Megan Nielsen Dash: A white denim dream come true

No, that isn’t a typo. I am aware that Megan Nielsen’s two mega popular jeans patterns are Dawn and Ash. And yes, I combined them to make my white denim dreams come true. Allow me to explain the origin of Dash.

White denim is scary. Not only due to the implied potential for catastrophe brought on by spills and leaks, but white denim jeans can be brutally unforgiving in what they reveal of the wearer. You know what I mean. All of that said, the unattainable nature of the perfect white jeans has only elevated their desirability. Wouldn’t you agree? Your favorite pairs are pinned endlessly and saved to Instagram. Only you aren’t sure if they’d look as good on you as they do on the model. And you’d really love to customize them to suit you better, but what fabric would you use? And honestly, are they practical for your lifestyle, that doubtful voice mocks you.

My inspiration photo hung out in the back of my mind for about a year when I stumbled upon a bolt of 10oz white bull denim at Jo-Ann. I knew bull denim was being widely used for non-stretch pants patterns but seeing it in person really helped me to visualize my plans. I pictured the thick, structured material hugging my dimply thighs and I was encouraged. This can hold me in, I thought. I brought it home and began to plot.

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I had in my mind a cropped flare version from Megan Nielsen to match my inspiration but I had confused the option for Ash (stretch) as one for Dawn (non-stretch). Fortunately I had both patterns on hand already and was easily able to graft on the Ash legs to my adjusted Dawn pattern, which I began a couple of inches above the knee.

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As far as adjustments go, I started with a straight size 10 and added a one inch full thigh adjustment, same as on my Ash jeans. I did not add any extra seam allowance, and in the end let out the hip and thigh area by decreasing my seam allowance to about 3/8”. The fit is tight, but good I think and while the denim is non-stretch it does give some. When they were finished I enjoyed some major 1989 flashbacks as I squatted and wriggled around to loosen up the fit. That’s the way we used to do it before all this spandex entered our world, and somehow we made the best of it, eh?

My pocket lining is a very thin cotton lawn in pale peach and I had a little fun with a bright orange YKK zipper from my stash. I think the nude-ish pocket lining was a perfect fit as I also prefer nude undergarments to white for a better blend. They don’t show through at all from what I can tell. The hardware is from Threadbare Fabrics in the color brass. I went with a raw hem a-la inspriation photo and at the last minute did narrow that flare for a more subtle look.

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I can’t not mention the top I’m wearing here: the Grainline Hadley in Dotted Rayon Cotton Voile from Blackbird Fabrics. I’ve had this pattern forever but kept lagging in making it. I knew I needed to raise that V neck and it turned out to be super easy. I make a size 6 which is what I usually go for with Grainline, but it felt really tight around the armscye so I scooped into it a bit to give me some extra room. I also hacked off about 3 inches from the length and I find it to be the perfect crop for short-waisted me. I’m not 100% sold on this silhouette for me, but a long necklace does weigh down the front a bit to keep it from looking maternity, and I do think it pairs super cute with my jeans. I took a few shots to explain raising the neckline, with some bare-bones instructions. You’re smart, you’ll get it ;)

1. Cut out the center front section

1. Cut out the center front section

2. Slide up the cut section the desired number of inches

2. Slide up the cut section the desired number of inches

3. Tape in place and add extra paper to fill in the gap.

3. Tape in place and add extra paper to fill in the gap.

4. Use a dressmakers curve to smooth out the new line.

4. Use a dressmakers curve to smooth out the new line.

Wannabe Fashion Jackson

Wannabe Fashion Jackson

I’m pretty happy with the result, and clean or dirty I’ll wear them with pride.

xo April

The long way home: Seamwork Jill

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.

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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!

Pattern and Fabric: Seamwork Jill Coatigan in 100% Wool from Michael Levine

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.

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Winter Coat Miniseries Part 4: the Finished Article

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!

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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.

xo April

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Challenge Accepted: a belted Slouchy Cardi with D&H Fabrics Co

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.

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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!

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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!

 

xo April

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Get the armscye right: 2 Sleeveless Grainline Archers

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.

The new armscye! 

The new armscye! 

Loving that soft collar look. 

Loving that soft collar look. 

My preference is one chest pocket.  This is the full sized pocket from the pattern. 

My preference is one chest pocket.  This is the full sized pocket from the pattern. 

That drape though! 

That drape though! 

Ease of movement, but no gaping.  

Ease of movement, but no gaping.  

I can’t recommend this fabric blend enough. It looks expensive but is so comfortable even in heat & humidity.

I can’t recommend this fabric blend enough. It looks expensive but is so comfortable even in heat & humidity.

Worn with the front tied, natch. 

Worn with the front tied, natch. 

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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.

The adjusted front shirt pattern pieces. 

The adjusted front shirt pattern pieces. 

I like to note the adjustments I make right on the pattern for future reference. 

I like to note the adjustments I make right on the pattern for future reference. 

Don’t forget the yoke piece needs to be adjusted, too! 

Don’t forget the yoke piece needs to be adjusted, too! 

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.

Front view with tiny pocket and very blue buttonholes. What are your thoughts about this bold topstitching???

Front view with tiny pocket and very blue buttonholes. What are your thoughts about this bold topstitching???

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Newly drafted armscye with self bias finish.  Yay to me for finally understitching my binding.  

Newly drafted armscye with self bias finish.  Yay to me for finally understitching my binding.  

Back view with my  Chi Town chinos  

Back view with my Chi Town chinos 

For as long as I can remember, Ive been obessed with preppy styling.

For as long as I can remember, Ive been obessed with preppy styling.

To change things up I did not tie the front for this look.  I seem to be puzzled at this...

To change things up I did not tie the front for this look.  I seem to be puzzled at this...

This is a great project for a short cut of fabric.  I had 1.3 meters and probably only used about 1m for a size 6.

This is a great project for a short cut of fabric.  I had 1.3 meters and probably only used about 1m for a size 6.

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

Hippie vibes and acceptance: Hey June Phoenix

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.

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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.

The back yoke detail is my favorite.

The back yoke detail is my favorite.

Perfect for a casual stroll in some seaside town...or down your neighbor's alley

Perfect for a casual stroll in some seaside town...or down your neighbor's alley

The subtle bell sleeve is a statement but still practical.

The subtle bell sleeve is a statement but still practical.

I remembered to use two rows of gathering stiches for my tiered skirt!

I remembered to use two rows of gathering stiches for my tiered skirt!

Channeling my inner folk-rock songstress.

Channeling my inner folk-rock songstress.

Oh, hi!

Oh, hi!

I prefer my ties done up, and it gives me a little extra coverage on the chest.

I prefer my ties done up, and it gives me a little extra coverage on the chest.

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It's cute open too.