A Pinterest-Worthy Sundress in Striped Linen

When I shared this inspiration photo from Pinterest on my instagram account, lots of people commented that they had the exact same pin saved on their board, but the funny thing is that it was one of those recommended pins they stick on your page that doesn’t come from anyone that you actually follow.

This is a pin I had saved even earlier of a similarly designed dress:

For some reason Pinterest was peddling this dress hardcore to it’s users who found inspiration in light and airy women’s garments, but I couldn’t blame them. Look at this thing! The design of the dress itself is pretty plain- just a sleeveless fitted short bodice with a gathered skirt attached- but the brilliant use of the stripes added so much dimension and visual interest to the garment that it was hard to ignore. I love it when simple designs are paired with dynamic prints- it makes it look like much more work went into it than it did. Although I was reminded in the making of my own replica of this dress that matching stripes, though not as intense as matching plaid, does indeed require a considerable amount of work and attention, attention that I was unfortunately lacking at the time, but more on that later.

I saw this striped linen at The Fabric Store in LA several months ago and grabbed the bolt straight away- sometimes stripes can look kind of boring to me, so this print with it’s different sizes of stripes was much more my speed, plus the color combination was so killer! Those washed-out subtle hues with just a pop of color in that lime green really spoke to me- they instantly reminded me of summer, and I knew right away that I wanted to try and emulate one of these pinterest pins that I had saved on my board so long ago. I did not have a pattern in mind for this design, but I didn’t feel too worried about that. I figured it wouldn’t be too much trouble to draft/hack something I had in my pattern arsenal already- again, nothing was particularly dynamic about the garment- so as long as I had a comparable bodice piece somewhere, I could stick a gathered skirt and panel piece to the bottom and call it a day. But after I shared that instagram post with the inspiration dress, I got a couple suggestions for McCalls 7774 (thanks, Carlos!), which turned out to be the spitting image of the pinterest dress, meaning much less work for me!

 

This was an incredibly easy and quick dress to put together except for matching the stripes, and my biggest mistake was starting this dress when I had a friend over who was working on her own project. I get side tracked too easily when talking and laughing and having fun and I should have known better than to start this dress, which required quite a bit more attention than a non-directional fabric would have. Ah well, you live and you learn! I did a decent job matching up the stripes for the front bodice, which I cut out into two pieces instead of on the fold to accommodate the V, but I didn’t even consider paying extra attention to the darts on the bodice so that they would line up perfectly on either side, and as a result…they don’t! Ha! But it actually took me a couple wears to even notice that, so it must not be too obvious (and if it is, I don’t care, cause I love this dress, warts and all). Noted, diagonal bodice with darts, noted.

The only structural changes I made to the pattern pieces were to add an extra tiny dart at the bust since the armholes were gaping out just a tiny bit and to take out about 1/2″ of vertical ease in the front and back bodice pieces, since Big 4’s bodices tend to be pretty large on me. The fit is terrific now, and I love that it looks fitted onto my torso but feels very loose and relaxed- this comes from having a waistband that is a couple inches higher than my waist, so it doesn’t cut into my stomach, and I use the adjustments for that Vogue culottes pattern I make all the time- I shortened the bodice so that it rises higher on my abdomen. The armholes are wide but not so much that my bra peaks out and it gives me a lot of range of movement. The bodice is fully lined but not with self fabric (I used a solid colored linen fabric on the inside that was covered in dye spots after I washed it with another cut of fabric- DON’T YOU JUST HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS?!) and it closes in the back with a zipper, which is where my stripes look less impressive than in the front. I took that zipper out like 4 times to try and get it perfectly lined up, but in the end I lost steam and decided it was close enough.

This pattern was actually a little disappointing in that it shows a dress on the envelope package with the same design as my pinterest pin (diagonal stripes in the bodice, vertical stripes in the skirt and horizontal stripes in the panel of fabric at the very bottom) yet it doesn’t include specific instructions for creating that exact dress. For example, the bodice has two grainlines you can follow, either the one that is straight across or the one on the bias, which you would use for the diagonal look. But in the instructions there was no reminder to not cut on the fold or to add seam allowance if you were creating the latter garment. In my hanging-out-with-a-friend-haze, I recognized this on some level and made sure to cut my bodice pieces out properly, but I didn’t pay attention to the bottom panel piece with the stripes that run horizontally. The pattern piece has you lay it out and cut it on the fold, meaning that the print will run in the same direction as the skirt piece, but that is not what I wanted- I wanted the stripes on my bottom panel piece to run crosswise, opposite the stripes of the skirt of the dress. Of course, by the time I realized this, it was too late- my panel pieces were already cut the wrong way! I was so frustrated with myself. That horizontal panel at the bottom just MADE the whole dress for me, and of course I didn’t have extra fabric to work with because I generally get the bare minimum of yardage so that very little goes to waste! Sigh.

To remedy this issue, I had to piece together cuts of fabric running horizontally, which means that the panel doesn’t have the same run of stripes all the way around the dress. But I managed to get the front panel pieces running in the same direction at center front, which keeps it looking generally cohesive from head on. I have gotten tons of compliments on this dress so it doesn’t look like my not-quite-perfectly lines up bodice diagonals or bottom panel stripes are taking anything away from the general look of this dress.

I have worn this dress SO much this summer! It is so easy to throw on because it’s made of linen and therefore it’s comfortable to wear during our awfully dry southern california heat, but it also looks really stylish because of the gorgeous color combination of the stripes and the three different ways the stripes are put together: STRIPE PLAY!

I have been playing around a lot with stripes lately, which has made me appreciate this classic print in new ways! A couple months after making this awesome dress I saw that Blackbird Fabrics was carrying this really pretty striped linen that I immediately wanted to make up into another, more casual Kalle shirtdress (my first Kalle shirtdress is in silk, which I love, but is definitely more dressed up than casual), and it also came out pretty great.

I cut out one front with the stripes traveling on one grainline and the other front on the opposite grainline, then I cut the back and back yoke out on the same grainline as the left front, then I cut one pocket to match the front it’s attached to and the other pocket on the diagonal. There was no method to my stripe direction madness, I just went with my instinct, and I absolutely love how it turned out. Such a simple dress and a simple fabric made more dynamic by playing around with the layout. At this point I don’t know if I am ever going to be able to cut out stripes all in one direction again!

Molyneux for Vogue

https://www.instagram.com/p/BmpE1HvAoz0/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I got this Molyneux for Vogue Paris Originals pattern for myself a couple years ago when I went on a vintage pattern rampage on etsy. I was drawn to the strappy back of this dress, but I think I was even more drawn to the illustration on the front which makes the dress look a little like a jumpsuit. It was an unconscious connection I think, but truth be told, I wasn’t all that inspired by the dress as-is, I was inspired by the idea of what the dress could be.

 

I recently went on a little purge of my pattern file cabinet and got rid of a few handfuls of patterns- mostly printed Colette designs from my first couple years of sewing, before I knew that their block was so ill-fitting on my body, a few Big 4 patterns that I made and absolutely hated (who can ever forget THIS mess of a dress?) and some vintage patterns that either weren’t in my size or just not to my taste. I get gifted lots of vintage patterns by people who don’t sew, which is AWESOME, but they aren’t always my style and I am just coming to the realization now that I don’t have to keep them just because they were given with love. Coincidentally this realization has happened right as I await a big box of patterns sent to me by an incredibly generous instagrammer who has amassed a collection of vintage patterns in my size- she bought them over the years because she loves the illustrations, and decided she would rather hand them off to someone who can actually make and wear them. I AM VERY LUCKY! But of course I also needed to make room for them! Anyways, as I was rifling through my stash, I came across this Molyneux beauty and felt re-inspired to put it in my queue. Aside from the misleading illustration that makes the design look like a jumpsuit, I noticed that I was also drawn to the crosshatch marks the illustrator used to create a vague print design on the fabric. It looks a little like plaid, or maybe just a textural tweed, and suddenly I couldn’t imagine trying to make this pattern in anything else.

As I attempt to ride out the rest of the year without buying any more fabric (not too difficult a task after having purchased so many cuts in preparation for The Fabric Store in LA closing its’ doors this summer), I am making good use of my stash and only choosing patterns for my queue that can be paired with what I already have…and it just so happens that I had a scant 2 yards of this gorgeous dark blue plaid that would make a great replica of the illustration on this Vogue envelope. The plaid, which reminds me of graph paper, seems to be a cotton blend of sorts. Initially I thought it was just a plain cotton but once I cut into it I noticed those tiny, nearly invisible threads clinging to my rotary cutter, so I thought it had a little polyester in it. Now that I have worn this jumpsuit around and I see that it barely wrinkles at all, I’m positive that’s the fibre content. I generally stay away from polyester fibers because they aren’t a very environmentally friendly material and polyester also tends to make me sweat like a mother, but since my armpits aren’t covered by the fabric, they are able to easily breathe,, and I sure do appreciate being able to sit down for a long while and stand back up without hundreds of pleats and folds criss-crossing my lap (I also like to use cotton/poly/spandex blends for stretch denim).

Because I didn’t have much fabric to play around with, I wasn’t able to do any amazing pattern matching with this plaid, but thankfully it’s not super obvious because the plaid is actually pretty plain. The design of the original Molyneux garment is very simple: one long dress front cut on the fold, two back dress pieces, some facings, and the tie. I decided to chop the dress pattern pieces off at the waist (adding in seam allowance) to make the bodice and then use the Jenny Overalls and Trousers pattern by Closet Case for the bottoms. Closet Case is my go-to pattern company for pants that fit well and need only minor adjustments for my shape (if any), and although I hadn’t made this pattern yet for myself, I felt confident that they would work well.

