Hampton Jean Jacket

I have never been on the jean jacket train because I have never owned a jean jacket that I loved. I had a couple of RTW ones when I was younger, but they were either gigantic on me or too short or the sleeves were too long (I am almost positive that I owned a severely cropped denim jacket in college whose hem ended at my ribs and no, I’m not proud of it). In the 90’s and early 2000’s the bulk of denim jackets in RTW seemed to be variations on a theme instead of just, you know, THE ACTUAL THEME, so I never had much of a connection to them. Now fast forward a couple of decades to today, where one of the few remaining RTW items in my closet is a black and white bomber jacket that I bought from Penguin a few years ago. It has a big felt P emblazoned on one side (which I love because that’s the first letter of my actual last name), and the fit is just PERFECTION. It’s the perfect length, hitting right above the curves of my hips and butt so you can see my figure, but it has enough structure in the shoulders to give my silhouette a really nice overall proportion. The sleeves are made of a white and black knit fabric which contrasts well with the stiffness of the jacket’s body, so I can push them up to my elbows, giving the whole look a bit of softness and comfort that is sometimes hard to find in a well made casual jacket. The jacket looks amazing with jeans, skirts and dresses, and it is a staple of my fall/winter wardrobe in LA. My only wish has been that I had another one in a different color and textile. The black can look a little heavy with certain outfits, weighing down pastels, which my closet is full of. It can also be a little too warm to pair with early spring/summer outfits that call for a little extra coverage on top. In short, I have needed another jacket for quite a while that is almost a replica of my beloved bomber jacket but with some tweaks.

Enter The Hampton Jacket by Alina Design Co.

Once I realized that a denim jacket would be the answer to the big gap in my wardrobe, I started googling patterns and this is one of the first ones that popped up. I was also introduced to a jean jacket pattern by Style Arc, but ultimately I chose the Hampton because 1. it seemed to have concise instructions and a thorough sew-along posted on their blog while Style Arc, from what I read from pattern reviews, has very sparse directions, more in line with Burda and 2. the completed Hampton jackets seemed to have a tighter, less boxy fit than the Style Arc patterns I saw online. I wasn’t planning on wearing my jean jacket layered over bulky sweaters so a slimmer fit would work best for me.

Alina Design Co. posted a terrific tutorial on how to bleach and distress denim to get a very worn-in look for your jacket, which I found fascinating. I had never bleached denim before and there were lot’s of interesting things I learned, like how bleaching stretch denim doesn’t look super great because the lycra threads in the fabric turn orange, and how much of the color change from bleaching happens in the first hour of the soak. Ultimately I was not all that interested in bleaching the denim myself, but I LOVED learning more about the process. I went the much easier route, which was to buy a denim that was bleached already. At The Fabric Store in LA, they had a bolt of bleached-denim that was such a perfect shade of faded blue jean that I’m not even sure if I could have replicated the effect on my own. What’s even better is that the denim, while a solid medium-weight, is still super soft, and it folded and scrunched up in my hand easily without crunching like cardboard, the way some brand new stiff denims will. I liked that using this denim would take out a lot of the grunt work from bleaching and distressing (you are advised to wash your jean jacket at least 3 times after construction to soften it up, but I didn’t need to- I only washed mine once to remove all the extra distressed denim fibers that were still clinging to the jacket).

In all honesty, I can’t tell you if the instructions for this pattern are good because I followed the sew along and only glanced back at the instructions to double check which pattern pieces I was using, which is the only issue I had with making it. There are a LOOOOT of pattern pieces for this little jacket (I think they were labeled A-S?) and the sewalong referred to them only by name instead of by the letter it coordinated with (‘front side panel’ instead of ‘piece D’), which got confusing for me pretty quickly. This is a small concern to be sure and I might be the only person who got confused by this, so this is just a tip for any of you who might have the same issue- keep your instruction booklet/window open to cross reference the pattern pieces if you are following the sewalong. Other than that, I thought the sewalong was terrific so I can only assume that the instructions are clear and concise as well. I only follow sewalongs for pattern designs that I have never tried before, like jeans or complicated bags, because the photos are usually clearer than the illustrated line drawings included in the instructions.

As far as sizing, I tried to model it off the measurements of my beloved bomber jacket. I wanted it to have the same overall length, but more importantly, I wanted the sleeves to actually fit me- shortening sleeves is probably my most frequent adjustment. I took out about an inch in the body to match up with the length of my bomber jacket, and I took about the same amount from the sleeve length, if not a titch more.

I made this jacket over a period of three days off and on, and the construction was a breeze- it starts coming together fairly quickly, which feels very satisfying. The most time consuming parts are the distressing (if you are doing it) and the flat fell seams, and they have to be done in that order (distress, then sew) at each part of the construction process so that you don’t end up ruining your topstitching. Based on the tutorial provided in the sew along, I used two methods of sanding to distress the denim: some I did with a Dremel tool and some I did with 150 grit sandpaper. I liked the Dremel for sanding the corners and the edges of the flat felled seams because it was easy to navigate a smaller surface area with the tool. But for getting worn-looking patches on the overall fabric, the 150 grit sandpaper did the job great, and I alternated the direction of my sanding so that it wouldn’t look too precise. Since my fabric was already bleached, the distressing was a breeze and I had less distance to travel between the light blue of the denim and white patchy areas I was going for.

I also followed the suggested advice of using double sided wash-away tape to hold down my flat felled seams right before I topstitched them- this was helpful to keep everything in place while topstitching, but it also allows you to distress the edges of the seams while they are in the proper place without, as mentioned before, ruining the topstitching thread. I had a bit of trouble doing the keyhole buttonhole shapes with my topstitching thread, not sure why, so about halfway through I switched to regular rectangular shapes and you can’t tell at all. I used buttonhole glue, or whatever it’s called, to put on the back of my buttonholes to keep them nice and sharp and safe from unraveling, used a big back of jeans buttons that I got for like $5 at a store downtown that the lovely and always helpful Beth of SewDIY recommended to me, and I was set!

 

I COULD NOT BE MORE IN LOVE WITH THIS JACKET, Y’ALL. The fit is so spot on for everything I wanted and needed in a lightweight jacket. The sleeves are the perfect length, and the denim is soft enough that I can roll them up easily and not feel like my elbows are weighted down with fabric. The length of the overall jacket is perfect, too- it hits right at the top of my butt/bottom of my back, which is very comfortable for me. It’s a little too short for wearing long shirts underneath because it changes the proportions in a way that is not appealing to me, but I’m fine with that because I am rarely an untucked shirt kind of girl. So far it pairs well with fitted trousers, dresses, and skirts: YOU NAME IT!!!! (greens, beans, potatoes, lamb, ram, ham!) I put this make in my fall/winter queue because it’s a jacket and that makes sense, but you BEST BELIEVE this thing is gonna follow me into the spring and summer- LA summers are certainly not mild enough to merit needing a jacket all the time, but most buildings are always air conditioned and therefore FREEZING and I never want to lug around a full on sweater with me on hot days, so I usually just suffer til I’m outside again. This jacket is the PERFECT accessory for keeping warm but not burning up- I can’t tell you how good it looks with summer dresses! Very, very happy with how it came out, and I enjoyed the process all the way through! If you have made jeans before, this pattern will be a CINCH to get through- but even if you haven’t, you’ll probably want to try a pair after you complete this piece of art!

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to Claire who took these pictures for me since I was too sick and tired of doing my normal backdrop photos. I needed to mix it up a bit and I love how these came out, although I think it’s apparent how uncomfortable I am taking photos in public spaces lol! I can be surrounded by a film crew and have no problem posing for the camera, but as soon as you take me out of the realm of “work” and make it just me in the middle of the street, I would rather melt into a puddle and evaporate into the desert air than model me-made garments in front of curious eyes. Sigh. I’m working on it. Also, this is the Fumeterre skirt paired with my favorite Archer shirt by Grainline Studios.

Whitewashing NOLA

I made this skirt a while ago, and honestly there isn’t much to it. It’s a self drafted dirndle skirt, one long skinny rectangle sewed onto a longer and wider rectangle with gathering on one side- about the easiest garment you can make. What is significant about this make is the fact that it was made with fabric that I purchased from Fabric.com. It’s called “Stof France New Orleans Multi-color” which is incredibly ironic considering that once it arrived in the mail, I didn’t see any kind of “multi” in the identities that it represented. Sure, it’s decked out in purples and oranges and blues of the most dynamic shades- it’s one of the reasons I purchased the fabric in the first place, because the colors were singing to me through my computer screen, and also because I love a good print, and also because it’s neat when humans are slyly integrated into textile designs. But I assumed (incorrectly, it turns out), that the vibrance of color shown in the environment of the print would be reflected in the skin color of the ladies peppered throughout. On a whim I had bought one yard of this fabric that was supposed to represent the color and magic of New Orleans, but in actuality it was just a portrait of several white women painted onto a brilliant background. I mean, did the person making this fabric not even see Lemonade??

Honestly I didn’t think much about it at first. Yes, I assumed that the ladies printed on the NOLA fabric would be representative of the black cultural hub that is and has always existed in that part of the country, but I am wrong about these things all the time. It’s a side effect of growing up in a white supremacist society, to be a person of color constantly forced to recognize yourself in whiteness because that is all that has been available for so long. But the older I get and the more I surround myself with people who want to have these difficult conversations about what it feels like to be starving for yourself, the more validated and empowered I feel to call out the problematic stuff when I see it. There are bigger injustices happening in this world than a company printing a fabric illustrating the beautiful women of NOLA that doesn’t imagine any of them as being non-white, I get that. However, this little stuff is just a side effect of the big stuff, and it still impacts our community. With young brown kids not seeing themselves in the novelty firefighter sheets they want, not seeing their skin color in the people that play doctors on TV, not seeing their hair on Barbie Dolls. It starts to feel like they don’t matter, like they can’t achieve great things, like they will never be first in line for anything worthwhile. I know this is true because it’s what I felt growing up. Sometimes it makes these kids have to work harder to get to the same level that their white peers are at. But other times it makes them feel overwhelmed and tired and not motivated to try at all because the deck already feels so stacked against them. In a general sense, representation in the media has gotten better. But better doesn’t carry much weight when you were so far from good in the first place.

