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Monthly Archives: February 2013

I’ve lost a little of the sewing mojo lately. After finishing a bunch of things in January that I just wasn’t that over the moon about (and I will post someday, really), and studiously ignoring the two projects that I’ve started cutting and really need to make (pants and a jacket), and quite frankly just lazing around (two whole days spent reading Gone Girl, for instance – warning: it is exactly as un-put-downable as everyone says it is), I was looking for a project to get me going again. As usual in this case, I turned to a PR contest. The RTW knock off contest is one of my favs, since I enjoy figuring out how to modify existing patterns to copy designs I’ve seen in stores (and also because it enables my terrible habit of going into shops and scoffing “well, I can make that“).

But February was passing fast, and nothing was really jumping out at me. Of the likely RTW candidates I had chosen from my inspiration file, I either didn’t have a suitable pattern or the right fabric in stash. Then, miraculously, a week and a half ago I pulled a lavender doubleknit out of a pile at the crazy fabric store and was reminded of a lavender ponte dress from Banana Republic that I had seen in the store last winter, scoffed at, and then actually went home and saved the picture to my computer for distant future knock-off purposes. Looking at it again I also finally realised that I had the perfect pattern(s) in stash to use for it, so I tossed the fabric into the wash and started it the next day. And, you know, it actually kind of worked out.

Banana dress collage

I started with Simplicity 2219 as my bodice. It’s funny, after I first saw the dress I remember scouring the pattern websites for a dress or top pattern that mimicked the neckline shape, with the two bands meeting in a V then continuing straight down to the midriff. And somehow I missed this one. Huh. I guess it took actually making it up this summer to lodge it in my brain, because it’s basically the exact. same. shape. The inspiration even has the slight racerback style of this pattern. So I really didn’t have to modify the bodice at all. I used the bodice lining piece for my main front piece, since I just wanted the shape but not the gathered overlay of the original pattern. I didn’t line the bodice (though I did line the bands) because my fabric was heavy and also I only had a yard and a half. I finished the armsyces with narrow bands as a nod to the inspiration piece, though its bands are wider. It was a bit of a brain puzzle to figure out how to assemble the bodice without the lining, but eventually I figured it out. I left the side seams for last for fitting purposes. The midriff pieces came from Simplicity 3503. I could doubtless have nicked a midriff from any number of patterns, or just drafted one myself, but I grabbed this one and it worked perfectly. If I make another 2219 sometime this summer (and I might, I like this bodice pattern) I’ll use this midriff again, because frankly I think this pattern kind of needs a midriff. I topstitched the midriff again as a nod to the inspiration (which might actually have piping? I can’t remember nor can I tell from the picture).

Banana dress back collage

But then came the skirt, and here’s where my Frankenpattern monster got away from me a little. At first I was just going to draft a rectangle skirt and pleat it front and back, since I prefer a fuller skirt generally. But the inspiration had more of a fitted pencil skirt, with back darts and what looked like slash pockets, and I had McCall’s 5927 in my stash, so I figured, why not? I should have gone with my original plan. I suppose I assumed that the bottom of the midriff would hit at my natural waist, where the skirt of the McCall’s dress was supposed to start, but it wound up being a little higher than that. I think this threw off the curvature of the skirt, so I’m getting drag lines above the pockets and there’s some weird wrinkling near the midriff at my natural waist. Not helping is the fact that my, well, ample bottom and hips are a little too big even for the size 14 that I cut in the skirt, so the sides are pulling toward the back and preventing the pleats from falling straight. It might be exacerbated by the fact that I converted the pattern’s two pleats per side to just two big pleats, like the BR dress has. Ah, well, that’s what I get for being a slave to the inspiration. The problem is solved, though, if I just keep my hands in the pockets!

