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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!

 

 

 

 

Striped Wrap Jumpsuit

This project is brought to you by a domino-effect of inspiration via instagram (which is my FAVORITE kind)! I initially saw Katie’s (of What Katie Sews) absolutely fantastic wrap jumpsuit that she posted about on her blog here and fell in love. I love the shape! I love the fabric! I love the design! Wrap jumpsuits aren’t really a big thing right now, but they should be- I have been on a jumpsuit kick the past couple of months that is unreal (you’ll see the fruits of that obsession here on the blog soon), so every time I see a new version of one I get super excited. I have never before seen a design quite like Katie’s jumpsuit, though, and according to her blog post she got her idea from a garment made by Threadsnips.

Catherine sewed up a very cool vintage jumpsuit pattern that wrapped around the waist with ties and suggested that other sewist’s could recreate this design fairly easily by using a simple jumpsuit pattern and altering a couple of the lines of the pattern pieces, which is what Katie did to great success. Katie used a Butterick pattern she had in her stash for adapting hers, but I didn’t have anything in my arsenal that would work well for this hack so I took Catherine’s advice and just used the free In the Folds jumpsuit pattern from Peppermint Magazine. I am not gonna meticulously share all the details of what I did to adjust the pattern since both Katie and Catherine did the hard work of it already, WITH pictures (bless y’all!), so check out their blog posts to get the very simple details of exactly how to hack the pattern.

I will share the general details of what I did though! First I adjusted the shoulder seam of the jumpsuit pattern because I knew I wanted a kimono sleeve and not sleeveless, as the In the Folds jumpsuit is drafted. I basically moved the width of the dart of the front of the jumpsuit to change the angle of the shoulder seam so that it was raised higher, and I added several inches to the length of the seam to make it jut out from my arm. I drew in the pattern line for the rest of the sleeve (I basically just mimicked the line of Katie’s Butterick jumpsuit sleeve) and connected it to the side seam of the body of the jumpsuit, copying the same lines for the back piece. I adjusted the side seams of the jumpsuit pattern to make it a little closer fitting since some of the images I saw of the pattern in a google search seemed like it had an awful lot of ease in the waist and hip area.

After sewing up a muslin in some old bedsheets and improperly adjusting the length (I overestimated how much shorter the jumpsuit should be in the bodice and ended up making it WAY too short, so I added all but about a quarter inch of the length back when I moved on to my fashion fabric), I used a gorgeous cut of linen from The Fabric Store for my wearable garment. I have been SO into stripes lately (particularly stripe play!) and thankfully TFS has stocked a ton of really beautiful pieces to choose from. Plus, Los Angeles weather means I can get away with wearing this wonderfully breezy fabric for quite a while longer.

Initially I wanted to play around with the direction of the stripes (like one half of the jumpsuit in horizontal and the other in vertical), but my yardage wasn’t quite wide enough to accomodate proper pattern placement, so I stuck with the vertical stripes all the way around the garment and I’m actually really happy it turned out this way. The stripes of this yardage are already pretty dynamic, so adding even more drama to it might have put it into clown territory? I mean, I still love the idea of the directional stripes for a jumpsuit like this, but maybe if the stripes are all one color/size/pattern it will have a more subdued overall look. I’m sure my original vision is still somewhere in my future!

Anyways, after I sewed up my linen, I drafted facings for 1. the front neckline all the way down through the added triangular piece of the wrap to the crotch seam, 2. the back neckline, and 3. the sleeves. My original plan was to just use bias binding for the edges but I didn’t have very much striped fabric leftover and I also realized I should have something a bit more stable for the neckline since it is such a long seam line (also, after sewing this garment up, I know that for next time I need to STAY STITCH THOSE FRONT NECKLINE EDGES, because that fabric stretched waaaay out in the process of sewing everything else up). I used some white scrap linen I had for the facings and I interfaced them all, sliding the ends of the ties between the fabric and facing on each triangular edge before edgestitching them closed.

After drafting and sewing up the facings, the actual construction of the garment was SO FAST AND EASY. I left a hole opposite the edge of one side of my wrap for the waist tie to get pulled through, under stitched all my facings, I edgestitched the wrap onto the opposite pant leg a few inches past the crotch line to keep it closed. Since the front opens up to a wrap style, the back zipper is unnecessary, but it also means that the front wrap wants to splay open a bit, so I added a snap at front center to keep the wrap closed and I also added some bra strap snaps at the shoulder seams- I think there is a more technical term for this, but basically I created a loop inside the garment for the bra straps to be hooked onto which helps keep the shoulder seams in place.

I am CRAZY about this jumpsuit: it’s comfortable, summery, fun, and I have never seen anything quite like it in a store before. I am dying to make it in a solid, slightly more supple fabric for the fall- maybe like a crepe rayon or even a printed satin-y silk. I might try to add some pockets to my next one, and I might also try and adjust the angle of the neckline so the garment won’t want to fall open as much (hopefully negating the need for the bra strap snaps!). And longer waist ties for more drama! But all in all, this make was exceptionally quick and satisfying to make, and it’s technically not summer anymore but I should be able to get a few good wears out of this before the weather gets too cool. I am so very thankful for other sewists sharing their hacks, tips and makes with the community, (thanks, Katie and Catherine!) and thankful to Claire for taking these bright, pretty pictures!

(outtake)

Culottes Jumpsuit Hack in Bathing Beauties

Although I love a good print, I’m not much for novelty fabrics for garment sewing- they can be so loud and make things look so twee, which is not necessarily bad, but I find it a little hard to balance out the aesthetics of a cutesy pattern in a cutesy print within my wardrobe. And on top of that, lately I have felt a pretty big shift in my fabric tastes, going from floral, colorful, eye-catching pieces of fabric to a more classic monochromatic palette (pastels, neutrals, stripes). That said, sometimes you come across a novelty print that just speaks to your soul on a deep level and you have to pass Go, collect $200, and buy the damn yardage without asking questions.

It happened to me a couple of years ago with that Zombie Pin-Ups print that Alexander Henry came out with (still haven’t used it!), and it happened again recently with this Bathing Beauties cotton. Curvy, stylish women of all colors and hairstyles confidently donning bikinis and having the time of their life? This is the representation I like seeing in fun novelty fabric! The only thing to make this print better would be for some of the beauties to have wheelchairs and underarm hair! The print comes in at least a few different colors, one being a purple pastel that I was really drawn to, but, as Claire pointed out, you couldn’t tell that some of the beauties were various shades of black and brown when the whole print was washed in a pastel color, so I went with this perhaps slightly less exciting color story to make room for my principles, LOL! It’s a strange color palette to me, this brown, yellow and blue, perhaps because there seem to be too many primary colors fighting for attention- like, if they kept all the various shades of skin colors in tact but limited the other colors (bathing suits, hair) to a smaller, more refined palette, it might be more within my preference? No matter. Even with the strange color choices, I am pretty in love with this bold fabric and I am very happy with how this garment came out!

Initially I was going to make a super cute fit n flare dress (see? cutesy pattern and cutesy print! So easy for me to fall into this trap!) but I realized that I would only wear a dress such as this when I was getting dolled up for a moderately special occasion and I already knew I wanted this fabric to be a bigger part of my summer than a party dress would allow. So my next choice was to make something still cute looking but more casual, and I quickly decided on another version of McCalls 7774 which I completed a few months ago (it will be up on the blog soon). It’s my absolute favorite summer dress right now because it’s so breezy and easy to wear when it’s hot out, and I would love to have more of that silhouette in my closet.

But then I glimpsed a different garment in my wardrobe that has been one of my favorite pieces to wear for nearly 4 years, Vogue 9025, a culottes jumpsuit with dress variation, and I thought this would be the perfect thing to hack with the bodice from the McCalls dress. I love culottes jumpsuits because they look like a dress but allow a bit more freedom of movement and a very unexpected surprise factor when I decide to randomly do the splits (my splits ain’t what they used to be but I can still get that front leg straight)! Although I love both versions of the Vogue jumpsuit I have made, the princess seamed bodice was a bit finicky on me depending on what fabric the garment was made out of and I liked the simplicity and straightforward details of the McCalls bodice. My Vogue jumpsuits are heavily altered, with the waistline raised several inches and the pants lengthened to make up the difference (more details in this post). I also added more width to the front pants so that they have a more relaxed fit around my midsection than the close fit they were drafted for. This makes for a much looser garment all around, and I am in love with it. It’s one of the most comfortable things in my closet!

