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Vintage 90’s Swing Dress


Technically this pattern is from 1989 but I think it’s fair to put it solidly in the style of the 90’s- that close fitting, raised collar, that back tie, and that high, curved waistline are just so reminiscent of babydoll dresses- it all screams PAIR ME WITH SOME DR MARTENS! Which I have clearly not done, hahaha. The 90’s is nowhere close to my favorite decade for fashion but because I was in middle and high school during those years, the nostalgia bug bites me all the time when I see styles from that era. I was very into babydoll dresses back then, paired with those flat velvet mary jane shoes with absolutely no arch support or cushion for your feet, so this dress is a nice throwback that I think still works well for my current style.

My favorite design element of this pattern is the swinginess of the full skirt. Tent dresses can very easily engulf my short frame and make me feel like I am swimming in fabric, but the draft of this dress is perfectly proportionate to my height and size. I was a little concerned about the dramatic curve of the bottom of the bodice at first because, oof, that is also not my favorite design element in dresses, but the seam’s curve is much more subtle when the dress is sewn up than it looks on the pattern envelope. Strangely, the bodice has very slight gathering under the bust which does not show up in the envelope illustrations- not sure if that was a ME-stake or an oversight with the pattern translation, but it’s something I will pay attention to when I make it again. The pattern has deep pockets that don’t jut out at the hips, most likely thanks to the fullness of the skirt, and it also has a lovely squared armhole shape that I rarely see in patterns today.

While I love the final result of the armholes, I thought the construction for the bodice left much to be desired, mostly because you are made to use facings to finish the armholes. Unfortunately those facings want to flip out at every opportunity, despite the fact that I tacked them down on the inside wherever the facing intersected with a seam.

just a little bit of deodorant remnants, don’t be alarmed lol

The next time I make this I will draft a lining just for the bodice that will eliminate the need for the button band and armhole facings, and will also hang loose in the back, since the back of the dress doesn’t have a waist seam to attach it to (I’m not sure if “waist seam” is the appropriate name for the bottom of this bodice since it hits closer to the bustline than the waist, but you know what I’m talkin’ about)! This will give the armholes a much cleaner looking finish and will also eliminate the tendency for the facings to bunch up and poke out of the armholes.

The fabric I chose for this make is a beautiful sandwashed rayon I found at Promenade Fabrics in NOLA, and I absolutely love the color and the texture, although it seems to behave more like a silk and soak up oils very easily, which means it just gets washed more frequently than most of my makes. Because this dress needs a surprising amount of fabric for the full skirt, I think that sticking to a light-to-midweight textile is smartest, otherwise it will get weighed down and feel too heavy (linen and silk would also be gorgeous in this pattern).

Other than my issues with the facings, this dress was incredibly simple and quick to make once I adjusted the sizing. I graded down all the pieces using the difference in measurements between the nested sizes, which was time consuming, but easy enough. The fit is snug at the bodice and neck but comfortable, which I think is why the design looks so dynamic- that ultra-fitted shoulder and neck area contrasted with the full skirt is just ACE. The back ties give you wiggle room to adjust the fit at the bust and also provide a pretty but simple detail to highlight the back of the dress.

I am super into this make, I think it’s beautiful and it’s so very easy to wear- I wore it in a short horror film that a friend and I made together over the summer and it really seemed to glow onscreen. I absolutely plan on making this dress again- a similarly casual version in linen would be beautiful but I also think a floor length version in silk would be pretty dynamic, too- somehow a floor length version of this design feels very 60s all of a sudden!

Thanks as always to Claire for these cute pics!

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!

Dawn Jeans, Zebra Shirt, Gold Heels

There are three separate makes in this post so this is gonna be a BLOOOONG one (I’m coining this term and I hope it really takes off lol).

