Desmond Rolltop Backpack vs. Retro Rucksack

I took a break from the endless fitting and adjusting of Ginger jeans-making to work on a relatively quick and satisfying project for some instant gratification: behold the Retro Rucksack!

1.3_blogIn my last post I talked about how this is a pattern I would never have made without seeing this version of the bag first. I love the fabric choices Cut Cut Sew used- the colors are simple and sophisticated, the waxed canvas is super cool looking, and the Pendleton wool gives the bag a dose of sturdiness and a nice texture. I was inspired to make a near-exact replica of her lovely version, but thick wool isn’t a smart material to use in Los Angeles with the weather here generally being on the warmer side of mild. So instead, I copied her use of waxed canvas, a material I had not worked with before, and traded the Pendleton wool for a grid-designed medium weight canvas from Miss Matabi. I absolutely love the way the waxed canvas feels, looks and operates- it has the visual effect of well-worn leather without being finicky to sew with (although I do think this bag would look amazing in leather, too- maybe next time!)

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The whole reason I was inspired to make this bag is because I made THREE of the Desmond Rolltop Backpacks for gifts this past Christmas, and I was all too pleased with how they came out. But although I love the design, the finished product is a bit bigger than the everyday-use/over-the-shoulder bag I was looking to add to my own wardrobe. The Retro Rucksack pattern seemed to blend a lot of the elements I liked about the Desmond with something a little…well, daintier, for lack of a better word. After having made both of these bags (numerous times, even), I have to say that I am more impressed overall with the Desmond Pack because of it’s excellent instructions (and accompanying sew-along posted on Taylor Tailor’s blog) and its’ super-smart design. Sewing together square edges for boxes while using thick fabric is  known to be a tricky maneuver, but the Desmond uses a design that is easy to sew and makes the seams on the bottom of the bag look crisp and clean. Not so much with the Retro Rucksack though- you basically have to sew a rectangle onto a curved edge once you get to constructing the exterior of the pack, and because there are so many thick layers, there isn’t a good way to ease the fabric into the seam. It took me about 30 minutes to get the seams for the bottom of the bag sewn relatively straight and wrinkle free, and they are still far from perfect. I am sure there are all kind of tricks to sewing sharp seams with curved edges, but I personally prefer patterns that take these matters into account with the design.

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I also like how the Desmond pattern stresses the importance of sewing multiple lines of stitching over areas of heavy use. I ended up using a lot of the techniques I learned for the Desmond pack in making the Retro Rucksack, but despite some of the less-than-clear instructions, I am super happy with how the rucksack turned out and I think it’s a good pattern. I wanted my bag to be lightweight, small and portable, like the canvas grocery store tote I had been carrying around with me for months, and that has most definitely been achieved.

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I decided to nix the zipper for better accessibility to the inside of the bag (and also to eliminate a bit of weight and bulk), but I wish I had added a looped strap in the top of the bag to hang it on a hook. The side pockets successfully accommodate an iPhone and there are good sized pockets on the inside of the bag, too (although I accidentally put my lining in backwards so the zipper pocket touches the front of the bag instead of the back of it- NBD, but I will be sure NOT do that next time).

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I used some random (stained) linen in my stash for the lining that had been given to me years ago, and the tea-colored stains give the inside of the bag an aged, vintage look, although I hope that the old fabric holds up to consistent use. Thankfully, replacing the lining in the future wont be too much of a hassle because the lining and exterior are only connected at the top seam of the bag (and then I can re-insert the lining with the zipper pocket on the correct side!)

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The Desmond Rolltop Backpack construction was a little more involved than the Retro Rucksack, but it is absolutely worth all the extra work that goes into it. I love the detail of the webbing sewn onto the straps, the use of the hooks and D-rings (I used some of the same ones I bought from Taylor Tailor’s shop on my Rucksack), and the extended outer zipper pocket on the front of the bag.

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For Claire’s bag (shown in this post), I used a herringbone upholstery fabric for the exterior and a plain un-dyed canvas for the lining. The first time I made the Desmond bag I made a crucial mistake in the placement of the band on the top of the bag that holds all the straps in- somehow, some way (I swear I wasn’t drinking), I sewed that whole section like, four inches below its’ intended placement. So when I tried the bag on to admire my work, you can imagine my horror when I saw how short it was and realized I had messed up the placement and I needed to redo everything. And there is A LOT OF STITCHING there because that’s where most of the weight for the bag is held, so the straps need to be sewn down with many rows of stitching in several different places. It took me forever to rip all the stitches out. FOREVER, I tell you! But you better believe I never made that mistake again! Each of the three Desmond bags I have made have been well received- this will definitely be a staple in my pattern stash- I think the design is pretty flawless and there are so many cool ways you can personalize the design elements, with color blocking, using denim topstitching thread, and even incorporating leather.

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Thanks to Claire for these awesome pictures! You make my work look so good 🙂

Below are a couple of snapshots of the Desmonds in the wild:

@bishilarious gets gifted #desmondbackpack number 2!!! And it's looks great on her! Merry Xmas, Binty!

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@trycuriousblog) on

Brittani with her Desmond pack made of duck canvas fabric for the exterior and steel grey webbing!

https://www.instagram.com/p/-fWqdVxF_S/?taken-by=trycuriousblog

This cute blue version was gifted to my friend Lawrence- I don’t have any pics of the bag except for this one close up. It was modeled after Taylor Tailor’s bag on his blog- made of extra denim I had in my stash and used with the reverse as the right side.

Claire used this bag as a carry-on when we were traveling over the Christmas holidays and it was STUFFED TO THE BRIM. I was so nervous that the seams were gonna rip, but this bag is much sturdier than I even gave it credit for.

Happy bag making, friends!

