Mint Patina

If it’s safe & wise to travel this summer, then we’re going to England so Professor Boyfriend can finally, officially, graduate (he successfully defended his thesis in 2020, which required two early-March trans-Atlantic flights – fun, right?). In the meantime, I’m making this event an opportunity to re-re-rematch against a fabric with undeniable charisma (the drape, the weight, the colors!) and the price point to match: tencel twill.

Once upon a pre-blog I made a couple pairs of tencel twill trousers that looked like shiny wrinkly garbanzo. But that was then. This is now. Since I’m not really a dressy-dresser, I thought it could be the perfect fabric to elevate a separates combo if I chose the right pattern, and sewed smarter.

So I turned to the Patina blouse. With its simple silhouette and girly touches, I thought it would be ideal. I decided to omit the Chelsea collar both to make the finished top lessy faddy but also because I wasn’t sure about topstitching curves on tencel twill.

I also made sure to staystitch every edge immediately after cutting the pattern pieces. That defensive sewing mindset lasted…exactly that long. 

I used a Microtex needle (80/12) and a lonely cone of minty serger thread, because it matched well and it saved me buying a spool of all-purpose. The needle was a good choice, but using the cone was a mistake. I hand-wound some thread onto an empty spool first and then used the machine to wind a bobbin off that spool, so the bottom thread was okay; but for my top thread, I balanced the cone on the bobbin winding pole thingie and sewed directly from that. The cone overbalanced and fell over (both loudly AND frequently), but more importantly the tension was wrong. When I sewed over more than two layers, I got a ton of skipped stitches. For some reason I carried on like that, for like, the whole time, even though sewing the buttonholes was a skipped-stitch nightmare ballet and I knew I’d be joining two layers of French seams when I sewed the sleeves in the round. I went for it anyway, possibly because it was my last step and I was getting antsy.

After setting in the first sleeve – twice, because of the French part, but also more than twice because I wanted to reinforced the skipped areas – I realized I had done it backwards. My armscye seam was on the right side. I had gotten tunnel-vision when focusing on the skipped stitches and managed to sew SEVERAL times around the armscye without realizing my French seam was reversed. On the plus side I had also forgotten to shorten my stitch length after sewing the gathering stitches. Yay?

Obviously this could not abide, so after I unpicked the second line of stitching, I was left with a decision: would I unpick the remaining line, switch which side the sleeve was on, and use the scanty 1/8” seam allowances I had left myself going forward? Unpick etc. and take larger seam allowances? Or, since my first sleeve was already set in correctly, just with less SA, should I take the full remaining seam allowance and serge the raw edges to finish?

I serged ’em. I did the second sleeve the same way, immediately hated it, then threw this shirt on my giveaway pile and entered GIVEAWAY REASON: QUALITY OF WORK into my sewing spreadsheet, which is the spreadsheet equivalent of a temper tantrum. Later that day I pulled the shirt out again.

I unpicked the serger threads and the sleeve cap, rearranged the gathers to be neater, resewed the armscye with a spool of mismatched all-purpose thread with all stitches present and accounted for, and then pinked the seam allowances. Then a week after that I pulled it out a second time and added bias binding.

There’s plenty of imperfections still – one side of the neckline has draglines, one doesn’t (I increased the facing width slightly, by the way – 1/4” on the vertical area, ½” on the curve). I have one lightly poofy shoulder and one IMELDA MARCOS BLAMMO shoulder. The topmost buttonhole is frankly odd. Also, despite taking the same side seam allowances I did the other two times I made this shirt, this iteration came up a bit snug on my hips.

None of that would matter if I really liked it, but I don’t. This is an important note to self: just because some desirable fabrics are expensive and finicky to sew, doesn’t mean every finicky and expensive fabric is desirable, charisma be damned. I’m not excited to wear this top, so it’s not fit to purpose, since ideally dressing up for an occasion means that the clothes are part of the treat. Not exactly an astounding comeback tour for tencel twill!

Annoyingly, also, I have a full selvedge-to-selvedge 18” left, so I could have bought a single yard of this pricey fabric instead of 1.5 yards and saved like $13.50! Hmm. I do have one completely unregretted purchase – I got my Microtex needle from a Schmetz cosplay pack (#1851), which I am frankly tickled by but is also full of useful needles. If the only thing preventing you from trying cosplay is heterogeneous needle acquisition, then brother, have I got two thumbs and some good news for you.

The question remains: what am I going to wear?? What comfortable dressy not-dress that packs well and accommodates weather that might be 60°F or might be 90°F would you?

Good luck with your upcoming projects!