First up are the Dawn jeans by Megan Nielsen, a pattern filling the holes of many jeans-loving sewists the world over. I must admit, when I first saw the release of this pattern I wasn’t super impressed, but I think it was because the styling of the jeans in the photos left a lot to be desired. The denim in some of the views looks pretty lightweight and of a questionable quality (that may not be true at all, just my perception) and the photoshoot in general just looked kind of bland. It was hard to pay attention to the style lines and design of the jeans when I couldn’t get past the fact that the overall look wasn’t very enticing. This is a skill I am still working on, ignoring the photos/illustrations on a pattern envelope and focusing on the line drawings on a pattern instead. Not every pattern designer has the same style as me, and that’s okay! Now that I have completed the jeans myself, I think it’s a pretty terrific pattern, despite how they were marketed by the photos. But it makes me wonder how many other patterns I have passed by because the styling/fabric choice/print/fit didn’t draw me in.

I’ve seen the Dawn jeans described as Mom jeans which is why I initially decided to give them a shot (I love a good Mom jean!), but I think they are a little more fitted and modern than my personal definition of the Mom jeans look. I made my own pair of mom jeans a few years ago by mashing the Closet Case Gingers (high waist skinny jeans made with stretch denim) with the Morgans (loose-fitting, low rise jeans made with non stretch denim) to great effect. The waist of my mash-up is high with a slightly loose fit in the thighs and calves, and they are made with a bleached woven denim. They bag out after a few hours of wear but are comfortable as all get out- I could probably wear those things to bed. The Dawns have a much tighter silhouette in the butt, hips and thighs and fit almost like skinny jeans but without the stretch factor, so they have to be very closely fitted to your body. I was really excited to make these after reading some reviews by other sewists who said they were drafted well and designed for a small waist to larger hip ratio. I wanted to see how they compared to Anna Allen’s Phillipa pants that took the sewing community by storm a little while after the Dawn jeans were released (I made and blogged about the Phillipa pants here– I really like them but they don’t give me the super fitted silhouette that I was hoping for, and they bag out in the butt pretty quickly which is a pet peeve of mine).

As for the instructions, I can attest that they were clear and concise- all of the Megan Nielsen patterns I have made have been easy to follow and understand, even for complicated techniques like zip flies, but, perhaps because I was unfamiliar with the details of her technique, I had a couple of mess-ups. The biggest mistake I made was adding a pocket stay to the design but forgetting to baste them to the fly openings before starting my zip fly construction. I didn’t have to deconstruct the entire fly to attach the stay but I did have to do a fair amount of seam ripping to make sure the pocket stay was solidly attached to either side of the zip. I elongated the zip fly about an inch but I could have lengthened it even more- it’s a bit better now that I am breaking the denim in and it’s softening up, but when I first wore them I had so much trouble getting the small waist over my big butt (as always, I graded up in the hips which makes it harder to pull them on) that I actually broke the zipper my third time wearing them!

(Full disclosure: I wore these to a photo/video shoot for LOGO celebrating LGBTQ artists and activists for this year’s Pride, and while in the dressing room, I got to meet some of the other people being photographed. Two gorgeous women I met went on and on and on about how amazing my jeans were and how great the fit was and when I told them I made them myself, they about lost their minds. They were so kind and complimentary and I was on cloud 9 because I knew and loved their work already and felt so special to have their attention! I excused myself to run to the bathroom real quick, but in the process of pulling my pants back up, I broke my zipper! I then had to come back into the dressing room to grab my stuff, surreptitiously trying to hide my open fly from the women after I had just bragged about how I made my jeans myself. Of course one of the women clocked the open fly and discreetly let me know I needed to zip up because she didn’t want me walking around with my crotch exposed, to which I thanked her and proceeded to pretend to zip my fly– which of course couldn’t actually close. I then placed my garment bag in front of my body to hide my crotch and I hightailed it the hell out of there so that my making skills wouldn’t be exposed as fraudulent! Hahahaha! The next day I took the jeans to my dry cleaners and had them replace the zip for me because I hate doing that myself and now they are as good as new!)

