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Ch-ch-ch-changes

A couple of months ago I was in my craft room, all dolled up, taking photos for this blog. I had planned on using the day to get several makes photographed so that I could post them over the next several weeks, and I was OVER IT. I don’t like taking photos of myself- lately it’s been feeling like tedious work to set up the lights, the backdrop, the camera, plan the outfits, put makeup on and do my hair, fiddle around with the camera remote which almost ALWAYS seems to have a glitch. I had always thought of this process as a labor of love but on this morning, teetering in my high heels while trying to keep my mark and smashing that tiny remote with my thumb over and over again, I recognized that there was no love here at all- it was just laborious.

I had a tiny break down in Claire’s lap that afternoon. I don’t know why I feel so sad about this! I said. I don’t know why I feel so unhappy! Something about my favorite hobby in the world, the one I had dedicated the last several years to, was making me sad and the mere recognition of that felt like a betrayal. It took me a couple of days to fully sort through my emotions, which tend to bubble up searing hot around my eyes and my throat so fast that I can barely see, much less communicate with anyone that I am struggling; I need distance to process. Once I had it, I figured some stuff out. I knew I had been using sewing to protect myself from stuff that was going on in my life and in the world- it had become a safe haven for me. I am an introvert so time spent with myself has always been a way for me to energize, but sewing made me feel accomplished and empowered in a way that I never anticipated, gave me time to concentrate on small tasks when I felt confused, frustrated or angry. It gave me space to mull over conflicts and have imaginary conversations with people that I felt nervous about. It gave me a job to do when I was left uninspired in my own career. All of that sounds good on paper, of course, and it was- to a certain extent.

But at some point, I started to need my safe sewing nook a little less. I was feeling supported in new ways, back in therapy for the first time in years, feeling more excited about life outside of my home and less inclined to hide from it. So I started to question why exactly I was spending so much time on sewing. Of course I love sewing very much, but why had it eclipsed all the other things I love to do in my life, like draw, build, write, learn, and above all else, what exactly was my goal now? By this point I had made an entire memade wardrobe that I was incredibly happy with and proud of, and I had a guest room closet full of beautiful #redcarpetDIY projects, half of which I hadn’t even worn yet. If it was true that some of my aims in sewing was to ween myself off of RTW, use /buy less and not focus on trendy fast fashion, then I had surpassed my goal a couple of times over, but I was also still weirdly still participating in what I was trying to get away from. I mean, how many sun dresses does a woman who doesn’t leave the house unless she has to actually need? (This is a rhetorical question)! As someone on instagram put it, I had effectively become a one-person fast-fashion factory, and it wasn’t making me happy anymore.

I think my feelings of unhappiness were stemming from a part of me being ready to shift the way I was living my life a tiny bit, ready to make room for other things inside of it, but the sewing habit that I had created over the years was now SOLIDLY engrained in my life. It had served it’s purpose so well that it had become a part of my identity, and now my identity wanted some room for growth but I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my routine. I wanted to change the mindset where I was making sewing my main priority. I was tired of planning the different parts of my day- friend dates, appointments, activities, chores, auditions- to fit around my sewing schedule instead of the other way around. I was tired of feeling guilty when I had a busy day and didn’t have enough time to go to the craft room and work on something. I was tired of being exhausted from a long day and forcing myself to go downstairs and sew because it’s what I should be doing instead of what I wanted to be doing. The line between my wants and my needs in the realm of sewing had become increasingly blurred, and although I still enjoyed the act of sewing and what I was creating, I knew I needed to tweak something to balance the scales a bit.

As I said before, sewing isn’t the only thing I like to do- my interests in everything hands-on is the whole reason I named this blog TryCurious! But the craft of sewing has taken over my life to the point where, when I have the opportunity to learn something new or work on a different kind of project, I either turn it down or procrastinate doing the thing til I forget about it. And that doesn’t feel good. Something has been off, so now I am in the process of trying to fix it.

I am not abandoning sewing and I am sure that this blog will continue to be more sewing content than anything else, but even just recognizing that I needed a shift seemed to set a lot of different things in motion- it’s like the world opened up to me a little bit when I made room in my head for it. To start, I’ve been taking ASL classes for the past month, which I absolutely love. ASL is something that I have wanted to learn for years, and then suddenly I had an opportunity to learn the skill for a future project, so I dove in head first. If this had happened a few months ago I can guarantee you that I would have convinced myself not to make any space for it in my life because I wouldn’t have had enough me time (loosely translated, my “me” time is known by all to mean my “sewing” time, lol). I’m also refocusing on my shoe making process, which is a craft I have tended to put to the side because it cuts into my sewing time too much. I’ve also been cooking more, reading more and hanging out with friends more. The change has been subtle to start- I still haven’t started reupholstering the dining room chairs that have been sitting in the garage since last spring, or learning how to build a dollhouse as I promised myself I would- but I still feel the impact that my new mindset has taken and it feels great!

