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Blue Leopard Print Wrap Dress

This stunning, buttery, vivid leopard print silk was gifted to me from Elisalex of By Hand London many months ago after we decided to do a fabric exchange. I was working in Vancouver and oohing and ahhing on instagram over the beautiful slubby linen Blackbird Fabrics had recently stocked. Elisalex wanted to get her hands on some but was hesitating because of the shipping rates (Blackbird has great shipping for Canada and the US but shipping overseas is always a bit pricey), so I suggested I send her some of the color she wanted (a really beautiful, deep red) and she could send me something in return- anything she wanted, because I trust Elisalex’s taste in fabric, haha. Thankfully she was game and within a couple months I had received the most gorgeous bundle of fabric I could imagine. She included some beautifully bright summery lime silk in the package that I need to use up while the weather is still brilliant, but it didn’t take long to decide what to make with the deep spotted blue silk she sent me.

When the parcel arrived I knew I was heading to a wedding in Playa del Carmen in a few months and thought this would be the perfect fabric to make up something elegant and summery for the event.

I chose this vintage Vogue 7334 faux-wrap pattern that I bought on etsy specifically for this fabric. I had initially wanted a wrap dress that was a bit more A-line and flowy on the bottom but once I saw this pattern, I was happy to make a compromise, and it turned out to be a smart move- MEXICO IS VERY HOT IN THE SUMMER, lol. I mean honestly I expected it to be, but I didn’t think much about how the more fabric my garment had, the more there would be to cling to my sweaty skin, so this ended up being the perfect silhouette, especially since I have never been to a wedding at which I didn’t dance my ass off.

This pattern was pretty simple and straight-forward and I made it without adjusting the size at all, but I did make some aesthetic changes. I was on the fence about whether or not to forgo the elasticized waist and instead add waist ties so that it would be more of a standard wrap dress, but I got nervous that my silk would be too shifty and would move around all over the place, so I stuck with the elastic but added waist ties anyways- having worn this out in the world now, I can say it was a smart decision. I am currently debating whether or not to cut the ties off and put a black belt around the waist instead because the ties ended up feeling like they got in the way and they did NOT want to stay in place, lol. I also added a snap to the inside of dress at the neckline where the left and right wraps meet because you know how wrap dresses are- they love a good reveal!

Oh, and one more change I made to this dress was to line the bodice with self fabric to get extra coverage/stability in the bust area- I can’t stand a flimsy bodice when I am not wearing a bra, and although the fabric is completely opaque, I thought an additional layer would be nice and also make the insides look neater. I  measured out where the waistline of the dress was, then cut out another front and back dress piece from my fabric at about an inch past the wasitline to make room for the seam allowance and the elastic channel (instead of cutting out a separate casing for the elastic and sewing it to the waistline as per the instructions, I created one by sewing a channel through my bodice lining).

This worked beautifully and makes the top of the dress feel a bit more structured. Surprisingly this dress has pockets which is a nice detail, but I would probably omit them if I made this pattern again. The pockets on this don’t splay out too much or add a lot of bulk but they don’t really like to stay in place very well either (might be an effect of the slippery silk) so I was constantly double checking to make sure they were laying flat.

My favorite design element of this pattern is the subtle curved edge of the wrap fronts. They are not super obvious and they were very tricky to navigate at my sewing machine since I had to use silk bias tape which didn’t want to stay in place around the curve, but the end result is so soft and romantic and I want to do it on all my front edges now!

Now for the shoes!

I AM IN LOVE with these shoes! This is one of the few pairs I have made without creative inspiration from Pinterest- for some reason I just had this idea of a big poof-ball detail on a high heeled shoe (very Zsa Zsa Gabor, sans the kitten heel) and they came out exactly as I wanted. I had no idea what I wanted for the design of the shoe underneath the poofball but I knew I should make something sturdy and simple since it would be almost entirely covered by my poof ball.

(FYI- I had not made insole socks yet when I took these photos (the “sock” is a piece of leather that covers the foam that covers the heel screws and adds extra cushion and comfort to a pair of heels), so if you glimpse a bit of white underneath the heel of my foot, that’s why- it’s just the uncovered foam!)

I taped up my lasts and drew out a strappy design that I could loop the poof ball’s hidden rubber band around, then I cut it out of black leather and went to work. This is probably the last pair of heels whose edges I will not sew to the lining, thanks to George’s input, but my back straps are properly sewn thanks to the shoe findings store I get all my materials from. They started selling pre-made skinny straps with buckles in a variety of colors and I picked up several pairs because they are brilliant- so easy to use and design around! I am so obsessed with the the look of the skinny strap on the back of these heels- they are hard to come by in RTW, maybe because they have to hit at just the right spot on a shoe or they wont be comfortable, but luckily I found the sweet spot with these.

These shoes toe the line of being almost over-the-top, but because they are in a neutral color and the design is so simple, they work really well for me and I cannot WAIT to wear these out and about (not just in pictures)! Thanks to Claire for snapping these cute shots and Elisalex for inspiring such a fun dress!