Okay, back to construction. I sewed my regular size but made sure to have them fit very tightly at the trying-on stage so that they would retain their shape after wear. There is a very fine line here of getting super-fitted woven jeans just right- of course if you make them too tight, they won’t give at all and will just cut into your stomach and feel uncomfortable whenever you wear them, but if you don’t make them tight enough, the woven fibers will loosen up after being stretched out from wear and body heat, and you won’t be able to enjoy a nice, close fit without having to wash them between each wear. I really wanted to make these jeans in a raw denim and not have to wash them over and over again (even my Phillipa pants could stand to be a little tighter) so I erred on the side of too tight, hoping and praying that they would mold to my body with very few washings. I honestly can’t tell how successful I was at this part- there are times when I put the jeans on and they feel so tight that I am worried I wont be able to sit inside of my car and drive comfortably, and other times when they slide on perfectly and feel just the right amount of snug but not uncomfortable at all. This is just how people’s bodies fluctuate from day-to-day and I’m not gonna stress about it because overall I really love how they look and feel, but I also could make a few changes to my next pair to help them feel like they fit more consistently.

Another mistake I made with these jeans was with the back yoke. I had intended to try out a swayback adjustment for the first time (I’ve never done this with jeans before) and I have a theory that it will help with the bunching up of my jeans. When I make high waisted jeans in a woven fabric, they have a tendency to bag out at the yoke right underneath the waistband as opposed to bagging out at the bottom of the butt or in the thighs. It’s hard to explain, but basically after wearing them for a while, a little fold forms underneath the waistband/ at the top of my butt and I think that taking out some of the length in this area will make the pants sit properly and lay over the curve of my waist without bunching, but I either forget to adjust the yoke pattern piece on each new pair of jeans I make, or I adjust them in the wrong way and get frustrated and then just use the regular yoke pattern piece as designed. One of these days I am gonna get it right, and I hope it’s with this pattern because I really want to make another pair in a railroad denim.

The denim I used for this pair is from Blackbird Fabrics, and it was lovely to work with. It’s rugged but not too heavy, strong but not so stiff it feels uncomfortable, and it’s got a subtle yellow-ish run of threads in it that gives it an antiqued look. I wanted to keep the wash as intact as possible so I opted to keep them relatively raw- before construction, I soaked the denim in a cold bath, let it hang dry, and I haven’t laundered them at all yet- I’m hoping I won’t have to for quite a long time. Only issue with this is that I decided to leave the leg hems raw, wanting regular wear and tear to shred the exposed fibers at the bottom, but that takes a long time when you aren’t washing, agitating and drying your garment. Oops! Hahaha, I know I could distress the hems in other ways but I don’t want to- I will let them age in their own time.

Another design element I added to this make was using the selvedge of the denim for the coin pockets and belt loops. I’m not normally an exposed denim fringe kind of person but I liked the coloring of the material so much that I wanted to show it off where I could. The effect is very subtle but I love it, and seeing the feathered edges on these jeans makes me smile every time I reach for them in my closet.

The last issue I had with these jeans that I would change for next time would be to adjust the curved waistband even more. I usually use my self drafted curved waistband when making any kind of non-elastic waist pants but decided to trust the waistband that came with this design instead. I should have compared it to my own drafted waistband as I ended up needing something with a deeper curve. I didn’t notice the issue when I fit them on at the basting stage, but once the garment had been fully constructed and I tried them back on, I realized they were gaping a lot at the waist in a way that was gonna drive me nuts. Instead of taking them apart I just unpicked my waistband and put a dart in the yoke and the waistband on either side of the center back seam (a seam I added so that I could easily let it out if I ever needed to have more room in them). I personally can’t stand darts in jeans but it’s the only way to salvage them sometimes, and they aren’t super visible so I will live!)