Pattern: Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M, lower neckline; widened facing 1/4″ on the vertical, 1/2″ on the curved section

Supplies: 1 1/2 yards of tencel twill in Mojito, $40.50, Gather Here; buttons, $2.00, Gather Here; thread from stash

Total time: 5.75 hours

Total cost: $42.50

A Murder Is Announced

Professor Boyfriend and I have participated in a weekly game night for years, but this year for one week only we hosted a murder mystery evening instead. It was partly for Halloween but mostly due to A Murder Is Announced, because we held it on Friday, October 29th, just like the mysterious notice in the book!

I was given the character of Sally, an authoress, and initially I thought I’d just wear this McCalls dress, but then I had a rummage through my mending basket and got a better idea. I’ve had this brown Kaufman flannel half-circle skirt lying there unworn for ages due to a youthful indiscretion – I tried to install an invisible zipper on the bias and the back seam was unwearably wobby. It took me months of wear to notice, but once I did, I realized my rear looked like a ski slalom. Then I crammed the skirt in the mending pile for mumbledytum years.

But change was finally a-coming. I removed the waistband, unpicked the back seam to about an inch above the finished hem, and took out the zipper. Happily I didn’t have to touch the hem itself!

Then I was pleasantly surprised to see the fabric itself wasn’t stretched all out of whack. The zipper had become permanently distorted, though, and I didn’t have another one. Here’s where I had to use my little grey cells, mon ami. Some context: this skirt is pre-spreadsheet-era, meaning it’s at least 5+ years old, so as you can imagine I didn’t have any leftover scrap fabric hanging around. Also, my washing machine is broken (and has been for several weeks) so I haven’t been buying and can’t add new fabric. Also also, it was the Tuesday night before the Friday of the party. Also also also, the original waistband closed with a snap I was unable to pry out, so instead I had to snip off the ends, making the already-scanty waist piece (see: my measurement of 5+ years ago) now comically small.

So I winged it!

Improvisational button fly time. I grabbed some buttons from my recent regretted button-buying binge and, HUZZAH, even though they weren’t suitable for the planned project I ordered them for, they were perfect here. I ‘drafted’ an extremely sketchy fly shield from a mostly-coordinating scrap by guessing at a length and width, folding it in half, and sewing the bottom shut. Then I sandwiched some snipped-up hair elastic button loops between the shield and the original back seam allowance. I also left the bottom half-inch or so of the shield piece free and unstitched, which matters later.

 Next, I folded under and topstitched the opposite seam allowance, but only parallel to the seamline.

The only part that required a little finesse was re-sewing the center back seam. I folded the bottom free half-inch of the fly shield out of the way and sewed the back seam shut until I bumped into my new stitching. Then I overlapped the button side over the now-extended fly shield and sewed a short horizontal bar to join the two layers at the base. Voila, button back!

I used another piece of scrap fabric to extend the original waistband piece. Does it match? Nah. Does it matter? Honestly, also nah. Professor Boyfriend and I have a saying we rely on in times like these: “It’s better than good. It’s good enough!”

For a finishing touch, the day before the murder, I Googled “how to sew a beret” and about an hour after that I had one of those too!! I used Erika Bunker’s tutorial on the We All Sew blog, and it was excellent. My only meaningful change was to add seam allowance to the inner circle (the head hole circle). I also folded my ‘stem’ in half and attached it flat instead of sewing it into a loop. This beret was the perfect use for a scrap of wool that was too small to wear but too nice to get rid of! I lined my wool with cotton, because it’s what I had around. I love it.

It was surprisingly easy to find everything we needed to host the evening lying around our apartment – this poison bottle is a vintage vanilla extract bottle I use as a bud vase, my cigarette holder is a metal straw with paper curled inside, and I bought my brooch at a pawn shop at the tail end of my Victorian phase (the pawn shop has been a patisserie for years, which shows how long I’ve been living in Somerville).  

My new-old skirt is still a little snug, but it served its purpose. Much like the pockets, which, while low, are large enough and sturdy enough to contain a murder weapon. I walked around with a Lewis chessman in my pocket all night but was still framed for murdering an industrialist with a hairpin. Nom d’un nom d’un nom! I think I’m a beret person now, though! I’m going to wear it in real life!

And as long as I’ve got you here, how perfect would Navid Negahban be as a post-Suchet Poirot!? He’s my dream casting. Pipe down, you Malkoviches and Branaghs! Hercule has arrived!

Now it’s time to pick your weapon!

Welcome to November. Don’t get murdered. 🙂

Past Lives

I have something a little different to show you today. While cleaning out an old laptop, Professor Boyfriend came across these photos of the first garments I ever sewed! I’m saying garments instead of clothes, well, because…see!

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The time: Halloween 2010. The show: Avatar: The Last Airbender. The place: our beloved first apartment, a studio where I kept my sewing machine in a skinny cabinet next to the stove, the one meant for cookie sheets. The face: mine! And little!!

