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).

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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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Dixie DIY Bonnell Pattern Review

Mercury must be in retrograde because I have been feeling SUPER out of the loop these past couple of weeks. For one, I was completely unfamiliar with the sewphotohop hashtag until it started showing up all over the new (public) instagram account I started that is dedicated to my TRY CURIOUS lifestyle (a more in-depth post about that is on it’s way, but in the meantime you can follow me here!) Once I saw all my favorites like Heather of closetcasefiles and Erica from Erica B’s Style posting great photos, I wanted to dive right in and join them, but it was already several days into the month-long process and I was too far behind. But in addition to that, I thought this would be a great opportunity to read/look/learn/be inspired instead of immediately joining the social media fray. I enjoyed participating in the #memademay challenge for the first time this year, but I don’t want to get in the habit of adding my voice to so many choirs that I can’t even understand the music anymore. Hm. That was…a weird analogy that I just made up. Apologies. But the right sentiment is there. With so much access to social media, it’s really easy to want to make a lot of noise just to keep up and feel like you are an active part of all the hub bub. Which is totally okay! But it’s also okay to take a backseat and absorb all the wisdom and insight that others are offering.

Okay, so the sewphotohop hashtag had been underway for days before I even knew what it was, and then I notice everyone in sewingblogworld talking about this pattern bundle offered by Sew Independent, an awesome tiered package of PDF patterns by indie designers for a really great price- the more money you spend, the more patterns that come in your package, and a percentage of the proceeds are given to a charity called the International Folk Art Alliance. Apparently this is the second year they have done this, and not only does your money go to an awesome organization, but you are (or at least I was) introduced to several indie pattern designers that you may not have been familiar with before. To be honest, NO, I DO NOT NEED ANY NEW PATTERNS. However. I do love celebrating and supporting designers in the online sewing community, and I also think it’s nice to get pushed out of your comfort zone every once in a while- I usually stick with what is familiar to me, so this was a nice way to get some new blood flowing into my craft room.

Last weekend some friends and I went to the Rose Bowl flea- it was my first time in a while, and I made sure to stop by the fabric and notions vendor who is usually set up in the same place. I’m not sure if her fabric is actually vintage or just old, as in, kept folded in a drawer for a super long time. Either way, the fabric is of great quality and priced better than most of the stuff for sale at the flea. I got about 5 yards of fabric for less than $20. I also scored a lot of beautiful glass and vintage buttons still stapled onto their original cards. I ignored my normal rule of not buying any fabric without having a specific idea of what to make with it because the fabric was so cheap and so vintage looking- I knew it would be perfect for a lot of different projects. And when I got home, I realized that the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY (included in the Sew Independent pattern bundle) was just such a project!

yay general view!

The Bonnell Dress has a lovely, simple shape with some interesting details: cutouts on the waist with a higher jewel neckline on the front. This, coupled with the traditional dirndl skirt and a thin waistband, give you a lot of room to play with the design elements. I went super simple with this on my first make, but now that I have sewn it up and seen how a) it fits like a dream and b) it’s got a modern-meets-classic look to it in a very ModCloth kind of way, I really want to make it again using some contrast prints or color blocking.

cutout close up

The fabric I used for this dress is a lightweight cotton, which is soft but still has some stiffness to it, and that lends itself to the nice body in the skirt. I lined the bodice with the self fabric since I had so much of it, and I only made one adjustment to the pattern- I graded from a size 2 in the bust to a 4 in the waist and hips. I should have left the whole thing as a straight 2 because I ended up taking it in at the waist since it was too big.

front bodice

The bust lines fit me beautifully and the length is spot on. This dress was cut out and sewn together in a total of about 5 or 6 hours (probably the fastest garment I have ever made from a woven material), and the instructions were very clear and easy to follow. The only thing I will change about this dress when I make it again is to make the pockets deeper. I love that this dress comes with pockets at all, but they seem designed more with the intent of putting small items in them as opposed to resting your hands inside of them (am I the only person who never puts things in her pockets besides her hands??)

back view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am pretty surprised at how well this dress fit me. The woman behind Dixie DIY, if she uses her own measurements to draft her patterns, must be my perfect body doppelganger, which makes me want to make every single thing she ever designs. It’s so exciting (and quite a privilege, I know) to be introduced to a pattern maker that designs clothing that fits you right out the box, and I (selfishly) wish DixieDIY continued success as a designer in the sewing world!

another side close up

A Vintage Dress Covered in Bugs

It has not gone unnoticed that I have made at least 3 garments in the past year featuring ladybugs. I have never considered myself particularly drawn to bugs, but every single time I see a pretty fabric adorned with them, I am instantly smitten, and I can’t get the fabric out of my head until I purchase it. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants!

So, onto the make! I have known my friends Kristy and George for years. I met them before they were a couple, when we were all single in NYC and floating around in the same online and real-life social circles. And then, scandal of all scandals, they started dating each other! It was right around the time that I met Claire, so all four of us double dated and threw all-day dinner parties for each other at our places in BK. A few years into their coupledom (on Claire’s birthday, no less!) Kristy gave birth to a sweet baby named Eli. When Claire and I left Brooklyn that next summer for greener pastures in Vancouver, they too left Brooklyn to make a new life for their family back in Kristy’s hometown of Atlanta. I have hated being so far away from them, but over the years we have had visits and skype sessions and letter exchanges and mile-long text convos to make up for the distance. On one recent Christmas, I sent them a care package of homemade soaps and cookies and body butters, and one of the lotions worked so well for Eli’s eczema that K & G put in a standing order for it (apparently it has worked better than any over the counter or prescribed ointment they have tried- behold the butter of shea!). Every few months I whip up a batch of “Eli’s Special Skin Cream”, and in exchange, they started sending me surprise boxes filled with stickers and magazines and flea shop finds and…vintage sewing patterns! BE STILL MY HEART!

vintage pattern

This is a pattern that looks like it came from the deep, deep 80’s, and it’s one that I would never ever have suspected would come out looking so amazing if I hadn’t actually made it myself. This was a fantastic lesson to learn- sometimes you have to put your trust in the details of a design instead of in the drawing/styling on the pattern envelope- although this pattern gets major bonus points for having a woman of color in the illustration. I could count the number of vintage sewing patterns I’ve seen featuring POC on one hand, and honestly, modern patterns aren’t that much better. And to find a POC and a plus size person on the same pattern envelope?? That is like sewing pattern gold!

Anyways, K & G picked this pattern out because they loved the back cut-outs (who knows, they probably  loved the brown woman on the front, too!) and the lovely button closure all the way down the dress. The fabric that we thought would look best for this garment was all sold out, so the mint green lady bugs were my second choice, but I think the fabric is perfect for this silhouette!

fullviewfront

you must must MUST excuse this weird look I have on my face. we snapped this photo at the gym before Claire’s basketball game and I hate taking photos with other people around and as a result I make weird faces so that I don’t look like I take myself too seriously. Even though WHO CARES WHAT STRANGERS THINK. Except I care. I care.

Because the fabric (purchased from Hart’s Fabric– one of my fav online sources) is a cotton voile and pretty see-through, I omitted the facings and made a lining for the bodice out of a white organza (I didn’t want to face the bodice with the self fabric since you would have seen soft, non-distinct blobs of black ladybugs showing through on the right side of the dress). I didn’t need to line the skirt- since it was a dirndl with a lot of gathering at the waist, I knew there would be enough volume to keep the important parts opaque.