I want to make clear that this post is not an attempt to encourage anyone to change their own habits or examine the role that sewing plays in their lives- I’m not here to judge anybody, this is just me and my story, and I decided to share it here because I like writing and it’s sewing related- I don’t want anybody to feel guilty about their own relationships with their hobbies. I started this discussion on instagram a few weeks ago and it was really great to read similar (and non-similar) thoughts about the topic of balancing sewing with the other aspects of our lives. I did get a couple of comments about how I shouldn’t change anything at all or feel guilty about it if I liked it so much, and this seemed like a really simplified view of what it was I was trying to communicate. But honestly I can’t blame anyone for oversimplifying the solution to an issue when said issue is being described in 2200 characters or less, haha.

Sewing does bring me joy, but so does balance, and that is what I am on a mission to find for myself. I am trying something new with my sewing now, which is to stick to a roster of makes that I have planned out ahead of time. It’s not quite a capsule wardrobe because minimalism is not my style, but I wanted to try a different kind of approach with the craft. I am continuing to buy fabric with intent as opposed to simply buying everything beautiful that I see (which isn’t too hard- my stash is already pathetically small!) and I am trying NOT to buy every cool, new pattern that hits the market unless I have a specific plan for it. For now, I am focusing only on ramping up my cooler weather wardrobe, which is lackluster compared to my summer wardrobe; I basically wear jeans from November to March and have very few choices when it’s time to dress up for something special. I wanted to give myself several key pieces of clothing that could work as both casual and slightly dressy wear, so I started pinning patterns and looks and narrowing down my options over a couple of weeks in September. I drew them all out in my croquis sketchbook and searched for fabrics that would pair well with them if I didn’t already have them in my stash.

It wasn’t easy! I had to make quite a few changes throughout the process, like when I ordered a cut of autumnal-colored corduroy online to make the Lander Pants out of, but once it arrived realized that it was much too light-weight for the sturdy, structured pants I was going for. That orange fabric ended up pairing well with the paper-bag waist Tully Pants by Style Arc that I had also put on the list, but of course then I was back on the hunt for the right weight corduroy for the Landers. And back and forth it went for weeks. I have since worked out most of the kinks in my plan and have narrowed down my makes to a really nice workable fall wardrobe that mixes and matches with what I already have in my closet. I have already completed three of the projects on my list: a thick necked turtleneck dress in a gorgeous ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, a Jackie dress in a floral velvet, and a blue jean jacket by Alina Design Co., which sewed up fairly quickly and which I am absolutely in love with (I promise to blog these individually in the future)!

Below I am sharing my sketches and fabric swatches paired with their patterns- in a few months I will revisit this post and see if I was actually able to stick to my sewing plan!

Apologies for the poor quality of the below photos- I was in a mad dash to finish them up as I was packing for a work trip and I didn’t have much time to make them look very good!

This is the Jackie Dress from Victory Patterns in a really gorgeous floral velvet fabric that I found in the fabric district in DTLA (funny story about buying this fabric, which I will share when I blog about it later). Spoiler alert, I have already completed this dress and I am in love with it!

 

The fabric for the True Bias Ogden Cami is less orange in real life than it looks in this photo, but it’s a beautiful, supple silk from The Fabric Store that I have had in my stash for like 2 years and I am excited to finally make something up in it. It will make a really great staple for auditions I think, which generally require solid, non-distracting fabrics, but I still like to go bold with my colors- gotta make an impression! I found an AMAZING light mauve wool fabric for the pants at The Fabric Store, and I will probably go with the Burda pattern for the pants after I tweak the fit in a muslin first since I have never made the pattern before.

 

I saw a girl on the street a couple of years ago wearing this flowy silk maxi dress with heeled boots and I am trying to recreate the look with this really pretty floral silk from The Fabric Store and the Stella Shirt Dress from Named Patterns. It’s got a big bow at the neck and an elastic waist, which makes me think the dress is going to be super comfy while still looking dressy. My fabric swatch is too small to show the brilliance of the print, but it’s very largewhich I think looks great in maxis.