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I’m writing this post from memories that are nearly a decade old. Some things I remember clearly, like buying the fabric from a discount store in East Cambridge called Sew-Low, one of those dark, chaotic, multi-story shops totally stuffed with unlabelled bolts of fabric (sadly since closed). Other details, not so much. I don’t remember how I worked out the “pattern pieces” – in quotes because I had never sewn a pattern before! How did I cut out a sleeve? Was it even remotely sleeve-shaped?

Okay, let’s rewind. I had recently sewn a tote bag, and thought the logical next step was to create a Kyoshi warrior costume.

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Sure.

I bought several yards of discount cotton (?) and merrily chopped it into, at a guess, only rectangles. The belt: for sure a rectangle. The skirt: a smaller rectangle over a larger rectangle. The sleeve ties: rectangles. Neck band: a rectangle, almost certainly not cut on the bias. Apparently I had clothes figured out.

I don’t remember whether I skipped the sleeve details because of time constraints, an acknowledgement of my own lack of experience, or – terrifyingly – some notion of practicality (did I think I would wear this again?).

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I’m laughing at myself now, but also, hey, good for Kid Lia. I didn’t know what I didn’t know!  I never changed thread color, and the belt, in particular, seems to have been hemmed one edge at a time. I guess I couldn’t sew a corner yet!

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I think the layered skirts had a shared elastic waistband. Sadly there’s no record of this costume without the brad-and-cardboard armor, but if I put elastic into the sleeves as these photos imply, I probably would have bodged some into the skirt as well.

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Despite the uneven hem of the bodice (so memorably awful that I can still picture it), the anarchic seam allowances with no finishes, and those sleeves that I still can’t riddle out, this Halloween folly bound me to sewing (with hoops of cardboard!). I don’t remember what I spent, exactly which fabric I used, or how long it took. I remember my pride, though! I wanted to make something, so I did! What can beat that feeling?

I don’t have any technical sewing advice. Just this: if you want to make something, you should!

NERD ALERT  – regular sewing enthusiasts can stop reading now. But! Which kind of bender do you think you would be? I’m politically aligned with moderate Equalists (why should the entire police force and government be benders? HMM?) but at the end of the day, pre-Korra, Earthbending please. ^_- Though to quote a certain Airbender –

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“Flameo, hotman!”   

Silver Bells

This is my first Fibre Mood pattern, the Faye dress! Ordinarily I’m a little hesitant to buy a pattern on a whim (I own so many patterns already!) but I got swoony for this design. Plus, I felt like I had a little pattern “slush fund”, since most years I have a wishlist for the fall/winter pattern sales, but this year I only planned to and did buy one (the Thread Theory Comox trunks – unlikely to be modeled strappingly in the forest on this blog, but it seems like a handy pattern).  

I feel like Fibre Mood just popped onto the scene all at once – or more likely I just got in the know! Beck at I Sew Therefore I Am has been sewing up a storm with their patterns (personal fave, this dress) and Carolyn at Handmade by Carolyn actually made the Faye (how’s that for credentials?).

Anyway, I decided to make several impractical choices simultaneously: I would sew a new Christmas dress (unnecessary) in a metallic fabric (what) from a new-to-me pattern company (why) that requires almost 5 yards of my desired fabric ($$$ ouch). 

Luckily, Mikey likes it I like it!

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I styled this differently for our Christmas party – red ribbon for a belt, green shoes, and garnet earrings. But I was worried about wearing those earrings outside the house (they’re vintage clip-ons and sometimes one gives up its grip and I feel it slither down my neck) so this is a more restrained take on that same outfit. Yes. A staid sparkly swishy silver dress styling session. Indeed.

I’m happy with the pattern drafting and the final dress, but the process was NOT straightforward. First, you have to add your own seam allowances. I know this is standard for many companies and it makes it easier to manipulate pattern pieces, move darts, etc., but I am lazy. Secondly, the print shop file overlaps the pattern pieces, so you’d have to trace or print more than one copy for continuous pieces. The instruction layout is also no bueno. The cutting and interfacing charts are on the last pages, as is a list of seams to which you’re not supposed to add seam allowance. Surprise!

However, I can grudgingly admit it was kind of nice to choose my seam allowances. I added 3/8” because I knew I would be using my serger to finish. I didn’t add a hem allowance, and effectively removed the SA from the waist seam, too, after trying the dress on. And there’s some clever fitting details – the chest flap is not a tuck, but actually a separate pattern piece, and there’s shaping in that seam (front flaps and back yoke). Also, the size range is terrific! I sewed a 40 – near the top of some pattern ranges, but this one goes up to 58. Whoo! That being said, you can’t turn layers off and on, so some of the notches were impossible to distinguish. And there was no yardage listed for narrower fabric (for this size I used 5 yards. Woof). 

