Field Research

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been indulging in online fabric purchases. My second package, this time from Casual Elegance, arrived in the mail yesterday. I got two pieces – a gray rayon/spandex blend that I will make into a dress, and this little number:

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I had anticipated that this would be a thicker knit with a fair amount of body. Turns out I was wrong. It’s actually a wispy, thin rayon with a lot of drape and very little structure. I had been hoping to make another Renfrew top with a v-neck lickety-split, since I’ve been cranking them out lately, but this thin drapey fabric is throwing me for a loop. I mean, what season is it even for? Spring? Summer? Fall? Agh.

So, I decided to spend my work break today in town doing “field research” on Newbury Street (a.k.a. chic shopping heaven). In preparation for this trip, I wore one of my completed Renfrews so that I could covertly compare pattern designs in the dressing room. Ha! Sewing espionage!

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Top: handmade “Renfrew” pattern by Sewaholic , Cardigan: LOFT, Pants: LOFT, Belt: Banana Republic, Shoes: Clark’s, Scarf: gift from a friend

It turns out that there are a lot of light, gauzy tops out there this fall, thankfully! I found the most promising specimens at the LOFT. I have a feeling I will make another Renfrew with the fabric, but add fullness to the side seams and a bit more length so that it fits more like a tunic top. What do you think? Any other suggestions for this fabric?

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Adventures in Drafting!

This post has nothing to do with either the armed forces or the writing process…the drafting I’m talking about is pattern drafting! Actually, it was more like pattern adaptation and alteration, but drafting sounds so much more accomplished.

Background story: I recently bought a ton of knit fabrics online out of curiosity, and wasn’t sure what to do with all of them. I’m still waiting for most of them to arrive in the mail (hrmph), but over the weekend a received a slinky, polka-dot knit from Gorgeous Fabrics. I had wanted to make another Renfrew top with it, but was inspired by this post to attempt turning the shift pattern into a dress. Also, the fabric was too slinky/drapey to be a top, and is much better suited for a dress.

Before I bore you all with the (somewhat dramatic) details of the process, here’s the finished product, in two outfits (one I wore yesterday for the 10 minutes that I actually left the house, and the other is today’s. I promise I don’t usually wear the same thing two days in a row!).

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Dress: handmade, based on the “Renfrew” top by Sewaholic, Sweater: LOFT, Boots: Clark’s, Belt: LOFT, Tights: Anthropologie, Hat: LOFT

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Sweater: LOFT, Belt: Banana Republic, Tights: Banana Republic, Boots: Clark’s

So, now the dramatic tale of now I made this. In the article I posted above, the gal used a top pattern (traced from ready-to-wear) and added a circle skirt. I thought that would be a swell idea, too. So, I drafted a circle skirt pattern for a half circle, based on this post. Voila:

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And thus begins the saga of things not working as I had planned. I didn’t have enough fabric for a half circle, so I made a quarter circle pattern instead. I used the Renfrew scoop neck, 3/4 length sleeve variation. Then the stitches were skipped when I started sewing because the fabric is so strong (this is a polyester/Lycra blend; the other tops I made were natural fibers + Lycra, which made them softer and more pliable). I finally ended up using a size 80 universal instead of the 70 ballpoint I had used for the others.

Then, there was the fit disaster. After I attached the skirt, I tried it on before finishing and trimming the seams, and oh boy….it was a problem. The fabric was SO slinky and form-fitting that it clung to my curves a little to eagerly, and I ended up looking about 5 months pregnant.

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Needless to say, I was distraught. My poor husband had to put up with a LOT of whining and moaning that night. Then, after a chat with my mom, who is also my sewing guru, I compared my dress with the knit dresses I already had in my closet. I discovered that you can’t make a narrow a-line with a slinky knit (if you have a tummy and bum like mine) that is citied at the waist. So I chopped off a few inches from the top of the skirt and gathered the front and back of the skirt. And voila! The skirt could now hang properly. I was overjoyed!

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The next day, I made my husband brunch, cookies, and dinner to make up for my excessive drama the night before, and finished my dress! So far I’m loving wearing it.

