Monthly Archives: May 2013

I’ve learned a lot about my style and what I really like to wear since I’ve started sewing. A lot, but most definitely not all. After all this time I still find myself susceptible to patterns and designs that I like, but just really aren’t me, and I end up with garments that, despite being acceptably made, languish in my closet. But somehow, this time, I didn’t let that happen.

I’d had this dress in my head for a long time. Well, not the dress as it ended up, but this pattern and fabric combo. I picked up Burda 7739, one of the somehow-associated-with-Simplicity Burda envelope patterns, a good while ago at a (rare) Jo Ann sale, and attached it mentally to some gray doubleknit that I’d had in the stash from one of my first orders ever. It got jogged to the front by Cation Designs’ Stashbusting Sewalong: impending seasonal change challenge (doubleknit is a great season transition fabric, right?). When that month came and went, I still wanted to make the dress, so I shifted my goal to May’s knits challenge. What I didn’t really consider was how that would change what I wanted out of the dress. The pattern, which I like in theory, features an empire waist and a high neck with faux button placket and a collar. I had the brilliant idea to make big covered buttons, but I hadn’t really thought about it other than that. And, well, the buttons were pretty much all that made it through.

Burda 7739 mod 2Not exactly like the pattern picture, right? Well. It was going to be when I started. I cut out all the pattern pieces exactly as drafted. I attached the faux placket first, making it a smidge wider to accommodate my 1 inch covered buttons. I sewed up the collar, interfaced it and topstitched it and everything, then suddenly stopped and thought about it a little. I don’t wear collars. I have very few high necked anythings. And my style, as it stands now, does not accommodate a cutesy empire waist collared puffed sleeve dress. As much as I like the idea, it’s just not me. Plus, the weather was warming up and I couldn’t imagine adding a collared, sleeved dress to the rotation right now. So I threw out the collar. I scooped out the neckline by 3 inches and just turned and hemmed it (doubleknit is so easy like that). I threw out the sleeve pieces and turned and hemmed the armsyces too. I pulled out the midriff piece from Simplicity 2281 (of previous sweatshirt dress fame) and cut out a midriff, since it occurred to me that a wide midriff would be so much more flattering than the drafted empire line, and I inserted it between the bodice and the skirt (still pleated as drafted). And, you know, it all worked out. This is a dress that feels like me.

Burda 7739 modOh, it’s not perfect. The neckline gapes a little, because it’s not actually that good an idea to just cut a tank top on the fly from a high necked fitted bodice. I should have made the neckline narrower and scooped out some fabric from the armsyces. The pockets are too low, since I only moved them up an inch and a half when I changed the waistline and I should have brought them up more. I randomly took three inches of length off the skirt without carefully pinning and measuring first, and it ended up a tiny bit shorter than I wanted it. But in the end, I’ll wear it, and that’s all that matters. I don’t know if I could have said that if I had ignored my instincts and sewed it up as intended.

But more than a wearable dress, what I got out of this experience was the realisation that I can actually change my mind midstream and make it work. I’ve never been very good at improv of the theatrical variety, but it turns out I really like pattern improv. Something not working out? Change it! Frankenpattern that sucker until it’s what you want. Follow your instincts. Sounds basic, but it was kind of a revelation to me that I could change my plans if they weren’t working out. Patterns are not sacred, so why was I treating them like they were? That’s why we sew, to personalize designs, right? And I’m so excited to start doing even more of that.

My full pattern review can be found here.

This project has been a long time coming. Not just in that I cut it out a full month ago, made it two weeks ago and am just blogging it now, but in that I bought this pattern and fabric literally years ago with this exact project in mind, and it took me until now(ish) to get around to it. When the Slapdash Sewist pointed out this waffley athletic fabric on FFC back in 2011 (egad!), I immediately ordered a yard with a bike jersey in mind. I had no pattern ideas until I stumbled across Jalie 2682 – I thought the zipper version would make a perfect bike jersey. And then I did nothing about it for a long time. I even made up the regular shirt version of the pattern in the meantime. But I was finally spurred into action (very leisurely action) by  Cation Design’s Vibrant Color Stashbusting Challenge last month. And was just getting warm enough for sleeveless bike jerseys! And then… April happened. And the jersey didn’t. But, better late than never, right? It’s still old stash, and it’s certainly a vibrant color. It’s just a little late.

