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Gertie’s Secretary Dress

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I have talked here at length about how much I love Gertie’s pattern books. Hers were the first patterns that fit well to my body, that provided an aesthetic that I loved (I was exclusively into vintage fashion when I picked up sewing again several years ago), with instructions that were relatively easy to follow. I still have my very first dress that I ever made from one of her patterns and it continues to get compliments whenever I wear it (and most people think it is a vintage find). Her second book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, was great for providing my closet with lots of wearable sweater knits and cute separates, so when she announced the launch of her third book, Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book, I was over the moon with excitement. This book promised to tackle the sometimes complicated task of making linings, explaining when a dress needs them, why they need them, and all the different ways to use them to enhance the overall look, fit and feel of a beautiful handmade garment. I pre-ordered the book on amazon and was utterly thrilled when it showed up on my doorstep the day that I dropped a piece of IKEA furniture onto my big toe; I was immobile and confined to the couch with nothing to do but pore over every page, which I did!

The new book does not disappoint. I really appreciate that each of Gertie’s books contains new information- she doesn’t just recycle the same text with new patterns- and includes lots of tricks and tips on how to get the most out of your sewing practice. The Ultimate Dress book is chock full of information about fabrics, facings, laundering techniques and how certain textiles work together or alone to create specific silhouettes. The patterns are mix-n-match with several bodices, collars, sleeves and skirts to choose from, which allows the reader to design their own looks by mixing up the pattern pieces.

Thankfully I took Gertie’s advice at the beginning of the book and committed myself to making a muslin of each garment I wanted to make before sewing it up. And that was a VERY GOOD DECISION. I don’t know if the sizing is different from the first two books or if I am just a more meticulous sewist now than I was a few years ago, but HOLY COW my measurements were way off! WAAAAY off. The bust in these garments is like, 3 cup sizes bigger than my my own  (I am a solid 32 B), but everything else fit way too tight. Years ago this would have scared me off immediately and I probably would not have made a second attempt at any of the patterns, but now I know better than that; patience is indeed a virtue!

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before and after of size 4 muslins

It took a while to get it right, but I did my first SBA ever using the sloper bodice from this book. Gertie’s instructions are not particularly detailed on this topic- the book basically describes how to make a FBA, and then for an SBA it just says to do the same steps, but by overlapping the pattern cuts instead of expanding them. But maybe that’s really all there is to it, because I followed her basic outline for the steps and the results were great. Not only did I have to do an SBA on these patterns, but I also had to move the bust darts down, bring the waist darts in towards the center, and add more width at the bodice sides and back. The armholes were also extraordinarily tight and the neckline was really high, so I had to provide more room in those areas as well. It took me four rounds of adjusting and muslin-making to get a fit in the basic bodice and pencil skirt that felt comfortable and looked good, and even after all that, I still had to make additional adjustments to provide a bit more room in the waist and in the cap sleeves, which had me hulking out of them if I did so much as take too deep of a breath. I don’t normally struggle with patterns being too tight on me- usually my fitting issues are that the patterns are much too big and need to be taken in a lot. Thankfully my fitting skills have been expanded by working with these patterns and I am feeling particularly competent now 🙂

anyone familiar with the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Muslins?

these adjustments are like Goldilocks and the 3 Muslins

I focused a lot on making the pencil skirt aspect of this dress fit like a glove. I LOVE pencil skirts, but because of my waist to hip ratio, I often feel like they don’t look very proportionate on me. I have to grade up at least 2 sizes from my waist to my hips, so the bottom part of the skirt is always at least two sizes wider than my top half, and the silhouette just seems to swallow my legs up. Jessica Rabbit always looked amazing in her curve-hugging dresses, which perfectly fit her waist, skimmed her big thighs, and then tapered in at her knees and calves. But Jessica is a cartoon. Was there a realistic way for me to achieve this look and still like, walk and sit down in the garment? I figured I would never know unless I tried, so I cut out my skirt to fit my waist, graded to a size larger in the hips (ultimately I pushed the seam allowances out at the hips even more so that it ended up being a full two sizes larger) and then graded back in to the size of my waist measurement for the bottom portion of the skirt. This worked beautifully! It gave the curve-hugging shape I wanted from top to bottom, but because there is a generous kick pleat in the back of the skirt (Gertie knows what’s up), it didn’t restrict my movement at all. Once I finished the basic construction and tried the garment on, I thought to myself, WOW! I DID IT! I CREATED THE PERFECT JOAN FROM MAD MEN DRESS!!!!

But my excitement simmered down pretty quickly once I sewed my zipper into my dress.

Turns out, the dress looked perfect on my body…but I couldn’t really like, get into the dress easily. Which turns out to be a pretty important thing. I had to practically dislocate my shoulder in order to pull the garment over my shoulders since stepping into the dress was absolutely impossible. At first I tried to convince myself that it was fine- who cared if it took a lot of work to get into or out of a dress? Once it was on it looked great, and that’s the important part, right? But I had forgotten about peeing. Peeing is also important! Perhaps even more important than how it looks, considering how often I have to do it! I realized that there was NO WAY I would be able to pee without taking the entire dress off of my body, and as I said, taking the entire dress off my body was damn near impossible. So what to do? I knew the cause of my dilemma- it was the tapered bottom half of my skirt! It was two sizes smaller than my hips, so of course I couldn’t pull it up over them- even with the long kick pleat, there was simply not enough room in the dress to accommodate these hips, which DO NOT LIE.

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I took to asking the sewing community for ideas on how to solve the issue, but it seemed like people were as stumped as I was. For a while it seemed like the only solution was to insert an additional zipper at the side seam of my skirt, from the hip to under the arm. But I was really nervous to go this route. I didn’t want the zipper to mess with the smooth lines of the garment, and it also just seemed like a lot of work to do after having nearly completed the dress already. An even easier solution was to have a longer zipper in the back, but the one I was using was already 24″, the longest size that I could find at a fabric and notions store. And then I decided on a whim to take a look at wawak.com and see what variety of zippers they had on their site. BINGO! 30″ invisible zippers, just enough room to zip past my butt and to the top of the narrowest part of the skirt. I ordered 4 of their 30″ zippers, ripped the old zipper out of the dress and then I waited patiently for the new ones to arrive in the mail, which they did a few days later.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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The dress glides on my body easily, but my poor lining has really been put through the ringer; I had to unpick the hand stitched lining several times because of fit adjustments and changing the zipper, and then when I took the photos for this blog post, I was shocked to see that the back of the dress was gaping a lot, which I was unaware of since I couldn’t see my body in the mirror very well from behind. I unpicked the lining and the zipper again and this time re-sewed the zipper with more seam allowance, eliminating some of the extra fabric that seemed to be pooling on my upper back. I think I got rid of most of the excess, but I wonder if the bodice neckline is still a little too high in the back- if so, it’s something I can live with but I will definitely address that fitting issue on a future make.

before I (hopefully) fixed the excess fabric in the back!

before I (hopefully) fixed the excess fabric in the back!

Here are the final details of the dress: fabric is a lightweight woven (blue + white + flecks of tan) wool from The Fabric Store, and the lining is made of habotoi silk from Dharma Trading Company. I chose the basic bodice and pencil skirt pattern from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book and paired it with the peter pan collar (my first success after many failed attempts in the past- those collars are tricky to get just right).

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For the little bow at the neck of the collar I wanted to use a fluttery black fabric, but I realized while rifling through my stash that I didn’t have any. None. Nada. Black is clearly not my favorite color. Which was annoying, because it meant I had to go out and purchase a quarter yard of something appropriate in order to complete the dress. But I am glad I stuck with my gut and didn’t go with some other color I had in my stash- I think that black is the perfect accent to the light blue wool and it also goes with my very favorite pumps (funny how I own no black clothing or fabric but my absolute favorite pair of heels are black suede).

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I obviously learned a lot in the making of this dress: how to do an SBA, how to line an entire dress, how to line the sleeves of a garment, how to insert a beautiful looking collar, how to make a 5/8″ seam allowance work overtime in a too-tight garment, how to get the perfect silhouette in a pencil skirt, how to launder wool by steaming it first before cutting into it, how ridiculously frayed silk gets when it has barely been handled, and how to get the seam underneath the bottom edge of an invisible zipper perfectly flat and pucker-free. But I know that my Gertie education is far from over, and I am sew looking forward to tackling more beautiful projects from this book!

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Desmond Rolltop Backpack vs. Retro Rucksack

I took a break from the endless fitting and adjusting of Ginger jeans-making to work on a relatively quick and satisfying project for some instant gratification: behold the Retro Rucksack!

1.3_blogIn my last post I talked about how this is a pattern I would never have made without seeing this version of the bag first. I love the fabric choices Cut Cut Sew used- the colors are simple and sophisticated, the waxed canvas is super cool looking, and the Pendleton wool gives the bag a dose of sturdiness and a nice texture. I was inspired to make a near-exact replica of her lovely version, but thick wool isn’t a smart material to use in Los Angeles with the weather here generally being on the warmer side of mild. So instead, I copied her use of waxed canvas, a material I had not worked with before, and traded the Pendleton wool for a grid-designed medium weight canvas from Miss Matabi. I absolutely love the way the waxed canvas feels, looks and operates- it has the visual effect of well-worn leather without being finicky to sew with (although I do think this bag would look amazing in leather, too- maybe next time!)

