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A Rigel Bomber for Claire

I make Claire stuff all the time- hoodies, binders, approximately 326 pairs of Hudson pants- but not all of it gets catalogued here on my blog. Mostly because getting photos of myself in my makes seems to take forever, so trying to schedule an additional person feels downright preposterous. But every once in a while, I make Claire something so radical that it’s essential to catalogue here, and this Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns is a perfect example.

Rigel Bomber

Although I’ve pinned and pined over lots of photos of their patterns, this is the first one I have actually ever made. Hilariously it was gifted to Claire through me (since Claire doesn’t sew), because our friend thought it would be a good style match for her, and she was totally right- this bomber jacket has all the athletic/leisurewear essence of the clothing that Claire is generally drawn to, with a little bit of design flare included.

I have to be honest- I wasn’t a huge fan of this pattern, drafting-wise or construction-wise, but I am not turned off of it enough to not try out another of their patterns in the future, and I do like the outcome of this jacket! Let’s start with the fabric and notions choices, which are probably my favorite part of the whole project, but which definitely took the most time to collect. Last December when Claire and I went down to New Orleans to celebrate our friend Geri’s birthday, we made a stop at Promenade Fabrics because I had heard of what a special store it was. I guess they weren’t quite ready for our crew when we arrived- we were like, 10 people deep, and we barged in on the quiet store with a lot of conversation and squeals of delight (mostly coming from Claire). I got the distinct feeling that the people manning the store didn’t actually think we were going to buy anything. But we did! And this beautiful print is one of them!

Of course Claire is the one who picked this out- it’s got her personality all over it: bold, bright, and totally unique. We had already decided that I would make her the Rigel Bomber but it was taking forever to figure out what fabric she wanted- nothing online caught her interest but she also wasn’t sure what she was looking for. When we walked the aisles of Promenade, she kept asking ‘would this one work?….what about this one?’ and not finding the exact print-to-textile match necessary, but then she found this random little bolt off to the side that caught her eye. We pulled it out and it was stunning! A galaxy print with a bit of embossing on the fabric, lots of silver, gold, yellows and reds. The fabric was expensive but they only had one yard left and although I knew it wasn’t enough to complete the whole jacket, I felt confident that we could supplement the rest of it with something really cool.

Back at home with the pattern pieces cut out I determined that we could get the back and front bodice pieces from the galaxy print and we just needed a different fabric for the sleeves…but what?? I glanced in a corner of my craft room and saw a big box of leather that I had just purchased for a steal from the Brooklyn Shoe Space instagram account. Sticking out of it was a soft, pliable chocolate brown hide that matched the reddish, brownish hues in the galaxy print. “Ever considered leather?” I asked Claire, and her eyes widened.

Once we had the main fabric worked out, I forged ahead. I didn’t muslin (yeah, yeah, I know!) or make any big adjustments, but I did redraft the front neckline to be more rounded- as designed it slants into a V and pulls down kind of low at the front, which I just don’t like very much- I prefer the more classic neckline shape of a letterman’s jacket. Next I re-drafted the facing to match the curve of the neckline of the front bodice, and I liked the look much better, although I could have raised the neckline higher and rounded it out even more. Weirdly, I got pretty stumped by the welt pocket construction…well, not stumped, per se, but dissatisfied. I wasn’t impressed with the techniques they used but I didn’t realize how strange they were til I was already halfway through them and it was too late to change it up. I don’t remember everything I disliked about the method, but I do remember that it lacked a lot of key information, like which direction to press the pocket bags and facings, etc. Pressing properly throughout welt pocket construction is one of the things that makes this design feature look really tidy and professional, so omitting it was a big oversight to me (FYI I really like the technique used in Closet Case’s Sasha Trousers).

I also disliked the size and shape of the pocket- it’s not very deep or long and it was kind of frustrating to sew. Part of it is because the jacket is relatively short and narrow, but I still think it could have a lot more room in the pocket without compromising the design too much. Thankfully the unattractive pocket and welt can’t be seen on the inside of the jacket because I decided to underline it! A regular lining would have been nice but because I used a thick material (leather) for the sleeves, I didn’t want to bulk up that area even more, so I just underlined the back and front bodice pieces with some bright green quilted polyester by basting the lining and outer fabric together and then sewing it as one.

