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Jasika vs. the Vintage Vogue Coat

For the record, I won.
But whoooa was it a battle! Comparable to Jasika vs. the Ginger Jeans! But I learned so, so much in this process, and I am incredibly happy with how it has turned out, warts and all.

I first got the idea for this coat about a year ago. Last fall I attended a red carpet event in a memade gown that I sewed from a vintage Vogue pattern (I have yet to blog this dress, but I swear I will one day!). The dress was a silver-hued chartreuse with a very simple silhouette and it’s stunning, but I didn’t have any outwerwear appropriate  to wear with it. It wasn’t cold enough in LA to frantically search for something suitable to wear over the dress and I ended up being fine for the most part, but it got me thinking about how nice it would be to have a long dressy coat to wear over fancy red carpet attire. I started scouring the internet for different coat patterns and ultimately focused on vintage designs because they were simpler in style but still packed a lot of drama. I thought that a simpler design would work with a bigger variety of garments underneath.

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It took me weeks to settle on the vintage vogue coat pattern that I ultimately chose, but I was immediately drawn to it. In the illustration it kind of looked like a big blanket draped over the figure wearing it, but it didn’t look baggy, and it had enough lovely design details to keep the look interesting and feminine. I loved the peter pan collar and the roominess inside the coat- it would work well with anything from bulky sweaters to dresses with shoulder pads. I loved the long length and the patch pockets (although I ended up omitting the flaps of said pockets- I wanted to stuff my hands into them easily), and the way the coat draped down the back on account of it’s center-panel. Shortly after the pattern arrived, I went to The Fabric Store and chose a beautiful thick wool coating (they have the most impressive wools at this store!) that stood out for me. It looked cozy and warm, and was made of neutral colors- black with grey and white herringbone- that would pair well with lots of looks. I also chose a shiny and silky-smooth gray charmeuse to line the coat with. My lining fabric seemed extravagant at the time, but I wanted this coat to feel as nice as I hoped it would look, and after making plenty of garments over the years with cheap polyester linings, I knew that splurging on it would make me incredibly happy when it was all over (spoiler alert: it totally does!).

Okay, so now fast forward almost a whole year, in which time my gigantic swath of fabric sat in a brown paper bag in a corner of my craft room with cedar wood blocks inside of it to keep the moths at bay. I can’t remember exactly what sparked me to pick this project up again and finally start on construction, but around a month ago I suddenly felt very inspired to get ‘her done, as Coach Taylor would say. I was probably motivated in part by the realization that we would be spending our Christmas in the northeast this year (we alternate our holidays in increments of three- one with her folks, one with mine, and one just us, usually on a fun trip). At this point, my dramatic fancy coat project morphed from something mainly aesthetically pleasing to one that was more functional and would keep me warm in a blustery city in the winter.

In my whole adulthood, I have never before had a dressy coat that was actually warm. My current outerwear wardrobe consists mostly of sporty Patagonia gear that I collected from my years fighting off chilly rain in Vancouver, a couple of leather jackets, and a nice wool JCrew coat that is only suitable for mild winters. And back when I lived in NYC in my early 20’s, I couldn’t afford a nice warm coat, so most of my years were spent in cheap wool pea coats from H&M with so many layers stacked underneath that I could barely move my arms. I’ve always thought that legitimately warm winter coats came in 2 categories: sporty parkas, or furs. Design-wise there just isn’t that much in between. Which is one of the best things about making your own clothes: filling in the gaps! But how to make a regular dress coat comparably warm without majorly changing the design elements? Queue: THINSULATE FABRIC!!!!!!!!!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BN0hzWshRB2/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Ahhh, thinsulate fabric. Surely you know of it, and I imagine that lots of you have worked with it before. I had only heard it’s name because it’s a material that companies like JCrew rely on to beef up the warmth in their wool coats, but I had never seen it in raw form before. When a big box of it arrived at my house, I was pretty shocked to find that it is strikingly similar to a diaper; it’s got a thin white layer of soft, papery thin cloth on one side with an airy cottony filling on the other. I bought the 4 oz weight of Thinsulate fabric for my coat because I didn’t want to add additional bulk to an already heavy coat, but because the product is so lightweight, it wasn’t very thin. It is very pliable and can smoosh down pretty easily, though. You use Thinsulate like an interlining, and most people simply baste it to their lining pieces and then sew their patterns accordingly, but hold up- I am getting ahead of myself.

Before I got to the lining and interlining portion of my coat, I had to construct the shell. Let me remind you that I was using a vintage Vogue pattern from 1948, probably the oldest pattern I have ever actually used before. And it really showed. The instructions were printed on one large folded piece of paper with very tiny lettering that was literally falling apart every time I touched it. I read over the instructions several times to try and get a good idea of how the coat would come together, but I kept getting stuck in the same places, and I figured that I just needed to GET to that part with the actual pieces in front of me to better understand how to proceed. Then I pulled out the pattern pieces.

OH MY GOD. Those pattern pieces.

I had never before worked with a pattern that had no actual writing on its pieces before, so I didn’t know that, before printing pattern pieces with words, the pattern companies used an elaborate hole-punch method to put all the information on the pieces. The name of the piece would be written out in a series of hole punches, for example, the word “COLLAR” was spelled in tiny formatted holes, but they also used holes on the perimeters of all the pieces to show the 5/8 seam allowance, holes to map out darts and pleats, holes to signify where certain pattern pieces needed to meet, hole-punched triangles and squares to show where button holes and waist lines were located, etc. So picture a tiny cut out collar pattern piece made of THE MOST DELICATE paper known to man, which begins to disintegrate if you so much as sneeze near it, folded up very tightly, and covered in holes that at first glance appear to be some kind of cipher. Just keeping the pattern pieces intact was a feat requiring the utmost patience (which I lost about halfway through), but luckily I am a trace-the-pieces-to-preserve-the-original-pattern kind of girl, so now I have a replica of the pattern on more solid paper, should I ever attempt to make this pattern again (YEEEAH RIGHT).