Banana ruffle dress knock off

I saved the ruffle for last. I had cut three lengths of fabric that were 3 inches wide, a half inch wider than the bands. They seemed really wide when I cut them, but after they were turned into ruffles and attached to the bands (by sewing straight down the middle of the ruffle, and having the seams of the ruffle at the shoulder seams), I kind of wished they were just a little wider. I can still see the neckline bands peeking out behind the ruffle sometimes. I thought the ruffle would be the hardest part of the project, but it turned out to be the easiest! Tedious, but straightforward.

In the end, though, I don’t know how I feel about this dress. I’m pleased that I (mostly) successfully knocked off the Banana dress, and it got me sewing again, but ultimately why did I do it? I mean, it’s an awesome contest, but I certainly won’t win (still, do vote for me next week if you’re so inclined – the prize is Mood money!). I don’t really need a dress like this right now, and I bought new fabric for it rather than sewing from stash, as I really need to do. Well, if nothing else, perhaps it will guilt me into finishing the Thurlow trousers I started cutting out before Christmas, and that I’ve been putting off because they seem slightly daunting. But hey, if I can frankenpattern a ruffled dress into existence in a week, surely pants can’t be any harder. And it’ll be kind of a relief to have some instructions, at least.

My pattern review slash contest entry can be found here, and all the contest entries are here, check it out. It really is my favorite contest. Voting begins on the 3rd!

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The Stash Monster is eating our office. Seriously, I have so much fabric it’s ridiculous; stacks and stacks in teetering piles on the floor and the sittables of our spare room/office, with only a semicircle of clear floor around the desk unencroached upon. So of course I wanted to participate in the Stashbusting Sewalong co-hosted by Cation Designs. Each month has a theme, and of course February’s is “love” – that is, make something from stash for a loved one. Add needing a special Valentine’s gift to the equation, and I finally had the motivation to sew up what is possibly the Most Bizarre Fabric I Have Ever Encountered.

I picked this up at (where else?) the Crazy Fabric Store a couple years ago. I mean, how could I not? I always intended it to become something for my husband, but I didn’t really know what. I only had a yard of it, so there weren’t a lot of options. I considered making a tie, but that would only showcase a sliver of the awesomeness (plus he sadly almost never wears ties), so I finally decided on boxer shorts. Really awesomely weird boxer shorts:

bizarro boxers

Why yes, that is a Hawaiian-style print with all Russian things! I’m particularly fond of the poorly illustrated caviar in the bottom right corner… Please, tell me, why does this fabric exist? Why can I find Russian-Hawaiian-shirt fabric but not a nice chevron print jersey? And why was there enough of this fabric in the world that not only did a bolt of it show up in a discount fabric store in Solvang but also online at Fashion Fabrics Club? (I actually saw this exact print, in two colorways, for sale on that site last year. I had a minor freakout at the time, but couldn’t tell my husband why I was convulsing because I was keeping the fabric a secret from him until I made it into something. So of course I have no proof. Wait holy crap I found it! It’s still for sale! That means you too can make bizarre Russian boxers for your special someone!) At any rate, I’m glad it does exist, because my husband has a random affinity for all things Russian, so this fabric seemed like an in-joke especially for him.

For the boxers, I used the Simplicity 2317 pajama pattern as a base. I used the XL in the regular pajama pants pattern, and cut them off just under the crotch (I made them as long as my fabric would allow, which is to say not very long at all. The inseam on these is no more than 2 inches, hence the very narrow serged-and-turned hem.) Since it’s a pj pants pattern, the crotch is rather low for boxers; I’d raise it if I used it again. I measured the elastic for the waistband off a pair of his RTW boxers. And I cut an appropriate piece of the print (my husband loves chili peppers) from a scrap, serged the edges, and stitched it on the inside back as a tag so he could more easily tell front from back. From cut to finish I’d say these took no more than an hour and a half. I can see myself making more boxers in the future – they’re a good way to showcase a wacky print that, well, perhaps I may not want featured in a garment that my companion wears on the outside… Anyhoo, he loved the finished product, even though they’re far from perfect. It’s the thought that counts – and the bizarro fabric, of course.