I stewed about this whitewashed fabric for a few hours and then I decided I would try to fix it. I pulled out some of my nicest, most vivid markers: a deep yellow, like the color of my skin in winter. A bright coffee colored brown, what I look like after a day at the beach. A dark cocoa colored marker that looks like my cousin Kaylan’s beautiful skin. A deep brownish red that matches the color of an old friend from high school. I took the markers and I slowly, very carefully, filled in the arms, the cheekbones, the hands, and the feet of some of the women on the fabric. I made them various shades of reds, yellows and browns, the way that my family looks, the way that my community looks. I had to be careful so that the colors wouldn’t bleed through to the other side, and I promised myself I would never launder this skirt so that the marker colors wouldn’t spread pigment everywhere in the wash. But after about 30 minutes of sitting on my living room floor, meticulously coloring inside the lines, it looked pretty good, and I was proud of it.

It is so rare to find regular novelty print merchandise like fabric and linens and coffee cups and pencil cases and lunchboxes that depict a whole range of nationalities; white is simply the default here in the US, and everyone outside of that community has to find a way to see themselves in that default whether it pertains to us or not. Recently on instagram I posted an in-process photo of a brightly hued chartreuse dress that I was making, and someone (innocently enough) commented that they had never thought that the super intense yellow color would look good on anyone, and they were surprised that it looked great on me. I found this very telling.

When you are white in America (and certainly other places, too), there is a tendency to see everything through the lens of your own experience. Since neon chartreuse doesn’t look good on your skin (and presumably the skin of most white people you know), you assume it’s just a terrible color, period. You neglect to recognize that there is a whole other community of other shades of people whose skin is absolutely radiant when you pair it with bright, bold colors; just because something doesn’t match your personal idea of what works certainly doesn’t mean it won’t match gloriously on other people that aren’t like you. And that is the crux of my issue with this “multi” New Orleans fabric; so many privileged people are unused to being challenged about their concept of the world because the world has historically operated to suit their needs, and the effect that this has on the people who don’t fit into their group is devastating. This goes beyond skin color obviously- gender, sexuality, ability, religion, all of these identities are affected when the dominant group in power does little to recognize other communities’ existence and importance. That said, it’s amazing how far a little compassion for people who experience the world differently than you can go.

I know that the aforementioned instagram commenter meant no harm when she made her statement about the chartreuse color, but that’s not the point; ignorance is hardly ever intentional. Like many people of color, I have grown up learning how to make room for my own preferences in addition to the preferences of people unlike me  (I still have a long way to go in recognizing the privileges I have as cisgender, able-bodied, etc). This is a skill that so many people who identify outside of white/heterosexual/binary + cisgender has honed: an ability to recognize the universal qualities of  love and relationships, even if they don’t identify with the people presenting them. And it’s a skill that many people who ARE white/heterosexual/binary + cisgender rarely have to use; they aren’t forced to see the similarities between themselves and people not like them because they are inundated with examples of love, loss and life that already match up with their identities and experiences in the world.

Here’s an example: I remember having a conversation a couple years ago with a famous comedic actor whose work I absolutely LOVE. We were at an audition when we met and we quickly realized that we were fans of each other’s work, which got us to talking and laughing and wiling away the time in the waiting room together. While in mid-conversation, I realized that Erika Alexander, a QUEEN and an amazing actor from a ton of hit tv shows was also in the room, and I was (quietly) squealing in delight to my new friend about how excited I was to see her in person.
“Can you believe she is HERE in this room with us?? I’m freaking out!” I said.
He looked at me quizzically and asked “wait, who is that again?”
“Huh?” I implored. “You don’t know who Erika Alexander is?? First known by fans as Cousin Pam from the Cosby Show but most notably as Max from the fantastic 90’s sitcom Living Single?
And he looked me right in the eyes, chuckled, and said “Oh, that was a black show right?  Yeah, I don’t think I was really the demographic for that one.”
Oh boy. OHHHHH BOY! If you could have seen how deflated I was, how absolutely gutted that this charming, funny guy had let such disappointing words come out of his mouth. It’s one thing if you had never heard of the show or didn’t like it, but to be familiar with Living Single (which, by the way, was a BIG hit in it’s day) and to have intentionally stayed away from it because you didn’t think it was for you? Now THAT is a shining example of privilege if I have ever seen one. I wanted to ask him ‘Do you think FRIENDS was meant for me? Do you think I was the show’s intended demographic? Or the demographic for Who’s The Boss? Or 90210? Or Melrose Place? Or the X Files? Or Step By Step? Or Growing Pains? Or Full House? Or virtually any other hit network TV show that I obsessed over when I was growing up? No! They weren’t made for me specifically, but I watched them anyways because I wanted to be entertained, and since diverse casts that DID represent me were so rare, I didn’t have much choice in the matter! But guess what, I STILL managed to find myself in the shows with all white casts because love and relationships are fucking universal and one of the most perfect depictions of this was the fact that Ross and Rachel’s tumultuous and hilarious relationship on FRIENDS was every bit as nuanced and relatable as Max and Kyle’s on Living Single, but guess which TV pairing gets praised and talked about more often in nostalgic articles about TV of yore? YEP, YOU GUESSED IT, THE WHITE ONE, and wonder why that is?! Because people like you insisted that shows with black casts simply were not meant for you to watch!”

Of course, I didn’t actually say this. I never do. Because, you know, angry black woman trope and all. It was probably just one of many microaggressions that I experienced that week, no use in raising a fuss. Instead I just pursed my lips, smiled, and said “that’s a shame, Living Single was a really terrific show, you might have liked it”. And then I went and introduced myself to Erika, trying to hold back tears from springing to my eyes because it’s hard not to get emotional when you’re in the presence of a legend.

I don’t know how to wrap this post up, and I barely know I got started, since this is clearly more of a “Musings” post than a “Sewing” one. But as I was thinking of how to share this skirt and what it was I REALLY wanted to say about it, I remembered this great quote that I recently came across. It went something like, you don’t stand up to ignorance in the hopes of changing anyone’s minds, you stand up to ignorance in the hopes that the others around who might be too scared or uncomfortable saying something will hear you, will feel empowered, validated and less lonely. That idea really resonated with me. I am absolutely uninterested in debating with people to try to get them to agree with me on such sensitive topics; more often than not, ignorant, racist, homo/transphobic people don’t want to get it, and me wasting my breath trying to educate them about their privilege and hoping to incite in them some sense of empathy and compassion is a losing, exhausting battle. But I do like the idea of being a conduit for  someone else who might not be comfortable using their voice yet. At the very least, hearing hateful rhetoric or seeing problematic behavior might not inspire you to speak up if you are alone and afraid, but if you hear someone else doing it, that might change over time, and perhaps even compel you to speak up when it happens again.

So. If you are reading this post and feeling unbearably offended, then clearly it wasn’t meant for you (and I would imagine nothing on my blog is, lol- what are you doing here??) This post is meant for any people out there who have felt invisible, ignored, misheard, interrupted, quieted because they don’t fit in with what is considered “normal”. It’s for the parents of brown kids who went shopping for firefighter sheets and who didn’t buy them because all the faces under the helmets were white. It’s for folks who understand the power of institutional racism but don’t always recognize the trickle down effects it has on communities and individuals. It’s for the print makers out there who might consider broadening their understanding of what they think their audience wants to see.

I’ve only worn this skirt once but I got several compliments on it, and I am making sure that when I wear it again, I let the person complimenting me know that this New Orleans fabric arrived with only white women depicted on it, and that I made it better by coloring in some of those faces with different shades of myself. Representation isn’t just for the marginalized, it’s for the betterment of all of humanity, and I am hoping that we all find the power to continually stand up for what is right and fair, in our lives and beyond, for ourselves and others, no matter how tiny the impact feels. Because it matters, I promise, even if it’s just to you.

Coming To America

It is embarrassing how long it took me to put this little number together- I think from start to finish two and a half years passed between the skirt and the top! But better late than never, right?

I made this wrap skirt from a vintage 70’s pattern (Butterick 6809) that I saw on someone else’s blog and purchased from etsy. The skirt made me nostalgic, because even though I was a teenager in the 90s, I was always a HUGE fan of a good wrap skirt, and I collected a lot of them throughout my high school years, some from thrift stores and consignment shops, others from some of the cheap fast fashion retailers in the strip mall down the street (do any of y’all remember ‘Rainbow’? or ‘5- 7- 9’? We also had a spot in Birmingham that I loved called ‘Warehouse of Fashions’ that was filled with enough statically clung polyester to make a small army sweat profusely in a snowstorm). No one really thinks of the 90’s as being the era of the wrap skirt, but I’m here to tell you that it was! These skirts were way less stylish and fashion forward than their 70’s-centric counterparts, but they were most definitely available in RTW, often found positioned next to the infamous skorts garment, which was like a mullet for your bottom: a pair of shorts that came equipped with a flap of fabric attached to the side that could be buttoned or clipped closed at the opposite hip to make it look like a skirt in the front. I had these in denim, cotton, plaid, you name it! My love of fashion has come a long way, right? I can only imagine what kind of ensembles I would have put together if I had known how to sew way back then!

Anyways, my love for the wrap skirt waned after I got to college when my attention focused more on cheap JNCOs knock-offs and stretchy boot cut pants (sigh), but I have continued to reserve a little space for the iconic garment my heart. I like the simplicity of a wrap skirt- depending on the fabric you make it in, you can get a lot of drama out of the look, but the architecture remains simple; it’s basically a big rectangle with a long tie at the top and a hole with which to pull the tie through. I can’t remember the name of the blog that I saw this specific pattern on, but I loved how structured the skirt looked on the maker in a stiffer kind of fabric, so I immediately snapped it up to add to my pattern stash.

A little while later when I saw this bright geometric print at The Fabric Store in LA (again, from so many moons ago!), I knew it would be a great pairing of fabric and pattern. I loved the geometry of the textile, the clean white mixed with the bright gold, and it’s also reversible! It isn’t easy to tell in the pics but the main part of the skirt is made with the golder side of the fabric while the waistband and bodice are made with the whiter side (I accidentally put the skirt on the dressform inside out in the above photo so don’t pay attention to that lol). It’s a slick little design choice that doesn’t seem glaringly obvious but succeeds in breaking up the print a bit. So yeah, I knew it would be a great pairing, but I had no idea of the actual outfit I would try and create with the skirt, and once it was completed (again, this is one of the quickest garments to make, definitely a contender for easiest ‘first sewn garment’) I realized that I had no idea what to wear with it. In my head I was gonna pair it with a cute, tight t-shirt or make a nondescript silky tank that wouldn’t detract from the dramatic fabric of the skirt, but alas, I never got around to it. For one thing, I didn’t actually own the t-shirt that I was envisioning would look cute with this skirt, and if I’m honest, that kind of rock’n’roll meets couture look is not really so much my vibe anyways. And as far as the tank is concerned, I couldn’t for the life of me find a fabric that would look good with the white and gold foil.

