Saturday, August 24, 2019

Magenta Cielo Dress: A Pattern Review

I made it in magenta-colored linen. I'm sort of obsessed with this fabric right now! I also made a shirt in this same magenta linen, and a dress for Lily, and I'm not done yet I think...

Random fact: "cielo" is sky in rome, which is the opposite on the color wheel from magenta.

Okay, back to sewing. The pattern was so FUN to make. Very quick and clever construction. The pockets are part of this weird folded pattern piece that makes up the lower front of the dress, and the back has a yoke-like feature on the shoulders. I've seen some cool color-blocked versions, it definitely is calling out for that kind of treatment. I also love it in solids, obviously.

Closet Case Patterns definitely nailed chic Italian style in this dress, I could totally see an elegant Italian woman in Rome wearing this for a stroll down cobblestone streets, probably with a gorgeous tailored coat thrown over her shoulder...

However, I was skeptical that it would look good on me. I'm not a straight and narrow body type in my post-baby days, so I would usually avoid a style like this. However, it just looks so elegant on the Closet Case models and the instagram feed, so I decided I would give it a try. I sewed it up to measurements... I'm a little foggy on what I chose, but most likely a 16 bust graded to an 18 waist/hip. No muslin. Didn't even try it on until I had it all done and needed to nail down a hem length.

And... I HATED it.

It fit... just fine. I could sit (some people have mentioned they didn't have enough ease in the hips, and I didn't have this problem). However, I felt that my bum was pulling the dress back and my belly was pushing it forward. If this was a knit, it would have just been curve-accentuating, but in a woven, it was just weird to wear and unflattering.

I felt like a clunky uncultured American trying to fit into an elegant Italian woman's clothes. Actually that's a pretty accurate description of how I feel when I'm in Rome. I love Rome dearly, but I'm clearly not a native!

However, I don't want my sewing to be quite that truthful. No I was not brave enough to take any pictures, I just threw it in a heap on the floor and went to bed.

The next day I woke up with a crazy plan. I had lots of fabric, so I cut out an ENORMOUS pleat-- 18 inches wide, not including the seam allowances, long enough to go from shoulder blades to hem. I did an inverted pleat, which ended up being 6 inches wide. I then inset that baby into the center back of the dress, sort of the way the inset is done on the Charlie Caftan. I interfaced the top of the opening to help support the weight of the pleat.

Now, I love my dress! 

The linen has weight and moves in a languidly swishy way, and it feels very me.

It's also super cute with my Jasika Blazer!

I'm not sure if I would make it again quite in this way, the giant pleat is too much of a statement to have more than one in my wardrobe. Next time I might just add some additional ease into the side seams, and/or build a smaller pleat into the back of the dress. The simple design would be great for showcasing a lovely fabric. It is a quick sew, so I could see just making one up on a whim on an afternoon.

While I think the pockets are super cute in this fabric, I might also choose not to make them if I was sewing this in a less structured fabric. Fortunately, there's a view for that (view D). 

I think the Pietra pants may have to be up next in my sewing queue...!

Jasika Blazer by Closet Case Patterns in Herringbone Linen: A Pattern Review

I'm so happy to share my finished...

... Jasika Blazer!

When Closet Case Patterns released their blazer this winter, I'm couldn't get my copy fast enough! I had the pattern and all the notions in tidily in hand before the sew along started... and then I realized there was no way I was going to be able to immerse myself in a jacket sewing experience at that time of the year. Far too many things going on between family and my artistic/academic career. All good, but... I was sort of disappointed to fall off and then have to sit aside and watch longingly.

However, at the end of this summer, I decided that it was time to finally realize my blazer dreams of glory! The anxiety of the new academic year always has me wanting just a few fantastic new wardrobe items.

I've been wanting a linen blazer for years now. Well, at least since I became aware that linen and blazers were a thing. I have never found one in the store even worth considering purchasing within my meagre wardrobe budget. Even if I found one, it would have been very unlikely to fit since blazers almost never fit comfortably around my quite significant armpits and biceps, and in order to get a comfortable fit in the arms I have to size up until the shoulders look ridiculous. I got into blazer sewing early in my sewing career largely because my arms are such a fitting problem in RTW.