I wanted to do something cool with the buttons but I was stumped as to what- I thought of choosing buttons in an unexpected color, like red or yellow, but I ran the risk of making the dress look too juvenile (ladybugs on mint green fabric is already toeing the line for me). I didn’t want to do black buttons either because I didn’t want them to compete with the black ladybug print.

button auditions.

button auditions; was thinking all red or all back or all tortoise shell and was testing out how each looked.

My friend Sarah suggested I get all of my crafty friends to send me a cool button and have a variety of types and colors and styles on the dress. I liked this idea, but I am impatient and wanted to wear this dress immediately. So I kind of morphed her suggestion into another cool idea; using a variety of different types of buttons in the same green color as the dress.

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JoAnn’s has a bazillion options for buttons, but I settled on buying an inexpensive package of same-hued buttons in different sizes. I chose buttons that all had the same diameter, but different details on them. I like how the buttons are all over-sized and add interest to the dress without taking away from the already dynamic fabric and color.

The bodice back requires one button to close the flaps together but I added another small button on the underside of the outside flap near the edge- it keeps the end of the flap from flipping open.

largebackview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this dress! I love that it is comfortable! I love that it looks pretty and dressy but it feels breezy in this hot ass desert! Which is funny, because in the middle of making this dress I started to doubt every single thing about it- I thought the way that the sleeves winged out was going to make it look dated and I was worried that the color of the dress looked too much like hospital-scrubs-green. It really wasn’t until I tried the dress on the in the mirror, right before the hemming and the button sewing, that I saw what a lovely and unique design it was. I’m so accustomed to putting darts in my dresses made out of woven fabric that I assume anything without that design feature will look frumpy or basic, but it’s (fortunately) not true at all.  I keep finding more fabric that I want to make this dress out of, but I’m gonna hold off on buying any; rumor has it that I am due for another surprise box from Kristy and George soon 🙂

What Will Claire Wear?

jumping

Many years ago in NYC when I had to attend a lot of red carpet events for work, Claire and I were stumped as to what she would wear if and when she attended functions with me. This was early on in our relationship when we were in our mid twenties, and because her job at the time had no dress code, her wardrobe consisted of vintage t-shirts, plaid button downs, ripped jeans and a multitude of sneakers (honestly, her wardrobe still consists of those things, but it has expanded to include “grown-up” clothes like slim fitting slacks and wing tipped lace-ups). Anyways, back in the day, she had not one piece of clothing suitable for a fancy event. So we went shopping for a suit for her, something that was neutral enough to fit an array of dress codes, with a slightly androgynous vibe. After several hours of her trying on every article of clothing in the Theory store while sighing dramatically, we spent a small fortune on a beautiful black jacket, matching slacks, and a silky plaid blouse. The pants had big pleats in the waistband, were loose-fitting in the thighs and slim at the ankle, and, coupled with the jacket and her Mia Farrow haircut, she looked stunning. She wore that expensive ensemble a total of ONE time before we headed off to Vancouver for 4 years, where the invites to red carpet events and premieres were non-existent. So it has since lived in the back of every closet we have occupied for the better part of 6 years.

Fast forward to this past winter, when I was invited to attend the DGAs and Claire and I were struggling to figure out what she could possibly wear to them. We dusted off her old suit and, though it was fine for a funeral (which she unfortunately had to attend a few months ago), it didn’t really have the glamour and pizazz it once did. Maybe it was because her style has shifted into a more masculine look, but the pleats and stylized curves of the Theory pants just didn’t work anymore. Claire decided not to come with me to the DGAs; shopping for a nice, tailored-looking suit with only a couple day’s notice felt like a nightmare to her. And as much as I wanted her to attend the event with me, the thought of trudging around to retailers that didn’t specialize in making androgynous-looking garments for women’s bodies with someone who hates to shop anywhere that isn’t a sports store seemed pretty horrific to me, too.

Instead, I brought my friend Brittani (who showed up in a GORGEOUS, beautifully fitting suit that she got at Men’s Warehouse- who knew?!) and we had a great time. But it got me thinking- why can’t women rely on retailers to find androgynous clothing? And why has my own understanding of androgyny (until recently) only been defined by women wearing “men’s” clothes? What does androgyny look like for different genders and non-genders and different bodies? I know the answer to at least one of these questions is THE PATRIARCHY, but I was ashamed at the fact that I had never questioned any of this before. Why haven’t more retail stores caught wind of the varying shapes and non-binary identities that appreciate and support fashion? Even Brittani (who’s suit looked so fly and fit her so well and didn’t cost a fortune), was still subjected to being mis-gendered when she was shopping at Men’s Warehouse. Yeah, I get that it’s called Men’s Warehouse. But aside from the obvious fact that gendered business names are totally antiquated and alienating, why should only men be assumed to shop there when so-called “women’s retailers” drop the ball on providing beautifully tailored garments without ruffles and pleats and darts all over them?

I know there are a growing number of small, independent companies that are providing access to clothing catered to a demographic that dresses in an androgynous style. But a lot of that clothing is (understandably) expensive, and therefore not accessible to everyone who wants it. Which leads us to a whole new conversation, one about the global economy being fueled by a wasteful, dishonest and greedy fashion industry, which is in turn powered by a privileged culture that wants more, more, more for less, less, less. There is no simple answer to any of these questions- the fashion industry needs a complete overhaul to become 1. more sustainable for the environment and 2. more humane to the millions of people that shape it’s work force. Furthermore, there needs to be a gigantic shift in our culture’s understanding of the nuances of gender and gender expression. Here is what I was left with, a question that was also a declaration: why couldn’t I just MAKE Claire a suit?! A year ago this would have seemed like such an impossible project that I wouldn’t have entertained it for even a second. But I know that I have become a more capable seamster with each project I tackle, and what’s more, I am up for a good challenge. When I mentioned the possibility to Claire, she said she was on board, so we went to Joann’s Fabrics to see if we could find a pattern that matched the aesthetic of what she was looking for. We narrowed down our pants pattern search to a few different looks and eventually settled on Simplicity 1430. It came with a simple, casual jacket that I thought seemed like an easy pattern to start with, since I had never made a jacket before. Then we went to my fav fabric store (The Fabric Store!!! HEART EYES EMOJIS) in Los Angeles to pick out some material.

the feel of this cotton for the suit was lovely, but the color wasn't in the right hue.

the feel of this cotton for the suit was lovely, but the color wasn’t in the right hue.

once we settled on this deeper blue for the suit, we couldn't agree on the silk fabric for the blouse. she liked this one the most...

once we settled on this deeper blue for the suit, we couldn’t agree on the silk fabric for the blouse. she liked this one the most…

...but I thought the yellow in this silk provided a little more complexity to the color scheme, and made it pop just a little.

…but I thought the yellow in this silk provided a little more complexity to the color scheme, and made it pop just a little

I knew right away which pieces I liked the most, but Claire was unconvinced about my choices until I took photos of her with swatches of the fabric so she could see for herself which ones illuminated her and which ones washed her out. We decided on a medium-weight woven cotton fabric with a tiny little bit of stretch for the suit, and a beautiful printed crepe de chine fabric for the blouse underneath.

The fitting for the pants was tricky, ’cause it’s always harder for me to tailor to someone else’s body than my own- with myself, I can feel as well as see what doesn’t work, but I don’t have that luxury with someone else.

IMG_2377I made adjustments to this muslin several times before we thought this fit was just right. But then I made them up in the actual fabric…

fitting1…and I did another adjustment…

fitting2…and another adjustment…

fitting3…and another adjustment. I think there were more adjustments than just these three pictures, but I got tired of documenting them all, and I was probably a little more than frustrated at the fitting process. CHOOSY CLIENTS, amiright??  (more proof that making a muslin in a comparable fabric of the project you are working on is SO SMART and can save SO MUCH time). We were in real danger of over-fitting these pants because even though the fabric had a little stretch, it wasn’t enough to accommodate a pair of leggings, which I think maybe Claire was secretly looking for? I convinced her that I wouldn’t be able to take them in anymore while allowing her to actually breath and bend her legs to sit down, so we settled here, and I think the silhouette turned out fantastic!

