Posts

Girlfriend Fit: The Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Files

This is a three-in-one post since I want to show off this very simple but very excellent tank top I am obsessed with in addition to the pairs of Morgan Jeans I have made over the past months; thankfully I wont be the only model showing these makes off!

blog2

I first made these jeans many months ago and for some reason never had an opportunity to get good photos of them other than some snapshots on Instagram. The Morgan Jeans pattern is described as having a “boyfriend” fit, which most of us I am sure are familiar with, but for obvious reasons I will be referring to them in this post as “girlfriend” jeans 😉  I don’t wear relaxed-fit pants very often unless you count my house clothes (does anyone outside of the south refer to loungewear as “house clothes”??), but when I saw this pattern released by Closet Case Files back in the spring, I knew I was going to have to start. I was of course already in love with Heather Lou’s skinny jeans pattern, Ginger, so adding a more casual pair of denim jeans to my wardrobe seemed like a brilliant idea. I have tons of breezy summer dresses that can be dressed up or down for summer, but my winter casual wardrobe was pretty non-existent. In the colder months I am either very dressed up or in sweatpants, and there was barely anything in between- until now!

blog7

The other reason I was into this pattern was because I knew that they would be a great staple for my wife (aka former girlfriend!), Claire. I made her a pair of Ginger jeans last year for Christmas which she loves, but in general she seems to prefer a more relaxed, comfortable fit than skinny jeans allow. She was immediately into the idea of a pair (or three) of Girlfriend Morgans for herself, but she asked if I could make them as shorts instead of pants. Of course, turning this pattern into shorts was a totally easy adjustment since they just get lopped off right at the knee, and per her request, folded a couple of times at the bottom. Alas, the Morgan Jean Shorts were born!

For our first pairs of Morgans we bought denim from The Fabric Store, which was exciting because all the denim I has bought previously had been from the (awesome) denim kits that Closet Case Files and WorkRoom Social occasionally team up to offer for sale. It was fun to get up close and personal with the selection of denim that The Fabric Store offers, seeing the subtle differences in color, texture, and weight, and since this denim didn’t need to stretch, it took a lot of the guesswork out of how the fabric would ultimately fit when sewn up. Claire settled on a gorgeous sturdy selvedge denim with tiny little flecks of lighter thread woven throughout, and I chose a deeply hued, lighter weight denim for myself. Initially I intended to make my jeans raw, forgoing the pre-wash before cutting into my fabric and opting instead to get the natural whiskered effect that you can only get from wearing them over time, but the smell of the processed fabric ended up lingering for far too long, and I stuck them in the wash a few weeks ago to get rid of it- thankfully they didn’t alter the fit and now they have no smell!

blog8

There is not much to say about the construction of these babies- since I had made several pairs of Gingers already and the technique for the Morgans is exactly the same (save for the option to make a button-fly instead of a zip fly), the makes were easy and were completed pretty quickly. As I have mentioned in other posts, I highly recommend Closet Case Files’ Jeans-Making eBook if you haven’t tackled jeans before. The eBook provides great photos, step by step instructions, and lots of helpful tips on everything from how to source the best denim to how to install your rivets properly. I don’t even read the instructions for making jeans patterns anymore, I just pull up the eBook on my iPad and follow the steps that are laid out there.

blog6

I am excited to play around with the design of these a bit; if I make them again, I might try to combine the high-waist of the Gingers with the relaxed fit of the hips and legs of the Morgans. I used to have a vintage pair of Levi’s with a high, fitted waist and a wider, more comfortable leg, and they were SO CUTE, so it would be fun to try and recreate that look on a memade pair.

blog4

My favorite detail about the Morgan jeans is the addition of the little leather patch on the back, which allows you to customize your jeans even further.

Here is my pair:

blog5

and here is Claire’s:

❤️ S A V A G E ❤️

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I recently found out I was going to have to leave town for a few months for work, so the past couple of weeks have been spent trying to wrap up all my in-process sewing projects- unsurprisingly 90% of them were for Claire, who has a tendency to buy almost as much fabric as I do (without, of course, the actual interest in sewing, LOL). First on her list was another pair of Morgan Jean shorts in a really cool cotton twill we found at The Fabric Store. It’s a medium-weight, very soft fabric with a dark gray/black camouflage print on it. I had not made the Ginger or Morgan Jeans patterns with anything other than denim, but using twill didn’t make a noticeable difference in how the garment was constructed, other than that topstitching was a bit easier in certain places because the twill is not as bulky as regular denim.

1blog

I stuck with classic gold top stiching thread and double line placement on the camo shorts but I omitted the rivets, and I love how they came out. The fit on her is excellent, and the look of the print with this pattern is really cool to me- I haven’t seen anything quite like it in stores, which is always a plus. We are in the process of arranging a barter system for the items I make Claire; sometimes she pays me actual money (we operate with a monthly personal budget to curb excessive spending on frivolous items), and sometimes we trade services- for this pair of shorts she gave me a carwash, so it seemed only fitting that I snap photos of her shorts while she was in the middle of doing the deed. And now, please enjoy Claire in some pin-up inspired photos modeled in decidedly UN-pinup attire!

3blog

5blog

6blog

4blog

(Oh, and FYI, the above shirt is one of the MAAAAAANY Archers I have made Claire in the past few years in a cool spider and web print from Cotton and Steel).

Last but not least, I want to gush about this cute top I have been mildly obsessed with wearing all summer. It’s probably the LA heat that has turned this top into such a staple for me, but if all I am doing is hanging around the house and working in the craft room, I want to be wearing as little as possible.

blog10

The pattern is McCall’s 6751 and the design includes 4 versions, although I have only made one of them because it’s clearly my favorite. The back criss crosses and connects at the shoulders on each side which keeps the back open, and it has a wide silhouette so it doesn’t cling to the body (I am wearing an XS with a redrafted neckline that is about an inch and a half higher than the original pattern). Because of it’s open back, it’s the perfect shirt to wear with a cute bralette underneath. I made it with a lightweight, heathered jersey cotton knit from The Fabric Store, and although I am sure this top looks really cute in stiffer woven fabrics, I am in love with the breezy look of this design and knit fabric combination.

blog1

blog8

This top was a lifesaver during the past month or so when temperatures got so high in LA, but now that I am working in Savannah, it has proven to be even more essential- it’s the perfect thing to wear in a makeup and hair trailer so that you can remove your clothes without destroying any of the work the hair and makeup artists have done. I have also worn these tops to my yoga classes, which cover me up without stifling me in the warm studios. It’s a super quick make- less than an hour- therefore an easy addition to your end of summer wardrobe if you’re looking for some quick, easy things to wear before bundling yourself up in warmth for fall!

 

Deer & Doe & Denim

blog1

I was asked by Deer & Doe, a lovely pattern company that brought this gorgeous skirt into my life, to review their newest pattern, a pair of skinny high waist jeans called Safran. I had never been asked to review a pattern before, so, even though I felt like I already had a go-to jeans pattern in my arsenal (trusty Ginger jeans by Closet Case Files)  I figured that if nothing else, it would be a fun thing to try, seeing as how I am trycurious and all. And WOW, I am so glad that I did! Making this pair of  jeans pushed me out of my comfort zone, introduced me to new design features and made me pay more attention to the nuances of different construction techniques. But they also made me appreciate how essential Heather Lou’s jeans-making sew-along is, which she turned into an eBook for purchase. That ebook guided me through my first pair of jeans and has made each pair I’ve sewn since a breeze, including the Safran!