The Eponine Dress and Furry Heels

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

Image result for vogue paris original 2352 nina ricci

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Candy Striped Tully Pants + Baby Blue Slides

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bv0TIfVBQdw/

I’m really proud of this make because it gave me a chance to demonstrate perseverance to myself in a way that I don’t always experience with sewing! About a year and a half ago when in Vancouver for work, I brought a few new-to-me patterns to be #sewnawayfromhome in my hotel room. One of them was the Style Arc Tully Pant. I had heard and seen a lot of Style Arc in the blogosphere over the years but this was to be the very first pattern of theirs that I made for myself. The design was simple, but not one that had ever been a part of my wardrobe. The woven cropped pants hit at the ankle, have a slim-looking but loose and comfortable leg, and use elastic and ties at the front to complete the paperbag waist. Elastic waist pants, though oh-so comfortable, are sometimes not super flattering on me because I have a lot of butt and a little waist, so the line between looking comfortably chic and looking like I took a dump in my pants is pretty fine. But I powered through because I really liked the look of the pattern and I wanted to get out of my Skinny Jeans And Sweats Are The Only Pants I Own rut.

Unfortunately, devastatingly, shockingly, I chose such an ill-suited fabric for these pants that they were doomed from the very start. The rust-colored corduroy seemed like a great fabric to make a fall/winter pant in, but a thick, textured, solidly bottom-weight textile is simply not the proper material to make in a design that’s gathered at the waist. I’ll save you the painful details of each ensuing incarnation I tried to put them through once I realized how disastrous and lumpy the original make was, just know that at some point I became a dead ringer for a street urchin in the ensemble cast of Oliver.

No big deal, sewists make god-awful things all the time- most of the time we can fix it, but if we can’t, into the fabric recycling they go! That’s exactly where mine went once I got back home, and I didn’t think much about that project again until an image popped up on my Pinterest a month or so ago that was a dead ringer for the Tully pants, made in a breezy striped linen. I remembered immediately that I had a similar pattern to the ones on the model, so I rifled through my Evernote app where I keep all my patterns. Had it been the Style Arc pattern that was a mess, or had it been the fabric I used for said pattern? Only one way to find out! (Cue:persevering through another attempt).

I knew immediately that I had the perfect fabric for this project; a while back I had received a cut of this variegated striped linen in white and red from The Fabric Store and had been waiting for the perfect pattern to pair it with- this was it! I knew that if the forgiving fabric didn’t look good in this pattern, then nothing would. As soon as I cut out my pattern pieces and started to construct the pants I remembered how obnoxiously crappy the instructions were when I made my first attempt at this pattern a year and a half ago- they give even Burda a run for their money! Numbered diagrams that don’t match up to the written instructions they are supposed to accommodate, steps that are completely missing, construction techniques listed with no explanation, the whole shebang! Fortunately these pants were simple enough that I could figure out how to put them together on my own, and I did. The tie assembly was fine but the elastic-insertion technique was not, and I opted to sew the casing closed before threading my elastic through as opposed to placing the flat elastic on the waistband line and sewing the casing on top of it. My method worked out great, and I completed the pants in just an afternoon.

I love the deep, slightly hidden pockets on these pants and I also love using the striped fabric both vertically and horizontally as per the pattern layout- it adds a bit of visual interest that you don’t even realize is there if you aren’t looking for it. The pants fit my waist very comfortably but look fitted and light enough in the linen that I don’t have baggy butt! Because of the decorative ruffle at the top of the waistband, these pants come up pretty high and look best when paired with either my Closet Case Files Nettie Bodysuit or a tank/crop top. I tried it with a regular t shirt for these photos from our trip to Huntington Gardens and the look is pretty blah in my opinion- the visual interest of the pants gets lost a bit when there is a cotton t shirt tucked into the waistband. All in all I think this is a decent pattern, but I personally don’t think it’s worth $17- I’m gonna need way better instructions and attention to detail in a pattern with that price, especially when there are so many other amazing indie patterns on the market creating terrific, clear and concise instructions at that same price point or lower.

Okay, now let’s talk about what I DO love about this outfit: my memade baby blue slides!

One thing I really love about shoe making is that if you mess a pair up or outwear them or just decide you aren’t feeling the look anymore, it’s pretty easy to save some of the shoe components for a future pair, namely the heel and shank/shank board. Years ago when I took my first sandal making class, we made shoes using these super cute low-heeled wedge soles and lasts provided by the class instructor. Although I learned quite a few new things about shoe construction (I had been making my own shoes for over a year at this point), the class was not my favorite. It was a satellite course taught over one day in the rented space of a furniture store in LA, and since we didn’t have the aid of machines, buckles, zippers or other notions for our shoes, we should have been limited in our design choices in order to create a functional shoe. Unfortunately we were not guided in the design of the shoe at all, so most of us, not knowing exactly what we were doing, made shoes that weren’t actually wearable. Mine, for instance, used leather straps for the upper around the toe of the shoe, but there wasn’t enough material created with the straps to keep the shoe on my foot when I walked around, so they just kept falling off my feet.

