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What good is a rule if you don’t ever break it, amirite??

Among MANY rules that I have set in place for myself as an adult, thanks to a relatively boundary-free childhood (which is a memoir blog post for another day), avoiding patterns that don’t suit your silhouette is probably the one that I stick to the most. It didn’t take me long to institute this sewing rule after I made a few patterns that looked great on the models in the photos but failed to turn me into a tall, leggy, thigh-gapped lady in turn. This ‘sewing for your body’ rule of thumb is, as the kids say, mad problematic. I know what “works” for my body and what styles I feel the most confident in, but how much of that is learned and how much of that is my actual opinion? I know I have discussed all of this before in some way so apologies for sounding like a broken record, but I am always finding new avenues into how body image, the patriarchy, and feminism/womanism intersect. I have always been taught that pants or skirts that end at mid-calf are not flattering on short women or women with muscular/thick legs, so I didn’t wear them for years… but is that something I really think is true or did I just internalize it from all the copies of Cosmopolitan magazine I read in my teens and twenties? I just don’t know.

I also recognize that I am speaking from a place of privilege to even contemplate these possibilities in a public space without fear of retaliation or judgement; despite my own episodes of body dis-morphia and hangups, I am petite, and this type of body is currency in our culture. My shape adheres to the general standards of what is considered “acceptable” by society and I have benefited from this in all kind of ways, from the work I have gotten in my career to the ways that strangers treat me. It is not my intention to use this space as a platform to speak on behalf of curvy/voluptuous/plus-size/fat women because that is not my experience in the world- I want to support their voices, not drown them out with my own. But I do want to pay better attention to the language that I use and the inner thoughts that I have regarding bodies, my own and other people’s.

How can I show solidarity with all bodies in the world when in private I criticise my own, periodically zooming in on ways that it is not “good” enough? How can I say that big is beautiful! if there are days when I avoid looking in a mirror for fear that I will be disappointed with what I see? Again, I just don’t know. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to know. Lately I have been pretty good at changing the language I use when I am being critical of my body. Instead of telling myself that I am something, I try to focus on whether or not I am feeling something, and there is usually a connection there. When my internal monologue tells me that I am ugly or gross or unattractive, most of the time I am actually just feeling things like sadness or frustration about something unrelated, and those uncomfortable feelings are manifesting themselves in the way I view my body. Why? Well, I personally think it’s because individuals who identify as women and/or who present themselves as feminine are often taught that their worth lies in their physical appearance. There is some comfort, albeit misguided, in being able to blame our failures, insecurities and anxieties on the way that we look. But I don’t think the answer is simply to stop those “negative” feelings from brewing up inside of us. Uncomfortable feelings are valid and important, and it helps to know where they come from; discomfort does in fact have a place in our lives. But allowing that discomfort to define the way we in turn actually move around in the world is unfair.  There should be space enough for us to feel how we feel and still see ourselves as whole, worthy individuals. Of course, it feels easy for me to intellectualize this, but much harder for me to actually start to unpack it and change the behaviors I have had for so many years. But it doesn’t help to start, right? Right!

Which brings me to….THE HANNAH DRESS by Victory Patterns!

I saw the Hannah dress when it was released last year and immediately thought, “Oh cool, another beautiful dress I will never make for myself”. I had a couple of reasons for shooting this pattern down so quickly. One is that I have made two Victory patterns before, the Ava and the Nicola, to practically disastrous results. Both are super pretty designs with a lot of personality, but the sizing of these patterns was way off for me (they fit much smaller than the measurements suggested) and if my memory serves correct, I also thought that the drafting was off; for instance, a lot of my notches and raw edges in one of those patterns would not meet up even after double checking my marks on the initial pattern pieces, and it drove me up a wall trying to figure out what I had done incorrectly.

Mini review alert: On the Nicola wrap dress, I had to do a lot of extra work trying to make the pattern wearable after I completed it- I had to add a lining to the dress because you could see the insides of the skirt very easily since the flap in the front flew open constantly when you walked or sat down in it. The bodice where the two sides met in the middle refused to lay flat for me and kept puckering up in the strangest ways, and it was also placed weirdly low, so I was constantly worrying that my boobs (which, by the way, are not very large) were gonna pop out. To keep the front bodice closed and PG-rated, I tried sewing all these extra buttons and closures I into the dress, but they didn’t work well and I still ended up needing to wear a slip underneath the dress to keep my goodies covered. The sleeves were also a big problem for me. I thought they looked just fine in the images on the pattern but on my dress they were so gigantic that they looked a little clownish. I ended up hacking several inches off the length and the width of the sleeves so that they looked more subdued but they just never felt quite right. I wore this dress only once, tugging and pulling and untwisting it the whole time, before putting it in a give away pile when I konmaried my house last year. Essentially the design had a pretty silhouette but simply was not functional for me.

I don’t have as much to say about the Ava dress because I gave up on it more quickly. Nothing about the pattern worked or fit the way it was supposed to, and the delicate fabric I used at the top of the bodice just got mauled in the process of all my seam ripping and re-sewing. This was the pattern where none of my notches and marks seemed to match up at all. I tried to turn the dress into a blouse by chopping off the bottom because I hated to have wasted all that time, effort, and fabric, but eventually I put this into the give away pile, too.

These reviews, of course, are not a reflection of anybody’s experience but mine: the pattern did not work for ME and the sizing did not work for ME. I made those garments probably about a year or so after diving headfirst into making a me-made wardrobe, so there was clearly still a lot to learn about construction, fabric choice, and alterations, all of which could have been handled more smartly had I been making muslins for every new pattern I made (I wasn’t a consistent muslin-maker back then). But at the same time, I have plenty of makes from that time period that came out beautifully and required a lot less work, so who knows if it was me or the pattern!

I figured that Victory Patterns, gorgeous as they may be, are simply not meant for me (much like the Colette brand). A pattern brand can’t be everything to everyone, and that is okay- I have found my peace with this. But then Heather wrote a whole blog post on her favorite things of 2016 and there was the Hannah dress again, listed with a few words about what an architecturally stunning design it was. Taking another look at the dress for the first time in months, I realized I couldn’t agree with her more. It is so modern without looking too utilitarian, and it offers such a cool and simple way to experiment with color blocking and pattern combining. And at the same time, while remarking on what an interesting build the dress had, I could not for the life of me figure out how it was made; there seemed to be a bit of magical construction incorporated in the design. I was intrigued!

So ok, yes I thought the dress was really cool initially, but being reintroduced to it months later by one of my favorite sewing bloggers/designers pushed it into Let’s Pin It On My Pinterest Page territory. But what about my unsuccessful history with this pattern company? And more importantly, what of the fact that this design will make me look like I am wearing a potato sack because I am short and curvy and I am not supposed to wear garments that minimize my shape, I am supposed to wear ones that define it?

Who came up with that “rule”? Who says it’s true? And who is enforcing these antiquated ideals, anyways??

Oh, right. Me. I am my very own self-appointed fashion police. And if I am the one to blame here, that means that I am the one who can change it.

So I made the Hannah dress! And you know what? I think I like it! Not gonna lie, I am still getting used to this shape on me. When I finally tried it on after completing it, I could hear my brain immediately trying to pick it apart and criticize the way it looked on me, but I realized that that talk in my head is a loop of recycled material; it didn’t really have anything to do with what I was actually seeing in the mirror. And what was a I actually seeing?