Jalie 2682 as jersey

And the verdict? Well, what I learned here was that the reason I haven’t made a previous foray into self-stitched bike-wear is a good one: the fabrics kinda suck. This is Poly with a capital P fabric, and the waffle weave that’s supposed to be cooling and wicking (I assume) in fact just makes the fabric thicker and poufier, not exactly traits you want in close-fitting athletic wear. It also pulls off that great double trick of cheap knits in that it manages to feel thick and at the same time still cling and show every lump and bump. In my test ride with the jersey, the word that sprung to mind was “cozy”, which, again, is not my ideal workout shirt descriptor. But I guess that means it will make a good winter jersey with one of my boleros! (Seriously, these bike boleros are maybe the best bike clothes invention ever. They don’t slip down like armwarmers and they California-winterize a sleeveless jersey perfectly. I have like three.)

But as for the pattern itself? I do think I was right that it’s a good candidate for a bike jersey. It has a sporty look about it to start with (this bothered me on the shirt version, and I think I’ve figured out what makes it that way – no bust gathers. If the bodice were gathered a little into a midriff band I think I would like it better. That’s totally my next hack of this pattern. But I digress) that works well for a jersey, and it has a somewhat looser fit through the torso, something that you sometimes want in a jersey, actually (or at least one that’s made from insulating waffle polyester). And it already has a zipper, obviously. So I didn’t really make any mods to the basic pattern. The only change I made was lengthening it in the center back about an inch to create the curved back hem all my favorite jerseys have. This is a pretty long top, though, so I ended up actually taking off an inch all around before hemming, still preserving the curved back edge.  I like my jerseys long, but not that long. (I also managed to sew a dreadful meandering hem. Oops.) The only other adjustment I’d consider making to the pattern if I attempt bike clothes again would be to try to figure out how to reduce the amount of fabric at the back neckline. I like a little collar on my jerseys, but this is a little too tall.

Jalie jersey backThe main way I jerseyed it up, though, was to add pockets to the back. Back pockets are an absolute necessity for me, because I need a place to put my phone and any food I might need for the ride. I sort of drafted a pocket piece off an existing jersey, but it was really just a very slight trapezoid shape that was about 6 inches narrower than the back piece. I zigzagged elastic across the top edge of the pocket piece, turned it down and twin needled (all my jersey pockets are elasticized across the top). I attached it to the lower back piece by flipping the pocket piece upside down and sewing along the bottom, right sides together, then flipping it right side up and topstitching along the bottom for security. Then I topstitched along the side edges and up the middle in two places to create the pockets. I did this before I sewed the side seams of the jersey to make it easier. I placed the pocket piece about two inches from the bottom edge, but I find the pockets a bit low. Next time I’ll attach the pocket piece an inch and a half higher at least, so the stuff in the pockets will sit in the small of my back.

Jalie jersey pocketsSo, would I try this again? Honestly, it all depends on the fabric. If I ever stumble across a nice, real athletic knit that’s breathable and has good recovery (something this fabric definitely doesn’t have, hence the wibbly zipper), I would totally go for it. But I’m not committed to the idea enough to order dozens of swatches online in a quest for the ever elusive fabric-as-nice-as-RTW. And frankly, I seriously doubt I can find a fabric for sale anywhere that lives up to the awesome proprietary performance fabrics my RTW jerseys are made of. I mean, really, have you ever found yardage that you’ve touched and thought, hey, I could sweat in this for 100 miles? I know I haven’t. If something perfect does just walk into my stash, though, I have lots of ideas to real-jersey-up this pattern – reflective piping along the underbust seam, back pockets finished with contrast fold-over elastic, grippy paint along the inside bottom hem… But as it is I will wear this jersey occasionally, I think. And it’ll just motivate me to ride faster, so no one will be able to see all the terribly wonky topstitching!

On one last bike-related note, I can pass off at least a little of the delay of this post (just a little, mostly it was just my traditional procrastination) on the fact that I spent last Saturday riding the Tour of Long Beach Cruz Gran Fondo, a pretty flat 100 miles going down the coast and back. It was my third century and by far my fastest at 7 hours 20 minutes, mostly because it had almost no hills. (Though needless to say, I still did not wear this jersey.) I was very happy with my time, and even more happy about the craft beer garden at the finish! That, and the fact that when we rode past the Pageant of the Masters sign in Laguna Beach I totally yelled “There are dozens of us! Dozens!” Yeah there are.

Well, I didn’t want to get your hopes up. Yes, once again the time has slipped through my fingers and I have not accomplished all the things I planned/hoped/thought I could in the last few weeks. So while the end of April has arrived and I have no further stash sewing to show for it, I thought I’d better fess up and also at least share something about what I’ve been up to besides sewing.

