choker train again, I love the idea of taking such a defining style from the past and framing it with my own sensibilities. Black is one of my least favorite colors to wear (I appreciate it on others but it makes me feel invisible!), so marrying it with this bright, polka dot rayon from Emma One Sock in a shade smack in the middle of my Deep Autumn palette feels like a match made in Jasika heaven. The fabric is really light and flowy which matches the movement of the garment perfectly- although it’s a romper, it’s got the ease of a loose-fitting dress, so lightweight, floaty fabrics show it off so nicely.

Because there is so much ease in the romper, I didn’t grade between the waist and hips like I normally do and I made a straight size 2- there are like, 17 inches or so of extra ease in the hips so I knew that it would be plenty for me to still feel swishy in. There is no waistline seam in this pattern, as this style is traditionally made with princess seams that flow easily over the body, but there is a waist tie at the back to cinch in some of that volume. I think I forgot to mark the tie position on my back pattern pieces so I just kind of eyeballed it when it was time to attach them, and I think I made them a tiny bit too low- I would prefer they be maybe two inches higher, which is a quick and easy thing to fix on this garment, but alas I haven’t actually done it yet, lol.

I used french seams on the side and back seams of the garment but used regular ones with a serged finish for the front seams so that I could clip the curves and have them lay properly over the bust. Other than that, construction was an absolute cinch- very straight forward with smart techniques and clear illustrations, as I have come to expect from True Bias patterns. I really cannot rave about this make enough. I love every single thing about it- the sleeves are comfortable and proportionate to the rest of the garment. With the right textile, all that ease around the body lays down around my figure beautifully and doesn’t make me feel frumpy or like I am laden with extra fabric. The fabric itself is an absolute dream- cool to the touch and breezy, and striking with it’s simple, irregularly spotted print. It almost looks like animal print to me, but much more subtle. And the dynamic orange color gives me the perfect opportunity to play around with the color combos in my curated palette, essentially setting the stage for me to get away with the cool-toned robin’s egg blue of my boots, which is not in my palette, but successful because it is not worn right next to my face and plays off the heavy warmth of the orange romper.

I LOVE the length of this romper, too- I didn’t have to shorten it at all, and it gives me lots of coverage while still feeling very flirty and cute. I didn’t think when I first bought this pattern that I would ever make the long version, but seeing how in love I am with the short one, I would be remiss to not give it a try. I just saw someone’s version of the longer length Shelby on IG in a cotton double gauze and OH MY LORD it looks absolutely perfect! If I can get my hands on a richly-colored cotton gauze in my palette, you better believe this pattern is gonna make it to my sewing queue again, and I will 100% be wearing it with my Docs. Circle complete 🙂

Confetti Dress

I tried making this dress several years ago when I was a) not yet as adept at fitting clothes to my body b) not yet as adept at matching perfect fabric to perfect pattern and c) not yet as adept at handling silk. Needless to say, it was a not a win. I blame it mostly on the slightly too-flowy silk I chose for the make (which is a shame because it was GORGEOUS- a background in a deep shade of lilac with little dots all over it. Actually… not too dissimilar graphic-wise from the print I later ended up using!) but it didn’t look that great on me at all, mostly because the fabric wanted to drape instead of hold it’s shape, and this is a design requiring a fabric that can absolutely hold it shape  (it was also weirdly static-y and was billowing in all the wrong places). It’s the Stella Dress from Pattern Runway and it’s one of those makes that has shown me how far I’ve come in the last few years with my sewing.

I remember that when I first made this dress, the sleeves confounded me, I had tons of trouble getting the silk to behave so my stitching was really uneven, and once it was complete, it just didn’t lay on my body right at all. Fast forward a few years and zoom in on me at Mood Fabrics in LA obsessing over this grosgrain confetti fabric last spring. I had never worked with anything like it before (I believe this fabric is from a Carolina Herrerra collection) and I was completely intrigued by both the fun confetti design (party on a dress!) and the textile itself – it was just so slick and soft and stable, with a texture exactly like it’s namesake (just imagine a grosgrain ribbon 56 inches wide and 2 yards long). It was expensive, way more money that I normally spend on fabric, but that’s eventually why I decided to splurge on it- I rarely come across fabric that I simply cannot walk away from and I wanted to treat myself! And I’m so glad I did, because I think this dress came out beautifully.

