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Crazing and Shivering

Welp, this has officially been the worst couple of weeks I can recall having in quite a long time, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the downward spiral began exactly when Mars went into retrograde, lol. I don’t follow astrology much at all, other than the monthly Chani Nicholas horoscope that shows up in my email inbox which I don’t even read regularly. But sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the way life is life-ing that I have to consult with my tarot reader friend who then gets me up to speed: “yep, everything sucks, for pretty much everybody, pretty much everywhere, so struggle through it, it ends mid-November” (not a direct quote).

a shot of my workspace in the Pot Studio. I need lots more storage down here and more table space would be great too, but I am very thankful for this set up we have created using stuff we already had in the garage/house.

It’s been both big things and little things. My best buddy got an unexpected, very unwanted medical diagnosis that I remain optimistic about but still feel devastated by. My partner has been experiencing unparallelled stress and anxiety that has manifested itself physically and emotionally in ways that I feel powerless to rectify. My brother’s mom passed away suddenly and the hospital may have some responsibility in not giving her the care that she needed because she had no health insurance. I accidentally washed my face with sunscreen. Twice in one week I used the wrong side of the salt shaker to ruin a meal, mistakenly using the “pour” side instead of the “shake” one; four tablespoons of salt into a freshly made pot of kale and white bean soup one day, two tablespoons onto my just-heated tupperware of leftovers on another. Then earlier this week, I realized that the last big batch of pottery I had completed and was finally ready to sell on etsy was ruined because of an issue called “crazing”, where the glaze essentially does not fit onto the claybody it has been applied to, so the glaze shrinks smaller than the ceramic underneath and creates (an admittedly pretty) cracked effect. Crazing is a technique that is often used on purpose, but only for decorative ceramics. For domestic pottery, crazing renders the piece unusable because it isn’t food safe- bacteria can get into the cracks of the glaze, tiny as they are, and create an environment of bad news for bodies. Some people insist that crazing was present in the majority of ceramics made throughout the ages and is not that big a deal but…our ancestors weren’t exactly THRIVING back in the day, with their short life expectancy and ignorance about food-born illnesses. I’d rather be safe than sorry, particularly when selling wares to others. So it’s back to the pottery wheel for me.

This is one of the more obviously crazed pieces, where the crazing shows up even when it’s dry. It was briefly a drinking cup but now its relegated to being a pot for claire to put plants in.

Given what the rest of my life has been looking like lately, I am actually not too devastated by the news that I have to essentially build my merchandise stock back up from scratch- this feels like small potatoes compared to everything else. I think it’s also because I am still so deep in the process of learning that everytime I pull a completed piece out of the kiln, I already have between one and eighteen things I know I want to do or change for the next time I make it, so at least now I have the opportunity to implement those changes and have my offerings look even better than before. Next time I wanna make this part bigger, next time I should attach this when they are still a little wet, next time I want to pull my handles separately so they are all uniform, next time, next time, next time. Normally I don’t mind the “next time” thinking because it reminds me that I am learning and experimenting and still being challenged in my creative pursuits, which I love. But it can be really overwhelming when you’re in the middle of a learning curve while simultaneously trying to capitalize on the stuff that you do know how to do. It just feels like a lot. But as I said in an earlier post, ceramics have given me something to focus on and immerse myself in, which has been an absolute blessing during this pandemic. It has kept me (mostly) sane, grounded and engrossed, and allowed me to obsess over something I actually have control over, something that brings me joy, unlike all the things happening in the world in which I feel a mere stunned observer.

This pot is made of the same clay and has no crazing- totally smooth and non- crackly both inside and out- it’s safe!

So even though the crazing was so disappointing to learn about, I feel like I have the information necessary to move forward from it. Here’s a simple breakdown of the crazing issue for anyone who is interested (there is lots more detail to the information I am providing so please only consider it a brief overview):  Clay is generally divided into low, mid and high fire ranges, which coordinate with the temperatures at which the clay vitrifies (vitrify= becomes it’s strongest self and can effectively hold water without being porous anymore): low fire clay gets fired at a lower temp, mid fire is higher than that that and high fire is of course the highest. More specifically, the clay is referred to by it’s “cone” number, which is essentially the effect of time + heat on the clay. When you fire clay, depending on what kind of clay you are using, the clay will shrink a certain percentage which is why when you make stuff with raw clay you have to account for the size you want it to end up after firing, not the size of what you have actually made.

Now in addition to the variables with claybodies, you add even more when you add glaze to the equation. Glaze is a combination of clay ingredients + water + glass, and when heated to a certain temperature (glaze is categorized by cone numbers as well), it melts and then hardens to form the glossy, brightly colored finish you find on most modern ceramics. An important thing to note is that, like most substances on this earth, glaze also changes when heated and cooled, expanding and shrinking in tandem with the temperature it’s withstanding.

In my little “pot studio” I have been working with cone 5 clay and working with glazes between cone 06  (lowfire range) and 5 (midfire range). And here is where my Learning Success™ lies: sometimes if you put a lowfire range glaze on a mid or high fire clay body and only fire it to the low range of the glaze, the clay hasn’t fully vitrified and/or shrunk down to it’s smallest self, so essentially the glaze is firing smaller than the body of the clay. When the piece cools the glaze shrinks more rapidly than the clay underneath does, which causes the glaze to crack and create the “crazing” effect as seen above. All the pieces that I have fired to mid range have come out perfectly with no crazing at all, but most of the pieces that I fired to low range (to accommodate the low fire glaze I painted them with) have come out crazed, though I didn’t know it at the time. For my pieces, the crazing wasn’t evident until they were rinsed with water, and then all of a sudden I could see this crackle effect all over! I didn’t even know it was “bad” initially- I thought it was just something happening with my glaze application or the brands of glaze I was using. Thankfully I did some research after seeing it happen on so many pieces and was able to alter my process before I started selling them. Although I have so enjoyed learning at my own pace and in my own space, this is the price of learning without a ton of professional guidance along the way. Trial and error is my preference, but it does not come without its’ downsides!

This is the mishima design that I have developed over the past couple months and I love it so much. Unfortunately these aren’t safe but I will absolutely be making a new and improved batch soon.

Anyways, to remedy the crazing issue on my future work, I ordered a new lowfire clay body to try out which should work better with the low fire glazes I have in my studio, and I also ordered a midfire clear glaze to use with the midfire clays I already have (the clear glaze is important for the mugs I make with mishima decoration seen above). Ideally I prefer firing my kiln in the low range because it uses less energy, but the actual midfire glaze effects are some of my favorites. Their finish has this antiqued look to it and the colors look a little vintage and worn, which I love. But many of my speckled glazes are low fire and I LOVE the speckled glazes, so I want to get as much use out of them (and everything else I currently have in my studio) as I continue to hone in on my style and design preferences.

edit: A lot of people on IG wrote me asking whether or not I could save the crazed pieces by reglazing them, so I guess I didn’t clarify the details of this well enough. I put a low fire glaze onto a high fire claybody and fired it at a low fire temperature to accomodate the glaze. The lowfire glaze cannot withstand a higher temperature (otherwise I would have been firing at that temp all along). So reglazing the pieces with high fire glaze wouldn’t rectify the fact that there is low fire glaze underneath, which will have a bad reaction to being fired at a higher temp and will likely ruin the entire piece in a new way, not to mention the fact that putting a new glaze on top of an unstable (crazed) glaze would probably make the new glaze malfunction as well. So no, there is no fool proof way (that I am aware of) to save a crazed piece of pottery that would keep its’ original condition intact. Apparently you CAN reglaze non-crazed pottery if there is an issue with the glaze or color or something, but I personally haven’t done it to great success- my pieces either came out with more issues or didn’t fix the issue that made me reglaze it in the first place. Also, some ceramics are totally fine at first and then can develop crazing over the years, so if you’re uncomfortable eating off of non-food safe ware, just relegate the pieces to decoration or get rid of it. 

if you look closely at the far right side of the bowl in this picture, you can see a little shadow inside the lines… that is where the underglaze has bubbled and lifted up off the claybody during the bisque fire. SHIVER.

Another issue I have been faced with trying to remedy is something called “shivering”, which is peripherally related to crazing. I’ve been experimenting with a decorating technique called sgraffito, where you cover greenware (unfired clay) with something called underglaze, which is a product that behaves a bit different than regular glaze. Once the underglaze has dried, you can remove the underglaze and some of the leatherhard clay underneath with a tool to create images and decoration on the piece. Once the clay is bone dry, you bisque fire it and the underglaze, muted and matte, is permanently attached to the clay body. Next I cover the piece in clear glaze which allows the underglaze color to pop a bit and makes the whole piece glossy and water tight. Similar to mishima, I love this technique so much because it allows me to essentially draw on the ceramics in a way that gives the piece texture and visual and tactile interest, but for some reason a lot of my bisqued pieces end up with the underglaze flaking off in small chunks, even though it’s supposed to be firmly adhered to the claybody. Apparently a potential cause of this is that the underglaze is firing and shrinking at a different rate than the claybody, but there can also be issues with the chemical makeup of the underglaze (which I will be the first to tell you is absolutely over my head- I use pre-made commercial glazes so I’m not mixing the ingredients up and adjusting the recipe myself). When I read up on shivering, the easiest ways suggested to remedy it were using fewer layers of underglaze on the claybody and diluting it with water to lessen its’ strength. I also read that it tends to happen on very round pieces as opposed to flatter pieces, which made sense as my mugs and bowls were all affected the most. So hopefully I can test out these fixes soon and see if it makes any difference.

