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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!

 

Vogue: 0 Me: 1; A Tale of Two Cut Outs

It wasn’t just the cut outs that pushed this make into WTF territory, it was the armholes, too, but I am getting ahead of myself…

yep, basically how the whole process of constructing this dress went.

I was inspired to make this older (I think it’s out of print but it’s not vintage) Vogue 8900 pattern after seeing it on Ada Spragg’s instagram and falling in love with it. Everything about her dress is perfect- I loved the bright yellow color, obviously. I loved the weight of the fabric, which seemed sturdy and firm, offering some interesting contrast to the delicate cut-outs and shoulder baring silhouette of the garment. And I was also intrigued by the princess seams on the front of the dress, which start off parallel to one another in the bodice and then move towards each other in the skirt, creating hourglass lines on the backdrop of a slightly flared A line skirt. A lot of interesting features in one garment, but subtle enough to not appear too overwhelming, in my opinion.

I chose a fabric from my stash that I had just recently picked up for my monthly allotment at The Fabric Store, a barely mid-weight silk cotton in a beautiful large navy and white floral print. I fall in love with pretty much every silk cotton I get my hands on and this one was no different- it sews up with the ease of a regular quilting cotton, but it has a different kind of texture- soft and silky and crisp, with the tiniest bit of texture to it. It’s hard to explain how it feels between my fingers, all I know is that I love wearing it and working with it.

I knew to make a muslin before I cut out my fashion fabric since Big 4s are big on me and this garment in particular is designed to fit like a glove. When I announced on IG that I would be making this dress, Ada let me know that the cut outs were positioned in places that would make it difficult to wear a regular bra without it peeking through, so I was even more convinced that the dress would need to hug my bust and waist so that I could go braless without the fabric sagging or bunching up anywhere.

I cut out a size 10 graded to a 12 in the hips, sewed it up and tried it on, and it was even bigger than I had imagined it would be. The bodice was pretty much a perfect fit and I didn’t make any adjustments there- in comparison the waist was a pretty good fit as well, but the hips were much too roomy. There are a lot of interestingly shaped panels to this skirt but it didn’t make the adjustments too difficult. I left the side seams intact and instead focused on adjusting the princess seams in the side front and the side back panel pieces. The two curved seams in the front needed the most tweaking because subtle changes in those lines seemed to affect the fit most dramatically, and I also wanted them to mirror the lines of my own body as much as possible. Since these patterns tend to be drafted for someone several inches taller than myself, the “hourglass” seams on the front of the skirt just didn’t align with the curves of my own body, so I had to completely re-work them, but I was fairly successful with it in the end. I left out the bias strip cut outs on my muslin since I was only muslin-ing for fit. Next, I marked the lines of my new seams on my muslin dress, took the muslin apart, and transferred the new seam lines from the muslin pattern pieces to my paper pattern pieces in case I ever decided to make this garment again (at the time I thought that I certainly would, but now having experienced the cut-outs from hell, I’m not quite sure…)

I cut out my fashion fabric and constructed pretty much the entire dress before I got to the cut outs, which I assumed would be a piece of cake to finish. Now technically, the only cut outs are the two holes on either side of the waist, but since the armholes and the neck hole all required finishing with bias cut strips of fabric and almost all of them gave me a ridiculous amount of trouble, I am referring to all the holes in the dress as cut outs. The instructions in the Vogue pattern suggest that you sew the short ends of the bias strips together to create a loop, baste the long edges of the bias tape together, then sew the loop to the edges of your cut outs, topstitching down. I immediately side-eyed this method of application because for one, it leaves an unfinished raw edge on the inside of the garment, which is simply unnecessary (and to me, kind of defeats the purpose of using bias tape), and two, I had just never done it this way before, which is important to note. Sometimes you try a new-to-you technique for a familiar application and learn a better way to do something, and other times you try a  new-to-you technique and realize why you are never instructed to do things that way in the first place.

My bias tape application usually encases the entire raw seam and then is sewed down to the inside of the garment with a seam allowance related to the width of the bias tape. So this technique was…weird, to say the least. But, being trycurious, I decided to try this new-to-me method; I figured that maybe it would provide a detail or certain amount of ease that I simply couldn’t envision at this point. I did however decide to forgo stitching the bias tape closed into a loop before sewing it to the dress- I knew the chances of it being the exact right measurement of my cut outs when sewn closed was pretty low, and this is the only smart choice I made throughout this whole process, because my instinct was right- the bias tape ended up being too long on every single cut out. I am more comfortable with the method of sewing the tape down as you go, leaving an inch or so free on either end, then the sewing the tape together and stitching down when you have only a few inches of tape left to close the loop.

