Crazing and Shivering

Welp, this has officially been the worst couple of weeks I can recall having in quite a long time, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the downward spiral began exactly when Mars went into retrograde, lol. I don’t follow astrology much at all, other than the monthly Chani Nicholas horoscope that shows up in my email inbox which I don’t even read regularly. But sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the way life is life-ing that I have to consult with my tarot reader friend who then gets me up to speed: “yep, everything sucks, for pretty much everybody, pretty much everywhere, so struggle through it, it ends mid-November” (not a direct quote).

a shot of my workspace in the Pot Studio. I need lots more storage down here and more table space would be great too, but I am very thankful for this set up we have created using stuff we already had in the garage/house.

It’s been both big things and little things. My best buddy got an unexpected, very unwanted medical diagnosis that I remain optimistic about but still feel devastated by. My partner has been experiencing unparallelled stress and anxiety that has manifested itself physically and emotionally in ways that I feel powerless to rectify. My brother’s mom passed away suddenly and the hospital may have some responsibility in not giving her the care that she needed because she had no health insurance. I accidentally washed my face with sunscreen. Twice in one week I used the wrong side of the salt shaker to ruin a meal, mistakenly using the “pour” side instead of the “shake” one; four tablespoons of salt into a freshly made pot of kale and white bean soup one day, two tablespoons onto my just-heated tupperware of leftovers on another. Then earlier this week, I realized that the last big batch of pottery I had completed and was finally ready to sell on etsy was ruined because of an issue called “crazing”, where the glaze essentially does not fit onto the claybody it has been applied to, so the glaze shrinks smaller than the ceramic underneath and creates (an admittedly pretty) cracked effect. Crazing is a technique that is often used on purpose, but only for decorative ceramics. For domestic pottery, crazing renders the piece unusable because it isn’t food safe- bacteria can get into the cracks of the glaze, tiny as they are, and create an environment of bad news for bodies. Some people insist that crazing was present in the majority of ceramics made throughout the ages and is not that big a deal but…our ancestors weren’t exactly THRIVING back in the day, with their short life expectancy and ignorance about food-born illnesses. I’d rather be safe than sorry, particularly when selling wares to others. So it’s back to the pottery wheel for me.

This is one of the more obviously crazed pieces, where the crazing shows up even when it’s dry. It was briefly a drinking cup but now its relegated to being a pot for claire to put plants in.

Given what the rest of my life has been looking like lately, I am actually not too devastated by the news that I have to essentially build my merchandise stock back up from scratch- this feels like small potatoes compared to everything else. I think it’s also because I am still so deep in the process of learning that everytime I pull a completed piece out of the kiln, I already have between one and eighteen things I know I want to do or change for the next time I make it, so at least now I have the opportunity to implement those changes and have my offerings look even better than before. Next time I wanna make this part bigger, next time I should attach this when they are still a little wet, next time I want to pull my handles separately so they are all uniform, next time, next time, next time. Normally I don’t mind the “next time” thinking because it reminds me that I am learning and experimenting and still being challenged in my creative pursuits, which I love. But it can be really overwhelming when you’re in the middle of a learning curve while simultaneously trying to capitalize on the stuff that you do know how to do. It just feels like a lot. But as I said in an earlier post, ceramics have given me something to focus on and immerse myself in, which has been an absolute blessing during this pandemic. It has kept me (mostly) sane, grounded and engrossed, and allowed me to obsess over something I actually have control over, something that brings me joy, unlike all the things happening in the world in which I feel a mere stunned observer.

This pot is made of the same clay and has no crazing- totally smooth and non- crackly both inside and out- it’s safe!

So even though the crazing was so disappointing to learn about, I feel like I have the information necessary to move forward from it. Here’s a simple breakdown of the crazing issue for anyone who is interested (there is lots more detail to the information I am providing so please only consider it a brief overview):  Clay is generally divided into low, mid and high fire ranges, which coordinate with the temperatures at which the clay vitrifies (vitrify= becomes it’s strongest self and can effectively hold water without being porous anymore): low fire clay gets fired at a lower temp, mid fire is higher than that that and high fire is of course the highest. More specifically, the clay is referred to by it’s “cone” number, which is essentially the effect of time + heat on the clay. When you fire clay, depending on what kind of clay you are using, the clay will shrink a certain percentage which is why when you make stuff with raw clay you have to account for the size you want it to end up after firing, not the size of what you have actually made.

Now in addition to the variables with claybodies, you add even more when you add glaze to the equation. Glaze is a combination of clay ingredients + water + glass, and when heated to a certain temperature (glaze is categorized by cone numbers as well), it melts and then hardens to form the glossy, brightly colored finish you find on most modern ceramics. An important thing to note is that, like most substances on this earth, glaze also changes when heated and cooled, expanding and shrinking in tandem with the temperature it’s withstanding.

In my little “pot studio” I have been working with cone 5 clay and working with glazes between cone 06  (lowfire range) and 5 (midfire range). And here is where my Learning Success™ lies: sometimes if you put a lowfire range glaze on a mid or high fire clay body and only fire it to the low range of the glaze, the clay hasn’t fully vitrified and/or shrunk down to it’s smallest self, so essentially the glaze is firing smaller than the body of the clay. When the piece cools the glaze shrinks more rapidly than the clay underneath does, which causes the glaze to crack and create the “crazing” effect as seen above. All the pieces that I have fired to mid range have come out perfectly with no crazing at all, but most of the pieces that I fired to low range (to accommodate the low fire glaze I painted them with) have come out crazed, though I didn’t know it at the time. For my pieces, the crazing wasn’t evident until they were rinsed with water, and then all of a sudden I could see this crackle effect all over! I didn’t even know it was “bad” initially- I thought it was just something happening with my glaze application or the brands of glaze I was using. Thankfully I did some research after seeing it happen on so many pieces and was able to alter my process before I started selling them. Although I have so enjoyed learning at my own pace and in my own space, this is the price of learning without a ton of professional guidance along the way. Trial and error is my preference, but it does not come without its’ downsides!

This is the mishima design that I have developed over the past couple months and I love it so much. Unfortunately these aren’t safe but I will absolutely be making a new and improved batch soon.

Anyways, to remedy the crazing issue on my future work, I ordered a new lowfire clay body to try out which should work better with the low fire glazes I have in my studio, and I also ordered a midfire clear glaze to use with the midfire clays I already have (the clear glaze is important for the mugs I make with mishima decoration seen above). Ideally I prefer firing my kiln in the low range because it uses less energy, but the actual midfire glaze effects are some of my favorites. Their finish has this antiqued look to it and the colors look a little vintage and worn, which I love. But many of my speckled glazes are low fire and I LOVE the speckled glazes, so I want to get as much use out of them (and everything else I currently have in my studio) as I continue to hone in on my style and design preferences.

edit: A lot of people on IG wrote me asking whether or not I could save the crazed pieces by reglazing them, so I guess I didn’t clarify the details of this well enough. I put a low fire glaze onto a high fire claybody and fired it at a low fire temperature to accomodate the glaze. The lowfire glaze cannot withstand a higher temperature (otherwise I would have been firing at that temp all along). So reglazing the pieces with high fire glaze wouldn’t rectify the fact that there is low fire glaze underneath, which will have a bad reaction to being fired at a higher temp and will likely ruin the entire piece in a new way, not to mention the fact that putting a new glaze on top of an unstable (crazed) glaze would probably make the new glaze malfunction as well. So no, there is no fool proof way (that I am aware of) to save a crazed piece of pottery that would keep its’ original condition intact. Apparently you CAN reglaze non-crazed pottery if there is an issue with the glaze or color or something, but I personally haven’t done it to great success- my pieces either came out with more issues or didn’t fix the issue that made me reglaze it in the first place. Also, some ceramics are totally fine at first and then can develop crazing over the years, so if you’re uncomfortable eating off of non-food safe ware, just relegate the pieces to decoration or get rid of it. 

if you look closely at the far right side of the bowl in this picture, you can see a little shadow inside the lines… that is where the underglaze has bubbled and lifted up off the claybody during the bisque fire. SHIVER.

Another issue I have been faced with trying to remedy is something called “shivering”, which is peripherally related to crazing. I’ve been experimenting with a decorating technique called sgraffito, where you cover greenware (unfired clay) with something called underglaze, which is a product that behaves a bit different than regular glaze. Once the underglaze has dried, you can remove the underglaze and some of the leatherhard clay underneath with a tool to create images and decoration on the piece. Once the clay is bone dry, you bisque fire it and the underglaze, muted and matte, is permanently attached to the clay body. Next I cover the piece in clear glaze which allows the underglaze color to pop a bit and makes the whole piece glossy and water tight. Similar to mishima, I love this technique so much because it allows me to essentially draw on the ceramics in a way that gives the piece texture and visual and tactile interest, but for some reason a lot of my bisqued pieces end up with the underglaze flaking off in small chunks, even though it’s supposed to be firmly adhered to the claybody. Apparently a potential cause of this is that the underglaze is firing and shrinking at a different rate than the claybody, but there can also be issues with the chemical makeup of the underglaze (which I will be the first to tell you is absolutely over my head- I use pre-made commercial glazes so I’m not mixing the ingredients up and adjusting the recipe myself). When I read up on shivering, the easiest ways suggested to remedy it were using fewer layers of underglaze on the claybody and diluting it with water to lessen its’ strength. I also read that it tends to happen on very round pieces as opposed to flatter pieces, which made sense as my mugs and bowls were all affected the most. So hopefully I can test out these fixes soon and see if it makes any difference.

A close up of sgraffito on a mug. These haven’t been bisque fired yet, so not sure if they will shiver. Instead of leaving the lines “raw”, I’m going to try slip trailing darker underglaze into them to see what kind of effect it creates.

It’s been so interesting committing to selling handmade things while also experimenting and learning and testing and inspecting and studying the process of making ceramics. It’s like both things, the manufacturing and the learning, are on the same highway traveling at the same speed, but they started in different places, and they are struggling to stay in line with each other. I have so many ideas in my head of what I want to make and offer that it’s hard for me to keep up with them all, but I am also learning so much that it sometimes feels like there isn’t room for all my ideas. As soon as I make something for the first time, I very quickly figure out how I want to make it even better the next time, and then I get so caught up in “next time” thinking that the piece I made, which was perfectly lovely and nice, suddenly feels obsolete.

