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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!

#LanderPantsDance

When I finished these pants and ran upstairs from my craft room to see how they looked with shoes, I got so hyped when I saw myself in the mirror that I started dancing in my bathroom, and I managed to press record on my phone just in time to capture it. This is how the idea of a hashtag joyously celebrating a sewist’s Lander Pants completion officially began on instagram, and with the help of a few lovely sewists who chimed in to suggest it be a thing (including the awesome designer of the pants herself!), LanderPantsDance went viral!!!!

How I Feel About the Lander Pants™ #truebiaslanderpants #landerpantsdance #landerpants

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

Okay, maybe not viral.

But I’ve been tagged in AT LEAST 4 posts of other sewists dancing in their Lander Pants, and that’s enough for me, haha!

What can I say about these pants?? First of all, I was SO STOKED when True Bias released the design. They happened to be the spitting image of a pair of wide legged jeans I tried to hack early this year only to watch them suffer a bizarre and untimely demise when the front legs twisted so dramatically in the front that the side seams traveled across the fronts of my legs. Only thing I can come up with is that they were cut severely off-grain, but…they weren’t! I know, because I was there! Anyways, that WIP has been languishing in the Butthole Bin for the longest, so when I saw the design for the Lander Pants, I realized that my dreams of owning a 70’s inspired pair of wide legged trousers could still be a reality for me! Weirdly enough, I didn’t make them in denim, but more on that later.

I made these pants in less than two days, and I have to say, the fit is pretty terrific. It helps that they have such wide legs, so after you get the shaping and fitting for the waist and hips right, the rest is a breeze. But also know that I have read Heather Lou of Closet Case Files’ e-book for jeans making and blog posts about pants fitting extensively, so all the successes I have with pants is 100% due to her (if you are stressed about/unsure of the process, read her materials! They are concise, easy-to-comprehend, and most importantly, they work!)

One thing I learned from Heather’s series of how-tos is that I need to draft a curved waistband for pretty much any fitted pants design I want to wear. I actually just use the same pattern piece from the Ginger Jeans that I adapted for my body, and I sub it in for other pants patterns that have roughly the same waistband size. Instead of a straight or very slightly curved rectangle for the waistband, which works on many bodies that don’t have a big difference between their waist and hips, I redrafted it so that the top of the waistband has a deeper curve, which allows it to lay right up against my waist instead of gaping like pretty much every RTW pair of pants does on me. I used this waistband on my Landers and of course it worked a real treat!

For a round bottomed girl, I thought these pants fit pretty great right out the box. I didn’t do much adjusting with them after using my curved waistband; I think I brought in the back seam just a bit at the very top at the waist, and when I make them again I might 1. dig out a tiny bit of room in the back crotch curve for the teeniest bit more space and 2. elongate the fly (why I didn’t do this from the beginning I have no idea- sometimes I like to try the original pattern as-is before making too many drastic changes to it but I need to be real with myself- a longer fly front on pants is pretty much a necessity for me across the board). My favorite thing about the pattern is that the leg pieces are drafted with a 1 inch seam allowance on the outside seams so that you can baste and fit as you are going, which was incredibly helpful! I muslined these pants and I needed to add about a 1/4 inch more room at the side seams around the thickest part of my body, but that was just to ensure that I maintained a 5/8 seam allowance- I definitely could have made the adjustment with the pants pattern pieces as drafted.

As is well-documented here on this blog, I am not crazy about wearing black clothing (how Katie from What Katie Sews does it so brilliantly, I will never know!) and this make honestly did little to change my mind. The fabric itself is brilliant- perfect weight, easy to sew with, feels soft but sturdy- I just wish it was in a different color, and unfortunately black was all I could find when I was shopping for corduroy. Why did I choose corduroy instead of denim, you may ask? No idea. In my quest for a beautiful and versatile fall wardrobe, corduroy kept popping up for me so I just kind of stuck with it- I thought it would be a fun textile and a nice change from denim. But in addition to the color just not doing it for me personally, I think it also hides all the cool details of these pants (textile included) which is what got me so excited about making them in the first place. You can’t really see how cute the big patch pockets are on the fronts, can’t see the meticulously sewed topstitching on the waistband and pockets and belt loops- I feel like the dark color just sucks up all the extra cool things about this make. But it’s ok! I am just going to consider them a wearable muslin (because I still think they are super cute and I know I will get some wear out of them) and make my next pair in the washed denim that I originally envisioned them in! And then I can also put a tiny bit more room in the crotch and lengthen the fly front so that getting in and out of the pants is easier.

Speaking of fly fronts, this button fly was the first I had ever constructed and it was SO fun! After making so many jeans I have become pretty confident with inserting a zip fly, but for some reason I was anxious about a button fly- probably just because it was a journey into the unknown. But I shouldn’t have been worried at all; the button fly was way easier and quicker to construct than a zip fly and I absolutely love the way it looks. The instructions for the fly, as with everything else, were super easy to follow and well thought out, and I honestly couldn’t believe how quickly this pattern came together. They were a dream to sew! I decided to use the longer view of the design (they also come in a cropped and shorts length) and then I added a few extra inches because I wanted my hems to cover my shoes and just barely skim the ground, which the longest view of this pattern does not do. It was an easy fix and I am happy with the length. The only real thing I am unhappy about with these pants (aside from the color) is the fear that my thighs are going to start a fire every time I walk around. The zipzipzipzip sound is deafening! I forgot what a weirdo fabric corduroy can be, but whatever- people won’t even notice it when they are so bowled over by this wicked FIT! 😉

 

Turtleneck Hack in Mustard

So far my fall/winter makes list has been coming together fairly nicely, but I have hit a few roadblocks along the way. One was the infamous pair of peg leg pants that I made from a rich butternut corduroy in the Style Arc Tully pattern. After all was said and done I ended up looking like an ensemble member from Oliver! and we had a real good laugh at my #sewingfail on instagram (prompting me to consider starting a submissions only IG account posting all of our worst/most hilarious/most educational sewing fails, because EVERYONE seems to get a good kick out of those!) Another roadblock was the drop sleeved hoodie made of a coffee colored raw silk. It came out fine for the most part, it just didn’t really wow me all that much. The drab design paired with the muted neutral color made the whole garment feel sort of blah, and I learned that I don’t like drop sleeves very much. I thought the hoodie would be a nice staple to use for layers this season, but so far I never really reach for it because it’s just about my least favorite thing in my closet.

The most recent roadblock I faced was figuring out how to recreate this turtleneck dress I have had pinned on my pinterest board for over a year. I was enamored by it’s simplicity- clean lines, no sleeves, and a big thick turtleneck to top it off. So simple, yet so incredibly chic, and I hadn’t really seen a pattern or piece of clothing in a store that looked quite like it (though admittedly I haven’t shopped for RTW in a long time). This seemed like a fairly easy hack to pull off, so I pulled out some muslin knit material and tried to draft it myself, something I very rarely do. A little while later I had a pattern from my draped fabric and it was not terrible- I might even say it was pretty good! But it turns out that it simply wasn’t what I was looking for.

The silhouette of the original dress that I was copying (shown above) had a very loose fit- it seemed to just barely skim the curves of the bust of the form underneath it. But, given my personal experience with shapeless sack dresses, I was too afraid to commit to that design because it never looks as good on me as I want it to. So instead I draped a design that was a little looser than a normal body-con dress but that still fit my curves. This was wrong both in theory and practice: loose body-con dress is an oxymoron, and on top of that, once the dress was constructed it just looked…sad. Part of this was the fact that my fabric, a glorious navy blue ribbed knit from The Fabric Store (I bought it online but I have recently seen it in the LA store) was not the right textile for what I was using it for. It didn’t have a ton of stretch, but rather a drapier quality than most knits, so using it to “hug” my curves was a lost cause- instead, it hung limply from my body, not quite clingy, but not loose enough to let the fabric flow the way it wanted to. On a body bigger than mine that could really stretch out the loose shape of this dress, it just might work great, but not so much for me (if I can modify the armholes a bit to make them larger, I might be able to gift this dress to my mom).

