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A Star in a Kimono-Inspired Robe

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Someone is completely upstaging the actual handmade item in this blog post, but I don’t mind. How could you possibly mind? She is just so stunning!

I feel very lucky to be sharing a screen for the next couple of months with the lovely and superbly talented Jess DeGouw. I guess I just have a thing for Aussies, because she reminds me a lot of my old friend and Fringe cast mate John. They are both so warm and smart and thoughtful, and incredibly generous to all the people around them- she has inspired me to both give more and relax more on set, and I enjoy all the time I get to spend with her, whether sitting next to each other in our cast chairs gabbing about interior decorating or sitting in a coffee shop walking her through the steps of how to cast off (I taught her how to knit a few weeks ago and within days she had already completed a beautiful scarf- she is such a natural!) Anyways, I shyly asked her this morning if she would mind posing for a few pictures in this robe I had just finished sewing and she thankfully said yes. We set up some quick shots of her wearing the robe with the sun streaming through her windows, and although my photography skills don’t do Jess nearly enough justice, I am so pleased with how these turned out. But again, could you expect anything less with that face???

OK, if you want to keep gushing about Jess, the star in the robe, you should catch up on her work in season one of WGN’s Undeground, which is how I was first introduced to her. You will LOVE her!

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This is the Almada pattern from Seamwork, which has been on my to-do list since the very first time I saw it last year. I love how it’s a simple design with simple lines but the overall look packs such a dynamic punch; it’s simply beautiful, and now that I have made it I am definitely having a bit of trouble deciding whether I should use it as a house robe as I initially intended or wear it around the city as a light jacket. I suppose I could do both but that feels weird. House clothes are house clothes, and never the twain shall meet!

I have talked here before about how the Seamwork patterns are so pretty and styled so elegantly, but because of their simple designs, many of them require a bit more thought and attention in construction to make them work for my body. Fortunately this is a project that doesn’t fall into that category. The sizing is pretty general (XS-XL) and since it doesn’t hug the body tightly anywhere there isn’t much room for error if you fit into the measurements provided. The design is simple enough that you can make some easy adjustments/additions to the pattern without sacrificing the integrity of the original look (or you can also also completely sacrifice it- who cares?? when you sew, the world is your oyster!)

 

I got this bright pique fabric from The Fabric Store, and I loved it because it had a great texture on the right side which reminded me of waffle-textured towels. It is somewhere between a medium to heavy weight fabric while still feeling breathable; it seemed really fitting for a house robe! The color is as brilliant in real life as it looks in the photos, and definitely should have been washed separately on cold when I pre-washed it- unfortunately I was in a rush and stuck it in the wash with several other pieces of laundry, and then they all came out bright blue! I was able to color correct most of the items with a dye-out product whose name I cannot remember, but I should have known better: anything this brilliant needs it’s own bath 😉

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Because of the texture of the fabric, the raw edges get pretty messy quickly, but I don’t have my serger with me in Savannah. Instead, I bought some awesome bias tape from this store on etsy to use for all the raw edges on the inside. I know, I know- I can make my own bias tape, but I am lazy, I didn’t bring my bias tape makers with me, and I love supporting small indie craft shops when I have the chance.

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Besides enclosing all my raw seams with tape, I raised the ties on the front of the robe by a couple of inches- as drafted, they were really low on me and instead of cinching the fabric around my waist, it made the robe tight around my hips and butt, which felt completely unnatural and uncomfortable. I also decided to add a long neckline band around the front sides and back, more like a traditional house robe would have. It was the only thing I didn’t like about the original pattern- the sleeves had these beautiful cuffs that made a visual connection to the robe ties, which made the neckline look a little plain to me. I cut one long piece of fabric about 3.5 inches wide that matched the length of the robe opening and sewed it onto the neckline of the robe, then closed the raw seam with bias tape, and topstitched it flat to the underside of the robe so that it wouldn’t flip up easily. It lays down perfectly flat against my neck and feels super comfortable.

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The only other thing I will change is to add two big pockets to either side of the front of the robe- I didn’t have a chance to cut them out and sew them before I got these photos, so you can just imagine them for now. In wearing this robe over the past couple of days, it was clear that I needed some storage on this baby- I think I might have even dropped a chapstick down my side, only realizing that I didn’t have an actual pocket for it to fall into as it crashed to the floor.

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I am so thrilled that I finally marked this pretty pattern off of my list, and I am glad that I went against the grain and chose such a unique fabric to sew this in- she looks so different than all the other really beautiful versions of Almada I have seen, and I think she was worth the wait! Thanks again to Jess for being such a good sport and letting me capitalize on her charm and beauty for my own selfish reasons 😉

Brillant Bouquet

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This dress is BRILLIANT (hence it’s name) and it is hands-down the fabric (from none other than The Fabric Store!) that makes it so exceptional. I am unsure of the fiber content of this textile so I wont even speculate about it here, but I can tell you how it handles and looks in person: it has a significant amount of body, is sturdy but soft to the touch (not scratchy like some textiles of it’s ilk), it holds its shape well with no folding or creasing, and it has a very delicate sheen on its surface without looking glittery or shiny.

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This is the first panel fabric that I have ever sewn and I couldn’t have chosen a better material to start with, but, like many memorable relationships, I’m not sure if I chose this fabric or it chose me! It grabbed my attention from across the store because of the bright orange flowers and interesting color combination- I would never imagine that lavender, orange and deep blue would work so well together, but I guess that’s why I’m not a fabric designer! HA!

I had no idea what I would make with this fabric when it came home with me, but I knew my choices of pattern would be narrowed down considerably because of the unique qualities of the print and the hand. The fabric is stable without being crispy and it also has a lot of volume, so drape-y, flowy and gathered designs were out of the question. The panel flowers also needed to be taken into consideration- I needed a pattern that would let the bright print of the flowers take center stage. I rifled through my pinterest boards for pattern inspiration but didn’t find anything that grabbed me, so on a whim I decided to take a look at the By Hand London catalogue. I had most recently made the Anna dress to tremendous success and I wanted to see what other patterns I might have overlooked that would work for my unique fabric.

