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(I Can’t Believe I Made) Silk Velvet Pants + Adrienne Blouse

I want to start out by saying that these pants are very imperfect, and I know it. I don’t say that to denigrate my skillset or self aggrandize or anything, but rather to serve as proof for any other sewists out there that things don’t have to be perfect for us to enjoy them, for us to be proud of them, for us to get good use out of them! I know where every single flaw is in this garment and yet when I look at it, all I think about is how fluid the gorgeous fabric is, how perfectly it fits into my autumnal palette with it’s deep golden brown, plush texture. I am too proud of creating a wearable garment out of this tricky-to-sew silk velvet from The Fabric Store to be concerned about it’s imperfections…

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to talk about them! Ha! A quick reminder- not all velvets are created the same. Velvet is generally trickier than say, a quilting cotton, but some are waaaay easier to sew with. Stabler velvets, like the kind you might make a blazer out of, or the kinds with a backing that is used for upholstery fabric, haven’t been that difficult to work with at all (other than not being able to iron it like normal fabric), and stretch velvets seem to be much more forgiving, too. But slippery woven velvets, especially the kind made of silk like these brown pants? My god, the journey is arduous! But totally worth it, because the fabric is just SO stunning.

RACHEL ANTONOFF BEA SUIT PANT (JADE) - RachelAntonoff.com

Pinterest Inspo Image

I last worked with this velvet about a year ago when I made this jacket (which just so happens to be the color of my inspo pants above!), and once I was done I swore I would never work with it again, as much as I loved wearing the fabric. It’s just so delicate and finicky! But eventually I stumbled across the above image of a pair of bright green velvet cropped pants and I couldn’t get them out of my head. I had actually tried my hand at a pair of silk velvet pants last year but the pattern was not a good fit for the fabric at all- they had pockets on the fronts which I tried lining with silk so that they wouldn’t be too bulky and would lay down nicely, but they refused. The pockets gathered and pulled on my body and were such a sore sight for me to look at when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I also didn’t like the leg shape on me that much- so I moved on to another project and figured my velvet pants dream was dashed: I just didn’t have it in me!

But of course, after a few months away from the idea, I started dreaming of them again and challenged myself to try once more, but with a different pattern. In some ways this pattern, the Alphonse trousers, was even more complicated than the first one I had tried, because it has a zip fly (and if anything says FIDDLY AND FRUSTRATING, its a zip fly made in silk velvet). But I told myself I could go very slowly, take my time, pull out all the stops, and triumph in the end. I knew that once I got the zip fly looking good, the rest would be a relative breeze, because the Alphonse Trousers are a TNT for me and they look good in just about every fabric I have paired them with. They have pleats at the front waist which creates a beautiful drape in this fabric, and is also a bit more forgiving with fit in the hip area.

Sewing the zip fly was really tough, and I had to carefully take the stitches out more than once to make sure everything was laying right and looking good. This velvet shows every single mark you make on it, from the needle holes to the actual tracks of the foot of your sewing machine, so I had to make sure that my top stitching on the right side of the garment was as close to perfect as I could get it the first time around. I did pretty good, but it took twice as long to complete as a zip fly normally takes me, and I definitely smashed the nap around the zip fly more than once while trying to press it. I don’t have a needle board to use for ironing velvet, so I tried using all sorts of other things to gently press it when needed. Nothing worked as well as placing a big scrap of velvet upholstery fabric on top of my silk velvet and carefully pressing it from the wrong side, but I learned this a little too late and had a couple of shiny spots on my velvet where the heat of the iron and smashed down the nap.

doesnt my butt like it’s from a Ren and Stimpy cartoon??? WTH! LOL

I was able to revive the nap in these places by wetting it lightly with water and using a really soft nail scrub brush to fluff up the nap. By the end of making these pants I finally caved in and invested in a “velvet” brush, which has stiff but delicate bristles that help fluff up the velvet and revive it to its original plushiness.

