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The Eponine Dress and Furry Heels

I call it The Eponine Dress for reasons that are obvious if you are familiar at all with Les Miz- Eponine’s character is beautiful, sad, and tragic, having faced more hardships than any one young woman ever should, pining after a lost love while surviving on the streets of Paris during the French Revolution (well, sort of…the show is entirely historically inaccurate but that’s not what we are debating here, I’m just painting a picture…a picture of Eponine, beautiful, sad and tragic!)

Image result for vogue paris original 2352 nina ricci

I bought this vintage Vogue #2352 by Ninna Ricci on Etsy several years ago when I first learned about the glory of Vogue Paris Originals, and I was drawn to this particular design because it reminded me of the ladies on the tv show Designing Women- broad shouldered, bossy, and feminine. I loved the silhouette of the collar, sleeves and bodice and the intricate detailing of the pleats on the front and back of the dress, but I had no idea what fabric I would make it in or when I would get around to trying it out. Earlier this year I very randomly packed it into my sewing suitcase for #sewnawayfromhome, but I still I had no idea what the hell I was gonna make it in. To be honest, I didn’t think I would even have enough time to even get to it on my trip- I had packed two other patterns with me and would only be out of town for about a week and a half, so the chances of me cracking it open were slim.

But lo and behold, I blew through my first two patterns (this piece and this piece) is quick succession and with a few days to spare. Because of fabric restraints, I wasn’t able to use the leopard print tencel twill with this VPO pattern (I used it for the DKNY pattern I linked above instead), but I did have a couple of wide yards of this olive green slubby linen viscose fabric I bought at Dress Sew while in town. Since that was literally the only fabric I had on hand, I just went with it. I was drawn to the admittedly drab looking fabric because I loved the texture (soft, but nubbly) and I don’t come across this type of linen very often. The color was subtle and not very exciting, but I knew it would look great on my skin tone.

Because the fabric is so soft and pillowy, it’s not exactly a great fit for the detailing of this pattern- linen doesn’t iron super crisply and as you can see, a significant portion of the bodice is made up of very precise pleats. Well, they are supposed to be precise. Mine are anything but, and this section of construction had smoke floating out of my ears cause I was so frustrated. I wish I had taken pictures of the pattern pieces for this garment- they were bananas- not easily identifiable pattern pieces at all, which honestly is one of the reasons I love VPOs so much- the patterns are so unique that the methods and pattern pieces can be super untraditional and challenging to put together, but it pays off because there are so few other designs out like it. There was not a traditional bodice for this pattern, it was effectually a large rectangle labeled as “yoke” with a couple of slices through it that would become the opening for the head and front of the garment at the neckline. The shoulders and sleeves are raglan but put together like no other raglan garment I have ever sewn- now that I am on the other side of it, I can say I loved this process, but while I was in the middle of it I hated every second, lol.

When I started marking and working on the pleats, I realized immediately that it was nearly impossible to keep them from looking sloppy- again, I couldn’t get crisp, clean edges on the folds, so I decided to edgestitch them down to keep them in place, but the lines of stitching looked wobbly because of the slubby texture of the fabric, even though they weren’t- it’s like a trick of the eye! I almost gave up at this point and decided to call it a mistake of right fabric paired with wrong pattern- it was just looking so street urchin-y (apparently a recurring theme in my sewing)! But then…I got indignant. This fabric was  pricey! But even if it wasn’t, I hate wasting fabric! What if I was wrong and the dress wasn’t a loss? What if I could just get over this one hump of figuring out how to make the pleats look decent- would the whole thing look better then? I had another full day in Vancouver at this point in the construction process and nothing better to do with my time so I decided to keep working on it til it was time to go- if I couldn’t successfully save it? Well, at least I could say that I tried!

honestly had no idea how gratuitous my nips were in these pics til I started adding them to the blog post lol

I kept toiling away at the pleats, and maybe they didn’t all look perfectly straight and crisp close up, but by the time I was done, the 3 foot rule applied- you couldn’t see anything askew or horrific looking when you were maintaining my personal space, so I gave myself permission to keep working. Next came attaching the “skirt”, which really isn’t a skirt at all but rather the bottom of the dress, and that gets connected above the bust area, at a seam line hidden under the bottom pleat on both the front and back of the dress. See? So strange! But so effective! It means that there is no visible seam at the waistline or anywhere else on the dress so it looks as if the garment is made of just one piece of fabric, which I think is really cool.

Since I couldn’t figure out how the hell this dress was supposed to come together from the start (reading through directions ahead of time rarely helps me in understanding construction because I am a visual learner and need to see the garment in my hands at each step to comprehend what comes next) I didn’t make many adjustments to the pattern pieces in advance, but I did shorten the sleeves, and thank god I did. The sleeves were also very strangely put together (they weren’t set in the shoulders, but instead attached to the bottom of the yoke) and I could tell by holding them up to my body that they were drafted for a giraffe. Seriously, these things were like 4 inches past my fingertips! I liked the idea of the sleeves being so dramatic and voluminous, but I hate sleeves that get in the way of like, eating or using the bathroom, so I shortened them significantly and the length came out great- they’ve still got that Labyrinthian look to them with all that body and poofiness, but they don’t interrupt me living my life.

 

love all the random but pretty details of this dress! Also I picked out these buttons from memory because I forgot to bring the fabric with me to the button store lol

Once I had finished the funky pleating and constructed all the main parts of the dress, I tried it on to see how it was looking. It was looking…like a massive failure. UGH! So drab! So shapeless! Beautifully big, dramatic sleeves and shoulders that cascaded into a garment that overall actually looked, and I am not  being hyperbolic here, like I was wearing a potato sack. The WORST. But I didn’t feel overwhelmed- I had come too far with this damn thing and I was too close to GOOD to turn back now. I had imagined that I would be able to wear this garment without it being cinched at the waist, as per an image I had saved on Pinterest of a dress very similar in shape to this one, but I quickly realized that this was not the proper silhouette to pull off that look, so I sewed up a belt and belt loops for the dress and tried it on. It was much much, better- having a clearly defined waist made me feel like I was actually wearing the dress instead of drowning inside of it. But I still had the issue of the hem, which was cut straight across, hitting my legs in a place that made them look very short (in real life I’m 5’3″ but in fantasy life my ass is pushing 6 feet!). I decided to take a risk and alter the whole shape of the hem by curving it up at the sides on both the front and back pieces, an idea inspired by the Kalle shirtdress. If it was a disaster, I would have enough room to cut it off straight again, but shorter.