That’s not to say she didn’t give me trouble, though! This fabric is deceptively tricky to sew with. Because of its’ stability and the hundreds of tiny little ridges across the yardage, it was weirdly bulky, and this became an issue because I decided to french seam all the insides- I might have been able to get away with serging the seams, but the raw edges were incredibly frayed and I figured that french seams made the most sense in terms of longevity of the garment. It’s all fine; the insides look beautiful and it feels like a really strong and stable garment, but sewing over some of those intersecting seams was a bit of a nightmare with all the thickness.

I didn’t make many adjustments to this dress and didn’t have to fiddle with the shaping all that much since it’s only fitted at the waist. The bodice has pleats stemming from the waist instead of darts which gives more wiggle room and accommodates a larger range of bust sizes, and the skirt also has front and back pleats, so you can nip it in or take it out at the waist as much as you want and it wont have as huge an effect on the hips/butt/thigh area because there is so much positive ease built in. This design is actually incredibly forgiving in terms of fitting a broader range of sizes, but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s over sized or loose or anything, and it isn’t made with a knit or an elastic waist, which I love. I also shortened the skirt length since I knew I wouldn’t be able to take length out of the hem as easily.

Speaking of, I love the hem of this dress- I am a sucker for a curved hem, but this one in particular has a separate hem with a facing on the inside which gives the bottom a little bit of weight and substance.

The sleeves I also love now even though I was initially on the fence about them. Since the fabric I used is so structured, the sleeves stick out from the bodice and the silhouette looks a little Judy Jetson-ish, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I think I was stuck on both the shape of the sleeves and the fact that they are eased into the armhole on the fronts and back of the sleeves instead of just at the cap, which was a bit strange. But again, I got over it and I think they look great now- super unique and fun and unexpected and just the thing to keep this dress from landing into mix + match/ bodice + skirt  territory (after sewing for so many years do you ever feel like all the new patterns just look the same??)

I also love the cute, subtle detail of the waistline with it’s folded ribbon of fabric that extends all the way around. Such a simple yet interesting addition to an otherwise straightforward make. Here is what I didn’t like: the neckline has a facing which is not normally my preference but it was necessary with this weirdly bulky fabric (lining the bodice would have been way too much material). It doesn’t flip out too much because I tacked them down on the insides, but still, they are not ideal and I wonder how a neck binding would work on a future version. My fabric, which I fell out of love with as soon as I got it home and started working with it, looks terrific in this dress but it’s suuuuuper wrinkly, which I would never have anticipated. The wrinkles aren’t deep, but they are all over, so much so that it almost looks like the dress is textured that way. They iron out easily but reappear as soon as the fabric has moved even just a little bit, so it works great for a one-off party dress but it wouldn’t be something I reached for over and over again on future garments. Also, I guess because of the tiny little ridges on the surface of the fabric, it was REALLY hard to interface!

Thrilled with how great this dress came out and also I thrilled that I decided to return to this sewing pattern even though it didn’t work out for me the first go round. For years I have loved the shape and style of this dress but was convinced that pattern wasn’t right for me after my first fail and I never imagined I would come back to it. As it turns out, I just needed a little more experience, a little more perspective, and little more fabric!

 

Snowbunny In the Desert

This is a two-for one post because the garments looked so good together I couldn’t bear to separate them! Let’s start with the jacket, which has inspired more ridiculous stories and posts on my instagram account than I ever imagined.

The jacket pattern is Simplicity D0899 and I bought it shortly after I moved up to Vancouver this summer. The warm days and cool nights had me wishing I had a lightweight, long jacket that I could throw on over summer dresses, and I thought a linen or silk noil would be beautiful in this very simple unlined trench style pattern. But it turned out that I didn’t have enough fabric in my stash to make it in the kind of fabric I wanted, so I decided to find something nice from The Fabric Store for my next order.

Although I was initially planning to make this in a slightly drapey muted fabric, I kept feeling drawn to this interesting animal print jacquard on the website (as of this post I think they are all out of this specific fabric now, but this is the same textile, I think, but in a different hue). The fabric was pretty much the exact opposite of my original idea- stiffer, bulkier, with lots of body, and in a very bold print- but once it was in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so the obvious choice was to take a chance and move forward with it!

