The Eponine Dress and Furry Heels

I call it The Eponine Dress for reasons that are obvious if you are familiar at all with Les Miz- Eponine’s character is beautiful, sad, and tragic, having faced more hardships than any one young woman ever should, pining after a lost love while surviving on the streets of Paris during the French Revolution (well, sort of…the show is entirely historically inaccurate but that’s not what we are debating here, I’m just painting a picture…a picture of Eponine, beautiful, sad and tragic!)

Image result for vogue paris original 2352 nina ricci

I bought this vintage Vogue #2352 by Ninna Ricci on Etsy several years ago when I first learned about the glory of Vogue Paris Originals, and I was drawn to this particular design because it reminded me of the ladies on the tv show Designing Women- broad shouldered, bossy, and feminine. I loved the silhouette of the collar, sleeves and bodice and the intricate detailing of the pleats on the front and back of the dress, but I had no idea what fabric I would make it in or when I would get around to trying it out. Earlier this year I very randomly packed it into my sewing suitcase for #sewnawayfromhome, but I still I had no idea what the hell I was gonna make it in. To be honest, I didn’t think I would even have enough time to even get to it on my trip- I had packed two other patterns with me and would only be out of town for about a week and a half, so the chances of me cracking it open were slim.

But lo and behold, I blew through my first two patterns (this piece and this piece) is quick succession and with a few days to spare. Because of fabric restraints, I wasn’t able to use the leopard print tencel twill with this VPO pattern (I used it for the DKNY pattern I linked above instead), but I did have a couple of wide yards of this olive green slubby linen viscose fabric I bought at Dress Sew while in town. Since that was literally the only fabric I had on hand, I just went with it. I was drawn to the admittedly drab looking fabric because I loved the texture (soft, but nubbly) and I don’t come across this type of linen very often. The color was subtle and not very exciting, but I knew it would look great on my skin tone.

Because the fabric is so soft and pillowy, it’s not exactly a great fit for the detailing of this pattern- linen doesn’t iron super crisply and as you can see, a significant portion of the bodice is made up of very precise pleats. Well, they are supposed to be precise. Mine are anything but, and this section of construction had smoke floating out of my ears cause I was so frustrated. I wish I had taken pictures of the pattern pieces for this garment- they were bananas- not easily identifiable pattern pieces at all, which honestly is one of the reasons I love VPOs so much- the patterns are so unique that the methods and pattern pieces can be super untraditional and challenging to put together, but it pays off because there are so few other designs out like it. There was not a traditional bodice for this pattern, it was effectually a large rectangle labeled as “yoke” with a couple of slices through it that would become the opening for the head and front of the garment at the neckline. The shoulders and sleeves are raglan but put together like no other raglan garment I have ever sewn- now that I am on the other side of it, I can say I loved this process, but while I was in the middle of it I hated every second, lol.

When I started marking and working on the pleats, I realized immediately that it was nearly impossible to keep them from looking sloppy- again, I couldn’t get crisp, clean edges on the folds, so I decided to edgestitch them down to keep them in place, but the lines of stitching looked wobbly because of the slubby texture of the fabric, even though they weren’t- it’s like a trick of the eye! I almost gave up at this point and decided to call it a mistake of right fabric paired with wrong pattern- it was just looking so street urchin-y (apparently a recurring theme in my sewing)! But then…I got indignant. This fabric was  pricey! But even if it wasn’t, I hate wasting fabric! What if I was wrong and the dress wasn’t a loss? What if I could just get over this one hump of figuring out how to make the pleats look decent- would the whole thing look better then? I had another full day in Vancouver at this point in the construction process and nothing better to do with my time so I decided to keep working on it til it was time to go- if I couldn’t successfully save it? Well, at least I could say that I tried!

honestly had no idea how gratuitous my nips were in these pics til I started adding them to the blog post lol

I kept toiling away at the pleats, and maybe they didn’t all look perfectly straight and crisp close up, but by the time I was done, the 3 foot rule applied- you couldn’t see anything askew or horrific looking when you were maintaining my personal space, so I gave myself permission to keep working. Next came attaching the “skirt”, which really isn’t a skirt at all but rather the bottom of the dress, and that gets connected above the bust area, at a seam line hidden under the bottom pleat on both the front and back of the dress. See? So strange! But so effective! It means that there is no visible seam at the waistline or anywhere else on the dress so it looks as if the garment is made of just one piece of fabric, which I think is really cool.

Since I couldn’t figure out how the hell this dress was supposed to come together from the start (reading through directions ahead of time rarely helps me in understanding construction because I am a visual learner and need to see the garment in my hands at each step to comprehend what comes next) I didn’t make many adjustments to the pattern pieces in advance, but I did shorten the sleeves, and thank god I did. The sleeves were also very strangely put together (they weren’t set in the shoulders, but instead attached to the bottom of the yoke) and I could tell by holding them up to my body that they were drafted for a giraffe. Seriously, these things were like 4 inches past my fingertips! I liked the idea of the sleeves being so dramatic and voluminous, but I hate sleeves that get in the way of like, eating or using the bathroom, so I shortened them significantly and the length came out great- they’ve still got that Labyrinthian look to them with all that body and poofiness, but they don’t interrupt me living my life.

 

love all the random but pretty details of this dress! Also I picked out these buttons from memory because I forgot to bring the fabric with me to the button store lol

Once I had finished the funky pleating and constructed all the main parts of the dress, I tried it on to see how it was looking. It was looking…like a massive failure. UGH! So drab! So shapeless! Beautifully big, dramatic sleeves and shoulders that cascaded into a garment that overall actually looked, and I am not  being hyperbolic here, like I was wearing a potato sack. The WORST. But I didn’t feel overwhelmed- I had come too far with this damn thing and I was too close to GOOD to turn back now. I had imagined that I would be able to wear this garment without it being cinched at the waist, as per an image I had saved on Pinterest of a dress very similar in shape to this one, but I quickly realized that this was not the proper silhouette to pull off that look, so I sewed up a belt and belt loops for the dress and tried it on. It was much much, better- having a clearly defined waist made me feel like I was actually wearing the dress instead of drowning inside of it. But I still had the issue of the hem, which was cut straight across, hitting my legs in a place that made them look very short (in real life I’m 5’3″ but in fantasy life my ass is pushing 6 feet!). I decided to take a risk and alter the whole shape of the hem by curving it up at the sides on both the front and back pieces, an idea inspired by the Kalle shirtdress. If it was a disaster, I would have enough room to cut it off straight again, but shorter.

I’m still amazed at how instantaneously the altered hem changed the whole look of the dress- the curve at the bottom makes it feel modern, fun and trendy, while the rest of the dress looks pieced together from different eras of fashion- shoulders from the 80’s, detailed pleat work from the 40’s/50’s…she looks designed by Frankenstein! I actually left off the shoulder pads suggested for use in this dress because the pleating at the shoulders created enough structure on it’s own and they weren’t necessary. As drab as the beginnings of this dress were, I receive lots of compliments every time I wear it- on paper I feel like it shouldn’t work at all, there are too many design elements fighting for space, but somehow all together it totally works, and I don’t have anything else in my closet that evokes the energy that this dress does. I love it!

Now for these cool shoes! This is my second pair of shoes made with this last (my first pair of pointy toed heels with the faux snakeskin leather are here) and they are really terrific! I was inspired by an image on pinterest of a pointy toed heel with some cool straps and I based my design completely on those, but with different upper material.

X21QX Alice + Olivia Davey Lizard-Embossed Pump, Hot Pink

I lined the shoes and the heels with a black sueded pigskin leather, used a faux leopard print “fur” for the toe of the shoe, then used a really cool deep dark gold for the straps. Few people on instagram thought this selection of materials would work and suggested I use black leather for the straps, but I was really drawn to the variety of textures in the gold/black/fur combo and decided to trust my gut- thankfully they came out beautifully! I was worried about lasting the fur over the pointy toe but it was totally forgiving, and the horse hair covers up any imperfections that might be going on underneath. Aside from figuring out the placement of the straps, these shoes came together very easily and the impact is strong- I have never seen a shoe quite like this before! I actually haven’t had a chance to wear these yet outside of the house so I can’t say how comfortable they are after more than 20 minutes of wear, but if they are anything like my snakeskin heels, they will be great- or rather, great if you like wearing heels. They certainly don’t feel like wearing sneakers, but as far as heels go, they are pretty damn comfortable.

Thanks to Claire for the beautiful pictures! When we get our backyard deck and landscaping done sometime in the next 20 years this is gonna be a killer place to take photos, lol!

 

 

 

Candy Striped Tully Pants + Baby Blue Slides

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bv0TIfVBQdw/

I’m really proud of this make because it gave me a chance to demonstrate perseverance to myself in a way that I don’t always experience with sewing! About a year and a half ago when in Vancouver for work, I brought a few new-to-me patterns to be #sewnawayfromhome in my hotel room. One of them was the Style Arc Tully Pant. I had heard and seen a lot of Style Arc in the blogosphere over the years but this was to be the very first pattern of theirs that I made for myself. The design was simple, but not one that had ever been a part of my wardrobe. The woven cropped pants hit at the ankle, have a slim-looking but loose and comfortable leg, and use elastic and ties at the front to complete the paperbag waist. Elastic waist pants, though oh-so comfortable, are sometimes not super flattering on me because I have a lot of butt and a little waist, so the line between looking comfortably chic and looking like I took a dump in my pants is pretty fine. But I powered through because I really liked the look of the pattern and I wanted to get out of my Skinny Jeans And Sweats Are The Only Pants I Own rut.

Unfortunately, devastatingly, shockingly, I chose such an ill-suited fabric for these pants that they were doomed from the very start. The rust-colored corduroy seemed like a great fabric to make a fall/winter pant in, but a thick, textured, solidly bottom-weight textile is simply not the proper material to make in a design that’s gathered at the waist. I’ll save you the painful details of each ensuing incarnation I tried to put them through once I realized how disastrous and lumpy the original make was, just know that at some point I became a dead ringer for a street urchin in the ensemble cast of Oliver.

No big deal, sewists make god-awful things all the time- most of the time we can fix it, but if we can’t, into the fabric recycling they go! That’s exactly where mine went once I got back home, and I didn’t think much about that project again until an image popped up on my Pinterest a month or so ago that was a dead ringer for the Tully pants, made in a breezy striped linen. I remembered immediately that I had a similar pattern to the ones on the model, so I rifled through my Evernote app where I keep all my patterns. Had it been the Style Arc pattern that was a mess, or had it been the fabric I used for said pattern? Only one way to find out! (Cue:persevering through another attempt).

