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Oberlin Tote from Klum House

Hey, y’all!

Have you ever seen a cuter cutie????

Today’s post is brought to you by Klum House, an online store for makers that sells patterns and bag making kits in streamlined, simple designs with beautiful, high quality tools and materials. Klum House reached out to me recently to help launch their new and improved Oberlin tote bag release, and my initial instinct was to (graciously) say no, only because I have a lot on my plate right now with traveling back and forth between LA and Vancouver for work and wasn’t sure if I would be able to get it done in time without stressing out. But then I clicked on the link to their site and saw their beautiful designs and I changed my mind, lol! I am a sucker for a well designed bag, and I love that their kits include waxed canvas (a personal fav textile) in addition to simple yet sophisticated prints. The bags all look very high quality and remind me of something you could purchase at J Crew (for about twice the price, lol).

photo taken from Klum House Workshop’s website!

 

Klum House sent me my Oberlin kit and I was immediately impressed by the packaging once it arrived. Of course you aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes it’s hard not to! Instead of the traditional flat packing into a box or thick envelope, this kit comes rolled up in a packing tube, which is brilliant- it keeps the waxed canvas free from the creases and wrinkles that would set in if it was folded up in a box and allows you to develop that coveted rich patina more organically.

Inside the tube were the pieces of rolled up waxed canvas and a few small packages holding all the notions and findings needed to complete the bag: zippers, leather straps, metal snaps, rivets, D-ring, etc. The only things it didn’t come with were the hole punch and rivet setter, but they sell those items on the website for makers to purchase along with their kits which is great (IMO I think these tools are a must-have for enthusiastic makers- I use my hole punch, anvil and rivet setter for all kinds of things- jeans, shoes, toys, bags, wallets, you name it!)

I will warn you that there are many terrific color and fabric combos to choose from, so if you aren’t great at making these kinds of decisions, give yourself plenty of time to peruse their gallery and absorb all the options! Thankfully the designers have great taste and have put together a lot of classic, fun color schemes that go well together, so you can’t really go wrong! I ended up choosing a slate gray main bag with marigold colored accent pockets and zippers and blonde leather accompanying straps and zipper pulls, and I am super happy with my choice. As I sewed the bag up, little marks and creases and folds started to settle into the fabric which I thought was so fun- it’s like you’re fast-forwarding through the aging process of the bag, so by the time it was complete it already looked well-worn and loved, like a favorite denim jacket.

Klumhouse has recently expanded the design options for this bag, so while the original is just the tote with a zippered pouch on the inside, you now have the option to add a lining and a top zipper closure for the bag, both of which I decided to incorporate into my make. I started my bag in the morning and finished it that same afternoon, so I was pretty on par with the suggested production time of about 4-6 hours. The skill level is described as ‘Confident Beginner’ and that seemed accurate, too (although reading comprehension skills aren’t factored into the skill level, which I will get into later, ha!)

Here is what I loved about making the Oberlin:

  • The pattern pieces for the kit are pre-cut and they even marked the notches and hole punch dots!!! Lot’s of sewists would agree that the most laborious part of a sewing project is cutting out all the pieces and marking the notches, so the fact that this step is already done for you allows you to dive right into the bag making and quickly see your progress. But the PDF instructions still include all the measurement information for the pattern pieces so you can easily make the bag again with your own fabric.
  • The waxed canvas I have used in the past has been much thicker, which isn’t a bad thing depending on what you’re making, but it can get very bulky and require careful navigation under your sewing machine’s foot. The waxed canvas used in these kits is thinner but still durable and high quality, and it is a dream to sew!
  • With the exception of the lining and zipper closure add-ons, the instructions were terrific- easy to follow, great illustrations, and smart bag-sewing techniques. I particularly loved the way the bottom of the bag is sewn. I’ve made a lot of bags in my life and in my opinion, this part right here can make or break the flow of construction. Some bags have a separate rectangular bottom that gets sewn to the walls of the bag, kind of like a cube, and others are designed similarly but with curved edges instead of right angles. Either way, I usually hate them. Trying to get extremely sharp corners out of thick fabric at the intersection of so many seams usually just ends up looking messy, as does trying to get the curved bottoms perfectly aligned while sewing it on the sewing machine- in my experience it takes a lot of physical manipulation and arm and finger strength to pull it off on a regular home-sewing machine. This design employs a totally different technique that I found exceptionally easy to complete and nice to look at. Instead of trying to sew three corners together, you fold the square edge down and then open it into an even triangle and sew across it so that when it opens up, it settles into a soft, four cornered bottom with only one seam. Probably hard to understand what I am describing if you haven’t done it before, but trust me- it’s a beautiful technique and I might never go back to the other methods I learned!
  • As mentioned, the kit included notches and marks on all the fabric so you don’t have to make them yourself, but they also include hole punches on all the leather pieces- the only thing I needed to use the hole punch for was the fabric.
  • Because you can’t put a hot iron to waxed canvas to press the seams (it will melt off the wax from the fabric and gunk up your iron), they suggest you just press any folds or seams down with your fingers and use something like a point-turner to flatten the edge out crisply. I used a smooth rock from my collection of pattern weights to “press” the seams and it worked a treat! It was fun to breeze through all the “pressing” so fast, which definitely contributed to how quickly this bag came together.