As you can see from the design, the coat is not complicated at all, and this is probably the only reason I was able to get through it, because the instructions were a bit…shall we say V(A)GUE? And on top of that, they used certain materials and techniques that are just outdated now. Not to mention that there was so much more hand sewing involved on garments made back in the day, and although I am happy to do a fair amount of hand sewing for super nice, ambitious projects like this one, I DID want it to be complete in time for me to take it with me to MD. Queue: Tailoring: Singer Sewing Reference book! I saw this book recommendation on Cashmerette’s blog a while ago and decided to get it when planning for this coat. Best decision I ever made. The book is slightly dated in it’s style and possibly some of it’s techniques (there was no mention of how to bag a lining in this book, so I had to use my dear google for that part- perhaps there is a newer version of it?), but it’s still filled with super excellent information and beautifully photographed pictures showing each step of certain procedures. I don’t think I would have been able to get through this coat without the aid of this book, and I feel indebted to it. It mainly helped me get through the bound buttonholes on the coat front (I had never made them before and they are totally easy but just have a LOT of steps!) and pad stitching the collar (which was actually not too tricky since I didn’t have a proper collar stand but I did it anyways because LEARNING!), but it also taught me lots of random tidbits of information like which kind of lining to use and the anatomy of a collar.

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Once my shell was completed with beautiful bound buttonholes, I tried it on and saw that the shoulder seams were built for a line backer- they were HUGE! The pattern I used was sized a couple of inches bigger than my measurements but I had no idea it would be THIS off. Thankfully, due to the simple design of the coat, I was able to remove the sleeves, slice off a couple of inches of width at the shoulders which I carried down just a bit under the arms, and then re-attach the sleeves. I inserted some store-bought shoulder pads which gave my coat just the right amount of stability and structure at the shoulders, and then I got to work on my lining and interlining.

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This part was really tricky, only because none of my sources on construction and instruction had information on using Thinsulate as an interlining, which is certainly thicker than the flannel-type material the original pattern called for. Because the Thinsulate is thick, I didn’t want it to create too much bulk at the seams, so instead of basting the lining to all the interlining pieces, I constructed the sides of the lining and interlining separately and merely overlapped the Thinsulate’s edges instead of sewing them using a seam allowance. Then I connected the sides at the back center piece with regular seam allowances. I probably didn’t explain that very well? Sorry!  Photos would be helpful here but I didn’t take pictures because at this point of the coat making process I wasn’t even convinced I could successfully finish it! Anyways, the point is that I assembled my lining and interlining while trying to eliminate as much bulk at the seams as possible. Next I had to read up on how to bag a lining. The process seemed simple enough, but there were a few details that I wanted to make sure I got right, and an article I found on Thread’s website got me through it, although not without a lot of head scratching and cussing (this article, too, was extremely vague and lacking in details but was the only tutorial I could find that wasn’t connected to a specific sew-along. I wanted my information to be general so that I could easily apply it to a variety of coat designs).

https://www.instagram.com/p/BN-zbG4BjOT/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

The bagging part was easy, but I had a lot of trouble with the hems of my lining and interlining and had to un-bag the coat several times to trim off a bit more of the Thinsulate, which was too bulky in some places, causing the hem to sag or be uneven. It took a while, but eventually I figured it out enough to tack the bottom of my lining down onto my coat, which I am not even sure is a step that is done with most coats, but mine needed it. Sewing the lining to the sleeves was another source of frustration for me because I understood how they needed to look, I just couldn’t figure out how to get there, and the Threads article seemed intent on using as few words as possible to describe this procedure. But I eventually figure this out, too. So far the most prevalent theme in my sewing life is to cuss and yell out loud for 20 minutes and then, magically, the solution will just fall into my brain.

 

It was interesting to see and feel the differences in how the coat fit with and without the Thinsulate material underneath; without the interlining, the coat draped in a dramatic fall from the nape of my neck to the floor and swung around beautifully when I moved, but with it, the coat was much stiffer and had a more structured silhouette. I missed the floatiness of the un-interlined coat, but I really like the way it looks with Thinsulate too- it looks a bit more regal, and its definitely going to be warmer. But now I’ve got a seed planted in my head to make ANOTHER long wool coat, this time for California winters, which wont need to be underlined at all and can maintain that swooshiness factor that I liked so much about the un-interlined version.

After the coat was bagged and I pressed the hems a million more times to keep them crisp and even-looking, all I had left to do was slash the facings behind my bound buttonholes, sew the edges down, then choose my buttons. I had planned to buy some large buttons in black or gray at Michael Levine’s, but when I got there, the lovely person behind the counter convinced me that covered buttons were the way to go. They complimented my coat a bunch and made the case that a covered button would allow the coat to easily transition from casual to dressy. They were totally right, and I feel so thankful that they offered their expertise- I can’t even imagine what this coat would look like with a different set of buttons.

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

So, here we are, at the end of my blog post, which is already WAY too long. And I left out so many things! Like how I accidentally ripped a tear in almost every single original pattern piece at some point while handling it! Like how Thinsulate burns really easily and there are most definitely a few places deep inside this coat with singed holes of diaper material hidden by lining! Like how you can see some of my “invisible” hand stitching at the bottom of the coat if you look closely enough! Like how I sewed an entire pocket onto my coat inside out! But I know that stuff isn’t important- this project was ambitious because I had to do so much research on my own since the instructions weren’t mapped out and handed to me on a platter. I take for granted how simple and accommodating so many modern sewing patterns are, and it was a real eye-opener to feel forced back into a beginner-level again. But it was worth it, and I am TOTALLY PROUD OF MYSELF! I took it one step at a time, I refused to let the project defeat me, I trusted my instincts, and I came out with a coat that I am hoping will keep me toasty warm during my holiday adventures! Thanks to everyone on instagram who went on this journey with me and sent me encouraging words- I feel like we did this together! Consider yourself stylishly warmed by this coat, too 🙂

a woman’s work is never done?? lololol

When Morgan Met Ginger: Mom Jeans FTW

Mom jeans might have a bad wrap. Obviously I blame it on misogyny- I see a connection between women’s supposed declining sexuality as they age and the tendency of our culture to look at mothers as selfless, sexless beings meant only to serve as nurturing figures for others without needs of their own. Believe me, I laughed at that SNL sketch as much as everyone else did and I still think it’s brilliant, but I am also curious about redefining what the concept of Mom jeans mean to me, which is something you can thankfully do when you make your own clothes.