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The whole reason I was inspired to make this bag is because I made THREE of the Desmond Rolltop Backpacks for gifts this past Christmas, and I was all too pleased with how they came out. But although I love the design, the finished product is a bit bigger than the everyday-use/over-the-shoulder bag I was looking to add to my own wardrobe. The Retro Rucksack pattern seemed to blend a lot of the elements I liked about the Desmond with something a little…well, daintier, for lack of a better word. After having made both of these bags (numerous times, even), I have to say that I am more impressed overall with the Desmond Pack because of it’s excellent instructions (and accompanying sew-along posted on Taylor Tailor’s blog) and its’ super-smart design. Sewing together square edges for boxes while using thick fabric is  known to be a tricky maneuver, but the Desmond uses a design that is easy to sew and makes the seams on the bottom of the bag look crisp and clean. Not so much with the Retro Rucksack though- you basically have to sew a rectangle onto a curved edge once you get to constructing the exterior of the pack, and because there are so many thick layers, there isn’t a good way to ease the fabric into the seam. It took me about 30 minutes to get the seams for the bottom of the bag sewn relatively straight and wrinkle free, and they are still far from perfect. I am sure there are all kind of tricks to sewing sharp seams with curved edges, but I personally prefer patterns that take these matters into account with the design.

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I also like how the Desmond pattern stresses the importance of sewing multiple lines of stitching over areas of heavy use. I ended up using a lot of the techniques I learned for the Desmond pack in making the Retro Rucksack, but despite some of the less-than-clear instructions, I am super happy with how the rucksack turned out and I think it’s a good pattern. I wanted my bag to be lightweight, small and portable, like the canvas grocery store tote I had been carrying around with me for months, and that has most definitely been achieved.

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I decided to nix the zipper for better accessibility to the inside of the bag (and also to eliminate a bit of weight and bulk), but I wish I had added a looped strap in the top of the bag to hang it on a hook. The side pockets successfully accommodate an iPhone and there are good sized pockets on the inside of the bag, too (although I accidentally put my lining in backwards so the zipper pocket touches the front of the bag instead of the back of it- NBD, but I will be sure NOT do that next time).

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I used some random (stained) linen in my stash for the lining that had been given to me years ago, and the tea-colored stains give the inside of the bag an aged, vintage look, although I hope that the old fabric holds up to consistent use. Thankfully, replacing the lining in the future wont be too much of a hassle because the lining and exterior are only connected at the top seam of the bag (and then I can re-insert the lining with the zipper pocket on the correct side!)

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The Desmond Rolltop Backpack construction was a little more involved than the Retro Rucksack, but it is absolutely worth all the extra work that goes into it. I love the detail of the webbing sewn onto the straps, the use of the hooks and D-rings (I used some of the same ones I bought from Taylor Tailor’s shop on my Rucksack), and the extended outer zipper pocket on the front of the bag.

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For Claire’s bag (shown in this post), I used a herringbone upholstery fabric for the exterior and a plain un-dyed canvas for the lining. The first time I made the Desmond bag I made a crucial mistake in the placement of the band on the top of the bag that holds all the straps in- somehow, some way (I swear I wasn’t drinking), I sewed that whole section like, four inches below its’ intended placement. So when I tried the bag on to admire my work, you can imagine my horror when I saw how short it was and realized I had messed up the placement and I needed to redo everything. And there is A LOT OF STITCHING there because that’s where most of the weight for the bag is held, so the straps need to be sewn down with many rows of stitching in several different places. It took me forever to rip all the stitches out. FOREVER, I tell you! But you better believe I never made that mistake again! Each of the three Desmond bags I have made have been well received- this will definitely be a staple in my pattern stash- I think the design is pretty flawless and there are so many cool ways you can personalize the design elements, with color blocking, using denim topstitching thread, and even incorporating leather.

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Thanks to Claire for these awesome pictures! You make my work look so good 🙂

Below are a couple of snapshots of the Desmonds in the wild:

@bishilarious gets gifted #desmondbackpack number 2!!! And it's looks great on her! Merry Xmas, Binty!

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@trycuriousblog) on

Brittani with her Desmond pack made of duck canvas fabric for the exterior and steel grey webbing!

https://www.instagram.com/p/-fWqdVxF_S/?taken-by=trycuriousblog

This cute blue version was gifted to my friend Lawrence- I don’t have any pics of the bag except for this one close up. It was modeled after Taylor Tailor’s bag on his blog- made of extra denim I had in my stash and used with the reverse as the right side.

Claire used this bag as a carry-on when we were traveling over the Christmas holidays and it was STUFFED TO THE BRIM. I was so nervous that the seams were gonna rip, but this bag is much sturdier than I even gave it credit for.

Happy bag making, friends!

 

Single Spandex Knit + Kielo Wrap Dress

I have been preaching here about the wonders of the online shop that is Girl Charlee for over a year now. I first learned about them in a post by Heather of Closet Case Files who suggested their store as a resource for making her famed Nettie bodysuit and dress. If I haven’t made it abundantly clear on this blog, I am a big fan of Heather, and pretty much anything she says I will do. Like, if she started a sewing cult I would most definitely run for secretary. Anyways, I have been buying up Girl Charlee stock like it was my job ever since. I love this online retailer because they have a huge variety of prints, their site is easy to navigate and their fabrics are affordable. Plus, they separate all their inventory by type, which has allowed me to learn the difference between a cotton jersey, a cotton lycra, and a jersey rayon spandex; two years ago I wouldn’t have even known that there was a difference between these fabric contents.

Recently Girl Charlee contacted me and asked if I was interested in a blogger collaboration with them and they sent me a couple of yards of a single spandex knit. I was excited to note all the differences this fabric had from the knits I had become accustomed to working with; for one, it’s slinky, but it hugs and drapes the body without looking (or feeling) clingy. It doesn’t wrinkle easily, and it was lovely to work with- the edges don’t curl up as much as with some cotton knits, and it didn’t stretch out under the foot of my sewing machine, so I was able to sew a lot of the pattern pieces together without the use of pins. As you can see, the right side of my fabric has a black background with a white rose-looking pattern printed on it (the roses kind of look like they are made out of zipper teeth, which is why I was drawn to this fabric- I liked that it was a floral print that didn’t look too precious). However, the back of this fabric is all white with a little bit of the black showing through, so this fabric is best suitable for projects where you wont be able to see the underside of it- unless that is what you are going for.

GC fabric close up

The pattern I used for this project is by indie company NAMED CLOTHING. I always thought that their patterns were a little too modern for me since I prefer more traditional silhouettes. But I gotta tell you, I am now a convert.  With only 3 pattern pieces and 4 darts, I was very skeptical of how the Kielo Wrap Dress was going to look. The instructions suggested either a knit fabric or a woven, which inspired significant side-eye from me. A knit OR a woven? How do you get a successful look from one design using two very different materials? But I ignored my fears. Why? Because I am TRY CURIOUS, that’s why! Armed with my single spandex knit and 3 pattern pieces, I went to work. This dress was cut out, sewn and hemmed in a matter of hours. If you are anything like me, you know exactly how satisfying it is to start a project in the morning and have it ready for wear that night- not like I had any place to go on a Wednesday evening, but it’s the principle, right?

3The dress turned out to be stunning.

HOW?! Magic, I tell you! You can’t imagine how many vintage patterns I have sewn that say things like “Easy Sew! Make It In An Afternoon!”, only to look like I am wearing a giant fabric bag with a matching belt by the time evening rolls around. NAMED seems to have taken the concept of simple, straightforward construction and injected enough thoughtful design elements into the patterns to make the results look elegant, no matter what your body type (and I have a sneaking suspicion that those vintage Easy-To-Sew patterns look so amazing on the envelopes because the illustrated women are 11 heads tall and have 16 inch waists).

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2Here is what I love about this dress:

  • It doesn’t look like a traditional wrap, because you can actually see the wrap (most wrap dresses wrap inside of itself).
  • It can successfully be made with a woven or a slightly stretchy knit fabric, so the possibilities are limitless; depending on your fabric and print, this can be made into a casual or a dressy look.
  • The instructions were uncomplicated and the whole pattern was a quick and easy sew.

And here’s something unexpected- the dress looks really cool even without the ties. It’s definitely a modern kind of silhouette, but left untied, the sides hang down and give the dress a really interesting look that is not unflattering. This is the kind of pattern you can play around with, by either leaving off the ties or color blocking the back and front pieces to create some visual interest.

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I am so happy with this dress; matched with this uniquely printed fabric, it came out looking a lot fancier than I anticipated. This is being added to my #DIYredcarpet wardrobe, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to wear it out soon.

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Dixie DIY Bonnell Pattern Review

Mercury must be in retrograde because I have been feeling SUPER out of the loop these past couple of weeks. For one, I was completely unfamiliar with the sewphotohop hashtag until it started showing up all over the new (public) instagram account I started that is dedicated to my TRY CURIOUS lifestyle (a more in-depth post about that is on it’s way, but in the meantime you can follow me here!) Once I saw all my favorites like Heather of closetcasefiles and Erica from Erica B’s Style posting great photos, I wanted to dive right in and join them, but it was already several days into the month-long process and I was too far behind. But in addition to that, I thought this would be a great opportunity to read/look/learn/be inspired instead of immediately joining the social media fray. I enjoyed participating in the #memademay challenge for the first time this year, but I don’t want to get in the habit of adding my voice to so many choirs that I can’t even understand the music anymore. Hm. That was…a weird analogy that I just made up. Apologies. But the right sentiment is there. With so much access to social media, it’s really easy to want to make a lot of noise just to keep up and feel like you are an active part of all the hub bub. Which is totally okay! But it’s also okay to take a backseat and absorb all the wisdom and insight that others are offering.