So that’s my “stashbusting” for the month. I say stashbusting in quotes because, really, sewing up a fabric that took up probably a millimeter of space in the stack (it’s rayon, so it’s super thin and folds up to be almost nonexistent) is not exactly making a dent in the Monster consuming the office. Sigh. I may not be capable of busting the stash, as evidenced by what’s on my sewing (/dining) table now: two dresses using fabric from my most recent visit to said crazy store – they didn’t even make it into the office at all! (One of them I’m trying to finish for the current PR contest, which ends – gasp – day after tomorrow! Best be getting on that.) Not to mention I just found out that I’m being sent to LA for work again next month… and how could I not partake of the fabulous fabric offerings of that great city when I’m living there for two and a half weeks? Especially not when I could have the opportunity to do so with awesome local sewasauruses? (And I now can track you all down, thanks to this totally brilliant map!) So what do you say, anyone in LA want to meet up and support my totally unhealthy stash habit? Or, ya’ know, just hang out. But surely our office can hold just a couple more cuts of fabric…

It may be (just slightly) clear at this point that I enjoy a cowl neckline. While I do like the sew-on-a-tube variety of cowl, my favorite is the all-in-one-drapey-bodice type cowl (is it called a “cut-on cowl? I think it is). I have a couple of this type of shirt from Gap a few years ago that I love, and I’ve been on the hunt for a pattern to make more. I like McCall’s 6078 (oh, it’s out of print now! Sad.), but it’s sleeveless (could I add sleeves? Well, yes – in fact, I did once) and the cowl is a little lower than I like. Enter Simplicity 1716. And you know, it’s pretty perfect.

Simplicity 1716I had my eye on this pattern since it was released in the fall, and even though I was excited to try it, other projects kept pushing it down the queue. I actually cut it out back in December, but ran out of time before the holidays so I didn’t sew it up until the new year. But once I finally sat down to sew, I had a shirt in about an hour. Easy but not boring is my absolute favorite combination! A couple of pleats at the shoulder, back neckline finish, then just sleeves and side seams. I omitted the strange additional pleat that comes out of the armscye (I just folded it out of the pattern before I cut) because I thought it was odd and I don’t need the extra room in the bust (plus one less pleat to sew!). Bonus points: it fit well with no adjustments (cutting my regular 10-grade-to-12). And it’s really long, something I like in a top.

There’s not much more to say about this one, but it’s a keeper! I will certainly make another of these (maybe a couple) and I’ll give the weird twisty neckline variation a try at some point (even though some clever blogger that I can’t place right now thought it looked like the neckline was eating the model’s head, and now that’s all I can think of when I see the pattern envelope… still, might be worth the risk of head-consumption).

My pattern review can be found here.

Oh, yeah, and about the fabric: this is another piece I dug from the bins at Michael Levine Loft back in November, just a regular ol’ cotton-lycra jersey that was a pretty color and had a nice hand. Or so I thought. Those wrinkles you see in the picture if you zoom in (or, really, just look closely)? They’re permanent. Although it looks like I’ve just left the shirt at the bottom of a pile of dirty clothes for a week, in fact this is what it looks like fresh from the dryer. And it’s totally impervious to ironing. Not only does the iron not remove the wrinkles, but it makes the fabric turn a darker shade of purple for several minutes. This is a crazy thing, right? Is my fabric possessed? Well, it’s lucky I really really like this shirt. ‘Cause this sucker’s getting worn a lot, even if it makes me look like I just rolled out of bed.

I’m still playing catch-up with posts (which is good since I have not sewn a stitch in over a week! – too crazy at work), so here’re two tops I whipped up before Christmas. I had never sewed with a sweater knit, so when I came across a couple pieces in the piles at Michael Levine Loft in LA I picked them up, thinking they’d make good cozy tops for my holiday travels to colder climes. I wasn’t sure about what patterns would pair well with sweater knits, but I theorised that tops without neckband finishing would be ideal, since sweater knits are not the most elastic of the knit fabrics and I didn’t want to mess about with neck bindings or bands.