So! Back to the drawing board! I am not sure why or when, but as some point, after sitting in my disappointment for failing at this garment, I went back to the original dress and wondered if I should try again using the intended silhouette as the design. This time perhaps I could fully embrace the “sack” like quality of the dress instead of fighting so hard against it! Immediately the Tessutti Frankie dress popped into my head. It has a design similar to the Ebony Tee by Closet Case patterns, a bit of an A-line shape which could either be ramped up or toned down depending on the fabric used. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I bought a couple of yards of this really fantastic, luxurious ribbed knit fabric in gold from Blackbird Fabrics. I had recently been in Vancouver for work and was able to stop by their studio to record an episode of Helen and Caroline’s podcast Love to Sew (mentioned in this blog post), and while in the space, I ran my fingers over several bolts of fabric and was able to personally experience how amazing they were. Everything was so soft, beautifully colored, rich feeling, and I knew exactly what I wanted to buy once I got myself to a computer to place an order. This gold ribbed knit is similar in structure to the blue ribbed knit I got from The Fabric Store, but a little drapier, with a slightly smoother hand, and with better recovery. I imagined this gold textile would be a better pairing for the dress I was going to make from the Tessuti pattern, which was already in my stash and easily hackable.

The hack was pretty simple- I omitted the facings and brought the neckline in on both the front and back pieces, since the original Frankie pattern has a slight boatneck design and I wanted a more standard neckline to accommodate a turtleneck. I think I eye-balled my neckline, but you could also use a favorite tee shirt pattern and trace that neckline onto your pattern pieces.

I kept the 3/4 sleeve length as-is but added thick cuffs to the hems (pretty much my go-to these days) which brought the sleeves closer to my wrists for more coverage, and I lengthened the front and back dress pieces nearly 10 inches because, since I kept the sleeves long, I figured I should make the whole dress wearable for cooler weather. Somehow, probably because of eyeballing the curve of the bottom of the pattern pieces instead of being precise with rulers, I cut my dress pieces out with a very subtle hi-lo hem. It’s not quite noticeable, but it dips deeper in the back than in the front, and I noticed this after I sewed the pieces together at the shoulder seams, but I didn’t even the hems out. I thought it made the dress a bit more interesting, and it mirrors the hemline of the Tessutti Anna dress that I made a couple years back, which I also love.

This is a very quick dress to make, especially without the facings, so it came together in no time. After the sleeves and front and back pieces were serged together, I tried it on and HALLELUJAH I loved it! I’m not really sure how technically close it is to the pinterest dress I obsessed over, but it works really well on me. It doesn’t cling to any parts of my body underneath the bust, but surprisingly, I don’t feel like I am swimming in it- there is enough fabric to create pretty folds as it falls from the bust, but not so much that it looks like a tent, and my fabric choice helped a lot with that. If it were in a stiffer fabric (like the embossed ponte knit that I originally made this dress in last year), it wouldn’t work with this hack at all, so I love that I stumbled upon this perfect ribbed fabric after my trials and errors.

Ahh, the turtleneck- it’s the only part of this hack that gave me problems, and all of it is my fault! The first time I attempted to make this pinterest dress, I used a ribbed knit fabric that had two identical/usable sides on the front and back. I didn’t take into account that my gold ribbed knit had a smooth back side with ribs on the front, so when I tried to make a turtleneck out of one piece of folded rectangular fabric, as I had with my first attempt- well, you can fill in the blanks, lol.

I was cursing myself something awful when I realized that my neck folded to the wrong side, but it was fairly simple to fix- unfortunately I was running out of fabric and had to be very inventive with how I cut my next pieces. The easiest fix would have been to sew two rectangles together so that both the outside and inside folded with it’s right sides out, but I didn’t want to have quadruple layers of fabric at my neck and I didn’t want to have a seam at the top of the fold either. So instead I cut the top of the inside of the neck off about midway up, then I sewed my rectangle to the edge of the shortened neck so that the outside rib shows when it is folded over. If you lift the turtleneck all the way up you can see the underside of the fabric, but it doesn’t matter because the seam is far enough up the neck that you don’t see it when it’s folded over. I love this fix and it’s very comfortable! My only other issue is that I wish I had made the neck a TINY bit wider to accommodate a slightly larger turtleneck- it’s a very tight squeeze to get my head through the hole (one of those do your hair and makeup AFTER it’s already on dresses)! But I actually do like the slim look of the neck, and it doesn’t feel too tight at all when it’s on.

I am SO GLAD that I went back to the drawing board with this dress because it really is everything I imagined that it would be, and it’s even more wearable with the changes I made to it than what I initially envisioned. I am so glad that I have been actively looking for fabrics in oranges, yellows and golds for my fall/winter makes because let me tell you something- I get MORE COMPLIMENTS ON THESE GARMENTS THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN MY CLOSET. Like, from strangers. And strangers don’t normally come and talk to me cause I have a bit of resting bitch face if I’m stressed or busy or running late (I’m not ashamed- most people are not happy and approachable ALL the time, nor should we be!) Anyways, it has been surprising how often these colors spark kind comments from people on the street, and I am ALL FOR IT. Also, this dress is insanely cozy and fun to style. Since the fabric is so supple and the shape isn’t clingy, it flows well without accentuating bumps and lines and folds that body parts and undergarments tend to create under clothing. I personally don’t mind having faint panty lines because, guess what, I wear panties! But I don’t particularly like when they are distracting, so I appreciate that this dress looks really chic on the outside while allowing me to live that granny-panty lifestyle underneath.

Autumnal colors for the WIN, y’all!

Coming To America

It is embarrassing how long it took me to put this little number together- I think from start to finish two and a half years passed between the skirt and the top! But better late than never, right?

I made this wrap skirt from a vintage 70’s pattern (Butterick 6809) that I saw on someone else’s blog and purchased from etsy. The skirt made me nostalgic, because even though I was a teenager in the 90s, I was always a HUGE fan of a good wrap skirt, and I collected a lot of them throughout my high school years, some from thrift stores and consignment shops, others from some of the cheap fast fashion retailers in the strip mall down the street (do any of y’all remember ‘Rainbow’? or ‘5- 7- 9’? We also had a spot in Birmingham that I loved called ‘Warehouse of Fashions’ that was filled with enough statically clung polyester to make a small army sweat profusely in a snowstorm). No one really thinks of the 90’s as being the era of the wrap skirt, but I’m here to tell you that it was! These skirts were way less stylish and fashion forward than their 70’s-centric counterparts, but they were most definitely available in RTW, often found positioned next to the infamous skorts garment, which was like a mullet for your bottom: a pair of shorts that came equipped with a flap of fabric attached to the side that could be buttoned or clipped closed at the opposite hip to make it look like a skirt in the front. I had these in denim, cotton, plaid, you name it! My love of fashion has come a long way, right? I can only imagine what kind of ensembles I would have put together if I had known how to sew way back then!

Anyways, my love for the wrap skirt waned after I got to college when my attention focused more on cheap JNCOs knock-offs and stretchy boot cut pants (sigh), but I have continued to reserve a little space for the iconic garment my heart. I like the simplicity of a wrap skirt- depending on the fabric you make it in, you can get a lot of drama out of the look, but the architecture remains simple; it’s basically a big rectangle with a long tie at the top and a hole with which to pull the tie through. I can’t remember the name of the blog that I saw this specific pattern on, but I loved how structured the skirt looked on the maker in a stiffer kind of fabric, so I immediately snapped it up to add to my pattern stash.

A little while later when I saw this bright geometric print at The Fabric Store in LA (again, from so many moons ago!), I knew it would be a great pairing of fabric and pattern. I loved the geometry of the textile, the clean white mixed with the bright gold, and it’s also reversible! It isn’t easy to tell in the pics but the main part of the skirt is made with the golder side of the fabric while the waistband and bodice are made with the whiter side (I accidentally put the skirt on the dressform inside out in the above photo so don’t pay attention to that lol). It’s a slick little design choice that doesn’t seem glaringly obvious but succeeds in breaking up the print a bit. So yeah, I knew it would be a great pairing, but I had no idea of the actual outfit I would try and create with the skirt, and once it was completed (again, this is one of the quickest garments to make, definitely a contender for easiest ‘first sewn garment’) I realized that I had no idea what to wear with it. In my head I was gonna pair it with a cute, tight t-shirt or make a nondescript silky tank that wouldn’t detract from the dramatic fabric of the skirt, but alas, I never got around to it. For one thing, I didn’t actually own the t-shirt that I was envisioning would look cute with this skirt, and if I’m honest, that kind of rock’n’roll meets couture look is not really so much my vibe anyways. And as far as the tank is concerned, I couldn’t for the life of me find a fabric that would look good with the white and gold foil.