As for the McCalls dress, I took out about 1/2″ of width at the center front of bodice as I did for the first version, but I probably could have taken out an even bigger wedge because this jumpsuit dips out slightly at the neckline (strangely it didn’t do that in my first version?). I stay stitched the armholes of the bodice which was a grand idea and kept me from having to add additional darts on either side of the bust as I did on my first version, and I also fully lined the bodice (but I had to use scraps of linen for the back pieces since I ran out of fabric). I remembered to lengthen the pockets to match up with the longer pants pieces but I forgot to double check my pleats and I totally sewed them going the wrong way on the front of the jumpsuit (they should be facing the side seams). But it didn’t bug me enough to take them out and redo them since they still laid flat and looked fine. I also shortened the pants to make this an above-the-knee garment since I didn’t have much yardage to work with and I wanted to do a variation of the other garments I had made from the same Vogue pattern.

The result is simple, comfortable, and super eye catching! But perhaps a little too bold for people to comment on? I can feel them staring but so far they rarely ask me about it, which is pretty surprising since strangers have asked me about my jeans before which are way less interesting looking! I think they might just be too riveted by the bold bathing beauties to muster up any words! No matter- I’m not sure I would know what to say if I saw someone walking down the street in this killer print, either- I would just stare with a little drool coming out the side of my mouth 😉

P.S. I changed shoes halfway through this photoshoot so some of the photos have me in gold Sven clogs and others have me in a pair of flat sandals I made a couple years ago!

MiMi G for Simplicity Jumpsuit in Purple

My first idea for this jumpsuit was pretty ambitious- I had just purchased two earthy tones of satin twill from The Fabric Store in copper and pink, and I thought they would make a really dynamic version of this Mimi G Style for Simplicity 8426 pattern, which had been on my list of to-makes since the moment it was revealed on Mimi’s IG. I loved the design so much because it looked gorgeous in a head-to-toe solid but it also allowed room for playing around with texture and color blocking. Although silk is notoriously tricky to work with, I didn’t have too much trouble sewing this pattern in it- at this point in my sewing career I know what I am getting into when I work with finicky fabrics so I can plan accordingly. The issue was that the bodice ended up just being too flimsy in the soft, drapey silk!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BgCic4rhowr/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Off the bolt the fabric was incredibly smooth and supple and it had a surprising amount of body to it- it held its’ shape pretty well for something so soft and silky. But once I pre-washed it, it got much drapier and didn’t hold the shape of the bodice nearly as well as I hoped it would. I got really close to the end of the project and then abandoned ship because it was looking wrinkly and pitiful and dull. Full disclosure, I should have at least muslined the bodice top before I cut into my beautiful silk, but even if I had I wouldn’t have liked the way the silk looked with the bodice of this pattern. But surprisingly the pants look pretty great in the silk! They have a lux pajamas vibe to them, and even though the fabric for the bodice was sacrificed in the process, all is not lost- I plan on adding a black velvet strapless bodice to the pants which will provide a lot more structure to the garment but will also keep that vintage flair to the look that I was aiming for with my head-to-toe silk version.

 

 

OK, so that version didn’t work, but this sturdy purple one definitely did! I got this jewel toned crepe (I think it’s polyester) from The Fabric Store, and it’s got all the body and stability that my silk didn’t have, which is a perfect pairing with this jumpsuit.

Mimi G’s patterns are the only versions of Big 4 I have found that don’t require sizing down several sizes so I graded from a 10 in the bodice to a 12 in the hips which matched my measurements and it was great- I always have to take in the waist and back of pretty much every pattern I make, but everything else was drafted as a good fit for me, with the exception of the back yoke. Again, I didn’t make a muslin of the bodice first because I tissue fit it and it seemed perfect. It was only after finishing the entire garment and trying to it on that I saw how poorly the back yoke fit. It’s a pretty strange adjustment that I need to make- essentially I need to take in the seam where the back yoke hits the top of the back bodice on either side of the zipper, about 3/8 inch, and then grade out to nothing at the side seams. I should be able to make this adjustment without having to take the entire bodice apart so I feel confident that I can get it done fairly quickly, but still, what a bizzare fix! I have never had a garment that needed horizontal pinching at my upper back before!

Aside from that area, which Claire says is barely noticeable, everything else fits great. The pants are gathered at the waistline and very roomy (I actually would have been fine without grading to the next size up since there is so much room down there) which means that the slant pockets look terrific and don’t bulge out on me. I LOVE that this garment has pockets. They don’t take away from the silhouette at all but they do give me a place to put my hands and my chapstick, yay! I had a lot of trouble with my back zipper at the waistline because the fabric is pretty squishy and therefore thick at the zipper closure. It kept getting stuck either right above or below the “belt”, which I knew would be a problem when I tried to go to the bathroom and couldn’t get myself in or out, so I had to widen my line of stitch in this area to allow for more space around the zipper teeth. This means that you can see the zipper tape a bit more clearly than when it was sewn more tightly, but hey, I can handle a glimpse of dark purple zipper tape if it means I wont pee on myself trying to get out of this thing.

The construction for this was a little different than I anticipated- I am used to completing the pants and bodice separately, then stitching at the waist line, inserting the zipper, and slip stitching the lining closed around the zipper. The method the pattern used was fairly similar, but the lining of the bodice isn’t put in until after the zipper is inserted. I have no idea if it was better or worse than the other methods I have am used to but it was fun to change up the routine a bit!

I love the way the “belt” is drafted onto this pattern, it provides some visual interest without being a separate detachable piece, and it’s not tacked down on the top so it gives a bit of depth to the look. I blind stitched the hems of the legs closed instead of sewing them with my machine because, again, this fabric is pretty thick and has a tendency to show lines of stitching very well.

As much as I love jumpsuits, I don’t make them very often because I am always overwhelmed by how much additional fitting I will likely have to do for them, so you can imagine that this pattern was a pure joy. It required minimal adjustments, and the wide legs, though stylistically not for everyone, give you a lot of flexibility and comfort with the relaxed fit. I am usually pretty iffy on wide legs like these but the pairing with the bodice is just perfection- a streamlined, close-fitting top with these gigantic pant legs is just so fun and chic, even on my short frame. I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the Mimi G Style patterns for Simplicity- I’ve only made a few (separate from the Sew Sew Def catalogue) but so far each pattern has been such joy to make and to wear and I love having another line of designs to add to my No-Fail List.

As much as I love this garment, I do feel like it’s still a bit on the safe side, and I will probably try it again with some more exciting elements on the top. I love Mimi’s leather version shown on the pattern envelope, and I have a few gorgeous leathers in my stash that would make a great pairing with this design, so stay tuned for Dynamic Jumpsuit Take 3!

Having weird technical difficulties with these photos for some reason, which is why my face is blurry in all of them, but I figure as long as the garment is in focus, who cares about the face LOL. Thanks as always to Claire for helping me capture the clothing!

Tackling Pattern Magic

I went on a journey with this one, yall. For the record, “went on a journey” is my euphemism for “worked on a project that was so challenging it made me want to beat my head against a wall while cry-laughing.” Sometimes the difficult journey a project takes me on is due to a tricky fabric or fit issues or confusing construction techniques, but the challenges this book brought me were brand new!

I’m sure most adventurous sewists are familiar with the Pattern Magic books, but if not, here is a brief rundown: written by acclaimed seamster and fabric manipulation sorcerer Tomoko Nakamichi, the series (Pattern Magic Volumes 1-3 and Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics) has now been translated to English and includes information on how to alter a simple Bunka bodice block by slashing and spreading, adding length/width and distorting the pattern block’s shape to create intriguing 3-D wearable art from fabric. The photographs in the book, created at half size for mini dressforms, are remarkable, and once I got three of the books for Christmas a couple of years ago, I spent a substantial amount of my holiday pouring over the pages multiple times, my mouth hanging open. I had simply never seen anything like the shapes Nakamichi was creating, never even knew most of the designs were possible. After glancing through the pages and trying to get an understanding of what was required to actualize the designs, I knew it was going to take a lot of brain power to stumble through the confusing diagrams, so I kept putting it off. But recently, after suffering through a couple of horrendous pants makes and feeling depleted and frustrated, I found myself in between projects and decided to slow down and dedicate my weekend to figuring out how to be a pattern magician.