People on IG love these toast plates so much, which I am so grateful for! Previously I have been handbuilding them from slab and molding them into a slightly upturned plate shape on the edges, but next I want to try the “poof” technique, where you use foam and a piece of wood to create a recess in a piece of clay. Hard to explain so I will take a video of it if it’s successful and share what the process looks like.

I’m not sure what the rush is, why I can’t just sit back and enjoy the process of learning (which you know I love!) instead of doing that while also trying to sell things at the same time, but I blame COVID-19. In truth, I think it’s partly due to the enthusiasm of my instagram followers, who have been so supportive and excited to consume whatever I end up sharing in my etsy shop, and of course partly due to the unwanted stasis that the pandemic has brought to us. My life changed abruptly from being super busy with work, flying between 2 and 6 times a month to and from Vancouver, to suddenly not even needing (or wanting, for safety’s sake) to leave the house for more than a grocery run. So I think focusing on selling the ceramic items I’ve made has afforded me some forward momentum in my life to keep me engaged and feeling productive and creative.

I call this mug “Bow Down, Stitches”, which obviously has a sewing theme. It didn’t turn out well when I made this design with some of the lighter colored underglazes but it works beautifully with this coral color, and this is one of the only sgraffito mugs I made that didn’t shiver!

Now a lot can be said about the concept of “productivity” and the “capitalist inside of all of us” which makes us feel like we must force ourselves to work and be fruitful and busy all the time in order to be “valuable”, and I totally appreciate the conversations that have been springing up around this topic. But I also know my habits well and can recognize that I am not pushing myself to do something I don’t feel like doing, but rather I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, a small, but important difference. And quite honestly, something that my brain really needs these days. Worst case scenario for me is that I spend a lot of energy on the physical and mental work of developing a line of products to share on etsy and then I realize I just don’t enjoy the process at all. Thankfully the stakes for that are not very high, and if it does happen, the fix is easy: I just won’t sell publicly anymore, and I will save my makes for bestowing upon my friends and family.

These are incense holders and small bowls!

Thanks to Claire for most of these pics, and thanks, as always, for your encouragement, readership, support, and enthusiasm. It’s very inspiring and I do hope to be able to offer some fun ceramics products in the near future!

 

Theirs and Hers: Plieades Dress and Gosling Shirt with Fabric Godmother Fabric

When Fabric Godmother reached out to me about collaborating on a blog post featuring their new line of vintage inspired fabric, I was prepared to say no because I was busy with ceramics and hadn’t felt very inspired to sew of late. But as soon as I clicked on the link showing all the fabrics they had to offer, I immediately changed my mind. They have prints and apparel fabrics that I just don’t come across very often online, and these were matches made in heaven. The fabric looked soft and drapey on my computer screen but it turned out they were even softer and drapier in real life, with that “loved and worn” texture that cotton gets after it’s been washed a bunch of times), and the print felt bold and extravagant and fun. It took a while to settle on a print, but eventually I chose the leopard- I love the color scheme with the bright yellows and lime greens, and because it’s on a black background I think it allows the colors to pop even more vividly!

 

To be honest, I think the fabric totally saved this dress because the pattern wasn’t my favorite. Initially I was looking to make a cute, flowy and fancy jumpsuit (most likely the tulip sleeved Burda I took a stab at a a couple years ago but chose the wrong fabric for), but once the fabric arrived and I saw how soft and cozy and pretty it was, I realized I wanted to make something I would wear more frequently, not a special occasion outfit. So I searched around for an interesting silhouette that I didn’t already have in my pattern stash, and someone on IG recommended the Plieades dress by French Poetry to me.

I loved the silhouette and the lantern sleeves- they had a little bit of drama but didn’t seem like they would get in the way of actually doing things, and it felt romantic and flirty but easy to wear. There are actually two versions of the Plieades dress available, the original dress1, which I used, and then a sort of expanded version of the design, dress2, with a button band on the front and a few more options for sleeves, collar and design details.

In the pictures, the dress looks like it’s pretty fitted through the bust and waist and then kind of expands out in the hips thanks to the gathered waistline, which is the look I was going for. Unfortunately the pattern doesn’t include finished garment measurements so all I had to go on were the line drawings and modeled photos. Sadly, the instructions were pretty poor, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt here- it’s a French pattern company and I imagine that someone had to translate the instructions, so I can only hope that the ones in French are much better than the English ones. But even so… in my opinion $14 is a lot of money to spend on a pattern that doesn’t have adequate instructions, even if it had to be translated. The discrepancy, if there is any, should be reflected in the price at the very least. But I would rather just have reliable instructions in the first place!

Right off the bat, the illustrations didn’t match the instructions- you aren’t told to ever gather the shoulder seams and stabilize them but the pictures show that this is what is supposed to be done. The instructions also provide an “Option 1” for the neckline, but there are no other options listed in the remaining pages. The most egregious omission was not describing exactly how to sew the neck facing and get it to lie flat. The front of the bodice is designed to have a delicate V neckline, but they tell you just to sew in the interfaced neck facing and they don’t explain at all how you should change to a shorter stitch length as you get close to the point of the V, pivot the fabric at the apex to sew the rest of the seam on the other side, then clip into the seam allowance so that the facing can flip in to the inside and lay properly.

Honestly this is all super basic stuff, and nothing tripped me up since I knew from experience what I was supposed to be doing, but for a beginning sewist? They would be pretty lost and I don’t think their garment would look as polished at the end as they might want it to. The Plieades dress is such a simple design that could be achievable by an accomplished beginner- it uses gathers, straight seams, a facing, and an invisible zip in the back- nothing too tricky at all. But with sub par instructions, I would not recommend this pattern to someone who didn’t know full well what they were doing.

My other big issue with this pattern is the fit- thankfully I didn’t grade up between sizes in the bust and waist as the measurements suggested I should, but I was smart enough to measure the waist width myself and holy cow there were several extra inches of ease in there! I figured I was just miscalculating something, or that the way the dress would hit on the body would accomodate all that seemingly extra room, but nope- once the main parts of the dress were constructed and I tried it on, I was swimming in it! I’m not sure why the styled photos make it look so much more fitted than it actually is, but I made a size 4 (the sizing only includes 2 to a 16) and easily could have gone down a size and probably taken it in even more, which is just very unexpected. I am only about 1 inch away from being able to pull this dress over my head with the zipper closed, that’s how big it is, and I kind of wish I had realized that early on- I probably could have made some adjustment where I could ommit the zipper entirely!

I’m not mad at the actual fit of the dress- it’s reminiscent of a 90’s babydoll dress with a waistline that is very loose and starts right under the bust, and it’s in turn very comfortable and easy to wear. But I would love to have known that this was what the dress was supposed to look like from the very beginning. The sleeves are my favorite part- I’ve never made a lantern sleeve before and I love how bouncy and flouncy it is, how it gives such a simple silhouette so much detail and is so easy to wear (again, coming from someone who is usually very “dramatic sleeve” averse). The hem is actually super short, which was a surprise to me. I’m 5’3″ and used to shortening hems, not having to lengthen them. I had just enough room to fold a narrow hem at the bottom and I am comfortable with where it lands on me, but I would have preferred to have more fabric to play with so I could make a deeper hem or change the length a bit if I needed to.

Because I ended up making a short summery dress out of this fabric instead of a jumpsuit, I had more fabric leftover than intended, so I decided to finally, FINALLY convince Claire to let me make them a matching shirt, lol. Thankfully they agreed, but only after looking at and feeling the fabric and deciding that it passed their test of comfort and aesthetics!

For their garment I used the Gosling shirt pattern from Sew Sew Def, and I graded between sizes to accommodate Claire’s narrower shoulders and hips- that’s kind of the opposite of how most men’s patterns are drafted but the grading worked great and it actually fits them better than any of the RTW button downs currently in their closet. This fabric gives the shirt major Aloha vibes which I like a lot- and there are some really cute details on the pattern that don’t show up with this print because it’s so busy, but I will definitely be making it again. I love the Sew Sew Def patterns because they have all been uncomplicated and very well drafted, and I love every one of the completed garments I’ve made from them. Plus they are so reasonably priced!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to our neighbor Ana for the couple’s shots! Green slides made by me, and animal print oxfords are RTW. Thanks for the beautiful fabric, Fabric Godmother! Every time Claire wears this shirt they say it’s the best thing they own!

Color Blocked Blanca Flightsuit

Yall know I love a jumpsuit. LOVE! A! JUMPSUIT! But my favorites have been ones that I’ve tweaked and hacked between as many as 4 different patterns, so when Closet Core came out with the Blanca Jumpsuit pattern, I was over the moon! I knew the chances of it fitting me pretty closely right out the envelope was strong, and I was excited to be able to make some small tweaks to one pattern as opposed to big tweaks to four (I don’t even think I could recreate the jumpsuits I have made in the past since so many adjustments were made to them in different ways- I try to keep up with them during construction and write them all down but I inevitably get so overwhelmed with all the things needed to tweak the fit that I usually abandon my note-taking duties to focus on the actual garment.

 

Anyways, the Blanca Flight Suit has some lovely details, as to be expected from a Closet Core pattern, but they are easy to adapt to one’s own needs. It has a relaxed fit in the bodice, a much slimmer fit in the hip and thighs, and a straight leg that can be either cropped, full length, or tapered in with little tabs and snaps (think authentic flight suit details). There are some different pocket options for the front bodice and options for the sleeves as well. I’m normally not a “zipper straight down the front” kind of person and I usually alter my boilersuits to give them a button placket down the front but, maybe because the zipper has a facing, I really like the way it looks a lot. Which is funny because I have read that a couple people don’t like the facing (think of it a little like a fly shield but for the whole jumpsuit instead of just the zipper area on a pair of pants), but I think it makes the jumpsuit look really polished and professionally made. It’s totally a personal choice and I’m pretty sure it’s easy to omit the zipper facing if it’s not your thing, but for me it’s the only reason the zipper down the front doesn’t bother me.

I decided to make the simplest, least adorned version of the jumpsuit for my first version so I could get a feel for the shape and fit and figure out what changes I might want to make for a future make (think wearable muslin with emphasis on the “wearable” part). As I have been doing lots of color and print blocking lately, I had a pretty zany idea for how I wanted to use color in this make. I’ve done the right side vs. left side before but I hadn’t ever done a front vs. back color block, so in my next order of gifted fabric from The Fabric Store, I rifled through their marvelous assortment of linens and chose a deep burnt orange to pair with a light sky blue- sky blue is of course not in my color palette, but I love the way an orange and blue combination looks and I figured if I wore the blue on the back of the jumpsuit, it wouldn’t do any of the things to my face that pastels normally do (wash it out, make me look grey, etc).