I think sizes in the 50s would be able to use 45” wide fabric, too, because the skirt is cut on the crossgrain. Something to be aware of if your fabric is directional. Mine has slubby ‘stripes’, mostly visible close up. I alternated grain direction in a quite a few places, mainly to conserve fabric. That skirt has an appetite for yardage!!   

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I made changes when sewing, some more on-purpose-y than others! Some were simple mistakes, like accidentally using the neckline binding piece to make a rouleau hanging loop, so that workwear-inspired detail is now the silliest, daintiest touch.

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Some were thoughtful decisions, like baby-hemming the whole skirt before sewing the front plackets to reduce hem bulk.

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Or adjusting the pattern pieces to work with the pocket sewing technique from Threads #195, Feb./March 2018 (oh my goodness, these are my best inseam pockets ever).

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Some were combo choices/mistakes, like changing the numbers of pleats from three to two and then signally failing to align them (see above, oops). Still, it was the right decision for my body – I was worried about the waist measurement, but I didn’t want to sacrifice pleat depth. This is your friendly neighborhood reminder to retake your measurements before taping and cutting a zillion pieces of paper, and not immediately afterwards, for some reason, yah goofball.

One was just a honking mistake. Here goes: first I finished the whole bodice but the plackets, then the whole skirt but the plackets. I went to join them, and discovered that I had trimmed one bodice placket and one skirt placket, as directed – on opposite sides. Well, dang it! I had a good chunk of scrap fabric left, so I trimmed the center bodice that was too wide, and added a new placket piece to the side that had been too short. I went to attach the bodice and skirt again, and discovered I had done it right the first time. As in, I had somehow flipped the pieces when pinning, and then went ahead and cut off the bodice placket extension that had actually been on the correct side. What’s a girl to do? Cut off the skirt placket extension, obviously, and cut a new one for the other side. BLERGH. I couldn’t believe myself. This is extra annoying because if I had planned ahead to do all this extra sewing anyway I could have cut the placket extension as a single piece and not had the multi-layered waist seam popping up when worn unbelted!

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GIRRRL. Well, it’s nothing a safety pin won’t fix.

I’ve never constructed a blind button placket like these directions instructed, but the result was fine; a little bulky, but very neat. It’s a bit clever how they have you handle the flap, too – flipping it up and down to sewn a continuous line.

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You can see that stitching line here, plus the seam on the edge of the placket where I had to reattach after my faulty impulse chopping. Also, the texture of the fabric. I used Kaufman Manchester Metallics cotton (plus Lurex, and I think a pinch of polyester). It’s mildly scratchy to wear but a dream to sew. Crisp, light, easy to handle and press, good drape but very stable. I saw it described as semi-sheer but it seems opaque to me!    

This dress is foolish, but dang it, also fun.  I haven’t figured out how to integrate it into my everyday wardrobe, but I’m considering separating the top and bottom halves. On the other hand, am I really much more likely to wear a silver skirt than a silver dress?

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If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you know!

See you in the twenties!

Pattern: Fibre Mood Faye dress

Pattern cost: $8.50

Size: 40

Supplies: 5 yards of Kaufman Manchester Metallic in Silver, $49.69, fabric.com; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 11.75 hours

Total cost: $58.19

Buzzwords

Hi all! What’s the buzz?

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Oh, is it the base of my Halloween costume? It is!

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One of these days I’d like to cut loose and make a COSTUME, we’re talking something that needs super specific underwear and maybe you have to crouch to get through doorways, but in the meantime (as in, as long as I stay in my beloved but closet-less apartment) I pull together costumes from daywear. You could be forgiven for thinking “This? A costume? No, no, sir” which, like, fair enough. Though there are more posterboard components for the night itself.

Anyway, I’m a Spelling Bee! (Professor Boyfriend, not pictured, is a Spelling Beekeeper. His veil is dotted with yellow and black striped capital letter “B”s.). Whereas I’m, basically, a nerdy bee? The sewn elements are a pair of Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, which I covered thoroughly here, and a Seamwork Natalie blouse.

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Nothing much to say about the shorts except that they’d match the concept better in black, but I found this grey linen locally for $3/yard, so yeah, SOLD.

One of the best parts of working in an elementary school is that you can have serious in-depth conversations about Halloween costumes. During one of these, a six-grade visionary suggested I add suspenders to my outfit, which: yes! They really cinch the Poindexter vibe! It’s just suspender clips and black ribbon, so only aesthetic, no support. I actually already had these – a couple years ago I got smitten with the idea of suspenders just long enough to order the clips, and I wore them maybe twice before the day I paired them with culottes and a leotard and had to reenact The Great Escape when I wanted to pee.