My zip fly was imperfect, but it looked pretty darn good to my naked eye so I moved onto the rest of the pants construction. I have used fabric sprays to adhere velvet, I have used tape, I have sewn with paper in between the pieces of fabric, I have used a walking fo0t, you name it- most of these techniques were either too messy or too complicated to work well for me on this silk velvet (although they have worked to varying degrees on other types of velvet). So far my favorite trick to sew super shifty velvet has been to hand baste all my seams together before running them through the machine with a straight stitch, then I serge the raw edges (which gives me no trouble at all- if I could just serge the whole thing I would be in great shape but serging doesn’t allow for me to do any fitting adjustments during construction). Hand basting (I prefer inside the seam allowance, not directly on it) takes a bit more time but is so worth it in the end- my raw edges don’t shift around as much under the presser foot when I have hand basted the pieces already and I get mostly even lines of stitching. I also prefer to increase my stitch length when I sew velvet at the machine because the plushy fabric tends to drown the stitches in it’s surface and it’s really difficult to unpick any errant stitching without ruining the fabric.

Of the three or four pairs of Alphonse trousers I have made, I haven’t put side pockets on any of them- the pattern is drafted with in-seam side pockets which don’t well for me at all on most any patterns, and because of the placement of the pleats I haven’t been interested in trying a different kind of pocket on the fronts for fear of interfering with the way the pants will lay. I did put welt pockets on one of the pairs of alphonse trousers I made but decided to forgo them for this velvet- the less challenging the pattern, the better!

Once the seams of the pants were all put together, I moved on to the waistband. I interfaced a piece of raw, stable silk from my stash and used it for the inside of my waistband since I wasn’t remotely interested in trying to interface this silk velvet. I underlined the waistband pieces so the silk wouldn’t peak out the top of the waistband and it worked well enough. The belt loops were extra fiddly of course, but I managed to get them all on, and the only thing I need to fix now is the waistband closure. I have completely run out of the large hook and eye notions that you use for pants so I decided to use snaps instead. Unfortunately they pop open every time I sit down, so once my local sewing shops are open again and it feels safe, I will grab some and redo this closure. I didn’t want to do a regular button hole on this silk because I was afraid it would garble up the fabric and make it look messy.

And I guess that’s that! I think my grain was off when I cut these out of the fabric because one of the inside leg seams drifts towards the front of my body, hahaha. It’s ok though- I am really, really happy with how these pants came out because at the beginning of the project I was convinced they would end up a total fail, and I proved myself wrong! What a happy surprise!

Last, but certainly not least, is this beautiful little Adrienne Blouse I made from Friday Pattern Company. It’s the first pattern I made from this popular indie pattern company, and what a gem it is! I had seen various versions of it going around the sewing blogosphere but I was always on the fence about it. I’m not usually one for dramatic sleeves in casual wear- maybe because I’m always futzing about and doing stuff with my hands and I was nervous these billowy sleeves would get in my way – I hate in-the-way sleeves lol!. I also saw a lot of versions that used thicker, heavier weight knit fabrics that made the garment look dense and burdensome which turned me off- we are already in the thick of summer weather here in LA so I didn’t want to make anything that would trap in heat and be uncomfortable.

Thankfully I kept the pattern in the back of my head and then remembered it when I came across this stunning turmeric linen knit from Blackbird Fabrics. I’d worked with linen knits before and figured this would be a dream fabric and pattern pairing- it’s very lightweight and breezy, with a looser weave than some cotton knits, and it gets softer after washing. The pattern was very straight forward and simple to put together, and I love how they suggest you use bra elastic in the neckline and sleeves because its stronger- I never thought about that before but it’s true, and it worked beautifully in this garment. I didn’t make any adjustments other than shortening the sleeves just an inch or two, and I made a straight XS which seems to work great on me. I was worried about where the neckline and sleeves would hit on my body in terms of my bra straps- I didn’t want them laying completely outside the line of the blouse but I also knew this fabric would be too sheer for me to feel comfortable wearing it without a bra. Good news, the ruching of the gathered sleeves is tight enough that it kind of holds my bra strap down around my shoulder and it doesn’t peak out much at all. Of course it will lay differently on different bodies, but I wanted to share how it works on mine.