Skip two and a half years-ish, where the wrap skirt has sat in my closet collecting dust because it doesn’t have a partner in crime yet. I had been perusing sewing blogs and I came across a lovely maker who had just recently made this MimiG crop top (Simplicity 8394) with a gigantic bow on the front. The top was adorable and sweet without looking juvenile. The blogger had paired it with a full skirt in a very pretty soft floral fabric with a bit of body, and I was in love with the whole look. I wondered what I could possibly wear with the top, which was pretty dramatic and unique in it’s style, when suddenly a flash of my gold and white wrap skirt popped into my head. Although it had been years since I had made it, I was almost positive that I had a tiny cut of the fabric left in my stash, probably enough to make this blouse, which surely didn’t require that much material.

 

I grabbed the pattern during the next sale at Joann’s, cut out the pattern pieces, and pulled out my remnant of fabric to see if I had enough to make it. I did. Just baaaaaaaarely. It required a very inventive cutting layout, some shaving off of certain pattern pieces, and the use of a different type of fabric to line the top with, but I made it happen! And it was just as cute as I had hoped! It has a few pieces of boning at the seams to give it some structure and help it maintain it’s shape, but it feels very comfortable and I love the length of the bodice- it’s not so high that it feels like you’re wearing a bikini top, but it is low enough that you get a little peek of belly skin, depending on what garment you are wearing on your lower half. I like that the back of the top buttons up, and I love that the bow isn’t stationary; it is sewn into the side seams, so you can tie the bow in the front or in the back, depending on your preference.

I had planned on tying the bow in the front as the pattern envelope shows, but once I paired it with the skirt, which has a wrap with a side tie, I didn’t quite like how it looked- it was overkill with two big bows screaming for attention, and this is coming from someone who LOVES bows. I was a little disappointed with the final result at first- imagine waiting nearly three years to complete an ensemble and then choosing the one pattern that doesn’t quite pair up perfectly! But then I played around with the bow placement and realized that I quite liked it when the bows were not tied on the same side (like with one in the front and the other in the back). My preference is: bodice bow in the back (party) and skirt bow in front (business). Looking at the profile I think it gives the whole look a bit of artistic flair that I wasn’t anticipating. Now I need to be real with y’all- when the bow is in the back I can’t tie it myself so I had to get Claire’s help with it, and ummm…Well, let’s just say that she doesn’t have a lot of experience tying big bows and making them look nice, even and full. That’s all I’m gonna say! I’m sure she will get better with practice LOLOLOL!

I obviously look like an extra in one of the most prolific movies of my lifetime, Coming To America, so I hope it doesn’t look too costumey because I am really digging it. The fabric isn’t an Ankara or Dutch wax print, but the bold geometry and stiffness of the fabric seems synonymous with it, particularly paired with the patterns I used. All I need is a head wrap and I will be golden! Oh man, I just realized, this would be such a great Halloween costume if I walked around in this ensemble with a basket of flower petals that I dropped all over the ground for people to walk on – I wonder if anyone would get it?

All in all, this was an easy, straightforward make, it doesn’t look like anything else in my #redcarpetDIY wardrobe, and I can’t wait to actually wear it to an event, although I will have to figure out the bow situation first. Maybe it’s because of the heaviness and stiffness of my fabric, but the bow starts to sink down a bit after a while and look pitiful, so I might need (Claire) to tie it perfectly and then sew it closed just to make sure that it stays perky, because you never know, someone might ask me to hop on one foot and bark like a dog (“a BIG dog”) and I want my outfit to pass muster 😉

 

The Jessica Dress

As soon as I saw Mimi G wearing her newest SewSewDef pattern, the Jessica Dress, on her instagram feed, I was in LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVE. This is one of those patterns that I have lowkey been searching for for the longest, to no avail. I have seen lot’s of comparable patterns, but nothing exactly like this, and this dress is EXACTLY what I have been looking for. The silhouette is so simple and familiar, yet it seems to have slipped out of the collective designer-hive consciousness…til now!

I love that it has a button band, I love that it has a sweetheart neckline, I love that it has princess seams, I love that it is tea length, I love the positioning of the bodice on the body, I love the patch pockets- I literally love every single thing about it.

Mimi’s first showing of the dress on IG was at the drafted tea length in a beautiful orange+gold+red Ankara fabric. She styled it with a pair of jeans underneath and I was just head-over-heels for it, but later on she posted another photo of the dress in a softer, drapey yellow fabric that just barely skimmed the ground, and it was just the most elegant and romantic garment ever. The big patch pockets, crisp in their initial Ankara incarnation, folded in on themselves in the flowy fabric, offering a bit of unexpected drama and sweetness to the whole look. Again, head over heels! I love a pattern that can pull double duty to look like two completely different dresses when made up in different fabrics. Ahh, the magic of sewing!

Needless to say, I stopped pretty much everything I was doing to move the Jessica dress up my project queue (I had been in the very middle of my Suits Me Refashion at the time), but I soon realized that I didn’t have the perfect fabric for this dress in my (admittedly meager) stash. I almost chose a fabric that I was only so-so about just so that I could have the satisfaction of completing the garment, but thankfully I stopped myself before I actually cut into anything. If I have learned NOTHING from the past four years of sewing my entire wardrobe, it is to NOT WASTE TIME sewing something in a fabric that I am not madly in love with. Sure, there is the rare occasion when a fabric that has presented itself as uninspiring can be elevated when paired with the perfect pattern, but it’s unlikely and, in my opinion, simply not worth the risk, especially when you are as stoked to sew up the pattern as I was this dress!

I suddenly had a memory of seeing this really fantastic shark print on the IG feed of an indie fabric/crafting store that I had the pleasure of patroning when I lived in Savannah last year. Although I live too far away now to shop there in person, I have continued to follow Fabrika’s instagram because it is inspiring, full of humor, and beautifully curated. Fortunately for me, it turned out that the print I had mentally catalogued in that gigantic filing cabinet in my brain for random information was yes, still in stock, yes a good apparel weight cotton, and yes, able to be shipped off to me in California. WHAT LUCK! Actually, it wasn’t luck at all- the staff at Fabrika is incredibly kind and helpful, and they seemed more than happy to sell to me over the phone. The truth is, I don’t take great customer service for granted at all anymore; you only need a couple of botched orders and infuriating email exchanges with what is arguably one of the most well-known fabric stores in the US to fully appreciate when a company knows how to treat customers with respect and gratitude.

Anyways, why was I so in love with this fabric? Well, it’s navy and white for one thing, which is probably my favorite neutral pairing (looking at my memade wardrobe, I’m starting to think that I use navy the way most people use black). Plus it has sharks, and sharks are infinitely cool! But I also love that, at first glance, you almost can’t tell that the print is comprised of sharks at all- they are so integrated into the swirly waves of the ocean around them that their gnashing teeth and hungry eyes don’t overpower the overall print, which keeps it from looking like a novelty quilting cotton (no shade if apparel made of novelty prints is your thing, though!)

The fabric is a pretty great weight for this dress- since I live in LA, it’s gonna be hot for a long time, and what would normally be a dress only good for the latter part of spring and all of summer is gonna carry me DEEP into fall with the aid of a jacket on top. It provides the same crispness and volume as the fabric that Mimi’s ankara print version does, which I love.

This is the first SewSewDef pattern that I have worked up, and I think it’s really impressive, particularly compared to the Seamwork patterns, which also come free with that magazine’s monthly publication. Seamwork has gorgeous designs and patterns, but unfortunately the drafting, much like the Colette brand, is really really off for me. I got a subscription to Seamwork a couple of years ago as a Christmas gift, and so far, every pattern I have made that wasn’t a simple knit top has needed a significant amount of work to make it look wearable and decent. In general, I think that the “Sew this project in only three hours!” concept kind of works against the brand- I consider myself a proficient sewist and I have never completed a dress from woven fabric in three hours that was worth a damn. But that sew it quick concept has nothing to do with the pattern drafting, which is my main beef with the brand, and why I bring it up here- because the SewSewDef pattern drafting is excellent!

