Posts

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!