Once I got home and realized that I would never be able to wear the shoes as designed, I pulled the wedge sole, upper straps and shank boards apart and stored them in my craft room, just waiting for the day that I got inspired to remake them. Well, that day finally came and I am CRAZY about the end result! With the low wedge heel, these shoes are super comfortable and they kind of go with everything. I didn’t have a last to perfectly match the shape of the wedge sole, but I had a pair that was close enough and laid flush with the front part of the shoe, which is all I really needed it for anyways to last the upper. I used the leftover blue nubuck leather from when I made my sneakers from Sneaker Kit and it worked beautifully- the leather is surprisingly soft and pliable for how thick it is, and I made a cute little peep toe and gave the uppers one of my favorite bow details. I lined the inside of the shoes with foam to make them extra cushiony and comfy and as a result I have worn these shoes several times a week since completing them- like I said, they go with everything! The wedge is so low that I don’t feel like I’m wearing heels, but they give me enough of a height boost that I do get a little swish in my step when I’m walking around!

Thanks to Claire for these fun shots at the Huntington! Also pictured is my leather fanny pack that I recently finished that I actually don’t like much at all (construction left so much to be desired and then add to that my decision to use thick leather instead of fabric!) so I probably wont blog about it, but just wanted to point that out.

 

DKNY Dress in Leopard Tencel Twill

I have had Vogue 1287 by DKNY in my stash for a long time but was always hesitant to make it because it seemed like it would be complicated to grade out at the hips and I was afraid I wouldn’t fit a straight size in this pattern.

Image result for vogue 1287

As per usual, I am frustrated by the fabric choice on this pattern envelope- it’s certainly a cool looking dress, but the print covers up all the cool details that make this dress so unique and fun! Someone told me that the big name designers for Vogue (and probably other brands) get to design and sew up the samples that are used on the envelopes, which is fun in terms of seeing the designer’s original creative vision for a garment, but functionally it leaves much to be desired- how can anyone see the innovative pleating and pocket design in the midst of all those dots??

Image result for vogue 1287

Ok, that’s better. Now you can see the beautiful draping, the fun shoulder pleats and neckline, those wacky pockets that gave me such a headache but that look so cool on the finished garment. I was also hesitant to make this dress because, although I do love an elasticized waist, I was afraid it would make the dress look less chic. I’m so used to seeing elastic waists on cheap, poorly made clothes from fast fashion RTW that I tend to relegate the design feature in my own makes to casual wear and athleisure, and I wanted this garment to work as something a little dressier than that.

While packing for #sewnawayfromhome earlier this year, I hastily threw three patterns into my sewing suitcase, one pattern I loved and had made before, and two Vogue patterns I had never touched. This was VERY risky, because if you have followed along on my #sewnawayfromhome journey in the past, you will have learned along with me how important it is to make patterns that have a great chance of fitting/not needing a ton of adjustments since on the road I don’t have a dress form, a huge table to work on or any of the other tools required to do some serious re-working of a memade garment. But I was running out of time before my departure and unsure of exactly what I wanted to make, and I figured I would just do my best to make these patterns I had never sewn before work. Spoiler alert: I ended up successfully making and loving all three of the garments I made over the week and a half that I was in Vancouver! But it wasn’t all fun and games, folks!

First off, I brought a couple of cuts of fabric with me to Vancouver but I ended up not using either of them for this dress, and instead using the new (at the time) leopard print tencel twill Blackbird Fabrics was carrying in the store. They recently started letting customers pick up their orders directly from their shop instead of posting it in the mail, so I got to stop by the new space and ooooh and aaaahh over every single thing inside, and of course I got to say hi to Carolyn and the lovely members of her team. Once I got back to my hotel and finished sewing up my purple dress, I realized that this leopard print tencel would be a great pairing for Vogue 1287- the fabric has soooo much beautiful drape but it’s not  lightweight and it serves the slightly fitted skirt of the garment very well. The fabric has great body and is soft to the skin, and the print covers up any extra wrinkles that might be hovering around (tencel twill irons well but gets wrinkles very fast).

The pattern pieces for this dress are INSANE. I wish I had taken a picture of everything laid out on the floor after I cut it out, but of course I didn’t think to do that- I had tunnel vision when I cut all these pieces out and all I wanted to do was plow through them so I could make sense of how they fit together. The pieces are so uniquely shaped that I had a lot of trouble envisioning how they would morph into a dress, so, since I didn’t have a dress form, I carefully pinned the paper pieces of the dress together and draped them on my body to get a better idea. It was super helpful, but once I moved to the fabric and all my notches and dots got lost in the busyness of the print, I was back at square one, haha. The pockets were a huge obstacle for me- they fold back on themselves at certain points specified on the pattern pieces and they also make up part of the body of the skirt, but in order to lay right, the front pleats of the skirt waistband have to be perfectly lined up and sewn down, and any shift away from perfection makes the pockets lay really wonky and look weird. I had to take the pockets out twice to get them right and I moved those pleats around like 20 times before I was happy with how the front looked, but who cares, at least I ended up where I wanted to be!