I love the shape and style of this shirt, it’s such a nice change from a plain tee shirt or boxy top style which seems to be the default for knit tops sewing patterns these days. I tried the blouse on before I put in the bottom elastic for the sleeve hems and was absolutely delighted by how fun and easy it felt to wear it with full billowing sleeves. I thought I would hate it, but they were beautiful! Maybe it’s because the sleeve (which I shortened slightly) hit around my elbow, so it didn’t get in the way at all and felt very loose and flowy and romantic, but not cumbersome. Ultimately I decided to finish the top as designed with the hem elastic, but I plan on making another one and leaving the sleeves loose as soon as I come across another beautiful, lightweight knit!

In case you couldn’t tell, the golden yellow of the linen knit and the buttery brown of the velvet are right in my palette and I feel glorious wearing them together. My IG feed is becoming the kind where all the colors match my palette and I am just so thrilled to keep benefiting from this color theory!

2016 Projected Projects

How quickly time flies- it was only a year ago that I wrote a post about New Year’s resolutions and how they aren’t really my jamp, but how I do like to occasionally map out plans and ideas for the year ahead. I promise I am not going to do a repeat of that in this post, but I did want to keep you up to date with how my plans for this past year went. My main goal was to be more thoughtful about how I spent money, because I was noticing a penchant for fabric hoarding (among other things) that felt wasteful and, at times, gluttonous. I wanted to limit my monthly spending so that I wasn’t buying things to fill some kind of gap or avoid experiencing a negative feeling, so I gave myself a monthly spending budget, which in turn made me think really smartly about what I divulged in. I am happy to report that the budget was a success; I haven’t found myself swimming in excessive amounts of unused fabric and almost all the fabric that I have purchased has been with an express purpose in mind. There is certainly still room for improvement so I will keep working on being a thoughtful consumer in the new year, but I consider 2015 a win in this department, so YAY, ME!

For my 2016 new year’s post I thought it would be fun to lay out plans for what I do (and don’t) want to work on this year; I am hoping this project list helps to keep me on track.

First up, more GINGER JEANS! Claire was promised a pair of her own for Christmas which I unfortunately did not get around to making, what with the loads of other handmade gifts I had to finish before the holiday. So she is getting her pair in the new year. I will be simultaneously making myself another pair since I have been dying to try out the stovepipe version of the Gingers and haven’t had a chance to in the past year (for one thing, it was hot as Hades in LA over our “summer”, so my body didn’t even touch a piece of denim from like, May to November.) I am super inspired by this awesome photo (seen below and grabbed directly from her site) of blogger Suzy Bee Sews jean pocket design for the pair that she made, but I am planning on using a mint green top stitching thread for my next pair, and something tells me that both of those design choices wont work well together (I particularly like how Suzy’s blue thread underscores the boldness of the pocket design). Experimentation might be required here, so stay tuned.

Next on the list is this gorgeous bag that Cut Cut Sew made from this pattern.