I knew immediately that I had the perfect fabric for this project; a while back I had received a cut of this variegated striped linen in white and red from The Fabric Store and had been waiting for the perfect pattern to pair it with- this was it! I knew that if the forgiving fabric didn’t look good in this pattern, then nothing would. As soon as I cut out my pattern pieces and started to construct the pants I remembered how obnoxiously crappy the instructions were when I made my first attempt at this pattern a year and a half ago- they give even Burda a run for their money! Numbered diagrams that don’t match up to the written instructions they are supposed to accommodate, steps that are completely missing, construction techniques listed with no explanation, the whole shebang! Fortunately these pants were simple enough that I could figure out how to put them together on my own, and I did. The tie assembly was fine but the elastic-insertion technique was not, and I opted to sew the casing closed before threading my elastic through as opposed to placing the flat elastic on the waistband line and sewing the casing on top of it. My method worked out great, and I completed the pants in just an afternoon.

I love the deep, slightly hidden pockets on these pants and I also love using the striped fabric both vertically and horizontally as per the pattern layout- it adds a bit of visual interest that you don’t even realize is there if you aren’t looking for it. The pants fit my waist very comfortably but look fitted and light enough in the linen that I don’t have baggy butt! Because of the decorative ruffle at the top of the waistband, these pants come up pretty high and look best when paired with either my Closet Case Files Nettie Bodysuit or a tank/crop top. I tried it with a regular t shirt for these photos from our trip to Huntington Gardens and the look is pretty blah in my opinion- the visual interest of the pants gets lost a bit when there is a cotton t shirt tucked into the waistband. All in all I think this is a decent pattern, but I personally don’t think it’s worth $17- I’m gonna need way better instructions and attention to detail in a pattern with that price, especially when there are so many other amazing indie patterns on the market creating terrific, clear and concise instructions at that same price point or lower.

Okay, now let’s talk about what I DO love about this outfit: my memade baby blue slides!

One thing I really love about shoe making is that if you mess a pair up or outwear them or just decide you aren’t feeling the look anymore, it’s pretty easy to save some of the shoe components for a future pair, namely the heel and shank/shank board. Years ago when I took my first sandal making class, we made shoes using these super cute low-heeled wedge soles and lasts provided by the class instructor. Although I learned quite a few new things about shoe construction (I had been making my own shoes for over a year at this point), the class was not my favorite. It was a satellite course taught over one day in the rented space of a furniture store in LA, and since we didn’t have the aid of machines, buckles, zippers or other notions for our shoes, we should have been limited in our design choices in order to create a functional shoe. Unfortunately we were not guided in the design of the shoe at all, so most of us, not knowing exactly what we were doing, made shoes that weren’t actually wearable. Mine, for instance, used leather straps for the upper around the toe of the shoe, but there wasn’t enough material created with the straps to keep the shoe on my foot when I walked around, so they just kept falling off my feet.

Once I got home and realized that I would never be able to wear the shoes as designed, I pulled the wedge sole, upper straps and shank boards apart and stored them in my craft room, just waiting for the day that I got inspired to remake them. Well, that day finally came and I am CRAZY about the end result! With the low wedge heel, these shoes are super comfortable and they kind of go with everything. I didn’t have a last to perfectly match the shape of the wedge sole, but I had a pair that was close enough and laid flush with the front part of the shoe, which is all I really needed it for anyways to last the upper. I used the leftover blue nubuck leather from when I made my sneakers from Sneaker Kit and it worked beautifully- the leather is surprisingly soft and pliable for how thick it is, and I made a cute little peep toe and gave the uppers one of my favorite bow details. I lined the inside of the shoes with foam to make them extra cushiony and comfy and as a result I have worn these shoes several times a week since completing them- like I said, they go with everything! The wedge is so low that I don’t feel like I’m wearing heels, but they give me enough of a height boost that I do get a little swish in my step when I’m walking around!

Thanks to Claire for these fun shots at the Huntington! Also pictured is my leather fanny pack that I recently finished that I actually don’t like much at all (construction left so much to be desired and then add to that my decision to use thick leather instead of fabric!) so I probably wont blog about it, but just wanted to point that out.

 

DKNY Dress in Leopard Tencel Twill

I have had Vogue 1287 by DKNY in my stash for a long time but was always hesitant to make it because it seemed like it would be complicated to grade out at the hips and I was afraid I wouldn’t fit a straight size in this pattern.

Image result for vogue 1287

As per usual, I am frustrated by the fabric choice on this pattern envelope- it’s certainly a cool looking dress, but the print covers up all the cool details that make this dress so unique and fun! Someone told me that the big name designers for Vogue (and probably other brands) get to design and sew up the samples that are used on the envelopes, which is fun in terms of seeing the designer’s original creative vision for a garment, but functionally it leaves much to be desired- how can anyone see the innovative pleating and pocket design in the midst of all those dots??

Image result for vogue 1287

Ok, that’s better. Now you can see the beautiful draping, the fun shoulder pleats and neckline, those wacky pockets that gave me such a headache but that look so cool on the finished garment. I was also hesitant to make this dress because, although I do love an elasticized waist, I was afraid it would make the dress look less chic. I’m so used to seeing elastic waists on cheap, poorly made clothes from fast fashion RTW that I tend to relegate the design feature in my own makes to casual wear and athleisure, and I wanted this garment to work as something a little dressier than that.

While packing for #sewnawayfromhome earlier this year, I hastily threw three patterns into my sewing suitcase, one pattern I loved and had made before, and two Vogue patterns I had never touched. This was VERY risky, because if you have followed along on my #sewnawayfromhome journey in the past, you will have learned along with me how important it is to make patterns that have a great chance of fitting/not needing a ton of adjustments since on the road I don’t have a dress form, a huge table to work on or any of the other tools required to do some serious re-working of a memade garment. But I was running out of time before my departure and unsure of exactly what I wanted to make, and I figured I would just do my best to make these patterns I had never sewn before work. Spoiler alert: I ended up successfully making and loving all three of the garments I made over the week and a half that I was in Vancouver! But it wasn’t all fun and games, folks!

First off, I brought a couple of cuts of fabric with me to Vancouver but I ended up not using either of them for this dress, and instead using the new (at the time) leopard print tencel twill Blackbird Fabrics was carrying in the store. They recently started letting customers pick up their orders directly from their shop instead of posting it in the mail, so I got to stop by the new space and ooooh and aaaahh over every single thing inside, and of course I got to say hi to Carolyn and the lovely members of her team. Once I got back to my hotel and finished sewing up my purple dress, I realized that this leopard print tencel would be a great pairing for Vogue 1287- the fabric has soooo much beautiful drape but it’s not  lightweight and it serves the slightly fitted skirt of the garment very well. The fabric has great body and is soft to the skin, and the print covers up any extra wrinkles that might be hovering around (tencel twill irons well but gets wrinkles very fast).

The pattern pieces for this dress are INSANE. I wish I had taken a picture of everything laid out on the floor after I cut it out, but of course I didn’t think to do that- I had tunnel vision when I cut all these pieces out and all I wanted to do was plow through them so I could make sense of how they fit together. The pieces are so uniquely shaped that I had a lot of trouble envisioning how they would morph into a dress, so, since I didn’t have a dress form, I carefully pinned the paper pieces of the dress together and draped them on my body to get a better idea. It was super helpful, but once I moved to the fabric and all my notches and dots got lost in the busyness of the print, I was back at square one, haha. The pockets were a huge obstacle for me- they fold back on themselves at certain points specified on the pattern pieces and they also make up part of the body of the skirt, but in order to lay right, the front pleats of the skirt waistband have to be perfectly lined up and sewn down, and any shift away from perfection makes the pockets lay really wonky and look weird. I had to take the pockets out twice to get them right and I moved those pleats around like 20 times before I was happy with how the front looked, but who cares, at least I ended up where I wanted to be!

My memory is a bit hazy because I completed this dress months ago but I believe I cut out a size 10 and graded to a 12 at the hips and I am very pleased at how terrific the fit of this dress is- much of that has to do with the elastic waist, which gives the garment a more forgiving fit, but still, I have made elasticized waists on less complicated patterns that looked way less chic than this. I realize now looking back at the details on the back of the pattern envelope that I took another risk by pairing this fabric and pattern together- although I thought the print and hand of the fabric would work great, the pattern specifies using a fabric with a bit of stretch (it suggests “stretch silk crepe, stretch charmeuse, lightweight jersey”) but of course my tencel twill was a woven. I wondered if this would give me trouble- if a stretch fabric was an absolute necessity, it would mean that this dress, which is designed with no closures whatsoever, would not slip over my head when I tried to put it on. This pattern also includes pieces for a bias cut slip to wear underneath the dress, I guess because charmeuse/silk/lightweight jersey would likely be too thin to wear on it’s own? Looking at the finished design image on the envelope, I could see that there was a decent amount of ease in the waist and hips what with all those pleats and folds, and the bodice was also drafted as very loose fitting, so it seemed hard to imagine that this garment wouldn’t translate well to a woven. Obviously I took the chance and it worked out great- I didn’t need the slip underneath and the dress is easy to get in and out of. I have noticed this in Big 4 quite a lot- this dress also required a stretch lace fabric for its’ outer shell and a lining underneath, but I was already married to my non-stretch bright neon lace and I forged ahead, not even adjusting the size for it, and it worked out perfectly.

I love the subtle sandwashed sheen of this tencel twill, I love the slightly abstracted leopard print (okay fine! I will no longer say that I don’t do animal prints!!!), and I love the look and fit of this dress. The shape and construction are so fun and unique and although it took me a while to get those pockets in a good place, it was worth the work- I don’t have anything like this in my closet and I LOVE that! I can sometimes get in a silhouette rut with dresses and skirts because I know what shapes and styles I think I look and feel best in, but sometimes you gotta get outta that comfort zone and change it up a bit- it doesn’t always pay off but when it does, it’s so exciting!

Thanks as always to my sweet Claire for these pics!

 

 

 

A Golden Dress for Your Grandma

We are way overdue for a #grandmachic make!