 

Unfortunately this book does not come with a PDF file or paper print out for the bodice block that all the patterns are based on. There is a page at the end of the book with the bodice printed at half scale (which you can use to create the projects at half size) and it is suggested that you photocopy that sheet of paper at 200% to get the full scale size of the pattern. I happened to be devoted to not leaving my house the weekend that I worked on this, so instead of taking the easy route and driving 5 minutes to a copy shop with the book, I sat down in my craft room with a ruler, my math bracelet (for all you non-instagrammers, math bracelet is what Claire has started calling my measuring tape for some reason), and some gridded pattern paper. OK, so, truth be told, I wan’t committing myself to this task out of sheer stubbornness. After perusing the pages of this book for two years, I realized that, even though it was in English, it still felt like it was written in another language. As someone who struggled with complicated mathematical concepts in school, I knew it was going to take a while to fully grasp some of the images and equations shown in the diagrams. English is my jam, I have always loved literature and reading and expressing myself through words, and math has always seemed a bit antithetical to that. If I made myself sit down and blunder through the trickiest parts from the start, then maybe that would make all the steps to follow a little bit easier. Right?

These are the diagrams given to sketch out your Bunka bodice block. In addition to the images above, there were like two sentences of instructions beneath them which basically said “Use these diagrams to make the bodice block” LOL. there are virtually NO instructions in the whole book, and the few words provided that are meant to instruct made absolutely no sense to me. It’s as if Yoda was the ghost writer for this thing- as few words as possible! The instructions say specifically to work through steps 1-14 in order to graph out the preliminary lines of the bodice. Step 1 asks for the length of the bodice (I assumed my neck to waist measurement) which seemed simple enough. But once I drew that line and looked for a number 2 with a circle around it? Well, it’s nowhere to be found. The numbers on the diagram skip around and then it appears that letters are thrown in for good measure, so I didn’t have a linear guideline to follow. I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, but I did not find this explanation in the actual book. And then out of the blue I see this symbol that looks like the planet Saturn, and I have NO IDEA what that symbol is supposed to represent. There is no key on the page. What does Saturn equal?! I am still not sure if this was so difficult for me because of something that got lost in the translation of the book or because I comprehend language better than numbers and symbols, but somehow I eventually figured it out by substituting some arbitrary number; the Saturn symbol looked like it was supposed to represent some part of the shoulder length, so I threw in an approximate measurement and figured that I could adjust it once I made my muslin.

It took me over two hours to complete, 30 minutes of which I spent looking for my compass tool, and once I found it I realized that what I meant to be looking for was a protractor because it’s been 80 years since I needed to use either of those things and I had mislabeled them in my brain. My shoulder lengths (aka my “Saturns”) were off of course, and once I sewed the bodice muslin I had to adjust the bust dart a bit, but…it worked! I FIGURED IT OUT! The muslin fit, which felt like such a massive victory, and I was very proud of myself!

I was excited to move on to the manipulation of the bodice for the Knot Dress because I figured that creating the bodice out of these wacky symbols and numbers would indeed be the toughest part but….no. The next part actually had me near tears in bafflement. The only thing that kept me going was googling “pattern magic knot dress” and seeing that at least three sewing bloggers had figured out the pattern manipulation and none of them had used the words “difficult”, “frustrating”, “confusing” or “fuck”. In fact, one of them described creating the pattern as “simple”. Flames may or may not have shot out of my head when I read this, I’m not sure because I think I had a rage blackout immediately after I saw that word in relation to this pattern, but once I came to, I decided to use it as a motivator. If they could figure it out, then I was determined that I could, too, damnit! I had already gotten so far!

In one last desperate cry for help, I brought the book to Claire, hopelessness etched deep into my brow. “This doesn’t make sense, honey! It doesn’t! Help me see how it makes sense, cause all I see right now is a lie!” Bless her heart, Claire, who is not a sewist and gets as frustrated as I do with confusing diagrams, very calmly looked at the picture and basically said “it looks like you need to add a piece here.”

That was it, yall. I just needed to add a piece here.

It turns out that after you draft your Bunka bodice, you have to make some slash and spread adjustments to it, then you draft the skirt onto the pattern piece, and then you have to slash and spread the bodice again, then you have to add the bow piece onto it, and then you have your final pattern piece from which to cut out your fabric.

Y’all.

Y’all.

Were they attempting to create a cheaper book by providing fewer pages? Was that why the book seemed so in favor of pictures over words? Do diagrams cost less money to print than paragraphs? (These questions are rhetorical). Drafting the sloper and then adjusting the pattern for the Knot Dress took me two days to complete, and I know for a fact that if they had given me just 6 more sentences, I could have been spared so much frustration and headache. Initially I thought that the “magic” in the title was referring to how beautiful all the garments looked- like, oh wow, these things are so magically beautiful! But after stumbling through every aspect of bringing this pattern to life, I realized that nope, the magic is in reference to WHAT YOU NEED TO HAVE SPRINKLED ON TOP OF YOU BY A TINY FAIRY IN ORDER TO COMPLETE ANY OF THE PROJECTS. But guess what.

I AM AN OFFICIAL MAGICIAN, NOW, BOYYYYYYYYYYY!

I was resigned to thinking that my finished muslin was going to be ill-fitting and wonky, and the fact that I had gotten that far would have been all the success I needed after the whole ordeal, so you can imagine my surprise when I tried my muslin on and saw that it fit me PERFECTLY. There are two tucks in the back which give some gentle shaping to the waist and bust area, but aside from the darts at the front bust and the drafting of the skirt, which creates a subtle flare at the hips, there isn’t much to this dress in the ways of fit. And yet it works! All based on a simple bodice sloper! I love how it skims my figure without feeling like a tent and it has a bit of swing to the lower half. It looks feminine and structured at the same time. Seeing how well it fit from the start definitely felt like magic!

Apologies for the photos that follow- I didn’t have time to iron the dress, which had been tightly stuffed inside my closet, before we took these pictures! 

Essentially the pattern of this dress has the shape of a simple shift, and to add in that magic, you slash and spread the dress out at the center bust, adding enough fabric to create two tubes which make up the ties of the bow. In theory it’s simple, but without any explanation or real instructions it took a while for my brain to grasp the concept. But as soon as I started sewing the pieces of my muslin together, it all made sense and was constructed in a tiny fraction of the time it took me to draft everything out.

As soon as I got the muslin right and made a couple of adjustments for fit, I went to cut out my fabric and I realized that what I had purchased was much too flowy and drapey. This dress requires a certain amount of stability in it’s fabric so that the integrity of the silhouette and bow are not lost, and my graphic printed rayon, while lovely, was not going to lend itself to the best version of this pattern. I rifled through my tiny stash and came across this cupro with a sandwashed effect that I purchased from Blackbird Fabrics. I had purchased three cuts in different colorways, 2 yards of black, 2 yards of blue and 3 yards of olive. I knew I needed at least 3 yards for this dress (it’s a real fabric eater because of the bow ties) but I didn’t like the idea of the dress in olive. I was beside myself with frustration, determined not to have to buy MORE fabric for this dress after just having gone to The Fabric Store, but at a loss as to how to remedy the situation (as mentioned before, my stash is pretty tiny). And then, with both piles of black and blue cupro on my cutting table, I wondered if I could use both by color blocking the dress, which just so happens to be drafted with a center seam. The black and blue looked really good together on my table, and I liked the idea of having the bow tied so that the opposite color was displayed on each side. It felt like a bit of a bold move but I had nothing to lose except fabric, and I am a bit of a risk-taker with my making, so I went for it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Be9HG9qgB8_/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Everything went smoothly until I realized that I had cut one front out on the wrong side of the fabric. It was SO HARD to keep the sides straight because the cupro looks the same on both sides at a glance, but as soon as you hold each side up vertically, the difference is super obvious (meaning I couldn’t get away with just using the wrong side of one of the pattern pieces because it would bug the HELL out of me). I didn’t quite have enough fabric to cut a new piece out of, and I didn’t want to rearrange my entire idea so that the color blocking was different than I had envisioned. I was married to the look I had created in my head and refused to compromise. My only alternative was to puzzle the remaining fabric I did have into the shape of the pattern piece. It took what felt like forever, but I managed to get it done with just one seam that I was able to hide behind the bow.