Well, the dress looked a little tight in the shoulder/bust area meaning I should have gone up at least one size there (this was an obvious oversight on my part since my past dresses with this company were also too small). But it didn’t feel uncomfortable. The length was perfect since I shortened the front and back pattern pieces by an inch, and I loved the way the dress dipped lower in the back than in the front- it gave me the chance to show a little leg without feeling too exposed. The excess fabric from the folds and pockets of the side panels gathers right around my hips, and since I have always thought my hips were out of proportion to the rest of my body, extra fabric weight in that area is not something I have historically felt comfortable with. But seeing myself in the mirror wearing the dress, it was impossible to say that it actually looked bad. The dress didn’t have so much ease that you couldn’t see and feel your body move around in it. And it didn’t look like a potato sack on me at all.

The only thing I would change would be to go up a size. I cut out a size 2 in the bust and graded to a 4 in the hips, but I would try a 4:6 next time (I could probably even get away with a straight 6). The other thing I would change is…the color.

I was inspired by this cool color combo I saw on pinterest and bought my tencel fabric online thinking it would be a close enough match, but you know how computer screens are. The blue was navy-er than I anticipated and the brown was WAY more yellow/gold. And what does that leave you with? A DAMN AUBURN TIGERS INSPIRED DRESS!!!! For the record I am not into football at all (although I was a cheerleader, and probably a terrible one at that!), but I do rep ALABAMA as a rule. ROLL TIDE ROLLLL! One is simply born into these rivalries, and though I had no choice in the matter, the loyalty still runs deep. I feel completely conditioned at this point in my life because whenever I see an orange and blue color combo, Auburn is what immediately comes to mind and distaste is immediately what I feel. It took me halfway to finishing this dress before I realized why I wasn’t liking it very much- it’s the colors! I felt both ashamed that I had picked them out and ashamed that they mattered that much to me. Although I like the way this dress design looks and feels, I have no idea if it’s going to actually get much wear since I have such a negative connotation attached to it. All I kept thinking as I was making it was “God, this dress would be so perfect in pink and grey!” Maybe if I can get my hands on some more of this beautiful Tencel fabric in those colors I can make it happen!

Anyways, construction of this dress was super fun! Even though the whole time I was making it I had no idea what I was doing, hahaha. This pattern is like a complicated road map that doesn’t really make sense until you are in the middle of the journey and putting all the pieces together. All the design elements and notches matched up on this pattern, even with me grading to a different size at certain parts, and the details are pretty fantastic. Making the hidden button placket was my favorite part. It’s got a lot of steps to it, kind of like a zip fly on a pair of pants, but once you get to the last bit of it and start to see it all come together, it feels so exciting. The sleeves and collar are finished with binding that is sewn to the inside which resulted in a very clean and professional look, and like many Victory dresses, the hem is faced and then folded up and sewn a few inches above the actual bottom of the dress. I think this is a cool design element but it doesn’t work for all fabrics- the flowy-er and more lightweight your textile is, the more puckered and wonky the stitching at the hem has a tendency to be (at least in my experience). Thankfully I used tencel for this dress which has a medium weight, and it handled all of the stitching for this dress really well.

Aside from that, there isn’t much to say about the make- it was a far cry better than the other designs I tried to sew from this line, which might be because this dress doesn’t have much shape to it so there is less room for fitting errors. As mentioned above, I definitely think there will be another dress like this in my future, which is exciting since I know I can go up a size, I understand better how it’s constructed, and I can find a more suitable color combo for my tastes. But the most exciting thing is that I have proved to myself that these arbitrary rules I have been applying to my sense of style for so many years don’t necessarily hold true. I think it’s a great thing to have a firm idea about what we think looks good on our body and what we feel good in- without these notions, TnT patterns wouldn’t even exist! But there is a murky line between the stories we have been told our whole lives and the stories that are actually true. It feels important to continue to test them, to never accept them at face value, to keep redefining what beauty means to us and to separate what we see and feel from what we have learned. Being an adult is sooooo hard. But I am determined to look REALLY GOOD while I struggle through it 😉

Working So Jaquard!

HA! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!

I made eyes with this amazing fabric twice at The Fabric Store before I finally took the plunge and got a cut of it. I had no idea what I would make with it, but I knew it wouldn’t take long to figure something out. I am learning to let a fabric speak to me first instead of trying to tell it what it should be and ignoring its qualities. Like many jaquards, this fabric has a LOT of body, it holds its shape beautifully and it doesn’t wrinkle, but this also means it doesn’t respond to ironing very well, so a pattern with lots of folds and gathers and tucks isn’t a good choice for it. Initially I imagined this fabric in a classic fit n’ flare shape- I wanted to take advantage of the volume it would exhibit in a skirt- but I have been feeling a little bored with this silhouette lately. I love fit n’ flare but I have made a this style of dress several times over the past few months and I needed to change it up just a bit. I brought this yellow and blue tear drop jaquard fabric with me to Savannah and let it marinate in my closet a bit while I waited for inspiration to hit.

And hit it did! While glimpsing over my BlogLovin’ feed, I read this post by Handmade Jane on a blouse she made from a Danish indie pattern company called How To Do Fashion. One quick scroll over to their pattern shop and I was SMITTEN! HTDF has a vintage aesthetic with uncomplicated silhouettes that have a really dramatic effect. I love pattern designer Nanna’s use of fabrics- she seems to be a genius at marrying her designs with the perfect classic print, color and textile to elevate the whole look.

These are two of the looks that immediately caught my eye on HTDF’s website, and I am posting them here because I actually made up versions of both of these designs, so I can talk to you about my experience with all of them. I will focus this post on the two-piece outfit in grey above (my version of the red polka dot dress will come in a later post)!

As you can see, both looks above are attributed to the pattern No. 8 Svaneke. I thought it was a pretty good deal to get this many different looks/options in one pattern, and I purchased the hard copy because PDFs were not available for this particular design. The pattern arrived in a large envelope with a How To Do Fashion clothing tag for my finished garment and the pattern printed on thick, high quality paper. In the above blog post, one of Handmade Jane’s complaints was that instructions were not included in the printed version of the pattern. I personally think this is a big plus because it wastes less paper, and the instructions are easily available on the pattern’s website- you can print the instructions out if you need a hard copy or you can download them as a PDF and read them off your computer, tablet or phone (which is my preferred method). So kudos to that! On the other hand, the pattern pieces are printed on both sides of the paper, so you can’t cut the pieces out. This is actually not a problem for me because, unless it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of pattern, I copy all my pattern pieces onto paper so that the original pattern can stay intact and I have the option to make different sizes/adjust the fit/loan out or sell the pattern in the future. I realize that this method kind of negates the “not wasting paper” rule of thumb, but on the other other hand, printing on both sides of the pattern paper is also less wasteful. I guess it’s just a personal preference, but for me, the HTDF printed patterns are spot-on for my needs.

The instructions, however, were another story! There were a couple of issues for me with these patterns when it came to figuring out how to make them. One was that the actual instructions are a little more bare bones than I am used to. Ultimately I was fine with it- I have been sewing for long enough that I can figure out how to make pretty much anything come together without too much hand-wringing, but I would not suggest that a beginner try and tackle these patterns unless they were okay with having to figure out a lot of stuff on their own. It is certainly not an impossible pattern for an inexperienced sewist to complete, but heads up: they might need to phone a friend. As Handmade Jane wrote in her blog post, some of this might come from the instructions being translated into another language, which is totally understandable.

But my main beef with the pattern instructions has to do with the photos used for the styled and completed garments. As seen in the picture of the two-piece grey outfit I posted above, the outfit consists of two pieces: a crop top and a matching pleated full skirt. The beautiful skirt is what actually caught my eye in the photo and I loved how it looked with the voluminous fabric- I thought this design would look perfect with my own jaquard textile. However, if you take a closer look at the line drawings for the pattern pieces, you will see that the skirt is actually gathered at the waistband, not pleated. I assumed that there was simply not enough room to show all the different versions of the skirt in the line drawing, and that instructions would be included in the pattern on how to make the pleated skirt shown in the picture, but once I got the pattern pieces, I realized this to be false.