This gorgeous dress was finished months ago and was purely inspired by the pattern image on the envelope. I had been looking for a pattern like this for so long, and had even attempted to draft/hack something close to it (it was the original inspiration for the sheer fabric I used in this make) but I never managed to get close to recreating it until I found Simplicity 8545.

Image result for simplicity 8545

What I like so much about the pattern is the sheer, embroidered fabric which gets paired with something more opaque (in this case, a slip) underneath. I like the peek of skin you get around the embroidered pieces of the outer fabric, and I love the way the embroidery kind of dances around on the body. I also like the high waisted gathered skirt attached to the loose-fitting bodice. The whole look feels a bit effortless, but it could easily be dressed up fancy, depending on how you style it. I had seen some exquisite embroidered tulle around the fabric district before, but while digging through my fabric stash I came across this brilliant bright yellow and gold embossed silk that I picked up at The Fabric Store in LA right before that location closed. I bought it without any idea of what I would make with it, but I felt like I couldn’t leave it behind because I LOVED the shade of yellow so much and I thought the whole piece was just incredibly unique. Once I got my hands on this pattern, though, I knew it was going to be a match made in heaven.

I should have muslined this pattern before I cut it out, because like most Big 4 patterns, they tend to come out huge on me, but I had no idea exactly how much ease was in this thing (I couldn’t find the information on the pattern pieces but it’s possible I didn’t look hard enough)! I chose a smaller size and assumed it would be a totally easy thing to fix any problem areas since the design was so simple, but it still came out about 5 or 6 inches too large in the bust. Somehow I was able to use the original darts in the pattern pieces and just take the extra fabric out at the side seams, but I also had to chop off about 2 inches from the bottom of the bodice, otherwise it would have landed way below my natural waist. I messed up on the sizing here, but thankfully I paid close attention to where the gold floral design would land on the bodice front. I knew I didn’t want it centered and symmetrical (#sorrynotsorry to the people who DMed me on IG “politely” explaining that my bodice wasn’t cut with the design centered on the front- I know it wasn’t, and that was intentional) because I wanted to give some visual interest to the composition of the bodice area and I liked the idea of having the floral bouquet crawling up my shoulder a bit. Placing the design off-center also allows the negative space of the fabric to become its own separate visual, and I like the peekaboo of skin coming out in unexpected places, particularly around the shoulders and arms.

Anyways, it took me a while to hack away at the crazy amount of easy in this pattern, but once I got it to a place that felt right, everything else was (mostly) a breeze. The trickiest thing about this make by far was the fabric. It’s silk, it’s slinky, it’s shifty, and it likes to fray so it needs a LOT of attention. I used a microtex needle to keep it from pulling on any of the individual threads but surprisingly I didn’t end up needing to use a walking foot. I sewed slowly and carefully, and aside from a few gold threads that got pulled up, the fabric was mostly well behaved. I spent the most time gathering the skirt with basting threads and attaching it to the bodice with french seams (gathered french seams are a real pain in the ass and never come out with absolute precision for me), but luckily it’s nothing you would see unless you were looking for some wobbly seam lines on the inside of the garment. Attaching the binding around the neckline also took a lot of patience on my part because I wanted it to look clean and neat, and I think it came out beautifully.

Once I completed the main parts of the outer dress I realized that I absolutely didn’t want to close the dress with a zipper as per the instructions- the sheer fabric seemed much too delicate to muddy up with a bulky plastic zipper, and I don’t particularly like it when you can see zippers on clothing. I know it’s a trend right now or whatever, and I am definitely into the sheer look that Ada Spragg introduced me to on IG, but a bulky zipper on sheer transparent fabric is just not my thing. So I decided to create ties in the back to close the bodice and waistline. I have seen ties used on vintage garments before and this dress was definitely looking very vintage-inspired by this point, so I thought it would be a lovely feature. I carefully created several thin lengths of ties from my silk fabric and knotted them at the end. Then I folded in my seam allowance twice (above the french seam that I used for the back skirt seam, right where the zipper would have been inserted), and sewed it down to the bodice. I attached the ties to the back with some hand stitching and decided to just use two pairs, one at neck and one at waist.

I absolutely love the way the ties look in the back, and it works because the outer dress is worn over a slip underneath that covers any exposed body parts that would have shown through the gaps between the ties. This Simplicity dress pattern also comes with a pattern for the slip worn underneath and this was…a really strangely designed garment. I hadn’t realized this when I first purchased the pattern but it’s actually designed WITH A BACK ZIPPER, TOO! Yes, that’s right- A SLIP. WITH A BACK ZIPPER. Meant to go under another dress that ALSO HAS A BACK ZIPPER. I’ve seen some bizarre design details in Big 4 before, but never something this glaringly wrong, lol. The thought of wearing two garments with zippers in the exact same place going down my spine is enough to give me agita. Who in the world would design such a thing? I have never even seen a loose-fitting slip with a zipper, so initially I thought that maybe the slip was drafted in a way that I wasn’t familiar with, a way that would make it impossible to get into any other way without the aid of a back closure, but of course it wasn’t. It’s a pretty traditional slip design: it isn’t cut on the bias but it has spaghetti straps on the shoulders and wide neck and back openings, meaning it should be a very simple thing to slip it over your head. To be sure that it didn’t need the zip closure, I cut my back fabric on the fold without the zipper and I basted the side seams to test it out (my slip fabric is a silk without a significant amount of stretch), and yes, that baby slid RIGHT over my head like a dream, although unsurprisingly it was STILL too big even though I made the smallest size and graded up in the hips. I would rather the slip be too loose than too tight so ultimately it’s fine, but on it’s own it’s just not the best looking thing I have ever made. Anyways, this is all to say that YOU CAN ELIMINATE THE ZIPPER ON THIS ONE, FOLKS!

The slip is the only thing I am a bit unhappy with from this make. I mostly followed the instructions but should have just sewn it up in the way I thought it should look. It is designed to have a small folded hem on the neckline and armholes, but I wish I had created some bias binding for the top hem instead. Folded hems on curved edges rarely turn out perfectly for me when I am using a shifty fabric like silk, and a bias bound edge would have looked so much neater and more professional. The corners where the straps are attached look bulky with the two hemmed seams coming together, and I just don’t like how it looks on me. Thankfully, the outer dress covers up all the imperfections of the slip so it’s not a big deal, but if I ever make this again, I’ll definitely use a different pattern for the slip. One thing I did change was to make the straps much skinnier than they are designed. The draft has them at something like 5/8″ width which looks bulky and weird even under the overlay dress, so I remade them to be thinner- honestly I probably could have gone even thinner than I did, but still, they work much better now.

Looking over these pictures I feel we did a disservice by not getting a great shot of the fabric on it’s own- the gold floral emblems on the yellow sheer fabric are really spectacular in real life, but you can’t see the details very well in these shots. Another thing you can’t see in the pictures is how ITCHY that sheer fabric is! Hahahaa! OMG! I have super sensitive skin to certain fabrics, but because the underside of the yellow and gold silk didn’t feel particularly gnarly on my hands I didn’t even consider that it might be an issue- but of course, the palms of my hands are toughened up and much less capable of determining what feels uncomfortable than the skin on my shoulders and neck. When I first completed this dress and tried it on I almost tore the whole thing off straight away because it was so immediately icky feeling. But I think maybe I had a dramatic reaction because I just wasn’t prepared for it. Once I tried it on a few months later to snap these photos, it felt a little better- still itchy, but once it had been on my body for a while I mostly forgot about it. I have been looking for tan long sleeve tops made of pantyhose material that I might be able to wear underneath this dress, and I think I could mostly get away with it except at the back neck area where the overlay dress opens up to show the slip underneath. I might be able to cut the neckline of the skirt wider so that it isn’t noticeable under the dress, as long as I don’t compromise the integrity of the fabric and get a bunch of runs racing all over the thing!

Thanks to Claire for these pics, and thank to you readers for your patience in waiting to see this up on the blog- I shared a lot of the process of this dress on instagram and then it took forever to blog about it so it just kind of disappeared on some of you!

Starry Night Dress

It’s been a while since I said this but….this dress was a JOURNEY, hahaha!

I have a conservative but beautiful stack of Vogue Paris Originals in my pattern stash, most of which were gifted as Christmas and birthday presents over the years, which I am slowly making my way through. I think I may have 3 or 4 of these makes under my belt by now, and some of them have been easier than others, but all of them have been challenging. I have found that the sizing for these garments, save for the normal adjustments I make on patterns regarding length, is pretty spot on and don’t have as much ease and therefore require as much futzing as most Big 4s. BUT! The instructions can be INSANE to follow. Part of it is because the distance between construction methods and materials then and now continues to get larger as time goes on. For example, a lot of vintage patterns from around the 70s and before include the use of interfacing, but iron-on interfacing either had not been invented yet or wasn’t readily available to home sewists, so the instructions always account for sewn-in interfacing, which of course needs to be attached to a separate fabric facing. As a modern sewist I am often so used to just ironing woven interfacing onto whatever pieces need to be stabilized, whether it’s the facing or the actual garment, that I forget that those aren’t always what the instructions are asking for.

Another reason these VPO designs can be so tricky to sew up is because the designs are so unique that they require construction methods that are very strange/unfamiliar. VPO patterns are pretty special, created by famous clothing designers of yester- (and sometimes today!) year to recreate some of their  designs for the home sewist, and these aren’t just your everyday bodice and gathered skirt kinds of dresses- these have interesting details and often complicated construction techniques that up the ante of your regular sew-at-home outfit.

Image result for vogue paris original pierre balmain

So back to this dress. Pierre Balmain was a couture designer of women’s gowns and dresses and hit his stride in the 40’s/50’s/60’s creating voluminous skirts with “nipped in waists”, using luxurious textiles with embroidery and beading, but as you can see, this VPO # 1625 is a very wearable, simplified silhouette, which is why I was so drawn to it; without having an excessive amount of frills and pleats, it screams decadence! The woman who wears this is SO FABULOUS AND UNCONCERNED that SHE CAN’T MOVE HER ARMS ABOVE HER HEAD…AND SHE DOESN’T EVEN CARE! It’s not the most practical design, those batwing sleeves that keep me from reaching up higher than my shoulders, but then again, red carpet ensembles don’t really have to be, and I am crazy about the look. It’s kind of like a cape dress, but the cape isn’t free-flowing all the way around- it’s tacked down at the front and back waistline and the “wings” of the cape are only free underneath the arms.