 

2016 Projected Projects

How quickly time flies- it was only a year ago that I wrote a post about New Year’s resolutions and how they aren’t really my jamp, but how I do like to occasionally map out plans and ideas for the year ahead. I promise I am not going to do a repeat of that in this post, but I did want to keep you up to date with how my plans for this past year went. My main goal was to be more thoughtful about how I spent money, because I was noticing a penchant for fabric hoarding (among other things) that felt wasteful and, at times, gluttonous. I wanted to limit my monthly spending so that I wasn’t buying things to fill some kind of gap or avoid experiencing a negative feeling, so I gave myself a monthly spending budget, which in turn made me think really smartly about what I divulged in. I am happy to report that the budget was a success; I haven’t found myself swimming in excessive amounts of unused fabric and almost all the fabric that I have purchased has been with an express purpose in mind. There is certainly still room for improvement so I will keep working on being a thoughtful consumer in the new year, but I consider 2015 a win in this department, so YAY, ME!

For my 2016 new year’s post I thought it would be fun to lay out plans for what I do (and don’t) want to work on this year; I am hoping this project list helps to keep me on track.

First up, more GINGER JEANS! Claire was promised a pair of her own for Christmas which I unfortunately did not get around to making, what with the loads of other handmade gifts I had to finish before the holiday. So she is getting her pair in the new year. I will be simultaneously making myself another pair since I have been dying to try out the stovepipe version of the Gingers and haven’t had a chance to in the past year (for one thing, it was hot as Hades in LA over our “summer”, so my body didn’t even touch a piece of denim from like, May to November.) I am super inspired by this awesome photo (seen below and grabbed directly from her site) of blogger Suzy Bee Sews jean pocket design for the pair that she made, but I am planning on using a mint green top stitching thread for my next pair, and something tells me that both of those design choices wont work well together (I particularly like how Suzy’s blue thread underscores the boldness of the pocket design). Experimentation might be required here, so stay tuned.

Next on the list is this gorgeous bag that Cut Cut Sew made from this pattern.

I have to admit that I would never in a million years have made this bag based on the original photos accompanying the pattern. NO SHADE TO THE PATTERN DESIGNER! But the fabric choices/styling just aren’t to my taste and I am unfortunately not very skilled at envisioning different design choices in this manner. I can do it with physical spaces and things, like poorly decorated homes or empty rooms, or even pieces of furniture that need reupholstering, but with clothing and accessories? Nah. Spotting good “bones” in patterns just isn’t in my wheelhouse, which is one of the reasons that this fashion sketchbook by Gertie was such a great Christmas gift for me- I want to get better at visualizing and manipulating projects before they are constructed, and I am hoping that using croquis will help me. Anyways, I got this ruck sack pattern as a gift and I immediately headed to etsy to buy some waxed canvas fabric, D-rings, webbing and hooks. I have been using a crappy stained canvas tote (which is much better suited to cart groceries around) as my “purse” for months. It’s easy to grab and go at a moment’s notice, and because it is so simply made, it kind of “goes” with everything . But I am ready to replace it with something more unique and fashionable, and I cannot WAIT to get started with this project, especially after I made THREE Desmond Backpacks as Christmas gifts for other people this year! It’s time for me to have an awesome handmade bag of my own.

Yet ANOTHER awesome Christmas gift I got this year was this DIY quilting kit.

It’s from a company called Haptic Lab and I saw it for the first time on cashmerette’s instagram several months ago. I am a smitten kitten now. The design uses a tear-away template that you use to guide your hand stitching/quilting (which is pretty genius), and their online store has even more cool designs. I am in the middle of a giant knitting project at the moment and I really want to finish it before I start working on something new, but I am not sure how long I am going to last- these constellations are just so pretty, and a quilt is the perfect thing to work on during this chilly LA winter we are having.

Next up: outerwear!I have never made a coat before and I would love to try my hand at it this year. The window of cold weather in LA is pretty small but it definitely still requires warm clothing- it has been getting down in the thirties at night for the past several weeks, which is customary for all you east coasters but pretty rare for So Cal. The only kind of coat I am missing from my wardrobe is a fancy one, one that I can wear with long dresses and gowns. It took me a while to find the exact silhouette I was looking for but eventually etsy showed me the way with a beautiful and simply designed floor-length vintage coat pattern.

https://www.instagram.com/p/-FrrfuRF4w/?taken-by=trycuriousblog

I took a recommendation from someone’s blog and purchased an inexpensive tailoring how-to book to help me figure out the best construction techniques to use since the instructions for this pattern are pretty bare. I still haven’t found the wool I want to use- it would be fun to go big and bold with pattern and color, but I want to get the most wear I can out of this so I will most likely choose a stately charcoal colored wool with a bright and pretty lining for the inside.

Several months ago I blogged about making the Kielo Wrap dress with fabric from Girl Charlee, and recently Named Patterns came up with a fun little hack for the dress– they introduced a sleeve pattern piece and some small alterations to shorten and take in the dress to below-the-knee length. I fell in love with the image they shared on their blog for the altered dress, which you can see below. I haven’t even had a chance to wear my fancy version yet (I’m still searching for the perfect black strappy heel), so this more casual rendition really excites me because I think I will get a lot of wear out of it. Before the holidays came around, I bought a beautiful and sturdy striped organic knit in an earthtoned colorway specifically for this dress, but of course I never had any time to make it. Every time I see these stripes I want to stop what I am doing and just run down to the craft room to whip it up (it only took a day to make my original Kielo dress), but I am being patient. It is definitely at the top of my priority list, though.

I requested the Simplicity pattern below for Christmas after the delightful blogger behind Miss Celie’s Pants tweeted about it.

It will be the latest addition to my small but growing collection of #DIYRedCarpet dresses (two of which I haven’t even blogged about yet, even though I have worn both of them to events in the past year! Bad blogger!) It requires something ridiculous like 10 yards of flowy fabric, which I find both daunting and fantastic, and I am hoping that both Renee (Celie’s Pants) and Marcy (of Oonaballoona fame) will join me in posting about all the antics that come with constructing this monster because I know it’s in their project list, too.