 

blog2

I wont comment on the instructions for these jeans since I didn’t get a finalized version of the booklet before the pattern was released, and I ended up reverting to certain construction techniques that I was more familiar with for the sake of having my pair finished by the pattern’s release date. But I will of course comment on how much I LOVE how they turned out. I have always wanted a pair of cute floral skinny jeans in my closet, but back before I was sewing I had no luck with RTW versions; a brand called Earnest Sewn was the only brand that fit my body well but they only seemed to carry 50 different shades of indigo- no prints or fun colors. Of course now I can sew my own jeans, but finding the perfect stretch denim has been REALLY tricky.

blog3

photo taken before I did more fit adjustments in the waistband!

Heather Lou gives some awesome tips in her eBook about finding a good ratio of cotton/ polyester/ spandex to get the stretch recovery necessary for a great fitting pair of skinny jeans, but the options on the market are few and far between when it comes to printed denim. So when I came across this unique stretch denim at The Fabric Store, it kind of seemed like destiny. The floral print is really pretty, but you can BARELY see it- the way that the threads are woven makes the print take on a gray-ish tint, almost like someone colored a picture and then started erasing it, so you can only just see the image peeking through (the photos in this post show the print as being a bit more vibrant than it is in real life). I LOVE IT SO MUCH! The fabric is soft, and it isn’t super lightweight like so many stretch denims/twills that I come across in stores. Safran calls for denim that has at least 20-30% stretch and this one from The Fabric Store seemed like it would fit the bill, so home it went with me!

blog9

I was excited to see the size chart for the Safran jeans because they seem to be designed to fit curves- they required no grading to match my measurements, which is rare for me for pants and skirts- I am about two sizes smaller in my waist than my hips in most patterns. I did end up needing to make one adjustment for fit, though. There was a bit of gaping at my waist after I basted my pattern pieces together, but I had of course already cut my legs out and didn’t have enough fabric leftover to re-cut the back pieces. So I created one small dart on each leg back, centered right over the pocket at the waistline, and re-drafted the waistband to fit the new curve of the legs. Because these jeans have no yoke, the adjustment was simple to make and I don’t even mind the look of the dart on the back. I really like the no-yoke design choice on these jeans- it makes them look a bit more streamlined and modern, and I think the design choice works particularly well on this floral denim.

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the pocket design. I always have trouble with front pockets on skinny jeans- they always try to peak out the top and I am constantly stuffing them back inside the pants, but the way these pockets are drafted, peaking out is pretty impossible. They are topstitched on both the side and opening of the pocket and they are also fairly deep, which helps keep them in place.

blog4

Speaking of pockets, I am notoriously finicky about the ones on the back- I’ve got a lot of booty to cover and I can’t leave the job to too-tiny fabric squares. The Safran pockets looked pretty well-balanced for a proportionate booty, but I used my Ginger jeans pockets instead- they are about an inch longer and only slightly wider than the Safran pockets and I think they turned out really great.

blog6

I used only one line of topstitching as opposed to the classic two on these jeans as the pattern suggests, and I opted out of using rivets, mostly because I didn’t have any leftover from previous pairs that matched. But they look just fine without them. The fit of these jeans looks incredible IMO, but they were preeeeetty tight in the waistband, and I think there are a couple of reasons for that. For one, I might have made my back darts a little too big when adjusting the waist- I could have taken out half of the width and been fine. Also, this pattern calls for you to make your waistband pieces out of denim, with the waistband AND facing interfaced. This keeps your waistband super snug and not as prone to stretching out over time, but it makes it REALLY hard to get any breathing room if the band is perfectly fitted to your waist, which mine was. In an attempt to get a little more wiggle room here, I moved my button over as far as I could without it looking too funky, and I even wet my jeans and wore them for a while to stretch the waist out a little, but the mistake was in my overfitting of the waist area with my darts and waistband redrafting (living’ and learnin’ over here)! So after I took these photos, I ripped out my waistband, took out my darts and started over: made the darts half the size, and altered the waistband to match the tiny adjustment in the back legs, and I only interfaced one side of the waistband. Now they are SO MUCH BETTER and I can wear them and actually breathe comfortably! It was a lot of extra work to take out the waistband and start over from scratch but it was so well worth it- I have made too many amazing things in my life that didn’t fit quite right and then sat in my closet unworn because I was too lazy/daunted to fix them. These jeans were obviously too good to sit anywhere unworn!

The most important realization I had in making these jeans was FIGURING OUT HOW TO MAKE MY JEANS EASIER TO PUT ON! I never blogged the skinny jeans I made after my first pair, but I kept running into the same issue with them- the jeans looked great on but I could barely pull them up over my butt! I know it was because the waist of the jeans is so much smaller than the hips, but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what to do to fix it without changing how they fit. And then, on this pair of jeans, it hit me: Just make the zip fly longer! I am sure that some of you are like NO, DUH OF COURSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO! Unfortunately it has taken me a year to figure this out, and I didn’t have the epiphany til after I had already finished these jeans, but I don’t care- better late than never, right? If I add about an inch to the bottom of the zip fly and make sure I transfer that length to the other necessary pieces, like the fly shield and the interfacing that goes on the jean fronts, it will allow my jeans to open up further, which should account for the extra room I need to get them over my hips. OH MY GOD I can’t wait to try this out on my next pair.

blog7

All in all, Safron is a fantastic jeans pattern, and I am most definitely utilizing some of the design elements/ construction techniques on my future jeans, like the awesomely deep pockets and the belt loop construction (Safran has you baste the loops onto your outer waistband before attaching it to the waistband facing, so the loops are caught in the top waistband seam and you only have to stitch them down on the bottom- much less work and a cleaner finish. I also made my loops longer so I had room for a slightly wider belt). I would definitely recommend this pattern for an intermediate sewist/ someone who was confident with jeans-making. I love the original design details and the ease of construction. Because the design features of these pants are so pared down, they are quicker to make than the other jeans I have sewn, and they don’t feel redundant at all: a totally new take on a classic jeans pattern. Many thanks to Deer & Doe for allowing me a backstage pass to their newest pattern!!!!

blog8

Elephants on a Vintage Blouse

blog6

I stumbled across the etsy shop Indianstores, which sells block printed fabric on soft, supple cotton, after seeing it mentioned on a great sewing blog I follow. Their textiles are produced and printed in India by a team of talented artisans and the selection the shop offers is striking. I was in the middle of selecting a floral fabric from their online shop when an interesting textile printed with elephants also caught my eye, but there was only a 1.5 yard cut remaining in the store. I snatched it up anyways without any thought of what I would actually make with it (something I try not to do too often!), and it took me a while to figure out how to use it. The fabric would have worked with any number of patterns in my stash, and I had been eyeing it specifically for a new True Bias Southport maxi, but I just didn’t have enough yardage to make it work. With my newly organized space for patterns and pattern pieces, I rifled through the blouse section in my filing cabinet since that type of garment seemed like it would make the most use of my limited fabric.

blog3

It didn’t take long to come across this re-issue of a vintage blouse pattern (Simplicity 1590) that I purchased several months ago at a Joanne’s for $1.

