Figuring out when to stop sewing for one season to start on the next can be tricky, can't it? Me, my determination to get to the end of that never ending list sometimes blinds me to when that time has come. Fortunately enough Indiesew had some fantastic options for cold and warm weather when it came time to choose my blogger projects and the result is two fab dresses that have me ready for whatever climate change has is store!Read More
Have you ever wanted a finished garment so badly that you had to force yourself to slow down in attempt to produce something that lives up to your vision? This is the story of me and Jill.
Several years ago when the idea of sewing was just a glimmer in my eye, I bought an over-sized wrap coat at Target. It was green and black tweed in a dreadful synthetic fabric but it was hooded and belted and perfect to bundle up in on cold early mornings on my way to work. Of course almost immediately it began to pill- first under the arms and then everywhere else. Me, I have extremely low tolerance to this kind of imperfection. Yet it served its purpose and so year after year, kept an undignified place in the back of my closet.
This fall with a few outerwear projects under my belt, I impulsively let go of that old coat. My hope was that the obvious gap in my closet would push me to replace it. That definitely helped. But - as I generally find to be true when I’m searching for something too specific - that perfect green was illusive, as was the hooded wrap coat pattern. Sure I found some nice options in wool coating, but the high price and low potential for comfort when unlined just put me off. The weather was turning colder and I busied myself with completion of my proper winter coat, but that vision of green would not let me rest.
Now finding patterns is not my strong suit, and I admitted defeat on finding a match for this one early on. That may have been mostly once I saw Jill. She didn't have a hood or a belt, but something about her loose cocoon shape, huge pockets and the allure of a quick unlined project drew me to her. What did not appeal was the nearly 4 yard fabric requirement. You do the math: 4 x any wool soft enough to be worn unlined = $$$. Then finally in late December I stumbled upon a very unique tweed-like 100% wool at 30% off. It seemed soft enough and the look and texture were much like my vision, only in black and white. I brought home the last two yards on the bolt, hoping I could somehow produce a coat out of half the fabric I needed. And so the hacking began. Literal hacking away at the pattern pieces to whittle them down to a size I could cut out of my fabric.
In the end I shortened my Jill by 6 inches. In order to preserve the back vent, I took off 4 inches at the lengthen/shorten line and the other two inches I removed further up on the body. Nothing short of a miracle, I was able to leave the rest of the pattern pieces in tact and successfully cut out the complete coat.
Off to the races, I threw myself into the construction. But soon into the sewing I realized that I would not be happy with the look of exposed seam allowances. It was clear that I needed to slow down. I had spent a good amount of money on the materials and wanted it to last, and so resolved to bias bind all of the seam allowances. It was quite the undertaking, but definitely worth it in the end.
On to the review!
Size: Straight size Small
Fit: My bust measurements (35) put me in the range for a size Small, my waist and hip (29-39) put me in a Medium. Really though, this is a very over-sized coat, and I think I would have easily fit into an XS (a pretty absurd thought). That being the case this pattern would be tough for an actual extra small person to wear unless they know how to grade down.
Changes: I removed a total of 6 inches off the length due to fabric limitations. If I had enough fabric, I would have only taken off 2 inches to accommodate my 5’5” frame. I also chose to add a closure, which is not included in the pattern. I went for one large shank button and one invisible snap. I also modified the shape of the patch pocket to a straight rectangle for personal preference.
Verdict: As far as the pattern goes, I think the style is great. The cut feels modern, even though the length and fabric of mine have a distinct 90’s vibe (I know you were thinking it). And in theory the idea that this is to be a quick and easy make with few pattern pieces is also very appealing. But I did find the pattern instructions to be overly simplified and I personally am just not satisfied with the suggested finishes. For example, not all fabric types may require it but I think there should have been a mention of hem interfacing. I’ve learnt by experience that if you want a sturdy coat, you must interface your hem! And my wool is fairly comfortable to wear sans lining, but soft wool is really hard to find and wool by itself can be thin or loosely woven so isn’t always very warm. I’d suggest for anyone interested in this pattern to take a different approach to making it: Either make it in a heavy sweater knit (more beginner friendly and then exposed seams make more sense), or make it in a nice wool coating and be prepared to add a lining- what I still plan to do if I can muster the motivation!
Truth be told, through no fault of the pattern, this Jill has very little in common with it’s predecessor. And while I do wear it on my way to work on cold early mornings, it really isn’t that blanket of warmth I set out to create. More than anything it is the manifestation of so many of the less than desirable qualities I posses: myopia, exaction, impatience and willfulness to name a few. But in my sewing practice each garment that I make is like a journey and I embrace & appreciate everything it has to teach me. Like this one where I started off sprinting, then ended up taking the long way home.
Getting around to the final post in this series should be no indication that my love for this project has cooled off. Quite the opposite is true! Winters in Southern California are famously mild but I've taken every opportunity possible to bundle up in this beauty ever since the day it was completed. In case you missed them you can find posts about my planning process, fitting, and construction in parts 1-3 of this series. Now on to the review!
Pattern and Fabric: Lisette for Butterick B6385 in 'brown' Riley Blake Melton wool from fabric.com. Underlining is cotton flannel and lining is bamberg rayon, both from JoAnn.
Size: Size 10 from top to the waist, size 14 at the hip with broad back and full bicep adjustments made. I also shortened the coat slightly at the waistline.