I omitted the side zipper on the pants to match up with the back zipper required for the bodice, and I used the view of the Jenny pants with pockets. I also added about an inch of length to the front and back pieces of the pants to make it work with the hack. The Jenny pants design is drafted with a waistband,  but since I wasn’t using one, I needed to make sure the waistline of the pants was high enough to accommodate that missing pattern piece. After grading between sizes at the waist and hip, the pants fit pretty much right off the bat with just a tiny bit of adjusting at the waist, so next I went to work on my bodice.

I didn’t make a muslin for the bodice because I like to live on the edge, and I almost played myself! After constructing the entire bodice, facings and all, I excitedly tried it on and was disappointed to see that the bust area was HUGE on me. It sagged out so much at the side seams around the collarbones that you could see clear through from one side of the garment to the other, haha! The fix for this was easy, I just needed to add a bust dart dart to pull in that extra fabric, but that meant I had to undo the facings on the top side seams, cut them shorter, and then re-attach them to the underarm facings. It dragged out the construction, taking way longer than it needed to, but I am of course happy that I took the time to fix that area- without the added darts, the whole bodice would have looked sloppy and ill fitting. The construction of the facings and tie/straps were a little…strange. Vintage patterns are known to have strange instructions, but some of the technical tools and materials that were available back then are really outdated now, so I got thrown off a few times. Specifically the area where the strap/tie connects to the neckline of the bodice is bizarre, and the instructions require you to attach a strip of “binding” (I think that’s what they called it?) to the neckline over the gathered seam stitching before sewing the strap on. The strap opens up to encase the raw edge of the seam when it’s sewn onto the neckline, so I’m not sure why there needed to be an extra piece of fabric sewn there- maybe just to keep that area stable? Either way, it’s weird to follow instructions when you aren’t sure what you’re following them for, but I did it and it looks fine.

Instead of sewing darts onto the front piece of the bodice, I took inspiration from my $34 dress and just used pleats. I figured they would visually flow better with the gathered neckline, be more comfortable, and also give me a little room to play with in case I needed to adjust the waistline of the bodice once I sewed everything up to try it on. I was correct on all counts! This bodice makes me look kind of busty since it’s so full, but I’m in to it, and the pleats at the waistline are a lovely match for the neckline. Amazingly the back bodice pieces fit almost perfectly with the length of the back pants pieces, so all I had to do was mark where my zipper should go and sew it up.

Despite skipping a muslin and hacking two patterns together that I had never even made for myself before, this jumpsuit came together really quickly- it was completed in less than two days. I absolutely love the fit- it feels casual with the airy bodice paired with the wide cropped legs, but it also looks really chic and put together, and it seems like a pretty great transitional piece to move from summer (which doesn’t end here in LA any time soon) to fall. I think this piece will look really cute with a jean jacket or long coatigan and some booties. As I discussed in a previous post, I have found myself shying away from florals and bright colors lately and leaning towards a slightly conservative, neutral palette in shades I love (pastels) or interesting but subtle prints, like this cool plaid. When I bought this fabric I planned on making an Archer for the cooler months- nothing very exciting or new, but I just liked the print so much that I had to get it and couldn’t think of anything more interesting to pair it with. I love that I pushed myself a bit out of my comfort zone and went with a design that is totally unexpected for this print- less fear, more try!

Perspephone Pants

When I first saw the Persephone Pants by Anna Allen making the rounds on instagram and the blog world, I assumed they were a part of a bandwagon that I needed to stay off of. I had learned my lesson with the Terra Pants earlier this year, a slouchy, drop-crotched tailored pants pattern that people were head over heels for, but that looked absolutely HORRIBLE on me when I made them up. Construction-wise they were beautiful and the process was really fun, but they just didn’t hit any part of my body in the way they were supposed to. Not everything is made for everybody, and that’s an important lesson to learn. But another important lesson? Just because you think they aren’t for you doesn’t mean that they won’t be- sometimes it’s just a crapshoot and you have to take the risk!

I’m really really really glad that I decided to give the Persephone Pants a try because on paper they were not going to be an ideal match for me. The silhouette looked cool on the models in the photos for the pattern but I was afraid they were going to completely engulf my small frame with the width of those legs paired with the ankle length crop. But what seemed even more problematic for me was the the design element that had made them so popular- they don’t have side seams! The pants are only connected at the inseam and the crotch, which gives the pants a very streamlined, funky look, but for someone like me who has a 2 size difference between waist and hips, I rely heavily on side seams to get a good fit around my hips and thighs, so the absence of them seemed like it was just going to create a massive headache and an unwearable garment, much like those beautiful Terra Pants.

But then I saw lady Katie of WhatKatieSews rocking them on IG and talking them up big time. I recalled that she usually had to grade patterns for a size difference between her waist and hips and I asked her how she was able to accommodate her figure without use of the side seams. She responded that because there are back waist darts, she was able to modify them to nip in more where she needed them to and the alteration was easy and successful. Hmmm…intriguing! But dare I rely on one sole person who happens to look amazing in them? Everyone looked amazing in the Terra Pants, too….everyone except me!

And then I came across a blog post written by a Very Purple Person. She too looked amazing in her Persephones, but she also shared her measurements (something I have only recently realized can be incredibly helpful information to share in blog posts!) which were the same as mine, and this was the last nudge I needed. If her hips and waist could accommodate the darts and lack of side seams then I imagined I would fare just as well as she did, and thankfully I was right, because I really love these pants!

First I made them in a mid-to-heavy weight denim that I found at Joann’s when on a run for notions. I rarely fabric shop at Joann’s because the quality of the bolts can be all over the place- don’t get me wrong, they have some great finds on their shelves, but I have always had to hunt really hard for them, and with a (now sadly, defunct) The Fabric Store nearby, my time was always better spent in a curated shop. Anyways, I just so happened to run into Mimi G on this day that I made a run to my local Joann’s, and she had found the prettiest pineapple-print rayon that she was going to make into a shirt dress, so I felt inspired to spend a little time roaming the aisles to find something good for my project. To be fair, their selection of denim and twill is always pretty decent, because those seem to be good workhorse fabrics that everyone likes to sew with. I really like the blue color of this 100% cotton denim, which was slightly bleached-looking and gave me serious 80’s vibes as soon as I saw it.

The denim was great to sew with and the construction was mostly straightforward til I got to the button fly insertion. Now I had read on several blog posts that these instructions were particularly clear and concise and that people who had trouble inserting button-flies on other projects got through this with a breeze. I myself had done a few successful button flies and tons of zipper flies at this point so I had no doubt that I would fly (ba-dum-ching) through this part. Imagine my surprise when I simply could not make the pieces lay down right and get my topstitching to look clean at all. I took the damn thing out three times but still! I could not get it right!

The only major difference I could tell from making this fly and the countless others in my arsenal was that I usually sew the crotch seam of the front pieces together in the first step- I baste the fly extensions together til the bottom of the extension shape, where they curve and meet the crotch seam, then I change to a regular stitch to sew the remainder of the seam, and then I sew in my zipper. But if I remember these steps correctly (since I made these a few months ago), the Persephone pants instruct you to complete the whole zip insertion before sewing the two front pattern pieces together at the crotch. In doing that it was really difficult for me to get my sewing needle all the way up to the point where the fly extension ends and becomes the crotch seam, because the button fly and extension pieces were so bulky. So there was always a tiny little gap right beneath it that would look even more obvious once I tried to topstitch over it. After two unsuccessful tries, the only way I could make it look right was to take the whole thing out, sew the bottom part of the seam first as I usually do, and then re-insert the zipper.

I have seen several people’s finished Persephones and they all look amazing, including their button flies, and I only saw one other person comment on my IG about having a lot of difficulty with this part of the instructions, so I am going to chalk my issue up to either user error or ultra bulky fabric, but it still seems worth mentioning here in my blog post. And after all that, I have actually decided that I DON’T LIKE the button fly at all! It looks great as a design choice, but as far as wearing them (and this might also be due to my fairly thick denim), after a couple of hours of movement, the fly gets a lot of creases and folds and the whole crotch area starts to look bulky and a bit sloppy. I never even considered changing out the jeans buttons for regular flat buttons as another brilliant blogger on instagram did, which keeps the whole area looking a bit flatter, but even so, I decided to make my second pair of these (the yellow denim) using a zip fly with my preferred method of insertion.

I also lengthened the fly, since I need more room to get these hips into such a small waistband, used my curved waistband, and added some pockets to the back, which I think worked out very well. The curved waistband didn’t change the fit at all since the pants sit so high and I don’t really curve like that around my abdomen, but I will keep all the other changes I made for future pairs. The fabric for these is the goldenrod Cone Mills denim that Threadbare Fabrics has been carrying in her shop, and once it arrived in the mail, I decided to use the wrong side of the denim on a whim. The goldenrod is beautiful and vibrant, but I liked the pastel hue of the “wrong” side a lot, and I am so pleased with my decision! One weird thing that happened during construction of my golden pair was that I cut out the cropped length of these pants as opposed to the regular length (which is how I cut out my first pair- what the heck happened?!) and I didn’t realize it until it was too late. Unfortunately the shorter length was NOT okay on me, so I had to cut out a cuff to make up for the lost length, and lop it onto the bottom of the legs. I was afraid that it would look really obvious and be distracting, but holy cow you can’t even see it in these pictures, and even close up it looks like a subtle design choice.

