Trying New Shapes and Styles for an Edgy Spring and Summer Wardrobe

I tend toward fitted garments. When you’re curvy, you gotta really work your assets, amirite?

But I see all these breezy, loose looks for summer and I think, “Why not me?” Here’s a try at this look:

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Top from Vogue 9246

This top is from Vogue 9246, a “Five Easy Pieces” wardrobe pattern package that also includes two jacket options and two pants options.

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Vogue 9246

(Aside: Every time I see the “Five Easy Pieces” Vogue brand I think of that Jack Nicholson movie of the same name. As if you’d wear any of these clothes to work as an oil rig roustabout. Except for a jumpsuit. Maybe.)

This top hits “edgy” looks for me for a few reason:

  • Deep color and high contrast with the piping
  • Exaggerated shape with cut-on sleeves

It’s not super edgy. I mean, my mom would probably wear this top, but not in this blood-red color. The pattern collection also has wrap pants and a duster, which I like, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Back to the top…

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The yoke seam detail is the only thing that holds any interest for me. I got this in a pattern swap, and it’s normally not my jam, truth be told. I thought that some detail in that yoke seam was essential to make the top work for me. When you’re curvy as I am, you need a detail at the shoulder to balance out a look that would go all boxy otherwise.

I played around with piping that seam. I had some faux leather piping, but it looked a bit much with the red. Same with some black satin piping. But white piping made the top look a bit preppy, which is a whole ‘nother look I am trying to avoid.

Then I found some white twill tape in my stash, and I thought, “Why not?

OK, here’s why not: twill tape is pretty thick, has no stretch or give at all, and just isn’t the sort of thing meant for such a treatment.

So of course I had to use it!

I basted the twill tape onto the yoke pieces, lining up the tape so that the seam would hit at exactly the middle of the tape, where the chevron of the weave breaks.

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Twill tape taking one for the team

I then sewed the seam and topstitched 2 mm above the seam so that the twill tape would lie properly. I like that the tape has this texture and isn’t flat but rather has a bit of movement in the seam.

Let’s talk about fit issues, howevs.

I did a 5/8-inch hollow chest adjustment and a 1-inch high round back adjustment to make this top lie correctly. It sits nicely against my back, but I should have done something to correct for my uneven shoulders. Also, a forward shoulder adjustment could have helped even out the hem line – you can see how it dips up slightly in front.

Overall, though, I like this more than I thought I would. This was a “wearable muslin” top meant to try the fit out. I am planning to make another in a striped white shirting.

 

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Sewing Patterns and Fabric Choices for Spring Edgy Wardrobe

I did something today I have literally never done. I went through my stash and could not remember where some of this fabric came from. And then I found some fabric I forgot I had.

It’s a good news, bad news story. On the good side, I have lots of cool fabrics for the Spring Sew Edgy projects. On the bad side, I worry that the stash is getting out of control.

I guess I will need to sew some up! Here’s the plan:

spring edgy wardrobe 2019

(For more on this Magic Quadrant for Sewing Projects, see this.)

Yeah I have 10 projects on here. I will probably get five done. I picked out these fabrics for these projects:

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Four white shirtings. Why?

 

I found four white shirtings in my stash. I forgot about the one at the top – a bamboo poplin. I also have two kinds of pique and a striped lawn. I have earmarked a pique for Butterick 5526. The stripe is destined for the Vogue 9246 top.

I found this in the stash – a silk georgette in a suitably edgy print. I need something flowy for it, but not feminine, or the edge will be all soft and rounded and flowery. Ugh.

I got the Sewaholic Alma blouse pattern as a gift from PatternReview.com for volunteering to run a contest last year. I think I could edge it up in this silk georgette, using the neckline from View A with a metallic element. And no puffy sleeves or bows, natch. This will be the most difficult of the tops – never worked with silk georgette before. I will need to psych myself up for it.

For the plan’s two dresses, I had two great knit options in geometric gray prints.

The Mirri dress from Wardrobe by Me seems pretty simple, so I have picked out this rayon jersey for it. It’s going to be a close call with the fabric, though, as it’s only 54 inches wide. I will need to estimate to be sure I have enough.