Over the 8 years or so that I've been sewing intensively I've made a number of blazers and coats using both traditional and "fast" tailoring methods. I'm entirely self-taught, from books and online resources. Almost all of these makes have been patterns from Simplicity, Burda and Vogue. In every one, fitting has been a total nightmare-- I've done multiple muslins and re-drafted parts of the patterns to get them to fit the way I want them to. Worse, the directions in these patterns are, as I've said before, worse than useless. There's always a number of points where the sewist is left in the dark, problem-solving some sewing quandary with a mix of ingenuity and internet searching. I always appreciate a good challenge!

It is probably no surprise that sewing the Jasika blazer was nothing like these past experiences. 

First of all, the pattern itself is drafted to fit the dimensions of a real female body. At least, one like mine! My first muslin, based on my dimensions, was a 16 bust graded to an 18 waist/hip. The overall fit was quite close to being correct. However... it wasn't quite perfect...!

The biggest problem was that I was quite far from being able to button it (3 inches) which is pretty much entirely due to the fact that I now carry extra weight in front. Thank you babies! Everything else was pretty close... the darts were angled correctly and ended in the right place and produced an acceptable amount of volume for my chest. I didn't want to just add to the side seams, since this would have meant messing with the bust and pockets. I ended up doing a "full tummy" adjustment. My one tiny disappointment was that this issue was not addressed in the "fitting ebook." Certainly I'm not the only woman out there with a tummy? Anyhow, the internet provided a solution. For some reason I only found it in reference to men's suits and shirts, for example, in Seamwork's guide of "common pattern adjustments for men." The illustrations below show what I ended up doing. I don't know if this was the right or wrong thing to do, but it seemed to work because I could now button my jacket, and the bust darts still looked right. 

I also was concerned with the tightness of the armhole. I tried a full-bicep adjustment which is often necessary for me, but this in this pattern it added volume that didn't seem to be necessary. I also tried scooping out the bottom of the armhole by .5 inches, and this didn't seem to help and it made mobility worse. I ended up adding .25 inches to the back side seam, starting below the armpit and ending near the hip, to take a bit of tightness out of the back, and this also seemed to help shoulder mobility. So I decided that maybe it would be okay? Spoiler alert-- it was not okay, and I ended up altering late in the process, which sucked!

The fabric I decided to use was a herringbone linen that I've had in my stash for about 6 years from Marcy Tilton's online store, just waiting for the right blazer to come along! It is a gorgeous weave with sky blue threads in one direction and beige in the other, giving the surface an almost silver-y look. Back when I had been considering starting a Jasika with the sew-along in the winter I had selected a tweedy wool that was less "precious" to me than this linen, but in the moment I decided to just go for it. This linen is *mostly* opaque, but perhaps just a bit of light comes through if you hold it up to the sun... so I was left scrambling to switch out my dark interfacings and notions for lighter ones, both color and weight. Fortunately I had the perfect light-weight, light colored weft interfacing in my stash. I could not find my light colored knit interfacing, so I decided to just skip it! I hate not doing anything Heather suggests, but I thought I might get away with this.

I love to immerse myself in projects... so I sewed this mostly over the course of a single week, with cutting done on the big tables at work and most of the sewing crammed into a single weekend. I might have ignored such mundane tasks as cleaning my house and laundry!

Mostly, things went very smoothly. The thought put into the pattern, direction booklet, and online course was incredible, and all of this was clearly visible in how cleanly and smoothly things came together. I loved how I could watch a video, then just follow the steps in the instruction book and the two would match up, step for step. I did totally screw up the first double welt pocket... in the future I'll measure rather than rely on the pattern pieces since the welts have to be exactly .5 inches, so that when you sew them down the middle, you end up with two .25 inch welts taking up the opening. I think mine were a touch too wide, throwing off the entire pocket. I unpicked and the second try came out acceptably.

The collar and collar stand came together so incredibly beautifully. The shape of the collar stand is genius. The very precise sewing instructions made all the seam allowances press perfectly. This all added up to the most gorgeous collar I've ever sewn, with almost zero frustration. 