I think that this fabric is described as “reversible”, which is totally legit, but there was only one side that I was really drawn to. The side of the fabric that looks decidedly animal print-y, is bolder and a little more…garish maybe. I think it could be really cute in like, a skirt or pants or blazer, but for a whole coat, it just wasn’t working for me. However the other side? I was crazy about it! It looked less animal print-y and more abstract, and the feel was softer, more pillowy, and frankly just a bit more interesting to me personally (for some reason I am really trying hard not to shade the other side of the fabric, as if it’s going to be offended, lol).

This jacquard was pretty easy to sew with and definitely not slippery or grippy, but I did need to make sure my needles were sharp so it wouldn’t snag any of the threads on the outside part of the fabric (the inside of the fabric is smooth and flat and has no raised threads). This was a very simple and straightforward make- the jacket is unlined and has no button or zip closure so it’s really just made up of the front and back pieces, sleeves, pockets and collar, therefore it came together very quickly. I considered french seaming the insides but the fabric is fairly thick and I didn’t want to battle the bulk so I decided to finish the seams with my serger, which was definitely the right choice.

I wish there was more to say about the construction of this jacket but there isn’t- it truly was an uncomplicated make! The dynamic look of the garment is not matched at all to it’s simple design, which I kind of love. It’s exciting when you make something with a huge wow factor but no wow construction- it almost feels like cheating! One of my other favorite things about sewing patterns is seeing them made up in fabrics or prints that they might not have been designed for, but still look amazing with when paired together. As soon as the garment started coming together and I tried it on for fit (no adjustments necessary for this one except for shortening the sleeves) I realized that, although I had set out to make a really casual, easy-to-throw-on jacket, I ended up with one of the most lux looking items in my closet!

I am still just so tickled about it! Whenever I put this jacket on I immediately start channeling the personality of a painfully wealthy woman who chain smokes and has so many lap dogs that she can’t remember any of their names, haha. My friend Carly and I have this idea to do a series of shorts based on this woman and her jacket so I will definitely post here if we ever get around to it, but until then, I am enjoying parading around town in such a sleek, sexy coat! It surprisingly goes with EVERYthing!

Next up are these amazing high waisted wide legged trousers from a new-to-me indie pattern company called Fibre Mood that Sophie of Ada Spragg told me about. There are so many really cute and thoughtfully designed PDF patterns on the site that it was hard to choose just one to start with, but I finally decided on the Peaches Trousers to try and get a taste for the drafting. Obviously I am in love with them.

Funny enough, the photos of the pants on the website feature a pair of powder blue Peachers Trousers that I was so obsessed with I knew I would have to essentially make the exact same pair. And I just so happened to have an almost identical fabric in my stash that was perfect for this make, a lightweight crepe wool also from The Fabric Store. I got it years ago from the LA store before it closed down- I had no idea what I would make with it at the time but the look of it was so vintage and the color was so fabulous that I couldn’t not bring it home with me. I never got a chance to sew it up because the width is really narrow and it just wasn’t enough yardage to make anything I was ever inspired by…til now!

The wool isn’t exactly transparent, but it’s so lightweight that the outline of whatever is underneath it is pretty noticeable, so I had to be thoughtful of what I used to line the pockets, etc. I went with a white silk from my stash and it works pretty well, although you can still see the outline of the welt pockets in the back, which I am actually okay with. I usually hate welt pockets on my pants because they have a tendency to bulk up on my butt and jut out in a way that I find unflattering, but for this make I wanted to try them out anyways since the pants would be wide-legged. My theory was that welt pockets stick out on my butt when the pants are super fitted, but if the pants had more ease around the hips, they might lay down and look less obtrusive. Thankfully I was right and now I know that welt pockets aren’t the enemy, it’s just the silhouette they are attached to that matters. Which is great news because I LOVE the way welt pockets looks on pants! Just so professional and slick! Since this was my first Fibre Mood pattern and their directions are written in another language and then translated to english, I skipped over their zip fly and welt pocket instructions and used the ones from the sasha trousers by Closet Case, which I had already made before and was familiar with.