 

I forgot to swatch the fabric for this Aberdeen top by Seamwork (it’s about the only pattern I have made of theirs which actually fit me with no adjustments), so for reference, it’s a pale yellow lightweight knit. Aberdeen is a pretty great pattern, a kind of slouchy v-neck top with fitted 3/4 sleeves that falls off the shoulder in a really effortless and sexy way; it pairs great with a pretty bra underneath. I finally found the correct weight corduroy fabric to pair with the Lander Pants pattern by True Bias, and I think this make might be the very first thing I have made in all-black in my entire sewing career! I plan on lengthening the pants legs so that the hem hits the floor- I looooove the design of these pants but I am not into the boot-cut look that doesn’t go all the way to top of the foot.

 

When I was discussing pants on IG acouple months ago, someone mentioned the Style Arc paper-bag waist pant, so I looked it up and immediately added it to my list. I loved the visual interest of the waist band and the comfort of the elastic waist. Also loved the slim leg fit and the slightly cropped ankle. This orange corduroy was too lightweight for the Lander Pants but I think it will work perfectly in this slightly baggier silhouette.

 

You can’t see how amazing my denim swatch is in this picture, but if you’ve been following on IG then you know how pretty it is made up in the Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket that I recently finished. That pattern is EVERYTHING. I still haven’t found the right fabric for the Named Patterns’ Shadi skirt.

 

The dress on the left is a hack of the Denver dress by Blank Slate patterns. I made it in an ultra soft ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, but I am not sure it works well in this pattern- the fabric is drapey and doesn’t hug my body very well, and I imagine it wont retain it’s shape for long, either. But it’s so pretty!!!! The dress on the right is intended to be a direct copy of a garment I saw on J’Adore’s blog last year, complete with hacks to the McCalls’ pattern that she based it off of. It also has a big bow at the neck (can you sense a theme here?) and is made of a really supple gold velvet from Michael Levine’s (another recurring theme with fall! For the record, it seems like velvet is “trending” right now, but not for me- I have ALWAYS loved velvet, I just haven’t seen it very often in fabric stores over the years! I should probably stock up on velvet now in case it disappears next year!)

 

The hoodie is more of a layering top for a shirt/blouse than an actual cold weather garment, but I was really drawn to the design lines and liked that I had nothing like it in my closet (I chose this pattern as one of my three pattern prizes when I was one of the winners of the McCalls contests on IG!). I decided to make it in a lightweight coffee-colored raw cotton silk, the same fabric I made my hot pink pants from last year – because of it’s thinness I think it will easily fit under a larger coat and give me access to a hood when my coat doesn’t have one. And last, but not least, another Archer button down by Grainline in a super soft flannel herringbone that I got last year from LA Finch Fabrics. I have been waiting for a long time for the perfect pattern to couple with this warm, soft fabric but ultimately I decided to stick with a TNT- my Archers are probably my most worn shirts, both in cool and hot weather, so I knew I wouldn’t go wrong with turning it into another staple!

Bra Turned Bodice in Golden Green and Ombre

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

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

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

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

It's soooo delicate!!!

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

So, to recap:

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

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

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

A Sequins of Events

Y’all! I did it! I successfully sewed with sequins, and it kicked my ass just as much as working with velvet for the first time. But I saw it through to the end! Who cares if it took me two months to complete what is one of THE simplest patterns in my entire stash? I FINISHED IT, and I think it looks spectacular. And now I really need a fun cocktail party to attend so that I can slink and shimmer around in it.

I’m not sure what first got me interested in sewing with sequins, but I think I might have seen a photo or two online where sequins took the centerstage of an outfit and it got my wheels turning. I did some gentle research online about how to sew with sequins, in case I ever bit the bullet and actually bought a couple of yards, and lo and behold, within days I found myself at Michael Levine’s, JUH-ROOLING over a few bolts of sequined fabric they had on display. I already knew that I wanted to work with stretch sequins, and the first one I found happened to be the one I was the most in love with- a black poly knit with two toned sequins that flipped from black to gold depending on how you made them lay (using just a bit of pressure, you sweep the sequins from one side to the other with your hand and they “magically” change color). I was immediately in love with the color combo; not a huge fan of black by itself, but when it’s coupled with gold I’m sold! So I grabbed myself 1.5 yards hoping that I wouldn’t ruin it in the learning curve. I knew the exact pattern that I wanted to pair with the sequins, probably because I had just recently made it so it was fresh in my mind. Despite my flahze-dah attitude (where my Drag Race fans at??) about everyone’s other favorite dress pattern, I knew that the simple silhouette of McCalls 6686 would work great for showing off the sequins, and that my issues with the fit would be easy to adjust once the main pieces were constructed. Sewing with sequins is a lot like velvet in that you want to stay away from lots of gathers, pleats and extra seam lines to create less bulk and allow the fabric to shine, and this pattern met the mark.

