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#MeMadeMay level= unlocked

At the beginning of #MeMadeMay2015 I had high hopes to post here on my blog every single day what I wore and where the pattern came from, but those hopes were crushed on Day 2 when my laziness got the better of me. I decided it would be a lot easier and more efficient on my end to just do a master post of everything I memade and mewore with a few details for each one (I posted everyday on tumblr but not everyone follows me there). Presenting, my first foray into the MeMade hashtag!!!

vintage jumper

Day 1: vintage jumper

I already posted about this little guy here, but to recap, this a 70’s (I think?)  vintage pattern for a romper made of knit fabric.

Day 2: Southport Maxi Dress by True Bias

Day 2: Southport Maxi Dress by True Bias

LOOOVE this Southport Maxi dress pattern, and just finished making another one in a peach polka dot cotton. Straightforward and simple, easy-to-understand directions, but the pattern is based off of a C CUP!!! My boobs are nowhere near a C cup, so when I sewed up the bodice and  tried it on for fit, it was so saggy and loose around my entire torso that I was afraid I was gonna have to take the whole thing apart and re-cut the pieces from my fabric. Thankfully I was able to make adjustments without altering the darts and the side seams- I just cut off the widths of the bodice center fronts and moved the button bands over to accommodate. I love the pockets in this dress, and I love the drape of the rayon challis I used in this version and would recommend that fabric over the 100% cotton I used for my second make, which is beautiful but more crisp looking and less flowy.

 

Day 3: Knit Sweetheart Top and A-line skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 3: Knit Sweetheart Top and A-line skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

A lot of my favorite makes come from Gertie patterns, as seen in this post. This is the Sweetheart Top made of knit fabric from www.girlcharlee.com coupled with Gertie’s A-line skirt in a beautiful wool herringbone that you unfortunately can’t see very well in this picture. Both patterns are from the book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. The skirt has an okay fit for me- her circle skirt is wonderful and fits my figure beautifully, but I think that because the A-line skirt has less material in the hip area, it causes wrinkles and gaps between my waist and hip area in the back. It’s probably not noticeable to anyone but me, but I don’t get as much wear out of the skirt for that reason. The Sweetheart top is a simple make on a serger (I once made three of these tops in one day) with a wide neckline that gathers in the middle front.

Day 4: knitted sweater- Portland Tweed Curved Front Cardigan by Pam Allen

Day 4: knitted sweater- Portland Tweed Curved Front Cardigan by Pam Allen

I called this my Unflappable Darling sweater, and details for this make are on my ravelry project page here. I fell in love with Pam Allen’s patterns after I began knitting sweaters, but before I was good at making alterations to fit my size (I usually have to size down and use smaller needles cause my guage is fairly loose). I love this sweater but it’s hard to pair it with many things in my closet. It’s got a tent-like shape to it, and has a tendency to swallow me up, so it doesn’t get as much wear as I would like. The yarn I used for it is a really bizarre-feeling cotton blend with a unique smell that reminds me of hay. If I made this again I would make it much smaller, and with a softer, fluffier (less barn-smelling) yarn.

 

Day 5: Espresso Leggings by Cake Patterns

Day 5: Espresso Leggings by Cake Patterns

I was excited to learn about the Cake Patterns company when I started researching more indie designers, and I was intrigued by the unique way in which they have you put together the pattern pieces. There is a large page of numbered dots and symbols that represent different widths and lengths for your body, and you connect them all together to create an adjusted pattern for your specific size. I feel like this would be a great pattern for someone who was brand new to sewing, but for me it ended up being really confusing and frustrating, and at one point I just wished that it was less innovative and more familiar like other patterns I was used to- I would have been able to put it together much more quickly. The instructions were very different from any pattern I had made before, and not in a good way- they use a lot of symbols instead of words, so I had to keep going back and figuring out what each little drawing was supposed to mean. On top of that, this leggings pattern suggests that you use a 2-way stretch knit like ponte, but when I made them up in that fabric, they wouldn’t even stretch wide enough to go over my thighs (and yes, I cut the pattern out with the stretch going width-wise). Not sure if there was something off about the knit I chose or what, but it was a high quality fabric that I had used with great success before, so I was very disappointed that it didn’t work for this project. I eventually bought another knit with 4 way stretch (seen in the photo) and it worked fine.  I also bought one of their dress patterns to make for my sister-in-law for Christmas, but I was so confused by the bizarre, multi-step directions that I threw the entire thing (including the fabric!) in the trash halfway through construction. I would not buy one of their patterns again, but I have seen that a lot of people have had positive experience with their Cake Patterns, so maybe it’s just me.

Day 6: Tri-Cable Stitch Jumper by Susan Crawford

Day 6: Tri-Cable Stitch Jumper by Susan Crawford

This sweater pattern comes from Susan Crawford’s book A Stitch in Time Vol. 2 and is the kind of book that I would want to own and display even if I wasn’t an avid knitter. The photos and styling are remarkable and the patterns are beautiful, but the coolest thing about the book is that it includes a copy of the original vintage knitting pattern so you can compare the original styling and photos and instructions to the updated versions. I should have gone further down in my needle size for this pattern because it is just a little bit bigger than I would like, but all in all this came out beautifully and I love wearing it.

 

 

 

 

Day 7: Pencil Skirt in Stretch Knit from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 7: Pencil Skirt in Stretch Knit from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This Comfiest Pencil Skirt made of a stretch knit material comes from a pattern in one of Gertie’s books and has become a real winner in my closet. It gives that wonderful curvy silhouette without the usual confining quality that pencil skirts tend to have.  I ended up adding two darts to the back of my skirt to keep the excess fabric between my smallish waist and wide-ish hips from bunching up and it worked like a dream without taking away from the simple pattern of the skirt.

Day 8: Summer Dress pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 8: Summer Dress pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This is my Bitch You Guessed It Dress which you can read more about in this blog post.

Day 9: Ohhh Lulu Ginger Body Suit

Day 9: Ohhh Lulu Ginger Body Suit

OhhhLuluSews is a pattern company that operates from an etsy shop, and the designs are pretty, feminine and vintage inspired. The Ginger Body Suit doesn’t seem to be in the store anymore, but it is a one- piece pattern with a different adjustment marks to turn it into a two-piece and the option to use swimsuit lycra to turn it into a bathing suit, which I did here. Love the fit after I fiddled with the waist and bottoms for a while, and love the way the pieces are put together which gave me the freedom to make some unique design decisions.

Day 10: Vintage romper pattern

Day 10: Vintage romper pattern

This vintage romper comes from Simplicity Pattern 5503 which I bought a while ago on etsy. It’s kind of amazing- very comfortable and easy to make with an elasticized waist, although the front detail has never laid flat for me- not sure if that’s because of the material I used or what. The fabric was a gift from someone I used to date many years ago who went to Nigeria to visit family and brought me back this gorgeous African wax print. It accompanied me on moves to different apartments and different cities and eventually different states for over a decade til I was finally inspired to use it on this pattern. It was totally worth the wait.

Day 11: GInger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files

Day 11: GInger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files

These are my awesome and amazing skinny jeans from Closet Case Files’ Ginger Jeans Pattern. Can’t say enough good about the pattern (wasn’t prepared for my very first attempt at jeans to be so successful!). More details on the process here on my blog.

Day 12: Moneta dress by Colette Patterns

Day 12: Moneta dress by Colette Patterns

I am clearly a sucker for good design and good marketing, because no matter how many times I tell myself to stop buying Colette Patterns because the fit is always waaaay wrong for my body, I can’t seem to shake the habit. I thought that this Moneta dress and the Mabel skirt pattern (not shown) which I bought at the same time were gonna be big successes since they’re made for knit fabric, which is more forgiving in terms of fit issues. Not so. The skirt came out so poorly that I didn’t even make an attempt to try and re-draft it to work for myself, and the bodice of this dress was so awful that I had to re-cut it and make a lot of adjustments to make it smaller since it gaped like crazy at the armholes and was just generally gigantic (I already made the smallest size available). LOVE Colette designs and aesthetic, but I just have to learn to let them go.

 

Day 13: Ohhh Lulu Vintage style bra

Day 13: Ohhh Lulu Vintage style bra

Ohhh Lulu’s Lili Bra is a vintage bra pattern that uses wovens cut on the bias instead of stretch fabric, and it was a really fun make, as referenced here. It’s not the perfect bra pattern for me because it has this weird gapping effect in the nipple area (those puckers in the middle of the cups are filled with air, not actual boob) and I am sure I could adjust the pattern a bit to accommodate less space, but I haven’t yet. Still love this bra tho.

Day 14: Minimalist Cardigan

Day 14: Minimalist Cardigan

I call this my ‘Favorite Sweater’ Sweater because I wear it A LOT. It’s like my housecoat. Details for the Minimalist Cardigan are here and I am also in the middle of making one for Claire right now cause she has coveted it ever since I finished it in Vancouver. Moss stitch is so gorgeous, no matter how simple the pattern is.