Fit: As usual with commercial patterns it is safest to use the finished garment measurements as a starting point. This pattern didn't have as much ease as many do, but it was still more generous than I prefer. For reference the Butterick size chart put me between a 12-14 at the bust and a 14-16 at the hip.
Changes: I made view C as written with the exception of shortening the hem about 4 inches. I think my buttonholes ended up on the opposite side than instructed, but I did this intentionally in order for the tidier side of the collar to show when closed.
Verdict: After all the planning, deliberation and fitting obsession the actual sewing of this coat was sort of a breeze. Working with wool is a dream and the pattern construction is simple and straightforward. I especially laud this pattern for a perfectly drafted sleeve in which both set perfectly on the first try. I think the shoulder pads called for add beautifully to the tailored look and proportions. My only regret is that I didn’t learn to hand sew or brave welt buttonholes. The buttons I selected were too big for my machine’s buttonholer so I had to do them as manual 4-part. The result is alright, but not to my current standard. I also should have skipped the tear away stabilizer because little pieces of it are still stuck between the threads.
I learnt so much through this process. I realize how much I value quality fabric and professional finishes and that no matter how much I combat my impatient nature, I can always stand to slow down a bit more and really take my time. Most of all I feel impassioned to spread the message for anyone who’s holding them self back from starting an ambitious project to just go for it. Not many things are as hard as we can build them up to be in our heads and we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. I hope you liked following along with this project as much as I enjoyed making it. If there’s a question I can answer for you, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email through the ‘get in touch’ form. I’d love to hear about your project and give you a boost of encouragement. I’ll leave you with way too many gratuitous photos of my finished coat.
One chilly morning last month a non-sewing friend of mine turned up wearing the cutest cardigan wrapped and belted in matching sweater knit. “Ooh,” I said excitedly. “I really need to make something like that.” “But could you?” was her skeptical reply. “You can tell the fabric was woven specially to the width of the belt.” “Ha ha ha,” sneered my inner Barney Stinson. Challenge accepted.
A couple of weeks later the perfect opportunity arose to fulfill my vision. I was fortunate enough to be chosen by Tammy to be part of this blog tour (my first, yay!) and she said she had some sweater knit coming back in stock. It seemed perfect for the Peppermint Magazine Slouchy Cardi I had in mind (it’s free and has pockets!), so I ordered a yard and a half in black. I have no problem admitting I’m terrible at laundry so while I “never” put my handmade knits in the dryer as a rule, I always machine dry them once after pre-washing just in case they slip in later by accident. This Cozy Cloud sweater knit is 55% Rayon 25% Nylon 20% Poly and has an insanely soft cashmere-esque hand. If you really want to retain that feel, you will not want to put in the dryer. I’ve used a very similar fabric before, so I knew this and decided to throw it in anyway. It’s definitely not as soft but still very cozy and it was the right choice for me since I know what I’m capable of!
For my cardigan, I chose size B shortened by 4 inches, cut out the pieces with pattern weights & scissors and sewed up the whole thing on my serger. The fabric behaves beautifully with no unraveling or curling and clings together in such a way that requires minimal pinning- always a plus! For the belt I cut a long rectangle to the desired length x double the width and stabilized one half with a fusible knit interfacing. I serged both long sides, turned it out, tucked in the short ends and stitched them closed with a narrow zigzag. In hindsight I may have interfaced the entire belt, as I prefer the look and feel of the stabilized side...live and learn!
I decided to to secure the belt with thread chain loops at both side seams so that I can decide on a whim to wear it open if I like. Thread chains are so fun and easy to make and I’m super pleased with the result.
I’m sure you’d agree there’s nothing more satisfying than bringing a vision to life and showing the doubtful that there’s nothing a determined sewist can’t do. Thanks so much to D&H Fabrics for collaborating with me on this project! Tammy is such a passionate, involved small business owner, I definitely recommend checking out what she’s got in stock!
Ever since this perfectionist was in a much smaller body, these words from loved ones and teachers have echoed in her head. When she didn’t get that straight A report card or when all the cookies on the baking sheet melted into one.
It’s not the end of the world.
As an adult I still have trouble seeing past perceived failures, and now dealing with imperfection in my sewing practice I try hard to remind myself. It’s not the end of the world. Usually If I hang in there I find that some mistakes can be corrected and others can be overlooked. One day they may even be embraced...I’m still working on that part! One of the most recent challenges was the making of my Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket
The biggest obstacle came about before I even started sewing. I started off with two precious yards of 12 oz Cone Mills denim in Indigo from Blackbird but I had a lighter medium blue jacket in mind. I did some swatch testing in a bleach bath, but not enough as I would soon find out. To say the bleaching process did not go as planned is an understatement. Once wet, that cut of very heavy denim became extremely heavy and it was really hard to stir and agitate it adequately. I also did not account for continued lightening when I washed the bleach out. What I pulled out of the dryer was not only a much lighter blue that I wanted, but looked to me like a blotchy acid washed mess. Devastated, I folded it up, put it away and sulked in defeat. The next day I went online and found to my surprise that a lot of the jackets I saw were made with denim very similar to the hot mess I had at home. That night with my forces revived and inspiration photos at hand, I laid out the denim and strategically cut out my pattern pieces- avoiding the worst areas. The construction part of the jacket was surprisingly simple, with the most challenging parts a result of the very heavy denim I was using along with jeans topstitching thread. More on that later.
