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Velvet, Gold and Pussy Bowed

When I randomly saw this dress on Beate J’Adore’s blog sometime last winter, I was more than a little obsessed. The rusty chocolate silk velvet she used was so luxurious and stunning, and I loved the easy shape of the garment: fitted and flirty and feminine without looking too buttoned up. But of course, most of all, I just loooooved that long bow at the neck! So GORGEOUS! I was so obsessed that I even started perusing the silk velvet she used from Mood Fabrics, and y’all know I can’t STAND Mood- the only way I ever use fabrics from that place is if someone buys some for me as a gift! Anyways, I pinned the image onto my Clothing Inspiration board on Pinterest and kept drooling over it periodically, even when the weather in LA turned hell-fire hot and the mere thought of wearing velvet could make you break out into a sweat. And then, as the seasons began changing around the rest of the country, velvet started popping up in all my favorite fabric stores- I’ve always loved velvet but I haven’t had the easiest time hunting it down. Thankfully it was a huge trend this season and I was able to snag a few beautiful cuts of it.

I went back to the blog post and read the notes on the dress. They were very scant, which I am not judging because I do the same thing on my blog- when I make pattern hacks, I am not very forthcoming with all the minute details, only because when I’m in the middle of the process, I rarely take notes since I’m not interested in doing tutorials. Of course, now I have experienced firsthand the frustration of reading about a beautiful garment on a blog and not knowing exactly how they got to their end result! But this is the beauty of sewing and pattern hacking in general- sometimes you have to figure out how to make it your own, and that’s what I did. I even took notes! It’s still not a tutorial mind you, and definitely not as detailed as they could be, but it should be enough to put you on the right track if you want to recreate the lovely garment that J’Adore inspired!

She used an older Vogue pattern that I think is out of print, so I got my hands on a cheap copy of Vogue 8829 from etsy. I laughed when I saw the pattern envelope- the image art looks pretty dated and I just don’t think I would ever have seen this pattern and thought to myself, “this would make a stunning garment,” which is one the reasons I love following sewing bloggers- some people can find diamonds in the rough where you see nothing but a pile of dirt. First issue I ran into: which version of the dress did she use?? This is one of those patterns with a lot different variations- long sleeves, short sleeves, knee length, maxi, regular collar, pussy bow, etc. I could figure out the top half the dress, but I wasn’t sure which skirt shape she used, the slightly flared skirt or the one with pleats. Ultimately I chose Version A which most closely matched the photos of her dress, and then I dove into making all the tweaks she mentioned in her blog post: cutting the front bodice and front skirt pieces on the fold instead of as drafted with button bands down the front, adding some width and length to the bow (if I make this again I might add even MORE length!), and making room for a side zip (since the front opening is omitted).

I was a bit confused on the back piece- she wrote that she added darts to the back bodice, but there were no photos of her in the dress with a view of the back so I had no idea where they were placed or if she had eliminated the pleat at the top of the back bodice where it meets the yoke. In hindsight, I should have redrafted the entire pattern piece because it’s actually huge, but I didn’t realize how big it would be at the time so I constructed it according to the directions, creating two pleats at the top middle of the back bodice piece. I tried it on and it had a poofy, bloused effect at the back waist- way too much fabric back there, which ended up looking really heavy in my velvet fabric. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough velvet to redraft the back bodice piece so I decided to do a moderate adjustment and take out some of the length at the back bodice where it met the waistband of the skirt. Then I sewed the extra fabric poofiness down into darts on either side of the center back. It’s not the most glamorous adjustment you’ve ever seen- pleats at the top and darts at the bottom of a back bodice is not exactly a design choice that you see too often with good reason- it looks so busy! But I would rather my silhouette look nice and smooth with some weird darts thrown in than have a clean looking bodice that is poofy and too big for my frame. I also shortened the shoulder seams which I often do on Big 4 patterns, and I ended up taking the waist of both the bodice and the skirt in over an inch on each side.

At this point I made an accidental discovery that actually worked in my favor for once. For some reason I had entirely forgotten to leave enough room at the skirt and bodice seams for a side zip since there were no other openings to get in and out of the dress with the omission of the front button bands. And then I realized that J’Adore’s silk velvet must not have been a stretch knit, which is why she had to put in the side zip. I’m not sure why it took me so long for this realization- I had been happily serging all my seams together from the very beginning, which I prefer when working with velvet because for me, it’s so much easier to serge fabrics with pile than it is to sew them on a regular machine, even with a walking foot. So, now with all my side seams completely serged together, it was time for a moment of truth- would this dress fit over my head easily or would I have to unpick all my stitching and figure out a way to squeeze a zip in? I suddenly remembered one of the adjustments J’Adore made that didn’t make sense to me at the time. She said she added two inch panels to either side of the dress underneath the sleeves. The panels, which are barely visible in the photos, don’t seem to offer much in the way of a design choice, so maybe she had an issue with fit, or maybe she forgot to put in a side zip to get in and out of the dress just like I did, and then added panels to make it a bit easier to stick the zip in at the last minute? I don’t know exactly what her process was, but thankfully, with my serged seams and stretchy velvet fabric, the dress fit over my body through the neck hole with ease- no need to add a zip- hallelujah!

After fixing the back bodice to hug my body better, the rest of the dress was a breeze. I lowered the neckline as directed by her blog post, enough so that my head could squeeze through, but I took out less than she did (I think about 3/4″, since I had more flexibility with my stretch knit). I attached the band of the bow at the neck and hand sewed it close to the edges of the neckline.

This area was a little tricky since I was sewing a rectangular pattern piece to a circle, whose edges had to simply end front and center instead of being attached to a left and right button band as the pattern was initially drafted for.  I sewed the edges of the bow as close together as possible at the center front neck and it looks fine on the outside, but a little more visible on the inside. I don’t anticipate that the neckline edge will stretch out much since my stretch fabric has a lot of resiliency, but on a less stable knit, this would be something to be aware of.

The last adjustment came with the sleeves. I had to take out additional length from them even though I cut the lines for the “petite” option on all portions of the garment- I think they might be drafted as very baggy and drapey over the hands, which is not a design element I like at all. I don’t like stuff flowing around my hands or getting in their way, it takes all I can muster to wear a bracelet for longer than 10 minutes. Here I took a cue from J’Adore’s post where she wrote that she put pleats in the sleeves and used elastic at the hems. Another thing I don’t like about sleeves? Elasticized hems, lol. Not sure why, but I just prefer either a regular folded hem or a cuff. Thankfully I was able to use the stretchiness of my fabric to my advantage once again, so I attached a self drafted cuff at the bottom of the sleeves and I didn’t need to use elastic at all (the original cuff was as weirdly long as the sleeves).

And voila! Although I wasn’t using a beautiful silk velvet like J’Adore was, I think the dress still came out really nice- I love the way it shimmers and shines in the light and the fit is spot on! It’s a very luxe looking dress to me and I think it will serve me well if I ever go on a trip to a place that’s cold as it’s still SEVENTY DEGREES IN LA RIGHT NOW. Sorry, I shouldn’t complain when the east coast is suffering through a snow bomb or whatever they are calling it, but a little bit of breezy weather would be such a treat considering all these nice fall/winter makes I have in my closet! Even if it does get cooler I’m not sure if I can pull off the dress-over-jeans-look like J’Adore did in her photos, which looks stunning, but who knows- I was inspired enough to do a mad pattern hack based on her style choices make so maybe I will be brave enough to test out her layered look, too!

 

P.S. Sorry, I don’t remember where I got my hat from, and also, THANK YOU FOR THE PICTURES, CLAIRE!

#LanderPantsDance

When I finished these pants and ran upstairs from my craft room to see how they looked with shoes, I got so hyped when I saw myself in the mirror that I started dancing in my bathroom, and I managed to press record on my phone just in time to capture it. This is how the idea of a hashtag joyously celebrating a sewist’s Lander Pants completion officially began on instagram, and with the help of a few lovely sewists who chimed in to suggest it be a thing (including the awesome designer of the pants herself!), LanderPantsDance went viral!!!!

How I Feel About the Lander Pants™ #truebiaslanderpants #landerpantsdance #landerpants

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

Okay, maybe not viral.

But I’ve been tagged in AT LEAST 4 posts of other sewists dancing in their Lander Pants, and that’s enough for me, haha!

What can I say about these pants?? First of all, I was SO STOKED when True Bias released the design. They happened to be the spitting image of a pair of wide legged jeans I tried to hack early this year only to watch them suffer a bizarre and untimely demise when the front legs twisted so dramatically in the front that the side seams traveled across the fronts of my legs. Only thing I can come up with is that they were cut severely off-grain, but…they weren’t! I know, because I was there! Anyways, that WIP has been languishing in the Butthole Bin for the longest, so when I saw the design for the Lander Pants, I realized that my dreams of owning a 70’s inspired pair of wide legged trousers could still be a reality for me! Weirdly enough, I didn’t make them in denim, but more on that later.

I made these pants in less than two days, and I have to say, the fit is pretty terrific. It helps that they have such wide legs, so after you get the shaping and fitting for the waist and hips right, the rest is a breeze. But also know that I have read Heather Lou of Closet Case Files’ e-book for jeans making and blog posts about pants fitting extensively, so all the successes I have with pants is 100% due to her (if you are stressed about/unsure of the process, read her materials! They are concise, easy-to-comprehend, and most importantly, they work!)

One thing I learned from Heather’s series of how-tos is that I need to draft a curved waistband for pretty much any fitted pants design I want to wear. I actually just use the same pattern piece from the Ginger Jeans that I adapted for my body, and I sub it in for other pants patterns that have roughly the same waistband size. Instead of a straight or very slightly curved rectangle for the waistband, which works on many bodies that don’t have a big difference between their waist and hips, I redrafted it so that the top of the waistband has a deeper curve, which allows it to lay right up against my waist instead of gaping like pretty much every RTW pair of pants does on me. I used this waistband on my Landers and of course it worked a real treat!

For a round bottomed girl, I thought these pants fit pretty great right out the box. I didn’t do much adjusting with them after using my curved waistband; I think I brought in the back seam just a bit at the very top at the waist, and when I make them again I might 1. dig out a tiny bit of room in the back crotch curve for the teeniest bit more space and 2. elongate the fly (why I didn’t do this from the beginning I have no idea- sometimes I like to try the original pattern as-is before making too many drastic changes to it but I need to be real with myself- a longer fly front on pants is pretty much a necessity for me across the board). My favorite thing about the pattern is that the leg pieces are drafted with a 1 inch seam allowance on the outside seams so that you can baste and fit as you are going, which was incredibly helpful! I muslined these pants and I needed to add about a 1/4 inch more room at the side seams around the thickest part of my body, but that was just to ensure that I maintained a 5/8 seam allowance- I definitely could have made the adjustment with the pants pattern pieces as drafted.

