Posts

My Inner Debbie Allen

7blog

A few months ago I had a really grand idea for a dress design. It was comprised of a strapless bodice attached to a fitted pencil skirt with a sheer, flowy overlay at the waist- the dress equivalent of a mullet, but with business AND a party on the bottom. I knew that this dress wouldn’t be difficult to make because I had all the pattern blocks I needed, each tested and tweaked from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: a strapless bodice, a pencil skirt, and various versions of a full-bodied skirt depending on the fabric I decided to use.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJLWiVkBx1C/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

On my August trip to The Fabric Store I came across this really cool mauve-colored cotton that I fell in love with (I am sure this type of fabric has a name, but I don’t know what it is). Essentially it has a sheer cotton background with appliques made of the same sheer fabric and cut in the shape of flowers that are placed on top. I thought it would look beautiful as my sheer overlay skirt, so then I searched the store for the perfect accompaniment fabric from which to make the fitted dress. I came across a polyester blend in Barbie pink- it had a tiny bit of sparkle and what I thought at the time was a nice, stable body, but it turns out that was just wishful thinking; the pink polyester was much more suitable as a lining, but I didn’t figure this out until the entire dress was made and I stood in my mirror with a dispirited look on my face. The bodice was fully lined with several tracks of boning attached to the lining, but the outer fabric was just too thin and showed each pucker, nip and tuck of the structure underneath. It gaped and folded at odd places and looked cheap (not as a fabric by itself, but in the way I had tried to manipulate it). Add to this my lack of care in working with the synthetic fiber (read: I TRIED TO IRON POLYESTER) and you can imagine the frustration it brought me. But the pink polyester fabric for the bodice/pencil skirt was not the only ill-fated choice I had made in the construction of the dress. The mauve overskirt fabric, while gorgeous on it’s own, either wasn’t sheer enough (or the Barbie pink fabric not bold enough) to show the details of the pencil skirt of the dress underneath, so my shiny pink fabric ended up getting lost anyways. My choice of using a circle skirt for the overlay pattern was also misguided- the shape didn’t serve as a big enough contrast to the pencil skirt underneath. From far away it looked fine, I guess, but up close, and in comparison to the dress I had imagined in my head, it was a disaster.

But I didn’t consider it a total loss- I had a good idea of what I needed to do to make this style of dress work, and step one was to abandon this pink failure and start over from scratch. On my next trip to The Fabric Store I immediately found the perfect fabric to use as my overlay, a completely sheer organza- type fabric with colorful bold stripes printed across it, and then I searched the shelves for a more appropriate fabric to use for the bodice/pencil skirt combo underneath. A midnight blue, full bodied (yes, like wine!) fabric that is apparently called Noil Silk, but looks like an imprint of woodgrain to me, ended up fitting the bill for my underdress, and this time, I made ALL the right decisions and the dress is a success! But more on this project in a future post!

After all that work, I was stuck with a pink polyester mess attached to a beautiful overlay skirt. Like most sewers, I hate to throw away nice fabric that I have inadvertently sewn into a disaster, but the overlay skirt was particularly difficult to think of getting rid of. It had taken me a couple of hours to figure out how to eek out a circle skirt from my cut of fabric (I seem to always err on the side of too little rather than too much when determining yardage) and I had just BARELY managed to make it work. And then I had spent a lot of time creating beautiful french seams for the inside since they would be seen through the sheer fabric. And it was all for nothing! But alas, I realized a few days later after heaving the pink dress into a corner of my craft room that if I had enough fabric leftover, I might be able to create a waistband for the skirt and just wear it as a separate… and I could maybe even get some semblance of the original silhouette I had in mind, depending on what I wore with it.

4blog

During my first trip home after almost a month in Savannah, tackling this project was the very first thing on my mind! I carefully removed the polyester bodice/pencil skirt dress from the overlay and the zipper it had been attached to and proceeded to cut out two simple rectangles for the waistband (one for the outer band and one for the facing) in the width I wanted, plus seam allowance. Because my fabric is sheer, I lined it with some organza silk I had in my stash to give it stability instead of using interfacing, then I sewed everything together and attached an invisible zipper. I was worried that the fabric would be too lightweight to hold a zipper without puckering at the seams, but it held it’s shape just fine. Since I had re-sewn the pieces of the circle skirt and the edges seemed to be a little uneven, I let it hang overnight so the bias could re-acclimate to it’s new shape, and I evened out the edges and hemmed it the next day.

5blog

To complete this look, I paired it with a Nettie bodysuit I made from a Closet Case Files pattern a couple of years ago. I was hoping the deep color of the bodysuit would give just enough contrast with the mauve to show through the skirt so that I could fully channel my inner-Debbie Allen, and I think it works beautifully. This is another look I have always loved and never found the RTW items to pull off: a maxi dress/skirt with bloomers underneath. The look came back on my radar after I saw a few scenes of Netflix’s show The Get Down. In all of the big disco scenes they shot, there are TONS of stunning outfits on the actors, but the all white maxi dress with the hip-high slit in the middle and the white bloomers peeking through was PERFECTION. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and this skirt and bodysuit for me is a much more casual iteration of that look. Eventually I would love to go full out and make a dramatic RedCarpetDIY version of that dress, but for now, this is a nice, safe stepping stone to the look.

 

3blog

Even though this dress didn’t turn out the way I intended it to, it feels like a massive success. For one thing, I was able to learn from all the mistakes I made on this dress and apply my knowledge to a new version of the dress by starting over (if at first you don’t succeed, trycurious again!), and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the make was not a total loss. I have talked about this before on the blog, but figuring out how to salvage my mess-ups, how to Tim Gunn it and make it work, how to make lemonade out of lemons, has shown me exactly how far my sewing has come in the few years that I have made it my main hobby. Sewing requires such a vast array of knowledge and techniques that it seems impossible to ever to get to a point where anyone knows it ALL, so to be reminded that I haven’t hit a wall and am continuing to learn more feels really good.