I had to figure out the finishings and construction method as I went along, since of course the book wasn’t offering me any help. I french seamed everything I could on the inside, and I covered the raw edges in the front center where the ties are formed in bias tape- it was too tricky to sew that part into a french seam. My cupro was relatively easy to sew with- slippery like a silky rayon, yet manageable- but the edges looked like they would fray over time so whatever was exposed got bound, frenched or, in the case of the back center edges where it zips, serged. The area where the bow ties emerge from the dress form a little tuck in the front which is really pretty and gives the dress some visual depth, but it’s hard to keep in place. Unfortunately there is no way to tack down the area on the inside without it showing through to the front, but as long as the bow is tied tightly and securely, the tucks don’t seem to move too much. I might make a line of stitching right down the creases to help make it more stable.

For the neck and armholes, I used self-made bias binding out of the cupro and applied it to the openings, and for the hem I simply ironed, folded twice, then sewed down. The drape and silkiness of the cupro made the hem pretty wavy and I ended up having to take it out and redo it to get it even (the dress is not a cut on the bias but I still let it hang for a while on my dress form before tackling this part). It’s still not perfect, but I don’t think it’s too visible.

anybody watch Squidbillies? don’t my ties look like the grandma’s boobs??? LOLOL

 

Although I put in a substantial amount of work to bring this dress to life, it still took less time than some other projects I have under my belt and it was worth every second! I love the effect of the finished dress- it’s fun and feminine but the muted colors keep it from going over the top so it doesn’t look too costumey (something I worried about when looking at all the images in the book as a whole).

it took me 5 years to tie this bow the right way and in my haste to get these pics taken I untied it and tried to redo it AND IT LOOKS WRINKLY AND PITIFUL. I swear it looks better than this when it’s ironed.

I would absolutely make this dress again, but I am also interested in tackling something else cool from the book. When I finally finished this dress I immediately pulled the books out again to choose what I wanted to make next, assuming that since I had successfully completed one project, the rest would be a breeze. Turns out, not so much,! Each design is so unique and the techniques that work for some have nothing to do with the others. Looking at the pattern instructions was like starting over from scratch! The good news that I already have the bodice block completed and adjusted for my shape, so whatever I tackle next will go straight to the manipulation phase. I might need a bit more recuperation time for my brain to heal from all the hard work it exerted during this project, but I must admit, I am already getting antsy for that cool neck-tie-that-blends-into-the-shirt project. Wish me luck!

Sasha Trousers

I was over the moon when Closet Case Patterns released their Sasha Trousers at the end of last year, and not only because I had struggled through the process of making so many poorly drafted or not-suited-for-my-body pairs of pants of late. In chatting with other makers and talking about how not all indie pattern companies are of the same caliber, I have realized that there are some real standout designers for me in the indie sewing community and that there is no shame in sticking with what I know works best. CCP is definitely one of those companies. The amount of time and attention that goes into each pattern release is palpable, and I feel like just as much energy is focused into the instructions, techniques, and drafting as the styling and photographing (I used to be such a sucker for a well-styled pattern release, but I keep getting burned by beautifully styled designs that are poorly drafted!) You know you’ve found a good pattern brand when they release a design that isn’t necessarily your personal style but you buy it anyways because you know the integrity of the brand is so strong that it’s still going to look great on you. True Bias, Grainline, and Deer and Doe are a few other companies who seem to excel at these points, and as such I tend to be a loyal customer to their brand.

While I hadn’t been considering making a chino-type pant anytime soon, I basically dropped everything I was doing sewing to make these Sasha Trousers because I knew I would learn a lot, I would have some fun in the process, and I would end up with a great pair of pants that I would never have found in a store that fit me well. That’s actually one of the reasons I never considered this kind of pant before- I have lived an entire life free of well-fitting chinos, so eventually I stopped even thinking of them as a viable option in my wardrobe. Enter: Closet Case Patterns to the rescue.

Here is what I have always hated about the ill-fitting chinos of my past:

  • they gape at the waist
  • the slash pockets also gape out at my hips
  • they are too tight in the thighs
  • the back welt pockets always add extra bulk to an area that is full enough on it’s own, and those pockets also tend to bunch up in the back because the pants are usually too tight

As you can imagine, attempting to make a regular pair of chinos work for me, even with the ability to make the fit adjustments I needed, is a pretty tall order. As soon as I saw the pattern, I knew that View B (without any front or back pockets) would probably be best suited for my tastes, but I wanted to give the pockets a try anyways, just to see what a properly-tailored pair would look like on me, plus I loved the prospect of getting to try out CCF’s techniques- sewing practice is always welcome!

I decided to make a muslin, which I was hoping would be wearable, out of some fabric that was given to me when I got my Bernina sewing machine as a bday gift a couple of years ago (the woman who sold the machine to Claire included several yards of a stretch woven fabric in a light taupe-ish color that has served me and my muslins very well!) I graded between sizes, used my already-adjusted curved waistband from my Ginger Jeans (these two designs sit at different places on the waist, but the Ginger waistband still worked perfectly) and got to work with construction. As always, the instructions were incredibly thorough and fun. Having only made welt pockets on jackets and coats, it was really exciting to create them for pants, and the front fly was a piece of cake after having made so many pairs of jeans with a similar method.

I was really impressed with how well they fit, and I didn’t need many adjustments at all- I think I brought the knee and ankle seams in to make room for my thick calves, and I might have adjusted the crotch seam a tiny bit, but other than, the make was straight forward and didn’t need much tweaking.

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

But as I had imagined, the front slash pockets did not work for my tastes. To be fair, they were still the best looking pair of chinos I had ever worn, and when I was standing up and being still, the pockets stayed in place and looked great. But as soon as I took one step, the pockets gaped out and needed to be coaxed back into a flat silhouette. I stitched up a bit on the top and bottom of the pocket to keep it from gaping out from the side seams of the pants, and of course I used stay tape on the seam of the pocket, too, but…they’re just not for my body. I think it’s very possible that no one else would notice the gaping because it’s so minimal and it probably wouldn’t bother the majority of people out there if their pants were doing the same thing. But the simple fact of the matter is that I don’t like the way slash pockets look on me, and that’s totally okay!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdyPJPhH5lP/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I was thinking of next time omitting the slash part of the pocket and turning them into pockets that go into the side seams, but the other thing that didn’t work for me about my muslin were the pocket bags, which were totally visible through the legs of my pants (which you can see in the second IG pic above). My muslin fabric was a nice medium weight and my pocket bags were a lightweight cotton, so I don’t think they showed through because of the textile choice- it might be because I like my pants to fit closely in the thigh so they don’t look too baggy. They feel comfortably loose when I am wearing them, but they might be tighter on me than the pattern was intended, thereby not giving enough space between the pocket bag, fabric and skin? Whatever the cause, it was an eyesore, and since I knew I wouldn’t wear these pants with a gaping pocket in the first place, I cut my beautiful pocket stays out and sewed the slash pockets closed. I also wasn’t crazy about the back welt pockets: construction-wise they look terrific, but they added all the bulk to my booty that I imagined they would. I could have kept the design detail of the welt and just cut the bags out but I decided not to- the back pockets didn’t bother me nearly as much as the front slash pockets did.

So, my wearable muslin was a success! But I still opted to make my final version without any pockets, just as I expected that I would. I’m so glad I gave myself a chance to check out the details on my own body instead of assuming that certain things wouldn’t work for me. It’s nice to revisit apparel design elements with a different perspective, whether due to changing tastes, bodies, or ideals.