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Historically, Mom jeans are designed with a high waist for a snug fit that accentuates the wearer’s figure, coupled with slim legs that are comfortably loose through the knee and calf. On paper, those qualities seem like a lovely combination, but in reality, when paired with those excruciatingly tiny and awkwardly placed back pockets, the look isn’t flattering at all- it’s unsexy, fussy, matronly. While relaxing in my Morgan jeans several weeks ago, I had a thought. I love my masculine-of-center Girlfriend/Boyfriend jeans because they are comfortable and the construction is really marvelous, but they have definitely been relegated for wear only on my most relaxed and casual days; I feel cute in them, but I don’t feel sexy. My Gingers, however, mostly get worn when I am getting dressed up and I am, as we refer to it in my household, “tryna look cute”. I wondered, Is there a middle ground? Is there a way to meld these two different jeans patterns into a look that feels every bit as comfortable and effortless as the Morgan, but with that figure flattering silhouette that my Gingers offer? Was I essentially trying to create a modern Mom jean? Could I take my knowledge of perfect pocket size and placement and push the Mom jean out of “so gross” territory and into the “so cute” realm?

Well, the only way to find out was to try(curious! ba dum ching!)

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On my last trip to LA I grabbed my adjusted Ginger and Morgan patterns and brought them back with me to Savannah, then I marched myself up to my favorite brick n mortar fabric store outside of LA. It’s called Fabrika and it’s amazing; it’s an independently owned shop just down the street from my apartment downtown and, though small, it packs a big bunch. They have a lovely selection of quilting cotton and apparel fabrics, and every time I go there to pick up a random notion or tool I need, I feel sure that they are going to say “Oh, sorry, we don’t carry that”, but lo and behold, they will inevitably pull the item out of some magic hat they keep hidden in the store. I LOVE having my sewing needs met so close to home where I can literally walk out my door and get whatever it is I need within moments. Anyways, I had glimpsed this exceptionally cool denim on a previous trip to the store and knew immediately that it was perfect for my Mom jeans. The denim is bleached and SO soft, it almost feels like a brushed cotton, and although it has a nice and stable medium-weight to it, when you manipulate it in your hand it gives like tissue but bounces back without wrinkling. There is a teensy tiny amount of stretch in this denim, but not enough to accommodate the stretch necessary for skinny jeans, and I wonder if some of the stretch comes from the denim being so incredibly soft that it ends up being more flexible than an un-washed raw denim. The color of this denim is so pretty to me- it makes me think of the beach- but the hand of the denim is what ultimately won me over.

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Now, for the pattern hack!

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This was a lot trickier than I thought it would be, and since I have no pattern designing background, I was kind of just making wild guesses as to how to meld these patterns into one. The realization of what a complicated project this would be came when I pulled out my back leg pattern pieces and placed them on top of each other to see where I could try and blend in the lines. Apparently there would be no such thing- the Ginger is made for a stretch denim and the Morgans are made for denim with no stretch, so, while it was interesting to see how the pattern lines accounted for the difference in fabric type, it was also overwhelming to figure out where to begin to mesh them into one. In all honesty, my approach wasn’t at all scientific- I just moved forward blindly. I figured that if nothing else, I would learn something in the process.

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I relied more heavily on the Morgan Jeans pattern for general shape, but I added length (about 1.5- 2 inches) to the rise so that they would be more high waisted. I added length to the zipper pieces as well, since my waist-to-hip ratio makes it difficult to pull jeans over my hips (adding more zipper length allows the pants to open up lower and gives more room for my butt to get into them). I split the difference between the waist and hip widths of the Morgan and Ginger pattern pieces because I wanted my Mom jeans to be very fitted in the waist and hip area but since I wasn’t using a stretch denim there wouldn’t be a lot of give. I purchased a jeans zipper with wider zipper tape than I am used to and I didn’t realize how much it would affect the fly when using the Closet Case File’s method of creating a zipper fly. As a result, my zipper bulges a bit at the front, but I totally understand what I can do in the future to avoid such an issue (aside from making sure I have a zipper with the standard amount of tape on each side). I added a tiny bit of extra width at the calves of the legs so that the jeans would skim my body the whole way down and not hug my thick calves (the calf area of my Morgans are about 1 cm tighter than I would like). I made a pocket stay for these jeans which entails sewing the whole pocket piece so that it is anchored to either side of the zip fly, and I LOVE it- it keeps your pockets from sliding out the tops of your pocket openings, and it also gives you a nice/tight/snug fit around your hips, which I prefer.

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The most trouble I had with making these jeans were figuring out the yoke pieces in the back. I actually completed these jeans in their entirety (sans jeans button, but more on that later) and wore them around for a day before realizing I needed to do some more work on the back pieces to get the right fit. After my first day of wear, the back yoke pieces stretched out and got really bulge-y and gave me this weird bubble-butt effect that puffed up at the seams.

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For my Ginger skinny jeans make, I had to redraft the yoke and waistband pieces to accommodate the big difference between my waist and hip measurements- the new pattern pieces I use now have a much deeper curve, but the seams smooth out with the stretch denim since the garment is essentially made with negative ease. I tried to make these same yoke and waistband adjustments to my Mom jeans, but they don’t translate the same to denim with no stretch. So after my first wear, I unpicked all my top stitching at the back yoke and back center seam pieces, cut out the curve of the yokes so that the lines were straighter, then re-sewed the whole thing. It worked like a charm, although I could probably stand to take out even more of the curve on a future pair.

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A few others changes to make on my next pair of Mom jeans: I will probably take the seams in at the sides and back center pieces just a bit to create an even snugger fit- since my denim has no spandex, they stretch out over the course of wearing them, and if they started out a bit tighter, there might be less space for them to get bigger. I love the look and fit at the thigh and legs- they just graze my body and then drop straight down to the ankle which is a look I have always coveted in the traditional “boyfriend” jean but never been able to find for myself in RTW. I will keep those parts the same, but I will make an adjustment to the crotch area at the top of the thigh on my next pair.

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As you can see in the pictures, the crotch area is a big baggy and has some weird folds and lines that start at the bottom of the zip fly. Initially I thought that maybe the rise was too long, but now I think I can fix the issue by shortening the crotch. The bulge honestly doesn’t bother me too much though, and even less now that I got so many compliments on them these jeans at the Whole Foods! The other thing I love about this make is the back pockets- they are the perfect size and they keep the jeans from looking dated. I used the pockets from my Morgans but raised them higher to accommodate the new rise of my higher waist.