Okay, so the sewphotohop hashtag had been underway for days before I even knew what it was, and then I notice everyone in sewingblogworld talking about this pattern bundle offered by Sew Independent, an awesome tiered package of PDF patterns by indie designers for a really great price- the more money you spend, the more patterns that come in your package, and a percentage of the proceeds are given to a charity called the International Folk Art Alliance. Apparently this is the second year they have done this, and not only does your money go to an awesome organization, but you are (or at least I was) introduced to several indie pattern designers that you may not have been familiar with before. To be honest, NO, I DO NOT NEED ANY NEW PATTERNS. However. I do love celebrating and supporting designers in the online sewing community, and I also think it’s nice to get pushed out of your comfort zone every once in a while- I usually stick with what is familiar to me, so this was a nice way to get some new blood flowing into my craft room.

Last weekend some friends and I went to the Rose Bowl flea- it was my first time in a while, and I made sure to stop by the fabric and notions vendor who is usually set up in the same place. I’m not sure if her fabric is actually vintage or just old, as in, kept folded in a drawer for a super long time. Either way, the fabric is of great quality and priced better than most of the stuff for sale at the flea. I got about 5 yards of fabric for less than $20. I also scored a lot of beautiful glass and vintage buttons still stapled onto their original cards. I ignored my normal rule of not buying any fabric without having a specific idea of what to make with it because the fabric was so cheap and so vintage looking- I knew it would be perfect for a lot of different projects. And when I got home, I realized that the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY (included in the Sew Independent pattern bundle) was just such a project!

yay general view!

The Bonnell Dress has a lovely, simple shape with some interesting details: cutouts on the waist with a higher jewel neckline on the front. This, coupled with the traditional dirndl skirt and a thin waistband, give you a lot of room to play with the design elements. I went super simple with this on my first make, but now that I have sewn it up and seen how a) it fits like a dream and b) it’s got a modern-meets-classic look to it in a very ModCloth kind of way, I really want to make it again using some contrast prints or color blocking.

cutout close up

The fabric I used for this dress is a lightweight cotton, which is soft but still has some stiffness to it, and that lends itself to the nice body in the skirt. I lined the bodice with the self fabric since I had so much of it, and I only made one adjustment to the pattern- I graded from a size 2 in the bust to a 4 in the waist and hips. I should have left the whole thing as a straight 2 because I ended up taking it in at the waist since it was too big.

front bodice

The bust lines fit me beautifully and the length is spot on. This dress was cut out and sewn together in a total of about 5 or 6 hours (probably the fastest garment I have ever made from a woven material), and the instructions were very clear and easy to follow. The only thing I will change about this dress when I make it again is to make the pockets deeper. I love that this dress comes with pockets at all, but they seem designed more with the intent of putting small items in them as opposed to resting your hands inside of them (am I the only person who never puts things in her pockets besides her hands??)

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I am pretty surprised at how well this dress fit me. The woman behind Dixie DIY, if she uses her own measurements to draft her patterns, must be my perfect body doppelganger, which makes me want to make every single thing she ever designs. It’s so exciting (and quite a privilege, I know) to be introduced to a pattern maker that designs clothing that fits you right out the box, and I (selfishly) wish DixieDIY continued success as a designer in the sewing world!

another side close up

Brumby Skirt in Ladybugs

ladybug skirt full view

Oh, nevermind the phone and record player cords piled up on the floor to the left of me, ok?

The Brumby Skirt is Megan Nielsen’s latest pattern, and um…it’s SO OBVIOUSLY my kind of skirt. It’s feminine and sweet, and Megan Nielsen’s version takes a pretty standard silhouette (dirndle skirt) and adds a couple of lovely details, like the wide, deep pocket option, and the double stitching on the front seam. Brumby was pinned on my “Patterns To Sew” board for a while, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across this FANTASTIC silk at The Fabric Store ladybug fabric that I actually bought the pattern and decided to make it. Funny thing, that silk- I had fallen in love with it the first time I saw it at the store, but I didn’t buy it since I didn’t have a plan for it (still trying to get out of the habit of making impulse fabric purchases, blah blah blah). I kept thinking about the fabric for the next several days (dreaming about it really), and then The Fabric Store had a big seasonal sale a week or so later, so my plan was to pick up a couple of yards of it when I went to buy other stuff. I arrived at the store the morning the sale began, and guess what- NO MORE LADYBUG SILK PRINT! I looked everywhere for it in between picking out my other pieces, but to no avail. I finally asked Brooke, who is manager of the LA store (who, by the way, is always incredibly helpful and thoughtful and an excellent ambassador for great customer service) what had happened to the ladybug print. She said it had all gotten snatched up pretty quickly…but then she reached under the cutting table and pulled out a folded pile of ladybug goodness. She said “it’s only a yard and a half, though- will it be enough?” and of course I, without a second thought, said “I will MAKE it be enough!”

Cut to a couple of weeks later, where I am literally squeezing all the pattern pieces onto the fabric to try and make it fit. One and half yards would have been plenty of fabric if it weren’t for the fact that the silk was paneled, so every yard or so it had this column of flowery design pasted across from top to bottom, separate from the ladybug print, which I had to work around. To make things even more difficult, it was a really slippery silk so I had to sandwich it between paper to be able to cut it out efficiently. The paper and silk trick works like a dream, but it can get really messy once you start cutting, with slivers of paper and silk just piling up all over the cutting table- it’s hard to tell what’s what, and I don’t know how I successfully got all my pieces cut, but I did (praise be to the sewing goddesses).

Because this is a delicate silk and I used a matching thread color, you can't really see the detail of the stitching on either side of the front seam, but I put it there anyways.

Because this is a delicate silk and I used a matching thread color, you can’t really see the detail of the stitching on either side of the front seam, but I put it there anyways.

Because the silk was see-through, I bought some bemberg rayon to line the skirt with, but in my haste to finish the project, I didn’t walk through the steps beforehand. As a result, I cut out the lining pieces weird- I should have put the pocket facing pattern piece onto the skirt front and cut it out as a whole, but instead I cut out the regular skirt front pieces with the pocket chunk missing, so I basically had a gaping hole on the inside of the lining. Does that make sense? But whatever, it was an easy fix- I just hand sewed the open pocket area of the lining to the actual pocket of the skirt to close the gap, and voila!

Can you see where the pocket of the lining was cut out (it has a pinked edge)? I had to handsew it to the pocket piece beneath it so there wouldn't be a huge hole.

Can you see where the pocket of the lining was cut out (it has a pinked edge)? I had to handsew it to the pocket piece beneath it so there wouldn’t be a huge hole.

And THEN guess what happened! I totally sewed the waistband onto the skirt upside down! Call it one of those brain glitches where you stop making logical decisions when you have been sewing for too many hours straight. Whatever it was, it was ridiculous and also hilarious. I remember staring at the waistband and then staring at the drawing in the instructions…and then staring at the waistband again…and then back to the instructions…I could not for the life of me figure out if the waistband curve should tilt up or down. I was ready to blame the instructions for not being clearer, but honestly, it’s something that I should have been able to figure out myself since I have made so many skirts in my lifetime. Once I realized my mistake, I pouted and cussed. Then I ripped out all my stitches and re-attached the waistband the right way; the longer I spend being annoyed at myself, the longer it takes to actually finish the skirt in the first place.

ladybug skirt back viewIn general, I hate sewing with silk, because I am not very competent at it. It’s so damn fickle- it snags easily, slides around when you’re trying to sew layers together, stretches out if your fingers tug at it the wrong way, puckers up all the time- it’s kind of a nightmare for me. But silks feel SO good against your skin, they are shiny and fancy and glamorous, and since I am trying to add more red carpet-ready items to my wardrobe, I know I need to get better at working with them. So! This was my third project in a row of working with silk, and I could definitely see my progress with each one. All in all I consider this pretty little skirt an absolute win! My plan is to make a Nettie Body Suit (ClosetCaseFiles pattern) in a nice soft navy knit to go with it. Stay tuned…

#MeMadeMay level= unlocked

At the beginning of #MeMadeMay2015 I had high hopes to post here on my blog every single day what I wore and where the pattern came from, but those hopes were crushed on Day 2 when my laziness got the better of me. I decided it would be a lot easier and more efficient on my end to just do a master post of everything I memade and mewore with a few details for each one (I posted everyday on tumblr but not everyone follows me there). Presenting, my first foray into the MeMade hashtag!!!

vintage jumper

Day 1: vintage jumper

I already posted about this little guy here, but to recap, this a 70’s (I think?)  vintage pattern for a romper made of knit fabric.