Fly preference and construction aside, these pants for me were a relatively quick make, and I am still amazed at how easy it was to fit a pair of pants on this booty without any side seams while still getting a smooth and sleek silhouette. I love the pocket construction in the front- I can’t fit much more than a tube of chapstick and some dollar bills in there but I love that they are hidden and don’t interrupt the lines of the garment while still offering at least something in the ways of clothing storage, haha. A lot of sewists compare this pattern to the Landers by True Bias (made here) which are also a really fantastic wide legged silhouette with a more traditional design, namely side seams and back pockets. Although they are super similar, I think I like the Persephones a little more- the waist comes up a bit higher on me which I always love, but the shape of the leg is different- the Landers have the tiniest hint of a flare at the bottom of the leg but the Perspehones go straight down from the thigh to the ankle, and I personally think that’s a bit more flattering on my short body.

My blue pair is really comfortable but gets a little saggy after a couple of wears and my yellow pair fits much more snugly but can cut a bit into my belly if I am sitting in a weird position (i.e. slumped, which is my fav stance, lol). Maybe my third pair will be the perfect balance between the two? Fingers crossed! Oh, and before I forget- the pink mules paired with the blue denim are me-made as are the orange and brown sandals with the yellow pair of persephones, and the blue FLINT t-shirt is RTW while the cropped white shirt is my first Kalle!

PS Just realized that after all that talk about how nice it is to know someone’s measurements accompanied with their makes, I forgot to mention mine, lol. Waist is 26.5 and hips are 37!

Culottes Jumpsuit Hack in Bathing Beauties

Although I love a good print, I’m not much for novelty fabrics for garment sewing- they can be so loud and make things look so twee, which is not necessarily bad, but I find it a little hard to balance out the aesthetics of a cutesy pattern in a cutesy print within my wardrobe. And on top of that, lately I have felt a pretty big shift in my fabric tastes, going from floral, colorful, eye-catching pieces of fabric to a more classic monochromatic palette (pastels, neutrals, stripes). That said, sometimes you come across a novelty print that just speaks to your soul on a deep level and you have to pass Go, collect $200, and buy the damn yardage without asking questions.

It happened to me a couple of years ago with that Zombie Pin-Ups print that Alexander Henry came out with (still haven’t used it!), and it happened again recently with this Bathing Beauties cotton. Curvy, stylish women of all colors and hairstyles confidently donning bikinis and having the time of their life? This is the representation I like seeing in fun novelty fabric! The only thing to make this print better would be for some of the beauties to have wheelchairs and underarm hair! The print comes in at least a few different colors, one being a purple pastel that I was really drawn to, but, as Claire pointed out, you couldn’t tell that some of the beauties were various shades of black and brown when the whole print was washed in a pastel color, so I went with this perhaps slightly less exciting color story to make room for my principles, LOL! It’s a strange color palette to me, this brown, yellow and blue, perhaps because there seem to be too many primary colors fighting for attention- like, if they kept all the various shades of skin colors in tact but limited the other colors (bathing suits, hair) to a smaller, more refined palette, it might be more within my preference? No matter. Even with the strange color choices, I am pretty in love with this bold fabric and I am very happy with how this garment came out!

Initially I was going to make a super cute fit n flare dress (see? cutesy pattern and cutesy print! So easy for me to fall into this trap!) but I realized that I would only wear a dress such as this when I was getting dolled up for a moderately special occasion and I already knew I wanted this fabric to be a bigger part of my summer than a party dress would allow. So my next choice was to make something still cute looking but more casual, and I quickly decided on another version of McCalls 7774 which I completed a few months ago (it will be up on the blog soon). It’s my absolute favorite summer dress right now because it’s so breezy and easy to wear when it’s hot out, and I would love to have more of that silhouette in my closet.

But then I glimpsed a different garment in my wardrobe that has been one of my favorite pieces to wear for nearly 4 years, Vogue 9025, a culottes jumpsuit with dress variation, and I thought this would be the perfect thing to hack with the bodice from the McCalls dress. I love culottes jumpsuits because they look like a dress but allow a bit more freedom of movement and a very unexpected surprise factor when I decide to randomly do the splits (my splits ain’t what they used to be but I can still get that front leg straight)! Although I love both versions of the Vogue jumpsuit I have made, the princess seamed bodice was a bit finicky on me depending on what fabric the garment was made out of and I liked the simplicity and straightforward details of the McCalls bodice. My Vogue jumpsuits are heavily altered, with the waistline raised several inches and the pants lengthened to make up the difference (more details in this post). I also added more width to the front pants so that they have a more relaxed fit around my midsection than the close fit they were drafted for. This makes for a much looser garment all around, and I am in love with it. It’s one of the most comfortable things in my closet!

As for the McCalls dress, I took out about 1/2″ of width at the center front of bodice as I did for the first version, but I probably could have taken out an even bigger wedge because this jumpsuit dips out slightly at the neckline (strangely it didn’t do that in my first version?). I stay stitched the armholes of the bodice which was a grand idea and kept me from having to add additional darts on either side of the bust as I did on my first version, and I also fully lined the bodice (but I had to use scraps of linen for the back pieces since I ran out of fabric). I remembered to lengthen the pockets to match up with the longer pants pieces but I forgot to double check my pleats and I totally sewed them going the wrong way on the front of the jumpsuit (they should be facing the side seams). But it didn’t bug me enough to take them out and redo them since they still laid flat and looked fine. I also shortened the pants to make this an above-the-knee garment since I didn’t have much yardage to work with and I wanted to do a variation of the other garments I had made from the same Vogue pattern.

The result is simple, comfortable, and super eye catching! But perhaps a little too bold for people to comment on? I can feel them staring but so far they rarely ask me about it, which is pretty surprising since strangers have asked me about my jeans before which are way less interesting looking! I think they might just be too riveted by the bold bathing beauties to muster up any words! No matter- I’m not sure I would know what to say if I saw someone walking down the street in this killer print, either- I would just stare with a little drool coming out the side of my mouth 😉

P.S. I changed shoes halfway through this photoshoot so some of the photos have me in gold Sven clogs and others have me in a pair of flat sandals I made a couple years ago!

Fionaed Up

***I’m not proud of these photos- it took me FOREVER to muster up the energy to take several month’s worth of blog photos the other day and when I finally got everything set up, the DSLR was not behaving at all and I didn’t know how to fix it, so I had to resort to using my iPhone, which…well, as you can see, led to abysmal results. It was either these crappy photos or nothing at all, so please accept my apologies for the grainy, poorly lit images! Hopefully after this batch of photos gets posted I will have figured out how to get the right settings back on the camera!***

Closet Case Patterns came out with the Fiona Dress a month or so ago and I was immediately drawn to many of the features- I love the buttons all down the front of the dress, I love the open back in View B, and I love the princess seamed bodice. The dress as designed seems to combine utilitarian elements which is a nice change for a summer garment- not so frilly and romantic as what I am used to seeing on the market, especially when sewn up in a heavy weight fabric like denim. I really love the way it’s paired in some of the product photos with a shirt underneath, for a layered look that is appropriate for fall and winter, which I think will definitely be on my sewing roster for the cooler months. But for my summer version of this dress I wanted to play around with the silhouette a bit and add some frillier elements that suit my style.

The first thing I knew I wanted to do was change out the straps for something a little airier. I used to have a dress from ModCloth back in the day when I still bought RTW that I wore for some publicity interviews (I think I wore it to the last San Diego Comic Con I attended on behalf of “Fringe”). It was polyester so I sweat like a mother in it, but it had this cool design element of tiny spaghetti straps over the shoulders, and once I started sewing I always had the thought to try and implement that design idea into a make. This was the perfect opportunity- the straps of Fiona are thick enough that you could sub in three individual spaghetti straps in their place without messing up the fit of the bodice. I made 6 lengths of spaghetti strappage and then promptly hurt my wrist and gouged my finger with the pulling of the safety pin to turn the straps, which meant I had to pull out my wrist brace and wear it for the completion of this dress (which, as you can see in the photos, took a long time what with all the additional spaghetti straps I ended up making). But I’m getting ahead of myself!

So I marked where the regular straps fit onto the bodice and inserted my thin straps in their place, making sure the angles were lined up properly. It was really tricky to keep the straps from getting tangled and twisted around each other and eventually I learned that I needed to keep the front bodice edges closed with safety pins to avoid this issue. Putting the bodice together was straightforward and easy and the sizing was great for me- I graded between a size 4 at the bust and a 6 at the waist, but I ended up having to bring the waist in a tiny bit once I attached my skirt so I probably could have kept everything at a 4 and been just fine.

The only issue I ran into were the bands that go around the top of the bodice- and this could definitely be a mistake on my part because I HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO MAKE SEWING MISTAKES IN MY PAST lol. I used pieces J and K for the band for view B, but when I sewed them up together, they didn’t reach the full length of the bodice. Initially I thought this was because in my grading between the bust and the waist, it was hard to know which sizes of the bodice bands to cut out since the back bands went from the bust TO the waist, but when I cut out the larger size I was still short over an inch between the band and the bodice meeting at the back. I lined up the pattern pieces together and they also did not meet, but again, I might be overlooking something or I might have made a tracing mistake. Eventually I just had to re-draft and cut out new pattern pieces for K, adding about an inch or so of extra length to it, and it fit the bodice perfectly.