They aren’t drafted with a lot of ease which is what I personally prefer, so I based my size off the finished measurements of the garment and made myself an XXS in the bust graded to an XS in the waist and the hips. While I was constructing it I kept second guessing my sizing and worrying that it would end up being too tight, to the extent that I even went back and opened up a couple seams to give myself a teeny tiny bit more room. Turns out, the drafting was perfect as-is, so I had to go back and add those tiny increments back to the seams before finishing it up, lol.

I made a few changes to match with my own preferred finishings which was easy to do, but honestly, this pattern came equipped with everything you could want to make a lovely looking garment. I omitted the facings for the bodice and instead lined the whole thing in self fabric, then under stitched it to keep the lining from popping out. I applied a strip of interfacing to the front center bodice pieces since I got rid of the interfaced facing, then stitched in the ditch on the outside of the garment at the waist seam to tack down the inside lining. Lastly, I added a bit of stay tape to the tops of the front bodice pieces at the seam to keep them straight and stiff since they looked like they had the tendency to lose their shape, as many curved bodice seams do.

Weirdly, I had a lot of trouble with the pockets! The pattern doesn’t come with markings on where to place the pockets and instead suggests to complete the dress and try it on before you decide where you want them to go- this was smart since everybody’s arm length and pocket preference differs, but it took me a long time to make the decision. In part because my fabric is bold and in part because the pockets are so large (the pocket is drafted as one size), I just couldn’t find the right place for them to sit without looking overwhelming and gaping out. I decided to make them smaller in both length and width and that totally did the trick. I also thought that pearl snaps would look really pretty (and be quicker to create) on this dress instead of making buttonholes and sewing buttons down the whole length. Yes, it meant a last minute trip to Joann’s, but it was also clearly a good decision- I love them! And it just occurred to me that I could have kept the original pocket size as is and simply added a snap to the tops to keep them from gaping out! Ah well, free tip for anyone who has the same issue as I did and doesn’t want to redraft the pocket 😉

Looking at the completed Jessica dress that Mimi was wearing in her IG pic, the design seems much more complicated than it actually is to make; it’s deceivingly simple! There were a couple of things that I particularly enjoyed about the construction process: for one, I appreciated the absence of a separate button band for the bodice; The buttons (or snaps in my case), are just applied to the interfaced edges of the front bodice pieces and is much less time consuming to construct than, say, an archer button down (which I have made about 20 times over the years). Easy peasy! I also loved the way that the bottom hem and button bands are assembled. You face the right sides of the button bands together at the bottoms, sew across the short ends and flip them right side out, then turn up the hem and sew in place. I am so used to the hem being the very last thing sewn on a garment before it’s completed that it was really refreshing to get it done with so early on.

There were one or two places in the instructions that were a little confusing, and I’m not sure if it’s because I read them wrong or because it was a typo. They didn’t mess me or my dress up, but it would be something for a beginning sewist to pay close attention to, lest they be led astray. Other than that, this dress is SUCH a winner for me. The gorgeous final result, the beautiful drafting which required no alterations (which makes me REALLY excited to dig into a couple of her other patterns knowing that I won’t have to spend a ton of time adjusting the fit), the versatility of the design- I am dying to make this in a soft, flowy white fabric next year!- the fact that I have been lowkey looking for this pattern for so long, the sweet fabric I was able to get from a brick and mortar fabric store hundreds of miles away- this dress was MEANT to be in my life 🙂

 

 

Suits Me, the Refashioners 2017 Challenge!

Well, bless it! The sewing community has come through again with a rush of encouragement, appreciation, and smoke blown up my bum, this time in the form of an invitation to join the illustrious Refashioners Blog Tour! For those unfamiliar, the refashioners take on an annual challenge of refashioning some specific type of garment into something new and (hopefully) improved. My introduction to the group was maybe a year or so ago when the theme of the refashion was ” jeans”, which obviously conjures up all kinds of possibilities, and the sewing bloggers who participated did NOT disappoint! This year’s theme is “Suits Me” and you can only imagine my amazement when coordinators Portia and Elisalex asked me to join their talented group of contributors. Although I have certainly re-worked an old garment or two in my past with some mending or re-hemming, I don’t actually have any experience with completely revising a garment from top to bottom, and I wondered briefly if my skillset would translate at this level of talent. Fortunately, the thought was quickly replaced with “You’re trycurious, damnit!”, and I quickly wrote Portia back to thank her for the consideration and to tell her to please count me in!

First up? Finding my suit! This was the most time consuming part of the challenge for me, since I don’t buy much clothing at all other than shoes and am out of the loop with the good consignment and vintage shops in LA. My only parameters for the suit were for it to be inexpensive (which can be a real feat in price-jacked Los Angeles) and I wanted it to be made of a quality material, namely NO POLYESTER, which has a tendency to absorb funky smells easily and makes me sweat like a Trump supporter reading Black Twitter. I spent days reading Yelp reviews of vintage shops around the city and jotting down their addresses when, on a whim, I decided to drive to Out of the Closet, a well-known chain of thrift stores in the city whose proceeds go to supporting LGBTQ and AIDS affected communities. It’s clean and well-stocked and I walked straight to their rack of suits and rifled through the thirty or so they had on display; within 10 minutes I had found my match- a black and white birdseye 100% wool two-piece that was several sizes too big for me, leaving me what I hoped would be plenty of room to play around with. The suit cost only $25 and if memory serves correct, one of the tags said the suit was made in Malaysia with Italian wool. The designer tag said “Andre Vachon”.

I didn’t think long and hard about what was to become of this suit before I pulled out my seam ripper, I just sat down on the couch and began taking it apart while watching season 2 of Last Chance U. At the end of a few episodes I had a pile of fabric puzzle pieces at my feet and a smaller discard pile consisting of things like lining and pockets. I decided straight away not to salvage the lining because, although the suit itself was made of what seemed like a good quality wool, the lining was a cheap acetate that I wanted no part of. I saved the buttons, too, though they were also cheap. I was amazed at how complicated the innards of the jacket looked once the lining was removed. I had seen and worked on certain elements of tailoring a jacket like this from books and websites, but I had never seen the handiwork up close and personal before. So many interfacings and pad stitched hair canvas, my goodness! I got rid of what I could but kept the interfacing on the front pieces because I figured they would offer whatever I ended up making a bit more structure.

As I took the suit apart, a solid image of the suit’s potential began to take shape. Thanks to the awesome suit-inspired pinterest board that the Refashioners had set up, I had lots of ideas floating around in my head, but I also wanted to keep in line with how the suit originated. As I mentioned, I had never taken on this kind of project before, so maintaining some simplicity and honoring the original architecture of the garment seemed like a good vibe to follow.

What if I just slightly altered the concept of The Suit, which has a tendency to feel a little stuffy and buttoned up? What if I took The Suit and made it a little more casual, a little more comfortable, a little more current and applicable to the needs of my life and career (which, as a professional actor, has virtually no dress code whatsoever)? If you follow my blog at all then you know that this concept is not out of the ordinary for me, as I just recently finished making a Jacket + Shorts outfit that upends the classic idea of a tailored two piece. I wanted this new refashioned suit to do the same thing, but I had to adhere to certain rules, namely sticking with the traditional suiting fabric it was made of, and incorporating some of the original design details in the suit that would prove impossible to work around.

The idea of a kimono jacket suddenly popped into my head, which I heartily latched onto. Maybe because it was one of the most recent patterns I had added to my stash? Or because the kimono silhouette, relaxed and so easy to wear, seems to be everywhere right now? (Although kimonos have certainly been fashionable and culturally relevant for far longer than when us westerners got hip to them)! A kimono provided an interesting twist to the idea of a classic suit jacket but the two still felt connected to me- both garments look structured and traditional, and they both feel like cultural identifiers. Kimono robes, at least the ones I have worn, are so comfortable, yet something about those wide sleeves that jut out from the body look very presentational to me. Couple that with the elegance of the band that flows around the neck and down the fronts of the jacket- a band that has the same visual impact of a necktie, but of course, looser, and perhaps more inviting. The more I thought about it, the more I loved the beauty and symbolism of subbing a kimono for a suit jacket, but who is paying attention to symbolism when you’re trying to refashion a garment into something wearable?

I am, damnit!

Once I settled on the kimono jacket, it made sense to make myself another pair of pants out of the suit bottoms, but obviously a pair that would fit me well and look good with the larger frame of the top- perhaps something high waisted with a slim leg. So that was it- I had my design! Now I just had to implement it.