For my fashion fabric, I chose a mustard ponte (I think it’s a ponte?? Jury is still out but I’m like 90% sure) purchased from The Fabric Store. The Sasha Trousers calls for a woven fabric with a little bit of stretch, and this ponte, while not super stretchy, definitely has more give than the fabric I made my muslin in, which in turn made the fit totally different. I haven’t worked with ponte very often and never with trousers, so when these came out fitting way more snug than my muslin, I was totally surprised, but not at all displeased. I love the sleek look of these, and I think that the color and the fit take them out of casual territory and put them in a slightly dressier arena.

Omitting the pockets was super smart, especially because the fit of the mustard pair came out so much different than on my muslin- the bulk created would not have been a good match at all. I like the ponte in this design because they don’t feel tight at all since the fabric has so much give. I am worried that the fabric will start pilling eventually, but so far I have worn these several times and there is not a pill in sight. I am careful about what I wear with these pants and what I sit on, though- no velcro or abrasive textures get near me when I am in these- so hopefully they will last a long time!

I love how these pants came out, and I love that I was able to create such different looks with the same pattern- the light taupe muslin pair are such a nice alternative to jeans, and I wear them throughout the week when I am running errands or chilling at home. But the mustard pair works well for when I am jujhing it up and feeling a little bit fancy. I was worried about how to hem the legs of these pants because I wanted a very crisp edge on the bottom, but I knew that this fabric wouldn’t behave with just a simple folded hem (this plush fabric didn’t take to the iron well at all). Instead, I folded the hem up and edge-stitched at the very bottom it so that the fold looks very crisp and tight and I am pleased with the effect.

Overall this is a terrific pattern to add to my arsenal, and I am excited to make more! Thanks to Claire for the photos, and FYI I am wearing a Sointu Kimono by Named Patterns in a thick, soft merino wool from The Fabric Store.

Floral Maxi Stella Dress

I made this dress back in October but it’s only just now making it to the blog. I know I will wear this dress and overall I think it looks nice, but this is not my favorite make. It’s the Stella Shirt/Dress by Named patterns, and if you hunt deep enough into this blog you will see that I have a fairly complicated relationship with this pattern  brand. I LOVE the ideas, looks, and styling of all their pieces, but I have found that their sizing is always off on me, their construction methods can be questionable, and their finishes are not always super clean and professional looking. For me, this is one of those brands where I have to read through all the directions first so that I can alter or embellish the details they do (or don’t) include; I just don’t trust that the final project will look as finessed as I prefer. This, of course, is just my personal opinion- lot’s of people love this brand and make beautiful garments from the patterns, and I don’t dislike them enough to not to ever give them another try, but nevertheless, whenever I finish one of their garments I’m usually disappointed about some part of the process.

My hands-down absolute favorite thing about this dress is the silk I used from The Fabric Store. I LOVE the colors, the pretty floral design, and the large print. The silk is transparent, so I used a dark navy opaque lining for the dress underneath at the bodice and the skirt, and thankfully it doesn’t distort the print or colors. This fabric was packed along with my sewing machine, a few patterns and a couple other cuts of material on one of my last trips to Vancouver in 2017 where I knew I would be sequestered for 2 weeks without much to do outside of work. I had a blast with my traveling sewing station, filling up my off days with making in my hotel room, but this dress was unfortunately the only completed project that was worth a damn. I burned The Pennywise Paperbag Waist Clown Pants after I snapped some hilarious pictures of them for instagram, and the raw silk hoodie I made from a McCalls pattern is being gifted to one of my sisters-in-law as I type this (it just didn’t come out nearly as cute as I had hoped). The lesson I learned here was that I needed to spend more time planning what projects would accompany me for future trips instead of throwing a bunch of patterns I had never sewn before into my suitcase and hoping for the best. Nothing but TNTs for my foreseeable #sewnawayfromhomes!

Construction for the dress was pretty straightforward. Initially I didn’t plan on sewing the lining into the dress and instead planned to just wear it as a fully transparent shell with a slip underneath, but once I read through the directions and realized that the elastic casing at the waist would look very visible and sloppy in my see-through fabric, I changed my mind. I took a trip to a small indie fabric store in downtown Vancouver (whose name escapes me at the moment) and hunted for some proper lining fabric. Thankfully I found some, but not before feeling very annoyed that the person manning the shop barely even made eye contact with me, much less gave me a hello after I walked through the door and spent at least 10 minutes perusing the bolts in the shop. And no, the store wasn’t crowded; during this trip I was the only person in the shop for the majority of my time there, and it’s a very tiny space, a fraction of the size of Dress Sew (whose very busy employees still find time to give me a quick hello even when the store is at its most crowded). Honestly I wasn’t too surprised by the shade- Vancouver might be the most unfriendly city I have ever lived in, but I figured that the ties to the sewing community would lend this small shop to at least extend a quick greeting or some kind of acknowledgement- and by the way, this happened each time I went into the store over the span of a couple months- but no such luck. Anyways, I found what I needed even though it was of pretty poor quality, one of those super stiff linings that feels like it’s made of paper- I would have much preferred to purchase from Dress Sew but they were closed and this place was right across the street.

As for the design of the dress….I’m on the fence about it. When I initially completed this dress in Vancouver with nothing but a poorly lit yellow-hued bathroom to view my handiwork, I thought it looked great, but I think I was mostly responding to the pretty fabric. Once I got back to LA with a mirror with better visibility, the whole thing just looked off. Initially I picked this design because I knew it would be simple to lengthen the dress to a maxi, and I had been wanting one of those easy-to-wear-Boho-inspired dresses that I could pair with some heeled boots and a cute hat. But standing in front of my mirror, nothing about it looked relaxed or easy. The stiff lining underneath gives the silk more body than the dress I was going for needs, so it tented out a bit at the bottom and came off looking much more formal than I anticipated.

But the worst part was the bodice. I just…really am not crazy about it at all. I loved the idea of the raglan sleeves but these are drafted with so much ease that I feel like I am swimming in them. Maybe they wouldn’t look so weird to me if the rest of the bodice was a bit more fitted, but unfortunately it isn’t, so the whole bodice piece feels much too big and billowy on me. Ultimately I felt like this dress could fit a body several sizes larger than mine as long as the length of elastic at the waist was altered, and this matters because maxi dresses don’t quite work on me if they aren’t well-fitted; an overly blousy dress with a floor length skirt can make me look like a kid playing dress up in her mom’s closet if I’m not careful.

 

The only thing I could think of to save this dress was to chop it off at the knee (which is closer to the length of the original dress’ design- perhaps shame on me for attempting to hack it into something it wasn’t meant to be?…but also, you never know til you try!) Once it was re-hemmed it looked MUCH better, the blousy effect on top now balanced by the shorter skirt on the bottom. Proportions, amirite??? I still think the armscye is way too big, I don’t like the elastic casing finish on the hems of the sleeves, and the neckbow is awful! When tied, it won’t lay properly against my collar bone, instead it droops down (and my silk is very lightweight so it’s not the culprit) and the area where the bodice pieces meet directly underneath the bow gapes open, which I hate. Thankfully the bow mostly covers that peekaboo area up, but I still find myself fiddling with it to keep it in place. It’s just another reason that this dress feels like it’s drafted for several sizes larger than my own.

This isn’t the dress that I was envisioning in my head, but as I said, I still like it and I know I will get some good wear out of it. The colors and the print are so fun and it feels very feminine while also feeling comfortable (that elastic waistband basically makes this outfit nightclothes with heels). I want to try the look that I have inside my head again, but perhaps with a button down dress with a full flowy skirt, and regular sleeves? Not sure if I have anything like that in my pattern arenal or if I should just hack it, but I was gifted some beautiful rayon from Workroom Social for Christmas and I think it might be a match made in heaven.