Aside from the piece that didn’t line up properly, the bands are a little tricky to piece together at first, or at least they were for me- it’s just because the pattern pieces are very similar looking in shape and size and it’s easy to confuse them with each other, and they also have to be sewn together in a certain way for the pieces to fit the bodice just right (this was made even more confusing since my pattern pieces didn’t have a wrong side). If J or K are sewn upside down or on the wrong side, they wont match up to the bodice properly, so for any other sewists who get turned around easily with this kind of pattern puzzle-piecing, it might help to label the wrong side of your pattern pieces with the letter of the piece and maybe some arrows to denote left/right and top/bottom.

After I tried the bodice on for fit and determined the length of my straps, I focused on the skirt. I self drafted a flared skirt using instructions from one of Gertie’s books but ultimately the skirt seemed less “flare” and closer to a 1/2 circle skirt. I knew I didn’t want a full circle skirt because 1. my linen (one of the premium lines of mid-to-heavyweight linen from The Fabric Store in LA, R. I. P.) was on the heavier side and I didn’t want all that fabric weighing the dress down and 2. I only had maybe 2.5 or 3 yards of this fabric which would not have been enough for the ankle-length version I wanted to make (which of course ended up not happening at all, but again, I’m getting ahead of myself!). So I cut out my pieces for the 1/2 circle-y/flare-ish skirt, basted the pieces onto my bodice and OH MY GOD it just looked BARF-O-RAMA. I’m not sure exactly why! But it just didn’t flow well over my body at all, and the waistline of the bodice didn’t match well with the silhouette of the skirt. I hated the way it looked, which was a surprise because this style of skirt tends to always look flattering on me (and everyone else I see in it)- it’s the whole reason I didn’t make a muslin, because who needs a muslin for a 1/2 circle skirt?? (eating my words now).

So! My skirt looked awful but I had no more fabric left to do anything significant with, so if I was gonna stay with the original vision of my skirt I had to cut new pieces out of the original 1/2 circle. I had one back piece and two front pieces and instead of just cutting brand new thinner pieces out of them, I decided to drape them on my dress form, something that only works because my form is padded out very closely to my measurements. The ribcage is still about an inch too big and the hip and butt areas are not the exact same shape as mine, but it’s a close enough approximation that garments on the form look almost the same as garments on my body. When I tried draping the front left skirt piece on the form, it clearly looked best when hanging on the bias, so I had to angle the piece a bit to get the most fabric from the cut. I lost significant length for the skirt at this point in the construction process, but I knew I would rather have a shorter completed dress than a skirt that looked a hot mess. I got the left skirt front to hang beautifully, but when I tried to drape the right front panel, something was way off. It took more fabric to hang in the same way as the left side, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I had cut my pieces out properly along the grainline and my fabric seemed to be true when I was cutting it, but here I was with a piece that didn’t want to lay as smoothly as the other side had. When complaining about this on IG, someone commented that they had read somewhere that horizontal and vertical grainlines have different biases, so if a piece is cut out facing one way and another is cut out facing the other (which mine was since I had such little fabric to work with), this might be why the bias is behaving differently. I don’t know if that’s what happened here but it’s the only explanation I can come up with, and it makes enough sense to me that I am sticking with it lol.

My dilemma at this point: a) do I cut out the right skirt piece the same as the left skirt piece even though they lay differently against the dress form? or b) do I cut out the right skirt piece larger so that it lays properly, even though it will be a different shape than the other side? Guys, knowing what I know now, the answer is definitely b, but guess what I actually did? YEP!!!! I a)-ed the shit out of that skirt piece, and the rest of this blog post, where things get REALLY interesting, is me trying to make up for this mis-judgement, haha!

I sewed my skirt pieces together, basted them onto the bodice and took a look in the mirror- the left side was PERFECT! It skimmed my curves just as I wanted it to, not too tight and not too loose, the skirt was flowy but not voluminous and it looked so flattering. The right side was another story entirely. I am not sure why it was so hard to capture in photos, but take my word for it- AWFUL! Everything looked great until around the midpoint of my hip, and then the seam got wonky, wouldn’t lay right around my hip, and took a hard turn forward- literally the seam starts off from the bodice going straight down the side of my body, and then juts towards the front looking as asymmetrical as you please. Of course this is because the skirt piece wasn’t draped fully on the bias and needed more fabric to complete the full silhouette, fabric that I had just cut off so it would be the same size/shape as the left side.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl6hpadgkNT/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Obviously I needed to add the wedge I had cut off back onto the skirt panel, but that wedge would no longer do the job I needed it to since it would be missing the seam allowances necessary to sew it back on. But perhaps more than that, I was very uninterested in having a random plain wedge stuffed onto the side seam of the skirt. I thought it would look too much like a mistake if I didn’t take this opportunity to spice up this area a little bit and have some fun with it (famous last words). So instead of piecing together a wedge from my scant pile of scraps, I started making more spaghetti straps out of them- at some point I ditched the safety pin route and used this weird plastic strap turner thing I bought years ago but never use, and it worked in a fraction of the time and was a lot less stressful on my wrist. But it STILL took forever, and I definitely wish I had used it fro the beginning. Anyways, I liked the idea of incorporating the detail I loved most about the garment, the bodice straps, somewhere else on the dress. I had an image in my head of straps that took up the space of the wedge while providing some peekaboo glimpses of my leg at the same time. And I also thought it would be cool if the straps were placed close together at the point of the wedge near the top of my thigh and then were spaced further apart as they went down my dress. I unpicked the seam of the dress from the point where it pivoted forward at my hip, folded the seam allowances under, and attached a set of straps, from short to long, all along the seam, angling them across the wedge for visual interest. As I said, in my head this seemed like a cool idea, and in all honesty I actually don’t think it ended up looking that terrible, but my issue was that the straps weren’t stable enough to hold their shape across the span of the wedge, so they just drooped down and looked like ripped fabric. If they had been stiff and held their shape straight across the skirt, I would probably have been totally into this look.

So back to the drawing board. Except I wasn’t completely over the spaghetti straps- I loved the thought of creating a new kind of fabric by manipulating the straps in a cool way. What if I kept the same idea of the straps filling up the wedge, but instead of having negative space in between them, I position them very close together so there is no peekaboo and the straps look like more of a textile? Risky….but at this point, what did I have to lose?! I spent a few hours making about 2 million more spaghetti straps, cutting them into the proper lengths and then positioning them so that they formed a large wedge that would fill up the gap in the skirt. Once I had them all positioned correctly I hand-basted the edges together just so that I could move the wedge as a whole to my sewing machine. Next I sewed down the lengths of each side and then I serged the edges together (this was important because linen unravels like mad and I needed to secure all the tiny strap edges).

I placed the triangle of straps on the inside of the dress and then edgestitched the length of each side of the wedge onto the seam. Laying flat on my table, the straps looked amazing. And when I tried the dress on, well…it was certainly better than the peekaboo leg look I had created in the previous experiment, and it was definitely INTERESTING looking, but something was still off for me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. When Claire came home and I tried it on for her, the first thing out of her mouth was “Pocahontas” and I thought ‘BINGO!’. The spaghetti strap wedge, particularly in this coffee color, looked like decorative leather, almost like fringe. Having the straps positioned very closely together helped maintain some of the shape I wanted, but gravity still weighed most of the straps down a bit so they continued to swing a little low. The result was costume-y and not at all in line with the romantic and casual summer dress I was initially going for. I think that in general this “leathered fabric” look could be really cool and I loved the effect of creating this a new kind of textile, but for me, the wedge just wasn’t in line with the design of the rest of the dress.

I considered sewing vertical lines of stitching across all the straps to hopefully make them more stable and keep them from drooping down, but I knew that if it didn’t work, unpicking all that stitching was going to be a nightmare and would probably ruin all the straps. I also considered weaving in more straps vertically and I even tried it out with some of the extra fabric scraps I had lying around on my sewing table, but I wasn’t impressed with how it was looking. And then Claire asked if I had any other colors I could use with the wedge. I had to think for a minute. Well, actually I did happen to have the exact same weight of linen in a light pink color. That pink yardage of linen had come out of it’s pre-wash months ago with splotches of blue dye speckled across it, probably bled on from something else that was in my pre-wash, so I hadn’t been able to use it for the project I wanted and instead had used it up as linings for dress bodices, a pair of shorts, binding, etc. The pink and coffee colors were actually very beautiful together and not too bold. What the hell? I asked myself. If I am not in love with the dress as it is I might as well keep trying to make it better. My worst case scenario was that the entire skirt would be ruined by all this experimentation, but I knew I could save the bodice by just attaching it to a skirt of a total different color of linen, which honestly would have looked very cool and I’m probably gonna do that on purpose at some point in the future.

SO! I cut out MORE SPAGHETTI STRAPS, y’all. MORE! Out of my pink linen fabric, and then I wove them through the brown straps already sewn onto the dress. It looked strange with one strap woven in, and only a little better with two, but once I wove three pink straps through the horizontal brown straps of the wedge, I was loving it. To permanently attach the pink straps to the wedge of the dress, I used Fray Check on each edge of the strap to keep it from unraveling, and I slip stitched the edges to the strap either above or below it, depending on which part of the strap I was working on. The pink straps keep the horizontal straps flat, stable and not droopy, and  they add a very subtle pop of color and visual interest. I was afraid the wedge would look a little too much like a woven basket when all was said and done, but ultimately the full effect looks fun and unexpected- it kind of mimics plaid, or the way woven fabric looks very close up.