Why would you include a photo of a garment with a pattern if you can’t actually make that particular garment? I hemmed and hawed for a while over what to do and eventually decided that I would just need to create a pleated skirt using my own drafting expertise experimentation. I was definitely annoyed at having to spend so much time essentially re-creating a pattern that I spent good money on (the total amount for this pattern after shipping and taxes came out to be around $30USD), but I had my heart set on the cute silhouette of this crop-top and full skirt pattern, so I wasn’t going to turn back now. I cut out skirt pieces using the pattern from my By Hand London’s Brilliant Bouquet Dress and after I had spent a couple of hours playing around with the pleats and making them even all the way around (I didn’t have a dressform in Savannah so I had to do all my adjusting and fitting on my body while standing on top of a bed because it faced the only decent-sized mirror in my apartment), I sewed the skirt together and felt fairly pleased with what I had created with my limited knowledge. And then a few minutes later while perusing the How To Do Fashion website’s blog, I came across a tutorial for making the No.8 Svaneke skirt pattern into the pleated skirt shown in the pictures.

COLOR. ME. ANNOYED. It turns out that the pleated skirt is a hack of the original gathered skirt in the pattern bundle! Sigh. I think that including a picture of a hack in a description of a pattern without any mention of it being a hack is misleading; all versions shown in the photos should be included in the instructions and pattern bundle, or at the very least, some mention of the hack should be written into the description of the pattern instructions so that the maker knows exactly where to go for the info to create the garments that are shown in the product description.

Anyways, enough about the instructional snafu! A little knowledge and growth isn’t a bad thing for me, and now I know that I can make a beautifully pleated skirt without too much hassle! I thought that large pleats for my skirt would be better suited for my fabric than thinner ones, so I started in the middle of the front of skirt and worked my way out, and once I was happy with how those pleats looked, I mirrored them for the other side. I played around with the placement for quite a while until I was satisfied with how they laid around my hips, then I sewed the waistband and zipper on. In the original pattern, I believe that the skirt waistband is supposed to be lapped (I didn’t follow those instructions so I can’t quite remember), but because of my thick fabric, it created too much visual bulk. So I decided instead to have the waistband edges meet at center back above the zipper and use two hooks and eyes to close it.

Despite having to create my own skirt from scratch, the crop top is what required the most amount of work. I made the top as instructed from start to finish, but realized I didn’t like the amount of width around the bottom of the blouse. Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of wiggle room to play around with the seams because the blouse closes with an invisible zipper in the back and needs to be wide enough to get it over your torso. Although I love the boxy look on the model in the photos, I knew it would look much better on me cinched in a bit more at the side seams, so I needed to figure out a different way to close the back of the blouse. One option would be to use a separating zip so that it could open completely and I could get in and out of the blouse with ease, but I didn’t want the zipper to detract from the rest of the shirt and the matching skirt, and detachable zips seem to be pretty bulky and visible. My other option was to create a button band on the back edges of the blouse with buttholes and buttons, but that seemed like more work than I was willing to put into such a simple blouse. Ultimately I compromised- I used a button and loop method so that I could use the original blouse pieces as-is without having to add interfaced bands. I cut out and attached a piece of fabric the length of the back center piece and about 2 inches in width, and then attached 8 loops of white corded elastic evenly spaced along the edge. I then sewed them to the seam allowance of the back left bodice piece and folded it under. On the opposite bodice piece I sewed corresponding buttons close to the edge, and voila! Easy button closure without all the hassle of buttonholes and bands!

no idea why i look so sad in this picture. i think i might have resting sad face?

After I made the new closure, I took in the side seams about an inch or so, angled up towards the sleeves, and I much prefer the way the blouse fits and looks now! The sleeves and bust of this blouse are a teensy bit tighter than I would prefer, even after letting the seams out a bit, so if I make this top again I will go up in the bust at least one size and keep the adjustments I made to the side seams, and I might shorten it just a bit so that you can see more crop when my arms are down at my sides (as you can see in the pics, you can’t really see much belly skin unless my arms are raised).

All in all a super cute outfit that definitely looks different than anything else I have in my #redcarpetDIY wardrobe! I love the little sliver of skin that shows between the hem of the blouse and waistband of the skirt, and I love the unique and dynamic look of the jaquard print; up close it looks like yellow teardrops with a spot of blue inside, but from just a few feet away the pattern meshes into a haze of trippy polka dots. My favorite color to wear is yellow so I am in total love with the subtle brightness this fabric lends- coupled with the blue accent, it’s not overpowering, but it definitely makes a statement.

Candy Stripes and Wood Grain

7blogAt long last, the dress that has, for months, been a mere a vision in my head, is finally ready for it’s debut! I made this entire dress in Savannah and when I was able to make it back home to LA in September for a quick trip, I got some photos of it since I don’t have a great photo-taking setup on location. Because of some wonky scheduling, I wasn’t able to hem the bottom of the dress in time, so it pools a bit around my feet in these photos. But never fear, the dress is hemmed now and ready for some party action!

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The fabrics are from The Fabric Store in Los Angeles and were purchased with some very specific qualities in mind. As I discussed in my post here, the first iteration of this dress was kind of a disaster because I got all the wrong fabrics for the type of garment I was making. Thankfully I was able to salvage the skirt, but the underdress fabric was meant to be used as a lining so it didn’t have enough body or stability to work as a bodice with boning attached as I intended. For my second try at this dress, I searched for a fabric with a heavier/sturdier hand, and I found it in this midnight blue Moiree textile (I am pretty sure the fibers are silk, but I don’t remember what the tag specified). Anyways, I don’t know much about this type of fabric but apparently one of it’s qualities is that it has a very subtle woodgrain-looking imprint across it, and I think it’s stunning. It gives the under dress just a little more depth without overpowering the bold striped print I chose for the overskirt.

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The striped overskirt might be a printed organza and if it isn’t, it feels exactly like one so that’s how I will refer to it in the rest of this post. The fabric is stiff and transparent and it has a lot of body. This is what was missing in the pink dress I initially tried to make with this design in mind- my fabric choice for the overskirt was a barely see-through cotton with a swingy drape, and it didn’t offer enough contrast in color or texture to the underdress fabric I used. I had also chosen the wrong kind of skirt pattern for it- the overskirt for my pink dress was cut as a 3/4 circle skirt which laid down over the underdress without providing much variance to the fabric beneath. For my second dress, I gathered the waist of the organza instead of cutting it into a circle skirt, so the body of the fabric poofs out at the waistline, showing a definite contrast between the slim fitting pencil skirt underneath. Also, because the organza is more see-through than the pink appliqued fabric I initially used, the deep blue color of my underdress pops a lot more.

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In terms of fabric choice, I made all the right decisions this time around, but I think this dress still needs a little bit of tweaking for fit. Either the bodice is not fitted to me as perfectly as I thought it was or the Moiree fabric has stretched out a tiny bit after all my trying on and adjusting, ORRRRR I might just need to find a better pattern?

