finished objects

I kind of love making dresses to wear to weddings. I like considering the taste and style of the people getting married and trying to create something that is like a merging of my style and theirs… Is that totally crazy? Does it make me a weird wedding stalker? Well, I might be okay with that. I love weddings. I especially love weddings that are a true reflection of the couple being married (and sadly, so many aren’t – the marriage industrial complex is homogenizing weddings everywhere…), so I felt so glad to be included at the wedding of two great friends and just generally awesome and stylish people in Northern California (by which I mean the actual northern part of California, not the Bay Area, which technically speaking is in the middle of the state – just sayin’) a couple weeks ago, which was so beautiful and just so very them.

Only thing, I almost didn’t have anything right to wear. I’d been thinking about making a dress for this wedding all year – I bought fabric in New York for it, then when I wasn’t sure about that, I bought different fabric online in May for something else, but I still wasn’t feeling it. Then, about a week before I left for the wedding, Ms. McCall randomly passed on some stash navy lace that as soon as I saw it I knew was the right fabric for this wedding. It has a great vaguely 70s crochet vibe that I wanted to highlight by backing it in a contrast color. I laid it over practically all the solids in my stash, and it became clear that mustard/gold would be just the right color, but the only solid mustard fabric I had was a cotton-lycra jersey, which isn’t exactly the most luxe formal dress fabric… but because I had less than a week and my “local fabric stores” (you know, the two stores we have within 40 miles) didn’t have any even almost yellow broadcloth or poplin, the jersey it was. And actually, it turned out to be kind of perfect. I mean, a stealth pajama dress is perfect for a wedding with a whole table of different desserts!

Vogue 8469Once I had my fabric settled, I hunted for a perfect pattern. I wanted a simple shape, sleeveless with a waistband and a full skirt, no crazy design lines to suck up my time or distract from the lace. I kept coming back to Vogue 8469, a pattern I’ve had forever but had never used due to some less than favorable reviews. It had everything I wanted, though, so I went for it. According to the measurements it has significantly less ease than the usual Big 5 offerings, so I cut the top size in my envelope, 12, for the bodice and fudge-graded out in the waistband to around a 14 or more. I was going on the premise that my lace wasn’t stretch, but actually it turned out to have a lot of give and stretched with the jersey, so in the end I took in the side seams by at least as much as I added, if not more.

Vogue 8469 2

I decided to treat the lace and the jersey as one throughout, both as a time saver and to hide the lace seams. It was almost stupidly easy with the jersey underlining – for the neckline and armholes I literally just folded under the edges together and coverstitched – the stitching lines are nicely disguised by the lace pattern. I omitted the zipper, obviously, and sewed up the side seams last for fitting. I did add pockets (pockets are very useful at a wedding, actually), which meant I had to treat the skirt as one also and not hem the lace and jersey separately. Again I just turned and coverstitched, and hemming as one gave the skirt a lot more body than if the fabrics had been separate, which I think I like. The pockets peek out a little because they’re solid jersey, but worth it – pockets.

Vogue 8469 back

Had I muslined the pattern first (ha! like I would do that), I would have made the neckline a little lower and narrower, and shortened either the back bodice or back waistband, since the back waist droops lower than the front. I also should have added belt carriers on the side, as I was pulling my belt down all day (but I actually had a perfectly matched belt in my drawer, remarkably). I omitted the giant ties – it just wasn’t the style I was going for.

It’s always nice when a super last-minute item turns out better than you could have planned it. I was sure until the final stitch that this dress would turn out to be unwearable, but when it was finished I absolutely loved it and couldn’t have imagined wearing anything else to the wedding.

Apparently I’m working backwards through my backlog of completed projects, so here is the second-most recent big thing I made and didn’t blog at the time – a dress to wear to a wedding in May. I bought this beautiful Italian polyester when I was in New York and I knew then that it would have to become my dress for this wedding. This is seriously the nicest poly I’ve ever touched. It’s soft and flowy like silk, but doesn’t feel delicate. It’s also amazingly stable, unlike basically any poly woven I’ve ever touched. It’s fairly opaque, and I thought I might be able to get away with not lining it, but just to be safe I bought a generic ivory poly chiffon at the Michael Levine Loft (where fabric is sold by the pound, so chiffon costs basically nothing) to line it, which of course is not as nice against the skin as the Italian fabric. Ah well.

The only problem was that this fabric took a long time to tell me what kind of dress to make out of it. Some fabric is totally unambivalent about what pattern I should make it into, but this one wouldn’t decide. (Or maybe I couldn’t decide, who knows.) I thought about doing some kind of deep v-neck crossover bodice, or a traditional halter v-neck with a back tie, but finally the fabric suggested a gathered neck halter (one of my favorite styles) and I knew that was right. But then I waffled between Vogue 8380 and Simplicity 2281 for a while. In the end I decided on the Simplicity, sans wing sleeve things, because I reasoned that the fixed neck binding would be dressier than the casing/tie neckline of the Vogue. I think it was the right call.

Simplicity 2281 halter

I had made this pattern up before, but with long sleeves and in a knit, so not much fitting guidance there. I wound up making one size bigger than my knit version in the bodice and two sizes bigger in the waistband, which worked out pretty well. When I installed the side zipper I fine tuned the fit by varying the seam allowance along the zip- I had a little extra room at the top of the waistband and barely enough at the bottom/waist seam, but overall pretty close. I did try to cheat and not cut the neckband on the bias (although I don’t remember the pattern actually calling for a bias band, it must have, right?), but I should have used bias because the straight grain neckband pulls funny and doesn’t look like it wants to wrap around my neck.

S2281 close

Based on the fit of my knit version, I shortened the waistband by about a half inch to make it less gigantically tall, and I flared out the skirt because I thought a fuller skirt would suit the fabric more than the slight tulip shape of the pattern. I had a hard time deciding on a length for the skirt – it was a garden wedding, so I wore these flat sandals, but I didn’t want to shorten it so much that it wouldn’t make sense with heels for future uses. I will say that I think the length I wound up with does look better with heels than flats, but the only matching heels I have would have gotten stuck in the grass, so I went with the flats for the wedding anyway.

Also, I love my machine but it does not like making blind hems. I can’t figure out why, but the one thing my cheapo old Sears Singer did better than my fancy Bernina is blind hem. This hem looks like crap, and I pressed it for, like, hours.