The jacket was another story- it wasn’t a difficult make, it just wasn’t the right look I was imagining. It was baggy and bulky- a lighter weight material would have been better. Even though it ended up looking amazing with the pants, I wanted a jacket with a little more structure, something more tailored to Claire’s body. But she was super happy (and perhaps more importantly, comfortable!) with the final result of the suit- save for a couple complaints about the waistband being a little too loose, which will just have to be adjusted for the next make.

IMG_2462

I needed to insert the zipper more to the right, so it peeks out a little.

 

 

 

The funny thing is that this suit was made so that we could attend a wedding in San Francisco, and I bought myself a gorgeous pink polka dotted silk to turn into a dress for the event. My dress was supposed to be the easy make and Claire’s was supposed to be difficult, but it turned out exactly the opposite- her suit ended up being a huge success and my silk dress was so awful I wasn’t even sure if I was going to wear it. Luckily I ended up booking a job that recorded the day of the trip, so I didn’t have to. I put the dress in a pile of donations to Goodwill and hoped that someone, somewhere, would have a flat enough body with no curves or butt whatsoever to get into this thing and have it lay perfectly around their frame. I was so disappointed with it- it was the first time I had made a pattern from this particular company, and I think it was a combination of the wrong pattern for my body with the wrong fabric for the pattern. It was bound to be a disaster. I took a shot just for memory’s sake.

It didn't help that this silk had a SHIT TON of static cling, no matter what remedy I used to get rid of it!

It didn’t help that this silk had a SHIT TON of static cling, no matter what remedy I used to get rid of it!

 

This dress is one of those projects that I feel doesn’t look as terrible in the photo as it was in reality. You’re just gonna have to trust me- it was bad!

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Guess what wasn’t bad, though. THIS SUIT! Claire said she got a ton of compliments on it at the wedding, and I got to hear some of them firsthand when a couple of days later we attended PROM, a big dance party hosted by her basketball league. It was really queer and fun, and this time Claire wore her suit with a blue and white button shirt I made for her, so it also proved how versatile the suit was! Making the suit was a lot of work, but she looks so gorgeous in it that I am actually dying to make her another one. Nothing shows your learning curve more than diving right back in and fixing all the mistakes you made the first time around 🙂

wholesuit

Brumby Skirt in Ladybugs

ladybug skirt full view

Oh, nevermind the phone and record player cords piled up on the floor to the left of me, ok?

The Brumby Skirt is Megan Nielsen’s latest pattern, and um…it’s SO OBVIOUSLY my kind of skirt. It’s feminine and sweet, and Megan Nielsen’s version takes a pretty standard silhouette (dirndle skirt) and adds a couple of lovely details, like the wide, deep pocket option, and the double stitching on the front seam. Brumby was pinned on my “Patterns To Sew” board for a while, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across this FANTASTIC silk at The Fabric Store ladybug fabric that I actually bought the pattern and decided to make it. Funny thing, that silk- I had fallen in love with it the first time I saw it at the store, but I didn’t buy it since I didn’t have a plan for it (still trying to get out of the habit of making impulse fabric purchases, blah blah blah). I kept thinking about the fabric for the next several days (dreaming about it really), and then The Fabric Store had a big seasonal sale a week or so later, so my plan was to pick up a couple of yards of it when I went to buy other stuff. I arrived at the store the morning the sale began, and guess what- NO MORE LADYBUG SILK PRINT! I looked everywhere for it in between picking out my other pieces, but to no avail. I finally asked Brooke, who is manager of the LA store (who, by the way, is always incredibly helpful and thoughtful and an excellent ambassador for great customer service) what had happened to the ladybug print. She said it had all gotten snatched up pretty quickly…but then she reached under the cutting table and pulled out a folded pile of ladybug goodness. She said “it’s only a yard and a half, though- will it be enough?” and of course I, without a second thought, said “I will MAKE it be enough!”

Cut to a couple of weeks later, where I am literally squeezing all the pattern pieces onto the fabric to try and make it fit. One and half yards would have been plenty of fabric if it weren’t for the fact that the silk was paneled, so every yard or so it had this column of flowery design pasted across from top to bottom, separate from the ladybug print, which I had to work around. To make things even more difficult, it was a really slippery silk so I had to sandwich it between paper to be able to cut it out efficiently. The paper and silk trick works like a dream, but it can get really messy once you start cutting, with slivers of paper and silk just piling up all over the cutting table- it’s hard to tell what’s what, and I don’t know how I successfully got all my pieces cut, but I did (praise be to the sewing goddesses).

Because this is a delicate silk and I used a matching thread color, you can't really see the detail of the stitching on either side of the front seam, but I put it there anyways.

Because this is a delicate silk and I used a matching thread color, you can’t really see the detail of the stitching on either side of the front seam, but I put it there anyways.

Because the silk was see-through, I bought some bemberg rayon to line the skirt with, but in my haste to finish the project, I didn’t walk through the steps beforehand. As a result, I cut out the lining pieces weird- I should have put the pocket facing pattern piece onto the skirt front and cut it out as a whole, but instead I cut out the regular skirt front pieces with the pocket chunk missing, so I basically had a gaping hole on the inside of the lining. Does that make sense? But whatever, it was an easy fix- I just hand sewed the open pocket area of the lining to the actual pocket of the skirt to close the gap, and voila!

Can you see where the pocket of the lining was cut out (it has a pinked edge)? I had to handsew it to the pocket piece beneath it so there wouldn't be a huge hole.

Can you see where the pocket of the lining was cut out (it has a pinked edge)? I had to handsew it to the pocket piece beneath it so there wouldn’t be a huge hole.

And THEN guess what happened! I totally sewed the waistband onto the skirt upside down! Call it one of those brain glitches where you stop making logical decisions when you have been sewing for too many hours straight. Whatever it was, it was ridiculous and also hilarious. I remember staring at the waistband and then staring at the drawing in the instructions…and then staring at the waistband again…and then back to the instructions…I could not for the life of me figure out if the waistband curve should tilt up or down. I was ready to blame the instructions for not being clearer, but honestly, it’s something that I should have been able to figure out myself since I have made so many skirts in my lifetime. Once I realized my mistake, I pouted and cussed. Then I ripped out all my stitches and re-attached the waistband the right way; the longer I spend being annoyed at myself, the longer it takes to actually finish the skirt in the first place.

ladybug skirt back viewIn general, I hate sewing with silk, because I am not very competent at it. It’s so damn fickle- it snags easily, slides around when you’re trying to sew layers together, stretches out if your fingers tug at it the wrong way, puckers up all the time- it’s kind of a nightmare for me. But silks feel SO good against your skin, they are shiny and fancy and glamorous, and since I am trying to add more red carpet-ready items to my wardrobe, I know I need to get better at working with them. So! This was my third project in a row of working with silk, and I could definitely see my progress with each one. All in all I consider this pretty little skirt an absolute win! My plan is to make a Nettie Body Suit (ClosetCaseFiles pattern) in a nice soft navy knit to go with it. Stay tuned…

#MeMadeMay level= unlocked

At the beginning of #MeMadeMay2015 I had high hopes to post here on my blog every single day what I wore and where the pattern came from, but those hopes were crushed on Day 2 when my laziness got the better of me. I decided it would be a lot easier and more efficient on my end to just do a master post of everything I memade and mewore with a few details for each one (I posted everyday on tumblr but not everyone follows me there). Presenting, my first foray into the MeMade hashtag!!!

vintage jumper

Day 1: vintage jumper

I already posted about this little guy here, but to recap, this a 70’s (I think?)  vintage pattern for a romper made of knit fabric.