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I had seen the Flora dress before but it didn’t really stand out to me at the time, probably because the dress on the model is cut fairly short and I generally stay away from those lengths on my frame- I also have a love/hate relationship with high-low skirts and dresses. But this time around, armed with a specific fabric in mind, the Flora dress pattern seemed like the perfect partner to my Brilliant Bouquet fabric. The pattern has wide pleats at the waist instead of darts, which, depending on my panel placement, was a must since I didn’t want to break up the line of the flowers if possible. I also thought that pleats would create a more interesting look with my full-bodied fabric than darts would. The bodice I chose for the Flora dress (there are two options) was simple and understated, which seemed like a nice contrast to the drama of the skirt, and I thought that keeping the flower print at the bottom of the skirt and having it complete before the start of the bodice would look nice.

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The majority of my mental concentration came when trying to place the skirt properly on the print. The skirt, which is essentially a 3/4 circle, is made of three pieces- one for the front which is cut on the fold, and two for the back. The waistband of the skirt is curved but the panel print is placed straight across the fabric, perpendicular to the straight grain, so trying to determine the smartest way to take advantage of pattern placement without having the line of the flowers broken up was nearly impossible. At this point I realized that having a dart in the skirt as opposed to pleats would have been helpful in terms of keeping the flower print continuous across the skirt. But ultimately I decided that the break in print placement could be an intentional design choice, especially coupled with the full folds of the pleats, so I forged ahead and cut out my pattern pieces as planned (but not before taking several deep breaths!).

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I cut the front piece of the skirt a couple of inches longer than the pattern called for and I extended the length of the back pieces to give a more dramatic look to the skirt’s silhouette. This design choice was inspired by a photo I had come across a while ago on tumblr:

I am OBSESSED with the look of the main fabric contrasted with the printed lining, and I thought I could try it out with my Flora dress by lining the back skirt pieces with the main fabric so that the panel print was visible underneath, too, but, for several reasons, it didn’t quite work out. For one thing, my Brilliant Bouquet fabric has way too much body for a lining of the same material- it would have created even more volume and the pleats would not have formed properly. Secondly, the high-low length of the skirt of my Flora dress isn’t dramatic enough for you to see the lining beneath it- to accomplish this look I would have needed to make the dress almost floor length, and there was not enough room between the panel prints to accommodate that much fabric.

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In the end, everything worked out for the best- I love how the Flora dress came out even without a special lining, and I am excited to try and recreate the above look on a future garment (and hopefully in that same lemon color because OMG it’s stunning). The only thing I wish I had done differently is put pockets in the dress, because they would have worked so well coupled with the volume of the skirt, and who doesn’t love pockets when they don’t interfere with the silhouette of a garment?? The dress is super comfortable and the fit is wonderful, which is an impressive feat for me since the entire thing was sewn in my temporary apartment in Savannah without a proper standing mirror or dress form- there was lot’s of arm-contortion involved when trying to get my zipper placement right, but I must say that I am getting pretty good at it!

Linen and Loose

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I had the opportunity to meet Amelia a couple of years ago at a panel about diversity in media. Amelia’s young son recognized that he was gay from a pretty young age, and since there aren’t very many narratives that frame coming out in childhood in a positive light, she started blogging about her journey as a mother dealing with both the highlights and frustrations of having a young child who was the member of a disenfranchised community; you can check out her writing here! Anyways, the day that I met Amelia, I learned that she was lovely and warm and funny, an accomplished knitter, and also incredibly generous. She knew that I was a sewer and that I would be on the panel, so she came to the event with a huge stack of vintage patterns that had been in her garage unused for years, and she was giving them all to ME! Can you even??!!

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I’m not sure if this was the first pattern I sewed from all the designs she brought me, but it’s the first time I blogged about one of them. I chose Butterick 4485 for it’s loose fit and clever panel design feature on the front. I wanted to make an easy-wearing dress that would look good with the deep navy linen I had just found at The Fabric Store during one of their seasonal sales (their linen is so PREEEEEEETTYYYYY)!

Butterick 4485

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This was a fairly straight forward make, and aside from the bizzarro steps that vintage patterns are sure to include at some point in their instructions, this came together very quickly and without too much thought (gotta love an easy make every once in a while, right?)

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I finished all the inside seams with a serger for speed and efficiency, and the back closes with an invisible zip. The buttons are decorative and don’t actually close anything (yay again for an easy make!) and were purchased at an antique store that Claire and I found on a trip a couple of months ago.

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There is a lot of ease in this kind of design obviously, so I didn’t make any fitting adjustments other than to shorten it significantly, otherwise this pattern would have come down to my damn ankles it was so weirdly long. I made view B because there is something about that shortened, slightly flared sleeve that is so CUTE to me- maybe because it’s a sleeve I don’t see very often in modern patterns? Most sleeves I come across seem to always be fitted, and either long, short, or 3/4 length. I love all those options, but this particular sleeve gives a tiny bit of drama without being too over the top, and who doesn’t love breathing room around their arms??

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Jury is still out on how I feel about the way this dress looks on me- I love the fabric and the design but I’m not really one for tent-dresses. I haven’t had a chance to actually wear this yet because I am working in Savannah, GA right now and…let’s just say that the weather is not quite ready for dark colors and/or anything with sleeves. So far my overall shorts and a tank top have kept me cool enough to look presentable when exploring the city; any more coverage than that is TOO HOT. But hopefully in a month or so I can test drive this little number out in the world and get a better idea of how well it fits into my wardrobe. Fingers crossed!

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Girlfriend Fit: The Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Files

This is a three-in-one post since I want to show off this very simple but very excellent tank top I am obsessed with in addition to the pairs of Morgan Jeans I have made over the past months; thankfully I wont be the only model showing these makes off!

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I first made these jeans many months ago and for some reason never had an opportunity to get good photos of them other than some snapshots on Instagram. The Morgan Jeans pattern is described as having a “boyfriend” fit, which most of us I am sure are familiar with, but for obvious reasons I will be referring to them in this post as “girlfriend” jeans 😉  I don’t wear relaxed-fit pants very often unless you count my house clothes (does anyone outside of the south refer to loungewear as “house clothes”??), but when I saw this pattern released by Closet Case Files back in the spring, I knew I was going to have to start. I was of course already in love with Heather Lou’s skinny jeans pattern, Ginger, so adding a more casual pair of denim jeans to my wardrobe seemed like a brilliant idea. I have tons of breezy summer dresses that can be dressed up or down for summer, but my winter casual wardrobe was pretty non-existent. In the colder months I am either very dressed up or in sweatpants, and there was barely anything in between- until now!