I liked the interesting lines of the blouse’s design, how the front is like a normal button down but then connects to the peplum on the sides in  an unexpected way. I love the little bow tie at the top of the collar (which I subsequently messed up, but more on that later) and the ties in the back, and I LOVE the kimono-inspired sleeves- all the details added up to a really cool looking blouse, one I hadn’t really seen out in the world before.

blog4

As much as I love the look of vintage silhouettes, I don’t make them very often, and I realize now that it’s because getting good at sewing older patterns requires a fair amount of know-how in the general art of sewing- in my opinion, most vintage patterns are not well suited for beginner sewists because they sometimes use outdated construction techniques that are needlessly complicated, and they don’t often give many helpful details in their instructions, omitting certain steps with the assumption that the sewist will already know how to do something. Of course I am probably spoiled with the heavily worded, brilliantly illustrated PDF instruction booklets and sew-alongs in today’s sewing community, but there is no denying that for me, less is not more when it comes to learning how to do something new. The good news is that I no longer consider myself a beginner sewist, and vintage patterns that gave me trouble years ago when I first started sewing regularly are a breeze for me to figure out now. That’s not to say that I don’t make royally silly mistakes when I sew from vintage patterns, but they feel much less daunting for me.

blog2

This blouse is a fairly simple make but the instructions for how to attach the peplum to the front was a little confusing. Fortunately I eventually figured it out, so that detail doesn’t look weird, but I didn’t fare so well with the collar. For some reason I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the collar piece shouldn’t extend all the way to the edges of the shirt front, because if they do, the collar flaps will overlap in the front when buttoned all the way, which will interfere with the little bow at the neckline- ROOKIE MISTAKE! When my collar and shirt front edges didn’t match up, I just thought I had cut my pattern piece incorrectly, so I basically stretched out my collar piece/ eased the neck opening as much as possible to match the edges of the button bands. I didn’t realize my mistake until the shirt was completed and I tried it on. SMDH!!!! The ill-positioned collar didn’t bother me enough to redo the whole collar piece though, and I can still wear it with the little bow (which is attached to the shirt by snaps), it just doesn’t look perfect. But guess what- it will the next time I make it!

blog5

Here’s what I love about the final garment- the cotton is easy breezy lightweight, so it’s comfortable to wear on hot LA days, but not so lightweight that it doesn’t keep it’s shape. The fullness of the peplum is really pretty and the length of the whole shirt is just right on me with the slight dip down in the back. Originally I imagined wearing this with a vintage wool pencil skirt I have, but the skirt is too wide at the bottom when matched with this top- as a whole there was too much width on the top half and the bottom half did nothing to balance it out. But when I tried this blouse with my Ginger skinny jeans? BINGO! Perfect balance on top and bottom! I also love that the shirt’s silhouette looks kind of fancy on it’s own, but when paired with my elephant fabric, it looks way more casual.

blog1

oh my god I HATE how my hair looks in this style. thank god for photo shoots where you can see exactly what does and what doesn’t make you look like a million bucks, lol

The addition of the red buttons, which I thought would break up the black and white of the print nicely, push it into even more adorable territory- I am basically a walking ray of sunshine in this top, as evidenced by the MANY compliments I got when I wore it for the first time a week ago. I had a big audition for a project I was really excited about on a studio lot that I had never been to before, which meant BUBBLE GUTS CENTRAL. Two separate compliments in the bathroom which sparked a whole conversation at the sink with a lovely woman who was just learning how to sew (I gave her my card so she could check out my blog) and then more accolades in the audition room from the producers and casting director. Nothing can diffuse my nerves more quickly than some shop talk about sewing- it’s the best way to make me feel empowered and excited about what I have to offer, because no matter what happens in front of that camera, I know that I MADE MY WHOLE OUTFIT AND I LOOK GREAT!

 

 

Sophie Swimsuit by ClosetCaseFiles

3blog

The first swimsuit I ever made was three years ago, and I didn’t use a pattern. Blame it on complete ignorance or unfounded optimism or both, but I, like many veterans of the sewing community, have a tendency to jump headfirst into difficult projects without realizing how unlikely I am at being successful with them. This is one of the best benefits of being a newbie at something: often your lack of experience keeps you from telling yourself “no”, and before you know it, you have learned a whole lot of lessons to help you on your next try.

My first attempt was far from perfect, seeing as how I had no pattern or instructions to follow. I took apart a beloved vintage-style two-piece that I got from a store called Unique Vintage and had worn til it was nearly threadbare. I drew pictures and made notes on the order in which things were put together, tracing the carefully deconstructed pattern pieces onto new swimsuit lycra and re-constructing the pieces bit by bit. My biggest obstacle was not quite understanding how to apply elastic properly- I had never made a bra or underwear before, and my tension when inserting it onto the edges of the lycra was always either too tight or too loose- I had to pick the zig zag stitches out and start over several times. But the end result was still pretty successful: I made a complete two piece bathing suit that was wearable and, dare I say, flattering! The only thing I didn’t like about it was the crotch- my pattern piece for the gusset was off for some reason, and it looked loose and had a weird shape to it. But that didn’t keep me from proudly wearing it all two times that I went swimming that season (I am not a water baby but I love me a cute bathing suit)!

Next I tried the same technique on a vintage swimsuit I found at a thrift store that was too baggy from previous wear but had really cool design lines and a super flattering fit. This attempt was much less successful, probably because the template I was using from the deconstructed suit was already misshapen, but I got a much better understanding of how to use my elastic successfully.

A couple years after that, I tried my hand at finally using a pattern by turning an Ohhh Lulu bra and panty set into a bathing suit, exchanging the recommended fabric for swimsuit lycra and mesh lining and making a couple of adjustments with the elastics. It came out even better than my first suit, and this time the bottoms were a perfect fit, but the top wasn’t quite right. Again, still wearable and flattering, but without that perfect professional fit that I was looking for. The good thing about all these swimsuit attempts was that I had learned a lot on my own through trial and error and experimentation, and by the time I started making bras and underwear from indie patterns, I was already familiar with a lot of the techniques so construction was ultimately a breeze.

5blog

When Closet Case Files announced her new Sophie Swimsuit pattern on instagram a couple of months ago, I made a tiny yet audible scream in the back of my throat- I was so thrilled because I knew I was ready to tackle a well drafted swimsuit pattern and fill in all the holes of my lacking knowledge! As usual, the pattern did not disappoint at all. Heather Lou clearly spends a substantial amount of time drafting all of her patterns to fit well for a variety of body types, and the difference in fit compared to other patterns is always obvious. CCF patterns are designed with curves in mind, and all the details are beautifully attended to, but the pattern instructions are also well written, precise, and easy to follow. This is the biggest difference to me in her patterns versus the Ohhh Lulu line- the designs of the latter are always beautifully executed and styled, but the wearability of them (for my body at least), seems to be lacking more often than not. If you don’t have a perfectly proportioned body that looks perfect in the OL patterns as-is, then it’s essential to have good knowledge of how to alter and adjust to make them work for your body. Sometimes I am totally fine with that kind of pattern, willing to put in the extra work and figure stuff out on my own, but other times I want a pattern that I know has already made considerations for the intricacies of our bodies; it’s the difference between making a pattern that comes in a XS-XL size format compared to one that ranges from 0-20 with a comprehensive size-chart for multiple cup sizes.