I made a few small adjustments to the pattern before I cut out my sequins by trying to adjust for a sway back (I’m still new to this fit adjustment and haven’t nailed it down yet for knit fabrics) and opening up the neckline in the front and back just a bit. I cut out the three quarter inch sleeve version and shortened my pattern pieces to a mini, then I cut the sequins with a pair of leather shears so as not to damage my good scissors or rotary cover on the tiny discs. BTW I would recommend using goggles when cutting and machine sewing sequins that aren’t glued or fully sewed down onto their fabric. I did not, and I had one or two close calls where a sequin shard flew through the air a little too close to my eye!

Initially I had planned to sew a lining inside of my sequined dress since that seemed like the easiest way to protect my skin from the sharp edges that would be poking through the seam allowances, but once the shell was constructed, I realized that adding another dress underneath it was going to be incredibly heavy (this sequined fabric is already pretty weighty) and it would also feel and look too bulky for the body skimming dress I was going for. By wearing a lining underneath this dress I was hoping to avoid all the extra work required to make the insides of a sequined garment more comfortable, so now I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I learned lots of random tips on working with sequins when I researched the topic online- some of them worked, some of them did not. One suggested that I remove all the sequins from the seam allowances before sewing because my sewing needle would not be able to penetrate the sequins without breaking over and over again. I knew how hard my sequins were from cutting them with my strongest pair of scissors, so I got to work attempting to remove each sequin from the 5/8″ allowance of each pattern piece. I figured it wouldn’t take terribly long since I was working with an uncomplicated pattern that only had two side seams, two shoulder seams, and hems.

Before we laugh at how absolutely naive this thought process was, it’s important to note that not all sequined fabric is made in the same way. Some sequins are glued on, some are sewn down onto a mesh piece of fabric, and some are only connected to the fabric with one knot of thread that runs in diagonal lines across the knit backing. My sequined fabric was like the latter, and removing one individual sequin from the fabric took approximately 3. 4 years. I thought that I would be able to undo the whole stitching line for one row of sequins and then just pull the thread up so that the rest of the row of sequins would pop off, too, but that only worked sometimes…which was probably a good thing. You want your sequins to be adequately affixed to the fabric so that one little snag doesn’t make a whole line of sequins fall off. But for the purposes of my project I was hoping the work would be much less labor intensive. After removing about 2 inches of sequins, my fingers were getting raw and sore, and after another two inches were removed I was kicking myself for getting hooked by their shiny sparkle in the first place.

I took lots of breaks, complained about the arduous process on instagram, took Tylenol for my back that had started to ache from sitting hunched over the dress for so long, vacuumed up a few hundred of the sequins that were littering my craft room floor. At the rate I was going I figured I would be done with the dress in about 2021, so I decided to take as much time with the sequin removal as possible. At one point I read a comment from someone on IG asking what needles I had tried to sew the fabric with, and I couldn’t remember- when I had played around with a little cut of the fabric earlier I had tried to run it through my machine with whatever needle was already in there and it didn’t work well. But I realized then that maybe I just needed to try a stronger needle. I pulled out an upholstery needle that I used for super heavy fabric when reupholstering chairs and I sewed a tentative line of zig zag stitching over two layers of fabric. I went verrrrry slowly and kept my face far away from the needle of my sewing machine. It worked like a dream- no skipped stitches, no marring of sequins and no breaking of needles. I couldn’t BELIEVE I had wasted so much time trying to pry them off one by one, but even after all my hours of work, I hadn’t gotten very far, and better to learn the lesson late than never, right?

I halted my Sequin Removal Production™ and slowly zig zagged the side seams of the dress to try on for fit- it looked pretty good! Eventually I would take the dress in even more at the side seams, but for now I knew I was on the right track, and I also knew that figuring out how to cover up the sequins in the seam allowance would be key because I had tons of scratches up and down my body just from taking the dress on and off. Next I attached the sleeves to the dress, and construction was complete, just like that! I had spent hours removing a few inches of sequins over the past three days and then had the whole garment sewn up in 20 minutes! Ha! Unfortunately, my journey was just beginning.

Now that the dress was sewn up, I had to decide 1. how to handle the scratchy sequins in the seam allowance of the dress and 2. how to hem the sleeves, neck and bottom of the dress. For the seam allowances I briefly considered removing the sequins from the allowances again, but I knew that there had to be a better and quicker way, at least to save my sanity and my fingertips. Instead of removing the sequins, I thought of encasing the seam in bias binding to keep the sequins covered up by the strip of fabric (kind of like a Hong Kong seam but with the allowance sewn together as opposed to pressed open and encased separately). It worked! It looked a little messy at the intersections of sleeve opening and side seam, but 99% of the sequins were covered up and I no longer felt like I was in a Freddy Kreuger movie when I tried the dress on.