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I am very happy with the way this dress looks and the general silhouette is spot-on, but I would love to extend my understanding of boned bodices. My only experience with them so far is what I learned from Gertie’s latest Ultimate Dress book, which is where both the bodice and pencil skirt patterns came from. While I think her overview and instructions are a great starting point, I am ready for more information/extensive patterns for my future strapless bodices. I am sure that part of this comes from having to wear a corset all day for work- and for the record, I HAAAAAATE my corset and find it incredibly uncomfortable and claustrophobic- but I do think there is a middle ground between the boned and tightly tied corset for the show and the measly fit of the bodice for this dress. I think it could be a bit sturdier and hug my body more than it currently does. If anyone has some suggestions on supportive strapless bodice patterns/ boning tutorials that could push me further along my boned-bodice-making journey, I would be thrilled to hear about them!

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Aside from finding a more elaborate bodice pattern, the other thing I would change about this dress is the shape of the overskirt. I got three yards of the striped organza fabric but since I had to use almost the whole length of it, I didn’t have much space for cutting out the proper shape. I will definitely keep the gathers at the waist but next time I will make it more A-line in shape so that it floats out a bit wider at the bottom of the skirt than at the top. I attempted to give it this shape when I cut it out, but again, I ran out of fabric, so the difference in the width of the fabric from top to bottom is very subtle. I also made a mistake in cutting out the fabric for the over skirt so the seams are in odd places- one is in the back middle of the skirt but the other one is on the side, and there is not another one on the other side to balance it out, lol. I think it’s completely unnoticeable unless you are a sewer looking very carefully at the inner workings of the dress, so it doesn’t bother me much, but I would still be sure to plan out the overskirt panels more carefully next time. I also plan to insert some tiny snaps to close the opening of the overskirt at the back seam. I didn’t want to have the zipper connect to the overskirt because I wanted to maintain the poofiness of the organza all the way around the dress, so I left an inch or so of extra fabric peeking out of the edges when I sewed the waist, then I folded the raw edges in and kept them separate from the zipper seams when I sewed the zipper in.

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This dress has a real party-vibe to it and I love the unexpected color combination of the stripes on the midnight blue! I wrote this post a few weeks ago and had it in my publishing queue, and now looking back at the photos, I am curious to see what the dress would look like if I chopped the outer skirt off at the knee, to maybe just a few inches past the length of the underskirt. Not sure if that would look better or worse, but I probably shouldn’t make any significant changes to this dress until I wear it at least once as-is and see what it feels like and how I respond to wearing it! My #redcarpetDIY makes have really been piling up lately and I have been out of town and working too much to show them off anywhere- hopefully that will change after the holidays and I will have ample opportunities to get these garments some wear! Which reminds me, I have about 20 uncut pounds of a gorgeous wool coating and a deep gray satin lining to make myself a floor length coat fit for dressy occasions in wintry months that I haven’t done anything with- I guess I know what my first project of the new year will be (cue coat-making panic)!

When Morgan Met Ginger: Mom Jeans FTW

Mom jeans might have a bad wrap. Obviously I blame it on misogyny- I see a connection between women’s supposed declining sexuality as they age and the tendency of our culture to look at mothers as selfless, sexless beings meant only to serve as nurturing figures for others without needs of their own. Believe me, I laughed at that SNL sketch as much as everyone else did and I still think it’s brilliant, but I am also curious about redefining what the concept of Mom jeans mean to me, which is something you can thankfully do when you make your own clothes.

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Historically, Mom jeans are designed with a high waist for a snug fit that accentuates the wearer’s figure, coupled with slim legs that are comfortably loose through the knee and calf. On paper, those qualities seem like a lovely combination, but in reality, when paired with those excruciatingly tiny and awkwardly placed back pockets, the look isn’t flattering at all- it’s unsexy, fussy, matronly. While relaxing in my Morgan jeans several weeks ago, I had a thought. I love my masculine-of-center Girlfriend/Boyfriend jeans because they are comfortable and the construction is really marvelous, but they have definitely been relegated for wear only on my most relaxed and casual days; I feel cute in them, but I don’t feel sexy. My Gingers, however, mostly get worn when I am getting dressed up and I am, as we refer to it in my household, “tryna look cute”. I wondered, Is there a middle ground? Is there a way to meld these two different jeans patterns into a look that feels every bit as comfortable and effortless as the Morgan, but with that figure flattering silhouette that my Gingers offer? Was I essentially trying to create a modern Mom jean? Could I take my knowledge of perfect pocket size and placement and push the Mom jean out of “so gross” territory and into the “so cute” realm?

Well, the only way to find out was to try(curious! ba dum ching!)

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On my last trip to LA I grabbed my adjusted Ginger and Morgan patterns and brought them back with me to Savannah, then I marched myself up to my favorite brick n mortar fabric store outside of LA. It’s called Fabrika and it’s amazing; it’s an independently owned shop just down the street from my apartment downtown and, though small, it packs a big bunch. They have a lovely selection of quilting cotton and apparel fabrics, and every time I go there to pick up a random notion or tool I need, I feel sure that they are going to say “Oh, sorry, we don’t carry that”, but lo and behold, they will inevitably pull the item out of some magic hat they keep hidden in the store. I LOVE having my sewing needs met so close to home where I can literally walk out my door and get whatever it is I need within moments. Anyways, I had glimpsed this exceptionally cool denim on a previous trip to the store and knew immediately that it was perfect for my Mom jeans. The denim is bleached and SO soft, it almost feels like a brushed cotton, and although it has a nice and stable medium-weight to it, when you manipulate it in your hand it gives like tissue but bounces back without wrinkling. There is a teensy tiny amount of stretch in this denim, but not enough to accommodate the stretch necessary for skinny jeans, and I wonder if some of the stretch comes from the denim being so incredibly soft that it ends up being more flexible than an un-washed raw denim. The color of this denim is so pretty to me- it makes me think of the beach- but the hand of the denim is what ultimately won me over.

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Now, for the pattern hack!

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This was a lot trickier than I thought it would be, and since I have no pattern designing background, I was kind of just making wild guesses as to how to meld these patterns into one. The realization of what a complicated project this would be came when I pulled out my back leg pattern pieces and placed them on top of each other to see where I could try and blend in the lines. Apparently there would be no such thing- the Ginger is made for a stretch denim and the Morgans are made for denim with no stretch, so, while it was interesting to see how the pattern lines accounted for the difference in fabric type, it was also overwhelming to figure out where to begin to mesh them into one. In all honesty, my approach wasn’t at all scientific- I just moved forward blindly. I figured that if nothing else, I would learn something in the process.

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I relied more heavily on the Morgan Jeans pattern for general shape, but I added length (about 1.5- 2 inches) to the rise so that they would be more high waisted. I added length to the zipper pieces as well, since my waist-to-hip ratio makes it difficult to pull jeans over my hips (adding more zipper length allows the pants to open up lower and gives more room for my butt to get into them). I split the difference between the waist and hip widths of the Morgan and Ginger pattern pieces because I wanted my Mom jeans to be very fitted in the waist and hip area but since I wasn’t using a stretch denim there wouldn’t be a lot of give. I purchased a jeans zipper with wider zipper tape than I am used to and I didn’t realize how much it would affect the fly when using the Closet Case File’s method of creating a zipper fly. As a result, my zipper bulges a bit at the front, but I totally understand what I can do in the future to avoid such an issue (aside from making sure I have a zipper with the standard amount of tape on each side). I added a tiny bit of extra width at the calves of the legs so that the jeans would skim my body the whole way down and not hug my thick calves (the calf area of my Morgans are about 1 cm tighter than I would like). I made a pocket stay for these jeans which entails sewing the whole pocket piece so that it is anchored to either side of the zip fly, and I LOVE it- it keeps your pockets from sliding out the tops of your pocket openings, and it also gives you a nice/tight/snug fit around your hips, which I prefer.