This batwing dress McCall’s 7465 isn’t a shy retiring kind of dress (unlike that bitch Mirri). It’s making a statement, and needs a fabric to match. I worry this might be a bit too much. But sometimes too much is not enough, right? Besides, for some reason I can’t fathom, I bought four yards of this crazy print. So I literally have nothing to lose.

For suiting, I have some gorgeous Armani wool I got on a crazy sale at Mood Fabrics. It came in two odd cuts – almost 2 yards and a little more than 1 yard. I could squeeze a suit of out it. I think. If I dare:

I have decided to try the Vogue jacket. If I have fabric left, I’ll try the  skirt. The panels would work with a contrasting fabric if I run short.

I decided I would sew these before buying fabric for the other projects. That probably means that I won’t get to the other projects. But maybe I will. We’ll see!

Dying to Try Dyeing? Me too!

As a child, I grew up with lots of stories about dyeing. My French-Canadian great-grandmother, who lived to 106, used to make her own dyes. Her daughters worked in woolen textile mills in town, and would secret away scraps that my great-grandmother would dye for use in rugs and other home furnishings. I am lucky enough to have one of the rugs my grandmother made, using some of her mother’s homemade dyes in addition to upcycled wool from clothes and other uses.

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Wedding present from my grandmother, made of hand-dyed wool and other upcycled wool textiles.

The mint green wool in this rug comes from a suit my grandmother wore in 1945 when she took a train across the US to see my grandfather, whose ship came in to Seattle after World War II was over.

Dyeing is not a lost art, but it’s not exactly thriving either. I have no idea how my great-grandmother did what she did.

I experimented with RIT in high school – we made tie-dyed T-shirts and felt like hippies for about 15 minutes. We had no idea what we were doing. The dye came out in the wash and ruined other clothes. Fun times!

So when I saw a shibori dyeing class at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, Conn. I had to sign up. The class was making four cotton napkins using different dyeing techniques. The instructor also allowed me to bring two yards of other fabric to dye for a top to other use. I was excited at the chance!

This was not a traditional class using real indigo dyes and twine and other techniques, but it was fun to try.

Here are the napkins I made:

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Shibori dyed napkins using four diffetent dyeing techniques

The triangle motif at the upper right is my favorite of these four. It’s made by folding the fabric over twice and then folding it into triangles. The trick is your first triangle fold is actually a half triangle – necessary to get the triangles to align properly. We practiced on paper first:

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Triangle motif folding practice

The one at bottom right is made by making narrow pleats and then rolling the fabric into a bundle, like so:

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Rolling technique for dyeing

The napkin at bottom left used a typical tie-dye technique of wrapping objects such as marbles within a fold of fabric and tying it off.

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Marble inside – pretty design outside

I covered the napkin with these little bundles – sometimes three marbles inside. The result came out like this fresh from the dye and rinse pots:

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Typical tie dye

The fourth napkin did not come out well. This is what it looked like when it went into the die pot:

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Popsicle sticks were supposed to make a zig zag pattern

I think my popsicle sticks came loose or something, because the end is a bit blotchy. Oh well.

Finally, here’s my cotton poplin, to be a blouse for summer:

I had to break it into two one-yard cuts so it would fit in the dye pot. Also it was the end of the day so the color is a bit faded. I need to find a pattern that will allow me to use the dye pattern to best advantage.

When a Muslin Pays Off, and When It Doesn’t

Confession time: I hate making muslins. I hate the time they take, even though I kind of half-ass the sewing. I hate the materials they use up, even if I use old bedsheets, odd-colored thread and repurposed zippers. I hate that they’re just an approximation of a real finished garment, but never exactly the same.

Yet sometimes they are necessary. I made this checklist for when to make a muslin, and when I can do without.

muslin checklist

If you want to download this checklist for use, click on this link: make a muslin, or wing it

Your mileage may vary. These are issues that are important to me, maybe not so much to you. If you have any ideas for changing or expanding this checklist, I’d love to hear from you – drop me a line in the comments box.

 

Unselfish Sewing – A Christmas Gift for Mom

My mom’s look involves a lot of black and white clothes, with little pops of color in her accessories – glasses, nail polish, shoes or jewelry. So when I decided to make a handbag for her, I knew I’d make it out of black and white fabric, with a pop of brightly colored piping  – just for fun.