The ‘bee-siest’ piece is this top. I’ve been thinking about the Natalie blouse for a while and I’m glad I finally made one! In recent months I’ve been glibly converting regular collars to camp collars and then moaning that they don’t sit right, but actually following directions to learn a new skill seems to have worked better, TELL EVERYONE. I think the trick is in the width of the facing. The plackets curl open close to, but not over, the edge of the facing. It mildly stresses me out that it’s just tacked down inside and not topstitched, but maybe that’s an important ingredient too?  

I did add three additional buttons between the four recommended ones. More stitching is better stitching.

This top certainly fits, but I should have picked my size more wisely. I sewed an 8 bust graded to a 10 waist. Thanks to the boxy fit it’s not tight anywhere, but the shoulders are too narrow.

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Ideally, the shoulder seam would sit 1/2” – 1” further out. I think I’ll retrace the pattern in a straight size 12. The good news is I know already that I won’t need to grade for my hips!

Oh, a note on plaid-matching – I remembered to match the side seams below the bust dart, but completely forgot about the sleeves. Oh, well. Though, it’s been a while since I’ve set a sleeve in the round, not to mention I French-seamed it, and it is sitting pretty smoothly! So it might be in the wrong place, it might not match the plaid, but I’m calling it good!

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I probably won’t wear these bits as an outfit together after Halloween (contrary to everything about my personality, I’m not actually putting effort into being a nerd), but separately, yes, for sure. Do you dress up for Halloween? And if you do, do you try to keep the pieces wearable in daily life, or do you go wild?

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Either way – Happy Halloween! 😈

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts

Pattern cost: NA

Size: D at waist, E at lower hip + thigh

Supplies: 2 yards of linen blend, Sewfisticated, $5.98; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread, rivet from stash

Total time: 4 hours

Total cost: $7.38

Pattern: Seamwork Natalie

Pattern cost: $3

Size: 8 at bust, 10 at waist

Supplies: 2 yards of Kaufman Sevenberry: Classic Plaid Twill Plaid Yellow, fabric.com, $24.24; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $27.24

Summer of Love, Part Five: Farewell, My Lovely

This is my final post in the Summer of Love series. I decided to include one more outfit – not one that got worn publicly much, but one I made just for me!

Luckily I only travelled locally for the weddings etc., but when I did spend a night away from home, I wanted to wear something a bit more fun than my everyday jimjams (I had a sort of instinct that my usual grey tee/sweatpants combo wasn’t maximum festive). Rare Device has a lovely post on investing in the clothes you wear when you’re by yourself, and while self love or care has been monetized almost past recognition, I thought my celebratory PJs were still worthy of being the finale of my Summer of Love. Not to mention I spent several weekends after the binge lounging around and recovering my social appetite and you know I spent that time in pajamas!

This post is a little disingenuous though – because while I made this robe/nightie combo last summer, I didn’t make the robe really truly wearable until the Sewcialists announced the Over/Under theme month. So 1. Oops and 2. Hooray!

The pattern is Seamwork Almada, and I fell for it immediately on its release. Many robes seem to be a collection of rectangles, but I thought the Almada looked like an Erté illustration, like an elegant twenties egg. I also loved the double gauze Seamwork used for their sample. It took me a while to make this pattern since it called for 3 ½ yards of fabric, and I was saving my credit card cashback rewards until I had enough for the big dog – Nani Iro! This is a fabric from her (their?) Rakuen collection.

I sewed a size large, originally with no changes. I was surprised at the Seamwork directions; I assumed that a pattern that called for luxurious fabrics would also call for fine finishing. Especially given that it only has four seams, I would have recommended French seams. They didn’t, but I used them anyway! I also invisibly hand-sewed the bias binding that finishes the opening – easy to do on double gauze, because you can just pick up the inner layer with your needle.    

My favorite homemade bias binding is from this super-soft grey-green-khaki cotton that goes with absolutely everything.

I needed every inch of my yardage – that’s how I ended up with the printed selvage visible inside one sleeve cuff!

I swanned around in my finished robe from time to time, admiring the fabric, but I didn’t use it much as a practical thing. The ties were placed low and wide, buuut so are my hips. The robe required too much arranging and tugging and still wouldn’t stay shut. I wore it as intended for wedding travel because inconsistent coverage was better than none, but after a year of non-use, I FINALLY unpicked and reattached the ties. And only because of Over/Under month!

Half an hour of sewing to move the ties six inches up and six inches towards the center, and now my fancy robe finally fits!

Double gauze is soft and vibrant, it’s like wearing a whisper, and it’s generally easy to sew. When topstitching, however, a friend of mine described it as “like sewing bread”.

Not my neatest sewing ever, but eulalia! I can wear it now!