2blog

My film Suicide Kale will be screening in Atlanta this weekend (check out www.suicidekale.com to find out more info!) and this outfit will be making it’s debut there! When filming a show, particularly on location like Underground, it’s rare to have opportunities for red carpet and PR events, so it seems a little ridiculous that I have focused ONLY on #redcarpetDIY makes in the past couple of months. But at the same time, if fancy fabrics are what grab you, it only make sense to go with them. So excited to high kick in this getup at the panel discussion after the screening, just to make Debbie Allen proud!

6blog

Girlfriend Fit: The Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Files

This is a three-in-one post since I want to show off this very simple but very excellent tank top I am obsessed with in addition to the pairs of Morgan Jeans I have made over the past months; thankfully I wont be the only model showing these makes off!

blog2

I first made these jeans many months ago and for some reason never had an opportunity to get good photos of them other than some snapshots on Instagram. The Morgan Jeans pattern is described as having a “boyfriend” fit, which most of us I am sure are familiar with, but for obvious reasons I will be referring to them in this post as “girlfriend” jeans 😉  I don’t wear relaxed-fit pants very often unless you count my house clothes (does anyone outside of the south refer to loungewear as “house clothes”??), but when I saw this pattern released by Closet Case Files back in the spring, I knew I was going to have to start. I was of course already in love with Heather Lou’s skinny jeans pattern, Ginger, so adding a more casual pair of denim jeans to my wardrobe seemed like a brilliant idea. I have tons of breezy summer dresses that can be dressed up or down for summer, but my winter casual wardrobe was pretty non-existent. In the colder months I am either very dressed up or in sweatpants, and there was barely anything in between- until now!

blog7

The other reason I was into this pattern was because I knew that they would be a great staple for my wife (aka former girlfriend!), Claire. I made her a pair of Ginger jeans last year for Christmas which she loves, but in general she seems to prefer a more relaxed, comfortable fit than skinny jeans allow. She was immediately into the idea of a pair (or three) of Girlfriend Morgans for herself, but she asked if I could make them as shorts instead of pants. Of course, turning this pattern into shorts was a totally easy adjustment since they just get lopped off right at the knee, and per her request, folded a couple of times at the bottom. Alas, the Morgan Jean Shorts were born!

For our first pairs of Morgans we bought denim from The Fabric Store, which was exciting because all the denim I has bought previously had been from the (awesome) denim kits that Closet Case Files and WorkRoom Social occasionally team up to offer for sale. It was fun to get up close and personal with the selection of denim that The Fabric Store offers, seeing the subtle differences in color, texture, and weight, and since this denim didn’t need to stretch, it took a lot of the guesswork out of how the fabric would ultimately fit when sewn up. Claire settled on a gorgeous sturdy selvedge denim with tiny little flecks of lighter thread woven throughout, and I chose a deeply hued, lighter weight denim for myself. Initially I intended to make my jeans raw, forgoing the pre-wash before cutting into my fabric and opting instead to get the natural whiskered effect that you can only get from wearing them over time, but the smell of the processed fabric ended up lingering for far too long, and I stuck them in the wash a few weeks ago to get rid of it- thankfully they didn’t alter the fit and now they have no smell!

blog8

There is not much to say about the construction of these babies- since I had made several pairs of Gingers already and the technique for the Morgans is exactly the same (save for the option to make a button-fly instead of a zip fly), the makes were easy and were completed pretty quickly. As I have mentioned in other posts, I highly recommend Closet Case Files’ Jeans-Making eBook if you haven’t tackled jeans before. The eBook provides great photos, step by step instructions, and lots of helpful tips on everything from how to source the best denim to how to install your rivets properly. I don’t even read the instructions for making jeans patterns anymore, I just pull up the eBook on my iPad and follow the steps that are laid out there.

blog6

I am excited to play around with the design of these a bit; if I make them again, I might try to combine the high-waist of the Gingers with the relaxed fit of the hips and legs of the Morgans. I used to have a vintage pair of Levi’s with a high, fitted waist and a wider, more comfortable leg, and they were SO CUTE, so it would be fun to try and recreate that look on a memade pair.

blog4

My favorite detail about the Morgan jeans is the addition of the little leather patch on the back, which allows you to customize your jeans even further.

Here is my pair:

blog5

and here is Claire’s:

❤️ S A V A G E ❤️

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I recently found out I was going to have to leave town for a few months for work, so the past couple of weeks have been spent trying to wrap up all my in-process sewing projects- unsurprisingly 90% of them were for Claire, who has a tendency to buy almost as much fabric as I do (without, of course, the actual interest in sewing, LOL). First on her list was another pair of Morgan Jean shorts in a really cool cotton twill we found at The Fabric Store. It’s a medium-weight, very soft fabric with a dark gray/black camouflage print on it. I had not made the Ginger or Morgan Jeans patterns with anything other than denim, but using twill didn’t make a noticeable difference in how the garment was constructed, other than that topstitching was a bit easier in certain places because the twill is not as bulky as regular denim.

1blog

I stuck with classic gold top stiching thread and double line placement on the camo shorts but I omitted the rivets, and I love how they came out. The fit on her is excellent, and the look of the print with this pattern is really cool to me- I haven’t seen anything quite like it in stores, which is always a plus. We are in the process of arranging a barter system for the items I make Claire; sometimes she pays me actual money (we operate with a monthly personal budget to curb excessive spending on frivolous items), and sometimes we trade services- for this pair of shorts she gave me a carwash, so it seemed only fitting that I snap photos of her shorts while she was in the middle of doing the deed. And now, please enjoy Claire in some pin-up inspired photos modeled in decidedly UN-pinup attire!

