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!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nina Culottes from Compagnie M

Look at her in that demure a-line skirt. No doubt headed to a Memorial Day picnic, ready to sit in the shade sipping lemonade in all that matchy-matchy, star spangled, red, white, and blue. 
Nope! They're culottes! I'm ready to run a three-legged race, spit watermelon seeds, take a spin on the merry-go-round, and ride a bike down a country road (cause that's what all Americans do on flag waving summer holidays.)
Okay, I'm not going to do any of those things, I plan to sit quietly at home. The point is, I could if I wanted to. These are the Nina Culottes, a new pattern from Marte at Compagnie M. Marte very graciously gave me a copy of the pattern (thanks Marte!) to help spread the word about Nina's recent release. 

PATTERN: Nina Skirt and Culottes from Compagnie M. The Nina pattern can be a simple a-line skirt or culottes. These are several pocket options for the front waistband and two potions for welt back pockets. You can also choose between a front zip fly with two different waistband overlap options or a hidden side zipper. I went with one of the simplest combinations by using just the side pockets and the hidden side zipper because I wanted them to be sleek. The pattern was very simple. I'm pretty comfortable with hidden zipper installation, but I do them so infrequently I still used Marte's clear instructions for a clean finish inside and out. Marte kicked her pattern formatting up a notch by overlapping the pattern pieces in a similar fashion to Japanese pattern books. I love that it saves printer paper, and the lines are still very clear (unlike some Japanese pattern books).

FABRIC: This is Robert Kaufmann Chambray Union Indigo. It's a medium weight that is great for the volume of these culottes, though probably not sturdy enough for traditional shorts. The waistband facing and pocket lining are from an old men's button down shirt.
SIZE/FIT: I cut based on my measurements, and the result was very close for pants. My waist to hip is usually at least one size different so I graded between sizes. I ended up cutting 1/2 size smaller for the hip to the waistband, then grading the waistband from that point at the bottom to 1" smaller at the top (shown above right). Marte recommends that you make a quick muslin for the culottes, and I couldn't agree more. A few nips and tucks to my muslin resulted in smooth sewing on the "good" fabric, and a perfect fit. 
I suppose we should talk about this patriotic flourish of a top for a minute, and I'm just going to say it before my mother does - this top is way to bleeping tight. The hip skimming fit of the culottes seemed to want a body conscious leotard of a shirt. Or, I was looking for an excuse to try the Nettie Bodysuit pattern from Closet Case Patterns. This is my very first attempt at the Nettie, the fabric is crap, and I had a small snafu rethreading my serger at 2 o'clock in the morning ending in my having to sew up with sad specimen on my regular matching (oh, the heartache!). All are factors contributing to a less than stellar outcome. The smoke and mirrors of modern photography makes it look passable, but this guy has a future as a dust cloth. All that negativity aside, I have full confidence in the sew-worthiness of the Nettie. It lends itself to the cinched-at-the-waist gathered skirts I like to wear and I am very pleased with the way it accommodates my curves. It has a full seat, and so do I. Next time I will go up a size in the bust, and use a stretchier knit (to be fair knits with two way stretch are specified in the pattern, I knew I was asking for trouble). 
So there ya go, a little red white and blue for this Memorial Day. Something about this outfit is giving me the urge to do time steps.

Compagnie M is giving away 14 copies of the new Nina Skirt & Culottes pattern. Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow along with the Nina blog tour for more inspiration!

Pertinent Info:
Bottoms Pattern: Nina Skirt & Culottes by Compagnie M
Bottoms Fabric: Robert Kaufmann Chambray Union Indigo from
Top Pattern: Nettie Bodysuit from Closet Case Patterns
Top Fabric: Cotton Jersey Knit from Fleishman's Woolens (local shop)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Broken Stripe Box Top

I made this top over a month ago, but couldn't be bothered to brush my hair and stand in front of a camera for such a simple shirt. While sorting through Me-Made-May photos (you can see mine on instagram) I realized I had enough shots from the last time I wore it for a modest blog post (as if anything this selfie ridden could be considered modest).