Day 15: Nettie dress by Closet Case Files and Therapi sweater by Stefanie Japel

Day 15: Nettie dress by Closet Case Files and Therapi sweater by Stefanie Japel

Two makes in one! The sweater is Therapi by Stefani Japel and the dress is the Nettie pattern by Closet Case Files. The sweater took me 1,000 years to make, because, unlike the Minimalist cardigan, it actually is the size of a house robe, and it’s almost completely in Waffle Stitch, which isn’t very complicated, but it takes way more time than say, stockinette stitch. The dress is a body con dress that took me a little time to get right, only because knits are all so different and some have more stretch and others have less. This dress was at the beginning of my foray into learning more about knits, and this was the second version I made after the first one came out beautifully but encased my torso like a sausage because it was too tight due to the ponte fabric I chose. This black knit with the elephants adorning it is a 4 way stretch with a bit more give than ponte and came out so great… except the fabric started fading immediately after I pre-washed it.

 

Day 16: Pin-up Sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 16: Pin-up Sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Another Pin-up sweater by Gertie, in this really terrific crocheted stretch fabric that reminds me of everything awesome about Grandmas, cause up close the fabric looks like a huge doily.

Day 17: 40's Style Sleevelss Blouse and Pencil Skirt from Gertie's Book for Better Sewing and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual and Gertie

Day 17: 40’s Style Sleevelss Blouse and Pencil Skirt from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual and Gertie

Another two-fer: Pencil skirt by Gertie (from her first book Gertie’s Book For Better Sewing) and 40’s Style Blouse from her second book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. Used a stretch woven for the skirt which was an excellent choice- gives hold and shape without feeling like I can’t breathe. I made this skirt years ago so I don’t remember the details but I am pretty sure it was a straight make that didn’t require any adjustments, which kind of blew my mind- it was the first time I wore a pencil skirt that actually fit my body and didn’t pucker, gape and wrinkle all over the hips.

Day 18: Watson Long-line Bra by Cloth Habit

Day 18: Watson Long-line Bra by Cloth Habit

Cloth Habit’s long line Watson bra which I have given so much praise in this blog post.

Day 19: Harem Jumper (pattern by me)

Day 19: Harem Jumper (pattern by me)

I made this pattern which I based off of a Rachel Roy jumpsuit that I own and love to wear. The jumpsuit is made of a silky rayon material and is clearly meant for fancy occasions- I’ve worn it to a red carpet event and a couple of performances. I love the shape so much that I wanted to recreate it using a more wearable material. I bought some ponte knit fabric and, with some rough eyeballing and rougher measuring, I drew out a pattern for it and cut it out. It’s got a slightly different bodice than the original, and I added straps to this one to make sure it was more secure. My biggest obstacle was inserting the zipper onto a stretchy fabric, which I had never done before (with good reason). When closed, the zipper bunched and zigzagged, but I read online that using a stabilizer underneath the zipper tape would help, and it worked like a charm. I am dying to make this again in a 4 way stretch knit.

 

Day 20: Vintage High Waist Shorts

Day 20: Vintage High Waist Shorts

These shorts are the second pair I have made from  vintage shorts pattern Simplicity 7688. The first pair, which I am actually wearing as I type this, are made of a mint green linen and they are on the verge of falling apart because I didn’t know that I needed to finish the edges of this type of fabric  with either a serger or bias tape. As a result, the edges have frayed to the stitched seam lines in some places. I have tried repeatedly to save them with patches places on the inside of the shorts, bias tape to encase the raw edges, and double lines of stitching. They aren’t long for this world but I can’t bear to let them go because they are my favorite! This paisley pair is a close second, but the brushed cotton bags out a bit after wearing them too many times between washings.

Day 21: Vintage romper pattern

Day 21: Vintage romper pattern

This is a second version of the 80’s romper in the African Wax Print fabric, but I used a different type of material for this project and I hacked the strap and neckline-edging from a different pattern, so the end result looks (and feels) super different. I made a belt for this one, too, and the look just seems little more pulled together and fancy than the other one, which I wear more casually. You can’t tell, but the fabric is printed with flocks of birds all over it.

Day 22: Hannah dress by Schnittchen

Day 22: Hannah dress by Schnittchen

Hannah dress by Schnittchen, seen here!

Day 23: Vogue Vintage re-issue

Day 23: Vogue Vintage re-issue

Ohhh, how I absolutely LOVE wearing this dress! It’s stunning! Simplicity 1777, 1940’s Retro reprint, and truly unique in it’s bib detailing coupled with this amazing rayon challis I found on fabric.com. It’s one of my favorite pieces to dress up in.

Day 24: Vogue Maxi dress

Day 24: Vogue Maxi dress

Vogue 8827, as blogged about here.

Day 25: Vogue culottes jumper

Day 25: Vogue culottes jumper

I have been meaning to finish my post on this garment for so long-it’s  queued up and written and everything, just waiting to take some nice pics to accompany it. Anyways, I call it my JNCO’s Birthday Jumpsuit, but in actuality it’s a culottes romper, which required a fair amount of adjusting to make work for me. It’s made out of a double gauze by a company called Cotton & Steele, who has really gorgeous fabrics drawn by a team of super talented women artists, and I love love love this outfit and I need to make it again (and probably again). When I redrafted everything, I forgot to fix the pockets and make them longer to meet the new higher waistline, so they are SUPER short and everytime I put my hands in them I want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Day 26: Ginger Jeans (again) and Knit Sweetheart Top

Day 26: Ginger Jeans (again) and Knit Sweetheart Top

Ginger Jeans again! This time paired with a Knit Sweetheart Top by Gertie, adorned with a million mustaches. (This is a faux action shot, btw, which I feel like I must declare before I start getting comments from people warning me that I am using my power tools incorrectly).

Day 27: Carolyn Pajama bottoms by Closet Case Files

Day 27: Carolyn Pajama bottoms by Closet Case Files

Carolyn Pajamas (sans top) by Closet Case Files.  Easy make with lovely little details. I made mine out of rayon challis and after a few washings they started to look like worn bedsheets, in a GOOD way.

Day 28: Cap Sleeve Lattice Top by Purl Soho

Day 28: Cap Sleev Lattice Top by Purl Soho

This is the first sweater I ever knitted in California territory. Details here!

Day 29: Vogue dress

Day 29: Vogue dress

And this is the first dress that I ever made for myself after I learned how to sew in my Costume Design class in college. I have no idea what the pattern was (I think it might have been Vogue?), but it was such a success that it inspired me to keep going, even though I took a significant break from sewing after I moved to NYC. It fit great (still does) and was made out of a linen from JoAnn’s Fabrics which has held up surprisingly well over the past 14 years.

 

Day 30: Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes

Day 30: Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes

I hurried to finish this dress up in time to attend Autostraddle camp this year. It’s the Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes and it’s a very simple make made with knit fabric that includes a really cute sleeve detail on the cuff of the sleeve.

Day 31: fingerknitted necklace (no pattern, just fingerknitted!)

Day 31: fingerknitted necklace (no pattern, just fingerknitted!)

I MA(Y)DE IT! 31 Days!!!! Here I am wearing my vintage shorts pattern again from a previous day with the addition of my fingerknitted neck accoutrement! Fingerknittin’ Good is one of the craft classes I taught at camp and it was a big success! It’s easy to learn and easy to do if you have fairly good use of the fingers on your hands. It doesn’t require any materials or tools other than the yarn, and when you use a bulky skein, you can create something beautiful in a short amount of time. Fingerknitting doesn’t require a pattern or anything, just the actual activity of repeating the steps over and over again, and there are plenty of tutorials on the internet that can show you how to do it in no time. This ended up being a fantastic camp activity because even the campers who insisted they were absolutely terrible with their hands were able to create a gorgeous length of fingerknitted rope by the end of the hour.

 

And that’s it- my first memademay is complete! I have to admit that when it was all over I felt equal parts relieved and sad. Halfway through the month it had become exhausting to dress up in something memade every day, only because I don’t have a regular job to go to every morning. So unless I have an event or an audition or am meeting up with friends, I just putter around my craft room all day making stuff til Claire gets home from work, and hanging out in my craft room doesn’t require me to wear anything special. My wardrobe for most days (after I run or do yoga) is whatever is clean and at the top of my drawer, which usually ends up being a pair of shorts and a t shirt, or a breezy house dress if it’s hot outside, and I usually wear that for a few days in a row til it’s time to put it in the laundry bin. For much of May, I missed the ease of throwing on whatever clothes were laying around. But on June 1st, I realized I had become so accustomed to being thoughtful about what I was going to wear that I felt like something was missing. No more “Hey Claire- will you take my MeMade picture?” No more triple-sharing photos to instagram and tumblr and facebook. No more recalling little details about what I was doing and how I was feeling when I made the garment. Of course I will still share my new makes when they are finished, but the exciting part of committing myself to a month-long project will be absent…til next year at least. Thanks to everyone who offered encouraging words of support during the month, and thanks to all the other bloggers and sewers who participated by sharing their own makes. Y’all are so inspiring and I look forward to every single new project you create!