Overall, I would say that I prefer these jeans to the Phillipa pants in terms of fit, although both patterns are really terrific. The Phillipa pants are so unique because they don’t have a side seam and they are pretty quick to construct since they don’t have all the bells and whistles of a traditional jeans pattern (yoke, front pockets, miles and miles of top stitching, etc), but that also makes it more difficult to get a really close fit on a curvy body. The outer side seams are pretty much straight down the grain on the Phillipas, which is cool because you can show off selvedge denim with them, but to me, they don’t look as great on ny body that doesn’t also go straight down at the sides (I had to re-draft the side seams of my Phillipas when I made them because they kind of looked like clown pants on me at first). I’m including this little comparison because so many people wrote asking how I thought these patterns compared to one another since they had a similar silhouette- I’m team Dawn for this specific look, but I am sure I will make the Phillipas and of course the Persephones again!

Okay, onto my shirt now! It’s from a vintage Simplicity pattern (6531) that my friend Sean sent me from upstate NY. He works at a store that sells vintage/antique/secondhand items and he told me there was a big box of patterns that he wished I could rifle through if I lived closer. Instead, I told him my sizes and he went through the bins and chose everything that would fit me and that he determined was a good style (I don’t know if he normally pays attention to fashion or women’s clothing but he had great taste in vintage sewing patterns)! This one immediately stood out to me. I loved it’s 80’s feel and ease of wear, it looked comfortable and cool and it had some really lovely details that felt unique but not dated.

Image result for butterick 6531

I made up View C in a gorgeous zebra print silk from The Fabric Store and I love this marriage of fabric and pattern! The silk is lightweight like a voile but the colors are incredibly vibrant- I fell in love with it when The Fabric Store first carried it months ago but they ran out quickly. Luckily they got more in stock! The pattern was super easy to sew up although I somehow sewed the pleats down incorrectly (they are supposed to face the opposite directions on each side but by the time I noticed I had already sewn my French seams and didn’t want to risk fraying the raw edges in the process of re-sewing them). The end result looks like such a Dad shirt to me now, in a good way! Dad shirt + Mom jeans, what a pair! I love how the fit is loose but I don’t feel like it swallows me up. The drafting is pretty excellent for my frame, not too long or boxy, and again, the pleats at the shoulders offer enough detail that it feels like a notch up from a regular button down. It’s a really cool, dynamic looking shirt with this print, but I’m excited to make this in some neutrals, too- I already have plans to make the sleeveless one in a beautiful black and white striped linen in my stash from The Fabric Store.

Lastly, my shoes! These gold strappy shoes have been almost finished for months, but they sat gathering dust in my craft room after I realized I had made a mistake with them and I wasn’t sure how to correct it. When I took these shoes to get heel taps from my local shoe repair guy (his name is George, he is an Armenian immigrant, he’s sweet and funny and has been generously offering me lots of shoemaking tips, but if you follow my IG you know there was a whole thing that happened recently that kind of disrupted our relationship…), he showed me that I had miscalculated the height of my heel and that it was too tall for the last I used. I had not realized it, but the toe kick was non existent and the bottom of the shoe and bottom of the heel just didn’t match up. He told me the heels needed to be shorter but I wasn’t sure how to chop them off. For some reason I kept thinking that I needed to use a saw to fix them, and I just didn’t have one that could be used safely for this specific project (I have a jigsaw, mitre and circular). So they sat on the windowsill of my craft room for months until I was struck by a brilliant idea- I could just sand those heels down with my belt sander!

I had forgotten that these block heels were made of wood, not plastic with a steel bar inside of them (which would have made sanding with the sander impossible), and it took me all of like 5 minutes to shave about 3/8″ of the heel off. I took them back to George, he gave them his approval, and then he put the heel taps on them. Here is what he suggested I do for my shoes next time: he hates that I don’t sew my straps! He says that the heat from your foot can release the bond of the glue on the edges and the leather of the straps can come apart from the lining, so sewing the straps together is the smartest way to ensure a long life of the shoes. I sewed the side straps to the center piece of the upper but didn’t sew the individual straps together because I didn’t think I had a nylon thread color that looked great, but next time I will make that a priority.