I’m still amazed at how instantaneously the altered hem changed the whole look of the dress- the curve at the bottom makes it feel modern, fun and trendy, while the rest of the dress looks pieced together from different eras of fashion- shoulders from the 80’s, detailed pleat work from the 40’s/50’s…she looks designed by Frankenstein! I actually left off the shoulder pads suggested for use in this dress because the pleating at the shoulders created enough structure on it’s own and they weren’t necessary. As drab as the beginnings of this dress were, I receive lots of compliments every time I wear it- on paper I feel like it shouldn’t work at all, there are too many design elements fighting for space, but somehow all together it totally works, and I don’t have anything else in my closet that evokes the energy that this dress does. I love it!

Now for these cool shoes! This is my second pair of shoes made with this last (my first pair of pointy toed heels with the faux snakeskin leather are here) and they are really terrific! I was inspired by an image on pinterest of a pointy toed heel with some cool straps and I based my design completely on those, but with different upper material.

X21QX Alice + Olivia Davey Lizard-Embossed Pump, Hot Pink

I lined the shoes and the heels with a black sueded pigskin leather, used a faux leopard print “fur” for the toe of the shoe, then used a really cool deep dark gold for the straps. Few people on instagram thought this selection of materials would work and suggested I use black leather for the straps, but I was really drawn to the variety of textures in the gold/black/fur combo and decided to trust my gut- thankfully they came out beautifully! I was worried about lasting the fur over the pointy toe but it was totally forgiving, and the horse hair covers up any imperfections that might be going on underneath. Aside from figuring out the placement of the straps, these shoes came together very easily and the impact is strong- I have never seen a shoe quite like this before! I actually haven’t had a chance to wear these yet outside of the house so I can’t say how comfortable they are after more than 20 minutes of wear, but if they are anything like my snakeskin heels, they will be great- or rather, great if you like wearing heels. They certainly don’t feel like wearing sneakers, but as far as heels go, they are pretty damn comfortable.

Thanks to Claire for the beautiful pictures! When we get our backyard deck and landscaping done sometime in the next 20 years this is gonna be a killer place to take photos, lol!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

A Golden Dress for Your Grandma

We are way overdue for a #grandmachic make!

This gorgeous dress was finished months ago and was purely inspired by the pattern image on the envelope. I had been looking for a pattern like this for so long, and had even attempted to draft/hack something close to it (it was the original inspiration for the sheer fabric I used in this make) but I never managed to get close to recreating it until I found Simplicity 8545.

Image result for simplicity 8545

What I like so much about the pattern is the sheer, embroidered fabric which gets paired with something more opaque (in this case, a slip) underneath. I like the peek of skin you get around the embroidered pieces of the outer fabric, and I love the way the embroidery kind of dances around on the body. I also like the high waisted gathered skirt attached to the loose-fitting bodice. The whole look feels a bit effortless, but it could easily be dressed up fancy, depending on how you style it. I had seen some exquisite embroidered tulle around the fabric district before, but while digging through my fabric stash I came across this brilliant bright yellow and gold embossed silk that I picked up at The Fabric Store in LA right before that location closed. I bought it without any idea of what I would make with it, but I felt like I couldn’t leave it behind because I LOVED the shade of yellow so much and I thought the whole piece was just incredibly unique. Once I got my hands on this pattern, though, I knew it was going to be a match made in heaven.

I should have muslined this pattern before I cut it out, because like most Big 4 patterns, they tend to come out huge on me, but I had no idea exactly how much ease was in this thing (I couldn’t find the information on the pattern pieces but it’s possible I didn’t look hard enough)! I chose a smaller size and assumed it would be a totally easy thing to fix any problem areas since the design was so simple, but it still came out about 5 or 6 inches too large in the bust. Somehow I was able to use the original darts in the pattern pieces and just take the extra fabric out at the side seams, but I also had to chop off about 2 inches from the bottom of the bodice, otherwise it would have landed way below my natural waist. I messed up on the sizing here, but thankfully I paid close attention to where the gold floral design would land on the bodice front. I knew I didn’t want it centered and symmetrical (#sorrynotsorry to the people who DMed me on IG “politely” explaining that my bodice wasn’t cut with the design centered on the front- I know it wasn’t, and that was intentional) because I wanted to give some visual interest to the composition of the bodice area and I liked the idea of having the floral bouquet crawling up my shoulder a bit. Placing the design off-center also allows the negative space of the fabric to become its own separate visual, and I like the peekaboo of skin coming out in unexpected places, particularly around the shoulders and arms.

Anyways, it took me a while to hack away at the crazy amount of easy in this pattern, but once I got it to a place that felt right, everything else was (mostly) a breeze. The trickiest thing about this make by far was the fabric. It’s silk, it’s slinky, it’s shifty, and it likes to fray so it needs a LOT of attention. I used a microtex needle to keep it from pulling on any of the individual threads but surprisingly I didn’t end up needing to use a walking foot. I sewed slowly and carefully, and aside from a few gold threads that got pulled up, the fabric was mostly well behaved. I spent the most time gathering the skirt with basting threads and attaching it to the bodice with french seams (gathered french seams are a real pain in the ass and never come out with absolute precision for me), but luckily it’s nothing you would see unless you were looking for some wobbly seam lines on the inside of the garment. Attaching the binding around the neckline also took a lot of patience on my part because I wanted it to look clean and neat, and I think it came out beautifully.

Once I completed the main parts of the outer dress I realized that I absolutely didn’t want to close the dress with a zipper as per the instructions- the sheer fabric seemed much too delicate to muddy up with a bulky plastic zipper, and I don’t particularly like it when you can see zippers on clothing. I know it’s a trend right now or whatever, and I am definitely into the sheer look that Ada Spragg introduced me to on IG, but a bulky zipper on sheer transparent fabric is just not my thing. So I decided to create ties in the back to close the bodice and waistline. I have seen ties used on vintage garments before and this dress was definitely looking very vintage-inspired by this point, so I thought it would be a lovely feature. I carefully created several thin lengths of ties from my silk fabric and knotted them at the end. Then I folded in my seam allowance twice (above the french seam that I used for the back skirt seam, right where the zipper would have been inserted), and sewed it down to the bodice. I attached the ties to the back with some hand stitching and decided to just use two pairs, one at neck and one at waist.

