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Madewell Inspired Jumpsuit

Heather Lou of ClosetCasePatterns posted a selfie a few months back wearing a version of the above jumpsuit that I immediately fell in love with (although I am realizing more and more lately that I sometimes might not be in love with a garment so much as in love with a garment on someone who looks amazing in it, if that makes any sense). Anyways, I did a little research and found the jumpsuit on Madewell’s website and decided that I could reasonably make it for myself with a bit of pattern hacking. Although Madewell is a really great clothing brand in terms of transparency with their customers and sustainability, I must admit that buying RTW does not provide even a fraction of the thrill for me that it once did. I much prefer making my own and figuring out ways that I can recreate a garment myself based on what I see online and in stores, and I am sure that much of this stems from the fact that I can GUARANTEE you that this jumpsuit would look awful on me right off the hanger.

I pinned images of the jumpsuit to my pinterest page and set out to find a sewing pattern that could easily accommodate the main style lines of the jumpsuit. In the midst of doing this research, my Dad was in town and we went to the mall to buy him some sneakers. I rarely go to malls nowadays so I had forgotten that there was a Madewell store there, and once we walked by it, I figured we could hop inside so I could see the jumpsuit in person and get a better understanding of the garment’s construction. The store was small and it didn’t take me long to see that the jumpsuit I was looking for was “so last season” lol and had now been replaced by late summer/early fall garments. We were about to walk out when a different jumpsuit caught my eye. It was a similar idea to the original one I was looking for, but, dare I say…even better suited to my tastes and body!

The waist was cinched with elastic at the back and drawstring ties at the front, the legs were wide and cropped (which is my favorite pants style right now), and it had nice big buttons on the front and top stitching all over. I didn’t bother trying the jumpsuit on because I didn’t want to base my make off of the fit of an existing garment (which would most likely have been ill-fitting)- I would rather start from scratch and just incorporate the design elements into a fresh look inspired by the RTW garment. I decide to use McCalls 7330 to base my make from, but it took a lot of adjusting and hacking to get it exactly how I wanted it.

This pattern comes in Small/Medium/Large and I graded from a small at bust and waist to a medium at the hips (but later end up taking the pattern in significantly at the waist and high hip so the grading out wasn’t necessary). Major hacks/changes to the pattern included:

  • adding width to the legs and cropping the length (I based the shape of the pants legs off my Persephone Pants)
  • using View F of the pattern with 2 piece collar and extending the length of the collar so that Iit could accommodate…
  • …an extended front button band (because I wanted my button band to be wide like the inspo jumpsuit)
  • reshaping the bodice front piece and adding a facing that extended from the bodice fronts down to the crotch (I based these design elements off of my Republique du Chiffon Domonique jumpsuit that I haven’t yet blogged about)
  • using the shape of the front pants pockets from View A but making them wider and longer to look more like the inspo jumpsuit
  • omitting the waistband, and adding that length back to the bodice and pants (which I ended up taking out, but more on that later)
  • adding a casing to the inside of the back waistband (to house the elastic) and the outside of the front waistbands (to house the drawstrings) on either side of the bodice opening
  • adding drawstrings for the front waist

Seems fairly simple now that I am writing it all out but everything felt much less straight-forward while I was making it. I made the majority of these changes to the bedsheet muslin I sewed up first, and once I was happy with how it was looking (or could look with a few more tweaks), I cut out my fashion fabric. Now a word about my fabric: I bought about a yard and a quarter quite a while ago while on a trip to Joann’s looking for twill fabric to make some more CCF Sasha trousers. A good stretch twill isn’t always something I stumble on when shopping at my main squeeze fabric stores so when I saw the pretty salmon color of this fabric I immediately put it in my cart. Of course when I saw the Madewell jumpsuit in a similarly colored fabric, I decided to take fabric inspo from it, but I didn’t have enough yardage.

I cut a little swatch of my already-washed twill from my stash and brought it with me to Joann’s, hoping I could find it again, and I did! I bought another yard of it, took it home and washed it. Then I pulled out my two separate yardages to start cutting and…the two pieces were from different dye lots. L O L, immediately followed by an EYEROLL. The difference between them was very subtle, Claire couldn’t see it all, but of COURSE I could. I decided to cut out the pants from one of the pieces of fabric and the top and sleeves from the other, so that at least the fabric would all look the same among the separate halves, and I cut the bodice pocket out of the pants fabric to try and pull it all together. Now that it’s complete, Claire says she still can’t see the color difference, meanwhile the garment looks practically color-blocked to me, haha.

 

The main changes I made to the garment all seemed to work really well, but perhaps because of the difference in textile from muslin to fashion fabric, there were still some issues. The salmon twill version was still too long in the torso, even though I had already chopped off about 2 inches from the pants and bodice. Thankfully my top and bottom pieces were still basted together at this point so I was able to take them apart and chop off even more from the bodice, but the completed version is still about 3/4″ too long for me, so if and when I make it again I will try and address that. The crotch also ended up being too long and sagging down in a weird way between my legs so I brought the bottom of the crotch up at least 1/2″ more, too. Honestly, the weight of this twill is a little heavier than I would like it to be (it’s also heavier than the inspo jumpsuit) and I am really looking forward to making this again in maybe a linen or cotton blend fabric that makes it a bit airier and lighter.

Another thing I am a little on the fence about is this collar, and I think it also has to do with the weight of my fabric- it feels and looks more like a jacket because it’s so thick and sticks out a bit from the body. The design of it is cute, but I think that for this fabric I should have made a one-piece fold down collar instead of the two-piece collar (the RTW jumpsuit is a one-piece). But in a lighter weight fabric, the collar would have looked just like a nice button up shirt collar and would have probably laid down much more neatly. As it stands, the collar looks a bit like it’s making a statement, and I’m not mad about it- although it’s not what I was initially going for, I do think it’s cute and very much in line with the grandma-chic vibes that the rest of the garment gives.

Overall, I am really happy with this make and impressed with how it came out- I have rubbed off RTW clothes before but never have I started from scratch with the design of a RTW garment and tried to turn an existing pattern into a replica of it. It was really fun, and I would definitely do it again!

 

Thankfully there is a pattern out in the world for pretty much everything you could possibly find in a storefront window, so that makes the job easier- and I know there are at least a couple of instagramming sewists out there who are dedicated to matching patterns with RTW garments (I keep forgetting their handles but I definitely need to follow them). Still, I felt like this was a very challenging project that I learned a lot from, and it has inspired me to keep testing the limits of my knowledge and learning more. And the BEST part? I just got asked to be a pattern tester for a new pattern that is practically the spitting image of the original yellow Madewell jumpsuit that I first took inspiration from. So it looks like I’m gonna be able to have my cake and eat it, too!

 

The $34 Dress

A couple of years ago Claire took me on a surprise weekend trip for our anniversary to a small town in southern California a few hours away from us in Los Angeles. The town was quaint and pretty- it had one main street running through town that was home to a few restaurants, a couple of bars, an ice cream shop, and a surprising number of antiques stores. Since it isn’t always safe for us to eat out (Claire has dietary restrictions and can get sick from cross contamination), we ended up spending much of our time in town visiting the thrift stores and antique shops, looking for nothing in particular. It was fun because, unlike LA where everything minutely vintage or mid-century mod gets a hefty price tag slapped on it to make money off the stylish Angelinos with disposable incomes, the items were mostly moderately priced. They still weren’t as cheap as they would be in, say, a vintage shop in Alabama, but they were reasonable!

Since we aren’t collectors of anything in particular, we decided to hone in on sewing supplies, asking each shop owner if they could point us in the direction of their buttons and needlework items, and we found tiny stashes of some pretty marvelous finds. I took photos of them at the time and I definitely shared them on instagram but I am too lazy to go back into my feed and hunt them down! At one point we came upon a vintage clothing store that looked very well curated and tidy, so we stepped inside and ended up spending an hour roaming it’s collection of clothing. We tried on stuff for fun, I ooohed and ahhhed over the collection of 80’s heels, and I rifled through all the accessories. We were about to leave when I commented on  the dress in the window that had caught my eye when we were walking into the store. I didn’t want to bother the salesperson to go through all the trouble of pulling the dress down, but Claire coached me through it (you wanna talk about an everyday cheerleader? Claire is IT)!

I went into the tiny bathroom that was also being used as a storage room and changing room and I slipped the dress on over my head. I could not BELIEVE how perfectly it fit me. There wasn’t even a mirror inside the bathroom but I could tell immediately by the way it felt that it must look glorious. I knew I was right by the look on Claire’s face as I walked out of the bathroom. “Oh my god, honey!”, she said. “WOW!”. The lady tending to the store said that tons of people had come into the shop just to try this dress on but it had never fit anyone before. When I got to a mirror, I marveled at my luck- vintage clothes don’t often fit me so well right off the hanger, but this looked like it was made for me. The tag on the dress said $34, and it was labeled as “30’s/40’s”.