These shoes are very comfortable and I love the way they look, although I realize I could have made the back strap tighter to the last during construction, and I am not crazy about the ankle strap design. I think they should come up higher on the ankle but honestly I was too lazy to keep figuring out the design by the time I put the straps on because it had already been months since I started making them and I just wanted them to be finished already! Laziness is not my favorite quality, but I consider it part of the learning process, hahaha!

Thanks as always to Claire who took these cute pics, thanks to The Fabric Store for the gorgeous textiles and the opportunity to share them with the sewing community, and thanks to George who has given me so much information about shoemaking in such a short period of time.

 

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!

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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!

A Rigel Bomber for Claire

I make Claire stuff all the time- hoodies, binders, approximately 326 pairs of Hudson pants- but not all of it gets catalogued here on my blog. Mostly because getting photos of myself in my makes seems to take forever, so trying to schedule an additional person feels downright preposterous. But every once in a while, I make Claire something so radical that it’s essential to catalogue here, and this Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns is a perfect example.

Rigel Bomber

Although I’ve pinned and pined over lots of photos of their patterns, this is the first one I have actually ever made. Hilariously it was gifted to Claire through me (since Claire doesn’t sew), because our friend thought it would be a good style match for her, and she was totally right- this bomber jacket has all the athletic/leisurewear essence of the clothing that Claire is generally drawn to, with a little bit of design flare included.

I have to be honest- I wasn’t a huge fan of this pattern, drafting-wise or construction-wise, but I am not turned off of it enough to not try out another of their patterns in the future, and I do like the outcome of this jacket! Let’s start with the fabric and notions choices, which are probably my favorite part of the whole project, but which definitely took the most time to collect. Last December when Claire and I went down to New Orleans to celebrate our friend Geri’s birthday, we made a stop at Promenade Fabrics because I had heard of what a special store it was. I guess they weren’t quite ready for our crew when we arrived- we were like, 10 people deep, and we barged in on the quiet store with a lot of conversation and squeals of delight (mostly coming from Claire). I got the distinct feeling that the people manning the store didn’t actually think we were going to buy anything. But we did! And this beautiful print is one of them!

Of course Claire is the one who picked this out- it’s got her personality all over it: bold, bright, and totally unique. We had already decided that I would make her the Rigel Bomber but it was taking forever to figure out what fabric she wanted- nothing online caught her interest but she also wasn’t sure what she was looking for. When we walked the aisles of Promenade, she kept asking ‘would this one work?….what about this one?’ and not finding the exact print-to-textile match necessary, but then she found this random little bolt off to the side that caught her eye. We pulled it out and it was stunning! A galaxy print with a bit of embossing on the fabric, lots of silver, gold, yellows and reds. The fabric was expensive but they only had one yard left and although I knew it wasn’t enough to complete the whole jacket, I felt confident that we could supplement the rest of it with something really cool.

Back at home with the pattern pieces cut out I determined that we could get the back and front bodice pieces from the galaxy print and we just needed a different fabric for the sleeves…but what?? I glanced in a corner of my craft room and saw a big box of leather that I had just purchased for a steal from the Brooklyn Shoe Space instagram account. Sticking out of it was a soft, pliable chocolate brown hide that matched the reddish, brownish hues in the galaxy print. “Ever considered leather?” I asked Claire, and her eyes widened.

Once we had the main fabric worked out, I forged ahead. I didn’t muslin (yeah, yeah, I know!) or make any big adjustments, but I did redraft the front neckline to be more rounded- as designed it slants into a V and pulls down kind of low at the front, which I just don’t like very much- I prefer the more classic neckline shape of a letterman’s jacket. Next I re-drafted the facing to match the curve of the neckline of the front bodice, and I liked the look much better, although I could have raised the neckline higher and rounded it out even more. Weirdly, I got pretty stumped by the welt pocket construction…well, not stumped, per se, but dissatisfied. I wasn’t impressed with the techniques they used but I didn’t realize how strange they were til I was already halfway through them and it was too late to change it up. I don’t remember everything I disliked about the method, but I do remember that it lacked a lot of key information, like which direction to press the pocket bags and facings, etc. Pressing properly throughout welt pocket construction is one of the things that makes this design feature look really tidy and professional, so omitting it was a big oversight to me (FYI I really like the technique used in Closet Case’s Sasha Trousers).