I was gifted this gorgeous Star Print Crepe de Chine from The Fabric Store and was  overcome by a surge of inspiration when I unboxed it. The print, small white stars of varying sizes stretched out across a dark navy background, is eye-catching and subtle enough to not look twee but bold enough to feel really special. It has a crisp hand, and even though it’s very lightweight, it is opaque on the body and holds it’s structure really well- it isn’t drapey or silky (although the texture is very soft), and even though it’s listed as a crepe de chine, it has a very smooth hand and the textured effect isn’t very prominent. An idea popped into my head that I could use this fabric for one of my VPOs, but I kept talking myself out of it, thinking that it would be too lightweight to pair well with this pattern in particular. Eventually I decided to go for it anyways- once I realized that the pattern didn’t require a heavy or lightweight fabric, it just needed something that held it’s structure well, I felt confident that the fabric would translate beautifully, and thankfully I was right!

First I traced out all my pattern pieces and (thankfully) remembered to shorten the bodice, but it required some extra work. I’m not sure if I have ever seen lengthen or shorten lines anywhere on a VPO pattern except the skirt/pants, and because the bodice is curved on the bottom and has indents to make way for attaching the bodice to the skirt in certain areas, I had to create my own lengthen/shorten lines by redrawing the bottom of the cape a couple inches shorter, then truing the lines of the side seams. Easy peasy!

Next I got to working on the skirt. I had no idea how well it would fit as-is, so I extended my side seams at the hips- VPO patterns come in one size as opposed to nested with multiple measurements, so you can’t grade between sizes and instead have to take in or add extra allowance where you usually grade.  I also widended my seam allowance on the side seams of the skirt from 5/8″ to 1″ so I would have ample room for making adjustments if I needed to. Next I cut the skirt out, basted the front and back darts, then tried it on to see where it needed more adjusting. I brought the back darts in a bit more and toyed around with the side seams til the skirt fit well in the hip and butt area, then I french seamed the side and back seams. All of this was pretty standard fitting stuff for me, but I made one big mistake- I adjusted the fit the skirt without taking into account that the front has an overlapping button band, so when it came time to constructing this part of the design, my skirt fit me perfectly when the front seams met at center, but not when they folded over to accommodate the placket. OOF!!!! ROOKIE MISTAKE, J! Somehow, some way, I was able to fudge things and I ended up squeezing just enough room out of the back french seam to give me a tiny bit more breathing room at the waistline of center front.

This dress is designed to have a lining underneath it, but I was confused as to what it would look like and whether I would end up needing it (I have trouble reading ahead in patterns if I don’t have a 3D visual aid, ie. the garment, to refer to), so I just moved full steam ahead but used french seams everywhere that I could in the event that the lining didn’t work and the insides needed to be finished. Another thing I neglected to take into account when adjusting the skirt was making sure that my bodice matched up with the smaller waistline. The bodice is attached to the skirt at the front and back waistlines and then flows freely underneath the arms, but now my back bodice was much too wide to match up to it. I decided to sew a big dart, beginning at the neckline and extending all the way down to the waistline, to cinch all that extra fabric in, and it turned out beautifully- it just looks like the back was cut into two pieces instead of on the center fold, and the print of this fabric is very forgiving so it looks intentional.

The bodice, though very simple looking, has a very interesting construction. There is a V-shaped dart at the lower front center of the bodice to accommodate the bust area since the dress isn’t fitted at the arms and there are no side seams in this area. I had never created darts like this- they start at the apex of the bust and then pivot before trailing out towards the front center, and because they intersect at the button band, the placket overlaps at the darts. Sewing this dart wasn’t difficult, but the instructions were pretty rough, and the maker should have been advised to use a tracing wheel to mark the seamlines of the darts on both bodice pieces (since it’s not a typically constructed dart, they didn’t show the normal dotted wedge line on the pattern piece to pin together and sew closed). I had to take my darts apart a couple of times to get it exactly right, but once I did, the effect was really cool!

The back neck facing was meant to be cut out separately for this pattern (which was difficult to tell in the instructions- there was a pattern piece specifically for the interfacing but not for self fabric) so I just applied the back neck interfacing directly to the back bodice, which worked out fine except now I had to figure out how to finish the neckline since I wouldn’t be sewing the outer shell of the dress to separate facings. To be honest, I am still unsure of exactly how they wanted the neckline to be completed, since, as I mentioned, the front facings are not separate and are merely extended pieces of the bodice folded in on itself. This is what I meant when I said that sometimes with these patterns you just have to do what makes the most sense to you instead of adhering to instructions that may or may not be correct. I trimmed the neckline of my fabric, made some bias tape, then sewed it to the seam line, understitched, and folded over and under to enclose the raw edge and give a nice, clean finish, which I am very happy with.

Lastly came the lining, and because I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make one, I hadn’t purchased any fabric to use specifically for it. I dug through my stash and found some black organza that I thought would pair well with the qualities of my poly crepe de chine, and it just…wasn’t quite right. The organza was a tiny bit too stiff for the star print poly, and the poly also creates a lot of static, so the dress just clung to the lining underneath instead of gliding over it. Although I loved the way that the lining was meant to be attached to the dress (just at the button band and shoulders, and designed with regular bias bound armholes as opposed to mirroring the lines of the batwing sleeves), I had already finished most of the seams inside of the dress so I just decided to omit the lining and wear a slip underneath if I felt like I needed more coverage- in these pictures you can still see that I am dealing with some static cling wearing a simple silk slip underneath, but in all honesty, the slip is unnecessary.

I bought a few packages of inexpensive but really pretty gold-rimmed white buttons to use for the front of the dress and I think they look great- they don’t interrupt the print of the dress too much and flow well with the rest of the stars around it.

This dress was a LOT of work to complete and of course if and when I make it again I know a million things I will do differently (or not do at all!) but overall, I am pretty stoked at how it looks, especially after seeing these pictures. The print is dynamic but so is the fit- I don’t often see many structural sewing patterns like this and I love the silhouette, specifically that swoop from back to waist to hips and the flow of the sleeves floating off the sides. So cool! I really want to make a pair of bright yellow heels to pair with this dress- I think it would be a nice nod to the bright stars of the print, but I also just love yellow and navy together and think the color combo would be brilliant!

Again, many thanks to Lawrence and Claire, who art directed this photo shoot and came up with some of the most beautiful photos we have ever taken- you guys are a real dream team, we should do this more often!

 

Starburst Dress for Stylemaker Fabrics Blog Tour 2019

Hey hey hey! I am chuffed (can you tell I have British friends on IG??) to be a part of this year’s Stylemaker Fabrics Spring Tour! The tour is an opportunity for fabric lovers to be introduced to and inspired by all the new textiles that the Stylemaker Fabrics online store has to offer, and there have been some really fantastic makes on the tour so far!

I had a really hard time figuring out which fabrics I wanted to work with for my make- there were so many pretty colors and interesting prints that I could have stared at the fabric swatches for days, but then I stumbled across a new-to-me-pattern by Amy Nicole Studio called the Roksi Dress and felt a surge of inspiration. This dress has a simple but clever design- it’s basically three of the same garments of varying lengths layered over each other, so a knee-length swishy spaghetti strapped dress goes underneath a hip-length swishy spaghetti strapped tunic which goes underneath a belly button-grazing swishy spaghetti strapped crop top. Cool, right? I love how this design leaves so much room for playing around with color and print, love what an easy dress this probably is to wear and make, and I love how far you can stretch the pieces out for various looks…the pieces can be worn individually or together in various ways to create completely new looks! Thinking that this was the garment I was going to make, I spotted three different, very summery shades of tencel twill from Stylemaker Fabrics that I knew would look really lovely together, reminding me of a popsicle, or sherbert. Something summery and fun and breezy in the California heat!

Me trying to be in West Side Story

No sooner had I ordered my fabrics than I stumbled (it appears that I stumble around a lot on the internet) upon a version of McCalls 7894 that Bianca of Thanks I Made Them recently completed. I came across it because the McCalls instagram shared a picture of her make on their account and I! WAS! SMITTEN! I had not seen this Big 4 pattern before and if I had, I’m sure I would have overlooked it. For some reason the pattern envelope just didn’t call out to me in any way, shape, or form…however, with Bianca’s spin on it? WHOAH! I loved the use of color in her fabric choices, which made the whole dress feel like a day at the beach, and the style and fit were just so flattering, even with it’s weird waistline which dips down at the sides (not usually my cup of tea). Even though I had been dead-set on making the Roksi Trio, I was suddenly in the McCalls 7894 camp, and I imagined that my three cuts of fabric would transition beautifully into this dress. Ultimately I decided that switching these patterns was a brilliant idea because the Roksi Trio, while it would have looked great in my three sherbet hues, would be better served by playing around more with print and color than just color- every version of the Roksi Trio that uses prints and solids together stands out, and I would love to make this pattern in the future using some exciting prints from my stash!

So onto this here make…I was very out of Big 4 practice when I started this project. Because of my Family Crisis/December Hiatus and a busy work schedule in Jan and Feb, it had been a while since I had created much of anything, much less a Big 4 pattern I hadn’t sewn before, and I was out of practice. Because of this, I made a lot of mistakes that I normally don’t, but fortunately I was able to fix pretty much all of them!

First mistake: I pre-washed a bunch of new fabrics in one load (these tencel twills plus a couple more) and got bleeding on the yellow and peach cuts of my tencel twill (surprisingly the pink didn’t take the bleed). The bleed wasn’t super dark and it wasn’t completely covering the yardage, but it was definitely noticeable and annoying. I think forgot to put a dye catcher sheet in the wash when I was pre-washing these, but I shouldn’t have washed all the pieces together in the first place- this was totally my bad. Also, before anyone suggests in the comments that I should have used that smelly dye-remover stuff to get the spots out, I chose not to use it because I think the results can be ineffectual- when I have used it in the past it has gotten most of a dye bleed out, but never all of it, and it has faded the original color of the fabric I used it on, which I didn’t want to happen- the vibrancy of this tencel twill is one of the reasons I picked it out! As a result of the bleed, I had less fabric to work with because I had to avoid the areas that were dotted with blue. Stylemaker Fabrics very generously offered to replace my fabric, but I wanted to avoid that at all costs- I HATED the thought of wasting all that fabric and I was determined to make this project work with what I had. With some artful placement of my pattern pieces, I successfully cut out most of the dress without getting too many of the blue spots anywhere, although there are a couple of tiny, very inconspicuous places where the dye spills over- but I would have to point them out to you (and you know I’m not gonna do that!)