Anyways, I did it Vogue’s way and it was awful. The size of the cut outs on the waist were simply too narrow to accommodate the curve of the bias tape without skewing the hole’s shape, so the tape stuck up and out instead of laying down flush to the skin. I thought, ‘hmmm, maybe I need to cut off some of the binding in the seam allowance by serging the raw edges so there is less fabric in the outside curve of the tape?’, and then I proceeded to do exactly that. Serging the edges did not help it at all, and now I had two cut outs with significantly less seam allowance left, so continuing to work on them with the original pieces would be tricky (eventually it would turn out to be impossible). I put the side cut outs on hold and moved to the armholes to see if I could figure them out. A normal armhole, of course, is fairly easy to apply bias binding to- I have never had a problem with them before, but because these armholes are drafted into the shape of a racer back and curved deeply in the front, the openings are way more dramatic than standard armholes, which makes sewing bias tape onto the curves difficult to do successfully, giving me the same problems the cut outs did. For this bias tape application I decided to use a technique I was more familiar with, which was sewing the raw edge of the tape to the outside of the opening, then folding the other side of the tape over the seam allowance, thereby encasing the raw edge. I left about 1/4″ of the tape visible to the right side of the garment as shown on the pattern envelope, as opposed to folding the whole width of tape to the inside and top stitching down.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVVV45sBw6H/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

You can imagine my surprise when I completed one armhole and realized that this technique didn’t help at all- the armholes, in fact, looked worse than the side cut outs (look at the IG shot above!!!! THE HORRORRRR!!!!!) The edge of the armhole stood out from my dressform stiffly, refusing to lay flat, and it even did some weird swirly thing where it puckered and gaped and made the armhole look stretched out (thank goodness I stay stitched my openings from the start, otherwise this dress might not have made it). Now I was running out of ideas. The way that the holes were behaving made me think that I needed to cut notches into the deepest part of the curves, but the pattern was drafted for use with bias tape, so why would you cut notches into bias tape?? And at this point I had vastly decreased the amount of SA included in the pattern because of serging my edges off the side cutouts, so I had even less room to work with.

I took a deep breath. After making a plea on IG and not getting any info that helped (except for Ada confirming that yes she had ignored the Vogue instructions for the bias tape application but no she hadn’t had a problem getting her tape to lay down flat, though she had used a much different fabric than mine) I could only think of one other thing to try out. I had ruined my bias strips with the shoddy application, and I was out of fabric so I couldn’t make any more strips that matched the dress. Instead, I used some 1/2 inch white single fold bias tape from my stash. I sewed the edge of the tape onto the raw edge of my cutouts (trimming the armhole openings to match the width of the side cut outs which had been trimmed when serged). At the deepest curves in the cutouts, I very carefully cut tiny notches into the outside edge of the bias tape, about halfway through the width. Then I topstitched the bias tape down to the inside of the garment.

Thankfully this method actually worked! Of course it is nowhere near as clean on the inside as I would like (I tried to take pictures but they turned out really blurry!), but on the outside, the cutouts lay down beautifully, which is all I cared about at this point- I just wanted the dress to be wearable! And when I started having so much trouble with the bias tape application, I thought there was a good chance that it wouldn’t be.

So here we have it, a dress that looks pretty cool after all is said and done, due in no small part to a Make-It-Work moment. The fit of the dress in the bodice is perfect- it doesn’t feel tight or constricting, but it looks fitted and the dress doesn’t bag out or sag anywhere. The skirt does have some weird puffiness at the seams right at the hip bones, but I can’t tell if it’s because the seams needed to be taken in more or because the fabric has so much body, and from what I can tell you can’t even see the puffiness looking straight at the dress, I can only see it when looking down at my hips when I am wearing it. Not a big enough issue to try and fix. I think that overall, the dress looks great, and since it was so close to going in the Butthole Bin, I just want to cut my losses and enjoy the save. I wore it to Mimi’s sewing conference a couple of months ago and then again at SDCC for our interviews and panels for our new Amazon animated show, Danger & Eggs, and it was a smash hit both times! I’m really happy with it and I feel super fancy wearing it, just so long as no one asks to see what it looks like on the inside…

 

That Rachel Comey Dress

Everybody loves Rachel Comey and everybody loves Vogue 1501, but it took me a really long time to jump on the bandwagon. I appreciate Rachel Comey’s designs across the board, but I don’t think that they often suit me and my style. At first glance, some of the designs are just a little too out-there for my tastes, and others seem a little too simple, but I am learning that I should give her patterns (and probably others that I judge too quickly) a second glance. It turns out, very little of what Comey designs should be categorized as ‘simple’, and paying more attention to the technical drawings as opposed to the styling on the pattern envelope would probably do me good. Vogue seems to be a fan of matching Comey designs with abstract and/or bold fabrics, and while I LOVE a good print, I think that practice has a tendency to overwhelm the design features of a garment with as much nuanced detail as Comey’s tend to have. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I have definitely overlooked many designs simply because the styled image of the garment turned me off, so it looks like that old adage about books and covers holds true for the sewing world, too; you can’t judge a pattern by it’s envelope.

I first saw Vogue 1501 on either Heather’s blog or IG feed a while ago, before she had even sewn it up (I think she posted a pic of the pattern envelope and shared how excited she was to sew it up). I remember thinking “what a strange design!” and not giving it another thought til I saw the finished makes that she and What Katie Sews created; both were dark colored and beautiful. There was something special about the pattern that I had overlooked before, and seeing it sewn up and being worn on an actual body showed me how classy and sophisticated (and yes, very NYC Magazine Editor!) it was. So I bought the pattern, because I am nothing if not heavily influenced by my favs in the sewing community. It only sat in my craft room for a few weeks before I decided what fabric to us for it.