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Take Me Out to the Ballet

Yes, I know, most of Boston is focusing on the Red Sox playing in the World Series right one, and sure, it’s exciting. But the Boston event that I’ve been most anticipating is,of course, the Boston Ballet’s hugely lavish fall production of La Bayadere. If you live in Boston and haven’t seen it yet, GO!

The dancers were absolutely incredible. The big highlight for me was the Entrance of the Shades in act 3 – dozens of ballerinas executing perfectly matched arabesques during almost the entirety of a deadly-slow yet gorgeous adage. *dies* If you have no clue what I’m talking about, again I tell you – go see it!

Another amazing part of the production for me was seeing so many of the dancers that I play for in class on the stage, all doing a fantastic job. There were several children and teens from my classes in the cast, and I was SO proud to see them already becoming polished professionals. It also helped me drag myself out of bed early this morning to go to work knowing that I would be playing for these phenomenally talented young folks.

One last things before I move on to my outfit (obviously that part is coming!) – the costumes. Wow. The ballet is set in India, so exotic colors and designs were everywhere. I was particularly drooling over some of the skirts in the second act, worn by the dancers in the corps. They were calf-length circle skirts constructed in some sort of bright, gauzy fabric (I’m guessing silk) with a petticoat of brightly colored contrasting tulle that peaked out during their turns. I sense another sewing project coming on…

And now for my dress :P. The black lace Anthropologie dress actually almost ended up as my wedding dress, but that’s a story for another post. You may notice that I abandoned my “warmth before beauty” mantra, but I figured I could get away with it. Since it was a special occasion. Still, I nearly froze my bum off walking from the subway to the theater. Hm.

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Dress: Anthropologie, Velvet Jacket: LOFT, Tights: Banana Republic, Shoes: Clark’s

What are your cold-weather special occasion outfits like? Do you try to stay warm , or disregard the temperature in favor of a chic look?

Baby, it’s COLD Outside!!

Our “balmy” fall days with highs in the 60’s are officially over for the season, and we’re now looking at somewhat bleaker forecasts of 50 and below – brr! Since I’m out in the elements more with my current commute (a 10-15 minute walk from the T to work), one of my major goals for this season is to learn to dress warmly. While I would occasionally sacrifice warmth for fashion when living in Princeton, that’s just not an option anymore up north!

So, how do I plan to accomplish this? Here’s a short list of ideas: lots of sweaters/layers, higher necks on tops, more scarves, boots, and long underwear. This is today’s attempt at staying warm:

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Shirt: Banana Republic, Wrap Sweater: LOFT, Pants: LOFT, Boots: Clark’s

The higher neckline on the dress shirt adds warmth and makes up for the lower v-neck of the sweater. Oh, and I’m wearing long underwear under those pants :P. What are your cold-weather wardrobe solutions?

Fruits of My Labor

Today I get to “debut” two of my latest creations! First up is the green bamboo top from my last post. I’m still a little stumped about how to handle the color – it’s much brighter and bolder than I’m used to, so I have a feeling there will be a “learning curve” for this piece. I have several pairs of pants that would work, but since today’s forecast included a fair amount of rain and other unpleasantness, I wanted to make sure I could wear my boots! I literally went through every skirt I own this morning with my husband (he often has better taste at I do….) trying to find a decent match.

It turns out the winner was the skirt that I just completed a few weeks ago, a high-waisted grey wool with box pleats. I love the silhouette created by “poofy” skirts, so I’m very pleased with the pattern. I will definitely make more in the future!

I also experimented with mixing neutrals this morning with the addition of the brown sweater (alas, I didn’t make this one). My tendency is to “match” neutrals – i.e., brown skirt with brown sweater, etc., but my husband pointed out that that doesn’t work very well. So I’m trying new things! He let me walk out of the house with this outfit, so I figure it must not be too bad.

What do you all think of the pairing? Any suggestions for ways to match this bright avocado top? What do you do with hard-to-match pieces?