Day 2: Southport Maxi Dress by True Bias

Day 2: Southport Maxi Dress by True Bias

LOOOVE this Southport Maxi dress pattern, and just finished making another one in a peach polka dot cotton. Straightforward and simple, easy-to-understand directions, but the pattern is based off of a C CUP!!! My boobs are nowhere near a C cup, so when I sewed up the bodice and  tried it on for fit, it was so saggy and loose around my entire torso that I was afraid I was gonna have to take the whole thing apart and re-cut the pieces from my fabric. Thankfully I was able to make adjustments without altering the darts and the side seams- I just cut off the widths of the bodice center fronts and moved the button bands over to accommodate. I love the pockets in this dress, and I love the drape of the rayon challis I used in this version and would recommend that fabric over the 100% cotton I used for my second make, which is beautiful but more crisp looking and less flowy.

 

Day 3: Knit Sweetheart Top and A-line skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 3: Knit Sweetheart Top and A-line skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

A lot of my favorite makes come from Gertie patterns, as seen in this post. This is the Sweetheart Top made of knit fabric from www.girlcharlee.com coupled with Gertie’s A-line skirt in a beautiful wool herringbone that you unfortunately can’t see very well in this picture. Both patterns are from the book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. The skirt has an okay fit for me- her circle skirt is wonderful and fits my figure beautifully, but I think that because the A-line skirt has less material in the hip area, it causes wrinkles and gaps between my waist and hip area in the back. It’s probably not noticeable to anyone but me, but I don’t get as much wear out of the skirt for that reason. The Sweetheart top is a simple make on a serger (I once made three of these tops in one day) with a wide neckline that gathers in the middle front.

Day 4: knitted sweater- Portland Tweed Curved Front Cardigan by Pam Allen

Day 4: knitted sweater- Portland Tweed Curved Front Cardigan by Pam Allen

I called this my Unflappable Darling sweater, and details for this make are on my ravelry project page here. I fell in love with Pam Allen’s patterns after I began knitting sweaters, but before I was good at making alterations to fit my size (I usually have to size down and use smaller needles cause my guage is fairly loose). I love this sweater but it’s hard to pair it with many things in my closet. It’s got a tent-like shape to it, and has a tendency to swallow me up, so it doesn’t get as much wear as I would like. The yarn I used for it is a really bizarre-feeling cotton blend with a unique smell that reminds me of hay. If I made this again I would make it much smaller, and with a softer, fluffier (less barn-smelling) yarn.

 

Day 5: Espresso Leggings by Cake Patterns

Day 5: Espresso Leggings by Cake Patterns

I was excited to learn about the Cake Patterns company when I started researching more indie designers, and I was intrigued by the unique way in which they have you put together the pattern pieces. There is a large page of numbered dots and symbols that represent different widths and lengths for your body, and you connect them all together to create an adjusted pattern for your specific size. I feel like this would be a great pattern for someone who was brand new to sewing, but for me it ended up being really confusing and frustrating, and at one point I just wished that it was less innovative and more familiar like other patterns I was used to- I would have been able to put it together much more quickly. The instructions were very different from any pattern I had made before, and not in a good way- they use a lot of symbols instead of words, so I had to keep going back and figuring out what each little drawing was supposed to mean. On top of that, this leggings pattern suggests that you use a 2-way stretch knit like ponte, but when I made them up in that fabric, they wouldn’t even stretch wide enough to go over my thighs (and yes, I cut the pattern out with the stretch going width-wise). Not sure if there was something off about the knit I chose or what, but it was a high quality fabric that I had used with great success before, so I was very disappointed that it didn’t work for this project. I eventually bought another knit with 4 way stretch (seen in the photo) and it worked fine.  I also bought one of their dress patterns to make for my sister-in-law for Christmas, but I was so confused by the bizarre, multi-step directions that I threw the entire thing (including the fabric!) in the trash halfway through construction. I would not buy one of their patterns again, but I have seen that a lot of people have had positive experience with their Cake Patterns, so maybe it’s just me.

Day 6: Tri-Cable Stitch Jumper by Susan Crawford

Day 6: Tri-Cable Stitch Jumper by Susan Crawford

This sweater pattern comes from Susan Crawford’s book A Stitch in Time Vol. 2 and is the kind of book that I would want to own and display even if I wasn’t an avid knitter. The photos and styling are remarkable and the patterns are beautiful, but the coolest thing about the book is that it includes a copy of the original vintage knitting pattern so you can compare the original styling and photos and instructions to the updated versions. I should have gone further down in my needle size for this pattern because it is just a little bit bigger than I would like, but all in all this came out beautifully and I love wearing it.

 

 

 

 

Day 7: Pencil Skirt in Stretch Knit from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 7: Pencil Skirt in Stretch Knit from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This Comfiest Pencil Skirt made of a stretch knit material comes from a pattern in one of Gertie’s books and has become a real winner in my closet. It gives that wonderful curvy silhouette without the usual confining quality that pencil skirts tend to have.  I ended up adding two darts to the back of my skirt to keep the excess fabric between my smallish waist and wide-ish hips from bunching up and it worked like a dream without taking away from the simple pattern of the skirt.

Day 8: Summer Dress pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 8: Summer Dress pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This is my Bitch You Guessed It Dress which you can read more about in this blog post.

Day 9: Ohhh Lulu Ginger Body Suit

Day 9: Ohhh Lulu Ginger Body Suit

OhhhLuluSews is a pattern company that operates from an etsy shop, and the designs are pretty, feminine and vintage inspired. The Ginger Body Suit doesn’t seem to be in the store anymore, but it is a one- piece pattern with a different adjustment marks to turn it into a two-piece and the option to use swimsuit lycra to turn it into a bathing suit, which I did here. Love the fit after I fiddled with the waist and bottoms for a while, and love the way the pieces are put together which gave me the freedom to make some unique design decisions.

Day 10: Vintage romper pattern

Day 10: Vintage romper pattern

This vintage romper comes from Simplicity Pattern 5503 which I bought a while ago on etsy. It’s kind of amazing- very comfortable and easy to make with an elasticized waist, although the front detail has never laid flat for me- not sure if that’s because of the material I used or what. The fabric was a gift from someone I used to date many years ago who went to Nigeria to visit family and brought me back this gorgeous African wax print. It accompanied me on moves to different apartments and different cities and eventually different states for over a decade til I was finally inspired to use it on this pattern. It was totally worth the wait.

Day 11: GInger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files

Day 11: GInger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files

These are my awesome and amazing skinny jeans from Closet Case Files’ Ginger Jeans Pattern. Can’t say enough good about the pattern (wasn’t prepared for my very first attempt at jeans to be so successful!). More details on the process here on my blog.

Day 12: Moneta dress by Colette Patterns

Day 12: Moneta dress by Colette Patterns

I am clearly a sucker for good design and good marketing, because no matter how many times I tell myself to stop buying Colette Patterns because the fit is always waaaay wrong for my body, I can’t seem to shake the habit. I thought that this Moneta dress and the Mabel skirt pattern (not shown) which I bought at the same time were gonna be big successes since they’re made for knit fabric, which is more forgiving in terms of fit issues. Not so. The skirt came out so poorly that I didn’t even make an attempt to try and re-draft it to work for myself, and the bodice of this dress was so awful that I had to re-cut it and make a lot of adjustments to make it smaller since it gaped like crazy at the armholes and was just generally gigantic (I already made the smallest size available). LOVE Colette designs and aesthetic, but I just have to learn to let them go.

 

Day 13: Ohhh Lulu Vintage style bra

Day 13: Ohhh Lulu Vintage style bra

Ohhh Lulu’s Lili Bra is a vintage bra pattern that uses wovens cut on the bias instead of stretch fabric, and it was a really fun make, as referenced here. It’s not the perfect bra pattern for me because it has this weird gapping effect in the nipple area (those puckers in the middle of the cups are filled with air, not actual boob) and I am sure I could adjust the pattern a bit to accommodate less space, but I haven’t yet. Still love this bra tho.

Day 14: Minimalist Cardigan

Day 14: Minimalist Cardigan

I call this my ‘Favorite Sweater’ Sweater because I wear it A LOT. It’s like my housecoat. Details for the Minimalist Cardigan are here and I am also in the middle of making one for Claire right now cause she has coveted it ever since I finished it in Vancouver. Moss stitch is so gorgeous, no matter how simple the pattern is.

Day 15: Nettie dress by Closet Case Files and Therapi sweater by Stefanie Japel

Day 15: Nettie dress by Closet Case Files and Therapi sweater by Stefanie Japel

Two makes in one! The sweater is Therapi by Stefani Japel and the dress is the Nettie pattern by Closet Case Files. The sweater took me 1,000 years to make, because, unlike the Minimalist cardigan, it actually is the size of a house robe, and it’s almost completely in Waffle Stitch, which isn’t very complicated, but it takes way more time than say, stockinette stitch. The dress is a body con dress that took me a little time to get right, only because knits are all so different and some have more stretch and others have less. This dress was at the beginning of my foray into learning more about knits, and this was the second version I made after the first one came out beautifully but encased my torso like a sausage because it was too tight due to the ponte fabric I chose. This black knit with the elephants adorning it is a 4 way stretch with a bit more give than ponte and came out so great… except the fabric started fading immediately after I pre-washed it.

 

Day 16: Pin-up Sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 16: Pin-up Sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Another Pin-up sweater by Gertie, in this really terrific crocheted stretch fabric that reminds me of everything awesome about Grandmas, cause up close the fabric looks like a huge doily.