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The other reason I was into this pattern was because I knew that they would be a great staple for my wife (aka former girlfriend!), Claire. I made her a pair of Ginger jeans last year for Christmas which she loves, but in general she seems to prefer a more relaxed, comfortable fit than skinny jeans allow. She was immediately into the idea of a pair (or three) of Girlfriend Morgans for herself, but she asked if I could make them as shorts instead of pants. Of course, turning this pattern into shorts was a totally easy adjustment since they just get lopped off right at the knee, and per her request, folded a couple of times at the bottom. Alas, the Morgan Jean Shorts were born!

For our first pairs of Morgans we bought denim from The Fabric Store, which was exciting because all the denim I has bought previously had been from the (awesome) denim kits that Closet Case Files and WorkRoom Social occasionally team up to offer for sale. It was fun to get up close and personal with the selection of denim that The Fabric Store offers, seeing the subtle differences in color, texture, and weight, and since this denim didn’t need to stretch, it took a lot of the guesswork out of how the fabric would ultimately fit when sewn up. Claire settled on a gorgeous sturdy selvedge denim with tiny little flecks of lighter thread woven throughout, and I chose a deeply hued, lighter weight denim for myself. Initially I intended to make my jeans raw, forgoing the pre-wash before cutting into my fabric and opting instead to get the natural whiskered effect that you can only get from wearing them over time, but the smell of the processed fabric ended up lingering for far too long, and I stuck them in the wash a few weeks ago to get rid of it- thankfully they didn’t alter the fit and now they have no smell!

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There is not much to say about the construction of these babies- since I had made several pairs of Gingers already and the technique for the Morgans is exactly the same (save for the option to make a button-fly instead of a zip fly), the makes were easy and were completed pretty quickly. As I have mentioned in other posts, I highly recommend Closet Case Files’ Jeans-Making eBook if you haven’t tackled jeans before. The eBook provides great photos, step by step instructions, and lots of helpful tips on everything from how to source the best denim to how to install your rivets properly. I don’t even read the instructions for making jeans patterns anymore, I just pull up the eBook on my iPad and follow the steps that are laid out there.

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I am excited to play around with the design of these a bit; if I make them again, I might try to combine the high-waist of the Gingers with the relaxed fit of the hips and legs of the Morgans. I used to have a vintage pair of Levi’s with a high, fitted waist and a wider, more comfortable leg, and they were SO CUTE, so it would be fun to try and recreate that look on a memade pair.

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My favorite detail about the Morgan jeans is the addition of the little leather patch on the back, which allows you to customize your jeans even further.

Here is my pair:

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and here is Claire’s:

❤️ S A V A G E ❤️

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I recently found out I was going to have to leave town for a few months for work, so the past couple of weeks have been spent trying to wrap up all my in-process sewing projects- unsurprisingly 90% of them were for Claire, who has a tendency to buy almost as much fabric as I do (without, of course, the actual interest in sewing, LOL). First on her list was another pair of Morgan Jean shorts in a really cool cotton twill we found at The Fabric Store. It’s a medium-weight, very soft fabric with a dark gray/black camouflage print on it. I had not made the Ginger or Morgan Jeans patterns with anything other than denim, but using twill didn’t make a noticeable difference in how the garment was constructed, other than that topstitching was a bit easier in certain places because the twill is not as bulky as regular denim.

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I stuck with classic gold top stiching thread and double line placement on the camo shorts but I omitted the rivets, and I love how they came out. The fit on her is excellent, and the look of the print with this pattern is really cool to me- I haven’t seen anything quite like it in stores, which is always a plus. We are in the process of arranging a barter system for the items I make Claire; sometimes she pays me actual money (we operate with a monthly personal budget to curb excessive spending on frivolous items), and sometimes we trade services- for this pair of shorts she gave me a carwash, so it seemed only fitting that I snap photos of her shorts while she was in the middle of doing the deed. And now, please enjoy Claire in some pin-up inspired photos modeled in decidedly UN-pinup attire!

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(Oh, and FYI, the above shirt is one of the MAAAAAANY Archers I have made Claire in the past few years in a cool spider and web print from Cotton and Steel).

Last but not least, I want to gush about this cute top I have been mildly obsessed with wearing all summer. It’s probably the LA heat that has turned this top into such a staple for me, but if all I am doing is hanging around the house and working in the craft room, I want to be wearing as little as possible.

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The pattern is McCall’s 6751 and the design includes 4 versions, although I have only made one of them because it’s clearly my favorite. The back criss crosses and connects at the shoulders on each side which keeps the back open, and it has a wide silhouette so it doesn’t cling to the body (I am wearing an XS with a redrafted neckline that is about an inch and a half higher than the original pattern). Because of it’s open back, it’s the perfect shirt to wear with a cute bralette underneath. I made it with a lightweight, heathered jersey cotton knit from The Fabric Store, and although I am sure this top looks really cute in stiffer woven fabrics, I am in love with the breezy look of this design and knit fabric combination.

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This top was a lifesaver during the past month or so when temperatures got so high in LA, but now that I am working in Savannah, it has proven to be even more essential- it’s the perfect thing to wear in a makeup and hair trailer so that you can remove your clothes without destroying any of the work the hair and makeup artists have done. I have also worn these tops to my yoga classes, which cover me up without stifling me in the warm studios. It’s a super quick make- less than an hour- therefore an easy addition to your end of summer wardrobe if you’re looking for some quick, easy things to wear before bundling yourself up in warmth for fall!

 

Peaches N’ Cream N’ The Fabric Store

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For those of you who grew up in the 80’s like me, you might remember a special Barbie Doll that made her debut wearing a floor length ruffled gown in a gorgeous shade of peach. The dress had a white sparkly bodice with sheer layers of polyester that cascaded into a wave of gathers at her feet, and a long, peach colored boa wound through her arms, the perfect accessory for this doll made in the era of TV’s Dynasty.