I didn’t make too many changes for my first version- I graded out at the hips to accomodate my measurements but kept everything else pretty much the same; short sleeves, cropped length, non-zippered chest pockets. The instructions were clear and easy to follow and the whole thing came together pretty fast, considering I was color blocking and having to pay extra attention to how I was cutting the fabric and which pieces were being used where. The back bodice has this interesting pleat thing going on that creates a little visual interest and allows the wearer room in the back body without it being too full in the shoulders, which I liked a lot.

Once the majority of the garment was sewn, I tried it on and was pretty pleased with it- it came out absolutely wearable, but it’s also just REALLY FUN, because I look like business in the front and a party in the back, which pleases me to no end. However I definitely had some issues with the way the waist was sitting on me, so I made a quick and dirty fix to make it work for this version that was already nearly complete. I have a swayback and a smaller waist size compared to hip size and the waist area on this jumpsuit was so big it was literally hanging down over my butt. The flight suit is supposed to have a loose fit in the bodice and a bit of extra length in the back so that you can sit, stand, and move around with ease without the jumpsuit digging into your nether regions, but this is the opposite issue I have with a swayback, where I need to take out length in the back to accommodate the smaller distance between my hip and my waistline. But the waistline was also just way too roomy for my liking, so roomy that even with a belt on, there was so much fabric that it bunched up and gaped everywhere.

 

I knew I needed to figure out a way to take out the excess ease in the waist so I opted to slide some elastic just in the back waistline piece to see how it looked and it was a great fix. I didn’t make it super tight, I wanted to keep in line with the loose fit of the jumpsuit, but using elastic allowed the extra fabric to be eased in without looking lumpy and bumpy.

In addition to the extra room in the waistline, it also lands really low for my body. I had actually seen What Katie Sews discuss this issue in her own IG stories so I kept it in mind but didn’t want to alter my own pieces til after I had made it as drafted and could see how it fit for myself. Turns out I had the same issue- it might just be a preference thing, but I like that most of my garment waistlines hit high on me, so I will probably bring this waistline up between a 1/2″ and 1″ on my next version. I will also make a swayback adjustment and take out a little length in the back bodice at center while adding a little length to the back pants at center- hopefully that will fix the issue and make it look nicer. You can kind of see how low the waistband is on me at the back- I placed the pockets at the appropriate marks and I think they hit in the right spot, but look how close the tops of the pockets are to the waistband- there isn’t much room between the two areas which I will hopefully be able to fix my raising the waistline.

Looking at the finished garment, I wished I had made the full length of pant legs instead of cropping them, but that’s an easy fix on the next version, too. For these pictures I wore the colorblocked belt I made (which was unfinished in this photoshoot- I was still waiting for my belt rings to arrive in the mail, lol), but although the rings eventually arrived, I’ve been wearing it without the belt. This is a style preference that I have to work out for myself, but for some reason the utilitarian elements of the jumpsuit just aren’t vibing with a belt for me, whether it’s tied, made with buckles or made with rings. It’s the center front zipper that distracts me from it- a belt just looks too busy on top of the zipper (again, this is just my own taste talking- I’ve seen lots of cute versions with belts and I think they all look great). Thankfully the elastic keeps the waistline in place so I can get away with not wearing a belt, but for future versions, I probably just won’t even make one.

 

I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what I want to make my next version out of. Although I think the linen is easy and breezy to wear, I think I prefer this jumpsuit in a much more structured fabric, especially because the design is so utilitarian. I have a lightweight canary yellow wool suiting in my stash that this would look so cute with, but I also just got a gorgeous earth toned twill from Blackbird Fabrics that would be an amazing match with this pattern come fall/winter, so…maybe one of each? HA!

The Blanca Flight Suit was a joy to make and it’s even more fun to wear (although I admittedly haven’t had a ton of opportunities to don it, seeing as how the temps have regularly been in the 100’s the past couple of weeks). Here’s to hoping for a nice cool down sooner than later!

 

 

Eggs/Animal Highlands Wrap Dress

Making this dress has been on my mind for over a year, and, par for the course for some of my most favorite makes, I was inspired by a dress I found on pinterest! It’s by designer Mara Hoffman (who has a really lovely eye for modern prints, color and style and knows exactly how to put them all together).

Mara Hoffman Amrita Dress Penny Dot from Alison Sudol's Exclusive Sustainable Fashion Guide for The Frontlash. Check out the rest of her feminine and stylish picks on our site.

I feel like this dress absolutely speaks for itself, but let me see if I can articulate just why it resonated with me so much. I love the large print of the polka dots, I love the sort of disparate color choices that somehow work so well together, I love how dynamic the colors look on the model’s skin, I love the easy, relaxed fit of the dress and how it doesn’t look boxy even though it isn’t body-huggingly tight. I LOVE the buttons down the side, and the extended sleeves are so cute to me! Now, having said all that, I didn’t actually end up implementing every single one of these design elements into my version, but I’m still crazy about what I ended up with, and excited to try out some other versions in the future!

I have several wrap dress patterns in my stash already but I chose the Highlands Wrap Dress by Allie Olsen because it was so close to my inspo dress and seemed to require the least amount of hacking. I wanted a narrow, yet loose-fitting skirt (as opposed to a circle or dirndl skirt), a wrap top that wasn’t too revealing, and sleeves proportionate to the rest of the dress without too much drama- the Highlands Wrap totally fit the bill.

It wasn’t until I actually bought the pattern, printed it out and looked over the instructions that I realized the back waist of the dress was gathered and had an elastic band (it’s hard to see this detail in the photos of the finished garments and the main line drawings of the pattern on the site only show the front views (you can only vaguely see the back views of the line drawings in smaller resolution on the pattern’s page). I knew that this design feature was likely going to present a problem for me since gathered waists coupled with slim fitting skirts do not drape well on my body at all- with such a large difference between my waist and hip circumference, a gathered waist like that hugs my hips and thigh creates tons of extra, bunchy fabric at the small of my back and I hate the way it looks and feels.

I made a muslin to see how I could address this issue and modify the back skirt to give me a more fitted, yet still comfortable garment, and I was thrilled to see that, except for the back skirt which I already knew needed adjusting, the dress fit everywhere else really nicely.

The sleeves were beautiful and fit my shoulders perfectly, the wrap in the front wasn’t too low or loose and therefore didn’t need a snap installed to keep it closed, and most delightfully, I discovered that it is designed with a button on either side of the wrap skirt to hold it in place, instead of having a hole for the tie to slide through and keep it closed. Having the skirt held in place with hidden buttons instead of a belt is SO BRILLIANT; it means that the tie won’t get loose throughout the day as I breathe and my body gets warm, and it won’t need to be tied more tightly; the dress feels really secure when it’s closed (it helps that it’s long!) and runs much less risk of exposing my bits and bobs if I’m ever caught in a strong wind, haha!

Once I knew that the dress was well suited for me in the front and sides and sleeves, I got to work fixing the back skirt. I had already graded from a 2 in the bust/waist to a 4 in the hips, so the measurements for my curves were accurate, but I needed to pinch out the excess fabric in the waist since I was eliminating the gathering ease/elastic at the back waist. I omitted the back waistband pattern pieces and raised the rise of the skirt to accommodate the missing length. Initially I tried to pinch out the excess fabric in two darts but I didn’t like the way they were laying- because there was so much extra material to take up, the darts had to be very wide and short, and they were causing a pucker on my buttcheek that I couldn’t seem to get rid of (part of this issue is because, in addition to a smaller waist/larger hip area, I also have a swayback). Then I remembered that in my favorite pencil skirt, there are four darts in the back skirt which allow the darts to be skinnier and therefore lay over my butt more smoothly without pulling or gaping anywhere. I pulled out the pattern pieces for my favorite pencil skirt and used them to loosely redraw the darts in my skirt. The skirt of my dress was of course a bit wider than the pencil skirt pattern pieces because it is drafted to have a looser, more relaxed fit than a fitted pencil skirt, but, amazingly, the darts still translated well onto the wrap dress and the silhouette from all angles is SPOT on. It took me approximately two toiles and then lots of extra adjusting on the third one, but it was all worth it cause the dress fits exactly the way I hoped it would!

Although one of my favorite things about the inspo dress were the buttons down the side, I ended up eliminating them for my own version- I wasn’t entirely sure how well the dress would lay and I didn’t want to hack too much of it during the first make and then end up having something that was just a little wonky in too many places. Now that the dress is complete I realize that I could omit the ties and use buttons instead and it would lay like a dream. One of the reasons I was too nervous to try the buttons out on this dress is because, aside from reworking the back of the skirt and eliminating the waistband and elastic, I also had to pay close attention to the fabric details since I was print blocking it and…it required so much of my brain space!!! Hahaha! It seems like it would be totally easy, and it’s certainly not complicated per se, but you just have to pay really close attention that you are cutting the correct side of the pattern on the correct side of the fabric, adding seam allowances for pieces that are supposed to be cut on the fold, making sure the facings are cut on the proper side and in the right direction…it was a lot! Instead of cutting out everything in advance, I cut out the main pieces first and then cut the remaining parts out as I went along so I would make sure that I didn’t cut anything upside down or wrong side up. I messed up just a couple of the facing pieces but for the most part I got everything right the first try and didn’t waste a lot of fabric (I was even able to cut out a mask and an Ogden Cami from my prized animal print fabric)!

Speaking of the fabric…how spectacular are these prints, both alone and together? They are printed tencel twills from Blackbird Fabrics, and I cannot rave enough about how perfect the fabric choice is for this garment. For this dress to lay beautifully, in my opinion it needs to have a bit of drape since the skirt is long and a bit of flow looks nice with it, but it also needs to be stable enough to maintain it’s striking silhouette on the body, which this tencel does beautifully. These prints are from the same designer and were released at the same time so imagining them together wasn’t difficult at all. I wanted to choose prints that were bold enough to stand on their own but that also worked well together, and these fit the bill perfectly. The orange-y brown in the fried egg fabric (yes, I think they look like sunny side up eggs, lol) isn’t quite the same color as the orangey brown of the animal print, but they are definitely siblings, and the black in each print helps pull them together. Even though black isn’t in my color palette, there is enough earth tone in the pops of egg yolk and the background of the animal print for me to pull it off, but honestly, even if I couldn’t “pull it off” I would still wear this dress. It’s just so cool!