I have to admit that I would never in a million years have made this bag based on the original photos accompanying the pattern. NO SHADE TO THE PATTERN DESIGNER! But the fabric choices/styling just aren’t to my taste and I am unfortunately not very skilled at envisioning different design choices in this manner. I can do it with physical spaces and things, like poorly decorated homes or empty rooms, or even pieces of furniture that need reupholstering, but with clothing and accessories? Nah. Spotting good “bones” in patterns just isn’t in my wheelhouse, which is one of the reasons that this fashion sketchbook by Gertie was such a great Christmas gift for me- I want to get better at visualizing and manipulating projects before they are constructed, and I am hoping that using croquis will help me. Anyways, I got this ruck sack pattern as a gift and I immediately headed to etsy to buy some waxed canvas fabric, D-rings, webbing and hooks. I have been using a crappy stained canvas tote (which is much better suited to cart groceries around) as my “purse” for months. It’s easy to grab and go at a moment’s notice, and because it is so simply made, it kind of “goes” with everything . But I am ready to replace it with something more unique and fashionable, and I cannot WAIT to get started with this project, especially after I made THREE Desmond Backpacks as Christmas gifts for other people this year! It’s time for me to have an awesome handmade bag of my own.

Yet ANOTHER awesome Christmas gift I got this year was this DIY quilting kit.

It’s from a company called Haptic Lab and I saw it for the first time on cashmerette’s instagram several months ago. I am a smitten kitten now. The design uses a tear-away template that you use to guide your hand stitching/quilting (which is pretty genius), and their online store has even more cool designs. I am in the middle of a giant knitting project at the moment and I really want to finish it before I start working on something new, but I am not sure how long I am going to last- these constellations are just so pretty, and a quilt is the perfect thing to work on during this chilly LA winter we are having.

Next up: outerwear!I have never made a coat before and I would love to try my hand at it this year. The window of cold weather in LA is pretty small but it definitely still requires warm clothing- it has been getting down in the thirties at night for the past several weeks, which is customary for all you east coasters but pretty rare for So Cal. The only kind of coat I am missing from my wardrobe is a fancy one, one that I can wear with long dresses and gowns. It took me a while to find the exact silhouette I was looking for but eventually etsy showed me the way with a beautiful and simply designed floor-length vintage coat pattern.

https://www.instagram.com/p/-FrrfuRF4w/?taken-by=trycuriousblog

I took a recommendation from someone’s blog and purchased an inexpensive tailoring how-to book to help me figure out the best construction techniques to use since the instructions for this pattern are pretty bare. I still haven’t found the wool I want to use- it would be fun to go big and bold with pattern and color, but I want to get the most wear I can out of this so I will most likely choose a stately charcoal colored wool with a bright and pretty lining for the inside.

Several months ago I blogged about making the Kielo Wrap dress with fabric from Girl Charlee, and recently Named Patterns came up with a fun little hack for the dress– they introduced a sleeve pattern piece and some small alterations to shorten and take in the dress to below-the-knee length. I fell in love with the image they shared on their blog for the altered dress, which you can see below. I haven’t even had a chance to wear my fancy version yet (I’m still searching for the perfect black strappy heel), so this more casual rendition really excites me because I think I will get a lot of wear out of it. Before the holidays came around, I bought a beautiful and sturdy striped organic knit in an earthtoned colorway specifically for this dress, but of course I never had any time to make it. Every time I see these stripes I want to stop what I am doing and just run down to the craft room to whip it up (it only took a day to make my original Kielo dress), but I am being patient. It is definitely at the top of my priority list, though.

I requested the Simplicity pattern below for Christmas after the delightful blogger behind Miss Celie’s Pants tweeted about it.

It will be the latest addition to my small but growing collection of #DIYRedCarpet dresses (two of which I haven’t even blogged about yet, even though I have worn both of them to events in the past year! Bad blogger!) It requires something ridiculous like 10 yards of flowy fabric, which I find both daunting and fantastic, and I am hoping that both Renee (Celie’s Pants) and Marcy (of Oonaballoona fame) will join me in posting about all the antics that come with constructing this monster because I know it’s in their project list, too.

There are quite a few gorgeous patterns posted up on the indie company Republique du Chiffon’s website, but this jumper is the first one I am attempting to make. It took a while before this pattern was available in English but as soon as it was I rushed to my computer to buy it because I had already spied it somewhere in one of Ginger Make’s posts from months ago and pinned it to my “Clothing Inspiration” board.