A close up of sgraffito on a mug. These haven’t been bisque fired yet, so not sure if they will shiver. Instead of leaving the lines “raw”, I’m going to try slip trailing darker underglaze into them to see what kind of effect it creates.

It’s been so interesting committing to selling handmade things while also experimenting and learning and testing and inspecting and studying the process of making ceramics. It’s like both things, the manufacturing and the learning, are on the same highway traveling at the same speed, but they started in different places, and they are struggling to stay in line with each other. I have so many ideas in my head of what I want to make and offer that it’s hard for me to keep up with them all, but I am also learning so much that it sometimes feels like there isn’t room for all my ideas. As soon as I make something for the first time, I very quickly figure out how I want to make it even better the next time, and then I get so caught up in “next time” thinking that the piece I made, which was perfectly lovely and nice, suddenly feels obsolete.

People on IG love these toast plates so much, which I am so grateful for! Previously I have been handbuilding them from slab and molding them into a slightly upturned plate shape on the edges, but next I want to try the “poof” technique, where you use foam and a piece of wood to create a recess in a piece of clay. Hard to explain so I will take a video of it if it’s successful and share what the process looks like.

I’m not sure what the rush is, why I can’t just sit back and enjoy the process of learning (which you know I love!) instead of doing that while also trying to sell things at the same time, but I blame COVID-19. In truth, I think it’s partly due to the enthusiasm of my instagram followers, who have been so supportive and excited to consume whatever I end up sharing in my etsy shop, and of course partly due to the unwanted stasis that the pandemic has brought to us. My life changed abruptly from being super busy with work, flying between 2 and 6 times a month to and from Vancouver, to suddenly not even needing (or wanting, for safety’s sake) to leave the house for more than a grocery run. So I think focusing on selling the ceramic items I’ve made has afforded me some forward momentum in my life to keep me engaged and feeling productive and creative.

I call this mug “Bow Down, Stitches”, which obviously has a sewing theme. It didn’t turn out well when I made this design with some of the lighter colored underglazes but it works beautifully with this coral color, and this is one of the only sgraffito mugs I made that didn’t shiver!

Now a lot can be said about the concept of “productivity” and the “capitalist inside of all of us” which makes us feel like we must force ourselves to work and be fruitful and busy all the time in order to be “valuable”, and I totally appreciate the conversations that have been springing up around this topic. But I also know my habits well and can recognize that I am not pushing myself to do something I don’t feel like doing, but rather I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, a small, but important difference. And quite honestly, something that my brain really needs these days. Worst case scenario for me is that I spend a lot of energy on the physical and mental work of developing a line of products to share on etsy and then I realize I just don’t enjoy the process at all. Thankfully the stakes for that are not very high, and if it does happen, the fix is easy: I just won’t sell publicly anymore, and I will save my makes for bestowing upon my friends and family.

These are incense holders and small bowls!

Thanks to Claire for most of these pics, and thanks, as always, for your encouragement, readership, support, and enthusiasm. It’s very inspiring and I do hope to be able to offer some fun ceramics products in the near future!

 

Theirs and Hers: Plieades Dress and Gosling Shirt with Fabric Godmother Fabric

When Fabric Godmother reached out to me about collaborating on a blog post featuring their new line of vintage inspired fabric, I was prepared to say no because I was busy with ceramics and hadn’t felt very inspired to sew of late. But as soon as I clicked on the link showing all the fabrics they had to offer, I immediately changed my mind. They have prints and apparel fabrics that I just don’t come across very often online, and these were matches made in heaven. The fabric looked soft and drapey on my computer screen but it turned out they were even softer and drapier in real life, with that “loved and worn” texture that cotton gets after it’s been washed a bunch of times), and the print felt bold and extravagant and fun. It took a while to settle on a print, but eventually I chose the leopard- I love the color scheme with the bright yellows and lime greens, and because it’s on a black background I think it allows the colors to pop even more vividly!

 

To be honest, I think the fabric totally saved this dress because the pattern wasn’t my favorite. Initially I was looking to make a cute, flowy and fancy jumpsuit (most likely the tulip sleeved Burda I took a stab at a a couple years ago but chose the wrong fabric for), but once the fabric arrived and I saw how soft and cozy and pretty it was, I realized I wanted to make something I would wear more frequently, not a special occasion outfit. So I searched around for an interesting silhouette that I didn’t already have in my pattern stash, and someone on IG recommended the Plieades dress by French Poetry to me.

I loved the silhouette and the lantern sleeves- they had a little bit of drama but didn’t seem like they would get in the way of actually doing things, and it felt romantic and flirty but easy to wear. There are actually two versions of the Plieades dress available, the original dress1, which I used, and then a sort of expanded version of the design, dress2, with a button band on the front and a few more options for sleeves, collar and design details.

In the pictures, the dress looks like it’s pretty fitted through the bust and waist and then kind of expands out in the hips thanks to the gathered waistline, which is the look I was going for. Unfortunately the pattern doesn’t include finished garment measurements so all I had to go on were the line drawings and modeled photos. Sadly, the instructions were pretty poor, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt here- it’s a French pattern company and I imagine that someone had to translate the instructions, so I can only hope that the ones in French are much better than the English ones. But even so… in my opinion $14 is a lot of money to spend on a pattern that doesn’t have adequate instructions, even if it had to be translated. The discrepancy, if there is any, should be reflected in the price at the very least. But I would rather just have reliable instructions in the first place!

Right off the bat, the illustrations didn’t match the instructions- you aren’t told to ever gather the shoulder seams and stabilize them but the pictures show that this is what is supposed to be done. The instructions also provide an “Option 1” for the neckline, but there are no other options listed in the remaining pages. The most egregious omission was not describing exactly how to sew the neck facing and get it to lie flat. The front of the bodice is designed to have a delicate V neckline, but they tell you just to sew in the interfaced neck facing and they don’t explain at all how you should change to a shorter stitch length as you get close to the point of the V, pivot the fabric at the apex to sew the rest of the seam on the other side, then clip into the seam allowance so that the facing can flip in to the inside and lay properly.

Honestly this is all super basic stuff, and nothing tripped me up since I knew from experience what I was supposed to be doing, but for a beginning sewist? They would be pretty lost and I don’t think their garment would look as polished at the end as they might want it to. The Plieades dress is such a simple design that could be achievable by an accomplished beginner- it uses gathers, straight seams, a facing, and an invisible zip in the back- nothing too tricky at all. But with sub par instructions, I would not recommend this pattern to someone who didn’t know full well what they were doing.

My other big issue with this pattern is the fit- thankfully I didn’t grade up between sizes in the bust and waist as the measurements suggested I should, but I was smart enough to measure the waist width myself and holy cow there were several extra inches of ease in there! I figured I was just miscalculating something, or that the way the dress would hit on the body would accomodate all that seemingly extra room, but nope- once the main parts of the dress were constructed and I tried it on, I was swimming in it! I’m not sure why the styled photos make it look so much more fitted than it actually is, but I made a size 4 (the sizing only includes 2 to a 16) and easily could have gone down a size and probably taken it in even more, which is just very unexpected. I am only about 1 inch away from being able to pull this dress over my head with the zipper closed, that’s how big it is, and I kind of wish I had realized that early on- I probably could have made some adjustment where I could ommit the zipper entirely!

I’m not mad at the actual fit of the dress- it’s reminiscent of a 90’s babydoll dress with a waistline that is very loose and starts right under the bust, and it’s in turn very comfortable and easy to wear. But I would love to have known that this was what the dress was supposed to look like from the very beginning. The sleeves are my favorite part- I’ve never made a lantern sleeve before and I love how bouncy and flouncy it is, how it gives such a simple silhouette so much detail and is so easy to wear (again, coming from someone who is usually very “dramatic sleeve” averse). The hem is actually super short, which was a surprise to me. I’m 5’3″ and used to shortening hems, not having to lengthen them. I had just enough room to fold a narrow hem at the bottom and I am comfortable with where it lands on me, but I would have preferred to have more fabric to play with so I could make a deeper hem or change the length a bit if I needed to.