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These jeans look so unique to me, which is why I think they stand out enough to get compliments from strangers- they almost look like they are thrifted, because the color and texture of this denim is so vintage, but the silhouette, at least on me, feels new and modern. I think my lack of a jeans button makes them look really fresh, too- I brought a jeans button to Savannah with me but without a proper hammer and piece of wood, I couldn’t get the pieces to fit together and I accidentally busted the nail part that goes inside the button.

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The first day that I wore these jeans I just used a giant safety pin that my friend had on hand to keep them closed and it worked fine except that it took me 5 minutes to get in and out of the pants every time I had to pee. Instead of hunting down another jeans button, I skipped over to Fabrika again and found a nice peach colored button instead (that also reminded me of the beach) that I sewed onto the front of my jeans and I love the way it looks. I also skipped the rivets that normally get applied to jeans and I went without the belt loops, too. Initially this was because I was being evacuated from Savannah for Hurricane Matthew and I wanted desperately to bring my new pair of jeans with me to Atlanta, but I only had like, 30 minutes to pack, and no time to make the belt loops. After wearing the jeans for a day around ATL though, I decided that the belt loops were unnecessary and that I liked the stream-lined look of the pants without the extra fixings, so I will keep them this way- no promises on future iterations of this hack, though!

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Sending lots of thanks to Sadie Stratton, one of my co-stars on Underground, who helped me get some quick shots of these jeans in the courtyard outside her hotel! I hate asking people (who aren’t Claire) to take photos of me in my makes but she was so sweet about it and got some great shots with a very professional flare shining through in the background! Thanks, boo!

 

 

My Inner Debbie Allen

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A few months ago I had a really grand idea for a dress design. It was comprised of a strapless bodice attached to a fitted pencil skirt with a sheer, flowy overlay at the waist- the dress equivalent of a mullet, but with business AND a party on the bottom. I knew that this dress wouldn’t be difficult to make because I had all the pattern blocks I needed, each tested and tweaked from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: a strapless bodice, a pencil skirt, and various versions of a full-bodied skirt depending on the fabric I decided to use.

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On my August trip to The Fabric Store I came across this really cool mauve-colored cotton that I fell in love with (I am sure this type of fabric has a name, but I don’t know what it is). Essentially it has a sheer cotton background with appliques made of the same sheer fabric and cut in the shape of flowers that are placed on top. I thought it would look beautiful as my sheer overlay skirt, so then I searched the store for the perfect accompaniment fabric from which to make the fitted dress. I came across a polyester blend in Barbie pink- it had a tiny bit of sparkle and what I thought at the time was a nice, stable body, but it turns out that was just wishful thinking; the pink polyester was much more suitable as a lining, but I didn’t figure this out until the entire dress was made and I stood in my mirror with a dispirited look on my face. The bodice was fully lined with several tracks of boning attached to the lining, but the outer fabric was just too thin and showed each pucker, nip and tuck of the structure underneath. It gaped and folded at odd places and looked cheap (not as a fabric by itself, but in the way I had tried to manipulate it). Add to this my lack of care in working with the synthetic fiber (read: I TRIED TO IRON POLYESTER) and you can imagine the frustration it brought me. But the pink polyester fabric for the bodice/pencil skirt was not the only ill-fated choice I had made in the construction of the dress. The mauve overskirt fabric, while gorgeous on it’s own, either wasn’t sheer enough (or the Barbie pink fabric not bold enough) to show the details of the pencil skirt of the dress underneath, so my shiny pink fabric ended up getting lost anyways. My choice of using a circle skirt for the overlay pattern was also misguided- the shape didn’t serve as a big enough contrast to the pencil skirt underneath. From far away it looked fine, I guess, but up close, and in comparison to the dress I had imagined in my head, it was a disaster.

But I didn’t consider it a total loss- I had a good idea of what I needed to do to make this style of dress work, and step one was to abandon this pink failure and start over from scratch. On my next trip to The Fabric Store I immediately found the perfect fabric to use as my overlay, a completely sheer organza- type fabric with colorful bold stripes printed across it, and then I searched the shelves for a more appropriate fabric to use for the bodice/pencil skirt combo underneath. A midnight blue, full bodied (yes, like wine!) fabric that is apparently called Noil Silk, but looks like an imprint of woodgrain to me, ended up fitting the bill for my underdress, and this time, I made ALL the right decisions and the dress is a success! But more on this project in a future post!

After all that work, I was stuck with a pink polyester mess attached to a beautiful overlay skirt. Like most sewers, I hate to throw away nice fabric that I have inadvertently sewn into a disaster, but the overlay skirt was particularly difficult to think of getting rid of. It had taken me a couple of hours to figure out how to eek out a circle skirt from my cut of fabric (I seem to always err on the side of too little rather than too much when determining yardage) and I had just BARELY managed to make it work. And then I had spent a lot of time creating beautiful french seams for the inside since they would be seen through the sheer fabric. And it was all for nothing! But alas, I realized a few days later after heaving the pink dress into a corner of my craft room that if I had enough fabric leftover, I might be able to create a waistband for the skirt and just wear it as a separate… and I could maybe even get some semblance of the original silhouette I had in mind, depending on what I wore with it.

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During my first trip home after almost a month in Savannah, tackling this project was the very first thing on my mind! I carefully removed the polyester bodice/pencil skirt dress from the overlay and the zipper it had been attached to and proceeded to cut out two simple rectangles for the waistband (one for the outer band and one for the facing) in the width I wanted, plus seam allowance. Because my fabric is sheer, I lined it with some organza silk I had in my stash to give it stability instead of using interfacing, then I sewed everything together and attached an invisible zipper. I was worried that the fabric would be too lightweight to hold a zipper without puckering at the seams, but it held it’s shape just fine. Since I had re-sewn the pieces of the circle skirt and the edges seemed to be a little uneven, I let it hang overnight so the bias could re-acclimate to it’s new shape, and I evened out the edges and hemmed it the next day.

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To complete this look, I paired it with a Nettie bodysuit I made from a Closet Case Files pattern a couple of years ago. I was hoping the deep color of the bodysuit would give just enough contrast with the mauve to show through the skirt so that I could fully channel my inner-Debbie Allen, and I think it works beautifully. This is another look I have always loved and never found the RTW items to pull off: a maxi dress/skirt with bloomers underneath. The look came back on my radar after I saw a few scenes of Netflix’s show The Get Down. In all of the big disco scenes they shot, there are TONS of stunning outfits on the actors, but the all white maxi dress with the hip-high slit in the middle and the white bloomers peeking through was PERFECTION. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and this skirt and bodysuit for me is a much more casual iteration of that look. Eventually I would love to go full out and make a dramatic RedCarpetDIY version of that dress, but for now, this is a nice, safe stepping stone to the look.

