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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.

The #notmypresident Kelly Anorak!

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What a week, y’all. What a world.

Making has saved my sense of peace during this presidential campaign, but the day after the election I felt so depressed that I wasn’t even inspired to work on the project I had been happily plugging away at for days. I didn’t want to listen to music. I didn’t want to watch Netflix. I didn’t want to listen to an audiobook, or be around other people. But I also didn’t want to sit and stare at a wall while fuming. So I tentatively made my way to the makeshift sewing table in my apartment. I pushed some tools around, tidied up the area, threw away some fabric scraps and thread that had collected on the edges of the table. I didn’t feel better. But I felt calmer. I don’t know, maybe those feelings are synonymous sometimes. I liked having something to do with my hands. So I decided to install one ring snap and see how I felt. Again, I wasn’t better, but I had something to focus on, and I figured that was good enough. I installed the snap on the other pocket, and then I began the slow, new-to-me process of installing the coat zipper, which seemed really daunting to me at first glance.

Making didn’t take my mind off of my worries- it has never had that kind of effect on me- but it was therapeutic; it gave me space to process my thoughts without the sharpness of my emotions sending me reeling into teary-eyed territory. I cry hard and often, and I think that fully experiencing our emotions is super important to our mental health. But sometimes angry tears don’t make me feel any better at all, and I couldn’t imagine how I would stop them once they came.

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By the time I finished installing the zipper and facings and placket of this jacket, I stood both in awe, of both the task I had completed and my mood. I remember looking at the photo on the pattern and thinking to myself, how in the world is this supposed to come together?? because sometimes getting from point A to point B seems like an act of magic; even though I can see all the steps laid out in the instructions, it’s hard for me to fully envision the end product of a thing unless I am in the middle of creating it. But I found some solace in this. Because I also had no idea exactly what I needed to do to fix the current state of our country (how in the world are we supposed to come together??) and I realize now that it doesn’t matter- all I need to do is start at step one: to show up. To be willing to learn, to use my voice, to act when I am called upon. Somehow, in the creation of a coat zipper, I had acquired a new resolve- I felt emboldened, full of love, optimistic that my community would, as it has for hundreds of years, continue to fight for the rights and well being of the disenfranchised. I am anxious and scared about the struggles that we will face on our path, but I have faith that we will come out on top, and I am excited to be on the right side of the history that we will make together.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE, Y’ALL.

And with that, some details about this absolutely beautiful coat that miraculously served to both inspire and heal…

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This jacket is made from the much anticipated Kelly Anorak coat designed by Closet Case Files. When Heather sent a sneak peak of the coat through her newsletter a day or two before the official launch, I squealed audibly and sent Claire lots of photos of the coat that had been included in the email, since she is the only person I know who would be as excited about it as I was (she’s a generally supportive and enthusiastic human I am #blessed). I purchased the physical pattern instead of the PDF because it’s harder for me to print patterns while I am in Savannah, and I also immediately ordered a hardware kit that Closet Case was offering for sale in their online shop. I buy all of their kits when offered- the tools and materials are so well sourced and they just make sewing new, seemingly complicated garments a tad bit easier.

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Initially I envisioned a light gray twill Anorak for myself, so I went to my local fabric store in Savannah and found the exact fabric I was looking for, but unfortunately they didn’t have the full yardage that I needed. So I decided I would supplement the missing gray twill with this really beautiful soft navy suiting I found in the shop. I went home, spent a couple of hours thoughtfully placing and cutting out the hundreds of pattern pieces (ok, there aren’t that many, but it sure feels like it when you’re on the floor with a spasming back and tracing them all onto the fabric), and I started sewing the pieces together.

requisite Forsyth Park shot!

requisite Forsyth Park shot!