2blog

Construction of this swimsuit was an absolute breeze, and I was most excited that it gives the option of using molded cups. While I am not a push-up bra kind of person, I do appreciate what a little underwire and textile support can do to a bust that is small like mine- it makes me look more hour-glassy without making me feel like I have a construction site at work around my boobs. I had never worked with sheet foam before, so it was really exciting to form the cups and see all the pieces come together, but I will suggest that, if using the sheet foam and underwire option, LABEL THE FABRIC AND FOAM PIECES FOR YOUR CUPS! Separately the pieces all look different, but once sewn together, I had a really tough time deciphering which side was the inner cup vs. the outer cup, and the addition of the foam cups made it even worse- I had to rip my seams out twice because I kept matching the wrong foam piece to the wrong fabric! Despite my issues with keeping track of all my pattern pieces, the three-piece cup is cleverly designed and gives you the maker a lot of options for how to play around with fabric placement. I ended up following the styling of the original pattern photos pretty closely because I just love the effect of the solid fabric hugging a bright print on either side, but if I make this suit again, I am sure I will be bolder with my fabric choices. I was pretty smitten by this Ankara-inspired peacock print because I rarely see this style on spandex fabric, and on my last trip to NYC, Renee and Marcy made sure that Spandex House was on our list of fabric stores to visit so that we could pick some up (Renee got some, too!) I love the pink and yellow colors together, and I knew it would suit my skin tone really well, plus, two of my previously made bathing suits are made with this dusty-rose lycra, and I love the idea of being able to mix and match all my swimsuit pieces.

4blog

I graded between two pattern sizes for the bottoms, which is always tricky because my waist is smaller than my hips and if you aren’t careful, you can make either a pair of bottoms that don’t quite fit over your hips because the waist is so small, or a pair of bottoms that are baggy in the waist to accommodate pulling them over the hips- thankfully I think I achieved the right ratio with these. When cutting out my fabric, I totally forgot to shorten the length of the swimsuit bottoms- because I am short (5’3″), I thought that they might be too long on me as drafted, and I was right. Once they were completed and I tried them on for fit, they reached halfway up my ribcage. But it was an easy fix- I just lopped off the top two inches and re-attached my elastic and they are appropriately high-waisted now without bunching up on my back.

1blog

This suit is comfortable, I feel gorgeous in it, and I LOOOVE the molded cups for the top! This is unlike any bathing suit I have ever worn before, whether store bought or handmade, and I really love the design and ease of wearing. I actually wore these bottoms in a short that I recently filmed that included a beach scene (I was still sourcing my sheet foam so the swim top had not been finished yet) and I am excited to see what it looks like on camera!

Peaches N’ Cream N’ The Fabric Store

6blog

For those of you who grew up in the 80’s like me, you might remember a special Barbie Doll that made her debut wearing a floor length ruffled gown in a gorgeous shade of peach. The dress had a white sparkly bodice with sheer layers of polyester that cascaded into a wave of gathers at her feet, and a long, peach colored boa wound through her arms, the perfect accessory for this doll made in the era of TV’s Dynasty.

I was obsessed with this doll, and I didn’t get obsessed with toys very often. I knew we were poor and, from a young age, I understood it’s implications- asking for things that I knew my parents couldn’t afford seemed not only pointless, but also hurtful. I felt sure that they would give me the world if they could, so why make them feel worse than they already did? Still, this doll’s aesthetic tapped into some deep need I had, a need to exude wealth, class, and importance, to appear to be like all the other girls that I went to school with. Peaches N’ Cream Barbie represented the kind of woman who didn’t worry about money or holding down two part time jobs to make ends meet- otherwise she would not be dressed so extravagantly. She seemed confident and capable, the life of the party, good at holding court with esteemed individuals, which was something I aspired to. Why wouldn’t I be obsessed with her?

Although I never imagined that my wish would come true, Peaches N’ Cream Barbie ended up on my Christmas list, which, since my parents were not together anymore, needed to be duplicated so they could each have a copy. My mother, pragmatic as she was, must have sensed the magnitude of having this doll in my life, because on Christmas morning of that year I tore off the wrapping of a box to find, instead of the sweater or package of underwear I usually got (she, like many Moms without much disposable income, used Christmas as a way to replenish more of my needs than my wants), a beautiful Peaches N’ Cream Barbie Doll! But…she was black. For some reason I hadn’t been expecting that. To be honest I am not even sure I knew that Peaches N’ Cream Barbie CAME in black, because the black dolls didn’t end up in the commercials very often. I was thrilled that my Mom bought her for me, but I also had conflicting feelings stirring up inside that I had no idea what to do with. My Mom, (who is white), had always made it a point to buy me black dolls. I think she was trying to make up for the fact that I went to a predominantly white school, lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, and I only got to see my Dad (who is black) two weekends out of the month because that’s the way the custody battle went. She didn’t want my Southern white surroundings to damage how I felt about myself, and she understood the importance of me seeing myself in the things I played with. I know that now, and I appreciate it deeply. But at the time, I hated it. It was simply another reminder that I was different from everybody else in my life.

I pet my news doll’s beautiful dress and combed her dark hair that was straight and glossy and not like mine at all and waited for my Dad to pick me up and take me to my grandma’s house to celebrate Christmas with him and my cousins. There, I joyfully opened up toy after toy after toy- not an item of clothing in site- and stared in disbelief as I ripped the paper off my last present and found yet another Peaches N’ Cream Barbie, this time the one with blonde hair. My white Mom had bought me the black Peaches N’ Cream doll and my black Dad had bought me the white one (clearly my parents were not on speaking terms at this point in time). There was a sense of relief that I finally had the “right” doll, the one I had been hoping for all along, but in the coming weeks, as I held the two dolls in my hands, each exactly the same save for their coloring, I was suddenly faced with the real root of my dissatisfaction. I liked the white one because that was the one that all my white friends had, and that made me feel normal. But the doll itself didn’t make me feel normal- she looked nothing like me. It was like playing around with a fantasy that I had no say in creating. And the black doll didn’t look like me either; her skin was darker than mine, and she still had hair like the white doll, just in a different shade. I didn’t see myself in either of the toys, but I felt shame for liking the white doll better and frustration for not understanding why. Of course now I know that this is what happens when you live in a white supremacist society, but back then I just felt alone. I decided to make my dolls be cousins related by marriage for a while, but eventually they started kissing and became secret girlfriends, which is what happens when you also live in a homophobic society, but I digress.

Growing up, leaving Alabama, spending my 20’s in NYC- all of it helped me start unpacking the harmful rhetoric that I learned as a kid and replacing it with values that embraced all my different identities. I am still in the process of forgiving myself for not being prouder of who I was at a young age, which is hard- it’s even difficult to write these words here on my blog. But I do it because, if I have learned one thing since leaving Alabama, it’s that I am not alone at all. There are so many people around the world who have struggled to name their identities, to find a place that feels comfortable, to accept that this place might not be comfortable for others, and to not apologize for it. And if my words can make any of those people feel less conflicted about living their lives proudly and boldly, then it makes talking about it completely worthwhile.

8blog

So here I am decades later, a grown, Barbie-less woman, when I enter The Fabric Store and come across the extraordinary textile you see here. I am immediately drawn to it and I realize that it’s because of the colors- the peach and white combination of my youth holds the same amount of power over me now. And when running my hands over the soft material on the roll, I flip over a corner to find that it’s reversible! Well, maybe it’s not reversible- it’s possible that one of these sides is meant to be the “right” one and the other is meant to be the “wrong” one. But see, I know better than that now. Barbies don’t have “right” skin tones and fabrics don’t have “right” sides. Which is why I used both.

