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Dotted Named Outfit with Slate Leather Flats

As mentioned before on this blog, Named is not my favorite indie pattern brand. They have some great looking designs and I love their styling, but the drafting and instructions generally leave me always desiring more. Sakijane describes her complaints (which happen to mirror every single one of mine) very succinctly in this post about her most recent Kielo Wrap Dress and I felt so validated when I read it- I was not alone in my disappointment with their patterns! But I also know that there are tons of talented makers out there who love Named and have lots of successful garments to show for it, so when I saw Katie of What Katie Sew’s 100th pair of cute Ninni Culottes, I decided to take the plunge and get the pattern myself. For one thing, this pair of pants seems like a good staple to have in my closet- elastic waist and cropped legs scream nothing but comfort to me, and I like that it can translate from houseclothes to streetclothes pretty seamlessly. I also figured that I wouldn’t have any issues with the construction methods since it’s such a simple design. I was (mostly) right on both counts!

As soon as I saw this organic cotton jersey from The Fabric Store, I knew I wanted to sew it up into something coordinating (I got yardage of both the white and the blue dotted, but as of this blog entry they seem to be out of the blue- if you’re interested in this fabric I would keep checking back since they restock frequently)! I knew I wanted the culottes in the blue dotted but I wasn’t sure what to pair the white with for my top half- I liked the idea of a boxy crop top but I didn’t have any patterns like that in my stash for knit-specific fabrics. And then I remembered the Named Inari Tee Dress pattern. I’ve had it for years and the one time I tried to make the dress, it was a disaster on me- not suited for my body at all and very unflattering. But I had never given the tee a go, and the tee seemed like it would be much less tricky to make work on my body. The pattern is suggested for wovens or fabrics with a light stretch, which my jersey was not, but I thought it would work just fine since there is no negative ease drafted into the pattern.

Both the pants and the tee came together very quickly. The pants have deep side seam pockets that attach to the top of the waistband, and I cut out the smallest size since Named tends to run big on me. The only issue I ran into is when I tried to fit the waistband. As with most elastic waist garments, I measured out the amount of elastic that felt most comfortable and then fed it through the tube of the waistband. But it was very difficult to feed the amount of elastic I wanted through the pants and have the waistband lay right- it was like the waistband was too long for the short amount of elastic I wanted, so the fabric was bunching up and squeezing together all over it. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it just felt like the waistband was too big and needed to be made shorter. But I couldn’t do that without taking the whole pair of pants apart and taking out width from the top of the legs. So I left it as-is, trying to make the waistband as smooth as possible as I sewed the zigzags around it that keep the elastic stable inside of it’s casing. It looks a bit lumpy and bumpy to my discerning eye, but you definitely can’t see it thanks to the dots on the fabric, which cover up any inconsistencies.

After all that, I think the waist is still too big on me- the pants ride down, particularly in the back, and I have to keep pulling them up on me- I almost wish these had belt loops, which totally defeats the purpose of an elastic waist, lol. But I’ve still worn them a lot and think they are really cute! The next time I make them I am going to take at least an inch of width from each of the pants legs, plus the waistband, and see if that makes them fit me a bit better.

The tee shirt had issues, too, but it wasn’t because of the drafting. I wanted to add a band around the bottom edge of it because without it, the hem looked a little stretched out and haggard (again I think this is because there was no negative ease in the pattern and the hem isn’t intended to fit around the waist or hips of the body to help pull and stretch it out, it’s just kind of floating around my rib cage willy nilly). As you probably know, when adding a band to the edge of a neckline or the hem of a sleeve in stretch knit fabric, you usually need to cut the band a bit smaller than the opening you are attaching it to so that the band will ease in the stretch of the fabric and lay properly. If you cut it the same size, the hem will look stretched out and wavy. I applied this to the bottom hem of my shirt, but I slightly miscalculated the measurement so that the band was a tiny bit too small for the hem. The result of this is that there is a bit of wrinkling where the band is eased in too much in a couple areas along the seam. Again, not a glaring mistake, but definitely something I notice and frown at every time I see it.

As a whole, I love the silhouette of this outfit- I love the loose fit of both garments that somehow manage not to swallow me up thanks to the break that the crop top provides by showing a little of my belly. I love the matchiness (that isn’t too matchy) of the complimentary dotted fabrics, and I love how comfortable it is. Although I made these pieces to go together, I mostly wear these pants with a non-cropped t shirt (which helps the pants stay up on my waist) and a jean jacket, and I really want to pair this crop top with my Persephone pants at some point, because I think it will have a similarly interesting silhouette.

OK, so on to the shoes!

Rachel of RachelSeesSnailShoes (she is my unaware and unofficial mentor, LOL) has so much shoe inspiration on her IG, and my pair of shoes was inspired both by one of her designs and a RTWpair I found on pinterest by Rachel Comey.

Ultimately I changed the design a lot as I was working on the lasts, but I love the journey that I took to get to where I ended up, and they fit pretty great! They are comfortable, and the straps stay on my feet, something I always worry about when I don’t use buckles on slingbacks. Interestingly, the slingbacks tend to slide off the back of my foot when I’m sitting down, but when I’m standing and walking, they stay perfectly in place.

I used a patent leather from The Fabric Store in LA that I got many months ago and I love it- its a cross between gray and blue, not too loud but not too subtle either, and I think it makes a pretty cool neutral. I also decided to line my slate gray leather with a thinner cut of leather so that I could put a toe puff in the toe of the shoe. A toe puff gives the foot of your shoe some extra rigidity and keeps the shape of your toes from imprinting into the leather as you wear them over time, and I am very happy with my decision. They aren’t always necessary, but they can make your shoes last longer depending on what kind of upper leather you are working with.

The last time I made a pair of patent leather slides (which sadly I never blogged here so I can’t link to them, damnit!), they came out okay but there was a lot of room for improvement. My heel hangs off the back of the shoe just a tiny bit, which I HATE (the last fits my foot but the upper must be a bit too narrow in the toe resulting in the back of my foot sticking out of the shoe) and the lasting around the toe leaves much to be desired. You can’t see it from the top of the shoe, which is great, but if you look closely and the bottom and very front, you can see that there are wrinkles and folds and it’s not very smooth at all. Thankfully I have gotten much better at lasting this tricky area and the toe on these shoes looks damn near perfect, at least for my skill level.

The lasting process around the toe usually requires a lot of patience and hand strength from me, and I almost always slam my thumbnail with the hammer at least once getting those little nails all around the edge. But I can see how well my patience pays off when I look at a pair like these and see that it doesn’t have a handmade look the way some of my older pairs do- and nothing is wrong with a handmade look because…well, they ARE handmade! I just like to see concrete evidence of a learning curve, to see that I am growing and getting better and feeling more confident in my construction and design!

I am very happy with these shoes and excited to get started on my next pair, which will probably be using the beautiful new round toed lasts I just bought from I Can Make Shoes. They just stocked their online shop with some really cool block heels and I bought a couple pair for future use and I am just itching to get started. The only thing holding me back is trying to narrow down what design I want to use and that feels like it could take months! Wish me luck 😉

The White Kiki Party

All my posts are being shared out of order because I made several things over the summer months but was too lazy to photograph any of them until recently, so now I am trying to balance them out with things I am currently making and I am getting all turned around. But it’s okay! Please bear with me as I trudge through these clothing makes in the most (un)timely fashion!

