Monday, July 20, 2015

Lou Box Dress

This cinched at the waist silhouette is one I wear often. I had my eye on a dress sort of like this from Gap. I even considered going to the mall to try it on, but I would rather dance naked in the street than go shopping. Then I considered ordering online, which would require multiple sizes just to be safe, resulting in a trip to the mall so I could return the one that doesn't fit, which brings us back to dancing naked.  I decided to save myself some grief and do that dress one better with some jean-esque topstitching, a pieced bias binding, and an open back.
PATTERN: Lou Box Top by Sew DIY with an altered back and self-drafted skirt. I used the upper piece of the Lou Box Top pattern for the bodice (this pattern has several hem variations and the top and hem are separate pattern pieces that you connect to make a specific variation), adding 1/2" of length and 1/2" of seam allowance (1" total). I pushed the neck opening toward the shoulder 1/2" at each shoulder seam, and curved the new point into the original center front. The back center opening makes a V down the center back seam.

The skirt is cut as a separate piece. At the waist it is the same width as the bottom of the bodice (obviously), then it flares slightly to the hip, then is straight from hip to hem. There is a 5" slit up the back, and a 2" hem. The waist seam is straight, next time I could curve them slightly so the blousiness of the middle is the same as the sides. I would also add pockets. Pockets Kristi! No dress is ever finished without pockets! I got so engrossed in just the right seam finishing that I completely forgot to put in pockets. Next time...

I wanted to finish this dress with similar topstitching to the chambray top I made with the same pattern.   I decided to limit myself to topstitching the shoulder seam, and the back center seam, that then goes in a continuous loop around the neck opening. It took a bit of fussing to get the topstitching just right, especially at the turn, and I though long and hard about the order of assembling the pieces to achieve the look

FABRIC: Light Weight Denim from Joann Fabric. This fabric is a great bang for your buck, I use it a lot for the first attempt at new patterns. It is 57" wide and I used 4'. My soon-to-be-signature pieced bias binding is made with scraps of cotton stripe, and Liberty London Betsy A Tana Lawn.
I love the Lou Box Top. I hate to admit that I was very skeptical about the minimal shaping when I first laid eyes on the pattern pieces, but I was so foolishly wrong. I have made four (left to right): this dress, a knit version I never blogged, a chambray version, and a broken stripe version. The chambray version I made as a pattern tester is by far my most worn handmade garment. This pattern looks great on everyone. I love this variation with a contrasting pocket, or this one with Nani Iro blocking at the top, or Lauren's layered look. Its very simple to make, easy to wear, and a breeze bend to your will.


Pertinent Info:
PATTERN: Lou Box Top by Sew DIY
FABRIC:Light Weight Denim from Joann Fabric

Monday, July 13, 2015

Liberty Basics Tank

It's the little things that can make the simplest handmade garment feel special: a special fabric, or a particularly thoughtful finish. When I was planning this tank I had my little heart set on french seams. It seems crazy to spring for Liberty of London fabric, then skimp out on the finishes. I got wrapped up in the excitement of having this pretty fabric wrapped around me, and forgot to check the specified seam allowance. Its a paltry 3/8, possibly enough for others to squeeze out a french seam, but I know my machine and it can do nothing with less than 1/2 an inch. I also already knew the fit was perfection, and didnt want to risk it being too tight if I tried to squeeze anything out of the body. The seams ended up sewn and serged. Sigh. There is so much right about this top, Im trying not to hold a grudge against it. The little bit of pink inside the neckline makes up for most of my disappointment.
FABRIC: Liberty of London Tana Lawn Deborah D from Fancy Tiger Crafts. Reminds me of blueberries. My last Liberty experience left me wanting more (more, MORE!). The Vintage May dress was the first thing I made with Liberty for myself. How is that possible?! Ive used it before for my son (here and here) but now that I have tasted it's lusciousness for myself, Im not sure I can go back to regular fabric (except for chambray, of course). I fear I am in the process of cultivating an expensive little habit. I bought ¾ yard, and that is about the minimum for this tank (in any size). As you can see, I didnt use matching bias binding, because I wanted the scraps for later, and Im a sucker for a little secret something on the inside, just for me. The chambray is from the Long Summer Sundress, and the pink is linen from these capris. So many lesser pink fabrics came into my hands before I found the last little scrap of this one. So glad I kept looking. Its just right.