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The most trouble I had with making these jeans were figuring out the yoke pieces in the back. I actually completed these jeans in their entirety (sans jeans button, but more on that later) and wore them around for a day before realizing I needed to do some more work on the back pieces to get the right fit. After my first day of wear, the back yoke pieces stretched out and got really bulge-y and gave me this weird bubble-butt effect that puffed up at the seams.

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For my Ginger skinny jeans make, I had to redraft the yoke and waistband pieces to accommodate the big difference between my waist and hip measurements- the new pattern pieces I use now have a much deeper curve, but the seams smooth out with the stretch denim since the garment is essentially made with negative ease. I tried to make these same yoke and waistband adjustments to my Mom jeans, but they don’t translate the same to denim with no stretch. So after my first wear, I unpicked all my top stitching at the back yoke and back center seam pieces, cut out the curve of the yokes so that the lines were straighter, then re-sewed the whole thing. It worked like a charm, although I could probably stand to take out even more of the curve on a future pair.

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A few others changes to make on my next pair of Mom jeans: I will probably take the seams in at the sides and back center pieces just a bit to create an even snugger fit- since my denim has no spandex, they stretch out over the course of wearing them, and if they started out a bit tighter, there might be less space for them to get bigger. I love the look and fit at the thigh and legs- they just graze my body and then drop straight down to the ankle which is a look I have always coveted in the traditional “boyfriend” jean but never been able to find for myself in RTW. I will keep those parts the same, but I will make an adjustment to the crotch area at the top of the thigh on my next pair.

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As you can see in the pictures, the crotch area is a big baggy and has some weird folds and lines that start at the bottom of the zip fly. Initially I thought that maybe the rise was too long, but now I think I can fix the issue by shortening the crotch. The bulge honestly doesn’t bother me too much though, and even less now that I got so many compliments on them these jeans at the Whole Foods! The other thing I love about this make is the back pockets- they are the perfect size and they keep the jeans from looking dated. I used the pockets from my Morgans but raised them higher to accommodate the new rise of my higher waist.

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These jeans look so unique to me, which is why I think they stand out enough to get compliments from strangers- they almost look like they are thrifted, because the color and texture of this denim is so vintage, but the silhouette, at least on me, feels new and modern. I think my lack of a jeans button makes them look really fresh, too- I brought a jeans button to Savannah with me but without a proper hammer and piece of wood, I couldn’t get the pieces to fit together and I accidentally busted the nail part that goes inside the button.

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The first day that I wore these jeans I just used a giant safety pin that my friend had on hand to keep them closed and it worked fine except that it took me 5 minutes to get in and out of the pants every time I had to pee. Instead of hunting down another jeans button, I skipped over to Fabrika again and found a nice peach colored button instead (that also reminded me of the beach) that I sewed onto the front of my jeans and I love the way it looks. I also skipped the rivets that normally get applied to jeans and I went without the belt loops, too. Initially this was because I was being evacuated from Savannah for Hurricane Matthew and I wanted desperately to bring my new pair of jeans with me to Atlanta, but I only had like, 30 minutes to pack, and no time to make the belt loops. After wearing the jeans for a day around ATL though, I decided that the belt loops were unnecessary and that I liked the stream-lined look of the pants without the extra fixings, so I will keep them this way- no promises on future iterations of this hack, though!

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Sending lots of thanks to Sadie Stratton, one of my co-stars on Underground, who helped me get some quick shots of these jeans in the courtyard outside her hotel! I hate asking people (who aren’t Claire) to take photos of me in my makes but she was so sweet about it and got some great shots with a very professional flare shining through in the background! Thanks, boo!

 

 

Sophie Swimsuit by ClosetCaseFiles

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The first swimsuit I ever made was three years ago, and I didn’t use a pattern. Blame it on complete ignorance or unfounded optimism or both, but I, like many veterans of the sewing community, have a tendency to jump headfirst into difficult projects without realizing how unlikely I am at being successful with them. This is one of the best benefits of being a newbie at something: often your lack of experience keeps you from telling yourself “no”, and before you know it, you have learned a whole lot of lessons to help you on your next try.

My first attempt was far from perfect, seeing as how I had no pattern or instructions to follow. I took apart a beloved vintage-style two-piece that I got from a store called Unique Vintage and had worn til it was nearly threadbare. I drew pictures and made notes on the order in which things were put together, tracing the carefully deconstructed pattern pieces onto new swimsuit lycra and re-constructing the pieces bit by bit. My biggest obstacle was not quite understanding how to apply elastic properly- I had never made a bra or underwear before, and my tension when inserting it onto the edges of the lycra was always either too tight or too loose- I had to pick the zig zag stitches out and start over several times. But the end result was still pretty successful: I made a complete two piece bathing suit that was wearable and, dare I say, flattering! The only thing I didn’t like about it was the crotch- my pattern piece for the gusset was off for some reason, and it looked loose and had a weird shape to it. But that didn’t keep me from proudly wearing it all two times that I went swimming that season (I am not a water baby but I love me a cute bathing suit)!

Next I tried the same technique on a vintage swimsuit I found at a thrift store that was too baggy from previous wear but had really cool design lines and a super flattering fit. This attempt was much less successful, probably because the template I was using from the deconstructed suit was already misshapen, but I got a much better understanding of how to use my elastic successfully.

A couple years after that, I tried my hand at finally using a pattern by turning an Ohhh Lulu bra and panty set into a bathing suit, exchanging the recommended fabric for swimsuit lycra and mesh lining and making a couple of adjustments with the elastics. It came out even better than my first suit, and this time the bottoms were a perfect fit, but the top wasn’t quite right. Again, still wearable and flattering, but without that perfect professional fit that I was looking for. The good thing about all these swimsuit attempts was that I had learned a lot on my own through trial and error and experimentation, and by the time I started making bras and underwear from indie patterns, I was already familiar with a lot of the techniques so construction was ultimately a breeze.

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When Closet Case Files announced her new Sophie Swimsuit pattern on instagram a couple of months ago, I made a tiny yet audible scream in the back of my throat- I was so thrilled because I knew I was ready to tackle a well drafted swimsuit pattern and fill in all the holes of my lacking knowledge! As usual, the pattern did not disappoint at all. Heather Lou clearly spends a substantial amount of time drafting all of her patterns to fit well for a variety of body types, and the difference in fit compared to other patterns is always obvious. CCF patterns are designed with curves in mind, and all the details are beautifully attended to, but the pattern instructions are also well written, precise, and easy to follow. This is the biggest difference to me in her patterns versus the Ohhh Lulu line- the designs of the latter are always beautifully executed and styled, but the wearability of them (for my body at least), seems to be lacking more often than not. If you don’t have a perfectly proportioned body that looks perfect in the OL patterns as-is, then it’s essential to have good knowledge of how to alter and adjust to make them work for your body. Sometimes I am totally fine with that kind of pattern, willing to put in the extra work and figure stuff out on my own, but other times I want a pattern that I know has already made considerations for the intricacies of our bodies; it’s the difference between making a pattern that comes in a XS-XL size format compared to one that ranges from 0-20 with a comprehensive size-chart for multiple cup sizes.