Now for the hems. I had tried folding my seam allowance to the inside and sewing the hem down like you would any regular garment but it looked horrible- the hem was lumpy, bumpy and very unprofessional looking. Worse yet, the needle punctured all the sequins around the seam line so when I took the stitches out they looked worn and mauled. I ended up having to cut the sleeves off at that line because the sequins looked so traumatized, but it was fine because the three quarter sleeve length gives you room to play with. Next I tried sewing a length of bias tape to the outside edge of the sleeve bottom, then folding the bias tape to the inside and hand sewing the tape down so that you can’t see the stitches from the outside. This worked MUCH better. The lines were smooth, no sequins were harmed, and, although time consuming, it wasn’t difficult work. It still doesn’t look perfect; because the sequins are sewn onto a stretch knit, using a straight stitch to attach the bias binding made the seams stretch out a bit, so that if you look closely at my sleeve hems in particular, you can see that they flare out juuuuust a tiny amount. But guess what- after all the time and frustration I had experienced at this point with the make, I was FINE with a little flare!

For the bottom hem of the dress, I was nervous that my bias binding method would make it look even more stretched out than the sleeve hems, so I folded the hem up and hand stitched it in place instead of sewing it with my machine, then I hand stitched a length of bias tape around the allowance on the inside to keep the sequins from touching my skin (y’all, I know it seems like overkill, but the SEQUINS ON BARE SKIN struggle is REAL). After trying the dress on, I was verrrrry close to loving it, but it was a still little bit looser than I wanted it to be in the body, much like my issues with the first time I made this pattern, even though I had adjusted it since then. I took it in again about a half inch on both side seams and it absolutely did the trick. I could have finished here and finally called the dress complete, but now I had very bulky side seams with the additional fabric taken in at the sides, so I snipped off my bound seams and cut closer to my second line of zig zag stitches. Then I finished the seams for a second time with a fresh length of binding (and I made it look nicer than the first time when I was less sure of what I was doing). And, VOILA! The sequined dress is finished!

This dress took me over two months to complete because I put it away and worked on so many other projects in the middle of it. I don’t normally have projects sitting unfinished in my craft room for that long, but there was so much trial and error involved and I also wanted to give myself little breaks so that I wouldn’t get too frustrated with the fabric and take even longer to finish it. I am super happy with the fit of this dress now, though. It looks tight like a body con dress but it’s actually very comfortable. It will be easy to dance in and I love the length of the sleeves- I feel like they can carry me through 80% of LA weather. I do have a preference for which way I want the sequins to face- I thought I was fine with them going both ways, but when they are all turned gold, it puts the biggest smile on my face and I simply can’t stop staring at them in the mirror. Claire likes this dress cause she said I feel like a snake, and she’s totally right. Not sure if you have ever spent any time with snakes, but thanks to a couple of snake loving friends, I have had the pleasure, and they are amazing! When you hold their bodies as they slither around, you can feel each individual scale, which is surprisingly soft, and you can also feel their muscles moving underneath their exterior. When these sequins are all running in the same direction and I run my hand over my body, it feels exactly the same way.

This dress took way longer than I imagined and the learning curve was steep but it didn’t turn me off of working with sequins; in fact, in the middle of working on this dress I went to the Fabric Store to pick up my month’s allowance and my eyes fell on a bright blue and pink bolt of shimmery sequins that I had seen before in the store but had never had the guts to take home with me. Now that I had this black and gold number successfully under my belt I knew that sewing with the non-stretch sequined fabric would be a breeze, and it’s in my craft room right now, just waiting to slide up the project queue 🙂

And now, just cause I mentioned it, here is an awesome photo my talented friend Henry took of me with a black headed python for his snake calendar…this snake was a real stinker and kept knocking my prop glasses off my head, but we still had a lot of fun. If I can find it I will have to post the gorgeous photos he took of Claire looking like Amelia Earhart with two snakes wrapped around her flight goggles!

 

 

Goji Shorts in Pineappled Chambray

I love the idea of shorts but have very few in my wardrobe. Aside from a couple of ratty pairs in my “houseclothes” drawer and some running shorts that I haven’t worn since I traded jogging for spin, I have only one pair in my closet. As much as I love them, they aren’t the first thing I reach for when getting dressed on a summer day, and that’s probably because they are slim fitting, cut fairly high on the leg, and made of a brushed cotton fabric that is beautiful and soft but not very crisp, so they have a tendency to ride up a bit in the crotch if the day is particularly humid. They look great on me when I leave the house but by the time I get back home, they look just as frazzled as I usually feel.