Day 2: Southport Maxi Dress by True Bias

Day 2: Southport Maxi Dress by True Bias

LOOOVE this Southport Maxi dress pattern, and just finished making another one in a peach polka dot cotton. Straightforward and simple, easy-to-understand directions, but the pattern is based off of a C CUP!!! My boobs are nowhere near a C cup, so when I sewed up the bodice and  tried it on for fit, it was so saggy and loose around my entire torso that I was afraid I was gonna have to take the whole thing apart and re-cut the pieces from my fabric. Thankfully I was able to make adjustments without altering the darts and the side seams- I just cut off the widths of the bodice center fronts and moved the button bands over to accommodate. I love the pockets in this dress, and I love the drape of the rayon challis I used in this version and would recommend that fabric over the 100% cotton I used for my second make, which is beautiful but more crisp looking and less flowy.

 

Day 3: Knit Sweetheart Top and A-line skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 3: Knit Sweetheart Top and A-line skirt from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

A lot of my favorite makes come from Gertie patterns, as seen in this post. This is the Sweetheart Top made of knit fabric from www.girlcharlee.com coupled with Gertie’s A-line skirt in a beautiful wool herringbone that you unfortunately can’t see very well in this picture. Both patterns are from the book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. The skirt has an okay fit for me- her circle skirt is wonderful and fits my figure beautifully, but I think that because the A-line skirt has less material in the hip area, it causes wrinkles and gaps between my waist and hip area in the back. It’s probably not noticeable to anyone but me, but I don’t get as much wear out of the skirt for that reason. The Sweetheart top is a simple make on a serger (I once made three of these tops in one day) with a wide neckline that gathers in the middle front.

Day 4: knitted sweater- Portland Tweed Curved Front Cardigan by Pam Allen

Day 4: knitted sweater- Portland Tweed Curved Front Cardigan by Pam Allen

I called this my Unflappable Darling sweater, and details for this make are on my ravelry project page here. I fell in love with Pam Allen’s patterns after I began knitting sweaters, but before I was good at making alterations to fit my size (I usually have to size down and use smaller needles cause my guage is fairly loose). I love this sweater but it’s hard to pair it with many things in my closet. It’s got a tent-like shape to it, and has a tendency to swallow me up, so it doesn’t get as much wear as I would like. The yarn I used for it is a really bizarre-feeling cotton blend with a unique smell that reminds me of hay. If I made this again I would make it much smaller, and with a softer, fluffier (less barn-smelling) yarn.

 

Day 5: Espresso Leggings by Cake Patterns

Day 5: Espresso Leggings by Cake Patterns

I was excited to learn about the Cake Patterns company when I started researching more indie designers, and I was intrigued by the unique way in which they have you put together the pattern pieces. There is a large page of numbered dots and symbols that represent different widths and lengths for your body, and you connect them all together to create an adjusted pattern for your specific size. I feel like this would be a great pattern for someone who was brand new to sewing, but for me it ended up being really confusing and frustrating, and at one point I just wished that it was less innovative and more familiar like other patterns I was used to- I would have been able to put it together much more quickly. The instructions were very different from any pattern I had made before, and not in a good way- they use a lot of symbols instead of words, so I had to keep going back and figuring out what each little drawing was supposed to mean. On top of that, this leggings pattern suggests that you use a 2-way stretch knit like ponte, but when I made them up in that fabric, they wouldn’t even stretch wide enough to go over my thighs (and yes, I cut the pattern out with the stretch going width-wise). Not sure if there was something off about the knit I chose or what, but it was a high quality fabric that I had used with great success before, so I was very disappointed that it didn’t work for this project. I eventually bought another knit with 4 way stretch (seen in the photo) and it worked fine.  I also bought one of their dress patterns to make for my sister-in-law for Christmas, but I was so confused by the bizarre, multi-step directions that I threw the entire thing (including the fabric!) in the trash halfway through construction. I would not buy one of their patterns again, but I have seen that a lot of people have had positive experience with their Cake Patterns, so maybe it’s just me.

Day 6: Tri-Cable Stitch Jumper by Susan Crawford

Day 6: Tri-Cable Stitch Jumper by Susan Crawford

This sweater pattern comes from Susan Crawford’s book A Stitch in Time Vol. 2 and is the kind of book that I would want to own and display even if I wasn’t an avid knitter. The photos and styling are remarkable and the patterns are beautiful, but the coolest thing about the book is that it includes a copy of the original vintage knitting pattern so you can compare the original styling and photos and instructions to the updated versions. I should have gone further down in my needle size for this pattern because it is just a little bit bigger than I would like, but all in all this came out beautifully and I love wearing it.

 

 

 

 

Day 7: Pencil Skirt in Stretch Knit from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 7: Pencil Skirt in Stretch Knit from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This Comfiest Pencil Skirt made of a stretch knit material comes from a pattern in one of Gertie’s books and has become a real winner in my closet. It gives that wonderful curvy silhouette without the usual confining quality that pencil skirts tend to have.  I ended up adding two darts to the back of my skirt to keep the excess fabric between my smallish waist and wide-ish hips from bunching up and it worked like a dream without taking away from the simple pattern of the skirt.

Day 8: Summer Dress pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 8: Summer Dress pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This is my Bitch You Guessed It Dress which you can read more about in this blog post.

Day 9: Ohhh Lulu Ginger Body Suit

Day 9: Ohhh Lulu Ginger Body Suit

OhhhLuluSews is a pattern company that operates from an etsy shop, and the designs are pretty, feminine and vintage inspired. The Ginger Body Suit doesn’t seem to be in the store anymore, but it is a one- piece pattern with a different adjustment marks to turn it into a two-piece and the option to use swimsuit lycra to turn it into a bathing suit, which I did here. Love the fit after I fiddled with the waist and bottoms for a while, and love the way the pieces are put together which gave me the freedom to make some unique design decisions.

Day 10: Vintage romper pattern

Day 10: Vintage romper pattern

This vintage romper comes from Simplicity Pattern 5503 which I bought a while ago on etsy. It’s kind of amazing- very comfortable and easy to make with an elasticized waist, although the front detail has never laid flat for me- not sure if that’s because of the material I used or what. The fabric was a gift from someone I used to date many years ago who went to Nigeria to visit family and brought me back this gorgeous African wax print. It accompanied me on moves to different apartments and different cities and eventually different states for over a decade til I was finally inspired to use it on this pattern. It was totally worth the wait.

Day 11: GInger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files

Day 11: GInger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files

These are my awesome and amazing skinny jeans from Closet Case Files’ Ginger Jeans Pattern. Can’t say enough good about the pattern (wasn’t prepared for my very first attempt at jeans to be so successful!). More details on the process here on my blog.

Day 12: Moneta dress by Colette Patterns

Day 12: Moneta dress by Colette Patterns

I am clearly a sucker for good design and good marketing, because no matter how many times I tell myself to stop buying Colette Patterns because the fit is always waaaay wrong for my body, I can’t seem to shake the habit. I thought that this Moneta dress and the Mabel skirt pattern (not shown) which I bought at the same time were gonna be big successes since they’re made for knit fabric, which is more forgiving in terms of fit issues. Not so. The skirt came out so poorly that I didn’t even make an attempt to try and re-draft it to work for myself, and the bodice of this dress was so awful that I had to re-cut it and make a lot of adjustments to make it smaller since it gaped like crazy at the armholes and was just generally gigantic (I already made the smallest size available). LOVE Colette designs and aesthetic, but I just have to learn to let them go.