 

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Even though this dress didn’t turn out the way I intended it to, it feels like a massive success. For one thing, I was able to learn from all the mistakes I made on this dress and apply my knowledge to a new version of the dress by starting over (if at first you don’t succeed, trycurious again!), and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the make was not a total loss. I have talked about this before on the blog, but figuring out how to salvage my mess-ups, how to Tim Gunn it and make it work, how to make lemonade out of lemons, has shown me exactly how far my sewing has come in the few years that I have made it my main hobby. Sewing requires such a vast array of knowledge and techniques that it seems impossible to ever to get to a point where anyone knows it ALL, so to be reminded that I haven’t hit a wall and am continuing to learn more feels really good.

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My film Suicide Kale will be screening in Atlanta this weekend (check out www.suicidekale.com to find out more info!) and this outfit will be making it’s debut there! When filming a show, particularly on location like Underground, it’s rare to have opportunities for red carpet and PR events, so it seems a little ridiculous that I have focused ONLY on #redcarpetDIY makes in the past couple of months. But at the same time, if fancy fabrics are what grab you, it only make sense to go with them. So excited to high kick in this getup at the panel discussion after the screening, just to make Debbie Allen proud!

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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

Butterick 4485

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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Elephants on a Vintage Blouse

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I stumbled across the etsy shop Indianstores, which sells block printed fabric on soft, supple cotton, after seeing it mentioned on a great sewing blog I follow. Their textiles are produced and printed in India by a team of talented artisans and the selection the shop offers is striking. I was in the middle of selecting a floral fabric from their online shop when an interesting textile printed with elephants also caught my eye, but there was only a 1.5 yard cut remaining in the store. I snatched it up anyways without any thought of what I would actually make with it (something I try not to do too often!), and it took me a while to figure out how to use it. The fabric would have worked with any number of patterns in my stash, and I had been eyeing it specifically for a new True Bias Southport maxi, but I just didn’t have enough yardage to make it work. With my newly organized space for patterns and pattern pieces, I rifled through the blouse section in my filing cabinet since that type of garment seemed like it would make the most use of my limited fabric.

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It didn’t take long to come across this re-issue of a vintage blouse pattern (Simplicity 1590) that I purchased several months ago at a Joanne’s for $1.

I liked the interesting lines of the blouse’s design, how the front is like a normal button down but then connects to the peplum on the sides in  an unexpected way. I love the little bow tie at the top of the collar (which I subsequently messed up, but more on that later) and the ties in the back, and I LOVE the kimono-inspired sleeves- all the details added up to a really cool looking blouse, one I hadn’t really seen out in the world before.

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As much as I love the look of vintage silhouettes, I don’t make them very often, and I realize now that it’s because getting good at sewing older patterns requires a fair amount of know-how in the general art of sewing- in my opinion, most vintage patterns are not well suited for beginner sewists because they sometimes use outdated construction techniques that are needlessly complicated, and they don’t often give many helpful details in their instructions, omitting certain steps with the assumption that the sewist will already know how to do something. Of course I am probably spoiled with the heavily worded, brilliantly illustrated PDF instruction booklets and sew-alongs in today’s sewing community, but there is no denying that for me, less is not more when it comes to learning how to do something new. The good news is that I no longer consider myself a beginner sewist, and vintage patterns that gave me trouble years ago when I first started sewing regularly are a breeze for me to figure out now. That’s not to say that I don’t make royally silly mistakes when I sew from vintage patterns, but they feel much less daunting for me.

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This blouse is a fairly simple make but the instructions for how to attach the peplum to the front was a little confusing. Fortunately I eventually figured it out, so that detail doesn’t look weird, but I didn’t fare so well with the collar. For some reason I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the collar piece shouldn’t extend all the way to the edges of the shirt front, because if they do, the collar flaps will overlap in the front when buttoned all the way, which will interfere with the little bow at the neckline- ROOKIE MISTAKE! When my collar and shirt front edges didn’t match up, I just thought I had cut my pattern piece incorrectly, so I basically stretched out my collar piece/ eased the neck opening as much as possible to match the edges of the button bands. I didn’t realize my mistake until the shirt was completed and I tried it on. SMDH!!!! The ill-positioned collar didn’t bother me enough to redo the whole collar piece though, and I can still wear it with the little bow (which is attached to the shirt by snaps), it just doesn’t look perfect. But guess what- it will the next time I make it!

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Here’s what I love about the final garment- the cotton is easy breezy lightweight, so it’s comfortable to wear on hot LA days, but not so lightweight that it doesn’t keep it’s shape. The fullness of the peplum is really pretty and the length of the whole shirt is just right on me with the slight dip down in the back. Originally I imagined wearing this with a vintage wool pencil skirt I have, but the skirt is too wide at the bottom when matched with this top- as a whole there was too much width on the top half and the bottom half did nothing to balance it out. But when I tried this blouse with my Ginger skinny jeans? BINGO! Perfect balance on top and bottom! I also love that the shirt’s silhouette looks kind of fancy on it’s own, but when paired with my elephant fabric, it looks way more casual.

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oh my god I HATE how my hair looks in this style. thank god for photo shoots where you can see exactly what does and what doesn’t make you look like a million bucks, lol

The addition of the red buttons, which I thought would break up the black and white of the print nicely, push it into even more adorable territory- I am basically a walking ray of sunshine in this top, as evidenced by the MANY compliments I got when I wore it for the first time a week ago. I had a big audition for a project I was really excited about on a studio lot that I had never been to before, which meant BUBBLE GUTS CENTRAL. Two separate compliments in the bathroom which sparked a whole conversation at the sink with a lovely woman who was just learning how to sew (I gave her my card so she could check out my blog) and then more accolades in the audition room from the producers and casting director. Nothing can diffuse my nerves more quickly than some shop talk about sewing- it’s the best way to make me feel empowered and excited about what I have to offer, because no matter what happens in front of that camera, I know that I MADE MY WHOLE OUTFIT AND I LOOK GREAT!