Because I ended up making a short summery dress out of this fabric instead of a jumpsuit, I had more fabric leftover than intended, so I decided to finally, FINALLY convince Claire to let me make them a matching shirt, lol. Thankfully they agreed, but only after looking at and feeling the fabric and deciding that it passed their test of comfort and aesthetics!

For their garment I used the Gosling shirt pattern from Sew Sew Def, and I graded between sizes to accommodate Claire’s narrower shoulders and hips- that’s kind of the opposite of how most men’s patterns are drafted but the grading worked great and it actually fits them better than any of the RTW button downs currently in their closet. This fabric gives the shirt major Aloha vibes which I like a lot- and there are some really cute details on the pattern that don’t show up with this print because it’s so busy, but I will definitely be making it again. I love the Sew Sew Def patterns because they have all been uncomplicated and very well drafted, and I love every one of the completed garments I’ve made from them. Plus they are so reasonably priced!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to our neighbor Ana for the couple’s shots! Green slides made by me, and animal print oxfords are RTW. Thanks for the beautiful fabric, Fabric Godmother! Every time Claire wears this shirt they say it’s the best thing they own!

Arden Pants

Funny enough, I made several versions of the Arden shorts hack from Helen’s blog, Helen’s Closet, before I ever made the pants. Maybe because Los Angeles is in the depths of summer heat right now and shorts seemed smarter, or maybe because I wasn’t sure if the pants version would fit into my wardrobe, but the truth is that I was wrong on both counts! In the right fabric, these pants are an excellent summer staple in hot weather because they can keep me cool by protecting my skin from the beating summer sun, and they have also proven to be an excellent addition to my wardrobe!

First off, I am gaga for this fabric! I LOVE a polka dot the way other people love a stripe, but I don’t come across spotted fabric very often (and when I do, you best believe that I snatch it up)! This red and white spotted viscose crepe was gifted from The Fabric Store, and you know it must be special because I don’t even like the color red for myself, but I am learning to have a better appreciation for orange-y reds that are in my palette. My initial plan was to make a super cute vintage 70’s style dress out of the fabric, but unfortunately I didn’t have near enough for that project, so it hung out on the edge of my sewing table for a while til I came up with a plan B.

By this point I had made four pairs of Arden shorts, two for Claire and two for myself. I used a super cute roller skate printed cotton from Josephine’s Dry Goods for one of my own pair that look like little kid’s swimming trunks (they are so adorable!), and for my other pair I used a cut of burnt orange 3-ply silk that I bought on the east coast last Christmas. Even though it’s a simple pattern, the silk makes them look luxurious and expensive, and they are also super comfortable. I worried I was “wasting” my nice silk on such a simple garment as unadorned shorts, but because I had such a small cut of silk to begin with, I didn’t have a ton of options for what to make with it- it was most likely going to be an Ogden cami, of which I have a few already, so turning them into shorts instead has actually made them more wearable!

Because those silk shorts came out so beautifully, a version of the pants in an unexpected fabric like my spotted viscose crepe seemed like it would most likely be a good pairing, too. I have a thing for flowy, silky pants, but I prefer them to be fitted- I’m not really a fan of palazzo style pants on myself, and most pants using lightweight flowy fabric seem to be paired with skirt-like designs so I rarely make them. There is one occasion where I tried to meld a fitted pant with a flowy material, and it was only moderately successful. I paired the Sasha trousers from Closet Core Patterns (which calls for a bottom weight knit with a little bit of stretch) with a drapey, woven rayon, and because I knew the fabric wasn’t quite stable enough for the pattern and that it would probably bag out during wear, I put some elastic in the back waistband to keep them snug. I was actually crazy about the result- I loved the look of the slightly tapered legs and the feel of the of the flowy fabric around them which felt breezy but not voluminous. However, the butt bags out so much after sitting down for a few minutes that I have to wear them with a long shirt on top so that people don’t think that I pooped my pants. And I also tore a big hole in the crotch area after kneeling down to put air in my tires at a gas station, lol- the woven fabric simply isn’t strong enough to hold up to a fitted pants design, so any extra stress applied to one particular area can make it rip like a piece of paper. I was able to mend the crotch area and get more good wear out of the pants, but let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson and understand that there is a reason we don’t make fitted pants out of thin woven textiles!

However, there is another option if you’re a silky, fitted-pants lover like myself! You can get away with pairing a drapey, woven, non-bottom weight fabric with a slim fitting pants pattern if the pants are drafted with an elastic waist! The extra fabric necessary for the elastic waist means there is excess fabric around the hip, thigh and crotch area, which translates into a garment that is able to handle more stress in those spots. Most of the finished Arden pants I have seen floating around the community have been made in cottons and linens, and they obviously look great because you can’t go wrong with those fabrics, but I am really partial to the look of a flowy fabric in this pattern- it’s unexpected, the ease of wear is tremendous, and they look really fancy even though they feel like I’m wearing pajama bottoms.

The construction of these pants is very straightforward and the pocket design is a real winner for me- they are deep, wide, and they lay flat! In-seam pockets on pants and skirts (where they are just attached to/open up at the side seam) tend to stick out and look really bulky on me because my waist and hips are the curviest part of my body and the pockets just don’t want to lay flat around them. But an angled or curved pocket with a facing works great for my figure (note: straight angled pockets only tend to work on me with garments that have a loose fit in the hips- pants, skirts or dresses with a very slim fit across my hips make the pockets gape EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. no matter what sewing tricks I apply). The pockets for the Arden pants have an angle and a facing and they fit me beautifully. The waist is also relatively high and hits right at my waistline which is my preferred fit for pretty much all bottoms. There are a few options for added details on these pants, like top stitching the seams and using back pockets (I omitted the pockets on my shorts because I didn’t have enough fabric but they still look super cute), but overall it’s a very simple and quick pattern to put together. Each of my versions took only a few hours a piece, and the most time consuming part was topstitching the elastic waistband.

Although I have very little red in my closet, these pants still work well with the rest of my wardrobe- the polka dots go great with stripes and other small- patterned fabrics, but come Christmas I am going to be an absolute vision when I wear these pants with my green hand knitted sweater, lol! This baby blue sweater knit in the photos (the top is made from a pattern from one of Gertie’s books, I think the Vintage Casual one) has a color that I think looks really exceptional with browns, oranges and reds, and it’s the only reason I have kept it in my closet. Blue is not anywhere in my color palette and I’m not crazy about wearing it close to my face, but I have found a way to keep it in my closet’s rotation by involving it in color combos that I’m really drawn to, and red and baby blue is one of them. I’ve actually had this shirt for several years and it’s nearing the end of its life because it’s starting to get pilly and the armpits are getting that gross, brownish hue, but I’m gonna try and squeeze just a bit more life out of it while I can!

Highly recommend the Arden Pants, and thank you for the pattern, Helen! Also thanks to Claire for the photos!

 

 

Flowery and Romantic; A Departure

Lol, this blog title. I was struggling so I just went over the top.

There is little in life these days that allows for spontaneity, and I’m a rule follower by nature- I’m an avid mask wearer when in public or in spaces shared with others, I rarely leave the house except to go to the grocery store/drugstore/ post office, and I DON’T eat out al fresco or otherwise because I am unconvinced that it’s safe (I have gotten some fries from the McDonald’s drive thru a couple of times though, lol). All that is to offer an explanation of why I made this dress, which is sooooo far outside my normal wardrobe style. It’s frilly, it’s ruffly, it’s got sleeve drama, and it’s off the shoulder.

 

It would be rare for me to choose any one of those details for a make, much less all of them in the same one! But alas, desperate quarantines call for desperate measures, and every time I saw this pattern pop up in my feed or across my computer screen, I thought, “this would be such a fun dress to wear”. I think it just reminds me of those carefree pre-pandemic days when I would get dressed up and meet friends for brunch or head out for a stroll in a new neighborhood with Claire, totally overdressed and feeling like a million bucks. A dress like this feels so over the top when all you’re doing is driving to pick up your groceries curbside at Sprout’s, but there are so few opportunities to feel (safely and smartly) frivolous these days, so I bit the bullet and made something totally out of the norm for my taste and style. Although I don’t plan on making this a habit, I think it came out great and I really enjoyed sewing it!

Although I have issues with how the pattern was styled on the pattern envelope (I love a casual shoe with a more dressed-up kind of outfit, but to me, the chunky sneakers just don’t look right with the proportions of the dress), I was drawn to how overly romantic and flowy McCalls 8108 looked without going into maxi dress territory. Of course The Fabric Store had the most perfect floral fabric for this pattern, a crepe viscose (which I was gifted) that I also think would be a perfect match for a 90’s inspired Shelby romper. The tiny flowers are pink and white on a green background, so I figured I could get away with it color palette-wise, and the drape is certainly ideal for this pattern. It’s flowy and lightweight so it doesn’t make the ruffle on the bottom look too heavy for the breeziness of the garment (which is another issue I had with the way they styled the garment on the pattern envelope- the textile they chose looks stiff and a bit voluminous, which could certainly be an intentional decision, but I’m not into it so much- I much prefer it in a less crisp, flowy fabric).