My memory is a bit hazy because I completed this dress months ago but I believe I cut out a size 10 and graded to a 12 at the hips and I am very pleased at how terrific the fit of this dress is- much of that has to do with the elastic waist, which gives the garment a more forgiving fit, but still, I have made elasticized waists on less complicated patterns that looked way less chic than this. I realize now looking back at the details on the back of the pattern envelope that I took another risk by pairing this fabric and pattern together- although I thought the print and hand of the fabric would work great, the pattern specifies using a fabric with a bit of stretch (it suggests “stretch silk crepe, stretch charmeuse, lightweight jersey”) but of course my tencel twill was a woven. I wondered if this would give me trouble- if a stretch fabric was an absolute necessity, it would mean that this dress, which is designed with no closures whatsoever, would not slip over my head when I tried to put it on. This pattern also includes pieces for a bias cut slip to wear underneath the dress, I guess because charmeuse/silk/lightweight jersey would likely be too thin to wear on it’s own? Looking at the finished design image on the envelope, I could see that there was a decent amount of ease in the waist and hips what with all those pleats and folds, and the bodice was also drafted as very loose fitting, so it seemed hard to imagine that this garment wouldn’t translate well to a woven. Obviously I took the chance and it worked out great- I didn’t need the slip underneath and the dress is easy to get in and out of. I have noticed this in Big 4 quite a lot- this dress also required a stretch lace fabric for its’ outer shell and a lining underneath, but I was already married to my non-stretch bright neon lace and I forged ahead, not even adjusting the size for it, and it worked out perfectly.

I love the subtle sandwashed sheen of this tencel twill, I love the slightly abstracted leopard print (okay fine! I will no longer say that I don’t do animal prints!!!), and I love the look and fit of this dress. The shape and construction are so fun and unique and although it took me a while to get those pockets in a good place, it was worth the work- I don’t have anything like this in my closet and I LOVE that! I can sometimes get in a silhouette rut with dresses and skirts because I know what shapes and styles I think I look and feel best in, but sometimes you gotta get outta that comfort zone and change it up a bit- it doesn’t always pay off but when it does, it’s so exciting!

Thanks as always to my sweet Claire for these pics!

 

 

 

A Golden Dress for Your Grandma

We are way overdue for a #grandmachic make!

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

Image result for simplicity 8545

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starry Night Dress

It’s been a while since I said this but….this dress was a JOURNEY, hahaha!

I have a conservative but beautiful stack of Vogue Paris Originals in my pattern stash, most of which were gifted as Christmas and birthday presents over the years, which I am slowly making my way through. I think I may have 3 or 4 of these makes under my belt by now, and some of them have been easier than others, but all of them have been challenging. I have found that the sizing for these garments, save for the normal adjustments I make on patterns regarding length, is pretty spot on and don’t have as much ease and therefore require as much futzing as most Big 4s. BUT! The instructions can be INSANE to follow. Part of it is because the distance between construction methods and materials then and now continues to get larger as time goes on. For example, a lot of vintage patterns from around the 70s and before include the use of interfacing, but iron-on interfacing either had not been invented yet or wasn’t readily available to home sewists, so the instructions always account for sewn-in interfacing, which of course needs to be attached to a separate fabric facing. As a modern sewist I am often so used to just ironing woven interfacing onto whatever pieces need to be stabilized, whether it’s the facing or the actual garment, that I forget that those aren’t always what the instructions are asking for.

Another reason these VPO designs can be so tricky to sew up is because the designs are so unique that they require construction methods that are very strange/unfamiliar. VPO patterns are pretty special, created by famous clothing designers of yester- (and sometimes today!) year to recreate some of their  designs for the home sewist, and these aren’t just your everyday bodice and gathered skirt kinds of dresses- these have interesting details and often complicated construction techniques that up the ante of your regular sew-at-home outfit.

Image result for vogue paris original pierre balmain

So back to this dress. Pierre Balmain was a couture designer of women’s gowns and dresses and hit his stride in the 40’s/50’s/60’s creating voluminous skirts with “nipped in waists”, using luxurious textiles with embroidery and beading, but as you can see, this VPO # 1625 is a very wearable, simplified silhouette, which is why I was so drawn to it; without having an excessive amount of frills and pleats, it screams decadence! The woman who wears this is SO FABULOUS AND UNCONCERNED that SHE CAN’T MOVE HER ARMS ABOVE HER HEAD…AND SHE DOESN’T EVEN CARE! It’s not the most practical design, those batwing sleeves that keep me from reaching up higher than my shoulders, but then again, red carpet ensembles don’t really have to be, and I am crazy about the look. It’s kind of like a cape dress, but the cape isn’t free-flowing all the way around- it’s tacked down at the front and back waistline and the “wings” of the cape are only free underneath the arms.

I was gifted this gorgeous Star Print Crepe de Chine from The Fabric Store and was  overcome by a surge of inspiration when I unboxed it. The print, small white stars of varying sizes stretched out across a dark navy background, is eye-catching and subtle enough to not look twee but bold enough to feel really special. It has a crisp hand, and even though it’s very lightweight, it is opaque on the body and holds it’s structure really well- it isn’t drapey or silky (although the texture is very soft), and even though it’s listed as a crepe de chine, it has a very smooth hand and the textured effect isn’t very prominent. An idea popped into my head that I could use this fabric for one of my VPOs, but I kept talking myself out of it, thinking that it would be too lightweight to pair well with this pattern in particular. Eventually I decided to go for it anyways- once I realized that the pattern didn’t require a heavy or lightweight fabric, it just needed something that held it’s structure well, I felt confident that the fabric would translate beautifully, and thankfully I was right!