First awesome news: I was lucky enough to win Amy’s Drape Drape 3 giveaway! I’ve been casually entering these giveaways as they’ve popped up around the sewing blog world because I’m morbidly interested in making at least one of the designs – I’m fascinated by crazy knit draping methods and this would definitely fit the bill! A quick flip through the book (it came so fast – thanks, Laurence King Publishing!) shows that my all my complicated pleating needs have been forever met, and I’m already daydreaming ways to modify the giant crazy pattern pieces to make the garments more, uh, my everyday style. It’ll certainly be an education in draping, if nothing else. And happily, the knot-neck dress seems to be just my thing as-is (though of course it’s one of the non-jersey patterns, so I suppose it’s not totally perfect… but I do so like to make woven patterns from knits), so hopefully I will be attempting at least that one sometime this summer.


Thank you Amy!

But the arrival of this book (by the way, as the third book in the series I keep feeling like it should be called Drape Drape Drape, right?) is not what has been keeping me from my sewing machine. No, sadly, it’s this: I have discovered another new hobby. And unlike my last new craft adoption, knitting, this one I’m really excited about! (Sorry, knitting, I just don’t think we’re going to work out. It’s not you, it’s me.) So what is it, you ask? (Or maybe you don’t – apologies, sewing will resume shortly, don’t worry.) I am making jewelry! Simple, modern silver jewelry! And it’s (relatively) easy!

I never intended to make jewelry. I’ve made some forays into beading in the past and it’s never caught my fancy, probably because I don’t wear beaded jewelry. I’m pretty picky about my jewelry – I basically only wear necklaces (no pierced ears, watch instead of bracelets), it must be silver, and I gravitate toward simple, modern geometrics. It never occurred to me that I could make that kind of jewelry without taking up silversmithing or something, so I was totally satisfied amassing said jewelry slowly, mostly at museum gift shops and local craft galleries. Then, last month in LA at one of said local craft galleries, I bought a necklace that the clerk informed me was made with “silver clay”. I had never heard of such a thing, so I googled it. It’s totally a thing. It’s actually called precious metal clay, or PMC. There is even – get this – a Craftsy class on using it. (Man, there’s a Craftsy class on everything now, isn’t there?) Basically, tiny particles of silver are suspended in an organic binder material that makes it a clay-like substance that can be rolled out and shaped, then it’s fired with a handheld torch for a couple minutes, burning up the binder and fusing the silver together. You then shine it up (or not) with a series of fine sandpapers. It’s pretty cool. So I took the Craftsy class and went for it. Here are a few of the things I’ve made so far:

first PMC necklaces

On the left is a shiny square with a brushed circle on top of it – they’re two separate pieces on one jump ring. On the right is a string of three circles, the center one is shined up and the outer two are matte, though it’s kind of hard to tell so I just may make them all the same (and I need to get smaller jump rings to connect them, but this was all I had at the moment). In the middle is a piece I textured by stamping the clay with a rubber stamp before cutting out the square shape. After firing I patina-ed the piece using the hard-boiled egg method and then scrubbed the patina off the surface with fine sandpaper for a brushed finish, leaving it in the indentations to make the pattern more obvious.

I must say I’m having fun coming up with all the jewelry designs I’ve always wanted but have never been able to find for sale. With sewing, I’ve never considered myself to be a designer at all – I’ve always been good at seeing something and duplicating it, or modifying something to be what I want, but not ever pulling a design wholesale out of thin air. So it’s been interesting that with the silver clay I do seem to be thinking of a lot of original designs, which is exciting for me. Or maybe it’s just a subconscious backlog of all the jewelry I’ve ever seen and liked but not bought? Who knows? It’s cool either way. But seriously, like I really needed another crafty suck on my time… gah.

I’m hoping anyway that the jewelry making and the sewing can happily co-exist. And after spending the last couple weeks immersed in the world of PMC, I miss sewing. So return I shall to the two items I cut out before the jewelry lark began (one of which is where the scrap of gray doubleknit the necklaces are sitting on came from). But I think I’d better stop making promises about when things are going to be done, since I just seem to break them immediately. May will be a mixed bag, with another Los Angeles work trip dominating the month (meetup, anyone?), but I’ve also signed up to participate in the curious kiwi‘s Burda Sewalong, to attack that magazine I bought last month. So there will be clothes, sometime. That’s as specific as I’m willing to get right now – for your own protection.

And finally, here’s some proof that not everyone in our house is sad about my temporary sewing hiatus:

OT stash bedHow nice of the Orange Terror to help initiate my newest fabric into the stash! Because, obviously, it’s not real stash fabric until it’s been shed on. Thanks, buddy.