I absolutely love the way the ties look in the back, and it works because the outer dress is worn over a slip underneath that covers any exposed body parts that would have shown through the gaps between the ties. This Simplicity dress pattern also comes with a pattern for the slip worn underneath and this was…a really strangely designed garment. I hadn’t realized this when I first purchased the pattern but it’s actually designed WITH A BACK ZIPPER, TOO! Yes, that’s right- A SLIP. WITH A BACK ZIPPER. Meant to go under another dress that ALSO HAS A BACK ZIPPER. I’ve seen some bizarre design details in Big 4 before, but never something this glaringly wrong, lol. The thought of wearing two garments with zippers in the exact same place going down my spine is enough to give me agita. Who in the world would design such a thing? I have never even seen a loose-fitting slip with a zipper, so initially I thought that maybe the slip was drafted in a way that I wasn’t familiar with, a way that would make it impossible to get into any other way without the aid of a back closure, but of course it wasn’t. It’s a pretty traditional slip design: it isn’t cut on the bias but it has spaghetti straps on the shoulders and wide neck and back openings, meaning it should be a very simple thing to slip it over your head. To be sure that it didn’t need the zip closure, I cut my back fabric on the fold without the zipper and I basted the side seams to test it out (my slip fabric is a silk without a significant amount of stretch), and yes, that baby slid RIGHT over my head like a dream, although unsurprisingly it was STILL too big even though I made the smallest size and graded up in the hips. I would rather the slip be too loose than too tight so ultimately it’s fine, but on it’s own it’s just not the best looking thing I have ever made. Anyways, this is all to say that YOU CAN ELIMINATE THE ZIPPER ON THIS ONE, FOLKS!

The slip is the only thing I am a bit unhappy with from this make. I mostly followed the instructions but should have just sewn it up in the way I thought it should look. It is designed to have a small folded hem on the neckline and armholes, but I wish I had created some bias binding for the top hem instead. Folded hems on curved edges rarely turn out perfectly for me when I am using a shifty fabric like silk, and a bias bound edge would have looked so much neater and more professional. The corners where the straps are attached look bulky with the two hemmed seams coming together, and I just don’t like how it looks on me. Thankfully, the outer dress covers up all the imperfections of the slip so it’s not a big deal, but if I ever make this again, I’ll definitely use a different pattern for the slip. One thing I did change was to make the straps much skinnier than they are designed. The draft has them at something like 5/8″ width which looks bulky and weird even under the overlay dress, so I remade them to be thinner- honestly I probably could have gone even thinner than I did, but still, they work much better now.

Looking over these pictures I feel we did a disservice by not getting a great shot of the fabric on it’s own- the gold floral emblems on the yellow sheer fabric are really spectacular in real life, but you can’t see the details very well in these shots. Another thing you can’t see in the pictures is how ITCHY that sheer fabric is! Hahahaa! OMG! I have super sensitive skin to certain fabrics, but because the underside of the yellow and gold silk didn’t feel particularly gnarly on my hands I didn’t even consider that it might be an issue- but of course, the palms of my hands are toughened up and much less capable of determining what feels uncomfortable than the skin on my shoulders and neck. When I first completed this dress and tried it on I almost tore the whole thing off straight away because it was so immediately icky feeling. But I think maybe I had a dramatic reaction because I just wasn’t prepared for it. Once I tried it on a few months later to snap these photos, it felt a little better- still itchy, but once it had been on my body for a while I mostly forgot about it. I have been looking for tan long sleeve tops made of pantyhose material that I might be able to wear underneath this dress, and I think I could mostly get away with it except at the back neck area where the overlay dress opens up to show the slip underneath. I might be able to cut the neckline of the skirt wider so that it isn’t noticeable under the dress, as long as I don’t compromise the integrity of the fabric and get a bunch of runs racing all over the thing!

Thanks to Claire for these pics, and thank to you readers for your patience in waiting to see this up on the blog- I shared a lot of the process of this dress on instagram and then it took forever to blog about it so it just kind of disappeared on some of you!

A Rigel Bomber for Claire

I make Claire stuff all the time- hoodies, binders, approximately 326 pairs of Hudson pants- but not all of it gets catalogued here on my blog. Mostly because getting photos of myself in my makes seems to take forever, so trying to schedule an additional person feels downright preposterous. But every once in a while, I make Claire something so radical that it’s essential to catalogue here, and this Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns is a perfect example.

Rigel Bomber

Although I’ve pinned and pined over lots of photos of their patterns, this is the first one I have actually ever made. Hilariously it was gifted to Claire through me (since Claire doesn’t sew), because our friend thought it would be a good style match for her, and she was totally right- this bomber jacket has all the athletic/leisurewear essence of the clothing that Claire is generally drawn to, with a little bit of design flare included.

I have to be honest- I wasn’t a huge fan of this pattern, drafting-wise or construction-wise, but I am not turned off of it enough to not try out another of their patterns in the future, and I do like the outcome of this jacket! Let’s start with the fabric and notions choices, which are probably my favorite part of the whole project, but which definitely took the most time to collect. Last December when Claire and I went down to New Orleans to celebrate our friend Geri’s birthday, we made a stop at Promenade Fabrics because I had heard of what a special store it was. I guess they weren’t quite ready for our crew when we arrived- we were like, 10 people deep, and we barged in on the quiet store with a lot of conversation and squeals of delight (mostly coming from Claire). I got the distinct feeling that the people manning the store didn’t actually think we were going to buy anything. But we did! And this beautiful print is one of them!

Of course Claire is the one who picked this out- it’s got her personality all over it: bold, bright, and totally unique. We had already decided that I would make her the Rigel Bomber but it was taking forever to figure out what fabric she wanted- nothing online caught her interest but she also wasn’t sure what she was looking for. When we walked the aisles of Promenade, she kept asking ‘would this one work?….what about this one?’ and not finding the exact print-to-textile match necessary, but then she found this random little bolt off to the side that caught her eye. We pulled it out and it was stunning! A galaxy print with a bit of embossing on the fabric, lots of silver, gold, yellows and reds. The fabric was expensive but they only had one yard left and although I knew it wasn’t enough to complete the whole jacket, I felt confident that we could supplement the rest of it with something really cool.

Back at home with the pattern pieces cut out I determined that we could get the back and front bodice pieces from the galaxy print and we just needed a different fabric for the sleeves…but what?? I glanced in a corner of my craft room and saw a big box of leather that I had just purchased for a steal from the Brooklyn Shoe Space instagram account. Sticking out of it was a soft, pliable chocolate brown hide that matched the reddish, brownish hues in the galaxy print. “Ever considered leather?” I asked Claire, and her eyes widened.

Once we had the main fabric worked out, I forged ahead. I didn’t muslin (yeah, yeah, I know!) or make any big adjustments, but I did redraft the front neckline to be more rounded- as designed it slants into a V and pulls down kind of low at the front, which I just don’t like very much- I prefer the more classic neckline shape of a letterman’s jacket. Next I re-drafted the facing to match the curve of the neckline of the front bodice, and I liked the look much better, although I could have raised the neckline higher and rounded it out even more. Weirdly, I got pretty stumped by the welt pocket construction…well, not stumped, per se, but dissatisfied. I wasn’t impressed with the techniques they used but I didn’t realize how strange they were til I was already halfway through them and it was too late to change it up. I don’t remember everything I disliked about the method, but I do remember that it lacked a lot of key information, like which direction to press the pocket bags and facings, etc. Pressing properly throughout welt pocket construction is one of the things that makes this design feature look really tidy and professional, so omitting it was a big oversight to me (FYI I really like the technique used in Closet Case’s Sasha Trousers).