To catch you up, Claire and I went to the wedding of our good friend Lawrence in Hawaii this summer, and it was our first time on the island of Oahu, which we were very much looking forward to exploring, but Claire started getting sick days before our departure and by the time we landed she had what turned out to be a full blown ear infection that was slowly making its way to her sinuses and throat. It was ROUGH for Claire, she was in a LOT of pain and discomfort, but thankfully we didn’t have much planned outside of the wedding events so she could be miserable in peace. Luckily, our airbnb was a 3 minute walk to a practically private beach, so I still had a lovely time hanging out with the sand and sun while I took breaks from looking after Claire.

The day before the wedding there was a “White Party” on Waikiki that all the wedding guests were invited to, but the name of the party was changed to the “White-kiki Party” at Claire’s urging, LOL. We were of course all invited to show up in white attire, and I had one dress in my closet that would have worked for the event but decided to make something new for it because…WHY NOT? Claire also needed something white to wear for the party and she settled on a Kalle shirtdress with popover placket in a terrific white linen fabric from Joanns. Claire is mostly a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal but my goodness she LOVES her housedresses, and she wanted something that felt comfortable and looked clean and classic to wear to this event. I opted for something a little more dolled up (surprise!) but still comfortable and breezy for the warm island weather.

When The Fabric Store closed in LA over the summer I got my hands on as much fabric as I could, which is why my stash is bigger than it has ever been before (a big stash is not my happy place, but I also can’t turn down good fabric that’s free or deeply discounted, so I have committed myself to not buying any more for the rest of the year so I can work through what I have…although I might need to amend that to next year after going through Mimi’s fabric giveaway pile yesterday lol). One of the cuts I ended up taking home with me was a white poly with animal stripes embossed across it. Because the whole print is white, it doesn’t really read as animal print (which I am not really into) but it gives the fabric a bit of depth and a texture, and I decided to pair it up with McCalls 7778, a jumpsuit/dress with options for different straps and closures. It’s a very simple garment to make with princess seams at the bodice, and I only needed to make some minor adjustments to it (surprise! it was too big right out the envelope!) to get the fit just right.

I actually had a bit more trouble with the legs of the jumpsuit than anything else because the crotch was just too high which gave me dreaded camel toe! It was a simple fix though- I sewed about 1/2″ past my seam allowance at the bottom of the crotch curve, grading to the regular seam allowance at the front and back waist, and now they are much better than they were, although if I made this pattern again (which I doubt I will), I would absolutely adjust the crotch areas on both front and back pattern pieces to give myself more room for my seat. As it stands, the crotch is still a bit too high for my preference, and you can see the fabric hugging my shape in the butt area more than you should for a flowy, gathered waist, culotte-style garment.

I also had to adjust the bodice pieces (which was to be expected) to make them smaller- it gaped out at the top of the bodice and was too loose under the arms, so I brought the seams in in these areas on both outing and lining of the bodice and it fit better. I pulled a real rookie move when I absentmindedly used my pink chalk pen to mark all my notches and circles on this white fabric, which of course showed through to the other side and wouldn’t rub off when I tried to remove them. I have other marking tools like Frission pens and invisible markers, I just use the chalk so often that I didn’t even consider how it would work on this white transparent fabric! Thankfully when I completed the garment, I threw it in the wash immediately and it wiped out every trace of the pink chalk.

Again, this was a super easy make- no pockets included, which I would have loved to add myself but I didn’t have quite enough fabric leftover after my pieces were cut out, and on top of that, the white poly is a little bit sheer and having pockets underneath it would have made them show through in a way that I am sure I would have been unhappy with. As a whole I feel pretty meh about this project. It came out fine and I was happy to wear it to the White-Kiki party, but there just isn’t anything all that special about it. The fit is nothing spectacular and the silhouette is definitely cute, but maybe paired with this fabric, which isn’t all that dynamic, it just landed a little flat for me. It’s not even the solid color that makes it feel boring, because I think this would have looked even nicer in a plain white linen. But I also think it would look cool in a statement fabric where the print takes centerstage. I’ve worn this garment several times and I always get lots of lovely compliments on it which are appreciated, but it’s just not my favorite make.

Now before I move on, I want to say just a little bit about my shoes! I didn’t wear these to the White Kiki party because I hadn’t made them yet, and I have a ‘no heels in Hawaii’ rule anyways, but I think they look really good with this jumpsuit so I figured I would do a 2-for-1 since I always neglect to do full blog posts for my shoe makes here (gotta get better at that)! These are the first pair of shoes I made from a pointy toe high heeled last I found at Saderma several months ago. Finding lasts is always tricky because once you find a pair in your size, you wont know if they actually fit your foot well until you make them, so there is always a little risk involved, and unlike clothing, you can try them on for fit throughout the making process to ensure you are on the right track. I have had a few pairs of lasts that seemed like they would work great for me but ended up being too big or too small, so I really lucked out with this pair!

I got the “snakeskin” leather (it’s just embossed) from The Fabric Store quite a while ago and was excited to make this style shoe with them once I got my hands on these lasts. High heeled slingbacks have been a little tougher to find in RTW than I anticipated so I figured I might as well give them a try, and I think these came out great. One thing I want to do on my next pair of heeled slingbacks is to use elastic at the buckle. If you have a pair of slingbacks, take a look at where the buckle is attached to the leather- there is likely to be a small strip of elastic connected to the buckle and leather which allows your foot to move around in the shoe without feeling too constricted and allows the strap to move with your foot. These heels are totally fine without the elastic because I am able to put holes for the buckle wherever I want them, but ideally the strap just adds a touch of comfort to wearing a shoe with a strap and it helps keep that strap in place.

I am still working on getting my heel completely attached and flush to the bottom of the shoe and this is my most successful pair yet, although I do have room for improvement. I seem to always choose a slightly-too-thick leather to cover my heels with which makes getting the top of the heel flat very difficult, but these came out pretty okay, and I like the contrast of the purple lining leather peeking out of the inside and bottom of the shoe. And they are comfortable! Well, about as comfortable as wearing 3 inch heels gets, hahah. But you know how when you buy new heels (if you wear them), they tend to take a little time to break in and form to your foot? Well my memade heels so far are not like that- they are softer than RTW shoes and feel pretty much the same the first time you wear them as the 2nd and the 10th, which is pretty cool. Still have a lot of distance to cover with shoemaking but I can definitely see that I am on a steady incline UP!

Okay, so back to the wedding…

you can’t take me anywhere.

Claire ended up being too sick to come to the Whitekiki party so me and my friend Kelly went together, and we BOTH happened to be wearing white jumpsuits, and we got to rock them while I drove the WHITE Jeep we rented for the trip! We were SOOOOO STYLISH! And the party was a blast! After some food and mingling with all the other guests, our little corner of the park was set up into different stations where we each got to learn from a local a little about Hawaiian culture and how to participate in a traditional luau. Me and Kelly’s favorite station was of course the hula, and we learned the song “Pearly Shells” while dancing to the music Lawrence’s friends played on their ukuleles. The night was beyond magical as the sun set over the ocean and our voices floated above us- the only thing missing was Claire! But I sent her lots of videos and pictures and she was at least able to make it to the actual wedding the next day.