First I traced out all my pattern pieces and (thankfully) remembered to shorten the bodice, but it required some extra work. I’m not sure if I have ever seen lengthen or shorten lines anywhere on a VPO pattern except the skirt/pants, and because the bodice is curved on the bottom and has indents to make way for attaching the bodice to the skirt in certain areas, I had to create my own lengthen/shorten lines by redrawing the bottom of the cape a couple inches shorter, then truing the lines of the side seams. Easy peasy!

Next I got to working on the skirt. I had no idea how well it would fit as-is, so I extended my side seams at the hips- VPO patterns come in one size as opposed to nested with multiple measurements, so you can’t grade between sizes and instead have to take in or add extra allowance where you usually grade.  I also widended my seam allowance on the side seams of the skirt from 5/8″ to 1″ so I would have ample room for making adjustments if I needed to. Next I cut the skirt out, basted the front and back darts, then tried it on to see where it needed more adjusting. I brought the back darts in a bit more and toyed around with the side seams til the skirt fit well in the hip and butt area, then I french seamed the side and back seams. All of this was pretty standard fitting stuff for me, but I made one big mistake- I adjusted the fit the skirt without taking into account that the front has an overlapping button band, so when it came time to constructing this part of the design, my skirt fit me perfectly when the front seams met at center, but not when they folded over to accommodate the placket. OOF!!!! ROOKIE MISTAKE, J! Somehow, some way, I was able to fudge things and I ended up squeezing just enough room out of the back french seam to give me a tiny bit more breathing room at the waistline of center front.

This dress is designed to have a lining underneath it, but I was confused as to what it would look like and whether I would end up needing it (I have trouble reading ahead in patterns if I don’t have a 3D visual aid, ie. the garment, to refer to), so I just moved full steam ahead but used french seams everywhere that I could in the event that the lining didn’t work and the insides needed to be finished. Another thing I neglected to take into account when adjusting the skirt was making sure that my bodice matched up with the smaller waistline. The bodice is attached to the skirt at the front and back waistlines and then flows freely underneath the arms, but now my back bodice was much too wide to match up to it. I decided to sew a big dart, beginning at the neckline and extending all the way down to the waistline, to cinch all that extra fabric in, and it turned out beautifully- it just looks like the back was cut into two pieces instead of on the center fold, and the print of this fabric is very forgiving so it looks intentional.

The bodice, though very simple looking, has a very interesting construction. There is a V-shaped dart at the lower front center of the bodice to accommodate the bust area since the dress isn’t fitted at the arms and there are no side seams in this area. I had never created darts like this- they start at the apex of the bust and then pivot before trailing out towards the front center, and because they intersect at the button band, the placket overlaps at the darts. Sewing this dart wasn’t difficult, but the instructions were pretty rough, and the maker should have been advised to use a tracing wheel to mark the seamlines of the darts on both bodice pieces (since it’s not a typically constructed dart, they didn’t show the normal dotted wedge line on the pattern piece to pin together and sew closed). I had to take my darts apart a couple of times to get it exactly right, but once I did, the effect was really cool!

The back neck facing was meant to be cut out separately for this pattern (which was difficult to tell in the instructions- there was a pattern piece specifically for the interfacing but not for self fabric) so I just applied the back neck interfacing directly to the back bodice, which worked out fine except now I had to figure out how to finish the neckline since I wouldn’t be sewing the outer shell of the dress to separate facings. To be honest, I am still unsure of exactly how they wanted the neckline to be completed, since, as I mentioned, the front facings are not separate and are merely extended pieces of the bodice folded in on itself. This is what I meant when I said that sometimes with these patterns you just have to do what makes the most sense to you instead of adhering to instructions that may or may not be correct. I trimmed the neckline of my fabric, made some bias tape, then sewed it to the seam line, understitched, and folded over and under to enclose the raw edge and give a nice, clean finish, which I am very happy with.

Lastly came the lining, and because I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make one, I hadn’t purchased any fabric to use specifically for it. I dug through my stash and found some black organza that I thought would pair well with the qualities of my poly crepe de chine, and it just…wasn’t quite right. The organza was a tiny bit too stiff for the star print poly, and the poly also creates a lot of static, so the dress just clung to the lining underneath instead of gliding over it. Although I loved the way that the lining was meant to be attached to the dress (just at the button band and shoulders, and designed with regular bias bound armholes as opposed to mirroring the lines of the batwing sleeves), I had already finished most of the seams inside of the dress so I just decided to omit the lining and wear a slip underneath if I felt like I needed more coverage- in these pictures you can still see that I am dealing with some static cling wearing a simple silk slip underneath, but in all honesty, the slip is unnecessary.

I bought a few packages of inexpensive but really pretty gold-rimmed white buttons to use for the front of the dress and I think they look great- they don’t interrupt the print of the dress too much and flow well with the rest of the stars around it.