I also disliked the size and shape of the pocket- it’s not very deep or long and it was kind of frustrating to sew. Part of it is because the jacket is relatively short and narrow, but I still think it could have a lot more room in the pocket without compromising the design too much. Thankfully the unattractive pocket and welt can’t be seen on the inside of the jacket because I decided to underline it! A regular lining would have been nice but because I used a thick material (leather) for the sleeves, I didn’t want to bulk up that area even more, so I just underlined the back and front bodice pieces with some bright green quilted polyester by basting the lining and outer fabric together and then sewing it as one.

 

Claire had purchased a zipper and a length of binding on etsy once we found her main fabric, but I neglected to tell her not to purchase from any accounts shipping from overseas, since they can take months and months to get here and it’s not the most sustainable way to buy. Spoiler alert: we are still waiting on her zipper from China and it has been THREE MONTHS lol! I ended up having to hunt down ribbing locally once I got to that step in the instructions, and I also picked up a really cool zipper, but lo and behold, when I got back home to use them, they were all wrong. The “ribbing” I bought from Michael Levine’s was actually more of a thin, lightweight, ribbed stretch knit- it was incredibly flimsy when I basted it onto the neckline of the jacket, and the color was also not quite right- a little too bright and orange-y to pair well with the galaxy print. And then! The zipper I got was too long! Which normally wouldn’t matter, but because this is a separating zipper it needs to be exactly the right length for the jacket front.

I took to instagram asking my followers if anyone had any beefy, sturdy ribbing to suggest for me that I could buy online, and Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics wrote me with a link to the perfect ribbing that she carried in her shop. I bought two packages of waistband ribbing (I used the additional one for the neckband) and matching ribbed cuffs in a color that ended up being the absolute perfect compliment to the jacket- a deep purple-ish wine color that enhanced the purple in the galaxy print and was a nice pairing for the brown leather of the sleeves.


Next I looked on youtube for tutorials on how to shorten a separating zipper, and I found that I could remove some of the teeth with wire cutters and then cut the excess length, but I wasn’t sure how to close off the top of the zipper without an extra pair of zipper stops – apparently you can buy zipper repair kits at a local fabric store, but I wasn’t planning on leaving the house for the rest of the night so I was determined to figure it out with the tools I already had. Somehow, someway, I convinced myself that if I was careful, I could pull the stops off the orginal zipper with pliers and then close them back onto the zipper where I needed them to be, right below where I had cut off the teeth. It took a while and a lot of muscle, but I did it, and it was totally worth it- this zipper is just too cool to not be attached to this jacket.

Because I opted to use leather sleeves for this project, I had to be flexible with a lot of the construction methods- it would have been quick and easy to serge almost the whole jacket, but I can’t run leather through my serger, so I had to sew straight stitches with Nylon thread (which holds up better when sewing leather). I also had to try and reduce bulk in as many places as possible, sometimes skiving the leather down at intersecting seams, sometimes using my mallet to pound the seams flat or open. Using leather took a little bit more time but I adore the look is brings to the jacket.

Another design element I didn’t like so much was the facing, or rather the fact that the facing isn’t instructed to be tacked down inside the jacket around the zipper. On this jacket, the facing constantly wanted to fly open or get scrunched up inside the jacket when it was being put on, and tacking it down was easy since I underlined the outer shell, but on a single layer jacket, depending on the fabric, this might be a difficult thing to do.

This jacket was literally four months in the making but I am glad I kept working on it because it looks really freaking cool and it’s SO CLAIRE! I am hoping that the leather of the sleeves softens up more over time because as of now, even though the leather is soft and pliable, it’s still pretty thick and it needs to be broken in. If I made this again I would probably lengthen it a bit and round out that collar even more (and alter that pocket bag shape!), but I think it fits Claire well and is a beautiful collaborative effort on both our parts. Enjoy, Claire- I love you!

 

 

Sew Frosting!

 

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the #sewfrosting hashtag that recently started trending on sewcial media. The #sewfrosting challenge is the brainchild of the creators behind True Bias and Closet Case Patterns. It is a call to arms for sewists across the globe to take a little break from sewing cake- cake being the sturdy workhorse portion of our garment sewing, like t-shirts and jeans and button downs- and spend a bit more time sewing frosting, the fancy, frilly, sweet, delightful garments that we perhaps have less opportunities to wear, like cocktail dresses, shiny pants, floral suits, etc. Although I wasn’t calling it by this name, I have been a big proponent of sewing frosting for a few years now. I always used the hashtag #redcarpetDIY because these were the garments I would have a chance to wear when going to work events and promoting tv/film projects, but I might need to go through all my old blog posts and add #sewfrosting to the hashtags now since it is so succinct. I like that the term “sewfrosting” represents something both specific and broad at the same time,  encompassing so many in the community- sewing frosting will look very different to different people, depending on their style, gender identity, culture, habits, ability and even geographical location, but this hashtag allows us to celebrate it all together. Whether your frosting is a gown to wear to an awards ceremony, a fancy pair of pants for church, or a simple shawl made of beautiful lace, it feels like there is room for us all in there to celebrate the idea of challenging ourselves, with fabric, design, and trends. Kelli and Heather Lou turned the #sewfrosting hashtag, which has apparently been around for a while,  into a bit of a contest with some prizes and deals to compete for if you create your garment before the end of November, but let’s be honest- the real prize here is adding something exciting, new and unique to your wardrobe!

My original idea of frosting was inspired (of course!) by this dress I found on Pinterest. I love love love the plunging neckline and armholes that manage to bare some skin but not look too revealing, and although my drafting skills are amatuer at best, I thought I could manage to recreate this look without too much trouble. Unfortunately I was wrong- I got all of the style lines right when I draped this on my dress form, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the sides of the bodice to not gape out around my bust. Initially I thought that perhaps my bust was fuller than the model’s in the photo and therefore this was not the perfect bodice for me, but then I realized that I might have been approaching the shape all wrong- maybe it wasn’t created from darts as I assumed, but created from panels, kind of like a strapless bodice. So I pulled out my trusty TnT strapless dress bodice from Gertie’s Ultimate Book of Dresses and I started the process of hacking the pieces to match the shape of the Pinterest inspo dress…but then I got impatient. I decided I wanted to spend more time on something that I knew was going to come out successfully rather than something that was going to require a lot of experimenting and testing to get right. And this made even more sense because I wanted my submission to get in before the deadline and I didn’t want to run out of time!