As is well-documented here on this blog, I am not crazy about wearing black clothing (how Katie from What Katie Sews does it so brilliantly, I will never know!) and this make honestly did little to change my mind. The fabric itself is brilliant- perfect weight, easy to sew with, feels soft but sturdy- I just wish it was in a different color, and unfortunately black was all I could find when I was shopping for corduroy. Why did I choose corduroy instead of denim, you may ask? No idea. In my quest for a beautiful and versatile fall wardrobe, corduroy kept popping up for me so I just kind of stuck with it- I thought it would be a fun textile and a nice change from denim. But in addition to the color just not doing it for me personally, I think it also hides all the cool details of these pants (textile included) which is what got me so excited about making them in the first place. You can’t really see how cute the big patch pockets are on the fronts, can’t see the meticulously sewed topstitching on the waistband and pockets and belt loops- I feel like the dark color just sucks up all the extra cool things about this make. But it’s ok! I am just going to consider them a wearable muslin (because I still think they are super cute and I know I will get some wear out of them) and make my next pair in the washed denim that I originally envisioned them in! And then I can also put a tiny bit more room in the crotch and lengthen the fly front so that getting in and out of the pants is easier.

Speaking of fly fronts, this button fly was the first I had ever constructed and it was SO fun! After making so many jeans I have become pretty confident with inserting a zip fly, but for some reason I was anxious about a button fly- probably just because it was a journey into the unknown. But I shouldn’t have been worried at all; the button fly was way easier and quicker to construct than a zip fly and I absolutely love the way it looks. The instructions for the fly, as with everything else, were super easy to follow and well thought out, and I honestly couldn’t believe how quickly this pattern came together. They were a dream to sew! I decided to use the longer view of the design (they also come in a cropped and shorts length) and then I added a few extra inches because I wanted my hems to cover my shoes and just barely skim the ground, which the longest view of this pattern does not do. It was an easy fix and I am happy with the length. The only real thing I am unhappy about with these pants (aside from the color) is the fear that my thighs are going to start a fire every time I walk around. The zipzipzipzip sound is deafening! I forgot what a weirdo fabric corduroy can be, but whatever- people won’t even notice it when they are so bowled over by this wicked FIT! 😉

 

Turtleneck Hack in Mustard

So far my fall/winter makes list has been coming together fairly nicely, but I have hit a few roadblocks along the way. One was the infamous pair of peg leg pants that I made from a rich butternut corduroy in the Style Arc Tully pattern. After all was said and done I ended up looking like an ensemble member from Oliver! and we had a real good laugh at my #sewingfail on instagram (prompting me to consider starting a submissions only IG account posting all of our worst/most hilarious/most educational sewing fails, because EVERYONE seems to get a good kick out of those!) Another roadblock was the drop sleeved hoodie made of a coffee colored raw silk. It came out fine for the most part, it just didn’t really wow me all that much. The drab design paired with the muted neutral color made the whole garment feel sort of blah, and I learned that I don’t like drop sleeves very much. I thought the hoodie would be a nice staple to use for layers this season, but so far I never really reach for it because it’s just about my least favorite thing in my closet.

The most recent roadblock I faced was figuring out how to recreate this turtleneck dress I have had pinned on my pinterest board for over a year. I was enamored by it’s simplicity- clean lines, no sleeves, and a big thick turtleneck to top it off. So simple, yet so incredibly chic, and I hadn’t really seen a pattern or piece of clothing in a store that looked quite like it (though admittedly I haven’t shopped for RTW in a long time). This seemed like a fairly easy hack to pull off, so I pulled out some muslin knit material and tried to draft it myself, something I very rarely do. A little while later I had a pattern from my draped fabric and it was not terrible- I might even say it was pretty good! But it turns out that it simply wasn’t what I was looking for.

The silhouette of the original dress that I was copying (shown above) had a very loose fit- it seemed to just barely skim the curves of the bust of the form underneath it. But, given my personal experience with shapeless sack dresses, I was too afraid to commit to that design because it never looks as good on me as I want it to. So instead I draped a design that was a little looser than a normal body-con dress but that still fit my curves. This was wrong both in theory and practice: loose body-con dress is an oxymoron, and on top of that, once the dress was constructed it just looked…sad. Part of this was the fact that my fabric, a glorious navy blue ribbed knit from The Fabric Store (I bought it online but I have recently seen it in the LA store) was not the right textile for what I was using it for. It didn’t have a ton of stretch, but rather a drapier quality than most knits, so using it to “hug” my curves was a lost cause- instead, it hung limply from my body, not quite clingy, but not loose enough to let the fabric flow the way it wanted to. On a body bigger than mine that could really stretch out the loose shape of this dress, it just might work great, but not so much for me (if I can modify the armholes a bit to make them larger, I might be able to gift this dress to my mom).

So! Back to the drawing board! I am not sure why or when, but as some point, after sitting in my disappointment for failing at this garment, I went back to the original dress and wondered if I should try again using the intended silhouette as the design. This time perhaps I could fully embrace the “sack” like quality of the dress instead of fighting so hard against it! Immediately the Tessutti Frankie dress popped into my head. It has a design similar to the Ebony Tee by Closet Case patterns, a bit of an A-line shape which could either be ramped up or toned down depending on the fabric used. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I bought a couple of yards of this really fantastic, luxurious ribbed knit fabric in gold from Blackbird Fabrics. I had recently been in Vancouver for work and was able to stop by their studio to record an episode of Helen and Caroline’s podcast Love to Sew (mentioned in this blog post), and while in the space, I ran my fingers over several bolts of fabric and was able to personally experience how amazing they were. Everything was so soft, beautifully colored, rich feeling, and I knew exactly what I wanted to buy once I got myself to a computer to place an order. This gold ribbed knit is similar in structure to the blue ribbed knit I got from The Fabric Store, but a little drapier, with a slightly smoother hand, and with better recovery. I imagined this gold textile would be a better pairing for the dress I was going to make from the Tessuti pattern, which was already in my stash and easily hackable.

The hack was pretty simple- I omitted the facings and brought the neckline in on both the front and back pieces, since the original Frankie pattern has a slight boatneck design and I wanted a more standard neckline to accommodate a turtleneck. I think I eye-balled my neckline, but you could also use a favorite tee shirt pattern and trace that neckline onto your pattern pieces.

I kept the 3/4 sleeve length as-is but added thick cuffs to the hems (pretty much my go-to these days) which brought the sleeves closer to my wrists for more coverage, and I lengthened the front and back dress pieces nearly 10 inches because, since I kept the sleeves long, I figured I should make the whole dress wearable for cooler weather. Somehow, probably because of eyeballing the curve of the bottom of the pattern pieces instead of being precise with rulers, I cut my dress pieces out with a very subtle hi-lo hem. It’s not quite noticeable, but it dips deeper in the back than in the front, and I noticed this after I sewed the pieces together at the shoulder seams, but I didn’t even the hems out. I thought it made the dress a bit more interesting, and it mirrors the hemline of the Tessutti Anna dress that I made a couple years back, which I also love.

This is a very quick dress to make, especially without the facings, so it came together in no time. After the sleeves and front and back pieces were serged together, I tried it on and HALLELUJAH I loved it! I’m not really sure how technically close it is to the pinterest dress I obsessed over, but it works really well on me. It doesn’t cling to any parts of my body underneath the bust, but surprisingly, I don’t feel like I am swimming in it- there is enough fabric to create pretty folds as it falls from the bust, but not so much that it looks like a tent, and my fabric choice helped a lot with that. If it were in a stiffer fabric (like the embossed ponte knit that I originally made this dress in last year), it wouldn’t work with this hack at all, so I love that I stumbled upon this perfect ribbed fabric after my trials and errors.

Ahh, the turtleneck- it’s the only part of this hack that gave me problems, and all of it is my fault! The first time I attempted to make this pinterest dress, I used a ribbed knit fabric that had two identical/usable sides on the front and back. I didn’t take into account that my gold ribbed knit had a smooth back side with ribs on the front, so when I tried to make a turtleneck out of one piece of folded rectangular fabric, as I had with my first attempt- well, you can fill in the blanks, lol.

I was cursing myself something awful when I realized that my neck folded to the wrong side, but it was fairly simple to fix- unfortunately I was running out of fabric and had to be very inventive with how I cut my next pieces. The easiest fix would have been to sew two rectangles together so that both the outside and inside folded with it’s right sides out, but I didn’t want to have quadruple layers of fabric at my neck and I didn’t want to have a seam at the top of the fold either. So instead I cut the top of the inside of the neck off about midway up, then I sewed my rectangle to the edge of the shortened neck so that the outside rib shows when it is folded over. If you lift the turtleneck all the way up you can see the underside of the fabric, but it doesn’t matter because the seam is far enough up the neck that you don’t see it when it’s folded over. I love this fix and it’s very comfortable! My only other issue is that I wish I had made the neck a TINY bit wider to accommodate a slightly larger turtleneck- it’s a very tight squeeze to get my head through the hole (one of those do your hair and makeup AFTER it’s already on dresses)! But I actually do like the slim look of the neck, and it doesn’t feel too tight at all when it’s on.

I am SO GLAD that I went back to the drawing board with this dress because it really is everything I imagined that it would be, and it’s even more wearable with the changes I made to it than what I initially envisioned. I am so glad that I have been actively looking for fabrics in oranges, yellows and golds for my fall/winter makes because let me tell you something- I get MORE COMPLIMENTS ON THESE GARMENTS THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN MY CLOSET. Like, from strangers. And strangers don’t normally come and talk to me cause I have a bit of resting bitch face if I’m stressed or busy or running late (I’m not ashamed- most people are not happy and approachable ALL the time, nor should we be!) Anyways, it has been surprising how often these colors spark kind comments from people on the street, and I am ALL FOR IT. Also, this dress is insanely cozy and fun to style. Since the fabric is so supple and the shape isn’t clingy, it flows well without accentuating bumps and lines and folds that body parts and undergarments tend to create under clothing. I personally don’t mind having faint panty lines because, guess what, I wear panties! But I don’t particularly like when they are distracting, so I appreciate that this dress looks really chic on the outside while allowing me to live that granny-panty lifestyle underneath.

Autumnal colors for the WIN, y’all!

Hampton Jean Jacket

I have never been on the jean jacket train because I have never owned a jean jacket that I loved. I had a couple of RTW ones when I was younger, but they were either gigantic on me or too short or the sleeves were too long (I am almost positive that I owned a severely cropped denim jacket in college whose hem ended at my ribs and no, I’m not proud of it). In the 90’s and early 2000’s the bulk of denim jackets in RTW seemed to be variations on a theme instead of just, you know, THE ACTUAL THEME, so I never had much of a connection to them. Now fast forward a couple of decades to today, where one of the few remaining RTW items in my closet is a black and white bomber jacket that I bought from Penguin a few years ago. It has a big felt P emblazoned on one side (which I love because that’s the first letter of my actual last name), and the fit is just PERFECTION. It’s the perfect length, hitting right above the curves of my hips and butt so you can see my figure, but it has enough structure in the shoulders to give my silhouette a really nice overall proportion. The sleeves are made of a white and black knit fabric which contrasts well with the stiffness of the jacket’s body, so I can push them up to my elbows, giving the whole look a bit of softness and comfort that is sometimes hard to find in a well made casual jacket. The jacket looks amazing with jeans, skirts and dresses, and it is a staple of my fall/winter wardrobe in LA. My only wish has been that I had another one in a different color and textile. The black can look a little heavy with certain outfits, weighing down pastels, which my closet is full of. It can also be a little too warm to pair with early spring/summer outfits that call for a little extra coverage on top. In short, I have needed another jacket for quite a while that is almost a replica of my beloved bomber jacket but with some tweaks.

Enter The Hampton Jacket by Alina Design Co.

Once I realized that a denim jacket would be the answer to the big gap in my wardrobe, I started googling patterns and this is one of the first ones that popped up. I was also introduced to a jean jacket pattern by Style Arc, but ultimately I chose the Hampton because 1. it seemed to have concise instructions and a thorough sew-along posted on their blog while Style Arc, from what I read from pattern reviews, has very sparse directions, more in line with Burda and 2. the completed Hampton jackets seemed to have a tighter, less boxy fit than the Style Arc patterns I saw online. I wasn’t planning on wearing my jean jacket layered over bulky sweaters so a slimmer fit would work best for me.

Alina Design Co. posted a terrific tutorial on how to bleach and distress denim to get a very worn-in look for your jacket, which I found fascinating. I had never bleached denim before and there were lot’s of interesting things I learned, like how bleaching stretch denim doesn’t look super great because the lycra threads in the fabric turn orange, and how much of the color change from bleaching happens in the first hour of the soak. Ultimately I was not all that interested in bleaching the denim myself, but I LOVED learning more about the process. I went the much easier route, which was to buy a denim that was bleached already. At The Fabric Store in LA, they had a bolt of bleached-denim that was such a perfect shade of faded blue jean that I’m not even sure if I could have replicated the effect on my own. What’s even better is that the denim, while a solid medium-weight, is still super soft, and it folded and scrunched up in my hand easily without crunching like cardboard, the way some brand new stiff denims will. I liked that using this denim would take out a lot of the grunt work from bleaching and distressing (you are advised to wash your jean jacket at least 3 times after construction to soften it up, but I didn’t need to- I only washed mine once to remove all the extra distressed denim fibers that were still clinging to the jacket).

In all honesty, I can’t tell you if the instructions for this pattern are good because I followed the sew along and only glanced back at the instructions to double check which pattern pieces I was using, which is the only issue I had with making it. There are a LOOOOT of pattern pieces for this little jacket (I think they were labeled A-S?) and the sewalong referred to them only by name instead of by the letter it coordinated with (‘front side panel’ instead of ‘piece D’), which got confusing for me pretty quickly. This is a small concern to be sure and I might be the only person who got confused by this, so this is just a tip for any of you who might have the same issue- keep your instruction booklet/window open to cross reference the pattern pieces if you are following the sewalong. Other than that, I thought the sewalong was terrific so I can only assume that the instructions are clear and concise as well. I only follow sewalongs for pattern designs that I have never tried before, like jeans or complicated bags, because the photos are usually clearer than the illustrated line drawings included in the instructions.

As far as sizing, I tried to model it off the measurements of my beloved bomber jacket. I wanted it to have the same overall length, but more importantly, I wanted the sleeves to actually fit me- shortening sleeves is probably my most frequent adjustment. I took out about an inch in the body to match up with the length of my bomber jacket, and I took about the same amount from the sleeve length, if not a titch more.

I made this jacket over a period of three days off and on, and the construction was a breeze- it starts coming together fairly quickly, which feels very satisfying. The most time consuming parts are the distressing (if you are doing it) and the flat fell seams, and they have to be done in that order (distress, then sew) at each part of the construction process so that you don’t end up ruining your topstitching. Based on the tutorial provided in the sew along, I used two methods of sanding to distress the denim: some I did with a Dremel tool and some I did with 150 grit sandpaper. I liked the Dremel for sanding the corners and the edges of the flat felled seams because it was easy to navigate a smaller surface area with the tool. But for getting worn-looking patches on the overall fabric, the 150 grit sandpaper did the job great, and I alternated the direction of my sanding so that it wouldn’t look too precise. Since my fabric was already bleached, the distressing was a breeze and I had less distance to travel between the light blue of the denim and white patchy areas I was going for.

I also followed the suggested advice of using double sided wash-away tape to hold down my flat felled seams right before I topstitched them- this was helpful to keep everything in place while topstitching, but it also allows you to distress the edges of the seams while they are in the proper place without, as mentioned before, ruining the topstitching thread. I had a bit of trouble doing the keyhole buttonhole shapes with my topstitching thread, not sure why, so about halfway through I switched to regular rectangular shapes and you can’t tell at all. I used buttonhole glue, or whatever it’s called, to put on the back of my buttonholes to keep them nice and sharp and safe from unraveling, used a big back of jeans buttons that I got for like $5 at a store downtown that the lovely and always helpful Beth of SewDIY recommended to me, and I was set!

 

I COULD NOT BE MORE IN LOVE WITH THIS JACKET, Y’ALL. The fit is so spot on for everything I wanted and needed in a lightweight jacket. The sleeves are the perfect length, and the denim is soft enough that I can roll them up easily and not feel like my elbows are weighted down with fabric. The length of the overall jacket is perfect, too- it hits right at the top of my butt/bottom of my back, which is very comfortable for me. It’s a little too short for wearing long shirts underneath because it changes the proportions in a way that is not appealing to me, but I’m fine with that because I am rarely an untucked shirt kind of girl. So far it pairs well with fitted trousers, dresses, and skirts: YOU NAME IT!!!! (greens, beans, potatoes, lamb, ram, ham!) I put this make in my fall/winter queue because it’s a jacket and that makes sense, but you BEST BELIEVE this thing is gonna follow me into the spring and summer- LA summers are certainly not mild enough to merit needing a jacket all the time, but most buildings are always air conditioned and therefore FREEZING and I never want to lug around a full on sweater with me on hot days, so I usually just suffer til I’m outside again. This jacket is the PERFECT accessory for keeping warm but not burning up- I can’t tell you how good it looks with summer dresses! Very, very happy with how it came out, and I enjoyed the process all the way through! If you have made jeans before, this pattern will be a CINCH to get through- but even if you haven’t, you’ll probably want to try a pair after you complete this piece of art!

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to Claire who took these pictures for me since I was too sick and tired of doing my normal backdrop photos. I needed to mix it up a bit and I love how these came out, although I think it’s apparent how uncomfortable I am taking photos in public spaces lol! I can be surrounded by a film crew and have no problem posing for the camera, but as soon as you take me out of the realm of “work” and make it just me in the middle of the street, I would rather melt into a puddle and evaporate into the desert air than model me-made garments in front of curious eyes. Sigh. I’m working on it. Also, this is the Fumeterre skirt paired with my favorite Archer shirt by Grainline Studios.

Coming To America

It is embarrassing how long it took me to put this little number together- I think from start to finish two and a half years passed between the skirt and the top! But better late than never, right?

I made this wrap skirt from a vintage 70’s pattern (Butterick 6809) that I saw on someone else’s blog and purchased from etsy. The skirt made me nostalgic, because even though I was a teenager in the 90s, I was always a HUGE fan of a good wrap skirt, and I collected a lot of them throughout my high school years, some from thrift stores and consignment shops, others from some of the cheap fast fashion retailers in the strip mall down the street (do any of y’all remember ‘Rainbow’? or ‘5- 7- 9’? We also had a spot in Birmingham that I loved called ‘Warehouse of Fashions’ that was filled with enough statically clung polyester to make a small army sweat profusely in a snowstorm). No one really thinks of the 90’s as being the era of the wrap skirt, but I’m here to tell you that it was! These skirts were way less stylish and fashion forward than their 70’s-centric counterparts, but they were most definitely available in RTW, often found positioned next to the infamous skorts garment, which was like a mullet for your bottom: a pair of shorts that came equipped with a flap of fabric attached to the side that could be buttoned or clipped closed at the opposite hip to make it look like a skirt in the front. I had these in denim, cotton, plaid, you name it! My love of fashion has come a long way, right? I can only imagine what kind of ensembles I would have put together if I had known how to sew way back then!

Anyways, my love for the wrap skirt waned after I got to college when my attention focused more on cheap JNCOs knock-offs and stretchy boot cut pants (sigh), but I have continued to reserve a little space for the iconic garment my heart. I like the simplicity of a wrap skirt- depending on the fabric you make it in, you can get a lot of drama out of the look, but the architecture remains simple; it’s basically a big rectangle with a long tie at the top and a hole with which to pull the tie through. I can’t remember the name of the blog that I saw this specific pattern on, but I loved how structured the skirt looked on the maker in a stiffer kind of fabric, so I immediately snapped it up to add to my pattern stash.

A little while later when I saw this bright geometric print at The Fabric Store in LA (again, from so many moons ago!), I knew it would be a great pairing of fabric and pattern. I loved the geometry of the textile, the clean white mixed with the bright gold, and it’s also reversible! It isn’t easy to tell in the pics but the main part of the skirt is made with the golder side of the fabric while the waistband and bodice are made with the whiter side (I accidentally put the skirt on the dressform inside out in the above photo so don’t pay attention to that lol). It’s a slick little design choice that doesn’t seem glaringly obvious but succeeds in breaking up the print a bit. So yeah, I knew it would be a great pairing, but I had no idea of the actual outfit I would try and create with the skirt, and once it was completed (again, this is one of the quickest garments to make, definitely a contender for easiest ‘first sewn garment’) I realized that I had no idea what to wear with it. In my head I was gonna pair it with a cute, tight t-shirt or make a nondescript silky tank that wouldn’t detract from the dramatic fabric of the skirt, but alas, I never got around to it. For one thing, I didn’t actually own the t-shirt that I was envisioning would look cute with this skirt, and if I’m honest, that kind of rock’n’roll meets couture look is not really so much my vibe anyways. And as far as the tank is concerned, I couldn’t for the life of me find a fabric that would look good with the white and gold foil.

Skip two and a half years-ish, where the wrap skirt has sat in my closet collecting dust because it doesn’t have a partner in crime yet. I had been perusing sewing blogs and I came across a lovely maker who had just recently made this MimiG crop top (Simplicity 8394) with a gigantic bow on the front. The top was adorable and sweet without looking juvenile. The blogger had paired it with a full skirt in a very pretty soft floral fabric with a bit of body, and I was in love with the whole look. I wondered what I could possibly wear with the top, which was pretty dramatic and unique in it’s style, when suddenly a flash of my gold and white wrap skirt popped into my head. Although it had been years since I had made it, I was almost positive that I had a tiny cut of the fabric left in my stash, probably enough to make this blouse, which surely didn’t require that much material.

 

I grabbed the pattern during the next sale at Joann’s, cut out the pattern pieces, and pulled out my remnant of fabric to see if I had enough to make it. I did. Just baaaaaaaarely. It required a very inventive cutting layout, some shaving off of certain pattern pieces, and the use of a different type of fabric to line the top with, but I made it happen! And it was just as cute as I had hoped! It has a few pieces of boning at the seams to give it some structure and help it maintain it’s shape, but it feels very comfortable and I love the length of the bodice- it’s not so high that it feels like you’re wearing a bikini top, but it is low enough that you get a little peek of belly skin, depending on what garment you are wearing on your lower half. I like that the back of the top buttons up, and I love that the bow isn’t stationary; it is sewn into the side seams, so you can tie the bow in the front or in the back, depending on your preference.

I had planned on tying the bow in the front as the pattern envelope shows, but once I paired it with the skirt, which has a wrap with a side tie, I didn’t quite like how it looked- it was overkill with two big bows screaming for attention, and this is coming from someone who LOVES bows. I was a little disappointed with the final result at first- imagine waiting nearly three years to complete an ensemble and then choosing the one pattern that doesn’t quite pair up perfectly! But then I played around with the bow placement and realized that I quite liked it when the bows were not tied on the same side (like with one in the front and the other in the back). My preference is: bodice bow in the back (party) and skirt bow in front (business). Looking at the profile I think it gives the whole look a bit of artistic flair that I wasn’t anticipating. Now I need to be real with y’all- when the bow is in the back I can’t tie it myself so I had to get Claire’s help with it, and ummm…Well, let’s just say that she doesn’t have a lot of experience tying big bows and making them look nice, even and full. That’s all I’m gonna say! I’m sure she will get better with practice LOLOLOL!

I obviously look like an extra in one of the most prolific movies of my lifetime, Coming To America, so I hope it doesn’t look too costumey because I am really digging it. The fabric isn’t an Ankara or Dutch wax print, but the bold geometry and stiffness of the fabric seems synonymous with it, particularly paired with the patterns I used. All I need is a head wrap and I will be golden! Oh man, I just realized, this would be such a great Halloween costume if I walked around in this ensemble with a basket of flower petals that I dropped all over the ground for people to walk on – I wonder if anyone would get it?

All in all, this was an easy, straightforward make, it doesn’t look like anything else in my #redcarpetDIY wardrobe, and I can’t wait to actually wear it to an event, although I will have to figure out the bow situation first. Maybe it’s because of the heaviness and stiffness of my fabric, but the bow starts to sink down a bit after a while and look pitiful, so I might need (Claire) to tie it perfectly and then sew it closed just to make sure that it stays perky, because you never know, someone might ask me to hop on one foot and bark like a dog (“a BIG dog”) and I want my outfit to pass muster 😉

 

Bra Turned Bodice in Golden Green and Ombre

This make is not perfect, but I am really proud of it, because I went on a REALLY long journey with it before I ended up where I did, and even though it’s so different than what I initially envisioned, it came out much better than I anticipated.

I got the gorgeous gold and white lightweight silk fabric at The Fabric Store many moons ago, and it has been sitting in my stash for the longest. I think I got three yards of it, but I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. The silk is a bit transparent and very delicate, but the print, as you can see, is very bold. It’s an ombre print in gold that, up close, kind of looks like scribbles that get darker and darker. “Scribble” probably isn’t the best way to describe this graphic because I feel like the connotation of that word is “careless” and “messy”, and nothing about this fabric looks like that, but as a doodler myself, I like the idea of a scribble being the jumping off point for this print.

Anyways, a few months ago I came across a cool inspiration photo that Tessuti had posted on their instagram (the garment on the right) of a dress from a designer’s fashion show. I really loved the silhouette of the dress with the big print and the full flowy skirt that looked so lightweight that it was practically floating around her body. I also loved the simplicity of the design. A very simple, almost boxy long sleeved bodice with a high waist that connects to a gathered skirt. It didn’t take me long to imagine my gold and white ombre fabric paired with this design, because it checked all my boxes: I wanted something long to show off the full transition of the ombre, a lightweight, drapey fabric that would flow around the body, and something simple that would let the dynamic print shine.

I spent a few weeks trying to hunt down a pattern comparable to this dress and when I had no luck, I decided that it couldn’t be that hard to draft or hack my own pattern, right? FAMOUS. LAST. WORDS.

It's soooo delicate!!!

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I could easily have draped a bodice pattern for the dress myself- I’m not an amazing draper but I learned a little about it in college and from books and have done it successfully on super simple garments. I knew that the task wouldn’t be too challenging…except for when it came to the sleeves. Sleeves require math and a bit (ok, a lot!) more pattern drafting know-how than I have. I decided against giving it the old college try and instead I went back to my pattern stash and chose a dress pattern from which I thought I could utilize a bodice that also came with sleeves. I was surprised that I had nothing in my stash with as simple a bodice pattern as I was looking for; everything that had the right shape had lots of extra darts and tucks and design elements included, which I did not want.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXwAjEIBn15/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I won’t bore you with the details of how my process went for the hacking of Butterick 5919, so let’s just say that I didn’t make it didn’t work. I made a muslin of just the bodice which came out great (or so I thought), so then I moved to cutting and constructing my fashion fabric and added the long panels for the gathered skirt to the bodice’s bottom. The incomplete dress looked okay enough on my dress form to continue with it, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself, but as soon as I tried it on for fit, it was a disaster. There wasn’t enough room in the bodice for…well, my body! I don’t know exactly why- the sleeves, which were a perfect fit in my muslin, were surprisingly tight in the silk, but they weren’t the main problem- it was the actual bodice that made me feel claustrophobic. I could barely get it closed in the back, and on top of that, I wasn’t able to lift my arms very high or take a deep breath without the dress riding up or constraining my breathing, and this of course was without a zipper installed. There were just too many things wrong and uncomfortable about the bodice for me to even stress about trying to fix them, and I didn’t have enough fashion fabric to start over with a new one or make a separate top in the same fabric to turn it into a two piece, so I walked away from it. Put down my seam ripper, turned off the lights, closed the door. I kept the dress in my thoughts all night, which I usually do when I feel overwhelmed by how to make something work, and it almost always puts me back on the right track within a day or two. The next morning, re-inspired, I decided that instead of figuring out how to keep the garment as a dress, I would just salvage the skirt and make a totally different kind of top to pair with it.

 

 

I had this tiny cut of a goldish/greenish brocade fabric that I had purchased at Michael Levine’s like, 2 years prior, and never used, and it kept calling my name from the corner of my craft room. It was a totally different kind of weight and feel of fabric, but I held it next to the white and gold ombre anyways. It was like magic. The colors matched each other in the gold of the silk and the sheen of the brocade, and the brocade also had this imprint of an oval, leaf-like shape on it that mirrored the scribbles in the silk. It seemed like such a bizarre pairing, but when put together, the two fabrics were kind of a perfect, unexpected match. I didn’t have much of that brocade though (maybe 1/2 yard of a narrow yard?), and I couldn’t imagine what kind of top I could make with it. I thought that something tight and figure flattering would look cool when juxtaposed with the simple gathered skirt, but I had no patterns in my stash like that. Then I wondered about how a bustier would look. I have no idea why this garment popped into my head, and I also didn’t really have a pattern for this style either, but I did have a strapless push-up bra pattern that I had made once before. It had amazed me how beautiful that make had looked, and when I tried that bra on after completing it, my first thought was wondering how I could possibly get away with wearing it not as intimate apparel but as an outer garment (you can see here that I did figure out a way to make it sportswear appropriate!) Could I use the Esplanade Bra pattern with this brocade fabric? Was that a reasonable hack? Was this something even in my wheelhouse?

The answer to all of these things, I found out, was YES! But I doubted myself practically the WHOLE way through. I did a quick google search to see if anyone else had hacked the Esplanade into a proper bodice garment, and I found one post by a well-known maker who had successfully made it happen. My biggest concern was wondering whether or not I would need to size up in the bra. I was thinking that I would not, since the bra pattern can be made with either knit or woven fabric (I used a Tailormadeshoppe kit to make mine and the bra fabric was comprised of non-stretch satin); the only reason it looks like the bra has negative ease is because of the elastic sewn onto the top and bottom edges, and also the back panels are made of powernet. But the business part, where the cups are, can be totally be constructed from woven. However, the blog I read said that she sized up because of the difference in the pattern calling for a knit material and her final garment being made of woven. I was really stuck here on what to do- do I size up as she suggests or do I just construct it in my normal size and simply modify the back piece that is made of powernet by making it longer in my woven fabric? After double checking the pattern details to ensure that it didn’t require a knit fabric, I decided to trust my intuition and make the same size in my brocade as the one I made for my original bra. Thankfully it was the right decision!

The hack was actually not too terrible to accomplish, and although some things could certainly look a lot better, I think it’s a pretty fine garment considering I did not make a muslin first. First off I added a few inches to the length of the pattern pieces because the bra as drafted ends above my belly button and I knew I wanted more coverage than that to match up with the waistband of my skirt (btw, in these photos there is a substantial gap between the top of my skirt and the bottom of my bustier, and I have since tightened the waistband a bit to bring it a little higher up my waist). Because I was not using elastic on the edges, I added a bit more room for seam allowances on the tops and bottoms of the pattern pieces so that I could enclose the raw seams. I also lined the entire bra with self fabric to give it more structure (I knew that for this thing to work it needed to be fitted very close to my body, especially since I wouldn’t have elastic or powernet to help me out in this department). Pretty much everything else was constructed according to the instructions and it came together nicely.