 

Claire had purchased a zipper and a length of binding on etsy once we found her main fabric, but I neglected to tell her not to purchase from any accounts shipping from overseas, since they can take months and months to get here and it’s not the most sustainable way to buy. Spoiler alert: we are still waiting on her zipper from China and it has been THREE MONTHS lol! I ended up having to hunt down ribbing locally once I got to that step in the instructions, and I also picked up a really cool zipper, but lo and behold, when I got back home to use them, they were all wrong. The “ribbing” I bought from Michael Levine’s was actually more of a thin, lightweight, ribbed stretch knit- it was incredibly flimsy when I basted it onto the neckline of the jacket, and the color was also not quite right- a little too bright and orange-y to pair well with the galaxy print. And then! The zipper I got was too long! Which normally wouldn’t matter, but because this is a separating zipper it needs to be exactly the right length for the jacket front.

I took to instagram asking my followers if anyone had any beefy, sturdy ribbing to suggest for me that I could buy online, and Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics wrote me with a link to the perfect ribbing that she carried in her shop. I bought two packages of waistband ribbing (I used the additional one for the neckband) and matching ribbed cuffs in a color that ended up being the absolute perfect compliment to the jacket- a deep purple-ish wine color that enhanced the purple in the galaxy print and was a nice pairing for the brown leather of the sleeves.


Next I looked on youtube for tutorials on how to shorten a separating zipper, and I found that I could remove some of the teeth with wire cutters and then cut the excess length, but I wasn’t sure how to close off the top of the zipper without an extra pair of zipper stops – apparently you can buy zipper repair kits at a local fabric store, but I wasn’t planning on leaving the house for the rest of the night so I was determined to figure it out with the tools I already had. Somehow, someway, I convinced myself that if I was careful, I could pull the stops off the orginal zipper with pliers and then close them back onto the zipper where I needed them to be, right below where I had cut off the teeth. It took a while and a lot of muscle, but I did it, and it was totally worth it- this zipper is just too cool to not be attached to this jacket.

Because I opted to use leather sleeves for this project, I had to be flexible with a lot of the construction methods- it would have been quick and easy to serge almost the whole jacket, but I can’t run leather through my serger, so I had to sew straight stitches with Nylon thread (which holds up better when sewing leather). I also had to try and reduce bulk in as many places as possible, sometimes skiving the leather down at intersecting seams, sometimes using my mallet to pound the seams flat or open. Using leather took a little bit more time but I adore the look is brings to the jacket.

Another design element I didn’t like so much was the facing, or rather the fact that the facing isn’t instructed to be tacked down inside the jacket around the zipper. On this jacket, the facing constantly wanted to fly open or get scrunched up inside the jacket when it was being put on, and tacking it down was easy since I underlined the outer shell, but on a single layer jacket, depending on the fabric, this might be a difficult thing to do.

This jacket was literally four months in the making but I am glad I kept working on it because it looks really freaking cool and it’s SO CLAIRE! I am hoping that the leather of the sleeves softens up more over time because as of now, even though the leather is soft and pliable, it’s still pretty thick and it needs to be broken in. If I made this again I would probably lengthen it a bit and round out that collar even more (and alter that pocket bag shape!), but I think it fits Claire well and is a beautiful collaborative effort on both our parts. Enjoy, Claire- I love you!

 

 

Purple Backless Dress and Turquoise Animal Print Heels

This little purple number is made from a fav vintage pattern, Butterick 3867, that I first blogged about here a few years ago, but it was inspired by a pinterest image (below) that kept popping up in my feed over the fall. Apparently it’s a look from the upcoming Spring 2019 Madewell line up, and although I don’t follow their brand all that closely, I do love much of what I see from them.