Skip two and a half years-ish, where the wrap skirt has sat in my closet collecting dust because it doesn’t have a partner in crime yet. I had been perusing sewing blogs and I came across a lovely maker who had just recently made this MimiG crop top (Simplicity 8394) with a gigantic bow on the front. The top was adorable and sweet without looking juvenile. The blogger had paired it with a full skirt in a very pretty soft floral fabric with a bit of body, and I was in love with the whole look. I wondered what I could possibly wear with the top, which was pretty dramatic and unique in it’s style, when suddenly a flash of my gold and white wrap skirt popped into my head. Although it had been years since I had made it, I was almost positive that I had a tiny cut of the fabric left in my stash, probably enough to make this blouse, which surely didn’t require that much material.

 

I grabbed the pattern during the next sale at Joann’s, cut out the pattern pieces, and pulled out my remnant of fabric to see if I had enough to make it. I did. Just baaaaaaaarely. It required a very inventive cutting layout, some shaving off of certain pattern pieces, and the use of a different type of fabric to line the top with, but I made it happen! And it was just as cute as I had hoped! It has a few pieces of boning at the seams to give it some structure and help it maintain it’s shape, but it feels very comfortable and I love the length of the bodice- it’s not so high that it feels like you’re wearing a bikini top, but it is low enough that you get a little peek of belly skin, depending on what garment you are wearing on your lower half. I like that the back of the top buttons up, and I love that the bow isn’t stationary; it is sewn into the side seams, so you can tie the bow in the front or in the back, depending on your preference.

I had planned on tying the bow in the front as the pattern envelope shows, but once I paired it with the skirt, which has a wrap with a side tie, I didn’t quite like how it looked- it was overkill with two big bows screaming for attention, and this is coming from someone who LOVES bows. I was a little disappointed with the final result at first- imagine waiting nearly three years to complete an ensemble and then choosing the one pattern that doesn’t quite pair up perfectly! But then I played around with the bow placement and realized that I quite liked it when the bows were not tied on the same side (like with one in the front and the other in the back). My preference is: bodice bow in the back (party) and skirt bow in front (business). Looking at the profile I think it gives the whole look a bit of artistic flair that I wasn’t anticipating. Now I need to be real with y’all- when the bow is in the back I can’t tie it myself so I had to get Claire’s help with it, and ummm…Well, let’s just say that she doesn’t have a lot of experience tying big bows and making them look nice, even and full. That’s all I’m gonna say! I’m sure she will get better with practice LOLOLOL!

I obviously look like an extra in one of the most prolific movies of my lifetime, Coming To America, so I hope it doesn’t look too costumey because I am really digging it. The fabric isn’t an Ankara or Dutch wax print, but the bold geometry and stiffness of the fabric seems synonymous with it, particularly paired with the patterns I used. All I need is a head wrap and I will be golden! Oh man, I just realized, this would be such a great Halloween costume if I walked around in this ensemble with a basket of flower petals that I dropped all over the ground for people to walk on – I wonder if anyone would get it?

All in all, this was an easy, straightforward make, it doesn’t look like anything else in my #redcarpetDIY wardrobe, and I can’t wait to actually wear it to an event, although I will have to figure out the bow situation first. Maybe it’s because of the heaviness and stiffness of my fabric, but the bow starts to sink down a bit after a while and look pitiful, so I might need (Claire) to tie it perfectly and then sew it closed just to make sure that it stays perky, because you never know, someone might ask me to hop on one foot and bark like a dog (“a BIG dog”) and I want my outfit to pass muster 😉

 

DIY Sunscreen Recipe

 

I’m finally back in my own neck of the woods after a couple of weeks in Vancouver, and although my trip was fun (and the weather was nice MOST of the time) I am so thrilled to be back! I’ve made a habit of bringing my sewing machine on work trips that I already know will have a considerable amount of down time because the sewing keeps me busy, happy, and productive; since I am not a big TV watcher, it’s imperative that I have something other than Netflix to bide my time (you can read more about #sewnawayfromhome here). On this most recent trip, I brought my travel machine and three cuts of fabric plus three patterns that I cut ahead of time. I figured that this, in addition to some socks on my knitting needles, would easily fill up my two weeks out of town. Of course I finished all three projects within my first week (to varying degrees of success, but more on that later) and was left with nothing else to do for the remainder of the trip! Thankfully Claire was able to come up and spend Halloween weekend with me which was a big time-sucker (in a good way- ha!) and on my last day I got invited to be a guest on Caroline and Helen’s terrific podcast, Love To Sew! Being a guest on a sewing podcast has been a dream of mine for a while now, so to have it realized was SUCH A TREAT for me- you should have SEEN my face when Helen messaged me and asked if I wanted to come to the Blackbird Fabrics studio to record while I was in town- my eyes were shimmering like a Precious Moments doll! It was a bit tricky to coordinate our schedules, but the stars must have been in our favor because it all worked out beautifully and I had such a good time hanging out with them and talking all things sewing. I will let you all know when my episode airs but I assume you have been listening already because it’s such a fun show- Helen and Caroline have a great rapport, and they present really intimate and thoughtful interviews with people from all corners of the sewing realm.

Anyways, during our conversation we briefly discussed my interest in making bath and beauty products and I realized that I had taken photos of my sunscreen-making process but never blogged about it. Caroline was super into the idea of making the sunscreen herself when I told her how great the product is and how easy it is to make, and I promised myself that I would knock this post off of my to-do list just for her. So Caroline, THIS POST’S FOR YOU!

A little backstory about why I started making sunscreen in the first place: I’m cheap! Ha! I feel like that’s my answer for everything I make, but it’s usually true! Sunscreen is a big part of the daily regimen in our household: Claire uses it because she is a ginger with super freckled skin that is prone to problematic moles (which often require removal), and I use it because, DUH, I want to keep this skin looking PERKY, Y’ALL. Sure, we’ve all heard that black don’t crack and whatnot (I mean, have you SEEN Angela Bassett lately??), but my skin is pretty fair and even if it wasn’t I would want to protect it. It’s a popular misconception that people of color don’t need to use sunscreen because they are at less risk for skin cancer, but the truth is that, while the melanin in our skin protects us from certain harmful qualities of the sun, it also has a tendency to make our skin extra sensitive and therefore more susceptible to a whole list of additional environmental irritants, including UVB rays. All this is to say that we go through sunscreen like NOBODY’S BUSINESS. And at $13 a pop for that tiny little bottle of Neutrogena with Helioplex (what we used to use until I read some articles saying it might be toxic), I knew there had to be a better alternative.

You can find a pretty decent array of homemade sunscreen recipes on the internet, and like everything else, I urge you to do some research on your own if you have more questions about how or why the ingredients work, or if you want other options than what I offer in the recipe below. Mine isn’t the end-all-be-all of recipes and I have tweaked this one to fit my own needs based on others I have found online/in skin care recipe booklets. If you have super fair/sensitive/damaged skin and want to try using this recipe, you should probably discuss it with your dermatologist or doctor first. Claire did so with her derm, and we were both surprised to hear how thrilled she was that we were using a homemade product for our sunscreen care- she said she doesn’t really trust store bought sunscreens because of all the chemicals they often put in them, and when Claire told her the ingredients list, the doctor gave us her blessing to keep using it regularly.

DIY SUNSCREEN RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 0.5 to 1 oz cosmetic grade zinc oxide -this is the powdery mineral that gives sunscreen it’s white color. I bought mine from amazon and it has lasted years- a little goes a long way. You may want to use less than this suggested amount for your batch- more zinc means a whiter lotion, and the darker your skin is, the grayer the lotion can make your skin look. I prefer to use less zinc in mine and try to make up for some of the lost sun protection with the other ingredients in the recipe.
  • 2 oz shea butter – this is the base of the sunscreen and I love using it in all my lotions because it isn’t greasy or oily. You could also substitute a different kind of butter like cocoa. I try to buy brands that practice fair trade since most shea butter is manufactured and sourced in smaller countries by hard working women who don’t always get paid decent wages.
  • 1 oz coconut oil (solid and unrefined is best)
  • 1 oz almond, castor, olive, OR jojoba oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons carrot seed oil- while most oils have some small amount of natural sun protection (between 2 and 7 SPF), carrot and raspberry seed oil are thought to have a much more considerable amount in them (up to 38 SPF), but there hasn’t been any definitive scientific research to prove this in relationship to how it works on human skin and how it works in tandem with other products. As long as you are using the actual fatty oils and not the essential oils of these plants (which are two different products), adding it to your sunscreen won’t hurt and will probably help by providing at least SOME additional SPF- but it’s imperative that you are using it with the other ingredients inthis recipe (like zinc oxide) as the main barrier to the sun’s rays
  • 1-2 teaspoons raspberry seed oil

TO MAKE:

  1. Slowly heat the shea butter and coconut oil over a double boiler on your stovetop. 
  2. Once completely melted, stir in the almond/castor/olive OR jojoba oil.
  3. Add in the zinc oxide and stir well- the zinc will want to settle at the bottom, which is fine, you just want to make sure you have no lumps in the mixture.
  4. Put your bowl in the fridge for around 20-45 minutes to cool it off and firm it up- you want the top to start to solidify while the middle/underneath is still pretty wet.
  5. With either a handheld or stand mixer, mix your lotion on medium high to whip it like a batter for about 4 minutes, or until the mixture is thick, aerated, and creamy. At this time I add in my carrot seed and raspberry seed oils. You can also add essential oils here for smell but in my experience they tend to get buried by the fragrance of the carrot/raspberry seed oils. I read that you should stay away from citrus scents because they tend to burn with sun exposure- I haven’t had that experience but it seems like sound advice.
  6. I use small plastic dishwasher safe containers to store my sunscreen in and I re-use them when I make new batches. It will keep more several months at room temperature in a cool, dry place (like in a cabinet) but I am not sure for long it lasts because we use ours up too quickly.