#MeMadeMay Pledge- Day 1

Day1_pattern#MeMadeMay is a pledge by sewing/crocheting/knitting enthusiasts to wear something handmade for each day of the month of May. I have never participated in this event before, maybe because I wasn’t sure if I had enough handmade items to don, or maybe because I wasn’t sure if my makes were worthy enough. But I have since poo-poo’ed  my past doubts and decided to take the plunge and join the hashtag. If nothing else, it will remind me to get better use out of some of the things I have made that I rarely wear, and remind me of the makes I have enjoyed so much that I want to make them again. I am going to try and blog for each outfit, but I may have to combine a few posts into one when I am not around my computer to do a one-a-day.

Day1_view2 Here is one of my favorite-est simple garments I have ever made- I like that it was super quick to sew up, but it doesn’t give that frumpy silhouette that a lot of “easy-to-make” garments tend to offer. It’s made of a lightweight knit material and it has an elasticized waist, so you just pull it up or down to get it and out of it. The con to this is having to be all the way naked when you sit down to use the bathroom; the pro is that it’s loose and non-fussy, since you don’t have a zipper.What I don’t like about this jumper is the bias tape used to make the neckline and the straps. When I make this again (and I plan on doing it sooner than later cause it’s the most perfect for this hot weather we are about to be bombarded with), I will nix the bias tape and just cut the bodice pattern with extra seam allowance so that I can turn the edges under and make straps from the self fabric. The bias tape tends to pucker a bit and hang down under the arms, and it’s just not as sophisticated looking as this jumper has the potential to be. That said, this garment is so easy to wear- it works for hanging out around the house or wearing as a beach cover-up or dressing up a little with sandals.

Shoe Makery

Around Christmas time last year I was deep in the rabbit hole of sewing blogs and reading the personal musings of strangers ad nauseam when I stumbled across a post about DIY shoe making. I don’t remember the name of the girl or her blog, but I did make sure to pin all the information she shared. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of making my own shoes, and more than a little shocked- I didn’t think that cobbling shoes would have ever evolved (or devolved, depending on where you stand on the subject) into something a person could do on their own without major machinery and decades of experience under their belts. I was so excited about the prospect that my heart started to race fast and I couldn’t google search fast enough! For something I had never before even conceived as a reality, there sure was a fair amount of information about it on the internets. There are so many schools of thought regarding the best ways to DIY your own shoes, and the finished projects run the gamut from super simplistic felted slippers to high heeled shoes with leather soles and buckles. I am still weeding my way through all the information I am finding, and hopefully I will get to a place where I can keep the ideas and techniques that work for what I want to create and discard all the other stuff, melding a bunch of steps from different schools of thought into a method that works best for me. That sounds really optimistic and I realize that I may never have the chance to see this through, but the process has proven to be SUPER fun and challenging so far.

The first avenue I went down on the road to shoe-making was to buy this book by Mary Wales Loomis, which I had learned about in that blog I stumbled upon. Mary Wales Loomis is an entrepreneur who published Make Your Own Shoes, a book about the technique she developed for building her own shoes after she essentially took one of her favorite shoes apart to see how it was made and then replicated it using inexpensive and found materials. Her story is incredibly inspiring because she never took “no” for an answer (the art of cobbling seems to have a lot of gatekeepers in place to ensure that no one ever gets the idea that shoemaking can be done for FUN and CHEAPLY), and she researched and asked professionals and experimented on her own for a long time until she was finally able to successfully make her first wearable pair of shoes. I am about mid-way through my first pair of shoes using the steps in her book, and I also made a pair of lasts per her instructions.

vintage shoes from Goodwill filled with plaster of paris.

vintage shoes from Goodwill filled with plaster of paris.

For those unfamiliar, lasts are molds that mimic the general shape and curves of a foot, and you build your shoe around it. They are made either out of wood or durable plastic, and you need a different last for each of your feet. Lasts also differ for size, heel height and each toe shape (like oval, square, pointy or round). If you know where to look, you can buy affordable vintage lasts online or new ones from specialty shoe component stores, but you can also make them out of an old pair of shoes and plaster of paris, which is how I made my first pair. The con of making your own lasts is that you can’t bend or fold the last once your components are put together on it, so you have to use different steps when molding the shoe upper and attaching the insole. The pro is that they are super cheap to make and you can cater them to your own specific needs, like if you have a bunion or one foot that is a different size than the other, or extremely narrow feet.

 

The other direction I went down in my quest to learn to make shoes was to seek out ready-made shoe kits with all the components necessary to make a pair of shoes. This is where I discovered a company called I Can Make Shoes based out of London that offers classes in addition to their kits to give you hands-on training in making shoes. Although the idea of the kit is innovative and oh-so tempting, I opted to hold off on buying one to do a little more researching on my own instead- for a little more than the price of a kit, I could spend money on tools and components and have enough material to make a FEW pairs of shoes instead of just one. I Can Make Shoes also offers PDFs for purchase on shoe design and shoe making, so I might just buy some of that material to add to my ever expanding pile of research.

After finding the I Can Make Shoes brand, I discovered yet another make-your-own-shoes organization called Prescott & Mackay, also based out of London, that offered 1 day, 2 day, and 5 day courses in everything from leather bags to high heeled shoes to sandals to accessories. I was really interested in this company because I saw that a couple times a year they offered a course in Berkley, CA, and traveling up to the Bay area seemed a lot easier than flying to London for a week. The next course they were offering in the states was for a 5 day heel making class in Berkley that was to take place in the middle of April, which was already turning out to be a busy month for me; I decided I couldn’t make it happen then and would instead try and sign up for the class they would be offering in the Fall. But lo and behold, a few days later I received a newsletter from P&M saying they were offering their first ever course in Los Angeles, a 1 day sandal making class, and it happened to be on a day when I was free. It seemed too serendipitous to pass up.

 

Shoe components

Shoe components

The class was taught by Melissa of P&M who was very knowledgeable and efficient in her teaching skills, and just generally a lovely person to learn from. She was able to rent the space of a furniture store in Mid-City to hold the class, and myself and four other women all sat at a big table with all the tools and components necessary for the sandals placed in front of us and got to learn the basics of shoe making together. The mood was lively and easy-going, but 8 hours to make a pair of sandals from scratch is hardly enough time if you have never done it before (some of us had more experience than others). I appreciated the “1 day” aspect of the course, but it was really only enough time to physically make the shoes- we could have used a few more hours to talk about design, functionality and wear-ability of our sandals. The other unfortunate thing about our class was that there were no machines to sew straps or tidy up leather edges or press our soles on, since it was a pop-up class in an environment that didn’t have the conveniences of their London school. So we were a bit limited in what we could do with our shoes. But this is in no way a complaint- I was very happy with the course, I learned a ton from Melissa and from the other people in the class, and it was a perfect companion to Loomis’ Make Your Own Shoes book, which I had already read cover to cover.

paper lining pattern + leather lining (pigskin)

paper lining pattern + leather lining (pigskin)

this insole is made special for sandals so that you can place the straps in the little nooks on the bottom.

this insole is made special for sandals so that you can place the straps in the little nooks on the bottom. here the insole is nailed to the bottom of the last to keep it steady.

fitting the leather onto the insole by clipping curves, just like in sewing!

fitting the leather onto the insole by clipping curves, just like in sewing!

finished leather insoles.

finished leather insoles.

I learned a few really key things in the P&M class that have me very excited to continue the process of DIY shoe making. The first is this: leather is, from my vantage point, the most ideal material to make shoes from, and I am very excited to learn more about leather crafting. I bought myself a couple of introductory books into leather making last year, the most useful of which is called The Leatherworking Handbook, which gives a very detailed overview of the different types of leather, what you can make with it, and how to work with it and sew it. Having a better understanding of leather and how to manipulate it is going to aid me a lot in being able to make the kinds of shoes that I envision in my head, and I never realized this before. When I first started making shoes from the steps provided in Make Your Own Shoes, I tried to start with plain fabric material since I was just learning. Regular fabric is definitely a fine material to use, but it requires so much to make it sturdy and pliable- using a good leather of the proper weight takes less work, less material, and creates beautiful results. Becoming more knowledgeable about leather crafting will make this book more helpful to me, too (I am dying to make a pair of cute Mary Janes using the guidelines from this document).

very pretty but barely wearable.

very pretty but barely wearable.