Again, I cannot stress enough how pleased I am with how this came out. It was a long time in the making but it was well worth every single decision to get there, and if I come across another set of beautifully contrasting prints like these in the future, I might be inspired to make another dress just like it!

 

 

Arden Pants

Funny enough, I made several versions of the Arden shorts hack from Helen’s blog, Helen’s Closet, before I ever made the pants. Maybe because Los Angeles is in the depths of summer heat right now and shorts seemed smarter, or maybe because I wasn’t sure if the pants version would fit into my wardrobe, but the truth is that I was wrong on both counts! In the right fabric, these pants are an excellent summer staple in hot weather because they can keep me cool by protecting my skin from the beating summer sun, and they have also proven to be an excellent addition to my wardrobe!

First off, I am gaga for this fabric! I LOVE a polka dot the way other people love a stripe, but I don’t come across spotted fabric very often (and when I do, you best believe that I snatch it up)! This red and white spotted viscose crepe was gifted from The Fabric Store, and you know it must be special because I don’t even like the color red for myself, but I am learning to have a better appreciation for orange-y reds that are in my palette. My initial plan was to make a super cute vintage 70’s style dress out of the fabric, but unfortunately I didn’t have near enough for that project, so it hung out on the edge of my sewing table for a while til I came up with a plan B.

By this point I had made four pairs of Arden shorts, two for Claire and two for myself. I used a super cute roller skate printed cotton from Josephine’s Dry Goods for one of my own pair that look like little kid’s swimming trunks (they are so adorable!), and for my other pair I used a cut of burnt orange 3-ply silk that I bought on the east coast last Christmas. Even though it’s a simple pattern, the silk makes them look luxurious and expensive, and they are also super comfortable. I worried I was “wasting” my nice silk on such a simple garment as unadorned shorts, but because I had such a small cut of silk to begin with, I didn’t have a ton of options for what to make with it- it was most likely going to be an Ogden cami, of which I have a few already, so turning them into shorts instead has actually made them more wearable!

Because those silk shorts came out so beautifully, a version of the pants in an unexpected fabric like my spotted viscose crepe seemed like it would most likely be a good pairing, too. I have a thing for flowy, silky pants, but I prefer them to be fitted- I’m not really a fan of palazzo style pants on myself, and most pants using lightweight flowy fabric seem to be paired with skirt-like designs so I rarely make them. There is one occasion where I tried to meld a fitted pant with a flowy material, and it was only moderately successful. I paired the Sasha trousers from Closet Core Patterns (which calls for a bottom weight knit with a little bit of stretch) with a drapey, woven rayon, and because I knew the fabric wasn’t quite stable enough for the pattern and that it would probably bag out during wear, I put some elastic in the back waistband to keep them snug. I was actually crazy about the result- I loved the look of the slightly tapered legs and the feel of the of the flowy fabric around them which felt breezy but not voluminous. However, the butt bags out so much after sitting down for a few minutes that I have to wear them with a long shirt on top so that people don’t think that I pooped my pants. And I also tore a big hole in the crotch area after kneeling down to put air in my tires at a gas station, lol- the woven fabric simply isn’t strong enough to hold up to a fitted pants design, so any extra stress applied to one particular area can make it rip like a piece of paper. I was able to mend the crotch area and get more good wear out of the pants, but let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson and understand that there is a reason we don’t make fitted pants out of thin woven textiles!

However, there is another option if you’re a silky, fitted-pants lover like myself! You can get away with pairing a drapey, woven, non-bottom weight fabric with a slim fitting pants pattern if the pants are drafted with an elastic waist! The extra fabric necessary for the elastic waist means there is excess fabric around the hip, thigh and crotch area, which translates into a garment that is able to handle more stress in those spots. Most of the finished Arden pants I have seen floating around the community have been made in cottons and linens, and they obviously look great because you can’t go wrong with those fabrics, but I am really partial to the look of a flowy fabric in this pattern- it’s unexpected, the ease of wear is tremendous, and they look really fancy even though they feel like I’m wearing pajama bottoms.

The construction of these pants is very straightforward and the pocket design is a real winner for me- they are deep, wide, and they lay flat! In-seam pockets on pants and skirts (where they are just attached to/open up at the side seam) tend to stick out and look really bulky on me because my waist and hips are the curviest part of my body and the pockets just don’t want to lay flat around them. But an angled or curved pocket with a facing works great for my figure (note: straight angled pockets only tend to work on me with garments that have a loose fit in the hips- pants, skirts or dresses with a very slim fit across my hips make the pockets gape EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. no matter what sewing tricks I apply). The pockets for the Arden pants have an angle and a facing and they fit me beautifully. The waist is also relatively high and hits right at my waistline which is my preferred fit for pretty much all bottoms. There are a few options for added details on these pants, like top stitching the seams and using back pockets (I omitted the pockets on my shorts because I didn’t have enough fabric but they still look super cute), but overall it’s a very simple and quick pattern to put together. Each of my versions took only a few hours a piece, and the most time consuming part was topstitching the elastic waistband.

Although I have very little red in my closet, these pants still work well with the rest of my wardrobe- the polka dots go great with stripes and other small- patterned fabrics, but come Christmas I am going to be an absolute vision when I wear these pants with my green hand knitted sweater, lol! This baby blue sweater knit in the photos (the top is made from a pattern from one of Gertie’s books, I think the Vintage Casual one) has a color that I think looks really exceptional with browns, oranges and reds, and it’s the only reason I have kept it in my closet. Blue is not anywhere in my color palette and I’m not crazy about wearing it close to my face, but I have found a way to keep it in my closet’s rotation by involving it in color combos that I’m really drawn to, and red and baby blue is one of them. I’ve actually had this shirt for several years and it’s nearing the end of its life because it’s starting to get pilly and the armpits are getting that gross, brownish hue, but I’m gonna try and squeeze just a bit more life out of it while I can!

Highly recommend the Arden Pants, and thank you for the pattern, Helen! Also thanks to Claire for the photos!

 

 

Flowery and Romantic; A Departure

Lol, this blog title. I was struggling so I just went over the top.

There is little in life these days that allows for spontaneity, and I’m a rule follower by nature- I’m an avid mask wearer when in public or in spaces shared with others, I rarely leave the house except to go to the grocery store/drugstore/ post office, and I DON’T eat out al fresco or otherwise because I am unconvinced that it’s safe (I have gotten some fries from the McDonald’s drive thru a couple of times though, lol). All that is to offer an explanation of why I made this dress, which is sooooo far outside my normal wardrobe style. It’s frilly, it’s ruffly, it’s got sleeve drama, and it’s off the shoulder.

 

It would be rare for me to choose any one of those details for a make, much less all of them in the same one! But alas, desperate quarantines call for desperate measures, and every time I saw this pattern pop up in my feed or across my computer screen, I thought, “this would be such a fun dress to wear”. I think it just reminds me of those carefree pre-pandemic days when I would get dressed up and meet friends for brunch or head out for a stroll in a new neighborhood with Claire, totally overdressed and feeling like a million bucks. A dress like this feels so over the top when all you’re doing is driving to pick up your groceries curbside at Sprout’s, but there are so few opportunities to feel (safely and smartly) frivolous these days, so I bit the bullet and made something totally out of the norm for my taste and style. Although I don’t plan on making this a habit, I think it came out great and I really enjoyed sewing it!

Although I have issues with how the pattern was styled on the pattern envelope (I love a casual shoe with a more dressed-up kind of outfit, but to me, the chunky sneakers just don’t look right with the proportions of the dress), I was drawn to how overly romantic and flowy McCalls 8108 looked without going into maxi dress territory. Of course The Fabric Store had the most perfect floral fabric for this pattern, a crepe viscose (which I was gifted) that I also think would be a perfect match for a 90’s inspired Shelby romper. The tiny flowers are pink and white on a green background, so I figured I could get away with it color palette-wise, and the drape is certainly ideal for this pattern. It’s flowy and lightweight so it doesn’t make the ruffle on the bottom look too heavy for the breeziness of the garment (which is another issue I had with the way they styled the garment on the pattern envelope- the textile they chose looks stiff and a bit voluminous, which could certainly be an intentional decision, but I’m not into it so much- I much prefer it in a less crisp, flowy fabric).

This garment came together fairly quickly and I didn’t need to make any size adjustments to it, probably because it was mostly like making a bustier without the bells and whistles. I sized down to an 8 as per usual with Big 4 patterns, and lined my bodice with a dupioni silk from my stash to give it a bit more stability and weight. I also used steel boning at the seams because on it’s own, the bodice seemed a little…flimsy. I don’t have big boobs, but something about the view I chose, the one with the detached sleeves that just kind of connect under the arms, coupled with the weight of that ruffle, made me think I should include as much support as possible. And this is a note to anyone thinking of making this pattern- I would consider a muslin or at least a double-check of the measurements against your body to make sure the bodice isn’t too short/shallow for your tastes- if I made this again I think I might add just the teeniest amount of additional length…this one works fine on me, but I wouldn’t go to the club in this and attempt dancing very hard, lol.

I could probably get away with wearing this without the boning but I would be constantly worried the dress was going to slip down. Since the bodice is so short (it ends right under the bust), I can’t really rely on  waist shaping to help hold it up, which is how I usually have success with strapless garments, so taking the extra time to sew channels for boning was well worth it, and also reminds me that I have a strapless, boned bodice jumpsuit in my roster of imaginary makes that I might as well get around to soon- I love a well-fitted strapless sweetheart bodice!

I kind of stopped paying attention to the instructions for this dress early on because I have made enough paneled strapless bodices to know my preferred way of construction. But because of this, I’m not entirely sure that I put the sleeves on in the right place, or attached them the proper way. I just used a double strand of thread to hand tack the sleeves to the bodice under the arm where I felt like it would allow me the most movement, and it seems to work well. My biggest issue with this dress is that I don’t particularly like elastic wrapped around my bicep- it feels very restrictive even if it isn’t technically too tight (but you kind of need it to be relatively firm so that the sleeves don’t look limp around your arm- the fitted elastic also helps to hold the bodice up just a bit).

The ruffle at the bottom was pieced together in three parts. Unfortunately did not have enough room to cut them from my fabric in the proper direction, but because the flowers are so small I don’t think it’s very noticeable…and if it is, it can be a considered a style choice, right? Right!