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A handbag for mom for Christmas

The pattern is the Swoon Ethel tote, which is free from Swoon Patterns. I really like this pattern! Especially for a freebie, it’s a good quality design, a pleasing shape and size, and it goes together quickly (once you get through all the tedious cutting and fusing of the interfacing anyway).

This is my second try at this pattern. I made one out of leftover denim and cotton for myself earlier this year, and because I had resolved to exclusively use stash materials, I interfaced the bag with leftover cordura nylon instead of the fusible foam interfacing the pattern suggests. This time, I sprang for the foam interfacing. I was a little leery of working with this stuff, but it turned out to be very easy to use. The pattern calls for Pellon Flex-Foam FF78F1, but I couldn’t find it, so I used Pellon Flex-Foam FF79F2, the double-sided fusible foam interfacing.

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Flex foam interfacing – squishy!

You’re meant to sandwich this stuff between two layers of fabric and fuse both sides separately. I just fused one side (the black and white bag fabric) and it worked out fine. I sandwiched the fusible interfacing between the bag fabric and a dry silk organza press cloth, and used a damp silk organza press cloth to fuse the bag fabric. The steam penetrated through to the other side a bit, but the dry press cloth peeled off easily.

To sew with this, I basted everything with my zipper foot for agility and then sewed the 1/2 inch seam allowances. It compresses pretty well under the presser foot.

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A bit awkward, but easy to sew

Then I used an edgestitch foot (Bernina #10C), which has a metal guide down the center. This helped prepare the needle for the bulk and prevented any skipping around or distortion.I used a size 14 jeans needle. And I trimmed down the seam allowances.

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Use an edgestitch fit and a hump jumper to control the bulk

Because I am pretty sure my mom would want a closure on the bag, I installed a two-piece magnetic snap. This was so easy! I coated the prongs of the snaps with tailor’s chalk to mark the place, made little slits in the fabric, then pushed the prongs through and bent them back. I cushioned the snaps with a scrap of leftover foam interfacing and gently pounded them with a rubber mallet to ensure they were secure.

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Coat the prongs with chalk to mark the spot

These magnetic snaps are so easy and useful that I could see using them on many things in the future.

As I did with my first version, I used a self-drafted facing because I didn’t want any lining peeking out. I wish I had made the facing wider – it’s a bit skimpy but wide enough for the magnetic snaps.

Other little details:
* I added some hot pink piping (leftover from a PJs project) to jazz it up a bit.
* To keep keys from falling to the bottom, I added a swivel snap hook, looped through a slim strap and sewn into the body of the bag.
* I did a double row of topstitching around the bag opening because I wasn’t happy with the way the lining was sitting in the bag with just the usual edgestitch along the opening.

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Swivel hook for keys

For fabric this time I used some cotton duck outdoor upholstery fabric. It’s been treated to resist water and stains, so I think it will clean up all right if it gets wet or dirty. Because my mom is a cat lover, I could not resist the lining fabric – design “Whiskers and Tails” #16340 by Neiko Ng for Robert Kaufman. Both bought at Joann.

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Meow!

I really hope she likes it!

Edgy Wardrobe Winter Sewing Plans

I have gotten a lot of wear out of my edgy wardrobe so far. I am still sporting the Assistant Manager of the DMV look to work a couple a days a week, but I have gotten more comfortable at wearing my edgy looks.

Now that I have a good pair of work pants, the Style Arc Jasmines, I want to edgy them up. The pair I made is good, but they’re pretty basic. To review:

The pair I made have a little bubble at the front zipper, which tells me that the front crotch curve is a bit too high. They’re also a skosh tight in the front crotch. I will deepen the crotch curve in the next pair.

As you can see from the line drawing, the pants have two interesting seam details. The angled front pockets, akin to jeans pockets, work very well if you have heavy thighs. And the back yoke works very well if you have a bit butt and hip to small waist ratio, as I do, since it’s easier to adapt that yoke than to adapt the whole back of the pants. The version I made dips down a bit at center-back, easily remedied in the next pair with a bit of a wider angle for the top of the yoke.

Now that the fit issues are out of the way, how do I jazz these up?

First, I’d like to replicate the built-in belting of these RTW Karen Millen trousers:

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A built-in belt? Yes please!