I bought a super soft, medium weight twill fabric in oxblood colorway from Miss Matabi, which has been sitting very patiently on top of what I like to refer to as my “fabric couch” (once upon a time it was a regular couch used for sitting and laying down, but the more my project queue gets backed up, the more the couch becomes a storage unit for my unused fabric and my in-progress pattern pieces). Is this the right kind of silhouette to compliment my frame? Do I have the right boots to wear with it? Are the dimensions and measurements going to work well on me? Honestly I have no idea, and I don’t usually take such leaps on faith on patterns anymore, but this jumper was just TOO cool to pass up. Fingers crossed and hopes high!

I have been reading about this new book, Boundless Style, for months. I am absolutely in LOVE with the concept (mix and match patterns to help you become familiar with designing your own clothing in striking, feminine silhouettes- oh my!) but my experience with Victory Patterns (of which Boundless Style is an off shoot) has been pretty disappointing. I bought two of their paper patterns, the Ava dress and the Nicola dress, and followed the directions to a tee, but the fit/proportions were so horrific on one of the dresses that I actually threw it into the garbage can after spending days trying to salvage it. The other dress had to be altered and manipulated so much that some of the main design elements were totally lost on the finished product- the petal sleeves were clownishly large and had to be redrafted and re-inserted, the darts were the wrong sizes and in the wrong places, and it was unwearable without a slip underneath because the front flaps open so much when you walk and sit down that you end up flashing everyone; not necessarily a design flaw but definitely something to note in the description of the garment. I love the designs and the styling of these patterns, but so far 100% of my attempts have been unsuccessful, so I am nervous to spend money on a book which might contain patterns that are equally as problematic for my body as the Victory styles have been. But the pictures…oh, the pictures! SO many gorgeous dresses and shapes and cool ideas for making unique garments. Ideally I would buy this book and just spend the time working on all the pattern blocks included with it so that they fit my body and I can use them as intended. It’s a nice project for the new year, right? And I would only become a better sewist with that kind of work under my belt. But is it really going to be worth my time? Will ALL the patterns need to be altered? I need some outside influence with this one. Anyone have issues with Victory patterns before, or is that just me? Care to rant or rave about this book and push me in one direction or the other? Please, comment away!

My last project for this next year is to NOT make all my Christmas gifts in 2016! Making my christmas gifts for friends and family has been a point of contention for me, which I touched on in my last post about pottery. As Claire and I boarded the plane to head back home to LA after spending Christmas with my family in Florida, I was overwhelmed by how excited I was to get back home and get into my craft room again. There had been so many personal projects piling up over the season and now that Christmas was over, it was the first time in months that I would have a chance to work on them. I always told myself that I never wanted my hobbies or my art to feel like work, but when you are putting in hours around the clock to finish making gifts on a tight timeline, it’s impossible for it to NOT feel that way. Sure, making gifts for friends and family feels more personal and more thoughtful, and I do enjoy a lot of the process, but I am not sure it’s worth the stress and anxiety I put myself through trying to finish everything on time and praying that it fits or that the recipient likes it (cause you can’t get a gift receipt for the stuff I make). So my plan to remedy this is…well, to just stop doing it. I am not sure exactly how this will play out, but maybe one year I can make some gifts (not all of them anymore, just some of them), and the next year I can either buy local, or buy handmade. Or maybe I will always buy local and handmade Christmas gifts from now on and stop making them entirely. Sewing and crafting and knitting is mostly self care for me, and it doesn’t seem fair to deprive myself of that support in the way that I have been. If I feel inspired to make a gift for someone then I will certainly honor that feeling, but I wont force myself into becoming a one-woman Santa’s workshop anymore. Surprisingly, I feel really good about this decision because I know it’s the best thing for me. And hopefully this next year will be chock full of more decisions that I feel really good about. I hope the new year brings the same for you!

Happy 2016!!!