There are quite a few gorgeous patterns posted up on the indie company Republique du Chiffon’s website, but this jumper is the first one I am attempting to make. It took a while before this pattern was available in English but as soon as it was I rushed to my computer to buy it because I had already spied it somewhere in one of Ginger Make’s posts from months ago and pinned it to my “Clothing Inspiration” board.

I bought a super soft, medium weight twill fabric in oxblood colorway from Miss Matabi, which has been sitting very patiently on top of what I like to refer to as my “fabric couch” (once upon a time it was a regular couch used for sitting and laying down, but the more my project queue gets backed up, the more the couch becomes a storage unit for my unused fabric and my in-progress pattern pieces). Is this the right kind of silhouette to compliment my frame? Do I have the right boots to wear with it? Are the dimensions and measurements going to work well on me? Honestly I have no idea, and I don’t usually take such leaps on faith on patterns anymore, but this jumper was just TOO cool to pass up. Fingers crossed and hopes high!

I have been reading about this new book, Boundless Style, for months. I am absolutely in LOVE with the concept (mix and match patterns to help you become familiar with designing your own clothing in striking, feminine silhouettes- oh my!) but my experience with Victory Patterns (of which Boundless Style is an off shoot) has been pretty disappointing. I bought two of their paper patterns, the Ava dress and the Nicola dress, and followed the directions to a tee, but the fit/proportions were so horrific on one of the dresses that I actually threw it into the garbage can after spending days trying to salvage it. The other dress had to be altered and manipulated so much that some of the main design elements were totally lost on the finished product- the petal sleeves were clownishly large and had to be redrafted and re-inserted, the darts were the wrong sizes and in the wrong places, and it was unwearable without a slip underneath because the front flaps open so much when you walk and sit down that you end up flashing everyone; not necessarily a design flaw but definitely something to note in the description of the garment. I love the designs and the styling of these patterns, but so far 100% of my attempts have been unsuccessful, so I am nervous to spend money on a book which might contain patterns that are equally as problematic for my body as the Victory styles have been. But the pictures…oh, the pictures! SO many gorgeous dresses and shapes and cool ideas for making unique garments. Ideally I would buy this book and just spend the time working on all the pattern blocks included with it so that they fit my body and I can use them as intended. It’s a nice project for the new year, right? And I would only become a better sewist with that kind of work under my belt. But is it really going to be worth my time? Will ALL the patterns need to be altered? I need some outside influence with this one. Anyone have issues with Victory patterns before, or is that just me? Care to rant or rave about this book and push me in one direction or the other? Please, comment away!

My last project for this next year is to NOT make all my Christmas gifts in 2016! Making my christmas gifts for friends and family has been a point of contention for me, which I touched on in my last post about pottery. As Claire and I boarded the plane to head back home to LA after spending Christmas with my family in Florida, I was overwhelmed by how excited I was to get back home and get into my craft room again. There had been so many personal projects piling up over the season and now that Christmas was over, it was the first time in months that I would have a chance to work on them. I always told myself that I never wanted my hobbies or my art to feel like work, but when you are putting in hours around the clock to finish making gifts on a tight timeline, it’s impossible for it to NOT feel that way. Sure, making gifts for friends and family feels more personal and more thoughtful, and I do enjoy a lot of the process, but I am not sure it’s worth the stress and anxiety I put myself through trying to finish everything on time and praying that it fits or that the recipient likes it (cause you can’t get a gift receipt for the stuff I make). So my plan to remedy this is…well, to just stop doing it. I am not sure exactly how this will play out, but maybe one year I can make some gifts (not all of them anymore, just some of them), and the next year I can either buy local, or buy handmade. Or maybe I will always buy local and handmade Christmas gifts from now on and stop making them entirely. Sewing and crafting and knitting is mostly self care for me, and it doesn’t seem fair to deprive myself of that support in the way that I have been. If I feel inspired to make a gift for someone then I will certainly honor that feeling, but I wont force myself into becoming a one-woman Santa’s workshop anymore. Surprisingly, I feel really good about this decision because I know it’s the best thing for me. And hopefully this next year will be chock full of more decisions that I feel really good about. I hope the new year brings the same for you!

Happy 2016!!!

 

 

TryCuriousity and DIYing Your XMas

Hi, folks! There has been a really long hiatus from this here blog because 1) Claire and I haven’t made time to plan out photoshoots and 2) I have been neck-deep in Christmas present making for the past three months so I don’t have that many makes to share in the first place.

I have this fairly complicated relationship with the Christmas holidays, as detailed in this article I wrote for Autostraddle, but to sum it up for you, I hate the pressure of the holidays to consume, consume, consume and spend, spend, spend. Because I am not a religious person I wont resort to complaining about the true meaning of christmas or anything (since I don’t really have much of a connection to that), but I do have a real distaste for the idea that Christmas seems to boil down to adding more things and stuff to our lives and the lives of the people we love. To combat this disconnection and try to promote more meaningful gift giving for myself, I started DIYing the bulk of my Christmas gifts a couple of years ago, and I have to admit that it has been a real game changer. It has made me more excited about the gift giving process (and the holidays in general), it has given me lots of time to sit and think merry thoughts about the recipients of my gifts as I make them, and it has made me cherish the relationships with my friends and family in a way that clicking “add to cart” on amazon just doesn’t.
However, DIYing Christmas does NOT come without it’s cons. Making the bulk of my gifts is particularly tricky for me because about 90% of my friends and family member’s birthdays fall in the months of October, November, December and January, which I also tend to celebrate by handmaking gifts, so the tendency to get overworked and overwhelmed during this season is tremendous. By the time December rolls around, I am usually stressed, kicking myself for biting off way more than I can chew, and feeling more than a little antsy to get back to making things for myself. But is all seems to be worth it when I get a text from someone saying how much they loved the package of homemade bath and beauty products that I sent them, or when I see someone open a gift that was made specifically with them in mind and their face lights up with excitement and gratitude (I’m looking at you, Lawrence!)

I don’t intend for this blog post to be a pity party- I know exactly what I am getting into when I commit to making Xmas gifts each year and no one is to blame for the hard parts of that decision except myself! Instead, I wanted to share a new venture I embarked on at the end of the summer which ultimately contributed a huge part to my DIY gift giving: POTTERY!