This is the Lou Box Top from Sew DIY (made perviously HERE). I love this pattern because it's easy wearing and infinitely versatile. For this version I lengthened the whole thing by 1", and made the neckline 1/4" bigger (or was it 1/2") all the way round.
The fabric is a some what scratchy linen from Joann. I wasn't really sure this fabric was my thing, but it was blue, and a natural fiber, so I bought it anyway. I only bought a yard, because I wasn't really sure it was my thing. Normally, a yard is enough for a Box Top, and a flag to wave beside. While at the cutting table I failed to consider that the stripes should match at the shoulder seam, and it is an awfully large repeat. I didn't have enough fabric. My solution was to make the bottom part of the back as long as possible, then make up the rest with a perpendicular stripe across the shoulder. To celebrate my mistake (and hopefully make it seem intentional) I let the back opening be as long as the upper panel.
The whole thing is french seamed. If you're not familiar with this finish, a simply constructed top is the perfect place to learn. You can get some tips for french seaming the Lou Box Top on the Sew DIY Blog.

As with all Box Tops I wear this a ton. So much that I didn't feel the need to share it the first time I wore it in May, knowing I would wear it again (and again, and again), probably with the exact same favorite skinny jeans. Coincidently, the bottom of the back opening is as long as it can possibly be without showing my bra strap, which leads me to my 4th variation on the Lou Box Top...

Pertinent Info:
Pattern: Lou Box Top from SewDIY
Fabric: Linen Stripe (not on website) from Joann Fabrics

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ponte Knit Morris Blazer

For a few minutes after the Morris Blazer pattern was available for purchase from the Grainline Studio pattern shop, I thought I would be able to resist the temptation to buy it. I already have, and love, the Salme Cropped Blazer. But then... then I realized it was written for stable knits, and that I could really use a Me Made outer layer that I didn't have to knit myself. Coupled with my first trip to the remnants basement at Gaffney Fabrics (on Germantown Ave. in PHL), where I picked up some lovely ponte stripe for a song (2 yards, 5 dollars!!). The pattern is $12, making the whole blazer $17! H&M can't compete with that price. I should have known it wouldn't be that simple. After giving the pattern a skim I realized the ponte is interfaced, what do you face a knit with?!? The pattern doesn't offer any specific recommendations. I'm sure the topic will get a thorough going over during the sew along, but I can't wait for the sew along, I want this blazer yesterday. Quick web search offered the suggestion of bias knit fusible interfacing (from Emma One Sock). I don't keep that on hand (mainly because I've never heard of it). I was pretty worried this would be a special order kind of thing, but the Flieshman's in Fabric Row actually had knit fusible interfacing in stock (in two colors!) for something like $5/yard. Interfacing brings my grand total to $21. It's not really about the price, goodness knows no sane sewist goes about it to save money, but I find the economics of the handmade learning curve mildly interesting.
This is certainly not the most interesting unblogged item in the enormous pile of unblogged items on the floor of my sewing room, but it is on my body today, and the tripod is already set up for upper body shots, so let's get the ball rolling with something easy.
This pattern really let's Jen Beeman's (aka Grainline Studio) pattern design skills shine. It's easy to get bogged down in the complexity of your first two or three Archer Button Ups, and no really see how perfectly considered all the details are. The Morris Blazer is a very simple construction, but no connection is overlooked. The jacket is unlined, and I knew I wanted it to look nice on the insides, so I did french seams at all of the long seams on the inside (center back, sides, under arm, sleeve attachment). I was a little worried I would still end up with an ugly line of serging at the back neck, as I assumed the collar facing was attached like a collar band, but I was wrong. This pattern actually call for hand stitching at the back neck. It seems that many pattern designers aim for complete machine finishing on their garments. Maybe they think the needle and thread might be off putting, so I often do a bit of hand sewing for sleeker finishes. The hand finishing at the collar conceals the only seam that might be visible when the Morris Blazer is on the hanger. My only less than perfect seam is at the shoulder. I might try to finagle a french seam there next time, but I'm not certain it's possible with the precise connection where the shoulder meets the neck (thoughts if you've made one?)
You could question the wisdom in french seaming knits, but as I only know enough to be dangerous, we'll just have to wait and see.