With all my fabric pieces separated from their siblings and the seam allowances ironed out, I cut out the paper pattern for my jacket (I used McCalls 7200) and tried to figure out how to use them with the meager amount of fabric I had. It really was like trying to solve a puzzle! Looking at the suit on the hanger in Out of the Closet, I thought I was going to have yards upon yards of fabric to work with, but once the suit was deconstructed, I had much less to play with. I pulled out a couple of yards of black tencel from my stash that LA Finch Fabrics had kindly gifted me over the summer and planned to use it to supplement what I couldn’t create with the wool.

 

It took a while, but eventually I came up with a plan for the pattern pieces. I didn’t have enough fabric to make a full sleeved kimono as I had intended, but I didn’t mind; instead, I would use suit scraps to apply binding to the edges of my short sleeves, giving it a more finished look. I used the fronts of the original suit jacket for the fronts of my kimono, and because I didn’t have much room to play with, I kept the front welt pockets and darts intact. The pockets are functional, though very thin (actually perfect for glasses!) and although I tried to fight the inclusion of those details at first, I quite like them now. I love that echoes of the original suit are still peeking their way into the refashion in unexpected ways, like the breast pocket/handkerchief slot at the top of the suit jacket- when sewn up into my kimono the breast pocket ends up as a shoulder pocket on me, but you know what? That’s kind of a cool design detail! I feel like it’s something Rachel Comey might utilize, haha. And of course I chose to highlight this detail by sticking a little matching handkerchief inside it, lest it go unnoticed!

I had to do a lot of hacking to make the back pattern pieces and yoke for the jacket work- I didn’t have any original suit pieces large enough to accommodate them so I halved the pattern pieces on the fabric I had left, added seam allowances, and worked with them as if the jacket had a center back seam. Easy peasy. I used my black tencel for the band since I didn’t have enough suiting fabric, and I really like how it softens the stiffness of the jacket, and, as mentioned earlier, gives a bit of a symbolic nod to a more traditional necktie which is usually paired with a suit jacket. I used french seams for all exposed jacket seams and serged the hem before turning it up and hand stitching it down.

The jacket came together relatively quickly and I’m not gonna lie, I was really feeling myself at this stage of the refashion! I was like ‘oh, girl- you GOT this! You have SKILLS and you are SLAYING this challenge!’

But then it was time to work on the pants.

Cue horror music ending with a blood curdling scream.

I have had some great success making pants this year! The Palmer Pletsch method of tissue fitting was super helpful to me once I moved on from stretch jeans to slacks, and, having successfully nailed down the fit more than once of my most hated pattern brand, BUUUURDA, I felt confident that I could tackle a suit refashion with no problems! Unfortunately I made the mistake of using a pattern I had not tested out before. The pattern I chose, Burda #118 01/2015, has pleats with a plain waistband in the front, and in the back, an elastic waistband gathers the excess material instead of darts, which is a look I have loved for a while but never attempted to create myself. I tissue fit the pattern pieces for the pants, hoping to achieve a slim fit in the leg, and once I was happy with them, I proceeded to cut out my suit fabric

Here is the tragic retelling rundown of everything that went wrong how I Tim Gunned my pants:

  1. The fit of the original suit pants was gigantic on me, but when I deconstructed them I had much less fabric to work with than I thought I would,  meaning there was little to no room for error.
  2. I eliminated the pleats in the front of the pants thinking that the wool fabric from my suit wasn’t drape-y enough to keep them looking right.
  3. The suit pants had back welt pockets that were impossible to work with because of their placement- I tried hard to integrate the pockets as-is into my refashion, but because I intended to have a gathered, elasticized waistband in the back, the bulky welt pocket openings wouldn’t lay flat on my body and looked ridiculous.
  4. I decided to get rid of the welt pockets and openings to accommodate my back elasticized waistband. Of course that meant I would have huge gashes in the fabric right on my butt, so I planned to construct large patch pockets to cover the cut fabric (I also interfaced the pocket openings and used my machine’s darning stitch to cover them and keep them from stretching out/ripping further).
  5. With pockets omitted, I constructed the waistband for the pants using the original waistband. I removed the belt loops and used my tencel as a facing for the waistband. I sewed one edge of the elastic to the side seam of one side of the waistband, then tried the pants on so that I could cut my elastic to fit my waist. One look in the mirror and I realized that the decision to gather the back waistband was bad bad bad. I should have known the fabric would look way too bulky when pushed onto elastic, given that I omitted the front pleats for the same reason. But sometimes you have to see it to believe it!
  6. I changed the design of the pants, ditching the elastic back waistband idea for a more streamlined look with darts in the back. Which meant that I now needed a closure for the pants (the previously planned elastic waist meant I could just pull them up- in theory anyways, but when I tested them out I could barely squeeze them over my hips)!
  7. Enter: two darts on either side of the center back seam, and I also opened a side seam so that I could apply a zipper (I didn’t use the original zipper that came with the suit pants as it was just a cheap, regular plastic dress zipper and I prefer metal zippers for pants).
  8. The addition of these design elements requires a second a third a fourth an outlandish number of fit alterations of the pants, so I end up removing the waistband several times to do things like raise the rise of the pants, make way for a side zipper, change the curve of the waistband, take the side seams in (over and over again), cut up the waistband to accommodate all the changes, etc. This is where my waistband starts looking like frankenstein.
  9. I notice, not for the first time, that the waistbands of men’s pants have a center back seam, while literally NONE of the women’s pants I have worn/bought in recent memory comes equipped with the same. I can’t imagine why they don’t- a center back seam at the waistband means that if you want to give yourself or take away room in the waist area of your pants, all you have to do is open the center back seam and remove/add fabric to the seam without having to fuss with cutting the waistband up or opening the side seams. What gives? I am determined to remember this detail and cut all my future waistbands with a center back seam!
  10. I should have taken out some length at the hip line of the pants during my tissue fit phase, but it’s too late to do that now, so I keep bringing the crotch in more more more so I don’t look like I have a diaper on.
  11. Where am I? What day is it? Am I still working on these pants? What are pants??? What…is…life???
  12. WHAT ARE PANTS, I ASK YOU???
  13. The fit at this point is about as good as it’s gonna get, so I can now start focusing on how to cover up the horrendous slashes from the welt pockets in the back. I had decided that big patch pockets would cover them up nicely, but of course, because of the weird positioning of the welts which are very high and close to the side seams, this is easier said than done. On one side of the pants I am able to cover the welt completely with the large pocket, but I can’t seem to get it even on the other side without the slash from the welt peeking through on the side.

    And here is where I achieve my proudest moment in this make. I spy the black designer tag from the inside of the jacket chillin’ on the edge of my cutting table- I saved it because I thought it would have been fun to position the Andre Vachon tag and my own TryCurious tag together somewhere inside of the garment, but now it looks like the perfect way to conceal the cut from the welt pocket. I fold the tag and place it inside of the pocket so that just the AV emblem is peeking out of the side, which perfectly covers up the cut and looks like a design element I have seen on a million RTW garments before.

    Because the tag is black, it matches the wool fabric and looks intentional. I sew the edges down onto the wool to ensure that it won’t flip up and reveal the cut underneath, and for extra good measure, I sew a button through the pant leg to the top of the pockets, holding the open edge down. Because the cuts are so close to the top of the pocket edge, they have a tendency to slide into view and I want to make sure that they stay covered. This makes the pockets less functional, but I don’t mind, as I’m not a big back pocket user. Besides, the pockets were only added to cover up the cuts in the first place.
  14. I reattach all the belt loops around the waistband thinking they will help cover up some of the mad piecing together of this pattern piece, which has so many seams in it at this point that I could just refer to it as a quilt. Pants are tried on to scrutinize my handiwork. Belt loops are immediately removed because they look too distracting.
  15. I tack down the zipper tape, hand stitch a blind hem in the pants legs, and…I’m done? My pants saga is over? Could it be???

As a final result the pants are… not terrible! Ha! But of course there is room for improvement. The zipper on the side of the pants is wavy, which, in my experience, means the seams need to be stabilized with stay or twill tape. The big patch pockets on the back of the pants don’t look as bad as I thought they would (they remind me of the 70’s when all pants seemed to be extremely high waisted and pockets were positioned halfway up the wearer’s back!), but I am not crazy about the way that they peek out underneath the kimono jacket. This could have been avoided if the jacket was the length that I initially wanted it to be (a few inches longer), but of course I was constrained by the amount of fabric that the suit gave me to work with and I couldn’t squeeze any more length out. I ironed out the creases that were originally in the suit pants because I don’t like the way creases on pants fronts look on me when they don’t disappear into a waist dart, and I omitted the darts to keep the front looking crisp and clean. However I think they look fine without the creases, and I love the slightly tapered ankle length.