I was obsessed with this doll, and I didn’t get obsessed with toys very often. I knew we were poor and, from a young age, I understood it’s implications- asking for things that I knew my parents couldn’t afford seemed not only pointless, but also hurtful. I felt sure that they would give me the world if they could, so why make them feel worse than they already did? Still, this doll’s aesthetic tapped into some deep need I had, a need to exude wealth, class, and importance, to appear to be like all the other girls that I went to school with. Peaches N’ Cream Barbie represented the kind of woman who didn’t worry about money or holding down two part time jobs to make ends meet- otherwise she would not be dressed so extravagantly. She seemed confident and capable, the life of the party, good at holding court with esteemed individuals, which was something I aspired to. Why wouldn’t I be obsessed with her?

Although I never imagined that my wish would come true, Peaches N’ Cream Barbie ended up on my Christmas list, which, since my parents were not together anymore, needed to be duplicated so they could each have a copy. My mother, pragmatic as she was, must have sensed the magnitude of having this doll in my life, because on Christmas morning of that year I tore off the wrapping of a box to find, instead of the sweater or package of underwear I usually got (she, like many Moms without much disposable income, used Christmas as a way to replenish more of my needs than my wants), a beautiful Peaches N’ Cream Barbie Doll! But…she was black. For some reason I hadn’t been expecting that. To be honest I am not even sure I knew that Peaches N’ Cream Barbie CAME in black, because the black dolls didn’t end up in the commercials very often. I was thrilled that my Mom bought her for me, but I also had conflicting feelings stirring up inside that I had no idea what to do with. My Mom, (who is white), had always made it a point to buy me black dolls. I think she was trying to make up for the fact that I went to a predominantly white school, lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, and I only got to see my Dad (who is black) two weekends out of the month because that’s the way the custody battle went. She didn’t want my Southern white surroundings to damage how I felt about myself, and she understood the importance of me seeing myself in the things I played with. I know that now, and I appreciate it deeply. But at the time, I hated it. It was simply another reminder that I was different from everybody else in my life.

I pet my news doll’s beautiful dress and combed her dark hair that was straight and glossy and not like mine at all and waited for my Dad to pick me up and take me to my grandma’s house to celebrate Christmas with him and my cousins. There, I joyfully opened up toy after toy after toy- not an item of clothing in site- and stared in disbelief as I ripped the paper off my last present and found yet another Peaches N’ Cream Barbie, this time the one with blonde hair. My white Mom had bought me the black Peaches N’ Cream doll and my black Dad had bought me the white one (clearly my parents were not on speaking terms at this point in time). There was a sense of relief that I finally had the “right” doll, the one I had been hoping for all along, but in the coming weeks, as I held the two dolls in my hands, each exactly the same save for their coloring, I was suddenly faced with the real root of my dissatisfaction. I liked the white one because that was the one that all my white friends had, and that made me feel normal. But the doll itself didn’t make me feel normal- she looked nothing like me. It was like playing around with a fantasy that I had no say in creating. And the black doll didn’t look like me either; her skin was darker than mine, and she still had hair like the white doll, just in a different shade. I didn’t see myself in either of the toys, but I felt shame for liking the white doll better and frustration for not understanding why. Of course now I know that this is what happens when you live in a white supremacist society, but back then I just felt alone. I decided to make my dolls be cousins related by marriage for a while, but eventually they started kissing and became secret girlfriends, which is what happens when you also live in a homophobic society, but I digress.

Growing up, leaving Alabama, spending my 20’s in NYC- all of it helped me start unpacking the harmful rhetoric that I learned as a kid and replacing it with values that embraced all my different identities. I am still in the process of forgiving myself for not being prouder of who I was at a young age, which is hard- it’s even difficult to write these words here on my blog. But I do it because, if I have learned one thing since leaving Alabama, it’s that I am not alone at all. There are so many people around the world who have struggled to name their identities, to find a place that feels comfortable, to accept that this place might not be comfortable for others, and to not apologize for it. And if my words can make any of those people feel less conflicted about living their lives proudly and boldly, then it makes talking about it completely worthwhile.

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So here I am decades later, a grown, Barbie-less woman, when I enter The Fabric Store and come across the extraordinary textile you see here. I am immediately drawn to it and I realize that it’s because of the colors- the peach and white combination of my youth holds the same amount of power over me now. And when running my hands over the soft material on the roll, I flip over a corner to find that it’s reversible! Well, maybe it’s not reversible- it’s possible that one of these sides is meant to be the “right” one and the other is meant to be the “wrong” one. But see, I know better than that now. Barbies don’t have “right” skin tones and fabrics don’t have “right” sides. Which is why I used both.

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I thought that the graphic print and stable weight of this fabric would look really cool with a structured bodice, and then I remembered how great the cut-outs on the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY were. So I coupled the top from that dress with my circle skirt block, drafted with instructions from Gertie’s first book, Gerties’ Book for Better Sewing. The result is a perfect fit’n flare design that looks absolutely phenomenal with the body of this fabric! I don’t normally combine prints or think outside the box with my fabric choices, but this fabric made it pretty easy. It is so soft and airy and has an almost quilted feel to it because of the way the fabric is made- it looks a little like a double gauze, with two lightweight pieces of fabric tacked together through the lines of graphic print, the colors reversed for each side.

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The bodice from the Bonnell Dress is a very straight-forward make with great instructions- a fully lined bodice with cut outs on each side that connect to a waistband, closed with an invisible zipper in the back.

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Trading the gathered skirt that goes on the original dress with a circle skirt was easy, and I omitted the pockets to save time. I used french seams for both the skirt and bodice to keep the insides tidy since this fabric has a tendency to fray, and when it was all done, the completed dress looked almost reversible! The only thing to give it away is the invisible zipper, which isn’t so invisible on the inside, but I could probably still get away with wearing it inside out if I danced the whole time that I wore it. Which is not outside of the realm of possibility for me.