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Construction of this swimsuit was an absolute breeze, and I was most excited that it gives the option of using molded cups. While I am not a push-up bra kind of person, I do appreciate what a little underwire and textile support can do to a bust that is small like mine- it makes me look more hour-glassy without making me feel like I have a construction site at work around my boobs. I had never worked with sheet foam before, so it was really exciting to form the cups and see all the pieces come together, but I will suggest that, if using the sheet foam and underwire option, LABEL THE FABRIC AND FOAM PIECES FOR YOUR CUPS! Separately the pieces all look different, but once sewn together, I had a really tough time deciphering which side was the inner cup vs. the outer cup, and the addition of the foam cups made it even worse- I had to rip my seams out twice because I kept matching the wrong foam piece to the wrong fabric! Despite my issues with keeping track of all my pattern pieces, the three-piece cup is cleverly designed and gives you the maker a lot of options for how to play around with fabric placement. I ended up following the styling of the original pattern photos pretty closely because I just love the effect of the solid fabric hugging a bright print on either side, but if I make this suit again, I am sure I will be bolder with my fabric choices. I was pretty smitten by this Ankara-inspired peacock print because I rarely see this style on spandex fabric, and on my last trip to NYC, Renee and Marcy made sure that Spandex House was on our list of fabric stores to visit so that we could pick some up (Renee got some, too!) I love the pink and yellow colors together, and I knew it would suit my skin tone really well, plus, two of my previously made bathing suits are made with this dusty-rose lycra, and I love the idea of being able to mix and match all my swimsuit pieces.

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I graded between two pattern sizes for the bottoms, which is always tricky because my waist is smaller than my hips and if you aren’t careful, you can make either a pair of bottoms that don’t quite fit over your hips because the waist is so small, or a pair of bottoms that are baggy in the waist to accommodate pulling them over the hips- thankfully I think I achieved the right ratio with these. When cutting out my fabric, I totally forgot to shorten the length of the swimsuit bottoms- because I am short (5’3″), I thought that they might be too long on me as drafted, and I was right. Once they were completed and I tried them on for fit, they reached halfway up my ribcage. But it was an easy fix- I just lopped off the top two inches and re-attached my elastic and they are appropriately high-waisted now without bunching up on my back.

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This suit is comfortable, I feel gorgeous in it, and I LOOOVE the molded cups for the top! This is unlike any bathing suit I have ever worn before, whether store bought or handmade, and I really love the design and ease of wearing. I actually wore these bottoms in a short that I recently filmed that included a beach scene (I was still sourcing my sheet foam so the swim top had not been finished yet) and I am excited to see what it looks like on camera!

Getting In Bed with Kristin: An Interview

Oh, haiiiii!

I wanted to post a link to an interview I recently did with the super smart, super lovely, super many-other-things Kristin Russo of Everyone Is Gay! If you are unfamiliar, Everyone Is Gay is an organization that seeks to enrich the lives of LGBTQ youth through humor, honesty and compassion, and they work with parents as well as schools to provide safe, educational environments for students across the country. Kristin has another side project, Getting In Bed with Kristin, in which she interviews various people within and connected to the LGBTQ community, and I had the honor of being her most recent guest!

You can check out her whole series on youtube, but here is a link to our interview (also posted below) where we talk about coming out in Hollywood and having crushes on girls for the first time, and we also give a little bit of thirty-something advice to a Getting In Bed viewer!

(Also I am wearing my Tessuti patterns Annie Dress, yay!)

Ride, Sallie, Ride!

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It is a shame that it took me so long to blog about the Sallie Jumpsuit by closetcasefiles because it is by far one of my favorite things I have ever EVER made! The wearability of this design is the best kind of ridiculous- with options for a dress or a jumpsuit, straps or a kimono-style bodice, long or short, the possibilities give you the maker so much room to make it your own, but none of this awesomeness compares to how COMFORTABLE this garment is to wear. It’s the combination of knit material, an elasticized waist, and a body skimming, not-too-tight fit that makes Sallie feel like pajamas, but it should be illegal to wear something that feels this comfortable while looking this good.

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This jumpsuit hits me in all the right places- it makes me feel tall (I am not), it shows off my waist, and it hugs just the right parts of my hips before falling gracefully down my legs to cascade ever so gently on the tops of my shoes (yes, indeed, I am writing a love letter to this jumper). I get compliments from strangers every time I wear this jumpsuit, and I barely took it off last summer because it’s cool and breezy to wear even though it doesn’t show too much skin; my knit fabric is a soft stretch jersey from girlcharlee.

There are so many things to love about this pattern but I think my favorite is the kimono top option. As someone who is slightly obsessed with onesies, I have made quite a few versions over the years, some vintage, some contemporary. The most common design element of all of these pull-up onesies (meaning no zippers or buttons) is that they need to have a loose fitting bodice so that it can go over your hips and butt with ease, and “loose fitting” usually means some version of spaghetti traps coupled with a blouse-y bodice. They may be skinny and tie together over the shoulder or be thick and wide enough that they are sewn onto the bodice at the front and back, but they are always straps, and the bodice is rarely fitted. Straps and flowy bodices are fine, but sometimes I want more coverage, or a slimmer fit, or just a different look than what straps can offer. Heather Lou came up with a genius design feature by creating a bodice that is fairly slim and has a bit of a sleeve to it, and it works because she put ties in the back at the neck that, when undone, allow enough room in the bodice to pull up over your hips. She gave us all of the form and all of the function with one simple solution, and yes, it has allowed me to live my BEST life every time I wear it!

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Although my favorite version of this pattern is the long jumpsuit with kimono top, I have also successfully made the maxi with straps and I have shortened the jumpsuit into a romper based on closetcasefiles’ helpful tutorial on her site. I also made one of my best friends Kelly a Sallie romper for her birthday last year and she looked SO amazing in it- this is one of those patterns that you can be confident will look great on everyone because the sizing and knit fabric is so forgiving- it was a surprise gift for her so I guesstimated her measurements based off of my own and it came out absolutely perfect.

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Oh, and how did I forget to mention POCKETS?!?!?!

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Construction for this baby was, like all of the closetcasefiles patterns, straight-forward and easy to follow. I used my serger for most of the work except for the neckline and shoulder seams, the ties in the back and the hemming. It was quick to sew like most knits are, and I really like the method of sewing the channel at the waistline for the elastic to run through. I have made this pattern four times so far, but I only have one version like the garment pictured here and it is by far my favorite, so I might be making another one like it soon to get me through this summer. I am terribly afraid of wearing this one out too much and getting the fabric all washed and worn looking so I need something else to help take up the slack, and I have the perfect fabric in mind. I’ve been talking a lot on instagram about using the konmari method to get rid of clutter and reorganize my home, and last week I tackled my craft room which was a LOT of work, but was honestly a revelation once it was all done. There is so much space in there now, visually and physically, and one of the  most important things I did was de-stash a lot of my fabric. It all fits into one bureau now instead of in various bins, boxes, and drawers and stacked in piles on my couch, which means I can see exactly what I have all at one time….which means I will buy much less fabric when I have so many pieces waiting to be sewn up into something….right?  Well that’s the goal, anyways. And it’s only been a three days but so far I am doing GREAT!

 

Call Me Mellow Yellow

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I am much better at this now, but back in the day (a day= a year…ish) I used to buy every gorgeous pattern that crossed the path of my computer screen. I spent very little time thinking about whether or not the pattern would work for me and my body and even my personal style preferences (example: I had sworn up and down for years that I didn’t like the high-low hems of so many of the skirts and dresses that seemed to have suddenly come into fashion, but guess who immediately bought a Cascade skirt pattern by Megan Nielsen when it showed up on her Bloglovin’ feed?), and this led to an abundance of patterns piling up under my cutting table in my craft room. Instead of looking at the stack and feeling inspired, I usually ended up feeling overwhelmed- where does one even start with dozens and dozens of patterns to choose from? I had been successful in my effort to not buy fabric unless I knew exactly what project it was going to be sewn into, and I wanted to include my pattern purchases in this endeavor, too. I don’t want to be a pattern/fabric hoarder because it seems so antithetical to why I sew so much of my clothing in the first place. I want to maintain thoughtfulness about all aspects of my clothing, not only it’s construction, but it’s inception, too.