Thanks for being my date, Kelly, and thanks Lawrence and Q for such a fun party!

The Kelly Dress

the cast!

This summer I was in a short film that my friend Kelly produced and also starred in, and we had a crazy amount of fun. Although me and Kelly have been friends for several years, this was our first opportunity to work together, and I appreciated us to getting to know each other in a new way through our “work” modes. Although short indie films almost always have a wardrobe supervisor, they tend to try and pull from an actor’s own closet whenever possible, which cuts down on costs and time since they won’t have to buy anything new for an actor and they know that whatever the actor brings will fit them and not need alterations. My character wore a cream colored pair of Ginger Jeans and a Grainline Hemlock Tee (it’s a free pattern!) pulled from my closet, of course, and Kelly brought in a white RTW button down dress that she found at the mall. I loved this dress as soon as I saw it on a hanger and I loved it even more once I saw her wearing it. It was a very simple design, but still not one I had seen out in the world very often. It had a fitted darted bodice with short sleeves attached to a gathered skirt, large buttons going down the front, and two big patch pockets on the sides. Needless to say, I immediately started dreaming up my own version!

You would think that such a simple silhouette would be an easy pattern to track down, but I had a really hard time finding exactly what I wanted (I made this dress several months ago, by the way), and ultimately it seemed easier to just hack something I already had. It took a while to figure out which pattern to use the bodice from- again, such a simple design and fit, but I couldn’t find a bodice that also had sleeves I liked. I decided to go with the Holly Jumpsuit from By Hand London, a pattern from my stash that I tried making for myself years ago with no success. I had issues getting in and out of the garment since it has a side zip that was still too short to accommodate my hips fitting through the waist circumference, and I wasn’t skilled enough at the time to know any other way to make it work. The bodice was exactly what I wanted for the Kelly Dress- it had a bust and a waist dart, roomy sleeves, and a front button placket opening.

I used a gorgeous pink silk linen from Blackbird Fabrics as both my fashion and lining fabric and got to work on making the adjustments necessary for the bodice- mainly I wanted the button band to be wider, which I also needed to adjust to attach it to a skirt that would also have a button placket (the original Holly Jumpsuit  design has a bodice that attaches to a closed-front waist). I sewed up the bodice first without the sleeves to try it on for fit and realized that the back was puckering up around my shoulders and neck (which it also did the first time I had made it!) so I had to add a small dart at the back neckline on each side.

Next I attached my sleeves and was really disappointed to see that they did not work on my body at all. The sleeves were super tight and the fabric was stretched taught across my bicep. Now, to be fair, I do work out, but to be even fairer, I only use like, 3 pound weights in my body sculpt classes, so I’m not the Incredible Hulk or anything! I am unsure why these sleeves were so tight since I have made other BHL patterns with no issues at all, and was stumped on what to do to fix them- I wasn’t convinced that giving the sleeves more width would resolve the issue since the sleeves were making the whole bodice sit awkwardly, even in areas where it seemed like the tight part of the sleeves wouldn’t affect it. I thought maybe the whole bodice needed some kind of adjustment around the arms/bust, but then I remembered that when I tried the bodice on without the sleeves, it fit almost perfectly. So I saved myself the headache and left the sleeves off the final version. Although I love the look of the sleeves on the dress, it wasn’t what originally caught my eye about the garment, so all was not lost.

Once I got the bodice looking how I wanted it to, I attached it to the skirt of the Jessica Dress by SewDef Patterns, a dress I absolutely love. It’s basically just three rectangles sewn together with a button placket in the front center, but that’s all I needed! In hindsight, I could have gone with a skirt that had less gathered material at the waistline (my skirt is fuller than Kelly’s, and I actually did take out some of the width of the pattern pieces of the Jessica dress for this hack and it still came out this full)  but I was too lazy to try and find another skirt in my stash that had this shape. I attached the big patch pockets to the sides of the skirt, sewed the top and bottom halves together, and then worked on my button placket.

Aside from getting the bodice to fit right, the button placket was the only other thing to give me a lot of trouble. It’s because of the silk linen I used, which was easy enough to sew regular seams with, but once it came to top stitching, the fabric had a hard time staying put. It would gather and gape and stretch and pull, even with my walking foot, and I had to take the stitching out more than once to get everything lined up and looking clean. It’s fine- not perfect, but fine! The stitching on the button bands is a little bit wobbly and it’s even more apparent because I didn’t use a thread that was super close in color to my fabric, but I’m not pressed about it- the 3 foot rule applies beautifully to this make!

This is a pretty great and easy dress to wear- although it was drafted to fit very closely to my body, the linen softens and relaxes very quickly so that it has a slightly roomy, loose fit around the waist without looking like it’s hanging off my body. I LOVE the big pockets and how they look on the dress, but they are SO big that the tops tend to collapse a bit, something that is also owed to the beautifully soft, drapey fabric I used. I keep debating whether or not to add buttons to the top of them and attach it to the skirt so they will stay closed, but if I do that, I won’t be able to stuff my hands in my pockets, which is pretty much the only thing I want to do when I wear this dress. Speaking of buttons, I bought these at my favorite store, Button Button, in Vancouver last year and I am so glad I found a great project to put them on! They are copper colored like a penny, and have a really cool graphic design on them, and I think they liven this simple dress up a lot.

These photos were taken at Hearst Castle when we took our friend Lawrence to the estate for the first time- he had never been before and Claire and I have gone multiple times, so we thought it would be a fun trip! We did our first night tour the day before these pics were taken and then took advantage of the daylight and stunning views for our second tour. I didn’t have a lot of makeup with me, I was tired, and I am generally uncomfortable taking pictures in front of random people, so these aren’t the best photos in the world, but when you have an unblogged garment with you at Hearst Castle, YOU TAKE THE PHOTOS ANYWAYS, lol.

Oh yeah, and a one good shot of my sandals that I made this past spring! I love these shoes- they have gotten looser over time because leather relaxes and because I was experimenting with this style and probably could have made them fit slightly tighter but at the time I didn’t know any better…but they are still super comfortable and pretty!

Thanks, Claire, for the shots, thanks, Lawrence for the fun road trip, and thanks, Kelly for the inspiration for this dress!!!!!

 

Sasha Trousers

I was over the moon when Closet Case Patterns released their Sasha Trousers at the end of last year, and not only because I had struggled through the process of making so many poorly drafted or not-suited-for-my-body pairs of pants of late. In chatting with other makers and talking about how not all indie pattern companies are of the same caliber, I have realized that there are some real standout designers for me in the indie sewing community and that there is no shame in sticking with what I know works best. CCP is definitely one of those companies. The amount of time and attention that goes into each pattern release is palpable, and I feel like just as much energy is focused into the instructions, techniques, and drafting as the styling and photographing (I used to be such a sucker for a well-styled pattern release, but I keep getting burned by beautifully styled designs that are poorly drafted!) You know you’ve found a good pattern brand when they release a design that isn’t necessarily your personal style but you buy it anyways because you know the integrity of the brand is so strong that it’s still going to look great on you. True Bias, Grainline, and Deer and Doe are a few other companies who seem to excel at these points, and as such I tend to be a loyal customer to their brand.