Another thing that I learned in class was that you must be as thoughtful about the design of your shoe as you are about the process of making it. As I wrote earlier, our class did not allow us much time to contemplate the blueprint of what we were creating, which makes perfect sense given the constraints of the course. In my head I was intending to make a wedge sandal with leather straps across the top of the shoe and a leather back that had straps or a buckle to tie around the ankle. By the time I was ready to plan out how the back of my shoe would look, we had already moved on to the next phase of gluing our shoe pieces together, which required some time limitations, so if I wanted to have a completed shoe by the end of the class, I needed to alter my design, sans shoe back. My last minute decision was to add some skinnier straps to criss-cross over the shoe from the inner toe edge to the opposite heel edge, which looked  pretty, but I knew it wasn’t going to be sturdy enough to keep the shoe on the foot, and I was totally right. At the end of class when our shoes had all been glued together, I tried mine on, and as soon as I took a step in it it just kind of slid around and then OFF of my foot; in addition to inefficient strap placement, the last that I used to make my shoes was also one size too big, so that didn’t do anything to help them stay on my feet. If I had had enough time (and the equipment necessary) to make a back to the shoes, they might have actually been wearable, but I wasn’t too disappointed- I learned a lot and I definitely feel more confident in making more sandals for the future, and that’s really all I wanted from the course. By listening to the other ladies in class chat, I also learned of the best place in LA to get beautiful, affordable leather (it’s called SAVE MOR and it’s incredible!) and I learned of some new sources to buy shoe components and lasts- I am keeping my eyes out for a flat ladies last with a slightly rounded toe in my size- if you find one, holler at me.

top view looks cute as long as I am stationary.

top view looks cute as long as I am stationary.

 

side view- you can see the I didn't do a great job with gluing the soles to the bottom, but there wasn't enough time in class to re-glue, and I already knew they weren't going to function so I didn't want to waste my time.

side view- you can see that I didn’t do a great job with gluing the soles to the bottom, but there wasn’t enough time in class to re-glue and re-attach, and I already knew the shoes weren’t going to function so I didn’t want to waste my time.

Maxi to Midi

photo 1After the success of the maxi I made from McCalls 7121 (as blogged about in this post), I knew I needed to make this again in a print that was a little more summery and more casual looking, and with a few alterations that would make this a perfect summer dress. WHOA DOGGIE, this make did NOT disappoint! I made this dress, start to finish, in 3 hours and 15 minutes last Sunday afternoon. I feel like I have been unwittingly training for a speed sewing competition (where I am the only competitor), getting faster and faster at simple projects. I love it because, unlike when I am intentionally trying to sew something up quickly, I am not rushing and making silly mistakes. Instead, I am getting more proficient at tasks through lots of practice, and therefore completing things more quickly. THIS IS AN AWESOME THING TO ME.

photo 4

Anyways, here are the changes I made from the first version of this make:

  • altered the bodice pattern to trim the extra room off the original fit
  • gave it a curved neckline instead of angled
  • cut the front bodice on the fold instead of in two separate pieces
  • made a lining out of the same material so that I could wear the dress without a bra (the double material in the bodice gives it a bit more support and a lot more opaque-ness)
  • cut the skirt pieces with more flare and a few more inches of width at the bottom of the skirt, and I also cut it out for midi-length. I NEVER wear midi-length skirts or dresses cause I have always been convinced that they were unflattering on my short frame, so I am trying to get over it. And so far I am loving the length!
  • lastly, I made a little tie-belt to go with this dress like I did for the last one, cause I just love belts that are made out of the garment material.photo 2

I saw the fabric on girlcharlee.com and was immediately in love- I love the mint green in it (it’s my favorite color to wear) and I love the summery flowers and that it has a kind of faded, gray look to it. But mostly I love the drape of the fabric- it’s lightweight and perfect for hot summers, and it doesn’t feel too heavy or full at the midi-length. I am already imagining whipping this dress up again in another summery knit fabric, because, like the Schnittchen Hannah, I am nervous I am going to wear it out before long. But isn’t that the sign of a great garment, one that you wear so much it comes apart at the seams and you keep fixing it over and over again to keep it wearable? If even HALF of my makes get this kind of wear, I will be way ahead of the curve.

(Please forgive the dark photos- I took pics with my phone instead of making Claire put on her photographer pants!)

To Pimp A Butterfly in Knit Crepe

To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick’s new album came out in the middle of me making a dress and was on repeat long enough to finish that project and complete an entirely new dress. The album is called, as you can probably gather, To Pimp A Butterfly. If I am being honest, I wanted to call the first dress my “This. Dick. Ain’t. Free!” Muumuu and my second one the “Every N*gga Is A Star” Maxi, but I was afraid it would alienate my already barely existent readership, so I made what feels like a pretty decent compromise.

 

 

The Hannah Pattern

The first dress, here on out referred to as the muumuu, is from a German indie designer company called Schnittchen. When the pattern arrived, I opened it up to find a large sheet of pattern pieces and one page of instructions written only in German. FYI I don’t read or speak German. After tooling around on their site, I found that they provide an online version of their instructions written in English, which was great. And they were fine until it was time to construct the sleeves. The dress pattern and design are very simple and could probably be put together without step-by-step instructions, but the sleeve construction is unique (very pretty, but not as straight forward as set-in sleeves), and without thorough details or pictures to go off of (no line drawings or photos accompany the instructions), I was stumped for about 10 minutes trying to figure it out. There was a sew-along posted for this dress (which is called Hannah, by the way), but it was all in German, too. Fortunately there were pictures included, so I just stared at them until it started to make sense to me.

three piece sleeve construction

three piece sleeve construction

It took, like, 15 additional minutes. But it was cool cause Kendrick was in the background. The most confusing part of the sleeve is that there are two pattern pieces for the same thing (piece number 5, referred to as the “ruffle”). One pattern piece says “uncreased” and the other doesn’t; both pieces are of very similar (though not exact) shapes, but printed out on the paper in opposite directions. I still can’t figure out which one I was supposed to use or in what important way they were different from one another, so I just kind of eenie-meenie-miny-moed it, chose one, put the sleeve’s three pieces together and figured out how they should be attached to the dress. Pretty sure I did it the right way cause they ended up looking great, and all the edges and notches met and hit at the right places. But I definitely think they should have included a clearer set of instructions for the sleeves, or at least included some visual explanation for how the pieces should go together in the instructions.

Claire and I took a trip to the Huntington gardens today (it was my first time and her third) and it was so beautiful! I was hoping we could see some of Octavia Butler’s papers on display at the library, but they only bring them out of the archives when they are part of an exhibit, so instead we just wandered the grounds and took pics in the succulent garden (which is phenomenal, btw).

WE EAT WHAT WE LIKE!

WE EAT WHAT WE LIKE!

This fabric is a soft, medium weight cotton with different designs woven and stitched onto it- it is described as a native/ethnic cloth at Michael Levine’s, and I recognize the motif as such, but I am curious if there is an actual name for this type of fabric, and if so, what it is (pardon my ignorance!) Anyways, this dress, because it is so free flowing and not-constricting at all, is a really nice design for LA spring, or as I like to call it, “Summer Part 1” (Summer Part 2 starts in May). Its the kind of dress that can be dressed up or down cause it looks good with flats as well as casual heels- in these pics I am wearing my braided leather clogs- not good for walking around the gardens for any length of time, but perfect for a photoshoot.

so casz

so casz

 

I shortened the length of this dress considerably because there is so much material in the muumuu and I was afraid that making it knee length would look too overwhelming on my frame. This dress has no zipper and slips on over your head, so the neck hole is fairly wide to accommodate a noggin. Because of this, the neck sits a little wider on the collarbone/neck than I am used to, but I can live with it (and adjust it just a bit if I ever make this again, which I think I will). In general I am happy with this make, and I am thinking of making it in a nice chambray so that I don’t wear this one out too much- it’s the perfect house-dress-cum-grocery-store-run-cum-let’s-go-to-the-mall-for-fun garment and it’s gotten plenty of use so far.