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speckles_blogClaire suggested we learn pottery together because LACC was offering classes that took place at a studio in our neighborhood. I had never taken pottery before, aside from hand building clay pieces in my high school art class. My trycuriosity got the better of me so we decided to sign up, and it should come as no surprise that I was pretty much immediately hooked. Our teacher, Torros, is just LOVELY.

This is a terrible picture of me/ excellent picture of my beloved pottery teacher Torros!

A photo posted by Jasika Nicole (@trycuriousblog) on

He is the kind of teacher who offers advice when you need it, but who otherwise let’s you experiment and learn and grow at your own pace. I love having that kind of freedom in my art classes. With some artforms, like painting, I seem to have a very rigid idea of what constitutes as “good”, and I am very hard on myself when what I create doesn’t seem to match up to those ideals. But with pottery, I have had such a different experience. Maybe because I started out with low expectations of what I was capable of- I had never worked at a wheel before, and for all I knew I would be terrible at it. And if I was terrible at it, I wanted to be okay with that and still enjoy the process. So I just followed Torros’ simple instructions and figured a lot out on my own. When I made something that fell apart, I scraped it off my wheel and started over. And when I worked on a piece that didn’t seem to be turning out the way I had hoped it would, I wouldn’t give up on it. I would keep my hands on the clay until it morphed into something unexpected and cool or until it had been worked so much that it had no more life left in it. Working this way was SO much fun and it made the end results so exciting because I rarely started making any pieces with a prediction of how they would turn out.

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This is my favorite piece and the only one that I made sure didn’t get given away as a gift. Technically it’s supposed to be a sauce bowl (see the spout?), but I’m sure there are even more ways that I can use it. The result of the glaze was a huge surprise and delight.

My happy-go-lucky attitude with pottery was working wonders for my own creative fulfillment, but apparently it was not appreciated by everyone. One day I was at the wheel working on something that started out going in one direction, but along the way it lost steam and needed coaxing to be brought back to life. I slowed my wheel down and started carefully re-shaping the lip of my piece, which had folded over and needed to be cut off. It was working itself into a delicate opening and looked like the ripple of a wave, and I was enjoying the process of turning a mishap into a thing of beauty when I heard a man’s voice across the room yell out “Torros! Help this girl! She doesn’t know what she’s doing!” Surely this man wasn’t talking about me, I thought to myself, but still I slowed my pedal and lifted my hands to look up and see what was happening. The man was staring straight at me. He said “You need help! Torros, you gotta help her out!” I was immediately offended and I snapped back “This is actually EXACTLY what I want to be making right now, I don’t need anyone’s help, I am very happy with this!” Thankfully Torros glanced over at my work and backed me up. “She knows what she is doing, she is just fine. It is going to be very nice,” he said to the man, who in turn just kind of grunted and went back to making his beautiful, perfectly shaped containers with lids.

I couldn’t believe the gall he had! It’s one thing to privately dislike someone’s art- everyone is entitled to their opinion and I am certainly not interested in impressing him or anyone else by my participation in class. But to publicly declare that someone doesn’t know what they are doing when they try their hand at making art? I would never have the audacity to tell a fellow student in an art class that they didn’t know what they were doing, no matter how little I liked the work that they were creating. This is STILL boggling my mind. And believe it or not, I happen to have an actual time lapse video of the piece I was making right before he tried to call me out (see below)

https://www.instagram.com/p/-A3PQ1RF97/?taken-by=trycuriousblog

Despite this asshole’s unwarranted commentary, I proceeded to make about 20 finished pieces of pottery, and I am not sure that I could be more happy with how they turned out. This was such a unique experience for me, such a departure from the way I usually go about learning a new technique in a class setting, which is usually filled with a bit more self-criticism and bit less lightheartedness. All but two of these pieces I have decided to keep for myself, so this is a spoiler for any of you that got gifted a piece of hand made pottery and haven’t opened or received your gifts yet!

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Here is a layperson’s rundown of the pottery making process:

  1. Get some clay.
  2. Put it on your wheel.
  3. Center the clay, which means spinning your wheel very fast and using pressure from your hands to make sure the clay is completely even and centered on your wheel.
  4. Form it into something you find beautiful, then cut/slide it off the wheel.
  5. Let it get a little dry but not all the way.
  6. Trim your piece, which means leveling off the top and bottom with tools to get them even, and smoothing the edges and sides. If you are making a mug, attach your handles.
  7. Let it dry completely.
  8. Fire it up in the kiln.
  9. Sand down any rough edges.
  10. Wax the bottom. Glaze it.
  11. Fire it up in the kiln one mo ‘gin.
  12. Sand the bottom so it doesn’t scratch the surfaces you set it upon.
  13. ENJOY YOUR CREATION!

The glaze part of the process is definitely the most fascinating, impressive and bizarre part for me. It’s kind of a mixed bag in that you don’t ever really know what it is you’re going to end up with. The colors of the glaze don’t necessarily match up with what the final effect will be, and when certain glazes touch each other, they create new colors and textures that you can’t always predict. For the glazing part, I just kind of give in to the universe and keep my fingers crossed that it comes out looking okay, which so far has worked in my favor. Most of my pieces have three different glazes on them, and some of the glazes really elevate the entire piece of work.

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This is Claire’s favorite. I used wax, which you coat the bottom of your pieces in so that they don’t get glaze on them and then get stuck to the bottom of the kiln, to create a leopard effect on the top piece of the jar. Everywhere the wax is, the glaze wont stick to, so the dotted parts are just unglazed, fired clay peeking through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there you have it! I am so excited to have the basic skills of working on a pottery wheel in my toolbox. In the new year I plan on making a 4 piece table setting for our home! Seems a little ambitious, I know, but I have faith that I can make it happen over time; the possibility of eating off of beautiful me-made plates and bowls is just too amazing to not attempt 🙂

Thanks to Claire for all the amazing non-instagram photos of the pottery!