Day 17: 40's Style Sleevelss Blouse and Pencil Skirt from Gertie's Book for Better Sewing and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual and Gertie

Day 17: 40’s Style Sleevelss Blouse and Pencil Skirt from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual and Gertie

Another two-fer: Pencil skirt by Gertie (from her first book Gertie’s Book For Better Sewing) and 40’s Style Blouse from her second book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. Used a stretch woven for the skirt which was an excellent choice- gives hold and shape without feeling like I can’t breathe. I made this skirt years ago so I don’t remember the details but I am pretty sure it was a straight make that didn’t require any adjustments, which kind of blew my mind- it was the first time I wore a pencil skirt that actually fit my body and didn’t pucker, gape and wrinkle all over the hips.

Day 18: Watson Long-line Bra by Cloth Habit

Day 18: Watson Long-line Bra by Cloth Habit

Cloth Habit’s long line Watson bra which I have given so much praise in this blog post.

Day 19: Harem Jumper (pattern by me)

Day 19: Harem Jumper (pattern by me)

I made this pattern which I based off of a Rachel Roy jumpsuit that I own and love to wear. The jumpsuit is made of a silky rayon material and is clearly meant for fancy occasions- I’ve worn it to a red carpet event and a couple of performances. I love the shape so much that I wanted to recreate it using a more wearable material. I bought some ponte knit fabric and, with some rough eyeballing and rougher measuring, I drew out a pattern for it and cut it out. It’s got a slightly different bodice than the original, and I added straps to this one to make sure it was more secure. My biggest obstacle was inserting the zipper onto a stretchy fabric, which I had never done before (with good reason). When closed, the zipper bunched and zigzagged, but I read online that using a stabilizer underneath the zipper tape would help, and it worked like a charm. I am dying to make this again in a 4 way stretch knit.

 

Day 20: Vintage High Waist Shorts

Day 20: Vintage High Waist Shorts

These shorts are the second pair I have made from  vintage shorts pattern Simplicity 7688. The first pair, which I am actually wearing as I type this, are made of a mint green linen and they are on the verge of falling apart because I didn’t know that I needed to finish the edges of this type of fabric  with either a serger or bias tape. As a result, the edges have frayed to the stitched seam lines in some places. I have tried repeatedly to save them with patches places on the inside of the shorts, bias tape to encase the raw edges, and double lines of stitching. They aren’t long for this world but I can’t bear to let them go because they are my favorite! This paisley pair is a close second, but the brushed cotton bags out a bit after wearing them too many times between washings.

Day 21: Vintage romper pattern

Day 21: Vintage romper pattern

This is a second version of the 80’s romper in the African Wax Print fabric, but I used a different type of material for this project and I hacked the strap and neckline-edging from a different pattern, so the end result looks (and feels) super different. I made a belt for this one, too, and the look just seems little more pulled together and fancy than the other one, which I wear more casually. You can’t tell, but the fabric is printed with flocks of birds all over it.

Day 22: Hannah dress by Schnittchen

Day 22: Hannah dress by Schnittchen

Hannah dress by Schnittchen, seen here!

Day 23: Vogue Vintage re-issue

Day 23: Vogue Vintage re-issue

Ohhh, how I absolutely LOVE wearing this dress! It’s stunning! Simplicity 1777, 1940’s Retro reprint, and truly unique in it’s bib detailing coupled with this amazing rayon challis I found on fabric.com. It’s one of my favorite pieces to dress up in.

Day 24: Vogue Maxi dress

Day 24: Vogue Maxi dress

Vogue 8827, as blogged about here.

Day 25: Vogue culottes jumper

Day 25: Vogue culottes jumper

I have been meaning to finish my post on this garment for so long-it’s  queued up and written and everything, just waiting to take some nice pics to accompany it. Anyways, I call it my JNCO’s Birthday Jumpsuit, but in actuality it’s a culottes romper, which required a fair amount of adjusting to make work for me. It’s made out of a double gauze by a company called Cotton & Steele, who has really gorgeous fabrics drawn by a team of super talented women artists, and I love love love this outfit and I need to make it again (and probably again). When I redrafted everything, I forgot to fix the pockets and make them longer to meet the new higher waistline, so they are SUPER short and everytime I put my hands in them I want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Day 26: Ginger Jeans (again) and Knit Sweetheart Top

Day 26: Ginger Jeans (again) and Knit Sweetheart Top

Ginger Jeans again! This time paired with a Knit Sweetheart Top by Gertie, adorned with a million mustaches. (This is a faux action shot, btw, which I feel like I must declare before I start getting comments from people warning me that I am using my power tools incorrectly).

Day 27: Carolyn Pajama bottoms by Closet Case Files

Day 27: Carolyn Pajama bottoms by Closet Case Files

Carolyn Pajamas (sans top) by Closet Case Files.  Easy make with lovely little details. I made mine out of rayon challis and after a few washings they started to look like worn bedsheets, in a GOOD way.

Day 28: Cap Sleeve Lattice Top by Purl Soho

Day 28: Cap Sleev Lattice Top by Purl Soho

This is the first sweater I ever knitted in California territory. Details here!

Day 29: Vogue dress

Day 29: Vogue dress

And this is the first dress that I ever made for myself after I learned how to sew in my Costume Design class in college. I have no idea what the pattern was (I think it might have been Vogue?), but it was such a success that it inspired me to keep going, even though I took a significant break from sewing after I moved to NYC. It fit great (still does) and was made out of a linen from JoAnn’s Fabrics which has held up surprisingly well over the past 14 years.

 

Day 30: Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes

Day 30: Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes

I hurried to finish this dress up in time to attend Autostraddle camp this year. It’s the Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes and it’s a very simple make made with knit fabric that includes a really cute sleeve detail on the cuff of the sleeve.

Day 31: fingerknitted necklace (no pattern, just fingerknitted!)

Day 31: fingerknitted necklace (no pattern, just fingerknitted!)

I MA(Y)DE IT! 31 Days!!!! Here I am wearing my vintage shorts pattern again from a previous day with the addition of my fingerknitted neck accoutrement! Fingerknittin’ Good is one of the craft classes I taught at camp and it was a big success! It’s easy to learn and easy to do if you have fairly good use of the fingers on your hands. It doesn’t require any materials or tools other than the yarn, and when you use a bulky skein, you can create something beautiful in a short amount of time. Fingerknitting doesn’t require a pattern or anything, just the actual activity of repeating the steps over and over again, and there are plenty of tutorials on the internet that can show you how to do it in no time. This ended up being a fantastic camp activity because even the campers who insisted they were absolutely terrible with their hands were able to create a gorgeous length of fingerknitted rope by the end of the hour.

 

And that’s it- my first memademay is complete! I have to admit that when it was all over I felt equal parts relieved and sad. Halfway through the month it had become exhausting to dress up in something memade every day, only because I don’t have a regular job to go to every morning. So unless I have an event or an audition or am meeting up with friends, I just putter around my craft room all day making stuff til Claire gets home from work, and hanging out in my craft room doesn’t require me to wear anything special. My wardrobe for most days (after I run or do yoga) is whatever is clean and at the top of my drawer, which usually ends up being a pair of shorts and a t shirt, or a breezy house dress if it’s hot outside, and I usually wear that for a few days in a row til it’s time to put it in the laundry bin. For much of May, I missed the ease of throwing on whatever clothes were laying around. But on June 1st, I realized I had become so accustomed to being thoughtful about what I was going to wear that I felt like something was missing. No more “Hey Claire- will you take my MeMade picture?” No more triple-sharing photos to instagram and tumblr and facebook. No more recalling little details about what I was doing and how I was feeling when I made the garment. Of course I will still share my new makes when they are finished, but the exciting part of committing myself to a month-long project will be absent…til next year at least. Thanks to everyone who offered encouraging words of support during the month, and thanks to all the other bloggers and sewers who participated by sharing their own makes. Y’all are so inspiring and I look forward to every single new project you create!

#MeMadeMay Pledge- Day 1

Day1_pattern#MeMadeMay is a pledge by sewing/crocheting/knitting enthusiasts to wear something handmade for each day of the month of May. I have never participated in this event before, maybe because I wasn’t sure if I had enough handmade items to don, or maybe because I wasn’t sure if my makes were worthy enough. But I have since poo-poo’ed  my past doubts and decided to take the plunge and join the hashtag. If nothing else, it will remind me to get better use out of some of the things I have made that I rarely wear, and remind me of the makes I have enjoyed so much that I want to make them again. I am going to try and blog for each outfit, but I may have to combine a few posts into one when I am not around my computer to do a one-a-day.

Day1_view2 Here is one of my favorite-est simple garments I have ever made- I like that it was super quick to sew up, but it doesn’t give that frumpy silhouette that a lot of “easy-to-make” garments tend to offer. It’s made of a lightweight knit material and it has an elasticized waist, so you just pull it up or down to get it and out of it. The con to this is having to be all the way naked when you sit down to use the bathroom; the pro is that it’s loose and non-fussy, since you don’t have a zipper.What I don’t like about this jumper is the bias tape used to make the neckline and the straps. When I make this again (and I plan on doing it sooner than later cause it’s the most perfect for this hot weather we are about to be bombarded with), I will nix the bias tape and just cut the bodice pattern with extra seam allowance so that I can turn the edges under and make straps from the self fabric. The bias tape tends to pucker a bit and hang down under the arms, and it’s just not as sophisticated looking as this jumper has the potential to be. That said, this garment is so easy to wear- it works for hanging out around the house or wearing as a beach cover-up or dressing up a little with sandals.