S2281 back

This dress came together easily, because the fabric really behaved itself the whole time. I gotta find some more Italian polyesters, I guess! On the plus side, this fabric was a bolt-end and they made me buy the remaining 3 yards (at a discount, thankfully, I think I paid $30 for 3 yards), so I still have plenty of fabric for a top or something. Which is good, because I love this pixel print more every time I look at it.

I just returned from a vacation in Seattle, and before I left I actually sewed a buttload of new summer things to bring on the trip, but none of them managed to get photographed while I was there, of course. Sorry, no new photo backgrounds for you, but hopefully some summer clothes at some point. I also made a purse based on a friend’s RTW bag that I have coveted every time I’ve seen it, so tutorial coming… eventually!

As the weather warms up I’ve felt a hankering to make some sleeveless knit dresses. I am making a slight effort to use fabric I already own, which is basically all the fabric in the world at this point, so I pulled out a couple pieces that I’d earmarked for summer dresses last year and then ran out of summer before I got to them.

The first is a length of striped bamboo knit from when I discovered that bamboo knits are my favorite fabric ever and I bought basically all the bamboo print knits in stock at like three online stores. I think this green stripe is from Hart’s (which has a fantastic bamboo knit selection – or they did until I had at it anyway). I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it last year, but when I unearthed it from the closet this week I thought it would make a great crossover bodice dress. I pulled out McCall’s 6073, which I’ve had for a while but hadn’t tried yet.

McCall's 6073

Believe it or not, I basically made up the pattern as-is, no hacking or mashing involved. I even made an attempt to follow the instructions regarding the neckline binding. The back neckline is a cut-in v with no center back seam for some reason, and so I thought I’d forego my usual clear elastic binding technique and give the self-binding from the instructions a try. But I could make neither heads nor tails of the instructions for the back center v (it seemed like it would work if it were an exposed binding, but not for a turned under binding?), so I gave up and did my own thing. I couldn’t figure out how deal with the back v with my folded-under elastic though, so I wound up taking a small dart in the back, stitching together the elastic at the apex of the v. I should have just added a tiny center back seam. Meh. If I make this again I’ll just do a regular high neck in back I think.

McCall's 6073 back

I do really like the front bodice, though. As I usually do with a crossover neckline, I pinched a wedge out of the neckline before cutting – only a half inch in this case. The underbust gathers are a little far to the outside for me, but otherwise it’s a pretty good fit. I really like the gathered shoulders. I am not a huge fan of only having a waistband in the front but not the back, though. I remember originally looking at the pattern and thinking I would add a back waistband when I made it, but of course I forgot about that until I had already mostly cut it out and didn’t want to bother. I also tossed aside the instructions after the neckline incident, so I didn’t realize that there’s supposed to be an elastic waist inside a casing made from the skirt/bodice seam until I’d already attached the skirts to the bodices separately and sewed the side seams in one. The front is fine, but the back waistline sags a bit, so I may go back and zigzag some clear elastic to the back waist seam and see if that helps.

McCall's 6073 2

But overall I really like this pattern. I can see how it would be indecently low on people who have cleavage, but no danger of that here! It’s a better fit for me than Simplicity 3503, which I made forever ago and is actually too low in front (which is saying something). It’s also a more straightforward fit than the Tiramisu bodice, and I prefer the narrower shoulders of this pattern. I could see myself going back to this for my future surplice bodice needs.

•     •     •

My second stash dress is a frankenpattern/hack knock-off, so, back to business as usual. I grabbed a screenshot of this Anthropologie dress forever ago (long enough ago that their website still displayed different views of the items side-by-side, making it particularly easy to do an all-in-one inspiration screen grab). I even earmarked this Girl Charlee yellow striped knit for this dress last year sometime, but never got around to it.

stripe anthro knockoff

I knew I would need a generic, highish necked, sleeveless bodice from somewhere, so I dug out McCall’s 5927, which seemed to fit the bill. (I have yet to actually make this pattern up as-is, but I have used both the skirt and the bodice for various separate projects, so all in all worth the $1.99 I probably paid – apparently a long time ago, because it seems to be very, very out of print now.) I made the seamline for the sideways front yoke at around the front sleeve notch, for reference. I also wanted to incorporate the bias striped neck and armhole bindings of the inspiration, so I trimmed about a half inch off the neck and armscyes, and attached the binding with a 1/4 inch seam so I wouldn’t raise the neckline etc too much. One thing I do need to remember about this bodice pattern is that it gapes at the back neck on me. I ended up making two little half inch darts in the back neck after it was all done. The bodice also seems to be a bit long on the sides, or something – it’s bunching up funny on the sides above the waist anyway.

stripe anthro knockoff back

For the skirt I used that same traced off skirt from Simplicity 1810 (which actually isn’t even a skirt piece – it’s a one piece dress pattern that I just traced the bottom half of and now apparently I use it for all my frankenpattern skirt needs). This time I made 8 one inch pleats in the front and back to fit it to the bodice pieces.

stripe anthro knockoff 2

This was a quick and slapdash knock-off for sure, but it actually turned out pretty well. It’s kind of delightfully summery and nautical – I feel like I should be wearing it on my yacht or something, but I’ll have to settle for wearing it to work during a totally inexplicable rain storm, as I did right after I took these pictures. Hmmm, maybe if we all make more sleeveless dresses from stash fabric we can cause enough rain to end the drought! Because that seems way more likely than me actually ever sewing up all my stash.

Well hello there.

So believe it or not, I have been sewing a little. More to the point, I have a huge backlog of finished objects that I have persisted in not blogging for anywhere from a few weeks to several months… but of course, rather than dig into the backlog I am sharing the item I finished yesterday.