I also had another "duh" moment as I was attaching my front facing to the jacket front. I couldn't figure out why things weren't matching up... then I realized I had forgotten to make the full-tummy adjustment that I had made on the front jacket piece on the front facing (palm slap to forehead!). Rather than unpick my whole collar, I ended up adding a wedge of fabric to my front facing. Let's just call this an impromptu design line! 

Another area where this pattern really stands out from the rest is in its very precise and thoughtful instructions on interfacing and support. This is such a vague area on other blazer and jacket patterns I've sewn, with decisions on this very important area left up to a sewist who was probably hoping for a bit of guidance. I loved that there was a very clear interfacing guide in the instructions and significant time devoted to the subject in the online course. 

I also really appreciated having Heather demonstrate proper pressing techniques. Can you believe that I've never really known the correct usage of the seam roll that I've owned for years? 

The back vent was another area that was just so thoughtfully worked out, and it came together beautifully. In every other jacket I've made, the back vent has been a stumbling point for me, I always struggle to get it to lie correctly, and connecting the lining is generally problematic. This vent was so well thought out and explained that it went as smooth as butter. 

I LOVE that patterns were included for shaped sleeve heads and shoulder pads. I made my shoulder pads out of flannel and lambswool, and I made the sleeve heads out of a double layer of flannel. The shaped sleeve head is such an elegant solution, I can't believe I've never seen one before. 

I added the lining and tried it on... and the armholes were even tighter than they were on my muslin. It was just a touch too tight through the armhole, sleeve, and back. It occurred to me that I'd never be able to get it on comfortably over a long sleeve shirt. So I went back in and took out the back side seam and the back arm seam 3/8inch. Unfortunately, doing this after the armhole was already graded meant I had to add little wedges of fabric to the seam allowances. Totally time consuming and annoying. But in the end, it did the trick. When I put it all back together again the fit was perfect, with room to layer a long sleeve shirt. 

I also changed up my sleeve lining. My lining fabric is a gorgeous rust-orange linen, but this clearly wasn't working in the sleeves-- it was causing too much bulk and the friction between the two linens was causing the sleeve to rumple in an unflattering way. I solved this by re-cutting the sleeve lining in rayon bemberg, and making a cuff-facing out of the rust linen so that the linen would show when I rolled the sleeves. 

After these changes, the finishing touches came together quickly. I made a corded buttonhole for the first time, and the final press did wonders for wrinkle-prone linen. 

In looking back over the experience, I really enjoyed making this blazer... the incredible attention to detail in the creation of the pattern, instructions and course made it a very rewarding process to sew. It was also gratifying to see that many of the self-taught techniques that I use are right on track, and I learned things that helped to fill in gaps in my knowledge. I wish this pattern and course had been available years ago, it would have saved me so much frustration and trial and error. 

Having a new blazer has me waiting impatiently for fall to set in! 

My new Jasika is worn in these photos with my white Ginger Jeans, a short sleeved Liesl and Co Classic Shirt, and my Hasbeen sandals. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Rayon Crepe "Zamy" (Zadie + Amy) Wrap jumpsuit

It's wedding season! Of course, nothing in my closet would do.  

The fabric is a rayon crepe that I picked up at Emmaonesock earlier this spring. I don't know whether to call this a border print or a panel, but I was immediately drawn to the layout and colors of the print. When I received it, the hand was even more luscious that I could have imagined... it has the most beautifully drapey, textured matte surface.

The basic pattern is the Zadie jumpsuit (Paper Theory), but highly modified. I've made one Zadie that I have yet to blog, since the fit is quite far from right. The crotch is miles too long, and possibly poorly shaped for my body. But I love the idea of a wrap jumpsuit, and I thought a wrap would be perfect for this print.

Also, to make the best use of this spectacular print, a waist seam was not desirable, and considerable swishy-ness on the legs certainly is desirable. 

Soooo.... I laid the Zadie on top of my beloved Amy jumpsuit pattern (Closet Case Patterns), and proceeded to trace out a hybrid. My love of the Amy jumpsuit is well documented! Let's just call this a Zamy, shall we? 

The hybridization went smashingly... I made a muslin and it was nearly spot on. It is difficult to say exactly where Zadie ends and Amy begins, but I took the wrap shape and pleats from the Zadie and the crotch curves and length mostly from the Amy, and retained all of the volume of the wide legs from the Amy. 