7blog

I thought that the graphic print and stable weight of this fabric would look really cool with a structured bodice, and then I remembered how great the cut-outs on the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY were. So I coupled the top from that dress with my circle skirt block, drafted with instructions from Gertie’s first book, Gerties’ Book for Better Sewing. The result is a perfect fit’n flare design that looks absolutely phenomenal with the body of this fabric! I don’t normally combine prints or think outside the box with my fabric choices, but this fabric made it pretty easy. It is so soft and airy and has an almost quilted feel to it because of the way the fabric is made- it looks a little like a double gauze, with two lightweight pieces of fabric tacked together through the lines of graphic print, the colors reversed for each side.

1blog

The bodice from the Bonnell Dress is a very straight-forward make with great instructions- a fully lined bodice with cut outs on each side that connect to a waistband, closed with an invisible zipper in the back.

4blog

Trading the gathered skirt that goes on the original dress with a circle skirt was easy, and I omitted the pockets to save time. I used french seams for both the skirt and bodice to keep the insides tidy since this fabric has a tendency to fray, and when it was all done, the completed dress looked almost reversible! The only thing to give it away is the invisible zipper, which isn’t so invisible on the inside, but I could probably still get away with wearing it inside out if I danced the whole time that I wore it. Which is not outside of the realm of possibility for me.

2blog

I debuted this dress a couple of weeks ago at an event for an organization called Campus Pride, which promotes creating safe spaces on college campuses across North America for LGBTQ students through education, leadership and community. As you can imagine, it was a huge honor for me to accept the Voice and Action award along with the other recipient, Miss Lawrence, and it was a pleasure to meet so many amazing students, mentors and staff at the ceremony. In my speech, which Autostraddle will be publishing later this week, I talked about intersectionality and how my various identities as a queer, biracial woman of color sometimes inform one another; it was a happy accident that I wore this particular dress to the event, which seemed to embody a lot of the things I discussed that night.

3blog

Thanks again to The Fabric Store for the gorgeous textile, to Campus Pride for giving me an opportunity to speak, and to Claire for the lovely photos!

Turia Dungarees, aka Stripey Overalls

hat_3blog

I made these overalls a couple of months ago when I was in the middle of a jeans-making blackout, and they came out SO much better than I anticipated. I knew construction would be a breeze, having made several pairs of jeans by this point (I have yet to write a post on the latest Morgan Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files– but I have made them, they are wonderful, and they will show up here soon!) but I was afraid that the fit on these overalls would be tricky to get just right, never mind the fact that there may or may not be an age appropriate cut off for wearing overalls in the first place. 

OK, wait. The fashion gatekeepers of our culture says that women of a certain age/build/type/look should not be seen wearing certain items during certain times of the year/season/position of Mercury, and obviously that is such bullshit, because no one, no matter their gender, body type or age, should be shamed for wearing what makes them feel happy (unless we are talking about cultural appropriation, of course, which is ANOTHER DISCUSSION ENTIRELY). That said, it’s still hard to erase those “rules” from our minds because we are force fed them all the time across all forms of media- they are ingrained in our thoughts and they affect the way we perceive others. Whether someone’s skirt is deemed “too short” or “too long” because of their age, the lines drawn are complicated but they are there, and they always seem to be tied in with what society considers to be sexy. I don’t think there is an easy solution to any of this; I, too, feel uncomfortable when I see young kids and disproportionate numbers of women vs. men being sexualized in media, but I also know that their sexuality would not be as much of an issue if they weren’t being prayed upon in the first place. What would our world even look like if rape and molestation were not issues that we had to constantly fight against, if we didn’t have to tell kids (and adult female-presenting individuals for that matter) to be careful what they wore so that they wouldn’t be targeted by others who wanted to harm them? At what age is it okay for a person to present themselves in a way that feels comfortable for them? At what point should other people’s discomfort be pushed to the side to allow an individual the full extent of their self- expression? How much does sexuality play a part in what we wear and how we wear it, and who should determine when we are “too” young/old/skinny/fat/disabled, etc. to experiment with how we present ourselves to the world?

hat_2blog

I am in my mid-thirties now and I know that the overalls look is not super popular with adults in my age bracket, but I feel AMAZING in them (they are my current favorite thing in my closet)! So, like others have been doing for decades, I am challenging the notion that there are things that are and are not age “appropriate”. The way we feel about ourselves when we quiet the judgemental voices in our heads should trump everyone else’s opinions, right? I am urging all of us to start unpacking the junk that society has been feeding us since we were little kids so that we can discover what tastes are influenced by our actual opinions and what tastes have simply been learned and undisputed. Here, I’ll start:

A Random Selection of Jasika’a Actual Opinions:

  1. lace is sexy
  2. Granties™ (aka granny panties) are also sexy
  3. these overalls are sexy
  4. I am not too old to be wearing these overalls
  5. you are not too old to be wearing these overalls

I have a lot of work to do. Like, I still can’t decide if I don’t like wearing shoes with ankle straps because I think they don’t look good on me or because every time I see a shoe advertisement, the strap is wrapped around a leggy woman with a 5 inch ankle circumference and I know I can’t ever compete with that. Dismantling the patriarchy one tiny tentacle at a time is such hard work! And at the rate I’m going, I will be feeling 100% satisfied with myself by the time I am 90 years old. But better late than never, right?

Dismantling the Patriarchy One Awkward Photo At A Time

Dismantling the Patriarchy One Awkward Photo At A Time

OK, some details about these sexy-alls! I did a lot of research prior to making them because the blogger world had lots of good tips and suggestions. Like

  • angling the back straps a bit so that they reach over your shoulders in a more natural and comfortable way without gaping.
  • omitting one of the side zippers since only one was needed to get them off and on.
  • doing a little surgery on the back pockets, which, from looking at a lot of pics online seemed like they were drafted much too small for this jelly and also placed a bit too high on the butt. I subbed the back pockets from the aforementioned Morgan Jeans pattern and lowered the placement of them substantially (it took me three tries to get them right but it was worth all the unpicking).
  • I graded the sizing from waist to hip and they felt a little bit snug at first but after several wears they have loosened up beautifully.

hat_5blog

My denim is a navy and cream striped, sturdy fabric from The Fabric Store, rivets are leftover from my Ginger Jeans kits, and my overall buckles are a cheap but efficient purchase from Joann’s. I topstitched in gold thread and I love the vaguely nautical look that this gives the overalls. I made a couple of mistakes in the process of this marathon-make (the bulk of these overalls were finished in a day), like accidentally punching a rivet hole in the middle of my front pocket (oooooops!) and incorrectly tracing the pattern piece for the back strap holder so that I had to add more pieces to make it wide enough to hold the straps. For this reason I have way more bulk and topstitching lines in the back pieces, but you can’t tell just from looking at them, and it doesn’t affect the fit as far as I can tell.

hat_4blog

My favorite thing about this make is the slim fit of the legs combined with the traditional look of the overalls. I wore different versions of overalls throughout middle school, high school and college, and they were always huge and baggy on me, which was fine at the time, but I have outgrown that look. These feel a bit more sophisticated while still being playful and fun and comfortable, and Renee thinks they look awesome 🙂 Actually, let me take a second to say thanks Renee, for inspiring this little feminist rant of mine! We had a short dialogue about overalls over IG and how old (or young) most people are who wear them, and she got me interested in breaking down my thoughts on the topic and articulating my own views on the matter! By the way, I am LOVING having sewing friends that I have met in real life, I finally feel like I am a legit member of the online sewing community!