According to what I have read from various online sources, it’s difficult to say what EXACT SPF a homemade recipe is because, as this blogger puts it in her post about DIY Sunscreen Myths, the SPF rating is not cumulative, meaning that you can’t add up the SPF of each individual ingredient together and come up with a final scientifically accurate number at the end. The best you can do is guestimate. Another source I found says that a rough estimate for achieving an SPF of 20 is 4 parts lotion + 1 part zinc oxide powder in weight. With the addition of the raspberry seed and carrot oils, the SPF might be raised slightly, but again, that is up for debate. All I know is that we have been using this sunscreen consistently for about 3 years now and we both really like it. Some testimonials: 1. Claire has had less moles removed in the past few years (whether that is a direct correlation to her using this homemade sunscreen or not, I have no idea, BUT it’s certainly better than her getting MORE of them removed!) 2. my good friend who’s face kept breaking out every time she used store bought sunscreen asked to use some of mine and said her skin immediately cleared up after a couple days of use and 3. I get mistaken for a 26 year old all the time. What more proof do you need??

A few tips before I leave: If you find that your sunscreen is too white with the amount of zinc oxide you put in it, you can always “dilute” it with more lotion. I have made a few batches that worked better for Claire’s lighter skin than my browner skin, so I just put regular lotion on first and then applied the sunscreen over it. Since it isn’t greasy or sticky, it doesn’t feel gross to pile it on like some other sunscreens would, and adding extra plain lotion helps take the “gray sheen” away by moisturizing the skin before applying the SPF barrier.

Seeing as how the cold seasons are beginning in our hemisphere, I’m sure many of you won’t think you need sunscreen at all since you will be so covered up by coats, hats, gloves and scarves, but here is a gentle reminder that if your face is exposed to the sun, even on a cold winter day, it will STILL be susceptible to harmful UV rays from the sun- and if you’re walking around in snow, the effects will be even greater because the sun is bouncing off all the white directly onto your face. Protect your skin no matter the weather! Make it a habit! Also drink lots of water! And get yearly physicals with medical doctors or naturopaths if you have the means to do so! Okay, MomPSA over!

 

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

A couple of months ago I was in my craft room, all dolled up, taking photos for this blog. I had planned on using the day to get several makes photographed so that I could post them over the next several weeks, and I was OVER IT. I don’t like taking photos of myself- lately it’s been feeling like tedious work to set up the lights, the backdrop, the camera, plan the outfits, put makeup on and do my hair, fiddle around with the camera remote which almost ALWAYS seems to have a glitch. I had always thought of this process as a labor of love but on this morning, teetering in my high heels while trying to keep my mark and smashing that tiny remote with my thumb over and over again, I recognized that there was no love here at all- it was just laborious.

I had a tiny break down in Claire’s lap that afternoon. I don’t know why I feel so sad about this! I said. I don’t know why I feel so unhappy! Something about my favorite hobby in the world, the one I had dedicated the last several years to, was making me sad and the mere recognition of that felt like a betrayal. It took me a couple of days to fully sort through my emotions, which tend to bubble up searing hot around my eyes and my throat so fast that I can barely see, much less communicate with anyone that I am struggling; I need distance to process. Once I had it, I figured some stuff out. I knew I had been using sewing to protect myself from stuff that was going on in my life and in the world- it had become a safe haven for me. I am an introvert so time spent with myself has always been a way for me to energize, but sewing made me feel accomplished and empowered in a way that I never anticipated, gave me time to concentrate on small tasks when I felt confused, frustrated or angry. It gave me space to mull over conflicts and have imaginary conversations with people that I felt nervous about. It gave me a job to do when I was left uninspired in my own career. All of that sounds good on paper, of course, and it was- to a certain extent.

But at some point, I started to need my safe sewing nook a little less. I was feeling supported in new ways, back in therapy for the first time in years, feeling more excited about life outside of my home and less inclined to hide from it. So I started to question why exactly I was spending so much time on sewing. Of course I love sewing very much, but why had it eclipsed all the other things I love to do in my life, like draw, build, write, learn, and above all else, what exactly was my goal now? By this point I had made an entire memade wardrobe that I was incredibly happy with and proud of, and I had a guest room closet full of beautiful #redcarpetDIY projects, half of which I hadn’t even worn yet. If it was true that some of my aims in sewing was to ween myself off of RTW, use /buy less and not focus on trendy fast fashion, then I had surpassed my goal a couple of times over, but I was also still weirdly still participating in what I was trying to get away from. I mean, how many sun dresses does a woman who doesn’t leave the house unless she has to actually need? (This is a rhetorical question)! As someone on instagram put it, I had effectively become a one-person fast-fashion factory, and it wasn’t making me happy anymore.

I think my feelings of unhappiness were stemming from a part of me being ready to shift the way I was living my life a tiny bit, ready to make room for other things inside of it, but the sewing habit that I had created over the years was now SOLIDLY engrained in my life. It had served it’s purpose so well that it had become a part of my identity, and now my identity wanted some room for growth but I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my routine. I wanted to change the mindset where I was making sewing my main priority. I was tired of planning the different parts of my day- friend dates, appointments, activities, chores, auditions- to fit around my sewing schedule instead of the other way around. I was tired of feeling guilty when I had a busy day and didn’t have enough time to go to the craft room and work on something. I was tired of being exhausted from a long day and forcing myself to go downstairs and sew because it’s what I should be doing instead of what I wanted to be doing. The line between my wants and my needs in the realm of sewing had become increasingly blurred, and although I still enjoyed the act of sewing and what I was creating, I knew I needed to tweak something to balance the scales a bit.

As I said before, sewing isn’t the only thing I like to do- my interests in everything hands-on is the whole reason I named this blog TryCurious! But the craft of sewing has taken over my life to the point where, when I have the opportunity to learn something new or work on a different kind of project, I either turn it down or procrastinate doing the thing til I forget about it. And that doesn’t feel good. Something has been off, so now I am in the process of trying to fix it.

I am not abandoning sewing and I am sure that this blog will continue to be more sewing content than anything else, but even just recognizing that I needed a shift seemed to set a lot of different things in motion- it’s like the world opened up to me a little bit when I made room in my head for it. To start, I’ve been taking ASL classes for the past month, which I absolutely love. ASL is something that I have wanted to learn for years, and then suddenly I had an opportunity to learn the skill for a future project, so I dove in head first. If this had happened a few months ago I can guarantee you that I would have convinced myself not to make any space for it in my life because I wouldn’t have had enough me time (loosely translated, my “me” time is known by all to mean my “sewing” time, lol). I’m also refocusing on my shoe making process, which is a craft I have tended to put to the side because it cuts into my sewing time too much. I’ve also been cooking more, reading more and hanging out with friends more. The change has been subtle to start- I still haven’t started reupholstering the dining room chairs that have been sitting in the garage since last spring, or learning how to build a dollhouse as I promised myself I would- but I still feel the impact that my new mindset has taken and it feels great!

I want to make clear that this post is not an attempt to encourage anyone to change their own habits or examine the role that sewing plays in their lives- I’m not here to judge anybody, this is just me and my story, and I decided to share it here because I like writing and it’s sewing related- I don’t want anybody to feel guilty about their own relationships with their hobbies. I started this discussion on instagram a few weeks ago and it was really great to read similar (and non-similar) thoughts about the topic of balancing sewing with the other aspects of our lives. I did get a couple of comments about how I shouldn’t change anything at all or feel guilty about it if I liked it so much, and this seemed like a really simplified view of what it was I was trying to communicate. But honestly I can’t blame anyone for oversimplifying the solution to an issue when said issue is being described in 2200 characters or less, haha.

Sewing does bring me joy, but so does balance, and that is what I am on a mission to find for myself. I am trying something new with my sewing now, which is to stick to a roster of makes that I have planned out ahead of time. It’s not quite a capsule wardrobe because minimalism is not my style, but I wanted to try a different kind of approach with the craft. I am continuing to buy fabric with intent as opposed to simply buying everything beautiful that I see (which isn’t too hard- my stash is already pathetically small!) and I am trying NOT to buy every cool, new pattern that hits the market unless I have a specific plan for it. For now, I am focusing only on ramping up my cooler weather wardrobe, which is lackluster compared to my summer wardrobe; I basically wear jeans from November to March and have very few choices when it’s time to dress up for something special. I wanted to give myself several key pieces of clothing that could work as both casual and slightly dressy wear, so I started pinning patterns and looks and narrowing down my options over a couple of weeks in September. I drew them all out in my croquis sketchbook and searched for fabrics that would pair well with them if I didn’t already have them in my stash.

It wasn’t easy! I had to make quite a few changes throughout the process, like when I ordered a cut of autumnal-colored corduroy online to make the Lander Pants out of, but once it arrived realized that it was much too light-weight for the sturdy, structured pants I was going for. That orange fabric ended up pairing well with the paper-bag waist Tully Pants by Style Arc that I had also put on the list, but of course then I was back on the hunt for the right weight corduroy for the Landers. And back and forth it went for weeks. I have since worked out most of the kinks in my plan and have narrowed down my makes to a really nice workable fall wardrobe that mixes and matches with what I already have in my closet. I have already completed three of the projects on my list: a thick necked turtleneck dress in a gorgeous ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, a Jackie dress in a floral velvet, and a blue jean jacket by Alina Design Co., which sewed up fairly quickly and which I am absolutely in love with (I promise to blog these individually in the future)!

Below I am sharing my sketches and fabric swatches paired with their patterns- in a few months I will revisit this post and see if I was actually able to stick to my sewing plan!

Apologies for the poor quality of the below photos- I was in a mad dash to finish them up as I was packing for a work trip and I didn’t have much time to make them look very good!

This is the Jackie Dress from Victory Patterns in a really gorgeous floral velvet fabric that I found in the fabric district in DTLA (funny story about buying this fabric, which I will share when I blog about it later). Spoiler alert, I have already completed this dress and I am in love with it!

 

The fabric for the True Bias Ogden Cami is less orange in real life than it looks in this photo, but it’s a beautiful, supple silk from The Fabric Store that I have had in my stash for like 2 years and I am excited to finally make something up in it. It will make a really great staple for auditions I think, which generally require solid, non-distracting fabrics, but I still like to go bold with my colors- gotta make an impression! I found an AMAZING light mauve wool fabric for the pants at The Fabric Store, and I will probably go with the Burda pattern for the pants after I tweak the fit in a muslin first since I have never made the pattern before.

 

I saw a girl on the street a couple of years ago wearing this flowy silk maxi dress with heeled boots and I am trying to recreate the look with this really pretty floral silk from The Fabric Store and the Stella Shirt Dress from Named Patterns. It’s got a big bow at the neck and an elastic waist, which makes me think the dress is going to be super comfy while still looking dressy. My fabric swatch is too small to show the brilliance of the print, but it’s very largewhich I think looks great in maxis.