To Pimp A Butterfly in Knit Crepe

To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick’s new album came out in the middle of me making a dress and was on repeat long enough to finish that project and complete an entirely new dress. The album is called, as you can probably gather, To Pimp A Butterfly. If I am being honest, I wanted to call the first dress my “This. Dick. Ain’t. Free!” Muumuu and my second one the “Every N*gga Is A Star” Maxi, but I was afraid it would alienate my already barely existent readership, so I made what feels like a pretty decent compromise.

 

 

The Hannah Pattern

The first dress, here on out referred to as the muumuu, is from a German indie designer company called Schnittchen. When the pattern arrived, I opened it up to find a large sheet of pattern pieces and one page of instructions written only in German. FYI I don’t read or speak German. After tooling around on their site, I found that they provide an online version of their instructions written in English, which was great. And they were fine until it was time to construct the sleeves. The dress pattern and design are very simple and could probably be put together without step-by-step instructions, but the sleeve construction is unique (very pretty, but not as straight forward as set-in sleeves), and without thorough details or pictures to go off of (no line drawings or photos accompany the instructions), I was stumped for about 10 minutes trying to figure it out. There was a sew-along posted for this dress (which is called Hannah, by the way), but it was all in German, too. Fortunately there were pictures included, so I just stared at them until it started to make sense to me.

three piece sleeve construction

three piece sleeve construction

It took, like, 15 additional minutes. But it was cool cause Kendrick was in the background. The most confusing part of the sleeve is that there are two pattern pieces for the same thing (piece number 5, referred to as the “ruffle”). One pattern piece says “uncreased” and the other doesn’t; both pieces are of very similar (though not exact) shapes, but printed out on the paper in opposite directions. I still can’t figure out which one I was supposed to use or in what important way they were different from one another, so I just kind of eenie-meenie-miny-moed it, chose one, put the sleeve’s three pieces together and figured out how they should be attached to the dress. Pretty sure I did it the right way cause they ended up looking great, and all the edges and notches met and hit at the right places. But I definitely think they should have included a clearer set of instructions for the sleeves, or at least included some visual explanation for how the pieces should go together in the instructions.

Claire and I took a trip to the Huntington gardens today (it was my first time and her third) and it was so beautiful! I was hoping we could see some of Octavia Butler’s papers on display at the library, but they only bring them out of the archives when they are part of an exhibit, so instead we just wandered the grounds and took pics in the succulent garden (which is phenomenal, btw).

WE EAT WHAT WE LIKE!

WE EAT WHAT WE LIKE!

This fabric is a soft, medium weight cotton with different designs woven and stitched onto it- it is described as a native/ethnic cloth at Michael Levine’s, and I recognize the motif as such, but I am curious if there is an actual name for this type of fabric, and if so, what it is (pardon my ignorance!) Anyways, this dress, because it is so free flowing and not-constricting at all, is a really nice design for LA spring, or as I like to call it, “Summer Part 1” (Summer Part 2 starts in May). Its the kind of dress that can be dressed up or down cause it looks good with flats as well as casual heels- in these pics I am wearing my braided leather clogs- not good for walking around the gardens for any length of time, but perfect for a photoshoot.

so casz

so casz

 

I shortened the length of this dress considerably because there is so much material in the muumuu and I was afraid that making it knee length would look too overwhelming on my frame. This dress has no zipper and slips on over your head, so the neck hole is fairly wide to accommodate a noggin. Because of this, the neck sits a little wider on the collarbone/neck than I am used to, but I can live with it (and adjust it just a bit if I ever make this again, which I think I will). In general I am happy with this make, and I am thinking of making it in a nice chambray so that I don’t wear this one out too much- it’s the perfect house-dress-cum-grocery-store-run-cum-let’s-go-to-the-mall-for-fun garment and it’s gotten plenty of use so far.

red_back_2

knit crepe from McCall's 7212

knit crepe from McCall’s 7212

The second dress I made has been a bit of a revelation. It is McCalls pattern 7121 and not something I would normally buy. I tend to avoid most big company patterns because I think the sizing and fit is usually off on me, plus I like the idea of supporting indie pattern designers. But last week I actually took the time to sit down and look through the books at JoAnn’s with Claire while we searched for an outfit to make her for a wedding we are going to next month, and I was surprised to find myself bookmarking tons of patterns that I wanted to add to my collection. This maxi dress pattern caught my eye because it is designed for knits, and thanks to The Colette Guide To Sewing Knits book which came out last year, sewing with this fabric type is pretty much my new favorite thing. Knit garments just sew up SO quickly, and they are so versatile and wearable for year-round sunny LA weather. Also, after discovering the girlcharlee website, I have been inspired by a seemingly endless array of beautiful knit fabric for purchase. The fabric that I made this maxi out of was not purchased at girlcharlee, though- it’s a deep steel colored knit crepe that I bought online at fabric.com for another pattern I had planned to make (and opted out of). This fabric is kind of unreal. Against your skin it feels really fancy and chic, but it doesn’t appear to be precious at all- I pre-washed it in my machine and dried it in the dryer, and it came out feeling exactly the same without any pilling or dullness. One side is smooth and matte while the other side has the identifying crepe texture with a bit of shine while still feeling very soft and silky. This dress was meant to be nice and casual, but after I sewed it up in this fabric, it felt really decadent and much more fancy than I was anticipating- I would absolutely make this dress out of this fabric again and make it long enough to wear with heels- it could translate to evening-wear like a dream. The way it moves around your body when you walk is fantastic- it holds its shape without looking stiff, and sewing it was lovely- very easy to work with, it didn’t stretch out at the hems while I sewed double lines of stitching, and it has great recovery.grey_frontal_4
I like the design of this pattern, but the fabric is the real MVP here. After sewing it up, I learned that the bodice is drafted with no negative ease whatsoever, so it just kind of sat on top of me, puckering in weird places as opposed to hugging my curves the way that most knit fabric patterns are designed to do. It was an easy fix, though- I just re-serged my front seam about 2 inches in, and when I tried it on again, it was perfect- it looked like it was painted on without looking too tight or like I was busting out of it. I split the 2 inch difference on my front and back pattern pieces so that the decrease was shared between the two when I made this again, but for this dress, I didn’t think the difference was that big of a deal. I love the racer-back style of this bodice a lot, cause it works so well with my tattoos and is just a flattering look in general. grey_side_2I already have the fabric to make this again, and I am going to use the altered bodice pieces but cut out a short circle skirt for the bottom instead. I might decrease the allowances on the skirt pieces so that they match up perfectly with the new bodice pieces, but as it is, the skirt fits perfectly- not too tight, barely skimming across my hips and butt. The bodice and skirt are sewn together to create a channel for a narrow strip of elastic to be inserted, and that gives the dress just enough stretch at the waist to pull on over your torso but not so much that the waist looks gathered and has a lot of excess material. It’s one of my favorite things about this dress- the silhouette is so sleek and makes me look (relatively) long and tall. I sewed a very simple, quick belt to go with this dress out of the same material cause I don’t like the slight gathers at the waist on it’s own and I didn’t have a belt that went well with this look. I like it the fabric belt- I think it makes it look a bit more casual. I’ll try to share the replica I make of this dress in the new (much more playful) fabric I got from girlcharlee…til then, here are a couple of my favorite pictures that Claire took at the gardens…!

moss_bonsai

The above picture is from the bonsai exhibit that was on display, and the trees were breathtakingly beautiful, but it was this unexpected glimpse at the tiniest of sprouts growing up from the moss that I loved the most.

 

cypress_bonsai

BONSAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!

 

pink_flower_cacti

And this one is awesome just because it shows that nature knows how to throw in a pop of color in the most perfect amount. Style inspiration in the purest form!

The “Bitch You Guessed It” Dress + Getting Read

As someone who is rarely if ever caught up on pop culture and media hype, Crissle and Kid Fury’s podcast The Read has allowed me to become someone who might be able to possibly participate in water cooler conversation at the office…if I had a regular job, of course. I am often painfully unaware of what the general American public is doing and talking about at any given time, and this wouldn’t be so embarrassing if my career wasn’t in entertainment. I don’t watch many shows, I am averse to reality television unless it’s airing on HGTV/hosted by Tim Gunn, I never listen to the radio on purpose, and the only movies I usually pay to see in theatres are independent films with limited runs. For a professional entertainer, I can be pretty clueless about what is happening in my field. So initially, listening to The Read felt like due diligence.

