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Monthly Archives: December 2015

It’s a familiar refrain (for me, anyway): where did this week/month/year go? I can’t believe this year is basically over. I may manage to put together some kind of year in review by, like, February, but for now I thought I’d squeeze in a couple dresses that I made way back in March of this (nearly over) year. It seems like a party dress kind of day, after all.

dvf wrap knockoffEver since I went to the DVF exhibit I’ve been wanting to knock off this black and white wrap dress. I knew this cool dimensional knit would be perfect for the skirt, and I had the black ITY in my stash for the top. I mashed up two different wrap dress patterns to get the design I wanted: the bodice is Butterick 5454 and the skirt is Vogue 8379. I actually think this combo makes my ideal wrap dress – I prefer shoulder pleats to waist pleats in a bodice, and I like the half-circle wrap skirt much better than the straight pleated wrap, which never sits right on me. I can imagine I’ll use this mashup again.

boden jacquard knockoffMy second winter dress knockoff was inspired by this Boden jacquard knit dress. I found a very similar jacquard poly knit at fabric.com (of course it’s not there now) and went pattern hunting. I wound up combining the bodice of McCall’s 5927 with my trusty Tiramisu half-circle skirt. The bodice as drafted has a high neckline and I wanted more of a scoop, so I freehand lowered the neckline by a couple inches. I just turned and coverstitched the neckline. It was a super quick dress to put together but it looks pretty fancy – I love when a cool fabric does all the work!

dvf wrap knockoff 2boden jacquard knockoff 2

I’ve worn both of these dresses quite a bit this year, turns out having dressy-ish black dresses in your closet can come in handy for those last minute events you didn’t have time to make something new for. Like, for instance, when the end of the year totally sneaks up on you.

Happy New Year!

 

PS I’ve finally (thanks to a tech upgrade Christmas gift) joined Instagram! If you’d like to follow me you can find me as aleah_42.

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I make a lot of bags for myself, actually, but they don’t always make it to the blog. I started out sewing bags, after all, and even though I make far more clothes, I do still enjoy making bags for various needs and occasions. Frankly, I think there’s just so much great fabric out there that is not suitable for garments, so I have to use it somehow. Echino, I’m looking at you.

IMG_0331Anyway, very occasionally I make a bag that I don’t think anyone has really made before. This little front zip cross body bag was inspired by a friend’s RTW leather purse that I admired and then thought, wait, I can figure this out! I actually managed to take notes and pictures along the way, so I thought I’d throw together a tutorial for it, in case anyone else has a thing for grommets on bags like I do. And yes, finally, it’s another bag tutorial for those of you who subscribed to my blog because of my messenger bag tutorial and then thought, jeez, what’s with all the clothes?

This is not a super detailed tutorial – it’s probably best for folks who’ve made a zipper pouch or two and are familiar with the basic process of getting a zipper onto a lined bag.

So if you’re looking for a quick last-minute gift, or just need some cute fabric in your life in the form of a bag, the tutorial begins after the jump.

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I always have a really hard time with fall sewing. Mostly I think that’s because we don’t really have fall here on the coast – our hottest months are September and October, then November is all about food, not sewing, and then it’s magically winter, bam. So I end up sewing summer clothes until almost Thanksgiving, then switch straight to winter things. I make a ton of spring clothes, because our spring lasts like 6 months, then I wear those things the following fall, but I never get to make any real fall-specific things. But this year I cracked the code: I took a trip in the fall to a place that has fall! (Boulder and Denver, Colorado, to be exact.) And because of course for any trip I have to frantically make as many new garments as possible, that meant I sewed a whole fall mini-wardrobe in October. Real fall clothes, at last!

My quote-unquote inspiration for this “collection” was a great pair of brown heeled oxfords I found on Zappos (not there anymore, but here they are at 6pm) and just inexplicably loved. I don’t usually go for that vintage-y style (for myself – I love it on other people), but I thought I could pull these shoes off. I imagined them with cuffed jeans and sort of boxy tops, and started compiling a wardrobe built on warm browns and complimentary colors.

natalie top side

I started with a Liola Patterns Natalie shirt in a lovely dark maroon bird print voile that I picked up at Hart’s in Santa Cruz this summer (great store, totally worth a stop if you’re anywhere nearby, but I took the rest of the bolt of this one, sorry!) I’ve realized that I will never wear a traditional button up collared shirt (again, love them on others but they just don’t feel like me), but I quite like shirts that are kind of riffs on button-ups. I liked that this pattern is collarless and has a front detail that is sort of a deconstructed placket.