Interestingly enough, my experience with the fabric I chose was very similar to my experience with the pattern. I had seen the bolt in The Fabric Store several times before and gawked at the beautiful periwinkle blue of the background, but maybe because it was silk, which always requires a bit of extra work and attention) or maybe because I had no ideas of what to make with it, I just disregarded it. It wasn’t until I saw Mimi’s stunning shirtdress version in the same fabric that I felt inspired to grab it, regardless on if I had a plan for it or not, and I am so happy that I did, because this material + pattern are a match made in heaven!

Aside from the gorgeous color palette (that pale peach and blue together are EVERYTHING), I love the Art Deco inspired look of the print. I thought it would pair well with the design of Comey’s pattern, which at first glance seemed pretty modern to me, but after making it, it feels a bit more rooted in vintage elements. I get a 20s/30s vibe from the loose, blousy top paired with the knee-length skirt, but the tucked-in front makes it feel more current. I made a size 8 in the blouse and a size 10 in the skirt, which was easy to combine since the blouse and skirt are separate pieces and are only connected at the waist front by one line of stitching. I could probably have gone down a size/adjusted the blouse to make it even smaller but the loose fit works for the silhouette. I ended up having to take the skirt in significantly at the back seam where the zipper is inserted, but it was easy to do- the pleats at the front of the skirt (which are so pretty draped in this fabric) allows for a lot of flexibility in the body of the skirt, so I only needed to adjust the fit at the waist and then taper down to nothing at the hip.

I had read on Pattern Review that this dress has shoulder pads and an interesting shoulder seam gusset to accommodate the extra material at the top of the shoulder (I had totally overlooked that detail from the pattern envelope info). I wasn’t sure if I wanted shoulder pads or not so I decided to construct the dress with the gusset and just yay or nay the pads when the time came to insert them. I am generally not a fan of shoulder pads in anything other than coats, maybe because my shoulders match up pretty well with the width of my hips and don’t droop down, so pads tend to make my shoulders look incongruous with the rest of my body. Once the gussets were in, I sewed up a thin shoulder pad from some quilt backing and covered it in the dress fabric, then inserted it into the blouse. It didn’t make a significant difference with the overall shape of the dress on my figure, but you could see the edges of the shoulder pad imprinted on the inside of the blouse, which was very noticeable and messy looking. I decided to forgo the pads but I kept the gussets in because it would have been too complicated to try and remove them without ruining the fabric.

For some reason I totally forgot to use French Seams when I started sewing the blouse of this dress, so there are all kind of finishes on the inside: a couple seams are serged, most of the others are frenched, and I managed to get a few Hong Kong seams in there, too! Ha! As long as they don’t come unraveled, it doesn’t matter which technique I use.

I recognize that the busy-ness of my pattern hides a lot of the design details of the dress (something that I didn’t like about the styling on the pattern envelope), but maybe I just like my fabric print better than Vogue’s so I give it a pass. I can definitely see myself making this garment again, in a solid color this time, and maybe a few tweaks to the fit; I would be interested in removing a tad bit of length from the blouse (mine billows out a bit and I have to pull the blouse up at the shoulders so that it sits straight and doesn’t fall forward), skipping the insertion of the shoulder pad gussets, and I would also like to play around with the idea of shortening the back part of the blouse so that you can see the skirt back; a bit of a play on a crop top look while keeping the front the same. It might not work, but it’s certainly worth a try! When I envision this new version of the dress, it’s peach or orange hued with a rich, velvety texture, so let’s see if this ends up coming to fruition!

Floral Play Suit

This suit has been a long time coming! I first envisioned it in my head over a year ago when I went to a screening/talk-back of our film Suicide Kale (have I mentioned lately that you can watch it on Amazon Prime and itunes now??) One of the super talented actors in our cast, Haley, was wearing THE FIERCEST ensemble, a floral suit comprised of a jacket and shorts, and I know I wasn’t the only one bombarding her with comments on how amazing she looked and how fantastic the suit was! I can’t remember where she got it- I think she said Top Shop, but that part didn’t matter since I knew that I could make it myself.

I took my time deliberating the details of this make, which is why it took so long to actually put into action, but I don’t mind- patience is often my best asset, and I think it really paid off in this case. I wasn’t deliberate about choosing my fabric, which I knew I wanted to be bright and floral; instead, I waited for the perfect print to fall into my lap, which it did earlier this year on one of my monthly trips to The Fabric Store. I came across a crisp…well, I have no idea what you would call this fabric. It has the weight of a medium-weight twill, but it’s not a twill. It’s got various sized threads running through the warp and weft which give it a substantial and interesting texture, but it’s not as stiff as the weight would have you believe. I fell in love with the color first- it’s a vivid orange that kind of toes the line between pink and red, and the large print of the yellow flowers give the fabric even more drama than the bright background color. This is the kind of bold print that matches perfectly with a bold ensemble, in my opinion. Bad news: when I washed this fabric, something bled on it. I don’t know if it was the fabric itself or a different yardage (I usually pre-wash like colors together), but the spotting throughout the fabric is dark blue, much like the dark blue stems running through the print. Because the colors are so bold and the print is so busy, it’s really hard to see the bleed if you aren’t looking for it, and you KNOW I’m not one to waste fabric. I have only had limited success using those products that are supposed to clean up bleed from your fabric, and during one employ a month or so ago, it yielded an absolute disastrous result! So I decided to forgo an attempt to clean the bleed up and just cut my losses, which I do not regret. The bleed actually reminds me of some Ankara fabrics I have seen, which sometimes bleed on different parts of the bolt in the printing process.