My only regret is not being able to put pockets on the front, as the dress is originally designed with, but I just didn’t have enough fabric to make self-fabric pockets, and they would have probably competed too much with the weaving on the side anyways. I considered adding pockets in the side seams but didn’t want it to bulk up the silhouette at the hips, which is a big pet peeve of mine.

All in all….this of course is not the dress I intended to make- I wanted a simple, casual, easy summer dress, and this is much fancier and eye-catching than I intended. How do I feel about it? I’m not gonna lie, I think the pink weaving technique on the side looks pretty cool but I definitely miss the length I lost when re-drafting the skirt- I was ready for a swishy, ankle-length dress! And on top of that, I’m just not sure if it’s ME! Will I pull it out to wear for a special occassion, and will I feel good about it when I do? Only time will tell. But I am really proud of myself- I didn’t have to make too many compromises to save this dress- it’s still in the general vicinity of where I wanted it to land, and the detour I made was challenging and really fun, and I learned some interesting things about manipulating fabric! I have lots of garments from my past that didn’t work out for some reason, and trying to save them would stress me out, give me anxiety dreams, and often not end up as a wearable garment. So comparatively, this is a huge success!

 

 

MeMade Birkenstocks

The first question that I know the majority of you will be asking is where do I get authentic cork Birkenstock footbeds?, so let me go on and get that answer out of the way: I have NO idea! That’s something you will have to search for on your own! The footbeds are out there because I stumbled upon mine accidentally, but I don’t know of a one-stop shop where you can buy them (not that such a place doesn’t exist- I assume it does and can be uncovered by a bit of googling). If your city has a shoe components shop, obviously check there first- that’s where I found my footbeds. Saderma (no website) is a leather and shoe findings store here in Los Angeles that has been servicing shoe repair shops and cobblers for years, and once I started making shoes I would head there to buy shoe heels, Barge’s cement glue, and used lasts. On one visit I saw a shelf full of packages of what looked like Birkenstocks, and upon closer inspection I realized I was half right- they were Birks,but they were unfinished: just the footbeds with no soles or uppers. I bought a couple pairs not knowing at all how to make them, but I figured that I could suss it out on my own with my already-acquired basic shoe making knowledge, and I was right.

Another place to check for these footbeds locally would be a cobbler/shoe repair shop in your area, since these are the places that generally buy the footbeds from the distributors. You know how after years of hard wear the cork on a pair of Birks, if not taken care of, can wear down so much that they are threadbare in places? Well a shoe repair person can take your beloved old sandals and save the uppers by replacing the corkbeds and the bottom soles. So you might have some luck reaching out to one of those shops and asking if you can buy a pair from them or asking them to order a pair for you to use on your own. Maybe they will charge you a few extra bucks for them, but in my opinion it’s still worth it: I pay $36 for each pair of footbeds, so compared to the average price tag of $140 for a pair of finished Birks, they are a steal.

Here is a list of basic supplies I used for my Birks:

  • thick leather for the uppers
  • Barge’s rubber cement glue (I wouldn’t recommend using anything other than Barge’s for these- there are non toxic glues you can work with to put together uppers and glue them in place on certain shoes, but when it comes to putting together a hearty, strong sole, rubber cement is the only thing that wont melt on hot pavement or start pulling apart at the seams after time)
  • thick rubber soling for the bottom of the footbed (I get my Birkenstock bottom replica soling from Saderma, but I have seen thick rubber soling in cool colors on eBay- again, hunt around!)
  • nylon thread
  • a leather needle
  • a multi-sized hole punch
  • buckles, clasps, or decorative pieces depending on your design

I’ve made several pairs of Birkenstocks and I have come up with my own designs as well as used the standard two-buckle design. If you decide to use a standard Birkenstock design, I highly urge you to make a pattern based on a completed pair. Borrow them if you don’t have a pair of your own, or you could even purchase a knock-off pair from some place like Target, trace the pieces, then return them! The reason for basing the pattern off of a finished pair is that even though the sandal looks very straightforward, it is actually drafted very specifically to mold over the shape of a foot, which is why the uppers are so comfortable and easy to wear. I always assumed it was just two straps on one side, two buckles on the other and that’s it, but once I traced my own pair I realized that the shapes of the pieces were unusual and not something that could just be thoughtlessly sketched out onto some paper. If you have a flat last that will fit into a Birk shoe bed, you can also make a pattern using the masking tape method and it will probably yield similar results.

There needs to be enough leather added to the underside edge of the pattern piece so that it can reach around under the footbed. The straps also need to be the correct width of the buckles so that they can slide easily through them- it’s easier to shave off some extra width so that it will fit than it is to have straps that are too skinny.

 

Once my pattern pieces are laid out, I trace them out of my leather. I found a beautiful oxblood suede at The Fabric Store, but it was a little flimsier than I would like- since these sandals need to be able to hold up to heavy wear, I want the uppers to be soft for comfort but strong for durability. The fix for this was easy- I glued two pieces of the leather together (this is a great opportunity for using the non-toxic glue if I want to limit my exposure to Barge’s) and let it dry, then cut out my pattern pieces: double the weight of my original leather with very little fuss.

Since I am making a standard 2-strap design for this pair of Birks, I attached my buckles to the outer pattern pieces at this point. On authentic Birks, the buckles are held into place by a kind of metal staple that is formed around the bar of the buckle and clasped closed on the other side. They are discreet and you can’t feel them on the other side of the leather.

I was unable to replicate this exact technique because I couldn’t find what kind of metal staple was used to secure the buckle, nor could I figure out the device used to apply it, but even if I could, it seemed an extravagant thing to have for someone who just make Birkenstocks for fun for herself and her family. So instead I just sew my buckles onto the leather in a tiny criss cross pattern using Nylon thread (it’s important to use nylon thread when shoemaking with leather as opposed to a thread made of natural fibers or a sewing thread, because cotton will disintegrate over time and you need the thread to be thick and strong).

I made a pair of polka dot Birks about a year ago and the nylon thread has held up beautifully, but the stitches need to be tight and secure, knotted at the beginning and ends of them (I also held a small flame to the ends of my knot to melt the thread for extra security). It helps to punch tiny holes in the leather to sew the stitches into, and it also makes the criss cross look neater. Ultimately this area is covered up by the strap so if it doesn’t come out looking that great, it won’t be seen anyways!

After attaching the buckle, I positioned the leather upper pieces around the edges of the footbed. These Birks are actually for my brother for a Father’s Day gift so I wasn’t able to position them around my foot in the sole, but thankfully these footbeds come with markings on the bottom for where the straps should hit, which takes out a lot of the guesswork. Another cool thing is that they seem to use the same sized pattern pieces for a variety of sizes, so the pattern pieces I created for my polka dot Birks work just as well for this pair for my brother which is several sizes larger.

 

Once buckles are complete I punch holes the matching width of the buckle bar into the straps.

When making regular sandals around curved edges, you often have to cut some darts into the underside parts of the upper pieces so that you can mold them around the curve and they will fit the foot well and not gape anywhere (this is the same premise as cutting notches into a curved edge of fabric in sewing), but since I didn’t have the luxury of actually molding these onto my brother’s feet I didn’t really need to use them. Also the edge of the footbed is pretty straight as opposed to curved so the notches weren’t as necessary, but I cut them out of habit before realizing I didn’t need to. I did try to curve the upper outer edge of the pattern piece around the toe because I remember that it wanted to gape out a bit when I constructing my first pair.

This part is easy to figure out if you are molding them around your own feet though. When positioning the uppers around the footbed, I use the marks on the bottom of the footbed as a guide but you don’t have to be married to them- I played around with what looked/felt best.

Safety first when working with Barge’s!

Once I figure out the best positioning, I use tape to secure the edges to the bottom of the footbed, then mark the outer edges of each piece so that I know what and where to glue. I also make sure to mark the insides of the uppers and up the sides of the cork footbed- this rubber cement glue only adheres to other glue, so both sides being adhered need to have a thin, even coating. After applying the glue, I let it dry for a few minutes before sticking them together, pressing hard and then pounding with my rubber mallet.

The final steps are attaching the soles to the footbeds. I skive the edges of the leather on the underside to create less bulk, but I also could have poured shredded cork onto the bottoms to fill in the gaps between the leather and the footbed.

I cut out a piece of rubber soling for each shoe that is larger than the shape of the shoe. It is much easier to adhere the pieces together and cut around the soling than it is to cut an exact soling shape out and then try and line it up perfectly (trust me, I learned this from Rachel of RachelSeesSnailShoes and she is the shoemaking QUEEN).

I mark the general area of the shoe on the soling so that I don’t waste too much glue, then evenly coat the sole and the bottom of the footbed with glue. I wait another few minutes til the glue is tacky, then press hard with my hands to squeeze the pieces together, especially around the thick edges of the upper and the sole where it wants to gape, and then I gently pound the bottom and sides with a rubber mallet on my shoe anvil.

If there are any gaps still between the footbed and the sole, I try to squeeze tiny drops of glue inside, then press hard at that area. I used a clamp here to squeeze them for longer than my hands wanted to and it worked really well!