No waist seam. Pleats were retained, sewn to be open on both ends. I drafted facings, rather than use bias on the neckline, for a more elegant finish. Side seam pockets. Frenched seams. The sleeves are finished with self-fabric bias binding that is invisibly hand sewn down.

I also decided to add button closures (tabs sewn into the side seams) so that it can be worn with or without a belt, a technique borrowed from the Highland Wrap Dress (Allie Olson).

I made the belt twice as wide as the original Zadie ties, sewed the two ties together, and interfaced it so that it would lay flat (another thing I didn't like about my first Zadie is how the waist ties wrinkle up) and left it completely unattached. 

The wedding was lovely, the bride and the groom very sweetly exchanged handwritten vows on a perfect summer day. It is always such a beautiful thing to see two young people starting out together in their lives. As for my position as the recent wife of the father of the groom-- let's just say everyone has history. However, if one has to stand around smiling graciously, making small talk and feeling generally awkward, one might as well do so looking glamorous!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Amy Jumpsuit Cross Back Hack

I love my Amy jumpsuits (you can see them here (bw print), here (black linen), and here (navy sequin)) but they all share one problem... the straps just won't stay on my shoulders. 

So on my latest Amy, I made the straps cross in the back.

This was a bit of a trick, I went through several bodice muslins trying different solutions to get the straps to cross with a minimum of gaping in the back. But in the end, I decided the best solution was the simplest. I made the straps longer, and attached them so that they followed he angle of the back bodice coming from the armpit. I also removed about 1 inch from the top of the bodice at the center back, grading to nothing, and adding that inch back in at the side seams (1/2 inch on each side). I did this all on the pattern, so that when I cut the center back stripe would be on-grain. 

I also added the side zip. Since the straps are pretty secure, it is still a bit of a wiggle to get on and off... but not much worse than my other Amys. Next time I'll probably make the back just a bit deeper, or allow the front to sit a touch lower, so that the opening on top is just a bit wider to get on and off. 

I love it! Having bare shoulders without the straps sliding down all the time is wonderful. 

The fabric is yet another linen from Joanne Fabric! This one seems a bit lighter than the other two I've sewn with, but still lovely for summer.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Closet Case Charlie Caftan in Striped Linen from Joanne Fabric

Several days before our recent beach trip, I decided I just had to have a Charlie Caftan!

This is another linen from Joanne Fabrics. Not the finest linen ever, but actually quite perfect for a lightweight beach dress/cover up, and the slight rough texture is charming in this context.

I sewed View A, short with the diagonal pleat detail and the wide sleeves. I also covet a floor length, dramatic caftan, but I thought I'd start with the more practical version!

I just LOOOOVE the diagonal darts. So fun to sew, and a lovely design detail.

Following my measurements, I graded out at the hips, and otherwise sewed it entirely to spec. I was not so careful cutting, so I did lose a bit on the center front seam trying to get the stripes to meet in an an elegant fashion.

Overall the fit is quite good, body skimming but not too sloppy. The bottom of the skirt is the tiniest bit constricting... I'm not very good at maintaining lady-like postures, so I might add some side vents next time. 

Also, as other sewers have noted, the front V is quite deep, and the wide arms are very wide! This is all fine in a beach dress... desireable in fact! But if I was making one to be a bit more of an everyday dress, I'd raise the front V another inch and use the less-wide sleeve option. I might even like it enough to make another later this summer to wear in the fall to work, I think it would be a nice option.

I love all of the little details on this pattern... the stitched down facing, the angled sleeve cuffs, the front inset, the pockets. Of course, the diagonal pleats... but I've already gone on about those.

The inside seams are all frenched, except for the inset, which I finished with bias binding. I was a little surprised that there didn't seem to be any instructions for finishing the edges of the inset... or perhaps I missed them.

This caftan saw daily wear on the beach this last week-- it was the perfect garment to throw on over a swimsuit or to hang out on the deck in. LOVE!!!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Rainbow Striped Linen Closet Case Kalle Shirt Dress

Long time no blog! Quite honestly it's been a challenge just getting to sewing, never mind taking pictures of my makes. However, I just photographed my recent burst of productivity, so here comes the first in a short series of posts. 