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I debuted this dress a couple of weeks ago at an event for an organization called Campus Pride, which promotes creating safe spaces on college campuses across North America for LGBTQ students through education, leadership and community. As you can imagine, it was a huge honor for me to accept the Voice and Action award along with the other recipient, Miss Lawrence, and it was a pleasure to meet so many amazing students, mentors and staff at the ceremony. In my speech, which Autostraddle will be publishing later this week, I talked about intersectionality and how my various identities as a queer, biracial woman of color sometimes inform one another; it was a happy accident that I wore this particular dress to the event, which seemed to embody a lot of the things I discussed that night.

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Thanks again to The Fabric Store for the gorgeous textile, to Campus Pride for giving me an opportunity to speak, and to Claire for the lovely photos!

Gertie’s Boat-Neck Dress: A Hack

 

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When I saw this grid fabric at The Fabric Store a few months ago, I could not pass it up, although I had absolutely no idea what I was going to make from it. I have mostly gotten out of the habit of buying fabric without specific plans in store, but every once in a while a textile speaks to me and I can’t tune it out. This particular fabric was a light, breathable, slightly sheer cotton, with a floaty weight to it and a nice drape. It begged to be made into something with a tiny bit of structure to it, something fit for warm weather. My first thought was a short sleeved Grainline Studios Archer Button Up, but I knew that this wouldn’t be a pattern I would get a lot of wear out of in summer. So, in my stash this fabric sat for quite a while until I started making plans for all my favorite designs in Gertie’s most recent book, Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book. I was already halfway through the muslin fitting stage of The Secretary Dress, which required a LOT of tinkering, and I knew that, even though the Boat Neck bodice in the book seemed like a simple thing to whip up, I needed to approach it with the same amount of care and patience that I allotted for my other make.

I ultimately made two muslins to get the fit right for this bodice and it’s attached mid-band, and the changes were the same as with the Secretary Dress: Small Bust Adjustment. The lines of this bodice seemed simple enough that it would let the unique design of this gridded fabric take centerstage, and I planned to pair it with one of the full skirts in the book. But when I laid out of my fabric, which I only bought two yards of, of course I didn’t have enough necessary to make the yardage-eating skirt (fyi: all of Gertie’s skirts except for the pencil skirt are yardage-eaters).

boat neck bodice and full skirt with pleats

I wasn’t dismayed though, because if I really did plan to wear it in the heat of the LA summer, I wouldn’t want that much fabric swishing around my body anyways. I racked my brain to think of a full-looking skirt pattern in my stash that would highlight the fabric, match well with the bodice, but not take up more than a yard and a half of fabric which is about all I had left over after the bodice construction.

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And then an image of one of my favorite recent makes flashed through my head! Although the neckline on this bodice is probably the most eye-catching component, the skirt is my personal favorite thing about the Simplicity dress. At first glance it’s just a regular dirndle skirt gathered at the waist, but upon closer inspection, it’s a cleverly designed 5 piece skirt with pockets placed inconspicuously on either side of the center front skirt panel. Even with so many interesting design elements, this skirt doesn’t take up much fabric, so I knew it would be a good choice for Gertie’s Boat Neck bodice.

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I did my best to pattern-match where I could, and aside from a couple of little snafus, everything came together nicely. My  best pattern matching work is on the skirt where it’s actually the least noticeable because of the gathers (doh!). I made some bias strips to bind the armhole edges since I decided at the last minute to forgo the cap sleeves, and the whole dress is lined with a solid white cotton voile, which is sheer and lightweight and breezy, just like the outer fabric.

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I love how in Gertie’s dress above she used piping to bring more attention to the design features of the bodice, but I ultimately decided not to use piping since the design on the fabric was already pretty graphic and I didn’t want it to compete with other features. I totally regret this now. I think a mint green or a yellow binding on the bodice, mid-band, and perhaps lined up down the two front skirt panels would have totally elevated this dress. As it stands, I don’t think the garment stands out very much, but that might change the more that I wear it.

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This dress is comfortable and flirty and cute, and I am assuming it will be easy to wear since I haven’t had a chance to take her for a spin yet, but I am hoping to do so in the next couple of weeks since I have a WTNV performance and a few festival events to attend for our film, Suicide Kale. If you want to see it in action, stay tuned on my instagram, as I am sure I will be donning it there first, with a much better hairstyle than I am sporting in these pics.

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Speaking of the difficulties of photographing your own makes (that’s where we were headed, right?), I love my current method of taking photos of several projects at once as opposed to creating individual shoots for each item as it is made because it’s so much quicker and more efficient. But the downside is that I have to figure out ways to do my hair for several different set ups, and I hate that part. I’m usually pretty motivated to do something cool with it for the first two looks, but after that, my dedication wanes and I just throw my hair up any which way and hope that it doesn’t make me grimace later when editing the photos (these made me grimace for sure). I should probably just stick to one hair look for each outfit/look, but that seems boring, but maybe being boring is better than scowling every time I see this side bun.

Speaking of my in-home photography set up (that’s where we were headed, right?), it is getting better with each project I document, and it has already come such a long way from it’s modest beginnings. I have finally cleared my craft room of it’s cute but not-very-useful pink couch, which was put there in the hopes that people, namely Claire, would come and hang out with me while I sewed. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well and instead just ended up taking space and being a resting place for newly purchased fabric. Now that the couch has been moved into our storage-cum-guest-suite, I have plenty of space in my craft room to set up my photography stuff and keep it up, as opposed to setting everything up in our living room and taking it down immediately afterwards. The natural light in the craft room is not as good as in our living room, so I have ordered some continuous photography lights that I am hoping will bridge the gap and make the photos look nice, bright and crisp (and this set up will also be helpful for the occasional time that I have to put myself on tape for an audition). I have some more #recdarpetDIY projects that I am excited to share on the blog and I am hoping to photograph them with my newer and even more improved set up. In the meantime, I am working on reupholstering an arm chair that someone in our neighborhood gave us so that I can put it in the craft room- the couch might be gone but I still need to have a comfy place for the occasional visitor and hand-sewing marathon. It’s been a couple of years since I reupholstered anything so I am very rusty, but I just so happen to have an online sewing friend who reupholsters professionally and I have a feeling that she will be very generous with any questions I may throw at her 🙂

Love for The Fabric Store with a Liberty Make

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After Claire and I moved to LA from Vancouver a few years ago, my sewing habit accelerated tremendously. There were plenty of reasons for this, but a big one was The Fabric Store. Based out of Australia, their LA store opening coincided with our arrival to the city, and walking through it’s doors was a revelation.