 

Once the glue is dry and the footbed and sole are pressed together, I take my utility knife (essential in home- shoe making…who knew?!) and very slowly and carefully guide my blade around the edge of the sole. Rubber soling is very easy to cut with a sharp blade, it’s just important to remember to keep your blade perpendicular to the shoe so that the cut is straight up and down along the side of the shoe as opposed to leaning in or out. Since the cut is so smooth it’s usually not necessary to sand the edges, but if I need to I will take it my belt sander, or I will use my Dremel if the spot that needs to be sanded down is pretty tiny.

One coat of cork protectant and voila! I have a beautiful pair of Birkenstocks made especially for my sweet brother Nick, who I am hoping will wear them with pride! Apparently he and his wife just bought my toddler nephew his first pair of Birkenstocks so I am hoping I can get some cute pics of them rocking them together!

Nick, for anyone who has been following this blog for a year or more remembers, got really sick this time last year and was in the ICU for Father’s Day and in a coma soon after that. He was in there for weeks and things got really really dark and terrifying before they got better. Last year I had made him a leather wallet with his initials engraved on it for Father’s Day but he got sick before he could open it, and when things were at their lowest I was afraid he would never see it. But WOW what a difference a year makes! He is all the way healed up now and I am beyond thankful for his recovery and his health, and I am so happy I got the opportunity to make him something special again. I know you don’t read this blog, Nick, but if by chance you ever do stumble upon it, for the ten thousandth time, I LOVE YOU MORE THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE AND I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE HERE!!!!!

Circle Skirt in Black and White

I bought this fabric for a different project but realized that it was too drapey for the structured dress I was planning, so I decided on a whim to whip it into something else. I was intrigued by a couple of images of Elisalex (owner of By Hand London)’s instagram where she is wearing a very soft, flowy wrap circle skirt and figured I could eek out enough fabric from my yardage to make this quick and simple replica (I was wrong- I had to go to The Fabric Store and get more, but it was worth it).

I’ve made plenty of circle skirts in my past based off of my measurements but never a wrap skirt, so I tried to use the nifty calculator and sparse directions on By Hand London’s blog post to sew it up. Elisalex has a tutorial for how to make the wrap circle skirt from start to finish in a UK sewing magazine but unfortunately they didn’t have the article archived online and I wasn’t about to try and hunt down/pay for a physical copy when I knew I could probably stumble through making it myself. So that’s what I did, because I’m what? TRYCURIOUS, thasss right! And it came out fine! The most important bit of information I needed to make this skirt was that 6 panels are required for a circle wrap garment, and once I cut those pattern pieces out based on the measurement of my waist circumference, all I needed was to sew those pieces together and add a waistband with long ties.

I think I spent more time trying to hunt down Elisalex’s magazine tutorial than actually sewing this thing, and ultimately all I needed were the brief instructions she shared in her blog post! What a fantastic skirt! My fabric is a rayon that frays like mad at the raw edges so I french seamed all the panels together, folded the side edges in on either end of the skirt and hemmed them. Next I measured the full length of the waist to calculate my waist band and I cut out a rectangle at the height I wanted my band to be, plus seam allowances for all sides. After going back and forth on the matter, I decided to interface the entire waistband and I am glad I did- it gives the skirt some nice structure right around my belly but since the waistband is fairly narrow it doesn’t feel like too much bulk.

I sewed up some long tubes of fabric for the ties, making sure the finished tube was the same width as my waistband (I think I made it 1.5″?), pulled them right side out, then sewed them to each edge of my waistband. I added a buttonhole from which to pull the waist tie through above the side seam opposite where the skirt opens, and then, after letting the garment hang overnight, I spent what felt 23 days sewing the hem (circle skirts, amirite??).

End result? SO cute! This fabric is borderline polka dots/leopard spots, depending on what category you love the most, which is a nice space for me to be in since I am not crazy about animal prints (not on me- I oooh and ahhh every time I see someone else rocking animal print, though). The dots are multi-sized and randomly scattered about so it gives the print a little more depth and visual interest than a regular dotted fabric, I think. After seeing these pictures and wearing it around for a bit, I am tempted to shorten the skirt just a couple inches to have it hit right at my knee instead of below it, because I feel like it might just be swallowing me up with that bold print and all the yards of fabric swirling around? But maybe it’s just how I styled it here, and with different shoes or a different top it will look more balanced on me. Honestly I don’t know if I have it in me to spend 23 more days re-hemming this skirt so I might have to sit on it for a while before I make a move, LOL.

 

Pink Heels

I’ve made many pairs of shoes since the last time I posted about shoemaking on my blog, so a post on where I am in my journey is long overdue (and if you are interested in seeing a more extensive view of my makes, feel free to follow me at jasikaistrycurious on instagram)!

Sandals have been my go-to shoe make for a while now because, for me, they are fairly quick to complete (I can start and finish a pair in a day) and are a bit more goof-proof since they don’t require lasting. The first sandal class I took that I LOVED was with RachelSeesSnailShoes a few year years ago, and I must have made at least 15 pairs of sandals for myself and family members since then. I’ve also made Birkenstocks (there is a shoe components store here in Los Angeles called Sadermo that stocks authentic Birkenstock footbeds for $36- all I have to do is design and attach the upper and the rubber sole- I should probably do a blog post on these, too, yeesh). The whole process has been so fun and enlightening and I wear my memade shoes all the time, but completing a pair of wearable high heels has eluded me…til now!

 

I actually got my start in shoe making with heels. After reading the independently published book Make Your Own Shoes by Mary Wales Loomis (more on that book and the beginning of my shoemaking journey here) I started with a pair of 2.5 inch mid- heel components and some vintage shoe lasts and made my first pair. Although they looked pretty impressive for my first time doing it, they were far from perfect; the heels felt wobbly so I knew better than to wear them out and risk breaking my ankle, and the rubber soling I attached to the bottoms to keep them from being slippery were way too thick, more appropriate for the bottoms of rain boots than slip-on heels, LOL.

 

 

But I didn’t feel deterred- I knew this was going to be a long learning process and I gave myself a lot of room to mess up and learn. I took a break from heels and focused on lasting flat shoes and slippers and got pretty good at those, then I learned how to make sandals and Birks. A lot of time had passed since I had made my first pair of heels but I kept accumulating information and getting better at some of the basic steps that applied to both heels and  closed-toed flats (like skiving and applying a toe puff and counter). Last year I got the high heel bug again when I was hunting for a pair of shoes that I could easily picture in my head but that I could not find anywhere in stores or online, so I decided I would try and make the pair I was looking for myself.

 

The design was a classic open toed heel slide (reminiscent of the style that Candies used to make back in the day). Mine were made of a vintage-looking green leather and I topped the upper off with a little bow and was SO happy with how the shoe looked on the last. This time my skiving was much better and I knew to put cork granules on the bottom before I attached my sole to fill in the gaps between my shank board and leather upper pieces. But once I put the leather soles on the bottom the shoe looked sloppy and messy and very unprofessional. It occurred to me that I should have finished the soles of the leather before I glued them to the bottom of the lasts instead of trying to do it afterwards and risking messing up the edges of the upper leather and insoles. It also occurred to me that I could try skiving the edges of my leather so that they weren’t so thick on the edges of the shoe.

The last new thing I tried on these heels that required a learning curve was drilling screws into the top of the heel through the insole of the shoe. Although I am very comfortable with an electric drill, this part made me really anxious. There is a metal bar installed in most plastic heel components that give it the structure and durability it needs to carry your body weight, so the screw you drill in has to be short enough that it doesn’t hit this metal part, but the screws also have to be positioned so that they don’t hit the shank of the insole (another piece of metal used in the board of a pair of heels- basically a long, thin plate that travels underneath the bed of the foot into the heel area of the shoe to provide support and stability for the shoe). And lastly, the screws also need to be placed at an angle so that they don’t come out the other side of the heel. It requires a steady hand and thoughtful planning, and since I had never done it before, I was terrified I would destroy the shoes. And I did! But I had already come to the realization that the heels were looking a bit too rough to be wearable anyways, so once I started treating them as more of a shoe muslin, I felt less scared about ruining them; it’s the only way to get better, right?

Of course, two screws sticking out of the top of a pair of heels doesn’t seem very comfortable at all, but pretty much all RTW heels have them, manufacturers just use specialty screws and are able to cover them up in a way that the wearer would never notice them. I knew that I would need to use foam to cover this up and protect the bottoms of my feet and decided to implement that idea on my next pair.

Which brings us to today and these pink mules! I was able to apply pretty much everything I learned from my first pairs of muslin shoes to these, and it shows- they are hands down the cleanest-looking, most comfortable pair of heels I have made. Not without their issues and mistakes, of course, but wearable? YES!

Everything went smoothly up until the end when I pulled the shoes off the lasts and tried them on. They felt much too loose! Lengthwise they were fine but the upper had a lot of space around it and they were difficult to walk in because of that. I felt so defeated and frustrated- how steep was this learning curve supposed to be? After so many failures I thought I would have been much closer to wearable heels by now. But then I had the bright idea of adding a thicker insole to the shoe than I normally would have. I used foam board, the same material I use to create an insole for a lasted shoes, instead of just plain foam, and it worked a treat! It completely covered up the screws installed in the heel area and sucked up all the extra space in the upper so that my foot felt snug and comfortable.

