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Sointu Tee Hack

This was such an unexpectedly fun (and quick!) dress to make! I was moderately impressed by the Sointu Tee by Named Patterns a few years ago when I made it while filming in Savannah, GA, eventually pairing it with my Sasha Trousers, and while I love the way it looks and fits, for some reason it’s just not the first garment I reach for in my closet. Perhaps because I made it in a really nice merino blend from The Fabric Store which makes the top very warm and cozy, contradicting the fact that it is essentially a short sleeved blouse designed for warmer weather. The window of opportunity to wear this “tee” in the fabric I made it from is pretty small. But still, in terms of the design elements, I love the silhouette of the dramatic sleeves, the cinched in waist, and the big belt. As always with Named patterns, the garment is kind of huge on me, even though I always make the smallest sizes offered, so if you are petite and checking out this brand for the first time, one of the (many) suggestions I would make would be to size down a bit, if possible.

Anyways, I hadn’t made the Sointu Tee (often referred to as the Kimono Tee) for myself again after my gray wool version, but I stumbled across a photo of Corrine Bailey Rae on pinterest wearing a dress that seemed to be a dead ringer for the Sointu Tee as a foundational pattern. I was drawn to Rae’s dress because of the supple, pillowy looking fabric (and also that color!), the slightly oversized fit, and the super thick belt that managed to pull the whole look together. I also loved that sweet, simple, yet effective neckline. The actual details of the dress look about as complicated as a paper bag, and yet it’s still such a chic, elegant and fun looking garment!

I shared the image on my IG stories a while back, explaining that I was looking for comparable patterns to match with some inspo outfits, and although I had a few ideas in mind for some of the garments, I was interested in hearing what suggestions others had to offer. For this particular dress I was eyeing either the Sointu Tee as a hack or the Sew House 7 Teahouse Dress, but then an IG follower sent me a photo of the dress she hacked out of the Sointu Tee pattern to great effect and it looked terrific, so I was sold! 

I initially hoped to find a pastel-colored fabric to work with for this project like the one from the inspo pic, but I found a really cool black twill ponte at The Fabric Store instead, which seemed like a smart idea. If a project you haven’t made before goes south, it’s way easier to cover up any flaws in black fabric than it is in pastel mint green! I did have a couple of flaws that I needed to cover up, but nothing too horrible. 

The Sointu Tee is a very simple project to make and it’s great for beginners. As mentioned above, one of the things I don’t really love about Named Patterns is the fact that their fit tends to be so generous, and part of this is because they rarely specify what fabric a design should be made out of – I guess maybe they want sewists to be able to make them out of whatever fabric they want, whether it’s knit or woven? But I am of the mindset that not all designs translate well from knit to woven, so the drafting should be adjusted accordingly- the result is that the smallest size in all the patterns I have made from this line have been entirely too big. However, this works very well in the favor of a newer sewist- more ease drafted into the pattern means less headache trying to get each part to fit perfectly. This pattern has no sleeves to set in, and only two main pieces to work with- the belt, loops, sleeve and neck bindings are simply smaller rectangular pieces that won’t require any fitting or adjusting for most projects. 

For my hack, I made the following changes:

  • added a seam allowance on the front piece so that it is no longer cut on the fold; this was the best way for me to achieve the split-open neck detail on the front. 
  • extended both front and back pieces to my desired length (about 18″) and widened the side seams of both pieces to around 1/2 inch at the hem, grading to nothing at the waist- there is so much ease drafted into the tee that I didn’t need to add any more around the hips and thighs, but I did extend outwards a bit to keep the flow of the side seams intact.
  • adjusted neckline on the front so that it was slightly lower and accommodated the neckline detail (cut a narrow ‘V’ out of the top 3 inches).
  • widened belt and belt loops.

Unfortunately I made a few mistakes along the way despite my insistence on what an easy hack this is to complete. I forgot to interface my belt, which may or may not be a problem in the long run- the ponte is pretty thick and bulky so I don’t imagine it will stretch out considerably during wear, but it’s still something I should have done. I also tried to top stitch each side of the front center seam of the dress as illustrated in the inspo pic, which would work on some fabrics I’m sure, but not this one- it made the seam wavy and warped and I had to unpick the stitches and then steam the crap out of it to get it back to the original shape. Thankfully the top stitching around the neckline detail laid down beautifully and didn’t need to be ripped out. However, the next time I make this, I will allow for extra seam allowance at the front center pieces so that I can make a wider band of topstitching down the front, as in the inspo pic- I love that detail but didn’t pay attention to it properly to make it work for my garment. I didn’t interface the sleeve bindings because my fabric was stable enough to not need it, but depending on the fabric used, you can keep or omit it (I have seen other sewist’s comment that this was an unnecessary detail so I think most people skip it like I did). 

Other than that, the dress came together incredibly quickly. The most time I spent on it (after all that unpicking of the front center wavy topstitching!) was hand sewing the blind hem- and FYI, because the dress has a slight curve to the bottom depending on what you did with your lengthened seam lines, you might need to baste the hem first before sewing it down to ease in that extra fabric. I also had to adjust the position of the belt loops to my liking- I ended up raising mine to be really close to the under the arms because I don’t like the belt hitting my actual waist, I prefer it a bit higher for this silhouette, right around my ribcage. 

And that’s it! I was very lucky to have my talented friend, fellow actor and spin instructor, Jess Nurse, take these blog photos for me when we got together to do a fun photo shoot a couple weekends ago, and they came out SOOO great! Unfortunately, as with most black clothing, it was really hard to show all the details of this make without zapping all the color out of the images, so you have to squint kind of hard to really see the details of the belt and drape of the fabric; but honestly, this is such a simple make that there isn’t too much you have to imagine on your own, and I hope you can get the feel of the dress despite the black fabric!

I also wish I had been wearing my newly made furry heels in these photos, because I was inspired to make them in this leather and texture after I started making this dress- I thought the two would go beautifully together, but alas, the soles were still waiting to be glued when we took these photos. No worries though- I have other outfits that I think these shoes are gonna look KILLER with, so they will have their chance to shine on the blog eventually!

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs6hZkDhUdv/

And lastly, here are a couple of really fun shots Jess got that don’t quite show off the dress, but still evoke a pretty fantastic LBD mood…thanks again, Jess, for sharing your talents with me!

A Pinterest-Worthy Sundress in Striped Linen

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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