Before I aborted my original plan I knew exactly what fabric I wanted to make my #sewfrosting in and thankfully the fabric translated easily into my new plan. The fabric is a beautiful, geometric jacquard purchased from The Fabric Store in LA many months ago, and it’s been sitting in my stash just waiting for the perfect opportunity to be used. This fabric is medium weight with a lot of body, and I knew I wanted to show it off by sewing it into something with a big shape.

My first idea was a strapless bodice with a big wide poofy skirt, but because I am obsessed with jumpsuits right now, I kept coming back to the idea of trading the big skirt for some big pants. Immediately the Winslow Culottes by Helen’s Closet came to mind because of the pleating at the front and back and wide legs- that garment actually looks like a skirt when you’re standing still and it seemed like a really interesting pairing to match with my bodice, but I worried that the body of the fabric wouldn’t marry well with the style lines.

What if it gave out too much poof, or not enough poof, or just ended up looking dowdy? I tried to take my uncut fabric and fold it around my body to give me a good idea of how the end result would look but it was practically impossible to tell, so I took a leap of faith and just went for it- worst case scenario was that it wouldn’t look good at all and I would have to cut shapes out of the pants pieces to create a skirt (which wouldn’t be too hard to do since the pant legs are so wide). With a little urging from sewcial media I went forward with my plan and ultimately it came out beautifully! I wouldn’t change a single thing!

Okay, that’s a lie- I totally would change the fabric of the lining that I used, lol. I cut out my pieces from my fashion fabric, then cut out the same pieces from hair canvas to give the bodice additional stability, and then I cut out another set of pieces from some black silk organza in my stash to make the lining (I opted to create channels for my boning by sewing them onto the lining and hair canvas instead of using separate channeling). I didn’t really have any other fabric in my stash to make the lining out of that would match the color scheme of the fabric and I thought the organza would provide yet another layer of stability for the bodice, so this seemed like a great idea at the time.

Unfortunately I didn’t take into account how scratchy the hair canvas in the middle of the bodice would end up being- it was so itchy that it poked through the organza and immediately started irritating my skin when I first tried the garment on. BIG FAIL! It was so bad that I knew I would have to make some sort of adjustment or the garment would be unwearable, but taking the whole thing apart was out of the question- the bodice was literally ENTIRELY complete: under stitched, hand stitched closed at the waistline and everything! I didn’t have the time or patience to dismantle the whole thing since I had a bunch of birthday gifts to sew for claire, and I also was just NOT FEELING DOING ALL THAT WORK.

So I had to come up with a quicker fix that would work almost as well as replacing the entire layer of organza lining. I opened the bodice back up from the waistline seam and I decided to fill in the spaces between the boning with another layer of silk (this time a white silk habotoi from my stash) to serve as a buffer between the hair canvas and organza lining. It was tricky, imprecise, and took some very delicate maneuvering- I cut out the rough shape of the space needed to be filled from my habotoi silk, carefully slid it into the area underneath the lining, then stitched around the edges of the organza and hair canvas to keep the silk in place. There was one triangular space at each of the top sides where the opening was simply too tiny to stuff the silk into, but I was able to effectively cover the hair canvas everywhere else in the bodice. I wasn’t sure how well it was going to work, but thankfully it did the trick, and the two spots that aren’t covered with the habotoi seem to be too small to be of major concern. I tried the garment on and my skin didn’t start turning red and getting itchy- success!

Other than that snafu with the bodice, everything else came together beautifully. The Winslow Culottes pattern is a STUNNING match for this fabric- I love how the pleats puff out from the waistline and how perfect the length is, and I did some very careful and successful pattern matching on the pieces, too. I changed the shape of the pockets on these pants as I wish I had done on my original pair. They are designed to have a teardrop pocket that hangs from the side seam, but I prefer my side seam pockets to be drafted to the waistline and sewn down into the waist seam which keeps them in place and makes sure they dont wiggle around, get bunched up, and bulk up the silhouette of my hips. I re-drafted this pocket by raising the height to match the waist of the front pants piece and it came out beautifully.

One thing I find hilarious about this make is the fact that used the same black organza for the pockets as I did for the lining- organza is strong and soft, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, but I didn’t take into account that this would give me transparent pockets, which you can get a tiny peekaboo at when I pull them open on the sides. This was a happy accident- I LOVE a little peek of skin in an unexpected place! I just need to make sure that my underwear match the fabric a little bit more, lol!

 

All in all I am thrilled at how this garment came out and I am so happy with the journey I went on to get here. I had such different ideas for how I wanted this piece to look at the beginning of the project, but I came out with something entirely unique and very me. This isn’t to say that I won’t give my original Pinterest dress another try at some point in the future, but I am really happy with where I ended up and I probably wouldn’t have created this strapless jumpsuit without starting from where I did. The marriage of fabric and pattern here are so exquisite and this is one of those garments that I haven’t really seen around before- it’s a dynamic shape in a bold print, and I feel so special in it… kind of like a dollop of frosting! Mission accomplished! Thanks for the inspiration, Kelli and Heather Lou!

P.S. Photos by Claire Savage (thanks, honey!)

Boiler Suit Pattern Testing

I’ve never pattern tested before because I like to limit my “deadline sewing” as much as possible. Sewing with the pressure of a due date takes the fun out of the craft for me, so, with the exception of being an ambassador for The Fabric Store and sewing up holiday gifts for others, I just don’t do it very often. However, sometimes my trycuriosity gets the better of me and I will say yes to things I haven’t done before so I can at least have the experience under my belt and know whether I like something or not based on knowledge instead of assumptions. When Alice & Co. reached out to me on IG and asked if I was interested in testing their new Intrepid Boiler jumpsuit pattern (how did they know I was on a major jumpsuit kick???), my instinct was to say no, but then I saw an image of the design. It was essentially the Madewell one-piece that inspired this jumpsuit, the one I saw Heather Lou in, fell in love with, and then consequently tumbled down a jumpsuit rabbithole in an attempt to recreate it! If you read that blog post you’ll know that I diverged from my original inspo and, while I love where I landed, it’s different from the utilitarian, no-frills jumpsuit that first caught my eye.

Well, surprisingly, the Boiler Jumpsuit ended up being the answer I needed all along! And now I am glad I didn’t waste too much time trying to cobble together a pattern for it because this one is surely better than what I would have been able to hack. This jumpsuit was a relatively simple make, although there are of course some changes that have been made since the tester versions went out. I think the majority of the changes address design details as opposed to fit details, and my jumpsuit fit really well right off the bat.

The tester pattern was comprised of sleeves, a yoke, front/ back bodice, pant legs and pockets, and the waistlines of the bodice and pant legs have extra seam allowance included so that you can baste the pieces together and decide how much or how little room you need for comfortable bending and moving around. You know how some indie pants patterns give an inch of seam allowance at the side seams so that you can adjust as needed throughout the hips and leg area? Well this pattern allows you do that when connecting the top and bottom of the jumpsuit and it is super helpful to have included. Since the general fit of the jumpsuit is loose, the length through the torso and waist was the only area I needed to adjust, and the extra seam allowance makes this very straightforward and efficient.