I had a really tough time finding the right color of topstitching thread for the light gray twill. First I tried using a darker gray thread, but it looked too blue against the fabric, so I took all that out and used a white thread instead. This didn’t end up looking much better, but I figured that I would like it more as I continued piecing the jacket together. I also was worried about the weight of my jacket- the twill seemed a bit more flimsy than I wanted for this jackets, so I considered putting a lining into the coat, but I had never made a coat before and I felt a little overwhelmed at having to figure out so many new things at once. I got all the way up to the step where I needed to install the grommets on the jacket for the cord to slide through, and I suddenly started second guessing the whole project. I only had enough hardware for one jacket, and I realized that I wasn’t enough in love with the way mine was looking to waste my beautiful new snaps and grommets on it.

I am not one to walk away from a project so quickly after starting it, but I am so glad that I trusted my instincts; I rolled up the unfinished jacket and remaining pieces and set them aside. The next day while reading the Fabric Store’s blog, I saw some photos of a new shipment they had just gotten at the LA store and was immediately taken by a plush, pale pink bonded suiting fabric they were highlighting.

It looked soft and warm, and the color was perfect for me since I love lighter shades of pinks and peaches. I called the store and they sent me a couple of yards of the fabric (although not all of their LA fabrics are sold in the online store, you can always call them directly and ask for swatches or cuts of the stock they put up on their blog)! I kept my fingers crossed that this fabric would work for the jacket, and I was elated when it arrived a few days later and it looked and felt just as striking in person as I had hoped!

Since my first gray version was ultimately a muslin, I was able to make a few more adjustments on my pink version. I had already shortened the length of the coat about an inch and a half to better accommodate my petite frame, but I also kept the pockets in the same place, and I realized on the first coat that the placement felt awkward because they were now a bit too high. So on my pink version I moved them down about an inch or so and they are now perfectly placed. I sewed a size 4 and didn’t grade up in the hips on the first gray version of this jacket, even though my measurements suggested I do so, and when I sewed up the side seams, it definitely felt less roomy in the hips than I preferred. I extended the allowances at the hips on my pink jacket about an extra 3/8 inch on both sides to accommodate grading to a bigger size and it now fits beautifully. Other than these changes, I sewed the jacket as instructed, but I still made a bunch of random mistakes throughout (all of which are my fault!)

 

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The most obvious mistake was sewing the front yokes in different directions on each side; thanks to Closet Case Files’ quick and easy tutorial, I used flat felled seams for the first time ever, which was super fun (also, it’s so weird that I had not used them before, because French seams are pretty much a staple for my makes nowadays). But I accidentally sewed the yoke seam towards the top on one side of the coat and towards the bottom on the other side of the coat, so they look visibly uneven on the outside. Of course I didn’t realize my mistake until the entire coat had been sewn together already and I was NOT about to undo all my work for something that didn’t bother me all that much. Also, because my pink fabric is so thick and doesn’t iron very well, it was very hard to get the seams completely flat and sewn down evenly on the inside, so there are also a few wonky flat fell seams that you can only see when looking on the wrong side of the jacket- again, I am so glad I am not a perfectionist because I would never get ANYTHING done!

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Another goofy mistake I made was with the zipper placement- when installing then, I cut them a tiny bit too short and as a result, the top ends of the zipper aren’t enclosed in a seam, which means that the zipper pull would totally fly off the top if  I zipped it up without stopping before the teeth ran out. I was stumped as to how to fix that little snafu for a while, but when I hand sewed the seam of the hood to the inside of the jacket, I realized I could insert a few stitches just below the topmost tooth on each side of the zipper and it would serve as a stop to keep the zipper pull from zipping off of it.

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Inserting the snaps and grommets was a cinch after reading Heather’s tutorial on her blog, and my only other suggestion on how to install them is to remind you to work verrrrrry carefully when you are placing the snap pieces along the jacket- I almost missed my mark a few times because of not being patient enough to make sure the snaps lined up perfectly. Removing a spring snap that has already been set is VERY hard to do without ruining your fabric, and yes, of course I say this from experience (insert rolling eye here).