 

I forgot to swatch the fabric for this Aberdeen top by Seamwork (it’s about the only pattern I have made of theirs which actually fit me with no adjustments), so for reference, it’s a pale yellow lightweight knit. Aberdeen is a pretty great pattern, a kind of slouchy v-neck top with fitted 3/4 sleeves that falls off the shoulder in a really effortless and sexy way; it pairs great with a pretty bra underneath. I finally found the correct weight corduroy fabric to pair with the Lander Pants pattern by True Bias, and I think this make might be the very first thing I have made in all-black in my entire sewing career! I plan on lengthening the pants legs so that the hem hits the floor- I looooove the design of these pants but I am not into the boot-cut look that doesn’t go all the way to top of the foot.

 

When I was discussing pants on IG acouple months ago, someone mentioned the Style Arc paper-bag waist pant, so I looked it up and immediately added it to my list. I loved the visual interest of the waist band and the comfort of the elastic waist. Also loved the slim leg fit and the slightly cropped ankle. This orange corduroy was too lightweight for the Lander Pants but I think it will work perfectly in this slightly baggier silhouette.

 

You can’t see how amazing my denim swatch is in this picture, but if you’ve been following on IG then you know how pretty it is made up in the Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket that I recently finished. That pattern is EVERYTHING. I still haven’t found the right fabric for the Named Patterns’ Shadi skirt.

 

The dress on the left is a hack of the Denver dress by Blank Slate patterns. I made it in an ultra soft ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, but I am not sure it works well in this pattern- the fabric is drapey and doesn’t hug my body very well, and I imagine it wont retain it’s shape for long, either. But it’s so pretty!!!! The dress on the right is intended to be a direct copy of a garment I saw on J’Adore’s blog last year, complete with hacks to the McCalls’ pattern that she based it off of. It also has a big bow at the neck (can you sense a theme here?) and is made of a really supple gold velvet from Michael Levine’s (another recurring theme with fall! For the record, it seems like velvet is “trending” right now, but not for me- I have ALWAYS loved velvet, I just haven’t seen it very often in fabric stores over the years! I should probably stock up on velvet now in case it disappears next year!)

 

The hoodie is more of a layering top for a shirt/blouse than an actual cold weather garment, but I was really drawn to the design lines and liked that I had nothing like it in my closet (I chose this pattern as one of my three pattern prizes when I was one of the winners of the McCalls contests on IG!). I decided to make it in a lightweight coffee-colored raw cotton silk, the same fabric I made my hot pink pants from last year – because of it’s thinness I think it will easily fit under a larger coat and give me access to a hood when my coat doesn’t have one. And last, but not least, another Archer button down by Grainline in a super soft flannel herringbone that I got last year from LA Finch Fabrics. I have been waiting for a long time for the perfect pattern to couple with this warm, soft fabric but ultimately I decided to stick with a TNT- my Archers are probably my most worn shirts, both in cool and hot weather, so I knew I wouldn’t go wrong with turning it into another staple!

Bra Turned Bodice in Golden Green and Ombre

This make is not perfect, but I am really proud of it, because I went on a REALLY long journey with it before I ended up where I did, and even though it’s so different than what I initially envisioned, it came out much better than I anticipated.

I got the gorgeous gold and white lightweight silk fabric at The Fabric Store many moons ago, and it has been sitting in my stash for the longest. I think I got three yards of it, but I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. The silk is a bit transparent and very delicate, but the print, as you can see, is very bold. It’s an ombre print in gold that, up close, kind of looks like scribbles that get darker and darker. “Scribble” probably isn’t the best way to describe this graphic because I feel like the connotation of that word is “careless” and “messy”, and nothing about this fabric looks like that, but as a doodler myself, I like the idea of a scribble being the jumping off point for this print.

Anyways, a few months ago I came across a cool inspiration photo that Tessuti had posted on their instagram (the garment on the right) of a dress from a designer’s fashion show. I really loved the silhouette of the dress with the big print and the full flowy skirt that looked so lightweight that it was practically floating around her body. I also loved the simplicity of the design. A very simple, almost boxy long sleeved bodice with a high waist that connects to a gathered skirt. It didn’t take me long to imagine my gold and white ombre fabric paired with this design, because it checked all my boxes: I wanted something long to show off the full transition of the ombre, a lightweight, drapey fabric that would flow around the body, and something simple that would let the dynamic print shine.

I spent a few weeks trying to hunt down a pattern comparable to this dress and when I had no luck, I decided that it couldn’t be that hard to draft or hack my own pattern, right? FAMOUS. LAST. WORDS.

It's soooo delicate!!!

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I could easily have draped a bodice pattern for the dress myself- I’m not an amazing draper but I learned a little about it in college and from books and have done it successfully on super simple garments. I knew that the task wouldn’t be too challenging…except for when it came to the sleeves. Sleeves require math and a bit (ok, a lot!) more pattern drafting know-how than I have. I decided against giving it the old college try and instead I went back to my pattern stash and chose a dress pattern from which I thought I could utilize a bodice that also came with sleeves. I was surprised that I had nothing in my stash with as simple a bodice pattern as I was looking for; everything that had the right shape had lots of extra darts and tucks and design elements included, which I did not want.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXwAjEIBn15/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I won’t bore you with the details of how my process went for the hacking of Butterick 5919, so let’s just say that I didn’t make it didn’t work. I made a muslin of just the bodice which came out great (or so I thought), so then I moved to cutting and constructing my fashion fabric and added the long panels for the gathered skirt to the bodice’s bottom. The incomplete dress looked okay enough on my dress form to continue with it, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself, but as soon as I tried it on for fit, it was a disaster. There wasn’t enough room in the bodice for…well, my body! I don’t know exactly why- the sleeves, which were a perfect fit in my muslin, were surprisingly tight in the silk, but they weren’t the main problem- it was the actual bodice that made me feel claustrophobic. I could barely get it closed in the back, and on top of that, I wasn’t able to lift my arms very high or take a deep breath without the dress riding up or constraining my breathing, and this of course was without a zipper installed. There were just too many things wrong and uncomfortable about the bodice for me to even stress about trying to fix them, and I didn’t have enough fashion fabric to start over with a new one or make a separate top in the same fabric to turn it into a two piece, so I walked away from it. Put down my seam ripper, turned off the lights, closed the door. I kept the dress in my thoughts all night, which I usually do when I feel overwhelmed by how to make something work, and it almost always puts me back on the right track within a day or two. The next morning, re-inspired, I decided that instead of figuring out how to keep the garment as a dress, I would just salvage the skirt and make a totally different kind of top to pair with it.

 

 

I had this tiny cut of a goldish/greenish brocade fabric that I had purchased at Michael Levine’s like, 2 years prior, and never used, and it kept calling my name from the corner of my craft room. It was a totally different kind of weight and feel of fabric, but I held it next to the white and gold ombre anyways. It was like magic. The colors matched each other in the gold of the silk and the sheen of the brocade, and the brocade also had this imprint of an oval, leaf-like shape on it that mirrored the scribbles in the silk. It seemed like such a bizarre pairing, but when put together, the two fabrics were kind of a perfect, unexpected match. I didn’t have much of that brocade though (maybe 1/2 yard of a narrow yard?), and I couldn’t imagine what kind of top I could make with it. I thought that something tight and figure flattering would look cool when juxtaposed with the simple gathered skirt, but I had no patterns in my stash like that. Then I wondered about how a bustier would look. I have no idea why this garment popped into my head, and I also didn’t really have a pattern for this style either, but I did have a strapless push-up bra pattern that I had made once before. It had amazed me how beautiful that make had looked, and when I tried that bra on after completing it, my first thought was wondering how I could possibly get away with wearing it not as intimate apparel but as an outer garment (you can see here that I did figure out a way to make it sportswear appropriate!) Could I use the Esplanade Bra pattern with this brocade fabric? Was that a reasonable hack? Was this something even in my wheelhouse?

The answer to all of these things, I found out, was YES! But I doubted myself practically the WHOLE way through. I did a quick google search to see if anyone else had hacked the Esplanade into a proper bodice garment, and I found one post by a well-known maker who had successfully made it happen. My biggest concern was wondering whether or not I would need to size up in the bra. I was thinking that I would not, since the bra pattern can be made with either knit or woven fabric (I used a Tailormadeshoppe kit to make mine and the bra fabric was comprised of non-stretch satin); the only reason it looks like the bra has negative ease is because of the elastic sewn onto the top and bottom edges, and also the back panels are made of powernet. But the business part, where the cups are, can be totally be constructed from woven. However, the blog I read said that she sized up because of the difference in the pattern calling for a knit material and her final garment being made of woven. I was really stuck here on what to do- do I size up as she suggests or do I just construct it in my normal size and simply modify the back piece that is made of powernet by making it longer in my woven fabric? After double checking the pattern details to ensure that it didn’t require a knit fabric, I decided to trust my intuition and make the same size in my brocade as the one I made for my original bra. Thankfully it was the right decision!

The hack was actually not too terrible to accomplish, and although some things could certainly look a lot better, I think it’s a pretty fine garment considering I did not make a muslin first. First off I added a few inches to the length of the pattern pieces because the bra as drafted ends above my belly button and I knew I wanted more coverage than that to match up with the waistband of my skirt (btw, in these photos there is a substantial gap between the top of my skirt and the bottom of my bustier, and I have since tightened the waistband a bit to bring it a little higher up my waist). Because I was not using elastic on the edges, I added a bit more room for seam allowances on the tops and bottoms of the pattern pieces so that I could enclose the raw seams. I also lined the entire bra with self fabric to give it more structure (I knew that for this thing to work it needed to be fitted very close to my body, especially since I wouldn’t have elastic or powernet to help me out in this department). Pretty much everything else was constructed according to the instructions and it came together nicely.

The biggest issue I had was deciding how I wanted to close the garment. Obviously a bra closure would work best on this type of design but I didn’t have any closures that were the right color match with the brocade (and I don’t really enjoy dyeing). Grommets seemed like a pretty cool idea that would make it look a bit more like a corset, but ultimately I decided to use another Orange Lingerie pattern and just make my own bra closure out of the brocade fabric. I had seen this pattern, the Leverett Hook and Eye Closure, when it came out, intrigued by the offering but sure that I would never actually need to to use it… little did I know it would ultimately save the day (and thanks to IG for reminding me of this pattern)!