Jackie Dress in Floral Velvet

I bought this Jackie Dress by Victory Patterns as soon as it came out- didn’t even let the pattern marinate on my brain! I loved the seaming of the dress, made of princess seams, coupled with the additional panels in the skirt, and I loved the subtle flare the dress has at the hips- it looks chic and classic, but also comfortable since it doesn’t hug every single curve of the body. Maybe it’s because of the styling in the pattern photos, but it has a decidedly 70’s vibe to me- and I have been GAGA FOR SEVENTIES for the past year or so after having never paid much attention to that era in the past. What can I say, my tastes are evolving! This pattern calls for a knit fabric with stretch, and a while ago I bought some cheap, slinky crap for it on a whim when I was purchasing fabric for other projects. I didn’t put a lot of thought into what I was buying because I was in a hurry, and my inattention really showed when I got it home and realized that the fabric was of super poor quality and I didn’t even like it that much. It was thin and showed every lump and bump underneath it, and it also looked like it would pill and snag very easily when worn. All was not lost- that cheap fabric ended up being a terrific muslin for some other projects I worked on that called for stretch knits, but the Jackie Dress got put on the back burner indefinitely since I didn’t have anything to make it with.

Then fall rolled around and I was sorting through my pattern stash and I realized that this design would be a terrific garment to add to my arsenal of fall/winter makes. It’s got a shortened turtleneck (providing a little bit of warmth, not that much is needed in LA anyways), an option for long sleeves, and, depending on the length you make, the skirt of the dress could be short, tea length or maxified, which works great for the silhouettes I was looking for at the time (in this post right here I talked about focusing on specific garments for fall/winter since my cooler weather wardrobe has been seriously lacking for forever). The floral velvet fabric that I ultimately used for this pattern was a total happy accident. I have only recently been exploring the fabric district in DTLA outside of Michael Levine’s, thanks to SewDIY’s blog post about her favorite LA fabric/notions spots. I’m not exactly sure why I’m not in the habit of exploring the smaller shops around the strip, but I think it has something to do with time– I rarely go fabric shopping to meander, I just want to get in and out, and knowing the layout of a place and what to expect from it works well for my goal-oriented sensibilities (my one exception is The Fabric Store- I love the shop, I love the staff, I could hang out there all day…and I have! lol) and also I don’t like to haggle. I have this idea that all hole-in-the-wall places don’t have set prices and want you to do the work to settle on a price and I don’t like that at all. Just tell me how much it is- if it’s too expensive then I won’t buy it, no back-and-forth price jumping necessary.

ANYWAYS, on one of my exploring trips to the fabric district I passed by a bolt of floral velvet placed on the sidewalk in front of a store (I’m sorry but I have no idea what the store was called and I don’t remember where it was, except that it was on a corner). I inquired about it and the guy inside stated a fair price. HOWEVER, when we went to cut it, I told him I wanted 1 and 1/2 yards, and he very quickly blabbered something about “3 yards cut, discount, only, special, you want?” and I was super flustered because like I said, I DON’T LIKE HAGGLING!!! and my brain shuts down sometimes when I am having a social interaction that is going a different way than I anticipated, so I just mumbled “umm, yes, ok? sure? ok…” and I walked out spending something like $50 cash for 1.5 more yards of fabric than I needed, so my whole trip home was spent wondering what the hell I was gonna make with all three of those yards… I envisioned an entire velvet suit comprised of an overcoat and long bell bottom pants and a matching purse, because 3 yards is way more fabric than I normally buy if I am not sure what I am going to use it for, and of course I felt I needed to use every bit of it because I didn’t want to waste anything. And then lo and behold, a few days later after feeling bad about how the whole exchange went and berating myself for not being able to ask for what I needed in my haze of anxiety, I pulled out the fabric to admire it and I realized that it was EXACTLY enough to squeeze the Jackie Dress out of. Whew! What a journey, right?

With that 3 yards I eeked out a size 2/bust graded to a size 4/waist and hip with sleeves and the longest skirt version. I find that Victory Patterns tend to be too small on me but I figured that since this was a knit dress that was supposed to be very fitted and would stretch out a bit on my body, I could get away with it. Turns out I was ALMOST right, but not quite. Construction of the main part of the dress was straightforward and fast- I serged all the dress panels together (definitely my preference when working with velvet) and the bulk of it was constructed in less than 10 minutes. The more time consuming part came when piecing together the facings for the back bodice, which creates a modest but beautiful slit for a peekaboo glimpse of skin of the upper back, closed at the neck with three fabric loops + buttons. I used some knit interfacing for these pieces, which in my experience doesn’t work well with all knit fabrics, but it worked a treat on the velvet, stabilizing the pieces without bubbling and gaping anywhere.

This pattern is labeled as Intermediate probably because of the back facing and loop closures, which require some careful sewing, clipping to the seam allowance, and understitching, but the construction wasn’t difficult at all- I think that a beginning sewer could figure it out if going slowly and carefully. Once I finished my facing pieces and had everything constructed and laying perfectly flat, I sewed the short turtleneck collar onto the dress and tried it on. I was NOT impressed. As per the instructions, I sewed the neck seam with a zig zag stitch instead of serging it so that it wouldn’t be too bulky, and I under stitched to keep the top of the neck from rolling out, but it just wasn’t behaving at all. It looked messy and awkward, but even more importantly, IT WAS TOO TIGHT! I didn’t adhere to my go-up-a-size-with-this-company’s-patterns rule and I thought I was going to get away with it, but NOPE, turns out I was wrong. I hoped that I could squeeze out a bit of extra room since the back of the neck isn’t closed by a seam, but with a button, which provides a tiny bit of wiggle space. Maybe if I moved the button to the verrrry edge of the seam I could get a bit more breathing room? I tried it out by safety pinning the button loop to the furthest edge of the opposite seam, but it didn’t work- it was just too uncomfortable, and I knew that I would get no joy out of wearing the garment if I was constantly fidgeting with the fabric around my neck. But the ill fit didn’t end there- the back slit wasn’t behaving properly either; instead of laying flat, it was gaping slightly open into a subtle diamond shape and the inside edges were rolling out. The bodice did not feel or look too tight at all front the front or the sides, but the slit was splaying open as if it were too tight. UGH.

As per usual when I am stumped and frustrated by a project, I put the dress away for the day. I don’t remember if I dreamed the solution to my problem with this dress or not, but that happens often- when I am deep in a sewing project that isn’t working, I have anxiety dreams about it. When I waited tables back in the day, after particularly busy shifts I used to dream about being at work all night, and I would wake up in the morning so pissed because I wasn’t getting paid for the “work” I was doing in my dreams! My sewing dreams are similar- I replay the sewing issue I am having on a loop, trying out different possibilities until I figure out what will work. More than once I have woken up in the morning and remembered the solution to my problem after dreaming about it. But I have also woken up before, excited that I had the perfect fix, and then, after recalling what I was supposed to do, become completely disheartened that the fix made absolutely no sense at all (once it went something like  wake up: “Oh, It think I know how to fix this blouse now! Okay, what was it again?…I have to….glue…glue something….glue a….plastic…wait, I’m supposed to glue a plastic tube into the threads of my fabric?? what the hell??”). Anyways, I can’t remember if I actually dreamed about this Jackie dress or not, but regardless, I woke up knowing exactly what I needed to do to fix the super tight neck and hopefully the gaping peekaboo slit in the back.

I unpicked the turtleneck and it’s facing (which was bulky underneath the dress and never wanted to lay down properly anyways), and I added a simple neck binding in it’s place, folding the ends on either side under since the neck wasn’t a closed seam. This obviously lowered the neckline of the dress, which in turn affected the placement of the buttons, and that mostly fixed my issue with the gaping back- with lower buttons, the pieces were closed further down the back so there wasn’t as much room for it to splay open. It still doesn’t lay down as flat as I would like, and in hindsight I should have used some stay tape at those seams to keep them more stable, but I don’t think it’s that noticeable…and if it is, I simply don’t care at this point- the rest of the dress is too pretty to get stuck on that small detail.

I really did like the look of this dress with the turtleneck, but I am super happy with my regular neckline now. For one thing, it is WAY more comfortable, and for another, I’m not entirely sure that the turtleneck looked that good on me in the first place. I love turtlenecks, but I sometimes feel a bit swallowed up by them, like I just have a big, round, floating head on top of a mass of fabric. The garment still looks dressy and feminine with the more casual neckline, in part because I was able to keep the back of the dress as is with the button closures and slit. I love the length of the dress and the width of the swingy skirt paired with the long sleeves, and I have already worn the dress a lot this season. But most of all I am REALLY into this beautiful velvet! I have seen other floral velvets on the bolt that look so dated and tired that I half expected them to smell like mothballs, but the design of this fabric is so great! The size of the print and the bright colors against the black work really well together, and coupled with this pattern, it’s got the perfect 70’s vibe that I keep finding myself drawn to. Unfortunately I had a really hard time photographing this dress- I’m not sure why! But after two separate photoshoot attempts with sub par results, I decided to just stick with the 3 or 4 photos that looked decent enough to share here and call it a day. Thanks for your help with the photos, Claire!