 

 

Sophie Swimsuit by ClosetCaseFiles

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The first swimsuit I ever made was three years ago, and I didn’t use a pattern. Blame it on complete ignorance or unfounded optimism or both, but I, like many veterans of the sewing community, have a tendency to jump headfirst into difficult projects without realizing how unlikely I am at being successful with them. This is one of the best benefits of being a newbie at something: often your lack of experience keeps you from telling yourself “no”, and before you know it, you have learned a whole lot of lessons to help you on your next try.

My first attempt was far from perfect, seeing as how I had no pattern or instructions to follow. I took apart a beloved vintage-style two-piece that I got from a store called Unique Vintage and had worn til it was nearly threadbare. I drew pictures and made notes on the order in which things were put together, tracing the carefully deconstructed pattern pieces onto new swimsuit lycra and re-constructing the pieces bit by bit. My biggest obstacle was not quite understanding how to apply elastic properly- I had never made a bra or underwear before, and my tension when inserting it onto the edges of the lycra was always either too tight or too loose- I had to pick the zig zag stitches out and start over several times. But the end result was still pretty successful: I made a complete two piece bathing suit that was wearable and, dare I say, flattering! The only thing I didn’t like about it was the crotch- my pattern piece for the gusset was off for some reason, and it looked loose and had a weird shape to it. But that didn’t keep me from proudly wearing it all two times that I went swimming that season (I am not a water baby but I love me a cute bathing suit)!

Next I tried the same technique on a vintage swimsuit I found at a thrift store that was too baggy from previous wear but had really cool design lines and a super flattering fit. This attempt was much less successful, probably because the template I was using from the deconstructed suit was already misshapen, but I got a much better understanding of how to use my elastic successfully.

A couple years after that, I tried my hand at finally using a pattern by turning an Ohhh Lulu bra and panty set into a bathing suit, exchanging the recommended fabric for swimsuit lycra and mesh lining and making a couple of adjustments with the elastics. It came out even better than my first suit, and this time the bottoms were a perfect fit, but the top wasn’t quite right. Again, still wearable and flattering, but without that perfect professional fit that I was looking for. The good thing about all these swimsuit attempts was that I had learned a lot on my own through trial and error and experimentation, and by the time I started making bras and underwear from indie patterns, I was already familiar with a lot of the techniques so construction was ultimately a breeze.

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When Closet Case Files announced her new Sophie Swimsuit pattern on instagram a couple of months ago, I made a tiny yet audible scream in the back of my throat- I was so thrilled because I knew I was ready to tackle a well drafted swimsuit pattern and fill in all the holes of my lacking knowledge! As usual, the pattern did not disappoint at all. Heather Lou clearly spends a substantial amount of time drafting all of her patterns to fit well for a variety of body types, and the difference in fit compared to other patterns is always obvious. CCF patterns are designed with curves in mind, and all the details are beautifully attended to, but the pattern instructions are also well written, precise, and easy to follow. This is the biggest difference to me in her patterns versus the Ohhh Lulu line- the designs of the latter are always beautifully executed and styled, but the wearability of them (for my body at least), seems to be lacking more often than not. If you don’t have a perfectly proportioned body that looks perfect in the OL patterns as-is, then it’s essential to have good knowledge of how to alter and adjust to make them work for your body. Sometimes I am totally fine with that kind of pattern, willing to put in the extra work and figure stuff out on my own, but other times I want a pattern that I know has already made considerations for the intricacies of our bodies; it’s the difference between making a pattern that comes in a XS-XL size format compared to one that ranges from 0-20 with a comprehensive size-chart for multiple cup sizes.

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Construction of this swimsuit was an absolute breeze, and I was most excited that it gives the option of using molded cups. While I am not a push-up bra kind of person, I do appreciate what a little underwire and textile support can do to a bust that is small like mine- it makes me look more hour-glassy without making me feel like I have a construction site at work around my boobs. I had never worked with sheet foam before, so it was really exciting to form the cups and see all the pieces come together, but I will suggest that, if using the sheet foam and underwire option, LABEL THE FABRIC AND FOAM PIECES FOR YOUR CUPS! Separately the pieces all look different, but once sewn together, I had a really tough time deciphering which side was the inner cup vs. the outer cup, and the addition of the foam cups made it even worse- I had to rip my seams out twice because I kept matching the wrong foam piece to the wrong fabric! Despite my issues with keeping track of all my pattern pieces, the three-piece cup is cleverly designed and gives you the maker a lot of options for how to play around with fabric placement. I ended up following the styling of the original pattern photos pretty closely because I just love the effect of the solid fabric hugging a bright print on either side, but if I make this suit again, I am sure I will be bolder with my fabric choices. I was pretty smitten by this Ankara-inspired peacock print because I rarely see this style on spandex fabric, and on my last trip to NYC, Renee and Marcy made sure that Spandex House was on our list of fabric stores to visit so that we could pick some up (Renee got some, too!) I love the pink and yellow colors together, and I knew it would suit my skin tone really well, plus, two of my previously made bathing suits are made with this dusty-rose lycra, and I love the idea of being able to mix and match all my swimsuit pieces.

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I graded between two pattern sizes for the bottoms, which is always tricky because my waist is smaller than my hips and if you aren’t careful, you can make either a pair of bottoms that don’t quite fit over your hips because the waist is so small, or a pair of bottoms that are baggy in the waist to accommodate pulling them over the hips- thankfully I think I achieved the right ratio with these. When cutting out my fabric, I totally forgot to shorten the length of the swimsuit bottoms- because I am short (5’3″), I thought that they might be too long on me as drafted, and I was right. Once they were completed and I tried them on for fit, they reached halfway up my ribcage. But it was an easy fix- I just lopped off the top two inches and re-attached my elastic and they are appropriately high-waisted now without bunching up on my back.

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This suit is comfortable, I feel gorgeous in it, and I LOOOVE the molded cups for the top! This is unlike any bathing suit I have ever worn before, whether store bought or handmade, and I really love the design and ease of wearing. I actually wore these bottoms in a short that I recently filmed that included a beach scene (I was still sourcing my sheet foam so the swim top had not been finished yet) and I am excited to see what it looks like on camera!

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 🙂

Ode to Oona

https://www.instagram.com/p/BD1mBH4RF5O/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

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!

