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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?!

Kielo Wrap Dress: Take 37

Ok, ok, I have not made this pattern 37 times, but I feel like I’ve made it a lot and the truth is that I have never been completely happy with it. My first version is here where I was given some beautiful fabric from Girl Charlee with which to sew it up. I loved the drape of the fabric, the bold print, the slinkiness, but…it just wasn’t me. I’m still not sure why. You ever see something that you can intellectually identify as aesthetically pleasing, but it’s just not for you? That was my relationship to this fabric. It might be the simple fact that I am not a huge fan of wearing black- had this fabric been yellow or pink, I’m sure it would be in rotation in my closet to this day. But alas, it sat idle in my closet for nearly 2 years without one wear before I decided to put it in my etsy shop for sale, and I donated the proceeds to charity. Subsequently a maker friend of mine, Sarah (who is the creator of the feel good/give good website youareanawesomehuman.com– go check it out and spread some love while helping support a small business!), bought the dress from my shop and gifted it to a friend of hers for Christmas who looked absolutely stunning in it (they sent me pics!), so I have no regrets about this make it at all. If there is such thing as a “rightful owner” of anything in this world, this dress found theirs!

The second time I made this dress was as a gift to my Mom, made up in a bright floral print, and she loved it so much that she wore it into the ground- not even sure it’s still standing anymore. Which means I should probably make her another one. I wish I had a picture of her in it- it fit her and her style so perfectly! Anyways, after seeing her flaunt her Kielo around, I became determined to make myself a more casual one that I could wear regularly (at this point, I was convinced that the reason I didn’t wear my original black and white version was because it was too dressy for everyday but not quite dressy enough for a red carpet event). Named Patterns wrote a blog post on how to add sleeves to the wrap dress and shorten it and I was obsessed with the pretty striped version they hacked. I decided that this was the dress that needed to be in my closet, so I bought some beautiful striped oatmeal-colored jersey from Organic Cotton Plus and went to town hacking the original pattern by following the blog post’s notes.

It was a catastrophe. My friend Lawrence said I looked like the girl from The Ring when I showed him a photo of myself wearing it, my head bowed in defeat. I don’t know what went wrong! Perhaps the fabric was too heavy for the pattern? Maybe I should have adjusted the sizing even more? Who knows! But it looked terrible. Misshapen, baggy, tired- no matter which way I tied the straps or tried to cinch the fabric, it was screaming “NO NO NO”. I wrote another post on trying to Make It Work by getting rid of the “wrap” factor and making a few other adjustments so that it was more fitted and I wasn’t swimming in so much heavy fabric, but I messed up the collar by cutting too much off the seam allowance and I ended up with a distorted hem that wanted to be a boatneck but ultimately looked like a shipwreck (<—–I have never been prouder of a sentence than that one right there). Although I bravely wore the dress once or twice, it just didn’t look or feel good on, and it has since been relegated to the Butthole Bin™. I’m pretty sure there is enough fabric left in this dress to salvage a tank top out of it so I’m hoping to get that done this summer cause I HAAAATE WASTING FABRIIIIIC.

So let’s fast forward to Make 37. I learned my lesson. Sort of. I had a few yards of fabric from The Fabric Store that I thought I was going to use for this pattern, but that pattern turned out to be such a disaster when I made it the first time that I knew I would never make it again, so I sat for a while pondering what else it could be made into. And then it hit me: the Kielo wrap dress would be perfect for it! The fabric is a translucent, smokey black rayon crepe with a gauzy texture, and its’ sheerness gives the same effect as the sample of the Kielo dress on Named’s website, which is actually the dress I fell in love with when I first saw the pattern. Why did I keep making this pattern up in printed stretchy knit prints when everything I loved about the pattern was exemplified in the simple, sheer fabric in the pattern photo? Why had I been going about this all wrong for so long??

The Kielo Wrap Dress states that you can use either a knit or a woven fabric, which has always stumped me a bit. I am usually surprised when two fabrics with such different qualities are suggested as being interchangeable for certain patterns, and now I know the truth- they AREN’T. Or maybe they are, but there is usually some adjusting necessary, which the Named pattern description doesn’t get into at all. When making the Kielo in knit fabrics in the past, it always seemed gigantic on me. The armholes were huge, the neckline was wider than I liked, and I end up cutting over a foot of length off the bottom of the dress- and this is in the smallest size!

When I made the dress in a woven fabric, I assumed the sizing would finally be just right, but it was actually smaller than I anticipated. The armholes were so tight that they felt uncomfortable when I put it on with a bra. Since I have to wear a slip underneath this dress I don’t mind not wearing a bra underneath (my boobs are small enough to go commando without sacrificing comfort) but this definitely could have used a bit more wiggle room in the armholes, and after I took these photos for the first time, I realized I needed to make some minor adjustments for it to reach its maximum potential.

OKAY FULL DISCLOSURE: I spent about 3 hours prepping my photo setup, putting on makeup, doing my hair, and taking photos of the 8-ish projects I had completed over the past several weeks, as per usual for my blog posts. I had a lot of fun styling the roller set I had given myself the day before and I was super excited to finally get some of these fun makes out to the world. The next morning I woke up bright and early to start processing all my photos  on my computer and when I reached for the camera…nada. There was no memory card in it. You may think me an idiot, but I reviewed each photo I took before moving on to the next look and every single photo had been stored inside the camera’s “memory”. What I learned after some VERY AGGRESSIVE googling was that my camera’s default setting was in “demo mode”, meaning you can take lots of pictures (apparently over a hundred of them) without a memory card in the slot and the camera will “hold” them for a certain period of time. This setting is for customers at a store interested in purchasing the camera; they can take photos and review them as if it did have a memory card in it. So yeah. My photos were lost. If a camera takes 150 photos without a memory card in it, were the photos ever actually taken?

 

The whole point of this pitiful story is to say that when I first took these photos, I knew I wanted to make the armholes bigger, and I also decided to top stitch the edges of the sides of the dress where they wrap to the front- my floaty, gauze-like material kept billowing awkwardly at the seams and I figured that stitching the fabric down might help with that. So I was able to make those changes to the dress before the SECOND set of of blog photos I took the next morning, so what you see here shows the final version of the dress. The only other changes I made besides lengthening the armholes and topstitching the side seams was to use bias tape to hem the neckline. The instructions have you fold the hem under and stitch down, which I think is generally a very unprofessional and shoddy way to finish an armhole or a neckline. My biggest takeway from these adjustments, and something I can probably apply to all future patterns that suggest wovens and knits for the same design, is to be prepared to go up a size when using a woven and down a size when using a knit. Or better yet, just make a damn muslin. That seems to be the answer to 80% of my sewing problems.

Construction wise, there isn’t really anything new to add to this pattern that I didn’t touch on in my first blog post about it. It’s a very quick dress to put together, and aside from needing to have gone up one size for the woven fabric, I am happy with how it came out. If I had known how tight the armholes would be, I would have added a little width to the bust of the pattern pieces, but unfortunately the dress was already made up by the time I realized this issue. The only fix was to widen the armholes on the sides and bottom, and as such, more of the slip I am wearing underneath peeks through than I would prefer. But it’s a small issue and I don’t think it completely detracts from the dress- this is still far and away better than the last version I made of it! I always need to fiddle with the side seams on the wrap of this dress so that it will lay right, but my topstitching really did the trick (and probably would have worked well on the past versions I made of this). I absolutely love the way the sheer fabric looks with a black slip underneath- it feels sexy and looks chic, and, to me, more visually interesting than just a regular black dress (to date this is the only all-black garment I have in my closet).

I’m not quite sold on Named patterns yet. I absolutely love the designs and styling, and I have seen some awesome makes based off of their patterns (What Katie Sews has done some stellar work with their designs), but I feel like their construction methods are super simple and the finished projects need extra elements to look polished. I have successfully made this pattern work with the bias binding, but I worry that their other patterns might require a bit of extra attention to elevate their looks, too. I really haven’t made enough of their patterns to have formulated this opinion though- the only other pattern I have made of theirs is the Inari Tee Dress, which looked like a disaster on me the first time I made it and is just not a silhouette suited for my bottom-heavy shape. But I also revisited this pattern recently, and I am happier with it now after some small but impactful adjustments to the shape- you will be seeing that project on the blog shortly!

A Sequins of Events

Y’all! I did it! I successfully sewed with sequins, and it kicked my ass just as much as working with velvet for the first time. But I saw it through to the end! Who cares if it took me two months to complete what is one of THE simplest patterns in my entire stash? I FINISHED IT, and I think it looks spectacular. And now I really need a fun cocktail party to attend so that I can slink and shimmer around in it.

I’m not sure what first got me interested in sewing with sequins, but I think I might have seen a photo or two online where sequins took the centerstage of an outfit and it got my wheels turning. I did some gentle research online about how to sew with sequins, in case I ever bit the bullet and actually bought a couple of yards, and lo and behold, within days I found myself at Michael Levine’s, JUH-ROOLING over a few bolts of sequined fabric they had on display. I already knew that I wanted to work with stretch sequins, and the first one I found happened to be the one I was the most in love with- a black poly knit with two toned sequins that flipped from black to gold depending on how you made them lay (using just a bit of pressure, you sweep the sequins from one side to the other with your hand and they “magically” change color). I was immediately in love with the color combo; not a huge fan of black by itself, but when it’s coupled with gold I’m sold! So I grabbed myself 1.5 yards hoping that I wouldn’t ruin it in the learning curve. I knew the exact pattern that I wanted to pair with the sequins, probably because I had just recently made it so it was fresh in my mind. Despite my flahze-dah attitude (where my Drag Race fans at??) about everyone’s other favorite dress pattern, I knew that the simple silhouette of McCalls 6686 would work great for showing off the sequins, and that my issues with the fit would be easy to adjust once the main pieces were constructed. Sewing with sequins is a lot like velvet in that you want to stay away from lots of gathers, pleats and extra seam lines to create less bulk and allow the fabric to shine, and this pattern met the mark.

I made a few small adjustments to the pattern before I cut out my sequins by trying to adjust for a sway back (I’m still new to this fit adjustment and haven’t nailed it down yet for knit fabrics) and opening up the neckline in the front and back just a bit. I cut out the three quarter inch sleeve version and shortened my pattern pieces to a mini, then I cut the sequins with a pair of leather shears so as not to damage my good scissors or rotary cover on the tiny discs. BTW I would recommend using goggles when cutting and machine sewing sequins that aren’t glued or fully sewed down onto their fabric. I did not, and I had one or two close calls where a sequin shard flew through the air a little too close to my eye!

Initially I had planned to sew a lining inside of my sequined dress since that seemed like the easiest way to protect my skin from the sharp edges that would be poking through the seam allowances, but once the shell was constructed, I realized that adding another dress underneath it was going to be incredibly heavy (this sequined fabric is already pretty weighty) and it would also feel and look too bulky for the body skimming dress I was going for. By wearing a lining underneath this dress I was hoping to avoid all the extra work required to make the insides of a sequined garment more comfortable, so now I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I learned lots of random tips on working with sequins when I researched the topic online- some of them worked, some of them did not. One suggested that I remove all the sequins from the seam allowances before sewing because my sewing needle would not be able to penetrate the sequins without breaking over and over again. I knew how hard my sequins were from cutting them with my strongest pair of scissors, so I got to work attempting to remove each sequin from the 5/8″ allowance of each pattern piece. I figured it wouldn’t take terribly long since I was working with an uncomplicated pattern that only had two side seams, two shoulder seams, and hems.

Before we laugh at how absolutely naive this thought process was, it’s important to note that not all sequined fabric is made in the same way. Some sequins are glued on, some are sewn down onto a mesh piece of fabric, and some are only connected to the fabric with one knot of thread that runs in diagonal lines across the knit backing. My sequined fabric was like the latter, and removing one individual sequin from the fabric took approximately 3. 4 years. I thought that I would be able to undo the whole stitching line for one row of sequins and then just pull the thread up so that the rest of the row of sequins would pop off, too, but that only worked sometimes…which was probably a good thing. You want your sequins to be adequately affixed to the fabric so that one little snag doesn’t make a whole line of sequins fall off. But for the purposes of my project I was hoping the work would be much less labor intensive. After removing about 2 inches of sequins, my fingers were getting raw and sore, and after another two inches were removed I was kicking myself for getting hooked by their shiny sparkle in the first place.

I took lots of breaks, complained about the arduous process on instagram, took Tylenol for my back that had started to ache from sitting hunched over the dress for so long, vacuumed up a few hundred of the sequins that were littering my craft room floor. At the rate I was going I figured I would be done with the dress in about 2021, so I decided to take as much time with the sequin removal as possible. At one point I read a comment from someone on IG asking what needles I had tried to sew the fabric with, and I couldn’t remember- when I had played around with a little cut of the fabric earlier I had tried to run it through my machine with whatever needle was already in there and it didn’t work well. But I realized then that maybe I just needed to try a stronger needle. I pulled out an upholstery needle that I used for super heavy fabric when reupholstering chairs and I sewed a tentative line of zig zag stitching over two layers of fabric. I went verrrrry slowly and kept my face far away from the needle of my sewing machine. It worked like a dream- no skipped stitches, no marring of sequins and no breaking of needles. I couldn’t BELIEVE I had wasted so much time trying to pry them off one by one, but even after all my hours of work, I hadn’t gotten very far, and better to learn the lesson late than never, right?

I halted my Sequin Removal Production™ and slowly zig zagged the side seams of the dress to try on for fit- it looked pretty good! Eventually I would take the dress in even more at the side seams, but for now I knew I was on the right track, and I also knew that figuring out how to cover up the sequins in the seam allowance would be key because I had tons of scratches up and down my body just from taking the dress on and off. Next I attached the sleeves to the dress, and construction was complete, just like that! I had spent hours removing a few inches of sequins over the past three days and then had the whole garment sewn up in 20 minutes! Ha! Unfortunately, my journey was just beginning.

Now that the dress was sewn up, I had to decide 1. how to handle the scratchy sequins in the seam allowance of the dress and 2. how to hem the sleeves, neck and bottom of the dress. For the seam allowances I briefly considered removing the sequins from the allowances again, but I knew that there had to be a better and quicker way, at least to save my sanity and my fingertips. Instead of removing the sequins, I thought of encasing the seam in bias binding to keep the sequins covered up by the strip of fabric (kind of like a Hong Kong seam but with the allowance sewn together as opposed to pressed open and encased separately). It worked! It looked a little messy at the intersections of sleeve opening and side seam, but 99% of the sequins were covered up and I no longer felt like I was in a Freddy Kreuger movie when I tried the dress on.

Now for the hems. I had tried folding my seam allowance to the inside and sewing the hem down like you would any regular garment but it looked horrible- the hem was lumpy, bumpy and very unprofessional looking. Worse yet, the needle punctured all the sequins around the seam line so when I took the stitches out they looked worn and mauled. I ended up having to cut the sleeves off at that line because the sequins looked so traumatized, but it was fine because the three quarter sleeve length gives you room to play with. Next I tried sewing a length of bias tape to the outside edge of the sleeve bottom, then folding the bias tape to the inside and hand sewing the tape down so that you can’t see the stitches from the outside. This worked MUCH better. The lines were smooth, no sequins were harmed, and, although time consuming, it wasn’t difficult work. It still doesn’t look perfect; because the sequins are sewn onto a stretch knit, using a straight stitch to attach the bias binding made the seams stretch out a bit, so that if you look closely at my sleeve hems in particular, you can see that they flare out juuuuust a tiny amount. But guess what- after all the time and frustration I had experienced at this point with the make, I was FINE with a little flare!

For the bottom hem of the dress, I was nervous that my bias binding method would make it look even more stretched out than the sleeve hems, so I folded the hem up and hand stitched it in place instead of sewing it with my machine, then I hand stitched a length of bias tape around the allowance on the inside to keep the sequins from touching my skin (y’all, I know it seems like overkill, but the SEQUINS ON BARE SKIN struggle is REAL). After trying the dress on, I was verrrrry close to loving it, but it was a still little bit looser than I wanted it to be in the body, much like my issues with the first time I made this pattern, even though I had adjusted it since then. I took it in again about a half inch on both side seams and it absolutely did the trick. I could have finished here and finally called the dress complete, but now I had very bulky side seams with the additional fabric taken in at the sides, so I snipped off my bound seams and cut closer to my second line of zig zag stitches. Then I finished the seams for a second time with a fresh length of binding (and I made it look nicer than the first time when I was less sure of what I was doing). And, VOILA! The sequined dress is finished!

This dress took me over two months to complete because I put it away and worked on so many other projects in the middle of it. I don’t normally have projects sitting unfinished in my craft room for that long, but there was so much trial and error involved and I also wanted to give myself little breaks so that I wouldn’t get too frustrated with the fabric and take even longer to finish it. I am super happy with the fit of this dress now, though. It looks tight like a body con dress but it’s actually very comfortable. It will be easy to dance in and I love the length of the sleeves- I feel like they can carry me through 80% of LA weather. I do have a preference for which way I want the sequins to face- I thought I was fine with them going both ways, but when they are all turned gold, it puts the biggest smile on my face and I simply can’t stop staring at them in the mirror. Claire likes this dress cause she said I feel like a snake, and she’s totally right. Not sure if you have ever spent any time with snakes, but thanks to a couple of snake loving friends, I have had the pleasure, and they are amazing! When you hold their bodies as they slither around, you can feel each individual scale, which is surprisingly soft, and you can also feel their muscles moving underneath their exterior. When these sequins are all running in the same direction and I run my hand over my body, it feels exactly the same way.

This dress took way longer than I imagined and the learning curve was steep but it didn’t turn me off of working with sequins; in fact, in the middle of working on this dress I went to the Fabric Store to pick up my month’s allowance and my eyes fell on a bright blue and pink bolt of shimmery sequins that I had seen before in the store but had never had the guts to take home with me. Now that I had this black and gold number successfully under my belt I knew that sewing with the non-stretch sequined fabric would be a breeze, and it’s in my craft room right now, just waiting to slide up the project queue 🙂

And now, just cause I mentioned it, here is an awesome photo my talented friend Henry took of me with a black headed python for his snake calendar…this snake was a real stinker and kept knocking my prop glasses off my head, but we still had a lot of fun. If I can find it I will have to post the gorgeous photos he took of Claire looking like Amelia Earhart with two snakes wrapped around her flight goggles!

 

 

Kalle Shirtdress

Remember this fiasco from a couple of months ago? Well, despite my best intentions to adjust the awful fit, I couldn’t save it, at least not enough for wearing in public. It has been relegated to house attire (with the occasional last minute run to the post office if necessary), and I don’t feel good about it; I was really looking forward to that silhouette having some heavy rotation in my closet! Anyways, you can imagine my excitement (and regret) when shortly after I posted the dress onto my blog, Closet Case introduced their newest pattern, the Kalle Shirtdress and Shirt. It is essentially everything right about the original McCalls dress I made with none of the wrong. Having lots of success with Closet Case’s past patterns in terms of fit and design, I knew it was going to fill the hole that Everyone’s Favorite Dress left in my life, but little did I know that it was going to add something that I didn’t even know I needed…more on that in a later blog post.

Here’s how the shirt dress of this pattern is similar to the McCalls version- kimono style short sleeves, an ever-so-slightly high-lo, hidden button placket (there are two other options for the button band included in the pattern), and a loose, breezy fit. But the hem isn’t ridiculously dramatic on the Kalle, it doesn’t include unnecessary side slits, the invisible placket actually conceals the buttons underneath (although I totally goofed this part of the pattern up during construction, but more on that later, too), and most importantly, it isn’t drafted bigger in the upper back than in the waist and hips, so the back pattern piece of the Kalle drapes beautifully, barely skimming the figure underneath.

After making the Hannah dress, I have been completely intrigued with so-called “sack dresses” that make me feel sexy while also providing ease and comfort (not sure sure if these patterns actually ID as “sack dresses” but I call anything that is short and slouchy in the mid-section a sack dress). Anyways, the Kalle shirt dress pattern felt like a gift from the Gods and a chance to redeem myself from my last attempt at that McCalls’ disaster.

And now for the fabric! I love this part! So I had recently tried my hand at sandwashing some turquoise silk crepe de chine from The Fabric Store using soda ash and a hot water cycle on the washing machine and was pretty amazed at how excellent the effect was. My once sleek, shiny silk was suddenly matte and soft and slightly sueded looking and it cost me like, 20 cents to create. The cool thing about sandwashed fabric is that it can be washed in the machine and dried in the dryer, so even though I was aiming for a casual Kalle, I figured that the fabric could pull double duty as a slightly fancy make, too. I love the drapey-ness of the pattern paired with this silk but I wished that I would have used my fabric stiffener on the silk before sewing it up. The fabric was much less silky and tricky to work with after it was sandwashed, but it still wasn’t as easy as working with a cotton- the stiffener would have made it even more manageable (and would have made my button band look a lot better than it turned out).

I didn’t run into much trouble until I was making the concealed placket, which requires some precise ironing and folding that was hard to achieve with my silk, which kept sliding around everywhere. Because of this, I don’t think that the folds are as straight as they could be, and on top of that, I made a VERY ROOKIE mistake when it came to making the buttonholes. The instructions suggest that you make them before attaching the placket to the dress but I prefer to make mine towards the end of construction, and I wish I had followed my instincts. Somehow I ended up not sewing the holes through both folds of the placket, and instead I made and cut out holes for only one side (like I said, rookie mistake!) Once I attached the band to the dress front, I realized I had messed up and had to do some weird MacGuyver-ing to make it work, which included adding an additional set of buttonholes on the band behind the one I had already made, which of course didn’t line up perfectly with the front holes and in turn makes the band sit a little awkwardly on the front.

But! I blame this mistake on the fact that I decided to make both the Kalle shirt (a future blog post!) and the shirtdress at the same time. Normally I love knocking out more than one project from a pattern at a time (done it a million times with the Archer pattern from Grainline and the Hudson pants from True Bias) but I now know it’s a better idea to save the multiple constructions for a pattern I have made at least once before. My two-for-one Kalle session ended up being especially tricky for me since I sewed up two different button band and collar options for the shirt and dress, and it was tough to keep the instructions straight.

Aside from the snafu with the button band (which, by the way, was still a million times easier to follow than the McCalls one), construction was easy and well described. I have made more button down shirts for my wife than I can count so I was already familiar with a lot of the techniques used in this pattern, and since this is technically a sleeveless garment, construction is pretty fast when not having to account for a set-in sleeve, cuffs and sleeve plackets.

So, in a word? YES! YES I LOVE THIS PATTERN (and I haven’t even talked about my Kalle shirt yet!) I love everything about it, and it really is exactly what I was hoping for when I initially made the McCall’s dress. I loooove the drapey-ness in the back, it’s just perfect. It’s sexy and comfortable, and it looks so effortless, even in this fabric. I already know exactly what I want my next shirtdress to look like- I see it in a smokey, dark gray (maybe a muted black??) sandwashed silk again, with exposed pearl snaps, and a slightly longer length, like right below the knee, but with the same slightly hi-low hemline. I haven’t even worn this turquoise dress out yet and I’m already planning my next one…sign of a pretty fantastic pattern, right?

 

A Weekend in Hell, or How to Organize Your Sewing Patterns

There are many, many, many awesome posts by sewing bloggers about how they organized their massive collection of sewing patterns, and if I’m being honest, I don’t think the world necessarily needs another one. BUT! I have decided to add my 2 cents anyways because I found a lot of annoying issues with the method that I used that not many bloggers mentioned in their posts. You, dear reader, deserve to know exactly why I was so frustrated with how I organized mine so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I did! Or at the very least, so that you know what you are getting into from the beginning and can be fully prepared for any frustrations that may result!

I bought an IKEA filing cabinet for all my physical patterns last year and organized them in a simple but efficient manner- my top drawer has all my pattern envelopes divided into loose categories (bottoms, dresses, jumpsuits, etc) and the bottom two drawers have all the copied pattern pieces in ziploc bags since I trace all my patterns to keep the originals intact. I don’t have a ton of vintage patterns so I didn’t get the nice cardboard backs with plastic sleeves that many sewist opt for, I just have mine standing up in their drawer with a few tabbed cardboard dividers and it works great.

My oversized patterns (like Jalie and the designer ones from Vogue) are in an open box on top of the filing cabinet. I have been happy with the physical organization of my patterns ever since they made their way into the cabinet, but I have hated how all my physical patterns were in a separate space from my digital ones, of which I have even more. I desperately needed to find a way to have all my patterns in one place so I could easily see what was in my stash.

I knew I had two options in organizing my patterns: to 1. store them digitally, by transferring all my physical copies of patterns into a digital format or 2. store them physically, by printing out the images of all my PDF copies of patterns and storing them with my physical copies. This is a matter of preference, of course, but for me the choice was easy- digital all the way! Now I just needed to figure out what app would meet my criteria for optimal organization. My needs were:

  • having a clear image of the pattern envelope or line drawing of the pattern that I could see when I scrolled through the database
  • an easy way to catalogue different types of patterns (sewing/knitting/crafting) and a way to create more categories within those groups, like socks, sweaters, hats, etc. under KNITTING and pants, dresses, tops, jackets, etc. under SEWING
  • a way to tag each pattern with key terms like “vintage”, “casual”, “red carpet DIY”, “summer”, etc.
  • search function for tags and sewing company names
  • a way to add notes about the pattern if necessary
  • access to the app from more than one device (I want my patterns available on both my phone and iPad)

I did a bit of research on the interwebs to get a better grasp of all the fancy ways people organized their patterns and found that most people used one of three apps: Dropbox, Evernote, or Tap Forms. There were other apps that came up, including one specifically developed for sewists and their pattern cataloguing, but the app was defunct by the time I found it, no longer available to buy or use. The Dropbox option seemed interesting to me since I already use Dropbox for sharing and sending big files like audition tapes and photos for this blog, but I didn’t like the interface for the app and it’s not really designed for organization. Dropbox’s main use is for storing files and sharing them easily, so it’s search functions were pretty rudimentary, it didn’t show photos or a cover image of the files that were stored depending on what device you were using, and it was generally a bit clunky.

Tap Forms came highly recommended by the Colette blog, but when I researched it, it cost $16.99 for the premium version, and I thought that was just too high a cost for something that I wasn’t going to be using frquently. For the record, I have the utmost respect for app developers and I see no problem paying good money for something that I will use often that will make my life easier, but I knew I wasn’t going to be using the app more than a few times a month, so after perusing the app details in iTunes, I passed on it. This decision ended up sort of biting me in the ass later, which I will get to shortly.

Evernote seemed like a much better fit for me for several reasons. Firstly, it was free, but I also liked that it was so popular. Much like Tap Forms, it showed up in my research as an effective way to catalogue all sorts of collections, from recipes and writing to sewing patterns, but it also seemed like the app that I was most likely to use in other aspects of my life. The interface was very intuitive, and without reading any tutorials or instructions I was able to quickly figure out how to create a “note”, put it in a “notebook”, and create “stacks of notebooks”.

A notebook stack with a list of notes inside

For my purposes, I created a note for each pattern, and I used the name of the pattern as the title of the note, for example “Waffle Patterns Cookie Zipper Blouson”, as seen above. The notebook that this pattern went into would be called “Outerwear”, and the stack that contained this notebook was called “Sewing Patterns”. The app basically allows you to create categories and sub-categories that you can easily see at a glance and move around. Adding tags for each note is easy, and the app stores each of the tags you use so that if you start typing a previously used term, the whole tag pops up automatically (see below).

Tags

In the beginning, everything seemed to be going smoothly, but that didn’t last long! The first issue I ran into occured after I had catalogued about 10 patterns. Suddenly a message popped up in the app saying that I had already met my monthly allowance of data entry and that if I wanted to input more I would need to upgrade to a premium account, starting at $3.99 a month. I thought it was free!!! I can’t blame this on the app because I clearly had not paid attention to the fine print that said that the free subscription was only allotted a certain amount of space in the app per momth, but I was still very annoyed. Even if I had read that part of the description, I probably would not have known how much space that actually was (I don’t know a GB from a MB from a TLC). Turns out, it’s about enough space for…10 patterns. I briefly considered switching to the Tap Forms app since it also cost money and in the long run seemed like it might be cheaper than paying a monthly fee, but I had already familiarized myself with the Evernote format and I didn’t want to turn back after getting such a good start. I begrudgingly upgraded to the premium account for Evernote and had entered maybe two more patterns when I ran into my next (and most frustrating) problem with the app.

When creating a new note in Evernote, my first step would be to

  1. type in the name of the pattern,
  2. create tags for the pattern,
  3. take a photo of the pattern envelope and then
  4. take a photo of the back of the pattern envelope with the sizing, yardage and technical drawing.

In the beginning I was using my phone to complete these tasks, which was quick and easy- each note took about a minute or so to complete. But as I started to scroll through the notes I had created, I realized that the second photo I took, the one of the back of the envelope with the pattern details listed, was showing up first. Evernote has a sidebar on the left side of the app that allows you to scroll through your list of notes, and if the note contains images, that’s the information you see first. It’s one of the things I was attracted to most about using this app to categorize my patterns: when I click on the Notebook for dresses, a get to scroll through each pattern’s image, which feels just like flipping through the actual envelopes. So you can imagine how frustrating it was to scroll through 5 patterns with images of vintage dresses that are followed by 3 patterns with photos of envelope backs. I couldn’t figure out why the wrong photos were showing up since I was making sure to take the photo of the front of the envelope before I took the one of the back, and uploading the photos to the note in the same order. I searched in the app for a way to set an order to the photos used in a note, like if there was a way to designate one of the photos as the “cover” image, to no avail.

 

see how in the upper lefthand corner the top image is of the pattern BACK instead of the pattern front? I DON’T LIKE THIS!

Finally I did some googling and found out that this was an issue that many users had with Evernote, and apparently it was designed to operate this way. Evernote doesn’t give you the option to order your photos in a certain way, and it doesn’t matter which photos you upload first- the image with the largest amount of data automatically shows up first in the note. So to get around this, I needed to make sure that my first photo was the “largest” file and my second photo (the back of the pattern) was smaller. I tried taking a photo very close to the pattern front, filling the frame of my camera lens, and then taking a photo further away of the pattern back, but this only worked about half of the time. Sometimes I had to take a photo so far away from the pattern back that I could barely read the writing in the image, and even then there were many times when that photo was still larger than the pattern front photo. I rigged a backdrop for the envelopes, thinking that a blank background would make the image “smaller”, but that didn’t seem to work either. I tried many different things to figure out how to keep my second photo from being too big, and sometimes they worked, other times they didn’t. It made an already laborious task take even longer, taking photo after photo and cropping it repeatedly to try and get it to be the right size for the note. I couldn’t believe that I was now paying for an app that I initially thought was going to be free and putting in all this extra work into it when I also thought it was going to be easy. There were SO many swear words being thrown around my craft room as I stood at my cutting table for hours, capturing each pattern piece on my iPhone. Eventually I started using my iPad which made it easier to see what the camera was capturing and made the work slightly more manageable, but dealing with the app was still a pain in my ass. I couldn’t turn back at this point though, because by now I had logged in about 50 patterns and I didn’t want all my time to have been wasted.

Documenting all my physical copies of patterns, despite Evernote’s poor design, was the easy part- next came categorizing all my PDF patterns, and I knew that was going to take even more work. Instead of using a phone to capture the images for these patterns, I just opened them up in my Notability app (which is where I store all of my PDF instruction booklets) and took screenshots of the pattern and the pattern details, which I then had to crop perfectly so that the design image would show up in the note first. It was much easier to get these photos in the right order since I was working with screen images instead of actual camera images, but it still took extra time.

A quick note on Notability- it’s been the app I use to store and view my PDF patterns on my iPad ever since I knew what a PDF pattern was. It would have been awesome to use it exclusively for storing and viewing all my patterns, but it is missing a lot of the functions I was looking for in an app, like tagging search terms and viewing the pattern designs easily and quickly. Like Dropbox, it’s great at it’s main function but doesn’t do much for me beyond that.

After all my downloaded PDFs were logged in, the next order of business was to collect all the patterns that I had NOT downloaded yet, essentially a slew of Seamwork designs that I accumulated when I had a subscription to the magazine. After I downloaded them onto the portable hard drive where I keep my patterns, I took each pattern’s screenshots and put them into Evernote with the appropriate information. Lastly, I had to hunt down the images for a bunch of Burda patterns I had purchased years ago (I don’t sew often with Burda patterns, but years ago when I first discovered the online sewing community I caught the Burda bug and bought a bunch of patterns that I quickly learned I wasn’t quite skilled enough to complete…yet). The Burda patterns took a long time to log in because there are no images that come with their “instruction” booklets, so I had to use their weird, date-specific pattern names to find the design on their website before I could screenshot the image. I omitted use of the yardage requirements for the Burda patterns since they don’t give much information or have the sizing included in the instructions, and I filed the photo, the name of the pattern and the “instructions” into my Notability app before putting the necessary information into the Evernote app as well.

And then I was DONE.

All in all I spent about 16 hours or so over the weekend on both my phone, my iPad, and my computer, which was another reason I liked the Evernote app- you could access your account on a computer as well as your portable devices, which made typing the information for each note a lot easier. Halfway through the process I realized it was faster to take the photos/screen shots of the patterns with my phone or iPad, create a new note with the images, and then type the information for each note on my computer. Thankfully the app synced quickly between all my devices which made everything run more smoothly. By Sunday morning when my project was finished, I had logged in 220 patterns, which is not a lot by many sewists’ standards, but felt massive to me, considering how long each pattern took to get documented.

Once I was done, I knew that, unless a sewing angel sent me a gigantic haul of patterns to keep, I would never be logging in that many notes at once again- I don’t buy patterns that often, so I would only have a few to add to the app every couple of months. This meant that I might not need to pay for the monthly Evernote premium subscription since I didn’t need all that data. I double checked with google to make sure I was correct, and I was; the premium subscriptions allow you to upload more data than a basic (free) account, but once that data has been uploaded, you don’t lose it, so you can go down to a basic subscription and still have access to all your information. There are a few caveats, mainly that you only have access to the Evernote account on two devices (and I have been very happy accessing it on three), but that access isn’t necessary; in the past few weeks that I have organized my patterns, I have only used my iPad or iPhone to peruse them. The computer made it easy to type in the information for all those dozens of patterns, but for actual use of the app, I much prefer using a smaller device. So I will be canceling my premium Evernote subscription at the end of the month, and if that sewing angel does end up sending me their imaginary haul of amazing sewing patterns exactly in my size (hey, it happened, once!), I can just buy a premium subscription for the month to upload all the patterns, and then go back to a basic account when I am done.

Here is what I love about having all my sewing patterns organized:

  • It shows holes in my pattern stash- for months I have been thinking that I had the perfect blazer pattern somewhere in my stash and it turns out, I only pinned it on pinterest and I didn’t actually own it!
  • It keeps me from buying similar pattern designs by different companies/designers. Despite having over 200 sewing patterns, I don’t consider myself much of a pattern hoarder, and I would rather have one great pattern with a specific silhouette that I can make small adjustments to than 5 patterns that are variations on a theme.
  • It allows me to see exactly what I have in my stash, which makes me much more prone to sewing up unused patterns. I definitely have a lot of TNT patterns in my sewing history, but sometimes I make a pattern over and over again just because it’s familiar in my mind and I have forgotten all the other patterns I own that would also work.
  • I was very familiar with all the physical sewing patterns I owned because I didn’t own tons of them and when looking for inspiration, it was easy to walk over to my sewing cabinet and simply flip through the envelopes. I loved having patterns at my fingertips to make the experience visual and tactile. Having all my PDF patterns spread out over several devices, apps and hard drives made it impossible to account for everything I had in the same way, and if I didn’t sew something up immediately, I would legitimately forget about it. Now I can have the same experience with my PDF patterns as I have with my physical ones, and more importantly, they are all in one spot which makes looking at them and searching through them more satisfying than I ever dreamed. Seriously! Sometimes I scroll through the Evernote app not to look something up, but just because it gives me such a sense of calm and peace. WEIRDO!
  • I love that buying new patterns and cataloguing them in the app is so easy. I bought a couple patterns recently and didn’t have to put them in a pile in the corner of my craft room and wait til I had accumulated more so that I could log into my account and record them- snapping the pictures and adding the extra info is super easy on my device and it makes maintaining the database way less daunting than if I only had the option of doing it on my computer.
  • I love having access to my 220 patterns when I am not at home. When I am in a fabric store (or The Fabric Store! HA!) and I have an idea about a project but I can’t remember the yardage info, it takes mere seconds to look it up on my phone. If I see a RTW garment on the street and want to know if I have something in my stash that is similar or that could be the base for copying the look, I can look up the pattern that is most closely related to it and add whatever notes about the outfit that I don’t want to forget.

Evernote still needs to do more work on their app, most specifically allowing the user to rearrange their photos in the note, but I also think that having separate areas within the note would be amazing. Right now an Evernote note is just a blank space where you can add pictures, text, or links, but there is no organization inside of  the note- the information just sits stacked in a long column depending on what you put in there and what order it goes in. It would be so cool to have a note with designated areas inside of it, like an area to put photos (and obviously order them/caption them), and separate areas to insert text and or links. I’m sure there are other helpful ways to organize all the information within the note, but these are all the ones I can think of now that match the purposes of what I use Evernote for.

Despite all the hours I put into this project and all my frustrations with the Evernote app, I am so happy that I took on the task and completed it over a weekend instead of letting it drag out forever and ever!!!!! It really makes me feel less cluttered in my sewing space and in my brain (both of which are interchangeable, it seems) and I can only imagine that it will make my making more efficient.

If you have organized your patterns successfully and want to share how you did it, feel free to comment below the post in case readers are looking for more ideas. Although I am ultimately happy with the way I chose to organize my own stash, options are always great and I want everyone to know that there are lots of different ways of getting it done!