I just can't get enough of the Kalle Shirt Dress. This is my 5th one, I think, not including the shirt and tunic length Kalles. Several of these are long sleeved for winter, some others are here and here. They are just the most easy, comfortable dresses to throw on, and I think the collar and buttons make them look classy. My favorite secret pajamas!

Early in the season, I was searching desperately for the perfect striped linen to make a great summer Kalle. When Sara from The Sara Project posted hers, that was EXACTLY what I wanted to make. I immediately ordered the same fabric from Joanne Fabrics and made my own. It was even in stock at my local store. I'm sorry to be a copy cat, but it really was exactly what I was looking for. Thanks Sara, I would NEVER have thought I would have found the perfect fabric at Joanne Fabrics! 

The Joanne linen was a great price with coupons, and washed up beautifully. It is soft and has a nice linen-y drape. The weight is just right for a summer dress. 

I'm happy with the stripe placement down the front. I wasn't too scientific about cutting this out... matching the stripes on a hidden placket was making my head hurt, so I just cut it out and hoped for the best. With a little finagling, it turned out just fine!

I played a bit with the hem on this one, cutting it almost flat in the front with a bit of an exaggerated tail. It's also significantly longer than the original Kalle pattern, since I wanted it to be appropriate for a broader range of venues, without wearing leggings. 

I cut the collar on the bias, and the back yoke and sleeve cuffs on the cross grain. 

These shots have a bit more movement in them thanks to help from my 7-year old photographer in training! 

And, did you note the shoes? These are my first Hasbeen Sweedish sandal/clogs. When I saw that these gorgeous yellow ones were on sale on the Hasbeen site, I had to see what all the hype was in the sewing community over these shoes. While I wouldn't want to walk miles in these, I have to say they broke in really fast and are great for long periods of standing and short walks. 

And they look great with all of my me-made dresses and jumpsuits!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pucci Dress turned Classic Shirt

I've always admired Emilio Pucci patterns, so when I found this one I bought it up right away!

I made it up into a hybrid Liesl Classic Shirt/Kalle Dress. This was made as part of my entry for the Pattern Review Sewing Bee Finale, you can read the details here. The challenge was to design a "superhero" outfit, so this dress was for a supermom, and is embedded with sayings about patience-- something moms can never have too much of!

I added a few details to make this dress extra special, in honor of the contest and the lovely Pucci print. I added volume to the sleeves by slashing and spreading, then gathering the excess at the cuffs. I made a hidden button placket and piped with a solid fusia sateen. And I added a deep border trim with mitered side slits. 

The border fabric (which is also used as the cuff facing and, collar stand, and inside yoke) is linen with hand painted script on it, done in colors to match the print, with sayings about "Patience."

The pockets have a little something extra... one has "Patience" embroidered inside, as a tactile reminder, and the other has an embroidered daisy, a reminder to "stop and smell the flowers."

In practical wearing, the dress ended up having a few major flaws. The first is that the cotton shirting sticks like velcro to all of my tights! In the pictures above, I'm wearing knee-highs to alleviate that problem.

Second, which is related to the first-- the short length was chosen to work with leggings! I love the proportions of a long sleeve dress that falls mid thigh, but for modesty, I would almost always wear leggings of some sort with a dress of this length, but due to the velcro problem stated above, this is not practical.

What about a slip you say? I've always found slips to be incredibly fussy, and if I sew something that I think I'll need a slip for, I tend to just line it instead. I've since thrown away all of my old polyester slips, and making a few natural fiber slips is on my long list, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

There is also the problem of drape. I generally don't mind a slightly crisp drape in a shirt dress-- it is a shirt dress afterall. Somehow, though, the drape on this dress just didn't feel right to me.

Soooooo... after it sat around in my closet unworn for a month or so, I CHOPPED IT! Made it into a shirt. And I love it.

I left a long, dramatic tail, and finished the hem with bias tape that matches the piping.

There is something about this bold print that just works for me in a shirt. Sedate lower half, dramatic upper. And the crispness is perfect for a shirt.

I'm wearing it here with linen True Bias pants, showing all of the wrinkles of having sat at my desk for too many hours this afternoon. I've worn it twice in two weeks since making it into a shirt, the colors fit the spring-y weather!