This garment came together fairly quickly and I didn’t need to make any size adjustments to it, probably because it was mostly like making a bustier without the bells and whistles. I sized down to an 8 as per usual with Big 4 patterns, and lined my bodice with a dupioni silk from my stash to give it a bit more stability and weight. I also used steel boning at the seams because on it’s own, the bodice seemed a little…flimsy. I don’t have big boobs, but something about the view I chose, the one with the detached sleeves that just kind of connect under the arms, coupled with the weight of that ruffle, made me think I should include as much support as possible. And this is a note to anyone thinking of making this pattern- I would consider a muslin or at least a double-check of the measurements against your body to make sure the bodice isn’t too short/shallow for your tastes- if I made this again I think I might add just the teeniest amount of additional length…this one works fine on me, but I wouldn’t go to the club in this and attempt dancing very hard, lol.

I could probably get away with wearing this without the boning but I would be constantly worried the dress was going to slip down. Since the bodice is so short (it ends right under the bust), I can’t really rely on  waist shaping to help hold it up, which is how I usually have success with strapless garments, so taking the extra time to sew channels for boning was well worth it, and also reminds me that I have a strapless, boned bodice jumpsuit in my roster of imaginary makes that I might as well get around to soon- I love a well-fitted strapless sweetheart bodice!

I kind of stopped paying attention to the instructions for this dress early on because I have made enough paneled strapless bodices to know my preferred way of construction. But because of this, I’m not entirely sure that I put the sleeves on in the right place, or attached them the proper way. I just used a double strand of thread to hand tack the sleeves to the bodice under the arm where I felt like it would allow me the most movement, and it seems to work well. My biggest issue with this dress is that I don’t particularly like elastic wrapped around my bicep- it feels very restrictive even if it isn’t technically too tight (but you kind of need it to be relatively firm so that the sleeves don’t look limp around your arm- the fitted elastic also helps to hold the bodice up just a bit).

The ruffle at the bottom was pieced together in three parts. Unfortunately did not have enough room to cut them from my fabric in the proper direction, but because the flowers are so small I don’t think it’s very noticeable…and if it is, it can be a considered a style choice, right? Right!

Pretty straightforward make in these very UN-straightforward times, but I’m making it work as best I can. I hope all of you are taking good care of yourself, staying as safe as you possibly can, and keeping optimistic whenever possible; we won’t come out the other side of this if we aren’t staying both vigilant and hopeful! I’m sending you all love and well wishes for good health, good thoughts, and good making!

P.S. Shoes are memade slides I completed a couple years ago I think? Time seems to have lost all meaning these day, maybe I made them last year! I love them but the leather is looking so dingy! I’m crazy about the shape of the peep toe looks on these so I’ll probably try and recreate it in another pair of flat slides soon as soon as I get some shoe-making mojo back! Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

 

 

Colorblocked Kalle

Colorblocked Kalle

FYI: This post is about the Kalle Shirt/Shirtdress by the artist formerly known as Closet Case Patterns- they have now had a name change and can be found at Closet Core Patterns! Same great patterns, cool designs and inspiring and informative blog, but with a new name! You can check out their blog to learn a little bit more on the why’s of the name change. As a massive fan of this brand of patterns I have made just about everything they have released, so I plan to go through all my old blog posts to find where I have tagged their company so I can change it to their new name.

Colorblocked Kalle

I stumbled upon the idea for this colorblocked Kalle by accident. In my stash were two cuts of raw, nubby silk that I had purchased from different fabric stores, and I bought them with no idea whatsoever of what I planned to make with them, I just really like this kind of raw silk and I snag it up whenever I have a chance. I had saved both pieces when I did my fabric palette color cull at the beginning of the year, even though one was only marginally in my deep autumn palette.

The sunny, bright yellow was an obvious yes, but the salmon was debatable. Warm, orangey peaches definitely work within my palette, but this salmon-y color is more cool than warm, and I could even tell when I held it up to my skin that it made me look pretty grey. But I kept it anyways because I’m the boss! Although I love having parameters to work with in my makes, I don’t ever want to feel like the PALETTE is in total control, and I like experimenting and seeing how I can involve other pieces outside of my normal style/color scheme. I wondered if the yellow might be lively enough to bring up the kind of dull mood the salmon silk was conveying, and the Kalle shirt seemed like a brilliant pattern to test out my theory on.

 

I’ve made the Kalle a bunch of times, both for myself and for Claire, and it’s a real TNT for me. It’s so easy to wear and it’s a very straightforward make, but it also has lots of room for playing around with the design. I’ve made the kalle shirtdress in a silk that I sandwashed in my washing machine and one of my fav versions is in a striped grey and white linen that I changed directions on so that one side was vertical and the other horizontal (never made it to the blog but it’s been on my IG feed a bunch):

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAoDEDxn68V/

The construction was very straightforward- again, I am familiar with this pattern because I have made it about 5 or 6 times now, so I don’t have much more to say about the make itself that I haven’t mentioned in my other blog posts (here is my first make of this pattern)! I decided to french all the inside seams since I knew you would get glimpses of the innards while I was wearing it and I wanted it to look nice and clean.

Fiddling around with the color blocking for this project wasn’t too tricky either, it just required some thoughtfulness of where I needed to add seam allowances (if I was splitting one pattern piece into two) and which sides needed to be a certain color. I will admit that I had to go slow with the collar pieces, lol. My brain gets easily confused with this sort of stuff but it doesn’t help me to plan it out by writing it down in advance- I have to see the fabric and the pattern pieces all laid out for them to make sense to me. I decided to do the collar all in one color to add just a tiny bit of visual interest to the garment, and since yellow is the warmer of the two hues, I wanted to have as much of it close to my face as possible (the inside of the collar is colorblocked the opposite way of the outer shirt, which I guess is just a little something for me to enjoy when I put the shirt on, haha.

Josephine’s Dry Goods kindly provided THE MOST PERFECT buttons for this top, and we did it all through instagram DMs which I am very impressed by; the color is spot on!

Oh, one other huge thing I did with this top besides colorblock it was to lengthen the back piece, haha- can’t believe I didn’t start this post with that information. I see these pics and forget that this isn’t exactly how the pattern was drafted!

 

I got the idea for this dramatic high-lo hem from, you guessed it- pinterest!

…and the bravery to try the yellow and salmon together from this image. My color choices aren’t quite the same, but the spirit is there!

My kalle is obviously a much more wearable version of the first image above but I do love the idea of a shirt as kind of a cape (I’ve been going around calling this top my “butt cape” lol), and I’m really happy with how this ended up! It’s fun and its interesting and I got to use two fabrics from my stash that, until this point, I couldn’t figure out how to utilize! Altering the back piece was super easy, I just added a lengthen line on the pattern piece and added several inches, but you can’t forget to transfer that same length to the hem facing. One of my favorite details about this pattern is the hefty hem facing that gives the garment a bit of visual and physical weight- I loooove that curve at the sides, and the dramatic drop on the back is so nice!

My only issue is that I am not entirely sure how to style it. I threw it on with some persephone pants for the purposes of this photo shoot, but truth be told, I had taken photos of like, 7 other garments already before we photographed the Kalle shirt and I was too tired to work on putting together a nice outfit- I just wanted to get it done. So I’m not sold on this outfit (I personally prefer this top with more slim-fitting bottoms), but I am curious to see what it would look like with a couple other items from my wardrobe- namely these hot pink pants (also made in raw nubby silk!) or these baby blue Peaches Trousers that might tell a beautiful color story. I’ll probably share some more ideas on what to style this with on IG stories or something at some point in the future, so if you follow me there, stay tuned!

Espadrilles: me made

Persephone Pants: me made

Kalle shirt: me made

Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

Ombre Dress

 

I got this fabric for either Christmas or my birthday several years ago, I can’t remember which. It’s an ombre silk charmeuse from Mood and there were several colorways to choose from- I’m also not sure who this gift was from (I think it was Claire?) but I am SO HAPPY they chose this golden and deep brown version because, even though I hadn’t curated my closet and gotten into my colors when I put this fabric on my wishlist, it’s smack in the middle of my palette and looks really nice with my skintone.

I fell deeply in love with this silk as soon as I held it in my hands but I had NO idea what I wanted to make with it- I didn’t even have an idea when I saw it on the Mood website, I just knew that I wanted to have it. So it has sat in my fabric drawer, unused, for about 3 or 4 years. It wasn’t one of those “this fabric is too nice and expensive for me to use it on anything” pieces, I just kept getting stumped on what pattern would best match it’s qualities. I wanted something that would allow the full measure of the ombre to stand out, which was tricky because the color gradation of the silk occurs from one selvedge edge to the other, as opposed to having the ombre spread out in measured panels lengthwise. This meant that I had to be smart about which pattern I chose and I had to make sure that my layout would work within the confines of my yardage (I think I got three yards), but since I had to follow the rules of working with a directional print, it meant there was much less space to play around with and I would be squeezing as much as I possibly could out of the fabric.