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This all comes into play because Deer and Doe released a pattern for a long maxi-skirt called Fumeterre a while back. Not sure if you have gleaned this from past posts, but I LOVE a good maxi. The pattern was right up my alley, with lovely design features like belt loops, options for a button or fly-front, a partially elasticized waist (holla praise!) and a slim fit in the hips. I was obviously all for buying this pattern because it screamed Jasiiiiiikkkkkaaaaaa but then I remembered that I had bought another printed Deer and Doe pattern many many months before and had yet to make it up. The pattern is for a simple collared blouse designed for stretch knit fabric, and it’s super cute and probably a quick/easy project, too….but still it sat on my shelf collecting dust. I hadn’t bought any fabric for it yet. I didn’t even know what I wanted it to look like when I did decide to make it. Dark grey? Cream colored? Pink? Did I even need this blouse in my wardrobe? I was annoyed with my past self for frivolously spending money on yet another thing without really thinking the purchase through, and also annoyed that now, all these months later, I was hesitating to buy the Fumeterre skirt pattern because of that frivolity.

I pinned the image of the skirt onto my “Patterns to Make” Pinterest board thinking, out of sight, out of mind, but a week later I was still thinking about the skirt, of what I could pair it with in my closet, what color and material I would sew it in, whether I wanted to match the length of the skirt to my high heeled booties or to my clogs.

So you know what I did?

I JUST BOUGHT THE DAMN PATTERN.

There is no moral to this story. Sometimes you commit yourself to a movement or to an ideal or to a new way of living/thinking/breathing and you fall off. Sometimes you forget what you promised yourself, or sometimes you remember precisely what you are “supposed” to be doing and you decide not to do it anyways. And that’s okay. It doesn’t erase all the times you stuck to your guns and accomplished what you meant to do, and it doesn’t mean you can’t re-dedicate yourself to whatever you pledged to do after you fell off the wagon. We are humans, capable of fault, but also capable of forgiving ourselves. As political as my sewing has become over the past couple of years, I don’t want to lose sight of the reason I started sewing in the first place: because it’s fun! It’s a way for me to practice self care! And if buying two stunning yards of fabric every once in a while with no clue when or how it is going to get used makes me feel spontaneous and re-invigorated about my sewing, so be it. If discovering a gorgeous pair of shoes on sale at a store that I have vowed never to shop at again (I’m looking at YOU, Anthropologie) is going to give me that warm, fuzzy feeling of Ultimate! Consumer! Success! just this one time, I’m not gonna beat myself up about it for weeks on end. I want to make enough space within myself that there is plenty of room for my  successes and my failures, with much less judgement and much more empathy.

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Anyways, I am so glad I bought the pattern for this beautiful skirt because look at how cool it turned out! I chose a medium-weight Italian light yellow linen from Harts Fabric, and although I am sure the bottom of the skirt is going to get pretty grimey sooner or later, I am in love with this color. The fabric ended up being much heavier than I anticipated (it takes a lot of yardage to make this skirt) and is therefore not quite as breezy as I would like, but that’s my only con for the make.

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Construction was super easy and straightforward (although it took me a little time to decipher the lines for the different versions- some were for the button fly and some were for the button band and for whatever reason it wasn’t immediately clear to me). My favorite construction detail is the band that gets sewn, turned under and then pressed onto the bottom of the skirt, making hemming the curved edges super easy. One weird thing is that, unless I totally mis-read the instructions, the waistband is inserted backwards from the way I am most familiar. Instead of sewing the outer waistband to the skirt right sides together for a smooth finish on the outside and then slip-stitching or ditch stitching the inner waistband on the inside of the skirt, the instructions suggest doing the opposite. As a result, the inside of the waistband has a smooth seam and the outside has a visible line of stitching connecting the waistband to the top of the skirt. I worried that it would be visible or wonky looking, and I was wrong on both counts. Although I’m not sure if I prefer one method over the other, it’s nice to be introduced to a new way of doing something. The thing I didn’t like about this technique was the fact that the belt loops are sewn down onto the waistband as opposed to being sewn within the seam allowance before the waistband is turned to the outside, so I made sure the loops were securely sewn onto the waistband piece in the previous step, and I stopped and started my stitching of the waistband onto the skirt right before and after my needle got close to the loops.

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LOVE LOVE LOVE this skirt, even though my window for wearing it seems to have ended just as quickly as it began (it’s February and it’s been in the high 80’s all week here in LA). And let’s be honest- doesn’t this skirt just scream to be paired up with the Deer & Doe blouse pattern I neglected for so many months? In dark grey? Or cream? Or pink? Maybe this whole pattern hoarding thing was serendipitous.

The skirt is paired in the photos with the super cute Maker Tee by Megan Nielsen, one of my favorite Christmas gifts from last year (thanks, Claire!)

Happy making, y’all, and here is a reminder, for me and for you, to be kind to yourself and your craft!

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Desmond Rolltop Backpack vs. Retro Rucksack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@trycuriousblog) on

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

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

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

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

Happy bag making, friends!

 

2016 Projected Projects

How quickly time flies- it was only a year ago that I wrote a post about New Year’s resolutions and how they aren’t really my jamp, but how I do like to occasionally map out plans and ideas for the year ahead. I promise I am not going to do a repeat of that in this post, but I did want to keep you up to date with how my plans for this past year went. My main goal was to be more thoughtful about how I spent money, because I was noticing a penchant for fabric hoarding (among other things) that felt wasteful and, at times, gluttonous. I wanted to limit my monthly spending so that I wasn’t buying things to fill some kind of gap or avoid experiencing a negative feeling, so I gave myself a monthly spending budget, which in turn made me think really smartly about what I divulged in. I am happy to report that the budget was a success; I haven’t found myself swimming in excessive amounts of unused fabric and almost all the fabric that I have purchased has been with an express purpose in mind. There is certainly still room for improvement so I will keep working on being a thoughtful consumer in the new year, but I consider 2015 a win in this department, so YAY, ME!

For my 2016 new year’s post I thought it would be fun to lay out plans for what I do (and don’t) want to work on this year; I am hoping this project list helps to keep me on track.

First up, more GINGER JEANS! Claire was promised a pair of her own for Christmas which I unfortunately did not get around to making, what with the loads of other handmade gifts I had to finish before the holiday. So she is getting her pair in the new year. I will be simultaneously making myself another pair since I have been dying to try out the stovepipe version of the Gingers and haven’t had a chance to in the past year (for one thing, it was hot as Hades in LA over our “summer”, so my body didn’t even touch a piece of denim from like, May to November.) I am super inspired by this awesome photo (seen below and grabbed directly from her site) of blogger Suzy Bee Sews jean pocket design for the pair that she made, but I am planning on using a mint green top stitching thread for my next pair, and something tells me that both of those design choices wont work well together (I particularly like how Suzy’s blue thread underscores the boldness of the pocket design). Experimentation might be required here, so stay tuned.

Next on the list is this gorgeous bag that Cut Cut Sew made from this pattern.