I have been wanting to try my hand at another pair of shorts with a little more wearability- a step up from my french terry ones but still casual enough that I can throw them on for a quick run to Trader Joe’s, and the new Deer and Doe Goji shorts and skirt pattern fit the bill. I didn’t realize this was the silhouette I was looking for until I saw it on their instagram feed, but it is right up my alley. I LOVE the concept of a skirt/dress that is actually shorts/pants; it is the one of the few fashions that I loved as a teenager that has also followed me into adulthood. It gives so much more freedom of movement and conservativeness while still giving a feminine and cutesy silhouette, which, yes, I am still drawn to in my late thirties without shame (see my Timeless Overall Shorts here!)

Deer and Doe patterns have lovely instructions and design details in all of their designs, so making their patterns is always a pleasure (and they seem particularly fitted for pear-shapes). I knew the Goji shorts would be a simple make since they have an elasticized waist and a loose fit so I made a straight size 38 according to my waist size and they fit great. I normally don’t like drawstrings on bottoms because if you decide to wear a shirt untucked with them, the tie creates visual bulk underneath whatever you’re wearing and I hate the way it looks, but it works on this pattern since I know I won’t ever style these shorts with something untucked. I love the high waist coupled with the fullness of the bottoms- they don’t cling to my butt or thighs which gives me a little breathing room and takes away the possibility of the fabric rising up between my legs.

I did not have a particular fabric in mind when I purchased this pattern and I figured I would make a simple first pair using something in my stash. The first thing that caught my eye was a very light gray colored tencel in one of my drawers that had been discarded for a better fabric (black tencel) when I was working on my second Hannah dress. The fact that that fabric had been shunned already should have been heads up enough for me, but sometimes I don’t pay attention to signs from the Sewing Gods. At pretty much every step of the way of constructing these shorts I was second guessing my fabric choice, and by the time I got to where I needed to attach the waistband, I was ready to throw the whole thing out. Which I did. The fabric was just not a great color- it was a washed out, almost white gray- the thread I used for the contrast stitching on the seams didn’t look good with the fabric, the tencel itself was too drapey for the structured silhouette I wanted, and it was also so lightweight that it was practically transparent. Nothing about the fabric screamed GOJI SHORTS, I just wanted to try and use up my stash (I hate having a fabric stash, by the way. HATE IT!)

After telling myself that life was too short to spend another minute sewing something that brought me no joy (shout out to my fellow konmari-ers!), I added “Goji shorts fabric” to my shopping list for Michael Levine’s and on my next visit there promptly found a shelf full of gorgeous denim chambrays that I knew would do the trick. I couldn’t decide whether to go for plain, polka dots, or pineapples, but pineapples seemed more fun, and I rarely come across a novelty-esque sort of print that can be paired with lots of things in my closet (I like to try and get as much wear out of my separates as possible). The small scale of the fruit and the blue denim colored background keep it fairly neutral without it being boring, and I think it works great with the lines of this pattern design.

I used denim top stitching thread to create the contrast stitching on the seams and panels of the skirt and I really love the effect. The pineapple fabric isn’t very heavy, but it gives the shorts the structure I was looking for and provides an almost fit n’ flare kind of silhouette. I love the comfortable waist, which has two channels of thin elastic running through it in addition to the functional drawstring, and I love the deep pockets that serve as a design element for the garment. These shorts feel incredibly easy to wear and not restrictive at all for a pair of shorts, which works extremely well for what I think looks and feels good on me.

Although I love the way these shorts came out, I am wondering what this design would look like in a drapey fabric closer to the tencel that I initially used, but with a longer length, like below the knee. As the weather warms up I am going to need a replacement for my current go-to skirt, which just so happens to be another Deer and Doe pattern. When I first made my yellow Fumeterre skirt I absolutely looooved it, but it stayed in my closet practically unworn for over a year before I pulled it out and chopped a foot off the bottom. Apparently the maxi length, while super cool and dramatic, was just not wearable enough for me, but altering it just a tiny bit catapulted it into a wardrobe staple. I am in love with the pale lemon yellow of the fabric, and while the Italian linen seemed exceptionally heavy when I first made the skirt, it works perfectly now in a slightly shorter length and provides a bit more warmth on cooler spring and fall days when paired with a light jacket. Anyways, this new skirt in my head would be really reminiscent of that yellow one, but breezier, and perfect for summer. I am REALLY into these elasticised waistbands that have enough drama drafted into the design that they don’t look too casual while still providing a lot of ease of wearing. More of that, please, designers!

look ma, no skirt!