I was surprised to see that there were no side, slant or patch pockets included in the tester design, and I had no idea how much I was going to miss them til the whole garment was completed and I tried it on and realized that my hands were aching to be jammed into something (that’s what she said); the jumpsuit is just so functional looking and utilitarian that to wear it without pockets felt wrong- where will I put my tools? My candy cigarettes? My lovenotes?? So I went back and added patch pockets to the front legs of mine after it was already finished, only because they were simpler and quicker than taking the legs and waistband apart and drafting a whole pocket. I think the patch pockets work fine on this (I used the pattern pieces from my Madewell hack) but a regular side seam pocket would be great, too.

Unfortunately I can’t speak much on how well the instructions are written because the ones for the tester version were sparse in a couple of places and they said they added more information but I’m not quite sure what they look like; I used the burrito method when attaching my yoke to the bodice pieces (they used a different method in the instructions) and unfortunately they left out the zipper installation instructions for the tester pattern (which they said will also be included in the finalized pattern). The zipper is where my only real issue with this pattern came into play. There was literally nothing about how to attach the zipper to the front pieces, so when I came to that part of the construction I decided to forgo the zipper altogether. The front zipper was my least favorite part of the jumpsuit design, only because, at least for the tester version, there was no hidden placket or flap to conceal it, so it was just a big zipper going from crotch to neck. As I’ve said, I love how practical this garment is, but I felt like the zipper made it look a bit too simple or costumey- for me it was just missing some element of sophistication. I decided at the last minute to draft some front facings to each bodice piece so that I could fold them in and use snaps to close the garment up instead of the zipper.

I wish I had taken better notes on how to achieve this look because, although Alice & Co. loved my finished jumpsuit and told us testers that they were going to include some button/snap placket options to include with the zipper, I just found out that they thought the placket was “too complicated” to include in the pattern and they decided not to add the option after all. I beg to differ on this point since I was able to figure the placket out on my own and I am by no means a designer- I think that with the proper instructions, a beginning sewist could just as easily create a beautiful placket as they could a front zipper, there are just more steps. I must admit, I was disappointed to find that they were leaving the placket option out of the pattern because they seemed so excited about it at first and it felt like my most significant contribution as a pattern tester. But then this morning they sent me an email saying that they might offer the plackets as a hack to be released in the coming weeks, so I will keep my fingers crossed that they offer that option up to future makers of the pattern.

I can’t remember exactly what I did to create my front button plackets but it wasn’t very scientific anyways. I modeled it after another jumpsuit I made (hasn’t made it to the blog yet) which has a front button placket. Essentially I drafted two facings for each side of the bodice that extended from the crotch to the neckline which were about 4 inches wide, interfaced them, sewed them to the bodice front edges, then I understitched them. Because these pieces were not drafted and taken into account from the beginning of the make, they aren’t lined up perfectly in the center of the jumpsuit, and the overlap of the bodice fronts is pretty narrow- there is only like an inch or so of overlapping fabric underneath the snaps, but it was still plenty of room for me to attach them. If I had known I wanted to add these plackets from the beginning of the make, I would have extended the front bodice edges out a couple of inches so that they overlapped instead of met at the center (a zipper means each edge will meet together roughly in the center, with the zipper taking up a little bit of space, but for a placket, the pieces are drafted to be wider so that they can overlap, if that makes sense- you need the right and left front bodice edges to sit on top of each other so that a button or snap can be attached to both pieces of fabric and connected).

On the bottom of the crotch, after snipping into the seam line to allow the facings to be tacked down to one side, I topstitched the edge of the placket onto the front of the pants to keep it in place. I also extended the collar just a bit to accommodate the adjusted neckline. Lastly, I extended the waist band pieces further towards the front center of the jumpsuit and I inserted a length of elastic inside it and sewed it down on the fronts and side seams. I knew I would never style this jumpsuit with a belt the way that the pattern photo showed, but I also knew I didn’t want the waist to be totally loose around my body, since there is a a lot of ease drafted into the pattern. I left the elastic pretty loose so it doesn’t hug my waist but it cinches in enough to make me feel like I am not wearing a tent. Aside from shortening the lengths of the sleeves and pants legs to fit my petite frame, those are the major adjustments I made to the pattern.

All in all, I really love how this jumpsuit came out and I think it’s a dead ringer for the original Madewell jumpsuit (above) that I fell in love with, except this one actually fits me. My favorite thing about the design of this garment (besides the great drafting) is the collar- it’s a very simple one-piece collar, nothing particularly special about it, but I think it works so well on these coveralls, and I wish I had made my dusty rose jumpsuit with this collar instead- next time!

Although I absolutely want to make one of these jumpsuits in a lightweight yellow twill like the Madewell inspo one, I like how this striped linen (gifted to me by Mimi G…and by “gifted” I mean she let me rifle through her shelves of giveaway fabric one day lol) works with this pattern- I knew I was toeing the line to have it look like a prisoner’s uniform with the vertical stripes and subdued color, but it doesn’t look nearly as drab as all that. It’s really fun and easy to wear and I have had NOTHING but compliments on this thing every time I wear it. I have dressed it down with my memade sneakers (as seen in these photos) and I have also worn it with clogs which made it feel slightly more dolled up- there are a lots of cool ways to style this garment and I am excited to discover more of them (I’ve always wanted to wear something like this with a t shirt underneath and the top half off with the sleeves tied around my waist! It’s like Car Mechanic Realness!)

As for whether or not I will ever pattern test again? Who knows! Maybe if it’s for a design I am super excited about, like this one, or a pattern company I love. Alice & Co. was friendly and gracious throughout the process, and despite my disappointment about them not offering more options for the final version, I think the jumpsuit is a great pattern and will be fun for beginning and intermediate sewists alike. The real question is… has my my thirst for jumpsuits finally been quenched?!

The White Kiki Party

All my posts are being shared out of order because I made several things over the summer months but was too lazy to photograph any of them until recently, so now I am trying to balance them out with things I am currently making and I am getting all turned around. But it’s okay! Please bear with me as I trudge through these clothing makes in the most (un)timely fashion!

To catch you up, Claire and I went to the wedding of our good friend Lawrence in Hawaii this summer, and it was our first time on the island of Oahu, which we were very much looking forward to exploring, but Claire started getting sick days before our departure and by the time we landed she had what turned out to be a full blown ear infection that was slowly making its way to her sinuses and throat. It was ROUGH for Claire, she was in a LOT of pain and discomfort, but thankfully we didn’t have much planned outside of the wedding events so she could be miserable in peace. Luckily, our airbnb was a 3 minute walk to a practically private beach, so I still had a lovely time hanging out with the sand and sun while I took breaks from looking after Claire.