To all, I hope your holidays, if you celebrate them, were bright and merry as can be! And happy new year!!!

Your pieces shrink a lot when they are fired so my perfectly normal sized mugs came out quite a bit smaller than I intended- next time I make them I will have to form them into giants!

Your pieces shrink a lot when they are fired so my perfectly normal sized mugs came out quite a bit smaller than I intended- next time I make them I will have to form them into giants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design*Sponge Feature!

An Actor and an Analysts Home- Design*Sponge

I feel REALLY lucky to have found my way into the Design*Sponge circle in the past few months. I am thrilled to announce that I will be in Grace Bonney’s new book In The Company of Women, coming out in Fall 2016. The book is comprised of interviews with a diverse group of women who are photographed in their “workspaces”, whether on sets, in lecture rooms or in offices. Grace and her team photographed me both in my craft room and in my garage, where I do most of my furniture and upholstery work (and also a lot of my shoe making since the garage offers more ventilation for toxic cement glue fumes). I wore my mint green ladybug dress since it was my most recent completed sewing project, and I had SUCH a great time; Grace is funny and thoughtful, she has a great laugh and she is and easy to be around- one of those people that makes you immediately feel comfortable no matter where you are or what you’re doing. I felt like I could hang out with her for hours. I cannot wait til the book comes out (I would be purchasing this thing even if I wasn’t in it- the caliber of women Grace interviews is really fantastic!) and I will definitely share it here on the blog when it’s ready for pre-order.

In the meantime, I am also happy to share (even though I am like a week late- sorry!) a tour of our home  on the Design*Sponge website: An Actor and an Anaylist’s Home. It was a lot of work putting this together because my friends and I were filming an indie feature (#SuicideKale) at our house at the same time we were trying to keep everything super clean and tidy for the photos. FYI I do not recommend doing two projects like this at the same time. BUT! The photos came out great thanks to Claire and I am so pleased with the lovely feature that D*S put together! Design*Sponge has long been a source of inspiration for me, particularly when I was bored and rained-in for 4 years in Vancouver, living in a furnished home and obsessing over all the fun DIY projects I would tackle when we finally moved back to the states and lived in our own place. Having our home featured on such an incredible site is basically a dream come true for me, and I am very grateful to D*S for the opportunity!

The ‘Assault Free’ Bodysuit: Nettie by ClosetCaseFiles

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I made a version of this Nettie bodysuit by Closet Case Files when it came out over a year ago. I had just started to get into sewing with knits at the time, so every completed project felt like a success. And I was thrilled with the fact that such a great pattern existed in the face of the entity that is American Apparel. People always talk about the good things this company has done over the years, namely employing Americans/immigrants in US-based garment factories with liveable wages and benefits, and that is undeniably awesome. But I always felt like the good the company did in terms of it’s ethical labor practices was vastly overshadowed by the countless cases of abuse, harassment and assault that so many people who worked within and for the company had to face. I used to read JANE magazine religiously when it was still in print and I remember seeing this amazing/disturbing piece of journalism by JANE contributor Claudine Ko and reeling from anger and shock. That was the first I had ever heard of the awful antics of AA founder Dov Charney, but it would not be the last; since then there have been tons of think pieces and essays and anonymous accounts of the habitual sexual misconduct within the company, not to mention the fat-phobia and body shaming that American Apparel not-so-secretly promotes.

All of this is to say that Heather’s Nettie didn’t just feel like another awesome pattern to add to my stash- it felt like a warcry. I had been empowered with the tools to make a garment that seemed to belong almost exclusively to a company I hated (American Apparel is known for their knit tees, leotards and gold lamé leggings), effectively shooting a figurative bird at their poor business ethics and misogynistic practices. Currently, American Apparel seems to be threatened with financial ruin, and the rumor is that they will be closed by year’s end. I hate that it happened this way. I would much rather the company had shut down the bad behavior as soon as it was discovered so that it could focus on being a great example in the global fashion market. But, alas, that is not what happened. The good news is that AA showed the world that it was possible to create a successful international clothing brand made on American soil; hopefully other companies will follow (some of) their footsteps in the future. The other good news is that, thanks to Heather, I don’t have to rely on any of those future companies to provide me with a great fitting bodysuit!

full_frontal

Speaking of the bodysuit…I ran into a little problem with it when I made my first version. The pattern gives you the option to line the front with a shelf bra so that if you make the low back or scoop neck version, you don’t have to worry about wearing a regular bra with it, which would most likely peek out. But when I inserted my shelf bra in my bodysuit, it did this weird puckering thing at the point where the bottom of the “bra” met the side seams. Because the bottom of the shelf bra has a length of elastic sewn onto it, it was pulling the side seams taught, and it was very noticeable when I was wearing it. I realized too late that this was because I had graded the bodysuit to a smaller size in the waist, so the dimensions of my shelf bra were off and causing the elastic to make the sides pucker. I intended to immediately make another version to fix the issue, but I procrastinated, and it wasn’t til much later when the 2015 Sew Independent contest was announced that I found my opportunity.

posing

I made my most recent version of the Nettie bodysuit in a jeresy rayon fabric that was a mistaken online purchase (I thought I was buying supplex for activewear, but the fabric was too soft and pretty to return). This time I fixed my issue with the shelf bra by ommitting the elastic all together, which worked out beautifully- I have a small chest so I don’t need much (if any) support at all, and the fabric of the shelf bra lays down fine without the elastic. All other aspects of the construction were exactly the same as before, and I am SO pleased with it. Now that I have figured out my shelf bra issue, I just want to make this again and again and again cause this bodysuit goes with EVERYTHING.

back_view

In these photos I paired my Nettie bodysuit with a circle skirt I made with instructions from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing and fabric from The Fabric Store. And right before the pics were taken I had just finished an appointment with my acupuncturist so I have cupping marks all over my back that look pretty weird and perhaps even unsightly. It usually takes several days or even weeks before these bruises fully disappear so I took my pictures sooner rather than later before they got darker; thankfully you can’t see the REALLY dark red ones on the sides of my neck. Apologies to any squeamish people out there, and in case you haven’t experienced the process before, the cupping doesn’t hurt at all- for me they are the equivalent of giant dry hickies 😉

 

Quilting! Inspired by Quilting!