 

Day 13: Ohhh Lulu Vintage style bra

Day 13: Ohhh Lulu Vintage style bra

Ohhh Lulu’s Lili Bra is a vintage bra pattern that uses wovens cut on the bias instead of stretch fabric, and it was a really fun make, as referenced here. It’s not the perfect bra pattern for me because it has this weird gapping effect in the nipple area (those puckers in the middle of the cups are filled with air, not actual boob) and I am sure I could adjust the pattern a bit to accommodate less space, but I haven’t yet. Still love this bra tho.

Day 14: Minimalist Cardigan

Day 14: Minimalist Cardigan

I call this my ‘Favorite Sweater’ Sweater because I wear it A LOT. It’s like my housecoat. Details for the Minimalist Cardigan are here and I am also in the middle of making one for Claire right now cause she has coveted it ever since I finished it in Vancouver. Moss stitch is so gorgeous, no matter how simple the pattern is.

Day 15: Nettie dress by Closet Case Files and Therapi sweater by Stefanie Japel

Day 15: Nettie dress by Closet Case Files and Therapi sweater by Stefanie Japel

Two makes in one! The sweater is Therapi by Stefani Japel and the dress is the Nettie pattern by Closet Case Files. The sweater took me 1,000 years to make, because, unlike the Minimalist cardigan, it actually is the size of a house robe, and it’s almost completely in Waffle Stitch, which isn’t very complicated, but it takes way more time than say, stockinette stitch. The dress is a body con dress that took me a little time to get right, only because knits are all so different and some have more stretch and others have less. This dress was at the beginning of my foray into learning more about knits, and this was the second version I made after the first one came out beautifully but encased my torso like a sausage because it was too tight due to the ponte fabric I chose. This black knit with the elephants adorning it is a 4 way stretch with a bit more give than ponte and came out so great… except the fabric started fading immediately after I pre-washed it.

 

Day 16: Pin-up Sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Day 16: Pin-up Sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Another Pin-up sweater by Gertie, in this really terrific crocheted stretch fabric that reminds me of everything awesome about Grandmas, cause up close the fabric looks like a huge doily.

Day 17: 40's Style Sleevelss Blouse and Pencil Skirt from Gertie's Book for Better Sewing and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual and Gertie

Day 17: 40’s Style Sleevelss Blouse and Pencil Skirt from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual and Gertie

Another two-fer: Pencil skirt by Gertie (from her first book Gertie’s Book For Better Sewing) and 40’s Style Blouse from her second book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. Used a stretch woven for the skirt which was an excellent choice- gives hold and shape without feeling like I can’t breathe. I made this skirt years ago so I don’t remember the details but I am pretty sure it was a straight make that didn’t require any adjustments, which kind of blew my mind- it was the first time I wore a pencil skirt that actually fit my body and didn’t pucker, gape and wrinkle all over the hips.

Day 18: Watson Long-line Bra by Cloth Habit

Day 18: Watson Long-line Bra by Cloth Habit

Cloth Habit’s long line Watson bra which I have given so much praise in this blog post.

Day 19: Harem Jumper (pattern by me)

Day 19: Harem Jumper (pattern by me)

I made this pattern which I based off of a Rachel Roy jumpsuit that I own and love to wear. The jumpsuit is made of a silky rayon material and is clearly meant for fancy occasions- I’ve worn it to a red carpet event and a couple of performances. I love the shape so much that I wanted to recreate it using a more wearable material. I bought some ponte knit fabric and, with some rough eyeballing and rougher measuring, I drew out a pattern for it and cut it out. It’s got a slightly different bodice than the original, and I added straps to this one to make sure it was more secure. My biggest obstacle was inserting the zipper onto a stretchy fabric, which I had never done before (with good reason). When closed, the zipper bunched and zigzagged, but I read online that using a stabilizer underneath the zipper tape would help, and it worked like a charm. I am dying to make this again in a 4 way stretch knit.

 

Day 20: Vintage High Waist Shorts

Day 20: Vintage High Waist Shorts

These shorts are the second pair I have made from  vintage shorts pattern Simplicity 7688. The first pair, which I am actually wearing as I type this, are made of a mint green linen and they are on the verge of falling apart because I didn’t know that I needed to finish the edges of this type of fabric  with either a serger or bias tape. As a result, the edges have frayed to the stitched seam lines in some places. I have tried repeatedly to save them with patches places on the inside of the shorts, bias tape to encase the raw edges, and double lines of stitching. They aren’t long for this world but I can’t bear to let them go because they are my favorite! This paisley pair is a close second, but the brushed cotton bags out a bit after wearing them too many times between washings.

Day 21: Vintage romper pattern

Day 21: Vintage romper pattern

This is a second version of the 80’s romper in the African Wax Print fabric, but I used a different type of material for this project and I hacked the strap and neckline-edging from a different pattern, so the end result looks (and feels) super different. I made a belt for this one, too, and the look just seems little more pulled together and fancy than the other one, which I wear more casually. You can’t tell, but the fabric is printed with flocks of birds all over it.

Day 22: Hannah dress by Schnittchen

Day 22: Hannah dress by Schnittchen

Hannah dress by Schnittchen, seen here!

Day 23: Vogue Vintage re-issue

Day 23: Vogue Vintage re-issue

Ohhh, how I absolutely LOVE wearing this dress! It’s stunning! Simplicity 1777, 1940’s Retro reprint, and truly unique in it’s bib detailing coupled with this amazing rayon challis I found on fabric.com. It’s one of my favorite pieces to dress up in.

Day 24: Vogue Maxi dress

Day 24: Vogue Maxi dress

Vogue 8827, as blogged about here.

Day 25: Vogue culottes jumper

Day 25: Vogue culottes jumper

I have been meaning to finish my post on this garment for so long-it’s  queued up and written and everything, just waiting to take some nice pics to accompany it. Anyways, I call it my JNCO’s Birthday Jumpsuit, but in actuality it’s a culottes romper, which required a fair amount of adjusting to make work for me. It’s made out of a double gauze by a company called Cotton & Steele, who has really gorgeous fabrics drawn by a team of super talented women artists, and I love love love this outfit and I need to make it again (and probably again). When I redrafted everything, I forgot to fix the pockets and make them longer to meet the new higher waistline, so they are SUPER short and everytime I put my hands in them I want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Day 26: Ginger Jeans (again) and Knit Sweetheart Top

Day 26: Ginger Jeans (again) and Knit Sweetheart Top

Ginger Jeans again! This time paired with a Knit Sweetheart Top by Gertie, adorned with a million mustaches. (This is a faux action shot, btw, which I feel like I must declare before I start getting comments from people warning me that I am using my power tools incorrectly).

Day 27: Carolyn Pajama bottoms by Closet Case Files

Day 27: Carolyn Pajama bottoms by Closet Case Files

Carolyn Pajamas (sans top) by Closet Case Files.  Easy make with lovely little details. I made mine out of rayon challis and after a few washings they started to look like worn bedsheets, in a GOOD way.

Day 28: Cap Sleeve Lattice Top by Purl Soho

Day 28: Cap Sleev Lattice Top by Purl Soho

This is the first sweater I ever knitted in California territory. Details here!

Day 29: Vogue dress

Day 29: Vogue dress

And this is the first dress that I ever made for myself after I learned how to sew in my Costume Design class in college. I have no idea what the pattern was (I think it might have been Vogue?), but it was such a success that it inspired me to keep going, even though I took a significant break from sewing after I moved to NYC. It fit great (still does) and was made out of a linen from JoAnn’s Fabrics which has held up surprisingly well over the past 14 years.