I don’t think I realized when I bought the SashaMcCalls 8036 pattern that it might be a good match for this fabric- it actually took me a few weeks of the pattern hanging out in my craft room to make the connection! I was just casually going through my smaller-than-before stash one day and I pulled out this silk, as I had done a million times before to no avail. I glimpsed this pattern  out of the corner of my eye and poured over the pattern details to see if I would have enough fabric for it. It seemed like a good match because 1. it has a waistline, which meant I would have a little wiggle room in matching the ombre from top to bottom, 2. the skirt was full and swingy, which was important to me so that the beautiful soft drape of the fabric could take centerstage, and 3. it had some interesting design details, like those dramatic sleeves!

Although I love the version with the buttons down the side, I thought this fabric would work best in the most simple, uninterrupted silhouette possible- putting buttonholes in charmeuse felt like it would have been the biggest mistake ever- I personally like to mess with this type of fabric as LITTLE as possible. It wasn’t terrible to sew with, but the tiniest little threads in the fabric wanted to snag every once in a while, even with brand new microtex needles inserted into my machine, so the less I had to handle it, the better.

I was smart enough with this project to make sure that I made a muslin before cutting into my precious silk, and I only made some minor, customary (for me) adjustments on the pattern pieces, like grading between sizes at the waist and hips. I usually shorten the bodice on big 4 patterns but I think this one didn’t require it, which was a nice surprise. I was on the fence about the sleeves at first, worried that they would not look very proportionate on me because of all the drama they are drafted with, but turns out they are my favorite part of the dress!

Once my muslin was finished and I was happy with the fit, I laid out the pattern pieces so that the brighter yellow gold at one end of the ombre would be closest to my face and the deeper brown would fade to the bottom of the skirt. I’m sure it would have looked really nice the other way, too, but since golden yellow is one of my favorite colors, I wanted that to be the part that got the most action. I ombre matched the bodice and skirt so that the fade of the colors would look uninterrupted from top to bottom by overlapping the placement of the pattern pieces by the width of the seam allowance along the same lengthwise line of the fabric, and it worked out well. I just barely got my sleeves in on the same line of the fabric, though to be honest, one of them had to be cut slightly off the parallel line of ombre because I had do little fabric to work with. I figured it wouldn’t be obvious since the sleeves would be separated by my torso and therefore any discrepancies would not easily be seen, and I was right- I can’t tell where on the sleeve there is the slightly color variation!

The construction of the dress is pretty simple, the only trick for me was being gentle with my delicate fabric and making sure the pleats of my sleeves were aligned properly. This charmeuse doesn’t recover well from holes made by machine or hand sewing needles, but I couldn’t easily get around them when constructing the sleeves- since the fabric is slippery, I had to baste the pleats down as per the instructions (I was worried that sticky tape would have left gunk and stained the fabric) and the price I paid for this is that you can see several faint 2 inch long trails of needle holes at the heads of the sleeves where the pleats are. Small price to pay as you have to really be looking hard for them, but still annoying. While I love the overall look of this dress and am so happy I made it, charmeuse is just not my favorite fabric to work with- believe it or not, I would take silk velvet any day of the week! Ha!

Besides the slipperiness of the fabric and extra care I had to take to sew it every step of the way, it’s just not particularly easy to wear. It likes to wrinkle A LOT, but ironing it is tricky because it loves to soak up the imprint of whatever is underneath it (seam lines and edges and folds) and steaming was difficult because the fabric just LOVED to pick up water stains. After completing this dress I actually found it so hard to do a final press that I took it to the dry cleaners. It came out looking great, but just in the transition from cleaners to car to closet it picked up wrinkles again, lol. And what’s more, when I wear it, the fabric is so slippery that it doesn’t really want to stay closed at the front bodice wrap- just in the process of taking these pictures I found myself constantly looking down to make sure my bra wasn’t showing. The fabric is much too delicate to sew in a snap at the front, which I normally do on wrapped garments that like to loosen up over wear, so I will have to see if fabric tape will do the trick. This is of course not even mentioning the fact that one mediocre gust of wind is enough to blow this floaty fabric up and away from my entire body, a la Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate, so wardrobe malfunctions are high on my list of worries when wearing this thing, lol.

So I’ve barely worn this dress and I already have some limitations on how, when and where I can get away with wearing this dress: preferably inside, possibly outside with a coat/jacket worn on top, with plenty of fashion tape in my purse, and ideally with a very plain slip underneath! But oddly, I’m still happy I made it! Each of my makes is an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the marriage of fabric and pattern, about new techniques and classic ones, and about my own preferences when it comes to construction and taste. I hope I get an opportunity to wear this dress to the perfect event sometime in the near-ish future (seems like it’s mostly zoom calls these days, but a girl can dream!) and I am also excited to make this pattern again in a more appropriate, easy-to-wear fabric, like a lightweight linen or cotton. See you next time, Sasha!

Photos by Claire Savage, maker necklace from Closet Case Files, RTW shoes.

 

Where In The World Is Sika San Diego?

I actually hate the nickname Sika and I only let a tiny few people in my family use it, but it does have kind of a nice ring to it in this context, lol!

This Vogue 1650 trench coat was a BEAST, but I expected it to be. Occasionally I’ll come across a design that is deceivingly fancy, the kind that looks like you put way more work into it than you actually did, the kind where you feel a little guilty accepting compliments on it because it wasn’t a particularly difficult project even though it looks super amazing. This is not one of those patterns. Every bell and whistle you see on this coat took all my strength to ring and all my breath to blow, but I do think it was worth it in the end!

The green fabric is from The Fabric Store, and I am so tickled that I chose this color even though I hadn’t gone on my color palette journey yet to discover that green is smack dab in the middle of my seasonal palette. One of the reasons I landed on this fabric (aside from the fact that it’s so similar to the version on the envelope, haha) is because it specifically seemed perfect for this project, but green is the only colorway it came in, so the color is just a happy accident! It’s a sturdy nylon and canvas blend, which makes it great for outerwear since it repels water very easily (it’s not treated with anything, that’s just the qualities of the fabric) but it was incredibly difficult to sew because…well, again, it repels water very easily!

Ironing interfacing to these pieces was a journey into madness- it wouldn’t take steam well at all and adding more heat just burned the nylon fibers of the fabric, but I had to press on because, what good is a trench coat without interfacing?? I was afraid that regular sew-in interfacing would alter the fabric’s properties (it is crisp, unwrinkling, and…unfortunately I can’t think of a better word than erect, lol- it just stands straight up at attention!) I worried that sew-in would either make it floppy or make it lose it’s crispness, and I also was lazy and didn’t want to go all the way downtown to buy some sew-in. Eventually I learned that spraying the interfacing lightly with water, then pressing down very hard with a medium-set iron and a press cloth worked 80% of the time. When it didn’t work, I would see little bubbles peeking up from the otherwise smooth canvas, and then I would have to use the strength of ten Serena Williamses to press even harder and push those bubbles out to the edges, which would also work about 80% of the time. In short, I couldn’t get all the interfaced pieces perfectly flat and adhered, but so far I haven’t noticed any bubbles when I am wearing the coat, so let’s just call it even: Trench:1 Jasika:1.

 

Aside from the bizarre properties of the fabric, this sewing pattern has 4,672 pieces. Y’all. Y’ALL. I feel like I might have spent one lifetime tracing and cutting out all the fabric, lining, and interfacing pieces of this damn coat. Then I died and was reborn again in time to actually sew everything together. Half of this coat was made by a ghost. This many pieces of a sewing project isn’t all that unheard of, nor is it that difficult for me to get a hold of under normal circumstances, but I started and finished this entire project in my apartment in Vancouver, which means I didn’t have my trusty cutting table or rotary cutters or the space I’m used to for laying pattern pieces in separate piles around the room for easy organization. And also. I had to cut. my. pieces. out. on. the. floor. I’m fast approaching the age where this kind of activity is a OH NO THE HELL YOU WONT! I was doing cat/cows, back stretches and downward dogs every 10 minutes because my body was SO not okay with being treated so poorly, lol. I think it took me a full two days to cut all these pieces out but I finally got her done. Then I went through the hell of trying to interface everything, which took another half a day. When I was finally ready to sew, I celebrated and hooped and hollered and flew through construction of all the big parts, but I got slowed down again once I finally put the sleeves on the jacket and realized that something was very wrong.