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The trickiest issue I experienced with this fabric was the fact that it was very thick and cushiony, which was only a problem a few times when I had to topstitch through several layers, like on the cuffs of the sleeves. Otherwise it behaved very well. sidenote: one of the cool design features I love about this Kelly Anorak is the topstitching all over it, and at first I was bummed that you couldn’t see the topstitching on my pink fabric very well because it’s so thick, but the technique still creates a little groove along the topstitched lines, and now that it’s complete I love the overall effect. I also appreciate that this fabric isn’t very wrinkly, and now after wearing it around on one of the coolest days I have experienced in Savannah thus far, I can attest that she is also perfectly warm! Much warmer than the twill cotton jacket I first started making would have been, but not as thick and bulky as a full on winter coat- essentially the perfect jacket to get me through an LA fall and winter.

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As for the pattern? Sigh. It’s fantastic just like all of Heather’s work! The fit for me is wonderful: one easy adjustment for the length, which is made even easier thanks to markings on all the pattern pieces that are affected by lengthening/shortening, but even more importantly, the coat is ROOMY in the shoulders and arms and hood (Lord, how I hate a tight hood that smooshes all my hair down). This is the sort of jacket you can wear comfortably with sweatshirts and layers, and the sleeves on my size 4 Kelly don’t feel too tight or bulky with even my thickest sweater worn underneath. The instructions for this jacket are easy to follow, and it handles complicated techniques and steps succinctly. Again, I had to go slowly through the instructions for the zipper facings and placket because it was all new to me and there are so many pieces, but I didn’t make any mistakes and the result is beautiful. Additionally, Heather provides a few tutorials for tricky steps on her blog- I had already started working on my zipper and button placket before she posted a tutorial on how to do do that part, but I figured it out on my own just fine, so I think that the average sewist will find the instructions easy to follow, too!

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My manager and his husband Bob are in town for the weekend and I was able to finish my coat before they left, which means I got to get some photos of it while we were out and about! My favorite place we visited today was the SCAD museum of art, which has work and installations by current students and alumni. The museum is small (read: MANAGEABLE for someone like me who can only handle beautiful art in shorts spurts of time) and varied and I absolutely loved every inch of it- you should definitely go visit if you have the chance!

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jeans are the Ginger Skinny Jeans and cowl is handknitted from a pattern by Miss Babs!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

A Star in a Kimono-Inspired Robe

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Someone is completely upstaging the actual handmade item in this blog post, but I don’t mind. How could you possibly mind? She is just so stunning!

I feel very lucky to be sharing a screen for the next couple of months with the lovely and superbly talented Jess DeGouw. I guess I just have a thing for Aussies, because she reminds me a lot of my old friend and Fringe cast mate John. They are both so warm and smart and thoughtful, and incredibly generous to all the people around them- she has inspired me to both give more and relax more on set, and I enjoy all the time I get to spend with her, whether sitting next to each other in our cast chairs gabbing about interior decorating or sitting in a coffee shop walking her through the steps of how to cast off (I taught her how to knit a few weeks ago and within days she had already completed a beautiful scarf- she is such a natural!) Anyways, I shyly asked her this morning if she would mind posing for a few pictures in this robe I had just finished sewing and she thankfully said yes. We set up some quick shots of her wearing the robe with the sun streaming through her windows, and although my photography skills don’t do Jess nearly enough justice, I am so pleased with how these turned out. But again, could you expect anything less with that face???

OK, if you want to keep gushing about Jess, the star in the robe, you should catch up on her work in season one of WGN’s Undeground, which is how I was first introduced to her. You will LOVE her!

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This is the Almada pattern from Seamwork, which has been on my to-do list since the very first time I saw it last year. I love how it’s a simple design with simple lines but the overall look packs such a dynamic punch; it’s simply beautiful, and now that I have made it I am definitely having a bit of trouble deciding whether I should use it as a house robe as I initially intended or wear it around the city as a light jacket. I suppose I could do both but that feels weird. House clothes are house clothes, and never the twain shall meet!