The edges of my leather sole on the bottom of the shoe look professional and tidy, but I miscalculated the length of leather I would need to meet the heel on the bottom and I fell short a millimeters, so I had to cut out slivers of soling leather to make up for the space. It’s not a big deal since you can only really see it if you are looking at the bottoms of the shoe, but it’s definitely something to work on for next time. I also have trouble getting my heel completely flat onto the bottom of the heel bed. There are machines that smoosh the heel onto the bottom without any gapping or bunching of the leather, but I don’t have one, so I have to use pure muscle to make it happen and the result is just so-so. It might help to skive the leather around the heel component and heel of the shoe even more so that there is less bulk there, but again, something that will hopefully get better with practice.

Once I added my cushy insole to the shoe I felt a hundred times happier with them. I wore the heels to an interview with Pride.com a couple weeks ago and pretty much every person I crossed along the way had something nice to say about them; fuschia pink mules stand out, which I love! Although the shoes are comfortable and wearable, I am very thoughtful about walking in them. I don’t feel like the heel will come off, but I do feel like if I were to step the wrong way or accidentally walk on a rock that I didn’t see on the ground, I could trip over myself. I think this again has to do with getting the heel component smashed up very tightly to the bottom of the shoe, and I wonder if next time I could try and rig a vice grip along the heel of the shoe and the top of the last to press everything together after the rubber cement is applied. I think I might also be more interested in some thicker, chunkier heels that will create a bit more stability for weight distribution than these thinner ones, so I ordered a few pairs from an online supplier I like and hopefully I will get to experiment with them and find great success! I still have tons more to learn obviously, but this pair feels like a huge win and I hope they just keep getting better and better.

MiMi G for Simplicity Jumpsuit in Purple

My first idea for this jumpsuit was pretty ambitious- I had just purchased two earthy tones of satin twill from The Fabric Store in copper and pink, and I thought they would make a really dynamic version of this Mimi G Style for Simplicity 8426 pattern, which had been on my list of to-makes since the moment it was revealed on Mimi’s IG. I loved the design so much because it looked gorgeous in a head-to-toe solid but it also allowed room for playing around with texture and color blocking. Although silk is notoriously tricky to work with, I didn’t have too much trouble sewing this pattern in it- at this point in my sewing career I know what I am getting into when I work with finicky fabrics so I can plan accordingly. The issue was that the bodice ended up just being too flimsy in the soft, drapey silk!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BgCic4rhowr/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Off the bolt the fabric was incredibly smooth and supple and it had a surprising amount of body to it- it held its’ shape pretty well for something so soft and silky. But once I pre-washed it, it got much drapier and didn’t hold the shape of the bodice nearly as well as I hoped it would. I got really close to the end of the project and then abandoned ship because it was looking wrinkly and pitiful and dull. Full disclosure, I should have at least muslined the bodice top before I cut into my beautiful silk, but even if I had I wouldn’t have liked the way the silk looked with the bodice of this pattern. But surprisingly the pants look pretty great in the silk! They have a lux pajamas vibe to them, and even though the fabric for the bodice was sacrificed in the process, all is not lost- I plan on adding a black velvet strapless bodice to the pants which will provide a lot more structure to the garment but will also keep that vintage flair to the look that I was aiming for with my head-to-toe silk version.

 

 

OK, so that version didn’t work, but this sturdy purple one definitely did! I got this jewel toned crepe (I think it’s polyester) from The Fabric Store, and it’s got all the body and stability that my silk didn’t have, which is a perfect pairing with this jumpsuit.

Mimi G’s patterns are the only versions of Big 4 I have found that don’t require sizing down several sizes so I graded from a 10 in the bodice to a 12 in the hips which matched my measurements and it was great- I always have to take in the waist and back of pretty much every pattern I make, but everything else was drafted as a good fit for me, with the exception of the back yoke. Again, I didn’t make a muslin of the bodice first because I tissue fit it and it seemed perfect. It was only after finishing the entire garment and trying to it on that I saw how poorly the back yoke fit. It’s a pretty strange adjustment that I need to make- essentially I need to take in the seam where the back yoke hits the top of the back bodice on either side of the zipper, about 3/8 inch, and then grade out to nothing at the side seams. I should be able to make this adjustment without having to take the entire bodice apart so I feel confident that I can get it done fairly quickly, but still, what a bizzare fix! I have never had a garment that needed horizontal pinching at my upper back before!

Aside from that area, which Claire says is barely noticeable, everything else fits great. The pants are gathered at the waistline and very roomy (I actually would have been fine without grading to the next size up since there is so much room down there) which means that the slant pockets look terrific and don’t bulge out on me. I LOVE that this garment has pockets. They don’t take away from the silhouette at all but they do give me a place to put my hands and my chapstick, yay! I had a lot of trouble with my back zipper at the waistline because the fabric is pretty squishy and therefore thick at the zipper closure. It kept getting stuck either right above or below the “belt”, which I knew would be a problem when I tried to go to the bathroom and couldn’t get myself in or out, so I had to widen my line of stitch in this area to allow for more space around the zipper teeth. This means that you can see the zipper tape a bit more clearly than when it was sewn more tightly, but hey, I can handle a glimpse of dark purple zipper tape if it means I wont pee on myself trying to get out of this thing.

The construction for this was a little different than I anticipated- I am used to completing the pants and bodice separately, then stitching at the waist line, inserting the zipper, and slip stitching the lining closed around the zipper. The method the pattern used was fairly similar, but the lining of the bodice isn’t put in until after the zipper is inserted. I have no idea if it was better or worse than the other methods I have am used to but it was fun to change up the routine a bit!

I love the way the “belt” is drafted onto this pattern, it provides some visual interest without being a separate detachable piece, and it’s not tacked down on the top so it gives a bit of depth to the look. I blind stitched the hems of the legs closed instead of sewing them with my machine because, again, this fabric is pretty thick and has a tendency to show lines of stitching very well.

As much as I love jumpsuits, I don’t make them very often because I am always overwhelmed by how much additional fitting I will likely have to do for them, so you can imagine that this pattern was a pure joy. It required minimal adjustments, and the wide legs, though stylistically not for everyone, give you a lot of flexibility and comfort with the relaxed fit. I am usually pretty iffy on wide legs like these but the pairing with the bodice is just perfection- a streamlined, close-fitting top with these gigantic pant legs is just so fun and chic, even on my short frame. I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the Mimi G Style patterns for Simplicity- I’ve only made a few (separate from the Sew Sew Def catalogue) but so far each pattern has been such joy to make and to wear and I love having another line of designs to add to my No-Fail List.

As much as I love this garment, I do feel like it’s still a bit on the safe side, and I will probably try it again with some more exciting elements on the top. I love Mimi’s leather version shown on the pattern envelope, and I have a few gorgeous leathers in my stash that would make a great pairing with this design, so stay tuned for Dynamic Jumpsuit Take 3!

Having weird technical difficulties with these photos for some reason, which is why my face is blurry in all of them, but I figure as long as the garment is in focus, who cares about the face LOL. Thanks as always to Claire for helping me capture the clothing!

Tackling Pattern Magic

I went on a journey with this one, yall. For the record, “went on a journey” is my euphemism for “worked on a project that was so challenging it made me want to beat my head against a wall while cry-laughing.” Sometimes the difficult journey a project takes me on is due to a tricky fabric or fit issues or confusing construction techniques, but the challenges this book brought me were brand new!

I’m sure most adventurous sewists are familiar with the Pattern Magic books, but if not, here is a brief rundown: written by acclaimed seamster and fabric manipulation sorcerer Tomoko Nakamichi, the series (Pattern Magic Volumes 1-3 and Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics) has now been translated to English and includes information on how to alter a simple Bunka bodice block by slashing and spreading, adding length/width and distorting the pattern block’s shape to create intriguing 3-D wearable art from fabric. The photographs in the book, created at half size for mini dressforms, are remarkable, and once I got three of the books for Christmas a couple of years ago, I spent a substantial amount of my holiday pouring over the pages multiple times, my mouth hanging open. I had simply never seen anything like the shapes Nakamichi was creating, never even knew most of the designs were possible. After glancing through the pages and trying to get an understanding of what was required to actualize the designs, I knew it was going to take a lot of brain power to stumble through the confusing diagrams, so I kept putting it off. But recently, after suffering through a couple of horrendous pants makes and feeling depleted and frustrated, I found myself in between projects and decided to slow down and dedicate my weekend to figuring out how to be a pattern magician.

 

Unfortunately this book does not come with a PDF file or paper print out for the bodice block that all the patterns are based on. There is a page at the end of the book with the bodice printed at half scale (which you can use to create the projects at half size) and it is suggested that you photocopy that sheet of paper at 200% to get the full scale size of the pattern. I happened to be devoted to not leaving my house the weekend that I worked on this, so instead of taking the easy route and driving 5 minutes to a copy shop with the book, I sat down in my craft room with a ruler, my math bracelet (for all you non-instagrammers, math bracelet is what Claire has started calling my measuring tape for some reason), and some gridded pattern paper. OK, so, truth be told, I wan’t committing myself to this task out of sheer stubbornness. After perusing the pages of this book for two years, I realized that, even though it was in English, it still felt like it was written in another language. As someone who struggled with complicated mathematical concepts in school, I knew it was going to take a while to fully grasp some of the images and equations shown in the diagrams. English is my jam, I have always loved literature and reading and expressing myself through words, and math has always seemed a bit antithetical to that. If I made myself sit down and blunder through the trickiest parts from the start, then maybe that would make all the steps to follow a little bit easier. Right?