PATTERN: Basics Tank from Cali Faye Collection. I love the cut of my previous Basics Tank but I dont love the color. I wore it a ton in the spring with a cardigan, but the pasty white fabric against my pasty white skin makes me feel half dressed if I wear it alone. Another was in order. This print is so lightweight I might still feel half dressed, but the darker color wont make me look that way. 

ALTERATIONS: Same as before.

Pertinent Info:
Pattern: Basics Tank by Cali Faye Collection
Fabric: Liberty of London Deborah D from Fancy Tiger Crafts

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cali Faye Collection Basic Tank Dress

This might be my dream dress. Well not my dream dress so much as a good first step toward my dream dress. The sort of dress I always wear, and would happily buy 10 of if I could find just the right one. Bare but not too bare, simply cut, perfectly shaped, appropriate for the playground but not too mom-ish. The Cali Faye Collection Basics Dress is so very close to that dress.

PATTERN: This is the Basics Dress from Cali Faye Collection. I tested Sarah's Basics Tank and Gathered skirt pattern a few months ago, and loved both. This dress is what actually drew me to the collection. It's so simple, but (as I said about the tank) the cut of the tank straps, narrower at the shoulder, is very flattering. The pattern is well written and leaves nothing to the imagination (or a google search). The dress is fully lined, and the instructions clearly show an ingenious way to make a sleek, totally machine finish.

FABRIC: The earth and sky color scheme draws from early spring photos from the farm (on instagram). The Slub Linen in Potting Tobacco from Joann Fabrics. Vintage cotton from my mother's stash. I love the color combo, and the added detail of the printed lining. I use this linen a lot, and I really like it, but if I were to make this dress again, I wouldn't line it. The cotton is a little stiff and interferes with the natural drape of the linen making the waist a little bulky for my taste.  If you're using a rayon challis or georgette the lining is probably necessary.
SIZE/FIT: I cut a small at the bust and graded to a medium at the waist. I considered grading up to a large at the hip (as per my measurements), but there is not simple/clean way to grade through the waist to the hip. After calculating the amount of ease included (actual measurement of the front and back skirt pieces - seam allowance - my hip measurement = ease) I concluded there was plenty of ease so I didn't. Next time I would cut a straight small. There is plenty of ease. I think it would still go over my head easily, and it would be less bulky at the waist.

ALTERATIONS: I raised the neckline 3/8", raised the back neck to match the back neck of the Basic Tank. Raised the armhole 1/2". The main alteration was to put the channel for the drawstring on the inside. Before attaching the skirt to the bodice, I centered two buttonholes 3/8" to either side of the center front, each button hole was 5/8" long (on my machine I used a 1/2" button in the buttonhole foot to get that sizing). The bottom of the buttonhole was 5/8" above the bottom edge of the bodice. Then I sewed a line of stitching 1 1/2" above the bottom edge of the bodice. Then I attached the skirt and skirt lining to the bodice as directed, but with a 1/2" seam allowance (creating the bottom edge of my drawstring channel).

This wearable muslin, is a pretty good start at making a a lovely design work for me. I am drawn to simple lines and fabrics, making the fit that much more important. This dress is great as written, but for my next version I'll shorten the bodice a bit, and make a few changes to the hemline. My next version will fit me like a glove, and isn't that one of the main reasons to sew your own clothing?

Pertinent Info:
Dress Pattern: Basics Dress from Cali Faye Collection
Dress Fabric: Slub Linen in Tobacco Potting from Joann Fabric

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Long Summer Sundress

We are spending our summer in the trendiest fashion: unplugged. It's not the result of any Spartan personal improvement plan, it's just what we do. Because there are at least 47 hashtags associated with it, I thought it was worth mentioning.