On the other hand, there’s almost nothing to the nightie – no special saving for fabric, no long-awaited sew, no last-minute rescue. Just a 7” lengthened Ogden cami from leftover fabric I didn’t have quite enough of to make daywear. It’s my all-time favorite summer nightgown.

Love strikes willy-nilly!

Thus concludes my Summer of Love! See you soon, I hope, for more everyday dressing. : )

Previous Summer of Love: here (part one), here (part two), here (part three), and here (part four).

Pattern:  Seamwork Almada

Pattern cost: $3

Size: L, with the ties moved

Supplies: 3.5 yards Nani Iro Gauze in Rakuen Flower, Etsy, $69.20; thread from stash

Total time: 5.5 hours

Total cost: $72.20

Pattern: Ogden cami

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 8 at bust, 14 at hip

Supplies: leftover rayon poplin from stash, thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $0.00

 

Summer of Love, Part Four

Why hellllooo, here’s the fourth entry in my self-declared Summer of Love series! This outfit is sort of a round-up of my greatest hits: slouchy linen-ish outerwear, short shorts, and a wrap top that needs a safety pin so my bra doesn’t fall out. And guess what? I LOVE IT!

Yes babies, ignore the stink-face (why do I always have such a stink-face? I promise I’m very smiley in real life), I finally worked out a dressy(ish) outfit I feel comfortable and happy in! First, the creative brief: I needed something to wear to a rehearsal dinner with the equivalent fanciness of an average wedding, but since it was immediately followed by, you know, the actual wedding, my Kielo had to keep. Also, it was in a country club! First and only time I’ve been in a country club. Country club tip: forge an alliance with the man who holds the crab cakes. Yesss. Now you are ready.

Also, I was being romantically haunted (think Phantom of the Opera, Patrick Swayze as Ghost, basically those but with boundaries) by the idea of a Summer Suit. And I figured what the hecko! If not now, when! And because I love ongoing usefulness I decided to sew another Victoria blazer. I made all the changes listed in this blog post, and also I swapped in pockets purloined from the Lupin jacket (mine here).

Here is a picture of a pocket for anyone who is recently born or very forgetful. You’re welcome.

Another Patented Poundcake tip (I’m sure that crab cake thing is already paying dividends): make sure your shorts are at least a little longer than your jacket, so you don’t look like a flasher from behind.

So that’s the outermost layer of my onion! Next is a sleeveless Anderson blouse, and I made the adjustments listed in my post here, except for the armscye because this was my first draft in fact and I hadn’t noticed that issue yet.  Simple pimple.

Finally, the third piece of the ensemble – pants. I imagined cropped, pleated trousers with a tapered leg. “But Lia,” I hear you say, “Surely that’s your knees I see before us?”

PATIENCE.

Exactly at the equator, these are MN Flints. I used its (dare I say iconic?!) waistband and pocket construction.

There’s a hook and bar fastener inside, and the ties outside. Also, for once, my waistband isn’t crumpled horizontally by my mighty middle. I used BanRol! I’d bought some in a hazy panic when a local fabric store was closing, with the vague sense you put it in bag straps, but it’s for waistbands. It really stays flat! I only realized its use because of the magically impressive Shauni (she’s so cool).

So I had my waistband figured, but I wanted tapered pants and the Flints, well, aren’t. So I used the leg (sans pockets) of the Turia dungarees! I darted the back to fit, and pleated the front. It was actually pretty straightforward to get these patterns to mesh.

Then, an eagle-eyed observer might be able to spot, I just went ahead and cut the legs off anyway.

Frankly the pattern mash-up made for a nice pair of dressy slacks, but when paired with the blazer, I was getting major zoot suit vibes! So chop chop, now they’re shorts. The finished inseam is 2.75”.

This isn’t my finest sewing (those pleats are not centered on the front crotch seam, for one) and there’s some practical issues (the shorts wrinkle like crazy where they’re crushed by my butt, the blouse is a little too short to tuck in *really* securely), but for once, I don’t care. Because I feel like myself in this outfit and that makes me happy.

You may also notice, despite my claims, that I have HEELS ON! These were grandfathered in because I bought them for my sister’s wedding in 2012. Even just taking these pictures reminded me why I only wear them once every 20 months. They gave me that lift to spot my crab cakes friend from a distance though. Plus who can resist a classic grey…beige…combo? LISTEN I’m good at wearing normal clothes, okay!

My embroidered pin is from Coral & Tusk, by the way.

And my face, as apparently always, is right out of stink-ville!

See you soon!

Previous Summer of Love found here (part one), here (part two), and here (part three).