I’ve been in kind of a mojo slump lately, so for inspiration I’ve been trolling the usual RTW sites for knock-offable garments. This one came from Anthropologie – I love Anthropologie because I often find things there that have a design detail that I wouldn’t have thought up on my own, but that I can see exactly how to make. This was one of those “duh!” designs – four open darts to provide waist shaping in a simple kimono shift. I liked the colorblocking on the shoulders too, but I decided to test out the dart idea on its own first.

darted kirsten dress

I knew my starting point would be – obviously – the Kirsten Kimono tee pattern. (Sick of that yet? I’m not!) I knew I wanted it to be a dress rather than a tunic, and I reasoned that I would want it to have roughly the same ease above and below the dart “waistband” as my gathered bodice Kirsten dress, so I pulled out the modified bodice pattern from that piece and the gathered skirt piece from my other Kirsten dress hack (which is originally from Simplicity 1810). Magically, the waistline of the bodice and the skirt were exactly the same, so I just laid them out on the fabric barely touching at the waist and cut around the whole thing, making one long piece for front and back.

darted dress pattern piecesI finished the neckline as I usually do with a band (but because it’s kind of boatnecky I always attach the neckband to the front and back necks separately before sewing the shoulder seams, rather than trying to stretch the band around the tight corner at the shoulder). I then sewed the shoulders and side seams and tried it on, marking my waistline at the side seams with pins. I laid the dress out flat, set my long clear ruler across at the waistline, and made marks for the pleats starting 3 inches on either side of center. My pleats are 1 1/4 inches each, because measurement-wise I wanted to remove around 10 inches in total from the waist circumference. I made each pleat about 2 1/4 inches long, and the sets are spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart.

darted kirsten dress close

I did wind up going back in and taking in the side seams an additional 1/4 inch on each side at the waist, so I could’ve made my pleats a little bigger. I also left a fair bit of ease in the waist, so the front between the pleats would stay flat and not pull. I think the inspiration tunic doesn’t have pleats on the back, but I really need waist shaping in back, so I made the same series of pleats on the back as on the front.

darted kirsten dress back

The fabric is one of the Girl Charlee cute-print-but-no-stretch jerseys. It took me a while to figure out how to use these knits, but this is the right sort of project – the pleats need structure rather than drape, and it’s a fairly stiff knit. This line of fabrics is also on the thin side, so I’ve learned to buy dark solid prints so I can use them for unlined dresses.

darted kirsten dress 2

I was pretty sure this dress wouldn’t work out, so although I cut it out a month ago it just sat around until I finally buckled down and sewed it up. It literally took me one episode of the Slate Culture Gabfest to complete, so I don’t know why I stalled starting it for so long. I was very pleasantly surprised when I tried it on after sewing the darts and it actually looked good. Nothing like a small victory to goose the mojo!

So my goal for this summer is to sort through my stash and find projects for fabrics I’ve had forever and forgotten about. So we’ll see how well I do with that. It’s finally warming up and feeling more like summer here, so I’ve got a weird hankering to make dozens of tank tops. In the meantime I’ll try to post some of the backlog items – some of them are summer things I made in the fall that I’ve stalled so long on sharing that they’re coming back into season again!

So, I guess it’s May. (How did that happen?) I know because people are excited about Me-Made-May – which, don’t get me wrong, is totally awesome. I love the idea, I loved participating in it, and I want people to be excited by it and learn from the experience for years to come, like I did. I will say though, that because mine has become basically a me-made-lifestyle, that the only thing a MMM commitment would add to my month is pressure to take photos (which I hate) or to finally upgrade my phone so I can join instagram (which I would love to do, but I can’t bear to lose my beloved original iOS design – I will cling desperately to my yellow notepad notes and 3D text bubbles and original google maps for as long as my iPhone 4 is functional). So let me just say that I will be participating in Me-Made-May like I do basically every month (after its last purge, my closet has only a handful of RTW items left in it anyway), but what I will try to do this month is MAKE. For ME.

Andrea got to it before me, but I was thinking about making a similar pledge before I read her post. I used to be inspired by contests and occasions and other “required” sewing, but now I just really want to make whatever I want, whenever I want. Which is why I made this top. (Okay, I made it back in March, but it represents the spirit of what I want to do more of in the future.) Totally inexplicably I have wanted to get back to working with wovens lately (I know, who are you and what have you done with me?), so I grabbed this lovely Joel Dewberry rayon that I ordered on a whim a few months ago and made a top.

M7094The pattern is McCall’s 7094, which I bought for 99 cents or whatever a while ago, when the first tiny voices whispering “you might want to sew something other than jersey sometime” started to appear in my head. I’ve become quite bored with the knit pattern catalogues of the Big 5, but their woven patterns are basically novel to me, probably because I’ve totally ignored them for years. I realized that this was potentially one of their giant tent shirt patterns, but flowy tunics are everywhere right now, and I reasoned that the rayon had the right drape and weight to tame the tent tendencies. I did make a straight size small, when I would more usually make a small on top grading to a medium in the waist/hip, because obviously this would be more than big enough. And I think tent was avoided, for the most part.

I will admit this was fiddly to construct in the collar area, but that’s probably because after so long making easy stretchy things I have NO patience for the slightest challenging construction detail. I did not slipstitch most of the collar down on the inside – for the most part I secured it with stitching in the ditch, with a little hand stitching at the corners to catch what I missed.

M7094 frontI was able to figure out a way to totally clean line the yokes with no hand stitching whatsoever, though! I will go through that now for those that have this pattern and want to try it (I think the technique would apply to the sleeveless version only), but it probably won’t make sense to anyone else, sorry. So I started by sewing the side seams of the body pieces and finishing their half armscyes with bias strips. Then for the yoke, I stitched the armholes of the yoke first, wrong sides together, then trimmed, turned, and understitched. Then I turned the yoke inside out again and placed the gathered back piece inside the yoke, lining up the top edge of the back with the bottom edges of the yoke, adjusted the gathers to fit exactly, and stitched. Trimmed corners and turned right side out again, voila, enclosed back yoke seam merged with finished armscye seam. For the front seams, I made the pleats in the front pieces, then wrapped the yoke around the front piece with the stitched armhole seam butted up to the finished bottom armhole and lining up the top/bottom edges again. Stitched that and turned and hooray, totally enclosed yoke with no hand stitching! Mind you, this only works because you add the collar later, so the collar is still open for you to turn the yokes out through. I borrowed this technique from a couple Burda patterns I’d seen, and it was also inspired by the way you sew the shoulder seams of any cut-on cowl top ever (and I’ve made a lot of those). The instructions of course would have you fold under the SA and hand stitch all the yoke linings – no thank you. I’ve heard the instructions in this pattern are actually rife with real errors, not just dumb techniques like usual, but the sleeveless version’s steps were mistake-free (if not dumb technique free).