The biggest issue I had was deciding how I wanted to close the garment. Obviously a bra closure would work best on this type of design but I didn’t have any closures that were the right color match with the brocade (and I don’t really enjoy dyeing). Grommets seemed like a pretty cool idea that would make it look a bit more like a corset, but ultimately I decided to use another Orange Lingerie pattern and just make my own bra closure out of the brocade fabric. I had seen this pattern, the Leverett Hook and Eye Closure, when it came out, intrigued by the offering but sure that I would never actually need to to use it… little did I know it would ultimately save the day (and thanks to IG for reminding me of this pattern)!

The closure pattern is very labor intensive because you have to hand sew all those hooks and eyes onto the fabric, but it was still really fun to do and well worth it in the end. Most importantly, it is easy to adjust the length of the closure pattern depending on what you’re attaching it to, which is ironic for me to type out now because I totally miscalculated the length I needed and made it too short (I am so used to sewing bra closures with raw edges that I forgot to include a seam allowance once I lengthened the piece to match!) So I had to add an additional piece of fabric to the closure since I didn’t have enough fashion fabric to cut out a whole new piece. Like, I said, it’s not perfect! But I made it work and it’s not super noticeable.

 

The one thing that does bother me about the completed bodice is the little bubble of fabric in the front middle of the piece in between the cups. I actually have that same bubble on my original bra as well, so I know this isn’t a side effect of forgoing elastic and changing the fabric weight from satin to brocade.

When I posted the issue on instagram, lots of commenters said that 1. they didn’t notice the bubble/it didn’t detract from the overall look of the garment and 2. that they had RTW bodices/bras of a similar style that had the exact same bubble. So that made me feel a lot better. And then, bless her, the designer of Orange Lingerie patterns chimed in to say that adding an additional piece of boning right up the middle of the bra would get rid of that pesky gaping once and for all. By this time I had mostly made my peace with the bubble and decided not to stress out about it (read: take it apart to insert more boning), but I will most definitely try it on my next version of this pattern to see if it works.

So, to recap:

  • I made the same size in this bodice as I did when I made it as a bra, because the pattern does not explicitly call for stretch fabrics (except for the powernet in the side back panels)
  • I omitted the use of bra channeling to cover the boning and instead I added a lining of self fabric to the inside of all the panel pieces of the bra (not the cups) which covered the boning and also gave the bodice a bit more structure.
  • to accommodate the loss of stretch in the side back panels, I lengthened that pattern piece by several inches and and then tried it on towards the end of construction to see where I should cut off the excess before I added the bra closure.
  • I added seam allowances to the top and bottom edges of all the bra panel pieces to make up for the elastic that would normally cover those raw edges.
  • Because there is boning sewn into the front and lining pieces of the bra, I needed to turn it right side out, enclosing all my seams. So I sewed the top seams right sides together across the bra edges first before turning the bra right side out, created my boning channeling through the lining and outer fabric, and then when I was ready to close it, I trimmed the inside seam allowance flush to the just beneath the edge of the boning straight across, then folded my outer seam allowance to the inside twice so the raw edge was covered and sewed it down, creating something close to a flat felled seam on the inside of the garment. I’m sure there was a better way to do this but it’s what was available to me at the time, lol.

The skirt was much less intensive than the bodice, obviously. It’s just a dirndle skirt that I drafted a waistband for once I decided it would no longer be part of a dress. Because the silk is transparent (and also because this is now my preferred method when working with silk) I chose to baste white organza to the waistband instead of interfacing it. I used a narrow hem to get the full effect of the heavier gold on the bottom of the print, inserted a zipper, and voila! I will need to wear some kind of slip underneath it since the skirt is a bit see-through, so I plan to make one using some lightweight white silk in the near future.

I love the full effect of these pieces together, but I also love the idea of pairing this skirt with a knit sweater- I have no idea if that’s my actual style or if I’ve just seen that look in a magazine before, but I would most definitely give it a shot. The juxtaposition of the light, airy skirt with a chunky, grounding garment on top seems really interesting to me, and something I can get away with any time of year because I LIVE IN LOS ANGELES (I haven’t found tons of things to brag about LA in the few years I have lived here, but a less bundled up winter season always makes the cut). Anyways, for me, the coolest thing about this ensemble is that I don’t fancy myself creative enough to have just come up with the silhouette on my own, but after trial and error and problem solving, this is where I landed, and it’s pretty awesome. More proof that luxuriating in the process of sewing provides some of the most exciting results!

Turia Dungarees in Yellow Linen

I made these overalls once before in a shorter version, and they have been a warm weather staple for me ever since. On a whim I decided to make another pair,  full length this time, and in a really fun color. Initially I was going for pink or mauve twill, but after I hopped into The Fabric Store a couple months ago, I became fixated on making them in one of the gorgeous linens they have in stock, which I imagined would be comfortable and relatively cool to wear even on hot LA days. A bolt of bright yellow mid weight immediately called to me from the wall of linens- more sunny day yellow than butter yellow if you’re wondering, since pics don’t really do this color justice.

 

I’ve never had my ‘colors done’ per se, but, now after 37 years of living in this skin, I know exactly what hues make it SING. Yellow, chartreuse, rusty orange, any shade of brown- they all tend to look great on my skin, which has yellow undertones and pops when draped in these colors. This used to bum me out when I was younger because I would always be drawn to the bright purples and pinks and reds in stores. Few high schoolers, at least in my day, gravitate towards a neutral + orange + yellow palette, which are colors that more often than not look kind of ‘meh’ on the rack. But as soon as I would try those colors on (always urged to give it a try by my mother, who already knew the transformation that would happen), the result was undeniable. Brown was my color! Olive green made me radiant! Paprika made my eyes pop! In contrast, bright reds, hot pinks and brilliant purples just washed me out, made the bags under my eyes look a bazillion times heavier, made my skin look gray and sallow (yes, I had awful bags under my eyes, even in grade school- I had terrible allergies and stayed up too late reading most nights). Now this certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t wear colors I love even if they don’t “go” with my skin (although red has remained a no-no for me since it doesn’t elevate my skin OR my mood), but as I have gotten older and started paying attention to different facets of what I like and dislike, I’ve noticed that I rather enjoy stomping around in colors that you don’t see people wear as often. This skin I’m in, it BUCKS TRENDS! Funny how it takes decades to appreciate the littlest things…

BACK TO THESE OVERALLS. There isn’t really much else to share, since not only did I make these overalls once before, but I even made the EXACT SAME MISTAKE in sewing them that I did the first time. And guess what! I didn’t forget that I made a weird mistake in the construction process when I first made them, I just forgot what the problem was specifically and was too lazy to read my previous blog post about it (which literally would have taken me only 60 seconds, I know, I know- I’m rolling my eyes at my own self). I think I assumed that once I came to my wonky misstep, I would totally remember what the initial problem was and I would be able to fix it easily. And that did happen, but about 2 steps too late. The issue is in the way that the back upper pattern piece is nested on the pattern sheet (and this is no fault of the designer- I should have been paying closer attention! Although it’s interesting to note that I did make the same mistake twice!) Most of the pattern pieces are nested in a similar way with the largest size on the outside and the smaller sizes graded smaller and smaller inside those lines, but on this particular pattern piece, the largest size is on the outter-most side on one half of the piece, but on the other side it’s on the inner-most side. Does that make sense? Lot’s of patterns are formatted this way and haven’t been a problem for me, but I guess I usually see patterns drafted as all one way or the other, so the switch that happened on the pattern paper didn’t register in my brain, and I ended up cutting the correct size on one half of the pattern piece and a smaller size on the other. Essentially this means that the back pattern piece that connects the straps is too narrow to accommodate them, so (two times, now) I have had to add an additional slice of fabric to the back side seams to make up for the smaller size I cut out. Bah humbug. One of those things no one else will notice, or will think is a design feature. BUT I KNOW. I KNOW FOR TWO PAIR!

Aside from that snafu, everything came together beautifully. Because linen likes to fray so easily I tried to finish and/or bind all of my seams, and for some spots that didn’t get special treatment in the construction of the overalls (instructions suggest you use flat felled seams on many of the pieces, but some are left raw) I made some self fabric bias tape and used it to cover the raw seams, specifically in the bib area and the back straps. As with the overall shorts I made, I only used one zipper because two were unnecessary, and I graded to a size larger in the pants at the hips (38) and kept the top a straight size 36. I also used my Ginger jeans pockets for these overalls (the pockets drafted for this pattern are really tiny), ignored the pocket placement stated on the pattern pieces, and instead tried the almost-completed garment on and positioned the pockets on my butt where they would look best. This should be standard procedure for all pants making that comes with back pockets, since everyone’s booty is different and pocket placement can really make or break the way a butt looks.

When I first finished sewing them up, the overalls fit pretty snugly in the thighs, but, as I had hoped, literally within minutes the linen had relaxed significantly and the legs were very comfortable and loose-fitting without looking too big. When I make this pattern again in a sturdier fabric than linen, I might go up one more size in the pants so that I can ensure that they don’t fit too tightly in the hip and thigh area.

I am in love with the color of these overalls and other people seem to be, too- I don’t think I have worn them once without a stranger coming up to me and complimenting them. But linen is a tricky fabric to pair with this kind of garment. Overalls are designed to get a lot of wear and tear and as such they are usually made with a very stable fabric, most commonly denim. After a few weeks of moderate wear, mine are already starting to pill in the seat and the thighs, and of course they are always wrinkly when I first put them on, as linen tends to be. This of course will not keep me from wearing them into the ground, but they might not last as long as, say, the first version of this pattern I made a couple of years ago, which are comprised of a heavy twill and are still going VERY strong.

Whatever I decide to do for my next pair, I am really happy with how these yellow linen ones turned out and I am glad to be reminded of how NOT to cut out that back pattern piece out next time. Third time’s a charm, right?

 

The Jessica Dress

As soon as I saw Mimi G wearing her newest SewSewDef pattern, the Jessica Dress, on her instagram feed, I was in LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVE. This is one of those patterns that I have lowkey been searching for for the longest, to no avail. I have seen lot’s of comparable patterns, but nothing exactly like this, and this dress is EXACTLY what I have been looking for. The silhouette is so simple and familiar, yet it seems to have slipped out of the collective designer-hive consciousness…til now!

I love that it has a button band, I love that it has a sweetheart neckline, I love that it has princess seams, I love that it is tea length, I love the positioning of the bodice on the body, I love the patch pockets- I literally love every single thing about it.

Mimi’s first showing of the dress on IG was at the drafted tea length in a beautiful orange+gold+red Ankara fabric. She styled it with a pair of jeans underneath and I was just head-over-heels for it, but later on she posted another photo of the dress in a softer, drapey yellow fabric that just barely skimmed the ground, and it was just the most elegant and romantic garment ever. The big patch pockets, crisp in their initial Ankara incarnation, folded in on themselves in the flowy fabric, offering a bit of unexpected drama and sweetness to the whole look. Again, head over heels! I love a pattern that can pull double duty to look like two completely different dresses when made up in different fabrics. Ahh, the magic of sewing!

Needless to say, I stopped pretty much everything I was doing to move the Jessica dress up my project queue (I had been in the very middle of my Suits Me Refashion at the time), but I soon realized that I didn’t have the perfect fabric for this dress in my (admittedly meager) stash. I almost chose a fabric that I was only so-so about just so that I could have the satisfaction of completing the garment, but thankfully I stopped myself before I actually cut into anything. If I have learned NOTHING from the past four years of sewing my entire wardrobe, it is to NOT WASTE TIME sewing something in a fabric that I am not madly in love with. Sure, there is the rare occasion when a fabric that has presented itself as uninspiring can be elevated when paired with the perfect pattern, but it’s unlikely and, in my opinion, simply not worth the risk, especially when you are as stoked to sew up the pattern as I was this dress!

I suddenly had a memory of seeing this really fantastic shark print on the IG feed of an indie fabric/crafting store that I had the pleasure of patroning when I lived in Savannah last year. Although I live too far away now to shop there in person, I have continued to follow Fabrika’s instagram because it is inspiring, full of humor, and beautifully curated. Fortunately for me, it turned out that the print I had mentally catalogued in that gigantic filing cabinet in my brain for random information was yes, still in stock, yes a good apparel weight cotton, and yes, able to be shipped off to me in California. WHAT LUCK! Actually, it wasn’t luck at all- the staff at Fabrika is incredibly kind and helpful, and they seemed more than happy to sell to me over the phone. The truth is, I don’t take great customer service for granted at all anymore; you only need a couple of botched orders and infuriating email exchanges with what is arguably one of the most well-known fabric stores in the US to fully appreciate when a company knows how to treat customers with respect and gratitude.

Anyways, why was I so in love with this fabric? Well, it’s navy and white for one thing, which is probably my favorite neutral pairing (looking at my memade wardrobe, I’m starting to think that I use navy the way most people use black). Plus it has sharks, and sharks are infinitely cool! But I also love that, at first glance, you almost can’t tell that the print is comprised of sharks at all- they are so integrated into the swirly waves of the ocean around them that their gnashing teeth and hungry eyes don’t overpower the overall print, which keeps it from looking like a novelty quilting cotton (no shade if apparel made of novelty prints is your thing, though!)

The fabric is a pretty great weight for this dress- since I live in LA, it’s gonna be hot for a long time, and what would normally be a dress only good for the latter part of spring and all of summer is gonna carry me DEEP into fall with the aid of a jacket on top. It provides the same crispness and volume as the fabric that Mimi’s ankara print version does, which I love.

This is the first SewSewDef pattern that I have worked up, and I think it’s really impressive, particularly compared to the Seamwork patterns, which also come free with that magazine’s monthly publication. Seamwork has gorgeous designs and patterns, but unfortunately the drafting, much like the Colette brand, is really really off for me. I got a subscription to Seamwork a couple of years ago as a Christmas gift, and so far, every pattern I have made that wasn’t a simple knit top has needed a significant amount of work to make it look wearable and decent. In general, I think that the “Sew this project in only three hours!” concept kind of works against the brand- I consider myself a proficient sewist and I have never completed a dress from woven fabric in three hours that was worth a damn. But that sew it quick concept has nothing to do with the pattern drafting, which is my main beef with the brand, and why I bring it up here- because the SewSewDef pattern drafting is excellent!

They aren’t drafted with a lot of ease which is what I personally prefer, so I based my size off the finished measurements of the garment and made myself an XXS in the bust graded to an XS in the waist and the hips. While I was constructing it I kept second guessing my sizing and worrying that it would end up being too tight, to the extent that I even went back and opened up a couple seams to give myself a teeny tiny bit more room. Turns out, the drafting was perfect as-is, so I had to go back and add those tiny increments back to the seams before finishing it up, lol.

I made a few changes to match with my own preferred finishings which was easy to do, but honestly, this pattern came equipped with everything you could want to make a lovely looking garment. I omitted the facings for the bodice and instead lined the whole thing in self fabric, then under stitched it to keep the lining from popping out. I applied a strip of interfacing to the front center bodice pieces since I got rid of the interfaced facing, then stitched in the ditch on the outside of the garment at the waist seam to tack down the inside lining. Lastly, I added a bit of stay tape to the tops of the front bodice pieces at the seam to keep them straight and stiff since they looked like they had the tendency to lose their shape, as many curved bodice seams do.

Weirdly, I had a lot of trouble with the pockets! The pattern doesn’t come with markings on where to place the pockets and instead suggests to complete the dress and try it on before you decide where you want them to go- this was smart since everybody’s arm length and pocket preference differs, but it took me a long time to make the decision. In part because my fabric is bold and in part because the pockets are so large (the pocket is drafted as one size), I just couldn’t find the right place for them to sit without looking overwhelming and gaping out. I decided to make them smaller in both length and width and that totally did the trick. I also thought that pearl snaps would look really pretty (and be quicker to create) on this dress instead of making buttonholes and sewing buttons down the whole length. Yes, it meant a last minute trip to Joann’s, but it was also clearly a good decision- I love them! And it just occurred to me that I could have kept the original pocket size as is and simply added a snap to the tops to keep them from gaping out! Ah well, free tip for anyone who has the same issue as I did and doesn’t want to redraft the pocket 😉

Looking at the completed Jessica dress that Mimi was wearing in her IG pic, the design seems much more complicated than it actually is to make; it’s deceivingly simple! There were a couple of things that I particularly enjoyed about the construction process: for one, I appreciated the absence of a separate button band for the bodice; The buttons (or snaps in my case), are just applied to the interfaced edges of the front bodice pieces and is much less time consuming to construct than, say, an archer button down (which I have made about 20 times over the years). Easy peasy! I also loved the way that the bottom hem and button bands are assembled. You face the right sides of the button bands together at the bottoms, sew across the short ends and flip them right side out, then turn up the hem and sew in place. I am so used to the hem being the very last thing sewn on a garment before it’s completed that it was really refreshing to get it done with so early on.

There were one or two places in the instructions that were a little confusing, and I’m not sure if it’s because I read them wrong or because it was a typo. They didn’t mess me or my dress up, but it would be something for a beginning sewist to pay close attention to, lest they be led astray. Other than that, this dress is SUCH a winner for me. The gorgeous final result, the beautiful drafting which required no alterations (which makes me REALLY excited to dig into a couple of her other patterns knowing that I won’t have to spend a ton of time adjusting the fit), the versatility of the design- I am dying to make this in a soft, flowy white fabric next year!- the fact that I have been lowkey looking for this pattern for so long, the sweet fabric I was able to get from a brick and mortar fabric store hundreds of miles away- this dress was MEANT to be in my life 🙂

 

 

Suits Me, the Refashioners 2017 Challenge!

Well, bless it! The sewing community has come through again with a rush of encouragement, appreciation, and smoke blown up my bum, this time in the form of an invitation to join the illustrious Refashioners Blog Tour! For those unfamiliar, the refashioners take on an annual challenge of refashioning some specific type of garment into something new and (hopefully) improved. My introduction to the group was maybe a year or so ago when the theme of the refashion was ” jeans”, which obviously conjures up all kinds of possibilities, and the sewing bloggers who participated did NOT disappoint! This year’s theme is “Suits Me” and you can only imagine my amazement when coordinators Portia and Elisalex asked me to join their talented group of contributors. Although I have certainly re-worked an old garment or two in my past with some mending or re-hemming, I don’t actually have any experience with completely revising a garment from top to bottom, and I wondered briefly if my skillset would translate at this level of talent. Fortunately, the thought was quickly replaced with “You’re trycurious, damnit!”, and I quickly wrote Portia back to thank her for the consideration and to tell her to please count me in!

First up? Finding my suit! This was the most time consuming part of the challenge for me, since I don’t buy much clothing at all other than shoes and am out of the loop with the good consignment and vintage shops in LA. My only parameters for the suit were for it to be inexpensive (which can be a real feat in price-jacked Los Angeles) and I wanted it to be made of a quality material, namely NO POLYESTER, which has a tendency to absorb funky smells easily and makes me sweat like a Trump supporter reading Black Twitter. I spent days reading Yelp reviews of vintage shops around the city and jotting down their addresses when, on a whim, I decided to drive to Out of the Closet, a well-known chain of thrift stores in the city whose proceeds go to supporting LGBTQ and AIDS affected communities. It’s clean and well-stocked and I walked straight to their rack of suits and rifled through the thirty or so they had on display; within 10 minutes I had found my match- a black and white birdseye 100% wool two-piece that was several sizes too big for me, leaving me what I hoped would be plenty of room to play around with. The suit cost only $25 and if memory serves correct, one of the tags said the suit was made in Malaysia with Italian wool. The designer tag said “Andre Vachon”.

I didn’t think long and hard about what was to become of this suit before I pulled out my seam ripper, I just sat down on the couch and began taking it apart while watching season 2 of Last Chance U. At the end of a few episodes I had a pile of fabric puzzle pieces at my feet and a smaller discard pile consisting of things like lining and pockets. I decided straight away not to salvage the lining because, although the suit itself was made of what seemed like a good quality wool, the lining was a cheap acetate that I wanted no part of. I saved the buttons, too, though they were also cheap. I was amazed at how complicated the innards of the jacket looked once the lining was removed. I had seen and worked on certain elements of tailoring a jacket like this from books and websites, but I had never seen the handiwork up close and personal before. So many interfacings and pad stitched hair canvas, my goodness! I got rid of what I could but kept the interfacing on the front pieces because I figured they would offer whatever I ended up making a bit more structure.

As I took the suit apart, a solid image of the suit’s potential began to take shape. Thanks to the awesome suit-inspired pinterest board that the Refashioners had set up, I had lots of ideas floating around in my head, but I also wanted to keep in line with how the suit originated. As I mentioned, I had never taken on this kind of project before, so maintaining some simplicity and honoring the original architecture of the garment seemed like a good vibe to follow.

What if I just slightly altered the concept of The Suit, which has a tendency to feel a little stuffy and buttoned up? What if I took The Suit and made it a little more casual, a little more comfortable, a little more current and applicable to the needs of my life and career (which, as a professional actor, has virtually no dress code whatsoever)? If you follow my blog at all then you know that this concept is not out of the ordinary for me, as I just recently finished making a Jacket + Shorts outfit that upends the classic idea of a tailored two piece. I wanted this new refashioned suit to do the same thing, but I had to adhere to certain rules, namely sticking with the traditional suiting fabric it was made of, and incorporating some of the original design details in the suit that would prove impossible to work around.

The idea of a kimono jacket suddenly popped into my head, which I heartily latched onto. Maybe because it was one of the most recent patterns I had added to my stash? Or because the kimono silhouette, relaxed and so easy to wear, seems to be everywhere right now? (Although kimonos have certainly been fashionable and culturally relevant for far longer than when us westerners got hip to them)! A kimono provided an interesting twist to the idea of a classic suit jacket but the two still felt connected to me- both garments look structured and traditional, and they both feel like cultural identifiers. Kimono robes, at least the ones I have worn, are so comfortable, yet something about those wide sleeves that jut out from the body look very presentational to me. Couple that with the elegance of the band that flows around the neck and down the fronts of the jacket- a band that has the same visual impact of a necktie, but of course, looser, and perhaps more inviting. The more I thought about it, the more I loved the beauty and symbolism of subbing a kimono for a suit jacket, but who is paying attention to symbolism when you’re trying to refashion a garment into something wearable?

I am, damnit!

Once I settled on the kimono jacket, it made sense to make myself another pair of pants out of the suit bottoms, but obviously a pair that would fit me well and look good with the larger frame of the top- perhaps something high waisted with a slim leg. So that was it- I had my design! Now I just had to implement it.

With all my fabric pieces separated from their siblings and the seam allowances ironed out, I cut out the paper pattern for my jacket (I used McCalls 7200) and tried to figure out how to use them with the meager amount of fabric I had. It really was like trying to solve a puzzle! Looking at the suit on the hanger in Out of the Closet, I thought I was going to have yards upon yards of fabric to work with, but once the suit was deconstructed, I had much less to play with. I pulled out a couple of yards of black tencel from my stash that LA Finch Fabrics had kindly gifted me over the summer and planned to use it to supplement what I couldn’t create with the wool.

 

It took a while, but eventually I came up with a plan for the pattern pieces. I didn’t have enough fabric to make a full sleeved kimono as I had intended, but I didn’t mind; instead, I would use suit scraps to apply binding to the edges of my short sleeves, giving it a more finished look. I used the fronts of the original suit jacket for the fronts of my kimono, and because I didn’t have much room to play with, I kept the front welt pockets and darts intact. The pockets are functional, though very thin (actually perfect for glasses!) and although I tried to fight the inclusion of those details at first, I quite like them now. I love that echoes of the original suit are still peeking their way into the refashion in unexpected ways, like the breast pocket/handkerchief slot at the top of the suit jacket- when sewn up into my kimono the breast pocket ends up as a shoulder pocket on me, but you know what? That’s kind of a cool design detail! I feel like it’s something Rachel Comey might utilize, haha. And of course I chose to highlight this detail by sticking a little matching handkerchief inside it, lest it go unnoticed!

I had to do a lot of hacking to make the back pattern pieces and yoke for the jacket work- I didn’t have any original suit pieces large enough to accommodate them so I halved the pattern pieces on the fabric I had left, added seam allowances, and worked with them as if the jacket had a center back seam. Easy peasy. I used my black tencel for the band since I didn’t have enough suiting fabric, and I really like how it softens the stiffness of the jacket, and, as mentioned earlier, gives a bit of a symbolic nod to a more traditional necktie which is usually paired with a suit jacket. I used french seams for all exposed jacket seams and serged the hem before turning it up and hand stitching it down.

The jacket came together relatively quickly and I’m not gonna lie, I was really feeling myself at this stage of the refashion! I was like ‘oh, girl- you GOT this! You have SKILLS and you are SLAYING this challenge!’

But then it was time to work on the pants.

Cue horror music ending with a blood curdling scream.

I have had some great success making pants this year! The Palmer Pletsch method of tissue fitting was super helpful to me once I moved on from stretch jeans to slacks, and, having successfully nailed down the fit more than once of my most hated pattern brand, BUUUURDA, I felt confident that I could tackle a suit refashion with no problems! Unfortunately I made the mistake of using a pattern I had not tested out before. The pattern I chose, Burda #118 01/2015, has pleats with a plain waistband in the front, and in the back, an elastic waistband gathers the excess material instead of darts, which is a look I have loved for a while but never attempted to create myself. I tissue fit the pattern pieces for the pants, hoping to achieve a slim fit in the leg, and once I was happy with them, I proceeded to cut out my suit fabric

Here is the tragic retelling rundown of everything that went wrong how I Tim Gunned my pants:

  1. The fit of the original suit pants was gigantic on me, but when I deconstructed them I had much less fabric to work with than I thought I would,  meaning there was little to no room for error.
  2. I eliminated the pleats in the front of the pants thinking that the wool fabric from my suit wasn’t drape-y enough to keep them looking right.
  3. The suit pants had back welt pockets that were impossible to work with because of their placement- I tried hard to integrate the pockets as-is into my refashion, but because I intended to have a gathered, elasticized waistband in the back, the bulky welt pocket openings wouldn’t lay flat on my body and looked ridiculous.
  4. I decided to get rid of the welt pockets and openings to accommodate my back elasticized waistband. Of course that meant I would have huge gashes in the fabric right on my butt, so I planned to construct large patch pockets to cover the cut fabric (I also interfaced the pocket openings and used my machine’s darning stitch to cover them and keep them from stretching out/ripping further).
  5. With pockets omitted, I constructed the waistband for the pants using the original waistband. I removed the belt loops and used my tencel as a facing for the waistband. I sewed one edge of the elastic to the side seam of one side of the waistband, then tried the pants on so that I could cut my elastic to fit my waist. One look in the mirror and I realized that the decision to gather the back waistband was bad bad bad. I should have known the fabric would look way too bulky when pushed onto elastic, given that I omitted the front pleats for the same reason. But sometimes you have to see it to believe it!
  6. I changed the design of the pants, ditching the elastic back waistband idea for a more streamlined look with darts in the back. Which meant that I now needed a closure for the pants (the previously planned elastic waist meant I could just pull them up- in theory anyways, but when I tested them out I could barely squeeze them over my hips)!
  7. Enter: two darts on either side of the center back seam, and I also opened a side seam so that I could apply a zipper (I didn’t use the original zipper that came with the suit pants as it was just a cheap, regular plastic dress zipper and I prefer metal zippers for pants).
  8. The addition of these design elements requires a second a third a fourth an outlandish number of fit alterations of the pants, so I end up removing the waistband several times to do things like raise the rise of the pants, make way for a side zipper, change the curve of the waistband, take the side seams in (over and over again), cut up the waistband to accommodate all the changes, etc. This is where my waistband starts looking like frankenstein.
  9. I notice, not for the first time, that the waistbands of men’s pants have a center back seam, while literally NONE of the women’s pants I have worn/bought in recent memory comes equipped with the same. I can’t imagine why they don’t- a center back seam at the waistband means that if you want to give yourself or take away room in the waist area of your pants, all you have to do is open the center back seam and remove/add fabric to the seam without having to fuss with cutting the waistband up or opening the side seams. What gives? I am determined to remember this detail and cut all my future waistbands with a center back seam!
  10. I should have taken out some length at the hip line of the pants during my tissue fit phase, but it’s too late to do that now, so I keep bringing the crotch in more more more so I don’t look like I have a diaper on.
  11. Where am I? What day is it? Am I still working on these pants? What are pants??? What…is…life???
  12. WHAT ARE PANTS, I ASK YOU???
  13. The fit at this point is about as good as it’s gonna get, so I can now start focusing on how to cover up the horrendous slashes from the welt pockets in the back. I had decided that big patch pockets would cover them up nicely, but of course, because of the weird positioning of the welts which are very high and close to the side seams, this is easier said than done. On one side of the pants I am able to cover the welt completely with the large pocket, but I can’t seem to get it even on the other side without the slash from the welt peeking through on the side.

    And here is where I achieve my proudest moment in this make. I spy the black designer tag from the inside of the jacket chillin’ on the edge of my cutting table- I saved it because I thought it would have been fun to position the Andre Vachon tag and my own TryCurious tag together somewhere inside of the garment, but now it looks like the perfect way to conceal the cut from the welt pocket. I fold the tag and place it inside of the pocket so that just the AV emblem is peeking out of the side, which perfectly covers up the cut and looks like a design element I have seen on a million RTW garments before.

    Because the tag is black, it matches the wool fabric and looks intentional. I sew the edges down onto the wool to ensure that it won’t flip up and reveal the cut underneath, and for extra good measure, I sew a button through the pant leg to the top of the pockets, holding the open edge down. Because the cuts are so close to the top of the pocket edge, they have a tendency to slide into view and I want to make sure that they stay covered. This makes the pockets less functional, but I don’t mind, as I’m not a big back pocket user. Besides, the pockets were only added to cover up the cuts in the first place.
  14. I reattach all the belt loops around the waistband thinking they will help cover up some of the mad piecing together of this pattern piece, which has so many seams in it at this point that I could just refer to it as a quilt. Pants are tried on to scrutinize my handiwork. Belt loops are immediately removed because they look too distracting.
  15. I tack down the zipper tape, hand stitch a blind hem in the pants legs, and…I’m done? My pants saga is over? Could it be???

As a final result the pants are… not terrible! Ha! But of course there is room for improvement. The zipper on the side of the pants is wavy, which, in my experience, means the seams need to be stabilized with stay or twill tape. The big patch pockets on the back of the pants don’t look as bad as I thought they would (they remind me of the 70’s when all pants seemed to be extremely high waisted and pockets were positioned halfway up the wearer’s back!), but I am not crazy about the way that they peek out underneath the kimono jacket. This could have been avoided if the jacket was the length that I initially wanted it to be (a few inches longer), but of course I was constrained by the amount of fabric that the suit gave me to work with and I couldn’t squeeze any more length out. I ironed out the creases that were originally in the suit pants because I don’t like the way creases on pants fronts look on me when they don’t disappear into a waist dart, and I omitted the darts to keep the front looking crisp and clean. However I think they look fine without the creases, and I love the slightly tapered ankle length.

My last and final decision for this make was to add a belt for the kimono jacket, because the silhouette just looks way better to me when the waist is cinched in. Thankfully I was able to use most of the jacket collar for this piece (and it was already interfaced!); my pile of suit pattern pieces dwindled quickly- pretty much everything I had left was small or curved and I really didn’t want to have to make a belt comprised of 32 seams to rival my waistband, LOL.