 

Day 30: Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes

Day 30: Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes

I hurried to finish this dress up in time to attend Autostraddle camp this year. It’s the Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes and it’s a very simple make made with knit fabric that includes a really cute sleeve detail on the cuff of the sleeve.

Day 31: fingerknitted necklace (no pattern, just fingerknitted!)

Day 31: fingerknitted necklace (no pattern, just fingerknitted!)

I MA(Y)DE IT! 31 Days!!!! Here I am wearing my vintage shorts pattern again from a previous day with the addition of my fingerknitted neck accoutrement! Fingerknittin’ Good is one of the craft classes I taught at camp and it was a big success! It’s easy to learn and easy to do if you have fairly good use of the fingers on your hands. It doesn’t require any materials or tools other than the yarn, and when you use a bulky skein, you can create something beautiful in a short amount of time. Fingerknitting doesn’t require a pattern or anything, just the actual activity of repeating the steps over and over again, and there are plenty of tutorials on the internet that can show you how to do it in no time. This ended up being a fantastic camp activity because even the campers who insisted they were absolutely terrible with their hands were able to create a gorgeous length of fingerknitted rope by the end of the hour.

 

And that’s it- my first memademay is complete! I have to admit that when it was all over I felt equal parts relieved and sad. Halfway through the month it had become exhausting to dress up in something memade every day, only because I don’t have a regular job to go to every morning. So unless I have an event or an audition or am meeting up with friends, I just putter around my craft room all day making stuff til Claire gets home from work, and hanging out in my craft room doesn’t require me to wear anything special. My wardrobe for most days (after I run or do yoga) is whatever is clean and at the top of my drawer, which usually ends up being a pair of shorts and a t shirt, or a breezy house dress if it’s hot outside, and I usually wear that for a few days in a row til it’s time to put it in the laundry bin. For much of May, I missed the ease of throwing on whatever clothes were laying around. But on June 1st, I realized I had become so accustomed to being thoughtful about what I was going to wear that I felt like something was missing. No more “Hey Claire- will you take my MeMade picture?” No more triple-sharing photos to instagram and tumblr and facebook. No more recalling little details about what I was doing and how I was feeling when I made the garment. Of course I will still share my new makes when they are finished, but the exciting part of committing myself to a month-long project will be absent…til next year at least. Thanks to everyone who offered encouraging words of support during the month, and thanks to all the other bloggers and sewers who participated by sharing their own makes. Y’all are so inspiring and I look forward to every single new project you create!

#MeMadeMay Pledge- Day 1

Day1_pattern#MeMadeMay is a pledge by sewing/crocheting/knitting enthusiasts to wear something handmade for each day of the month of May. I have never participated in this event before, maybe because I wasn’t sure if I had enough handmade items to don, or maybe because I wasn’t sure if my makes were worthy enough. But I have since poo-poo’ed  my past doubts and decided to take the plunge and join the hashtag. If nothing else, it will remind me to get better use out of some of the things I have made that I rarely wear, and remind me of the makes I have enjoyed so much that I want to make them again. I am going to try and blog for each outfit, but I may have to combine a few posts into one when I am not around my computer to do a one-a-day.

Day1_view2 Here is one of my favorite-est simple garments I have ever made- I like that it was super quick to sew up, but it doesn’t give that frumpy silhouette that a lot of “easy-to-make” garments tend to offer. It’s made of a lightweight knit material and it has an elasticized waist, so you just pull it up or down to get it and out of it. The con to this is having to be all the way naked when you sit down to use the bathroom; the pro is that it’s loose and non-fussy, since you don’t have a zipper.What I don’t like about this jumper is the bias tape used to make the neckline and the straps. When I make this again (and I plan on doing it sooner than later cause it’s the most perfect for this hot weather we are about to be bombarded with), I will nix the bias tape and just cut the bodice pattern with extra seam allowance so that I can turn the edges under and make straps from the self fabric. The bias tape tends to pucker a bit and hang down under the arms, and it’s just not as sophisticated looking as this jumper has the potential to be. That said, this garment is so easy to wear- it works for hanging out around the house or wearing as a beach cover-up or dressing up a little with sandals.

Shoe Makery

Around Christmas time last year I was deep in the rabbit hole of sewing blogs and reading the personal musings of strangers ad nauseam when I stumbled across a post about DIY shoe making. I don’t remember the name of the girl or her blog, but I did make sure to pin all the information she shared. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of making my own shoes, and more than a little shocked- I didn’t think that cobbling shoes would have ever evolved (or devolved, depending on where you stand on the subject) into something a person could do on their own without major machinery and decades of experience under their belts. I was so excited about the prospect that my heart started to race fast and I couldn’t google search fast enough! For something I had never before even conceived as a reality, there sure was a fair amount of information about it on the internets. There are so many schools of thought regarding the best ways to DIY your own shoes, and the finished projects run the gamut from super simplistic felted slippers to high heeled shoes with leather soles and buckles. I am still weeding my way through all the information I am finding, and hopefully I will get to a place where I can keep the ideas and techniques that work for what I want to create and discard all the other stuff, melding a bunch of steps from different schools of thought into a method that works best for me. That sounds really optimistic and I realize that I may never have the chance to see this through, but the process has proven to be SUPER fun and challenging so far.

The first avenue I went down on the road to shoe-making was to buy this book by Mary Wales Loomis, which I had learned about in that blog I stumbled upon. Mary Wales Loomis is an entrepreneur who published Make Your Own Shoes, a book about the technique she developed for building her own shoes after she essentially took one of her favorite shoes apart to see how it was made and then replicated it using inexpensive and found materials. Her story is incredibly inspiring because she never took “no” for an answer (the art of cobbling seems to have a lot of gatekeepers in place to ensure that no one ever gets the idea that shoemaking can be done for FUN and CHEAPLY), and she researched and asked professionals and experimented on her own for a long time until she was finally able to successfully make her first wearable pair of shoes. I am about mid-way through my first pair of shoes using the steps in her book, and I also made a pair of lasts per her instructions.

vintage shoes from Goodwill filled with plaster of paris.

vintage shoes from Goodwill filled with plaster of paris.

For those unfamiliar, lasts are molds that mimic the general shape and curves of a foot, and you build your shoe around it. They are made either out of wood or durable plastic, and you need a different last for each of your feet. Lasts also differ for size, heel height and each toe shape (like oval, square, pointy or round). If you know where to look, you can buy affordable vintage lasts online or new ones from specialty shoe component stores, but you can also make them out of an old pair of shoes and plaster of paris, which is how I made my first pair. The con of making your own lasts is that you can’t bend or fold the last once your components are put together on it, so you have to use different steps when molding the shoe upper and attaching the insole. The pro is that they are super cheap to make and you can cater them to your own specific needs, like if you have a bunion or one foot that is a different size than the other, or extremely narrow feet.

 

The other direction I went down in my quest to learn to make shoes was to seek out ready-made shoe kits with all the components necessary to make a pair of shoes. This is where I discovered a company called I Can Make Shoes based out of London that offers classes in addition to their kits to give you hands-on training in making shoes. Although the idea of the kit is innovative and oh-so tempting, I opted to hold off on buying one to do a little more researching on my own instead- for a little more than the price of a kit, I could spend money on tools and components and have enough material to make a FEW pairs of shoes instead of just one. I Can Make Shoes also offers PDFs for purchase on shoe design and shoe making, so I might just buy some of that material to add to my ever expanding pile of research.