This next part of my sewing project became a dramatic saga detailed in my stories on instagram over the span of a few days, so if you missed seeing them, I’ll get you up to speed. Essentially the sleeves were drafted really weird on me. I made a size that my measurements fit squarely into and I didn’t anticipate there being any issues with fit, but once I tried the jacket on with the sleeeves, it was obvious that something was amiss. Mainly, the armhole felt way too tight at the underarm, and way to shallow around the bicep, so it pulled on the bust area of the coat even when the coat was open. I am not a busty person (32B here!) and I also have a small back, so whenever I have too-tight issues at the bust on a garment that I know for sure I made the correct size in, I know it’s something to do with the drafting and not with me. There were drag lines at the bust as the sleeves tugged around my arms, and that was just with me standing still with my arms at my sides- as soon as I moved my arms away from my body, the whole entire coat lifted up- instead of  being able to move my arms freely, the jacket was moving with them.

Thankfully Grace (wzrdreams for those of you who are unfamiliar, my friend and professional tech designer for RTW who is a virtual wealth of information for so many of us in the sewing community) had some ideas for me on how to fix the sleeves. She also shared lots of helpful information about the drafting of Big 4 patterns and explained why I always seem to have the same issues with their patterns but not any others. With my newfound knowledge from Grace, I unpicked the sleeves, made the armholes deeper by scooping out maybe 3/4″ at the bottom of the armhole grading to nothing about halfway up, and re-drafted my sleeve pieces (back on the floor, I went!). I added length to the top of the sleeve cap to accommodate what I scooped out of the armhole, widened the entire sleeve so I had more ease for wear, and re-cut the little band on the one side so that it would fit around the wider sleeve piece. I was nervous this wouldn’t work at all because I didn’t have any of the TOOLS that you are supposed to do this with, like curved rulers and math, lol. I was pretty much just eyeballing things and guesstimating, but it’s all I had to work with and guess what…it totally worked! I know it is imperfect in some ways, perhaps there is a version of this fix that is much more precise than what I was able to do, but by god, it worked! I could move my arms and wiggle around comfortably, wear a sweater underneath without it feeling like I was suffocating my arms, the bodice has no more weird drag lines, and there was no visual misalignment with any of my seams. So, take THAT, coat! Trench: 1  Jasika: 2, for those of you still keeping score.

The rest of the coat was put together without too much drama. The lining of this coat didn’t require me to birth her, sadly, so I did lots of hand sewing to attach everything at the hems, and a bit more hand sewing when I realized the  coat wasn’t hanging properly and the lining was tugging at the outer shell. That’s pretty much the last hurdle I had to tackle, right at the very end, and again, I attribute it to the wonderfully strange qualities of this nylon canvas- I’ve never sewn with anything quite like it, and it bewildered me as much as it made my heart sing. I think there is still a little tugging and pulling on the hem because of how the fabric wants to lay, but it’s something I can am living with. I’m not a sewfectionist and probably never will be!

I was excited to wear this coat even before it was actually finished- I wrapped the belt super tight around me and wore it without buttons when I went shopping for… buttons! Ha! Which, by the way, I found at Dress Sew, my favorite physical fabric store in Vancouver. The selection of buttons in the basement of Dress Sew is tremendously good but also overwhelming. Thankfully everything is arranged by color which at least gives you a place to start if you are trying to color match.

I am so proud of this jacket, not so much because of how well it turned out, but because of how much I persevered to see it through to the end. It’s so easy sometimes to run into one too many obstacles on a project and decide that your time is better spent starting over from scratch, with something different, something familiar, something easy-ish. That’s what my Butthole Bin has been for. But as I get further along in my sewing career, I have learned to trust my skillset and my ability to think outside the box when it comes to making something work that decidedly does NOT want to work. This doesn’t mean that the same answer applies to every project I work on- sometimes my mental health is way more important than figuring out how to fix that wonky zip fly. But trusting myself enough to at least try to fix things instead of immediately discarding them feels like major growth for me, and I’m very thankful.

Thanks to my babygirl, Claire, for the photos!

Snowbunny In the Desert

This is a two-for one post because the garments looked so good together I couldn’t bear to separate them! Let’s start with the jacket, which has inspired more ridiculous stories and posts on my instagram account than I ever imagined.

The jacket pattern is Simplicity D0899 and I bought it shortly after I moved up to Vancouver this summer. The warm days and cool nights had me wishing I had a lightweight, long jacket that I could throw on over summer dresses, and I thought a linen or silk noil would be beautiful in this very simple unlined trench style pattern. But it turned out that I didn’t have enough fabric in my stash to make it in the kind of fabric I wanted, so I decided to find something nice from The Fabric Store for my next order.

Although I was initially planning to make this in a slightly drapey muted fabric, I kept feeling drawn to this interesting animal print jacquard on the website (as of this post I think they are all out of this specific fabric now, but this is the same textile, I think, but in a different hue). The fabric was pretty much the exact opposite of my original idea- stiffer, bulkier, with lots of body, and in a very bold print- but once it was in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so the obvious choice was to take a chance and move forward with it!

I think that this fabric is described as “reversible”, which is totally legit, but there was only one side that I was really drawn to. The side of the fabric that looks decidedly animal print-y, is bolder and a little more…garish maybe. I think it could be really cute in like, a skirt or pants or blazer, but for a whole coat, it just wasn’t working for me. However the other side? I was crazy about it! It looked less animal print-y and more abstract, and the feel was softer, more pillowy, and frankly just a bit more interesting to me personally (for some reason I am really trying hard not to shade the other side of the fabric, as if it’s going to be offended, lol).

This jacquard was pretty easy to sew with and definitely not slippery or grippy, but I did need to make sure my needles were sharp so it wouldn’t snag any of the threads on the outside part of the fabric (the inside of the fabric is smooth and flat and has no raised threads). This was a very simple and straightforward make- the jacket is unlined and has no button or zip closure so it’s really just made up of the front and back pieces, sleeves, pockets and collar, therefore it came together very quickly. I considered french seaming the insides but the fabric is fairly thick and I didn’t want to battle the bulk so I decided to finish the seams with my serger, which was definitely the right choice.

I wish there was more to say about the construction of this jacket but there isn’t- it truly was an uncomplicated make! The dynamic look of the garment is not matched at all to it’s simple design, which I kind of love. It’s exciting when you make something with a huge wow factor but no wow construction- it almost feels like cheating! One of my other favorite things about sewing patterns is seeing them made up in fabrics or prints that they might not have been designed for, but still look amazing with when paired together. As soon as the garment started coming together and I tried it on for fit (no adjustments necessary for this one except for shortening the sleeves) I realized that, although I had set out to make a really casual, easy-to-throw-on jacket, I ended up with one of the most lux looking items in my closet!

I am still just so tickled about it! Whenever I put this jacket on I immediately start channeling the personality of a painfully wealthy woman who chain smokes and has so many lap dogs that she can’t remember any of their names, haha. My friend Carly and I have this idea to do a series of shorts based on this woman and her jacket so I will definitely post here if we ever get around to it, but until then, I am enjoying parading around town in such a sleek, sexy coat! It surprisingly goes with EVERYthing!

Next up are these amazing high waisted wide legged trousers from a new-to-me indie pattern company called Fibre Mood that Sophie of Ada Spragg told me about. There are so many really cute and thoughtfully designed PDF patterns on the site that it was hard to choose just one to start with, but I finally decided on the Peaches Trousers to try and get a taste for the drafting. Obviously I am in love with them.

Funny enough, the photos of the pants on the website feature a pair of powder blue Peachers Trousers that I was so obsessed with I knew I would have to essentially make the exact same pair. And I just so happened to have an almost identical fabric in my stash that was perfect for this make, a lightweight crepe wool also from The Fabric Store. I got it years ago from the LA store before it closed down- I had no idea what I would make with it at the time but the look of it was so vintage and the color was so fabulous that I couldn’t not bring it home with me. I never got a chance to sew it up because the width is really narrow and it just wasn’t enough yardage to make anything I was ever inspired by…til now!

The wool isn’t exactly transparent, but it’s so lightweight that the outline of whatever is underneath it is pretty noticeable, so I had to be thoughtful of what I used to line the pockets, etc. I went with a white silk from my stash and it works pretty well, although you can still see the outline of the welt pockets in the back, which I am actually okay with. I usually hate welt pockets on my pants because they have a tendency to bulk up on my butt and jut out in a way that I find unflattering, but for this make I wanted to try them out anyways since the pants would be wide-legged. My theory was that welt pockets stick out on my butt when the pants are super fitted, but if the pants had more ease around the hips, they might lay down and look less obtrusive. Thankfully I was right and now I know that welt pockets aren’t the enemy, it’s just the silhouette they are attached to that matters. Which is great news because I LOVE the way welt pockets looks on pants! Just so professional and slick! Since this was my first Fibre Mood pattern and their directions are written in another language and then translated to english, I skipped over their zip fly and welt pocket instructions and used the ones from the sasha trousers by Closet Case, which I had already made before and was familiar with.