red_back_2

knit crepe from McCall's 7212

knit crepe from McCall’s 7212

The second dress I made has been a bit of a revelation. It is McCalls pattern 7121 and not something I would normally buy. I tend to avoid most big company patterns because I think the sizing and fit is usually off on me, plus I like the idea of supporting indie pattern designers. But last week I actually took the time to sit down and look through the books at JoAnn’s with Claire while we searched for an outfit to make her for a wedding we are going to next month, and I was surprised to find myself bookmarking tons of patterns that I wanted to add to my collection. This maxi dress pattern caught my eye because it is designed for knits, and thanks to The Colette Guide To Sewing Knits book which came out last year, sewing with this fabric type is pretty much my new favorite thing. Knit garments just sew up SO quickly, and they are so versatile and wearable for year-round sunny LA weather. Also, after discovering the girlcharlee website, I have been inspired by a seemingly endless array of beautiful knit fabric for purchase. The fabric that I made this maxi out of was not purchased at girlcharlee, though- it’s a deep steel colored knit crepe that I bought online at fabric.com for another pattern I had planned to make (and opted out of). This fabric is kind of unreal. Against your skin it feels really fancy and chic, but it doesn’t appear to be precious at all- I pre-washed it in my machine and dried it in the dryer, and it came out feeling exactly the same without any pilling or dullness. One side is smooth and matte while the other side has the identifying crepe texture with a bit of shine while still feeling very soft and silky. This dress was meant to be nice and casual, but after I sewed it up in this fabric, it felt really decadent and much more fancy than I was anticipating- I would absolutely make this dress out of this fabric again and make it long enough to wear with heels- it could translate to evening-wear like a dream. The way it moves around your body when you walk is fantastic- it holds its shape without looking stiff, and sewing it was lovely- very easy to work with, it didn’t stretch out at the hems while I sewed double lines of stitching, and it has great recovery.grey_frontal_4
I like the design of this pattern, but the fabric is the real MVP here. After sewing it up, I learned that the bodice is drafted with no negative ease whatsoever, so it just kind of sat on top of me, puckering in weird places as opposed to hugging my curves the way that most knit fabric patterns are designed to do. It was an easy fix, though- I just re-serged my front seam about 2 inches in, and when I tried it on again, it was perfect- it looked like it was painted on without looking too tight or like I was busting out of it. I split the 2 inch difference on my front and back pattern pieces so that the decrease was shared between the two when I made this again, but for this dress, I didn’t think the difference was that big of a deal. I love the racer-back style of this bodice a lot, cause it works so well with my tattoos and is just a flattering look in general. grey_side_2I already have the fabric to make this again, and I am going to use the altered bodice pieces but cut out a short circle skirt for the bottom instead. I might decrease the allowances on the skirt pieces so that they match up perfectly with the new bodice pieces, but as it is, the skirt fits perfectly- not too tight, barely skimming across my hips and butt. The bodice and skirt are sewn together to create a channel for a narrow strip of elastic to be inserted, and that gives the dress just enough stretch at the waist to pull on over your torso but not so much that the waist looks gathered and has a lot of excess material. It’s one of my favorite things about this dress- the silhouette is so sleek and makes me look (relatively) long and tall. I sewed a very simple, quick belt to go with this dress out of the same material cause I don’t like the slight gathers at the waist on it’s own and I didn’t have a belt that went well with this look. I like it the fabric belt- I think it makes it look a bit more casual. I’ll try to share the replica I make of this dress in the new (much more playful) fabric I got from girlcharlee…til then, here are a couple of my favorite pictures that Claire took at the gardens…!

moss_bonsai

The above picture is from the bonsai exhibit that was on display, and the trees were breathtakingly beautiful, but it was this unexpected glimpse at the tiniest of sprouts growing up from the moss that I loved the most.

 

cypress_bonsai

BONSAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!

 

pink_flower_cacti

And this one is awesome just because it shows that nature knows how to throw in a pop of color in the most perfect amount. Style inspiration in the purest form!

The “Bitch You Guessed It” Dress + Getting Read

As someone who is rarely if ever caught up on pop culture and media hype, Crissle and Kid Fury’s podcast The Read has allowed me to become someone who might be able to possibly participate in water cooler conversation at the office…if I had a regular job, of course. I am often painfully unaware of what the general American public is doing and talking about at any given time, and this wouldn’t be so embarrassing if my career wasn’t in entertainment. I don’t watch many shows, I am averse to reality television unless it’s airing on HGTV/hosted by Tim Gunn, I never listen to the radio on purpose, and the only movies I usually pay to see in theatres are independent films with limited runs. For a professional entertainer, I can be pretty clueless about what is happening in my field. So initially, listening to The Read felt like due diligence.

Crissles and Kid Fury are two friends who discuss all things pop culture related- the good, the bad, and a LOT of the ugly- with the perspective of being people of color, queer, socially aware, and feminist. There is no dearth of humor in their hour+ long episodes, which is why I imagine they have garnered such a massive following so quickly, but for me, the most enchanting thing about Crissles and Fury is that they have created a podcast that is LISTENABLE. Normally I HATE this genre of podcast. I can listen to stories being told and I can listen to information being given. I can listen to news coverage and music discussions and readings of fictional work. But listening to people just talk to each other for an hour? It makes my skin crawl. There is something so uncomfortable to me about listening to people with big personalities talk all over each other and tell jokes that fall flat and conduct asinine interviews and attempt to be hilarious for an audience that isn’t responding to them in real time (see: almost every comedy podcast in existence). It’s nails on a chalkboard for me. So I listened to my first The Read podcast with considerable trepidation. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only do Crissles and Fury have an easy and honest repoire with each other that doesn’t feel rehearsed or too polished, but that their coverage of hot topics is often tied in with their views on social justice and observations of the harmful effects of the patriarchy and capitalism. They are progressive, outspoken and silly, but also capable of recognizing their complicated relationship with pop culture; they allow themselves permission to ridicule the machine of the entertainment industry while acknowledging that they care enough about it to devote a couple hours discussing it each week. What’s more, Fury and Crissles don’t claim to have it all figured out, and they seem to be in the process of learning just like the rest of us. I can recall an episode where the term “spirit animal” was mentioned for some reason or another, and Kid Fury somberly responded “I don’t think we’re supposed to say that anymore…”, which made me more than a little overjoyed- he wasn’t admonishing or judgmental, rather, he was trying to be sensitive and mindful of an experience outside of his own. I personally didn’t understand how harmful the term “spirit animal” was til I read a post about it on tumblr a couple years ago, and I like to imagine that same post coming across Fury’s dash and enlightening both of us in the same way. Crissles and Kid Fury are an example of our generation’s ability to maintain humility while still being unapologetic of ourselves and our histories. They demonstrate brazenness and their show is provocative, but they also give their listeners examples of how to be flexible and open to new ideas. They they talk about loving themselves, they make us laugh out loud, and they also offer sharp commentary on the injustices of the world without mincing words or trying to appeal to any specific demographic. Together, Kid Fury and Crissles are a force to be reckoned with.

Listening to The Read is one of my favorite things to do while sewing, and when I first learned of the podcast, I had tons of episodes to catch up on, so there were projects I started and completed that seemed energetically tied to certain The Read episodes and themes (like my “Caught Up In My Light-Skinned Feelings Carry-On” bag). If you are already a fan of the show, you will understand the significance of “Bitch You Guessed It!”, and me and Claire laughed so hard at Fury screaming this lyric as the new title for one of the segments of The Read that it was impossible to not to use it as the name for the dress I was working on at the time. This garment is Frankensteined together from two different dresses in Gertie’s Vintage Casual book, resulting in the Summer Dress With Flared Skirt pattern (seen below, an image from Gertie’s book).

Summer Dress With Flared Skirt pattern by Gretchen Hirsch

In the past I have had limited success at pattern hacking, so I was nervous about how this would turn out. I was so in love with the gorgeous fabric I got from The Fabric Store that I didn’t want to screw it up (as I have with so many other beautiful yards of fabric), but I also didn’t want to spend the time making a muslin of this dress BECAUSE I AM VERY VERY LAZY. Fortunately for me this dress came out about as perfect as I could have hoped for.

the "Bitch You Guessed It" summer dress

the “Bitch You Guessed It” summer dress

I prefer full circle skirts on my frame more than the flared skirt called for with this pattern- I think they look better with my waist to hip ratio- but I didn’t have enough fabric to do a full circle skirt (fyi I bought this fabric before I resolved to only purchase material that I had specific plans for, so I had no project in mind when I chose it and therefore only bought a couple yards). But even with the flared skirt, I am pleased with how it falls on my frame, and I think the shape of the skirt works well with the fitted bodice. I didn’t make a conscious decision with how the pattern pieces would get cut from the fabric, so the fabric design that falls across the front at the waist seam was an entirely happy accident. With a little tweaking and adjusting, this was a simple and fairly quick make, and it was perfect for this fabric, which seems to be a cotton linen with a wax print inspired design- very breathable and with a little bit of give.

blowout_crop_back_look2

Thanks to Claire for taking these awesome photos (trying to get better at planning nice, intentional photoshoots instead of snapshots of me in a mirror from instagram). On the way down our uneven concrete stairs in our backyard to take these photos, I scraped a sizable sliver of skin off my foot, so the pained, pitiful faces in all of these photos can be attributed to my clumsiness.

I love that you can see my blood in this photo!

I love that you can see my blood in this photo!

Here's an outtake that I couldn't bear to leave out of the post; Rosie the pit bull threatening to upstage me as soon as I turn my back...