My past fabric shopping experiences had been limited to gigantic storefronts like Joann’s, a national chain, and Dress-Sew, a Vancouver staple. I liked being able to buy so many tools and notions at these places, but when it came to fabric, shopping was a chore. These stores try to pack so much into it’s walls that the fabric displays always seemed to be sloppy and disorganized, which wasn’t conducive to walking through the aisles and waiting to see “what grabbed you”, (one of my personal favorite methods of shopping). And even if I did walk into these stores with a specific type of fabric in mind, it took a while to hunt down the section I needed and even longer to sort through all the cheap, poor quality fabrics to find something suitable for my project. It didn’t help that I was still learning about textiles and had lots of questions to ask that no one ever seemed to be available to answer. At this point I had had so many poor customer service experiences with MOOD that I vowed never to shop there again, so big box stores and online retailers seemed to be my only resort.

The Fabric Store changed everything for me. I had been in lots of cute neighborhood fabric stores with beautifully arranged bolts lining the walls, but these shops almost exclusively sold quilting cottons- great for when I started out, but limiting when I wanted to expand my wardrobe beyond the cutesy prints that quilting cottons offer. The Fabric Store had everything great about these smaller independent stores (helpful employees, easy to navigate aisles, fabric that was reachable and viewable, clean and tidy space) but it also had a huge range of fabric! And not just fabric, GLORIOUS fabric! High quality silks, laces, apparel cottons, jewel colored merino wools from NZ, selvage denim, knits, brocades, charmeuse- literally everything you could think of, The Fabric Store had it. The store was wonderfully curated, as if your designer friend with impeccable taste pulled all her favorite fabrics into one room and invited you to worship her textile palate. As soon as I entered the store for the first time, my heart sank a little as I whispered to Claire “Oh, no…this place is going to be way too expensive for me.” I had assumed that a store this clean, this classy, this light-filled (what, no flourescents??) would be way out of my price range, so you can imagine my shock when I glanced at a few price tags and realized that they had a healthy range of prices, with some cottons starting as low as $8, higher prices for designer prints, and everything else falling in mid-range.

My makes immediately improved once I started buying fabric from a store that provided such high quality and inspiring textiles, and this in turn encouraged me to create even more, so it is a genuine pleasure to team up with them as an official ambassador for their brand and share some new makes with you- after all, I’ve been doing it for years!

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I was really excited to get my hands on some Liberty of London prints since The Fabric Store started carrying them in stores a couple of months ago. In person, these fabrics did not disappoint, and I was surprised to see so many different designs within their brand- I had no idea that they made prints outside of the floral genre! So many stunning pieces, so little time! Thankfully I had Claire around to help me narrow down my selection, and one of the winners was this incredible Liberty silk which features an abstracted cityscape in shades of pink and mint green on a black background. The fabric is truly luxurious, one of those supple, smooth, glide-y silks that you want to live against your skin. I’m still not a fan of working with silks, but with a fabric this great you kind of have to get past your personal issues and just vow to work carefully and slowly.

After a quick, completely un-scientific poll on instagram, I decided to make the Anna dress by By Hand London. In the past, I have had trouble getting their designs to fit my buxom bottom, but because this dress features a high waistline with a flared skirt, I took a chance that it would suit my shape well without a ton of adjustments, and I was totally right!

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I made a muslin in a size 6 for the bust and 8 for the waist and hips, and it fit pretty great after I took in the back bodice pieces slightly. Because this is such a high quality fabric and because this garment will be added to my #redcarpetDIY trove, I wanted to make sure the finishing inside was very neat, pretty and professional looking. I, like Renee (my new sewing friend- whom you all might know as Miss Celie’s Pants – that I got to hang out with in real life a couple of weeks ago!!!!!) am a real big fan of quick and dirty serging to finish seams, but I pulled it together, took my time, and did this dress justice.

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All inside skirt seams are french seamed, except for the back seam with the zipper (which is a Hong Kong seam) and the seam with the thigh slit, which is just turned under itself twice and sewn down. The bodice is finished with Hong Kong seams as well, and umm…does anyone have a good tip for finishing a clipped curved seam?? I usually just sew the bias binding onto it with all these gaps going through it and it doesn’t look very good but I don’t know what else to do!

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The Anna Dress, like all By Hand London patterns, was very easy to follow and construction was a breeze, even with all the french and Hong Kong seams. From starting the muslin to finishing the final garment, it took a total of about 3 days, and that’s with extra careful, very slow sewing with the slippery silk I had to contend with. I must be getting better at sewing with finicky fabrics because this garment didn’t give me much trouble at all and I didn’t feel like burning it in a fire when it was all done.

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I am in absolute love with the dress and I cannot WAIT to wear it to a function. I love the bold print and the unique color combination and I love how well the pattern is suited to the Liberty print- it really lets the drama of the textile design take center stage, while still feeling sexy and comfortable. I definitely want to make this Anna in a see-through lace like in one of the pattern samples on By Hand London’s site, so of course I will be keeping my eye out for a perfect match at The Fabric Store 🙂

(photos by the lovely and talented Claire J. Savage!)

 

 

#OperationDIYRedCarpet

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It’s been a few years since I was a series regular on a TV show, which brought the responsibility of attending lots of promotional and red carpet events as part of the job. Initially they were fun and exciting, but it didn’t take long for the red carpet to feel like a chore, namely because of the unspoken “rule” that as a celebrity you shouldn’t be photographed twice in the same outfit. I think the sentiment of this “rule” is that you want the public to view you as current, busy, and omnipresent, and if every photo the paparazzi snaps of you is in a new outfit (even if it’s in the course of the same day), the idea that you are an “it” celebrity is easy to maintain. Of course this idea is super antiquated and indulgent, but it also sets up an unrealistic and unhealthy goal for regular fashion-loving folk; if the celebrities they constantly see in the media are wearing new duds in every single tv appearance and photo spread, then they too must make sure their closet is packed with as many items as possible so that they don’t have to recycle looks. I have seen major celebrities in magazines be lauded for wearing the same article of clothing at more than one function (“Wow! She paired the same jacket with a different pair of shoes to make it look new!”) as if they had made some ground breaking, unprecedented choice, and I have also seen gossip articles criticizing people in the public eye for wearing the same dress or pair of shoes more than a few times. It’s like you can’t win for trying!