My zip fly is a little wonky up close cause this material was a bit tricky to work with (at least with the fiddly bits- the crepe wool has some stretch but is also really lightweight, so it liked to scrunch up and gather under the machine foot if I wasn’t careful…and it liked to snag, too) but my welt pockets are beautiful and I am so pleased with them! The general fit of these trousers is exactly what I was looking for, and I actually made no adjustments to the size except for letting the hips out a tiny bit after I baste-fit them on my body. I could probably stand to do a tiny sway back adjustment, which I am realizing seems to be necessary the higher my waistband is on a pair of pants, but the fit of these is entirely acceptable for now and I am very happy I made them.

FYI, the top is a handknit sweater I made several years ago from a vintage knitting pattern- I don’t think I ever blogged about it here but there are a few details about it on my ravelry page (which I don’t really tend to anymore, but I knit much less often these days so, whatever). As always, thanks to Claire for the photos, and thanks to everyone on IG who played along with my #dresslikearichbitch hashtag with this coat on IG- it was too much fun and we should absolutely do it again!

 

Cielo Dress in Vintage-Inspired Silk

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

But I have my answer now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Jumpsuit in Watercolor Voile

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Oberlin Tote from Klum House

Hey, y’all!

Have you ever seen a cuter cutie????

Today’s post is brought to you by Klum House, an online store for makers that sells patterns and bag making kits in streamlined, simple designs with beautiful, high quality tools and materials. Klum House reached out to me recently to help launch their new and improved Oberlin tote bag release, and my initial instinct was to (graciously) say no, only because I have a lot on my plate right now with traveling back and forth between LA and Vancouver for work and wasn’t sure if I would be able to get it done in time without stressing out. But then I clicked on the link to their site and saw their beautiful designs and I changed my mind, lol! I am a sucker for a well designed bag, and I love that their kits include waxed canvas (a personal fav textile) in addition to simple yet sophisticated prints. The bags all look very high quality and remind me of something you could purchase at J Crew (for about twice the price, lol).

photo taken from Klum House Workshop’s website!

 

Klum House sent me my Oberlin kit and I was immediately impressed by the packaging once it arrived. Of course you aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes it’s hard not to! Instead of the traditional flat packing into a box or thick envelope, this kit comes rolled up in a packing tube, which is brilliant- it keeps the waxed canvas free from the creases and wrinkles that would set in if it was folded up in a box and allows you to develop that coveted rich patina more organically.

Inside the tube were the pieces of rolled up waxed canvas and a few small packages holding all the notions and findings needed to complete the bag: zippers, leather straps, metal snaps, rivets, D-ring, etc. The only things it didn’t come with were the hole punch and rivet setter, but they sell those items on the website for makers to purchase along with their kits which is great (IMO I think these tools are a must-have for enthusiastic makers- I use my hole punch, anvil and rivet setter for all kinds of things- jeans, shoes, toys, bags, wallets, you name it!)

I will warn you that there are many terrific color and fabric combos to choose from, so if you aren’t great at making these kinds of decisions, give yourself plenty of time to peruse their gallery and absorb all the options! Thankfully the designers have great taste and have put together a lot of classic, fun color schemes that go well together, so you can’t really go wrong! I ended up choosing a slate gray main bag with marigold colored accent pockets and zippers and blonde leather accompanying straps and zipper pulls, and I am super happy with my choice. As I sewed the bag up, little marks and creases and folds started to settle into the fabric which I thought was so fun- it’s like you’re fast-forwarding through the aging process of the bag, so by the time it was complete it already looked well-worn and loved, like a favorite denim jacket.

Klumhouse has recently expanded the design options for this bag, so while the original is just the tote with a zippered pouch on the inside, you now have the option to add a lining and a top zipper closure for the bag, both of which I decided to incorporate into my make. I started my bag in the morning and finished it that same afternoon, so I was pretty on par with the suggested production time of about 4-6 hours. The skill level is described as ‘Confident Beginner’ and that seemed accurate, too (although reading comprehension skills aren’t factored into the skill level, which I will get into later, ha!)