After finding the I Can Make Shoes brand, I discovered yet another make-your-own-shoes organization called Prescott & Mackay, also based out of London, that offered 1 day, 2 day, and 5 day courses in everything from leather bags to high heeled shoes to sandals to accessories. I was really interested in this company because I saw that a couple times a year they offered a course in Berkley, CA, and traveling up to the Bay area seemed a lot easier than flying to London for a week. The next course they were offering in the states was for a 5 day heel making class in Berkley that was to take place in the middle of April, which was already turning out to be a busy month for me; I decided I couldn’t make it happen then and would instead try and sign up for the class they would be offering in the Fall. But lo and behold, a few days later I received a newsletter from P&M saying they were offering their first ever course in Los Angeles, a 1 day sandal making class, and it happened to be on a day when I was free. It seemed too serendipitous to pass up.

 

Shoe components

Shoe components

The class was taught by Melissa of P&M who was very knowledgeable and efficient in her teaching skills, and just generally a lovely person to learn from. She was able to rent the space of a furniture store in Mid-City to hold the class, and myself and four other women all sat at a big table with all the tools and components necessary for the sandals placed in front of us and got to learn the basics of shoe making together. The mood was lively and easy-going, but 8 hours to make a pair of sandals from scratch is hardly enough time if you have never done it before (some of us had more experience than others). I appreciated the “1 day” aspect of the course, but it was really only enough time to physically make the shoes- we could have used a few more hours to talk about design, functionality and wear-ability of our sandals. The other unfortunate thing about our class was that there were no machines to sew straps or tidy up leather edges or press our soles on, since it was a pop-up class in an environment that didn’t have the conveniences of their London school. So we were a bit limited in what we could do with our shoes. But this is in no way a complaint- I was very happy with the course, I learned a ton from Melissa and from the other people in the class, and it was a perfect companion to Loomis’ Make Your Own Shoes book, which I had already read cover to cover.

paper lining pattern + leather lining (pigskin)

paper lining pattern + leather lining (pigskin)

this insole is made special for sandals so that you can place the straps in the little nooks on the bottom.

this insole is made special for sandals so that you can place the straps in the little nooks on the bottom. here the insole is nailed to the bottom of the last to keep it steady.

fitting the leather onto the insole by clipping curves, just like in sewing!

fitting the leather onto the insole by clipping curves, just like in sewing!

finished leather insoles.

finished leather insoles.

I learned a few really key things in the P&M class that have me very excited to continue the process of DIY shoe making. The first is this: leather is, from my vantage point, the most ideal material to make shoes from, and I am very excited to learn more about leather crafting. I bought myself a couple of introductory books into leather making last year, the most useful of which is called The Leatherworking Handbook, which gives a very detailed overview of the different types of leather, what you can make with it, and how to work with it and sew it. Having a better understanding of leather and how to manipulate it is going to aid me a lot in being able to make the kinds of shoes that I envision in my head, and I never realized this before. When I first started making shoes from the steps provided in Make Your Own Shoes, I tried to start with plain fabric material since I was just learning. Regular fabric is definitely a fine material to use, but it requires so much to make it sturdy and pliable- using a good leather of the proper weight takes less work, less material, and creates beautiful results. Becoming more knowledgeable about leather crafting will make this book more helpful to me, too (I am dying to make a pair of cute Mary Janes using the guidelines from this document).

very pretty but barely wearable.

very pretty but barely wearable.

Another thing that I learned in class was that you must be as thoughtful about the design of your shoe as you are about the process of making it. As I wrote earlier, our class did not allow us much time to contemplate the blueprint of what we were creating, which makes perfect sense given the constraints of the course. In my head I was intending to make a wedge sandal with leather straps across the top of the shoe and a leather back that had straps or a buckle to tie around the ankle. By the time I was ready to plan out how the back of my shoe would look, we had already moved on to the next phase of gluing our shoe pieces together, which required some time limitations, so if I wanted to have a completed shoe by the end of the class, I needed to alter my design, sans shoe back. My last minute decision was to add some skinnier straps to criss-cross over the shoe from the inner toe edge to the opposite heel edge, which looked  pretty, but I knew it wasn’t going to be sturdy enough to keep the shoe on the foot, and I was totally right. At the end of class when our shoes had all been glued together, I tried mine on, and as soon as I took a step in it it just kind of slid around and then OFF of my foot; in addition to inefficient strap placement, the last that I used to make my shoes was also one size too big, so that didn’t do anything to help them stay on my feet. If I had had enough time (and the equipment necessary) to make a back to the shoes, they might have actually been wearable, but I wasn’t too disappointed- I learned a lot and I definitely feel more confident in making more sandals for the future, and that’s really all I wanted from the course. By listening to the other ladies in class chat, I also learned of the best place in LA to get beautiful, affordable leather (it’s called SAVE MOR and it’s incredible!) and I learned of some new sources to buy shoe components and lasts- I am keeping my eyes out for a flat ladies last with a slightly rounded toe in my size- if you find one, holler at me.

top view looks cute as long as I am stationary.

top view looks cute as long as I am stationary.

 

side view- you can see the I didn't do a great job with gluing the soles to the bottom, but there wasn't enough time in class to re-glue, and I already knew they weren't going to function so I didn't want to waste my time.

side view- you can see that I didn’t do a great job with gluing the soles to the bottom, but there wasn’t enough time in class to re-glue and re-attach, and I already knew the shoes weren’t going to function so I didn’t want to waste my time.

Maxi to Midi

photo 1After the success of the maxi I made from McCalls 7121 (as blogged about in this post), I knew I needed to make this again in a print that was a little more summery and more casual looking, and with a few alterations that would make this a perfect summer dress. WHOA DOGGIE, this make did NOT disappoint! I made this dress, start to finish, in 3 hours and 15 minutes last Sunday afternoon. I feel like I have been unwittingly training for a speed sewing competition (where I am the only competitor), getting faster and faster at simple projects. I love it because, unlike when I am intentionally trying to sew something up quickly, I am not rushing and making silly mistakes. Instead, I am getting more proficient at tasks through lots of practice, and therefore completing things more quickly. THIS IS AN AWESOME THING TO ME.

photo 4

Anyways, here are the changes I made from the first version of this make:

  • altered the bodice pattern to trim the extra room off the original fit
  • gave it a curved neckline instead of angled
  • cut the front bodice on the fold instead of in two separate pieces
  • made a lining out of the same material so that I could wear the dress without a bra (the double material in the bodice gives it a bit more support and a lot more opaque-ness)
  • cut the skirt pieces with more flare and a few more inches of width at the bottom of the skirt, and I also cut it out for midi-length. I NEVER wear midi-length skirts or dresses cause I have always been convinced that they were unflattering on my short frame, so I am trying to get over it. And so far I am loving the length!
  • lastly, I made a little tie-belt to go with this dress like I did for the last one, cause I just love belts that are made out of the garment material.photo 2

I saw the fabric on girlcharlee.com and was immediately in love- I love the mint green in it (it’s my favorite color to wear) and I love the summery flowers and that it has a kind of faded, gray look to it. But mostly I love the drape of the fabric- it’s lightweight and perfect for hot summers, and it doesn’t feel too heavy or full at the midi-length. I am already imagining whipping this dress up again in another summery knit fabric, because, like the Schnittchen Hannah, I am nervous I am going to wear it out before long. But isn’t that the sign of a great garment, one that you wear so much it comes apart at the seams and you keep fixing it over and over again to keep it wearable? If even HALF of my makes get this kind of wear, I will be way ahead of the curve.

(Please forgive the dark photos- I took pics with my phone instead of making Claire put on her photographer pants!)