Here is what I found tricky about making the bag:

  • Because the expansion instructions came after the initial design of the bag, two additional PDF’s are included  for creating the lining and the zipper closure, and I really hope that at some point they are able to incorporate everything into one file, with instructions to “skip ahead” to a future step if you don’t want to do one or both of the design add-ons. As it stands, I had to flip back and forth on my device between all three instruction booklets, which got a little confusing, and while the expansion packs referenced the main instruction book, I don’t recall them referencing each other at all, so I got slowed down making sure that what I was doing for the lining wasn’t going to get in the way of what I was doing for the zipper closure, and vice versa.
  • I’m not sure how, but I fudged up the instructions in regards to placing the snap closure on the bag. For this part, I followed the instructions for the main bag but when I switched over to the zipper closure instructions, they didn’t seem to add up. In some illustrations it looks like the snap is on the fabric of the zipper closure but the instructions I followed seemed like it was telling me to put the snaps on the main bag panel.

    placement of the snap is incorrect here

    I have since gone back to try and figure out where I messed up but I didn’t have much luck without the actual deconstructed bag placed open in front of me. Not sure if this was a mistake on my end or vagueness within the instructions, so just pay attention to this part if you’re making the zipper closure! Since mine didn’t look right when the bag was closed (the bag’s top had to fold in on itself for the snaps to adhere) I decided to take them out and place them on the zipper panels like in the illustration, but of course that meant I was left with some tiny holes and creases where the old clasp used to be. So I pulled out the handy piece of “scrap” fabric that was included in the kit (they thought of just about everything!) and sewed it over the area so that my mistake was covered up). I’m sure I could have done something perhaps more functional or visually interesting than a simple rectangle, but, whatever- it works, and now I have a pop of red on my bag!

    I *think* this is where the snaps are supposed to go, or at least this is where they work better for me

    I covered the old holes from where I removed the snaps with this scrap fabric that came in the kit

     

  • *edit*: As described in detail below, I had some trouble figuring out how the bag’s lining would match up with the outer shell, as there seemed to be a big discrepancy between the sizes of the outer and lining panels. Klum House reached out to me to clarify the instructions for this part of the bag, and graciously filmed a whole video for me to explain exactly how it was supposed to look! Hahaha, so sweet of them! Apparently a lot of of people were confused about this part of the instructions, so they have re-written the instructions for the lining to clarify them for makers, which is awesome. I absolutely understood what they were explaining in the video they sent me and I’m sure that will be translated well in the new instructions (the extra fabric in the main panel is supposed to be taken up by the top hem of the bag, which is a smart feature of the construction) but I think my misunderstanding came in when I was trying to include both the zippered closure and the lining in my make, so just pay close attention if you’re adding both expansions and don’t try and fly through the construction quickly the way I did. I was trying to complete my bag before I had to leave LA, which is my own fault, lol! I have left my original review intact on this blog post, so please keep in mind when reading below! Thanks!
    The only thing I actively disliked about the bag’s design was the size of the bag’s lining. I provided my own fabric for the lining, cut out the proper dimensions, and commenced to sewing the lining to the bag, but as soon as the seam was done and I examined my work, I saw that there was about a 5-ish inch gap between the bottom of the outer bag and the bottom of the lining.

    lining fabric is on top and outer shell on the bottom- pretty significant gap between the two!