I have to admit that I would never in a million years have made this bag based on the original photos accompanying the pattern. NO SHADE TO THE PATTERN DESIGNER! But the fabric choices/styling just aren’t to my taste and I am unfortunately not very skilled at envisioning different design choices in this manner. I can do it with physical spaces and things, like poorly decorated homes or empty rooms, or even pieces of furniture that need reupholstering, but with clothing and accessories? Nah. Spotting good “bones” in patterns just isn’t in my wheelhouse, which is one of the reasons that this fashion sketchbook by Gertie was such a great Christmas gift for me- I want to get better at visualizing and manipulating projects before they are constructed, and I am hoping that using croquis will help me. Anyways, I got this ruck sack pattern as a gift and I immediately headed to etsy to buy some waxed canvas fabric, D-rings, webbing and hooks. I have been using a crappy stained canvas tote (which is much better suited to cart groceries around) as my “purse” for months. It’s easy to grab and go at a moment’s notice, and because it is so simply made, it kind of “goes” with everything . But I am ready to replace it with something more unique and fashionable, and I cannot WAIT to get started with this project, especially after I made THREE Desmond Backpacks as Christmas gifts for other people this year! It’s time for me to have an awesome handmade bag of my own.

Yet ANOTHER awesome Christmas gift I got this year was this DIY quilting kit.

It’s from a company called Haptic Lab and I saw it for the first time on cashmerette’s instagram several months ago. I am a smitten kitten now. The design uses a tear-away template that you use to guide your hand stitching/quilting (which is pretty genius), and their online store has even more cool designs. I am in the middle of a giant knitting project at the moment and I really want to finish it before I start working on something new, but I am not sure how long I am going to last- these constellations are just so pretty, and a quilt is the perfect thing to work on during this chilly LA winter we are having.

Next up: outerwear!I have never made a coat before and I would love to try my hand at it this year. The window of cold weather in LA is pretty small but it definitely still requires warm clothing- it has been getting down in the thirties at night for the past several weeks, which is customary for all you east coasters but pretty rare for So Cal. The only kind of coat I am missing from my wardrobe is a fancy one, one that I can wear with long dresses and gowns. It took me a while to find the exact silhouette I was looking for but eventually etsy showed me the way with a beautiful and simply designed floor-length vintage coat pattern.

https://www.instagram.com/p/-FrrfuRF4w/?taken-by=trycuriousblog

I took a recommendation from someone’s blog and purchased an inexpensive tailoring how-to book to help me figure out the best construction techniques to use since the instructions for this pattern are pretty bare. I still haven’t found the wool I want to use- it would be fun to go big and bold with pattern and color, but I want to get the most wear I can out of this so I will most likely choose a stately charcoal colored wool with a bright and pretty lining for the inside.

Several months ago I blogged about making the Kielo Wrap dress with fabric from Girl Charlee, and recently Named Patterns came up with a fun little hack for the dress– they introduced a sleeve pattern piece and some small alterations to shorten and take in the dress to below-the-knee length. I fell in love with the image they shared on their blog for the altered dress, which you can see below. I haven’t even had a chance to wear my fancy version yet (I’m still searching for the perfect black strappy heel), so this more casual rendition really excites me because I think I will get a lot of wear out of it. Before the holidays came around, I bought a beautiful and sturdy striped organic knit in an earthtoned colorway specifically for this dress, but of course I never had any time to make it. Every time I see these stripes I want to stop what I am doing and just run down to the craft room to whip it up (it only took a day to make my original Kielo dress), but I am being patient. It is definitely at the top of my priority list, though.

I requested the Simplicity pattern below for Christmas after the delightful blogger behind Miss Celie’s Pants tweeted about it.

It will be the latest addition to my small but growing collection of #DIYRedCarpet dresses (two of which I haven’t even blogged about yet, even though I have worn both of them to events in the past year! Bad blogger!) It requires something ridiculous like 10 yards of flowy fabric, which I find both daunting and fantastic, and I am hoping that both Renee (Celie’s Pants) and Marcy (of Oonaballoona fame) will join me in posting about all the antics that come with constructing this monster because I know it’s in their project list, too.

There are quite a few gorgeous patterns posted up on the indie company Republique du Chiffon’s website, but this jumper is the first one I am attempting to make. It took a while before this pattern was available in English but as soon as it was I rushed to my computer to buy it because I had already spied it somewhere in one of Ginger Make’s posts from months ago and pinned it to my “Clothing Inspiration” board.

I bought a super soft, medium weight twill fabric in oxblood colorway from Miss Matabi, which has been sitting very patiently on top of what I like to refer to as my “fabric couch” (once upon a time it was a regular couch used for sitting and laying down, but the more my project queue gets backed up, the more the couch becomes a storage unit for my unused fabric and my in-progress pattern pieces). Is this the right kind of silhouette to compliment my frame? Do I have the right boots to wear with it? Are the dimensions and measurements going to work well on me? Honestly I have no idea, and I don’t usually take such leaps on faith on patterns anymore, but this jumper was just TOO cool to pass up. Fingers crossed and hopes high!

I have been reading about this new book, Boundless Style, for months. I am absolutely in LOVE with the concept (mix and match patterns to help you become familiar with designing your own clothing in striking, feminine silhouettes- oh my!) but my experience with Victory Patterns (of which Boundless Style is an off shoot) has been pretty disappointing. I bought two of their paper patterns, the Ava dress and the Nicola dress, and followed the directions to a tee, but the fit/proportions were so horrific on one of the dresses that I actually threw it into the garbage can after spending days trying to salvage it. The other dress had to be altered and manipulated so much that some of the main design elements were totally lost on the finished product- the petal sleeves were clownishly large and had to be redrafted and re-inserted, the darts were the wrong sizes and in the wrong places, and it was unwearable without a slip underneath because the front flaps open so much when you walk and sit down that you end up flashing everyone; not necessarily a design flaw but definitely something to note in the description of the garment. I love the designs and the styling of these patterns, but so far 100% of my attempts have been unsuccessful, so I am nervous to spend money on a book which might contain patterns that are equally as problematic for my body as the Victory styles have been. But the pictures…oh, the pictures! SO many gorgeous dresses and shapes and cool ideas for making unique garments. Ideally I would buy this book and just spend the time working on all the pattern blocks included with it so that they fit my body and I can use them as intended. It’s a nice project for the new year, right? And I would only become a better sewist with that kind of work under my belt. But is it really going to be worth my time? Will ALL the patterns need to be altered? I need some outside influence with this one. Anyone have issues with Victory patterns before, or is that just me? Care to rant or rave about this book and push me in one direction or the other? Please, comment away!

My last project for this next year is to NOT make all my Christmas gifts in 2016! Making my christmas gifts for friends and family has been a point of contention for me, which I touched on in my last post about pottery. As Claire and I boarded the plane to head back home to LA after spending Christmas with my family in Florida, I was overwhelmed by how excited I was to get back home and get into my craft room again. There had been so many personal projects piling up over the season and now that Christmas was over, it was the first time in months that I would have a chance to work on them. I always told myself that I never wanted my hobbies or my art to feel like work, but when you are putting in hours around the clock to finish making gifts on a tight timeline, it’s impossible for it to NOT feel that way. Sure, making gifts for friends and family feels more personal and more thoughtful, and I do enjoy a lot of the process, but I am not sure it’s worth the stress and anxiety I put myself through trying to finish everything on time and praying that it fits or that the recipient likes it (cause you can’t get a gift receipt for the stuff I make). So my plan to remedy this is…well, to just stop doing it. I am not sure exactly how this will play out, but maybe one year I can make some gifts (not all of them anymore, just some of them), and the next year I can either buy local, or buy handmade. Or maybe I will always buy local and handmade Christmas gifts from now on and stop making them entirely. Sewing and crafting and knitting is mostly self care for me, and it doesn’t seem fair to deprive myself of that support in the way that I have been. If I feel inspired to make a gift for someone then I will certainly honor that feeling, but I wont force myself into becoming a one-woman Santa’s workshop anymore. Surprisingly, I feel really good about this decision because I know it’s the best thing for me. And hopefully this next year will be chock full of more decisions that I feel really good about. I hope the new year brings the same for you!

Happy 2016!!!