Next mistake: I totally forgot to grade out from my waist to hips when tracing out my pattern pieces, even though I do it on literally ALL BIG 4 PATTERNS I make, so when I tissue fit my pattern pieces onto my dress form, there was no ease whatsoever in the hips! Instead of recutting my pattern pieces, I decided to simply add extra seam allowance (via paper taped to the edges) to my skirt pattern pieces to accommodate the room I needed. Once I made those tweaks, I sewed the dress up, serging the insides close to the seam line to finish them since there are a lot of curves on the dress and I was afraid french seams would be too bulky. I basted the skirt and bodice pieces together and tried it on and…. I HATED IT!

Image result for hated it gif

It looked awful- ill-fitting, super frumpy, too long…issues I am used to addressing early on in construction with my pattern tweaks. Then I realized why- I had ALSO totally forgotten to shorten my bodice like I also ALWAYS do! What was wrong with me?!? I was such a mess! I didn’t have enough un-spotted fabric to re-cut my bodice so I had to take the easy way out and chop off an inch of the length from the shoulders to raise the dress higher. Of course this was not an ideal fix because it changed the drafting throughout the entire bust area, affecting the armholes and sleeves and making the upper bust area have much more room in it than necessary, but it was the easiest, most efficient fix and it isn’t too noticeable. To accommodate the raised/shorter bodice, I had to take out an inch from the height of the sleeves so that they would fit the shorter armholes, and I also had to extend the opening of the armhole below it’s original drafting so that they wouldn’t be too tight.

Completely separate from the bodice length issue but just as frustrating was the front bust area. It is designed with gathers under each side of the bust, and then it crosses over to wrap at center front, but on me, it looked hideous. Part of this was because I had not yet shortened the bodice, so the waist was way too low making my boobs look like they reached to my belly button (low swinging boobs might be in my future, but I am not there yet!). Beyond that, the look just wasn’t flattering on me- maybe because I don’t have a very full bust so the gathers had nothing to hold. Regardless of the why, I knew I wanted to omit this design detail. I contemplated trading them out for darts but ultimately saw that pleats worked much better, still giving me lots of ease and wiggle room in the bust and keeping in line a little more closely with the original design.

 

Those were the major mistakes changes I made to the dress- once I lifted it up by shortening the bodice, the skirt fit much better (it had initially been too low and wasn’t hitting my bottom in the right spots). Thankfully this tencel twill was a real dream to work with and the fabric was able to withstand a lot of hustle and bustle as I made major and minor changes to the dress throughout construction. I have always been drawn to tencel twill because it has a sandwashed look to it, a tiny hint of sheen that bounces off the fabric when the light hits it in the right spot, so it makes something that would otherwise look ordinary seem much more luxe. The weight of this tencel twill is also particularly nice- it’s got such a nice hand feel, and as you can see, the drape is terrific and pairs well with this dress. The fabric looks beefy without actually being heavy, and it took my sewing AND my unpicking beautifully!

This dress is only lined in the bodice, which makes it feel substantial and supportive while the skirt gets to stay light and breezy. I had been referring to this project as the sherbert dress as it sat in piles of fabric waiting to be sewn together in my craft room, but once I actually started construction I was amazed to see myself transformed into a package of starburst! In this dress I look like a trio of red, pink and lemon candies, and I am not mad at it one bit! This color combo still screams summer, just as I had hoped it would, and I think the choice looks really chic and fun without looking like a kindergartener (no shade to kindergarteners!)

This dress was a lot more work than I was anticipating (again, all because of my own mistakes), but it was totally worth the blood, sweat and tears- I love the overall look of this dress, and something about it feels a little bit vintage to me. I don’t know if it’s the poofy sleeves or the color blocking, but it looks ripped from a page of a seventies teen magazine, and I dig it, man!

Thank you, Stylemaker Fabrics, for inviting me on your fabric tour this year- I never would have made this dress without inspiration from your spring collection, and I know I will have a lot of fun wearing it out in the world! For this dress I used tencel twill in coral, yellow, and melon, and you can find more of the beautiful fabrics in the newest collection at Stylemaker Fabrics here! There is one more stop on the tour tomorrow, by none other than Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics herself, and you can check out her make here!

Lastly, big thanks to Claire and Lawrence (BFF) for teaming up together to art direct and shoot my looks today- Claire is always a big help to me in documenting garments for my blog, but Lawrence’s keen eye for detail and enthusiasm in helping us stage everything was amazing- it was one of the most relaxing and fun times I have ever had shooting blog photos, which normally feel like a chore. I am so so lucky for you both, and thrilled that we got to work together like this- we gotta do it again!

Lawrence doing final touches LOL!

A Rigel Bomber for Claire

I make Claire stuff all the time- hoodies, binders, approximately 326 pairs of Hudson pants- but not all of it gets catalogued here on my blog. Mostly because getting photos of myself in my makes seems to take forever, so trying to schedule an additional person feels downright preposterous. But every once in a while, I make Claire something so radical that it’s essential to catalogue here, and this Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns is a perfect example.

Rigel Bomber

Although I’ve pinned and pined over lots of photos of their patterns, this is the first one I have actually ever made. Hilariously it was gifted to Claire through me (since Claire doesn’t sew), because our friend thought it would be a good style match for her, and she was totally right- this bomber jacket has all the athletic/leisurewear essence of the clothing that Claire is generally drawn to, with a little bit of design flare included.

I have to be honest- I wasn’t a huge fan of this pattern, drafting-wise or construction-wise, but I am not turned off of it enough to not try out another of their patterns in the future, and I do like the outcome of this jacket! Let’s start with the fabric and notions choices, which are probably my favorite part of the whole project, but which definitely took the most time to collect. Last December when Claire and I went down to New Orleans to celebrate our friend Geri’s birthday, we made a stop at Promenade Fabrics because I had heard of what a special store it was. I guess they weren’t quite ready for our crew when we arrived- we were like, 10 people deep, and we barged in on the quiet store with a lot of conversation and squeals of delight (mostly coming from Claire). I got the distinct feeling that the people manning the store didn’t actually think we were going to buy anything. But we did! And this beautiful print is one of them!

Of course Claire is the one who picked this out- it’s got her personality all over it: bold, bright, and totally unique. We had already decided that I would make her the Rigel Bomber but it was taking forever to figure out what fabric she wanted- nothing online caught her interest but she also wasn’t sure what she was looking for. When we walked the aisles of Promenade, she kept asking ‘would this one work?….what about this one?’ and not finding the exact print-to-textile match necessary, but then she found this random little bolt off to the side that caught her eye. We pulled it out and it was stunning! A galaxy print with a bit of embossing on the fabric, lots of silver, gold, yellows and reds. The fabric was expensive but they only had one yard left and although I knew it wasn’t enough to complete the whole jacket, I felt confident that we could supplement the rest of it with something really cool.

Back at home with the pattern pieces cut out I determined that we could get the back and front bodice pieces from the galaxy print and we just needed a different fabric for the sleeves…but what?? I glanced in a corner of my craft room and saw a big box of leather that I had just purchased for a steal from the Brooklyn Shoe Space instagram account. Sticking out of it was a soft, pliable chocolate brown hide that matched the reddish, brownish hues in the galaxy print. “Ever considered leather?” I asked Claire, and her eyes widened.

Once we had the main fabric worked out, I forged ahead. I didn’t muslin (yeah, yeah, I know!) or make any big adjustments, but I did redraft the front neckline to be more rounded- as designed it slants into a V and pulls down kind of low at the front, which I just don’t like very much- I prefer the more classic neckline shape of a letterman’s jacket. Next I re-drafted the facing to match the curve of the neckline of the front bodice, and I liked the look much better, although I could have raised the neckline higher and rounded it out even more. Weirdly, I got pretty stumped by the welt pocket construction…well, not stumped, per se, but dissatisfied. I wasn’t impressed with the techniques they used but I didn’t realize how strange they were til I was already halfway through them and it was too late to change it up. I don’t remember everything I disliked about the method, but I do remember that it lacked a lot of key information, like which direction to press the pocket bags and facings, etc. Pressing properly throughout welt pocket construction is one of the things that makes this design feature look really tidy and professional, so omitting it was a big oversight to me (FYI I really like the technique used in Closet Case’s Sasha Trousers).

I also disliked the size and shape of the pocket- it’s not very deep or long and it was kind of frustrating to sew. Part of it is because the jacket is relatively short and narrow, but I still think it could have a lot more room in the pocket without compromising the design too much. Thankfully the unattractive pocket and welt can’t be seen on the inside of the jacket because I decided to underline it! A regular lining would have been nice but because I used a thick material (leather) for the sleeves, I didn’t want to bulk up that area even more, so I just underlined the back and front bodice pieces with some bright green quilted polyester by basting the lining and outer fabric together and then sewing it as one.

 

Claire had purchased a zipper and a length of binding on etsy once we found her main fabric, but I neglected to tell her not to purchase from any accounts shipping from overseas, since they can take months and months to get here and it’s not the most sustainable way to buy. Spoiler alert: we are still waiting on her zipper from China and it has been THREE MONTHS lol! I ended up having to hunt down ribbing locally once I got to that step in the instructions, and I also picked up a really cool zipper, but lo and behold, when I got back home to use them, they were all wrong. The “ribbing” I bought from Michael Levine’s was actually more of a thin, lightweight, ribbed stretch knit- it was incredibly flimsy when I basted it onto the neckline of the jacket, and the color was also not quite right- a little too bright and orange-y to pair well with the galaxy print. And then! The zipper I got was too long! Which normally wouldn’t matter, but because this is a separating zipper it needs to be exactly the right length for the jacket front.

I took to instagram asking my followers if anyone had any beefy, sturdy ribbing to suggest for me that I could buy online, and Michelle of Stylemaker Fabrics wrote me with a link to the perfect ribbing that she carried in her shop. I bought two packages of waistband ribbing (I used the additional one for the neckband) and matching ribbed cuffs in a color that ended up being the absolute perfect compliment to the jacket- a deep purple-ish wine color that enhanced the purple in the galaxy print and was a nice pairing for the brown leather of the sleeves.