We spend our summers at my parent's farm in Central PA. If you're not from there, you never will have heard of it, and if you've never heard of it you've got no business being there. In an attempt to keep my wild place wild, I'll be a bit ambiguous with the exact location. We stay in a perfect little cottage at the farm. Perfect because my parents are not the type to tinker with history. Also perfect because my husband worked very hard to shine up it's few assets, and to keep little creatures and the elements out. One of my favorite things about this place is its complete lack of amenities. With no distractions we can savor every second of our fleeting summer, giving my little family a taste of the long summers I remember from childhood. There is only enough cell service to refresh my Instagram feed once every 3 days, and never enough to take a cellphone call. We are too cheap to pay for a proper internet connection, and wouldn't because it would be in direct conflict with our number one summer objective: to give our children the natural resources to entertain themselves, and no choice but to use them.

All that to say, I don't sew much in the summer. I have a few projects up my sleeve to dole out over the summer months. It also explains the pastoral backdrop of this meticulously stripped barn door (not our barn). It is exactly the setting I envisioned for this Long Summer Sundress, adorned only with bare feet.

I made a printed version of this dress last year, then promptly cut the above version out. The days got away from me, and it never made its way to the top of my must-sew list before I had moved on to crisp fall layers. The first version was envisioned as a two-year dress, in the spirit of a frontier girl letting out the tucks in the hem of her dress as she grew. The adjustable straps, elastic back, and length allow this dress to grow with the child. L loves any dress that "drips the floor" and wants to wear it every chance she gets. Proper photos were in order before it met with a locally grown strawberry, and raw milk yogurt popsicle (cause that's how we roll in the country, also on trend) and was stained for good.
PATTERN: Self-drafted. Made previously in a bold print for KCW last summer. And his dress perfectly coincides with KCW this summer! This dress is basically a series of rectangles gathered, and sewn, and layered into what reminds me of summer in the late 70's. Not that I remember the late 70's, but photo albums tell the story of me in tiered eyelet ruffles, with a daisy on there somewhere. The long ruffled skirt allows for a lot of layering and length variations. I'm not sure I'm finished sewing with this design, I'd love to make one where the lining peeps out, or the bottom ruffle is on the lining rather than the skirt.

FABRIC: Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light 1.75 oz. (link to similar). It is featherweight and rather shear. I love the fabric's whispy nature, and tendency to retain its volume when gathered. Used in two layers it works just fine for garments. I used unbleached linen for the lining of the top tier of the dress. When you catch the ruffle in the right light the transparency adds some depth to the garment.
The Long Summer Sundress is made for bare feet.


I've entered this dress in the Bernina Stitchin' Summer Contest on Kollabora. I would love it if you'd head on over to Kollabora and heart this project.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Railroad Stripe Sunny Day Shorts

{Please forgive the clothing continuity issues between this photo and the rest of the post. I didn't think of this combination until well into our 48 second photo shoot, and I didn't have any Smartees to bribe my model whose patients gave out around the 32 second mark. I am please to have even this one image. Liberty Theo info here.}
Does this picture look familiar? We've found our shorts sweet spot, and when we get something right we do it again, and again, and again.  I made the same style for my expert shorts modeler last year. Same everything, but different fabric. They are lengthened using my tutorial for Oliver & S.
The fabric is the delicious Robert Kaufman Railroad Denim from Fancy Tiger. It's the perfect weight for summer shorts. I love everything about this fabric, infact I've already ordered more.
Sewing this simple is all about the details, I top stitched the pocket edges and the side seams, and I did a double line of stitching at the hem just to add a little interest. These pocket details never get old. I used a little piece of micro houndstooth inside the front pockets, and a little scrap of yellow Kona Cotton for the Theo-esque back pocket.