The day before the wedding there was a “White Party” on Waikiki that all the wedding guests were invited to, but the name of the party was changed to the “White-kiki Party” at Claire’s urging, LOL. We were of course all invited to show up in white attire, and I had one dress in my closet that would have worked for the event but decided to make something new for it because…WHY NOT? Claire also needed something white to wear for the party and she settled on a Kalle shirtdress with popover placket in a terrific white linen fabric from Joanns. Claire is mostly a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal but my goodness she LOVES her housedresses, and she wanted something that felt comfortable and looked clean and classic to wear to this event. I opted for something a little more dolled up (surprise!) but still comfortable and breezy for the warm island weather.

When The Fabric Store closed in LA over the summer I got my hands on as much fabric as I could, which is why my stash is bigger than it has ever been before (a big stash is not my happy place, but I also can’t turn down good fabric that’s free or deeply discounted, so I have committed myself to not buying any more for the rest of the year so I can work through what I have…although I might need to amend that to next year after going through Mimi’s fabric giveaway pile yesterday lol). One of the cuts I ended up taking home with me was a white poly with animal stripes embossed across it. Because the whole print is white, it doesn’t really read as animal print (which I am not really into) but it gives the fabric a bit of depth and a texture, and I decided to pair it up with McCalls 7778, a jumpsuit/dress with options for different straps and closures. It’s a very simple garment to make with princess seams at the bodice, and I only needed to make some minor adjustments to it (surprise! it was too big right out the envelope!) to get the fit just right.

I actually had a bit more trouble with the legs of the jumpsuit than anything else because the crotch was just too high which gave me dreaded camel toe! It was a simple fix though- I sewed about 1/2″ past my seam allowance at the bottom of the crotch curve, grading to the regular seam allowance at the front and back waist, and now they are much better than they were, although if I made this pattern again (which I doubt I will), I would absolutely adjust the crotch areas on both front and back pattern pieces to give myself more room for my seat. As it stands, the crotch is still a bit too high for my preference, and you can see the fabric hugging my shape in the butt area more than you should for a flowy, gathered waist, culotte-style garment.

I also had to adjust the bodice pieces (which was to be expected) to make them smaller- it gaped out at the top of the bodice and was too loose under the arms, so I brought the seams in in these areas on both outing and lining of the bodice and it fit better. I pulled a real rookie move when I absentmindedly used my pink chalk pen to mark all my notches and circles on this white fabric, which of course showed through to the other side and wouldn’t rub off when I tried to remove them. I have other marking tools like Frission pens and invisible markers, I just use the chalk so often that I didn’t even consider how it would work on this white transparent fabric! Thankfully when I completed the garment, I threw it in the wash immediately and it wiped out every trace of the pink chalk.

Again, this was a super easy make- no pockets included, which I would have loved to add myself but I didn’t have quite enough fabric leftover after my pieces were cut out, and on top of that, the white poly is a little bit sheer and having pockets underneath it would have made them show through in a way that I am sure I would have been unhappy with. As a whole I feel pretty meh about this project. It came out fine and I was happy to wear it to the White-Kiki party, but there just isn’t anything all that special about it. The fit is nothing spectacular and the silhouette is definitely cute, but maybe paired with this fabric, which isn’t all that dynamic, it just landed a little flat for me. It’s not even the solid color that makes it feel boring, because I think this would have looked even nicer in a plain white linen. But I also think it would look cool in a statement fabric where the print takes centerstage. I’ve worn this garment several times and I always get lots of lovely compliments on it which are appreciated, but it’s just not my favorite make.

Now before I move on, I want to say just a little bit about my shoes! I didn’t wear these to the White Kiki party because I hadn’t made them yet, and I have a ‘no heels in Hawaii’ rule anyways, but I think they look really good with this jumpsuit so I figured I would do a 2-for-1 since I always neglect to do full blog posts for my shoe makes here (gotta get better at that)! These are the first pair of shoes I made from a pointy toe high heeled last I found at Saderma several months ago. Finding lasts is always tricky because once you find a pair in your size, you wont know if they actually fit your foot well until you make them, so there is always a little risk involved, and unlike clothing, you can try them on for fit throughout the making process to ensure you are on the right track. I have had a few pairs of lasts that seemed like they would work great for me but ended up being too big or too small, so I really lucked out with this pair!

I got the “snakeskin” leather (it’s just embossed) from The Fabric Store quite a while ago and was excited to make this style shoe with them once I got my hands on these lasts. High heeled slingbacks have been a little tougher to find in RTW than I anticipated so I figured I might as well give them a try, and I think these came out great. One thing I want to do on my next pair of heeled slingbacks is to use elastic at the buckle. If you have a pair of slingbacks, take a look at where the buckle is attached to the leather- there is likely to be a small strip of elastic connected to the buckle and leather which allows your foot to move around in the shoe without feeling too constricted and allows the strap to move with your foot. These heels are totally fine without the elastic because I am able to put holes for the buckle wherever I want them, but ideally the strap just adds a touch of comfort to wearing a shoe with a strap and it helps keep that strap in place.

I am still working on getting my heel completely attached and flush to the bottom of the shoe and this is my most successful pair yet, although I do have room for improvement. I seem to always choose a slightly-too-thick leather to cover my heels with which makes getting the top of the heel flat very difficult, but these came out pretty okay, and I like the contrast of the purple lining leather peeking out of the inside and bottom of the shoe. And they are comfortable! Well, about as comfortable as wearing 3 inch heels gets, hahah. But you know how when you buy new heels (if you wear them), they tend to take a little time to break in and form to your foot? Well my memade heels so far are not like that- they are softer than RTW shoes and feel pretty much the same the first time you wear them as the 2nd and the 10th, which is pretty cool. Still have a lot of distance to cover with shoemaking but I can definitely see that I am on a steady incline UP!

Okay, so back to the wedding…

you can’t take me anywhere.

Claire ended up being too sick to come to the Whitekiki party so me and my friend Kelly went together, and we BOTH happened to be wearing white jumpsuits, and we got to rock them while I drove the WHITE Jeep we rented for the trip! We were SOOOOO STYLISH! And the party was a blast! After some food and mingling with all the other guests, our little corner of the park was set up into different stations where we each got to learn from a local a little about Hawaiian culture and how to participate in a traditional luau. Me and Kelly’s favorite station was of course the hula, and we learned the song “Pearly Shells” while dancing to the music Lawrence’s friends played on their ukuleles. The night was beyond magical as the sun set over the ocean and our voices floated above us- the only thing missing was Claire! But I sent her lots of videos and pictures and she was at least able to make it to the actual wedding the next day.

Thanks for being my date, Kelly, and thanks Lawrence and Q for such a fun party!