As for the styling of this outfit, I have no idea what initially sparked me to pair it with this Esplanade Bra from Orange Lingerie, but once the main pieces of the jacket were completed and I was ready to try it on, it was the very first thing I grabbed from my closet (the strapless bra is gorgeous and since I have made it twice now, I am planning on blogging about it, but til then, know that this one was made with a kit from the wonderful TailorMadeShoppe’s etsy store) ! I’m sure it has a little something to do with the fact that I had just recently finished making the bra in a different fabric as a bustier to pair with a skirt (coming to the blog soon!), so the look was fresh in my mind. Either way, I tried it on and it immediately conjured up images of a 90’s Madonna, with her baggy suit pants and torpedo bra. The bra shows a fair amount of skin, so pairing it with this suit feels unexpected, but I still really like it. The lines of the front of the jacket do a great job of revealing just a tiny bit of the surprise that’s underneath, and it also ties in well with this Budoir For the Streets theme I have going on. For me, the idea of a kimono robe draped over a stately, beautifully shaped bra in pinks and reds is totally incongruous to the look of a black and white wool birdseye men’s suit, but surprisingly, the two together really work.

And that’s it, folks! I finished this project in record time, mostly because I was obsessed with getting it done as soon as I started working on it- I didn’t want to procrastinate and then be stressed out trying to problem solve at the last minute. I like my sewing to be fun and pressure-free! Plus, my job can take me out of town with little more than a day’s notice, and I hated the thought of being in the middle of this refashion with a deadline looming and then having to hop on a plane. As a whole, I am so happy with how this make turned out- I tried really to hard to create something that I would actually wear at some point in the future, not just something that would suffice for this challenge, and with that, I think I have succeeded. There are definitely some little things about the make that bug me, like, as I mentioned before, the pants pockets not being totally covered up by the jacket, and how there are lots of teeny tiny tears and holes throughout the wool fabric, which couldn’t be avoided- most of them came from the holes that were leftover after I carefully removed buttons, seams, welt pockets, etc. It’s just par for the course when you’re working with fabric that has already been manipulated into a garment. Fortunately, this just adds even more character to an ensemble that already has a pretty remarkable story. I feel so grateful to have been able to participate in this challenge, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and proving that I have both the creative chops and skillset to compete with the rest of The Refashioners, so here is a big thank you to Portia and Elisalex for believing in my abilities and inviting me into the fold- this has been such a blast and I feel very proud 🙂

Click here to stay up to date with The Refashioners 2017, see all the other inspiring refashions AND find out how you could win an amazing prize!

A Clog Post

What is it with the sewing community and puns/wordplay? I’m not complaining, I love it (clearly), but I wonder why it’s so prevalent? Must have to do with the collective level of intellect sewist’s tend to have 😉

Today’s post is all about shoes! Even though at this point I make shoes several times a year, I don’t often blog about them and I’m not sure why- the finished product is certainly worthy of as much space as I give to showing off my garment and accessory makes. I blame laziness! The format here will be a little different and there will be a few more process photos than I normally include in sewing-related posts.

I actually have been working on two pairs of shoes at the same time, but I will only be focusing on the clogs in this post since I am still waiting on a material for the other shoes I am making (a pair of perfectly vintage green slides, a design that I cannot for the life of me find in stores! I’ll probably do a blog post on those, too.)

I love clogs, and if you pay attention to footwear in my blog pictures at all, you will see that I can find a way to wear them with just about EVERYTHING. I can dress them up or down, they are (depending on the brand) super comfortable, and I love that they give me a bit of extra height without feeling like I am tottering on a high heel. My preferred brand is Sven, although I have a pair of Bryrs that I wear all the time, but in truth, those Bryrs took a while to get relatively comfy whereas the Svens were pretty much immediately a dream on my foot. I love the innovative designs that Bryr has (a company based out of San Fran where the clogs are also made) and they change the styles every season, but Sven has a much larger design base and more options for the kind of leather that you can use for your uppers (and again, for MY feet they are way more comfortable than any other clog brand I have tried, but everyone’s foot is different so don’t take my word for it)!

The thing about well made clogs is that they are so pricey! Which, honestly is how it should be. Most of the time, you get what you pay for, and the brands that I buy most often are all made in the USA, which I appreciate. Plus, my clogs are the most worn shoe in my closet, and there is certainly value in that. But for someone who would love to have a few pairs of “fun clogs” in yellow and blue and maybe rose gold, spending that much money on them doesn’t sit well with me- I can think of a hundred other places that money could go to in this particular political climate than on my feet. So that left me with the option of making my own clogs in fun colors.

I wasn’t even sure if this was a possibility when I came up with the idea, only because I wasn’t quite at the point where I wanted to whittle my own clog bottoms out of wood, so I needed to find a source that provided finished wood soles to regular consumers like me. By the way, the lovely blogger Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn has successfully made her own clog bottoms out of wood so I know it can be done, it would just require researching a new skill and spending some time working on it. My moon must be in Mercury or something cause I am just not in the mood for that right now.

 

A quick search on etsy introduced me to a couple of sellers of wood sole bottoms, and I eventually settled on an individual in Portugal who makes clog bottoms out wood from a tree indigenous to their area (as of this posting, this seller has closed their shop- I went to link them to this post and they were gone). The bottoms were less than $20 a pair but shipping was more than both the pairs I got combined! I didn’t mind though- they were still way cheaper than the individual pairs of clogs I already owned, plus I liked supporting an artisan’s handcrafted work even if they weren’t in the USA. The bottoms arrived and were, from what I could tell, a good quality. One pair had a groove carved into them on the sides where the leather would be attached and the other pair was smooth on all sides. Both pairs have rubber soles.

Using the grooved pair, I played around with the design I was looking for in a couple different ways- one was to cut out felt and place it on my foot in various ways, taping it to the bottom of the shoe so I could get a good idea of what it would look like.

The other thing I did was to tape up a last, draw the outline of the shoe I wanted on the tape, then cut the tape away and make a pattern out of it. I mocked it up in felt again and ended up going with my second idea, only because I didn’t have enough of the leather I was using to make my first design happen (I am saving those cut-up pieces for another shoe, though).

Here is where I ran into the only frustrating part of making this shoe; I don’t have lasts that match up with the clog bottoms. My lasts are used to CREATE shoe bottoms out of shanks, heavy board and/or leather, but I had never before made shoes with a bottom that was already completed. I had assumed that making clogs would be the easiest thing in the world since half the work was already done for me but of course it was totally the opposite. The reason I needed a last to fit smoothly onto the top of my wooden clog is because I wanted the upper leather to curve around my foot like a normal clog does. This step is totally unnecessary when making a strappy clog, like my first design. To do that you just need to position the leather around your foot at the tightness you prefer and then tape it to the bottom of the wood sole to keep it in place as you staple or hammer nails through the leather into the wood bottom. But without straps, which leave most of the curved parts of your feet open, the leather needs to lay over and match the curves of your feet. And for this to happen, you need a last to pull and guide the leather over.

I tried to make it happen without the last, believe me. And I was even using a very soft, pliable leather, which I feared might not be heavy enough for an upper, so I glued a lighter weight leather to the underside as a lining to bulk it up just a bit. Still, working with the leather plainly over my own foot and taping it to the last was proving to be impossible. Luckily I figured out a plan that did work. I didn’t have a last that would fit perfectly onto the top of the wood sole, but I really only needed the last for the curved part of the top of the foot.

So I wet the inside of my leather and lasted it like I would have a normal shoe, pulling it taught and smooth around the last and using a few nails to tack it to the underside of the last. I let them dry overnight, and although the uppers were not super stiff due to the fact that I wasn’t using a thicker leather, they did maintain the shape I was looking to acquire in the top of the shoe. I placed the uppers over my feet again while I stood on the clog bottom and taped them to the sides and bottom of the wood, and they looked way smoother and fit to the tops of my feet.

Next I used my pneumatic stapler (basically a heavy-duty staple gun I use for upholstery that is connected to an air compressor) to staple the leather into the groove of the wood. This was by far the simplest, quickest, and most fun part. On my first shoe I ended up stapling it too tight on one side and needed to loosen it up a bit. I was nervous that I would ruin the leather or the wood, but, as long as I removed the staples carefully and slowly, you couldn’t tell at all, which made me realize that as long as the wood bottoms were in good shape, I can change out the uppers indefinitely, which is pretty cool. I learned my lesson on the second pair, stapling them into the wood with the right amount of ease, then I used my box cutter blade to trim off the excess leather.

The final steps were to attach the hardware for the straps- I used two big antiqued buckles I bought for my next pair of Birkenstocks and two antiqued rivets to the hold the buckle in place, punched holes for the hardware, cut out a piece of leather for the heel bed, glued it on, and voila! Finished clogs!

The construction part took no time at all, but the fitting/lasting part was a drag using all that tape and leaning over my feet over and over again to get the perfect fit (and in the end that didn’t even really work). Luckily I know how to do it next time so it shouldn’t be too time consuming. I would love to find another last that works a bit better with clogs, but I’m not sure how much I will have- I’ll keep you posted. Next time, if I don’t do a clog with straps, I will try to use a slightly thicker leather that will hold it’s shape better. I have seen lots of wood bottom shoes with soft leather like the blue kind I used, but I am partial to a slightly firmer upper that holds it’s shape better over time.

Oh, and one last thing! As I was trying to match up the upper placement on both the left and right shoes, I noticed that the clog bottoms were not exactly the same shapes, which is to be expected with anything manmade. The slight difference in length didn’t bother me too much but one of the heels of the clogs was at least a couple millimeters higher than the other one and both were misshapen, with one side of the heel dipping lower than the other. Because I have lower back issues stemming from a slightly twisted pelvis (no idea how that happened but I have been working on it in PT), I imagine that even a tiny difference in heel height would have a negative impact on my body when I walk around in shoes. Enter, my trusty belt sander! I freaking love this thing. I bought it with the intent of using it for shoe making and furniture making since the handheld sander I have in my shop requires so much grunt work and works mostly for big pieces of wood. The sander has really elevated the look of my handmade shoes with it’s quick and clean edges, and the wood of these clogs was the first time I actually used it on something that wasn’t rubber or leather. I evened those heels out in less than two minutes with the belt sander (you could also do this with heavy and fine grit sandpaper) and now they look almost perfect.


And that’s it, that’s the end of this clog saga! If you made it this far, you totally deserve a cookie! Stay tuned for another long post once I finish my green heels (still waiting on that damn cork dust!), but til then, if you want more information on making your own shoes, check out my other shoe making posts, here and here – I list some of my favorite spots to buy shoe making materials and tools and I also share a couple of shoe making schools, online and brick and mortar, that offer some great courses and information on getting started for newbies!