Like most of my creative endeavors, quilting is not something that I officially learned how to do. I was living in Vancouver and feeling miserable and bored because of the endless rain when somehow or another Claire and I stumbled upon a little fabric shop called Spool of Thread. It was bright and warm inside, the staff was friendly, and they had bolts and bolts of the cheeriest, prettiest fabric ever. At the time, the bulk of their fabric was quilting cotton (though I think they might have expanded their inventory to include more apparel fabric in the past few years) and just standing in the store felt inspiring. One of my co-stars and his wife were expecting their second child during our production, so I thought that this would be a good excuse to try my hand at quilt making. I looked online for patterns and found some remarkably cool projects, but they all seemed too complicated for what I was interested in doing. I appreciate ambitious designs, but I was more interested in the simpler quilts that had less pieces and less fussiness about them (or maybe I was just lazy and wasn’t interested in following those perplexing patterns). Whatever my reasoning, I figured that I only needed one important piece of information- what a quilt is made of. That was easy to figure out online: a quilt is one layer of batting sandwiched between two layers of fabric, with one of those fabric layers usually comprised of patch worked fabric. And the “quilting” action referred to sewing those three layers together, either by hand or by machine, using a variety of different methods and machine feet.

Education= COMPLETE.

firstquiltswatchesI headed back to Spool of Thread and bought small yardages of several floral prints, all in the same color family with a (surprise!) vintage aesthetic. I also bought my first rotary cutter and a small self-healing cutting mat cut because I read somewhere that those were helpful items to have for a quilter. I laid out all my fabric on the dining room table of our rented house and just started cutting out large rectangles and squares of fabric. I had drawn a very basic template of the design for the fabric pieces, and when I was happy with it, I sewed it all together. Easy peasy!

 

first_quilt

firstquilt_laidout

firstquiltpatterns

I was intrigued by the freehand sewing feet that some quilters used to achieve the pretty curvy flowy quilted look on their blankets, so I bought one and I LOVED IT! I was really sore after my stints of quilting with that foot because you have to grip the blanket with both hands firmly and guide it through the machine in whatever swirly pattern you are creating, but it was so worth it- the final look was so professional and the swirls I created looked just like my lines of drawing.

The final step of my quilt making process involved sewing bias tape onto the edges, and I learned from the Colette sewing book that you could make your own bias tape with a special bias tape making tool and a little bit of regular fabric. So I went out and bought it (this tool has become one of my absolute favorite sewing tools) and made yards and yards of my own bias tape, and then I sewed it onto the edges of the quilt. My bias tape application was REALLY raggedy at the time- I have since learned of a much cleaner, smoother way to sew bias tape which involves machine stitching it on one side and hand stitching it on the other- and I am not a perfectionist, so I don’t mind barely noticeable mistakes in my makes.

hand sewing bias tape to second side of quilt.

hand sewing bias tape to second side of quilt.

I was so amazed with the look of the final quilt that I wanted to keep it for myself (true sign of a great gift, no?)  and my very next project was a quilt for us to keep.

personal_on_table

 

personal_closeup

 

personal quilt

In the years since, I have made several quilts as gifts for our friends having babies, and the quality has gotten better with each one. My designs have gotten more ambitious, too, although I still don’t follow patterns. I no longer draw out quilt designs beforehand, either- now I just choose arbitrary measurements for my squares/rectangles, cut out lots and lots of pieces in those sizes, and then start laying them out together in a pattern that looks good to me, adding more fabric if needed as I go. It probably takes longer than knowing exactly how many blocks I will need to cut from the beginning, but it also feels like an adventure, waiting to see how the piece will unfold as I add each piece of fabric.

Levi_pieces

Looking back, there were definitely some weird choices I made in the construction of my first few quilts because I didn’t know any better, but none of them were “mistakes” per se; as long as your finished item functions as intended, there is no such thing as a mistake, right? I have learned over the years to make smarter quilting decisions, like using 1/4″ seam allowance instead of 5/8″. As mentioned, my bias tape application has evolved considerably, and I have also played around with my quilting technique; once I used a regular straight stitch to sew lines straight across a blanket in small increments, and it gave it this stiff, mat-like quality that I really liked.

cloesup_greys

Greys_folded

Most recently I used the “handquilt stitch” function on my Bernina to give my brother’s new baby’s quilt some old-school dimension, and it came out beautifully. To work that stitch you have to play around with the tension a bit so that the bobbin thread (which is the color that you will see on the blanket) comes through to the other side, but the clear thread that you thread through the machine is essentially invisible on the top of the quilt. It’s a little tricky because the tension has to be really tight which ends up breaking your thread a lot, so it’s time consuming, but it is still faster than free hand quilting and certainly requires a lot less muscle.

Levi_purple_back Levi_laid_out

Jess_Levi

Jess_Levi_closeupWhen I first learned to sew I always thought that quilting was a boring project to take on- you don’t get to wear it, and there didn’t seem to be a lot of creativity involved in it. This, like so many thoughts I had in my twenties, turned out to be wrong wrong wrong. Making quilts for people has been one of the most satisfying gifts to create because I know that it will never go out of style, and if I have designed it nicely enough, it will stay with the baby for always. A couple of times I have made baby blankets with juvenile fabrics, which came out really sweet (because who doesn’t love those light pastels?!) but now I try to use more mature fabrics in the hopes that they will be designs the baby can grow up with.