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Top: handmade “Renfrew” pattern by Sewaholic, Skirt: handmade “Chardon” pattern by Deer and Doe, Caridigan: LOFT, Belt: Banana Republic, Leggings: Banana Republic, Boots: Clark’s

I think I’m addicted…

…to this shirt pattern! I purchased more fabric over the weekend, and I’ve already completed a second top! And I have fabric for a third…

Here’s a pic of the fabric I got:

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The colors are a little more “adventurous” than I’m used to, but I’m looking forward to pushing my comfort zone as I add them into my wardrobe. The fiber content is a bamboo/Lycra blend – not your typical fabric! But if you’ve ever experienced bamboo fabric, you know how wonderful it is to wear – soft, shiny, and wonderfully drapey.

It is not, however, quite so wonderful to sew! This fabric was much more finicky than the first top I made, which was a cotton/Lycra blend. However, after testing and taking it slow, I am very pleased with the result. One trick that really helped me was pinning the fold of the fabric before cutting; you can read about that here. It was a lengthy step, but definitely made things easier when sewing.

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So far I’ve been doing all my sewing on a regular machine, since I don’t own a serger. I’ve actually really liked sewing knits without one – I feel like it gives me more control. I ended up sewing two rows of zig-zags and then trimming, which looks like this:

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Since I didn’t feel like working with a double needle, I also used a zigzag for top stitching, which a liked a lot:

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And lastly, the finished product!

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It’ll be a few days before this makes it fashion debut, as I needed to wash it to get it to shrink (the fabric shrinks significantly, but I wanted to sew on unwashed fabric, so right now it’s super long). So be on the lookout soon!

Home Sewing: The Adventure Begins

I am incredibly excited to announce that today’s post is brought to you not only by ready-to-wear clothes, but also by my sewing machine and local fabric store! My sewing machine, which had lain dormant at my parents’ house in PA since my undergraduate years, made the trip to Boston with me, and it has been my recent mission to revive my high school sewing skills. A few weeks ago, I discovered a fantastic fabric store right around the corner from the Ballet School, and was instantly inspired to sew again. In fact, I’m making another trip to Grey’s Fabric and Notions as I type! (Thanks to public transportation, I can multitask while travel!)

My latest project was a knit top. I didn’t really have any experience sewing with knits, even from way-back-when, so I was a little intimidated. However, after a great deal of internet research and q&a texts with my mom (an expert seamstress), I took the plunge, and here is the result:

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Pants: Banana Republic (they’re a beautiful aubergine corduroy, but you can’t tell from the lighting), Boots: Clark’s, Top: handmade, “Renfrew” pattern from Sewaholic

The pattern, by Tasia at Sewaholic, is perfect for the knits newcomer, and it was a breeze to sew. Took me two days, start to finish, which is why I need more fabric now! I’m super happy with the results. What do y’all think?

P.S. Any comments on the photo location? I know the lighting isn’t great…

Dressing for a New Role!

After over a year’s hiatus, I’m back! This latest incarnation of my blog will be a little different. First of all, I’ll be dressing for a new “role” in a new city! Over the summer I got married, moved to Boston, and started a fantastic job as a full-time pianist for the Boston Ballet School – a lot of changes! So now that I live in the “big city,” I will be addressing practical style issues such as: how can you dress for the elements and still look cute? What kind of shoes are both walking-friendly and fashionable? How does public transportation affect wardrobe choices?

I’ll also be introducing a crafty/sewing element to the blog. I’ve gotten back into knitting and sewing since the move, so I will occasionally feature pieces I’ve made in my outfits. I’ll also discuss some of the steps in the process of garment/accessory making. I just bought new fabric yesterday, so be on the lookout…

But for now, I leave you with today’s outfit:

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Pants: Ann Taylor, Top: Ann Taylor, Boots: Clark’s, Cardigan: Burlington Coat Factory, Necklace: gift from a friend

Since it’s a warmish day today, I opted for short sleeves and dared to be a tad on the cold side. I’m still experimenting with photo locations (I realized this morning that black pants against a black keyboard wasn’t the best plan), so bear with me as I get this up and running again!