As for patterns, I pinned several suit jackets over the past year and finally settled on Butterick 5926, which was casual enough for the overall look I was going for but sophisticated enough to look lux! Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was tracing my pieces that I realized the pattern was intended for knits, and my bright floral fabric was decidedly woven. Now, I know there is wiggle room between patterns meant for knits and those meant for wovens- you can usually adjust the size of a pattern to accommodate whatever kind of fabric you want, but I don’t have that much experience with those kind of alterations and wasn’t really interested in testing my learning curve on this particular project, which I had been dreaming up for so long. So I quietly cursed myself for not paying enough attention to the details, folded the pattern up, and went back to the drawing board (or rather, the pinterest board).

This time, with much fretting and hand-wringing, I settled on a Burda pattern. I won’t be a broken record and tell you for the millionth time how much I dislike working with Burda patterns, but I thought that since I had been pretty successful with my last Burda attempts (see these pants and these pants!) I could surely manage to figure this pattern out. Long story short? I was wrong. W-R-O-N-G. Bottom line for me with Burda is this: don’t attempt to make a complicated Burda pattern that you haven’t successfully constructed a few times before. Burda isn’t meant for instructing you on how to do anything new, it’s meant for the (mostly) well-drafted patterns. Everything was going fine until I got to the lapels, and then…akjshdghasjgd kjshagajsh! At one point, Burda instructed me to do the exact same step two times in a row, with different techniques; clearly someone copied and pasted from another set of instructions but didn’t edit the final draft. Thank goodness I was working from a muslin, otherwise my fabric would have been ruined, and I didn’t have any to spare.

One of the reasons I chose the Burda pattern was because it had a cute, modern shape and the material it called for was a woven, but after I started to cut the muslin fabric out, I realized that the details of the completed jacket in the photo for the pattern stated that it was made of a striped KNIT fabric. WTF?!? Which is it, Burda?? I contemplated going back to the pinterest board for a third time to hunt down yet another jacket pattern with more substantial instructions to help me on the tricky parts that were new to me (I had made only one suit jacket before  and it didn’t have traditional lapels), but ultimately I decided to go BACK to my original Butterick pattern, the one I had abandoned when I realized that it was meant for knits. After studying the pattern cover, I convinced myself that the knit fabric wasn’t drafted to be clingy or tight on the body, and reading the finished measurements on the pattern pieces, I realized that it didn’t have negative ease- the body skimming drawings on the cover were why I had picked the pattern in the first place, and they seemed to hold true to the actual design. Big 4 patterns tend to swallow me whole, no matter how perfectly I fit into the measurements for a particular size, and I hoped that the disconnect in sizing would work in my favor for once.

Thankfully, it did! The second muslin I made with the Simplicity pattern came out great and the instructions for the collar and lapels were clear. Despite being intended for knits, the jacket was still too big, specifically in the shoulders- the top of the arm dropped down too far and I had to shorten the shoulder seams a bit (an adjustment I make on almost all Big 4 patterns), but it was easy to fix. I went back and forth about whether or not I should line my jacket, but seeing as how it would be intended mostly for wear in the spring and summer, I didn’t want to make it so hot with extra fabric that it would be uncomfortable to wear. Instead, I used Hong Kong seams with bias tape on the visible inside seams and serged the others that you couldn’t see. After a quick trip to Joann’s, I found the perfect antique brass buttons for the front of the jacket, and she was complete!

For the shorts, I used a vintage TNT pattern (Simplicity 7688) that I have made a few times before with great success. I decided to omit the rectangular waistband that comes with the pattern and instead use my curved waistband from my Ginger Jeans pattern, which I love. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into account that the jeans’ waistband is drafted for pants that close in the front, and my shorts are drafted with a side zipper. DOH! I didn’t have enough fabric to recut my waistband after realizing my mistake so I had to work with what I had, which was easy enough to do but means that I have a random extra seam stuck into the waistband. Again, probably not visible to anyone looking at the shorts if I don’t point it out to them, but the other good news is that I bet you a hundred dollars I don’t make that same mistake again!

I think this ensemble would look really cute with a button down shirt underneath it when the weather gets a bit cooler, but seeing as how we are smack dab in the middle of July and first wore this outfit to SDCC a few weekends ago to promote our new Amazon kid’s show Danger & Eggs, I am opted for the most temperature appropriate version of the look, which was a simple off-white v-neck knit t shirt paired with the jacket- fabric for that shirt is from Organic Cotton Plus and pattern is the Lark Tee from Grainline Studios, which comes with several sleeve and collar options.

I am thrilled with this whole look, with the fit, and with the success of the jacket construction! And I am super excited that something that has been on my to-make list for so long actually saw the light of day! Now I just have to convince Hayley, the friend who inspired me with her own RTW shorts suit look, to head out on the town with me so we can sport them at the same time! And now to close, here is an awesome shot of our Danger & Eggs cast in one of the photos we took to promote the new show at Comic Con- I was drooling over Aidy’s outfits all weekend, they were absolutely gorgeous and I want to copy every single one!