Bree_laidout

Bree’s mature baby blanket

I got really lucky with my most recent quilt I made for my brother’s baby. Claire and I stumbled upon an estate sale two blocks away from my house, and the occupant of the home had been an avid quilter with boxes and boxes of folded quilting cotton in one of her spare bedrooms. The sign said “$5 for whatever fabric you can fit in a plastic bag” so Claire and I went to town, choosing anything that fit in with a green and blue theme. When I got home I added pieces from my own stash to the mix, trying to choose fabric that had been used in some of the clothing I had made in the past. I’ve got the button down shirt I made for my brother Nick in there, the octopus fabric I used from Claire’s favorite button down, and the ladybug cotton I used for a vintage dress I made for myself a few months ago.

Declan2

Declan’s Big Boy Quilt

Sometimes when I am in a sewing rut and I don’t feel inspired to make anything on my To-Do list, quilting is the best remedy. It allows me to be creative without having to engage any complicated techniques, and there is something really straightforward and therapeutic about the process, especially when it comes to the actual quilting. A quilt, from start to finish, takes a little bit of time depending on the size of your project, but by the time I am finished with one I usually feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle more advanced  stuff. Ultimately, my favorite thing about making a quilt as a gift is how much I think about the recipient through every step of the process. I think about fun memories of my time with the parents and about what wonderful families they will make; I think about what the baby will look like, and I imagine them at different stages of their life with their blanket in tow. What if these quilts survived long enough to make it to the baby’s adulthood? What if they were displayed like wall hangings in their first apartments, or better yet, folded up into the crib’s of their own babies in a few decades? AHHH, THE POSSIBILITIES!!!

 

 

Side Boob DON’T into a Maxi DO

I don’t want to bore anyone with my tales of woe regarding Burda Patterns, because I know it’s not a solitary camp of one. I’ve read your blog posts about your love/hate relationship with them; I relate to how easily you fell for their dazzle and glam and gorgeous designs, and how disappointed you were when you read the instructions and realized that they were severely lacking…that they were missing some steps…that they might have even been missing some pattern pieces (true story). I have vowed off and on over the past few years to never buy another Burda pattern again, yet I have a collection of at least 20 unmade Burda PDFs in a folder on my computer, just waiting for me to feel weak and desperate enough to take another plunge into that dark abyss. Despite my issues with Burda, I find them to be a source of endless inspiration, and I have seen far too many beautiful makes by seamsters way more patient than I to write them off completely. But they get a lot of side-eye from me. So. Much. Side. Eye.

A few years ago when I was getting into sewing a lot and I hadn’t yet discovered that Burda patterns were an accurate depiction of my own personal hell, I  chose a gorgeous long dress pattern with a beautiful open back and lovely cap sleeves called the Open Back Dress 03/2013 #111.

Open Back Dress 03/2013 #111

The look was feminine and flirty and romantic, or at least that’s how the styling for the model was on the accompanying photo. When I pieced together my 100 sheets of printed paper and finally got to cutting the pattern out, I noticed that the skirt pattern required about half a mile of material at the waistline which was supposed to be gathered. I was worried that all this fabric would create unnecessary bulk at my waist and swallow me up, so I cut the skirt pattern down to half  it’s size in a gradual A-Line, and I felt proud of myself for catching this design flaw. This should have been a red flag right here, but instead of examining all the other parts of the dress to make sure they would work for me, I just kept going.

Finished dress. Note the angle of the camera so you DON'T see the side boobage.

gaping

Construction was a nightmare: when I finally sewed all the bodice pieces together and tried it on, it gaped at the sides, but also needed way more coverage for all the side boob that I was showing (and I don’t even have that much boob in the first place). The front of the bodice seemed to float away from my body instead of laying down properly against my bust and I thought that carefully sewing bra cups into it would give it some shape but it didn’t at all- it just made it feel bulky.

side boob

The bodice was so ill fitting that it pulled the skirt up in the back at the waist, so the bottom of my skirt drifted up higher behind me than in front. I was so excited about actually finishing this garment that I was in denial about how poor the fit was, and I even wore it out a few times. It was quite an ordeal though- in order to get the bodice to stay put I had to line my whole torso with stay tape so that the dress wouldn’t shift around and expose anything.

why ride up

I guess the design of the dress was dramatic enough that no one really noticed how wrong it was on me (I still got plenty of compliments) but I was never comfortable in it, and once summer was over, it went into storage and I forgot about it…until this year, when I begrudgingly hung it back up in my closet when it got warm again. I don’t know anyone else with my exact body size and shape, otherwise I would have given it away. My other options were to trash it or donate it, and I didn’t want to do either. Even though the fit left much to be desired, I really loved the fabric. I wanted a large print to balance out the length, and I found this sort of interesting cotton floral fabric at The Fabric Store that met my criteria, but it wasn’t bowling me over…until I turned the fabric over and saw that it had this hazy, worn, vintage look to the underside of it. This was one of the first times I thought outside of the box in terms of design choices on a garment, so saying goodbye to it felt weirdly sad.

fabric detailJust a few days ago, as I pushed this dress to the side of my closet for the umpteenth time and cursed it for taking up so much space, I had a thought- the bodice was awful, yes, but the skirt? The skirt was actually pretty great- it was the perfect maxi length to wear with flats, it was easy to wear and comfortable, and the fabric, as I said, was really cool. I decided that I would NOT throw the dress into my goodwill pile where it would most likely get sent to the dump anyways, and instead I would lop off the bodice and add a waistband and a button.

2.4

Perfection!

Speaking of dumps, the bodice of this dress has NOT been thrown in the garbage yet, because I have not given up on this Burda design. I am keeping it in hopes of redrafting the bodice pattern into something that will actually work on my frame. All it needs is for the front piece to be extended on the sides to cover up that side boob and for the back bottom pieces of the bodice to be cut longer so that they follow the natural waistline instead of riding up. By the way, I am not a stark opponent of the side boob; like most design elements, side boob has it’s time and place. Like at a red carpet event with styled hair and lipstick and heels. But side boob does not (for me at least), belong on a dress meant to be worn to picnics and flea markets.