The closure pattern is very labor intensive because you have to hand sew all those hooks and eyes onto the fabric, but it was still really fun to do and well worth it in the end. Most importantly, it is easy to adjust the length of the closure pattern depending on what you’re attaching it to, which is ironic for me to type out now because I totally miscalculated the length I needed and made it too short (I am so used to sewing bra closures with raw edges that I forgot to include a seam allowance once I lengthened the piece to match!) So I had to add an additional piece of fabric to the closure since I didn’t have enough fashion fabric to cut out a whole new piece. Like, I said, it’s not perfect! But I made it work and it’s not super noticeable.

 

The one thing that does bother me about the completed bodice is the little bubble of fabric in the front middle of the piece in between the cups. I actually have that same bubble on my original bra as well, so I know this isn’t a side effect of forgoing elastic and changing the fabric weight from satin to brocade.

When I posted the issue on instagram, lots of commenters said that 1. they didn’t notice the bubble/it didn’t detract from the overall look of the garment and 2. that they had RTW bodices/bras of a similar style that had the exact same bubble. So that made me feel a lot better. And then, bless her, the designer of Orange Lingerie patterns chimed in to say that adding an additional piece of boning right up the middle of the bra would get rid of that pesky gaping once and for all. By this time I had mostly made my peace with the bubble and decided not to stress out about it (read: take it apart to insert more boning), but I will most definitely try it on my next version of this pattern to see if it works.

So, to recap:

  • I made the same size in this bodice as I did when I made it as a bra, because the pattern does not explicitly call for stretch fabrics (except for the powernet in the side back panels)
  • I omitted the use of bra channeling to cover the boning and instead I added a lining of self fabric to the inside of all the panel pieces of the bra (not the cups) which covered the boning and also gave the bodice a bit more structure.
  • to accommodate the loss of stretch in the side back panels, I lengthened that pattern piece by several inches and and then tried it on towards the end of construction to see where I should cut off the excess before I added the bra closure.
  • I added seam allowances to the top and bottom edges of all the bra panel pieces to make up for the elastic that would normally cover those raw edges.
  • Because there is boning sewn into the front and lining pieces of the bra, I needed to turn it right side out, enclosing all my seams. So I sewed the top seams right sides together across the bra edges first before turning the bra right side out, created my boning channeling through the lining and outer fabric, and then when I was ready to close it, I trimmed the inside seam allowance flush to the just beneath the edge of the boning straight across, then folded my outer seam allowance to the inside twice so the raw edge was covered and sewed it down, creating something close to a flat felled seam on the inside of the garment. I’m sure there was a better way to do this but it’s what was available to me at the time, lol.

The skirt was much less intensive than the bodice, obviously. It’s just a dirndle skirt that I drafted a waistband for once I decided it would no longer be part of a dress. Because the silk is transparent (and also because this is now my preferred method when working with silk) I chose to baste white organza to the waistband instead of interfacing it. I used a narrow hem to get the full effect of the heavier gold on the bottom of the print, inserted a zipper, and voila! I will need to wear some kind of slip underneath it since the skirt is a bit see-through, so I plan to make one using some lightweight white silk in the near future.

I love the full effect of these pieces together, but I also love the idea of pairing this skirt with a knit sweater- I have no idea if that’s my actual style or if I’ve just seen that look in a magazine before, but I would most definitely give it a shot. The juxtaposition of the light, airy skirt with a chunky, grounding garment on top seems really interesting to me, and something I can get away with any time of year because I LIVE IN LOS ANGELES (I haven’t found tons of things to brag about LA in the few years I have lived here, but a less bundled up winter season always makes the cut). Anyways, for me, the coolest thing about this ensemble is that I don’t fancy myself creative enough to have just come up with the silhouette on my own, but after trial and error and problem solving, this is where I landed, and it’s pretty awesome. More proof that luxuriating in the process of sewing provides some of the most exciting results!

Turia Dungarees in Yellow Linen

I made these overalls once before in a shorter version, and they have been a warm weather staple for me ever since. On a whim I decided to make another pair,  full length this time, and in a really fun color. Initially I was going for pink or mauve twill, but after I hopped into The Fabric Store a couple months ago, I became fixated on making them in one of the gorgeous linens they have in stock, which I imagined would be comfortable and relatively cool to wear even on hot LA days. A bolt of bright yellow mid weight immediately called to me from the wall of linens- more sunny day yellow than butter yellow if you’re wondering, since pics don’t really do this color justice.

 

I’ve never had my ‘colors done’ per se, but, now after 37 years of living in this skin, I know exactly what hues make it SING. Yellow, chartreuse, rusty orange, any shade of brown- they all tend to look great on my skin, which has yellow undertones and pops when draped in these colors. This used to bum me out when I was younger because I would always be drawn to the bright purples and pinks and reds in stores. Few high schoolers, at least in my day, gravitate towards a neutral + orange + yellow palette, which are colors that more often than not look kind of ‘meh’ on the rack. But as soon as I would try those colors on (always urged to give it a try by my mother, who already knew the transformation that would happen), the result was undeniable. Brown was my color! Olive green made me radiant! Paprika made my eyes pop! In contrast, bright reds, hot pinks and brilliant purples just washed me out, made the bags under my eyes look a bazillion times heavier, made my skin look gray and sallow (yes, I had awful bags under my eyes, even in grade school- I had terrible allergies and stayed up too late reading most nights). Now this certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t wear colors I love even if they don’t “go” with my skin (although red has remained a no-no for me since it doesn’t elevate my skin OR my mood), but as I have gotten older and started paying attention to different facets of what I like and dislike, I’ve noticed that I rather enjoy stomping around in colors that you don’t see people wear as often. This skin I’m in, it BUCKS TRENDS! Funny how it takes decades to appreciate the littlest things…

BACK TO THESE OVERALLS. There isn’t really much else to share, since not only did I make these overalls once before, but I even made the EXACT SAME MISTAKE in sewing them that I did the first time. And guess what! I didn’t forget that I made a weird mistake in the construction process when I first made them, I just forgot what the problem was specifically and was too lazy to read my previous blog post about it (which literally would have taken me only 60 seconds, I know, I know- I’m rolling my eyes at my own self). I think I assumed that once I came to my wonky misstep, I would totally remember what the initial problem was and I would be able to fix it easily. And that did happen, but about 2 steps too late. The issue is in the way that the back upper pattern piece is nested on the pattern sheet (and this is no fault of the designer- I should have been paying closer attention! Although it’s interesting to note that I did make the same mistake twice!) Most of the pattern pieces are nested in a similar way with the largest size on the outside and the smaller sizes graded smaller and smaller inside those lines, but on this particular pattern piece, the largest size is on the outter-most side on one half of the piece, but on the other side it’s on the inner-most side. Does that make sense? Lot’s of patterns are formatted this way and haven’t been a problem for me, but I guess I usually see patterns drafted as all one way or the other, so the switch that happened on the pattern paper didn’t register in my brain, and I ended up cutting the correct size on one half of the pattern piece and a smaller size on the other. Essentially this means that the back pattern piece that connects the straps is too narrow to accommodate them, so (two times, now) I have had to add an additional slice of fabric to the back side seams to make up for the smaller size I cut out. Bah humbug. One of those things no one else will notice, or will think is a design feature. BUT I KNOW. I KNOW FOR TWO PAIR!

Aside from that snafu, everything came together beautifully. Because linen likes to fray so easily I tried to finish and/or bind all of my seams, and for some spots that didn’t get special treatment in the construction of the overalls (instructions suggest you use flat felled seams on many of the pieces, but some are left raw) I made some self fabric bias tape and used it to cover the raw seams, specifically in the bib area and the back straps. As with the overall shorts I made, I only used one zipper because two were unnecessary, and I graded to a size larger in the pants at the hips (38) and kept the top a straight size 36. I also used my Ginger jeans pockets for these overalls (the pockets drafted for this pattern are really tiny), ignored the pocket placement stated on the pattern pieces, and instead tried the almost-completed garment on and positioned the pockets on my butt where they would look best. This should be standard procedure for all pants making that comes with back pockets, since everyone’s booty is different and pocket placement can really make or break the way a butt looks.

When I first finished sewing them up, the overalls fit pretty snugly in the thighs, but, as I had hoped, literally within minutes the linen had relaxed significantly and the legs were very comfortable and loose-fitting without looking too big. When I make this pattern again in a sturdier fabric than linen, I might go up one more size in the pants so that I can ensure that they don’t fit too tightly in the hip and thigh area.

I am in love with the color of these overalls and other people seem to be, too- I don’t think I have worn them once without a stranger coming up to me and complimenting them. But linen is a tricky fabric to pair with this kind of garment. Overalls are designed to get a lot of wear and tear and as such they are usually made with a very stable fabric, most commonly denim. After a few weeks of moderate wear, mine are already starting to pill in the seat and the thighs, and of course they are always wrinkly when I first put them on, as linen tends to be. This of course will not keep me from wearing them into the ground, but they might not last as long as, say, the first version of this pattern I made a couple of years ago, which are comprised of a heavy twill and are still going VERY strong.

Whatever I decide to do for my next pair, I am really happy with how these yellow linen ones turned out and I am glad to be reminded of how NOT to cut out that back pattern piece out next time. Third time’s a charm, right?

 

An Interview with Claire!

Someone wrote a comment recently on my post about making Claire a bro/binder– they thought it would be a fun idea for me to interview Claire and post it to the blog. Claire and I had joked a bit about doing that very same thing, not thinking that we would actually do it, but after I read the commenter’s suggestion, I thought, WHY NOT? Initially I was just going to ask Claire some questions and then type out her answers, but it seemed like making a video would be quicker and more fun. Also, I can’t ignore the importance of queer visibility across any all platforms- these days, whether you’re taking a knee during the national anthem, correcting people on their use of your preferred pronouns, or calling your senators to demand that they provide smart and affordable healthcare options to ALL their constituents, making yourself seen and heard on your own terms feels revolutionary. So here we are! Talking about binders, bros, intimate apparel and the gender binary! Cause my sewing is just as intersectional as my feminism is!

I hope you enjoy!