Fit For A Costa Rican Wedding

Recently released, the summery Vogue 9253 immediately caught my eye (and the eyes of a whole bunch of other sewists)! I love the sexy slit down the front of the dress paired with the fairly modest coverage everywhere else. With billow-y kimono style sleeves and a paneled skirt that gently flares out, ending at the shins, I knew it was right up my alley- a garment that allowed for a flash of skin without making me feel too naked. It’s helmed as a ‘Very Easy Vogue’ pattern which I would agree with- the instructions were straight forward and the techniques understandable and easy to complete. I love it when a dress looks a little bit more complicated than it actually it is to construct; although there isn’t anything about the line drawing that looks super intense to sew, it still has a bit of a wow factor.

A few months prior to this make I had picked out a bolt of this soft rayon from The Fabric Store. Claire was toying with the idea of wearing a caftan to a wedding we were attending in Costa Rica over the summer (read: toying with the idea of asking me to MAKE her a caftan), and because this fabric was super lightweight and a bit sheer, I thought it would be perfect for such a garment, seeing as how caftans usually require so many yards of fabric and can get bulky with the wrong weight of material. Well it turned out that Claire wasn’t as into the fabric as I was, and there were only a couple of yards left on the bolt anyways (not enough for the caftan pattern she was interested in), so obviously I snagged it for myself. It is so rare to find a bold, striped-type print that runs all the way down the length of the bolt- I thought this would match well with the panels of the skirt- and I also loved the colors and abstracted leopard-ish design. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would make with it, but I imagined it would be a breezy summer maxi dress.

Several times I pulled out the fabric and draped it over my dressform, wondering what it wanted to be, but I never felt quite inspired. I was a bit stuck on the fact that the fabric was so sheer and I didn’t have very much of it, so I wasn’t quite sure how to best utilize it. And then, lo and behold, this pattern fell into my lap and I thought that the two together would make the perfect dress for a destination wedding in hot-as-hell Costa Rica. I figured that I could get away with the plunging neckline since this wouldn’t be a traditional church wedding (and I did, although I checked in with the brides first, lol).

To handle the sheerness of the fabric, I underlined each pattern piece (except for the belt) with sheer white cotton voile, and it worked well, allowing the dress to retain the drape and lightness of the rayon. I didn’t make any drastic alterations to the pattern for size as I usually do with Big 4 since it was drafted as XS-XL, and instead I just made a size XS and took in the extra ease throughout the bodice and waist when I inserted my zipper. It worked beautifully and I ended up with a garment that fit well but was also very comfortable (I can use the belt to tighten the waist a bit more if I am ever having a day where it feels looser than normal.

Favorite things about the dress? The pockets! I don’t remember exactly what I did to accommodate the attached voile lining when constructing this part of the garment, but whatever it I did, it worked beautifully and doesn’t provide too much bulk in the pocket area. I also love the ease of wear of the kimono sleeves, which are not set-in to the bodice, allowing a lot of freedom of movement at the shoulders. I was worried that it would be so humid/sweaty at the wedding that the fashion tape I was using to keep the deep neck of the V in place between my breasts would slide off, but surprisingly that did not happen and the bodice stayed in place for as long as I wore the dress (which was throughout the ceremony and to the end of dinner, but when it came time to start dancing, I had to have an outfit change to fully live my best dancefloor life. For the record, the little knit jumper I wore for dancing was LITERALLY soaked with sweat in about 7 minutes, and wore it/continued to dance in it for the next three hours. I was obviously a disgusting mess by the end of the night, my hair completely plastered to my head and a big blister on my foot from trying to dance in Birkenstocks- DON’T ASK!- but then we all jumped in the pool and had a midnight swim to cool off, so it was worth it! Pura Vida!!!)

As far as appropriateness for the wedding, the design and print of the dress worked great, but I ignored the fact that rayon makes me SWEEEEAAAAAAAAT so much, so my armpits were basically raining down my sides during the ceremony. I have no idea why. I have 3 or 4 rayon dresses in my closet, and although they are some of the silkiest, softest garments I own, they all have gigantic pit stains in them when I take them off. The only other fabric that behaves like that on my body is polyester, but rayon is derived from plant material as opposed to plastic, so I would have imagined it would behave differently in practice. Aside from wearing a too-hot fabric in a hot climate, I was really happy with this dress and I’m really excited to wear it again, perhaps for a red carpet event before the weather turns cool.

Although I would normally style this dress with heels, I knew I didn’t want to be burdened with that kind of shoe for this wedding, which was held on the very lush, grassy grounds of the hotel we were staying at. The thought of three inch heels digging into grass and dirt was just about as horrifying as trying to walk in those same shoes on sand, so I quickly (like, the morning of the day we left for CR) whipped up a pair of strappy leather sandals that I thought would match the tropical vibe of the wedding and go well with my dress. I normally give myself a lot more time to make sandals, but this was around the time when my brother was in the ICU and very, very sick, and I was kind of just running on auto-pilot and hoping to get everything done that needed to get done, while also feeling guilty for going on the trip in the first place. Sigh. That’s a story for another day. The good news is that my brother has recovered and is doing great and I finished these shoes in time for our trip! I really love how they turned out. Even though I love wild and funky shoes of all kinds, I am a real stickler for simple, neutral-colored designs, so this pair fit right in line with my tastes and let the dress shine.