Pretty straightforward make in these very UN-straightforward times, but I’m making it work as best I can. I hope all of you are taking good care of yourself, staying as safe as you possibly can, and keeping optimistic whenever possible; we won’t come out the other side of this if we aren’t staying both vigilant and hopeful! I’m sending you all love and well wishes for good health, good thoughts, and good making!

P.S. Shoes are memade slides I completed a couple years ago I think? Time seems to have lost all meaning these day, maybe I made them last year! I love them but the leather is looking so dingy! I’m crazy about the shape of the peep toe looks on these so I’ll probably try and recreate it in another pair of flat slides soon as soon as I get some shoe-making mojo back! Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

 

 

Life these days…

It just occurred to me while I was writing another post that I have been pretty bad at updating this blog with anything else I do aside from sewing, which is a terrible misstep for me- this blog is about being TryCurious and trying all kinds of different things in the realm of making, which I absolutely do on a regular basis, but I just forget to share it here! Although to be fair, I do a GREAT job of sharing all my different interests on my instagram account. So this post will just be a little catch up of some other things I have been spending my days immersed in during quarantine.

Of course, work is pretty much at a standstill for me since not many auditions are happening due to the fact that very few projects are currently in production. Every time a new production gets started, they have to shut it down because people start immediately getting sick. So I have been able to sink my teeth into some other interests over the past few months, mainly selling prints of my illustrations in my etsy shop and getting back into ceramics.

I felt inspired months ago to start drawing illustrations that depicted different aspects of a maker’s life. I got to thinking about how so many of us makers create beautiful, often functional artwork which gets lumped under the heading of “craft” (I have no problem being considered a crafter but I think we should also consider getting comfortable also naming ourselves as artists), and how so many of us live in homes with walls adorned with all kinds of lovely artwork and photographs and paintings that depict our aesthetic, but don’t necessarily depict us, the work we do, the art we create.

“Stockinette” illustration available at the LA yarn store The Little Knittery

With this jolt of inspiration I have been focused on creating an ongoing series of maker-inspired artwork, which I have printed on 11×17 poster paper and started selling in my etsy shop. Initially I only had two prints available and they sold out in about 3 days, which was a wonderful surprise!

I have since been selling these prints to fabric and yarn shops across north america and I even have a couple shops in the UK carrying them! Thanks to the following shops for supporting this black indie artist!

If you’re interested in purchasing now, the stores above are carrying “Stockinette”, “Machine Dream”, “Sew Good” and “Sew Close” (some of the shops are offering the illustrations for purchase online). I am carrying a selection of these prints in addition “Patron Saint” in my own etsy shop which you can find here! You can have a look at the Maker Illustrations below:

Stockinette

Machine Dream

 

Sew Close

Sew Good

and the most recent addition, a personal fav…

Patron Saint

This last one was inspired by an instagram post I made recently where Claire called me the “Patron Saint of Pants Down”, to which I was tickled and honored to no end. Most of us who have sewn dresses or skirts for ourselves know the habit of dropping trou and shuffling to the mirror to assess how the fit of something is coming along, so it feels like an almost universal experience for a particular kind of sewist. I wish I had this on a candle!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDIHjfOnNip/

You can find my etsy shop here, and since I have a tendency to sell out quickly I would suggest favoriting the shop so you’ll know when there are more items available. You can also follow me on instagram if you don’t already- I keep it updated regularly and always share when new items come into the shop!

As you can see from my last several posts, I’m still enjoying sewing, but I’ve decreased my output a lot during the last couple months of quarantine. I started having little glimpses of an existential crisis when I spent as much time on sewing projects as I normally did. Namely I just kept thinking “why? what is it all for?” It feels a bit more difficult to get lost in a sewing project these days when I start wondering when I will actually ever have an opportunity to wear the garments I’ve made (if the projected advice from medical professionals is any indication, it won’t be ’til several months into 2021). I’ve definitely been more interested in making casual and comfortable clothing that I can wear around the house and feel cute in as I am not a ‘PJs all day’ kind of person, but I also don’t have a lot of wardrobe needs to meet, so the sewing is just…slower. I’m excited to make a couple of those Elizabeth Suzann patterns that were made available recently to the sewing community, and I also promised my dad some masks that say “Good Trouble” on them (I finally broke down and got a used Cricut Joy to cut out the letters, lol), so although I’m not as busy with sewing as I normally am, I’m still inspired! I am actually not mad about the decrease in sewing at at all, because it’s given me so much room for my newfound obsession…CERAMICS!!!!

tiny cup with wax resist and speckled glaze

Anyone following this blog for several years might remember the post I made when I took my first pottery classes with Claire a few years ago and joined a local pottery studio. My time there was spent pretty much exclusively throwing on the wheel, which I took to fairly quickly. I loved the teacher at the studio and had a really great time familiarizing myself with the process- every single one of my christmas gifts that year was a not-always-functional but made-with-lots-of-love piece of pottery that I made, hahaha. But eventually I started working again and ended my time at that studio. Some days I missed it, but I always had sewing to fill in the gaps so I didn’t spend much time reminiscing about it. Then at the beginning of quarantine in March of this year, my sweet and extremely generous friend Stephanie asked me if I wanted to take her potter’s wheel off her hands. She had gotten into pottery for a while but had moved on to other hobbies and didn’t want the equipment taking up space in her storage area. I hadn’t really considered getting back into pottery, but I was happy to take the wheel- I figured that quarantine would give me plenty of time to get back into the groove if and when I felt inspired to dive back in.

When I went to Stephanie’s house to pick it up (all of us donning masks, even at that early stage!), I was thrilled to see that not only was she gifting me her wheel, but also a chair designed especially for wheel-throwing, a bunch of plastic bats, bags of clay, trimming and modeling tools, small ware boards, banding wheels- literally everything you would need to get started in building up a tiny but efficient home ceramics studio. I suddenly felt super excited to get back into this hobby, and I set everything up in the storage room beneath our garage, which has actually been a usable space the entire time we’ve lived here but we haven’t really known what to do with it.

perfect sized cup for a margarita, turns out. Wax resist and speckled glazes.

In the months since receiving all of Stephanie’s old pottery equipment and tools, I have carved out yet another making space in our home that brings me more delight than I ever imagined (much like my craft room where I do all of my sewing and shoemaking). And I have discovered something so important about my making process- turns out, I FLOURISH in an environment created and curated for my own needs! I’m always excited to take a class and learn from an experienced and knowledgeable teacher, and I think there is a lot of good that comes from sharing a space with other students who are also learning a process at the same pace that you are…but I see now that I am able to tap into my most inspired, most imaginative, most productive self when I am alone in my own space. Spoken like the true introvert that I am, hahaha!

After a few months of learning and experimenting and reacquainting myself with the craft of pottery, I have noticed such a marked difference between my experiences making ceramics at my local pottery studio and making them in the quiet safety of my own home. I was proud of the pieces that I created while a member of the studio, because learning something puts you in a state of vulnerability; to effectively create anything when you feel exposed to the opinions and criticisms of others is an absolute feat. But looking back, I did feel a bit disconnected from the pieces I made. I was pleased with the technical aspects of what I had done but…they just didn’t feel like me. They weren’t pieces that I would have been drawn to if I saw them on a shelf in a gift shop. They weren’t pieces that looked like I had made them. After years of making clothes and drawing illustrations and cooking meals and writing stories, I can easily recognize my own style, and I get so much joy when others recognize it, too. But the pottery I made in the studio didn’t seem to be imbued with my style at all, and maybe that’s why I never kept up the practice- I was struggling to find myself in it.

Part of that comes from the fact that I hate unsolicited advice and criticism, whether online or in person. A lot of people assume it’s because I am uncomfortable with criticism and just get defensive. But I have been acting professionally since my late teens. I went to college for theatre, art, music and dance. My career requires that I regularly perform in front of strangers and then wait for them to tell me whether they think I am good enough to get paid for it; I am all too familiar with the criticism and evaluation that comes from others weighing in on my work. And that’s why making has become such a nurturing, safe space for me! Creating art, the kind of art that is for ourselves, for our own self care, for our own enjoyment– that should never be tainted by the opinions of others (unless of course you are asking for it, which is the difference between solicited and unsolicited advice).

an attempt at creating a watercolor effect with glaze on a small tumblr

The advent of social media has only perpetuated the tendency for strangers to weigh in on the work of others, and it happens ALL THE TIME with sewing- someone shares a beautiful garment that they have worked hard on in an instagram post and comments pour in from virtual strangers along the lines of “are you gonna fix the hem?” or “this looks so much better than the last thing you made!” or “you should work on getting a better fit in the shoulders” or “I think this would have looked better in linen”, and so on and so on. Are these strangers’ opinions valid? Absolutely! But do they need to be shared with anyone else? HELL. TO. THE. NO. I have gotten pretty good at setting boundaries on my instagram- anyone leaving a comment or sending me a DM that criticizes, offers advice I never asked for, or otherwise projects their negative personal perspectives into my space (this includes anti-fat or sexually objectifying comments) gets an immediate “you don’t get to say this to me, and this is why…” response. Most people are receptive to it, but every once in a while people get defensive, and then I just block them. The joys of social media are few and far between some days, but being able to block assholes is one of the most pleasurable things it has brought me. I only wish I could block people like that in real life!

unglazed pieces ready to be fired

Unfortunately we live in a white supremacist world ruled by patriarchy norms, so I get mansplained and whitesplained all the time. I am not always able to defend myself against it in everyday situations, like at work, so I will be damned if I let it fly in my curated spaces on social media. I remember once when I was at the pottery studio working on something, a man who was a member of the studio came to up to me (we had never spoken before) and told me that I was “doing it wrong”. I was enraged but didn’t say anything because I don’t like trying to have conversations with men who so boldly interfere with other’s personal space (and yes, I consider art that I am creating my “personal space”). I don’t remember specifically what I was working on, but I know I was experimenting with a new technique and trying out something weird and interesting. I was attempting to see if the technique would work, which is generally how I learn best- I don’t like to be told a million rules that might reflect on the teacher’s preferences and process rather than the craft itself. I prefer to learn by trial and error. I get a better understanding of why something won’t work by doing it myself and understanding the consequences rather than someone just telling me “don’t do it this way” and offering no context. I am able to find so much more nuance and space for experimentation by understanding firsthand the why’s of a situation rather just having them told to me, but unfortunately classroom settings are not always the most inclusive, supportive spaces for experimentation, especially if you are sensitive to the prying eyes of others (raises hand).