Nick

https://www.instagram.com/p/BV1C42DhYYq/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

It is Monday morning in Los Angeles and the traffic is bad and I am in a Lyft on my way to the airport and I know for absolute certain that I am going to miss my flight. It’s my fault. It has been an excruciating week and in my frenzy to prepare for this unexpected trip to Florida I miscalculated the time I needed to get to LAX on time. I try to breathe slow and deep because I do yoga and this is how someone who does yoga is supposed to respond to stressful situations. I check the time on my phone in between my deeply slow breaths. My flight is at 8:11AM. It is now 7:32AM. Me and Ze, my driver, are at a complete standstill as we merge onto the 405. I look out the window at the other cars and marvel at how calm I probably seem. My phone rings and it is my Mom who is waiting for me in Florida. I open my mouth to tell her that I am going to miss my flight and that I will try to get on the very next one that is available but her sobs break through before I can say anything. She is crying so hard that I can barely understand her. Nick has to have an emergency surgery, she says. It’s so risky that the doctors are telling her to call all the family members to FL so that they can say their goodbyes in case he doesn’t survive. Nothing has changed about the bright, already hot sun beating through the window of the car but it feels like everything around me has gone dark- it’s as if my eyes used to hear and suddenly my vision is silent. Dim. I know I am alive but I think my body must have stopped working. But after the jolt of my mother’s words hits me, I come back to life and start sobbing in the back of Ze’s car, deeply and slowly, and telling my Mom that I will be missing my flight but that I will be there as soon as I can, to hang on. I hate that she is having to go through this alone. I hate that I am having to go through this alone. She asks me to call our Dad, whose week has been as horrific as mine has, and tell him this news so that he can fly to FL and be with us. I hang up and start calling him, my fingers moving from memory since my eyes are too blurry to see clearly. He won’t answer his phone. I call him five more times. Then I text my wife and tell the news, that Nick might not survive. I wonder what Ze is thinking because he won’t meet my eyes in the rearview.

****

When my Lyft car pulls up to the departures terminal, I am overwhelmed. I am about to have to navigate one of the most densely populated public spaces in the city, one that I am barely successful at handling even with a week of good sleep and good news. Ze hurriedly gets out of the car, pulls my suitcase from the trunk and tells me to have a great day before speeding off. I can’t believe he is saying that to me when I know for a fact that he could hear my moms screams traveling through the phone and soaking the backseat of his car. I want to punch him in his gut. Inside the airport, my fear stricken, teary face makes most people look away from me while others stare, unashamed. I don’t try to hide my emotions. I’m used to performing grief because of my job, but I realize I haven’t ever felt it, not for real, not for something so big. I wonder if this crisis will make me a better actor. I immediately feel ashamed at the thought. I don’t understand how there is enough room in my brain for terror and ego. The woman behind the Spirit Airlines counter tells me I have not checked in in time to make my flight. I nod yes, I understand. The earliest I can get you on a flight would be at 5:43 this evening, she says. My eyes are buckets, I have no idea what to do to keep myself upright. I don’t want to blubber in front of her, I want to be clear and concise. “My…my….my brother….is dying”, I sputter, “and I need to get to Tampa as soon as possible. Please.” My voice comes out quiet, and I am still breathing deeply and slowly, but my face has exploded all down the front of my shirt, on top of the Spirit Airlines counter. The woman behind the desk averts her eyes and doesn’t say anything, she just types away on her keyboard, and I am afraid she didn’t hear me, that I am going to have to say those words again, words that not even my Dad has heard me say yet. Finally she tells me that she can get me on the next flight, which leaves in an hour, and hands me my ticket. My relief only lasts for a few seconds before it gives way to fear again. I will be on this emotional seesaw for weeks to come.

*****

My sweet brother Nick, eight years my junior, who was not always sweet, who was actually kind of a butthole when we were growing up but who ended up becoming one of the most compassionate and lovely people I’ve ever known, lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Tori, his girlfriend since middle school, and their 18 month old son Levi, who I adore to no end. My Mom lives in the same apartment complex  as they do with my sister, Sedi. Nick and Tori had gone to the ER a week prior when he started vomiting and experiencing painful stomach cramps that wouldn’t let up. He was admitted to the ICU and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, which was scary, but fine, and then told he would need to have a massive diet and lifestyle change to address his health from here on out, which was surprising, but manageable. I decided I would fly down for a few days to see him in the hospital and help cheer him up, maybe offer some help to Tori by picking Levi up from daycare and making dinner while she was at the hospital. But within a couple of days Nick’s organs started shutting down, and then his kidneys were failing, and then we were told he might need to go on dialysis, or have a plasmapheresis, or get a blood transfusion, and then he was having trouble breathing and he got aggressive with the nursing staff and threw an IV pole at a window, shattering it. It turns out that his liver was shutting down with the rest of his organs and leaking ammonia into his brain, which causes this kind of erratic behavior, but the doctors didn’t know that at the time. They just strapped him down to his hospital bed for being a “danger” to the staff.

*****

I get to my gate and try to call my dad again, who still isn’t near his phone, which is a relief honestly because how can I tell him this news? So I sit down on my suitcase and begin texting everyone that would want to share this pain and worry with me. My closest cousin Kaylan, Mandy from high school, Larry from college. I talk to my wife, Claire, who asks me if I want her to catch a flight and meet me down in FL. I tell her no. I want her with me so very badly, but I realize, with tears streaming down my face, that she might have to come down later for a funeral and I don’t want her to have to take off more work than necessary. Even through my grief I maintain my high standards of codependency. I board the plane right as my brother is being wheeled into the surgery that doctors aren’t sure he will recover from. The surgery entails cutting open his abdomen from his ribs to his belly button so that they can relieve the pressure on his organs, which have been shutting down because they are so swollen from all the extra fluids that his pancreas isn’t properly processing. This is why he can’t breathe, because his body doesn’t have enough room in it for his lungs to work. After they cut him open they will cover his stomach with a piece of plastic called a bogota bag (don’t google this thing unless you’re the kind of person who googles these things) and wait for the pressure to subside. But he has to make it through the surgery first.

*****

Two hours later we begin our descent into Chicago where my layover is, and my world dims again. My heart is beating fast and steady, despite these deep breaths I am taking. I am terrified for this plane to land, because I know that when it does, I will find out whether Nick survived. I am so afraid of bad news that I think I would rather live the entire rest of my life on this plane than be vulnerable to it. My eyes are welling up again, and I feel conspicuous, packed into the middle seat between two strangers who have no idea that my life seems to be collapsing at a rapid rate. The plane touches down. I hear phones dinging and beeping as passengers turn them on. I hold mine in my hands tightly, still in airplane mode. I squeeze my eyes shut. I am an atheist, which I am not ashamed of. I don’t pray because it doesn’t feel real in my heart and offers me no relief. But I am ashamed that I don’t know how to handle the deep waves of fear flowing in with each (deep) breath I take. I have to do something; no matter how terrifying it feels, I still have to show up for my life. I tell myself that this is what it means to be brave, to find yourself stuffed into the darkest part of your fears and to force yourself out of your hiding spot. It seemed like such a small thing to do, turning my phone on, but I had to trust myself, had to have faith in my own power, in my own ability to handle whatever came next, whether good or bad.

I turned my phone on. The first text I saw was from my Mom. It read “He made it!”

*****

When I finally made it to the hospital in Tampa late that night, my Mom, surprisingly calm, greeted me in the lobby and took me up to his room (my poor Dad couldn’t get a flight til the next morning). Nick was in a medically induced coma with a tube coming out of his mouth that was connected to a machine that was breathing for him. He was feverish, his blood pressure kept spiking, and his body was massive from the swelling. It would be days before I saw him open his eyes and even longer before I would hear his voice, which came out gruff, pained and scared. Once he was finally conscious, he drifted into ICU psychosis, a fairly common but sometimes dangerous response that occurs when physical trauma is combined with lots of meds and a 24/7 loop of beeps, whistles, and nurses. His poor brain just wasn’t clear and he was paranoid, confused, and constantly asking why his arms were tied to the bed, which at this point was more for his safety than the staff’s- he didn’t understand that he had just had a surgery in which the contents of his abdomen were completely exposed and he kept pawing at the mound of bandages on his belly.

Me, Mom, Dad, Tori, and Tori’s mom and little brother Tate cried on each other, laughed with each other, took turns holding Nick’s hand. We were exhausted and we felt powerless, but all we could do was share the space with him, be witnesses to his labored breathing, his pain. We tried to remember all the funny stories we would tell Nick about the experience once he was on the other side, like how he made me lean in close before quietly asking me to please make an announcement to the hospital. Sure, I said, what do you want me to say? “Drinks…are on meee!” he rasped. The television in the waiting room of the ICU was playing Steven King’s IT for what seemed like days and days and days. That movie never scared me, but compared to the agony of what was happening in Nick’s room, it seemed like a romantic comedy.

I never got comfortable with praying, but I came up with something that kept my thoughts out of the dark realm and into something that felt more optimistic. For father’s day, I had made Nick a leather wallet, cut and stitched by hand and stamped on the front with his initials. But he had gone into the hospital the week before father’s day and had not had a chance to open the package beforehand. Instead of obsessing over the possibility that he might never open it, which I would do late at night in my hotel room, I would close my eyes and visualize him holding it. In my head I could see him sitting at a table, with the same patient grin he always has on his face, slowly taking out all the cards and pictures and bills out of his old wallet and moving them into the crisp slots of his new one. Out with the old, in with the new, over and over again. It wasn’t a request or a wish. The scene never changed, and it became a bit of a mantra for me. Whenever I felt scared about what the doctor was telling us or worried about his lack of progress or stressed about having to leave Tampa without seeing him fully healed, I would imagine Nick at his table, chillin’, not a care in the world, holding his new wallet. It was another way for me to be brave, focusing all my energy into visualizing him as healthy and happy rather than letting my negative thoughts create a narrative that felt too hard to escape, which is unfortunately a much easier thing for me to do. And I guess that is like prayer, a little. It didn’t get rid of the fear. But the hope felt good.