I did find that the armholes were a smidge too high, which is an issue I often have. I should always preemptively make a Low Armpit Adjustment (I wish that was a real thing), but instead, when I tried it on after sewing the yoke but before adding the collar, I went back in and re-sewed the back yoke seam with a smaller seam allowance to give me a little more room.

The only other odd thing about the pattern is the pleats under the placket – it’s not a true box pleat but rather two little pleats that try as I might I cannot get to lay right. That whole area at the bottom of the collar is kind of a mess, because I’m really bad with clipping corners and getting right angles to actually be right angles, but what’r’ya gonna do? I can’t decide if the placket would be easier/look better without the pleats under it or not…

M7094 sideI am also a little undecided if I like the mullet back of this pattern. I like the idea, but I think I generally go for a more subtle hi-lo hem. This thing is like a butt cape. I’m tempted to cut off most of it and re-hem it to a mere inch or three curve, but I do feel like I’m seeing this long butt tunic thing everywhere, and also I’m lazy. Thoughts? Butt capes good or bad?

M7094 backAll in all I’m pretty pleased with this top, though. I’ve avoided rayon for a long time because I hate rayon knits so much (pilling!), but rayon challis is really nice. I washed and dried it in the machine as usual (though now that it’s sewn I will try to pull it out of the dryer early so it doesn’t shrink any more, just in case). It’s soft and pretty and nice to wear, and now I’ll be looking for it when I’m fabric shopping… great, a new fabric to buy. But hey, whatever gets the mojo going, right? Happy May!

It seems possible that even those regions that have been unfairly smothered in winter for ages are starting to see small signs of spring, so I thought I’d throw out these winter accessories I made for my trip to New York before they’re totally obsolete.

Now, I have a ton of scarves. A simple jersey infinity scarf is my favorite thing to do with a leftover half yard of fabric, and as a frequent nighttime bike commuter in a coastal area, I get a lot of use out of my lightweight jersey scarves. But for real winter I thought I would need something more substantial, like with wool. I am by no means a speedy or skilled enough knitter to knit a scarf in the time I had, so I was at a loss for what to do until an opportunity presented itself in the form of an 18 inch width of leftover gray merino french terry from a cowl sweater I whipped up.

The idea of the infamous lululemon snap scarf (called the Vinyasa scarf, of course) has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and while I didn’t have enough fabric for a double-layer version, I liked both sides of my fabric so I decided to make a single layer scarf. Extensive googling gave me lots of pictures of the scarf in various snapped and unsnapped states, and I improvised some finishing that I’m really happy with. So here’s a sort of mini-tutorial for my single layer version of the Vinyasa scarf:

vinyasa scarf knock off 1

I started with a roughly 18 inch by 60 inch rectangle of my french terry. I think this would work with any thickish fabric that you like both sides of – one of those reversible double-knits would be really cool. Luckily my fabric pressed well, so I was able to press a narrow hem along the long sides of the rectangle. I just did a single fold because I didn’t mind seeing the raw edge, but you could do a double fold narrow hem if desired. I used a wide zigzag stitch to hem the long edges, just barely catching the raw edge in the edge of the zigzag. I reasoned that this would be a nice sturdy and decorative edge for the scarf. (There’s a lot of decorative zigzag stitching on the lululemon clothes I’ve seen, perhaps it’s not the becky-home-ecky stitch I always thought it was.)

For the snap ends, I wanted to add a pop of color with ribbon a la some of the inspiration scarves, so I went hunting for a yellow grosgrain or petersham ribbon. What I found instead was yellow twill tape, which ended up being even better than ribbon. I found this great yellow color twill tape at a local fabric store, but I imagine you could also dye white twill tape your desired color. My tape was 3/4 inch wide, which was about perfect.

scarf tutorial edge     scarf tutorial tape

I also didn’t want the darker side of the fabric to show under the snaps on the non-tape sides, so I folded a slightly less than 3/4 inch hem toward  the right side of the fabric and laid the tape over it, folding the ends of the tape under. I stitched the tape on first with a zigzag stitch, then I edgestitched it as close as possible to the edges to really seal it down. (I used yellow thread in the needle and gray in the bobbin to match the respective sides.)

Finally, the snaps. I used the regular pound-in snaps, because I liked the ring that shows on the opposite side of the functional part. For my scarf width, 7 snaps made the most sense to me. I spaced them one inch from each end and one and a half inches between snaps. Hammer ’em in and snap ’em and you’ve got a scarf!

vinyasa knock off snaps

The appeal of this scarf is obviously all the ways to wear it (there’s even a video about it), but I found that I mostly wore it fully snapped and double wrapped, or double wrapped and half-unsnapped. I love the twisted two-color look from the contrasting sides of the fabric, and the little pop of yellow from the tape. Plus it didn’t cost me $50!

vinyasa scarf knock off cowled

The hat I’m wearing is the first ever hat I’ve ever knit. I learned to knit a couple years ago, but it never really took hold – I think I don’t have the attention span required for knitting. Nevertheless, I was determined to knit a hat for this trip. Fortuitously the perfect pattern presented itself in my blog reader in the form of Ginger Makes’ version of the Mock Rib Watch Cap. (That horse sweater, by the way, is totally amazing and a great example of something I would never ever have the patience to knit.) The lovely owner of my local yarn shop pointed me to an appropriate-weight charcoal colored yarn that is so soft and actually pretty warm. (It’s SimpliNatural by HiKoo in Slate Gray, alpaca/merino/silk, for those who are interested in those kind of details.) I used the recommended needle size and my gauge swatch was pretty close, but I found the finished hat to be a little big, if still wearable. I suspect I’m a rather loose knitter and my band is really stretchy. I’m not much of a hat-wearer generally, but I wore the heck out of this hat in the frigid New York weather.

scarf and hat

So about my New York City experience – just a couple things. First off, I absolutely loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. If you’re a theatre person at all, and you have the chance, go see it. The things they do with the ensemble creating the world of the main character are just really innovative and exciting.