To be clear, I love talking about process and method and approach with others whose work I admire- it’s just another way for me to learn! But telling someone they are “doing it wrong” does not leave space for conversation or even education. It does not invite a dialogue. It does not create a safe space for people to explore in their making process. You know what does invite dialogue? Curiosity. Questions. Inquisitiveness. “Oh, what do you plan to make with that?” or “How are you gonna do this part?” or simply “what are you working on?” are all ways to start a conversation and share information that are much more preferable to a statement like “you shouldn’t do it that way”.

progress of an inauthentic mishima-type process, where you cover a leather hard project in wax, carve out a design in the piece, then cover the lines in underglaze. The wax keeps the underglaze from adhering to anything but the raw clay, and then, once it is bisque-fired, the wax will burn off, leaving colored indented lines. You can then glaze the piece like normal and give it a final fire.

All this is to say that being able to create in my own time has allowed my imagination to prosper! The things I am creating are strange and beautiful, but most importantly, they feel like me! I’m still in a process of learning the do’s and don’t of ceramics (because there are a lot of technical elements to account for after a piece of clay has been manipulated, as well as safety precautions, which I take very seriously). But the growth of my own ability, style, and methodology seems to be keeping pace with my learning curve, and I am having so much fun! I want to be clear that I don’t think there is one specific way that everyone will thrive in. We all have different preferences and tastes and all our brains work and respond to things differently- there is no such thing as a “right way”. But I do think that figuring out your own ideal set up is important in the life of a maker. Maybe you are the most inspired when it’s noisy and busy and music is playing and people are all around you working on the same thing. Maybe you like to be in a quiet room at the end of the day with a little fan whirring and a work lamp lighting your space. Maybe you like to have an on-going stream of true crime shows squeaking out of your laptop with a glass of wine close by and a baby napping in the corner. You might not be able to replicate this ideal space every time you are able to make. But knowing what to strive for makes a big difference, and allows you to anticipate what you might be able to accomplish when you have all or none of your preferred parameters in place.

As for my own ceramics practice, I’ve effectively created an ideal space to work in (although Claire is growing plants on the other side of the room, which is a visual distraction for me whenever I walk in- thankfully my work spaces are turned away from that area, haha). I’m bordering on obsessed, where I’m devouring books about handbuilding and wheel throwing and going to sleep dreaming about projects I want to try and waking up excited to put my visions into practice. I felt like this when I came back to sewing 7 years ago, thinking about it all the time, consumed by everything I wanted to learn and do and try; it feels a little like falling in love. I don’t have this same relationship to sewing any more, which isn’t a complaint. Falling in love isn’t a sustainable place for my creative mind to exist in long term, and after years of learning about sewing and fit adjustments and fabric and patterns and color palettes and curating my closet, I’m experienced enough that I don’t consider myself to be falling anymore- I’ve landed! And I LOVE being on solid ground with my sewing practice! I’m still inspired and motivated and I still find challenges in the craft, but I feel secure, encouraged, confident with it all these years later.

small thrown dish with handbuilt flower

I would love to get to that place with my ceramics, but I have to say, I am truly thrilled by the journey of falling. I’m sure there are lots of factors involved that have set the stage for this inspired time in my life (can’t work professionally, can’t socialize in the ways I’m used to, can’t safely leave the house, can’t go on trips- I feel like I’m on sabbatical in my own home) but so far I have been able to utilize the parameters I have been given to my own benefit, and I feel EXTREMELY GRATEFUL. Everyone’s experience of this pandemic is different, and there are lots of people out there who aren’t finding any “joy” in our current circumstances, which is completely understandable. My own moods and motivation have a tendency to swing all over the place, so I just try and meet myself wherever I’m at with patience and compassion. Sometimes it’s really hard, and other times it’s easy. Life in a nutshell.

I’m thinking of doing a more detailed series here about my ceramics journey because, even though I do love wheel throwing, I have found so much delight in handbuilding, which I have been learning about from books and online classes that I have been taking from a local pottery studio called POT LA. This is not the studio I belonged to before, and I wonder how different my experiences would have been learning in an environment curated by the WOC owners of POT LA, a studio that is working to educate, support and amplify the queer and POC community, but I digress. One of the many great things about POT LA is that, with their doors closed for the pandemic, they have been offering paid online courses that anyone anywhere can take. So even if you don’t live in LA, if you can supply your own clay tools (which are fairly easy to find or repurpose), you can learn and create from the comfort of your own home. Lots of local studios will allow you to fire and glaze pieces in their kiln for a small fee, so you can probably do a little research and learn more about what’s available to you in your own city.

I that feel that handbuilding is more accessible to more people, and I think the stunning pieces that you can create just with your hands often get overlooked by the glamour of working on a wheel. In the handbuilding book I am reading right now, each section is divided into projects that build upon the previous techniques shared, so I think I might go through and work on making all of them, to both build up my own skillset and share how vast the world of handbuilding can be, and how your hands can create something that looks just as professional and elegant as what you can make on a wheel.

And piggy-backing on my earlier mention of kilns- as you can probably tell by this post, I have two! My first one, I called it Baby Kiln  because it’s so small, is maybe 6 inches across and 6 inches deep. It’s a used dental kiln, meant for making dentures and veneers out of porcelain, and Claire surprised me with it for my birthday in April because I was getting so deep into pottery and feeling frustrated by the prospect of having to rely on someone else’s kiln to finish my pieces. It took me like, almost two months to finally use it because I wanted to educate myself and learn as much as I could about the process. Once I finally got comfortable with it and had success with firing , I realized quickly that if I ever wanted to try and do some small batch productions of ceramic pieces, the tiny kiln would be far too limiting for my needs. It could hold one mug or one medium sized bowl at a time- anything larger than that was a no-go. So I scoured online classified for weeks and finally found an affordable used CRESS kiln on craigslist that has about triple the space of Baby Kiln. I call this one Mother Kiln and I have had two successful firings in her so far! Thanks to my instagram friend Bob who generously donated his knowledge from his experience as a ceramicist and gave me loads of information to help me be successful in my first firings!

This post has been more musing than anything else, but it felt overdue. I love talking about making here! Thanks for reading, and following along on all the different paths our maker journeys can take us down!

 

 

Jasika Blazer

Alas! I have finally, finally, FINALLY made the Jasika Blazer by Closet Core Patterns, the sewing pattern that Heather Lou so generously named after me! Spoiler alert: I LOVE ITTTTTT! SO DEEEEEEPLY!!!!!!! Now you might be saying to yourself, wow, this pattern came out about a year ago-ish, why did it take so long for her to make it? And that is an EXCELLENT question! Readers, buckle up, this is a long blog post lol!

I was so stoked when the pattern was finally released that I bought my fabric for it before I even had an actual copy of the pattern in my hands. Even though I don’t normally shop at Mood (and don’t plan on doing so ever again after their appropriation of Masai culture for their most recent fabric print release), I knew they would probably have the best selection of wool fabrics suitable for this project, so I scoured their website and narrowed down all the options til I came up with something I loved- a sky blue and white windowpane check wool suiting. It was expensive (having a pattern named after you seems like a great time to splurge on a beautiful fabric!) and clean and crispy and springtime-y , perfect for the season, and I ordered enough to make myself a pair of matching pants. When it arrived in the mail shortly afterwards, it was just as stunning in person, but it had a much looser weave than I anticipated and I immediately wondered if it would be the right kind of weight for a tailored jacket…but I put the doubt out of my mind and waited for the pattern and additional blazer materials kit (which Heather sells in her shop) to arrive.

Life got busy and I found myself putting the blazer off because I wanted to give it my full attention, not squeeze it in between a bunch of other projects I was trying to get done. And then my work life changed dramatically when I found out I was going to be spending much of my next year in Vancouver, so the blazer got pushed back indefinitely. On one of my weekends back in LA, I pulled out the pattern and cut out all the pattern pieces (heads up, folks, there are a LOT of them!), gathered my fabric and notions and carted everything back to Vancouver with me so I could work on the project in my apartment up there, but I quickly realized this was not the smartest decision. The Jasika Blazer is a beautiful tailored jacket with lots of pressing and tweaking and special techniques required in the construction process, so sewing it away from home without all my special tools handy made no sense (I didn’t bring my tailor’s ham or clapper with me to Vancouver cause they were too cumbersome and weren’t necessary for most of my projects, but it would have been a grave mistake to try and make the blazer without them).

All of this is to say that the blue windowpane fabric sat untouched in a closet in my vancouver apartment for about nine months til I moved back down to LA. By this time it was February and I had just come out of my Curated Closet/Palette Color stupor. By the time I pulled out that beautiful windowpane fabric again, finally ready to tackle the project, I realized….oh my god, I didn’t want to use the fabric anymore! I still thought it was beautiful of course, but I had learned that baby blue is just not in my color palette and doesn’t make me shine the way so many other colors, like oranges, browns, yellows and greens do. That’s not to say I won’t ever wear the color- I can totally make blue work when it is used as an accent for my seasonal colors, but I just didn’t feel excited about sewing a complicated, time-consuming garment in something that wasn’t smack dab in the middle of my palette, something I could get tons of wear out of with everything in my wardrobe. So the project went on hiatus yet again…

Sometime in early February of 2020, before all the proverbial shit hit the fan, I found myself in Michael Levine’s (the only LA fabric store I frequented in the past few years which has had to permanently shut it’s doors thanks to coronavirus, RIP!) looking for a specific type of fabric for some project or another, and I came across the most remarkable tweed I had seen in recent memory. It was a remnant bolt from some designer’s collection, and it immediately caught my eye because it was so stunning.

It is mostly golden yellow and dark brown, but there are tiny flecks of pretty much every other color in there as well- reds, blues, blacks, grays, greens. It’s so brilliant that it’s almost hard to decide what the main color is- in certain lights it looks green, in others it looks like a muted gold. Whatever it is, it’s very obviously in my color palette so I brought a yard and a half home with me, thinking it would make a great pair of wide legged trousers. A couple of weeks later I was hit by a bolt of sewing inspo and I ran to my craft room to see if there was enough of this fabric to make the Jasika blazer with- I had suddenly realized that it was the most perfect, plushy wool for the blazer, and thankfully I had enough fabric to make it happen!