3blog

5blog

6blog

4blog

(Oh, and FYI, the above shirt is one of the MAAAAAANY Archers I have made Claire in the past few years in a cool spider and web print from Cotton and Steel).

Last but not least, I want to gush about this cute top I have been mildly obsessed with wearing all summer. It’s probably the LA heat that has turned this top into such a staple for me, but if all I am doing is hanging around the house and working in the craft room, I want to be wearing as little as possible.

blog10

The pattern is McCall’s 6751 and the design includes 4 versions, although I have only made one of them because it’s clearly my favorite. The back criss crosses and connects at the shoulders on each side which keeps the back open, and it has a wide silhouette so it doesn’t cling to the body (I am wearing an XS with a redrafted neckline that is about an inch and a half higher than the original pattern). Because of it’s open back, it’s the perfect shirt to wear with a cute bralette underneath. I made it with a lightweight, heathered jersey cotton knit from The Fabric Store, and although I am sure this top looks really cute in stiffer woven fabrics, I am in love with the breezy look of this design and knit fabric combination.

blog1

blog8

This top was a lifesaver during the past month or so when temperatures got so high in LA, but now that I am working in Savannah, it has proven to be even more essential- it’s the perfect thing to wear in a makeup and hair trailer so that you can remove your clothes without destroying any of the work the hair and makeup artists have done. I have also worn these tops to my yoga classes, which cover me up without stifling me in the warm studios. It’s a super quick make- less than an hour- therefore an easy addition to your end of summer wardrobe if you’re looking for some quick, easy things to wear before bundling yourself up in warmth for fall!

 

Deer & Doe & Denim

blog1

I was asked by Deer & Doe, a lovely pattern company that brought this gorgeous skirt into my life, to review their newest pattern, a pair of skinny high waist jeans called Safran. I had never been asked to review a pattern before, so, even though I felt like I already had a go-to jeans pattern in my arsenal (trusty Ginger jeans by Closet Case Files)  I figured that if nothing else, it would be a fun thing to try, seeing as how I am trycurious and all. And WOW, I am so glad that I did! Making this pair of  jeans pushed me out of my comfort zone, introduced me to new design features and made me pay more attention to the nuances of different construction techniques. But they also made me appreciate how essential Heather Lou’s jeans-making sew-along is, which she turned into an eBook for purchase. That ebook guided me through my first pair of jeans and has made each pair I’ve sewn since a breeze, including the Safran!

 

blog2

I wont comment on the instructions for these jeans since I didn’t get a finalized version of the booklet before the pattern was released, and I ended up reverting to certain construction techniques that I was more familiar with for the sake of having my pair finished by the pattern’s release date. But I will of course comment on how much I LOVE how they turned out. I have always wanted a pair of cute floral skinny jeans in my closet, but back before I was sewing I had no luck with RTW versions; a brand called Earnest Sewn was the only brand that fit my body well but they only seemed to carry 50 different shades of indigo- no prints or fun colors. Of course now I can sew my own jeans, but finding the perfect stretch denim has been REALLY tricky.

blog3

photo taken before I did more fit adjustments in the waistband!

Heather Lou gives some awesome tips in her eBook about finding a good ratio of cotton/ polyester/ spandex to get the stretch recovery necessary for a great fitting pair of skinny jeans, but the options on the market are few and far between when it comes to printed denim. So when I came across this unique stretch denim at The Fabric Store, it kind of seemed like destiny. The floral print is really pretty, but you can BARELY see it- the way that the threads are woven makes the print take on a gray-ish tint, almost like someone colored a picture and then started erasing it, so you can only just see the image peeking through (the photos in this post show the print as being a bit more vibrant than it is in real life). I LOVE IT SO MUCH! The fabric is soft, and it isn’t super lightweight like so many stretch denims/twills that I come across in stores. Safran calls for denim that has at least 20-30% stretch and this one from The Fabric Store seemed like it would fit the bill, so home it went with me!

blog9

I was excited to see the size chart for the Safran jeans because they seem to be designed to fit curves- they required no grading to match my measurements, which is rare for me for pants and skirts- I am about two sizes smaller in my waist than my hips in most patterns. I did end up needing to make one adjustment for fit, though. There was a bit of gaping at my waist after I basted my pattern pieces together, but I had of course already cut my legs out and didn’t have enough fabric leftover to re-cut the back pieces. So I created one small dart on each leg back, centered right over the pocket at the waistline, and re-drafted the waistband to fit the new curve of the legs. Because these jeans have no yoke, the adjustment was simple to make and I don’t even mind the look of the dart on the back. I really like the no-yoke design choice on these jeans- it makes them look a bit more streamlined and modern, and I think the design choice works particularly well on this floral denim.

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the pocket design. I always have trouble with front pockets on skinny jeans- they always try to peak out the top and I am constantly stuffing them back inside the pants, but the way these pockets are drafted, peaking out is pretty impossible. They are topstitched on both the side and opening of the pocket and they are also fairly deep, which helps keep them in place.

blog4

Speaking of pockets, I am notoriously finicky about the ones on the back- I’ve got a lot of booty to cover and I can’t leave the job to too-tiny fabric squares. The Safran pockets looked pretty well-balanced for a proportionate booty, but I used my Ginger jeans pockets instead- they are about an inch longer and only slightly wider than the Safran pockets and I think they turned out really great.