I also disliked the size and shape of the pocket- it’s not very deep or long and it was kind of frustrating to sew. Part of it is because the jacket is relatively short and narrow, but I still think it could have a lot more room in the pocket without compromising the design too much. Thankfully the unattractive pocket and welt can’t be seen on the inside of the jacket because I decided to underline it! A regular lining would have been nice but because I used a thick material (leather) for the sleeves, I didn’t want to bulk up that area even more, so I just underlined the back and front bodice pieces with some bright green quilted polyester by basting the lining and outer fabric together and then sewing it as one.

 

Claire had purchased a zipper and a length of binding on etsy once we found her main fabric, but I neglected to tell her not to purchase from any accounts shipping from overseas, since they can take months and months to get here and it’s not the most sustainable way to buy. Spoiler alert: we are still waiting on her zipper from China and it has been THREE MONTHS lol! I ended up having to hunt down ribbing locally once I got to that step in the instructions, and I also picked up a really cool zipper, but lo and behold, when I got back home to use them, they were all wrong. The “ribbing” I bought from Michael Levine’s was actually more of a thin, lightweight, ribbed stretch knit- it was incredibly flimsy when I basted it onto the neckline of the jacket, and the color was also not quite right- a little too bright and orange-y to pair well with the galaxy print. And then! The zipper I got was too long! Which normally wouldn’t matter, but because this is a separating zipper it needs to be exactly the right length for the jacket front.

I took to instagram asking my followers if anyone had any beefy, sturdy ribbing to suggest for me that I could buy online, and Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics wrote me with a link to the perfect ribbing that she carried in her shop. I bought two packages of waistband ribbing (I used the additional one for the neckband) and matching ribbed cuffs in a color that ended up being the absolute perfect compliment to the jacket- a deep purple-ish wine color that enhanced the purple in the galaxy print and was a nice pairing for the brown leather of the sleeves.


Next I looked on youtube for tutorials on how to shorten a separating zipper, and I found that I could remove some of the teeth with wire cutters and then cut the excess length, but I wasn’t sure how to close off the top of the zipper without an extra pair of zipper stops – apparently you can buy zipper repair kits at a local fabric store, but I wasn’t planning on leaving the house for the rest of the night so I was determined to figure it out with the tools I already had. Somehow, someway, I convinced myself that if I was careful, I could pull the stops off the orginal zipper with pliers and then close them back onto the zipper where I needed them to be, right below where I had cut off the teeth. It took a while and a lot of muscle, but I did it, and it was totally worth it- this zipper is just too cool to not be attached to this jacket.

Because I opted to use leather sleeves for this project, I had to be flexible with a lot of the construction methods- it would have been quick and easy to serge almost the whole jacket, but I can’t run leather through my serger, so I had to sew straight stitches with Nylon thread (which holds up better when sewing leather). I also had to try and reduce bulk in as many places as possible, sometimes skiving the leather down at intersecting seams, sometimes using my mallet to pound the seams flat or open. Using leather took a little bit more time but I adore the look is brings to the jacket.

Another design element I didn’t like so much was the facing, or rather the fact that the facing isn’t instructed to be tacked down inside the jacket around the zipper. On this jacket, the facing constantly wanted to fly open or get scrunched up inside the jacket when it was being put on, and tacking it down was easy since I underlined the outer shell, but on a single layer jacket, depending on the fabric, this might be a difficult thing to do.

This jacket was literally four months in the making but I am glad I kept working on it because it looks really freaking cool and it’s SO CLAIRE! I am hoping that the leather of the sleeves softens up more over time because as of now, even though the leather is soft and pliable, it’s still pretty thick and it needs to be broken in. If I made this again I would probably lengthen it a bit and round out that collar even more (and alter that pocket bag shape!), but I think it fits Claire well and is a beautiful collaborative effort on both our parts. Enjoy, Claire- I love you!