Here’s an outtake that I couldn’t bear to leave out of the post; Rosie the pit bull threatening to upstage me as soon as I turn my back…

 

First Foray Into Lingerie

I certainly never imagined that I would successfully accomplish, yet alone be interested in, making a bra, but after sewing a pair of the world’s most perfect skinny jeans for yourself, you start to feel like anything in possible. Truth be told, I generally focus on sewing things I can’t find easily in RTW, but my boobs are an easy size and shape to find bras for, and for most of my adult life I have made an annual trip to whatever Calvin Klein outlet was closest to me, stocking up on well-fitting bras in neutral colors that would last me til the next year. I have never been one to sacrifice undergarment comfort for the sake of prettiness, so all those bras with the lace overlays and the funky colors and the cute ribbon bows rarely if ever made it into my bra drawer. I had been tempted by the gorgeous matching bra and panty sets in the windows of lingerie boutiques in the past, but after balking at the outrageous price tags one too many times, I learned to roll my eyes and keep walking.

It wasn’t until the lovely Gertie of Gertie Sews released a lingerie and panty pattern for Butterick that I began to reconsider my strict stance against beautiful undergarments. The pattern consisted of a pretty slip that could be converted to a camisole and matching full coverage undies with a pretty lace detail on the edges, but the real kicker was that she was selling kits with everything you needed to complete the ensemble and posting a sew-along, too. Nothing shouts TRY THIS NEW THING to me more than a kit and an online support group! So I bought the thing, I read the thing, I made the thing, and it was beautiful.

Butterick B6031

Butterick B6031

Unsurprisingly I have not worn the slip once, other than to try it on after I finished making it. I’m just not a fancy lingerie wearer, and it’s not the kind of slip that works easily under clothing because the lace catches on fabric really easily and the design has too many details for the sake of pretty rather than the sake of function. Which isn’t a complaint at all; the slip is so pretty! It’s just not something that would ever be a wardrobe staple for me. But the underwear had me intrigued after I made my first pair. I might not find many opportunities to wear a fancy lingerie slip, but I have PLENTY of space to work with cute undies! I like my cotton HANES that are good for everyday wear when I don’t plan on leaving the house or wearing anything other than my sweatpants, but I have always been stumped on how to include pretty panties in my rotation because most pretty panties I find in stores either 1. don’t offer full coverage in the back so that I have to walk around with a perpetual wedgie, 2. leave ridiculous panty lines in an otherwise smooth silhouette because they are made with the world’s most chunky elastic or 3. a horrific combination of both. And before you ask, I avoid thongs like the plague whenever possible.
There were a few issues I had with this panty pattern. The glaring one was that the instructions included in the pattern (and in the sew along) made no mention of using light tension when sewing the stretch lace to the edges of the panties. So when I completed them and tried them on for fit, I pulled them over my hips and heard a whole row of stitches bust open. Without stretching the lace while sewing them with a zigzag stitch, they had no give at all! I tried making a larger size thinking that was the problem, but the same thing happened, with the additional problem of the undies hanging off of my waist cause they were too big. Next, I re-sewed the lace onto the smaller sized panties, but I created tension in the lace while sewing them, which gave them more room to stretch, and of course they fit perfectly. I can’t imagine I was the only person who had that issue when making this garment, but whatever- at least I figured it out. The other problem I had with the design was the lace. It’s beautiful and a really nice, delicate touch to the aesthetic, but it’s not very functional. I wash all my handmade items on a delicate cycle and line dry them, and items like panties and bras go in a lingerie bag, but still, after a few washes, these underwear were pilling and the tiny elastic ends from the stretch lace were breaking and sticking out. The underwear are still wearable, but the lace hasn’t held up to consistent wear the way I thought they would. Lastly, the design of these undies does not include a separate gusset; the lining of the panties is sewn onto the bottom pieces of the back and front on the sides (leg openings) of the undies, so the lining is unattached in the front and back, and it has habit of moving around a lot when I wear them and causing a bit of aggravation/discomfort. It’s funny, you never know how important certain design elements are in the things you wear on your body until you’re without them- then their importance is glaringly obvious!
I still love Gertie’s underwear pattern, and somewhere on my queue of things to do in the future is adapt it so that it works better for me. I LOVE the full coverage the panties provide and I love that they rest lower on the legs without being too constricting (although I hate this term, I think they would qualify as “boyshorts”). Mainly I want to try regular lingerie elastic with them and see how they hold up.

After the excitement of Gertie’s panty pattern, I kept my eye out for another similar project and was ecstatic when I stumbled upon Cloth Habit’s blog. I think it was Heather at ClosetCaseFiles that introduced me to the new Cloth Habit pattern (if you don’t read Heather’s blog, you should- Closet Case has wonderful patterns, sew alongs, and tutorials, and her “What’s Doin'” weekly wrap up of all things sewing-blog related is my favorite thing to wake up to on Sunday mornings!) Anyways, Cloth Habit’s Watson Bra and Bikini Pattern is a 70’s inspired design with the option for a low-line or regular bra and a pair of bikini-style underwear. True to my overly ambitious self, I dove into this project without waiting for the sew along to begin, and I paid the price for it.

from top to bottom, bras number 1, 2 and 3

from top to bottom, bras number 1, 2 and 3

Bra #1 was made of a black stretch mesh for the cups and cradle and a black powernet for the bands. This was my first time working with tiny seams at length, and stretch mesh is NOT the easiest fabric to start a brand new project with, so there was a lot of seam ripping in the process, which was difficult to accomplish with the black thread on black fabric. Eventually the fabric was looking so worn and tired from all my mistakes that I decided to put it in the Butthole Bin™ and start over from scratch with a better fabric.
Bra #2 was made of a fabric called Venezia 4 way stretch jersey lining, which I used for the cups, and I learned about it from the kit I got when I made the Gertie pattern. So far it is my favorite fabric for undergarments; it’s lightweight, has an excellent stretch, and has a very light shine on one side while matte on the other. It’s also pretty easy to sew with. It doesn’t handle seam ripping very well, which I learned the hard way, but it isn’t too slippery or out of control when under your sewing foot either. The band was made of the same black powernet from Bra #1. The fabric was way more forgiving and because it was silver/gray, I could see and rip my seams out a lot more easily. When I got to the point where I could try the bra on though, the back barely reached across my shoulder blades; it was definitely too small, and I wondered if my powernet wasn’t stretchy enough and that’s why it wasn’t meeting all the way across my back. I was so disappointed, but not far enough along in the process to merit taking the bra apart to fix it. I 86’ed it and started from scratch.
Bra #3 was made of milliskin fabric as suggested in the Cloth Habit sew along (which by this time had been posted). It wasn’t my favorite material, but it was the easiest to work with of the three. It’s a little heavier/denser than I would like; more like the weight of swimsuit lycra than lingerie. But I was still knee deep in the learning curve and I didn’t mind experimenting with this new fabric. This time I went up a size in the bra in the hopes that everything would fit better around the rib cage, and I also made my band out of two layers of the cup fabric instead of the powernet. I was so convinced that this would fix the problem that I didn’t bother trying her on for fit before I finished her. So when the moment of truth came, you can imagine my annoyance at my own optimism. This time the bra was gorgeous, and it fit, but not well. graybrafront IMG_2184I could clasp it in the back, but it was not comfortable, still just a bit too tight to actually be wearable. I tried all sorts of things to get it to work without taking the entire thing apart. I added two pieces of powernet to the back bands where the bra clasps were to give it more length, I pulled the elastic a little tighter when sewing it to the edges for the second time- eventually I even bought a bra extender to give it more room in the back. Unfortunately, none of those things made it more comfortable. But at least now I knew exactly what I needed to do to make the pattern work. Started over from scratch. AGAIN.
Bra #4 This time I made the cups/cradle/band out of the same 4 way stretch jersey lining that I liked so much, and I stayed with the new size but I altered the band pattern piece by adding about 3/8″ to the length.

BRA #4, Y'ALL!

BRA #4, Y’ALL!

That did the trick. You would think that after 4 tries on the same bra pattern I would be able to sew the thing practically in my sleep, but no- I still made some ridiculous mistakes. The most time consuming one was when I topstitched the cup seam in the wrong direction and had to rip out the tiny straight stitches, destroying the fabric on one of the cups. So then I had to remove that cup and make a brand new one and then sew the new one in and then topstitch it again in the right direction. BUT, my patience paid off because once the bra was complete, it fit perfectly. And not only was the fit great, it was also COMFORTABLE. It offered the kind of support that a good bra offers without feeling like you are wearing a bra, the fit I have when I wear a well made, light weight sports bra, but prettier, and without the uniboob effect. FYI, this bra does not have underwires or padding so it might not provide the support or oomph needed (or wanted) for people with a larger chest.

After my four bras, it was time to make a matching panty. After all, that was my main goal from the beginning, to have a pretty bra and panty set that didn’t cost a fortune in case I never actually got some good wear out of it (and also because I have a million other things I would rather spend a fortune on than a bra and booty cover). Bikini panties are my least favorite underwear to don aside from the dreaded thong, so I altered the pattern a bit, adding more coverage in the back and bringing the leg openings down so that they were not so high on the leg. The alterations worked out perfectly and I was pretty thrilled when they were complete. The instructions included the use of tension when sewing the elastic to the knit fabric, so they didn’t rip apart when I tried to sew them on and they were comfortably snug without being too tight. I wore the underwear and panty set together as soon as they were complete, and I kept smiling to myself all day long at how great they felt underneath my jeans and sweater.

dyed and drying on the line.

dyed and drying on the line.

