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My Judi Dench Coat

buckle up, these pictures are weird as shit lol

WOOHOO! How y’all doin?? If you follow me on instagram, you know how…special…my experience with CATS the movie was. I’m not here to argue with anyone about whether or not CATS was good. I have been around long enough to know that art doesn’t have to be good to be entertaining, and I was NOTHING if not entertained! One of the strong takeaways from the film (and there were MANY takeaways given my state of mind, lol) was Judi Dench’s Cat/God character wearing this gigantic honey blonde colored coat that seemed to be made out of cat fur. Like, she had her own cat fur…and then she wore a coat on top of her own cat fur made out of what looked like…other cat’s cat fur. At the time I couldn’t stop thinking about Silence Of the Lambs, how this was the equivalent of a human wearing a trench coat made of human skin, and how, since she was a Cat/God, the coat was probably made out of all the furs of her enemies. Which is…so weird. But perfectly suited to the rest of the movie which was also…so weird!

Anyways, when I started making this coat, I realized that it drew a fashionably striking resemblance to Judi Dench’s costume in CATS, which tickles me to no end! I originally got the idea for this coat after trying on a jacket at a store in Vancouver last summer.

You can see these fleecy furry coats everywhere now, but at the time they were brand new to me and I absolutely loved how unique it was. I loved the texture of the sporty, wooly fabric paired with a more traditional cut of coat, and I loved the curved hem at the bottom. I would have been happy to buy this RTW jacket since it was such a special piece but it didn’t fit well (see how long it is in the sleeves?), it was too expensive for the quality, and it was made of 100% polyester. I knew I could do better than that- it didn’t seem like a particularly difficult hack to pull off- no lining or surprising design details or anything.

I found the pattern before I found the fabric. I think I asked the IG hive for any pattern ideas they might have based off this photo, and IG totally came through- the Stacker jacket pattern by Papercut seemed like the closest thing to what I was looking for, and hacking would be super easy- I just needed to lengthen it and curve the hem (I also made it a slightly hi-lo hem). It took longer to find the fabric.

All I could find was 100% polyester fleece or sherpa, and the places that did sell organic cotton fleece tended to not have enough fabric for my project or only have it in colors I didn’t want. Eventually I found a place called Simplifi Fabric based in Canada, which is an online fabric store that specializes in organic and sustainable fabric by the yard. I love them! In addition to all kinds of organic cottons and bamboo and denim and ribbing in their online shop, they had a few different colors of a sherpa fabric that was mostly organic cotton with a little polyester in it, and after being indecisive about which shade I wanted, I went with the earthy-gray toned sherpa (I was initially drawn to the ivory shade but I knew it would probably get dirty pretty quickly).

do not know whats going on here but i think im supposed to be acting like a cat? a florist cat? 

The fabric was super soft, softer than I anticipated, and squishy and cozy. The back of it is flat and non-furry, and seems to be more like a knit- it kind of looks like  the inside of french terry on the back, actually. It has a little bit of stretch but not enough to make any big alterations to the sizing. The pattern was straight forward and construction was easy- I serged my inside seams since I knew I didn’t want to line it and they were too bulky to french seam (wasn’t interested in Hong Kong seaming either). I turned up the bottom hem and used my coverstitch to tack it down, not that you can tell- the texture of this fabric eats up any top stitching which means you don’t get much room for detail, but it also hides away any imperfections. The fabric was super easy to work with- the seams were certainly bulky, but it was stable, not too messy (nothing like velvet or sequins) and my machine needles had no problems working through several layers at a time.

I didn’t run into any issues at all except the normal problem solving that comes with hacking a pattern, haha. I constructed my yoke with two pieces instead of one, because even though the fabric isn’t super heavy, I wanted the shoulder area to feel nice and stable with all that coat length pulling down on it. I had a little bit of confusion about the construction of the pockets at the front of the coat- there are two different versions and I didn’t realize I was following the directions for a specific one til I was halfway through it, haha. Turns out, I wasn’t making the pockets I intended to make! In addition to that, the original placement of the pockets was off on this coat- probably something to do with the new length and the fullness and texture of the fabric, but my original choice of breast pockets looked strabnger and bulky. I scooted them down to hit around hip length (which is where my hands would naturally fall if I was using side pockets. Ultimately I think I would like this coat better with regular in-seam side pockets in addition to the patch pockets on the front, but it’s all good!

I found some beautiful buttons from Michael Levines and I think they work so well with the coat- they elevate it a bit from looking like your average athletic-wear fleece jacket into something a little more refined.

And…I guess that’s it! A super simple garment that has a pretty major impact- I got a compliment on this coat by a salesperson in SAKS recently, who, upon finding out that I made it myself, immediately started scrutinizing it and asking to see the insides, lol. I hate when people do that- just appreciate it and move on! Sometimes people are so shocked when you tell them you’ve made something impressive that they start looking for flaws anywhere they can find them, telling themselves that you can’t be THAT good (it happens with men examining my woodworking ALL the time!). Well guess what- we can and we are!!!

Hoping I can get some more good wear out of this thing before LA heats up to the oven setting that global warming has turned it to. Anybody else so ready to be on the other side of this election with an amazing, exciting and inspiring president in office?? I can’t bear to deal with all the upcoming stress and anxiety of it, but I am SO ready to celebrate some good political news!

Keep on keeping on, y’all! And as always, thanks to Claire for this pics!

 

DKNY Dress in Leopard Tencel Twill

I have had Vogue 1287 by DKNY in my stash for a long time but was always hesitant to make it because it seemed like it would be complicated to grade out at the hips and I was afraid I wouldn’t fit a straight size in this pattern.