To that end I started with Vogue 8634 for the thicker magenta piece. I’ve had this pattern for forever (purchased, obviously, because it features two of my favorite design elements: cowl neck and empire seam), but somehow I never managed to get it to the top of the queue. The cowl neck is my favorite solution to the I-can’t-bind-a-neckline-in-this-fabric dilemma, so it seemed a no-brainer.

Vogue 8634And, well, it’s okay. I thought I would like this pattern more, given the legions of positive reviews on PR, but it just doesn’t quite work for me. The raglan sleeves, which are usually a feature I like, seem to slide off my shoulders somewhat, and the neckline seam where the cowl attaches hits wider than my bra straps, which seems a bit wide. I’ve got a bunch of fabric pooling between my armpit and my boob (any ideas why this is? It happens to me a fair bit. Is it a small bust thing? Wrong pattern size?) and the armsyces are rather low for my taste. The empire line serves no purpose, it’s just a design detail (and one I like, so I didn’t omit it as many folks have), but in this thickish fabric the topstitching just looks kinda amateurish. I’m not sure if a different size or some fitting or a different fabric would make me like the pattern more, but the whole point of this kind of pattern is to make a quick knit top without much futzing, so I don’t know that it’s worth the effort to find out. There are a thousand cowl neck top patterns out there (and I may actually own about 900 of them), so I’ll probably just move on.

For my second piece of sweater knit, not wanting to make another cowl, I cast about for a different no-neckband style pattern. Enter Jalie 2682, which I bought a long time ago when I had a coupon at PR and then promptly forgot about. Well, that is, I forgot it could be used to make a normal top, since I bought it to try my hand at making a bike jersey using the sleeveless, zippered neck option (I still hope to get to that this summer!). But when I pulled the pattern out again and really looked at it, I realised it would be perfect for a fabric that’s tricky to work with.

Jalie 2682This pattern is frigging ingenious. When I finally deciphered the instructions (which are printed sideways in a corner of the pattern sheet, in small print, with all the diagrams separate from the text and labeled with numbers to correspond with the steps, which I hate), I totally fell in love with the construction method. Basically you cut two identical front pieces, lay them right sides together, stitch a line right down the middle, then fold it over (like a butterfly) and the line of stitching in the middle becomes the center seam and the fold the finished the neckline. Brilliant. Plus it goes together super fast. I so loved this pattern when I was assembling it, but sadly I liked it less once I put it on. Don’t get me wrong, I do think this top is a win, I’m just not as over the moon about it as I thought I would be. I wanted slash assumed that this top would end up a little dressier, but the pattern is kind of sporty to begin with, and with this fabric it turned out more casual than I’d’ve liked. Not helping matters is the fact that I had to finish the sleeves with cuffs since I wasn’t paying attention when I was cutting and the bottom of one sleeve got placed on an already-cut-out section of fabric… oops. I think I would like to revisit this pattern at some point, maybe in a drapey knit to see if the neckline behaves differently and if I can get it to look a little fancier. Meanwhile I’m going to see if I can incorporate this bodice construction into, like, everything I make ever. Mind. Blown.

My full reviews on Pattern Review can be found here (Vogue) and here (Jalie).

But now some thoughts on sweater knits: I’m not sold, I have to say. The thicker fabric made both of these tops not look as dressy as I wanted, and while casual tops are fine, they should at least be cozy, which these tops aren’t really either! The looser knit of the fabric makes the shirts slightly drafty, unfortunately, and despite feeling thick and springy to the touch, when worn the fabrics are both thin enough to show every lump and bump (I had to scrap a whole set of photos taken with another pair of pants because the fly and beltloops were showing right through the shirts). So I’m glad I gave sweater knit a try, but I think I’ll be sticking to regular jersey and doubleknits in the future!