The wedding of course was BEAUTIFUL – it would be impossible for it not to be, as the brides are two of the loveliest people I know and they were intent on throwing a fun, non-fussy ceremony/party from the start. And obviously Costa Rica was gorgeous (even though the bugs FEASTED on me, no matter how much spray I slathered myself with!) Claire took me to visit a chocolate farm where we got to see cocoa transform from fruit to nib to candy, we saw beautiful beaches, spent hours watching hummingbirds at war on the porch of our airbnb in the Cloud Forest, and I had more arroz con pollo than my heart (and stomach) could handle. And then two days before we left, my brother’s health took a dramatic turn for the better! It was an emotional trip to say the least, but I am really happy I was able to go and witness my friend’s lovely union and get out of the country with Claire for the first time in too long!

Kalle Shirt

I initially thought I would only make the Kalle shirt dress from the Closet Case pattern when it came out (as seen here), but as soon as I saw the photos of the model in the white cropped Kalle shirt, I was obsessed with that look, too. This is not a silhouette I wear often, if at all. Cropped, loose, AND boxy?? Goes against everything I thought to be true about my body and what “looks good” on it. But I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that I am challenging those notions. And why shouldn’t I? The shirt is an amazing design, and I haven’t seen a pattern quite like it before.

That low hem in the back, while too dramatic in the fugly McCalls dress I made, looks really chic and fun in the Kalle shirt, and I love the option of the low, rounded collar design with it. I also like that it’s structured while simultaneously providing some party in the overall silhouette. The whole garment looks unique and cool, one of those tops that I would find in an expensive boutique when I shopped RTW and want to buy for myself, but would ultimately decide against, nervous that the look was too hipster for my tastes.

I had a white printed cotton in my stash from LA Finch Fabrics that I knew would look perfect in the design, but I am sure this was due in no small part to the fact that the sample of the shirt in the pattern photos was also made from a white, crispy, stable material (what can I say? I’m a sucker for inspiration photos!). I had no idea if I would like wearing it or not, but I had to give it a try, and I’m really glad I did because I think it came out great. Unfortunately you can’t see the subtle design of the fabric very well in these photos, but it has a pastel colored abstract line drawing that spans across the yardage, providing just enough color to make it interesting, but not too much to detract from the cool lines of the pattern.

I just barely eeked out the pieces for this pattern from my two yards of fabric and I did a pretty crappy job of pattern matching because I didn’t have much wiggle room. I also neglected to true my fabric before I started cutting out my pattern pieces (lazy!), so the back piece, which was cut on the fold, is just a tiny bit slanted. It isn’t super obvious to anyone but me, probably (story of my sewing life), and thankfully the subtlety of the print helps hide it, too.

I made some weird mistakes when constructing the hidden placket of my Kalle Shirtdress but maybe since I used the regular button band option on this top, which I have much more experience with, it came together like a breeze. I really like the bottom facing used on this blouse- it encompasses the entire hem of the shirt and gives the hem a little bit of weight to make it fall beautifully, while also giving it a polished-looking finish. So far I love pairing this top with my Morgan/ Ginger Mash-up Jeans and also my Flint shorts, but I have a feeling that it would look really fantastic with a fitted knit pencil skirt, too, which I don’t actually have in my closet. I tried the Colette stretch fabric mini skirt pattern a few years ago and it fit so poorly that I didn’t even know what to do to make adjustments to it, but I am a more advanced sewist now, so maybe I could figure it out? I’m pretty “meh” about Colette sewing patterns for my body though, so I would also be interested in hacking the Nettie dress and bodysuit by Closet Case into a skirt and just adding a waistband to it since that pattern is such a great fit for me.

As far as the other details of the make, I love them all just like I love them in the dress I made; loose, easy-fit kimono sleeves, roomy fit in the bust and belly, and a length that works perfectly for my particular height and taste- this top just barely grazes my midriff so it doesn’t make me feel too exposed. It’s easy to alter the overall length of this pattern to your own preferences, though.

All in all a really fantastic pattern from Close Case that I am loving and interested in making again! I would love to see what this blouse would look and feel like in a less sturdy fabric, like a rayon or silk, and LA Finch Fabrics gifted me a gorgeous cut of black tencel recently, which is buttery smooth and rich to the touch that I think would look fantastic in this silhouette. I don’t make very many garments out of black fabric unless it’s used as an accent or it’s color blocked, so this would be a nice push out of my comfort zone, which I am really into lately. But I also already know what I would want to pair with it- I have a beautiful wool tweed pencil skirt that I made years ago that would look great with black, but would also look great with the shape of this loose blouse! I will probably go with the standard collar on this version just to mix it up a bit and I am already convinced that it would be a fierce looking ensemble. Consider it bumped up on the TO MAKE list!