FABRIC: Ponte knit from Gaffney Fabrics physical location, they do have a virtual shop too. 2 yards of 60" fabric was plenty to match the 1" stripe. It's a tiny bit drapier than I would like, making a wave along the points at the front.

PATTERN: Morris Blazer from Grainline Studio is an open front unlined blazer. The pattern is written for stable knits or stretch woven fabrics. As with my previous experience with Grainline patterns, this one is well written and well sized.

SIZE/FIT: I cut a 6 for bust, sleeves and length, but graded to an 8 at the side seams (actual measurements - Bust: 34.5", Waist: 29.5"). Considering the open front to this blazer, a straight 6 probably would suffice, but better safe than sorry.
Have you been following along with Me Made May? I'm posting most of my daily homemade outfits on instagram. Check out the hashtag #memademay15 to see what the international sewing community is wearing.

Pertinent Info:
Jacket Pattern: Morris Blazer from Grainline Studio
Jacket Fabric: Ponte Knit from Gaffney Fabric in Philadelphia
Top Pattern: Tiny Pocket Tee from Grainline Studio (make last year)
Top Fabric: Rober Kaufmann Chambray Union Light Indigo

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lilith & Eve Drapey Blouse

Did you know I live in Philadelphia? Did you know we Philadelphians do more than eat cheesesteaks, and behave badly at sporting events? One fine example of the new Philadelphia is the Lilith and Eve pattern company. I know physical location doesn't matter on the inter web, but the #1 reason I jumped at the Lilith and Eve call for testers was because I love that they are local. Philly is awash with creative types. You can't skip a stone in the Passyunk fountain without hitting 2 graphic designers, 4 part-owners of gastropubs, a gaggle of architects, and a guy that does a little metal work on the weekend. It's puzzling to me that we don't have more indie pattern companies, or boutique fabric shops. Do you hear me Philadelphia? I'm tired of waiting for my Miss Matatabi, Drygoods DesignBlackbird Fabrics, Fancy Tiger Crafts, etc. fabric order to ship! You would think a city with more than double the population of Denver (home of Fancy Tiger), or Seattle (home of Drygoods) could sustain such things. We have several fashion design programs, a bunch of new sewing studios, and a handful of well known sewing bloggers, how about some curated fabric choices? I'm hoping that Lilith and Eve is another indicator of a local trend.

Let's be clear, I made this top from the test version of the pattern (which I received for free as a tester). I'm not going to give it the full pattern review until I make one from the final version. But I will say- good stuff! Each Lilith and Eve pattern has a split personality. Rather than offering a view A or B, they offer the Lilith version or the Eve version. The pattern pieces are labeled with a bird or a butterfly to indicate which pieces you need for each version.

This is the LE101- Drapey blouse. It can be made with sleeves and a collar, or as a collarless tank (as shown here).  Both versions have a draped back, and a button front. There is some possibility for mixing the designs together for a collared tank, too. And lots of potential for fabric blocking between the yoke and the bodice. I really like the way this pattern came together. The yoke is lined so there is no need for fussy bias tape binding (ugh). The fit is pretty great on me. I'm not entirely sold on the drapy tail (and we all know I'm normally pro-tail), but now that its Me Made May and the weather is warm, I will have more chances to see if it wears well. I made the standard length, and I have reasonable bum coverage. I was expecting it to be shorter, but I like this better.
I used some left over gray linen from Joann. I like the drape of the linen with the fancy back, but it could stand to be a little bit thinner. I recently discovered there is such a thing as shirt buttons (live and learn) I got mine from Fleishman's on Fabric Row.
While we're on the topic of Philadelphia, I did not make these pants, but I really want to make a better version of these pants. A version that doesn't shimmy down as I walk forcing me to wear a really tight belt, or stop every 3 paces so I can hitch them up again. Luckily, I just finished the Pattern Making 1 class at Made Studios, so now I can make whatever I want. Made Studios is a Philadelphia sewing studio/incubator of American made fashion. The Made Studios' program is heavily influenced by the (capital F) Fashion programs at the local universities, but this private program allows people with some self-taught skills (ahem, me) to take classes a la carte. If you are local, you should check it out (or follow them on instagram @made_studios). Made has some amazing offerings like tailoringdraping, and couture methods (for real!) all with very experienced instructors. If a single day in the city is more you speed, try one of Made's workshops. In January I made some vague promises to myself to invest in myself, and Made has been a worthwhile and fulfilling return on that investment. (Here is a peak at the most exciting muslin I've ever made.) Okay, I'll stop gushing now. 
If you're curious about the Philadelphia fabric scene read Madalynne's guide to Fourth Street Fabric Row. I shop Fabric Row like it's my personal stash closet, and I still learned a thing or two.