Overcoming my initial failure, I now had a really beautiful jacket to show for all my hard work. I had (mostly) embraced the color and imperfect bleach job and I had a lot of positive feedback from the community. My jacket fit well and was made with quality materials. It just looked too...new. The thick fabric was still stiff and all the pressing had left it very crisp. The bleached and distressed denim was begging to be rumpled and softened with wear. To expedite that process, I tossed it in with my next load of laundry. From the dryer I pulled out a much softer crumplier jacket that looked pretty great from the outside. On closer inspection, I found that many of the flat felled seams whose topstitching I had agonized so carefully over, were not secured after all. While the topstitching was in tact, it had not caught all of those 1/4” allowances tucked under. I felt a wave of failure and disappointment come over me all over again. I was so upset that I couldn’t bear to deal with it. I stashed it in the closest, where my failure could stay hidden away. This dirty little secret was safe, but each time I opened my closet I was reminded. More than a week later, I pulled it out and forced myself to have a closer look. I debated attempting the affected seams again but didn’t have it in me. Anyway I was sure that those frayed edges would be way to tricky to work with. For now, most of the frayed edges have been tucked back into place and secured with ***gasp*** fabric glue. I know. There’s a twinge of physical pain in my chest even typing that out. I have no idea how long this fix will last, especially after washing. But I honestly don’t think it will compromise the integrity of the jacket, at least not for a long time. Hopefully by the time it’s cool enough around here to wear it, I will have gotten over most of my trauma.
Now for the review!
Pattern and Fabric: mentioned above. This is a pdf only pattern, and I had the luxury of getting the copyshop version printed by Patternsy. This company is run by a very sweet couple that clearly loves what they do and gives great service. I especially love the sturdy tissue they print on and the black ink for printing. Seriously, who can see the pale stuff a lot of companies print with? My jeans buttons are the antique brass ones from Threadbare Fabrics and they are top notch. I used the classic yellow jeans topstitching thread from Gutermann.
Size: I made the size 6 based on my bust measurement. I’m actually 35 1/2 so technically I sized down. I ignored the waist measurements which would have put me between an 8 and a 10.
Fit: I really love the fit, it’s exactly what I want in a classic denim jacket. I think the armscye is drafted especially well. It sits very close you your armpit, allowing for great range of motion.
Changes: I made only one change to the pattern, which was shortening at the waist line by one inch. I am very short wasted, and I think this adjustment makes the jacket look on my frame the way it was designed. It does not come across as particularly cropped.
Verdict: I would hate for my personal drama to dissuade you from trying this pattern, because it truly is fantastic. Alina has included all of the classic details and the cut and proportions are perfect. Honestly, it looks so legit, no one would ever tell it apart from a classic rtw jacket. The instructions are excellent and there’s even a sewalong to hold your hand through the process. As noted before, the construction of the jacket itself is not hard at all. Really, it isn’t as long as you take note and learn from my mistakes!
To consider if you’re planning this project: 12 oz denim might be too thick. If I were to make this over again in the same fabric I would mock flat fell all of the seams. My theory is that the thickness of the denim threw off my folds by a millimeter or two, so that my topstitching juuust missed its mark. I would also use a thinner fabric to make the pocket lining. There’s just no need for all that bulk. Another a challenge with super thick denim is the topstitching. I found that even when my stitches were nice and even on top, the bobbin thread was a mess. I had to really bump up my tension to correct this. Lastly, the buttonhole conundrum. I was hell-bent on making my buttonholes with topstitching thread. My first two buttonholes on the breast pockets (keyhole style to boot!) turned out fantastic, and that gave me a false sense of confidence. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the ones on the button band, especially the lower few, would be going through an extra layer of fabric. I had an extremely difficult time here, and at least one of them had to be done 7 different times. My hands were cramped and fingers were pricked and raw when I decided I had done the best that I could. To add insult to injury, the thickness of the fabric actually makes them nearly too small to actually fit buttons through. I doubt I’ll ever want to wear this jacket closed up, but it will be a struggle if I do. Moral of the story? Use the 10oz denim or twill recommend and you can avoid a lot of unnecessary pain.
All stressful details behind us, here are some gratuitous photos I took against my neighbors’ wall. Feel free to comment with your perfectionist horror stories!
When I first became aware that indie designers used regular people to test their patterns I couldn’t wait to get involved- I just had no idea how. I was also insecure and unsure that my skill level would qualify me. Luckily, before too long Sew Over It made an open call for testers on Instagram and I responded with interest before I had time to chicken out. I was so happy to be selected and always get excited when a new testing opportunity comes up. This time around I had the pleasure of testing a couple of patterns from the new Sew Over It Work to Weekend eBook by Lisa Comfort.
I can never resist a shirt dress and as I had a dress in my sewing plans at the moment, I happily swapped it for Kate. She wooed me with her timeless vintage holiday vibe and the finished garment definitely did not disappoint.
Pattern: Kate is a classic shirt dress with a proper collar & stand, hidden button placket and cuffed sleeves that hit above the elbow. Since the buttons end at the waist, there’s a concealed side zip under the arm to help you get in and out. The skirt is made up of six panels and you have the option to leave 2 slits open at each side for a flirty detail. As a bonus the pattern includes instructions to make both the top and the skirt as separate pieces- super versatile!