While I hadn’t been considering making a chino-type pant anytime soon, I basically dropped everything I was doing sewing to make these Sasha Trousers because I knew I would learn a lot, I would have some fun in the process, and I would end up with a great pair of pants that I would never have found in a store that fit me well. That’s actually one of the reasons I never considered this kind of pant before- I have lived an entire life free of well-fitting chinos, so eventually I stopped even thinking of them as a viable option in my wardrobe. Enter: Closet Case Patterns to the rescue.

Here is what I have always hated about the ill-fitting chinos of my past:

  • they gape at the waist
  • the slash pockets also gape out at my hips
  • they are too tight in the thighs
  • the back welt pockets always add extra bulk to an area that is full enough on it’s own, and those pockets also tend to bunch up in the back because the pants are usually too tight

As you can imagine, attempting to make a regular pair of chinos work for me, even with the ability to make the fit adjustments I needed, is a pretty tall order. As soon as I saw the pattern, I knew that View B (without any front or back pockets) would probably be best suited for my tastes, but I wanted to give the pockets a try anyways, just to see what a properly-tailored pair would look like on me, plus I loved the prospect of getting to try out CCF’s techniques- sewing practice is always welcome!

I decided to make a muslin, which I was hoping would be wearable, out of some fabric that was given to me when I got my Bernina sewing machine as a bday gift a couple of years ago (the woman who sold the machine to Claire included several yards of a stretch woven fabric in a light taupe-ish color that has served me and my muslins very well!) I graded between sizes, used my already-adjusted curved waistband from my Ginger Jeans (these two designs sit at different places on the waist, but the Ginger waistband still worked perfectly) and got to work with construction. As always, the instructions were incredibly thorough and fun. Having only made welt pockets on jackets and coats, it was really exciting to create them for pants, and the front fly was a piece of cake after having made so many pairs of jeans with a similar method.

I was really impressed with how well they fit, and I didn’t need many adjustments at all- I think I brought the knee and ankle seams in to make room for my thick calves, and I might have adjusted the crotch seam a tiny bit, but other than, the make was straight forward and didn’t need much tweaking.

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

But as I had imagined, the front slash pockets did not work for my tastes. To be fair, they were still the best looking pair of chinos I had ever worn, and when I was standing up and being still, the pockets stayed in place and looked great. But as soon as I took one step, the pockets gaped out and needed to be coaxed back into a flat silhouette. I stitched up a bit on the top and bottom of the pocket to keep it from gaping out from the side seams of the pants, and of course I used stay tape on the seam of the pocket, too, but…they’re just not for my body. I think it’s very possible that no one else would notice the gaping because it’s so minimal and it probably wouldn’t bother the majority of people out there if their pants were doing the same thing. But the simple fact of the matter is that I don’t like the way slash pockets look on me, and that’s totally okay!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdyPJPhH5lP/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I was thinking of next time omitting the slash part of the pocket and turning them into pockets that go into the side seams, but the other thing that didn’t work for me about my muslin were the pocket bags, which were totally visible through the legs of my pants (which you can see in the second IG pic above). My muslin fabric was a nice medium weight and my pocket bags were a lightweight cotton, so I don’t think they showed through because of the textile choice- it might be because I like my pants to fit closely in the thigh so they don’t look too baggy. They feel comfortably loose when I am wearing them, but they might be tighter on me than the pattern was intended, thereby not giving enough space between the pocket bag, fabric and skin? Whatever the cause, it was an eyesore, and since I knew I wouldn’t wear these pants with a gaping pocket in the first place, I cut my beautiful pocket stays out and sewed the slash pockets closed. I also wasn’t crazy about the back welt pockets: construction-wise they look terrific, but they added all the bulk to my booty that I imagined they would. I could have kept the design detail of the welt and just cut the bags out but I decided not to- the back pockets didn’t bother me nearly as much as the front slash pockets did.

So, my wearable muslin was a success! But I still opted to make my final version without any pockets, just as I expected that I would. I’m so glad I gave myself a chance to check out the details on my own body instead of assuming that certain things wouldn’t work for me. It’s nice to revisit apparel design elements with a different perspective, whether due to changing tastes, bodies, or ideals.

For my fashion fabric, I chose a mustard ponte (I think it’s a ponte?? Jury is still out but I’m like 90% sure) purchased from The Fabric Store. The Sasha Trousers calls for a woven fabric with a little bit of stretch, and this ponte, while not super stretchy, definitely has more give than the fabric I made my muslin in, which in turn made the fit totally different. I haven’t worked with ponte very often and never with trousers, so when these came out fitting way more snug than my muslin, I was totally surprised, but not at all displeased. I love the sleek look of these, and I think that the color and the fit take them out of casual territory and put them in a slightly dressier arena.

Omitting the pockets was super smart, especially because the fit of the mustard pair came out so much different than on my muslin- the bulk created would not have been a good match at all. I like the ponte in this design because they don’t feel tight at all since the fabric has so much give. I am worried that the fabric will start pilling eventually, but so far I have worn these several times and there is not a pill in sight. I am careful about what I wear with these pants and what I sit on, though- no velcro or abrasive textures get near me when I am in these- so hopefully they will last a long time!

I love how these pants came out, and I love that I was able to create such different looks with the same pattern- the light taupe muslin pair are such a nice alternative to jeans, and I wear them throughout the week when I am running errands or chilling at home. But the mustard pair works well for when I am jujhing it up and feeling a little bit fancy. I was worried about how to hem the legs of these pants because I wanted a very crisp edge on the bottom, but I knew that this fabric wouldn’t behave with just a simple folded hem (this plush fabric didn’t take to the iron well at all). Instead, I folded the hem up and edge-stitched at the very bottom it so that the fold looks very crisp and tight and I am pleased with the effect.

Overall this is a terrific pattern to add to my arsenal, and I am excited to make more! Thanks to Claire for the photos, and FYI I am wearing a Sointu Kimono by Named Patterns in a thick, soft merino wool from The Fabric Store.

Floral Maxi Stella Dress

I made this dress back in October but it’s only just now making it to the blog. I know I will wear this dress and overall I think it looks nice, but this is not my favorite make. It’s the Stella Shirt/Dress by Named patterns, and if you hunt deep enough into this blog you will see that I have a fairly complicated relationship with this pattern  brand. I LOVE the ideas, looks, and styling of all their pieces, but I have found that their sizing is always off on me, their construction methods can be questionable, and their finishes are not always super clean and professional looking. For me, this is one of those brands where I have to read through all the directions first so that I can alter or embellish the details they do (or don’t) include; I just don’t trust that the final project will look as finessed as I prefer. This, of course, is just my personal opinion- lot’s of people love this brand and make beautiful garments from the patterns, and I don’t dislike them enough to not to ever give them another try, but nevertheless, whenever I finish one of their garments I’m usually disappointed about some part of the process.