First Completed Project of 2018: Niizocraft Sunny Day Bag Kit (and a Bonus Ogden Cami!)

Niizocraft wrote me a few months ago asking if I would be interested in a free bag kit to review for her etsy shop where she sells bag patterns and kits that are complete with all the materials you need to make her designs. I was honored by the request but my initial response was to say no- I don’t really do many sponsored posts, and at the time my schedule was too hectic with work and Christmas gift making to commit myself to a project with a deadline. However, I changed my mind after I went to the Niizocraft site and saw the patterns and bag kits that she sells. The designs are GLORIOUS, and I immediately saw three designs that I really wanted to make at some point in the future.

I loved the color collections that she put together for the kits- they were combos that I probably would never have chosen for myself, but they looked great together, and she had a nice range of canvas colors to select for the main fabric. I was intrigued by taking a more passive position behind the maker’s wheel and letting someone else do the work of fabric selection and material sourcing for once. So I changed my no to a yes (Niizocraft graciously allowed me to make the bag in my own time instead of giving me a deadline for the Christmas holidays) and I received the bag kit in a matter of days. I chose the mauve colored kit in the Sunny Day Canvas Bag design because I wanted something a little more chic and put together than the bags that I usually sub for purses on a daily basis. I, like most shoppers in metropolitan cities trying to do what they can to eliminate waste, have no less than 30 cloth shopping bags that I keep in the trunk of my car and various places around my house so that I don’t have to use paper or plastic in the check out line, and even though they are all stained and smell faintly of old vegetables, they are easy to grab when I’m running errands or heading off to appointments. Those cloth shopping bags get the job done but they aren’t very stylish, and the Sunny Day bag seemed like the perfect answer to my everyday bag needs. I love that it doesn’t have long handles where the bag part is constantly banging my waist- instead it’s designed to be worn high and close to the body. It’s also super roomy with LOT’s of pockets so I can put headshots, sides, books, my bullet journal AND my water bottle inside without losing track of where they are and having all the small items sink to the bottom (those large, deep pockets on either end of the inside of the bag fit my 32 ounce Nalgene water bottle with room to spare!)

I must say that I was super tickled to open the box from Niizocraft and see the all the contents so painstakingly organized, labeled and packaged. It even came with a little card that said “birth certificate” on it! Come on, that’s the freaking cutest thing ever! It reminds me of Cabbage Patch dolls! When choosing the kit I wanted, Niizocraft asked what I would like to be stamped on the leather tag that is sewn on the outside of the bag. I made a little squeal when I saw the stamped leather piece in the kit, complete with two leather needles and waxed nylon thread to sew onto the canvas. Also included were two zippers, belting, a brass hook, and enough canvas, batting, and nylon lining to complete the project, each with a label stuck onto it so you would know exactly what you needed to be working with: she includes every single thing you need to make her bags except the sewing machine.

As this was my first sewing project of the new year and I had not sewn anything for weeks thanks to the Christmas holidays, I was excited to have a simple project to ease me back into my groove, and this bag didn’t disappoint. I printed out my pattern pieces, loaded the instructions onto my iPad and went to work.

All in all I started and finished the bag in a little over a day. The instructions were mostly clear, but I had to rely on the photos a few times when I got stumped, and there were a couple of small typos I found, mostly in the measurements- if you have any experience sewing at all, these things would barely register as a blip on your radar. One things that was a little tricky for me were the seam allowances. Most of the seams of this bag are sewn at either 3/8″ (pretty standard) or 3/16″ (not as standard) so I had to pay close attention to when they allowances changed to make sure that I was actually sewing 3/16″ instead of 1/4″ since the former measurement is not marked on my machine. There are some construction techniques included in the instructions that I had never seen before- they were really fun to do, but they slowed me down a bit just because I was unfamiliar with them. This bag has a difficulty level of 4 out of 5 stars, which seemed accurate to me, but there are many bags on her site with varying levels, so a beginning sewist would probably do well so start out with a design that was a bit simpler (although it is certainly possible for a beginning sewist to complete this bag with no problem!)

I made one mistake with a couple of the pocket pieces that I didn’t realize til I had already sewn it to the bag, and then when I tried to unpick the seam with my seam ripper, I sliced open the canvas in a very obvious place! Thankfully I had juuuuust enough canvas left over to re-cut the pocket piece in the right size (two of the main fabric pocket pieces look the same but one is a little bit longer and I had used the wrong ones in the wrong areas). I reattached the correct sized piece to the bag and it looks terrific. This is one of my favorite parts of the bag- the outside piece of the outside pocket is folded up and sewn so that it conceals the zipper behind it. Very clever design element and it looks very sleek on the outside.

The bag is crowning!!!!

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I am incredibly happy with how my Sunny Day Bag turned out and I am so glad that I added it to my roster of makes. As you can see, the Niizocraft designs are pretty fantastic, and I appreciate that you can buy them without having to get a whole kit if that’s not how you like to make things. BUT! I can also say that, as someone who prefers to choose her own fabrics and buy her own materials, it was such a treat to have everything done for me and just concentrate on the making. Obviously this is a great gift to give to a new sewist who might not have all the odds and ends in their arsenal needed to complete a bag of this caliber, but I think seasoned sewists would get just as much joy from a kit like this, too.

Now, for a short Part II of this blog post, I finallyyyyyyy made a True Bias Ogden Cami! It’s been on my list for the longest, I even drew it out in my fashion sketchbook, but it took me a really long time to finally make it. It’s an incredibly popular pattern (and now that I have made it I see why!) because it’s generally quick to make, it doesn’t take up a lot of yardage, and the results are beautiful and satisfying- it is flattering and pretty on every single person I have seen wearing it. Because it’s such a simple make I don’t have too much to say about it- the instructions were great and it came together in a few hours, AFTER I realized that I CUT THE BACK PIECE OUT IN A SIZE 12?!?! Hahahaha, y’all, I have NO IDEA what happened! I was just putting my pattern pieces away and I realized that my lining piece for the back was a way different size than the actual back piece. I laid it over the PDF of the pattern and yes indeed, the pattern piece was 4 sizes larger. The craziest thing about this is that the lining still fit! When I was lining up the pieces of the lining to the shell, I did notice that the side seams were not matching up at all, but I didn’t think much about it, I just eased some of the fabric on one side and gently stretched it on the other side, and the pieces fit together- you totally can’t tell from the outside! I must have been in a big hurry because the pattern lines are clear and the sizes aren’t confusing at all. So the back of my cami is a little wider than it would be if I had cut out a size 4 (I could have gone with a 2 but I didn’t want the bottom to hug my hips so I went with a 4 and shaved off a tiny bit of fabric under the armholes on each pattern piece).

All in all I am in LOVE with this cami! When visiting Seattle recently, my friends took me to a fabric store that had a bolt of sandwashed silk, which I hardly ever come across in person, so I got 1 yard, more of a souvenir than anything else. Of course I realized later that the Ogden would be perfect to use up that tiny cut of fabric, but I had to be VERY strategic in how I cut out my pattern pieces- it just barely fit onto the silk, and now I know why…because I was squeezing 4 additional sizes into one of the pattern pieces, lol! But I made it work, and the cami feels both dressy and casual at the same time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BeowMJ7AFUB/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I read somewhere, maybe in my comments on IG, that a lot of people found that the lining inside wasn’t long enough (it hits me just at the bottom of my boob), but since I didn’t have much fabric to work with I cut the pattern out as is, and so far I am happy with it. I am able to go braless with this tank because I am a card wielding member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, but maybe someone with bigger tatas might need more coverage with the lining to feel comfortable. The lining doesn’t offer any actual support, but it does provide an extra layer of fabric which feels a little more stable, like you aren’t wearing something that’s gonna blow away in the tiniest breeze. Since half of my tank is cut out in the wrong size, I feel like I can’t really speak to how the actual garment is supposed to fit, but I love how it billows and floats around my body without feeling like I am too exposed, and I love the slightly deeper curve of the back hem. The slight v of the neckline in the back and the straps hitting at the perfect place in the front are lovely, too- they make this garment look and feel both a little effortless and a little glam at the same time. Beautiful drafting and I can see myself wearing this garment all over this spring and summer…and fall, because, well, this is LA! (Ogden Cami is pictured with my latest pair of Ginger Jeans…will never tire of this pattern!)