I used to always think that I would never ever veer from my preference for fitted, darted, vintage-inspired silhouettes, and although I still LOVE them, I am really happy to have made room for a variety of different styles in my life now. It feels like I am less afraid to make what I need a priority rather than adhering to what feels expected of me, by myself and others. So it seems only fitting that I wore these shorts for the first time on my birthday earlier this month, which was very casual, chill, and relaxed. You hear that, twenty-five year old, Jasika? You are gonna be casual, chill and relaxed one day! Just you wait!

Bag(s) Lady

 

I love making bags but for some reason I don’t post my completed projects here on my blog very often, with the exception of these roll top bags I made a couple of years ago. Bags are super fun to make because they take less time to complete than most garments, there are no fitting adjustments that need to be made for it to come out “right” so satisfaction is more than likely guaranteed, you can use up scraps from your stash, and you get to work with really fun notions and hardware like D rings and swivel clips, YAAAAAAAY! In addition, for beginner sewists, bags are great projects to help you get used to certain sewing techniques without feeling overwhelmed.

Before Christmas I finished the Maker’s Tote by Noodlehead patterns to house all my in-progress knit projects, and it turned out pretty great (although I rushed through it towards the end so I could get back to my Vogue Coat and as a result, some of the finishing details are not quite as precise as I would like).

I found out that in addition to being an excellent home for my craft projects, it’s also a pretty fantastic travel bag, what with all the inside pockets and roomy space inside. All it needs is an additional long strap to throw over my shoulder when running through the airport, and who knows, I might actually get around to adding that at some point.

 

But this post isn’t really about the Maker’s Tote, it’s about the Swoon Masie Bowler Bag that I just finished. Swoon first came across my radar last year when I was looking for bag patterns to pin on my pinterest board and I discovered the Bag-Of-Month club. It’s a club that you have to buy into for a flat fee, and every two months for a year you get a new design by a reputable bag designer delivered to your inbox for a total of 6 bags. You don’t know what the designs will be before you buy in to the club, and the patterns are not available for individual purchase until after the pattern has been released to the club members. This is such a fun idea for people who LOVE sewing up bags (or who love hoarding patterns, or both). The patterns range from really excellent and innovative designs to run-of-the-mill plain totes (easy construction) with embellishments on them, and even though I am not the right demographic for the club since I only make a couple of bags a year, it’s been fun to check in with the club online and see which patterns have been released and what people have made with them. Swoon is one of the better designed brands that participates in the club and I finally purchased their Masie Bowler bag pattern after oohing and ahhing over it for months (I’m pretty sure that this other bag of theirs will also be in my future- I am so in love with their clever use of fabric choice)!

I purchased the pattern with absolutely no vision of what my completed bag would look like until a couple of months later. On a trip to Michael Levine’s where I was hunting for fabric for a gift for my sister-in-law, I came across a display of beautiful hand woven mudcloth.  I have always loved mudcloth but I had never seen any in stores for purchase before. It was so hard to choose a fabric; each was so simple but so well designed, and they were sold by the piece as opposed to by the yard. Ultimately I chose one with a larger print (I really like the way large prints look on smaller items) and I am really happy with the layout- I made sure to highlight a different part of the pattern on each side of my bag.

 

With bag making you have a lot of room for design choices and mixing different kinds of textures and fabrics together, and I wanted the mudcloth on my bag to be the highlight of the piece so I ignored the recommended contrast fabric suggestions in the pattern and used mudcloth for the exterior main, upper panel and gusset pieces. I also decided not to use woven fabric or vinyl for my contrast pieces and instead used leather from a big piece I bought from The Fabric Store about a year ago. It is so beautiful and although I use it sparingly, it has gone a long way- I used it for the wallet I made for Claire in addition to straps and bottom pieces for a few other accessories I have worked on over the past year (when I find the right pair of flat lasts I am going to use the rest of it for a pair of shoes). I really love working with leather but I am going to start keeping my eyes out for used leather clothing so that I can up-cycle the material instead of buying new pieces of it.