Next I looked on youtube for tutorials on how to shorten a separating zipper, and I found that I could remove some of the teeth with wire cutters and then cut the excess length, but I wasn’t sure how to close off the top of the zipper without an extra pair of zipper stops – apparently you can buy zipper repair kits at a local fabric store, but I wasn’t planning on leaving the house for the rest of the night so I was determined to figure it out with the tools I already had. Somehow, someway, I convinced myself that if I was careful, I could pull the stops off the orginal zipper with pliers and then close them back onto the zipper where I needed them to be, right below where I had cut off the teeth. It took a while and a lot of muscle, but I did it, and it was totally worth it- this zipper is just too cool to not be attached to this jacket.

Because I opted to use leather sleeves for this project, I had to be flexible with a lot of the construction methods- it would have been quick and easy to serge almost the whole jacket, but I can’t run leather through my serger, so I had to sew straight stitches with Nylon thread (which holds up better when sewing leather). I also had to try and reduce bulk in as many places as possible, sometimes skiving the leather down at intersecting seams, sometimes using my mallet to pound the seams flat or open. Using leather took a little bit more time but I adore the look is brings to the jacket.

Another design element I didn’t like so much was the facing, or rather the fact that the facing isn’t instructed to be tacked down inside the jacket around the zipper. On this jacket, the facing constantly wanted to fly open or get scrunched up inside the jacket when it was being put on, and tacking it down was easy since I underlined the outer shell, but on a single layer jacket, depending on the fabric, this might be a difficult thing to do.

This jacket was literally four months in the making but I am glad I kept working on it because it looks really freaking cool and it’s SO CLAIRE! I am hoping that the leather of the sleeves softens up more over time because as of now, even though the leather is soft and pliable, it’s still pretty thick and it needs to be broken in. If I made this again I would probably lengthen it a bit and round out that collar even more (and alter that pocket bag shape!), but I think it fits Claire well and is a beautiful collaborative effort on both our parts. Enjoy, Claire- I love you!

 

 

Purple Backless Dress and Turquoise Animal Print Heels

This little purple number is made from a fav vintage pattern, Butterick 3867, that I first blogged about here a few years ago, but it was inspired by a pinterest image (below) that kept popping up in my feed over the fall. Apparently it’s a look from the upcoming Spring 2019 Madewell line up, and although I don’t follow their brand all that closely, I do love much of what I see from them.

Madewell Spring '16 Is About to Give You a Denim Obsession

As soon as I saw this dress I knew what a dead ringer my vintage Butterick pattern was for it, with only a couple minor adjustments. Although I love my original make of this pattern, I was excited for the chance to redo it; I made the original dress back in the day when my sewing skills were less advanced, so the old dress has a lot of room for improvement. For one thing, my mint green ladybug covered fabric, as pretty as it is, is a cotton voile, which is pretty sheer on it’s own. To make the bodice more opaque, I added a lining to it but I used a silk organza which was the best thing I had on hand at the time. As you might know, silk organza is pretty transparent, and also a bit of a strange pairing for cotton voile- while it successfully beefed up the body of the bodice, it doesn’t really flow well with the voile since the qualities of the two textiles is so different. I also used a white organza which just soaked up my deodorant marks over the years and turned the pits to a sickly green-ish yellow color (my preferred natural deodorants are made with Bentonite clay, which is a MOTHER to get out of light-colored fabric!)

The main adjustment I needed to make to create the Madewell inspired dress was to simply change the angle of the back bodice pieces so that they overlapped at the very top where the neckline is instead of the center. I basically just eyeballed this part and curved the neckline of the back instead of angling it down, then adjusted the bottom of the back bodice lines to meet up with it- everything else I kept the same.

I used a cut of beefy sandwashed rayon that I purchased at Promenade Fabrics on a trip Claire and I took to NOLA last December (SHOUT TO THE GERIATRATRIC CREW!!!!!), and I sewed this entire dress up while shooting in Vancouver this past February, which makes this dress my first #sewnawayfromhome of 2019!

It was a smart project to sew while out of town- I have learned to choose projects that I am familiar with and know will not need a ton of fitting adjustments. Aside from the hacking of the back bodice and creating a lining (the pattern doesn’t call for the dress to be lined at the bodice, but I prefer it that way since it’s basically a backless garment that I don’t want to wear a bra with- lining it gives my babygirls in the front some extra coverage and protection from the cold!), everything else was sewn according to the instructions.

This dress comes with nice, deep pockets, a button closure in the back that goes all the way down the skirt, and a lot of flexibility in terms of fitting- since the gathered skirt is essentially attached separately to the bodice (they only meet at the waistband), it’s easy to make any adjustments necessary at the very end stages of construction.

Again, I still really love my ladybug version, but this purple remix is a real win! It can obviously be dressed down, but I had no idea how chic it would look when paired with heels! I love the body of the fabric- it feels substantial and weighty, but not heavy- in fact, it’s light enough for the skirt to look really full and airy, and the sheen of the fabric in certain light makes the texture look luxurious! And my dress looks even chicer than the one in the inspo pic, if I do say so myself- the Madewell dress has drag lines and scrunching on the back bodice that looks like it either doesn’t fit well around the arms or is just baggy. Jasika 1 Madewell 0.

Now let’s talk about heels!

Inspo shoe:

Check out www.TheStyleBouquet.com #Gucci

I was very excited to get an invite to NYC in early March to take a 3-day shoe making class with the I Can Make Shoes team which is based out of London. I have been shouting them out on IG for a while now because they carry hard to find supplies and have some great free youtube tutorials available on their channel, and although I have been making heels for a while now, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn something new and continue elevating my skills…which I totally did! I had actually taken a satellite class of theirs several years ago when they came to LA for a one day sandaled heel making class, but the most recent class I took with them was 10 times better- for one thing it was taught by Amanda, founder of the company, who was super knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and patient with each of her 10 students, and the setup was much more efficient- 3 days gave us plenty of time to design, plan out, and implement our shoe makes, and we got to work at Brooklyn Shoe Space, a really fantastic shoe making studio in Brooklyn that offers classes on bag making, shoe making, and more. There were so many amazing machines to use at BKSS and I only knew what like, 4 of them were for- there were belt sanders and special leather sewing machines among them, but my favorite was the vented table in the basement that sucked all of the toxic fumes from the rubber cement glue out of the room so you could glue your shoes without passing out from the smell- brilliant!

I soaked up all the wisdom that Amanda and her assistants had to offer, and among the most helpful techniques I learned/clarification on was covering the heel! I have always had a lot of trouble getting a nice, clean-looking heel for my shoes out of leather, but I was cutting out the shape all wrong- Amanda showed me a way to cut a vaguely mushroom shape out of the leather and then make Y-cuts (god, I hate Y-cuts!) along the allowance edges to fold them in, then how to cover the front with a leaf and another piece of leather to get everything smooth looking. I even used a really thick suede to cover my heels and I didn’t have to skive down the edges- with her technique, everything laid down beautifully! I also learned how to make a sole that tucks underneath the heel of the shoe as opposed to flowing down the front of the heel. I actually prefer a sole that goes from heel tip to toe because I think it gives a skinny heel a little more stability with memade shoes, but it’s definitely a great technique to use for wider, thicker heels, and I am so excited to recreate them. Oh! And I also learned how to do the quick version of “welting” a shoe! It’s not really welting, of course- it’s actually just using randing as a decorative edge around the sole of the shoe but I have always liked how those looked and I never knew how to do it! I liked it so much that I bought like 4 yards of randing from my fav shoe components place in anticipation of actually learning how to do it, and YAY WOO HOO the time has finally come!

 

As you can tell, I am SUPER inspired to make more shoes with everything I have been learning! At this point I still prefer to stalk cool shoe designs on pinterest and use that as a jumping off point- I don’t have enough skills (or perhaps creativity, lol) to design shoes on my own- I mean, I’ve done it in the past, but they are not always successful. I think a lot of that comes from me wanting to make sure I create something that I am going to love and that will be wearable, and there are a lot of rules to shoe design that I am completely ignorant of. It’s much like sewing, where, for instance, you know that a woven dress will need a certain amount of ease in specific places to be wearable, and that’s just a rule of the craft that you learn early on and carry with you in all your makes. There are similar things in shoe design where, like, you don’t want the back of the shoe upper to come up past a certain point of your leg or it will dig into your ankle when walking, or how you can’t pair heel components with a pair of lasts that don’t match the lasts’ toe spring or it will make you walk funny. It’s cool to be absorbing all this information but it’s mostly through trial and error since I am self-taught, so I am slowly gaining more knowledge through copying other designs and figuring out why certain elements work and how.

BKSS has a huge wall full of stunning leathers to choose from, and although I had a good idea of what I wanted my design to look like, I was completely open to color and texture, and I figured I would wait to see what I was drawn to from the available materials. There are countless times on this blog where I have talked about how I don’t like animal prints, so it was hysterical for me to feel myself reaching for yet another animal-print leather, at the same time realizing that the last THREE pairs of shoes I have made have all been with animal print leather, lol! I couldn’t take my eyes off this blue green roll of amphibian-inspired leather, and I liked that it had so many other colors in it: it was blend of turquoise, and blue and even had a tiny hint of black in there, so, although a bold choice, I felt like it would pair well with a variety of garments.

I chose a deep royal blue suede for my straps and heels, and went with a brighter turquoise leather for the insoles and lining. I used some of my black shoe elastic for the buckle, a material I started incorporating into my shoe making after I completed my snakeskin print heels– elastic helps provide some flexible ease to your straps- if you have any strappy heels/shoes in your closet, take a look at the strap that holds the buckle around the ankle and chances are you will see a small fold of elastic doubled over  to connect the strap and buckle together. Not all flat shoes with straps have it but I have found that the majority of modern RTW heels do. It makes the shoe a bit more comfortable when walking and allows the straps to stretch out a bit instead of clinging fixed and tight to your ankle. My favorite thing about my inspiration shoe was the peep toe because it’s so tiny and isn’t big enough for a whole toe to force its way through (something that happens with me and peep toes a lot since I have a long second toe, argh!), and I think that on my next pair I will make the peep even tinier.