More Flints

I’m not sure if I have ever made as many versions of a pattern in quick succession as I have the Flint pants/shorts deisgn by Megan Nielsen. I made them up the first time shortly after the pattern had been released and had arrived in my mailbox (I already had my pretty cotton silk from The Fabric Store washed and waiting), and I wrote about them here. The pattern was a huge success- the fit was spot on with very minor adjustments (I think I took about 3/8 inch of fabric out of the waistline and graded down to nothing at my high hip), the wide leg was comfortable and didn’t make me feel like I was swimming in fabric, and I loved the unique closure of the design- although the left side pocket is essentially not very useful since it remains open on the inside of the pants, it means that the design doesn’t need a zipper. Instead, the pants close with either a tie or a couple of buttons. I’ve seen this design element in vintage clothing before and I love that Megan Nielsen updated the silhouette a bit while keeping the interest of the side closure as is.

Flint pattern photo from envelope

For my second pair I was hoping to recreate the look of the design on the pattern envelope- the pants are made from a bleached looking denim that looks very soft and flowy. I chose a denim from The Fabric Store that had a similar color but ignored the stiffer hand it had- I figured that the denim was lightweight enough that I could wash it and it would look floaty just like in the photos. I was totally wrong, and annoyed with myself for not knowing better. When I completed the pants and tried them on, the fabric was stiff and barely moved, and it made me look like I had put on cardboard pants. Obviously not the look I was going for. But all was not lost! In a last minute attempt to save the garment, I chopped the legs off mid thigh at the cutting line on the pattern that separates the shorts from the pants, and now they look fantastic.

The stiff denim works really well for shorts, I think- it helps them maintain their silhouette, they don’t wrinkle quite as much as a softer, drapier fabric would, and they look a bit like sailor pants- which is why I decided to mirror the buttons on the right side of the shorts. I am pretty sure that Megan Nielsen shared this button look on her instagram account which is what gave me the idea. I had cute red buttons that looked really nice with the light colored denim but I didn’t want to take the sailor analogy TOO literally (I’ve never really been a fan of red/white/blue combos in my clothing), so I opted for these vintage pale peach ones I found at an antique store last year. I am in love with the soft, beachy look they lend to the shorts- it makes me think of seashells on the seashore.

Aside from using the button closure on this version of the design, I also eliminated the release tucks at the front of the pants to give a smoother line from waistband to thigh. Megan Nielsen posted an easy-t0-follow tutorial on her blog about how to create darts out of those tucks although I somehow managed to make mine very long? Despite, I swear, following the instructions to a T?? Whatever, I totally don’t mind the length of the darts as they are barely noticeable and actually make the shorts look like they are made of panels, which is pretty cute.

Ok, so YAY, shorts! Good save with a chop off of the pants legs, and I absolutely love how cute and fun they are- I get so many compliments when I wear them! But wait, what about the dream pants version that I still have yet to make out of a flowy, looser kind of fabric that drapes over my frame and mirrors the pants from the pattern front? What about those guys??

Well I made those guys, too! This time out of a coffee colored cotton linen from…where else? Your favorite place and mine, THE FABRIC STORE! They have an incredible selection of linen in their store pretty much year round in Los Angeles because it’s basically always linen weather here, and this bolt stood out to me because of it’s a neutral but with a visually interesting textured weave, and it’s super light weight. Of course, when I finished the garment and hung them in my closet, I discovered that the fabric is incredibly similar to the cotton linen I used for my Burda Wide Legged pants, blogged here. Coincidence? Probably not. I tend to keep neutral or darker colors on my bottom half when they are pants and in a shape I am not completely familiar with. It would be nice to step out of that habit, but I love how both pairs of pants came out, so if it ain’t broke…! Anyways, I figured these would be a nice fabric to make Flint in, especially for an LA summer (I hate wearing pants in the summer cause I get so hot but I also hate my legs burning in the sun and sticking to leather and plastic seats all the time, so I am hoping that this version finds a nice balance in the midst of the worst parts of 90 degree weather).

I released the tuck pleats again in exchange for the darts, kept them at the full pants length with a couple inches taken out of the thigh area to accommodate my shortness, and went back to the tie at the side waist. I made these, from start to finish, in one afternoon in my sewing room; easy breezy!

These have that coveted rumpled-but-still-put-together look I see certain people pull off all the time, those people that look like they have the busiest lives ever but still seem to manage to keep it all together. My life isn’t nearly that busy, but I do like throwing on an outfit that looks (and is) effortless. It just gives me more time to do what I got to do and then get back home and sew! When I first made this version of the Flint, I styled them all wrong. I tried to dress them up a little for my first wearing and I wore my lace-up espadrilles and a cap sleeved Burda top in pink, and it was just ALL WRONG. It looked too….mature, I guess is the best word. It probably doesn’t help that I wore this outfit to the mall on Mother’s Day, so I was surrounded by lots of other ladies in “mature” outfits, but it just wasn’t looking hip enough. I realized that I needed to keep these pants casual and pair them with other dressed down things. My current favorite top is this shark tank top in musician Jenny Owens Young’s online merch shop, you can find it and other cute tees, hats and tanks here!