I have talked here before about how the Seamwork patterns are so pretty and styled so elegantly, but because of their simple designs, many of them require a bit more thought and attention in construction to make them work for my body. Fortunately this is a project that doesn’t fall into that category. The sizing is pretty general (XS-XL) and since it doesn’t hug the body tightly anywhere there isn’t much room for error if you fit into the measurements provided. The design is simple enough that you can make some easy adjustments/additions to the pattern without sacrificing the integrity of the original look (or you can also also completely sacrifice it- who cares?? when you sew, the world is your oyster!)

 

I got this bright pique fabric from The Fabric Store, and I loved it because it had a great texture on the right side which reminded me of waffle-textured towels. It is somewhere between a medium to heavy weight fabric while still feeling breathable; it seemed really fitting for a house robe! The color is as brilliant in real life as it looks in the photos, and definitely should have been washed separately on cold when I pre-washed it- unfortunately I was in a rush and stuck it in the wash with several other pieces of laundry, and then they all came out bright blue! I was able to color correct most of the items with a dye-out product whose name I cannot remember, but I should have known better: anything this brilliant needs it’s own bath 😉

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Because of the texture of the fabric, the raw edges get pretty messy quickly, but I don’t have my serger with me in Savannah. Instead, I bought some awesome bias tape from this store on etsy to use for all the raw edges on the inside. I know, I know- I can make my own bias tape, but I am lazy, I didn’t bring my bias tape makers with me, and I love supporting small indie craft shops when I have the chance.

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Besides enclosing all my raw seams with tape, I raised the ties on the front of the robe by a couple of inches- as drafted, they were really low on me and instead of cinching the fabric around my waist, it made the robe tight around my hips and butt, which felt completely unnatural and uncomfortable. I also decided to add a long neckline band around the front sides and back, more like a traditional house robe would have. It was the only thing I didn’t like about the original pattern- the sleeves had these beautiful cuffs that made a visual connection to the robe ties, which made the neckline look a little plain to me. I cut one long piece of fabric about 3.5 inches wide that matched the length of the robe opening and sewed it onto the neckline of the robe, then closed the raw seam with bias tape, and topstitched it flat to the underside of the robe so that it wouldn’t flip up easily. It lays down perfectly flat against my neck and feels super comfortable.

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The only other thing I will change is to add two big pockets to either side of the front of the robe- I didn’t have a chance to cut them out and sew them before I got these photos, so you can just imagine them for now. In wearing this robe over the past couple of days, it was clear that I needed some storage on this baby- I think I might have even dropped a chapstick down my side, only realizing that I didn’t have an actual pocket for it to fall into as it crashed to the floor.

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I am so thrilled that I finally marked this pretty pattern off of my list, and I am glad that I went against the grain and chose such a unique fabric to sew this in- she looks so different than all the other really beautiful versions of Almada I have seen, and I think she was worth the wait! Thanks again to Jess for being such a good sport and letting me capitalize on her charm and beauty for my own selfish reasons 😉

Brillant Bouquet

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This dress is BRILLIANT (hence it’s name) and it is hands-down the fabric (from none other than The Fabric Store!) that makes it so exceptional. I am unsure of the fiber content of this textile so I wont even speculate about it here, but I can tell you how it handles and looks in person: it has a significant amount of body, is sturdy but soft to the touch (not scratchy like some textiles of it’s ilk), it holds its shape well with no folding or creasing, and it has a very delicate sheen on its surface without looking glittery or shiny.

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This is the first panel fabric that I have ever sewn and I couldn’t have chosen a better material to start with, but, like many memorable relationships, I’m not sure if I chose this fabric or it chose me! It grabbed my attention from across the store because of the bright orange flowers and interesting color combination- I would never imagine that lavender, orange and deep blue would work so well together, but I guess that’s why I’m not a fabric designer! HA!