I am super happy with how these shoes came out, and construction and design-wise I wouldn’t do anything differently, although the sewing on one of the ankle straps is pretty atrocious- I blame it on the fact that I was using a new-to-me leather sewing machine that I was in love with, but that definitely required some fierce maneuvering that I just wasn’t skilled enough to master. Because my ankle straps were so thin, it was hard to get the edge of the strap under the needle (this machine didn’t have a bed to rest your material on, just a skinny little raised platform, so for thin straps you have to work hard to keep it from slipping off the machine). I might go back over that area on my home sewing machine if the stitches ever start coming out, but for now, it’s totally unseeable to the naked eye since that area of the strap is covered by the buckle and strap end.

Thanks once again to Claire for these glorious photos, and stay tuned for another exciting installment of my adventures in shoemaking in a future blog post…and yes, they are made of animal print!

 

 

Oslo Coat + Phillipa Pants + No Frills Sweater

Whoah! Long time, no blog, eh?? Excuse me while I get comfy and settle into these old digs…

I will not bore you with what a busy, roller coaster of a couple months it has been, but if you are on instagram you will know that I have been busy making and planning and storying, but not at all busy taking photographs. Thankfully Claire helped me rectify this yesterday in which we had a perfectly cloudy afternoon to take photos of all my blog-worthy makes from this far into the new year. Today’s blog post brings you not one, not two, but THREE makes that I am really happy with and have been wearing like crazy the past couple weeks.

First up is the Oslo Coat by Tessuti Patterns, a really popular coat pattern that I added to my list of to-makes last year when I decided I was ready to sew up this gorgeous plaid wool from The Fabric Store (I do not believe they carry this fabric anymore because I got it a couple years ago when the LA store closed down, but they have plenty of other exceptional wools to choose from)! Having already made a couple of coats/jackets for myself in the past (like this Kelly Anorak and this Vintage Vogue Coat), I was familiar with coat making but definitely want/need more experience and techniques under my belt, and I knew that Tessuti wouldn’t disappoint. Tessuti has a way of simplifying patterns that might otherwise be complicated by the instructions of a different designer, and I always enjoy sewing up their designs. I was particularly drawn to the Oslo Coat because of it’s subtle cocoon shape. Los Angeles winters are never so cold that you need a heavy parka to get through them, so I knew a casual, relaxed fit such as this would serve me well, and it has (although it has been uncharacteristically rainy this season, which no wool coat is perfectly suited for, but that’s another story)!

As expected, the instructions for the Oslo were straightforward and easy to apply almost all the way through. This coat is designed to be lined and I decided to quilt the blue-gray silk I used with cotton batting, a choice I am oh-so happy with. No, it technically doesn’t get that cold here in LA- particularly if you are visiting from the east coast. But if you’ve been living here for a while, your tolerance of coldness changes and 50 degrees can feel like it’s absolutely freezing (yes, there is a scientific reason for this, something to do with the way your blood changes over time in certain climates, so don’t @ me!). Anywho, I didn’t use full-on Thinsulate, but I wanted a little something to beef up the coat and keep me warm on the chillier days. So I cut out cotton batting to fit my cut of silk yardage, pinned the layers together like I was making a quilt, then spent a few hours on my straight-stitch vintage Singer with my quilting attachment, sewing straight lines in one direction and then again at 90 degree angles across the whole length of fabric. There were definitely some wobbly lines and less-than-perfect angles but I knew they wouldn’t be obvious once inside the coat. After all my quilting was done, I cut out the lining pieces from the pre-quilted fabric and I serged the edges to keep the silk from fraying too much (I also serged my wool pieces once they were cut out because this wool wanted to fray like crazy as well).

I didn’t make any adjustments to the pattern other than in length- I cut off about an inch and a half from the sleeves and a little bit more from the body of the coat, but I missed one important detail here- the body of the coat has it’s lengthen/shorten lines at the hem instead of somewhere further up the coat, like at the waist or hips, which means that when you adjust the length, the pockets stay exactly where they are. This becomes an issue if you are more petite like I am, because the length will shorten but the pockets will stay at the height of someone much taller. The result is that once I inserted all my side pocket details and finished them up, I tried the coat on for fit and the pockets were so far down that my fingers couldn’t even touch the bottom. This was awful news, for what’s the point of having a pocket if you have to literally hold the pocket up with one hand and fish around with the other to get the contents out of it?? Totally my mistake, of course, but I guarantee you I won’t ever make it again! There was no way I could remove the pockets without sacrificing the integrity of the fabric in those areas since the wool got so fray-y and there was so much topstitching that would rough up the textile once unpicked, so I left the pockets as they were and sewed the pocket bags of the lining a couple inches shorter so that there was less depth- thankfully they are drafted with a ton of room so losing that area didn’t affect the functionality of the pockets at all. They are still quite a bit lower than I would prefer, but definitely still usable.

My other snafu is a two-parter that involved inserting a bound buttonhole on the coat. Bound buttonholes of course are meant to be applied before the lining goes in but this meant that I had to base the button placement on where the pattern says it should go vs. where it fit best on my body. Because I made a straight size and didn’t grade up at the hips like I normally do (I figured there would be plenty of ease in the coat to accommodate my butt), the coat gets tighter at my hips- not so much so that it doesn’t fit or isn’t comfortable, but it means that the closure needs to be further to the outside so there is more room in that area. As designed, the button placement makes the coat tighter around my hips which becomes apparent because of the straight vertical lines of the plaid that- when I buttoned it with the original buttonhole, got wavy and shifted inward instead of staying vertical. Ah, hindsight! To remedy this, I just added another bound buttonhole on the other side of the jacket (meaning it closes the opposite way it was intended to) in the proper place that made sense on my body, and I sewed the unusable bound buttonhole closed and covered it with a button (the original design is only supposed to have one button but mine has two, lol).  Although I would love to have foreseen these issues from the beginning, I am totally happy with how I ended up fixing my mistakes and I don’t think the average person would recognize that there was any issue with it at all. I used fabric-covered buttons for this coat which I think looks really sharp and makes the two buttons look more intentional and I also added a loop to the back center neck so that I hang it on a hook if necessary

Before bagging out the coat, I decided to add an inside welt pocket to the lining (which I was contemplating doing, then decided against it at the last minute cause I just wanted to finish the damn thing, but then I saw that llaydybird was making a coat at the same time as me and she made herself an inside welt pocket that came out beautifully, which felt like a sign for me to not be lazy and just get her done!) and I am so happy I did because this pocket is a bit easier to use in terms of putting stuff into than the side pockets of the coat (see above snafu number 1).

The only other issues I had with this make were at the very end when it was time to bag the coat out. There is an approximately 2 inch allowance required for bagging out the bottom of the coat and the sleeves, and for some reason unknown to me, that allowance just didn’t work. 2 inches created a bubble at both hem and sleeves meaning there was too much fabric folded up in there, so I had to go back in, unpick all the hand stitching at those areas and decrease the allowance. I am assuming this has to do with something I did (or didn’t do) and not the pattern drafting, and I think it just comes with the territory of getting familiar with new techniques and working with thick fabrics like wool and quilted fabric. Regardless, I was able to fudge the bagging enough that it mostly lays smooth at the hem and the sleeves are perfectly flat.

All in all I LOVE how this coat turned out- I love the easy, relaxed fit of the raglan sleeves, I love the dramatic fold-over collar, and I love the roominess inside- you can wear a super bulky sweater or even a light jacket underneath and it won’t feel too tight or uncomfortable, and I end up mostly styling this coat to wear open with a lot of layers underneath. Although this is designed as a big comfy cocoon-type coat, I actually prefer it more as a jacket- this is not the garment I reach for when it’s super cold outside. Because I beefed mine up with a quilted lining, it’s certainly warm enough to endure some very chilly Vancouver days (which is where I first wore this make), but because it doesn’t close at the neck, it is not an ideal cold weather coat for me. My preferred coat is actually just a giant scarf that covers up every inch of my chest and neck, lol. For me, to provide adequate warmth, I have to layer this coat up with turtlenecks and scarves, and even then I find myself clenching the collar closed with my hands so no cold air will touch my neck. I considered adding a hook and eye or something to the neck to close it up should I ever need to wear it for colder temps, but I might just relegate this make to cool-not-COLD weather wear and call it a day!

Whew! That was a lot of coat talk! Okay, next we have the Phillippa Pants by Anna Allen Clothing, sister to the Persephone Pants that everyone (including myself!) went gaga over last year. These pants did not disappoint at all, although I did make some changes to them that I should probably continue to work on for my next pair. I love both these designs because of the high high high waist! High waists are not for everyone, but as someone with a long torso and shorter legs, high waists make me feel like I am taller than I actually am and I just love the silhouette on me. They also make me feel more comfortable than lower-rise pants do- there is no risk for buttcrack peepage and I don’t spend my days pulling the pants up by the belt loops to keep them from riding down. The leg shape on the Phillippas is very interesting- it’s a totally straight side seam allowing you to use selvedge denim which is awesome, but it also means that the legs don’t curve at all to your body’s shape, and although I like the idea in theory, I am not quite sure it works on me. When I basted the side seams up and tried them on I immediately thought they needed some work and got to molding the legs to fit my thighs and calves. I might try and leave them as-is next time though- it’s a style I am not used to but it might just be because of habit rather than preference (fine line, ya know?). Because of my tinkering, I think the area around the knees could use a bit more attention- I feel like they look baggy and wrinkly, which is actually an issue I experience a lot of with close-fitting pants, so I should probably look that up in my Pants Fitting For Real People book and see how to fix it.

With these pants I made a size 2 graded to 4 at the hips, and I lowered the opening of the button fly 3/8″ to give my hips plenty of room to get in and out of. Like with the Persephones, I had to take the back darts in about an additional quarter inch, but I kept the waistband straight instead of making it curved like I normally do for pants. Because these pants sit SO high on the waist, and because I already have a low butt, I actually don’t need the curved waistband at all- my body is pretty straight up and down where the waistband of these pants hit. I decided to give the button fly technique used on these pants a second try even though I disliked it so much the first time with the Persephones- I thought maybe I had made a misstep in the construction or something and I wanted to give it another go. Nope. Still don’t like this technique at all. It came out better than my original pair of Persephones which were so bad I had to take the whole thing out and start over with a different technique, but that’s not saying much. I prefer the Closet Case zip fly method or even the Lander Pants button fly method, and if I am not mistaken, both of those employ the “basted closed” method, which I think ends up looking much neater and cleaner.