Madewell Spring '16 Is About to Give You a Denim Obsession

As soon as I saw this dress I knew what a dead ringer my vintage Butterick pattern was for it, with only a couple minor adjustments. Although I love my original make of this pattern, I was excited for the chance to redo it; I made the original dress back in the day when my sewing skills were less advanced, so the old dress has a lot of room for improvement. For one thing, my mint green ladybug covered fabric, as pretty as it is, is a cotton voile, which is pretty sheer on it’s own. To make the bodice more opaque, I added a lining to it but I used a silk organza which was the best thing I had on hand at the time. As you might know, silk organza is pretty transparent, and also a bit of a strange pairing for cotton voile- while it successfully beefed up the body of the bodice, it doesn’t really flow well with the voile since the qualities of the two textiles is so different. I also used a white organza which just soaked up my deodorant marks over the years and turned the pits to a sickly green-ish yellow color (my preferred natural deodorants are made with Bentonite clay, which is a MOTHER to get out of light-colored fabric!)

The main adjustment I needed to make to create the Madewell inspired dress was to simply change the angle of the back bodice pieces so that they overlapped at the very top where the neckline is instead of the center. I basically just eyeballed this part and curved the neckline of the back instead of angling it down, then adjusted the bottom of the back bodice lines to meet up with it- everything else I kept the same.

I used a cut of beefy sandwashed rayon that I purchased at Promenade Fabrics on a trip Claire and I took to NOLA last December (SHOUT TO THE GERIATRATRIC CREW!!!!!), and I sewed this entire dress up while shooting in Vancouver this past February, which makes this dress my first #sewnawayfromhome of 2019!

It was a smart project to sew while out of town- I have learned to choose projects that I am familiar with and know will not need a ton of fitting adjustments. Aside from the hacking of the back bodice and creating a lining (the pattern doesn’t call for the dress to be lined at the bodice, but I prefer it that way since it’s basically a backless garment that I don’t want to wear a bra with- lining it gives my babygirls in the front some extra coverage and protection from the cold!), everything else was sewn according to the instructions.

This dress comes with nice, deep pockets, a button closure in the back that goes all the way down the skirt, and a lot of flexibility in terms of fitting- since the gathered skirt is essentially attached separately to the bodice (they only meet at the waistband), it’s easy to make any adjustments necessary at the very end stages of construction.

Again, I still really love my ladybug version, but this purple remix is a real win! It can obviously be dressed down, but I had no idea how chic it would look when paired with heels! I love the body of the fabric- it feels substantial and weighty, but not heavy- in fact, it’s light enough for the skirt to look really full and airy, and the sheen of the fabric in certain light makes the texture look luxurious! And my dress looks even chicer than the one in the inspo pic, if I do say so myself- the Madewell dress has drag lines and scrunching on the back bodice that looks like it either doesn’t fit well around the arms or is just baggy. Jasika 1 Madewell 0.

Now let’s talk about heels!

Inspo shoe:

Check out www.TheStyleBouquet.com #Gucci

I was very excited to get an invite to NYC in early March to take a 3-day shoe making class with the I Can Make Shoes team which is based out of London. I have been shouting them out on IG for a while now because they carry hard to find supplies and have some great free youtube tutorials available on their channel, and although I have been making heels for a while now, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn something new and continue elevating my skills…which I totally did! I had actually taken a satellite class of theirs several years ago when they came to LA for a one day sandaled heel making class, but the most recent class I took with them was 10 times better- for one thing it was taught by Amanda, founder of the company, who was super knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and patient with each of her 10 students, and the setup was much more efficient- 3 days gave us plenty of time to design, plan out, and implement our shoe makes, and we got to work at Brooklyn Shoe Space, a really fantastic shoe making studio in Brooklyn that offers classes on bag making, shoe making, and more. There were so many amazing machines to use at BKSS and I only knew what like, 4 of them were for- there were belt sanders and special leather sewing machines among them, but my favorite was the vented table in the basement that sucked all of the toxic fumes from the rubber cement glue out of the room so you could glue your shoes without passing out from the smell- brilliant!