I had no idea what I would make with this fabric when it came home with me, but I knew my choices of pattern would be narrowed down considerably because of the unique qualities of the print and the hand. The fabric is stable without being crispy and it also has a lot of volume, so drape-y, flowy and gathered designs were out of the question. The panel flowers also needed to be taken into consideration- I needed a pattern that would let the bright print of the flowers take center stage. I rifled through my pinterest boards for pattern inspiration but didn’t find anything that grabbed me, so on a whim I decided to take a look at the By Hand London catalogue. I had most recently made the Anna dress to tremendous success and I wanted to see what other patterns I might have overlooked that would work for my unique fabric.

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I had seen the Flora dress before but it didn’t really stand out to me at the time, probably because the dress on the model is cut fairly short and I generally stay away from those lengths on my frame- I also have a love/hate relationship with high-low skirts and dresses. But this time around, armed with a specific fabric in mind, the Flora dress pattern seemed like the perfect partner to my Brilliant Bouquet fabric. The pattern has wide pleats at the waist instead of darts, which, depending on my panel placement, was a must since I didn’t want to break up the line of the flowers if possible. I also thought that pleats would create a more interesting look with my full-bodied fabric than darts would. The bodice I chose for the Flora dress (there are two options) was simple and understated, which seemed like a nice contrast to the drama of the skirt, and I thought that keeping the flower print at the bottom of the skirt and having it complete before the start of the bodice would look nice.

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The majority of my mental concentration came when trying to place the skirt properly on the print. The skirt, which is essentially a 3/4 circle, is made of three pieces- one for the front which is cut on the fold, and two for the back. The waistband of the skirt is curved but the panel print is placed straight across the fabric, perpendicular to the straight grain, so trying to determine the smartest way to take advantage of pattern placement without having the line of the flowers broken up was nearly impossible. At this point I realized that having a dart in the skirt as opposed to pleats would have been helpful in terms of keeping the flower print continuous across the skirt. But ultimately I decided that the break in print placement could be an intentional design choice, especially coupled with the full folds of the pleats, so I forged ahead and cut out my pattern pieces as planned (but not before taking several deep breaths!).

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I cut the front piece of the skirt a couple of inches longer than the pattern called for and I extended the length of the back pieces to give a more dramatic look to the skirt’s silhouette. This design choice was inspired by a photo I had come across a while ago on tumblr:

I am OBSESSED with the look of the main fabric contrasted with the printed lining, and I thought I could try it out with my Flora dress by lining the back skirt pieces with the main fabric so that the panel print was visible underneath, too, but, for several reasons, it didn’t quite work out. For one thing, my Brilliant Bouquet fabric has way too much body for a lining of the same material- it would have created even more volume and the pleats would not have formed properly. Secondly, the high-low length of the skirt of my Flora dress isn’t dramatic enough for you to see the lining beneath it- to accomplish this look I would have needed to make the dress almost floor length, and there was not enough room between the panel prints to accommodate that much fabric.

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In the end, everything worked out for the best- I love how the Flora dress came out even without a special lining, and I am excited to try and recreate the above look on a future garment (and hopefully in that same lemon color because OMG it’s stunning). The only thing I wish I had done differently is put pockets in the dress, because they would have worked so well coupled with the volume of the skirt, and who doesn’t love pockets when they don’t interfere with the silhouette of a garment?? The dress is super comfortable and the fit is wonderful, which is an impressive feat for me since the entire thing was sewn in my temporary apartment in Savannah without a proper standing mirror or dress form- there was lot’s of arm-contortion involved when trying to get my zipper placement right, but I must say that I am getting pretty good at it!

Girlfriend Fit: The Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Files

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my pair:

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and here is Claire’s:

❤️ S A V A G E ❤️

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deer & Doe & Denim

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

Peaches N’ Cream N’ The Fabric Store

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gertie’s Boat-Neck Dress: A Hack

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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