As far as a woven, non-stretch high waisted pant goes, this pattern is pretty terrific, and I am eager to compare it to the Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans which are a more traditional jean style with the same high waist as these. I don’t remember where I got this black denim from but I believe it’s Cone Mills, and it’s very good quality. As suggested, I made these pants really tight so that they wouldn’t bag out after wear, but I could have made them even tighter- I have only successfully nailed down the ‘non-bagging tight woven pants’ fit once before, with the yellow Persephones I made last year. These are close, but not quite as good at not bagging out after a day of wear. After a few hours I notice that the main place they bag out is in the yoke area of the pants (there is no actual jeans yoke on this pattern, but it’s where the yoke would be- back of pants, below the waistband and above the pockets), and this is actually where all my high waisted woven denim pants bag out, which makes me wonder if I should take out a horizontal wedge from this area on future pairs, grading to nothing at the side seams. It’s definitely worth a try! One thing I didn’t notice about these pants until I tried them on is that they have no front pockets! I am actually fine to just use the back pockets since they are a good size and fit my phone easily, but still it’s something to keep in mind if you prefer front or side pockets on your jeans.

I dont like using jeans buttons with button flies because I think it gives too much wiggle room in the fly area where I want it to be very fitted and tight, so I used Abalone buttons from my stash for this pair. I am on the fence about them, mostly because they keep falling off! While I don’t like the extra room jeans buttons provide, I do like the stability of a hammered button, so I am on the lookout for some flat denim buttons, and in the meantime I might just have to sew some nylon thread through the buttonholes and then melt the ends closed on the other side to keep them in place.

OKAY, FOLKS, we are nearing the end! To close out this interminably long blog post, I will briefly share with you my No Frills Sweater, a pattern by a knitwear designer named PetitieKnits that I randomly found on instagram when I went down a rabbithole of handmade sweaters last year- I was itching to get back into knitting and I thankfully found a lot of inspiration on IG to bring my knitjo back. The No Frills Sweater, like all of PetiteKnits other designs, is very simple but has a beautiful shape, and I have learned that I much prefer sweaters made with thinner yarn, like fingering weight, than I do bulkier Sport and DK. Knitting in fingering weight creates more of a drape-y fabric, which fits my current style and sensibilities in a way that thicker sweaters dont (and again, I’m sure much of this has to do with living in LA).

My skin is very sensitive to 100% wool so I have been using blends with merino, cashmere and nylon/cotton/bamboo lately, which has made a huge difference. I used a Caroline Toes gradient set from Miss Babs Hand Dyed Yarns for this sweater, and it is incredibly soft, only minimally itchy, and a joy to knit up. Of course I ended up running out of yarn to complete the sweater as designed, so my sleeves are only half length instead of full, but I’m still happy with how it turned out, and because the yarn isn’t super thick, I can get away with wearing this garment almost like it’s a t-shirt. I had never knitted up a color blocked or gradient sweater before, so I had to be careful with how much yarn I used so that I would have enough of each color for the sleeves. I didn’t use any specific technique, I think the yarn gods were just on my side to have me eyeball the lengths of yarn I needed so accurately.

This sweater is very uncomplicated, but I did have a bit of confusion around the yoke area which I think comes from the pattern being translated into different languages- the instructions are in english but are written/structured a bit differently than most I have worked with, and it took me a while to understand them. I actually completed the yoke and then immediately frogged it and started it over once I got the rhythm of what I was supposed to be doing with the short rows for the back yoke. But once I had that part to my liking, the rest was just stockinette all the way through, which was nice and relaxing to come back to after such a long hiatus from knitting. I never blocked this sweater once it was complete because it didn’t seem to need it, and I am really in love with the fit. It feels loose and relaxed but not boxy or too big for my body, which has always been a struggle for me with knitted sweaters, and probably one of the reasons I took such a long break from making them.

Thanks to Claire for taking these fantastic photos for me, and thanks to you for getting this far in my blog post! It’s always a joy to share my makes here, from what I learned and loved to what I would do differently next time, and I appreciate you taking the time to read 🙂

Sointu Tee Hack

This was such an unexpectedly fun (and quick!) dress to make! I was moderately impressed by the Sointu Tee by Named Patterns a few years ago when I made it while filming in Savannah, GA, eventually pairing it with my Sasha Trousers, and while I love the way it looks and fits, for some reason it’s just not the first garment I reach for in my closet. Perhaps because I made it in a really nice merino blend from The Fabric Store which makes the top very warm and cozy, contradicting the fact that it is essentially a short sleeved blouse designed for warmer weather. The window of opportunity to wear this “tee” in the fabric I made it from is pretty small. But still, in terms of the design elements, I love the silhouette of the dramatic sleeves, the cinched in waist, and the big belt. As always with Named patterns, the garment is kind of huge on me, even though I always make the smallest sizes offered, so if you are petite and checking out this brand for the first time, one of the (many) suggestions I would make would be to size down a bit, if possible.

Anyways, I hadn’t made the Sointu Tee (often referred to as the Kimono Tee) for myself again after my gray wool version, but I stumbled across a photo of Corrine Bailey Rae on pinterest wearing a dress that seemed to be a dead ringer for the Sointu Tee as a foundational pattern. I was drawn to Rae’s dress because of the supple, pillowy looking fabric (and also that color!), the slightly oversized fit, and the super thick belt that managed to pull the whole look together. I also loved that sweet, simple, yet effective neckline. The actual details of the dress look about as complicated as a paper bag, and yet it’s still such a chic, elegant and fun looking garment!

I shared the image on my IG stories a while back, explaining that I was looking for comparable patterns to match with some inspo outfits, and although I had a few ideas in mind for some of the garments, I was interested in hearing what suggestions others had to offer. For this particular dress I was eyeing either the Sointu Tee as a hack or the Sew House 7 Teahouse Dress, but then an IG follower sent me a photo of the dress she hacked out of the Sointu Tee pattern to great effect and it looked terrific, so I was sold! 

I initially hoped to find a pastel-colored fabric to work with for this project like the one from the inspo pic, but I found a really cool black twill ponte at The Fabric Store instead, which seemed like a smart idea. If a project you haven’t made before goes south, it’s way easier to cover up any flaws in black fabric than it is in pastel mint green! I did have a couple of flaws that I needed to cover up, but nothing too horrible. 

The Sointu Tee is a very simple project to make and it’s great for beginners. As mentioned above, one of the things I don’t really love about Named Patterns is the fact that their fit tends to be so generous, and part of this is because they rarely specify what fabric a design should be made out of – I guess maybe they want sewists to be able to make them out of whatever fabric they want, whether it’s knit or woven? But I am of the mindset that not all designs translate well from knit to woven, so the drafting should be adjusted accordingly- the result is that the smallest size in all the patterns I have made from this line have been entirely too big. However, this works very well in the favor of a newer sewist- more ease drafted into the pattern means less headache trying to get each part to fit perfectly. This pattern has no sleeves to set in, and only two main pieces to work with- the belt, loops, sleeve and neck bindings are simply smaller rectangular pieces that won’t require any fitting or adjusting for most projects. 

For my hack, I made the following changes:

  • added a seam allowance on the front piece so that it is no longer cut on the fold; this was the best way for me to achieve the split-open neck detail on the front. 
  • extended both front and back pieces to my desired length (about 18″) and widened the side seams of both pieces to around 1/2 inch at the hem, grading to nothing at the waist- there is so much ease drafted into the tee that I didn’t need to add any more around the hips and thighs, but I did extend outwards a bit to keep the flow of the side seams intact.
  • adjusted neckline on the front so that it was slightly lower and accommodated the neckline detail (cut a narrow ‘V’ out of the top 3 inches).
  • widened belt and belt loops.

Unfortunately I made a few mistakes along the way despite my insistence on what an easy hack this is to complete. I forgot to interface my belt, which may or may not be a problem in the long run- the ponte is pretty thick and bulky so I don’t imagine it will stretch out considerably during wear, but it’s still something I should have done. I also tried to top stitch each side of the front center seam of the dress as illustrated in the inspo pic, which would work on some fabrics I’m sure, but not this one- it made the seam wavy and warped and I had to unpick the stitches and then steam the crap out of it to get it back to the original shape. Thankfully the top stitching around the neckline detail laid down beautifully and didn’t need to be ripped out. However, the next time I make this, I will allow for extra seam allowance at the front center pieces so that I can make a wider band of topstitching down the front, as in the inspo pic- I love that detail but didn’t pay attention to it properly to make it work for my garment. I didn’t interface the sleeve bindings because my fabric was stable enough to not need it, but depending on the fabric used, you can keep or omit it (I have seen other sewist’s comment that this was an unnecessary detail so I think most people skip it like I did). 

Other than that, the dress came together incredibly quickly. The most time I spent on it (after all that unpicking of the front center wavy topstitching!) was hand sewing the blind hem- and FYI, because the dress has a slight curve to the bottom depending on what you did with your lengthened seam lines, you might need to baste the hem first before sewing it down to ease in that extra fabric. I also had to adjust the position of the belt loops to my liking- I ended up raising mine to be really close to the under the arms because I don’t like the belt hitting my actual waist, I prefer it a bit higher for this silhouette, right around my ribcage. 

And that’s it! I was very lucky to have my talented friend, fellow actor and spin instructor, Jess Nurse, take these blog photos for me when we got together to do a fun photo shoot a couple weekends ago, and they came out SOOO great! Unfortunately, as with most black clothing, it was really hard to show all the details of this make without zapping all the color out of the images, so you have to squint kind of hard to really see the details of the belt and drape of the fabric; but honestly, this is such a simple make that there isn’t too much you have to imagine on your own, and I hope you can get the feel of the dress despite the black fabric!

I also wish I had been wearing my newly made furry heels in these photos, because I was inspired to make them in this leather and texture after I started making this dress- I thought the two would go beautifully together, but alas, the soles were still waiting to be glued when we took these photos. No worries though- I have other outfits that I think these shoes are gonna look KILLER with, so they will have their chance to shine on the blog eventually!

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs6hZkDhUdv/

And lastly, here are a couple of really fun shots Jess got that don’t quite show off the dress, but still evoke a pretty fantastic LBD mood…thanks again, Jess, for sharing your talents with me!