Pretty Guts

I generally tend to steer away from the Big 4 patterns nowadays since I have much better luck with the sizing in indie patterns, but it’s still hard to go into a large fabric store and avoid looking through those big books with their beautiful pictures of the season’s newest designs. A while ago I was at a Joann’s in a neighboring town to pick up some notions, and they happened to be having a huge store-wide sale. All their stocked Simplicity patterns were $1 a piece, and although most of them had already been picked through, leaving little else but Halloween costumes for toddlers, I was able to score a few prizes, including this beauty, Simplicity 1803.

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I had a beautiful yardage of some cotton + steel rayon that I bought from Hart’s Fabrics a while ago, but I ended up not having enough to make the maxi dress I envisioned for it. But the soft draped look of the dress on this pattern sleeve seemed to be a good fit for my fabric, so I nixed my initial maxi dress idea and spent hours adjusting the bodice on my dressform. I made a muslin of just the bodice (sans facing pieces) in a size 8, pinned out all the extra material at the seams and then re-sewed it together. When I was happy with the fit, I transferred the pattern markings to my pattern pieces and cut out my fashion fabric. It was only when I started sewing these pieces together with the full sleeves, linings and facings that I realized I had gotten the sleeve pieces very confused and had sewed them onto my muslin not only backwards, but upside down! In my defense, the sleeve pieces for this dress are unnecessarily confusing and it would have been awesome if they had been marked them with “top” and “bottom” signifiers, since looking at the line drawings and sleeve artwork didn’t help one bit. So basically my muslin and ensuing adjustments were now null and void because the bodice, with the sleeves now attached correctly, ended up sitting much lower on the torso, meaning it no longer fit the lines of my bust and waist.

The good news is that this bodice has princess seams, and I think those are so much easier to adjust than moving darts around and making them larger or smaller. I eventually ended up pinching out about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in the bust, tapering in to the regular seam allowance at the waistline. Since the skirt is a five piece gathered dirndl, it didn’t require any major adjustments at all. The sleeves, whose details you can’t see very well because the fabric design swallows them, were a little fiddly to work with and I think I might have even accidentally missed sewing one of the design elements (a pleat at the hem of the sleeve maybe?) but I like how they came out.

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My favorite thing about this dress is the guts, a place where I usually don’t have the patience or interest to make things look very pretty. I usually just serge or pink my seams closed and move on with construction, but lately I have tried to focus less on the amount of projects I finish in a given week and instead focus on how thoughtful and deliberate I am with the construction of my makes. This is much easier said than done, as I often have lists of things that I am excited to make and I start thinking about the next project before the current one is even halfway done. But the thrill I feel whenever I pull this dress off it’s hanger and put it on is immense, because I feel like the most impressive parts are on the inside, a treat that only I get to enjoy. For this dress I used Hong Kong seams, which I worried would cause bunching and pulling on the outside of the bodice since the seams are all curved, but I clipped into the curves before I did the binding, so everything lies flat and unnoticeable on the outside of the dress. The Hong Kong seams took much longer than would serging or even French seaming, but it was absolutely worth it in the end.

innards

My other favorite thing about this dress is the way the skirt is constructed. There is a center panel cut on the fold with a pocket on either side which is connected to a front side panel, and the back of the skirt has two pieces as well. I love that the pockets are not on the actual side seams of the garment, but rather centered on the front of the skirt, which doesn’t change the functionality of the pockets much but definitely gives the whole look a little touch of visual interest when you stick your hands in them. There isn’t a whole lot of variation in a simple dress comprised of a bodice and dirndl, so these little details stick out to me a lot.

front

As usual, I was VERY oblivious to doing any pattern matching with this dress til I cut all the pieces out and realized that ummm…it might have behooved me to pay a bit more attention. The funny thing is that I made sure to keep the big star design in the fabric from landing straight on my boobs for the bodice front, but that’s where my attention to detail ended, so I was a little annoyed with myself once the bodice was all pieced together and the fabric design lines were close to matching…but not quite! I think that the fabric is too busy to draw much attention to subtle inconsistencies at the seams, and honestly, I am not a perfectionist with that stuff anyways. It might annoy me, but small irregularities wont keep me from wearing it.

back

Something I am realizing about my body is that it is much smaller in the upper back/shoulders than most patterns are drafted for, so I often have to sew my zippers with a larger seam allowance at the back neck to use more fabric, and then taper out to the regular SA for the remainder of the garment, starting at about mid-back. I am not familiar with what this kind of adjustment is called, but I would love to know if any of you are aware. It’s not normally a big deal unless there is a bold pattern on the fabric, in which case you can see the curve where the back edges meet because the design won’t be symmetrical from top to bottom.

side

All in all I am super happy with this make! I love the feel and graphic print of the fabric, and I (mostly) love the shape of the neckline, although it affects the way I wear my hair -anyone else have weird ideas about which hairstyles and jewelry look best with which necklines? This dress took a LOT more time to make than I anticipated because of all the fitting adjustments and tiny interfaced pattern pieces for the neckline facings and Hong Kong seaming I decided to do, and fyi, when I was clipping threads from the gathered waistline after I had sewn the bodice and skirt together, I totally nipped into my skirt fabric with my scissors, which was embarrassing more than anything else. I mean….?!?!? I was simply working too fast, hoping to get a step completely done before leaving my craft room for the evening and heading upstairs to make dinner. See now why I am making a commitment to work more slowly with my makes? But I tried not to be too hard on myself. I used some interfacing to patch the snip back together and then some blue fabric marker to color the white that was peeking through to the outside, and now no one but me knows that it’s there…kind of like my beautiful dress guts!

Ode to JNCOs By Way of A Birthday Suit

oh, hi!When I was in college, I finally came into my own with my sense of fashion. Not that it was a good sense, but it was my sense. I went to school a full 8 hours and 3 states away from the confines of my hometown, finally free to explore all the inner workings of my closeted fashionista without fear of judgement from my peers. That’s not to say that I didn’t make some pretty bizarre wardrobe choices in high school, but my outfits were generally tame; I lived in a mostly white neighborhood, so I didn’t intentionally try to stand out any more than necessary. In college, however, all bets were off. I was inspired by/obsessed with the girls in the Delia’s catalogs. I wanted to add sparkles and glitter to my body lotion to compliment my braces. I wanted to wear my hair wild and free in it’s naturally curly state instead of straightening it every week like I did in high school. I began to embrace an alternative look that seemed funky and cool, and very unlike the cookie cutter GAP riddled southern belles that I grew up with.
Enter JNCOs.