My last and final decision for this make was to add a belt for the kimono jacket, because the silhouette just looks way better to me when the waist is cinched in. Thankfully I was able to use most of the jacket collar for this piece (and it was already interfaced!); my pile of suit pattern pieces dwindled quickly- pretty much everything I had left was small or curved and I really didn’t want to have to make a belt comprised of 32 seams to rival my waistband, LOL.

As for the styling of this outfit, I have no idea what initially sparked me to pair it with this Esplanade Bra from Orange Lingerie, but once the main pieces of the jacket were completed and I was ready to try it on, it was the very first thing I grabbed from my closet (the strapless bra is gorgeous and since I have made it twice now, I am planning on blogging about it, but til then, know that this one was made with a kit from the wonderful TailorMadeShoppe’s etsy store) ! I’m sure it has a little something to do with the fact that I had just recently finished making the bra in a different fabric as a bustier to pair with a skirt (coming to the blog soon!), so the look was fresh in my mind. Either way, I tried it on and it immediately conjured up images of a 90’s Madonna, with her baggy suit pants and torpedo bra. The bra shows a fair amount of skin, so pairing it with this suit feels unexpected, but I still really like it. The lines of the front of the jacket do a great job of revealing just a tiny bit of the surprise that’s underneath, and it also ties in well with this Budoir For the Streets theme I have going on. For me, the idea of a kimono robe draped over a stately, beautifully shaped bra in pinks and reds is totally incongruous to the look of a black and white wool birdseye men’s suit, but surprisingly, the two together really work.

And that’s it, folks! I finished this project in record time, mostly because I was obsessed with getting it done as soon as I started working on it- I didn’t want to procrastinate and then be stressed out trying to problem solve at the last minute. I like my sewing to be fun and pressure-free! Plus, my job can take me out of town with little more than a day’s notice, and I hated the thought of being in the middle of this refashion with a deadline looming and then having to hop on a plane. As a whole, I am so happy with how this make turned out- I tried really to hard to create something that I would actually wear at some point in the future, not just something that would suffice for this challenge, and with that, I think I have succeeded. There are definitely some little things about the make that bug me, like, as I mentioned before, the pants pockets not being totally covered up by the jacket, and how there are lots of teeny tiny tears and holes throughout the wool fabric, which couldn’t be avoided- most of them came from the holes that were leftover after I carefully removed buttons, seams, welt pockets, etc. It’s just par for the course when you’re working with fabric that has already been manipulated into a garment. Fortunately, this just adds even more character to an ensemble that already has a pretty remarkable story. I feel so grateful to have been able to participate in this challenge, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and proving that I have both the creative chops and skillset to compete with the rest of The Refashioners, so here is a big thank you to Portia and Elisalex for believing in my abilities and inviting me into the fold- this has been such a blast and I feel very proud 🙂

Click here to stay up to date with The Refashioners 2017, see all the other inspiring refashions AND find out how you could win an amazing prize!

Vogue: 0 Me: 1; A Tale of Two Cut Outs

It wasn’t just the cut outs that pushed this make into WTF territory, it was the armholes, too, but I am getting ahead of myself…

yep, basically how the whole process of constructing this dress went.

I was inspired to make this older (I think it’s out of print but it’s not vintage) Vogue 8900 pattern after seeing it on Ada Spragg’s instagram and falling in love with it. Everything about her dress is perfect- I loved the bright yellow color, obviously. I loved the weight of the fabric, which seemed sturdy and firm, offering some interesting contrast to the delicate cut-outs and shoulder baring silhouette of the garment. And I was also intrigued by the princess seams on the front of the dress, which start off parallel to one another in the bodice and then move towards each other in the skirt, creating hourglass lines on the backdrop of a slightly flared A line skirt. A lot of interesting features in one garment, but subtle enough to not appear too overwhelming, in my opinion.

I chose a fabric from my stash that I had just recently picked up for my monthly allotment at The Fabric Store, a barely mid-weight silk cotton in a beautiful large navy and white floral print. I fall in love with pretty much every silk cotton I get my hands on and this one was no different- it sews up with the ease of a regular quilting cotton, but it has a different kind of texture- soft and silky and crisp, with the tiniest bit of texture to it. It’s hard to explain how it feels between my fingers, all I know is that I love wearing it and working with it.

I knew to make a muslin before I cut out my fashion fabric since Big 4s are big on me and this garment in particular is designed to fit like a glove. When I announced on IG that I would be making this dress, Ada let me know that the cut outs were positioned in places that would make it difficult to wear a regular bra without it peeking through, so I was even more convinced that the dress would need to hug my bust and waist so that I could go braless without the fabric sagging or bunching up anywhere.

I cut out a size 10 graded to a 12 in the hips, sewed it up and tried it on, and it was even bigger than I had imagined it would be. The bodice was pretty much a perfect fit and I didn’t make any adjustments there- in comparison the waist was a pretty good fit as well, but the hips were much too roomy. There are a lot of interestingly shaped panels to this skirt but it didn’t make the adjustments too difficult. I left the side seams intact and instead focused on adjusting the princess seams in the side front and the side back panel pieces. The two curved seams in the front needed the most tweaking because subtle changes in those lines seemed to affect the fit most dramatically, and I also wanted them to mirror the lines of my own body as much as possible. Since these patterns tend to be drafted for someone several inches taller than myself, the “hourglass” seams on the front of the skirt just didn’t align with the curves of my own body, so I had to completely re-work them, but I was fairly successful with it in the end. I left out the bias strip cut outs on my muslin since I was only muslin-ing for fit. Next, I marked the lines of my new seams on my muslin dress, took the muslin apart, and transferred the new seam lines from the muslin pattern pieces to my paper pattern pieces in case I ever decided to make this garment again (at the time I thought that I certainly would, but now having experienced the cut-outs from hell, I’m not quite sure…)

I cut out my fashion fabric and constructed pretty much the entire dress before I got to the cut outs, which I assumed would be a piece of cake to finish. Now technically, the only cut outs are the two holes on either side of the waist, but since the armholes and the neck hole all required finishing with bias cut strips of fabric and almost all of them gave me a ridiculous amount of trouble, I am referring to all the holes in the dress as cut outs. The instructions in the Vogue pattern suggest that you sew the short ends of the bias strips together to create a loop, baste the long edges of the bias tape together, then sew the loop to the edges of your cut outs, topstitching down. I immediately side-eyed this method of application because for one, it leaves an unfinished raw edge on the inside of the garment, which is simply unnecessary (and to me, kind of defeats the purpose of using bias tape), and two, I had just never done it this way before, which is important to note. Sometimes you try a new-to-you technique for a familiar application and learn a better way to do something, and other times you try a  new-to-you technique and realize why you are never instructed to do things that way in the first place.

My bias tape application usually encases the entire raw seam and then is sewed down to the inside of the garment with a seam allowance related to the width of the bias tape. So this technique was…weird, to say the least. But, being trycurious, I decided to try this new-to-me method; I figured that maybe it would provide a detail or certain amount of ease that I simply couldn’t envision at this point. I did however decide to forgo stitching the bias tape closed into a loop before sewing it to the dress- I knew the chances of it being the exact right measurement of my cut outs when sewn closed was pretty low, and this is the only smart choice I made throughout this whole process, because my instinct was right- the bias tape ended up being too long on every single cut out. I am more comfortable with the method of sewing the tape down as you go, leaving an inch or so free on either end, then the sewing the tape together and stitching down when you have only a few inches of tape left to close the loop.