The beginning of my blazer making timed out pretty perfectly with the coronavirus quarantine so I suddenly had LOTS of time to dedicate to this project. Even so, I decided to take my time with it, to divide it up into little bite sized chunks so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed by working on the same project for such a long time. I gave myself little palette cleansers in between some of the bigger steps, for example, I cut my muslin out first and made some small fit adjustments to the paper pattern pieces, then I worked on pottery for a couple days. Next I cut out all the main pieces out of my fabric and attached the interfacings, then I worked on a less complicated sewing pattern. It was fun to divide it up this way, as it gave me something to look forward to while ensuring that I didn’t get bored or saturated by the project (which only became important because of the weird atmosphere of staying at home for so many weeks months seasons?? in a row).

I love sewalongs for complicated or new-to-me projects so was SUPER excited to be able to have my hand held through each step of the blazer process by watching the class that accompanies the Blazer pattern. Heather Lou and her team put together a BEAUTIFUL, professional class series that guides you through each step of the construction process, from discussions about what fabric to use to the differences between interfacings to why we need sleeve heads. But I want to ensure you that the class isn’t necessary to make the blazer. As always, Close Core Patterns has excellent instructions with very clear images and descriptions of each step, and I relied mostly on them to get through the blazer, but I liked having additional visuals to ensure I was doing everything correctly. I also learned a lot just by listening to Heather talk about the process and share interesting tidbits of information along the way. I got in the habit of watching the next lesson over breakfast or lunch before I went downstairs to sew, and then implementing what I learned in my work that day (although occasionally the laptop had to come downstairs with me so I could watch it in time with what I was doing). In short, the class isn’t necessary to make the jacket, but it takes out any guesswork you might have about certain steps that might be unfamiliar to you, and if you generally like to follow sewalongs, the video is definitely going to add a lot of ease to your experience of making the blazer.

As far as fitting goes, I graded the hips out to a size larger (I think I made a 4 in the bust/waist and went up to a 6 in the hip) but once I made my muslin, I realized I had miscalculated the ease somehow. I’m not entirely sure how this happened since the pattern clearly states the finished measurements on the envelope, but I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention or just misjudged how much hip ease I would need. Either way, the muslin fit like a dream through the shoulders, bust and waist, and viewing from the front, the hips looked like they fit great, too, but the back told a different story; the vent was splayed open about a 1 1/4″. I evenly distributed that 1 1/4″ across the hip areas of the front, side and back on my pattern pieces and then transferred that additional width to the lining pieces as well. I shortened the sleeves about an inch or so (customary adjustment for me) but didn’t need to take any length out of the body- CCP tends to be proportional on me in this arena.

The adjustments I made were all great but I could probably use a teeny tiny bit of extra room in the underarms. I had no issues at all with my muslin, but of course my muslin didn’t have the sleeve heads, horsehair, interfacing and lining attached, and it wasn’t made out of thick wool. I did use my shoulder pads in the muslin fitting, but it still wasn’t a great approximation for how the arms would ultimately fit. The shoulders are perfect on me, I just wish there was a little more room for my arm to move around and feel comfortable in the underarm area, but I think it’s just a matter of personal preference for me personally because…ummm….well, I like to do impromptu dances and kicks at a moment’s notice, lol. The fit is definitely wearable and most importantly it doesn’t cut into my underarms at all, it’s just something I will probably make a tiny change to the next time I make it. After an in-prpgress try-on, I went inside the jacket and trimmed off the teeniest bit more from the seam allowance (you’re instructed to trim no less than 3/8″ in this area), and it seems to be a little bit looser now that I have worn it a couple times.

I chose a fairly bold leather for the elbow patches on this jacket, which I love- it’s a vintage-y 70’s green that looked out of place in my wardrobe before my closet curation and now matches everything. Ironically, this is where I got snagged the most while making this jacket- I have no idea how, and I am embarrassed to admit this (I blame Covid-19), but I sewed the sleeves on backwards, ugggggghhhh!!!!! Obviously this has happened to all of us at some point in our sewing career, but these sleeves are actually drafted to be slightly curved to follow the natural line of the elbow and arm as it moves towards the front of the body, so I feel like I should have known better. Regardless, when I first tried the jacket on to see how the sleeves fit, the elbow patches were on the fronts of my forearms (LOL) and my immediate assumption was that I had accidentally put the patches on in the wrong place. It wasn’t until I had unpicked them, sewn them onto the proper sides of the sleeves and tried the jacket on again that I realized the entire sleeve was set in backwards, and I hadn’t needed to take the patches off at all. UGGGGGHHHH again. So I unpicked the sleeves from the armholes and opened the inside seam of the sleeve so that I could lay the sleeve flat to re-sew the elbow patch on again. Re-sewed the sleeves right ways, tried it on again. Claire was visiting me in the craft room and said “those elbow patches look kind of low”. I gave her a foul look but she was right, somehow I had sewn them on so low that they looked almost like wrist patches, UGGGHHHHHH for the third time! So off they came again, and this time I trimmed them down a little on all sides because 1. I thought they were a little big proportionally on my jacket (the patch is drafted to be one size fits all), and 2. they had holes from my sewing machine needle on the edges from sewing them so many times. Although I think I could probably have sewn them a little more towards the center of where my elbow rests, you can imagine how uninterested I was in sewing them a 4th time so we are going to act like they are perfectly and exquisitely placed now, lol!

After the elbow patches the rest of the jacket came together quickly…or, wait, that’s not true. I got stuck and stumped a couple more times, again, through no fault of the pattern, but because my brain needed more breaks than I was giving it. I sewed the lining together and took it out twice because I thought I had put it together wrong; the lining of course has different right and left sides to match up with the different sides of the back vent, and I kept convincing myself it was incorrect. It wasn’t.  LE SIIIIGHHHHH. Eventually (after a long break!) I got my shit together, sewed my correctly pieced lining to the outer jacket, and birthed it. Ahhhh, sweet satisfaction! A lot of people feel squeamish about sharing their coat birthing videos with the public but I personally LOVE it, and I was very excited to share the experience of bringing my beautiful new blazer into the world on instagram! (will make this a highlight on my instagram cause yall just LOVE coat birthing videos! lol)

This wool was absolutely MADE for this pattern- it’s so thick and plush and the stitching just sinks into the surface of the fabric. I truly think that one of the reasons this jacket looks so stunning is because it’s such a good match of fabric and pattern. Like, I’m a decent seamstress, but this thing looks damn near PERFECT- any flaws or wonky stitch work is totally covered up by the thick wool fabric, and I am NOT mad about it! And now that this jacket is done, I can see what a pain my thin, slightly airy window pane check wool suiting would have been to make in this pattern. Initially I was disappointed in how long it took me to finish this blazer (it’s such an honor to have a pattern named after you, who in their right mind would wait so long??) but now I am ridiculously happy that I didn’t push myself into the project before I was ready because I know I wouldn’t have come out with such a pristine, stunning garment. Whether it was the sewing gods intervening, my own sixth sense being stimulated, or just a coincidence of the universe, this blazer wanted to be born into the world in a perfectly suitable textile that was in my color palette, created at a time when I had plenty of physical and mental energy to give to it. I am so thankful! Failures are an important part of the creative process, but I don’t think I would have been able to handle a big loss like this blazer during quarantine, so I feel very lucky to have it turn out such a success!

As you can see, there are several more memade garments included in this blog post, and I am just going to briefly chat about them since I don’t want this blog post to turn into a whole novel.

The Jenny Shorts are another CCP make that I sewed in some stunning bull denim from Blackbird Fabrics. I have made the Jenny Overalls before and used the bottoms from the pattern to hack onto other bodices, but this was my first time making the shorts and I absolutely LOVE them. Great coverage, comfortable, interesting details I love the warm color and the weight and feel of the denim was so fun to sew- very stable and substantial for bottomweight but not super stiff and rough like a lot of woven denim tends to be.

The button up shirting fabric is gifted from The Fabric Store – I made this garment from Butterick 5526 a while ago but was never happy with the photos I took of it. Lladybird raved about this pattern on her blog forever ago which is why I bought the pattern (I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if it weren’t for her) and she is right- it’s a terrific design! The version I made has princess seams and 3/4 sleeves and it fits like a dream- I made no mods and was able to make the size I actually fit into and it’s so lovely. It fits my petite frame so nicely but doesn’t feel too tight anywhere, and I absolutely plan on making more, as soon as I feel inspired to make dress up clothes again. I have worn regular clothes pretty much every day of quarantine (yes, even bras! What can I say, I have comfortable soft bras that I love wearing!) but have kept it quite casual- I can’t remember the last time I dressed up for anything other than blog photos or putting myself on tape for an audition. Anyways, white is not in my color palette, but I think this shirt works if I’m wearing with other colors from my palette, and I can definitely get away with it in summer time when my skin is a deeper shade of brown.

Next we have the yellow Alphonse Trousers seen in the photos towards the beginning of the post which has been my favorite pattern discovery of the past several months. I am a huge fan of the high waist, loose fit in the hips and thighs, and tapered ankles of the pattern, and it’s relatively quick make since they fit me right out of the envelope. I made them in silk velvet here and in a stunning drapey tweed here and these yellow ones are made of a super soft. almost velvety cotton from The Fabric Store.

Lastly are the green slides seen in the top photos which I made from the same leather as my elbow patches, because again, IT’S IN MY PALETTE! They were a super simple make, but when I tell you that I wear them about 5 days out of the week because they go with EVERYTHIIIIING! I actually plan on making another pair of slides in an orange color to fully round out my summer slides game, and then I should be set (and hopefully wont wear the green ones into the ground any time soon)!

Whew that is a LOT of makes! Thanks for the pictures, Claire!

And thank you again Heather Lou for including me in your illustrious line-up of makers to name your patterns after. I truly could not be more honored by the recognition, or more impressed by the pattern! Your team continues to push the sewing community to challenge themselves and tackle exciting projects like these, and my personal sewing skills have grown so much thanks to your designs! Sending fist bumps and shimmies to you all in Montreal!

Colorblocked Kalle

Colorblocked Kalle

FYI: This post is about the Kalle Shirt/Shirtdress by the artist formerly known as Closet Case Patterns- they have now had a name change and can be found at Closet Core Patterns! Same great patterns, cool designs and inspiring and informative blog, but with a new name! You can check out their blog to learn a little bit more on the why’s of the name change. As a massive fan of this brand of patterns I have made just about everything they have released, so I plan to go through all my old blog posts to find where I have tagged their company so I can change it to their new name.