natalie top close

I sewed up the pattern pretty much exactly as drafted. I graded from a M on top to a L at the hips (wise choice, for me), and the only thing I changed was that I shaped the hem for more of a shirttail look. I initially thought that I wanted a lower front slit than the pattern suggests because 4 inches didn’t look like much on the pattern piece, so I made it 5 inches down from the top and that was somewhat indecent, so I sewed it up to the pattern suggestion after all. The neckline is more of a scoop than it looks on the flat pattern, so the modest slit turns out not so modest in the end. It took some careful stitching and a small amount of unpicking and redoing to get the front pleat to lay perfectly (I used my blind hem foot so I’d have an edgestitching guide), but it got there. I recommend a fabric like this with a not-too-different wrong side, since a sliver of wrong side might show unless your stitching is super exact (which mine never, ever is).

echino jersey sweater

I knew my mini wardrobe had to include this awesome leopard spot Echino jacquard knit that my mom got me for my birthday, and knew that it had to be a sort of boxy sweater, but I wasn’t sure what pattern to use to realize my vision. Not helping matters was the fact that this fabric is only 30 inches wide. Luckily I had 2 yards, and I used every ounce of it. Happily, my leopard placement worked out perfectly (although there are some disembodied paws on one shoulder…) The fabric is lovely, lofty but surprisingly light, not too stretchy but enough that it still feels like a sweatshirt knit. I really, really love it. Echino, make more knits, please!

echino sweater 2

I ended up using the Hey June Aurora tee pattern as my base for this boxy dolman look. I kept the neck/shoulders/sleeves the same, but I boxed up the shape by cutting basically straight down from the armpits and cropped it several inches from the bottom. I used my remaining fabric to make a hem band to complete the boxy look (the size of the band was determined by my fabric scraps, I would have preferred to make it just a smidge longer). I bound the neckline with a scrap of ivory jersey rather than with self fabric to cut down on bulk, and I just turned and hemmed the sleeves. And I have to say, it turned out exactly how I wanted it. This is probably my favorite make of the year so far!

camas and hudson 2

I also thought I should make something that would be comfortable on the airplane (particularly because my flight left at 5:40a – why, why do airlines think people should be flying that early?), so I pulled out some soft brown french terry from GirlCharlee and whipped up a pair of True Bias Hudson pants. I actually made a pair of Hudsons last winter, although I was on the fence about the style, and then ended up wearing them basically every day… when I wasn’t going to leave my house. But this year I vowed to make a pair that I would feel good about wearing in public. I’ve been seeing knit track pants in stores and catalogs, they must be a real thing, right? So I made them and wore them on the plane and around Boulder when we arrived, and of course didn’t see a single other person all day wearing track pants. At one of the biggest airports in the country! And let me say, all those people flying in jeans are doing it wrong. French terry Hudsons are definitely the way to go.

I made a size 10 in accordance with the size chart and the fit is great. They go together really fast and the topstitched gathered waistband is really easy and looks very RTW. I omitted the drawstring on this pair simply because there was no way I was finding any appropriate drawstring anywhere in a 40 mile radius (more on that later). And these are seriously the most comfortable pants I’ve ever worn in public.

camas and hudson

If I was gonna dress down on bottom, I thought I’d better dress up on top, so I decided to make another Thread Theory Camas blouse to go with the Hudsons. I picked up this lightweight slubby jersey in the swap pile at the LA Sewists meetup last summer, and I paired it with some light brown cotton lycra jersey scraps I had leftover from some long-ago gift (a draped cardigan for a friend, I think?) I didn’t double the yokes because my yoke fabric was already so much heavier weight than my main fabric, and also I didn’t have enough anyway. I also didn’t attach the button bands as instructed – the instructions seem like they’re for a woven or more stable fabric, and this was so light and drapey I wanted as easy as possible. I interfaced the band facing, sewed the band and facing together along the neck edge, turned and topstitched, then just serged the finished band onto the blouse. There are some drag lines along the front, but that’s just ’cause the fabric is so drapey in the body and the interfaced bands don’t drape as much. Because of the drape, this version feels much lower-cut than my previous version, but I’m generally okay with super-low necklines (lack of cleavage to the rescue!).