Second, yes, I did do some fabric shopping. I hit up Mood, Metro Textiles, and Paron (everything was an extra 40% off when I was there, so that was cool). I also popped into Spandex House (or was it World? one of them) which was impressive but I didn’t need any more swimsuit fabric. Here’s my haul:

NY fabric haul

Top to bottom: from Metro, a super soft poly jersey that feels like cotton, a nice gray ponte, a gray herringbone stretch denim for pants of some kind, and a spotty poly charmeuse; from Paron, a crazy blue pinecone print stretch twill for awesome shorts, a lovely poly crepe de chine print from Italy (which they made me buy the remainder of the bolt, 3 yards, but I think I’ll use it all for something), and a dotty stretch poplin for more awesome shorts; and from Mood, a fantastic Anna Sui silk that I couldn’t pass up. Not a bad pile, and worth cramming in my suitcase, I think, but overall I didn’t think I found anything crazy special or super different from what I might find in LA. The feeling of the Garment District is totally, totally different from the LA Fashion District, though, and way less intimidating, even though I did have to take elevators to two of the shops. The one store I did want to import to the west coast, though, was Pacific Trimming. That place has everything you might need for any number of projects, but is absolutely the kind of place you visit with a particular project in mind, not just to randomly shop. I’m sure over the next year I will wish I could drop in there for some specific item, but as it was I tried to pre-buy for some theoretical projects:

NY trim haul

Two lengths of high quality strapping and some accompanying hardware, some white cotton rope and some gray faux leather rope for bag handles, and a couple random buckles and clips. The store was so well organized, and while I know all this stuff must exist in LA, it’s much more of a pain to locate.

So I guess I did enjoy a little taste of real winter, but all the same I’m glad to be back in California, where spring cannot be denied. It was fun to make winter clothes, but now it’s time to pull out all the sleeveless top patterns!

I still have a couple more things I made for my New York trip to share, plus my fabric haul, of course, but first I wanted to pop this up here because I like it so much: the Thread Theory Camas Blouse. And it’s basically the opposite of black and white. camas front I downloaded the Camas pattern very soon after it was released, because I thought it would fill the wardrobe niche of Dressy T-shirt. I like the idea of button down blouses, but would always rather be wearing jersey, so this is my perfect solution. I ordered this cherry blossom print jersey from Girl Charlee, and immediately discovered that the coral orange centers of the flowers were a spot-on match to the coral stripe merino left over from my Lekala top. I adore color blocking, but it’s so rare that I find fabrics that match, so I had to go for it. camas back Despite having a button band, which are usually a huge hassle, this top went together in just a few hours today. I wanted it, I had it. I love when that happens. I did deviate from the instructions slightly and I attached the inner and outer bands together before sewing them onto the blouse, because I thought that would be easier and less likely to cause brain explosion (curved bands are one of those things I find very confusing to attach correctly). The band went on in one try, thankfully, even if it isn’t a totally consistent width all the way around, and the inner band peeks out a little (but I’ll blame that on my malfunctioning iron – lately it had some kind of aneurysm and is now super-heating itself after being on for just a few minutes, which means I have to iron quickly or risk scorching my fabric). I credit the pattern for having you interface both the inner and outer band. Most knit patterns with button bands that I’ve seen only have you interface the inner band, which makes everything go wonky when you try to topstitch. These bands were very well behaved. And as many have noted, you don’t need the button bands to actually be functional because the neck is so big, so rather than muck about with buttonholes, I marked where the buttons should go and stitched the bands together at each mark with a short wide zigzag before just sewing the buttons on top. I had to resort to buying plain white buttons at Michael’s, of all places, because it is literally the only store that sells buttons (but only, like, 5 kinds of buttons) that isn’t a 30 minute drive away, sigh (and keep in mind that I live in a population center of around 150,000), but I’m holding out for the possibility of finding some awesome coral buttons next time I make the trek to JoAnn. camas detail Size-wise, I followed the measurement chart exactly and cut a 10 in shoulders/bust grading to a 12 waist/hips. I probably could have cut a straight 10, but just because of the billowy back. When I pull the front flat, the side seams hit right at my sides, so all the ease is in the back piece. Because my fabric is cotton and on the stiffer side, it tends to tent out at the sides, but if I were to make this in a drapey jersey it would fall beautifully, I bet. If I did make this again in another cotton knit, I would consider omitting the back gathers. And, oh, I think I will make this again. camas side I have to say, I’m really loving Thread Theory as a company. I made The Man a Newcastle Cardigan for our trip (more on Man Sewing soon) and on both patterns everything is just drafted so nicely, the pattern markings are clear, the instructions are comprehensive and nicely formatted, and the design aesthetic is just clean and lovely. I really hope they release some more women’s patterns, because let’s face it, I will always be a selfish sewist. Speaking of which, I am entering this make into the Indiesew Spring Selfish Sewing Week Challenge. I stumbled on Indiesew just recently – they’re primarily a retailer of independent patterns, many of which are from designers I had never encountered before, but it looks like they’re trying to create a sort of community as well, with mini pattern reviews and member projects featured on the pattern pages. Check it out, and if you’re a member and so inclined, your vote in the challenge would be appreciated! (I am straight-up coveting that lemon merengue leather hide.) Here’s to the start of Spring!

I’m on my way to New York! Yes, I’m actually writing this on the airplane, though I’ll post it later – wifi on planes still seems wrong to me somehow. Anyway.

As usual, in preparing for this trip, my eyes were bigger than my mouth (or my time, in this case), and I decided to make All the Clothes. My crazy ambition was kicked into high gear by the ridiculous timing of the Pattern Review “Wardrobe for Travel” contest, which, yes, had the deadline for entry two days before I was set to leave. How could I resist? I started planning my wardrobe before we even had plane tickets.

My inspiration was some family friends who make frequent trips to New York, and who have so totally committed to the idea that if you wear only black then everything goes with everything else that they now dress primarily in all black even when not traveling. I wanted to riff on that classing packing idea of everything going together, but with a little more fun than all plain black. It would be a good challenge for me, actually, because I wear so much color and pattern that my usual travel wardrobe requires three pairs of shoes and as many jackets. Not so feasible when you’re going to someplace that requires boots and a real coat. (In this case – a fabulous yellow wool coat I bought from Boden. Yes, I did manage to restrain myself from planning to make a wool coat. Thankfully.)