I knew that it probably wasn’t a dress I would ever actually wear. It was made of what looked like a cotton and linen blend, and it had held up very well over the past 8 (!!!!!) decades, but the fabric was very worn in some places and stained in others. Amazingly, the entire thing was handmade- the seams inside were raw, but each seam had been edge stitched on the outside to reinforce it, so there were no holes or tears anywhere to be seen. I am really not a fan of wearing the color red and I also thought that the print, although beautiful, took away from the gorgeous pleats and draping of the design, so my immediate instinct was to buy the dress and then make a pattern out of it, using a fabric that suited my tastes better…and that is exactly what I ended up doing- a full 2 years later, lol!

Initially I considered trying to rub the pattern off without taking the actual garment apart, something I have done in the past with simpler designs, but there were too many details that I was afraid I would miss if I didn’t fully deconstruct the dress, and I also wanted to know more about how it was put together. There were certain techniques implemented that I had not seen before, like the side button closure used in lieu of a zipper (which I ended up not being able to do with my own remake of this dress, but more on that later).

Taking the seams apart was more painstaking than I anticipated because of the aforementioned edgestitching over almost every single seam of the garment, but I managed to get it done over a couple of episodes of something unmemorable on Netflix. Once I took apart all my pieces I ironed them flat and used chalk to try and mark all the foldlines of the pleats in the bodice, sleeves and skirt. The chalk didn’t hold up too well, but thankfully the decades-old fold lines were pretty embedded in the pattern pieces and I was able to still see them pretty easily. After ripping out all the seams, I was left with sleeves, a front collar, back collar and back neck facing, a bodice front cut into two pieces, a bodice back cut on the fold, button bands, two skirt fronts that I decided to cut on the fold, a skirt back, a belt, and the tiny bindings used for the side opening of the dress. I then placed each pattern piece over translucent paper and traced them, making sure to mark the stitch line and add 5/8″ seam allowance. This part was also painstaking because the stitch line and the edgestitch lines were hard to tell apart, so I guesstimated when necessary and tried to true all my paper pieces once I had them all plotted out (I didn’t do a very good job of this, but I did well enough that I am wearing a finished dress in these photos that isn’t falling off my body, lol).

Cutting this dress out from the narrow 2 yards of mint green raw silk I have had in my stash for over a year was very challenging. I was terrified that I wouldn’t have enough room for all the pieces but I forged ahead because I was so determined that this was the fabric that needed to be paired with this design (and I am very glad I was so headstrong because I think the end result is pretty stunning). Ultimately I had to puzzle piece everything together very carefully and shorten the sleeves by a couple of inches to make enough room for everything else, but I DID IT!

 

This dress came together fairly easily, and the most fun part was seeing the large, oddly shaped pattern pieces for the bodice accordion together to make the most beautiful pleated bodice I have ever sewn. Raw silk behaves very differently than the manageable cotton/linen that the original dress is made of, so of course the finished product also looks very different- they are almost like two different dresses. I love sewing with raw silk- it’s unlike anything I have ever worked with, but it doesn’t press super well and it has a lot of body and cushy-ness to it, so the pleats didn’t like to stay put as I was constructing the bodice and I had to reposition them a lot. I also learned that I prefer to make pleats based on ironing the folds down rather than based on pinning notches together, so it took me a lot of time to get everything just right since I was essentially creating the construction order as I went along. I realized that there is only one set of actual darts in this dress- everything else is a pleat folded into a triangular dart shape, which gives the dress a lot more ease and comfort, and is probably why I fell so in love with it when I first tried it on.

After finally getting the bodice pleats uniform and neat looking, I moved onto the button bands and realized that I should have constructed them differently than in the original dress, only because my fabric was so thick and made those seams a lot bulkier than they needed to be. I easily could have omitted the band and simply added length to the front center of the bodice and folded it in on itself, applying some interfacing to the inside piece. To make up for the bulk, I graded the seams to make them as flat as possible, and although it’s a bit thick there, it’s not visually noticeable.

The pleats on both the bodice and skirt are sewn down for several inches to ensure they hold their place and stay looking nice and neat, a technique I have applied to other garments in the past and appreciated seeing on this vintage item. After sewing the back skirt darts and front skirt pleats, I basted the bodice and skirt together and tried it on to see how it was looking, and it! was! GLORIOUSSSSS!!!!! I decided at this point to use a side zipper on my dress in place of the tiny snap band that the original dress was sewn with. I love how the the hidden snap closure looks on the red dress and it seemed relatively easy to replicate, but I could tell that my cush-y, ravel-y raw silk was going to be a huge pain when working with all these fiddly bits and I was worried I would not be able to get the bulky seams to lay very flat. Using a zipper allowed me to get away with just serging the raw edges instead of having to enclose them with binding, and I’m okay with that, although a future iteration of this dress might feature the cute snap enclosure.

I did decide to bring in the side seams a tiny bit more at the waist, and now that the dress is complete I realize I could have brought it in maybe even another one inch in total- I could stand for it to be a tiny bit more snug. Thankfully the attached belt kind of eases in that extra fabric around my waist without the dress seeming like it’s too big, and I can alter the pattern pieces a bit the next time I make this dress. I am SO glad that I ended up having enough fabric to squeeze out the belt! Of course I had to puzzle piece some of my scraps together to make it happen, but I did it! One of my favorite things in sewing is when I manage to use up almost my entire yardage with barely any scraps leftover. I always try and get the bare minimum of yardage required for a garment, which of course can bite me in the ass when I make a mistake or miscalculate how my pieces need to be laid out for max efficiency, but when it works out well and I have only a tiny handful of pieces to throw into the fabric recycling bin? There is nothing better!

Now that I am finished, I am super impressed with how this dress came out, and I am glad to be reminded at how fun and rewarding deconstructed pattern making can be. With the difference between my fabric choice and the original garment, this dress could have easily come out ill-fitting or missing that special something that attracted me to the dress in the first place, but I love everything about it- how it looks, how it feels on, and how it feels in the thicker, softer fabric. One thing I really like about this dress is how it works so well with a slip underneath it. I don’t wear slips very often because they are often not a necessity for the garments I make, but this mint raw silk likes to get a little clingy to skin and undergarments, so having a simple, slippery garment underneath it makes it flow right over my body and lay perfectly. Which puts it even more firmly in the “vintage” category since I equate so much of women’s vintage wear with beautiful slips, undergarments and stockings.

I will most definitely be making this dress again- I can see it in a slippery charmeuse or a satin, or this rust colored crepe I bought several yards of right before the LA location of The Fabric Store closed, and I think it would be really cool to cinch the waist in even more so that it doesn’t need the belt and to make it tea or floor length. So glamorous! In all my years of sewing I have never once wanted to start a business within the realms of the hobby, but making this dress was the first time I considered it, albeit briefly- I love the idea of finding beloved, well-designed vintage garments, deconstructing them to create a pattern, and then grading and selling the design to make it available to sewists the world over. Not that it’s something I could or would actually do – making patterns is a LOT of work (bless all you indie designers out there who are making it look so easy), and things get a little tricky when working with the intellectual property of others when you can’t get their permission/attribute work to them because the information is missing or unavailable), but it still feels nice to be inspired in such a new way with this old hobby of mine!

 

 

 

 

A Pinterest-Worthy Sundress in Striped Linen

When I shared this inspiration photo from Pinterest on my instagram account, lots of people commented that they had the exact same pin saved on their board, but the funny thing is that it was one of those recommended pins they stick on your page that doesn’t come from anyone that you actually follow.

This is a pin I had saved even earlier of a similarly designed dress:

For some reason Pinterest was peddling this dress hardcore to it’s users who found inspiration in light and airy women’s garments, but I couldn’t blame them. Look at this thing! The design of the dress itself is pretty plain- just a sleeveless fitted short bodice with a gathered skirt attached- but the brilliant use of the stripes added so much dimension and visual interest to the garment that it was hard to ignore. I love it when simple designs are paired with dynamic prints- it makes it look like much more work went into it than it did. Although I was reminded in the making of my own replica of this dress that matching stripes, though not as intense as matching plaid, does indeed require a considerable amount of work and attention, attention that I was unfortunately lacking at the time, but more on that later.

I saw this striped linen at The Fabric Store in LA several months ago and grabbed the bolt straight away- sometimes stripes can look kind of boring to me, so this print with it’s different sizes of stripes was much more my speed, plus the color combination was so killer! Those washed-out subtle hues with just a pop of color in that lime green really spoke to me- they instantly reminded me of summer, and I knew right away that I wanted to try and emulate one of these pinterest pins that I had saved on my board so long ago. I did not have a pattern in mind for this design, but I didn’t feel too worried about that. I figured it wouldn’t be too much trouble to draft/hack something I had in my pattern arsenal already- again, nothing was particularly dynamic about the garment- so as long as I had a comparable bodice piece somewhere, I could stick a gathered skirt and panel piece to the bottom and call it a day. But after I shared that instagram post with the inspiration dress, I got a couple suggestions for McCalls 7774 (thanks, Carlos!), which turned out to be the spitting image of the pinterest dress, meaning much less work for me!