Surprisingly, it turned out that the hardest thing about this top was finding buttons. Ridiculous, right? I just needed 5 matching off-white translucent buttons. But there is literally no place to buy buttons in my city. My city of around 200,000 people, a major tourist destination, is home to exactly one garment fabric store (which is super expensive and not my taste and closed for remodeling anyway) and one chain craft store (Michael’s, which carries black and white buttons and of course the sort of multicolored plastic buttons you glue onto cards but would never sew onto garments). The woman at the antique store I thought might have some vintage buttons (they didn’t) actually suggested I go buy a shirt at the thrift store and cut the buttons off of it. Seriously. I was leaving on a trip in two days and didn’t want to waste the time driving 50 minutes to the nearest JoAnn, or 35 minutes to the nearest regular-ol’-local-fabric-store, so I resorted to pillaging 5 almost-matching buttons from the random-notions box in my theatre’s wardrobe office. This is what happens when I want to make something spur-of-the-moment. Anyway, sorry, rant over.

stripe top and boyfriend jeans

Now, before you go thinking that my whole vacation wardrobe came out perfectly (barring button frustrations), I did have one dud and a near-dud. High on the perfection of my first three tops, I got cocky and decided to make something awesome with a brown and white striped rayon knit from the stash (probably picked up at the Loft last year). I didn’t know what, though, so I googled “striped knit top” and found the image of a dolman sleeved top with a diagonal seam across the front with offset stripes and thought, I can totally hack that. I went back to the Aurora pattern, tracing the front piece in full and then cutting it diagonally and adding seam allowances along that edge. Then I cut the front pieces singly, offsetting the stripes. I even copied the longer curved back hem of the inspiration. It came out exactly as planned. And the result? Meh. I don’t know why I don’t like this top, I just don’t. It feels frumpy and casual in a not-cool way. Maybe I shouldn’t have topstitched the neck in white? Maybe it needed a less drapey fabric? Anyway, not a fan.

boyfriend jeans side

Especially not paired with my near-miss, a pair of attempted boyfriend jeans. I had this light denim from… somewhere (I absolutely cannot remember when or where I got this fabric) and got it in my head that it would be right for a more relaxed cut boyfriend style. I used my trusty Thurlow jean hack, but I cut the legs wider starting just above the knee. I erred much too wide, though, and had to spend like an hour trying the jeans on, taking various leg seams in (including ones I’d already topstitched, d’oh!) before I got an even almost acceptable leg silhouette. They do definitely read casual, but again, maybe not in the cool way. I have to be very careful pairing these jeans with tops – too slouchy and casual and they just look unflattering. They’re not bad with a dressier top, but of course I only photographed them with the fail-shirt, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

But all in all, a pretty good fall wardrobe accomplished in just two weeks. That’s more fall things than I think I’ve ever made in the actual fall. And of course, because one thing made equals 5 new fabrics bought, I have to share my goodies from Colorado!

co fabric haul

The patterned cottons on the bottom are from Boulder, where we found a lovely shop called Fabricate just down the street from our hotel with a beautifully curated selections of cottons (seriously, this shop owner and I are fabric soul mates – there were so many geometric mustard prints!). Not too many garment fabrics here, but I did score some not-yet-released Echino fabrics that the proprietor had just brought back from quilt market. Look at those shiny wolves! Echino is my absolute favorite fabric for making bags, and those wolves are going to make a fabulous evening clutch.

Then in Denver we visited the amazing Fancy Tiger Crafts. Why, why can’t there be a shop like this in my town? (Oh, probably because we apparently can’t even support a store that might sell plain buttons.) I could spend hours and hours in that place. As it was, I came away with some lovely shirting, a beautiful wool, and a printed pattern to go with both! I was so glad to see the Cascade Duffle Coat pattern in print, because I have been wanting to make it but in no way wanted to print and assemble that pdf. I also couldn’t resist the hand painted ombre yarn, even though I would characterize my knitting as “amateur” and “sporadic” at best. (I do go through knitting phases, though, and I will say that this yarn has already become an ombre cowl scarf…) And talk about service: my yarn didn’t end up in my shopping bag somehow, and I didn’t realize it until we had already cycled back to our downtown hotel from the (very, very cool) neighborhood where Fancy Tiger is located, but when I called the shop, one of the employees offered to drive downtown to bring me my yarn. Amazing! Seriously, if you’re ever in Denver, do not miss Fancy Tiger.

And now, on to winter sewing! It’s finally taken a turn toward cold here, and I’m imagining cozy sweatshirts and merino everything. And maybe more Hudsons. And hopefully a duffle coat before Christmas… we shall see.