Image result for vogue 1287

As per usual, I am frustrated by the fabric choice on this pattern envelope- it’s certainly a cool looking dress, but the print covers up all the cool details that make this dress so unique and fun! Someone told me that the big name designers for Vogue (and probably other brands) get to design and sew up the samples that are used on the envelopes, which is fun in terms of seeing the designer’s original creative vision for a garment, but functionally it leaves much to be desired- how can anyone see the innovative pleating and pocket design in the midst of all those dots??

Image result for vogue 1287

Ok, that’s better. Now you can see the beautiful draping, the fun shoulder pleats and neckline, those wacky pockets that gave me such a headache but that look so cool on the finished garment. I was also hesitant to make this dress because, although I do love an elasticized waist, I was afraid it would make the dress look less chic. I’m so used to seeing elastic waists on cheap, poorly made clothes from fast fashion RTW that I tend to relegate the design feature in my own makes to casual wear and athleisure, and I wanted this garment to work as something a little dressier than that.

While packing for #sewnawayfromhome earlier this year, I hastily threw three patterns into my sewing suitcase, one pattern I loved and had made before, and two Vogue patterns I had never touched. This was VERY risky, because if you have followed along on my #sewnawayfromhome journey in the past, you will have learned along with me how important it is to make patterns that have a great chance of fitting/not needing a ton of adjustments since on the road I don’t have a dress form, a huge table to work on or any of the other tools required to do some serious re-working of a memade garment. But I was running out of time before my departure and unsure of exactly what I wanted to make, and I figured I would just do my best to make these patterns I had never sewn before work. Spoiler alert: I ended up successfully making and loving all three of the garments I made over the week and a half that I was in Vancouver! But it wasn’t all fun and games, folks!

First off, I brought a couple of cuts of fabric with me to Vancouver but I ended up not using either of them for this dress, and instead using the new (at the time) leopard print tencel twill Blackbird Fabrics was carrying in the store. They recently started letting customers pick up their orders directly from their shop instead of posting it in the mail, so I got to stop by the new space and ooooh and aaaahh over every single thing inside, and of course I got to say hi to Carolyn and the lovely members of her team. Once I got back to my hotel and finished sewing up my purple dress, I realized that this leopard print tencel would be a great pairing for Vogue 1287- the fabric has soooo much beautiful drape but it’s not  lightweight and it serves the slightly fitted skirt of the garment very well. The fabric has great body and is soft to the skin, and the print covers up any extra wrinkles that might be hovering around (tencel twill irons well but gets wrinkles very fast).

The pattern pieces for this dress are INSANE. I wish I had taken a picture of everything laid out on the floor after I cut it out, but of course I didn’t think to do that- I had tunnel vision when I cut all these pieces out and all I wanted to do was plow through them so I could make sense of how they fit together. The pieces are so uniquely shaped that I had a lot of trouble envisioning how they would morph into a dress, so, since I didn’t have a dress form, I carefully pinned the paper pieces of the dress together and draped them on my body to get a better idea. It was super helpful, but once I moved to the fabric and all my notches and dots got lost in the busyness of the print, I was back at square one, haha. The pockets were a huge obstacle for me- they fold back on themselves at certain points specified on the pattern pieces and they also make up part of the body of the skirt, but in order to lay right, the front pleats of the skirt waistband have to be perfectly lined up and sewn down, and any shift away from perfection makes the pockets lay really wonky and look weird. I had to take the pockets out twice to get them right and I moved those pleats around like 20 times before I was happy with how the front looked, but who cares, at least I ended up where I wanted to be!

My memory is a bit hazy because I completed this dress months ago but I believe I cut out a size 10 and graded to a 12 at the hips and I am very pleased at how terrific the fit of this dress is- much of that has to do with the elastic waist, which gives the garment a more forgiving fit, but still, I have made elasticized waists on less complicated patterns that looked way less chic than this. I realize now looking back at the details on the back of the pattern envelope that I took another risk by pairing this fabric and pattern together- although I thought the print and hand of the fabric would work great, the pattern specifies using a fabric with a bit of stretch (it suggests “stretch silk crepe, stretch charmeuse, lightweight jersey”) but of course my tencel twill was a woven. I wondered if this would give me trouble- if a stretch fabric was an absolute necessity, it would mean that this dress, which is designed with no closures whatsoever, would not slip over my head when I tried to put it on. This pattern also includes pieces for a bias cut slip to wear underneath the dress, I guess because charmeuse/silk/lightweight jersey would likely be too thin to wear on it’s own? Looking at the finished design image on the envelope, I could see that there was a decent amount of ease in the waist and hips what with all those pleats and folds, and the bodice was also drafted as very loose fitting, so it seemed hard to imagine that this garment wouldn’t translate well to a woven. Obviously I took the chance and it worked out great- I didn’t need the slip underneath and the dress is easy to get in and out of. I have noticed this in Big 4 quite a lot- this dress also required a stretch lace fabric for its’ outer shell and a lining underneath, but I was already married to my non-stretch bright neon lace and I forged ahead, not even adjusting the size for it, and it worked out perfectly.

I love the subtle sandwashed sheen of this tencel twill, I love the slightly abstracted leopard print (okay fine! I will no longer say that I don’t do animal prints!!!), and I love the look and fit of this dress. The shape and construction are so fun and unique and although it took me a while to get those pockets in a good place, it was worth the work- I don’t have anything like this in my closet and I LOVE that! I can sometimes get in a silhouette rut with dresses and skirts because I know what shapes and styles I think I look and feel best in, but sometimes you gotta get outta that comfort zone and change it up a bit- it doesn’t always pay off but when it does, it’s so exciting!

Thanks as always to my sweet Claire for these pics!