I soaked up all the wisdom that Amanda and her assistants had to offer, and among the most helpful techniques I learned/clarification on was covering the heel! I have always had a lot of trouble getting a nice, clean-looking heel for my shoes out of leather, but I was cutting out the shape all wrong- Amanda showed me a way to cut a vaguely mushroom shape out of the leather and then make Y-cuts (god, I hate Y-cuts!) along the allowance edges to fold them in, then how to cover the front with a leaf and another piece of leather to get everything smooth looking. I even used a really thick suede to cover my heels and I didn’t have to skive down the edges- with her technique, everything laid down beautifully! I also learned how to make a sole that tucks underneath the heel of the shoe as opposed to flowing down the front of the heel. I actually prefer a sole that goes from heel tip to toe because I think it gives a skinny heel a little more stability with memade shoes, but it’s definitely a great technique to use for wider, thicker heels, and I am so excited to recreate them. Oh! And I also learned how to do the quick version of “welting” a shoe! It’s not really welting, of course- it’s actually just using randing as a decorative edge around the sole of the shoe but I have always liked how those looked and I never knew how to do it! I liked it so much that I bought like 4 yards of randing from my fav shoe components place in anticipation of actually learning how to do it, and YAY WOO HOO the time has finally come!

 

As you can tell, I am SUPER inspired to make more shoes with everything I have been learning! At this point I still prefer to stalk cool shoe designs on pinterest and use that as a jumping off point- I don’t have enough skills (or perhaps creativity, lol) to design shoes on my own- I mean, I’ve done it in the past, but they are not always successful. I think a lot of that comes from me wanting to make sure I create something that I am going to love and that will be wearable, and there are a lot of rules to shoe design that I am completely ignorant of. It’s much like sewing, where, for instance, you know that a woven dress will need a certain amount of ease in specific places to be wearable, and that’s just a rule of the craft that you learn early on and carry with you in all your makes. There are similar things in shoe design where, like, you don’t want the back of the shoe upper to come up past a certain point of your leg or it will dig into your ankle when walking, or how you can’t pair heel components with a pair of lasts that don’t match the lasts’ toe spring or it will make you walk funny. It’s cool to be absorbing all this information but it’s mostly through trial and error since I am self-taught, so I am slowly gaining more knowledge through copying other designs and figuring out why certain elements work and how.

BKSS has a huge wall full of stunning leathers to choose from, and although I had a good idea of what I wanted my design to look like, I was completely open to color and texture, and I figured I would wait to see what I was drawn to from the available materials. There are countless times on this blog where I have talked about how I don’t like animal prints, so it was hysterical for me to feel myself reaching for yet another animal-print leather, at the same time realizing that the last THREE pairs of shoes I have made have all been with animal print leather, lol! I couldn’t take my eyes off this blue green roll of amphibian-inspired leather, and I liked that it had so many other colors in it: it was blend of turquoise, and blue and even had a tiny hint of black in there, so, although a bold choice, I felt like it would pair well with a variety of garments.

I chose a deep royal blue suede for my straps and heels, and went with a brighter turquoise leather for the insoles and lining. I used some of my black shoe elastic for the buckle, a material I started incorporating into my shoe making after I completed my snakeskin print heels– elastic helps provide some flexible ease to your straps- if you have any strappy heels/shoes in your closet, take a look at the strap that holds the buckle around the ankle and chances are you will see a small fold of elastic doubled over  to connect the strap and buckle together. Not all flat shoes with straps have it but I have found that the majority of modern RTW heels do. It makes the shoe a bit more comfortable when walking and allows the straps to stretch out a bit instead of clinging fixed and tight to your ankle. My favorite thing about my inspiration shoe was the peep toe because it’s so tiny and isn’t big enough for a whole toe to force its way through (something that happens with me and peep toes a lot since I have a long second toe, argh!), and I think that on my next pair I will make the peep even tinier.

I am super happy with how these shoes came out, and construction and design-wise I wouldn’t do anything differently, although the sewing on one of the ankle straps is pretty atrocious- I blame it on the fact that I was using a new-to-me leather sewing machine that I was in love with, but that definitely required some fierce maneuvering that I just wasn’t skilled enough to master. Because my ankle straps were so thin, it was hard to get the edge of the strap under the needle (this machine didn’t have a bed to rest your material on, just a skinny little raised platform, so for thin straps you have to work hard to keep it from slipping off the machine). I might go back over that area on my home sewing machine if the stitches ever start coming out, but for now, it’s totally unseeable to the naked eye since that area of the strap is covered by the buckle and strap end.

Thanks once again to Claire for these glorious photos, and stay tuned for another exciting installment of my adventures in shoemaking in a future blog post…and yes, they are made of animal print!