At the time, I accepted the “rule” without too much complaint and I spent my free time standing in line at flash sample sales, “shopping” at gifting suites, and utilizing the coupons that many expensive brands extended to the clients of PR reps so that they could get easy advertising for their clothing. I knew it was a racket, but who was I to challenge the status quo? After all, I was still trying to figure out how to keep my lips from sticking to my teeth after 5 straight minutes of smiling on the carpet! (I know the answer is vaseline, but honestly the thought of that makes me gag).

Eventually my work took me to Canada where the red carpet events were few and far between and I had a chance to think more critically about my own shopping habits. I have always loved clothes and shopping, but I knew that I needed to forge a better relationship with these things that fell more in line with my growing conscientiousness about the effects that clothing manufacturing has on the environment and human lives. Shortly thereafter I started making some of my own clothes, which was exciting and fun, but eventually I started getting invited to red carpet events again once we were settled back in the states. The anxiety of finding something nice to wear to these last minute invitations was high because I had already developed a distaste for buying new RTW clothing. My other option was to to try making red carpet-worthy dresses for myself, but I didn’t have much experience sewing finer materials or complicated pieces. But then I realized that this, of course, was something I could remedy with practice! I started collecting patterns for long dresses and cocktail attire and experimenting with more luxurious textiles like silk. It was weird to spend so much time making clothing that didn’t get worn immediately and instead just sat in a dark closet, so I decided to motivate myself by give my undertaking a name: Operation DIY Red Carpet. It served as a reminder that there was a method to my madness and that I would thank myself later.

valerievonsobel_functionSure enough, about three months after I made Vogue 8827, I was invited to a fancy dinner where I was finally able to wear it for the first time.

Me and lance headed off to the American Black Film Festival Awards! Vogue dress can't remember the number!

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I wore that dress again about two years later to attend the BET Movie Awards with my friend Lance (above), and my good friend Mary looked stunning in it when we attended the Lamda Legal Awards together last weekend (below).

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The navy floral maxi dress (Vogue 8827) is a Very Easy Vogue design, and, like it’s namesake, it was very easy to construct because it doesn’t require much fitting to accommodate it’s loose shape. The most complicated part of the make was working with all those yards of material. I love how well this pattern works with the silk fabric, which was purchased from The Fabric Store a few years ago- the large, bold print serves the maxi style so well!

 

Me and Brittani at Transparent Season 2 Premiere!

Me and Brittani at Transparent Season 2 Premiere!

Several months after I made Vogue 1102 over a year ago, my friend Brittani invited me to be her date to the Transparent Season 2 Premiere, and this is the same dress I wore to the event with Mary. The yellow dress (Vogue 1102) is an absolute joy, mainly because the fabric is SO superb, but the design is also really easy to wear because of the high waistline (you can eat food without worrying about your dress restricting your stomach).

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It has a full, flowy skirt that you can only see well when there is a lot of twirling being done- fortunately I am BIG into twirling. Also from The Fabric Store, the fabric is a supple, soft charmeuse. I had never worked with this kind of fabric before and the learning curve was VERY steep- it shows every single pucker and nip so hand stitching the inside of the bodice was a bit of a nightmare. But I successfully created a thin smooth hem at the bottom and that was my biggest concern. I knew this pattern would probably fit poorly in the bodice so I made a muslin first and then made fitting adjustments (everything was mostly too big but some pieces needed to be totally re-drafted).

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I have a few more pieces in my Operation DIY Red Carpet vault, some that I have worn and some that I haven’t, and I hope I have time to share them on the blog soon.

Got to meet Daniel Franzese at Lamda Legal Awards, who I love so much!

Got to meet Daniel Franzese at Lamda Legal Awards, who I love so much!

So far, making my own garments to wear to big events has been easy to do because I have the time to spend and the events have been so spread out. But if I find myself on a 16 hour-a-day schedule with an abundance of invites any time soon, making all my clothing probably won’t be sustainable for very long. But I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it; for now, I am happy with the pace that I am creating things, and thrilled that I have found some satisfaction in recycling some of my favorite looks. I am certainly not a big enough celebrity that anyone is very interested in how often I wear an article of clothing, but I think it’s the principle that makes a big difference. As I have written before, empowerment is the biggest gift that being a maker has given me: at the beginning of my career I was too intimidated to oppose the standards that had been set in place, but now I feel confident in using my voice- and my better judgement- to stand up to what feels important, even if I am the only one who is paying attention.

A Blood Orange Denver Dress

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Posting about this dress seems like a bit of a cheat because I haven’t actually worn it out of the house yet. (Which may or may not be a trend with me lately, but I’m not gonna sit here and judge myself!) This is one of those wardrobe pieces that works in LA for a small window of time, much like another beloved turtleneck dress of mine that I knitted. It has to be the right amount of chilly/warm outside, because my legs have to go bare (I hate wearing a tights under dresses) but my torso is completely covered, and in this particular make, it’s covered in a beautiful merino wool which, while lightweight, provides a bit more warmth than the average day needs.

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This New Zealand merino fabric, from The Fabric Store, was purchased for a Christmas gift I was supposed to make someone that ended up being abandoned in favor of a large care package comprised of chocolates and sweets. I found myself charged with this beautiful, brightly hued fabric that was screaming to made into something cool, so I decided to dip into a pattern collection I had bought on sale many months prior. I had never made anything from the collection before, and I wasn’t super familiar with any of the designers that took part in the pattern bundle, so I was excited to be introduced to some new designs.

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I chose the Denver Tunic/Dress by Blank Slate patterns because it seemed like a simple, straightforward make and the princess-like seaming appeared to be easy to adjust if the fit was off at all. Thankfully I was right on all counts. As per usual I graded up the sizing from waist to hips, and because my merino wool was on the thin side, I self lined the whole dress by basting all the pieces together and then serging the seams, treating each double layered pattern piece as one.