As you can see from the pictures, I used a nude colored fabric and pink elastic, which I dyed myself. I have found a lot of great websites that offer the notions necessary in bra making, but unless you are shopping for all white or all black, it’s tricky to find the right sizes in the color elastic you need.

dyeing, dyeing, dead.

dyeing, dyeing, dead.

The Watson bra and panties call for 4 different types of elastic, and although many websites offer really beautiful colors in one or two types of elastic, it’s hard to find the same color in all of them, so unless you buy a kit that comes with a certain look/design and all the right types of elastic you will need for a pattern, dying is definitely the way to go. It’s also a lot cheaper than the kits (although the kits can be really awesome with hard to find fabric and color combinations you would never have been able to put together for yourself). I was going for a dusty rose with this batch of dye, and I got a pretty and bright colored pink instead, but I don’t mind. I don’t dye fabric often, so this, too, is a part of the learning curve for me. Plus, I LOVE virtually any shade of pink.

 

 

After the success of the Watson Bra and Bikini pattern, I started to look around for other indie bra patterns on the market. There are lots of patterns available to purchase online, and sewsassy.com has a decent collection of patterns available, as do a few other bra and notions supply companies, but I was drawn to Ohhh Lulu for pretty obvious reasons. She sells her patterns on etsy as PDFs, and her patterns are not only vintage-inspired, but also true to vintage functionality, often made as replicas of vintage bras using the same types of materials that were available back then, before mass produced 4 way stretch knits were affordable and available to the public.

Ohhh Lulu’s Vintage Inspired Lili Bra and Rose Panties

It was hard to pick just one pattern set to start with because they are all SOOO BEAUTIFUL, but I ended up deciding on the Lili Bra and Rose Panties patterns to start. As compared to the Watson bra, this is a much quicker make, perhaps because it is considered a bralette and doesn’t have as much structure to it as the Watson bra does. The most intriguing thing about this pattern is that it calls for a woven fabric that is cut on the bias as opposed to a 4 way stretch knit. It doesn’t really get any more authentically vintage than that, right? The cups, sides, and front center are lined with a lightweight knit fabric, and these patterns are pretty awesome in that you can use up a lot of your scrap material to create them. The only thing I purchased for this make was foldover elastic- everything else I already had tiny bits of in my fabric stash.

first attempt at Lili Bra

first attempt at Lili Bra

My first attempt at this bra used a cream colored woven silk that I had 1/2 yard of, and sewing it up was quick and easy- the instructions were clear and there were great pictures that accompanied the pattern booklet. I tried it on and it fit on my body, but it just looked too small- the cups were doing this boob-squash thing where, since the cups didn’t really stretch much because of the material they were made of, they made my boobs flatten to fit inside them. It wasn’t the most flattering but it also wasn’t terrible- it was just kind of meh. So I decided to make the bra again, this time going up a size (I had actually read a couple of reviews on etsy from people who needed to go up a size to get the right fit despite what their measurements called for) and trying a different fabric, one that was suggested for the pattern. These two changes were the bingo. In addition to the stretch lace overlay I used in the first bra, I also used a gold sateen, which already had more give on the bias than the silk I initially used, and when I tried the completed bra on, the cups fit beautifully without scrunching my boobs down at all. This is probably not a functional bra for super busty people looking for good support in their undergarments, but I was surprised to find that it worked fine under my clothing- I guess I thought it was just gonna be a pretty wear as opposed to a functional wear. It’s not the kind of bra I would wear under a slim fitting blouse or dress- the bralette doesn’t really lay flat because the fabric isn’t a stretchy knit, so it doesn’t cling to your body, and it has more bulk in certain places at the seams than the Watson bra does (think of a sleek sports car compared to a beautiful vintage convertible). But under a sweater or loose button down or a billowy shirt? Works great!

vintagebra_inaction

vintagebra_pucker

Here you can see where the band puckers a little in the back because of the type of fabric, but it didn’t end up bothering me while wearing it.

Finally, I made the panties in the Ohhh Lulu set, and they were not as successful as the bra was, but I think that’s all my fault. I should have taken a cue from my experience with the bra and gone up a size; I didn’t and the panties are a little on the too-small side. They are also tight as shit in the waistband and the leg openings- this being my first encounter with foldover elastic, I didn’t realize that the stretch was different from lingerie elastic, and I should have used less tension when sewing it to the edges. All in all, I am not a HUGE fan of foldover elastic- I would say I am much more inclined to use lingerie elastic, so I think I will make a go of these panties in a larger size and with my preferred elastic type.

Rose Crossover Panties

Rose Crossover Panties

The fit of these panties is not as great as the Watson bikini pair that I made, and I don’t like the look of panties with such a high cut leg, but I am so in love with the crossover detail on the front that I am willing to put the work in to make them perfect for my body. I used the stretch lace from the bra overlay for the back piece of the panties, and I love how they turned out, so I will use it again for the next pair I make. My next project, after I refine the design and fit of these babies, is to buy some more of Ohhh Lulu’s panty patterns that call for a woven/knit combo of material. She has some truly gorgeous designs, and I am ready to have a couple of tried and true panty patterns to pull from for whenever I have extra hours in my day and feel like making something quick and easy.

More, more, more

A few days after this last new year I came up with some goals with which I wanted to challenge myself. I am not a big proponent of inventing New Year’s Resolutions just for the hell of it, but after a busy holiday season spent creating elaborate homemade gifts for every single person on our Christmas list, I was left feeling overwhelmed and depleted when the new year rolled around. I had to ask myself why I had done so much. Why was I investing so much of my time and effort when no one expected that much of me? I had come up with a simple, manageable idea for homemade presents, but at some point I kept adding more, more, more to the packages til plastic tubs and tins and cardboard boxes covered the floor of our office and required an assembly line to get everything ready to mail out.

I recognized that this “more more more” mentality had seeped into my life in other ways, too, and I wasn’t proud of it, so I decided to challenge myself to stop spending money on what I referred to as “non-essential items” in an attempt to dissect this weird shopping habit I had acquired over the past several years. My wife joined me in the challenge, and for the month of January, we limited our spending only to necessary items like food, toiletries, bills and gas. I was interested to see how much I actually needed in my life, and interested to see when the urge would hit me to start my daily perusal of searching on amazon prime for…any and everything. I had a feeling that my spending, though unconscious, was probably an attempt to occupy my time and brain space; it was filler. It was buying into the notion that things could make me happy and satisfy me, even though that “satisfaction” was temporary and not very fulfilling. January’s goal was achieved successfully, so we set another, more long term goal: to give our personal spending a budget that would allow us the space to purchase the things we wanted, while also giving us the opportunity to be more mindful of how and why we spent.

And it was at this point that I realized how big a presence fabric was in my life.
FAAAAAABRIIIIC!
It’s weird- in all my years of knitting, I have never been a yarn hoarder. I only go to yarn stores when I have a specific project in mind to make. I don’t fall in love with a skein of yarn and then buy it to keep in my stash just to have it, and I never buy several skeins of yarn in the hopes that it will be perfect for some future project I have yet to choose. If I don’t know exactly how many skeins I am gonna be needing for a project, then I wont spend my money on it. In fact, my yarn stash is only comprised of leftovers from projects I have already completed, or single skeins I have gotten as gifts (which I have never used because there aren’t any one-skein projects I am interested in knitting up). I would have expected this yarn-purchasing mentality to carry over into my sewing with fabric, but somehow it didn’t. And I blame it all on sewing blogs!
Okay, not really, but I think that in my excitement to become a part of the online sewing community, I started taking on some of the habits that everyone would write about in their blogs; visiting their favorite fabric stores a few times a month to see what new items had been stocked, falling in love with a beautiful fabric and buying a few yards of it just in case they found the perfect project for it later on, purchasing the last few yards of a textile that they new they would never come across again, even though they had no idea what they would use it for. There is something so romantic about this relationship between sewers and fabric, and reading about it in blogger’s posts, it seemed like a love affair. People would be drawn to a particular textile, and whether or not they knew if the fabric was going to work out, they would succumb to it anyways, in the hopes that love would prevail and they would create something beautiful. In all honesty I think the majority of these bloggers do find love with the fabric they store in their stash, keeping a mental count of all the fabric they have purchased and cross referencing it with every new (or old) pattern they come across. For many, this is a very efficient way to sew. But I don’t think it works for me. I followed the lead of all these amazing sewing bloggers and found myself waist-deep in so much fabric that I didn’t know which way was up. I would go to my favorite local fabric store frequently, sometimes twice in one week if they announced a last minute sale, and I would buy a couple of yards of everything that caught my eye, with only a hazy strategy of how I would use the fabric. Maybe this might make a cute blouse for that perfect pattern I have yet to find? Or, this would be great for that dream skirt I want to learn to drape! And my favorite, surely two yards of this will be enough for something beautiful, which it almost never is. My intentions are good, and occasionally I have created a successful garment with a fabric that I bought on a whim, but generally my sewing projects come out best when I know exactly what I am shopping for and I have a pattern in my hand of precisely the thing I want to make. I wish I was more flexible like the bloggers I admire so much who make gorgeous garments with fabric they bought five years ago and patterns they stumbled across at flea markets. But I can’t make myself into the kind of seamster I want to be, I can only embrace the kind of seamster I actually am, which is the kind who is tired of being wasteful on merchandise that meets only some of her criteria.