Pertinent Info:
Pattern: Sunny Day Shorts by Oliver + S
Fabric: Robert Kaufman Railroad Denim Indigo from Fancy Tiger Crafts
You can also find this project:
Kollabora Shorts on the Line

Friday, June 5, 2015

Me Made May Recap

First, I just wanna say that #mmmay15 was so much fun, and transformed my instragram experience for the better. Why is everyone so positive? And thank you all for being so positive. When women the world over put themselves out there with different ages, body types, and sewing skill levels you'd think problems could arise. But I have never seen anything but supportive and constructive comments. I'm not gonna question the good karma (and good manners) of the online sewing community, I'm just gonna send out my own good vibes in return.

For me making is seasonal. In the summer, I garden because I can, and there is plenty of opportunity to involve the kids. When the kids go back to school in the fall I fill the void left by fresh air and sunshine with knitting. It's cozy and sedentary and exactly how I feel when the light wanes. After the holidays, I'm ready to shake off the blah of winter and tend toward the more active pursuit of sewing. My sewing season is coming to an end, and it's fitting that MMM should fall in a month where I am taking stock of that portion of the year.

When I look at these Me Made May posts, I am thrilled with the quantity, and wearability (not a single ball gown!?), but I still view this output as a work in progress. It's the blessing and the curse of making your own clothing that it all could be just right. One more tweak and that tank would brush my hips with just the right amount of ease. One more muslin and that cinched at the waist dress would have just the right amount of volume. One more tweak and you wouldn't be able to read my bra label through that bodysuit. The photos all look so complete, but in my mind I'm lining up the next iteration of my handmade wardrobe with a few changes. Changes that will take me one step closer to handmade nirvana, where no elastics still hang from the casing, and everything fits like a glove.
Realistically, little of my to-do list will be accomplished over the summer. But I've made fabric orders and lined up patterns with post-its of alterations so when I have a spare minute I don't waste it trying to remember where I left off. A few of my goals for the year are better fit, better finish, not necessarily more clothing, but clothing I wouldn't hesitate to wear wrong side out. Clothing I don't feel the need to apologize for when given a compliment (nasty habit). Clothing that is truly better than it's manufactured counterpart.

My MMM pledge was to wear a me made 5 days a week. I beat that by wearing me mades all but 3 days (not all redundant outfit are shown) of the month. I made a little mental challenge to make one new thing a week in May, fearing that I would run out of clothes by the middle of the month (not actually a problem). My May makes were the Morris Blazer, Nettie Bodysuit, Nina Culottes, and the Vintage May dress.
Now that I've got my warm weather wardrobe down to a science, I can't be bothered to sift through the rest of my summer clothes. Might just cycle through these outfits the rest of the summer...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vintage May

Today I'm joining the ladies at Skirt as Top and Craftiness is not Optional for Vintage May. You'll find vintage sewing inspiration of their blogs all week long. 

I grew up on a dairy farm that has been in my family for a long time. My siblings and I are the 5th generation to live in the house my 2nd great grandfather built for his family. As is the custom in our family (and many farm families) after my Grandfather died, we moved into the big farmhouse with my Grandmother. She had her own chocolate chip cookie filled kitchen, and living room with the only TV in the house. She told us stories about the time their buggy horse got struck by lightening and they had to drive a work horse to church, or about stopping at a favorite neighbors house to warm her hands when she walked to country (one room) school in the winter. Naturally, we spent a lot of time with her.

My Grandmother got married and had her family (especially my dad) relatively late. She was always much older than any of my friend's grandmothers and her side of the house with its ancient books and family heirlooms was a relic of days gone by. She had the aura of being completely unaffected by popular culture. Everything about her was sensibly old-fashioned, and based on the unselfconscious act of running a household.
She had a very specific way of dressing. Her basic uniform was a knee length belted shirt dress and oxfords with a sturdy low heel. She wore this every single day, whether writing letters, or weeding the garden, as if deciding what to wear was an impediment to productivity. For special occasions she wore the same style in finer fabric, and a better pair of similar shoes for company and visiting. She always wore her hair in a low bun secured with two big hair pins, and a comb at each side.