Anyways, I did it Vogue’s way and it was awful. The size of the cut outs on the waist were simply too narrow to accommodate the curve of the bias tape without skewing the hole’s shape, so the tape stuck up and out instead of laying down flush to the skin. I thought, ‘hmmm, maybe I need to cut off some of the binding in the seam allowance by serging the raw edges so there is less fabric in the outside curve of the tape?’, and then I proceeded to do exactly that. Serging the edges did not help it at all, and now I had two cut outs with significantly less seam allowance left, so continuing to work on them with the original pieces would be tricky (eventually it would turn out to be impossible). I put the side cut outs on hold and moved to the armholes to see if I could figure them out. A normal armhole, of course, is fairly easy to apply bias binding to- I have never had a problem with them before, but because these armholes are drafted into the shape of a racer back and curved deeply in the front, the openings are way more dramatic than standard armholes, which makes sewing bias tape onto the curves difficult to do successfully, giving me the same problems the cut outs did. For this bias tape application I decided to use a technique I was more familiar with, which was sewing the raw edge of the tape to the outside of the opening, then folding the other side of the tape over the seam allowance, thereby encasing the raw edge. I left about 1/4″ of the tape visible to the right side of the garment as shown on the pattern envelope, as opposed to folding the whole width of tape to the inside and top stitching down.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVVV45sBw6H/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

You can imagine my surprise when I completed one armhole and realized that this technique didn’t help at all- the armholes, in fact, looked worse than the side cut outs (look at the IG shot above!!!! THE HORRORRRR!!!!!) The edge of the armhole stood out from my dressform stiffly, refusing to lay flat, and it even did some weird swirly thing where it puckered and gaped and made the armhole look stretched out (thank goodness I stay stitched my openings from the start, otherwise this dress might not have made it). Now I was running out of ideas. The way that the holes were behaving made me think that I needed to cut notches into the deepest part of the curves, but the pattern was drafted for use with bias tape, so why would you cut notches into bias tape?? And at this point I had vastly decreased the amount of SA included in the pattern because of serging my edges off the side cutouts, so I had even less room to work with.

I took a deep breath. After making a plea on IG and not getting any info that helped (except for Ada confirming that yes she had ignored the Vogue instructions for the bias tape application but no she hadn’t had a problem getting her tape to lay down flat, though she had used a much different fabric than mine) I could only think of one other thing to try out. I had ruined my bias strips with the shoddy application, and I was out of fabric so I couldn’t make any more strips that matched the dress. Instead, I used some 1/2 inch white single fold bias tape from my stash. I sewed the edge of the tape onto the raw edge of my cutouts (trimming the armhole openings to match the width of the side cut outs which had been trimmed when serged). At the deepest curves in the cutouts, I very carefully cut tiny notches into the outside edge of the bias tape, about halfway through the width. Then I topstitched the bias tape down to the inside of the garment.

Thankfully this method actually worked! Of course it is nowhere near as clean on the inside as I would like (I tried to take pictures but they turned out really blurry!), but on the outside, the cutouts lay down beautifully, which is all I cared about at this point- I just wanted the dress to be wearable! And when I started having so much trouble with the bias tape application, I thought there was a good chance that it wouldn’t be.

So here we have it, a dress that looks pretty cool after all is said and done, due in no small part to a Make-It-Work moment. The fit of the dress in the bodice is perfect- it doesn’t feel tight or constricting, but it looks fitted and the dress doesn’t bag out or sag anywhere. The skirt does have some weird puffiness at the seams right at the hip bones, but I can’t tell if it’s because the seams needed to be taken in more or because the fabric has so much body, and from what I can tell you can’t even see the puffiness looking straight at the dress, I can only see it when looking down at my hips when I am wearing it. Not a big enough issue to try and fix. I think that overall, the dress looks great, and since it was so close to going in the Butthole Bin, I just want to cut my losses and enjoy the save. I wore it to Mimi’s sewing conference a couple of months ago and then again at SDCC for our interviews and panels for our new Amazon animated show, Danger & Eggs, and it was a smash hit both times! I’m really happy with it and I feel super fancy wearing it, just so long as no one asks to see what it looks like on the inside…

 

That Rachel Comey Dress

Everybody loves Rachel Comey and everybody loves Vogue 1501, but it took me a really long time to jump on the bandwagon. I appreciate Rachel Comey’s designs across the board, but I don’t think that they often suit me and my style. At first glance, some of the designs are just a little too out-there for my tastes, and others seem a little too simple, but I am learning that I should give her patterns (and probably others that I judge too quickly) a second glance. It turns out, very little of what Comey designs should be categorized as ‘simple’, and paying more attention to the technical drawings as opposed to the styling on the pattern envelope would probably do me good. Vogue seems to be a fan of matching Comey designs with abstract and/or bold fabrics, and while I LOVE a good print, I think that practice has a tendency to overwhelm the design features of a garment with as much nuanced detail as Comey’s tend to have. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I have definitely overlooked many designs simply because the styled image of the garment turned me off, so it looks like that old adage about books and covers holds true for the sewing world, too; you can’t judge a pattern by it’s envelope.

I first saw Vogue 1501 on either Heather’s blog or IG feed a while ago, before she had even sewn it up (I think she posted a pic of the pattern envelope and shared how excited she was to sew it up). I remember thinking “what a strange design!” and not giving it another thought til I saw the finished makes that she and What Katie Sews created; both were dark colored and beautiful. There was something special about the pattern that I had overlooked before, and seeing it sewn up and being worn on an actual body showed me how classy and sophisticated (and yes, very NYC Magazine Editor!) it was. So I bought the pattern, because I am nothing if not heavily influenced by my favs in the sewing community. It only sat in my craft room for a few weeks before I decided what fabric to us for it.

Interestingly enough, my experience with the fabric I chose was very similar to my experience with the pattern. I had seen the bolt in The Fabric Store several times before and gawked at the beautiful periwinkle blue of the background, but maybe because it was silk, which always requires a bit of extra work and attention) or maybe because I had no ideas of what to make with it, I just disregarded it. It wasn’t until I saw Mimi’s stunning shirtdress version in the same fabric that I felt inspired to grab it, regardless on if I had a plan for it or not, and I am so happy that I did, because this material + pattern are a match made in heaven!

Aside from the gorgeous color palette (that pale peach and blue together are EVERYTHING), I love the Art Deco inspired look of the print. I thought it would pair well with the design of Comey’s pattern, which at first glance seemed pretty modern to me, but after making it, it feels a bit more rooted in vintage elements. I get a 20s/30s vibe from the loose, blousy top paired with the knee-length skirt, but the tucked-in front makes it feel more current. I made a size 8 in the blouse and a size 10 in the skirt, which was easy to combine since the blouse and skirt are separate pieces and are only connected at the waist front by one line of stitching. I could probably have gone down a size/adjusted the blouse to make it even smaller but the loose fit works for the silhouette. I ended up having to take the skirt in significantly at the back seam where the zipper is inserted, but it was easy to do- the pleats at the front of the skirt (which are so pretty draped in this fabric) allows for a lot of flexibility in the body of the skirt, so I only needed to adjust the fit at the waist and then taper down to nothing at the hip.

I had read on Pattern Review that this dress has shoulder pads and an interesting shoulder seam gusset to accommodate the extra material at the top of the shoulder (I had totally overlooked that detail from the pattern envelope info). I wasn’t sure if I wanted shoulder pads or not so I decided to construct the dress with the gusset and just yay or nay the pads when the time came to insert them. I am generally not a fan of shoulder pads in anything other than coats, maybe because my shoulders match up pretty well with the width of my hips and don’t droop down, so pads tend to make my shoulders look incongruous with the rest of my body. Once the gussets were in, I sewed up a thin shoulder pad from some quilt backing and covered it in the dress fabric, then inserted it into the blouse. It didn’t make a significant difference with the overall shape of the dress on my figure, but you could see the edges of the shoulder pad imprinted on the inside of the blouse, which was very noticeable and messy looking. I decided to forgo the pads but I kept the gussets in because it would have been too complicated to try and remove them without ruining the fabric.

For some reason I totally forgot to use French Seams when I started sewing the blouse of this dress, so there are all kind of finishes on the inside: a couple seams are serged, most of the others are frenched, and I managed to get a few Hong Kong seams in there, too! Ha! As long as they don’t come unraveled, it doesn’t matter which technique I use.

I recognize that the busy-ness of my pattern hides a lot of the design details of the dress (something that I didn’t like about the styling on the pattern envelope), but maybe I just like my fabric print better than Vogue’s so I give it a pass. I can definitely see myself making this garment again, in a solid color this time, and maybe a few tweaks to the fit; I would be interested in removing a tad bit of length from the blouse (mine billows out a bit and I have to pull the blouse up at the shoulders so that it sits straight and doesn’t fall forward), skipping the insertion of the shoulder pad gussets, and I would also like to play around with the idea of shortening the back part of the blouse so that you can see the skirt back; a bit of a play on a crop top look while keeping the front the same. It might not work, but it’s certainly worth a try! When I envision this new version of the dress, it’s peach or orange hued with a rich, velvety texture, so let’s see if this ends up coming to fruition!