This dress was a LOT of work to complete and of course if and when I make it again I know a million things I will do differently (or not do at all!) but overall, I am pretty stoked at how it looks, especially after seeing these pictures. The print is dynamic but so is the fit- I don’t often see many structural sewing patterns like this and I love the silhouette, specifically that swoop from back to waist to hips and the flow of the sleeves floating off the sides. So cool! I really want to make a pair of bright yellow heels to pair with this dress- I think it would be a nice nod to the bright stars of the print, but I also just love yellow and navy together and think the color combo would be brilliant!

Again, many thanks to Lawrence and Claire, who art directed this photo shoot and came up with some of the most beautiful photos we have ever taken- you guys are a real dream team, we should do this more often!

 

Starburst Dress for Stylemaker Fabrics Blog Tour 2019

Hey hey hey! I am chuffed (can you tell I have British friends on IG??) to be a part of this year’s Stylemaker Fabrics Spring Tour! The tour is an opportunity for fabric lovers to be introduced to and inspired by all the new textiles that the Stylemaker Fabrics online store has to offer, and there have been some really fantastic makes on the tour so far!

I had a really hard time figuring out which fabrics I wanted to work with for my make- there were so many pretty colors and interesting prints that I could have stared at the fabric swatches for days, but then I stumbled across a new-to-me-pattern by Amy Nicole Studio called the Roksi Dress and felt a surge of inspiration. This dress has a simple but clever design- it’s basically three of the same garments of varying lengths layered over each other, so a knee-length swishy spaghetti strapped dress goes underneath a hip-length swishy spaghetti strapped tunic which goes underneath a belly button-grazing swishy spaghetti strapped crop top. Cool, right? I love how this design leaves so much room for playing around with color and print, love what an easy dress this probably is to wear and make, and I love how far you can stretch the pieces out for various looks…the pieces can be worn individually or together in various ways to create completely new looks! Thinking that this was the garment I was going to make, I spotted three different, very summery shades of tencel twill from Stylemaker Fabrics that I knew would look really lovely together, reminding me of a popsicle, or sherbert. Something summery and fun and breezy in the California heat!

Me trying to be in West Side Story

No sooner had I ordered my fabrics than I stumbled (it appears that I stumble around a lot on the internet) upon a version of McCalls 7894 that Bianca of Thanks I Made Them recently completed. I came across it because the McCalls instagram shared a picture of her make on their account and I! WAS! SMITTEN! I had not seen this Big 4 pattern before and if I had, I’m sure I would have overlooked it. For some reason the pattern envelope just didn’t call out to me in any way, shape, or form…however, with Bianca’s spin on it? WHOAH! I loved the use of color in her fabric choices, which made the whole dress feel like a day at the beach, and the style and fit were just so flattering, even with it’s weird waistline which dips down at the sides (not usually my cup of tea). Even though I had been dead-set on making the Roksi Trio, I was suddenly in the McCalls 7894 camp, and I imagined that my three cuts of fabric would transition beautifully into this dress. Ultimately I decided that switching these patterns was a brilliant idea because the Roksi Trio, while it would have looked great in my three sherbet hues, would be better served by playing around more with print and color than just color- every version of the Roksi Trio that uses prints and solids together stands out, and I would love to make this pattern in the future using some exciting prints from my stash!

So onto this here make…I was very out of Big 4 practice when I started this project. Because of my Family Crisis/December Hiatus and a busy work schedule in Jan and Feb, it had been a while since I had created much of anything, much less a Big 4 pattern I hadn’t sewn before, and I was out of practice. Because of this, I made a lot of mistakes that I normally don’t, but fortunately I was able to fix pretty much all of them!

First mistake: I pre-washed a bunch of new fabrics in one load (these tencel twills plus a couple more) and got bleeding on the yellow and peach cuts of my tencel twill (surprisingly the pink didn’t take the bleed). The bleed wasn’t super dark and it wasn’t completely covering the yardage, but it was definitely noticeable and annoying. I think forgot to put a dye catcher sheet in the wash when I was pre-washing these, but I shouldn’t have washed all the pieces together in the first place- this was totally my bad. Also, before anyone suggests in the comments that I should have used that smelly dye-remover stuff to get the spots out, I chose not to use it because I think the results can be ineffectual- when I have used it in the past it has gotten most of a dye bleed out, but never all of it, and it has faded the original color of the fabric I used it on, which I didn’t want to happen- the vibrancy of this tencel twill is one of the reasons I picked it out! As a result of the bleed, I had less fabric to work with because I had to avoid the areas that were dotted with blue. Stylemaker Fabrics very generously offered to replace my fabric, but I wanted to avoid that at all costs- I HATED the thought of wasting all that fabric and I was determined to make this project work with what I had. With some artful placement of my pattern pieces, I successfully cut out most of the dress without getting too many of the blue spots anywhere, although there are a couple of tiny, very inconspicuous places where the dye spills over- but I would have to point them out to you (and you know I’m not gonna do that!)

Next mistake: I totally forgot to grade out from my waist to hips when tracing out my pattern pieces, even though I do it on literally ALL BIG 4 PATTERNS I make, so when I tissue fit my pattern pieces onto my dress form, there was no ease whatsoever in the hips! Instead of recutting my pattern pieces, I decided to simply add extra seam allowance (via paper taped to the edges) to my skirt pattern pieces to accommodate the room I needed. Once I made those tweaks, I sewed the dress up, serging the insides close to the seam line to finish them since there are a lot of curves on the dress and I was afraid french seams would be too bulky. I basted the skirt and bodice pieces together and tried it on and…. I HATED IT!