Fabric: I made my Kate up in an absolutely delicious viscose linen from Sew Over It that I had in my stash. The pattern called for 3.5 meters for my size but I was able to squeeze it out of the 2.5 I had on hand without too much trouble. Kate is fabric hungry mostly due to the 6 panels that make up the skirt as well as her midi length.
Size: I made my Kate in a size 10 which is my usual size for Sew Over It patterns that aren’t fitted around the hips.
Fit: I love the way this dress fits and I did not make any adjustments. I am quite short waisted though, so next time around I’ll definitely take off about 5/8 inch from the bodice length. If you look closely you can see that my belt is at my natural waist, but the seam line is quite a bit lower.
Changes: At first I was skeptical about the midi length and my instinct was to shorten the pattern pieces before cutting. In the end, mostly out of respect for Lisa’s design I decided not to. I’m so glad that I trusted her choice. I did find that on me the slits came up quite high, and I lowered them about 4 inches for modestly. Other than that, this version is was made up exactly as the pattern is written.
Verdict: This is one of those garments that makes me feel 100% myself when I pull it on. I’m not particularly girly in my style and I love how the design softens the structure of a menswear-inspired top with drapey fabric and a breezy, feminine skirt. Made up with this subtle geometric print in a natural palate it’s that easy, classic, understated piece I’ll be reaching for again and again.
Sewing up Kate was not at all complicated. If you’ve made a collared shirt in stable cotton, that experience will help as you work with a slippery rayon or crepe. New techniques I learned were the hidden button placket and concealed under arm zip, both which were surprisingly straightforward. Also if you’re in a time crunch, be aware that the hem and slits are all finished with hand sewing. This results in a lovely soft, flowy hemline, but does take time. I finished mine on the sofa during two evenings of Netflix.
I can’t recommend this pattern enough and I’m already scheming a set of matching separates for my next go ‘round.
Patience has never been my most dominant virtue. And while I credit my sewing journey with vast improvements in that respect, my impetuous nature still wins over sometimes when I just want to get sewing. The most common occurance is of course that classic debate: to muslin, or not to muslin?
I was first sold on the idea of a sleeveless Archer when I came across Jen’s blog post. She presented it as pretty straightforward, which for me was enabling. Combine that with triple digit heat creating an urgent 'need' for such a garment, you can probably guess what I decided to do. I cut right into my beautiful fabric using the original pattern pieces and hoped making adjustments directly to the garment would somehow work out.
In the first fitting it was clear that on me the shoulder needed to be brought in much more than the blog post indicated. Fortunately it was super easy to visualize how much needed to go just by tucking under the excess. I took it off, marked off 2 inches and blended that into the existing curve, careful not to change the shape just yet. In the second fitting. I could see the curve was not working for me- there was still too much fabric. I lowered the armscye 1/4” and scooped out a new curve in both the front and back. Success! On the third fitting there was a bit of gaping in the underarm, so I took in that seam by 1/2”. Moral of the story? If you are impatient like me, try making small adjustments one at a time and try on your project after each one. You ***probably*** won’t mess it up.
This fist version was about 80% made up from #sewingleftovers from my wide legged Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers. Fortunately when I went back to JoAnn I was able to snag was was left on the bolt of this Nicole Miller line-lyocell blend. That meant I didn't have to make any sacrifices due to fabric shortage AND there's still another yard or so to play with.
As far as construction goes, he shirt basically comes together the same as the sleeved version, only with much less work involved. I wanted to highlight the hefty drape of this fabric and after a little testing decided I could skip interfacing altogether. Fearing bulk, I decided against self bias and went with a basic black pre-made one. It looks and functions fine, but I just don't like the way it feels on the skin. Generally I go for a very classic button up look, but since this is more of a blouse, I left off the collar stand button and the first two on the placket. This shirt is perfect for summer, but I think will be just as good for cool weather layered under a cardigan or sweater.
I was really pleased with the result here but also a little worried I wouldn't be able to replicate my success. I decided to get started on anther version straight away, this time attempting some proper drafting. Starting off with the measurements I did know, I removed the same 2 inches from the shoulder, lowered the armscye 1/4" and brought in the side seam 1/2". These changes were made to both the front and back shirt pieces. Then to re-draw the curve! I used my dressmakers curve to eyeball what I thought it should look like. I pulled out my Adelaide pattern and measured the armscye circumference- partly for reference, partly for reassurance I hadn’t gone too far off. After a little adjusting I had a curve I hoped would be comfortably roomy but not gape too much. Since the back has a yoke I lined up the pattern pieces as they'd be once sewn, then drew the curve. On the back I went for a slightly deeper scoop.
This second version is made up from a remnant of Japanese cotton shirting I scored from Blackbird back in December. It is deliciously crisp and light and lovely to sew and press and wear. Close up you can see it’s got a micro stripe with distinct white and very bright blue threads. When I went to grab white thread for the machine I couldn’t ignore a spool that matched the blue perfectly. See how unpredictable I can be? The buttons are all that's left of my all time favorite GAP shirt. I thought it an appropriate remembrance to use them here.