I decided to build my wardrobe off of some lovely black stretch denim I got at The Fabric Store during the LA Sewists Meetup last summer. I started seeking out black and white prints for tops, and also became obsessed with finding a black dimensional or quilted knit to make a circle skirt like this one Tasia made forever ago. Two black bottoms, two or three black and white print tops, and a black and white dress or three. Easy, right? Well, the best laid plans…

travel wardrobe collage

Let’s look at what I did get done. I did manage to finish, photograph, and post reviews of all my contest items in the nick of time, with my contest entry review being posted at literally the last moment of the contest, 11:59p EST (I do wish these contests rolled with the time zones, the extra three hours would have reduced my mad shouting at the photo collage I was attempting with 10 minutes remaining). Here’s a quick rundown (there are some links to individual pattern reviews for more detail if interested):

I made myself a pair real skinny jeans with the black denim, using the same skinnified Thurlow pattern with the yoke I drafted last year. I only had a yard and a half of the denim, which is plenty for jeans in a 60in width, but what escaped my notice in the shop was that this was more like 49in, so it was a real squeeze. In my concern over jigsawing all the pieces onto my fabric, I totally forgot to add the seam allowance to the top of the back piece where the yoke attaches. Thankfully, my yoke pattern piece includes a 1/2 in seam allowance, so I was able to just attach the yoke to the back with a 1/4 in SA and end up with the same amount of bum room (just a slightly larger yoke). The rest proceeded fine, except that for some reason that I can’t adequately explain (perhaps I interfaced the wrong waistband pieces and they got switched?) my waistband was short on one side and long on the other. So rather than sewing up the back seam and back waistband seam in one go as is the hallmark of the Thurlow, I sewed the seams separately and then joined the waistband to the pant in the back. I then cleverly covered the off-center waistband with a belt loop, which I mirrored on the other side. Crises averted!

To go with my jeans, I made two black and white print tops with really nice rayon from Emma One Sock. Yes, that stuff is pricier than I’m usually willing to pay ($20 a yard instead of $2.50 a pound…), but it’s very, very nice. I’m starting to think of relaxing my cheap fabric standards. I had also read that “dry” rayon is the only rayon jersey that won’t pill, though I think I’ve only ever seen that descriptor at Emma One Sock, so I’m not sure it’s exactly an industry standard. It does feel more matte and not shiny smooth soft like the cheap rayon jerseys I’m used to that pill if you look at them funny. But it’s also nice and heavy and drapey and actually, totally worth $20. I squeezed both of these tops out of a yard and a quarter (bless you, EOS, for being like the only online shop to sell in 1/4 yard increments!), so the tops cost me about $25 each. But a jersey cowl or wrap top from Boden in similar fabric is like $60, so maybe it is still a bargain? All a matter of perspective, I guess.

S1716 black and white

The cowl is my go-to cowl pattern, Simplicity 1716. I. Love. It. The perfect cowl for me (omitting the armhole bust dart, of course), and I’ve made like 5 and I’ll probably make at least 5 more. It was a no-brainer that I would make one with my nice fabric. I chose the mod print for it, because it’s slightly heavier and drapier.

S1916 wrap top

The wrap top is from Simplicity 1916. I had previously made the other view, which I like, but I wanted a full faux wrap top so decided to try the other view. I didn’t want the little half-moon ungathered section on the corner, though, so I studied the pattern and figured if I just extended the piece along the neckline and hem edges I could then construct it as a normal wrap top. I did have to futz with the neckline quite a bit, ultimately taking out more than an inch to get it to stop gaping, and it’s still super low cut. Luckily I have no cleavage to spill out! The crosshatch fabric seemed most appropriate for this pattern because it’s on the thinner side, so good for a crossover front because the front hem is double thickness and you don’t want it too bulky. It’s also a black jersey with a white print, not a white jersey printed black like so many, so it can stretch without fear of color distortion. It was a real squeeze getting it into a yard and a quarter, but because of generous cutting I actually had a bit more than that and I got it all in, cutting single layer. I did switch the wrap direction by cutting the pattern pieces upside down, because I like it better gathered on the right and also that was the only way I could fit the pieces.

McCall's 5974 black

As an additional piece, I also made a McCall’s 5974 with a fabulous micro dotted bamboo knit. I love the polka dot bamboo knits so. much. They’re springy and soft  and heavy and also have a delightful texture from the dots. This is a great pattern, I can’t believe this is only my second version. It’s such a fabric hog, though, I barely got it into 2 and a half yards. This dress will be a workhorse, though, I’m sure. It’s my version of a little black dress, I guess.

McCall's 6844 back

To increase my combos (for the contest, anyway) I also made the ubiquitous McCall’s 6844 peplum cardigan. I had absolutely zero interest in this pattern until I saw Ms. McCall wearing hers in person, and I suddenly had to have one. Awesomely, she happened to have an extra pattern for me! So I picked up some lovely merino doubleknit in a stone color (not white, not off white, sort of gray-white) from The Fabric Store for one. I knew going in that I didn’t want as high-low a hem as the pattern has, so I decreased the back length a few inches, which still kept it longer in back. When I had it all put together, before I hemmed it, I decided it was still too much length difference from front to back and I carefully cut off the extra in back so the peplum was the same length all the way around. That’s still plenty peplumy for me, thank you. The fabric is pretty thick and a bit spongy, so the collar lays a little wonky, but luckily it’s wool and I can probably steam and press it into submission, like I did the hem. And hoo boy is it warm!

NL sweater dress

What did not happen was the black quilted skirt. Long story* short, I had a bit of a “customer service” misunderstanding with and did not end up with any suitable fabric. So that’s a bummer. But frankly, the skirt would have been better for the contest but worse for the actual weather in New York, so I suppose it’s not that bad. Instead, at the total last minute, I threw together a sweater knit raglan tunic that I actually ended up really liking. I had two yards of this gray/black stripe sweater knit from Girl Charlee from my last big fabric gorge from them laying around, and out of nowhere I grabbed New Look 6230 again, the raglan I used to make my pj top that I had dismissed as having too wide a neckline. I decided to solve that problem by finishing the neck with a cowl, the length of the neckband pattern piece but 13 inches tall. This made about a 6 inch cowl. It’s a pretty measly cowl, I should have made it taller, but it’s okay. I also finished the hem and sleeves with bands for a sweatshirt-dress look. It’s a pretty comfy plane dress, I’ll give it that.