Now I swear I’m done with the Flint! I have made every version I could possibly need for my closet at this point- a fancy pant, a casual pant, plus a dress-up-or-down-short, and I am very happy with them! According to instagram, Megan Nielsen has a new pattern to release in the next month or so and I am super excited to see what it is- will it become a wardrobe staple for me the way the Flint has?? How many “staples” can one have in their wardrobe before it becomes excessive, anyways? I. AM. TOEING. THE. LINE. But who cares; at least I will look good doing it 😉

Kalle Shirtdress

Remember this fiasco from a couple of months ago? Well, despite my best intentions to adjust the awful fit, I couldn’t save it, at least not enough for wearing in public. It has been relegated to house attire (with the occasional last minute run to the post office if necessary), and I don’t feel good about it; I was really looking forward to that silhouette having some heavy rotation in my closet! Anyways, you can imagine my excitement (and regret) when shortly after I posted the dress onto my blog, Closet Case introduced their newest pattern, the Kalle Shirtdress and Shirt. It is essentially everything right about the original McCalls dress I made with none of the wrong. Having lots of success with Closet Case’s past patterns in terms of fit and design, I knew it was going to fill the hole that Everyone’s Favorite Dress left in my life, but little did I know that it was going to add something that I didn’t even know I needed…more on that in a later blog post.

Here’s how the shirt dress of this pattern is similar to the McCalls version- kimono style short sleeves, an ever-so-slightly high-lo, hidden button placket (there are two other options for the button band included in the pattern), and a loose, breezy fit. But the hem isn’t ridiculously dramatic on the Kalle, it doesn’t include unnecessary side slits, the invisible placket actually conceals the buttons underneath (although I totally goofed this part of the pattern up during construction, but more on that later, too), and most importantly, it isn’t drafted bigger in the upper back than in the waist and hips, so the back pattern piece of the Kalle drapes beautifully, barely skimming the figure underneath.

After making the Hannah dress, I have been completely intrigued with so-called “sack dresses” that make me feel sexy while also providing ease and comfort (not sure sure if these patterns actually ID as “sack dresses” but I call anything that is short and slouchy in the mid-section a sack dress). Anyways, the Kalle shirt dress pattern felt like a gift from the Gods and a chance to redeem myself from my last attempt at that McCalls’ disaster.

And now for the fabric! I love this part! So I had recently tried my hand at sandwashing some turquoise silk crepe de chine from The Fabric Store using soda ash and a hot water cycle on the washing machine and was pretty amazed at how excellent the effect was. My once sleek, shiny silk was suddenly matte and soft and slightly sueded looking and it cost me like, 20 cents to create. The cool thing about sandwashed fabric is that it can be washed in the machine and dried in the dryer, so even though I was aiming for a casual Kalle, I figured that the fabric could pull double duty as a slightly fancy make, too. I love the drapey-ness of the pattern paired with this silk but I wished that I would have used my fabric stiffener on the silk before sewing it up. The fabric was much less silky and tricky to work with after it was sandwashed, but it still wasn’t as easy as working with a cotton- the stiffener would have made it even more manageable (and would have made my button band look a lot better than it turned out).

I didn’t run into much trouble until I was making the concealed placket, which requires some precise ironing and folding that was hard to achieve with my silk, which kept sliding around everywhere. Because of this, I don’t think that the folds are as straight as they could be, and on top of that, I made a VERY ROOKIE mistake when it came to making the buttonholes. The instructions suggest that you make them before attaching the placket to the dress but I prefer to make mine towards the end of construction, and I wish I had followed my instincts. Somehow I ended up not sewing the holes through both folds of the placket, and instead I made and cut out holes for only one side (like I said, rookie mistake!) Once I attached the band to the dress front, I realized I had messed up and had to do some weird MacGuyver-ing to make it work, which included adding an additional set of buttonholes on the band behind the one I had already made, which of course didn’t line up perfectly with the front holes and in turn makes the band sit a little awkwardly on the front.

But! I blame this mistake on the fact that I decided to make both the Kalle shirt (a future blog post!) and the shirtdress at the same time. Normally I love knocking out more than one project from a pattern at a time (done it a million times with the Archer pattern from Grainline and the Hudson pants from True Bias) but I now know it’s a better idea to save the multiple constructions for a pattern I have made at least once before. My two-for-one Kalle session ended up being especially tricky for me since I sewed up two different button band and collar options for the shirt and dress, and it was tough to keep the instructions straight.

Aside from the snafu with the button band (which, by the way, was still a million times easier to follow than the McCalls one), construction was easy and well described. I have made more button down shirts for my wife than I can count so I was already familiar with a lot of the techniques used in this pattern, and since this is technically a sleeveless garment, construction is pretty fast when not having to account for a set-in sleeve, cuffs and sleeve plackets.

So, in a word? YES! YES I LOVE THIS PATTERN (and I haven’t even talked about my Kalle shirt yet!) I love everything about it, and it really is exactly what I was hoping for when I initially made the McCall’s dress. I loooove the drapey-ness in the back, it’s just perfect. It’s sexy and comfortable, and it looks so effortless, even in this fabric. I already know exactly what I want my next shirtdress to look like- I see it in a smokey, dark gray (maybe a muted black??) sandwashed silk again, with exposed pearl snaps, and a slightly longer length, like right below the knee, but with the same slightly hi-low hemline. I haven’t even worn this turquoise dress out yet and I’m already planning my next one…sign of a pretty fantastic pattern, right?