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The cut edges of the knit fabric were clean and I liked the look of the two separate layers, so I left the bottom edges raw and made cuffs for the sleeves, shortening mine to about 3/4 length. There was a little bit of adjusting for the seams on the hip area where I had to take them in just a bit because they were gaping in certain places, but other than that, the sizes I chose work well on this here hippy body, and I am happy with how the dress looks!

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Initially I wished that the turtleneck was more dramatic looking and slouchy, but after wearing it for my photo shoot, I liked not having so much bulk at the top, particularly in such a heat-generating fabric. This dress is going to be great made up in a lightweight cotton or rayon knit and will be a nice compliment to the version you see here, which is perfectly suited for fall.

Final thoughts? This is a well constructed, quick and easy pattern which can both pack a lot of design punch when using complimentary fabric choices, and pull it’s weight as a simple wardrobe staple!

Ode to Oona

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One of my favorite online fabric stores, LAFinch Fabrics, has this sneaky habit of filling your orders with extra doo-dads, including but not limited to a fistful of swatches from their inventory, tied up in a little bow. I love this for obvious reasons; being able to touch a piece of fabric gives me so much more of an idea of how it will sew up as opposed to just seeing it on a screen. And that’s how I ended up with this multi-colored animal inspired rayon, a fabric I would never, NEVER have bought after simply seeing a photo of it. I’m staunchly against animal prints in my own wardrobe, but not because I have any moral or aesthetic issues against them. For me, it’s like the color red-  I think it looks great on every single person except me. I’m just not a RED personality, you know? Bright orange? Sure. But not red. And in this same vein, I am not really an animal print person either. So when I saw a rectangle of this bold rayon peeking out of my fistful of new swatches, I didn’t give it a second glance. That is, not until my fingers gently grazed the material while fishing around for one of the other pieces in the stack. OH MY GOD. Is this for real?, I thought. So supple! So soft! So stable, yet flowy! It felt kind of creamy, if cream could be a fabric. It was absolutely dreamy. But the print simply wasn’t my favorite. I liked the colors. I like the graphic aspect of it. But purple and blue tinted (zebra? tiger? leopard?) print?! Come on! That’s not me! It took me a week of hemming and hawing before I finally asked myself “what would Oona do?”

Oona (aka Marcy), the sewing community’s favorite advocate for brightly printed/boldly colored/funkily designed textiles; Oona, who doesn’t shy away from dazzle or flash; Oona, who wouldn’t think twice about snatching up a fabric like this because she probably doesn’t impose arbitrary boundaries for herself on what she should or should not wear. I think everyone in the online sewing community has been inspired by Oona’s makes at some point in their lives, because even if she is wearing something you wouldn’t have considered making for yourself, her beauty and style are undeniable, and apparently limitless. So there, I had my answer. Oona would say yes, so I was going to give it a try, too.

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My yes came shortly before my birthday, and although I had no plans to make myself anything to celebrate my new year, when it arrived in the mail (with a whole new fistful of swatches to drool over, of course), I was suddenly inspired to use it for something special. I had two days before my birthday and no idea what to make with this beautiful fabric, which is generally not the best equation for me and a successful make, but I forged ahead anyways. Eventually I settled on a hack of my favorite vintage jumpsuit pattern, vintage Simplicity 5503, and the Southport Dress by True Bias. Both patterns are (mostly) TnTs for me; I have made each pattern twice, hacking the neckline into one of Gertie’s designs for one of the jumpsuits and sticking to the original design for the others. I was excited to put these two looks together- I love the casual look and comfortable feeling of the jumpsuit’s flexible waist and roomy legs, and I love the relaxed yet streamlined design of the bodice of the dress.

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vintage simplicity jumpsuit in one of my fav fabrics I have ever seen from The Fabric Store (the print is various sizes of flocks of birds!)

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Southport Dress by True Bias, which gets worn A LOT.

For my mash up, I nixed the elastic band in favor of the Southport’s drawstring detail, and I used snaps instead of buttons for the bodice.

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Since there were no waistline darts to accommodate, it required only a little bit of fudging to make the width of the jumpsuit’s bottom match up to the dress’s top, and I ended up shortening the bodice in the back about 2 inches to take in some of the fabric that was pooling at my lower back (this was not an adjustment I ever needed to make for the Southport dress in the past, so it was definitely a result of using pants for the bottom instead of a skirt).

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All in all an easy make, and it was done in plenty of time for my birthday, even though I didn’t end up wearing it on the actual day- I was in (memade) sweatpants eating pie and hanging out with my two BFFs to ring in my new year, and I am NOT complaining!

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Now that the make is done and I have had some time to ruminate a bit on all my last-minute decision making, I have come to some conclusions. Number one: this fabric was wasted on this jumpsuit. I think it looks fantastic, and honestly, whenever I wear it I feel like Blanche from the Golden Girls, but I think that using this fabric for anything other than a swooshy, drapey, flowy garment was just silly. It deserves to be a dress, something with simple lines and a full skirt so that I could have maximized all the properties that drew me to it in the first place. This pattern hack was meant for something with a little more stability and weight to it, and those properties aren’t the things that make this textile so incredible.

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Which brings me to number two: I am SO glad that I listened to my inner Oona and I bought this fabric! At first I kept thinking, it’s just not very me, but the truth is that if I am wearing it and liking it, then that’s as me as it gets. The me of today might not be the exact same me of last year or even yesterday, but that’s why so many of us sew, right? To express whatever version of ourselves that seems to be chirping the loudest at the time. Sometimes we go through phases where we are really into knits, or prints, or pastels, or skirts, or skin tight, or super loose. But those phases don’t make us any less of ourselves- rather, they are proof that we are undefinable, ever evolving, capable of variance. When I look through my closet, it kind of feels like I am flipping through the pages of a diary; I know where I was, what was going on and how I was feeling with every single memade garment inside. And when I come across this jumpsuit, even though it’s the only animal print hanging amongst it’s brothers and sisters, it looks perfectly at home. It reminds me that my style can change, that even if I take risks, the things I make are still a good representation of who I am.

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Thanks to all the Oonas out there continuing to provide inspiration!