     

  • Thinking I had made a mistake, I went and rechecked the measurements, and sure enough, the main panel fabric is cut at 39″ and the lining at 29″. I’m guessing that this is so there is less stress on the outer shell of the bag and all the stress of the bag’s contents can be concentrated within the lining, but it just didn’t work for me. For one thing, the difference in depth between the lining and the bag means that whenever you set the bag down somewhere and there is enough stuff inside of it, it will make the top of the bag cave in (cause it has to make up for the difference between the lengths of the outer shell and the lining at the bottom). This is definitely a personal preference, but depending on what it’s made of, I prefer for a bag to retain its’ shape and silhouette whether it’s hanging on my shoulder or sitting on a table. Secondly, it cut the capacity of the bag down by 5″, which seemed silly for a bag that I was initially drawn to because of how deep it was. Thirdly, it just didn’t seem necessary to me; again, I have made a lot of bags in my sewing career and I have never sewed one up that had this much of a difference between the lining and outer shell. In fact, many of the designs I have made have no difference between the outer and inner bags’ sizes at all, but some have had a small difference, maybe within an inch or so. I have never had any issues with the outer shell bagging out or bursting out at the seams because it had to take too much of the load of the bag’s contents, so maybe this bag’s design has a different reasoning for it than what I can come up with. Either way, it was a very easy fix- I unpicked the lining and cut out another panel, but this time I cut it out at a depth of about 3 inches smaller than the main panel, and it looks and feels much better- now I have lots of room in this deep bag, and when I set it down, it continues to stand tall and retain its’ shape, even if there is stuff in it to make it heavy.

I love how cute this bag came out, but I like using it even more- I don’t have a lot of totes with this much room inside of it and the outside pockets are AWESOME, easily my favorite design feature. Because they are on the outside they are super accessible but not super deep, so I can find what I am looking for very easily, and best of all there are 4 of them! Perfect for all the quick things I need to grab from my bag, like chapstick, my phone or a shopping list, without having to reach deep down inside the bigger part of the bag to fish them out.

I love the zippered pouch on the inside!

I’ve said before that I am a huge fan of sewing kits for people who are newer to the craft and still learning about fabric and tools and techniques- it takes away the frustration of being on that learning curve when you have all the appropriate things you need to complete a project right in front of you. But this is a kit that I think would be a lot of fun for seasoned sewists for the exact same reason- sometimes we want a break from garment sewing or from thinking too hard and having to troubleshoot fit or fabric issues. The Oberlin is a relatively quick, definitely fun sew, with a whole assortment of gorgeous kits to choose from, and I think it makes a great gift for yourself or someone else who loves to make, no matter how experienced a sewist you are.

Thanks to Claire who let me take pictures of her with this bag because she was dressed like the it’s twin lol

The Oberlin officially launches on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 and is in pre-sale now, with all kits automatically at 15% off. If you order after the launch on Wednesday you can use the discount code OBERLINREFRESH for a continued 15% off the kits, but the discount will expire a week later on September 18. Get in while the gettin’s good and click here to order your own Oberlin kit!

Thanks so much to Klum House for gifting me the Oberlin kit in exchange for an honest review! I’m thrilled to have been introduced to their company and excited to try out more of their kits!

Hacked and Wrapped Peppermint Jumpsuit Take 2

It’s Thanksgiving and I have a LOT to be grateful for, y’all! Thanksgiving has always been a tricky holiday for me, which I think I have discussed before on this blog at some point. It’s one of those cultural traditions that I just accepted when I was growing up without giving it much thought, but as I got older and started questioning so much of the history that I was taught in the Alabama school system I attended, I began to realize how complicated it is to uphold traditions that are dear to us while also being aware and even critical about where they come from and what they represent. On the whole, spending a day with family (chosen or otherwise) to break bread (gluten free or otherwise) and celebrate all you are thankful is an absolutely honorable and lovely thing to do. But it is so closely tied with excess and consumption (both of food and black friday deals), and so often separated from the horrors of all the indigenous life lost in the name of this holiday, that it can be really frustrating to know how to celebrate it appropriately. Of course I don’t have an answer for how to do it, and even if I did, that would assume there was a “right” way. All I can do on this day is try and make enough room for all the contradictions that exist within and around me- being thankful for my wonderful, supportive relationships with friends and family, for my loving, encouraging wife, for my health, for my body and all it is capable of, for therapy, for the roof over my head, for the food being cooked in the oven at this very moment, for my brother’s recovery from illness, while also saving space for the fact that so much of what I am thankful for is rooted in privilege- financial privilege, class privilege, able-bodied privilege, gender privilege, geographical privilege and more.

It’s interesting to imagine what all I would be thankful for if there weren’t so many inequities among us all.