My hands-down absolute favorite thing about this dress is the silk I used from The Fabric Store. I LOVE the colors, the pretty floral design, and the large print. The silk is transparent, so I used a dark navy opaque lining for the dress underneath at the bodice and the skirt, and thankfully it doesn’t distort the print or colors. This fabric was packed along with my sewing machine, a few patterns and a couple other cuts of material on one of my last trips to Vancouver in 2017 where I knew I would be sequestered for 2 weeks without much to do outside of work. I had a blast with my traveling sewing station, filling up my off days with making in my hotel room, but this dress was unfortunately the only completed project that was worth a damn. I burned The Pennywise Paperbag Waist Clown Pants after I snapped some hilarious pictures of them for instagram, and the raw silk hoodie I made from a McCalls pattern is being gifted to one of my sisters-in-law as I type this (it just didn’t come out nearly as cute as I had hoped). The lesson I learned here was that I needed to spend more time planning what projects would accompany me for future trips instead of throwing a bunch of patterns I had never sewn before into my suitcase and hoping for the best. Nothing but TNTs for my foreseeable #sewnawayfromhomes!

Construction for the dress was pretty straightforward. Initially I didn’t plan on sewing the lining into the dress and instead planned to just wear it as a fully transparent shell with a slip underneath, but once I read through the directions and realized that the elastic casing at the waist would look very visible and sloppy in my see-through fabric, I changed my mind. I took a trip to a small indie fabric store in downtown Vancouver (whose name escapes me at the moment) and hunted for some proper lining fabric. Thankfully I found some, but not before feeling very annoyed that the person manning the shop barely even made eye contact with me, much less gave me a hello after I walked through the door and spent at least 10 minutes perusing the bolts in the shop. And no, the store wasn’t crowded; during this trip I was the only person in the shop for the majority of my time there, and it’s a very tiny space, a fraction of the size of Dress Sew (whose very busy employees still find time to give me a quick hello even when the store is at its most crowded). Honestly I wasn’t too surprised by the shade- Vancouver might be the most unfriendly city I have ever lived in, but I figured that the ties to the sewing community would lend this small shop to at least extend a quick greeting or some kind of acknowledgement- and by the way, this happened each time I went into the store over the span of a couple months- but no such luck. Anyways, I found what I needed even though it was of pretty poor quality, one of those super stiff linings that feels like it’s made of paper- I would have much preferred to purchase from Dress Sew but they were closed and this place was right across the street.

As for the design of the dress….I’m on the fence about it. When I initially completed this dress in Vancouver with nothing but a poorly lit yellow-hued bathroom to view my handiwork, I thought it looked great, but I think I was mostly responding to the pretty fabric. Once I got back to LA with a mirror with better visibility, the whole thing just looked off. Initially I picked this design because I knew it would be simple to lengthen the dress to a maxi, and I had been wanting one of those easy-to-wear-Boho-inspired dresses that I could pair with some heeled boots and a cute hat. But standing in front of my mirror, nothing about it looked relaxed or easy. The stiff lining underneath gives the silk more body than the dress I was going for needs, so it tented out a bit at the bottom and came off looking much more formal than I anticipated.

But the worst part was the bodice. I just…really am not crazy about it at all. I loved the idea of the raglan sleeves but these are drafted with so much ease that I feel like I am swimming in them. Maybe they wouldn’t look so weird to me if the rest of the bodice was a bit more fitted, but unfortunately it isn’t, so the whole bodice piece feels much too big and billowy on me. Ultimately I felt like this dress could fit a body several sizes larger than mine as long as the length of elastic at the waist was altered, and this matters because maxi dresses don’t quite work on me if they aren’t well-fitted; an overly blousy dress with a floor length skirt can make me look like a kid playing dress up in her mom’s closet if I’m not careful.

 

The only thing I could think of to save this dress was to chop it off at the knee (which is closer to the length of the original dress’ design- perhaps shame on me for attempting to hack it into something it wasn’t meant to be?…but also, you never know til you try!) Once it was re-hemmed it looked MUCH better, the blousy effect on top now balanced by the shorter skirt on the bottom. Proportions, amirite??? I still think the armscye is way too big, I don’t like the elastic casing finish on the hems of the sleeves, and the neckbow is awful! When tied, it won’t lay properly against my collar bone, instead it droops down (and my silk is very lightweight so it’s not the culprit) and the area where the bodice pieces meet directly underneath the bow gapes open, which I hate. Thankfully the bow mostly covers that peekaboo area up, but I still find myself fiddling with it to keep it in place. It’s just another reason that this dress feels like it’s drafted for several sizes larger than my own.

This isn’t the dress that I was envisioning in my head, but as I said, I still like it and I know I will get some good wear out of it. The colors and the print are so fun and it feels very feminine while also feeling comfortable (that elastic waistband basically makes this outfit nightclothes with heels). I want to try the look that I have inside my head again, but perhaps with a button down dress with a full flowy skirt, and regular sleeves? Not sure if I have anything like that in my pattern arenal or if I should just hack it, but I was gifted some beautiful rayon from Workroom Social for Christmas and I think it might be a match made in heaven.

Velvet, Gold and Pussy Bowed

When I randomly saw this dress on Beate J’Adore’s blog sometime last winter, I was more than a little obsessed. The rusty chocolate silk velvet she used was so luxurious and stunning, and I loved the easy shape of the garment: fitted and flirty and feminine without looking too buttoned up. But of course, most of all, I just loooooved that long bow at the neck! So GORGEOUS! I was so obsessed that I even started perusing the silk velvet she used from Mood Fabrics, and y’all know I can’t STAND Mood- the only way I ever use fabrics from that place is if someone buys some for me as a gift! Anyways, I pinned the image onto my Clothing Inspiration board on Pinterest and kept drooling over it periodically, even when the weather in LA turned hell-fire hot and the mere thought of wearing velvet could make you break out into a sweat. And then, as the seasons began changing around the rest of the country, velvet started popping up in all my favorite fabric stores- I’ve always loved velvet but I haven’t had the easiest time hunting it down. Thankfully it was a huge trend this season and I was able to snag a few beautiful cuts of it.

I went back to the blog post and read the notes on the dress. They were very scant, which I am not judging because I do the same thing on my blog- when I make pattern hacks, I am not very forthcoming with all the minute details, only because when I’m in the middle of the process, I rarely take notes since I’m not interested in doing tutorials. Of course, now I have experienced firsthand the frustration of reading about a beautiful garment on a blog and not knowing exactly how they got to their end result! But this is the beauty of sewing and pattern hacking in general- sometimes you have to figure out how to make it your own, and that’s what I did. I even took notes! It’s still not a tutorial mind you, and definitely not as detailed as they could be, but it should be enough to put you on the right track if you want to recreate the lovely garment that J’Adore inspired!

She used an older Vogue pattern that I think is out of print, so I got my hands on a cheap copy of Vogue 8829 from etsy. I laughed when I saw the pattern envelope- the image art looks pretty dated and I just don’t think I would ever have seen this pattern and thought to myself, “this would make a stunning garment,” which is one the reasons I love following sewing bloggers- some people can find diamonds in the rough where you see nothing but a pile of dirt. First issue I ran into: which version of the dress did she use?? This is one of those patterns with a lot different variations- long sleeves, short sleeves, knee length, maxi, regular collar, pussy bow, etc. I could figure out the top half the dress, but I wasn’t sure which skirt shape she used, the slightly flared skirt or the one with pleats. Ultimately I chose Version A which most closely matched the photos of her dress, and then I dove into making all the tweaks she mentioned in her blog post: cutting the front bodice and front skirt pieces on the fold instead of as drafted with button bands down the front, adding some width and length to the bow (if I make this again I might add even MORE length!), and making room for a side zip (since the front opening is omitted).