These are the diagrams given to sketch out your Bunka bodice block. In addition to the images above, there were like two sentences of instructions beneath them which basically said “Use these diagrams to make the bodice block” LOL. there are virtually NO instructions in the whole book, and the few words provided that are meant to instruct made absolutely no sense to me. It’s as if Yoda was the ghost writer for this thing- as few words as possible! The instructions say specifically to work through steps 1-14 in order to graph out the preliminary lines of the bodice. Step 1 asks for the length of the bodice (I assumed my neck to waist measurement) which seemed simple enough. But once I drew that line and looked for a number 2 with a circle around it? Well, it’s nowhere to be found. The numbers on the diagram skip around and then it appears that letters are thrown in for good measure, so I didn’t have a linear guideline to follow. I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, but I did not find this explanation in the actual book. And then out of the blue I see this symbol that looks like the planet Saturn, and I have NO IDEA what that symbol is supposed to represent. There is no key on the page. What does Saturn equal?! I am still not sure if this was so difficult for me because of something that got lost in the translation of the book or because I comprehend language better than numbers and symbols, but somehow I eventually figured it out by substituting some arbitrary number; the Saturn symbol looked like it was supposed to represent some part of the shoulder length, so I threw in an approximate measurement and figured that I could adjust it once I made my muslin.

It took me over two hours to complete, 30 minutes of which I spent looking for my compass tool, and once I found it I realized that what I meant to be looking for was a protractor because it’s been 80 years since I needed to use either of those things and I had mislabeled them in my brain. My shoulder lengths (aka my “Saturns”) were off of course, and once I sewed the bodice muslin I had to adjust the bust dart a bit, but…it worked! I FIGURED IT OUT! The muslin fit, which felt like such a massive victory, and I was very proud of myself!

I was excited to move on to the manipulation of the bodice for the Knot Dress because I figured that creating the bodice out of these wacky symbols and numbers would indeed be the toughest part but….no. The next part actually had me near tears in bafflement. The only thing that kept me going was googling “pattern magic knot dress” and seeing that at least three sewing bloggers had figured out the pattern manipulation and none of them had used the words “difficult”, “frustrating”, “confusing” or “fuck”. In fact, one of them described creating the pattern as “simple”. Flames may or may not have shot out of my head when I read this, I’m not sure because I think I had a rage blackout immediately after I saw that word in relation to this pattern, but once I came to, I decided to use it as a motivator. If they could figure it out, then I was determined that I could, too, damnit! I had already gotten so far!

In one last desperate cry for help, I brought the book to Claire, hopelessness etched deep into my brow. “This doesn’t make sense, honey! It doesn’t! Help me see how it makes sense, cause all I see right now is a lie!” Bless her heart, Claire, who is not a sewist and gets as frustrated as I do with confusing diagrams, very calmly looked at the picture and basically said “it looks like you need to add a piece here.”

That was it, yall. I just needed to add a piece here.

It turns out that after you draft your Bunka bodice, you have to make some slash and spread adjustments to it, then you draft the skirt onto the pattern piece, and then you have to slash and spread the bodice again, then you have to add the bow piece onto it, and then you have your final pattern piece from which to cut out your fabric.

Y’all.

Y’all.

Were they attempting to create a cheaper book by providing fewer pages? Was that why the book seemed so in favor of pictures over words? Do diagrams cost less money to print than paragraphs? (These questions are rhetorical). Drafting the sloper and then adjusting the pattern for the Knot Dress took me two days to complete, and I know for a fact that if they had given me just 6 more sentences, I could have been spared so much frustration and headache. Initially I thought that the “magic” in the title was referring to how beautiful all the garments looked- like, oh wow, these things are so magically beautiful! But after stumbling through every aspect of bringing this pattern to life, I realized that nope, the magic is in reference to WHAT YOU NEED TO HAVE SPRINKLED ON TOP OF YOU BY A TINY FAIRY IN ORDER TO COMPLETE ANY OF THE PROJECTS. But guess what.

I AM AN OFFICIAL MAGICIAN, NOW, BOYYYYYYYYYYY!

I was resigned to thinking that my finished muslin was going to be ill-fitting and wonky, and the fact that I had gotten that far would have been all the success I needed after the whole ordeal, so you can imagine my surprise when I tried my muslin on and saw that it fit me PERFECTLY. There are two tucks in the back which give some gentle shaping to the waist and bust area, but aside from the darts at the front bust and the drafting of the skirt, which creates a subtle flare at the hips, there isn’t much to this dress in the ways of fit. And yet it works! All based on a simple bodice sloper! I love how it skims my figure without feeling like a tent and it has a bit of swing to the lower half. It looks feminine and structured at the same time. Seeing how well it fit from the start definitely felt like magic!

Apologies for the photos that follow- I didn’t have time to iron the dress, which had been tightly stuffed inside my closet, before we took these pictures! 

Essentially the pattern of this dress has the shape of a simple shift, and to add in that magic, you slash and spread the dress out at the center bust, adding enough fabric to create two tubes which make up the ties of the bow. In theory it’s simple, but without any explanation or real instructions it took a while for my brain to grasp the concept. But as soon as I started sewing the pieces of my muslin together, it all made sense and was constructed in a tiny fraction of the time it took me to draft everything out.

As soon as I got the muslin right and made a couple of adjustments for fit, I went to cut out my fabric and I realized that what I had purchased was much too flowy and drapey. This dress requires a certain amount of stability in it’s fabric so that the integrity of the silhouette and bow are not lost, and my graphic printed rayon, while lovely, was not going to lend itself to the best version of this pattern. I rifled through my tiny stash and came across this cupro with a sandwashed effect that I purchased from Blackbird Fabrics. I had purchased three cuts in different colorways, 2 yards of black, 2 yards of blue and 3 yards of olive. I knew I needed at least 3 yards for this dress (it’s a real fabric eater because of the bow ties) but I didn’t like the idea of the dress in olive. I was beside myself with frustration, determined not to have to buy MORE fabric for this dress after just having gone to The Fabric Store, but at a loss as to how to remedy the situation (as mentioned before, my stash is pretty tiny). And then, with both piles of black and blue cupro on my cutting table, I wondered if I could use both by color blocking the dress, which just so happens to be drafted with a center seam. The black and blue looked really good together on my table, and I liked the idea of having the bow tied so that the opposite color was displayed on each side. It felt like a bit of a bold move but I had nothing to lose except fabric, and I am a bit of a risk-taker with my making, so I went for it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Be9HG9qgB8_/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

Everything went smoothly until I realized that I had cut one front out on the wrong side of the fabric. It was SO HARD to keep the sides straight because the cupro looks the same on both sides at a glance, but as soon as you hold each side up vertically, the difference is super obvious (meaning I couldn’t get away with just using the wrong side of one of the pattern pieces because it would bug the HELL out of me). I didn’t quite have enough fabric to cut a new piece out of, and I didn’t want to rearrange my entire idea so that the color blocking was different than I had envisioned. I was married to the look I had created in my head and refused to compromise. My only alternative was to puzzle the remaining fabric I did have into the shape of the pattern piece. It took what felt like forever, but I managed to get it done with just one seam that I was able to hide behind the bow.

I had to figure out the finishings and construction method as I went along, since of course the book wasn’t offering me any help. I french seamed everything I could on the inside, and I covered the raw edges in the front center where the ties are formed in bias tape- it was too tricky to sew that part into a french seam. My cupro was relatively easy to sew with- slippery like a silky rayon, yet manageable- but the edges looked like they would fray over time so whatever was exposed got bound, frenched or, in the case of the back center edges where it zips, serged. The area where the bow ties emerge from the dress form a little tuck in the front which is really pretty and gives the dress some visual depth, but it’s hard to keep in place. Unfortunately there is no way to tack down the area on the inside without it showing through to the front, but as long as the bow is tied tightly and securely, the tucks don’t seem to move too much. I might make a line of stitching right down the creases to help make it more stable.

For the neck and armholes, I used self-made bias binding out of the cupro and applied it to the openings, and for the hem I simply ironed, folded twice, then sewed down. The drape and silkiness of the cupro made the hem pretty wavy and I ended up having to take it out and redo it to get it even (the dress is not a cut on the bias but I still let it hang for a while on my dress form before tackling this part). It’s still not perfect, but I don’t think it’s too visible.

anybody watch Squidbillies? don’t my ties look like the grandma’s boobs??? LOLOL

 

Although I put in a substantial amount of work to bring this dress to life, it still took less time than some other projects I have under my belt and it was worth every second! I love the effect of the finished dress- it’s fun and feminine but the muted colors keep it from going over the top so it doesn’t look too costumey (something I worried about when looking at all the images in the book as a whole).

it took me 5 years to tie this bow the right way and in my haste to get these pics taken I untied it and tried to redo it AND IT LOOKS WRINKLY AND PITIFUL. I swear it looks better than this when it’s ironed.

I would absolutely make this dress again, but I am also interested in tackling something else cool from the book. When I finally finished this dress I immediately pulled the books out again to choose what I wanted to make next, assuming that since I had successfully completed one project, the rest would be a breeze. Turns out, not so much,! Each design is so unique and the techniques that work for some have nothing to do with the others. Looking at the pattern instructions was like starting over from scratch! The good news that I already have the bodice block completed and adjusted for my shape, so whatever I tackle next will go straight to the manipulation phase. I might need a bit more recuperation time for my brain to heal from all the hard work it exerted during this project, but I must admit, I am already getting antsy for that cool neck-tie-that-blends-into-the-shirt project. Wish me luck!