Crissles and Kid Fury are two friends who discuss all things pop culture related- the good, the bad, and a LOT of the ugly- with the perspective of being people of color, queer, socially aware, and feminist. There is no dearth of humor in their hour+ long episodes, which is why I imagine they have garnered such a massive following so quickly, but for me, the most enchanting thing about Crissles and Fury is that they have created a podcast that is LISTENABLE. Normally I HATE this genre of podcast. I can listen to stories being told and I can listen to information being given. I can listen to news coverage and music discussions and readings of fictional work. But listening to people just talk to each other for an hour? It makes my skin crawl. There is something so uncomfortable to me about listening to people with big personalities talk all over each other and tell jokes that fall flat and conduct asinine interviews and attempt to be hilarious for an audience that isn’t responding to them in real time (see: almost every comedy podcast in existence). It’s nails on a chalkboard for me. So I listened to my first The Read podcast with considerable trepidation. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only do Crissles and Fury have an easy and honest repoire with each other that doesn’t feel rehearsed or too polished, but that their coverage of hot topics is often tied in with their views on social justice and observations of the harmful effects of the patriarchy and capitalism. They are progressive, outspoken and silly, but also capable of recognizing their complicated relationship with pop culture; they allow themselves permission to ridicule the machine of the entertainment industry while acknowledging that they care enough about it to devote a couple hours discussing it each week. What’s more, Fury and Crissles don’t claim to have it all figured out, and they seem to be in the process of learning just like the rest of us. I can recall an episode where the term “spirit animal” was mentioned for some reason or another, and Kid Fury somberly responded “I don’t think we’re supposed to say that anymore…”, which made me more than a little overjoyed- he wasn’t admonishing or judgmental, rather, he was trying to be sensitive and mindful of an experience outside of his own. I personally didn’t understand how harmful the term “spirit animal” was til I read a post about it on tumblr a couple years ago, and I like to imagine that same post coming across Fury’s dash and enlightening both of us in the same way. Crissles and Kid Fury are an example of our generation’s ability to maintain humility while still being unapologetic of ourselves and our histories. They demonstrate brazenness and their show is provocative, but they also give their listeners examples of how to be flexible and open to new ideas. They they talk about loving themselves, they make us laugh out loud, and they also offer sharp commentary on the injustices of the world without mincing words or trying to appeal to any specific demographic. Together, Kid Fury and Crissles are a force to be reckoned with.

Listening to The Read is one of my favorite things to do while sewing, and when I first learned of the podcast, I had tons of episodes to catch up on, so there were projects I started and completed that seemed energetically tied to certain The Read episodes and themes (like my “Caught Up In My Light-Skinned Feelings Carry-On” bag). If you are already a fan of the show, you will understand the significance of “Bitch You Guessed It!”, and me and Claire laughed so hard at Fury screaming this lyric as the new title for one of the segments of The Read that it was impossible to not to use it as the name for the dress I was working on at the time. This garment is Frankensteined together from two different dresses in Gertie’s Vintage Casual book, resulting in the Summer Dress With Flared Skirt pattern (seen below, an image from Gertie’s book).

Summer Dress With Flared Skirt pattern by Gretchen Hirsch

In the past I have had limited success at pattern hacking, so I was nervous about how this would turn out. I was so in love with the gorgeous fabric I got from The Fabric Store that I didn’t want to screw it up (as I have with so many other beautiful yards of fabric), but I also didn’t want to spend the time making a muslin of this dress BECAUSE I AM VERY VERY LAZY. Fortunately for me this dress came out about as perfect as I could have hoped for.

the "Bitch You Guessed It" summer dress

the “Bitch You Guessed It” summer dress

I prefer full circle skirts on my frame more than the flared skirt called for with this pattern- I think they look better with my waist to hip ratio- but I didn’t have enough fabric to do a full circle skirt (fyi I bought this fabric before I resolved to only purchase material that I had specific plans for, so I had no project in mind when I chose it and therefore only bought a couple yards). But even with the flared skirt, I am pleased with how it falls on my frame, and I think the shape of the skirt works well with the fitted bodice. I didn’t make a conscious decision with how the pattern pieces would get cut from the fabric, so the fabric design that falls across the front at the waist seam was an entirely happy accident. With a little tweaking and adjusting, this was a simple and fairly quick make, and it was perfect for this fabric, which seems to be a cotton linen with a wax print inspired design- very breathable and with a little bit of give.

blowout_crop_back_look2

Thanks to Claire for taking these awesome photos (trying to get better at planning nice, intentional photoshoots instead of snapshots of me in a mirror from instagram). On the way down our uneven concrete stairs in our backyard to take these photos, I scraped a sizable sliver of skin off my foot, so the pained, pitiful faces in all of these photos can be attributed to my clumsiness.

I love that you can see my blood in this photo!

I love that you can see my blood in this photo!

Here's an outtake that I couldn't bear to leave out of the post; Rosie the pit bull threatening to upstage me as soon as I turn my back...

Here’s an outtake that I couldn’t bear to leave out of the post; Rosie the pit bull threatening to upstage me as soon as I turn my back…

 

First Foray Into Lingerie

I certainly never imagined that I would successfully accomplish, yet alone be interested in, making a bra, but after sewing a pair of the world’s most perfect skinny jeans for yourself, you start to feel like anything in possible. Truth be told, I generally focus on sewing things I can’t find easily in RTW, but my boobs are an easy size and shape to find bras for, and for most of my adult life I have made an annual trip to whatever Calvin Klein outlet was closest to me, stocking up on well-fitting bras in neutral colors that would last me til the next year. I have never been one to sacrifice undergarment comfort for the sake of prettiness, so all those bras with the lace overlays and the funky colors and the cute ribbon bows rarely if ever made it into my bra drawer. I had been tempted by the gorgeous matching bra and panty sets in the windows of lingerie boutiques in the past, but after balking at the outrageous price tags one too many times, I learned to roll my eyes and keep walking.

It wasn’t until the lovely Gertie of Gertie Sews released a lingerie and panty pattern for Butterick that I began to reconsider my strict stance against beautiful undergarments. The pattern consisted of a pretty slip that could be converted to a camisole and matching full coverage undies with a pretty lace detail on the edges, but the real kicker was that she was selling kits with everything you needed to complete the ensemble and posting a sew-along, too. Nothing shouts TRY THIS NEW THING to me more than a kit and an online support group! So I bought the thing, I read the thing, I made the thing, and it was beautiful.

Butterick B6031

Butterick B6031

Unsurprisingly I have not worn the slip once, other than to try it on after I finished making it. I’m just not a fancy lingerie wearer, and it’s not the kind of slip that works easily under clothing because the lace catches on fabric really easily and the design has too many details for the sake of pretty rather than the sake of function. Which isn’t a complaint at all; the slip is so pretty! It’s just not something that would ever be a wardrobe staple for me. But the underwear had me intrigued after I made my first pair. I might not find many opportunities to wear a fancy lingerie slip, but I have PLENTY of space to work with cute undies! I like my cotton HANES that are good for everyday wear when I don’t plan on leaving the house or wearing anything other than my sweatpants, but I have always been stumped on how to include pretty panties in my rotation because most pretty panties I find in stores either 1. don’t offer full coverage in the back so that I have to walk around with a perpetual wedgie, 2. leave ridiculous panty lines in an otherwise smooth silhouette because they are made with the world’s most chunky elastic or 3. a horrific combination of both. And before you ask, I avoid thongs like the plague whenever possible.
There were a few issues I had with this panty pattern. The glaring one was that the instructions included in the pattern (and in the sew along) made no mention of using light tension when sewing the stretch lace to the edges of the panties. So when I completed them and tried them on for fit, I pulled them over my hips and heard a whole row of stitches bust open. Without stretching the lace while sewing them with a zigzag stitch, they had no give at all! I tried making a larger size thinking that was the problem, but the same thing happened, with the additional problem of the undies hanging off of my waist cause they were too big. Next, I re-sewed the lace onto the smaller sized panties, but I created tension in the lace while sewing them, which gave them more room to stretch, and of course they fit perfectly. I can’t imagine I was the only person who had that issue when making this garment, but whatever- at least I figured it out. The other problem I had with the design was the lace. It’s beautiful and a really nice, delicate touch to the aesthetic, but it’s not very functional. I wash all my handmade items on a delicate cycle and line dry them, and items like panties and bras go in a lingerie bag, but still, after a few washes, these underwear were pilling and the tiny elastic ends from the stretch lace were breaking and sticking out. The underwear are still wearable, but the lace hasn’t held up to consistent wear the way I thought they would. Lastly, the design of these undies does not include a separate gusset; the lining of the panties is sewn onto the bottom pieces of the back and front on the sides (leg openings) of the undies, so the lining is unattached in the front and back, and it has habit of moving around a lot when I wear them and causing a bit of aggravation/discomfort. It’s funny, you never know how important certain design elements are in the things you wear on your body until you’re without them- then their importance is glaringly obvious!
I still love Gertie’s underwear pattern, and somewhere on my queue of things to do in the future is adapt it so that it works better for me. I LOVE the full coverage the panties provide and I love that they rest lower on the legs without being too constricting (although I hate this term, I think they would qualify as “boyshorts”). Mainly I want to try regular lingerie elastic with them and see how they hold up.