I was a bit confused on the back piece- she wrote that she added darts to the back bodice, but there were no photos of her in the dress with a view of the back so I had no idea where they were placed or if she had eliminated the pleat at the top of the back bodice where it meets the yoke. In hindsight, I should have redrafted the entire pattern piece because it’s actually huge, but I didn’t realize how big it would be at the time so I constructed it according to the directions, creating two pleats at the top middle of the back bodice piece. I tried it on and it had a poofy, bloused effect at the back waist- way too much fabric back there, which ended up looking really heavy in my velvet fabric. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough velvet to redraft the back bodice piece so I decided to do a moderate adjustment and take out some of the length at the back bodice where it met the waistband of the skirt. Then I sewed the extra fabric poofiness down into darts on either side of the center back. It’s not the most glamorous adjustment you’ve ever seen- pleats at the top and darts at the bottom of a back bodice is not exactly a design choice that you see too often with good reason- it looks so busy! But I would rather my silhouette look nice and smooth with some weird darts thrown in than have a clean looking bodice that is poofy and too big for my frame. I also shortened the shoulder seams which I often do on Big 4 patterns, and I ended up taking the waist of both the bodice and the skirt in over an inch on each side.

At this point I made an accidental discovery that actually worked in my favor for once. For some reason I had entirely forgotten to leave enough room at the skirt and bodice seams for a side zip since there were no other openings to get in and out of the dress with the omission of the front button bands. And then I realized that J’Adore’s silk velvet must not have been a stretch knit, which is why she had to put in the side zip. I’m not sure why it took me so long for this realization- I had been happily serging all my seams together from the very beginning, which I prefer when working with velvet because for me, it’s so much easier to serge fabrics with pile than it is to sew them on a regular machine, even with a walking foot. So, now with all my side seams completely serged together, it was time for a moment of truth- would this dress fit over my head easily or would I have to unpick all my stitching and figure out a way to squeeze a zip in? I suddenly remembered one of the adjustments J’Adore made that didn’t make sense to me at the time. She said she added two inch panels to either side of the dress underneath the sleeves. The panels, which are barely visible in the photos, don’t seem to offer much in the way of a design choice, so maybe she had an issue with fit, or maybe she forgot to put in a side zip to get in and out of the dress just like I did, and then added panels to make it a bit easier to stick the zip in at the last minute? I don’t know exactly what her process was, but thankfully, with my serged seams and stretchy velvet fabric, the dress fit over my body through the neck hole with ease- no need to add a zip- hallelujah!

After fixing the back bodice to hug my body better, the rest of the dress was a breeze. I lowered the neckline as directed by her blog post, enough so that my head could squeeze through, but I took out less than she did (I think about 3/4″, since I had more flexibility with my stretch knit). I attached the band of the bow at the neck and hand sewed it close to the edges of the neckline.

This area was a little tricky since I was sewing a rectangular pattern piece to a circle, whose edges had to simply end front and center instead of being attached to a left and right button band as the pattern was initially drafted for.  I sewed the edges of the bow as close together as possible at the center front neck and it looks fine on the outside, but a little more visible on the inside. I don’t anticipate that the neckline edge will stretch out much since my stretch fabric has a lot of resiliency, but on a less stable knit, this would be something to be aware of.

The last adjustment came with the sleeves. I had to take out additional length from them even though I cut the lines for the “petite” option on all portions of the garment- I think they might be drafted as very baggy and drapey over the hands, which is not a design element I like at all. I don’t like stuff flowing around my hands or getting in their way, it takes all I can muster to wear a bracelet for longer than 10 minutes. Here I took a cue from J’Adore’s post where she wrote that she put pleats in the sleeves and used elastic at the hems. Another thing I don’t like about sleeves? Elasticized hems, lol. Not sure why, but I just prefer either a regular folded hem or a cuff. Thankfully I was able to use the stretchiness of my fabric to my advantage once again, so I attached a self drafted cuff at the bottom of the sleeves and I didn’t need to use elastic at all (the original cuff was as weirdly long as the sleeves).

And voila! Although I wasn’t using a beautiful silk velvet like J’Adore was, I think the dress still came out really nice- I love the way it shimmers and shines in the light and the fit is spot on! It’s a very luxe looking dress to me and I think it will serve me well if I ever go on a trip to a place that’s cold as it’s still SEVENTY DEGREES IN LA RIGHT NOW. Sorry, I shouldn’t complain when the east coast is suffering through a snow bomb or whatever they are calling it, but a little bit of breezy weather would be such a treat considering all these nice fall/winter makes I have in my closet! Even if it does get cooler I’m not sure if I can pull off the dress-over-jeans-look like J’Adore did in her photos, which looks stunning, but who knows- I was inspired enough to do a mad pattern hack based on her style choices make so maybe I will be brave enough to test out her layered look, too!

 

P.S. Sorry, I don’t remember where I got my hat from, and also, THANK YOU FOR THE PICTURES, CLAIRE!

See ya, 2017!

My first completed make of 2017

 

I can’t lie, I did not enter 2017 with much hope at all. After the Cheeto won the election, I had a brief surge of unfettered optimism that we as American citizens would rally together and fight for the rights of disenfranchised communities, not just here on our soil but the world over- everywhere that our capitalist, greedy, short-sighted government could reach it’s murderous talons. And then I went to the Women’s March and had my first (and so far, only) panic attack. I felt overwhelmed and angry and confused. While I have never liked being in large crowds of people, I was more anxious than usual, paranoid and scared; the march just didn’t feel like a safe space for me. I felt simultaneously proud of all the people standing in the streets to make their voices heard and terrified that this movement looked and felt so white- I wondered where the outrage was on behalf of all the women and girls of color who have been forced into sex trafficking, for the disproportionate numbers of black men spending the better parts of their lives in our for-profit prison system for non-violent misdemeanor drug charges, for the shockingly high number of infant deaths in black communities, for all the trans POC who are murdered every year who never get justice, for the effects of police brutality destroying the lives of so many black families all around the country, for the victims of the Flint water crisis.

The election was certainly a cause for public outcry, but our system was broken long before he was elected. And I felt a deep, uncontrollable sadness standing in the middle of a crowd of thousands that I wasn’t convinced would have showed up for people that didn’t look like them. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. The election was a breaking point for many people who have constantly decried the effects that institutional racism has on POC in this country, and there were sooo many people on the frontlines of the marches that have dedicated their lives to inciting change in our government and in our collective hearts. And I am so thankful for them. But on that day, all I could do was feel what I was feeling. Marches aren’t for everyone, and there is no shame in that. Lesson learned.

I started an etsy account where 100% of the proceeds of my memade items went to charitable organizations- it’s popularity has since declined lol, but I raised over $500 in a month!