Thanks for reading! I hope this inspires you to make your own sleeveless Archer. If you do be sure and tag me on Instagram. Xo
Some gals project such effortless versatility to the world and Adelaide babe, that's you. I first fell for her early last summer when my sewing momentum was just beginning to pick up. She had me at snap front, bra-strap coverage and discreetly body skimming silhouette. If you haven’t heard me go on about this before, I’m talking about the Seamwork Magazine Adelaide Dress. I loved my classic version so much it wasn't long before I dreamt up a hack with a waist seam, pleats and loose patch pockets. In December I stumbled on some gorgeous ikat cotton and Adelaide came straight to mind. My shopping partner insisted it should be a maxi and it was all settled. **Brigada, Fer por me convencer xoxo**
Of course that wasn't the time for sundress making and I wondered if come summer I would chicken out on the maxi and settle on a length I'm more comfortable with. Crazy, I know... Who in their right mind is not comfortable in a maxi?! My thing is, I like my bum either solidly supported in a structured garment, or else completely lost in a fuller knee-length skirt. I worry that draped under a long, looser-fitting skirt there may be some unsightly jiggling going on. Or that in the words of my hero Clairee from Steel Magnolias it would look like "two pigs fightin' under a blanket". I also don't have much height working for me, and didn't want to end up looking as wide as I am high. Despite my fears and in the spirit of adventure I decided that I would take my own advice and do what I could to make the style work for me.
Drafting-wise, turning the pattern into a maxi was very straightforward. I found the widest part of the pattern pieces (just above the hip) and measured the width. I re-drew the hip curve to end in a straight line all the way to the hem keeping that same width measurement. This ended up looking pretry much the same as grading from an 8 at the hip to a 2 soon thereafter.
The pattern pieces from my original dress had been cut to use the length of the largest size, and from there I added an additional 11 inches to create the maxi. It wasn’t until I had taped on the additional length that I realized there was some shaping at the hem, and so I just did my best to replicate that. The shape of the skirt is basically a column and proportion-wise I think this is the way for curvy ladies to go. Since the dress closes in the front it was super easy to leave the lower portion open for ease of movement. No need for slits!
I made two other pattern changes on this version based on observations from my first two. First, I had a bit of neckline gaping that I hoped to correct this time around. Wearing the original dress I pinched out about half an inch excess from each side. On the front pattern piece I slashed just inside of the neckline curve all the way to the horizontal line at the high hip. Pivoting in, I removed that half inch. Second, I had found the straps a tad long, and just snipped down from a size 6 to a 4. Both of these adjustments helped the fit significantly.
Because it has been so incredibly hot and since you can never have too much of a good thing, as soon as I finished up my maxi I started thinking about a cropped top version. Seems like everywhere I look I see inspiration for adorable button up tanks and again my darling Adelaide was the obvious choice for the hack. The drafting was super simple. I measured on myself where I wanted the hem to hit and marked that on a traced copy of the pattern with seam allowance. Mine ended up being 12 3/4 inches down from the bottom of the armscye. From there I added about 1 cm to the width at the hem and drew a line at the side seam to straighten out the waist curve. The back length was adjusted to match. At this point it was looking a lot like an A-line skirt at the bottom so I did the traditional shaping to smooth everything out and eliminate any pointyness at the sides. Gotta give credit to this tutorial for skirtmaking I've been using for years. The rest of the top was sewn up just as is instructed for the dress, minus the fisheye darts.
A special thanks to you if you made it to the end of this doozy! I’ve got one more double-make post in the works and then I hope to stay caught up for a while.
Don't you just love a good sewing mission? A recent quest led me into the world of sewing magazines. Because I had heard the lore of Burda Style - the horrors of tracing overlapped pattern pieces and adding seam allowance - I was duly apprehensive. Images of multi-colored subway map snakes kept me at a distance. At the same time, I found that in one issue of La Maison Victor I'd get exactly the pattern I was searching for, plus eight other patterns for about the price of one. That included a men’s shirt just like Mr. Old Bones had been asking for. I really didn’t know what I was getting into but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge or a bargain. I decided to press on and hope for the best.
My experience sewing up the Bruna blouse went so well that i immediately made myself another one. A couple more selfish sews later I decided to spread the LMV love and set out to find fabric for some selfless man-sewing.
Pattern: Bernie shirt; La Maison Victor English edition issue 2, 2018
Fabric: Bolt- snowdrop 100% cotton from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. I bought 2 yards (44 inches wide) and had just a bit left over.
Size: Large, the suggested size based in his chest measurement
Fit: The fit across the back and shoulders was spot on with no changes. The fit around the middle turned out to be too roomy for my ‘client’s’ taste so I pinched out the excess fabric at the side seams under the arms down to the waist and graded back out at the hem. The end result looks great, although I suspect a more appropriate alteration for menswear would be to take the volume out of the center back (?) Comment on that if you know!
Changes: I made up the shirt as per the instructions, except for the yoke which I attached with the burrito method. I forget to add hem allowance to the front placket so I had to shorten the overall length by about 2 centimeters. This actually looks great, especially if worn untucked. The instructions don’t call for any clean seam finishing so I split the difference and serged & faux flat-felled them. I think I’ll go the extra mile next time now that the fit is sorted.