After the excitement of Gertie’s panty pattern, I kept my eye out for another similar project and was ecstatic when I stumbled upon Cloth Habit’s blog. I think it was Heather at ClosetCaseFiles that introduced me to the new Cloth Habit pattern (if you don’t read Heather’s blog, you should- Closet Case has wonderful patterns, sew alongs, and tutorials, and her “What’s Doin'” weekly wrap up of all things sewing-blog related is my favorite thing to wake up to on Sunday mornings!) Anyways, Cloth Habit’s Watson Bra and Bikini Pattern is a 70’s inspired design with the option for a low-line or regular bra and a pair of bikini-style underwear. True to my overly ambitious self, I dove into this project without waiting for the sew along to begin, and I paid the price for it.

from top to bottom, bras number 1, 2 and 3

from top to bottom, bras number 1, 2 and 3

Bra #1 was made of a black stretch mesh for the cups and cradle and a black powernet for the bands. This was my first time working with tiny seams at length, and stretch mesh is NOT the easiest fabric to start a brand new project with, so there was a lot of seam ripping in the process, which was difficult to accomplish with the black thread on black fabric. Eventually the fabric was looking so worn and tired from all my mistakes that I decided to put it in the Butthole Bin™ and start over from scratch with a better fabric.
Bra #2 was made of a fabric called Venezia 4 way stretch jersey lining, which I used for the cups, and I learned about it from the kit I got when I made the Gertie pattern. So far it is my favorite fabric for undergarments; it’s lightweight, has an excellent stretch, and has a very light shine on one side while matte on the other. It’s also pretty easy to sew with. It doesn’t handle seam ripping very well, which I learned the hard way, but it isn’t too slippery or out of control when under your sewing foot either. The band was made of the same black powernet from Bra #1. The fabric was way more forgiving and because it was silver/gray, I could see and rip my seams out a lot more easily. When I got to the point where I could try the bra on though, the back barely reached across my shoulder blades; it was definitely too small, and I wondered if my powernet wasn’t stretchy enough and that’s why it wasn’t meeting all the way across my back. I was so disappointed, but not far enough along in the process to merit taking the bra apart to fix it. I 86’ed it and started from scratch.
Bra #3 was made of milliskin fabric as suggested in the Cloth Habit sew along (which by this time had been posted). It wasn’t my favorite material, but it was the easiest to work with of the three. It’s a little heavier/denser than I would like; more like the weight of swimsuit lycra than lingerie. But I was still knee deep in the learning curve and I didn’t mind experimenting with this new fabric. This time I went up a size in the bra in the hopes that everything would fit better around the rib cage, and I also made my band out of two layers of the cup fabric instead of the powernet. I was so convinced that this would fix the problem that I didn’t bother trying her on for fit before I finished her. So when the moment of truth came, you can imagine my annoyance at my own optimism. This time the bra was gorgeous, and it fit, but not well. graybrafront IMG_2184I could clasp it in the back, but it was not comfortable, still just a bit too tight to actually be wearable. I tried all sorts of things to get it to work without taking the entire thing apart. I added two pieces of powernet to the back bands where the bra clasps were to give it more length, I pulled the elastic a little tighter when sewing it to the edges for the second time- eventually I even bought a bra extender to give it more room in the back. Unfortunately, none of those things made it more comfortable. But at least now I knew exactly what I needed to do to make the pattern work. Started over from scratch. AGAIN.
Bra #4 This time I made the cups/cradle/band out of the same 4 way stretch jersey lining that I liked so much, and I stayed with the new size but I altered the band pattern piece by adding about 3/8″ to the length.

BRA #4, Y'ALL!

BRA #4, Y’ALL!

That did the trick. You would think that after 4 tries on the same bra pattern I would be able to sew the thing practically in my sleep, but no- I still made some ridiculous mistakes. The most time consuming one was when I topstitched the cup seam in the wrong direction and had to rip out the tiny straight stitches, destroying the fabric on one of the cups. So then I had to remove that cup and make a brand new one and then sew the new one in and then topstitch it again in the right direction. BUT, my patience paid off because once the bra was complete, it fit perfectly. And not only was the fit great, it was also COMFORTABLE. It offered the kind of support that a good bra offers without feeling like you are wearing a bra, the fit I have when I wear a well made, light weight sports bra, but prettier, and without the uniboob effect. FYI, this bra does not have underwires or padding so it might not provide the support or oomph needed (or wanted) for people with a larger chest.

After my four bras, it was time to make a matching panty. After all, that was my main goal from the beginning, to have a pretty bra and panty set that didn’t cost a fortune in case I never actually got some good wear out of it (and also because I have a million other things I would rather spend a fortune on than a bra and booty cover). Bikini panties are my least favorite underwear to don aside from the dreaded thong, so I altered the pattern a bit, adding more coverage in the back and bringing the leg openings down so that they were not so high on the leg. The alterations worked out perfectly and I was pretty thrilled when they were complete. The instructions included the use of tension when sewing the elastic to the knit fabric, so they didn’t rip apart when I tried to sew them on and they were comfortably snug without being too tight. I wore the underwear and panty set together as soon as they were complete, and I kept smiling to myself all day long at how great they felt underneath my jeans and sweater.

dyed and drying on the line.

dyed and drying on the line.

As you can see from the pictures, I used a nude colored fabric and pink elastic, which I dyed myself. I have found a lot of great websites that offer the notions necessary in bra making, but unless you are shopping for all white or all black, it’s tricky to find the right sizes in the color elastic you need.

dyeing, dyeing, dead.

dyeing, dyeing, dead.

The Watson bra and panties call for 4 different types of elastic, and although many websites offer really beautiful colors in one or two types of elastic, it’s hard to find the same color in all of them, so unless you buy a kit that comes with a certain look/design and all the right types of elastic you will need for a pattern, dying is definitely the way to go. It’s also a lot cheaper than the kits (although the kits can be really awesome with hard to find fabric and color combinations you would never have been able to put together for yourself). I was going for a dusty rose with this batch of dye, and I got a pretty and bright colored pink instead, but I don’t mind. I don’t dye fabric often, so this, too, is a part of the learning curve for me. Plus, I LOVE virtually any shade of pink.

 

 

After the success of the Watson Bra and Bikini pattern, I started to look around for other indie bra patterns on the market. There are lots of patterns available to purchase online, and sewsassy.com has a decent collection of patterns available, as do a few other bra and notions supply companies, but I was drawn to Ohhh Lulu for pretty obvious reasons. She sells her patterns on etsy as PDFs, and her patterns are not only vintage-inspired, but also true to vintage functionality, often made as replicas of vintage bras using the same types of materials that were available back then, before mass produced 4 way stretch knits were affordable and available to the public.

Ohhh Lulu’s Vintage Inspired Lili Bra and Rose Panties

It was hard to pick just one pattern set to start with because they are all SOOO BEAUTIFUL, but I ended up deciding on the Lili Bra and Rose Panties patterns to start. As compared to the Watson bra, this is a much quicker make, perhaps because it is considered a bralette and doesn’t have as much structure to it as the Watson bra does. The most intriguing thing about this pattern is that it calls for a woven fabric that is cut on the bias as opposed to a 4 way stretch knit. It doesn’t really get any more authentically vintage than that, right? The cups, sides, and front center are lined with a lightweight knit fabric, and these patterns are pretty awesome in that you can use up a lot of your scrap material to create them. The only thing I purchased for this make was foldover elastic- everything else I already had tiny bits of in my fabric stash.

first attempt at Lili Bra

first attempt at Lili Bra

My first attempt at this bra used a cream colored woven silk that I had 1/2 yard of, and sewing it up was quick and easy- the instructions were clear and there were great pictures that accompanied the pattern booklet. I tried it on and it fit on my body, but it just looked too small- the cups were doing this boob-squash thing where, since the cups didn’t really stretch much because of the material they were made of, they made my boobs flatten to fit inside them. It wasn’t the most flattering but it also wasn’t terrible- it was just kind of meh. So I decided to make the bra again, this time going up a size (I had actually read a couple of reviews on etsy from people who needed to go up a size to get the right fit despite what their measurements called for) and trying a different fabric, one that was suggested for the pattern. These two changes were the bingo. In addition to the stretch lace overlay I used in the first bra, I also used a gold sateen, which already had more give on the bias than the silk I initially used, and when I tried the completed bra on, the cups fit beautifully without scrunching my boobs down at all. This is probably not a functional bra for super busty people looking for good support in their undergarments, but I was surprised to find that it worked fine under my clothing- I guess I thought it was just gonna be a pretty wear as opposed to a functional wear. It’s not the kind of bra I would wear under a slim fitting blouse or dress- the bralette doesn’t really lay flat because the fabric isn’t a stretchy knit, so it doesn’t cling to your body, and it has more bulk in certain places at the seams than the Watson bra does (think of a sleek sports car compared to a beautiful vintage convertible). But under a sweater or loose button down or a billowy shirt? Works great!

vintagebra_inaction

vintagebra_pucker

Here you can see where the band puckers a little in the back because of the type of fabric, but it didn’t end up bothering me while wearing it.

Finally, I made the panties in the Ohhh Lulu set, and they were not as successful as the bra was, but I think that’s all my fault. I should have taken a cue from my experience with the bra and gone up a size; I didn’t and the panties are a little on the too-small side. They are also tight as shit in the waistband and the leg openings- this being my first encounter with foldover elastic, I didn’t realize that the stretch was different from lingerie elastic, and I should have used less tension when sewing it to the edges. All in all, I am not a HUGE fan of foldover elastic- I would say I am much more inclined to use lingerie elastic, so I think I will make a go of these panties in a larger size and with my preferred elastic type.

Rose Crossover Panties

Rose Crossover Panties

The fit of these panties is not as great as the Watson bikini pair that I made, and I don’t like the look of panties with such a high cut leg, but I am so in love with the crossover detail on the front that I am willing to put the work in to make them perfect for my body. I used the stretch lace from the bra overlay for the back piece of the panties, and I love how they turned out, so I will use it again for the next pair I make. My next project, after I refine the design and fit of these babies, is to buy some more of Ohhh Lulu’s panty patterns that call for a woven/knit combo of material. She has some truly gorgeous designs, and I am ready to have a couple of tried and true panty patterns to pull from for whenever I have extra hours in my day and feel like making something quick and easy.