Not a belt as much as a sash? Whatever it’s called, I like it. I don’t like wearing belts because they tend to ride up (see big hip-to-waist comment above) and they never seem to match what I’m wearing. To put it another way, I don’t like wearing belts, so I don’t have a lot of belts, and then when I need a belt, I don’t have one I like… vicious cycle.

This Karen Millen detail is just a tube of fabric that emerges from the waistband and connects with two D rings about 3/4 of the way between the center front and the right side seam. The D rings are looped through a short tube of fabric that tucks into a waistband seam that lines up with the pockets. The other side of the pants has the same waistband seam, but there are no D rings.

The look is a bit edgy because of the metal and the asymmetry, but totally office-appropriate. This should be pretty easy to do (famous last words). The Jasmine pants have a much smaller waistband, so I will need to think this through.

I also want to play with zippers at the hems. I splurged at Botani in New York’s Garment District for two fancy zippers with black tape, shiny silver teeth and decorative pulls:

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Pretty zippers…

Unfortunately, I screwed up and bought 8-inch zippers when I meant to get 6-inch zippers. I could shorten them, but that’s a hassle with metal teeth. Also, because these are fancy zippers instead of the basic cheap ones, they are a bit heavy. I worry that the weight will drag the sideline of the pants down unless I use some sturdy fabric. I’ll have to think on this.

Finally, the back yoke and front pockets seem to beg for some faux leather piping, like the stuff I used for this Swoon Patterns Ethel tote bag:

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Telfon foot works perfectly to apply faux leather

I was thinking also of some piped welt pockets in the back. We’ll see.

The pattern calls for woven stretch fabrics such as stretch Bengaline. This is hard to find fabric, but I figured anything with some texture would do. The original pants are in a heathered gray stretch gabardine. At B&J Fabrics in New York, I scored some black stretch wool pique that would be suitable for the next pair. A think a stretch twill would work well, also.

 

A Few Footsoldiers for The People’s Sewing Army

Let me start off by saying that sewing toys and little fiddly things is not my jam. I have little patience, for one thing, and I find that no matter how I try, something store-bought is going to look 100 times better than what I can make.

That said, when I heard about The People’s Sewing Army on Instagram, I signed up. It’s a group that aims to use scraps of fabric and other stashed items to sew for good causes. The December challenge was to sew items for homeless children in Oregon. I happened to have some suitable scrap fabric, leftover polyfill and one stuffed animal pattern in my possession, so I signed up.

I feel that these stuffed animals are sad to look at. I am reminded, however, that my most-loved toys as a child were things my great-aunt and grandmother made for me – a little lumpy and bumpy, asymmetrical and awkward, but loved literally to pieces. I hope that’s the case for these.

The pattern came from an issue of Simply Sewing magazine. It’s supposed to be a dachshund. I think it looks more like a mouse or a rabbit or a mammal from some fever dream in 1975. Anyway, I did the best I could, using leftover chambray from these pants, cotton shirting from this shirt, and gingham from a bathrobe I made back in the 90s. The polyfill is leftover from Halloween costumes I made for my niece and nephew when they were little (they’re teenagers now). And the buttons ribbons and trims have all been hanging around for years.

I made these in one day, then switched gears to something for older kids. They often get left out of charity drives because it’s easier and more fun to buy or make for little ones. I had some Harry Potter-themed flannel left over from a PJ project many years ago, so I had the idea to make them into little tags the older kids could put on a bag or jacket.

The fabric had these Houses of Hogwarts shields on them, so I made one for each house. I cut out each shield piece with a 1 cm seam allowance, then cut a frame out of other bits of the fabric. To the frame pieces I sewed some clear hard yet flexible plastic that I salvaged from a box of Christmas ribbons and bows. I made paper tags that the kids can remove to write whatever they want, and finished them off with ribbon ties.

That’s all I had time to do, so I boxed the lot up for shipping to Oregon. Of course, the damn post office was closed by the time I got there yesterday. I’ll try again this week.

Looking at other people’s contributions on Instagram, I felt pretty lousy. I mean, many sewists are more talented than I am at this type of thing. Still, I tried. I feel good about trying. This is not exactly what I had in mind when I was seeking sewing projects outside my comfort zone, but I learned something anyway. And I hope someone will love or at least use these things.