So that’s my contest wardrobe, which will all see action in the city. I also made a couple more dresses and some accessories, and even some man sewing(!) that I’ll share later. But first things first: I’ve got some fabric shopping to do in the garment district!


I ordered the perfect fabric from back in January. After a week or so, I of course got an email that they had less in stock than I ordered, would I like just the one yard that was left, or something else entirely? I knew I couldn’t get a skirt out of just one yard, so I opted for replacement. Sadly, when my order came like 2 weeks later, the replacement I’d selected was not even a little black. It was more gray, but a purpley gray that didn’t go with any of my other fabric. Plus they’d only sent one yard of it. Seriously. So I wrote back, informing them of the mistake and asking if I could order something else that had since arrived on the site that was better, maybe with free shipping, or could I exchange the replacement I didn’t want after all? After a full week, and emailing them twice, I got a response that just said: an order has been dispatched to you, keep what we sent before. Okay, I thought. I had specified the new fabric item number in my emails, so I just assumed that that’s what they sent. Aaaand, you know what they say about assuming. The package took more than two weeks to get to me – several days before it was sent at all, then it got stuck in some storm and UPS couldn’t get it out for a few days. Anyway, when it came, 5 days before my departure, it was, in fact, more of the purple-gray fabric I didn’t want. Yeah. I shouldn’t have assumed that a company that large would actually have people carefully reading and responding individually to customer service inquiries. Every email I got read like a form letter, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when they totally didn’t understand what I actually wanted. It did really make me realize that while smaller companies may be more expensive, sometimes it’s worth it. When I ordered from Emma One Sock, for instance, my order confirmation email was clearly personally written to me by the owner, and she noticed I was a new customer and applied a new customer discount of 10%. Now that’s customer service. So yeah, still learning about the online shopping thing.

So, what do we think – is the end of February too late for a reflection on the previous year?

Late to the party as always, I didn’t really have last-year-wrap-up thoughts until this month. I’ll spare you a detailed rundown of my 2014 in sewing and just say that I feel like it was the year of the discovery of the magic of separates. Yes, after years of making jersey dresses my niche, I kind of got bored with them last year. Not with making them, actually, I still love nothing more than whipping out a full self-contained outfit in a day, but with wearing them. Last year I routinely found myself standing before my closet and either reaching for pants or shorts and a top, or lamenting that all my pants/shorts and tops were dirty and all I had left were dresses. For this amazing and surprising phenomenon, I credit my discovery of Making Bottoms That Fit (see: the magnificent Thurlow Trousers, shortsed and  skinnified, again and again). I remembered why I’d moved to an all-dress wardrobe in the first place (no fitting RTW pants), and now that reason had fallen away, leaving me with a whole new swath of wardrobe options to play with.

This is all a long way of saying I’ve been making a lot of tops-to-go-with-jeans. Many have been boring, or pattern repeats, or otherwise not compellingly bloggable, but I did want to share my experience making two tops from Lekala Patterns, or That Russian Company That Uses Your Measurements For A Custom Pattern. I of course chose two tops with weird necklines, because I’d heard their instructions were rubbish and I wanted to be frustrated? Not really, I guess I just like weird necklines.

lekala cross neck top First up I tried 4042, or “Blouse with cross-over collar” because the only place I noticed the pattern number was on the actual pattern. I had seen a few reviews of this pattern, including some made in a striped fabric with a chevron front, and I loved it. I knew it would be a bit of a puzzle, particularly considering the instructions contain no diagrams whatsoever. But I did figure it out eventually, mostly because it’s a similar construction to some of the other knot/crossover tops I’ve made before, but the other way up. Actually, the hardest part was figuring out how to attach the front shoulder yoke pieces. There are no notches or other marks to indicate what pieces go together and how, other than the neckline, so I had to kind of lay it out and decide which way made an armhole shape that made more sense. The notches that did exist weren’t labeled, obviously, but they sorted themselves out as I pinned the neckline twist and they actually lined up perfectly.

lekala cross neck top close

The fabric is a lovely bamboo knit (I bought it in a few colors) that was leftover from a top I made for my mom last year, so I didn’t have very much (maybe a little over a yard). Even though the pattern has a weird shaped front piece and I cut it on the diagonal, it all fit. I made the sleeves as long as the fabric would allow, so they ended up almost elbow length, which is fine with me. I cut the bodice the drafted length, but when I tried on the top, it was shorter than my preference (I do like longish tops, though). Miraculously I had a strip of fabric left over that was just barely big enough to finish the hem with a band, adding a couple of inches in length. I actually really like the way it looks with the horizontal stripe at the bottom as contrast. Happy accident! But I would probably just add length when I cut it next time.

The other top is the helpfully named “Blouse with collar“, or 4245. I’ve been wanting to make this kind of shawl collar for a while, and came close to buying the Kwik Sew pattern in this style several times, but what can I say, I’m cheap, so I was pleased to find this version instead.

lekala shawl collar top

Again, the instructions weren’t super clear, but this top has a much more obvious construction method, and as a result the text of the instructions was more helpful than the gobbledygook of the other top. You do have to sew a right angle turn at the corners of the front neckline, with the bodice corners going the opposite way, which is always basically impossible (or maybe just for me?), so my corners are kind of puckery, but it sort of blends in with the front gathers.

lekala shawl collar top close

This fabric is a fantabulous soft and beautiful mini-stripe coral orange merino jersey from The Fabric Store in LA. I thought the collar would make a nice cozy winter top, so I used the merino and lengthened the sleeves to full length. The length of this top, inexplicably, was just right. Not sure why the hem lengths would be so different, but I think these patterns come from many different places/designers, so there may not be a consistent length or fit across patterns.

I will say that both of these tops tend to ride up in the top front, bunching a bit over the boobs, so I find myself making the Picard Maneuver all day. I think this is more a symptom of the neckline design rather than a fit issue, but I can’t be sure.