Pertinent Info:
Pattern: LE101 Drapey Blouse by Lilith & Eve (on instagram @lilithandevepatterns)
Fabric: Black Papyrus Slub Linen from Joann Fabrics

Monday, April 27, 2015

KCW Day 8: Citronille Suzanne

Kid's Clothes Week Day...uh...8!? This dress was finished with plenty of time to spare, but my little model was getting a bit fatigued with the photographing, so I let this one slide until the very last possible second yesterday to photograph.

For the sake of my self imposed use-the-stash rule for this KCW I cobbled this look together from a few of the most burdensome pieces from my stash. You know those pieces of fabric you love too much to cut into and are happy just to own, or the perfect vintage pattern you are so satisfied with the cover art that you don't need to make anything from it? Well this is the opposite.
I bought this pattern when I was brainstorming for the summer 2014 KCW (you can find the original article I wrote for KCW here). But I never found the "right" fabric, and didn't end up making it. Now, 9 full months later, I was feeling pretty guilty about this pattern.  I came across this version by At Luce Ends, and I decided to give the ol' Citronille Suzanne a try. The fabric, on the other hand, is a very recent acquisition. I'm not even sure it ever made it into the stash cabinet. I bought it for a design I pattern tested a few weeks ago (have a sneaky-peaky over here). When I opened the package, I had a what-was-I-thinking moment. Nothing against the print, or the colors, it just didn't resonate with me, and I knew I would never wear it. Sometimes when you set very specific parameters for yourself magical things happen. But all I can feel for this dress is indifference (though now that I'm looking at the photos, I'm sorta liking it better).
PATTERN: This is the Citronille Suzanne, and my first Citronille pattern. I was drawn to this pattern because it it written for woven fabrics, but it has no fasteners and goes on over the head. Therefore, it is something my kid can get herself into and out of without my help. The front and back are the same so it's impossible for her to put it on backwards. Both the format of the pattern and the instructions are sparse. It is a very straight forward and very fast make.

FABRIC: The chambray is the very last from my first Lou Box Top. The print is Copenhagen Baby Blue Floral Print from Mood. The under skirt is eyelet inherited from my mother in law's stash.

SIZE/FIT: I sewed a size 6, the fit is rather boxy in general, and with the length, I think this dress will fit for quite a while.
ALTERATIONS: I went down a size on the sleeve, because I thought I would like the proportion better. I do, and it is still easy to put on. I did all french seams, and I lined the skirt. The result is a dress that is 95% reversible. If you look closely at the hem, or the underarm seam you can tell they are the wrong side, but in these fabrics I don't think an innocent bystander would notice (sewing friends will spot it first thing).
While I'm feeling pretty underwhelmed with my first attempt, I will give it another try. This design is too kid friendly, and there are too many cute versions of this design out on the inter webs to give up on it entirely.


You can also find this dress on:
Kid's Clothes Week
Straight Grain Sew + Show

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

KCW Day 3 : A girl and a garage door

Kid's Clothes Week day 3 - more stash busting. This is my favorite stashed combo of the week. I got this stripe fabric at Jomar in South Philly a while ago. I made a top for myself with it, that I never blogged. The floral is from Girl Charlee, and the neck band is from a dress I made a while ago. I actually made L a whole dress out of the banding fabric, but it's still too big. 

I think I've made a raglan t-shirt for every Kid's Clothes Week since I started sewing along. This is the Oliver + S Field Trip Raglan. I've made it as a dress once before, and the t-shirt many times, this time I used 3/4 length sleeves. A raglan really lends itself to pattern mixing.  The same thing with a set in sleeve pattern wouldn't look half as nice, but the raglan really draws the sleeve into the whole composition. 

You can also find this dress on: