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The $34 Dress

A couple of years ago Claire took me on a surprise weekend trip for our anniversary to a small town in southern California a few hours away from us in Los Angeles. The town was quaint and pretty- it had one main street running through town that was home to a few restaurants, a couple of bars, an ice cream shop, and a surprising number of antiques stores. Since it isn’t always safe for us to eat out (Claire has dietary restrictions and can get sick from cross contamination), we ended up spending much of our time in town visiting the thrift stores and antique shops, looking for nothing in particular. It was fun because, unlike LA where everything minutely vintage or mid-century mod gets a hefty price tag slapped on it to make money off the stylish Angelinos with disposable incomes, the items were mostly moderately priced. They still weren’t as cheap as they would be in, say, a vintage shop in Alabama, but they were reasonable!

Since we aren’t collectors of anything in particular, we decided to hone in on sewing supplies, asking each shop owner if they could point us in the direction of their buttons and needlework items, and we found tiny stashes of some pretty marvelous finds. I took photos of them at the time and I definitely shared them on instagram but I am too lazy to go back into my feed and hunt them down! At one point we came upon a vintage clothing store that looked very well curated and tidy, so we stepped inside and ended up spending an hour roaming it’s collection of clothing. We tried on stuff for fun, I ooohed and ahhhed over the collection of 80’s heels, and I rifled through all the accessories. We were about to leave when I commented on  the dress in the window that had caught my eye when we were walking into the store. I didn’t want to bother the salesperson to go through all the trouble of pulling the dress down, but Claire coached me through it (you wanna talk about an everyday cheerleader? Claire is IT)!

I went into the tiny bathroom that was also being used as a storage room and changing room and I slipped the dress on over my head. I could not BELIEVE how perfectly it fit me. There wasn’t even a mirror inside the bathroom but I could tell immediately by the way it felt that it must look glorious. I knew I was right by the look on Claire’s face as I walked out of the bathroom. “Oh my god, honey!”, she said. “WOW!”. The lady tending to the store said that tons of people had come into the shop just to try this dress on but it had never fit anyone before. When I got to a mirror, I marveled at my luck- vintage clothes don’t often fit me so well right off the hanger, but this looked like it was made for me. The tag on the dress said $34, and it was labeled as “30’s/40’s”.

I knew that it probably wasn’t a dress I would ever actually wear. It was made of what looked like a cotton and linen blend, and it had held up very well over the past 8 (!!!!!) decades, but the fabric was very worn in some places and stained in others. Amazingly, the entire thing was handmade- the seams inside were raw, but each seam had been edge stitched on the outside to reinforce it, so there were no holes or tears anywhere to be seen. I am really not a fan of wearing the color red and I also thought that the print, although beautiful, took away from the gorgeous pleats and draping of the design, so my immediate instinct was to buy the dress and then make a pattern out of it, using a fabric that suited my tastes better…and that is exactly what I ended up doing- a full 2 years later, lol!

Initially I considered trying to rub the pattern off without taking the actual garment apart, something I have done in the past with simpler designs, but there were too many details that I was afraid I would miss if I didn’t fully deconstruct the dress, and I also wanted to know more about how it was put together. There were certain techniques implemented that I had not seen before, like the side button closure used in lieu of a zipper (which I ended up not being able to do with my own remake of this dress, but more on that later).

Taking the seams apart was more painstaking than I anticipated because of the aforementioned edgestitching over almost every single seam of the garment, but I managed to get it done over a couple of episodes of something unmemorable on Netflix. Once I took apart all my pieces I ironed them flat and used chalk to try and mark all the foldlines of the pleats in the bodice, sleeves and skirt. The chalk didn’t hold up too well, but thankfully the decades-old fold lines were pretty embedded in the pattern pieces and I was able to still see them pretty easily. After ripping out all the seams, I was left with sleeves, a front collar, back collar and back neck facing, a bodice front cut into two pieces, a bodice back cut on the fold, button bands, two skirt fronts that I decided to cut on the fold, a skirt back, a belt, and the tiny bindings used for the side opening of the dress. I then placed each pattern piece over translucent paper and traced them, making sure to mark the stitch line and add 5/8″ seam allowance. This part was also painstaking because the stitch line and the edgestitch lines were hard to tell apart, so I guesstimated when necessary and tried to true all my paper pieces once I had them all plotted out (I didn’t do a very good job of this, but I did well enough that I am wearing a finished dress in these photos that isn’t falling off my body, lol).

Cutting this dress out from the narrow 2 yards of mint green raw silk I have had in my stash for over a year was very challenging. I was terrified that I wouldn’t have enough room for all the pieces but I forged ahead because I was so determined that this was the fabric that needed to be paired with this design (and I am very glad I was so headstrong because I think the end result is pretty stunning). Ultimately I had to puzzle piece everything together very carefully and shorten the sleeves by a couple of inches to make enough room for everything else, but I DID IT!

 

This dress came together fairly easily, and the most fun part was seeing the large, oddly shaped pattern pieces for the bodice accordion together to make the most beautiful pleated bodice I have ever sewn. Raw silk behaves very differently than the manageable cotton/linen that the original dress is made of, so of course the finished product also looks very different- they are almost like two different dresses. I love sewing with raw silk- it’s unlike anything I have ever worked with, but it doesn’t press super well and it has a lot of body and cushy-ness to it, so the pleats didn’t like to stay put as I was constructing the bodice and I had to reposition them a lot. I also learned that I prefer to make pleats based on ironing the folds down rather than based on pinning notches together, so it took me a lot of time to get everything just right since I was essentially creating the construction order as I went along. I realized that there is only one set of actual darts in this dress- everything else is a pleat folded into a triangular dart shape, which gives the dress a lot more ease and comfort, and is probably why I fell so in love with it when I first tried it on.

After finally getting the bodice pleats uniform and neat looking, I moved onto the button bands and realized that I should have constructed them differently than in the original dress, only because my fabric was so thick and made those seams a lot bulkier than they needed to be. I easily could have omitted the band and simply added length to the front center of the bodice and folded it in on itself, applying some interfacing to the inside piece. To make up for the bulk, I graded the seams to make them as flat as possible, and although it’s a bit thick there, it’s not visually noticeable.

The pleats on both the bodice and skirt are sewn down for several inches to ensure they hold their place and stay looking nice and neat, a technique I have applied to other garments in the past and appreciated seeing on this vintage item. After sewing the back skirt darts and front skirt pleats, I basted the bodice and skirt together and tried it on to see how it was looking, and it! was! GLORIOUSSSSS!!!!! I decided at this point to use a side zipper on my dress in place of the tiny snap band that the original dress was sewn with. I love how the the hidden snap closure looks on the red dress and it seemed relatively easy to replicate, but I could tell that my cush-y, ravel-y raw silk was going to be a huge pain when working with all these fiddly bits and I was worried I would not be able to get the bulky seams to lay very flat. Using a zipper allowed me to get away with just serging the raw edges instead of having to enclose them with binding, and I’m okay with that, although a future iteration of this dress might feature the cute snap enclosure.

I did decide to bring in the side seams a tiny bit more at the waist, and now that the dress is complete I realize I could have brought it in maybe even another one inch in total- I could stand for it to be a tiny bit more snug. Thankfully the attached belt kind of eases in that extra fabric around my waist without the dress seeming like it’s too big, and I can alter the pattern pieces a bit the next time I make this dress. I am SO glad that I ended up having enough fabric to squeeze out the belt! Of course I had to puzzle piece some of my scraps together to make it happen, but I did it! One of my favorite things in sewing is when I manage to use up almost my entire yardage with barely any scraps leftover. I always try and get the bare minimum of yardage required for a garment, which of course can bite me in the ass when I make a mistake or miscalculate how my pieces need to be laid out for max efficiency, but when it works out well and I have only a tiny handful of pieces to throw into the fabric recycling bin? There is nothing better!

Now that I am finished, I am super impressed with how this dress came out, and I am glad to be reminded at how fun and rewarding deconstructed pattern making can be. With the difference between my fabric choice and the original garment, this dress could have easily come out ill-fitting or missing that special something that attracted me to the dress in the first place, but I love everything about it- how it looks, how it feels on, and how it feels in the thicker, softer fabric. One thing I really like about this dress is how it works so well with a slip underneath it. I don’t wear slips very often because they are often not a necessity for the garments I make, but this mint raw silk likes to get a little clingy to skin and undergarments, so having a simple, slippery garment underneath it makes it flow right over my body and lay perfectly. Which puts it even more firmly in the “vintage” category since I equate so much of women’s vintage wear with beautiful slips, undergarments and stockings.

I will most definitely be making this dress again- I can see it in a slippery charmeuse or a satin, or this rust colored crepe I bought several yards of right before the LA location of The Fabric Store closed, and I think it would be really cool to cinch the waist in even more so that it doesn’t need the belt and to make it tea or floor length. So glamorous! In all my years of sewing I have never once wanted to start a business within the realms of the hobby, but making this dress was the first time I considered it, albeit briefly- I love the idea of finding beloved, well-designed vintage garments, deconstructing them to create a pattern, and then grading and selling the design to make it available to sewists the world over. Not that it’s something I could or would actually do – making patterns is a LOT of work (bless all you indie designers out there who are making it look so easy), and things get a little tricky when working with the intellectual property of others when you can’t get their permission/attribute work to them because the information is missing or unavailable), but it still feels nice to be inspired in such a new way with this old hobby of mine!

 

 

 

 

Jenny Overalls

I have made three pairs of overalls that have a straightforward, utilitarian design- not a lot of frills or shaping (which is what I wanted at the time)- two for me and one for Claire. I blogged about the makes for myself with the Turia dungarees here and here and I wear both pairs an awful lot- they are much loved and much worn (despite a few issues I had with the finishing techniques in the pattern. But when Closet Case Files came out with the Jenny Overalls earlier this year, I was super excited to make them because they have such a cool shape and style, with a more aesthetically interesting flourish than the pairs I had made before.

The Jenny’s have a bib and separated bib pocket on the front, but they don’t have a back piece; instead, the straps are placed at the back of the pants waistband and criss cross over the shoulders to connect at the front bib. I love that detail because it doesn’t cover up the whole body in the way that many overalls designs do, and it allows you to show off a pretty shirt or tank with some interesting detailing or print.

 

The pants have slant side pockets which I also love, but my favorite thing about this pattern is the way the pants are drafted- the legs are slim in the hips but wide through the thigh/knee/calf, and it gives the whole look a bit of a vintage flair. They also sit high on the waist and aren’t slouchy like most overalls patterns can be. Again, I love the old school overalls look, with their ease of wear and wide waist- my Turia Dungarees can be thrown on over a tank top, paired with some Birkenstocks or sneakers, and I can be out the door in no time, looking comfortable and cute. But the Jenny’s feel fashion forward in a way that my Turias don’t, and I just LOVE having these options in my wardrobe.

I decided not to overfit the waistband of my Jenny Overalls and allow a little bit of extra room for movement, comfort and tucking a shirt in them, but they are still much more snug at the waist and hips than my Turias. I opted for the functional slant pockets (you can also omit them), the topstitched faux fly on the front, faux flat felled seams, and one side zipper (I thought I would need two, which is an offered option that I deeply appreciate since I have a hard time getting into snug high waist pants with my hips, but since I made the waistband a little looser than normal, I was able to get away with just one).

An option is also provided to use jeans buttons at the hips instead of zips, and Heather sells overalls and jeans buttons hardware from her store, which I quickly snatched up (the Dritz overalls buckles that I bought and used for an earlier pair of overalls have held up fine, but have never felt as sturdy or looked as nice as I wanted them to).

The instructions for this pattern are, like all CFF designs, straight forward, and easy to follow. Sewing and topstitching a multi-faceted make like this is SO FUN, especially when you trust the designer and don’t feel like you have to keep your eyes out for missing steps or finishes. The only issue I had with these (and I had the same issue when I made Claire the Jenny shorts this summer) is the zipper insertion at the side seams. Because of the thick denim coupled with the pocket lining, the seams are really bulky and it was hard for me to get the topstitching around the zipper perfectly straight, although I did the best job I could. I don’t think the zipper detracts at all from the overall look of the garment, meaning it isn’t noticeable and the stitching doesn’t look painfully wobbly- as least not by the Three Feet Rule, haha.

I used the mint green Cone Mills colored denim that Threadbare Fabrics has been keeping in their shop this summer and it has been an excellent pairing with this pattern- the denim is on the lighter side of mid-weight but still firm and stable, so it doesn’t make these overalls feel too bulky or heavy, which is important to me since I will be wearing them in a fairly climate.

Figuring out the hem of these pants was tough for me- originally I had planned to make the cropped version, but since I started making these overalls right after I had made the Molyneux for Vogue Dress-Turned-Jumpsuit (in which I hacked the cropped length of the Jenny pants onto the Molyneux bodice), I realized I wanted to use a different silhouette so I didn’t have two versions of the same jumpsuit in my closet.

I am really glad I went with the full length- it will allow me to wear these overalls far deeper into the Cali winter than my cropped version would have permitted (and perhaps into the winters of other cities, too??). I couldn’t decide if I wanted to have the ground skimming hem or a slightly higher hem that shows more of the shoe, but wide legged pants hems are ALWAYS very tricky for me, and I have to be very specific about which shoes I will be wearing with said pants before dedicating myself to the length. Once I realized that these overalls matched best with my heeled booties as opposed to my clogs, the hem length made itself very obvious- the longer, floor skimming length was perfect!

The days are finally cooling down now (and for LA that means high 70s) so these overalls are prime fall attire. In these photos I paired them with a pink Niko top by True Bias I made last year, but I just recently sewed up a replica of this sleeveless turtleneck in a cream colored 1×1 rib from The Fabric Store that I think is going to look amazing and make me look a tiny bit less like an easter egg. I will surely grace instagram with this completed look soon, so keep an eye out!

A Pinterest-Worthy Sundress in Striped Linen

When I shared this inspiration photo from Pinterest on my instagram account, lots of people commented that they had the exact same pin saved on their board, but the funny thing is that it was one of those recommended pins they stick on your page that doesn’t come from anyone that you actually follow.

This is a pin I had saved even earlier of a similarly designed dress:

For some reason Pinterest was peddling this dress hardcore to it’s users who found inspiration in light and airy women’s garments, but I couldn’t blame them. Look at this thing! The design of the dress itself is pretty plain- just a sleeveless fitted short bodice with a gathered skirt attached- but the brilliant use of the stripes added so much dimension and visual interest to the garment that it was hard to ignore. I love it when simple designs are paired with dynamic prints- it makes it look like much more work went into it than it did. Although I was reminded in the making of my own replica of this dress that matching stripes, though not as intense as matching plaid, does indeed require a considerable amount of work and attention, attention that I was unfortunately lacking at the time, but more on that later.

I saw this striped linen at The Fabric Store in LA several months ago and grabbed the bolt straight away- sometimes stripes can look kind of boring to me, so this print with it’s different sizes of stripes was much more my speed, plus the color combination was so killer! Those washed-out subtle hues with just a pop of color in that lime green really spoke to me- they instantly reminded me of summer, and I knew right away that I wanted to try and emulate one of these pinterest pins that I had saved on my board so long ago. I did not have a pattern in mind for this design, but I didn’t feel too worried about that. I figured it wouldn’t be too much trouble to draft/hack something I had in my pattern arsenal already- again, nothing was particularly dynamic about the garment- so as long as I had a comparable bodice piece somewhere, I could stick a gathered skirt and panel piece to the bottom and call it a day. But after I shared that instagram post with the inspiration dress, I got a couple suggestions for McCalls 7774 (thanks, Carlos!), which turned out to be the spitting image of the pinterest dress, meaning much less work for me!

 

This was an incredibly easy and quick dress to put together except for matching the stripes, and my biggest mistake was starting this dress when I had a friend over who was working on her own project. I get side tracked too easily when talking and laughing and having fun and I should have known better than to start this dress, which required quite a bit more attention than a non-directional fabric would have. Ah well, you live and you learn! I did a decent job matching up the stripes for the front bodice, which I cut out into two pieces instead of on the fold to accommodate the V, but I didn’t even consider paying extra attention to the darts on the bodice so that they would line up perfectly on either side, and as a result…they don’t! Ha! But it actually took me a couple wears to even notice that, so it must not be too obvious (and if it is, I don’t care, cause I love this dress, warts and all). Noted, diagonal bodice with darts, noted.

The only structural changes I made to the pattern pieces were to add an extra tiny dart at the bust since the armholes were gaping out just a tiny bit and to take out about 1/2″ of vertical ease in the front and back bodice pieces, since Big 4’s bodices tend to be pretty large on me. The fit is terrific now, and I love that it looks fitted onto my torso but feels very loose and relaxed- this comes from having a waistband that is a couple inches higher than my waist, so it doesn’t cut into my stomach, and I use the adjustments for that Vogue culottes pattern I make all the time- I shortened the bodice so that it rises higher on my abdomen. The armholes are wide but not so much that my bra peaks out and it gives me a lot of range of movement. The bodice is fully lined but not with self fabric (I used a solid colored linen fabric on the inside that was covered in dye spots after I washed it with another cut of fabric- DON’T YOU JUST HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS?!) and it closes in the back with a zipper, which is where my stripes look less impressive than in the front. I took that zipper out like 4 times to try and get it perfectly lined up, but in the end I lost steam and decided it was close enough.

This pattern was actually a little disappointing in that it shows a dress on the envelope package with the same design as my pinterest pin (diagonal stripes in the bodice, vertical stripes in the skirt and horizontal stripes in the panel of fabric at the very bottom) yet it doesn’t include specific instructions for creating that exact dress. For example, the bodice has two grainlines you can follow, either the one that is straight across or the one on the bias, which you would use for the diagonal look. But in the instructions there was no reminder to not cut on the fold or to add seam allowance if you were creating the latter garment. In my hanging-out-with-a-friend-haze, I recognized this on some level and made sure to cut my bodice pieces out properly, but I didn’t pay attention to the bottom panel piece with the stripes that run horizontally. The pattern piece has you lay it out and cut it on the fold, meaning that the print will run in the same direction as the skirt piece, but that is not what I wanted- I wanted the stripes on my bottom panel piece to run crosswise, opposite the stripes of the skirt of the dress. Of course, by the time I realized this, it was too late- my panel pieces were already cut the wrong way! I was so frustrated with myself. That horizontal panel at the bottom just MADE the whole dress for me, and of course I didn’t have extra fabric to work with because I generally get the bare minimum of yardage so that very little goes to waste! Sigh.

To remedy this issue, I had to piece together cuts of fabric running horizontally, which means that the panel doesn’t have the same run of stripes all the way around the dress. But I managed to get the front panel pieces running in the same direction at center front, which keeps it looking generally cohesive from head on. I have gotten tons of compliments on this dress so it doesn’t look like my not-quite-perfectly lines up bodice diagonals or bottom panel stripes are taking anything away from the general look of this dress.

I have worn this dress SO much this summer! It is so easy to throw on because it’s made of linen and therefore it’s comfortable to wear during our awfully dry southern california heat, but it also looks really stylish because of the gorgeous color combination of the stripes and the three different ways the stripes are put together: STRIPE PLAY!

I have been playing around a lot with stripes lately, which has made me appreciate this classic print in new ways! A couple months after making this awesome dress I saw that Blackbird Fabrics was carrying this really pretty striped linen that I immediately wanted to make up into another, more casual Kalle shirtdress (my first Kalle shirtdress is in silk, which I love, but is definitely more dressed up than casual), and it also came out pretty great.

I cut out one front with the stripes traveling on one grainline and the other front on the opposite grainline, then I cut the back and back yoke out on the same grainline as the left front, then I cut one pocket to match the front it’s attached to and the other pocket on the diagonal. There was no method to my stripe direction madness, I just went with my instinct, and I absolutely love how it turned out. Such a simple dress and a simple fabric made more dynamic by playing around with the layout. At this point I don’t know if I am ever going to be able to cut out stripes all in one direction again!

Striped Wrap Jumpsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(outtake)

Culottes Jumpsuit Hack in Bathing Beauties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pink Heels

I’ve made many pairs of shoes since the last time I posted about shoemaking on my blog, so a post on where I am in my journey is long overdue (and if you are interested in seeing a more extensive view of my makes, feel free to follow me at jasikaistrycurious on instagram)!

Sandals have been my go-to shoe make for a while now because, for me, they are fairly quick to complete (I can start and finish a pair in a day) and are a bit more goof-proof since they don’t require lasting. The first sandal class I took that I LOVED was with RachelSeesSnailShoes a few year years ago, and I must have made at least 15 pairs of sandals for myself and family members since then. I’ve also made Birkenstocks (there is a shoe components store here in Los Angeles called Sadermo that stocks authentic Birkenstock footbeds for $36- all I have to do is design and attach the upper and the rubber sole- I should probably do a blog post on these, too, yeesh). The whole process has been so fun and enlightening and I wear my memade shoes all the time, but completing a pair of wearable high heels has eluded me…til now!

 

I actually got my start in shoe making with heels. After reading the independently published book Make Your Own Shoes by Mary Wales Loomis (more on that book and the beginning of my shoemaking journey here) I started with a pair of 2.5 inch mid- heel components and some vintage shoe lasts and made my first pair. Although they looked pretty impressive for my first time doing it, they were far from perfect; the heels felt wobbly so I knew better than to wear them out and risk breaking my ankle, and the rubber soling I attached to the bottoms to keep them from being slippery were way too thick, more appropriate for the bottoms of rain boots than slip-on heels, LOL.

 

 

But I didn’t feel deterred- I knew this was going to be a long learning process and I gave myself a lot of room to mess up and learn. I took a break from heels and focused on lasting flat shoes and slippers and got pretty good at those, then I learned how to make sandals and Birks. A lot of time had passed since I had made my first pair of heels but I kept accumulating information and getting better at some of the basic steps that applied to both heels and  closed-toed flats (like skiving and applying a toe puff and counter). Last year I got the high heel bug again when I was hunting for a pair of shoes that I could easily picture in my head but that I could not find anywhere in stores or online, so I decided I would try and make the pair I was looking for myself.

 

The design was a classic open toed heel slide (reminiscent of the style that Candies used to make back in the day). Mine were made of a vintage-looking green leather and I topped the upper off with a little bow and was SO happy with how the shoe looked on the last. This time my skiving was much better and I knew to put cork granules on the bottom before I attached my sole to fill in the gaps between my shank board and leather upper pieces. But once I put the leather soles on the bottom the shoe looked sloppy and messy and very unprofessional. It occurred to me that I should have finished the soles of the leather before I glued them to the bottom of the lasts instead of trying to do it afterwards and risking messing up the edges of the upper leather and insoles. It also occurred to me that I could try skiving the edges of my leather so that they weren’t so thick on the edges of the shoe.

The last new thing I tried on these heels that required a learning curve was drilling screws into the top of the heel through the insole of the shoe. Although I am very comfortable with an electric drill, this part made me really anxious. There is a metal bar installed in most plastic heel components that give it the structure and durability it needs to carry your body weight, so the screw you drill in has to be short enough that it doesn’t hit this metal part, but the screws also have to be positioned so that they don’t hit the shank of the insole (another piece of metal used in the board of a pair of heels- basically a long, thin plate that travels underneath the bed of the foot into the heel area of the shoe to provide support and stability for the shoe). And lastly, the screws also need to be placed at an angle so that they don’t come out the other side of the heel. It requires a steady hand and thoughtful planning, and since I had never done it before, I was terrified I would destroy the shoes. And I did! But I had already come to the realization that the heels were looking a bit too rough to be wearable anyways, so once I started treating them as more of a shoe muslin, I felt less scared about ruining them; it’s the only way to get better, right?

Of course, two screws sticking out of the top of a pair of heels doesn’t seem very comfortable at all, but pretty much all RTW heels have them, manufacturers just use specialty screws and are able to cover them up in a way that the wearer would never notice them. I knew that I would need to use foam to cover this up and protect the bottoms of my feet and decided to implement that idea on my next pair.

Which brings us to today and these pink mules! I was able to apply pretty much everything I learned from my first pairs of muslin shoes to these, and it shows- they are hands down the cleanest-looking, most comfortable pair of heels I have made. Not without their issues and mistakes, of course, but wearable? YES!

Everything went smoothly up until the end when I pulled the shoes off the lasts and tried them on. They felt much too loose! Lengthwise they were fine but the upper had a lot of space around it and they were difficult to walk in because of that. I felt so defeated and frustrated- how steep was this learning curve supposed to be? After so many failures I thought I would have been much closer to wearable heels by now. But then I had the bright idea of adding a thicker insole to the shoe than I normally would have. I used foam board, the same material I use to create an insole for a lasted shoes, instead of just plain foam, and it worked a treat! It completely covered up the screws installed in the heel area and sucked up all the extra space in the upper so that my foot felt snug and comfortable.

The edges of my leather sole on the bottom of the shoe look professional and tidy, but I miscalculated the length of leather I would need to meet the heel on the bottom and I fell short a millimeters, so I had to cut out slivers of soling leather to make up for the space. It’s not a big deal since you can only really see it if you are looking at the bottoms of the shoe, but it’s definitely something to work on for next time. I also have trouble getting my heel completely flat onto the bottom of the heel bed. There are machines that smoosh the heel onto the bottom without any gapping or bunching of the leather, but I don’t have one, so I have to use pure muscle to make it happen and the result is just so-so. It might help to skive the leather around the heel component and heel of the shoe even more so that there is less bulk there, but again, something that will hopefully get better with practice.

Once I added my cushy insole to the shoe I felt a hundred times happier with them. I wore the heels to an interview with Pride.com a couple weeks ago and pretty much every person I crossed along the way had something nice to say about them; fuschia pink mules stand out, which I love! Although the shoes are comfortable and wearable, I am very thoughtful about walking in them. I don’t feel like the heel will come off, but I do feel like if I were to step the wrong way or accidentally walk on a rock that I didn’t see on the ground, I could trip over myself. I think this again has to do with getting the heel component smashed up very tightly to the bottom of the shoe, and I wonder if next time I could try and rig a vice grip along the heel of the shoe and the top of the last to press everything together after the rubber cement is applied. I think I might also be more interested in some thicker, chunkier heels that will create a bit more stability for weight distribution than these thinner ones, so I ordered a few pairs from an online supplier I like and hopefully I will get to experiment with them and find great success! I still have tons more to learn obviously, but this pair feels like a huge win and I hope they just keep getting better and better.

MiMi G for Simplicity Jumpsuit in Purple

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tackling Pattern Magic

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Y’all.

Y’all.

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

I AM AN OFFICIAL MAGICIAN, NOW, BOYYYYYYYYYYY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Sasha Trousers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Floral Maxi Stella Dress

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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