Anyways, using leather really upped the sophistication of this bag, but as you can imagine it was a real %#&(&*&$ to sew! There are a few things I could have done to make this a bit easier, namely skive the seam allowances of all the leather pieces making them thinner and therefore much easier to manipulate. But hindsight is 20/20 and by the time I realized that skiving would be a good idea, all my leather pieces were basted to their Soft n’Stable counterparts already. And I was too lazy to take them apart. Let’s be honest, my laziness is almost ALWAYS the main culprit in situations like these. As a result, sewing the corners of the bag turned out to be QUITE A FEAT, because I had to contend with curves and three layers of leather. And for the record, sewing the corners of bags is always a trying thing to do whether you use leather or not- it takes a surprising amount of upper body strength to maneuver all those layers and whenever I finish a bag I find myself feeling a little sorer in my arms and neck than usual. Skiving my leather would not only have helped ease the difficulty in sewing the thick pieces together, but it would have also helped the finished bag sit better. With leather as thick as this, you can’t really “press” seams in any direction, you can just gently hammer them down with a rubber mallet and hope for the best. If my edges had been thinner, they would have settled into their curved shapes a more easily. As it stand, the leather seams of my bag are very “thick”, and they don’t really flatten out very well on the sides or bottom. I’m okay with it though- I know now how to make it work better next time and Claire has assured me that this bag is still impressive (her exact words were “you could sell this in a shop and people would but it!” lol).

The instructions for this bag are excellent and I didn’t find one mistake or typo in the whole thing, but they do not take into consideration the option of using leather (maybe the designer is vegan?) so I had to figure out a lot of things on my own and make mods for the differences in my material- not a big deal, just an important thing to note. Namely I had to forgo the side pockets on the outside of the bag- 5 layers of leather plus Soft and Stable would have been too much fabric for my machine to accurately sew through. I also needed to change the way I made the handles and strap. Instead of folding the edges towards the middle and top stitching the edges , I just cut out leather in the dimensions for the final pieces because I knew the leather would be strong enough. After using the bag for a full day, I realized that, though the leather was strong enough on it’s own, normal wear would distort the shape of the straps over time, so I have since added a backing to both the shoulder and hand straps and they are much sturdier now- everything looks the same except the straps have the deep brown leather on both sides.

For my lining fabric, I used a beautiful Ankara print that I found on my fabric buying spree with Marcy and Renee last summer. I don’t remember where we got this fabric from- it was one of those random spots in the fashion district with lots of sequined laces in the store windows. I would never have thought to stop inside if Marcy had not steered us in there, but she is an amazing fabric tour guide! The guy inside gave me a kind of pervy vibe and was DROOLING over poor Marcy, who was able to maintain a perfectly friendly smile on her face for as long as it took me to find what I wanted and get a good deal. That girl is a GEM, I tell ya! I have a lot of this fabric left over and I think I might make either a tea length dirndl or pleated skirt from it. I love the image of this woman’s face peeking out of my bag and would love even more to have her adorning my legs as I swish around this city.

 

I wish I had changed the way I made the front and back embellishments on the bag and just cut out the pieces in the final shape of the connector instead of following instructions to fold the top edges in and then under, which created a lot of bulk (even though I did think to skive those pieces). I think those instructions are made to make the vinyl stronger where they connect to the rectangle rings for the straps, but since I used thick leather I totally didn’t need to reinforce the edges like that. Ultimately they look just fine, and the only crappy looking part is where I had to sew those thick edges down underneath the rectangle hardware- the machine sewing is SO wonky here because I was using a zipper foot AND sewing very thick pieces together, but I have decided that the wonkiness adds to the charm (can you tell that I am NOT a sewing perfectionist??)

I didn’t add much to this bag that wasn’t in the design already except for these purse feet, which I love!!!! I wish I had been doing this on all my bags that I have made, so I am telling YOU to add them on all of yours so you don’t have to miss out. Ok, back to what I left off: in addition to leaving off the side pockets, I also decided to leave off the top stitching and the piping embellishments on the outside edges of the bag, which is a shame because I really love the way the piping looks. But I knew that the additional piping fabric and top stitches would make sewing the leather pieces even more difficult, and I also thought that design-wise, piping might add too much fussiness to the look. I love the way this bag looks so I don’t regret any of my editing choices, but I would love to make a future bag in all woven fabric so that I can add all the cool little embellishments that I missed out on.

This bag didn’t take too long to make and I am really happy with it, warts, wonky stitching and all ! Aside from making smarter choices when working with my leather so that the bag would hold it’s shape better, I wouldn’t change anything at all about it and it’s such a good size for me! I rarely leave the house with more than a wallet, phone, keys and sunglasses, and this housed all of the above today when I used it for the first time, in addition to some sides and some junk mail. Oh, and my iPad. Oh, and snacks! Damn, this bag fit a lot into it now that I think about it- I love it even more now. I appreciate that the design has a shoulder strap in addition to handles because I use both of them to carry my bags around pretty regularly. This bag takes up a very small amount of fabric so I still have quite a bit of mudcloth left over. Not entirely sure what I am gonna make with it, but an obvious choice are throw pillows, either for myself or as a gift. I’ll try and remember to share whatever becomes of the remaining fabric here on the blog or on instagram!