 

 

Plaid Shirtdress

(side note: I did a slight trim of my hair about a month ago to give it some more body around my face and I now that I am seeing these photos I took before the trim, I am already regretting losing the length I had in these pictures, lol- THERE IS NO WINNING WHEN IT COMES TO MY HAIR LENGTH!!!)

ANYWAYS. Back to the make.

I’m not sure what inspired me to make this dress- it wasn’t a pinterest image or someone walking down the street in an amazing ensemble that caught my eye. It was more a project of convenience- my stash fabric had grown considerably after The Fabric Store in LA closed down, and I was able to bring home lots of beautiful cuts of fabric and leather at deeply discounted prices as they cleared their inventory. A lot of pieces came home with me even though I didn’t have specific project ideas for what to do with the fabric, and this cotton plaid is one of them. I liked it because of the color palette, but the hand of the fabric is…interesting.

 

It’s not exactly rough, but it isn’t soft either. It kind of feels like paper, and it’s surprisingly lightweight considering how it looked on the roll. I assumed I would make a button down shirt from it, but when I pulled it out of my stash to find some inspiration, I realized I wanted something a bit different than a shirt- I didn’t really need another button down in my rotation. I knew I had just enough fabric to make a shirtdress using a pattern I had made before with this Velvet, Gold and Pussy Bowed make from last year, so I pulled out my pattern pieces and got to work.

For the velvet dress mentioned above, I had to make some adjustments to Vogue 8829  because the pattern calls for a woven and my velvet had stretch. I also made adjustments for all the extra ease that was included in the pattern, so on this make, I had to re-trace several pieces of the pattern as they were originally drafted to accommodate my woven plaid. There is a ridiculous amount of ease in the waist of this dress that was present even after I sized down and took in the side seams a bit, so I created a sort of box-pleat in the back of the bodice to size the dress down even more and I was able to adjust the skirt pieces accordingly.

Because this is a plaid fabric and I already had a limited amount of yardage to work with, there is a LOT of piecing together and pattern mis-matching at play here, but it’s nothing so glaringly awful to me that it makes the dress unwearable. The button bands and belt were pieced together from like, so many tiny remnants of fabric I had left after cutting out all the major pieces, but because it’s plaid and kind of busy, you can’t really see the details of it too much unless you look close, and looking close makes it seem a bit like an artistic choice!

Speaking of the belt, this was something I made for the dress of my own accord. Even after adjusting the back bodice piece and the side seams, the waist was still a bit looser than I would have liked, so I decided that adding a belt would not only help keep the waist nice and firm on me, but it would also give the dress a visual break at the waistline- the dress without a belt looks fine on my gold stretch version, but this one needed something to break up the flow a bit.

Instead of just creating a long fabric belt and belt loops, I decided to use a design element that I loved from my The $34 Dress and I sewed the middle of belt onto the dress at the back waistline to keep it in place. This means of course that I can’t wear any other belts with this dress, but I am 100% fine with that; I am not much of a belt (or accessories in general) kind of person and 9 times out of 10 I prefer to use a fabric belt made of the same material as my garment.

As a whole I am…fine with this dress, lol. I have worn it a few times now and it feels like a good staple to have in my closet, but I am still not crazy about the fabric. I love the print, but as mentioned before, something about the texture/hand of the fabric is a little off for me. I wish it was a little more supple and soft- something closer to a brushed cotton or a flannel (without the heavier weight) would be great. It works really well for a warm weather dress since the fabric is so breezy and lightweight, but the design and print visually seem more fitting for a fall/winter garment, so it seems to be crossing into different territories without landing firmly in either one. Regardless, I know I will continue to get good wear out of this dress, and I appreciate being introduced to this style of garment as a closet staple- now that I have a button down dress of this length and silhouette, I definitely want to add another, perhaps in a longer length and with a fuller skirt? We shall see what the new year brings!