Colorblocked Kalle

I stumbled upon the idea for this colorblocked Kalle by accident. In my stash were two cuts of raw, nubby silk that I had purchased from different fabric stores, and I bought them with no idea whatsoever of what I planned to make with them, I just really like this kind of raw silk and I snag it up whenever I have a chance. I had saved both pieces when I did my fabric palette color cull at the beginning of the year, even though one was only marginally in my deep autumn palette.

The sunny, bright yellow was an obvious yes, but the salmon was debatable. Warm, orangey peaches definitely work within my palette, but this salmon-y color is more cool than warm, and I could even tell when I held it up to my skin that it made me look pretty grey. But I kept it anyways because I’m the boss! Although I love having parameters to work with in my makes, I don’t ever want to feel like the PALETTE is in total control, and I like experimenting and seeing how I can involve other pieces outside of my normal style/color scheme. I wondered if the yellow might be lively enough to bring up the kind of dull mood the salmon silk was conveying, and the Kalle shirt seemed like a brilliant pattern to test out my theory on.

 

I’ve made the Kalle a bunch of times, both for myself and for Claire, and it’s a real TNT for me. It’s so easy to wear and it’s a very straightforward make, but it also has lots of room for playing around with the design. I’ve made the kalle shirtdress in a silk that I sandwashed in my washing machine and one of my fav versions is in a striped grey and white linen that I changed directions on so that one side was vertical and the other horizontal (never made it to the blog but it’s been on my IG feed a bunch):

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAoDEDxn68V/

The construction was very straightforward- again, I am familiar with this pattern because I have made it about 5 or 6 times now, so I don’t have much more to say about the make itself that I haven’t mentioned in my other blog posts (here is my first make of this pattern)! I decided to french all the inside seams since I knew you would get glimpses of the innards while I was wearing it and I wanted it to look nice and clean.

Fiddling around with the color blocking for this project wasn’t too tricky either, it just required some thoughtfulness of where I needed to add seam allowances (if I was splitting one pattern piece into two) and which sides needed to be a certain color. I will admit that I had to go slow with the collar pieces, lol. My brain gets easily confused with this sort of stuff but it doesn’t help me to plan it out by writing it down in advance- I have to see the fabric and the pattern pieces all laid out for them to make sense to me. I decided to do the collar all in one color to add just a tiny bit of visual interest to the garment, and since yellow is the warmer of the two hues, I wanted to have as much of it close to my face as possible (the inside of the collar is colorblocked the opposite way of the outer shirt, which I guess is just a little something for me to enjoy when I put the shirt on, haha.

Josephine’s Dry Goods kindly provided THE MOST PERFECT buttons for this top, and we did it all through instagram DMs which I am very impressed by; the color is spot on!

Oh, one other huge thing I did with this top besides colorblock it was to lengthen the back piece, haha- can’t believe I didn’t start this post with that information. I see these pics and forget that this isn’t exactly how the pattern was drafted!

 

I got the idea for this dramatic high-lo hem from, you guessed it- pinterest!

…and the bravery to try the yellow and salmon together from this image. My color choices aren’t quite the same, but the spirit is there!

My kalle is obviously a much more wearable version of the first image above but I do love the idea of a shirt as kind of a cape (I’ve been going around calling this top my “butt cape” lol), and I’m really happy with how this ended up! It’s fun and its interesting and I got to use two fabrics from my stash that, until this point, I couldn’t figure out how to utilize! Altering the back piece was super easy, I just added a lengthen line on the pattern piece and added several inches, but you can’t forget to transfer that same length to the hem facing. One of my favorite details about this pattern is the hefty hem facing that gives the garment a bit of visual and physical weight- I loooove that curve at the sides, and the dramatic drop on the back is so nice!

My only issue is that I am not entirely sure how to style it. I threw it on with some persephone pants for the purposes of this photo shoot, but truth be told, I had taken photos of like, 7 other garments already before we photographed the Kalle shirt and I was too tired to work on putting together a nice outfit- I just wanted to get it done. So I’m not sold on this outfit (I personally prefer this top with more slim-fitting bottoms), but I am curious to see what it would look like with a couple other items from my wardrobe- namely these hot pink pants (also made in raw nubby silk!) or these baby blue Peaches Trousers that might tell a beautiful color story. I’ll probably share some more ideas on what to style this with on IG stories or something at some point in the future, so if you follow me there, stay tuned!

Espadrilles: me made

Persephone Pants: me made

Kalle shirt: me made

Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

Ombre Dress

 

I got this fabric for either Christmas or my birthday several years ago, I can’t remember which. It’s an ombre silk charmeuse from Mood and there were several colorways to choose from- I’m also not sure who this gift was from (I think it was Claire?) but I am SO HAPPY they chose this golden and deep brown version because, even though I hadn’t curated my closet and gotten into my colors when I put this fabric on my wishlist, it’s smack in the middle of my palette and looks really nice with my skintone.

I fell deeply in love with this silk as soon as I held it in my hands but I had NO idea what I wanted to make with it- I didn’t even have an idea when I saw it on the Mood website, I just knew that I wanted to have it. So it has sat in my fabric drawer, unused, for about 3 or 4 years. It wasn’t one of those “this fabric is too nice and expensive for me to use it on anything” pieces, I just kept getting stumped on what pattern would best match it’s qualities. I wanted something that would allow the full measure of the ombre to stand out, which was tricky because the color gradation of the silk occurs from one selvedge edge to the other, as opposed to having the ombre spread out in measured panels lengthwise. This meant that I had to be smart about which pattern I chose and I had to make sure that my layout would work within the confines of my yardage (I think I got three yards), but since I had to follow the rules of working with a directional print, it meant there was much less space to play around with and I would be squeezing as much as I possibly could out of the fabric.

I don’t think I realized when I bought the SashaMcCalls 8036 pattern that it might be a good match for this fabric- it actually took me a few weeks of the pattern hanging out in my craft room to make the connection! I was just casually going through my smaller-than-before stash one day and I pulled out this silk, as I had done a million times before to no avail. I glimpsed this pattern  out of the corner of my eye and poured over the pattern details to see if I would have enough fabric for it. It seemed like a good match because 1. it has a waistline, which meant I would have a little wiggle room in matching the ombre from top to bottom, 2. the skirt was full and swingy, which was important to me so that the beautiful soft drape of the fabric could take centerstage, and 3. it had some interesting design details, like those dramatic sleeves!

Although I love the version with the buttons down the side, I thought this fabric would work best in the most simple, uninterrupted silhouette possible- putting buttonholes in charmeuse felt like it would have been the biggest mistake ever- I personally like to mess with this type of fabric as LITTLE as possible. It wasn’t terrible to sew with, but the tiniest little threads in the fabric wanted to snag every once in a while, even with brand new microtex needles inserted into my machine, so the less I had to handle it, the better.

I was smart enough with this project to make sure that I made a muslin before cutting into my precious silk, and I only made some minor, customary (for me) adjustments on the pattern pieces, like grading between sizes at the waist and hips. I usually shorten the bodice on big 4 patterns but I think this one didn’t require it, which was a nice surprise. I was on the fence about the sleeves at first, worried that they would not look very proportionate on me because of all the drama they are drafted with, but turns out they are my favorite part of the dress!

Once my muslin was finished and I was happy with the fit, I laid out the pattern pieces so that the brighter yellow gold at one end of the ombre would be closest to my face and the deeper brown would fade to the bottom of the skirt. I’m sure it would have looked really nice the other way, too, but since golden yellow is one of my favorite colors, I wanted that to be the part that got the most action. I ombre matched the bodice and skirt so that the fade of the colors would look uninterrupted from top to bottom by overlapping the placement of the pattern pieces by the width of the seam allowance along the same lengthwise line of the fabric, and it worked out well. I just barely got my sleeves in on the same line of the fabric, though to be honest, one of them had to be cut slightly off the parallel line of ombre because I had do little fabric to work with. I figured it wouldn’t be obvious since the sleeves would be separated by my torso and therefore any discrepancies would not easily be seen, and I was right- I can’t tell where on the sleeve there is the slightly color variation!

The construction of the dress is pretty simple, the only trick for me was being gentle with my delicate fabric and making sure the pleats of my sleeves were aligned properly. This charmeuse doesn’t recover well from holes made by machine or hand sewing needles, but I couldn’t easily get around them when constructing the sleeves- since the fabric is slippery, I had to baste the pleats down as per the instructions (I was worried that sticky tape would have left gunk and stained the fabric) and the price I paid for this is that you can see several faint 2 inch long trails of needle holes at the heads of the sleeves where the pleats are. Small price to pay as you have to really be looking hard for them, but still annoying. While I love the overall look of this dress and am so happy I made it, charmeuse is just not my favorite fabric to work with- believe it or not, I would take silk velvet any day of the week! Ha!

Besides the slipperiness of the fabric and extra care I had to take to sew it every step of the way, it’s just not particularly easy to wear. It likes to wrinkle A LOT, but ironing it is tricky because it loves to soak up the imprint of whatever is underneath it (seam lines and edges and folds) and steaming was difficult because the fabric just LOVED to pick up water stains. After completing this dress I actually found it so hard to do a final press that I took it to the dry cleaners. It came out looking great, but just in the transition from cleaners to car to closet it picked up wrinkles again, lol. And what’s more, when I wear it, the fabric is so slippery that it doesn’t really want to stay closed at the front bodice wrap- just in the process of taking these pictures I found myself constantly looking down to make sure my bra wasn’t showing. The fabric is much too delicate to sew in a snap at the front, which I normally do on wrapped garments that like to loosen up over wear, so I will have to see if fabric tape will do the trick. This is of course not even mentioning the fact that one mediocre gust of wind is enough to blow this floaty fabric up and away from my entire body, a la Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate, so wardrobe malfunctions are high on my list of worries when wearing this thing, lol.

So I’ve barely worn this dress and I already have some limitations on how, when and where I can get away with wearing this dress: preferably inside, possibly outside with a coat/jacket worn on top, with plenty of fashion tape in my purse, and ideally with a very plain slip underneath! But oddly, I’m still happy I made it! Each of my makes is an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the marriage of fabric and pattern, about new techniques and classic ones, and about my own preferences when it comes to construction and taste. I hope I get an opportunity to wear this dress to the perfect event sometime in the near-ish future (seems like it’s mostly zoom calls these days, but a girl can dream!) and I am also excited to make this pattern again in a more appropriate, easy-to-wear fabric, like a lightweight linen or cotton. See you next time, Sasha!

Photos by Claire Savage, maker necklace from Closet Case Files, RTW shoes.