blog6

I used only one line of topstitching as opposed to the classic two on these jeans as the pattern suggests, and I opted out of using rivets, mostly because I didn’t have any leftover from previous pairs that matched. But they look just fine without them. The fit of these jeans looks incredible IMO, but they were preeeeetty tight in the waistband, and I think there are a couple of reasons for that. For one, I might have made my back darts a little too big when adjusting the waist- I could have taken out half of the width and been fine. Also, this pattern calls for you to make your waistband pieces out of denim, with the waistband AND facing interfaced. This keeps your waistband super snug and not as prone to stretching out over time, but it makes it REALLY hard to get any breathing room if the band is perfectly fitted to your waist, which mine was. In an attempt to get a little more wiggle room here, I moved my button over as far as I could without it looking too funky, and I even wet my jeans and wore them for a while to stretch the waist out a little, but the mistake was in my overfitting of the waist area with my darts and waistband redrafting (living’ and learnin’ over here)! So after I took these photos, I ripped out my waistband, took out my darts and started over: made the darts half the size, and altered the waistband to match the tiny adjustment in the back legs, and I only interfaced one side of the waistband. Now they are SO MUCH BETTER and I can wear them and actually breathe comfortably! It was a lot of extra work to take out the waistband and start over from scratch but it was so well worth it- I have made too many amazing things in my life that didn’t fit quite right and then sat in my closet unworn because I was too lazy/daunted to fix them. These jeans were obviously too good to sit anywhere unworn!

The most important realization I had in making these jeans was FIGURING OUT HOW TO MAKE MY JEANS EASIER TO PUT ON! I never blogged the skinny jeans I made after my first pair, but I kept running into the same issue with them- the jeans looked great on but I could barely pull them up over my butt! I know it was because the waist of the jeans is so much smaller than the hips, but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what to do to fix it without changing how they fit. And then, on this pair of jeans, it hit me: Just make the zip fly longer! I am sure that some of you are like NO, DUH OF COURSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO! Unfortunately it has taken me a year to figure this out, and I didn’t have the epiphany til after I had already finished these jeans, but I don’t care- better late than never, right? If I add about an inch to the bottom of the zip fly and make sure I transfer that length to the other necessary pieces, like the fly shield and the interfacing that goes on the jean fronts, it will allow my jeans to open up further, which should account for the extra room I need to get them over my hips. OH MY GOD I can’t wait to try this out on my next pair.

blog7

All in all, Safron is a fantastic jeans pattern, and I am most definitely utilizing some of the design elements/ construction techniques on my future jeans, like the awesomely deep pockets and the belt loop construction (Safran has you baste the loops onto your outer waistband before attaching it to the waistband facing, so the loops are caught in the top waistband seam and you only have to stitch them down on the bottom- much less work and a cleaner finish. I also made my loops longer so I had room for a slightly wider belt). I would definitely recommend this pattern for an intermediate sewist/ someone who was confident with jeans-making. I love the original design details and the ease of construction. Because the design features of these pants are so pared down, they are quicker to make than the other jeans I have sewn, and they don’t feel redundant at all: a totally new take on a classic jeans pattern. Many thanks to Deer & Doe for allowing me a backstage pass to their newest pattern!!!!

blog8

Peaches N’ Cream N’ The Fabric Store

6blog

For those of you who grew up in the 80’s like me, you might remember a special Barbie Doll that made her debut wearing a floor length ruffled gown in a gorgeous shade of peach. The dress had a white sparkly bodice with sheer layers of polyester that cascaded into a wave of gathers at her feet, and a long, peach colored boa wound through her arms, the perfect accessory for this doll made in the era of TV’s Dynasty.

I was obsessed with this doll, and I didn’t get obsessed with toys very often. I knew we were poor and, from a young age, I understood it’s implications- asking for things that I knew my parents couldn’t afford seemed not only pointless, but also hurtful. I felt sure that they would give me the world if they could, so why make them feel worse than they already did? Still, this doll’s aesthetic tapped into some deep need I had, a need to exude wealth, class, and importance, to appear to be like all the other girls that I went to school with. Peaches N’ Cream Barbie represented the kind of woman who didn’t worry about money or holding down two part time jobs to make ends meet- otherwise she would not be dressed so extravagantly. She seemed confident and capable, the life of the party, good at holding court with esteemed individuals, which was something I aspired to. Why wouldn’t I be obsessed with her?

Although I never imagined that my wish would come true, Peaches N’ Cream Barbie ended up on my Christmas list, which, since my parents were not together anymore, needed to be duplicated so they could each have a copy. My mother, pragmatic as she was, must have sensed the magnitude of having this doll in my life, because on Christmas morning of that year I tore off the wrapping of a box to find, instead of the sweater or package of underwear I usually got (she, like many Moms without much disposable income, used Christmas as a way to replenish more of my needs than my wants), a beautiful Peaches N’ Cream Barbie Doll! But…she was black. For some reason I hadn’t been expecting that. To be honest I am not even sure I knew that Peaches N’ Cream Barbie CAME in black, because the black dolls didn’t end up in the commercials very often. I was thrilled that my Mom bought her for me, but I also had conflicting feelings stirring up inside that I had no idea what to do with. My Mom, (who is white), had always made it a point to buy me black dolls. I think she was trying to make up for the fact that I went to a predominantly white school, lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, and I only got to see my Dad (who is black) two weekends out of the month because that’s the way the custody battle went. She didn’t want my Southern white surroundings to damage how I felt about myself, and she understood the importance of me seeing myself in the things I played with. I know that now, and I appreciate it deeply. But at the time, I hated it. It was simply another reminder that I was different from everybody else in my life.

I pet my news doll’s beautiful dress and combed her dark hair that was straight and glossy and not like mine at all and waited for my Dad to pick me up and take me to my grandma’s house to celebrate Christmas with him and my cousins. There, I joyfully opened up toy after toy after toy- not an item of clothing in site- and stared in disbelief as I ripped the paper off my last present and found yet another Peaches N’ Cream Barbie, this time the one with blonde hair. My white Mom had bought me the black Peaches N’ Cream doll and my black Dad had bought me the white one (clearly my parents were not on speaking terms at this point in time). There was a sense of relief that I finally had the “right” doll, the one I had been hoping for all along, but in the coming weeks, as I held the two dolls in my hands, each exactly the same save for their coloring, I was suddenly faced with the real root of my dissatisfaction. I liked the white one because that was the one that all my white friends had, and that made me feel normal. But the doll itself didn’t make me feel normal- she looked nothing like me. It was like playing around with a fantasy that I had no say in creating. And the black doll didn’t look like me either; her skin was darker than mine, and she still had hair like the white doll, just in a different shade. I didn’t see myself in either of the toys, but I felt shame for liking the white doll better and frustration for not understanding why. Of course now I know that this is what happens when you live in a white supremacist society, but back then I just felt alone. I decided to make my dolls be cousins related by marriage for a while, but eventually they started kissing and became secret girlfriends, which is what happens when you also live in a homophobic society, but I digress.