Today I am also thankful for the firefighters (both incarcerated and not) for all the hard work they do to keep us safe. I am thankful for the sewing community- the support, encouragement and laughter generated from almost every interaction I have with some of you brightens my days and continues to inspire me. And I am thankful for being an ambassador to The Fabric Store, which keeps challenging my sewing practice, elevating my makes, and ensuring that my stash is stocked with so many divine textiles. Which leads us to our regularly scheduled blog post…

Normally I don’t put several versions of the same make on the blog, because I don’t often have all that much to say about a variation on a pattern, other than “I must really love this thing to keep making it” and “ooooh, look at this pretty fabric”! But the Peppermint jumpsuit that I hacked (thanks to inspo from some other amazing sewing bloggers) got so much attention that I figured it was smart to talk about it on the blog again, especially since I knew I wanted to make it in a slightly dressier fabric compared to my casual, summertime striped linen version.

I really do love seeing how much a pattern can be transformed when you pair it with different textiles and prints. Cotton and linen tend to have a crisper feel against the skin and a more relaxed vibe when sewn up in designs like pants and jumpsuits, but a softer, drapier, more luxurious fabric can make the same design look red carpet ready, and I was excited to see how elevated this fun (and free!) Peppermint/In the Folds jumpsuit hack would look in this gorgeous crepe rayon I got from The Fabric Store. The color I used for this make is lapis (french blue) but they have several stunning hues in this fabric and I have a couple other cuts in my stash that I have yet to dig into- I’ve just been waiting for inspiration to hit! The fabric is silky and flowy but the crepe gives it a nice surface texture that I love, which also makes it shimmer a bit in the light. It’s not transparent but it is lightweight, so I think it works best for a garment that has some ease or some pleating/gathering/folding which allows the fabric to move and dance and catch the light.

Since I had already made the hack once before, this garment was pretty straightforward to create, but I did adjust the legs a bit; the original drafting of the Peppermint Jumpsuit has a significant amount of ease in the legs (particularly around the thighs), which can be seen in all the folds created around the midsection of the garment, which is cinched in by the belt. I made the legs a bit narrower in my first hack with the striped linen fabric, but I brought the seams in even more (on the outer leg) for this crepe rayon version. They tend to bulge out a bit at the sides and look like clown pants, perhaps because of all the other adjusting I did to the top half of the pattern, so tapering them in on the sides gave a much cleaner, more classic silhouette. Everything else was pretty much the same- I created french seams on all the main seams since rayon tends to fray a lot and I prefer clean finished insides for this kind of fabric. Surprisingly I didn’t need to sew in bra strap tabs (I don’t know what the real name for this is, but it’s when you sew snaps onto a little cut of ribbon and place it inside the shoulder seam to keep your bra straps connected to the garment when either one of them likes to slide down) like I did on my striped linen version- I would think that a slinkier fabric like rayon would want to slide down much more than linen would, but the opposite turned out to be true!

One question I got asked a lot about this hack was whether or not you could create bias strips to enclose the raw edges of the neckline/wrap, and there is a way you can do it, but it will involve adjusting the way the front wrap gets attached to the crotch seam, and possibly a redrafting of that area- I think you would need to add seam allowance to the top of the crotch seam edge so that you can flip the bias-edged wrap under and connect it to the seam that way. But I haven’t tried it on this pattern and I’m only working it out in my head so that could be totally wrong, lol. I actually prefer creating a facing for the neckline that gets sewn to the jumpsuit and then under stitched because it provides a lot more stability to that area, which is cut on the bias and has a tendency to stretch out like mad. In fact, I learned after making this second version that it is essential to stay stitch the entire front and back necklines of your pattern pieces as soon as you cut them because they will want to morph out of shape as soon as you start moving the fabric around.

To create my facings, I just traced the edges of my front and back necklines on transparent pattern paper, and then I widened the shapes so that they were about 4-inches all the way around. I interfaced all the pieces, sewed the back halves together, then sewed the back piece to the front pieces at the shoulder seams. Next, I sewed the whole facing piece onto the jumpsuit, pausing at the area where the belt is attached so that I could sew it in the way I like (I prefer my wrap front to maintain it’s triangle shape at the edge, which means I can’t sew it to the belt like normal and just flip it to the right side- but if you don’t want to go through the trouble of all that, you could sew the edge flat instead of pointed).

And that’s all she wrote! I love the way this jumpsuit fits and feels (although this fabric gets a little wrinkly!) and I think I might add a little vintage romper slip (to match the fact that this is a jumpsuit) to my list of future makes because I wouldn’t mind having one more layer of fabric under this thing. I love the color, I love the effect, and I love how I look in it- I can’t wait to wear this for an #auditionlewk when I go in for Recently Divorced Mom In A Small Town Trying To Get Her Groove Back While Going Back to School to Become A Beautician 😉

Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate it, and Happy ThanksLiving if you don’t!

 

 

 

 

Floral Maxi Stella Dress

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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