My zip fly is a little wonky up close cause this material was a bit tricky to work with (at least with the fiddly bits- the crepe wool has some stretch but is also really lightweight, so it liked to scrunch up and gather under the machine foot if I wasn’t careful…and it liked to snag, too) but my welt pockets are beautiful and I am so pleased with them! The general fit of these trousers is exactly what I was looking for, and I actually made no adjustments to the size except for letting the hips out a tiny bit after I baste-fit them on my body. I could probably stand to do a tiny sway back adjustment, which I am realizing seems to be necessary the higher my waistband is on a pair of pants, but the fit of these is entirely acceptable for now and I am very happy I made them.

FYI, the top is a handknit sweater I made several years ago from a vintage knitting pattern- I don’t think I ever blogged about it here but there are a few details about it on my ravelry page (which I don’t really tend to anymore, but I knit much less often these days so, whatever). As always, thanks to Claire for the photos, and thanks to everyone on IG who played along with my #dresslikearichbitch hashtag with this coat on IG- it was too much fun and we should absolutely do it again!

 

Amy Jumpsuit in Watercolor Voile

Well I am definitely late, in North America at least, with sharing this make since it’s top of the summer wear but decidedly fall now. This jumpsuit still works well in Los Angeles where it continues to bake like an oven (high of 93 degrees yesterday) but here in Vancouver it’s a whole 30 degrees cooler, plus clouds, plus rain. Just like that, I need to change out my entire closet and transfer all of the sun dresses and cute rompers I brought up to Vancouver in June back down to Los Angeles. But it’s about to be summer in Australia, so shout out to all the Aussies looking for cute patterns to make for the upcoming heat! This is your guy!

Closet Case is my number one favorite indie company to sew from so I am embarrassed to say how far behind I am in catching up with all their releases (at least here on the blog)! They keep coming up with new, amazing patterns (don’t even get me started on the stunning Jasika Blazer, named after yours truly, for which I have already purchased fabric but haven’t gotten around to muslining yet) but my life keeps getting busy because of work, so my output is lower than normal. I am not complaining at all, but I do I miss being caught up with everything on my to-make list.

Although I liked seeing a lot of people’s versions of the Amy Jumpsuit on social media, it didn’t really speak to me much when it was first released, so it took me a while to get around to making it… and then when I finished my own and put it on my body, I realized what a special pattern it is! It’s comfortable like pajamas and easy to live around in, but, at least on me, putting a belt on it elevates the look tremendously and I love wearing it “dressed up” in this way. I made my jumpsuit in a watercolor voile I got from The Fabric Store a long time ago- it’s been in my stash for forever and I was planning on making a Big 4 pattern out of it, but I didn’t have enough fabric. While looking through my pattern stash for something else, I randomly came across this jumpsuit and thought it might be an interesting pairing.

I love the way the jumpsuit came out, but the fabric is practically see-through, so it wasn’t exactly ideal to use. Even so, I love how the fabric is so light that it almost floats around my body- its a beautiful garment for summer because it isn’t clingy, the cotton is very breathable, and the colors are so light and airy. Thankfully the jumpsuit is designed with a partial, free hanging lining at the front and back bodice which takes care of any modesty issues at the bustline; the neckline and straps of this jumpsuit are so soft and beautiful that I didn’t want to wear a bra with it and mess up the pretty lines if I didn’t have to. It’s of course still a bit see-through in the legs, but I can get away with it because the fabric is gathered at the waist so there are folds of fabric spread around the waist and hips which makes it more opaque.

 

I decided to make a straight size 4 in this jumpsuit even though my appropriate sizing required grading to at least a larger size at the hips. I figured that since there was so much ease in the body I wouldn’t notice the missing width, and technically I didn’t. Instead, I missed the depth, for the space that would have been taken up by my butt and hips in a larger size was now transferred into a slight shortening of the crotch depth, so when I put on the jumpsuit, it hugged just a bit too closely in that area. I opened up the crotch seam and put in a gusset which sufficiently fixed that issue and I made a note to lengthen the depth of crotch on my next make since I don’t mind the slimmer fit in the waist and hips but do want room to kick and stretch like I’m 50!

I included pockets in this make, and although I normally hate free hanging tear drop pockets that aren’t sewn down at the waistline, these work well and don’t bulge out, partially because of my super lightweight fabric and partially because the gathered waist gives them less opportunity to move askew. I sewed a fabric belt for this since I knew I would prefer to wear it belted, and as always, I sewed the middle of the belt down at the back waistline to keep it attached to the garment so I wouldn’t have to look for it if it got separated. It also helps to keep the belt in place on my body where I want it to lay, and usually means that I can forgo having to make and sew belt loops.

This jumpsuit was simple and straightforward to make, it was drafted beautifully, and I had no issues with the instructions. I love how beautiful and summery it looks in this fabric, and how the silhouette kind of looks like a dress at first glance, but I also love it with these shoes! (Because I made them, haha.) They were pretty simple and straightforward too: I purchased the pre-made espadrille rope soles on…etsy I think? It was a while ago. They had a few different designs- platform, heel and flats- so I got a couple of pairs. The quality of them is great, they seem durable, and they come with thin rubber soles on the bottom. These shoes were fun to make because they required hand sewing a blanket stitch to attach the upper onto the sole. Originally I planned to have an ankle strap on the shoe but the slide looked really cute and unfussy without it and it stayed on my foot just fine, so I ditched my plans and left them this way.

I actually didn’t end up wearing these shoes very much this summer, and I’m not sure why- they are certainly comfortable and cute! But sometimes it takes me a while to figure out how to style stuff I make, so hopefully by next spring and summer I will have a million things to pair them with. Thanks to Claire for the lovely photos, and hopefully before the year is over I will have finally made and blogged about my very own Jasika Blazer (since I have already made 2 out of the 3 of the patterns in the Closet Case Rome Collection– which is excellent, by the way!) Don’t worry, I’m catching up!

Oberlin Tote from Klum House

Hey, y’all!

Have you ever seen a cuter cutie????

Today’s post is brought to you by Klum House, an online store for makers that sells patterns and bag making kits in streamlined, simple designs with beautiful, high quality tools and materials. Klum House reached out to me recently to help launch their new and improved Oberlin tote bag release, and my initial instinct was to (graciously) say no, only because I have a lot on my plate right now with traveling back and forth between LA and Vancouver for work and wasn’t sure if I would be able to get it done in time without stressing out. But then I clicked on the link to their site and saw their beautiful designs and I changed my mind, lol! I am a sucker for a well designed bag, and I love that their kits include waxed canvas (a personal fav textile) in addition to simple yet sophisticated prints. The bags all look very high quality and remind me of something you could purchase at J Crew (for about twice the price, lol).

photo taken from Klum House Workshop’s website!

 

Klum House sent me my Oberlin kit and I was immediately impressed by the packaging once it arrived. Of course you aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes it’s hard not to! Instead of the traditional flat packing into a box or thick envelope, this kit comes rolled up in a packing tube, which is brilliant- it keeps the waxed canvas free from the creases and wrinkles that would set in if it was folded up in a box and allows you to develop that coveted rich patina more organically.

Inside the tube were the pieces of rolled up waxed canvas and a few small packages holding all the notions and findings needed to complete the bag: zippers, leather straps, metal snaps, rivets, D-ring, etc. The only things it didn’t come with were the hole punch and rivet setter, but they sell those items on the website for makers to purchase along with their kits which is great (IMO I think these tools are a must-have for enthusiastic makers- I use my hole punch, anvil and rivet setter for all kinds of things- jeans, shoes, toys, bags, wallets, you name it!)

I will warn you that there are many terrific color and fabric combos to choose from, so if you aren’t great at making these kinds of decisions, give yourself plenty of time to peruse their gallery and absorb all the options! Thankfully the designers have great taste and have put together a lot of classic, fun color schemes that go well together, so you can’t really go wrong! I ended up choosing a slate gray main bag with marigold colored accent pockets and zippers and blonde leather accompanying straps and zipper pulls, and I am super happy with my choice. As I sewed the bag up, little marks and creases and folds started to settle into the fabric which I thought was so fun- it’s like you’re fast-forwarding through the aging process of the bag, so by the time it was complete it already looked well-worn and loved, like a favorite denim jacket.

Klumhouse has recently expanded the design options for this bag, so while the original is just the tote with a zippered pouch on the inside, you now have the option to add a lining and a top zipper closure for the bag, both of which I decided to incorporate into my make. I started my bag in the morning and finished it that same afternoon, so I was pretty on par with the suggested production time of about 4-6 hours. The skill level is described as ‘Confident Beginner’ and that seemed accurate, too (although reading comprehension skills aren’t factored into the skill level, which I will get into later, ha!)