Verdict: I am very impressed with this pattern and I feel like with the 2 shirts I’ve made I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth. Bernie is definitely cut with a young, stylish guy in mind, but not fitted to the extreme. We especially love the very narrow collar stand, and the shape and size of the collar is perfect for a modern casual look. Tracing the pattern from the magazine was totally foreign to me and the first time I was a little confused. If I’m honest that was mostly due to me not reading all of the instructions before getting started. It really isn’t that complicated and there’s usually only 2 patterns to a sheet. There’s even a breakdown of how much seam allowance to add to each pattern piece. If you're scared of tracing off patterns from a magazine I'd say this is a good place to start. Relax and take it slow and you will get through it.
Notes on sewing for men: Men may try and lead us to believe they are indifferent and not at all particular about their clothing. In my experience nothing is further from the truth. They are actually very particular - just not about the things you’d expect. If you decide to sew for a man, ask a lot of questions and insist on answers- even if they try to blow you off. Do not by any means forgo frequent fittings, and by all means: baste before you flat-fell. Fit, feel of the fabric, button placement and pocket size/placement were all major considerations for my Mr.
Serged and faux flat-felled seams.
I managed to get the fabric way off grain when cutting the back shirt panel on the fold. Please, look away.
Petite collar and stand measure just under 5cm and 2cm respectively,
The man went for understated matte white buttons.
Double row of stitching on the back yoke is a nice detail.
Standing out can be great when it's your choice to do so. But what do you do when you'd rather blend in? I have some experience in not fitting in and generally feel comfortable in my own (figurative) skin. Funny enough, one difference I haven't always embraced is my complexion. See, I'm from sunny Orange County, California and was born into a beachy kind of family. My dad is a sun-worshiping surfer. My mom, an olive-toned former islander hippie. I remember my blonde + bronzed older sisters perpetually glistening with tanning oil. It was our tradition to spend vacations on the sand, and I felt that was part of my identity. I loved this image and thought covering up or sitting under an umbrella were very uncool. My conforming mind somehow thought I could train my skin to love the sun, and I was in complete denial about how I should care for it. Many years, sun beds and painful burns later I began to come to terms with the fact that I will never be tan. And that it was actually okay to be pale. Figuring out a way to be in the sun without getting burned has been a little tricky and to this day I haven't gotten used to how much planning it takes. Yet again, sewing has come to the rescue for me and at long last I have the cover-up of dreams.
Pattern: Hey June Handmade Phoenix Blouse
Fabric: Island Breeze Gauze in Olive from Fabric.com This is not a very high quality fabric, but I tend to view my handmades as precious and I think I'll wear this more freely since it didn't cost a fortune to make.
Size: 6 based on bust measurements
Fit: I need your help on this! I have very little experience wearing loose/blousy clothes. My first instinct was to take in the bodice and under the arms, but I decided to leave it be. What do you think? Is it hanging properly, or should I have sized down?
Changes: As soon as I saw this pattern, I could see it as a dress. For this hack, I extended the full-length version by about 4 inches, widening the hem about 1 inch on the sides of each pattern piece (for a total of 4 inches around). The tier/frill on the bottom is two long rectangles stitched together at both short ends. Rough measurements: 8 inches wide x hem circumference + 50% for gathering. The rest of the dress was sewn up exactly as instructed for the blouse.
Verdict: There's a reason why Adriana has a reputation for great patterns with detailed instructions and my first experience was great. She puts out a quality product at an incredibly reasonable price. The trickiest part for me was sewing the front yoke with split neckline and only one of my corners is sharp and smooth. This is mostly because I am very lazy when it comes to transferring pattern markings. Next time I will use tailors tacks to achieve nice sharp corners. I'm not tripping too hard on that though, because I am so happy with the end result. I'm really starting to embrace this laid back hippie vibe and look forward to wearing my Phoenix on many sunburn-free summer days to come.
It's cute open too.
This project has been a long time coming so I'm excited that it's the first proper pattern review I'm sharing here. It started when I picked up a few yards of floral (gasp!) rayon last December at Michael Levine with a summery dress in mind. I'm so fickle when it comes to prints that I usually fall in and out of love with them before I even reach the checkout. But this one seemed different and it fit in the budget, so it came home with me. Fast forward to the end of March just before it was announced that the #sewtogetherforthesummer theme would be wrap dresses. I came across this one in an Anthropologie ad and I immediately thought of that floral rayon I had.
Spurred along by my ever-resourceful Instagram pals, I suddenly had several pattern options that could help bring this inspo photo to life. I went with Vogue 9251 after seeing it's versatility in versions from Jessie and Bryanna. There were quite a few changes it needed in order to match my inspiration and seeing their hacks was really reassuring.
Pattern: Very Easy Vogue V9251. I've only ever made a couple of Big 4 patterns, but I'm guessing this one was categorized 'very easy' because there are very few pattern pieces. In my opinion that's a bit deceiving. Especially since it's recommended to be made up in rayon, the instructions are sparse- almost cryptic and some of the methods a little tricky. There's also no reminder or indication of when to finish seam allowances. I think the indie pattern-maker favorite skill level "adventurous beginner" is much more accurate. That said, I found the pattern to be very well drafted and final product matched the illustrations beautifully.
Fabric: Paradis Woodland Art Gallery Rayon from Michael Levine (out of stock there, but still online in other shops) This fabric is sooo dreamy and buttery, assuming you dream of butter *or like me a really good plant based alternative*. This is a bold, saturated print but to me the design and color pallete are sophisticated and refined.