Image result for hated it gif

It looked awful- ill-fitting, super frumpy, too long…issues I am used to addressing early on in construction with my pattern tweaks. Then I realized why- I had ALSO totally forgotten to shorten my bodice like I also ALWAYS do! What was wrong with me?!? I was such a mess! I didn’t have enough un-spotted fabric to re-cut my bodice so I had to take the easy way out and chop off an inch of the length from the shoulders to raise the dress higher. Of course this was not an ideal fix because it changed the drafting throughout the entire bust area, affecting the armholes and sleeves and making the upper bust area have much more room in it than necessary, but it was the easiest, most efficient fix and it isn’t too noticeable. To accommodate the raised/shorter bodice, I had to take out an inch from the height of the sleeves so that they would fit the shorter armholes, and I also had to extend the opening of the armhole below it’s original drafting so that they wouldn’t be too tight.

Completely separate from the bodice length issue but just as frustrating was the front bust area. It is designed with gathers under each side of the bust, and then it crosses over to wrap at center front, but on me, it looked hideous. Part of this was because I had not yet shortened the bodice, so the waist was way too low making my boobs look like they reached to my belly button (low swinging boobs might be in my future, but I am not there yet!). Beyond that, the look just wasn’t flattering on me- maybe because I don’t have a very full bust so the gathers had nothing to hold. Regardless of the why, I knew I wanted to omit this design detail. I contemplated trading them out for darts but ultimately saw that pleats worked much better, still giving me lots of ease and wiggle room in the bust and keeping in line a little more closely with the original design.

 

Those were the major mistakes changes I made to the dress- once I lifted it up by shortening the bodice, the skirt fit much better (it had initially been too low and wasn’t hitting my bottom in the right spots). Thankfully this tencel twill was a real dream to work with and the fabric was able to withstand a lot of hustle and bustle as I made major and minor changes to the dress throughout construction. I have always been drawn to tencel twill because it has a sandwashed look to it, a tiny hint of sheen that bounces off the fabric when the light hits it in the right spot, so it makes something that would otherwise look ordinary seem much more luxe. The weight of this tencel twill is also particularly nice- it’s got such a nice hand feel, and as you can see, the drape is terrific and pairs well with this dress. The fabric looks beefy without actually being heavy, and it took my sewing AND my unpicking beautifully!

This dress is only lined in the bodice, which makes it feel substantial and supportive while the skirt gets to stay light and breezy. I had been referring to this project as the sherbert dress as it sat in piles of fabric waiting to be sewn together in my craft room, but once I actually started construction I was amazed to see myself transformed into a package of starburst! In this dress I look like a trio of red, pink and lemon candies, and I am not mad at it one bit! This color combo still screams summer, just as I had hoped it would, and I think the choice looks really chic and fun without looking like a kindergartener (no shade to kindergarteners!)

This dress was a lot more work than I was anticipating (again, all because of my own mistakes), but it was totally worth the blood, sweat and tears- I love the overall look of this dress, and something about it feels a little bit vintage to me. I don’t know if it’s the poofy sleeves or the color blocking, but it looks ripped from a page of a seventies teen magazine, and I dig it, man!

Thank you, Stylemaker Fabrics, for inviting me on your fabric tour this year- I never would have made this dress without inspiration from your spring collection, and I know I will have a lot of fun wearing it out in the world! For this dress I used tencel twill in coral, yellow, and melon, and you can find more of the beautiful fabrics in the newest collection at Stylemaker Fabrics here! There is one more stop on the tour tomorrow, by none other than Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics herself, and you can check out her make here!

Lastly, big thanks to Claire and Lawrence (BFF) for teaming up together to art direct and shoot my looks today- Claire is always a big help to me in documenting garments for my blog, but Lawrence’s keen eye for detail and enthusiasm in helping us stage everything was amazing- it was one of the most relaxing and fun times I have ever had shooting blog photos, which normally feel like a chore. I am so so lucky for you both, and thrilled that we got to work together like this- we gotta do it again!

Lawrence doing final touches LOL!

Sew Frosting!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Boiler Suit Pattern Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kelly Dress

the cast!

This summer I was in a short film that my friend Kelly produced and also starred in, and we had a crazy amount of fun. Although me and Kelly have been friends for several years, this was our first opportunity to work together, and I appreciated us to getting to know each other in a new way through our “work” modes. Although short indie films almost always have a wardrobe supervisor, they tend to try and pull from an actor’s own closet whenever possible, which cuts down on costs and time since they won’t have to buy anything new for an actor and they know that whatever the actor brings will fit them and not need alterations. My character wore a cream colored pair of Ginger Jeans and a Grainline Hemlock Tee (it’s a free pattern!) pulled from my closet, of course, and Kelly brought in a white RTW button down dress that she found at the mall. I loved this dress as soon as I saw it on a hanger and I loved it even more once I saw her wearing it. It was a very simple design, but still not one I had seen out in the world very often. It had a fitted darted bodice with short sleeves attached to a gathered skirt, large buttons going down the front, and two big patch pockets on the sides. Needless to say, I immediately started dreaming up my own version!