  • JASIKA’S FABRIC CRITERIA:
  1. The fabric must be beautiful.
  2. The fabric must feel good/comfortable to the touch.
  3. I must know how to sew with the material.
  4. I must know what I am going to sew with the material.
  5. The material must be at a price point worthy of the finished garment.

Which brings me to my other goal for 2015: no purchasing of any fabric that doesn’t meet all 5 points of criteria! I have discarded too many beautiful yards of fabric by not adhering to these 5 rules, and although one can’t expand their knowledge in sewing without pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, I still think I can find a balance in the middle, somewhere between more, more, more fabric and the  strict scrutinization of every last detail of my sewing process. And to get me prepped for this goal, my current challenge to myself is to not buy any more fabric until all the fabric I have purchased in the past several months is utilized, ensuring that I forge all the way through my sewing queue. When I pulled out all the yards of fabric I had accumulated over the past many months, I was surprisingly enthusiastic about the task. I hadn’t put all that fabric on the back burner because I wasn’t excited to make things with it- I had put it on the back burner because I kept buying new fabric that made me forget about the stuff I had already bought. And I am happy to report that in the short time I have dedicated myself to this challenge, I have gotten SO MUCH ACCOMPLISHED!

creamarcherI finished an Archer shirt for Claire that was meant to be a Christmas present last year.

clairepinuppinupsweaters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I fixed the too-tight sleeves and bottom hems on a Pin-up sweater that I also made her for Christmas, and I sewed two more knit Pin-up Sweaters that were in my queue, one for Claire and one for myself, although her wool sweater (the one in the middle in the right side picture, made of 100% New Zealand wool) accidentally got washed with the rest of the laundry over the weekend and has now morphed into a very wide and unwearable crop top 🙁

fullgolddress cropgolddress

I transformed a problematic, frustrating dress I made that weirdly came out too short into a blouse that I will probably never wear…but at least I can make an attempt at it! I also let out the zipper in a pink wool crepe skirt I made that was a teensy bit too tight (not pictured).

polkadots4I (correctly) made another pair of cigarette pants after I accidentally cut my Jaquard Print fabric on the wrong grain and couldn’t pull them up over my booty cause the stretch was length-wise instead of width-wise.

 

valerievonsobel2

I sewed a snap into a long silk dress I made last year so that I could wear it for the first time to an art exhibit. It’s not really my normal style preference- I think it’s a little too full and overwhelming for my frame, which tends to get dwarfed by long dresses that aren’t fitted, but it’s nice to step outside your comfort zone sometimes and shake it up a bit. The fabric is breezy and lightweight, and kind of perfect for beach weather.

pajamapants

I can’t believe I bothered to take a picture of these old rinky dink pajama pants.

I fixed the elastic waist band in a pair of pajama pants I made for Claire.

waxprinthackAnd I made a successful pattern hack of Gertie’s (flared skirt + fitted bodice) out of a gorgeous wax-print-inspired cotton I found at The Fabric Store (one of my only successful impulsive fabric purchases in recent memory). And I have completed these projects all in the last two weeks! And I guess this is the real goal of my attempt to buy less fabric and add less stuff to my queue; without so much piled up fabric to work with, I am forced to deal with the stuff I already have- the piles of projects that were mostly complete but still needed a little altering. The fabric that I loved but hadn’t taken the time to work out what I could actually make with it. The pieces that needed re-working to be wearable. The garments that sat on hangers in my craft room feeling unloved and uncared for til I spent the 30 minutes necessary to bring them to life again. Without taking time out from buying more stuff, who knows when I would have sat down to tie up all these loose ends. And that’s the crux of it, I guess- by buying less, I bought myself time to add more to my wardrobe (and Claire’s, too).

fabricpile1
And with the remainder of my pile of unused fabric, I have selected patterns/plans  for everything else in my project queue, as seen above. Not pictured is the stretch denim I have on deck to make another pair of Ginger Jeans, but I can’t make those til I replace my broken heavy-duty sewing machine, and in the spirit of no more more more, more, I am making myself wait til my birthday in April for that purchase.

The only fault I have in my stash is a pile of fabrics I bought online that I intended to make yoga pants out of, but the material ended up being more suitable for swimsuits.

swimsuitpile

 

I have a swimsuit pattern to use for this fabric, but making swimwear is not really a priority right now since it’s February. Once I get through the pile above, I might consider that to be the end of my queue and will be able to start buying more, more, more fabric again. As thrilled as I am to be whittling away at my current line-up of projects, I have to admit that I cannot WAIT to start planning for new stuff with new fabric again…adhering to my budget and criteria of course 😉

 

Praise for the Archer Pattern

Button downs are a staple in my wife’s wardrobe, and several years ago I tried to sew one for her from a Colette pattern called Negroni. The Negroni pattern is meant for a (typical) man’s frame, and although the sizing was way off, I thought I would be able to fudge the shape a bit to make it work for Claire’s figure. It was super fun to construct a button down shirt for the first time, so in that sense the project was a success-

clearly so huge in the shoulders, even with some adjustments.

clearly so huge in the shoulders, even with some adjustments.

photo 5

The shirt is fine but Claire’s beautiful face kind of upstages everything else in the photo.

 

I now had firsthand experience with all the little doo dads that made this type of garment come to life. But as a wearable shirt, it was kind of a disaster. It was just way too big for her, and since I didn’t know much about grading pattern pieces, my only fitting “trick” was to make some darts in the shirt, which gave her several inches of extra material bunched inside of the shirt to swim around in. And it STILL didn’t fit well. Thankfully, Claire is very sweet and appreciative, and she still wore the shirt a few times and told me how much she loved it before quietly tucking it into the bottom back of her drawer. On a trip to Birmingham to see my family a few months later, we ended up gifting the shirt to my dad, whom it fit almost perfectly, so I was happy that the whole garment wasn’t a wash. But I was still interested in finding a more flattering cut of this shirt that would fit a woman’s body without being so fitted that it sucked things in and pushed things up (think androgynous button down for a curvy female figure). At the time, Colette patterns were the only indie brand I was familiar with, and there were not as many competitive brands offering other patterns and designs as there are today, so I didn’t really think my dream button down pattern was going to be realized.

And then, several months ago, I got sucked into the sewing blog rabbit hole. I was introduced to SO many indie pattern designers who were offering PDF downloads and printed versions of their patterns for sale online, and it was as if a whole new world had opened up to me. Now big company pattern brands (McCalls, Vogue, Butterick) were not the only options available for a home seamster, and the indie designers were creating things that were a lot more interesting/fashionable/unique than most of what the big companies were offering (don’t get me wrong, I love a classic Vogue pattern as much as the next person, but I also love versatility and detailed pattern instructions and also, NOTHING BEATS A BLOGGER SEW-ALONG)! Indie designers seemed to have such fresh perspectives on sewing and pattern making, so you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across indie company Grainline Studio’s Archer pattern, a simple button down (or button up, depending on your personality type, I guess?) pattern fit for a (typical) woman’s body. Claire’s measurements fit into a straight size with no extra grading required, and once she picked out some fabric (pink ladybugs on a white lightweight cotton), I whipped it up for her in time to wear to my brother’s wedding in late summer, with an unintentionally gigantic matching bow tie and handkerchief.

the dapperest.

the dapperest.

The fit was absolutely perfect, and she felt comfortable in it. Compared to the men’s Negroni pattern, the fit was slimmer in the shoulders and chest while still allowing room for boobs, and there was a slight curve in the waist to make room for hips. In general, the shirt just kind of skims over her figure without providing so much room that it overwhelms her frame. After the success of the first Archer, Claire immediately wanted to pick out lots more fabric so that she could have a closet full of them, but so far I have only gotten around to making one more version of the shirt, this time long sleeved, which she received on her birthday last year. IMG_1733I love this pattern, and I actually plan on making one for myself…someday. Aside from the fit being so flattering, the pattern instructions were good enough that I didn’t need to follow the accompanying sew-along…well, up until it was time to sew the sleeve cuffs and pleats. That part was brand new to me and I needed extra visual help to figure it out, but the sew-along provided all the info I needed to finish those details. Highly recommended pattern, A++, two thumbs and two big toes up, yay, team, etc. etc.