I got back into therapy. I worked. I made. My creative pursuits continued to be a source of healing for me in a world that felt increasingly chaotic. And then in June I got a call from my Mom that my brother was in the hospital for a common condition that had suddenly and unexpectedly turned life-threatening. My precious, funny, kind 29 year old brother who had only recently become a father, who had married his middle school sweetheart: Nick. I wrote all about that experience here, and if you have been keeping track at all, I am SO SO happy to tell you that, 6 months later, he is recuperating from his last and hopefully final surgery to permanently cover the hole in his stomach, and he is healthy, hopeful, and excited for his future. I am so proud of how beautifully and unselfishly my sister in law and my Mom and my Dad cared for him during those relentless days where every breath he took sounded like it would be the last one, where we sat quietly in his room in the ICU holding air in our own lungs, hour after hour, willing it to fit inside Nick’s body and bring him some peace.

When I think back on how traumatizing the whole experience was for us, each in different ways, how it changed our dynamics with each other, how it trudged up secrets and shame that none of us were ready to confront, I will never forget how one his doctors stood in the waiting room with us as we all sat in chairs, listening to him, grasping onto kernels of information that he was carefully doling out. “It’s a good thing you have those pictures of his family all around the room,” he said. Tori’s mom had printed out photographs of Nick and Tori and Levi, their two year old son, and taped them high on the walls so that when Nick came out of his coma, he would see the best parts of his life beaming light right back at his broken body. “That way,” he chuckled, “the nurses and staff who are taking care of him will know he isn’t just some thug off the street.” To this day I’m not sure how that doctors head didn’t explode on the spot because the venomous daggers that my Mom and I threw from our eyes were enough to rip through more hospital walls than I could count. How dare this white doctor insinuate that my brother, or ANY person in that hospital, be a thug, a descriptor that I am assuming has everything to do with my brother’s brown skin. I thought that the hippocratic oath specifically ensured that doctors would provide the best care that they were capable of, regardless of skin color, religion, gender, ability or class, but here we had proof that this wasn’t so at all, that it was apparently my family’s responsibility to convince the hospital staff that Nick was worthy of the best care they could give. I thought so much of Trayvon Martin’s family in that moment- how I had felt so lucky that Nick wasn’t the victim of some violent crime because of someone else’s racism, but how racism was still playing a part of his life while he lay unconscious in a hospital bed.

Mom, Nick (with his wound vac), me, Dad, Tori, and baby Levi a few weeks after Nick was released from the hospital.

My time with Nick in the hospital is the only occasion I can think of in my life where making didn’t serve as a therapeutic passtime. I packed some sock yarn and needles for the trip but I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing and my hands would shake whenever I pulled them out, either from the cold of the hospital or the fear of the unknown, I have no idea. I couldn’t manage to spread myself out, I felt best when I was a lump of focused energy aimed in Nick’s direction.

And now, here I am on the other side of what has easily been the scariest year I have ever experienced, and I feel so lucky. Bad things don’t happen to people who deserve them, they just happen, but things could have been much, much worse. As I write this blog post I think about Lladybird losing her father this past year, how sad I was for her family and how happy I was to see her keep on living her lovely life and working through the grief, how my introduction to Renee of Miss Celie’s Pants was a blog post she had written about her mother’s passing and how much I appreciated her sharing her sorrow with me, a random stranger on the internet. People like to talk a lot of shit about the narcissism of  blogging and social media and selfies, but for me, writing and reading and sharing on these platforms is way for me to connect to people, to find comfort and kindness in places that don’t always manifest in my regular life, to remind myself that yes, I was here, and by the way, my hair looked great.

These yellow overalls are definitely my most worn item of the year!

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but, as I shared on IG recently, I am committing myself to making my living spaces more balanced and pleasant to be in. And I knocked a bunch of things off my list before the New Year even began: I got longer tables in my craft room so that I can have my 4 favorite/most used machines out at once, organized my button stash, logged in a bunch of patterns into my evernote app, and eventually I am going to get some cabinets installed on the other side of the craft room to get all my random craft materials and tools neatly stored away. I built a shelf for the guest closet, installed another shelf in our bathroom vanity, and transported all my #redcarpetDIYs to a portable closet unit in our storage area since they were just taking up space in the house. Hopefully 2018 will give me more opportunities to wear them!

And now, a bulleted year in review….

Best of 2017

  • SURVIVING IT
  • Seeing my two good friends Alex and Mary get married in Costa Rica. The wedding was scheduled just two weeks after my brother went into the ICU and I was so torn about whether or not I should go, but my Dad told me I should, and although it took a few days to get out of crisis mode, I am really glad that I got to share that special day with them. Remind me to tell you what happened when we heard a scary noise outside our airbnb in the middle of the forest….LOL
  • My friend Carly got accepted into the AFI program!
  • I got to go back to Vancouver to work on a really great show and make new memories in a city that I had once come to loathe
  • I got to hang out with Renee and Jordan in Vancouver (those hangouts are probably why I don’t loathe Van City anymore)!
  • AND Jenny of Cashmerette was there, too!
  • Claire continues to thrive in a job that she loves and it has been so exciting to watch her grow
  • My brother is ALIVE AND DOING AWESOME!
  • My Dad got really specific about what he wanted me to make him for his birthday/ Christmas and those gifts have been some of the most fun selfless makes that I have ever created
  • I taught some people how to sew/reupholster/make
  • MIMI G!!!! My new road dawg!
  • hanging with my nephew, Levi
  • getting my tarot cards read for the first time
  • sharing some political, feminist writing and feeling so supported and encouraged by most everyone who read it
  • the movie Get Out
  • finishing my Octopus sweater
  • learning ASL
  • being a guest on the Love to Sew podcast

Worst of 2017

  • the ban of trans people in the military
  • everything else the government did
  • Claire having to go vegan
  • not enough making/creating time for myself
  • fatphobia
  • so many mass shootings
  • the entire Saga of Nick’s Pancreatitis, obvi
  • my summer hair cut. I loved it for 3 days then I wanted every single inch back. I need to get a tattoo to remind me NOT to cut my hair off every time I want to cut my hair off
  • those goddamn orange corduroy pants

What’s Happening in 2018, Jasika?

  • more shoe making!
  • at least two bags!
  • so many vegetables. so. many. vegetables.
  • a possible secret project with Mimi G! #Mimi&J
  • positive and sustainable political change!
  • pants making!
  • cute workout clothes!
  • Renee said she is coming to visit! Let’s all hold her accountable to this!
  • my first screenplay!
  • reupholstering some vintage dining room chairs!
  • house upgrades/renos (??)
  • getting the backyard garden together!
  • meeting my shining light and inspiration Heather Lou in the flesh!
  • “work work work work work” -Rhianna
  • Camp Workroom Social (??)
  • A CONSISTENT AND CONTAGIOUS SENSE OF PEACE EMANATING FROM MY BODY AT ALL TIMES (??)

As always, I am grateful for your readership, your encouragement, your thoughtful comments and your ability to laugh with me. My wish is that, no matter how your year went, you are looking forward to what 2018 brings. Genuine hope for the future is at once both empowering and soothing; let it carry us into the new year, and beyond!

70’s Print for a 70’s Pattern

As you may well know, The Fabric Store has been carrying Liberty prints for a while now, and when I first saw them in person, the selection was both thrilling and overwhelming. Liberty has long established itself as the go-to fabric supplier for all things floral, but I soon found out that delicate flowers were not the only thing they were good at; as seen in the cityscape fabric for this dress I made last year, Liberty can do modern and abstract just as well as they can do feminine and organic. They carry large and small prints, both quaint and sophisticated, in a bigger variety than ever before, and although they have plenty of woven silks and cottons in their arsenal, they also have a growing selection of stretch knits, which is what I always gravitate towards. Truth be told, sewing with silk still scares me, and while I have had successes in the past, the overwhelming outcome of my silk projects has been abysmal.