You would think that such a simple silhouette would be an easy pattern to track down, but I had a really hard time finding exactly what I wanted (I made this dress several months ago, by the way), and ultimately it seemed easier to just hack something I already had. It took a while to figure out which pattern to use the bodice from- again, such a simple design and fit, but I couldn’t find a bodice that also had sleeves I liked. I decided to go with the Holly Jumpsuit from By Hand London, a pattern from my stash that I tried making for myself years ago with no success. I had issues getting in and out of the garment since it has a side zip that was still too short to accommodate my hips fitting through the waist circumference, and I wasn’t skilled enough at the time to know any other way to make it work. The bodice was exactly what I wanted for the Kelly Dress- it had a bust and a waist dart, roomy sleeves, and a front button placket opening.

I used a gorgeous pink silk linen from Blackbird Fabrics as both my fashion and lining fabric and got to work on making the adjustments necessary for the bodice- mainly I wanted the button band to be wider, which I also needed to adjust to attach it to a skirt that would also have a button placket (the original Holly Jumpsuit  design has a bodice that attaches to a closed-front waist). I sewed up the bodice first without the sleeves to try it on for fit and realized that the back was puckering up around my shoulders and neck (which it also did the first time I had made it!) so I had to add a small dart at the back neckline on each side.

Next I attached my sleeves and was really disappointed to see that they did not work on my body at all. The sleeves were super tight and the fabric was stretched taught across my bicep. Now, to be fair, I do work out, but to be even fairer, I only use like, 3 pound weights in my body sculpt classes, so I’m not the Incredible Hulk or anything! I am unsure why these sleeves were so tight since I have made other BHL patterns with no issues at all, and was stumped on what to do to fix them- I wasn’t convinced that giving the sleeves more width would resolve the issue since the sleeves were making the whole bodice sit awkwardly, even in areas where it seemed like the tight part of the sleeves wouldn’t affect it. I thought maybe the whole bodice needed some kind of adjustment around the arms/bust, but then I remembered that when I tried the bodice on without the sleeves, it fit almost perfectly. So I saved myself the headache and left the sleeves off the final version. Although I love the look of the sleeves on the dress, it wasn’t what originally caught my eye about the garment, so all was not lost.

Once I got the bodice looking how I wanted it to, I attached it to the skirt of the Jessica Dress by SewDef Patterns, a dress I absolutely love. It’s basically just three rectangles sewn together with a button placket in the front center, but that’s all I needed! In hindsight, I could have gone with a skirt that had less gathered material at the waistline (my skirt is fuller than Kelly’s, and I actually did take out some of the width of the pattern pieces of the Jessica dress for this hack and it still came out this full)  but I was too lazy to try and find another skirt in my stash that had this shape. I attached the big patch pockets to the sides of the skirt, sewed the top and bottom halves together, and then worked on my button placket.

Aside from getting the bodice to fit right, the button placket was the only other thing to give me a lot of trouble. It’s because of the silk linen I used, which was easy enough to sew regular seams with, but once it came to top stitching, the fabric had a hard time staying put. It would gather and gape and stretch and pull, even with my walking foot, and I had to take the stitching out more than once to get everything lined up and looking clean. It’s fine- not perfect, but fine! The stitching on the button bands is a little bit wobbly and it’s even more apparent because I didn’t use a thread that was super close in color to my fabric, but I’m not pressed about it- the 3 foot rule applies beautifully to this make!

This is a pretty great and easy dress to wear- although it was drafted to fit very closely to my body, the linen softens and relaxes very quickly so that it has a slightly roomy, loose fit around the waist without looking like it’s hanging off my body. I LOVE the big pockets and how they look on the dress, but they are SO big that the tops tend to collapse a bit, something that is also owed to the beautifully soft, drapey fabric I used. I keep debating whether or not to add buttons to the top of them and attach it to the skirt so they will stay closed, but if I do that, I won’t be able to stuff my hands in my pockets, which is pretty much the only thing I want to do when I wear this dress. Speaking of buttons, I bought these at my favorite store, Button Button, in Vancouver last year and I am so glad I found a great project to put them on! They are copper colored like a penny, and have a really cool graphic design on them, and I think they liven this simple dress up a lot.

These photos were taken at Hearst Castle when we took our friend Lawrence to the estate for the first time- he had never been before and Claire and I have gone multiple times, so we thought it would be a fun trip! We did our first night tour the day before these pics were taken and then took advantage of the daylight and stunning views for our second tour. I didn’t have a lot of makeup with me, I was tired, and I am generally uncomfortable taking pictures in front of random people, so these aren’t the best photos in the world, but when you have an unblogged garment with you at Hearst Castle, YOU TAKE THE PHOTOS ANYWAYS, lol.

Oh yeah, and a one good shot of my sandals that I made this past spring! I love these shoes- they have gotten looser over time because leather relaxes and because I was experimenting with this style and probably could have made them fit slightly tighter but at the time I didn’t know any better…but they are still super comfortable and pretty!

Thanks, Claire, for the shots, thanks, Lawrence for the fun road trip, and thanks, Kelly for the inspiration for this dress!!!!!