*****

It is nearly two months later, we are in his living room and Nick is sitting up on his couch. He spent a month in the ICU, a couple of weeks in a rehab hospital, and now he is home, surprising each of his doctors with his tenacity and dedication to recuperating. He is 40 pounds thinner, and he moves slowly because his stomach is, unbelievably, still open, though this time the hole is covered not with a piece of clear plastic but with a mesh material that works in tandem with a device that squeezes his belly closed a little each day. After weeks of laying down with his stomach open, gravity has made his insides splay out and it will take time to smoosh everything back together again. A tube hangs out of the bottom of his tank top which is connected to a small machine that continues to suck fluids out of stomach. His energy is low, he takes long naps each day and we are waiting to find out the details of the last surgery he will need, a skin graft that will close his stomach up for good. But his sweet grin is still there. His sense of humor is still there. His eyes sparkle whenever Levi runs up to him to give him a hug. It’s still Nick, beautiful and alive. He opens the envelope that I put in the mail what feels like three lifetimes ago and releases the wallet from bubble wrap. “Aww, cool!”, he says. I am staring at him with an intensity that is probably unnerving. He has no idea how much of the last two months of my life have been balanced on whether or not this moment would come to fruition. The buckets behind my eyes are teetering, but I steady them, and this time I am successful. I want this moment, for Nick, to be normal. Because I can feel how important it is for him to move forward from the crisis we have all endured. I can feel the distance between us when we try and tell him the stories we collected during those weeks when he was “out”. He wasn’t really there, and he doesn’t want to be. Those are our war stories. He just wants to be here now. Me and my brother are such different people- I like to bask in my bottomless cauldron of emotions and Nick likes to take it all in stride, get through it with a grin, meet me on the other side. We are both right.

I give him a kiss on the cheek and I say “I am so glad you like it!”. He deserves for this moment to be normal, because he has been the bravest of us all.

________________________________________________________________________

 

 

This post is obviously different than what usually goes up on my blog, but it definitely belongs here, as Nick’s health scare was a really big part of my life this summer. When I sat in the airport waiting for my first flight, I felt helpless and terrified and I surprised myself by sharing what was going on with my brother on instagram- I had already made one post about Nick when things were initially looking bad earlier in the week, but I didn’t imagine I would bring so many people with me on the bumpy journey that followed. It was one of the best decisions I made. My heart was warmed by the kind words, prayers, and virtual hugs that strangers shared with me from across the globe. Many of these people contributed to my brother’s family’s Go Fund Me page, too, which was amazing and which we are all so thankful for! I think we can safely say that Nick is out of the woods now (although we are still waiting for that skin graft surgery), but he has been out of work for months and we are unsure of when he will be able to go back (even though he is itching to get back to his regular life ASAP). A recuperation of this magnitude obviously will take many months so he is trying to be patient while he gets his strength back and does physical and occupational therapy. We are continuing to raise money to help pay for their bills while Nick’s body keeps getting healthy. Tori has been steadily working and supporting the family since Nick first went to the hospital, but without his additional income they need all the extra help they can get. During these VERY TRYING times, I know that our pockets are stretched thin donating to hurricane relief, political candidates, civil rights and advocacy groups, etc. So if are unable to donate, a share of their Go Fund Me on social media or a kind thought in the direction of my brother’s family in Tampa would be so appreciated! If you are already a follower on IG, I thank you so much for your support thus far, and I thank you all for reading.

The Jessica Dress

As soon as I saw Mimi G wearing her newest SewSewDef pattern, the Jessica Dress, on her instagram feed, I was in LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVE. This is one of those patterns that I have lowkey been searching for for the longest, to no avail. I have seen lot’s of comparable patterns, but nothing exactly like this, and this dress is EXACTLY what I have been looking for. The silhouette is so simple and familiar, yet it seems to have slipped out of the collective designer-hive consciousness…til now!

I love that it has a button band, I love that it has a sweetheart neckline, I love that it has princess seams, I love that it is tea length, I love the positioning of the bodice on the body, I love the patch pockets- I literally love every single thing about it.

Mimi’s first showing of the dress on IG was at the drafted tea length in a beautiful orange+gold+red Ankara fabric. She styled it with a pair of jeans underneath and I was just head-over-heels for it, but later on she posted another photo of the dress in a softer, drapey yellow fabric that just barely skimmed the ground, and it was just the most elegant and romantic garment ever. The big patch pockets, crisp in their initial Ankara incarnation, folded in on themselves in the flowy fabric, offering a bit of unexpected drama and sweetness to the whole look. Again, head over heels! I love a pattern that can pull double duty to look like two completely different dresses when made up in different fabrics. Ahh, the magic of sewing!

Needless to say, I stopped pretty much everything I was doing to move the Jessica dress up my project queue (I had been in the very middle of my Suits Me Refashion at the time), but I soon realized that I didn’t have the perfect fabric for this dress in my (admittedly meager) stash. I almost chose a fabric that I was only so-so about just so that I could have the satisfaction of completing the garment, but thankfully I stopped myself before I actually cut into anything. If I have learned NOTHING from the past four years of sewing my entire wardrobe, it is to NOT WASTE TIME sewing something in a fabric that I am not madly in love with. Sure, there is the rare occasion when a fabric that has presented itself as uninspiring can be elevated when paired with the perfect pattern, but it’s unlikely and, in my opinion, simply not worth the risk, especially when you are as stoked to sew up the pattern as I was this dress!

I suddenly had a memory of seeing this really fantastic shark print on the IG feed of an indie fabric/crafting store that I had the pleasure of patroning when I lived in Savannah last year. Although I live too far away now to shop there in person, I have continued to follow Fabrika’s instagram because it is inspiring, full of humor, and beautifully curated. Fortunately for me, it turned out that the print I had mentally catalogued in that gigantic filing cabinet in my brain for random information was yes, still in stock, yes a good apparel weight cotton, and yes, able to be shipped off to me in California. WHAT LUCK! Actually, it wasn’t luck at all- the staff at Fabrika is incredibly kind and helpful, and they seemed more than happy to sell to me over the phone. The truth is, I don’t take great customer service for granted at all anymore; you only need a couple of botched orders and infuriating email exchanges with what is arguably one of the most well-known fabric stores in the US to fully appreciate when a company knows how to treat customers with respect and gratitude.

Anyways, why was I so in love with this fabric? Well, it’s navy and white for one thing, which is probably my favorite neutral pairing (looking at my memade wardrobe, I’m starting to think that I use navy the way most people use black). Plus it has sharks, and sharks are infinitely cool! But I also love that, at first glance, you almost can’t tell that the print is comprised of sharks at all- they are so integrated into the swirly waves of the ocean around them that their gnashing teeth and hungry eyes don’t overpower the overall print, which keeps it from looking like a novelty quilting cotton (no shade if apparel made of novelty prints is your thing, though!)

The fabric is a pretty great weight for this dress- since I live in LA, it’s gonna be hot for a long time, and what would normally be a dress only good for the latter part of spring and all of summer is gonna carry me DEEP into fall with the aid of a jacket on top. It provides the same crispness and volume as the fabric that Mimi’s ankara print version does, which I love.

This is the first SewSewDef pattern that I have worked up, and I think it’s really impressive, particularly compared to the Seamwork patterns, which also come free with that magazine’s monthly publication. Seamwork has gorgeous designs and patterns, but unfortunately the drafting, much like the Colette brand, is really really off for me. I got a subscription to Seamwork a couple of years ago as a Christmas gift, and so far, every pattern I have made that wasn’t a simple knit top has needed a significant amount of work to make it look wearable and decent. In general, I think that the “Sew this project in only three hours!” concept kind of works against the brand- I consider myself a proficient sewist and I have never completed a dress from woven fabric in three hours that was worth a damn. But that sew it quick concept has nothing to do with the pattern drafting, which is my main beef with the brand, and why I bring it up here- because the SewSewDef pattern drafting is excellent!

They aren’t drafted with a lot of ease which is what I personally prefer, so I based my size off the finished measurements of the garment and made myself an XXS in the bust graded to an XS in the waist and the hips. While I was constructing it I kept second guessing my sizing and worrying that it would end up being too tight, to the extent that I even went back and opened up a couple seams to give myself a teeny tiny bit more room. Turns out, the drafting was perfect as-is, so I had to go back and add those tiny increments back to the seams before finishing it up, lol.

I made a few changes to match with my own preferred finishings which was easy to do, but honestly, this pattern came equipped with everything you could want to make a lovely looking garment. I omitted the facings for the bodice and instead lined the whole thing in self fabric, then under stitched it to keep the lining from popping out. I applied a strip of interfacing to the front center bodice pieces since I got rid of the interfaced facing, then stitched in the ditch on the outside of the garment at the waist seam to tack down the inside lining. Lastly, I added a bit of stay tape to the tops of the front bodice pieces at the seam to keep them straight and stiff since they looked like they had the tendency to lose their shape, as many curved bodice seams do.

Weirdly, I had a lot of trouble with the pockets! The pattern doesn’t come with markings on where to place the pockets and instead suggests to complete the dress and try it on before you decide where you want them to go- this was smart since everybody’s arm length and pocket preference differs, but it took me a long time to make the decision. In part because my fabric is bold and in part because the pockets are so large (the pocket is drafted as one size), I just couldn’t find the right place for them to sit without looking overwhelming and gaping out. I decided to make them smaller in both length and width and that totally did the trick. I also thought that pearl snaps would look really pretty (and be quicker to create) on this dress instead of making buttonholes and sewing buttons down the whole length. Yes, it meant a last minute trip to Joann’s, but it was also clearly a good decision- I love them! And it just occurred to me that I could have kept the original pocket size as is and simply added a snap to the tops to keep them from gaping out! Ah well, free tip for anyone who has the same issue as I did and doesn’t want to redraft the pocket 😉

Looking at the completed Jessica dress that Mimi was wearing in her IG pic, the design seems much more complicated than it actually is to make; it’s deceivingly simple! There were a couple of things that I particularly enjoyed about the construction process: for one, I appreciated the absence of a separate button band for the bodice; The buttons (or snaps in my case), are just applied to the interfaced edges of the front bodice pieces and is much less time consuming to construct than, say, an archer button down (which I have made about 20 times over the years). Easy peasy! I also loved the way that the bottom hem and button bands are assembled. You face the right sides of the button bands together at the bottoms, sew across the short ends and flip them right side out, then turn up the hem and sew in place. I am so used to the hem being the very last thing sewn on a garment before it’s completed that it was really refreshing to get it done with so early on.

There were one or two places in the instructions that were a little confusing, and I’m not sure if it’s because I read them wrong or because it was a typo. They didn’t mess me or my dress up, but it would be something for a beginning sewist to pay close attention to, lest they be led astray. Other than that, this dress is SUCH a winner for me. The gorgeous final result, the beautiful drafting which required no alterations (which makes me REALLY excited to dig into a couple of her other patterns knowing that I won’t have to spend a ton of time adjusting the fit), the versatility of the design- I am dying to make this in a soft, flowy white fabric next year!- the fact that I have been lowkey looking for this pattern for so long, the sweet fabric I was able to get from a brick and mortar fabric store hundreds of miles away- this dress was MEANT to be in my life 🙂