Here is what I loved about making the Oberlin:

  • The pattern pieces for the kit are pre-cut and they even marked the notches and hole punch dots!!! Lot’s of sewists would agree that the most laborious part of a sewing project is cutting out all the pieces and marking the notches, so the fact that this step is already done for you allows you to dive right into the bag making and quickly see your progress. But the PDF instructions still include all the measurement information for the pattern pieces so you can easily make the bag again with your own fabric.
  • The waxed canvas I have used in the past has been much thicker, which isn’t a bad thing depending on what you’re making, but it can get very bulky and require careful navigation under your sewing machine’s foot. The waxed canvas used in these kits is thinner but still durable and high quality, and it is a dream to sew!
  • With the exception of the lining and zipper closure add-ons, the instructions were terrific- easy to follow, great illustrations, and smart bag-sewing techniques. I particularly loved the way the bottom of the bag is sewn. I’ve made a lot of bags in my life and in my opinion, this part right here can make or break the flow of construction. Some bags have a separate rectangular bottom that gets sewn to the walls of the bag, kind of like a cube, and others are designed similarly but with curved edges instead of right angles. Either way, I usually hate them. Trying to get extremely sharp corners out of thick fabric at the intersection of so many seams usually just ends up looking messy, as does trying to get the curved bottoms perfectly aligned while sewing it on the sewing machine- in my experience it takes a lot of physical manipulation and arm and finger strength to pull it off on a regular home-sewing machine. This design employs a totally different technique that I found exceptionally easy to complete and nice to look at. Instead of trying to sew three corners together, you fold the square edge down and then open it into an even triangle and sew across it so that when it opens up, it settles into a soft, four cornered bottom with only one seam. Probably hard to understand what I am describing if you haven’t done it before, but trust me- it’s a beautiful technique and I might never go back to the other methods I learned!
  • As mentioned, the kit included notches and marks on all the fabric so you don’t have to make them yourself, but they also include hole punches on all the leather pieces- the only thing I needed to use the hole punch for was the fabric.
  • Because you can’t put a hot iron to waxed canvas to press the seams (it will melt off the wax from the fabric and gunk up your iron), they suggest you just press any folds or seams down with your fingers and use something like a point-turner to flatten the edge out crisply. I used a smooth rock from my collection of pattern weights to “press” the seams and it worked a treat! It was fun to breeze through all the “pressing” so fast, which definitely contributed to how quickly this bag came together.

Here is what I found tricky about making the bag:

  • Because the expansion instructions came after the initial design of the bag, two additional PDF’s are included  for creating the lining and the zipper closure, and I really hope that at some point they are able to incorporate everything into one file, with instructions to “skip ahead” to a future step if you don’t want to do one or both of the design add-ons. As it stands, I had to flip back and forth on my device between all three instruction booklets, which got a little confusing, and while the expansion packs referenced the main instruction book, I don’t recall them referencing each other at all, so I got slowed down making sure that what I was doing for the lining wasn’t going to get in the way of what I was doing for the zipper closure, and vice versa.
  • I’m not sure how, but I fudged up the instructions in regards to placing the snap closure on the bag. For this part, I followed the instructions for the main bag but when I switched over to the zipper closure instructions, they didn’t seem to add up. In some illustrations it looks like the snap is on the fabric of the zipper closure but the instructions I followed seemed like it was telling me to put the snaps on the main bag panel.

    placement of the snap is incorrect here

    I have since gone back to try and figure out where I messed up but I didn’t have much luck without the actual deconstructed bag placed open in front of me. Not sure if this was a mistake on my end or vagueness within the instructions, so just pay attention to this part if you’re making the zipper closure! Since mine didn’t look right when the bag was closed (the bag’s top had to fold in on itself for the snaps to adhere) I decided to take them out and place them on the zipper panels like in the illustration, but of course that meant I was left with some tiny holes and creases where the old clasp used to be. So I pulled out the handy piece of “scrap” fabric that was included in the kit (they thought of just about everything!) and sewed it over the area so that my mistake was covered up). I’m sure I could have done something perhaps more functional or visually interesting than a simple rectangle, but, whatever- it works, and now I have a pop of red on my bag!

    I *think* this is where the snaps are supposed to go, or at least this is where they work better for me

    I covered the old holes from where I removed the snaps with this scrap fabric that came in the kit

     

  • *edit*: As described in detail below, I had some trouble figuring out how the bag’s lining would match up with the outer shell, as there seemed to be a big discrepancy between the sizes of the outer and lining panels. Klum House reached out to me to clarify the instructions for this part of the bag, and graciously filmed a whole video for me to explain exactly how it was supposed to look! Hahaha, so sweet of them! Apparently a lot of of people were confused about this part of the instructions, so they have re-written the instructions for the lining to clarify them for makers, which is awesome. I absolutely understood what they were explaining in the video they sent me and I’m sure that will be translated well in the new instructions (the extra fabric in the main panel is supposed to be taken up by the top hem of the bag, which is a smart feature of the construction) but I think my misunderstanding came in when I was trying to include both the zippered closure and the lining in my make, so just pay close attention if you’re adding both expansions and don’t try and fly through the construction quickly the way I did. I was trying to complete my bag before I had to leave LA, which is my own fault, lol! I have left my original review intact on this blog post, so please keep in mind when reading below! Thanks!
    The only thing I actively disliked about the bag’s design was the size of the bag’s lining. I provided my own fabric for the lining, cut out the proper dimensions, and commenced to sewing the lining to the bag, but as soon as the seam was done and I examined my work, I saw that there was about a 5-ish inch gap between the bottom of the outer bag and the bottom of the lining.

    lining fabric is on top and outer shell on the bottom- pretty significant gap between the two!

     

  • Thinking I had made a mistake, I went and rechecked the measurements, and sure enough, the main panel fabric is cut at 39″ and the lining at 29″. I’m guessing that this is so there is less stress on the outer shell of the bag and all the stress of the bag’s contents can be concentrated within the lining, but it just didn’t work for me. For one thing, the difference in depth between the lining and the bag means that whenever you set the bag down somewhere and there is enough stuff inside of it, it will make the top of the bag cave in (cause it has to make up for the difference between the lengths of the outer shell and the lining at the bottom). This is definitely a personal preference, but depending on what it’s made of, I prefer for a bag to retain its’ shape and silhouette whether it’s hanging on my shoulder or sitting on a table. Secondly, it cut the capacity of the bag down by 5″, which seemed silly for a bag that I was initially drawn to because of how deep it was. Thirdly, it just didn’t seem necessary to me; again, I have made a lot of bags in my sewing career and I have never sewed one up that had this much of a difference between the lining and outer shell. In fact, many of the designs I have made have no difference between the outer and inner bags’ sizes at all, but some have had a small difference, maybe within an inch or so. I have never had any issues with the outer shell bagging out or bursting out at the seams because it had to take too much of the load of the bag’s contents, so maybe this bag’s design has a different reasoning for it than what I can come up with. Either way, it was a very easy fix- I unpicked the lining and cut out another panel, but this time I cut it out at a depth of about 3 inches smaller than the main panel, and it looks and feels much better- now I have lots of room in this deep bag, and when I set it down, it continues to stand tall and retain its’ shape, even if there is stuff in it to make it heavy.

I love how cute this bag came out, but I like using it even more- I don’t have a lot of totes with this much room inside of it and the outside pockets are AWESOME, easily my favorite design feature. Because they are on the outside they are super accessible but not super deep, so I can find what I am looking for very easily, and best of all there are 4 of them! Perfect for all the quick things I need to grab from my bag, like chapstick, my phone or a shopping list, without having to reach deep down inside the bigger part of the bag to fish them out.

I love the zippered pouch on the inside!

I’ve said before that I am a huge fan of sewing kits for people who are newer to the craft and still learning about fabric and tools and techniques- it takes away the frustration of being on that learning curve when you have all the appropriate things you need to complete a project right in front of you. But this is a kit that I think would be a lot of fun for seasoned sewists for the exact same reason- sometimes we want a break from garment sewing or from thinking too hard and having to troubleshoot fit or fabric issues. The Oberlin is a relatively quick, definitely fun sew, with a whole assortment of gorgeous kits to choose from, and I think it makes a great gift for yourself or someone else who loves to make, no matter how experienced a sewist you are.

Thanks to Claire who let me take pictures of her with this bag because she was dressed like the it’s twin lol

The Oberlin officially launches on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 and is in pre-sale now, with all kits automatically at 15% off. If you order after the launch on Wednesday you can use the discount code OBERLINREFRESH for a continued 15% off the kits, but the discount will expire a week later on September 18. Get in while the gettin’s good and click here to order your own Oberlin kit!

Thanks so much to Klum House for gifting me the Oberlin kit in exchange for an honest review! I’m thrilled to have been introduced to their company and excited to try out more of their kits!