Growing up, leaving Alabama, spending my 20’s in NYC- all of it helped me start unpacking the harmful rhetoric that I learned as a kid and replacing it with values that embraced all my different identities. I am still in the process of forgiving myself for not being prouder of who I was at a young age, which is hard- it’s even difficult to write these words here on my blog. But I do it because, if I have learned one thing since leaving Alabama, it’s that I am not alone at all. There are so many people around the world who have struggled to name their identities, to find a place that feels comfortable, to accept that this place might not be comfortable for others, and to not apologize for it. And if my words can make any of those people feel less conflicted about living their lives proudly and boldly, then it makes talking about it completely worthwhile.

8blog

So here I am decades later, a grown, Barbie-less woman, when I enter The Fabric Store and come across the extraordinary textile you see here. I am immediately drawn to it and I realize that it’s because of the colors- the peach and white combination of my youth holds the same amount of power over me now. And when running my hands over the soft material on the roll, I flip over a corner to find that it’s reversible! Well, maybe it’s not reversible- it’s possible that one of these sides is meant to be the “right” one and the other is meant to be the “wrong” one. But see, I know better than that now. Barbies don’t have “right” skin tones and fabrics don’t have “right” sides. Which is why I used both.

7blog

I thought that the graphic print and stable weight of this fabric would look really cool with a structured bodice, and then I remembered how great the cut-outs on the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY were. So I coupled the top from that dress with my circle skirt block, drafted with instructions from Gertie’s first book, Gerties’ Book for Better Sewing. The result is a perfect fit’n flare design that looks absolutely phenomenal with the body of this fabric! I don’t normally combine prints or think outside the box with my fabric choices, but this fabric made it pretty easy. It is so soft and airy and has an almost quilted feel to it because of the way the fabric is made- it looks a little like a double gauze, with two lightweight pieces of fabric tacked together through the lines of graphic print, the colors reversed for each side.

1blog

The bodice from the Bonnell Dress is a very straight-forward make with great instructions- a fully lined bodice with cut outs on each side that connect to a waistband, closed with an invisible zipper in the back.

4blog

Trading the gathered skirt that goes on the original dress with a circle skirt was easy, and I omitted the pockets to save time. I used french seams for both the skirt and bodice to keep the insides tidy since this fabric has a tendency to fray, and when it was all done, the completed dress looked almost reversible! The only thing to give it away is the invisible zipper, which isn’t so invisible on the inside, but I could probably still get away with wearing it inside out if I danced the whole time that I wore it. Which is not outside of the realm of possibility for me.

2blog

I debuted this dress a couple of weeks ago at an event for an organization called Campus Pride, which promotes creating safe spaces on college campuses across North America for LGBTQ students through education, leadership and community. As you can imagine, it was a huge honor for me to accept the Voice and Action award along with the other recipient, Miss Lawrence, and it was a pleasure to meet so many amazing students, mentors and staff at the ceremony. In my speech, which Autostraddle will be publishing later this week, I talked about intersectionality and how my various identities as a queer, biracial woman of color sometimes inform one another; it was a happy accident that I wore this particular dress to the event, which seemed to embody a lot of the things I discussed that night.

3blog

Thanks again to The Fabric Store for the gorgeous textile, to Campus Pride for giving me an opportunity to speak, and to Claire for the lovely photos!

Gertie’s Boat-Neck Dress: A Hack

 

bowling_2blog

When I saw this grid fabric at The Fabric Store a few months ago, I could not pass it up, although I had absolutely no idea what I was going to make from it. I have mostly gotten out of the habit of buying fabric without specific plans in store, but every once in a while a textile speaks to me and I can’t tune it out. This particular fabric was a light, breathable, slightly sheer cotton, with a floaty weight to it and a nice drape. It begged to be made into something with a tiny bit of structure to it, something fit for warm weather. My first thought was a short sleeved Grainline Studios Archer Button Up, but I knew that this wouldn’t be a pattern I would get a lot of wear out of in summer. So, in my stash this fabric sat for quite a while until I started making plans for all my favorite designs in Gertie’s most recent book, Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book. I was already halfway through the muslin fitting stage of The Secretary Dress, which required a LOT of tinkering, and I knew that, even though the Boat Neck bodice in the book seemed like a simple thing to whip up, I needed to approach it with the same amount of care and patience that I allotted for my other make.