Despite my history with silk, I knew I needed to get over my fear sooner than later because the three yard cut of Liberty silk Cynthia sent me (Cynthia is one of girls at the LA shop, and she is SO helpful and intuitive about picking out fabrics and prints! Call them for all your fabric shopping needs!) was just screaming to be sewn into something spectacular. I am astonished at how technically busy this print is without it feeling overwhelming or loud. The beauty of this fabric is a real testament to the individual who designed the print; the color combo is mostly monochromatic with subdued hues of browns, mauves and greens, and the shades of brighter colors in the print are used so sparingly that they don’t feel splashy. But the real star of the print for me is the line work used. The shapes are not exactly flowers and they aren’t exactly paisley- I don’t really know what to call them. When you look closely, the print of the fabric looks more like intricate doodles squeezed together and delineated by color. However you want to describe it, I think it’s stunning. Usually when working with a busy print I feel pretty nauseated about halfway through construction, but that was not the case with this one at all- each seam gave me an opportunity to discover something new in the print and my admiration for the beautiful color palette just continued to grow the further I got along in my process.

Anyways, I have tried the method of cutting out silk in a single layer sandwiched between pieces of paper to keep the fabric from shifting to varying degrees of success. The biggest con with this method is that I hate wasting all that paper, and while it’s certainly better than cutting the silk plain, I still found it tricky to keep the paper and the silk layers together throughout the process. On top of that, this method only applies to cutting the silk- sewing with it still takes a tremendous amount of care (some people suggest even sewing your silk pieces with a layer of paper sandwiched in between and then gently tearing it off the fabric through the perforations, but I have never had the patience). For this dress I nixed the paper idea and took a cue from one of Lladybird’s blog posts suggesting the use of a spray fabric stiffener on your silk projects. I have read that using a gelatin soak on silk works much the same, but I was impatient and eager to get started on this project sooner than later. I hung my Liberty fabric over my backdrop, sprayed the entire yardage with the fabric stiffener until it was damp, then let it dry. When I checked on it an hour later, the fabric was totally transformed; it had a stiffer hand, no longer flowed and draped as it had before, and behaved like a lightweight cotton. It was so easy to maneuver that I was able to cut it on the fold easily, and the threads of the silk didn’t shred all over the place as it has a tendency to do, either. But the best part was that it sewed like a dream! No more wonky seams and sliding fabrics- everything stayed in place and over the two or three days that I worked on this pattern, the fabric stayed stiff and crisp. To get it back to it’s natural, silky state, when the dress was completed I soaked it in water and a little bit of eucalin soap for about 10 minutes and then I let it air dry. The next day after a gentle ironing, it was good as new! So easy!

The pattern I used for this dress is a vintage Butterick that was gifted to me by the lovely blogger Amelia when we met a couple of years ago at a panel discussion about diversity in the media (I am pretty sure I have mentioned her generous gift before!) I actually had planned on using a different vintage pattern for this project, but when I opened the pattern I realized it was missing the entire front pattern piece, so I chucked it in my paper bin (I always re-use old pattern paper and envelopes for wrapping) and settled on this one instead. This was probably a blessing in disguise because I think the Liberty fabric suits this pattern even better than my original choice.

 

Vintage patterns are SO. FREAKING. GREAT. I mean, the instructions can often be wonky, and sometimes they use weird techniques that are either unnecessary or completely outdated, but a lot of the time the designs and approaches used in construction are super clever and feel fresh since modern designers don’t utilize those methods anymore. One of the elements I was most taken with was the way the sleeve cuffs came together. I assumed there would be a placket of sorts with buttons and holes on either side to close the cuff to the wrist, but this pattern used a much more simpler yet still effective technique. There is no placket at all, rather the cuffs are positioned so that there is extra room between the edges of the sleeve, and that excess fabric is simply folded in when the buttons are closed. This detail wouldn’t work on a bulky fabric and definitely has a more feminine effect than a regular placket, but it works beautifully on a lightweight flowy silk such as this.

But the real drama of this dress for me is in the collar, which is created with a standard placket and drafted to flow up the side of the neck. This detail coupled with the puffy sleeves and the gathered cuffs at the wrist gave me a very Designing Women vibe, which technically was an 80’s show but some of the clothing still seemed inspired by a little 70’s glam. Normally I am weary of the sizing on Big 4 patterns, but I seem to have a little bit more luck with vintage patterns, and the shape of this pattern offered a lot of wiggle room since it wasn’t meant to fit closely to the body. Because of this, I didn’t make a muslin and the fit turned out great.

I did however shorten the sleeves considerably, because even just eye-balling the pattern piece I could tell they were gonna be way too long. The end result was just perfect but I had to redo my sleeve insertion a couple of times; because the sleeves are gathered to create a poofy effect around the shoulders, there was a lot of easing that needed to happen, and my ease wasn’t very even on one of my sleeves. It’s possibly that I should have taken off some of the seam allowance at the shoulders to take up some of the extra fabric in the sleeve head, but instead I just very carefully tried to even out my gathers and make sure they were concentrated at the top of the sleeve as opposed to the front or the back. This part of the dress does not look perfect, but it doesn’t bother me and the sleeves feel comfortable.

The only other change I made to the pattern was to add elastic to the waist. As drafted, the pattern is meant to be worn with a belt wrapped at the waist to cinch in the extra fabric, and while I loved the look of the belt, I knew that, because of my waist to hip ratio, that free flowing fabric around my waist was never gonna sit right and I would be fiddling with it all day. I knew that elastic would give the same effect while keeping the gathered fabric in place, particularly with such a lightweight fabric. So I cut a strip of fabric the length of the waist of the dress and the width of my elastic (1/2″) plus room for folding over each edge. I sewed the casing onto the dress, inserted my elastic, and closed the hole up at the side seam, making sure to spread my elastic evenly across the waist. It worked like a charm. I also put belt loops on either side of the dress because I knew I would still want to wear a belt with it and I wanted the belt to stay in place since they have a tendency to ride up on me. The belt was made of several strips of fabric sewed together and then turned inside out. I used to serge all my inside seams for finishing but I am becoming a strictly french seam kind of girl when the seams are suitable and the fabric is a woven. It makes the end-product look so luxurious and I am convinced that it stays looking neat on the inside for much longer. For this dress, all inside seams are french, and I used bias tape to finish the sleeves with a hong kong seam.

 

I thought that this dress was transparent when I first saw the fabric so I wore a slip under it when I wore it to the TCAs this past week, but turns out that it wasn’t really necessary- the fabric is so busy that you can’t even see the shadow of my body underneath it, which is important to know if I ever decide to wear this in warmer weather. I love love LOVE how this dress came out- it is even better than I imagined it would be! It feels glamorous and it got so many compliments when I wore it for the first time, and it also looked surprisingly good on camera (they say you shouldn’t wear prints or multi-colored garments on camera but I think it totally depends on what the fabric looks like- again, the color combination of this silk really makes it magical!