 

2.3For all my criticism of the fashion industry, I know am not blameless in the act of being wasteful and greedy for fashion’s sake. I still spend time and money on making things that are virtually unwearable, and if I can’t gift those end results to anyone, into the garbage they will go. This happens less often the better I get at sewing, but some things are simply un-salvageable, and I REALLY hate throwing yards of fabric into the garbage. It felt really great to take this dress, a garment that I was sure I would eventually throw away, and instead recycle it into another wearable version of itself. I would love to be able to do this with every single one of my failed makes, but that’s not realistic. I can at least attempt to salvage my disasters, though; if only a handful of them turn out as successfully as this one did, I could count myself lucky.

Viva la refashion!

Living a Try Curious Lifestyle

trycuriousblog_graphic

It dawned on me recently that my interest in creating things was big enough to merit it’s own little world here on my website. Technically this site is supposed to put me in the ranks of modern actors who update their pages with information on upcoming performances and showcases and classes and resumes, but if I am honest, I have never felt quite “in the ranks” of modernity with my job anyways. My life as an actor is, in my opinion, the least interesting thing about me; I am not the most talented person in my field, and there are plenty of people with my job who are much more well known than I am. But what does make me special is my fascination with creating things with my hands, the incredible amount of patience I have with myself, my trust that there is little in this world that I cannot accomplish. So I (re)introduce to you TRY CURIOUS BLOG, a space dedicated to sharing in the delights of living a try curious lifestyle! I have Claire to thank for this fantastic title, which seems at once fitting and silly and inspiring, while giving a nice little nod to my own queer identity. So far my life in creative curiosity has acquainted me with power tools, shoes lasts, boom mics, vintage sewing machines, onigiri molds and bentonite clay, and I feel a thrill every time I have another opportunity to expand my world. The older I get, the more enthusiasm I have for the process as opposed to the final product, and this has diversified my artistic endeavors tremendously. Thanks so much for being a reader of this blog and for showing your support with comments and likes.

Here’s to living a Try Curious lifestyle together 😉

Ode to JNCOs By Way of A Birthday Suit

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

 

this is so embarrassing.

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

Vogue 9075 (with sleeves)

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

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

 

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

 

full frontal

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

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

 

Single Spandex Knit + Kielo Wrap Dress

I have been preaching here about the wonders of the online shop that is Girl Charlee for over a year now. I first learned about them in a post by Heather of Closet Case Files who suggested their store as a resource for making her famed Nettie bodysuit and dress. If I haven’t made it abundantly clear on this blog, I am a big fan of Heather, and pretty much anything she says I will do. Like, if she started a sewing cult I would most definitely run for secretary. Anyways, I have been buying up Girl Charlee stock like it was my job ever since. I love this online retailer because they have a huge variety of prints, their site is easy to navigate and their fabrics are affordable. Plus, they separate all their inventory by type, which has allowed me to learn the difference between a cotton jersey, a cotton lycra, and a jersey rayon spandex; two years ago I wouldn’t have even known that there was a difference between these fabric contents.

Recently Girl Charlee contacted me and asked if I was interested in a blogger collaboration with them and they sent me a couple of yards of a single spandex knit. I was excited to note all the differences this fabric had from the knits I had become accustomed to working with; for one, it’s slinky, but it hugs and drapes the body without looking (or feeling) clingy. It doesn’t wrinkle easily, and it was lovely to work with- the edges don’t curl up as much as with some cotton knits, and it didn’t stretch out under the foot of my sewing machine, so I was able to sew a lot of the pattern pieces together without the use of pins. As you can see, the right side of my fabric has a black background with a white rose-looking pattern printed on it (the roses kind of look like they are made out of zipper teeth, which is why I was drawn to this fabric- I liked that it was a floral print that didn’t look too precious). However, the back of this fabric is all white with a little bit of the black showing through, so this fabric is best suitable for projects where you wont be able to see the underside of it- unless that is what you are going for.

GC fabric close up

The pattern I used for this project is by indie company NAMED CLOTHING. I always thought that their patterns were a little too modern for me since I prefer more traditional silhouettes. But I gotta tell you, I am now a convert.  With only 3 pattern pieces and 4 darts, I was very skeptical of how the Kielo Wrap Dress was going to look. The instructions suggested either a knit fabric or a woven, which inspired significant side-eye from me. A knit OR a woven? How do you get a successful look from one design using two very different materials? But I ignored my fears. Why? Because I am TRY CURIOUS, that’s why! Armed with my single spandex knit and 3 pattern pieces, I went to work. This dress was cut out, sewn and hemmed in a matter of hours. If you are anything like me, you know exactly how satisfying it is to start a project in the morning and have it ready for wear that night- not like I had any place to go on a Wednesday evening, but it’s the principle, right?

3The dress turned out to be stunning.

HOW?! Magic, I tell you! You can’t imagine how many vintage patterns I have sewn that say things like “Easy Sew! Make It In An Afternoon!”, only to look like I am wearing a giant fabric bag with a matching belt by the time evening rolls around. NAMED seems to have taken the concept of simple, straightforward construction and injected enough thoughtful design elements into the patterns to make the results look elegant, no matter what your body type (and I have a sneaking suspicion that those vintage Easy-To-Sew patterns look so amazing on the envelopes because the illustrated women are 11 heads tall and have 16 inch waists).

1

2Here is what I love about this dress:

  • It doesn’t look like a traditional wrap, because you can actually see the wrap (most wrap dresses wrap inside of itself).
  • It can successfully be made with a woven or a slightly stretchy knit fabric, so the possibilities are limitless; depending on your fabric and print, this can be made into a casual or a dressy look.
  • The instructions were uncomplicated and the whole pattern was a quick and easy sew.

And here’s something unexpected- the dress looks really cool even without the ties. It’s definitely a modern kind of silhouette, but left untied, the sides hang down and give the dress a really interesting look that is not unflattering. This is the kind of pattern you can play around with, by either leaving off the ties or color blocking the back and front pieces to create some visual interest.

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I am so happy with this dress; matched with this uniquely printed fabric, it came out looking a lot fancier than I anticipated. This is being added to my #DIYredcarpet wardrobe, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to wear it out soon.

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