Here is what I loved about making the Oberlin:

  • The pattern pieces for the kit are pre-cut and they even marked the notches and hole punch dots!!! Lot’s of sewists would agree that the most laborious part of a sewing project is cutting out all the pieces and marking the notches, so the fact that this step is already done for you allows you to dive right into the bag making and quickly see your progress. But the PDF instructions still include all the measurement information for the pattern pieces so you can easily make the bag again with your own fabric.
  • The waxed canvas I have used in the past has been much thicker, which isn’t a bad thing depending on what you’re making, but it can get very bulky and require careful navigation under your sewing machine’s foot. The waxed canvas used in these kits is thinner but still durable and high quality, and it is a dream to sew!
  • With the exception of the lining and zipper closure add-ons, the instructions were terrific- easy to follow, great illustrations, and smart bag-sewing techniques. I particularly loved the way the bottom of the bag is sewn. I’ve made a lot of bags in my life and in my opinion, this part right here can make or break the flow of construction. Some bags have a separate rectangular bottom that gets sewn to the walls of the bag, kind of like a cube, and others are designed similarly but with curved edges instead of right angles. Either way, I usually hate them. Trying to get extremely sharp corners out of thick fabric at the intersection of so many seams usually just ends up looking messy, as does trying to get the curved bottoms perfectly aligned while sewing it on the sewing machine- in my experience it takes a lot of physical manipulation and arm and finger strength to pull it off on a regular home-sewing machine. This design employs a totally different technique that I found exceptionally easy to complete and nice to look at. Instead of trying to sew three corners together, you fold the square edge down and then open it into an even triangle and sew across it so that when it opens up, it settles into a soft, four cornered bottom with only one seam. Probably hard to understand what I am describing if you haven’t done it before, but trust me- it’s a beautiful technique and I might never go back to the other methods I learned!
  • As mentioned, the kit included notches and marks on all the fabric so you don’t have to make them yourself, but they also include hole punches on all the leather pieces- the only thing I needed to use the hole punch for was the fabric.
  • Because you can’t put a hot iron to waxed canvas to press the seams (it will melt off the wax from the fabric and gunk up your iron), they suggest you just press any folds or seams down with your fingers and use something like a point-turner to flatten the edge out crisply. I used a smooth rock from my collection of pattern weights to “press” the seams and it worked a treat! It was fun to breeze through all the “pressing” so fast, which definitely contributed to how quickly this bag came together.

Here is what I found tricky about making the bag:

  • Because the expansion instructions came after the initial design of the bag, two additional PDF’s are included  for creating the lining and the zipper closure, and I really hope that at some point they are able to incorporate everything into one file, with instructions to “skip ahead” to a future step if you don’t want to do one or both of the design add-ons. As it stands, I had to flip back and forth on my device between all three instruction booklets, which got a little confusing, and while the expansion packs referenced the main instruction book, I don’t recall them referencing each other at all, so I got slowed down making sure that what I was doing for the lining wasn’t going to get in the way of what I was doing for the zipper closure, and vice versa.
  • I’m not sure how, but I fudged up the instructions in regards to placing the snap closure on the bag. For this part, I followed the instructions for the main bag but when I switched over to the zipper closure instructions, they didn’t seem to add up. In some illustrations it looks like the snap is on the fabric of the zipper closure but the instructions I followed seemed like it was telling me to put the snaps on the main bag panel.

    placement of the snap is incorrect here

    I have since gone back to try and figure out where I messed up but I didn’t have much luck without the actual deconstructed bag placed open in front of me. Not sure if this was a mistake on my end or vagueness within the instructions, so just pay attention to this part if you’re making the zipper closure! Since mine didn’t look right when the bag was closed (the bag’s top had to fold in on itself for the snaps to adhere) I decided to take them out and place them on the zipper panels like in the illustration, but of course that meant I was left with some tiny holes and creases where the old clasp used to be. So I pulled out the handy piece of “scrap” fabric that was included in the kit (they thought of just about everything!) and sewed it over the area so that my mistake was covered up). I’m sure I could have done something perhaps more functional or visually interesting than a simple rectangle, but, whatever- it works, and now I have a pop of red on my bag!

    I *think* this is where the snaps are supposed to go, or at least this is where they work better for me

    I covered the old holes from where I removed the snaps with this scrap fabric that came in the kit

     