Pattern:  BHL Victoria blazer

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10/14

Supplies: 2 yards of Brussels Washer linen/rayon blend in grey, $20.78, fabric.com; 1.5 yards of Cambridge Solids cotton lawn in Grey, $13.20, Gather Here; thread, $1.79, Michael’s

Total time: 7 hours

Total cost: $35.68

Pattern: SOI Anderson blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: XS (!!!)

Supplies: 2 yards of ivory rayon, $15.00, Gather Here; thread from stash

Total time: 3 hours

Total cost: $15.00

Pattern: MN Flints/Turia dungarees

Pattern cost: NA

Size: L (Flints)/44 (Turias)

Supplies: 2 yards of Brussels Washer linen/rayon blend in grey, $20.78, fabric.com; thread, hook and bar from stash

Total time: 6.25 hours

Total cost: $20.78

Summer of Love, Part Three

This dress was pants! Briefly! Well, culottes. This is the tale of its transformation. Welcome to episode 3 of the Summer of Love!

This was very, very temporarily a pair of midi-length Tania culottes, size L in old money. I’d been wild to make them for a while, but I rarely buy 3+ yards of fabric at a go. Happily Gather Here had a summer sale at the beginning of wedding season, and the Tanias seemed just right for an upcoming casual-nice engagement party!

I finished the culottes with about 18 hours to spare (maybe you’ve sung this song yourself) and popped them on for a triumphant fashion show. Twist!! I must have fudged the grainlines because instead of falling from the widest part of my hip, they hugged my leg to about mid-thigh and then abruptly belled out. NOT triumphant. Not even close. Triumph sent its sincerest regrets but would not be attending my legs.

Without a back-up plan, I unpicked the ol’ leg-bags and freestyled a dress. The culottes became its skirt. This was simple to engineer – I cut off the crotch extension of each piece and smoothed the waist, like so.

Then I pieced the skirt front and skirt back at the center seams. Since the Tanias are so full, that left a respectable amount of swing and flare, even sans crotch.

Unfortunately, I ended up with four little holes, from what used to be the ends of the big box pleats (the red dot on my diagram above).

Using about a square centimeter of scrap fabric and fusible hem tape, I ironed a jiffy patch to the wrong side of each hole. So far they’re holding!

For the bodice, I used the Workroom Social Tate Top (free to newsletter subscribers) in the cropped length. I had previously made this pattern as a scrap-buster. As a crop top, you can really squeeze it onto random odds and ends, especially if you add seaming. I got this from the culottes off-cuts with nothing to spare!

Rather than using a zip, as the pattern recommends, I divided the back bodice horizontally about 5” down. Then I cut the two upper pieces and hemmed the vertical edges separately for a simple opening. It closes with a thread chain and mother-of-pearl button, but I can get in and out without unbuttoning. I’ve definitely made versions of this with no opening at all, but you know your own coconut best!

Then I just gathered the skirt top to fit (it didn’t take much gathering), stitched them together, pressed that seam up, and topstitched. Crossed my fingers for another first try-on and hey presto! A dress!

With a handy belt leftover from a Halloween costume (I was an Egyptologist, Professor BF was a curséd mummy, it was adorable, we’re very proud), I was party-ready.

Oddly I find the Tate cropped length borderline too short for a shirt but definitely too long for a dress bodice! But by then I was sleepy. So I wore the finished dress to the engagement do, and then forgot to adjust it, and then wore it to other Summer of Love events – a bridal shower, another engagement party. It’s not quite fancy enough for a fancy wedding, but it worked great for these Bacchanals/Burning Mans/just kidding we ate finger food in a backyard.   

I wore my Halloween belt with this each time, but I might prefer it casually unbelted!

You know what – seeing this steadily and seeing it whole, I’m gonna tweak it again. I love the color and the weight of this fabric, but the bodice never sat quite right, especially in the back, and it’s a smidge tight at the underarms.

Once more for the chop, dear dress!  

Previous Summer of Love found here (part one) and here (part two).

Pattern: MN Tania culottes

Pattern cost: $9.50

Size: L, in the old MN system

Supplies: 3 1/4 yards Kaufman Essex linen/cotton in Seafoam, Gather Here, $28.60; zipper and thread, $4.60, Gather Here; button from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $42.70

Pattern: Workroom Social Tate Top, as dress

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 8

Supplies: disassembled Tania culottes + leftover fabric

Total time: 5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

Summer of Love, Part Two

Welcome back to the Summer of Love, where I share what I wore to the weddings and wedding-adjacent events that ate summer 2018! Inevitably, I made a Kielo. But this Kielo has a twist. I don’t actually like it very much!!

Ho-ho, it’s a GRUMPY twist. My feelings about this dress didn’t crystallize until I took these photos, in fact. Normally I forget unpleasant sewing experiences in the satisfaction of a finished garment, but when I jumped headfirst into this stretchy green tent they were waiting inside!