To Pimp A Butterfly in Knit Crepe

To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick’s new album came out in the middle of me making a dress and was on repeat long enough to finish that project and complete an entirely new dress. The album is called, as you can probably gather, To Pimp A Butterfly. If I am being honest, I wanted to call the first dress my “This. Dick. Ain’t. Free!” Muumuu and my second one the “Every N*gga Is A Star” Maxi, but I was afraid it would alienate my already barely existent readership, so I made what feels like a pretty decent compromise.

 

 

The Hannah Pattern

The first dress, here on out referred to as the muumuu, is from a German indie designer company called Schnittchen. When the pattern arrived, I opened it up to find a large sheet of pattern pieces and one page of instructions written only in German. FYI I don’t read or speak German. After tooling around on their site, I found that they provide an online version of their instructions written in English, which was great. And they were fine until it was time to construct the sleeves. The dress pattern and design are very simple and could probably be put together without step-by-step instructions, but the sleeve construction is unique (very pretty, but not as straight forward as set-in sleeves), and without thorough details or pictures to go off of (no line drawings or photos accompany the instructions), I was stumped for about 10 minutes trying to figure it out. There was a sew-along posted for this dress (which is called Hannah, by the way), but it was all in German, too. Fortunately there were pictures included, so I just stared at them until it started to make sense to me.

three piece sleeve construction

three piece sleeve construction

It took, like, 15 additional minutes. But it was cool cause Kendrick was in the background. The most confusing part of the sleeve is that there are two pattern pieces for the same thing (piece number 5, referred to as the “ruffle”). One pattern piece says “uncreased” and the other doesn’t; both pieces are of very similar (though not exact) shapes, but printed out on the paper in opposite directions. I still can’t figure out which one I was supposed to use or in what important way they were different from one another, so I just kind of eenie-meenie-miny-moed it, chose one, put the sleeve’s three pieces together and figured out how they should be attached to the dress. Pretty sure I did it the right way cause they ended up looking great, and all the edges and notches met and hit at the right places. But I definitely think they should have included a clearer set of instructions for the sleeves, or at least included some visual explanation for how the pieces should go together in the instructions.

Claire and I took a trip to the Huntington gardens today (it was my first time and her third) and it was so beautiful! I was hoping we could see some of Octavia Butler’s papers on display at the library, but they only bring them out of the archives when they are part of an exhibit, so instead we just wandered the grounds and took pics in the succulent garden (which is phenomenal, btw).

WE EAT WHAT WE LIKE!

WE EAT WHAT WE LIKE!

This fabric is a soft, medium weight cotton with different designs woven and stitched onto it- it is described as a native/ethnic cloth at Michael Levine’s, and I recognize the motif as such, but I am curious if there is an actual name for this type of fabric, and if so, what it is (pardon my ignorance!) Anyways, this dress, because it is so free flowing and not-constricting at all, is a really nice design for LA spring, or as I like to call it, “Summer Part 1” (Summer Part 2 starts in May). Its the kind of dress that can be dressed up or down cause it looks good with flats as well as casual heels- in these pics I am wearing my braided leather clogs- not good for walking around the gardens for any length of time, but perfect for a photoshoot.

so casz

so casz

 

I shortened the length of this dress considerably because there is so much material in the muumuu and I was afraid that making it knee length would look too overwhelming on my frame. This dress has no zipper and slips on over your head, so the neck hole is fairly wide to accommodate a noggin. Because of this, the neck sits a little wider on the collarbone/neck than I am used to, but I can live with it (and adjust it just a bit if I ever make this again, which I think I will). In general I am happy with this make, and I am thinking of making it in a nice chambray so that I don’t wear this one out too much- it’s the perfect house-dress-cum-grocery-store-run-cum-let’s-go-to-the-mall-for-fun garment and it’s gotten plenty of use so far.

red_back_2

knit crepe from McCall's 7212

knit crepe from McCall’s 7212

The second dress I made has been a bit of a revelation. It is McCalls pattern 7121 and not something I would normally buy. I tend to avoid most big company patterns because I think the sizing and fit is usually off on me, plus I like the idea of supporting indie pattern designers. But last week I actually took the time to sit down and look through the books at JoAnn’s with Claire while we searched for an outfit to make her for a wedding we are going to next month, and I was surprised to find myself bookmarking tons of patterns that I wanted to add to my collection. This maxi dress pattern caught my eye because it is designed for knits, and thanks to The Colette Guide To Sewing Knits book which came out last year, sewing with this fabric type is pretty much my new favorite thing. Knit garments just sew up SO quickly, and they are so versatile and wearable for year-round sunny LA weather. Also, after discovering the girlcharlee website, I have been inspired by a seemingly endless array of beautiful knit fabric for purchase. The fabric that I made this maxi out of was not purchased at girlcharlee, though- it’s a deep steel colored knit crepe that I bought online at fabric.com for another pattern I had planned to make (and opted out of). This fabric is kind of unreal. Against your skin it feels really fancy and chic, but it doesn’t appear to be precious at all- I pre-washed it in my machine and dried it in the dryer, and it came out feeling exactly the same without any pilling or dullness. One side is smooth and matte while the other side has the identifying crepe texture with a bit of shine while still feeling very soft and silky. This dress was meant to be nice and casual, but after I sewed it up in this fabric, it felt really decadent and much more fancy than I was anticipating- I would absolutely make this dress out of this fabric again and make it long enough to wear with heels- it could translate to evening-wear like a dream. The way it moves around your body when you walk is fantastic- it holds its shape without looking stiff, and sewing it was lovely- very easy to work with, it didn’t stretch out at the hems while I sewed double lines of stitching, and it has great recovery.grey_frontal_4
I like the design of this pattern, but the fabric is the real MVP here. After sewing it up, I learned that the bodice is drafted with no negative ease whatsoever, so it just kind of sat on top of me, puckering in weird places as opposed to hugging my curves the way that most knit fabric patterns are designed to do. It was an easy fix, though- I just re-serged my front seam about 2 inches in, and when I tried it on again, it was perfect- it looked like it was painted on without looking too tight or like I was busting out of it. I split the 2 inch difference on my front and back pattern pieces so that the decrease was shared between the two when I made this again, but for this dress, I didn’t think the difference was that big of a deal. I love the racer-back style of this bodice a lot, cause it works so well with my tattoos and is just a flattering look in general. grey_side_2I already have the fabric to make this again, and I am going to use the altered bodice pieces but cut out a short circle skirt for the bottom instead. I might decrease the allowances on the skirt pieces so that they match up perfectly with the new bodice pieces, but as it is, the skirt fits perfectly- not too tight, barely skimming across my hips and butt. The bodice and skirt are sewn together to create a channel for a narrow strip of elastic to be inserted, and that gives the dress just enough stretch at the waist to pull on over your torso but not so much that the waist looks gathered and has a lot of excess material. It’s one of my favorite things about this dress- the silhouette is so sleek and makes me look (relatively) long and tall. I sewed a very simple, quick belt to go with this dress out of the same material cause I don’t like the slight gathers at the waist on it’s own and I didn’t have a belt that went well with this look. I like it the fabric belt- I think it makes it look a bit more casual. I’ll try to share the replica I make of this dress in the new (much more playful) fabric I got from girlcharlee…til then, here are a couple of my favorite pictures that Claire took at the gardens…!

moss_bonsai

The above picture is from the bonsai exhibit that was on display, and the trees were breathtakingly beautiful, but it was this unexpected glimpse at the tiniest of sprouts growing up from the moss that I loved the most.

 

cypress_bonsai

BONSAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!

 

pink_flower_cacti

And this one is awesome just because it shows that nature knows how to throw in a pop of color in the most perfect amount. Style inspiration in the purest form!