*waves to my east coast homies*

*begs Marcy to come taste my dehydrator snacks*

(that is not a euphemism, I swear!)

 

A Blood Orange Denver Dress

close

Posting about this dress seems like a bit of a cheat because I haven’t actually worn it out of the house yet. (Which may or may not be a trend with me lately, but I’m not gonna sit here and judge myself!) This is one of those wardrobe pieces that works in LA for a small window of time, much like another beloved turtleneck dress of mine that I knitted. It has to be the right amount of chilly/warm outside, because my legs have to go bare (I hate wearing a tights under dresses) but my torso is completely covered, and in this particular make, it’s covered in a beautiful merino wool which, while lightweight, provides a bit more warmth than the average day needs.

full

This New Zealand merino fabric, from The Fabric Store, was purchased for a Christmas gift I was supposed to make someone that ended up being abandoned in favor of a large care package comprised of chocolates and sweets. I found myself charged with this beautiful, brightly hued fabric that was screaming to made into something cool, so I decided to dip into a pattern collection I had bought on sale many months prior. I had never made anything from the collection before, and I wasn’t super familiar with any of the designers that took part in the pattern bundle, so I was excited to be introduced to some new designs.

back

I chose the Denver Tunic/Dress by Blank Slate patterns because it seemed like a simple, straightforward make and the princess-like seaming appeared to be easy to adjust if the fit was off at all. Thankfully I was right on all counts. As per usual I graded up the sizing from waist to hips, and because my merino wool was on the thin side, I self lined the whole dress by basting all the pieces together and then serging the seams, treating each double layered pattern piece as one.

side

The cut edges of the knit fabric were clean and I liked the look of the two separate layers, so I left the bottom edges raw and made cuffs for the sleeves, shortening mine to about 3/4 length. There was a little bit of adjusting for the seams on the hip area where I had to take them in just a bit because they were gaping in certain places, but other than that, the sizes I chose work well on this here hippy body, and I am happy with how the dress looks!

closeup2

Initially I wished that the turtleneck was more dramatic looking and slouchy, but after wearing it for my photo shoot, I liked not having so much bulk at the top, particularly in such a heat-generating fabric. This dress is going to be great made up in a lightweight cotton or rayon knit and will be a nice compliment to the version you see here, which is perfectly suited for fall.

Final thoughts? This is a well constructed, quick and easy pattern which can both pack a lot of design punch when using complimentary fabric choices, and pull it’s weight as a simple wardrobe staple!

Ode to Oona

https://www.instagram.com/p/BD1mBH4RF5O/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

One of my favorite online fabric stores, LAFinch Fabrics, has this sneaky habit of filling your orders with extra doo-dads, including but not limited to a fistful of swatches from their inventory, tied up in a little bow. I love this for obvious reasons; being able to touch a piece of fabric gives me so much more of an idea of how it will sew up as opposed to just seeing it on a screen. And that’s how I ended up with this multi-colored animal inspired rayon, a fabric I would never, NEVER have bought after simply seeing a photo of it. I’m staunchly against animal prints in my own wardrobe, but not because I have any moral or aesthetic issues against them. For me, it’s like the color red-  I think it looks great on every single person except me. I’m just not a RED personality, you know? Bright orange? Sure. But not red. And in this same vein, I am not really an animal print person either. So when I saw a rectangle of this bold rayon peeking out of my fistful of new swatches, I didn’t give it a second glance. That is, not until my fingers gently grazed the material while fishing around for one of the other pieces in the stack. OH MY GOD. Is this for real?, I thought. So supple! So soft! So stable, yet flowy! It felt kind of creamy, if cream could be a fabric. It was absolutely dreamy. But the print simply wasn’t my favorite. I liked the colors. I like the graphic aspect of it. But purple and blue tinted (zebra? tiger? leopard?) print?! Come on! That’s not me! It took me a week of hemming and hawing before I finally asked myself “what would Oona do?”

Oona (aka Marcy), the sewing community’s favorite advocate for brightly printed/boldly colored/funkily designed textiles; Oona, who doesn’t shy away from dazzle or flash; Oona, who wouldn’t think twice about snatching up a fabric like this because she probably doesn’t impose arbitrary boundaries for herself on what she should or should not wear. I think everyone in the online sewing community has been inspired by Oona’s makes at some point in their lives, because even if she is wearing something you wouldn’t have considered making for yourself, her beauty and style are undeniable, and apparently limitless. So there, I had my answer. Oona would say yes, so I was going to give it a try, too.

patterns

My yes came shortly before my birthday, and although I had no plans to make myself anything to celebrate my new year, when it arrived in the mail (with a whole new fistful of swatches to drool over, of course), I was suddenly inspired to use it for something special. I had two days before my birthday and no idea what to make with this beautiful fabric, which is generally not the best equation for me and a successful make, but I forged ahead anyways. Eventually I settled on a hack of my favorite vintage jumpsuit pattern, vintage Simplicity 5503, and the Southport Dress by True Bias. Both patterns are (mostly) TnTs for me; I have made each pattern twice, hacking the neckline into one of Gertie’s designs for one of the jumpsuits and sticking to the original design for the others. I was excited to put these two looks together- I love the casual look and comfortable feeling of the jumpsuit’s flexible waist and roomy legs, and I love the relaxed yet streamlined design of the bodice of the dress.

gertie_neckline

vintage simplicity jumpsuit in one of my fav fabrics I have ever seen from The Fabric Store (the print is various sizes of flocks of birds!)

southport

Southport Dress by True Bias, which gets worn A LOT.

For my mash up, I nixed the elastic band in favor of the Southport’s drawstring detail, and I used snaps instead of buttons for the bodice.

close2

Since there were no waistline darts to accommodate, it required only a little bit of fudging to make the width of the jumpsuit’s bottom match up to the dress’s top, and I ended up shortening the bodice in the back about 2 inches to take in some of the fabric that was pooling at my lower back (this was not an adjustment I ever needed to make for the Southport dress in the past, so it was definitely a result of using pants for the bottom instead of a skirt).

flat

All in all an easy make, and it was done in plenty of time for my birthday, even though I didn’t end up wearing it on the actual day- I was in (memade) sweatpants eating pie and hanging out with my two BFFs to ring in my new year, and I am NOT complaining!

dance

Now that the make is done and I have had some time to ruminate a bit on all my last-minute decision making, I have come to some conclusions. Number one: this fabric was wasted on this jumpsuit. I think it looks fantastic, and honestly, whenever I wear it I feel like Blanche from the Golden Girls, but I think that using this fabric for anything other than a swooshy, drapey, flowy garment was just silly. It deserves to be a dress, something with simple lines and a full skirt so that I could have maximized all the properties that drew me to it in the first place. This pattern hack was meant for something with a little more stability and weight to it, and those properties aren’t the things that make this textile so incredible.

stand1

Which brings me to number two: I am SO glad that I listened to my inner Oona and I bought this fabric! At first I kept thinking, it’s just not very me, but the truth is that if I am wearing it and liking it, then that’s as me as it gets. The me of today might not be the exact same me of last year or even yesterday, but that’s why so many of us sew, right? To express whatever version of ourselves that seems to be chirping the loudest at the time. Sometimes we go through phases where we are really into knits, or prints, or pastels, or skirts, or skin tight, or super loose. But those phases don’t make us any less of ourselves- rather, they are proof that we are undefinable, ever evolving, capable of variance. When I look through my closet, it kind of feels like I am flipping through the pages of a diary; I know where I was, what was going on and how I was feeling with every single memade garment inside. And when I come across this jumpsuit, even though it’s the only animal print hanging amongst it’s brothers and sisters, it looks perfectly at home. It reminds me that my style can change, that even if I take risks, the things I make are still a good representation of who I am.

disco

Thanks to all the Oonas out there continuing to provide inspiration!