  • *edit*: As described in detail below, I had some trouble figuring out how the bag’s lining would match up with the outer shell, as there seemed to be a big discrepancy between the sizes of the outer and lining panels. Klum House reached out to me to clarify the instructions for this part of the bag, and graciously filmed a whole video for me to explain exactly how it was supposed to look! Hahaha, so sweet of them! Apparently a lot of of people were confused about this part of the instructions, so they have re-written the instructions for the lining to clarify them for makers, which is awesome. I absolutely understood what they were explaining in the video they sent me and I’m sure that will be translated well in the new instructions (the extra fabric in the main panel is supposed to be taken up by the top hem of the bag, which is a smart feature of the construction) but I think my misunderstanding came in when I was trying to include both the zippered closure and the lining in my make, so just pay close attention if you’re adding both expansions and don’t try and fly through the construction quickly the way I did. I was trying to complete my bag before I had to leave LA, which is my own fault, lol! I have left my original review intact on this blog post, so please keep in mind when reading below! Thanks!
    The only thing I actively disliked about the bag’s design was the size of the bag’s lining. I provided my own fabric for the lining, cut out the proper dimensions, and commenced to sewing the lining to the bag, but as soon as the seam was done and I examined my work, I saw that there was about a 5-ish inch gap between the bottom of the outer bag and the bottom of the lining.

    lining fabric is on top and outer shell on the bottom- pretty significant gap between the two!

     

  • Thinking I had made a mistake, I went and rechecked the measurements, and sure enough, the main panel fabric is cut at 39″ and the lining at 29″. I’m guessing that this is so there is less stress on the outer shell of the bag and all the stress of the bag’s contents can be concentrated within the lining, but it just didn’t work for me. For one thing, the difference in depth between the lining and the bag means that whenever you set the bag down somewhere and there is enough stuff inside of it, it will make the top of the bag cave in (cause it has to make up for the difference between the lengths of the outer shell and the lining at the bottom). This is definitely a personal preference, but depending on what it’s made of, I prefer for a bag to retain its’ shape and silhouette whether it’s hanging on my shoulder or sitting on a table. Secondly, it cut the capacity of the bag down by 5″, which seemed silly for a bag that I was initially drawn to because of how deep it was. Thirdly, it just didn’t seem necessary to me; again, I have made a lot of bags in my sewing career and I have never sewed one up that had this much of a difference between the lining and outer shell. In fact, many of the designs I have made have no difference between the outer and inner bags’ sizes at all, but some have had a small difference, maybe within an inch or so. I have never had any issues with the outer shell bagging out or bursting out at the seams because it had to take too much of the load of the bag’s contents, so maybe this bag’s design has a different reasoning for it than what I can come up with. Either way, it was a very easy fix- I unpicked the lining and cut out another panel, but this time I cut it out at a depth of about 3 inches smaller than the main panel, and it looks and feels much better- now I have lots of room in this deep bag, and when I set it down, it continues to stand tall and retain its’ shape, even if there is stuff in it to make it heavy.

I love how cute this bag came out, but I like using it even more- I don’t have a lot of totes with this much room inside of it and the outside pockets are AWESOME, easily my favorite design feature. Because they are on the outside they are super accessible but not super deep, so I can find what I am looking for very easily, and best of all there are 4 of them! Perfect for all the quick things I need to grab from my bag, like chapstick, my phone or a shopping list, without having to reach deep down inside the bigger part of the bag to fish them out.

I love the zippered pouch on the inside!

I’ve said before that I am a huge fan of sewing kits for people who are newer to the craft and still learning about fabric and tools and techniques- it takes away the frustration of being on that learning curve when you have all the appropriate things you need to complete a project right in front of you. But this is a kit that I think would be a lot of fun for seasoned sewists for the exact same reason- sometimes we want a break from garment sewing or from thinking too hard and having to troubleshoot fit or fabric issues. The Oberlin is a relatively quick, definitely fun sew, with a whole assortment of gorgeous kits to choose from, and I think it makes a great gift for yourself or someone else who loves to make, no matter how experienced a sewist you are.

Thanks to Claire who let me take pictures of her with this bag because she was dressed like the it’s twin lol

The Oberlin officially launches on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 and is in pre-sale now, with all kits automatically at 15% off. If you order after the launch on Wednesday you can use the discount code OBERLINREFRESH for a continued 15% off the kits, but the discount will expire a week later on September 18. Get in while the gettin’s good and click here to order your own Oberlin kit!

Thanks so much to Klum House for gifting me the Oberlin kit in exchange for an honest review! I’m thrilled to have been introduced to their company and excited to try out more of their kits!

Vintage 90’s Swing Dress


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks as always to Claire for these cute pics!

Blue Leopard Print Wrap Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the shoes!

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

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

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

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

Dawn Jeans, Zebra Shirt, Gold Heels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for butterick 6531

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

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

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

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

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