Madewell Inspired Jumpsuit

Heather Lou of ClosetCasePatterns posted a selfie a few months back wearing a version of the above jumpsuit that I immediately fell in love with (although I am realizing more and more lately that I sometimes might not be in love with a garment so much as in love with a garment on someone who looks amazing in it, if that makes any sense). Anyways, I did a little research and found the jumpsuit on Madewell’s website and decided that I could reasonably make it for myself with a bit of pattern hacking. Although Madewell is a really great clothing brand in terms of transparency with their customers and sustainability, I must admit that buying RTW does not provide even a fraction of the thrill for me that it once did. I much prefer making my own and figuring out ways that I can recreate a garment myself based on what I see online and in stores, and I am sure that much of this stems from the fact that I can GUARANTEE you that this jumpsuit would look awful on me right off the hanger.

I pinned images of the jumpsuit to my pinterest page and set out to find a sewing pattern that could easily accommodate the main style lines of the jumpsuit. In the midst of doing this research, my Dad was in town and we went to the mall to buy him some sneakers. I rarely go to malls nowadays so I had forgotten that there was a Madewell store there, and once we walked by it, I figured we could hop inside so I could see the jumpsuit in person and get a better understanding of the garment’s construction. The store was small and it didn’t take me long to see that the jumpsuit I was looking for was “so last season” lol and had now been replaced by late summer/early fall garments. We were about to walk out when a different jumpsuit caught my eye. It was a similar idea to the original one I was looking for, but, dare I say…even better suited to my tastes and body!

The waist was cinched with elastic at the back and drawstring ties at the front, the legs were wide and cropped (which is my favorite pants style right now), and it had nice big buttons on the front and top stitching all over. I didn’t bother trying the jumpsuit on because I didn’t want to base my make off of the fit of an existing garment (which would most likely have been ill-fitting)- I would rather start from scratch and just incorporate the design elements into a fresh look inspired by the RTW garment. I decide to use McCalls 7330 to base my make from, but it took a lot of adjusting and hacking to get it exactly how I wanted it.

This pattern comes in Small/Medium/Large and I graded from a small at bust and waist to a medium at the hips (but later end up taking the pattern in significantly at the waist and high hip so the grading out wasn’t necessary). Major hacks/changes to the pattern included:

  • adding width to the legs and cropping the length (I based the shape of the pants legs off my Persephone Pants)
  • using View F of the pattern with 2 piece collar and extending the length of the collar so that Iit could accommodate…
  • …an extended front button band (because I wanted my button band to be wide like the inspo jumpsuit)
  • reshaping the bodice front piece and adding a facing that extended from the bodice fronts down to the crotch (I based these design elements off of my Republique du Chiffon Domonique jumpsuit that I haven’t yet blogged about)
  • using the shape of the front pants pockets from View A but making them wider and longer to look more like the inspo jumpsuit
  • omitting the waistband, and adding that length back to the bodice and pants (which I ended up taking out, but more on that later)
  • adding a casing to the inside of the back waistband (to house the elastic) and the outside of the front waistbands (to house the drawstrings) on either side of the bodice opening
  • adding drawstrings for the front waist

Seems fairly simple now that I am writing it all out but everything felt much less straight-forward while I was making it. I made the majority of these changes to the bedsheet muslin I sewed up first, and once I was happy with how it was looking (or could look with a few more tweaks), I cut out my fashion fabric. Now a word about my fabric: I bought about a yard and a quarter quite a while ago while on a trip to Joann’s looking for twill fabric to make some more CCF Sasha trousers. A good stretch twill isn’t always something I stumble on when shopping at my main squeeze fabric stores so when I saw the pretty salmon color of this fabric I immediately put it in my cart. Of course when I saw the Madewell jumpsuit in a similarly colored fabric, I decided to take fabric inspo from it, but I didn’t have enough yardage.

I cut a little swatch of my already-washed twill from my stash and brought it with me to Joann’s, hoping I could find it again, and I did! I bought another yard of it, took it home and washed it. Then I pulled out my two separate yardages to start cutting and…the two pieces were from different dye lots. L O L, immediately followed by an EYEROLL. The difference between them was very subtle, Claire couldn’t see it all, but of COURSE I could. I decided to cut out the pants from one of the pieces of fabric and the top and sleeves from the other, so that at least the fabric would all look the same among the separate halves, and I cut the bodice pocket out of the pants fabric to try and pull it all together. Now that it’s complete, Claire says she still can’t see the color difference, meanwhile the garment looks practically color-blocked to me, haha.

 

The main changes I made to the garment all seemed to work really well, but perhaps because of the difference in textile from muslin to fashion fabric, there were still some issues. The salmon twill version was still too long in the torso, even though I had already chopped off about 2 inches from the pants and bodice. Thankfully my top and bottom pieces were still basted together at this point so I was able to take them apart and chop off even more from the bodice, but the completed version is still about 3/4″ too long for me, so if and when I make it again I will try and address that. The crotch also ended up being too long and sagging down in a weird way between my legs so I brought the bottom of the crotch up at least 1/2″ more, too. Honestly, the weight of this twill is a little heavier than I would like it to be (it’s also heavier than the inspo jumpsuit) and I am really looking forward to making this again in maybe a linen or cotton blend fabric that makes it a bit airier and lighter.

Another thing I am a little on the fence about is this collar, and I think it also has to do with the weight of my fabric- it feels and looks more like a jacket because it’s so thick and sticks out a bit from the body. The design of it is cute, but I think that for this fabric I should have made a one-piece fold down collar instead of the two-piece collar (the RTW jumpsuit is a one-piece). But in a lighter weight fabric, the collar would have looked just like a nice button up shirt collar and would have probably laid down much more neatly. As it stands, the collar looks a bit like it’s making a statement, and I’m not mad about it- although it’s not what I was initially going for, I do think it’s cute and very much in line with the grandma-chic vibes that the rest of the garment gives.

Overall, I am really happy with this make and impressed with how it came out- I have rubbed off RTW clothes before but never have I started from scratch with the design of a RTW garment and tried to turn an existing pattern into a replica of it. It was really fun, and I would definitely do it again!

 

Thankfully there is a pattern out in the world for pretty much everything you could possibly find in a storefront window, so that makes the job easier- and I know there are at least a couple of instagramming sewists out there who are dedicated to matching patterns with RTW garments (I keep forgetting their handles but I definitely need to follow them). Still, I felt like this was a very challenging project that I learned a lot from, and it has inspired me to keep testing the limits of my knowledge and learning more. And the BEST part? I just got asked to be a pattern tester for a new pattern that is practically the spitting image of the original yellow Madewell jumpsuit that I first took inspiration from. So it looks like I’m gonna be able to have my cake and eat it, too!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

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!