 

this is so embarrassing.

Okay, I never actually owned a pair of authentic JNCOs because I couldn’t afford them, but I definitely bought knock-offs simulating that wide legged shape. I loved the way guys looked in them with their requisite flavor-savors, hackey-sacks and pierced ears. I don’t say this with a sense of pride, but rather in hopeful solidarity with you readers….? Surely I am not the only teenager who fell into the JNCOs-adorned boy trap in the late 90’s. Right? I was so obsessed with the look that some of my earliest fashion-inspired sketches in my drawing diary featured boys and girls in those giant legged silhouettes. The only thing better looking to me than a slouchy, scruffy boy in a tight-fitting t shirt and sleeping bags for pants was ME in the same ensemble. My favorite “going out” outfit my sophomore year of college was my beloved pair of khaki colored JNCO wannabes, a belly-button grazing white cotton bandeau top with a ruffle on the edge, and my black Steve Madden chunky heeled ankle boots, big enough to make me several inches taller but small enough to stay inside the walls of my huge pants legs, giving me that coveted no feet look that permeated the early 2000’s. To top it off I would stuff my curly hair into Princess Leia-style buns, coat my eyelids in a some ice-blue shadow, and be ready to PARTY (fyi: for me at the time, party meant ALL dancing/NO alcohol/NO drugs. Interestingly, my idea of partying seems to have morphed into the direct inverse of this equation as I’ve gotten older. Go figure.)

Vogue 9075 (with sleeves)

I graduated from my JNCOs look pretty quickly- my junior year in college was comprised of mostly stretch knit leopard prints, feeble attempts at cleavage, and non-prescription eye glasses. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was taking so many dance and choreography courses that I pretty much lived in footless tights and leotards, and once I moved to NYC, my appreciation for a vintage aesthetic slowly started to form. But I guess my penchant for wide legged culottes never quite left me, because when I saw Erica B’s version  of the culotte jumpsuit pattern by Vogue (9075) several months ago, I was entranced! It was JNCOs all grown up! A midi length to update the silhouette, beautiful flowy fabric to soften the look, and a fitted, structured bodice to balance out the wide legs. AHHH, PERFECTION! Dare I try this look on me, 15 years after the JNCOs promptly entered and exited their way through my life? I am notorious for nixing certain shapes and design features that I don’t think will work well on my frame, and normally this jumper would be one of them (I always worry that short, wide legs will overwhelm my frame), but I couldn’t get the garment out of my mind. Eventually I decided that it was worth a try to sew it up and see how it worked on me- if it was hideous I would only be out the price of a few yards of fabric and the time it took me to make it.

pleat detailI bought a lovely navy viscose twill (not pictured in this post) from Michael Levine’s; it was my first time working with this type of fabric and I absolutely fell in love with it. It has a soft hand and beautiful drape while still giving the garment a bit of body. The end result of this fabric paired with this garment was not wonderful, though. And for some reason I forgot to buy fabric to line the jumper, so I used this cheap rayon stuff I had in my stash which was ALL WRONG ALL WRONG ALL WRONG. The colors were a terrible combo, it shed weird shimmery fibers all over my dark blue twill, and it had too much stretch so it got misshapen when paired with the bodice. All in all the design of the jumper had a lot of issues (on my body); the waistline was lower than I prefer, the crotch was WAY too high and giving me serious camel toe whenever I tried to sit down, the front middle of the bodice tugged down in this weird way, creating a tiny V that would extend below the belt I tried to wear with the jumper, the bodice was funky because the shaping didn’t really match my bust line, and the gold lining kept peeking out from underneath the bodice even though I understitched it. It wasn’t the best thing I had ever made, but, like any obsessed seamster, I was convinced it had GOOD BONES. After wearing my JNCOs Jumper to a dinner party and futzing with it all night long (and discovering that viscose twill wrinkles pretty easily), I decided that the garment would be my muslin and that it was definitely worth making again with some adjustments.
2Since my birthday was coming up, I splurged on a double gauze by Cotton & Steele and bought enough to make the jumper and the lining from the same fabric. I shortened the bodice, bringing it up to my natural waist. I took in all the bodice seams about 1/4 inch, I dropped the crotch of the pants about half an inch (although the end result is somehow several inches below my crotch). I took in the front edge of the armhole so that it wouldn’t stick out as much as it did on the first make. After making it, I realized I forgot to lengthen the pattern pieces for the pocket to match the longer length of the pants, so the pockets are usable but definitely too short for my taste. I honestly never thought that much about pockets before, so this was a nice reminder of how everything is connected- if an adjustment happens somewhere in a pattern, I need to run a checklist to make sure it doesn’t affect any other parts of the piece.

 

back detailMy favorite thing about this garment is that it looks like a dress when I am standing still and then just kind of magically transforms into pants when I start walking. The cotton gauze is beautiful and soft, and it (sort of) survived a laundry mishap when Claire’s cheap basketball jersey bled dye all over it in the washing machine. I had to do an emergency dye-removal wash with that weird smelling powder stuff but it worked well enough- the fabric is no longer as vivid as it once was but it doesn’t have as many purple splotches on it anymore. The double gauze is a little thicker than fabric I would make for this pattern in the future, but it is still one of my favorite things to wear. I completed this jumper right in time for my birthday this past April, and it was the first time that I had dedicated time and effort into making myself a birthday outfit. I don’t know why it took me so long, because I LOVE birthday celebrations (especially my own); making a special outfit to celebrate in seems right up my alley.

 

full frontal

I figured that to fully pay homage to College-Age-Jasika, I could at LEAST recreate my Princess Leia buns for these photos…

I had a great time on my birthday- it was filled with surprises from the moment I was rudely (but purposefully) awakened at 6:30 am that morning til my wife and I took an uber home from The Museum of Natural History later that night, covered in sweat from dancing to DJ Anthony Valadez at First Friday. We were running late to the event and worried that the party was going to end before we got on the dance floor, so we walked right past the bar and immediately planted ourselves in front of the speakers, dancing non-stop until the last song finished playing. All dancing/NO alcohol/NO drugs. I guess everything really does come back in style eventually.