 

Velvet, Gold and Pussy Bowed

When I randomly saw this dress on Beate J’Adore’s blog sometime last winter, I was more than a little obsessed. The rusty chocolate silk velvet she used was so luxurious and stunning, and I loved the easy shape of the garment: fitted and flirty and feminine without looking too buttoned up. But of course, most of all, I just loooooved that long bow at the neck! So GORGEOUS! I was so obsessed that I even started perusing the silk velvet she used from Mood Fabrics, and y’all know I can’t STAND Mood- the only way I ever use fabrics from that place is if someone buys some for me as a gift! Anyways, I pinned the image onto my Clothing Inspiration board on Pinterest and kept drooling over it periodically, even when the weather in LA turned hell-fire hot and the mere thought of wearing velvet could make you break out into a sweat. And then, as the seasons began changing around the rest of the country, velvet started popping up in all my favorite fabric stores- I’ve always loved velvet but I haven’t had the easiest time hunting it down. Thankfully it was a huge trend this season and I was able to snag a few beautiful cuts of it.

I went back to the blog post and read the notes on the dress. They were very scant, which I am not judging because I do the same thing on my blog- when I make pattern hacks, I am not very forthcoming with all the minute details, only because when I’m in the middle of the process, I rarely take notes since I’m not interested in doing tutorials. Of course, now I have experienced firsthand the frustration of reading about a beautiful garment on a blog and not knowing exactly how they got to their end result! But this is the beauty of sewing and pattern hacking in general- sometimes you have to figure out how to make it your own, and that’s what I did. I even took notes! It’s still not a tutorial mind you, and definitely not as detailed as they could be, but it should be enough to put you on the right track if you want to recreate the lovely garment that J’Adore inspired!

She used an older Vogue pattern that I think is out of print, so I got my hands on a cheap copy of Vogue 8829 from etsy. I laughed when I saw the pattern envelope- the image art looks pretty dated and I just don’t think I would ever have seen this pattern and thought to myself, “this would make a stunning garment,” which is one the reasons I love following sewing bloggers- some people can find diamonds in the rough where you see nothing but a pile of dirt. First issue I ran into: which version of the dress did she use?? This is one of those patterns with a lot different variations- long sleeves, short sleeves, knee length, maxi, regular collar, pussy bow, etc. I could figure out the top half the dress, but I wasn’t sure which skirt shape she used, the slightly flared skirt or the one with pleats. Ultimately I chose Version A which most closely matched the photos of her dress, and then I dove into making all the tweaks she mentioned in her blog post: cutting the front bodice and front skirt pieces on the fold instead of as drafted with button bands down the front, adding some width and length to the bow (if I make this again I might add even MORE length!), and making room for a side zip (since the front opening is omitted).

I was a bit confused on the back piece- she wrote that she added darts to the back bodice, but there were no photos of her in the dress with a view of the back so I had no idea where they were placed or if she had eliminated the pleat at the top of the back bodice where it meets the yoke. In hindsight, I should have redrafted the entire pattern piece because it’s actually huge, but I didn’t realize how big it would be at the time so I constructed it according to the directions, creating two pleats at the top middle of the back bodice piece. I tried it on and it had a poofy, bloused effect at the back waist- way too much fabric back there, which ended up looking really heavy in my velvet fabric. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough velvet to redraft the back bodice piece so I decided to do a moderate adjustment and take out some of the length at the back bodice where it met the waistband of the skirt. Then I sewed the extra fabric poofiness down into darts on either side of the center back. It’s not the most glamorous adjustment you’ve ever seen- pleats at the top and darts at the bottom of a back bodice is not exactly a design choice that you see too often with good reason- it looks so busy! But I would rather my silhouette look nice and smooth with some weird darts thrown in than have a clean looking bodice that is poofy and too big for my frame. I also shortened the shoulder seams which I often do on Big 4 patterns, and I ended up taking the waist of both the bodice and the skirt in over an inch on each side.

At this point I made an accidental discovery that actually worked in my favor for once. For some reason I had entirely forgotten to leave enough room at the skirt and bodice seams for a side zip since there were no other openings to get in and out of the dress with the omission of the front button bands. And then I realized that J’Adore’s silk velvet must not have been a stretch knit, which is why she had to put in the side zip. I’m not sure why it took me so long for this realization- I had been happily serging all my seams together from the very beginning, which I prefer when working with velvet because for me, it’s so much easier to serge fabrics with pile than it is to sew them on a regular machine, even with a walking foot. So, now with all my side seams completely serged together, it was time for a moment of truth- would this dress fit over my head easily or would I have to unpick all my stitching and figure out a way to squeeze a zip in? I suddenly remembered one of the adjustments J’Adore made that didn’t make sense to me at the time. She said she added two inch panels to either side of the dress underneath the sleeves. The panels, which are barely visible in the photos, don’t seem to offer much in the way of a design choice, so maybe she had an issue with fit, or maybe she forgot to put in a side zip to get in and out of the dress just like I did, and then added panels to make it a bit easier to stick the zip in at the last minute? I don’t know exactly what her process was, but thankfully, with my serged seams and stretchy velvet fabric, the dress fit over my body through the neck hole with ease- no need to add a zip- hallelujah!

After fixing the back bodice to hug my body better, the rest of the dress was a breeze. I lowered the neckline as directed by her blog post, enough so that my head could squeeze through, but I took out less than she did (I think about 3/4″, since I had more flexibility with my stretch knit). I attached the band of the bow at the neck and hand sewed it close to the edges of the neckline.

This area was a little tricky since I was sewing a rectangular pattern piece to a circle, whose edges had to simply end front and center instead of being attached to a left and right button band as the pattern was initially drafted for.  I sewed the edges of the bow as close together as possible at the center front neck and it looks fine on the outside, but a little more visible on the inside. I don’t anticipate that the neckline edge will stretch out much since my stretch fabric has a lot of resiliency, but on a less stable knit, this would be something to be aware of.

The last adjustment came with the sleeves. I had to take out additional length from them even though I cut the lines for the “petite” option on all portions of the garment- I think they might be drafted as very baggy and drapey over the hands, which is not a design element I like at all. I don’t like stuff flowing around my hands or getting in their way, it takes all I can muster to wear a bracelet for longer than 10 minutes. Here I took a cue from J’Adore’s post where she wrote that she put pleats in the sleeves and used elastic at the hems. Another thing I don’t like about sleeves? Elasticized hems, lol. Not sure why, but I just prefer either a regular folded hem or a cuff. Thankfully I was able to use the stretchiness of my fabric to my advantage once again, so I attached a self drafted cuff at the bottom of the sleeves and I didn’t need to use elastic at all (the original cuff was as weirdly long as the sleeves).

And voila! Although I wasn’t using a beautiful silk velvet like J’Adore was, I think the dress still came out really nice- I love the way it shimmers and shines in the light and the fit is spot on! It’s a very luxe looking dress to me and I think it will serve me well if I ever go on a trip to a place that’s cold as it’s still SEVENTY DEGREES IN LA RIGHT NOW. Sorry, I shouldn’t complain when the east coast is suffering through a snow bomb or whatever they are calling it, but a little bit of breezy weather would be such a treat considering all these nice fall/winter makes I have in my closet! Even if it does get cooler I’m not sure if I can pull off the dress-over-jeans-look like J’Adore did in her photos, which looks stunning, but who knows- I was inspired enough to do a mad pattern hack based on her style choices make so maybe I will be brave enough to test out her layered look, too!

 

P.S. Sorry, I don’t remember where I got my hat from, and also, THANK YOU FOR THE PICTURES, CLAIRE!