Pretty Guts

I generally tend to steer away from the Big 4 patterns nowadays since I have much better luck with the sizing in indie patterns, but it’s still hard to go into a large fabric store and avoid looking through those big books with their beautiful pictures of the season’s newest designs. A while ago I was at a Joann’s in a neighboring town to pick up some notions, and they happened to be having a huge store-wide sale. All their stocked Simplicity patterns were $1 a piece, and although most of them had already been picked through, leaving little else but Halloween costumes for toddlers, I was able to score a few prizes, including this beauty, Simplicity 1803.

pattern

I had a beautiful yardage of some cotton + steel rayon that I bought from Hart’s Fabrics a while ago, but I ended up not having enough to make the maxi dress I envisioned for it. But the soft draped look of the dress on this pattern sleeve seemed to be a good fit for my fabric, so I nixed my initial maxi dress idea and spent hours adjusting the bodice on my dressform. I made a muslin of just the bodice (sans facing pieces) in a size 8, pinned out all the extra material at the seams and then re-sewed it together. When I was happy with the fit, I transferred the pattern markings to my pattern pieces and cut out my fashion fabric. It was only when I started sewing these pieces together with the full sleeves, linings and facings that I realized I had gotten the sleeve pieces very confused and had sewed them onto my muslin not only backwards, but upside down! In my defense, the sleeve pieces for this dress are unnecessarily confusing and it would have been awesome if they had been marked them with “top” and “bottom” signifiers, since looking at the line drawings and sleeve artwork didn’t help one bit. So basically my muslin and ensuing adjustments were now null and void because the bodice, with the sleeves now attached correctly, ended up sitting much lower on the torso, meaning it no longer fit the lines of my bust and waist.

The good news is that this bodice has princess seams, and I think those are so much easier to adjust than moving darts around and making them larger or smaller. I eventually ended up pinching out about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in the bust, tapering in to the regular seam allowance at the waistline. Since the skirt is a five piece gathered dirndl, it didn’t require any major adjustments at all. The sleeves, whose details you can’t see very well because the fabric design swallows them, were a little fiddly to work with and I think I might have even accidentally missed sewing one of the design elements (a pleat at the hem of the sleeve maybe?) but I like how they came out.

closeup

My favorite thing about this dress is the guts, a place where I usually don’t have the patience or interest to make things look very pretty. I usually just serge or pink my seams closed and move on with construction, but lately I have tried to focus less on the amount of projects I finish in a given week and instead focus on how thoughtful and deliberate I am with the construction of my makes. This is much easier said than done, as I often have lists of things that I am excited to make and I start thinking about the next project before the current one is even halfway done. But the thrill I feel whenever I pull this dress off it’s hanger and put it on is immense, because I feel like the most impressive parts are on the inside, a treat that only I get to enjoy. For this dress I used Hong Kong seams, which I worried would cause bunching and pulling on the outside of the bodice since the seams are all curved, but I clipped into the curves before I did the binding, so everything lies flat and unnoticeable on the outside of the dress. The Hong Kong seams took much longer than would serging or even French seaming, but it was absolutely worth it in the end.

innards

My other favorite thing about this dress is the way the skirt is constructed. There is a center panel cut on the fold with a pocket on either side which is connected to a front side panel, and the back of the skirt has two pieces as well. I love that the pockets are not on the actual side seams of the garment, but rather centered on the front of the skirt, which doesn’t change the functionality of the pockets much but definitely gives the whole look a little touch of visual interest when you stick your hands in them. There isn’t a whole lot of variation in a simple dress comprised of a bodice and dirndl, so these little details stick out to me a lot.

front

As usual, I was VERY oblivious to doing any pattern matching with this dress til I cut all the pieces out and realized that ummm…it might have behooved me to pay a bit more attention. The funny thing is that I made sure to keep the big star design in the fabric from landing straight on my boobs for the bodice front, but that’s where my attention to detail ended, so I was a little annoyed with myself once the bodice was all pieced together and the fabric design lines were close to matching…but not quite! I think that the fabric is too busy to draw much attention to subtle inconsistencies at the seams, and honestly, I am not a perfectionist with that stuff anyways. It might annoy me, but small irregularities wont keep me from wearing it.

back

Something I am realizing about my body is that it is much smaller in the upper back/shoulders than most patterns are drafted for, so I often have to sew my zippers with a larger seam allowance at the back neck to use more fabric, and then taper out to the regular SA for the remainder of the garment, starting at about mid-back. I am not familiar with what this kind of adjustment is called, but I would love to know if any of you are aware. It’s not normally a big deal unless there is a bold pattern on the fabric, in which case you can see the curve where the back edges meet because the design won’t be symmetrical from top to bottom.

side

All in all I am super happy with this make! I love the feel and graphic print of the fabric, and I (mostly) love the shape of the neckline, although it affects the way I wear my hair -anyone else have weird ideas about which hairstyles and jewelry look best with which necklines? This dress took a LOT more time to make than I anticipated because of all the fitting adjustments and tiny interfaced pattern pieces for the neckline facings and Hong Kong seaming I decided to do, and fyi, when I was clipping threads from the gathered waistline after I had sewn the bodice and skirt together, I totally nipped into my skirt fabric with my scissors, which was embarrassing more than anything else. I mean….?!?!? I was simply working too fast, hoping to get a step completely done before leaving my craft room for the evening and heading upstairs to make dinner. See now why I am making a commitment to work more slowly with my makes? But I tried not to be too hard on myself. I used some interfacing to patch the snip back together and then some blue fabric marker to color the white that was peeking through to the outside, and now no one but me knows that it’s there…kind of like my beautiful dress guts!

Gertie’s Secretary Dress

hanging

I have talked here at length about how much I love Gertie’s pattern books. Hers were the first patterns that fit well to my body, that provided an aesthetic that I loved (I was exclusively into vintage fashion when I picked up sewing again several years ago), with instructions that were relatively easy to follow. I still have my very first dress that I ever made from one of her patterns and it continues to get compliments whenever I wear it (and most people think it is a vintage find). Her second book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, was great for providing my closet with lots of wearable sweater knits and cute separates, so when she announced the launch of her third book, Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book, I was over the moon with excitement. This book promised to tackle the sometimes complicated task of making linings, explaining when a dress needs them, why they need them, and all the different ways to use them to enhance the overall look, fit and feel of a beautiful handmade garment. I pre-ordered the book on amazon and was utterly thrilled when it showed up on my doorstep the day that I dropped a piece of IKEA furniture onto my big toe; I was immobile and confined to the couch with nothing to do but pore over every page, which I did!