Kalle Shirt

I initially thought I would only make the Kalle shirt dress from the Closet Case pattern when it came out (as seen here), but as soon as I saw the photos of the model in the white cropped Kalle shirt, I was obsessed with that look, too. This is not a silhouette I wear often, if at all. Cropped, loose, AND boxy?? Goes against everything I thought to be true about my body and what “looks good” on it. But I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that I am challenging those notions. And why shouldn’t I? The shirt is an amazing design, and I haven’t seen a pattern quite like it before.

That low hem in the back, while too dramatic in the fugly McCalls dress I made, looks really chic and fun in the Kalle shirt, and I love the option of the low, rounded collar design with it. I also like that it’s structured while simultaneously providing some party in the overall silhouette. The whole garment looks unique and cool, one of those tops that I would find in an expensive boutique when I shopped RTW and want to buy for myself, but would ultimately decide against, nervous that the look was too hipster for my tastes.

I had a white printed cotton in my stash from LA Finch Fabrics that I knew would look perfect in the design, but I am sure this was due in no small part to the fact that the sample of the shirt in the pattern photos was also made from a white, crispy, stable material (what can I say? I’m a sucker for inspiration photos!). I had no idea if I would like wearing it or not, but I had to give it a try, and I’m really glad I did because I think it came out great. Unfortunately you can’t see the subtle design of the fabric very well in these photos, but it has a pastel colored abstract line drawing that spans across the yardage, providing just enough color to make it interesting, but not too much to detract from the cool lines of the pattern.

I just barely eeked out the pieces for this pattern from my two yards of fabric and I did a pretty crappy job of pattern matching because I didn’t have much wiggle room. I also neglected to true my fabric before I started cutting out my pattern pieces (lazy!), so the back piece, which was cut on the fold, is just a tiny bit slanted. It isn’t super obvious to anyone but me, probably (story of my sewing life), and thankfully the subtlety of the print helps hide it, too.

I made some weird mistakes when constructing the hidden placket of my Kalle Shirtdress but maybe since I used the regular button band option on this top, which I have much more experience with, it came together like a breeze. I really like the bottom facing used on this blouse- it encompasses the entire hem of the shirt and gives the hem a little bit of weight to make it fall beautifully, while also giving it a polished-looking finish. So far I love pairing this top with my Morgan/ Ginger Mash-up Jeans and also my Flint shorts, but I have a feeling that it would look really fantastic with a fitted knit pencil skirt, too, which I don’t actually have in my closet. I tried the Colette stretch fabric mini skirt pattern a few years ago and it fit so poorly that I didn’t even know what to do to make adjustments to it, but I am a more advanced sewist now, so maybe I could figure it out? I’m pretty “meh” about Colette sewing patterns for my body though, so I would also be interested in hacking the Nettie dress and bodysuit by Closet Case into a skirt and just adding a waistband to it since that pattern is such a great fit for me.

As far as the other details of the make, I love them all just like I love them in the dress I made; loose, easy-fit kimono sleeves, roomy fit in the bust and belly, and a length that works perfectly for my particular height and taste- this top just barely grazes my midriff so it doesn’t make me feel too exposed. It’s easy to alter the overall length of this pattern to your own preferences, though.

All in all a really fantastic pattern from Close Case that I am loving and interested in making again! I would love to see what this blouse would look and feel like in a less sturdy fabric, like a rayon or silk, and LA Finch Fabrics gifted me a gorgeous cut of black tencel recently, which is buttery smooth and rich to the touch that I think would look fantastic in this silhouette. I don’t make very many garments out of black fabric unless it’s used as an accent or it’s color blocked, so this would be a nice push out of my comfort zone, which I am really into lately. But I also already know what I would want to pair with it- I have a beautiful wool tweed pencil skirt that I made years ago that would look great with black, but would also look great with the shape of this loose blouse! I will probably go with the standard collar on this version just to mix it up a bit and I am already convinced that it would be a fierce looking ensemble. Consider it bumped up on the TO MAKE list!

Sequins of Events: THE SEQUIL

This shiny animal print fabric had been at The Fabric Store for quite a long time before I finally felt brave enough to give it a try, and that was only because I had successfully completed this sequinned dress first. It’s so different than the black and gold reversible fabric I had used before and it was pretty educational to see and feel exactly how different the two types of sequins were to work with. My black and gold fabric was stretchy and required zig zag stitches to construct it, but this fabric is made with a silk-type (probably polyester) woven fabric as the base that has the sequins sewed on top of it in rows. While I am not normally into animal prints, the shine and pretty colors in this one really drew me in, and I opted to go for a simple garment pattern to highlight the print, much like my last sequin make.

I have to say, I am not crazy about how this dress came out, but that is all due to the pattern choice. For some reason I chose Named’s Inari Dress/Tee pattern, even though I had made it before and hated it (it never made it here to the blog cause the fit was so awful). I figured that this time I could make some adjustments to the pattern pieces and fix the fit issues I initially had, but in hindsight, I should have simply chosen a different pattern. I hate wasting patterns! Anyways, the Inari dress is drafted to skim the figure with a loose fit in the bust and waist that slightly dips back in at the thighs, and it just doesn’t suit my bottom heavy shape at all. It didn’t feel comfortable to walk in when I first made it and I didn’t feel like it looked very good on me. To adjust the pattern pieces this time around and give myself more room in the butt area, I added a couple inches to the sides of the front and back pattern pieces, flaring them out a bit from the waist. It definitely fits better than the first time I made the pattern, but it’s still not great- I think this dress would have looked much better if it flared out from the bust and I had eliminated the side slits, giving it a more swingy silhouette.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s terrible, and I know I will definitely wear it, but I wish I had challenged myself more after the first sequin dress and played around with a different look. Looking at these photos I feel like this would have looked great as a fitted miniskirt! I have no idea if there is enough fabric to accommodate refashioning it as such, but I might give it a try after wearing this incarnation a couple of times.

The fit bothers me mostly in the back where the amount of fabric in the shoulders and waist seems to be disproportionate to the amount of ease provided in the hips. I don’t like how the fabric falls from my shoulders and then collects on the top of my butt. Wearing a slip underneath helps keep the lines a bit cleaner, but it still doesn’t feel good. And I like to wear clothes that feel good! I feel like I am swimming in fabric on top whereas the bottom of the dress feels comparatively tight.

Since this fabric is woven and not stretchy, it did make for slightly easier construction. I still used an upholstery needle to sew the side seams, but was able to use a regular straight stitch for them instead of zig zagging, and I was also able to fold over and sew the hems down onto the fabric without it bunching up and looking puffy. Like the black and gold dress, I encased the side, shoulder and sleeve seams with bias tape, and I also sewed a length of bias tape to the raw edges of the hems before sewing them to the inside, since the sequins on this dress were even more scratchy than the black and gold one. 

This style of this look feels very 80’s to me (hence the above pose), which I kind of like. In general I am not for the poofy shoulders and over-the-top silhouettes that embody that era, but I do love the bold prints and weird color combinations that were so popular, and I like pairing those qualities with more modern design features. In that respect, this dress is a success! But I dunno, I’m still interested in reworking this into something that feels a little more me, and turning this lesson I learned into something wearable. I keep thinking of that Rachel Comey for Vogue short skirt that everyone has always raved about (despite the drab and dated styling on the pattern cover, I’ve seen some pretty great renditions of it by several bloggers)…I bought it on sale a while ago but haven’t found a suitable fabric to make it in. Maybe this is a match made in heaven?

But also probably not anytime soon? What with being so behind in my sewing queue and needing to take pictures and blog recent makes (for the past few weeks I have been dealing with both a very serious family emergency and a trip to Costa Rica for a destination wedding/vacation and I am just now back home trying to get my life back together), this potential project isn’t very high up on the list. But who knows, I might just surprise myself and dig into it sooner than later; I’m finally sewing up Rachel Comey’s Vogue 1501 and I’m loving it so far- maybe I need to stay on this Rachel Comey kick?!