I ultimately made two muslins to get the fit right for this bodice and it’s attached mid-band, and the changes were the same as with the Secretary Dress: Small Bust Adjustment. The lines of this bodice seemed simple enough that it would let the unique design of this gridded fabric take centerstage, and I planned to pair it with one of the full skirts in the book. But when I laid out of my fabric, which I only bought two yards of, of course I didn’t have enough necessary to make the yardage-eating skirt (fyi: all of Gertie’s skirts except for the pencil skirt are yardage-eaters).

boat neck bodice and full skirt with pleats

I wasn’t dismayed though, because if I really did plan to wear it in the heat of the LA summer, I wouldn’t want that much fabric swishing around my body anyways. I racked my brain to think of a full-looking skirt pattern in my stash that would highlight the fabric, match well with the bodice, but not take up more than a yard and a half of fabric which is about all I had left over after the bodice construction.

bowling_4blog

And then an image of one of my favorite recent makes flashed through my head! Although the neckline on this bodice is probably the most eye-catching component, the skirt is my personal favorite thing about the Simplicity dress. At first glance it’s just a regular dirndle skirt gathered at the waist, but upon closer inspection, it’s a cleverly designed 5 piece skirt with pockets placed inconspicuously on either side of the center front skirt panel. Even with so many interesting design elements, this skirt doesn’t take up much fabric, so I knew it would be a good choice for Gertie’s Boat Neck bodice.

bowling_5blog

I did my best to pattern-match where I could, and aside from a couple of little snafus, everything came together nicely. My  best pattern matching work is on the skirt where it’s actually the least noticeable because of the gathers (doh!). I made some bias strips to bind the armhole edges since I decided at the last minute to forgo the cap sleeves, and the whole dress is lined with a solid white cotton voile, which is sheer and lightweight and breezy, just like the outer fabric.

bowling_6blog

I love how in Gertie’s dress above she used piping to bring more attention to the design features of the bodice, but I ultimately decided not to use piping since the design on the fabric was already pretty graphic and I didn’t want it to compete with other features. I totally regret this now. I think a mint green or a yellow binding on the bodice, mid-band, and perhaps lined up down the two front skirt panels would have totally elevated this dress. As it stands, I don’t think the garment stands out very much, but that might change the more that I wear it.

bowling_1blog

This dress is comfortable and flirty and cute, and I am assuming it will be easy to wear since I haven’t had a chance to take her for a spin yet, but I am hoping to do so in the next couple of weeks since I have a WTNV performance and a few festival events to attend for our film, Suicide Kale. If you want to see it in action, stay tuned on my instagram, as I am sure I will be donning it there first, with a much better hairstyle than I am sporting in these pics.

bowling_3blog

Speaking of the difficulties of photographing your own makes (that’s where we were headed, right?), I love my current method of taking photos of several projects at once as opposed to creating individual shoots for each item as it is made because it’s so much quicker and more efficient. But the downside is that I have to figure out ways to do my hair for several different set ups, and I hate that part. I’m usually pretty motivated to do something cool with it for the first two looks, but after that, my dedication wanes and I just throw my hair up any which way and hope that it doesn’t make me grimace later when editing the photos (these made me grimace for sure). I should probably just stick to one hair look for each outfit/look, but that seems boring, but maybe being boring is better than scowling every time I see this side bun.

Speaking of my in-home photography set up (that’s where we were headed, right?), it is getting better with each project I document, and it has already come such a long way from it’s modest beginnings. I have finally cleared my craft room of it’s cute but not-very-useful pink couch, which was put there in the hopes that people, namely Claire, would come and hang out with me while I sewed. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well and instead just ended up taking space and being a resting place for newly purchased fabric. Now that the couch has been moved into our storage-cum-guest-suite, I have plenty of space in my craft room to set up my photography stuff and keep it up, as opposed to setting everything up in our living room and taking it down immediately afterwards. The natural light in the craft room is not as good as in our living room, so I have ordered some continuous photography lights that I am hoping will bridge the gap and make the photos look nice, bright and crisp (and this set up will also be helpful for the occasional time that I have to put myself on tape for an audition). I have some more #recdarpetDIY projects that I am excited to share on the blog and I am hoping to photograph them with my newer and even more improved set up. In the meantime, I am working on reupholstering an arm chair that someone in our neighborhood gave us so that I can put it in the craft room- the couch might be gone but I still need to have a comfy place for the occasional visitor and hand-sewing marathon. It’s been a couple of years since I reupholstered anything so I am very rusty, but I just so happen to have an online sewing friend who reupholsters professionally and I have a feeling that she will be very generous with any questions I may throw at her 🙂

Turia Dungarees, aka Stripey Overalls

hat_3blog

I made these overalls a couple of months ago when I was in the middle of a jeans-making blackout, and they came out SO much better than I anticipated. I knew construction would be a breeze, having made several pairs of jeans by this point (I have yet to write a post on the latest Morgan Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files– but I have made them, they are wonderful, and they will show up here soon!) but I was afraid that the fit on these overalls would be tricky to get just right, never mind the fact that there may or may not be an age appropriate cut off for wearing overalls in the first place. 

OK, wait. The fashion gatekeepers of our culture says that women of a certain age/build/type/look should not be seen wearing certain items during certain times of the year/season/position of Mercury, and obviously that is such bullshit, because no one, no matter their gender, body type or age, should be shamed for wearing what makes them feel happy (unless we are talking about cultural appropriation, of course, which is ANOTHER DISCUSSION ENTIRELY). That said, it’s still hard to erase those “rules” from our minds because we are force fed them all the time across all forms of media- they are ingrained in our thoughts and they affect the way we perceive others. Whether someone’s skirt is deemed “too short” or “too long” because of their age, the lines drawn are complicated but they are there, and they always seem to be tied in with what society considers to be sexy. I don’t think there is an easy solution to any of this; I, too, feel uncomfortable when I see young kids and disproportionate numbers of women vs. men being sexualized in media, but I also know that their sexuality would not be as much of an issue if they weren’t being prayed upon in the first place. What would our world even look like if rape and molestation were not issues that we had to constantly fight against, if we didn’t have to tell kids (and adult female-presenting individuals for that matter) to be careful what they wore so that they wouldn’t be targeted by others who wanted to harm them? At what age is it okay for a person to present themselves in a way that feels comfortable for them? At what point should other people’s discomfort be pushed to the side to allow an individual the full extent of their self- expression? How much does sexuality play a part in what we wear and how we wear it, and who should determine when we are “too” young/old/skinny/fat/disabled, etc. to experiment with how we present ourselves to the world?