The new book does not disappoint. I really appreciate that each of Gertie’s books contains new information- she doesn’t just recycle the same text with new patterns- and includes lots of tricks and tips on how to get the most out of your sewing practice. The Ultimate Dress book is chock full of information about fabrics, facings, laundering techniques and how certain textiles work together or alone to create specific silhouettes. The patterns are mix-n-match with several bodices, collars, sleeves and skirts to choose from, which allows the reader to design their own looks by mixing up the pattern pieces.

Thankfully I took Gertie’s advice at the beginning of the book and committed myself to making a muslin of each garment I wanted to make before sewing it up. And that was a VERY GOOD DECISION. I don’t know if the sizing is different from the first two books or if I am just a more meticulous sewist now than I was a few years ago, but HOLY COW my measurements were way off! WAAAAY off. The bust in these garments is like, 3 cup sizes bigger than my my own  (I am a solid 32 B), but everything else fit way too tight. Years ago this would have scared me off immediately and I probably would not have made a second attempt at any of the patterns, but now I know better than that; patience is indeed a virtue!

bodicebeforeafter

before and after of size 4 muslins

It took a while to get it right, but I did my first SBA ever using the sloper bodice from this book. Gertie’s instructions are not particularly detailed on this topic- the book basically describes how to make a FBA, and then for an SBA it just says to do the same steps, but by overlapping the pattern cuts instead of expanding them. But maybe that’s really all there is to it, because I followed her basic outline for the steps and the results were great. Not only did I have to do an SBA on these patterns, but I also had to move the bust darts down, bring the waist darts in towards the center, and add more width at the bodice sides and back. The armholes were also extraordinarily tight and the neckline was really high, so I had to provide more room in those areas as well. It took me four rounds of adjusting and muslin-making to get a fit in the basic bodice and pencil skirt that felt comfortable and looked good, and even after all that, I still had to make additional adjustments to provide a bit more room in the waist and in the cap sleeves, which had me hulking out of them if I did so much as take too deep of a breath. I don’t normally struggle with patterns being too tight on me- usually my fitting issues are that the patterns are much too big and need to be taken in a lot. Thankfully my fitting skills have been expanded by working with these patterns and I am feeling particularly competent now 🙂

anyone familiar with the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Muslins?

these adjustments are like Goldilocks and the 3 Muslins

I focused a lot on making the pencil skirt aspect of this dress fit like a glove. I LOVE pencil skirts, but because of my waist to hip ratio, I often feel like they don’t look very proportionate on me. I have to grade up at least 2 sizes from my waist to my hips, so the bottom part of the skirt is always at least two sizes wider than my top half, and the silhouette just seems to swallow my legs up. Jessica Rabbit always looked amazing in her curve-hugging dresses, which perfectly fit her waist, skimmed her big thighs, and then tapered in at her knees and calves. But Jessica is a cartoon. Was there a realistic way for me to achieve this look and still like, walk and sit down in the garment? I figured I would never know unless I tried, so I cut out my skirt to fit my waist, graded to a size larger in the hips (ultimately I pushed the seam allowances out at the hips even more so that it ended up being a full two sizes larger) and then graded back in to the size of my waist measurement for the bottom portion of the skirt. This worked beautifully! It gave the curve-hugging shape I wanted from top to bottom, but because there is a generous kick pleat in the back of the skirt (Gertie knows what’s up), it didn’t restrict my movement at all. Once I finished the basic construction and tried the garment on, I thought to myself, WOW! I DID IT! I CREATED THE PERFECT JOAN FROM MAD MEN DRESS!!!!

But my excitement simmered down pretty quickly once I sewed my zipper into my dress.

Turns out, the dress looked perfect on my body…but I couldn’t really like, get into the dress easily. Which turns out to be a pretty important thing. I had to practically dislocate my shoulder in order to pull the garment over my shoulders since stepping into the dress was absolutely impossible. At first I tried to convince myself that it was fine- who cared if it took a lot of work to get into or out of a dress? Once it was on it looked great, and that’s the important part, right? But I had forgotten about peeing. Peeing is also important! Perhaps even more important than how it looks, considering how often I have to do it! I realized that there was NO WAY I would be able to pee without taking the entire dress off of my body, and as I said, taking the entire dress off my body was damn near impossible. So what to do? I knew the cause of my dilemma- it was the tapered bottom half of my skirt! It was two sizes smaller than my hips, so of course I couldn’t pull it up over them- even with the long kick pleat, there was simply not enough room in the dress to accommodate these hips, which DO NOT LIE.

lining

I took to asking the sewing community for ideas on how to solve the issue, but it seemed like people were as stumped as I was. For a while it seemed like the only solution was to insert an additional zipper at the side seam of my skirt, from the hip to under the arm. But I was really nervous to go this route. I didn’t want the zipper to mess with the smooth lines of the garment, and it also just seemed like a lot of work to do after having nearly completed the dress already. An even easier solution was to have a longer zipper in the back, but the one I was using was already 24″, the longest size that I could find at a fabric and notions store. And then I decided on a whim to take a look at wawak.com and see what variety of zippers they had on their site. BINGO! 30″ invisible zippers, just enough room to zip past my butt and to the top of the narrowest part of the skirt. I ordered 4 of their 30″ zippers, ripped the old zipper out of the dress and then I waited patiently for the new ones to arrive in the mail, which they did a few days later.

The rest, as they say, is history.

full

The dress glides on my body easily, but my poor lining has really been put through the ringer; I had to unpick the hand stitched lining several times because of fit adjustments and changing the zipper, and then when I took the photos for this blog post, I was shocked to see that the back of the dress was gaping a lot, which I was unaware of since I couldn’t see my body in the mirror very well from behind. I unpicked the lining and the zipper again and this time re-sewed the zipper with more seam allowance, eliminating some of the extra fabric that seemed to be pooling on my upper back. I think I got rid of most of the excess, but I wonder if the bodice neckline is still a little too high in the back- if so, it’s something I can live with but I will definitely address that fitting issue on a future make.

before I (hopefully) fixed the excess fabric in the back!

before I (hopefully) fixed the excess fabric in the back!

Here are the final details of the dress: fabric is a lightweight woven (blue + white + flecks of tan) wool from The Fabric Store, and the lining is made of habotoi silk from Dharma Trading Company. I chose the basic bodice and pencil skirt pattern from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book and paired it with the peter pan collar (my first success after many failed attempts in the past- those collars are tricky to get just right).

closeup

For the little bow at the neck of the collar I wanted to use a fluttery black fabric, but I realized while rifling through my stash that I didn’t have any. None. Nada. Black is clearly not my favorite color. Which was annoying, because it meant I had to go out and purchase a quarter yard of something appropriate in order to complete the dress. But I am glad I stuck with my gut and didn’t go with some other color I had in my stash- I think that black is the perfect accent to the light blue wool and it also goes with my very favorite pumps (funny how I own no black clothing or fabric but my absolute favorite pair of heels are black suede).

closeup2

I obviously learned a lot in the making of this dress: how to do an SBA, how to line an entire dress, how to line the sleeves of a garment, how to insert a beautiful looking collar, how to make a 5/8″ seam allowance work overtime in a too-tight garment, how to get the perfect silhouette in a pencil skirt, how to launder wool by steaming it first before cutting into it, how ridiculously frayed silk gets when it has barely been handled, and how to get the seam underneath the bottom edge of an invisible zipper perfectly flat and pucker-free. But I know that my Gertie education is far from over, and I am sew looking forward to tackling more beautiful projects from this book!

full2