Size: I made the size 12 based on the finished bust measurements. I could have graded down slightly at the waist but figured I'd just cinch it in with the ties. A quick look at the cut of the skirt indicated it was generous enough to graze my hips freely so a straight 12 it was!
Fit: I'm very happy with the fit and fortunately the adjustments I made worked out great. The waist does not tighten as snugly as I hoped, but I'm okay with it. I really love the way the bodice hangs delicately with the perfect amount of ease. The curve of the wrap skirt is something I was concerned about for modesty, but actually it has great coverage. I can't say as much for the top but that might just be me (not a fan of cleavage). Fortunately a safety pin is enough to keep the girl's out of sight. I'll put a snap on soon to avoid snagging the fabric.
Changes: So many! Starting from the top I raised the back neckline 1/2" which I think is more flattering on me. The plan was to omit the sleeves so to keep it from being too restrictive I deepend the armscyes by 3/4", then finished them with bias binding. There are options for two skirt lengths but since I wanted mine knee length I was on my own in adjusting it. I know you're technically supposed to us the lenghten/shorten lines for this kind of change, but the placement of these made no sense to me. Had I done as instructed I would have ended up with a waaay more voluminous skirt than I wanted (half circle skirt status). I went rogue here, managing to preserve the curve of the of the front hem without adding on anything to the width. I think I ended up shortening the midi version by about 11 inches. I did not make a muslin, but I did carefully consider the impact of each change and made them to the pattern pieces before I cut into my fabric. Holding the pieces up to myself and my dress form helped me feel confident I was on the right path.
The Frill: As the main feature in replicating the look of the Anthropologie dress, this beast gets it's own section. Truth: I own nothing with frills and invariably replace gathers with pleats in all skirts so the extent of my experience up to this point was gathering sleeves for insertion. I'm sure there are better ways to have done this, but this method got the job done. I sewed together 4 inch wide strips of fabric totaling the required length plus roughly 50% extra for gathering. I folded the one *very long* strip in half, stitching each end closed and sewed gathering stitches. Gathering 195 inches of fabric was a way bigger undertaking than I imagined, especially since I thought I could do it with only one row of gathering stitches- a total ruffle rookie mistake. If you attempt this, please save yourself some grief and use two or even three rows to keep everything in place. Once the gathered frill was pinned on I attached it beginning at the outer waist tie, all around the hem and back up to the inner waist tie. All three layers of the seam allowance were serged together and pressed toward the skirt.
Construction: The construction was pretty straightforward, but the wording in the instructions and minimal illustrations left me overthinking what was to be done. In the end I did what made the most sense to me, which may or may not be correct. I think the look of self bias binding is so much more refined than pre-made, so I made it in the continuous loop method with this tutorial from Itch to Stitch. For reference I used a 12" square and cut 1 inch strips and I had enough to bind the armscyes and all around the wrap and back neckline of the bodice with about 12 inches left over. Making bias tape with such delicate fabric is a real pain and mine is far from perfect. The same is true of my application of it. I regret not making my strips 1.25" instead of 1" because I think those extra millimeters added to the folds would have made the binding sturdier. Added to the fact that I'm super rusty at bias binding in general, I'm not certain it'll hold up in the washing machine so I'll probably stick to hand washing. One thing that did help in making the bias tape was *heavily* spray starching the fabric square before cutting and again when putting it through the bias maker. On that note, my top tip for working with shifty rayon in general is to handle it minimally. The cut fabric loses it's shape very easily, so never stretch or pull on it in the slightest and to never let your cut fabric hang off the edge of your work surface or even from your hand until you've got it all stitched together.
Verdict: It's floaty and romantic and swishy and breezy. Definitely not a look I'm known for, but I'm really pleased with it. It had been ages since I made anything other than a simple skirt with rayon, and I had forgotten how hard it is to wrangle. And with so many changes and fiddly finishings it took me ages to complete but it was all worth it in the end. Stay tuned, I will be making a short sleeved version of this pattern soon sans frill very soon!
Confession: I am deeply affected by aesthetics. I struggle with this concept, because I don't like to think of myself as a superficial person. But I am emotionally and physically moved by beautiful things. You know when something is so good it hurts? So while I aim to be a person of greater substance, I'm aware of how visual appeal influences my choices. In terms of sewing, I've observed this when it comes to pattern selection. I find myself scrolling past designs that don't appeal to my personal style without giving them a second thought. Later I'll see a stunning project using the very pattern I disregarded and am floored by how much vision the maker had. It's a huge source of inspiration, but at the same time leaves me feeling a bit narrow-minded. A true creative can look past styling or fabric choices that are different from their own and I really admire that. So I'd like to say that today I'm sharing with you the progress I've made in this area, but I’m afraid not. With the intent of self-reflection, today I’m taking you with me down a different path.