hat_2blog

I am in my mid-thirties now and I know that the overalls look is not super popular with adults in my age bracket, but I feel AMAZING in them (they are my current favorite thing in my closet)! So, like others have been doing for decades, I am challenging the notion that there are things that are and are not age “appropriate”. The way we feel about ourselves when we quiet the judgemental voices in our heads should trump everyone else’s opinions, right? I am urging all of us to start unpacking the junk that society has been feeding us since we were little kids so that we can discover what tastes are influenced by our actual opinions and what tastes have simply been learned and undisputed. Here, I’ll start:

A Random Selection of Jasika’a Actual Opinions:

  1. lace is sexy
  2. Granties™ (aka granny panties) are also sexy
  3. these overalls are sexy
  4. I am not too old to be wearing these overalls
  5. you are not too old to be wearing these overalls

I have a lot of work to do. Like, I still can’t decide if I don’t like wearing shoes with ankle straps because I think they don’t look good on me or because every time I see a shoe advertisement, the strap is wrapped around a leggy woman with a 5 inch ankle circumference and I know I can’t ever compete with that. Dismantling the patriarchy one tiny tentacle at a time is such hard work! And at the rate I’m going, I will be feeling 100% satisfied with myself by the time I am 90 years old. But better late than never, right?

Dismantling the Patriarchy One Awkward Photo At A Time

Dismantling the Patriarchy One Awkward Photo At A Time

OK, some details about these sexy-alls! I did a lot of research prior to making them because the blogger world had lots of good tips and suggestions. Like

  • angling the back straps a bit so that they reach over your shoulders in a more natural and comfortable way without gaping.
  • omitting one of the side zippers since only one was needed to get them off and on.
  • doing a little surgery on the back pockets, which, from looking at a lot of pics online seemed like they were drafted much too small for this jelly and also placed a bit too high on the butt. I subbed the back pockets from the aforementioned Morgan Jeans pattern and lowered the placement of them substantially (it took me three tries to get them right but it was worth all the unpicking).
  • I graded the sizing from waist to hip and they felt a little bit snug at first but after several wears they have loosened up beautifully.

hat_5blog

My denim is a navy and cream striped, sturdy fabric from The Fabric Store, rivets are leftover from my Ginger Jeans kits, and my overall buckles are a cheap but efficient purchase from Joann’s. I topstitched in gold thread and I love the vaguely nautical look that this gives the overalls. I made a couple of mistakes in the process of this marathon-make (the bulk of these overalls were finished in a day), like accidentally punching a rivet hole in the middle of my front pocket (oooooops!) and incorrectly tracing the pattern piece for the back strap holder so that I had to add more pieces to make it wide enough to hold the straps. For this reason I have way more bulk and topstitching lines in the back pieces, but you can’t tell just from looking at them, and it doesn’t affect the fit as far as I can tell.

hat_4blog

My favorite thing about this make is the slim fit of the legs combined with the traditional look of the overalls. I wore different versions of overalls throughout middle school, high school and college, and they were always huge and baggy on me, which was fine at the time, but I have outgrown that look. These feel a bit more sophisticated while still being playful and fun and comfortable, and Renee thinks they look awesome 🙂 Actually, let me take a second to say thanks Renee, for inspiring this little feminist rant of mine! We had a short dialogue about overalls over IG and how old (or young) most people are who wear them, and she got me interested in breaking down my thoughts on the topic and articulating my own views on the matter! By the way, I am LOVING having sewing friends that I have met in real life, I finally feel like I am a legit member of the online sewing community!

*waves to my east coast homies*

*begs Marcy to come taste my dehydrator snacks*

(that is not a euphemism, I swear!)

 

A Blood Orange Denver Dress

close

Posting about this dress seems like a bit of a cheat because I haven’t actually worn it out of the house yet. (Which may or may not be a trend with me lately, but I’m not gonna sit here and judge myself!) This is one of those wardrobe pieces that works in LA for a small window of time, much like another beloved turtleneck dress of mine that I knitted. It has to be the right amount of chilly/warm outside, because my legs have to go bare (I hate wearing a tights under dresses) but my torso is completely covered, and in this particular make, it’s covered in a beautiful merino wool which, while lightweight, provides a bit more warmth than the average day needs.

full

This New Zealand merino fabric, from The Fabric Store, was purchased for a Christmas gift I was supposed to make someone that ended up being abandoned in favor of a large care package comprised of chocolates and sweets. I found myself charged with this beautiful, brightly hued fabric that was screaming to made into something cool, so I decided to dip into a pattern collection I had bought on sale many months prior. I had never made anything from the collection before, and I wasn’t super familiar with any of the designers that took part in the pattern bundle, so I was excited to be introduced to some new designs.

back

I chose the Denver Tunic/Dress by Blank Slate patterns because it seemed like a simple, straightforward make and the princess-like seaming appeared to be easy to adjust if the fit was off at all. Thankfully I was right on all counts. As per usual I graded up the sizing from waist to hips, and because my merino wool was on the thin side, I self lined the whole dress by basting all the pieces together and then serging the seams, treating each double layered pattern piece as one.

side

The cut edges of the knit fabric were clean and I liked the look of the two separate layers, so I left the bottom edges raw and made cuffs for the sleeves, shortening mine to about 3/4 length. There was a little bit of adjusting for the seams on the hip area where I had to take them in just a bit because they were gaping in certain places, but other than that, the sizes I chose work well on this here hippy body, and I am happy with how the dress looks!

closeup2

Initially I wished that the turtleneck was more dramatic looking and slouchy, but after wearing it for my photo shoot, I liked not having so much bulk at the top, particularly in such a heat-generating fabric. This dress is going to be great made up in a lightweight cotton or rayon knit and will be a nice compliment to the version you see here, which is perfectly suited for fall.

Final thoughts? This is a well constructed, quick and easy pattern which can both pack a lot of design punch when using complimentary fabric choices, and pull it’s weight as a simple wardrobe staple!

Ode to Oona

https://www.instagram.com/p/BD1mBH4RF5O/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

One of my favorite online fabric stores, LAFinch Fabrics, has this sneaky habit of filling your orders with extra doo-dads, including but not limited to a fistful of swatches from their inventory, tied up in a little bow. I love this for obvious reasons; being able to touch a piece of fabric gives me so much more of an idea of how it will sew up as opposed to just seeing it on a screen. And that’s how I ended up with this multi-colored animal inspired rayon, a fabric I would never, NEVER have bought after simply seeing a photo of it. I’m staunchly against animal prints in my own wardrobe, but not because I have any moral or aesthetic issues against them. For me, it’s like the color red-  I think it looks great on every single person except me. I’m just not a RED personality, you know? Bright orange? Sure. But not red. And in this same vein, I am not really an animal print person either. So when I saw a rectangle of this bold rayon peeking out of my fistful of new swatches, I didn’t give it a second glance. That is, not until my fingers gently grazed the material while fishing around for one of the other pieces in the stack. OH MY GOD. Is this for real?, I thought. So supple! So soft! So stable, yet flowy! It felt kind of creamy, if cream could be a fabric. It was absolutely dreamy. But the print simply wasn’t my favorite. I liked the colors. I like the graphic aspect of it. But purple and blue tinted (zebra? tiger? leopard?) print?! Come on! That’s not me! It took me a week of hemming and hawing before I finally asked myself “what would Oona do?”

Oona (aka Marcy), the sewing community’s favorite advocate for brightly printed/boldly colored/funkily designed textiles; Oona, who doesn’t shy away from dazzle or flash; Oona, who wouldn’t think twice about snatching up a fabric like this because she probably doesn’t impose arbitrary boundaries for herself on what she should or should not wear. I think everyone in the online sewing community has been inspired by Oona’s makes at some point in their lives, because even if she is wearing something you wouldn’t have considered making for yourself, her beauty and style are undeniable, and apparently limitless. So there, I had my answer. Oona would say yes, so I was going to give it a try, too.

patterns

My yes came shortly before my birthday, and although I had no plans to make myself anything to celebrate my new year, when it arrived in the mail (with a whole new fistful of swatches to drool over, of course), I was suddenly inspired to use it for something special. I had two days before my birthday and no idea what to make with this beautiful fabric, which is generally not the best equation for me and a successful make, but I forged ahead anyways. Eventually I settled on a hack of my favorite vintage jumpsuit pattern, vintage Simplicity 5503, and the Southport Dress by True Bias. Both patterns are (mostly) TnTs for me; I have made each pattern twice, hacking the neckline into one of Gertie’s designs for one of the jumpsuits and sticking to the original design for the others. I was excited to put these two looks together- I love the casual look and comfortable feeling of the jumpsuit’s flexible waist and roomy legs, and I love the relaxed yet streamlined design of the bodice of the dress.

gertie_neckline

vintage simplicity jumpsuit in one of my fav fabrics I have ever seen from The Fabric Store (the print is various sizes of flocks of birds!)

southport

Southport Dress by True Bias, which gets worn A LOT.

For my mash up, I nixed the elastic band in favor of the Southport’s drawstring detail, and I used snaps instead of buttons for the bodice.

close2

Since there were no waistline darts to accommodate, it required only a little bit of fudging to make the width of the jumpsuit’s bottom match up to the dress’s top, and I ended up shortening the bodice in the back about 2 inches to take in some of the fabric that was pooling at my lower back (this was not an adjustment I ever needed to make for the Southport dress in the past, so it was definitely a result of using pants for the bottom instead of a skirt).

flat

All in all an easy make, and it was done in plenty of time for my birthday, even though I didn’t end up wearing it on the actual day- I was in (memade) sweatpants eating pie and hanging out with my two BFFs to ring in my new year, and I am NOT complaining!

dance

Now that the make is done and I have had some time to ruminate a bit on all my last-minute decision making, I have come to some conclusions. Number one: this fabric was wasted on this jumpsuit. I think it looks fantastic, and honestly, whenever I wear it I feel like Blanche from the Golden Girls, but I think that using this fabric for anything other than a swooshy, drapey, flowy garment was just silly. It deserves to be a dress, something with simple lines and a full skirt so that I could have maximized all the properties that drew me to it in the first place. This pattern hack was meant for something with a little more stability and weight to it, and those properties aren’t the things that make this textile so incredible.

stand1

Which brings me to number two: I am SO glad that I listened to my inner Oona and I bought this fabric! At first I kept thinking, it’s just not very me, but the truth is that if I am wearing it and liking it, then that’s as me as it gets. The me of today might not be the exact same me of last year or even yesterday, but that’s why so many of us sew, right? To express whatever version of ourselves that seems to be chirping the loudest at the time. Sometimes we go through phases where we are really into knits, or prints, or pastels, or skirts, or skin tight, or super loose. But those phases don’t make us any less of ourselves- rather, they are proof that we are undefinable, ever evolving, capable of variance. When I look through my closet, it kind of feels like I am flipping through the pages of a diary; I know where I was, what was going on and how I was feeling with every single memade garment inside. And when I come across this jumpsuit, even though it’s the only animal print hanging amongst it’s brothers and sisters, it looks perfectly at home. It reminds me that my style can change, that even if I take risks, the things I make are still a good representation of who I am.

disco

Thanks to all the Oonas out there continuing to provide inspiration!

Gertie’s Secretary Dress

hanging

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!

bodicebeforeafter

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.

lining

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.

full

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).

closeup

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).

closeup2

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!

full2

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!)

1.6_blog

 

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.

3.1_blog

 

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.

1.7_blog

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).

1.4_blog

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!)

2.3_blog

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.

2.4_blog

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.

2.2_blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!