 

This was an incredibly easy and quick dress to put together except for matching the stripes, and my biggest mistake was starting this dress when I had a friend over who was working on her own project. I get side tracked too easily when talking and laughing and having fun and I should have known better than to start this dress, which required quite a bit more attention than a non-directional fabric would have. Ah well, you live and you learn! I did a decent job matching up the stripes for the front bodice, which I cut out into two pieces instead of on the fold to accommodate the V, but I didn’t even consider paying extra attention to the darts on the bodice so that they would line up perfectly on either side, and as a result…they don’t! Ha! But it actually took me a couple wears to even notice that, so it must not be too obvious (and if it is, I don’t care, cause I love this dress, warts and all). Noted, diagonal bodice with darts, noted.

The only structural changes I made to the pattern pieces were to add an extra tiny dart at the bust since the armholes were gaping out just a tiny bit and to take out about 1/2″ of vertical ease in the front and back bodice pieces, since Big 4’s bodices tend to be pretty large on me. The fit is terrific now, and I love that it looks fitted onto my torso but feels very loose and relaxed- this comes from having a waistband that is a couple inches higher than my waist, so it doesn’t cut into my stomach, and I use the adjustments for that Vogue culottes pattern I make all the time- I shortened the bodice so that it rises higher on my abdomen. The armholes are wide but not so much that my bra peaks out and it gives me a lot of range of movement. The bodice is fully lined but not with self fabric (I used a solid colored linen fabric on the inside that was covered in dye spots after I washed it with another cut of fabric- DON’T YOU JUST HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS?!) and it closes in the back with a zipper, which is where my stripes look less impressive than in the front. I took that zipper out like 4 times to try and get it perfectly lined up, but in the end I lost steam and decided it was close enough.

This pattern was actually a little disappointing in that it shows a dress on the envelope package with the same design as my pinterest pin (diagonal stripes in the bodice, vertical stripes in the skirt and horizontal stripes in the panel of fabric at the very bottom) yet it doesn’t include specific instructions for creating that exact dress. For example, the bodice has two grainlines you can follow, either the one that is straight across or the one on the bias, which you would use for the diagonal look. But in the instructions there was no reminder to not cut on the fold or to add seam allowance if you were creating the latter garment. In my hanging-out-with-a-friend-haze, I recognized this on some level and made sure to cut my bodice pieces out properly, but I didn’t pay attention to the bottom panel piece with the stripes that run horizontally. The pattern piece has you lay it out and cut it on the fold, meaning that the print will run in the same direction as the skirt piece, but that is not what I wanted- I wanted the stripes on my bottom panel piece to run crosswise, opposite the stripes of the skirt of the dress. Of course, by the time I realized this, it was too late- my panel pieces were already cut the wrong way! I was so frustrated with myself. That horizontal panel at the bottom just MADE the whole dress for me, and of course I didn’t have extra fabric to work with because I generally get the bare minimum of yardage so that very little goes to waste! Sigh.

To remedy this issue, I had to piece together cuts of fabric running horizontally, which means that the panel doesn’t have the same run of stripes all the way around the dress. But I managed to get the front panel pieces running in the same direction at center front, which keeps it looking generally cohesive from head on. I have gotten tons of compliments on this dress so it doesn’t look like my not-quite-perfectly lines up bodice diagonals or bottom panel stripes are taking anything away from the general look of this dress.

I have worn this dress SO much this summer! It is so easy to throw on because it’s made of linen and therefore it’s comfortable to wear during our awfully dry southern california heat, but it also looks really stylish because of the gorgeous color combination of the stripes and the three different ways the stripes are put together: STRIPE PLAY!

I have been playing around a lot with stripes lately, which has made me appreciate this classic print in new ways! A couple months after making this awesome dress I saw that Blackbird Fabrics was carrying this really pretty striped linen that I immediately wanted to make up into another, more casual Kalle shirtdress (my first Kalle shirtdress is in silk, which I love, but is definitely more dressed up than casual), and it also came out pretty great.

I cut out one front with the stripes traveling on one grainline and the other front on the opposite grainline, then I cut the back and back yoke out on the same grainline as the left front, then I cut one pocket to match the front it’s attached to and the other pocket on the diagonal. There was no method to my stripe direction madness, I just went with my instinct, and I absolutely love how it turned out. Such a simple dress and a simple fabric made more dynamic by playing around with the layout. At this point I don’t know if I am ever going to be able to cut out stripes all in one direction again!

Striped Wrap Jumpsuit

This project is brought to you by a domino-effect of inspiration via instagram (which is my FAVORITE kind)! I initially saw Katie’s (of What Katie Sews) absolutely fantastic wrap jumpsuit that she posted about on her blog here and fell in love. I love the shape! I love the fabric! I love the design! Wrap jumpsuits aren’t really a big thing right now, but they should be- I have been on a jumpsuit kick the past couple of months that is unreal (you’ll see the fruits of that obsession here on the blog soon), so every time I see a new version of one I get super excited. I have never before seen a design quite like Katie’s jumpsuit, though, and according to her blog post she got her idea from a garment made by Threadsnips.

Catherine sewed up a very cool vintage jumpsuit pattern that wrapped around the waist with ties and suggested that other sewist’s could recreate this design fairly easily by using a simple jumpsuit pattern and altering a couple of the lines of the pattern pieces, which is what Katie did to great success. Katie used a Butterick pattern she had in her stash for adapting hers, but I didn’t have anything in my arsenal that would work well for this hack so I took Catherine’s advice and just used the free In the Folds jumpsuit pattern from Peppermint Magazine. I am not gonna meticulously share all the details of what I did to adjust the pattern since both Katie and Catherine did the hard work of it already, WITH pictures (bless y’all!), so check out their blog posts to get the very simple details of exactly how to hack the pattern.

I will share the general details of what I did though! First I adjusted the shoulder seam of the jumpsuit pattern because I knew I wanted a kimono sleeve and not sleeveless, as the In the Folds jumpsuit is drafted. I basically moved the width of the dart of the front of the jumpsuit to change the angle of the shoulder seam so that it was raised higher, and I added several inches to the length of the seam to make it jut out from my arm. I drew in the pattern line for the rest of the sleeve (I basically just mimicked the line of Katie’s Butterick jumpsuit sleeve) and connected it to the side seam of the body of the jumpsuit, copying the same lines for the back piece. I adjusted the side seams of the jumpsuit pattern to make it a little closer fitting since some of the images I saw of the pattern in a google search seemed like it had an awful lot of ease in the waist and hip area.

After sewing up a muslin in some old bedsheets and improperly adjusting the length (I overestimated how much shorter the jumpsuit should be in the bodice and ended up making it WAY too short, so I added all but about a quarter inch of the length back when I moved on to my fashion fabric), I used a gorgeous cut of linen from The Fabric Store for my wearable garment. I have been SO into stripes lately (particularly stripe play!) and thankfully TFS has stocked a ton of really beautiful pieces to choose from. Plus, Los Angeles weather means I can get away with wearing this wonderfully breezy fabric for quite a while longer.

Initially I wanted to play around with the direction of the stripes (like one half of the jumpsuit in horizontal and the other in vertical), but my yardage wasn’t quite wide enough to accomodate proper pattern placement, so I stuck with the vertical stripes all the way around the garment and I’m actually really happy it turned out this way. The stripes of this yardage are already pretty dynamic, so adding even more drama to it might have put it into clown territory? I mean, I still love the idea of the directional stripes for a jumpsuit like this, but maybe if the stripes are all one color/size/pattern it will have a more subdued overall look. I’m sure my original vision is still somewhere in my future!

Anyways, after I sewed up my linen, I drafted facings for 1. the front neckline all the way down through the added triangular piece of the wrap to the crotch seam, 2. the back neckline, and 3. the sleeves. My original plan was to just use bias binding for the edges but I didn’t have very much striped fabric leftover and I also realized I should have something a bit more stable for the neckline since it is such a long seam line (also, after sewing this garment up, I know that for next time I need to STAY STITCH THOSE FRONT NECKLINE EDGES, because that fabric stretched waaaay out in the process of sewing everything else up). I used some white scrap linen I had for the facings and I interfaced them all, sliding the ends of the ties between the fabric and facing on each triangular edge before edgestitching them closed.

After drafting and sewing up the facings, the actual construction of the garment was SO FAST AND EASY. I left a hole opposite the edge of one side of my wrap for the waist tie to get pulled through, under stitched all my facings, I edgestitched the wrap onto the opposite pant leg a few inches past the crotch line to keep it closed. Since the front opens up to a wrap style, the back zipper is unnecessary, but it also means that the front wrap wants to splay open a bit, so I added a snap at front center to keep the wrap closed and I also added some bra strap snaps at the shoulder seams- I think there is a more technical term for this, but basically I created a loop inside the garment for the bra straps to be hooked onto which helps keep the shoulder seams in place.

I am CRAZY about this jumpsuit: it’s comfortable, summery, fun, and I have never seen anything quite like it in a store before. I am dying to make it in a solid, slightly more supple fabric for the fall- maybe like a crepe rayon or even a printed satin-y silk. I might try to add some pockets to my next one, and I might also try and adjust the angle of the neckline so the garment won’t want to fall open as much (hopefully negating the need for the bra strap snaps!). And longer waist ties for more drama! But all in all, this make was exceptionally quick and satisfying to make, and it’s technically not summer anymore but I should be able to get a few good wears out of this before the weather gets too cool. I am so very thankful for other sewists sharing their hacks, tips and makes with the community, (thanks, Katie and Catherine!) and thankful to Claire for taking these bright, pretty pictures!

(outtake)

Molyneux for Vogue

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmpE1HvAoz0/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I got this Molyneux for Vogue Paris Originals pattern for myself a couple years ago when I went on a vintage pattern rampage on etsy. I was drawn to the strappy back of this dress, but I think I was even more drawn to the illustration on the front which makes the dress look a little like a jumpsuit. It was an unconscious connection I think, but truth be told, I wasn’t all that inspired by the dress as-is, I was inspired by the idea of what the dress could be.

 

I recently went on a little purge of my pattern file cabinet and got rid of a few handfuls of patterns- mostly printed Colette designs from my first couple years of sewing, before I knew that their block was so ill-fitting on my body, a few Big 4 patterns that I made and absolutely hated (who can ever forget THIS mess of a dress?) and some vintage patterns that either weren’t in my size or just not to my taste. I get gifted lots of vintage patterns by people who don’t sew, which is AWESOME, but they aren’t always my style and I am just coming to the realization now that I don’t have to keep them just because they were given with love. Coincidentally this realization has happened right as I await a big box of patterns sent to me by an incredibly generous instagrammer who has amassed a collection of vintage patterns in my size- she bought them over the years because she loves the illustrations, and decided she would rather hand them off to someone who can actually make and wear them. I AM VERY LUCKY! But of course I also needed to make room for them! Anyways, as I was rifling through my stash, I came across this Molyneux beauty and felt re-inspired to put it in my queue. Aside from the misleading illustration that makes the design look like a jumpsuit, I noticed that I was also drawn to the crosshatch marks the illustrator used to create a vague print design on the fabric. It looks a little like plaid, or maybe just a textural tweed, and suddenly I couldn’t imagine trying to make this pattern in anything else.

As I attempt to ride out the rest of the year without buying any more fabric (not too difficult a task after having purchased so many cuts in preparation for The Fabric Store in LA closing its’ doors this summer), I am making good use of my stash and only choosing patterns for my queue that can be paired with what I already have…and it just so happens that I had a scant 2 yards of this gorgeous dark blue plaid that would make a great replica of the illustration on this Vogue envelope. The plaid, which reminds me of graph paper, seems to be a cotton blend of sorts. Initially I thought it was just a plain cotton but once I cut into it I noticed those tiny, nearly invisible threads clinging to my rotary cutter, so I thought it had a little polyester in it. Now that I have worn this jumpsuit around and I see that it barely wrinkles at all, I’m positive that’s the fibre content. I generally stay away from polyester fibers because they aren’t a very environmentally friendly material and polyester also tends to make me sweat like a mother, but since my armpits aren’t covered by the fabric, they are able to easily breathe,, and I sure do appreciate being able to sit down for a long while and stand back up without hundreds of pleats and folds criss-crossing my lap (I also like to use cotton/poly/spandex blends for stretch denim).

Because I didn’t have much fabric to play around with, I wasn’t able to do any amazing pattern matching with this plaid, but thankfully it’s not super obvious because the plaid is actually pretty plain. The design of the original Molyneux garment is very simple: one long dress front cut on the fold, two back dress pieces, some facings, and the tie. I decided to chop the dress pattern pieces off at the waist (adding in seam allowance) to make the bodice and then use the Jenny Overalls and Trousers pattern by Closet Case for the bottoms. Closet Case is my go-to pattern company for pants that fit well and need only minor adjustments for my shape (if any), and although I hadn’t made this pattern yet for myself, I felt confident that they would work well.

I omitted the side zipper on the pants to match up with the back zipper required for the bodice, and I used the view of the Jenny pants with pockets. I also added about an inch of length to the front and back pieces of the pants to make it work with the hack. The Jenny pants design is drafted with a waistband,  but since I wasn’t using one, I needed to make sure the waistline of the pants was high enough to accommodate that missing pattern piece. After grading between sizes at the waist and hip, the pants fit pretty much right off the bat with just a tiny bit of adjusting at the waist, so next I went to work on my bodice.

I didn’t make a muslin for the bodice because I like to live on the edge, and I almost played myself! After constructing the entire bodice, facings and all, I excitedly tried it on and was disappointed to see that the bust area was HUGE on me. It sagged out so much at the side seams around the collarbones that you could see clear through from one side of the garment to the other, haha! The fix for this was easy, I just needed to add a bust dart dart to pull in that extra fabric, but that meant I had to undo the facings on the top side seams, cut them shorter, and then re-attach them to the underarm facings. It dragged out the construction, taking way longer than it needed to, but I am of course happy that I took the time to fix that area- without the added darts, the whole bodice would have looked sloppy and ill fitting. The construction of the facings and tie/straps were a little…strange. Vintage patterns are known to have strange instructions, but some of the technical tools and materials that were available back then are really outdated now, so I got thrown off a few times. Specifically the area where the strap/tie connects to the neckline of the bodice is bizarre, and the instructions require you to attach a strip of “binding” (I think that’s what they called it?) to the neckline over the gathered seam stitching before sewing the strap on. The strap opens up to encase the raw edge of the seam when it’s sewn onto the neckline, so I’m not sure why there needed to be an extra piece of fabric sewn there- maybe just to keep that area stable? Either way, it’s weird to follow instructions when you aren’t sure what you’re following them for, but I did it and it looks fine.

Instead of sewing darts onto the front piece of the bodice, I took inspiration from my $34 dress and just used pleats. I figured they would visually flow better with the gathered neckline, be more comfortable, and also give me a little room to play with in case I needed to adjust the waistline of the bodice once I sewed everything up to try it on. I was correct on all counts! This bodice makes me look kind of busty since it’s so full, but I’m in to it, and the pleats at the waistline are a lovely match for the neckline. Amazingly the back bodice pieces fit almost perfectly with the length of the back pants pieces, so all I had to do was mark where my zipper should go and sew it up.

Despite skipping a muslin and hacking two patterns together that I had never even made for myself before, this jumpsuit came together really quickly- it was completed in less than two days. I absolutely love the fit- it feels casual with the airy bodice paired with the wide cropped legs, but it also looks really chic and put together, and it seems like a pretty great transitional piece to move from summer (which doesn’t end here in LA any time soon) to fall. I think this piece will look really cute with a jean jacket or long coatigan and some booties. As I discussed in a previous post, I have found myself shying away from florals and bright colors lately and leaning towards a slightly conservative, neutral palette in shades I love (pastels) or interesting but subtle prints, like this cool plaid. When I bought this fabric I planned on making an Archer for the cooler months- nothing very exciting or new, but I just liked the print so much that I had to get it and couldn’t think of anything more interesting to pair it with. I love that I pushed myself a bit out of my comfort zone and went with a design that is totally unexpected for this print- less fear, more try!

Perspephone Pants

When I first saw the Persephone Pants by Anna Allen making the rounds on instagram and the blog world, I assumed they were a part of a bandwagon that I needed to stay off of. I had learned my lesson with the Terra Pants earlier this year, a slouchy, drop-crotched tailored pants pattern that people were head over heels for, but that looked absolutely HORRIBLE on me when I made them up. Construction-wise they were beautiful and the process was really fun, but they just didn’t hit any part of my body in the way they were supposed to. Not everything is made for everybody, and that’s an important lesson to learn. But another important lesson? Just because you think they aren’t for you doesn’t mean that they won’t be- sometimes it’s just a crapshoot and you have to take the risk!

I’m really really really glad that I decided to give the Persephone Pants a try because on paper they were not going to be an ideal match for me. The silhouette looked cool on the models in the photos for the pattern but I was afraid they were going to completely engulf my small frame with the width of those legs paired with the ankle length crop. But what seemed even more problematic for me was the the design element that had made them so popular- they don’t have side seams! The pants are only connected at the inseam and the crotch, which gives the pants a very streamlined, funky look, but for someone like me who has a 2 size difference between waist and hips, I rely heavily on side seams to get a good fit around my hips and thighs, so the absence of them seemed like it was just going to create a massive headache and an unwearable garment, much like those beautiful Terra Pants.

But then I saw lady Katie of WhatKatieSews rocking them on IG and talking them up big time. I recalled that she usually had to grade patterns for a size difference between her waist and hips and I asked her how she was able to accommodate her figure without use of the side seams. She responded that because there are back waist darts, she was able to modify them to nip in more where she needed them to and the alteration was easy and successful. Hmmm…intriguing! But dare I rely on one sole person who happens to look amazing in them? Everyone looked amazing in the Terra Pants, too….everyone except me!

And then I came across a blog post written by a Very Purple Person. She too looked amazing in her Persephones, but she also shared her measurements (something I have only recently realized can be incredibly helpful information to share in blog posts!) which were the same as mine, and this was the last nudge I needed. If her hips and waist could accommodate the darts and lack of side seams then I imagined I would fare just as well as she did, and thankfully I was right, because I really love these pants!

First I made them in a mid-to-heavy weight denim that I found at Joann’s when on a run for notions. I rarely fabric shop at Joann’s because the quality of the bolts can be all over the place- don’t get me wrong, they have some great finds on their shelves, but I have always had to hunt really hard for them, and with a (now sadly, defunct) The Fabric Store nearby, my time was always better spent in a curated shop. Anyways, I just so happened to run into Mimi G on this day that I made a run to my local Joann’s, and she had found the prettiest pineapple-print rayon that she was going to make into a shirt dress, so I felt inspired to spend a little time roaming the aisles to find something good for my project. To be fair, their selection of denim and twill is always pretty decent, because those seem to be good workhorse fabrics that everyone likes to sew with. I really like the blue color of this 100% cotton denim, which was slightly bleached-looking and gave me serious 80’s vibes as soon as I saw it.

The denim was great to sew with and the construction was mostly straightforward til I got to the button fly insertion. Now I had read on several blog posts that these instructions were particularly clear and concise and that people who had trouble inserting button-flies on other projects got through this with a breeze. I myself had done a few successful button flies and tons of zipper flies at this point so I had no doubt that I would fly (ba-dum-ching) through this part. Imagine my surprise when I simply could not make the pieces lay down right and get my topstitching to look clean at all. I took the damn thing out three times but still! I could not get it right!

The only major difference I could tell from making this fly and the countless others in my arsenal was that I usually sew the crotch seam of the front pieces together in the first step- I baste the fly extensions together til the bottom of the extension shape, where they curve and meet the crotch seam, then I change to a regular stitch to sew the remainder of the seam, and then I sew in my zipper. But if I remember these steps correctly (since I made these a few months ago), the Persephone pants instruct you to complete the whole zip insertion before sewing the two front pattern pieces together at the crotch. In doing that it was really difficult for me to get my sewing needle all the way up to the point where the fly extension ends and becomes the crotch seam, because the button fly and extension pieces were so bulky. So there was always a tiny little gap right beneath it that would look even more obvious once I tried to topstitch over it. After two unsuccessful tries, the only way I could make it look right was to take the whole thing out, sew the bottom part of the seam first as I usually do, and then re-insert the zipper.

I have seen several people’s finished Persephones and they all look amazing, including their button flies, and I only saw one other person comment on my IG about having a lot of difficulty with this part of the instructions, so I am going to chalk my issue up to either user error or ultra bulky fabric, but it still seems worth mentioning here in my blog post. And after all that, I have actually decided that I DON’T LIKE the button fly at all! It looks great as a design choice, but as far as wearing them (and this might also be due to my fairly thick denim), after a couple of hours of movement, the fly gets a lot of creases and folds and the whole crotch area starts to look bulky and a bit sloppy. I never even considered changing out the jeans buttons for regular flat buttons as another brilliant blogger on instagram did, which keeps the whole area looking a bit flatter, but even so, I decided to make my second pair of these (the yellow denim) using a zip fly with my preferred method of insertion.

I also lengthened the fly, since I need more room to get these hips into such a small waistband, used my curved waistband, and added some pockets to the back, which I think worked out very well. The curved waistband didn’t change the fit at all since the pants sit so high and I don’t really curve like that around my abdomen, but I will keep all the other changes I made for future pairs. The fabric for these is the goldenrod Cone Mills denim that Threadbare Fabrics has been carrying in her shop, and once it arrived in the mail, I decided to use the wrong side of the denim on a whim. The goldenrod is beautiful and vibrant, but I liked the pastel hue of the “wrong” side a lot, and I am so pleased with my decision! One weird thing that happened during construction of my golden pair was that I cut out the cropped length of these pants as opposed to the regular length (which is how I cut out my first pair- what the heck happened?!) and I didn’t realize it until it was too late. Unfortunately the shorter length was NOT okay on me, so I had to cut out a cuff to make up for the lost length, and lop it onto the bottom of the legs. I was afraid that it would look really obvious and be distracting, but holy cow you can’t even see it in these pictures, and even close up it looks like a subtle design choice.

Fly preference and construction aside, these pants for me were a relatively quick make, and I am still amazed at how easy it was to fit a pair of pants on this booty without any side seams while still getting a smooth and sleek silhouette. I love the pocket construction in the front- I can’t fit much more than a tube of chapstick and some dollar bills in there but I love that they are hidden and don’t interrupt the lines of the garment while still offering at least something in the ways of clothing storage, haha. A lot of sewists compare this pattern to the Landers by True Bias (made here) which are also a really fantastic wide legged silhouette with a more traditional design, namely side seams and back pockets. Although they are super similar, I think I like the Persephones a little more- the waist comes up a bit higher on me which I always love, but the shape of the leg is different- the Landers have the tiniest hint of a flare at the bottom of the leg but the Perspehones go straight down from the thigh to the ankle, and I personally think that’s a bit more flattering on my short body.

My blue pair is really comfortable but gets a little saggy after a couple of wears and my yellow pair fits much more snugly but can cut a bit into my belly if I am sitting in a weird position (i.e. slumped, which is my fav stance, lol). Maybe my third pair will be the perfect balance between the two? Fingers crossed! Oh, and before I forget- the pink mules paired with the blue denim are me-made as are the orange and brown sandals with the yellow pair of persephones, and the blue FLINT t-shirt is RTW while the cropped white shirt is my first Kalle!

PS Just realized that after all that talk about how nice it is to know someone’s measurements accompanied with their makes, I forgot to mention mine, lol. Waist is 26.5 and hips are 37!

Culottes Jumpsuit Hack in Bathing Beauties

Although I love a good print, I’m not much for novelty fabrics for garment sewing- they can be so loud and make things look so twee, which is not necessarily bad, but I find it a little hard to balance out the aesthetics of a cutesy pattern in a cutesy print within my wardrobe. And on top of that, lately I have felt a pretty big shift in my fabric tastes, going from floral, colorful, eye-catching pieces of fabric to a more classic monochromatic palette (pastels, neutrals, stripes). That said, sometimes you come across a novelty print that just speaks to your soul on a deep level and you have to pass Go, collect $200, and buy the damn yardage without asking questions.

It happened to me a couple of years ago with that Zombie Pin-Ups print that Alexander Henry came out with (still haven’t used it!), and it happened again recently with this Bathing Beauties cotton. Curvy, stylish women of all colors and hairstyles confidently donning bikinis and having the time of their life? This is the representation I like seeing in fun novelty fabric! The only thing to make this print better would be for some of the beauties to have wheelchairs and underarm hair! The print comes in at least a few different colors, one being a purple pastel that I was really drawn to, but, as Claire pointed out, you couldn’t tell that some of the beauties were various shades of black and brown when the whole print was washed in a pastel color, so I went with this perhaps slightly less exciting color story to make room for my principles, LOL! It’s a strange color palette to me, this brown, yellow and blue, perhaps because there seem to be too many primary colors fighting for attention- like, if they kept all the various shades of skin colors in tact but limited the other colors (bathing suits, hair) to a smaller, more refined palette, it might be more within my preference? No matter. Even with the strange color choices, I am pretty in love with this bold fabric and I am very happy with how this garment came out!

Initially I was going to make a super cute fit n flare dress (see? cutesy pattern and cutesy print! So easy for me to fall into this trap!) but I realized that I would only wear a dress such as this when I was getting dolled up for a moderately special occasion and I already knew I wanted this fabric to be a bigger part of my summer than a party dress would allow. So my next choice was to make something still cute looking but more casual, and I quickly decided on another version of McCalls 7774 which I completed a few months ago (it will be up on the blog soon). It’s my absolute favorite summer dress right now because it’s so breezy and easy to wear when it’s hot out, and I would love to have more of that silhouette in my closet.

But then I glimpsed a different garment in my wardrobe that has been one of my favorite pieces to wear for nearly 4 years, Vogue 9025, a culottes jumpsuit with dress variation, and I thought this would be the perfect thing to hack with the bodice from the McCalls dress. I love culottes jumpsuits because they look like a dress but allow a bit more freedom of movement and a very unexpected surprise factor when I decide to randomly do the splits (my splits ain’t what they used to be but I can still get that front leg straight)! Although I love both versions of the Vogue jumpsuit I have made, the princess seamed bodice was a bit finicky on me depending on what fabric the garment was made out of and I liked the simplicity and straightforward details of the McCalls bodice. My Vogue jumpsuits are heavily altered, with the waistline raised several inches and the pants lengthened to make up the difference (more details in this post). I also added more width to the front pants so that they have a more relaxed fit around my midsection than the close fit they were drafted for. This makes for a much looser garment all around, and I am in love with it. It’s one of the most comfortable things in my closet!

As for the McCalls dress, I took out about 1/2″ of width at the center front of bodice as I did for the first version, but I probably could have taken out an even bigger wedge because this jumpsuit dips out slightly at the neckline (strangely it didn’t do that in my first version?). I stay stitched the armholes of the bodice which was a grand idea and kept me from having to add additional darts on either side of the bust as I did on my first version, and I also fully lined the bodice (but I had to use scraps of linen for the back pieces since I ran out of fabric). I remembered to lengthen the pockets to match up with the longer pants pieces but I forgot to double check my pleats and I totally sewed them going the wrong way on the front of the jumpsuit (they should be facing the side seams). But it didn’t bug me enough to take them out and redo them since they still laid flat and looked fine. I also shortened the pants to make this an above-the-knee garment since I didn’t have much yardage to work with and I wanted to do a variation of the other garments I had made from the same Vogue pattern.

The result is simple, comfortable, and super eye catching! But perhaps a little too bold for people to comment on? I can feel them staring but so far they rarely ask me about it, which is pretty surprising since strangers have asked me about my jeans before which are way less interesting looking! I think they might just be too riveted by the bold bathing beauties to muster up any words! No matter- I’m not sure I would know what to say if I saw someone walking down the street in this killer print, either- I would just stare with a little drool coming out the side of my mouth 😉

P.S. I changed shoes halfway through this photoshoot so some of the photos have me in gold Sven clogs and others have me in a pair of flat sandals I made a couple years ago!

Fionaed Up

***I’m not proud of these photos- it took me FOREVER to muster up the energy to take several month’s worth of blog photos the other day and when I finally got everything set up, the DSLR was not behaving at all and I didn’t know how to fix it, so I had to resort to using my iPhone, which…well, as you can see, led to abysmal results. It was either these crappy photos or nothing at all, so please accept my apologies for the grainy, poorly lit images! Hopefully after this batch of photos gets posted I will have figured out how to get the right settings back on the camera!***

Closet Case Patterns came out with the Fiona Dress a month or so ago and I was immediately drawn to many of the features- I love the buttons all down the front of the dress, I love the open back in View B, and I love the princess seamed bodice. The dress as designed seems to combine utilitarian elements which is a nice change for a summer garment- not so frilly and romantic as what I am used to seeing on the market, especially when sewn up in a heavy weight fabric like denim. I really love the way it’s paired in some of the product photos with a shirt underneath, for a layered look that is appropriate for fall and winter, which I think will definitely be on my sewing roster for the cooler months. But for my summer version of this dress I wanted to play around with the silhouette a bit and add some frillier elements that suit my style.

The first thing I knew I wanted to do was change out the straps for something a little airier. I used to have a dress from ModCloth back in the day when I still bought RTW that I wore for some publicity interviews (I think I wore it to the last San Diego Comic Con I attended on behalf of “Fringe”). It was polyester so I sweat like a mother in it, but it had this cool design element of tiny spaghetti straps over the shoulders, and once I started sewing I always had the thought to try and implement that design idea into a make. This was the perfect opportunity- the straps of Fiona are thick enough that you could sub in three individual spaghetti straps in their place without messing up the fit of the bodice. I made 6 lengths of spaghetti strappage and then promptly hurt my wrist and gouged my finger with the pulling of the safety pin to turn the straps, which meant I had to pull out my wrist brace and wear it for the completion of this dress (which, as you can see in the photos, took a long time what with all the additional spaghetti straps I ended up making). But I’m getting ahead of myself!

So I marked where the regular straps fit onto the bodice and inserted my thin straps in their place, making sure the angles were lined up properly. It was really tricky to keep the straps from getting tangled and twisted around each other and eventually I learned that I needed to keep the front bodice edges closed with safety pins to avoid this issue. Putting the bodice together was straightforward and easy and the sizing was great for me- I graded between a size 4 at the bust and a 6 at the waist, but I ended up having to bring the waist in a tiny bit once I attached my skirt so I probably could have kept everything at a 4 and been just fine.

The only issue I ran into were the bands that go around the top of the bodice- and this could definitely be a mistake on my part because I HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO MAKE SEWING MISTAKES IN MY PAST lol. I used pieces J and K for the band for view B, but when I sewed them up together, they didn’t reach the full length of the bodice. Initially I thought this was because in my grading between the bust and the waist, it was hard to know which sizes of the bodice bands to cut out since the back bands went from the bust TO the waist, but when I cut out the larger size I was still short over an inch between the band and the bodice meeting at the back. I lined up the pattern pieces together and they also did not meet, but again, I might be overlooking something or I might have made a tracing mistake. Eventually I just had to re-draft and cut out new pattern pieces for K, adding about an inch or so of extra length to it, and it fit the bodice perfectly.

Aside from the piece that didn’t line up properly, the bands are a little tricky to piece together at first, or at least they were for me- it’s just because the pattern pieces are very similar looking in shape and size and it’s easy to confuse them with each other, and they also have to be sewn together in a certain way for the pieces to fit the bodice just right (this was made even more confusing since my pattern pieces didn’t have a wrong side). If J or K are sewn upside down or on the wrong side, they wont match up to the bodice properly, so for any other sewists who get turned around easily with this kind of pattern puzzle-piecing, it might help to label the wrong side of your pattern pieces with the letter of the piece and maybe some arrows to denote left/right and top/bottom.

After I tried the bodice on for fit and determined the length of my straps, I focused on the skirt. I self drafted a flared skirt using instructions from one of Gertie’s books but ultimately the skirt seemed less “flare” and closer to a 1/2 circle skirt. I knew I didn’t want a full circle skirt because 1. my linen (one of the premium lines of mid-to-heavyweight linen from The Fabric Store in LA, R. I. P.) was on the heavier side and I didn’t want all that fabric weighing the dress down and 2. I only had maybe 2.5 or 3 yards of this fabric which would not have been enough for the ankle-length version I wanted to make (which of course ended up not happening at all, but again, I’m getting ahead of myself!). So I cut out my pieces for the 1/2 circle-y/flare-ish skirt, basted the pieces onto my bodice and OH MY GOD it just looked BARF-O-RAMA. I’m not sure exactly why! But it just didn’t flow well over my body at all, and the waistline of the bodice didn’t match well with the silhouette of the skirt. I hated the way it looked, which was a surprise because this style of skirt tends to always look flattering on me (and everyone else I see in it)- it’s the whole reason I didn’t make a muslin, because who needs a muslin for a 1/2 circle skirt?? (eating my words now).

So! My skirt looked awful but I had no more fabric left to do anything significant with, so if I was gonna stay with the original vision of my skirt I had to cut new pieces out of the original 1/2 circle. I had one back piece and two front pieces and instead of just cutting brand new thinner pieces out of them, I decided to drape them on my dress form, something that only works because my form is padded out very closely to my measurements. The ribcage is still about an inch too big and the hip and butt areas are not the exact same shape as mine, but it’s a close enough approximation that garments on the form look almost the same as garments on my body. When I tried draping the front left skirt piece on the form, it clearly looked best when hanging on the bias, so I had to angle the piece a bit to get the most fabric from the cut. I lost significant length for the skirt at this point in the construction process, but I knew I would rather have a shorter completed dress than a skirt that looked a hot mess. I got the left skirt front to hang beautifully, but when I tried to drape the right front panel, something was way off. It took more fabric to hang in the same way as the left side, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I had cut my pieces out properly along the grainline and my fabric seemed to be true when I was cutting it, but here I was with a piece that didn’t want to lay as smoothly as the other side had. When complaining about this on IG, someone commented that they had read somewhere that horizontal and vertical grainlines have different biases, so if a piece is cut out facing one way and another is cut out facing the other (which mine was since I had such little fabric to work with), this might be why the bias is behaving differently. I don’t know if that’s what happened here but it’s the only explanation I can come up with, and it makes enough sense to me that I am sticking with it lol.

My dilemma at this point: a) do I cut out the right skirt piece the same as the left skirt piece even though they lay differently against the dress form? or b) do I cut out the right skirt piece larger so that it lays properly, even though it will be a different shape than the other side? Guys, knowing what I know now, the answer is definitely b, but guess what I actually did? YEP!!!! I a)-ed the shit out of that skirt piece, and the rest of this blog post, where things get REALLY interesting, is me trying to make up for this mis-judgement, haha!

I sewed my skirt pieces together, basted them onto the bodice and took a look in the mirror- the left side was PERFECT! It skimmed my curves just as I wanted it to, not too tight and not too loose, the skirt was flowy but not voluminous and it looked so flattering. The right side was another story entirely. I am not sure why it was so hard to capture in photos, but take my word for it- AWFUL! Everything looked great until around the midpoint of my hip, and then the seam got wonky, wouldn’t lay right around my hip, and took a hard turn forward- literally the seam starts off from the bodice going straight down the side of my body, and then juts towards the front looking as asymmetrical as you please. Of course this is because the skirt piece wasn’t draped fully on the bias and needed more fabric to complete the full silhouette, fabric that I had just cut off so it would be the same size/shape as the left side.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl6hpadgkNT/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Obviously I needed to add the wedge I had cut off back onto the skirt panel, but that wedge would no longer do the job I needed it to since it would be missing the seam allowances necessary to sew it back on. But perhaps more than that, I was very uninterested in having a random plain wedge stuffed onto the side seam of the skirt. I thought it would look too much like a mistake if I didn’t take this opportunity to spice up this area a little bit and have some fun with it (famous last words). So instead of piecing together a wedge from my scant pile of scraps, I started making more spaghetti straps out of them- at some point I ditched the safety pin route and used this weird plastic strap turner thing I bought years ago but never use, and it worked in a fraction of the time and was a lot less stressful on my wrist. But it STILL took forever, and I definitely wish I had used it fro the beginning. Anyways, I liked the idea of incorporating the detail I loved most about the garment, the bodice straps, somewhere else on the dress. I had an image in my head of straps that took up the space of the wedge while providing some peekaboo glimpses of my leg at the same time. And I also thought it would be cool if the straps were placed close together at the point of the wedge near the top of my thigh and then were spaced further apart as they went down my dress. I unpicked the seam of the dress from the point where it pivoted forward at my hip, folded the seam allowances under, and attached a set of straps, from short to long, all along the seam, angling them across the wedge for visual interest. As I said, in my head this seemed like a cool idea, and in all honesty I actually don’t think it ended up looking that terrible, but my issue was that the straps weren’t stable enough to hold their shape across the span of the wedge, so they just drooped down and looked like ripped fabric. If they had been stiff and held their shape straight across the skirt, I would probably have been totally into this look.

So back to the drawing board. Except I wasn’t completely over the spaghetti straps- I loved the thought of creating a new kind of fabric by manipulating the straps in a cool way. What if I kept the same idea of the straps filling up the wedge, but instead of having negative space in between them, I position them very close together so there is no peekaboo and the straps look like more of a textile? Risky….but at this point, what did I have to lose?! I spent a few hours making about 2 million more spaghetti straps, cutting them into the proper lengths and then positioning them so that they formed a large wedge that would fill up the gap in the skirt. Once I had them all positioned correctly I hand-basted the edges together just so that I could move the wedge as a whole to my sewing machine. Next I sewed down the lengths of each side and then I serged the edges together (this was important because linen unravels like mad and I needed to secure all the tiny strap edges).

I placed the triangle of straps on the inside of the dress and then edgestitched the length of each side of the wedge onto the seam. Laying flat on my table, the straps looked amazing. And when I tried the dress on, well…it was certainly better than the peekaboo leg look I had created in the previous experiment, and it was definitely INTERESTING looking, but something was still off for me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. When Claire came home and I tried it on for her, the first thing out of her mouth was “Pocahontas” and I thought ‘BINGO!’. The spaghetti strap wedge, particularly in this coffee color, looked like decorative leather, almost like fringe. Having the straps positioned very closely together helped maintain some of the shape I wanted, but gravity still weighed most of the straps down a bit so they continued to swing a little low. The result was costume-y and not at all in line with the romantic and casual summer dress I was initially going for. I think that in general this “leathered fabric” look could be really cool and I loved the effect of creating this a new kind of textile, but for me, the wedge just wasn’t in line with the design of the rest of the dress.

I considered sewing vertical lines of stitching across all the straps to hopefully make them more stable and keep them from drooping down, but I knew that if it didn’t work, unpicking all that stitching was going to be a nightmare and would probably ruin all the straps. I also considered weaving in more straps vertically and I even tried it out with some of the extra fabric scraps I had lying around on my sewing table, but I wasn’t impressed with how it was looking. And then Claire asked if I had any other colors I could use with the wedge. I had to think for a minute. Well, actually I did happen to have the exact same weight of linen in a light pink color. That pink yardage of linen had come out of it’s pre-wash months ago with splotches of blue dye speckled across it, probably bled on from something else that was in my pre-wash, so I hadn’t been able to use it for the project I wanted and instead had used it up as linings for dress bodices, a pair of shorts, binding, etc. The pink and coffee colors were actually very beautiful together and not too bold. What the hell? I asked myself. If I am not in love with the dress as it is I might as well keep trying to make it better. My worst case scenario was that the entire skirt would be ruined by all this experimentation, but I knew I could save the bodice by just attaching it to a skirt of a total different color of linen, which honestly would have looked very cool and I’m probably gonna do that on purpose at some point in the future.

SO! I cut out MORE SPAGHETTI STRAPS, y’all. MORE! Out of my pink linen fabric, and then I wove them through the brown straps already sewn onto the dress. It looked strange with one strap woven in, and only a little better with two, but once I wove three pink straps through the horizontal brown straps of the wedge, I was loving it. To permanently attach the pink straps to the wedge of the dress, I used Fray Check on each edge of the strap to keep it from unraveling, and I slip stitched the edges to the strap either above or below it, depending on which part of the strap I was working on. The pink straps keep the horizontal straps flat, stable and not droopy, and  they add a very subtle pop of color and visual interest. I was afraid the wedge would look a little too much like a woven basket when all was said and done, but ultimately the full effect looks fun and unexpected- it kind of mimics plaid, or the way woven fabric looks very close up.

My only regret is not being able to put pockets on the front, as the dress is originally designed with, but I just didn’t have enough fabric to make self-fabric pockets, and they would have probably competed too much with the weaving on the side anyways. I considered adding pockets in the side seams but didn’t want it to bulk up the silhouette at the hips, which is a big pet peeve of mine.

All in all….this of course is not the dress I intended to make- I wanted a simple, casual, easy summer dress, and this is much fancier and eye-catching than I intended. How do I feel about it? I’m not gonna lie, I think the pink weaving technique on the side looks pretty cool but I definitely miss the length I lost when re-drafting the skirt- I was ready for a swishy, ankle-length dress! And on top of that, I’m just not sure if it’s ME! Will I pull it out to wear for a special occassion, and will I feel good about it when I do? Only time will tell. But I am really proud of myself- I didn’t have to make too many compromises to save this dress- it’s still in the general vicinity of where I wanted it to land, and the detour I made was challenging and really fun, and I learned some interesting things about manipulating fabric! I have lots of garments from my past that didn’t work out for some reason, and trying to save them would stress me out, give me anxiety dreams, and often not end up as a wearable garment. So comparatively, this is a huge success!

 

 

MeMade Birkenstocks

The first question that I know the majority of you will be asking is where do I get authentic cork Birkenstock footbeds?, so let me go on and get that answer out of the way: I have NO idea! That’s something you will have to search for on your own! The footbeds are out there because I stumbled upon mine accidentally, but I don’t know of a one-stop shop where you can buy them (not that such a place doesn’t exist- I assume it does and can be uncovered by a bit of googling). If your city has a shoe components shop, obviously check there first- that’s where I found my footbeds. Saderma (no website) is a leather and shoe findings store here in Los Angeles that has been servicing shoe repair shops and cobblers for years, and once I started making shoes I would head there to buy shoe heels, Barge’s cement glue, and used lasts. On one visit I saw a shelf full of packages of what looked like Birkenstocks, and upon closer inspection I realized I was half right- they were Birks,but they were unfinished: just the footbeds with no soles or uppers. I bought a couple pairs not knowing at all how to make them, but I figured that I could suss it out on my own with my already-acquired basic shoe making knowledge, and I was right.

Another place to check for these footbeds locally would be a cobbler/shoe repair shop in your area, since these are the places that generally buy the footbeds from the distributors. You know how after years of hard wear the cork on a pair of Birks, if not taken care of, can wear down so much that they are threadbare in places? Well a shoe repair person can take your beloved old sandals and save the uppers by replacing the corkbeds and the bottom soles. So you might have some luck reaching out to one of those shops and asking if you can buy a pair from them or asking them to order a pair for you to use on your own. Maybe they will charge you a few extra bucks for them, but in my opinion it’s still worth it: I pay $36 for each pair of footbeds, so compared to the average price tag of $140 for a pair of finished Birks, they are a steal.

Here is a list of basic supplies I used for my Birks:

  • thick leather for the uppers
  • Barge’s rubber cement glue (I wouldn’t recommend using anything other than Barge’s for these- there are non toxic glues you can work with to put together uppers and glue them in place on certain shoes, but when it comes to putting together a hearty, strong sole, rubber cement is the only thing that wont melt on hot pavement or start pulling apart at the seams after time)
  • thick rubber soling for the bottom of the footbed (I get my Birkenstock bottom replica soling from Saderma, but I have seen thick rubber soling in cool colors on eBay- again, hunt around!)
  • nylon thread
  • a leather needle
  • a multi-sized hole punch
  • buckles, clasps, or decorative pieces depending on your design

I’ve made several pairs of Birkenstocks and I have come up with my own designs as well as used the standard two-buckle design. If you decide to use a standard Birkenstock design, I highly urge you to make a pattern based on a completed pair. Borrow them if you don’t have a pair of your own, or you could even purchase a knock-off pair from some place like Target, trace the pieces, then return them! The reason for basing the pattern off of a finished pair is that even though the sandal looks very straightforward, it is actually drafted very specifically to mold over the shape of a foot, which is why the uppers are so comfortable and easy to wear. I always assumed it was just two straps on one side, two buckles on the other and that’s it, but once I traced my own pair I realized that the shapes of the pieces were unusual and not something that could just be thoughtlessly sketched out onto some paper. If you have a flat last that will fit into a Birk shoe bed, you can also make a pattern using the masking tape method and it will probably yield similar results.

There needs to be enough leather added to the underside edge of the pattern piece so that it can reach around under the footbed. The straps also need to be the correct width of the buckles so that they can slide easily through them- it’s easier to shave off some extra width so that it will fit than it is to have straps that are too skinny.

 

Once my pattern pieces are laid out, I trace them out of my leather. I found a beautiful oxblood suede at The Fabric Store, but it was a little flimsier than I would like- since these sandals need to be able to hold up to heavy wear, I want the uppers to be soft for comfort but strong for durability. The fix for this was easy- I glued two pieces of the leather together (this is a great opportunity for using the non-toxic glue if I want to limit my exposure to Barge’s) and let it dry, then cut out my pattern pieces: double the weight of my original leather with very little fuss.

Since I am making a standard 2-strap design for this pair of Birks, I attached my buckles to the outer pattern pieces at this point. On authentic Birks, the buckles are held into place by a kind of metal staple that is formed around the bar of the buckle and clasped closed on the other side. They are discreet and you can’t feel them on the other side of the leather.

I was unable to replicate this exact technique because I couldn’t find what kind of metal staple was used to secure the buckle, nor could I figure out the device used to apply it, but even if I could, it seemed an extravagant thing to have for someone who just make Birkenstocks for fun for herself and her family. So instead I just sew my buckles onto the leather in a tiny criss cross pattern using Nylon thread (it’s important to use nylon thread when shoemaking with leather as opposed to a thread made of natural fibers or a sewing thread, because cotton will disintegrate over time and you need the thread to be thick and strong).

I made a pair of polka dot Birks about a year ago and the nylon thread has held up beautifully, but the stitches need to be tight and secure, knotted at the beginning and ends of them (I also held a small flame to the ends of my knot to melt the thread for extra security). It helps to punch tiny holes in the leather to sew the stitches into, and it also makes the criss cross look neater. Ultimately this area is covered up by the strap so if it doesn’t come out looking that great, it won’t be seen anyways!

After attaching the buckle, I positioned the leather upper pieces around the edges of the footbed. These Birks are actually for my brother for a Father’s Day gift so I wasn’t able to position them around my foot in the sole, but thankfully these footbeds come with markings on the bottom for where the straps should hit, which takes out a lot of the guesswork. Another cool thing is that they seem to use the same sized pattern pieces for a variety of sizes, so the pattern pieces I created for my polka dot Birks work just as well for this pair for my brother which is several sizes larger.

 

Once buckles are complete I punch holes the matching width of the buckle bar into the straps.

When making regular sandals around curved edges, you often have to cut some darts into the underside parts of the upper pieces so that you can mold them around the curve and they will fit the foot well and not gape anywhere (this is the same premise as cutting notches into a curved edge of fabric in sewing), but since I didn’t have the luxury of actually molding these onto my brother’s feet I didn’t really need to use them. Also the edge of the footbed is pretty straight as opposed to curved so the notches weren’t as necessary, but I cut them out of habit before realizing I didn’t need to. I did try to curve the upper outer edge of the pattern piece around the toe because I remember that it wanted to gape out a bit when I constructing my first pair.

This part is easy to figure out if you are molding them around your own feet though. When positioning the uppers around the footbed, I use the marks on the bottom of the footbed as a guide but you don’t have to be married to them- I played around with what looked/felt best.

Safety first when working with Barge’s!

Once I figure out the best positioning, I use tape to secure the edges to the bottom of the footbed, then mark the outer edges of each piece so that I know what and where to glue. I also make sure to mark the insides of the uppers and up the sides of the cork footbed- this rubber cement glue only adheres to other glue, so both sides being adhered need to have a thin, even coating. After applying the glue, I let it dry for a few minutes before sticking them together, pressing hard and then pounding with my rubber mallet.

The final steps are attaching the soles to the footbeds. I skive the edges of the leather on the underside to create less bulk, but I also could have poured shredded cork onto the bottoms to fill in the gaps between the leather and the footbed.

I cut out a piece of rubber soling for each shoe that is larger than the shape of the shoe. It is much easier to adhere the pieces together and cut around the soling than it is to cut an exact soling shape out and then try and line it up perfectly (trust me, I learned this from Rachel of RachelSeesSnailShoes and she is the shoemaking QUEEN).

I mark the general area of the shoe on the soling so that I don’t waste too much glue, then evenly coat the sole and the bottom of the footbed with glue. I wait another few minutes til the glue is tacky, then press hard with my hands to squeeze the pieces together, especially around the thick edges of the upper and the sole where it wants to gape, and then I gently pound the bottom and sides with a rubber mallet on my shoe anvil.

If there are any gaps still between the footbed and the sole, I try to squeeze tiny drops of glue inside, then press hard at that area. I used a clamp here to squeeze them for longer than my hands wanted to and it worked really well!

 

Once the glue is dry and the footbed and sole are pressed together, I take my utility knife (essential in home- shoe making…who knew?!) and very slowly and carefully guide my blade around the edge of the sole. Rubber soling is very easy to cut with a sharp blade, it’s just important to remember to keep your blade perpendicular to the shoe so that the cut is straight up and down along the side of the shoe as opposed to leaning in or out. Since the cut is so smooth it’s usually not necessary to sand the edges, but if I need to I will take it my belt sander, or I will use my Dremel if the spot that needs to be sanded down is pretty tiny.

One coat of cork protectant and voila! I have a beautiful pair of Birkenstocks made especially for my sweet brother Nick, who I am hoping will wear them with pride! Apparently he and his wife just bought my toddler nephew his first pair of Birkenstocks so I am hoping I can get some cute pics of them rocking them together!

Nick, for anyone who has been following this blog for a year or more remembers, got really sick this time last year and was in the ICU for Father’s Day and in a coma soon after that. He was in there for weeks and things got really really dark and terrifying before they got better. Last year I had made him a leather wallet with his initials engraved on it for Father’s Day but he got sick before he could open it, and when things were at their lowest I was afraid he would never see it. But WOW what a difference a year makes! He is all the way healed up now and I am beyond thankful for his recovery and his health, and I am so happy I got the opportunity to make him something special again. I know you don’t read this blog, Nick, but if by chance you ever do stumble upon it, for the ten thousandth time, I LOVE YOU MORE THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE AND I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE HERE!!!!!

Circle Skirt in Black and White

I bought this fabric for a different project but realized that it was too drapey for the structured dress I was planning, so I decided on a whim to whip it into something else. I was intrigued by a couple of images of Elisalex (owner of By Hand London)’s instagram where she is wearing a very soft, flowy wrap circle skirt and figured I could eek out enough fabric from my yardage to make this quick and simple replica (I was wrong- I had to go to The Fabric Store and get more, but it was worth it).

I’ve made plenty of circle skirts in my past based off of my measurements but never a wrap skirt, so I tried to use the nifty calculator and sparse directions on By Hand London’s blog post to sew it up. Elisalex has a tutorial for how to make the wrap circle skirt from start to finish in a UK sewing magazine but unfortunately they didn’t have the article archived online and I wasn’t about to try and hunt down/pay for a physical copy when I knew I could probably stumble through making it myself. So that’s what I did, because I’m what? TRYCURIOUS, thasss right! And it came out fine! The most important bit of information I needed to make this skirt was that 6 panels are required for a circle wrap garment, and once I cut those pattern pieces out based on the measurement of my waist circumference, all I needed was to sew those pieces together and add a waistband with long ties.

I think I spent more time trying to hunt down Elisalex’s magazine tutorial than actually sewing this thing, and ultimately all I needed were the brief instructions she shared in her blog post! What a fantastic skirt! My fabric is a rayon that frays like mad at the raw edges so I french seamed all the panels together, folded the side edges in on either end of the skirt and hemmed them. Next I measured the full length of the waist to calculate my waist band and I cut out a rectangle at the height I wanted my band to be, plus seam allowances for all sides. After going back and forth on the matter, I decided to interface the entire waistband and I am glad I did- it gives the skirt some nice structure right around my belly but since the waistband is fairly narrow it doesn’t feel like too much bulk.

I sewed up some long tubes of fabric for the ties, making sure the finished tube was the same width as my waistband (I think I made it 1.5″?), pulled them right side out, then sewed them to each edge of my waistband. I added a buttonhole from which to pull the waist tie through above the side seam opposite where the skirt opens, and then, after letting the garment hang overnight, I spent what felt 23 days sewing the hem (circle skirts, amirite??).

End result? SO cute! This fabric is borderline polka dots/leopard spots, depending on what category you love the most, which is a nice space for me to be in since I am not crazy about animal prints (not on me- I oooh and ahhh every time I see someone else rocking animal print, though). The dots are multi-sized and randomly scattered about so it gives the print a little more depth and visual interest than a regular dotted fabric, I think. After seeing these pictures and wearing it around for a bit, I am tempted to shorten the skirt just a couple inches to have it hit right at my knee instead of below it, because I feel like it might just be swallowing me up with that bold print and all the yards of fabric swirling around? But maybe it’s just how I styled it here, and with different shoes or a different top it will look more balanced on me. Honestly I don’t know if I have it in me to spend 23 more days re-hemming this skirt so I might have to sit on it for a while before I make a move, LOL.