Overall, I like these patterns and I would absolutely use Lekala again. When I first heard about the company, they had a super sketchy badly translated website, but now the site is pretty good and very straightforward. (And although they have many unique and interesting patterns, there are also some of the strangest, most terrifying things I’ve ever seen. Check out this one’s line drawing: Flashdance Scarecrow, anyone?) You enter your basic measurements, plus some less common ones if you want, and you can specify common adjustments. I was a little afraid to select anything other than “normal”, because I wasn’t sure how adjusted the pattern would end up, and I’m closer to normal in most things, I think. Plus with knit tops I didn’t figure it would make much difference. I will say that I think the fit is pretty close to what I get when I grade between sizes on any of the big 5 patterns. What was funny, though, was that without all the extra lines on the pattern paper to distract, the fact that my side seam is basically straight up and down (because I have no waist) is embarrassingly obvious.

At any rate, I’ve been really enjoying making and wearing more separates, so I anticipate that this year will be more of the same. To that end, I’m currently toiling away on an entry in the Pattern Review Travel Wardrobe contest – two tops, a pair of jeans and a skirt (hopefully), as well as the odd jersey dress or two (old habits die hard). And that’s because… I’m going to New York in just over a week! I’m excited about everything but the weather (though I did buy a nice wool coat – like I was going to make one of those in a month). I foolishly thought that by March  the snow would be done, but clearly I was wrong. Anyway, blizzards be damned, anyone out there on the other side of the country want to meet up in the Garment District for some shopping? I’ll be there from March 5th to the 9th, and am prepared to ditch the husband for at least a full morning or afternoon (or both) while I gorge on fabric. Got any fabric store suggestions? I’m planning to leave a lot of room in my suitcase to bring home all the awesome fabric I know New York has to offer. And it would be even better if I got to meet any of you awesome East Coast sewing folks!

I’m usually not one to jump on trends (not because I’m stubborn, more because I’m just always late for everything), but the bomber jacket trend got me excited enough to actually make an effort to catch it. For me, that meant ordering the Papercut Rigel Bomber Jacket pattern well in time for fall sewing, securing fabric for not just one but two bombers, and then letting it all sit for months. So I was excited to see the announcement of Rigel Jacket January – with all the Christmas crafting done, I’d totally have time to make a bomber, or maybe two! Oh, when will I learn.

Work ate me alive last month, and I managed to barely finish one jacket on January 30th, photograph it on the 31st, and then absolutely not have time to post it until now, after the Rigel wrapups were all done. Ah well. Here it is all the same.

ponte rigel

Aaaand… I’m not so sure about it. I was really excited about the idea of a ponte bomber (knits for all the things!), and more excited about a mustard ponte bomber with black and white accents. I found this cool patterned ponte for the ribbing sections (I got it from Girl Charlee but it was at also), and decided to use it for the welt pockets too. I love the combination in theory, but in practice… does it look cool and trendy, or like something a senior citizen would wear to mall walk? There is a bit of the 70s track suit about it. Is that good or bad? I’ve lost all perspective.

ponte rigel?

Construction-wise, well, I always think ponte will be more well behaved than it is. I suffer under the delusion that bulky knits will be as easy to work with as they are comfy to wear, but sadly it is not so. Mostly it’s just that the front is poufier than I’d like, because ponte doesn’t press at all. The zipper went in fairly well, actually, but it’s still a little wibbly, and because I interfaced the facing but not the front, they fed slightly unevenly and one of the corners at the top of the zipper is kinda wonky. Also, I shortened the neck facing a little because I was using ponte and not stretchy ribbing, but I should have shortened it more because it flops over in the back. And I lengthened the hem band a little for the same reason, but I could’ve used a little more because I really had to stretch it a lot when I was attaching it and my gathering is kind of uneven and strained looking near the front. (And I had a heck of a time with the corners of the ribbing in the front – corners are evil, I’ve decided.)

I was conflicted about what size to make. On the size chart I’m just under a S in the bust but a M in waist/hip, but I’d heard it ran big and looking at the pattern pieces I noticed there is no waist shaping at all, it’s just straight down the side to the hip, so I figured I’d be safe making a straight S. I actually think I could have gone with an XS in the shoulders/neckline, at least in this knit. Practically every review mentioned that the sleeves were short, but I didn’t find that to be true at all – in fact they seem kind of on the long side for me, and I don’t think I have super stubby arms. Again, that could be just because of the knit, or the fact that the shoulders seem to be a bit too big.

ponte rigel back

There’s also a lot of talk out there of the need for a lining. I knew I didn’t want to line a casual knit jacket, so I resolved to make the pocket insides as neat as possible. I cut the interfacing for the welt hole just slightly bigger than the hole would be to avoid a big visible rectangle of white on the inside. I used a lightweight rayon jersey left over from this top for the pocket bags, because the color was almost identical. This was a good idea in theory, but the jersey was a bit of a challenge to work with as a pocketing. I serged stay tape along the top of the pocket bag pieces so they wouldn’t stretch too much when I sewed them to the welt, but they still got out of alignment a little (because the stay tape wasn’t wide enough to actually get caught in the seam when I sewed the pockets to the jacket along the welt lines).

rigel pocket construction

The welt pockets look good from the outside, but on the inside I wasn’t able to serge the pocket bags neatly because of the weird corners, and the welt insides don’t stay put because ponte doesn’t press, so, yeah, I see why everyone wants to line the jacket. I will say that I have several RTW unlined jackets, and I don’t mind seeing the pocket bags on the inside at all, but on closer inspection they’re mostly in-seam pockets, not messy welts. I do think that in a well-behaved woven, the visible pockets on the inside wouldn’t bother me. All the inside seams and edge of the facing are just serged, which is a plenty neat finish for me on a casual jacket.

ponte rigel inside

My last issue with this jacket is this: what on earth do I wear this with? I’m realizing lately that my love for color and pattern has left me with a lot of things that don’t go together. I love the idea of a funky print jacket, but the fact of the matter is, my plain solid jackets get a lot more wear. Adding to the what-do-I-wear-with-it conundrum is the super low neckline of the jacket. I actually really like the v-neck as a design feature, but it does show the top I’m wearing underneath, and with the patterned neck binding, I can’t really pair it with a print top… I fear I’ve made a totally unwearable jacket.

While all this is disappointing, it has strangely not deterred me from bomber jacket fever. I still do want to make another Rigel, this time in a woven. I have a white, black and gray pixelated print poly faille earmarked for, yes, another print jacket, but hopefully a slightly more neutral one. Maybe we can do a Rigel Jacket June? Because it’ll probably be that long before I get around to it.