More on that later! First I want to talk about the jacket I sewed to pair with this, since venues are often too cold. Venues AND spaces are too cold. Sometimes areas too. Brr. It’s a Lupin!

Bonne journée, Lupin! Conversely, making this was a madcap ride of pure sewing joy. These were my first welt pockets and my first jacket lining. I had so much fun making this, I spent much of the time thinking of when I could make another. It almost doesn’t matter that I don’t like it very much either?!

I love it as an object, I just don’t love it on me.

The exaggerated lapels, the blousy back – it seems like too much fabric to me. Or maybe it’s the color? In an olive drab or a mossy green, I could see this working. This light blue isn’t as versatile as I expected. My Lupin is a straight size 42 and the fit is fine really but it feels (and I think looks) a smidge long.

With a linen/cotton shell and rayon lining, it’s the perfect weight for weather of about 55° – 65° F, which is a great transitional layer. Again, um, for someone who likes it.

 The directions were really clear; my only changes were to skip the topstitching on the lapels and omit the epaulettes. I also used two different lining fabrics, because the solid one had been gifted to me and the other…

WAS THIS MAGNIFICENT ½ YARD OF VERY EXPENSIVE RAYON. It’s gorgeous. That half yard cost me $10 and was absolutely worth it. I should wear this jacket inside out.

And it coordinates so well with this Fearsome Beast pin!

The upside of relying almost exclusively on blue and green for color in my wardrobe is effortless coordination, baby!

I felt very appropriate in this outfit. Picture that remark, in say, a Regency drawing room, and you might get a sense of how withering I’m being. Ms. Poundcake! Fie! It also packed well (an away wedding must) and clearly communicated my desire to be a fancy friend. It also also contains some of my junkiest sewing this side of a seam ripper.

Let’s talk turkey.

As seen here in this photo of me, apparently, playing a small invisible violin, the fit is fine. It’s totally acceptable! I’ve put all my points into fitting pants, so learning how to fit my top half has accidentally gotten nerfed in the meantime. Luckily I had the lead of Erica from Handmade Wardrobe to follow. I shortened the front bodice by 1.5” above the dart, the back bodice by 1” above the armscye notch, and narrowed the top back 2” total (1” from each center back starting at the neck, tapering to nothing about 6” down). I also raised the back split by about 2”.

Bunching at the front armscye/above the bust seemed to be a common issue with the pattern, so I was pleased to have avoided it! But then came…THE SEAM FINISHES.

The pattern instructs you to use bias tape to finish the arm- and neck-holes. Okay, fine, you can bias bind the neck. But the armscye is continuous with the side seam! There’s no division, just a notch marking it!

Ignore the incoming armpit hair and stick with me here. I guess it’s possible to miter the binding for that corner somehow, but I lack confidence with knits, let alone knit bindings, so I just serged the seam allowances separately, pressed them open, and topstitched – effectively turning them under once, which I repeated for the neckline so the topstitching would be consistent. Consistently stretched-out-ish. : P Not to mention the wobbly back seam and the bulgy dart points!

But my worst, worst sewing is at the top of the split. That split, elegant from a distance, is an uneven mess inside. It changes width, there’s some serging that just…trails off, and I had to snip into the seam allowance, which kind of stresses me out even when the fabric won’t ravel. I tried WonderTape for the first time (as in “I wonder if I’m doing this right, because I’m having a crummy time”) and it did not seem to improve my experience.

And in conclusion: PANTY LINES.

I had an un-fun time sewing this slinky knit and now that the un-fun isn’t being actively opposed by cheese boards and Whitney Houston tracks, I feel it. I just don’t trust a dress I can’t press with steam!!

None of this is to say you shouldn’t sew it. Heck, I’m not even saying I’ll never wear it again. Maybe time will massage my yucky feelings to indifference? Or even better, maybe I will Grow As A Person and stop caring? It’s not an A-plot level arc, but growth is growth.

So, no moral to the story. Not yet, anyway. But the dress did its job, and there’s only one way for this post to end…

Flying squirrel!!

Previous Summer of Love found here.

Pattern: Named Kielo

Pattern cost: $14.00

Size: US 8, with adjustments, above

Supplies: 2 meters bamboo jersey knit in Spruce, Blackbird Fabrics, $32.50; $4.41, WonderTape, Amazon seller; $4, thread, Michael’s

Total time: 7 hours

Total cost: $54.91

Pattern: Deer & Doe Lupin jacket

Pattern cost: $13

Size: 42

Supplies: 3 yards Essex linen/cotton blend in chambray blue, 1/2 yard Menagerie cotton rayon lawn in Monstera Midnight, Gather Here, $36.40; thread, Gather Here, $3.10; vintage bemberg rayon, gifted

Total time: 9.25 hours

Total cost: $52.50