I've been subscribing to the "no fear" philosophy in sewing for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before I tackled my most recent challenge: swimwear! Plans started to take shape during a routine trip to Joann's when I found what looked to me like swimsuit fabric. It was stretchy and shiny in a really sleek dolphin grey, had a Nicole Miller label and was priced for clearance. I was sold. (An uninformed choice, based solely on appearance. I didn’t even check the exact content or percentage of stretch. Bet you can guess how that went.). I picked up lining & elastic and started searching for a pattern. My inspiration was the one-pieces in this year’s J. Crew collection but I hadn't seen too many pattern options. I had just about settled on Laminaria by Tuesday Stitches (Seamstress Erin) when I decided to check out vintage patterns on Etsy. I was completely swept away by the styling of the late 70’s & early 80's. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom in a super shiny one-piece, glammed up in full hair and makeup (rouge + perm, natch) for a day at the pool. So when I came across the gorgeous ladies illustrated on the envelope of Stretch & Sew's V-swimsuit from 1979, I wanted to be one of them. Laminaria is similar in so many ways, it probably would have been the smarter choice. It's hard to beat the detail of indie pattern instructions, plus it has a sew-along. But I had fallen so in love with the image of those ladies so I clicked through to purchase. Here's the rundown:
Pattern: Stretch & Sew V-swimsuit; version A
Fabric: Nicole Miller nylon/spandex from JoAnn, exact content & percentage of stretch unknown; nude power mesh also from JoAnn
Size: Graded between 34 at the bust to 38 at the hip (my measurements put me just under 36 and 40, so I went with the smaller size)
Changes: I followed the version A construction method for the most part. Instead of soft halter ties I wrapped my ties in elastic and attached them to the back, straight down on either side. I also chose to fully line the suit with power mesh and added a shelf bra because I’m not fancy-free like they were back then, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).
Verdict: This was my first attempt, so I consider the fact that it actually came together and fits as major wins. It isn’t the most beautiful thing to look at when it’s just laying there, but once it’s on you really don’t notice the imperfections. My biggest regret is the fabric. My impulsive choice based on color was not the wisest. The wrong side of the fabric is a lighter grey, so it shows through at the stress points- most notably at the side seams. The questionable percentage of stretch must factor in here as well, or maybe I should have sized up. For my next attempt I will 100% choose a fabric marketed for swimwear. I can’t say with certainty if the power mesh as lining was a smart choice. But I don’t think it was a bad one. Regarding the pattern itself, I know it’s unlikely that you’ll try the same one. Even so, I think it's a good one and the instructions were very clear and helpful. I’d say vintage swimwear patterns are a viable option.
I admit the takeaway here is a bit feeble. I chose a pattern because the illustrations were pretty and it worked out alright. Will I do that again? Probably. But I hope my future self will remember this reflection and not limit her options solely based on aesthetics. It can be a really positive thing to question why we make the choices that we do.
There are a ton of photos of this project. So even though this isn’t a tutorial, I hope they help other first-timers visualize the process.
If you’re still reading at this point you may be wondering where the photos of me actually wearing the swimsuit are. Spoiler: there aren’t any. Rest assured, my body image is fairly heathy and I’ll wear this swimsuit with pride. It’s nothing more than a personal choice to limit how much of myself I share on the internet. To see this one in action you’ll have to catch me on the sand or at the pool...if you can! I’m usually hiding under an umbrella or in a caftan. Stay protected, friends. And if you make your own swimwear, tag it #nofearnewswimsuit so I can see!
If there’s one topic buzzing around social media the past few days it’s the verdict on Me Made May. Did you stay true to your pledge or fall off the wagon? What gaps did you identify in your wardrobe? How about the burnout from daily selfies? For me, the challenge went quite smoothly, actually. The unusually varied temps allowed for me to wear the gammit of my handmade wardrobe comfortably; 61 pieces of it it be exact! Only problem was that a few days into it, I realized that I didn’t exactly feel stylish in the photos I was taking. (p.s. you can read my quote about this in the June issue of Seamwork Magazine
I realized that for the fear of never making anything I don’t love to wear, I’ve been seriously limiting myself in the styles I choose to sew. I tend to be stubborn and fiercely loyal to my ideas. So with practicality standing guard, I shun most trends from the get-go and stick to a few basic (safe) styles I feel suit me best. If I’m honest it has become just plain silly. Recently on the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin, they discussed the idea of questioning the sometimes irrational beliefs that limit us, and it really rang true with me.
That said, my sewing goal for the rest of the year is to step outside of my comfort zone and see how I can play around with new trends and adapt them to my current style. I love a good hack, and since I didn’t even need to buy a new pattern to do it, I started off with a pair of wide legged Ultimate Trousers. I loved the first pair so much, I decided to make a second and share them with you here.
Pattern: Ultimate Trousers by Sew Over It
Fabric: medium-heavyweight linen (blend?) remnant from Michael Levine DTLA; 1 1/2 yards x56” wide
Size: I used my trusty altered pattern pieces that have seen my through 7 iterations of these trousers. From what I recall, they are a 10 at the waist graded to a 12 at the hips. I also changed the crotch curve to a J shape at some point on the advice of Lauren’s post
For reference I am 5’5”; bust 35.5”; waist 28.5“; hip 39.5”
Changes: For the wide leg hack I added 10 inches each to the width of the front and back leg hems and graded out to meet those lines starting just below the hip curve. I think I ended up chopping off 2 inches from the hem for a cropped look. I also used the waist facings to make a narrow waistband and button tab.
Verdict: I love them! The combination of a lighter color + linen fabric does result in some inevitable afternoon bagginess in the bum, but because they’re quite fitted at the waist and hip I dont think it makes them unflattering. Overall I feel super chic in these trousers and picture myself sailing around the Mediterranean in them.