I feel very lucky to have lived with such a tangible connection to my family's history and culture. I've had a thought flurry of a Grandma inspired belted shirt dress for a while, Kristin's invitation to join Vintage May is the perfect opportunity to get that thought out of my head and into a dress. To be clear, I never saw my Grandma sew. Based on her era and upbringing I'm sure she could, but I never saw her do it. I suspect it didn't suit her temperment. I saw her garden a lot, but never ever sew.
That's the background, now about the dress.  The photo my dress is based on was taken in the mid-fifties at a family picnic. The key elements are the open collar, the tucks along the shirt front, the skirt shape and length, and the printed cotton fabric. I tried to remain true to as many details of the dress as you can see in the photo. The one conspicuous omission is a svelte man in button down and trousers. My svelte man is behind the camera, so I'm giving him a pass on posing as my vintage better half.
The glasses are actually an old pair of my Grandma's that we used to play dress-up with. She isn't wearing them in the photo, but I remember her with them on, so I included them. 
PATTERN: This is a heavily modified Alder Shirt Dress mixed with the Archer Button Up. For the sleeve addition I used the Grainline Studio Alder + Archer tutorial. It defies logic that you can make a sleeve opening smaller and still get the original sleeve into it, but it worked like a dream. I really intended my alterations to stop there, and depend on pretty fabric, and styling to make it look convincing. Once I got started, each individual alteration didn't seem like that big of a deal. One thing lead to another and before I knew it I had a completely different dress than the pattern.

Basically, I used the Alder View A as a pattern block for the bodice and a reference for the size/shaping of everything else. I made the sleeve short, and added a pointed cuff. I separated the top and the bottom at the waist, and cut apart the front bodice to add tucks. I left the back as designed on the top. I added 6 1/2" to the skirt length and used that point to straighten the hem. I measured the resulting waist circumference and the hem circumference divided both making 4 panels in the front with the right and left center panel seams aligning with the edge of the last bodice tuck. The result is an 8 panel skirt (4 front, 4 back).  I used the original neck opening, but created a front facing rather than the button band, and drafted my own collar without a stand to make the open neck. Because the final fabric was rather precious (see below), and I had no idea how it would turn out, I made two muslins.

This dress is almost unrecognizable as the Alder. The whole time I was hacking the pattern to bits and reconstructing it with scotch tape and copy paper, I was wondering whether it would have been faster to draft it from scratch. I have concluded that drafting something this complex from scratch is way beyond my skill level at this point. Having a starting point for things such as ease, and basic sizing, eliminates a lot of variables that I would have slowed me down. It took a well designed pattern that I knew fit me well as a starting point to get to the dress you see above.
FABRIC: Liberty of London Tana Lawn Heidi C from Fancy Tiger Crafts. I don't have to tell you how nice this fabric is. So smooth, so drapy, so fine! The only snafu was that I procrastinated the order and could only get 2 yards, rather than the 2 1/2 yards I needed. For a few terrifying minutes I thought I wouldn't be able to squeeze all of the pieces out of it. I realized if I folded the whole cut of fabric in half lengthwise, and made the skirt the exact length of the half, I would have enough. I was cutting it very, very close with the amount of fabric and had to cut very, very carefully. I cut scraps of bias tape for the hem to make the skirt as long as possible. There is barely enough fabric left to accent my next bias bound neck opening.
This dress is feeling a little bit costumey at the moment With different shoes, no glasses, and totally different hair, I think I could walk down the street in this dress and not feel like my shift just ended at a Walton's theme restaurant.

A big fat thank you to Kristin and Jess for inviting me to Vintage May. It was a ton of fun! Follow along on the Skirt as Top and Craftiness is Not Optional blogs for more Vintage May action. Be sure to check out the Sew a Straight Line Vintage May post today too!